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

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

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

Clockwork Angel (audiobook) by Cassandra Clare, narrated by Jennifer Ehle

*This review contains spoilers if you haven’t read The Mortal Instruments series!

“In a way, we are not here just because we have nowhere else; we need nowhere else, because we have the Institute, and those who are in it are our family.”

clock-angel

Synopsis from GoodreadsIn a time when Shadowhunters are barely winning the fight against the forces of darkness, one battle will change the course of history forever. Welcome to the Infernal Devices trilogy, a stunning and dangerous prequel to the New York Timesbestselling Mortal Instruments series. The year is 1878. Tessa Gray descends into London’s dark supernatural underworld in search of her missing brother. She soon discovers that her only allies are the demon-slaying Shadowhunters; including Will and Jem, the mysterious boys she is attracted to. Soon they find themselves up against the Pandemonium Club, a secret organization of vampires, demons, warlocks, and humans. Equipped with a magical army of unstoppable clockwork creatures, the Club is out to rule the British Empire, and only Tessa and her allies can stop them.

Feelings: It’s been a couple of years since I read the Infernal Devices trilogy. I’m all up in this Shadowhunter world! I’ve read everything that Cassandra Clare has published and will continue to do so. I wanted to listen to the audiobooks this time around just to shake it up a little. I saw who the narrators were and was instantly excited. This first book is read by Jennifer Ehle, who played Elizabeth Bennet in the classic Pride and Prejudice BBC Drama.

One of the main reasons I love this book is because of the Victorian time period. The rules and social norms are so different from not only the Mortal Instruments series, but other urban fantasy stories as well. We see Tessa struggling with the way Shadowhunters interact with each other and diving into this whole new culture and it’s really fascinating to see it through her eyes.

Issues: Once again in YA, we have that whole “character is instantly accepting of change” trope. Tessa finds out she’s a shapeshifter and that all of the Shadowhunter world exists and she’s cool with it. She’s got a million questions, sure. But she’s accepting very quickly. I get it…she can’t go back so she might as well move forward. And she has the Codex to help her get situated. But still.

Will confuses the crap out of me. Can I say that? It’s like HE doesn’t even know what kind of character he’s going to be. Is he going to be the guy that changes because of a girl? Is he going to be the kind of douche bag guy who refuses to budge at ALL because of a girl? Is he an arrogant jerk? Is he just pretending? There’s zero predictability and no chance of connecting to him.

Characters: I love seeing favorite characters in this new time context. When Magnus says he has a thing for black hair and blue eyes…I got so excited. Alec is coming, Magnus! Just you wait! It’s fun to see him before he meets up with the gang in The Mortal Instruments series. In this book, we also see different familiar families: Lightwoods, Herondales, Penhallows, Carstairs, and more.

It didn’t take long for me to be reminded of how much I dislike Will Herondale. I know a lot of people think he’s the ultimate literary dream boat, but I totally disagree. He’s incredibly arrogant and proud. Yes, he’s exactly the same as Jace. Later on, after some serious character development, I can start to see how he could be somewhat likable – once his somewhat caring nature comes out – but ultimately…no. Not a fan. See “Issues” above.

Jem is totally different. Yes, he’s Will’s best friend, but I enjoy his scenes so much more than Will’s. He’s a truly kind soul and he’s probably one of my favorite characters in the Shadowhunter world. I’m excited to read about him more in the new Dark Artifices series. He’s a lot like Alec, in my opinion. Not that their personalities are the same, but they’re the best friend to the Herondale hero and are underestimated by those around them. And I end up liking them far more than said hero.

I really like Tessa. She’s strong and self assured. I like the way she acclimates to the other cast of characters and we see her fitting in. She really sees people. (Not to be confused with the previous “Issue” I mentioned.) She had a place to belong and feel special, which I loved seeing for her, as you get the feeling she’s not used to that. Tessa isn’t a damsel in distress, even considering the context of her time period.

Narrator: Jennifer Ehle’s narrating was ok…then she got to the exciting stuff. The way she called out and yelled…bothered me. I didn’t buy it, you know? She tried out a few different accents for the many characters, but it lacked consistency. She’d float in and out of accents and voices, which was a bit confusing. It ultimately made it so that I would then go back and forth between listening to the audiobook and reading it on my Kindle. (I’d give the audiobook narrator 3 stars, separate from rating the book and storyline itself.)

Final thoughts: This book wasn’t as good the second time around because I knew there were plot twists coming, even if I couldn’t remember exactly what they were. I am looking forward to continuing on with the audiobooks to see if I can remember what’s ahead! Ultimately, though, I love the Shadowhunter world. Always will. And I really do love this setting and this different cast of characters. If you like historical fiction and paranormal fantasy, I’d recommend giving this world a try (even if you didn’t love The Mortal Instruments series).

