Never Have I Ever…

After my short hiatus from blogging (thanks allergies!), I came back and saw that I was tagged in a post by Whispering Stories. To be honest, I’m not the best at outreach on wordpress. I come here, write a post about what I’m reading that day, and *sometimes* I read a post or two on the discover section of my screen. So it was kind of cool to be tagged in something by another blog. I got oddly excited about it.

And then I started reading about the “Never Have I Ever” challenge and these were the rules:

  1. Link back to the original creator (Madame Writer)
  2. Link back to the person who tagged you or the blog where you first saw this tag.
  3. Answer all prompts.
  4. Add one more prompt of your own.
  5. Tag at least five people.
  6. Don’t lie.
  7. Have fun!

And I was like wow this is all doable! So here goes my best shot:

Never Have Ever… read a later book in the a series before reading the first book.

To be honest, I don’t know if I have or haven’t. It’d be easy enough to say that I haven’t, but I can think of plenty of series where I might have. There’s certain collections of books where you don’t necessarily have to read them in a specific order in order to understand and love them.

The Graceling Realm series by Kristin Cashore comes to mind right away, but considering I’ve already talked about that series (and my overwhelming love for it) at length, there’s definitely a couple more series that you could read out of order and be just fine.

1) Fell and The Sight by David Clement-Davies

When I read this prompt, my first thought was Fell. Fell was the follow-up for Clement-Davies’ first book in the short series, The Sight. It followed the story of Fell, the dark wolf brother of the beloved Larka, following the death of Morgra. While I found the first book to be a touching tale about good versus evil, I feel like the real magic of this series begins in Fell with Fell’s walk to redemption. There is something utterly captivating about the second book that I missed in the first and you absolutely don’t need to read these two books in the correct order to understand the appeal. However, I would recommend that you do just because both are absolutely read-worth and why not read them in order if you’re going to read both? Plus, it will probably make Fell’s story even more powerful if you understand where he is coming from.

2) The Night World Series by L.J. Smith

Let’s preface with this: I love this series and I one hundred percent read it in order. But you don’t necessarily have to and considering the fact that it seems like L.J. Smith isn’t ever going to finish this series, it might not even be worth trying to read them in order. There’s a lot of novellas in this series and the price of them seems to only have increased throughout the years. While they’re all good, some are exceedingly better. I particularly enjoyed Huntress and Witchlight. They’re all worth reading if you can afford because, well, they’re good, but again Smith probably isn’t going to finish them so don’t get too attached. I’ve been waiting for the last book for ten years!

3) Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer

I feel like I’m drawing from a lot of series that I read in my preteen and teenage years, but the Life As Knew It series is definitely one you don’t have to read in order in order to understand. Each book stands pretty well by itself. However, I would recommend reading the first and second book sometime before reading the third and fourth, just for the sake of getting to know all of the various characters. You can, of course, totally disregard that if you really wanted to. 

And I’d also like to add that, while I first read these books in my preteen years, I recommend them for people of all ages. Because of how quickly I read, I’m a habitual re-reader (hello rereading The Hunger Games for the millionth time) and I make sure to reread every single book in this series every single year. It’s one of my favorite collections. Pfeffer’s post apocalyptic world is startlingly realistic and utterly terrifies me. The dangers of space are really out of our control and it’s easy to imagine an asteroid impact on us or on the moon having a huge impact on life on earth. 

Plus, I particularly enjoyed how dark books three and four were. While many people prefer the more positive tone of books one and two, I absolutely adore dark and almost depressing post apocalyptic fiction. Watching people struggle to survive might sound horrible, but it makes for amazing literature. I also feel like it’s relatively rare to find a well written perspective of a teenager experiencing the end of the world. Can you think of other series that can do that justice without sounding trite? Life as We Knew It is very special in my eyes. 

Never Have I Ever… burned a book.

I actually considered lying when this prompt came up. I have actually burned a book. I’ve actually burned a couple of piles of them, maybe more. Thankfully, all of the books I’ve burned were super old and beyond repair. The pages were absolutely covered in mold and moth balls. They were beyond saving. You couldn’t even make out the words anymore!


