Top 15 Favorite Reads of 2015

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As is traditional (last year’s is here) it’s time for a list of the best books I read in 2015! YAY! Because lists and books and favorites are all the best things ever. ❤

I read some gems this year, and though it was super painful trying to pick favorites, these (especially the ones near the top) make my heart explode in happiness just from looking at the titles, so I think they’re some good ones! My list is roughly in order of amount of loving them, and doesn’t include rereads. So here we go! (Prepare for much squealing…)

My top 15 reads of 2015

1. Broken Glass – Emma Clifton (in Five Glass Slippers)

brokenglasscoverSo… I spontaneously reviewed this awhile back. And it’s made it to the very top of my list this year. IT’S JUST SO PERFECT AND MY FIRST STEAMPUNK FANTASY AND ALL THE CHARACTERRRRRRRRRRRS!!!! Ahem. I just really really love this story! I want to read it again (and I’ve already read it twice). It’s just perfection and bursting with humor and snark and great dialog and plots and sooo many characters I love, especially Marius and Darcy and Henry, and it’s FUN but then it gets epic at the end and it’s so British AND I JUST LOVE IIIIIIIT! ❤ It makes me grin and keep grinning and unable to STOP grinning, whenever I think of it. GAAAHH! *tackle-hugs story* ALL OF THE LOVE! *gives Darcy and Marius an extra hug*

2. Archer’s Goon – Diana Wynne Jones

HOW. DO. I. DESCRIBE. THIS. BOOK. Ummm… I can’t! *flails around* It was Diana Wynne Jones which means it was pure distilled BRILLIANCE mixed up with total uniqueness, absolutely FANTASTIC humor, and just ALL OF THE PLOT TWISTS. Mind. Blown. I can’t get over it and it’s amazing and I think I need to read it again right now. I still love Howl’s Moving Castle the best of Diana Wynne Jones’ books (I mean… it’s my favorite book EVER besides The Lord of the Rings) BUT I THINK ARCHER’S GOON MIGHT BE SECOND. Maybe. Ahem. All of the characters are fantastic and the dialog and the humor and it’s timey-wimey and sci-fi and fantasy and modern and super confusing and I just love it a lot. Ack. ❤

3. The Ordinary Princess – M. M. Kaye

This was, in a word, PERFECT. ^_^ It just makes me so happy. I can’t. *beams and huggles book* It’s a sort of original fairytale type of thing, feeling like it has some hints of Sleeping Beauty and maybe a couple others, but mostly its own thing. It was just a quick read that was ADORABLE and sweet and perfect, and I loved the illustrations, and the character of the Ordinary Princess herself was awesome, and Peregrine who I loved a ton, and they were so cute together and just alskdjljlsjk it makes me happy and is a perfect little book. ^_^ ❤

4. Illusionarium – Heather Dixon

I’ve been dying to read this ever since reading Entwined. Needless to say, I pounced on it. The internet is probably still reeling with the incoherent fangirling babbles I shared on this blog about Illusionarium… Ahem. So suffice it to say, despite the creepiness, that I LOVED THIS BOOK AND THE DIALOG AND HUMOR AND EPIC STEAMPUNKNESS AND ESPECIALLY LOCKWOOD. LOCKWOOOOD!!!!! *flails around forever and a day* Basically, Lockwood. ❤ I just can’t get over that indescribable airguardsman snarky fiery epic trigger-happy roguish awesome Lieutenant Lockwood. (And he and Jonathan are a great pair. XD I love themmm.) (BUT LOCKWOOD. SO MUCH. ❤ ❤ ❤ )

5. The Pinhoe Egg – Diana Wynne Jones

Diana Wynne Jones books are always wonderful, but this one’s one of my top, like… four? of hers? (Howl’s Moving Castle, Archer’s Goon, The Crown of Dalemark, and this, are my favorites.) This was the conclusion to the Chrestomanci series, which I started late in 2014, and read most of this year. AAAHHH I LOVED THIS BOOK. It returned to the hero of the first book, Cat (who is great), and there were shenanigans and it had sooo much more of Chrestomanci himself than a lot of the others (which is pretty much my one complaint usually, since he usually only shows up a little in the midst of other people’s adventures). THERE WAS ALSO A GRIFFIN. AND CHRESTOMANCI AND AND AND ASLKDJFLK I just really really really love Chrestomanci and I need some fancy dressing gowns to wear around the house like he does. Except he has a castle… BASICALLY I WANT TO LIVE AT CHRESTOMANCI CASTLE AND READ ABOUT CHRESTOMANCI FOREVER. Because CHRESTOMANCI!!!!! ❤ ❤ Ahem.

