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

Fave Reads 2015 logo cropped

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! ūüôā

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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Recent Reads: “Shadow Scale” by Rachel Hartman

Shadow Scale cover

Shadow Scale
Rachel Hartman
Fantasy / Young Adult
596 pages

Synopsis:

The kingdom of Goredd: a world where humans and dragons share life with an uneasy balance, and those few who are both human and dragon must hide the truth. Seraphina is one of these, part girl, part dragon, who is reluctantly drawn into the politics of her world. When war breaks out between the dragons and humans, she must travel the lands to find those like herself‚ÄĒfor she has an inexplicable connection to all of them, and together they will be able to fight the dragons in powerful, magical ways.
 
As Seraphina gathers this motley crew, she is pursued by humans who want to stop her. But the most terrifying is another half dragon, who can creep into people’s minds and take them over. Until now, Seraphina has kept her mind safe from intruders, but that also means she’s held back her own gift. It is time to make a choice: Cling to the safety of her old life, or embrace a powerful new destiny?

Rating:  4.5 / 5

Is it possible to love a sequel more than its predecessor? Well, I can think of a couple occasions where a second novel was just as good as the first book – but an entire grade-point higher? That’s a rare and special case. Yet¬†Shadow Scale, the sequel to Rachel Hartman’s YA fantasy debut Seraphina, was one of those cases for me. Because while I enjoyed the first book but had some issues with it,¬†this second and final installment to the duology soars high and smoothly from Chapter One to the last page.

Shadow Scale¬†begins about three months after Seraphina¬†ends, and¬†shines with all of its predecessor’s strengths and then some. For starters, Hartman sends Seraphina on a journey¬†to find her half-dragon brethren, allowing readers to see and fall in love with the lands¬†beyond Goredd. Ninys, Samsam, and Porphyry each come¬†alive with distinct flavors and histories. I had a blast picturing the architecture, nature, even the clothing worn by the people¬†Seraphina met during her travels. This is very much a quest¬†story, and one that isn’t spared of obstacles. Seraphina runs into all kinds of trouble along the way: inclement weather, seasickness, unfavorable terrain, and – most importantly –¬†characters with their own agendas.

Speaking of characters, Hartman does a wonderful job with expanding on her colorful, entertaining cast from Seraphina.¬†Old favorites of human (Princess Glisselda, Prince Lucian Kiggs), dragon (Ardmagar Comonot, Eskar, and Uncle Orma), and half-dragon kind (Abdo, Lars, Okra Carmine) return from the first book. There are plenty of new ones, too, particularly the new half-dragons. They all¬†exude unique personalities – and¬†if I shared one anecdote for each character, this review would be about a mile long. ūüėČ

I can tell you this much, though: Seraphina’s sidekick Abdo is my favorite – no, FAVORITE¬†– character from¬†Shadow Scale. A¬†monkey-like acrobat who can only communicate telepathically because of dragon¬†scales covering his tongue, he’s absolutely hysterical and so lovable that I wanted to reach through the pages and hug him. Jannoula, on the other hand, is a fantastic “hate-to-love-yet-love-to-hate” villain. Pretentious¬†and deceptive, with a¬†tortured past (literally) that explains her state of mind perfectly, she singlehandedly turns a¬†mainly external conflict that impacted Seraphina’s home into a deeply personal fight for Seraphina to save everyone and everything she loves.

Writing-wise, Hartman once again blends humor¬†and intellect to create Seraphina’s distinct narrative voice. Despite my mixed feelings about this approach in Seraphina, I thoroughly enjoyed it in¬†Shadow Scale. I lost count of how many times Hartman floored me with her extensive vocabulary (how often do you see words like “conflagration,” “subterfuge,” or “viscous” in a YA novel?) and made me laugh out loud by describing the absurdity Seraphina saw in a situation. Combining the two qualities is a rare talent; and though it might not make sense on paper,¬†it does when you read Hartman’s work.

Where Hartman truly improves with Shadow Scale¬†is her pacing. No early info-dumps to drag things down this time. Instead. readers can get a recap on Seraphina by visiting a “scholarly” preface that summarizes the first book in about 2 pages. From there, Hartman lets the story¬†unfold leisurely, spending just enough time on details, relationships, and plot points so readers can see the “big picture” without feeling overwhelmed. Maybe that explains why Shadow Scale¬†is a beast of a YA novel (almost 600 pages). But I hardly noticed the length, because the story was such a joy. In fact, I wasn’t ready to leave Seraphina and her world¬†when the end arrived.

That brings me to my only nitpick for¬†Shadow Scale. The climactic battle is awesome in theory, but Hartman wrote it in a way that was difficult to follow. I had a very hard time picturing what was going on. Also, apart from the epilogue (which broke my heart in a beautiful, incremental way), the ending seemed too convenient for everyone. Without going into spoiler territory: I was expecting Seraphina to feel sad or lonely because of her¬†circumstances. Instead, she readily accepts them, making a¬†weird leap in “emotion logic” that didn’t make sense to¬†me.

