2016 Gavel Awards and Top 10 Reads of 2015

Another year has come and gone. Another year worth of books, stories and reviews. I want to give a big thank you to those of you out there reading my reviews. 2015 was a difficult year. Because of ongoing illness my reading and reviewing was severely limited. I am happy to say that I am feeling well I hope to continue to add more content in the new year. Now, let’s get to the awards.

Gavel Award for Best First Novel – This will go to best book I READ in 2015 that was a first effort for the author.

Gavel Award for Best Thriller – This will go to the best mystery or thriller I READ in 2015

Gavel Award for Best Fantasy or Sci-Fi – This will go to the best Fantasy or Sci-Fi novel I READ in 2015.

Gavel Award for Best Historical Fiction – This will go to the best Historical Fiction novel I READ in 2015.

Gavel Award for Best Indie Novel – This will go to the best self published or indie published book I READ in 2015.

Gavel Awards for Best Novel – This will go to the best Novel of Any Genre that I read in 2014 that was published in 2015. There will be Bronze, Silver and Gold Gavels awarded.

Gavel Award for Favorite New (to Me) Author – This will go to the best new to me author I discovered in 2015.

Broken Gavel Award – These will go to my least favorite books READ in 2015. There will be Bronze, Silver and Gold.

Gavel Award for Best First Novel

The Girl on the Train

Honestly, this was no-brainer. I still have a hard time believing that was this author’s first commercially published piece of fiction. In a single page you will find yourself both intrigued and repelled, fascinated and disgusted, confused and accepting. The narration was excellent, the characters were nuanced and flawed and the plot did not leave you wanting. This would have been impressive for a tenth release, let alone a first.

Gavel Award for Best Thriller

Gone Girl

For me, this was the year of the Mystery/Thriller. There were many great reads but this one thriller stood out above the rest. In recent years, popular thrillers have used multiple narrators to tell the same story and have been liberal with the use of the unreliable narrator. Many of them have been attempting to mimic the style of this novel. For many this is a “hate it” or “love it” novel. The characters are flawed and unlikable but are painted in an honest light. A remarkable novel.

Gavel Award for Best Fantasy or Sci-Fi

A Clash of Kings

Don’t judge me. I realize that I am way behind the times when it comes to reading the Game of Thrones series. I found the sheer size to be daunting and have put it off for many years. I am glad that I finally picked them up as they provide a fantasy experience like few others. The plot is intricate, the characters are drawn with painful care and the author displays amazing skill. To many, this is a modern classic and rightfully so. I did not provide an in depth review for this novel as I have little to add to the millions of other voices. Suffice to say, don’t let these tomes scare you away for enjoying this watermark series.

Gavel Award for Best Historical Fiction

City of Thieves – This was not a good year for Historical fiction. This book was really quite moving but filled with content I did not appreciate and detracted from the story. Unfortunately, it was also a review that did not make it to the blog but you can find my review over on Goodreads. If unnecessary sexual talk and content does not bother you, this is a moving and compelling story at heart.

Gavel Award for Best Indie Novel

Blade of the Destroyer – A very solid effort from this young author. I tend to avoid Indie offerings as the editing is either non-existent or of poor quality. This had some solid editing and didn’t suffer from many of the setbacks that Indie offerings bring. If you enjoy dark fantasy, you will enjoy this offering and enjoy it for a reasonable price.

Gavel Awards for Best Novel – This will go to the best Novel of Any Genre that I read in 2014 that was published in 2015. There will be Bronze, Silver and Gold Gavels awarded.

Bronze Gavel –

Little Black Lies – My sordid love affair with Sharon Bolton continues. I have consistently enjoyed her novels while at the same time criticizing structural issues that plague her offerings. Once again, the book had plenty of plot problems but I didn’t care. I was absorbed in this wonderfully atmospheric novel and it is, in my opinion, her best offering to date.

Silver Gavel –

The Fraud – Brad Parks has been a favorite author for some time. His books manage to combine humour and serious, relevant issues. In the past I criticized Parks for shallowness in his characters and reliance on formula. This novel is the most mature, entertaining and well written offering to date. An impressive offering.

Gold Gavel –

The Girl on the Train – We have a multi award winner here. As stated above, it was a superb offering. Here is to hoping the movie doesn’t suck.

Gavel Award for Favorite New (to Me) Author

Martin Walker –

Bruno, Chief of Police and Children of War are two of the Bruno, Chief of Police novels, I featured on the blog. I was completely charmed by small town life in the French countryside and impressed by the resourceful police detective with the interesting past. Some people will refer to these Novels as “cozy” but a quaint setting does not a cozy make. The atmosphere makes the novels, so if you like some charm, some intense description of French cuisine with a side of murder, you will enjoy these novels as much as I did.

Broken Gavel Award – These will go to my least favorite books READ in 2015. There will be Bronze, Silver and Gold.

Bronze –
The Slow Regard of Silent Things This causes me physical pain. Having read the first two books of the Kingkiller Chronicle, I came to see Patrick Rothfuss as a master. He writes with grace and style and leaves the reader mesmerized. Unfortunately, this novella just left me bored. This was style over substance. While the writing was beautiful, it was pretty face without a soul. A definite miss.

