Good morning friends, and welcome to the middle of week 2 of 2017! How was the first week for you guys? I went back to school/work in the 2nd, which was pretty annoying, but c’est la guerre, I guess!
Today I’ve challenged myself to narrow my favourite reads of 2016 down to a top 5. I didn’t read too much last year, but there were a few books that really stood out to me. Breaking it down into a top 5 was pretty tricky, and even putting it in order of preference was difficult, so just take this as a loose list – except for the #1 spot, of course, because I feel very strongly about that choice.
(Note: Links to my reviews of each book will be attached to the headers!)
But first the honourable mentions!
Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Córdova
Nothing says Happy Birthday like summoning the spirits of your dead relatives.
I fall to my knees. Shattered glass, melted candles and the outline of scorched feathers are all that surround me. Every single person who was in my house – my entire family — is gone.
Alex is a bruja, the most powerful witch in a generation…and she hates magic. At her Deathday celebration, Alex performs a spell to rid herself of her power. But it backfires. Her whole family vanishes into thin air, leaving her alone with Nova, a brujo boy she can’t trust. A boy whose intentions are as dark as the strange markings on his skin.
The only way to get her family back is to travel with Nova to Los Lagos, a land in-between, as dark as Limbo and as strange as Wonderland…
With vivid descriptions, carefully crafted chapters, and the focus on family dynamics, Labyrinth Lost was a refreshing and fun read. The world building was strong and the magic was enthralling. If you’re looking for interesting stories with family and magical women, then you should definitely check this out!
The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: a Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures by Anne Fadiman
Lia Lee was born in 1981 to a family of recent Hmong immigrants, and soon developed symptoms of epilepsy. By 1988 she was living at home but was brain dead after a tragic cycle of misunderstanding, over-medication, and culture clash: “What the doctors viewed as clinical efficiency the Hmong viewed as frosty arrogance.”
This book seems pretty out of place here, and that’s because this isn’t a fictional book – this is an ethnography that I read for my sociocultural anthropology class, one that was a complete joy to read and write an essay on. Fadiman’s writing was humorous when it could be afforded, serious when it needed to be, but always engaging. It’s probably one of the best, most eye-opening class readings I’ve ever had.
And now onto the main attraction!
5. The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi
Fate and fortune. Power and passion. What does it take to be the queen of a kingdom when you’re only seventeen?
Maya is cursed. With a horoscope that promises a marriage of death and destruction, she has earned only the scorn and fear of her father’s kingdom. Content to follow more scholarly pursuits, her whole world is torn apart when her father, the Raja, arranges a wedding of political convenience to quell outside rebellions. Soon Maya becomes the queen of Akaran and wife of Amar. Neither roles are what she expected: As Akaran’s queen, she finds her voice and power. As Amar’s wife, she finds something else entirely: Compassion. Protection. Desire…
But Akaran has its own secrets—thousands of locked doors, gardens of glass, and a tree that bears memories instead of fruit. Soon, Maya suspects her life is in danger. Yet who, besides her husband, can she trust? With the fate of the human and Otherworldly realms hanging in the balance, Maya must unravel an ancient mystery that spans reincarnated lives to save those she loves the most…including herself.
This book contains gorgeous prose, expansive world building, and a ton of mystery that kept me reading to find out what was going on. Maya and Amar’s story had me swooning, although even Maya on her own was an absolute delight to read about. So yeah, please read this!
4. Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
Ketterdam: a bustling hub of international trade where anything can be had for the right price—and no one knows that better than criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker. Kaz is offered a chance at a deadly heist that could make him rich beyond his wildest dreams. But he can’t pull it off alone…
A convict with a thirst for revenge
A sharpshooter who can’t walk away from a wager
A runaway with a privileged past
A spy known as the Wraith
A Heartrender using her magic to survive the slums
A thief with a gift for unlikely escapes
Kaz’s crew are the only ones who might stand between the world and destruction—if they don’t kill each other first.
This book was a thrill and a half, and I 100% understand the hype. In fact, I myself was so hyped when I finished it that I begged my cousin to read it. It’s adventurous and intense and you never really know what’s going to happen next or how they’re going to pull off this job. It’s definitely an edge-of-your-seat read!
3. Radio Silence by Alice Oseman
What if everything you set yourself up to be was wrong?
