2015 – Year in Review

I read 63 books this year! (23,312 pages) Not bad considering my goal in January was….25.

I bought 31 books, received 1 as a gift, and found 1 for free (thanks, random person who gave up their ARC of The Rose Society!).

When I started this blog I had no idea what I would end up reading or if I truly would like most of the books I picked up. After a few years “off” (working too much to read almost anything), I wasn’t sure how my year would go. Which is why I thought 25 books in a year would be a lot…! As it turns out, two-thirds of the books I encountered I loved! 2015 was a great year for books:

5 stars – 24%
4 stars – 39%
3 stars – 27%
2 stars – 10%

I had a busy year!

Out of all of these books, which one was my Best Read of 2015?

six of crows

SIX OF CROWS. (See my review here!) Of all the books I read this year, the entire experience with this one was flawless, plain and simple. Characters, world, plot, pacing, the prose itself–zero complaints. And it looks beautiful! The outside reflects the inside. As a bonus, the Spotify playlist is perfect as well. So add this to your list because you don’t want to be left behind when the sequel comes out next year!

And which one is the runner-up? Best Surprise Read of 2015 goes to….

Uprooted / Vengeance Road (yes, I cheated and picked 2)

Uprooted is the fantasy novel I didn’t know I was looking for until my good friend Erin pushed it into my hands (thank you Erin!!). From the first page, I was hooked. It was truly difficult to choose between this book and Six of Crows as my best read of the year! (See my review here!)

Vengeance Road gets my #2 surprise spot because I honestly didn’t think I would like it at all going into it. If Maddy hadn’t given me her extra copy, this probably would have sat dormant on my list until….next summer? If it was lucky. I don’t like westerns, or dialect writing–but I loved this book! Breezed through it and I couldn’t believe how much I enjoyed it. (See my review here!)

These two books are the reason I’m giving recommendations higher priority next year – I don’t want to miss out on anything!

New Things Coming for 2016

I have some new things to try for 2016 – I want to read 1 classic novel a month. As stated above, I want to keep up with recommendations from my friends! They read good books too–why do I ever doubt this?? I want to re-read Harry Potter (because it’s been probably 3 years so I’m overdue). But with all these come some other changes. I’ve been writing my own novel for quite some time, and as much as I love reading and reviewing books, it’s begun to cut into the time I have for working on my own.

So next year, every Tuesday I will have a new review for you, and Fridays will be for fun: tags, monthly previews, series re-read prompts, and updates from the writing cave. This was a crazy, fun year, and a huge thank you goes to each of my followers! It’s been so fun meeting you all and seeing your blogs! I hope we all have an amazing 2016!

THIS IS MY LAST POST FOR 2015 – HAPPY NEW YEAR!

January

February

March

April

May

June

July

August

September

October

November

December

 

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The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry

Fikryby Gabrielle Zevin
Fiction
5 of 5 stars

Merry Christmas! For my last review of the year, I read this book a second time. My grandfather recommended it to me last year and I read it and loved it! (If you know anything at all about the premise, I couldn’t imagine my grandpa recommending a more appropriate book). This is a story for book-lovers by a book-lover. If you want the feeling of sitting by a cozy fire while someone tells you a story, this is it.

A.J. Fikry is a persnickety, recently widowed bookstore owner on a small New England island. When his prized first edition of Tamerlane is stolen (Edgar Allan Poe’s first work – 50 copies produced) and his retirement is gone with it, A.J. is ready to give up on life. But then a baby girl is left in his store, and his friends convince him a fresh start is possible. We follow the rest of A.J’s life, Maya’s childhood in the bookstore, the books they recommend, the drama between the residents on the island. It’s filled with good jokes and reflective moments — and it’s also not very long. This is one of my favorite books! Anyone who loves reading will enjoy it.

As a fun bonus, the hardback’s cover is visible on the paperback version in the store window.

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry is available on Goodreads and on Barnes & Noble’s website here. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!


Similar reads:

It’s hard to find a comp title that strikes the tone of this book, but here are a few that tackle the subject of life not turning out the way you expected. In the spirit of the novel, read something else someone has personally recommended to you!

  • The Descendants by Kaui Hart Hemmings – The emotional aftermath of a boating accident and family secrets set against the backdrop of Hawaii’s beauty. This is both sharp and humorous and the closest comp I can think of.
  • Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden – More serious in tone but rich in details. The story of how a peasant girl from a fishing village is sold into the life of glamour and guile that is being a professional geisha in pre-WWII Japan.
  • Scribbling the Cat by Alexandra Fuller – Personal memoirs of a woman raised in Africa who kindles a friendship with a Rhodesian war veteran. They journey from Zambia to Mozambique meeting other veterans and reliving his past. A fascinating and heart-wrenching look into the struggle for survival on the war-torn continent.

Nimona

Nimonaby Noelle Stevenson
YA Fantasy/Graphic Novel
5 of 5 stars
Debut graphic novel – May 12, 2015

I know I’m late to the party on this one, but better late than never, right? I first saw Stevenson’s artwork on the cover of my copy of Fangirl and I thought it was cute. Then I started following her on Twitter and she’s hilarious. Then I finally grabbed this! I’ve only read a handful of graphic novels, but I want to read many more of them now – this is so fun! (With biting commentary as well).

There’s so much to love about this story: Nimona’s unconventional appearance and moral compass for one. Her relationship with Blackheart. Her crazy cool shapeshifting. Blackheart’s ties to Goldenloin. A world of knights, swords, science, technology and magic. Humor alongside sharp observations. And of course the art itself. Is this a “traditional” story format? Yes. Does that make it weaker or predictable? Nope! Genre conventions here are purposeful and fun, which is just the way I like it.

Sure, there’s a message here, but it doesn’t detract from the enjoyment of the story. Nimona and her world will pull you in for a rollercoaster ride. Laughter one minute and brain-teasing sobriety the next. It’s hard to say more without spoilers, so just go read it, okay? Anyone who loves fantasy or superheroes and villains will love this!

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, Nimona is available on Goodreads and on Barnes & Noble’s website here. Stevenson’s website is here. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!


Similar reads:

  • Vicious by V.E. Schwab – College roommates Victor and Eli conduct an experiment regarding superpowers with disastrous (and compulsively readable) results. They didn’t expect to succeed. Now pitted against each other, “hero” and “villain” take on new meanings. See my review here.
  • Carry On by Rainbow Rowell – Also the supplier of Rainbow Rowell’s art, this is eerily similar to Nimona (destined hero Simon Snow must deal with his obviously super-evil roommate Basilton Grimm-Pitch while at magic school). Although it takes its time to get going, the last third or so is quite fun. If you liked the Blackheart-Nimona-Goldenloin dynamic you will love this. See my review here.
  • Bones & All by Camille DeAngelis – Maren has a slightly complicated issue for a 16-year-old: she tends to eat anyone she cares about. When her mother abandons her, Maren sets out to find her estranged father and whether or not she’s truly a monster. See my review here.
  • The Abyss Surrounds Us by Emily Skrutskie – This short book is packed with pirates, betrayal, and adventure! Cas trains sea monsters to defend cargo ships, but the Pirate Queen Santa Elena has decided Cas can train a sea monster for the pirates instead. See my review here.

The Brothers Grimm 101 Fairy Tales

101 Grimm Fairy Talesby Jacob & Wilhelm Grimm
Translation by Margaret Hunt
Fantasy
4 of 5 stars

It’s always hard to rate an anthology of stories rather than just one since it requires so much generalizing. This is a good collection with a mix of well-known fairy tales (Rapunzel, Sleeping Beauty, Little Snow White, Rumpelstiltskin, Cinderella) as well as dozens you’ve probably never heard of (The Twelve Hunters, The Wolf and the Fox, Thousandfurs). These are the traditional European stories revolving around brownies, fairies, gnomes, and witches that roam the world either tricking or treating the commoners and kings. For the most part, the magic and motivations aren’t explained at all, but the black-and-white quality of the stories is refreshing. In this edition, some of the similar tales are grouped together so you can easily compare versions, and the more famous stories are spread throughout, which I liked.

Being the Grimm collection, many of these are more violent and disturbing that you might be used to if you think Disney movies are accurate representations. Dismemberment, cutting someone out of a villain’s stomach, abandoned/neglected/abused children, and sadistic punishments are quite common. Sometimes there is a moral to the story (a good number of them mention God/the Devil/Death and heaven/hell as characters or consequences) but the creepiest ones present a horrific story with no clear purpose other than to chill. But just when you start to think all these dark stories can’t surprise you, some of them include truly beautiful lines! There’s a bit of everything in a collection this large, and I enjoyed spending several months going through it all. This is the perfect book for when you only have 10-15 minutes to read at any time, since most of the stories are 2-10 pages. (The complete collection is two volumes, 211 fairy tales). I’ll be starting the second volume soon!

