Hello friends and fellow bookworms. Hard to believe 2015 is almost over, isn’t it? I have had a great year in terms of reading, although I didn’t get to read nearly as many books as I had hoped. I did, however, read an enormous amount of really great books. That said, I would like to share with you my absolute favorite books that I read in 2015.
Let me preface my list by mentioning a few things. First, the books are listed in no particular order. Second, the books listed are only the books that I read for the first time in 2015, meaning that even though I reread my absolute favorite series (featuring a certain Mr. Potter) this year, it will not be featured because it simply isn’t fair. Finally, while all the books I read were great, these books were chosen because they sparked strong emotion in me and they were books that I know I will read again and again and again. (Allow me a small digression: for my thoughts on rereading books, please visit my To Reread or Not to Reread post.)
Now, without further ado:
My Favorite Books I Read in 2015
- Me Before You -Jojo Moyes
They had nothing in common until love gave them everything to lose . . .
Louisa Clark is an ordinary girl living an exceedingly ordinary life—steady boyfriend, close family—who has never been farther afield than their tiny village. She takes a badly needed job working for ex–Master of the Universe Will Traynor, who is wheelchair bound after an accident. Will has always lived a huge life—big deals, extreme sports, worldwide travel—and now he’s pretty sure he cannot live the way he is.
Will is acerbic, moody, bossy—but Lou refuses to treat him with kid gloves, and soon his happiness means more to her than she expected. When she learns that Will has shocking plans of his own, she sets out to show him that life is still worth living.
A Love Story for this generation, Me Before You brings to life two people who couldn’t have less in common—a heartbreakingly romantic novel that asks, What do you do when making the person you love happy also means breaking your own heart?
TheBookWench – This book seriously broke my heart and gave me a hell of a book hangover. But it also inspired me to think differently about certain things. I recommend this book to anyone that asks me for book recommendations. I can’t wait to see the movie when it comes out in March.
2. Love Letters to the Dead – Ava
It begins as an assignment for English class: Write a letter to a dead person. Laurel chooses Kurt Cobain because her sister, May, loved him. And he died young, just like May did. Soon, Laurel has a notebook full of letters to people like Janis Joplin, Amy Winehouse, Amelia Earhart, Heath Ledger, and more — though she never gives a single one of them to her teacher. She writes about starting high school, navigating new friendships, falling in love for the first time, learning to live with her splintering family. And, finally, about the abuse she suffered while May was supposed to be looking out for her. Only then, once Laurel has written down the truth about what happened to herself, can she truly begin to accept what happened to May. And only when Laurel has begun to see her sister as the person she was — lovely and amazing and deeply flawed — can she begin to discover her own path in this stunning debut from Ava Dellaira, Love Letters to the Dead.
TheBookWench – This is another one that sparked a lot of feels. It was so good I read it in less than a day over my Thanksgiving vacation. I could not put it down. I LOVED the letters format and the fact that Laurel wrote to so many amazing people who actually were important to me in one point of my life or another. The letters did more than express Laurel’s feelings, they humanized and de-stigmatized the dead.
3. Career of Evil – Robert Galbraith
When a mysterious package is delivered to Robin Ellacott, she is horrified to discover that it contains a woman’s severed leg.
Her boss, private detective Cormoran Strike, is less surprised but no less alarmed. There are four people from his past who he thinks could be responsible — and Strike knows that any one of them is capable of sustained and unspeakable brutality.
With the police focusing on the one suspect Strike is increasingly sure is not the perpetrator, he and Robin take matters into their own hands, and delve into the dark and twisted worlds of the other three men. But as more horrendous acts occur, time is running out for the two of them…
Career of Evil is the third in the highly acclaimed series featuring private detective Cormoran Strike and his assistant Robin Ellacott. A fiendishly clever mystery with unexpected twists around every corner, it is also a gripping story of a man and a woman at a crossroads in their personal and professional lives.
TheBookWench – As if it is any wonder that I love something written by Robert Galbraith (*hemjkrowlinghem*). The Cormoran Strike series is raw and clever and it is so amazing to see J. K. take on and ace a different genre. I don’t know which character I love more: Robin or Cormoran himself. I am crossing my fingers that the series will last quite some time and even get a little screen-time itself.
4. A Court of Thorns and Roses – Sarah J. Maas
When nineteen-year-old huntress Feyre kills a wolf in the woods, a beast-like creature arrives to demand retribution for it. Dragged to a treacherous magical land she only knows about from legends, Feyre discovers that her captor is not an animal, but Tamlin–one of the lethal, immortal faeries who once ruled their world.
