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!

June Book Wrap Up!

Books Pledged to Read in 2015:

150

Am I On Track: 

6 books behind. Not even stressing. I’ve been writing SO much and so its hard to be mad that I’m not reading when I’m writing so much :)

Books Read So Far: 

68

Total Books For June: 

9

The Perfect Game

15783307

Rule

17866388

Scorched

18045624

I can’t even begin to explain the impact that this book had on me. Seriously. It blew my mind and it drove me to get help for myself. To read more about it, treatment check out my open letter to JLA here

Coming in from the Cold

24917521

One Week Girlfriend

17202452

The Fill-In Boyfriend

18660447

Signs Point to Yes (ARC)

24464110

Tonight the Streets Are Ours (ARC)

23310761

Jet

17866389

*****

SO MUCH NA!

LOL

How did you do this month? Any book recommendations? Share them in the comments!!

Dear Jennifer L Armentrout and All Of You: My Reaction to Scorched

I was originally going to send this directly to JLA. But then I realized how much that I wanted to share this with everyone. I’ve kept a lot of this stuff secret for awhile now and I’m ready for it to not be a secret. The main character of JLA’s new release Scorched really inspired me to be more open about myself and so that’s what I’m doing. I also want to warn you that there will be mild spoilers for Scorched in this letter. Thank you. 

Dear Jennifer L. Armentrout, doctor

I don’t tell a lot of people this. Mostly because I feel…embarrassed. Ashamed. Like someone is going to think I’m weak. Like people are going to look at me and see that I’m completely healthy, online having no idea that on the inside, I’m a complete and total utter mess. I barely told my dad a week ago, when I have a panic attack at work and I was spent, exhausted, and there was no way I could drive myself home and I had to call him.

When I bought Scorched the other night, I was really excited to read it. I love your books. Ever since I read Obsidian over two years ago, I’ve just been in love. I love Katy and Daemon, I can’t even begin to explain my addiction to Alex and Aidan and the Covenant series. I just recently read Frigid, and the Wait for You series…I just love it so much. My friends have even taken to calling me Tessa from Be with Me because of how much I’m like her and because of how much I really do love cupcakes. I was so excited to read Scorched. I knew you had said something about it being a very hard book for you to write and I knew it wasn’t going to be any easy book to read but I don’t think I knew it was going to affect me as much as it did.

When Andrea is in the kitchen, watching her friends in the pool, just after she’s made dinner, and her thoughts get away from her and she gets anxious and she has to remind herself to calm down, to breathe, to stay focused…I stopped short. I was reading before bed, at a sleepover with my friends, and suddenly I felt overwhelmed. How many times  a week do I feel like this? Constantly. Being left alone in my thoughts is a scary situation for me because sometimes I can’t stop thinking. I start with something so simple and I just lose control of the thought so quickly until I’m suddenly at worse case scenario. I can’t breathe, I can’t control my thoughts and suddenly I’m in a panic. I have to constantly stop myself from getting to that point. That scene with Andrea in the kitchen felt so familiar. I stopped reading for the night and went to bed.

Yesterday, I woke up and had a great day with my friends. We made shirts to pay tribute to a Cora Carmack book we like, we went and watched the USA soccer game and the NBA finals at Buffalo Wild Wings, and we just had a blast. By the time I got home, I was exhausted and ready to fall into bed. But I was also ready to finish Scorched so I did so.

And let me tell you this: I love this book. Immediately after I read it and marked it read on GoodReads, I gave it five stars. I’ll give it five stars on every website I possibly can. But I will say this: I won’t review it. Not completely, not like I usually do. Because now I know why this was such an insanely hard book for you to write. But it was a very hard book for me to read.

I suffer from an anxiety disorder, one not unlike the one that Andrea suffers in the book. Our disorders differ, and we both have very different ways of coping with it but the way she thinks, the incredible amount of self-doubt she has and the panic attacks she suffers…it all feels incredibly familiar and real. I’m a happy person, I’m a confident person. But my brain…its a little messed up sometimes and there’s not a whole bunch I can do about it sometimes. Sometimes a thought gets away from me and suddenly I’m panicking and I can’t breathe and the world disappears and a thought that started off as “I wonder if I’ll have time to get myself food before work today” has suddenly morphed into “I’m going to die some day and I don’t want to”. That’s how my mind works sometimes and its scary as hell.

