Thursday, January 7, 2016

My Best Reads of 2015

This year I was lucky enough not to have read any one star reads, thus negating my need for the best and worst reads. So for 2015- it's simply the best of what I've read.

The 5 Star Reads:

*= links to Goodreads (the unmarked links link to my review on this blog)

Billy by Albert French
Genre: Historical Fiction (but based on a true story)
I unwittingly picked this up from my pile prior to Black History Month (which became an impromptu diverse books month for me) expecting... nothing, really. I expected this to be an interesting historical fiction. Instead it became the book that haunted me throughout the year as topics of race relations and racial injustice came up. I highly *HIGHLY* recommend it.

The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux*
Genre: Classic/Gothic Horror
I can't remember which friends of mine were obsessed with The Phantom of the Opera, and if it was just the film they were obsessed with. However, I deemed it a 'girly' thing, and therefore not on my list of things to experience. During my feast of classics this December, I decided to give it a try, and eventually, I ended up loving it.

My Man Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse*
Genre: Classic Short Stories
This is one of those 'joy of being human' books combined with 'comedy of errors', and it's perfect in every way (even though it's a series of short stories and not a full-out book).


 The Princess Bride by William Goldman
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Speaking of 'joy of being human' books- I can't believe I put this one off for so long. I love you, Inigo Montoya!

The Lies of Locke Lamora (Gentleman Bastard #1) by Scott Lynch
Rating: 4 Stars
I've had trouble with reading this one before, but since there was a readalong for it, I powered through- and ended up enjoying it greatly. Despite some lulls in the plot, I hope to continue the series soon.

Stardust by Neil Gaiman
Rating: 4 Stars
This is the only Neil Gaiman novel I've ever really *really* liked. For some reason, his urban fantasies irk me while some of his short stories (and of course, this book) have delighted me. If he ever does more fairy-tale-ish fantasy like this, I'll be in line to read it.

Urban Fantasy

Vicious by V.E. Schwab
Rating: 4.5 Stars
I'd had this on my wishlist forever and then finally the price became more decent for me and I snagged it. I expected to enjoy it, and I most certainly did- antiheroes are often my thing, and this read like a summer blockbuster, especially considering it involved superheroes.

Magic Shifts (Kate Daniels #8) by Ilona Andrews
Rating: 4.5 Stars
I had hoped to love this one just a bit more, but I didn't find it quite as compelling as Magic Breaks. However, it's still a worthy addition to the series.

Written in Red (The Others #1) by Anne Bishop
Rating: 4.5 Stars
As I said, I would've picked this one up a fair bit earlier if it had had a cute harnessed Wolf puppy on the cover. However, due to its grim cover, it certainly exceeded my initial expectations of it. It features truly excellent world and character building, with an unlikely heroine.

Clean Sweep (Innkeeper Chronicles #1) by Ilona Andrews
Also, Sweep in Peace (Innkeeper Chronicles #2) by Ilona Andrews*
Ratings: 4 Stars
This urban fantasy also features an unlikely heroine, but not quite as unlikely as the one in Written in Red (Meg). I really liked that this one has an extra sci-fi element to it that I haven't seen in other urban fantasy. It was also simply adorable- a delightful shorter urban fantasy read, along with its sequel.

Burn for Me (Hidden Legacy #1) by Ilona Andrews
Rating: 4 Stars
I'm a bit put out about this series as it has been delayed (and won't likely have a new addition this year). But, this is still one of the best urban fantasy adventures I read this year (along with every other book that Ilona Andrews has written). I don't recommend reading it as quickly, though, due to the delay- read it whenever White Hot (the next book) arrives.

Paranormal Romance

The Secret (Irin Chronicles #3) by Elizabeth Hunter
Rating: 4.5 Stars
The last book with Ava and Malachi (although there is a short story out featuring them), but not the last book in the series (thank goodness). I would expound more, but much of this book has spoilers for the other books, so it's rather dangerous to be wordy here.

Magical Realism

The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker
Rating: 4.5 Stars
This was a book everyone was talking about- except me. I felt left out, so I picked it up, expecting another one of those popular books that everyone loves and I simply like. It didn't turn out that way- this came within an inch of five stars. A truly magical gem for anyone who enjoys its genre.

