RED, WHITE and ROYAL BLUE by Casey McQuiston (audiobook)

A big-hearted romantic comedy in which First Son Alex falls in love with Prince Henry of Wales after an incident of international proportions forces them to pretend to be best friends…

First Son Alex Claremont-Diaz is the closest thing to a prince this side of the Atlantic. With his intrepid sister and the Veep’s genius granddaughter, they’re the White House Trio, a beautiful millennial marketing strategy for his mother, President Ellen Claremont. International socialite duties do have downsides—namely, when photos of a confrontation with his longtime nemesis Prince Henry at a royal wedding leak to the tabloids and threaten American/British relations.

The plan for damage control: staging a fake friendship between the First Son and the Prince. Alex is busy enough handling his mother’s bloodthirsty opponents and his own political ambitions without an uptight royal slowing him down. But beneath Henry’s Prince Charming veneer, there’s a soft-hearted eccentric with a dry sense of humor and more than one ghost haunting him.

As President Claremont kicks off her reelection bid, Alex finds himself hurtling into a secret relationship with Henry that could derail the campaign and upend two nations. And Henry throws everything into question for Alex, an impulsive, charming guy who thought he knew everything: What is worth the sacrifice? How do you do all the good you can do? And, most importantly, how will history remember you?


Title : Red White & Royal Blue
Author : Casey McQuiston
Narrator : Ramon de Ocampo
Format : Audiobook (OverDrive)
Time : 12 hours 15 minutes
Genre : Rom-com m/m
Publisher : Macmillan Audio
Release Date : 14 May 2019

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★.5


Micky’s 4.5 star review

First of all, if you haven’t read Hollis’ review for this book, stop what you’re doing and read that first here. After all, that’s what made me want to read, well that and the constant prodding…I was getting a bit of a bruise.

I went into listening to this book with a dose of ‘help me with the hype’ and a slice of native Brit anti-monarchy (there are many of us, by the way). I didn’t know if I was going to be able to get past the issue of this being an English royal prince. Casey McQuiston gently herded me on board with how she dealt with the issue of the monarchy as an institution and more than anything, by writing Henry, “just as he was” (think Bridget Jones moment).

I challenge anyone not to be blown away by Henry and Alex but for me, most surprisingly, it was the humanity of Henry’s character that sold this story to my big, feeling heart from minute one to hour twelve. Henry was Prince stick-up-his-arse and pretty hilarious in this facet. Alex, the more down to earth of the two, was rude but also funny. These two, building a friendship and then building a relationship, were just about one of the most beautiful love stories I have ever read. My heart expanded with their poignant words and genuine connection.

The adversity these two have to traverse made for a fierce and heart-wrenching story. I have to say how I loved the author’s use of that vile rag, The Daily Mail. It truly is a publication without scruples or heart and was rightly placed to play a role in what happened. My heart and mind rode the roller coaster with Henry and Alex, I mentally wore a supportive T-shirt and waved a flag. I felt a lull as this book reached it’s culmination and the last 10% lost a little traction for me, but overall it was bloody fantastic.

The narration blew me away. Again, as a Brit, I had sceptacism regarding one narrator doing both British and American accents (also Mexican accents) but this guy HAD IT DOWN. He brought the banter, the dialogue and the love to life. Ramon de Ocampo will be on my audio searches now.

I feel a little late to the game on this, six weeks down the line, but I want to recommend the audio for this book. You will be invited in to the intimacy and brought to life by the humour.

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EVERYTHING I DO (Outlaws #1) by MC Frank

Robin Hood is about to steal your heart.
A robber and a princess.
A girl disguised as a boy.
A medieval reimagining of the legend of Robin Hood packed with adventure, sacrifice and romance.

Robin Hood, hidden deep in the Sherwood Forest, is fighting to restore the crown to its rightful king, surrounded by faithful friends, green leaves and clear skies. Burdened with secrets, betrayal and an incredible responsibility, he struggles to stay alive and keep the starving people fed. One day, a boy saves him from the Sheriff’s poisoned arrows. Robin, impressed by the slender youth’s courage and skill, takes the boy with him to the forest.

Only, the boy is not a boy.

