Miscellaneous

2015 Reading Year In Review

My Goodreads TBR list was sort of like the hungry caterpillar when it came to new releases this year; anything and everything was shelved. Unfortunately, with that being said my actual reading accomplishments were lukewarm. I read a meager forty-five books, largely due to the fact that I really did not fall in love with any stories this year (oh, and the little detail that I reading NOTHING this summer). To illustrate this, my average rating was a mere 3.29 with only three books receiving five stars. In any case, I would still like to enlighten you guys with a sentence or two of my thoughts on each book, with the highlighted titles being my top fifteen of 2015. Who knows? Maybe you’ll scoop up a gem I found covered in soot.

Falling Into Place by Amy Zhang January 5, 2015 4 stars

I read Falling Into Place mainly because I felt bad about having read zilch over break and needed a quick and easy contemporary. Little did I know I would actually wind up loving it, heartbreaking as it may have been. The story’s truly a testament in creating three dimensional, real life characters than can hold the story on their own through inner monologues and dialogues, in the place of any real action at all. Even more incredible is the unbelievable skills then sixteen year old author Amy Zhang displayed in crafting the aforementioned genuine characters and the taut relationships that connect them. She is certainly a writer to watch as time goes on.

The Spectacular Now by Tim Thatcher January 13, 2015 2 stars

Having never seen the movie adaptation of The Spectacular Now I can only testify to my feelings on the book itself, but I’m pretty sure I know wholeheartedly that Sutter Keely’s a jerk and Aimee must be crazy for staying with him. ‘Nuf said. But seriously, Sutter has to be the most self absorbed nitwit ever to grace a young adult book. I get that Thatcher was trying to create an unambitious, party boy type and he did do a very good job in hitting the nail on the head, but there was absolutely zero growth in him from beginning to end. Also, while Aimee is a total shrinking violet (at least at the start) and needed the presence of someone like Sutter to get her to grow a spine, their relationship dynamic is so strange that any possible romance is sucked out of it.

I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson January 26, 2015 4 stars

Jandy Nelson’s debut, The Sky is Everywhere, was a 2013 favorite of mine that left me eagerly anticipating more work from her. Though I had to wait nearly two whole years, it was worth avoiding the sophomore slump with the even more fabulous I’ll Give You the Sun. Told through unique storytelling (one twin narrates a present timeline, the other alternates with the past events leading up to now), it really is the total package for any audience. There’s unabashed purple prose throughout, a fast paced plot, a great romance and even better sibling dynamics, plus some interesting references to art and science that I appreciated as a quirky touch. I only wish it wasn’t quite so heavy on the mature content so more teachers could stack it in their shelves.

The Museum of Intangible Things by Wendy Wunder January 29, 2015 1 star

Despite loving the cover- I mean COME ON! Tell me you can look at it and not instantly fall in love- I actually ended up sort of despising the story inside. So much so that I gave it a god awful one star rating, one of only two time I did so all year. It’s just that there was nothing at all redeeming about the book to warrant anything higher than what I rated it at. Wendy Wunder just completely massacred a potentially dreamy, wanderlust infused road trip with a weird plot (no other word describes it, other than maybe conceived under the influence of psychedelic LSD), horribly dull characters, and an ending that is sort of like “What to the what-what?”.

Zac & Mia by A.J. Betts February 4, 2015 3 stars

In a book world shook by love triangles and star crossed lovers, it may seem like a requirement for publication in the genre to include a doomed romance on top of umpteen other, more pressing, issues. In her debut A.J. Betts took that tried and trued formula, turned it on the head, and instead opted to create a platonic friendship between a boy and a girl who meet in a cancer ward. Basically what ensues is a book that could have been very successful in a pre-The Fault In Our Stars world, but now could not stand under the pressure of its own weight. Though it’s far less pretentious than its predecessors, and with that much more realistic, Zac & Mia borrowed too many elements from other stories for me to give it any higher than a three star rating.

