Wednesday, December 09, 2015

Top Ten plus one Reads this year

The books are listed in reverse chrono order of when I read them, not in order of which I liked most.

Killing Trail by Margaret Misushima
This doesn't go on sale till December 16th so you can't get your mitts on it yet, but I snagged a copy from the editor. One thing I particularly liked is that the cop behavior seems real, and the protagonist isn't perfect. Plus...dogs!

The Drifter by Nicholas Petrie
This is one of Barbara Poelle's clients but honest to godiva, I'm so in love with this book I have gotten over the envy I've learned to live with the pain.

It comes out in January 2016. Don't miss it. Seriously.

Come To Harm by Catriona McPherson
You simply can't go wrong with any of her books. Don't plan to just dip in for a couple pages or a half hour. Set aside the time to start and finish cause you'll not be able to put it down.

Orphan X by Gregg Hurwitz
It's almost unfair to list this now since it doesn't go on sale till January 2016, but I'd be failing you miserably if I didn't insist you pre-order this.  It's brilliant. I got an early copy from the editor and when I was done I emailed the editor and the publisher and the publicist with my response: holy fuck.
Gregg Hurwitz has written several previous books, but this one is simply the best thing he's ever done. 

Station 11 by Emily St. John Mandel
I'm a long time devoted fan of ESM, have been since Last Night in Montreal.
When the rest of the world discovers one of my favorite authors I'm always hesitant to read that book, fearing it won't be as good as previous ones. Station 11 won a lot of accolades. I should have read it sooner. It's fabulous. If you don't love this book, we can't be friends. I'm sorry, it's just how it has to be.

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
Somehow I ran out of things to read on the way home from a conference. Fortunately there was a bookstore at O'Hare so I grabbed this cause I'm Twitter friends with the author and heard a lot of good things about it. I should have read it sooner. It's brilliant.

Those We Left Behind by Stuart Neville
 When readers wonder who will step up to fill the mighty shoes of the grandmasters we've lost in recent years (Don Westlake, Tony Hillerman, Ed McBain) this is one of the guyz.

The Child Garden by Catriona McPherson
Just plan to read everything she writes. It's easier that way. 

Murder with a Twist by Tracy Kiely
This is a new series from one of my favorite authors. It's a modern day Thin Man homage,
but you don't ever have to seen the movies to appreciate this book. Banter. Booze. Dogs.
Honestly, if you don't love this book, I'll give you your money back. (And cross you off my Christmas card list!)

A Pleasure and a Calling by Phil Hogan
This books is too deliciously creepy for words. That moment, as you're reading about the narrator's favorite breakfast spot, and you realize he's inside his neighbor's house...without the neighbors being home...that's the moment when you know you're not going to stop reading till the last page.

Cop Town by Karin Slaughter
This book just knocked my socks off. It was nominated for an Edgar for Best Novel and as far as I'm concerned Karin Slaughter got robbed this year.  Her next one, Pretty Girls, is on my to be read stack. I'm saving it for a day when I deserve a reward.

The Bishop's Wife by Mette Ivie Harrison 
This is a terrific book that really made me feel like I was right there with her in her world. Not enough people read this. You should!

So, what novels have you read and loved this year? List them in the comments section, or link to your blog if you prefer.


Kitty said...

I read Nora Ephron's Heartburn for the fifth (sixth?) time and plan to read it again in the future.

I had never read anything by Martha Grimes until I read Hotel Paradise, the first of four books in her Emma Graham series. Grimes drew upon her childhood for the books.

Richard Wheeler's An Accidental Novelist is not a novel but a memoir of how he became a novelist. It was fun to compare his experiences in the publishing world with Janet's information.

Donnaeve said...

First things first...Ms. Janet, protaginist?

Uh. Oh.

I love this list!

There are some out here I've had on my radar for some time, although I've been trying to be good and not buy any more books until I reduce my TBR pile. I'm working at it, and just started a book I bought TWO years ago - THE CHRONOLOGY OF WATER, by Lidia Yuknavitch. But, I'm perusing the link list above and adding the ones I want to my "wish list." That's how I've decided to get around my "rule" and MORE books to that pile.

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

My "books I want to read" list and my "books I've gotten around to reading" list are growing more disparate by the day. It's lovely working in the library. And also a curse.

(if I remember right, I also really loved Last Night in Montreal)

Unknown said...

Not long ago, QOTKU put up a list of books that were good examples of different types of narrator and writing styles and I put a number of them on my TBR list. One of them has since become my most recent favourite book and I'd never even heard of it before. The Lock Artist. It was excellent...

Dena Pawling said...

From that list, I've read Murder with a Twist [really enjoyed this one] and A Pleasure and a Calling [yep, creepy MC]. I'll definitely have to check out the others on the list. As to my own list, I absolutely love the Spencer Quinn Chet and Bernie books. Also Janet Evanovich, MC Beaton, and Donna Andrews have good series too. Can you tell I like cozies?

I've made a page on my blog of Book Recommendations for books I've read recently with a pub date of 2012 to the present. I've read a lot of older books too, but I don't write reviews for books pubbed before 2012. This Friday I'm putting up my review of The Man in the Empty Suit by Sean Ferrell, 2013 [I read the audio book]. This author has a seriously strange creative streak.

Unknown said...

Reread Nick Vinzi's It's kind of a Funny Story. Live.Live.Live.Live. One of the most powerful books I have ever.
Jessy Andrews' Me Earl and the Dying Girl. How do teens deal with the death of a friend? Each story is different.
John Green's Paper Towns. Wow, what an ending that broke my heart.
Currently reading Rules to Rock By, young MG about a young rock star wanna-be.

nightsmusic said...

Wonderful! As if I don't have enough books on my TBR pile. And yes, I still like paper books. I'm a tactile kind of gal, what can I say? I do love Karen Slaughter. I read her first book on a lark when it originally came out because the back blurb interested me. Yup...really like her!

