Monday, December 28, 2015

Where Is Your Bookmark? (Top Ten Reads of 2015 Edition)

In just a few short days, it will be 2016. I am already beginning to write the new year when I write the date, and so hopefully I will not have too much trouble with the transition once the year actually starts. I thank having to work on next year's schedule for my department for that. I have already had to write "2016" often enough!

I hope everyone who celebrates Christmas had a pleasant holiday! We hosted Christmas at our house this year, and everything turned out well, I think. My daughter loves a houseful of people, especially one who is willing to shower her with attention.

Christmas, the Hippo

This year I participated in The Broke and Bookish Secret Santa event, which I have done in years past. Besides the fact that it's fun to shop for another book lover, it's one of the rare chances I get to actually receive books under the Christmas tree each year--so I take full advantage. This year, my Secret Santa was Wendy from The Falconer's Library. She spoiled me well, as you can see. Cat socks that my mother-in-law tried to sneak out of the house with (and my daughter likes to wear on her arms), chocolates, bookish buttons, a kitty key chain, a Powell's Bookstore magnet (someday I will make it there in person!), an adorable card, and three books (Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz, Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie, and Glory O'Brien's History of the Future by A.S. King). 

My Secret Santa gift (Live cat not included)

I received a number of bookstore gift cards from various family members, and my mom gave me a copy of Sandra Boynton's CHOCOLATE: The Consuming Passion, which I nearly immediately read, and interrupted conversations around me to share hilarious tidbits from the book. If you are a chocolate lover and a fan of Sandra Boynton, I highly recommend you check it out.


I am back to reading non-holiday themed books. I was the first in the house to wake up Christmas morning and finished reading Lena Coakley's Worlds of Ink and Shadow, a YA fantasy novel about the Brontë siblings during their younger years. Although reading time is sparse given work and our remaining company, I did start Emily Arsenault's The Evening Spider, and am hoping I will find time to read here and there. This will likely be my final book read this year. (The book cover links to Goodreads if you want to know what the books is about.)


Excerpt from the first paragraph of of The Evening Spider:

A YOUNG WOMAN'S RUIN AND DEATH.
MARY STANNARD'S DEAD BODY FOUND AT DURHAM, CONN.--THE MANNER OF HER DEATH UNEXPLAINED--
A STATEMENT IMPLICATING A CLERGYMAN.
Special Dispatch to the New York Times.

HARTFORD, Sept. 5, 1878--The dead body of Mary E. Stannard, 22 years old, was found at Durham, hear the border of Madison, on Tuesday night. She had been living with her father, and on Tuesday left home to go, as she said, into the woods half a mile away after berries. As she did not return, a search was made and she was found dead in the woods, lying in a by-path on her back, with her hands folded across her breast. On the left side of her neck was a puncture wound, apparently made by a pointed knife, which had severed the carotid artery and jugular vein and larynx. There was also a hole through her scalp, and a severe contusion on the back of her right hand. 


Teasers from The Evening Spider at 10%

"What happened to your sweet little face? Did you take a tumble? You've got almost like a shiner there."


"She . . . " I started to explain that we weren't sure what happened, but realized that sounded worse than almost anything else I could say.

and another at 17%:

"Did she say she saw a ghost?"

"No. She just said that their house creeped her out. Stopped showing up for holidays there and gave that as an excuse. But she has a lot of excuses for things."

What do you think? Would you keep reading?  

I'm finding the novel very interesting so far. It is a dual time line novel, one story thread taking place in the late 1800's and the other in modern day. Both are about new mothers, one in the past who is struggling and who becomes obsessed with the murder trial of Mary Stannard, and the other trying to find out about her house's past given the strange things that seem to be happening to her daughter. Is it supernatural? Or is it psychosis? I am intrigued so far.

What are you reading at the moment?  Is it anything you would recommend?

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by the lovely ladies at Broke and Bookish.

I skipped the Top Ten Tuesday post where everyone was asked to post about their favorite books read in 2015 earlier this month, and thought I would go ahead and do that now. These are not all new releases, as you will see. My list is made up of books that have stuck with me throughout the year and touched or moved me me in some significant way. Good writing, well developed characters, an intriguing plot, and a stand out setting (location or time period) are all qualities that I look for in a good book. This turned out to be a tough list for me to make--more so the order--although some titles were no-brainers. Without further ado, here is my Top Ten List of Books I Read in 2015 (the covers are linked to my reviews):

10.

