Over the next few weeks I thought I would do a few posts about my favorite books that I’ve read this year. Since it’s nearly impossible to choose just 10 (or 16, or even 20) of my faves from this year, considering that I’ve read around 150 at the time of me writing this, I decided to
cheat come up with some categories and then pick my faves from those.
These categories may include (because let’s be honest, this is a lot of writing and I may get lazy):
- Fave series read in 2016
- Literary fiction
- Young adult
- 2016 releases
- Fave books read in 2016
I’ll try not to have any overlap in these categories, but… you never know. The last category probably will have at least a few repeats, if not all repeats based on the other lists.
First up: favorite series I’ve read in 2016. I’ve based this on what I’ve read this year, not what was released this year, and a couple of them aren’t complete yet (but I’ve read all the books that are out). This is fairly long, but it’s hard to talk about my faves without getting verbose. I also forgot to put the cover for Six of Crows in this picture, which pisses me off, but I’m not redoing it.
There is a definite theme here of these being classified as YA and fantasy, but I think that’s just one of the characteristics of the genres – they like their series.
In kind-of a particular order:
- The Winner’s Trilogy, Marie Rutoski. This series came out of nowhere. I bought all of the books via Book Outlet (which is great for books you have low expectations of) and ended up completely loving it. There is no magic or non-human beings, but it’s still considered fantasy. But I’d call it a historical fiction about a place that never existed? Somewhat like the series An Ember in the Ashes, by Sabaa Tahir (only that series has wraiths and djinn, so…). It’s the story of a privileged daughter of a general, Kestrel, who buys a new slave on a whim (kind-of) at an auction, Arin, and sparks fly and they find themselves conflicted in their roles of colonizer and colonized. Well, more like Kestrel is torn and Arin is pissed. But it doesn’t stay that way for long. Rutoski based this series on an economics idea, that the winner of an auction actually loses because they pay more than anyone else was willing – and she changed the “price” to one that is more emotional than financial. There were
twothree things that I loved about this series:
- The prose. Rutoski knows how to write. She is incredibly gifted with words, and I’d give the writing itself a 5/5.
- The balance of plot and character. The plot made me devour this series in less than a week. Kestrel’s strength was her political prowess, not her ability to fight physically, which was a nice change of pace. To counterbalance the twists and turns in the plot, the characters were actually quite introspective. Most of the final book was Kestrel and Arin trying to figure out how to deal with each other and their pasts, with most of the action relegated to the first and last quarters of the book.
- In fact, this struggle is another one of the things I loved about this book; while it was romance-y in that there’s a lot of “will they? won’t they?”, Kestrel and Arin struggle a lot as their relationship changes. There is no instant attraction, no instant love, and even when things start looking up, they have to do a lot of work. They have to make conscious choices and think about themselves as individuals before they can see themselves together. I just ship it so much.
- (A) favorite quote: “Kestrel felt the pieces of her heart suddenly, as if love had been an object, something as frail as a bird’s egg, its shell an impossible cloudy pink. She saw the shock of its bloody yolk. She felt the shards of shell pricking her throat and lungs.” (The Winner’s Crime)
- The Raven Cycle, Maggie Stiefvater. I think I’ve written about this before? Briefly? This series has been mis-representated, imho. You’ll find this in the teen romance section of the bookstore (at least at Barnes and Noble, you will), but it’s actually creepy and funny and sad and has supernatural elements – along with the romance, of course. It’s one of the few YA series I’ve read that feels like the characters are teenagers, and I don’t mean that in a bad way at all. It made me feel nostalgic in a warm and fuzzy way. Until I remembered that I was miserable as a teenager and self-harmed and had no clue who I was. Good times. Anyway… the story starts off with Blue, who is told by anyone with precognitive abilities she runs into that she will kill the first boy she falls in love with (accidentally or intentionally, who knows). Then she meets A Boy who is on a quest to find ley lines and the tomb of an ancient Welsh king and his friends who have various secrets of their own. I haven’t reread it yet, but I need to do that soon. I’ve also recently started following Steifvater on social media, and she seems like a person I’d get along with. She recently posted a new pre-Raven cycle short story and I loved it!
- Throne of Glass, Sarah J. Maas. So, this series… I’m mildly obsessed with it. Just kind-of. In the “get a quote tattooed on my body” kind of way. You think I’m being hyperbolic or kidding about this tattoo, but I’m being quite literal. I have plans for a bookstagram aesthetic picture of my tattoo in the near future. The only explanation of this series I could give would be of the first book (assassin woman in a competition), but that was my least favorite and the last three books have very little to do with what happened in the first one. It isn’t the best written stuff, it’s dramatic and hyperbolic and has problems with representation but also… I love the characters in this series, so much. I’ve reread all six books once already and I don’t see an end to my reread-a-thon. I’m total trash for it and I’m not even going to pretend that it’s objectively good literature. It’s not as well written as The Winner’s Trilogy or The Raven Cycle, but I still like it. When the last book of the series comes out next year I will have a parade. In my house. Hopefully not of tears.
- Mistborn, Brandon Sanderson. Do I need to explain this? The end of this series is bittersweet, and I’ve had a hard time moving on to the other three books that take place much later in the future, since I know most of my babies won’t be in them. I bought Arcanum Unbound this past weekend, Sanderson’s new collection of short stories, and even though I already knew that there was a Mistborn story in there I had a minor moment in the middle of the store when I saw Kelsier’s name as I was flipping through it.
- Six of Crows, Leigh Bardugo. Crooked Kingdon, the second in this duology, wins the award for making me cry the most this year (really, it’s tied with The Female of the Species, but that book will appear on another post). Literally, I cried for an hour, for a while just by myself on my couch, all pathetic, and then again when I decided to explain to my partner why I was so upset. This series is a lot of fun in a dark and humorous way. It’s originally about a heist and a bunch of misfit criminals who come together to… perpetrate the heist, but it turns into something else for the second book and I had many ships at stake here. It does a nice job of representation (where other books fail); disability, various races, non-heteronormative, sex slavery, a character who begins off completely bigoted and then realizes his own close-mindedness – it’s awesome that way. I think I have some problems with how Bardugo ends books, though. See below in my “honorable mentions”.
- Cocotingo does the most amazing fan art in general, but I have been super excited to see that she is working through the Six of Crows characters. Here are Jesper, Nina, and Kaz:
- Rat Queens, Kurtis Wiebe, Tamra Bonvillain, Tess Fowler. This is a graphic novel series that I’ve already written about, but, like The Winner’s Trilogy, it has a great balance of plot and character. In my experience the character portion usually suffers the most in comics, but that wasn’t a problem here. This was really funny and I got attached to the characters pretty quickly. The third volume ended on a bit of a cliff-hanger.
- The Queen of the Tearling – Erika Johansen. This is a dystopian fantasy series about Kelsea, who, at 19, comes of age to take the throne of the Tearling. Her first act (before she even gets her throne or crown or even walks in the building) is to destroy a peace treaty (for good reason) between the Tearling and a neighboring country, Mortmesne, and problems ensue. I’m including this series even though I read the first two books last year because that’s how much I love it, and also the end was painful perfection.
- (A) favorite quote: “Hatred is easy, and lazy to boot. It’s love that demands effort, love that exacts a price from each of us. Love costs; this is its value.” (The Fate of the Tearling).
- Hogarth Shakespeare series – Jeanette Winterson, Margaret Atwood, Howard Jacobsen, and Anne Tyler. This didn’t make into my faves because I really wasn’t impressed with Jacobsen or Tyler’s contributions to these Shakespeare retellings, but I liked Winterson’s and Atwood’s enough to list them here.
- The Lunar Chronicles, Marissa Meyer. This series was super-cute and fun. I just wanted to put that out there.
- A Court of Thorns and Roses, Sarah J. Maas. The first book keeps this from being a favorite – I’ve already reread A Court of Mist and Fury, and have very little interest beyond curiosity to reread ACOTAR. Blame it on Tamlin the Tool™, AKA Tanline Tamlin™.
- The Grisha Trilogy – Leigh Bardugo. This is set in the same universe as Six of Crows, and I liked the first two books in this series. I didn’t even rate the final book because she killed one of my favorite characters and other things happened that had me pretty much annoyed. I think “the Darkling” is one of the best character names ever.
So that’s it for this series this year. Total I’ve read around 20 series or partial series this year and two of the ones I listed aren’t even complete yet, but it’s my list!