My Top 10 Books of 2015

In late December 2014, I set myself a task; to read 50 books in 2015. I didn’t quite make it (I read 38 books which was about 76%) but I am quite impressed with how many books I actually read despite a rather busy and crazy year.

In honour of those 38 books, I’ve picked my top 10 and they are listed below in no particular order. The reviews for each book are attached so you can read my actual review for each in more depth.

  1. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

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I adored this book. I still adore this book. This book has actually made it on to my top books of all time list. It was funny, relatable, full of feels and expertly written. Rowell shows her excellence and has created a memorable and truly fantastic book. With a relatable and lovable main character it’s impossible not to empathise with Cath. It’s so nice to have an author align themselves and write directly for their audience; Rowell created for us an epic homage to a group often forgotten.

Review

2. The Ruby Circle by Richelle Mead

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The perfect conclusion to the Bloodlines series, Mead proved that she is the god that the YA audiences have declared her. This was one of my highly anticipated releases of this year and this book delivered. Mead always shocks me with her conclusions of her series and she did it again this time too. This had me glued to the pages and while I tried hard to ration it so I could make it last, I couldn’t help it and ended up reading it too quickly.

Review

3. Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater

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This book took me so by surprise, mostly because I wasn’t aware it was out, but also because the story line and plot twists were so unexpected. A good unexpected. I loved hearing and learning more about Blue and loved how all of the boys developed as characters. The sheer skill and amount of mythology that Stiefvater packed in made for an eventful and gripping story. This series honestly just keeps getting better and I cant wait to get my grubby paws on the last book in the series in 2016.

Review 

4. Poison Study by Maria V Snyder

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This book was like a drug; the more I read, the more I had to read. I’ve always been a bit skeptical of fantasy romances set in a period time frame, but this book man…. trust me on this one, this book is awesome. This is a stellar first book of a series and I have become a devout follower of the series this year. Yelena is refreshing and bad-ass. Valek gives me nosebleeds and the Commander is believable and boss. The characters are all strong, well-developed and easy to cheer on. Snyder’s skill is phenomenal.

Review 

5. A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J Maas

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This book introduced me to Sarah J Maas and I am eternally grateful to be on board the Maas train. How could I resist a book with the pretty cover and it being a retelling of one of my childhood fairy tales? This book ticked all the boxes; perfectly timed and plotted character and world building, nice and spiritedly moving plot, interesting and unexpected plot twists and a final battle/action sequence that made me almost rip the pages I was holding them so tight. Seriously, if you haven’t read this book then you need to immediately. There’s a reason this book has so much hype; it’s earned it.

Review

6. Rebel Belle by Rachel Hawkins

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There is one word to describe this book; fun. This book had me in stitches. It’s rare that you find a badass girly girl hero that’s worth her salt, but Hawkins delivers. Harper Price is a sassy pleasure who can kick a mans ass without smudging her lipstick. This is what an action film would be like if it was made for women. The ending is perfect and this book just makes me want to float away on a pink fluffy cloud. I’m desperately waiting on the second book to be turned into paperback so I can create a matching set and read it. If it’s anything like this one? It’s bound to be good.

Review

7. Crown of Midnight by Sarah J Maas

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I’m sure some people may be shocked that I chose the second book in this series rather than the first, but guv, trust me, THIS BOOK THO. This book sends the first book in the corner to cry in time out. I just cant even with this book. This book is a non stop train ride to epic-ville. Celaena earns her tough guy card and kicks some serious ass. Did I expect the grand reveal about her past? Yes, I kinda had been expecting it for a while, but I still loved the moment of reveal. I’m so glad Maas gave up on the love triangle because this book moved so much better free from it.

