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


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

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?

ARC Reviews – July 2015

This round-up is a day late because I honestly forgot about it until late yesterday. Either way, this month wasn’t terribly productive in terms of ARCs, but they were all decent. It was also the first time I conducted an author interview, so that was exciting!

  • A Whole New World – Liz Braswell: “It’s YA, but it feels like the young end of YA – more 12-14 than 14-16 – which isn’t a bad thing, necessarily, but don’t go in expecting something scandalous, even if there are some surprisingly violent scenes.” (3 interrobangs)
  • A Curse of Ash and Iron – Christine Norris: “I felt like it was lacking something. It was a decent story and it had some really fascinating elements, but my inability to connect with the characters made it a hard read.” (2.5 interrobangs)
  • The Contrary Tale of the Butterfly Girl – Ishbelle Bee: “The writing continues to have a lovely lyrical quality to it, even when she’s writing descriptions of a massacre.” (4 interrobangs)
    • I also got the chance to interview the lovely Ishbelle Bee, which you can read here.
  • Placid Girl – Brenna Ehrlich: “I liked the concept, and I think it serves as an excellent cautionary tale.” (3 interrobangs)

Author Interview: Ishbelle Bee

Hello and welcome to my first author interview! I was stoked to get a chance to interview Ishbelle Bee, author of the “adult fairy tales”, The Singular and Extraordinary Tale of Mirror and Goliath and The Contrary Tale of the Butterfly Girl. Both are excellent reads and I highly recommend them.

Thanks once again to Penny at Angry Robot for reaching out to me!

Hi Ishbelle! Let’s start with a mini introduction: if you had to tweet a description of yourself in 140 characters or less, what would you say?

I look like an extra from CARRY ON SCREAMING!.

Congratulations on releasing your second book! Was the process easier this time around compared to Mirror and Goliath? What has the reception been like for both books so far?

I am far more relaxed this time (to the point of sedation) about the entire process and no way near as nervous. I try not to read the reviews anymore unless they are pointed out to me or sent to me, which is probably a good thing as it would be a massive distraction. There have been some really lovely reviews and comments about both books, which I am so happy about.

There are several new characters in this book. Who was your favourite new character to write?

My favourite new characters to write were Queen Victoria & Zedock – they are both really evil and I loved writing their scenes. The baddies always have the best lines.

I love the mad Mr. Loveheart! At what point in the book planning did he appear? Did you always intend for him to be the anchoring character in your series?

He was initially going to be a minor character who got eaten by a tiger but as I was writing him I realised rather quickly he was the lead and now he’s my favourite character.

Why did you choose butterflies? What’s the symbolism behind them?

I was researching Aztec mythology, fairy tale metamorphoses and symbolism- each of my books has an insect theme. I came across a reference in Aztec mythology that butterflies were the reincarnated souls of warriors and the idea developed from there.

In both of your novels, your female protagonist starts off as a little girl and, as the story progresses, grows up. Do you think it’s easier to start off a fairy tale with a child-like protagonist?

Yes, it is easier because I can shape them as they develop and then change them. Both Mirror and Boo Boo go through dramatic transformations and in Boo Boo’s case a hybrid metamorphosis.

Who or what are some of your influences/inspirations?

I am strongly influenced by folklore, fairy tale and mythology. My aspirations are to continue to write fairy tale inspired novels, and I would love to write for film and television.

Do you have a favourite quotation, either from your own work or from someone else?

I am going to pick one of Rufus Hazard’s – “Unspeakable bad manners leaving a man with his head in a bowl of trifle.”

When you’re writing, do you have any weird/interesting habits? Do you listen to music or do you need absolute silence?

Yes I need to be alone and with headphones on listening to music and blocking out the outside world. I like to write in the mornings with plenty of strong coffee.

If you could have tea (and a Victoria Sponge!) with any author, alive or dead, who would it be and why? What would you talk about?

I am going to pick Caitlin Moran because I read her book How to Build a Girl, which I thought was brilliant. We’d talk about her work and eat a lot of cake.

[Sam’s side note: I briefly met Caitlin Moran last fall and she was delightful. How to Build a Girl was a great novel!]

What’s next/what are you working on?

I am currently writing a book on the Scottish witch trials, which is part fairy tale and part historical research, and then the fifth book in the Loveheart series.

If your books were being adapted for the screen, who would you choose to play Mr. Loveheart? Do you have a dream cast for any of the other characters?

Loveheart is a really difficult one to cast. I think he might be best played by a newly discovered talent. The rest of the cast are much easier to cherry pick from my favourite actors.

