Favorite Reads of 2015, Part 2: Books Published in 2015 + Reading Statistics

Fave Reads 2015 logo cropped

On Tuesday I shared my 10 favorite non-2015 books I read last year. Today, I share the other Top 10 list: the one for my favorite new books of 2015! 🙂

Like Tuesday’s list, this one will go in ascending order (suspense is the key, remember? *winks*) and will feature a brief explanation of why I included it on this list, as well as links to each review. I’ll also post my reading statistics for 2015, including how many books I read, which genres I read most, and a few random yet interesting bits I discovered along the way. Shall we begin?

Violinist of Venice cover FINAL

10. The Violinist of Venice by Alyssa Palombo

Talk about getting back in touch. Alyssa and I had been writing pals about 10 years ago, then reconnected after her book deal for The Violinist of Venice was announced. I’m so glad it happened now. This beautifully written historical fiction debut weaves a passionate love affair with the opulence of 16th century Venice and a breathtaking, palpable love for music – both instruments and voice. Romance lovers and music fans alike will be swept away. Read my review here.

Shadow Study

9. Shadow Study (Study Series, Book #4; Soulfinders, Book #1) by Maria V. Snyder

Not only is Shadow Study one of my favorite reads of 2015, but it’s also my new second-favorite novel by Maria V. Snyder (after Poison Study). This new installment to the Yelena Zaltana saga shines with Snyder’s signature blend of action, intrigue, romance, and sarcasm-edged humor while bringing back beloved characters from the original Study trilogy. And that bombshell ending – ohhhhhh, I’m already itching to see how its consequences will complicate things further for Yelena and her other half Valek. Read my review here.

Uprooted cover

8. Uprooted by Naomi Novik

I may have been late to the Uprooted party, but I’m there now! This glimmering concoction of magic, mystery, and romance stirs the girl-discovering-her-powers plot with a dark, malicious twist on the “enchanted forest” trope. It also highlights a strong, devoted friendship between female characters, which is something we rarely see in fantasy literature. Plus, when a book pulls you out of a reading slump, you can’t help but hug it. Or am I alone in thinking that way? (*blushes*) Read my review here.

Towers-Fall-Cover

7. Towers Fall (Towers Trilogy, Book #3) by Karina Sumner-Smith

I thought I had almost figured out this Top 10 list by mid-December. But no, Towers Fall had to shake things up. The finale to Karina Sumner-Smith’s ground-breaking trilogy brings destruction and hope to a truly unique world of fantasy, science fiction, and horror amalgam. Loose ends are tied up, surprises abound, and protagonists Xhea and Shai prove why they make such a strong team. If you haven’t checked out the Towers Trilogy yet – well, you ought to fix that in 2016. Read my review here.

Shadow Scale cover

6. Shadow Scale (Seraphina, Book #2) by Rachel Hartman

Shadow Scale is one of the rare times when I enjoyed a second book in a series more than the first one. Don’t get me wrong – Seraphina is a sweetheart of a story, but the sequel was a huge improvement, in my opinion. It was so much fun to journey with Seraphina through the lands beyond Goredd and meeting her half-dragon brethren. More importantly, I loved seeing Seraphina evolve into a more confident, empowered young woman without sacrificing her intellect or compassion. Read my review here.

distancebetween_final cover_4_1.indd

5. The Distance Between Lost and Found by Kathryn Holmes

This book would have slipped past my radar if I hadn’t listened to Kathryn Holmes’ podcast on DIY MFA back in February. The Distance Between Lost and Found follows 16-year-old Hallie as she and two other young campers are lost in the Smoky Mountains, and she’s forced to come to terms with a painful, humiliating past incident. Some readers might call this a survival story; I say it transcends that label by tackling the desire for friendship, religious and interpersonal faith, and the horrors of bullying. It’s also a lovely example of how setting can come to life by engaging the reader’s senses and allow place to be its own character. Read my review here.

Nightingale cover

4. The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

I must be drawn to World War II stories. Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale was the third such book I’d read in just over a year (after Anthony Doerr’s All The Light We Cannot See and Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief). Then again, great stories can come out of turbulent or extraordinary circumstances, and WWII is no exception. Neither is The Nightingale. Page after page, this tale of two sisters enduring Germany’s occupation in France tugged at me. It’s proof that courage can come in all shapes and forms, and has the power to motivate us to do what we had never dared to do before. Read my review here.

This Monstrous Thing cover

3. This Monstrous Thing by Mackenzi Lee

I should have had a Best Surprise of 2015 category for this Top 10 list, because Mackenzi Lee’s This Monstrous Thing would have earned it. This YA historical steampunk retelling of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein features human “cyborgs,” Switzerland at Christmastime, and two brothers struggling with one’s decision to bring the other back from the dead. What I love most about this book, though, is its heart. Loyalty, ambition, humanity – This Monstrous Thing excels at delivering these and other themes naturally and subtly. Read my review here.

