PopSugar 2015 Reading Challenge

People of the earth…I DID IT! I completed the PopSugar 2015 Reading Challenge! Now, I’ll be honest…I stretched a few of the challenges, but I did what I had to do to make it work. Ain’t no shame in my reading challenge game. I included a link for any and all books I wrote full reviews for.

  1. A book with more than 500 pages: The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen
  2. A classic romance: Manga Classics: Pride and Prejudice by Stacy King (a stretch, but I’m SO counting it!)
  3. A book that became a movie: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs (movie coming soon!)
  4. A book published this year: An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir
  5. A book with a number in the title: The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey
  6. A book written by someone under 30: A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas
  7. A book with nonhuman characters: Crimson Bound by Rosamund Hodge
  8. A funny book: Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrew
  9. A book by a female author: Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson
  10. A mystery or thriller: Jackaby by William Ritter
  11. A book with a one-word title: Drama by Raina Telgemeier
  12. A book of short stories: Four by Veronica Roth
  13. A book set in a different country: The Bane Chronicles by Cassandra Clare
  14. A nonfiction book: The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor
  15. A popular author’s first book: Cinder by Marissa Meyer
  16. A book from an author you love that you haven’t read: Off the Page by Jodi Picoult
  17. A book a friend recommended: The Crossover by Kwame Alexander
  18. A Pulitzer Prize-winning book: All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
  19. A book based on a true story: Sisters by Raina Telgemeier
  20. A book at the bottom of your to-read list: We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
  21. A book your mom loves: Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
  22. A book that scares you: Through the Woods by Emily Carroll
  23. A book more than 100 years old: Anne of Avonlea by L.M. Montgomery
  24. A book based entirely on its cover: The Heir by Kiera Cass
  25. A book you were supposed to read in school but didn’t: The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
  26. A memoir: Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
  27. A book you can finish in a day: The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh
  28. A book with antonyms in the title: For the Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund 
  29. A book set somewhere you’ve always wanted to visit: Bridge to Haven  by Francine Rivers (Hollywood)
  30. A book that came out the year you were born: Maus by Art Spiegelman (some of the original came out the year I was born)
  31. A book with bad reviews: Monster by Walter Dean Myers (this one has the worst reviews of all the books I read…although it doesn’t necessarily have bad reviews)
  32. A trilogy: Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
  33. A book from your childhood: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone  by J.K. Rowling
  34. A book with a love triangle: Queen of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas (this whole series has a couple of love triangles)
  35. A book set in the future: The Invasion of the Tearling by Erika Johansen
  36. A book set in high school: Bloodlines by Richelle Mead
  37. A book with a color in the title: Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard
  38. A book that made you cry: Wonder by R.J. Palacio
  39. A book with magic: Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge
  40. A graphic novel: Smile by Raina Telgemeier
  41. A book by an author you’ve never read before: Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys
  42. A book you own but have never read: A Little Something Different by Sandy Hall
  43. A book that takes place in your hometown: Scarlet by Marissa Meyer (While I’m not from Paris, France…there aren’t many books that take place in Paris, Texas, so I’m counting this one.)
  44. A book that was originally written in a different language: Les Miserables by Victor Hugo (I read the manga edition, but I’m absolutely counting it.)
  45. A book set during Christmas: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell (a bit of a stretch…but part of it DOES happen at Christmas time!)
  46. A book written by an author with your same initials (CR): Falling Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes (No, these aren’t my initials BUT it IS my last name…so I’m just going to chalk that up to a win!)
  47. A play:The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde
  48. A banned book: Saga by Brian Vaughan and Fiona Staples (it’s on a list of challenged books, so I’m sure it’s been banned somewhere)
  49. A book based on or turned into a TV show: A Feast for Crows by George R. R. Martin
  50. A book you started but never finished: Yes Please by Amy Poehler

Did you complete any reading challenges this year? Let me know in the comments!

Happy reading! – Caitlyn

October Wrap-Up

This month, I read a total of…11 books! That’s above my average number of books read for the last few months. I’m very happy with that! As per usual, I’ve included a few keys words or phrases about the book, as well as the rating I gave it. If you click on the book title, you can read my full review for it.

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell (This was the second time I’d read this.)

  • My life. Farmer Levi. Fan-fiction.
  • Rating: 5 stars

Manga Classics: Les Miserables by SunNeko Lee (art), Crystal Silvermoon (adaptation), Stacy King (English script), Victor Hugo (original story)

  • I dreamed a dream. Of time gone by. Need I say more?
  • Rating: 4 stars

Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery

  • Precious. Spunky. Obsessed.
  • Rating: 4.5 stars

Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

  • Meh. Magical. Humdrum.
  • Rating: 3.75 stars

The Crossover by Kwame Alexander (Second read because it’s my book club’s book of the month.)

  • Poetry. Basketball. Unexpected.
  • Rating: 4.75 stars

The Importance of Being Earnest (play) by Oscar Wilde

  • Hilarious. Change of pace. Timeless.
  • Rating: 5 stars

Falling Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes

  • Fast paced. Twisty. High fantasy.
  • Rating: 4.25 stars

Miss Mayhem by Rachel Hawkins

  • Sassy. Entertaining. Easy Read.
  • Rating: 3.75 stars

Anne of Avonlea by L.M. Montgomery

  • Still spunky. Lovely. Heartwarming.
  • Rating: 4.5 stars

Nimona (graphic novel) by Noelle Stevenson

  • Hilarious. Unique. Confusing ending.
  • Rating: 4.25 stars

Ms. Marvel, Vol. 1: No Normal by G. Willow Wilson, art by Adrian Alphona

  • Refreshing. Kick butt. Surprising.
  • Rating: 4.5 stars

Happy reading! – Caitlyn

Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

“(You have to pretend you get an endgame. You have to carry on like you will; otherwise, you can’t carry on at all.)”

carry on

Synopsis from GoodreadsSimon Snow just wants to relax and savor his last year at the Watford School of Magicks, but no one will let him. His girlfriend broke up with him, his best friend is a pest, and his mentor keeps trying to hide him away in the mountains where maybe he’ll be safe. Simon can’t even enjoy the fact that his roommate and longtime nemesis is missing, because he can’t stop worrying about the evil git. Plus there are ghosts. And vampires. And actual evil things trying to shut Simon down. When you’re the most powerful magician the world has ever known, you never get to relax and savor anything.