Last Words by Rich Zahradnik ~ I am so glad I said yes when asked to read and review this book. The author does such a good job of making me feel that I am right there in the middle of everything, caught up in the times. And I may have a little crush on Coleridge Taylor too, but let's not talk about that. This will sound strange, and I'm not exactly sure I can explain it, but this book made me feel closer to my dad. Maybe it was the time period the book takes place. I am not sure. I just wish he was alive so I could share it with him.

9.

Hidden by Karen E. Olson ~ I was happy to see Karen E. Olson with a new book out, and Hidden did not disappoint. It's quite different from her other crime fiction novels, and by far my favorite. I really got swept up into the story and the lives of the characters, and I hated to see it end. I am excited, however, to hear there are two more books coming out in the series.

8.

On the Road with Del & Louise: A Novel in Stories by Art Taylor ~ This collection of connected stories just blew me away. Art Taylor's writing is beautifully understated, his characters quirky, and their hi-jinks and adventures both funny and moving.

7. 


Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell ~ I decided the best way to experience this particular gem was in audio format, and it was the best decision I could have made. The narrators did an amazing job of bringing Eleanor and Park to life for me. Contemporary YA is hit and miss with me, and I had reservations about this one (it is actually set in 1986--which could be considered historical, I suppose). As I listened, I was taken back to the days of first love and falling in love. And I really came to care for Eleanor and Park.

6.

The Mapmaker's Children by Sarah McCoy ~ Sarah McCoy is an author who seems to speak right to me. I can't explain it any other way. This is the second book I have read by her, another favorite, and I am in awe of her talent as an author. Set in both past and present, this novel tells the story of two strong woman finding their way during a difficult time in their lives.

5.

Behind Closed Doors by Elizabeth Haynes ~ I read three books by Elizabeth Haynes this year and enjoyed each of them immensely. Behind Closed Doors stands out the most, however, likely because of the subject matter and the way Haynes crafted both the characters and the story. Human trafficking is a growing epidemic in our society, one that impacts all of us, including in the United States. This book has stayed with me long after I finished it, both in thought and the emotions it brought up in me.

4.

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman ~ I gave my mother-in-law a copy of this book for her birthday last year without having read it, and it turned out to be her best read of the year. I knew I couldn't put it off any longer. And now it's one of my top ten reads. This was such a delightful book! I laughed and cried, and I hated to see it end.

2.

Written in Red by Anne Bishop (as well as Murder of Crows and Vision in Silver) ~ It is probably cheating to list all three, but given how tied together they are, I just could not separate them (plus, this way I could fit more books on my top books read list). But truly, each deserve their own spot. They were all 5 paw reads for me.  I requested to review Vision in Silver before realizing it was part of a series. In order not to miss out since this is a series best read in order, I went back and read the first two books. I was absolutely floored by Written in Red and the world Anne Bishop has created. While reading and for awhile after, I walked around in a sort of fog, the characters and their world never far from my thoughts. These books have the feel of an urban fantasy series, but probably fall more into a dark fantasy category. I am eager to read the fourth book in the series which is coming out in 2016.

2.

Little Black Lies by Sharon Bolton ~ Why did I wait so long to try something by this author?! Probably because I was waiting for just this book. I loved everything about it. It hits all the points that make a wow book for me from the fleshed out and flawed characters, the atmospheric setting, to the complex and multi-layered story line, and the good writing. Not to mention it had that personal connection that solidifies a five paw book for me.

1. 

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë ~ I re-read this classic because my husband decided to finally read it for the first time. It was such a wonderful experience, revisiting Jane and Edward. I have loved this book every time I have read it, and this time was no different. I squealed when familiar scenes would begin and I cried as the story progressed. Jane Eyre is the book I most often list as my all-time favorite, and it remains so to this day.

[Yes, I know I have two #2's. I tried, but couldn't decided which to put where. So, consider it a tie.]

Honorable Mentions (Because I can't help myself):



Death of a Dishonorable Gentleman by Tessa Arlen ~ I expected to like this cozy mystery set in Pre-World War I era, but I did not realize just how much I would. There was much more to this novel than at first meets the eye. The attention to detail and the social commentary of the times was woven into the novel so well. It fit around the the mystery perfectly.


