Thursday, January 7, 2016

2015 End of Year Survey

2015-end-of-year-book-survey-1024x984
Hosted by Jamie


Once again I'm getting to this later than I meant to, and my family plans at the end of the year mean no internet access for a week, so it leaves little room for getting this out before the new year if I don't get a head start on it!  ...and I'm definitely a procrastinator so here we are.  With no further ado, the very comprehensive end of year book survey!

reading-stats-2015-1024x278

Number Of Books You Read: 320
Number of Re-Reads: 25
Genre You Read The Most From: Discounting picture books since I honestly don't know what genres most of them were and they made up about half of the books I read this year, it's a pretty good guess that it's fantasy, although within that it actually might be paranormal fantasy for the first time EVER. (I don't feel like counting but it seems like a real possibility)



best-YA-books-2014

1. Best Book You Read In 2015?

For once, there is no question at all which book gets this title: Unwind by Neil Shusterman. I may have some close calls on the list, but Unwind remains one of the most thought provoking, disturbing, heart racing, horrifying books I've ever read. And I do mean all of those as compliments I swear!

2. Book You Were Excited About & Thought You Were Going To Love More But Didn’t?

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon - from what little I knew of it I had been expecting something completely different, and while I don't have a problem with this exactly, I also did a supremely idiotic thing and decided to read it directly after reading the first Game of Thrones book. Which was like...ok I know I like big, long fantasy books, but that was just too much.

 3. Most surprising (in a good way or bad way) book you read?  

More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera. I don't really want to hint why since I don't want to spoil anything, but needless to say it was nothing like what I thought it was going to be (despite appearances for the first 2/3 of the book)


 4. Book You “Pushed” The Most People To Read (And They Did)?

HAHAHA like you don't know the answer to this

Unwind (Unwind, #1)


 5. Best series you started in 2015? Best Sequel of 2015? Best Series Ender of 2015?

1.  The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson  (Hey, I can't put Unwind down for EVERYTHING. Besides, I'm discounting it because it was technically originally written as a standalone.) - This series has everything I've been asking for from fantasy:  New fantasy landscapes (aka non-Western), diverse characters and cultures (aka non-Western based), a fat heroine (although she does lose some weight but I'm pretty sure she's still heavy at the end), and love stuff I can't say because of spoilers.  But this literally has everything I've been complaining about not seeing in fantasy in every blog post I've written about it.  So I guess it probably shouldn't have been a surprise since Shannon said in pretty much every post "Hey...remember that book I keep telling you about? You should probably read it. Like now."  She was right.


2.  Locke & Keye: Keys to the Kingdom - This is the fourth volume in the series.  I had enjoyed the first three, but the huge turning point for me was this volume.  Shit gets real, and I loved how they played with the artwork here!


3. Wow, I really didn't finish many series this year. Hmm..I should probably fix that....
Champion by Marie Lu - I LOVED the way this ended.  Spoilers: I loved that they didn't only sleep with each other (I am not a huge fan of "true love" and "first love" being one and the same) and that the ending was bittersweet   (End spoilers)


 6. Favorite new author you discovered in 2015?

In the interest of not having Neil Shusterman and Unwind as my answer to all the things, I'd have to say Terry Pratchett for sure.  The ridiculous humour of Douglas Adams paired with the subject matter and world building of Diana Wynne Jones (and some of her humour as well) is really just the perfect mix for me!

7. Best book from a genre you don’t typically read/was out of your comfort zone?

Good Enough

Good Enough by Paula Yoo - Honestly I think I read maybe five contemporary reads this year. They're not really my scene. And while More Happy Than Not totally wrecked me (you should go read it), I haven't had a contemporary book resonate with me probably ever the way Good Enough did with me. It's rare to find books written about life as a musician that is in any way accurate or plausible, but it's clear that Paula Yoo was involved in the classical music scene because she was spot on. I wish more people knew about this one because while it's a quiet one - it's not going to destroy you from the inside (which is usually how I convince people to read books. We clearly have issues.) but it feels true, and I absolutely wish I'd had it when I was auditioning for college. (So if you know someone who likes contemporary and is a junior or senior in high school, do them a favor and get this for them)

 8. Most action-packed/thrilling/unputdownable book of the year?

Unwind by Neil Shusterman (although Michael Grant's Gone series was also particularly action packed)


 9. Book You Read In 2015 That You Are Most Likely To Re-Read Next Year?

Tamora Pierce's Beka Cooper series. I may have disagreed violently with the way the last book ended, but it also means I'm constantly thinking about it. I'm definitely going to be interested to see if I feel differently on a reread as I pick more stuff up!


10. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2015?


Beauty QueensThe Bone PeopleThe Magicians (The Magicians, #1)


1. Beauty Queens - Because this cover is just PERFECT for the book
2. The Bone People - It's hard to see the details on this one when it's small, but the art on this is really intricate and looks like Maori art looks (at least to my untrained eye).  I should probably add that it's set in New Zealand, so the Maori art part is relevant.
3. The Magicians - I don't know why I love this cover, I just do.  The way it's mirrored? The shape of the tree? The simpleness of it all?  Who knows, but it's a very attractive cover.

