Sunday, January 17, 2016

Best 15 Books I Read in 2015

Hello readers and welcome to the well overdue end of the year review of the books I read in 2015. I wasn't procrastinating, I was just waiting for the year to be well and over. Yep that's the excuse I'm going with. As you may know, 2015 was a great year for books, particularly for me, because I managed to read 152 books this year. Granted, the total should include a few more books because I did do some re-reading, but Goodreads has not yet included a function to allow you to count books you've already read. I've decided to be a bit ambitious in 2016 and I made a goal of reading 140 books.

That being said, I can't leave 2015 behind just yet. Those of you who follow my monthly wrap-ups probably know all about the books I read this past year. I've read some truly horrendous pieces of literature, but scattered about were some gems that I just have to talk about again. It's important to note that this list is going to talk about the best 15 books I read in 2015, not the top 15 books published in 2015. Also I am cheating the title a little bit. I discovered while compiling this list that I started a number of really great series this year and couldn't force myself to pick one book from the series. I'd like to think picking your favorite book from a fantastic series is a bit like choosing your favorite child, or so I assume. You could definitely do it, but it just isn't right or fair.

In the list I will also include links to the posts where I reviewed some of these books if you're interested in a more in depth discussion of their merits. Lastly, this list is not in any sort of chronological or least to best order. Truth be told I was too lazy to do that.

With that here are the Best 15 Books I Read in 2015:

1. A Doll's House by Henrik Ibsen

I first read A Doll's House in one of my college courses that dealt with Modern plays. As a general rule, I favor the Medieval and Victorian genres over anything modern, but this was one of the few plays I actually enjoyed reading. The plot centers around a husband and wife named Torvald and Nora respectively. A good chunk of the play deals with Nora's unhappiness and dissatisfaction with her life. She's trapped in a marriage where she's treated like a child and a beautiful possession. This play was a great vehicle for talking about women's rights, even though Ibsen never quite aligned with the movement. For him the play was a discussion about the human condition and each individual's right to freedom and happiness. Good old self-actualization. This is also one of the plays I would love to see performed now.  
2. You Deserve a Drink by Mamrie Hart

2015 seems to be the year of the Youtube book. I'm assuming the publishing industry realized the amount of celebrity surrounding Youtube stars and decided to make a profit out of them by offering book deals. Not everyone is really cut out to be a writer if I'm going to be honest. The problem I have with these books is that they often try to offer up life wisdom from people who haven't really lived much of their own life. Not to mention these productions usually have more space devoted to full color photographs rather than text. Even worse is when the book is ghost written. That being said You Deserve a Drink has to be the best Youtuber book I've read. Mamrie doesn't try to be moralistic or use her experiences to try to teach you something. She is just trying to use the misadventures from her life to make you laugh, and laugh I did.                                                                                                                                                                                                                         You Deserve A Drink Review                                                                         
3. Royal Wedding by Meg Cabot

Those who have been following this blog for a little while know that sometime during the summer I decided to read the entire Princess Diaries series because I couldn't quite call myself a Meg Cabot fan without having read it. What was great was that my marathon read corresponded with the release of Royal Wedding, the latest installment of the series. This book made this list because it took one of my favorite ya characters and placed her in the adult genre. Basically I've grown up with the series and now I can continue to read it as an adult. It has the same fluffy story line and sarcastic Princess Mia humor that fans have come to love. Not to mention this is the book where Mia and Michael have finally started their life together.                                                                                                                                                                                                                          The Princess Diaries Series Review

4. Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

I feel like a gushed enough about this book in my December Wrap-Up, but why not do it again. Illuminae is one of those books with an unconventional format, which makes the reading experience way better. The story of Kady and Ezra trying to survive the invasion of their planet on fleeing ships in outer space is captivating enough. What I love is that it's told through a series of documents, IMs, interviews, and even illustrations. I originally read this in ebook format, so now I need to grab myself a physical copy to add to my collection.                                                                                                                                                                                  Illuminae Review
5. Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith

While I don't read a lot of books in the mystery genre, I'd like to consider myself a fan. When I found out that J.K. Rowling was writing such a series under a pseudonym, I was so excited. Now that the novelty has worn out for some, I still love every new book that she releases as Robert Galbraith. While my favorite detective is still Agatha Christie's Poirot along with his best friend/sidekick Hastings, the detective duo of Cormoran and Robin comes a close second. What I also love about this series is that is seems to be exploring all facets of the murder mystery genre.                                                                                                                                        Career of Evil Review
6. Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

For whatever reason the immense popularity of this book and the whole series eluded me until I heard about the television adaption. As a general rule, I don't really read much historical romance fiction, but I really enjoyed this book. The romance between Jaime and Claire was captivating, not to mention the mishaps she encounters as a modern women in Scotland's past were interesting to read. While some people dismiss these kinds of books as fluffy and poorly written Chick-Lit, Outlander proves that wrong. I can't imagine the kind of research that would have to go into writing this. You might notice that even though I've continued on with this series, only Outlander is on the list. The reason is I've been trying to read the fourth book, Drums of Autumn for months now, but the story isn't that exciting and it isn't grabbing me. I haven't liked any of the other books in the series as much as this one and I kind of have the opinion that maybe this should have been a standalone novel.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 Outlander Review

7. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (Illustrated Ed.) by J.K. Rowling

I think you had to know this would be on the best list for 2015. For those few people who haven't heard, all of the Harry Potter books are now being released in full color illustrated editions and the first book in the series was released this past year. Basically this book takes the childhood story you know and love and brings it to life. The illustrations are so detailed and beautiful that you could probably spend the same amount of time looking at them as you do actually reading the book.                                                                                                                                                                Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone Illustrated Review
Here is where the discussion of this book ends, but it wouldn't feel right if I didn't take a second to acknowledge the devastating death of Alan Rickman, a wonderful actor who brought so many beloved characters to life, including Professor Snape. Thank you.

