It is that time again. The year is quickly coming to a close, and with that, it is time to wrap up my year in reading with the favorite books that I read in 2016. Next year is another chance to knock out another reading goal, along with plenty of new releases that I can’t wait to read! In no particular order, below are my favorite books of 2016.
The Gentleman by Forrest Leo
The Gentleman is Forrest Leo’s debut novel, and it was one of the best of 2016. It is about a husband who conjures the Devil, and accidentally sells his wife, which results in planning a rescue mission to Hell. A variety of personas come along for the quest, and a whole lot of over-the-top encounters happen along the way that will have you laughing out loud.
This novel was so well crafted and the humor flowed so effortlessly in the story-line. If you’re looking for a fun and quick read that doesn’t require as much commitment, this is definitely the pick.
Marrow Island by Alexis M. Smith
Twenty years ago Lucie Bowen left Marrow Island after fleeing the aftermath of an earthquake that compromised the local refinery, killing her father, and ravaging the island’s environment. It’s set in post-disaster Washington state as Lucie returns to the island that is slowly rebuilding to reconnect with her childhood friend, Kate, who lives within a mysterious group called Marrow Colony that is located on part of the island—a community that claims to be “ministering to the Earth.” As an environmental journalist, Lucie’s experience tells her that there is more to the Colony than their charismatic leader is letting her know, and Lucie sets out on uncovering the secrets even if it endangers more than their mission.
I adored this novel. It is beautifully written, captivating, and Smith has a way of bringing you into the story where you feel like you are Lucie. Marrow Island was a slow, but satisfying burn. If you’re looking for an eerie setting with vivid world-building, and lyrical prose that leaves you feeling unsettled, this is it.
Each Vagabond by Name by Margo Orlando Littell
Shelk is quiet, peaceful Pennsylvania town in the Appalachian Mountains, where life of a small town is knowing everyone, circulating gossip and settled-into routines.That is until a group of teenage runaways settle in the hills and begin to invade homes and lives–quickly a line is drawn between those residents seeking to insulate themselves from the outside world and those reaching out for more. Caught in the middle due to newfound loyalty is the lonesome local bar owner, Zaccariah Ramsy–when tensions rise between the townspeople and the newcomers, he must choose a side.
Each Vagabond by Name is a story that brings you into their world, and when you finish, you feel like a piece of you is left behind within the pages. It Littell’s debut novel, about isolation, loneliness, but also survival and coping. It is slow-paced, but beautifully written with emotion, grit, and and complexity. It was a well deserving 5 stars, and one of my favorites of the year.
Dark Matter by Blake Crouch
After being knocked unconscious by a masked abductor, Jason wakes up to find himself strapped to a gurney, surrounding by strangers in hazmat suits. In this world he awakes in, Jason’s life is not his own. His wife is not his wife, and his son was never born. He is not an ordinary college physics professor, but a celebrated genius who achieved something remarkable and once thought unimaginable. Is there a way to make it back to the world he knows, the family he loves? He must battle a seemingly impossible and unpredictable foe to get back to the life he knows.
This book was overwhelming, thought-provoking, and made me feel so small the further I read. It is a complex novel with the concept of parallel universes, physics, and mind-boggling twists, but easy to follow along and understand for all readers. This was one of those books you think you have figured out, but in reality, you have no idea. Crouch has a brilliant way of writing, and this was a story where I felt Jason’s pain and emotions, that edge of defeat that he keeps inching towards but never giving up. I’m torn between wanting a sequel, and letting Jason’s story come to an end wherever it is that he ends up–you have to read to find out!
Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder
Yelena is about to be executed for murder, until she is offered an extraordinary reprieve. She will eat the best meals and have a room in the palace, but she will be the food taster–at risk of assassination by anyone trying to kill the Commander of Ixia. To prevent her from attempting to escape, the Chief of Security deliberately feeds Yelena Butterfly’s Dust, which requires a daily antidote to delay an agonizing death from the poison. While she tries to escape her new dilemma, disasters keep happening everywhere she turns. She develops magical powers that she can’t control, rebels plot to seize Ixia, and her life is threatened once again.
I read novels 1-3 in the Study series, and Poison Study was my favorite. It was a solid introduction into the story and characters, with exceptional world-building and character development from beginning to end. There were quite a few unexpected discoveries throughout, which left me on the edge of my seat. There wasn’t an aspect that I didn’t enjoy, and I recommend it to anyone that wants an action-packed story with fantasy and magic.