A Death Struck Year by Makiia Lucier February 10, 2015 4 stars

Following the influenza epidemic of 1918, A Death Struck Year is a look at posh and privileged Cleo Berry’s life after becoming a Red Cross nurse. Though that premise sounds great (and it is) I was a little concerned when I first started reading that the book was too juvenile to really sink its teeth into any depth of issues at the time. It’s just written at such a young reading level at first with a kind of detach from what’s happening. As I read on however the plot began looking at many interesting facets of 1918 America, both in and outside of the hospital. I myself found the discussions on the scandal of birth control at the time quite fascinating, and the glass ceiling present in the medical field for women. Even more curious is the often times very detailed descriptions of Cleo’s grisly duties at the hospital, only serving to further highlight the horrors of the disease. All in all a very good historical fiction with a wide range of appeal.

Reboot by Amy Tintera February 17, 2015 4 stars

Reboot ranking in my top fifteen list is probably the most shocking thing on here, with nobody being more surprised than myself. It’s not that Reboot got bad reviews, or the premise didn’t intrigue me, it’s just that in 2015 I’m dystopian-ed out with little tolerance for a not so fresh take on an aspect I’ve already seen done umpteen times before. Amy Tintera however totally “rebooted” my interest in reading about the future with a surprisingly rootable protagonist, a great love interest (read: no love triangle), and a very immersive world system I’ve never seen done before. I never did get around to reading the sequel though I have heard some great things about it, but had I discovered the books at a more relevant time I guarantee they would have been all over this blog.

Black Ice by Becca Fitzpatrick February 26, 2015 3 stars

Black Ice is a total fluff read with a quasi creepy love interest and a mean girl protagonist, but it still delivers unfailingly with the laughs even if you’re chuckling at the expense of the book instead of with it. The million dollar question throughout was why exactly two rugged criminals would think party princess Britt is an experienced mountaineer, but nevertheless I’m glad I had to endure some painful descriptions by Becca Fitzpatrick of how “tough” Britt was for knowing which direction to walk in (I kid, I kid…sort of), so I could play witness to Mason and her carrying out their steamy eye fondling in a fashion worthy of the The Bachelorette meets Stockholm Syndrome. As horrible as this may sound if you go into the book in the right state of mind it can be very enjoyable.

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson March 2, 2015 4 stars

Easily in my top five middle grade picks for 2015, Brown Girl Dreaming is a must have read aloud for any elementary school teacher. As I read it’s clear that the stories Jacqueline Woodson writes of her childhood (this is the award winning author/poet’s memoir of her young life) were one’s she has thought of for quite some time, and devoted great time and detail to analyzing in her current self’s context. Besides that, I feel though the storytelling at hand is of a high quality, it will still be very accessible to interested readers of any age and skillset; perfect for everyone. Whether you read it for fun or devote a unit around the fantastic language and history, please pick this one up.

Beware the Wild by Natalie C. Parker March 10, 2015 4 stars

Beware the Wild is a strange book, to say the least. Unlike other magical realism books I read this year though I quite enjoyed it, and found the quirkiness to be well grounded and conceivable to my rigid mind. As the plot really wasn’t linear, a lot of the who’s and what’s have faded from my memory but I do recall quite liking the spunky heroine and her love interest. The stories intermingled in the main storyline were done very well and helped me to sympathize with the “antagonist” whom I otherwise would have hated. Natalie C. Parker certainly cut out a lot to chew with her debut but I feel she succeeded in telling an engrossing tale that incorporated multiple elements of bayou culture past and present.

Rooms by Lauren Oliver March 16, 2015 4 stars

Through the grapevine I’ve heard many readers mention that they feel Lauren Oliver should just stick to young adult, her native habitat. To that I must say I 100% disagree! Though Oliver’s debut Before I Fall is still widely regarded her strongest work- and I am one of those people- I would say Rooms is a close second as far as character development and literary merit are considered. The reason I think it garnered so many negative reviews is the fact it’s written with a very distinct reader in mind, one most likely different from the person who raved over her contemporaries and middle grade. Knowing though that it is a quirky story with an unconventional cast of characters beating at its heart, I  would say that should be enough for you to know if this book is a good fit for your tastes. And if it is, I highly recommend it!

