The Best Novels I Read in 2015

Before we get to The Best of, if you’re really curious, here’s a list of every book I read in 2015.

This list was harder to put together than last year’s — you think this’d be easy, look at the 5-star ratings, pick 10. But while I stand by my initial ratings, there are some in the 5-Star group that aren’t as good as some of the 4 and 4½ books, although for whatever reason, I ranked them higher (entertainment value, sentimental value…liked the ending better…etc.). Anyway, I came up with a list I think I can live with.

Last year, I did a Runners-Up list, too. There are too many to bother with this year. Which is a good thing — a lotta good books last year. I also did a worst of 2014, which I didn’t do to be mean last year — but for some reason feels mean this year, so I’ll skip that, too.

(in alphabetical order by author)

Thank You, GoodnightThank You, Goodnight

by Andy Abramowitz

My Review
Rock ‘n Roll, Love, Inevitable Maturing, and that certain feeling you get while doing something with your friends.
4 1/2 Stars

My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's SorryMy Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry

by Fredrik Backman, translated by Henning Koch
My Review
Part tribute to J. K. Rowling, part coming-of-age (even if that age is early teen), part love letter to the Ideal of Grandmothers. This’ll get ya in the cockles of the heart.
4 Stars

Long Black CurlLong Black Curl

by Alex Bledsoe
My Review
Bledsoe took his perfect little world, and shined a spotlight on its dark underbelly, somehow making the community even more appealing. Stronger, although more fragile than before.
5 Stars

The Aeronaut’s WindlassThe Aeronaut’s Windlass

by Jim Butcher
My Review
Assuming the next volumes are as good, if not better, this is the beginning of Butcher’s best series to date. It could also be the a promise that he can’t deliver on. I’m betting on the former.
4 1/2 Stars

A Key, an Egg, an Unfortunate Remark A Key, an Egg, an Unfortunate Remark

by Harry Connolly
My Review
One of the few really unique Urban Fantasies out there. Every other new UF can sort-of be compared to another/several others — but not this one.
4 1/2 Stars

The Way Into DarknessThe Way Into Darkness

by Harry Connolly
I set this one (and the two earlier novels in the trilogy) aside to give myself time to think about them before blogging about them. I never got back to it. A working title for this series was “Epic Fantasy with No Dull Parts” (or something like that) — he pulled it off, staying true to the conventions of the genre while turning them on their head. A great conclusion to a great trilogy.
5 Stars

The DrafterThe Drafter

by Kim Harrison
My Review
Harrison did everything she needed to do here after bringing her 13 novel series to a close. She wrote something that should appeal to her long time fans, but didn’t try to reduplicate her success. A brand-new hero, a brand-new world, with brand-new powers (and problems!). This one rattled me, kept me guessing, and kept me on the edge of my seat.
5 Stars

Last WordsLast Words

by Michael Koryta
My Review
Thoughtful, suspenseful, claustrophobic. A great introduction to a character I hope to see featured in several novels in the future.
4 1/2 Stars

A Red-Rose ChainA Red-Rose Chain

by Seanan McGuire
My Review
McGuire — much like Toby Daye — doesn’t rest on her laurels, but keeps pushing the series forward in directions no one would’ve guessed.
4 1/2 Stars

UprootedUprooted

by Naomi Novik
My Review
This take on a traditional tale just blew my mind — the perfect bit of storytelling.
5 Stars

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A Red-Rose Chain by Seanan McGuire

A Red-Rose ChainA Red-Rose Chain

by Seanan McGuire
Series: Toby Daye, #9

Mass Market Paperback, 358 pg.
DAW, 2015
Read: September 2 – 3, 2015

“Wow. Your ego has grown since we’ve known each other, hasn’t it?”

“Ah, but, you see, I have wooed and won the woman of my dreams. Admittedly, some of those dreams would be more properly termed ‘nightmares,’ but I don’t believe we get to be that picky when talking about such things . . . If my ego had not grown, it would surely be a sign that I was no true cat, and you would leave me for another.”

And that, folks, is why half of McGuire’s readers want to be Tybalt and the other have want to have a Tybalt in their lives. A Red-Rose Chain is chock-full of these kind of moments sprinkled between espionage, intrigue and peril.

Queen Windermere is still trying to figure out the whole Queen of the Mists thing, getting her howe and her kingdom running the way they should, and what not when a message is delivered: the Kingdom of Silences has declared war and in three days will begin attacking. King Rhys of Silences (which is in Portland, OR) was put on his throne by the bogus Queen of the Mists that Windermere recently overthrew, and he seems to be getting nervous about his position.

Who else would Windermere appoint as her ambassador to negotiate peace in the three days than Toby? Pretty much anyone in her kingdom. Which seems to be the conventional wisdom — and Toby agrees — but for her own reasons (some of which Toby eventually guesses) the Queen insists. She also doesn’t have a lot of options (see previous paragraph). So Toby and her fiance head off to stop a war instead of instigating one — and they take along Quentin, May, and Walther (the alchemist/Chemistry professor) to lend a helping hand.

Now, he’s no Blind Michael, but Rhys is one of the more despicable people in this series so far. And while he observes all the necessary formalities and whatnot, it’s pretty clear that his heart isn’t ion the whole negotiating thing, and he’s just biding his time until he can attack. The last time these two kingdoms battled was a century or so earlier, and while they prevailed, it didn’t go well for the Kingdom of the Mists — this time, it’s sure to be worse. A perception strengthened once we see how Shadows treats a diplomatic party. So Toby can’t fail.

Toby’s got her friends with her, but in many ways, she’s more on her own that usual — she doesn’t have all the resources to call upon in Portland that she does in SF, but she makes the most out of what she has. At the end of the day, it’s Toby’s series and she’s the one that carries the weight of the plot and the weight of the weight of the mission on her shoulders. McGuire pushes her in ways that she hasn’t been pushed before. I wasn’t thrilled with a couple of the moves McGuire made in the final couple of chapters — not bad writing/plotting, I just didn’t like what Toby had to go through. She prevails, naturally — though, not unscathed, but through grit, determination and the loyalty she commands (and returns) from her allies.

As a small break from the diplomatic tension, we spend a little time with Tybalt’s Portland counterpart. The two are very different from each other, (which is nice to see the variations in personality), but clearly have a a good deal of respect for each other. There’s an interesting shared past for either of them that we’re teased with, too. Would’ve been nice to get more, maybe one day. For the present, it’s nice just to get a little bit more of Tybalt’s pre-Toby history.

Looking ahead to #10 and beyond, I’m a little worried that things are going too well for Toby — particularly where Tybalt is involved. Will McGuire let her be that happy for long? At all?

That’s a worry for another day, for now, I’m going to say that this is one of my favorite reads of the year and leave it at that.

—–

4 1/2 Stars