Review to be posted in 2016

 

8. Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

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I was desperate for this book since I found out about it in January. Finally it came in November. This book was everything I hoped it would be and more. Rowell’s skills, impossibly, got better. The plot was snappy but well placed. The characters were fitting fan-girling material and immediately likeable. Rowell just understands her audience and the world within she’s writing in; she’s just too good and pure for this world. I loved that slow burn that she created between Simon and Baz and LOVED that final get-together moment. Bless Rowell and this book. This definitely goes into my top books of all time. I am just so overwhelmed with feels I cant even string two thoughts together about this book.

Review to be posted in 2016

9. The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon 

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A lengthy book and a book that demands your time and appreciation, but definitely worth it. This book was both gripping and a pleasure to read. I loved the gritty sci-fi feel, loved the concept and the dystopian world it worked in. Using a side of fantasy usually kicked to the curb, I loved Shannon’s distinctions between the different types of clairvoyant. While in the beginning the world and the different clairvoyants types were more than a bit confusing, you eventually find your feet just as the heroine looses hers. I loved trying to solve the mystery of this book. Hopefully 2016 will allow me enough time to dedicate to this book’s sequel. It’s plain to see why this book is so well loved.

Review

10. The Archived by V. E Schwab

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This book was a pleasure to read. The mythology was so new and refreshing that the pages seemed to fly by. The overwhelming mystery was compelling and it became an addiction to try and unravel it. The penultimate culmination was fantastic and definitely warrants a series. After lusting after this book for a while, I’m glad I indulged this year and brought it. After having a shaky start to Schwab’s work earlier in the year, this book was certainly redeeming. Fantastic!

Review to be posted in 2016.

Notable Mentions:

Ms Marvel Vol. 1 and 2 by G Willow Willson and et al.

The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken

 

So those are my top 10 of 2015. I would like to thank you, dear reader, for sticking with me through a stop-and-go sort of year and thank you for reading my crazy thoughts and rants. I hope you’ve had a spectacular year full of good books.

2016 on the Undecided Bookworm will contain more reviews to line up with my new reading challenge for the up coming year. I will also be focusing on writing more general blog posts and have lots of ideas ready to discuss and explore. Stay tuned for the reviews of books I read in late 2015 which will becoming early in the new year and look out for the first review of 2016.

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Review: Storm Glass by Maria V. Snyder (Chronicles of Ixia #4)

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Storm Glass by Maria V Snyder

or: *sigh of contentment*

Goodreads   ||  The Book Depository

Synopsis: As a glassmaker and a magician-in-training, Opal Cowen understands trial by fire. Now it’s time to test her mettle. Someone has sabotaged the Stormdancer clan’s glass orbs, killing their most powerful magicians. The Stormdancers—particularly the mysterious and mercurial Kade—require Opal’s unique talents to prevent it happening again. But when the mission goes awry, Opal must tap in to a new kind of magic as stunningly potent as it is frightening. And the further she delves into the intrigue behind the glass and magic, the more distorted things appear. With lives hanging in the balance—including her own—Opal must control powers she hadn’t known she possessed… – powers that might lead to disaster beyond anything she’s ever known.

I think I sat there looking at this book on the shelf for quite a few months. Not long after finishing Fire Study, I quickly raced out and purchased this one…. and then promptly became distracted and uninspired. I think I was initially wary; I was used to hearing things from Yelena’s point of view and I felt mildly uncomfortable about moving away from Yelena and Valek and moving towards the under described and utilised Opal.

In fact, I didn’t even fall in love with Opal or like her much in general until I hit the middle of the book. I really got into this book in the middle of a train trip on the way to Sydney even though I had been trying to get comfortable with it for a few weeks.

It wasn’t due to Snyder’s skill; if anything Snyder’s abilities from Fire Study have only improved (let’s be honest, Fire Study was a bit of a hot mess). I think Opal is just a character who takes a while to warm up to.

