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

Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

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

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

crooked-kingdom

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Pick this up if you liked:

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

The Young Elites by Marie Lu

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

Goodreads rating: 4.64/5

Amazon.com rating: 4.7/5

My rating: 4.25/5

Happy reading! – Caitlyn

5 Things I Do to Prepare For a New Book in a Series

If I had to choose between only reading standalone books for the rest of my life OR only books in a series…I wouldn’t even have to think about it. My answer will forever and always be: gimme that series! I love watching as characters grow and change over time, go on new or continuing adventures, and meet other characters that impact them along the way. I live for a new book to come out, meeting up with those characters who have become like old friends.

However, I read a lot. And my memory is useless when it comes to the long-term. So I also have to deal with some stress about whether or not I’ll remember what’s going on before a new book comes out.

Here are 5 things I do in order to be ready for a new book in a series.

1. I like to read or watch book reviews for the other novels in the series.

If it hasn’t been too terribly long since I read the previous book, all I need is a little refresher. In these cases, I’ll read some of my favorite blogger’s reviews (or even my own) and a lot of times I’ll even watch videos on YouTube of people sharing their thoughts. Doing this not only helps me remember plot points and character information, but it reminds me of any scandals or crazy things that happened! Reading and watching reviews gets me back into that emotional state I need to be in before the next book comes out.

2. I like to visit my favorite series recap website.

Last year, a friend told me about the website bookseriesrecaps.com and you guys…please check it out (after you finish reading this, of course). They do a great job on this website of reminding readers what happened in previous books, as well as reviewing new ones. Their posts with recaps are titled “What happened in…?” They include a quick, spoiler-free overview and then laundry list everything that happened. These have been especially useful for me when a new book in the Throne of Glass series comes out. So much happens in 1 book!

3. I like to look back over my notes from the previous books.

I typically only take notes on a book if it’s part of a series, if there are a lot of characters, or if it’s just a long book…or all of the above. I have a journal where I specially write about books or I’ll type into the Notes app on my phone or iPad. Sometimes I’m so into whatever I’m reading that I just speak into my phone and the Notes app types it out for me. That way, I never even have to take my eyes off the book. Ha! I always write down questions I have and predictions for what may be coming, which is helpful when reviewing the last book in a series. It’s like I can get back into my own thinking and pick up where I left off.

4. I like to talk to my reader friends about the series.

In some cases, all I need is a little conversation. I have a few friends who like to read about as much as I do and we’ll gather up to discuss what we remember. Sometimes we’ll read reviews together, but most often one of my friends remembers every little detail and helps me to remember as well. Talking about a series that I love also helps me get hyped for what’s to come and I get even more excited to get my hands on the new book.

5. I like to reread previous books or listen to the audiobooks.

Sometimes, reviewing notes just isn’t enough. I have to dive head first back into the world and walk around with the characters for a while. I do this when it’s been more than a year since I read the last book. If I read the hardback copy the first time around, then for my re-read I’ll switch it up and get the audiobook. Sometimes the narrators help me pick up on things I hadn’t even noticed on the first read.

 

Do you have to do anything before a new book in a series comes out? Are you as manic as me? Let me know in the comments below!

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

Most Anticipated Releases of the First Half of 2017

This is one of my most favorite posts to write every year. I usually choose 5 books I’m looking forward to in the first half of the year, then make a list in June or July for the remainder. I love a good series, so I’m always looking out for new books that will continue stories I love. This year, I also made sure to note some new standalones AND to look for books that are outside of my normal go-to genre. I’ve chosen books about characters who don’t look like me and have lives I can’t relate to and I’m really excited about it.

Below are 5 books in a series (either continuing one or starting a new one) and then 5 standalone stories that are coming out somewhere between January and June of this year.

wires-and-nerves

Wires and Nerves, Volume 1 by Marissa Meyer and Douglas Holgate

Release date: January 31

I have this book preordered because I’m so dang excited. This book continues the world of The Lunar Chronicles through the eyes and adventures of Iko. AND it’s a graphic novel! All of the yesses!

strange-the-dreamer

Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor

Release date: March 28

I really loved Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy. I thought it was beautiful and tragic and completely original. I’m not sure if it’s in the same world as her previous series, but it kind of sounds like it. I can’t wait. So much mystery and uncertainty and I’m IN.

court-of-wings

A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas

Release date: May 2

At first, I preferred Maas’ Throne of Glass series, but in the last year, I’m changing teams a little bit. The second book in this series, A Court of Thorns and Roses, blew my freaking mind so I’m crazy anticipating book 3!

flame-in-the-mist

Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh

Release date: May 16

This is the first book in a new series by Ahdieh and it sounds kick awesome. The first line in the synopsis labels the main character as the daughter of a samurai and I was SOLD. She gets sold off to be married and then she’s kidnapped and then she pretends to be a boy and it sounds like a thrill ride.

lord-of-shadows

Lord of Shadows by Cassandra Clare

Release date: May 23

This is the second book in Clare’s new Dark Artifices trilogy. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I’m invested in the Shadowhunter world. I love the way Clare has layered this world and if she’ll keep writing, I’ll keep reading. There’s a chance I may like this series even more than The Infernal Devices. Stay tuned.


