Top Ten Books of 2015

Before I get to my top books of the year, I must say that Designer Blogs has done it once again. With the start of the new year, I said goodbye to my holiday blog design and went with a new look for Team Skelley. If you are looking to freshen up your blog for 2016, I highly recommend Designer Blogs. They are affordable, easy to navigate and always on the cutting edge of what is new in the blogging world. I am in love with my new design.

I have been thinking about this post for weeks now, consulting my Goodreads account and ruminating on my favorite books of 2015. Not all of these were released in 2015, but they were all read this year and received five star ratings. To make it onto the list, the book had to fire on all cylinders: good writing, great characters and a story that resonates after the last page. They are in no particular order but I am naming the number one book as my favorite book of the year. Enough nattering, let's get to it!

10. Act Like It

Richard Troy used to be the hottest actor in London, but the only thing firing up lately is his temper. We all love to love a bad boy, but Richard's antics have made him Enemy Number One, breaking the hearts of fans across the city. Have the tides turned? Has English rose Lainie Graham made him into a new man? Sources say the mismatched pair has been spotted at multiple events, arm in arm and hip to hip. From fits of jealousy to longing looks and heated whispers, onlookers are stunned by this blooming romance. Could the rumors be right? Could this unlikely romance be the real thing? Or are these gifted stage actors playing us all?

This is so much funnier than it sounds. I adore British humor and found myself laughing out loud several times while reading.

9. King of Hearts

I used to rule the world.

There might be wolves on Wall Street, but there were crocodiles in Canary Wharf. Some of us craved money. Some of us craved power.

I liked money, and power had its advantages, but what I really wanted was to excel, to surpass the men who came before me. I never cared much for love and romance until I met Alexis.

I could feel it the very moment she walked into the interview, with her outspoken charm and vivacious personality. She cast all the others in shadow, made me laugh when life held no humour. Our friendship should have remained professional, but it wasn’t long before the lines started to blur.

You know what they say about the best laid plans of mice and men? Well, I never foresaw where my plans would lead, and only in my darkest hour did I finally see the light…

You can have all the money and prestige in the world and still be the poorest man alive. And love, well, I hate to use a tired old cliché, but love can be the thing that truly sets you free.

Okay, I admit this broke my "no shirtless dudes on the cover" rule. I chose King of Hearts for the list but recommend the entire Hearts series. Every story is unique and very well-done, so much that I really cannot chose a favorite. What I liked about this book is the versatility of Cosway's writing. The story makes some major shifts but she pulls off each one and makes them believable. I do recommend reading the series in order, I read the series out of order and it did affect the story.

8. Heart Shaped Hack

When Kate Watts abandoned her law career to open a food pantry in Northeast Minneapolis, she never dreamed it would be this difficult. Facing the heartbreaking prospect of turning hungry people away, she is grateful for the anonymous donations that begin appearing at the end of each month. Determined to identify and thank her secret benefactor, she launches a plan and catches Ian —a charismatic hacker with a Robin Hood complex—in the act. 

Ian intrigues Kate in a way no man ever has. But after learning he’s snooped around on her personal computer, she demands retribution. Impressed with her tolerance and captivated by her spirit, he complies and begins to slowly charm his way past her defenses. Time spent with Ian is never boring, and Kate soon finds herself falling for the mysterious hacker. 

But Ian has enemies and they’re growing restless. In the hacking world, exploiting a target’s weakness is paramount, and no price is too high to stop an attack. And when Kate learns exactly how much Ian has paid, she’ll discover just how strong her love is for the man who has hacked his way into her heart. 

This book was creative and witty, but with a twist that brought me to tears. Very well done.

7. Friends Without Benefits

Friends Without Benefits can be read as a standalone, is a full length 120k word novel, and is book#2 in the Knitting in the City Series. 

There are three things you need to know about Elizabeth Finney: 1) She suffers from severe sarcastic syndrome, especially when she's unnerved, 2) No one unnerves her like Nico Manganiello, and 3) She knows how to knit. 

Elizabeth Finney is almost always right about everything: the musical merits of boy bands are undervalued by society, “benefits” with human Ken dolls are better without friendship, and the sun has set on her once-in-a-lifetime chance for true love. But when Elizabeth’s plans for benefits without friendship are disarmed by the irritatingly charismatic and chauvinistic Nico Manganiello- her former nemesis- she finds herself struggling to maintain the electric fence around her heart while avoiding electrocution or, worse, falling in love.

