My 15 Best Reads of 2015

Everyone’s making these lists. 😉 Time to annoy you with my own! I read 100 books this year, so picking just 15 was hard. This list.. all are books I finished in 2015, and I’m counting down to the best.

I have to admit, I read a LOT of m/m romance this year, and most of them are werewolf novels. I had never read m/m romance novels, and I was a bit overexcited by this new discovery. So if you’re wondering why so many of these are m/m romance recs… that is why.


15. Alpha and his Ace by Ana J. Phoenix (Amazon | Goodreads) – m/m werewolf romance w/ace character

2015-8This is a really short, sweet m/m werewolf romance between an alpha wolf and an asexual human. If you are familiar with asexuality, you might want to skim over a few of the chapters, as the alpha wolf learns and researches what it means to be asexual.

It’s on this list however because it’s a great portrayal of an asexual relationship. They talk, negotiate boundaries, discuss their needs, and work with each other, and it’s all in the context of your typical “werewolf alpha finds his mate and is bound to him forever.”

Even though it could have been a little stronger, it is definitely on this list because it’s the best portrayal of an asexual/allosexual pairing that I’ve seen outside of fanfiction.

14. Break by Zoe Perdita (Amazon | Goodreads) – m/m werewolf romance

2015-7This entire series (beginning with Crash) is a great werewolf romance series. The author tells the stories where every other chapter is a flashback. Although she does tend to dip a bit too much into “character was abused as an easy way to generate sympathy/depth,” I really liked the relationships (most are mutual pining – I am a sucker for mutual pining.)

Break was my favorite. The flashback sequences especially tell the story of two awkward outcast teenagers falling in love and being afraid to confess how much the other means to them. It is so sweet. I love it so much. The current-day chapters might not make a lot of sense without reading the first two books first, since they revolve around rivalries and territory battles with another local pack.

But you should … maaaybe … just read the flashback chapters, if you want a quick little love story.

13. Soulless by T. Baggins (Amazon | Goodreads) – m/m vampire romance w/minor ace character – SEE TRIGGER WARNING

This is a long, dark book, and a few things happen fairly quickly that can catch readers off-guard. That being said, I was surprised by how much I liked it. This is set in the 1800s, and has all the components of a gothic romance novel, with vampires coming to seduce the lord of the manor who routinely studies dark sciences.

When I say this is dark… it’s because the vampires are vicious and cruel. They routinely eat humans, and have BDSM-esque sexual relationships that, because they can heal instantly, often result in removal of limbs, life-threatening harm, 2015-9etc. Most of it is framed very clearly as non-consensual and abusive, and it is all portrayed in graphic details.

It also has an asexual (and possibly aromantic) character that is part of a subplot – the protagonist takes her under his wing as a student since her gender prevents her from studying traditionally. Their relationship is very strong, and portrayed as very important in the book, even though they are not in a romantic relationship.

This is a really interesting book. The romance is great, the vampire plot is great. I would recommend this to far more people if the graphic torture and sexual abuse were not a factor.

TRIGGER WARNING: abusive bdsm, limb removal, use of removed limbs during sex, disturbing graphic sexual violence (at one point, for example, one vampire penetrates another with a table leg until it nearly kills him), gore, violence, etc.

12. Lynx by Joely Skye (Amazon | Publisher | Goodreads) – m/m shifter romance

2015-12This entire series, again, is a lovely werewolf romance series. Although… the author tends to have her characters get kidnapped. A lot. It was a running joke while I was reading her books. It wasn’t a matter of if a character would be kidnapped, but when. That aside, these books are a really fun read.

Lynx was my favorite. The protagonist of Lynx is a character present in all of the other books, but who we don’t get to learn much about. It’s also about introducing a new, isolated shifter to the world, and balancing the complexities of being involved with someone who is so sheltered. It was really sweet, and I loved the dynamics, which I felt were different than a lot of other werewolf novels.

11. Duality Paradigm by Lia Cooper (Amazon | Goodreads) – m/m werewolf + wizard mystery romance w/a bisexual character

More werewolves! This time, the werewolf is a homicide detective in a world where supernatural elements are known about, if not actually accepted. The other character is a human wizard. The two solve crimes, fall in love – what else do you want?

The second book in this series had my favorite mystery but least favorite 2015-6romantic subplot, since the characters spend most of their time apart. The third had a lot of romance scenes, but no real satisfying romantic conclusion… no big “finally getting together” scene.