But there are some books that have been so bad, so poorly written, so deeply offensive to me that I wouldn’t necessarily mind someone setting them on fire. It’s rare for me to say that I genuinely hated a book, but I have genuinely hated a few books. Dawn: The Final Awakening Book One by J. Thorn and Zach Bohannon fall into this category. My boyfriend recommended it to me a while back and I attempted to read this book, but the entire thing just felt ridiculous. I hated the writing style. It was the first book in a long time that I had to give up reading just because of how much I disliked it. It was somehow simultaneously all over the place, but also super boring at the same time. I’d love to give it the benefit of doubt and assume it got better after I stopped reading it, but based on what I read? Definitely fire-worthy.

Never have I Ever… read a book I knew I would hate.

My answer is a little bit iffy on this one as well. I was ninety nine percent sure I would not enjoy Midnight Sun by Stephanie Meyers. I went into it fully expecting a drawn out creepy monologue about Edward’s obsession for Bella. Unsurprisingly, I got just that. Because of that, it wasn’t my favorite book and I probably wouldn’t recommend it to even the most diehard Twilight fans. Every time I found myself hoping the book would improve, it fell flat. There were some moments where my hopes were so high that it almost crushed me to be let down again. If you’re interested in reading my chapter-by-chapter analysis, it’s probably better than the book itself.

That being said, I’d probably read part two if it came out. Does that make sense? No. Would I do it? Without a doubt. After a couple of months of thinking about it, I know I wouldn’t be able to resist the urge to talk about how creepy and unlikable Edward is again.

Never Have I ever… wrote a fanfiction about my favorite books.

Nope. I have a hard time getting into fanfiction in general, particularly when the author of the fanfic takes the characters away from the situations where I got to know and love them. If you take a person out of their normal surroundings, it can be very hard to recognize them. I’m sure there are *many* exceptions to this rule, but most fanfics I’ve read have failed to connect with me. I find myself wanting to read the original books more than the fanfic. If you have any good recommendations, let me know. I’m probably just not looking in the right places.

Never Have I Ever… loved a book when I was young, yet hated it when I got older.

I honestly can’t say that I have. Even books that I’m technically too old for now, I still love. The Warrior Cat series by Erin Hunter immediately comes to mind. I just love that series and I reread the first six books every year… sometimes twice a year. Rusty’s story from soft kittypet to warrior cat gets me every time.

I also really loved The Artemis Fowl series by Eoin Colfer and The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner when I was younger. While I haven’t reread either of those in years, I still remember them fondly. In fact, I’ve been thinking very seriously about rereading them.

However, I would like to note that I don’t really enjoy The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling as kid. Every book lover in the world seemed to adore them growing up, but I never managed to get as into them. I always felt like they were missing something. As I got older, that disconnect really continued – much to the series detriment. I wanted Harry to grow up with me instead of acting the same every book. I never got into it and, while I don’t hate it now, it’s not my favorite series in the world. Plus, Rowling is kind of unbearable herself.

Never Have I Ever… dressed up as one of my favorite literary characters.

Nope.

Never Have I Ever… hated a book by an author I love.

Lately I’ve been trying to read one of Jodi Picoult’s newer books, The Book of Two Ways. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that I hate it, but I’m definitely not super into it. I’ve actually had a hard time with a lot of her newer material, particularly because a lot of it feels repetitive. I’ve read her style of writing a million times and I know what books by her look like. They’re a bit stale for me now. And when she branches out a little bit, I always feel like something’s missing. Maybe I’ve just outgrown her as an author in general and it’s definitely not hate, but it’s probably the closest I’ll get.

Never Have I Ever… gone into a bookstore to buy one book and come out with many more.

This may break your hearts, but I don’t buy paper copies of books anymore. I used to have gigantic book shelves in my room absolutely full of books, but after moving a few times… dozens of times… hard copies are just too difficult. They make moving a real pain and I always end up having to leave some behind. I’m a digital reader!

Never Have I Ever… read the ending of a book before reading the beginning.

I don’t think so, but I might have when I was in school. Some books they have you read are just so boring. Skipping to the end and reading the last few pages can help you convincingly fake having read them for school assignments. Not that I recommend that. You might as well just read the sparknotes instead if you really don’t want to read a book.

Never Have I Ever… read a book without the dust cover.

I read on my phone… so yes.

Never Have I Ever… skim read nearly half a book.

Probably? Again, some teachers give you boring books. You gotta do what you gotta do.

Never Have I Ever… pretended to have read a book that I haven’t.