I don't really get into book boyfriends and book crushes, but if I did, Nico would be a contender. The Knitting in the City series is uneven for me -- some of the series' books I absolutely loved (such as this one and Ninja in the City) and others fell a little flat for me. However, author Penny Reid is an automatic buy and I am looking forward to her 2016 books.

6. Kulti

“Trust me, I’ve wanted to punch you in the face a time or five.”

When the man you worshipped as a kid becomes your coach, it’s supposed to be the greatest thing in the world. Keywords: supposed to. 

It didn’t take a week for twenty-seven-year-old Sal Casillas to wonder what she’d seen in the international soccer icon—why she’d ever had his posters on her wall, or ever envisioned marrying him and having super-playing soccer babies. 

Sal had long ago gotten over the worst non-break-up in the history of imaginary relationships with a man that hadn’t known she’d existed. So she isn’t prepared for this version of Reiner Kulti who shows up to her team’s season: a quiet, reclusive, shadow of the explosive, passionate man he’d once been.

Nothing could have prepared her for the man she got to know. 

Or the murderous urges he brought out in her.

“Sal, please don’t make me visit you in jail. Orange isn’t your color.”

This was going to be the longest season of her life.

Kulti wins the award for best kick-ass heroine of 2015. Sal was a strong, yet vulnerable character and Zapata's writing is top-notch. I have been a fan for awhile and I think this is her best book.

5. Devious Minds

When Sydney Porter transfers to Northern University, she’s ready to put her past behind her. Landing a job on campus as an irreverent radio personality, she uses the anonymity to air all the campus dirty laundry—earning the infamous Sunday Lane more than a few enemies. But her true passion is spinning records, even if Drunk Earl is her biggest fan. 

Sydney’s junior year kicks off with the promise to be amazing. Or at least it does until Gray Peters, hotshot quarterback, unexpectedly reenters the scene. His presence threatens to destroy everything she has going, as well as resurrecting a night Sydney never wants to remember or repeat. She’d run away like a coward, but this time she's determined to stay and fight. 

A twisted battle of wit and trickery ensues, with one common goal—vengeance. Sydney and Gray set out to make each other miserable. But misery loves company, and soon, walls are destroyed and truths are revealed that could change their future forever. 

This book inches close to the absurd but it kept me reeled in by the hilarious dialogue and funny plot. Very unique.

4. The Trouble With Love

As Stiletto magazine’s authority on all things breakup-and-heartache, Emma Sinclair writes from personal experience. Five years ago, Emma was Charlotte, North Carolina’s darling debutante and a blushing bride-to-be. Now she’s the ice queen of the Manhattan dating scene. Emma left her sultry Southern drawl behind, but not even her closest friends know that with it she left her heart. Now Emma’s latest article forces her to face her demons—namely, the devilishly sexy guy who ditched her at the altar. 
After giving up everything for a pro-soccer career, Alex Cassidy watches his dreams crumble as a knee injury sidelines him for good. Now he’s hanging up his cleats and giving journalism a shot. It’s just a coincidence that he happens to pick a job in the same field, and the same city, as his former fiancée . . . right? But when Emma moves in next door, it’s no accident. It’s research. And Alex can’t help wondering what might have been. Unlike the innocent girl he remembers, this Emma is chic, sophisticated, and assertive—and she wants absolutely nothing to do with him. The trouble is, Alex has never wanted her more.

This book is my favorite of the Stiletto series and I think it is because it is the most emotional of the set. I liked how these characters have everything going for them but when they are in each other's company, they were intensely vulnerable. And the flashback was a gut punch.

3. Isla and the Happily Ever After

Hopeless romantic Isla has had a crush on introspective cartoonist Josh since their first year at the School of America in Paris. And after a chance encounter in Manhattan over the summer, romance might be closer than Isla imagined. But as they begin their senior year back in France, Isla and Josh are forced to confront the challenges every young couple must face, including family drama, uncertainty about their college futures, and the very real possibility of being apart. 

