Sunday, February 21, 2016

My Top Ten Reads of 2015


Call this the blog that almost didn't happen.

 I kept track of all the books I read last year like a dutiful book blogger (I read 36 by-the-by), noting which could be candidates for my Top Ten list along the way. Then in late December I actually compiled the Top Ten list, intending to write and publish this post either just before or just after the New Year.

Heh. Heh.

Best intentions, right?

Oh well. Let's get down to it, shall we? I have the same rules as I had in previous years: all styles of books are fair game because I'm not a pretentious bitch, and only one book by any given author can make the list, because I like to make equal opportunity Top Ten lists. I already reviewed some of the books that made the cut this year, and when relevant I will link to those reviews. In years past I linked to each book's kindle page but I think I will cut that part out with this end-of-year literary list. I read both electronic and dead tree books (aka paperback) and I feel like linking to ebooks only might come across as preferential. 

I don't want to tell you how or what or why to read. That's not my business, so long as you actually fucking read. This is a literary world, after all. 

And now the Top Ten list:

(10) Farewell, My Lovely by Raymond Chandler

Raymond Chandler was one of the founding fathers of noir fiction. Phillip Marlowe, the fictional PI he created is the literary godfather to all who followed him. If you've never given noir a try, give THIS one a try. If you love modern hardboiled fiction but have never explored its predecessors, fucking do so now.

(Also, if you have an hour or so to kill and are possessed of a sense of humor and a love of a well-turned line, go look at @chandlerisms on twitter. The account tweets only lines from the master's books. Lots of fun.)

(9) Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

This book was so, so, so much fun. It managed to somehow be both in love with technology and Luddite-ish at the same time. I don't want to say much else, except: read this fun, fun, fun book! And check out @penumbra on twitter.

(8) The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen

I didn't want to like this book, but I did. And I wrote about it here. 

(7) Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

My boyfriend Brandon and I both read this book early last year. It was phenomenal! Then we watched the movie. It was ok. Not phenomenal, but not horrible.

(6) The 8 by Katherine Neville

This was one of a short stack of paperbacks that Brandon pulled off one of his shelves and handed to me because he thought I might like them. And my fucking god was he right!! Holy intrigue! Reading this felt like reading one of Agatha Christie's political intrigue novels.

(5) Warning Signs by Stephen White

This was another book from Brandon's short stack. It was the last book I read in 2015 and I loved it so much that so far this year I've read three more books from the same series, and I am currently reading a fourth. Yep. Love me Stephen White.

(4) The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Please believe me when I say that I am done fangirling all over John Green. But I couldn't honestly leave this book off my list. I didn't so much READ this book as I INHALED it, in a few short hours (spread over 2 days) after which I sobbed like a little bitch. 

Reading John Green novels turns me into an emo 17-year-old. Check out an old post I wrote about how John Green writes about young girls. 

(3) The Last Call by George Wier

George Wier is an author I discovered in 2015. I started with this book, The Last Call, which is the first in a series of noir mysteries set in my town: Austin Texas! I loved it so much that I went on to read three more books in the series, and I plan to read them all!

(2) To Kill a Mockingbird and Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee

Okay, so maybe I'm cheating a little by bundling both of Lee's books into one slot on my Top Ten list. Maybe, but I don't think so. If you buy the argument (and I do) that Watchman was the rediscovered first draft of Mockingbird, they can really be taken as different versions of the same story. Even if you don't buy that argument, Watchman is best appreciated in connection with Mockingbird.

I blogged about the pairing last summer. Take a look here. 

(1) The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Full disclosure: my reading of The Great Gatsby in 2015 was my second read-through of this novel. Like most Americans it was required reading for me in high school. But high school me HATED this book. I found it by turns boring and pretentious. I walked away from Gatsby with the impression that in it Fitzgerald celebrated the excesses of the leisured elite. That really pissed me off.

Boy was high school me thick. I completely missed the point of Gatsby. This time around, with a number of years and a TON of life experience under my belt, I found I could not merely appreciate, but actually LOVE this book. I'm so glad I gave it a second try.

Broke & Hungry in Austin Part 2: The Hideout Pub

Well, ladies and gentlemen! We're fresh off the start of the second month of the year, and that can only mean one thing:

It's time for another edition of #BrokeAndHungryATX!!

Last month Brandon and I ventured to a Mexican restaurant for their happy hour with mediocre results. So this month we decided to go with the more traditional happy hour at a local pub. The difference between the two experiences was stark: night and day, even. I wanna get to the report card, but first, a brief description of The Hideout Pub. 

Check out their website. I love how they just declare: We're cheap so you don't have to be. 
Their website asks: "why pay a lot?" And I respond, "Why, indeed?" But cost is only one of the factors that #BrokeAndHungryATX looks at. 

So let's take a look at all of them!


The Hideout Pub doesn't lie when they say their happy hour prices are cheap. With well drinks at $2.50 each and $1.75 Lone Stars there's no reason you can't catch an inexpensve buzz in their cozy bunker. I certainly did. 

Food's another issue, though. They do have food specials for happy hour, but it seems like their big food special day is Wednesday, which didn't apply to us. I think the only special offered on the Tuesday we visited was $2 tacos. We didn't get those, though. We got their trio plate (tortilla chips with queso, salsa, and ranch dip and I added guacamole) and Brandon ordered a Hideout burger.

All told, between the two of us we had 2 well bourbons and 1 Lone Star, a $10 appetizer and a $12.50 burger. Our tab was $31.11, to which we added the $5 tip, bringing our total cost for the excursion to $36.11.

Hideout Pub's grade for COST: B


The Hideout Pub truly delivered on taste. The well bourbons were really good--not great, but for $2.50 I don't need great. The queso and guacamole were both good, and Brandon enjoyed his burger. All in all, more than adequate pub fare. Great quality for the cost.

Hideout Pub's grade for TASTE: A


The Hideout Pub has a seriously cute bunker-theme going on. The lighting is dim and there's wood and metal everywhere. Thematically, it's just exactly what you would think a grown-up secret hideaway should be. And it wasn't short on entertainment: there were multiple screens playing a diverse assortment of television and movies along with a well-stocked jukebox and dart boards and arcade games.

All that was missing was a stack of coloring books and a few boxes of crayons.

The clientele, at least on the day we visited, appeared to be mostly regulars and mostly folks around our age (30s-40s). The bartenders and wait staff seemed comfortable with everyone. It felt like a clubhouse: comfortable.

Hideout Pub's grade for ATMOSPHERE: A


If you've been following along so far, I think you should be able to guess the grade I've assigned to Hideout Pub for returnability. Come on, don't be thick. Good prices, yummy food and cozy atmosphere can only mean one thing.

Hideout Pub's grade for RETURNABILITY: A

Me & Brandon at the Hideout Pub

You can read Brandon's review of the pub here!
As always, please follow me and Brandon on twitter! I'm @LiteraryGrrrl and he's @HMMADNESS. We love to connect on social media and are always on the lookout for new happy hours to try, so if you have any suggestions tweet us!

Otherwise, see ya next month!