I’m sorry the second part of this blog series took so long to come.
As you all know, I’m a Mess™—and not the cute kind. I’m sure ya’ll don’t want to hear the same old lousy excuses, so let’s just get right into the post—because I’m so excited to unveil Caitlin Reads #2!! This time the theme is Book Bloggers’ Book Recommendations.
As I’m sure you know, recommendations and bookish lists are quite popular on the blogosphere. So I selected four books from four different book bloggers’ recommendation lists to read for this post. The aim of this Caitlin Reads will be to answer the question, “Can we trust book bloggers’ recommendations?“.
In case you missed it, Caitlin Reads is a feature I started in the beginning of 2020. For every post, I read a couple of books that fit a certain theme. I give updates as I’m reading the books, and also include pictures from my real life in order to give the post more of a “reading vlog” feel.
Book #1: Scythe by Neal Shusterman, recommended by Caro @ Book Cheshire Cat
The first book recommendation I’m reading is from Caro @ Bookcheshirecat, one of the most wonderful human beings ever. Somehow, she manages to stay on top of blogging and reading despite being busy??? How?? Anyways, go follow her if you haven’t yet. (And buddy read a book with her, because she’s an amazing buddy reader. 😉)
For Black History Month in February (when I sadly wasn’t able to read any books by Black authors even though I really wanted to 😞), Caro shared with us Books by Black Authors 📚 #BlackHistoryMonth. And thanks to that list, I now know that Neal Shusterman is Black?? I don’t know how I never knew, but I’m super grateful to know now. Alongside his other books, she recommended Scythe, which I’ve seen a lot of hype for!
My history with this book is complicated. I’ve removed and added it to my TBR countless times. I’ve heard that it has insta-love, which is my mortal enemy, so that and some negative reviews have made me unsure if I’m gonna love it. However, I’ve only heard good things about the Arc of the Scythe series lately, so I think it’s about time I started it.
16%– I’m repeating what everyone who’s read this series says about it, but the world is so cool!!! I mean, how awesome is the concept of a future where humans have conquered death?? It’s such an interesting topic to explore, but I cannot begin to fathom the amount of brain cells you need in order to come up with a world like this, so Neal Shusterman already has my respect. I love how this world is a utopia in every sense of the word, yet the narrative is always subtly asking you whether it’s truly perfect or not.
I also love the writing style! And I’m very excited to learn more about the main characters! Right now, my favorite is Citra because she’s so feisty. But Rowan’s likable too—he’s coming off as a bit of a cinnamon roll.
37%– Not to keep throwing the word interesting around, but the scythes are so interesting! In a world without death, people called scythes are tasked to kill people in order to control population growth. The Scythedom is seemingly perfect and unbiased in the way it gleans (kills) people, yet there is still some corruption in the Scythedom. Some scythes even take pleasure in gleaning.
Citra and Rowan are taken on as apprentices by a single scythe, but only one of them will become a scythe at the end of their apprenticeship.
Sadly, I don’t find myself caring for either of them. I’m much more invested in this book’s worldbuilding, which, for me, is its strongest point. But right now I find myself more interested in Rowan than Citra. I find the way he views becoming a scythe more fascinating.
38%– Citra and Rowan kissed already?? They literally have zero chemistry!! I didn’t expect the insta-love to be this bad.
41%– The story just took an exciting turn, and I’m eager to see where it goes from here. Though I’ve already been spoiled for something regarding this plot point lmao.
I rated Scythe 3 stars, which makes me sad because it could’ve easily been a 4 or 5-star read. The romance was the definition of underdeveloped. And though Citra and Rowan were fleshed out characters, I failed to truly care for them.
However, in my opinion, this book is worth reading for its worldbuilding alone! It’s also an easy book to fly through, and I’m very happy that I decided to read it. I have high hopes for its sequels!
Book #2: Graceling by Kristin Cashore, recommended by Margaret @ Weird Zeal
The second recommendation I’m reading is from Margaret @ Weird Zeal, who gives amazing book recommendations! She’s just so good at convincing you that a book is good. One of my favorite recommendations of hers is Backlist recommendations: books from 2000-2009. This year, I’m trying my best to prioritize backlist books, so this list was perfect for me!
For the year 2008, Margaret recommended Graceling by Kristin Cashore, which I’ve had an unread physical copy of for years. Back then, I bought just about any book that caught my interest… and proceeded to not read most of them. I was a huge money waster as a child. At least, for the sake of Caitlin Reads, I’m finally gonna read my copy.
Page 170– In this world, there are people called Gracelings who are Graced with an ability. There are a wide variety of Graces out there, and no two are the same. Some are Graced with cooking, climbing trees, swimming, mind reading, and even holding their breath.
We’re following Katsa, who’s Graced with the ability to kill. At the beginning of the book, Katsa saves the father of the king of Lienid (one of the Seven Kingdoms), who has been kept in the dungeons of a foreign king. Katsa and her allies are attempting to figure out why this Lienid grandfather was kidnapped.