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, The Brothers Grimm 101 Fairy Tales is available on Goodreads and on Barnes & Noble’s website here. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!


Similar reads:

  • Rags & Bones: Timeless Twists on Classic Tales by Melissa Marr – Take these fairy tales and give them a modern spin from a host of talented authors! These are creepy and compelling. See my review here.
  • The Sleeper and the Spindle by Neil Gaiman – Also included with the Rags & Bones collection, there is a fully illustrated hardcover version of this Sleeping Beauty retelling, and the modifications are quite interesting.
  • The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer – Classic fairy tales in a modern, sci-fi setting where magic is based in science and the princesses aren’t waiting around for men to save them. The first book is Cinder – see my review here.
  • Uprooted by Naomi Novik – This book consumed me! This is a “traditional” fairy tale with incredible characters and world-building. So dark, so good. See my review here.
  • Deerskin by Robin McKinley – A retelling of Donkeyskin/Thousandfurs, this dark fantasy relates the story of Lisla Lissar, the beautiful daughter of the king. She’s so beautiful that when her mother dies, her father declares that Lissar must be his bride. Lissar must escape and make her way in the world, but the past has a way of catching up to her. *Please note this story is graphic and could have triggers.*
  • The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker – These traditional fairy tale spirits are given their own story set in 1899 New York. See my review here.

Days of Blood and Starlight

Days of Blood and Starlightby Laini Taylor
YA Fantasy
4 of 5 stars

It took me far too long to get around to this sequel (about 8 months) but part of it was the fear that it wouldn’t measure up to my love of Daughter of Smoke and Bone. Thankfully, it didn’t disappoint! However, anyone hoping for some more Karou/Akiva time would be bummed—our two fantastic protagonists rarely meet in this book. Normally that would bother me, but in this case I was so engrossed in both of their plot lines I didn’t care—each time the point of view shifted I was just as interested, which is rare for me, especially since this book broadened to more viewpoint characters than the first one.

Although this is a very dark sequel, I still found myself enjoying it. Karou and Akiva are put in impossible situations with horrible villains (brutal, horrible villains) yet they don’t give up or despair. Their exhaustion, depression, and fear is palpable, but I love these characters because they feel it all without dragging the reader into twenty pages of introspection. They feel it all as they keep making decisions and taking action. They are still the fiery characters I fell in love with! My one complaint about the first book was that the side characters felt a bit cardboard to me, but that’s gone with this installment and aside from the pacing being a pinch slow, I loved this book!

I’ll attempt to make the final book more of a priority, but I admit the atmosphere (and the twist!) of this one is still soaking in.

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, Days of Blood and Starlight is available on Goodreads and on Barnes & Noble’s website here. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!


Similar reads:

  • The Winner’s Crime by Marie Rutkoski – A war with rising stakes, continually changing strategy, and a pair of star-crossed lovers caught in the middle (both by the war and their feelings for each other)? This is a pretty fair comparable trilogy if you remove magic. See my review here.
  • Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo – Another sequel leaving the dark forces as the only ones better off by the end, this is a worthy middle book in a YA fantasy trilogy. Except the villains might be more palatable in their villainy.
  • Clockwork Prince by Cassandra Clare – Tangled webs of romance, spies, and darkness rule this book, possibly my favorite in the trilogy. Tessa continues hunting down clues to her past and true identity while learning more about Will and Jem and their feelings for her.
  • Cress by Marissa Meyer – A bit overlong, but similar in tone and point of view to Laini Taylor’s trilogy. Cress is our newest heroine, freed from her satellite prison by Cinder’s crew and ready to help overthrow Levana. Add a touch of romance and a lot of adventure, and you have a good sequel. See my review here.
  • Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins – A bit too similar to first book for my taste, but with additional compelling characters and shocking developments with the unrest of the districts towards the capital. Katniss continues trying to protect those she loves, but that becomes much more difficult. See my review here.

The Christmas Songs Book Tag

christmassongsbooktag

This tag was created by ThatArtsyReaderGirl and I caught it on the IslandGeekGirl blog – check them out! 🙂

six of crows1. “All I Want for Christmas Is You”: Name your favorite bookish couple.
Kaz and Inej from Six of Crows – I just know my heart is gonna get broken with this one! Their chemistry is so on though, I can hardly stand it.

