Thursday, December 31, 2015

Favorite Books of 2015

2015 was a really good reading year for me, I met my goal of reading 120 books. A majority of those books are ones that I loved and just three books of them were books that I hated. If you're interested in the books that I've read this year, I've blogged about all of the books and I've added them all to my Goodreads account. So here are the top 10 books I read this year:

1. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz - This books is a coming of age story that revolves around best friends Aristotle (Ari for short) and Dante. This book is just absolutely beautiful and I have a hard time putting into words how much I love it. The writing is so beautiful and the story develops to a perfect ending, I was sobbing by the time it was over. This is a book that I knew I was going to love as soon as I picked it up, the story just called to me so much and it is one of my favorite books of all time.

2. Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Maas - This is a fantasy series following Celaena, a captured assassin, who is trying to regain her freedom. I cheated a little bit on this one and had to include the whole series, because it rekindled my love for fantasy books. I love everything about this series, from the characters to the world building. I have developed such a strong emotional attachment to the stories and the characters. Everything about the story is so vast, and I can't wait to see how this series continues.

3 & 4. For Darkness Shows the Stars and Across a Star-Swept Sea by Diana Peterfreund - This is a dystopian series, that is the hardest series to describe because the world is so unique and more complex than anything I've ever read. These books are inspired by Jane Austen's Persuasion and Emma Orczy's The Scarlet Pimpernickle, neither of which I've read but I fully intend to because I'm interested in how these books separate from their source material. Peterfreund's writing in these books is beautiful, and the story development was crafted so well. I really fell in love with the story, and the two female protagonist are high on my list of all time favorite female characters.

5. Vicious by V.E. Schwab - This book follows two friends, Victor and Eli, after they discover how to give themselves supernatural abilities. This book is very different from what I usually read, and I absolutely was blown away by the story. It's got an amazing cast of characters, the story is incredible and just drew me in and I really loved it. But really the main reason why this book is on this list is the lasting affects that it has had on me. I read this book in May, and I still think about some of the ideals of human society that the author raises in this book.

6. The Heart of Betrayal by Mary E. Pearson - This book is the second in the Remnant Chronicles. I enjoyed the first book in the series, but this books was so much better and I absolutely loved it. The development and the writing was so well done in this book, and everything is building up into a climax that I can't wait to read when the last book comes out in August. One of the things that I really love about this series (and this book) is that it has the potential for a love triangle, but the author ignores it. I highly, highly recommend this series because it has some of the best plot twists that I've read, and the main character is one of the strongest/coolest female characters.

7. Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff - This book is a collection of files that documents a colonization after their planet is invaded and they are forced to escape. I really love how the story is told entirely through emails, transcripts, and documents, and how it challenges way that stories can be told. The story, political intrigue, and the characters are so well written and the story telling didn't hinder my ability to form an emotional attachment to the characters. This is the first book in a trilogy and I can't wait for the next two books to be released.

8. I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson - This book is told between twins, Noah and Jude, over three years as they have had a falling out and each hold a half of their story. I absolutely love how this book was written in alternating perspectives and how the each of the twins side of the story intertwined perfectly with the other. The ending came together so well, and I will admit that it came together a little to perfectly, but I absolutely loved it.

9. Carry On by Rainbow Rowell - This story follows Simon Snow, who is enrolled in a wizard school meant to echo the Harry Potter series. I had high hopes for this book, when I learned that Rowell was writing about the characters that she had introduced in her novel Fangirl, and I was not disappointed in the slightest. I loved the world and the characters that Rowell developed and that I was able to separate them from their source materials. I absolutely love Simon and Baz's relationship, Rowell had me fangirling so much over those two. I have loved everything that Rainbow Rowell has written, but this one is my absolute favorite.

10. Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson - This book follows Taylor and her family, as they learn that her father has one last summer to live, and she has to confront the mistakes that she made in the past. This book surprised me so much, because I usually don't expect contemporary novels to affect me as much as this one did. I don't know what I expected from the pretty, summery cover, but I did not expect to be sobbing by the end of it. I really loved the family elements and the journey that Taylor went through from the beginning of the book to the end.