6. Frederica – Georgette Heyer

After reading and loving The Grand Sophy in 2014, I wanted to try another Georgette Heyer, so this happened. I LOVED IT. The characters, just… aaagh! I loved them. LORD ALVERSTOKE. He’s one of those kind of awful fellows who’s sort of vain/spoiled, a lot like Howl actually, and yet he ends up being all noble too and just alskdjflklaskdj I love Alverstoke, he’s wonderful. And his relationship with the heroine and with her younger brothers — just YES! I don’t actually read a lot of regency historical romance sorts of things but this one was great. There’s also an airballoon and a crash and all of the DIALOG, my goodness it’s wonderful.

7. The Penderwicks in Spring – Jeanne Birdsall

AAAAHHHHH. I’ve been waiting for this ever since I read the first three Penderwick books (I even reread them this year!) and it was amazing. I was actually surprised because in a way it was so SAD but also the usual hilarious and just… I love the Penderwicks, okay. I LOVE THEMMMM. This family. Just. THEY ARE PRECIOUS. *gathers them in a hug* It was a little strange because it’s years after the previous ones and the three older girls are like TEENS and Batty’s 11 and… yes. o.o And I should have been upset, especially with all the sad, but I just LOVED. IT. SO. MUCH. Also there were like ten billion characters and the author juggled them all SO well and the writing is golden and ALL OF THE FEELS. I wish I could write like that. Basically I waited a long time for it and it did NOT disappoint. ❤

8. Conrad’s Fate – Diana Wynne Jones

This was a sort of Chrestomanci prequel because it involves him (Christopher) when he was a teen. LET ME FLAIL. Like Illusionarium, it was a great buddy-movie story (as I call them; even when they’re not movies… *cough*) and… Chrestomanci and the hero are so much fun together and I DON’T EVEN KNOW. But it was Diana Wynne Jones and I remember having so much fun and just really ENJOYING this! *flail* Chrestomanci as a youngster is just fabulous to read about, so sneaky but refined but clever and just brilliant and the dialog and I just loved it. ❤

9. Power of Three – Diana Wynne Jones

How. I. What. It. SOMETHING! *flailing* This was totally not what I was expecting and it was so DIFFERENT (something Diana Wynne Jones excels at) and PLOT TWIST! Wow. Also I loved all of the characters, especially the two who were like the hero (you’ll understand if you’ve read it), and it just had a lot of brilliance going on! It was epic. It felt rather different than her other stuff–a bit more like the Dalemark books than her “fun” ones… But I still adored it. Plus, the flashback where the fellows were drunk and met Titch was sheer gold. *dies of laughter*

10. Plenilune – Jennifer Freitag

This is here basically because DAMMERUNG!!!!! It was EXHAUSTING to read and took me from Christmas till August to read… like really heavy chocolate cake. Or the ocean. It was a little much, kind of too rich if you know what I mean, but it was totally worth it for Dammerung. He’s, like, possibly my favorite character this year. Possibly one of my top favorite characters of EVER. Like… HE’S UP THERE WITH HOWL, OKAY? Dammerung is just AMAZING and this monster of a 600+ page book of exhaustingly gorgeous poetical prose is totally worth it just for him. (And Rupert was amazing too. I have very complex feels about Rupert. Which makes me super glad that Dammerung is there to cancel those out because he just blows everything away with his amazingness). Like… he’s funny and powerful and heroic and epic and just… HE’S LIKE THE COOLEST EVER. Dammerung has a very special place in my heart. ^____^ ❤ ❤ ❤

11. The Skin Map – Stephen R. Lawhead

This was an AMAZING book. Contemporary/time-travel/fantasy/sci-fi-ish/historical… it has a little bit of everything. The writing and setting and just the entire thing is STUNNINGLY well done, not to mention the cast of characters, each of whom I love to bits! Arthur, Cosimo, Kit, Etzel, Wilhemina! (I even love the heroine!) Just. Gaaahh. It was a fantastic book, and would have been much higher up the list if it weren’t for something that happened in the last twenty pages… *cough cough* But I’ve actually gotten over that (mostly) and all I can think of is how amazing this book was and how much I want to read the sequels! *huggles all the characters* It was just a DELIGHT to read!

stonecurse12. Stone Curse – Jenelle Schmidt (in Five Enchanted Roses)

I reviewed this one on the blog and just YES. Beauty and the Beast retelling, which I ALWAYS love… And RITTER! ❤ Ritter and his heroicness and humor and just aaaahh I love him so much! And the setting and the fairytale feel and BAREND the Beast, down to loving the heroine, Karyna, a ton as well. I just… Gaaah. ^_^ *huggles all of them* The whole cast of characters and their relationships… just fantastic. SUCH A GREAT READ! ❤