 

11. Most memorable character of 2015?

Beka Cooper from Tamora Pierce's Beka Cooper series. Honestly Beka Cooper may be my new favourite Tamora Pierce heroine (but that's how I feel about all of her heroines every time I read one). She's got the wild magic of Daine (although certainly on a lesser scale), she's got Kel's steadiness, she's got such passion for her job, and she's cripplingly shy, which isn't something I've read often (and it was done really well). I don't know how Tamora does it, but she's just so her own person - none of her characters feel like they're the same. They're so distinct. And even though I read these novels towards the beginning of the year, I'm still thinking of them. They deal with poverty and crime in a much more direct manner than her other novels have so far (since almost all of them have featured nobles, this makes sense), and...I will reread that third book. It might kill me, but I'll definitely be rereading this series because I'm still thinking about it all the time.


 12. Most beautifully written book read in 2015?

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater, hands down. Her writing is just heart breakingly beautiful.  I actually think this is probably novel from her so far, and can I recommend the audiobook for this? Because it was PERFECT.


13. Most Thought-Provoking/ Life-Changing Book of 2015?

Do I even need to say it?

Unwind (Unwind, #1)


14. Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2015 to finally read? 

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke - It's been published over a decade at this point, and I even OWNED it for a good number of years. I've been meaning to read it for AGES, and I'm actually surprised no one's really pushed it on me before because other than Terry Pratchett's books, I can't think of anything more me. I mean a fantasy novel that read like Jane Austen? I'M SO THERE.

 15. Favorite Passage/Quote From A Book You Read In 2015?"


How about anything Maggie Stiefvater ever wrote? Seriously:

“As the sun shines low and red across the water, I wade into the ocean. The water is still high and brown and murky with the memory of the storm, so if there’s something below it, I won’t know it. But that’s part of this, the not knowing. The surrender to the possibilities beneath the surface. It wasn’t the ocean that killed my father, in the end. The water is so cold that my feet go numb almost at once. I stretch my arms out to either side of me and close my eyes. I listen to the sound of water hitting water. The raucous cries of the terns and the guillemots in the rocks of the shore, the piercing, hoarse questions of the gulls above me. I smell seaweed and fish and the dusky scent of the nesting birds onshore. Salt coats my lips, crusts my eyelashes. I feel the cold press against my body. The sand shifts and sucks out from under my feet in the tide. I’m perfectly still. The sun is red behind my eyelids. The ocean will not shift me and the cold will not take me.”

“Do you know how to wrap a leg?'
'I was born wrapping legs,' I say stiffly, because I'm insulted.
'Must've been a challenging delivery,' Sean notes.”

Both of those were from The Scorpio Races, by the way. Which, upon reading all the quotes on Goodreads, has made me want to read the book (I listened on audio and I would listen again the narrators were THAT GOOD. But I would like to read the book too) immediately.  It is decided: I MUST buy a hard copy of this!

But on the other hand, there's plenty of quotable things from Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, so I'll also leave you with this:

“It has been remarked (by a lady infinitely cleverer than the present author) how kindly disposed the world in general feels to young people who either die or marry. Imagine then the interest that surrounded Miss Wintertowne! No young lady ever had such advantages before: for she died upon the Tuesday, was raised to life in the early hours of Wednesday morning, and was married upon the Thursday; which some people thought too much excitement for one week.” 



16.Shortest & Longest Book You Read In 2015?


Lumberjanes #1Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell
                 24 pages                                      1006 pages


17. Book That Shocked You The Most

Mastiff by Tamora Pierce. Yes, this shocked me even more than the ending of Gone Girl. And I won't say why. I'm still not ok.

18. OTP OF THE YEAR (you will go down with this ship!)

I actually don't really have any big ones for this year - note that I still haven't read Queen of Shadows or A Court of Thorns and Roses (AND I DON'T KNOW WHY SO DON'T YELL AT ME), so if I had maybe I would have. So my favourite OTP for the year will go to Izzy Goodnight and Ransom from Romancing the Duke (aka one of my favourite romance novels of the year, and the one that really kicked off my romance novel crave where I pretty much only read romance novels for a month haha)

 19. Favorite Non-Romantic Relationship Of The Year



Death Wish (Ceruleans, #1)

 Bekka Cooper and her partners HAHAHAHA I CAN'T EVEN SAY THIS WITHOUT CRYING JUST KIDDING I TAKE IT ALL BACK. So excluding them because THEY DON'T COUNT ANYMORE Scarlett and Cara from Megan Tayte's Death Wish. They're supportive and snarky and witty - but it doesn't come off as flippant or one-dimensional.  No cardboard cutouts here!





20. Favorite Book You Read in 2015 From An Author You’ve Read Previously

This has been the year of new authors for me, so I am SO happy I finally have somewhere to talk about Beauty Queens by Libba Bray. This would be my favourite book of the year, if I hadn't read Unwind. And to have two consecutive years of favourite books written by Libba Bray is a wonderful, wonderful thing. This one wasn't soul shaking like last year's Going Bovine, but it was absolutely FANTASTIC. I don't even know where to begin describing it, but it's got a diverse cast of girls (both in race and personality), and if you never wanted a satire based in feminism and reality shows where beauty contestants have to survive a government conspiracy on a desert island than I don't even want to talk to you.

