Friday, December 2, 2016

Top 10 Books of 2016


Another year of reading has come to an end and I'll be sharing my top 10 favorites of this year! I'm really excited to share what books I fell in love with and maybe give you an idea of what to read in 2017!

It's been an interesting year as I had some unusual favorites. The first new thing this year is I started reading Indie authors. I've always been a library browser and unless I've somehow come across an indie book in my local library, I've mostly read traditional. Honestly, I don't really care who publishes a book and have never checked. BUT to the best of my knowledge this is the first year I've really been picking up indie books on purpose.

The second thing is that I'm a pretty solid YA only reader. I'll branch out on occasion, but I rarely read adult fiction. I had a LOT of adult books on my reading list this year and surprisingly enjoyed many of them.

The last thing is going to have the people who know me chuckling. I hate Romance. I will go out of my way to avoid books in the Romance genre and I'm even picky about romantic subplots in other genres. I was amused to find 2-3 Romance books make my list as well as some books with strong romantic subplots.

I think all of this says that I'm picky, but that when someone does write a romance or an adult book that jives with me, I love it more than my normal fare. I like reading about characters who are closer to my age or mental maturity. I like a good romance. I just have hard time finding romance that isn't all insta-love and this is lust but let's call it love, and other popular romance tropes. And I have a hard time finding adult books that are both clean and have the engaging writing style of YA. (I like the writing style of most YA and that's why I'm drawn to it.)

I've organized my list starting from the book coming in at #10 and counting down to #1. Every book has genre(s), the blurb that comes with the book, a picture of the cover, links of where to find the book, and my brief thoughts on it.

#10 Operation Space Cats: The Rescue Mission
Genre - Children's, Christian, Sci-fi

Furry crew to the rescue!

When Tebbs, the curious cat discovers part of his human family is missing in space, he plans to go on a rescue mission with Granny. But first he must recruit a team to help locate them. Problem is, he’ll be sneaking the small crew aboard, and hoping Granny won’t find out.

Enter the space cats … A mixed bunch of furry felines who have many lessons to learn about what it takes to make a team great. Bravery, teamwork, and most of all faith!

When mishaps occur, and danger lurks ahead, they’ll need to rely on each other. Will the team falter? Or can they pull together to make their mission a success?

Join Tebbs and the team for a series of adventures that are out of this world. Adored by kids, cats and kids at heart!


OSC is a super cute children's book full of colorful illustrations. I'd recommend for 8-10 year olds, but it would also be great for advanced young readers or parents who like to read to their children. My 4 year old loved the pictures of the kitties and the rocketship. She's too young to really understand the story or to sit still through the whole thing, but she's quite happy just flipping through and making up her own story until she's older. 

Tebbs and his friends are lovable and will inspire children, while teaching valuable lessons. This is obviously way below my age range and that of course means it doesn't mentally engage me like a book geared towards an older audience, but I did enjoy it and seeing my daughter go crazy over it. We're definitely buying book 2 when it comes out!

Full review: Goodreads
Purchase: Amazon.

#9 Augment
Genre - Young Adult, Sci-fi, Novella

By Government-enforced mandate, genetic augmentation and implant technology cannot coexist in the same human body. Sixteen year old Viki's life has depended on her implants since she was five. Now her implants are failing. When Viki discovers that the malfunctions are due to illegal augmentation, she is determined to find those responsible.

However, Agent Smith of the Search and Retrieval Bureau is also looking for the geneticists who augmented Viki, and his orders are to capture them by any means necessary-even if it requires risking Viki's life by using her as bait.

Viki's friend Halle, a rogue AI, is doing its best to help her search, but Halle has its own problems. Agent Smith had been closing in on the AI before being reassigned to Viki's case, and Smith's partner is still on the hunt. Searching for the geneticists risks exposing Halle, but Viki and her friend must find them first-they are her only chance for survival.


I read very little sci-fi this year, and most of it I felt underwhelmed by. Augment was my first sci-fi of the year, and definitely my favorite. The dedication between Viki and Halle was my favorite part of the story, and I loved reading a book(Especially in the YA genre) that had the character focusing on struggles that weren't romantic.

I would've liked it to be a little longer so I could've immersed myself more in the story. But this is another story that I'll be buying the second book of.

