I softly croon to my favorite books from 2016. And I will: Always love you. I will carry you, dear favorite books, as lovingly as Kevin Costner carried the late, great Whitney Houston from danger. And to those who have no idea what I’m talking about … it’s called The Bodyguard. Rent it. And shut up. 😀 Not only is December special because Santa comes to visit, but we also have two Show Us Your Books Link-ups!
The Best Books I Read in 2016
I initially struggled with how to put this post together. Did I just list my favorites? How was I going to choose? Did I have any weird, Tanya-like criteria? These were the questions that haunted my dreams. Okay, that’s a lie. Taylor Kitsch haunts my dreams. But still, I did ponder how to set-up this post and finally decided to break it down by categories versus a list.
Best YA Books
I am a big fan of YA and these were my favorites.
Red Rising Series by Pierce Brown
My thoughts: I devoured this trilogy. Lots of great world-building with memorable characters. It reminded of Games of Thrones because you worried every time you fell in love with a character that you inadvertently signed their death warrant. Darrow was a great main character and I loved that he evolved and grew without also losing his core goodness. This is dystopian YA with — hallelujah — no love triangle.
Honorable YA Mentions:
Winter and Stars Above by Marissa Meyer — Winter was a great conclusion to the Lunar Chronicles. I don’t always love short stories but Stars Above was the exception with a lovely Jacin and Winter story and a fun story after the events of Winter. An absolute must for Lunar Chronicles fans.
Harry Potter: The Cursed Child — I feel a bit awkward that this isn’t first as a ride and die HP fan. As much as I overall enjoyed this book, because the format is a play versus a true novel, it doesn’t quite reach the highs of the other HP books. Yet I also laughed and cried and hugged the book afterwards.
Best Thriller/Mystery Books
These books had me on the edge of my seat.
I Let You Go by Clare Macintosh
My Thoughts: Right or wrong, whenever I read a mystery/thriller, I always try to guess who the “bad guy” is or the twist … and this book surprised me, which made me clap my hands in delight. This is a slower-paced book, very atmospheric and haunting and really, really good. It is not scary or graphically violent, for those who avoid those kind of books. It’s more quietly intense and filled with dread.
Honorable Thriller/Mystery Mentions:
The Life We Bury by Allen Eskens — I loved this book for just being a straight forward mystery and not a misguided copy of the Gone Girl formula with crazy twists or unlikable characters. In fact, I loved that Joe was truly a good guy, just trying to do the right thing. And Max was a policeman who truly wanted to serve and protect.
Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter — This book was featured in many Show Us Your Books link-ups and lived up to the hype for me. It is a graphically violent book with particularly hideous crimes, so beware if you’re sensitive.
Best Romance Books
This books made my heart go pitter patter.
9 Women, One Dress by Jane L. Rosen
My Thoughts: I read this at a time when fluff rated very low to me. It turned out to be exactly what I needed. The stories are interconnected by one dress and gave me much needed hope. Plus, it served as an important reminder of the power of love, which we need more than ever today. Again, for those who watch Love Actually every Christmas, this is your book. It’s got a similar vibe (but it’s not a Christmas story).
Honorable Romance Mentions
The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan — I really don’t follow the royal family so I wasn’t sure if that would hinder my enjoyment of this book. And it didn’t. While you can certainly see shades of William, Kate and Harry within the story, the characters and story stand on their own. It’s maybe a little longer than necessary but still a lot of fun.
The Obsession by Nora Roberts — This is more of a romance/mystery book, but I’m putting it here because my blog. 😀 I’m a diehard J.D. Robb fan (aka Nora Roberts) but I don’t faithfully read the books under her real name. This one caught my attention and I loved it. Naomi was a really great character and I loved seeing her grow and trust again after everything she endured as a child.
Best Horror Books
These books made me wish I had put on Depends first. Kidding. Sort of.
Night Film by Marisa Pessl
My Thoughts: This book always kept me guessing. I still don’t know which parts are real and I love that. There were times where I was seriously scared and prepared to hide underneath my bed. If I recall correctly, I read this is one sitting and when finished I was like WTF. And then I laughed like a loon.