As she dwells on his estate, her feelings for Tamlin transform from icy hostility into a fiery passion that burns through every lie and warning she’s been told about the beautiful, dangerous world of the Fae. But an ancient, wicked shadow over the faerie lands is growing, and Feyre must find a way to stop it . . . or doom Tamlin–and his world–forever.
TheBookWench – I have always been a fan of the story of Beauty and the Beast and this is no exception. I’ll admit I was a little hesitant about the whole Faerie/Fae thing; this was actually my first book about Fae/Faeries and I think I chose a fantastic one to edge my way in. Maas takes the classic Fairy Tale (get it?) and completely makes it her own. I will admit that I was so enamored with Maas’ world and story-telling that I didn’t even realize that it took after Beauty and the Beast until someone mentioned it in one of the book clubs I am a part of.
5. The Invasion of the Tearling – Erika Johansen
With each passing day, Kelsea Glynn is growing into her new responsibilities as Queen of the Tearling. By stopping the shipments of slaves to the neighboring kingdom of Mortmesne, she crossed the Red Queen, a brutal ruler whose power derives from dark magic, who is sending her fearsome army into the Tearling to take what is hers. And nothing can stop the invasion.
But as the Mort army draws ever closer, Kelsea develops a mysterious connection to a time before the Crossing, and she finds herself relying on a strange and possibly dangerous ally: a woman named Lily, fighting for her life in a world where being female can feel like a crime. The fate of the Tearling —and that of Kelsea’s own soul—may rest with Lily and her story, but Kelsea may not have enough time to find out.
TheBookWench – I LOVE this trilogy, even though there is still one book left. I have a review pending on Invasion so I’ll keep this short and sweet. It is a wonderful addition to the trilogy and my favorite of the two. We learn so much more about Johansen’s world and the people in it.
6. Henna House – Nomi Eve
This vivid saga begins in Yemen in 1920. Adela Damari’s parents’ health is failing as they desperately seek a future husband for their young daughter, who is in danger of becoming adopted by the local Muslim community if she is orphaned. With no likely marriage prospects, Adela’s situation looks dire—until she meets two cousins from faraway cities: a boy with whom she shares her most treasured secret, and a girl who introduces her to the powerful rituals of henna. Ultimately, Adela’s life journey brings her old and new loves, her true calling, and a new life as she is transported to Israel as part of Operation On Wings of Eagles.
Rich, evocative, and enthralling, Henna House is an intimate family portrait interwoven with the traditions of the Yemenite Jews and the history of the Holocaust and Israel. This sensuous tale of love, loss, betrayal, forgiveness—and the dyes that adorn the skin and pierce the heart—will captivate readers until the very last page.
TheBookWench – Henna House is one of those books that leave you feeling culturally enlightened. While it doesn’t fully expound on the history of the Yemenite Jews, it gives you the urge to learn more. It is thought-provoking and earnest and a hell of a read. I’m surprised it isn’t as well-known. When I first read it early this year I was practically screaming recommendations to innocent passersby. That is how good it is.
7./8. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children/Hollow City – Ransom Riggs
A mysterious island.
An abandoned orphanage.
A strange collection of very curious photographs.
It all waits to be discovered in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, an unforgettable novel that mixes fiction and photography in a thrilling reading experience. As our story opens, a horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its abandoned bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that the children were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a deserted island for good reason. And somehow—impossible though it seems—they may still be alive.
September 3, 1940. Ten peculiar children flee an army of deadly monsters. And only one person can help them—but she’s trapped in the body of a bird. The extraordinary journey that began in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children continues as Jacob Portman and his newfound friends journey to London, the peculiar capital of the world. There, they hope to find a cure for their beloved headmistress, Miss Peregrine. But in this war-torn city, hideous surprises lurk around every corner. And before Jacob can deliver the peculiar children to safety, he must make an important decision about his love for Emma Bloom.
TheBookWench – Now first off, I will say that I haven’t read the third book yet. I had hoped to do a review on these two first but then I got a bit behind. As I am starting afresh, I will go ahead and deem this my mini review:
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children was awesome and engaging and I LOVE Ransom Riggs’ use of weird and, dare I say, peculiar photographs to enhance the reading experience. Jacob is a realistic portrayal of a disillusioned teenage boy who no longer believes the stories his grandfather once told him.
I will go ahead and say that I love the world that Riggs introduces to us. It is different and odd and just fun. I love the supernatural aspects of the trilogy. More than anything, however, these books are entertaining and engaging. I read them in less than two days, purchasing the second one on my Kindle less than a minute after finishing the first. I’m looking forward to reading the final book and to seeing the movie later this year.
