Top 10 Best Books of 2016

This is my first ever Top Ten Tuesday post. I don’t usually participate, but it just so happened that the idea I had for my next blog post corresponded with their theme, so I decided to participate.

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by Brook and the Bookish. Read the original version of this topic here.

These are my top ten favorite books I read this year in no particular order.

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The first two books in the Broken Earth Series by N.K. Jemisin are phenomenal. The world-building is some of the best I’ve seen. I liked the first book more than the second, but the second is still good enough to make this list.

I read the first book in the middle of a massive reading slump and with a lot happening in my life, but it managed to get through to me all the same. That’s impressive.

I wouldn’t recommend this to the younger readers of this blog because this is definitely an adult book, but for everyone else reading this who likes fantasy I highly recommend picking these books up.

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I loved the first book of Leigh Bardugo’s Six of Crow’s Duology, and the sequel was just as good. I loved the way the cast meshed so well with one another. One perspective never overwhelmed the others. I loved reading from each and every character. The anti-human trafficking message is great as well.

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This book surprised me. I expected it to be terrible, but this prequel is better than the main series. I love the complexity of Darkstalker’s character: how I’m never sure if he is the hero or the villain. It’s something I don’t see a lot of in middle grade novel, but I do wish the author had chosen a name other than Darkstalker.

Darkstalker is a prequel to the Wings of Fire Series, but can be read as a standalone.

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And Then There Were None is my first Agatha Christie novel, and I did not expect to enjoy it as much as I did. This book is a classic for a reason. Agatha Christie knows how to tell a mystery. My only qualms are that I had trouble connecting with the characters because of the distant narration, and I’m quite glad to have read the modified version as opposed to the original . . .

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These two books are very different but technically part of the same series, so I’m lumping them together.

The Bands of Mourning is the sixth book in the Mistborn Series, and you definitely need to have read from at least the first book in the spinoff, The Alloy of Law,  and preferably the original trilogy too to understand what is happening.

The Bands of Mourning has a different tone from the previous books in the series with more focus on discovery, but was still excellent.

Mistborn: Secret History is a novella that it’s impossible to say anything about without spoilers except that “There is always another secret,” and you need to have read at least the first three Mistborn books before this one, and preferably most of the books in Brandon Sanderson’s Cosmere universe too. I highly recommend Mistborn: Secret History to fans of Sanderson’s Cosmere, but no one else because you will be too confused.

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This Savage Song kept me up late into the night, and I read it twice: once in physical form and once in audio because I liked it so much. The sequel is one of my most anticipated reads of next year.

I love August’s internal struggle as a monster who wanted to be human, and can’t wait to see what happens next in this fascinating world.

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Note: I received a copy of this book from the publisher, but was not asked to put it on this list. Opinions are my own. 

The Diabolic had great timing for me. It’s the book that marked an end to the reading slump I mentioned earlier. It also contains some of my favorite tropes. I love space operas and characters from one social group masquerading as a character from another social group.

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I love Morning Star for similar reasons to the book above as it contains similar reasons to the book I mentioned above as it is also sci-fi and contains a character from one group masquerading as a person from another group.

This is the only book on this list I went to the book store to buy because I couldn’t wait the amount of time it would take for shipping to get this book. I was not disappointed.

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September 2016 Wrap-Up

Monthly Wrap-Up (1)

I read seven books in September. Of those, five could be considered dystopian. Never thought I’d say that after the dystopian craze died down, though admittedly, the more recent “dystopian” books have a different feel than the ones published during the trend.

Reading

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Short Synopsis: Trilogy following a teenager asked to fight in World War III due to his skill in virtual reality games.

Thoughts: I’ve read books with similar plots in the past, but what set this series apart from the others was the author’s attention to detail in her world-building. The author thought of some potential challenges and usages of the technology used in the story that I’ve never before considered or seen considered in a story. This adds richness to the story.

I read this series after enjoying an arc of The Diabolic by S.J. Kincaid. This series is very different from the author’s forthcoming standalone, and reads on the boarder between middle grade and YA whereas her standalone read as in the hazy area between young adult and adult/new adult.

Rating:4 blue jays

23299512Short Synopsis: In a city where violence breeds monsters, two teenagers must learn to see past their differences to survive.

Thoughts: I stayed up until 2am reading this book. I value my sleep, so this is a rarity. That’s how addictive this book was. I also loved the idea of having violent acts create actual monsters, and the character archetype of a monster who wants to be human is one of my favorites, so I loved August.

Rating:4 blue jays

16299Short Synopsis: In the beginning there are ten people, and by the end there are none.

Thoughts: I’ve been surprised by how much I’ve enjoyed some of the classics I’ve read recently. I suspect this is due to the fact that I’m choosing to read these as opposed to being told to do so for school.

