December 2015 Wrap-Up

December was a great reading month. I read a total of nine books a few of which were mentioned in my favorite books of 2015 post.

The Dragonet Prophecy (Wings of Fire, #1)Short Synopsis: Five young dragons prophesied to end a war must work together to escape from those who raised them, and find there way in the world.

Thoughts: This is my favorite middle grade fantasy novel of 2015. It used several common tropes of the genre, but I really enjoyed that the dragons were portrayed as dragons as opposed to humans who looked like dragons.

This is something hard to write properly while still making the readers sympathetic to the characters as they are so different from each other.

Full length review to come.

Rating: 4.5 blue jays

Hunted (Spirit Animals, #2)Short Synopsis: The second book in a series in which four children bond with ancient creatures of legend and must save the world from destruction.

Thoughts: This book dragged a little for me though I still enjoyed it. I still plan to read the next one. It was interesting to see the slight stylistic changes caused by this book having a different writer than the first.

Rating: 3 blue jays

Six of Crows (Six of Crows, #1)Short Synopsis: A crew of six thieves are hired to pull off the heist that could save the world.

Thoughts: It was a very close call, but in the end I decided to name this book as my favorite young adult fantasy novel of 2015. For my full thoughts, read my review.

Rating: 4.5 blue jays

Winter (The Lunar Chronicles, #4)Short Synopsis: The final book in a series of interconnected fairy tale retellings taking place in the future.

Thoughts: I definitely liked this book, but I feel very conflicted as to how much I liked it. Full length series review of the Lunar Chronicles to come.

Rating: 4 blue jays

Illuminae (The Illuminae Files, #1)Short Synopsis: After their planet is caught in the middle of a war between intergalactic corporations Kady and Ezra find themselves refugees trying to flee to an inhabited part of the galaxy before the corporation that invaded their planet catches them.

Thoughts: I had some trouble getting into this book at first due to its unique formatting. I felt a little detached from the characters. However, as the book progressed I adjusted and the pacing picked up. I ended up reading this book twice this month.

The first time in physical form and the second time as an audiobook. I rarely reread books so soon after finishing. I decided to name this book my favorite young adult science fiction book of 2015.

Full review to come.

Rating:

4.5 blue jays

The Name of the Wind (The Kingkiller Chronicle, #1)Short Synopsis: Young magician finds his way in the world.

Thoughts: I know so many people who love this book, and I really wanted too as well. Sadly, I think the hype made me anticipate too much. I still liked this book, but what kept me from loving it was a combination of what I felt to be the lack of a satisfying climax and the ease at which everything seemed to come to Kvothe.

Rating: 3.5 blue jays

26521836Short Synopsis: Second book in the Diviners series.

Thoughts: I listened to this one on audiobook, and the narrator did a good job, but be warned, I had the first few lines of the music box song stuck in my head for around three days.

Enjoyed this sequel and seeing all of the new and old characters again. The historical references were well worked into the plot. I like how different this book is from the other fantasy novels I’ve been reading.

Rating: 4 blue jays

The First Fifteen Lives of Harry AugustShort Synopsis: Every time Harry August dies his life starts over again exactly how it began. One time as Harry is dyeing someone shows up at his bedside to inform him that the end of the world is coming and he needs to stop it.

Thoughts: I had a slight issue with this book’s structure and the pacing, but other than that I really enjoyed it. It was so thought provoking, and the world building was extremely well done.

If I write a full review I may end up giving it a higher rating than I do now because I can’t seem to stop thinking about this book, and that makes me want to rate it higher than I did initially.

Rating: 4 blue jays

UprootedShort Synopsis: One girl is chosen to live with a “dragon” in his castle for 10 years.

Thoughts: Really enjoyed this twist on the typical fairy tale, but I had some trouble following what was happening at times.

Rating: 

4 blue jays

Favorite Books of 2015

I was planning to make a top ten list, but was having too much trouble narrowing it down in a way that didn’t make just about every book fall into a particular category written by a particular author. Instead I will be listing my favorite in each category.

Note that this is a list of favorite books I read in 2015. Not all were published in 2015.

Young Adult Fantasy

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Picking a book for this category was hard. It was a close call between this book and several others especially the Seven Realms series and later too books in the Daughter of Smoke and Bone series.

In the end I chose Six of Crows because it has so many different elements that were well executed as discussed in my review.

Adult Fantasy

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Words of Radiance is the second book in Brandon Sanderson’s Stormlight Archive series which is part of the Cosmere, which is the larger fictional universe in which Sanderson’s adult fantasy novels take place.

