Pulling the Plug

It’s only the end of February and I’ve made the difficult decision to give up on the 2017 reading challenges I signed up for. The challenges I started are AMAZING and are hosted by AMAZING bloggers – I’ll link to them further on in this post!

While I am totally continuing to track my progress through the Goodreads challenge, I simply cannot bring myself to read set books. Over the past two months, I’ve come to realize that I’m an absolute mood reader!

If I claim I’m going to read blank book for, say, a certain month, I feel like I’m back in English class with an assigned book to put off reading until the last second. Needless to say, this causes me undue anxiety, which I put on myself.

I don’t feel as much pressure with the Goodreads challenge – it’s totally open-ended, meaning, of course, that I can read what I want, when I want. A lot of the time, I’ll go into reading a book with an idea of what I want to read next. However, being a mood reader and all, my plans typically fly out the window and I pick up something the book I just finished inspires me to read, whether it be similar or of a totally different genre.

For example, I recently finished my first Kasie West book, The Fill-In Boyfriend. Instead of reading The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern next, as I’d planned, I opted for the second in the Insanity series by Cameron Jace, Figment. I think all the exquisitely written romance of West’s tale turned me toward a guilty pleasure-type book. [The Insanity series is totally a guilty pleasure!]

While I do hate to pull out of my challenges, I do feel it’s necessary, as I feel like a creep when I don’t meet my goals – and I can already tell, obviously, that I’m going nowhere with my year-long reading challenges this year.

Here are the buttons and links to the challenges I am dropping out of – they are all awesome and if you’re top notch at finishing challenges, I highly recommend these!

The first challenge I’m opting out of is the very cool Reading Assignment Challenge, hosted by the lovely Michelle at Because Reading and Berls of Fantasy is More Fun. I did actually read the book I assigned to myself in January, alas, I never got in the mood for my February pick, hence my mood reading!

Just in case you’re curious, here’s the list of books I had planned to read for this challenge. [I want to get to them, but at my own pace.]

Technically, I could still do the Shelf Love Challenge, hosted by Second Run Reviews, as the point of the challenge is to show those books sitting on my shelves, begging me to read them, some attention. However, I’m simply too lazy to keep up with my progress.

As for the Keyword Reading Challenge, hosted by Claudia at My Soul Called Life, it has the coolest concept I think I have come across, challenge-wise. For the challenge, Claudia chose particular words coinciding with each month in 2017 for challengers to base a monthly book pick on.

While I managed to read – and adore – A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas for January, I had a tough time with choosing books that fit with the keywords for the remainder of the year. I think I tried to get too creative with my book titles!

As for all of you who are dedicated to completing your reading challenges this year, I applaud you! You are very admirable to me; I just don’t think I have it in me to participate in year-long challenges anymore. But, I do look forward to joining in on short challenges and read-a-thons throughout 2017.

Love, Maggie

Funny Bone Tickling Books

TGIF! 😀 Welcome to Feature and Follow Friday, hosted by Alison Can Read and Parajunkee! The weekly meme features a question and answer format, with a new prompt each Friday. In addition, Feature and Follow Friday gives bloggers a means of promoting their work as well as the chance to discover new blogs.

The Prompt

What are your favorite humorous books? [courtesy of Brooke @ The Broke Book Bank]

The Answer

As I think of my response, I realize that I don’t read many funny books. I tend to lean toward dark, fantastical books. However, I can think of some cozy series that aren’t technically serious that I enjoy.

I’ve always loved Lilian Jackson Braun’s The Cat Who… series, with my favorite being The Cat Who Moved a Mountain. My favorite aspect of Braun’s tales is the hilarious names she comes up with for characters and places.

I’ve read book one of Ellie Alexander’s Bakeshop Mystery series, Meet Your Baker, and adored it! Janet Evanovich is also a funny, yet serious, writer.

Well, it looks like I’ve read more funny stuff than I first thought! 😀 Celebrity memoirs are almost always fun, like Amy Poehler’s Yes Please and even Down the Rabbit Hole by Holly Madison!

How to Follow The Caramel Files

If you’d like to follow along, feel free to do so in any way you choose! Social media links are located in the footer and there’s always the classic email follow! 😀

P.S. If you do follow my blog, please drop me a little note in the comments so I can follow back!

