Wednesday, December 23, 2015

The Wenches' Best 2015 Reads



Welcome to the second part of our Best Of 2015! The books featured in this list were not only read in 2015, but actually published in 2015 as well. It was a very good year to be a book-loving Wench. From memoirs to historical dramas, from dark romance to steampunk, and from series beginnings to series ends authors gave us a whole lot of amazing reads to keep our lists full and our Wenchy minds occupied and satisfied.







Career of Evil

Career of Evil (Cormoran Strike #3) by Robert Galbraith, aka J.K. Rowling, is one of my favorite new releases of 2015. I am a huge fan of JKR because of her character development, tightly woven plots and mastery of setting. Career of Evil is the best in the Cormoran Strike mystery series thus far. Strike and his able assistant/partner, Robin Ellacourt, must race against time to stop a serial killer. JKR takes us inside the mind of the killer, a chilling and evil character. There are enough suspects to keep us from uncovering his identity, with each more unsavoury than the last. There are several storylines going on concurrently, including Robin’s shaky relationship with her jealous fiance. This case is personal for Strike for several reasons: the killer has intimate knowledge of Strike’s mother and her untimely death, and Robin has been targeted as the next victim. I enjoyed this book from start to finish. It’s one of the only novels I’ve read all year that I literally couldn’t put down. ~~Donna 


The Paper Swan

I've gushed about this one a lot. Easily my favorite book of the year. I reviewed it here. I bought it for myself, my soul sister, Zee, my work friend, and my mom. For me, buying multiple copies of a book is its own testament to how much I love it. The Paper Swan is beautifully constructed, the prose is stunning, the characters, especially Esteban, make my heart weep. I still cannot believe that this is only the second book that Leylah Attar has published. When I finished The Paper Swan I wanted to read everything this author has ever written, but her list is short. This was the kind of book that still slips into my mind at random moments, months after I read it. It has changed how I see the world. Just writing about it now makes me want to read it again, to slip into the minds and settings of the characters, to experience their saga again. ~~Barb


Fat Girl Walking: Sex, Food, Love, and Being Comfortable in Your Own Skin Every Inch of It

One day, I got an email from Head Wench Barb with a link to this book and a note saying I needed to drop what I was reading and read this immediately. So, I did. And, as dramatic as it sounds, my life changed a little bit. Fat Girl Walking is just that kind of book. As its author, Brittany Gibbons, says in the blurb, it's a conversation starter. A conversation we all should be having as a society about the stigma of being overweight and the unrealistic expectations we are placing on and expecting of women. I don't want to get started on a rant again. So, read my review if you want to hear a little more about this part of the book. The actual plot of the book revolves around Brittany's life growing up overweight. She takes us from childhood to adulthood, telling us hilarious stories and poignant tales as she goes. Brittany also discusses relationships, sex, marriage, anxiety, depression, and eating disorders. She tackles very hard subject matter with grace and humor. I loved this book so much I just sent the info to my mother-in-law and sister-in-law. I think that everyone should read this, male, female, skinny, fat, confident, or self-deprecating. We all need to get a new perspective on the way our society views women and this book provides it. ~~Anne


Ricochet

This year I discovered a sub-genre called Dark Romance, which is pretty much just what it sounds like: dark and disturbing themes with a central romance tying the story together. When I stumbled across the amazing cover for Ricochet, which kept popping up in my recommendations, I wasn't sure that Dark Romance would be my thing but I ended up not only adoring this book (which I told you about in my review), but seeking out this type of book for many weeks after. Ricochet is the darkest of the Dark Romances I read, the most graphic and brutal. But the central love story is absolutely stunning in its beauty in the midst of such ugliness. If you can handle the graphic violence when you know that it will be balanced with beautiful language and inspiring love, then I highly recommend Ricochet. A gripping story, Detroit as a character in itself, two fantastic heroes who fix the broken parts of each other, beautiful prose tempered with awful acts, and plenty of amazing quotes, I will carry this book with me for a long time and I'm so glad I judged the book by it's great cover! ~~Barb


