The Best Kids Books (I Read for Myself) in 2015

Last week I shared my favorite books from 2015, and this post was originally going to feature all of the best children’s books I read in 2015 – board books, picture books, readalouds, and the ones I read for myself.

Except 2015 was a knockout year with great kid lit, and I needed to split it up so it’s not completely ridiculous.

So, today is all about the books I picked and read for myself. Not books I read to a child or three – these were my reads.

The Year of Miss AgnesThe Year of Miss AgnesThe Year of Miss Agnes by Kirkpatrick Hill by Kirkpatrick Hill

A reread in preparation for the online kids book club I’m doing with Jessica (Quirky Bookworm). I adored this book the first time I read it, and suggested it for our Arctic theme. Then I was scared that it wouldn’t hold up well to rereading, or what if people hated it?

Well, so far everyone who has commented about it has said they’ve enjoyed it (yay!) and I loved it just as much the second time through. It’s heartwarming and inspiring, and all around a lovely read.

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon
Where the Mountain Meets the MoonWhere the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin
by Grace Lin

Also read when it was a possibility for that book club (we ended up not selecting China as a theme this year). It’s gorgeously written, and charmingly illustrated – go for the print version, not the electronic as I did, or you’ll miss out on some of the illustration details. Loved, loved, loved it.

The War that Saved My LifeThe War that Saved My LifeThe War that Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

An uplifting look at World War II evacuees, and how being sent away from London ended up being the best thing to happen to one girl. It’s heart-rending but ultimately hopeful. Because of the descriptions of abuse that Ada suffers I wouldn’t advise it for younger readers, but for those emotionally ready to read it, it’s a fantastic book.

Inside Out and Back AgainInside Out and Back AgainInside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai by Thanhha Lai

A heartbreaking account, beautifully written in verse that manages to make the semi-autobiographical story emotionally easier to read. Well-deserved winner of the National Book Award and a Newbery Honor Book.

Listen SlowlyListen, SlowlyListen, Slowly by Thanhha Lai by Thanhha Lai

Yes, a second book by the Thanhha Lai. Unlike Inside Out and Back Again, this is written in prose, and she is just as adept in that form. It’s a captivating story, with lots of appealing characters, that brings contemporary Vietnam to life.

Sparrow RoadSparrow RoadSparrow Road by Sheila O'Connor by Sheila O’Connor

Relationship-focused middle grade book with beautiful language and appealing characters. I like how it’s got a bit more depth in the content than some books I’d recommend to early elementary readers, while still being gentle enough for all but the most precocious of readers.

Goodbye StrangerGoodbye StrangerGoodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead by Rebecca Stead

Precocious reader alert: because of some of the topics addressed (including bullying and sexting), this isn’t one you’ll want to hand off to younger readers, but it’s a wonderfully written tale for those old enough for the content. It’s not as amazing as Stead’s When You Reach Me, but it’s still a solid book.

The ThiefThe ThiefThe Thief (The Queen's Thief, Book 1) by Megan Whalen Turner by Megan Whalen Turner

(a reread)

It still is one of my favorites, and I gave away my copy this year and may need to replace it soon so I can read it another time. 🙂 If you’re new to this series, don’t give up on this one – it has a slow start – but ultimately it is so good. Vaguely historical in feel, with some fantasy elements as well, and flashes of humor add up to a winning read.

When You Reach MeWhen You Reach MeWhen You Reach Me (Yearling Newbery) by Rebecca Stead by Rebecca Stead

(A reread for book club)

Possibly even better as a reread, as you know what’s going to happen, and can appreciate the clues Stead weaves throughout the text. No more details, lest I slip and give spoilers, but READ THIS BOOK.

For more peeks at what people are reading, head over to Modern Mrs. Darcy’s link-up!

Quick Lit for March 2015: Recent Re-Reads

I seem to go on re-reading kicks, and lately I’ve been on another one. Happily, they’ve all been great books to read again:

The Road from Coorain by Jill Ker ConwayThe Road from CoorainThe Road from Coorain by Jill Ker Conway by Jill Ker Conway

Rereading this one because it was book club’s March pick. I picked it up with some trepidation, because I was the one who pushed for it to be the month’s pick – what if I ended up thinking that I shouldn’t have recommended it? Instead, while the very beginning was a bit slower than I remembered, the rest of it was as strong as I’d recalled. It’s a very thoughtful book, but so worth reading (just be warned that it can be a tough one too – there are difficult events recounted). It also made for a *fabulous* discussion book – I was supposed to facilitate the discussion, but most of it ended up being organic as there is just so much to talk about in the book. (Read my original review on it)

