Best Books & Games of 2015

Happy New Year! Here’s a list of my favorite books and games of 2015. The items within each category category aren’t ranked; they’re chronological.

Books:

All the Light We Cannot See
All the Light We Cannot See
Wool
Wool
My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry
My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry
Red Queen
Red Queen

Games:

Brothers - Snowy city
Brothers
Tomb Raider: gun
Tomb Raider
Mini Metro map
Mini Metro
Character Screen
ARK

The Book Riot 2015 Read Harder Challenge

I challenged myself to do the Book Riot 2015 Read Harder Challenge this year. I was off to a good start, but life got in the way and I wasn’t quite able to complete the challenge. I came pretty close, though! Assuming I finish the book I’m currently reading, I only missed two tasks.

Red Queen
A book written by someone when they were under the age of 25 [75% done reading this]
My Story
A book written by someone when they were over the age of 65
The Tales of Beedle the Bard
A collection of short stories
Wool
A book published by an indie press
Oops
A book by or about someone that identifies as LGBTQ [Not completed]
The Buried Giant
A book by a person whose gender is different from your own
The Girl Who Fell to Earth
A book that takes place in Asia
Half of a Yellow Sun
A book by an author from Africa
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
A book that is by or about someone from an indigenous culture
Dead Wake
A microhistory
The Thief
A YA novel
Station Eleven
A sci-fi novel
Eleanor & Park
A romance novel
All the Light We Cannot See
A National Book Award, Man Booker Prize or Pulitzer Prize winner from the last decade
Longbourn
A book that is a retelling of a classic story
Yes Please
An audiobook
Life on Mars
A collection of poetry
My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry
A book that someone else has recommended to you
The Girl in the Spider's Web
A book that was originally published in another language
Ms. Marvel Vol. 1: No Normal
A graphic novel, a graphic memoir or a collection of comics of any kind
Gone Girl
A book that you would consider a guilty pleasure
Meditations
A book published before 1850 [Post coming soon]
The Girl on the Train
A book published this year
Oops
A self-improvement book [Not completed]

I also read a handful of books beyond those I used in the challenge:

We book coverFind MeEverything I Never Told YouAnnihilation

To Kill a MockingbirdGo Set a Watchman

My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry

My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's SorryMy Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry by Fredrik Backman (2015)

Summary

A young girl’s grandmother dies and leaves behind a series of letters that make the girl realize their shared fairy tale world wasn’t just fantasy.

Review

I loved A Man Called Ove, so I was excited to read Fredrik Backman’s next novel. I liked it a lot, but it wasn’t quite as good as Ove. I loved the eccentric grandmother and how the girl looked everything up on Wikipedia and loved Harry Potter. Britt-Marie drove me nuts and reminded me of Professor Umbridge. I don’t think the make-believe Land of Almost-Awake worked well for me, though.

You might like this book if you are interested in…

  • Feisty, eccentric grandmothers
  • Gryffindor scarves
  • Non-existent leaseholders’ associations
  • Magical make-believe kingdoms
  • Looking things up on Wikipedia
  • Getting to know your neighbors

The Tales of Beedle the Bard

The Tales of Beedle the BardThe Tales of Beedle the Bard by J.K. Rowling (2008)

Summary

A collection of five short fairy tales for wizarding children, Tales is a part of the Harry Potter world that includes commentary from Albus Dumbledore.

Review

I bought Tales when it was published, a year after the last Harry Potter novel came out, but I never read it until now. It is super short (only about 100 pages, double-spaced with large margins). The stories are fine, but nothing special, and I didn’t really care for the Dumbledore commentary. That said, it was still a nice addition to the Harry Potter world and I thought it was pretty awesome that Rowling did the hand-drawn illustrations and that the profits went to charity.

You might like this book if you are interested in…

  • Harry Potter (duh)
  • Fairy tales
  • Magic
  • Children’s books
  • The Brothers Grimm

Half of a Yellow Sun

Half of a Yellow SunHalf of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (2006)

Summary

The lives of five characters are transformed during Biafra’s struggle for independence from Nigeria during the 1960s.