The Other Daughter by Lauren Willig ~ I swear I am not naming this one because it was the book my daughter gave me for my birthday. Although that would be reason enough, don't you think? I had such fun reading this book, being pulled into the time period and getting caught up in the drama of the characters. I loved the ending. It was the icing on the cake for me with this book.

Have you read any of these books? What made your favorite's list this year?


© 2015, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved. If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.

74 comments:

  1. Oh, I love the excerpts...this one sounds very tempting!

    Of your Top Ten, I have three of them, but haven't read any of them yet. (Eleanor & Park, Behind Closed Doors, & A Man Called Ove).

    Thanks for sharing...and for visiting my blog.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Laurel-Rain - I am enjoying it so far. It's a bit creepy. I go back and forth between thinking it's all psychological or half psychological and half supernatural.

      I hope enjoy the three books you have on your TBR shelf when you get to them!

      Delete
  2. It sounds like your Christmas was lovely. I seriously need that chocolate book. I didn't receive any books but I did get an Audible subscription for Christmas and I'm all kinds of excited about that.

    I've read three of the books on your list and I loved all of them.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Kathy - It was nice, thank you. :-) It's such a funny book. I really enjoyed it. It's definitely a keeper. I don't listen to many audio books but I love Audible. I am sure you will get much use out of your subscription, Kathy! That's a great gift. :-)

      Delete
  3. First of all, I love the hippo! And I love the fact that Miss Mouse wears your socks on her arms. Such a little girl!!

    Your teaser sounds really good and I will need to investigate that book. An author that I've meant to try for a long time. As to your top ten? Well, the only one I've read is Jane Eyre - years ago. I own several others and will be trying to get to them in 2016. My aim for next year - read my own books. More on that in my New Year's post.

    Hope you guys have a very happy new year! Always love hearing about your family, your life, your thoughts, and your reading, Wendy. Hugs.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Kay - She's a great hippo. Mouse is planning her wedding, although she refuses to tell me who she is marrying. LOL

      I am enjoying the book so far. It's my first by Emily Arsenault, but likely won't be my last if what I have read so far is anything to go by.

      I hope you have a Happy New Year as well, Kay!

      Delete
  4. You've read some good books this year. I used to love reading Sandra Boyton to my kids when they were younger. Such fun books! And we are chocolate lovers in our family too.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Laura - Sandra Boynton is a favorite in our house. My daughter loves her children's books. :-)

      Delete
  5. What a lovely Christmas you had! I totally missed signing up for Secret Santa. I still remember the lovely gifts you gave me a few years ago when you were my Secret Santa. In fact, the Christmas ornament is hanging on my tree right now!

    I like the sound of your current read as well as several of the books on your top ten list, some of which I still hope to get to.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Catherine - I usually do the SantaThing through LibraryThing as well, but wasn't able to this year, unfortunately. I am glad you like the ornament still. :-) It's fun shopping for someone who likes books as much as I do. :-)

      Delete
  6. I like the opening for The Evening Spider, but I think I would need to know more before I started reading it. Girl Who Reads

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Donna - I'm quite enjoying The Evening Spider. It's got a creepiness factor and the tension is building . . . I am hoping I can sneak in some extra reading today. I'm anxious to get back to the book.

      Delete
  7. What a great Secret Santa gift! Those socks are beyond adorable and Powells is definitely on my To Visit list. Can you imagine all the books! I love your Best of list. I think the only 2 I've read are The Other Daughter (which I was so glad to see on your list! I loved it!) and Jane Eyre which I should probably reread. Most of the others are on my TBR and I suspect that you had quite a bit to do with that!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Katherine - I just love those socks. :-)

      I have you to thank for The Other Daughter. If it hadn't been for you, it wouldn't have been on my wish list for my husband and daughter to find. :-)

      Delete
  8. Regarding the teaser, I'd keep reading. It sounds like an interesting book. Hope you enjoy it and thanks for sharing the teaser!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Laura - It's good so far. I wish it was lunch time so I could get back to it!

      Delete
  9. I'm glad you had an awesome Secret Santa too! Love those kitty socks. I had so much fun participating! I was excited to get some physical books too because, working at a library, I seldom buy books.

    I enjoyed your best-of-the-year list! I've had my eye on "Written in Red" for a while. Hopefully I'll get to it in 2016.

