Hey everybody, I hope everything is going well. I’m back in the full swing of things with school and life and everything. I’m handling it pretty well so far, so we’ll see where I am in April.
As promised, here is my Best read Books of 2015. Let’s dive right in.
A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab – Published February 24, 2015; 398 pages.
V.E. Schwab is featured a few times on this list, and I just recently started reading her. I have heard nothing but great things from Booktube about her books. She also writes as Victoria Schwab and has three other series of middle grade books out as well. Looking at her Goodreads page, the woman is a machine.
There was a lot of hype around this book and I couldn’t wait to pick it up. I will admit that it took me a little while to get into it, but I had that problem with a lot of books this last year. It had more to do with book burnout, I think, rather than the quality of the book most of the time. Sometimes the book just wasn’t that great, but in this case the book was awesome, I promise. I wouldn’t steer you wrong.
This book had a great story. Kell, our main character, is the last of the travelers-magicians who are able to travel between parallel London’s. There are four London’s that we know of: Grey London, Red London, White London, and Black London. They all have different characteristics and behaviors of magic. For example, Grey London reflects it’s name and is very drab and boring. Magic does not flourish there. White London is based on power, everyone fights to possess magic and the magic fights back, draining the city of it’s colour and leaving everything white. Red London is where magic is fairing the best and it is a prosperous country. No one talks about Black London. Black London is dead and lost to the worlds. Or is it?
Kell lives in Red London,and serves as the personal ambassador and the adopted Prince to the royal family. Officially he carries correspondence between the royals of each London every month, and on the side he smuggles artifacts from London to London for those willing to pay to see glimpses of parallel worlds. This hobby gets him into trouble and sets him off on a grand adventure through all the London’s where he meets Lila, a pickpocket from Grey London who thirsts for a life of adventure.
This book is definitely worth a look. It has action, suspense, adventure, and magic. What more could you want?
War of the Wives by Tamar Cohen – Published January 27, 2015; 384 pages.
This one isn’t a typical read for me. It’s a contemporary read about two women who have lost their husband. The twist is that they were both married to the same man at the same time and had no idea that the other existed.
Selina was married to Simon Busfield for twenty-eight years and Lottie was married to him for seventeen. They are complete opposites who meet at their husband’s funeral. Talk about the most awkward thing that could ever occur at a funeral. The scene where they put two and two together is both funny and heart breaking.
The book follows Selina and Lottie as they and their respective families (Simon had three children with Selina and one with Lottie) figure out how to deal with the death of their father and husband and then they have to maneuver around this big secret and deal with finding out what kind of man they were actually living with.
It was an interesting story for sure. I felt it was a realistic portrayal of grief and betrayal. I enjoyed that these two women, who have every reason to hate each other and this book could have easily devolved into a snark fest between the two, went through the whole gamut of emotions as they managed to find common ground and help each other and their children through this tragedy.
Read this book, it is fantastic.
Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell – Published February 26, 2013; 318 pages.
This is another atypical read for me. I like to switch it up every now and then and read something realistic. When I have read a few too many fantasy books in a row it’s nice to come back to reality and read something that could 100% happen.
Rainbow Rowell is a master of tugging at heartstrings. All of her books have some type of angst or heartbreak in them, and this one is no exception.
In Eleanor and Park, we meet the two title characters who are both misfits in their own way and they fall in love. But not in the typical sappy, romance novel way. No, they fall in love slowly, this isn’t a whirlwind by any means. It’s also complicated. Eleanor’s home life isn’t the best and Park feels like a disappointment to his parents. It’s not exactly a recipe for romance, but that’s what makes it good.
It’s a story about two teens who are struggling to survive. Sometimes literally (there’s hints of domestic abuse) and figuratively (they are teenagers after all) and how they help each other grow up. It’s also set in the late ’80s so it’s a really interesting take on love for millennials to read. There are no cell phones, no texting, and no Facebook so Eleanor and Park have to talk and share things in person. It’s a mind boggling reminder of how far technology has come in such a short time, and how the dating landscape has changed so much in such a short period of time.
There’s a bittersweet ending to it all, and as much as I hate those sometimes, in this one I felt that it worked. One problem I have with Rainbow’s work is that I always want more. Not a lot more, usually just one more chapter, but she always leaves you wanting more. Eleanor and Park is no exception and even though it’s a bittersweet ending, it’s still well worth the read.
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn – Published April 22, 2014; 422 pages.
I hated this book so much! But it was so well done and well written that I couldn’t not include it on this list. When I was done with it I was ready to hurl it at the wall I was so angry. I think I took two whole days and didn’t read a word in mock protest. I must admit that it did it’s job, it got me thinking and was just a non-stop mind fuck the whole way through.
Gone Girl is a psychological thriller that really plays with your mind and makes you question everyone’s actions and decisions. I had trust issues after I finished it. It was ridiculous.
On Nick and Amy’s fifth wedding anniversary, Amy disappears and no one knows what happened to her. Suspicion immediately falls on Nick, as it normally does in these types of situations. He doesn’t help himself at all as he acts cagey throughout the entire investigation and is caught lying or embellishing the truth multiple times.
I can’t talk much about the plot without giving away the twist and what led to my rage against this book. My main take away is that these characters are despicable and they deserve each other. I feel bad for anyone who gets in their way and I pray that people like this only exist in fiction, because the thought of them being real scares me.
Vicious by V.E. Schwab – Published September 24, 2013; 364 pages.
This book is similar to A Darker Shade of Magic in it’s tone and supernatural elements, but it can be best described as an origin story for a super villain. It follows two college roommates who are both brilliant, arrogant, and lonely.
Eli and Victor are both scientists and are working on their final theses for class. Eli decides to look into the affects of adrenaline and near death experiences, and whether or not this can result in a person acquiring special abilities. The project quickly moves from the world of theory to experimentation.
Ten years later, Victor breaks out of prison and is after Eli for revenge. Eli is on his own mission to wipe out every other super-powered person that he can find, and both men are working with sidekicks who have powers of their own. The only question is who will come out alive?
I read this after I read A Darker Shade of Magic and I was not disappointed. It’s a great story about the ‘love’ between two friends and how quickly noble intentions can turn deadly. It’s a great examination of what we perceive villains to be. Both characters can easily be classified in that category if you take a deeper look at their characters. It makes them very realistic and believable. They just happen to be living under and with extreme circumstances.
Lexicon by Max Barry – Published June 18, 2013; 390 pages.
I read a lot of books, as you know, so I like words. I’m not obsessed with them or anything, but I understand that they do have a certain power to them (See my banner for this blog). This book takes that idea and amps it up to the extreme. It’s about an exclusive school in Virginia where the students are taught the art of persuasion. And not just how to sell you something, they are taught to use words to manipulate your mind and essentially take away your free will. They are trained to find the key words that will unlock your mind and you become their puppets.
There are two storylines in this book. One follows Emily, an orphan who is making a living tricking tourists on the streets of San Francisco. She is recruited to attend the school by one of the ‘poets’, a graduates who takes up the mantle of famous poets to protect their identities. The second follows a man named Wil Jamieson who is ambushed in an airport washroom and is pulled into a war between two factions of poets.
The story comes to a head in the burnt out town of Broken Hill, Australia where the two storylines come together and we understand the true power of language and what happened to lead our characters to this point.
This one took a little while for me to get into. It jumps around in time a lot so you really have to pay attention so you don’t get lost. Once you have settled into the non-linear storytelling it gets really good. I was freaked out by the premise of the story because when you stop to think about it, why couldn’t this happen? Why couldn’t there be ‘trigger words’ for each type of person that influences them to do things? I mean we already touch on a lot of these things in marketing and advertising, so it’s not that much of a stretch, and that’s what made it good.
It gave me the shivers, and there actually is a really sweet love story buried in their too. It’s not the main, main focus of the novel but it’s there and it’s lovely and refreshing.
The Wicked Will Rise (Dorothy Must Die #2) by Danielle Paige – Published March 31, 2015; 293 pages.
As I’ve discussed a few times on this blog, I love re-tellings. I tend to prefer fairytale ones, but anything that has a really good story and idea behind it is intriguing.
The Dorothy Must Die series is a re-imagining of the Wizard of Oz. It follows Amy Gumm, a lonely girl from Kansas who lives in a trailer park and only knows about Oz from the movies and the books that are famous in her world. When her trailer is picked up in a tornado and she wakes up in an unfamiliar land, the last place Amy thought she could have ended up was Oz. She also didn’t think she would be recruited by the Revolutionary Order of the Wicked to kill Dorothy. Yes, THE Dorothy.
Dorothy has found her way back to Oz and the sweet, innocent farm girl we all know and love is nowhere in sight. She has seized power and it appears to have gone to her head. In this sequel, Amy has been training and spying with the Revolutionary Order of the Wicked for months. Her task to kill Dorothy has three parts: remove the Tin Woodman’s heart, steal the Scarecrow’s brain, and take the Lion’s courage. Then, Dorothy must die. Amy has accomplished one of the three tasks, and Dorothy is still alive.
The Revolutionary Order of the Wicked has virtually vanished after the coup at the Emerald City depleted their ranks. Amy is on her own and Princess Ozma, the half-crazy rightful heir to the Emerald throne, appears to be her only ally. Amy is just scratching the surface of Oz’s past and her mission to kill Dorothy. She discovers that Kansas is in danger and she is never sure who she can trust.
