Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Favorite Books of 2016

This has been an interesting reading year. I read over 90 books (most of them short, as I struggled to keep up with my Goodreads Challenge), but I was in a bit of a reading slump for a good portion of the year, and had trouble finding books that really kept my interest.

I'm linking up with the Broke and the Bookish for this week's topic of "Top Ten Books Read in 2016". I was a bit afraid that 2016's lack of reading enthusiasm meant I wouldn't find ten books that rose above the others. Instead, I had the opposite problem, and couldn't narrow it down to only ten. So instead, you get my Top 12 books of 2016.

Listed roughly in the order I read them:

Jane of Lantern Hill by L.M. Montgomery

One of L.M Montgomery's lesser-known works, and in my opinion, one of her best. After Jane's parents separated, she went to live on the Canadian mainland with her mother in her grandmother's dreary house. When Jane is invited to spend the summer with her father on Prince Edward Island, she blossoms as she's given more freedom and discovers the beauty and happiness of the island. Jane of Lantern Hill tackles some slightly darker subjects than Montgomery's other books, giving it a bit more realism, but is also a bright, sunny, cheerful and charming bit of escapism. (Bonus: Jane enjoys housework so much that I became enthusiastic about cleaning). 

A Pocket Full of Murder by R.J. Anderson

A middle-grade fantasy version Lord Peter Wimsey. (This book was tailor-made for my tastes.) In a fantasy version of 1930s Canada, Isaveth (a sort of twelve-year-old Harriet Vane) works with a mysterious boy to clear her father of charges of murder. All the characters--down to secondary and tertiary characters--have memorable and distinct personalities, and Isaveth's relationship with her sisters is heartwarming and realistic. The worldbuilding is great, with two different, non-mystical magic systems and more cultural details than I expected from a middle-grade books. I especially liked the author's exploration of religion (Isaveth's family follows their world's version of Judaism and is oppressed for it) which was sensitive and added a lot of depth. 

Masque by W.R. Gingell

A fantasy murder-mystery version of "Beauty and the Beast". The plot gets tangled in the end, and there are some unbelievable events in the middle, but it's one of the best retellings I've ever read, with great characters, unique twists on the tale, and a well-built world. It also encouraged me to seek out other indie books, which have included some of my favorite reads of the year.  

Revenge of the Sith novelization by Matthew Stover

This is a novelization of a Star Wars prequel. It should be drivel, a simple cash grab. Instead, it's beautiful literature. It uses literary devices and poetic language to delve deep into characters and themes and the battle of good versus evil. It made Anakin Skywalker's fall tragic, made me cry over Obi-Wan's despair, and just plain made me jealous that a Star Wars novel is so much better than anything I could ever write. I listened to the audio version narrated by Jonathan Davis, and his spectacular voice acting brings all the characters to life and adds a lot to the book (I think I like his version of Obi-Wan better than Ewan McGregor's). 

Psmith in the City by P.G. Wodehouse

Mike Jackson and his eccentric friend Psmith graduate from public school and must work at a bank in London, where they get caught up in all sorts of craziness. Mike and Psmith's friendship is one of the greatest in fiction--Psmith livens things up when Mike gets too dull, and Mike pulls Psmith back down to Earth when he gets too over-the-top. This book isn't the pure farce of Wodehouse's later works, but it's still a fantastically funny book, while also providing characters I care about.


Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson

The ending was underwhelming, but I was drawn into the world and characters of Mistborn. I loved Vin, the young thief discovering her magical abilities, Kelsier, her charming, morally-gray mentor, and the colorful cast of characters they interacted with as they worked to dethrone the evil overlord.
The Andari Chronicles by Kenley Davidson

I've already done three posts about this series, so I won't say much more. But these four books fit my tastes perfectly. They're creative fairy tale retellings with layered characters, fascinating political intrigue, and just a touch of magic. I've already read Pirouette twice, and really want to reread Traitor's Masque and The Countess and the Frog soon.

The King of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner

I'm not as enamored of the Queen's Thief series as some fans are, but these books are fantastic, and this is the best of the bunch. We watch Gen struggle to adapt to new roles in a nation that's hostile to him, through the eyes of a guard who thinks he's a blundering foreign idiot. This book has some of the most stunning plot twists I've ever read.


The Emperor’s Soul by Brandon Sanderson

I didn't fall in love with this book the way I did some others, but it's the only book I've read this year that lacks obvious flaws. The Emperor's Soul accomplished everything it was trying to do. It follows a woman who must use her knowledge of a stamp-based magic system to recreate the mind and memories of a brain-dead emperor--the greatest forgery of all time. The main character and a government official have some fascinating conversations about the nature of art and truth, and there's an exciting climax that leads to a thought-provoking ending.

 Plenilune by Jennifer Freitag

This book breaks tons of writing rules and has lots of flaws. The main character's motivations and actions make little sense, the world-building's not well-explained, some plot twists are confusing, I don't buy into the villain's "love" toward the main character, and the ending is violent and confusing and disappointing. Yet somehow these flawed parts make a beautiful book. Its lyrical prose and loving descriptions of a beautiful world drew me in, and turned this into one of the most captivating and immersive reading experiences of the year.

The Mind of the Maker by Dorothy L. Sayers

I can't stop thinking about this book. Sayers explores the nature of the Trinity by comparing it with the creative writing process, making for a fascinating exploration of theology and art. The metaphors provide useful ways to approach writing, and new ways to think about God. Dorothy's a delightfully spunky narrator who doesn't suffer fools, and the book also has some behind-the-scenes glimpses into the Lord Peter Wimsey series.

Letters from Father Christmas by J.R.R. Tolkien

For twenty years, Tolkien wrote yearly illustrated letters to his children from Father Christmas. The world-building--complete with elves and ancient Cave Bears and wars against goblins--provides a charming and fascinating North Pole. But it was almost more fun to read between the lines to piece together the life of the Tolkien family as the children grow up and Christmas is affected by the Depression and World War II. The love and devotion that went into these letters is astounding. This is probably going to turn into a yearly reread.

What were your favorite books of the year, readers? Let me know in the comments!

7 comments:

  1. Whoa, this is a cool list! I have got to read some of these! You intrigue me with that Revenge of the Sith novel.....

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    1. It's such a fantastic book, it's hard to believe that it's a tie-in. Stover uses some wonderful literary devices--asides that talk about light vs. dark, or that dig really deep into a character's mental state in a certain moment (anything that begins "This is how it feels to be [character name]" is sure to be awesome). If you're interested in Star Wars even a tiny bit, I recommend reading it as soon as possible.

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  2. Lots of little treasures in this list. Very nice. Just the kind of book I love. Thank you for sharing the best of your year.

    Readerbuzz.blogspot.com

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  3. I NEED to read more Wodehouse. I keep saying this, and it keeps being true, and I just... need to.

    I keep hearing good things about Jane of Lantern Hill and hope to read it at some point in the not-too-distant future.

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    1. SAME. I count Wodehouse as one of my favorite authors, but I haven't actually that read many of his books (it doesn't help that I can't keep his Jeeves stories straight--British titles, American titles, and stories that all contain similar elements. Which ones have I read? Who knows?). The Psmith series isn't on the Jeeves and Wooster level of genius, but it's easier to keep straight, and the characters change from book to book. (As long as you can slog through the interminable cricket-playing of "Mike and Psmith", it's well worth reading).

      Yes, you need to read "Jane of Lantern Hill"! And then tell me what you think of it! If you liked "The Blue Castle", I think you'll also like this one--it has many similar elements.

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    2. Yeah, that's part of my problem -- I've read several of his Jeeves & Wooster books, but I can never remember which ones. I need a checklist, I guess.

      And oh man, if JOLH is similar to The Blue Castle, now I'm really eager to read it! I absolutely adore The Blue Castle.

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