Serving Pleasure

Alisha Rai is my absolute favorite discovery of 2015. I mean it. I started telling you about my Alisha Rai love here. She gave me Akira and Jacob. She gave me wonderful diversity in my reading life, that made me want to look for MORE. She gave me SMOKING hot sex scenes. She is responsible for so many cold showers and chocolate binges. She gave me her amazing twitter feed, which is a combo of smart, witty, and all around amazing. And best of all, she gave me Rana and Micah in Serving Pleasure. If you're looking for the perfect erotica romance, look no further. Rana is one of my favorite female leads ever, she's amazing, she's sexy, she's smart, she's capable, she's loyal, and oh so human. And Micah is a dream come true. Tall, dark, handsome, not overly broody, smart, appreciates Rana EXACTLY how she is, and gorgeous to boot. Honestly, it's a match made in heaven. You will not regret reading their wonderful story. It's honest, it's real, it's mature, and totally worth it! Just... do yourselves a favor and add Alisha Rai to your reading lists. ~~Zee


A Desperate Fortune

I loved A Desperate Fortune by Susanna Kearsley so much, I bought the ebook and then proceeded to show up at her book signing, which I told you about here, and buy a signed hard copy. I never do that. Well, I did that once before (for Diana Gabaldon). Susanna Kearsley is my favorite new-to-me author of 2015. A Desperate Fortune is a story within a story. The modern day heroine is a lead character like none other I’ve read – Sara Thomas is a high-intelligent computer programmer who has just quit her job because she doesn’t want to work as part of a team. She suffers from Asperger’s Syndrome (AS), which causes her to have difficulties with social interactions. She prefers to work by herself in a quiet setting. She travels to France, after accepting a position to decipher and translate a three-hundred year-old-diary. Her challenges with AS are demonstrated in the book, along with her unique talents and gifts. She has a remarkable ability to intensely focus on the task at hand, which is key to breaking the code and solving the mystery. After Sara discovers the cipher and begins to translate the book, she gets to know Mary Dundas, the author of the diary. Mary has spent the past several years with her aunt and uncle, having been left by her father after the death of her mother. She is overjoyed when her older brother arrives to collect her, but rather than bring her home, he asks for her help and she travels to Paris to pose as the sister of a wanted man in hiding. To survive, Mary must trade her naivete for guile and rely on her innate intelligence and wit. After their ruse is discovered, they go on the run with an elderly maid and a mysterious, stoic Highlander. A Desperate Fortune goes both and forth from the present to the past seamlessly. Mary’s challenges include abandonment and disappointment, yet she doesn’t let it lead to bitterness. She is surprisingly resourceful, and her storytelling talents while on the road are a delight to her listeners and the reader alike. She does not complain about the long, hard ordeal, and the severe Hugh MacPherson grows to admire and love her. Sara feels isolated and awkward in social situations but finds acceptance and love with Luc Sabran and his son, Noah. These women share a common theme - the search for home and a sense of belonging. I enjoyed both storylines immensely and am hard pressed to choose which is my favorite. I highly recommend A Desperate Fortune, as well as any of her other books I picked up at that book signing , The Rose Garden and The Firebird. Susanna Kearsley is a delight. ~~Donna


The Diabolical Miss Hyde

I cannot thank the universe enough for leading me to Viola Carr's The Diabolical Miss Hyde. I mean, if you had told me I would be this into a steampunk twist on the classic tale of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, I would have rolled my eyes and said "I don't do retellings. Sorry." I can be a book snob like that, but I am so glad I gave this a go because I absolutely love it. It's a dark, compelling read. And an addictive cocktail of all my favorite things, fascinating murder mystery where you're part of Eliza's investigative process and steampunk technology. Dark and mysterious characters you desperately want to learn more about, no matter what. The forbidden lure of the unknown. It's just such a great read that I reviewed here. You'll want to get on this asap. Trust me, you want to meet Eliza, and Lizzie. And to somehow decipher their weird dynamics. The dashing Captain Lafayette and the secret he's hiding. And the magnetic, mesmerizing, and morbidly romantic Malachi Todd, and feel guilty about wanting more page time for him and Eliza. And it will be just the first step into Viola Carr's steampunk London. The second book, The Devious Dr. Jekyll was also published this year! And promises to be as riveting, if not more so, than the first! ~~Zee


The Veil

This year, we were blessed with not only a new Chicagoland Vampires novel, but the first book in a brand new series from our beloved Chloe Neill. The Veil takes place in post-apocalyptic New Orleans. The veil between our world and the magical world was breached. There was a war between humans and paranormals. Now, the veil is repaired and the paranormals are confined to Devil's Isle. Our heroine, Claire, is in a delicate position. She's a sensitive, which means she has magic of her own. And, she's revealed herself to Liam, a paranormal bounty hunter. But, against all odds, she finds herself teaming up with other sensitives and paranormals in an attempt to save the world... Again. And, for us readers, once again, Chloe Neill does not disappoint, as we told you in our review here. This new New Orleans is well developed and fascinating. Claire is just as lovable and relatable as Merit. Liam is intriguing. The story was engaging and intricate. I can't wait to see where this series is going. I really hope it is given a chance to grow beyond the three books that are contracted. ~~Anne


Crash & Burn

God, it's like the end of an era. It IS the end of an era - I just happened into it very late. The problem with Totes The Best Book EVAR!!! and series-writing is that each book builds on the books prior, which makes them all wonderful, but also makes solo-reviewing them an absolute mess. How do you cover the ending of a wonderful series without mentioning the Mama-Drama in book 6, or the black-ops from 5? Or even the interconnections of the force behind misery in book 1, drug running in book 6 (with wicked foreshadowing in book 5!!), near mass murder in 7, and executions in 8 that are brought to the fore for this, Crash and Burn, book 9 in series? The simple, quick blurb approach says, "this was a great book. It tied up loose ends, gave a solid ending-that-may-be-a-beginning, and was fairly non-stop from beginning to end." But that doesn't come close. This book ripped my heart out. Twice - NO! Three times!! - then danced on it. It was wonderful, wrenching, agonizing, jaw-dropping, incredible. There were things missed - like "why" and "how did he justify this?!?" and "dear GOD, I hope we get the Mara/Beverly meet-up as an outtake someday," but they're all of the 'wanting more' variety - and require an omniscience the series narration has never provided. This is a series I read, and reread, and always find something new. Always love it. Every time. And it's finale was not just an ending, but in true Ty and Zane style, it was a knock-down, drag-out brawl of a finish, leaving no one unscathed in its path. It. Was. Perfection. ~~Care


Burned

Have you ever been enslaved by a book? Completely enraptured by the world an author painstakingly constructed brick by brick? A world that beckons to you even when you're living your day to day life, doing mundane things like laundry, groceries, work. Where a part of you just can't let go of the world and characters, and it's forever hooked it's talons into your mind and will never let go? This is one of those books. Brilliant. Perfect. EPIC. So good I want to cry with joy. And all the other emotions it evoked. So deep, Mac and Barrons made my heart ache AGAIN!! And I thought I had seen and felt it all with those two!! I can't think of anything KMM could have done better. Ms. Moning managed to hit us over the head with a whole new level of Mac and Barrons' brilliance. And we're still seeing stars. When she changed the "Dani O'Malley Trilogy" to the rest of the series just being a continuation of the Fever series, she made the right call. This part of the story needed to be told in Mac's voice. We waited nearly 2 and a half years for Burned. And as you can tell from the Wenches' review here, and spoilery discussion here, it was SO worth it. But more than them, Ryodan, Lor, Christian, Dani, Jada... everything was amazing. You'll feel things for characters in ways you hadn't before, and you'll see some in a new light... a dazzling new light in some cases. You'll begin to understand just how vast and vibrant the Feververse is... and you'll love it. And if you come away a little disoriented, and with a feeling of intense awe and amazement for everything Moning has created... trust me, you're not alone. Join the club. Definitely one of the best reads of 2015, if not ever. ~~Amanda 


Priest

Priest is something I came across entirely by accident. And I didn't expect it to be very good. But I had to give it a try. I was not disappointed, as I told you about in my review. The smut is off-the-charts amazing. Some of the best I've ever read. But more than that, it's a great lesson in not judging characters in books based on your own experiences with whatever the book has to do with. It's pretty easy to be judgy about Catholic priests when you think about a lot of people's negative experiences with them, but the whole point of reading is to see through someone else's eyes. And someone else's worldview. Not your own. For example, Megan Hart has always been AMAZING for that, I've seen through the eyes of a cheater... and understood. Through someone who self sabotages. And understood. And so many more things I cannot relate to in any way in real life. Sierra Simone's Priest showed me things through the eyes of someone experiencing a genuine and fascinating spiritual conflict. A crisis of faith that couldn't be dealt with in just a couple of chapters. And I loved it. Come for the hot Priest (hehe), stay for the toe curling sex, and appreciate the book for a great story of internal conflict, of love, of faith, and more than everything, personal growth and of coming to terms with the fact that we all don't love the same, and we don't have faith the same way. And that at the end of the day, it doesn't really matter as long as you're at peace with where you are, who you are, and who you chose to have by your side. ~~Zee

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