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell March 21, 2015 5 stars

I am a huge fan of Rainbow Rowell’s Attachments and Fangirl, but had routinely avoided reading what many consider to be her best work to date. Not having lived in the ‘80’s I was worried a lot of the appeal older readers found would be lost on me, and the thought of my go to favorite Rowell disappointing me was too hard to bear. In the end though I’m glad I put my trepidations aside and decided to give Eleanor & Park a try, as it is my favorite work of hers to date and one of my top picks for 2015. My biggest fear, the setting, was actually what I believe to be the strongest point of the entire book and what sells it to so many readers. Instead of being potentially alienating, all the 80’s references are generally mainstream enough to be accessible to everyone; creating a very rich world almost like a movie in its precision and detail. Though I know the camp is small, if you haven’t read this book it must move to the top of your to-be-read priorities.    

Winterkill by Kate A. Boorman March 27, 2015 1 star

The premise for Winterkill is so cool, basically a book version of The Village minus the plot twist. Unlike M. Night Shyamalan however, Kate A. Boatman did not peak with this story. In fact, she just kind of flatlined. Harsh as that may be it is 100% true, with Winterkill suffering from a dull heroine, creepy love triangle, pointless “secrets”, and an unmoving plot. The book left so little of an impression on me (other than my constant near DNF shelf) that now, not even a year later, could I tell you anything specific that happened. There’s not a whole lot more to say other than if this is on your to-be-read shelf, get it off pronto!

Positive: A Memoir by Paige Rawl April 2, 2015 4 stars

I discovered Positive: A Memoir after reading the lovely Ms. Rawl’s interview in Seventeen magazine. She had just been honored with an award celebrating her courage in raising HIV/AIDS awareness, but even in ink retained an aura of warmth and kindness. It was only when I read her awe inspiring book that I realized the Paige before a nation was the product of years of cruelty and difficult mental health recovery. Hers in no way an easy story to read but one that offers a wealth of new perspectives for those willing to open their eyes. To me Paige Rawl’s incredible memoir should be required reading in all junior high classrooms, both to debunk myths, raise awareness, and promote tolerance for diversity.

Torn Away by Jennifer Brown April 15, 2015 4 stars

Jennifer Brown has become known for writing hard hitting contemporaries. With Torn Away she continues that trend in telling the story of Jersey, a teenage girl who finds her whole life severed by the aftermath of a deadly tornado. The hardest part of reading Jersey’s story is realizing just how true it unfortunately is for many people. With that, I applaud Brown for shining a light on an unglamorous, but all too present, part of America that most media shy’s away from capturing in a true light. The ending, while definitely bittersweet, finds Jersey heading in a better direction which I am all too grateful for.

The Coldest Girl In Coldtown by Holly Black April 28, 2015 3 stars

The curse of Holly Black continues in this behemoth book that probably could have been a hundred page novella. The premise of The Coldest Girl In Coldtown is cool and had a lot of promise to get turned into a TV show by ABC Family (oh, sorry…Freeform) with the whole reality TV meets vampires element, but the whole book just lagged building up to what should be an epic finale. Except, you guessed it, not so much. I felt sort of cheated having invested all this time to really get nothing in turn. It was pretty much like going to work and being forgotten on the payroll.

Full Tilt by Neal Shusterman April 30, 2015 4 stars

Though I appreciated Full Tilt in all its quirky glory, I must say I’m glad Neal Shusterman has switched gears since his early days of publication to more mainstream acceptable stories. From time to time though I can appreciate a bizarre book, and it just so happened I was in the right state of mind whilst reading. Know those this weird little story is not for all his current fans, as on several occasions it crossed the line from science fiction to horror to psychological thriller and back in the span of a single chapter. By the end even I wasn’t sure what to make of things; what was real or imaginary, who existed and who didn’t, and what really went down the night of the carnival.

Crank by Ellen Hopkins May 2, 2015 4 stars

Let it be known that I hate books in verse. I am in no way, shape, or form a poetry fan and the thought of reading an entire book in that format makes me want to be boiled in oil. Hence, why I have avoided reading the queen of verse my entire life. I needed something quick though and despite my better judgement picked up Crank. Low and behold I am in love…shocking. There’s just something about Hopkins writing that even though it’s clearly free verse through and through is accessible to everyone with ease, and even serves to further accentuate the already great story.  I honestly could not imagine the book any other way.

Deadline by Chris Crutcher May 7, 2015 3 stars

The whole time I was reading Deadline I kept wondering how I would rate it. It’s got good characters, interesting dynamics, humor, boy and girl appeal, plus very solid writing. But…something’s missing. It took me a while to put my finger on it but as I was writing my review I realized that in the end it amounts to nothing more than relevancy. This book came out in 2007. While that may not seem like a long time, in the world of young adult those eight years consisted of a paranormal phase, a dystopian phase, and finally a subgenre of “kids dying beautifully of cancer” phase. So yeah, a lot has happened. Because of that, while Deadline is an okay story there are so many more out there who do the same storyline better there’s honestly no point in reading it.                                                                 For my full thoughts:Deadline Review

If You’re Reading This by Trent Reedy May 22, 2015 2 stars

Similar to Deadline above, while If You’re Reading This is structurally a good story- there’s really no point in reading it. The easiest comparison I can think of is cars; the one very plain, practical, utility vehicle on the road meant to fill a void for those looking to stay inside their comfort zone. Sure it’s durable and will certainly stand the test of time, but wouldn’t you rather have the ferrari? Me too. If you’re looking for a great book on the consequences of war I would highly recommend Purple Heart by Patricia McCormick.

Flora & Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo July 13, 2015 4 stars

Absolutely adorable, inside and out! Honestly it’s shocking that it’s taken this long for a children’s author to write a book with a squirrel sidekick, but leave it to Kate DiCamillo to fill the void. As I mentioned in my review I think I might honestly prefer Flora & Ulysses to Because of Winn-Dixie, because it’s just so darn cute and heartwarming. Two spunky protagonists obviously make for a very enjoyable pairing, and it’s hard to get better than the dynamic of Flora and Ulysses on their adventures to a donut shop, psychic, and beyond. This would make a perfect classroom read aloud sure to have kids excited and engaged.                                                      For my full thoughts:Flora & Ulysses Review

Don’t Fail Me Now by Una LaMarche August 24, 2015 3 stars

Don’t Fail Me Now was the first ARC I ever received, so obviously I’m a bit partial to it. I just wish though that I could have given it a more positive review. To me, it just did not satisfy all the potential it had to discuss hot button issues such as race relations and socioeconomic differences, with Una LaMarche instead choosing to focus more on the road trip aspect. Though LaMarche is a talented writer and I cared deeply for the protagonist, all I saw throughout was what could have been. It really was one of those “it’s me not you” type of deals where I think I just expected too much from it based on the synopsis, but if you go in with your anticipations checked this is a very cute contemporary worth picking up. For my full thoughts:Don’t Fail Me Now Review

The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier August 25, 2015 5 stars

I read The Chocolate War as a last ditch effort at making my goal of reading ten classics this year (surprise, surprise; I failed), but nevertheless I’m glad I got around to finally reading this frequently challenged testament to corruption. Despite being published in the mid-1970’s it truly does not show its age, a hurdle much assigned reading can’t seem to get over. I think this timeless quality allowed me not to focus so much on the writing, but instead on the symbolism and themes throughout. I was further aided by the ever trusty Sparknotes, which I enjoyed reading as I finished each chapter to see how they analyzed each character, scene, and dialogue. Though I may not have much to go off of, I believe few classic can compare to The Chocolate War

