5 Fantasy Series I Want to Start

This list started as 5 general book series that I wanted to read, but when I finished putting it all together, I realized that they’re all the same genre – fantasy. This genre really lends itself beautifully to multiple books. There’s always a large amount of world building going on, so there’s always somewhere for the story to go and it needs pages to spread out. These series are ones that I’ve heard about from other readers and have been recommended to me, so I’m really interested in giving them a go…you know, in my infinite free time. Ha! For each series, I include the synopsis of the first book from its Goodreads page.

Seven Realms by Cinda Williams Chima

Books in series – 4

Times are hard in the mountain city of Fellsmarch. Reformed thief Han Alister will do almost anything to eke out a living for his family. The only thing of value he has is something he can’t sell—the thick silver cuffs he’s worn since birth. They’re clearly magicked—as he grows, they grow, and he’s never been able to get them off. One day, Han and his clan friend, Dancer, confront three young wizards setting fire to the sacred mountain of Hanalea. Han takes an amulet from Micah Bayar, son of the High Wizard, to keep him from using it against them. Soon Han learns that the amulet has an evil history—it once belonged to the Demon King, the wizard who nearly destroyed the world a millennium ago. With a magical piece that powerful at stake, Han knows that the Bayars will stop at nothing to get it back. Meanwhile, Raisa ana‘Marianna, princess heir of the Fells, has her own battles to fight. She’s just returned to court after three years of freedom in the mountains—riding, hunting, and working the famous clan markets. Raisa wants to be more than an ornament in a glittering cage. She aspires to be like Hanalea—the legendary warrior queen who killed the Demon King and saved the world. But her mother has other plans for her… The Seven Realms tremble when the lives of Hans and Raisa collide, fanning the flames of the smoldering war between clans and wizards.

Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson

Books in series – 3 (plus short stories)

Once a century, one person is chosen for greatness. Elisa is the chosen one. But she is also the younger of two princesses, the one who has never done anything remarkable. She can’t see how she ever will. Now, on her sixteenth birthday, she has become the secret wife of a handsome and worldly king—a king whose country is in turmoil. A king who needs the chosen one, not a failure of a princess. And he’s not the only one who seeks her. Savage enemies seething with dark magic are hunting her. A daring, determined revolutionary thinks she could be his people’s savior. And he looks at her in a way that no man has ever looked at her before. Soon it is not just her life, but her very heart that is at stake. Elisa could be everything to those who need her most. If the prophecy is fulfilled. If she finds the power deep within herself. If she doesn’t die young. Most of the chosen do.

Starcrossed by Josephine Angelini

Books in series – 3

Helen Hamilton has spent her entire sixteen years trying to hide how different she is – no easy task on an island as small and sheltered as Nantucket. And it’s getting harder. Nightmares of a desperate desert journey have Helen waking parched, only to find her sheets damaged by dirt and dust. At school she’s haunted by hallucinations of three women weeping tears of blood… and when Helen first crosses paths with Lucas Delos, she has no way of knowing they’re destined to play the leading roles in a tragedy the Fates insist on repeating throughout history. As Helen unlocks the secrets of her ancestry, she realizes that some myths are more than just legend. But even demigod powers might not be enough to defy the forces that are both drawing her and Lucas together – and trying to tear them apart.

Serpentine by Cindy Pon

Books in series – 2

SERPENTINE is a sweeping fantasy set in the ancient Kingdom of Xia and inspired by the rich history of Chinese mythology. Lush with details from Chinese folklore, SERPENTINE tells the coming of age story of Skybright, a young girl who worries about her growing otherness. As she turns sixteen, Skybright notices troubling changes. By day, she is a companion and handmaid to the youngest daughter of a very wealthy family. But nighttime brings with it a darkness that not even daybreak can quell.  When her plight can no longer be denied, Skybright learns that despite a dark destiny, she must struggle to retain her sense of self – even as she falls in love for the first time.

The Witch Hunter by Virginia Boecker

Books in series – 3

Elizabeth Grey is one of the king’s best witch hunters, devoted to rooting out witchcraft and doling out justice. But when she’s accused of being a witch herself, Elizabeth is arrested and sentenced to burn at the stake. Salvation comes from a man she thought was her enemy. Nicholas Perevil, the most powerful and dangerous wizard in the kingdom, offers her a deal: he will save her from execution if she can break the deadly curse that’s been laid upon him. But Nicholas and his followers know nothing of Elizabeth’s witch hunting past–if they find out, the stake will be the least of her worries. And as she’s thrust into the magical world of witches, ghosts, pirates, and one all-too-handsome healer, Elizabeth is forced to redefine her ideas of right and wrong, of friends and enemies, and of love and hate.

Have you read any of these series? Do you have any recommendations on where to start? Let me know in the comments below!

Happy reading! – Caitlyn

Reading Challenge Update #2

It’s time for another reading challenge update! I posted my first update in March and at that time, I’d only “traveled” to 8 places in my reading. At this halfway point of the year, I’ve read about 16 places. I included London, England twice because those two books showed me very different experiences. I’ve done most of my book traveling in North America, so I’d like to branch out a little more soon. If you have any recommendations, let me know in the comments!

