It’s that time again!
Here’s my top ten list of the books I loved from 2015. To be eligible, a book has to have been published during that year. I’ve read upwards of 80 books this year, so picking from that list if always hard to do. However, these are the books that stood out from the crowd, the ones I loved and will come back to again and again.
There’s something here for everyone: fantasy, romance, horror, magical realism, young adult, fiction. I didn’t just read these books, I lived them.
Without further ado, here they are:
1- The Little Paris Book Shop by Nina George
I absolutely loved this book.
Talk about a love letter to anyone who loves to read. Jean Perdu runs a bookshop that’s on a barge that sits on the Seine in Paris. He is a book apothecary. He doesn’t just sell you the book you want. He’s able to read people, get a handle on what they’re dealing with, and sells them the book they need.
Jean has yet to deal with his own ghosts and the woman that got away. She broke his heart and left him with only a letter that he hasn’t read for twenty-one years. When he meets Catherine, a woman that fills him with hope, he decides to heal himself and starts with finally opening the letter.
The letters contents cause him to haul anchor and head to the south of France. He’s joined by an lovelorn Italian chef and an author who has written one best selling book but hasn’t been able to write anything else and fears he will never write again.
On the way, the three men learn about love, about passions and about themselves and the healing power of words and the stories that shape our lives.
I talked about this book to anyone that would listen. It’s not only a truly magical novel, it’s a love letter to all books. This one is for anyone who loves to read, who can remember where they were or what they were going through when they read a certain book, who feels that characters in the books they read are more than ink on paper, they are friends.
Read The Little Paris Bookshop and be enchanted. Truly magical in every way.
2- The Great Village Show by Alexandra Brown
What’s not to love about this book?
Alexandra Brown continues to wow me with her novels. The Great Village Show is the second book in her Tindledale series, but don’t let that stop you from picking it up. You don’t need to have read The Great Christmas Knit Off to read this book and fall in love with the townspeople of Tindldale.
After her son leaves for school, Meg decides to throw herself into the planning of The Great Village Show. Tindledale and all the surrounding townships are competing in the competition and if Tindledale places high enough it might save her little town.
Add a handsome celebrity chef and a woman that seems to have everything but is struggling with a secret and enough town antics to keep you on your toes and you have a novel told with such warmth and such heart that it will make your soul happy.
3- Lawless by Michelle St. James
It’s been a long time since I’ve read a romance novel but I’m so thrilled I’ve started again.
Michelle Zink write as Michelle St. James for her Mob Boss trilogy: Ruthless, Fearless and Lawless. The books follow the story of Angelica Bondesan, daughter of a mob boss and Nico Vitale, head of the New York City crime family.
The story of Nico and Angelica is an epic trilogy of love, lust an loss. I love all three books but it’s all about the ending, the final book in the trilogy. That’s what we’re working toward after all right?
I haven’t read a romance novel filled with so much passion, so much heat, for so long. More than that is the heart that Michelle gives her characters. You root for them; you cheer for them. I became so involved with the characters that I couldn’t wait to see what would happen and whether Angelica and Nico would get their happy ending.
This book didn’t disappoint and I was thrilled and entranced with every word.
4- Finders Keepers by Stephen King
When I first heard that Stephen King was going to write a thriller novel with a detective, I was curious to see what he would do with the genre. With Mr. Mercedes, he succeeded and gave us the story of the Mercedes Killer, Brady Hartsfield. He succeeded in every possible way.
In Finders Keepers, he gives us the story of a family that was affected by the tragedy of the Mercedes Killings. Pete Saubers father hasn’t been able to work since he was inured in the tragedy and the family is at wits end. When Pete finds a trunk filled with money and notebooks belonging to celebrated author John Rothstein, he thinks their prayers are answered.
However, Rothstein was killed in a brutal murder for those notebooks and the killer, Morris Bellamy, is still out there. When he finds both the money and the manuscripts missing from the trunk, he goes searching for who took it. That search leads him to Pete Saubers.
While I loved Mr. Mercedes, Finders Keepers is a much better book in every way. Yes, there is a long build up to the story, but it’s worth it and every word is necessary to the story. Once the backstory is over, the rest of the novel flies by at a wicked fast pace and the ending will leave you wanting more.
Thankfully that will be coming in 2016 when End of Watch, the third and final book in the trilogy, is released. If you haven’t read Mr. Mercedes, King does an excellent job making sure that you can pick up the story in Finders Keepers.
You’ll want to start at the beginning though to get a sense of who Bill Hodges is and what he’s been through. Finders Keepers succeeds in every possible way and I can’t wait to see how it all ends!
5- Promises I Made by Michelle Zink
In the sequel to Lies I Told, Zink finishes the story of Grace.
Part of a family of con artists, Grace is now living with a shattered family. Her mother Renee has left, her brother Parker is in jail for a murder he did not commit and her father Cormac is onto the next con.
Grace decides that she wants more than this half life that she’s living, more than just heading to the next con. She wants a life all her own where she doesn’t have to get to know and develop relationships with people because she wants to, not because it’s part of a job.
She decides to try and help Parker get free from prison, but the only way she can think of to do that is to contact the policeman in charge of his case. That sets a whole series of events in motion that could change Grace’s life forever.
I loved this book. Zink shows that it’s not where we come from but the choices we make that define out character and who we are. I loved this book and was so incredibly moved by Grace’s story. I wanted to reach into the book and pull her close, hug her and tell her that somehow, everything was going to be okay.
6- Nigh by Marie Bilodeau
Once in a while, there comes along a book that blends genres and creates a genre all it’s own. Nigh is that book. It reads like The Mist by Stephen King and something from the mind of Charles de Lint and it’s glorious.
Told serially in five parts, Bilodeau gives us the story of Alva, a mechanic. When someone breaks into her apartment to steal something, this sets into motion events that affect Alva and everyone she knows. When the same man breaks into her garage, Alva corners him and he tells her what he’s after.
According to Hector, her grandmothers watch has the power to stop a catastrophe: the veil between the Fey world and our world is growing thinner by the minute. Hector will need her help before the things that go bump in the night enter their world.
This book thrilled and surprised me every step of the way. Having to wait in between installments was a delicious kind of torture, but you don’t have to! All five part are out and they are glorious.
7-Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee
There was a lot of hoopla about this book.
Many wondered if Harper Lee knew it was being published. Many wondered whether she actually wanted it out there in the world. Whatever the mystery behind Go Set a Watchman, I’m so glad that we got to read it and that another Harper Lee book exists in the world now.
It was actually supposed to be Lee’s first novel but her editor at the time told her that her voice was strongest in the flashback scenes in the book and to write from that point of view. That book became To Kill a Mockingbird.
In Go Set a Watchman, we reunite with a now twenty-five-year-old Scout and what we learn changes everything we know. She’s a woman now and still as feisty as she was. When she witnesses Atticus in a white supremacy group and that Atticus might be a racist, she has to confront everything she thinks she knows and the man she thought she knew.
In the end, Go Set a Watchman deepens the way we know the characters of Scout and Atticus and at the end of the novel we understand them better. It’s a lovely book that, despite it’s subject matter, leaves you filled with hope
8- First Frost by Sarah Addison Allen
I love Sarah Addison Allen’s books. They are magical realism at its finest and are filled with characters that leap off the page and magic that sparkles.
In First Frost, Allen returns to the family featured in her first novel, Garden Spells. The Waverly sisters are stirring up more magic in this heartwarming sequel and I couldn’t have been happier. I fell in love with Garden Spells and wanted to reunite with the Waverley’s!
It’s October in Bascom North Carolina and the Frost Festival is coming. But the Waverley clan are dealing with problems that maybe not even magic can cure. Claire has started a very successful candy business, Waverley’s candies. She notices that even though she is not making all the ingredients are coming from her magical garden, people are still experiencing the same results. This leads her to question her magic and her abilities.
Sydney is going through her own issues. Wanting another baby but unable to conceive, it’s all she begins to thirst for and becomes an obsession, taking away from the pleasure her life used to bring her. Sydney’s daughter Bay has given her heart to the boy she knows she’s meant to be with, only he doesn’t love her back. Living without her heart leaves her lost. Won’t he see sense and love her back?
When a stranger comes to town and challenges the heart of the family, they all must band together or become lost forever. My meagre plot summary doesn’t capture the magic and sheer joy of this novel and I was thrilled with every page.
9- Welcome to Night Vale by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor
This novel was a real surprise for me.
Based around the popular podcast of the same name, Welcome to Night Vale revolves around two storylines: That of Diane who has become obsessed with a missing co-worker named Evan who no one else seems to remember and that of Jackie. Jackie runs the pawnshop. When a man in a tan jacket comes into the pawn shop and pawns a note with King City written upon it, it changes her life forever.
The town of Night Vale is where every conspiracy theory is actually true. Part horror, part fantasy and all fabulous, this novel is a book where nothing makes sense yet everything does at the same time. Told in a surrealist storyline, I found myself pulled right into the town of Night Vale.
I want to go there now. Everything was so fantastic and surreal, yet human at the same time that you can’t help but be pulled into the story of Diane and Jackie and what befalls them.
One word of caution: don’t go near the library in Night Vale, whatever you do, and stay way from the dog park. Please ignore the hooded figures in the dog park, they do not exist.
Welcome to Night Vale, where everything is and was and will be again. There are angels, invisible people, shape shifters, demons, and towns that don’t exist, but do if you can find the right way to get there. An absolute treat, you’ll wan to go on to listen to the podcasts just so you won’t have to leave.
10-The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood
Margaret Atwood constantly surprises me.
The Heart Goes last was originally told in serial novellas from Byliner Press. When they went under the story was unfinished. I loved those ebooks and desperately wanted to know what would happen to Stan and Charmaine. Thankfully, Atwood released the whole tale this year in The Heart Goes Last so I could finally find out what happened.
In The Heart Goes Last, the world is in peril. Living in their car, Stan and Charmain eke out a living but they don’t have much of a life. They decide to take a game and go to the town of Consilience offers solutions. They will take part in the Positron project.
In Consilience, they will live as patrons with jobs for one month, and then live as prisoners in the Positron prison the next month. They will share their house with the alternates who will live in the house during their thirty-day prison stay.
Things progress well enough until Steve finds a note with a lurid pink lipstick kiss. The note says “I’m starved for you!” Stan wonders who Jasmine, the writer of the note, is and soon becomes obsessed with her. Even though he knows it’s against the rules to know who their alternates are, he finds a way to be alone with Jasmine.
What Stan does not know is that Jasmine if actually Charmaine and she has become obsessed with the male counterpart, Max. Their wanting the other people that share their house will be their undoing and the beginning of the end.
What a glorious novel. It never goes to where you think it will and manages to take on a lot of heady subject matter including sex, society, sexuality, death, Elvis impersonators and Marilyn Munroe. It’s a comedic romp that is oh so good and I urge you to read this book.