Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Best Books I Read In 2015

toptentuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

This week’s prompt is Top Ten Best Books I Read In 2015. I’ve narrowed it down to the best books I’ve read this year that were released in 2015 (I read some good ones that are at least a year old!).

Each one is linked to my review (the first three are in order).

  1. Every Word – Ellie Marney
  2. The Hollow Boy – Jonathan Stroud
  3. The Wondrous and the Wicked – Page Morgan
  4. Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda – Becky Albertali
  5. Nimona – Noelle Stevenson
  6. Mad Miss Mimic – Sarah Henstra
  7. The Singular and Extraordinary Tale of Mirror and Goliath / The Contrary Tale of the Butterfly Girl – Ishbelle Bee
  8. Dumplin’ – Julie Murphy
  9. Library of Souls – Ransom Riggs
  10. Alice Takes Back Wonderland – David D. Hammons

BONUS
Here are another five books that I rated 5 interrobangs that weren’t released in 2015 (and that don’t include any re-reads!):

  1. Daughter of Smoke and Bone – Laini Taylor (review coming soon!)
  2. The Universe Versus Alex Woods – Gavin Extence
  3. The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen – Susin Nielsen
  4. Soulless – Gail Carriger
  5. Outlander – Diana Gabaldon

What were your top ten books this year?

Library of Souls – Ransom Riggs

Library of Souls – Ransom Riggs

24120519As the story opens, sixteen-year-old Jacob discovers a powerful new ability, and soon he’s diving through history to rescue his peculiar companions from a heavily guarded fortress. Accompanying Jacob on his journey are Emma Bloom, a girl with fire at her fingertips, and Addison MacHenry, a dog with a nose for sniffing out lost children.

They’ll travel from modern-day London to the labyrinthine alleys of Devil’s Acre, the most wretched slum in all of Victorian England. It’s a place where the fate of peculiar children everywhere will be decided once and for all.

Like its predecessors, Library of Souls blends thrilling fantasy with never-before-published vintage photography.

Before I start this review, I just want to warn you: if you’re going to read Library of Souls and it’s been a while since you read Hollow City, you should probably re-read that first because this book picks up literally ten seconds after the events of book two.

I think that’s part of the reason why I ultimately gave Library of Souls four stars instead of five. Well, that, and the fact that it took a while to get going, not unlike the previous two books. I do wish I had been given some sort of recap at the beginning.

That being said, I enjoyed this one a lot more than Hollow City. While I’ll probably never accept Jacob/Emma’s relationship (seriously, did she have to be Abe’s ex-girlfriend?? Why couldn’t they have just been friends??), the overall story was more interesting than the book two.

I liked the introduction of Sharon, who helps the peculiars on their quest. And the final showdown with Caul and his siblings was well done. I especially liked the way everything was resolved at the end, which brought the series to a nice close.

I’m being vague here because I don’t want to spoil it. I will say that it ended much better than I thought it would. And even though Jacob still doesn’t strike me as overly intelligent, I felt like he was more alive in this installment than in the previous ones, that you could really feel his personality coming off the page, whereas he felt flat and 2D in the first two books.

Recommended if you enjoyed the first two books; if you didn’t love Hollow City, I’d still suggest picking this up for a good conclusion to an interesting series.

Rating:

4 interrobangs

Top Ten Tuesday: UK in YA 101

toptentuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

This week’s prompt is Top Ten Books That Would Be On Your Syllabus If You Taught X 101. Up until about half an hour ago, I was fully prepared to write “YA URBAN FANTASY 101”, but then I thought about how much I love the UK and books that take place in the UK and, well, here we are.

A couple of these are technically middle grade, but they work as transitional pieces.

Required reading (in no particular order):

1) Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll (London; Oxford to be precise); read my review here!
2) Harry Potter series – J.K. Rowling (London and some magical place in Scotland)
3) Gemma Doyle trilogy – Libba Bray (Victorian London); read my review of book 1 here!
4) Stardust – Neil Gaiman (“rural England”; though technically “adult”, I’ve seen it on YA lists)
5) Lockwood & Co series – Jonathan Stroud (alternate England full of ghosts!!!!) (also highly recommend his other series, The Bartimaeus Sequence); read my review of book 2 here!
6) Mad Miss Mimic – Sarah Henstra (Victorian London); read my review here!
7) Sorcery and Cecelia – Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer (Victorian London)
8) Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children – Ransom Riggs (Wales); read my review for books 1 and 2!
9) The Secret of Platform 13 – Eva Ibbotson (London)
10) Sally Lockhart series – Philip Pullman (Victorian London)

Recommended reading:

Every Word – Ellie Marney (takes places mostly in London, but you have to read the FANTASTIC first book, Every Breath, before tackling this one)
Artemis Fowl series – Eoin Colfer (I know Ireland isn’t actually part of the UK, but it’s close)

I really enjoy Victorian England, if you haven’t noticed. I can’t think of any YA or MG books that take place in Scotland (though technically Hogwarts is in Scotland). Does anyone have any suggestions/recommendations? What other UK-based books have I missed?

Hollow City – Ransom Riggs

Remember that time two weeks ago when I re-read Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children? Well, this week, I finished the sequel, Hollow City.

“Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children was the surprise best seller of 2011—an unprecedented mix of YA fantasy and vintage photography that enthralled readers and critics alike. Publishers Weekly called it “an enjoyable, eccentric read, distinguished by well-developed characters, a believable Welsh setting, and some very creepy monsters.”

This second novel begins in 1940, immediately after the first book ended. Having escaped Miss Peregrine’s island by the skin of their teeth, Jacob and his new friends must journey to London, the peculiar capital of the world. Along the way, they encounter new allies, a menagerie of peculiar animals, and other unexpected surprises.

Complete with dozens of newly discovered (and thoroughly mesmerizing) vintage photographs, this new adventure will delight readers of all ages.”

This book has been almost three years in the making, so a lot of people were really impatient for it (I wouldn’t say I was impatient so much as curious). I’m glad I decided to re-read Miss Peregrine otherwise I would have been completely lost, since it picks up literally seconds after the last scene of the first book.

I don’t know how I felt about Hollow City. I had mixed feelings after re-reading Miss Peregrine, so I think I felt the same way with this one. There were certain elements that I really liked: the peculiar children were given more personality in this one (sidenote: I wanted to punch Enoch in the face almost every time he said something, but I think he’s supposed to be the most antagonistic of the group. I wouldn’t be surprised if he turns evil later), the new characters were the right blend of creepy and fascinating (mini spoiler: the girl on the cover is named Sam!), and there’s a pipe-smoking talking dog. You can’t go wrong with a pipe-smoking talking dog!

Addison, the talking dog.

I felt like this time around the photos were integrated (almost) seamlessly: there were still a few instances of “oh, how convenient we found a photo of an old woman with a chicken behind her” and then the next page was a photo of an old woman with a chicken behind her, but there were many more photos that were just thrown in like an illustration.

Of course, with both books, there was the odd photo that didn’t seem to have a purpose apart from Ransom Riggs just wanting to show it off, but it’s probably more difficult to build a book around photos than most people believe, so it’s forgiveable.

As for the actual plot: there seemed to be a lot of  running around, but not a lot of action, if you know what I mean. Like, a lot of “hey, let’s go in here!” and then they meet someone new who may or may not join in their adventure, but nothing big happens until the end when they realize (without spoiling anything) that the bad guys are closer than they think.

Also the whole time-travel thing can be confusing because it’s not always clear where (when!) in time they are. So make sure you pay close attention (even though sometimes he doesn’t actually say where/when they are).

Finally, the Jacob-and-Emma relationship continues to be the creepiest part of the plot for me, and she does not help when she says stuff like “I’m an old woman trapped in a girl’s body”. Way to make it weird, Emma (it reminds me of  Jane Eyre when Mr. Rochester was all “I’m old enough to be your father”, and that made it more awkward than it already was).

It’s still worth a read; the actual writing is very good (maybe too good given how foolish Jacob seems to be). I guess it’s a slow-building series, where there’s a lot of set-up and the third book is going to BLOW MY MIND. I hope, anyway.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children – Ransom Riggs

https://i1.wp.com/whatchyareading.net/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/missp.jpg

“A mysterious island.

An abandoned orphanage.

A strange collection of very curious photographs.

It all waits to be discovered in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, an unforgettable novel that mixes fiction and photography in a thrilling reading experience. As our story opens, a horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its abandoned bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that the children were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a deserted island for good reason. And somehow—impossible though it seems—they may still be alive.

A spine-tingling fantasy illustrated with haunting vintage photography, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children will delight adults, teens, and anyone who relishes an adventure in the shadows.”

I read Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children for the first time a couple of years ago, but since the second one came out earlier this year, I figured I’d re-read it.

I remember being so impressed with the book the first time I read it – I loved how the photos were worked into the story (some of them are actually quite creepy) and I liked the overall plot. I still like the plot and the photos, but this time around, it took me a lot longer to get into it.

Maybe it’s because I knew what was coming, but the beginning seemed to draw out for quite some time before it got to the point. I get that – the plot was being set up, it’s obviously going to be (at least) a trilogy so there’s plenty of space to get into the story, but there were moments where I found myself wishing it would speed up.

As I mentioned, I loved the creepy photos, but it repetitive every time he pointed it out i.e. before every photo, Jacob would say something like “I recognized ___ because I had seen their photo in ___’s album”. Whereas the story might have flowed better if the photos were inserted like illustrations in a children’s book: no pointing it out, just BOOM, here’s a picture, look at it and figure out how it works with the story.

“We cling to our fairy tales until the price for believing in them becomes too high.”

I love how this line punches you right in the heart, especially when you read it in context. But this quotation – and a few other other moments – sound more like they’re coming from Ransom-Riggs-the-author and less like they’re being spoken (or thought) by Jacob-the-narrator. Jacob never struck me as particularly bright so when he comes up with something this poetic or profound, it seems out of place.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a fascinating read, once you get into it. The peculiar children all have interesting talents which are well-described. Actually, everything is well-described i.e. lots of detail everywhere (I have mixed feelings about details). I know it sounds like I didn’t like it, but I really did enjoy it (even though I still think the Jacob-Emma relationship – not the children, not even the time loop – is the most unbelievable aspect of the whole story.). And since Tim Burton is set to direct a movie adaptation, you know I’m going to see it (maybe I’m just biased because he’s one of my heroes, but if there’s one director who can handle something so creepy and eccentric, it’s Tim Burton).

I’m going to start reading Hollow City soon and will hopefully finish it by next Friday!