Loved the way the plot all came together to work with the nursery rhyme. Still, I’m glad to have read the most recent version, with “solider boys”, because I think the original would have upset me too much to finish.

Rating: 4 blue jays

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Short Synopsis: Second book in the Six of Crows Duology.

Thoughts: Really enjoyed this one. I loved the way the author made all six narrators distinct from one another. They were all incredibly developed, and I was rarely confused about whose perspective I was reading from.

The pacing was great, and I loved the way the characters had to work around set backs in their plans.

Rating: 

4.5 blue jays

22328546Short Synopsis: Mare was born a red, the lower-class subservient to the godlike silvers. When Mare discovers she has a Silver-like power of her own, she must pretend to be silver.

Thoughts:Some of the plot points felt forced, and I was annoyed with the characters for large portions of the book. The last thirty percent or so was my favorite part.

Based on the reviews of the next book I think I’ll stop here, but I wouldn’t be opposed to reading books unrelated to this one by Victoria Aveyard.

Rating: 3 blue jays

 

 

10 Most Anticipated 2016 Book Releases

I’m anticipating far more books than will make it on this list, but these are the ten I am most looking forward to. This list is in order of my very most anticipated of the ten to least anticipated of the ten. Though if the book has made this list at all it still means that I really want to read it.

Before I begin I would like to give an honorable mention to book three in the Stormlight Archive by Brandon Sanderson. If this book is somehow released this year than it is absolutely my most anticipated.

Morning Star (Red Rising Trilogy, #3)

1. Morning Star (Red Rising #3) by Pierce Brown

Release Date: Febuary 9, 2016

After the end of the second book, Golden Son, I am eagerly awaiting the third book in the Red Rising trilogy.

The Bands of Mourning (Mistborn, #6)

2. The Bands of Mourning (Mistborn #6/Alloy Era #3) by Brandon Sanderson

Release Date: January 26, 2016

Few who follow this blog are likely to be surprised in my choice of a Brandon Sanderson novel. Even if Stormlight #3 does not release this year I’ll still be satisfied by a combination of this book and Calamity.

Flamecaster (Shattered Realms, #1)

3. Flamecaster (Shattered Realms #1)

Release Date: April 5, 2016

This is the spin-off series of Seven Realms taking place a number of years later. I really enjoyed the world of Seven Realms, and the way the series ended left a few left ends in terms of this fictional world as a whole so I am curious to see what has changed in the time between the two series.

4. The Crooked Kingdom (Six of Crows #2) by Leigh Bardugo

Release Date: September 22, 2016

I really enjoyed the first book in Six of Crows, and I’m curious about the direction the second book will take.

A Gathering of Shadows  (A Darker Shade of Magic, #2)

5. A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab

Release Date: February 23, 2016

The first book was addictive and fun. I’m curious to see which direction the second book takes.

6. Gemina (Illuminae Files #2) by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Release Date: Fall 2016

I really enjoyed the first book, and hope that it means more YA novels set in space will gain popularity in the future as I would like to read more of them. I’m also very curious to see the direction the second book takes.

Beyond the Red

7. Beyond The Red by Ava Jae

Release Date: March 1, 2016

I follow this author’s blog, and find the writing advice she gives to be very useful. The setting of an alien planet in a YA novel also interests me greatly.

Strange the Dreamer (Strange the Dreamer, #1)
Not the final cover.

8. Strange The Dreamer by Laini Taylor

Release Date: September 27, 2016

I really enjoy this author’s writing style, and suspect that this will have continued to grow in her newest series. This book sounds like it has the potential to be very good.

The Girl from Everywhere (The Girl from Everywhere, #1)

9. The Girl From Everywhere by Heidi Heilig

Release Date: February 16, 2016

The summary of this book sounds very interesting to me. Time travel interests me, and I figured this list needed more novels from debut authors.

The Hidden Oracle (The Trials of Apollo, #1)

10. The Hidden Oracle (The Trials of Apollo #1) by Rick Riordan

Release Date: May 3, 2016

Rick Riordan’s books always have a tendency to put me in a very good mood. It was hard to choose the final book in this list, but in the end I chose this one for that reason.

December 2015 Wrap-Up

December was a great reading month. I read a total of nine books a few of which were mentioned in my favorite books of 2015 post.

The Dragonet Prophecy (Wings of Fire, #1)Short Synopsis: Five young dragons prophesied to end a war must work together to escape from those who raised them, and find there way in the world.

Thoughts: This is my favorite middle grade fantasy novel of 2015. It used several common tropes of the genre, but I really enjoyed that the dragons were portrayed as dragons as opposed to humans who looked like dragons.

This is something hard to write properly while still making the readers sympathetic to the characters as they are so different from each other.

Full length review to come.

Rating: 4.5 blue jays

Hunted (Spirit Animals, #2)Short Synopsis: The second book in a series in which four children bond with ancient creatures of legend and must save the world from destruction.

Thoughts: This book dragged a little for me though I still enjoyed it. I still plan to read the next one. It was interesting to see the slight stylistic changes caused by this book having a different writer than the first.

Rating: 3 blue jays

Six of Crows (Six of Crows, #1)Short Synopsis: A crew of six thieves are hired to pull off the heist that could save the world.

Thoughts: It was a very close call, but in the end I decided to name this book as my favorite young adult fantasy novel of 2015. For my full thoughts, read my review.

Rating: 4.5 blue jays

Winter (The Lunar Chronicles, #4)Short Synopsis: The final book in a series of interconnected fairy tale retellings taking place in the future.

Thoughts: I definitely liked this book, but I feel very conflicted as to how much I liked it. Full length series review of the Lunar Chronicles to come.

Rating: 4 blue jays

Illuminae (The Illuminae Files, #1)Short Synopsis: After their planet is caught in the middle of a war between intergalactic corporations Kady and Ezra find themselves refugees trying to flee to an inhabited part of the galaxy before the corporation that invaded their planet catches them.

Thoughts: I had some trouble getting into this book at first due to its unique formatting. I felt a little detached from the characters. However, as the book progressed I adjusted and the pacing picked up. I ended up reading this book twice this month.

The first time in physical form and the second time as an audiobook. I rarely reread books so soon after finishing. I decided to name this book my favorite young adult science fiction book of 2015.

Full review to come.

Rating:

4.5 blue jays

The Name of the Wind (The Kingkiller Chronicle, #1)Short Synopsis: Young magician finds his way in the world.

Thoughts: I know so many people who love this book, and I really wanted too as well. Sadly, I think the hype made me anticipate too much. I still liked this book, but what kept me from loving it was a combination of what I felt to be the lack of a satisfying climax and the ease at which everything seemed to come to Kvothe.

Rating: 3.5 blue jays

26521836Short Synopsis: Second book in the Diviners series.

Thoughts: I listened to this one on audiobook, and the narrator did a good job, but be warned, I had the first few lines of the music box song stuck in my head for around three days.

Enjoyed this sequel and seeing all of the new and old characters again. The historical references were well worked into the plot. I like how different this book is from the other fantasy novels I’ve been reading.

Rating: 4 blue jays

The First Fifteen Lives of Harry AugustShort Synopsis: Every time Harry August dies his life starts over again exactly how it began. One time as Harry is dyeing someone shows up at his bedside to inform him that the end of the world is coming and he needs to stop it.

Thoughts: I had a slight issue with this book’s structure and the pacing, but other than that I really enjoyed it. It was so thought provoking, and the world building was extremely well done.

If I write a full review I may end up giving it a higher rating than I do now because I can’t seem to stop thinking about this book, and that makes me want to rate it higher than I did initially.

Rating: 4 blue jays

UprootedShort Synopsis: One girl is chosen to live with a “dragon” in his castle for 10 years.

Thoughts: Really enjoyed this twist on the typical fairy tale, but I had some trouble following what was happening at times.

Rating: 

4 blue jays

Favorite Books of 2015

I was planning to make a top ten list, but was having too much trouble narrowing it down in a way that didn’t make just about every book fall into a particular category written by a particular author. Instead I will be listing my favorite in each category.

Note that this is a list of favorite books I read in 2015. Not all were published in 2015.

Young Adult Fantasy

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Picking a book for this category was hard. It was a close call between this book and several others especially the Seven Realms series and later too books in the Daughter of Smoke and Bone series.

In the end I chose Six of Crows because it has so many different elements that were well executed as discussed in my review.

Adult Fantasy

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Words of Radiance is the second book in Brandon Sanderson’s Stormlight Archive series which is part of the Cosmere, which is the larger fictional universe in which Sanderson’s adult fantasy novels take place.

I read just about all of Sanderson’s currently published Cosmere works this year, and I am now a huge fan. It was hard to chose only one, but this is my favorite Cosmere book so far.

I would not, however, recommend readers start with Words of Radiance, not just because its the second book in a series, but also because it’s hard to get through books in the Stormlight Archive for readers not used to long books. Starting with Mistborn: The Final Empire or Warbreaker might make Sanderson’s work easier to get into.

I have not yet reviewed Words of Radiance, but I have reviewed the first book, The Way of Kings.

Middle Grade Fantasy

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I have always loved books about dragons, and look for novels with nonhuman narrators. For these reasons, this book written from the perspective of a young dragon was almost exactly what I was looking for.

If I had read this book while I was part of the intended age group it would probably have become one of my favorite books ever. As it was, I still enjoyed it enough to make it my favorite for this category, and I plan to continue with this series.

Young Adult Sci-Fi

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Choosing a favorite for this category was hard. In the end I chose Illuminae in spite of the fact that I had a little trouble getting used to the formatting at the beginning because the second half makes up for the first. I have not yet written a review, but hope to soon.

Adult Sci-Fi

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Really enjoyed this book. Have read it around three times now. Golden Son is the second book in the Red Rising Trilogy. I have reviewed both Golden Son and Red Rising in which I express my enjoyment.

Middle Grade Sci-Fi

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This book is in the hazy area between YA and MG, but for the purpose of this list I will consider it middle grade. This book was very thought provoking, and I think it would be a great novel for discussion in a book club or classroom. It’s also the only book I’ve read set in Mexico, even if it is called something else in this novel.

Contemporary

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This book is unlike anything else I’ve read. So different that I haven’t been able to compose my thoughts into a review. It’s hard to adjust to the disjointed way the story is told at first, but once I adjusted this book was heartbreaking and thought provoking.

Classic

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I’ll admit that I don’t enjoy classics as much as some people seem to, but I really enjoyed reading and learning about the symbolism involved in this one. The fact that a large canvas painting/picture of myself I’d forgotten about arrived soon after I’d finished was a coincidence that finalized making this one of my favorite classics.

Non-Fiction

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This book was shocking for me because I had no idea any of what it discussed was taking place in the medical community. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks explores the ethical questions of who owns body parts after they have been removed for medical reasons though the true story of Henrietta Lacks and her decedents.

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

23437156Title: Six of Crows

Author: Leigh Bardugo

Published: September 29, 2015

Genre: Young Adult High Fantasy

Synopsis: When a substance is developed that turns magic users known as Grisha into mindless slaves of great power the world is put at risk. A crew of six thieves are hired to pull off the heist that could save the world.

Review: 

Six of Crows is a great book, and so much fun to read. It was very reminiscent of some of my favorite fantasy novels, but at the same time stood apart from others in this category.

Six of Crows Crew

The strongest aspect of Six of Crows is the characters. In spite of the fact that there are so many narrators, each one comes across as distinct. I especially appreciate the fact that the characters actually acted like thieves.

In many books the character will go around saying that they’re known as an assassin, an experienced solider, or have a lot of experience stealing from important people, but then when it comes down to the act of either murdering or stealing something they hesitate.

This has never come across as realistic to me. At the same time, however, I recognize why many authors chose to portray their “ruthless” characters in this manor. It is difficult to sympathize with a person who can harm or steal from innocent people and feel no remorse, but Bardugo managed to pull it off. 

The relatively small number of characters with magical abilities made them all the more impressive. The main characters in Six of Crows are highly skilled individuals, yet for many of them these skills are natural in origin (ie intelligence), but the characters use them in such a way that seems almost supernatural.

Six of Crows Map

That said, the magic that we did get to see was a great addition to the story. My favorite aspects of the first book and a half that I read of the Grisha Trilogy was the world-building, so I was more than happy to reenter that world in Six of Crows.

Bardugo has created a very complex magic system different from what I’ve seen in many fantasy novels (especially YA) where the magic is often glossed over. Though this novel has much less focus on the magic system than the Grisha Trilogy, it managed to further expand upon it by showing what a Grisha’s power can do when pushed to extremes.

The world itself was expanded upon as well. I really liked how many of the characters in this novel were from very different parts of this world as this isn’t something we often get to see in fantasy, which often focus on one region of the world the writer has created.

The only negative criticism I have to offer is related to the reason I did not finish the Grisha Trilogy. That is to say that a significant portion of this novel was spent on build up. This is not to say that nothing happens, quite to the contrary, things seem to go wrong quite often. What I mean is that I spent most of the book anticipating the climax of the actual theft as opposed to anything the characters were trying to overcome at that particular moment.

I really wanted to love the Grisha Trilogy because I have a signed copy (see the image below), but am so glad that I can now consider myself a fan of Bardugo thanks to this book. I was hesitant to read this one because I thought I might need to finish the Grisha Trilogy first, but was pleased to find that this duology stands on its own.

Siege and Storm

In any case, I managed to get a hold of a signed bookplate. Used as a book mark, really like the way my copy of Six of Crows looks:

Be Dangerous

What readers should know: Though this book keeps everything very vague, one of the narrators was forced to work in a brothel against her will. She has since left this profession behind, but still bares negative effects of her time there.

As stated in this review the thieves in this book truly act as thieves. This means that some of the narrators steal and kill people throughout the story. There is also some language.

Rating: This is a really great book. I highly recommend it to fans of fantasy and people trying to get into fantasy.

4.5 blue jays