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

The Inconceivable Life of Quinn by Marianna Baer

“If she couldn’t believe herself, how did she know whom to believe?”

life-of-quinn

Synopsis from the publisher: Quinn Cutler is sixteen and the daughter of a high-profile Brooklyn politician. She’s also pregnant, a crisis made infinitely more shocking by the fact that she has no memory of ever having sex. Before Quinn can solve this deeply troubling mystery, her story becomes public. Rumors spread, jeopardizing her reputation, her relationship with a boyfriend she adores, and her father’s campaign for Congress. Religious fanatics gather at the Cutlers’ home, believing Quinn is a virgin, pregnant with the next messiah. Quinn’s desperate search for answers uncovers lies and family secrets—strange, possibly supernatural ones. Might she, in fact, be a virgin?

Feelings: I thought this story was really captivating! I was SO into what was going on and living every second with Quinn. I had some theories and was really putting my Law & Order: SVU-honed skills to use. I thought the political element was an interesting touch, making Quinn’s story carry more weight in the public eye.

Issues: It took me a while to enjoy the minor character POV chapters. The first few times, it seemed disconnected and like it didn’t necessarily ADD anything to the plot. Some of the later chapters did, though.

I also didn’t care for the way the story jumped around at times. This may be because my copy of the book wasn’t totally finished and still had some errors. But if that’s not the case, there were a few jerky jumps that broke up the flow of the story.

There’s a small part of me that likes how the author left the whole mystery kind of open and uncertain…but it’s a really small part. The majority of me is annoyed by it. I’m all for magical realism, but this book was 99% real world with a little dose of mythology thrown in, making the pregnancy disjointed. No spoilers, but it just seemed unfinished.

The side-story of Quinn’s baby being a holy, Messiah character felt like too much. I think that part could have been left out, or at least eased up, and the story would have still been gritty and mysterious. However, it made me feel confused and uncertain about the baby, itself.

Characters: I like Quinn. I thought she was spunky and had a lot of heart. I appreciated how she stuck to her guns and defended herself against…everyone. I can’t imagine going through something like what she endured, but I think her reactions made sense and were well balanced.

Quinn’s parents kind of surprised me. I really thought they would have somehow done more to figure out how Quinn got pregnant and by whom. They seemed resigned to the fact that they may never know. I did respect how they supported her decisions and didn’t force her into anything. It was difficult, for sure, which is realistic, but they didn’t pressure her. They were flawed parents and made some bad calls, but that’s relatable!

Final thoughts: Interesting story that fell a little flat for me. I did enjoy it! I just was so sucked in and invested that the ending left me disappointed. Great writing style and cool overall tone.

Pick this up if you liked:

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin

Goodreads rating: 3.47/5

My rating: 3/5

*This book will be out April 4 of this year. I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review. All opinions are my own.

Happy reading! – Caitlyn

5 Romances I Hate to Love, or Love to Hate

I love a good romance story. I mean…who doesn’t? Give me a rom-come or a love-filled period drama any day of the week and I’m a very happy camper. Sometimes though, I come across stories that I love, but hate at the same time. And there are always different reasons for this response. It could be that I dislike one of the people in the relationship, but I like the other one. It could be that it was an instalove connection, which annoys me. It could even be the writing style throwing me off, yet I keep trudging onwards. And yet…keep them coming!

These are 5 romance stories that I hate to love, or love to hate.

glass-sword-2

Mare & Cal

I read this second book in the series mostly because I wanted to see how their relationship would play out. Would they recover from the plot twist in Red Queen? Would it drive a wedge between them? I got so frustrated with them throughout Glass Sword, but I just HAD to know how they end up. I didn’t love this book, as you can read about in my review of it. But I really like Cal, and I think he can do better than Mare. You know it too, Cal!

crooked-kingdom

Kaz & Inej

They’re not even a straight up couple and I hate that I love them. They’re so right for each other, but at the same time, it makes perfect sense that they can’t just commit and be together. They’ve both got ridiculous amounts of baggage that prevent them from being what I want them to be (insert flirtations of Nina & Matthias as an example). I’m so conflicted by their relationship, or lack thereof. I need a third book, Bardugo!

phoenix

Harry & Ginny

That’s right! I said it! I’ve never been a fan of the Harry-Ginny combo. Actually, I’ve just never really been a fan of Ginny. I didn’t expect it to last, to be honest, while I was reading the books. Then the movie came out and I thought the chemistry between the two actors was off a little, so that just solidified my opinion. Harry literally could have ended up with whoever he wanted. (Cue “Choooo Chaaannggg” from A Very Potter Musical.) Then the “Cursed Child” script was released and I’m still sticking to my guns, here. And yet…I love Harry Potter and his whole world. So even if a book came out that was all about their life together, I’d read it. Because Potter.