In the castle of Nottingham, a maid who used to be a princess is forced to obey the wishes of a tyrannical Sheriff. She dons on male clothes and trains to become a fierce assassin, vowing to catch the greatest criminal in the kingdom. But when she saves Robin Hood’s life nearly losing her own, she is rescued by the outlaws.

When Robin and the “boy” meet, two worlds collide, resulting in unimaginable danger and intense romance. Who will survive when they learn each other’s secrets? What happens when the assassin falls in love with her victim?

Filled with danger, intrigue and slow-burn passion, this is a Robin Hood story unlike any you have ever read before!


Title : Everything I Do
Author : MC Frank
Series : Outlaws #1
Format : .pdf
Page Count : 228
Genre : YA fantasy
Publisher : Indie
Release Date : 17 April, 2019

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 3 star review

I’m always interested in a retelling and Robin Hood contexts are few and far between. Add this to the gorgeous cover for EVERYTHING I DO and this was definitely something I wanted to read. I like it when retelling flip preconceptions on their head a little and this story did just that. Robin and his band of brothers were as expected but Ru, the main protagonist in this story was not what I expected.

This was a story of lies, deception, revenge, pain and integrity. The alternating POVs were welcome. It took me some time to know Robin, his intentions and motivations. I was interested in the story but I didn’t always relate to the style of explaining everything in detail or completely believe the tangibility of the romantic connections. Sometimes I felt like the story went round in circles but the story did unfurl, finally revealing some answers but leaving the reader with questions.

All in all, it was a clever story with interesting characters and there is more to come with book two on the way.

Thank you to the author for a review copy.

BACKLIST BABBLE – The Grisha Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo

With all the focus on upcoming titles or new releases, it’s easy to forget the books that came months, if not years, before. Books we loved, are only reading now for the first time, or are even rereading.

So in that vein we here at A Take from Two Cities are going to start a semi-frequent (aka whenever we feel like it) feature called Backlist Babble where one, or both, of us are going to babble a bit about a backlist title (or series) we love.

In my case (hi, Hollis here), I’m usually rereading old favourites because a spinoff has been announced or there’s a new book being added to the series. A perfect example of that? The Grisha Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo.

With the announcement of KING OF SCARS, which expanded the Grishaverse once more after the addition of the Six of Crows duology, it felt like the perfect time to reread the books that started it all. Books I remember loving so much when they released — which, in the case of the first book, SHADOW AND BONE, was back in 2013 — but, honestly, had only vague recollections of beyond some of the major key plot points. So I dove back in and, colour me surprised, but I think I liked them better with the passage of time.

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I had some trepidation that SHADOW AND BONE a) wouldn’t live up to my memories (vague as they were), b) I would just find it too.. I don’t know what word I’m looking for but.. less. It wouldn’t be on par with the writing or pacing of SIX OF CROWS or CROOKED KINGDOM, and c) I would hate Mal. Because I remember really disliking him.

And, okay, maybe point B is kind of valid but the rest? Nope. I enjoyed the heck out of this. It’s a very nostalgic read for me that I obviously wanted to still like but also wow I had forgotten that pretty much everything I (mostly) remembered of this series actually takes place in book one. I have no idea where book two goes. It’s like my brain just stops here and jumps right to the very end of book three. Weird.

Also, Mal? Not that bad.

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I think the reason I had forgotten book two entirely was probably because of how I felt about Mal the first go-round. And yet in hindsight.. I find SIEGE AND STORM to just be mostly heartbreaking. With, like, a lot of hilarity and banter. Fun mix.

I absolutely understand why this is the least liked (?) of the series for so many people. There’s a lot of seemingly tropey or dumb YA behaviour but I actually found it really believable considering the circumstances and the emotional turmoil. I mean, it isn’t without some frustration but it didn’t make me roll my eyes or anything.

For all the emotional upheaval and darkness, there were also these lovely light moments. Like in the beginning and then.. well, okay, that was probably it, but the banter, and Nikolai, really saved this one from being too dark and heavy.

Definitely my favourite of the series.

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I’m so satisfied by the ending in RUIN AND RISING. It makes me think of another well-known trilogy that deals with stress and PTSD and loss and shows such a realistic place for the characters to end up. With a happy ending of sorts, sure, but not unmarked. Not without missing pieces. And not without lost friends. There were still breaks for levity and hilarity but again, things are dark, things are hopeless, things are heartbreaking. Until they aren’t. Or until it just is.