I loved learning more about Sitia and the other clans that Yelena didn’t have time to meet. The Storm dancer clan and what they did was really interesting, as was delving more into the glass work made by the Cowan Clan. While waiting for Opal’s character to grow, you are able to focus more on the world around her though I would have very much liked to have known more on how the Citadel and school fared after the disastrous end of Fire Study; like how did they clean up? What was the process of re-organising? Did they create a corruption Inquiry to see how many members of the council Roze had corrupted? What was the effect on the other students?

These questions kind of went un-answered but, I’m honestly not too mad about it.

The pace in this book is a lot better than the previous two; Snyder seems to have found her feet and I think her pacing theory here feels right. It will be interesting to see if she sticks with it through the next two books that we spend with Opal.

Snyder introduces a swath of new characters for this book but focuses mainly on developing Opal which was something that was desperately needed. The new characters are all refreshing and each character is still incredibly different from the last. While old faces do pop up, I really enjoyed all of Snyder’s new characters. I loved Kade. He was interesting, complex and nothing at all like Valek which was a relief. I’m definitely rooting for him and Opal to be a thing.

Snyder also seems to have a fondness for kidnapping her heroines. She doesn’t just do it once, no. I don’t really see why both Opal and Yelena need to be kidnapped so many times. Honestly, it’s starting to just feel like a minor inconvenience now rather than the horrific happening it should be. I mean, Snyder, there are other plot devices and things. Slow down with the kidnapping and hostage scenarios. More than twice in a book would be too much but you’re going way more overboard.

On the positive side, I’m glad Opal was more of an every man than Yelena. Opal seems slightly more realistic to me than Yelena, despite the fact I initially struggled to warm up to her. I’m very excited to see where Snyder takes her next. The next two books are from Opal’s point of view and I’m looking forward to getting my hands on them when my TBR pile diminishes them a bit.

Overall, while I have been critical of this book, I really enjoyed it. Maybe not so much the beginning but the middle and end definitely.

Read: English paperback

Review: Angelfall by Susan Ee

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Angelfall by Susan Ee

or:…. uhhh…. wat

Goodreads    ||    The Book Depository 

Synopsis: It’s been six weeks since angels of the apocalypse descended to demolish the modern world. Street gangs rule the day while fear and superstition rule the night. When warrior angels fly away with a helpless little girl, her seventeen-year-old sister Penryn will do anything to get her back. Anything, including making a deal with an enemy angel. Raffe is a warrior who lies broken and wingless on the street. After eons of fighting his own battles, he finds himself being rescued from a desperate situation by a half-starved teenage girl. Traveling through a dark and twisted Northern California, they have only each other to rely on for survival. Together, they journey toward the angels’ stronghold in San Francisco where she’ll risk everything to rescue her sister and he’ll put himself at the mercy of his greatest enemies for the chance to be made whole again.

I think I may be the only person in the universe that didn’t actually loose their mind over this book. I mean the book was good I guess, but I honestly don’t think its as good as people say. Currently on Goodreads, this book has a 4.20 out of 5 star user review and when I decided to buy this book was around about the same. People LOVE this book and the other two in the series, but I simply cant bring myself to summon up the necessary enthusiasm for this book.

Before the rabid crowd devours me whole, let me be clear; I liked this book, but I didn’t love it. Like it was a solid ‘Ok’. I can’t summon the will to read the other two books in the series (for reasons mentioned in my 5 series that I wont finish post). Peyrn was a lovely, spitfire heroine, but I didn’t get the chance to properly know her or gain a connection to her.

This is what a post apocalyptic movie is like when its been directly transferred to a movie companion novel. This is all go-go-go action and not so much pondering on the state of things. I frequently got confused and lost by what had actually happened to make the world end, and while the angel mythology was intriguing, I had to rely solely on my own Biblical knowledge of angels to get some idea of what was going on.

This all should have been a clue due to the size of the book; it’s skinny and a very quick read. If one was so inclined, it could be easily read in a few hours. I couldn’t because I kept loosing inspiration and left many weeks in between picking it up again.

