December 30, 2015

Books & Blogging 2015

I love looking back at my reading and blogging life at the end of the year, and I find that the Annual End of Year Book Survey is also a fun way to do that! (Check out Jamie's post for details.) Anyway, as I did the previous year, I worked hard to make sure that I didn't repeat answers too many times. But, as they say, you love what you love, so there are some books that make multiple appearances on the survey this year. Check out this year's answers! (You can also visit my 2011 post, my 2012 post, my 2013 post, and my 2014 post, should you so desire.)

Number of books you read: 280 books (as of December 23, 2015)
Number of rereads: 45 (which is three times what I expected to reread this year!)
Genre you read the most from: contemporary (though fantasy wasn't too far behind!)

1. Best book you read in 2015?
Without fail, I always cheat when it comes to this question. I just hate the thought of any of my beloved reads getting left out in the cold. Plus, highlighting a ton of awesome books is just the cool thing to do, in my opinion.

YA Contemporary: Every Last Word
YA Fantasy: Six of Crows
YA Historical: Walk on Earth a Stranger
YA Science Fiction: Winter
Backlist Book: One Plus One
New Kid on the Block: The Wrong Side of Right
Series Binge: The Darkest Minds
Author I Love: Queen of Shadows

2. Book you were excited about & thought you were going to love more but didn't? 
The book that immediately comes to mind is The Wrath and the Dawn. It was definitely filled with vivid descriptions, and true potential as a book I'd fall in love with... but unfortunately, I didn't. My response was pretty lukewarm, and that saddened me since so many of my friends really loved it.

3. Most surprising (in a good way or a bad way) book you read?
I was pleasantly surprised by The Wrong Side of Right. It really drew me in, since Thorne has a similar storytelling style to Sarah Dessen and she wrote something that had a number of different aspects feeding into it. (You should read this book!) As for a book that surprised me in a bad way, I'd have to go with Thicker Than Water and The Devil You Know. Both are books written by authors I love, but both are also books that left me disappointed.

4. Book you "pushed" the most people to read (and they did)?
It's not so much a book per se, as it is authors. I specifically recommended Julie Garwood (The Secret + Ransom) and Lisa Kleypas (the Travis series, the Wallflowers series) to my friends, and so far, I've gotten rave reviews from the ones who have read it. (Hi Kelly! Hi Rachel!) I seriously recommend starting with these two authors if you're new to historical romance. They've got storytelling that's swoony and funny and enjoyable in the bag. (P.S. I also still recommended the Throne of Glass series and the Newsoul series!)

5. Best series you started in 2015? Best sequel of 2015? Best series ender of 2015?
I was really impressed with An Ember in the Ashes. It was brutal and brilliant, and I'm dying to find out what happens next for Elias and Laia since the stakes are higher than ever. As for sequel, I'm obviously going to go with Queen of Shadows, because it was bloody brilliant. The world got bigger, the stakes got higher, the squad goals got even cooler, and I just loved it from start to finish (even during the parts that hurt). And for series ender, Winter is the clear winner. I seriously don't know how Marissa Meyer managed to juggle multiple characters, ships, plot points, and humor in such an awesome way, but I love it.

6. Favorite new author you discovered in 2015?
I already previously shared fifteen authors who were new-to-me in 2015. But for this question, I wanted to specifically highlight Stacey Lee, author of Under a Painted Sky and the upcoming Outrun the Moon. Both books are brilliant! (I was lucky enough to receive an early copy of Outrun the Moon, and have already read it.) What I love most is that she writes historical YA fiction that features a Chinese main character. As a fellow Asian, and as a fan of historical fiction, I love getting to read more historical YA from the perspective of an Asian character!

7. Best book from a genre you don't typically read?
I don't read a lot of dystopian novels anymore (though there was certainly a time I did). But I binge read The Darkest Minds series this year, and man, it's one epic saga, friends. I loved it with all of my heart, even though it put my feelings through the wringer again and again and again. The world-building was pretty incredible, the themes were thoughtful and the characters were interesting and complex. I fell hard for these books, and would highly recommend them to all readers.

8. Most action-packed/thrilling book of the year?
I read quite a few books that were heavy on the action, but I honestly found it hard to put Six of Crows down once I'd started. The story is very twisty, as it reveals the lives and histories of the Crows, as well as showing off their skills in an incredible, impossible heist. It was so exciting to be unable to predict what would happen at any turn, whether or not they would succeed, and I just really think it was fun to be in the midst of all the action!

