Favourite Books of 2016...so far
While I love seeing the look on someone's face while they excitedly tell me about a book they read, I've always just smiled and nodded when it came to recommendations. I've had hundreds of books recommended to me by friends, family, and kind strangers in the bookstore over the past few years, but very few have lived up to their description. Armed with this knowledge, I used to keep my recommendations to myself most of the time, lest I lead someone to read a book they only sort of enjoy.
Thank the gods for Goodreads! I've been obsessed with it for a few years, but it wasn't until they really developed their app that I went crazy with it. I give a star rating to almost all of the books I read, and I'll write a review if the book made me feel strongly in one way or another. I've also found other readers with similar tastes to mine, so I use their reviews as a guideline when I'm picking out hyped up books. In short, it changed how I do books.
This year, I've been on a quest to read 101 books--a tall order, especially considering I'm currently 33 books behind schedule. But, because the ones that I have read this year have been wonderful, I'm doing my first-ever book recommendation post. Let me know in the comments if you've read any of them so that we can flail about them together! Keep in mind these aren't ranked according to how much I liked them, because that would tear me apart. Instead I've listed them in the order that they were read.
Cloud Atlas meets Orphan Black in this epic dimension-bending trilogy by New York Times bestselling author Claudia Gray about a girl who must chase her father's killer through multiple dimensions.
Marguerite Caine's physicist parents are known for their groundbreaking achievements. Their most astonishing invention, called the Firebird, allows users to jump into multiple universes—and promises to revolutionize science forever. But then Marguerite's father is murdered, and the killer—her parent's handsome, enigmatic assistant Paul— escapes into another dimension before the law can touch him.
Marguerite refuses to let the man who destroyed her family go free. So she races after Paul through different universes, always leaping into another version of herself. But she also meets alternate versions of the people she knows—including Paul, whose life entangles with hers in increasingly familiar ways. Before long she begins to question Paul's guilt—as well as her own heart. And soon she discovers the truth behind her father's death is far more sinister than she expected. (Goodreads)
It's safe to say that I approach most YA series with extreme caution. I have an innate need to finish a series, even if I can't stand it (looking at you, Mortal Instruments), and this absolutely colors my decision to pick up the first book or not. Also--I'm not a patient person, so waiting for the next installments is painful. I'd rather wait for the last to be published (Miss Peregrine's Peculiar Children) than start a series with only one of the planned three written.
I threw caution to the wind with A Thousand Pieces of You, and damnit am I glad that I did! The story was phenomenally written and paced, and the characters are stunning. Never once was I confused with the idea of switching between yourself in parallel universes, and never once did I question Claudia Gray's story. It had the sci-fi elements that I love dearly, and any romance encountered actually made me feel things--good things, not disgust or anger.
Who should read this: anyone that enjoys sci-fi, but isn't looking for copious amounts of technical exposition. Also anyone that wants to read a really good YA novel, and understand why it is that I don't cringe when I say I read them. It's YA sci-fi done right.
Deborah Harkness’s sparkling debut, A Discovery of Witches, has brought her into the spotlight and galvanized fans around the world. In this tale of passion and obsession, Diana Bishop, a young scholar and a descendant of witches, discovers a long-lost and enchanted alchemical manuscript, Ashmole 782, deep in Oxford's Bodleian Library. Its reappearance summons a fantastical underworld, which she navigates with her leading man, vampire geneticist Matthew Clairmont.
Harkness has created a universe to rival those of Anne Rice, Diana Gabaldon, and Elizabeth Kostova, and she adds a scholar's depth to this riveting tale of magic and suspense. The story continues in book two, Shadow of Night, and concludes with The Book of Life. (Goodreads)
I absolutely devoured this series. I went without my beloved Starbucks for two weeks to justify buying the remaining two books before my book budget replenished. I also made the mistake of giving only the first book to my mom, who then demanded at 11pm that I bring her the remaining two. I went in the morning--sorry, mom.
Everything was done so well--the world it's set in, the characters and how they develop, the story arc and all of it's off-shoots. Even the historical details (sans magic, of course) were correct, which the historian in me appreciated.
Buy them here.
Foolish love appears to be the Roux family birthright, an ominous forecast for its most recent progeny, Ava Lavender. Ava — in all other ways a normal girl — is born with the wings of a bird. In a quest to understand her peculiar disposition and a growing desire to fit in with her peers, sixteen-year old Ava ventures into the wider world, ill-prepared for what she might discover and naive to the twisted motives of others. Others like the pious Nathaniel Sorrows, who mistakes Ava for an angel and whose obsession with her grows until the night of the summer solstice celebration. That night, the skies open up, rain and feathers fill the air, and Ava’s quest and her family’s saga build to a devastating crescendo. (Goodreads)
Though technically YA, this is one of the most beautiful, tragic, wonderful books that I have ever read. Leslye (not a typo) Walton deserves every single accolade for this book, because it is utter perfection. I'm hyping it up, I know, but the story was breathtaking, and the characters are imperfect, real, and heart wrenching.
