I may be a little late to the game on this one, because everyone tends to post their best of lists either right at the beginning of the new year, or even at the end of the last one. But what can I say – besides being unintentionally Amish-ish (no internet), I also was a little undecided on the list for this past year. Although there was a fair amount of like, there weren’t a lot of loves – and there were far too many Did Not Approves (and Did Not Finishes). And this is on top of not having read as much last year as I generally do, which meant the pool for picking was smaller as well.
So, no slight intended to authors whose books I read last year and enjoyed, but am not including on this list – I just can’t bring myself to list something as the ‘BEST’ of the year if it doesn’t leave me with at least a little ball of excitement when I talk about it… even if I did truly enjoy it and would readily recommend it, and/or even if it was among the best of the year, just by the default of not really having anything else to take its place. I’d rather have a small but concise list that I can truly, enthusiastically, wholeheartedly and eagerly recommend to you, than a longer one of, say, the top 10 books I read, when only 7 of them were real standouts.
(But if you want to see everything I read in 2015, including the greats, the goods, the awfuls and the smut (don’t judge), you can check out this Goodreads list for the full list and ratings.)
Now, on to my Top Seven (go figure ;P ) Books of 2015!
In no particular order:
The Accident Season by Moira Fowley-Doyle. Oh, this book. This book, this book. I’ve sung the praises of this book on any number of occasions, and I think it may have been the only book that I read last year that I knew was going to end up on this list from the first page. It may not be a life-changing book, and it’s certainly not one that I think will suit everyone (in fact, reactions to it were pretty mixed and fairly extreme), but every now and then, a book comes along that just so thoroughly suits you: the style you like, the type of plots that draw you in, characters that intrigue you, the right amount of darkness and light, and an authorial voice that’s all its own. The Accident Season had all of that and more; it was the type of book that makes me want to write, that makes me want to hone my own craft, and I will be eagerly awaiting Fowley-Doyle’s sophomore offering, as evidenced by the most recent The Friday Five post.
A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas. Whew, boy. This was like an amusement park ride – all of those jittery feelings in your core that tell you something exciting is about to happen, all the twists and dips and thrilling heights. . . And then, at the end, that feeling that you’re on a precipice, and everything before it has been leading to this, and shit’s about to go down. ACOTAR was lightening-paced, sexy as all get-out (if you’re into that sort of thing, and if you can go with a little bit of Stockholm Syndrome-yness (ish)…). The world building was intriguing, but familliar-enough to fall right into. The characters were fierce and memorable. And to top it all off, it was a fairy tale retelling of sorts, which you know gets bonus points from me.
Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo. World-building, baby. It’s all about the world-building, and how good characters can represent good worlds and help cement it all into one cohesive unit that just works. This heist novel (always a fun premise!) is so thoroughly replete with good decisions on Bardugo’s part, and solid elements of world and culture, that I sometimes feel like it must actually exist. This is the hallmark of good fantasy writing, to me – when it seems like a writer knows every in and out, every little detail of the world they’re writing about, that it must be real, they must have visited it, then I’m pretty much sold.
And I want to visit it, too.
Shadow Scale by Rachel Hartman. This wrap-up to the Seraphina duology took the story in an interesting new direction, exploring Seraphina’s “garden” of oddities and the extent of her abilities, playing with the reader’s percetption of what it means to be the antagonist or villain, and adding new facets and layers to already-loved characters. I’ve described Seraphina as a very adult and cerebral YA book, not necessarily in the story, but in the choices and in the telling, and I think Shadow Scale furthers this – while of course still being as interesting and engaging as ever.
The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater. I’m not going to lie, I was all set to dislike this, having really not been a fan of Stiefvater’s writing in Shiver, the only other book I’ve read by her. But at the same time, I’ve had so many people enthusiastically recommend this series and others of Stiefvater’s books that a part of me (a smallish part, but a part none the less) thought maybe Shiver was a fluke and the rest of her works will win me over. (It wouldn’t be the first time this has happened, so I try to keep an open mind…) And thankfully, for The Raven Boys, at least, that appears to be the case – though it may not be groundbreaking, there was something so engaging and fascinating in this story, and it made me rather glad that an enthusiastic publicist pushed a copy of book two, The Dream Thieves, into my hands at ALA awhile back… I may just have to dive into it soon.
Dark Triumph by Robin LaFevers. I didn’t think the first book in LaFevers His Fair Assasin series, Grave Mercy, could be topped, and I certainly didn’t think I was going to be happy with the fact that the POV was changing – I’d grown to quite like Ismae and frankly did not have high hopes for Sybella, who wasn’t exactly a winning personality in Grave Mercy. But damn, if I wasn’t completely wrong about that. Sybella’s story knocked my socks off, and I not only rooted for her, but I grew to downright love her. Sybella’s story is a harsh one, but she is a smart and strong and fearsome thing. Just thinking about her makes me want to read the book again, actually, and though I’m (once again) not prepared for another POV shift (I want more Sybella!), I very much need to get my hands on the final book, Mortal Heart. Like, asap.
Heart of Betrayal by Mary E. Pearson. It’s strange, my relationship with this series – I know I love it, I know it sucks me right in, but with both books now, I’ve found myself reluctant to start reading, and slow to dive in. I truly don’t know why this is, because there’s never a moment in this series that I’m not interested, or even enthralled. And once I get a few chapters in and remember that, I am all in: Pearson juggles multiple POVs and sprawling plotlines with seeming ease, building a believable and interesting world and glorious tension of all types, in a story whose end I am clamoring for.
As I said, there were plenty of other books I read and enjoyed last year, and many of them I would recommend (Skandal, Stone in the Sky, The Witch Hunter, Silver in the Blood, Just Say Yes, lots of graphic novels), but they just didn’t quite make it to the excitement-levels needed to land on this list. (But still, read them. They’re good people. Or something.)
And in all likelihood, you've already guessed a lot of my 2015 favorites, based on the books I'm anticipating in 2016!
So, what were YOUR favorite books you read in 2015? Please let me know a few of them in the comments – I’m always on the lookout for more! And if you’ve read and loved (or disloved), share your thoughts in the comments!