Sunday 1 January 2017

Annual End Of Year Survey, 2016 Edition!

As it's the beginning of 2017, it's time for me to do my favourite survey! It's always fun to reflect on my reads from the year, and I enjoy using my reflections to set 2017 goals reading-wise! Of course as usual this survey is created by Jamie at The Perpetual Page Turner so check it out!

Number Of Books I Read: 66
Seeing as my Goodreads challenge was 65, I did beat it! However, last year I managed 65 books so I've only gone one higher. To push myself, I'm setting my next goal as 70 books!

Number Of Re-Reads: 0
Yeah, it seems I just don't really re-read books...

Genre I Read The Most From: Adventure/Fantasy
Age range-wise, YA (37) as always was a clear winner though I did make time for a fair few Adult books (11) too this year. As for actual genres, /i was clearly in an adventurous mood because I read a lot of books about going on journeys and seeking Adventure (23 actually). Predictably, my second two categories were Fantasy (also 23) and Romance (21) so perhaps I'll try and read more genres outside of those in 2017.

Best Book:

'The Girl With All The Gifts' by M.R. Carey.

This is always the most difficult book to pick,mostly because when I think about my favourite book of the year a few different reads normally spring to mind and then I have a hard time choosing which one. I chose Carey's gorgeous book however because for me, it provided the best story and had the absolute perfect balance of everything I like. Fantastically written, interesting characters that were complex and full of personality, a few zombies (or hungries) and some well thought-out world-building. If you liked the game 'The Last Of Us' and enjoy analysing human morals and ethical behaviour then you'll love this book.

Book I Thought I Would Love More But Didn't:
'Passenger' by Alexandra Bracken.

Sadly, this book and I were not to be. In fact I'd go so far as to say I'm a little surprised at some of the positive reviews it has received. Having seen the huge following that Bracken gained after releasing 'The Darkest Minds', and getting on board with the hype surrounding this book's release, I was so disappointed by just how hard it was to get into. I appreciate that the African American love interest and the fairly interesting idea behind the time travel (which there was far too little of) were a good addition but everything else felt so lacklustre and very forgettable. A real shame.

Most Surprising Book I Read (In A Good Way):

'Dot' by Araminta Hall.

This book was (a) a very old Edelweiss approval, (b) a book I've never heard around the Blogosphere and (c) not a ghost story as I'd originally thought so to be honest, I wasn't expecting much. While the story wasn't really anything to harp on about, I did really think this was a strong contribution from Hall and I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed and got into it. There was a good element of mystery to it, the characters were likeable and I liked that it ran through generations.

Most Surprising Book I Read (In A Bad Way):
'Sisters Red' by Jackson Pearce.

I've been wanting to read this book ever since I started this blog actually, it was one of the first Fairy Tale retellings that I stumbled across and found appealing. However, having finally got round to it, I ended up disappointed. Everything just felt mediocre and nothing stood out as amazing. I didn't love the characters all that much, especially the MC who just came across as bitter and obsessive rather than badass. I did like that she had an eye patch however, because we need more YA heroines who aren't all pretty and perfect.

Book I Pushed The Most People To Read:

'The Lie Tree' by Frances Hardinge.

I only read this fairly recently, but since then I've been recommending it to all who will listen. I even bought it as a Christmas present for one of my friends! This book was definitely the perfect choice for the Costa Book Award (an award I put a lot of faith in, I've read and enjoyed a fair few books that have won it) because while it was aimed at a YA audience, this could easily be enjoyed by adults too! There was magic, adventure, a believable young heroine and some great world-building that built the mysterious atmosphere nicely.

Best Series Starter:
'The Dark Days Club' by Alison Goodman.

This was one of my first reads of the year, and I loved it. I'd won the book as part of Maximum Pop's #Christmax2015 giveaways and I am so happy that this ARC made it's way to me because it definitely achieved my fairly high expectations of a book that is based on my beloved 'Pride & Prejudice' by Jane Austen. The main couple, Helen and William, gave me the same feels as Darcy and Elizabeth do in the original and this has the added bonus of demons and monsters in amongst society, balls and gossip. I can't wait for book two!

Best Sequel:
'Memories Of Ash' by Intisar Khanani.

