My reading list was smaller this year, and I fell behind on reviewing several of my favorites. Several on this list are mini reviews because I never got around to a blog post about them. I also read a lot of sequels to books I read in 2015, which I enjoyed more than most of the other books I read. The last three books on my list this year are sequels to books from my Top Ten 2015 list. Below are my absolute favorites from 2016. Happy reading!
Rebel of the Sands
A gunslinger who turns out to be more than a really good shot. I have yet to officially review this one, but I liked the characters, and world building. There’s a bit of a trend for Middle Eastern mythology in YA fantasy right now. I like it. It’s interesting and fresh. There’s some violence and kissing, but mostly clean. Recommended for everyone 14 and up.
Walk on Earth a Stranger & Like a River Glorious
I love this series. I just finished Like a River Glorious and was not disappointed. The historical aspects of the books are educational, and Lee is an inspiration as the uncertain, but determined heroine.
Title: The Rose and The Dagger
(The Wrath and the Dawn Book 2)
Author: Renée Ahdieh
Published by: G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers
Publication date: April 26, 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Romance, Historical Fiction
Summary from Goodreads:
I am surrounded on all sides by a desert. A guest, in a prison of sand and sun. My family is here. And I do not know whom I can trust.
In a land on the brink of war, Shahrzad has been torn from the love of her husband Khalid, the Caliph of Khorasan. She once believed him a monster, but his secrets revealed a man tormented by guilt and a powerful curse—one that might keep them apart forever. Reunited with her family, who have taken refuge with enemies of Khalid, and Tariq, her childhood sweetheart, she should be happy. But Tariq now commands forces set on destroying Khalid's empire. Shahrzad is almost a prisoner caught between loyalties to people she loves. But she refuses to be a pawn and devises a plan.
While her father, Jahandar, continues to play with magical forces he doesn't yet understand, Shahrzad tries to uncover powers that may lie dormant within her. With the help of a tattered old carpet and a tempestuous but sage young man, Shahrzad will attempt to break the curse and reunite with her one true love.
[Spoilers for The Wrath and the Dawn, only keep reading if you haven’t read the first book.]
I’m in love with your story. From the stars, to the stars.
I missed all the wonderful descriptions of food, but I was filled with satisfaction by your magical storytelling and selfless, brave characters in this conclusion to the Wrath/Dawn series. When finished with the book, I just sat smiling for some time (before I turned my Kindle back on to reread certain scenes!). Though there was less mystery to unwind, you succeeded in bringing all our characters together in a dramatic fashion with well-timed twists in a story worth retelling on platformed beds with green silk cushions. Like Shahrzad, you griped and enticed me to the very end.
Khalid and Shahrzad’s worlds expand and collide in Rose/Dagger. Shazi is back with her family trying to unravel Khalid’s curse while being held prisoner by those she loves. We get to know Irsa, Shazi’s sister, who is steady and faithful (I love her and Khalid’s relationship!). Tariq’s character could’ve gone many ways as a lover scorned, but he, along with many other characters, chooses to put others before himself, and quickly realizes that rash decisions made out of anger and fear can be disastrous. This story does not conclude without heartbreak, but it draws these characters together in a more poignant conclusion.
“Sometimes, “ he gasped, “the family you choose …is stronger than blood.”
Title: The Winner’s Kiss
Author: Marie Rutkoski
Published by: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
Publication date: March 29, 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Romance
Summary from Goodreads:
War has begun. Arin is in the thick of it with untrustworthy new allies and the empire as his enemy. Though he has convinced himself that he no longer loves Kestrel, Arin hasn’t forgotten her, or how she became exactly the kind of person he has always despised. She cared more for the empire than she did for the lives of innocent people—and certainly more than she did for him.
At least, that’s what he thinks.
In the frozen north, Kestrel is a prisoner in a brutal work camp. As she searches desperately for a way to escape, she wishes Arin could know what she sacrificed for him. She wishes she could make the empire pay for what they’ve done to her.
But no one gets what they want just by wishing.
As the war intensifies, both Kestrel and Arin discover that the world is changing. The East is pitted against the West, and they are caught in between. With so much to lose, can anybody really win?
[Spoilers for The Winner’s Curse & Crime, only keep reading if you haven’t read the rest of the series]
My anticipation was high for the final book in the Winner’s series. It only took me three days to read, and I was not disappointed! I love when I get to say that about a book, especially a series finale. It was the sort of story that made me want to keep reading and reading. Then when it was finished, I didn’t want it to end. I love how Marie Rutkoski molded and transformed her characters and storytelling through each book. While Winners Curse is mostly about star-crossed lovers, Crime and Kiss have Arin and Kestrel rediscovering themselves—through a forced separation, to strategic, dangerous deception, and finally war.
“Arin imagined how, if he could, he would kneel before the boy he had been. He’d cradle himself to his chest, let the child bury his wet face against his shoulder. Shh, Arin would tell him. You will be lonely, but you’ ll become strong. One day, you will have your revenge.”
From magicians to rebels, time travel to wars, dark allies to the whimsy of new discoveries - these books delighted my imagination and had me cheering for more.
Here are my top 10 favorite books from 2015:
10. A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab
I really liked this story about a magician who travels between alternate London universes. The story and characters have stuck with me all year. My only qualm is that it's not a YA book, even though it's often marketed that way. It's more appropriate for mature teens.
9. The Girl at Midnight by Melissa Grey
Echo, a seasoned theif, finds herself in the middle of a search for the coveted Firebird, rumored to finally end and age-old war.
8. Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch
Multiple kingdoms unite or clash for ultimate authority. Meira slowly realizes her part in regaining Winter's magic and rebuilding their kingdom is more important than she imagined.
Title: Six of Crows
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Published by: Henry Holt and Co.
Publication date: September 29, 2015
Genres: Fantasy, Adventure
Summary from Goodreads:
Ketterdam: a bustling hub of international trade where anything can be had for the right price—and no one knows that better than criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker. Kaz is offered a chance at a deadly heist that could make him rich beyond his wildest dreams. But he can't pull it off alone...
A convict with a thirst for revenge.
A sharpshooter who can't walk away from a wager.
A runaway with a privileged past.
A spy known as the Wraith.
A Heartrender using her magic to survive the slums.
A thief with a gift for unlikely escapes.
Six dangerous outcasts. One impossible heist. Kaz's crew is the only thing that might stand between the world and destruction—if they don't kill each other first.
Kaz leaned back. "What's the easiest way to steal a man's wallet?"
Here is an author who knows how to write multiple narratives, creating great characterization, and an exciting plot! There are six narratives, which can be so confusing, but Leigh Bardugo beautifully weaves internal dialogue (that also offers outside observations of the other characters) with memories and present conversations for each narrator. On top of characters with unique backgrounds and personalities, Bardugo writes one exciting heist adventure. Think – Oceans 11 meets down and dirty, gritty fantasy.
Kaz narrowed his eyes. “I’m not some character out of a children’s story who plays harmless pranks and steals from the rich to give to the poor."
Kaz, the leader of the group, was equally difficult for me to like and totally intriguing. A hardened gang leader who’s out for the long journey of revenge, Kaz’s humanity and story is slowly revealed. It’s his humanity that makes him so intriguing. He’s lethal with a limp and a major handicap disguised by monstrous rumors. And just when you think Kaz will never have a trustworthy relationship with anyone, he discovers new desires during the course of their heist.
“When everyone knows you’re a monster, you needn’t waste time doing every monstrous thing.”
I read a lot. I'm a Mom. I'm officially in my 30s, but strangers often don't believe I'm old enough to drink. I love Young Adult fiction, and thought it was worthwhile to help teens and adults find age-appropriate options.