My Top 16 Favorite 2016 Reads

Let’s face it: for many, 2016 was a less-than-stellar year, and a lot of people are excited to kiss it goodbye. Yet, in this time of reflection and transition to 2017, it’s impossible to look at the year’s negatives without also looking at its positives.

2016 was a good reading year for me. I read 77 new books this year (not counting duplicate editions, short stories, and rereads) and discovered some wonderful writers, and some fantastic books.

Here, in no particular order, are my top 16 favorite 2016 reads. (Please note: Most of these are books I read in 2016, but that doesn’t mean they were published in 2016.)


26191000222997631. Six of Crows Duology by Leigh Bardugo

A series about heists and cons, featuring a very diverse and lovable cast of characters, all of whom are strong and capable in their own ways. The Dregs are my favorite book squad (besides the Golden Trio, of course), and I love them all so very, very much. The world-building is vivid and beyond amazing, and the twists are mischievously clever. Two of my most favorite reads this year.

179273952. A Court of Mist and Fury (A Court of Thorns and Roses, #2) by  Sarah J. Maas

I liked ACOTAR, but Sarah J. Maas took things to astronomic heights in this novel. Between Feyre’s spectacular character growth, Rhysand’s fantastic development (and fantastic everything, really, let’s be honest here), the wonderful way their relationship blossomed, and the introduction of some great new characters, I’m pumped for ACOWAR. A very pleasant—and welcome—surprise.

 

 

 

23395680292362993. Illuminae & Gemina (The Illuminae Files, #1 & #2) by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff

I read Illuminae earlier this year on a plane ride and adored it, and Gemina was a wonderful sequel. These books are so different and wonderful and stressful, and you should read them if you haven’t already. Another one of my most favorite series/2016 reads. All the feels here.

174569484. Dracula by Bram Stoker

Though it took some perseverance on my end, I really enjoyed this book, which I read as research for my own book. Vampires are some of my favorite supernatural creatures, and it was fun to read one of the biggest names of the genre—and like it. Classics are usually a hit or miss for me, but this one left me smiling—and ripping through all 600 pages to find out what happens at the end. If you like vampires, read this. It’s clever and dark and sophisticated, as well as a great throwback to the Gothic writing age.

 

 

205601375. An Ember in the Ashes (An Ember in the Ashes, #1) by Sabaa Tahir

I read this book early on in 2016, and I. Was. Blown. Away. This book was so, so good. Great world-building, thrilling stakes, believable characters, clever twists—this book had them all. I saw so much of myself reflected in Laia, and I connected fiercely to Elias. I haven’t read Torch yet (though I have a copy), but I plan to in 2017, and I can’t wait. Definitely in my Top 5, and the most pleasant surprise this year. Well done, Sabaa Tahir. Well done.

 

 

79374626. The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner (The Twilight Saga, #3.5) by Stephenie Meyer

I picked this up because I was curious, and…I actually ended up really enjoying it. If Meyer had written the entire Twilight Saga this way, I probably would have been able to finish the series. Fun, short, and gripping, Bree Tanner portrays vampires the way they should be written: bloodthirsty and dangerous. I loved it.

228647107. Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman 

This book contains such important mental health messages, and they were delivered so well. I also loved the writing, the drawings in the book, and the way the two narratives connected at the end. For anyone wanting to better understand what mental illness is like to experience, this is a must-read. (My review is here.)

255777158. Reign of Shadows (Reign of Shadows, #1) by Sophie Jordan 

I was very surprised by this book, which contains fascinating world-building and relatable characters. I want more of Relhok, the kingdom without sunlight. Rise of Fire needs to get here quickly. (Review is here.)

 

 

 

 

15745753

9. Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

Beautiful, heartfelt, and perfectly-written, this is a fantastic tribute to first love. Please read it. (Review is here.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

1454683810. Finnikin of the Rock (Lumatere Chronicles, #1) by Melina Marchetta

This book was one of the  best fantasies I’ve read this year, with fantastic world-building, believable character development, a twist I didn’t see coming, and a satisfying end. How this series doesn’t have more hype is beyond me. I plan on reading the rest of the series, for sure.

 

 

 

 

2327202811. A Study in Charlotte (Charlotte Holmes, #1) by Brittany Cavallaro

I loved the original Sherlock Holmes, so I was ecstatic for this retelling, and it totally delivered. This book contains an enticing plot, well-written characters, and plenty of homage to Sir Conan Doyle’s original series. A wonderful book. I finished it in one day. 🙂

 

 

 

 

715731012. Rot & Ruin (Rot & Ruin, #1) by Jonathan Maberry

A zombie book that’s not really about zombies. I loved the humor in this book and the sibling relationship between Tom and Benny. It was well-written and believable. I’m definitely planning on reading the next books in the series.

