Hi all, Rose here with one of a multiple part series chronicling my year in reading for 2016. It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these lists, and I figured I’d start off 2017 getting back to this particular “Year in Review” type post. Originally I’d set a goal of reading over 300 books for the year of 2016, but my actual count ended up being 125 according to my Goodreads log. I think getting over 100 books read in a year (for me) was great, but I wish I’d been able to meet my goal because the last time I did that was back in 2013 and I saw it as a personal challenge that I wanted to make time for. That total number isn’t quite accurate considering I found myself not logging all of my reads onto Goodreads or my other bookish communities. However, we’re going to keep it at the 125 total, and I’ll likely find myself re-reading some of the books I’d read in 2016 in 2017 to review them in full.
Before I get into my top 10 reading list of the past year, I’ll make several Honorable Mentions. These were books worth noting because of how memorable the experience of reading them was for me this past year. Note that in this entire list (honorable mentions and top 10) I’m chronicling my reads for this past year, but it doesn’t necessarily mean it was published in 2016.
“Daughter of Deep Silence” by Carrie Ryan
I loved the cover of this book (I only wish they had used the same cover on the paperback edition, but that’s a moot point) but the premise references to “The Count of Monte Cristo,” which is one of my favorite books, and it makes multiple references to the ABC series “Revenge” (including a character named Grayson whose name is a play on the family Grayson from that series). I enjoyed reading the dark texture, themes, and characterizations of this story, albeit with a few flaws in progression and telling versus showing details. But it was my first read of last year and it did kick off my reading year on a good note.
“If I Was Your Girl” by Meredith Russo
“If I Was Your Girl” was an illuminating perspective on the experience and struggles of a transgender teen. There was so much to be gained from this novel for its raw honesty and portrait of Amanda. Despite flaws for development/detail in some conflicts, how it approaches prejudices, relationships, and discussions of gender identity is very well noted, and the read stayed with me long after I’d finished it.
“The Square Root of Summer” by Harriet Reuter Hapgood
This is an underrated gem of a novel that I ended up really enjoying despite its flaws. Likely some of the scientific digressions and delving into physics concepts (alongside a really, really slow burn for progression) might’ve turned some away from it, but at its core is a detailed story of grief and coming of age experiences for Gottie with a brainy leaning. I couldn’t help but feel for her longing for her lost grandfather and mother. It’s a really distinct novel that blends coming of age and science fiction. I wish there were more narratives I could read in this vein because I really liked the unique thematic.
“Run” by Kody Keplinger
It has been a while since I’ve read anything from Keplinger, but this turned out to be one of my favorite reads of the year as two teenage girls, telling the story from alternate perspectives, go on a road trip to escape the lives that they know, but realize progressively what they’re leaving behind. It switches between past and present to give context on each of the girls and I loved the distinct voices that Bo and Agnes have throughout the novel. With an honest eye also into Agnes’s disability and Bo’s sexuality in places, it also was a rewarding read for its representation.
“A Game of Thrones” (A Song of Ice and Fire #1) by George R.R. Martin
I finally, finally, finally read this straight through this year, and what a mammoth, but rewarding read it was. I’ll probably be caught up with the series by the time “Winds of Winter” releases (here’s to hoping it’s released this year), but this stands as my longest read of the year and took quite a bit of mental energy for me to finish just for the sheer time it took (though I was savoring as much of the world and characterizations that I possibly could – when I picked it up I had a hard time putting it down). I couldn’t find a place to rank this on my main list, but it holds its own as a fantasy story I found myself compulsively and compelling drawn to. Not to mention I learned it was better for me to buy the whole series than try to wait for it at my library because I kept having to return the books prematurely. 😦
I have a bit of a mixed bag for genre/age group with respect to my list below the cut. I’m going to try to put this in order, but suffice to say that I really enjoyed the following reads through this particular year.
10. “Some Girls Are” by Courtney Summers
This had been on my TBR list for quite some time, but I just got around to reading “Some Girls Are” this past year. As per usual, Summers’ narratives always seem to hit me square in the gut. She writes the experiences of her characters (usually very flawed female protagonists) so very well. It’s hard not to be gutted given what the main character experiences in this YA contemporary/tough subject piece, but it’s eye to Regina’s emotions are resonant, staying with me long after I finished the story.
09. “You Will Know Me” by Megan Abbott
“You Will Know Me” stands as one of the more haunting adult contemporary reads I had in the past year, and part of that is Abbott’s method of slow unraveling of tensions that make you question the roles each of her characters have to play in the overarching story. This particular tale follows a young female gymnast and her family’s journey/push to train her and get her to the Olympics, but the death of someone close to the training circles causes secrets to be unearthed and emotions to run high among this flawed cast of characters.
Quoting directly from my review:
The eye to the athleticism and competition, the conflicts of maturing young women, the petty politics and self-interest served by the parents of the young women who compete in the same circles as Devon was given a careful, exploratory and invested eye. I couldn’t look away for much of this narrative, and I really enjoyed it for what it offered, especially given in the performance of the audiobook version.
08. “Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things” by Jenny Lawson
Just the image of that raccoon makes me want to start laughing again, especially remembering Lawson’s account of how Rory the Raccoon got stuck to the back of her cat and ended up zipping past her very confused husband. This is Jenny Lawson’s well-humored but also eye opening memoir, chronicling various aspects of her life including struggles with depression. I definitely appreciated reading this, not just for the humored stories but also the raw honesty she brings to the narrative. The audiobook was amazing and its one I’ve returned to this past year a few times for the experience.
