As 2015 wraps up, its time for the Adventurers to reflect on what we loved most this year. This is always a tough post to write because how do you pick your favourites? We can only presume this is like picking your favourite child: sacrilegious! Yet, we push forward since, heck, it’s fun to revisit the ones we enjoyed the most.
Jaclyn’s Favourite Adventures
This year’s been a bit unusual for me. I switched jobs and ended up commuting over an hour each way to work every day. Every. Single. Day. Obviously this dramatically changed my reading habits. I wasn’t able to read as much and I discovered a love for the audiobook (a format that I never thought I would actually embrace). And despite my newfound love for audiobooks, it turns out it’s a format that I found extremely hard to review; it’s hard to refer back to the book when you don’t have it physically in front of you. That being said, Lyndsay Faye’s The Gods of Gotham is my favourite audiobook that I’ve listened to this year. Followed very closely by Louise Penny’s Inspector Gamache series. Both have outstanding narrators, which I have learned is rather important when you’re listening to someone for over an hour.
Mystery was also a really big hit for me this year. I wouldn’t say that I read a lot of mystery fiction, but that’s changed in 2015. Anything historical is always a big hit for me, so it’s no surprise that I loved Ashley Weaver’s Murder at the Brightwell. This was an excellent debut and an even better start to a series. I’m still convinced that Milo is a spy. Continuing in the historical vein, I also found William Shaw’s She’s Leaving Home to be a really unique read in the mystery genre and I can’t wait to read the conclusion to the trilogy this January.
The fantasy that I read this year also had a bit of a mystery element to it. Juliet Marillier’s Dreamer’s Pool was a great start to a new series and I loved that it focuses on a mystery element. This is something I wouldn’t have expected by Marillier, but I really loved it. Other fantasy favs were V.E. Scwab’s swashbucking adventure, A Darker Shade of Magic and Naomi Novik’s adult fairy tale, Uprooted. Both created such a sense of atmosphere that had me completely enthralled. Stepping into a more militaristic fantasy, I was also blown away by Django Wexler’s Price of Valor. This latest addition to Wexler’s series has really propelled the characters into new and interesting directions; each book gets better than the last.
And finally, my “best of 2015” wouldn’t be complete without some romance titles. As usual, romance forms the bulk of my reading. It was a great year for romance. Surprisingly for me, a contemporary romance made my list. I know, I was shocked that I actually read something other than a historical romance. Sonali Dev’s A Bollywood Affair was an amazing read. It was funny and quirky and so very different from the generic romances out there. Moving into the paranormal romance arena (or sci-fi romance…I’m never sure how to categorize this series), I adored Nalini Singh’s Shards of Hope. This is hands down my favourite book in Singh’s Psy-Changeling series and I love the new direction that Singh is taking the series in.
And of course, the romance subgenre that is near and dear to my heart: historical romance. Quite frankly it’s hard to limit this list, but limit it I must. For a more literary romance read, Sara Donati’s The Gilded Hour hit all the right buttons for me, even if the length was intimidating. For straight category historical romance, Mary Balogh’s Only a Promise and Tessa Dare’s When a Scot Ties a Knot are definitely my best reads for the year. Only a Promise is emotionally complex, and When a Scot is light and humourous; both are outstanding adventures. Here’s hoping that 2016 brings great new romances from both authors.
Stacey’s Favourite Adventures
2015 for me has been characterized by lots of change, and a lot less free time to read. I spent more time reading comforting, familiar re-reads than diving into new works, and I discovered some new favorites in graphic novels.
Of the books I enjoyed most this year, a large percentage of them come from fantasy. Tower of Thorns, Juliet Marillier’s second story about Blackthorn and Grim, is mythical fantasy at its best. The characters and setting are so real, you might as well be there with them. Uprooted, another mythical fantasy, explores the legend of the maiden-eating dragon, and turns the traditional fairy tale upside down. Updraft, with its towers and monsters and wings for transport, is one of the most unique fantasies I’ve read all year. Jeweled Fire is a more standard magical YA fantasy from favorite author Sharon Shinn, but contains an enjoyable mystery at court and delightful characters. I can’t think of many contemporary fantasies that I’ve enjoyed as much as Signal to Noise – when I read it back in February I already knew it would be on this list. Magic, romance, and second chances in a vivid modern Mexico enchanted me.
I got my hands on another Susanna Kearsley this year, and A Desperate Fortune stands with the rest of her novels as a great dual timeline romance. Kearsley introduces a main character on the autism spectrum, which added an interesting layer to the story.
As for my go-to science fiction, three very different novels captivated me. Weighing Shadows is a time-travel tale that spends most of the plot with atmospheric ancient societies. Unapologetically feminist, it explores how knowledge of the future might affect our choices. Do you choose to save your own present, or your future? The Terrans is pretty straightforward futuristic space opera and first contact, with the very orderly Earth discovering a couple alien races – one ally, one enemy. Includes telepathy and light romance. The graphic novel series Saga knocked my socks off. Irreverent, hilarious, witty, and wise, it wins everything in my book. Bonus: I got my non-reading brother to marathon volumes 1-4 this weekend.
I often return to urban fantasy for comfort reading, and was so glad to grab an advance copy of City of Light this year, a forthcoming urban fantasy with all kinds of supernatural creatures, excitement, and a dash of romance.
While I couldn’t sustain the Read Harder challenge posed by Book Riot, I was able to read some of the categories they suggest. In the “book by or about someone from an indigenous culture, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian brought to life the struggles that American Indians have in today’s United States. Funny and heart-wrenching, it follows a smart, ambitious boy as he navigates family, friends, poverty, and high school.