The Eyre AffairThe Eyre Affair: A Thursday Next NovelThe Eyre Affair: A Thursday Next Novel by Jasper Fforde by Jasper Fforde

Reread to prepare myself for reading additional titles in the series (and because it’s an easy read, so reading it again wouldn’t take long.) It’s such an odd book and premise, but lots of fun. It also makes it very hard to ever read Jane Eyre again without imagining agent Thursday Next’s behind the scenes role in that story. 🙂

Princess BrideThe Princess Bride: S. Morgenstern’s Classic Tale of True Love and High AdventureThe Princess Bride: S. Morgenstern's Classic Tale of True Love and High Adventure by William Goldman by William Goldman

Reread after reading As You Wish, and because it’s August’s book club pick. Super fun, especially after having just finished Elwes’ memoir.

The ThiefThe Thief The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner by Megan Whalen Turner

Reread as I get ready to finally read the last in the series – A Conspiracy of KingsA Conspiracy of Kings (Thief of Eddis). Or at least the last one so far – there’s still supposed to be more books, but there’s no indication on a publication date. I adore this series and almost don’t want to read the last one, as it’ll mean I no longer have it to look forward to reading eventually. (Read my original reviews on The Thief, and the second and third in the series – The Queen of Attolia, and The King of Attolia).

CinderCinderBook Review: Cinder (Lunar Chronicles #1) by Marissa Meyer by Marissa Meyer

Reread as I waited my turn at FairestFairest: The Lunar Chronicles: Levana's Story by Marissa Meyer. I love this series too, and it was maybe even more fun the second time through it. Will I reread them all before WinterWinter (The Lunar Chronicles) by Marissa Meyer is published? Perhaps… (Read my original reviews on Cinder, and also Scarlet, Cress)

For more peeks at what people are reading, head over to Modern Mrs. Darcy’s link-up!

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Favorite Books of 2014

Favorite Books of 2014I had a really difficult time picking my favorite books this year, so I eventually settled on picking the books I most highly recommend to others, or the ones wish I could still experience for the first time. And because picking was so difficult, I added some runner-ups.

(Links go to my reviews if I’ve written one, Amazon if I haven’t yet)

Velma Still Cooks in LeewayVelma Still Cooks in Leeway by Vinita Hampton Wright

If I had to pick one single favorite book of the year, it would probably be this one. I think I need to reread this one next year, just so I can more fully appreciate the way she wove this story together.

A Tree Grows in BrooklynA Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

I was convinced this book would be boring. I was wrong.

Crossing to SafetyCrossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner

Surprised myself by liking this one as much as I did, and describing it does not do it justice. Wonderful characters who stay with you long after you’ve finished reading the book.

Burnt Toast Makes You Sing GoodBurnt Toast Makes You Sing Good: A Memoir of Food and Love from an American Midwest Family by Kathleen Flinn

I’ve loved Flinn’s other books, and loved how this one brought to life her family’s stories, and led into the events in her first book. Did I like it more because I now live in the Midwest? Possibly, but I don’t think that was the only appeal.

Mastering the Art of French EatingMastering the Art of French Eating: Lessons in Food and Love from a Year in Paris by Ann Mah

Armchair traveling at its best. Mah allowed me to come along with her as she spent a year in Paris and traveled throughout France experiencing it’s most iconic food. Prepare to be hungry as you read it.

Buried in the SkyBuried in the Sky: The Extraordinary Story of the Sherpa Climbers on K2′s Deadliest Day by Peter Zuckerman and Amanda Padoan

The focus on the Sherpas is what makes this book so wonderfully fascinating. If you’ve liked other Everest accounts, don’t miss this one, with its unique perspective on the events of that deadly climbing season.

The Queen of AttoliaThe Queen of Attolia and The King of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner, from The Queen’s Thief series

I’ve been holding off on reading book #4, because then I won’t have another one to look forward to for the forseeable future. And that’s a very sad thing.

CressCress by Marissa Meyer, from the Lunar Chronicles series

Can’t wait to read the final two in this series!

Etiquette and EspionageEtiquette &Espionage, Curtsies & ConspiraciesCurtsies & Conspiracies (Finishing School Book 2) by Gail Carriger, and Waistcoats & WeaponryWaistcoats & Weaponry (Finishing School #3) by Gail Carriger by Gail Carriger, from the Finishing School series

Super fun series, although book #3 took a more serious turn that I wasn’t completely expecting. The final book come out next year.