But seriously, if you consider yourself a feminist or enjoy satire (see? You don't even need to be a feminist AND like satire) you should 100% make this your next book.  (After you read Unwind, obviously.)


21. Best Book You Read In 2015That You Read Based SOLELY On A Recommendation From Somebody Else/Peer Pressure:

Orleans by Sherri L. Smith - La La not only kept telling me it was like her favourite book and I should totally read it - she sent me a copy hahahaha!  So she wins.  And she's right - it's great!  It's an interesting combination of dystopia and sort of like a plague outbreakish setting, it's got a refreshing lack of romance, it's set in Louisiana post extreme hurricane so it's been abandoned by the continental U.S.  (so yay for a new sci-fi setting!), and it's fast paced and smart, and yeah you should go read that too. (P.s. - Tamora Pierce recommends it too, just sayin!)

Oh wait - actually Unwind was a friend rec, I totally forgot!  T.J., a friend from school, had been pushing this novel for like two years before I finally picked it up!  But still I've talked about it too much, so Orleans still wins.

22. Newest fictional crush from a book you read in 2015?


Art by Lostie815  
(you should go check out ALL her fan art, it's amazing!)

Captain Thorne. I didn't even have to hesitate to think of someone. Just because I didn't have a big OTP of the year, doesn't mean that I wouldn't snap up Captain Thorne in a second if he was real. I mean, he's basically a spaceship pirate. He's a witty, hot, rogue character. Umm, hello that's basically my kryptonite.

23. Best 2015 debut you read?

Err...did I read any? Let me look and see..Oh hey look, I read two! More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera and Death Wish by Megan Tayte. So let's say both! The former if you like being destroyed, and the latter if you like paranormal fantasy with awesome BFF's.


24. Best Worldbuilding/Most Vivid Setting You Read This Year?

Hmm, this is a tough one.  There's The Girl of Fire and Thorns for it's non-Western based setting (it felt like the equivalent of where the Moors would have lived in Spain, but I could be wrong about that), or The Bone Season for it's detailed, layered world building (it was my favourite thing about the whole book actually), or Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell for it's completely unique setting.  But I guess really if I HAD to choose it would be The Scorpio Races.  It's set on the (fictional) island Thisbe, and between Maggie Stiefvater's just impossibly beautiful writing and the fact that the island the sea both are almost characters themselves with the impact they have on the people living in the story it's well...very vivid.   See, this is what happens when you read as much fantasy as I do, it's hard to choose damn it!


25. Book That Put A Smile On Your Face/Was The Most FUN To Read?

Soulless by Gail Carriger.  She's seriously the Queen of Steampunk and I don't know if gentleman werewolves and vampires are normal in steampunk as I'm new to the genre, but they're there and there's great clothes and fun mysteries and sexy romps and man Soulless was fun!


26. Book That Made You Cry Or Nearly Cry in 2015?

BAHAHHAA - so like every book? (...I maaaaaaay have a problem)

Unwind - Because of THAT. SCENE.
More Happy Than Not - Because holy shit did I just get hit in the heart by a giant brick of unexpected feels?
Mastiff - Because NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO


27. Hidden Gem Of The Year?


The Lost Girl 

I've already talked about Good Enough, so I'll mention The Lost Girl by Sangu Mandanna.  It's a similar premise to Never Let Me Go or The House of Scorpion (and to some extent Unwind), but it takes it a step further.  So it basically takes something I already clearly enjoy a lot, and then adds something new to it.  And did I mention that it's set in India? I mean how many science fiction books do YOU know set of in India? (Actually that isn't rhetorical. If you do know of some, send them my way!)




Hamster Princess: Harriet the InvincibleFor middle grade, my choice would definitely be Hamster Princess by Ursula Vernon, who I was lucky enough to meet at Chessiecon (and I got to hear her talk at length about all sorts of things. Particularly frogs haha!)  I'm so glad I went (for a lot of other reasons too) because I never would have picked this up otherwise and this is exactly what younger me would have wanted.  (..ok, current me wants this too).  I mean it already gets bonus points for being a fairy tale retelling, but make that a mix of fairy tales, particularly lesser known ones (The Princess on the Glass Hill!), mix in a reversal of tradition good/evil and gender roles and you have my dream book.  Plus there's cute hamsters.


 

28. Book That Crushed Your Soul?

Unwind by Neil Shusterman, followed by More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera


29. Most Unique Book You Read In 2015?

Beauty Queens by Libba Bray and Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke, the former for its premise and the latter for its setting.


30. Book That Made You The Most Mad (doesn’t necessarily mean you didn’t like it)?

Mastiff by Tamora Pierce.  If you've read it, you know why. Although The Magicians by Lev Grossman is a close second. It didn't get quite to 1Q84 levels of eye rolling and loathing, but it started getting pretty close.


book-blogging

Favorite review that you wrote in 2015?

