Wednesday, July 15, 2015

The Best Books of My Year (So Far)

Since I did this post on July 15th last year, I figured I'd continue the tradition and roll out this post now. I excluded the 'worst' books this year because I had no one star books (can I get a yay?)- and if you're very curious about books I was lukewarm about, you can just check my month-in-review posts under Reading Stats.
Note: Not all of the books on this list were published this year. This list is based on the books I've read (so far) in 2015.

Total Books I've Read (So Far) in 2015: 50 Books
My Goal: 107 Books, if I'm feeling up to it.

The Best of Fantasy

The Princess Bride by William Goldman
Rating: 4.5 Stars
I have no idea why I waited so long to read this one, especially since I loved the movie version, but it's safe to say I loved it just as much. This fantasy book has everything from pirates, princesses, satire, giants... and of course, my favorite part, the revenge.

Honorable Mentions (Fantasy)

Stardust by Neil Gaiman
Rating: 4 Stars
I watched the movie version of this book first as well, and expected no surprises. The ending was completely different from the movie, throwing me for a loop. I generally think Mr. Gaiman's work is overhyped, but this one was pretty excellent.

The Lies of Locke Lamora (Gentleman Bastard #1) by Scott Lynch
Rating: 4 Stars
I acquired my very own Gentleman Bastard just prior to reading this book, making it a bit more 'true-to-life' for me. Essentially, this is a book about orphan thieves who are conning their way into the big leagues in a fantasy world. I'm currently reading the second book with help/motivation from Kritika's readalong at Snowflakes and Spider silk, and I'm loving it so far.

The Best of Historical Fiction

Billy by Albert French
Rating: 5 Stars
I had no idea I had such a gem lurking in the depths of my pile. I began reading African-American fiction that had been backlogged in my pile for February, and chose this one due to its short length. It might be short, but it's pretty close to perfection in my opinion- it has the only 5 Star rating I've given in 2015.

Honorable Mention (Historical Fiction)

Rebel Queen by Michelle Moran
Rating: 4 Stars
I doubt I'll be forgetting the story of Rani Lakshmibai and her Durga Dal (female guards) anytime soon. I haven't read very many books set in India, making this perfect for my Travel the World in Books Challenge.

The Perfume Collector by Kathleen Tessaro
Rating: 4 Stars
Although I had this book's plot down from pretty much the beginning, it was nonetheless diverting. What I loved most about it were the descriptions of Paris, the fact that much of it was set in Paris, and the characters themselves.

The Best of Sci-fi

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
Rating: 4 Stars
I don't know what I was expecting this book would be like when I picked it up, but it definitely wasn't a book of outrageously accurate scientific advances. Although the story wasn't particularly enthralling, what keeps you engaged is the writing and ideas that seem much too advanced to be written about in the 1930s.

Anthem by Ayn Rand
Rating: 4 Stars
In the same vein as Brave New World, Anthem imagines a society where the only evil is the individual. For a novella it is chock-full of ideas and plot, which makes reading it that much faster.

The Best of Steampunk

Unseemly Science (The Fall of the Gas-Lit Empire #2) by Rod Duncan
Rating: 4.5 Stars
I was surprised to find that, despite a slower start, I enjoyed this just as much as its previous installment. Although it was a bit chillier in feeling, it only made me fall more in love Elizabeth and her double life. I can't wait until the third book comes out!

Honorable Mention (Steampunk)

The Shadow Revolution and The Undying Legion (Crown & Key #1-2) by Clay Griffith and Susan Griffith
Rating: 4 Stars Each
The Crown & Key series is enthralling due to its magic system and immersive environment. If you like macabre elements in Urban Fantasy or Steampunk, you'd be missing out if you didn't at least try reading the first book.

The Parasol Protectorate Series by Gail Carriger
Rating: 4 Stars for 4 of them, 3.5 for Changeless
My year started off with a reading boost thanks to these fun and addictive steampunk books. What sets this series apart is that the characters are really what drive it, along with their respective relationships. It also has a strong paranormal romance element.

The Best of Urban Fantasy

Written in Red (The Others #1) by Anne Bishop
Rating: 4.5 Stars
What more could I ask of an urban fantasy than Wolf puppies and a strong (but at the same time, very human) main heroine? Despite its slightly threatening cover, I found Written in Red so funny I began to get odd looks in the waiting room of my doctor's office.

Vicious by V.E. Scwab
Rating: 4.5 Stars
While not technically urban fantasy (kind of superhero fantasy), Vicious reminds one of it due to dark and light elements balanced perfectly (for me) and memorable characters. The only problem? Vicious is a standalone (that has a prequel, but still...). I'll be looking for more of V.E. and/or Victoria Scwab's books in the future.

The Best of Magical Realism

Turtle Moon by Alice Hoffman
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Despite it's contemporary setting, I found Turtle Moon to be one of my new favorite Alice Hoffman titles. There are a multitude of quotes, characters, and settings I loved, making this a worthy addition to my 2015 favorites collection.

Honorable Mention (Magical Realism)

Peony in Love by Lisa See
Rating: 4 Stars
This is half historical fiction, half magical realism, and entirely worth your time if you have a love of both genres. Set in 17th century China, Peony in Love tells the story of Peony, who falls in love with a man she meets when her father brings a production of Peony's Pavilion to their estate.

The Best of Romantic Fantasy

Song of Blood & Stone (Earthsinger Chronicles #1) by L. Penelope
Rating: 4 Stars
Anymore, I rarely expect a book to live up to its cover, but this one did for me. Song of Blood and Stone follows Jasminda, a lone magic user who helps a stranger, only to be dragged into his life.

The Best of Historical Romance

The Heiress Effect (The Brothers Sinister #2) by Courtney Milan
Rating: 4 Stars
Probably the first historical romance I've read in which I loved the secondary romance much more than the first. What stood out to me was the fact that the author included a character with a chronic illness, which is really NOT done in your run-of-the-mill historical romance. However, with Courtney Milan, it's safe to expect a lot more from your historical romance than just a love story.

A Good Debutante's Guide to Ruin (The Debutante Files #1) by Sophie Jordan
Rating: 4 Stars
I don't usually like stepbrother romances- they're too weird, but in this case it worked, even with the regency setting. I was also surprised how much I grew to know the characters and love them, whereas most books I really couldn't care less about them.

The Best of Paranormal Romance

The Secret (Irin Chronicles #3) by Elizabeth Hunter
Rating: 4.5 Stars
One of the more sad books for me to read because of this being the final Eva and Malachi book in the Irin Chronicles, The Secret reveals most (but not all) of the things we've been burning to know all series long. Nonetheless, I look forward to the next in the series, and hope I love the next 'couple' just as much as these two.

My Favorite Out-of-Orbit Books:

The Pianist by Władysław Szpilman
Rating: 4 Stars
Probably the hardest book for me to read this year. Holocaust memoirs are always difficult, but this one has an interesting twist to the usual story you hear.

The Lady and the Panda: The True Adventures of the First American Explorer to Bring Back China's Most Exotic Animal by Vicki Constantine Croke
Rating: 4 Stars
Not just a book about pandas (despite my love of their adorableness), The Lady and the Panda takes you back in time to the China that once was. It also provides a strong, yet immensely human heroine to cheer on in her quest to find the pandas, and then watch as her thoughts on the matter gradually change. If you ever wonder about how zoos and zoo animals were originally formed, this is a great book to read up on the subject.

What are your favorite books that you've read so far this year? What makes them stand out from the rest of the books you've read?

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