Fangirl2. “I’ll Be Home for Christmas”: Name a book where a character is away from home (school, vacation, etc.).
Fangirl – Cath is away from home because she’s at college, and away from real life because she’s absorbed with her fanfic.

101 dalmatians3. “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”: Name your favorite “little” book (children’s book, short story, novella, etc.).
The 101 Dalmatians captured my heart earlier this year. The characterization of the dogs is too cute!

Hp1illustrated4. “Santa Claus is Coming to Town“: What book(s) do you hope Santa brings you this year?

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone – illustrated edition!

Gabi, A Girl in Pieces
5. “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”: Which book turned your nose red? (made you cry)

Gabi, A Girl in Pieces – I ugly-cried on my lunch break! (Twice). This is such an emotional story told through Gabi’s diary entries over the course of her senior year.

Sabriel6. “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year”: What’s your favorite book to read during the holidays? (re-read? or a specific genre?)
I always want to re-read Harry Potter most during the holidays. I also read Sabriel almost every winter. (It takes place in winter, and in Death’s cold river. Just seems to fit.)

Shadow and Bone7. “We Three Kings”: What’s your favorite trilogy?
Turns out I seem to favor quartets, but I’ll go with the Grisha trilogy because it’s so unique and fun to read. I can’t get enough of the world-building and the Darkling!

Throne of Glass8. “Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow”: Which character would you not mind being snowed in with?
Celaena/Aelin – all the chocolate and books I could want, no doubt with some jokes and pranks too!

Red Queen9. “Last Christmas”: Which book seriously let you down?
Red Queen. The cover. The hype. Then the tropes. Then Mare. High hopes that came crashing down soooo hard.

Truthwitch10. “White Christmas”: Which upcoming release are you dreaming of?

Truthwitch! Luckily there’s less than a month to go now!

Which books remind you of these songs? 

If you do this tag, the original link is here. Have fun with it! 🙂

Vengeance Road

Vengeance Roadby Erin Bowman
YA Western / Historical Fiction
5 of 5 stars

This was a recommended to me by my good friend Maddy (check out her blog!) and I’m so glad she did! This is well outside my normal wheelhouse but it absolutely blew me away! I don’t like westerns, generally. Not the books, not the TV shows, not the movies. I don’t like dialect writing because it usually distracts me from the story (looking at you, Mark Twain, and you, every British writer attempting to record the Yorkshire accent). Vengeance Road is a western written with the cowboy/southern dialect, and I fell in love with it! Kate’s story had me from page one–let me explain why.

Kate comes home one afternoon to find her father hanged and their home burned. It’s not long before she finds out a gang known as the Rose Riders were after a map to a gold mine rumored to be in her father’s possession. Boiling with rage and determined to avenge her father’s death, Kate sets out to kill Waylan Rose and his gang. She’s a tough, smart girl, but even she isn’t prepared for everything that’s about to happen.

The plot is tight and addictive, and Kate guides you on her crazy journey with matter-of-fact narration that instantly transports you into her world. Kate has exactly the kind of grit and gumption I love to see in a protagonist. She doesn’t waver from her goals, but she isn’t without her introspective moments either. The side characters were just as concrete. The story definitely feels like a classic western with the usual tropes (desert, saloons, card games) but the tension throws off the temptation to think you know what’s about to happen. It’s tough to say more without spoilers, but this has one of the most satisfying endings I’ve encountered this year, especially in YA. Add this to your list!

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, Vengeance Road is available on Goodreads and on Barnes & Noble’s website here. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!


Similar reads:

  • Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson – I mean it when I say I haven’t read anything like Vengeance Road. This classic quest for buried treasure comes closest, and there’s plenty of adventure in it.
  • Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin – In an alternate 1956, the Axis Powers won WWII and Yael is a Jewish girl on a mission to assassinate the Fuhrer. She just has to win a cross-country motorcycle race first-impersonating the previous year’s winner. See my review here.
  • Rook by Sharon Cameron – Something equally fast-paced and filled with the struggle to save family honor. See my review here.
  • The Winner’s Crime by Marie Rutkoski – A high-stakes strategy game between Kestrel and her soon-to-be father-in-law, the emperor. See my review here.

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