The relationship in this trilogy is MESSY. It deals with the culture clash of werewolves and wizards dating and the ordinary complications of being someone’s police partner and romantic partner, the differences in their personalities, their differing expectations of the relationship, etc. There is no sweeping violins and big kiss scene that magically fixes everything. On the one hand, I loved that about this series, but on the other, I really wanted to get swept up in the feels and know these characters were perfect together.

Also did I mention the wizard guy is bisexual? And there is virtually no biophobia (that I can remember) in the entire book? It’s just a fact of his life. (There is some slut-shaming, although it is explained as the werewolf’s jealousy, a common thing in werewolf novels).

It’s a complicated, fantastic ride, though, and I definitely recommend it.

10. Chance of the Heart by Kade Boehme (Amazon | Goodreads) – m/m contemporary romance

2015-11Kade Boehme is a great m/m romance author. And a lgbt guy himself, which I love (m/m romance being dominated by cis women and is not ideal). His characters are complex, his writing style is interesting and funny, and I haven’t met a book of his I didn’t love.

In this story, there’s an openly gay character, and a character who doesn’t really know he’s gay, he just sort of winds up with a guy and whoops what is happening to my life. Haha. It’s a fun read, and I definitely recommend it!

9. Checking Out Love by R. Cooper (Amazon | Goodreads) – m/m contemporary romance2015-4

I am a ridiculous R. Cooper fangirl. 100%. This is one of her shorter works. It’s about a special private library, with a fast-talking, goofy guy and a much more reserved guy. Since that is the dynamic of my relationship with my Chris, it’s one I absolutely love in fiction.

Plus libraries. And Books. And R. Cooper’s usual mix of mutual pining and fantastic writing. I absolutely adored this.

8. Daughter of Mystery by Heather Rose Jones (Amazon | Publisher | Goodreads) – fantasy w/queer women

I greatly enjoyed this book, but it is not one I would recommend to very many people, only because I don’t think many people can appreciate it. This is classified as a fantasy novel, but it’s written with the spirit of a 19th century historical 2015-2fiction. Much of the plot involves inheritance, gossip, propriety, and navigating the complicated intrigues of wealthy and noble society.

It also involves a lot of discussions of magical theory. In their world, much as in Rae Carson’s The Girl of Fire and Thorns, prayer and ritual actually bring about results. The saints are real, and the protagonists spend much of the book working out “mysteries” – rituals and prayers that create magical effects. The writing is detailed and in depth. I imagine it could be boring for many readers. I, however, love rich worldbuilding, and found the discussions interesting.

While long, detailed, and possibly hard to follow if you aren’t used to reading books like this (19th century historical fiction), the story is full of layered plots, schemes, and intrigues.

All that being said… while there are three queer women in this book (and two queer guys – can you find them? haha), this is not a f/f romance novel. It’s marketed as one… but it is very much not. This is a historical fantasy novel, and it’s GREAT, but if you go into it expecting big romantic scenes, you will be disappointed.

7. Chasing the Rainbow by Kade Boehme (Amazon | Goodreads) – m/m contemporary romance2015-10

Another by Kade Boehme! This one has one of the cutest “characters meet” scenes, involving books and where one of them is oblivious that the other is hitting on him. It’s precious.

The whole book is sweet, and wonderful. It’s just a 100% fun read that will fill you up with warm fuzzies. Definitely give it a read!

6. Radiance by Grace Draven (Amazon | Goodreads) – m/f fantasy romance

This book is delightful. It’s an arranged marriage fantasy romance between two species that have hated each other and warred for centuries. The (un)lucky couple accidentally meet 2015-1before the wedding and find that they actually make good friends, and decide to enter the marriage with friendship in mind.

I like the complications of their differing peoples, and I love arranged marriages romance – anything that forces two strangers to get along with each other and result in a romantic relationship… yes please. They have to navigate the differences in each other, and how typically, their race is seen as hideous to the others’ eyes.

It’s great, and I read the entire thing in one night.

5. Second Hand by Heidi Cullinan and Marie Sexton (Amazon | Publisher | Goodreads) – m/m contemporary romance

Second Hand is a very character-driven contemporary romance. The creepy redhead on the cover is actually very, very sweet in the book, and is bisexual (!!) which is handled… not terribly. It could be better (it can always be better, 2015-5unfortunately) but it didn’t make me toss the book. The other guy is neck-deep in family drama, with a mother who is a hoarder and a handful of other family members shoving at him with their demands and needs. Sometimes in romance, the subplots are annoying – stop talking about your family and get back to smooching, please! – but the way this is written, it’s an integral part of the characters’ stories.

