Best Books of 2015

2015 was a great year in books for me. Some of my favorite authors blew me away again, and I discovered some new favorites. Instead of doing a full blog wrap-up (which I felt would be very repetitive) I decided to just look at the books I read this year and to highlight my favorites.

I never set a goal of how many books I wanted to read this year, but my unofficial, personal goal was 70. I met it, so yay!

Books read: 74

Books DNF-ed: 5

Here are fifteen of my favorites:

  1. Love and Other Unknown Variables

cover love and other unknown variables

An incredibly romantic story of love and life that left me laughing through tears. My review here.

2. For Darkness Shows the Stars

cover for darkness shows the stars

An unique dystopian novel with incredible world building and interesting characters. My review here.

3. Since You’ve Been Gone

cover since youve been gone

This story was my favorite contemporary story of the year. I related to Sloane so much, I loved all the different facets of the story, and I can’t wait to read it again. My review here.

4. Uprooted

cover uprooted

I literally could not put this book down. I loved the magic, I loved the world building, and I was obsessed with the romance. A must read. My review here.

5. Dangerous Girls

cover dangerous girls 1

Though I am conflicted on the ending, this book is undeniably an impressive work of fiction. Creepy and haunting, I’ll remember the last pages of this book probably forever. My review here.

6. Firefight (Reckoners #2)

cover firefight

It’s Brandon Sanderson–what more do I need to say? The Reckoners series only got better in this book, and I loved the new setting. My review here.

7. The Summer of Chasing Mermaids

cover the summer of chasing mermaids

Another book that will stay with me. The concept of a voiceless MC was perfectly pulled off in this story. I loved the complexity of the story, and, of course, the romance was swoon-worthy. My review here.

8. The Wrath and the Dawn

cover the wrath and the dawn

This book is amazing. Shazi is one of my favorite characters ever, her romance was Khalid was well constructed and sweet, and the next book in the series is going to rip my heart out. My review here.

9. Sorcerer to the Crown

cover sorcerer to the crown

This story was more subtle and subdued than my normal YA, but I loved the characters and the magic, and it did an amazing job of weaving discussions of sexism and racism into its plot. My review here.

10. Black Dove, White Raven

cover black dove white raven

Elizabeth Wein destroyed my heart again. Definitely the best historical fiction book I read this year. My review here.

11. Illuminae

cover illuminae

THIS BOOK. There aren’t words for the adrenaline rush that was this book. Also–graphic design goals. My review here.

12. Heir of Fire (ToG #3)

cover heir of midnight

ROWAN. AELIN. I love this book sooooo much. Seriously, this was the book that sold me on the series. My review here.

13. Queen of Shadows (ToG #4)

cover queen of shadows bigger

More ROWAN and AELIN. And Celaena came back for a bit (which was a little disturbing). This series just keeps getting better. My review here.

14. Fire

cover fire

This was a reread, but it definitely makes the list. I love the plainspoken complexity of this story. My review here.

15. A Court of Thorns and Roses

cover court of thorns and roses

Sarah J. Maas blew me away, again. I’m in love with Feyre’s character, and I can’t wait to see where this story goes. My review here.


How was your 2015? Did you read any of these books?

What should I read in 2016?

December Wrap-Up!

I can’t believe that December (and 2015!!!!) is over tomorrow! I’ll have a 2015 wrap-up tomorrow, but for today, I wanted to take my regular look back at this month.

In My Life

This month was half stressful AF and half wonderfully relaxing. First semester ended, so I had to deal with the craziness of finals. Everything worked out though–I officially have straight A’s (YAYAYAYAY).

Once winter break started, life obviously got more relaxing. I’ve played a lot of games with my family, watched a lot of TV, and basked in the joy of not having school for three weeks.

Christmas was amazing. I’m always blown away by the generosity of the people around me. My birthday is tomorrow, so I’ll do a collective book haul for both a little later.

On This Blog

I had 13 posts on this blog in December. As with November, I feel like I’m in a slump. I have posts I need to write (more on that later), but I just…don’t. With finals, that was understandable, but once break started, I continued to put off catching up on reviews and such. I’m slightly frustrated at myself, but 2016 is a new year, right? Hopefully I can kick myself out of this slump.

I hit 400 followers on this blog!! To say thanks, I’m hosting a giveaway (you can get more info here). I also reached 100 followers on my twitter (@52lettersbooks) and I’m hosting a giveaway for my twitter followers there (if you want to check it out ;)).

I took part in the Guest of the Month Club again. My guest was Kirstie from Upside-Down Books and she shared her favorite holiday traditions in a really heart-warming post. You can see my own guest post here.

I had a few discussion posts:

I also took part in a few memes/tags:

In Reading and Reviewing

I read six books this month (and finished a seventh for school). I reviewed three of them, and caught up on two other reviews (marked with *). (Leaving me with four reviews I desperately need to write.)