I feel like I have been waiting for the sequel to 'Sunbolt' for an absolute age, and I finally got it in 2016. It did not disappoint. The original novella didn't feel like it lacked anything, but in truth was short and gave only a glimpse of the world that Khanani had planned for this series. Hitomi continued to be a great character, alongside Val and the villainous Blackflame. I also enjoyed meeting new friends and enemies to get to know and now I'm even more excited for the next in the series! Hopefully I won't have to wait for too long!

Best Series End:

'Winter' by Marissa Meyer.

Of course this was going to be my choice. It's the series I've been so looking forward to the conclusion of and probably my favourite that I've ever read for this blog. Meyer totally blew me away even though the book was so long. 'Cress', the third book in the series, is still my favourite. This is a close second though because it contained all of the characters together. Rebellion, action, quirky humour and happy endings abound. 

Favourite New Author I Discovered:
Sara Barnard.

I'll be very surprised if this lovely lady doesn't appear on lots of people's lists for this year's survey because her debut 'Beautiful Broken Things' was absolutely stunning! It portrayed both mental illness and teenage lifestyle (including the use of social media) really well! Not only that, but this book was about friendship and there wasn't a single romance in sight which was a breath of fresh air in the YA world. I can't wait to read more from this author, and I'm soon to be reading an ARC of her 2017 release 'A Quiet Kind Of Thunder'.

Best Book From A Genre That I Don't Normally Read:
'Thin Air' by Michelle Paver.

Horror is a genre that I enjoy, but rarely find the time to read nowadays. I normally end up saving it for October and even then struggle to get round to it. Luckily, I managed to squeeze this fairly sort but totally mesmerising ghost story by Michelle Paver, set during the early 1900s. I loved her sense of the era first off, Paver had clearly done her research in that respect. A mountain expedition is also quite an unusual setting for ghostly activity, but it is a really good one given that it can be so dangerous and the high altitude would make anyone question whether what they're seeing is actually real.

Most Action Packed/Unputdownable Book Of The Year:
'Wolf By Wolf' by Ryan Graudin.

Just like last year, Ryan Graudin is the clear winner of this category. This time it's her thrilling alternate history mixed with a little sci-fi set during a hypothetical era where Hitler has won the war and controls Europe. I loved the Dystopian feel (a deadly bike race definitely felt like 'The Hunger Games' in a lot of respects) and the story-line was not only a good one, it was fast-paced with a kick-ass heroine to boot. I adored this read, so big thanks to Illumicrate for introducing it to me by making it the first read in their boxes.

Most Likely To Re-Read:
'We Should All Be Feminists' by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

Every year I remind readers of this blog that re-reading is something I don't really do, but if I were to then this non-fiction read would be my choice. It's short which is just what I would want in something I was reading again, but I would love to sort through Adichie's wise words and take the true meaning of them into my heart further. This is such an inspirational little book which defines what feminism truly is clearly and could literally fit in my pocket. Everyone I know should read this book!

Favourite Cover Of The Year:
'Read Me Like A Book' by Liz Kessler.

Despite the fact that this book and I didn't exactly get on, I adored the cover and have to give Kessler and the publishing team some credit on that front. It's so pretty with an interesting idea behind it. I only wish that I'd enjoyed the book itself as much as I like the cover, though I did find it's message very sweet and hopeful for those in the LGBTQ+ community and more books should be written like it.

Most Memorable Character:
Cath (from 'Fangirl' by Rainbow Rowell).

Though the story was a little slow-building, I fell in love with so many things about Rowell's 'Fangirl' but I think the thing I loved most was her portrayal of Cath, who suffers quite heavily with anxiety. I recognised so many aspects of Cath's personality in my own and it really made me relate to the story on a whole new level.

Most Beautifully Written Book:
'The Star-Touched Queen' by Roshani Chokshi.

This book was just stunning, and another that competed for the top spot this year as best book. I was blown away by Chokshi's use of visual imagery, which perfectly conjured images of all the places that Maya visited and I could envision exactly how she felt about each new situation thanks to the words that Chokshi penned.

Most Thought-Provoking/Life-Changing Book:
'Reasons To Stay Alive' by Matt Haig.

I chose this book because, in a way, it did change my life. It helped me to understand myself a lot better. I'm an anxious person, who worries and stresses over so many things that people consider minor. This book covers both anxiety and depression, and it not only helped me to learn, it also gave me the confidence to acknowledge my differences from other people and be more open about how I'm feeling.

Book I Can't Believe I Waited To Read:
'Siege & Storm' by Leigh Bardugo.

My goodness. I waited to long to read this book. Way too long. I read 'Shadow & Bone' so long ago! I still really did enjoy it, more than book one I think though I'm still having trouble warming up to Mal. A new character, Nikolai, really made up for that and I very much enjoyed his quick wit and sense of humour! Book three looks promising as a finale, and I can only hope that I will get to it sooner than book two took me.

Favourite Passage/Quote I Read:
“Happily ever after, or even just together ever after, is not cheesy,” Wren said. “It’s the noblest, like, the most courageous thing two people can shoot for.” 
From 'Fangirl' by Rainbow Rowell.

Shortest Book I Read:
'Dragon Slayer Number Nine' by Intisar Khanani (10 Pages, if that).

This short story was very short. In fact I'm fairly confident it doesn't count, but it was definitely the shortest thing I read and reviewed this year so I've included it. In all honesty it was an experimental piece that was made up of purely dialogue and no context, so it's easy to see how it ended up being so short.

Longest Book I Read:
'Winter' by Marissa Meyer (824 Pages).

Of course this ended up being my longest read, it's humongous! I knew that it would be, seeing as Meyer's 'The Lunar Chronicles' series has only succeeded in getting longer and longer over time. It was my favourite finale of the year though, so well worth the page space!

Book That Shocked Me The Most:
'The Girl On The Train' by Paula Hawkins.

This book, from beginning to end, had me sat with my mouth wide-open with each and every twist. When I was talking to my boyfriend about these categories he instantly said this book for this category which goes to show that I was not quiet about the constant shocking revelations it gave me. It's a shame I didn't get to see the film yet, but the book did an awesome job seeing as I don't usually like to read Thrillers.

Power Couple Of The Year:
Captain Thorne & Cress (from 'Winter' by Marissa Meyer).

As long as these two exist in any book that I read in a year, they are always my winners. I just adore them! I'm pretty sure everyone has a different favourite couple from 'The Lunar Chronicles' series depending on their type of guy and favourite kind of heroine. Thorne is the funniest and most charming (something I'm a bit of a sucker for) and Cress reminds me a lot of myself, anxious and naive, with a little bit of obsession thrown in their for good measure.

Non-Romantic Relationship Of The Year:
Albus Potter & Scorpius Malfoy (from 'Harry Potter & The Cursed Child' by J.K. Rowling et al.)

I was fortunate enough to go and see this play during September with one of my flatmates and it was amazing. The magic of it all was so overwhelming and as soon as I'd seen it, I read the play script that accompanied it. I can see why a lot of people are disappointed by this purchase, but no one can deny that Albus Potter and Scorpius Malfoy made the best pair of friends in 2016. Albus, just like his Dad, diving headlong into danger and adventure while Scorpius became the logical, hilarious one. I loved them both!

Favourite Book From A Previously Read Author:
'Thorn' by Intisar Khanani.

Intisar Khanani is really topping the list this year, but I read three stories by her and loved them all so it's no real surprise! 'Thorn' was a retelling of 'The Goose Girl', a lesser known but pretty awesome tale of a princess who is forced to switch places with her servant and look after the geese instead of marrying a prince. I enjoyed so many things about this book, namely that it was based on a fairy tale, but also the intelligent heroine and vivid world-building.

Best Book I Read Because Of A Recommendation/Peer Pressure:
'All The Bright Places' by Jennifer Niven.

My two flat mates begged me to read this book, as did Amazon, Goodreads and half the blogging community. How could I refuse? I can see why readers of 'The Fault In Our Stars' might enjoy this book too. It contains the same, whimsical teenage romances/friendships and a huge dose of tragedy to make us all cry. Also, Theodore Finch is one of the most adorable book boyfriends of the year and deserves credit just for that!