The Runner-Ups

Parnassus on WheelsParnassus On WheelsParnassus On Wheels by Christopher Morley by Christopher Morley

Another one where the descriptions don’t convey how enjoyable the book is. Sweet and gentle and very easy to read. I only just read it last week, which is why I hesitate to say that it would have the staying power to be a favorite for the year. I may regret not including it.

The Mislaid MagicianThe Mislaid Magician by Patricia C. Wrede & Caroline Stevermer, from the Cecelia and Kate series

Epistolary + fantasy + historical fiction = my kind of fun.

Women Heroes of World War IWomen Heroes of World War I: 16 Remarkable Resisters, Soldiers, Spies, and Medics and Women Heroes of WWII: 26 Stories of Espionage, Sabotage, Resistance, and Rescue both by Kathryn Atwood

If you like one you’ll like the other, and if you’re at all interested in brief biographical accounts of fascinating individuals, you should give these a try.

Eiffel's TowerEiffel’s Tower: The Thrilling Story Behind Paris’s Beloved Monument and the Extraordinary World’s Fair That Introduced It by Jill Jonnes

I’m already second-guessing myself for not including it above, but I think it just misses out on being a “must recommend to everyone I know” type book. It really was a great book though.

The Professor and the MadmanThe Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary by Simon Winchester

Like the Eiffel’s Tower book, this is another fascinating look at a small slice of history. I loved it.

The Night Circus
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Another one I may need to reread, to see what clues the author drops throughout the text as to what will be happening later.

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Judging Books by their Covers: The Thief

Judging Books by their Covers: The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner

Click on the image to enlarge it. From left to right: Indonesian version, paperback version, revised paperback version, hardcover version, British version

In my post reviewing The Thief I mentioned how much I hated the cover for the version I own – the paperback cover that’s shown second from the left in the collage above. The reprints all look like the middle one, and that cover style carries over to the later books in the series.

From left to right, my thoughts on the various covers:

Cover #1 I like, but doesn’t really relate to the book content that well. Sure, Gen goes on a quest of sorts, but he never appears like that exactly, and the body language is all wrong.

Cover #2 I’ve said how much I hate it. It does kind of connect to the content at least. I think my copy looks even worse than the picture makes it seem – it’s really dark, and those strange … clouds? on the bottom right end up being totally head-scratching.

Cover #3 Seems like a very trendy sort of cover, but I still like it. The image relates to the story without giving much away. Also, I’m biased because I like the other series covers so much and they’re in this style.

Cover #4 Relates to the content, and has that creepy shadow looming over it, which I like for the subtle mood it imparts.

Cover #5 Relates really well – the best of all of the options I think. It just would never inspire me to read the book!

I’ll admit that I love cover #3, but 4 and 5 both have some positives. I like #1 but the disconnect from the actual story in the book bugs me.

Which one is your favorite?

Linking up with Jessica at Quirky Bookworm – head over there to see more “Judging Books by their Covers”

The King of Attolia

The King of AttoliaThe King of AttoliaThe King of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner by Megan Whalen Turner

Book three in the series, and I think I liked this one even more than book two, The Queen of Attolia. What takes a bit of getting used to is the perspective of this one – it’s not Eugenides telling the story, but one of the Queen’s guards. This ends up being a fun way to both get outsiders’ perspectives on the new King, but also to keep the reader guessing on what exactly Eugenides is doing. Surely he’s not the idiot he appears to be?

As mentioned in the review of book two, please don’t read these out of order. It makes such a difference to the story to have details revealed as the story unfolds. It’d also be harder to fully appreciate the current tale without knowing what all has taken place to get the characters to where now are.

Publisher’s Description:
By scheming and theft, the Thief of Eddis has become King of Attolia. Eugenides wanted the queen, not the crown, but he finds himself trapped in a web of his own making. Attolia’s barons seethe with resentment, the Mede emperor is returning to the attack, and the king is surrounded by the subtle and dangerous intrigue of the Attolian court.

When a naive young guard expresses his contempt for the king in no uncertain terms, he is dragged by Eugenides into the center of the political maelstrom. Like the king, he cannot escape the difficulties he makes for himself. Poor Costis knows he is the victim of the king’s caprice, but he discovers a reluctant sympathy for Eugenides as he watches the newly crowned king struggle against his fate.

Fans of the Newbery Honor Book The Thief and The Queen of Attolia will recognize Megan Whalen Turner’s signature plot twists and turns in the third exquisitely crafted tale about Eugenides.