Unknown said...

I'm with nightsmusic. Adding even one more book to my pile will topple it over, and I have them in a particular order.

But never mind. I will stick this list at the top of aforementioned pile because that is what one does when one pledges allegiance.

Susan Bonifant said...

Recently, but way behind other people I discovered Tom Franklin. I read Crooked Letter Crooked Letter, fell in love, and just finished Tilted World.

This writer had me forever at this line:

"My husband's a murderer," she whispered. It tasted true.

I have a stack of four ready to go, but lines like that have made me harder to please.

This list of Janet's made my day.

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

I read so many books this year that I really liked or loved! I don't know where to start, how to choose. Okay, here's a handful in no particular order -

THE NIGHT SISTER by Jennifer McMahon - I've read and loved all her books. This one is dark, gothic.

A MADNESS SO DISCREET by Mindy McGinnis - she is one of my favorite YA authors. She does dystopian but this novel is historical fiction and includes insane asylums and criminology.

ALL IS NOT FORGOTTEN by Wendy Walker - absolutely chilling. Read as an ARC, comes out July 2016.

TRY NOT TO BREATHE by Holly Seddon - gripping, suspenseful, layered and complicated characters. Another ARC, comes out February 2016.

Unknown said...

I read STATION !! in 2014 and it was my #1 Favorite book of the year, so Janet and I can be friends. YAY! :)

Here are my top 10 books of 2015 (Most recent listed first)

BONE GAP by Laura Ruby
WOLF BY WOLF by Ryan Graudin
GOLDEN SON (sequel to RED RISING) by Pierce Brown

Unknown said...

So happy to see THE DRIFTER by Nicholas Petrie on Janet's list! It comes out in January. The author lives here in Wisconsin and I'm looking forward to seeing his book do really well!

Steve Forti said...

@Madame Von Bee, if you liked The Lock Artist, pick up everything else that Steve Hamilton has done. His early stuff is pretty good, and his recent work is excellent.

If you want mindless action that's an homage to Jurassic Park, then Matthew Reilly's The Great Zoo of China is fun.
And I can never recommend Greg Iles enough, so catch up on the previous books then go read The Bone Tree.

Lisa Bodenheim said...

Ohmy. More books to check out. Well, winter is (suppose to be here).

I've mentioned before that I enjoyed The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion, about a science geek who falls in love unexpectedly with a woman who does not fit his survey for a perfect wife.

I also enjoyed Philip DePoy's The King James Conspiracy (his A Prisoner in Malta, which Colin reviewed on his blog, comes out Jan 2016). DePoy's twists and turns about guarded secrets, murdered scribes, and multi-faceted main characters kept me in the story.

Other stories I enjoyed this year were:
Fingersmith by Sarah Waters
The Girl who Fell from the Sky by Heidi W. Durrow
Compulsion by Martina Boone
Mr. Loverman by Bernardine Evaristo
The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
Sleeping in Eden by Nicole Baart,
and Show Way by Jacqueline Woodson—a children’s story about slave quilts.

Susan said...

Well. I guess it's a good thing I paid that library fine...

Everything I Never Told You has been on my TBR for a while, so it looks like that might be next. Also, Station 11 looks amazing.

I'm currently still reading Sylvia Plath's journals (that book is massive), but I'm in love with her writing and descriptions, and it's proving to be great inspiration for the WIP.

The other most recent memorable read is Brooklyn by Colm Toilbin. I feel torn about this book. On the one hand, I really loved it. It was exactly the kind of book I love to read--loved the setting, loved the story, and I read it easily in one sitting. On the other hand, I felt like the MC was a bit one-dimensional. It's been a couple of weeks since I finished this book, and I still feel unsettled by my opinion of it--I really want to love it, but I think I just merely liked it. Blah. It's such an uneasy feeling.

Donnaeve said...

Well, I obviously wasn't awake enough, but here are a few of the books I'd recommend wholeheartedly which I read this year:

THE HEART IS A LONELY HUNTER, Carson McCullers (the title alone doesn't need the author's name, really)

***HOnestly, McCullers book gave me mixed feelings. You have to consider she was writing in a different era - that's how I looked at it, anyway. I did love the insight it gave me to the difference in lifestyles in late 30's, or maybe 1940 - when it was published. The way a young girl of 14 could go into a bar, and order beer (and ice cream) and smoke. Just so different from today. I think where I would "dare" to critique the book (this grand American classic) would be that the writing was a bit "preachy" towards moral values/dilemmas and this was delivered via the character of Dr. Benedict Mady Copeland and Jake Blount. And it was a tad melodramatic in areas.

Still, the writing was sublime.

Steve F - I have the two books thus far in the Greg Isles trilogy, and am waiting on the third to come out - or I should say Mom is because I haven't read them yet, and she has, and she couldn't put them down.

Theresa said...

I adored Celeste Ng's book.

Also: Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf
The Turner House by Angela Flournoy
Long Man by Amy Greene
Re Jane by Patricia Park
Orhan's Inheritance by Aline Onhanesian
A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson
World of Trouble by Ben Winters
Brush Back by Sara Paretsky

Susan said...

Donna: I was just talking about The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter to Julie yesterday! I first read this when I was a teenager, but I've read it time and again over the years and am re-reading it now because my WIP has the same small-town, colorful cast of characters (I'm comping it as "Lonely Hunter" meets "The Secret Garden"). I wholeheartedly agree with you in regards to the self-righteousness of some of the characters--sometimes it seems like overkill, but I think that was McCullers' social commentary at the time, and, at the very least, it gives us insight into her world then.

