Favorite Reads of 2015, Part 2: Books Published in 2015 + Reading Statistics

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On Tuesday I shared my 10 favorite non-2015 books I read last year. Today, I share the other Top 10 list: the one for my favorite new books of 2015! 🙂

Like Tuesday’s list, this one will go in ascending order (suspense is the key, remember? *winks*) and will feature a brief explanation of why I included it on this list, as well as links to each review. I’ll also post my reading statistics for 2015, including how many books I read, which genres I read most, and a few random yet interesting bits I discovered along the way. Shall we begin?

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Favorite Reads of 2015, Part 1: Books Published Before 2015

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Finally! It’s time to reveal some of my favorite reads of 2015! 😀

Last year I almost twice as many books as I did the year before, and a fair number of those books were published before 2015. So, I’m going to share not one year-end Top 10 list, but two!

Today’s will focus on my favorite pre-2015 books I read last year. Each entry will include my reasons for its inclusion on this list and a link to the full review. Also, since I like to keep you all in suspense, the list will go in ascending order, from #10 to #1. 😉 Here they are:

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Recent Reads: October 2015

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Recent Reads is a monthly reading wrap-up, with mini-reviews of all the books I finished in the past month. I’ll also share what I’m currently reading and any other books that are in the pipeline. Want to share your bookish happenings, too? Feel free to do so in the Comments section at the end!

Something electric must be in the air. Out of the five books I read in October, I enjoyed four of them enough to write reviews. So, those positive bookish vibes that made September a great month for reading haven’t gone away yet. 🙂

What also made October a fun month for reading was including two “Halloween-ish” novels. Not scary horror stories by any means, but stories with a creepiness factor that fit the time of year. You’ll see what I mean as you check out the reviews, starting with my Read of the Month, which is…
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Stacking The Shelves, Vol. 19 & Field Trip: Boston Teen Author Festival 2015

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Stacking The Shelves is a weekly event hosted by Tynga’s Reviews that shares the books (both physical and virtual) that you recently purchased, borrowed from a fellow reader or the library, won from a giveaway, or received as gifts. Stacking The Shelves will post on Saturdays as new books are added to my shelves.

It’s time to report on the 2015 Boston Teen Author Festival! Since I wanted to tell you about the event, I’ve decided to make this post a combination of Stacking The Shelves (which I’ll link up at Tynga’s Reviews) and my Field Trip series. So, what you’re about to read is part photo diary, part written report with quotes and writing tips, and part BOOK SQUEE FEST. 😀

Um, as always, bear with me on the photo quality, especially the zoomed-in shots at BTAF. (I really, really need to get a new camera.) Otherwise, enjoy!

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Recent Reads: September 2015

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Recent Reads is a monthly reading wrap-up, with mini-reviews of all the books I finished in the past month. I’ll also share what I’m currently reading and any other books that are in the pipeline. Want to share your bookish happenings, too? Feel free to do so in the Comments section at the end!

Great news: I’m out of my reading slump! 😀 September turned out to be an awesome month of reading, with some of the best books I’ve read all year. In fact, two books almost tied for Read of the Month. But one eeked out over the other just enough because… well, when you read my review, you’ll understand why. So, let’s get to it!
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Stacking The Shelves, Vol. 17: The Birthday Haul, Part 1

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Stacking The Shelves is a weekly event hosted by Tynga’s Reviews that shares the books (both physical and virtual) that you recently purchased, borrowed from a fellow reader or the library, won from a giveaway, or received as gifts. Stacking The Shelves will post on Saturdays as new books are added to my shelves.

Some of you know my birthday was last weekend; and apart from other presents I was happy to receive (bed linens, an indoor-outdoor thermometer, a beach umbrella), I got MORE BOOKS. 😀  A couple more arrived after I finished preparing this post, so that’s why this is Part 1. (Part 2 could be up as early as next Saturday.) In the meantime, here’s what I’ve got so far:

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Recent Reads: August 2015

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Recent Reads is a monthly reading wrap-up, with mini-reviews of all the books I finished in the past month. I’ll also share what I’m currently reading and any other books that are in the pipeline. Want to share your bookish happenings, too? Feel free to do so in the Comments section at the end!

August was a weird month reading-wise. Out of the five books I finished, three were disappointments. (They were also the last three books I’d read chronologically speaking, so I fell into a case of the Reading Slump Blues. :/  ) The other two books were fantastic awesome AMAZING, and are sure bets for my year-end favorites list. So, I apologize if this edition of Recent Reads ends up feeling like a rollercoaster ride. We’ll start on a positive note, though, with my pick for Read of the Month, which is…
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Stacking The Shelves, Vol. 15: Of Thieves, Musicians, and ARCs

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Stacking The Shelves is a weekly event hosted by Tynga’s Reviews that shares the books (both physical and virtual) that you recently purchased, borrowed from a fellow reader or the library, won from a giveaway, or received as gifts. Stacking The Shelves will post on Saturdays as new books are added to my shelves.

I don’t normally get ARCs because I’m so busy catching up on previously published books I haven’t read yet. (Plus, I don’t have an e-reader, and I’ve been told that it’s more difficult to get print ARCs.) But these two beauties arrived in the mail in the past week, and I can’t tell you how EXCITED I was / am to read them, especially since they’re two of my most anticipated 2015 books. 😀  Here they are!

