At this point, every time someone makes a 2016 joke, an up-and-coming comedian’s career dies. Still, it was a pretty shitty year, and even though time is a human construct and the supposed fresh start is really just another day, the symbol of the thing is nice! To celebrate, here are some mini-reviews of my favorite reads of the year. I gave out 13 five star ratings of 125 total. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Persuasion, and Everything is Illuminated all have reviews here already. Here are some mini reviews and mini synopses of the other 10! Warning: these are not in order, but check the bottom for how you can find a ranking.
- Six of Crows
Synopsis: A convict, a sharpshooter, a runaway, a spy, a Heartrender and a thief plan a heist.
Review: I love heists. Heist movies are amazing (Ocean’s Eleven, The Italian Job…I cannot freaking wait for Ocean’s Eight). If you ask me, there just aren’t enough books about heists. So when I heard about Six of Crows – which is in that subject, YA and super-hyped – I was 100% in. Even though I didn’t love Shadow and Bone. And I’m so glad I picked this up! These characters are memorable (especially Kaz and Inej), the relationships they build are wonderful, and the whole thing is action-packed without realism being entirely ignored. This book is a damn good time.
- Just Mercy
Synopsis: The autobiography of Bryan Stevenson, a founder of the Equal Justice Initiative, which defends death row inmates.
Review: This book is beautiful, beautiful, beautiful. The writing is as gorgeous as the stories that are shared. If you are pro-death penalty, undecided, or even anti-death penalty (as I sort of was before reading), pick this up. Essentially, if you’re a person, pick this up. I never would have tried this on my own, so I’m so glad this was the summer reading for my freshman year at college. It blends emotional appeals through the appalling and beautiful stories of the inmates with facts on the unfairness of the American justice system. Absolutely a must-read.
- The Invoice
Synopsis: When a man content with his simple life receives an enormous bill from a government agency, his whole life falls into madness. The reader searches along with him for the root of the cost and, later, how he will pay it.
Review: Another beautiful story, but way different. It’s so simple and achingly lovely. I read it in a sitting. The words are translated and you can tell, which I love. I still think about this happy man and his beautiful story. It’s incredibly character-driven, and I adore that – if you aren’t into that you won’t like this. Still, this book has gotten very little of the attention it so deserves. I can’t tell you much about why I love it for fear of spoiling it, so just trust me on this one, okay?
- Travels with Charley
Synopsis: John Steinbeck’s memoir on his cross-country journey, in a van he calls Rocinante, with his poodle, Charley.
Review: If you’re into travel books, pick this up. Steinbeck is one of my favorite writers, so this book was a dream for me. Reading about the entirety of America in the 1960s in Steinbeck’s clear, sharp prose? With his musings on humanity? Count me hella in. I prepared myself for racism and I…didn’t really get it. Steinbeck is essentially on the right side of the civil rights movement, even if his reasoning behind doing so isn’t ideal. So I was pleasantly surprised in that arena. This, like the best travel books, conjures images of the places it relates. It’s awesome. Should be ranked amongst Steinbeck’s best.
Synopsis: The story of a medieval(ish) villain and his badass female sidekick, Nimona.
Review: An absolute blast and a half! It had a badass female protagonist, focused on antiheroes, had an amazing LGBT romance, amazing art, great dialogue, shapeshifting, hilarity, good timez (yes, the z is necessary)…I could go on and on. I don’t have a lot of experience in graphic novels (solely in picking up a bunch of them from the local library when I’m behind on reading challenges), but this made me wish there were a million more just like this one. If you like graphic novels or want to like them, pick this little number up.
- Wolf by Wolf
Synopsis: In a world in which the Axis powers won World War II, Yael must win the Axis motorcycle race and kill Hitler.
Review: It’s odd to write this now, having been so deeply disappointed by the sequel. However, I’m (somewhat) confident that Wolf by Wolf would hold up if I read it, because the follow-up, Blood by Blood, goes against a lot of what I liked about this one. Because this book, like the one I just listed, has shapeshifting, even if the science behind it is hella shoddy. History is so cool, and this hypothetical – of the Axis powers winning – is so cool. It’s action-packed and deeply interesting. Best of all, there’s essentially no romance. Keep Romance Out of Action-Based Books 2k17. It’s fun, fresh, original, will keep you on the edge of your seat, and – best of all – not disgustingly cheesy and bleh.
- The Night Circus
Synopsis: “The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it, no paper notices plastered on lampposts and billboards. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not.”
Review: I’ve come to terms with the fact that I will never, not in my life, read of a better setting than the one in this book. I think about the Night Circus all the time. In the story, some of those who act as patrons to the Circus fall in love with it – some desperately waiting for its return, some traveling to follow it. As a reader, it’s equally possible to become obsessed. And I sure as hell did. This book is setting-centered, which is exactly what I wanted from it, so don’t expect the plotline or even many of the characters to live up to the gorgeousness of the setting. But it’s as original and fascinating as Hogwarts and more beautiful. I want to live in this book more than any other. I’m due for a reread, absolutely.
Synopsis: The final book in The Lunar Chronicles.
Review: This wasn’t my favorite book in the series. (That would be Cress.) It is, however, the finale to what is probably my favorite series. I don’t know if it needed its 800+ pages. But it did wrap up its characters’ stories nicely. And I love these characters, especially Thorne and Cress. They stay with you. The series is so creative in its dystopia and its takes on fairytales – and in how it brings them all together. It’s also so fun and easy to read. I adore fairy tales and retellings and that’s the foundation for my adoration of this series. I miss these characters a lot, but I’m content in the send-off they received.
- Jane Eyre
Synopsis: Orphan Jane Eyre is hired by Edward Rochester to work as a governess at Thornfield Hall. She finds happiness, but is unaware of the terrifying secret at Thornfield.
Review: Me and classics have a strange relationship. I’m more likely to enjoy them – and, subsequently, rate them highly or even add them to my favorites list – than any other genre. But I’m rarely in the mood for them. This is an example of a classic that is far more entertaining, beautiful, creative and memorable than any contemporary, and despite its length one flies through it. This isn’t Pride & Prejudice, and I don’t know if its among the ranks of the greatest love stories ever told. Still, Jane is a wonderful character and she’ll stay with you, as will Charlotte Brontë’s beautiful, quotable writing. “I am no bird, and no net ensnares me…”
- A Court of Mist and Fury
Synopsis: Feyre, suffering with the memories of her time Under the Mountain, must obey the promise she made to Rhysand and stay at the Night Court.
Review: This is a total guilty pleasure read. One hundred percent. But God, this book was so much fun. I really get how people don’t like it, and if I had been in a cynical mood (which I nearly always am) while reading it I would have felt the same. But it was summer, and I was exactly hoping for a book like this. It’s super-romantic, and I normally hate that, but this book actually made me feel things and root for people. (Doesn’t happen often.) It’s action-packed, again, and it creates really beautiful settings. I don’t know if I’m looking forward to the next one, because a lot of things had to come together to get me to like this one, but I’ll sure as hell read it. Plus, this book has the highest Goodreads rating of any book I’ve ever read (4.74). It’s a good time.
These aren’t in order, sorry. If you want to see them in order, it’s on my 2016 on Goodreads review! Add me @emmareadstoomuch.
Alright, those are my favorites of the year! Thank you guys so much for making this year special. I only just started using this blog in September, and for you to have been so supportive already is a massive part of the good stuff that happened in my life this year. I love you guys! See you in 2017 (when hopefully I’ll actually like more books!).