May 2017 Wrap Up

This is what I was able to read in May…I read 4 books, listened to 1 audiobook, and read 3 graphic novels, for a grand total of: 8!

NewsPrints by Ru Xu

  • Beautiful artwork and color. Twisted storyline. New favorite.
  • My rating: 4.5 stars

Always and Forever, Lara Jean by Jenny Han

  • Best of the trilogy. Great ending. Read in one day.
  • My rating 4.75 stars

X-Men, Volume 1: Primer by Brian Wood, Oliver Coipel, David Lopez

  • New characters. Old friends. Cool artwork.
  • My rating: 3.5 stars

March: Book Two by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, Nate Powell

  • Slow to start. New information to me. Powerful.
  • My rating: 4.5 stars

The Alchemist by Paolo Coelho (I also listened to the audiobook a little bit. I like Jeremy Irons as a narrator – would recommend!)

  • Dreamy. Full of metaphors. Slow at times.
  • Around the World in 80 Books Challenge: Andalusia, Spain
  • My rating: 4 stars

Angus, Thongs, and Full-Frontal Snogging by Louise Rennison

  • Diary. Funny. Teenage girl.
  • Around the World in 80 Books Challenge: England
  • My rating: 3.75 stars

Percy Jackson’s Greek Gods by Rick Riordan (audiobook)

  • Great narration. Fun storytelling. Lots of short stories.
  • Around the World in 80 Books Challenge: Mount Olympus, Greece (totally counting it)
  • My rating: 4.5 stars

On the Bright Side, I’m Now the Girlfriend of a Sex God by Louise Rennison

  • What a title. Love Georgia. Shenanigans continue.
  • My rating: 4 stars

What did you read this month? Let me know in the comments below!

Happy reading! – Caitlyn

Series Review: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han

*This series review will be spoiler-free as best I can! I’ll try not to be too vague, while also not spoiling anything.*

Book 1: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before

Book 2: P.S. I Still Love You

Book 3: Always and Forever, Lara Jean

Series Overview: This teenage trilogy follows Lara Jean as she navigates young love, family, and school. Lara Jean lives with her two sisters and her father, having lost her mother at a young age. When her sister decides to attend college in Scotland, Lara Jean has a new array of roles to take on in their home. At the same time, her younger sister sends out a series of letters that Lara Jean had kept private in her mother’s hat box, letters to boys she’s loved before. As the boys each receive their letter from Lara Jean, she learns more about herself and her feelings, growing closer to some as they come back into her life. She enters into a fake relationship, then a real one, then loses it, only to reach closure by the final page. By the end of this trilogy, Lara Jean has grown older and wiser. Her family dynamic has changed and she’s had to make some life changing decisions.

Feelings: I enjoyed this series a lot more than I thought I would. I was in the mood for a light, high school romance kind of a story and the first book in this series really delivered. As I continued reading, it wasn’t as much of a light-hearted series, but had a depth that I appreciated. It wasn’t really cheesy or annoying, as high school stories tend to be. The minor characters were a lot of fun and grew along with the series, adding another dimension to the storyline.

Sometimes with trilogies, the third book can make or break the whole series. In the case of this series, though, the third book did a great job of bringing closure and rounding out the story. Our characters got a nice landing pad for their “futures” and our questions were answered.

The characters are what really sold this series for me. Lara Jean annoyed me occasionally, but it was because she was being a high school girl. I also was able to relate to her in a lot of ways, though, which made her redeemable. She saw her own mistakes throughout the story, saw chances to grow and learn, and ran with them. She has a strong family unit, which we don’t always get in YA literature, so I enjoyed that dynamic.

Finally, this is the kind of high school romance I love reading. It’s innocent and sweet, but also realistic and something people can relate to. These two characters are so different, but they make it work by celebrating what makes them special. I found myself smiling as I read their conversations, which is always a plus.

Final thoughts: I would really recommend this series to anyone looking for an easy to read story with characters you’ll love. This is a series I’ve already started recommending to my personal friends and even a few of my 8th grade students.