Honorable Horror Mentions
Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill — Aging rocker Judas and his groupie girlfriend Georgia are fantastic characters. Unlike most horror characters, they are not the stupidest people on the planet. They actually do smart things and are so damn likeable and you root for them to succeed. I also had to stop reading this book because it freaked me out. This happened to me only once before and that was book was The Shining by Stephen King. Whom Joe calls “Dad”.
The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah — This is not a horror book; I know. And yet … is there anything more horrifying than Nazis and war? Because you know … real. What Vivanne and Isabelle endured is worse than anything Freddie or Jason could inflict. Plus, I didn’t have a place for this book and it deserves recognition!
These books made me think, grow and be my best self.
The Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes
My Thoughts: I have long adored Shonda Rhimes for her talent, even though I really don’t watch any of her shows. But I knew that she was the real deal, so I expected her book to be good but WOW! It blew me away. It surprised me how much I related to her and she made me take a hard look at my life and how frequently I said “no” when I needed to be say “yes”. I also took deeply to heart her thoughts on how women apologize for being a badass (hand raised) and how I’m no longer giving away my power. Or talent.
Honorable Non-Fiction Mentions
Rising Strong by Brene Brown — My favorite take-away from Brene was that we all fall. Every single one of us. It’s not weird. Or wrong. Or bad. It just is. And how we choose to rise from a fall is what really matters. She dropped a lot of truth bombs on me and honestly, I need to reread this book.
These are the books that surprised me with their awesomeness.
All is Not Forgotten by Wendy Walker
My Thoughts: I expect/want every book I read to be great but some books unexpectedly slap you with their goodness. This was one of those books. I expected a tale about the aftermath of rape. What I got was a jerk narrator whom I regularly wanted to punch and yet was also in awe of his manipulation of those around him. But even more so of what motivated him to take those actions because when we have high moral ground it is easy to be all righteous, but what about when a loved one is threatened? I found this book morally complex, which are the type of books I love, but beware that you will regularly want to punch the narrator in the face. Repeatedly.
The Dollhouse by Fiona Davis — I love the journey of both Darby and Rose. Darby’s story broke my heart a bit. Just as she was coming into her power and recognizing her worth, tragedy struck. And Rose reminded me how people sometimes get lost in a relationship, rather than found. And how we, as women, need to find the strength within ourselves, not expect others to find it for us.
The Martian by Andrew Weir — I avoided this book for the longest time because math and science are not my favorite subjects and this book just reeked of it. But I was wrong. And right. It is chock full of math and science and those parts did drag at times. But it is also a fantastic story with a wonderfully sarcastic and all-around great protagonist in Mark Watley.
The Best 2 Books I Read in 2016
Drum roll, please ….
One Plus One by Jojo Moyes
My Thoughts: I cannot express how much I loved this book. I laughed. I cried. And it also made me think, which is why this is one special book. The characters are fantastic. They feel real and you can’t help but fall in love with them. It’s a fast read because you won’t be able to put it down. It also made me rethink about wealth and re-evaluate some of my perceptions, especially around the working poor. She made you walk a bit in their shoes which was eye-opening. Moyes is a new to me author and I cannot wait to read more of her in 2017. Read this book!! It’s truly delightful!
What Lies Between Us by Nayomi Munaweera
My Thoughts: A great book lingers with you long after you’ve read it. I read this book in April and still think about it regularly. The crime committed is atrocious and she does not ask for forgiveness (this is not a spoiler as she tells us this on page 3). She takes us through her childhood where tragedy strikes and we see her thrive and fall in love as an adult. To become a mother who deeply loves her child but also suffers silently from postpartum depression. How events snowball and lead to the unthinkable. It made me think about how in our giddiness over a newborn, we often neglect to truly see how the mom is doing and to give her a safe place to say I’m struggling and to be given help without reproach in our “how does she do it” world. I will no longer make this mistake. This is my favorite book from 2016.
To More Great Reads in 2017
First, I would like to say a HUGE thank you to Jana and Steph for hosting this awesome monthly link-up. Not only has my TBR grown expontentially, but I have also made so many new friends who love books just as much as I do. This is a great community and I love being part of it. Second, thanks to everyone who participates and shares such awesome books. You’ve helped me read some fantastic books in 2016 and I hope that I have returned the favor. Here’s to more fabulous books that make us laugh, cry and think in 2017.
What were your favorite books from 2016?