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

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

Wires and Nerve, Vol. 1 by Marissa Meyer

*This review may contain spoilers if you haven’t finished The Lunar Chronicles.*

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Synopsis from GoodreadsIn her first graphic novel, #1 New York Times and USA Today bestseller Marissa Meyer follows Iko, the beloved android from the Lunar Chronicles, on a dangerous and romantic new adventure — with a little help from Cinder and the Lunar team.

In her first graphic novel, bestselling author Marissa Meyer extends the world of the Lunar Chronicles with a brand-new, action-packed story about Iko, the android with a heart of (mechanized) gold. When rogue packs of wolf-hybrid soldiers threaten the tenuous peace alliance between Earth and Luna, Iko takes it upon herself to hunt down the soldiers’ leader. She is soon working with a handsome royal guard who forces her to question everything she knows about love, loyalty, and her own humanity. With appearances by Cinder and the rest of the Rampion crew, this is a must-have for fans of the bestselling series.

Feelings: I’m so glad to be back with this band of characters! This is one of my most favorite series of all time, ever ever amen. I’ve read the first 3 books in The Lunar Chronicles twice and then the 4th book once. And I read Levana’s story. And I read the short stories. I mean, it’s real.

I had this book preordered; that’s how excited I was. Not only because it’s Marissa Meyer, but because I love graphic novels and the way they tell different kinds of stories. I was so excited to visually see how Meyer intended her characters and their world to come across. Now that I’ve read this graphic novel, I almost want to pick Cinder back up again.

Issues: As you’ll see below, I was slightly disappointed by Thorne. This could be because I already loved him so much and had something set in my mind about how he presented himself and how he spoke. But still, he was just ever so slightly off.

Also, the overall tone of this story was different. I think it was partly because we were focused on Iko and she just generally sees the world in a different way, but also because of the formatting. We missed out on Meyer’s world building and character-driven insights.

Characters: Some of the characters were a little different than I’d imagined them in my head, but none of them were really way off base. Their personalities were all pretty well intact, too, which was something I was nervous about since the formatting of this story shifted to a graphic novel. Captain Thorne was just a bit off, in my opinion. I think I just imagined him being a little more enthusiastic and engaging.

I didn’t mind being shifted away from our usual main cast and focusing on Iko. I really loved her from The Lunar Chronicles, so I’m excited to see how this all plays out for her (and hopefully Kinney).

*sigh* I was so glad to see Wolf and Scarlet, even though their scenes were too short for me. Kai seems to be rocking his rule and I like that we’re seeing the in-between for Cinder and the future of the Lunar monarchy. Winter and Jacin are always a yes for me, too. We got snippets of these pairings, which like I said…I’m ok with, considering there’s so much previous material on them.

Final thoughts: I need more! It’s difficult to go from Meyer’s long-winded novels to this shortened, quick storyline. She does such a great job of getting you invested in her world, which worked well in those large page count books. But it made this story feel too short, like we were just getting started and were missing some real substance. Even so, I still enjoyed it and will probably read it again before the next volume releases. If you’re a fan of the original series, I would recommend this book. It’s fun and an easy to read continuation.

Pick this up if you liked:

Cinder by Marissa Meyer (Read my full review here!)

Goodreads rating: 4.39/5

Amazon.com rating: 4.5/5

My rating: 4/5

Happy reading! – Caitlyn

Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

*This review will contain some spoilers, if you haven’t read Six of Crows.*

“I would have come for you. And if I couldn’t walk, I’d crawl to you, and no matter how broken we were, we’d fight our way out together-knives drawn, pistols blazing. Because that’s what we do. We never stop fighting.”

