My Top Ten Books Read In 2015 (and mini-reviews!)

Happy New Year, everyone! Wow – I’ve read a record 14 books in 2015! (That’s a lot for me. Hey, I’m a movie blogger – not a book blogger). 🙂

I’m really bad about getting around to doing book reviews so I’ve only reviewed a few of these (I’ve included links to the full reviews I have done). For the remainder, I figured I’d just do some very short mini-reviews right here right now. And, as my regulars know, my Top Ten lists rarely contain ten things so it seemed stupid to ignore four books when I’ve only read 14.

So here are My Top Ten (14…) Books Read In 2015, counting down to my favorite:

14. The Gospel According To Drew Barrymore by Pippa Wright

I believe this is what they call “chick lit”? Which isn’t very “me” but my hubby picked this up for me based on the title since he knows I’m a fan of Drew Barrymore. I thought that was very sweet & thoughful of him! 🙂 Anyway, I really liked the concept. Through flashbacks, we watch the relationship develop between two (40ish?) best friends. They’re very different from one another but we see how they bonded over Drew Barrymore movies at various points in their lives (such as E.T. & Poison Ivy). Unfortunately, the book just isn’t very good. I didn’t like one of the women and the Drew Barrymore gimmick really did feel like nothing more than a gimmick – the references to her felt awkward & forced. It was a good idea but without that gimmick, you’re left with two characters I really didn’t give a crap about. My Rating: 2/5

13. Florence & Giles by John Harding

I grabbed this from the library as I’d been wanting to read it for a while based on The Times quote on the front cover: “Imagine The Turn Of The Screw reworked by Edgar Allan Poe”. It sounded like it would be all gothic & atmospheric but it was pretty disappointing. A young girl in the late 1800s must protect her younger brother from a sinister & otherworldly new governess after the mysterious death of the previous woman who cared for them. The girl (and narrator if I remember correctly??) isn’t allowed to read but teaches herself & reads loads of books in secret. It’s caused her to develop a strange sort of language of her own and having to read the book with all her odd words took some getting used to (and was slightly annoying). The girl also isn’t that easy to like and the book is extremely slow until finally picking up in the final half. It was a good story but not a very fun read. I actually think it could make for a great film if the right people were involved. My Rating: 2.5/5

12. The Shock Of The Fall by Nathan Filer

My favorite books to read are always horror, sci-fi or fantasy (which will be obvious when we get to the top of my list) but I do try to sometimes read bestsellers or ones that have awards slapped on their covers (like this one) which are probably bullshit half the time anyway. This is an example of a book that was pretty good and plenty of people probably liked it but, like the previous book, it just didn’t really work for me. Oh! I also judge books by their covers and this has a good one. And I was intrigued by the back cover (which I’ve grabbed here from Goodreads): “I’ll tell you what happened because it will be a good way to introduce my brother. His name’s Simon. I think you’re going to like him. I really do. But in a couple of pages he’ll be dead. And he was never the same after that.” See? Sounds interesting. This is a book where you’ll easily find out what it’s about if you read anything whatsoever about it but if you like knowing nothing other than what’s on the back cover, skip over this next part. SPOILER: This book is about mental illness (schizophrenia) and told from the viewpoint of the young adult (Matt) who is suffering from it. It’s a fairly unique book & I’d recommend it if it sounds to you like one you’d like. I have to say it’s actually a better book than my next two choices but, as always, I rank mainly by my level of enjoyment & I found myself not really wanting to pick this one up much so it took me quite a long time to finish. My Rating: 3/5

11. The Maze Runner by James Dashner

I admit to enjoying Young Adult books, especially as the current trend seems to be YA books that are dystopian and/or post-apocalyptic. I love dystopian and/or post-apocalyptic! I don’t normally do it this way around but I saw The Maze Runner movie first and I liked it so decided to read the books. Well, I’ve read the first two so far and will continue in order to see how they end but I’ve certainly read far better YA books. I also get the feeling that the story is going nowhere plus the author has a strange writing style that many people don’t seem to like. I’ve reviewed this & The Scorch Trials in full if you want to click on the links. My Rating: 2.5/5

