Best Books · favorites · Uncategorized

Best of 2016!

2016 wasn’t an amazing reading year but no matter what kind of reading year it is, a few will always emerge as my favorites. Eve @ Eve Messenger’s Otherworldly Endeavors kindly tagged me in a “Best of 2016” tag and I’m going to try and incorporate it into my favorites!

So here are some of the best that will not be mentioned in my favorites.

Books so Fun They Felt Like Reading Parties

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The main character reminds me of the bitch from Cats Don’t Dance both physically and personality wise. This graphic novel also reminds me a lot of Wreck it Ralph but for adults.

 

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omg she was so evil..
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Excerpt (my picture)
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There’s a princess, dragons, a prince, political scheming and old-school fantasy characters. Young Carolyn would have been ecstatic. Present Carolyn was still pretty ecstatic

 

 

Best Female Protagonist

Is it weird to say that my favorite is Wonder Woman? I found and fell in love with her this year. She stands for everything I have come to love in my changing life: wonder and courage but also the utmost compassion.

Best Book Boyfriend

Gilbert from Anne of Green Gables. I just think he is funny but also very honorable and loyal. I love him.

Best Cover

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Look how gorgeous this Puffin edition is?? I borrowed it from library just so I can take pictures of it. Oh and read it.
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How exquisite.

Favorite Audiobook

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I kind of love her voice and her sarcasm “voice” is so similar to mine.

The #1 Book No One Else Seems to Like But Me

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Plenty of people like this book I know but just as many people don’t like it. 

I’m also adding categories:

Best Play

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An unexpected look at the different ways people deal with grief. 

Best Graphic Novels

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I’ve read so many WW comics this year and I don’t understand why this character is so hard to write about. But thankfully this one did not disappoint.
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I like the idea of your future self meeting your younger self which is exactly what I got in this sequel. Also a ton of action and a stellar ending.

Now on to my favorites of 2016!! I’ve only included 8 this year and there was never any doubt that they would end up on this list. Banners will all link to my review =)

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Best Small Press Standalone

Author: Silvia Moreno Garcia

I find it funny how glad I am to leave my high school days behind but somehow want to read about characters that are finding themselves in high school settings. Maybe it’s the accuracy and grace with which Garcia portrays teens with a not-so-great home life navigating high school. But I think more than anything, I love coming-of-age stories that illustrate friendship in all its frustrations but ultimately its glories. A stand out story that features magical realism and the weaving of folklore and music.

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Author: Shaun David Hutchinson

I just loved my coming-of-age this year. Like Signal to Noise, it’s not a straight up contemporary but includes hints of science fiction that blend together so nicely with its more realistic aspects. This book is standout among its type because it gives layers to all of its characters, the bully is not just the bully because there needs to be a bully in a YA contemporary and the brother doesn’t exist just to be an asshole, even if you don’t like them, you can sometimes glimpse an understanding of them. It is pessimistic but inspiring all at once and so genuinely written, it will be hard not to love.

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Best Plot Twist

Author: Marisha Pessl

Night Film was so deliciously creepy and eerie. I loved the mystery, the suspense and that plot twist at the end was so mind boggling. And to top it all off, it gives such a unique reading experience with its addition of articles and blogs and photos interspersed throughout.

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Best Worldbuilding

Best Setting

Author: Becky Chambers

Whenever I think about this book, I think about how wondrous this world really is (as cheesy as that sounds). It’s also one of those books where you just sit in awe at how they could create a world like this, a world so teeming with possibility and comfort you kind fo wish it was real. Becky Chambers just turns your expectations of gender, orientation, culture, and identity upside down in the most unexpected and wonderful ways possible. It sort of harkens back to what Star Trek use to be, a low-stakes (for the most part) heartwarming scifi opera.

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Author: Jung Yun

As Shelter progressed, it grew a lot more intense that I expected. There’s that sense of claustrophobia and ominous foreboding. The main character is also deeply flawed as main characters go but what it does best is explore the intersection of family fidelity and individualism that a lot of Asian cultures face and explores the extent of human endurance.