Funny enough, when I was younger, I related most to Mick Kelly, but on this recent read-through, I'm finding myself understanding Jake Blount more and more (his searching for someone who understands him, who lets him speak his truth, that connection). And, always, John Singer is one of my favorite characters in fiction. The author has this way of creating a collection of flawed but endearing characters and weaving them all together in a story that, like Betty Smith, seems ordinary, yet magical. She did the same in Ballad of the Sad Cafe.

OK. I'm gushing again. I just love these books so much, and it's been rare to find someone who's read and enjoyed them, too.

Thanks for this thread, Janet!

Anonymous said...

My TBR list is growing again. Too many great books, not enough hours.

Many of my favorite reads of 2015 have already been mentioned, but I'll throw in my two cents. I like to highlight new authors, so I listed my personal choices for Morris Award finalists (YALSA award for best debut YA novel) in a recent blog post. My picks:

WHAT WE SAW by Aaron Hartzler

If you want to know why I chose each book, please check out the post.

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

Lisa B - if you enjoyed Kristin Hannah's THE NIGHTINGALE, I would recommend Susan Meissner's SECRETS OF A CHARMED LIFE. I didn't list it in my comment here, but I absolutely loved it.

Unknown said...

The Girl on the Train, Paula Hawkins
In The Woods, and, The Likeness, Tana French
The Elegance of the Hedgehog, Muriel Barbery
The Darkest Minds, Alexander Bracken
The Boundless, Kenneth Oppel
The Walls Around Us, Nova Ren Suma
Vicious, V.E. Schwab
Etcetera...(other piles of MG/YA)
Currently working through Shades of London series, by Maureen Johnson

Steve Forti said...

Donna - highly recommend you borrow them from your mom. Although the current "trilogy" is really books 4-6 for that main character.

Adib Khorram said...

I'm glad to see AN EMBER IN THE ASHES, MORE HAPPY THAN NOT, and SIMON VS. THE HOMO SAPIENS AGENDA getting some love. I adored them too!

If my counting is correct, I've read 111 books this year (reading #112 right now).

The ones that blew me away, in reverse chronological order:

ILLUMINAE by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff: An awesome scifi composed of "found documents." It's different from pretty much anything I've ever read before.

CARRY ON by Rainbow Rowell: Last year, Rowell teased that she was working on a new book and I predicted this was it, so yea, me! I might be a wizard, too.

STAND OFF by Andrew Smith: Andrew Smith is pretty much my favorite author. I got to read this in ARC in July, and then I read it again in hardcover when it was released in September.


SO YOU'VE BEEN PUBLICLY SHAMED by Jon Ronson: This had a big impact on how I comport myself in my online presence. After seeing the impact the Attack of the Internet has had on people's lives, I've done my best to avoid getting drawn into such things.


CHALLENGER DEEP by Neal Shusterman: WOW! Talk about voice. Lyrical and vivid and heartbreaking. It won the National Book Award this year.

ALL THE BRIGHT PLACES by Jennifer Niven: My heart still hurts from this one.

SIMON VS. THE HOMO SAPIENS AGENDA by Becky Albertalli: So I got this book from the bookstore, got home, sat down, and didn't get up again until I finished it. Well, I did get up to make tea, but I read the book while standing around waiting for the water to boil.

THE ALEX CROW by Andrew Smith: So timely, even though it came out last March. Ariel, the main character, is an orphan and refugee from the Middle East, whose adoptive parents send him to a summer camp for technology-obsessed boys. And that's just one plotline.

Phew! It was hard to narrow it down to only ten.

The Sleepy One said...

I've read a lot this year that I enjoyed, but wasn't jazzed about enough to recommend. But here are some of my favorites:

The Keeper of Lost Causes by Jussi Adler-Olsen
Still Life by Louise Penny
On Beulah Height by Reginald Hill
Three Days of Rain by Richard Greenberg (it's a play and I saw it performed first and had to read it the very next day)

Janice Grinyer said...

The one that stands out for me is the Gabriel Du Pre Mysteries by Montanan Peter Bowen. There was a new one added this year, "Bitter Creek", so I revisited the series and enjoyed them immensely.

When an Author makes me laugh in one chapter and gasp in another consistently, I'm hooked for a lifetime.

Also, thank you for your list; it makes pursuing the library and bookstores so much easier when you have good recommendations on hand.

Stacy said...

Anything by Tana French (IN THE WOODS, THE LIKENESS, FAITHFUL PLACE - She never fails to draw me in. THE LIKENESS had a ridiculous conceit, but she totally convinced me, anyway. One of my marks for great writing.)

IN A DARK, DARK WOOD by Ruth Ware (Lovely, though this will make you glad you left some of those high school friends behind.)

THE WEIGHT OF BLOOD by Laura McHugh (Hard read, emotionally speaking, but worth it.)

INVISIBLE CITY by Julia Dahl (Great protagonist.)

BROKEN MONSTERS by Lauren Beukes (Whoa!)

IN THE BLEAK MIDWINTER by Julia Spencer-Fleming (Best opening line EVER.)

ANCILLARY JUSTICE by Ann Leckie (For when you get a hankering for good science fiction.)

Anything by Craig Johnson (LONGMIRE series) ("He had his mother's looks, his father's temper, and nobody's brains." Enough said.)

Anything by Michael Connelly (HARRY BOSCH series) (Great protagonist.)

THE FINAL SILENCE by Stuart Neville (Great conceit that pays off.)

THE CROSSOVER by Kwame Alexander (YA, totally different but I loved it)

Technically these aren't novels (they're short story collections), but BLASPHEMY by Sherman Alexie is excellent, and so are Michael Chabon's WEREWOLVES IN THEIR YOUTH and Margaret Atwood's STONE MATTRESS.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

I loved Station 11. Janet always has great taste in books.

I have numerous books that I have enjoyed this year and my TBR list just grew exponentially. Thanks for that guys.

I would like to recommend Philip Zaleski's The Fellowship: The Literary Lives of the Inklings for any writer. It is about the writer's group called The Inklings which formed at Oxford and included J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Owen Barfield, and Charles Williams. A formidable critique group to be sure, and my were they harsh with one another, but the masterful work that emerged from this group changed modern literature. This is not just for fantasy writers. This book gives such amazing insight to these writers and the world which created them and literature at the time. Hands down, this is one of the most pivotal non-fiction pieces I have read in a long time.

I am putting out fires today at work so I will give a more detailed list when I get home.

Lisa Bodenheim said...

Thank you, Madeline. That does look good.

Well, I have all my holds placed at the library. Lots of writing and reading to keep me plenty busy between now and Christmas. And somehow squeeze in the day job too.

Anonymous said...

Adib, I second your CARRY ON recommendation. If you're a fan of audiobooks, I hope you listened to that one. The narration is fantastic. And I think I would read any story told by Baz -- he's one of my favorite viewpoint characters ever.

Colin Smith said...

I posted my list on my blog. In fact, I wrote an article specially so I can show pictures, and for those who don't read this blog (whoever those people might be--can't imagine who!) :)

I'm currently reading Mark Lewisohn's opening volume to his three-part series ALL THESE YEARS, which will be a definitive, detailed, meticulously-researched history of The Beatles. His series doesn't only discuss the lives of the Fab Four, but also talks about their environment, and all the other factors that influenced them and the culture they came to define. It's truly fascinating, and I've read a number of Beatles books. For example, there's a picture the boys had taken of themselves not long after their first single was released in 1962. According to Lewisohn's research, unbeknownst to them, they are standing in the exact location that John Lennon's ancestors stood when they first arrived in Liverpool from Ireland back in the mid-1800s. Cool stuff. :)

Adib Khorram said...

lizosisek: I read it in hardcover (I got a signed one, yea! And the party pack with a balloon and a color-it-yourself cover!), but I bet the audiobook is great. I'll have to check it out.

I don't listen to audiobooks very often, but I did listen to two this year while on long drives: GRASSHOPPER JUNGLE and ARISTOTLE AND DANTE DISCOVER THE SECRETS OF THE UNIVERSE. I can only listen to things I've already heard—is that weird?

Interesting fact: the ARISTOTLE AND DANTE audiobook was narrated by Lin-Manuel Miranda of HAMILTON fame.

LynnRodz said...

I love this list, it's like Christmas coming early. Thank you, Janet.

I'll list my favorite English books I've read this year:

THE UNIVERSAL TONE Bringing My Story To Light by Carlos Santana. A great autobiography by the great Carlos Santana. Over 500 pages, his book reads like a Who’s Who in music from rock stars to jazz legends to blues musicians, it's a musical odyssey.

WE ARE NOT GOOD PEOPLE by Jeff Somers. Wow! Not what I usually read, but what does it say about me that I want to read more?

And speaking of not my usual reading...

UGLIES by Scott Westerfeld. I don't typically read YA, but this first in a series has me wanting to read more. It's an older book (2011) so I don't have to wait for the sequels. (Hear that, Santa?) The last time I read a YA series was THE FOREST OF HANDS & TEETH by Carrie Ryan and then I had to get the other two books in the series as well. Good storytelling is good storytelling.

THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN by Paula Hawkins. Good book, but I kind of suspected who the real culprit was from the start.

THE INVISIBLES by Cecilia Galante. This was an ARC and an excellent study on how to write flashbacks.

THE GIRL WITH NO NAME by Marina Chapman. A biography/memoir and an incredible story. I'm looking forward to the sequel about Marina's life.

THE ALCHEMIST by Paulo Coelho. The third time I've read it and it doesn't get old.

I started my own Christmas tradition years ago. Each December I read Christmas themed books and now I have a whole section of Christmas books in my library. I reread a lot of favorites like, A CHRISTMAS STORY by Jay Frankston, A CUP OF CHRISTMAS TEA and A MEMORY OF CHRISTMAS TEA by Tom Hegg. Right now I'm reading,

ANGELS AT THE TABLE by Debbie Macomber. Then I'll read,

THE MISTLETOE INN by Richard Paul Evans

Happy Reading everyone.

John Frain said...

How do you guys keep track of these? I swear, some of y'all must get more than 24 hours in a day and I'm jealous. In no particular order, my faves of 2015:

Best Final Novel: RAYLAN by Elmore Leonard. Wasn't his best work, but when you're in a class by yourself everything is darn good.

Best Story I FINALLY Read: The Heart is a Lonely Hunter. Yeah, it must've been contagious this year.

Best Embarrassing Surprise: BADLANDS by CJ Box. Scared to admit it, but until I read this I thought CJ was a female. Doh! Novel that uses place as a character. I'll read more of him.

Best Surprise Discovery: THE SECRET PLACE by Tana French. Hidden in my wife's TBR stack that I knocked over looking for my keys. Eerie. The book, not losing my keys, that's common.

Best Speed Reading: SIGNAL by Patrick Lee. Without a doubt the fastest book I read all year, and I'm notoriously slow. No way you can read this one slowly.

Best Spy Novel: A DELICATE TRUTH by John Le'Carre. He strayed for a few books there, but Le'Carre came back with a vengeance here.

Best Crime Novel: THE TURNAROUND by George Pelacanos. The guy is amazing. Take one incident, wrap a story around it, and keep the reader spellbound for 300 pages.

Thanks for the list, Janet, I had three of them on my list already. I gotta read quicker.

Kate Larkindale said...

I've read a lot of books I've loved this year. If anyone is at all interested, on Wednesdays I post about a book I've loved on my blog....