 Welp, as of this post I have officially written 4 review posts in 2015, and three of those were mini-reviews.  So here's to you, Series Review: Legend by Marie Lu.

Best discussion/non-review post you had on your blog?

 My Anime and Manga 101: Introduction was so much fun to put together, and I loved that I found out how many of my friends love them too!  Also I promise, REALLY, that I am going to have follow up posts. Soon.  Ish.

Best event that you participated in (author signings, festivals, virtual events, memes, etc.)?

I've already recently talked about this at length, but discovering Chessiecon was by far one of the biggest highlights of my year.  It was full of great music, interesting panels, and OH YEAH I MET TAMORA PIERCE.  (P.s. you should go next year because A. Tamora Pierce will be there, and B. So will I)


Best moment of bookish/blogging life in 2015? 


 

I REPEAT. I MET TAMORA PIERCE.
AND TALKED TO HER. AND GOT STUFF SIGNED BY HER.
AND LISTENED TO HER TALK.

(And may have babbled because that's what happens when I'm nervous.  *sighs*)


Most challenging thing about blogging or your reading life this year? 

Definitely trying to balance all my jobs and trying to keep up a regular schedule.  Throw in auditions? It was impossible.  I posted half as many posts as I did last year, and it makes me kind of sad.  I'm just so freaking tired by the end of it all that I haven't been reading as much, let alone getting posts up.  To be honest, I don't see this changing in the future, but I think I might have to devote my Sundays at work to stockpiling posts for the coming week.  It means that my visiting other blogs is going to be greatly diminished though since that's usually what I did at work instead :-/.  We'll see, I'll work something out I'm sure!


Most Popular Post This Year On Your Blog (whether it be by comments or views)?


 On Priviledge: The Baltimore Riots.  I got megahits on this one, and I'm not entirely sure why, but I was glad if it meant people (especially those not living in Baltimore) got a better look at what was really going on at the end of April and beginning of May.  (And what with the trials going on, it's particularly apt right now, so go check it out.)

Best bookish discover (book related sites, book stores, etc.)?

I can't remember whose blog I found this on (so if it was yours, let me know and I'll link it!), but someone posted about Book Sale Finder and it is AMAZING.  I found out about a library closing for renovations sale, and it is the BEST deal I've ever gotten on books.




And there we are folks! Since everyone has already done their wrap up posts, if I haven't commented on yours yet, leave me a link below and I'll stop by!

Monday, December 28, 2015

A Day in the Life #41: In which Elizabeth shares the SECRET THINGS she has not told you yet



Well it's certainly been a while since I've posted one of these, hasn't it?  I promise it was for a good reason though - I went to AN EVENT and was too busy to post, and then I couldn't post about SAID EVENT because I had surprise presents I was sending to people and I didn't want them to know about it beforehand and all I wanted to talk about was OH MY GOD THIS EVENT and I couldn't so I just didn't write anything at all.  But now everyone has got their packages and so now I can tell you:



GUYS I MET TAMORA PIERCE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!




Apparently she comes down to Chessiecon (previously Darkover Con) every year and it's held just around the corner from me (...Well. Relatively speaking) so I'm going to be able to hear her talk on panels ALL THE TIME. (...Well. Relatively speaking)  I was able to hear her read some excerpts from books that are going to be released in 2017 (and she'll have releases lined of up 2018 and 2019 since she had a book that ended up being split into two books) and to hear her talk on a variety of subjects - from dealing with magic from a world building aspect, to hearing her talk about race and culture and gender, and unsurprisingly I have a similar mindset to hers on said subjects, and she had plenty of thought provoking things to say.  When I went to go get the books signed by her, I ended up meeting one of her "fairy godchildren" right beforehand which was very fun and honestly that's the only thing I remember really talking to her about haha.  I...tend to lose my mind and babble when I'm nervous.  Which I guess is better than losing my mind and crying? (This was a legitimate concern of mine).  And while this is the #1 reason I came to the con, it was SO amazing for a variety of reasons.

This was my very first con OR bookish event!  I always feel intimidated by the thought of going to a con, particularly by myself because they seem giant and overwhelming and I am usually not fond of large crowds of people I don't know.  I am so, so glad I decided my love of Tamora Pierce won out over all my concerns about the former because it's probably the best experience I could have had as far as a first con goes.  It's not a huge con so I didn't feel overwhelmed, but there were still SO many panels/events I wanted to go to!  And it was such an awesome eclectic mix of things.  The con itself is primarily about science-fiction and fantasy, with a focus on female authors (so basically totally my jam).  Beyond that though it's got a ton involvement with filk music (which I will get to in a moment), gaming (board and video), art, and there were a ton of events for dancing, druidic healing, bard circles, knitting...I mean seriously it was SO. COOL.  I unfortunately couldn't make it to any of the druid events because they conflicted with a lot of the book events I wanted to go to (and I had priority on bookish events particularly those with Tamora Pierce) but I absolutely am going to try and go to at least one next year since I'm super curious about it.