Turtle Moon by Alice Hoffman
Rating: 4.5 Stars
This one I expected to enjoy- I've always enjoyed tales by Alice Hoffman, but this became one of my favorites of hers. It features dogs, who, quite naturally, have a special place in my heart- just like this book.

Local Girls by Alice Hoffman
Rating: 4 Stars
One of those rare books that I've read in one sitting, Local Girls was another book of Alice Hoffman's I enjoyed this year. Although it lacked the polish of Turtle Moon, it still had its moments and is therefore still fully recommendable (especially if you're a rabid Hoffman fan like me).

Fantasy Romance

Song of Blood and Stone (Earthsinger Chronicles #1) by L. Penelope
Rating: 4 Stars
I wasn't sure what I'd get by requesting this on NetGalley, but it turned out to be one of my diverse favorites for the year.

Radiance (Wraith Kings #1) by Grace Draven*
Rating: 4 Stars
A friends-to-lovers fantasy romance by one of my favorite authors? Of course it has to be on this list. Although I didn't like it as much as some of her other work, I'm excited to see what the next book in the series will bring.

Science Fiction

Kesrith (The Faded Sun #1) by C.J. Cherryh
Shon'jir (The Faded Sun #2) by C.J. Cherryh
Kutath (The Faded Sun #3) by C.J. Cherryh
Ratings: 4 Stars
I bought the chunky omnibus of this trilogy for a steal of a price, and it was well worth the time I spent with it. It isn't one of those action-packed sci-fis in space, but it is an intelligent, moderately paced, political-maneuvering piece of science fiction.

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy #1) by Douglas Adams
Rating: 4 Stars
The first of of this didn't really impress me, but the second half did, and that's what counts as far as my ratings go.

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
Rating: 4 Stars
What impressed me most with this one was the technology the author had imagined up, and how close it is to what we have now. The message was also a great one, even though the characters were little more than pawns to create it for the author.

Anthem by Ayn Rand
Rating: 4 Stars
Despite an awful heroine, this novella has some serious punch (and doesn't take much time at all to read).


Unseemly Science (The Fall of the Gas-Lit Empire #2) by Rod Duncan
Rating: 4.5 Stars
With the second book in any series, my expectations rise- and this book met the challenge. I recommend starting with The Bullet-Catcher's Daughter first, of course, otherwise you'll be lost.

The Shadow Revolution (Crown & Key #1) by Clay Griffith and Susan Griffith
The Undying Legion (Crown & Key #2) by Clay Griffith and Susan Griffith
The Conquering Dark (Crown & Key #3) by Clay Griffith & Susan Griffith
Ratings: 4 Stars
These were all review copies I read and greatly enjoyed- what make these is the core group of characters who evolve with each book. There is plenty of action, humor, and a dash of light romance (which helps lighten some of the darker moments).

Ratings: 4 Stars
This is a very core-steampunk series- it's been around a while, but I hadn't read any of it until January of this year. In a way, this would be best for those who love both historical romance and urban fantasy, as the books give you that feel, with an adventurous twist.

Historical Fiction

Intriguingly, all the covers of the books I liked most in this category are partly or mostly red. Hmm...

The Third Son by Julie Wu
Rating: 4 Stars
I knew little to nothing about Taiwan when I began this novel and learned a lot, while being entertained with an unusual story of coming to America.

Peony in Love by Lisa See
Rating: 4 Stars
This is really a combination of historical fiction and magical realism, and it probably isn't for everyone. However, it became my new favorite book by Lisa See.

Rebel Queen by Michelle Moran
Rating: 4 Stars
Another story I knew nothing about, this follows the guard of a 'rebel queen' and shadows much of the queen's life. It was a roundabout way to tell the story, but one I enjoyed nonetheless.

The Perfume Collector by Kathleen Tessaro
Rating: 4 Stars
Entertaining and well-written, however, it is also heartbreakingly predictable. I recommend this to those who like the journey as opposed to the destination.