I’m so glad I reread this because I had forgotten so much of this series. And I am much better equipped to tackle not only my reread of the Six of Crows duology — and maybe pick up on some of the nuance I might have thought I understood but probably didn’t the first time around — but particularly KING OF SCARS. After everything that went on in this book for Nikolai.. wow, yeah, happy rereader is very happy. It was fun, too, to relive and see how this story built from where Bardugo started it off and also see where she was maybe already planning to take it.

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And, of course, a reread wouldn’t be a reread without discovering some new, or overlooked, extras by an author who has fleshed out a world so well. So after reading the original trilogy I also read the beautiful bind-up of the Grishaverse novellas in THE LANGUAGE OF THORNS.

I had previously read maybe half of the stories within this collection but only remembered one or two really well. Revisiting them was a delight, though, and the new ones were just as fabulous. While these stories are all set within the Grishaverse, they are still essentially folktales or retellings, little fantastical bites of magic and myth and slightly twisted tales of morality, so even if you’re not familiar with Bardugo’s world, you can (and will!) definitely still enjoy.

Additionally, beyond the magic of the author’s words, what makes THE LANGUAGE OF THORNS not just great but amazing are the illustrations the evolve on the edges of the pages throughout each story. Stunning. Gorgeous. A total package of whimsy and wonder and heartbreak; of strong girls and brave girls, overlooked girls and betrayed girls.

If you’ve yet to read, or read some or all of the novellas back when they were ebooks, I would highly highly recommend you treat yourself to buying or borrowing a physical copy.


And thus wraps my Backlist Babble for The Grisha Trilogy! Hopefully you enjoyed this feature and we hope to have more to come soon. If you have any suggestions for a back list title for us to read, or revisit, let us know in the comments below.

Also, brief word of caution, neither of us have yet to read KING OF SCARS so no spoilers please!

COVER REVEAL – LIES by Kylie Scott

Lies, a fast paced and sexy standalone filled with the perfect blend of heat
and humor from New York Times bestselling author Kylie Scott, is coming July 21st and we have the sexy cover!

Betty Dawsey knows that breaking things off with Thom Lange is for the best. He’s nice,but boring, and their relationship has lost its spark. But steady and predictable Thom, suddenly doesn’t seem so steady and predictable when their condo explodes and she’s kidnapped by a couple of crazies claiming that Thom isn’t who he says he is.

Thom is having a hellish week. Not only is he hunting a double agent, but his fiancé dumped him, and thanks to his undercover life, she’s been kidnapped.

Turns out Thom is Operative Thom and he’s got more than a few secrets to share with Betty if he’s going to keep her alive. With both their lives on the line, their lackluster connection is suddenly replaced by an intense one. But in his line of work, feelings aren’t wanted or desired. Because feelings can be a lethal distraction.


Pre-order your copy today!

Amazon: https://amzn.to/2Mpws0a
AppleBooks: https://apple.co/2Z7eEIE
Amazon Worldwide: http://mybook.to/LiesKS
Nook: http://bit.ly/2WdNaPZ

Kobo: http://bit.ly/2Z3ME8X
Amazon Print: https://amzn.to/2XzZz1O
Add to GoodReads: http://bit.ly/31cAz3h
Cover Designed by Hang Le
Photographer: Brian Kaminski
Model: Terry Dormer


About Kylie Scott

Kylie is a New York Times and USA Today best-selling author. She was voted Australian Romance Writer of the year, 2013, 2014 & 2018, by the Australian Romance Writer’s Association and her books have been translated into eleven different languages. She is a long time fan of romance, rock music, and B-grade horror films. Based in Queensland, Australia with her two children and husband, she reads, writes and never dithers around on the internet.


Connect with Kylie Scott

Amazon: https://amzn.to/2XujcZh
Bookbub: http://bit.ly/2GngiQq

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/kyliescottwriter
Twitter: https://twitter.com/KylieScottbooks
Instagram: http://bit.ly/2EUrx11
Goodreads: http://bit.ly/2Imusk3

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com.au/kyliescottbooks/
Book+Main Bites: http://bit.ly/2ETz5RQ
Website: https://kyliescott.com/

LIMITED WISH by Mark Lawrence

One choice. Two possible timelines. And a world hanging in the balance.