But first the bookish events!  This year was extra awesome for me on the book front because not only was Tamora Pierce there, Seanan McGuire (aka Mira Grant, author of my favourite zombie series) was a guest author!  Intisar Khanani (author of Thorn and Sunbolt)  is also apparently a regular at Chessiecon, and I'm so glad I got to hear her talk as it's made me want to read her books even more. (Thorn, as a fairy tale retelling, has been on my radar since it came out, but unfortunately my library doesn't have it.  But it's officially been bumped up to the YOU WILL BUY THIS list on my end, and I'll be suggesting it to the library to buy).  Intisar actually ended up being probably my favourite panelist - I quickly made it a point to go to any panel she was talking on (...which since they were often with Tamora Pierce and/or a YA fantasy panel it was hardly a difficulty on my end since I was planning on going to them anyway).  She takes the time to really think about what she's saying, and everything she said was just...well, it was interesting and thought provoking.  A lot of things I wouldn't have thought of. And she was funny as well, as all the panelists were, really.

Other panels of note were the zombie apocalypse one I went to - lots of tips I hadn't thought about before.  Namely, that you are likely going to be trying to survive the apocalypse with whoever you are next to, so statistically speaking it's fairly likely to be your neighbors.  And in cities, we aren't as friendly with our neighbors (heck I don't know who half of mine are) and if someone doesn't have an emotional connection with you, they're less likely to try and help keep you alive.  The panel on fairy tales really brought to light how much power Disney has had over which tales are commonly known - there are plenty of fairy tales that don't have a female lead or don't end up with a prince.  Most interesting for me - and I think Intisar brought this up - was that while we see marriage as women "finding their happy ever after/being saved by a man" it's different when you look at it through a historical lens.  Women of the time really had no other way to bring themselves out of poverty - marriage meant running your own household and having a stable livelihood - so being able to arrange a good match for yourself as a woman really was achieving success on your own terms.

While I spent the majority of my time going to bookish panels, I would have been a poor musician if I hadn't made a point to go to some of the musical ones.  Which is where I discovered that Seanen McGuire actually has a really great voice and she founded Lady Mondegreen and used to tour with them.  A fair number of their songs have a filk crossover, but I get the idea they aren't all filk?  In any case, it was a ton of fun.  I also went to a bardic circle which was super low key - I just sat in the back instead of joining the circle since I didn't know what was going on exactly, but basically someone would just say hey does anyone know "this song" and someone would say "yeah I can do the chords" or people would sing acapella, and it was just...I guess similar to a jam session, just much quieter and low key.  Mostly there were guitarists, although people would beat drum patterns on their legs, and there was someone with a few auxiliary percussion instruments.  It was fascinating, and I would have stayed longer if I wasn't so tired.  They end every night (I think it was every night, it might just have been Saturday) with a rendition of the Hallelujah chorus. No idea why or when the tradition started but I LOVE IT.  A crowd of people just gather at midnight, grab the music and organize by voice type, sing it, and then disperse to whatever else they wanted to do.  It felt a bit surreal haha!

But lastly, I wanted to end with Heather Dale, who's song Mordred's Lullaby has basically changed my life:



I've linked to a live unaccompanied version of the song because I actually think her voice sounds better in this version (and it's how I experienced it) and when you're in the audience and everyone joins in...seriously it raised chills up my arms.  But the finished product is also well worth listening to and has some interesting instruments/textures (for your viewing pleasure, here's a link to it being used in a fan video from the show Merlin.)  She's actually writing a musical that was inspired by this song - it's basis is - what if Morganna and Guinevere best friends? And I have to say that this song just absolutely nails the rage and power that for me encompasses how I envision her (seriously, the lyrics in the last stanza? Amazing.) and I literally have been listening to this on loop since I saw her perform it.



I will say that I wish I'd had someone to fangirl with all this about. I met some people at the con which was nice, but for most of it I was on my own and I would have had SO much more fun (basically I would have exploded with funness because this was fun as hell to begin with) if I'd had friends there!  Soooo...basically this is my way of saying that I've already bought tickets for next year, so if you are going to be anywhere near Lutherville-Timonium in Maryland from November 25-27, that's where I'll be and we should hang out!  (Or even if you aren't near - it's well worth your time and money!) Tickets are on sale for $45 until the new year starts, and if you don't want to commit a year in advance, tickets won't rise past $60.  They won't have much information on panels up for ages, but they have the featured guest artists for the year (if you're there for Tammy too, don't worry she's there every year) keep checking the site if you want more info!

Monday, December 14, 2015

Top Ten Best Books Of 2015


Never Judge a Lady by Her Cover (The Rules of Scoundrels, #4)

A romance novel? With a cross dressing main character? Cat and mouse chase?  How could I NOT love this??




10. Good Enough by Paula Yoo

Good Enough

If you know any classical musicians, or juniors/seniors in high school, you should recommend this for them.  If you know someone who is both? Just go and get it for them!  Seriously a book that resonated with me and I would have found particularly apt at that point in my life.