 

 

 

 

2329951213. This Savage Song (Monsters of Verity, #1) by Victoria Schwab

Everything about this book is magical: the writing, the world, the characters. I’m fascinated, and I want more.

 

 

 

 

 

 

89313214. I Am the Messenger by Markus Zusak

I loved The Book Thief (my first book of his, even though he wrote this one first, I think), and Zusak did it again with this book. It’s quirky and fun and well-written and heartfelt, a wonderful story about what it means to be kind to others and how you make your future. I was grinning by the end.

1733181915. Reawakened (Reawakened, #1) by Colleen Houck

Humor and adorable love interests, mixed in with Egyptian mythology and The Mummy’s charm. I was disappointed by the second book, but I loved this one; it was fun, fluffy, and sweet.

 

 

 

 

 

2623802116. Into the Wild by John Krakauer 

This is a well-written account of the events surrounding Chris McCandless’s sojourn into the Alaskan wilderness, focusing on the events prior to entering Alaska, the people Chris impacted through his journey, and several of the author’s personal experience with the wilderness. Maybe Chris McCandless was just a man. Maybe he was an enigma. We’ll never really know. But this book does an excellent job at portraying McCandless in a well-rounded, realistic lens, presenting facts and some conjectures, but ultimately allowing the reader to form their own conclusions. This book gave me wanderlust.

 


So there you have it: some of my favorite 2016 reads. What were some of your favorite 2016 reads?

RECREATED (Reawakened, #2): Review

27774409Recreated (Reawakened, #2) by Colleen Houck
Published by Delacorte Press on August 2, 2016
Genres: young adult fantasy, paranormal romance, urban fantasy, mythology
Pages: 416
Format: Hardcover
Amazon Barnes & Noble | Goodreads | IndieBound

Rating: ★★  


*sighs* This is not the review I’d hoped to be writing. Not at all.

I loved Reawakened–way more than I was expecting to. It wasn’t a sophisticated novel, by any means (especially prose-wise), but that book was cute and fun and made me giggle.

This one? This book just made me sad.

Two very important elements made me enjoy the first book so much:

  1. Amon (and all the scenes where he was just being adorable)
  2. the humor, especially the bantering between Amon and his brothers

This book sorely lacks both of these elements, and the quality of the story suffers for it. Because, without these things to mask the faults of the story, all the holes show here.

The plot seems pretty straightforward at the beginning of the book: Get Amon out of the Netherworld–or at least give him back his heart, because he’s suffering. But this becomes needlessly complicated way too quickly. Apparently Lily needs to become a Sphinx in order to enter the Netherworld, but then she completes the ceremony incorrectly and ends up having to share her body and mind with a lioness named Tia.

And then, in order to save one of the brothers, they have to gather resources from a tree, which kills the tree and binds an Irish fairy (don’t ask me, I have no idea what Houck was thinking here) named Ashleigh to Lily and Tia in the process? It’s all so weird and random.

But what made it worse, I think, was that, because Lily’s sharing a body with two other females and each one is in love with a different brother, there’s…what? A love hexagon? And then Lily gets the hots for Ahmose out of nowhere and kisses him with no build-up, knowing Amon will be hurt by this? Again, random and totally unnecessary. I get that, because Lily’s “Sphinx” now, it’s hard for her to distinguish her own thoughts from Ashleigh’s and Tia’s, but it’s killing me not knowing if it’s their attraction to these guys that Lily’s acting on, or her own.

Basically:

16060582

Also, where the characters seemed different and developed in the first book, they are less so here. Ahmose and the third brother (literally spent 20 minutes trying to find his name and failed, which should tell you just how forgettable he is) mostly blurred into one person, Dr. Hassan was this really uppity old guy more interested in opportunity than the safety of others (or maybe that was Lily), and Amon was very mopey. I understand Amon is in pain and is being tortured. But I think, if he’d had more of a presence in this book and if he’d shown a wider variety of emotions (or even more emotions at all), he’d have stood out as a more vivid character to me here.

All in all, an extreme disappointment. I’ll likely read the last book just to see how the series ends, but I might also read spoilers, just to save on time. I really don’t want to be disappointed again, and there are other, better books to read.

WiP Marathon #5 (2016 Recap Version): December 2016

It’s that time of the month again, and, as the year comes to a close, it’s time to reflect on my yearly progress with my WiP (The L.S. M.S., now that NaNoWriMo is over). So, here we go: this is the WiP Marathon–2016 edition.


Last report word count + chapter count/scene count:

Last time, I wasn’t sure about chapter count, but my word count was 98,040.

Current report WC + CC/ SC: 

After making an outline, I now have an exact chapter count: 26 chapters. 🙂 Word count is 95, 829. (Huh. Looks like I edited more than I thought.)

WiP Issues This Year:

Finding time and motivation. Between schoolwork and other life events, sometimes I struggle to see the point in continuing work on my manuscript. I see only its flaws, and when I start comparing it to other books, I get even more discouraged. This makes me lose motivation to make it better, because I’m worried I can never make it better.

What I learned this year in writing: 

Revising is hard, man. It’s a lot more time- and effort-intensive than some might have you believe. And reading is just as important as writing–I’d go so far to say it’s crucial to improving your writing capabilities. I’ve been reading a ton this year, and I firmly believe it’s helped me make better edits.

What distracted me this year while writing: 

School, mainly. I also struggle with anxiety and depression, which can hinder my productivity. Sometimes, when I’d have a ton of time to work on writing, I would have a panic attack or a breakdown instead (not voluntarily, of course), which meant I lost that spare time.

Goal for next/this coming year: 

I want to start querying The L.S. M.S., but, to do that, I need to finish edits. One foot in front of the other, I guess. Just like life. And, also like life, I just need to stick with it.

ALLEGIANT (Divergent, #3): Review

17383918Allegiant (Divergent, #3) by Veronica Roth
Published by Katherine Tegen Books on May 1, 2012
Genres: young adult science fiction, post-apocalyptic, dystopian, romance
Pages: 526
Format: Hardcover
Amazon Barnes & Noble | Goodreads | IndieBound

Rating: ★★ 


I want so much to give this book more than two stars. I really, really do.

But I can’t.

It’s not because of the ending, either. I didn’t want this book to end the way it did, sure, and it could have been better delivered. (In other words: How did the big twist impact other characters besides Tris and Four. [Because did it impact anyone else, really? We don’t see that impact.]) But I felt the twist really completed Tris’s character arc nicely, and it was written beautifully.

So it’s not because of the ending, or Tris (though she was still mechanical in this book, the ending made her come alive for me); or Four’s angst (which kind of irritated me, but I could understand where it was coming from); or their romance (my favorite part of this series); or the dual-perspective narrative (the last few chapters almost made me CRY); or the writing (my favorite part of this book).

This book gets two stars for the big reveal. For one we’ve spent a collective 1,000 pages over the last two books waiting for, the reveal is pretty lackluster.

((SPOILERS FOR INSURGENT & ALLEGIANT HERE))

At the end of Insurgent, we find out that Chicago was an experiment created to cultivate certain issues in the human race after everyone basically became violent, murderous jerks. In Insurgent, this twist was believable (though I predicted it, which is a novelty for me), but in Allegiant, it becomes ridiculous. Outside the Chicago fence, “Divergence” is being “genetically pure,” and you have two groups: the “Pures” and the “Damaged”–the latter of which is subjugated by the former group.

I don’t know much about genetics; all my knowledge comes from freshman-year biology in high school. But I do know that nobody’s genes are perfect, and that you can’t breed damaged genes out of a population if part of that population carries damaged genes. That actually makes things worse.

It just made no sense to me. And, seeing as we’ve been waiting for a real definition of Divergence since book one, it was a real let down. Veronica Roth said she decided she didn’t want Divergence to be anything special, which is fine, but this just makes zero sense. And making Divergence another term for “genetic purity” actually makes Divergence even more special than it already is, so Roth totally defeated the point.

Another thing I don’t understand: Tris’s mother was a spy from the outside? Why? Why does that make any sense, and how in the world does it fit in with her character? This is just another twist that doesn’t make any sense with what little we know about Tris’s mother and Tris’s family. It felt convoluted and completely random.

Speaking of the world outside the fence, the world outside of the compound and Chicago is sorely underdeveloped. Crime is rampant, people are starving, there’s conflict and death and poverty everywhere, and the whole area is a barren wasteland. Anything else? This is every post-apocalyptic desert we’ve seen before. We need something new. Something more. Something better.

One final complaint of mine: Why is Tris always right? It’s really annoying. Some of the characters actually even admit that Tris is always right about everything, but, to be a convincing and real character, Tris shouldn’t be right about everything. That’s not realistic at all.

((END OF SPOILERS))

Basically, this entire book was a letdown to a two-book-long, adrenaline-packed buildup. And if the letdown would have made sense, I might have been able to enjoy this book more and rate it higher.

But Allegiant is confusing and contrived, a shameful sputter of a conclusion to a series that started with such a promising bang. I’ll check out Roth’s future books because I enjoy her style and the way she writes romantic relationships, but, as far as conclusions go, I can’t recommend this one.

Mood & Music Monday: 12/26/16

Hello, everybody! Merry Christmas, and welcome to this week’s Mood and Music Monday!

Mood and Music Monday is a weekly meme I’ve started, wherein I’ll post a song and talk about how it relates to my day/week, as well as a few other things. (And, in case anyone’s wondering, this meme has no relation to Lauren’s [from Always Me] “Music Mondays.”) Feel free to participate and to leave a link to your posts down in the comments!