Not Otherwise Specified by Hannah Moskowitz was definitely a standout this year. And Cam Girl and Black Iris by Leah Raeder. I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson also blew me away, as did Paperweight by Meg Halston. I also loved Making Pretty by Cory Ann Haydu and so many others.

I've read 171 books already this year, so it's hard to remember which ones were the greatest.

S.D.King said...

Had a weird year. I usually read 2-3 novels a week, but this year - almost none. (after-effects of sickness)

So this week I DID read!!! "The Beautiful Bureaucrat" by Helen Phillips. Yes, it was good. Afterward I read the reviews and wondered if I read the same book. Apparently it is an existentialist masterpiece. Hmmm- I just thought it was a great story with an unusual degree of empathizing with MC.

Anonymous said...

Adib: I was just talking about Lin Manuel Miranda and ARISTOTLE AND DANTE at the teen writing workshop I taught. Teen book club is discussing ARISTOTLE AND DANTE at the library this weekend, and the young writer (another HAMILTON fan who listened to the audiobook) was eager to point out the passage where Ari mentions having to write a report on Alexander Hamilton. Needless to say, the next five minutes turned into us geeking out over HAMILTON, Lin Manuel Miranda, and Benjamin Alire Saenz :)

I've never listened to a book I read in print first, but I'm tempted to try it with ARISTOTLE AND DANTE now. ​I would never object to re-reading anything by Saenz.

Unknown said...

I am finding one of the down falls of being a writer is that spend my free time writing and not reading other people's books.

angie Brooksby-Arcangioli said...

What a great thread. I'm happy two of those QOTKU mentioned are already on my list. I wish I'd read as many as Adib but I've read only half that.

My favorite read of 2015 is Jeff Somer's WE ARE NOT GOOD PEOPLE
I loved Lizzie Harwood's XANMESIA —a memoir of a New Zealander who worked for (probably) a Saudi family, organizing their lives including a private concert by Michael Jackson. I love her voice.
THE LUCKIEST GIRL ALIVE by Jessica Knoll, I love her snarky voice and how her experience unfolds and destroys.
THE MURALIST by Barbara Shapiro. An interesting take on WWII and abstract expressionists

Anonymous said...

I've heard good things about THE BISHOP'S WIFE, but my TBR pile grows by leaps and bounds. I think my books are waging war against my bookcases and the bookcases are losing.

I really like Stuart Neville as an author and person. I haven't read any of the new Hillerman novels, but used to devour them even when about the only place I could find them was at the race track.

I've had my nose stuck in memoirs, journals, and diaries much of the time, but I have read a few novels along the way. Some of them read as well as any novel. parts of THE MEMOIRS OF JOHN S. MOSBY by Mosby in particular.

THE NAME OF THE WIND and THE WISE MAN'S FEAR by Patrick Rothfuss captured me heart and soul. I ordered THE SLOW REGARD OF SILENT THINGS, but haven't read it yet.

I have some problems with the way the mc is written and in the hands of a lesser craftsman, it would probably put me off the story. However, the story and writing are so strong I can't stop reading.

THE ARCHER'S TALE by Bernard Cornwell. I love his attention to historical detail.

MISTBORN by Brandon Sanderson.

I'm reading THE FRENCH EXECUTIONER by C.C. Humphreys now. Oh, my gosh, good.

The first line knocked me out. Then he followed up with a fabulous story. I would sit down and read it at one setting, but I'm forcing myself to use it as a reward for keeping on top of the writing.

Thankfully, I have several other books by Chris to keep me going when I finish this.

After that, The Guardians series by Jack Whyte is waiting in the wings.

I've read other novels this year I didn't care for, but rather than say anything impolite, I will just decline mention. One I disliked so badly I tossed it in the trash rather than donate it.

Mainly, I'll stay buried in non-fiction for a long time and ease through novels to renew the well.

Craig F said...

For time immemorial, or at least since I have been following her, My Queen has said no to Sci-Fi. There are two books on her list, Orphan X and Station 11, that I would identify as Sci-Fi. I would probably also call Patrick Lee Sci-Fi.

I have to wonder if it is just the name Sci-Fi that she doesn't like and why?

Laura said...

What a fantastic thread! I have Station 11 on my bedside stack right now -- it might just have to get moved up...

Let me add to the list: Soulless by Gail Carriger, a delicious confection of romance and steampunk, with werewolves and vampires thrown in just for fun.

Also, I listened to the audiobook of Jeeves in the Offing by P.G. Wodehouse, read by Ian Carmichael. Carmichael does a spectacular job with the language, which is brilliant to begin with -- but not every voice actor can pull it off, as I've discovered to my chagrin. Carmichael (who played Peter Wimsey on Masterpiece theater) can do no wrong. I wish he'd recorded every Jeeves book, but as far as I can tell, this was the only one.


Colin Smith said...

John: I track my reading on a spreadsheet, so I know what I read and when I read it. I also rate each book according to the Goodreads 5-star system, so in years to come (or minutes to come), as the grey cells decay, I can remind myself how much I enjoyed a book. :)

I'm incorporating Janet's list into my Christmas wish list.

Colin Smith said...

Craig: Not that I would presume to speak for Her Majesty Mighty QOTKU, but I don't think her reason for saying "no" to sci-fi is that she doesn't read it or like it, but rather that's not a genre she feels comfortable selling. Perhaps she doesn't know as many publishers of sci-fi as well as she feels she would need to, and/or she doesn't read enough sci-fi to feel as if she knows the genre. I would agree that Patrick Lee (nytba)'s books have elements of sci-fi to them, but they also fit snugly enough into the "thriller" category that Janet can sell them as such.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Craig, I noticed same thing. I just finished the Patrick Lee trilogy (definitely sci-fi) and read Station 11 at Janet's recommendation. Perhaps, this is why she says to not lead your query with genre. Just in case agent likes your story despite genre.

