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.

The Hunger Games: Random Characters Edition

So today I decided I would have a little fun in (well, fun for me, not for them), type some of my favorite characters names into a Hunger Games simulator, and see what happens in honor of the recent release of the Mockingjay Part 2 movie. This post is the result.

The simulator I used was: http://ripred.net/gamessim.php, but if you search for “Hunger Games simulators” on the web you’ll find there are many more out there.

*Disclaimer: This post simulates the deaths of some beloved fictional characters. It’s just for fun and not to be taken seriously. I did not create the random generator nor am I affiliated with it, and The Hunger Games is a book series by Susanne Collins which I am also unaffiliated with.

While listing contestants the cover of the books the characters are from will appear before the characters from that book are named. My comments on the random generator’s outcomes will appear in blue. The generator’s original text will appear in black.

Contestants

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District 1 Male: Darrow
District 1 Female: Virginia “Mustang”

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District 2 Male: Vasher
District 2 Female: Vivienna

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District 3 Male: Elend Venture
District 3 Female: Vin

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District 4 Male: Kell
District 4 Female: Lila

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District 5 Male: Khalid
District 5 Female: Shahrzad

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District 6 Male: Kaladin
District 6 Female: Shallan Davar

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District 7 Male: Tamlin
District 7 Female: Fayre

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District 8 Male: Raffe
District 8 Female: Penryn

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District 9 Male: Akiva
District 9 Female: Karou

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District 10 Male: Kai
District 10 Female: Cinder

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District 11 Male: Connor Lasiter
District 11 Female: Risa Ward

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District 12 Male: Chaol
District 12 Female: Celaena Sardothien

Day 1

Chaol killed by Vivienna

If this happens before the events of Warbreaker then I am shocked, but if it happened afterwords this makes perfect sense due to spoilers. 

Connor Lasiter killed by Lila

It was only a matter of time before Connor died. Connor is a survivor, but he’s also one of the only people here lacking both magical powers and combat training. 

Lila killed by Khalid

Well Lila only kind of has magical powers in a complicated spoilery way and only very informal combat training whereas Khalid has no doubt been trained to fight with the best of the best for most of his life even if he lacks magical abilities. 

Vin killed by Celaena Sardothien

Guess Vin must have been throne into the arena without her metals because if she was using allomancy not even a trained assassin like Celaena would have been able to take her out. 

Kaladin killed by Shahrzad

Now this is really shocking considering that Shahrzad can’t seem bring herself to kill anyone and Kaladin is not only a surgebinder, but a trained solider. Must have been an accident. 

Penryn killed by Celaena Sardothien

Well this makes sense, I guess. Penryn is awesome and can survive a lot, but she doesn’t have magical powers and is no match for an assassin like Celaena. 

Kai killed by Akiva

Prince Kai lacks both magical abilities and combat training so it makes sense a warrior angel like Akiva would end up killing him. Sorry Kai, but it’s true. 

Day 2

Risa Ward killed by Karou

Risa is yet another person without magic or combat training so this makes sense. 

Akiva killed by Celaena Sardothien

It was a close match I am sure, though I suppose Celaena could have sneaked up on him on him. That would make it a lot easier for her. 

Shallan Davar killed by Tamlin

Well, Shallan never was never trained to be a fighter though she certainly has the potential to become a very dangerous fighter. She probably spent most of this camouflaged like Peeta. Ironically Tamlin probably spent most of his time camouflaged too as some sort of animal. Must have run into one another while trying to hide out. 

Day 3

Elend Venture killed by Virginia “Mustang”

If this is before the end of The Well of Ascension this makes sense. If not then it’s a lot harder to believe for spoilery reasons. 

Karou killed by Cinder

I guess Cinder must have used the fact that she is a cyborg to her advantage. Karou wouldn’t have expected that. 

Day 4

Darrow killed by Celaena Sardothien

Darrow might be Gold now (Golds’ bodies can withstand more than most and they’re generally extremely strong) and have an uncanny ability to survive impossible things, but he’s still no match for Celaena. 

Kell killed by muttation attack

I think the capital must be hiding the fact that Kell left the game and transported himself to a parallel world with this attack. Otherwise Kell’s magic would keep the mutts from getting to him. 

Virginia “Mustang” killed by Khalid

Oh, I see. Khalid has killed two girls now. In The Wrath and the Dawn Khalid marries one girl a day to have her killed at the next dawn. Is he trying to keep up the practice? Still surprised he managed to kill Mustang though, she’s good at outsmarting people. 

Day 5

Celaena Sardothien killed by Fayre

This is surprising unless Fayre got a hold of some arrows and got Celaena while she wasn’t looking. 

Raffe killed by Khalid

This is surprising. Guess Raffe must not have his wings or sword, because that’s the only way Khalid could defeat an angel warrior. Also Raffe isn’t a girl so killing him doesn’t upkeep his wife killing ways. 