Historical Romance

A Good Debutante's Guide to Ruin (The Debutante Files #1) by Sophie Jordan
Rating: 4 Stars
I got this as a Kindle freebie and hadn't expected much, despite its mainstream publisher. Nonetheless, this was an excellent historical romance diversion, even if it was largely unrealistic.

The Heiress Effect (Brothers Sinister #2) by Courtney Milan
Rating: 4 Stars
A romance where the secondary couple stole my heart more than the 'main' couple.


Autobiography of a Face by Lucy Grealy
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Simply the best memoir I read this year.

Agent Zigzag: A True Story of Nazi Espionage, Love, and Betrayal by Ben Macintyre
Rating: 4 Stars
What made this biography was its central subject: Eddie Chapman. While there were many parts where I skimmed due to excess detail, the ending really made it a four star read.

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
If I end up half as interesting as Ruth Harkness, I will consider my life well lived. Also an interesting look at the beginnings of zoos (hint: they weren't so shiny).

The Pianist by Władysław Szpilman
Rating: 4 Stars
An unusual Holocaust memoir that made me feel I knew Władysław's family. Simply one of those must-read-for-yourself books.

Ghost Boy: The Miraculous Escape of a Misdiagnosed Boy Trapped Inside His Own Body by Martin Pistorius*
Rating: 4 Stars
I expected to like this as much as Autobiography of a Face, but despite Martin's incredible story, I just didn't get as much from his book as I did Lucy's. Still well worth a read, just not as interesting as I'd hoped.

Graphic Novel

The Hedge Knight: The Graphic Novel (The Hedge Knight Graphic Novels I) by George R.R. Martin, Ben Avery, and Mike S. Miller
The Sworn Sword: The Graphic Novel (The Hedge Knight Graphic Novels II) by George R.R. Martin, Ben Avery, and Mike S. Miller
Ratings: 4 Stars
Very interesting for those of us who are still waiting on Winds of Winter (and will wait forevermore, it seems...). These were my first forays into graphic novels, and I'd say it was a successful jaunt.

How to Tell If Your Cat Is Plotting to Kill You by Matthew Inman, The Oatmeal*
Rating: 4 Stars
This is very useful, especially if your rescue cat is a natural born killer like mine. But really- I haven't laughed so hard in a long time. This was well worth the Kindle Daily Deal price.

Way in the Outfield/Surprise Genre Category

Dietland by Sarai Walker*
Rating: 4ish Stars (Unsure of exact rating as of yet)
I rarely and/or never read contemporary fiction. It simply isn't my thing, unless there is some element of paranormal. However, this book is widely considered contemporary, but I really enjoyed it. I'm not sure why the ratings are so low on Goodreads (other than the cover shouldn't look so "Miss Nice Girl"). Anyway, if you are curious, go check out other people's reviews on Goodreads, because I haven't quite digested my thoughts on this yet.

Are any of your favorites on my list? 


  1. I just love Princess Bride and am so glad it made your list! I haven't read Phantom of the Opera, but I would like to one day. I love the music from the musical. Someone who likes Stardust! Yay! I liked it too. It seems that many people liked the movie better and dismiss the book. :-( You know I loved Written in Red. I talk about it all the time. I need to give Brave New World another try. I couldn't get through it when I tried to read it years ago. Maybe now that I'm older I could do it.

    1. The Princess Bride was my favorite movie ever so I don't know why I waited so long to read the book. I like the movie and book version of Stardust equally- each has its merits.
      Written in Red was a big surprise. I'd seen people blog about it, but after reading it I was very impressed. Brave New World is best described as an idea book, which isn't a bad thing, but it isn't for everyone. Good luck on your next try of reading it!
      Thanks for stopping by and commenting, Wendy!
      ~Litha Nelle

  2. Wow - this is a great list. I love it!
    Thanks for sharing, I'll definitely have to check out some of your reviews. I think we share quite a lot of books in common.
    Lynn :D

    1. Thanks, I hope you enjoy it!
      I noticed we had a few in common when I stopped by your blog.
      Thanks for stopping by and commenting, Lynn!
      ~Litha Nelle


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