April 2017 Wrap Up

This is what I was able to read in April…I read 5 books, listened to 1 audiobook, and read 0 graphic novels, for a grand total of: 6! We still have a few days left in this month, so there’s time for that number to go up!

Geekerella by Ashley Poston

  • Nerd central. Like Ever After. Diverse cast.
  • Around the World in 80 Books Challenge: Charleston, South Carolina
  • My rating: 4.25 stars

Anne of Green Gables audiobook by L.M. Montgomery, narrated by Rachel McAdams

  • Classic. Sweet story. Favorite.
  • Around the World in 80 Books Challenge: Prince Edward Island, Canada
  • My rating: 4.5 stars

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

  • Quick read. Cute story. Strong writing.
  • Around the World in 80 Books Challenge: Virginia
  • My rating: 4.25 stars

P. S. I Still Love You by Jenny Han

  • First love. Decision making. Strong sequel.
  • My rating: 4.5 stars

Jack & Louisa: Act 1 by Andrew Keenan-Bolger and Kate Wetherhead

  • Cute and easy read. Musical references. Middle grade.
  • Around the World in 80 Books Challenge: Shaker Heights, Ohio
  • My rating: 4 stars

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

  • So suspenseful. Lots of hype. Thought provoking.
  • My rating: 4.25 stars

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

Happy reading! – Caitlyn

Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

“Life is a gift. Don’t forget to live it.”

Synopsis from GoodreadsMadeline Whittier is allergic to the outside world. So allergic, in fact, that she has never left the house in all of her seventeen years. But when Olly moves in next door, and wants to talk to Maddie, tiny holes start to appear in the protective bubble her mother has built around her. Olly writes his IM address on a piece of paper, shows it at her window, and suddenly, a door opens. But does Maddie dare to step outside her comfort zone?

Everything, Everything is about the thrill and heartbreak that happens when we break out of our shell to do crazy, sometimes death-defying things for love.

Feelings: This book has been on my radar since it came out in 2015. I’d heard what it was about and I wanted to read it, but just never actually picked it up. I saw that the movie was coming out soon and KNEW that I’d want to read it first, so that motivated me to get my own copy of it. I start it at around 10 PM on a Saturday night, and was finishing it not even 24 hours later. That’s partly because I had time to read and partly because of how quickly it moves.

I really enjoyed the formatting of the writing and it’s something I’m starting to see more often. Some authors are moving away from traditional blocks of text (aka chapters) and towards more creative and engaging writing. We get drawings, emails and IMs, paragraph-long “chapters”, and longer chapters. Every few pages is different and it made me understand the main character a little bit better, like I was more part of her world.

Issues: About halfway through the book, I made a predication about how it would all unfold. And I was right…exactly right. I wish the author had anticipated how some of the details could lead the reader to a certain conclusion and added in a curveball or two. It wasn’t so obvious that it affected my overall enjoyment of the story, but it did effect the way I read the last 20 pages or so.

The ending left me somewhat unsatisfied, even outside of me knowing what to expect. Now that I’ve said that, I couldn’t tell you what would have been a satisfying ending. I wanted more closure for the main character and for those around her.

Characters: I found Madeline and Olly’s relationship to be really sweet. It made sense that they’d be drawn to one another and they complimented each other really well. There’s definitely a little bit of instalove between them and the way Maddy was so easily able to interact with Olly, even though she’d literally only been around like 5 people in her life, was a little bit unrealistic. But overall, I enjoyed reading their story and seeing them grow both together and individually.

I enjoyed having Carla there, like a voice of reason and understanding. She was a stable character that was holding the narrative up, at times. However, I was a little thrown off at how she bended to Maddy’s will (no spoilers) and disregarded her mother’s concerns. That seemed like something a younger character might do.

Maddy’s mom is a whole other story. She’s one of the reasons I was unsatisfied with the ending – I thought she deserved more. Her relationship with Maddy is really fun and sweet for the majority of the book, so we grow to sympathize with her. Then the book ends and she’s got some loose ends that could have been tied up a little better.