13. Corroded Thorns – Emma Clifton

Aaand I also reviewed this one (more Beauty and the Beast, yay!) and it’s the sequel to my top favorite of the year, Broken Glass, and I sort of consider them one book because it’s so interconnected, sooo I couldn’t resist putting this on the list too! DARCY!!! Eeep. I just looooved this story and the characters AND THE ENDING WAS PERFECTION OH MY GOODNESS SO MUCH LOVE FOR THAT. ❤

14. Tahn – L. A. Kelly

This was the VERY first book I read in 2015, so it’s possibly a little hazy in my memory… But I know it was an exciting adventuresome read, with some good stuff, and was a little grittier than I usually like but still fabulous. And, like with Plenilune, it’s mostly here for one of my favorite characters of the year, namely the title character himself, Tahn. Tahn is the absolute epitome of my favorite archetype of characters, what I call the “dark guy”. (I’ve heard “anti-hero” used as well.) But I really really love him and his story and it was awesome.

15. The Book of Sight – Deborah Dunlevy

This book… I don’t know. It just made me happy. It was one of my first “random” ebooks I tried, since it was free on Kindle at the time and sounded interesting. I got so addicted that I’ve since bought all three of the sequels which are currently out (looking forward to reading The Poisoned Cure soon!) and already hoping the fifth/final book will come out soon! It’s a modern fantasy story, and it just… somehow kind of reminds me of the sort of stories I’m writing with my Kedran’s Wood series. I just enjoy it and it’s about these kids, a group of friends, in a little modern town, and their dealings with fantastical stuff that they start running into. Also, I really love Dominic. But it’s just a fun read, so… yes. It makes me think of sunshine. 🙂

***

You mayyy notice a trend*, which is that books are much likelier to be extremely loved/high on my list when there’s a particular character I really like in the story… What can I say. I’m evidently extremely attached to fictional people. But I’d say that Dammerung, Lockwood, and Chrestomanci are my favorite characters this year. THEY’RE THE BESSST!

(*Whaaat, you thought I was going to say that the trend was Howl? HAHAHA. Fooled you. XD Ahem. Sorry. Howl does whatever he likes, and apparently that includes stealing the show in a blogpost that doesn’t even involve him… *cough*)

So there’s my list! Have you read any of these? (You totally should!) Do you have any favorite reads of 2015? TELL ALL IN THE COMMENTS! ^_^

Hopefully this next year of 2016 will hold some wonderful reads in it for all of us! ❤

Happy New Year, everyone!

Five Enchanted Roses: Stone Curse Review

Five Enchanted Roses, the collection of five novella-length retellings of the beloved fairytale Beauty and the Beast from Rooglewood Press, releases today!

Aren’t you excited? Of course you are. Because Beauty and the Beast retellings! And let’s be honest: I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more downright beautifully gorgeous breathtaking cover than this one. ALL THE PRETTY. ❤

Today I’m reviewing the third story in the anthology, Stone Curse by Jenelle Schmidt.


stonecurseStone Curse

by Jenelle Schmidt

5 stars!

in the Five Enchanted Roses anthology

Fantasy / Young Adult / Fairy Tale Re-Telling / Beauty and the Beast / Novella

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher in return for my honest review. It was not required to be positive, and these opinions are entirely my own.


As a retelling of Beauty and the Beast, STONE CURSE surprised me with its originality while still clinging to the familiar threads. The reader is plunged directly into several intertwined mysteries that it’s wonderful to try to unravel. I predicted just enough of the answers of the mysteries to feel excited and elated whenever I was right, but there were more than enough surprises and twists to keep me on my toes, which I loved!

The writing was excellent and flowed beautifully in an effortless fairytale-ish way, and I loved the “feel” of the story and the world. It’s exactly the sort of feel that I like best in the fantasy tales I read! I can’t really describe it but it’s gorgeous and makes me feel at home, while still keeping me on the edge of my seat about what will happen next, because even (or especially) the most lovely of fantasy worlds contain a measure of uncertainty and danger! Something about the feel reminded me of a couple other favorite authors of mine, especially Patricia C. Wrede. This makes me happy and I’m looking forward to reading more by Jenelle Schmidt.

I’ve decided I enjoy novellas. I was able to read this in a sitting but it felt more fulfilling than a short story, and yet it was close enough to a novel’s depth, without the extra fluff, that it was extremely enjoyable.