It’s down to my last three!! Let’s go…

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Best Sequel

Author: Libba Bray

Libba Bray’s writing is so, so underrated. It takes a couple of years between her books but you know that each second of her writing time is dedicated to details of making 1920’s New York seem as real as possible. I also really respect the diversity of her characters and that she doesn’t blame the historical period for not including people from other walks of life.

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Favorite Series

Author: Marie Rutkoski

This is the third book in The Winner’s Trilogy and while I loved her writing in the previous two books, this third book just showcases how exquisite her writing is. It just hits all the sentimentality and the dramatic that I love in writing. The plot was even more intense than ever and it was almost the perfect conclusion I wanted from this series. Kestrel will always remain one of my favorite female characters of all time. I will be rereading this series for many years to come.

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Most Devastating Read

Author: Bryan Stevenson

I always save my favorite book for something that worms its way into my heart and opens it in unexpected ways. Last year, it was A Little Life and this year, it’s no less emotional in Just Mercy. This book talks about those who have always been sidelined and talks about them with such compassion. This book broke my heart and really forced me to think about the laws that I have always  stood by and turned them upside down.

Those are my favorite books of 2016! I’m accompanied with that same sense of sadness and hope that follows me at the end of every year. Let me know what you think of my choices. I want to thank you all for reading my blog this year. I have so many plans for this blog for next year and I hope you’ll be there with me. I hope you’re having a wonderful New Year’s Eve and I will see you next year in 2017 😉

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Best Books · Uncategorized

My Best Books of 2015 Part 2

Happy New Year’s Eve everyone! I hope everyone is having a festive or just fun day with lots of happiness.

If you missed my favorite books from yesteryday, here it is. So continuing on from that, at number 5, I have..

5. PS I Still Love You by Jenny Han

20698530Lara Jean didn’t expect to really fall for Peter.
She and Peter were just pretending. Except suddenly they weren’t. Now Lara Jean is more confused than ever.
When another boy from her past returns to her life, Lara Jean’s feelings for him return too. Can a girl be in love with two boys at once?

In this charming and heartfelt sequel to the New York Timesbestseller To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, we see first love through the eyes of the unforgettable Lara Jean. Love is never easy, but maybe that’s part of what makes it so amazing.

I imagine it is hard for a writer especially a writer of YA contemporary to write about the mundane and make it worthwhile to read about. With this duology, I wanted to savor the mundane. Everytime Lara Jean wanted to bake cookies I did too, whenever she was studying at Starbucks with Peter, I wanted to. I love the family dnamics and the relationships Lara has with her two sisters, both utterly different but compelling at the same time. Han writes about first love and finding yourself in such an endearing and tender way. And of course, the addition of Peter Kavinsky is icing on the cake 🙂 or (is actually part of the cake itself). But ultimately, this book just made me so happy and I did love both books but this one was my favorite out of the two.

4. The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

17333223It begins with a boy. Theo Decker, a thirteen-year-old New Yorker, miraculously survives an accident that kills his mother. Abandoned by his father, Theo is taken in by the family of a wealthy friend. Bewildered by his strange new home on Park Avenue, disturbed by schoolmates who don’t know how to talk to him, and tormented above all by his unbearable longing for his mother, he clings to one thing that reminds him of her: a small, mysteriously captivating painting that ultimately draws Theo into the underworld of art.

As an adult, Theo moves silkily between the drawing rooms of the rich and the dusty labyrinth of an antiques store where he works. He is alienated and in love-and at the center of a narrowing, ever more dangerous circle.

The Goldfinch combines vivid characters, mesmerizing language, and suspense, while plumbing with a philosopher’s calm the deepest mysteries of love, identity, and art. It is an old-fashioned story of loss and obsession, survival and self-invention, and the ruthless machinations of fate.

I finished this book yesterday but I knew from page 10 that it was going to end up on my favorites list. Wow, this book is so expansive and so, so impressive. The characters are honestly nothing we haven’t seen before but her writing just pulls everything together. She just has a way of creating a rich and detailed world and it completely submerged me from the minute I started reading it. Her portrayals of grief, love, and obsession are immaculately done as well, building layers upon layers of complexity in a way that’s accessible. I also loved the art history aspect of the book too because it was one of my favorite subjects in high school.

Ok, are you ready? It’s time to bring out the big guns..