Travels Completed: 16/80

My reading has taken me to:

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)

– Angus, Thongs, and Full-Frontal Snogging by Louise Rennison (Easbourne, England)

– The Alchemist by Paolo Coelho (Andalusia, Spain)

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)

The Hammer of Thor by Rick Riordan (Boston, Massachusetts)

Summerlost by Ally Condie (Utah)

– Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon (Los Angeles, California)

– Geekerella by Ashley Poston (Charleston, South Carolina)

Jack & Louisa: Act 1 by Andrew Keenan-Bolger and Kate Wetherhead (Shaker Heights, Ohio)

– Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery (Prince Edward Island, Canada)

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

Amazon.com rating: 4.6/5

My rating: 4/5

Happy reading! – Caitlyn

Podcast Spotlight: Harry Potter and the Sacred Text

I recently jumped on the bandwagon that is the Harry Potter and the Sacred Text podcast. I was in the market for a new show to obsess over and boy, did I find one. The show’s co-hosts, Vanessa Zoltan and Casper ter Kuile, dig into one chapter at a time, going through the Harry Potter books in order. Not only do they analyze them, they treat them like a sacred text. They are both absed at Harvard Divinity School and bring in different practices to each podcast.

Each episode begins with a 30 second recap of the chapter in question, as well as a discussion on that week’s theme. Then they choose a spiritual practice to use while approaching that chapter, which is where things get interesting. Sometimes they’ll imagine a section of the book and discuss what they’re seeing in their heads. Other times, they’ll select a random line or two and approach it from a literal and allegorical standpoint. At this point, I’m about halfway through the first book with them and I think these are the only two practices they’ve used so far.

I was hesitant to listen to this podcast at first, wondering if treating Harry Potter as a sacred text was almost sacrilegious. But what I’ve found is that the approach allows me to connect with the text more and to see it as more than just an entertaining story. I see so much more depth and complexity, probably far more than J.K. Rowling ever could have intended. We see character motivations in a different light, as well as symbolism and lessons galore.

As someone who has read the books multiple times, I really enjoy this podcast series. I think it would also be really fun to read a chapter, then listen to the podcast episode about it, then continue on like that. Everything is fresh in your mind and you can see if you’re seeing the same things they are. They are very much aware of spoilers (meaning they try really hard to avoid them) so you’re safe there.

They have just recently begun going through the third book in the series, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, so you’ve got plenty of time to catch up, if you want to give it a listen! For more information, check out their website at harrypottersacredtext.com.

What are some podcasts you enjoy listening to? Let me know in the comments below!

Happy reading (and listening)! – 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

The Hammer of Thor by Rick Riordan (audiobook)

*This review may contain spoilers if you haven’t read the first book, The Sword of Summer.*

“Just like the good old days: marching together into the unknown, searching for missing magical weapons and risking painful death. I’d missed my buddies!”

Synopsis from GoodreadsThor’s hammer is missing again. The thunder god has a disturbing habit of misplacing his weapon–the mightiest force in the Nine Worlds. But this time the hammer isn’t just lost, it has fallen into enemy hands. If Magnus Chase and his friends can’t retrieve the hammer quickly, the mortal worlds will be defenseless against an onslaught of giants. Ragnarok will begin. The Nine Worlds will burn. Unfortunately, the only person who can broker a deal for the hammer’s return is the gods’ worst enemy, Loki–and the price he wants is very high.

Feelings: While I didn’t care much for the narrator, the storyline was pretty good. There were a lot of hot button “issues” going on in this story, which made it feel really relevant, even with all the mythology and history mixed in. I think Riordan handled it well, showing us multiple perspectives, dishing up truths, and making us feel vulnerable all at the same time.

Issues: I still don’t love the talking sword. Sorry, Jack. It just weirds me out!

I got to the end of this book and was only dazzled by mentions of Annabeth and Percy. It just…ended. I didn’t feel like things were really resolved, but rather recycled. I felt like I’d read this story before. Sometimes Riordan’s books echo each other (lost item, angry gods, tricky monsters) but it doesn’t always FEEL so familiar because of the new crew and circumstances. This time, though, I just felt like I’d done this song and dance before. I’m still going to give the story 4 stars simply because the characters and writing overshadowed any issues I had.

Narrator: Kieran Culkin narrates this book and adds a good amount of fun to the story. However, I noticed the voices he used changed over time. So the way he voices Alex, the girl, in the beginning, is different from how he voiced Alex, the girl, in the middle or the end. Culkin just lacked some consistency. While I think he narrated Magnus well, the rest of his performance lacked depth. My rating for the narrator alone is 2.5 stars out of 5.

Final thoughts: As always, I love Riordan’s writing and the way his narrators have a voice. I enjoyed the cast of characters in this story and the journey we took together. It’s definitely an upper middle grade level story, so just know that going into it. I’d recommend the print version of this book over the audio, just as a personal preference.

Pick this up if you liked:

The Sword of Summer by Rick Riordan

The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan

Loki’s Wolves by K.L. Armstrong and M.A. Marr

Goodreads rating: 4.37/5

Audible.com rating: 4.6/5

My rating: 4/5

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