It’s the summer of 1986 and reluctant prodigy Nick Hayes is a student at Cambridge University, working with world-renowned mathematician Professor Halligan. He just wants to be a regular student, but regular isn’t really an option for a boy-genius cancer survivor who’s already dabbled in time travel.

When he crosses paths with a mysterious yet curiously familiar girl, Nick discovers that creases have appeared in the fabric of time, and that he is at the centre of the disruption. Only Nick can resolve this time paradox before the damage becomes catastrophic for both him and the future of the world. Time is running out—literally.

Wrapped up with him in this potentially apocalyptic scenario are his ex-girlfriend, Mia, and fellow student Helen. Facing the world-ending chaos of a split in time, Nick must act fast and make the choice of a lifetime—or lifetimes.

Game on.


Title : Limited Wish
Author : Mark Lawrence
Series : Impossible Times (book two)
Format : paperback
Page Count : 222
Genre : YA sci-fi / historical fiction
Publisher : 47North
Release Date : May 28, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 3 star review

LIMITED WISH was both a little bit deja vue, though slightly out of alignment from the first book, and also.. way more timey wimey wibbly wobbly than book one. We have converging timelines, paradoxes, choices, divergences.. honestly I didn’t understand half of it. At least half of it.

But everything that intrigued me from book one was still present, there was even more D&D, and things fell into place that allowed for some events from book one to come about. Yes, it’s confusing, I think that’s sorta the deal when you have time travel on the board.

There was a bit of a Sliding Doors-esque choice for our main protagonist to make in this installment. Each book has been named for a key piece of the plot and in this case it’s a wish. You won’t get everything you want and you might not get it for long, because the wish is limited. And that’s kind of where we are at the end of this one. I’m curious to see where we end up in the final book. Shockingly this whole trilogy is being released in one calendar year so I only have to wait until November to find out!

Meanwhile, these books have definitely solidified my interest in reading Lawrence’s other series, the Book of the Ancestor. So maybe I’ll get going on that while I wait.

** I received a finished copy from the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **

WICKED FOX by Kat Cho

A fresh and addictive fantasy-romance set in modern-day Seoul.

Eighteen-year-old Gu Miyoung has a secret–she’s a gumiho, a nine-tailed fox who must devour the energy of men in order to survive. Because so few believe in the old tales anymore, and with so many evil men no one will miss, the modern city of Seoul is the perfect place to hide and hunt.

But after feeding one full moon, Miyoung crosses paths with Jihoon, a human boy, being attacked by a goblin deep in the forest. Against her better judgment, she violates the rules of survival to rescue the boy, losing her fox bead–her gumiho soul–in the process.

Jihoon knows Miyoung is more than just a beautiful girl–he saw her nine tails the night she saved his life. His grandmother used to tell him stories of the gumiho, of their power and the danger they pose to humans. He’s drawn to her anyway.

With murderous forces lurking in the background, Miyoung and Jihoon develop a tenuous friendship that blossoms into something more. But when a young shaman tries to reunite Miyoung with her bead, the consequences are disastrous . . . forcing Miyoung to choose between her immortal life and Jihoon’s.


Title : Wicked Fox
Author Kat Cho
Series : Gumiho (book one)
Format : ARC
Page Count : 448
Genre : YA paranormal/fantasy
Publisher : G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers
Release Date : June 25, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating
: ★ ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 3 star review

This is a paranormal fantasy, with a heavy focus on Korean mythology, set in present day Seol. And boy did it hook me right away.

My mother says gumiho are always women because we gain our power from the moon.”
And what is a man?
Dinner.”

Honesty, the first 1/3rd of this book was nonstop delight. It was interesting, refreshing, funny, thrilling.. I loved both our heroine, a half-human half-nine-tailed fox — who chooses to siphon the life force from evil men to survive (unlike her mother, a full gumiho, who prefers to go straight for the liver) — and our plucky, clumsy, devil-may-care hero, who has the good (or bad, depending on your point of view) fortune to be rescued by her. 

