Top Ten Best Fictional Couples

So Friday (7/6) was International Kissing Day or something like that, so I got thinking about the best fictional couples, the ones I adore reading about the most.  I feel like this is different from my favorite fictional crushes because there is different criteria for this.  For example, when it comes to my crushes, I’m looking for the characteristics that mesh the best with mine.  For the couples, I’m looking for the ones whose personality traits mesh well together.  I’m looking for couples that balance each other well, the ones that I fight for to stay together through every hardship.

Will there be some overlap?  Undoubtedly.  But I think it’s going to be enlightening nonetheless.

And if you’re not into series or if you’re looking for a standalone contemporary romance, I made sure to include those on my list as well.  Hopefully you can find something you haven’t read before!

Top Ten Best Fictional Couples

1. Henry and Kate, The Goddess Test series by Aimee Carter

So, this is one of my favorites series to reread (in large part because of the Greek mythology, I won’t lie) but also because of the level of emotion I feel from Kate.  Kate is sweetness and despair, constantly intertwined.  Henry is completely closed off, seemingly emotionless, hopeless all because he lets fear rule his life.  I love that Kate never really gives up on him and that he has a lot more depth than he ever shows anyone else.  It’s awesome.

2. Rhys and Feyre, A Court of Thorns and Roses series by Sarah J. Maas

Y’all, let’s not even pretend to be surprised that these two are on the list.  Besides the fact that Rhys made it onto my swoon-worthy crush list AND I just did that spotlight on Maas books on Friday, it was pretty much certain that these two would show up at some point.  These two are the perfect counterpoints to each other.  They both have a lot of bravado and snark, but they feel pain deeply.  They both strive to protect others until their dying breath and they are utterly vicious toward anyone who wants to hurt them.  Their similar personalities also mean that arguments are explosive.  It’s delightful fun to watch them fight and make up.

3. Anna and Etienne, Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

I don’t think I give this book as much credit as it deserves.  I adore these two because when I first read this book, it was like they were speaking to me.  Anna was me. But what I like about these two together is that they’re encouraging.  They see what the other’s hopes and dreams are and they listen and push them to reach it.  It’s not an easy beginning to their relationship, but I think it makes them stronger for it.

4. Penryn and Raffe, Angelfall series by Susan Ee

I debated a little with this one.  Like, were they actually a couple of epic proportions?  But considering the story involves explosions, death, and dismemberment, I’d say it’s pretty epic.  We’re talking angels, so everything is on a massive scale.  The danger level is high, which means the emotions run that much stronger.  They’re both bitter about the life they now lead, but they find someone who understands in each other.  And while that maybe doesn’t lead to a perfect life, it does show exactly how far they’ll go to save the other.

5. Scarlet and Robin, Scarlet series by A.C. Gaughen

Ok, this couple right here needs to stop being so freaking adorable.  The life Scarlet’s running from is absolutely awful, so awful that she’d rather live dressed as a boy than let anyone even guess who she really is.  The fact that she trusts Robin means a lot because she no longer trusts anyone.  And Robin, while being understanding and sweet, is undeniably fierce when it comes to protecting her.  I really enjoy reading about these two.

6. Kate and Matt, Things I Can’t Forget by Miranda Kenneally

Do you ever have a book that you read and you just can’t get it out of your head, no matter how much time has gone by?  That’s this book for me.  This couple is different from many other couples.  Kate is religious and quiet.  Matt is silly and a nerd who grew up into all his delicious glory.  It was so much fun to watch these two try to understand each other, to learn from their mistakes, and to finally acknowledge their feelings.

7. Charlie and Braden, On The Fence by Kasie West

I think this is easily my favorite Kasie West book.  Charlie is a tomboy.  She hangs out with her brothers and plays all the sports.  Braden is her neighbor and best friend of her brothers.  They’ve known each other forever, so when the feelings start becoming more than that, it runs the risk of making everything awkward.  But I loved that Charlie really doesn’t fit the mold of a typical romantic lead and that there is this that friendship between them before it becomes something more.  It’s sweet.