Vivienna killed by Vasher

But the two of them were starting to get along so well! I can’t see Vasher doing it unless he is under Nightblood’s influence. Nightblood seems to like Vivienna so I’m not sure even that would do it. 

Tamlin killed by muttation attack

Wild animal attacked by wild animals. I guess the mutts just need to be bigger. 

Day 6

Shahrzad killed by Vasher

It’s shocking she survived so long. Vasher’s Awakening is more than capable of taking her and most of the others out. 

Cinder killed by muttation attack

Possible, must have caused her cyborg body to short circuit or something. 

Fayre killed by amoebic dysentery

Possible, Fayre has gotten close to starving to death before and the faeries are always reminding her what a fragile human she is compared to them even though for a human she is really quite strong and able. 

Day 7

Vasher killed by Khalid

This is very unlikely unless Vasher is out of Breath. He wouldn’t even need to be the one to kill Khalid. His Lifeless army or even an Awakened rope would be more than capable. 

The victor is: Khalid

Khalid is one of the most unlikely victors out of the characters listed here. Also probably the one I wanted to win the least due to his wife killing despite the fact that I actually like him as a character and like him much more than the other person involved in The Wrath and the Dawn’s love triangle. 

August 2015 Wrap-Up

August was a great reading month. I read nine books: one adult sci-fi, three adult fantasy, and five young adult fantasy. I also started revisions on one of my writing projects.

From now on I’m going to be splitting my monthly wrap-ups into three sections: reading, writing, and blogging.

Reading

The Martian by Andy WeirShort Synopsis: Astronaut is stranded on Mars.

Thoughts: A very realistic, well researched portrayal. Though I really liked it, the book didn’t always grip me as much as I would like. Review to come.

Rating:

 4.5 blue jays

Warbreaker by Brandon Sanderson

Short Synopsis: A princess is forced into a marriage to the mysterious “God-King” in an attempt to prevent war between too nations. While this princess settles in to life in the foreign palace her sister tries desperately to free her.

Thoughts: Once again Brandon Sanderson’s world building proves extraordinary. The plot is captivating and unpredictable, the breath and color based magic system is well thought out and unlike any I’ve read before. For my full thoughts see my review.

Rating:

 five blue jays

Elantris by Brandon SandersonShort Synopsis: Elantris was once the city of the gods. Now it is a city of the living dead.

Thoughts: I can really tell this is the first novel Brandon Sanderson published. His prose were really clunky and this is the only Sanderson novel where I’ve skimmed sections. Still an overall enjoyable read though, it’s interesting to see how much Sanderson has improved over the years.

Rating: 

4 blue jays

A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. SchwabShort Synopsis: Kell is one of the only people left who can travel between parallel worlds. Kell uses his ability to illegally smuggle objects between worlds. One day an object Kell smuggles turns out to be especially dangerous and it’s up to Kell to dispose of it before it’s too late.

Thoughts: I haven’t read a lot of books about parallel worlds, but when done right it’s a topic I find intriguing. There were times when I felt this story felt a little predictable and the characters not as developed as I would like, but it was an excellent read overall. Review to come.

Rating:

4.5 blue jays

The Heart of Betrayal by Mary E. Pearson

Short Synopsis: A princess struggles to free herself from expectations of her. Book two in the Heart of Betrayal series.

Thoughts: I’m surprised how much I liked this one as I had mixed feelings about the first, but there were certain aspects I really liked. Review to come.

Rating:

4 blue jays

The Demon King by Cinda Williams ChimaThe Exiled Queen by Cinda Williams ChimaThe Gray Wolf Throne by Cinda Williams ChimaThe Crimson Crown by Cinda Williams Chima

Short Synopsis: A thousand years ago one nation became seven and the world was shattered during a terrible disaster. Now Han, an ex-thief, and Raisa, the princess heir, must learn from the past in hopes of a better future. The entire Seven Realms series.

Thoughts: The pacing at the beginning was a bit slow, but once I got into these I just couldn’t seem to put them down. I read the last three over what was primarily a two day period of time. The world building is some of the best I’ve read in YA (in a lot of YA it tends to be lacking), and the characters were so much fun. I’m surprised this series isn’t more popular. Can’t wait for the spin-off series Shattered Realms.

Rating: 

4.5 blue jays

Currently Reading: 

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Writing 

What I wrote last month: In August I started revisions on my high fantasy work in progress. It’s working title is A Rose Like Death, and it was my project for NaNoWriMo last November. Most of what I’ve been doing so far is rearranging the files of chapters and scenes into an order I think would better fit the story. (I use Scrivener.)

My main focus right now is big picture edits and making everything flow. I’m also doing a lot of rewriting to change my main character, Yuliana’s, voice because the narration feels too distant at the moment. Feedback from everyone who has read the first chapter has been very positive overall with most issues involving grammatical and sentence construction errors that I don’t intend to fix until far later. Everyone seemed to have a much better grasp of the world building and character dynamics than I expected by the end of chapter one, and each person who read it had a different theory about the direction the plot would take. Only one really got anywhere near to the truth.