9. The Red Tent – Anita Diamant
Her name is Dinah. In the Bible, her life is only hinted at in a brief and violent detour within the more familiar chapters of the Book of Genesis. In The Red Tent, Anita Diamant brings this fascinating biblical character to vivid life.
Told in Dinah’s voice, the novel reveals the traditions and turmoils of ancient womanhood-the world of the red tent. It begins with the story of Dinah’s mothers-Leah, Rachel, Zilpah, and Bilhah-the four wives of Jacob. They love Dinah and give her gifts that sustain her through a hard-working youth, a calling to midwifery, and a new home in a foreign land. Dinah’s story reaches out from a remarkable period of early history and creates an intimate connection with the past.
TheBookWench – I will preface my blurb by saying one thing: though this book has religious undertones, being that it is based off a small excerpt of the Bible, I do not consider it an overtly religious book, so I feel that I does not violate my self-imposed reluctance to read or review anything “religious.”
The Red Tent tells the stories of Dinah and her mothers in such a beautiful way that I often had to put it down just to absorb and process its artistry. It was also a book that left me reeling in the end and many times throughout. I will take this time to warn you: if you are unfamiliar with Dinah’s story in the Bible, do NOT look it up until after you read the book. Trust me on this. It will ruin it for you as it did for me (and spoilers usually do not bother me at all).
The Red Tent has a bittersweet ending that left me feeling quite bereft yet I knew that it could only end the way that it did.
10. Very Good Lives: The Fringe Benefits of Failure and the Importance of Imagination – J. K. Rowling
In 2008, J.K. Rowling delivered a deeply affecting commencement speech at Harvard University. Now published for the first time in book form, VERY GOOD LIVES presents J.K. Rowling’s words of wisdom for anyone at a turning point in life. How can we embrace failure? And how can we use our imagination to better both ourselves and others?
Drawing from stories of her own post-graduate years, the world famous author addresses some of life’s most important questions with acuity and emotional force.
ThoBookWench – I know this book was a speech first but I still felt that it was a beyond worthwhile read (I watched videos of the original speech back in ’08 and I still love having it in print form). J. K. Rowling captures the beauty of creativity and the often necessary failures in life to prove that things can and will get better if you don’t give up. As always, Rowling is inspirational and honest, showing no embarrassment or shame when discussing her rocky road to success (which is wonderful because she shouldn’t). Very Good Lives will inspire you put aside your self-doubt and go out and achieve your dreams. It helped me push on with my blog and even though I have had a bit of a rocky start myself, I know that 2016 will be even better and I am so excited.
The photo is courtesy of barnesandnoble.com
11. Helen of Sparta – Amalia Carosella
Long before she ran away with Paris to Troy, Helen of Sparta was haunted by nightmares of a burning city under siege. These dreams foretold impending war—a war that only Helen has the power to avert. To do so, she must defy her family and betray her betrothed by fleeing the palace in the dead of night. In need of protection, she finds shelter and comfort in the arms of Theseus, son of Poseidon. With Theseus at her side, she believes she can escape her destiny. But at every turn, new dangers—violence, betrayal, extortion, threat of war—thwart Helen’s plans and bar her path. Still, she refuses to bend to the will of the gods.
A new take on an ancient myth, Helen of Sparta is the story of one woman determined to decide her own fate.
TheBookWench – I have always loved mythology and lore. I even elected to take a class on it one semester in college. I, like many others, have a special love for Greek mythology; particularly the story of Helen and her place in the history of Troy. When I discovered, by chance, a book that told one account of her life before Troy and before Paris, I was ecstatic. Let me tell you: this book lived up to my excitement beautifully. It’s so beautifully written and compelling and it gave such life to the main characters of Helen and Theseus. If you are a fan of Greek mythology, definitely check it out!
12. Jurassic Park – Michael Crichton
An astonishing technique for recovering and cloning dinosaur DNA has been discovered. Now humankind’s most thrilling fantasies have come true. Creatures extinct for eons roam Jurassic Park with their awesome presence and profound mystery, and all the world can visit them—for a price.
Until something goes wrong. . . .
When a rival biogenetic firm attempts to steal the scientists secret, the stage is set for a nightmare of science and dinosaurs run amok.
In Jurassic Park, Michael Crichton taps all his mesmerizing talent and scientific brilliance to create his most electrifying technothriller.