Dream casting:
Mr Fingers – Alan Cumming
Zedock Heap – Gary Oldman
Goliath – Idris Elba
Queen Victoria – Sigourney Weaver
Rufus Hazard – Matt Berry
Aunt Eva – Tilda Swinton
Professor Hummingbird – John Malkovich

[Sam’s side note: I’m crying at the thought of Alan Cumming and Gary Oldman as those characters. It would be AMAZING.]

What book(s) are you reading now?

I am currently reading The House by the Churchyard by Sheridan Le Fanu.

Like something straight out of a fairy-tale, you’ve turned into an animal for a day. What animal would you be and why?

A dragon – it would have to be a creature that could fly and as a dragon I could eat a few nasty people as well.

If you could travel anywhere in the (real) world, where would you go? What fictional world would you want to visit?

In the real world I would love to visit Iceland.
In the fictional world I would jump into my own Victorian London and visit Mr Loveheart.

Quick pick: sweet or sour?

SWEET, of course!

Thanks for the interview! I can’t wait to see what you come up with next!

Thank you so much for a wonderful interview. I really enjoyed it xxx

About the author:

Ishbelle-Bee-Author-PictureIshbelle Bee writes horror and loves fairy-tales, the Victorian period (especially top hats!) and cake tents at village fêtes (she believes serial killers usually opt for the Victoria Sponge).

She currently lives in Edinburgh. She doesn’t own a rescue cat, but if she did his name would be Mr Pickles.

You can follow her on Twitter or Goodreads, and check out her website with her Quentin Blake-esque character sketches!

ARC Review: The Contrary Tale of the Butterfly Girl

The Contrary Tale of the Butterfly Girl – Ishbelle Bee

23519605Two orphans, Pedrock and Boo Boo, are sent to live in the sinister village of Darkwound. There they meet and befriend the magical and dangerous Mr Loveheart and his neighbour Professor Hummingbird, a recluse who collects rare butterflies. Little do they know that Professor Hummingbird has attracted the wrath of a demon named Mr Angel-Cakes.

One night, Mr Angel-Cakes visits Boo Boo and carves a butterfly onto her back. Boo Boo starts to metamorphose into a butterfly/human hybrid, and is kidnapped by Professor Hummingbird. When Mr Loveheart attempts to rescue her with the aid of Detective White and Constable Walnut, they are turned into butterflies.

Caught between Professor Hummingbird and the demon Angel-Cakes, Loveheart finds himself entangled in a web much wider and darker than he could have imagined, and a plot that leads him right to the Prime Minister and Queen Victoria herself . . .

Release Date: August 4th, 2015

Thanks to Penny at Angry Robot for reaching out to me about reading/reviewing this book! My interview with author Ishbelle Bee will be posted next week – keep an eye out!

Update: you can now read my interview here!

I read Bee’s first book featuring Loveheart, The Singular and Extraordinary Tale of Mirror and Goliath in April and loved it, so I’m very glad I got a chance to read this “sequel”.

What I liked:

-the cover. LOOK AT IT. IT’S BEAUTIFUL. I cannot even deal with this cover, it’s so gorgeous (I had the same reaction to Mirror and Goliath – someone at Angry Robot is doing a fantastic job).

-the writing continues to have a lovely lyrical quality to it, even when she’s writing descriptions of a massacre.

I especially liked the pages that were full of CAPITALS and wonky-sized/boldfaced words. It broke up the page without completely taking your attention away from the story and gave the whole thing a fairy-tale feeling (fairy-tales more in the vein of the Brothers Grimm and less like Disney).

-Loveheart continues to be mad and unnecessarily violent and I continue to love his scenes. I mentioned last time that it feels weird to be rooting for a man who chops the head off of anyone who he thinks deserves it, but he does it in such a carefree way, you can’t help snickering.

-Boo Boo was the anti-hero(ine) I didn’t know I needed. On the one hand, she is technically the heroine of the piece, but since she becomes just as deadly as Loveheart, she doesn’t fit into a traditional role. I liked how, even though she didn’t talk a lot, she had her own dangerous abilities and talents, instead of being completely powerless.

-the Butterfly Club (and its leader) was creepy and horrible and was exactly what you would expect from a Neil Gaiman-esque story like this.

What I didn’t like:

-I know this contradicts what I said I liked about Loveheart, but sometimes it felt like there was a little too much violence.

I’m not opposed to violence (fictional violence, of course, I don’t condone actual violence), I just mean that when someone’s limbs are being cut off in every other paragraph of a single chapter, it can be a little overwhelming.

Overall, while I loved getting a chance to get into Loveheart’s head again, I didn’t love it as much as I loved the first one. Still a solid four interrobangs, though, and I’ll be following Ishbelle Bee closely now.


4 interrobangs