07. “The Passenger” by Lisa Lutz
Lisa Lutz’s “The Passenger” is an adult mystery/suspense/thriller read that definitely sees a situation going from bad to worst case scenario. It chronicles a woman on the run for various reasons (though you’re not sure what those reasons are initially). When her husband dies unexpectedly, she flees the scene, gets a new identity, finds a partner and gets into even more trouble which has the two women switching identities in the aftermath of events. But Amelia (who switches names more often than not in this read) finds herself wondering who “Blue” really is, and if she didn’t just complicate her life even more despite trying to stay hidden. It definitely kept me on my toes and guessing throughout the read. The strong audiobook performance was a plus for the experience.
06. “The Amazing Book is Not on Fire: The World of Dan and Phil” by Dan Howell and Phil Lester
This was a fun combination of getting to know you and personal stories from the popular YouTube personalities Dan and Phil, whom I really enjoy following their random insights and gaming LPs. I listened specifically to the audiobook version at the time that I wrote the review, but I was also able to read the physical copy of the book later in the year, which I really enjoyed. I think it might be one of the best YouTube personality non-fiction books I’ve perused to date, and I definitely look forward to reading more of their work in the future (Mental note: I need to read “Dan and Phil Go Outside,” stat.)
05. “It Ends With Us” by Colleen Hoover
I said this in my review, but to reiterate: if people ask me what my favorite book by Hoover has written to date, it would be this. It completely blindsided me because I didn’t expect to see a narrative that was as maturely and honestly written as this for the experiences described in this book, particularly dealing with the mental/physical/emotional conflicts that Lily has to deal with throughout. The romance/relationship elements are also done rather well here. I – at the very least – liked Hoover’s writing in previous notations, and “Hopeless” had my attention back when I read it for the first time, but I’d always had trouble connecting with Hoover’s characters and situations for the way they were presented and handled, so her narratives were touch and go with me. Many of her narratives I liked the inspirations for, but the execution…meh. (Hint: You’ll see her name on my worst reads of 2016 list as well.) There was a point where I was ready to throw in the towel because I didn’t think there would ever be a point I could connect with one of her narratives, then this book came along. It isn’t a book I would say “Ermahgard, this is utter perfection from beginning to end!” but I appreciated the experience and respect it. Not to mention I would re-read this book from beginning to end and it has a spot in my personal library. Props to Olivia Song for providing a wonderful audio narration.
04. “The View from the Cheap Seats” by Neil Gaiman
I’ll admit I haven’t followed Neil Gaiman’s professional journey as a writer as closely as others (though I like and respect his work), so this was an eye opening read for me in terms of his inspirations and career. This book in its physical form is HUGE, but I compulsively read through it from cover to cover, plus later read the audiobook version when I was able to check it out from my library (which just so happens to be narrated by him 🙂 ). It’s one I would definitely recommend if you would like insights on where he draws inspiration in his writing life, his career and interactions with the people he’s come across in that spectrum. I read it during Camp NaNo and also found it inspiring to read from an authorial perspective.
03. “What We Saw” by Aaron Hartzler
This read hit and hurt to my very core, to the point where moments of it had tears coming to my eyes and thinking about some of the events of this past year. Based on actual events (it’s based on the Stuebenville High school case), it’s told from the perspective of a young woman who is inebriated one night and taken home, but the following day witnesses one of her classmates accusing four boys of rape the night of the party. She questions the events and finds – to her horror – there’s more to the story that involves people who are close to her. This book highlights the problems of rape culture in such vivid detail with dimensional examinations of all the characters and their attitudes. I had heard about this narrative in some readerly circles, but not to the degree where it had been frequently discussed at the time I read it. I honestly think it’s an excellent and eye-opening YA contemporary read, one that while the experience is tough to read, provides brilliant insight and a compelling story in its pages.
02. “Emmy and Oliver” by Robin Bennway
I’m a sucker for cute contemporary romances, and while this YA contemporary tale has a very difficult subject matter in its backdrop, the chemistry between the characters and appeal of the extended cast really stayed with me throughout this past year. The story revolves around the titular characters as Oliver returns home after being abducted as a child by his father. It showcases a tough transition for Oliver as he reunites with his childhood friends and struggles between the life he left behind and the family and friends he has to get to know all over again. It also shows Emmy grappling with events and things she wants in her life as well. The chemistry between the characters is palpable, fun, and engaging. For me, it was hard not to love Emmy’s bubbly personality and Oliver’s interactions with her. I loved it.
And for my #1 pick(s): Technically speaking this is two books, but I’m going to count it as one since they’re part of the same series.
01. The Archetype series by M.D. Waters
This series had me reading from cover to cover the entire time I had them checked out from my local library (then ended up adding them to my personal library shortly afterward). This adult sci-fi/mystery/thriller revolves around a woman named Emma who has lost her memories. Her husband Declan, a prominent researcher, tells her she’s been in a horrible accident, but as snippets of her memory resurface, she realizes that may not be entirely the truth. I loved how this series kept me guessing for events and portrayed Emma’s experiences in a vivid, sensual, and nailbiting way. It’s the kind of story where the premise had me from point one and delivered in so many great ways. My first reads from M.D. Waters and I hope to read more from her in the future.
So what were your favorite reads from this year? I happened to have a a decent reading year on the whole, but in the next entry in this Year in Review series, I’ll go into my Worst Reads of 2016.
Happy reading and happy new year all,