Newest Fictional Crush:
Rhysand from 'A Court Of Thorns & Roses' by Sarah J. Maas.

I was going to pick Nikolai from 'A Siege & Storm' here for reasons stated in my above description of the book. But then, I remembered Rhysand. He perfectly balances on that line between 'the bad guy' and 'doing the right thing', and has that same charm, intelligence and sense of humour I appreciate in fictional guys. I am actually looking forward to book two purely because I'll be seeing more of him. Can't wait!

Best 2016 Debut:
'The Graces' by Laure Eve.

Ever since attending YALC 2016, I had been so excited about this book! Witches are not a topic I tend to read about frequently anyway, but I loved the element of mystery: is magic real or has rumour created it where there is none? The use of an unreliable narrator (whom is never named) was also really cleverly integrated and made me question whether everything that I read was real or all a lie created by the 'heroine' of the story. Honestly, read this story because it provides an interesting outlook on human nature and why people lie or feed untruths.

Best World-Building/Most Vivid Setting:
'Burial Rites' by Hannah Kent.

Oh my word this book was gorgeous. I mean, it was also incredibly heart-breaking, desolate and tragic beyond belief but Kent really got to know her setting and wrote it very well. Iceland is a gorgeous country in so many respects, and Kent used it's geography and language well to illustrate it's haunting, lonely landscape (especially during the 1800s). The story and characters were really nicely detailed, I highly recommend this historical novel to fans of the genre.

Book That Put A Smile On My Face:
'Pantomime' by Laura Lam.

I enjoyed this fantastical read for a variety of reasons and found myself smiling pretty much the whole way through. Firstly, it's about the circus, and who doesn't love the circus?! Secondly, there is so much diversity in this book and I massively applaud Lam for making her MC a hermaphrodite who is sexually ambiguous because too few authors represent characters like this. Lastly, while Mica/Gene's androgynous nature is a hefty portion of the story, it's not the main focus necessarily. In fact, the plot itself regarding the world itself and old mythical creatures was so interesting and I'm really looking forward to book two to find out what happens.

Book That Made Me Cry:
'A Monster Calls' by Patrick Ness.

This book, which I finished on public transport had me sobbing like a baby. I'm talking really ugly crying, because it was so darn sad. I love the odd sad book from time to time, and this read was definitely worth the tears because the story itself is haunting and beautiful, injected with just enough magic that it really kept me hooked from start to finish. Patrick Ness is really such an impressive author and I love the way he mixes genres so effortlessly. I purchased this and 'The Rest Of Us Just Live Here' which is the next read by him I'll be getting round to. Exciting!

Hidden Gem:
'Seven Ways We Lie' by Riley Redgate.

I've been trying to read books that promote Diversity this year, and discovered this book on Netgalley quite by accident! I was initially drawn to it because it promised seven POVs, each representing one of the seven deadly sins. I didn't expect too much, but I was taken back by how much I really did enjoy it! Each POV represented a distinct, unique voice and it reminded me so much of my own school that I couldn't help but smile. Redgate explored different ethnicities, sexuality (and I'm talking a pansexual which is so hard to find in literature) and even delved into mental health while having an interesting enough story-line to keep me hooked. I wanted to know what would happen to these characters and after such a strong debut, I definitely want to read more of Redgate's work.

Book That Crushed My Soul:

'Salt To The Sea' by Ruta Sepetys.

I liked this book a lot for a variety of reasons, but I picked it for this category because after reading it I was left feeling pretty crushed. It focuses on a particular historical maritime disaster, set during WWII when Hitler sent Military Transport Ships holding thousands of civilians, refugees, members of the Nazi party and military personnel to be evacuated from Gydnia. It's the biggest maritime disaster in history, as 9400 people died (more than the Titanic) and yet very few people know about it. Several viewpoints are found in this book and a fair few of them do not make it, which is what made this book the winner of this category. If you want to read a historically accurate YA that clearly makes use of a ton of research then look no further that Sepetys' work. 

Most Unique Book I Read:
'Let The Right One In' by John Ajvide Lindqvist.

