This year, I kept a tally of how many books I read and how many films I saw in theaters, as I was curious to know what the totals would be. With a few days of 2015 left, my goal of reading 100 books has been completed and I have seen a total of 21 films in theaters… 22 if you count the second time I saw The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies. Though I would love to write in-depth reviews of each book/series I read and each film I saw, for time purposes, I thought that I would just list my top ten favorites and a few reasons in each category instead. Here we go! I’ll try and avoid spoilers!
Top 10 Books / Book Series (in no particular order)!
10.) The School for Good and Evil Series by Soman Chainani
A fun series that puts a new spin on fairy tales with familiar characters written in a new fashion and fresh characters with very distinct personalities. The books present unique ideas on love and friendship, interesting plot-lines, and a lot of wit.
9.) Grisha Series by Leigh Bardugo
The compelling world and intriguing characters introduced in the Grisha series kept me turning the pages. Magic, romance, and a grim, yet hopeful storyline. Definitely can’t decide which book of the three is my favorite, but they were all equally memorable, action-packed and unpredictable. Easily one of the best YA series I’ve ever read.
8.) Starcrossed Series by Josephine Angelini
I went into these books not knowing what to expect, and was really surprised – it’s a new spin on mythology (Helen of Troy, Paris, Trojan War stuff, Greek gods, etc), with sharp writing, excellent dialogue, and great characters. A new interpretation of old formulas, and a refreshing read.
7.) The Martian by Andy Weir
I read this book because I was compelled by the film trailer, and let me just say, it was really nice to read a novel about space travel and exploration that wasn’t totally grim and depressing. Really funny, great characters, and I read the last quarter of it in a straight shot because I could not wait to find out what was going to happen.
6.) For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund
A wonderful blend of sci-fi and classic, gothic-esque romantic literature. I really loved the style, the characters, and the plot, since it blended two genres that I am a huge fan of. It was a sit-down and read it all in one day kind of book. I got drawn in from the first page and was immersed all the way to the last.
5.) The Jewel and The White Rose by Amy Ewing
This was one of those “Hm, I think I’ll pick this up” deals on my Nook, and I am super glad I did. A semi-dystopian YA novel with an original premise (at least, one I’ve never seen before) about surrogacy, of all things, I was totally drawn in by the plot and when The White Rose came out this October, I sat down and read it all at once. Great read.
4.) Winter by Marissa Meyer
I read the first three novels in the Lunar Chronicles last year, but this is easily one of my favorite YA series of all time. Futuristic interpretations of fairy tales, with new ideas, a lot of action, memorable characters, and an engaging plot. Winter delivered as a fitting, and fulfilling finale to a marvelous series that I will certainly reread someday.
3.) Graceling by Kristin Cashore
This was one of those books that drew me in with the writing style, then kept me in with an intriguing plot. I loved the world-building, the descriptions of the characters, and the original, but easy-to-follow ideas presented in the novel. A great read, all in all.
2.) Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
Long story short, I am a fangirl. This book hit me on so, so many levels.
1.) An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir
Action packed, with equally interesting dual-protagonists, a lot of suspense, a terrifying, but exciting world, and excellent writing. My jaw went slack several times while reading, and I definitely stayed on the treadmill several minutes longer while I was reading it at the gym. Definitely looking forward to whatever comes next for the characters and the world that Tahir has created.
Top 10 Movies (in order from least fave to most)!
10.) Ant-Man (honorable mention: Avengers: Age of Ultron)
Ant-Man was a surprising film for me. Typical Marvel action but with a different, more humor-based flair that makes it stand out from some of the grittier, darker titles in recent years. The IMAX 3D was pretty neat, and I still laugh out loud whenever I think of the huge Thomas the Tank Engine scene. (While I loved Age of Ultron, it didn’t quite live up to predecessors, nor the hype surrounding it…but these two were close.)
9.) The Martian
I saw the film about a week after I finished reading the book and was not disappointed in the least! Matt Damon captured the brilliant humor of Mark Watney, and though some elements were lost in the book-to-screen transition, the film certainly kept the hopeful spirit of the novel and all in all, served as a worthy adaptation in my opinion.
8.) Man From U.N.C.L.E.
My dad is a big fan of the show, and I probably wouldn’t have seen this movie if he hadn’t wanted to go. But I’m glad I did, because it didn’t disappoint. Lots of action, humor, and great characters who are definitely easy on the eyes. Plus, the sandwich eating / boat chase scene had me laughing for quite a while.
Basically, don’t go into this movie expecting warm fuzzies and happy rainbows. I didn’t know anything about the 1996 Everest disaster going into it (at least, no specific details, like the death count and all that) so I left the theater a little red-eyed and sniffly. But seeing it in IMAX was quite the ride. It also convinced me to never, ever climb a mountain. Ever. I’m even leery of hills, now.
6.) The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies
Flawed though it may be, it was a fitting conclusion to Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit series and a last goodbye to Middle Earth in cinema. Also, a really stunning IMAX experience. Excellent performances by the cast and a real treat for the non-purist Tolkien fans like myself who don’t mind a few changes here and there. Fili and Kili are still my lock-screen wallpaper.
5.) Crimson Peak
Stylistically and visually, Crimson Peak was absolutely stunning. The costumes, the sets, the music, the dialogue… everything set the mood of the film. The plot was a bit predictable, and it’s more of a gothic romance than a “horror” film, so if you go into it expecting cheap scares and gore, you will be disappointed. But the ghosts are still super freaky, the suspense is well done, and it was a really great cinematic experience. Also, I just really enjoyed it. And Jessica Chastain is terrifying.
4.) Jurassic World
Dinosaurs. Chris Pratt. Enough said.
I have a soft spot for fairy tales and princess stories, and I thought this reinvention of Cinderella did a great job paying tribute to the source material, while adding plenty of new material and magic. I loved the music, the acting, the sets and costumes, and even though it’s telling an old story that we’ve heard a thousand times, it does it in a new, fresh way, with plenty of classic charm.
2.) The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2
I went in expecting a dark, grim, depressing film that remains true to the source material and invokes the circumstances of war, and that is exactly what I experienced. Pretty impactful for fans of both the films and the novels, who now get to see their favorite characters die and suffer onscreen (Yay…*sob*), and all in all, a fitting conclusion to the series.
1.) Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens
I teared up the instant the famous theme started playing and “Star Wars” appeared on the screen. I wasn’t alive when Star Wars / A New Hope was released, but have grown to love (most of) the films over the years. The newest Star Wars installment is hands-down my favorite film of the year. A fitting tribute to the original films, with familiar faces, music, sounds, and props, coupled with plenty of new, compelling characters, places, and material, the film is a true continuation, not a total overhaul, to satisfy fans new and old. It doesn’t stomp on the source material, it celebrates it, and pays homage – all the way back to the title sequence and the old-school transitions. There was laughter, tears, more laughter, MORE TEARS, and so much action packed into the film that I know I need to see it again just to make sure I didn’t miss anything, and I can’t wait for the series to continue with Episode VIII.
Also, I may have cried at the end when a certain character appeared. No spoilers, but DAMN. The feels were real.