Release Date: September 24, 2013
Publisher: Tor
Category: Adult
Genre(s): Paranormal(?), science fiction, (urban?) fantasy
Pages: 364 (hardcover)
Format / Source: Hardcover, purchased
Victor and Eli started out as college roommates—brilliant, arrogant, lonely boys who recognized the same sharpness and ambition in each other. In their senior year, a shared research interest in adrenaline, near-death experiences, and seemingly supernatural events reveals an intriguing possibility: that under the right conditions, someone could develop extraordinary abilities. But when their thesis moves from the academic to the experimental, things go horribly wrong. Ten years later, Victor breaks out of prison, determined to catch up to his old friend (now foe), aided by a young girl whose reserved nature obscures a stunning ability. Meanwhile, Eli is on a mission to eradicate every other super-powered person that he can find—aside from his sidekick, an enigmatic woman with an unbreakable will. Armed with terrible power on both sides, driven by the memory of betrayal and loss, the archnemeses have set a course for revenge—but who will be left alive at the end?


A searingly intelligent, morally dubious rivalry story: think BBC's Sherlock meets X-Men meets The Prestige. (V.E. Schwab owns my entire heart. No one is surprised.)

I went into Vicious already knowing that I would adore it. What I didn't know is just how eagerly I'd be hanging on to every single word.

I'd had it on my shelf for over a year before reading it; I think part of me wanted to save it for a particularly bad day when I needed to be blown away by good writing, or a special occasion when I just had to have the perfect book to read. But one of my unofficial 'resolutions' this year is to read all the books I own that I haven't yet gotten a chance to dive into—and besides, why deny myself nice things for no real reason?—and I thought Vicious would be the perfect way to start out.

Victoria Schwab captured my heart way back in 2014 with her YA contemporary fantasy The Archived (the sequel of which I have yet to read, despite the fact that I own it—perhaps that'll be up next!). She then hit another home run for me in 2015 with her adult fantasy A Darker Shade of Magic. With her incredibly inventive concepts, fascinating and magnetic characters, and flawless prose, she's indisputably become one of my very favorite authors. So what better book was there to begin my reading year with than Victoria Schwab's first adult fantasy?

What first drew me to this book—other than the obvious fact that Victoria Schwab had written it—was the stunning, stunning premise. To put it bluntly, it promised everything I'd wanted from, say, X-Men but had found lacking: a more coherent explanation for superpowers (which the book does give, by the way, and it's pretty awe-inspiring in its logic), an honest-to-goodness cutthroat rivalry between two brilliant people with extraordinary abilities, and shade after shade of moral ambiguity. I confess that I've never really been one for superhero films, hence my status as possibly the only person in the known universe who isn't really in the Marvel fandom, but the concept of Vicious hinted at something darker, less clean-cut. I was—to make a gross understatement—excited about that.

Victor Vale, as well as his relationship with Eli Ever, is the most prominent highlight of Vicious for me (although this book is, in my honest opinion, made of highlights). At first, I viewed him askance, because I prefer having leading characters I can root for to some extent. But Victor grew on me at a rate that I found somewhat alarming, considering his, er, skewed moral compass. His ways of evaluating fellow humans were troubling, albeit nothing short of fascinating. Despite the feeling of wrongness he initially gave me as a reader, I soon found that he has a host of compelling qualities that I couldn't look away from, things that I understood. His single-minded ambition. His interest in someone—Eli—who seems so like him yet not. His startling moments of empathy, which always come when he least expects it. Victor Vale may not live in all of us, but parts of him do, like different dialects of the same language, and that was what kept me following him, straight through to the end.

Which leads me to the other half of the rivalry that defines this book: Eli Ever. Although neither of our two leading men are 'heroes' in any sense of the word, Eli somehow manages to get away with casting himself in a positive light, thanks to circumstances and his own conviction. His motivations, shaped by his nature—which has always been somewhat off—and emotional upheaval of the worst kind, are deeply perturbing but intriguing to read about nonetheless. He's tricky to get a feel for and almost seems amoral at times, but he has an undeniable pull to him, possibly because the reader can understand him in some sense. He's like Victor in this way, and in many others. His and Victor's relationship is thorny and driven by so many overlapping emotions that it's hard to make them out: envy, love, regret, hatred, respect. An affinity for each other that no one is really able to name.

What inevitably jumps out to me after discussing Victor and Eli is the themes that this book examines in a way that is powerful and yet seemingly effortless. I know, I know—for many of us, the word 'theme' brings back vivid flashbacks of high school literature classes (trust me, I'm in one). But what matters about Vicious is not its ability to act as a teaching tool; rather, the important thing is the book's capacity for generating weighty food for thought. For me, it showed that the difference between a hero and a villain is often simply a matter of perspective, and there may be no good people on either side—or the many sides—of a conflict. The ones we revere may merely be the ones who justified their actions to the majority more effectively. As for morality? It's an ever-changing construct for every individual. To quote Hamlet: " ... there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so."