This was a pretty difficult pick actually, but I think this book fits the category nicely because it pushes against usual tropes found in horror and vampire stories. I loved the child's perspective that the book is told from, and the fact that despite the existence of vampires in the story, Oskar's biggest problems are prioritised differently: his Father's disinterest, his Mother's obsessive behaviour and the bullies at his school. I'd watched the Swedish film prior to reading the book and loved it, so was glad to see that not too much had changed. 

Book That Made Me The Most Mad:
'Stealing Snow' by Danielle Paige.

This book. It was one of my more recent reads and while this category does not require a book that made me mad in a negative way, I'm afraid it's going to get one. The main thing that happened in this book that got me passionately angry was the MC's tendency to fall in love with every guy she met. That's right, she begins the book with a sort of boyfriend who she considers a soulmate and 'the one', then follows him to a new world where she meets another boy who she finds handsome, before being separated from him to find yet another guy to stay with and moon over for a while, then reunite with boy #2 to properly lust after him again for a while. Ugh. Just ugh.

I don't want to get too involved with these questions because I'm trying to become less obsessive about blog stats and page views, and worry more about what makes me happy regarding my blog and book-reading life. Therefore, I'll only answer a few of the questions in this category.

Best Events I Participated In:

For the first time since my Blogging began, I managed to attend YALC! Finally! I had a lot of fun while I was there too, picking up a fair few freebies, attending and live-tweeting three or four panels and buying a lot of books (while getting some signed too). I'm so happy that I got to go, and it was my favourite event of the year by far.

Best Moment Of Bookish/Blogging Life:

Obviously YALC is a huge part of this, but I have to say that #UKYAChat became a really big part of my life this year and helped me to make a lot of new friends on Twitter, which is why I enjoyed being part of this weekly chat. Also, receiving my tri-monthly Illumicrate box was really awesome, and I had some great reads out of it!

Most Challenging Thing About My Reading/Blogging Life:

Is 'time management' ever going to stop being my answer for this? Probably not. At times I was really on top of things, while at others I got really behind.

Best Bookish Discovery:

Thanks to one of the Twitter accounts I follow, I learnt about a sweet little app called Litsy, which a little like Goodreads is focused on books, allows people to rate, photograph and quote their favourite reads as well as leave reviews. I really like it and it's developing a lot as time goes by so I'm interested to see where it goes!

Did I Complete My Goals?

Just about! I pledged to read 65 books this year, and I ended up reading 66. I'm hoping for a much higher number next year!

One Book I Didn't Get To In 2016 But Will Be Top Priority In 2017:
'Rebel Of The Sands' by Alwyn Hamilton.

I am so disappointed I didn't get to read this book, because it was my most anticipated debut that I wrote about wanting to read in 2016 for the 2015 Annual survey! I will definitely be aiming to read this ASAP.
Most Anticipated 2017 Non-Debut:
'Strange The Dreamer' by Laini Taylor.

It took me a little while to consider what to put here because there are so many non-debuts I'm excited about, each for different reasons. I have really missed Taylor's writing since I read the 'Daughter Of Smoke & Bone' series all that time ago, and I want to get into something new by her. 

Most Anticipated 2016 Debut:
'Caraval' by Stephanie Garber.

I am so excited by this book, and I've seen so much hype around the Blogosphere about it. Magic, a show, love and wonder are abound in this story and the reviews I've seen for those who have read the ARC are amazing. I need this in my life.

A Series End/Sequel I Am Anticipating In 2016:
'A Crown Of Wishes' by Roshani Chokshi.

After reading 'The Star-Touched Queen' I have been so looking forward to reading the companion book in the series which is due to be released in 2017. Chokshi writes beautifully and I want to be pulled back into the world that I've fallen in love with in her debut!

Something I Hope To Accomplish In My Reading/Blogging Life:
This year, as I have said a thousand times, I want to be better at time management! Also, I'd like to read even more non-fiction because I've enjoyed everything I've read so far!

A 2017 Release I've Already Read:
'Heartless' by Marissa Meyer.

I originally thought this was going to be released in 2016 but it would seem that the release date was pushed back because it's been pegged for 2017 release now. I'm so happy that I secured a copy prior to it's release and managed to read it before 2016 finished. It's a wonderful book, as are all of Meyer's stories, and I highly recommend it to lovers of the fractured fairy-tale genre.

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