The Best Books of 2015


I hope everyone’s 2015 ended with some great reading, family, friends, and fantastic food.

Of those I read in the year 2015 — those published in 2015 and before — these are the best in these categories:

Best Series:

Maggie Stiefvater’s Raven Cycle (The Raven Boys, The Dream Thieves, Blue Lily, Lily Blue)

Best Children’s Book: (TIE)

Best Memoir:

Displacement by Lucy Knisley

Best Nonfiction:

LOVE: A Philadelphia Affair by Beth Kephart

Best Short Story Collection:

The Great War: Stories Inspired by Items from the First World War 

Best Young Adult Fiction:

Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson

Best Reference:

How to Entertain, Distract, and Unplug Your Kids by Matthew Jervis

Best Women’s Fiction:

French Coast by Anita Hughes

Best Historical Fiction: (TIE)

Best Fiction:

Best Poetry: (TIE)

Here is the list of BEST BOOKS PUBLISHED in 2015:

  1. Wet Silence by Sweta Vikram
  2. The Race for Paris by Meg Waite Clayton
  3. Vessel by Parneshia Jones
  4. LOVE: A Philadelphia Affair by Beth Kephart
  5. The House of Hawthorne by Erika Robuck
  6. The Mapmaker’s Children by Sarah McCoy
  7. Miss Emily by Nuala O’Connor
  8. One Thing Stolen by Beth Kephart
  9. The Secret of Magic by Deborah Johnson
  10. The Sound of Glass by Karen White
  11. Mistaking Her Character by Maria Grace
  12. Earth Joy Writing by Cassie Premo Steele, PhD

What were your favorites in 2015?

The House of Hawthorne by Erika Robuck

Source: Penguin Random House
Hardcover, 416 pgs
I am an Amazon Affiliate

The House of Hawthorne by Erika Robuck is word portrait of Sophia Peabody and Nathaniel Hawthorne’s courtship, marriage, and family, as well as the tensions that arise from two artists balancing their passions with their family.  Spoken in the voice of Sophia Peabody, readers are given a glimpse of her passionate painting and love of life despite her debilitating headaches before she meets Nathaniel, an aloof writer who feels the inadequacy of his words on paper.  From the 1830s to the U.S. Civil War, readers are taken through their early romance and their marriage.  While readers will find Sophia passionate about her work, she still finds joy and love in being a wife and mother, though she does miss her painting.  Despite the vacillation between poverty and moderate wealth, the Hawthornes are a family unit that loves deeply and remain loyal to their friends.

“One hand is open, overflowing with an abundance of joy and vitality; the other is a fist, clutching a void so desperately that the nails dig holes in the skin.” (pg. 247)

Like many artists there are period of abundance and times when the land is fallow, and this is true in terms of both writing and painting artistry as well as the funds they earn.  Sophia is a headstrong woman, but she quickly learns how to navigate her husband’s moods and comfort him in the best way she can for a reserved man.  Nathaniel is an enigma, but we get to see him through Sophia’s loving eyes, which can help soften some of his more anti-social behavior that others may see as mean or aloof.  It is wonderful to see the circle of friends the Hawthorne’s have and how those relationships evolve over time, particularly in light of the coming Civil War between the North and South.  From the drifting away from the Emersons to the effusive complements of Melville, the Hawthornes remain a tight knit family and rally around each other in times of loss and suffering.

“Our country simmers like a covered pot over the issue of slavery, and while Nathaniel and I do not approve of owning slaves, we cannot imagine what a division or even a war between the Northern and Southern states would do to our young nation.” (pg. 264)

The House of Hawthorne by Erika Robuck is a stunning narrative that illuminates the often overshadowed life of Sophia Hawthorne and demonstrates how two artists can live together and build a life despite their differences and their own need for solitude and succor.  The novel raises questions of self-identity, self-expression, compromise, and the desire to create and have it all.

About the Author:

Historical fiction writer, book blogger, voracious reader. Erika’s first novel, RECEIVE ME FALLING was self-published. Penguin Random House published HEMINGWAY’S GIRL, CALL ME ZELDA, FALLEN BEAUTY, and a short story anthology to which Erika contributed, GRAND CENTRAL: ORIGINAL STORIES OF POSTWAR LOVE AND REUNION. Her forthcoming novel THE HOUSE OF HAWTHORNE will release on May 5th, 2015.

Erika writes about and reviews historical fiction at her blog, Muse, and is a contributor to fiction blog, Writer Unboxed. She is also a member of the Historical Novel Society, the Hemingway Society, the Millay Society. and the Hawthorne Society.





Mailbox Monday #321

Mailbox Monday, created by Marcia at To Be Continued, formerly The Printed Page, has a permanent home at its own blog.

To check out what everyone has received over the last week, visit the blog and check out the links.  Leave yours too.

Also, each week, Leslie, Vicki, and I will share the Books that Caught Our Eye from everyone’s weekly links.

Here’s what I received:

1. Crossfades by William Todd Rose for TLC Book Tour in May.

Some men fear their own deaths. Others dream of peace and heaven. But Albert knows exactly what he wants: to be the lord of his own private hell, where his eternal reward will be torturing the souls of his victims. And he knows how to get it.

While Chuck’s dream of a promotion may be ordinary, his career is anything but. As a Recon and Enforcement Technician, Level II, at a mysterious organization known only as the Institute, Chuck spends his days rescuing souls that get trapped between this life and the next, caught in mini-hells known as crossfades.

Lydia has no dreams—only nightmares. There will be no awakening from the impossible realm of terror and pain where she’s trapped . . . unless Chuck tracks her down. But this rescue will not be easy, not for a mere Level II technician. Because, in this place, Albert is god. And he’s determined that none shall escape his wrath.

2. Lost and by Jeff Griffin from NetGalley.

Ever since he was a child sitting in the back of his parents’ car, Jeff Griffin has been taking explorative journeys into the desert. In 2007, as an art student, he started wandering the back roads of the Mojave Desert with the purpose of looking for a place to reflect in the harshly beautiful surroundings. What he found were widely scattered postmodern ruins—abandoned trailers and campers and improvised structures—whose vanished occupants had left behind, in their trash, an archaeological record of astonishing richness and poignancy.

3.  The House of Hawthorne by Erika Robuck for review from Penguin Random House and so I can moderate at the Gaithersburg Book Festival this month.

Beset by crippling headaches from a young age and endowed with a talent for drawing, Sophia is discouraged by her well-known New England family from pursuing a woman’s traditional roles. But from their first meeting, Nathaniel and Sophia begin an intense romantic relationship that despite many setbacks leads to their marriage. Together, they will cross continents, raise children, and experience all the beauty and tragedy of an exceptional partnership. Sophia’s vivid journals and her masterful paintings kindle a fire in Nathaniel, inspiring his writing. But their children’s needs and the death of loved ones steal Sophia’s energy and time for her art, fueling in her a perennial tug-of-war between fulfilling her domestic duties and pursuing her own desires.

Spanning the years from the 1830s to the Civil War, and moving from Massachusetts to England, Portugal, and Italy, The House of Hawthorne explores the tension within a famous marriage of two soulful, strong-willed people, each devoted to the other but also driven by a powerful need to explore the far reaches of their creative impulses.

What did you receive?