I can kind of see the appeal of this book however. Its easy to see how people can become invested, it’s just that I didn’t. The characters are strong but I just don’t think Ee allowed herself enough time to develop them properly. Raffe is a fairly interesting love interest as far as they go, but he felt very hollow right up until the end when he began to grow some balls.

Ee has a rather unusual style of story telling and for that reason, I think this book was worth the read. It ended up not being my pot of tea, but I think my mind grew and my perception widened after this book. I’ve never read a book with this style of story telling and it’s good to see people breaking the mold.

This book breaks a lot of molds; it’s a fresh new take on YA apocalyptic fiction, it’s got a zingy and PoC heroine, it’s stylistically new and it brings a whole new world of possibilities into the game. Ee makes a lot of interesting comparisons in this book and it’s definitely a book you need to keep your mind on and thinking with so that you can properly pick up all she’s packed into the concise story. Of note is Ee’s reflection on human behaviors, typically of our survival instincts as well as our desires to form ‘packs’. It’s a notable contribution to the apocalyptic fiction  world.

Even though i’m not too crazy about this book as a whole, i’m well aware that you may like it and enjoy it and for that reason, I’m suggesting that you read it if the premise tickles your fancy. I mean go on, why not?

That 4.20 rating was a good enough push for me.

Read: World-Wide Paperback edition

Review: City of Ashes by Cassandra Clare

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City of Ashes by Cassandra Clare

or: This is starting to look excellent 

Goodreads   ||    The Book Depository

Synopsis: Clary Fray just wishes that her life would go back to normal. But what’s normal when you’re a demon-slaying Shadowhunter, your mother is in a magically induced coma, and you can suddenly see Downworlders like werewolves, vampires, and faeries? If Clary left the world of the Shadowhunters behind, it would mean more time with her best friend, Simon, who’s becoming more than a friend. But the Shadowhunting world isn’t ready to let her go — especially her handsome, infuriating, newfound brother, Jace. And Clary’s only chance to help her mother is to track down rogue Shadowhunter Valentine, who is probably insane, certainly evil — and also her father.To complicate matters, someone in New York City is murdering Downworlder children. Is Valentine behind the killings — and if he is, what is he trying to do? When the second of the Mortal Instruments, the Soul-Sword, is stolen, the terrifying Inquisitor arrives to investigate and zooms right in on Jace. How can Clary stop Valentine if Jace is willing to betray everything he believes in to help their father?

I’m a bit guilty with this book- I read it in late August/early September and never ended up writing a review on it. So here is a very delayed review of a book that I actually really enjoyed.

I wrote a late review on  City of Bones describing my happiness at getting in- very very late I might add- into the Shadow hunter Chronicles. I really enjoyed the first book, but I enjoyed this book 10 times more. Clare’s writing definitely improves in this book, and the 2D, slightly confusing world she set up in the first book comes into more of an abrupt focus.

Have I said yet how much I love Valentine as a villain? Valentine is one of those brilliant, maniacal villains who has no redeeming qualities or backstory; he’s just plain evil to be honest. I love it when an author just provides us with a killer villain (lol) and doesn’t appologise and someone please raise a glass to toast Ms Clare for her offering of Valentine.

Simon, who was a favourite from the beginning becomes soooo much better in this book. Loved, loved, loved what Clare did. She finally breathed some life into him and gave him some balls. Praise. The end Battle Royal definitely killed me though.

Clary, who annoyed me in the first book, pissed me the hell off in this one. I reaaaaalllyyy hope she improves because she made me want to throw the book at the wall more than once. Someone please tell me that this girl improves, please. Honestly, I don’t read this book for Clary; I tried to ignore her and focus on things around her. Clary is the sort of heroine I would have loved to read about when I was 15 or younger, but fast forward 6 years? I’ve lost all patience for characters like Clary.

The Fearie court was interesting and so was the introduction of several different down worlder groups. Clare really fleshed out her world and I really enjoyed finding out her mythology on Werewolves and Vampires. Magnus was even more charming if possible, and Alec and Isabelle started to come into themselves.

