Friday, December 30, 2016

spotlight on: favorite books of 2016

Welcome to the last Spotlight On for 2016! This year has been completely insane in so many ways, but I have loved doing this series and will definitely continue it in the new year. I will wrap up the year with a spotlight on: favorite books of 2016, because that feels like coming full circle. I hope you guys have had at least a marginally good 2016, and let's all hope and pray to whatever we believe in that 2017 is better. As for reading, I feel like as the world got crazier, I retreated more into books, which made my year of reading amazing. I can't wait for 2017 releases to come out, because I think there are some truly amazing ones on the horizon. Let me know what you guys loved this year, as I am always looking to add to my TBR, and have a good New Year's Eve!

2016 New-to-Me Favorites (In Temporal Order)

1. I'll Meet You There by Heather Demetrios

review here 

 If seventeen-year-old Skylar Evans were a typical Creek View girl, her future would involve a double-wide trailer, a baby on her hip, and the graveyard shift at Taco Bell. But after graduation, the only thing standing between straightedge Skylar and art school are three minimum-wage months of summer. Skylar can taste the freedom—that is, until her mother loses her job and everything starts coming apart. Torn between her dreams and the people she loves, Skylar realizes everything she’s ever worked for is on the line.

Nineteen-year-old Josh Mitchell had a different ticket out of Creek View: the Marines. But after his leg is blown off in Afghanistan, he returns home, a shell of the cocksure boy he used to be. What brings Skylar and Josh together is working at the Paradise—a quirky motel off California’s dusty Highway 99. Despite their differences, their shared isolation turns into an unexpected friendship and soon, something deeper.

This was one of the very first books that I read and loved this year, and even almost 12 months later, I still think about it in my day to day life. I just felt like the setting and character development were so real, the book felt seamless. I loved the conflict and the romance, and the way they were both developed, and I am definitely planning on rereading it at some point this year. Totally one of my favorite contemporaries that I read this year, even though it came out in 2015. 
2. Kings Rising (Captive Prince #3) – C.S. Pacat 

review here

(spoilers for books 1&2!) Damianos of Akielos has returned.

His identity now revealed, Damen must face his master Prince Laurent as Damianos of Akielos, the man Laurent has sworn to kill.

On the brink of a momentous battle, the future of both their countries hangs in the balance. In the south, Kastor’s forces are massing. In the north, the Regent’s armies are mobilising for war. Damen’s only hope of reclaiming his throne is to fight together with Laurent against their usurpers.

Forced into an uneasy alliance the two princes journey deep into Akielos, where they face their most dangerous opposition yet. But even if the fragile trust they have built survives the revelation of Damen’s identity—can it stand against the Regent's final, deadly play for the throne?

 If you take away one thing from my favorite books of 2016.... let it be that the Captive Prince series is INCREDIBLE!! I wrote a long and feelsy review for this entire series, but I just want to reiterate here how crazy amazing these books are. I just think they're totally groundbreaking for m/m fantasy, and if you haven't read them, I would totally recommend trying them out if you're looking to expand your experience in fantasy. Be sure to read the list of trigger warnings that I linked in my review of these books, but if you're cool with being a little shocked, I would definitely recommend this. The third book especially was playing so much on my emotions... planning on rereading them all soon!! 
3. Rebel of the Sands (Rebel of the Sands #1) – Alwyn Hamilton 

review here 

She’s more gunpowder than girl—and the fate of the desert lies in her hands.

Mortals rule the desert nation of Miraji, but mystical beasts still roam the wild and barren wastes, and rumor has it that somewhere, djinni still practice their magic. But there's nothing mystical or magical about Dustwalk, the dead-end town that Amani can't wait to escape from.

Destined to wind up "wed or dead," Amani’s counting on her sharpshooting skills to get her out of Dustwalk. When she meets Jin, a mysterious and devastatingly handsome foreigner, in a shooting contest, she figures he’s the perfect escape route. But in all her years spent dreaming of leaving home, she never imagined she'd gallop away on a mythical horse, fleeing the murderous Sultan's army, with a fugitive who's wanted for treason. And she'd never have predicted she'd fall in love with him... or that he'd help her unlock the powerful truth of who she really is.