Katsa also strikes up a friendship with Prince Po of Lienid, the only one who can match her fighting skills. While I think it’s obvious that there’s going to be a romance between Katsa and Po, I appreciate that there’s no insta-love. Katsa is still learning to trust Po. But I don’t like that Po’s character doesn’t extend much beyond being the soft and playful male love interest.
All in all, I’m enjoying this so far, but I can’t deny that I want more from the worldbuilding. The world is one of your run-of-the-mill fantasy worlds, and sadly, I think I’ve outgrown worlds like that.
Page 254– At first I thought that Katsa was too stereotypical. But I’ve just realized that Katsa is supposed to come across as the stereotypical badass female character. For almost her entire life, the whole point of her existence has been to be a killer. A big part of this book deals with her realizing that she can and should be more than a weapon.
Katsa and Po just confessed their love for each other a few chapters ago, and I’m not too happy about that because I LIVE for slow-burn. But I love how respectful Po is of Katsa!! He’s still too stereotypical for my taste, but better a stereotypical loving and gentle love interest than a stereotypical annoying and abusive one. Everyone needs a Po in their lives—he’s so dedicated to Katsa, and is always mindful of her needs and wants. 🥺
I’m also loving the concept of the Graces a lot more! A person can literally have ANY Grace, and it gets so interesting when you find out that someone is disguising their true Grace, or that someone’s Grace is not what they first thought it was.
Page 364– Child adoption trope!!! This book has the child adoption trope!! Katsa and Po ended up having to care for a child named Bitterblue during their journey, and I love Bitterblue so much. She’s so spunky and way more useful than you’d expect a child to be.
OMG if I didn’t think that Katsa was badass before, then I definitely do now!! I completely take back what I said about her being stereotypical. The chapters I just finished reading… Phew. My respect for Katsa and her survival skills is now 100x more intense. (If you’ve read the book, you probably know.)
I ended up enjoying this book enough to give it 4 stars! The worldbuilding was lacking for me, but the plot was entertaining. Also, there was disability representation!!
Book #3: Sick Kids in Love by Hannah Moskowitz, recommended by Malka @ Paper Procrastinators
I got this recommendation from Malka @ Paper Procrastinators!! If you don’t follow her blog yet, you absolutely should! She co-runs it with Chana, and they’re honestly the best blogging duo out there. 🥺
A while ago, they posted the The Ultimate Recommendations Book Tag!. (They were kind enough to tag me, and sadly, I haven’t done it yet, BUT it’s because I love so few books. And when I give my ultimate book recommendations, I want to make sure that all of them are books I truly love.) It was filled with amazing-sounding books I hadn’t heard of, so please go check it out! For the question, “Recommend a book you don’t talk about enough”, Malka answered Sick Kids in Love by Hannah Moskowitz.
I know few people who’ve read Sick Kids in Love, but all of them seem to love it. The representation is apparently really good (I’m pretty sure it’s #ownvoices; I’ve tried to confirm with research, but I haven’t found anything), and the blurb guarantees that the main characters won’t die in the end! I haven’t read a lot of books with chronic illness representation, so I’m excited to start this!
38%– This book is about Isabel and Sasha, two chronically ill teens. Isabel has rheumatoid arthritis while Sasha has Gaucher’s disease. And as the title implies, it’s a cute-ass story about them falling in love.
Right off the bat, this book called my healthy person self out. You know how this book’s title is “Sick Kids in Love”? Well, that made me think that Isabel and Sasha were being “”defined by their illnesses.”” And in the book, Isabel and Sasha have a conversation about how healthy people are always unnecessarily telling them not to define themselves by their sickness, because Isabel calls herself “sick girl,” and healthy people around her somehow have a problem with the name.
In reality, this book never defines Sasha and Isabel by their illnesses. It actually does the opposite—it’s simply a story about two people who happen to be sick falling in love.
What Sasha and Isabel have to go through because of their illnesses is sometimes hard to read about, but it’s truly eye-opening. As a healthy person (especially in the time of COVID-19), I’m more aware of my privilege than ever.
That being said, this book definitely isn’t written for healthy people, and if you’re sick, I’m sure it will resonate even more with you. There are probably so many nuances to the representation that I can’t catch since I’m so privileged.
I’m so sorry I didn’t update more. 😫 I listened to this book on audio, and I’m not the best audio listener, so I probably missed some things. That being said, I loved this book—I’m rating it 4 stars.
Calling the representation in this book stellar is an understatement. It wasn’t just the absolutely superb chronic illness representation, but there was so much more diversity too! Isabel and Sasha are both Jewish, and there are multiple LGBT+ characters and people of color.
I recommend this book to absolutely everyone!! Reading it will undoubtedly open your eyes to how horrible it is for sick people at times. Public transportation isn’t that accommodating; some doctors treat them with disrespect; healthy people are insensitive to their struggles… The list goes on and on.
But besides the representation, this book is just a good book in general. The romance is so cute and healthy; a good chunk of the story actually follows Sasha and Isabel after they decide to be together. And if you’re not big on romance, this book follows female friendships too!
Book #4: Blanca y Roja by Anna-Marie McLemore, recommended by May @ Forever and Everly
I got the last recommendation I’m reading for this post from May’s list, 11 Ownvoices YA Latinx Book Recommendations to Celebrate and Read Beyond Latinx Heritage Month!. (Obviously, it’s not Latinx Heritage Month right now, but we should read Latinx and diverse books all year long.) May regularly mentions Anna-Marie McLemore’s books in her posts, and this time was no different!
I’ve wanted to read an Anna-Marie McLemore book for SO long. 🥺 Anna-Marie McLemore is a non-binary Latinx author who always writes magical realism books with queer and Latinx rep. I haven’t even read any of their books yet, but I already know (from what I’ve heard) that they have beautiful writing.
Page 161– I’m unbelievably sad, because this is turning out to be a case of “it’s not you, it’s me.” Stories with great themes and messages aren’t for me. I read for the plot and characters, so even if a book has beautiful messages, it probably won’t be enough for me to love it.
But besides that, this book has a lot of good. Even though I already knew that Anna-Marie McLemore’s writing was beautiful before reading this, I now know for sure. And the magical realism elements are so well-done.
The representation is also amazing. It’s #ownvoices for the Latinx rep, and there’s a trans boy named Page who goes by he/him and she/her pronouns. (I once read that Anna-Marie McLemore realized they were nonbinary by writing about Page too!)
I’m just a little… bored. I haven’t formed a connection with any of the characters. Plus, the excessive eye descriptions are kind of annoying me.
Page 285– Ahhh, I hate that there’s insta-love. I know this is a fairytale retelling, and fairytales are filled with insta-love, but I just can’t get fully onboard with how fast the relationships are developing.
Oh, and also, I forgot to give you guys a synopsis when I last updated. This is a retelling of two fairytales, Snow-White and Rose-Red and The Ugly Duckling. It follows two sisters: Blanca and Roja. Every member of Blanca and Roja’s family is cursed to bear two girls. Once the younger sister turns fifteen, a bunch of swans, who used to be their female relatives, will choose one sister to turn into a swan while another will get to stay human. Blanca and Roja love each other and don’t want to be forced apart, but they’ll soon learn how powerful the swans are.
I love the discussions surrounding skin color in this book!! Blanca is considered lucky to be white passing, but the fact that she doesn’t look like her family members alienates her from them. However, white people also won’t completely accept her, because her eyes are brown instead of blue, and her skin isn’t as pale as theirs.
Meanwhile, Roja is dark-skinned, which leads people to think that she’s the “evil” sister. While Blanca is the princess, she is the witch, and the majority of her family expects her to be the one who gets turned into a swan. I think this is why Roja is my favorite. People like her rarely exist in fairytales, and if they do, they aren’t the ones that get a happy ending. I love that, despite that, she’s still trying her best to be the one who stays human.
This book is making me hate swans. You’d think swans would have something better to do with their lives other than force sisters to compete against each other, but no. They won’t leave Blanca and Roja alone, and they’re hell-bent on turning one of them into a swan. 🧐
The author’s note!!! This book has one of the best author’s notes I’ve ever read. 😭 I loved Blanca y Roja’s ending message so much, and I’d highly recommend you read it just for that. However, I still rated it 3 stars, because sadly, peculiar, message-heavy stories and insta-love are not my cups of tea.
So, can we trust book bloggers’ recommendations?
I think, based on this post, the answer is YES. Compared to the last Caitlin Reads, where I rated all the books I read 3 stars except one, which I rated 2, two 4-star books and two 3-star books is a vast improvement!
But I’m sure you can already tell that this post isn’t actually meant to answer the question—of course we can trust book bloggers’ recommendations!!! Every opinion is subjective, and every book has an audience.
I wanna say a big thank you to all the book bloggers whose recommendations I read for this post!!! And to all the book bloggers who give amazing book recommendations. ❤❤ Thank you so much for spreading the love for marginalized authors, life-changing books, and entertaining reads.
I can’t properly express how happy I am that I finally posted the second part of this new feature!! I feel really bad that it took so long to come—hopefully the wait won’t be this long next time.
I know I should be asking this below, in the “talk to me” section, but let’s be honest: you probably don’t read that section. So I’m asking you here: what are your honest opinions on this blog series? Please comment any suggestions for improvement you may have—it is genuinely appreciated. Please just voice your opinion nicely because I have fragile feelings. 🥺
Also, what theme do you want to see a Caitlin Reads dedicated to?