And all 4 of those books are great fast and fun reads. I agree with Julie about the Patrick Rothfuss books. I was not quite so fond of The Slow Regard of Silent Things as I was of the other two books although the prose is masterful. Rothfuss is a master of his craft. Love the character Kvothe.

Cormac McCarthy's No Country For Old Men is one of my favorite books but I was too disturbed by Child of God so have a strong stomach if you decide t venture there. McCarthy is not everyone's cup of tea to be sure. Perhaps, read All the Pretty Horses if skeptical. That is a brilliant read and not so upsetting as most of his other books.

I reread Connie Willis To Say Nothing of the Dog- still love it although the Doomsday Book remains my favorite of hers.

I read Brandon Sanderson's Shadow of Self, another of his Mistborn books. Always fun.

I went through a YA phase this summer- read The Peculiar Children series by Ransom Riggs and the Asylum series by Madeleine Roux and those were all fun. Scary fun for latter.

I only read about 105 books last year. I read much less when I am writing. Some of you blow me away by how much you can read and write in a year. That includes Janet.

Colin Smith said...

Dena's link:

Lynn: UGLIES was very good, but IMO, the following two books weren't as good. However, Westerfeld is a good writer, so I encourage you to read the rest of the series and decide for yourself. There is a fourth in the series, EXTRAS, which is in the same world. I actually enjoyed this better than PRETTIES and SPECIALS. If you enjoy these, though, read his LEVIATHAN steampunk series. It's based in a sort of alternative-universe World War I. All three of those books got five stars from me. Excellent storytelling.

Joseph S. said...

Okay – I added six books to a growing stack on B&N’s Cyber Monday sale; but I’ll add more after reading today’s list:
“Station 11 “
“Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda “
A Michael Connelly book – I’m embarrassed to say I’ve never read any of his books
“The Boys in the Boat”
Leaving out the more well-known names (though I read John Grisham’s A Time to Kill and Sycamore Row back to back, and that was fun) the three I could recommend:
HEARTSICK by Chelsea Cain
THE PROFESSOR by Robert Bailey – slightly biased. I met him, his wife and child; and liked them. – and the book is good too.
BACK OF BEYOND by C.J. Box - I liked it enough I bought his latest book on Cyber Monday.

Colin Smith said...

Joseph: I'm embarrassed to say how many authors/books I'm embarrassed to say I've never read. Michael Connelly is among them, I'm embarrassed to say. Maybe next year I'll rectify that. :)

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for this list! Many of these authors are new to me, which is exciting!

My tastes are eclectic and so is my list of this year's favorites. Echoing others, I loved IN A DARK, DARK WOOD, which was especially well done as an audiobook.

LAST WORDS, Michael Koryta
IF YOU ONLY KNEW, Kristan Higgins
THE GHOST FIELDS, Elly Griffiths
THE ICE QUEEN, Nele Neuhaus

Steph said...

It took me forever to read the comments because I kept opening new Amazon tabs to find books...but what fun, sharing good books is one of the few things that comes close to reading good books.

This year I spent a lot of time writing my thesis and consequently a lot of time distracted from writing my thesis, which led to a book (or more...) a day habit for a while. So the list of books I loved this year is certainly not exhaustive or exclusive:

1) BONHOEFFER: PASTOR, MARTYR, PROPHET, SPY by Eric Metaxas, basically this ruined all other biographies for a good three months, nothing met the standard. Metaxas brought Bonhoeffer to life in incredible depth, shining a new light on a period of history most of us are already familiar with.

2) A COURT OF THORNS AND ROSES by Sarah J Maas, each book in this series has been more brilliant than the last, I really can't wait to read what she writes next.

3) REBEL QUEEN by Michelle Moran. I was swept away by the beauty of the story and humbled by the story of an amazing woman I'd never even heard of before. Moran really transports her readers to India, just as she transports them to France, Rome and Egypt in her other novels.

4) PRETTY GIRLS by Karin Slaughter. Janet said it all, Slaughter is a master and you better be ready to be creeped out when you read this book!

5) SHADOWS OF THE PAST by Patricia Bradley. I have a confession: While I like the challenge of solid theology, I don't read a lot of Christian fiction. It usually bores me; the characters are too perfect or too cookie-cutter. Not so with Bradley's Logan Lake series, these women are strong, educated, smart and don't back down. This is what suspense should read like!

6) WITH EVERY LETTER by Sarah Sundin. Beautiful writing and a terrific look at the important role of nurses in WWII within the framework of a romance.

7)CHASING THE DOLLAR by Ellie Ashe. So late last year I discovered Gemma Halliday Publishing, depending on who you ask, it was a really good or really bad day. I like a lot of the series she publishes, Ashe's Miranda Vaughn books with their smart, witty protagonist and great humor are a stand out.

8) STEELHEART by Brandon Sanderson. I'm not usually a fan of comic books, but several recent tv shows have sort of pushed me into super-hero fandom. Steelheart reads like a super-hero show in book form: Exciting, full of twists and filled with cool powers.

9) HOW WE GOT TO NOW by Steven Johnson was a really interesting look innovations and the sort of chain reactions that followed.

10) MRS. LINCLON'S RIVAL by Jennifer Chiaverini. This one might be cheating a little, I really did like Mrs. Lincoln's Rival, but it isn't my favorite by Ms Chiaverini, just the one I read most recently. Still, it's a great book and you should read it!

Hope I've managed to find a book or two that proves contagious!

nightsmusic said...


If you don't want to get caught up in Connelly's gazillion books in the Harry Bosch series, read THE POET. He wrote it in 1997, it's still as fabulous now as it was then and it's not 100 books long. I loved it. Absolutely loved it! Only read a few Harry Bosch but that's because most series start to bore me after awhile.