Silver –

Night Film Sometimes I think I should avoid books that other people adore. Having seen so many 5 star ratings, I thought this one couldn’t miss. I was wrong. It left me wanting. I was well written and the author created many layers to the story. The more I peeled back the layers, the more empty the book became. The book created a mythology but used it to explain the story instead of enlightening the story. A huge disappointment.

Gold –

Before I Go To Sleep. Easily the worst novel I read this year. The story was transparent and the setup ridiculous. I can often overlook this if the characterization is great. Well, it wasn’t. That said, I can why some people enjoyed it and it may be chalked up to taste.

 

Time to look back and rate my top reads for 2015. Although my reading rate was down for the year, I tried to be more selective and managed to have more hits, than misses.

10) The Book of You by Claire Kendal (Crime Mystery/Thriller)

This may be the book that I found most disturbing in 2015 and a book I cannot honestly say I enjoyed. It was disturbing, powerful and introspective and was the most important novel I read this year. This is a novel that will teach you something about yourself. I challenge you to read the story and gauge your own reaction to the events. Its message is timely and current. It is not a beach read but it is a worthy read.

9) Some Kind of Fairy Tale by Graham Joyce (Fantasy, Literary Fiction)

This is one of those rare novels that can take fantasy into the realm of literary fiction and proves that literary fiction and fantasy are not mutually exclusive. Graham Joyce shows a deft touch with the use of magical realism and infuses a beautiful fairy tale into the everyday world.

8) Darkside (Exmoor Trilogy) by Belinda Bauer (Crime Mystery/Thriller)

This is the second book in the trilogy and in my opinion, it is the best one. In reality, this is for the entire series. Not even Storm from the X-Men can manipulate atmosphere as well as Belinda Bauer. The series include a wonderful cast of characters, a dank and sheltered community and a compelling mystery with engaging villains. You can’t go wrong with Belinda Bauer and this Trilogy is a perfect place to start.

7) Little Black Lies by Sharon Bolton (Crime Mystery/Thriller)

As stated in the Gavel Awards, Sharon Bolton is at her absolute best in this compelling and occasionally preposterous thriller. She has taken a page from her good friend Belinda Bauer and written a beautifully atmospheric novel set in the Falkland Islands. Fans and uninitiated alike can enjoy this newest offering.

6) Children of War by Martin Walker (Bruno, Chief of Police) (Crime Mystery)

The book listed is just one of the many excellent books in the series. At the time of writing this review I had read all of the books available and all were read in 2015. If you want to enjoy some excellent mystery for which you do not have to darken your soul, Bruno may be the detective for you. Word of warning, do not read these while hungry. The scenes in which Bruno cooks are so detailed you can almost smell and taste his creations.

5) The Fraud by Brad Parks (Crime Mystery/Thriller)

A premire example of maturity in writing. Although the previous novel started the transition, The Fraud was a more polish novel with a well rounded and a (usually) more mature Carter Ross. Parks managed to do this without losing his trademark humour. His best work yet.

4) Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier (Classic, Mystery/Thriller)

If I were a “real” book reviewer I would probably be embarrassed to say this was my number 4 read of the year. When you review a book that is considered by many to be the best book of the 20th century, you would feel compelled to put it at the top. Since I am not constrained by any list, I can rank it at number 4. Without a doubt, this is a superb novel and truly deserves a place amongst the all time greats. Ms. DeWinter may be the single best character I have ever read. I spent three quarters of this novel shaking my head at the character until the author slapped me in the face with my assumptions. While I usually skip the “classics”, this is one not to be missed. As a side note, I highly recommend the film as well. I love each in their own right.

3) The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins (Crime Mystery/Thriller)

This is possibly the best debut novel I have ever read. The multiple perspectives and the superb narration leaving you guessing and second guessing from start to finish. A buzz book for 2015 that was worthy of the buzz.

2) A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin (Fantasy, Modern Classic)

The majority of readers would agree that the landmark Game of Thrones has established itself as a modern classic. I know that the series is unfinished and the next books feels as if it will never be released. Regardless, I am giving it the classic crown. If you enjoy fantasy filled with political scheming and hints of magic, this is amongst the best you will ever read.

1) Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (Crime Mystery/Thriller)

This is the book you either love or hate and featuring the characters that no one can love. This is the best single character novel I have read in the past several years. If you feel that you have to love or relate to a character, than you better run away. If you can relate to one of the characters, turn yourself into the police or your local mental hospital. The characters are flawed, terrible people but they are true to their character and the story feels honest.

Thank you to everyone that has been following my reviews and I hope everyone has a year filled with wonderful stories.

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Tim Written by:

Tim is a lawyer, sports fan, parent, husband and book lover. He runs his own legal practice and is the founder of The Literary Lawyer book blog and a contributing writer for baseballbabble.com. Tim loves to share his love of reading by providing reviews to entertain as well as provide information to help you make an informed reading decision.

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