Feelings: This book just kind of left me with a meh feeling, you know? My heart wasn’t racing during the action, I wasn’t swooning over the love-y bits, and I just didn’t connect with any of the characters. Ultimately, I think Rowell needs to stick with the contemporary genre and not dally in fantasy anymore. Sorry.

One thing I notice in all of Rowell’s books is that she loves a good pop culture reference. This particular book made reference to the song Call Me Maybe, Princess Leia, Winnie the Pooh, Doctor Who, Pokemon, and Downton Abbey, to name a few. The way these were used, along with how the characters spoke in a very contemporary way, made for an entertaining fantasy read.

Issues: Honestly, the main issue I had with this book was the central romance. I knew what was coming (because I read Fangirl), but if I hadn’t…I would have yelled WHAT?! outloud whilst reading. Now, that’s not because I was upset with their relationship in general, but because there wasn’t any indication that it was coming. Simon was obsessed with Baz, yes, but it was repeated over and over again that he was suspicious of him, that he didn’t trust him, that he wanted to catch him in a slip-up, etc. It just felt like dramatic effect, not natural, organic chemistry and real love. He was constantly talking about Baz in the first 100 pages, but then when Baz finally showed up…there was zero love hints. And once they did finally have that love connection (or snog fest, really) there wasn’t growth or depth in their relationships. It was just, we’re making out, I’m calling myself your boyfriend, then 100 pagers later I refer to you as my “love.”

The magic just didn’t come together, in my opinion. Throughout the book, characters mention how various spells were a “waste of magic”, but the meaning of that statement was only hinted at maybe…once? It would seem that using too much magic in one sitting could leave a person feeling drained or weakened. Now, that’s an interesting twist to the normal magical world narrative. Typically, there’s no limit when it comes to daily, simple spells, while more complex spells may leave a person exhausted.

Characters:  Simon used to daydream about his parents: a footballer and a “posh model type”. So basically, the Beckhams? Is he just supposed to live the rest of his life not knowing who his true parents are? The reader knows, but NOBODY ELSE IN THE STORY CAN FIGURE IT OUT? Nobody could even GUESS that it was the truth? I find that very hard to believe. Simon was a flawed “hero”, which I’m always on board for, but he had no drive. His character fell flat for me. He was just a pawn that went wherever he was needed and his affection for Baz felt unnatural. Not in a sense that it was wrong, but that it didn’t seem authentic. He liked that Baz was willing to give him attention, so he ran with it.

The Insidious Humdrum is the WORST villain name in the history of villainous names. That’s all I have to say about that.

Baz has got some serious issues. He is a walking juxtaposition that I can’t figure out. His family is very Slytherin-like, he’s a VAMPIRE, he has his own cronies. For all intents and purposes, he’s set up to be the antagonist. Then after a while, he fills the reader in on his secret love for Simon (which comes out of nowhere and doesn’t fit). He never really turns good, but he’s not actually bad. He’s in this weird behavioral limbo.

Penelope was a pretty solid best friend character. She wasn’t a perfect Hermione-type (she broke some school rules) but she was the character that provided wise counsel and was a constant throughout the book.

Agatha is rude, rude, rude, rude, rude. Poor Simon is an orphan and you just un-invite him to family Christmas because it might make you uncomfortable?  What a b! Who abandons an orphan on Christmas?

I really wanted to hate the Mage. But he had a point, you know? He wanted to give power back to the powerless, make learning magic more accessible for all, and bring about change in the political sphere. He was also bat crazy, in the end. His storyline with Lucy was sad. I felt sad for them. But what happened to Lucy? Obviously she died at some point, but how? When?

Comparisons: I couldn’t help but compare this book to the Harry Potter universe. I even made a T-chart in my notes with the similar elements in each book. I missed the Latin-inspired spells…the phrasal ones were so weird. For example: Some like it hot and Ix-nay on the atford-Way are actual spells.  I thought they were funny and I died a little (in a good way) every time I read those bolded phrases. However, while they were one part silly, they were one part powerful. I think there’s a great message here about the power of words and common phrases. I thought it was super interesting how some spells lose their power over time as phrases get worn out and overused. As an English teacher, any time a book discusses the power of words…I’m sold.

Simon had the Mage’s cell phone number. Imagine if Harry had been able to text Dumbledore! The fact that this magical school was in this decade made for an interesting twist to how things were at Hogwarts in the 90’s and early 00’s.

Final thoughts: I think a lot of people loved this book because it was so different and many believe it to be necessary. It was clever and a great twist to the classic Chosen One narrative, but it just felt like it wasn’t ready. I’m not a professional editor or publisher, but I am an avid fantasy fan and this book fell flat strictly looking at the magical elements and character development. For entertainment factor, Rowell always comes through with her wit and voice.

Pick this up if you liked:

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell (see my full review here)

Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling (because reasons)

Goodreads rating: 4.35/5

Amazon.com rating: 4.6/5

My rating: 3.75/5

Happy reading! – Caitlyn