5 Fantasy Series I Want to Start

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

Seven Realms by Cinda Williams Chima

Books in series – 4

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

Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson

Books in series – 3 (plus short stories)

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

Starcrossed by Josephine Angelini

Books in series – 3

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

Serpentine by Cindy Pon

Books in series – 2

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

The Witch Hunter by Virginia Boecker

Books in series – 3

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

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

Happy reading! – Caitlyn

May 2017 Wrap Up

This is what I was able to read in May…I read 4 books, listened to 1 audiobook, and read 3 graphic novels, for a grand total of: 8!

NewsPrints by Ru Xu

  • Beautiful artwork and color. Twisted storyline. New favorite.
  • My rating: 4.5 stars

Always and Forever, Lara Jean by Jenny Han

  • Best of the trilogy. Great ending. Read in one day.
  • My rating 4.75 stars

X-Men, Volume 1: Primer by Brian Wood, Oliver Coipel, David Lopez

  • New characters. Old friends. Cool artwork.
  • My rating: 3.5 stars

March: Book Two by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, Nate Powell

  • Slow to start. New information to me. Powerful.
  • My rating: 4.5 stars

The Alchemist by Paolo Coelho (I also listened to the audiobook a little bit. I like Jeremy Irons as a narrator – would recommend!)

  • Dreamy. Full of metaphors. Slow at times.
  • Around the World in 80 Books Challenge: Andalusia, Spain
  • My rating: 4 stars

Angus, Thongs, and Full-Frontal Snogging by Louise Rennison

  • Diary. Funny. Teenage girl.
  • Around the World in 80 Books Challenge: England
  • My rating: 3.75 stars

Percy Jackson’s Greek Gods by Rick Riordan (audiobook)

  • Great narration. Fun storytelling. Lots of short stories.
  • Around the World in 80 Books Challenge: Mount Olympus, Greece (totally counting it)
  • My rating: 4.5 stars

On the Bright Side, I’m Now the Girlfriend of a Sex God by Louise Rennison

  • What a title. Love Georgia. Shenanigans continue.
  • My rating: 4 stars

What did you read this month? Let me know in the comments below!

Happy reading! – Caitlyn

Series Review: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han

*This series review will be spoiler-free as best I can! I’ll try not to be too vague, while also not spoiling anything.*

Book 1: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before

Book 2: P.S. I Still Love You

Book 3: Always and Forever, Lara Jean

Series Overview: This teenage trilogy follows Lara Jean as she navigates young love, family, and school. Lara Jean lives with her two sisters and her father, having lost her mother at a young age. When her sister decides to attend college in Scotland, Lara Jean has a new array of roles to take on in their home. At the same time, her younger sister sends out a series of letters that Lara Jean had kept private in her mother’s hat box, letters to boys she’s loved before. As the boys each receive their letter from Lara Jean, she learns more about herself and her feelings, growing closer to some as they come back into her life. She enters into a fake relationship, then a real one, then loses it, only to reach closure by the final page. By the end of this trilogy, Lara Jean has grown older and wiser. Her family dynamic has changed and she’s had to make some life changing decisions.

Feelings: I enjoyed this series a lot more than I thought I would. I was in the mood for a light, high school romance kind of a story and the first book in this series really delivered. As I continued reading, it wasn’t as much of a light-hearted series, but had a depth that I appreciated. It wasn’t really cheesy or annoying, as high school stories tend to be. The minor characters were a lot of fun and grew along with the series, adding another dimension to the storyline.

Sometimes with trilogies, the third book can make or break the whole series. In the case of this series, though, the third book did a great job of bringing closure and rounding out the story. Our characters got a nice landing pad for their “futures” and our questions were answered.

The characters are what really sold this series for me. Lara Jean annoyed me occasionally, but it was because she was being a high school girl. I also was able to relate to her in a lot of ways, though, which made her redeemable. She saw her own mistakes throughout the story, saw chances to grow and learn, and ran with them. She has a strong family unit, which we don’t always get in YA literature, so I enjoyed that dynamic.

Finally, this is the kind of high school romance I love reading. It’s innocent and sweet, but also realistic and something people can relate to. These two characters are so different, but they make it work by celebrating what makes them special. I found myself smiling as I read their conversations, which is always a plus.

Final thoughts: I would really recommend this series to anyone looking for an easy to read story with characters you’ll love. This is a series I’ve already started recommending to my personal friends and even a few of my 8th grade students.

Links to other reviews:

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han

My series rating: 4.5/5

Happy reading! – Caitlyn

Introducing Summer Sundays with Georgia

It’s almost summer time, friends! Here in Texas, that means a lot of staying indoors, if you’re pale and prone to burning, like me. I love reading during the summer. I’m a teacher, so I have much more free time during these months. Last summer, I read all 12 of Sarah Dessen’s books, posting reviews every Sunday. I called this my Summer Sundays with Sarah and I really enjoyed both reading and reviewing these books, one right after another.

This summer, I debated between a few authors and settled on reviewing a book series, instead. While I’m losing some alliteration steam, I’ve decided that this will be the summer of Georgia Nicolson – enter Summer Sundays with Georgia. I’ll be reading all 10 books in the Confessions of Georgia Nicolson series, starting with Angus, Thongs, and Full-Frontal Snogging.