Out of Darkness by Ashley Hope Perez August 30, 2015 4 stars

Out of Darkness has to be the most emotionally draining book I read all year. The plot is just like sucker punch and sucker punch right to the feels from page one to the epilogue. All the abuse to my tear ducts came largely from Ashley Hope Perez’s beautiful writing prowess. Perez clearly has  a talent for making readers feel all the feels, and I only appreciated it more as an aspiring writer. By the stories penultimate chapter even a description of the arid Texas landscape was enough to send me into fits of sadness, as I knew that this safe haven for characters I’d come to love was quickly about to be metaphorically incinerated. I felt deeply not just for the beautiful love of Wash and Naomi, but the moving sibling dynamic Naomi, Beto, and Cari share as well; the knowledge this would soon be gone was deeply heartbreaking from the get go. A must read for historical fiction lovers looking for a tale previously gone untold.                                 For my full thoughts:Out of Darkness Review

Doll Bones by Holly Black September 2, 2015 2 stars

After being less than impressed with Holly Black’s young adult paranormal The Coldest Girl In Coldtown, I decided to give her foray back into middle grade (Black’s natural habitat) another chance. Selecting Doll Bones over the Spiderwick Chronicles, I enveloped myself into a world promising a mysterious murder, creepy dolls, and friendship. Except…it sort of wasn’t any of those things. The murder and the doll really only pop up when it serves Black to add confusion to her characters adventure, and mostly take a backseat to the lackluster junior high romance that Black isn’t really sure she wants to commit to. The pacing is stunted, with aspects of the plot being shut down as soon as they gain momentum in favor of other, less interesting subjects. I don’t really think the story has appeal to anyone, caught in a no man’s land of young storytelling to an older demographic.                                                                                                       For my full thoughts:Doll Bones Review

Lost In the Sun by Lisa Graff September 6, 2015 4 stars

Following up my lackluster feelings of fellow middle grade Doll Bones, I picked up the latest work of a longtime favorite author of mine Lisa Graff; Lost In the Sun. As she’s come to be known for, Graff took several cliched conventions that in other, less talented, hands easily could have turned into a trainwreck and instead rewrote them in such a transformative way that never would I have guessed they were once something old and worn down. I was more than pleased that her writing had not lost any luster as time went on, and will likely always hold a special place in my heart.Not too mention the gooey, my heart just grew two sizes, plot filled with many sweet and tender moments for the begrudging grinch in all of us.

More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera September 11, 2015 3 stars

I get why publishers print comparisons of books on the dustjacket. They attract an ideal reader, build hype, and give people an idea what the plot is about (unless it’s The Hunger Games meets The Bachelor, in which case proving that buzzwords do sell books). More Happy Than Not however has a unique situation, wherein Adam Silvera’s agent probably should have advised against comparing the book to a movie…with the exact same twist! And it would be total surprise, I definitely wouldn’t have guessed it under normal circumstances, but having seen Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind it was just like “Duh!” the whole time I was reading.  Because of that it was hard for me to build my own opinions on the characters, plot, etc. when I already knew the direction Silvera was taking everything. Hence, a kind of lame rating.

The Porcupine of Truth by Bill Konigsberg September 17, 2015 4 stars

I picked The Porcupine of Truth up on a whim, to fill a hole in my reading with what I anticipated to be a been-there-done-that type of a story. Afterall, the whole shebang (plot and characters included) are young adult staples; road trip to find mysterious relative=key to solving all problems, poor communication, nerdy white guy with serious baggage, and the exotic/illusive girl way out of said guys league he will pine after the entire trip. Shockingly though, that couldn’t be farther from the truth. What sets this book apart from others is the direction Bill Konigsberg takes with coming to his resolution; nothing is ever cut and dried with readers being given the knowledge to make their own decisions on religion, sexuality, and what it means to be you. Oh, and did I mention that Konigsberg is hilarious?                                                                                                                         For my full thoughts:The Porcupine of Truth Review

