Reading Challenge Update #1

Hey friends! This week, I wanted to update you on my reading challenge. In case you missed it, I decided to shake up my reading goals for this year. I usually create a list of challenges and then force books to fit the list by the end of the year and that totally defeats the point.

My goal this year is to travel in my reading. I want to learn about other cultures and perspectives and to also just experience life somewhere else. Reading is a great way to accomplish this. I’ve also decided to not limit myself to one year. I’ll reach this goal when I reach it! You can also keep track with me on the tab above. I track places my reading takes me that actually exist. I do read a lot of fantasy, so unless these stories start out in the real world somehow, they won’t count.

Here are where my reading travels have taken me so far this year!

Travels Completed: 8/80

Africa

Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah (South Africa)

Asia

– Listen, Slowly by Thanhha Lai (Vietnam)

The Secret of the India Orchid by Nancy Campbell Allen (Bombay, India; Modern Day Mumbai)

Europe

London Belongs to Me by Jacquelyn Middleton (London, England)

– May I Have Your Attention, Please? by James Corden (London, England)

North America

– March: Book One by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, Nate Powell (Washington, D.C.; Troy, Alabama)

The Inconceivable Life of Quinn by Marianna Baer (Brooklyn, New York)

It Started With Goodbye by Christina June (Alexandria, Virginia)

Do you have any books to recommend? Let me know in the comments below!

Happy reading! – Caitlyn

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5 Books I’m Thankful For

I love Thanksgiving. I love November and December in general, really. I just love holidays and pumpkin spice lattes and Christmas joy. There are so many things that I’m thankful for: my family and friends, my job and education, breath every morning and a safe place to sleep every night…the list could go on and on. I’m thankful for a family that encourages learning and reading. I’m thankful for the chance to travel to new worlds or dive into history, just by reading pages from the comfort of my own home. Books have given me so much over the course of my life. Some books have given me a new level of understanding, some have given me courage and confidence, while others have given me moments of peace. These are 5 books that I’m particularly thankful for.

harry_potter_and_the_sorcerers_stone

I’m trying really hard to think outside the box and reach beyond the first thing to pop in my head, but listen…there’s no denying the impact that Hogwarts and Co have had on my life. The first book came out when I was 6 years old and it was just a couple of years later that I finally convinced my mom to let me read it. I can honestly say that this series is one of the reason I love books so much today. I felt a plethora of emotions over the years of being engaged in this world: anxiety, joy, fear, hope, friendship, safety, and more. I’m thankful for Harry Potter and for having stories that feel like home.

crazy-love

Non-fiction and I are not usually friends. However, there was a season in my life where a friend literally put this book into my hands and I started reading. I didn’t want to, but I caved. I’m a sucker. This is the one non-fiction book that I keep coming back to. Sometimes it’s just to reread a chapter or a paragraph, while other times it’s to start at page 1 and see what happens. Francis Chan has a way of helping me understand who God is and how He loves. This is a love that I couldn’t wrap my head around…until I read this book. I’m thankful for Francis Chan and the new eyes that I see the world through.

anne of green

I was late to the Anne of Green Gables game, I’ll admit. My mom told me over the years that I should read it and that the main character reminded her of herself. I think that’s the reason I resisted reading it. Typical teen. Ha! I randomly decided to give it a chance just a couple of years ago and now I’m obsessed. It’s like Anne and I have always been friends. (Maybe that has something to do with my mom, too…) This series is so full of hope and joy, laughter and love. I know that I can open any one of these books or turn on the audiobook and I’ll crack at least one smile. I’m thankful for Anne Shirley and for reminders that beauty is all around us.

lineage-of-grace

Francine Rivers is one of those rare individuals that I would do untold things to meet. You know those basketball game half-time half-court contests? I’d do that for a chance to meet her. And I once had the chance to do that for a cool prize and vehemently refused. So…trust me when I tell you that means something. When I think about how much I love her books and honestly, I’m thankful for all of them, this one sticks out. This book includes 5 stories about Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba, and Mary from the Bible. Rivers has a way of taking what we know about them from God’s word, and turns them into full fledged stories. She gives them voices, ambitions, and humanizes them in a way that I hadn’t pictured before. I’m thankful for this book and the way it helped me to read the Bible.

fangirl

Man, I love this book. When I read the last page, I felt this overwhelming sense of understanding. I felt seen and known by these characters and the author. Rainbow Rowell always writes books that are poignant and funny, while also being complex and surprising. This Rowell book in particular really spoke to me. I’ve read it twice now and I’m sure I’ll read it again when I need a reminder that it’s ok to be myself and that in fact, that’s what makes me awesome – no one else is 100% like me. I’m thankful for Fangirl and I’m thankful to be me.