3. The Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz

297673This is the long-awaited first novel from one of the most original and memorable writers working today.

Things have never been easy for Oscar, a sweet but disastrously overweight ghetto nerd, a New Jersey romantic who dreams of becoming the Dominican J.R.R. Tolkien and, most of all, of finding love. But he may never get what he wants, thanks to the fukú — the ancient curse that has haunted Oscar’s family for generations, dooming them to prison, torture, tragic accidents, and, above all, ill-starred love. Oscar, still dreaming of his first kiss, is only its most recent victim – until the fateful summer that he decides to be its last.

With dazzling energy and insight, Junot Díaz immerses us in the uproarious lives of our hero Oscar, his runaway sister Lola, and their ferocious beauty-queen mother Belicia, and in the epic journey from Santo Domingo to Washington Heights to New Jersey’s Bergenline and back again. Rendered with uncommon warmth and humor, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Waopresents an astonishing vision of the contemporary American experience and the endless human capacity to persevere – and to risk it all – in the name of love.

This book is pretty..wondrous..if I do say so myself. Diaz completely immerses us into the lives of our multi generational characters with humor and heart. It’s amazing how the very serious situations the characters get in are told in such a hilarious and ironic way that doesn’t undermine the character’s development. But I think this book just spoke to me. It spoke and resonated with the dreamer in me. It also reminded me that sometimes that you can’t escape your past but embrace it as something that has made who you are.

2. The Winner’s Crime by Marie Rutkoski

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The engagement of Lady Kestrel to Valoria’s crown prince means one celebration after another. But to Kestrel it means living in a cage of her own making. As the wedding approaches, she aches to tell Arin the truth about her engagement… if she could only trust him. Yet can she even trust herself? For—unknown to Arin—Kestrel is becoming a skilled practitioner of deceit: an anonymous spy passing information to Herran, and close to uncovering a shocking secret.

As Arin enlists dangerous allies in the struggle to keep his country’s freedom, he can’t fight the suspicion that Kestrel knows more than she shows. In the end, it might not be a dagger in the dark that cuts him open, but the truth. And when that happens, Kestrel and Arin learn just how much their crimes will cost them.

It’s no secret that I love this book. I feel like I’ve been shoving it down people’s throats this year. I reread the Winner’s Curse this month and I then started rereading this one this past week and it’s amazing how much Rutkoski has upped her writing game. Omigosh I love this book. Every conversation crackles with tension and every scene either left my heart pounding or my eyes crying. And this book reminded me of why I love to read in the first place.

SPOILERS BELOW FOR TWC

Um I actually had a question for those of who’ve read it. Kestrel is loyal to Valoria but she’s also helping Arin with his cause so I’m confused as to where she stands?? I’m confused..

And for my favorite book of 2015…DIM THE LIGHTS, SOUND THE BELLS

  1. A Little Life by Hanya Yanigihara

22822858When four classmates from a small Massachusetts college move to New York to make their way, they’re broke, adrift, and buoyed only by their friendship and ambition. There is kind, handsome Willem, an aspiring actor; JB, a quick-witted, sometimes cruel Brooklyn-born painter seeking entry to the art world; Malcolm, a frustrated architect at a prominent firm; and withdrawn, brilliant, enigmatic Jude, who serves as their center of gravity. Over the decades, their relationships deepen and darken, tinged by addiction, success, and pride. Yet their greatest challenge, each comes to realize, is Jude himself, by midlife a terrifyingly talented litigator yet an increasingly broken man, his mind and body scarred by an unspeakable childhood, and haunted by what he fears is a degree of trauma that he’ll not only be unable to overcome—but that will define his life forever.

There are some books that make you cry. There are others that make you laugh. There are some books that make you cry and laugh. But then there are books that just touch you. And A Little Life falls into this category. There are points in this book where I felt more for these characters than I have for most characters I’ve read about in 2015. I love that this book was not afraid to dig into the darkest and deepest crevasses of the human heart and creating characters that are bigger than life. It was awe-inspiring and it changed me.

So that’s my list! Let me know what your favorite books of 2015 were; I’ve been furiously looking at other people’s favorites list and adding them to my 2000 page long TBR but it’s so much fun.