And those are my top 10 favorite books that I read this year. I previously blogged about my top five books that I had read in the first half of the year back in August, and it's interested to see how these two lists compare.  And it's interesting to see how my reading tastes have changed from the beginning of the year, I started off reading a lot of contemporary and my tastes have shifted over to primarily fantasy. I have a lot of high hopes for 2016 in terms of reading, there's so many books that I have not read on my shelf, there's a ton of books that I'm looking forward to being published, and so many books that I have yet to discover yet. Next year is going to be a busy one between school and work but I hope to read at least 75 books (so fingers crossed!) - Jessica

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Holiday Snapshots

The holiday season this year has just flown by and I'm not ready for it to end. Although I'm looking forward to Christmas tomorrow, I'm not ready to stop listening to Christmas music. - Jessica

P.S. I added more tunes to my Christmas playlist here!

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Trail of Lights 2015

Going to the Trail of Lights every year has been my favorite Christmas tradition since I was a child, and every year I love to share my experience on here. Texas has had an extremely warm winter this year, and going to the trail in just a long sleeve shirt was really weird because I'm so used to bundling up and carrying hot chocolate the whole way through. Even though the weather was really warm, it was so easy to get into the Christmas spirit with all of the lights and carols playing. This year there were several changes to the trail, that I think really enhanced this year's experience. Here are my favorite shots I took this year:

Happy Holidays - Jessica

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Books I Read in November

November was an okay reading month for me, I read a total of 9 books, which is a pretty good amount considering I didn't have a lot of time to read. My reading month can pretty much be summarized by a lot of J.K. Rowling and Maggie Stiefvater books, since I read three books by both of them. Here are the books that I read and some of my thoughts on them:

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (Illustrated Edition) by J.K. Rowling & Jim Kay - Bloomsbury and Scholastic are releasing one illustrated editions of the whole Harry Potter series for the next seven years. This is the first book, and I have been looking forward to the release for so long. Jim Kay's illustrations are absolutely gorgeous and I really love his interpretations of the story. I absolutely love the different experience that I got while reading this edition and the fact that the illustrated editions are going to open up the world of Harry Potter to a whole new generation. I honestly can't wait for the rest of the series to be released,

Very Good Lives - J.K. Rowling - This is J.K. Rowling's Harvard commencement speech in book form and I listened along to her speech while reading this book. I found Rowling's speech very inspiration when I first heard it and I really enjoyed what the illustrations brought to the story. Overall this was a really quick and enjoyable read.

Winter by Marissa Meyer - This is the final installment of the Lunar Chronicles, which is a series that I absolutely love and I have been looking forward to the release of this book since I finished Cress last year. This book did not disappoint, I loved it so much. Even though this book is over 800 pages, I breezed through it in two days. I did have a very small issue with one of the plot points of the ending, but overall this series wrapped so well.

Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith - This is the third book in the Cormoran Stike series written by J.K. Rowling under a pseudonym. I really have enjoyed this series so far, the stories are entertaining and I've developed an attachment to the main characters. I liked the plot of this book, better than the second book (which might be my least favorite of the series), and I enjoyed the mystery in this as well. I'm really curious to see where J.K. Rowling is taking these characters, because of the massive cliffhanger this one left off on.

Pretending to Be Erica by Michelle Painchaud - This book follows Violet as she pretends to be Erica, a girl from a rich family who was kidnapped a decade before. I was drawn to this book because of the premise and I went into this book with pretty high hopes and in the end I was a little disappointed with how it was executed. This book was well written, although the story dragged in some places, but I was really expecting more from the plot. I did end up liking the ending and how everything came together in the end.

The Last Leaves Falling by Sarah Benwell - This book follows Sora, a Japanese teenager, after he is diagnosed with ALS and how he develops friendships online. I really enjoyed reading this book, and managed to read through it pretty fast. The story was beautiful written and at times tore at my heart. I really enjoyed the modern Japanese setting, which is something I've never read before. I did have a couple of problems one was with Sora and his friends first meeting and I found it unrealistic how they met up in real life after talking to each other a couple of times online. I also wasn't a huge fan of how the story wrapped up, but overall this was a fantastic read.

The Raven Boys, The Dream Thieves, and Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater - This series follows Blue and the Raven Boys (Gansey, Adam, Noah, and Ronan) as they search for an ancient king. I'm really enjoying this series, and how vast the story is. The story and the characters are so well developed, and there is a hint of a romance in the second and third books that I absolutely love. Blue is one of my favorite, strong female characters, and some of the things that she says to the boys are golden. I am looking forward to the last book, The Raven King, which is due to come out in April of next year.

And those are the books that I read in November. I've already got a stack of books that I plan to read this month as I am 8 books away from by goal of reading 120 books this year. As always, feel free to follow me on Goodreads to see my reviews on these books and I see my progress this month. - Jessica