Frances has always been a study machine with one goal, elite university. Nothing will stand in her way; not friends, not a guilty secret – not even the person she is on the inside.
But when Frances meets Aled, the shy genius behind her favourite podcast, she discovers a new freedom. He unlocks the door to Real Frances and for the first time she experiences true friendship, unafraid to be herself. Then the podcast goes viral and the fragile trust between them is broken.
Caught between who she was and who she longs to be, Frances’ dreams come crashing down. Suffocating with guilt, she knows that she has to confront her past…
She has to confess why Carys disappeared…
Meanwhile at uni, Aled is alone, fighting even darker secrets.
It’s only by facing up to your fears that you can overcome them. And it’s only by being your true self that you can find happiness.
Frances is going to need every bit of courage she has.
I was thinking about this book long after I finished it. I could personally relate to a couple of the characters in Radio Silence, so it hit me pretty hard in that regard. This could totally be a book that high schools make their 12th graders read here, but at the very least I hope a lot of high school students get to read this and know that university is not the be-all and end-all – but, like the rest of the books in this list, all of my thoughts can be found in my reviews!
2. Exit, Pursued by a Bear by E. K. Johnston
Hermione Winters is captain of her cheerleading team, and in tiny Palermo Heights, this doesn’t mean what you think it means. At PHHS, the cheerleaders don’t cheer for the sports teams; they are the sports team—the pride and joy of a tiny town. The team’s summer training camp is Hermione’s last and marks the beginning of the end of…she’s not sure what. She does know this season could make her a legend. But during a camp party, someone slips something in her drink. And it all goes black.
In every class, there’s a star cheerleader and a pariah pregnant girl. They’re never supposed to be the same person. Hermione struggles to regain the control she’s always had and faces a wrenching decision about how to move on. The assault wasn’t the beginning of Hermione Winter’s story and she’s not going to let it be the end. She won’t be anyone’s cautionary tale.
Let’s be real: Exit, Pursued by a Bear is a contemporary, but unfortunately it is not realistic to how life works. But, as E. K. Johnston has said before, it could be. It should be. This is a story of triumph when everyone expects the main character to fall down and fail. Hermione must take her destiny and reputation into her own hands after someone briefly rips that control from her grasp. This book wrenches your gut in all different directions and is the book that has brought me closest to tears. I didn’t expect to love it so much, but here I am, raving about it.
And now, the best book that I read in 2016 was…
1. The Wrath and the Dawn / The Rose and the Dagger by Renée Ahdieh
In a land ruled by a murderous boy-king, each dawn brings heartache to a new family. Khalid, the eighteen-year-old Caliph of Khorasan, is a monster. Each night he takes a new bride only to have a silk cord wrapped around her throat come morning. When sixteen-year-old Shahrzad’s dearest friend falls victim to Khalid, Shahrzad vows vengeance and volunteers to be his next bride. Shahrzad is determined not only to stay alive, but to end the caliph’s reign of terror once and for all.
Night after night, Shahrzad beguiles Khalid, weaving stories that enchant, ensuring her survival, though she knows each dawn could be her last. But something she never expected begins to happen: Khalid is nothing like what she’d imagined him to be. This monster is a boy with a tormented heart. Incredibly, Shahrzad finds herself falling in love. How is this possible? It’s an unforgivable betrayal. Still, Shahrzad has come to understand all is not as it seems in this palace of marble and stone. She resolves to uncover whatever secrets lurk and, despite her love, be ready to take Khalid’s life as retribution for the many lives he’s stolen. Can their love survive this world of stories and secrets?
Okay, so I’m totally cheating by putting this duology in the place of just one book, but for those who have read it: can you really blame me? I don’t know if I can say enough good things about these books! The writing was gorgeous and vibrant, the love was swoon-worthy and heart-melting, the action was intense, the characters were wonderful. Honestly, I was screaming at the first book’s cliffhanger when I finished reading it and could not wait to get my hands on the sequel. I don’t think I’ve felt this many emotions, this strongly with any other books. If you haven’t read these books yet, I plead that you do – you (probably) won’t regret it.
There you have it, my favourite books of 2016! Did you enjoy any of these books? What were your favourites of the last year? Let me know in the comments!
As always, thank you so much for reading, and have a wonderful day, everyone! ❤