[his grandmother] used to tell Jihoon stories about [goblins] tricking humans and nine-tailed foxes eating the livers of men. Horror stories camouflaged as fables to teach lessons. But those types of stories were supposed to stay in books, not come to life and almost choke him to death.

Both characters have endured the loss of parents and are variations of isolated or alone : Miyoung because she doesn’t fit in, and her mother has taught her to not stand out so as to never give herself away, and Jihoon who, despite having two good friends, just tends to keep things light, and on the surface, so he can’t be hurt by further loss. 

And your father is a gumiho, too?
He was human.”
Was? Is he dead?
How should I know? I’ve never met the guy.”
How dysfunctionally ordinary.”

I loved that, without feeling heavy handed about it, these characters also put the more typical fantasy gender stereotypes somewhat on their head. Miyoung is the one with the power, the strength, and she’s the one recusing the hero. But she’s also the monster.

When you’re constantly treated as a pariah, and labeled bad, you might begin living up to the expectation.”

Things get — extra — complicated when Miyoung’s bead, her soul, is separated from her body, and there are shamans, secrets, and betrayals galore. I especially enjoyed events right around this time, when Miyoung is trying to solve her problem without crossing her stern mother, when she’s trying to fend off Jihoon’s attempts at friendship, and all the funny little exchanges they have. But this book did kind of falter shortly after most of that early action and things felt pretty dragged out. This is also a pretty long book (over four hundred pages) so a long book was made to feel longer because stuff just.. isn’t happening?

If I die, it’s not for you. I’m dying for me.”

That said, I found the world effortless to lose myself in. The writing, the mythology, the worldbuilding, the chapters that showcased and told us of past Gumihos, it was all fascinating. The characters, too, I really liked and it was, at times, really funny. And while the middle did drag, I thought the ending captured some of that early magic for me, so I’ll definitely read on (not sure if this is a duology or a trilogy at this point).

** I received an ARC from the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **

ONE WORD KILL by Mark Lawrence

Ready Player One meets Stranger Things in this thrilling new novel by bestselling author Mark Lawrence.

In January 1986, fifteen-year-old boy-genius Nick Hayes discovers he’s dying. And it isn’t even the strangest thing to happen to him that week.

Nick and his Dungeons & Dragons-playing friends are used to living in their imaginations. But when a new girl, Mia, joins the group and reality becomes weirder than the fantasy world they visit in their weekly games, none of them are prepared for what comes next. A strange—yet curiously familiar—man is following Nick, with abilities that just shouldn’t exist. And this man bears a cryptic message: Mia’s in grave danger, though she doesn’t know it yet. She needs Nick’s help—now.

He finds himself in a race against time to unravel an impossible mystery and save the girl. And all that stands in his way is a probably terminal disease, a knife-wielding maniac and the laws of physics.

Challenge accepted.


Title : One Word Kill
Author : Mark Lawrence
Series : Impossible Times (book one)
Format : paperback
Page Count : 204
Genre : YA sci-fi / historical fiction
Publisher : 47North

Release Date : May 1, 2019
Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 3 star review

ONE WORD KILL is a story I was absolutely, 100%, reading for the characters.. and maybe not so much for the plot. But at the same time, parts of the plot compelled me, even as they confounded me because.. science.

This is pitched as READY PLAYER ONE meets Stranger Things and I can definitely see why. It’s set in the eighties, features a group of D&D playing nerds (which, by the way, were some of my favourite scenes! and I say that as a non-D&D’er), and has fantastical sci-fi elements. But despite those elements this felt pretty grounded in reality : our lead character, and sole POV, is fifteen and dying of cancer and up until now the biggest hurdle some of these teens have had to face is the local bully, work up the courage to talk to a girl, or survive with a somewhat less-than-stellar parental figure. It gave the story a lot of gravitas, and sadness, without feeling melodramatic.

That said, I was more onboard with the wibbly wobbly timey wimey travel and paradox than I was the local psychopath who stalks the group and makes their lives scary and violent. Strangely enough I found that the least believable of everything I read.

With where this installment has ended, though, I’m left wondering : what’s next? I’m surprised there’s no cliffhanger but that doesn’t mean I’m not diving right in to book two.

** I received a finished copy from the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **