Top Eleven Books I Read in 2015!

Hellooooo! It’s artybaker here – sorry I haven’t posted on this blog in a while. I’ve been pretty stuck on ideas and everything I could think of just felt pointless, so I really wasn’t motivated to write on here. However, recently me and my fellow Home-ed Heads have been bouncing ideas off eachother and it’s really inspired me. My new resolution is to do at least one post a month on this blog in 2016. I know this isn’t much, but I want virtually zero pressure because my posts are probably just going to be little fun stuff that I think up randomly, and I don’t want it to become a chore or anything like that.

Anyway, onto today’s post – last year I read 95 books, and it was an amazing reading year for me. I thought it would be fun to share some of my favourites of the year in a blog post, so that’s what I’m here today to do! I do want to do more book-related posts in future so hopefully this list will give you an idea of what kind of books I like and what I’ve been reading recently. Disclaimer: I know ‘Top Eleven Books of 2015’ doesn’t roll of the tongue as well as ‘Top Ten’ but I couldn’t narrow it down! I read too many awesome books this year! Also, these are unranked and in no particular order. I will be putting links to the books on Goodreads below in case you want more info on them. Hope you enjoy! 🙂

~ Kat, Incorrigible by Stephanie Burgis ~

There’s a couple of Middle Grade/Tween books on here so let’s get this one out of the way first. Even though I’m now 15 and technically out of the age range for this type of book, it remains my favourite genre just for the fun and the friendship involved. You can also find a lot of family aspects in this genre which I really enjoy. Kat, Incorrigible is an excellent example of all three of these things.

This book follows twelve-year-old Kat as she discovers her mother’s hidden legacy as a magical guardian and determines to use the magic herself to save her family’s honour in strict Regency society. Kat is literally my perfect protagonist for this type of book and I LOVED the relationship she had with her sisters. They were just as developed characters as Kat was and they acted like real sisters, which, having two sisters myself, was so enjoyable. I don’t usually like books set in the Regency period and I’m not a huge magic fan either but both were brought to life in a very entertaining and captivating way in this book, so I was definitely on board. This is the first book in a trilogy and I can’t wait to see what the next two have to offer!

Goodreads |

~ Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck ~

This next one is a classic I read for an English Literature GSCE I’m taking in June. I wasn’t really sure what to expect but I ended up loving it to pieces and have since read it again and enjoyed it even more. It follows two friends – George and Lennie – who are looking for work as ranch hands during the Great Depression. George is logical and serious, but Lennie is big, curious and forgetful – a combination that has a tendency of getting him into trouble. The book begins with George and Lennie arriving at a new ranch they’re going to work at, then follows the friendships and feuds that they encounter there. It’s a tale of loneliness and unrequited dreams, but also of prevailing friendship. I found this book heart-touching, and Steinbeck’s views on racism, sexism and what those prejudices do to a person were truly fascinating.

| Goodreads |

~ Ten Thousand Skies Above You by Claudia Gray ~

This book is the second in a YA Sci-fi trilogy about jumping through different ‘dimensions’, which are basically parallel universes. I also read the first book this year, which I loved too, but this was my personal favourite. That book is called A Thousand Pieces of You, and I believe the series is called the Firebird Trilogy. There was a lot of hype surrounding the first book when it came out and I must say I wasn’t really interested, but a friend on Goodreads recommended it to me and I was looking for a new audiobook, so I decided to give it a go.

I’m really glad I gave this series a chance because in lots of ways it’s restored my faith in the Young Adult genre, which does often repeat some annoying tropes. One such trope is the love triangle, which this series does have, but the two guys involved are very realistic and likeable, and I trust in the girl, our main character, to make the right choice and not be an idiot about it. 😀 Family is a big part of this series, which I love, and they’re also a home-educating family, so extra points for that. It’s not the typical innocent-introvert home-educated main character you sometimes get in YA either – they’re a close family, the parents are responsible and the kids are smart. Tavia Gilbert’s narration of the audiobooks is one of my favourites I’ve come across and although I found her overly-posh interpretations of English accents a little annoying, her flawless Russian ones made up for it and she brings so much emotion into her narration which I love. Oh, and the science is EPIC. I could sing this book’s praises all day but I think we should move on.

| Goodreads |

~ The Long Haul by Jeff Kinney ~

This is again a sequel – the ninth in a series, in fact! The Diary of Wimpy Kid series is a hugely popular series of kid’s books about Greg Heffley, a self-described wimp, and his adventures through school and life with his crazy family. This book follows Greg and his family on a holiday they won’t forget. I’ve always enjoyed this series and although I can’t really remember much of the previous books, I think this is my favourite. Just the picture on the cover is really nostalgic for me about holidays with my own family. I’ll admit as the book goes on, it gets very unrealistic and frankly ridiculous, but it was all the more hilarious because of it. I read this book in one go, which is extremely rare for me, and was laughing the whole time.

| Goodreads |

~ King Lear by William Shakespeare ~

A bit (OK, a lot) of a change of tone here. I always thought I would hate Shakepeare but a little more than a year ago I stumbled upon his works and decided to give it a try. Since then I’ve become a massive Shakespeare nerd and have read seventeen of his plays. This was one of the nine I read in 2015 and it is now my favourite of his tragedies. If you’re unfamiliar with the plot, it’s basically about an ageing King who decides to split his lands and his fortune between his three daughters before he dies. The eldest two seize upon the opportunity and start showering him with praise and telling him how infinite their love for him is. The youngest however, Cordelia, tells him she loves him just as much as a daughter should love her father and isn’t going to lie about it just for the sake of money and power. This enrages her father and shocks her sisters, and begins a story of betrayal, madness and quests for power.

I thought the story was very interesting in this play, the language was exquisite and I was fascinated by all the themes Shakespeare brought into it. I loved following Lear’s journey through the play and Cordelia’s good-hearted strength as well as her sisters’ ruthless cruelty made them great characters to read about. A very worthwhile read.

| Goodreads |

~ Ready Player One by Ernest Cline ~

This one has been very, very popular in the book community over the past few years. I heard it was a great book and it was all about videogames and anything and everything nerdy, and was basically like sign me up! This book takes place in 2045, where the planet is pretty much a wreck, but the virtual world is thriving, all thanks to one virtual reality program named the Oasis, which offers salvation to almost everyone from their frankly messed up situation. However, after the creator of the Oasis dies, he leaves behind a trail of Easter Eggs within the game which, if found and completed, mean that you have control over this billion-dollar virtual reality. Our protagonist, Wade Watts, is one of the million trying to complete the Easter Egg Hunt and gain ownership of the Oasis, before the power-hungry big companies get there first.

This was another one I listened to on audiobook (narrated by Wil Wheaton, who did a stellar job of it), and I was in love from the beginning. I’ll admit it’s not the most perfect book ever, but I just rolled with the entire thing and had a blast because of it. As well as all the videogame elements, there’s a lot of references to ’80s pop culture, so if you’re into that I definitely think you’d enjoy this book. I knew next to nothing about the 1980s beforehand but it was all super interesting anyway and this is a book I continuously think about.

| Goodreads |

~ Popular: A Memoir by Maya Van Wagenen ~

I read quite a bit of non-fiction, but this is the only one that made it to this list for last year. It’s the true story of 14-year-old Maya, who finds a old book on popularity and self-confidence in her attic and decides to apply it’s advice to her modern school situation for a whole year and see if it makes her ‘popular’. Being around Maya’s age when I read this, I found her extremely relatable and admirable. She relates the results of her social experiment in a mature and entertaining way so that you really feel like you’re on the journey with her. She was extremely brave and determined to do what she did and it was a joy to read about. I will say that I found the chapters on the more social parts of the experiment a lot more enjoyable than the beauty ones, but those definitely still held a place in the book so it was all good. This was another audiobook, this time narrated by Amber Faith and Lee Adams, and I loved how much both narrators seemed to understand the tone of the book and the people they were representing (Faith narrates Maya’s parts and Adams reads the extracts from the popularity guide Maya uses).

