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*

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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.

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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

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Empire of Storms by Sarah J. Maas

*As this is the 5th book in a series, there will be spoilers if you aren’t caught up!*

“Aelin Galathynius, Queen of Terrasen, knew the time would soon come to prove just how much she’d bleed for Erilea.”

empire-of-storms

Synopsis from GoodreadsThe long path to the throne has only just begun for Aelin Galathynius. Loyalties have been broken and bought, friends have been lost and gained, and those who possess magic find themselves at odds with those who don’t. As the kingdoms of Erilea fracture around her, enemies must become allies if Aelin is to keep those she loves from falling to the dark forces poised to claim her world. With war looming on all horizons, the only chance for salvation lies in a desperate quest that may mark the end of everything Aelin holds dear. Aelin’s journey from assassin to queen has entranced millions across the globe, and this fifth installment will leave fans breathless. Will Aelin succeed in keeping her world from splintering, or will it all come crashing down?

Feelings: I will always love Sarah J. Maas’s books. The last 4 in this series swept me up and I couldn’t fully express my love for them, which really is a testament to Maas’s ability to tell a story and develop characters. Her world building went to new levels in Empire of Storms, with more appearances by spirits and now some gods, the introduction of new lands, and the meeting of worlds. We have new bad guys. We have new good guys.

When Aelin was Celaena, she was one of my favorite characters ever. By book 5, I care less about her and am far more invested in the supporting cast. Now, there are quite a few characters who run together in my mind (like everyone in the cadre…beautiful, strong, love Maeve, troubled…they’re the same) BUT then ladies in this story are awesome. They’re there for each other (even Manon in her own way) and supporting in ways that the male characters just can’t hang.

Issues: The whole Lock thing threw me. As I was reading, I kept thinking…How is this going to work?  There are so many elements that are going to have to come together just right in order for this to work. If it was any other author, I’d be like NOPE THIS WON’T WORK.

When this series started, the world was fairly small. At this point, there are so many people and places that were mentioned in passing that are now major and I feel disjointed. Where are we? I had to check the map more times in this book than any other book with a map that I’ve read before. Who is this person? I had to rack my brain through 8 million pages of previously read text to try and remember them.

When the gods kept showing up…then the mirror thing (which totally felt like a pensieve from Harry Potter)…I honestly was just getting lost. I had to re-read a large number of paragraphs. I’m not dumb…there were just so many new elements and connections across books that it took me a minute to catch up.

Where was Chaol? How did he go from a vital character in the first 2 books to a nobody who literally isn’t even in book 5? He’ll probably show up and save everyone everywhere in the end, I just can’t understand how he went from hero to zero so quickly.

Characters:  I love Manon and Dorian’s connection in this book! I’m one of those rare people who thought her chapters were fascinating when we were first introduced to Manon, so I’m glad that she’s part of the main crew by book 5. Her knowledge and background adds so much complexity! She and Dorian are both so strong and have the survival of a people group on their shoulders. I was genuinely concerned about the survival of The Thirteen! Those witches don’t play. I’m really interested to see where Manon’s storyline goes as she and her witch crew take up their new mission. And Dorian tags along.

Aelin is STILL keeping secrets from everyone everywhere. I did really enjoy the scene where she taps into her Celaena personality traits to surprise Rolfe and Rowan. It was like a moment of relief because Aelin is so troubled, but Celaena was always really free and kind of whatever. This book series has grown and changed so much that I feel like I don’t connect with Aelin anymore, like I don’t even know who she is. Her relationship with Rowan takes an ultimate right turn at the end of this book and I’m really uncertain about where this is all going, especially with Lysandra’s role as a shapeshifter. (I know that doesn’t make sense if you haven’t read the book, but I don’t want to be specific and spoil anything!)

LYSANDRA IS QUEEN. Or at least, she should be because she is incredible. Her gifts are insane and she’s SO intelligent. In Queen of Shadows I could instantly tell that she would be important, but I just thought it would be so that Aelin had a female companion in her crew. But no. She was vitally important to the survivial of everyone. I love her and Aedion’s bond, how slow they’re moving and how understanding they are. It’s totally different than the other love stories in this series.

Elide and Lorcan…I was NOT sure how that would all turn out, but I didn’t think it would end the way it did. Elide was such a sweet balance to Lorcan’s fury and I’m glad that she got some more page time. Lorcan…Lorcan is softening, but he’s still infuriating.

Final thoughts: When I think about this series as a whole, it feels like there have been 10 books. The story has changed SO MUCH. I have some concerns moving forward, like what’s going to happen when this war is over? Is Aelin actually fit to rule? All she knows how to do is fight. What will all her friends do when this ends? I just don’t know. There’s only 1 book left. Ultimately, I thought this book was good. It had some really strong moments, especially when it comes to characterization, but plot holes and questions are preventing this book from being amazing for me.