9. Book you read in 2015 that you are most likely to reread in 2016?
Among quite a few series I'll be trying to reread in preparation for the last books coming out, I'll definitely be rereading Queen of Shadows. I do want to refresh my memory when it comes to this series, just so it'll be even more emotional and fun to jump into the next one. And it wouldn't hurt to spend more time with these characters I love!

10. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2015?
I'm still so in love with how the covers for the Firebird trilogy are executed. I reread A Thousand Pieces of You, and read Ten Thousand Skies Above You this year, and both of these books have beautiful covers. The vibrant colors. The lovely depiction of these locales. The simplicity of the title font. I just love the entirety of the cover designs! (It's a wonder that I don't own either book yet.)

11. Most memorable character of 2015?
Male: Kaz Brekker (Six of Crows) - It's impossible not to love such an impossible character, or at least it is for me! He's ruthless, he's smart, he's determined, and he refuses to show any vulnerability whatsoever. I find that Kaz has such a fascinating persona, and I'm just dying to learn even more about what made him who he is now. And to see what he does when it comes to certain, ahem, members of his team.

Female: Lysandra (Queen of Shadows) - When I first met Lysandra, I didn't like her. But upon learning the truth of who she is as a human being, I realized that she's one of my favorite complex characters to date. Plus, she's got one heck of an ability, a ton of spunk and a lively humor that is the perfect foil for Aelin. (Also, I like saying I'm the Lysandra in my life, while Kelly is the Aelin. Because, you know, it's true.)

12. Most beautifully written book read in 2015?
There's just something about The Weight of Feathers that really worked for me. It wasn't just the story, or just the characters. It was the lovely, thoughtful way that McLemore chose to tell her tale, the way her words just ran right through me as I read her novel, the way I had to reread passages as I read it because I was impressed by the word choices she made. It might not necessarily work for everyone, but it was right up my alley.

13. Most thought-provoking/life-changing book of 2015?
I did read a ton of books that made me think this year, but Girl Before a Mirror is a favorite. I really felt a lot while I was reading this story, so much so that my emotional responses were really intense. It really spoke to me on a strong level, encouraging me to be confident about who I am, what I like and what I want. 

14. Book you can't believe you waited until 2015 to finally read?
I'm going to go with Princess of Thorns for this question, mostly because it was one of the most fun, most clever fantasy novels I read all year! I should have just listened when all my friends were raving about it, but the hype made me nervous and I totally put it off. Thankfully, I have finally read it and joined the adoring crowd of fans this book has accumulated!

15. Favorite passage/quote from a book you read in 2015?

I love coming across a quote in a book that describes an experience, an emotion, a belief that I hold dear, and I've been fortunate to encounter quite a few this year. I shared some of my favorites during the 2015 Book Blogger Love-a-Thon, but of them all, this is the one I love best:

“You know, you spend your whole life feeling like you don’t quite fit in anywhere. And then you walk into a room one day, whether it’s at university or an office or some kind of club, and you just go, ‘Ah. There they are.’ And suddenly you feel at home.”One Plus One

16. Shortest & longest book you read in 2015?
Shortest: Playing for Her Heart (128 pages)
Longest: Winter (824 pages)

17. Book that shocked you the most?
Let's just say that there were quite a few things that happened in Queen of Shadows that left me gobsmacked. I was emotionally wrecked by that novel, and I can't say I regret it because it just means that this book is all sorts of amazing.

18. OTP of the year (You will go down with this ship!)?
I had a few contenders for this question, but really, there's just one ship that stood out to me - Cress + Thorne. You guys, I loved how their relationship was portrayed in Winter! It's 100% perfect for their characters, and 100% awesome for me because I swooned every time something happened between them. Seriously, I love them so.

19. Favorite non-romantic relationship of the year?
I really love Aelin and Lysandra's friendship in Queen of Shadows! It's kind of cool to see how their history shaped their initial interactions, but how their present-day experiences causes their relationship to shift. It's complicated, but in just the right way, and I really liked seeing that type of thing portrayed in a fantasy novel. Plus, these two are badass gals who have each other's backs now. What's not to love?

20. Favorite book you read in 2015 from an author you read previously?
I've said this to many different people, but Six of Crows is my all-time favorite Leigh Bardugo novel. It's fast-paced and clever, filled with characters who I found curiously complex and fascinating. I honestly just didn't stop reading once I'd started (except when life obligations got in the way), and it was worth every single minute I spent glued to the pages. So. Phenomenal.