| Goodreads |

~ William Shakespeare’s Star Wars: The Jedi Doth Return by Ian Doescher ~

This one’s a bit different. This is the sixth in Ian Doescher’s retellings of the Star Wars movies in Shakespeare’s language. That’s really all I need to say to describe it, and as a Shakespeare and a Star Wars nerd, I think it’s needless to say I looove this series. I’ve only read the retellings of the three originals so far, and as Return of the Jedi is my favourite movie of those three, this was my favourite book. It’s hilarious reading these timeless characters speak in ‘thou’s and ‘doth’s, and the author often adds in little inside jokes about Star Wars or plays on famous quotes from Shakespeare. What I loved particularly about this book was the interpretation of Leia (it really made me appreciate how brilliantly strong a female character she is) and Darth Vader (his character development in this book… beyond compare).

| Goodreads |

~ More Than This by Patrick Ness ~

Moving on, this is another YA standalone that’s got a lot of buzz over the years. All I needed to hear was that it’s supposed to blow your mind, and I was in. I’m also really into books about ghosts and the afterlife and all that stuff so that’s another reason I wanted to read this. It follows a teenage boy named Seth who, at the very beginning of the novel, dies. Then he wakes up in a strange, deserted, eerie version of his old home. The rest of the book follows his journey into discovering what happened to him, how he’s here and what this place is.

I went into this book wanting to have my mind blown, and it so was. I will say that the first 200 pages or so (it’s a long book) could be quite slow and uneventful, but looking back I think it added to the effect of the book and was realistic considering that Seth was alone and confused and meant to be dead. The second half was utter perfection and I absolutely loved the side characters of Regine and Tommy. I am still haunted by this book, but in a good way, and am definitely going to pick up more Patrick Ness in the future.

| Goodreads |

~ Spooktacular by Sienna Mercer ~

This is a bit of a weird choice since it’s the seventeenth in a series, but I couldn’t not include it! This, along with the Harry Potter series, is my favourite book series of all time and was what got me into reading in the first place. The series is called My Sister the Vampire, the first book being Switched. It’s a Middle Grade series centering around vampires, but it reads like a Contemporary or a Chick-Lit book, and is a bunch of fun. The main characters are two twins, Olivia and Ivy, and in the first book, perky cheerleader Olivia moves to a new town and on the first day of school, meets gloomy goth Ivy, who is, by the way, a vampire! The two soon become friends and discover they are long-lost twins. The rest of the books follow their adventures into discovering their biological family, protecting the vampire secret and just living their crazy lives.

This book, Spooktacular, introduces ghosts into the series, though I won’t say more than that to avoid spoilers for the previous books. The last couple of books before this have been my least favourite in the series, and after over a year without news of a new book we were left wondering if that was the end of the series. However, Sienna Mercer made a fierce comeback with this book, which I think brought the series back to it’s roots (not that it actually ever strayed that far) with cute family moments and paranormal fun thrown into the mix. There was also an EPIC cliffhanger at the end and I am literally dying of excitement for the next book to come out.

| Goodreads |

~ The Ladies’ Paradise by Emile Zola ~

This last book I’m going to talk about is another classic. Mumlovesearlgrey and I like the BBC TV show, The Paradise, which was based on this book. When we started watching it halfway through the second series, it was full of romance so it was more of a guilty pleasure for me than quality television, so I wasn’t sure how much I would like this book. Since then, though, we’ve been watching the show from the start and it is more than just affairs and kissing and there is quite a lot about the shop and how they run it and stuff which is interesting. The same is true of this book. It follows Denise, who comes to Paris to stay with her Uncle and gets a job at ‘The Ladies’ Paradise’ which is one of the first department stores in the world.

The biggest thing I got out of this book was the incredible intrigue on capitalism and the whole big shops vs. local shops debate, right where it all began. Denise was a fantastic main character and I loved her cousin Geniveve and her storyline, which was left out of the TV show unfortunately. The writing was great too and I really liked how the romance was done. I’m very interested to check out more Emile Zola in future.

| Goodreads |

So that’s my whole list! Like I said before, 2015 was a great year in reading for me and I’m looking forward to seeing what 2016 brings in books! Hope you enjoyed this post – see you next time! 🙂

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