Full review: Goodreads.
Purchase: Amazon.

#8 Resistance
Genre - New Adult, Christian, Fantasy, Adventure


Could God ever love a half-blood all of society looks upon with such fear and disdain? Jace once believed so, but when a tragic loss shatters the only peace he’s ever known, his faith crumbles as the nagging doubts he’s tried to put behind him descend on his grieving heart. With them come the haunting memories of the bloodstained past he longs to forget, but can never escape.

Taken from home at a young age and raised to serve the emperor, Kyrin Altair lives every day under a dangerous pretense of loyalty. After her unique observation skills and perfect memory place her into direct service to the emperor, Kyrin finds herself in further jeopardy as it becomes increasingly difficult to hide her belief in Elôm, the one true God.

Following the emperor’s declaration to enforce the worship of false gods under the penalty of death, many lives are endangered. But there are those willing to risk everything to take a stand and offer aid to the persecuted. With their lives traveling paths they never could have imagined, Jace and Kyrin must fight to overcome their own fears and conflicts with society as they become part of the resistance.

Resistance is marketed as NA but the characters are teenagers, so in my mind that's YA, but either way, I enjoyed this. For the first time I had to set a book down and grab a notebook to write down thoughts. I'd say this was a precursor to me wanting to write reviews on my blog as after this book, the habit of jotting down notes has become more frequent.

This is a book that should be a movie so that I can grab someone while watching it and be like, "Oh my gosh!" I loved the tension and the action in this book, as well as the tough situations the characters were in and what they had to overcome.

Full review: Goodreads.
Purchase: Amazon.

#7 Pride and Prejudice
Genre - Classic, Historical Romance

Pride and Prejudice
Elizabeth Bennet is young, clever and attractive, but her mother is a nightmare and she and her four sisters are in dire need of financial security and escape in the shape husbands.

The arrival of nice Mr Bingley and arrogant Mr Darcy in the neighbourhood turns all their lives upside down in this witty drama of friendship, rivalry, enmity and love.


After being madly in love with the BBC version of this story, I finally sat down to read the book. I was thrilled to find it just as engaging as the movie and that BBC did a good job of sticking to the heart of the story. I think I'll have a new appreciation for Pride and Prejudice when I watch it. Overall, a great read with the riveting dialogue I was expecting and several great new scenes and clips that I wasn't familiar with.

Full review: Goodreads.
Purchase: Amazon.

#6 Rose of Prophecy
Genre - Fairytale Retelling, Romance, Short story


She is afraid. Not because she is alone. Not because thick roiling clouds obscure the moon. Not because the wind rushes through the forest like a wild dragon. She is afraid because she is late. And to be late means death.

Her life had been happy once.

Despite the destruction wreaked by Tauscher, traitor to the King... Despite the distant war led by the Prince and fought with the help of her three brothers... Despite her own poorly-chosen nickname... Despite the absence of the luxuries she grew up with, Beauty enjoyed life.

Of course, that was also before her father left home on a hopeful errand but returned weary and ill, bearing a velvety scarlet rose which he claimed would never wither. But even life in the ancient hall, tucked away in the center of Mosswood, surrounded by roses of every description, overshadowed with mystery and home to a scarred figure who was more beast than man, wasn't too bad after a time.

But now...now, in a flash of light, Beauty finally glimpses the truth. And the cost. The price which must be paid, or the sacrifice which must be made.

It is a curse which even love alone may not be able to break.

I love retellings and I went into this with mediocre expectations as it is a short story. I didn't expect to be engaged with so little time to do it. I was pleasantly surprised when not only did I love this story, but it has taken my spot as the number one Beauty and the Beast retelling. There's a couple of things I can never quite go for in BatB, or its many retellings. I was excited to read a book that finally dealt with those.

Like I've always hated that the father told Beauty about his deal with the Beast. If you REALLY don't want your child to take your place, then don't tell them!! What kind of parent allows their child to go live with an angry, creepy beast or even tells them about the situation in the first place so they have to deal with the guilt?

A great story that finally fixes those bumps that've always annoyed me and managed to pull of the miracle of submersing me in the world with only a short time to do so.

Full review: Goodreads.
Purchase: Amazon.