Final thoughts: While I did have a few small issues with predictability, the ending, and character motivations, I still overall really enjoyed this story. I especially liked the writing style and the narrator’s voice. It was really easy to read and is one I’ll be recommending to a lot of friends, including you!

Pick this up if you liked:

The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

The Beginning of Everything by Robyn Schneider

Goodreads rating: 4.1/5

Amazon.com rating: 4.6/5

My rating: 4/5

Happy reading! – Caitlyn

Top 5 Cinderella Retellings

You guys, I really love fairy tales. I’m not necessarily one of those Disney fairy tale crazy fans, but I just love the genre in general. Give me a set of prince and princess characters, a talking pet sidekick, and a happily ever after any day.

I also really get into fairy tale adaptations and retellings. There’s something really fun about reading a reimagination of a classic story and finding ways that they parallel. I’ve seen and read all kinds of adaptations over the years – Snow White, Rapunzel, Little Red Riding Hood – but I think most often, I’ve read Cinderella retellings, so that’s what I’ll focus on today. These are 5 of my favorite Cinderella retellings.

Geekerella by Ashley Poston

This is the most recent Cinderella adaption that I’ve read and I really enjoyed it. We have a science fiction fandom twist to the classic story, which parallels the film “Ever After” more so than the original tale. It’s witty and chalk full of references to bigger fandoms. The love story is a little different from a classic fairy tale and their meet cute is unique. We’ve got a fun cast of characters here for this modern take on a classic – plus it’s a quick read!

 

Cinder by Marissa Meyer

I couldn’t leave out my favorite of them all! I remember seeing this book around for a couple of years before actually picking it up and I’m SO glad that I did. Cinder takes us on a galactic journey with this fairy tale twist and throughout this series, we see other adaptations as well, including Snow White, Little Red Riding Hood, and Snow White. The connections to Cinderella are pretty prominent in this first book and it’s a gripping, hilarious story.

It Started with Goodbye by Christina June

This is another modern adaptation of Cinderella, with some looser connections. Our main character lives with her stepmother and stepsister and has a fairy godmother in her abuela. This retelling focuses less on the dynamic between the main protagonist and her “Prince Charming” character and moves it more towards family and friendship. The characters are all VERY real, which is great for a fairy tale adaptation!

Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine

Time for a classic retelling of Cinderella! You may be thinking about the movie, but I’m just going to stop you right there. Don’t even. This is a classic case of the book being significantly better than the movie. It doesn’t even come close. This author is one of my favorites when it comes to fairy tales. All the elements are there – magic, friendship, self-discovery, hope, and a happy ending. Plus, a prince. Got to have a prince! If you haven’t ever read this book, give it a go. You won’t regret it!

Just Ella by Margaret Peterson Haddix

Another throwback example! I remember reading this in middle school. It was one of the first fairy tale adaptations I’d read and is probably the reason I love them so much today. This book gives us a look at the aftermath of Cinderella’s class tale – post-ball and post-wedding life. The twist with this retelling is that there’s no magical anything, it’s a more realistic take. This is a more empowering tale, as Ella didn’t go to the ball in search of a prince, but of a way out of her miserable life. Definitely a different take!

What’s your favorite Cinderella retelling? Let me know in the comments below!

Happy reading! – Caitlyn

Summerlost by Ally Condie

“…once you see something big, you can’t help seeing it in everything small.”

Synopsis from GoodreadsIt’s the first real summer since the devastating accident that killed Cedar’s father and younger brother, Ben. But now Cedar and what’s left of her family are returning to the town of Iron Creek for the summer. They’re just settling into their new house when a boy named Leo, dressed in costume, rides by on his bike. Intrigued, Cedar follows him to the renowned Summerlost theatre festival. Soon, she not only has a new friend in Leo and a job working concessions at the festival, she finds herself surrounded by mystery. The mystery of the tragic, too-short life of the Hollywood actress who haunts the halls of Summerlost. And the mystery of the strange gifts that keep appearing for Cedar.