Also, make sure you read Assassin’s Blade before you pick this book up!

 

Goodreads rating: 4.65/5

Amazon.com rating: 4.7/5

My rating: 4.5/5

Happy reading! – Caitlyn

PopSugar 2015 Reading Challenge

People of the earth…I DID IT! I completed the PopSugar 2015 Reading Challenge! Now, I’ll be honest…I stretched a few of the challenges, but I did what I had to do to make it work. Ain’t no shame in my reading challenge game. I included a link for any and all books I wrote full reviews for.

  1. A book with more than 500 pages: The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen
  2. A classic romance: Manga Classics: Pride and Prejudice by Stacy King (a stretch, but I’m SO counting it!)
  3. A book that became a movie: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs (movie coming soon!)
  4. A book published this year: An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir
  5. A book with a number in the title: The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey
  6. A book written by someone under 30: A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas
  7. A book with nonhuman characters: Crimson Bound by Rosamund Hodge
  8. A funny book: Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrew
  9. A book by a female author: Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson
  10. A mystery or thriller: Jackaby by William Ritter
  11. A book with a one-word title: Drama by Raina Telgemeier
  12. A book of short stories: Four by Veronica Roth
  13. A book set in a different country: The Bane Chronicles by Cassandra Clare
  14. A nonfiction book: The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor
  15. A popular author’s first book: Cinder by Marissa Meyer
  16. A book from an author you love that you haven’t read: Off the Page by Jodi Picoult
  17. A book a friend recommended: The Crossover by Kwame Alexander
  18. A Pulitzer Prize-winning book: All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
  19. A book based on a true story: Sisters by Raina Telgemeier
  20. A book at the bottom of your to-read list: We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
  21. A book your mom loves: Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
  22. A book that scares you: Through the Woods by Emily Carroll
  23. A book more than 100 years old: Anne of Avonlea by L.M. Montgomery
  24. A book based entirely on its cover: The Heir by Kiera Cass
  25. A book you were supposed to read in school but didn’t: The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
  26. A memoir: Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
  27. A book you can finish in a day: The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh
  28. A book with antonyms in the title: For the Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund 
  29. A book set somewhere you’ve always wanted to visit: Bridge to Haven  by Francine Rivers (Hollywood)
  30. A book that came out the year you were born: Maus by Art Spiegelman (some of the original came out the year I was born)
  31. A book with bad reviews: Monster by Walter Dean Myers (this one has the worst reviews of all the books I read…although it doesn’t necessarily have bad reviews)
  32. A trilogy: Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
  33. A book from your childhood: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone  by J.K. Rowling
  34. A book with a love triangle: Queen of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas (this whole series has a couple of love triangles)
  35. A book set in the future: The Invasion of the Tearling by Erika Johansen
  36. A book set in high school: Bloodlines by Richelle Mead
  37. A book with a color in the title: Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard
  38. A book that made you cry: Wonder by R.J. Palacio
  39. A book with magic: Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge
  40. A graphic novel: Smile by Raina Telgemeier
  41. A book by an author you’ve never read before: Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys
  42. A book you own but have never read: A Little Something Different by Sandy Hall
  43. A book that takes place in your hometown: Scarlet by Marissa Meyer (While I’m not from Paris, France…there aren’t many books that take place in Paris, Texas, so I’m counting this one.)
  44. A book that was originally written in a different language: Les Miserables by Victor Hugo (I read the manga edition, but I’m absolutely counting it.)
  45. A book set during Christmas: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell (a bit of a stretch…but part of it DOES happen at Christmas time!)
  46. A book written by an author with your same initials (CR): Falling Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes (No, these aren’t my initials BUT it IS my last name…so I’m just going to chalk that up to a win!)
  47. A play:The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde
  48. A banned book: Saga by Brian Vaughan and Fiona Staples (it’s on a list of challenged books, so I’m sure it’s been banned somewhere)
  49. A book based on or turned into a TV show: A Feast for Crows by George R. R. Martin
  50. A book you started but never finished: Yes Please by Amy Poehler

Did you complete any reading challenges this year? Let me know in the comments!

Happy reading! – Caitlyn

Top 5 Books of 2015

I read quite a few books that were released this year and I’ve chosen my 5 favorites! Note, I’ve limited this list to books that were published this year. These are my top rated books of the year. In fact, I gave the first three books ratings of 5 stars! (Clearly, YA Fantasy is my genre of choice.)

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1) Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

THIS BOOK YOU GUYS. If you haven’t read this, I don’t know what you’ve been doing with your time. Work doesn’t matter. Friends don’t matter. This book is your new top priority. I didn’t know anything about this book when I dove in, and I highly recommend that’s how you approach it. All I’ll say is that it involves some Ocean’s 11-type heisting, smart magical elements, and top notch characterization. 5 stars ALL OF THE STARS [Read my full review here.]

QoS

2) Queen of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas

This book has been a long time coming. In case you’ve been living under a rock of solitude for the last couple of years, this is the fourth book in the Throne of Glass series and it is seriously EPIC. I don’t think I can say anything about this book without spoiling the previous 3, but I WILL say that it has bad-a queenliness, some shocking WHAT moments, and mastermindedness. [Read my full review here.]

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3) The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh

This book is a retelling of A Thousand and One Nights and I. Loved. It. Now, I’ll be honest and say that I was really in the mood for everything this book served up when I read it, so I enjoyed it more than the average reader. I acknowledge that. This book was so refreshing and I read it in one sitting. [Read my full review here.]

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4) An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

I read this book into the wee hours of the morning for a few nights in a row. I was victim of the classic, “Just one more chapter” phenomenon. This book had me at hello. Seriously, after the first few pages I was like YYEEEESSSSS here we go! This book has a unique spy vs soldier dynamic, a lot of twists, and some serious intrigue. I can’t wait for the sequel. [Read my full review here.]

 

invasion

5) The Invasion of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

Last, but certainly not least, I loved this book. This is the sequel to The Queen of the Tearling, which I only picked up because Emma Watson said she loved it. I didn’t even know what it was about, I just wanted to see what type of literature excites Hermione Granger. I really enjoyed the first book, but the SEQUEL?…amazing. I had a few small, personal issues with some elements…but they’re things I can get over. [Read my full review of the first book here.]

What are your favorite books released in 2015? Let me know in the comments!

Happy reading! – Caitlyn

Queen of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas

*Because this is the 4th book in this series, there are going to be spoilers. If you haven’t read the first 3 books in the Throne of Glass series, I wouldn’t recommend reading this review! Run away!*

“When you shatter the chains of this world and forge the next, remember that art is as vital as food to a kingdom. Without it, the kingdom is nothing, and will be forgotten by time.”

queen of shadows

Synopsis from GoodreadsThe queen has returned. Everyone Celaena Sardothien loves has been taken from her. But she’s at last returned to the empire—for vengeance, to rescue her once-glorious kingdom, and to confront the shadows of her past . . .She has embraced her identity as Aelin Galathynius, Queen of Terrasen. But before she can reclaim her throne, she must fight. She will fight for her cousin, a warrior prepared to die for her. She will fight for her friend, a young man trapped in an unspeakable prison. And she will fight for her people, enslaved to a brutal king and awaiting their lost queen’s triumphant return.

Feelings: Entertainment wise, this book was EVERYTHING. While reading the last 150 pages, I had verbal and physical reactions to the action and unexpected everything. I’d get to the end of a chapter with a “WHAT?!” or honestly, a “HOW DID THAT WHAT THE WHAT’S HOW?!” I took notes while reading (because it’s 645 pages and I kept forgetting who did what) and one of my notes literally says, “Last 100 pages. I’M DEAD. Lysandra YES. Nesryn YES.” There were so many out of the blue WHAT moments that have me wanting to give Maas some kind of award for writing.  I’ve said it before, and I want it written on my tombstone, “Maas is a master.”

My favorite scene from this book was Aedion’s rescue. I loved Aelin’s conversations with Florine, the dance master. I loved how the dancers caused the distraction with the glass flowers and reactive powder. I loved her tough love to get that big oaf moving faster as she got Aedion the heck out of there. I just…I think this was one of the first action scenes of the book where I was hooked and couldn’t stop reading. It was like I was reminded of why I love Maas’ writing so much and I began reading in chunks of like 100 pages.

Issues: Seriously? The ultimate bad guy is actually Duke Perrington? There has to be some other twist there, because I just don’t believe that. I have a very small theory that Dorian’s brother, Hollin, is going to turn out to be important later on in the series. Is the demon king actually taking up residence in him? But seriously, though…THE DUKE? I’m having a hard time processing that. I don’t find it believable…unless there’s even more backstory that I’m missing…which is probably the case.

Characters: Ok…I have a lot of opinions that have been building over the course of many books. Stay with me.