8. Christian and Elyse, The Summer of Chasing Mermaids by Sarah Ockler

When we’re talking about two characters that balance each other out, I don’t think there are two better characters than these.  Elyse is from the Caribbean, a talented singer who lost her voice in a freak accident.  Christian is a rich boy who lives on the coast with his family and is pretty much spoiled.  They’re complete opposites in so many ways, but Christian sees Elyse in ways that no one else does.  He’s the only one who treats her normally, not like she’s broken.  She’s the only one who sees the pressure being piled on Christian’s shoulders.  I adored that balance.

9. Ali and Cole, the Alice in Zombieland series by Gena Showalter

Again, this is a couple that balances each other well.  When Ali and Cole meet, she’s almost afraid of her shadow because of what happened to her family.  Cole is tough as nails and definitely someone Ali should be running from.  But he gives her confidence and treats her like a person.  And Ali softens his edges.  Again, it’s a very cute couple, even though they’re quite terrifying at the same time.

10. Sydney and Adrian, the Bloodlines series by Richelle Mead

I have a very hard time deciding between Sydney and Adrian or Rose and Dimitri, from the companion Richelle Mead series, Vampire Academy.  But I ended up going with Sydney and Adrian because of their amazing character development.  And it’s not just that Adrian grows up–it’s Sydney too.  She finally starts to realize how important other things are in life, starts to question what she’s seeing.  But together, these two are magical.  There’s just something so compelling about how Adrian can pull out Sydney’s sillier side as well as see her in a way that she doesn’t feel like anyone else has seen her.  And there’s something wonderful about the way Sydney saw a spark of promise beneath Adrian’s sarcastic, self-destructive exterior.  They understand each other in a way that is simply beautiful.

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Bookishly Ever After (Ever After, #1)

Image result for bookishly ever afterFirst Lines: I rocked forward, balancing my book on my knees and tried to ignore the yelling and chatter around me.  The edge of the cafeteria bench dug into my legs, practically cutting off my circulation, but I barely noticed.  Em elbowed me, leaning over to hiss in my ear, “Seriously, Feebs, put that down.  You look like a freak.”  “Uh huh.  Just one more page…it’s getting good.”

Let’s be honest.  Don’t pretend you have never been in the exact same position as Phoebe in these opening lines, where there’s mass chaos going on around you and you tune everything out to keep reading your book.  Been there, done that, would absolutely visit again.  But that’s what drew me in about this book: even from just the book jacket, it seemed to get me.  And I wanted to see if that continued.

If the world were perfect, Phoebe’s life would be like a YA novel, one with magic and a hot paranormal love interest.  Unfortunately, that does not match up with her experiences as a high school junior at all.  When Phoebe finds out her friend Dev, the hottest guy in the clarinet section, might actually have a crush on Phoebe, she does what she knows: she turns to her favorite books for help.  How should she act?  What should she say?  If her favorite heroines can do it, then so can Phoebe.  So she tries to overhaul her personality to match them.  But if her plan fails, can she go back to simply crushing on fictional boys again?

First of all, I don’t think I’ve ever read about a heroine as much like me as Phoebe. She’s the kind of girl who brings her book to lunch and ends up ignoring her friends because she can’t put the book down. She’s not great at social interactions, so she relies on book characters for help. She knits which is something I almost never see characters (especially YA characters) doing. I mean, nearly everything about her was me to a T, warts and all. It was kind of stunning.  (I don’t mean literal warts…just that she’s got my not-so-great traits as well.)

I also liked that the story’s romance took time. We start this story in like, November, and it ends in May. There’s time for Phoebe’s feelings to grow naturally without feeling stalkerish. There’s time for her to fall apart and piece herself back together. So I really liked that. It felt more realistic.

It did, however, slow the story down. Especially when Phoebe included excerpts of her favorite books (which are, unfortunately, completely fictional, as I would really like to read a couple of them). There were moments where it just felt like nothing was happening, or the same thing kept happening over and over.

There are a few reviews I’ve seen that have complained about how it follows so many YA/romance cliches and all that.  But like, I kind of expected it.  I was looking for a cute love story and that’s what I got.  Tropes and all.

It was just a cute story. It wasn’t perfect, but I did wholly appreciate the fact that the main character was a huge book nerd and that her friends/family reacted the way that many of mine react to my reading. I just thought it was nice that nerd girls were finally appropriately written about, rather than a lot of books where they say they’re readers but you never see them with a book the whole story. Phoebe gets it.