(NOTE: I delayed this STS post a day to give enough time to highlight my first two DIY MFA articles covering Writer’s Digest Conference 2015.)

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Another Liebster Award!

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Still combing through the blog tags and awards I was recently nominated for, and today it’s Liebster Award time. Thank you for the nomination, Phoenix Grey! 🙂

Here are the rules for this version of the Liebster Award:

  1. Once you are nominated, make a post that thanks the person who nominated you and links back to their article.
  2. Include the Liebster Award sticker in your post.
  3. Nominate 7 to 10 other bloggers who you feel are worthy of this award. Let them know they have been nominated by commenting on one of their posts. You can also nominate the person who nominated you.
  4. Answer the 10 questions asked to you by the person who nominated you.
  5. Make 10 questions of your own for your nominees.
  6. Lastly, copy these rules in the post.
  7. All of the nominees are free to accept or reject the nomination.

So, Rules #1, 2, and 6 are done already. (I hope it’s OK that I’m skipping around…?) Now let’s go on to Phoenix’s questions!

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Recent Reads: “Shadow and Bone” by Leigh Bardugo

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Shadow and Bone (Book #1 of the Grisha Trilogy)
Leigh Bardugo
Fantasy / Young Adult
356 pages

Synopsis:

Alina Starkov doesn’t expect much from life. Orphaned by the Border Wars, she is sure of only one thing: her best friend, Mal – and her inconvenient crush on him. Until the day their army regiment enters the Fold, a swath of unnatural darkness crawling with monsters. When their convoy is attacked and Mal is brutally injured, Alina reveals a dormant power not even she knew existed.

Ripped from everything she knows, Alina is taken to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling. With Alina’s extraordinary power in his arsenal, he believes they can finally destroy the Fold. Now Alina must find a way to master her untamed gift and somehow fit into her new life without Mal by her side. But nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. As the threat to the kingdom mounts and her dangerous attraction to the Darkling grows, Alina will uncover a secret that could tear her heart – and her country – in two.

Rating: 4.75 / 5

It’s been KILLING me that I finished Leigh Bardugo’s Shadow and Bone about three weeks ago and I’ve had zero time to write the review. In fact, when I started writing this, I was afraid I’d forgotten everything about the book! Luckily it’s coming back to me now – and that’s a good thing, because Shadow and Bone is an incredible start to what I hope is a fantastic trilogy.

Within a few chapters, I found reason after reason to love Shadow and Bone and blazed through the story faster than I’d expected. First of all, there’s Ravka, the richly developed world inspired by tsarist Russia. The rustic villages, bleak tundra, and ornate royal palace seemed so real in my imagination; and the names of characters and towns had that distinctive Russian feel to them. When I wasn’t reading the book and was outside wearing my new L.L. Bean winter parka, I often felt I had momentarily gone to Ravka. 🙂 The Grisha’s environment was amply fleshed out as well, from their elitist beliefs and color-coded attire to the conflicts within their ranks. And we can’t forget about the magic system, which draws from both elements and chemistry. Not everything is revealed in this book, but I have a feeling I’ll learn more as the series continues.

The characters of Shadow and Bone are wonderful, too. I connected quickly with Alina and admired her for her pragmatism, frankness, and compassion. She’s no “Mary Sue,” though; she has her flaws and weaknesses, and makes some bad decisions as a result. But how can you have a real story if the protagonist is always right? I also liked Mal for his duality, a charming young man who carries a ton of weight on his shoulders. And if I had to choose, my two favorite minor characters would be the servant Genya (a bit superficial, but she means well) and Alina’s instructor Baghra (talk about having a no-nonsense attitude!).

The Darkling needs his own paragraph, and for good reason. Some readers loathe him for his manipulative, slippery ways; others think he’s an awesome villain. Me? I think the Darkling is somewhat one-dimensional, but I still liked him a lot. There were points early on in Shadow and Bone that I actually sympathized with him, and I held onto a sliver of hope that he was being sincere – even though I suspected his true intentions (and I was right!).

By the way, don’t be alarmed of the implied “love triangle” with the three main characters. It’s more of a case of being lured to the dark side without truly knowing it. 😉

Shadow and Bone might also be one of the most well-written fantasy novels I’ve read recently, regardless of the target audience. Bardugo offers lush descriptions, visceral reactions, witty dialogue, and sharp action verbs. The setting and the execution of magic in particular leapt to life because of her fluid, vivid writing style. Like with Anthony Doerr’s All The Light We Cannot See, I wrote in a journal any words and phrases that resonated with me. (Something tells me this “note-keeping” will become a reading ritual.) I love it when the quality of a book’s writing excites me as much as the story itself.

So, now you know why I not only tore through Shadow and Bone is a matter of days, but also why I adore it. An original fantasy world of darkness, color, and intrigue; well-rounded characters led by a relatable heroine; gorgeous writing that enhances the escapism this genre provides – they’re also factors that make Bardugo’s first installment to the Grisha Trilogy a must-read for fans of both YA and adult fantasy. The only critique I have is that I sometimes wished there was a glossary to help me fully understand or imagine the Russian-esque terms. Otherwise, I can’t wait to return to Ravka and see what happens next to Alina in Siege and Storm!

Have you read Shadow and Bone? What did you think of it? If you haven’t read it yet, do you think you might check it out based on what you’ve read above? Let me know by commenting below or visiting the same review at Amazon or Goodreads.