Love, Maggie

I Am Malala

I Am MalalaI Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai, Christina Lamb
on October 8th 2013
Genres: Memoir, Nonfiction
Pages: 327
Format: Paperback
Goodreads

I come from a country that was created at midnight. When I almost died it was just after midday.
When the Taliban took control of the Swat Valley in Pakistan, one girl spoke out. Malala Yousafzai refused to be silenced and fought for her right to an education.
On Tuesday, October 9, 2012, when she was fifteen, she almost paid the ultimate price. She was shot in the head at point-blank range while riding the bus home from school, and few expected her to survive.
Instead, Malala's miraculous recovery has taken her on an extraordinary journey from a remote valley in northern Pakistan to the halls of the United Nations in New York. At sixteen, she has become a global symbol of peaceful protest and the youngest-ever Nobel Peace Prize laureate.
I Am Malala is the remarkable tale of a family uprooted by global terrorism, of the fight for girls' education, of a father who, himself a school owner, championed and encouraged his daughter to write and attend school, and of brave parents who have a fierce love for their daughter in a society that prizes sons.

I Am Malala is a beautifully written memoir recounting the violent relationship of the Taliban with the people of primarily Pakistan. This relationship is akin to that of an abusive domestic one, as the militant group seeks to isolate, control, and terrorize its mostly unwilling subjects.

Malala describes an idyllic existence in Pakistan’s Swat Valley prior to the arrival of the Taliban. Her words slowly take apart her beloved homeland, as militants destroy important ancient landmarks and attempt to rewrite history and infiltrate Pakistan’s rich culture.

Named for Malalai of Maiwand, Pakistan’s version of Joan of Arc, Malala is a special girl who is very close with her family, especially her father, the founder of the school she attends. Malala and her friends find respite from the near constant bombings and shootings on the streets of their city at school six days per week.

Unfortunately, Malala’s school and father are under threat from the Pakistani Taliban to close the school’s doors, as its values do not coincide with those of Sharia Law.

Following in the footsteps of her beloved father, Malala began speaking out against militancy and championing the rights of girls to be educated and giving interviews to various news outlets at age eleven.

Amid suicide bombings and the mass blasting of schools, Malala perseveres, continuing to attend school despite constant threats to cease her education.

The Taliban virtually takes over Pakistan, while authorities stand idly by, merely allowing mass killings, all in the name of Sharia. Malala bravely asserts in an interview that the Taliban “are abusing our religion.”

In October 2012, Malala was targeted and brutally shot by a member of the Taliban, along with two girls sitting on either side of her, due to her standing up for the education of girls and speaking out against terrorism.

Miraculously, Malala and her two classmates survived the attack and escaped Pakistan. Malala is the youngest person ever to be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize and continues to advocate for universal education through her personal fund.

I never thought I would be interested in reading Malala’s whole story, but I was captivated by her words. Not only am I in awe of Malala’s accomplishments and good deeds, I am amazed and deeply saddened by the destruction of her homeland and culture.

Malala tells her story in such a way that makes it easy for the reader to empathize with her and her situation. As I read I Am Malala, I imagined what it would be like if my home country, the US, were overrun by terrorists who want to destroy everything that I love and believe in.

I admire Malala’s courage very much and truly hope she is able to one day return to her beloved Pakistan.

Love, Maggie

Book Blast

Happy hump day! With today arrives the weekly meme hosted by Taking on a World of Words, WWW Wednesday! The meme has a simple format, asking the three W’s:

  • What are you currently reading?
  • What did you recently finish reading?
  • What do you think you’ll read next?

Currently

Today I started reading the second installment of Cameron Jace’s Insanity series, Figment. Thus far I’ve only read a few pages and I’m hopeful I’ll love it as much as I did the first in the series, Insanity.

In addition, I’m listening to Caraval by Stephanie Garber on Audible. I’m an hour or so into the book, and it’s just okay so far – I’m still waiting for excitement. I’ve seen mixed reviews of this one, with some citing offensive topics and others absolutely loving it. I wanted to read Caraval before the controversy, but it definitely made me curious enough to go ahead and pick it up!

Just Finished

This morning I finished my first ever book by Kasie West, The Fill-In Boyfriend. I absolutely LOVED this book and gave it a five-star rating on Goodreads! I’m so excited to write the review – so many emotions were stirred within me as I read – and that doesn’t happen to me often.

Long story short – I cannot wait to read the rest of West’s work. The Fill-In Boyfriend is a book I typically wouldn’t just pick up, but I was haunted by it and kept seeing rave reviews. I’m so tickled with myself for branching out of my genre comfort zone and discovering a new favorite author!

The other day, I finally finished The Throne of Fire, the second in Rick Riordan’s Kane Chronicles series. I took nearly three weeks to read it – I apparently had a hard time finding freedom to read, as I really enjoyed this tale and could’ve finished it quicker.

Next

I have a bunch of galleys I need to get through and write up reviews for before they’re archived. Luckily, I’m looking forward to testing out the books for which I’ve been approved. I still can’t get over the fact that I was auto-approved by Udon Entertainment, which produces Manga Classics! 😀

That’s it for me this week! How about you?