Review

While it was interesting to read about something I knew little about, I felt like I had to power through this book. I liked the beginning, but it fell flat. I wasn’t engaged and it seemed… shallow. Maybe it would have been a better book if it had been condensed.

You might like this book if you are interested in…

  • Nigeria & The Biafran War
  • Multiple POVs
  • The Igbo people
  • The word “ignoramus”
  • Kwashiorkor

Eleanor & Park

Eleanor & ParkEleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell (2013)

Summary

An unlikely teenage romance between two misfits: Eleanor (the overweight girl with flaming red hair and strange clothes) and Park (the comic-book-loving half-Korean boy).

Review

Eleanor and Park and terribly awkward, endearing characters and their story is sweet and tragic. I liked it, but I wasn’t blown away by it either.

You might like this book if you are interested in…

  • The Perks of Being a Wallflower
  • Comic books
  • Bullying
  • The Smiths
  • Young adult romance
  • John Green
  • Abusive stepfathers

Wool

WoolWool by Hugh Howey (2011)

Summary

The first in a series of dystopian novellas, Wool is about the sheriff of a large subterranean city called the Silo. People in the Silo can only view the outside world on a screen that shows a live feed from the cameras outside. Since the air outside is toxic, leaving the Silo is a death sentence for the criminals sent out to clean the cameras.

Review

Wool is short, but well-developed. It leaves a lot of questions unanswered, so I look forward to reading the rest of the series.

You might like this book if you are interested in…

  • Dystopias
  • Being trapped in a silo
  • Short stories
  • Doomsday Preppers
  • Post-apocalyptic worlds

Life on Mars

Life on MarsLife on Mars by Tracy K. Smith (2011)

Summary

With allusions to David Bowie and interplanetary travel, Life on Mars imagines a soundtrack for the universe to accompany the discoveries, failures, and oddities of human existence.
(Summary taken from Goodreads)

Review

I read Life on Mars to fulfill the “collection of poetry” task of the Book Riot 2015 Read Harder Challenge. I decided that if I had to read poetry, picking a collection called Life on Mars would be a good choice. Unfortunately, Life on Mars didn’t do anything to improve my, erm, fondness for poetry. It did win the Pulitzer Prize, though.

You might like this book if you are interested in…

  • Poetry
  • David Bowie references
  • Sci-Fi-esque poetry
  • Erm… poetry

The Girl in the Spider’s Web

The Girl in the Spider's WebThe Girl in the Spider’s Web by David Lagercrantz (2015)

Summary

Hacker Lisbeth Salander and journalist Mikael Blomkvist are back in this continuation of Stieg Larsson’s Millennium series.

Review

I was position #1 on the library waitlist for Spider’s Web, so I got it the day it was released. I took it with me on a camping trip in Oregon and stayed up at night, reading by the light of a lantern.

I thought the book was just… okay. It didn’t have the same excitement and energy as the original trilogy. Lisbeth and Mikael felt a little off and there were too many forgettable new characters. I also thought the ending was strange and unsatisfying. Overall, I still thought the book was okay, but I don’t think I’d recommend it.

You might like this book if you are interested in…

  • Stieg Larsson’s Millennium series (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, et al.)
  • Hacking
  • Autism and savants
  • Mysteries and thrillers
  • Sweden

Longbourn

Longbourn by Jo Baker (2013)

Longbourn

Summary

Longbourn is a retelling of Pride and Prejudice from the perspective of the servants.

Review

Although I’ve never fully read Pride and Prejudice, I can quote many of the lines by heart from watching the 1995 miniseries (with Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth) more times than I can count.

Longbourn doesn’t really provide any new insights into P&P, though it does add some backstory. It is more of a standalone novel taking place in the same setting as P&P. At the same time, I wouldn’t really recommend it unless you’re already familiar with P&P.

A Downton Abbey and P&P mashup seemed like a brilliant idea, but Longbourn didn’t accomplish that. It wasn’t bad, but I didn’t love the story.

You might like this book if you are interested in…

  • Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
  • Shoe roses
  • British historical romances
  • Washing soiled petticoats
  • Downton Abbey
  • Retellings of classic stories