10. The Scorch Trials by James Dashner

This & The Maze Runner are pretty interchangeable but I suppose I’ve put this higher as reading it was a bit more enjoyable since I didn’t see the movie first so didn’t know what would happen. Meh. Yeah. Again, not the greatest book… I just like the overall concept, which is why I’m continuing with the series. My Rating: 2.5/5

9. The Unlikely Pilgrimage Of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce

Not to be all snobby as I certainly don’t read many “worthy” classics or anything but this looked like one of those supermarket books you see old ladies reading on the bus. Well, I suppose it kind of is but, screw it, I AM an old lady on a bus! The basic story is simple: Retired Harold Fry decides to make a pilgrimage by foot across most of England to visit an old work colleague & friend named Queenie, who has written him to say that she is dying. It was a slow read to start but I was fairly hooked as Harold got closer & closer to reaching his destination. As you may expect, Harold goes on a “journey of self-discovery” during his long walk and this was the best thing about the book and was handled quite well. Something becomes obvious pretty early on but it made me want to keep reading to find out exactly what happened & how. My Rating: 3/5

8. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

I’ve just finished this book and I can see why some people have told me that they really loved it. I wanted to like it a little more than I did. I’ll say that Zusak did a great job developing some rich characters that I very much cared about. Liesel, a young girl in WWII Germany, is the central character and I liked her strong will. Even better, though, were the characters Liesel loved most (her foster parents and best friend plus two other important characters I won’t mention to avoid any spoilers). Unfortunately, despite some great characters, I felt something that I can’t quite put my finger on was “missing” from this book. I think the problem was that it was narrated by Death (as in, The Grim Reaper). It’s a better “gimmick” than the Drew Barrymore thing above and I didn’t mind it at first but, in the end, I think it actually got in the way of what was a good enough story without any gimmicks. Also, the ending felt rather abrupt & rushed after this long journey that we’ve just gone on with all these characters (it’s a pretty thick book). It was a good book & I’m interested in seeing the movie now but I wish it was higher on this list. My Rating: 3.5/5

7. Tank Girl by Jamie Hewlett and Alan Martin

This is the second (of two!) graphic novels that I’ve read (the other being Watchmen). Wait – is this a graphic novel? It’s more of a collection of several comics… I think?? Is there a difference? This sort of thing is something I have NO knowledge in but I have to say that I did enjoy Tank Girl. She’s a cool character and I really appreciated the (inappropriate) humor (it took me a while to read it all as I had to keep putting it away someplace where my young daughter wouldn’t grab it). I mean, Tank Girl has sex with a kangaroo. Whaaaat? It’s pretty damn bizarre but it’s fun and I was entertained. I suppose I should watch the horrible-looking movie that doesn’t appear to resemble the comic much now? Or… Should I not?? My Rating: 3.5/5

6. NOS4A2 by Joe Hill

I read my first two Joe Hill books this year & I have to say that, so far, I may end up almost liking his work as much as his dad’s. This one seems to be a favorite but I enjoyed the other book more and found that I didn’t really care that much about the characters in this. But it’s a good & very original story. You can read my full review at the above link. My Rating: 4/5

5. Revival by Stephen King

Stephen King is and always will be my favorite author so I’m going to put a book of his fairly high on any list. I’ve not yet reviewed this one but I will try to do a full review soon as it’s a King book so I’ll keep this short. For now I’ll say that this isn’t one of his best (it probably ranks somewhere in the lower middle for me if I were to do a list of all the King books I’ve read). I find that I’m quite often a little  disappointed with how King’s books end and this one has the same problem of starting out great but then kind of fizzling out at the end. I’ll say that King once again draws a very detailed picture of small town American life which I can always relate to in his books and what makes me love his work so much. I was very much drawn into this small town where a young boy and tragic preacher reside. I just wish these two main characters had remained as interesting in the second half of the book as they grew older (the book spans many years). Well, I enjoyed it anyway – read it if you love King. I enjoyed it more than his son’s NOS4A2 but will admit that Hill’s book was probably a little better than this one. My Rating: 3.5/5

4. Horns by Joe Hill

I suppose Joe Hill’s NOS4A2 is a slightly better book than Revival and also Horns but I read this one first & actually enjoyed it the most of this father/son trio that I read this year. It’s weird, especially as it gets to the end, and not everyone would like it but it was quite refreshing to read something so totally unique & unpredictable. You can read my full double review of this and NOS4A2 at the above link. My Rating: 4/5

3. Tuf Voyaging by George R.R. Martin

This is the first and only George R.R. Martin book I’ve ever read and I loved it! I got the Game Of Thrones book last Christmas but haven’t yet had the energy to embark on that massive journey so when a woman I work with brought in a bunch of books that she was getting rid of, I was excited to see this standalone Martin book so I could see what his work was like. I can only compare this to the Game Of Thrones TV show but I’d have to say it’s quite different from that. This is sci-fi comedy! I’ve read very few books in this genre but one happens to be my all-time favorite book (The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy) so this one was perfect for me and I enjoyed it immensely. I suppose I also owe this one a full-length review at some point… I’ll just say that, although Martin’s books are clearly popular, I had no idea of what a great writer this guy really is and it has me definitely wanting to read more of his stuff. I’ll also admit this: I’m a casual reader & clearly like light & easy entertainment. My vocabulary is limited (as evidenced by my so-called “reviews” 😉 ) and I’ve never had to look up so many words for their definitions while reading a book as I did while reading this. (Not tons, maybe six or seven words). But that’s awesome – I don’t have to do that with my YA books! This guy truly has a great way with words and his characters (especially Tuf) felt so alive. And it was actually funny! After watching Game Of Thrones, full of so much tragic death, I wasn’t sure what to expect of a sci-fi comedy from the same author. Plus the story itself had me hooked. Loved it. Can anyone recommend any of his other work? My Rating: 4.5/5

2. The Martian by Andy Weir

I can’t believe I never had a chance to watch this film considering how much I loved the book! Oh well – I’ll catch it at some point. I did at least review this book in full so I can keep this short. I guess I really do love my sci-fi comedies (although this is more sci-fi than comedy but I loved the central character’s amazing sense of humor). I find very few books to be perfect (I’m almost always disappointed with the endings) but I really can’t fault this one in any way other than it ending too abruptly. But I suppose that’s because I was enjoying it so much. The Martian is easily now an all-time favorite of mine and I highly recommend it. My Rating: 5/5

1. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

I’m so disappointed in myself for not getting around to reviewing this yet even though it’s the very first book I read after receiving it for Christmas last year. Thanks to anyone who has actually read this (really long & rambling) post! I’m sorry to do this to you now at my number one but I’m not going to say much about this one. Yet. It deserves a full-length review from me as it’s my favorite book in a very long time & nothing could be more “ME“! This was written for Eighties-loving geeks like me by an Eighties-loving geek and I absolutely adored it. I had so much fun reading this one. I hope the movie does it justice! My Rating: 5/5

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My Top (Eight) Books Read In 2013

Should I even post this?? I only read eight books in 2013. How embarrassing. But, hey – I’m Cinema Parrot, not Book Parrot! Since starting this blog, I’m definitely watching way more movies & reading fewer books. But I ranked all the movies I watched so I guess I might as well do that with the books I read too. You can read my full review for each if you click on the title (except The Good Guy & Miss Peregrine – I’ll try to review those soon). I still have no clue how to go about reviewing books & have to force myself to do them. Movie reviews are easier!

My Top Books Read In 2013 in order from my favorite to least favorite (although none of them were bad):

1. Joyland by Stephen King

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I know it’s not the BEST book out of these but King is my favorite author and if I’m really honest, I did enjoy this one the most. A simple, easy read unlike his long novels and very light on “horror” but I really liked the characters & the story was fun.

2. The Perks Of Being A Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

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I wasn’t sure where to rank this as it’s hard to think of it separately from the film, which I loved so much that I read the book after seeing it. Since the author also made the movie, it’s the most faithful adaptation I’ve ever seen. Love them both.