  • A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas — 5/5 stars
  • Angelfall by Susan Ee (Penryn #1) — 3/5 stars
  • Going Underground by Susan Vaught
  • World After by Susan Ee (Penryn #2)
  • End of Days by Susan Ee (Penryn #3)
  • The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • It’s a Wonderful Death by Sarah J. Schmitt — 2/5 stars
  • *Fire by Kristen Cashore — 5/5 stars
  • *The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater — 5/5 stars

In Writing

I got back into writing this month! FINALLY!

I wrote one poem, Do Other People. But the really big news is that I started writing my WIP again. I did a lot of characterization work, wrote some flashback pieces, and made some forward progress. So far, I’ve written 7400 words relating to my WIP (but I still have two more days, so I’m hoping to increase that number).


So that’s my December! How was yours?

Thanks for 400 Followers + a Giveaway!

GUYS! I hit 400 followers on WordPress yesterday! Thank you all for the support that has kept this blog going! Thank you for every like, comment, and follow—they all mean so much to me.

When I started this blog one and a half years ago, I never thought that I’d love being a book blogger as much as I do now. I never thought my blog would get this much attention from strangers! And I certainly I never thought I’d get to know so many amazing people! Thank you all for everything!

To say thanks, I’m hosting a giveaway!

US only–SORRY

giveaway this one 400
Click here to enter the giveaway!

The books you could win:

Rose Under Fire

The heart-wrenching companion to one of my favorite novels ever, Code Name Verity. RUF tells the story of a female WWII pilot who is sent to a Nazi concentration camp and the horrors she experiences there.

The Wrath and the Dawn

A retelling of A Thousand and One Nights, TWATD tells the story of Shazi, the stubborn and fierce girl who risks her life to marry the man who murdered her best friend. Powerfully romantic, TWATD is a must read.

Lola and the Boy Next Door

Lola is the second book in the Anna and the French Kiss series by Stephanie Perkins. Quirky and romantic, this book’s plot can standalone, though readers of the whole series will appreciate Anna’s cameo appearance.

Freaks Like Us

This is the emotional story of a Jason, a schizophrenic boy who suffers when his best friend suddenly goes missing. Uniquely written, FLU gives Jason a powerful voice as he investigates his friend’s disappearance–and as the rest of the town suspects him. Susan Vaught is one of my favorite authors, and this book is something you’ll never forget.

Dance of Shadows

A paranormal mystery set in the New York Ballet Academy, DOS follows Vanessa as she tries to figure out what happened three years ago, when her sister disappeared from the exact same school without a trace. A leading role and mystical occurrences raise the stakes as Vanessa realizes something at the school is incredibly wrong.

Book Review: It’s a Wonderful Death by Sarah J. Schmitt

I am so conflicted about this book. It has a sassy MC, but a weak plot and message.

2/5 stars

cover its a wonderful death

Plot

Seventeen-year-old RJ always gets what she wants. So when her soul is accidentally collected by a distracted Grim Reaper, somebody in the afterlife better figure out a way to send her back from the dead or heads will roll. But in her quest for mortality, she becomes a pawn in a power struggle between an overzealous archangel and Death Himself. The tribunal presents her with two options: she can remain in the lobby, where souls wait to be processed, until her original lifeline expires, or she can replay three moments in her life in an effort to make choices that will result in a future deemed worthy of being saved. It sounds like a no-brainer. She’ll take a walk down memory lane. How hard can changing her future be?

But with each changing moment, RJ’s life begins to unravel, until this self-proclaimed queen bee is a social pariah. She begins to wonder if walking among the living is worth it if she has to spend the next sixty years as an outcast. Too quickly, RJ finds herself back in limbo, her time on Earth once again up for debate.

My Review

*This review has mild spoilers, sorry!*

I wanted to love IAWD. The premise was intriguing, and I loved the cover. Unfortunately, IAWD didn’t live up to my expectations.

Let’s start with the positives.

From the first pages, I loved the main character, RJ. She was spunky, stubborn, and unafraid to make waves. Where a lot of people would cower, RJ instantly started fighting to get her life back. If you like sassy main characters, RJ is perfect for you.

I also liked the world building of the Afterlife. IAWD feels like Mean Girls meets Percy Jackson, the latter emphasized by the eccentric and wacky choices the author made about the characters in the Afterlife. Death Himself wears Hawaiian shirts and Saint Peter is friends with Cerberus. Everything about the Afterlife is a quirky take on the original Christian story, and it made for an entertaining story (if not one that I really took seriously).