 empress-of-a-thousand

Empress of a Thousand Skies by Rhoda Belleza

Release date: February 7

This is the first standalone book on my list. I’ve heard many people compare it to Game of Thrones, but in SPACE. Need I say more? Politics, drama, SPACE, girl power…sign me up.

the-hate-u-give

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Release date: February 28

This book was inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, which is one that I’d like to learn more about. I think that seeing things from another perspective will really help myself and a lot of others to understand this group’s goal and motivation. It hasn’t been published yet and movie rights have already been sold.

upside-unrequited

The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli

Release date: April 11

I know this book is about unrequited love, but it also involves some nerd culture. Those kinds of books speak to me. There are also twins, body image issues, and various kinds of relationships. People have raved about Albertalli’s other book, Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, but I haven’t read that one. Maybe I will, after this one!

started-with-goodbye

It Started with Goodbye by Christina June

Release date: May 9

Cover, they name is Art. My soul is reaching out for this book. And the storyline sounds good too! Ha! This book is a modern twist on Cinderella, and I’m so excited. There’s a fairy godmother, and evil step-mother, and a graphic design business. Sounds super Cinderella-y, right? Can’t wait.

once-and-for-all

Once and for All by Sarah Dessen

Release date: June 6

It’s Sarah Dessen, y’all. She’s baaacckkkkkkk. Last summer, I read through all of her books in publication order and it was a blast. This is going to be such a perfect summer read. It’s got weddings. And love. So…so very Dessen.

What books are you most looking forward to in the first half of the year? Let me know in the comments below!

Happy reading! – Caitlyn

Why I Rarely DNF Books

If you’re unfamiliar with the term “DNF”, it means “Did Not Finish.” It’s a term we book bloggers and Goodreads subscribers use to refer to books that we just didn’t have it in ourselves to finish reading for whatever reason.

I rarely do this. I try everything I can to get to the final page of a book, even if it’s insanely boring and I want to throw it across the room. I’m one of those people that is constantly hoping for the best. I believe in people and I believe that there’s always a chance that an author can redeem their story. Sometimes I get to the end of a book and the author has totally changed my opinion for the better and I’m so glad that I powered through. Other times, I think…I should have given up when I had a chance. Then the cycle repeats and I refuse to give up.

I know some people that have no problem putting a book aside when they lose interest and I totally respect that. I even understand it. It’s just my own personality that is so dang curious and hopeful that I rarely find myself choosing to give up.

These are 5 books that I either almost gave up on, or I completely did.

dorothy

Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige

At Christmas, my cousin recommended this book to me. Growing up, she was the biggest Dorothy fan. No lie. She even refused to wear anything but dresses, simply because Dorothy wore them. She and I tend to like the same books and TV shows, so I figured I’d give it a try. About halfway through, the storyline was losing my interest. I was losing faith in the characters and having a hard time figuring out just where the story was going. I decided not to finish it. Then I talked myself in to skimming to the end. I’m glad I finished it because the ending wasn’t what I expected, but I’m not interested enough to continue the series.

glass sword

Glass Sword by Victoria Aveyard

I tried getting into this book MULTIPLE times. I ended up listening to the audiobook as a way to finish the story. But I had to make myself listen to it. I wasn’t really motivated or interested, but I bullied myself. I couldn’t stand Mare and having the whole book from her perspective was killing me. I ended up giving it a rating of 3 stars, but looking back…that was a gift. The character relationships were weird and confusing. The world building lost me. Now I’m genuinely confused about the 3 stars I gave it. I think I need to change that because I can’t remember anything I liked about it, other than meeting new characters with new abilities. I didn’t give up on this book, but I should have. It was more disappointing than I expected by the end.

summer days

Summer Days and Summer Nights: Twelve Love Stories by Stephanie Perkins (and others)

I really enjoyed the companion anthology of holiday stories, My True Love Gave to Me. I thought it was a fun mixture of various genres and characters that kept me engaged. This book, however, came up short for me. I think I read the first 2 short stories and was completely uninterested in reading more. Unfortunately, I have the hardback copy of this book and now it’s just sitting on my shelf. I’ll probably never continue it, unless someone tells me a specific story within it that I should read. I think it’s easier for me to DNF a collection of short stories because I’m not invested in any characters or plot development.

eve

Eve by William Paul Young

I know this author also wrote The Shack, and people love it…but I never read that one. My cousin gave me this book for Christmas last year and I was excited to pick it up. I thought it had an interesting premise and would be totally different from anything else I’d read. I read the first chapter and was totally lost. And not the kind of lost where you think…If I keep reading, I feel like I can figure it out. It was the kind of lost where I was so confused that I was just done. I wasn’t invested or even remotely curious, just not interested. I don’t know if that interest will change…I really just think I’m done with it.

treachery-beautiful-things

The Treachery of Beautiful Things by Ruth Frances Long

I read this book a few years ago and all I remember was how weird it was. I DID end up finishing it, but I almost didn’t. It was dark and then frilly, then trying to be weirdly sexy? I didn’t enjoy it, but it’s a fairy tale so I stuck it out to the end just in case…and I regretted it. Zero enjoyment happened. I don’t know if I tried to reread it if it would turn out differently years later, but I doubt it.

How do you feel about giving up on books? Let me know in the comments below!

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