Tuesday Top Ten – Favorite Books Read in 2015

Happy New Year everyone! I hope you had an absolutely FABULOUSLY nerdy 2015, see full of books and all kinds of awesome. I know I did. 2015 was a GREAT year to be me and I’m stoked to see what 2016 brings me.

For now, information pills let’s count down the top ten (technically 12) books that I read this year. Keep in mind…I read 126 books this year so this was HARD

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Both of the Honorable Mention books are actually being published in 2016. I read both of them in 2015 as ARCs and absolutely loved them both, page so they make my list of best books I read this year :)

Click the book title for its GoodReads page, the author name for their website and the book cover for my review!

Flamecaster by Cinda Williams Chima 

I was so excited when I got this ARC both digitally and in the mail. I absolutely adore Cinda Chima and I honestly think she’s one of the best fantasy authors I’ve ever read. She’s just so damn good. She’s going to be visiting in April, about two hours away, but I’m going. Hands down. This is the first in a new series, a spin off of my favorite series by her, the Seven Realms. It was great to be back in that realm, though I miss Raisa and Han, and it was just…ugh, so damn good. I can’t wait to read more!

Passenger by Alexandra Bracken

Confession Time: I’ve never read an Alex Bracken book before. I’ve heard The Darkest Minds series is good but I just haven’t had a chance to read it yet. I got this book in the mail as an ARC and I loved the cover and concept and immediately dove in. I can’t even begin to explain how much I ADORE this book. I’m a huge fan of Alex’s now and I can’t wait to make The Darkest Minds a priority in 2016.

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Unchanged by Jessica Brody

Its hard to believe that I read this book nearly a year ago! How insane is that! So weird. But god, what an amazing end to the trilogy. I had all these theories and expectations and this literally blew my mind. It is just…its not at all what I expected at all. She surprised me and shocked me and its really hard to genuinely surprise me and I was like like OMG. Jessica Brody got progressively better and better with this series and I just absolutely loved this series ender.

The Shameless Hour by Sarina Bowen

In all truthfulness, I read the entirety of this series this year, and I loved every single minute of it. I was hooked from book one and devoured the entire series and anxiously awaited the new releases. But by far, easily, my favorite is The Shameless Hour. I love both of the main characters and I love the story. I love Bella so much, I love that she’s not your typical virgin, which we see most of the time in NA series. I love that she owns who she is until things happen and she questions herself, but still ultimately comes out as confident in the person she is. I don’t know if that sentence made sense AT all but that’s how I felt. SUCH a good book.

All Played Out by Cora Carmack

Even though Carson is my favorite and will always have the special spot in my heart, I just loved loved loved All Played Out. Like I said about with Jessica, Cora just got better and better with these books as the series continued and I devoured APO in a matter of hours. Just blew me away. I adore Nell, her personality, her directness, everything and Torres is just…the kind of guy that would drive me absolutely insane in real life but causes me to swoon when I read. I am INSANELY excited about the release of the fourth book :)

Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

I had been hearing about this book for ages and I had actually bought it when I met Victoria at YALLWest back in April. Everyone said it was SO good, but I just wasn’t feeling it for awhile. But when I finally sat down to read it…it just blew my mind. The world building is incredible, absolutely incredible…it flows so well and is so believable. And the twists and turns in this book…I was incredibly shocked at the ending of this book, jaw dropping, for sure. That cliffhanger…is it time for book two yet?!

Stand Off by Andrew Smith

I love Winger. Its one of my favorite books of all time and when I heard there was going to be a sequel, I nearly peed my pants with excitement. Because I was going to get my Ryan Dean back and the antics that follow him, always. And yes, that is what happened in Stand Off. I laughed so hard, because Ryan Dean is hilarious and Andrew is hilarious and the brand new character of Sam Abernathy is so freakin’ hilarious. But the book surprised me and became so much more, just like Winger. It had a lot to say about post traumatic stress disorder, and panic attacks and was written so beautifully. Always a win with an Andrew Smith book.

