Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The End of 2015 - Part 2

If you missed it, yesterday I summed up my reading stats and shared my favorite audiobooks, debuts and non-fiction works. Today I'm going to reveal my favorite crime novels of 2015 and my favorite overall reads of 2015, so let's not waste any time. As with yesterday's lists, these are in no particular order.

My favorite 2015 crime novels:

Hush Hush by Laura Lippman - This return of Tess Monaghan was just spectacular. Laura Lippman knows how to spin a good yarn, pull you into and make the hours just disappear.

Dry Bones by Craig Johnson - "Save Jen!" Walt, Vic and a dinosaur, what's not to love? This series remains in my all time favorite list and Dry Bones epitomizes why. The dialogue is exceptional, the sense of place is rich, the characters are dynamic and the plot is fascinating. Dem bones, dem bones, dem dry bones is tops this year!

The Gates of Evangeline by Hester Young - If you missed yesterday's post then you won't know that I picked The Gates of Evangeline as one of my favorite debuts. And yes, I think it's good enough to make my overall favorites list as well. This was a book that kept me glued to the pages, and I look forward to what Hester Young does from here.

The Investigation by J.M. Lee - This translation from the original Korean is stunning. The story revolves around a central murder and then just builds in exquisite layer after layer from there. The Investigation is an appreciation of the arts in all forms. It's beautiful, inspirational, heart-wrenching and I very much hope that more of Lee's work makes it way to the U.S.

Woman With a Blue Pencil by Gordon McAlpine - It is quite rare for me to feel like I've happened on a truly unique story concept. And maybe this one has been done before, but I've not experienced it. The creative blending of plot lines made this one fascinating book. Its themes are especially poignant given our own political current events. This is a short one, but boy is it ever powerful.

House of the Rising Sun by James Lee Burke - Sadly it's been a little while since I've had a chance to pick up a James Lee Burke so my return with House of the Rising Sun was that much more delectable. I savored every beautiful word of this unparalleled tale of family, faith, betrayal and redemption.

The Promise by Robert Crais - Elvis Cole, Joe Pike, Maggie and Scott James. That's almost too much wonderfulness for one book. We waited awhile for this one and it was certainly worth it.

The Long and Faraway Gone by Lou Berney - Berney stepped away from his series character Shake Bouchon and took on a darker tone for this standalone proving he has a wide range of talent when it comes to storytelling. The psychological elements of this novel were intense and effective. Even if Berney's next work is paranormal romance, you can rest assured I'll read it.

The Devil's Game by Sean Chercover - While I mentioned this book several times as I was reading it, I'm ashamed to say I never got my review finished. So if you haven't picked this one up yet, I hope you'll give it a go. The follow-up to The Trinity Game kept me engaged and on the edge of my seat. Daniel Byrne is a fascinating protagonist and I'm anxious to see where Chercover takes him next!

The Lake House by Kate Morton - In my interview with Kate Morton she told me that no one ever considers her a mystery writer. So here she is on my crime fiction list...officially a mystery writer. I guess I'm the late one to the Kate Morton party because this was my first experience reading her, and I was swept off my feet. She managed to surprise me (not easy) and envelope me in her grand fictional world...for almost 600 pages...and I never lost interest. Consider me now a Kate Morton evangelist!

So there you have my favorite crime novels and finally *drum roll* it's time for

My overall favorite reads of 2015:

Trigger Warnings by Neil Gaiman - This collection of short stories felt like the variety pack of chocolate candies. You know the commercial where the mom asks all the kids what they want and they all scream something different and she says, "I've got that!"? That's what Trigger Warnings is in literary form. Want poetry? He's got it. Want a crime story? He's got it. Want a love story? He's got that too. And of course the fantasy. Gaiman's talent is astounding and I'm embarrassed it took me as long as it did to discover it, but now that I have, there's no turning back!

Dry Bones by Craig Johnson - You can see above for my gushing, but I just can't resist repeating, "Save Jen!"