Only when I was younger and had to read boring books for assignments. If I don’t finish a book now, there’s a reason and I’m going to say what the reason is. Most of the time, it’s because I genuinely didn’t like the book.

Never Have I Ever… saw the movie before the book.

Yes. A few weeks ago, I saw the trailer for I’m Thinking of Ending Things and immediately watched the movie without looking into it at all. I had no idea it was a book!

However upset I felt in the moment, however, I’m almost glad I watched the movie first. I’m Thinking of Ending Things has so many layers to it that watching the movie probably helped me understand the book better. I found myself looking for clues about the ending instead of focusing too much on how confused I was.

Never Have I Ever… had a book boyfriend.

Can’t say that I have. Although Rhysand from A Court of Thorns and Roses does have a piece of my heart and always will. Or Will Herondale from The Mortal Instruments. The problem with book boyfriends is that they almost always have book girlfriends that they couldn’t bear to be separated from. I can’t fall in love with someone who already has the perfect partner for them!

My new prompt: Never Have I Ever… read a history book or anthropology book for fun.

I personally have, but I wonder how many book bloggers really go outside of their normal range. I recently reread Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari and really enjoyed it. It was so far out of normal for me that I was genuinely surprised by how much I enjoyed it. It’s one of my favorites now! However, it is very opinionated so whether it can truly be considered a simple history book is up for debate. I definitely recommend Harari’s books if you haven’t read anything by them so far.

Bloggers that I have tagged for the “Never Have I Ever” book tag challenge

Because I’m a very bad blogger, I very rarely interact with other people’s blog posts. I’ve been trying to be better, but there’s too few hours in a day. Thankfully, this post gave me an extra shove towards looking for new (for me) blogs to check out. Of course, I started first with my followers because why not? It was an easy way to find bloggers that like the same things I do.

  1. Books with Bain – I really, really, really love the fact that this blogger includes actual tags to goodread shelves so I can check out the books she’s reviewing, or considering reading. Plus, I absolutely love the photos she takes. Check out this one. They’re pure magic! I’d love to see her take on this challenge.
  2. Midnight Book Blog – This is one of the few book blogs I’ve had a chance to really check out prior to this challenge. I really love how fun and genuine their posts come across. It feels like I’m sitting around talking to my best friend about what they thought about a book, but without having to fly my best friend to my house. Saves us on airfare! Plus, she sells absolutely gorgeous bookmarks. I almost wish I read paper copies of books now… Do you think I could get a digital version of one?
  3. Roses and Thorns Books – I love the set up of their blog. I may be the only person who nerds out over fonts, but wow what a font they have chosen. I love it. It makes me feel like I’m reading classic literature on a snowy winter day right in front of the fire place. Plus, they don’t shy away from calling attention to the good and the bad parts of books. I really like that in a book blogger. I also really like the fact that they sometimes take a break from reviewing books to give advice to writers. That’s awesome!
  4. Becky’s Book Blog – This blog is new to me and I’m about 50% sure I saw their name in the original tag post… But either way! When I went to go find a couple of new blogs to tag, I saw her post about books that Netflix should adapt and I was hooked. Sadly, I haven’t read any of the books she was talking about (I might have to get reading), but it was such a good idea for a post and it gave me a lot of options of books I apparently should be reading that I’d love to see her take on the ‘Never Have I Ever’ challenge.
  5. Foxes and Fairy Tales – To be honest, I was attracted to this blog because it’s so much different than my own. I tend to focus on one book for a very long time; Louise seems to favor top fives and top ten lists. And she does it without going on and on for decades like I would. I love that! Plus, she talked about The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller in this post and that book is one of my personal weak spots. It is SUCH a powerful story and now I want to check out every other book on that list.

3 of My Favorite Books

Okay, I’ll be the first one to admit it: I probably have around fifty favorite books total. Once I fall in love with a story, it’s just too difficult to compare it to another story that I absolutely love. I’m really not capable of picking favorites when it comes to well-written novels. I can’t do it.

But I can give you some examples of my favorite books.  Not just the ones that I’m going to discuss below, but books like The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer (and the rest of the series), and The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller. 

Certain books just capture me for the rest of my life. Once I read them once, I’ll keep reading them forever. And books like that have been few and far in between lately. Sure, a lot of the newer books I read are good. Don’t get me wrong: they’re good. Sometimes very good. I enjoy reading them. But they don’t hook me. They don’t make me want to read them every twice a year for the rest of my life. I want them to, but they don’t.