Colin Smith said...

nightsmusic: Thanks for the tip! I intended to read the first couple of Bosch novels to get the flavor. But I'll certainly give THE POET a try too.

LynnRodz said...

@Colin, thanks for the heads up.

Stephen G Parks said...

Well, I had some real problems with Station 11, so I guess it’s official that Janet and I can’t be friends. I found the writing to be evocative but the storytelling to be weak. Too much of the story happens off page, including a very important event which is glimpsed on the horizon. (Sorry to be vague, trying for no spoilers)

I wrote a full reply for this, but it ran nine paragraphs, contained many spoilers, and re-iterated what I’d already written in a blog post.

I seem to have read mostly in science fiction this year. If that's your cup of tea, then THE THREE BODY PROBLEM by Cixin Liu would get my strongest recommendation.

Donnaeve said...

I will have to go back later and read some of these great lists, but I wanted to respond to Susan and Steve.

Susan - I totally agree! I loved the John Singer character - so much we learn about him and he never says a word! And yes, thinking it was such a different time - not only for what a young girl could do, but even writing style and the "things" allowed. (i.e. the bit of melodrama we see)

Steve F - here's what's sad. They're my books. I let her read them first b/c I was knee deep in trying to read in my genre. :) All she can do is say, "boy oh boy, you just wait!"

The Sleepy One said...

@ Craig,

I'd argue that Patrick Lee's Runner and Signal are thrillers with science fiction elements. The SF is a secondary even if it creates the reason for the thriller portion of the novel. That's very different (at least to me) than something that is SF first.

Ditto the Soulless recommendation. That entire series is incredibly fun. I haven't read either of the two newer series by Carriger set in the same world.

Megan V said...

This was too darn difficult. I almost didn't bother. And then I thought, you know, I'd hate for others to miss out on something fantastic just because I was too lazy to put together a list. The trouble is, I've got a list of 493 books I read this year, thanks to last years New Years resolution— I resolved to read two books a day(one reread, one new read). I'm well below my goal, but it's still a lot of books to choose from! So I picked a few from varying genres and age categories.


MURDER 101/ Peter Decker & Rina Lazarus Series- Faye Kellerman

COLD BETRAYAL/ Ali Reynolds Series— J.A. Jance


MASTIFF/ Beka Cooper Series—Tamora Pierce

CINDER/ The Lunar Chronicles— Marissa Meyer

THE TESTING—Joelle Charbonneau


THE VISITORS-Sally Beauman

INCIDENTS IN THE LIFE OF A SLAVE GIRL - Literary Touchstone Classic
written by Harriet A. Jacobs (true account)

WE ONLY PLAYED HOME GAMES: Wacky, Raunchy, Humorous Stories of Sports and Other Events in Michigan's Maximum Security Prison (a self-pubbed book that's got some really interesting insight!)



Lucie Witt said...

**looks up at TBR pile stretching into the clouds**

I had an odd year, too, and read almost no fiction (I usually read at least 20 or 30 novels). I did read a lot of nonfiction, though.

Some favorites, in no particular order:

Between the World and Me - Ta-Nehesi Coates (A staggering read. I have four sons, two biracial and two Black, and this was affirming and gutting and hard and necessary)

Bad Feminist - Roxane Gay (great essays - I love the one on Sweet Valley Twins)

The Power of Habit - Charles Duhigg (great read, especially if you like a pop science kind of take on neuroscience, some valuable insights here for writers when it comes to creating good versus bad habits)

Tiny Beautiful Things - Cheryl Strayed (advice colums/essays that are gorgeous, raw, loving, hilarious, true, sad)

The Queen - Tiffany Reisz (literary erotica - if you enjoy erotica/romance this is hands down the best series I have ever read, but it is not for the faint of heart)

RachelErin said...

I read a lot more fiction this year trying to get to 100 books in my genre. So I've had fun.

Favorite for world building and fantastic MC: UPROOTED by Naomi Novik, AKATA WITCH by Nnedi Okorafor
BITTERBLUE, by Kristen Cashore was also great (I read the whole trilogy, but I think this is the best one).

Favorite for compelling blend of alt history and historical fiction: THE ASTONISHING LIFE OF OCTAVIAN NOTHING, TRAITOR TO A NATION. I can't tell you why this one is so good without spoiling it, but if you've ever been bored by the standard narrative/pov in revolutionary war stories, read this. It will not bore you.
Just finished THE FISHERMAN, by Chigozie Obioma - family tragedy set in Nigeria.
And LILA, by Marianne Robinson.

I also caught up on John Green - who by the way, also did all the US History videos I used to study for the foreign service exam. It never occurred to me the best-selling YA author was also the nerdy history guy. Glad I'm not the only one who was behind on him.

I don't think that's quite ten, but I found, reading in my genre, that I find a lot of them so-so. When YA fantasy is good I could read and re-read and forget to make dinner. Very few of the dozens of books I read took me to that place. It made me realize that as hard as it is to write a publishable book, I ultimately want to write books that go farther.

Anonymous said...

Whoa. You all are so serious and literary. I had no idea. Well, I knew Janet was (not to be all picky, but your list is ten plus two, Ms. I-Can't-Number-Lists). I'll be adding several of these to my TBR pile-up. Especially excited about the Thin Man homage.

For the past several years, for me a "good" book is one that doesn't make me think too hard. A nice relaxing break after writing. And since I'm currently writing romance, that's what I've been reading. If genre fiction/romance not your cuppa, then just skip the rest of this comment. Maybe there are a few lurkers who share my enthusiasm for it (you all can come sit over here on the sunporch with me).

Most recent fav: ACT LIKE IT by Lucy Parker. Smart and funny. London set, theatre references, clever banter. Plus Brit slang, which I love. Going to re-read this one (I never re-read).

