Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books I Read in 2015

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature/meme brought to you by the folks over at The Broke and the Bookish (the button also belongs to them).  This week’s theme is the Top Ten Books I read in 2015.

I am a little late in posting this, but I LOVE doing these lists so I can look back on them.  End of year posts are my favorites!  Anyways, here’s my top 10 favorite books of the year…

 

            

1. Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith– I love love love this series and this was the best book of it so far.  Strike and Robin are just the best and this book was so much about developing them as characters and exploring the dynamics of their relationship as they begin moving toward friendship… or more.

2. The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling– Yeah, yeah, J.K. Rowling makes the list twice.  No surprise there.  This was such a thoughtful and touching book, a study of real, flawed characters from different walks of life who are all struggling in their own ways.  And more than that, it explores the social safety net and the motives/mindframes of those who wish to dismantle it and those who desperately need it in order to survive.

3. The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien– This is a collection of beautifully-written interconnected short stories about the Vietnam War.  I can’t believe it took me until this year to read this one.

4. Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson– See all those awards on the cover of this one?  Yeah, they are well-deserved.  This was beautiful and touching and a lovely memoir set against the backdrop of the Civil Rights movement.

 

        

5. If You Lived Here, You’d Be Home Now by Claire LaZebnik– I read some really great chick lit this year and this was one of my favorites.  There was subtle and smart character development, a sweet and easy romance, and the exploration of multiple relationships (family, friends, parent-child, romance).

6. Why Can’t I Be You by Allie Larkin– This has a bit of a Hollywood-style plot– Jenny is on a business trip and gets mistaken for her doppelganger, Jessie, and gets caught up pretending to be Jessie, mostly because Jessie has awesome friends and Jenny is kind of alone in her life.  But somehow this crazy plot WORKS and has realistic consequences.  Also, Allie Larkin writes love interests who love dogs.  You can’t go wrong with that.

7. I’ll Meet You There by Heather Demetrios– I read this book fast, finding it impossible to put down.  I just loved the gritty realness of it, which is sort of rare for YA romance (though I might classify this as NA, which has its fair share of gritty romance).

       

8. Maybe in Another Life by Taylor Jenkins Reid– This book tells the story of Hannah Martin in two different timelines, each based on a differing decision she makes one night at a bar.  This was a really interesting twist on chick lit and Reid has a talent for telling stories in ways that just wouldn’t work for other authors.

9. Happiness for Beginners by Katherine Center– This was a really insightful book about a woman who is trying to find happiness for herself after a whole lot of heartbreak in her life.  She decides to do this through an intense, extreme wilderness survival course and learns a lot about herself and the nature of happiness along the way.  It especially resonated with me because its main message is that in spite of the bad things in life, there are always little reasons to find to be happy and that is one of life’s lessons I need drilled into me time and again.

10. Kulti by Mariana Zapata– This is one of the best genre romances I’ve read in ages.  I loved the hero, Kulti, because he’s that arrogant, brooding, sexy man with a dark past that I am always into.  The heroine was a professional soccer player and that was interesting.  There was a ton of chemistry and once the story got rolling, I could not put this book down.

 

What were your favorite books this year?

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten All-Time Favorite Authors

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature/meme brought to you by the folks over at The Broke and the Bookish (the button also belongs to them).  This week’s theme is a FREEBIE and I totally meant to finish drafting this post of my top ten favorite authors back in April, but didn’t get a chance so now I am finally finishing it and putting it out there.

This is a hard/easy category.  I am pretty fickle and am always adding new-to-me authors to this list, so this is more like an all-time favorites as of right this minute.

1. J.K. Rowling/Robert Galbraith— Duh, Harry Potter.  But she mostly makes this list because of her Cormoran Strike books and The Casual Vacancy, all of which hooked me and wowed me and confirmed for me that Rowling is an awesome and multi-talented author.

2. Sarra Manning— I’m on a mission to read all of Sarra Manning’s books and have enjoyed the handful I’ve read so far, but mostly she is on this list because Unsticky has wormed its way into my soul and is one of my all-time favorite books.