The rest of the cast is no less superb, especially the Friendly Murder Crew™ led by the true problematic fave, Victor Vale. The 'strays' Victor picks up on his quest for revenge are certainly strange, and perhaps not entirely whole, but they're still strangely lovable, much like Victor himself. Mitchell Turner is, in summary, someone I'd definitely want on my zombie apocalypse team, and I loved reading his backstory. Sydney Clarke is quite possibly one of the most sinister and wonderful twelve-year-old girls in all of literature. And of course we have to mention Dol, because no murder crew is complete without a semi-dead dog. (You think I'm joking.) The dynamic between Sydney and her sister Serena is also worth a mention, as they're both very layered characters whose history with each other is complex and fraught with emotional tripwires. Serena is a whole other story in and of herself as well, with her interior that leaves even the most powerful characters frightened. In a book with such magnetic main characters, one might think that the supporting cast would fall by the wayside, but that's not the case here, and this book is all the stronger for it.

In Vicious, Schwab writes with all the cunning wit, dangerously gorgeous language, and incisive insight into character that I've come to expect from her. There are few things I appreciate more than excellently crafted prose, and this book delivers that in spades. It doesn't embellish so much that it detracts from the story itself, but it adds a perfect tug at the heartstrings whenever it's needed, in the form of a sardonic description or a devastating metaphor or a flawless turn of phrase. Really, Schwab's writing speaks for itself far more eloquently than any description of it that I could possibly give.

This book has some of the most heart-in-your-mouth pacing you'll ever experience, and there's never a slow or predictable moment in the plot. A calm before the storm, maybe. But nothing to let you really settle. I had a bit of a moment every time I needed to stop reading and drag myself away from the pages. I don't think there's as much overstated action as one might expect, but the characters spark volatile reactions in one another that keep the storyline moving constantly, and Schwab deftly manipulates the book's timeline so that the reader gets only the vivid, essential information they need at exactly the right times. (I'm also in love with some of the book's scene parallels. Once you finish, you'll know what I mean.)

On the whole, Vicious is a beautifully executed, thoroughly ingenious story that questions the lines between good guys and bad. It was a superlative way of kicking off my reading year—reinforcing my love of everything Victoria Schwab writes—and I can't wait for the sequel.

Favorite Quotes

"[...] Hell, we could be heroes."

"We could be dead."

"That's a risk everyone takes by living." 
The moments that define lives aren't always obvious. They don't always scream LEDGE, and nine times out of ten there's no rope to duck under, no line to cross, no blood pact, no official letter on fancy paper. They aren't always protracted, heavy with meaning.
[...] Victor was the first to speak, and when he did, it was with an eloquence and composure perfectly befitting the situation.

"Holy shit."
A hero. Wasn't he? Heroes saved the world from villains, from evil. Heroes sacrificed themselves to do it. Was he not bloodying his hands and his soul to set the world right?
Someone could call themselves a hero and still walk around killing dozens. Someone else could be labeled a villain for trying to stop them. Plenty of humans were monstrous, and plenty of monsters knew how to play at being human.
There were some people you had to stay away from, people who poisoned everything in reach. Then there were people you wanted to stick with, the ones with silver tongues and golden touches. And then, there were people you stood beside, because it meant you weren't in their way.

Who else is in need of a Schwab Support Group? Are there any unread books on your shelf that you'd like to get to this year?

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Hello, all! Today, I'm delighted to be helping out with the cover reveal for Right of First Refusal by Dahlia Adler, an upcoming new adult contemporary romance that's the second in the Radleigh University series.

It's true that I don't ordinarily take on publicity posts at all, much less publicity posts for books that seem so far out of my comfort zone. But there's a story—a very small one, but a story all the same—behind this one.

I've only ever read one new adult book in my life: the first book in this series, Last Will and Testament. I adored it. I've also only ever read two Hollywood romances in my life, and the first was Dahlia's young adult debut, Behind the Scenes. I adored that, too. Dahlia has a stunning talent for writing heroines with bravery and strength and snappy voices that you can root for wholeheartedly, as well as beautifully imperfect friendships and romances that will make your shipping heart sing. While I've found that her books are great pick-me-ups, they also each have a unique and meaningful soul that will leave a lasting impact on you as a reader. They've made Dahlia Adler one of my favorite contemporary authors, and I think they'll make her one of yours, too. With that in mind, I've brought Right of First Refusal onto the blog today to spread the word.