Infused with emotion and rich with understanding, Summerlost is the touching middle grade debut from Ally Condie, the international bestselling author of the Matched series, that highlights the strength of family and personal resilience in the face of tragedy.

Feelings: This book saved me from a pretty deep reading slump. I hadn’t picked up a book in a couple of weeks, which for me…is a LONG time. This story feels simple and yet also really deep. I went through a variety of emotions without ever feeling heavy or overwhelmed. It’s a sweet story with characters who feel really real. The setting could have been anywhere, yet it was also a really special place with a lot of character. I enjoyed reading about the Summerlost festival and now I want to see a play. Ha!

Issues: The only (albeit, minor) issue that I had was about the 2 stories and the way they wove together. For the most part, I found Cedar Lee’s story mixed with the mystery of Lisette’s death went together well. However, it was only a tiny bit disconnected. We went from trying to solve a murder to secretly watching a soap opera back to asking questions about Lisette’s life to thinking about Cedar’s dead brother. Sometimes the going back and forth could have been a little smoother. But really, it’s a tiny baby issue. It didn’t affect my enjoyment of the story much, if at all.

Characters: I really felt for Cedar. Sometimes I forgot that she was 12 years old because of the way she was wrestling some major conflicts. Then, she’d react sharply or talk about her blossoming crush and I’d remember how young she was. I found her perspective to be refreshing and different from anything else I’ve read lately.

My feelings for Leo changed multiple times throughout the novel. At first, I thought he was a fun best friend character who could really help Cedar process what was going on in her life. He was confident and friendly, taking her under his wing. Then, like with Cedar, I was reminded of how young and innocent he was. He had his own conflicts and goals, some that encouraged Cedar and others that seemed to jar her. Their friendship and the way their relationship develops is really sweet and was written well, I think.

Final thoughts: This is a book that’s been on my radar for a while and I’m really glad that I finally picked it up. It sparked me back into a reading groove! The story is great if you’re looking for something you can connect with and enjoy, rather than really dig deep into and take a lot of time with. It’s a quick and easy read that’ll stay with you.

Pick this up if you liked:

Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt

Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech

Goodreads rating: 3.87/5

Amazon.com rating: 4.4/5

My rating: 4.25/5

Happy reading! – Caitlyn

Geekerella by Ashley Poston

“If you believe in yourself and have a few good friends, then you can do anything. You can be anything. So, as the saying goes: Look to the stars. Aim. Ignite.”

Synopsis from GoodreadsGeek girl Elle Wittimer lives and breathes Starfield, the classic sci-fi series she grew up watching with her late father. So when she sees a cosplay contest for a new Starfield movie, she has to enter. The prize? An invitation to the ExcelsiCon Cosplay Ball, and a meet-and-greet with the actor slated to play Federation Prince Carmindor in the reboot. With savings from her gig at the Magic Pumpkin food truck (and her dad’s old costume), Elle’s determined to win…unless her stepsisters get there first.

Teen actor Darien Freeman used to live for cons—before he was famous. Now they’re nothing but autographs and awkward meet-and-greets. Playing Carmindor is all he’s ever wanted, but the Starfield fandom has written him off as just another dumb heartthrob. As ExcelsiCon draws near, Darien feels more and more like a fake—until he meets a girl who shows him otherwise.

Part romance, part love letter to nerd culture, and all totally adorbs, Geekerella is a fairy tale for anyone who believes in the magic of fandom.

Feelings: This book was perfect for a reader like me. I love all the fandoms and enjoy subtle (and also not so subtle) references to things I love. PLUS, I love a good fairy tale retelling. This one in particular was done really well. Let’s talk Cinderella first.

This story paralleled the Ever After version of the Cinderella story, more than any of the others. The character’s name is Danielle, she has one nasty sister and one that has a sympathetic side, Danielle and “the prince” have a secret kind of relationships before the “ball” scene, and so on. And I’m glad the author chose that route. In terms of making the story realistic, this was the best way to go.