What books are you thankful for this holiday season? Let me know in the comments below!

Happy reading! – Caitlyn

The Healer’s Apprentice by Melanie Dickerson

healers-apprentice

Synopsis from GoodreadsIn author Melanie Dickenson’s new book, a young healer’s apprentice named Rose believes she will never marry … until she meets Lord Hamlin, the future ruler of her village. Hamlin is everything she could ever want—kind, understanding, and a man of faith—but her low station and the fact he’s already betrothed to a mysterious woman makes their romance impossible. As Lord Hamlin seeks to find the sorcerer who cursed his future bride, Rose’s life spins toward confusion. A creative retelling of the classic Sleeping Beauty tale.

Feelings: This is the first book in Dickerson’s Hagenheim Family series. Right now, there are 6 books. I purchased this for my Kindle when there was a deal for 5 books in this series for 99 cents. That particular deal is no longer available, but the link to view the set is HERE.

I read this book really quickly. Dickerson’s writing flows really well and the plot is fairy simple. This is the second of her books that I’ve read. The first was The Huntress of Thornbeck Forest. THIS book, however, was almost too simple. I had the ending figured out pretty early on. You can tell that Dickerson does her research on the time period and her books are true to history as much as possible.

Issues: Besides the obvious “twist”, I wish the main couple hadn’t met within the first few pages. I didn’t really get a chance to know these characters before they were all googly eyed about each other. I think I would have enjoyed the book more if it hadn’t all pointed to one ending from page 1.

Some things fell into place too easily. One minute we’ve got a man sentenced to death, no questions asked…the next we remember a convenient ordinance that gets him off. What a relief! Not. We kept reading “It can’t happen” and “The Duke won’t change his mind”…then it’s all suddenly ok.

I really didn’t care anything for Moncore’s few POV paragraphs. I didn’t really think it added anything to the story, other than revealing that he was hearing voices. I almost wanted to skim over these sections because they were thrown in over the last few chapters.

Characters: Rose was an ok character. She wasn’t the strongest female character I’ve ever read about, but she had some gumption.Wilhelm is very passionate and strong, making for a good male lead character. A lot of YA and historical fiction romance books are hyped up sexy sexy. This book is nowhere near that category. It’s very chaste and clean. I was almost wishing for a little heat, but I was ok with how it all played out in the end.

I wasn’t sure where the whole Lord Rupert thing was going for a while. He seemed like a major creep and Rose was just going along with it, willing to settle and cross her fingers that she’d fall in love with him eventually. That bothered me. I wanted her to hope for actual love and not just marry a guy because he “loved” and wanted to control her.

Final thoughts: This is Christian historical fiction, even though it doesn’t seem to be overly advertised as such. Like Dickerson’s other books, she refers to scripture and there’s a lot of prayer. I just figure that’s worth mentioning! Also, this book is labelled as a fairy tale retelling of Sleeping Beauty, but this only shows up in the last few chapters, really.

Pick this up if you liked:

The Huntress of Thornbeck Forest by Melanie Dickerson

An Honest Heart by Kaye Dacus

Goodreads rating: 3.82/5

Amazon.com rating: 4.2/5

My rating: 3/5

Happy reading! – Caitlyn

Final Reading Challenge Update

I’d planned on this being my 3rd of 4 total reading challenge updates for the year, but…I’M FINISHED. That’s right, friends. I have completed my reading challenge for 2016. This year, I was motivated to complete the challenge, but to BE challenged. This list didn’t encourage me to look for certain types of books, but rather to read what I wanted and see how I could fit it into the challenge.

I’m wanting to do something different for 2017. I don’t think I want to do a list of challenges like this for the third year in a row. Any suggestions?

In the meantime, check out the list of 50 books below! For books that I wrote full reviews on, I’ve included the link to that page!

Challenges completed: 50/50

  1. A winner from the 2015 Goodreads Choice Awards – Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard (read my full review HERE)
  2. A book about books – Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan (read my full review HERE)
  3. A book from the Rory Gilmore Challenge – Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen
  4. A book with one of the 5 W’s in the title (who/what/when/where/why) – What Happened to Goodbye by Sarah Dessen (read my full review HERE)
  5. A book set more than 100 years ago – An Echo in the Darkness by Francine Rivers (read my full review HERE)
  6. A book whose main character is in a profession that interests you – The Bronte Plot by Katherine Reay (read my full review HERE)
  7. A book by an author who writes under more than one name – Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by JK Rowling  (read my full review HERE)
  8. A fairytale from a culture other than your own – The Blood of Olympus by Rick Riordan (I Googled “fairytale” and according to the world wide web, “myth” is a synonym for “fairytale”. So it’s a stretch, but I’m running with it.) (read my full review HERE)
  9. A historical fiction book – The Huntress of Thornbeck Forest by Melanie Dickerson (read my full review HERE)
  10. An award winning book (ex: Newberry Medal, National Book Award, etc.) – Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan (read my full review HERE)
  11. A book you’re embarrassed to read in public – Outlander by Diana Gabaldon (read my full review HERE)
  12. A book published in 2016 – Lady Midnight by Cassandra Clare (read my full review HERE)
  13. A book with a blue spine or cover – Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys (read my full review HERE)
  14. A book with a horrible/ugly cover – Nothing But the Truth by Avi
  15. A book picked for you by someone else – Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff (read my full review HERE)
  16. A favorite book you read for a second time – A Voice in the Wind by Francine Rivers (read my full review HERE)
  17. A book you feel that everyone has read but you – Wolf by Wolf  by Ryan Graudin (read my full review HERE)
  18. A book recommended by a famous person – For the Love by Jen Hatmaker (read my full review HERE)
  19. A book you know nothing about – Keeping the Moon by Sarah Dessen (read my full review HERE)
  20. A book set in the country of your ancestors – An Honest Heart by Kaye Dacus (read my full review HERE)
  21. A book with a child as the main character – Lock & Key by Sarah Dessen (read my full review HERE)
  22. A book with an unreliable narrator – The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin (read my full review HERE)
  23. A book whose main character shares your name (first, middle, or last) – Dreamland by Sarah Dessen (read my full review HERE)
  24. A book set during a war (historical or fictional war) – Empire of Storms by Sarah J. Maas
  25. A chick-lit book – This Lullaby by Sarah Dessen (read my full review HERE)
  26. A book written before you were born – Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen (read my full review HERE)
  27. A collection of poems – The Hidden Oracle by Rick Riordan (While it may not be a “collection” of poems, there were poems throughout it. So I’m counting it. Ha!) (read my full review HERE)
  28. A book outside your comfort zone (genre, topic, number of pages, etc.) –The Port Chicago 50 by Steve Sheinkin (read my full review HERE)
  29. A book about second chances – Miracle at the Higher Grounds Cafe by Max Lucado (read my full review HERE)
  30. A prequel to a book series – Stars Above by Marissa Meyer (read my full review HERE)
  31. A book that has more than one author – Hamilton: The Revolution by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeremy McCarter
  32. A book by an author who is from a different country – City of Bones by Cassandra Clare (read my full review HERE)
  33. A book that’s an author’s debut novel – That Summer by Sarah Dessen
  34. A book that you got for free – Ms. Marvel, Vol. 4: Last Days by G. Willow Wilson
  35. A book that was made into a movie, TV series, or mini-series – Someone Like You by Sarah Dessen [Movie version = How to Deal] (read my full review HERE)
  36. A play that was adapted into a musical or a movie – Pygmalion by Bernard Shaw
  37. A book that’s on the bestseller list – Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen (read my full review HERE)
  38. A book spun off from another book – The Shadowhunter’s Codex by Cassandra Clare and Joshua Lewis
  39. A book that made you laugh out loud – Let’s All Be Brave by Annie F. Downs (read my full review HERE)
  40. An audiobook –Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz (read my full review HERE)
  41. A book your grandma (or other family member) loves – Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling
  42. A book with a nonhuman protagonist – A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas (read my full review HERE)
  43. A book that takes place at a university – The Heir and the Spare by Emily Albright (read my full review HERE)
  44. A mystery or thriller – I Am Princess X by Cherie Priest
  45. A book recommended by a blog or Booktube video – Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy by Cassandra Clare, Sarah Rees Brennan, & Maureen Johnson (read my full review HERE)
  46. A book that takes place during a holiday – Ghosts by Raina Telgemeier (read my full review HERE)
  47. A book you own, but haven’t read – The Moon and More by Sarah Dessen (read my full review HERE)
  48. A book that you’ve “been meaning to read” – Ms. Marvel, Volume 3: Crushed by G. Willow Wilson
  49. A book you read with a friend or a book club – Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys (read my full review HERE)
  50. A book you saw someone reading – Looking for Lovely by Annie F. Downs (read my full review HERE)