But enough from me and on to what you're really here for: the cover of Right of First Refusal, designed by the wonderfully talented Maggie Hall!

Here it is! Isn't it lovely?

On the lacrosse field, Cait Johanssen gets what she wants. Off the field is another story. Because what she wants is the school's hot new basketball student-coach, Lawrence Mason, who also happens to be the guy who broke her heart in sports camp two years earlier.

But it's Cait's new roommate who's got him.

Cait and Mase agree it's best to keep their past a secret, but she doesn't expect him to completely ignore their history...or how much it'll hurt when he does. So when a friend on the basketball team asks her to pose as his girlfriend for a night, Cait can't turn down the opportunity for distraction. (Okay, and a little spite.) But what starts as an evening of fun turns into a fake relationship with more lies than the usually drama-free Cait can handle, and it's only keeping her from the one truth that's nagged at her for years: Why did Mase cut her out of his life to begin with?

And is it really too late to get him back?

Find the book (and preorder!)

About the author

Dahlia Adler is an Associate Editor of Mathematics by day, a blogger for B&N Teen Blog by night, and writes Contemporary YA and NA at every spare moment in between. She's the author of the Daylight Falls duology, Just Visiting, and the Radleigh University series, as well as over five billion tweets as @MissDahlELama. She lives in New York City with her husband and their overstuffed bookshelves.

What do you think of this cover? Have you read any new adult and / or any of Dahlia's books?

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My good friend Alyssa, who blogs at The Devil Orders Takeout, tagged me months ago for the Tag of Happiness. I've brought onto the blog today because I thought it would be a good way to reflect on what I'm grateful for—the small joys that make existing a little easier than it would be otherwise. A little mixtape of good things, so to speak. As I forge on into this terrifying, wonderful new year, I'd like to keep these things in mind to return to on the loud days, the cruel days, when the world forgets to be home and the sun forgets that I'm under it.

SONGS: "Wait For It" (the Hamilton cast) | "Landslide" (Oh Wonder) | "Amsterdam" (Imagine Dragons) | "The Ghosts of Beverly Drive" (Death Cab for Cutie) | "Various Storms and Saints" (Florence + the Machine)

BOOKS: East (Edith Pattou) | A Darker Shade of Magic (V.E. Schwab) | The Girl of Fire and Thorns (Rae Carson) | The History of Love (Nicole Krauss) | Sense and Sensibility (Jane Austen)

FILMS: The Secret of Roan Inish | The Man From U.N.C.L.E. | Star Wars: The Force Awakens | Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King | Pride and Prejudice (the 2005 adaptation)

WORDS: rapscallion | inimitable | rainwater | underfoot | aureate

SCENTS: instant ramen after a morning spent skiing | lavender | my grandparents' house in Busan, South Korea | new books | food carts in the heart of the city

MISCELLANY: orchestras, especially orchestras tuning | drinking chocolate | snow dusting rooftops and greenery | late-night conversations where nothing is too insignificant to say | homemade whipped cream

BLOGGERS (whom I tag, if they feel inclined to do this): Adelyn (Fable and Fancy) | Rachana (Addicted to YA) | E.R. (Rabbits&Roses) | Samantha (Her Inklings) | Eve (Twist in the Taile)

What are the things making you happy as this new year opens? (And who understands the reference—albeit a very out-of-context one—in the post title?)

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*rises from the grave, wreathed in mist and very much deprived of sleep*
irrelevant photo of snow, a rare phenomenon in my neighborhood
First things first: I'd like to wish everyone a belated very happy new year! 2016 seems full of promise and light to me, and I hope it stays that way—not just for me, but for you all as well. Thank you for supporting Fairy Skeletons for yet another year and for putting up with me, which I know can be a feat at times.

To open the year, though, I'd like to take a moment to appreciate the one that just left us.

Those of you who've stuck around here for a while may remember that last year, I completed the 2014 End of Year Book Survey, which is a wonderful project hosted by the equally wonderful Jamie @ The Perpetual Page-Turner. The End of Year Book Survey has returned for 2015, and I'll be doing it again—but with a little twist.

Unfortunately, I didn't get to read that many books this past year—a combination of high school, my own absentmindedness, and shifting reading tastes—but I did do lots and lots of reading. Specifically, I started reading literary magazines more and more, especially poetry published in literary magazines. To accommodate that, I'll be completing this as an End of Year Lit Survey rather than an End of Year Book Survey; that way, I can recognize all the words I've read this year in their wonderful entirety. (I'll also do my best not to include repeats.)

