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

23437156

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

17332218

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

13228487

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

23395680

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

18966819

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

13376

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

18075234

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

10518145

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

6493208

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.

Advertisements

The Summer Reader Book Tag

Since the official end of summer is fast approaching here in the northern hemisphere on the 23, I figured I’d better do this tag fast or wait another eight months for it to be relevant again. Even if where I live it’s going to remain almost unbearably hot for another month or two.

The Summer Reader Book Tag was created by islandOFbooks over on Youtube and I was tagged by Parneet @ The Enchanted Book.

Lemonade: pick a book that started off bitter but got better.

12842828

The beginning of Keeper of the Lost City is very fast paced and I can see why it would appeal very well to the middle grade audience it was meant for, but the way everything was introduced felt cliched to me so I almost gave up on it to read something else. The second half of the book, which involves a mystery, was much more interesting to me than the first.
Golden Sun: pick a book that made you smile beyond compare.

7736182

For some reason Rick Riordan’s books’ have a way of making me really happy. A few years back whenever I wanted to be in a good mood I used to reread one of his books.

Tropical Flowers: pick a book set in a different country.

8490112

The characters in Daughter of Smoke and Bone travel to many different places, but they spend a significant amount of the book in Prague.
Tree Shade: pick a book in which a mysterious or shady character was first introduced.

7801229

Crow from The Seven Realms series is first introduced in book two, The Exiled Queen. There isn’t much I can say about Crow without spoilers, but sufficient to say he has a lot of secrets.
Beach Sand: pick a book that was grainy, and the plot barely developed.

11946245

This is one of my least favorite books of all time. I will say that I did enjoy the first couple books in this series, but in this one there were huge plot holes and for that reason I feel like the plot never really developed. If I had read this more recently I probably wouldn’t have made it nearly this far in the series, but back when I read this book I used to make an effort to finish every books/series I’d started.
Green Grass: pick a character that was full of life, making you smile.

11235712

I pick Iko from The Lunar Chronicles which is kind of ironic because she is technically a robot and therefore not alive, but she just has such a fun personality and always makes me smile. I’m using “full of life” in terms of the phrases meaning and not literally here.
Watermelon: pick a book that had some juicy secrets.

68428

Mistborn: The Final Empire is the first of Brandon Sanderson’s Cosmere books I read. Like his other books there are a lot of plot twists, but I chose this one because one of the characters likes to say the phrase, “There’s always another secret.”
Sun Hat: pick a book that had a vast, big universe/setting.

7235533Roshar, where The Stormlight Archives takes place, is an incredibly vast world. Brandon Sanderson has gone so far as to create his own plants and animals who have been forced to adapt to Roshar’s unique weather patterns.
BBQ: pick a book in which a character was portrayed as a hunk.

18006496

I just finished Queen of Shadows, and in it Rowan is described as matching this description very well to say the least.
Summer Fun: pass the tag on.

Since summer is coming to a close I’m not going to tag anyone lest they have to wait until next summer to avoid doing the tag in fall, but anyone who wants to do this tag and hasn’t yet should feel free.

May 2015 Wrap-Up

This month I read six books. Many of the books I read this month were some of my favorite books of the year so far. I also read the longest book I had read so far in 2015 (The Well of Ascension).

To All the Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny HanShort Synopsis: A girl writes love letters to all the boys she has ever loved and hides them in her room until one day they are sent in the mail.

Thoughts: This book was fun to read. It was lighthearted and had an intriguing plot with well developed characters. However, it was my least favorite book of the month not because there is anything wrong with it, but because some of the other books I’ve read this month will probably become some of my favorite books of all time.

Rating: 

4 blue jays

Challenger Deep by Neal ShustermanShort Synopsis: Caden descends into the depths of the Marianas Trench and his own mind.

Thoughts: This is a hard book to get into as it has a unique writing style of very short chapter alternating between two purposefully confusing story lines. After adjusting this book is unique and thought provoking.

Rating: 

4.5 blue jays

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. MaasShort Synopsis: When the wolf Fayre killed in the woods turns out to have been a faerie in disguise she must chose between paying with her life and a lifetime trapped in a faerie’s house.

Thoughts: Though there were some elements at the end that confused me, I really liked this book. For my full thoughts see my review.

Rating: 

4.5 blue jays

End of Days by Susan EeShort Synopsis: Third book in the Angelfall Trilogy in which angels invade the Earth.

Thoughts: Although I enjoyed this book, particularly the first three fourths, I felt the ending was rushed and left the story feeling incomplete. For my full thoughts see my series review.

Rating:

 4 blue jays

The Final Empire by Brandon SandersonShort Synopsis: A group of thieves with magical abilities gained through consuming metals plot to overthrow an immortal dictator.

Thoughts: This was a great read. The “overthrowing dictator” plot has been done a lot in fantasy, but Sanderson makes it feel original and fresh. For my full thoughts see my review.

Rating: 

five blue jays

68429Short Synopsis: Sequel to Mistborn: The Final Empire. This shows the aftermath of the heist in book one.

Thoughts: I really enjoyed this book, and liked that I could hardly ever predict what would happen next. However, the story just didn’t feel as complete to me as book one which I preferred over the sequel.