  Count this as the book that surprised me the most during 2016. I was totally not expecting to like it, but I ended up devouring it in one sitting and absolutely adored the world and the characters so much. It was described to me as a middle eastern fantasy mixed with a western, which sounded so out of order to me, but it really is the best description, and Alwyn Hamilton mixes the two aspects so well, you don't even notice how odd it is. I absolutely cannot wait for the second book to come out early next year, because I truly can't wait to see where Hamilton takes this story. 

 4. When We Collided – Emery Lord 

review here 

We are seventeen and shattered and still dancing. We have messy, throbbing hearts, and we are stronger than anyone could ever know…

Jonah never thought a girl like Vivi would come along.

Vivi didn’t know Jonah would light up her world.

Neither of them expected a summer like this…a summer that would rewrite their futures.

In an unflinching story about new love, old wounds, and forces beyond our control, two teens find that when you collide with the right person at just the right time, it will change you forever.

Emery Lord is one of my all time favorite authors, and her new book was no different than her last two. I absolutely loved this story, even though and especially because it was so different from her other two books. I love how Emery Lord portrays all of her relationships, whether they be romantic, familial, or platonic. I always feel like her characters are people I know, good and passionate people who love each other no matter what. I also really appreciate the way this book portrays mental illness. It is uplifting and hopeful while also addressing harsh realities of life. 

5. The Loose Ends List – Carrie Firestone

review here

It’s a summer for first love, last wishes, and letting go.

Maddie has big plans to spend the last months before college tying up high school “loose ends” alongside her best friends. Then her beloved grandmother drops two bombshells: (1) Gram is dying. (2) She’s taking her entire family on a round-the-world cruise of dreams come true—but at the end, Gram won’t be returning home.

With a promise to live in the now without regrets, Maddie boards the Wishwell determined to make every moment count. She finds new friends in her fellow Wishwellians, takes advantage of the trip’s many luxuries, gets even closer to her quirky family, and falls for painfully gorgeous Enzo. But despite the copious laughter, headiness of first love, and wonder of the glamorous destinations, Maddie knows she is on the brink of losing Gram, and she struggles to find the strength to let go in a whirlwind summer shaped by love, grief, and laughter.

I was sent this ARC having no idea what this book was going to be about, and then I read it and was totally and completely blown away by the humanity of the story, the complexity of the relationships, and the raw emotions that make this story amazing. This book contains three of my favorite things: traveling around the world, crazy but loving family dynamics, and some killer character development, all combined in a book that is as heartwarming as it is hilarious. I can't stress enough how much this book mixed the wonderful with the heartbreaking, and how much I enjoyed myself while reading it. 
6. And I Darken (The Conqueror's Saga #1) – Kiersten White 

review here

No one expects a princess to be brutal. And Lada Dragwyla likes it that way.

Ever since she and her brother were abandoned by their father to be raised in the Ottoman sultan’s courts, Lada has known that ruthlessness is the key to survival. For the lineage that makes her and her brother special also makes them targets.

Lada hones her skills as a warrior as she nurtures plans to wreak revenge on the empire that holds her captive. Then she and Radu meet the sultan’s son, Mehmed, and everything changes. Now Mehmed unwittingly stands between Lada and Radu as they transform from siblings to rivals, and the ties of love and loyalty that bind them together are stretched to breaking point.

The first of an epic new trilogy starring the ultimate anti-princess who does not have a gentle heart. Lada knows how to wield a sword, and she'll stop at nothing to keep herself and her brother alive.

Definitely one of the most different books that I've read in awhile. I'm pretty picky about my historical fiction, but everything about a gender-swapped Vlad the Impaler was appealing to me. This book was dark and twisty, with amazingly complicated characters, political maneuverings, and relationships. I love the world of this novel, which we are simultaneously thrown into and guided through. Lada is a kickass anti-princess, anti-heroine who deserves to be celebrated for what she is, and Radu is a precious flower that conceals thorns. Love my murder kids! Can't wait to see what they get up to next!