Book Details

Title: The King of AttoliaThe King of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner
Author: Megan Whalen Turner
Category: Fiction / Fantasy
My Rating: 4 1/2 Stars

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The Queen of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner

The Queen of AttoliaThe Queen of AttoliaThe Queen of Attolia (The Queen's Thief, Book 2) by Megan Whalen Turner by Megan Whalen Turner

Heads-up before you read any further: some series don’t really matter if you read them out of order, but this one absolutely does. Do NOT plan on reading The ThiefThe Thief (The Queen's Thief, Book 1) by Megan Whalen Turner after this one, because you’ll have spoiled yourself for that book. In fact, you probably shouldn’t even read this review. Instead, go read my review of The Thief. 🙂

As is probably obvious from that intro, this is the second book in The Queen’s Thief series, which began with The ThiefThe Thief (The Queen's Thief, Book 1) by Megan Whalen Turner, and I liked this one even more. A warning though, that one early scene is pretty brutal for what otherwise could be read by younger teens or tweens. (If you look the cover you can probably guess what it involves. I don’t think that’s really a spoiler, because it takes place right at the beginning of the book.)

Even though some of the suspense is missing because I know there are a third and fourth book still to come (so I’m not truly worried about the main character surviving certain events), it’s still suspenseful in a “what will he come up with next” sort of way. There are also some really funny bits.

It’s a terrific young adult fantasy series, and I really hope the rest of the series is as enjoyable.

Find the book: Print | Kindle | Goodreads

Publisher’s Description:
Revenge
When Eugenides, the Thief of Eddis, stole Hamiathes’s Gift, the Queen of Attolia lost more than a mythical relic. She lost face. Everyone knew that Eugenides had outwitted and escaped her. To restore her reputation and reassert her power, the Queen of Attolia will go to any length and accept any help that is offered…she will risk her country to execute the perfect revenge.

…but
Eugenides can steal anything. And he taunts the Queen of Attolia, moving through her strongholds seemingly at will. So Attolia waits, secure in the knowledge that the Thief will slip, that he will haunt her palace one too many times.

…at what price?
When Eugenides finds his small mountain country at war with Attolia, he must steal a man, he must steal a queen, he must steal peace. But his greatest triumph, and his greatest loss, comes in capturing something that the Queen of Attolia thought she had sacrificed long ago…

Book Details

Title: The Queen of AttoliaThe Queen of Attolia (The Queen's Thief, Book 2) by Megan Whalen Turner
Author: Megan Whalen Turner
Category: Fiction / Young Adult Fantasy
My Rating: 4.5 Stars

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!

The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner

The ThiefThe Thief The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner by Megan Whalen Turner

I came *thisclose* to giving up on The Thief. It had such a slow start, with an unlikable main character. That it was a Newbery Honor book and had great ratings kept me going – maybe I was missing it, and just needed to give it more time. Plus it was from my own bookshelf, and I wanted to get another book read for the challenge, and know if I had a book that should stay on my bookshelves or find a new home.

And then the book turned a corner and I found myself at the end thinking “I want to reread this RIGHT NOW just so I can see what all I missed the first time through.” That, and I’ve already requested book number two, as I was thrilled to discover that it’s the first in a series. Yay for unexpected book series!

So, my recommendation is to give the book a try. Keep going even when it seems slow to start – it would have helped if I’d realized most of the book is going to be the journey, and hadn’t expected the travel portion to be only a chapter or two, and the events at the destination to be the main part. Not so! Much of the book is spent getting the to and from their destination.

It’s a fantasy, but with no real “fantasy” elements. It reads more like a historical, but one set in a world inspired by Ancient Greece, and then the geography and gods and legends are all made up.

I’m very happy I read it, and I do recommend it, just with some reservations. I don’t think it’s a great pick for a reluctant reader – despite what should be a dramatic beginning it would be so easy to put it down and never get back to it until far too late in the book. For middle grade fantasy fans who will be motivated to stick with it, I think it’s a good pick. (And the redesigned cover is so much better than the cover on my copy, so if that’s an issue for your readers, grab the newer one, as pictured above.)

Publisher’s Description:
“I can steal anything.”

After Gen’s bragging lands him in the king’s prison, the chances of escape look slim. Then the king’s scholar, the magus, needs the thief’s skill for a seemingly impossible task — to steal a hidden treasure from another land.

To the magus, Gen is just a tool. But Gen is a trickster and a survivor with a plan of his own.

Book Details

Title:The Thief The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner
Author: Megan Whalen Turner
Category: Juvenile Fiction / Fantasy
My Rating: 4 Stars

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!