21. Best book you read in 2015 that you read based solely on a recommendation from someone else?
Kelly is the one who encouraged me to read the Boleyn Trilogy, and she was spot on in her recommendation! I binged all three novels over the course of a weekend, and it was 100% worth it. I love the alternate history Andersen concocted. I loved the characters she wrote, and the complexity of their relationships. I kept swooning and screaming and freaking out while I read; an intense emotional response is usually an indicator of a good read.

22. Newest fictional crush from a book you read in 2015?
Liam certainly is a darlin'. I remember liking him a lot when I first read The Darkest Minds, but now having read the entire series, I know without a doubt he's a new addition to my list of book boyfriends. He's a sweetheart, fighting for the right thing, loyal to his friends and willing to show courage in spite of adversity. 

23. Best 2015 debut you read?
Under a Painted Sky is one of the most unique novels I've ever read, a YA Western with an Asian main character. It was brilliantly written, with descriptions that took me back in time into that particular era, a plot that kept me turning the pages and characters (and relationships) so incredibly intricately woven together.

24. Best world-building in a book you read this year?
While the foundations of the world in Six of Crows were set up in the Grisha trilogy, there's still something fresh and complex about the world depicted in this novel. I love the raw reality, the messiness and the bleak and dark tone. I really am impressed by how Bardugo has added another dimension to her already existing fantasy world!

25. Book that put a smile on your face/was the most fun to read?
I really adored reading Audrey, Wait! The humor in that novel is so undeniable, and I found myself giggling at Audrey's commentary more often than not. Humor is hard to integrate well and smoothly into any story, but Benway definitely succeeded here.

26. Book that made you cry or nearly cry in 2015?
I'm not ashamed to admit that I sobbed while I read One Plus One. The courage, the tenacity, the hope and the kindness - the way that Moyes integrated these things into the tale was enough to send me into a deep emotional spiral of heartbreak and hope.

27. Hidden gem of the year?
I love Corey Ann Haydu, and her middle grade debut Rules for Stealing Stars is a must read! I really like how she combined whimsy with reality. The situation depicted in this story is a hard one, but it's something that is true for certain individuals, and I like that she wasn't afraid to show the bad and the good in her tale.

28. Book that Crushed Your Soul?
In the Afterlight made me an emotional wreck. I was so stressed out with anger, fear and uncertainty, and I just kept hoping that all of my darlings would make it out of their situation alive. Way to go, Alex Bracken, for making my heart seize up and my breathing pause multiple times in a row!

29. Most unique book you read in 2015?
The format is what makes Everything, Everything such a unique read! Aside from the story, there are illustrations and chats and emails integrated into the book. It made the entire story even more charming than it already was, and I thoroughly enjoyed the mix of formats.

30. Book that made you the most mad?
This one was almost too easy for me to pick an answer for - Ash & Bramble. While I didn't necessarily dislike this story, I didn't love it either. I had a lot of discussions with various individuals about the plot and the characters and the pacing, and it was definitely a book that left me feeling quite irritated and not in a good way.

1. New favorite book blog you discovered in 2015?
I'm really obsessed with Bookmark Lit! First of all, her site is 100% adorable, and I really love her design aesthetic. It's definitely just my sort of thing. I also have really enjoyed reading her discussions, visiting her Top Ten Tuesdays and seeing her features! She's also one of the nicest people ever, ever, ever.

2. Favorite review that you wrote in 2015?
Do I really need to pick just one? I loved my post about The Darkest Minds series, especially because it really conveyed how impressed I was with the nuances. I also like how I described Queen of Shadows, since it really was epic and it certainly moved the story forward. And then there's Girl Before a Mirror, a book that simply changed my life. Writing the Lynburn Legacy series review was a whole lot of fun, since I got creative with the format!

3. Best discussion/non-review post you had on your blog?
I really enjoyed writing about rearranging my reads, and I definitely think I'll be writing about my bookshelf/TBR arrangement again next year! I also really enjoyed doing the Voices in Fantasy event, where some great authors talked about fantasy and gave some recommendations.

4. Best event that you participated in?
BEA 2015 was really fun, and ApollyCon was certainly a hoot too! On the blog, I've enjoyed hosting the Love-a-Thon (which will be back and better than ever in 2016!), and doing things with Rachel for Books in Real Life.