 Are you working towards completing a reading challenge? Do you have any recommendations for a 2017 Reading Challenge? Let me know in the comments below!

Happy reading! – Caitlyn

Top 5 Books from My Summer

Well friends, we’re officially getting farther away from summer and deeper into the school year. As a middle school teacher, my year is planned out from August to the start of June, then summer hits and all bets are off. There’s down time, trips, unexpected whatever moments, and everything in between. I tend to do a lot of reading during the summertime just because I can (and I want to). From when school got out in June until the first day of classes in August, I read a total of 16 books! Yowza. From those 16, these were my top 5 favorites!

lovely

Looking for Lovely by Annie F. Downs

I’ve raved about this book before and I’ll continue to do so forever. Sometimes you just come across a book that meets you exactly where you are and fills you up completely. That’s what this book was for me. I SO needed this level of encouragement and validation, not to mention emotional support. Annie and I could be best friends. It was just great to know that there’s someone out there with similar struggles and world views as me. (Read my full review HERE!)

echo darkness

An Echo in the Darkness by Francine Rivers

This was the second time that I’d read this book and I forgot how moving it is. This is the second book in the Mark of the Lion trilogy and while the first one is simply beautiful, THIS BOOK is straight up powerful. The first book sets up a lot of things while this one sees them through. I cried so many times, you guys. It’s so beautiful and I’m running out of adjectives to do it justice. Just read it and we can gush over it together in perfect harmony. (Read my full review HERE!)

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Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling, J. Tiffany, J. Thorne

While I did have some issue with this book (more like I had impossibly high expectations that no book could possibly live up to), I still really enjoyed it. There was some serious nostalgia going on while I read this script and I desperately wanted to max out my credit card and hop on a plane to London to see it acted out in real life. If you’re a Potterhead, read this book. Lower your expectations down to reality and read it. (Read my full review HERE!)

moon and more

The Moon and More by Sarah Dessen

If you’ve been following me for a few months (first of all, hey thanks) then you know that I’ve been reading my way through Sarah Dessen’s books in publication order. This summer, I finished reading the second half of her published 12 books! I really enjoyed this particular book, mostly because I could relate to Emaline’s family scenario. I enjoyed it a lot more than I thought I would. (Read my full review HERE!)

unbecoming mara dyer

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin

This book was SO different from everything else I read this summer. It was creepy and forced me to watch a couple episodes of Parks and Rec before I could fall asleep. What can I say? I spook easily. I’m not really motivated to continue on in this series, but I did enjoy reading this first book! (Read my full review HERE!)

What were some of your top books from the summertime? Let me know in the comments below!

Happy reading! – Caitlyn

An Honest Heart by Kaye Dacus

an honest heart

Synopsis from GoodreadsDr. Neal Stradbroke has a secret past that could destroy everything he’s worked since childhood to build. But when he falls in love with the daughter of one of his patients, he must choose between revealing his past and risk losing everything or keeping his secret and watching her marry another man. Cadence “Caddy” Bainbridge has worked hard as a seamstress since her vicar father died, and for a while, things went well. The last thing she needs is a romantic entanglement—but she finds herself torn between two men: Oliver Carmichael, whose wealth could give Caddy’s mother the life of ease she deserves; and Neal Stradbroke, for whom her heart yearns. Oliver Carmichael has always drawn the eye of all the girls with no exertion on his part—all the girls, that is, except seamstress Caddy Bainbridge. So, even though he has plans to marry Edith Buchanan, he places a bet with his friends that he can make Caddy fall in love with him before the opening day of the Great Exhibition. Edith Buchanan has been disappointed in marriage prospects already, so she is not about to lose another suitor to a woman of lower social status—especially not her own dressmaker!—so she spreads rumors about Caddy that could not only ruin Caddy’s business but cause Caddy’s mother to have a fatal relapse. Courtship . . . cunning . . . candor. Who has an honest heart?