Yet other books are somehow straight up the most addictive books I’ve ever read. I absolutely adore them. Sometimes I don’t even know why I still read them until I’m picking them up again and completely absorbed in the storyline. Even knowing exactly what’s going to happen, I love them. 

I’ll probably list more than these three at some point, but here I go.

1. Into the Wild by Erin Hunter

Back of the Book (Amazon.com)

Epic adventures. Fierce warrior cats. A thrilling fantasy world. It all begins here.

Read the book that began a phenomenon—and join the legion of fans who have made Erin Hunter’s Warriors series a #1 national bestseller.

For generations, four Clans of wild cats have shared the forest according to the laws laid down by their ancestors. But the warrior code has been threatened, and the ThunderClan cats are in grave danger. The sinister ShadowClan grows stronger every day. Noble warriors are dying—and some deaths are more mysterious than others.

In the midst of this turmoil appears an ordinary housecat named Rusty… who may turn out to be the bravest warrior of them all.

My Take On It

I figured I’d start with my earliest literary addiction: The Warriors Series. Into the Wild follows the journey of a normal house cat into becoming a fierce warrior of Thunderclan. The cat, Rusty, encounters a lifestyle and pattern of behavior that he barely understands. These new cats prioritize each other, their clan’s history, and their own honor above everything else. He meets new cats, learns about their rich society, and fights for the honor of his clan. It sounds a little bit ridiculous, but it’s anything but! It’s probably one of the best books I’ve ever read. Meant to target readers eight and up, these books still completely captivate me. The entire first series is literary gold.

A lot of the appeal for me, however, is definitely nostalgia. I grew up reading this series and absolutely fell in love with these books. I feel at home when I read about Firepaw and Thunderclan. I’m not sure if another adult my age (22) would have the same reaction to this series if they picked up the first book now. They are written with the intention of appealing to children after all. But that’s honestly fine with me. Sometimes you don’t need a book that’s at the level you are. Sometimes you want nostalgia. It’s amazing that these books are capable of still appealing to me even though I’ve grown so much since first reading them. Talk about inspiring reader loyalty! These books have been out for 17 years!

Into the Wild may be targeted at kids, but it has a special place in my heart and, as a twenty-two year old, I read the entire first collection at least once a year. If you have a child (or some free time for yourself), I definitely recommend picking this book up. Heck, I’d recommend picking up the entire first series. They’re that good! You may not love it quite as much as I still do, but they’re still worth a read. Plus, you can let me know if this series is capable of appealing to an older audience from the first read or if you have to have that element of nostalgia to really enjoy them.

However, if you do plan on gifting this book to a child, you may want to read it with them. The series does include some elements of violence and death, but I definitely feel like it’s at an approachable and child-friendly level. They’re incredibly tame compared to most video games young kids play! The fights are literally cat fights. Plus, the series isn’t really gory and is more meant to reflect the challenges of survival and diplomacy.  The Warriors Series also includes a bunch of positive role models and messages, gives you a great chance to educate your kids about survival, wildlife, and death. They even include a cat version of heaven and hell. They’re just really good books.

2. Graceling by Kristin Cashore

Back of the Book (Amazon.com)

Kristin Cashore’s bestselling, award-winning fantasy Graceling tells the story of the vulnerable-yet-strong Katsa, a smart, beautiful teenager who lives in a world where selected people are given a Grace, a special talent that can be anything from dancing to swimming. Katsa’s is killing. As the king’s niece, she is forced to use her extreme skills as his thug. Along the way, Katsa must learn to decipher the true nature of her Grace… and how to put it to good use. A thrilling, action-packed fantasy adventure (and steamy romance!) that will resonate deeply with adolescents trying to find their way in the world.

My Take On It

Ahhhh, enter my teenage years. Meeting Katsa for the first time was an absolute blessing. I was struggling with my own identity and sense of self worth. Meeting such a strong, independent woman who tackled her own sense of self worth inspired me. I wanted to be as strong as Katsa was. She made me feel like I could believe in myself. No matter my flaws, no matter what I struggled with, I was worth something.

Plus, her impossible feats made me feel awe-struck. It was so refreshing to see a beautiful young woman that was completely competent in survival and combat situations. I had never encountered such a character before! Katsa’s power came across to me, during that first read, as seemingly limitless. Sometimes it even gave me chills.

