My Favorite Books of 2015

For personal reasons, 2015 was a
very rough year for me but, as
always, books were my salvation,
especially these…

The Deepest Dark#1.  The Deepest Dark by Joan Hall Hovey from Books We Love, July 2014

Following the deaths of her husband, Corey, and ten year old daughter Ellie in a traffic accident, author Abby Miller sinks ever deeper into depression. She contemplates suicide as a way to be with them, and to end her unrelenting pain. In a last desperate effort to find peace, she drives to Loon Lake where they last vacationed together, wanting to believe they will be waiting for her there. At least in spirit. Barring that, the pills Doctor Gregory gave her to help her sleep, are in her purse.

The cabin at Loon Lake was her and Corey’s secret hideaway, and not even Abby’s sister, Karen, to whom she is close, knows where it is. But someone else does. He is one of three men who have escaped from Pennington prison. They are dangerous predators who will stop at nothing to get what they want – and to keep from going back to prison. Having already committed the worst of crimes, they have nothing to lose.

Unknowingly, Abby is on a collision course with evil itself. And the decision of whether to live or die will soon be wrenched from her hands.

My review of The Deepest Dark

Not a Drop to Drink#2.  Not a Drop to Drink by Mindy McGinnis from Katherine Tegen Books, September 2013

Teenage Lynn has been taught to defend her pond against every threat: drought, a snowless winter, coyotes, and, most important, people looking for a drink. She makes sure anyone who comes near the pond leaves thirsty or doesn’t leave at all.

Confident in her own abilities, Lynn has no use for the world beyond the nearby fields and forest. But when strangers appear, the mysterious footprints by the pond, the nighttime threats, and the gunshots make it all too clear Lynn has exactly what they want, and they won’t stop until they get it. . . .

My review of Not a Drop to Drink

As Night Falls#3.  As Night Falls by Jenny Milchman from Ballantine Books, June 2015

Sandy Tremont has always tried to give her family everything. But, as the sky darkens over the Adirondacks and a heavy snowfall looms, an escaped murderer with the power to take it all away draws close.

In her isolated home in the shadowy woods, Sandy prepares dinner after a fight with her daughter, Ivy. Upstairs, the fifteen-year-old—smart, brave, and with every reason to be angry tonight—keeps her distance from her mother. Sandy’s husband, Ben, a wilderness guide, arrives late to find a home simmering with unease.

Nearby, two desperate men on the run make their way through the fading light, bloodstained and determined to leave no loose ends or witnesses. After almost twenty years as prison cellmates, they have become a deadly team: Harlan the muscle, Nick the mind and will. As they approach a secluded house and look through its windows to see a cozy domestic scene, Nick knows that here he will find what he’s looking for . . . before he disappears forever.

Opening the door to the Tremont home, Nick brings not only a legacy of terror but a secret that threatens to drag Sandy with him into the darkness.

My review of As Night Falls

A Deadly Affair at Bobtail Ridge#4.  A Deadly Affair at Bobtail Ridge by Terry Shames from Seventh Street Books, April 2015

In the course of their developing friendship, Samuel Craddock has learned to accept that his neighbor Jenny Sandstone’s personal life is strictly secret. But when her dying mother tells Craddock that Jenny is in danger, he is confronted with a dilemma. He wants to respect Jenny’s privacy, but he is haunted by the urgency in the dying woman’s voice.

When Jenny is the victim of a suspicious car accident, Craddock has no choice but to get involved. He demands that she tell him what he needs to know to protect her and to solve the mysteries surrounding the strange events that began taking place as soon as Jenny’s mother passed away.

Forced to confront the past, Jenny plunges into a downward spiral of rage and despair. She is drinking heavily and seems bent on self-destruction. Craddock must tread lightly as he tries to find out who is behind the threats to her. But only by getting to the bottom of the secrets buried in Jenny’s past can he hope to save her both from herself and from whoever is out to harm her.

My review of A Deadly Affair at Bobtail Ridge

Spectacle#5.  Spectacle by S.J. Pierce from S.J. Pierce, July 2015

Two hundred years after the Great Disaster, the day earthquakes ravaged Earth’s landscapes, humanity has finally regrouped and is working toward a better future. But in New America – one of three remaining landmasses – the threat of overpopulation makes a better future seem bleaker by the year.