2015 Reading Stats

Number Of Books You Read: 21 (pitiful!)
Number of Re-Reads: 0 (I'm not really a re-reader)
Genre You Read The Most From: YA Fantasy (no one is surprised)

Best in Lit

1. Best book you read in 2015?
[read my collab review w/ alyssa]
While I read some real stunners this year, the one that stands out to me the most, even after months and months, is—surprise, surprise!—V.E. Schwab's A Darker Shade of Magic. With a premise (and, let's admit it, a breathtaking cover) that had me counting down the days until its release date, ADSOM didn't disappoint in the least. Its stunning prose, complex worldbuilding, and enthralling cast of characters made it one of my favorite books of all time. (Kell, Lila, and Holland have stolen my entire heart.) A Darker Shade of Magic is practically a textbook on how to write a perfect fantasy novel, and I can't recommend it enough.

(Shoutout to the ADSOM support group that helped me through my emotions when I first read the book this year: Alyssa, Samantha, and Kimberly.)

2. Book you were excited about & thought you were going to love more but didn’t?
[find it on goodreads]
Eleanor Herman's Legacy of Kings was one of this year's biggest reading letdowns. Although I was incredibly hyped for it—politics! intrigue! passion! magic! Alexander the Great!—I ultimately felt that the book was a sweeping historical fantasy that was trying too hard to be a commercial YA novel. There were so many PoVs that it was difficult to connect to any one character, the writing style had strange inconsistencies throughout, and all the romance felt manufactured. While the plot was strong, I didn't enjoy much else, which left me disappointed.

3. Most surprising (in a good way or bad way) book you read? 
[read my review]
Kim Liggett, as many of you will know, was my mentor for the Freshman Fifteens COMMON ROOM Anthology project. She and I worked together to revise my short story "Destinata" for inclusion in that anthology (which you can read here, if you missed it all those months ago). I also received an ARC of Kim's debut novel, Blood and Salt, as one of my prizes. While it's certainly way out of my comfort zone and I was afraid I wouldn't enjoy it—I mean, horror and romance?—I ended up loving it so much more than I'd expected, despite the fact that it contained elements that would normally be turn-offs for me. But it has a wonderfully vivid setting and is thick with deliciously creepy, atmospheric prose throughout. 

4. Book Poet you “pushed” the most people to read (and they did)?

I only really got into the work of Peter LaBerge this year, but holy wow, am I glad I did. His imagery is almost alarmingly powerful, the way he uses poetic form is straight-up genius, and to top it all off, he's one of the kindest people you'll ever talk to. I'm so glad I got to meet him this year through The Adroit Journal's Summer Mentorship Program (he's the founder and therefore the 'big cheese' over at Adroit, so to speak), and I truly admire him as a writer and a human being. So it follows that whenever anyone made the mistake of asking asked me about contemporary poetry this year, I totally took the opportunity to recommend Peter's work.

(One of my favorite poems of his is "Gust." If you want to find more of his work, head over to his website.)

5. Best series you started in 2015? 

All right, I said I'd try not to include repeats, but A Darker Shade of Magic was my favorite book of the year *and* the first in a trilogy! I'm so ready to see where the sequels take us. (Agh, is it February yet? I need A Gathering of Shadows. I NEED IT.)

Best sequel of 2015? 
[read my review]
Ugh, ugh, ugh. I loved the mega-hyped first book of this series, The Winner's Curse, to pieces—which made me nervous that the sequel wouldn't be able to top it. I didn't want one of my favorite fantasies to suffer from YA's dreaded second book syndrome. Luckily, my misgivings were completely unfounded; The Winner's Crime blew all my expectations out of the water. With sumptuous prose, fascinating worldbuilding, and heart-rending character dynamics, this was a fantasy sequel that left me incredibly emotional and yearning for more.

Best series ender of 2015?
[read my review]
While it's true that Shadow Scale by Rachel Hartman was the only series ender I read in 2015, it was still a complete and total knockout. It had flawless worldbuilding, diversity, and well-thought-out characters (including a prickly heroine that I'll love to the end of my days and a brilliant, thoroughly chilling villain). Hartman's Seraphina duology is one of the most criminally underrated young adult fantasies out there, and it's hands-down one of the most wonderful takes on dragons you'll ever read.

6. Favorite new author poet you discovered in 2015?
While I discovered countless new writers this year who I now consider some of my all-time favorites, I think Ocean Vuong most deserves a mention here. Reading one of his poems is, for me, essentially stepping into an intensely visual, painstakingly created headspace where even gravity is something made. His work makes me feel as though someone's punched a hole clean through my gut. It has, without a shadow of a doubt, revolutionized the way I think about poetry and my approach to my own work.

(My favorite of his poems is "Tell Me Something Good.")

