My favourite books of 2015

In 2014, I read 139 books. These were my favourite. So far in 2015 I’ve read 158. I’m doing pretty well!

As with the books I most want to read in 2016, none of these are by people I know personally, because I don’t think that’s fair (how would you know whether I’m just saying it because I like them?)


10) Texts from Jane Eyre: And Other Conversations with Your Favorite Literary Characters by Mallory Ortberg

20695981Hilariously imagined text conversations—the passive aggressive, the clever, and the strange—from classic and modern literary figures, from Scarlett O’Hara to Jessica Wakefield.

Mallory Ortberg, the co-creator of the cult-favorite website The Toast, presents this whimsical collection of hysterical text conversations from your favorite literary characters. Everyone knows that if Scarlett O’Hara had an unlimited text-and-data plan, she’d constantly try to tempt Ashley away from Melanie with suggestive messages. If Mr. Rochester could text Jane Eyre, his ardent missives would obviously be in all-caps. And Daisy Buchanan would not only text while driving, she’d text you to pick her up after she totaled her car. Based on the popular web-feature, Texts from Jane Eyre is a witty, irreverent mashup that brings the characters from your favorite books into the twenty-first century.

I love (LOVE) Mallory’s website The Toast (and I wrote an article for them here!) so I knew I’d like her novelised series of Classics in text format. I laughed at almost every page and it’s a great one to dip in and out of.

9) Bone Gap by Laura Ruby

18806240Everyone knows Bone Gap is full of gaps—gaps to trip you up, gaps to slide through so you can disappear forever. So when young, beautiful Roza went missing, the people of Bone Gap weren’t surprised. After all, it wasn’t the first time that someone had slipped away and left Finn and Sean O’Sullivan on their own. Just a few years before, their mother had high-tailed it to Oregon for a brand new guy, a brand new life. That’s just how things go, the people said. Who are you going to blame?

Finn knows that’s not what happened with Roza. He knows she was kidnapped, ripped from the cornfields by a dangerous man whose face he cannot remember. But the searches turned up nothing, and no one believes him anymore. Not even Sean, who has more reason to find Roza than anyone, and every reason to blame Finn for letting her go.

As we follow the stories of Finn, Roza, and the people of Bone Gap—their melancholy pasts, their terrifying presents, their uncertain futures—acclaimed author Laura Ruby weaves a heartbreaking tale of love and loss, magic and mystery, regret and forgiveness—a story about how the face the world sees is never the sum of who we are.

More than anything, I love the aesthetic of this book. The cover! The magical realism! The TITLE! It’s just My Thing in every way, and I loved it before I’d even read it. It absolutely lived up to that potential, and it’s one I know I’ll reread.

8) Monsters by Emerald Fennell

25399706 (1)A blackly comic tale about two children you would never want to meet.

Set in the Cornish town of Fowey, all is not as idyllic as the beautiful seaside town might seem. The body of a young woman is discovered in the nets of a fishing boat. It is established that the woman was murdered. Most are shocked and horrified. But there is somebody who is not – a twelve-year-old girl. She is delighted; she loves murders. Soon she is questioning the inhabitants of the town in her own personal investigation. But it is a bit boring on her own. Then Miles Giffard, a similarly odd twelve-year-old boy, arrives in Fowey with his mother, and they start investigating together. Oh, and also playing games that re-enact the murders. Just for fun, you understand…

A book about two twelve-year-olds that is definitely not for kids.

This satirical middle grade novel is intensely dark and horrifying in the funniest way, and the ending genuinely shocked me.

7) A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

23403402Kell is one of the last Travelers—rare magicians who choose a parallel universe to visit.

Grey London is dirty, boring, lacks magic, ruled by mad King George. Red London is where life and magic are revered, and the Maresh Dynasty presides over a flourishing empire. White London is ruled by whoever has murdered their way to the throne. People fight to control magic, and the magic fights back, draining the city to its very bones. Once there was Black London – but no one speaks of that now.

Officially, Kell is the Red Traveler, personal ambassador and adopted Prince of Red London, carrying the monthly correspondences between royals of each London. Unofficially, Kell smuggles for those willing to pay for even a glimpse of a world they’ll never see. This dangerous hobby sets him up for accidental treason. Fleeing into Grey London, Kell runs afoul of Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She robs him, saves him from a dangerous enemy, then forces him to another world for her ‘proper adventure’.

But perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, Kell and Lila will first need to stay alive — trickier than they hoped.

I don’t read much fantasy, but this one has a great but simple concept, with excellent larger-than-life characters. It’s a world with the potential to tell lots of different stories, and I can’t wait to see where Schwab takes it next.

6) The Accident Season by Moïra Fowley-Doyle

23346358It’s the accident season, the same time every year. Bones break, skin tears, bruises bloom.

The accident season has been part of seventeen-year-old Cara’s life for as long as she can remember. Towards the end of October, foreshadowed by the deaths of many relatives before them, Cara’s family becomes inexplicably accident-prone. They banish knives to locked drawers, cover sharp table edges with padding, switch off electrical items – but injuries follow wherever they go, and the accident season becomes an ever-growing obsession and fear.

But why are they so cursed? And how can they break free?

I absolutely LOVE this. Brilliantly dreamlike, eerily magical, but completely real. I could read this book forever.

The hazy feeling running through the book makes the reality of the situation all the more shocking, especially as dreams and hallucinations are woven throughout so that you’re never quite sure what is real and what is fantasy.

I’ve never seen an author tell so much without explicitly telling anything at all- the way information is told through imagery is so clever.

5) The Royal We by Heather Cocks & Jessica Morgan

22875451“I might be Cinderella today, but I dread who they’ll think I am tomorrow. I guess it depends on what I do next.”

American Rebecca Porter was never one for fairy tales. Her twin sister, Lacey, has always been the romantic who fantasized about glamour and royalty, fame and fortune. Yet it’s Bex who seeks adventure at Oxford and finds herself living down the hall from Prince Nicholas, Great Britain’s future king. And when Bex can’t resist falling for Nick, the person behind the prince, it propels her into a world she did not expect to inhabit, under a spotlight she is not prepared to face.

Dating Nick immerses Bex in ritzy society, dazzling ski trips, and dinners at Kensington Palace with him and his charming, troublesome brother, Freddie. But the relationship also comes with unimaginable baggage: hysterical tabloids, Nick’s sparkling and far more suitable ex-girlfriends, and a royal family whose private life is much thornier and more tragic than anyone on the outside knows. The pressures are almost too much to bear, as Bex struggles to reconcile the man she loves with the monarch he’s fated to become.

Which is how she gets into trouble.

Now, on the eve of the wedding of the century, Bex is faced with whether everything she’s sacrificed for love-her career, her home, her family, maybe even herself-will have been for nothing.

I’m gonna cut to the chase here. Have you ever wanted to be Kate Middleton? Then this is the book for you. This is basically fanfiction about Will & Kate. And it’s the best kind of morally ambiguous fluff you could ever hope for.

It follows “Bex” and “Nick” from their meeting at university, through the next ten years to their eventual wedding day. It’s full of media scandals and blackmailing and old fashioned courting, and I would reread it asap if I didn’t have a tottering pile of books to be read giving me the evil eye.

4) The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins

23363928Carolyn’s not so different from the other human beings around her. She’s sure of it. She likes guacamole and cigarettes and steak. She knows how to use a phone. She even remembers what clothes are for.

After all, she was a normal American herself, once.

That was a long time ago, of course—before the time she calls “adoption day,” when she and a dozen other children found themselves being raised by a man they learned to call Father.

Father could do strange things. He could call light from darkness. Sometimes he raised the dead. And when he was disobeyed, the consequences were terrible.

In the years since Father took her in, Carolyn hasn’t gotten out much. Instead, she and her adopted siblings have been raised according to Father’s ancient Pelapi customs. They’ve studied the books in his library and learned some of the secrets behind his equally ancient power.

Sometimes, they’ve wondered if their cruel tutor might secretly be God.

Now, Father is missing. And if God truly is dead, the only thing that matters is who will inherit his library—and with it, power over all of creation.

As Carolyn gathers the tools she needs for the battle to come, fierce competitors for this prize align against her.

But Carolyn can win. She’s sure of it. What she doesn’t realize is that her victory may come at an unacceptable price—because in becoming a God, she’s forgotten a great deal about being human.

I only finished reading this this morning, so it’s extra special that it made it onto my list of 2015 reads. This is Sandman-esque in the best way, and I raced through it. Creepy and layered and brilliant.

3) Lumberjanes by Noelle Stevenson

22554204FRIENDSHIP TO THE MAX!

At Miss Qiunzilla Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet’s camp for hard-core lady-types, things are not what they seem. Three-eyed foxes. Secret caves. Anagrams. Luckily, Jo, April, Mal, Molly, and Ripley are five rad, butt-kicking best pals determined to have an awesome summer together… And they’re not gonna let a magical quest or an array of supernatural critters get in their way! The mystery keeps getting bigger, and it all begins here.

This is a super cute and whimsical comic about a group of girls at a camp where magical, evil things start happening. It’s very upbeat and modern and diverse and I’m in love in a big way. Volume 3 isn’t out until April and I’m SO READY.

2) The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage: The (Mostly) True Story of the First Computer by Sydney Padua

25492595A unique take on the unrealized invention of the computer in the 1830s by the eccentric polymath Charles Babbage and his accomplice, the daughter of Lord Byron, Ada, Countess of Lovelace. When Ada translated her friend Babbage’s plans for the “Difference Engine,” her lengthy footnotes contained the first appearance of the general computing theory—one hundred years before an actual computer was built. Sadly, Lovelace died of cancer a few years after publishing the paper, and Babbage never built any of his machines. But now Sydney Padua gives us an alternate reality in which Lovelace and Babbage do build the Difference Engine, and then use it to do battle with the American banking system, the publishing industry, their own fears that their project will lose funding, and a villainous street musician who will force the two friends to reevaluate their priorities—”for the sake of both London and science.”

Lovelace and Babbage have completely captured my heart. I can’t remember the last time I loved characters more. They have such a great male/female friendship, and they are both oddball and fun and I just – I love them so much. If I ever get access to a time machine, my new answer to what I would do with it is: GO AND HANG OUT WITH LOVELACE AND BABBAGE.

1) Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho

26033583.jpg

THE FATE OF ENGLISH MAGIC LIES IN THEIR HANDS…

In Regency London, Zacharias Wythe is England’s first African Sorcerer Royal. He leads the eminent Royal Society of Unnatural Philosophers, but a malicious faction seeks to remove him by fair means or foul. Meanwhile, the Society is failing its vital duty – to keep stable the levels of magic within His Majesty’s lands. The Fairy Court is blocking its supply, straining England’s dangerously declining magical stores. And now the government is demanding to use this scarce resource in its war with France.

Ambitious orphan Prunella Gentleman is desperate to escape the school where she’s drudged all her life, and a visit by the beleaguered Sorcerer Royal seems the perfect opportunity. For Prunella has just stumbled upon English magic’s greatest discovery in centuries – and she intends to make the most of it.

At his wits’ end, the last thing Zachariah needs is a female magical prodigy! But together, they might just change the nature of sorcery, in Britain and beyond.

I would like to marry this book. No, I’m not kidding. Someone go and find a Zacharias and/or Prunella for me, please. This is the perfect mix of the magical regency London of Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, Georgette Heyer’s shamelessly trope-filled romances, and the charm and relationship dynamics of Sabriel. The whole book make me squirm with delight – from the UNICORNS to GIANT FURIOUS MERMAIDS to the CLOUD FLYING. Just – I want to tell you about every scene, because every scene is a delight.


 

And my faves published before 2015:

Picture2

Sedition | The Sleeper and the SpindleThe Song of AchillesMurder Most UnladylikeThe Encyclopedia of Early EarthThe Raven BoysStation ElevenWe Have Always Lived in the Castle


In other news: I did an interview here for the 2015 Debut Author Bash, and a signed copy of The Next Together is available to win at the link.

The cover for my book is one of The Bookseller’s 2015 cover guessing quiz! There are some great choices there, including lots of YA, so see if you can guess the rest!

I wrote some short drabbles about Kate and Matt for a tumblr meme here.  Includes stake outs, pirates, street racers and more!

I went to Durham to visit Alice Oseman and took some selfies in the Waterstones with my book!

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