9. Dark Currents by Jacqueline Carey

Dark Currents (Agent of Hel, #1)

I was pretty shocked when I read this, since my only knowledge of Jacqueline Carey's work was her Kushiel Series (which, incidentally, was on my 2013 best books list).  This is SO. DIFFERENT.  It's crazy to me that she can write not only two fantastic series, but two fantastic series that only resemble each other in having a diverse cast. (A variety of races? Check.  A variety of body shapes? Check. A variety of sexualities and gender identities? Check.)  Seriously, where Kushiel is a giant epic fantasy with some serious sexy times, Dark Currents is a paranormal fantasy novel set in in the Midwest of all places!  It's crazy fun, and I've been trying to get my hands on the second book for ages.  This is definitely a series I'm going to want on ebook form (since it doesn't come hardcover) because I'm going to want to reread them over and over!




8. The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon

The Bone Season (The Bone Season, #1)

This book was just so interesting.  The world building felt really creative to me. Maybe not creative in premise exactly, but how Shannon chose to flesh it out.  It's weird because I didn't feel incredibly attached to the characters (and it's rare for me to really thoroughly enjoy a book without that), but I had a really hard time not just leaving my car running to listen to what was going to happen next. (Not going to lie, actually, I sat in my car for an hour after finding parking.  Probably lucky I didn't make my battery die haha)




7. Soulless by Gail Carriger

Soulless (Parasol Protectorate, #1)

I don't think I've had so much fun reading a book before.  The whole premise is fun and steampunk is fun and romance is fun and the world building managed to be new and creative and fun all in one go.  Seriously, if you need a pick-me-up, you should read this.  Did I mention it was fun?




6. The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

The Scorpio Races

God, there is just something about Maggie Stiefvater's writing.  And this, for me, is the best of the best from her.  It's lyrical, and quiet, and deep, and heartbreakingly beautiful.  If you haven't picked this up (and at least in the YA blogiverse, I know I'm one of the last) you should.  If you love Stiefvater's work already, seriously you have no excuse.  If you haven't read her yet but are interested in knowing what all the buzz is about, do yourself a favour and make this your first of her books.  It certainly won't be your last. 




5. The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson

The Girl of Fire and Thorns (Fire and Thorns, #1)

I finally read it!  I don't know what took so long, but thank god for Shannon (who also gets credit for getting me to read The Scorpio Races sooner than I otherwise would have) because it might have been years before I finally got to this.  I blame the blurb. And the cover.  This book deserves better.  It's EVERYTHING I've been wanting from fantasy!  Want a non-Western based fantasy with loads of non-White characters and a main heroine who is overweight and not stunningly beautiful?  READ THIS BOOK.




4. The Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett

The Wee Free Men (Discworld, #30)

Speaking of things that are everything I ever wanted (this will be a trend for the rest of these books pretty much), how have I never read Terry Pratchett before??  This book was like Diana Wynne Jones and Douglas Adams combined which...have you read this blog?? I mean, look at my blog title and then remember how many times I've talked about fairy tales and YOU tell me this book wasn't written specifically for me.  And for those of you who don't know where to start with Pratchett, this was my first Pratchett book and I wasn't lost (seriously tracking what book to read in this series is hard work), and I can recommend it, so go check it out!




3. Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell

This is the book I never knew I needed.  It reads like Jane Austen wrote a biography on magicians.  Seriously.  It's fantastic and I could have lived in this book for months.  It was physically painful for me when I got to the end of it.  It's definitely not for everyone - it's long and slow moving, but for me the characters and world building were so engrossing that the slow plot didn't bother me. I just wanted to hear more about everything!




2. Beauty Queens by Libba Bray

Beauty Queens

This was one of the funniest and most insightful books I've ever read.  It's...it's really hard to explain the feel of this, but if you are a feminist or like satire or basically are a human being on this earth, you need to read it.




1. Unwind by Neil Shusterman

Unwind (Unwind, #1)

THIS. BOOK.
THAT. SCENE.

I knew from the moment I finished this book that it would be my favourite book I read this year.  Seriously, I didn't even consider the idea that another book could top this.  And I usually have a really hard time ranking books, so I don't bother, but this year there was absolutely a clear winner for best book of 2015 for me.  So if you haven't read it? Go read it.  It's an Important Book.  It's thought provoking and heart pounding and all around one of the scariest things I've read other than The Handmaid's Tale in looking at how society works.




Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Darkly, Deeply, Beautifully (The Ceruleans #5) + Death Wish (The Ceruleans #1) Review

So I've never done a cover reveal (in fact, I'm not entirely sure what one does for these things. I probably should have asked. But I am the mighty Elizabeth. I do not ask questions, I am just always right), but in the process of doing this, I realized that I never posted a review outside of Goodreads for the author which makes me a terrible, horrible person since I read this in like...May.  So I figured now was a good time to do that to give you guys a taste for what you're in for!


Death Wish (Ceruleans, #1)

Goodreads: IN SEARCH OF THE MEANING OF DEATH, SHE’LL FIND THE MEANING OF LIFE.