7. Best book from a genre you don’t typically read/was out of your comfort zone?
[read my review]
As I mention in my review of the book, Emily St. John Mandel's Station Eleven isn't something that I'd have picked up of my own accord. My fiction tastes are very firmly rooted in the YA world, which means I don't go for super-literary adult novels. But thanks to an enthusiastic recommendation from my dear friend Alyssa, I've now experienced the strange, eerie, gorgeous marvel that is this book. It's a very quiet take on what seems like a very typical apocalypse scenario, and it's sweeping and thoughtful and so full of hope for humanity. The writing is steeped in grace, humility, and wonder, and it makes this novel a real gem.

8. Most action-packed/thrilling/unputdownable book of the year?
[read my review]
Lisa Mantchev's Ticker was my first read of 2015, and it was such a blast. It felt like pretty standard steampunk fare, but that didn't stop it from being a whole lot of banter-filled, steam-powered, fast-paced fun. Penny Farthing is a thoroughly lovable firecracker of a heroine, and the plot is twisty and filled to the brim with superbly written action scenes. The steampunk worldbuilding is also top-notch, and the characters have a surprising depth to them that you wouldn't expect at first glance.

9. Book Poem you read in 2015 that you are most likely to re-read next year?
"Baptism" by Talin Tahajian, published in Devil's Lake, is one of the most honest, haunting poems I've ever read. It struck me to the bone when I first came upon it. In fact, I think it's the first poem of hers I read, and I fell in love. As with most of Talin's work, I've read it many, many times, and I'll likely be rereading it over and over in the year to come. The visceral impact of her words is inspiring, and it does wonders for my poetry brain when I feel like my work is slipping.

(Head over to her website for more of her poetry.)

10. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2015?

Oh goodness, I read so many well-covered books in 2015. But my favorite cover is going to have to be V.E. Schwab's A Darker Shade of Magic. (Look at me, saying I wouldn't include repeats, then mentioning the same book for the third time.)

11. Most memorable character of 2015?

Standout character questions always make me squirm because there's absolutely no way I can pick. I'm a very character-driven reader, and it shows. That said, here are some notable characters:

  • Evie O'Neill // Lair of Dreams by Libba Bray
  • Ling Chan // Lair of Dreams by Libba Bray
  • Simon Spier // Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
  • The Entire Core Cast (Kell, Lila Bard, Holland, Rhy, even Athos and Astrid Dane) // A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab
  • Seraphina Dombegh // Shadow Scale by Rachel Hartman
  • Kestrel Trajan // The Winner's Crime by Marie Rutkoski
  • Levana Blackburn // Fairest by Marissa Meyer
  • Esther Greenwood // The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
  • Romy Grey // All the Rage by Courtney Summers
  • Aelin Galathynius // Queen of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas
  • Talis // The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow
  • Greta Gustafsen Stuart // The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow

12. Most beautifully written book poem read in 2015?
Emily Skaja's "Rules for a Body Coming Out of the Water," published in Linebreak, is a stunner, to put it simply. It's carried by quietly haunting imagery and is steeped in a kind of ineffable melancholy that I love. The form almost makes the poem all the more effective, making the piece all in all a delight to read, no matter how many times I come back to it.

13. Most thought-provoking/life-changing book short story of 2015?
"Premonition" by Christina Qiu, recognized by the Columbia College Young Authors Contest, is easily one of the most thought-provoking short stories I've read—not just this year, but in my entire life. It's simply and evocatively written, and it explores the meaning of 'yellow pride' for Asian-Americans with a bone-deep honesty that you'd be hard-pressed to find in many stories about being Asian in America. For me, it provoked a lot of reflection on my status as a Korean-American and on the racial dynamics I see playing out around me on a daily basis. It also inspired me to try and write more about my race, which has always been something I've struggled with.

(In fact, all of Christina Qiu's work is absolutely stellar. Look her up—I promise you won't regret it. Oh, and while you're at it, read the column she writes for The Harvard Crimson.)

14. Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2015 to finally read?
[read my review here]
Seriously, I cannot believe I waited until this year to discover Sylvia Plath at long last. The Bell Jar was the first of Plath's work that I read, and it was one of those books that just understood me straight to the core. There are few books—and few heroines like Esther Greenwood—that I've related to quite so powerfully and completely. And Plath's prose and storytelling style are incisive but beautiful; in my review, I describe them as "exhibiting a quietly disturbing haze in some places and an almost violent kind of clarity in others." I can definitely see myself returning to The Bell Jar at different points in my life, since I think this is one that will grow on me even more as I mature.

15. Favorite passage/quote(s) from a book poems you read in 2015?

I find that I keep returning to these lines of poetry.