What We Saw by Aaron Hartzler

I had high anticipation for this book because I absolutely adore Aaron Hartzler. He’s a great writer and just an all around great person and I was so excited when I was able to get an ARC of this book. And my expectations were blown away. I loved his first book. I absolutely am obsessed with this one. Aaron Hartzler writes a compelling and incredibly emotional read and its beautiful and poignant and relevant and permanent. I read this months ago, and the story still is stuck with me, still sends chills through me. Its a must read for sure.

Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

The first book I ever read by Rainbow Rowell was her novel, Fangirl, which I’ve now read several times. One of my favorite books that I’ve ever read and one of the few characters that I’ve been able to identify with as much as I have with Cath…Cath is me. So when I heard Rainbow was putting out Carry On, a story of the fictional characters created in Fangirl…I had to. And its amazing how invested in these doubly fictional characters I was! I loved the story from beginning to end and I laughed so hard, so many times, and I will ship Simon and Baz until the end of time. One of the best Harry Potter fan fictions I’ve ever read in my life, and I’m so glad this became a real book.

Winter by Marissa Meyer

I honestly felt like this book was NEVER going to be released. It had been nearly TWO years since Cress and I was DYING to find out what happened next. I’ve been in a perpetual slump with reading the past few months but I knew I had to sit down and read this one and I’m so glad I made myself do it because I blew through it. Marissa Meyer has an EPIC end to the series, with so many throwbacks to the original fairytales but also keeping me hooked to the action and the surprise and the romance and all of it. I LOVED this book and this series, and I can’t get it out of my head.

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

I don’t think I’ve ever met an author as talented at writing this beautifully and creating these kind of worlds so intricately than Leigh Bardugo. Seriously. The kind of fantasy she creates, the characters, the worlds, the way they all weave together to create the story…it just completely hooks me. Its emotional and real and its gripping because you can feel everything in the story as if you stepped through the pages. Leigh takes the world she created in the Grisha trilogy and opens it up wider, further, and pulls us into a new story, and its not hard to fall into it. I loved each and every character, I loved the story and I feel like I’m never going to fail to be impressed by this lady.

Scorched by Jennifer L Armentrout

I didn’t expect for this book to be on this list. I didn’t expect to love this book as much as I did. I love Jennifer Armentrout and I’ve learned this year to love love love her new adult books. I loved Frigid but I took it as what it was and was excited for Scorched. I was so unprepared for what that book would do to me. Scorched’s main character, Andrea, suffers through mental illness, mental illness that is very very similar to my own and it felt…so real, so raw, so emotional to read the point of view of someone who felt so much like I do. I cried a lot because I felt like JLA had given me a voice, when it felt too hard to describe how I felt…especially when she described a panic attack. I kept thinking, YES, that’s how it feels. So yes, I loved the story and the romance and all of that but I also loved Andrea, and her struggle and JLA’s ability to put my feelings into words.

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What were some of YOUR favorite reads of 2015? Don’t forget to sound off in the comments!

Tuesday Top Ten-Best YA High Fantasy Series

I was browsing around Tumblr this morning, medical like I do (because how do you start a day without spending some time on Tumblr) and I saw a post talking about YA high fantasy and it had SO many of my favorites. I was trying to think of something to write for the Tuesday Top Ten today and it just presented itself to me so easily.

I must admit, thumb as I wrote this list, I discovered TWO things: One, I really need to read more high fantasy (recommend some, please!) and two, I am majorly biased on one particular author…but that’s okay.

10. The Beka Cooper Trilogy 

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Books: Terrier, Bloodhound, Mastiff

Beka Cooper is the ancestor of George Cooper (who is massively important in Pierce’s first series, which, duh, is on the list), and she joins the Provost Dogs, which is basically like a police force. As the books go on, she becomes one of the most prominent and well trusted of the Dogs, solving crimes and taking down criminals. The story is told in diary form, which was a new thing for Tamora Pierce.

