Best Books 2015 Pt. 2

Hello everybody, I hope you’re having a fabulous January. I really have no complaints, I am getting stuff done and making it through piece by piece. I’m trying to be nicer to myself this year and it’s working out pretty well so far. We’ll see where I am in March, or you know, next week, or even tomorrow. It’s a one day at a time type deal for me right now.

Anyways, let’s move on to the conclusion to my Best Books of 2015.

Après vous.

Exquisite Captive by Heather Demetrios – Published October 7, 2014; 480 pages.

18106985This sounds like one of those cheesy romance novels about a beauty and the beast type scenario, but it’s actually a book about jinn. Or genies as you most likely know them.

Nalia is a jinn who is on the run and living as a servant in the human world on jinni slave trade, the dark caravan. She was once a member of the ruling class of jinn in Arjinna who were all slaughtered by a class of jinn that was revolting. Nalia barely escaped and now lives in constant fear of being discovered on Earth. 

She is bound to her master, Malek, and required to grant him three wishes and then she will be forced into a toxic iron bottle and passed on to the next highest bidder. Malek has found a loophole in the contract and uses Nalia to grant wishes to powerful people who now owe him favors. Nalia is constantly on the lookout for ways to escape so she can rescue her brother back in Arjinna. Enter Raif, the leader of the revolution and pretty much Nalia’s nemesis. He offers her a way out of her captivity, but at a terrible price. The entirety of the book we follow Nalia on her journey as she tries to get back to her brother.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; the vampire vortex is a real thing in the book community. I always come across books like this when I’m trying to get away from some overused trope in books, or if I’ve just read too much of one thing. I think I was running from contemporaries when I picked this one up. It’s the beginning of a trilogy and I can’t wait to see how the series progresses.

Heather Demetrios creates awesomely believable characters and even though their mythical creatures I can totally picture the scenarios that they get into. I really appreciate the conflict in the book too. War always makes for an interesting backdrop for a story.

The Naturals & Killer Instinct (The Naturals #1 and #2) by Jennifer Lynn Barnes – Published November 5, 2013 & November 4, 2014; 308 pages & 375 pages.

I picked up this one up on a whim. Have you ever been in a book store and just felt the urge to buy a book? That’s what happened the day I bought The Naturals. It’s described as Criminal Minds for teenagers and I had just been lent all the seasons by a friend of mine, so it was perfect.

It’s about a group of teenagers who have been recruited by the FBI for what they call “the Naturals program”. It’s a group of teens with special skills in profiling that the FBI wants to use to help them solve cold cases.

There’s Cassie, a natural (get it?) profiler who can piece together the smallest details and have a person completely figured out in a matter of hours. Michael, a boy who comes from wealth who is an expert at reading emotions and hiding his own. Dean, a quiet brooding boy who is also a profiler and has a really dark past. Lia, the human lie detector and master manipulator and Sloane, the resident genius. She has perfect  recall and is not allowed coffee because she starts spouting off random factoids in a high pitched voice.

In both books the team ends up getting pulled onto actual cases and their lives are put in danger as they try to track down serial killers.

There is definitely a suspension of belief that has to occur when you read these books, but when you do they are very enjoyable. the action and suspense is very well done and you can tell that Jennifer Lynn Barnes is putting that cognitive science degree to good use.

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline – Published August 16, 2011; 372 pages.

9969571It’s been a while since I’ve had to read a book for school, well a book that wasn’t a textbook and that I actually enjoyed. This was on a recommended list of books for one of my classes and I had to choose one. I chose this one because it was the sole fiction book on the list. Otherwise I would have probably never picked it up. I’m so glad I did.

Ready Player One isn’t something I would consider for myself. I’d heard nothing but good things about it on BookTube so it was on my radar. Video game culture has never been something that really interested me so that was a bit of a turn off for this book, but as we’re always told, never judge a book by it’s cover.

The year is 2044 and people spend more time in virtual reality than they do in actual reality. Ready Player One follows Wade Watts, a poor orphan who lives with his aunt in the “stacks” district. He competes in a virtual reality scavenger hunt to win the fortune of the deceased creator of the OASIS, James Halliday. Halliday hid an Easter Egg in the many worlds of the OASIS and created three keys and gates for “Gunners” to find as a test to find out who was worthy of his fortune.

It takes five years for the first key to be found. Wade is the one to find it and it puts his life in danger when he runs into corporations and other players who are willing to kill to claim the OASIS’ prize.