#5 The Other Countess
Genre - Romance, Historical Fiction


England, 1582

ELLIE - Lady Eleanor Rodriguez of San Jaime - is in possession of a gold-seeking father, a worthless title and a feisty spirit that captivates the elite of the Queen's court, and none other than the handsome new Earl of Dorset . . .

WILLIAM LACEY has inherited his father's title and his financial ruin. Now the Earl must seek a wealthy heiress and restore his family's fortune.

But Will's head has been turned by the gorgeous Ellie, yet their union can never be. Will is destined to marry a worthy Lady so the only question is - which one . . . ?

After ordering this, I picked it up and there in all of its sickeningly bright glory was the infamous pink sticker of doom. It bore its red heart at the center as if mocking the fact that mine was sinking. "Not Romance!" I groaned. Why was there no warning? No bright red banner that flowed over my screen covered in hearts and fireworks while sappy music played in the background. I'd been suckered.

At last it was the only unread book in the house. I glared at it in loathing and disgust. "You wicked, wicked thing." I hissed. But it didn't seem to care. So I read it.

And I loved it. The romance is fun, a little sweet, but not too much, and there's this touch of humor throughout. Circumstances have put Ellie and Will on less than perfect terms, but fate throws them together after a particularly rough parting years back.

Staged in Elizabeth's court, the first part of the story is interesting and fun, and I couldn't help but feel for both parties. Ellie's father has a never-ending fool's quest that ruined Will's father and now Will has to try and recover the family finances. Meanwhile Ellie's living on the fringes of the court while her dad has found another sucker. The two meet and while Ellie recognizes Will, he has no idea who she is and starts a flirtation.

But when he eventually finds out, things take a sour turn. About halfway, things shift from the bustle and intrigue of court, to the quietness of the countryside where Ellie is now living in the village that's on Will's land. The two patch things up, but now Will has found a way to repair his finances in a beautiful Countess(who unlike Ellie, has money to go with the title).

What makes it interesting is that I rather liked the Countess who under her prickly exterior seemed a genuinely nice person. You have these people that are caught in this mesh of "We need to do this for family/our people." and despite the fact no ones really happy about the various situations, they feel trapped.

I loved the responsibility that each party felt and that Will's betrothed wasn't made out to be this horrible person that we should cheer against.

Full review: Goodreads.
Purchase: Amazon.

#4 Neverseen
Genre - Middle Grade Urban Fantasy


Sophie Foster is on the run—but at least she's not alone.

Her closest friends from the Lost Cities have gone with her to join the Black Swan. They still have doubts about the shadowy organization, but the only way to find answers is to start working with them. And as they settle into their new lives, they uncover secrets far bigger than anything they’d imagined.

But their enemies are far from done, and unleash a terrifying plague that threatens the safety of an entire species. Sophie and her friends fight with everything they have—with new allies joining them—but every choice has consequences. And trusting the wrong person could prove deadly.

In this game-changing fourth book in the Keeper of the Lost Cities series, Sophie must question everything to find a truth that will either save her world—or shatter it. 

I've been a fan of the KotLC series ever since it came out. I don't remember what compelled me to pick up the first book, but I'm glad I did. Every book of the series is a five star from me, even if there's a couple things I'm not fond of, the books as a whole are just SO FREAKING GOOD. 

My favorite character is Dex. He's the loner, the outcast, the social reject kind of kid. So by this point he's not so much because he's part of the group, but I can relate to Dex. He's not popular, or well-connected, or apparently devilishly good looking like Keefe and Fitz. His power isn't thought highly of and his parents are ruled a bad match, plus he has triplets for siblings(another prejudice in elvin society). He's so the underdog, and yet he's got a big heart.

I really missed him in this book, it has to be said, but the plot, the writing, and the characters will always keep me coming back. I actually wasn't sure where to put this exactly on my 10 list, so I just picked a spot. 

As always, the plot of this series just keeps jumping from one thing to another in a crazy rollercoaster that keeps you in the seat because you have NO idea what's over the next hill and you HAVE to see. It's intense, there's lots of surprises, suspense, emotion. Keefe delivers as usual(for awhile) with his famous quips and mannerisms.

There's always some introspective moments as characters take on big internal issues. It was torture waiting for the next book, but I survived! (trying to keep this spoiler-free since it's book 4)
 

Full review: Goodreads.
Purchase: Amazon.