7. The Unexpected Everything – Morgan Matson

review here

Andie had it all planned out. When you are a politician’s daughter who’s pretty much raised yourself, you learn everything can be planned or spun, or both. Especially your future. Important internship? Check. Amazing friends? Check. Guys? Check (as long as we’re talking no more than three weeks).

But that was before the scandal. Before having to be in the same house with her dad. Before walking an insane number of dogs. That was before Clark and those few months that might change her whole life. Because here’s the thing—if everything’s planned out, you can never find the unexpected. And where’s the fun in that?

Morgan Matson is one of the best contemporary writers out there, IMO. Every single book she writes feels like coming home, they just exist in this comfortable place where I can read for hours and hours and feel like no time at all has passed. Andie and her friends are #squadgoals, I love the use of emojis in this book, the humor is on point, and Clark is the absolute cutest boy in the universe! This book also has a multitude of dogs and a great father daughter relationship, which aren't things I absolutely require in a book but are certainly things that I love to see :)

8. Love & Gelato – Jenna Evans Welch 

review here

“I made the wrong choice.”

Lina is spending the summer in Tuscany, but she isn’t in the mood for Italy’s famous sunshine and fairy-tale landscape. She’s only there because it was her mother’s dying wish that she get to know her father. But what kind of father isn’t around for sixteen years? All Lina wants to do is get back home.

But then she is given a journal that her mom had kept when she lived in Italy. Suddenly Lina’s uncovering a magical world of secret romances, art, and hidden bakeries. A world that inspires Lina, along with the ever-so-charming Ren, to follow in her mother’s footsteps and unearth a secret that has been kept for far too long. It’s a secret that will change everything she knew about her mother, her father—and even herself.

People come to Italy for love and gelato, someone tells her, but sometimes they discover much more.

I picked up this book because I wanted something cute and fluffy during the summer, and I absolutely love Italy, so this seemed like something that I would enjoy. I ended up absolutely loving it way more than I expected to, and it was so much more to me than just a light and fluffy summer read. The characters were amazing!! I loved them so much, especially Howard, I just wanted to squish them. I loved the romance that developed, it was a slow burn that I really enjoyed, and the family mystery was what compelled me to keep on reading until the end. Wonderful book if you love travel for sure, and also there's some great relationships here! 
9. My Lady Jane –  Brodi Ashton, Cynthia Hand, Jodi Meadows 

review here

The comical, fantastical, romantical, (not) entirely true story of Lady Jane Grey. In My Lady Jane, coauthors Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows have created a one-of-a-kind fantasy in the tradition of The Princess Bride, featuring a reluctant king, an even more reluctant queen, a noble steed, and only a passing resemblance to actual history—because sometimes history needs a little help.

At sixteen, Lady Jane Grey is about to be married off to a stranger and caught up in a conspiracy to rob her cousin, King Edward, of his throne. But those trifling problems aren’t for Jane to worry about. Jane is about to become the Queen of England.

Not your typical historical fiction! Emphasis on the fiction. This was the #1 most hilarious book that I read all year. It had me giggling from page one. It reminded me of Monty Python and of the Princess Bride, in that it takes history and makes it funny, less serious, and doesn't let itself be held down by the actual history that it is trying to depict. This book tells the story of Lady Jane Grey, known for being the shortest reigning monarch in history and her untimely death. Or is she? I loved the magic and hilarity of the story, and the characters were wonderful as well.

10. This Savage Song (Monsters of Verity #1) – Victoria Schwab 

review here

There’s no such thing as safe in a city at war, a city overrun with monsters. In this dark urban fantasy from author Victoria Schwab, a young woman and a young man must choose whether to become heroes or villains—and friends or enemies—with the future of their home at stake. The first of two books.

Kate Harker and August Flynn are the heirs to a divided city—a city where the violence has begun to breed actual monsters. All Kate wants is to be as ruthless as her father, who lets the monsters roam free and makes the humans pay for his protection. All August wants is to be human, as good-hearted as his own father, to play a bigger role in protecting the innocent—but he’s one of the monsters. One who can steal a soul with a simple strain of music. When the chance arises to keep an eye on Kate, who’s just been kicked out of her sixth boarding school and returned home, August jumps at it. But Kate discovers August’s secret, and after a failed assassination attempt the pair must flee for their lives.