I was first introduced to Georgia during college, believe it or not. I was assigned to read this first book during my Young Adult Literature class and instantly fell in love with her personality and her voice. Then I found out there was a movie adaptation, combining the first and second books. Watched it. Loved it. Have watched it many times since.

After reading the first book, I knew I wanted to continue the series, so I started collecting the books from Half Price Books. Every time I saw one, I’d pick it up. So I own the whole series, but haven’t read it yet! I’m really excited to take this summer journey with Georgia and the Ace Gang. Just like last summer, I’ll post reviews on Sundays, ending with a full series wrap up. Be sure to check back here every week!

Have you read this series? Let me know in the comments below!

Happy reading! – Caitlyn

5 Hidden Gems

I’ll admit it. I love a book that’s surrounded in hype. I enjoy seeing what other people say and then adding my own thoughts. Sometimes, though, I like to find myself off the beaten path of reading and explore what else is out there. These are 5 books that I wandered up and that turned out to be worth it.

Jack & Louisa: Act 1 

I came across this book because of Instagram. I follow a lot of Broadway stars and show pages and someone mentioned this book series. Come to find out, it’s written by people with actual Broadway experiences and it follows 2 middle school students as they navigate their love of musical theatre. They audition for shows, go to musical theatre camp, talk and sing about shows, and more. It’s a really fun read and is great for both MTN (musical theatre nerds) and parents alike.

NewsPrints

I came across this book in our school library and just gravitated towards it. This is a graphic novel, but it’s unlike any other I’ve seen. The art style and the color palette is really unique and cool to read. Each panel is interesting and has something going on. There are a lot of moving parts to this story about a young girl (pretending to be a boy, so “he” can deliver newspapers) named Blue who makes new friends and gets in trouble. The ending is really moving; we see the power of friendship and sticking up for others. It was way better than I was expecting!

It Started With Goodbye

I mentioned this book in my recent post about Cinderella retellings, but I think it’s worth bringing up again. This Cinderella adaption focuses on family and friendship moreso than lovey dovey stuff. I haven’t heard much about this story on the book blogosphere, but I’d recommend it. This book is full of very real characters and I enjoyed it!

The Loose Ends List

When I saw this book at my local bookstore last year, I was in a major reading slump. Nothing sounded good, nothing motivated me…it was just a bleh time. This book’s cover is what drew me in. I mean…right?! So attractive. I read the inside cover, then the first 2 pages and headed for the checkout line. I read it as soon as I got home, then started lending it out to my reader friends, bragging about how great it was. I haven’t heard much about this book on the book blogosphere, so I wanted to share it with you all…again!

Listen, Slowly

Not only did I really enjoy this story, I love the audiobook. Anytime I read a book where there are bits of another language within it, I struggle with how to pronounce words in my head. I value authenticity, so that’s where I tend to lean on audiobooks. This story is so fun and full of grit, definitely worth a read.

What hidden gems have you come across? Let me now in the comments below!

Happy reading! – Caitlyn

Jack & Louisa: Act 1 by Andrew Keenan-Bolger and Kate Wetherhead

Synopsis from GoodreadsA show-stopping series about life in the spotlight from Broadway actors and internet sensations Andrew Keenan-Bolger and Kate Wetherhead. Twelve-year-old Jack Goodrich was a Broadway star—until a sudden voice change cost him his dream role. Now he lives with his parents in Shaker Heights, Ohio trying hard to leave his acting past behind. But his new neighbor, Louisa—a self-proclaimed “musical theater nerd”—won’t stop until Jack auditions for a local production of Into the Woods.

Feelings: I bought this book for my classroom because I have a student who loves musicals, but doesn’t love reading. He was about halfway through it when I realized he was reading faster than I’d ever seen, so I immediately ordered the next 2 books in the series for him. He loved this book so much. He was able to finally find characters in a book that mirrored him. He encouraged me to read it as well, so I did and found it to be a really fun read. If you love musicals, this book is right up your alley.

Issues: At the end of the book, Jack is presented with an option. (No spoilers) But…why wasn’t this option made available to him sooner? This just didn’t make sense to me. If it really was a possible alternative, it would have been made known sooner…realistically.

Characters: I loved how different Jack and Louisa are. Sure, they’re both Musical Theater Nerds, but they both represent different types of theater fans. They love a lot of the same shows, but have different experiences that shape them. This makes sure the book doesn’t get boring or repetitive, even with all the theatre references, which I appreciate. If you aren’t a musical fan, the characters still have some depth to them. You don’t have to know musical theatre to understand these people, they’re very real. Their parents are good characters, too. We don’t always get strong parent and family relationships, so that was refreshing in this story. The parents are very supportive of their children’s interests and encourage them along the way.

Final thoughts: If you’re an MTN like me, you’ll really enjoy this book. There are so many references to various shows and places on Broadway that it makes for a fun ride. This is also a great read for parents of musical theatre nerds. You’ll get a little insight into their minds!

Pick this up if you liked:

Better Nate Than Ever by Tim Federle

Goodreads rating: 4.17/5

Amazon.com rating: 4.8/5

My rating: 4/5

Happy reading! – Caitlyn

Podcast Spotlight: Harry Potter and the Sacred Text

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy reading (and listening)! – Caitlyn