#3 Lodestar
Genre - Middle Grade Urban Fantasy


Sophie Foster is back in the Lost Cities--but the Lost Cities have changed. The threat of war hangs heavy over her glittering world, and the Neverseen are wreaking havoc.

The lines between friend and enemy have blurred, and Sophie is unsure whom to trust. But when she's warned that the people she loves most will be the next victims, she knows she has to act.

A mysterious symbol could be the key--if only she knew how to translate it. Every new clue seems to lead deeper into her world's underbelly and the Black Swan aren't the only ones who have plans. The Neverseen have their own Initiative, and if Sophie doesn't stop it, they might finally have the ultimate means to control her.

Book 5 of the KotLC series finally came out in November and I actually went and bought it instead of waiting for my turn at the library(waiting for this book is excruciating in that line). I've yet to be disappointed in this series, so I was confident in buying my own lovely little hardcover copy. 

Shannon Messenger delivered as usual and I loved this book quite a bit more than Neverseen. I'd mentally shifted my mind to accept that Dex is not going to be a key player(I'm not against being proved wrong!) and decided to focus on the other elements of the series. (I hate getting sucked into love triangle/squares anyway and Sophie's just a kid, she doesn't need a love interest yet.)

First, after the cliffhanger from Neverseen there was a LOT of interesting parts that tied into that. And then things are definitely ramping up as the plot thickens and more baddies with more sinister plans come out of the woodworks. 

There's a lot of awesome bits tucked in that I think can impact both the MG audience and adults. Messenger broaches things like appropriate behavior around girls in terms of physical contact, verbal/emotional abuse, discrimination, prejudice, looking outside of our bubble and noticing when someone needs a friend, that the end doesn't always justify the means, prejudice, not participating in a system that's flawed, forgiveness, not trying to change people to be like you, and something that particularly struck a cord with me. 

After needing to separate myself and my family from my psychopathic paternal parent, I've gone a long way on the road of healing. It's also given me a unique experience to empathize with people who are in unhealthy relationships with their parents. So often we're told that we should stay with our parents and we should make them a part of our lives, and the list goes on. I see people who are still fighting for their parents acceptance and love after their parent has treated them like pond scum. And I see people who keep themselves in an unhealthy relationship with a parent because they think they're a terrible person if they remove themselves.

I can not explain how much it impacted me to see Shannon Messenger tackle the idea of it being okay to remove yourself from harm. To see a situation that's easy for 10-14 year olds to understand and is at their level(not too intense or graphic) and then have a character step up and say, "No, we will not be treated this way anymore. We choose to not have you in our lives." was just . . . wow. And then Sophie stepped in and said one of the most powerful lines I've ever seen in fiction. I called my mom and read it to her, I read it to my husband. 

People NEED to know that it's okay to walk away from a parent who's relationship is negatively impacting you. Adults . . . I'm talking to you. It does not make you a terrible person. You should not feel that you have to remain in a situation that's causing you emotional, mental, or physical harm because that person is a parent who you're supposed to respect and allow in your life. 

This is a brilliant story with so much going for it that everyone should read it. 

Full review: Goodreads and ABB.
Purchase: Amazon.

#2 Friends and Foes
Genre - Romance, Historical Fiction

After five years of tracking and capturing spies on English soil, Philip Jonquil, Earl of Lampton, is in pursuit of his last quarry. But at a traveler’s inn, he encounters an unexpected and far more maddening foe: Sorrel Kendrick, a young lady who is strikingly pretty, shockingly outspoken, and entirely unimpressed with him. Indeed, Sorrel cannot believe the nerve of this gentleman, who rudely accuses her of theft and insults her feminine dignity. 

Doubly annoyed when they both end up at a party hosted by mutual friends, Philip and Sorrel privately declare war on one another. But Philip’s tactics, which range from flirting to indifference, soon backfire as he finds himself reluctantly enjoying Sorrel’s company; and, much to her dismay, Sorrel finds Philip’s odd manner to be increasingly endearing. 