From Ocean Vuong's "Someday I'll Love Ocean Vuong":
The most beautiful part of your body / is where it’s headed. & remember, / loneliness is still time spent / with the world.
From Ocean Vuong's "On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous":
Say surrender. Say alabaster. Switchblade. / Honeysuckle. Goldenrod. Say autumn. / Say autumn despite the green / in your eyes. Beauty despite / daylight. Say you’d kill for it. Unbreakable dawn / mounting in your throat.
From Franny Choi's "choi jeong min":
these are the shields for the names we speak in the dark / to remember our darkness. savage death rites / we still practice in the new world. myths we whisper / to each other to keep warm. my korean name / is the star my mother cooks into the jjigae / to follow home when i am lost, which is always / in this gray country, this violent foster home / whose streets are paved with shame, this factory yard / riddled with bullies ready to steal your skin / & sell it back to your mother for profit, / land where they stuff our throats with soil / & accuse us of gluttony when we learn to swallow it.
16. Shortest & longest book you read in 2015?
[read my review]
Fairest by Marissa Meyer was my shortest book of 2015, at a mere 220 pages. It's essentially a character study / backstory of the villain of the Lunar Chronicles, Queen Levana Blackburn. Fabulously paced, thrillingly written, and delightfully complex—the kind of quality that I've learned to expect from Marissa Meyer—this was really a pleasure to read, and it gave Levana's character a fascinating depth that wasn't evident in previous books. It also reminded me how desperately I need to read Winter (which I didn't get to in 2015, agh!).
[find it on goodreads]
Clocking in at a staggering 648 pages, Sarah J. Maas's Queen of Shadows was the longest book I read this year. Despite its many problematic elements—the sexist aspects, and the strong sense of white feminism even in the girl-empowering parts—I still adore this series, because it basically has all the elements I could ask for in a high fantasy. I thought this installment dragged a bit more than was necessary, but the ending was gorgeous, and I like the direction the series is going in. I very much enjoyed this, though the page count alone could kill.

17. Book that shocked you the most
[read my review]
For me, the biggest shock factor of Amy Zhang's Falling into Place was just how unlikable the protagonist, Liz Emerson, really was. She's cowardly and has too many regrets to count. She's cruel and knows just when her cruelty will have the greatest effect. She can't work up the strength to apologize. She's a difficult character to root for, but Amy Zhang has somehow made it so that following her journey is rewarding all the same. This contemporary is a strange little creature, but I'd recommend it.


Like favorite character questions, OTP questions always make me uncomfortable, since I'm the most indecisive shipper ever to walk the earth. But some notable pairings of the year include (there are several, #sorrynotsorry):

  • Sam Lloyd & Evie O'Neill // Lair of Dreams by Libba Bray
  • Dorian Havilliard & Chaol Westfall // Queen of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas
  • Seraphina Dombegh & Lucian Kiggs // Shadow Scale by Rachel Hartman
  • Simon Spier & Blue // Simon Vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
  • Kestrel Trajan & Arin // The Winner's Crime by Marie Rutkoski
  • Kell & Lila Bard // A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

19. Favorite non-romantic relationship of the year
[find it on goodreads]
The friendship of Henry DuBois and Ling Chan in Libba Bray's Lair of Dreams basically made my entire life. The two come together through a shared ability, and the honesty and genuine caring wrapped up in their dynamic (buried under layers of Ling's prickliness and Henry's smooth charm, of course) is one of the best things about this book. Which is saying a lot, because Lair of Dreams is excellent. If you've ever wanted a diverse historical book, complete with magic, madness, and murder, look no further. (Also, this book is intensely atmospheric and all the more beautiful because of it.)

20. Favorite book poem you read in 2015 from an author you’ve read previously
"Confession" by Richard Siken, written based on the art piece above, is a beautifully chaotic poem from a writer who's drastically affected how I write poetry. It's characterized by Siken's trademark subtle yet perturbing turns of phrase and wildly growing imagery that builds on everything that came before it. Siken's been one of my very favorite poets since last year, and his work continues to leave me in awe and influence my own style.

21. Best book you read in 2015 that you read based SOLELY on a recommendation from somebody else/peer pressure:

You know, I generally don't take people's recommendations at face value—something else about a book has to appeal to me before I read it—but Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel, which I mentioned earlier, definitely fits the bill (and was recommended by Alyssa, because good book recs are like half the reason why I have friends).

22. Newest fictional crush from a book you read in 2015?

[credit | victoria ying]
Kell from—oops, here it is yet again—V.E. Schwab's A Darker Shade of Magic is just about one of the most dashing book characters I've ever had the privilege of reading. He's fashionable, smart, skilled in magic, unexpectedly kind, and handy with weapons. Clearly boyfriend material I say with a knowing smile, nudging Lila.