Up¬†until that point, though – ohhhhhhh, I was¬†so close¬†to giving¬†Shadow Scale¬†a perfect score! This was a satisfying, deftly handled end to Seraphina’s story, and arguably the strongest of the two books. The world of Goredd and beyond expands so fully that everything about it – even the dragons – seems as real as the birds and trees outside my window. Apparently Hartman is already working on two new novels set in Seraphina’s world and with a new protagonist, so I’m curious to find out¬†what will happen and who we’ll meet. If you liked Seraphina, don’t miss Shadow Scale. It will be worth your time, a space on your bookshelf, and a place in your heart.

Have you read Shadow Scale? 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.

My Nominations for The Writing Hufflepuff’s 2015 Book Awards

 

Writing Hufflepuff Book Awards

Fellow writer and blogger Michelle @ The Writing Hufflepuff is holding a special Book Awards contest. I don’t know if this is something she does annually or if it’s brand new, but I thought I’d join in and share my picks for as many categories as possible.

Normally I’d share the rules and encourage other bloggers to participate. But considering tomorrow (Sunday, March 29th, 2015) is the deadline for nominations and I’m squeaking these¬†in at the last minute…. Oops? *blushes*

Anyways, here are my nominations for The Writing Hufflepuff’s 2015 Book Awards:

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Stacking The Shelves, Vol. 10: New March Releases + Reading Plan for 2015

book-stack

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.

This is getting a little embarrassing. I’ve seen other bloggers post their Stacking The Shelves hauls more frequently than I post mine, but since I don’t seem to read as quickly as other people do, I feel like I shouldn’t¬†buy¬†more books for a while. But I went ahead and bought¬†two more. *blushes*

Anyways, these¬†novels might look familiar, since they were both featured in past Waiting on Wednesday posts. I’ve also decided to share my “reading plan” for the rest of 2015, so you can get an idea of what to expect review-wise in the coming months.¬†But first, the new books!

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Waiting On Wednesday, Vol. 3: “Shadow Scale” by Rachel Hartman

Waiting on Wednesday_1

Waiting On Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Breaking The Spine that spotlights upcoming book releases that I‚Äôm looking forward to. My¬†WOW postings won‚Äôt be¬†weekly, but they’ll¬†come on Wednesdays when my blogging schedule is¬†open and when I add a yet-to-be-published book to my wishlist.¬†

It’s going to be a quiet week here at the blog. After immersing myself in¬†novel-writing land for a few days, I’m now focusing on finishing¬†new articles for DIY MFA and A Bibliophile’s Reverie. So, it’s a good week to sneak in a Waiting On Wednesday!

This Wednesday, I’m waiting on Rachel Hartman’s Shadow Scale, which comes out in March. I read¬†Hartman’s first novel¬†Seraphina¬†in November and enjoyed its whimsical blend of humor, well-rounded characters, musicality, and original dragon lore and culture. From the sounds of¬†Shadow Scale‘s blurb below, it’s going to pick up right where¬†Seraphina¬†left off as our heroine goes off to find others of her kind (half-dragon, half-human). It may mean that certain supporting¬†characters from Seraphina¬†might not¬†appear this time – yet¬†I’m sure Hartman will give us plenty of reasons to be endeared to the new “cast members” who join Seraphina’s journey.

Shadow Scale cover

Shadow Scale
Rachel Hartman
Fantasy / Young Adult
Publication Date: March 10, 2015
Amazon / Barnes & Noble / Goodreads

Synopsis:

The kingdom of Goredd: a world where humans and dragons share life with an uneasy balance, and those few who are both human and dragon must hide the truth. Seraphina is one of these, part girl, part dragon, who is reluctantly drawn into the politics of her world. When war breaks out between the dragons and humans, she must travel the lands to find those like herself‚ÄĒfor she has an inexplicable connection to all of them, and together they will be able to fight the dragons in powerful, magical ways.

As Seraphina gathers this motley crew, she is pursued by humans who want to stop her. But the most terrifying is another half dragon, who can creep into people’s minds and take them over. Until now, Seraphina has kept her mind safe from intruders, but that also means she’s held back her own gift. It is time to make a choice: Cling to the safety of her old life, or embrace a powerful new destiny?

What book(s) are you waiting on this Wednesday? Are you also looking forward to Shadow Scale?

Top 10 Science Fiction & Fantasy Series I Want To Start

I don’t normally follow The Broke and The Bookish’s Top 10 Tuesday meme because I doubt I’d be able to keep up with it (thank you, busy writing schedule and offline life). But after reading Anya’s list at On Starships and Dragonwings, I knew I should do my own Top 10 list of science fiction and fantasy series I want to start reading. So, here we go!

NOTE: There may be a slight trend toward the fantasy side of the spectrum. ūüėČ

1. Susan Cooper’s The Dark Is Rising Sequence (YA Dark / Contemporary Fantasy)

Dark Is Rising boxset

I like to catch up on the classics as well as more recent books. Cooper’s The Dark Is Rising was written in the 1960s and 70s, which puts it up there in age with Ursula Le Guin’s earliest Earthsea novels. The first book in the sequence, Over Sea Under Stone, has been sitting on my shelf unread for… at least a couple years *lol* This article is serving as my reminder to dive into The Dark Is Rising soon.  Continue reading