Its awesome. Anything Tammy does is basically magic, but what I love about this is you know how history plays out after this already. Her first four Tortall series all take place years after this so you know the direction its going in, but its still so fun. I think that Tamora Pierce has a wonderful way of writing fantastically strong characters but sometimes we convince ourselves that Daine and Kel and Aly are only able to have their stories because of all the things Alanna accomplished in the first series. But telling Beka’s story really tells us that women had a lot more power, and possibility in the past until obviously something went wrong. Plus these stories are so different than the others. Beka has to prove herself, not really as a capable woman, like the others, but just a capable person in general. And the crimes she solves, the mysteries that unravel are all so fun.

9. The Immortals Quartet 

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Books: Wild Magic, Wolf Speaker, Emperor Mage, The Realms of the Gods

Daine is trying to escape her home country of Galla, where she was treated as a pariah, an abomination for the “sickness” she believes is inside her. When she is brought on as an assistant horse handler on the way to Tortall, she discovers that she’s not crazy, but she has a rare bit of magic in here called wild magic, which gives her the ability to communicate with animals, heal them and even shape shift. Under the tutelage of the realms most powerful mage, Numair, she learns to control her magic and when her new home in Tortall is threatened by immortal creatures, she must learn to use her powers to help save her home and her friends.

I mean, can you really go wrong with this book? There’s magic and animals and cute boys and kissing and battles and its a GREAT series. Tammy blew my MIND with this one. I love Daine because before Daine, we had Alanna, who was great but didn’t get to be a girl as often because she was pretending to be a boy, so Daine was awesome. I loved when she was able to give up her dresses for breeches, and when she discovered she could heal animals. I love that we see old characters from Alanna’s series and I love the whole idea of these immortal creatures like spidrens and centaurs and stormwings. Daine’s story is absolutely fantastic.

8. The Protector of the Small Quartet 

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Books: First Test, Page, Squire, Lady Knight

In Kel’s book, the law has been changed and girls can go out for their knighthood, instead of hiding their sex the way Alanna does in her series. This is the moment that Kel has been waiting for but its tainted when the king grants her permission to come to the palace to try, under the condition that she have a probationary year, something no boy has. Not only does Kel have to prove herself as a knight, but that she belongs there amongst the boys.

What I love about Kel’s story is that it seems like it could be a repeat of Alanna’s story but it most definitely is not. Kel has a whole new adventure to go through. Alanna had to prove herself, yes, but everyone thought she was a boy. Kel is a girl, and on probation and has to work even harder than all the boys do. On top of that, her page master treats her differently and her fellow pages tease her, and play jokes on her, all to try and get her kicked out. I think Kel’s story is sometimes easier to relate to than Alanna’s. I like how it starts off with Kel being bullied and being angry that she and others are getting bullied and turns into a larger story when Scanra comes chopping at the Tortall borders. Kel always wants to take down the bullies, no matter how big or small, and I love her story.

7. The Girl of Fire and Thorns Trilogy 

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Books: The Girl of Fire and Thorns, The Crown of Embers, The Bitter Kingdom

Elisa was born with a godstone in her belly button, marking her as a chosen one, to do amazing things in the world. However, Elisa feels so much less than a chosen one. She’s massively overweight, not pretty, and constantly in the shadow of her older sister. When she is married off to a neighboring kingdom’s king, who is devastatingly handsome, she doubts she’ll ever reach her supposed amazing potential. Then she is kidnapped, by revolutionaries, and she suddenly sees how much more she is capable of and what she really could accomplish.

The first thing that caught me about this book is that Elisa is fat. Straight up, Elisa is fat. I love that. Do you know how often we get YA heroines who are fat, especially in novels like this? We just don’t. Even though Elisa loses weight through out the series, she remains a bigger girl and I think that’s important. Elisa is a strong, strong, incredible female character but its more than a physical strength. She’s incredibly smart, clever and she figures out exactly what she needs to do, with bumps all the way. Its all about coming into yourself, and coming into what people expect of you, and just doing the best that you can with what you are given and its just incredible. I dragged my dad, boyfriend and brother four hours to Las Vegas just so I could meet Rae Carson.

