Best books of 2015

I read a lot of indie and trad published books last year, so I’d like to share some favourites. And some not so favourites …

Memoirs: Castles in the Air by Alison Ripley Cubitt and Molly Ripley

Short stories and poetry: Animal Tales by Kevin Cooper

Dystopian thriller: Absent Souls by Dylan Hearn

Crime thriller: Death Never Sleeps by EJ Simon

Spy thriller: Ratcatcher by Tim Stevens

Sci-fi/humour: Escape from B-Movie Hell by MT McGuire

Contemporary/literary fiction: The Artisan’s Star by Gabriella Contestabile

Non-fiction – photography: Bridges of Paris by Michael James

Worst books

Badly written book: The Business by Martina Cole

Boring book: Any of Kathy Reichs’ Bones books

Numerous errors, both typos and plot: The Publicist, book 3, Climax, by Christina George
(The story was OK but an author in the publishing industry really should have had her books edited better than this trilogy was)

Overall winner for best book:

Bridges of Paris

The photos were fantastic, the reproduction and print quality was excellent, and the accompanying prose was well-researched and interesting. A great book for lovers of Paris, photography, bridges, and history.

Pont Neuf
Pont Neuf


The Artisan’s Star

I loved the richness of description in this book and the way the author weaved in so many artisan trades within a personal love story. It was cleverly done.

Silk woven on looms in the Antico Setificio Fiorentino
Silk woven on looms in the Antico Setificio Fiorentino

If you missed my reviews on any of these I’ve added the links to the titles.

Castles in the Air was reviewed on the last post and Animal Tales is reviewed below.

Animal Tales

Aragorn and Rico, cover stars
Aragorn and Rico, cover stars
This is a delightful read for all animal lovers, covering birds, dogs, cats and mice in both poetry and short story form.

Beloved indeed
Beloved indeed
Admittedly I’m biased, as not only do Pippa and Snowy feature in one of the stories, but Pippa is included in the dedications to animals who are no longer with us.

My boys together. A rare shot these days
My boys together.

I found the free verse poetry imaginative and it vividly conjured up pictures in my mind of birds and cats.

The short stories were compelling and Kevin captures the characters of every animal so well. They walk off the page as you read.

It’s a short book at the minimum Amazon price and proceeds go towards the RSPCA. Kevin is also making the PDF version available to animal charities as that way they can claim 100% of the profits.

I’ll be doing my bit and hopefully will be able to interest either Podenco or GSD/husky rescue groups regarding Snowy and Pippa’s starring role; the other dog featured is a golden retriever. If you think you know an animal rescue group that might be interested in selling it, please mention it in the comments below.

43 comments on “Best books of 2015

  1. Thank you for this list. I’ve joined a very loosely structured reading group this year, and will share a link to this page with the others.

    My favourite animal rescue group at the moment is Hope For Paws in the US. I think you are familiar with them. I have no idea if they would be interested, but I suspect that if they benefit from the proceeds they would not turn down the offer. They are always grateful for donations.

    I will add a few of these to my “must read” list, and will hope they are available in the local library. I am not an ereader fan, and all “discretionary” spending is taken up with repairs at the moment.

    Have you compiled similar lists in the past?


    • Because I read just about anything, there should be something for most people here. And, after I did a poll, I’ve taken into account the types of books people preferred. Of course, putting books into a single category is quite dangerous, so, they should be regarded as fairly loose.

      Yes, I do recall HfP, that’s a good idea, I’ll add them to my list of charities to contact.

      Doubt any of them will be at your library! I think the only free ebook on there is Ratcatcher, although Dylan offers a free book to people who sign up to his mailing list. Bridges (which I recall you read the original review) is, unsurprisingly, big bucks. As well as being a big book (groan).

      I think it’s the first time, mainly because a few of them really stood out. Regarding your comment about print v ebooks, half of the eight ‘best’ books, were print copies. I do think it makes for a better experience.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I haven’t read any of those books you reviewed. I remember some of your reviews.
    I think my best book for 2015 was Supernatural religion and followed closely with the Testament of Jean Messlier.
    I don’t think we have any animal charities. The once I know deal with game animals


    • Apart from your medieval feminist, I think our reading tastes differ somewhat.
      Different side of the same coin. Those of us who don’t have game animals abuse domestic ones. Something humans feel they must do to prove their superiority. Not sure who they are proving it to.


  3. I started reading Castles in the Air last night.

    As for Kathy Reichs, I think both she and Patricia Cornwell have pretty well run their course and squeezed the stone dry. I used to enjoy their books so much, but sadly found their later offerings just plain boring and unusually for me, gave up on them.

    The animal charity I support who I think may be interested in the book is Fiona Oakes’ Tower Hill Stables Sanctuary in Essex. She is a vegan and has more than 400 animals there from hamsters to Shire horses, and receives no public funding. 100% of all donations goes to the animals. I’d be interested in knowing about the PDF version of the book so I can let her know about it.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thanks so much for picking Absent Souls as one of your books of 2015. I’m incredibly touched and flattered. I’m also pleased to see one of MT’s books on the list. I guess you have a soft spot for Suffolk writers!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I picked Absent because it was the first one I read! Second is as good. Susan’s asked to put my review/s of yours (and MT’s) on her RR blog.
      Maybe there’s something in the Suffolk water. I wanted to include some recent releases so Escape fitted the bill nicely, and she seems to be getting some good reviews for it. Thinking about it, it’s a reasonably diverse list in terms of origins, with the exception of the Suffolkites! Mustn’t make that mistake again ;)


  5. How wonderful to see that out of your eight favorite books of 2015, three are authors that we referred to you! And two were at the top of your list. I will make sure to let the authors know. I agree that Bridges of Paris is a stunner and I loved The Artisan’s Star too.


    • And, three very different books as well. I really appreciate your authors who send print books, especially something like Bridges. It’s not just the books, the postage is hefty too. I’m sure subconsciously, it makes for a more rounded review though.


  6. If boring books sell millions of copies, how does one go about writing a boring book? Can one take a course in boring writing? I know what you mean with boring details. There is a Western Australian writer who also sells lots of books. He writes a lot about sand, fish, and sea-shores. Each grain is explored in detail. A great read for insomniacs.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I like the sound of Artisan’s Star – I’ll make a note and add it to my wish list which, as you know, is growing again by the day.
    It does seem like the boring/badly written books are the ones that sell millions…but doesn’t that say more about the people who buy them?! I call them airport books. Usually ghastly covers too. Gold titles, yuk 😁


    • I got Artisan on a blog book tour and I read some of the other reviews which were quite mixed. Perhaps because it was relatively slow, descriptive and introspective. It was a journey sort of book, not so much literally (although there was some travel) but through life, looking back, and yet, looking ahead too.

      I am quite amazed when I read some of these best selling books. They mustvhave hellish good agents and/or PR managers. Ah. Gaudy covers :D the Jackie Collins book I finished recently has a cover with yellow and orangey text. Not quite gold, but not far off. I think you hit the nail on the head about the colours.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. That Bridges book is simply grand. Always something new to see in each image.
    I’m sending by email a link to this blog to Second Chance Pets (where we got Molly) and to Special Friends a local animal therapy group that visits hospitals, nursing homes, and troubled kids.
    Here’s another rescue group that is always having fundraisers and events. Mostly volunteers


    • It is a truly beautiful book. A real work of art.
      Thanks for following up on the animal groups and Kev’s offer to make it available to them. Any group that took Molly in must be good :)

      Couldn’t see a store/sales page on the houston gsd page though?


      • The GS and many rescue groups here don’t actually have a big physical presence – the dogs are all in foster homes (many rescued from humane society/pound cages). The GS group is really high presence in public eye with events (get togethers, and dog adoption meet and greets). They always sell items to raise money there. At Christmas we went to one at a micro brewery – outdoor dog friendly beer garden (looking for Ella who we had seen online). Tons of people and adopted dogs with their owners. The German got a lovely holiday party collar with bells, and Molly some homemade treats.
        Second Chance pets/the therapy dog volunteer groups only have email contacts, no website even, but are some of the larger organizations locally. Every weekend SCP have adoption centers set up in rotating areas like parks, big pet stores who don’t sell animals. Their animals are also in foster homes – (win-win. leaves room city/county shelters for another animal and the adopting parents get so much more information about an animal’s personality and behavior.) These groups also do hold dog olympics, marathons, gala and have booths with gift items. So we’ll see if they are interested.
        Animal rescue people locally sometimes seem a bit snooty/arrogant, jealously territorial, and don’t play well with other rescue groups (lots of sniping) which is odd and counter productive.
        Austin rescues ( SPCA and the Humane Society) would probably be a great place for that book. Lots of animal lovers, money, and the big university is there.
        I remembered this one:
        As they have a store and at Christmas I laughed over their cookbook
        This one has calendars and bumper stickers ( also in Austin area)
        Will relay any other ideas I can think of


    • I think home schooling sounds fascinating. A family we met years ago in Tarifa seemed to be teaching their children such a wide range of subjects with such real life examples not just books. They were learning about Spain, Spanish culture, history and language, and they were off to Morocco for a similar brief immersion, although speaking French not Arabic.


      • Having a ‘life experience’ to fall back on can be very useful, especially on those days when we don’t get to much…today for example we spent the morning in Manama applying for our Saudi visas. But hey, an educational experience in itself right?!


  9. Interesting collection… I have read all your reviews so with the exception of Castles in the Air which I only read today, I was already familiar. Good idea to recap with a list though… most enjoyable, even the negative ones… I admire your frankness and I think it does the reader great justice. Thanks ever so much for the wonderful review of Animal Tales…lovely pics! :)


    • A lot of people have read all the reviews, so, I thought it was worth saying which I thought were best, in their category/genre (hate genre).

      And for people who missed them, a quick reminder and links to reviews. I don’t give good reviews lightly!

      Liked by 1 person

      • The thing about genre is the way retailers use it to… box things in. It’s very awkward for today’s writers whom more often than not find themselves writing something lean towards multiple genres, or crossing genres. Yes, I think a lot of writers could relate to your little dig there.


  10. Now I am feeling so inadequate. This past year or so I really slacked off on my reading. My “excuse” is that I was doing other things but the fact remains that I had plenty of time at my discretion. I have a very nice book, a gift from my sister, “Three Day Road” that I plan to read this weekend. Who knows…maybe it will get me back on track.


  11. In anticipation of once again having a post-relocation life where I’ve time to read (& blog!) I’ve been over to Amazon Australia via Kevin’s blogs and purchased Animal Tales. I’m sure the other favourites are worth a read also but I’ve no doubt reading Animal Tales will bring me joy and probably some happy-sad tears :)


  12. Like the sound of your runner up and I know I’d like the Paris one, which I remember from your review. :) Do you have a constant pile of books, Kate, or do you read most of them online?


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