Our Best Reads of 2015

Amanda

I fell 10 books behind on my Goodreads challenge of 155 books – I think if I had finagled the Goodreads system for rereads better I would have made it though! Oh well – on to 2016!  I read some books I really loved this year so I’d say this Top Ten order is pretty random.  Its also missing books that I also thought were amazing – like Mortal Heart, Invasion of the Tearling, Crimson Bound, Euphoria and Made You Up.  Sigh.  Maybe I should have done a top twenty list…  These were my happiest or most thought provoking and just best reads of 2015.

  1. A  Man Called Ove by Frederik Backman  
  2. Crazy Rich Asians and China Rich Girlfriend by Kevin Kwan
  3. Romantic Outlaws by Charlotte Gordon (also the longest book I read!)
  4. Hausfrau by Jill Alexander Essbaum
  5. All the Rage by Courtney Summers
  6. The Unquiet Dead by Ausuma Zehanat Khan
  7. The Wrath & The Dawn by Renee Ahdieh
  8. A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas
  9. Uprooted by Naomi Novik  
  10. Dietland by Sarai Walker

 

Holly

I read about half as many books as I meant to in 2015, including 8 from Lauren Willig’s Pink Carnation series, 7/12 books from my TBR Challenge list, and 4 read-alongs with my sister (Persuasion, Invasion of the Tearling, Mortal Heart, & Romantic Outlaws). Here, in no particular order, are my favorite books that I read this year:

The Casual Vacancy by J.K. RowlingHurts soooooo good.

The Martian by Andy Weir – On audiobook, but I’m counting it because I loved it so much.

The Lords of Discipline by Pat ConroyNot exactly light honeymoon reading, but definitely a gateway book into more Conroy.

MWF Seeking BFF by Rachel BertscheYoung professional in a new city looking for her bestie? HIts a bit – er – close to home.

Persuasion by Jane AustenThe read-along was at least half the fun of reading this one!

I love reading lists- tell me your best reads of 2015!  Happy New Year!

2016 TBR Challenge

Happy almost 2016! It’s time to set the stage for our 2016 TBR Challenge. We didn’t quite finish our 2015 lists, but we’re ready to give it a go again this year.

Last year’s challenge was officially sanctioned, but that’s been discontinued, so we’re tracking our own progress along with Eva, The Paperback Princess. In keeping with the rules from last year’s challenge, these are all books published in 2014 or earlier.

Holly

2016 List

  1. Where’d You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple (2012) – Finished 3/21/2016
  2. Jo’s Boys by Louisa May Alcott (1886)
  3. Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt (2012)
  4. People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks (2008) – Finished 3/19/16
  5. The Worst Hard Time by Timothy Egan (2006)
  6. Name All the Animals by Alison Smith (2005)
  7. Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen (1817)
  8. Fourth of July Creek by Smith Henderson (2014)
  9. Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven by Susan Jane Gilman (2009)
  10. Sister  by Rosamund Lupton (2010) – Finished 3/1/16
  11. Before I Go to Sleep by S.J. Watson (2011)
  12. A Man Called Ove by Fredrick Backman (2014)

Alternates

  1. Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin (2010) – Finished 4/26/16
  2. We the Animals by Justin Torres (2011)

2015 TBR Carryovers

  1. A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving (1990)
  2. The Emperor of all Maladies by Siddhartha Mukherjee (2010)
  3. Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman (2006)
  4. When Everything Changed: The Amazing Journey of American Women from 1960 to the Present by Gail Collins (2009) – Finished 1/24/16
  5. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon (2001) – Finished 1/8/2016

Amanda

2016 List

  1. Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen (1817)
  2. Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Sussan (1966) – Look out book club!
  3. Fourth of July Creek by Smith Henderson (2014)
  4. Cinder by Marissa Meyer (2012)
  5. The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 by Lawrence Wright (2006)
  6. Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar by Cheryl Strayed (2012)
  7. The Girls of Atomic City: The Untold Story of the Women Who Helped Win World War II by Denise Kiernan (2013)
  8. Born Wicked by Jessica Spotswood (2012)
  9. Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer (1996)
  10. I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith (1948)
  11. The Mysterious Affair at Styles (Hercule Poirot #1) by Agatha Christie
  12. The Spellman Files: Document #1 by Lisa Lutz (2007)

Alternates

  1. Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel (2006)
  2. The Lies of Locke Lamora (Gentleman Bastard, #1) by Scott Lynch (2006)

2015 Holdovers:

  1. Primary Colors by Anonymous (1996) [this has been sitting on my bookshelf taunting me for like 10 years]
  2. A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole (1980)
  3. Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond (1997) [What was I thinking buying this on my honeymoon all those years ago? Not light beach reading]
  4. Five Days at Memorial by Sheri Fink (2013)
  5. Lipstick Jihad A Memoir of Growing up Iranian in America and American in Iran by Azadeh Moaveni (2005)

Some of these even cover Estella’s Revenge‘s #ReadMyOwnDamnBooks Challenge which is exciting!  Link up if you want to challenge yourself with us!

2015 TBR Challenge – I Cry Uncle

Last December, Amanda and I signed up for the 2015 TBR Challenge. Though I had lofty aspirations, between an extremely demanding work year, and the amount of time I spent laboring over Romantic Outlaws, I just didn’t get it done.

I did, however, make a late run, finishing another 4 books from my list since the end of October, for a total of 7/12. Coming soon…our 2016 TBR lists, for a super casual challenge with Amanda and I, plus Eva the Paperback Princess. Feel free to join in with your own list!

Recent Completions

The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery (2008)

One-sentence summary: This book is a lovely, happy story for 90% of the book, and then it crushes your soul.

This pause in time, within time…When did I first experience the exquisite sense of surrender that is possible only with another person? The peace of mind one experiences on one’s own, one’s certainty of self in the serenity of solitude, are nothing in comparison to the release, and openness and fluency one shares with another, in close companionship.

Isaac’s Storm by Erik Larson (2000)

One Three-sentence summary: Fascinating look at the formation of the weather service and the power of a 1900 hurricane. Not my favorite Erik Larson, though it would take a lot to replace my beloved Devil in the White City. I wanted more scandal and turmoil, which was a bit buried beneath all the bureaucracy – as it tends to be, I suppose.

The chief did not want his observers just sitting around between weather observations, a wise policy, given the sex scandals, grave robbing, and other incidents that would soon surface and further undermine the weather service’s reputation.

Little Men by Louisa May Alcott (1871)

One-sentence summary: Jo has grown up.

As there is no particular plan to this story, except to describe a few scenes in the life at Plumfield for the amusement of certain little persons, we will gently ramble along in this chapter and tell some of the pastimes of Mrs. Jo’s boys.

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou (1970)

One-sentence summary: I am glad I read this, but if you can only read one coming of age story, please let it be Coming of Age in Mississippi.

If growing up is painful for the Southern Black girl, being aware of her displacement is the rust on the razor that threatens the throat.

Have you read any of these 4?

Top Ten Books I Want Santa to Leave Me

So much for that goal of reviewing all books before the year end… but the year isn’t over! More reviews to come!  For now – please pass this list on to Santa!  I love this Broke & Bookish topic for Top Ten Tuesday!   What are you asking Santa to leave?

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  1. My Life on the Road by Gloria Steinem
  2. Uprooted by Naomi Novik
  3. Notorious RBG by Irin Carmon and Shana Knizhnik
  4. My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry by Fredrik Backman
  5. ARC of the Rose and the Dagger by Renee Adieh – yeah I know it is a fantasy but I WANT it
  6. The Sleeper & the Spindle by Neil Gaiman
  7. Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan
  8. Hardcover of Rolling in the Deep by Mira Grant (why I don’t know because it would terrify me!)
  9. Career of Evil by Robert Gilbraith (Coroman Strike #3)
  10. After You by Jojo Moyes
  11. Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho

Link me up to your Santa letters!

Top Ten YA Books I’ve Read in 2015

Today I’m linking up with the Broke and the Bookish for the Top Ten* YA** Books I read in 2015.  Basically I’m not ready to make the call of the 10 best books I’ve read this year so I’m narrowing it down.

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*Yes I can count but these all had to go on the list

** Yes, 2 are technically Middle Grade but it’s my list and I can do what I want!

  1. All the Rage by Courtney Summers
  2. Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
  3. Mortal Heart by Robin LaFevers
  4. The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow
  5. Every Breath and Every Word by Ellie Marney
  6. Made You Up by Francesca Zappia
  7. The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma
  8. Crimson Bound by Rosamund Hodge
  9. Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy
  10. Scarlett Undercover by Jennifer Latham
  11. A Curious Tale of the In-Between by Lauren DeStefano
  12. The Sword of Summer (Magnus Chase #1) by Rick Riordan
  13. Illuminae by Aime Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

So what’s on your top ten of the year – and please tell me someone else has more than ten!

 

It’s Monday! What are you reading?

I’m linking up with The Book Date on this gloomy Monday.

It's Monday! What Are You Reading

I’ve decided I’m trying to  read nothing but fluff from here on.  I’m not making my Goodreads goal (138/155) or finishing the 2015 TBR Challenge (9/12) so I’m reading happy.  Though  I did get Bull Mountain from the library and it’s calling my name…

Currently reading

The Veil by Chloe Neill – while it’s no Chicagoland Vampires series I am liking this start!

Finished

Manners & Mutiny  by Gail Carriger- solid series ending!

Fates & Furies by Lauren Groff – wtf!  I still don’t know what to think

Tricky Twenty-Two by Janet Evanovich – I think this series needs to call it soon

What are you reading?

Fast YA Reviews

I’ve decided I am going to end 2015 with no reviews left undone.  So to kick off that pledge here are a few fast YA reviews – one contemporary and two fantasy.  