The Other Boleyn Girl (2008 Movie)

Image result for the other boleyn girl movieThe only thing that could come between these sisters…is a kingdom.

Ok, so I recently read this book, right?  I wanted to see how this compared with the book because, duh, that’s what we do when movie come out based on books.  (Don’t lie–you know you do it too.)  So I had to give this a shot.

Just to hit the basics again: Mary Boleyn, a young married girl, catches the eye of King Henry VIII and becomes his mistress.  This is great news for the family because of their new influence at court–but not so good for Mary’s sister Anne, who craves the attention.  When Henry’s eyes start to wander away from Mary, Anne is ready and waiting.  But at what cost?

If I thought the book was historically inaccurate, the movie was so much worse.

The book took liberties, don’t get me wrong, but the movie moved crucial events out of order and completely misrepresents people.  Part of it is due to time constraints.  I get it.  It’s a 700+ page novel, nearly 20 years of events, all condensed to two hours.  Lots needs to be cut.  But it almost felt haphazard.  I could never guess what scenes would be left in or how the history would be shown.  Even major historical players like Mary and Anne’s brother George are barely given more than 15 minutes of screen time.

However, there were some things I was happy with.  Even in the condensed time, Anne is still shown to be clever and ambitious.  Katherine of Aragon is still shown to be regal and unrepentant about the “crimes” she allegedly committed (only being married to Henry).  And I thought the relationship between Mary and Anne, while rushed, seemed to have a feel of genuine affection even when tinged with jealousy.

I was more surprised by the casting than anything else.  Scarlett Johansson was surprisingly good as Mary (though she tended to cycle through the same facials the whole movie).  Eric Bana brought a surprising warmth to the character of King Henry, even though Henry clearly starts to become more menacing by the end.

But the best part were the actors who made it big after this movie came out but have small bit parts in this movie.  We have BENEDICT CUMBERBATCH, who plays Mary’s husband.  (Seriously, watch the deleted scenes if you can.  Some of his best stuff got cut.)  We have EDDIE REDMAYNE, who plays William Stafford, a low ranking member of court who befriends Mary.  And finally, ANDREW GARFIELD as Francis Weston.  (He probably only has like 10 seconds of screen time.  I swear I didn’t even see him, but he’s totally here.)

Actually, I lied.  The best part was seeing all three of them in Tudor-era costumes.

Image result for benedict cumberbatch the other boleyn girl

Image result for eddie redmayne the other boleyn girl

Image result for andrew garfield the other boleyn girl

You’re welcome.

Overall, I thought it was interesting to have watched once.  But it’s not the kind of movie I’ll probably ever see again.  Too historically inaccurate.

 

 

Before the Devil Breaks You (The Diviners, #3)

Image result for before the devil breaks youFirst Lines: Thick evening fog clung to the forlorn banks of Ward’s Island, turning it into a ghost itself. Across the dark calm of the East River, the glorious neon whirl of Manhattan was in full jazz-age bloom–glamorous clubs, basement speakeasies, illegal booze, all of it enjoyed by live-fast-forget-tomorrow flappers and Dapper Dons eager to throw off their cares and Charleston their way into tomorrow’s hangover.

So as you all know, I’m a fan of Libba Bray and books that are weird.  I’ve been following this Diviners series, which is definitely weird and sometimes super creepy.  So naturally, this was pretty high on my to-read list.

*Potential Series Spoilers Ahead*

It’s been a rough six months for the Diviners.  After overcoming the sleeping sickness that claimed two of their own, all the Diviners want are answers.  They want to know why they have these abilities–why this band of misfits?  But a new terror is brewing.  Out on Ward’s Island sits a mental hospital haunted by the ghosts of people long forgotten–ghosts that have ties to the man in the stovepipe hat, the King of Crows.  With stories of murder and possession captivating New York, the Diviners must take action.  They must take on these ghosts, which brings them face-to-face with the King of Crows.  But as secrets come to light, loyalties are questioned and the Diviners will question everything they’ve ever known about themselves.  All the while, a fight is brewing for the very soul of the nation–a fight that may claim the Diviners themselves.

This is a very very rare thing, but I felt like this Libba Bray book was kind of a miss for me. Not everything was bad, but I just couldn’t get into this the way I had the previous books.