Who should read this: My daughter, and anyone's daughter. Adults will be able to appreciate a depth to the sadness that Ava feels even better than a teen, because we have all been there.
Buy it here.
When her heart is stolen by a seductive stranger, a young woman is swept away to a house atop a mountain of blood-red clay: a place filled with secrets that will haunt her forever. (Goodreads)
At the time of purchase, I had not seen any trailers for Crimson Peak; all I knew was that Guillermo del Toro was directing, and Tom Hiddleston was starring in, the movie. I realize this has no real bearing on the book itself, but I bought it because of Tom Hiddleston. I'm a weak woman, what can I say?
The book ended up being intriguing, horrifying, and satisfying at the same time. The perspective that it's written from allows you to take the same emotional journey as the main character, while still giving you enough distance to doubt the motives and actions of some characters. As far as movie novelizations go, this one is the best I've read yet.
Who should read this: Anyone that loved the movie, because it gives you more depth to the story that just cannot be conveyed on screen. I'm not sure it's quite horrific enough for a true horror genre fan, but it's definitely got the weird vibe going on.
Buy it here.
Gray’s deep talent for magick has won him a place at Merlin College. But when he accompanies four fellow students on a mysterious midnight errand that ends in disaster and death, he is sent away in disgrace—and without a trace of his power. He must spend the summer under the watchful eye of his domineering professor, Appius Callender, working in the gardens of Callender’s country estate and hoping to recover his abilities. And it is there, toiling away on a summer afternoon, that he meets the professor’s daughter.
Even though she has no talent of her own, Sophie Callender longs to be educated in the lore of magick. Her father has kept her isolated at the estate and forbidden her interest; everyone knows that teaching arcane magickal theory to women is the height of impropriety. But against her father’s wishes, Sophie has studied his ancient volumes on the subject. And in the tall, stammering, yet oddly charming Gray, she finally finds someone who encourages her interest and awakens new ideas and feelings.
Sophie and Gray’s meeting touches off a series of events that begins to unravel secrets about each of them. And after the king’s closest advisor pays the professor a closed-door visit, they begin to wonder if what Gray witnessed in Oxford might be even more sinister than it seemed. They are determined to find out, no matter the cost… (Goodreads)
There isn't much plot- or character-wise that I can add to that, but the book itself was fabulous. From what I gather, the world that it is set in is an alternate universe to ours with magic. There were a few times I was confused slightly by the world or its jargon, but eventually it made sense. When I picked this up, I didn't realize that it was a series, but it was a wonderful surprise to end the book and find the excerpt from the next, Lady of Magick--which I've also bought to read on my vacation this month!
Buy it here.
Surrounded by enemies, the once-great nation of Ravka has been torn in two by the Shadow Fold, a swath of near impenetrable darkness crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh. Now its fate may rest on the shoulders of one lonely refugee.
Now the nation's fate rests with a broken Sun Summoner, a disgraced tracker, and the shattered remnants of a once-great magical army. (Goodreads)
I know, more YA. But honestly, some of my favourite books were found in the YA section so no shame!
This is the third installment in Leigh Bardugo's Grisha trilogy; it wasn't my favourite of the three, but I loved how well it brought the first two books to a close. There is decidedly less action in this one, and was replaced with more character-on-character conflict, and more character growth than I expected. I really do love the Grisha world that Leigh created, and I'm excited to read more about it in Six of Crows (not part of this storyline, just the world).
Who should read it: Fantasy fans; anyone that wants to experience cliche-free YA, or a trilogy that you can rip through in a week.
Buy the boxed set here.
The world will end on Saturday. Next Saturday. Just before dinner, according to The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch, the world's only completely accurate book of prophecies written in 1655. The armies of Good and Evil are amassing and everything appears to be going according to Divine Plan. Except that a somewhat fussy angel and a fast-living demon are not actually looking forward to the coming Rapture. And someone seems to have misplaced the Antichrist. (Goodreads)
This one is cheating a little, because I'm just on the final pages now. But this has genuinely been one of the wittiest, most enjoyable stories about the end of days I've ever read. I had very high expectations based on Neil Gaiman's and Terry Pratchett's reputations alone, and it blew them all out of the water. The way that they can follow so many characters at the same time, and make it easy to follow along, makes them deserving of every book prize available. Give them two, because they also had to write the book together which seems impossible. But they did it. They managed to tackle a controversial topic with copious amounts of humor, and not once did anything play out as offensive.
Who should read this: This is one book I'd openly recommend to damn near anyone.
So those are my favourite reads so far this year. Have you read any of them? Or do you have other books to recommend? Let me know in the comments!