23. Best 2015 debut you read?
[find it on goodreads]
I.W. Gregorio's None of the Above was an excellent, thought-provoking, heartfelt debut. I loved how realistic and endearing the protagonist's voice was, and I really appreciated the chance to be educated about what it means to be intersex and enjoy a wonderful story at the same time. Plus, I had feels all over the spectrum, from fuzzy shipping feels to indignation to sadness. This is really a landmark in diverse representation for YA literature, and I'm looking forward to I.W. Gregorio's future work.

24. Best worldbuilding/most vivid setting you read this year?

This one's going to have to go to previously-mentioned Blood and Salt by Kim Liggett. The setting is almost a character in this book, frightening and beautiful and full of secret histories just waiting to unravel. In fact, it's probably one of the strongest aspects of the book as a whole.

Honorable mentions for worldbuilding are Shadow Scale by Rachel Hartman and A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab, and an honorable mention for setting atmosphere goes to Libba Bray's Lair of Dreams.

25. Book That Put A Smile On Your Face/Was The Most FUN To Read?

[find it on goodreads]
Becky Albertalli's Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda had me grinning the whole way through (except for when I got emotional, but still). Simon Spier is a very funny, very relatable, very heartwarming, and very gay main character—the kind of guy you'd love to have as a best friend. His voice really carries the story, which is in itself hilarious and adorable (the ship! be still my heart). Plus, any book that deals with Oreos so seriously is going to bring a smile to my face.

26. Book That Made You Cry Or Nearly Cry in 2015?
[find it on goodreads]
I really feel like Erin Bow's The Scorpion Rules isn't being talked about enough; it's one of the best books marketed as YA dystopian that I've ever read. From the arresting premise to the (very diverse!) characters to the sweeping prose, it's absolutely stellar, and AI villain Talis is one of the most fascinating antagonists I've ever read. The tears started coming as the book came to a close—the ending is soaring and bitter and complex, and something that I'll remember for a very long time.

27. Hidden Gem Of The Year?
Brynne Rebele-Henry's essay "Men Try to Make Me Disappear", published on The Adroit Journal's blog, is a much-needed and superbly written look at the ageism and sexism that unfortunately still runs rampant in the publishing industry. Brynne herself is also an all-around gem, although not necessarily 'hidden,' because she's already making waves in the literary world. She's around my age (!!!!) and is going places with her vivid, disconcerting poetry and fiction. Make sure you check out her work and see what I mean when I say I won't be surprised when she inevitably takes over the literary scene.

28. Book That Crushed Your Soul?

[find it on goodreads]
All the Rage by Courtney Summers isn't a pleasant book. It isn't a comfortable book. In fact, I frequently describe it as 'devastating'—but even that isn't enough to communicate the full impact that it has. It stares rape culture full in the face and displays the ugly reality of victim-blaming and silence that surrounds survivors of sexual violence. I honestly believe that this book should be required reading for every high school in the United States, because it highlights a deeply disturbing societal problem and does it with force and power and heartbreaking realism. Truly a groundbreaking YA contemporary.

29. Most unique book essay you read in 2015?
Jenny Zhang's essay "How It Feels" is excellent and thought-provoking and so very real that it is a little hard to swallow. It takes a bold approach to its deconstruction of our emotional experiences and really doesn't pull any punches. I felt very strongly connected to it, especially since 2015 was a year of frighteningly intense self-reflection for me as a writer, and I've begun trying to explore the intersections between art and the self in my work.

30. Book that made you the most mad?
[read my review]
Although I can't explain myself fully because it's sort of spoilery (see my review for details), Virginia Boecker's The Witch Hunter made me really angry mainly because of its problematic handling of sexual assault. Also, I thought it could have done so much more with what I thought was a pretty good premise, and it didn't do its alternate Reformation-era England setting justice—the writing style had strange anachronisms and inconsistencies that bothered me.

Blogging/Bookish/Lit Life

1. New favorite book blog you discovered in 2015?

I discovered three book blogs in 2015 that I'm looking forward to reading more this year:

2. Favorite review that you wrote in 2015?

I loved writing my collaborative review of V.E. Schwab's A Darker Shade of Magic with Alyssa @ The Devil Orders Takeout. It was so much fun to put together—I had someone else to gush with in my review for once!—and I personally thought the finished product was a fabulous representation of our (overwhelmingly positive) thoughts about ADSOM.

3. Best discussion/non-review post you had on your blog?

I think my best non-review post on the blog this year was my #BraveNewOtMS announcement. It took a lot of guts to decide to scrap my novel-in-progress yet again, and it was hard to write and publish the announcement post. But I feel as though the choice is ultimately for the best, and I think it's gradually leading my baby in the right direction. Also, that post received so much love and support from both old friends and new, and I'm still a little overwhelmed thinking about it.