Pick this up if you liked:

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

City of Bones by Cassandra Clare

Ruby Red by Kerstin Gier

Goodreads rating: 4.33/5

Audible.com rating: 4.3/5

My rating: 4.5/5

Happy reading! – Caitlyn

Heartless by Marissa Meyer

“It is a dangerous thing to unbelieve something only because it frightens you.”

heartless

Synopsis from GoodreadsCatherine may be one of the most desired girls in Wonderland and a favorite of the unmarried King, but her interests lie elsewhere. A talented baker, she wants to open a shop and create delectable pastries. But for her mother, such a goal is unthinkable for a woman who could be a queen. At a royal ball where Cath is expected to receive the King’s marriage proposal, she meets handsome and mysterious Jest. For the first time, she feels the pull of true attraction. At the risk of offending the King and infuriating her parents, she and Jest enter into a secret courtship. Cath is determined to choose her own destiny. But in a land thriving with magic, madness, and monsters, fate has other plans.

Feelings: The thing about prequels and retellings is that you know where they’re going to end up. You kind of like Cath until you remember that she’s going to end up as the bad guy in Alice’s story. I thought Meyer did a great job of weaving in some references to Alice’s world here and there. We met some familiar characters, as well as some magical items with a twist.

Issues: I didn’t understand Jack’s role in the story. He was a super childish dude who clearly (but maybe not?) hated Cath. Was it love-hate? Or just straight up hate? I don’t know and he really doesn’t serve a purpose. It seemed like he would a couple of times, but then nothing would come of it. Not a big issue for me, since he’s a nobody character…but I just felt like something was important about him and I was wrong.

The dream magic wasn’t ever explained. Cath would wake up from dreams with lemon trees and roses growing around her bed…why? Was it because the Sisters were speaking to her about her fate in her dreams? Not really sure.

Finally, the pacing was a bit slow. I read it really quickly and it was easy to follow, but it was just a slow moving story from time to time. But then the ending felt rushed and one scene in particular felt like it came out of nowhere. It made me feel a little disjointed.

Characters: Catherine is an imperfect character. We knew where she was headed since this story serves as a prequel. We knew that she wouldn’t be a Cinderella kind of character, always cheerful and full of optimism. She’s even a bit judgmental and selfish from time to time, which makes it so that her turn towards evil isn’t completely out of left field. If she was Snow White-y or Cinderella-y, it wouldn’t make sense and it’d be hard to buy in to. But that’s just not the case here. She was actually pretty relatable for a while, big dreams and a drive to see them through, yet there was a series of obstacles in her way. I think Meyer made a strong creative choice with the story’s ending. It all makes sense and we can see how she got from Point A to Queen of Hearts.

Oh, Jest. What a love interest. Was this classic YA insta love? Meh. Sort of. It wasn’t like the “I just met him and his eyes are amazing and I want to marry him” kind of insta love, more like insta strong feelings. They did go back and forth one too many times for my taste, but then again…it was a pretty complicated situation.

The minor characters in this story were an interesting cast. You have Mary Ann, Cath’s partner in crime. They seem like sisters for the majority of the book, even though one serves the other. Then you have Cath’s parents, with the classic pushy gentry mom and the generic laid back pushover dad. There’s the king; the kind but stupid king. Where are everyone’s back bones? Where’s the courage and the guts? This book has an entire kingdom of people with their blinders on, in need of a leader. Enter the Queen of Hearts, ready or not, I guess.

Comparisons: I know a lot of people want to know how this book compares to The Lunar Chronicles, but really…there’s no comparison. Cinder and her friends get a lot more page time, a lot more room for character development and possibility. This book is a standalone, so what’s done is done. If you’re a fan of TLC, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll like this story, especially if what you enjoyed most was the science fiction element. That’s just not a thing in this book. Meyer’s writing shines through, though, just like it did in TLC. Plus, the tones of the two stories are totally different. So that’s my two cents when it comes to comparing.

Final thoughts: If you’re not a huge fan of Wonderland like me, don’t be put off by this story. I really enjoyed it, even though I never could connect with Alice or Through the Looking Glass. Too much whimsy loses me, but Meyer does a great job of balancing the story that already exists and taking creative license. Overall, I liked this book. I wasn’t just super crazy about it, but I generally enjoyed it. My advice: don’t read it on an empty stomach. There’s talk of baked goods on every page.

Pick this up if you liked:

Cinder by Marissa Meyer

For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund

Goodreads rating: 4.14/5

Amazon.com rating: 4.3/5

My rating: 4/5

Happy reading! – Caitlyn