Links to other reviews:

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han

My series rating: 4.5/5

Happy reading! – Caitlyn

Introducing Summer Sundays with Georgia

It’s almost summer time, friends! Here in Texas, that means a lot of staying indoors, if you’re pale and prone to burning, like me. I love reading during the summer. I’m a teacher, so I have much more free time during these months. Last summer, I read all 12 of Sarah Dessen’s books, posting reviews every Sunday. I called this my Summer Sundays with Sarah and I really enjoyed both reading and reviewing these books, one right after another.

This summer, I debated between a few authors and settled on reviewing a book series, instead. While I’m losing some alliteration steam, I’ve decided that this will be the summer of Georgia Nicolson – enter Summer Sundays with Georgia. I’ll be reading all 10 books in the Confessions of Georgia Nicolson series, starting with Angus, Thongs, and Full-Frontal Snogging.

I was first introduced to Georgia during college, believe it or not. I was assigned to read this first book during my Young Adult Literature class and instantly fell in love with her personality and her voice. Then I found out there was a movie adaptation, combining the first and second books. Watched it. Loved it. Have watched it many times since.

After reading the first book, I knew I wanted to continue the series, so I started collecting the books from Half Price Books. Every time I saw one, I’d pick it up. So I own the whole series, but haven’t read it yet! I’m really excited to take this summer journey with Georgia and the Ace Gang. Just like last summer, I’ll post reviews on Sundays, ending with a full series wrap up. Be sure to check back here every week!

Have you read this series? Let me know in the comments below!

Happy reading! – Caitlyn

5 Favorite Fictional Mothers

Mother’s Day was just recently, here in the United States. This holiday always leaves me feeling grateful for my awesome mother and all the things she’s taught me. She, like me, is a lover of literature and an English teacher. I can definitely credit her with my love of reading and the reason why there’s always a stack of books on my bedside table.

I always enjoy a strong mother character in books, so this week I’ve compiled a list of my 5 favorite fictional moms!

Molly Weasley from the Harry Potter series

When I think about strong mothers in literature, I immediately think of Mrs. Weasley. I especially think about that line from the last book that she says to Bellatrix Lestrange. Yeah, you know…THAT line. SUCH a powerful female figure and a top notch mother, in my opinion. She’s strong and forceful, while also being loving and protective. You don’t want to cross her, but you also want to know her. Plus…Julie Walters is the PERFECT person to play Mrs. Weasley. Spot on.

Marilla Cuthbert from the Anne of Green Gables series

Marilla is one of my favorite characters ever. I didn’t like her at first, but over time (and after more books) I realized just how much depth she has to her. She is so full of love and has this protective force about her in regards to Anne and Matthew. She’s similar to Mrs. Weasley in that you don’t want to step between her and her loved ones, but what I love most about Marilla is the way she balances Anne out. She matches all of Anne’s wild dreams with sharp wit and sarcasm, pulling her back down to earth.

Phoebe Valerian from the Mark of the Lion series

I really enjoyed reading about Phoebe in this series set in ancient Rome. She has this calm sweetness about her, but she runs her household with masterful precision. She has that classic motherhood quality where she always sees the best in her children, even to a fault, but she was always there for them and full of wise council. I love the way she loves her family and the way she looks out for those in need. As a mother, she sets a great example of selflessness. (Forgive the picture…there’s no movie adaptation or picture books to pull from!)

Mrs. Turner from Finding Audrey

This woman would drive me crazy if she was my actual mother. She’s so outlandish and neurotic most of the time, but man she’s entertaining to read about! The reason I added her to this list is because of the way she loves her children. She really does want the absolute best for each of them, even if it means she wishes they were different sometimes. She means well and her actions come from a good place, for the most part. Life with her wouldn’t be dull, that’s for sure!

Charlotte Branwell from The Infernal Devices series

Trained from a young age to be a leader, Charlotte is one of my favorite characters in the Shadowhunter universe. She’s so strong, but she can be gentle at times, too. She’s a mother figure to the young Shadowhunters within the Institute, providing wisdom and discipline, as well as love and encouragement. She paved the way for women in this world, too, serving as the head of the London Instutute and as the first female Consul. I love her bravery and strong will! She’s such a great “mom” character to read about.

Who are some of your favorite fictional mothers? Let me know in the comments below!

Happy reading! – Caitlyn

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

“It’s the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting.”