Rating: 

4.5 blue jays

Currently Reading:

The Hero of Ages (Mistborn, #3)Invaded (Alienated, #2)18243700

Note: I’m probably going to stop reading Invaded and The Assassin’s Blade for a while. It’s not that either is a bad book (neither is). It’s just that I had to return one to the library, and as for the other, I’m just distracted by everything else I want to read and not in the mood for a human-alien romance story.

Mistborn: The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson 5 stars

68428Title: Mistborn: The Final Empire (Mistborn book 1)

Author: Brandon Sanderson

Publication date:  January 1, 2006

Genre: Adult High Fantasy

Synopsis: In the Final Empire ash rains from the sky, and strange mists rule the night. All is it has been for the last thousand years of the Lord Ruler’s reign. Many have tried and failed to overthrow his oppressive regime in which the majority of the population are kept as slaves. Most think hope was lost long ago, but Keliser thinks hope remains.

Keliser is legendary as the only slave to escape the Pits of Hathsin alive. After a two year leave Keliser returns to the capital where he was a once leader in the criminal underground gathering together the most skilled criminals in the empire’s capital telling them he’s planning the biggest heist since the Final Empire began: to assassinate the immortal Lord Ruler.

Joining the criminal crew is Vin, a teenage girl who has just made a shocking discovery. Vin learned she is no ordinary street urchin of the slave class, but a Mistborn. Mistborn are the most powerful type of Allomancers, individuals who gain extraordinary abilities through metals. Vin must learn Allomancy and involve herself in noble politics. Together Vin, Keliser, and the others might just be able to accomplish the impossible and free their people from slavery.

Review: I’ve read Brandon Sanderson books before and heard the hype around this one, so I was expecting a great read and was not disappointed. This book was sitting on my shelf for about a year before I finally sat down and read it. It’s just that the cover of my edition (not the one shown) was off-putting, and the text was small. For some reason I’d managed to convince myself the book was longer than it is. Something also told me to wait for summer before starting any more relatively long books. In the end this was probably a good idea.

Once I started this book I found it difficult to put down. Anyone and anything interrupting my reading did not find me in a pleasant mood, but those who saw me between sittings constantly noted that I seemed unusually happy. They were right, this book made me extremely happy. I know that is an odd thing to say about a book following a rebellion, but it’s true. My emotions had nothing to do with the content of this novel, but everything to do with the fact that it was extremely well executed.

While I was instantly captivated from the prologue onward I began the story thinking that the plot was somewhat predictable, and somewhat disappointed in this regard because so many people rave about the plot. It was not until the second half of the novel that I began to see what these people were talking about. Brandon Sanderson managed to make a plot that could have seemed cliche feel fresh.

There is not much I can say without spoilers, but I have read so many books where the characters have a plan and everything works out as they thought. Even from my own experience I can tell you there are far too many variables in life for everything to go as expected, and Sanderson understands this.

Rather than the fact that some plans don’t work making the characters seem unprepared or incompetent it brought out their strengths and flaws which in turn made them seem much more human. This is because when plans failed the characters had to find a way to work around the setback or even use it to their advantage.

Sanderson did a great job slowly integrating his amazing world building and magic system in the plot. Even though we spend quite a bit of time with Vin as she has lessons in Allomancy I very rarely felt like there was the slightest bit of info-dumping. Even when I was starting to worry a section was heading in the direction of info-dumping Allomancy is so interesting that I probably wouldn’t have cared all that much if parts of the narrative had gone in that direction.

So much of fantasy relies on the same sets of magic systems often heavily influenced by Tolkien or some form of mythology (often certain mythologies in particular). While Allomancy still feels similar to other fantasy magic systems in some ways, it is different enough to be refreshing and interesting.

The writing in this book is very straightforward and easy to read. There are no flowery prose here. While I’m not the biggest fan of flowery writing, some readers might find this novel’s writing to be clunky at times. This wasn’t really a problem for me, but as I was reading it was something I thought others might have a problem with.

While I read this roughly 600 page book in two days I acknowledge that it is relatively long. While I read this book in two days others might find it to be somewhat of a time commitment. However, once I got into the book I was not bothered by the length at all. In fact I almost wish the last few chapters had gone into greater detail, but I suppose if they had there would be no need for a sequel.

The ending feels complete, but there are still some plot threads left for the sequel which I can’t wait to start. In fact, by the time this review is posted I may well have started The Well of Ascension.

What readers should know: While this is an adult fantasy novel it has a relatively low level of content that could be deemed “inappropriate.” The language is cleaner than most young adult novels I’ve read with very little cursing.

As this is a fantasy novel some amount of violence is expected. While there are fight scenes and characters who die blood filled deaths none of this is described in detail.

Rape is mentioned and alluded to on several occasions, particularly in the prologue during which a young slave girl is taken to be raped and then killed by her master narrowly avoiding this fate. Nothing is described in detail as the prologue is from the point of view of a character not even present at this encounter.

Rating: This is a great read, and one that I highly recommend. The Final Empire is perfect for someone trying to get introduced to high fantasy as a genre as it is fast paced and captivating from the beginning. People who want to get into Brandon Sanderson should consider either starting with this novel if they’re into high fantasy or Steelheart if they’re looking for a shorter read. Steelheart is a young adult novel involving superheros.

five blue jays