6. The Throne of Glass Series 

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Books (so far): Throne of Glass, Crown of Midnight, Heir of Fire 

Celaena is a former deadly assassin, sent into the dark work prisons. She is caught trying to escape and is chosen by a stranger to be a contestant, part of a tournament to choose the next King’s Champion. If she succeeds in winning, she will have to work for the King, whom she hates, for a period of time and then she can earn her freedom. She agrees and comes to the palace to compete but then people start disappearing, dying, being sabotaged in the contest and Celaena fears that she could be next. Add in the handsome and charming prince Dorian and the equally handsome and strong captain of the guard, Chaol, and you have a recipe for trouble.

 Sarah J. Maas blew my mind with this series. I had seen it all over the place for so long and I finally purchased it and was so incredibly glad when I did. The one thing that really jumps out at me of this series is the incredible world building of it. It is deep and complex and has a whole history to it, which is beautiful. A really good high fantasy novel will have that, and this book definitely accomplishes that. Add in the fact that there’s Dorian and Chaol and its so hard to figure out which one you like more, because they’re both so different…and you’re just so addicted to the story. But the kicker of the series is Celaena, who is a fantastic main character. I love that she can kill a person easily, almost in her sleep, but also loves to curl up with a good book and is so incredibly loving and caring.

5. The Song of the Lioness Quartet 

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Books: Alanna: The First Adventure, In the Hands of the Goddess, The Woman Who Rides Like a Man, Lioness Rampant

Alanna and her twin brother, Thom, are unhappy with their futures. Thom is all set to go to the palace to train as a knight, when he wants to go and learn to hone his magical Gift and become a powerful sorcerer. Alanna is to be sent to the convent, to be trained as a lady, to return home and find a husband, when she wants to become a knight. They switch places, and Alanna heads to the palace as Alan, disguised as a boy in order to earn her shield. Alanna has to work hard, doing all that she can to earn her shield, while trying to hide the fact that she is a girl.

This book series is incredible and what truly blows my mind about it is that it was written back in the 1980s. People think that the idea of a strong female character is a new phenomenon because of Hermione and Katniss and Tris but the original strong YA female character is definitely Alanna. She disguises herself as a boy for YEARS. Do you know how hard that would be? Not only does she have to work hard to become a knight, which is a trial all in itself, but she has to do it pretending to be a boy. She has to pretend that she doesn’t get her period, or breasts, and that she doesn’t having feelings for boys. She can’t undress herself in front of them. Its all so hard. But she fights hard and earns everything that she gains and its just SUCH a great series. Its a must, an absolute must for any lover of YA.

4. The Grisha Trilogy 

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Books: Shadow and Bone, Siege and Storm, Ruin and Rising

Alina Starkov is an orphan, earning her way through life, and struggling to find where she fits in. She’s working as a mapmaker, getting by and trying to ignore that her best friend, Mal, is handsome, popular with the ladies, and an incredibly good tracker. One day, as their crossing the Fold, a desolate bit of land, she saves Mal’s life, by using a power that she never knew she had. She has been labeled the Sun Summoner, a rare Grisha classification, able to produce light from within her. Suddenly, she is whisked away by The Darkling, the most powerful of the Grisha, and her power becomes the center of her existence.

The first I met Leigh Bardugo was at the Ontario Teen Book Fest. She was on a panel and the moderator said something about strong female characters not existing when the authors were younger and Leigh immediately says “Uh, duh, Alanna?” and I knew immediately that I needed to read her book. I bought Shadow and Bone that day and I’ve been massively in love with the Grisha trilogy since then. I just read the last one a few weeks ago when it was released and I’m just so in love. Leigh is an incredible writer and a beautiful storyteller. She has magic, and power, and politics and romance and humor and so much all in one series and its just brilliant. I really haven’t read a series like this before and I doubt I will ever read one like it again.