The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil by Stephen Collins
The Gigantic Beard that was Evil is a graphic novel with Dahl and Burton-esque, about the island of Here, where everything from the lawns to citizens are tidy, neat, and in order until a single hair sends the island into an uproar. Dave, who is bald, but for a single hair, begins to grow a massive, unstoppable beard.
This was such a whimsical, darkly funny story with social and political themes and issues. It is beautifully illustrated and the narrative is similar to fairy-tales, so it brings forth a quirky fun read, but with an underlying message that is so important, and thought-provoking. It is a graphic novel that will always have a place on my shelf.
Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness by Susannah Cahalan
Brain on Fire is a memoir that tells the experience twenty-four-year-old Susannah Cahalan went through when she started to experience symptoms that went from flu-like to memory loss and constant paranoia. It is a gripping yet terrifying read that was at times uncomfortable to read because it is a very real situation that took place, but it was also educational. While there is medical and psych discussion throughout, it is well-written in a way that those not in the fields can understand, and we aren’t left skimming through or stumped over explanations. It is a non-fiction that I would highly recommend.
Everything You Want Me to Be by Mindy Mejia
Everything You Want Me to Be is about high school senior Hattie Hoffman, who is the good student, the good daughter, and good citizen–or so it seems. When she is found brutally stabbed to death, the tragedy shakes the small town community. As the local sheriff begins to try to solve her murder, he begins to find that Hattie’s acting runs far beyond the stage, and she isn’t the person she portrays herself to be. It is told in three different point of views- Del, the local sheriff who is a family friend, Hattie, and the new English teacher whose marriage is falling apart.
Now while this book was only a 4 star read for me, it was one that even months later, I am still thinking about. It was a complex and layered story with twists that you would not expect. I kept trying to figure out who killed Hattie, and when revealed, it was not at all what I expected. The expected publication for Everything You Want Me to Be is January 3rd 2017 by Atria/Emily Bestler Books.
The Telling by Alexandra Sirowy
Set on an island near Seattle, Lana is trying to come to terms with the brutal murder of her step-brother, Ben, who was killed by an unknown man with a red painted face. The only witness to the crime is found dead, and Lana is the one who pulls the body out of the water. Lana and her group of friends are the likely suspects to the police, knowing that Maggie is Ben’s ex-girlfriend, and hated by Lana. The further they dig for the truth and to prove their innocence, more people are killed. Lana starts piecing together the stories Ben used to tell her as a child to the way the people (who have wronged her in some way) are being killed.
Is Lana committing the crimes and blacking out? Is she being framed for the murders? Is Ben’s ghost seeking revenge?
The Telling was one of those books that pulled me in at the very beginning, even though I seen the ending coming. I am not particularly fond of YA mystery, but this novel was exceptional with rich world-building, and realistic characters who developed naturally throughout the story. If you are expecting a horror novel, this is not it – it is a YA mystery that dips into thriller closer to the ending. It is twisted, dark, and one that you will not be able to put down.
The Beauty, Vol. 1 by Jeremy Haun, Jason A. Hurley
Two years ago a new sexually transmitted disease, called The Beauty, started turning patients into perfect specimens. Everyone who contracted the STD ended up looking physically beautiful, and now almost the entire planet is willingly living with the disease. Suddenly people start internally combusting as a long-term effect of The Beauty, and government officials are trying to keep it unknown to the public. This is an original, action-packed story line that I thoroughly enjoyed, and now want to tell everyone to read it because it was unique, thought-provoking, and intriguing.
This comic is beautifully done with artwork that is moody and consistent. This is definitely a comic series aimed towards an older audience because of the subject matter, and there is some gore along with full frontal nudity. I am really interested in more backstory on the main characters, especially Mr. Calaveras who is a skull wearing crazed hitman. It is a great opening to a comic series with a lot of potential, which is why I am looking forward to reading the series.
- I Hate Fairyland, Volume 1: Madly Ever After by Skottie Young, Jean-François Beaulieu, Nate Piekos
- Harrow County Volume 1-2 by Cullen Bunn, Tyler Crook
- Giant Days, Vol. 1-3 by John Allison, Lissa Treiman, Whitney Cogar
- The Amulet series 1-6 by Kazu Kibuishi
- Dept. H #1 by Matt Kindt, Sharlene Kindt
- There Once Lived a Woman Who Tried to Kill Her Neighbor’s Baby: Scary Fairy Tales
by Ludmilla Petrushevskaya, Keith Gessen, Anna Summers
- Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things by Jenny Lawson
- The Trees by Ali Shaw