Victoria, or V.E., Schwab is one of my favorite authors in both adult and YA fantasy. Everything that she writes is so different, both from the standards of the genre and from everything else she's ever written, and This Savage Song is no different. I loved how dark and gritty it was, and how that aspect was tempered by these moments of brilliant lightness. This book revolves around a world where violent acts literally spawn monsters, and our main characters are a monster boy who is anything but, and a human girl who would give anything to be monstrous. I flew through this one and for those of you who like fantasical dystopian world, I think you will too! 

11. A Torch Against The Night (An Ember in the Ashes #2) – Sabaa Tahir

review here

 Elias and Laia are running for their lives. After the events of the Fourth Trial, Martial soldiers hunt the two fugitives as they flee the city of Serra and undertake a perilous journey through the heart of the Empire.

Laia is determined to break into Kauf—the Empire’s most secure and dangerous prison—to save her brother, who is the key to the Scholars’ survival. And Elias is determined to help Laia succeed, even if it means giving up his last chance at freedom.

But dark forces, human and otherworldly, work against Laia and Elias. The pair must fight every step of the way to outsmart their enemies: the bloodthirsty Emperor Marcus, the merciless Commandant, the sadistic Warden of Kauf, and, most heartbreaking of all, Helene—Elias’s former friend and the Empire’s newest Blood Shrike.

Bound to Marcus’s will, Helene faces a torturous mission of her own—one that might destroy her: find the traitor Elias Veturius and the Scholar slave who helped him escape…and kill them both.

It's no secret that I adored An Ember in The Ashes, the first installment in this series, and so I was a little bit nervous to read this second one. Whenever a first book is just *that* good, there is a lot to live up to. I shouldn't have worried, though, because Sabaa Tahir delivered within the first few pages and then just kept on firing on all cylinders throughout the book. So many twists and turns and a new POV character benefit this novel, and I cannot wait to see what else Tahir does with this world.

12. Nevernight (The Nevernight Chronicle #1) – Jay Kristoff

review here

The first in a new fantasy series from the New York Times bestselling author.

In a land where three suns almost never set, a fledgling killer joins a school of assassins, seeking vengeance against the powers who destroyed her family.

Daughter of an executed traitor, Mia Corvere is barely able to escape her father’s failed rebellion with her life. Alone and friendless, she hides in a city built from the bones of a dead god, hunted by the Senate and her father’s former comrades. But her gift for speaking with the shadows leads her to the door of a retired killer, and a future she never imagined.

Now, Mia is apprenticed to the deadliest flock of assassins in the entire Republic—the Red Church. If she bests her fellow students in contests of steel, poison and the subtle arts, she’ll be inducted among the Blades of the Lady of Blessed Murder, and one step closer to the vengeance she desires. But a killer is loose within the Church’s halls, the bloody secrets of Mia’s past return to haunt her, and a plot to bring down the entire congregation is unfolding in the shadows she so loves.

Will she even survive to initiation, let alone have her revenge?

Are you looking for a little bit of darkness, gore, and action thrown into a really cool world, a kickass main character, and a rough and tumble plot? Then Nevernight is for you. I loved this book, the Romanesque fantasy world, the city built on the bones of a fallen god, a coven of assassins that worship the goddess of the night, and a world where there are three suns that hardly ever set? HELLO. All of the aspects are there and they are all used so wonderfully well. I loved the narration style and the footers, Mia is a great and quick-to-action protag, and the plot twist at the end really SHOOK me. I'd never read Jay Kristoff before, but he definitely burst into my reading life and I will be checking out his other works.
13. Crooked Kingdom (Six of Crows #2) – Leigh Bardugo

review here

Kaz Brekker and his crew have just pulled off a heist so daring even they didn't think they'd survive. But instead of divvying up a fat reward, they're right back to fighting for their lives. Double-crossed and left crippled by the kidnapping of a valuable team member, the crew is low on resources, allies, and hope. As powerful forces from around the world descend on Ketterdam to root out the secrets of the dangerous drug known as jurda parem, old rivals and new enemies emerge to challenge Kaz's cunning and test the team's fragile loyalties. A war will be waged on the city's dark and twisting streets―a battle for revenge and redemption that will decide the fate of magic in the Grisha world. 
If I had to write a summary for this book it would just be this: *CONSTANT YELLING FOR FIVE MINUTES.* That is how incoherent I was after finishing this one. Together with the first book in this series, Six of Crows, it makes up one of the best duologies in existence, IMO. The characters just pop off the page, and their relationships give me so much of the life. Also, if you're a fan of heists, ragtag teams getting shit done, and narrowly escaping death in impossible circumstances, these books are for you!! dont even try to fight me on the perfection of this book, because you will lose.   

14. The Female of the Species – Mindy McGinnis

review here

Alex Craft knows how to kill someone. And she doesn’t feel bad about it. When her older sister, Anna, was murdered three years ago and the killer walked free, Alex uncaged the language she knows best. The language of violence.

While her crime goes unpunished, Alex knows she can’t be trusted among other people, even in her small hometown. She relegates herself to the shadows, a girl who goes unseen in plain sight, unremarkable in the high school hallways.

But Jack Fisher sees her. He’s the guy all other guys want to be: the star athlete gunning for valedictorian with the prom queen on his arm. Guilt over the role he played the night Anna’s body was discovered hasn’t let him forget Alex over the years, and now her green eyes amid a constellation of freckles have his attention. He doesn’t want to only see Alex Craft; he wants to know her.

So does Peekay, the preacher’s kid, a girl whose identity is entangled with her dad’s job, though that does not stop her from knowing the taste of beer or missing the touch of her ex-boyfriend. When Peekay and Alex start working together at the animal shelter, a friendship forms and Alex’s protective nature extends to more than just the dogs and cats they care for.

Circumstances bring Alex, Jack, and Peekay together as their senior year unfolds. While partying one night, Alex’s darker nature breaks out, setting the teens on a collision course that will change their lives forever.

This is one of the most unconventional contemporaries that I've ever read, and I appreciate Mindy McGinnis and everyone who stands behind her for getting this one published. I think this is such an important book, and especially for it to be published in 2016, I just want to cry because I am so grateful for this book. It is dark, chilling, and at times difficult to read, but I think that is what makes it so important. It is rare that I run across a work of fiction that deals so directly with rape culture and the struggle of women in a world dominated by men and their opinions. I swear everyone needs to read this book. 
15. The Sun is Also A Star – Nicola Yoon 

review here

Natasha: I’m a girl who believes in science and facts. Not fate. Not destiny. Or dreams that will never come true. I’m definitely not the kind of girl who meets a cute boy on a crowded New York City street and falls in love with him. Not when my family is twelve hours away from being deported to Jamaica. Falling in love with him won’t be my story.

Daniel: I’ve always been the good son, the good student, living up to my parents’ high expectations. Never the poet. Or the dreamer. But when I see her, I forget about all that. Something about Natasha makes me think that fate has something much more extraordinary in store—for both of us.

The Universe: Every moment in our lives has brought us to this single moment. A million futures lie before us. Which one will come true?

Another book that has important applications, especially in the year that we are just coming out of, I think The Sun Is Also A Star is Nicola Yoon at her best. I loved Everything, Everything, but this book is even better. It is such a frank look at immigration, deportation, relating to family when you are the product of two different cultures, and interracial and intercultural interactions. And it is all told in gorgeous prose with wonderful explanatory chapters sprinkled into the narrative. Take an afternoon and read this in a sunny windowseat. It will warm your heart and make you think.

I think that is all of my favorite books from this year, I might have left off a couple that I really loved, but don't hold it against me! there are so many amazing things that I read this year. I cannot wait to see what 2017 hold for all of us, in reading and in life :) 



1 comment:

  1. I really liked The Unexpected Everything! It was my first Matson book and I loved it so much. I definitely want to check out more by her in 2017. I also really liked The Sun is Also a Star.
    Krystianna @ Downright Dystopian


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