I read just about all of Sanderson’s currently published Cosmere works this year, and I am now a huge fan. It was hard to chose only one, but this is my favorite Cosmere book so far.

I would not, however, recommend readers start with Words of Radiance, not just because its the second book in a series, but also because it’s hard to get through books in the Stormlight Archive for readers not used to long books. Starting with Mistborn: The Final Empire or Warbreaker might make Sanderson’s work easier to get into.

I have not yet reviewed Words of Radiance, but I have reviewed the first book, The Way of Kings.

Middle Grade Fantasy

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I have always loved books about dragons, and look for novels with nonhuman narrators. For these reasons, this book written from the perspective of a young dragon was almost exactly what I was looking for.

If I had read this book while I was part of the intended age group it would probably have become one of my favorite books ever. As it was, I still enjoyed it enough to make it my favorite for this category, and I plan to continue with this series.

Young Adult Sci-Fi

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Choosing a favorite for this category was hard. In the end I chose Illuminae in spite of the fact that I had a little trouble getting used to the formatting at the beginning because the second half makes up for the first. I have not yet written a review, but hope to soon.

Adult Sci-Fi

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Really enjoyed this book. Have read it around three times now. Golden Son is the second book in the Red Rising Trilogy. I have reviewed both Golden Son and Red Rising in which I express my enjoyment.

Middle Grade Sci-Fi

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This book is in the hazy area between YA and MG, but for the purpose of this list I will consider it middle grade. This book was very thought provoking, and I think it would be a great novel for discussion in a book club or classroom. It’s also the only book I’ve read set in Mexico, even if it is called something else in this novel.

Contemporary

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This book is unlike anything else I’ve read. So different that I haven’t been able to compose my thoughts into a review. It’s hard to adjust to the disjointed way the story is told at first, but once I adjusted this book was heartbreaking and thought provoking.

Classic

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I’ll admit that I don’t enjoy classics as much as some people seem to, but I really enjoyed reading and learning about the symbolism involved in this one. The fact that a large canvas painting/picture of myself I’d forgotten about arrived soon after I’d finished was a coincidence that finalized making this one of my favorite classics.

Non-Fiction

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This book was shocking for me because I had no idea any of what it discussed was taking place in the medical community. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks explores the ethical questions of who owns body parts after they have been removed for medical reasons though the true story of Henrietta Lacks and her decedents.

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

23437156Title: Six of Crows

Author: Leigh Bardugo

Published: September 29, 2015

Genre: Young Adult High Fantasy

Synopsis: When a substance is developed that turns magic users known as Grisha into mindless slaves of great power the world is put at risk. A crew of six thieves are hired to pull off the heist that could save the world.

Review: 

Six of Crows is a great book, and so much fun to read. It was very reminiscent of some of my favorite fantasy novels, but at the same time stood apart from others in this category.

Six of Crows Crew

The strongest aspect of Six of Crows is the characters. In spite of the fact that there are so many narrators, each one comes across as distinct. I especially appreciate the fact that the characters actually acted like thieves.

In many books the character will go around saying that they’re known as an assassin, an experienced solider, or have a lot of experience stealing from important people, but then when it comes down to the act of either murdering or stealing something they hesitate.

This has never come across as realistic to me. At the same time, however, I recognize why many authors chose to portray their “ruthless” characters in this manor. It is difficult to sympathize with a person who can harm or steal from innocent people and feel no remorse, but Bardugo managed to pull it off. 

The relatively small number of characters with magical abilities made them all the more impressive. The main characters in Six of Crows are highly skilled individuals, yet for many of them these skills are natural in origin (ie intelligence), but the characters use them in such a way that seems almost supernatural.

Six of Crows Map

That said, the magic that we did get to see was a great addition to the story. My favorite aspects of the first book and a half that I read of the Grisha Trilogy was the world-building, so I was more than happy to reenter that world in Six of Crows.

Bardugo has created a very complex magic system different from what I’ve seen in many fantasy novels (especially YA) where the magic is often glossed over. Though this novel has much less focus on the magic system than the Grisha Trilogy, it managed to further expand upon it by showing what a Grisha’s power can do when pushed to extremes.

The world itself was expanded upon as well. I really liked how many of the characters in this novel were from very different parts of this world as this isn’t something we often get to see in fantasy, which often focus on one region of the world the writer has created.

The only negative criticism I have to offer is related to the reason I did not finish the Grisha Trilogy. That is to say that a significant portion of this novel was spent on build up. This is not to say that nothing happens, quite to the contrary, things seem to go wrong quite often. What I mean is that I spent most of the book anticipating the climax of the actual theft as opposed to anything the characters were trying to overcome at that particular moment.

I really wanted to love the Grisha Trilogy because I have a signed copy (see the image below), but am so glad that I can now consider myself a fan of Bardugo thanks to this book. I was hesitant to read this one because I thought I might need to finish the Grisha Trilogy first, but was pleased to find that this duology stands on its own.

Siege and Storm

In any case, I managed to get a hold of a signed bookplate. Used as a book mark, really like the way my copy of Six of Crows looks:

Be Dangerous

What readers should know: Though this book keeps everything very vague, one of the narrators was forced to work in a brothel against her will. She has since left this profession behind, but still bares negative effects of her time there.

As stated in this review the thieves in this book truly act as thieves. This means that some of the narrators steal and kill people throughout the story. There is also some language.

Rating: This is a really great book. I highly recommend it to fans of fantasy and people trying to get into fantasy.

4.5 blue jays

September 2015 Wrap-Up

Reading

In September I read six books and a novella. Of those one was adult, three were YA, two were arguably either YA or middle grade, and one was definitely middle grade. All but two were fantasy with one being magical realism and the other being sci-fi/dystopian.

Short Synopsis: “The monster showed up just after midnight. As they do.”–A Monster Calls, Patrick Ness

Thoughts: If I had known this book was from the perspective of a boy whose mother is dying of cancer I wouldn’t have read it, but even though as a general rule I don’t read books featuring cancer, I’ll admit that this is a well written, amazing quick read. I highly recommend it to people looking for a book along those lines, but do be aware that this book is a very emotional read.

Rating:

five blue jays

Short Synopsis: A thief is offered her freedom in exchange for forging an emperor a new soul.

 Thoughts: I had no idea a novella could be this good. Then again, it was written by Brandon Sanderson, so I’m not all that surprised.

Rating: 

five blue jays

Short Synopsis: Matt must figure out why he is the only intelligent clone in a society where clone’s brains are permanently damaged at birth.

Thoughts: A thought provoking read that deals with many real world issues. It may also be the only book I’ve ever read set in Mexico. I think this would be a great book to read in a book club or classroom setting.

Rating: 

4.5 blue jays

Short Synopsis: Child genius, Sophie, discovers she is an elf.

Thoughts: I think twelve-year-old me would have loved this book, and I’ve already recommended it to an eleven-year-old. As of when I read this, however, I found the first half of the book read a little too much like info-dumping and almost stopped reading, but enjoyed the mystery element of the second half much better.

Rating: 

3.5 blue jays

Short Synopsis: When rithmatist students start disappearing from an elitist school Joel, the non-rithmatist son of a cleaning lady, is determined to learn who is responsible.

Thoughts: Really enjoyed this, though not as much as some of Sanderson’s other works. Part of that is the concept of rithmatists, magicians whose chalk drawings come to life, seems a little ridiculous though Sanderson did a great job developing it. The other reason is it takes a while to get to the action. I would be upset that the sequel won’t be out until 2017, but I want Sanderson’s other books just as much if not more.

Rating: 

4 blue jays

Short Synopsis: The fourth book in the Throne of Glass series.

Thoughts: Definitely enjoyed this one, but I’m having a hard time putting my feelings about it into words.

Rating: 

4 blue jays

Short Synopsis: When Alina discovers she has magical abilities her life changes forever.

Thoughts: Flew through this book, and some of the characters were really well developed. However, there were times when I felt that although I was still very engaged not a lot was happening.

Rating: 

4 blue jays

Writing

I’m still working on revising my high-fantasy work in progress. My goal for October is to have finished with part one, but I’m in college and have midterms in October, so I’m not sure how practical that is.

I’ve decided that I am probably going to participate in NaNoWriMo again this November. There is a new idea I’ve been longing to write so I’ll be taking a break from my revising for the month. The first draft is unlikely to make it to 50K because I’ll be writing a middle grade novel and tend to underwrite. For this reason, my current goal for November is to finish the entire first draft in a month as opposed to the usual 50,000 words/month.

In other news, I’ve printed out about the first fourth of my YA sci-fi work in progress and plan to print out the rest soon. This is the first time I’ve seen any of my novel length works in physical form so I’m ridiculously excited about this. Once I get the whole manuscript printed I’ll probably be carrying it around everywhere with a huge grin on my face like I do when I get my most anticipated book releases of the year.

Blog

This past month I’ve come to have over 50 followers, and this will be my 49th blog post. Thanks everyone who subscribed/ reads my posts!

I know I’m extremely behind on my tags, but I still have every intention of doing the ones I’ve been tagged for.