Here’s the update for this week:

SONG(S) OF THE WEEK

What are you listening to? Today, I’m listening to songs from Lights’s album Little Machines–one of three albums I received for Christmas. I love the whole thing, but favorites include “Portal,” “Speeding,” “Muscle Memory,” “Slow Down,” “How We Do It,” and “Don’t Go Home Without Me.”

What are you reading? I finished The Winner’s Crime , and, today, I started I Am the Messenger by Markus Zusak. I loved The Book Thief, and this is my first Zusak novel apart from that. I’m about a third of the way in to I Am the Messenger, and I’m really liking it so far; hopefully I’ll continue to enjoy it.

What are you drinking? Water, water, water. It’s been tea weather lately, but it’s starting to warm up here.

Any goals for this week? Staying on track with beta reading. 🙂

How about you?

  • What song(s) are you listening to today?
  • What is your current read? Are you enjoying it?
  • Do you have any plans or goals for this week?

THE PASSION OF DOLSSA: Review

25902198The Passion of Dolssa by Julie Berry
Published by Viking Books for Young Readers on April 12, 2016
Genres: young adult, historical fiction, religion
Pages: 478
Format: Hardcover
Amazon Barnes & Noble | Goodreads | IndieBound

Rating: ★★★¾


This is a difficult book to review, just like it’s a difficult book to categorize. It has religious undertones, but it’s not necessarily a story about religion. It doesn’t seem like the typical young adult historical fiction novel (and it really isn’t), but that doesn’t mean it’s not compelling in its own right.

It’s about Dolssa, but it’s not, actually.

You heard me correctly. Despite the title of this book implying a recount of Dolssa’s sufferings, this novel is actually about the community Dolssa affects with her presence when she is taken in by three sisters while being pursued by a friar. It’s about how you don’t know where you’re headed, and, sometimes, you need the right people to get you where you need to go.

The Passion of Dolssa is a subtle novel in every way. Subtle in character development, subtle in its characterization of the townspeople, subtle in its impact. It’s one of those novels where, slowly, you see all the pieces fitting together, and you can’t help but smile, because how could you not have seen it before? Such subtlety and gentleness made it difficult for me to get invested in this book, but eventually I got there.

I wish I could have connected to the characters sooner. I wish we had more page time with them so I could get to know them more intimately, Dolssa especially. However, I enjoyed what we did see, and I was eventually able to get invested in the lives and well-beings of these characters with time. I still think about these characters from time to time, even though I read the book several months ago.

Another thing that threw me off a little was the language usage in this novel. It takes place in the thirteenth century, so obviously language was very different. This book did a great job of integrating various terms and phrases into the novel that really reinforced the book’s setting and atmosphere. I just wish I didn’t have to turn to the glossary as much as I did (which, granted, was not often, but still). I’d rather have that energy invested in immersing myself in the story. (Very personal preference, though. If you’re okay with glossaries in fantasy novels, you’d be fine with this; I’m pretty sure the glossary in this book was neither overwhelming  nor overly extensive.)

Finally, the ending confused me. (And made me sad, to be honest; I know that things don’t always end happily, but…why? I was finally satisfied, but then that satisfaction was snatched from me. It was disheartening. 😦 ) I wish I’d understood what was going on better in the last chapter or two.

Overall, though this book took a while for me to warm up to it, I very much enjoyed The Passion of Dolssa, and would readily recommend it to anyone interested in an atypical YA historical fiction novel–one that not only includes religion, but shows both the bad and good sides of faith. Expect this novel to grow on you, though; don’t expect it to hook you in right away.

But if it does? That’s great, too.

 

WiP Wednesday: 12/21/16

Hello, and welcome to this week’s #WiPWednesday post!

#WiPWednesday is a weekly meme started by Brigid Gorry-Hines from Wordfare. Every Wednesday, I’m supposed to post an update about my WiP (Work in Progress), including word count and where I’m at in writing/revising it. Hopefully, doing this meme will keep me motivated to continue working on my WiP.

So let’s get started! I’ll try to fill out these categories as best as I can.

WIP:  The L.S. M.S.

Writing or Revising? 

Revising.

Current Word Count: 95, 829

Word count went down again, but barely. This actually isn’t because I haven’t been working; it’s because of the kind of work I’ve been doing.

How It’s Going:

Things are looking up! I mentioned last week that I was planning on outlining my novel and then going from there to fill the rest out. So, instead of editing scenes, I’ve been filling out my outline–a task I actually just finished today. (Yay!) From there, I need to fill in some blanks that previous editing rounds have left in the narrative and the plot. It’s a tedious task, but I think it’ll be worth it.

Goal for Next Week:  

Just brainstorming. In outlining, I actually figured out how to fill some plot holes, so hopefully filling in those will help me figure out how to fill in the rest? We shall see. 🙂