Currently reading the last book in Meljean Brook's IRON SEAS series, loving it. I was late to this series because "other worlds" is not generally my thing, but read a novella and got sucked in. This steampunk world and her characters: definitely my thing.

Erotic fav: HARLOT by Victoria Dahl. (I love all her non-erotic romance too.) This was emotionally wrenching. I'll just quote what I told her on twitter: You've really outdone yourself with HARLOT. Such an intricate compelling dance of emotions. And HOT too! Very well done.

Loving Jackie Ashenden's darkly sexy NINE CIRCLES series. I'll read anything she writes.

This is taking too long to flip back and find titles, so let me just list some smart writers whose new releases I've loved reading this year and who have become auto-buys, all HIGHLY recommended:

Kelly Hunter (huge backlist, I've read all of it, such a good writer)
Carolyn Crane (more thriller than romance, can't put it down)
Maisey Yates (small town/cowboy romance, very emotional)
Kat Latham (Brit rugby players, smart funny writing)
Laura Florand, esp her Amour et Chocolat series (gorgeous writing, set in France)
Rebecca Zanetti's paranormal SIN BROTHERS series wrapped up this year (fascinating premise, compelling voice)

Oh, and for those of you who loved Patrick Lee, might I suggest Brett Battles and his PROJECT EDEN series. I haven't finished all of them (yet) but edge-of-your-seat thrillers.

OK, probably that's a big enough infusion of genre fiction, although I could go on and on. Don't want to break the blog.

nightsmusic said...


I'm so glad someone else here writes and reads romance.

@Megan V

I'm just curious, but did you choose the prison sports book in part because maybe you might, possibly, could sort in Michigan? Just curious...really...

Anonymous said...

OH! And since some of you listed books not yet published, I can't even begin to tell you how much I'm looking forward to THE SAINTS OF THE LOST AND FOUND by Toni McGee Causey (T.M. Causey), coming March 2016. Billed as "a dark, bitter sweet, romantic suspense." And I haven't even read the excerpt she just put up on Goodreads, because I don't need to. It's Toni.

Anonymous said...

I'm going to give everyone a bit of advice. I started using Library Thing. Mine isn't up to date, but at least I have it started. Whatever form you use, Goodreads, Library Thing, a notebook, take note of the books you have and those you've read.

I found some duplicates when I started unpacking and organizing my books. I've also lost some books I wanted to read. There are several here that look very good.

While I was doing research for RAIN CROW, I ran across the story of an interesting soldier who later became an editor and novelist. Out of curiosity I looked up one of his books. They are very obscure, but I found one and was able to read a sample of it. My stars, what gorgeous writing. I thought I'd get it just to fix the language and speech patterns of the time more in my mind. I'll remember him.

I didn't. No idea who he was or what rabbit trail led me to him. I can't find him and I have searched.

Don't trust your memory if you run across an interesting book.

Kae Ridwyn said...

@Julie - this is SO true! For decades now, I'd been trying to find a novel I read when I was 13-ish (didn't write down title or author; just remembered the plot) but this year, I discovered Jane Yolen's A PLAGUE OF UNICORNS while reading comp titles for a book I wanted to start querying. I absolutely LOVED her writing style; so I bought another book of hers several weeks ago when browsing the second hand titles at my local Op Shop. It turns out, this book A SENDING OF DRAGONS, was number three in the series of the novel I had been searching for since forever! It's hard to describe the rapture I felt on the re-discovery.
Moral of story: ALWAYS write down the title / author! Memories just don't cut it!
I also discovered Chris D'Lacey's LAST DRAGON CHRONICLES this year. Quite enjoyed them :)

Megan V said...

@nightsmusic— I don't currently live in Michigan, but I did do a short stint there for school.

Karen McCoy said...

I don't have a top ten (way too many to name), but one of the most beautifully crafted books I read this year was THE WEIGHT OF FEATHERS by Anna-Marie McLemore. A cross between Garcia Marquez and Cuelho, for young adults.

Tony Clavelli said...

I scanned a search for my favorites and they weren't here, so I'm a little late, but here were the ones that grabbed me:

First, since Station Eleven's up there a lot, my post-apocalyptic books I liked this year:

--don't let the "the Girl" title fool you into thinking it's just another one. It's so well-paced, so exciting and smart, with a killer MC.

--not new, but new to me, and as good as everyone says.

In the non-apocalypse,

--One of my favorite sub-genres of stories, and I don't yet have a name for it, are stories in which the protagonist starts off with a terrible idea, and you watch it unfold slowly and painfully and it's far worse than you'd ever thought. Plus I hadn't read many stories by and about Africans.

--I think graphic novels get pushed aside too much. I go into a full-body cringe when someone says "I don't do comics." It's a whole medium! How do you skip a whole medium?? Anyway, it's beautiful, and the best YA I've read in years, great art is just a bonus.

--A short story collection where more than half of them are less "stories" than even this blog's flash fiction winners, but the little pieces are so good that it barely matters. The absolute weird.

--It's about bees. A bee MC just doing her bee thing. It's wild. If for some reason anyone is reading this far down the list and thinks "A book about bees? Hmm..." please take that tiny thought and buy this thing.

other great stuff this year too, but these are enough!

nightsmusic said...


Toni, Jenny Crusie, a few others, auto buy, straight out, no pre-reading required. :)

@Megan V:

I live in Michigan. I was just curious :)

PSA: This mostly deals with books that have some kind of romance in them, but Smart Bitches Trashy Books does HABOs all the time. Send as much as you can remember of the book and Sarah will post it asking for anyone in the community to post the title. Nine out of ten times, someone remembers it.

Anonymous said...

@nightsmusic, I agree. I have so much admiration for Crusie, both her writing and teaching. And Toni has been an online writer-friend for years. I also suspect we aren't the only romance readers/writers following along over here. Delighted to be in your company on that score. :)