Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Favorite Reads From 2015

Have you set a reading goal for 2016? My goal for 2016 is to read 145 books. Whether you have set yourself a reading challenge for 2016 or not, if you are age 11 or older, you may want to participate in Hamilton-Wenham Library's 10 book challenge.
Now, before our planet travels much further on in distance and time, I thought I would share with you 27 of the 151+ books I read in 2015 to which I gave four to five stars. If you decide to read one or more of these, or have read any of them, I'd like to hear what you think. I tend to most enjoy a story line that is character-driven rather than plot-driven. Hence, my favorite reads tend to be about the inner struggle of a character. This preference, you may notice, shows up in my nonfiction top picks as most of them are memoirs & autobiographies. You may also notice that this list is heavy on speculative fiction (fantasy and science fiction), but those are my favorite genres, and these are my picks. So here from 2015 I bare all:

Kim's Top Fiction Reads From 2015

Half a King, by Joe Abercrombie, 2014. Heir to the throne Yarvi, prompted by the murder of his father, embarks on a kingdom-transforming journey to regain the throne, even though having only one good hand means he cannot wield a weapon. Epic Fantasy. First book in trilogy. Adult books for Young Adults.  ****


The Goblin Emperor, by Katherin Addison, 2014. Elevated to the throne when his father and brothers are killed in a suspicious accident, a formerly exiled half-goblin is rapidly overwhelmed by ambitious sycophants and dangerous plots while searching for friendship and love. Fantasy. Adult books for Young Adults. *****


Six of Crows, by Leigh Bardugo, 2015. A convict with a thirst for revenge. A sharpshooter who can't walk away from a wager. A runaway with a privileged past. A spy known as the Wraith. A Heartrender using her magic to survive the slums. A thief with a gift for unlikely escapes. Six dangerous outcasts. One impossible heist.  Fantasy. ****


Girl With All the Gifts, by M. R. Carey, 2014.  Not every gift is a blessing. Every morning, Melanie waits in her cell to be collected for class. When they come for her, Sergeant Parks keeps his gun pointing at her while two of his people strap her into the wheelchair. She thinks they don't like her. She jokes that she won't bite. But they don't laugh. Melanie is a very special girl. Suspense. Horror. Post-Apocalyptic. Adult books for Young Adults. ****1/2

Manners & Mutiny, by Gail Carriger, 2015. The final book in Gail Carriger's steampunk YA adventure series about a finishing school for young spies. In an alternate England of 1851, Sophronia Temminnick is the only hope for her friends, her school, and all of London when she must put her espionage training to the test to thwart an evil Picklemen plot. Historical Fantasy. Steampunk. ****

Walk on Earth a Stranger, by Rae Carson, 2015.  Lee Westfall, a young woman with the magical ability to sense the presence of gold, must flee her home to avoid people who would abuse her powers, so when her best friend Jefferson heads out across Gold Rush-era America to stake his claim, she disguises herself as a boy and sets out on her own dangerous journey. Historical Fantasy. First book in trilogy. ****1/2

I'll Meet You There, by Heather Demetrios, 2015. Skylar Evans, 17, yearns to escape Creek View by attending art school, but after her mother's job loss puts her dream at risk, a rekindled friendship with Josh, who joined the Marines to get away then lost a leg in Afghanistan, and her job at the Paradise motel lead her to appreciate her home town. Realistic Fiction. Romance. ****

Cruel Beauty, by Rosamund Hodge, 2014. Betrothed to the demon who rules her country and trained all her life to kill him, seventeen-year-old Nyx Triskelion must now fulfill her destiny and move to the castle to be his wife. Fantasy. Fairy tale & Folklore Inspired. ****

Razorhurst, by Justine Larbalestier, 2015. In 1932, in Sydney's deadly Razorhurst neighborhood, where crime and razor-wielding men rule, two girls with contrasting lives who share the ability to see ghosts meet over a dead body and find themselves on the run from mob bosses. Historical Fantasy. ****
A Court of Thorns and Roses, by Sarah J. Maas, 2015. Dragged to a treacherous magical land she only knows about from stories, Feyre discovers that her captor is not an animal, but Tamlin, a High Lord of the faeries. As her feelings toward him transform from hostility to a firey passion, the threats against the faerie lands grow. Feyre must fight to break an ancient curse, or she will lose Tamlin forever. Fantasy. Fairy-tale and Folklore Inspired. Romance.  ****

Queen of Shadows, by Sarah J. Maas, 2015.  Everyone Celaena Sardothien loves has been taken from her. Embracing her identity as Aelin Galathynius, Queen of Terrasen, Celaena returns to the empire--for vengeance, to rescue her once-glorious kingdom, and to confront the shadows of her past.  Fantasy. Fourth book in series. ****


Dumplin', by Julie Murphy, 2015.  Sixteen-year-old Willowdean wants to prove to everyone in her small Texas town that she is more than just a fat girl, so, while grappling with her feelings for a co-worker who is clearly attracted to her, Will and some other misfits prepare to compete in the beauty pageant her mother runs.  Realistic Fiction. ****

Everything I Never Told You, by Celeste Ng, 2014. Set in Ohio during the 1970s, this is a story of family, history, and the meaning of home. It explores the divisions between cultures and the rifts within a family, and uncovers the ways in which mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, and husbands and wives struggle, all their lives, to understand one another. Suspense. Mystery. Adult books for Young Adults. ****

