8 Best Reads of 2015

Somehow, it has felt like a very long year, and that has been borne out by my reading log. I exceeded my reading goals by quite a bit this year and unearthed some real gems.

Edmund Persuader

What’s it about?
A younger son’s quest to find his place in the world, his doomed loves, and his struggle with faith and conscience.

Why should you read it?
I have to admit, at 1550 pages, it’s a weighty read – quite literally. But the prose is gorgeous, the concepts lofty, the characters rich, the settings flavorful. I would call it moral fiction, and this is a rare case where I mean that as a compliment, as it is genuinely moral, not preachy.

Dreaming Spies

What’s it about?
Oxford, Japan, old books, ninjas, emperors, Sherlock Holmes, and his partner, Mary Russell.

Why should you read it?
In this recommendation, this book stands in for an entire series, which begins with The Beekeeper’s Apprentice. I recommend this series right and left, which is a bit dangerous, as it seems to be extremely polarizing. Those who dislike it hate it, apparently because it’s ridiculous to think that a woman might be as clever as Sherlock Holmes. (Competence is the trait of a Mary Sue, you know.)
If you do enjoy pastiche, though, this one is an excellent insight into the thought process behind the deduction. The series swoops through such fabulously-described settings as Japan, India, Palestine, and Morocco, as well as the more familiar environs of London and Sussex. It’s also worth noting that Russell was my first exposure to the concept of the intelligent female protagonist and will forever hold a very special place in my heart.

How to be a Victorian

What’s it about?
Well… how to be a Victorian. It’s a walk through daily life with description of the habits, processes, and objects that would have been familiar to a resident of the latter half of the nineteenth century.

Why should you read it?
Incredibly informative, it’s a great comprehensive resource for the historian and writer and provides any number of tantalizing hints to inspire further research.

Collected Folk Tales

What’s it about?
Exactly as the title indicates, it is a collection of folk-tales from around the world.

Why should you read it?
Unlike some collections, this one is very well balanced, representing European, African, Asian, and North and South American cultures. Those that required translation are translated beautifully, in evocative, fluid prose.
And, come on, you know you can’t go wrong with a book that begins “There was a hill that ate people.”

The Case of the Missing Marquess

What’s it about?
Enola, the much, much younger sister of Sherlock Holmes, is left alone when her mother disappears without warning. Threatened with boarding school by her insensitive brothers, she has no choice but to run away.

Why should you read it?
This recommendation also stands in for the entire series. There are six books at present, and the promise of more in the future.
This is marketed as a middle-grade book, though I would call it teen. It’s a series of charming adventures, featuring disguise, code-breaking, ciphers, danger, and a ferociously independent young woman.

Death Cloud

What’s it about?
Fourteen-year-old Sherlock Holmes is removed from boarding school and placed unexpectedly with his aunt and uncle in Farnham, where he befriends a young orphan. But a mysterious dark cloud is killing people, and the plague seems to be spreading!

Why should you read it?
This one also stands in for an entire series. The Young Sherlock series so far boasts eight volumes and a short story, each one tracking a boy’s growth into the man of Watson’s chronicles. These are more adventures than mysteries. There is some clue-finding, but the bulk of each story is a lot of danger, running, fighting, and hiding from bizarre and sinister villains. They’re not too terribly thought-provoking, but they are extremely entertaining.

A Monster’s Coming of Age Story

What’s it about?
Young Babette Varanus is tiny, rich, and bookish, which has always alienated her from the upper echelons of French society. Of course, she also comes from a family of monsters. Let’s proceed now through love, treachery, war, and… vampires.

Why should you read it?
Because it’s an epic. The series is ongoing and promises to span centuries. (Another series. Are you noticing a trend?)
It wasn’t until most of the way through the second book that I realized that I was reading an incredibly unique take on the old vampires vs. werewolves trope. Think that’s trite and overused? So did I, until I started on the Ouroboros Cycle. It’s not often that a book promising different vampires actually delivers.
Also, some of you may have noticed that I have a thing for academic vampires. Hoo, yes.

A Dose of Brimstone

What’s it about?
Demons, an immortal hunter, van Helsings, and a terrifying supernatural drug spreading through the underworld of New York City.

Why should you read it?
One more series! This one begins with A Prescription for Delirium, in which demons have overrun a small town in Texas and Gabriella di Luca and the van Helsing brothers combat the raging madness.
The writing is fresh, the plot gritty, and I absolutely love the characters. The interactions between them are captivating, humorous, and sometimes wrenching. I am very much looking forward to the next volume in the series.

Go grab the Goodreads pages and add them to your reading lists!

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