Unfortunately, the rest of IAWD didn’t work for me. The entire story revolves around RJ realizing that her Mean Girl ways have hurt people; it becomes clear that a second chance at life would have to be used to fix the mistakes that had led her down that selfish and (let’s be honest) bitchy path.

RJ and her ruling clique were incredibly unrealistic for me. Everything about them was exaggerated. Yes, they were incredibly awful human beings, but they were almost too awful. Maybe it’s just that I have never experienced (or heard of people at my school experiencing) the type of bullying that her clique was doing, but the characters in this book felt more like the creation of someone who watched Mean Girls instead of actually pulling on their own high school experiences (or those of others).

PSA: I go to a massive high school (about 3000 people in total). We have popular kids, but there are too many people for a distinct ruling clique to emerge. Most of the popular kids got there by joining ASB and being naturally out-going and social people. Are they great people? Not really, in my opinion. A lot of them are fake and shallow—but they aren’t the stereotypical Queen Bee bullies. Also, because my HS is so big, there isn’t a clear group of “uncool” kids to bully. Because of this, I had a really hard time with the entire set up of RJ’s world. I honestly don’t know if RJ’s story would feel realistic to someone who had a different HS experience from me—but I kind of doubt it.

I said earlier that I loved RJ’s character, and I did. But I never felt like the RJ whose head we were in during the story was the RJ who would stomp all over other people to get to the top. We were told that she was selfish and uncaring, but inside her head, she felt honest and emotionally aware. The fact that she easily took on the redemption tasks only emphasized the disconnect between the RJ the reader knew and the awful RJ that supposedly existed. It was like once the story started, RJ was already redeemed, she just had to realize it; this made for a weak character arc.

This gets to the heart of my problem with IAWD: everything is too easy. RJ realizes her character flaws and changes. People accept her changes. She is quickly and clearly able to save other people through her actions (even from things like depression). Though the synopsis implies her life changes for the worse when she goes back in time and changes things, her life actually improves.

In her acknowledgements, Schmitt describes IAWD as a “save a cheerleader” story. I don’t have a problem with this initial set-up, but I’m disappointed that Schmitt never took the idea further. We’ve all seen this story before; no “new life” was breathed into it, beyond the addition of other stereotypical plot elements.

Because of this, the themes of this book are obvious and lack complexity. The discussions of death/life/morality/the universe that took place during the book were mildly interesting but not ground-breaking. My world view hasn’t changed after reading this book. IAWD came off as stereotypical and cheesy, and a sassy MC and quirky back-up characters wasn’t enough to save it. 

I wanted to love this book, but I didn’t. It was a fast read, and halfway through the book, I was reading just to finish it instead of from actual curiosity about the plot. I think the plot would have actually benefited from some romance (I thought it would be there, but it never showed up), if only to add another layer to the story. If you don’t mind plots that come off preachy—or if you had a very Mean Girls high school experience—IAWD might be worth reading.

Guest of the Month: Kirstie and Her Favorite Holiday Traditions!

Hey everyone! I hope that everyone is having a wonderful Sunday!

guestofthemonth-club

As some of you know, I am a member of Emily’s (@ Emily Reads Everything) Guest of the Month Club, where she matches up two bloggers every month to guest post on each other’s blogs! (Get more information or sign up here.)

This month’s theme is My Favorite Holiday Tradition and my amazing partner for this month is Kirstie. She is an Australian book blogger and is a really sweet person! You guys should definitely check out her blog, Upside-Down Books.

Without further ado, here is Kirstie’s guest post!

 


IT’S CHRISTMAS! (Well, technically that’s done and dusted, by a let a girl dream, will ya?). Christmas time has always been one of my favourite times of the year. I love that everyone is home, the atmosphere, the carols, the surplus time for reading (when in reality you should be buying presents/baking), and, of course, the chocolate.

Therefore! My favourite holiday tradition would indeed fall within this joyous season of excess cake and off-key singing. I still live at home with my parents (because: moving = lots of money, and, me = very little money) but that’s the most wonderful thing! We hardly ever go ‘on holiday’ somewhere at this time because we all love being together so much – which I think is pretty darn special. There are several ‘traditions’ that occur throughout the month, such as:

  • The Christmas tree goes up on the 1st of December (always – unless it doesn’t, then we just pretend that it’s the first anyway even if it’s the 5th) and my siblings and I make fun of each other’s homemade decorations from when we were 4 years old (I made a pasta angel, don’t be too impressed).
  • Mum writes clues and hides a chocolate for myself and my siblings each morning.
  • The entire 2 CDs of Christmas-y songs are played at least once a day.
  • Every day must begin with, “Today, I will make ginger bread!” even if, in fact, you really don’t have the time.
  • The Polar Express movie MUST be watched on Christmas Eve (or, at a push, Christmas day).
  • A Christmas Carol MUST be watched in the week leading up to Christmas, itself.
  • You have to swim in the pool at least once a week (I live in Australia, calm down, it’s warm for Christmas here).
  • And finally, we go to a French Horn Christmas carol night which sounds fantastic.

So these are all little things, but that doesn’t make them any less special (even if some are somewhat silly). However, my favourite tradition is the baking of the Christmas cake. My mum always puts this one together (I do the gingerbread house & decorate the cake) but she requests one thing: when she’s stirring the ingredients over the stove every member of the family must give the cake a stir and make a wish! That’s my favourite little holiday tradition for me, so there you go.

What about *you* – do you have a special tradition at this time of year?

Happy New Year all – don’t party too hard and I hope you meet your reading challenges for the year!

∼Kirstie!


Thanks for that amazing post, Kirstie! ♥

The Christmas Song Book Tag!

Merry Christmas everyone! I hope that everyone’s holiday seasons are going well! Things will start to get crazy later tonight, but for now I thought I’d bring some holiday cheer to 52 Letters!

christmas song tag

I saw this tag over at My Tiny Obsessions and decided that it would be the perfect tag to do on Christmas Eve. I freaking love Christmas music.


“You’re A Mean One, Mr Grinch” 

Name a villainous character you couldn’t help but love.

series chaos walking trilogy

The Mayor from the Chaos Walking trilogy by Patrick Ness. This guy is seriously evil, but he is also one of the most complex and human villains I’ve ever read about. I wanted to hate him (and part of me really does), but Ness wrote him in such a way that I also have to love him.

“All I Want For Christmas Is You” 

Which book do you most hope to find under your Christmas tree?

cover shadows of self

Shadows of Self by Brandon Sanderson. MORE MISTBORN!! This spin-off series from Sanderson’s amazing Mistborn trilogy is equally amazing. The second book just came out and I need it!

“Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer” 

Name a character that overcomes major obstacles and learns to believe in themselves.

cover going underground

Del in Going Underground by Susan Vaught. This might be the most powerful “journey of self-acceptance” books I’ve ever read. Del’s story will always being me to tears, and if you haven’t read this book yet…go do so right now. You won’t be the same afterward.

“Santa Claus is Coming To Town” 

A character at the top of the naughty list/ a character at the top of the nice list.

Naughty: Verity from Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein. In so many different ways, Verity is definitely naughty in CNV. I love her to death regardless.

Nice: Emilia and Teo from Black Dove, White Raven by Elizabeth Wein. While I had Wein on my mind, I had to give a shout out to the adorable duo of Em and Teo!!! They are the freaking cutest.

“Frosty The Snowman” 

A book which just melts your heart.

cover since youve been gone

Since You’ve Been Gone gives me all the feels! I can relate to Sloane so much, and her relationship with Frank definitely melted my heart.

“Feliz Navidad” 

A book that takes place somewhere other than your home country.

cover anna and the french kiss

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins! This book is a-freaking-dorable, and I loved how Stephanie Perkins wove the geography of Paris into Anna and Etienne’s love story.

“It’s The Most Wonderful Time of Year” 

Which holiday themed book do you use to spread Christmas joy?

series galagher girls carter

I honestly haven’t really read any holiday-themed books! I do usually read Ally Carter’s The Gallagher Girls series during finals week, though. I need hilarious spy adventures to get me through that hell, not gonna lie.

“Sleigh Ride” 

Which fictional character would you choose to spend the holidays with? (Doesn’t have to be a love interest.)

cove raven boys

I think it would be amazing to spend the holidays with Blue from The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater! Just imagining Christmas at 300 Fox Way makes me smile!

“Baby It’s Cold Outside” 

Which book that you didn’t like would you sacrifice to a fire to keep yourself warm?

cover we were liars

Okay, well burning books is never okay. But I will say that We Were Liars by E. Lockhart was a giant letdown for me (my review here).

“Do You Hear What I Hear?”

Which book do you think everyone should read?

cover beauty queens

BEAUTY QUEENS by Libba Bray. This book will make you laugh, tear up, and think. It’s full of feel-good girl power and powerful social commentary. Also, it is hilarious.


And that’s it! Merry Christmas and happy holidays to everyone!

Poetry: Do Other People

Do other people

Not understand

The pain they can inflict with a simple sentence—

Maybe just a few words strung together

Nonchalantly

Not hesitantly

No evil or cruel intent

Just good ol’ fashion cluelessness

To human nature

 

Do other people

Not carry these sentences with them?

Like twisted trinkets

Like demented luggage

Like echoes as they try to fall asleep?

 

Do other people

Not realize

The effect that words can have?

Do other people

Not wake up in predawn darkness

Haunted by slipups and embarrassments and even things that weren’t even

That bad

To start with?

 

I guess they must not

Or they would choose their words better.