Wednesday, January 6, 2016

2015 Recap

With 2015 at an end and a new year under way, I thought I'd share a recap of the books I read in the past year! These are books I read in 2015, they did not necessarily come out this year.

Favorite Books Overall: 
These were the two standouts for me this year. They are very different from
each other, but they both have things that I adore in fiction. City of Stairs is set in a very well developed High Fantasy world with an intricate government system and sense of magic. I loved that the main character in this book, Shara, was a woman who used her brains to save the day, but every character was distinctive and interesting in this story from her Viking Prince henchman to the to the rugged general who is reluctantly dragged into the plot while pining to retire to some place tropical. It was adventurous and fast-paced, but was well balanced with relationships and a complicated plot. I highly recommend it for your 2016 TBR list.
            I’ll Give You the Sun has a lot of the things I love about YA. A brother and a sister grow up and struggle to deal with romance, family relationships, and tragedy, but at the end it is intensely hopeful. I also adore interweaving storylines (think Love Actually) and this book had it in spades. It was brutal, honest, yet lovely and beautifully told. I will gladly read anything this author puts out because of this book.

Least Favorite: 
I had a lot of problems with this book, but to sum it up in one word: depressing! I don’t have a
vendetta against sad books, I love a good tragedy, but I do have a problem with books that are unnecessarily depressing. For me, for a sad story to have an impact, there should be an inevitability to it or at least a good reason for it. This book had neither. Not to spoil too much, but essentially it is revealed at the end that the main character could have logged onto Facebook at any time and saved herself a lot of suffering. She wouldn’t have been able to save herself from losing her parents, but just about everything else could have been averted. This left me with a feeling of “then why did I read this?” I probably wouldn’t have finished it except that it was a review book. Oh well.

Favorite Heroes: 
Shara from City of Stairs and √Čtienne St. Clair from Anna and the French Kiss

I mentioned Shara earlier, but I’ll just reinstate briefly: She is a kick butt character. She’s always the smartest person in the room, but she’s also incredibly brave and does a lot of her own legwork as well. She is one of the things that makes City of Stairs great.
St. Clair. How do you not love St. Clair? He’s just a fantastic YA male romantic lead. Kind, funny, and vulnerable at times. He and Anna are one of the cutest couples I’ve read about in a long time, and part of that has to do with his character. He’s not dark and brooding or some sort of romanticized knight in shining armor. He’s charming and charismatic, but has his own problems. Little birdies tell me St. Clair and Anna make reappearances in Stephanie Perkins’ companion books, so I’ll have to get started on those

Most despicable Villain: 
Assef from The Kite Runner
            Assef is so despicable at times I wonder if Hosseini was even a bit heavy-handed in his portrayal of him. Not only does he assault children, and join the Taliban, but he has to idolize Hitler as well. Yikes. I get a visceral feeling of hatred just thinking about him. Moving on…

Hidden Gems: 
Stay the Distance is a great YA horse story. It’s “hidden” since it is from a small press and not widely known about. I really enjoyed it and would recommend it to fans of stories like Flicka and National Velvet at the drop of a hat!
Egil’s Saga is “hidden” because, it is not well known about. Lots of people read Ancient Greek and Roman works in school, but Egil’s Saga is from medieval Iceland and I had never heard of it until a history course I took last semester. Iceland has a rich tradition of literature, from poetry to prose sagas, and after learning about this I was really surprised that this was not well known about (in America at least). Especially for fans of history, there is a lot of insight into life at this place in time in these works, as well as a lot of evidence of where the likes of Tolkien and George R. R. Martin get their inspiration. I kept expecting the Rohirrim or member of the Stark Family to show up.

Best Romances: 
            If you are on the look out for good romantic reads, I would definitely suggest either one of these. The Mine is a time travel romance (love those) with the male lead from modern times and transports him back to the forties where he meets and falls in love with a female friend of his grandmother’s.
            The Fortunate Blizzard is a M/M romance, and a very quick read. The plot felt a bit rushed at times, but gave me the warm fuzzies, to see the relationship, conflict, and love between the characters.

Best Action: 
City of Stairs (yes, I’m including it in another one) and Throne of Glass

Yet again, City of Stairs makes it onto a “best of” list, but it was just that good you guys! The magic, gods, and monsters add a lot do the adventure of the story. The aforementioned Viking Prince jumps out of a crashing airship at one point! Despite having such a complicated plot in terms of political intrigue, it also has a ton of action!
            Speaking of magic and political intrigue, Throne of Glass is also incredibly action-packed. I feel kind of late to the party with reading this one, but my friend finally convinced me to read it. Celaena is such a tough fighter and her trials to become the king’s assassin are gripping.

Best Humor: 
Aristophanes’ Frogs

For one of my college courses last semester I had to read Aristophanes’ Frogs. I wouldn’t have expected an ancient Greek play to be so hilarious, but I was laughing out loud throughout it. It has a great combination of slapstick, bathroom-humour, and poking fun at other contemporary playwrights, which I’d also studied. It is by far my favorite thing I read in class last semester in any of my classes, as well as the best “humor” book I’d read all year.

Best Young Adult Reads: 
Since Howling Turtle is first and foremost a YA blog, I thought I’d commend my favorite book of the genre. I couldn’t pick just one, so I narrowed it down to my top three:

This is Not a Love Story is, ironically enough, a love story. I had encountered the characters in a novella written by the same author a while ago and loved to see their story. It is heartbreaking and gritty, but so passionate at the same time.

Out of the Easy is written by the same author as Between Shades of Gray, and I was so moved by that book that I was eager to read anything else that author put out. Out of the Easy is a coming of age story in a historical setting, but also has a phenomenal cast of characters and deals with some real issues of the time.

Anna and the French Kiss is one of the sweetest books I read all year. A love story focusing characters at an international school it is whimsical and romantic. The characters’ lives are far from perfect, but the strength they draw from each other and Anna and St. Clair’s relationship made me smile.

Needless to say, I highly recommend these books to readers of YA. These books touched me and moved me to all sorts of different emotions. They are a part of what made me have a wonderful 2015.

What were your favorite books of 2015? I’d love to hear in the comments!

Disclosure: this post contains links to an affiliate program (Amazon), for which I receive a few cents if you make purchases. 

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