    Love the hippo! :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Lindsay - We were spoiled this year, weren't we? :-) I tend to get more e-books these days, and agree with you about receiving physical books--it's a nice change. :-)

      Do read "Written In Red" if you get the chance! So good!

      Delete
  10. You have so many intriguing books here that I haven't read yet. I want to re-read Jane Eyre, too.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Stephanie - I just love Jane Eyre. I considered leaving it off the list because it had the advantage of already being a favorite of mine, but enough people talked me into including it since it really did hold its spot when I re-read it this year.

      Delete
  11. Okay so I admit to not knowing anything about the majority of these books but OMG I just adore Eleanor & Park! I listened to the audiobook this year, highly recommend it, and just fell in love. I would leave early so I could sit in my car until the last possible second to listen to more, almost late for work a few times just sitting in the parking lot! I hope you get to enjoy each and every one of these books!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Eve - Yes! The audio of Eleanor and Park was so good. I did the same thing! Purposefully driving the long way so I could listen longer. :-) It was my first introduction to Rainbow Rowell and I look forward to reading (or listening) to more by her in the future.

      Delete
  12. It sounds like it might be creepy. Is it? I'm not sure it's for me. My teaser is from My Secret Sister, a true story told alternately by twins separated shortly after birth. Here's the link: http://wp.me/p4DMf0-15Z

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ms. M. - It does have a creepy feel to it. I am loving it. I admit after all those wonderfully festive Christmas reads of mine, creepy and dark is just what I'm in the mood for.

      Delete
  13. I'm glad that you had a nice Christmas! The Evening Spider sounds intriguing. I'd keep reading. Happy New Year!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Monica - It's quite interesting! I am really curious how everything will play out and how the two time lines will come together. Happy New Year to you as well!

      Delete
  14. Hope you had a great Christmas- sounds like you did! Cute pic of the hippo. :)

    I liked death of a Dishonorable Gentleman too- it was a nice surprise last year (er, earlier this year). And the sequel is due out in March, I think.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Greg - Thank you! The only thing my daughter asked Santa for this year was a hippo :-)

      I am looking forward to the second in Arlen's series as well!

      Delete
  15. I'm not sure this intro is for me, but I'm about to start A Man Called Ove...so very glad to see it on your list!

    ReplyDelete
  16. You could never go wrong with Agatha Christie! I love her books! The Evening Spider sounds promising, but I need a little break from the mystery/thriller genre; wishing you a wonderful New Year!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Claudia - I love her books. I haven't read them in ages, but I used to devour them when I was in my teen years and early twenties. I would like to reread them all at some point.

      I'm just coming back to mysteries/thrillers after a break from the--so we're on opposite sides of the spectrum at the moment. :-) I hope you have a wonderful New Year as well!

      Delete
  17. I so want to read the Arsenault book. I loved the earlier books of hers and the intro makes me curious for more.

    Glad u had a nice Christmas Wendy - us too.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Diane - It's my first by Arsenault. I am really enjoying it so far, Diane.

      Delete
  18. The Evening Spider. The title alone has me hooked. I'll be adding it to my reading challenges.

    My TT - http://fuonlyknew.com/2015/12/29/teaser-tuesdays-140-the-company-store-is-this-our-future/

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Laura - It's a great title, isn't it? It caught my attention too. :-)

      Delete
  19. Awesome gifts. It's fun to have bookish friends.

    Not sure what I think of The Evening Spider. Has me intrigued, but not my usual read.

    Eleanor & Park was a book my daughter really enjoyed.

    Wishing you a very bookish new year. Thanks for visiting The Book Connection.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Cheryl - Yes, it is. :-) I am always getting books for just about everyone in my life--they all enjoy reading. But it's rare I get them as gifts.

      I hope you have a great New Year as well!

      Delete
  20. Sounds like you got lots of fun bookish gifts! I got a couple of bookstore gift cards and am having lots of fun spending them. Best present ever, IMHO.

    Happy New Year!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Susan - They definitely made me smile. :-) I haven't settled on how I will spend my gift cards yet. Soon, I am sure. :-)

      Delete
  21. Cute hippo! I would keep reading. Eleanor and Park was a favorite of mine too.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Nise' - He's so soft and cuddly too. :-) Eleanor and Park was so good! So sweet and sad and then sweet again . . .

      Delete
  22. Yes! Sharon Bolton made your top reads list! I am so excited as she is one of my favorite authors. There are so many books here that I'm adding to my TBR list thanks to you! I hope you and your family had a wonderful holiday and a happy new year!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Samantha - Did you doubt she would? LOL I just loved that book. I can't wait to read her back list. I hope you and yours have a great New Year as well, Sam!

      Delete
  23. I haven't read any of your faves except for Jane Eyre (away back in high school!), but my mom has been preaching the good word about Written in Red and A Man Called Ove at me for most of the year, so I have a feeling they'll soon be in my reading future!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Megan - High school is where I first met Jane Eyre and fell in love with the book. :-) Do give A Man Called Ove and Written in Red a try. Very different books, but so good!

      Delete
  24. Great teasers! I also liked reading your list of books. Have a Happy New Year!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yvonne - Thank you! I hope you have a Happy New Year also!

      Delete
  25. I like that teaser but it's your last two books which I am going to track down.

    ReplyDelete
  26. I haven't read any of your top ten yet, but A Man Called Ove sounds wonderful, and so does the Tessa Arlen mystery. I love the gifts you got from your secret Santa, and Boynton's "Chocolate" is one of my favorites of all her stuff. I even have a button by Boynton; it's the hippo, and it says "In case of emergency, administer chocolate." I'm glad you had a good Christmas and hope your new year is equally happy!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Lark - Both are worth reading, if you get the chance. :-)

      What an awesome button! Now that I think about it, I wonder if Boynton's books are where my daughter developed her love for hippos . . . I hope you have a Happy New Year too.

      Delete
  27. That hippo looks adorable!

    I enjoyed reading about your list, Wendy! There are some I read and some I haven't but would love to do so since they've made it on your favourite list. I'm glad you'd a wonderful Christmas with your family and Happy New Year! :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Melody - She's such a soft hippo too. :-) Mouse was very clear with Santa. She wanted a stuffed toy hippo that wasn't a nurse. LOL

      Same to you, Melody!

      Delete
  28. I really like Elizabeth Haynes' writing. I really should get up to date with her releases!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Chrissi - I do too. Haynes is one of my favorite authors. I think I have one book of hers still to read that she has out . . .

      Delete
  29. Sweet book to choose for a Teaser Tuesday! I am always enamoured by Sandra Boynton! :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Candid Cover - I love Sandra Boynton's artwork and way with words. :-)

      Delete
  30. I've only read one of the books on your top ten list, but now I have a lot more on my wish list! Wait--I've read two, Jane Eyre. How could I forget Jane? It's been a while tho. I love a good series and 'Last Words' sounds great---a little crush never hurts either. Happy New year!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Debbie - I hope you enjoy Last Words as much as I did, Debbie! Happy New Year to you as well. :-)

      Delete
  31. Last Words was only $2.99 on Kindle. I just bought it!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Debbie - Oh good! That's a good deal. I hope you enjoy it!

      Delete
  32. I like the sound of the teaser, The Evening Spider sounds like an interesting read! Happy reading and thanks for visiting my blog! :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yvo - I finished it during my lunch break today. I enjoyed it!

      Delete
  33. The teaser sounds really interesting. I love the ideas of past lives. Thanks for visiting my blog

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Paulita - It's not really about past lives, but two completely different women who both have lived in the same house. It's quite good!

      Delete
  34. *Raises hand* Me, Me!! I love Chocolate, and now, I need that book XD

    I couldn't find Little Black Lies, but I found another Sharon Bolton book and it was fantastic!!

    Have a happy new year!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Eustacia - We should form a chocolate club. :-)

      I'm sorry you couldn't find Little Black Lies. :-( Maybe it will come into your library later next year. I can't wait to read more by Bolton. I hear her series is quite good. I hope you have a Happy New Year too!

      Delete
  35. Glad to see A Man Called Ove on your list - my book club is reading it this month.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Lisa - I hope your book club enjoys it. I think it's a good one for discussion.

      Delete
  36. How did I miss Hidden?!?!?! I loved her tattoo series. Off to see where I can get my hands on this!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Stacy - Oh, you must read it if you get the chance!

      Delete

Thank you for taking the time to visit Musings of a Bookish Kitty. Don't be shy! I would love to hear from you. Due to a recent increase in spam, I will be moderating all comments for the foreseeable future. Please be patient with me as it may take a few hours before I am able to approve your comment.