Synopsis from GoodreadsPaulo Coelho’s enchanting novel has inspired a devoted following around the world. This story, dazzling in its powerful simplicity and soul-stirring wisdom, is about an Andalusian shepherd boy named Santiago who travels from his homeland in Spain to the Egyptian desert in search of a treasure buried near the Pyramids. Along the way he meets a Gypsy woman, a man who calls himself king, and an alchemist, all of whom point Santiago in the direction of his quest. No one knows what the treasure is, or if Santiago will be able to surmount the obstacles in his path. But what starts out as a journey to find worldly goods turns into a discovery of the treasure found within. Lush, evocative, and deeply humane, the story of Santiago is an eternal testament to the transforming power of our dreams and the importance of listening to our hearts.

Feelings: I read this book for the first time during my sophomore year of high school. It was one of our assigned readings in my English II class and I remember really loving it. I couldn’t remember WHY I loved it, though, so I decided to give it a second read.

It’s a good book. It’s definitely a more philosophical story, rather than a traditional structured plot. Santiago speaks to the wind, to his heart, and to the desert, digging deep into metaphors and symbolism. It’s not exactly an easy read until the end. As everything gets more interesting and the plot picks up, I felt the need to continue reading. Before then, though, I was easily able to put it down and not return to it for a while.

Issues: The book is certainly slow at times and a bit repetitive. Santiago comes back to various quotes that the old king said to him, but he says them word for word over and over again. At some points, it makes you want to say, “Yes, yes, we know.” They’re insightful thoughts that are repeated, but they just get a little old.

By the end, it still doesn’t necessarily feel like anything happened. Sure, he travels a far distance, meeting interesting people along the way and getting himself into tricky situations, but it still feels stagnant.

Characters: Santiago is an innocent boy and it is a sweet journey that we take with him. He just wants to find purpose and love as he travels for his Personal Legend. He makes simple decisions and thinks things through. He’s a very easy character to follow. I enjoyed seeing him discover ancient truths and get more in touch with himself.

Final thoughts: This book has a good audiobook version, as well, narrated by Jeremy Irons. His voice adds a lot of depth to the words and helps ground the storyline. Overall, I like this book. It’s one that I’ll probably come back to a few times over the course of my life.

Goodreads rating: 3.81/5 rating: 4.6/5

My rating: 4/5

Happy reading! – Caitlyn

5 More Graphic Novels

Back in December, I wrote about some graphic novels I’d recently read. I wanted to update that list with a few more, as I really enjoy reading the occasional comic book or graphic novel. To me, they help break things up and shake up my normal reading routine. Here are 5 more graphic novels that I’ve read in the last few months!

NewsPrints by Ru Xu

I really enjoyed this story! I came across it in our school’s library and was instantly drawn in. The artwork and the color palette is really special and I found the storyline to be very unique. We find ourselves in a different kind of world, with different countries and a new war we’ve never experienced. We meet a young orphan girl who pretends to be a newsboy, a master inventor with a secret, and a mysterious boy that we aren’t sure what to believe about. I found this story to be surprisingly moving and more powerful than I expected going into it.

Saga, Volume 7 by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples

I love this series a lot. It’s so very different from any other comic series that I’ve read before and since it’s a new set of worlds, there’s always something different and unexpected going on. This is definitely a more mature series, so be aware of that. The artwork and story situations are for a more advanced reader. I’ve gotten to a point where I preorder new volumes in this series, I enjoy it so much. In this latest addition, we see a very different tone from the ones before. It’s much more serious and intense, kind of a nice change up.

Redwall by Brian Jacques

This is a story that I’ve never read before. True story. I’ve heard about it, but haven’t ever picked it up. I enjoyed this first graphic novel adaptation, but I felt like maybe reading the full book would help me to understand exactly what was going on. There were some quick transitions where I felt like I’d missed something and new characters showed up left and right. If you’re already a fan of the series, this could be a great book to read. You can dive back into a story you love and see it in a different way.

March, Book 2 by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, Nate Powell

I read the first book in this series back and January and found it to be enlightening. These books are mostly black and white with simple artwork. To me, it’s simple as in it’s really realistic with sketch style lines. I really love seeing history through this medium. It’s sharp and factual, while still crafting a story that makes you want to keep reading, even if you know how it all turns out. I learned so much more from this second book than I did the first. I kept writing quotes down and listing out new information.