3. The Fault In Our Stars by John Green

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Funny & heartbreaking, it’ll be interesting to see what they do with the movie out later this year. Loved the characters in this book even though they seemed wise beyond their years but that’s probably true of those in their situation.

4. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

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I actually gave this a lower rating than the books I’m listing after it but I have to admit that, although the characters were completely unlikeable, it was a great story & very exciting read and has stuck with me longer than the ones below.

5. Wool by Hugh Howey

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A post-apocalyptic tale where people are forced to live in a large underground silo – This kind of story is very much my type of thing. It’s the first in a trilogy but was a bit overlong & slow in places. However, I’ll definitely be reading the rest as I really want to know what happens & find out more about the story behind why these people have been forced to live this way.

6. Wonder by RJ Palacio

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The “youngest” book I read, I think this should be (and possibly is?) required reading in schools. It’s the story of a ten-year-old boy with a severe facial deformity who starts school for the first time after years of being home-schooled. We’re told the story from several different viewpoints. It feels very honest being told this way and of course emphasizes the importance of being kind to people.

7. The Good Guy by Dean Koontz

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I totally forgot that I read this & had to amend my entire post. It also happens to be the last book I read so that’s pretty bad but I’m not surprised – this is how most Dean Koontz books are for me. If I’m going to be totally honest with all of you, I’ll tell you that I’ve read more Koontz books than those by any other author & he’s my big guilty pleasure. I always grab one when I need a “break”, which may not exactly sound like a recommendation. Did I enjoy this one? Yes. Will I remember it in a year? No – it’ll meld together in my mind with 90% of the other Koontz books I’ve read. I better do a full review soon before I have no clue anymore what it was about.

8. Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

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I LOVED the concept of this book. Apparently the author found all these great old, creepy photos & wrote a story around them. The photos are throughout the book & I thought that was pretty awesome. I’m not sure if the story QUITE worked, though, and I was very disappointed at the ending which is clearly left open for another book (or two). I’m not sure if there are more yet but there are so many young adult book series(es? Lol. Seriei!) these days that I really wasn’t interested in starting yet another one – I wanted a one-off book. I’ll review this soon.

Books For 2014:

I only got a few books for Christmas this year (luckily, as I still have some left over from last Christmas). I think my only reading goal this year is to read the ones I already have in the photo below – no new books until those are read! Oh, and Carrie as it’s one of the few Stephen King books I’ve not read and I love the sound of it after reading Smash’s review on her great Stephen King blog The Kingdom. And maybe Divergent as the movie is coming out & Zoe gave it a decent review on The Sporadic Chronicles Of A Beginner Blogger.

Any other recommendations from anyone?? Actually, no – I won’t have time for any others! Any recommendations on which of the below books I should read first? I’m currently in the middle of Doctor Sleep – That will probably take me three months. 🙂

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The Perks Of Being A Wallflower – 2013 Book #1

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Just finished Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks Of Being A Wallflower – my first book of 2013. Hoping to read one or two a month but my IMDB Top 250 movie project comes first. 🙂

The Perks Of Being A Wallflower was my favorite movie of last year. I liked it so much that I decided to read the book after seeing the movie (I think I’ve only done this a couple of times – I hate reading a book after seeing the movie). Anyway, I really enjoyed the book as well. It’s SOOO similar to the movie, which is great as movies can often end up so different from and not near as good as the book. Probably helps that the writer of the book wrote the screenplay and directed the movie! They should really let the authors do this more often if this is the result – I felt that the movie was a great adaptation. I’d even say the movie achieved what very few movies adapted from books manage to – it was, in a way, even better than the book. I think this was down to such good performances from the main actors.

Not going to go into some long review of this book as I’m trying to stick more to movie reviews but just had to say I think this is a great example of some of the young adult fiction that seems to be getting better & better these days. But if you’re not that into reading, I do at least recommend the movie as you wouldn’t be missing much from the book.

My Rating: 4/5

Think I’m going to start this one next:

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