Six of crows

2. Six of Crows (The Dregs, Book #1) by Leigh Bardugo

As much as I enjoyed Leigh Bardugo’s Grisha Trilogy, none of those books come close to her latest accomplishment. This multi-POV heist story set in the same world as the Grisha books shows what a masterful craftswoman Bardugo has become. It’s electrifying, intense, and at times wildly funny; and each of the outcasts-turned-thieves are equally engaging while coming from diverse backgrounds (nationality, religion, etc.). Most of all, it shows how much Bardugo’s writing has matured since the Grisha Trilogy. I know I said something similar regarding Ruin and Rising earlier this week, but Six of Crows really shows R&R who’s boss in that department. Read my review here.

Fifth Season cover

1. The Fifth Season (The Broken Earth, Book #1) by N.K. Jemisin

I’m still stunned that I managed to write a review for The Fifth Season. It pulverized my every expectation – which, given the concepts explored, is eerily fitting. The seismically active world, the Orogenes’ earth-warping powers, the gambles N.K. Jemisin took with structure and narration… This is not an easy book, though. It’s challenging, austere, and an acquired taste. But it’s also honest-to-goodness fantasy ingenuity, and something that all fans of the genre should give serious thought to reading. Read my review here.

Honorable Mentions: The Weight of Feathers by Anna-Maria McLemore, Ink and Bone (The Great Library, Book #1) by Rachel Caine, and The Wrath and the Dawn (The Wrath and the Dawn, Book #1) by Renee Ahdieh

A Quick Rundown of 2015’s Reading Statistics

For time’s sake, I’ll list my reading statistics here instead of in a separate post. Here are the final numbers:

  • Number of Books Read: 43 (up from 21 last year)*
  • Longest Book: A Dance with Dragons by George R.R. Martin (959 pages, hardcover edition)
  • Top 5 Genres Read (With Some Crossover): Fantasy (62%), Historical Fiction (15%), Steampunk (8%), Science Fiction / Dystopian (7%), Contemporary Fiction (5%)
  • Target Age Groups of Novels Read: Young Adult (49%), Adult (46%), Middle Grade (5%)
  • Author Gender of Novels Read: Female (86%), Male (14%)**
  • Most Read Authors of 2015: Leigh Bardugo (4), Karina Sumner-Smith (2), Laini Taylor (2), and N.K. Jemisin (2)
  • Random Facts That Caught My Attention: 
    1. Out of the 37 different authors represented in my 2015 reading list, 10 of them (27%) were debut novelists and another 16 (43%) were “new-to-me” authors (meaning I read their work for the first time).
    2. 8 books (19%) featured artistically inclined protagonists (musicians, singers, artists, etc.).
    3. 7 books (16%) had the words “shadow,” “night,” or “black” in the title.
    4. 7 books (16%) featured or hinted at a flying creature (dragons, birds, fairies, etc.) in the title.
    5. 3 books (7%) featured bookworms as protagonists.
    6. 3 books (7%) were self-published.

*Yay for reading twice as many books than I did the year before!
**I need to work on making this ratio more even…

What were some of your favorite new books that you read in 2015? Did you read any of the books listed above?

28 thoughts on “Favorite Reads of 2015, Part 2: Books Published in 2015 + Reading Statistics

  1. Wow, color me impressed! 86% female writers??? That is all kinds of awesome:-) I couldn’t agree more with The Fifth Season as your top choice. And I am seriously going to get to Six of Crows if I have to push a bunch of other books aside to do it:-)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah. *lol* It’s a weird statistic, considering that most SFF readers I know of read more books written by men than by women. I don’t know how to explain it, other than I tend to gravitate to books written by women more than ones written by men…?

      Yes, yes, YES to Six of Crows! I’d love to know what you think of it. 🙂

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  2. This is a great article, Sara:). I LOVE the detail you go into regarding your statistics, so very informative! The particular figures that caught my eye – I’m impressed with how many of your books are written by women, and I don’t think it is a huge problem, unless you’d rather read more books by male authors. After all, the overall statistics within the sf/f community are very much skewed in the other direction. I am also impressed at how many debut authors you read – and realise that it is a statistic I haven’t recorded. Even more impressive is the high number of books you’ve read by authors new to you – I wanted to improve my rather sad total, but with two exceptions the books I failed to finish this year were all authors I hadn’t read before.
    As for your list – it is certainly a great one – I MUST get hold of the Jemisin book AND ‘Uprooted’ by Naomi Novik as I love her Temeraire series and I’ve heard great things about it. ‘Shadow Scale’ is also tempting, given how much I enjoyed ‘Seraphina’ after reading it on your recommendation.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Sarah! I thought it was neat to post my statistics last year, but for time’s sake I opted not to devote an entire article to them. This post seemed like the best spot to do it.

      I don’t at all see reading more books by women as a problem – but I was stunned by how wide the difference gap was. It will probably stay “in women’s favor” in 2016, judging from the books I’m planning on or looking forward to reading.