Featuring cameos from fan-favorites Anna, Étienne, Lola, and Cricket, this sweet and sexy story of true love—set against the stunning backdrops of New York City, Paris, and Barcelona—is a swoonworthy conclusion to Stephanie Perkins’s beloved series.

I don't usually read books set in high school but I found this series incredibly charming and recommend both Isla's story and its predecessor, Anna and the French Kiss. There is a second book in the series, but I have yet to read it due to the mixed reviews.

2. Must Love Otters

Hollie Porter is the chairwoman of Generation Disillusioned: at twenty-five years old, she’s saddled with a job she hates, a boyfriend who’s all wrong for her, and a vexing inability to say no. She’s already near her breaking point, so when one caller too many kicks the bucket during Hollie’s 911 shift, she cashes in the Sweethearts’ Spa & Stay gift certificate from her dad and heads to Revelation Cove, British Columbia. One caveat: she’s going solo. Any sweethearts will have to be found on site.

Hollie hopes to find her beloved otters in the wilds of the Great White North, but instead she’s providing comic relief for staff and guests alike. Even Concierge Ryan, a former NHL star with bad knees and broken dreams, can’t stop her from stumbling from one (mis)adventure to another. Just when Hollie starts to think that a change of venue doesn’t mean a change in circumstances, the island works its charm and she starts to think she might have found the rejuvenation she so desperately desires. But then an uninvited guest crashes the party, forcing her to step out of the discomfort zone where she dwells and save the day … and maybe even herself in the process.

So charming, so funny and surprisingly dramatic. Holly was a fun and endearing heroine.

And finally -- drumroll -- my absolute favorite book, which is probably not much of a surprise after I raved about it here:

1. The Man I Love

Winner of a gold medal in the 2015 Readers' Favorite Book Awards, Suanne Laqueur's astonishing debut novel follows an adult man's emotional journey to salvage relationships destroyed in his youth.

As a college freshman, Erik Fiskare is drawn to the world of theater but prefers backstage to center stage. The moment he lays eyes on a beautiful, accomplished dancer named Daisy Bianco, his atoms rearrange themselves and he is drawn into a romance both youthfully passionate and maturely soulful. Their love story thrives within a tight-knit circle of friends, all bound by creativity and artistry. A newcomer arrives--a brilliant but erratic dancer with an unquenchable thirst for connection. And when this disturbed friend turns violent and vindictive, the story is forever changed, the circle is broken and a shocking act of betrayal causes Erik to leave school and disconnect from all he loves. He buries his heartbreak and puts the past behind. Or so he believes.

As he moves into adulthood, Erik slowly heals the most wounded parts of his soul. But the unresolved grief for Daisy continues to shape his dreams at night. Once those dreams were haunted by blood. Now they are haunted by the refrain of a Gershwin song and a single question: is leaving always the end of loving? 

Spanning 15 years, The Man I Love explores themes of love and sexuality, trauma—physical and mental—and its long-lasting effects, the burden of unfinished business and the power of reconciliation. Through Erik’s experience we reflect on what it means to be a man, a son and a leader. A soul mate, a partner and a lover. What it means to live the truth of who you are and what you feel. What it means to fight for what you love. 

Literary perfection. This is a book that will stay with you after the last page. Everything about it is so carefully and lovingly crafted that by the end, the characters were real people to me. This is definitely one of the best books that I have ever read. Laqueur, besides being a lovely and gracious person, has quickly become one of my favorite authors and I wait with bated breath for her future stories.

You might have noticed a running theme with the above books and here is my confession: I love a happy ending. I am not one for shmaltz or sappiness, and gratuitous sex scenes that have no purpose than to titillate will usually prompt me to a DNF (did not finish) rating on Goodreads. My reading tastes shift depending on my life at the time. I will be honest, 2015 was a scary year. The news was full of  horror -- from mass shootings to natural disasters to an election season which defies all logic and reason. Books can transport you to another world, another experience and as I am now in my 38th year, I find myself gravitating toward books with a happily ever after. Because isn't that what we want? Our own happily-ever-after?

I hope that one of these books might pique your interest. Happy Wednesday! Only one more day of 2015!

1 comment:

  1. I have never thought to think what my favorite books of the year were but this year I was glad to just complete my 50 book challenge.
    I love the new design.


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