Andrea has that significant panic attack in the book, and the description of it felt so real. Incredibly real. So real that I cried, a lot, and I got very anxious. I didn’t have a full fledged panic attack but the panic attack she suffered in the book felt so real that I got incredibly worked up, and I had to wind down a bit. I don’t blame you or anything for causing that, ha, so please don’t think that. Circumstances in my life at the moment have led to my panic and my anxiety to be a little higher than normal lately. Its totally okay. In fact, I was insanely impressed at how incredibly accurate and familiar that panic attack felt. You wrote it perfectly. If it hurt even half as much to write it as it did to read it, I really do understand why this book was so hard to write. I messaged a friend of mine that I know suffers from anxiety too and he helped to talk me down until I could continue reading the book.

But then came the rest of the book. I don’t want to write too much of it in detail because I’m publishing this publicly and my followers might read it and might want to read your book and I want to give them a chance to read it without the spoiler thing getting in the way. But I will say this: as much as the descriptions of her panic attacks affected me, the rest of the book did so as well. Andrea has a lot to deal with other than getting her anxiety under control. She has an addiction and that’s a huge thing for her. For me, what felt familiar, was the sort of thoughts she had. The way she felt she was expected to give things to guys because what else could they possibly want from her. The way she felt that maybe she wasn’t actually deserving of love. The way she felt like she was disappointing everyone because she kept changing her mind and couldn’t make up her mind. The way she felt like no one could ever completely love her when they found out how “messed up” she was. Those feelings…I try to hide them and push them aside as much as possible but they are there, they are there all the time and I felt so in touch with Andrea every single time she thought them. I knew exactly where she was coming from.

The later bits of the book, after the incident happens, when she goes to get help…that is when I really truly fell in love with this book. Because Andrea getting help and slowly putting the pieces of her life back together, figuring out where she was strong and where she needed help…that was so full of hope and light and it felt good to read it. It felt like you were handing hope over to me, Jennifer, and it felt incredible. While that bad part of my brain wanted to tell me “Well, of course its worked out, of course she’s loved, of course people still care about her despite the mess she’s made, its a book and its fiction and we control the outcome…”, the good part of my brain said, no, you’re wrong, Sara. Yes, its fiction but so much of fiction is based in reality. If Andrea could get herself together, take care of herself, and live her life despite the fact that she has this problem, and she can find friends and family and a boyfriend who could love her with this challenge, so can you. You gave me that hope. Its not easy to always believe those things but you really helped into giving me that hope and I know that whenever I spiral into those sort of thoughts, that I’ll remind myself of Andrea and how she got through so I can too.

This letter ended up being way longer than I seriously meant it to be but it all boils down to this: thank you for writing this book. As someone who suffers from this kind of disorder, thank you so much. Too many people in this world ignore the sicknesses that they can’t see with their eyes. I’ve had too many people tell me that mental diseases and illnesses aren’t real and it kills me to hear it every time when its so incredibly real to me. Its mean so much to see a character suffer through something like this, if only to show others how real this is and what a struggle, internally and externally, it can be, every single day. Thank you for writing it so accurately, for making those panic attacks and those anxious thoughts so real that for a moment I really did forget that I was reading a book. Maybe that’ll give an insight to people who aren’t familiar with this how insanely scary it can be sometimes. Thanks for giving us a voice, thanks for giving us and especially me hope and just…thank you so much for writing this book. It means a lot to read about characters like me and you don’t often read a book about a girl with anxiety and panic and I’m really glad I finally got to. I’ll always keep reading your books, but after this, I know I never will forget this one in particular. I’m so glad there is a voice out there in fiction that represents the many of us that go through this sort of thing. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Yours sincerely,

Sara E. Santana

What A Nerd Girl Says

Update: I had to share this response. Because it simultaneously made me smile and cry. Because JLA is badass and awesome :) 

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