This book isn’t my favorite, but it more than lived up to my expectations and it’s a fun re-telling of a classic tale. I always love it when you turn something on it’s head. It’s particularly entertaining when you get to see a famously good character behaving badly and we get that from all sides in this book. We’re never really 100 per cent sure who the villain is. This book perfectly sets up Yellow Brick War, the third book in the series and ends with Amy having to make a devastating choice.
A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray – Published November 4, 2014; 368 pages.
This book is right in my wheelhouse. It’s about a girl who is chasing her father’s murderer through multiple dimensions. That’s right, MULTIPLE DIMENSIONS.
Marguerite Caine’s physicist parents are esteemed scientists and inventors. Their newest invention, the Firebird, is a device that allows people to travel to parallel dimensions. It’s set to change science forever. Then Marguerite’s father is murdered by their assistant Paul who escapes with the Firebird before he can be brought to justice.
Marguerite goes after him with the second prototype and follows Paul through three different dimensions where she inhabits different versions of herself. She also meets alternate versions of her friends and family and Paul. She starts to question if he really did kill her father, but if he didn’t why did he run? As she continues to investigate and learn more about the other dimensions she learns that the circumstances of her father’s death may be more sinister than she originally thought.
If I’m being honest, I was attracted to the cover. I mean it’s gorgeous. The story is pretty standard, but the idea of an evil corporation (that was not mentioned above) and their reach over multiple dimensions is a cool, scary concept. And who doesn’t like the idea of multiple dimensions? Like somewhere where 9/11 never happened, or where the Hindenburg never exploded? The possibilities are endless and how different would the world be? I just like the idea, and anything that delivers that is cool in my book.
Libriomancer, Codex Born, & Unbound (Magic Ex Libris #1, #2, and #3) by Jim C. Hines – Published August 7, 2012; August 6, 2013 and January 6, 2015; 308 pages, 326 pages, and 340 pages.
This is a great series that is about the secret world of Libriomancers, people who have the ability to physically pull objects out of books and use them in the real world. I.E. every nerd/fangirl/fanboy’s dream!
The series follows Isaac Vainio, a low-level Libriomancer who has been relegated to working as a librarian in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula because he went a little too hard and almost got himself and a whole team of Porters killed.
Porters are the elite Libriomancers who are like the FBI. They monitor, detect, and police the Libriomancers to ensure that their secret isn’t revealed to the world. They are also in charge of keeping tabs on any humanoid beings that survive the transition from books to reality and anyone that may be turned into something else from reaching into the books. Yes, I’m talking vampires. They exist and Libriomancers have to be careful when reaching into books because bites from book characters can still infect them. They are the main antagonists throughout the series. The books follow Isaac as he redeems himself with the Libriomancers. He does this along with his girlfriend/dryad Lena who was pulled from a book as an acorn that grew into a tree.
We learn a lot about the workings of the Libriomancers and their history throughout the series. It also features a realistic portrayal of depression and it doesn’t come off as heavy handed.
I read all three of these in a row and I cannot wait for the fourth book in the series, Revisionary, which is out in February 2016.
Falling for Hamlet by Michelle Ray – Published July 5, 2011; 348 pages.
Another re-imagining. I don’t usually seek these out, I come across them when I’m browsing Goodreads and am looking for something new to read. This book is no exception. There is a ‘Readers Also Enjoyed’ section on the side of each page that shows you similar books to what you’re looking at. It comes in quite handy when you’re in a slump.
Falling for Hamlet re-imagines Hamlet by Shakespeare as a modern day celebrity. Complete with paparazzi, talk-shows, and reality TV.
The story follows Ophelia who, in the re-imagining, is a high school senior and not Hamlet’s cousin. She is also Hamlet’s girlfriend. She has to deal with Hamlet’s fame, because he’s still a Prince, his overbearing family, and the press who document and scrutinize their lives at every turn. It follows the same premise of the play, with Hamlet’s father being murdered and Hamlet slowly descending into madness. The twist and the difference to the play is that Ophelia doesn’t die, and she rides out the ordeals of the play. She then recounts her story on the book’s version of Oprah at the Queen’s insistence.
I really enjoyed this book. It was a light, breezy, easy read. Perfect for getting you out of those annoying book slumps. It delivered on what it promised and it was fun to see Hamlet from another character’s perspective. The Queen also takes a more active and villainous roll, which was interesting because in the play I don’t think the Queen is ever really mentioned. It’s also a commentary on celebrity and privacy but in a really accessible way.
If you’re interested in this type of thing, Michelle Ray has another book that is another re-imagining of Hamlet called Mac/Beth: The Price of Fame Shouldn’t Be Murder. It looks like it could be good. I may have to check it out.
That’s all for me this week guys, I hope you enjoy these epically long posts at least a little bit. Stay tuned next week for the conclusion to my Best read books of 2015. Thanks for sticking with me.
Let me know down in the comments what I should read next and what your best book of 2015 was, and as always, please read responsibly.