3. The Seven Realms Series

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Books: The Demon King, The Exiled Queen, The Grey Wolf Throne, The Crimson Crown

Raisa is the princess of her queendom, being bred every day to be the queen. She is royal by blood on her mother’s side, and has tribal blood from her father’s side and after spending time with her father and his people, she returns to the castle, restless and ready to do more. Her mother, on the other hand, has been taken in by the High Wizard, in a world where wizards are not to be trusted, and Raisa begins to fear what her mother will do. She starts sneaking out of the palace, getting to know her queendom, hoping to become the best queen that she can be. Han is a former thief, turning away from his criminal ways, in order to support his mother and younger sister. When he steals a wizard’s amulet one day, trouble begins to follow him and leads him into finding the truth about where he came from and what sort of powers he holds in himself.

THIS SERIES. I picked it up on a whim, really, just out of nowhere, and coincidentally, a few days before the final book was released. I literally read the four of them in a period of about five or six days and I have no regrets. Cinda Chima is absolutely brilliant. She reminds of Tamora Pierce a bit, and she just builds a great world. The Seven Realms is just so incredibly real and I love both the main characters so much and I couldn’t wait until the two of them met up together. Raisa is fun, and brave, and sassy, and strong and Han is sarcastic and fearless and reckless and caring and I just love the both of them so much. There’s mystery and intrigue and magic and you can never really figure out who the bad guy is and the books are full of surprises until the very end. There’s action one moment and then steamy makeout scenes the next and I seriously canNOT get enough of these books.

2. The Daughter of the Lioness Duology 

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Books: Trickster’s Choice, Trickster’s Queen

Aly has lived in the shadow of her parents for her entire life. Her father is the King’s spymaster and her mother is King’s champion, and the first female knight in over a century. Her godparents are the king and queen, the wildmage and the realm’s most powerful mage, the captain of the King’s Guard and more. Her brother is studying to be a sorcerer and her twin has gone for his knighthood. What Aly wants more than anything is to be a spy,  but her parents do not approve. She is kidnapped by pirates and sold into slavery at the nearby Copper Isles, to the Balitang family. There she discovers a rebellion brewing, the dark skinned raka wanting to take their country back from the light skinned luarin. Before she knows it, she’s wrapped up in it, doing everything she can to protect the Balitang girls, who could become the countries’ future rulers.

I’m rare in liking this series by Tammy the most but I must admit that I am quite biased. This is the first series that I actually read by Tammy. I picked it up when I was about 15 years old because it mentioned pirates and I was obsessed with pirates at the time. Obviously pirates were NOT essential to the story but I legitimately found one of my favorite books of all time. Aly is incredible and so different than Alanna, Daine and Kel. She doesn’t have magical powers like Daine, though she has the Sight. She isn’t a fighter like Alanna and Kel, though she can fight. Instead she’s absolutely clever. She knows the way of politics and the underground spy world. She knows the minds of people and how to trick them and how to get them to do the things she wants them to. Plus I loved the rebellion of it, of the people rising up. Its…easily my favorite book (tied with Goblet of Fire).

1. The Harry Potter Series 

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Books: You know

I’m not going to do a summary for this one because, duh. I’m pretty sure most people know what this is about and if you don’t…have you been living under a rock for all these years? Seriously?

I know this one is weird on this list because its kind of…is it full fantasy? Its kind of contemporary at the same time? I consider it high fantasy though. Also, is it YA? I’ve always sort of considered it YA but a lot of people say it’s children. SO that’s weird. But either way, its my favorite of all time. I do not have five HP tattoos, a personalized HP license plate and much more for nothing. This series is one of the most incredible series to ever be written and there is literally no other book that can make me feel the way these do. They have everything I could possibly need. They provide escape. They have taught me so many lessons of life. They make me laugh and cry. They make me question everything. They have brought me friends. They have an incredible world built and the story is beautiful and complex and exciting from the first page to the last.

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