The Heart of Betrayal, by Mary E. Pearson, 2015.  Held captive in the barbarian kingdom of Venda, Princess Lia and Rafe have little chance of escape--and even less of being together--as the foundations of Lia's deeply-held beliefs crumble beneath her while she wrestles with her upbringing, her gift, and her very sense of self to make powerful choices that affect her country, her people, and her own destiny.  Fantasy. Second book in series. ****

Carry On, by Rainbow Rowell, 2015. Simon Snow wants to relax and savor his last year at the Watford School of Magicks, but no one will let him. His girlfriend broke up with him, his best friend is a pest, and his mentor keeps trying to hide him away in the mountains. Simon can't even enjoy the fact that his roommate and longtime nemesis is missing, because he can't stop worrying about the evil git. Plus there are ghosts. And vampires. And actual evil things trying to shut Simon down. Harry Potter Fanfiction. Fantasy.  ****

Orbiting Jupiter, by Gary D. Schmidt, 2015.  Jack, 12, tells the story of Joseph, 14, who joins his family as a foster child. Damaged in prison, Joseph wants nothing more than to find his baby daughter, Jupiter, whom he has never seen. When Joseph has begun to believe he'll have a future, he is confronted by demons from his past that force a tragic sacrifice. Realistic Fiction. ****

Lockstep, by Karl Schroeder, 2014. 17-year-old Toby awakes to find himself alone and lost in space, orbiting a planet that is frozen and sunless. He's surprised to discover that he's been asleep for 14,000 years, and shocked to learn that the Empire is still ruled by its founding family: his own. Toby's brother Peter has become a terrible tyrant. With the help of a lockstep girl named Corva, Toby must survive the forces of this new Empire, outwit his siblings, and save human civilization. Science Fiction. Space Opera. Adult books for Young Adults. ****

UnDivided, by Neal Shusterman, 2014. Three teens band together in order to sway the government to repeal all rulings in support of a procedure in which unwanted teenagers are captured and are unwound into parts that can be reused for transplantation. Science Fiction. Dystopia. Fourth book in series. ****

Stand-Off, by Andrew Smith, 2015. Now a senior at Pine Mountain Academy, 15-year-old Ryan Dean West becomes captain of the rugby team, shares his dormitory room with a 12-year-old prodigy, Sam Abernathy, and through the course of the year learns to appreciate things he has tried to resist, including change. Realistic Fiction. Sequel to Winger****
MARTians, by Blythe Woolston, 2015. In a near-future consumer dystopia, Zoèe Zindleman must choose from limited, bleak housing options, including a converted strip-mall refuge that offers safety and proximity to her new place of work, ALLMART. Science Fiction. Dystopia. ****1/2


Kim's Top Nonfiction Reads From 2015


My Friend Dahmer, by Derf Backderf, 2012. In graphic novel format, the author offers an account of growing up in the same schools as Jeffrey Dahmer, who went on to become one of the most notorious serial killers and cannibals in United States history. Biography. Graphic Format. Adult books for Young Adults.  ****1/2

Drowned City: Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans, by Don Brown, 2015. On August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina's monstrous winds and surging water overwhelmed the levees around low-lying New Orleans. Eighty percent of the city flooded, property damages across the Gulf Coast topped $100 billion, one thousand eight hundred and thirty-three people lost their lives. This is a 10th-anniversary tribute that combines authoritative memoir with graphic and watercolor illustrations. History. Graphic Format.  ****

Cool Japan Guide: Fun in the Land of Manga, Lucky Cats, and Ramen, by Abby Denson, 2015. Explores Japan, offering travel tips and recommendations for dining, sights, and activities from a cartoonist's perspective. Memoir. Culture. Travel. Graphic Format.  *****


Funny in Farsi: A Memoir of Growing Up Iranian in America, Firoozeh Dumas, 2003. An autobiography of growing up as an Iranian-American describes the author's family's 1971 move from Iran to Southern California, the members of her diverse family, and their struggle with culture shock. Memoir. Culture. History. Adult books for Young Adults. ****

I Will Always Write Back: How One Letter Changed Two Lives, by Caitlin Alifirenka and Martin Ganda, 2015. Everyone in Caitlin's (age 12) class wrote to a student somewhere in a distant place. All the other kids picked countries like France or Germany, but when Caitlin saw Zimbabwe written on the board, it sounded like the most exotic place she had ever heard of -- so she chose it. Martin was lucky to even receive a pen pal letter. There were only 10 letters, and 40 kids in his class. But he was the top student, so he got the first one. That was the beginning of a correspondence that spanned six years and changed two lives. Autobiography. Culture. ****

Red Madness: How a Medical Mystery Changed What We Eat, by Gail Jarrow, 2014. Traces the pellagra epidemic that spread throughout the American South a century ago, drawing on real-life cases to describe its physical and cultural impact as well as related medical reports, news articles, and scientific investigations. History. Science. Health. ****

Popular: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern Geek, by Maya Van Wagenen, 2014. Documents a high school student's year-long attempt to change her social status from that of a misfit to a member of the "in" crowd by following advice in a 1950s popularity guide, an experiment that triggered embarrassment, humor and unexpected surprises. Memoir. Etiquette. ****