By the end of the year I will have read 52 books from cover to cover – I have a few chapters left of book number 52 but I WILL have those read before the calendar turns over to 2016. I have also started several other books but given up on them because I have decided life is too short to read books I don’t like.
Looking back at the books that I have read, I have covered all manners of genres and book types – children’s fiction, 19th Century poetry, short story collections, YA and crime to name but a few – and choosing a top ten is not going to be easy but I’ll give it a go!
Alone in the world, Sophie dreams of being someone special, but she could never have imagined this.
On a school trip to Russia, Sophie and her two friends find themselves on the wrong train. They are rescued by the beautiful Princess Anna Volkonskaya, who takes them to her winter palace and mesmerises them with stories of lost diamonds and a tragic past. But as night falls and wolves prowl, Sophie discovers more than dreams in the crumbling palace of secrets.
If I had read this when I was twelve, it would have been my favourite book in the world ever. Russia, wolves, snow, mysterious boys and hidden treasures – everything younger me loved. It was still a great read now that I’m very definitely not twelve anymore – a fabulous adventure full of suspense and excitement.
Smiler’s Fair: the great moving carnival where any pleasure can be had, if you’re willing to pay the price. They say all paths cross at Smiler’s Fair. They say it’ll change your life. For five people, Smiler’s Fair will change everything.
In a land where unimaginable horror lurks in the shadows, where the very sun and moon are at war, five people – Nethmi, the orphaned daughter of a murdered nobleman, who in desperation commits an act that will haunt her forever. Dae Hyo, the skilled warrior, who discovers that a lifetime of bravery cannot make up for a single mistake. Eric, who follows his heart only to find that love exacts a terrible price. Marvan, the master swordsman, who takes more pleasure from killing than he should. And Krish, the humble goat-herd, with a destiny he hardly understands and can never accept – will discover just how much Smiler’s Fair changes everything.
I used to read epic fantasy all the time but since having The Smalls they often seem too huge to even start, but I gave Smiler’s Fair a go and I’m so glad I did. I had forgotten just how much I enjoy the multi-character, multi-storyline adventures and how they slowly come together and entwine to create one complex story. I loved it so much that the second book in the series is sat on my shelf waiting for me to pick up in 2016. (Full review here)
8. Timebomb by Scott K. Andrews
New York City, 2141: Yojana Patel throws herself off a skyscraper, but never hits the ground.
Cornwall, 1640: gentle young Dora Predennick, newly come to Sweetclover Hall to work, discovers a badly-burnt woman at the bottom of a flight of stairs. When she reaches out to comfort the dying woman, she’s flung through time.
On a rainy night in present-day Cornwall: seventeen-year-old Kaz Cecka sneaks into the long-abandoned Sweetclover Hall, in search of a dry place to sleep. Instead he finds a frightened housemaid who believes Charles I is king and an angry girl who claims to come from the future.
Thrust into the centre of a war that spans millennia, Dora, Kaz and Jana must learn to harness powers they barely understand to escape not only villainous Lord Sweetclover but the forces of a fanatical army . . . all the while staying one step ahead of a mysterious woman known only as Quil.
This book was confusing almost from beginning to end and yet it was utterly compulsive and I couldn’t put it down. I’m looking forward to picking up book two and being even more confused again.
A collection of highly imaginative short pieces that speak to our times with deadly accuracy.
A recently widowed fantasy writer is guided through a stormy winter evening by the voice of her late husband. An elderly lady with Charles Bonnet syndrome comes to terms with the little people she keeps seeing, while a newly formed populist group gathers to burn down her retirement residence. A woman born with a genetic abnormality is mistaken for a vampire, and a crime committed long ago is revenged in the Arctic via a 1.9 billion-year-old stromatolite.
These nine stories were deliciously dark and very clever. They made me laugh and made me think – some of the best short stories I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading.
6. The Witch With No Name by Kim Harrison
Rachel Morgan has come a long way from her early days as an inexperienced bounty hunter. She’s faced vampires and werewolves, banshees, witches, and soul-eating demons. She’s crossed worlds, channeled gods, and accepted her place as a day-walking demon. She’s lost friends and lovers and family, and an old enemy has unexpectedly become something much more.
But power demands responsibility, and world-changers must always pay a price. Rachel has known that this day would come–and now it is here.
To save Ivy’s soul and the rest of the living vampires, to keep the demonic ever after and our own world from destruction, Rachel Morgan will risk everything…
This is one of my favourite book series of all time, I was so afraid of being disappointed by the last one and so thankful when I loved it. And also very sad that it’s all over.