Part of the problem, admittedly, is that I just hate the Roaring 20s.  The selfishness, the egos, the excess, the blatant disregard for rules.  It all drives me insane.  Everyone thinks they’re the coolest thing since sliced bread.  Ugh.  If it weren’t for Bray’s name being on this book, I wouldn’t be reading it at all.

But I very much like the characters. Evie and Sam’s banter is hysterical. Memphis’s poetry is beautiful. Henry and Ling’s optimism in the face of struggle is endearing. Theta’s struggle to overcome her past and make a name of herself is what most of us are trying to do in one way or another.  Each and every one of them has a struggle that pulls us in.

Although I will say it took me a while to get back to liking them. Part of it was because it’s been a long time since I read Lair of Dreams and I didn’t exactly remember everyone. But this book did a good job of casually reminding us about all of the characters and whatever their current goals are (like Evie keeping her radio show, Sam trying to find his mother, etc.).

What I really struggled with on this book was the fact that there’s this huge mystery in the book and it just kept dragging on and on without any progress, or so it felt. We have all of these big questions, which are absolutely crucial to the story, and it felt like we were never getting any answers. The fact that we’re following 6-8 character perspectives meant the pacing was even slower because they all have something else going on outside of Diviner business. It started to feel like a hamster wheel; we were moving but we weren’t getting anywhere.

And probably partially because I don’t remember the smaller details of the first two books, there were parts in this book that didn’t make as much sense as they could have. I mean, that’s what happens when you read books as they come out.

I still like the Diviners angle, how they’ve shown themselves to society and have to deal with that. I think all of that is pretty interesting. I like how different their powers are, but how well they interact with each other.

Oh, and something else that made this hard to read? Even though it is well done, many parts of this book have stark parallels to the news of the past 2 years. This seems to have been intentional, especially since much of what we’re seeing America revert to now is, in fact, something America already saw 100 years ago. But as someone who is struggling to make it through the news and frequently has to unplug from all the negativity, this was just more stress. There were times I had to put the book down because I just couldn’t deal with it anymore.

Libba Bray left a note in her historical note and I think it’s just so poignant.  It says:

“We are a country built by immigrants, dreams, daring, and opportunity.  We are a country built by the horrors of slavery and genocide, the injustice of racism and exclusion.  These realities exist side by side.  It is our past and our present.  The future is unwritten.  This book is about ghosts.  For we live in a haunted house.”

So yeah. It’s not a bad book, but it was sometimes a book that was difficult to want to keep reading.

Compare This! Throne of Glass vs. A Court of Thorns and Roses

Hey guys!  So like, I have a short attention span sometimes and my Weekly Obsessions posts…yeah, I’m bored with them.  And while I was driving the other day, I got an idea for a new type of post called Compare This!

So here’s the deal.  I’ll take 2-3 books, books with movies, works by the same author, etc., and I’ll compare them to pick which one I thought was better.  (You are free to disagree with me.)  I like to think of it as a Face Off/Boxing Match, if you will, where these two are duke-ing it out for my favor.  And this first match isn’t pulling its punches.  Let’s get started!

The Throne of Glass series

VS.

A Court of Thorns and Roses series

(Both series are written by the incomparable Sarah J. Maas)

Image result for throne of glass series

Throne of Glass

The Pros:

  • This series has a number of rock stars for main characters, characters that just get under your skin and then you can’t get them out of your head.
  • The necessity for cleverness means you never quite know what’s going to happen next because it’s just a master chess game.
  • Suspense.  Oh my God, the suspense this series creates!  Once you start these books, you need to plan your days around your reading time because you aren’t going to feel capable of putting them down.
  • The world building is excellent.  Even returning to this book after a year (while I wait for the next book), I can pretty easily fall back into the world of Adarlan.

The Cons:

  • Sometimes the plot is too convoluted.  Later in the series, there are almost too many characters in too many different places.  You have to keep track of a large number of plot lines all at once and, with a year between books, it’s complicated to do that with a series that’s still not finished.  I can only hope there’s a massive payoff at the end.
  • There’s usually a portion of each book that seems so slow.  In almost every review I write, I talk about how it took me a while to get through because something bogged me down.
  • The jumping between all the narrators can feel jarring.  I know that I have struggled with that throughout a number of these books, especially as it gets later in the series.
  • Six books in this series (so far) means that this series almost feels like it’s been going on forever.  It can be hard to keep a reader’s attention on the same series for 6+ years.