Love, Maggie

 

Paper Girls, Vol. 1

Paper Girls, Vol. 1Paper Girls, Vol. 1 by Brian K. Vaughan, Cliff Chiang, Matthew Wilson
Series: Paper Girls #1
Published by Image Comics on April 5th 2016
Genres: Science Fiction, Graphic Novel
Pages: 144
Format: Paperback
Goodreads

In the early hours after Halloween of 1988, four 12-year-old newspaper delivery girls uncover the most important story of all time. Suburban drama and otherworldly mysteries collide in this smash-hit series about nostalgia, first jobs, and the last days of childhood.
Collects Paper Girls #1-5.

I absolutely adore Brian K. Vaughan’s Saga series and decided to give Paper Girls a chance. While I expected the book to begin slowly for some reason, punches of action occur almost instantly. The story centers around, you guessed it – paper girls – coming of age in the late ’80s.

My favorite of the girl gang is MacKenzie Coyle, a rebel with a cause, made even more mysterious by being a cigarette smoker, even though she’s a teen. MacKenzie and company become pals with Erin, a younger girl new to the paper route circuit.

The best part of this story is that it is nothing like I anticipated – it exceeded all of my lowly expectations. A mystery begins to unfurl almost immediately, with the girls racing against time to seemingly save the world.

The paper girls definitely experience a great deal of trauma in this tale as a result of sudden changes in the world the morning after Halloween. The girls are met with danger as well as potential allies in this set-in-the-past-but-futuristic-at-the-same-time graphic novel.

The muted colors of the illustrations didn’t blow me away, but as I made my way through Paper Girls, I realized the color scheme fits with the time period in which the story is set.

Needless to say, I quickly fell in love with each character, even the ones who only stick around for a short time, as well as with the story – it has an excellent concept that is brilliantly executed. I can’t wait to get my eyes on volume two!

Love, Maggie

Meet Me in March

I can’t believe the month of love is seriously halfway over! But, with the end of the month comes another round of one of my favorite challenges – the Comment Challenge – hosted by the lovely Lonna at FLYLef and Alicia at A Kernel of Nonsense.

I had amazing commenting partners for both January and February and I’m so excited to find out whom I get to shower with comment love in March! 😀

Love, Maggie

Literary Lovebirds

Happy Valentine’s Day, y’all! In honor of the day of love, Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, is highlighting readers’ favorite ships, OTPs – all love, all the time! Here are my all-time favorite literary lovebirds!

The List

Buttercup and Westley from William Goldman’s gorgeous The Princess Bride are an absolutely magical couple, ruled by ‘twoo love.’ The lengths Westley goes to to save his beloved Buttercup make my heart melt every time.

Anna Karenina and Count Vronksy of the Russian classic Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy are a pair in forbidden love, made more difficult to bear due to the society in which they live. Although terribly tragic, Anna and Count Vronsky’s tale is beautiful

I fell in love with Tessa Gray & Will Herondale being in love when I read Cassandra Clare’s Clockwork Angel. I adore that the couple’s romance is a slow burn and it doesn’t hurt that Will is gorgeous in my mind!

Zia Rashid and Carter Kane from Rick Riordan’s Kane Chronicles series are precious together. I’m currently reading the second book in the Kane series, The Throne of Fire, and Carter’s dedication to finding his missing love is incredible.

Nancy Drew and Ned Nickerson of Carolyn Keene’s Nancy Drew Mystery Stories are a pair of wholesome sweethearts. Their courting-type relationship is the kind I’d like my boys to have when they hit high school. However, I do realize it’s the 21st century!

Karou and Akiva make another gorgeous, literally and figuratively, couple. I met these two while reading Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone and look forward to discovering exactly where their destined love goes in the remaining books in Taylor’s trilogy.

Love, Maggie

Saga Saturday

Welcome to Stacking the Shelves, hosted by the lovely Tynga’s Reviews! I enjoyed participating in this weekly meme with my former blog and have returned to the fold after a long absence. The purpose of the meme is to showcase all the wonderful bookish goodies one has received throughout a given week.

Here’s my small haul for the week of February 5 through February 11.

I finally read Brian K. Vaughan’s Saga, Vol. 1 in January and it’s safe to say that I’m now obsessed with the graphic series. Last week, I purchased volumes two and three. Well, this week, I finished out the series with books four, five, and six! I already can’t wait for volume seven’s release on April 4!

Needless to say, I’m ecstatic to have each Saga volume that’s been released! I’d love to preorder volume seven, but I’m so bad to forget that Amazon doesn’t charge my card until shipment occurs, so I’ll wait…impatiently…

My two-year-old is obsessed with Curious George, so I got Curious George Tool Time by H.A. Rey for him. I’m SO glad my baby boy loves books and reading already! 😀

As for ARCs, I was beyond flabbergasted when I received an invitation from the publisher to read Roshani Chokshi’s fabulous follow-up to The Star-Touched Queen, A Crown of Wishes! I was lucky to gain  access to the title because I was approved on NetGalley to read the first in the series. I’m SO excited for this sequel!