For the fandom aspect – so much fun! We saw everything from Battlestar Galactica to Game of Thrones to Batman to basically any fandom you can think of. I love the way the story is centered around the (fake, for us) TV series of Starfield, and we get to learn about this show as go go along this journey with the characters. I’m glad it wasn’t focused on an existing show; it made me bond with the characters more this way.

Issues: The story arc with Brian made the story get jumbled. For a while, we kept seeing that name and knew that there was something major that happened between him and Darien. I felt anxious to know what it was! Then when we find out, it comes out in a weird way and sort of falls apart. I didn’t really see Darien learn from that experience and it didn’t develop him as a character, so it just seemed out of place.

There were some small repetitions that annoyed me, like the “holy ______ Batman” line and the references to Darien’s abs. We get it, you’re a fan. We get it, your abs are insured.

What is with GAIL? Darien goes on and on about how he trusts her and how she’s the only one from before his fame began who really knows him, but she was useless. She missed all the drama happening with him, loses his phone at a very important plot point, and is a discombobulated mess. I think Darien needs new friends.

Characters: These characters all felt so REAL. Elle isn’t a perfect protagonist. She’s certainly got some issues, but she’s a teenager and it all made sense. It made her relatable, unlike Disney’s Cinderella character. (She took too much for too long, that’s all I’m saying. Start a mouse rebellion and take that house back, queen.) I like that she finds her voice by the end and discovers what makes her happy. We all go on that journey at some point.

Darien was a bit of a different love interest character. He’s got his own thing going, sure, but he isn’t that perfect, dreamy, Sarah-Dessen-esque boy character. Like Elle, he’s imperfect and makes mistakes along the journey. He learns about trust (sort of) and taking the reigns of his own life.

This book has a great set of side characters (except for Gail). I loved Sage. At first, I thought she was going to be that grumpy character who spoils everything, but she turned out to be the exact opposite. Chloe, the evil step sister, is exactly who the plot needed her to be, and Cal was that sweet surprise in the end. The step mother never got any redemption, like some “evil” parent characters do, which is fitting with the classic fairy tale. I’m okay with her remaining a negative source in Elle’s life, rather than this huge come-to-Jesus-scene where they promise to both “try” or whatever. That isn’t how things go sometimes.

Final thoughts: Not only was it a lot of fun, it was emotional, too. I actually teared up a few times because of the way I felt for the characters and was connected to them. If you love fandoms (or even just one fandom) and/or you love fairy tale retellings, then this is the perfect book for you. I read most of it in one sitting, because I just couldn’t find a good stopping point!

Pick this up if you liked:

Cinder by Marissa Meyer

Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine

It Started With Goodbye by Christina June

Goodreads rating: 4.24/5

My rating: 4.25/5

*This book is out TODAY! I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review. All opinions are my own.

Happy reading! – Caitlyn

5 Books I Basically Consumed

I’ve been in a bit of a reading slump lately. I have a hundred things going on and when I finally have a minute to myself, my brain is SO not in a place to engage with words on a page. So I decided this week to reflect back on some books that sucked me in and that I finished in less than one day. Sometimes I’m able to do that simply because I have the time to spare, while others involve me burning the midnight oil with zero regrets. Here are 5 books that I read so quickly that I may as well have devoured them.

It Started with Goodbye by Christina June

I think what connected for me so well with this book was how different it was from anything else I’d been reading at that time. This book’s main character, Tatum, is SO REAL that the storyline just flowed and I was deeply rooting for her. I just had to know how the conflict played out and whether or not it would all fall in place. Click HERE for my full review!

Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake

This was the last book I read in 2016 and I read it on the LAST day. I started it while I was alone at my parent’s house around 6 PM and was on the last page before midnight. I was SO hooked in by this premise and the gripping characters. This is a book that you should read about before diving in. The conflict and the world are both pretty complex, so it’s good to kind of know where it’s going. Click HERE for my full review! Girl power! The second book comes out this year and is titled One Dark Crown…I. Can’t. Wait.