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A Court of Thrones and Roses

The Pros:

  • I adore that the first two books seems to be almost retellings of classic stories.  (The first truly has a Beauty and the Beast vibe, and we all know how I feel about that.)
  • The characters are fantastic, from the ones you root for to the lowest of villains.  Every single one of them is magnificently written.  Ask anyone who’s read this series and they will all have different favorites and–if they do like the same character–it will be for a completely different reason.  They’re so multi-dimensional.  It’s been a long time since I’ve fangirled this hard over characters.  (My computer is telling me I’ve invented a new word there, but it’s the truth.)  Like, it will be decades before I stop thinking about how much I love these characters.
  • The world building.  I feel like this gets bonus points for writing two worlds, the human world and the fey world.  Each one has its own characteristics.
  • So much cleverness in the plotting.  Little hints are dropped in the previous books that come back, little moments earlier in the book you didn’t notice, etc.  It all comes back.
  • THERE ARE THREE MORE BOOKS PLANNED.  I JUST LEARNED THIS.

The Cons:

  • The fact that there are three more books planned.  When a series is supposed to end as a trilogy, everything pretty much gets wrapped up, and this one did.  So…um…I’m nervous about what these books could do next.  Maybe they’re more of a spin-off?  Because I think Feyre’s story has been told.
  • I felt that the last book lacked the same energy as the first books.  The first two were emotional roller coasters that grabbed you by the heart and didn’t let go.  But the last one, because Feyre was more grounded by then, didn’t engage me the same way.
  • For as much as I adored the characters (and I so did), there were times I felt disconnected from them.  And I can’t tell if that’s indicative of their characters (which, some of them are more closed-off/introverted/tight-lipped) or if that’s something with Maas’s writing style.
  • If you’re not prepared for it, the level of romance in the books can surprise you.  For all of their marketing as YA, these are New Adult at the very least.  Keep these books away from the youngest of readers, please.  It’s very…descriptive.
  • You may have to invent new curse word to deal with the feels you get from this series.  Rereading my previous reviews, mine included: fudgenuggets, Jerusalem’s Ghost, Holy Profanity Batman, Saints alive, and so help me Zeus.

 

My Winner: A Court of Thorns and Roses

Why?  Overall, I found this series hit more of the right notes with me.  I’m a very character-driven reader.  I crave the emotional connections with the characters and this did it for me.  The narration focuses almost exclusively on Feyre rather than bouncing from character to character like Throne of Glass does.  That helps me stay more in the zone with the emotions and the plot.  We’re learning everything just as Feyre is.  I like that many of these characters rise in ranks not because of any powers, but because of their merit, which isn’t always quite the case in the other series.  I also liked the pacing of this series, being wrapped up in three books (give or take) rather than how the other one is still going and going.

Both of these series are absolutely phenomenal and win Goodreads Choice Awards every single year there’s a new book.  So really, no matter which one you decide to read, you’re going on an incredible journey to a fantasy world where strong characters fight against evil and darkness.  And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.

What do you think?  Did I make the right decision?  Did I leave out anything?  Leave your thoughts in the comments below!

Listen To Your Heart

Image result for listen to your heart kasie westFirst Lines:  The sky was perfectly blue.  Not a single cloud marred its surface.  I lay on my back on the seat of my WaveRunner, my feet up on the handlebars.  I let my hand drift down to the water and skim along the surface.

When I see a new Kasie West book at the library, you’d better believe I grab that off the shelves.  I can always use a quick, sweet romance, especially when that looks like a summer love story.  Lakes!  Heart-shaped floaties!

Kate Bailey doesn’t like talking to other people.  In fact, she pretty much avoids it as much as possible, if that other person isn’t her family or her best friend Alana.  Kate would much rather be on the lake.  So when Alana convinces Kate to join the school’s podcast, Kate is not expecting to be chosen as the show’s host.  And as part of her gig, she has to answer calls and dish out advice.  Um, no thank you?  But as it turns out, Kate’s pretty good at it.  And when a mystery guy keeps calling in for advice about his unnamed crush, Kate is pretty sure the caller is cutie Diego Martinez and even surer that the crush is Alana.  Kate is excited to help her friend land the guy–until she realizes that she’s developing feelings for Diego too.  While giving out advice may be really easy, following your own advice is much harder…

Well, this was cute.

