A Year in Review: Top Reads of 2016

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I rang in the New Year in a small apartment in the inaka of Japan, surrounded by rusty little houses that creaked in the wind as the sea whooshed gently in the distance. As the minutes counted down, we watched a strange show where grown men voluntarily had their family jewels whacked with a paddle for entertainment and if those who were watching laughed, they got their butts slapped with yet another paddle.

Suddenly it was 10…9…8…3…2…1…Happy New Year! and it was midnight–a brand new year and full of possibilities. Standing on the concrete outside of the apartment seven stories up in stocking feet, we listened to the bells from the local temple toll and the distant sound of flutes and drums playing in the New Year. The town was relatively quiet as 2017 came into being.

Now that the New Year and the first hectic days of January have passed, I want to look back on the books that I read in 2016. I read a lot in 2016 and was thrilled that I made (and went slightly over) my goal of 100 books. I binge-read a lot of series that I never read when I was a teenager, read things that made me cry, and read things that made my heart full. I read things that were over-rated, things that weren’t even out yet, and things that remained in my mind long after I’d finished them. 2016 was a really full year of books. I’m incredibly thankful that I was able to read a variety of things thanks to new friends, NetGalley, and random discoveries.

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*・゜My Top Five Books of 2016*・゜

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1. Have a box of tissues when you read this one, because you will surely need it. The Serpent King is the debut novel of Jeff Zentner, and what a debut it was. I went from a skeptic to being unable to read this book at work because it made me cry. Zentner’s characters are beautifully realistic and realized as they navigate young adulthood that last summer before college. His writing is stupendous and his upcoming Goodbye Days is a book that I am chomping at the bit to read. I’m definitely going to read everything he writes. Jeff Zentner is an author in the young adult community who will only get more popular as he continues publishing. 5 stars.

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2. I thought a lot about not including The Bear and the Nightingale on this list.  While this novel was one I read in 2016, its official publishing date was 2017. However, I couldn’t resist because I think it will also be one of my favorite reads of 2017. I love books where the author has done their research to create a historical setting as correct as possible. I also love fantasy. The Bear and the Nightingale was both, a world where the old and the new collide, and where a young girl has to come to terms with the power inside of her–which isn’t always understood–before something horrible happens. It was really cool to read a book set in the Russian wilderness and actually feel like it was. 5 stars.

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3. A time-period in America that I’m fascinated by is the roaring 20s, and a book set in that era (or near to it) plus one that has a fantasy element is pretty much guaranteed to be a hit for me. Iron Cast by Destiny Soria is also a debut novel, and like The Serpent King, it was one hundred percent successful for me. Soria’s style of writing was engaging and created an alternate history of 1919, one where the ability to create illusions through art has already been banned. I LOVED that it had a true female friendship that went through ups-and-downs. It was one of the most realistic female friendships I’ve read in a novel and it made me miss my best friend. I’m looking forward to reading more from Destiny Soria as well, and she was a lovely interviewee! 5 stars.

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4. When the Moon Was Ours was a wonderful story about friendship, first love, and discovering yourself. It was a love story to those who don’t fit into the boxes that society tries to put them in and those who are searching for names,  as well as a personal love story from the author to her partner. You could feel the love in the pages of this magical realism story, which read like a modern-day fairy tale. All of the characters had an arc with a beginning, middle, and end. The writing was lyrical and poignant and the subject was handled with such care. 4 stars.

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5. A Darker Shade of Magic was one of the reviews that I never got around to doing, so there’s nothing to link to. I thoroughly enjoyed the twist on London, with multiple Londons (and worlds) existing alongside each other. Each were unique. Kell is one of the few who can travel between the worlds, and he may be the only one who can save them. It’s a great introduction to a new story and world, and was my first introduction to this author’s work.  I’m excited to reread this in 2017 and also start the second in preparation for the third novel’s release in February!

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*・゜Honorable Mentions*・゜

27153280And I Darken was a novel that imagined if Vlad Dracula was a woman. Lada was a very strong protagonist who didn’t always do things I agreed with or liked, but it was important in establishing her character. And I Darken was full of an interesting alternate history with characters who are set on protecting those they love at all costs while also attempting to gather power. 4 stars.

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Dreaming of Antigone was a nice young adult romance novel that reminded me of Deb Caletti’s writing. It’s the story of a girl who is trying to survive the loss of her twin while also dealing with her family’s grief, a budding romance, and lingering questions about who her sister really was. I really loved that there was a focus on stargazing and Greek tragedy, two things I enjoy. 5 stars.

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106641132016 was the year when I finally read all of the currently published Song of Ice and Fire aka Game of Thrones series. I started in July 2015 and read through to February of 2016. A Dance with Dragons is the most recent novel that George R.R. Martin’s written for this series and the first one where I couldn’t immediately go read the next. I am suffering. My only consolation is that Martin will have produced something amazing by the time the sixth book is out. Here’s hoping it’s out this year! (Does anyone not know what this series is about? I just realized I skipped a short description, oops!). 3-5 stars.

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17378527I don’t really know why I never read The Raven Cycle series, but I just didn’t. When the fourth and final book came out, the bookstagram and book community went crazy so I decided to check it out. I really loved them. It’s a bit of magical realism but nothing too intense. I really enjoyed Stiefvater’s writing style a lot. Books one, two, and three were amazing, and most of the fourth was, but I was a little disappointed by the ending. Overall, though, I loved it! 5 stars (with the exception of the fourth with 4 stars).

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16074758The surprising little book that I should have disliked because this type of book is a miss 70 percent of the time, Dangerous Girls was a suspense / thriller of a girl trying to prove her innocence when she’s accused of a friend’s murder. Soon she is alone in an unfamiliar country, the friends she thought she had quickly flocking to the prosecution’s side. I was surprised how much I actually enjoyed it. It had a really nuanced look at how friendships between girls are not always as simple as they seem, especially when there’s tension on them. A case of an unreliable narrator that worked really well (and one that didn’t bother me!). 4 stars.

 

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I read a lot, I bought a lot, and I took a lot of book photos (for every one on my bookstagram, there was probably at least six more that were deleted). I even was incredibly lucky enough to snag tickets to one of the most anticipated events for Harry Potter fans, the Cursed Child play! It was a phenomenal experience and one of the most amazing things I did in 2016. I want to see it again. And then see it again.

I read  and did so much more that I can’t talk about here. 2016 was a great year of books for me. I’m excited to start 2017 off!

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