Oddly enough the thing that turned me off of the book in the first place was the thing that I liked the most. The video game and 80s pop culture references were almost like another character. They were so detailed and accurate that I actually sort of got obsessed and I now have a list of movies, TV shows, and books to read that will keep me busy for quite a while.

Winter (The Lunar Chronicles #4) by Marissa Meyer – Published November 10, 2015; 824 pages.

13206900I’ve talked about this book a lot. What can I say, I read a lot of books that I was super excited about this year.

Check out my Most anticipated reads blog and my You got a taste of sweet divine pt. 3 for more of my ravings about this book and the Lunar Chronicles series.

Winter is the final book in the series and it’s a big one. It’s 824 pages! I was so excited. We follow all the characters from the entire series as they head to Luna to take down Levana, the barbaric ruler. They essentially start a war.

We learn more about Princess Winter’s past and she plays a big part in the novel. As a finale I thought this was perfect. It was long enough that we got to see everything we needed to see to tie up all the loose ends. There were a few bumps in the story but I really liked all the fairytale references that Marissa wrote in.

Something Real by Heather Demetrios – Published February 4, 2014; 413 pages.

15789443This was another one of those books that I just sort of thought looked interesting so I picked it up. Also book burnout is a thing, as I’ve said multiple times, and I was looking for something a little lighter. What I got was light with an edge.

We follow 17-year-old Bonnie Baker who has grown up on TV. She was the first baby born on national television, and since then she and her 12 siblings have starred on the reality show Baker’s Dozen. Until the scandal that rocked the show caused it to be cancelled.

Bonnie couldn’t have been happier, she finally got to experience life as a normal teenager and not as someone else’s property. Just as she’s starting to open up to her friends and be comfortable with herself her mother announces that Baker’s Dozen is headed back to the air and everyone is required to participate. Bonnie is going to have to take serious action if she wants to keep her normal life and her sanity.

In our reality TV culture we don’t usually get to see what life is like for people behind the scenes when the cameras stop rolling. We also don’t usually see the impact of the spotlight on “normal” people. I thought it was a refreshing take on pop culture and mental health as well.

Like in Exquisite Captive Heather Demetrios creates believable characters. You feel everything along with Bonnie and I enjoy those stories where you can just get lost for a bit. I found this story believable and relatable.

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas – Published May 5, 2015; 416 pages.

16096824Sarah J. Maas is another writer that is featured a few times on this list. She is also a new writer that I recently discovered and I really enjoy reading her stuff. She creates great worlds and interesting characters.

In A Court of Thorns and Roses we actually do have a beauty and the beast scenario. Feyre kills a wolf in the woods to feed her starving family and is confronted by a beastly creature who demands retribution for the murder. Turns out the wolf was a faerie scout and Feyre has broken the tentative truce held between humans and faeries.

Tamlin, one of the faerie rulers, takes Feyre to live with him instead of killing her. While she’s there Feyre and Tamlin’s relationship grows from ice-cold to red-hot. But there is a darkness that is slowly infecting the light-faerie realm and Feyre must find a way to stop it or Tamlin, and his entire court, will be forfeit.

From the description, I wasn’t too sure how I would feel about this book. But I’d so enjoyed the Throne of Glass series that I gave it a chance. I was glad. Sarah J. Maas has a way with character and storytelling that is refreshing. She re-treads old ground and makes it seem new. I’m excited to see where this series goes.

Zodiac by Romina Russell – Published December 9, 2014; 336 pages.

20821306While I read a lot of fantasy based novels this year, I didn’t really read a lot of space novels at all. This one intrigued me because I’ve kind of always been obsessed with my astrological sign (Sagittarius, and proud of it thank you very much). So the idea that the signs are all planets in a solar system that are inhabited by people that personify the traits of the zodiac was just super cool and made me nerd out a little.

In the first book of Romina Russell’s trilogy we follow Rhoma Grace, a 16-year-old student from House Cancer who, after her planet is knocked off it’s orbit when one of their moons explodes and kills thousands, becomes Cancer’s new Guardian. 

As the new leader of her planet, Rho learns about the exiled 13th Guardian of Zodiac-Ophiuchus-and begins to see patterns in the stars that point to him being responsible for the destruction being wrought across the system. But Rho is a novice at reading the stars, at best. She has her own way of reading them that isn’t the normal way of doing it. Rho and Hysan Dax, an envoy from Libra, and Mathias, a member of her Royal Guard must travel through the Zodiac and warn the other Guardians in an attempt to prevent future attacks. But who will believe such a novice?

The story definitely started out with a bang to say the least. It has some great world building and I can’t wait to visit more of the planets in the coming books. We haven’t been to Sagittarius yet, but one of Rho’s best friends is a Sag so it’s good to have some representation. That is the saving grace of the series, other than that, and the great characters on Gemini, I felt the characters needed a little work and Rho was a little flat to be a main character.

Throne of Glass, Crown of Midnight, Heir of Fire, & The Assassin’s Blade by Sarah J. Maas –  Published August 7, 2012; August 27, 2013; September 2, 2013 & March 4, 2014; 404 pages, 418 pages, 562 pages & 448 pages.

I have talked about this series quite a bit already. I talked about it briefly in my Most Anticipated Releases blog post and my You got a taste of sweet divine pt. 2 post. So definitely check those out.

I read this entire series this year. I finally decided to give it a go and dove right in. The prequels were a great addition and a great decision to include with the rest of the series. It’s some great background on all the characters and the world as a whole.

The fifth book is due out in September of this year. I’m SUPER excited about it! I have over 1,000 pages to catch up on with this series, so it’s going to be a great summer.

The Witch with No Name (The Hollows #13) by Kim Harrison – Published September 9, 2014; 462 pages.

This was a bitter20426917sweet read for me. It’s the final book in one of my favorite series, the Hollows. I’ve talked about it before in my You got a taste of sweet divine pt. 3 blog.

Rachel has been through a lot over the course of the series. She’s battled vampires, werewolves, demons, and even gods. She’s lost a lot too, now that she’s finally accepting her fate, the hits just keep on coming. In the final book, we follow her as she tries to save her best friend from losing her soul when she goes through her first death. Rachel is being pressured to do the same for all the living vampires. On top of that, she is also tasked with saving the demonic ever after and her own world from being destroyed. She still manages to find time for a little romance, which is something long time readers have been waiting for for a long time.

I fell in love with this series. It introduced me to the urban fantasy genre and a lot of different series that I might never have picked up. It’s a great series with really amazing character development and continuity. Kim Harrison’s level of attention to detail is on point with J.K. Rowling. Something I can appreciate because a lot of Y.A. books lack that attention to detail that carries out through the books. But to be fair, those series are usually a lot shorter. You do notice something new every time you read the series and I look forward to re-reading these books for years to come.

Bitten in Two & The Deadliest Bite (Jaz Parks #7 and #8) by Jennifer Rardin – Published November 8, 2010 & June 2, 2011; 312 pages & 309 pages.

As you’ve probably noticed, I can get a little obsessive when it comes to tracking down a book series and reading all of them in the correct order. This one was no exception. I finally manged to finish the series this year and it was a little bittersweet because I discovered that the author had died in 2010. The series ending wasn’t as clean as I’d like it to be, but it’s understandable, considering the circumstances.

The Jaz Parks series follows a unit of the CIA that specializes in supernatural crimes and assassinations. Jaz, along with her partner Vayl, a vampire who is over 1000 years old, and a crack team of specialists, travel the world and take out supernatural targets that threaten the human world.

Throughout the series we learn more about Jaz’s sad past and how she got to where she is. We’re also introduced to different supernatural forces, like guardian angels, demons, and other members of the undead. In the last two books we follow Jaz as she tries to lift a curse that could cost her her soul and sentence her to an eternity in Hell. On top of that,  Vayl seems to be trapped in the past and is causing the team to have to play pretend around him so they don’t set him off.

I really enjoyed this series. I read it with a few gaps in between books so I forgot a few things every now and then, but for the most part the story was easy to follow. There were a few plot holes that bothered me, but I think they were a product of the author dying so I don’t hold them against the book. As far as characters go, Jaz is among my favorites and her relationship with Vayl and her team keeps her grounded regardless of all the supernatural craziness that goes on in their lives.

I hoped you enjoyed. I’m thinking this will be the last long list for a bit. We’ll see where the wind takes us. In the mean time, please read responsibly.

Stephanie

Goodreads Links:

Exquisite Captive

The Naturals

Killer Instinct

Ready Player One

Winter

Something Real

A Court of Thorns and Roses

Zodiac

Throne of Glass

Crown of Midnight

Heir of Fire

The Assassin’s Blade

The Witch with No Name

Bitten in Two

The Deadliest Bite

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