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Best Books · Uncategorized

My Best Books of 2015 Part 1

I don’t think you realize how I excited I am every year to talk about my favorite books. It showcases the best of the best and it only comes around once a year.

Before I begin, I just wanted to put in a few disclaimers. First of all, rating is not necessarily the determining factor. I have a lot of books that got higher ratings than my favorite books but that does not mean they’ll be in my favorites. Second of all, I know it says top books but I had to include 4 short stories because they were that good. I’m gong to include them all in one category though and it will only take up one number. And lastly, a favorite book to me has to 1) leave a lasting impression on me 2) has to have a rereadability factor 3) has to surprise and challenge me (I read a lot of books; the books that surprise me are special).

If you’re interested, I’m linking my list of favorite books from last year. Part One, Part Two

I also wanted to list some honorable mentions. Not quite a favorite but pretty damn close.

  1. Firefight by Brandon Sanderson
  2. Cleopatra in Space by Mike Haidack
  3. Everyday Sexism by Laura Bates
  4. The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh
  5. An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir
  6. Monster Vol. 1 by Naoki Urasawa
  7. Alex and Ada Vol. 1 by Jonathan Luna
  8. Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
  9. North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell

I’m going in reverse order so you’ll see #5-1 tomorrow.

So grab a snack and let me introduce you to my top books of 2015. All synopses came from Goodreads.

Coming in at number 9 is..

9. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead. She may leave the home of the Commander and his wife once a day to walk to food markets whose signs are now pictures instead of words because women are no longer allowed to read. She must lie on her back once a month and pray that the Commander makes her pregnant, because in an age of declining births, Offred and the other Handmaids are valued only if their ovaries are viable. Offred can remember the years before, when she lived and made love with her husband, Luke; when she played with and protected her daughter; when she had a job, money of her own, and access to knowledge. But all of that is gone now…

I’ve only read 3 of Margaret Atwood’s books this year including this one but this is my favorite by leagues. Atwood’s prose is so detailed and refreshing to read. This dystopia that Atwood has created still stands the test of time and to me, the best dystopias are the ones that feel so unrealistic so that we think it’ll never happen but at the same time reflect the greatest injustices and flaws of our present society in subtle but effective ways. I think Atwood does an amazing job at satirizing society’s view of women as reproductive vessels but also providing a main character (Offred) that feels very raw and real.

The number 8 spot goes to:

The Child Thief by Brom

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Peter is quick, daring, and full of mischief—and like all boys, he loves to play, though his games often end in blood. His eyes are sparkling gold, and when he graces you with his smile you are his friend for life, but his promised land is not Neverland.

Fourteen-year-old Nick would have been murdered by the drug dealers preying on his family had Peter not saved him. Now the irresistibly charismatic wild boy wants Nick to follow him to a secret place of great adventure, where magic is alive and you never grow old. Even though he is wary of Peter’s crazy talk of faeries and monsters, Nick agrees. After all, New York City is no longer safe for him, and what more could he possibly lose?

There is always more to lose.

Accompanying Peter to a gray and ravished island that was once a lush, enchanted paradise, Nick finds himself unwittingly recruited for a war that has raged for centuries—one where he must learn to fight or die among the “Devils,” Peter’s savage tribe of lost and stolen children.

There, Peter’s dark past is revealed: left to wolves as an infant, despised and hunted, Peter moves restlessly between the worlds of faerie and man. The Child Thief is a leader of bloodthirsty children, a brave friend, and a creature driven to do whatever he must to stop the “Flesh-eaters” and save the last, wild magic in this dying land.

It’s very easy for Peter Pan retellings to become cliched. It’s also very easy to remember the Disney version as canon. But The Child Thief subverts all that we know about Peter Pan and presents it in a whole new light. Albeit a very dark and twisted light. (There’s no such thing as a twisted light is there…what are words..). I loved the effortless fusion of old Scottish folklore. I also really like the exploration of Pan’s character as a not-so-heroic character. And the prose provides such an eerie but mystical atmosphere.

7. March Vol. 1 by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell

17346698Congressman John Lewis (GA-5) is an American icon, one of the key figures of the civil rights movement. His commitment to justice and nonviolence has taken him from an Alabama sharecropper’s farm to the halls of Congress, from a segregated schoolroom to the 1963 March on Washington, and from receiving beatings from state troopers to receiving the Medal of Freedom from the first African-American president.

Now, to share his remarkable story with new generations, Lewis presents March, a graphic novel trilogy, in collaboration with co-writer Andrew Aydin and New York Times best-selling artist Nate Powell (winner of the Eisner Award and LA Times Book Prize finalist for Swallow Me Whole).

March is a vivid first-hand account of John Lewis’ lifelong struggle for civil and human rights, meditating in the modern age on the distance traveled since the days of Jim Crow and segregation. Rooted in Lewis’ personal story, it also reflects on the highs and lows of the broader civil rights movement.

Book One spans John Lewis’ youth in rural Alabama, his life-changing meeting with Martin Luther King, Jr., the birth of the Nashville Student Movement, and their battle to tear down segregation through nonviolent lunch counter sit-ins, building to a stunning climax on the steps of City Hall.

We all know of the 1960’s civil rights movement but I think what makes this graphic memoir stand out is that it adds such an intimate perspective from a person that has personally witnessed this so closely for himself. It surprised me how well the author was able to create the feeling of unrest and frustration that was present during this time. I usually don’t even like black and white graphic novels but I think this one was exceptional and even more powerful with the black and white color scheme.

Here is where I cheat a little by including 4 short stories into the number 6 spot. The first one is 86 pages. The rest are short stories, less than 20 pages. I had to include these because they were just that good.

6.The Death of Ivan Ilych by Leo Tolstoy

18386Hailed as one of the world’s supreme masterpieces on the subject of death and dying, The Death of Ivan Ilyich is the story of a worldly careerist, a high court judge who has never given the inevitability of his dying so much as a passing thought. But one day, death announces itself to him, and to his shocked surprise, he is brought face to face with his own mortality.

How, Tolstoy asks, does an unreflective man confront his one and only moment of truth?

This short novel was an artistic culmination of a profound spiritual crisis in Tolstoy’s life, a nine-year period following the publication of Anna Karenina during which he wrote not a word of fiction.
A thoroughly absorbing and, at times, terrifying glimpse into the abyss of death, it is also a strong testament to the possibility of finding spiritual salvation.

It’s funny how Tolstoy can so vividly describe a man’s thoughts when he is almost dying when Tolstoy himself wasn’t dying (or maybe he was). I felt like I was dying which says something about his writing. Very depressing but so, so good.

The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Gilman

A woman’s harrowing descent into madness.

Like Tolstoy, Gilman knows how to weave inner dialogue to present a sense of unease and desperation, of being trapped in your own paranoia, in your own mental prison. A haunting story that’s not very long but still has had such a lasting impact on me.

The Fisher Queen by Alyssa Wong

 MY MOTHER WAS A FISH. That’s why I can swim so well, according to my father, who is a plain fisherman with a fisherman’s plain logic, but uncanny flair for the dramatic. And while it’s true that I can cut through the water like a minnow, or a hand dipped over the edge of a speedboat, I personally think it’s because no one can grow up along the Mekong without learning two things: how to swim, and how to avoid the mermaids.

2014 Nebula Awards nominee for Best Short Story.

I still can’t quite wrap my mind around how weird this story is. But the prose is gorgeous and the story was definitely not what I expected.

Bridge of Snow (The Winner’s Trilogy #0.5) by Marie Rutkoski

20345368Ignore the stirrings of war. Let the carriage to a royal ball wait. There is a story to be told: of a starless night, a mother and her sick son, and a mortal who falls in love with the snow god, and will do anything to have her…

Mrs. Rutkoski, you get to join the ranks of Mr. Sanderson and Mr. Lynch with the honor of having your name on my favorites list twice. In the time it took me to read this short story (around 20 minutes), I smiled, laughed and I almost wanted to cry. It reminded me of old stories told by the fireplace, of magic and lyrical prose. But it ALSO tied in the things I knew about Arin and his future self and made me love him even more and I thought that wasn’t possible but I was oh so wrong.

Well that’s it for now! Stay tuned tomorrow for numbers 1-5 on my best books of 2015.

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