8. The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

Even though I'd heard so many great comments about this book, I never got around to reading it until the last semester of my senior year in college. I was taking an independent study where I read a couple of books that deal with gender in dystopian and utopian societies. The Handmaid's Tale was the first book I read and it's story has stuck with me ever since. The story centers on Offred, a handmaid whose sole purpose is to reproduce. It details the slow decline of women's rights until they become less than second class citizens. What makes this book so sad and so scary, at least for me, is the fact that there are people who exist today who would find a society like this ideal and who actively work to reduce women's reproductive rights. 
9. Amy and Roger's Epic Detour by Morgan Matson

Out of all of the ya contemporary books I've read this year Amy and Roger's Epic Detour was by far the best. The story is just as the title suggests. Amy has to get her car and remaining belongings across the country, but doesn't want to actually drive the car due to a number of personal issues you find out about later. Enter Roger, who is willing to drive the car since he also has to make his way to the east coast to see his father. This book distinguishes itself from other contemporary novels because it spends a good chunk of time on character development in addition to the romance.                                                                                                                                                                                           Amy and Roger's Epic Detour Review 
10. The Throne of Glass Series by Sarah J. Maas

 When I was first compiling this list I was having a hard time deciding which Throne of Glass book I wanted to include. After looking through my Goodreads overview of 2015, I realized that I read the entirety of this series this past year. Rather than choose one book, I decided to include the entire series because it's fantastic. Throne of Glass is a ya fantasy series that centers around a badass heroine named Celaena Sardothien fighting against the kingdom's tyrannous king, while discovering more about herself and her life as an assassin.                                                                                               Throne of Glass and Crown of Midnight                           Heir of Fire                                                                     The Assassin's Blade                                                           Queen of Shadows
11. Uprooted by Naomi Novik

For whatever reason the ya fantasy genre this past year was full of amazing books, including Uprooted. The story centers around Agnieszka, a girl who lives in a village plagued by a nearby corrupted wood. Their only protection is a wizard, who asks the village to volunteer a new woman every ten years to live with him. What I love about this book is that it's a standalone novel and the world is so detailed and put together well.                                                                                                                          Uprooted Review
12. Horrorstör by Grady Hendrix

As you can probably tell from all of my monthly wrap-up posts, I'm not a huge fan of the horror genre. In fact I don't even think I've read 10 horror books in my entire life. Horrorstör changed that for me. It takes a traditional haunted house story and places it in a furniture store. Not to mention the book is formatted like an Ikea catalog.                                                                                                    Horrorstör Review
13. The Epic Adventures of Lydia Bennet by Kate Rorick and Rachel Kiley

Those who've been around long enough to read my first Watch-a-thon which featured Pride and Prejudice, know that I am a huge fan of the YouTube series, The Lizzie Bennet Diaries. I was one of the many people who were disappointed when the series came to an end. It is a fantastic modern interpretation of the novel that took the characters we know and love and gave them modern, and in the case of Lydia Bennet, better stories. The end of The Lizzie Bennet Diaries shows a rather beat down and lifeless version of the Lydia Bennet we all grew to love. This book is the continuation of her story. It does a fantastic job of reintroducing all the personal issues she struggled with in the series and bringing Lydia's story to a close.                                                                                                                                                                                                     The Epic Adventures of Lydia Bennet Review
14. Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

Another recent read that I just had to put on this list. I think talking about the construction and premise of Carry On is way more complicated than actually reading it. Those who have read Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell are familiar with the story of Simon and Baz. This book is basically like the fancfiction that Cath writes in that book, except it's written by Rowell of course. It takes place at the Watford School of Magicks and chronicals Simon's quest to defeat the Insidious Humdrum. What I also love about this book is that there are so few LGBT ya books in the market, although that is changing thankfully, and this book provides such a great ya fantasy one.                                                                                                                   Carry On Review

15. The Queen of the Tearling Series by Erika Johansen

Finally, the last book/series of the Best 15 list. Out of all the ya fantasy series I've started this year, The Queen of The Tearling happens to be the one I'm most impressed with. While the books do have their own minor flaws, the world building is fantastic and the characters are so developed. Reading about how Kelsea tries to fix the broken down and corrupted kingdom she has inherited is fascinating. On the surface this series seems to be another one of those dystopian chosen one stories, but it's so much more. If you give the books a chance, you'll quickly find that out. I seriously can't wait for the next book.

                                                                                    The Queen of the Tearling Review
                                                                                    The Invasion of the Tearling Review

With that, those are the Best 15 Books I Read in 2015. Narrowing the list down from 152 books was quite the task, but I think I managed to do it well. This past year has been the year for great standalones it seems, but I'm looking forward to 2016 and the new books that will be released for all of my favorite series. I guess it's time to stop writing for now and get a head start on my 2016 reading challenge goal!