Wolf By Wolf by Ryan Graudin September 24, 2015 5 stars

Historical fiction, despite being my personal favorite, is an oft-underappreciated genre with not nearly enough offerings in young adult. When I find a real gem though, you better believe I’m going to scoop it up and love it forever. Such is the case with Wolf By Wolf, an alternate history meets science fiction take on a post World War II world where the Nazi’s won. It’s edgy and cool, being somewhat off putting to potential readers with a bill of a “shapeshifting motorcycle race”, but that only means you can be the hipster who discovers it before it was cool. Believe me, they will all want to read it too with action, and sci-fi, and badass characters, and meticulous detail for any history buffs out there; literal appeal to anyone. The obvious comparison is Netflix’s The Man In the High Castle, so if that idea at all interests you; read this book!                                                                For my full thoughts:Wolf By Wolf Review

Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon September 28, 2015 2 stars

Everything, Everything was disappointing to say the least. It started off good, if not a little cheesy, with an engaging protagonist and “realistic” (for the storyline at least) actions. Then, with the introduction of Olly, everything just went downhill in an epic blunder of naivete and a syndrome I will now dub as GRWTW (Giving the Reader What They Want). I mean that ending…seriously?!? Did anyone else who read this have a similar problem to the cringe inducing, eye rolling, credibility shattering mistake that was the plot twist? Or was it just me? It’s hard to describe without giving away major spoilers, but basically everything was nothing and the state of California really needs better Child Protective Services.    For my full thoughts:Everything, Everything Review

Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard October 9, 2015 2 stars

Considering Red Queen was a one star book for the first two thirds, I’d say the fact I wound up rating it at two stars is an accomplishment in itself. The plot was my biggest issue with this much acclaimed New York Times Bestseller, I wasn’t expecting a modern War and Peace or anything- just fast paced action that would keep me interested- but the story moved so slow and followed a tried and trued formula so close to a tee that there was no twist to keep me turning the pages. Mare also annoyed me to no end with her constant whining and melodramatics, not to mention Victoria Aveyard’s built in characterization flaw of  the “every man wants to marry me, all the woman wish me dead” trope. When all the big events began taking place though at the end and the focus was taken off of mean girl antics, Red Queen was a very solid story…leading me to wonder, should I read Glass Sword?                                                                                                            For my full thoughts:Red Queen Review

I Am Princess X by Cherie Priest October 14, 2015 3 stars

Similar to what I wrote above about the problem with Doll Bones, I Am Princess X falls in the same trap of old protagonists in an incredibly juvenile story. That means not only is their no target group, but Cherie Priest tries to make her eighteen year old narrator May sound like the thirteen year old likely to be reading the book; only to result in an alienating character we know quite literally nothing about and whom we really don’t care too. Though the comics intermixed in the actual storyline are cute, they really don’t add anything or give people a grasp on who Libby is or why we should care about finding her. Not to mention that the mystery of Princess X is pretty lame and borders on stupid and contrite most of the time.

Chasing Secrets by Gennifer Choldenko October 21, 2015 4 stars

I’m honestly not sure if I would have rated Chasing Secrets as high as I did had I not read it in the middle of such a reading slump. Though it was cute and had enjoyable historical fiction elements, there really wasn’t anything special or must read about it. Unlike Gennifer Choldenko’s previous Al Capone series there isn’t a lot of humor about this one which might make it dull for some kids though it’s written at such a level I feel most elementary kids could comprehend it with ease. I just don’t think there’s a huge group of third graders curious about the origins of the San Francisco plague. With that being said there likely is a nine year old burgeoning history fanatic just dying to read a book so rooted in the past.

