Monday, December 21, 2015

The Wenches' Best Not-2015 Reads



The Wenches read so many wonderful books this year that we needed to break our list into two parts! This part one covers the outstanding books we read that weren't published in 2015, although we read them all this year for the first time. It's a lovely variety of books, from sci-fi to contemporary romance to psychological thriller to historical drama. We may be late to the party with some of our picks, but we come with enthusiasm. And snacks. Probably wine, too. Enjoy!



The Martian (2014)


If I were forced to choose the best book I read all year, I think The Martian would be it. As with a lot of the books I read, it came highly recommended by my dad and my sister. They almost never steer me wrong. So, I decided to give it a listen. The Martian is about astronaut Mark Watney. Mark is part of a six man team on a 31 day mission to Mars. On day 6 of their expedition, they are told to evacuate and head home because of a massive sandstorm that could potentially destroy their living quarters and tip their ship over. In the process of their evacuation, Mark is knocked unconscious and his space suit compromised, giving his shipmates the impression that he is dead. So, Mark wakes up alone on Mars. In short, I LOVE THIS BOOK. I loved it so much I reviewed it. The book takes us through Mark's efforts to survive on a desolate planet and NASA's efforts to get him back safely. The movie adaptation of this came out this year, starring Matt Damon as our courageous hero. This book will not disappoint, no matter who you are. It's smart, but accessible to the common man. The cast is diverse and hilarious. Then, there's Mark. Our hero, Mark Watney, is the new book boyfriend that I never knew I wanted. He's wicked smart (which in my head is said in a Boston accent). He's snarky, hilarious, and bluntly honest. He uses his massive intellect and a little bit of ingenuity to survive against all odds. I promise you won't be disappointed if you take the time to read or listen to this book. I've listened to it three times in six months. I've recommended this to so many people, several Wenches included, and, to a man (or woman), they have all loved it. ~~Anne

Gone Girl (2012)


Gone Girl is a roller coaster ride that you will not put down! is about some of the craziest shit you’ve ever seen in a marriage. It takes a while to figure things out, and then when you think it’s going to end one way…well, the characters surprise you! To sum it up, the wife goes missing, and a lot of signs point to the husband. But he seems like such a nice guy! I really can't say any more because this a story that you don't even want a hint of a spoiler. Even though there is a movie, this one is worth the read! Many Wenches read this book, and everyone who read it loved it. Even if we felt a little dirty at the end.  ~~Amanda


Stone Cold (2014)


Stone Cold (Broken Magic #2) by Devon Monk was one of my favourite reads of 2015. I think I just love anything I've read written by Monk. Once again her world building is wonderful and what drew me into this book was Shame and Terric. Shame, the holder of Death magic, and Terric, the holder of Life Magic. In this world, already created by the Allie Beckstrom books, they are Soul Complements. Hence, together they are incredibly powerful. That isn't to say they aren't powerful in their own right. They are. The books are narrated by Shame and we get to see how much Death is always just shimmering there below the surface. The book is action packed and the conclusion is very satisfying. I kind of adore the ending. Just remember, when you are Death magic, it's darn hard to have a hot cup of coffee! ~~Angela


House Immortal (2014)


Sometimes you read a book with absolutely no expectations and are so happy at how wonderful it turns out to be.  House Immortal (House Immortal #1) by Devon Monk is one of those books. Two of my wonderful bookie friends had read this book and their awesome reviews meant I had to read it. I was so glad I did. Matilda Case was everything a heroine should be in urban fantasy / sci fi. She can kick ass. Knows how to kill things and due to some alterations that have been made to her, she is about to become a target for a World that is no longer ruled by Governments. It is a World ruled by Corporations. The Corporations are all under House Colours. House Grey through to Brown and each House controls a different aspect of humanity. From agriculture to human resources. Unless you are House Brown, who just want to stay under the radar. It's a world very different to our own, and yet still recognisable as Earth. The alterations which have been made to Matilda will make her a very valuable commodity in the battle to come. Again Monk's wonderful world building drew me in. ~~Angela


Bring Up the Bodies (2012)


Bring Up the Bodies is the second Mann Booker Prize-winning book in Hilary Mantel’s Thomas Cromwell Trilogy, which presents events in Henry VIII’s court through the eyes of his Master Secretary, Thomas Cromwell. We think of Cromwell as ruthless and evil, because it was his job to make Henry’s dreams come true, such as assuming control of the Church and acquiring new wives. But this book portrays a relatable human being who is also a complex, brilliant, and contemplative politician. The previous book in the trilogy, Wolf Hall, covered a lot of history and was hard for me to read because of an ambiguity in the narrator’s voice. Bring Up the Bodies is much easier to read and covers only about 9 months that many of us are familiar with: Henry’s first wife Katherine of Aragon dies, Queen Anne Boleyn miscarries her male child, and Henry decides he deserves yet another Queen. We see how Thomas Cromwell orchestrates these events, which appear fresh (if not completely different!) from what we’ve seen and read in other historical dramas. Mantel’s ability to bring this heretofore obscure person to life, her stellar storytelling chops, and her vivid prose make this book a true work of art. Mantel is currently working on the final book, The Mirror and the Light, with no release date announced yet. In the meantime, I highly recommend the BBC television series Wolf Hall, based on the first two books in the trilogy. ~~Kathi


Outlander (1991)


This year, the other Wenches finally wore me down and I started listening to the Outlander series on my commute. I don't know why I waited so long! These books are incredible. I'm only through book #4, and I can't wait to get through the rest of the series. Starting with the first book, and continuing through the series, Diana Gabaldon weaves such an intricate and complex world, you can't help but be drawn into it. The first book, Outlander, is a fantastic read, even if you don't continue with the rest of the series. Claire is a British nurse vacationing with her husband in post WWII Scotland, when she becomes an accidental time traveler sent back to 1745 Scotland. There, she encounters Jamie Fraser and his clan. The first book, and the rest of the series, follow Jamie and Claire's lives and adventures. The series has such a great, strong woman in Claire. She's all you could want in a heroine. And, James Alexander Malcolm MacKenzie Fraser is a book boyfriend force to be reckoned with. He's just the right mixture of alpha manliness and sensitive man. The minor characters are well developed and the events of the novel are woven seamlessly into actual historical events. The book, and the series as a whole, can be a little bit verbose. But, if you like romance, adventure, or history, this book and this series is for you! Though, reader beware, these books are not short and they WILL catch you in their spell and force you into reading all eight volumes. Don't worry. Jamie and Claire's story is absolutely worth it. ~~Anne

Ugly Love (2104)


Sometimes you read a book that is so great, that touches you so deeply that you want everyone else to read it, to love it, too. Ugly Love was such a book for me. As I told you in the review I wrote right away (!) I devoured Ugly Love in less than twenty-four hours, and at the end of those hours I was a sobbing, weepy, satisfied mess. I loved this book so much that I went on to read two more Colleen Hoover books right away, I bought the e-book for myself and a paper copy for my mom and favorite cousin to read. I've not been a huge fan of contemporary romance, but after Ugly Love showed me that the genre can contain so much more than typical romance tropes, I have read over 30 contemporary romances since. Ugly Love is a wonderful book, frustrating, heartbreaking, sexy-as-hell, and ultimately beautiful. I loved this book and hope that Colleen Hoover gets inspired to write more adult contemporary romance, because she's brilliant at it. Until then, I'm grateful to have been given a getaway to the genre that filled my summer with amazing stories. ~~Barb

Love Me With Lies (2011-2013)


A year ago Wench Olga read this trilogy of books, loved them, rated them very highly on Goodreads. I noticed, but didn't really think much of it since "I don't read contemporary romance." A year later I had devoured Ugly Love, Ricochet, and The Paper Swan, had read several lackluster contemporary romances and wanted something else great, so I decided to try Olga's recommendation of Love Me With Lies by Tarryn Fisher. When I told her, she was ecstatic. After I read the first one, The Opportunist, I wasn't sure I was sold. But I persevered into Dirty Red which was appallingly hilarious; not in a comedy kind of way but in that the "protagonist" was an absolutely vile human being who had no idea how despicable she was. I was so hooked on this trio's dysfunctional tale that I needed to read Caleb's point-of-view, certain that he was going to be just as awful a person as the ladies. But he wasn't. He was spectacular and it turns out that Olivia was, too, she was just her own worst critic. This was one of those tales where you get it all from one person's perspective, think you know exactly what's going on, then see through someone else's eyes and everything changes. It was wonderful. And heartbreaking. With plenty of twists and turns, joy and sorrow, ups and downs, Love Me With Lies was an utterly riveting series that I'm glad I read. ~~Barb


Maplecroft (2014)


This was easily one of the best contemporary books I've come across in ages (which I told you about here) because it is so different from stuff usually recommended to me. Maplecroft is a well paced Lovecraftian nightmare with a compelling lead and a wonderful array of diverse characters. I'm a sucker for epistolary novels, and I thought this was exceptionally well done. Those first few chapters will suck you right in. The creepy, inhuman Mrs. Borden banging herself against the Doctor's door in the middle of the night, her almost translucent, pale gray skin hard to ignore. Emma calling Lizzie out from her basement lab because "something is here!" and trying to get in. Trust me, it's a classic horror read! Every narrator's story connects to one another seamlessly and it all leads to a final showdown that might raise more than a few hairs at the back of your neck. And make you pause the next time you have to plan a trip to the beach. A must read for horror fans, and something I would definitely recommend to people who want to try the genre! The sequel, Chapelwood, was released in 2015 and is also absolutely riveting! ~~Zee

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