What I plan to write next month: I plan to continue with what will become the second draft of A Rose Like Death. Now that summer is over progress is going to slow and the goal is to have it finished by October 31 so I can start a new project for NaNoWriMo in November, but I’m not sure if that is realistic yet.

Blogging

I know I’m behind on my tags. It might take me a while to get them posted, but I haven’t forgotten about them. I’ve been tagged for the quote a day challenge and my blog has been given the Liebaster Award, but have yet to post about them. I’m planning to combine the quote a day challenge into one day instead of three because I post once a week and like to keep it consistent.

Read or write anything interesting in August? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

Warbreaker by Brandon Sanderson 5 Stars

1268479Title: Warbreaker

Author: Brandon Sanderson

Published: 2009

Genre: Epic Fantasy

Synopsis:  Princess Vivienna grew up knowing that one day she would wed the God King, ruler of a nearby enemy nation, but when the time comes for the king to send Vivienna for her wedding her father decides to send her younger sister Siri instead.

Siri has spent her life rebelling and ignoring her tutors. She knows nothing about the Court of Gods. Fearing for her sister and not sure what to do with her new found freedom, Vivienna travels to the kingdom where Siri was taken to help her escape. If only freeing Siri were that simple.

Review: Brandon Sanderson has once again crafted a beautiful, captivating fantasy world with awesome characters and mind blowing plot twists.

Before continuing I’d like to point out that this entire book is can be read for free on Brandon Sanderson’s website.

The main characters in this novel are all very different from one another. There is Vivienna, the oldest princess of Idris, who spent her whole life being trained for her life in the court of their enemy after her arranged marriage to the God King. Vivienna holds firm to her beliefs and has a strong sense of duty. Vivienna’s younger sister, Siri, has grown up being rebellious and ignoring her studies, so when Siri is sent to be married to the God King in her sister’s stead Siri finds herself entirely unprepared for life in the Court of Gods. Lightsong, a god who doesn’t believe in his own religion, is my personal favorite. Then there is the mysterious Vasher whose motives are hidden from the reader for most of the novel.

These drastically different perspectives allow Sanderson to reveal the world and the magic system in ways that our judgement is not clouded by character bias in spite of some characters who have very good reasons to either despise the or appreciate the people around them.

The magic system in this book continues to be one of Sanderson’s strengths. The magic of Awakening uses something called Biochromatic Breath to do everything from causing a rope to come alive and strangle you on its own to reanimating dead bodies. The ways in which this magic has affected society and the limitations of said magic were all well thought out and explained.

Lightsong’s debates with his priests about whether or not he was a god was one of my favorite parts of this novel. Something about the concept of an agnostic deity is just so hilarious yet thought provoking at the same time.

I have enough experience with plots though reading and writing now that plot twists rarely surprise me, especially if I have read multiple books by a particular author before. Somehow Sanderson’s twists are ones I still can’t entirely predict though I have now read ten Brandon Sanderson novels.

This book is currently a standalone and reads like one, but I’d be more than willing to read a sequel if Sanderson ever finds time between his many projects.

What readers should know: This is a fantasy novel, so naturally it contains magic. This book also features the deaths of some relatively prominent characters, but the violence isn’t graphic. Sex is mentioned, but the characters involved are married and everything is very fade to black. It’s all in all relatively tame, for an adult fantasy novel in particular.

Rating: This book had great characters, an unpredictable plot, and world building. I highly recommend this book to fans of Brandon Sanderson, high fantasy, and/or trying to get into Brandon Sanderson’s novels.

five blue jays

Booktube-A-Thon Wrap-Up

If you don’t know what the booktube-a-thon was see the twitter account or Youtube channel.

Of the seven challenges I completed four. They were:

  • Challenge 1:  Read a book with blue on the cover
  • Challenge 3: Read someone else’s favorite book
  • Challenge 4: Read the last book you acquired
  • Challenge 6: Read a book you really want to read

For those challenges I read The Martian and Warbreaker:

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I know I was going to try to read Warbreaker without letting go of it by just carrying my phone everywhere and complete the challenge of not putting a book down by reading Warbreaker as an ebook. The problem is that unlike with a physical book you don’t need to hold it open so I ended up reading the book without touching it and didn’t realize until later what I had done.

I read The Martian during the first two days of the event and Warbreaker during the fourth and fifth. After finishing Warbreaker I tried to start reading Paper Towns, but it just didn’t hold my interest and I ended up spending the next two days rereading portions of Words of Radiance to try and find all the Warbreaker references I heard were in the book.

The Martian was 369 pages long and Warbreaker was 688 pages long which adds to a total of 1057 pages. The portions of Words of Radiance I read were out of order so there is no way to add it to my page count, but as Words of Radiance is over 1000 pages I probably read at least 25 trying to find what I was looking for.

If you participated how much did you read? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below.