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

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

London Belongs to Me by Jacquelyn Middleton

“I’ve spent so much time in the last few years trying to be perfect…and independent. And in the end, a rough draft and my friends made the difference.”

london-belongs-to-me

Synopsis from GoodreadsYour flight is now boarding! Join Alex Sinclair for a life-changing, trans-Atlantic journey. London Belongs to Me is a coming-of-age story about friendship, following your dreams, and learning when to let go … and when to hang on.

Meet Alex, a recent college graduate from Tallahassee, Florida in love with London, pop culture, and comic cons. It’s not easy being twenty-one-years-old, and Alex has never been the most popular girl. She’s an outsider, a geeky fangirl … with dreams of becoming a playwright in a city she’s loved from afar, but never visited. Fleeing America after a devastating betrayal, she believes London is where she’ll be understood, where she belongs. But Alex’s past of panic attacks and broken relationships is hard to escape. When her demons team up with a jealous rival determined to destroy her new British life, Alex begins to question everything: her life-long dream, her new friends, and whether London is where she truly belongs.

Feelings: I connected with this book on so many levels and have a lot in common with our main character, Alex. The panic attacks, the self doubt, the love of all things theatre and fandoms, a tour guide job, an obsession with London…Alex is me and I am her. I was so happy to see the way Alex and her anxiety were portrayed. It was a comfort to feel like I wasn’t the only one.

One of my favorite things about this story was the sightseeing we get to do vicariously through Alex. We get to travel to a few famous theatres and landmarks throughout the city and she teaches us some new (to Americans) slang. It was a fun adventure!

Issues: The author kept referring to characters by their hair color. This wouldn’t usually bother me, but it happened a LOT. “The blonde one”…”the brunette one”…it just got old. Which is odd, because at other points the writing is crazy descriptive. Almost too descriptive.

It thought it was interesting that there was so much GIRL POWER with Alex’s plays and at the same time, a major beef between Alex and Olivia throughout the book. As a result of this tiff, we saw a lot of struggle for Alex and we watched as she tried to navigate this conflict, leading to some strong character development. However, I wish there’d been some stronger resolution that fit with this empowering-each-other theme in the book.

Characters: I’ve already raved about Alex, but I’ll just also add that she’s a very real character. Sometimes I get annoyed with characters make stupid choices because why couldn’t they have done something else, but it was different with this book. She was so relatable that when she goofed up, I was going…yep…I totally get that. It just worked for me.

This book was SO friendship-centric and I loved every second of it. Lucy and Freddie were a strong cast of the classic “friend group” we find in young and new adult literature. They had so much in common, but were wholly unique at the same time. Each friend had their own specific voice and I loved that they disagreed with each other! They had their own minds and called each other out on their stupidity. Even when the love interest entered the scene, we kept up with the friendship at the heart of the story. I really appreciated that. I do wish they’d been developed a teeny bit more. At times, it felt like they were just there to impact the protagonist, rather than have their own journeys. It was like they went back and forth between being dynamic and static characters, ending up as the latter. But ultimately, I loved their trio friendship and was jealous multiple times.

Uh, yes…I’d like to order one Mark, please. Talk about a swoon-worthy love interest. He was an imperfect character, sure, but again with the realness. The way that he really SAW Alex was refreshing and I liked the way the author handled the friendship dynamic. And then there’s Harry. I’ve got my fingers crossed for a companion novel that focuses on his journey from where this book ends up. I think that character has a lot of potential and I’d like to see it fleshed out. I’m rooting for him. For all of them, really.

Final thoughts: This book isn’t perfect, but it was really fun and I ate it up and it’s the type of story I’ll be forcing my friends to read just so we can discuss it. If you’ve ever struggled with anxiety or panic attacks, this book is a refreshing depiction of what it’s like to live with constant worry. You’ll finish the book feeling like you can do anything. What’s not to love about that??

Pick this up if you liked:

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

I’ve Got Your Number by Sophie Kinsella

Goodreads rating: 4.02/5

Amazon.com rating: 4.5/5

My rating: 4/5

Happy reading! – Caitlyn

5 Books I Read Because of Hype

I’m one of those readers who runs on recommendations. I’m always looking for the latest craze or hype-inducing storyline. I want to know what I’m talking about when I join the conversation, so I always fall prey to hype. These are 5 books that I read because of all the conversations they started amongst the blogosphere and Goodreads threads.

anna and the french kiss

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

SO MANY people told me to read this book. I was skeptical because I hadn’t really gotten into the contemporary scene at that point. But I finally decided to dive in on a sick day and I’m so glad that I did. Since I finished reading about Anna and Etienne, I’ve read the next two books in this companion story trio and I loved them. This book is the reason I reach for a contemporary romance. Plus that cover art. *Swoon*

throne

Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

I love high fantasy. I’m always interested in new worlds and innovative magic systems. I’d heard a lot of people talk about this series after the sequel came out, but the cover threw me off. It seemed weird, I’ll be honest. But I watched a spoiler-free review of the first book and the vlogger was SO into it. I love fangirling, so I wanted what she was having. And now? I freaking love this series. I always pre-order the new books long in advance and anxiously await their arrival, even clearing my schedule for them. These stories consume me. There are so many characters and so much world building that I’m too invested to stop now.