3. Shirley Jackson— I’ve loved Shirley Jackson since I was a teenager reading “The Lottery” in school.  Back then, I made it my mission to read everything by her I could get my hands on and ended up reading most of her major works.  I found out a year or two ago that Penguin released some of her titles that I think were out of print for a while (at least they were never in stores/libraries in the late 90s/early 2000s), so I have been meaning to get back to reading her complete works.  I love that she does everyday creepiness so well.

4. Juliet Marillier— I discovered Marillier’s books last summer and I have slowly been making my way through her enormous backlist.  I love her strong female characters, her worldbuilding skills, and her beautiful writing.

5. Allie Larkin— Larkin is a rather new addition to this list, but I listened to both her books (Stay and Why Can’t I Be You) on audiobook earlier in the year and just devoured them.  I love her romantic interests (marriage-material kind of guys), the dogs that pepper her stories, and that there is some real depth to her stories and characters.  I wish she had a bigger backlist because these are the kind of stories I love reading.

6. Liane Moriarty— I actually just finished reading her entire backlist after getting hooked on her stuff with Big Little Lies and I have enjoyed all of her books.  They are addictive and funny, but also tend to explore serious issues and themes.  Smart stuff and her writing seems to get better as time goes on, so I am eagerly anticipating her future releases.

7. Rainbow Rowell— I have enjoyed all her books, although I am uncertain about even bothering with Carry On.  I like her quirky, but well-developed characters and that somehow her books feel like they are written for me.  I don’t know how to explain that other than I related so strongly to Lincoln in Attachments and to the sentiments about marriage in Landline.

8. Taylor Jenkins Reid— I just finished up the remaining 2 of her books I hadn’t read and I loved them.  Reid has the ability to tell unconventional love stories that are totally absorbing and her stories are just tight– I only ever have minor quibbles after completing them.

9. Kiersten White— If I want to read something that is fun and fluffy, but not at all vapid or dumb, I pick up a Kiersten White book.  I have been surprised by how much I enjoy her books, but they are the best kind of fluffy.

10. Janet Evanovich— Another fluff author that I apparently cannot get enough of.  She does sexual tension like no other (Stephanie-Ranger-Morelli is the best love triangle ever) and though I keep swearing I’ve overdone it with her books, I keep picking up more of them.  I like the over-the-top humor and action and, of course, the romantic tension.

Who are your favorite authors?  What topic did you pick this week?  I’d love to visit your post, so please leave me a comment/link and I will do my best to stop by your blog!

Top Ten Tuesday: Diverse Books

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature/meme brought to you by the folks over at The Broke and the Bookish (the button also belongs to them).  This week’s theme is Ten Books That Celebrate Diversity/Diverse Characters (example: features minority/religious minority, socioeconomic diversity, disabled MC,  neurotypical character, LGBTQ etc etc.).

I LOVE this topic, as this has been an area I’ve been trying to work on in my own reading this year and it has been really interesting for me to grow as a person and a reader by reading more diverse books.

Here are some of my favorite discoveries:

         

1. Say What You Will by Cammie McGovern– While the plotline of this gets a little whacky, this was an interesting and addictive story about a girl with cerebral palsy and a boy with serious anxiety issues.  I enjoyed seeing how these limitations affected their friendship and their lives as they move from high school to the “real world.”

2. Illusions of Fate by Kiersten White– Gosh, I love Kiersten White for fun paranormal YA.  I liked that her story in the short story collection, My True Love Gave to Me, featured a Hispanic girl.  I was pleasantly surprised that the first novel of hers that I tried also had a main character who is dark-skinned (not that you can tell from that cover) and from an island colony of the country she is studying in.

3. I’ll Meet You There by Heather Demetrios– I absolutely adored and raced through this cute YA contemporary.  It features a character with a disability and a character of low socioeconomic status. Josh has lost his leg serving as a Marine in Afghanistan.  Skylar and her mom live in a trailer park and live paycheck to paycheck.  Money is a constant worry for Skylar and really limits what she can see for herself in her future.

4. Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie– I read this as part of a challenge I’m working on this year, which involved reading a book by an author from Africa.  Adichie is Nigerian and this book is about a Nigerian woman, Ifemelu, who comes to live in the United States and eventually writes a blog about race and the immigrant experience in America.  It also revolves quite a bit around the man Ifemelu left behind in Nigeria and their desire to rekindle their romance.  I really loved the social commentary on the black experience in America that figures heavily into this book.

5. Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson– This beautiful memoir in verse is the story of Woodson’s childhood as she grows up black in the 1960s and 1970s, splitting time between the North and the South.  This is seriously such a good book and Woodson’s experience is shaped by both her race and religion (Jehovah’s Witness) and the major goings-on of the Civil Rights movement are strongly present in the background of this mostly personal tale.

         

6. Trade Me by Courtney Milan– This romance was a fun little New Adult about a second generation Chinese American girl who simultaneously attends college and takes on the burden of supporting her family economically.  Tina gets the chance to swap places with Blake, a white guy who is super rich because his dad is the founder of an Apple-like technology company.  Oh yeah, and he’s a guy with an eating disorder.  Of course Tina and Blake become involved romantically over the course of their agreement.  I also like how Milan so subtly dropped in a transsexual side character (who will be the lead in the next book in this series!) that I got confused later in the story when it was brought up.

7. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie– I love Alexie’s work for his take on the contemporary Native American experience and particularly his ability to be funny and awkward and genuine all at the same time, but his YA novel is probably my favorite of his works.  This is the story of Junior, a tween/teen boy growing up on the Spokane Indian Reservation.

8. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz–  This book is an absolutely beautiful, excellent coming of age story about two boys growing up in 1980s El Paso.  It gets the LGBT tag, but that enters spoiler territory, so I’ll just say this story is mostly about Ari and Dante’s friendship, their families (LOVE their parents), and how they grow into themselves.

9. The Miseducation of Cameron Post by emily m. danforth–  Cameron comes of age in Montana in the early 90s, dealing with coming to terms with her sexuality and the death of her parents.  Her conservative, religious aunt finds out that Cameron has been experimenting with girls and sends her off to a de-gaying school in the wilderness.

10. The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling– I picked this one because Rowling portrays Pagford’s poor in such an honest, frank way that was deeply affecting for me.  I had so much compassion for Krystal and the horrible home life she faced and her limited life choices.  She’s cast as the town troublemaker by everyone else in town, but Rowling shows Krystal is a more complex (and tragic) person than the town would believe.

What are some of your favorite diverse books?  Do you try to make a point of reading diversely?  I’d love to see your lists so I can try out even more diverse books!

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Books I Recently Added to My TBR List

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature/meme brought to you by the folks over at The Broke and the Bookish (the button also belongs to them).  This week’s theme is Ten Books You Recently Added To Your To-Be-Read List.

So I tried to limit myself to books I’ve added to my TBR in the last month or two that I didn’t include on my Spring TBR list.  I almost undoubtedly will never read even half of these, but I can at least say this is what has caught my attention recently.

 

            

1. All Joy and No Fun by Jennifer Senior– This is a book about how being a parent affects the parent.  I love the title and well, I always feel like I should be reading more parenting books than I actually do.

2. Endlessly by Kiersten White– I recently finished the first two books in the Paranormalcy trilogy and plan on finishing it out sooner or later.

3. The Storyspinner by Becky Wallace– I… can’t remember what this is about. *checks Goodreads*  I think I saw this on some TTT lists and it is fantasy with a female lead and political intrigue and I’m a sucker for those things.

4. Burned by Ellen Hopkins– I have been dipping my toes into novels/memoirs in verse and this is one of those that gets mentioned frequently in that category.

              

5. Black River by S.M. Hulse– I saw some good things about this on Goodreads.  It’s a Western about a guy who was a prison guard and was attacked in a prison riot and how he deals with returning to town and facing the convict who attacked him and is now up for parole.  I am intrigued by the setting and the themes that could be explored here- redemption, forgiveness, nature of good/evil, etc.

6. Maybe in Another Life by Taylor Jenkins Reid– This isn’t out until July, but it’s one of those women’s fiction books with a “what if” premise that I tend to like… it tells concurrent storylines of what would happen if the character made one decision or another.

7. The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson– I have seen this narrative non-fiction book around for some time now and it sounds interesting.  It’s about an architect and a serial killer at the Chicago World’s Fair.  I might snag it from Audible when I get my next credit.

8. Hausfrau by Jill Alexander Essbaum– This one has been making the rounds in the book world.  It’s the story of an American wife and mother living in Switzerland and she’s bored and unhappy and starts having affairs and letting her life spin out of control.  It’s not my usual fare, but it piqued my curiosity.

    

9. Blankets by Craig Thompson– I need to read a graphic novel for my reading challenge this year and I think I’m going with this one, when my hold from the library gets in.  This is a coming of age story about love and religion and siblings and I have heard it’s incredibly touching, so I’m excited to try it out.

10. A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab– Everybody was talking about this book when it released.  I want to check out the hype, though I’m not entirely sure what it’s about.  Something about different Londons and magic.

What have you added to your TBR recently?  Have you read/do you recommend any of these on my list?

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books On My Spring TBR List

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature/meme brought to you by the folks over at The Broke and the Bookish (the button also belongs to them).  This week’s theme is the Top Ten Books On My Spring TBR List.

The Ones On Hold at the Library:

        

1. Before I Go by Colleen Oakley– This is about a young married couple and the wife gets bad news that her cancer is terminal and wants to find her husband a new wife before she dies.  It will probably be a tearjerker, but I like love stories featuring married couples so I was curious about it.

2. The Carnival at Bray by Jessie Ann Foley– Coming of age novel set in 1993 Ireland… I mostly picked it because it is published by an indie press and that is one of the tasks for the Read Harder Challenge.

3. I’ll Meet You There by Heather Demetrios– I’m a little nervous about this one because of all the praise it received from the blogging world, but it’s a YA contemp featuring a girl who wants to get the heck out of dodge and a guy who has returned home after being injured in the military.

4. Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie– This is also a pick for the Read Harder Challenge, in the category of author from Africa.  I don’t know a whole lot about it, but it involves two Nigerian teens who emigrate, one to the US and one to England and then later meet back up and rekindle the romance they started back home.

5. Three Wishes by Liane Moriarty– I am on a quest to read all of Liane Moriarty’s books.  This is one of two I have left… it’s about a set of triplets who are turning 33 and is described as a “family comedy.”

The Ones on My Audible Wishlist:

     

6. Why Can’t I Be You by Allie Larkin–  This is about a girl who is mistaken for someone else and decides to just go with it, pretending to fit into someone else’s life.  I enjoyed Larkin’s Stay on audiobook and this has the same narrator, Julia Whelan, so this seems like a natural choice.

7. The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson– This is also narrated by Julia Whelan and I want to read it because I liked Jandy Nelson’s writing.  It’s about a teen girl whose sister dies and how she deals with that grief.

8. The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton– I’ve been wanting to try a Kate Morton book and this is narrated by Caroline Lee, who I really enjoy.  I’m a little vague on the plot… girl inherits a house and a book and there is a mystery to be solved.

Spring 2015 New Releases:

  

9. Galileo’s Middle Finger by Alice Dreger– This non-fiction books sounds intriguing, as it’s a little about medical ethics in relation to intersex patients, and it’s a little bit about scientific research that conflicts with activist agendas, and it’s a little bit about the author’s personal experiences with activism and academia.

10. It’s Not Me It’s You by Mhairi McFarlane– I really like Mhairi McFarlane’s books and am eagerly awaiting this one’s U.S. release.  It’s about a girl whose life is shaken up when she finds out her long term boyfriend has been cheating on her and it’s time to quit playing it so safe.

What’s on your Spring TBR?  Read any of these and have feedback?  As always, be sure to link me up to your posts in the comments!