It’s a very fun adventure, with some banter and journeying through a gorgeous fantasy world, tangled woods, homely (and not so homely) inns, and dark mysterious crumbling castles surrounded by roses… (I almost felt like a couple other fairy tales were subtly hinted at as well as Beauty and the Beast, which of course only made it cooler.) And then it got so exciting and epic. Yes! I basically loved this story a ton and had such a great time reading it. (Also, Ritter’s horse was cool. I think I want a horse now please. And a Beast like Barend too. Thank you.)

All of the characters were awesome and felt so very real. Characters are important to me and these definitely rank up with my favorites!

I actually loved the heroine! This may not sound odd to most people. But I’m notorious for disliking most female main characters, and even if I tolerate a heroine, it’s extremely rare that I like her as much as I liked Karyna! She was so extremely sturdy and nice and determined and helpful and useful! It was marvelous how she always had that satchel of hers that she would pull things out of and fix someone up or do a bit of gardening or pruning. She’s also so full of hope and won’t give up, which I loved. I just adored Karyna.

Our Beast, Prince Barend, was fabulous! His story was unique and I so enjoyed reading about him! Like the best Beast characters, sure he had some problems but ultimately you love him. I loved his loyalty and protectiveness, bit of stubbornness, and his willingness to go so far for the one he cares about. Just… yes. Barend! He’s so awesome. And he’s a little uncertain and gruff and awkward but also determined, and was wonderful. I especially liked getting to see his thoughts from time to time, as well as Ritter’s.

Much as I loved the other characters, I think I might have liked Ritter even better! He’s my favorite. His endearing charm, quick tongue, humor and bravery. I just loved Ritter! Considering how much I loved both Karyna (unexpectedly) and Barend (of course), it’s incredible that another character could surpass them and become my favorite, but Ritter definitely earned that place. I was super intrigued by him from the moment he entered the tale, and simply loved how he factored into the story. As soon as I figured out what was up with him I may or may not have actually made a squealing noise. I was also addicted to quoting his lines aloud. Ha! Quotable characters are the best, but he was also such a great all-around guy and one of my very favorites!

I’m always a big fan of humor and great dialog, and I loved the characters’ journeying and interactions and banter! One of my favorite parts involved reminiscing about the mischief young royals got into as children. That was HILARIOUS. They’re a really great cast of characters! I just love them all so much and they feel like my friends. I’m looking forward to reading this again to be with them once more and re-experience this wonderful story and its beautiful and shadowy world.

I do wish Princess Bellenya had been gone into more. Her part of the story wasn’t as developed as I’d have liked, especially considering how it all ended up (which I really liked! I just… wanted more). I was okay with it, I just wish she’d been more delved into so I could understand her more or something? That being said, it’s basically the only thing I have a complaint about in this otherwise fabulous tale!

The ending felt a tiny bit hurriedly wrapped up, but I didn’t mind because it was still awesome. The final scene was absolutely perfect and made me cry. (I’m not much of a book-crier, but this was wonderful!) At the end, when I finished reading and sat back with a little sigh of happiness and wiped my eyes, with a smile on my lips that I couldn’t seem to get rid of even if I’d wanted to, I would have hugged the book if it had been a physical copy. As it was, I settled for hugging my laptop which contained it.

Overall, I positively loved STONE CURSE and it left me with a happy, smiling, in-the-clouds feeling of contentment. I don’t know what else I can ask of a fairytale! It had a little bit of everything.

I look forward to reading the other four novellas in this collection, but I can tell you that FIVE ENCHANTED ROSES is well worth picking up if only for this delightful story.

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Back Cover Copy

From Goodreads:

STONE CURSE
By Jenelle Schmidt

Years ago a terrible curse swept over the revelers at Thorndale Castle, turning them to stone and transforming Prince Barend himself into a hideous beast. But Karyna, a former lady-in-waiting, will not abandon either her father, who stands in the throne room among the other statues, or the prince. Indeed, she sets out alone on a dangerous quest to find the one responsible for this dreadful spell. If she can but discover the reason why the stone curse was cast, perhaps she can also discover the solution.

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Five Enchanted Roses released July 27, 2015

Find it on:

Publisher | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

About the Author of Stone Curse

Jenelle is one of those rare and elusive creatures known as an “author.” She enjoys hanging out in darkened corners of coffee shops, sipping hot chocolate and carrying on animated conversations with those strange and invisible beings known as “characters.”

As most other authors, Jenelle is a bit shy and timid, though her friends would disagree with that statement. Her favorite genres to read and write are fantasy, sci-fi, and fairy tales.

Learn more about her on her blog/website:

www.JenelleSchmidt.com

Find her elsewhere online:

Goodreads | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest