Thursday, January 14, 2016

My Favorite Reads of 2015 #amreading #mustread #books

I began this blog in 2012, shortly after my first novel, SILVER LAKE, released.  Since then, I've done an annual January post highlighting my favorite reads of each year.  While some writers get so busy they find themselves with little time to read, that is not a situation I can handle for long. Yes, my reading slowed in the early months of 2015, as I buckled down to finish HAUNTED SOULS. But reading is my passion, my stress relief, my favorite past-time.  I simply can't sleep until I've done some reading, and any free time I have is eagerly devoted to whatever book or books I'm enjoying.

Of course, my absolute favorite thing to read (and write) is a combination of tension-filled romance mixed with a haunting mystery.  But that's not the easiest thing to find, which is one of the reasons my imagination began creating stories of this genre mix--so I could get my fill!  But I enjoy reading all genres, and I often leave my own genre out of the list in order to focus on others.

So along with links for 2012, 2013, and 2014 favorite reads, I'll give some brief thoughts on the books that stood out on my Goodreads list this year.

Historical Fiction: Belle Cora by Phillip Margulies

I can't believe more people don't know about this book - I thought it was fantastic.  I'd never heard of it, either, so I found it by chance--I happened to walk by it propped up on a shelf as a recommendation at the library.  The cover grabbed my attention and the blurb did the rest.  This is the story of Arabella Godwin, a/k/a Belle Cora, a good girl who, through a series of misfortunes, falls from grace.  Set in the 1800s and loosely based on the life of a real madam, this book has everything: history, romance, secrets, suspense, betrayal, triumph, and tragedy.  It is long, which only makes it more epic in scope...I felt like I knew Belle intimately by the end.  And the research and attention to historical detail is evident throughout.  I learned quite a bit in the best way possible--immersed in an unputdownable book.  My #1 favorite read of the year.

Historical Fiction: Safekeeping by Jessamyn Hope

Yes, another historical fiction made my list.  I saw this book in the free monthly BookPage magazine made available from my library. The blurb sounded fascinating so I gave it a try, and I'm really glad I did.  The story actually spans several centuries, linked together by an ancient brooch, although mostly we flip between 1994 and the end of WWII.  The main setting is a kibbutz in Israel, and learning about this type of community was fascinating.  Again, this book touched on a lot of elements beyond history: love, loss, hope, loyalty, and struggle.  I was hooked by page one.  I really, really enjoyed this book...a great, original story with realistically flawed characters dealing with solid conflict.

Suspense: Black-Eyed Susans by Julia Heaberlin

This was another pick from the monthly BookPage magazine at my library (I'm at the library a lot). First off, this book is a bit dark, but I enjoy that type of thing, and for me, this was a page-turner through-and-through.  The main character is the one "lucky" victim who survived a serial killer. With no memory of the events that led to her waking in a grave with the bones of the other "Black-Eyed Susans", she testifies as a child under pressure to convict the killer for the woman who no longer have voices.  But two decades later, with the murderer's execution looming, she has reason to believe she may have helped convict the wrong man.  If you like dark psychological suspense in the same vein as Gone Girl and Girl on A Train, give it a try.

Horror: Bird Box by Josh Malerman

I wanted a good horror book for Halloween, and this came recommended from a friend.  I'd call this horror mixed with psychological suspense, a thrilling combination that had me turning the pages to see what happened next.  A fresh twist on a post-apocalyptic theme that taps into a very primal fear...I think fans of The Walking Dead and/or Stephen King would enjoy this read.

NonFiction: On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King

Speaking of Stephen King...Okay, I admit, reading nonfiction is not a preference for me.  So despite being a lifetime Stephen King fan, I just read this in 2015, along with some other books on writing, as additional preparation to teach my own Fiction Writing and Publication class. Although at this point some of the querying information is dated, the good advice offered on writing still holds true.  And I really enjoyed the sections on King's early years that made an impact on the person and author he is today.  Plus, it's all delivered in Stephen King's captivating voice, which could probably make a grocery list interesting.  Excellent reading for both SK fans and writers.

So there you have it--my favorite picks from last year.  What were your favorite reads of 2015?

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