Also, the romance. Ugh. Mutual pining gets me every time! Add to it platonic kissing, platonic dates, and a kiss scene that made me press my face into the couch and squee with joy… this book is fantastic.

It was also featured in my Stories I Loved in October 2015 post.

4. The Ghost Dragon’s Daughter by Beth Bernobich (Amazon | Goodreads) – fantasy w/queer women

ghost dragons daughterTHIS BOOK is incredible. The story immediately pulls you into a world so rich you can taste it. Every page is packed with worldbuilding, atmosphere, and personality. Not a word is wasted.

And the world is awesome. It’s Chinese-inspired, and weaves an urban city and a magical world together into something so very, very fun to read. Math-based magic. Girls creating a magical robotic translation machine. The struggles of modern urban life (debt, mass transit, scraping by ’til payday) in a magical world where demons patrol the streets at night and every person has a spiritual companion animal that they can talk to in their thoughts.

And did I mention the majority of the characters in it are queer?

I posted more about how much I loved this book when I first read it, as an Awesome Book You Should Be Reading.

3. Wealth of Unsaid Words by R. Cooper (Amazon | Publisher | Goodreads) – m/m contemporary romance w/bipolar character

2015-13Yet another amazing R. Cooper book, and another of her shorter ones. This one features a bipolar poet and his childhood best friend. The mental illness was extremely well-handled, and the characters’ relationships with their family feature heavily, and are also well-done. There is no sex scene (just kissing).

This book left me breathless and wanting more. It’s funny, sweet, and absolutely full of feels, just like all of R. Cooper’s work. I cannot stress this enough: Just go buy everything R. Cooper has written and spend a week rolling in it. Go. Go now. Do it.

2. The Spymaster’s Lady by Joanna Bourne (Amazon | Goodreads) – m/f historical fiction romance

This is a historical romance set shortly after the French revolution, dealing with spies and intrigue. It’s a beautiful book. The writing is rich and beautiful, with a sort of odd lilt to it that makes it sound like the entire book was written in a spymasters ladyFrench accent. The characters have depth and nuance to them, and the humor in it is subtle and clever. It’s also got a great plot – spies lying to each other and playing games within games as they try to outsmart each other. What a perfect setting for falling in love!

Because of the many-layered plot, it’s difficult to really explain what I loved about this book without giving away spoilers.

My only qualm is that during the course of the novel, a disability is suddenly cured. I don’t know how to feel about that, since the disability was … kiiind of temporary? I’m not sure. If you are sensitive to things like that, perhaps proceed with caution.

This one was also featured in my Stories I Loved in October 2015 post.

1. Firebird and Other Stories by R. Cooper (Amazon | Publisher | Goodreads) – m/m paranormal romance

The absolute hands-down best book I read this year was, of course, Firebird. It’s like taking all of R. Cooper’s awesomeness and distilling it into its purest essence, then creating a set of novellas that all intermix in the most perfect, most subtle, most beautiful way, and wrapping it up in a beautiful, fiery bow. Words alone cannot express my absolute adoration for this book. AHHHHHH.

But here is the review I wrote immediately after reading it:firebird

This book is a TREASURE. It is the crowning jewel in R. Cooper’s already stunning array of amazing books, and I am just… “book hangover” does not begin to cover it.

Firebird is told in a series of short stories, all in the same world as Cooper’s other “Beings in Love” books.

Cooper is the absolute queen of the “mutual pining” story. All of her characters are distinct, complex people with their own personalities, and yet she weaves them together with their perfect counterpart, in an brilliant, entertaining story like absolute magic. Every time.

In Firebird, the stories go from 1930 to present day, with Kazimir, the firebird, being a shiny golden thread throughout. One couple hears him singing on a street corner, another is a fanboy whose love interest gets jealous of how much he likes him. A child introduced in the first story is seen as an adult years later. It’s very masterfully done, just the right amount of connection for the stories to belong in a book together without being overburdened with trying to hard to be clever.

I basically wept through the last 20% of this book, it was so beautiful. And then sat up straight when I started the last story, waking up my sleeping partner shouting “IT’S THEM! IT’S THEM!” and then “I KNOW THE ENDING!”

This book is fantastic. All of R. Cooper’s books are fantastic, but this one is quite possibly my favorite. I would recommend it to absolutely anyone who loves love stories. It is fantastic.


 

So that’s my list. What is yours? Post a link to your top 15 reads in 2015! I always need me more recommendations. Not like my TBR pile already has 2,000 books on it or anything. 😉

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