In the midst of this waning war and growing attraction, Philip catches wind of the French spy he’s been tracking, and Sorrel inadvertently stumbles upon a crucial piece of the puzzle, making her indispensable to the mission. But can two proud hearts negotiate a ceasefire when cooperation matters most?
Once again, I accidentally snatched up a Romance. But again, I was pleasantly surprised. This book will adorn my shelves one day and I'm hoping to read the rest of the series soon!

It's a clean, slow-burn romance. It's sweet, it's sarcastic, it's funny. There's some sort of sub-plot besides the romance going on but you really only see that at the beginning and at the end. It's more there just to set the stage of why the characters are in a situation together and why they start off on the wrong foot and grate on each other's nerves.

It's so hard to say what the best part of this was because it really boiled down to the two main characters. The romance (obviously) was good, the dialogue was stellar, and everything was so vivid and engaging. I started this right before bed and was like nooooo, I have to sleep! But the next night I stayed up until one in the morning to read the rest because IT WAS THAT GOOD! I couldn't put it down and I even laughed out loud in a few places.

The back and forth banter between Philip and Sorrel was humorous and witty. The private thoughts they each had were hilarious too. It was almost like a modern day Pride and Prejudice feeling(modern part being the writer and writing style, the story itself isn't modern). There was that same engagement with the dialogue and it had me hooked.

It was really hard to know where to rank this one. Actually, my top 3 were all really close.

Full review: Goodreads.
Purchase: Amazon.

#1 The Firethorn Crown
Genre - New Adult, Fairytale Retelling, Romance

Princess Lily, the eldest of twelve sisters and heir to a mighty kingdom, desperately seeks a break from her mother's matchmaking. Tradition forbids marriage with the man Lily loves, so she would rather rule alone than marry someone who only wants the crown.

Fleeing an overzealous suitor, Lily stumbles into a secret underground kingdom where she and her sisters encounter a mysterious sorcerer-prince and become entangled in a curse that threatens the safety of her family and her people. Lily can free them, but the price for freedom may be more than she's willing to pay.


As I said, it was really close between my top 3. So what decided The Firethorn Crown as the winner? Three things: First, I read this as an ebook and I'm a very, very, very slow ebook reader and what normally takes me a couple weeks to read on Kindle took me 2 nights to finish. Second, that was around planning a party. I stayed up late the night before the party to read this, had to force myself to stop. Then after the party, I stayed up all the next night to finish. So picture me drop dead tired, running around like crazy, and I'm staying up late to finish a book in record time. THAT HAS TO MEAN IT'S GOOD. The last reason is that I went and ordered myself the paperback shortly after(my husband's giving it to me for Christmas, yay!).

Now this book I read after starting my ABB review series here on my blog, so I have an entire post dedicated to the book and why I love it. I won't say too much here because it'd just be repeating stuff. But this was an amazing retelling that is my favorite one for the 12 Dancing Princesses. Great characters and plot, amazing descriptions, and overall just an absolute pleasure to read.

Full review: Goodreads and ABB.
Purchase: Amazon.
    
And there's my top 10 for the year! A lot of good finds for the year, and some that have made it onto my all-time favorites list. Hopefully there'll be something that grabbed your attention and you'll have another book to add to your 2017 pile!

8 comments:

  1. Yay, book recommendations! Several of these are already on my To Read list, and others will be added shortly, as well, because I trust your judgment when it comes to books! :)

    Also... *squees* I'm on the list! *dances around with excitement*

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    1. I've never done a top 10 list before. It was a lot of fun to make one. Yay! Glad you found some to add. Of course you made the list!!

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  2. Now I wish I had more time for fun reading. Some of those books sound very cool.

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    1. I've really been enjoying book club because on some months I need the motivation to read for fun if I've been in a slump for too long. I think in general it's relaxing to read for pleasure and reminds you not to lose sight of enjoying the world of books.

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  3. I just bought Resistance and I'm looking forward to reading it. I've heard lots of good things about it!

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    1. I'm sure you'll love it! It got me very involved and wishing I could jump through the pages to shout warnings and yell at people and those sorts of crazy things.

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  4. I've read and liked some of these but looking forward to reading the others! Thanks for posting!!!!

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    1. It's great when you can find new reads from a list. I've also been loving when people read the same things. I'm always asking, "what'd you think? Don't forget to tell me what you think!" Because it's so fascinating to hear how someone's opinion was the same or different than mine.

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