Feelings: First of all, can I just say…that synopsis from Goodreads is misleading. Caddy never talks about how Oliver’s wealth could help her mother. And she really isn’t ever torn between them. Also, this book never discusses how Edith has lost multiple suitors to women of “lower social status”. I’m guessing the author wrote that blurb, putting into that blurb what she wanted her book to be. I just wish she’d matched the book with the synopsis because it would have been a much richer and well rounded story.

Now, having said all of that…I really liked this book! I enjoyed the characters and how there were a few storylines weaving together. I liked the tension that the author built by switching to other stories at the height of another’s tension. The main conflict was disappointing and lacking substance, but I thought this book’s crowning glory were its characters and the author’s ability to paint a picture.

Issues: I really only had 2 issues with this story. Issue #1: I hate when the main conflict of a story is something that could be solved by simple communication. It makes me legit angry. We had allll this build up, guiding us to the “highest” point of the story when they both share their struggles…and it’s dumb. Caddy had a real trust issue to confess, but Neal’s HUGE secret was again…dumb. I get the historical context and all that, but it just wasn’t meaty enough, you know?

Issue #2: That ending. It was nothing. Edith wasn’t a like-able character, sure, but her ending was weak – a cop out. She could have easily gotten more resolution. And Oliver? His resolution is really just seen from someone else’s POV and then he’s gone. No wrap up, no conclusion. It all felt so rushed, like the author was so over her own story and ready to be done with it. I read in the author’s Goodreads review (of her OWN BOOK) that this book and the one before it were written just to pay some bills. You see that lack of investment in her writing, but not really until the end! I thought the rest of it was well written!

Characters: I enjoyed reading about Caddy. She was a strong female character, independent and making her own way in the world. I liked that while she wanted love, she wasn’t resigned to being a spinster, like so many other “older” characters that you find in historical fiction.

As the story went along, I started piecing together Dr. Neal’s truth. I didn’t hate how the mystery dragged on because I liked his character so much. However, when his truth was revealed (quickly, on one of the last couple of pages) I was disappointed. THAT’S IT? That’s what was holding up their romance all this time? What a waste.

Oliver is confusing. He’s a player, he feels real emotion, then he’s being a jerk, then he’s being manipulative, then he’s showing real concern…who are you? After having read this whole book, I still don’t feel like I really know Oliver and whether he actually has any depth.

Edith…she’s a classic mean girl. She deserved the unhappy ending that she received, but knowing the direction of her life would have helped the resolution. She was a big piece of this book and even though she was a nasty person, with all that page time she deserved more.

Final thoughts: After I was about halfway through this book, I realized it was the second book in a duology. I did a little research and found that the first book and this one are actually parallel stories, the second one happens at the same time as the first, just from different perspectives. I don’t know that I’ll read the “first” book because it focuses on characters that I don’t really care anything about. If you like historical fiction, I think this is a good one. It’s not flawless or an instant classic, but I enjoyed the romance in it. This is the kind of sweet romance I liked to read. They could have gotten together sooner, but the emotions were adorable.

Pick this up if you liked:

Follow the Heart by Kaye Dacus

Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers

Goodreads rating: 4.09/5

Amazon.com rating: 4.4/5

My rating: 4/5

Happy reading! – Caitlyn

August 2016 Wrap Up

Goodbye, summer. Goodbye, months of vacation time. Goodbye, sleeping in. Goodbye, hours a day of reading time. Back to reality!

This month, as my summer ended and my work-life began again, I managed to only read a total of FOUR books!

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child: -Parts One and Two by J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany, and Jack Thorne

  • Nostalgia. Tears. Questions.
  • My rating: 4 stars

An Honest Heart by Kaye Dacus

  • Sweet romance. Historical fiction. Strong characters.
  • My rating: 4 stars

Nothing But the Truth by Avi

  • Full of irony. Flat. Thought provoking.
  • My rating: 3 stars

Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

  • Second read. Interesting superpower plot. Lacked…something. 
  • My rating: 4.25 stars

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

Happy reading! – Caitlyn