I’ve always been a fan of Kasie West’s books, though the more of them I read, the less I find myself enjoying them for one reason or another. I still think they’re well-written and cute, but something doesn’t connect as well anymore.

In this story, the characters are interesting and unique (and some are diverse). Kate is introverted and the idea of hosting her school’s podcast is basically her worst nightmare because she’s not used to saying what she’s thinking when she’s thinking it. Her best friend Alana is Polynesian and super outgoing and flirty. Then Alana starts chasing Diego, a Latino hottie in their class, and Kate realizes that she’s falling for him instead.

The plot for most of the story was interesting. It mostly revolved around Kate’s podcast and fears with a lot of flirty encounters with Diego to spice things up. There were some funny scenes with Kate’s very close extended family (they all live on the same 5 acres) and some rivalry scenes with a local family that wants to buy out Kate’s family’s marina. So there was a little of everything.

But the ending felt off to me. Like the last 2-3 chapters. Instead of feeling climactic, it felt more like every loose end needed to be tied up and voila! this is how it’s done. And I have a weird thing with romances feeling like they move unrealistically fast, and this tripped that trigger. So my feelings on this book took a hit for that.

But it was interesting. I did spend hours at a time reading this because it was funny and I wanted to see what would happen next. I just didn’t particularly care for the ending.

The Pale Horseman (The Saxon Stories, #2)

Image result for the pale horsemanFirst Lines: These days I look at twenty-year-olds and think they are pathetically young, scarcely weaned from their mothers’ tits, but when I was twenty I considered myself a full-grown man.  I had fathered a child, fought in the shield wall, and was loath to take advice from anyone.  In short I was arrogant, stupid, and headstrong.

This is the 2nd book in the Last Kingdom series.  I had a little giggle over posting this today, the 4th of July (America’s independence day), since this is the story/struggle of the kingdoms of England becoming independent of the Danes.  Also, England, the country America gained independence from.  ‘Nuff said.  (Oh, and if you’ve watched the show, just for a reference, this is the 2nd half of season 1.)

*Potential Series Spoilers Ahead, but I consider the risk small.  Just a heads-up.*

The Danes have been defeated at Cynuit, but it was a battle win, not the war.  With the Danes occupying three of the four English kingdoms, it’s only a matter of time before they strike again.  And now, all that’s left of the proud kingdom of Wessex is in a small piece of marshland where King Alfred, his family, and a few soldiers–including Uhtred–are hiding to fight another day.  Uhtred has always been a Dane at heart and believed he would one day fight with the men who raised him.  But when Iseult, a powerful sorceress, enters Uhtred’s life, he’s forced to reconcile with feelings he’s never felt before and a new-found loyalty toward the king he never wanted to like and the land he was born to.

This was *much* better than the first book.

In the first book, I had issues with the complete lack of personality I felt from Uhtred. This time, I saw more of who he is. His cleverness is coming out, as well as his rebellious spirit. He was much more entertaining to read this time around.  He felt more real.

The plot also picks up, as we finally get to a battle of real consequence. Alfred’s piety is really getting in the way of winning a war and I liked seeing the consequences of that play out. Also the other characters are also stepping it up. Aethelwold, Leofric, Iseult. They really started to make this book better. I wanted to keep reading because I wanted to see what they would do to keep Uhtred out of trouble or how they helped him get into more trouble. Either way, it was entertaining.

There’s more dialogue in this book too, which helped immensely with my engagement.  And since we’re dealing with two or three different groups of people who speak three or four languages, it was easier to see who was understanding who.  Like when characters were speaking Danish, sometimes they spoke it to Alfred or others in an attempt to be disrespectful and Uhtred was there to make sure the true translation was passed along.  Not that his role was as translator.  I’m pretty sure he’d make sure that never happened.

I watched the TV series first because initially, I didn’t realize it was based on a book series. Then I got hooked and didn’t really care. But the point is that the show does follow closely to the source material. There are some differences, sure–some of them key–but the essence is the same. I did actually enjoy this book as much as I did the episodes that coincide with it.   This is definitely the best book of the series so far.