4. Best event that you participated in (author signings, festivals, virtual events, memes, etc.)?

This one goes to The Adroit Journal's Summer Mentorship Program, no contest. Yes, I've recommended this program on the blog too many times to count at this point, but trust me, it's for a reason. I'm not exaggerating when I say this mentorship made me the poet—and the person—I am today. It's given me license to reflect on my own identity with an almost alarming intensity, and it's helped me begin shaping my own creative aesthetic. Plus, it's given me the Adroit cult family, a vibrant community of young, progressive, jaw-droppingly talented writers who represent the bright future of English literature.
5. Best moment of bookish/blogging life in 2015?

My bookish/blogging life was a bit stagnant in 2015, so I can't think of anything other than what I've listed already, but I hope that this coming year will change that.

6. Most challenging thing about blogging or your reading life this year?

I think this past year represented a slump in blogging and reading (books) for me. Even when I had the free time to read a book or write a blog post, I found it difficult to muster the motivation to do it, especially with the latter. 

7. Most popular post this year on your blog (whether it be by comments or views)?

Off the top of my head, I'd have to say that my Pinterest contest post (which I held to celebrate my fifteenth birthday this past July) got the most love in terms of both views (over 500!) and comments (nineteen!). I'm so glad I hosted the contest—it was such a fun, fun way to get to know people's project aesthetics. And never fear, winners; I know the prizes are horrendously late, but I'm working on them!

8. Post you wished got a little more love?

I sort of wish my Beautiful People post for August, which was about OtMS characters Finn and Renton, had gotten more love. I put a lot of time into it, and while the questions were valuable for their own sake, I always like it when people engage with my writing posts. No matter, though! My characterizations in this new draft of OtMS will likely be shifting a bit to accommodate the changes I have in mind.

9. Best bookish discover (book related sites, book stores, etc.)?

I didn't really have the time or motivation to make bookish discoveries in 2015, but I hope to remedy that this year!

10. Did you complete any reading challenges or goals that you had set for yourself at the beginning of this year?

My Goodreads challenge goal this year was fifty books—and look at me now, with less than half that under my belt. Thankfully, though, I'm not feeling too down about it.

Looking Ahead

1. One book you didn’t get to in 2015 but will be your number one priority in 2016?

There are too many, so I'll just list:

  • Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
  • Hook by Peter LaBerge
  • War of the Foxes by Richard Siken
  • Winter by Marissa Meyer
  • Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson
  • The Shadow Behind the Stars by Rebecca Hahn
  • Love Fortunes and Other Disasters by Kimberly Karalius
  • The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh
  • Under the Lights by Dahlia Adler
  • countless more that I can't remember off the top of my head

2. Book(s) you are most anticipating for 2016 (non-debut)?
[find it on goodreads]
Um, it's the backstory of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland's Queen of Hearts. Written by Marissa Meyer. The juxtaposition of these two sentences is flawless, and I need this book NOW, please. This comes out on November 8.
[find it on goodreads]
New Laini Taylor THAT'S ALL WE NEED TO KNOW BYE. (But also the blurb is absolute dynamite. Seriously.) This comes out on September 27.
[find it on goodreads]
Victoria Schwab has just been a massively productive writing MACHINE lately, and I love it. Plus, the premise is glorious, and because it's Schwab, it won't disappoint. This comes out on July 5 (my BIRTHDAY? AHH).

3. 2016 debut you are most anticipating?

I actually haven't been keeping tabs on forthcoming debuts, but if anyone has any they're seriously anticipating, you're welcome to give me the scoop!

4. Series ending/a sequel you are most anticipating in 2016?

This is too obvious.
[find it on goodreads]
I am Raven Trash and I cannot lie. Also, we need to find out how Gansey dies so that I can finally escape this months-long pre-mourning phase. This comes out on April 26.
[find it on goodreads]
A Gathering of Shadows is the sequel to A Darker Shade of Magic, and the cover (Lila in her pirate outfit! let's go let's go let's go) and blurb have me very nervous but so, so pumped. This comes out on February 23.

Honorable mention goes to Marie Rutkoski's The Winner's Kiss (out March 29!) because the pain will be so real.

5. One thing you hope to accomplish or do in your reading/blogging life in 2016?

I hope to start reading poetry collections, and I'd like to blog with more purpose—I've been thinking of a) shifting over to blogging more about lifestyle in addition to literature, b) shortening my posts so that I can post more often, c) scheduling some posts, and d) incorporating more of my own photography in my posts.

6. A 2016 release you’ve already read & recommend to everyone:

Strangely enough, I haven't read any 2016 releases yet, but that's all the more reason to look forward to whatever this next reading year may bring.

So let's talk! What were the highs and lows of your year in reading? What are you looking forward to reading in 2016?

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