And the author managed to do this all without diminishing the value of being soft and kind to others. Katsa’s extraordinary strength and power didn’t leave her without the ability to love. Graceling is jam-packed with unexpectedly touching scenes and relationships. Katsa’s interactions with Prince Po in particular captured my whole heart. They made her shine all the brighter and they made me wonder what love had in store for me.

Years later, I still make a point to read Graceling at least once a year. It’s one of those books that remind me of my own strengths, but still make me want to become a better version of myself. It’s the perfect book for teenagers to read, but I recommend it for all ages teenage and up. Cashore’s writing is still beautiful years later and Katsa will always have a special place in my heart.

However, if I’m being critical, I wouldn’t say that this book is perfect. It does sometimes bother me that the villain in this book is so black-and-white. There is no complexity to him. He is simply evil. I would have liked this book better if Cashore had given the villain the same level of complexity and honesty as she gave to Prince Po and Katsa. They are not perfectly good so why would their villan be perfectly evil? It’s the one flaw in the book for me.

Yet that is a small side-note in comparison to the overall success of the novel. And it does get remedied a bit by my next constant re-read…

3. Fire by Kristin Cashore

Back of the Book Summary (Goodreads.com)

It is not a peaceful time in the Dells. The young King Nash clings to his throne while rebel lords in the north and south build armies to unseat him. The mountains and forests are filled with spies and thieves and lawless men.

This is where Fire lives. With a wild, irresistible appearance and hair the color of flame, Fire is the last remaining human monster. Equally hated and adored, she had the unique ability to control minds, but she guards her power, unwilling to steal the secrets of innocent people. Especially when she has so many of her own.

Then Prince Brigan comes to bring her to King City, The royal family needs her help to uncover the plot against the king. Far away from home, Fire begins to realize there’s more to her power than she ever dreamed. Her power could save the kingdom.

If only she weren’t afraid of becoming the monster her father was.

My Take On It

I can’t talk about Graceling without mentioning Fire. I read Fire two or three times a year, more so perhaps than almost every other book I make a point to reread each year. It is the perfect compliment to Graceling, but is a powerful standalone as well. The main character, Fire, is equally as strong as Katsa, but in a completely different way. Whereas Katsa is bold, Fire’s strengths are more based on her compassion and kindness.  They give a surprising level of depth to what makes a hero a hero when you compare the two. You do not need to be masculine to be a hero and you do not need to be feminine to be beautiful. You can just be yourself.

It’s a really beautiful, amazing book full of beautiful, amazing messages.

Plus, the world-building in Fire is just stunning. Imagining the appearance of everything from Fire herself to the world around her captivated me from the very first page. I also personally loved the fact that Fire isn’t white. So many authors focus only on white beauty being the best type of beauty that it was refreshing to see another type of beauty reflected in who is supposed to be the most beautiful woman in the universe. However, Fire’s beauty was both a blessing and a curse, and I loved to see that played out. It added a level of depth to her character and her world that she fully understood the horrible impact her own beauty could have on others.

It also furthered the complexity of her relationships with people. Fire constantly struggled with a king who couldn’t resist her beauty, a general who hated her for it , and an ex-lover who couldn’t loosen his grip on her. Almost everyone around her was impacted by the sight of her. It was inescapable.

And a lot of this behavior made me stop and think. Is this how we all really act? A lot of scenes in Fire were very reactive and explosive with a calm and caring main character at the heart of it all. Everything from politics to love were involved. I think in a lot of ways, human society is very reactive. Humans, no matter how beautiful they are, are prone to violence. Fire is in a position where she wishes to prevent the outbreak of war without compromising on her deeply held values. She’s in a complete ethical tangle. You find yourself wondering what you would do in her shoes. From a young age, asking myself questions like that always appealed to me. Books like these make me question myself and get to know myself better. They’re simply art.

Plus, this book revisits the villain from the first book much to his benefit. While he doesn’t get many positive traits, the depth this provides excuses his existence as a purely evil character. There is just something wrong with him, as simple as that.

However, this book isn’t for people who don’t enjoy slow build ups. Much of the action for this series doesn’t happen until later on. It focuses more on character and world building than anything else. I was spell-bound by it all. Other readers might feel more bored. It’s worth giving it a try though if you’re interested! I haven’t found anything else quite like it.