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Synopsis from GoodreadsKaz Brekker and his crew have just pulled off a heist so daring even they didn’t think they’d survive. But instead of divvying up a fat reward, they’re right back to fighting for their lives. Double-crossed and left crippled by the kidnapping of a valuable team member, the crew is low on resources, allies, and hope. As powerful forces from around the world descend on Ketterdam to root out the secrets of the dangerous drug known as jurda parem, old rivals and new enemies emerge to challenge Kaz’s cunning and test the team’s fragile loyalties. A war will be waged on the city’s dark and twisting streets―a battle for revenge and redemption that will decide the fate of magic in the Grisha world.

Feelings: I love Bardugo’s writing and the way she weaves in characters’ back stories with the present action. We’re constantly learning new things about them as the story moves along and it adds so much dimension. Emotionally, this ride was up and down – the drama, the laughs, the tears. This book took me longer to get through for some reason than the first one. I think it just didn’t move in the same way that the first one did. But I read the last 200 pages or so in one sitting, partly because I was determined to finish and partly because I was so IN.

Issues: The only issue I had was that it lost my interest at times. I’m not sure if that’s because I was comparing it to Six of Crows for a while or if it was the actual plot that did me in. There were certain parts of this ride where I was gripped and on the edge of my seat and others where we were just filling in before the next exciting bit.

Characters: I needed more Kaz and Inej. And Nina and Matthias. And Wylan and Jesper. Just a little more of everyone. I understood the limits that they had and it made sense with the world and the story up to that point. Just personally, I need another book to see how those pairings play out, or don’t. (No spoilers. No mourners. No funerals.) It was especially interesting to get more of Wylan’s history and relationship with his father. With all the new back story information, we also saw even more character growth. They found themselves and banded together as a crew and a family.

I really value the diversity of this cast of characters. Not just diverse in skin color or gender, but in their diverse upbringings and experiences. They’re all so different but each member of the crew is equally important. Their differences are what makes them valuable and each has a story to share. This type of storytelling is really beautiful and I feel like everyone can find something or someone to connect to. 

Just like in Six of Crows, there wasn’t a clear hero or even a set villain. No one was perfectly fit for either label and I kind of enjoyed that. It made me question who I could trust, which kept me engaged and wondering. I really respect Bardugo’s choice for Kaz to not develop into some hero who overcomes his past. He remains an anti-hero from beginning to end and while he finds pieces of humanity along the way, he’s still Kaz. 

Some characters from Bardugo’s Grisha trilogy show up in this book, too! I recognized their names, but I couldn’t remember exactly who they were. So I Googled them. Ha! It was cool to see those characters pop up again. Like I said in my review of Six of Crows, you don’t have to have read the Grisha trilogy to understand what’s going on in this book. But it does help a little.

 

Final thoughts: In the end, I did enjoy this book and I’m glad I read it. Some of my predications came true, while others were way off, but that’s what makes reading fun! I recently found out that Bardugo will be releasing short stories that will be from this same Grisha world. These stories will be like old wives tales told and passed down through generations. I can’t wait to see the depth these add to this world!

Pick this up if you liked:

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

The Young Elites by Marie Lu

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

Goodreads rating: 4.64/5

Amazon.com rating: 4.7/5

My rating: 4.25/5

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

Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake

This was the LAST book I read in 2016!

“Three dark queens/Are born in a glen,
Sweet little triplets/Will never be friends

Three dark sisters/All fair to be seen,
Two to devour/And one to be Queen”

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Synopsis from GoodreadsEvery generation on the island of Fennbirn, a set of triplets is born: three queens, all equal heirs to the crown and each possessor of a coveted magic. Mirabella is a fierce elemental, able to spark hungry flames or vicious storms at the snap of her fingers. Katharine is a poisoner, one who can ingest the deadliest poisons without so much as a stomachache. Arsinoe, a naturalist, is said to have the ability to bloom the reddest rose and control the fiercest of lions.

But becoming the Queen Crowned isn’t solely a matter of royal birth. Each sister has to fight for it. And it’s not just a game of win or lose…it’s life or death. The night the sisters turn sixteen, the battle begins. The last queen standing gets the crown.

