I'm thrilled to say that 2015 was a pretty awesome reading year for me. I read almost entirely good books, and as of today I've read 75 of them -- due in part to the encouragement/competition of my co-workers at the library. Oh, how I love working with fellow bookworms! I also explored some mostly-new-to-me genres like sci-fi and graphic novels, and I'm so glad to be expanding my literary horizons.
Below are the best of the best for me -- the books that've stuck with me through the year, that I've raved about and recommended over and over:
1. Red Rising and Golden Son by Pierce Brown
books 1 and 2 of the Red Rising trilogy
books 1 and 2 of the Red Rising trilogy
both 5 stars
Oh my gosh. I can't say enough good things about this dystopian science fiction series set on a futuristic Mars. Please read these books, even if sci-fi isn't your usual thing! Pierce Brown is an amazing author and he combines superb world-building and character development, a gripping plot and beautiful writing to create an utterly enthralling series. While the story is all its own, I think it would appeal to fans of the Hunger Games, "Ender"s Game," the Percy Jackson books, or anyone who just wants a damn good story. I can't wait for the trilogy ender to come out this winter! I discovered the Red Rising trilogy through this very Top Ten Tuesday list last year when it was on several other bloggers' posts and I'm sooooooo glad I did!
2. The Mime Order by Samantha Shannon
book 2 in the Bone Season series
This book was so freakin' good -- and miles better than the first book in the series. I absolutely could not put it down. The Bone Season series is an action-packed fantasy set in a dystopian England of the nearish future in which clairvoyants are enemies of the state; our protagonist, Paige, is a special type of clairvoyant who can walk in others' dreams. Shannon's world-building and writing style definitely improved in book two, and you'll fall in love with the atmosphere of the London she's created.
3. Fives and Twenty-Fives by Michael Pitre
I'm an Air Force wife so I try to read military fiction once in a while. "Fives and Twenty-Fives" was not only a gripping story of what it was like to be a soldier on the ground at the beginning of the Iraq War -- written by a former Marine who was there himself -- it was by turns funny, dark and heartbreaking. I highly recommend it even if you don't know a whole lot about the military -- in fact, it'd be a interesting way to learn more about the life of a deployed soldier.
4. I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson
I'm not a huge YA fan, so I wasn't really expecting much when I opened this bright and colorful cover. Oh, but was I in for a treat. "I'll Give You the Sun" tells the story of twins Noah and Jude who, when we meet them at 13, are as close as can be, but by 16 they hardly speak to each other. In alternating chapters, their fascinating, beautiful, terrible stories gradually fall into place as Noah narrates the 13-year-old sections and Jude the 16-year-old ones. Each character has a totally distinct, masterfully written voice and I loved Nelson's unique writing style. The writing is stellar and the story transcends age. Even if, like me, you don't think YA is your thing, check this book out. It's a great read for everyone!
5. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
I only gave "RPO" 4 stars because Cline's writing itself didn't do anything to dazzle me, not because I didn't like the plot. This story has stuck with me all year and it's definitely one of my favorite reads -- possibly ever. It's sci-fi-lite with a unique premise, a lovable main character and tons of '80s references that'll have you looking up songs on your phone and requesting old movies from the library! It was just such a fun read -- but one that also manages to work in some serious and thought-provoking points -- and I urge you to pick it up!
6. The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
This book had been on my to-read list for-ev-er and I'm so glad I waited to read it, because I ended up getting to this enthralling, eerie, gothic read at exactly the perfect time, on my 30th birthday trip to the Smoky Mountains. Vida Winter, the world's most famous crime novelist, has always been mysterious about her past, making up tall tales whenever questioned on her childhood. Now she's dying, and she decides it's time to tell the world her story -- a story that is creepy, heartbreaking, horrible and full of still-unanswered questions. It was addicting, I loved it, and I think any other book-lover would be enraptured too.
7. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
Imagine a world where books are considered evil, so evil that an entire occupation is devoted to burning any and all books. Gasp. The horror! Bradbury paints a frightening picture of censorship, brainwashing and government control. It's a must-read for all.
8. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
How can it be nearly a year since I devoured this post-apocalyptic tale?! A flu pandemic wipes out most of the world's population and we get the story before, during and two decades after from a variety of interesting characters and intertwining tales. The writing was wonderful, the plot was unique and haunting, and "Station Eleven" was a totally unputdownable!
9. Circling the Sun by Paula McLain
Paula McLain's debut, "The Paris Wife," was on my best-of-2012 list and I'm happy to say her second effort didn't disappoint! McLain introduces us to another real-life character, the fascinating Beryl Markham -- aviator, racehorse trainer and fiercely independent woman far ahead of her time. Beryl is extraordinary, and so is the setting of Kenya in the early 1900s. There's too much to say about her for one paragraph, so read my review and then go find yourself a copy of "Circling the Sun"!
10. Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King
book 1 of the Bill Hodges series
I hadn't read Stephen King in probably a decade, and I was pleasantly surprised by this hard-boiled detective/serial killer novel. King wrote Retired Detective Bill Hodges as a wonderfully flawed but extremely capable sleuth and the chilling look inside the mind of the Mercedes Killer was expertly crafted. I'm excited to read "Finders Keepers," the next book in the Bill Hodges series.