Fangirl Friday: Barb's 2015 Five Star Reads

Take a look. It's in a book.
I read a lot this year. Not as much as some other Wenches and Wenchy friends, but more than a book a week. I flew through almost forty books just this summer! So it's no surprise to me that among my vast list of completed reads, are thirteen stellar books. Now, I believe that if I love a book, it's a five star read. Period. I don't have boxes that need to be checked in order for a book to get the highest rating, or issues that disqualify a book, or anything like that. If I love, if I reread it, if I recommend it, if it entertained me thoroughly, it's a five star read.

Come with me through the jump as I tell you about the books that rocked my world in 2015, from the beginning of the year to the end. Hopefully you'll even add a few to your TBR!

Gone Girl: I started 2015 off with a bang. Gone Girl was a crazy, disturbing, pretty horrifying read. And I loved every single page. Who knew that something so icky could be such a great book? But it is a great book. Several Wenches went on to read it and loved it. We all must have the same kind of twisted minds, which is what drew us together, and keeps us together. Muwahahaha!

Dark Debt: This was book eleven! There are only two more. How is it possible that these books keep getting better, that the progressions and story arcs are natural and riveting, that our characters continue to grow and evolve in wonderful, fascinating ways? Chicagoland Vampires has been a Wench favorite since our inception, and we still adore this series, anticipating releases, devouring them and them talking about them endlessly. Dark Debt was no different, and you can read our spoilery discussion here. I am currently stalking my mailbox for Midnight Marked. It could show up any minute now, right? RIGHT??

Burned: This is THE Wench book of 2015. It had been more than two long years since Iced and we were so ready to continue the tale of Dublin AWC. Of course, KMM did not disappoint, which we gushed about in Zee's review and in our post-read very spoilery discussion. My favorite thing about this book was KMM doing something I loathe in book series, retconning, and making me love it. And I do. I love love love her rewriting of Fever history, which made every single one of Barrons's actions even more poignant and beautiful. Only a month to go until Feverborn!

The Martian: I'm not generally a sci-fi girl. I don't have anything against the genre, per se, it's just not what I'm drawn to. But Andrew Weir wrote a sci-fi book that is smart, relatable, accessible, and funny. Anne reviewed it here. The story is riveting because of the danger and fixes, the ups and downs in trying to get Mark Watney home, both on Mars and on Earth. But for me, what made the book one of my best of the year was to excellent smartassery. Mark is my kind of nerd and I enjoyed every page.

The Veil: I'm a huge Chloe Neil fan, which I told you about here. But I always get a little nervous when an author I adore starts a new series, especially when it's in a completely unrelated world from the one I already know and love. But CN's Devil's Isle series takes place in New Orleans, my favorite city I've ever been to, so I was sure I was going to love The Veil, review here, but I honestly didn't expect it to be as spectacular as it is. CN's worldbuilding in The Veil is stellar. The characters are completely different from our CLV faves, and the world is darker, grittier. In place of the snarky banter in CLV, The Veil has plenty of social commentary, and Claire is a different kind of kick-ass from Merit. The world in The Veil is so rich and fascinating that I cannot wait to continue reading Devil's Isle.

Ugly Love: Oh Ugly Love, you wrecked me in the best possible way. My original Goodreads review says it best--Finished this book in less that 24 hours, couldn't put it down, read it at work, thought about it constantly, it made me laugh, cry, and cheer. I'm thinking about buying a paper copy (I did!). How could I give this book any less that five stars? I adore Tate because she is feisty, hilarious, and maintains her ridiculous hope in spite of all the reasons not to. I didn't want to love, Miles, I really didn't. He's a jerk and a selfish jerk at that, although there are moments when he's amazing. But seeing into his past as we do, I just KNEW that there was a devastating reason, and there was. Amazing book. Fantastic build up, heartbreaking revelations, and wonderful wonderful scenes that resolve the problems. I loved this book and recommend it highly!