Woman With the Blue Pencil by Gordon McAlpine - Yep, another one you can reference from the first list.

House of the Rising Sun by James Lee Burke - I'm feeling like a broken record here.

The Investigation by J.M. Lee - Another one you can see above for my gushing...I'm a crime junkie through and through, even when I'm reading other stuff.

Mobile Library by David Whitehouse - Stop the presses, this one isn't repeated from the first list. This story was so delightful, packed with quirky and wonderful characters on a magical adventure. It still makes me smile even though I read it a year ago. If you missed it, find this one. So worth the read!

The Bassoon King by Rainn Wilson - This is a repeated title from yesterday's lists where I lauded Wilson in both the non-fiction and audiobook lists. He's written a smart, funny and inspirational memoir that you don't have to be a fan of The Office to completely adore. If you ARE a fan, you'll adore it as well, I'm sure.

Penguin Lessons by Tom Michell - Another repeat from yesterday, this one as a favorite debut and favorite non-fiction. Michell has just won my heart with his tale of Juan Salvador the penguin.

Wanted by Chris Hoke - I think I hit that groove in the record where I'm repeating myself again. Chris Hoke's book was on my lists for favorite non-fiction and favorite debuts as well. Wanted is masterfully written and so incredibly powerful. It's a book that will resonant with me for a very long time.

My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry by Fredrik Backman - If Backman needs disciples, I'd like to sign up. Last year I shouted from the rooftops about A Man Called Ove, this year I'm equally enamored by Grandmother. I described this book recently as fantasy wrapped in reality and while that sounds a bit ridiculous, I think it sums up the Escher-esque complexity of this wonderful book. It stole my heart and there was no doubt at all that it would be on this list.

So, there you have it! That sums up the great reads of my year. Of course there are a stack of books I really wanted to get to and haven't yet--I'm not giving up yet, but there are also fabulous books for 2016 starting to hit my pile as well. 2015 was great and I have high hopes for 2016 as well. Please, let me know what topped your reading lists this year. I'm excited to know.

Happy reading and happy end to 2015. May your 2016 be full of exceptional reading material.


Kay December 30, 2015 at 8:12 AM  

And I've read exactly 0 of the books on your list. I own a couple of them though. I have read 1 of Kate Morton's books and intend to read more. No, I don't think people think of her as a mystery writer - more historical fiction or something. I am so behind on my Walt reading. New goals for 2016, right?

Happy New Year to you, Jen!!

Jen Forbus December 30, 2015 at 10:13 AM  

Thank you, Kay! Happy New Year to you as well. And we should all have goals for 2016! :-)

Deborah Starling December 31, 2015 at 11:25 AM  

Really happy I came across this blog post. Crime fiction is my favorite genre :) Thanks for sharing this list with your readers. "The Devil's Game" seems right up my alley :) I look forward to checking it out. I think a book that definitely needs to make it on a future list of yours is "Uncontrolled Spin" by Jerry Summers ( <----- you can read an excerpt from the book on his website. This book has crime, romance, suspense, and it's an awesome murder mystery. It's been compared to Moonlighting, Dexter, Remington Steele and Bones. I also like the fact that he goes in depth with character development so you actually get wrapped up in their lives and the main focus isn't on just the crime scene. I really hope you will check it out! It's a must read for sure

Margie Bunting January 1, 2016 at 3:48 PM  

I totally agree with Backman's My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry as one of the best of the year. I just finished it last week and was blown away. I liked A Man Called Ove, too, but I thought this one was even better. The translator does outstanding work! I also read and enjoyed The Lake House and The Long and Faraway Gone, and I have put The Gates of Evangeline on hold at the library. I'll definitely be looking into some of the others on your lists. Thank you and happy new year!

Beth F January 2, 2016 at 7:01 AM  

I haven't read very many books on your list, but I'm taking notes! Happy, happy new year!

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