These past six months have gone by incredibly fast. It seems like only yesterday I was writing out my list of Bookish Resolutions I was doomed to fail.
For those of you who follow my channel, Rocket Reads, you might remember I initially set my Goodreads challenge for this year to 75 books. At the time, it seemed reasonable, but I forgot to take into account my school workload as I headed into some of my final semesters at university; I eventually reevaluated and decreased my challenge to 65 books. Of these, I’ve read 25, including four manga volumes, one graphic novel, and twenty novels.
While it may not be a stellar year, number-wise, in the past six months I’ve discovered so many new favorites, standalones and series alike. I had a hard time picking just five to share with you!
5. You by Caroline Kepnes was by-far the strangest thing I think I will ever read. Our narrator, Joe, meets a girl, Beck, in a bookshop and falls for her instantly– yet instead of asking for her number or seeing if she wants to grab some coffee, he… follows her home (in disguise), steals her phone, reads her emails, etc. It’s not “stalking,” it’s romantic because he’s in love, geez.
This book was very entertaining and very creepy, in the same vein as Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov. It’s written in faux-second person point of view; many of the sentences are addressed to “you” (Beck), and the whole narration is so focused on what “you” are doing that you forget to ask just where Joe is and what he’s doing until it’s much, much too late. At the same time, it’s not scary, and you actually begin to relate to Joe, and almost understand him at times– that is what is truly frightening.
This is the first book in a maybe-series, at least a duology. The second book, Hidden Bodies, is due out February 23, 2016. Though I did really love this first book and plan on reading the second, I’m not too convinced it will measure up. So much of You‘s appeal came from it being a totally unique reading experience for me. We’ll see…
4. A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab. Vicious, also by V. E. Schwab, made it onto my top ten reads of 2014 list, so such a high bar combined with major hype from the book community gave me such high hopes for this one. Even if I hadn’t been anticipating this one for what felt like eternity, I still would have picked it up with one look at that cover! I am a serial cover-buyer.
This book is set in a series of parallel-universe Londons, identified by color (White, Grey, Red, Black) and follows the delightful cast of characters who can travel between them, including Kell, wearer of a spectacular coat with many sides; Lila, a cross-dressing pirate-to-be; and Holland, the angst-ridden and enslaved. This world was so lovingly crafted that it’s so easy to get lost in until you’ve devoured the entire thing in one sitting.
While this is a wonderful standalone read, it leaves just enough unanswered for the next book in the trilogy, A Gathering of Shadows, due out on February 23, 2016, as well! That date is shaping up to be second Christmas!
3. Next we have The Wrath & the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh. This is a YA Fantasy fairy-tale retelling of 1001 Nights, but to call it simply a retelling would be an injustice to this story. What I particularly loved about this book– aside from the spectacular, fiery, surprising main characters– was seeing the beginnings of several plot lines begin to interweave. It filled me with such dread, knowing so many bad things were in store for our heroes, Shazi and Khalid both, and I was powerless to do anything but keep reading.
If you’re looking to get some diversity among your favorite protagonists, this is the book for you. There is a total of one, yes, O-N-E, white character. On top of that, I can’t think of a single time the people of color had their skin tone likened to a food item.
Nevermind that this shouldn’t be an issue but it is so whatever.
The imagery in this book was absolutely stunning, and I would wholeheartedly recommend it based on that aspect alone. But seeing how almost everything else in this book is wonderful, you should have read this, like, yesterday. The second book in the trilogy, The Rose & the Dagger, will be out sometime in 2016.
2. Every single time I think about The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski, my heart skips a few beats. It’s getting to be a serious problem. I almost added its sequel, The Winner’s Crime, to this list as well, so assume both books are seated in second place on this list. Kestrel and Arin continue to destroy my emotions on an almost daily basis, and the reason, I think, is because unlike in most YA Romance stories, they are not going to get together until everything keeping them apart is resolved. Which is a lot. Like, say, the fact that her people conquered his and forced them to work as slaves. And her father just happened to be the general to lead the march. Or how she’s required by law to get married or join the military by the time she turns eighteen. As the list of reasons why not gets longer throughout the first two books, both refuse to succumb to the futility of their situation, and, my God, is it wonderful or what?!
Don’t be fooled by the dramatic and cheesy (though still-beautiful) cover, this book is chock-full of court intrigue, action, blood, and, okay fine, the best romance I’ve ever read in my entire life. The final book, The Winner’s Kiss, will be published on March 1, 2016. This one I do recommend you wait until all three books are out, because I guarantee you’ll want to binge read the whole trilogy, possibly in one sitting.
1. Uprooted by Naomi Novik, aka my all-time favorite book of all time. I have a major thing for books involving fairy/folk-tale-esque writing, angsty wizards, amoral “bad guys”, and things blurbed by Tamora Pierce. Some of my favorite books from my childhood were Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones, The Two Princesses of Bamarre by Gail Carson Levine, Goose Girl by Shannon Hale, Keturah and Lord Death by Martine Leavitt, and the Tiffany Aching arc in Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series– Uprooted took everything I loved, wove it all painstakingly together strand-by-strand, and then gouged my heart out because I will likely never love another thing so much as I love this.
Basically, this book follows Agnieszka, who lives in a valley surrounded by the sentient and malicious Wood. The towns are protected by a wizard, the Dragon, who takes one girl into his tower every ten years, and when he lets them out, they are irrevocably changed. Agnieszka wasn’t supposed to be taken– after all, she’s pretty unremarkable– but when she is chosen, she’s thrust into a world of dangerous magic taught by her temperamental captor. Agnieszka was a relatable, stubborn, and the perfect match for the Dragon’s volatile nature.
Unlike the rest of the books on this list, Uprooted is a standalone fantasy novel by a well-established author. Unfortunately, that means I won’t ever find Nieshka or the Dragon anywhere else.
During this second half of the year, I hope to diversify the genres I’m reading– if you didn’t notice, this list is almost entirely fantasy. Not that I have a problem with reading only-fantasy, I just don’t want to burn myself out on it.
What was your favorite read this year? I could always use recommendations!