5. Best moment of bookish/blogging life in 2015?
I loved getting the opportunity to moderate Sarah's Barnes & Noble event for A Court of Thorns and Roses in New York! It was really cool to get to hang out with one of my favorite authors and chat with her onstage. I also really loved getting to see almost every single one of my bookish BFFs this year (Hannah being the only exception, boo!).

6. Most popular post this year on your blog?
If we're talking views, the top three posts are the 2015 Book Blogger Love-a-Thon, {Bookish} Style Files: The Lunar Chronicles Edition & Macky's review of Prince of the Damned. If we're talking comments, that would be the first two posts I mentioned!

7. Post you wish got a little more love?
There are a few reviews that I wish had gotten more attention - my Travis series review, my Hathaways series review and my Boleyn Trilogy series review. Seriously, all three are such excellent series and deserve your attention!

8. Best bookish discovery?
Hannah introduced me to Folio Society, and I've become obsessed with collection their special editions of some of my favorite novels ever since! I also really love Happy Hello Art for feeding my magnetic bookmark addiction.

9. Did you complete any reading challenges or goals you had set for yourself this year?

Goodreads Reading Challenge: 200 books - COMPLETED
Flights of Fantasy Reading Challenge: 30 books - COMPLETED
Reread Reading Challenge: 15 books - COMPLETED
Dive Into Diversity Reading Challenge: 12 books - COMPLETED
Adult Fiction: 12 books - COMPLETED
Classics: 6 books - COMPLETED
Physical TBR: 50 books - INCOMPLETE

1. One book you didn't get to in 2015, but will be your number one priority in 2016?
Rachel gifted Let the Sky Fall to me a while ago now, but I still haven't read it! I must fix that, particularly since the last book in the series is coming out next year.

2. Book you are most anticipating for 2016 that's not a debut?
I'm really excited about My Lady Jane, a collaboration between Jodi Meadows, Cynthia Hand and Brodi Ashton. It's another alternate history book, one that also happens to be a comedy and I really think I'm going to enjoy it!

3. 2016 debut you are most anticipating?
Ivory and Bone is a novel I'm very excited about. I think it's going to be interesting to read, considering the setting and the set-up for the plot as gleaned from the synopsis. I'm also excited for The Girl from Everywhere and The Love That Split the World.

4. Series books you are most anticipating in 2016?

Sequels: Throne of Glass #5, because I need to know what happens to my squad. A Court of Mist and Fury, because I want to know what threat Feyre and Tamlin have to face now and I need more Lucien. Crooked Kingdom, because I want to see my Crows pull off the impossible feat. The Song Rising, because I need to know what Paige's next move is going to be. A Torch Against the Night, because Elias and Laia still have a ways to go before their story reaches its ends.

Finales: The Beauty of Darkness, because I want to know what Lia is going to do after the events of The Heart of Betrayal. The Winner's Kiss, because I need to know what happens to Kestrel and Arin, and I need that kiss mentioned in the title.

5. Things you hope to accomplish or do in your reading and blogging life in 2016?
  • I really want to keep collaborating with my favorite bloggers to host events on the blog! It's always so much fun to work together to celebrate the things we love. 
  • I'm also quite determined to keep my review books to a minimum. I've read decidedly less this year than I did the year before, and if I can get the number even lower, that would be cool.
  • I want to integrate more personal and lifestyle posts onto the blog. I've fancied being more well-rounded on here, since it's my space, and I hope I can make that happen!
  • I want to read more classics. I did read a few in 2015, but most don't count since they were rereads. I'm pretty well-stocked already, so all I have to do is choose one and read.
  • I want to start posting more on my YouTube channel! I miss recording videos for y'all, even just a simple haul. Thankfully, I now have an excellent backdrop (new shelves!), so you'll hopefully being seeing more of me on video from now on.

6. A 2016 release you've already read and recommend to everyone?

Passenger, because it's a fun, well-executed time travel romp that will take you on an adventure alongside two main characters who are wonderful and incredibly different from each other. Truthwitch, because it's got the best world-building, excellent magical lore, characters that leave an impression, an intricate web of relationships and a plot enticing and exciting. • The Mirror King, because you should be dying to find out what happens to Wil, Black Knife and the rest of the gang in The Orphan Queen. • Outrun the Moon, because it's another historical fiction young adult novel that features an Asian main character and really brings to life the time period it's about.

YOUR TURN - Have you filled out your End of Year Survey yet? (Feel free to link me in your comment so I can go and check it out!) Which of the books on my survey have you read? Which blogs do you enjoy visiting the most? Tell me what you think!


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