Love, Maggie

The Reread = Never Been There

TGIF! 😀 Welcome to Feature and Follow Friday, hosted by Alison Can Read and Parajunkee! The weekly meme features a question and answer format, with a new prompt each Friday. In addition, Feature and Follow Friday gives bloggers a means of promoting their work as well as the chance to discover new blogs.

The Prompt

What book do you reread the most? [courtesy of Megan @ Love, Literature, Art, and Reason]

The Answer

I have NEVER reread a book, unless you count Beowulf, which was assigned in both high school and college. I don’t think it counts as an official reread though – I just pretended to read it in my college English class, as I hated it in high school.

I would love to reread the Harry Potter books! I recently got J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Stone on audio and I’m SO damn excited to listen! Plus, now that Goodreads has added the reread option, I have extra incentive, as the redo will count toward my reading goal for the year.

Speaking of audiobooks, the Shakespearean plays have come very highly recommended, especially those featuring full casts. I totally want to get my ears on my favorites of the classic playwright’s works!

How to Follow The Caramel Files

If you’d like to follow along, feel free to do so in any way you choose! Social media links are located in the footer and there’s always the classic email follow! 😀

P.S. If you do follow my blog, please drop me a little note in the comments so I can follow back!

Love, Maggie


P.P.S. Thank you so very much to the Feature and Follow hosts for choosing moi as the featured blogger this week! Happy dance! 😀

The Star-Touched Queen

The Star-Touched QueenThe Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi
Series: The Star-Touched Queen #1
Published by St. Martin's Griffin on April 26th 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Pages: 342
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley, Publisher
Goodreads

Fate and fortune. Power and passion. What does it take to be the queen of a kingdom when you’re only seventeen?
Maya is cursed. With a horoscope that promises a marriage of death and destruction, she has earned only the scorn and fear of her father’s kingdom. Content to follow more scholarly pursuits, her whole world is torn apart when her father, the Raja, arranges a wedding of political convenience to quell outside rebellions. Soon Maya becomes the queen of Akaran and wife of Amar. Neither roles are what she expected: As Akaran’s queen, she finds her voice and power. As Amar’s wife, she finds something else entirely: Compassion. Protection. Desire…
But Akaran has its own secrets—thousands of locked doors, gardens of glass, and a tree that bears memories instead of fruit. Soon, Maya suspects her life is in danger. Yet who, besides her husband, can she trust? With the fate of the human and Otherworldly realms hanging in the balance, Maya must unravel an ancient mystery that spans reincarnated lives to save those she loves the most…including herself.

I hardly know where to begin except by saying OMG, I’m SO grateful and lucky to have had the chance to read and review Roshani Chokshi’s beautiful tale, The Star-Touched Queen, prior to its release thanks to the publisher and NetGalley!

It’s going to be tough to review the story steeped in Indian mythology while avoiding the temptation to add tons of spoilers! However, have no fear: this will be a spoiler-free review!

I was immediately sucked into the pages of Chokshi’s debut. Chokshi’s development of her characters, especially those of protagonist Maya and the mysterious Amar, goes deep; I felt as though I was right alongside Maya throughout her adventures and challenges.

The Star-Touched Queen features a multitude of fabulous twists and turns; just when I thought I had figured out the secrets of Maya’s world and the direction her story would take, I was quickly proven wrong, which made me very happy, as I love being surprised by novels, as opposed to figuring out the ending before finishing my reading.

The book is sprinkled with awesome quotes, most stated by Maya. My favorite of her sayings being, “I’d rather spread ideas than legs.” All I could think was, “Go, girl!”

Maya is the epitome of someone who craves freedom to make her own choices while at the same time remaining tethered to her loved ones and the life she knows.

Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of the story is the fact that Maya is ‘cursed’ by the stars: her horoscope, which seems to doom her to a life filled with suspicion, sacrifice, and danger.

Typically, some romances in novels drive me nuts, as there is generally so much focus on physical attraction, etc. Chokshi’s romance between Maya and the elusive, secretive Amar is a nice slow burn, which centers on destiny and fate.

Throughout the book, Maya’s beliefs are continuously being tested, as is her basic instinct to place absolute trust in others.

In addition, Maya is haunted by a mysterious voice, which torments her with riddles and coerces her to explore a new world and uncover its many secrets.

I especially enjoyed the cattiness of the women of the Raja’s harem, mainly that of Dhina, who verbally abuses Maya every chance she gets prior to Maya’s transition into a new, mysterious life, seemingly written in the stars.

The second book in The Star-Touched Queen series is A Crown of Wishes, due for release on March 28.
 

Love, Maggie