The Accident Season by Moira Fowley-Doyle October 29, 2015 2 stars

The Accident Season is one of those books where you’re really not supposed to know what it’s about until the end. Unfortunately, I’m a certifiable control reader- meaning that at all times I like to understand exactly what is going on and its context to the resolution. If that description sounds at all like yourself; run away, run very quickly away. Because fellow bookworms, this story will take its own sweet time reaching a finale not worth half the pointless build up. I get that it’s magical realism, and that the accident season is really a personification of our characters troubles (and trust me, this family has enough issues to keep a psychiatrist in business for a lifetime) but really was any of the symbolism necessary for telling me that Alice and Sam and Bea and Cara have a lot of shit to figure out (preferably offpage). Definitely for a very specific reader.                         For my full thoughts:The Accident Season Review

Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead November 1, 2015 4 stars

Rebecca Stead cut off a lot to chew with her latest middle grade offering. She’s got friends growing apart, family dynamics shifting, and twerpy boys to top it all off. If anyone could make it work though with grace and tact, leave it to Newberry winner Stead. So did she top her debut When You Reach Me? Well, maybe not from an older readers point of view though Goodbye Stranger has great characters, a lot of heart, and a very interesting theme beating at the heart of the story. It was just that the story had so much potential (most of which was reached and exceeded), I wanted there to be more than the three hundred pages present to answer all the questions I had and to fully flesh out the minds of our three main girls outside of being friends.

The Fill-In Boyfriend by Kasie West November 5, 2015 3 stars

I know this is totally unfair and biased of me, but I read The Fill-In Boyfriend mainly because I wanted to write a snarky review on what I anticipated to be a silly book with an unbearable protagonist. Though it certainly isn’t a masterpiece, and only meant to be read by fans of bubbly sweet contemporary, I was very pleasantly surprised by how quick and enjoyable the book went. Sure Gia is a whiny baby a lot of the time, and we totally would not be besties for life in the real world, but I didn’t mind reading from her point of view. In fact, there was quite a few occasions where I found myself rooting for her despite myself. This was totally a product of smart characterization on Kasie’s West parts. I didn’t lust over love interest Hayden, mainly because I just didn’t feel him and Gia had all that much chemistry, but I still enjoyed reading their banter back and forth. This book is totally made of sugar, and spice, and everything nice.  For my full thoughts:The Fill-In Boyfriend Review

Orbiting Jupiter by Gary D. Schmidt November 9, 2015 4 stars

Orbiting Jupiter is a quiet kind of a book. One whose language is simple and childlike in its earnestness, where the characters are not meant to be hipsters or stoners or golden but unabidingly themselves through and through. It’s this subtleness that makes the blows land all the harder when they come, and come they do. While Gary D. Schmidt may be best known for his outdoorsman fiction, he more than proved himself as a contemporary author with a book bound to strike every single chord in your heart. When I say this know that I am not a book crier, but this touching story left me tearing up in the shattering conclusion; with an ending that though sad and deeply unfair, has a silver lining to it tied in what I can only hope is realism.

 

Every Day by David Leviathan November 10, 2015 2 stars

Every Day has the coolest idea behind it by far compared to the rest of this list. I mean David Levithan literally thought of something everyone has thought of from time to time, and turned it into a book. With that being said, it’s also a perfect example of taking a 100% unique idea and completely massacreing it through two horribly dull protagonists. I just could not bring myself to like Rhiannon, she’s nice I guess- though not exceedingly so- but other than that she has no further defining traits to convince me that it was worth A hijacking total strangers lives in order to make their straw house romance somewhat conceivable. If she was the most interesting person A has come across in sixteen years of being in a different body every single day, I feel bad for the mind numbingly boring life he must have lived. #sorrynotsorry

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo November 25, 2015 5 stars

Perhaps my favorite book this year (tied closely with Wolf By Wolf), you would never know it by the sheer amount of time it took me to complete it. In my defense though, Six of Crows is a monster of a book -not that I’m complaining- and I wanted to savor every last drop of the richly developed plot. The characters are AMAZING and by far the book’s strongest point in my opinion. With five different point of view and six main characters it can be a bit overwhelming but I can’t imagine the story being told any other way, and it just added so much to my understanding of things. I had never read Leigh Bardugo’s Grisha trilogy, though that is not essential to understanding this books events, but I do wish I had now as I believe I would have grasped the very complex world much quicker if I had been enveloped in it before. While readers new to the world of Ravka and Ketterdam may take a time to be fully immersed, it’s absolutely worth getting over the learners curve to “live” the finale!

