Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Top Reads of 2016

Another year down, another mountain of books devoured.

I'm a nerd and get an unnecessary amount of satisfaction from tallying my book count for the year and comparing it to previous years. With three weeks left in in 2016, I'm pleased to say that I've read fifty six books--eleven more than the forty-five I read last year. And I think I'll finish at least another one to two before year end. Huzzah!

In addition to bragging rights, reading lots of books means I get to recommend lots of books. And it's that time of year. 

Without further ado, here are my top reads of 2016 by category, in no particular order. All of them were good if they made my list, but the ones noted with a ** are not to be missed (IMHO.)

Historical Fiction

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah** 
The story follows two sisters as they struggle to survive in Nazi-occupied France. This was easily my favorite read of the year.
Salt to Sea by Ruta Sepetys**
I loved Between Shades of Gray so my expectations were high, but Sepetys second historical fiction didn't disappoint. Inspired by the single greatest tragedy in maritime history, Sepetys introduces us to well imagined characters struggling to hold onto hope (and their lives), while weaving in the events of a shockingly little-known event in World War II.
Girl in the Blue Coat by Monica Hesse
Described as Code Name Verity meets Gone Girl. The description slightly over promises, but I enjoyed the fast pace, the Nazi-occupied Amsterdam setting, and the relateability of the MC.
Out of Darkness by Ashley Hope Pérez
Set in a small East Texas town in 1937 where race is just one of the many dividing lines. This book received loads of early critical acclaim, and for good reason. It is as beautifully written as it is heartbreaking. 


Scrappy Little Nobody, by Anna Kendrick  
Full of snark, laughs and showbiz growing pains. If you are an Anna Kendrick fan, you will be an even bigger one after reading this.
Girl Walks Into a Bar, by Rachel Dratch
I loved reading about Dratch's improv days and her time at Saturday Night Live. I'm a former improv geek and actually studied at the same Chicago theaters as Dratch (Second City and IO) so it was fun to hear her talk about her time there. But what really makes the book is Dratch's personal journey.
The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo by Amy Schumer*
If you are an Amy Schumer fan, be prepared to love her even more. Her memoir is funny at times and surprisingly honest and heartfelt at others. I especially loved hearing about her comedic perseverance. There's a lesson for everyone trying to break into a creative industry--you need thick skin and a never-give-up attitude if you want to be successful. 


Before the Fall by Noah Hawley
Scott Burroughs, a down-on-his-luck painter, hitches a ride on a private jet flying from Martha's Vineyard to New York. Sixteen minutes after takeoff, the plane and all but two of it's passengers - Scott and the son of two wealthy passengers - disappear into the ocean. Filled with twists and turns, this story will keep you guessing right up until the end.

I'm currently listening to Dear Amy, by Helen Callaghan, and if it continues at its current pace it will likely get a place in my 2016 Thriller section as well.

Middle Grade

Echo by Pam Muñoz Ryan
The story interweaves several tales together - from WWII Germany to Depression-Era Philadelphia - all connected by a harmonica. The unique format and heart warming story rightfully won the 2016 Newberry Honor Award.
The School for Good and Evil (The School for Good and Evil, #1)
Every few years, two children are kidnapped from the village of Gavaldon and forced to attend the fabled School for Good and Evil, where kids are trained to become the things of fairytales. A fun read for any age.
11 Birthdays (Willow Falls, #1) by Wendy Mass
Described as Groundhog Day meets Flipped--Amanda must relive her eleventh birthday until she can get it right and break the curse.
A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd

This book is a perfect example of how to successfully develop a fun, charismatic MG voice. Twelve-year-old Felicity tries to bring the magic back to Midnight Gulch and mend her mother's broken heart so that they can finally call one place home.

Fantasy & SciFi

Replica by Lauren Oliver
Oliver is one of my favorite authors, and her latest release did not disappoint. After an attack on the Haven Institute - a military-run covert facility that clones hundreds of children - Lyra, a clone, escapes and bumps into Gemma - a girl with surprising ties to Haven's secret past.
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
Because it's a play, it lacks some of the colorful world building you expect from a J.K. Rowling novel. But once I got used to the format I really enjoyed it--it was great to see familiar characters and meet some new ones along the way. And I love that Harry Potter grows up to be a father struggling to raise and understand his children--just like any other father, magical or muggle.
An Ember in the Ashes (An Ember in the Ashes, #1) by Sabaa Tahir**
A Torch Against the Night (An Ember in the Ashes, #2) by Sabaa Tahir**
This series will likely end up ranking up there with Daughter of Smoke and Bone for me, which is high praise. An Ember in the Ashes was my February YA book pick. You can read the full review here. Book two is just as good as book one, and book three can't come out fast enough.
The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge
After spying on her father, Faith discovers his secret--a tree growing in a dark cave. Tell the tree a lie, and a fruit will grow. Eat the fruit, and it will reveal something true. The greater the falsity and the further it spreads, the greater the secret the tree will reveal. But Faith soon discovers that learning the truth is not always worth the cost.
Alive (The Generations Trilogy, #1)by Scott Sigler
Alight (The Generations Trilogy, #2) by Scott Sigler
This Sci-Fi series gets better with each book. It starts with M, a teenage girl who wakes up in a coffin with no memory of how she got there. She soon discovers more kids like her, and the fight to learn how they came to arrive in the coffins becomes a fight for survival. I can't share details of Alight without giving away the plot to Alive, but I will say that the ending to Alight (book 2) is one of the best cliffhangers EVER.
The Raven King (The Raven Cycle, #4) by Maggie Stiefvater* 
If you've been following this blog for a while you know about my obsession with Maggie Stiefvater and her The Raven Boys Series. The final book in Steiefvater's epic series is all the things I wanted and needed. I had a book hangover for at least a month afterward.


Gabi, a Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero* 
Gabi chronicles her last year in high school: college applications, Cindy's pregnancy, Sebastian's coming out, boys, her father's meth habit.  If I were giving out an award for best voice, this would be the winner of the 2016 prize. Funny, poignant and heartbreaking all at once--I found it hard not to cheer (and sometimes cry) for Gabi.
Life by Committee, by Corey Ann Haydu
Tab discovers a note in the margin of a book that leads her to LBC (Life By Committee.) The rules are simple: share a secret, complete the challenge, find comradely with the other members of the site. Fail to complete the assignment, and your secrets get revealed. At first, Tab believes the assignments are helping her to become a braver, happier version of herself. Until they threaten to tear her family apart.
Me Before You (Me Before You, #1) by Jojo Moyes*
If you're thinking of skipping the book in favor of the movie, don't. The movie does not hold a candle to the book. But regardless, have the tissues ready. This book will break your heart in all the right places.


  1. Replies
    1. So good, right? It basically set off a month of me reading nothing but historical fiction.

    2. Yes ma'am! This book definitely solidified why historical fiction is my favorite genre.