      Yes, absolutely read The Fifth Season when you can. If you loved N.K. Jemisin’s earlier work, this one should blow them all out of the water. 😮 😉 And I’d really like to check out Naomi Novik’s Temeraire series. I know it’s very different from Uprooted, but it sounds like something I’d enjoy! Especially with the dragons. 😀

      Liked by 1 person

      • Oh, do have a go at the Temeraire series, but take care to get them in order as it really does make a difference. I think/hope you’ll LOVE them – I like the fact she pays attention to the history of the time, even while she is writing an alternate version. And The Fifth Season is now a MAJOR priority!

        Liked by 1 person

      • “Oh, do have a go at the Temeraire series, but take care to get them in order as it really does make a difference.”

        Yes, that’s my plan. 😉 The first book is His Majesty’s Dragon, correct?

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  3. Agreed with your choice of The Fifth Season as top choice and I also really enjoyed Uprooted and several more of your picks up there. It seems clear I need to give Maria Snyder’s Study books a try though 🙂

    And wow, I’d forgotten that ADwD is that long. It’s been a while since I last read a thousand-pager. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Mogsy! 🙂

      If you’re going to check out Maria V. Snyder’s Study series, definitely start with the first book, Poison Study.

      Yah. ADwD was quite a monster length-wise. I think Patrick Rothfuss’s The Wise Man’s Fear is pretty long too, right? I’m planning to tackle that one this year.

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      • Somehow I hit “Enter” without finishing this comment… Regarding the Study series, it’s definitely one you want to start at the beginning, or else the later books won’t make sense. Maybe you could get away with reading Shadow Study before Poison Study… But starting with Poison Study might be a smoother choice down the road.

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  4. Like you, I seem to read mostly women lately. I loved The Fifth Season and have Six of Crows and Uprooted on my TBR.
    Another trend for me this year has been reading novellas. More immediate gratification I guess. Do you have a favorite novellas of 2015 list? I really enjoyed T Frohock’s first 2 Los Nefilim novellas, and I’m about to start The Drowning Eyes by Emily Foster. After that I’m planning on Binti by Nnendi Okorafor.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I don’t think I read any novellas last year, to be honest… It’s not that I don’t like novellas (I enjoy them as much as any other length of story). I just don’t read many. I do want to read Patrick Rothfuss’s “The Slow Regard of Silent Things,” and I think that’s considered a novella…?

      I will say, though, that I’ve read some reviews for Emily Foster’s The Drowning Eyes, and it sounds pretty good.

      Thanks for stopping by, Margo. I hope you enjoy Uprooted and Six of Crows! 🙂

      Like

  5. You really make me want to read The Fifth Season more every time! I planned on it, but then I read “Vicious,” and now I am reading about famous samurai Miyamoto Musashi (I periodically find myself reading about him, for whatever reason). So, yeah, I got distracted.

    I found your reading statistics to be absolutely fascinating! It was one of my favorite things I’ve seen on a year in books post. 🙂

    That is a lot of female authors! I had to look though, and if I only count each author once, then I read 2 books by a female author for every 1 book by a male author myself. My most interesting stat was International versus US authors. I read exactly 50% of each, author wise. But if you count books instead of authors, I read 65% International, 35% US, with about 30% of the International lit being translated works. The three countries I read the most books from (in order) are 1. US, 2. UK, and 3. Japan. What about you? Did you look at where the authors were from?

    Anyhow, now that I’ve shared that completely pointless piece of reading trivia . . .

    Liked by 1 person

    • “You really make me want to read The Fifth Season more every time!”

      Then you should do something about it, shouldn’t you? 😉 I think you’d like The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, too. You can’t go wrong with either as your introduction to Jemisin’s work.

      Hmmmm, the US vs International bit wasn’t something I had looked at before…. *does the math quickly* Looking solely at authors, I read 70% US and 30% International. 😮 Canada and the UK are tied for second most-read, followed by one author apiece for New Zealand, Australia, Iran, and Ireland.

      Hey, it’s interesting, not useless. 😉 Maybe it’s worth including on next year’s stats…?

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  6. I enjoy the reading statistics you added in this post. I never thought to analyze the books I read that thoroughly, but I’m thinking it’s a good idea and very interesting. Most the books I read this past year were by female authors, and mostly from US, all in the fantasy genre. Which means I need to read more diversely this 2016! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks! Yeah, I have a… slight obsession for unimportant statistics like that. *lol* But it’s interesting to look back and see the bigger picture of your reading year that way. I kept an Excel spreadsheet to help me “maintain” that information as the year went along. And yeah, it’s also a good reminder of areas where we may be “deficient” in reading. I’d like to read a few more books by male authors this year, if I’m able to.

      Most of the authors I read were American, too! I think I broke those stats down in my response to Rebekah’s comment yesterday. This might be a category to add to next year’s reading stats post. *hmmmmmm*

      Liked by 1 person

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  9. I read woefully few books last year, but most of my reading was slush, and editing projects…. I don’t stand a chance of getting anything more done this year if I get into grad school (except for the required reading), but I have made a promise to myself to work through NPR’s list of 100 most influential SFF books of all time. (Incidentally, there are more than a hundred, since it comes down to series being counted as one book, but I’ll still get it done!)

    Liked by 1 person

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