The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh December 3, 2015 4 stars

This was one of my most anticipated 2015 new releases, and I’m so glad I got around to reading it! Renee Ahdieh is such a talented author and one of few I’ve discovered who can successfully weave a romance into the forefront of a fantasy without it seeming unnatural and forced. With that being said I’m glad this plot was in her hands as retelling are always fragile things, either with steep payoff or disastrous results depending on the handling of them. Ahdieh absolutely did Arabian Nights justice and in fact even brought a new and interesting spin to a story Grimm and Disney have already tackled. Oh, and don’t even get me started on that ending! I cannot wait for The Rose and the Dagger to hit shelves.

These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly December 15, 2015 2 stars

Seeing that for the first two hundred pages of this half a thousand heavyweight I believed it would earn a place in my top fifteen of 2015 list, I’m very disappointed. Jennifer Donnelly started off with a great story on her hands; a fast paced setting, a well set up mystery, a promising romance, and a spunky protagonist with lots of room to develop. After rehashing practically the same scenario with different circumstances more times than I can count however, things began to lose their luster. I mean how many times can Jo a. look longingly into Eddie’s eyes? B. Sneak around New York City? C. Debate her arranged marriage and life woes? D. Trust her uncle with very inopportune information? Honestly, it was a little ridiculous especially when I had the whole mystery figured out with two hundred pages left to blunder and trudge through.

The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness December 21, 2015 2 stars

Patrick Ness is one of my favorite authors of all time, but unfortunately The Rest of Us Just Live Here did not do it for me. The idea of a book parodying the ‘Chosen One’ trope is a good one and with lots of directions to grow in, but there’s also a built in problem in that you must make your characters every day Joe Schmo’s. And as an everyday Joe Schmo surrounded by those exact same people, I don’t really want to read about it in a book. So with that it’s very likely that I’ll forget everything about this book by February as it left very little impression on me for better or worse. There’s a lot of people out there though who seem to love it so who knows? Maybe for the person surrounded by superheroes this would be a refreshing breath of air.       

Fuzzy Mud by Louis Sachar December 24, 2015 4 stars

As a longtime fan of Holes I was very excited to pick up Louis Sachar’s latest; Fuzzy Mud. Though it definitely can’t compare to the formers wit and heart, I was nevertheless still very happy with what this different little story offered up. The story is incredibly fast paced, with the plot moving from Point A to Point B at a lightning fast rate sure to keep reluctant readers entertained. It also mixed in two third person point of views, and Q & A sessions in the past and future to help break things up and give more insight to a fleshed out world. While there certainly are no Stanley Yelnats in the mix, the three main characters are likable and very believable for their age of eleven and thirteen. With a large appeal, it’s hard to go wrong with this one.

Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy December 31, 2015 3 stars

My three star rating is really more of a three and a half for this much acclaimed contemporary. There was a lot I really liked about Dumplin’ such as the realistic portrayal of high school relationships/friendships, the body positive message (even if it was occasionally a tad hypocritical), and the growth of certain characters. On the flip side, there was quite a few things however I didn’t quite buy such as Willow Dean’s somewhat manipulative relationship with a potential love interest, Willowdean herself from time to time, and I would have liked to see more by way of the fraught mother- daughter tensions never quite resolved. Still, quite a fun read in the spirit of Texas beauty pageants.

So that’s what I read in 2015! Here’s to a great year of books and reading. Oh yeah, please let me know what your top picks of the year were in the comments so we can discuss!

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