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Books for Readers Who Like Strong Settings

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature/meme brought to you by the folks over at The Broke and the Bookish (the button also belongs to them).  This week’s theme is the Top Ten Books for Readers who Like X.  I have decided to make a list of books with strong settings/sense of place.  I enjoy vivid settings and it’s not something I get to talk about all that often, so here are some of the books that stick out in my mind for their settings…

 

               

1. Plainsong by Kent Haruf– This one is set in eastern Colorado in the Plains part of the state.  Haruf’s sparse language really reflects the plain, unadorned small town he sets his book in.

2. Sea Creatures by Susanna Daniel– Set in Florida, this book takes place in part in Stiltsville, a group of houses built on stilts in the middle of a bay in South Florida.  The isolation of the homes and the healing and destructive power of the ocean looms large in this one.

3. The Flight of Gemma Hardy by Margot Livesey– This retelling of Jane Eyre makes Gemma (the Jane Eyre of the book) from Iceland and puts her to work on the remote Orkney Islands.  I read it a while ago, but still think of Iceland and caves/volcanoes when I see it.

               

4. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz– This one is set in El Paso and, being a bit of a desert girl, the setting really resonated with me.

5. Simply from Scratch by Alicia BessetteThis book takes place in New England in the winter.  There are all sorts of snow-related activities in it and scene where they get caught in a blizzard.

6. The Miseducation of Cameron Post by emily m. danforth– The Montana setting loomed large in this story, from the dusty eastern part of the state to the striking mountains and lakes of the west.  Also, Quake Lake, named for the earthquake which created it, plays an important part in Cameron’s family history.

              

7. Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery– I’m pretty sure everyone who reads these books dreams of going to Prince Edward Island.  Anne knows how to sell the natural beauty of a place, that’s for sure.

8. Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier– I have to throw in some great fantasy world-building, too.  I loved the Irish setting here and that the supernatural lives very close to the surface in the world Marillier creates.

9. Shades of Earth by Beth Revis– I loved the setting of all three of the books in this sci-fi trilogy, but was particularly enamored with Centauri Earth and its weird terrain, plants, and creatures.

 

Do you have a favorite book with a strong setting?  As always, link me up to your posts in the comments!

Top Ten Tuesday: My All-Time Favorites Since I Started Blogging

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature/meme brought to you by the folks over at The Broke and the Bookish (the button also belongs to them).  This week’s theme is the Top Ten Books You Would Classify As ALL TIME FAVORITE BOOKS from the past 3 years.

This actually works out really well because I’ve been blogging for three years, so basically these are my favorites since I’ve started blogging.  I decided to make this REALLY hard on myself and to only include books which I read for the first time since blogging (so no putting Jane Eyre, my all-time favorite book, onto the list because I reread it during the last three years).

               

1. Unsticky by Sarra Manning– I love this book so much, so hard.  I think I will be reading it over and over again forever.

2. Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier– Oh, you better believe I’ll be rereading this one on down the line.  Beautiful writing and a main character who endures trial after trail with strength and grace.

3. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn– Not sure this is the kind of book I would reread, but I suspect it will be the thriller I measure other thrillers up against for a long time.  It was a one of a kind reading experience, that’s for sure.

              

4. Attachments by Rainbow Rowell– I just in general like Rainbow Rowell’s books, but I think Attachments was the one that resonated with me most.

5 & 6. The Cuckoo’s Calling and The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith– This series is probably the best mystery series I’ve read in, well, ever.  I love Strike and Robin and cannot wait to see where things go with them.

     

7. Me Before You by Jojo Moyes– I liked it so much I’m currently rereading it.  This just tugs at the heartstrings.

8. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot– This is at the top of the list for me in term of favorite non-fiction books.  It is the sort of book I wish I could write.

9. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz– A beautiful book.  I loved the setting and the parent-child relationships.

10. Simply from Scratch by Alicia Bessette– While this book only got three stars from me, I think about it all the time (and I finished it nearly 3 years ago).  And that kind of staying power makes it something special.

 

What are your newest all-time favorites?  Link me up to your posts in the comments!