Mira (Mirabella) Foster and her parents are citizens of New America, and with the threat of starvation and disease looming on the horizon, a new discovery threatens to push everyone to the brink of chaos: blue markings develop on people’s skin. Markings that allow them to camouflage their skin, but also make them feared, and eventually, targets of violence.

Mira’s dad is one of them.

My review of Spectacle

Maddie Hatter and the Deadly Diamond#6.  Maddie Hatter and the Deadly Diamond by Jayne Barnard from Tyche Books, September 2015

Miss Maddie Hatter, renegade daughter of a powerful Steamlord, is scraping a precarious living as a fashion reporter when the story of a lifetime falls into her lace-gloved hands.

Baron Bodmin, an adventurer with more failed quests than fingernails, has vanished in circumstances that are odd even for him.

While he is supposedly hunting the fabled Eye of Africa diamond in the Nubian desert, his expeditionary airship is found adrift off the coast of England. Maddie was the last reporter to see the potty peer alive. If she can locate the baron or the Eye of Africa, her career will be made.

Outraged investors and false friends complicate her quest, and a fiendish figure lurks in the shadows, ready to snatch the prize . . . at any price.

My review of Maddie Hatter and the Deadly Diamond

Home By Nightfall#7.  Home By Nightfall by Charles Finch from Minotaur Books, November 2015

It’s London in 1876, and the whole city is abuzz with the enigmatic disappearance of a famous foreign pianist. Lenox has an eye on the matter – as a partner in a now-thriving detective agency, he’s a natural choice to investigate. Just when he’s tempted to turn his focus to it entirely, however, his grieving brother asks him to come down to Sussex, and Lenox leaves the metropolis behind for the quieter country life of his boyhood. Or so he thinks. In fact, something strange is afoot in Markethouse: small thefts, books, blankets, animals, and more alarmingly a break-in at the house of a local insurance agent. As he and his brother investigate this small accumulation of mysteries, Lenox realizes that something very strange and serious indeed may be happening, more than just local mischief. Soon, he’s racing to solve two cases at once, one in London and one in the country, before either turns deadly.

My review of Home By Nightfall

Stillwater#8.  Stillwater by Melissa Lenhardt from Skyhorse Publishing, October 2015

Big secrets run deep.

Former FBI agent Jack McBride took the job as Chief of Police for Stillwater, Texas, to start a new life with his teenage son, Ethan, away from the suspicions that surrounded his wife’s disappearance a year earlier.

With a low crime rate and a five-man police force, he expected it to be a nice, easy gig; hot checks, traffic violations, some drugs, occasional domestic disturbances, and petty theft. Instead, within a week he is investigating a staged murder-suicide, uncovering a decades’ old skeleton buried in the woods, and managing the first crime wave in thirty years.

For help navigating his unfamiliar, small-town surroundings, Jack turns to Ellie Martin, one of the most respected women in town—her scandal-filled past notwithstanding. Despite Jack’s murky marriage status and the disapproval of Ethan and the town, they are immediately drawn to each other.

As Jack and Ellie struggle with their budding relationship, they unearth shattering secrets long buried and discover the two cases Jack is working, though fifty years apart, share a surprising connection that will rattle the town to its core.

My review of Stillwater

Flask of the Drunken Master#9.  Flask of the Drunken Master by Susan Spann from Minotaur Books, July 2015

August 1565: When a rival artisan turns up dead outside Ginjiro’s brewery, and all the evidence implicates the brewer, master ninja Hiro Hattori and Portuguese Jesuit Father Mateo must find the killer before the magistrate executes Ginjiro and seizes the brewery, leaving his wife and daughter destitute. A missing merchant, a vicious debt collector, and a female moneylender join Ginjiro and the victim’s spendthrift son on the suspect list. But with Kyoto on alert in the wake of the shogun’s recent death, a rival shinobi on the prowl, and samurai threatening Hiro and Father Mateo at every turn, Ginjiro’s life is not the only one in danger.

Will Hiro and Father Mateo unravel the clues in time to save Ginjiro’s life, or will the shadows gathering over Kyoto consume the detectives as well as the brewer?

My review of Flask of the Drunken Master

After the Storm#10. After the Storm by Linda Castillo from Minotaur Books, July 2015

When a tornado tears through Painters Mill and unearths human remains, Chief of Police Kate Burkholder finds herself tasked with the responsibility of identifying the bones–and notifying the family. Evidence quickly emerges that the death was no accident and Kate finds herself plunged into a thirty year old case that takes her deep into the Amish community to which she once belonged.

Meanwhile, turmoil of an emotional and personal nature strikes at the very heart of Kate’s budding relationship with state agent John Tomasetti. A reality that strains their fragile new love to the breaking point and threatens the refuge they’ve built for themselves–and their future.

Under siege from an unknown assailant–and her own personal demons–Kate digs deep into the case only to discover proof of an unimaginable atrocity, a plethora of family secrets and the lengths to which people will go to protect their own.

My review of After the Storm

Second Helpings at the Serve You Right Cafe#11. Second Helpings at the Serve You Right Café by Tilia Klebenov Jacobs from Linden Tree Press, April 2015

What if the world didn’t want you to go straight? Out on parole after almost ten years in prison, Emet First is repairing his shattered life. He has friends, a job, and his first date in a decade. The young woman, Mercedes Finch, is lovely but wounded. When her deranged brother learns about Emet’s past, he will stop at nothing to destroy him–and suddenly Emet has everything to lose.

My review of Second Helpings at the Serve You Right Café

One Year After#12. One Year After by William R. Forstchen from Forge, September 2015

The story picks up a year after One Second After ends, two years since the detonation of nuclear weapons above the United States brought America to its knees. After suffering starvation, war, and countless deaths, the survivors of Black Mountain, North Carolina, are beginning to piece back together the technologies they had once taken for granted: electricity, radio communications, and medications. They cling to the hope that a new national government is finally emerging.

Then comes word that most of the young men and women of the community are to be drafted into an “Army of National Recovery” and sent to trouble spots hundreds of miles away.

When town administrator John Matherson protests the draft, he’s offered a deal: leave Black Mountain and enter national service, and the draft will be reduced. But the brutal suppression of a neighboring community under its new federal administrator and the troops accompanying him suggests that all is not as it should be with this burgeoning government.

My review of One Year After

The Ark 2#13. The Ark by Patrick S. Tomlinson from Angry Robot, November 2015

Humankind has escaped a dying Earth and set out to find a new home among the stars aboard an immense generation spaceship, affectionately named the Ark. Bryan Benson is the Ark’s greatest living sports hero, enjoying retirement working as a detective in Avalon, his home module. The hours are good, the work is easy, and the perks can’t be beat.

But when a crew member goes missing, Benson is thrust into the centre of an ever-expanding web of deception, secrets, and violence that overturns everything he knows about living on the Ark and threatens everyone aboard. As the last remnants of humanity hurtle towards their salvation, Benson finds himself in a desperate race to unravel the conspiracy before a madman turns mankind’s home into its tomb.

My review of The Ark

Bones & All#14. Bones & All by Camille deAngelis from St. Martin’s Press, March 2015

Maren Yearly is a young woman who wants the same things we all do. She wants to be someone people admire and respect. She wants to be loved. But her secret, shameful needs have forced her into exile. She hates herself for the bad thing she does, for what it’s done to her family and her sense of identity; for how it dictates her place in the world and how people see her–how they judge her. She didn’t choose to be this way.

Because Maren Yearly doesn’t just break hearts, she devours them. Ever since her mother found Penny Wilson’s eardrum in her mouth when Maren was just two years old, she knew life would never be normal for either of them. Love may come in many shapes and sizes, but for Maren, it always ends the same–with her hiding the evidence and her mother packing up the car.

But when her mother abandons her the day after her sixteenth birthday, Maren goes looking for the father she has never known, and finds much more than she bargained for along the way.

Faced with a world of fellow eaters, potential enemies, and the prospect of love, Maren realizes she isn’t only looking for her father, she’s looking for herself.

My review of Bones & All

The Kizuna Coast#15. The Kizuna Coast by Sujata Massey from The Ikat Press, December 2014

When an earthquake triggers a tsunami that floods Japan’s northeast coast, amateur sleuth Rei Shimura is pushed into her most rugged adventure yet.

It starts with an SOS from Rei’s beloved elderly friend, the antiques dealer Mr. Ishida, who’s trapped among thousands on the ravaged Tohoku coast. Rei rushes from Hawaii to blacked-out Tokyo, where she discovers Ishida Antiques may have been burglarized and its cuddly watchdog, Hachiko, needs a caregiver.

Rei and Hachiko board a bus full of disaster volunteers headed to the damaged town of Sugihama. Once there, they learn about the disappearance during the tsunami of Mr. Ishida’s antiques apprentice, Mayumi, a troubled young woman from a famous lacquer-making family.

Making use of her volunteer friends, as well as her knowledge of Japanese manners and antiques, Rei investigates Mayumi’s suspicious disappearance. Complicating the situation is a police force overwhelmed by counting the dead, and a stalker who’s set his or her own sights on Rei.

My review of The Kizuna Coast

Doctor Death#16. Doctor Death by Lene Kaaberbøl from Atria Books, February 2015

Strong-minded and ambitious, Madeleine Karno is eager to shatter the constraints of her provincial French upbringing. She wants to become a pathologist like her father, whose assistant she is, but this is 1894, and autopsies are considered unseemly and ungodly, even when performed by a man—hence his odious nickname, Doctor Death. That a young woman should wish to spend her time dissecting corpses is too scandalous for words.

Thus, when seventeen-year-old Cecile Montaine is found dead in the snowy streets of Varbourg, her family will not permit a full post-mortem autopsy, and Madeleine and her father are left with a single mysterious clue: in the dead girl’s nostrils they find a type of parasite normally seen only in dogs. Soon after, the priest who held vigil by the dead girl’s corpse is brutally murdered. The thread that connects these two events is a tangled one, and as the death toll mounts, Madeleine must seek knowledge in odd places: behind convent walls, in secret diaries, and in the yellow stare of an aging wolf.

My review of Doctor Death

It's a Wonderful Death#17. It’s a Wonderful Death by Sarah J. Schmitt from Sky Pony Press, October 2015

Seventeen-year-old RJ always gets what she wants. So when her soul is accidentally collected by a distracted Grim Reaper, somebody in the afterlife better figure out a way to send her back from the dead or heads will roll. But in her quest for mortality, she becomes a pawn in a power struggle between an overzealous archangel and Death Himself. The tribunal presents her with two options: she can remain in the lobby, where souls wait to be processed, until her original lifeline expires, or she can replay three moments in her life in an effort to make choices that will result in a future deemed worthy of being saved. It sounds like a no-brainer. She’ll take a walk down memory lane. How hard can changing her future be?

But with each changing moment, RJ’s life begins to unravel, until this self-proclaimed queen bee is a social pariah. She begins to wonder if walking among the living is worth it if she has to spend the next sixty years as an outcast. Too quickly, RJ finds herself back in limbo, her time on Earth once again up for debate.

RJ is a snarky, unapologetic, almost unredeemable, very real girl. Her story is funny and moving, and teens will easily connect with her plight. Prepare to meet the Grim Reaper, who’s cuter than you’d expect; Hawaiian shirt–wearing Death Himself; Saint Peter (who likes to play Cornhole); and Al, the handler for the three-headed hound that guards the gates of Hell. This cast of characters accompanies RJ through her time in the afterlife and will do their best to gently shove her in the right direction.

My review of It’s a Wonderful Death

Death of a Dishonorable Gentleman#18. Death of a Dishonorable Gentleman by Tessa Arlen from Minotaur Books, January 2015

Lady Montfort has been planning her annual summer costume ball for months, and with scrupulous care. Pulling together the food, flowers and a thousand other details for one of the most significant social occasions of the year is her happily accepted responsibility. But when her husband’s degenerate nephew is found murdered, it’s more than the ball that is ruined. In fact, Lady Montfort fears that the official police enquiry, driven by petty snobbery and class prejudice, is pointing towards her son as a potential suspect.

Taking matters into her own hands, the rather over-imaginative countess enlists the help of her pragmatic housekeeper, Mrs. Jackson, to investigate the case, track down the women that vanished the night of the murder, and clear her son’s name. As the two women search for a runaway housemaid and a headstrong young woman, they unearth the hidden lives of Lady Montfort’s close friends, servants and family and discover the identity of a murderer hiding in plain sight.

My review of Death of a Dishonorable Gentleman

Watch the Shadows#19. Watch the Shadows by Robin Winter from White Whisker Books, April 2015

In the college town of Isla Vista, California, small, odd things start happening. Science-geek Nicole notes the crows are leaving.  Meg Burdigal can’t find her tabby cat, Schrand. Brian the postman feels uneasy at the rustlings, the shadows he’s seen at the edge of his vision on his delivery route in town. Now Nicole sees fewer and fewer homeless in the park. Using her knowledge of biology and forensics, Nicole searches for answers—but will anyone take the horror she finds seriously?

My review of Watch the Shadows

Aftermath#20. Aftermath by Tom Lewis from Tom Lewis, March 2015

Between the time the warning had sounded on the TV, till when 16-year-old Paige O’Connor awakened sometime later, civilization had been crushed.

The attacks had come by “them” – those things in the ships in the sky that had appeared suddenly, and without warning.

And as Paige would soon discover, the attacks had only been the beginning.

Aftermath is the first book in the new After the Fall dystopian action series, which follows a young girl’s struggle for survival in the post-apocalyptic wake of an alien invasion.

My review of Aftermath

Plus these two that didn’t make the numerical cut
but I’m including them because I love the series so much—

Amaranth's Return#21. Amaranth’s Return by Karyn Langhorne Folan from K Squared Books, December 2014

Rod Wasserman is dying of radiation poisoning. His last wish: to return to the Wasteland of Washington DC to see if there’s any hope that his mother has survived the nuclear blast.

Amaranth Jones has a wish, too: for the chance to redeem herself. To do that, she must leave Liam Harper and her friends at the Mountain Place and never return. When she discovers Rod packing to leave, she insists on joining him, whether he wants her company or not.

As they make their way back to ground zero, the two teens confront the horrors of their post-apocalyptic world. Food and water are scarce; nuclear winter has killed both plants and animals. Human life has little meaning and some desperate survivors have surrendered to the ultimate inhumanity: cannibalism. Threatened by weather, other survivors and their own demons, Amaranth and Rod must learn to trust each other if they have any hope of making it through hell and back. As Rod grows weaker, Amaranth is forced to make difficult choices to ensure their survival. How far will she go to help Rod achieve his last wish? And if they find Rod’s mother, can the three of them make it back to the Mountain Place alive?

My review of Amaranth’s Return

Amy's Gift#22. Amy’s Gift by Karyn Langhorne Folan from K Squared Books, April 2015

Amy Yamamoto was never exactly the “friendly” sort. Driven to be the best-the prettiest, the most popular and the most envied girl in school-Amy has lost everything she loved and believed in since the end of the world she once knew: her family, her friends and her connection to the people who understood her.

And now, after all of those other losses, she faces the end of the Doomsday Kids’ life at the Mountain Place as they embark on a journey of nearly a thousand miles in the hopes of reaching a survivors’ camp on the Gulf of Mexico. Can they reach it before their supplies run out? Can they avoid the evil bands roaring through deserted towns and cities and reach safety before it’s too late? And most of all, can Amy learn to trust the others enough to reveal her deepest secret? Is there room in a world full of death and destruction for hope, a new life and a new love?

My review of Amy’s Gift

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

So, what were some of your top reads in 2015?

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2 thoughts on “My Favorite Books of 2015

  1. Not a Drop to Drink by Mindy McGinnis sounds great! I have yet to read any by Linda Costillo, yet she’s been on my TBR a long time. I think I need to read several of her books this year. 🙂
    @dino0726 from 
    FictionZeal – Impartial, Straightforward Fiction Book Reviews

    Like

  2. Lelia; I am so sorry this has been a rough year, although I can empathize completely. I adore your list of books and have decided to keep this post to refer to in the future. I have read several very good books. Paula Hawkins’ Girl on a Train,’ Stedman’s The Light Between Oceans; Sandford’s Rules of Prey, Linda Castillo’s Pray for Silence: Sunny Fraizier’s Fools Rush In, and Where Angels Fear; Karin Slaughter’s Blindsighted; Sue Grarton’s T is for Trepass; Emma Kavnaugh’s Fallen, and several others that don’t pop immediately to mind. I hope this is a better year all around for all of us.

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