Aelin – LONG LIVE THE QUEEN. Dang, girl. She is something seriously fierce. Aelin is the Queen of all things Trickery. Thank you, Sarah J. Maas, for not having Aelin spill out her plan before everything she did. I couldn’t predict a single outcome in this novel and I loved it. The last of Celaena Sardothian has slipped away, and the Queen of Terrasen has finally come into herself. I love the depth and complexity this adds to the series. Some books have characters who grow and change over time, but this character literally grows and actually changes into someone else as the series continues. Maas has done it well, so I’m on board. I was so happy when Aedion and Aelin reunited! I hadn’t realized how much they needed each other until they were finally together. Aelin and Rowan…in HoF they were all “we’re just friends” and platonicly whatever. I love that QoS starts up a romance with them, but it’s not the sole focus of the book, it’s not like it’s driving the plot forward. But what hasn’t Aelin had any kind of mating reaction to him? You know? The way it’s described in this series always makes me think of imprinting in the Twilight series. Has that not happened because Rowan isn’t her mate? I guess we’ll find out! And when she tricked us about the whole Arobynn ring thing?! Ahh! Aelin is my hero forever and ever amen.

Rowan – I finally feel like I understand him! If he wasn’t a POV character, I would still be struggling with who he is, exactly. He’s one character that’s done a LOT of developing over the last 2 books. He’s actually kind and thoughtful and funny, as opposed to the brutish and controlling beast I thought he was. I really liked how he showed up and started dropping truth bombs on everyone. Oh, Aedion? He’s Gavriel’s son. Lysandra? She’s obvi a shapeshifter. WHAT? Bring those fae senses over here, Rowan! I love how Aedion saw Rowan as some fictional hero, like how we see Hercules. He didn’t behave the way I expected him to around Rowan, but by the end of the book they were bros and I wanted MORE.

Dorian – I really liked his character in the first few books, but I wasn’t necessarily a passenger on the Aelin/Dorian ship. As Aelin became more queen-like and less champion Celaena-like, I could see her compatibility with Dorian slipping. I couldn’t understand his draw to Sorcha in HoF, so I was already kind of meh about him as I picked up this book. THEN that first chapter happened and I was hooked. I knew his *literal* internal struggle with a DEMON PRINCE would be captivating. I was so very right. His connection with Manon is one thing I’m really interested to get more of in the next book. I’m also ready for him to own that ice power and rule Adarlan. Don’t take any pages out of Elsa’s icy book, though. You be you.

Lysandra – New favorite character right here. I read The Assassain’s Blade before I read QoS, which I think is necessary. Lysandra annoyed the heck out of me in that book, but in this one she was the best. I want her to be my best friend. Female companionship was something that Aelin’s character desperately needed and Lysandra was the perfect candidate. Plus, she can totally rock being a shapeshifter. I’m really excited for more of that in the next book. She wants true love and Aedion has a lot to offer. That needs to happen STAT.

Manon – In Heir of Fire, I found some of the Manon chapters a little tedious and boring. In QoS, however, I was SO intrigued. I was anxious to learn more information about Elide, I wanted to see what was up with Asterin’s behavior, and KALTAIN the Devourer of Worlds was YES. And Manon’s fight scene with Aelin was SO INTENSE. I love when POV characters finally meet. I’m really curious about how her character will evolve now that there’s magic again. I’m not sure we fully understand the extent of a witch’s power when they actually have access to magic. Also, I’m really looking forward to seeing how she changes things in the new witch regime that, let’s face it, she’s going to bring about. Down with her grandmother and up with Team Manon.

Chaol – Honestly, he’s never been my favorite character. This series just has so many strong female characters that I tend to rally behind one of them. He’s had a lot of personal issues going on in the last couple of books, like realizing the man he was serving (the King) wasn’t the right horse to back. Then he put all his money on Dorian, only for him to get taken over by a demon prince. Poor guy just couldn’t catch a break. In this book, he really had to decide what was worth fighting for and go after it. Stick with Nesryn, Chaol. She’ll guide you along the right path. 

Comparisons: Literature wise, this book wasn’t a perfect 10. But like I said, this book had everything you could want out of an entertaining novel. This is probably my favorite book in the series, but I also really loved Crown of Midnight. This book had so much action and a lot of loose ends tied up. For the series as a whole, though, this book felt like the climax. With two books left in the series, I feel we’re headed towards the resolution at this point.

Final thoughts: Yes, you should read The Assassain’s Blade before you read this. There were MANY references to things that happened over the course of those novellas. Plus, it’s vitally important that you see just how freaking creepy Arobynn really is. There are so many things I’m looking forward to in the next book. It better be 700 pages long, minimum, because I’m not going to want to stop reading.

If you liked this book, you should check out:

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas (see my full review here)

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

Falling Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes

Goodreads rating: 4.69/5

Amazon.com rating: 4.8/5

My rating: 5/5

Happy reading! – Caitlyn