Other than Clary, my main problem- and lets be honest I think it’s everyone’s problem as far as the reviews seem to go- is the incest thing. Clare does this strange thing where she tries to make the idea of incest ok. It’s not ok, and I can guarantee you I don’t want to read about it. She’s teased it too long and its getting too uncomfortable. It’s fairly obvious that Jace and Clary aren’t brother and sister, I mean come on, it’s just there to create tension and drama because Clare let them fall together too early. But the whole plot device of “brother/sister” is disgusting and has been drawn out way too long. It needs to stop.

Please, dear lord, let her stop with the incest.

Will I read the next book? Hell yeah I will. I’ve been given hints that they get better and I’ve also been given a hint that Simon gets better which makes me happy. Fingers crossed Clary improves too.

So, long story short (literally this book dragged on a bit), Ashleigh liked the book but had a few tiny problems with it (and one larger one). Will Ashleigh get time to read City of Glass before Christmas? Probably snot. But Ashleigh is Determined to finish this series.

Read: English paperback

Review: The Hallowed Ones by Laura Bickle

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The Hallowed Ones by Laura Bickle

or: Amish, and Post Apocalyptic Vampires, oh my!

Goodreads  ||  The Book Depository

Synopsis: Katie is on the verge of her Rumspringa, the time in Amish life when teenagers can get a taste of the real world. But the real world comes to her in this dystopian tale with a philosophical bent. Rumors of massive unrest on the “Outside” abound. Something murderous is out there. Amish elders make a rule: No one goes outside, and no outsiders come in. But when Katie finds a gravely injured young man, she can’t leave him to die. She smuggles him into her family’s barn—at what cost to her community? The suspense of this vividly told, truly horrific thriller will keep the pages turning.

This book grimly fascinated me. But I don’t know if it was for exactly the reasons that the author wanted.

This book was a typical YA book centering around “the end of the world”; it’s told by a ‘plain’, but apparently beautiful main character who is so distracted by potential suitors, the potential of creating a truly meaningful discussion on societies failings are lost.

For some reason, YA is really frustrating me for this reason right now.

I read this book quite a few months ago but have really struggled to put my feelings for this book into words. See that’s the thing about this book; it had me both gripped but also kind of disappointing.

Australia doesn’t have Amish communities; we do occasionally get a religious secluded settlement but it’s not an organised religion, just usually a cult off-spring. The Amish and their ways have always fascinated me, and it was definitely the promise of learning a bit more about the culture that drew me to the book.

And Bickle does deliver on that; she works very hard to set the scene of an Amish community. It does seem a bit forced sometimes, but on the whole, I am satisfied by what she put forward on the community in this book. I wish I knew how accurate her information was, but Bickle never commented in Authors Notes or Acknowledgements her sources for this book.

I was also initially curious about the vampires, especially on how the Amish community would deal with them. I quickly lost interest in the vampire plot point about half way through. Bickle was so earnest in trying to get her audience to believe there was a vampire doomsday, she went over the top and the whole thing became too contrived. She should have left the mystery there and just left them unknown; the story would of had more gravity and would have been so much better.

The love story bored me. Too cliche, too obvious. Didn’t add anything to the story. In fact, the story would have been 10 times better without it. I wish that the outsider had just stayed her friend and that would have been the end. The Amish boy who made up the other side of the love triangle was awful and I had zero sympathy for him. He was an asshole and so uninspiring I don’t even remember his name.

There are apparently other books in this series. I will not be, however, wasting my time or money on them.

I don’t know how well this review captures my feelings on this book. As I said, I really don’t know how I feel about this book other than that a lot of it annoyed me. I never ended up giving this book a stared rating on Goodreads and for a good reason. Now? I think I would give it a 2.5 stars.

Guess I’m not in Kansas anymore Katie

Read: English Paperback Version