X-Men, Volume 1: Primer by Brian Wood, Oliver Coipel, David Lopez

This comic book was on sale on the website, so I decided to give it a try. I’ve read some comic books about super heroes, but none about the X-Men. I love the X-Men movies, so I was interested to see these (and new) characters in a different way. This first volume was pretty good. New and old characters, cool artwork, and a storyline that sets up future volumes.

Have you read any graphic novels that you could recommend? Let me know in the comments below!

Happy reading! – Caitlyn

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

*This review will contain spoilers. Also, because of my role as an educator, I’m approaching this book from that perspective. I’m seeing it both as an interested reader and someone who works with teenagers every day.*

“Everything…affects everything.”

Synopsis from GoodreadsClay Jensen doesn’t want anything to do with the tapes Hannah Baker made. Hannah is dead. Her secrets should be buried with her. Then Hannah’s voice tells Clay that his name is on her tapes– and that he is, in some way, responsible for her death. All through the night, Clay keeps listening. He follows Hannah’s recorded words throughout his small town. . .and what he discovers changes his life forever.

Feelings: I’ve been putting off writing this review because of all the hype surrounding both this book and the Netflix adaptation of it. I have read the book and seen the show, and quite frankly I see them as totally different stories.

In this BOOK, it’s very clear by the end, in my opinion, that Hannah is not seeking to place blame, but rather bring instances to peoples’ attention in the hopes that what happened to her wouldn’t happen again. Hannah shares her point of view on events where no one had previously cared about her input. She paints a different picture than Clay, and other characters, had seen before and she opens their eyes. The BOOK made me uncomfortable but in a good way. It made me want to see people a little bit better than I do now, to see their hurt and their feelings. And I’d like to think that was the whole point.

Issues: I really didn’t have issues with the BOOK. At first, I felt like it was all about casting blame and sending a message that the only way to be heard is once you’re dead. However, that narrative changed as the story went on.

Sometimes it got confusing, going back and forth between Hannah’s words and Clay’s thoughts. But I see why the author chose to write it that way.

Characters: I couldn’t put this book down. I needed to finish the journey with Clay and try and understand Hannah better. I was so invested after the first few pages. It’s different when you know what happens to a person from the very first page, then work backward to figure out how they got to that point. Clay was a great POV to read from; he’s kind and caring, hopeful and bright. He wasn’t whiny or annoying like some teenager perspectives can be.

The author doesn’t make it seem like Hannah only had one option, but shows us how she tried to reach out and never found what she needed, emotionally. He doesn’t try and justify her choice, just show her side of things. I think a lot of young people needed to see that and to feel what those left behind would feel after such a loss.

Comparisons: You guys, I honestly was upset while watching the Netflix SHOW. I wanted to throw up, it made me so physically uncomfortable. Unlike the BOOK, the uncomfortable feeling wasn’t a good thing. I didn’t feel motivated to help people. The characters constantly belittle Hannah and others going through similar feelings, they pity themselves and change the narrative to be about their own troubles, and we see struggling characters make the same desperate choices. There was no hope. No motivations to change our world. Just graphic depictions of suicide and more bullying. I can’t stress enough to parents to be careful letting your children watch this show. Reading the book is one thing. The show shouldn’t be targeted to a teenage audience. Parents, be in the know. And for the love, have conversations. The SHOW was just picked up for a second season and we have no idea what direction it will take, since the book is done. I know I’ll watch it because I’m so curious, but I also know that I won’t enjoy it. Parents, also be aware that people are now saying things like, “This will be on your tape,” when they get frustrated, referring to this book.

Final thoughts: I really respect what Jay Asher did with this story. He doesn’t glorify suicide or make excuses for something that’s so awfully realistic. If you’re a teenager in a situation similar to Hannah, know that talking to a trusted adult isn’t always a waste of time. Some of us are ready and willing to do anything it takes to help you. If one conversation fails, try another one. You’re worth the time and effort.

Goodreads rating: 4.04/5 rating: 4.7/5

My rating: 4.25/5

Happy reading! – Caitlyn