My Lady Jane by C. Hand, B. Ashton, J. Meadows

This book is SO GREAT. The longer I sit here and think about it, the more I want to start back at page 1 and give it another go. Magical elements that make sense, a fun twist on a sad bit of history, and good use of parenthesis…oh my! Read my full review HERE! If you like the style and humor in The Princess Bride, then you’ll enjoy the way this story is told.

The Loose Ends List by Carrie Firestone

I picked up this book at a time when none of the books on my shelf were calling to me. I couldn’t figure out what genre I was in the mood for. Did I want romance? Fantasy? Classics? I was coming up empty. So I went to the book store and was drawn in by this book’s cover. When I read the synopsis, it left me with a lot of questions…so it was perfect. All throughout this book, I wondered what the author would do with the ending. Would there be a magical cure-all happy ending? Or would it be sad and real? I was really satisfied with this story! My full review is HERE.

The Winner’s Kiss by Marie Rutkoski

When this book came out, I decided to re-read the previous two books. Since this was the last book in the trilogy, I wanted to be able to pick up on everything and really enjoy it. I was worried that reading 3 books in a row would burn me out, but it didn’t. This book energized me! The author pulled out all the stops and didn’t do anything the way I expected her to and I LOVED it. This may be one of my top favorite series ending books ever. That’s saying something! I downed it. Then I wanted to have my memory erased so I could do it all over again. My full review for this book is HERE.

What are some books that you flew through? Let me know in the comments below!

Happy reading! – Caitlyn

It Started With Goodbye by Christina June

“Nothing this summer had gone the way I imagined. But maybe it was supposed to be that way so I could turn the page and move onto a new, clean chapter in my story.”

started-with-goodbye

Synopsis from GoodreadsSixteen-year-old Tatum Elsea is bracing for the worst summer of her life. After being falsely accused of a crime, she’s stuck under stepmother-imposed house arrest and her BFF’s gone ghost. Tatum fills her newfound free time with community service by day and working at her covert graphic design business at night (which includes trading emails with a cute cello-playing client). When Tatum discovers she’s not the only one in the house keeping secrets, she finds she has the chance to make amends with her family and friends. Equipped with a new perspective, and assisted by her feisty step-abuela-slash-fairy-godmother, Tatum is ready to start fresh and maybe even get her happy ending along the way.

Feelings: This story is really fresh and different! I wasn’t sure what to expect when I picked up on the Cinderella-twist vibe, but this book handles it really well. It wasn’t TOO parallel to the original fairy tale, more like…loosely inspired by. Modern twists and unexpected turns kept it interesting!

I liked that we saw a budding romance, struggles in friendships, and a disconnected family. There were a few realms of conflict keeping everything going, but it wasn’t ever that there was TOO much going on.

Issues: In terms of reality, I thought the punishment from the court and from her Dad were kind of extreme. No one was listening to her at all and she was treated like she’d done something MAJOR. I don’t know…it just didn’t totally come together, in my opinion.

Characters: Tatum is a very REAL character. She’s flawed and she messes up, she fights against the machine, but also comes around and is humble. She works hard, struggles with her reality, and finds ways to make things work. She’s so relatable and I enjoyed going on this journey with her.

I understand what it’s like to have a step-parent and how difficult it can be to adjust. I appreciated how the author twisted the traditional “evil stepmother” trope and made her a human being with motivations.

This story has a great cast of friend characters. Ashlyn is the imperfect BFF. Abby is the mature friend. Hunter is the cool guy. Tilly is the wild card. And SK adds some mystery (and hunkiness). It’s a diverse group where each person has their own “thing”, keeping the story moving and breaking up any chance of monotony.

Final thoughts: The writing style is really simple, so I finished this story in a day. It wasn’t necessarily that I just HAD to know how it turned out, I was just enjoying the writing and easy to follow plot. There’s a pretty high “cheese” factor in this book, but I like that from time to time!

Pick this up if you liked:

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins

Goodreads rating: /5

My rating: 4/5

*This book will be out May 9 of this year. I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review. All opinions are my own.

Happy reading! – Caitlyn