Favorite Books (and series!) of 2015

Welcome fellow bibliophiles! Pull up a chair and make yourself comfortable, because I have a hefty number of titles to share with you today. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Now, for today’s post, I’m only going to cover my absolute favorite books from my 2015 reading list. Don’t get me wrong, I liked almost every book I’ve read this year – I don’t usually finish titles that I don’t like. But to be considered among my favorites, I use certain criteria:

  • Contains compelling stories, worldbuilding, and/or characters. Obviously, there has to be something about the book that draws me in. It can be a complex layered plot, fascinating hero/heroines, or even a richly described setting. If I find myself thinking about the book – or aspects of it – long after I’ve finished, I put it on my favorites list.
  • Rereads. I reread books, especially favorites, frequently. Some of the titles I’ll be sharing today are ones I’ve already reread, while the rest are ones that I plan to reread again in the near future.
  •  I own, or plan to own, personal copies of the book. The majority of my reading is done through the library, especially since I discovered Overdrive. If I read a library book and immediately decide to buy my own copy … well. I think that’s a pretty obvious indicator of a good book.
  • Finally, in regards to series. For a series to make my favorites, I must be invested in reading future installments. Not simply a ‘Oh, I kinda want to know what happens next’ sort of reaction. Favorite series send me to the author’s website or to Amazon/Goodreads to look up the next release date … and that release date often gets added to my calendar. If the release date is further out than six months, agonized groaning and ranting must ensue.

Okay. Everyone on the same page? Enough with the criteria then, lets get down to the good stuff!

Crystin’s Top Five Picks for 2015 – (and yes, these are in order of importance!)

  1. The Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Maas
    • This epic fantasy series currently has four installments: Throne of Glass, Crown of Midnight, Heir of Fire, and Queen of Shadows. There’s also a compilation of short stories combined into a prequel: The Assassin’s Blade. I’ve read every single one – Throne of Glass at least twice – and they are, to date, my absolute favorites. I tell everyone about this series. (See my review of ToG here.) When I finished Heir of Fire this January, I went completely bonkers – because while it didn’t have a cliffhanger per se, my favorite character was left in mortal peril. Queen of Shadows released on September 1st, and I managed to make it a week before feverishly checking to see how things work out. I mourn the fact that I have to wait at least a year for another volume, but at least this book ended a little less angst-ridden.
  2. The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer
    • A sci-fi fantasy, the Lunar Chronicles currently has three volumes (with the fourth due out this November), as well as a prequel. You might be familiar with the titles: Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, Winter (TBR), and Fairest (the prequel). While I enjoyed all the books, I must admit that Cress was my favorite – I loved the central characters in that volume. I’m eager to see how the series ends (Winter is the final installment) and I’m even looking forward to the short story anthology due out next February. The Lunar Chronicles has a lighter feel than ToG, though the stakes are just as high. This is another series I recommend frequently.
  3. The Arcana Chronicles by Kresley Cole
    • This series is a brand new discovery, as well as a new form of self-torture for myself. I – LOVE – this series. It popped up on my Goodreads recommendations because I read Throne of Glass – and boy, did they hit the nail on the head with this one. Don’t get me wrong – the story is nothing like ToG – but the rich setting, the dark undertones to the story, and the beautifully crafted characters hooked me in the same way ToG did. The only reason this series didn’t beat the Lunar Chronicles is because the author writes the most infuriating, rage-inducing cliffhangers I’ve ever read. You know those silly memes and jokes about fangirls who read shocking endings and make screeching pterodactyl noises and throw things? Yeah. I think they’re reading this series. Ooh, but they’re good. The current titles consist of Poison Princess, Endless Knight, and Dead of Winter. Book four is supposed to come out sometime in May 2016 … and I tell you, May can NOT come soon enough.
  4. Trickster’s Duet by Tamora Pierce
    • Actually two books in one: Trickster’s Choice and Trickster’s Queen. An engaging YA fantasy recommended to me by a co-worker. Even though the main character is the daughter of a spy, and works at being a spy herself, these two books are a refreshing breeze of humor and intrigue, rather than the dark morbid tones found in ToG and the Arcana Chronicles. It helps that I found the love interest in this story absolutely adorable. Not sexy (though he is, in a way) but adorable. Weird, I know, but you’d have to read it to see what I mean. Just make sure you get past the first chapter – the story doesn’t get really good until then.
  5. Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard
    • Oh, Red Queen, how I love and hate thee. Some of you may have remembered my rant regarding this book, as well as my extremely sassy book review. (If not, read here.) Even though I hated the direction the story took, even though I went on a book rampage that lasted nearly a week where my poor coworkers had to listen to my ranting every time I went to work … I have to admit it has been one of my favorite books this year. Even now, months later, scenes and events from the book haunt my thoughts. I’ve even – despite my best efforts and the initial knee-jerk reaction not to – looked up the sequel. Fortunately (or unfortunately) I have a few months to battle with myself before deciding whether or not I’m going to read it.

Crystin’s Honorable Mentions for 2015 (in vague order – quite a few are tied with each other, hence the lack of numbers)

  • A Court of Roses and Thorns by Sarah J. Maas
    • As an avid reader, I’m firmly in the camp of favorite authors rather than favorite books. Maas lives up to my belief, and the only reason this first installment of her new series isn’t in that top five is because I didn’t think it was fair to my other favorite authors.
  • The Ascendance Trilogy by Jennifer Neilson
    • I was surprised at how compelling this middle-reader fantasy series was, considering the main character isn’t exactly likeable or realistic. He’s arrogant, sarcastic, and I freakin’ love him. He’s not quite an anti-hero, but I don’t really care. I enjoy the stories, and that’s all that really matters, right? The individual titles are: The False Prince, The Runaway King, and The Shadow Throne.
  • Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta
    • Another Goodreads find – an excellent epic journey type fantasy. I’ve already downloaded the sequel, and hope that it’s half as good as the first. Gorgeous world building in this one.
  • An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tabir
    • Impulse read because it kept showing up on my Amazon feed. Phenomenal character development and pacing throughout the novel – I can’t wait to read the next book when it comes out next year! A sort of alternate history fantasy based on ancient Rome.
  • Stolen Songbird by Danielle L. Jensen
    • A beautifully written romance with a fairy-tale fantasy feel. Book two is sitting on my kindle waiting for me as we speak … I’m trying to wait a little longer so I don’t have a whole year to go before book three is ready.
  • Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder
    • Yet another Goodreads recommendation done right. Read the whole book in one sitting, thanks to the interesting characters, story tension, and perfectly scattered pieces of backstory that explain how the main character got in her situation: namely, imprisoned for murder and offered the job of a poison taster.
  • Bound by Kate Sparkes
    • Another beautiful fantasy romance trilogy – again, I have book two ready to go, but having to wait for that final installment is the pits.
  • Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
    • A rich Russian-based fantasy story, full of magic and intrigue. Really liked this book, and I keep meaning to grab the next books in the series …
  • Radiance by Grace Draven
    • Another Amazon recommendation that surprised me. A fantasy with a very different and very interesting take on romance. The hero and heroine are from different (and incompatible) races that finds the other repulsive or terrifying. I really enjoyed watching the two find mutual respect for each other before falling in love with each other’s personalities … not looks. There’s apparently a sequel in the works, and I’ll be very interested to see where the author takes the story.
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