Tuesday 27 December 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: My picks for 'Best Books That I Read In 2016'.

This is a category I've definitely been looking forward to: a chance to show off my favourite reads of the year! I had a lot more in the way of 5 Star reads to choose from this time (lots of good ones it seems) so it's been a little tough choosing. In the end, this is what I came up with!

1) 'The Dark Days Club' by Alison Goodman.

One of my first reads of the year, and one that has actually managed to stick with me throughout 2016. I read it as an ARC, managing to finish it on the day of it's release and, like most of my picks are going to be, this one is a retelling though not of a Fairy Tale. In fact, it's based on Jane Austen's 'Pride & Prejudice', though with a bit of a twist: demons. Unlike 'Pride & Prejudice & Zombies' which as I understand it is the original book with a few tweaks here and there in the writing, this book is has a gorgeously written original story that refers to the original characters rather than copying them. Also, I 100% found myself getting the same feels that I got when reading 'Pride & Prejudice' and can't wait for book two!

2) 'Winter' by Marissa Meyer.

Two of this lovely lady's works made the 5 Star club this year, one being my latest read 'Heartless' which provides the Queen Of Hearts with an origin story. I chose 'Winter' as the book that made this list however because I feel that I enjoyed it ever so slightly more (I had been looking forward to reading this finale for ages) and 'Heartless' technically hasn't been released yet. 'Winter' is the final book in The Lunar Chronicles series and proved to be just as good as the others in the series (though I still think 'Cress' is my favourite). We meet Princess Winter and her beloved Palace Guard Jacin and most of the action takes place on Lunar, which is a destination often talked about but never a setting until now. This book not only ties up all of the loose ends character wise, but provides plenty of page-turning, thrilling action for all 800 or so of it's pages (it's a hefty old book).

3) 'Wolf By Wolf' by Ryan Graudin.

My first ever Illumicrate book made it onto my top ten list for the year! Isn't that great? I actually received it November 2015 but I'm glad I read it at the beginning of the year instead because it means I get to write about it now. This is one of the best thrillers I've ever read, and while I'm not overly fond of the genre, this made me want to try out more books. It's Historical Fiction, though provides an alternate version of history where Adolf Hitler won WWII and rules Europe, his biggest ally being the Emperor of Japan. What with the skin-changing technology and the Hunger Games feeling motorbike race, it reads like a Dystopian, which I loved! Tension, plot twists and an interesting story-line are all to be found here, and having just received 'Blood For Blood', the second book, I can't wait to get stuck in!

4) 'Seven Ways We Lie' by Riley Redgate.

Another genre that I don't find myself getting stuck into is YA Contemporary, but every so often a book comes along that blows away all of your expectations. This was that book in 2016. 'Seven Ways We Lie' is told from seven different teenage perspectives, each indulging in a different 'sin'. Interestingly, despite so many viewpoints, the story flows smoothly which is pretty difficult to pull off (especially for a debut, wow)! I related to each character in some way, though some more than others, and I really enjoyed watching their stories intertwine. The most important aspect of this book that I need to talk about is the sheer amount of diversity to be found! Not only are there different ethnicities, but also plenty of LGBTQ+ (a confirmed Pansexual character and hinted asexual) which is awesome because characters like that are horrifyingly difficult to find in literature.

5) 'Pantomime' by Laura Lam.

While on the subject of  diversity, my fifth choice for this year is Laura Lam's incredible book 'Pantomime'. The first in the series, I have seen mixed reviews for this series so I went in with my expectations lowered but I was stunned by how much I really enjoyed it. And the best part? The MC (yes you did read that correctly, the actual main character of the book) is a hermaphrodite, meaning that they are both male and female and find it difficult to identify as one or the other in some cases. Lam integrated this gorgeously into the story without making the entire story about it, and I loved watching Gene/Micah struggle with both society and sexuality. I'm hoping to get to 'Shadowplay' soon because this series is promising to be awesome!

6) 'The Girl With All The Gifts' by M.R. Carey.

This book was a real winner this year, and I couldn't get over just how much I enjoyed it and how much it can teach a person about humanity as a whole. This is set in a post-apocalyptic where zombies, or 'hungries' that reminded me of the creatures from 'The Last Of Us' (if anyone has played that game) have pretty much taken over. Some 'hungry' children have been found that have retained human instincts and are captured and taken to a military guarded research lab. Here we meet the five main characters of the book: a young 'hungry' girl, her teacher, a scientist experimenting on the kids an experienced military sergeant and a soldier who is very new to it all. Each has their own moral standpoint, set of experiences and desires and I enjoyed watching these very different characters interact and try to understand the bewildering environment they are thrust into.

7) 'The Star-Touched Queen' by Roshani Chokshi.

In terms of visuals and descriptors, this was without a doubt my favourite book of the month. Just wow! Chokshi's writing absolutely blew me away and I'm bowled over by how good it was! I loved so many things about this book, but in particular the constant allusions to Indian mythology and stories because retellings are fun and it was great to focus on another culture outside of European myths, stories and legends. There were some really likeable characters, a shippable romance, a solid story and sumptuous world-building that was so well described I felt like I could actually see it. Also, let's not forget Kamala the hilarious, flesh-eating demon horse. Hands down the best character of the book and one I look forward to seeing in the next in the series.

8) 'A Monster Calls' by Patrick Ness.

If I had to pick an absolute favourite book of 2016, I'd say this would probably be one of my strongest contenders. Patrick Ness is an author I hear a lot about, but up until reading this had only got round to reading one of his books which is frankly appalling considering just how much I adored 'More Than This'. I've seen all sorts of advertisements for the up and coming movie adaptation, and it sparked my curiousity once again so after buying a copy at YALC, I decided to give this book a go. It's interesting because the narrative of the book felt younger, yet the themes were definitely much darker and more adult. It broaches grief, anger, family, friendship, terminal illness, bullying and so many other sensitive issues so I would really recommend that as many people read this book as possible.

9) 'We Should All Be Feminists' by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

Let's move onto some non-fiction shall we? Ever since I watched Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's TED talk on 'The Danger Of A Single Story' which talks about cultural perspective and the destructive potential of fitting people into boxes, I've been an admirer of this lady. I knew she was an author though I'd never read any of her books, but I've wanted to since then. I went book shopping with my sister and decided to give this very short transcript of another talk of hers on feminism (a subject close to my heart that I've actually read very little about. Now, I love her even more. Everyone should read this short piece on why Feminism is a cause everyone ought to be getting on board with, and I loved gaining insight into what it means for people of other cultures too.

10) 'Memories Of Ash' by Intisar Khanani.

I've been looking forward to reading this book for such a long time, and honestly, Intisar Khanani is probably one of my favourite authors right now! I loved her book 'Thorn' as well this year but of the two I chose this one because after reading 'Sunbolt' so long ago, I've been desperate to get hold of this book ever since. It was a great prequel to this gorgeous novel, and Khanani did a wonderful job of expanding upon the world and characters. I can't wait for book three!

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