outlander

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

Everyone and their cat’s mom has talked about this series. I’m all about historical fiction and time travel, plus romance and Scotland…hubba hubba. But then, the romance also made me hesitated. I’m not one of those people who just LOVES blush inducing love scenes, call me crazy. Once the TV show started airing, I wanted to be part of the conversation, so I picked up the first book. I actually read it as I watched the episodes, which was pretty interesting. Then I watched the second season of the show and haven’t read the book. I AM glad that I read it. I thought the writing was powerful and the world was engaging. I would like to continue the series, but I haven’t settled on whether it’ll be print or TV, or both.

wrath

The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh

I read a few blog posts and watched some booktube videos of readers raving about this story, so I picked it up. I sat down and read it cover to cover in one sitting. Not necessarily because it was a work of genius, but because it hooked me in and I had the time. Since then, the sequel has been released and I have yet to read it. I don’t really remember what happened in the first book, probably because I read it TOO quickly. I don’t know that I’ll pick up the second book any time soon. I already have it on my Kindle, staring at me, longing to be given a chance. Maybe the hype sucked me in TOO much the first time around.

all the light

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Again I say, I love me some historical fiction. Last year, I was on a major WWII kick and read book after book about that time period. I was also teaching The Diary of Anne Frank along with a WWII unit, so I was thirsty for more information. Everyone kept telling me that I should read this book, but the page count was daunting. Once I finally decided to give it a chance, I flew through it. The characters lept off the page and I was so emotionally invested in their fictional little lives. I love this book. It’ll forever be one of my favorites.

What books has hype made you read? Let me know in the comments below!

Happy reading! – Caitlyn

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

5 Books I’ve Recommended to Students Lately

I love pairing people with books. I think about who they are, what they might enjoy, what they would put down in 5 minutes, and how fast they read. If someone is a slower reader, a book that takes a while to get in to probably isn’t the best bet. Not all of my students are big time readers – shocking, I know – so I can’t just assume they’ll dive into the same stories that have captivated me. Then there’s also the age and maturity difference. That definitely plays a factor.

These are books that I’ve personally recommended to my students lately.

 just listen

Just Listen by Sarah Dessen

Student requested: An easy-to-follow storyline with some romance thrown in.

After a week, my non-reader student told me she’d finished this book! She’d stayed up late and even read while some of her teachers were talking. She was so invested in these characters and desperate to see how their storylines played out. That’s exactly how I’d felt when I read it earlier this year! Annabel was a model with a bright future, until that future was suddenly over. Then she meets Owen, a guy full of mystery who makes Annabel finally feel seen.

nimona

Nimona by Noelle Stevenson

Student requested: A graphic novel that was a little bit different.

That’s a perfect way to describe this story! The illustrations are unique, compared to what I’ve read, and the story is definitely different. Nimona is a shapeshifter with a whole lot of spunk.She teams up with Lord Blackheart, a well known villain, to bring down the “heroes” and prove that they aren’t who they appear to be. A twist on the usual hero vs. villain storyline, this book will keep you on your toes!

illuminae

Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Student requested: An adventure book of epic proportions.

When a non-reader approaches me and says they want to read about an adventure, this is the first book I think of. This boy in particular is hard to please, gets bored easily, and doesn’t think reading can be even remotely fun. Then I put this book in his hands. He flipped through it, eyes wide at the page count, and said, “Wait…is this really a book?” YES! It has illustrations and transcripts, diagrams and even classic paragraphs. This book takes place during 2575 and a war is raging over a planet. No one is safe and no one can be trusted. You have to read it to believe it, folks.

 sword-of-summer

The Sword of Summer by Rick Riordan

Student requested: A book that was kind of like Percy Jackson.

Not only is this book LIKE Percy Jackson, but it was written by the same author and has some crossover to that beloved series. This is the story of Magnus Chase, the cousin of Percy’s girlfriend Annabeth Chase. Magnus’s storyline doesn’t stick to the Greek or Roman family line as Riordan’s previous books, but rather detours through Norse mythology. It’s got personality and grit, it’s just different enough to feel like a new story, while still feeling comfortable like you’re reading an old friend (AKA Percy).

goose girl

The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale

Student requested: A fairy tale, “but like a different fairy tale.”

That’s literally what the student said. She didn’t want Cinderella or Sleeping Beauty, she wanted something new and fresh. I pointed her towards The Lunar Chronicles but she wasn’t interested. (Don’t worry, I’ll work her up to it!) So then I gently forced her towards Shannon Hale. The Books of Bayern series reads like a classic fairy tale, but it also feels new and different. It has magical elements that are really interesting to read about and characters that jump off the pages.

Do you have books that you’d recommend to middle schoolers? Let me know in the comments below!

Happy reading! – Caitlyn