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Finding Paris, Joy Preble

Hardcover, 272 pages

Published April 21st 2015 by Balzer + Bray

Source: e-ARC from Edelweiss

Sisters Leo and Paris Hollings have only ever had each other to rely on. They can’t trust their mother, who hops from city to city and from guy to guy, or their gambler stepfather, who’s moved them all to Las Vegas. It’s just the two of them: Paris, who’s always been the dreamer, and Leo, who has a real future in mind—going to Stanford, becoming a doctor, falling in love. But Leo isn’t going anywhere right now, except driving around Vegas all night with her sister.

Until Paris ditches Leo at the Heartbreak Hotel Diner, where moments before they had been talking with physics student Max Sullivan. Outside, Leo finds a cryptic note from Paris—a clue. Is it some kind of game? Where is Paris, and why has she disappeared? When Leo reluctantly accepts Max’s offer of help, the two find themselves following a string of clues through Vegas and beyond. But the search for the truth is not a straight line. And neither is the path to secrets Leo and Max hold inside.

What kind of sister just takes off and leaves her only sibling with no money and no keys?  In the middle of the night!  I’m pretty sure Holly would beat me up if I tried – like that time she punched me at Marshall Field’s back in the mid-80’s – but I digress.  I really was disposed not to like Paris after she took off on Leo, even though I liked that she pushed her to talk to cute Max.  I came around a bit when the scavenger hunt seemed like a fun romantic plot and then back to not liking her as well when things got serious.  

While this hit some standard YA issues – sucky mom, series of step-dads, teens managing multi-state drives without issues, overall I thought it was still well done.  I was definitely caught up until the end to see what happened to Paris.  I was half right on my prediction of the ending, so I was glad I didn’t have it all figured out.  I probably would have loved this when I was a teen and I did like Paris and Leo both in the end.

3 stars!

Silver in the Blood, Jessica Day George (Silver in the Blood #1)

Hardcover, 358 pages

Published July 7th 2015 by Bloomsbury USA Childrens

Source- Galley from ALA Midwinter Meeting

Society girls from New York City circa 1890, Dacia and Lou never desired to know more about their lineage, instead preferring to gossip about the mysterious Romanian family that they barely knew. But upon turning seventeen, the girls must return to their homeland to meet their relatives, find proper husbands, and—most terrifyingly—learn the deep family secrets of The Claw, The Wing, and The Smoke. The Florescus, after all, are shape-shifters, and it is time for Dacia and Lou to fulfill the prophecy that demands their acceptance of this fate… or fight against this cruel inheritance with all their might.

So, Romania – you’d think it has to be Dracula yes?  Why didn’t I think of that before I started reading?  Oh well, while Vlad certainly is not without mention but not the focus of this new series.  I enjoyed the culture shock for Dacia and Lou as they traveled from New York to their maternal homeland of Romania.  Unfortunately I felt like I knew what was coming for Dacia and her cousin way too often in this book.  It got a little frustrating constantly be predicting the story correctly.  

What I really appreciated about this book was the friendship between Dacia and Lou.  Their relationship was what made this work for me.  I hope that loyalty doesn’t suffer due to the romances as the series continues.  Actually this book was made up of a lot of strong women – even if I didn’t like them all – which was pretty great.  I hope the series gets stronger because this was a concept with a lot of potential.

2.5 stars

Sweet Unrest, Lisa Maxwell

Paperback, 336 pages

Published October 8th 2014 by Flux

Source: Galley from ALA Midwinter Meeting

Lucy Aimes has always been practical. But try as she might, she can’t come up with a logical explanation for the recurring dreams that have always haunted her. Dark dreams. Dreams of a long-ago place filled with people she shouldn’t know…but does.

When her family moves to a New Orleans plantation, Lucy’s dreams become more intense, and her search for answers draws her reluctantly into the old city’s world of Voodoo and mysticism. There, Lucy finds Alex, a mysterious boy who behaves as if they’ve known each other forever. Lucy knows Alex is hiding something, and her rational side doesn’t want to be drawn to him. But she is.

As she tries to uncover Alex’s secrets, a killer strikes close to home, and Lucy finds herself ensnared in a century-old vendetta. With the lives of everyone she loves in danger, Lucy will have to unravel the mystery of her dreams before it all comes to a deadly finish.

Is it just me that find voodoo totally fascinating?  Sweet Unrest had a lot of potential – voodoo, ghosts, multi-generational feuds!  I really liked the historic romance despite the sad story, but the modern love didn’t hook me in.  The instalove was a bit much for me. On her own I liked Lucy, but Alex was almost more creepy than romantic for me.  The mystery intrigued me and I loved the voodoo aspect.  Definitely worth checking out if you like ghost stories or New Orleans based books!

3 stars

Thank you Balzer & Bray, Bloomsbury Childrens and Flux for these advance copies in exchange for an honest opinion!