The Ceruleans: mere mortals infused with power over life and death. Five books; one question: If the might of the heavens were in your hands, would you be sinner or saint?

Seventeen-year-old Scarlett Blake is haunted by death. Her estranged sister has made the ultimate dramatic exit. Running away from school, joining a surfing fraternity, partying hard: that sounds like Sienna. But suicide? It makes no sense.

Following in her sister’s footsteps, Scarlett comes to an isolated English cove with grand plans to uncover the truth. Alone. But she hasn’t reckoned on meeting two boys who are determined to help her. Luke: the blue-eyed surfer who’ll see the real Scarlett, who’ll challenge her, who’ll save her. And Jude: the elusive drifter with a knack for turning up whenever Scarlett’s in need.

As Scarlett’s quest for the truth unravels, so too does her grip on reality as she’s always known it. Because there’s something strange going on in this little cove. A dead magpie circles the skies. A dead deer watches from the undergrowth. Hands glow with light. Warmth. Power.

What transpires is a summer of discovery. Of what it means to conquer fear. To fall in love. To choose life. To choose death.

To believe the impossible.


 
 Review:   

You know, I was really pleasantly surprised by this. I've been dreading reading it for months, because I have a rule about not accepting books for review directly from the author (and these days I just don't review) - because WHAT WOULD I DO IF I DIDN'T LIKE IT??

Luckily I did! The beginning has a rocky start, but all the things that had me giving it a suspicious side-eye ended up not being concerns at all. Sort of spoilers but not really? (NOT A LOVE TRIANGLE PRAISE THE LORD!! At least not in this book, I can't speak for later books, but it didn't feel that way at all).

I've read in some of the reviews that the paranormal stuff doesn't happen until like the last 5%, and it's true that the full blown out paranormal things don't happen until then, but there are DEFINITE clues throughout the book, and especially for a series that's going to be 5 books long I think this was absolutely a great introduction. Plus it made for a great ending - there are clues, and if you don't have it half figured out by the end I'd be surprised - but the other half I'm preeettyyyy sure you won't have figured out.  The story sets the plot up as expected with a paranormal novel, but then uses the tropes to set up something that felt utterly fresh and new.

There are quite a few pop culture references that I think will date this book in an unfortunate way in a few years, but I am 100% the target group with all the references. I mean, Pirates of the Caribbean? Florence + the Machine? All the cheesy mystery shows like Columbo and Murder She Wrote? TOTALLY MY SCENE. It also suffers from some awkward moments in the writing, but almost all of that was towards the beginning, and part of that might just have been me adjusting to the writing a bit slower than usual.

It also has a GREAT friendship - and you know how strongly I feel about those. Cara is both not a cardboard cut out of a friend, she's not just the manic pixie girl version of a friend either. Yes she's cheerful and quirky - which helps offset Scarlett, but she also has her own struggles to deal with that have nothing to do with Scarlett. She's also got a physical disability and I felt like that was dealt exactly how I want disabilities of any sort to be written - not a defining "this is who she is" sort of thing, but not glossed over as if it wasn't something she had to deal with. It's definitely part of who she is without defining her, and I can count on one hand the number of novels I've read where the whole point of the book wasn't the disability or the disability wasn't just used as a token character.

A lot of this has Scarlett, Cara, and Luke dealing with grief - all in different stages and experience with it. As someone who has had her fair share of experience with it, I think this is one of the better books I've read where characters react realistically to what's going on. It never felt as if Scarlett was being melodramatic or just mentioning it woodenly because that's what the character SHOULD be doing it, nor did it feel like she just instantly forgot it. It is ever present throughout the novel - but it's very much how I have felt in the past. It's constantly in your thoughts, until it's only mostly in your thoughts. You have fun and forget for a moment and then BAM. Out of nowhere it hits you again. Grief is one of the hardest things to write realistically (or at least I'm guessing, since I rarely see it written in a way that rings true for me. That being said, everyone responds to grief differently, so maybe I just have a too narrow idea of how it feels).

TL;DR - This is a fresh, new take on some well trod paranormal tropes featuring a great romantic relationship (seriously, I am usually a gags and rolls eyes sort of girl when it comes to cheesy romantic scenes, but oh my GOD there's this scene in the book that totally melted me and I got all teary-eyed and GAH), a great friendship, and a realistic portrayal of grief. It doesn't get too bogged down with that last part though - Megan artfully brought in a funny or light moment without detracting from the feelings of what just happened. It's hard to balance the two, but I thought she did a fantastic job!
!

So,  basically you should check out this series. I immediately bought the ebooks for the next couple books (although I then got hit with all things audition so I haven't read them yet) I enjoyed this one so much.  And I'm veerrrrryyyyy picky about my paranormal books.  This one is worth it for Cara and Scarlett's friendship, let alone all the other wonderful things.




And now for what the whole point of this post was originally supposed to be! 



DARKNESS HAS FALLEN, AND SHE ALONE WILL SEE THE LIGHT

With her mother’s life hanging in the balance, Scarlett is devastated – and done with being in the dark. She wants answers, all of them. 