Fat Girl Walking: I didn't follow Brittany Gibbons before I read this book, but I do now. I'm not even sure how this book popped up on my radar, but I'm so glad it did! Hilariously rambling at times, I have nothing but awe for how openly Brittany puts herself out there for our entertainment. But it's not just entertaining, it's also incredibly empowering with amazing encouragement and tips for how we can learn to love ourselves exactly how we are. It is so important to examine society's rules for how we "should" look and for when it's acceptable to love yourself. The bottom line is that it's not only okay to love yourself regardless of numbers on scales and in your clothing--it's essential. Fuck society's beauty standards and requirement that we always be reaching for the unattainable. I'm awesome, you're awesome, and our bodies don't change that. Every woman should read this book. And Anne's review, here

Ricochet: I cannot for the life of me remember what I was looking for, where my reading taste was, when I picked up this book. But I'm so glad that I read it, since it set me on a path to a whole new genre, a type of book that would never have been my norm in the past, but that I have enjoyed immeasurably ever since. Ricochet was the kind of book that knocked my reading world off of its axis, one that disturbed and intrigued me, one that I'm still thinking about months later. As I told you in my review (and again and again ever since) this dark, gritty, disturbing, graphic, beautiful, wonderful book is unlike anything else I've read. It is superb.
District Ballet Company: A random comment from a stranger in another author's Twitter feed. That's what brought me to the District Ballet Company series by Katherine Locke. What a wonderful chance encounter. I don't remember reading a ballet book since my very first Silhouette romances when I was a teenager, but this...this was completely different and absolutely wonderful. So different from what I thought I was starting, District Ballet was more. More intense, more real, more painful, which all made it ultimately a more amazing read. A really beautiful love story about two people who have always belonged together, whose broken parts perfectly fill the holes in each other. It was lovely and awful, frustrating and inspiring, with every single thing I could possibly want in a love story.

Love Me With Lies: Continuing with my theme of choosing intense books with a central love story that was anything but typical, Love Me With Lies was something completely different. A love triangle, sort of, this saga starts with a lie, spans more than a decade, hosts a plethora more lies, two crazy bitches, one with a heart of gold who pretends she has no heart, and one with probably a heart but no conscience to speak of, and a man who should be the worst but ends up being the best. In theory none of this should work. It should be vile and revolting, but it ends up being the most riveting story where you find yourself rooting for the couple to finally get their shit together. Tarryn Fisher doesn't do happy endings, so don't expect one from Love Me With Lies, but do expect a story that will leave you speechless and a little discombobulated at the end. In the best possible way.

Mud Vein: I gave Mud Vein five stars because I've never read anything like it, and for a lifelong reader writing something truly surprising is a feat. It made me sad, frightened, and uncomfortable, with very little lightness to temper the dark. I'm awed by Tarryn Fisher's unflinching look at the world and humanity. She pulls no punches and doesn't sugar-coat anything, which is refreshing but also painful. Mostly I just feel sad. What would it be like to go through life not allowing even a tiny bit of joy, pushing away every single thing that could make you happy? That's the awful thought I've carried with me since finishing this book. Even in my saddest, darkest days I still have love and hope and memories of joy and joy to look forward to. What would it be like to be completely alone by one's own choosing, to be so frightened of being hurt that you can't let anyone get remotely close? I do love a book that makes me uncomfortable, that makes me think about things so foreign to me, and Mud Vein did just that!

Troublemaker: I read three memoirs this year. Two were terrific and one was just okay. Troublemaker? I loved this book. You have got to have mad respect for a person who puts their shit out there for everyone to read, who doesn't try to whitewash themselves to look better or more palatable, and that's exactly what Leah does in this book. We get her story, the good, the bad, and the ugly, and it's up to the reader to take her as she is or not. Personally, I'll take her. She's hilarious, smart, loyal, and kind and always trying to be a better person, not just put on a better facade. We may not all be everyone's cup of tea, but I love a person who tells it exactly like it is, who pulls no punches and isn't afraid to be completely honest at all times, even if that means telling someone to their face that they're an asshole. Sometimes people are assholes. Deal with it. And now I want to rewatch the entire run of King Of Queens. Does Netflix have that?

The Paper Swan: The rest of this list is pretty much the order in which I read these books, but I needed to save The Paper Swan for last because it is, far and away, my favorite book of 2015, so I saved it for last. This is the one I would like to buy for every single reader in my life, the book that I would like for each and every Saucy Reader to give a try. I feel like I talk about it constantly, like when I reviewed it right away. I know that I badgered Zee every day for a good two months to read this book. Because it wrecked me, made me see the world differently, made me empathize with a character I might not normally. It was brilliantly structured with gorgeous prose, stunning settings, characters that made my heart weep and soar in equal parts, and chock full of life lessons that I hope I carry with me forever. The Paper Swan is a glorious book that I hope everyone will add to their TBR, and then tell me that you loved it, too.


  1. Thank you for this list! I think I just found my reading material for the next month while I am on vacation from college.

    1. I'm so glad my list helped! Happy reading!

  2. Great post Barbara. I so need to read Gone Girl!


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