TheBookWench – Here is a book that I am surprised I hadn’t read until this year, considering my obsession with the movie and my childhood dream of becoming a paleontologist. But with the release of Jurassic World I knew I couldn’t put it off any longer. I’m glad I did because it was simply phenomenal. Having grown up watching the Jurassic Park trilogy (yes, I am one of the few who liked the sequels) I of course knew the outcome; or at least, I thought I did. Fans of the films will certainly have to read the novel that inspired it all because SO MUCH is different. I couldn’t begin to explain (not that I would want to ruin any of the surprise). But that nostalgia of watching (and obsessing over) dinosaurs is present with every turn of page. I can’t wait to read The Lost World.
13. The Martian – Andy Weir
Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars.
Now, he’s sure he’ll be the first person to die there.
After a dust storm nearly kills him and forces his crew to evacuate while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded and completely alone with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive—and even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone long before a rescue could arrive.
Chances are, though, he won’t have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment, or plain-old “human error” are much more likely to kill him first.
But Mark isn’t ready to give up yet. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills—and a relentless, dogged refusal to quit—he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. Will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?
TheBookWench – This is another instance of “I watched the movie first” (I do that quite a lot, actually). A few weeks after the movie hit theaters I went with one of my friends, neither of us quite sure what to expect. Moments after my friend and I parted at the theater following the movie, I bought the book on my Kindle. The book is, as often happens, better than the movie. Considering I loved the movie, you can imagine how I feel about the book. Mark Watney is fantastic and Weir gives readers numerous “laugh-out-loud” moments. I often woke Mr. Wench up in the middle of the night from laughing so hard. For those skeptical about “sci-fi” books, I promise, it’s not as high-tech Star Wars/Star Trek like you are imagining (not that I would mind, personally, if it was). And I promise that there are no aliens. Scouts honor.
14. Why Not Me? – Mindy Kaling
In Why Not Me?, Kaling shares her ongoing journey to find contentment and excitement in her adult life, whether it’s falling in love at work, seeking new friendships in lonely places, attempting to be the first person in history to lose weight without any behavior modification whatsoever, or most important, believing that you have a place in Hollywood when you’re constantly reminded that no one looks like you.
In “How to Look Spectacular: A Starlet’s Confessions,” Kaling gives her tongue-in-cheek secrets for surefire on-camera beauty, (“Your natural hair color may be appropriate for your skin tone, but this isn’t the land of appropriate–this is Hollywood, baby. Out here, a dark-skinned woman’s traditional hair color is honey blonde.”) “Player” tells the story of Kaling being seduced and dumped by a female friend in L.A. (“I had been replaced by a younger model. And now they had matching bangs.”) In “Unlikely Leading Lady,” she muses on America’s fixation with the weight of actresses, (“Most women we see onscreen are either so thin that they’re walking clavicles or so huge that their only scenes involve them breaking furniture.”) And in “Soup Snakes,” Kaling spills some secrets on her relationship with her ex-boyfriend and close friend, B.J. Novak (“I will freely admit: my relationship with B.J. Novak is weird as hell.”)
Mindy turns the anxieties, the glamour, and the celebrations of her second coming-of-age into a laugh-out-loud funny collection of essays that anyone who’s ever been at a turning point in their life or career can relate to. And those who’ve never been at a turning point can skip to the parts where she talks about meeting Bradley Cooper.
Mindy Kaling’s second book of essays is as wonderful as her first. It is another book that kept me laughing (and waking up Mr. Wench). Mindy doesn’t take herself seriously, until she does, and it is entirely refreshing to find someone in Hollywood who is so comfortable with herself. Kaling is funny and clever as well as a strong role-model. An accomplished producer, writer, and actress she is certainly someone whose brain you should want to pick. I recommend reading both of her books!
15. The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood
It is the world of the near future, and Offred is a Handmaid in the home of the Commander and his wife. She is allowed out once a day to the food market, she is not permitted to read, and she is hoping the Commander makes her pregnant, because she is only valued if her ovaries are viable. Offred can remember the years before, when she was an independent woman, had a job of her own, a husband and child. But all of that is gone now…everything has changed.
TheBookWench – This book was terrifying as it was eye-opening. And I don’t mean terrifying as in monsters or gore. Culturally, I feel like the world is closer to the plot of the book than it was when it was written. If we aren’t careful and mindful, this could happen to us; it isn’t that far-fetched. There were moments that I felt a little lost, it does go back and forth between three different times, all from the point-of-view of Offred. But once I got the hang of it, I was enamored. Intelligent, unabashed, and insightful, The Handmaid’s Tale is a highly important social commentary, one that I feel more people should read.
Well, friends, I hope everyone had a wonderful New Years Eve. I’m looking forward to a plethora of new books in 2016.
Which of the books named above have you read and enjoyed? Are there any on your to-be-read list? Please share in the comments below.
P.S. Nolite te bastardes carborundorum.