5. The Gospel Of Loki by Joanne M. Harris
Loki, that’s me.
Loki, the Light-Bringer, the misunderstood, the elusive, the handsome and modest hero of this particular tissue of lies. Take it with a pinch of salt, but it’s at least as true as the official version, and, dare I say it, more entertaining.
So far, history, such as it is, has cast me in a rather unflattering role.
Now it’s my turn to take the stage.
With his notorious reputation for trickery and deception, and an ability to cause as many problems as he solves, Loki is a Norse god like no other. Demon-born, he is viewed with deepest suspicion by his fellow gods who will never accept him as one of their own and for this he vows to take his revenge.
From his recruitment by Odin from the realm of Chaos, through his years as the go-to man of Asgard, to his fall from grace in the build-up to Ragnarok, this is the unofficial history of the world’s ultimate trickster.
This was a House of Blog Book Club read and I loved every single page of it. Funny and charming, sarcastic and witty and a brilliant page-turner – it appealed to my nerdy love of Norse Gods and my appreciation for dry sarcasm.
4. Starring Kitty by Keris Stainton
Sometimes the greatest love stories happen behind the scenes…
Kitty’s keeping secrets. Like how she’s struggling to cope with her mum’s illness. And how she’s falling for the girl with the purpley-red hair… A fun film competition with her friends Sunny and Hannah seems like the perfect distraction. But then Dylan wants to be more than Kitty’s secret. Is Kitty ready to let her two worlds meet or will she risk losing Dylan forever?
Starring Kitty is the first in a new series about first love and friendship by much-loved teen author Keris Stainton.
Starring Kitty was, in a single word, adorable. It’s the sort of YA love story that leaves you feeling all warm and fluffy and giggly inside. I have the second book on my wishlist to buy in 2016 because if it is anything like as feel-good as this one was, I want it on stand-by for when I’m having a bad day!
And now for the top three…
3. Lips Touch by Laini Taylor
Another short story collection, this time just three stories, but each one was brilliant. Not at all fluffy love stories but twisted tales full of demons and goblins and half-truths. I was already a big fan of Laini Taylor and this collection just cemented my fandom. (Full review here)
2. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
What was lost in the collapse:
almost everything, almost everyone, but there is still such beauty.
One snowy night in Toronto famous actor Arthur Leander dies on stage whilst performing the role of a lifetime. That same evening a deadly virus touches down in North America.
The world will never be the same again.
Twenty years later Kirsten, an actress in the Travelling Symphony, performs Shakespeare in the settlements that have grown up since the collapse.
But then her newly hopeful world is threatened.
If civilization was lost, what would you preserve?
And how far would you go to protect it?
Station Eleven got a whole lot of hype and that usually ends in disappointment. Not this time. This time the hype was well deserved and I loved every second of the book. It wasn’t at all what I expected and it is one of those books where, when you really think about it, nothing much really happens after the initial disaster, but it is still beautiful, thought-provoking and utterly compulsive.
1. Simon VS. The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
Sixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier prefers to save his drama for the school musical. But when an email falls into the wrong hands, his secret is at risk of being thrust into the spotlight. Now Simon is actually being blackmailed: if he doesn’t play wingman for class clown Martin, his sexual identity will become everyone’s business. Worse, the privacy of Blue, the pen name of the boy he’s been emailing, will be compromised.
With some messy dynamics emerging in his once tight-knit group of friends, and his email correspondence with Blue growing more flirtatious every day, Simon’s junior year has suddenly gotten all kinds of complicated. Now, change-averse Simon has to find a way to step out of his comfort zone before he’s pushed out—without alienating his friends, compromising himself, or fumbling a shot at happiness with the most confusing, adorable guy he’s never met.
This book was brilliant. A great YA novel that encompassed coming-of-age, identity and sexuality and first romance without it being too fluffy or too heavy in any direction.
I think what made the book so brilliant where the characters that managed to both be incredibly real and yet also slightly exaggerated in all the best ways to make the story work. They were adorable and sweet and their online relationship reminded me of all the hours I spent on MSN and various other online chat platforms where you could be brave and say things to people without the pressures of being face to face, get to know each other without the horror of having to see their reactions to your confessions and deepest, darkest secrets. The way the characters get to know each other via email is adorable and means that they build their relationship on honesty and personality rather than just looks etc.
An articulate and funny read, Simon VS is my top book of 2015 not because it was literary genius or because it’s groundbreaking or anything like that, but because it made me laugh and cry and think and because it was fun. Mostly that. It was good fun.