If only it was that simple. Katharine is unable to tolerate the weakest poison, and Arsinoe, no matter how hard she tries, can’t make even a weed grow. The two queens have been shamefully faking their powers, taking care to keep each other, the island, and their powerful sister Mirabella none the wiser. But with alliances being formed, betrayals taking shape, and ruthless revenge haunting the queens’ every move, one thing is certain: the last queen standing might not be the strongest…but she may be the darkest.

Feelings: I read this book in one sitting. I found myself with some “me” time (AKA while everyone else was out partying on New Year’s Eve), started this book, and shortly realized I was almost done with it. I was quickly hooked into the world and desperate to understand how it all worked. Sometimes authors give us a giant information dump in the first few chapters to where it reads more like a history lesson. Blake, however, slowly weaves information in and out of the characters’ lives. I wrote down many questions I had while reading and by the last page, they were almost all answered.

The politics! The intrigue! The family drama! The danger! Oh my! There was so much going on that kept me wanting more and more. So many possibilities for the second book and I have zero predictions and guesses. Everything I thought would happen in this first book got spun on its head, so I’m just going to wait and see how it all plays out!

Issues: Each place we went to was different and for me, it was easy to figure out where I was and who was there when the POV changed with the chapters. However, sometimes the world building became confusing and we didn’t find out important information until the second half of the book. Sometimes it was done well, filling us in at the best time. At other points, it made me more confused and have more questions. Most of the things I was stumped on included the world itself, like the government system, the process of finding king consorts or suitors, and the history of this queen ritual.

The other kind-of issue I had was with the romances. Part of me didn’t care about the romances because I was so invested in who was going to become THE queen and learning about their powers. The other part of me loves a good romance story and was disappointed that each individual love story had some sharp turns and side steps. None of them really ended well…which was kind of let down.

Characters: One thing I really enjoyed about this book were how the main characters are triplets, but they’re totally different. Each one had their own unique personality, struggles, and hopes. I found myself being totally invested in each one equally. I wasn’t speeding through certain chapters to get back to a beloved character. I loved all of them!

Katharine’s storyline was the darkest of the three…probably because of all that poison. I really wanted everything to work out for her, but I kept getting conflicted because I just knew that two of the sisters would have to die. Kat was probably the weakest of the three girls in the beginning. By the end, I wasn’t so sure anymore. I think she’ll find power in other ways, rather than some inherent gift.

Mirabella was expected to be the most powerful and the queen to fear. I think her particular story arc showed just how much of a teenage girl that she is and I liked that the author did that. She needed some kind of weakness in order for her to be relatable and worthy of our cheers.

Arsinoe was probably the most underwhelming of the sisters to me at first. She seemed rough and tumble, then she was sweet and caring. Then we questioned her gift and she showed us just how cunning she could be. I’m really excited to see where her story arc goes in the next book. She probably had the biggest plot twist by the end of the book!

Final thoughts: This is one of those books that I’d recommend you have some knowledge of before reading. It’s not the kind you just dive into. I mean, you could, but for me it would have taken longer to figure out the world that way. I’d highly recommend this book if you’re looking for a girl powered fantasy ride!

Pick this up if you liked: (How about some other QUEEN books?)

The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

Heartless by Marissa Meyer

Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

Goodreads rating: 3.85/5

Amazon.com rating: 4/5

My rating: 4.5/5

Happy reading! – Caitlyn

Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige

*This review does contain some spoilers.*

“I didn’t know what was worse: to have your shot and screw it up, or to never have had a shot in the first place.”

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Synopsis from GoodreadsWhen your whole life gets swept up by a tornado—taking you with it—you have no choice but to go along, you know? Sure, I’ve read the books. I’ve seen the movies. I know the song about the rainbow and the happy little blue birds. But I never expected Oz to look like this. To be a place where Good Witches can’t be trusted, Wicked Witches may just be the good guys, and winged monkeys can be executed for acts of rebellion. There’s still the yellow brick road, though—but even that’s crumbling.