saga

Marko & Alana

I’ve been reading the Saga volumes for the last year or so and I have to say, Marko and Alana have an incredibly frustrating relationship. As far fetched as their bond seems, there’s also a crazy dose of reality mixed in. Yes, they’re in another world, but they’re dealing with a lot of the same relationship drama that we see everyday all around us. Maybe not escaping from our warring planets, but raising a family together, meeting each other’s families, being separated from each other, and more. I like this story and the way I’m kept on my toes, but sometimes it’s hard to face the truths these two characters deal with.

bridget

Bridget & Mark & Bridget & Daniel

I really enjoyed this book and I love the 3 movies. There’s so much in these stories that I can relate to, and then other things that I have no connection with and make me laugh out loud…or just generally enjoy my own life a little bit more. I went back and forth between whether I preferred Mark or Daniel for Bridget. While I now that in the end, Daniel wasn’t the right pick for her (not including the spoilers from the new movie), I still don’t love her with Mark. But I do love Colin Firth. So I’ll keep coming back to these stories, anyway.

What romances do you hate that you love? Let me know in the comments!

Happy reading! – Caitlyn

Listen, Slowly by Thanhha Lai

“Life is easy and hard, beautiful and ugly.”

listen-slowly

Synopsis from GoodreadsA California girl born and raised, Mai can’t wait to spend her vacation at the beach. Instead, though, she has to travel to Vietnam with her grandmother, who is going back to find out what really happened to her husband during the Vietnam War. Mai’s parents think this trip will be a great opportunity for their out-of-touch daughter to learn more about her culture. But to Mai, those are their roots, not her own. Vietnam is hot, smelly, and the last place she wants to be. Besides barely speaking the language, she doesn’t know the geography, the local customs, or even her distant relatives. To survive her trip, Mai must find a balance between her two completely different worlds.

Feelings: This was one of the books for my school’s book club, which is focusing on other cultures and view points. I really appreciated this pick; there were so many things I didn’t know or hadn’t realized about Vietnamese culture.

There’s a lot that this book does well: great messages on friendship, identity and what defines us, as well as strength and what it looks like. There are also undercurrents of family, the power of our choices, and patience. I think the author does a great job of weaving all of these elements together, while also crafting an engaging and fun storyline. There are some surface-level conflicts, sure, because it’s about a 12-year-old girl. But there’s also a pool of depth when it comes to culture and history.

Issues: I don’t know that I had any specific issues. For me, it just felt like the story was unfinished. While the main conflict was certainly resolved in the end, there was a lot left hanging. I’m not sure if this story lends itself to a sequel, but maybe a companion novel. But for now, it just left me feeling like…soooooo what about all this other stuff?

Characters: For some (especially adult) readers, I can see how Mai would be an annoying narrator. I mean…she’s definitely annoying. But you also have to keep in mind that she’s a child and this book is targeted to middle grade readers, mostly ages 8-12. I think for that age group, there are a lot of kids that could totally relate to Mai’s struggles. As an adult, there was a hint of nostalgia there, remembering what it was like to think everyone was conspiring against me, rooting for my complete discomfort. She almost lost me in the beginning, but I stayed with her and she grew on me.

Her grandmother made me miss mine so much. That quiet strength and the way Mai really SAW her at the end…got me right in the feels. I don’t know what I was expecting from the main conflict, centered around grandma and her long lost husband, but I felt content with its resolution.

The Vietnamese boy who goes to school in Houston, Texas was so great. (I don’t remember his name or know how to spell it, since I listened to the audiobook. That’s so terrible, I know!) The southern gentleman’s accent the narrator gave him was great. It gave him a sophisticated air about him that shook up the dialogue from time to time. And the girl who cut off her hair and wants to be a scientist…she was brilliant. (Again, sorry about the lack of character name.) She added that taste of rebellion that the perfect community needed, wanting to get her hands dirty and go outside of what was expected.

Narrator: I don’t think I would have cared much for this book in the very beginning if it hadn’t been for the narration by Lulu Lam. The first chapter is SO whiny valley girl middle schooler and I almost couldn’t hang. But she was so engaging that I wanted to keep listening. As the story went on, I could hear the character growing and changing in Lam’s voice, which I think takes great skill. Also, her pronunciations saved me. I really enjoyed her accents and different voices that she used for the varying generations and backgrounds of characters. Simply looking at the narrator, without any influence from my view of the storyline, I’d give Lulu Lam 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Final thoughts: I liked this book! I thought it was different from anything else I’d read and I really appreciated how the author gave us a history lesson without an information dump. Facts were delicately weaved in with the storyline and it just seemed natural. If you’re looking for a good realistic fiction middle grade read, I’d recommend this one, especially if you have kids. This would be a good one to preview for them or just put straight into their hands.

Pick this up if you liked: (These are all novels in verse…there’s no particular reason why that happened…they’re just the first ones I thought of!)

Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

All the Broken Pieces by Ann E. Burg (another perspective from a child on the Vietnam War)

Goodreads rating: 3.89/5

Amazon.com rating: 4.4/5

My rating: 4/5

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