But when was her pursuit of the truth ever straightforward? 

Pulling a single thread triggers a great unravelling. And each revelation will force Scarlett to rethink what she thought she knew about the Ceruleans, the Fallen, her family – herself.

All that came before was a mere prelude to this, the last journey. From London to Twycombe to Hollythwaite to Cerulea, Scarlett will be stalked by the ghosts of what has been, what may have been and what may come to pass. Until she reaches the place where it all began, and it all must end.

But in the final reckoning, none will survive unscathed. And some will not survive at all.

In this explosive conclusion to The Ceruleans series, all must be defined by their actions: sinner, saint… or something more beautiful entirely?





It's so pretty!! And you know the upside to all this? You can buy the first book, get hooked, and then immediately go binge read the rest of the series. Trust me, you'll want to.  You can pre-order this one here and here - it comes out February 16, 2016!

Monday, December 7, 2015

Top Ten New-To-Me Favorite Authors I Read For The First Time In 2015



Samantha Shannon, author of The Bone Season

Samantha ShannonThe Bone Season (The Bone Season, #1)

If Samantha Shannon's debut book, The Bone Season, is anything to go from, it looks like we've got plenty of fantasy novels with fantastic world building to look forward to, as well as the huge ensemble casts she manages to juggle throughout the novel.  I usually balk at long series (Sarah J. Maas excluded, of course), but this is definitely a series I'm planning on staying with for the long haul!





Neal Shusterman, author of Unwind

Neal ShustermanUnwind (Unwind, #1)

Neil Shusterman excels at writing books that take things relevant today and making an insightful, and utterly disturbing story out of it.  His 2015 novel, Challenger Deep, won the National Book Award for Young People's Literature, and by all accounts is just as impactful as Unwind was for me (although I haven't read it yet. There's only so much soul crushing a girl can handle in a year).





Susanna Clarke, author of Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell

Susanna ClarkeJonathan Strange & Mr Norrell

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell is unlike any other fantasy novel I've ever read.  It looks like it's the only novel she's written, although she has quite a few short stories which I'm definitely going to read ASAP.  I've no idea what another novel by Susanna Clarke would be like, but you can bet I'd buy it.





Terry Pratchett, author of the Discworld Series

Terry PratchettThe Color of Magic (Discworld, #1; Rincewind #1)

I know, I know, how can I possibly have only discovered Terry Pratchett in 2015?  Especially since his writing one part Diana Wynne to one part Douglas Adams which would be like my dream team of authors.  All wrapped up in one.  And I find it particularly sad that I only discovered his books a month or two before he died.  But there you have it, and there's now a new lifelong Terry Pratchett fan in the world.




Rae Carson, author of the Fire and Thorns trilogy

About RaeThe Girl of Fire and Thorns (Fire and Thorns, #1)

If all of Rae Carson's books are going to feature even one of my favourite things about The Girl of Fire and Thorns (non-Western based fantasy setting with non-Western based cultures and a heroine that is neither thin nor beautiful), I'm in.  The Girl of Fire and Thorns was definitely my favourite high fantasy novel of 2015.





Marie Lu, author of the Legend trilogy

Marie LuLegend (Legend, #1)

Marie Lu created some of the best fleshed out characters I've had the pleasure to read in her Legend series.  It's not just the main cast - even the secondary characters had character arcs that spanned the whole trilogy, and I can't think of another author I've gotten to see that from in a long time.  It's so hard to balance all the parts of a story without relying on extra characters as plot points, and I loved that she managed to surprise me with them throughout the whole series!





Sangu Mandanna, author of The Lost Girl

Sangu MandannaThe Lost Girl

The Lost Girl was like Unwind meets Never Let Me Go (but infinitely more uplifting because that combination is just distressing otherwise haha).  It's definitely a hidden gem - I don't hear about it often, and it's not a splashy book exactly, so I can see why.  But I do wish more people knew about it, because it was thought provoking AND fun. So here I am doing my due diligence - this is an author who should be on your radar!





Ben Hatke, author of Zita the Spacegirl



Ben HatkeZita the Spacegirl (Zita the Spacegirl, #1)

Guys, guys, guys this story is SO CUTE! And heartwarming.  And features an adventurous, compassionate heroine and there's a giant mouse she can ride and a crazy inventor and robot best friends and can you please just read this because what about that doesn't sound awesome?





Paula Yoo, author of Good Enough

Paula YooGood Enough

It turns out Paula Yoo has had a pretty diverse career - this is the only novel she's written, but she's been involved with TV scripts and illustrated picture books, so chances are you've run into something else she's worked on.  Here's hoping she writes another novel though!





Sarah MacLean, author of Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake

maclean.jpgNine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake (Love By Numbers, #1)

So earlier this year I went on a HUGE historical romance novel binge.  In the process, I discovered Sarah MacLean and there is just no coming back from that.  She has all the wit I love from Julia Quinn and the more feminist minded heroines from Courtney Milan (not that Julia Quinn's aren't, but Milan's tend to be a bit more overtly so) and just something that is all Sarah MacLean and it makes for the best historical romance novels!