What happened? Dorothy.

They say she found a way to come back to Oz. They say she seized power and the power went to her head. And now no one is safe.

My name is Amy Gumm—and I’m the other girl from Kansas.

I’ve been recruited by the Revolutionary Order of the Wicked, and I’ve been given a mission:

REMOVE
The Tin Woodman’s heart,

STEAL
The Scarecrow’s brain,

TAKE
The Lion’s courage,

And then—

DOROTHY MUST DIE.


Feelings: This story had a lot going for it. Spunky main character (whose name doesn’t seem to really fit her), plot twists, and some added zest to a story we thought we knew. However, a lot of that potential hit the fan early on. What was really weird, though, is that the questions I had and the plot elements that were throwing me off got somehow rationalized by the characters in the end. It’s like the author was writing and she started to see plot holes and decided that it’s easier to explain them away, rather than go back and fill them.

For a while, I wasn’t really sure what we were building up to. New realm and making new friends along the road. Scratch that. Recruited into a secret Order and learning about all of Oz’s drama. Moving on. Secretly living in the palace and waiting for a chance to strike. End of book. Mixed in with all of that were issues with her mother and the bully from her school. The pacing of the story was kind of up and down, making it hard to track what the point was. I think each piece was interesting and added value, I just wish it had been pieced together better.

Issues: My first issue is actually with the synopsis above. We don’t find out that Amy has to steal the heart, brain, and courage until the last few pages of the book. Why is that part of the synopsis for this first book??

That common YA thing where characters instantly accept change happens here in spades. New world? Cool. Learning magic? Whatever. Being forced to murder a stranger? Rolling with it. No one telling her the master plan? *shrugs*

Ugh. Instalove. Not only was it a cool learning magic and training scene that was ended by a pretty gown and a cute boy, but the cute boy is super shady. Kiss me. Don’t kiss me. Be angry at me. Now be concerned about me. I have zero interest in Nox. And the fact that Gert thought Amy would need a love connection in order to fight for them is stupid. Why couldn’t she want to fight because SHE wanted to?

The author dumbed things down for the reader sometimes. She’d make a reference, then add in its definition or explain it. It became annoying and threw off the flow of the story.

Finally, the title is Dorothy Must Die. The synopsis tells us that she has to die. Twice the story builds up to Amy being told that Dorothy needed to die. And multiple chapters end with this same “revelation” that she would have to die. We get it already.

Characters: Amy is SO not an Amy. I don’t know what that means, but all I DO know is that I’ve never read a character that seemed so disconnected from their name before. She fit the name Astrid more than Amy. At some points, she seemed to fit back about what was mysteriously expected of her and follow her own instincts, then other times she was just what the Order wanted her to be. By the end of the book, I wasn’t completely sure I knew who Amy was. Then again, I think she was struggling with her own identity.

Nox is confusing. I really didn’t care for him at all. He was too hot and cold for me. (See issues above.) And Pete? First of all…Pete?? What’s with the names in a magical realm? I was really interested in who Pete would turn out to be and honestly had no guesses, which is rare for me. Talk about a plot twist. Like a weird, confusing plot twist that’s making me reexamine my feelings.

The Order was a strange cast of characters. We had these older, more experienced witches with their own specific abilities, then these younger magical ones who we knew very little about and seemed to pop up out of nowhere. The whole ground just felt disjointed. I wish the author had explained how the magic worked a little more. That might have helped to understand this group dynamic.

 

Final thoughts: I really wanted to like this book. I’d previously almost picked it up multiple times, but decided against it for some reason. It could have been far more interesting than it was, but it wasn’t awful. I think if you’re a fan of the original story, this twist may be interesting to you. I probably won’t continue on in this series, though.

 

Goodreads rating: 3.85/5

Amazon.com rating: 4.2/5

My rating: 3/5

Happy reading! – Caitlyn