Believe it or not, we are already into the second half of 2015! I have been absolutely spoiled as a reader so far this year, which is why I knew I would need to do two “best of 2015 books” posts. And where better for the first one than at the end of the first half of the year?
Below is my list of the top 10 books I’ve read in 2015 that were published in 2015:
10. Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee
This historical YA, about a Chinese teen and an escaped slave who go on the run together into the Wild West, was absolutely perfect for me, Oregon Trail-loving child that I was 🙂 Issues of race are masterfully addressed, as are those of gender (the two girls disguise themselves as men on their travels). Lee clearly did her research, and her vibrant characters sparkle against the vivid historical backdrop.
9. In the Unlikely Event by Judy Blume
Based on events in Blume’s own childhood, this adult novel by the patron saint of YA chronicles a series of three plane crashes in the same town over a span of mere months. The aftershocks of these tragedies on the community is extensively (though by no means exhaustively) explored, and the vivid reality of these characters and their lives will stick with you long after you turn the last page.
8. A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas
I’ve been super into YA fantasy lately, and this book is a perfect example. A retelling of Beauty and the Beast but with faeries? YES PLEASE. Add in a badass, feminist heroine, a swoonworthy hero, and a gorgeous setting, and you have an un-put-down-able read.
7. The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh
Believe the hype about this book. It is a gorgeously written, beautifully imagined retelling of the Thousand and One Nights. I started out breathlessly turning the pages to find out how Shahrzad would outwit her murderous groom, and Ahdieh manages to keep up the same level of tension throughout the book as new characters and new conflicts are introduced. This is an “I need the sequel ASAP” read.
6. Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen
I hadn’t read any Sarah Dessen since I was a teenager, and so I decided to give her latest a try. This book is a gorgeous, realistic YA story of the kind that she is so well known for. The characters leap off the page, and their conflicts are struggles are so, so relatable. I am on a mission to go back and read most of Dessen’s backlist this summer. Protip: Have both pizza and French fries handy when reading this book.
5. Three Day Summer by Sarvenaz Tash
A local girl and a concertgoer fall in love over the three days of Woodstock, and get into all sorts of adventures and misadventures. This is just as fun, touching, and groovy a summer read as you would expect, and I learned some history along the way as well! As a fan of rock music and of history, I loved everything about it; I put on some Hendrix and read almost the entire thing in one sitting.
4. Lady of the Eternal City by Kate Quinn
Long one of my favorite authors, Quinn’s latest really knocked it out of the park as far as I’m concerned. She returns to ancient Rome to continue the story of legionary Vix, Empress Sabina, and Emperor Hadrian. The research and period detail were impeccable as always, but what really shone in this novel was the characterization. The characters were such flesh-and-blood, real people that they leaped off the page, and Quinn really showed the full complexity of human nature in them. My opinions about some characters from previous books underwent a complete change by the end of this one, and that to me is good writing.
3. The Memory Painter by Gwendolyn Womack
This historical thriller follows an artist who creates vivid paintings of his past lives, and a scientist who recognizes a recurring dream of hers in one of the paintings. The novel moves back and forth seamlessly between the present and between multiple past lives. Each past era is meticulously researched and described, and the plot is tight and will keep you on the edge of your seat. If you haven’t read this book yet, I don’t know what you’re waiting for. I’ve been recommending it to everyone I know (my copy is currently on loan with a friend) and have added it to my all-time favorites list.
2. An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir
This is another book that has absolutely lived up to its hype. I started it on a lazy Sunday, and thank goodness I did, because I read the entire thing in one sitting. I absolutely could not do anything else until I had finished. The plot is gripping and original, and the characters are multi-dimensional and complex. A sequel was recently announced, and as far as I’m concerned I can’t get my hands on it soon enough! Another recent addition to my all-time favorites list.
1. The Nightingale by Kristen Hannah
Few books have stuck with me after finishing them the way this book has. The novel tells the story of two very different sisters in Nazi-occupied France, and explores the various forms that rebellion, courage, and sacrifice can take. This book is absolutely beautiful in every way, and I think about it often. I cannot recommend it highly enough, especially to fans of historical fiction.
And because I can never pick just 10, here are my honorable mentions!
The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black
Written in the Stars by Aisha Saeed
Duplicity by N.K. Traver
The Conspiracy of Us by Maggie Hall
Love, Lucy by April Lindner
Dog Crazy by Meg Donohue
And also, some favorites I’ve read this year that were NOT published in 2015:
The Grisha trilogy by Leigh Bardugo
Season of Storms by Susanna Kearsley
Wish You Were Italian by Kristin Rae
Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer
The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant