So… let’s be honest. I haven’t read much this year. I’ve been sporadic with reading, writing and reviews because of factors such as university, my mental health, my job and other volunteer positions that I dedicate time to.
However I haven’t lost the moments of finding a good book and savouring every word. They’ve been there, like wisps of sunlight in during my fiction deprived days. So without further ado, here are my top books of 2016 (which have not necessarily been published in 2016):
“Once a thing is set to happen, all you can do is hope it won’t. Or will-depending. As long as you live, there’s always something waiting, and even if it’s bad, and you know it’s bad, what can you do? You can’t stop living.”
This tiny tale was the required reading for my creative writing subject this year and I am so glad it was. It masterfully blends journalism and creative non-fiction to produce a haunting and fascinating read on the murders of the Clutter family in Holcomb, Kansas. It was a heavy read, weighing down on my heart as I tried to understand how two people can do something like this and that was the beauty of it. You thought, you questioned, you discovered. As a reconstruction of the events, Capote’s extensive research and skill with words gives an insight into the harrows of violence and the fragility of life.
“Aelin had promised herself, months and months ago, that she would not pretend to be anything but what she was. She had crawled through darkness and blood and despair-she had survived.”
As the fifth book in the Throne of Glass series, this book is fiery with the character development, plot points and writing. Aelin, our fire breathing bitch queen, surprised us all with her determination and self-sacifrice to ensure Terrasen is safe and in capable hands. While steamy with smut and romance, there were more badass moments in this novel that have defined the characters: Manon and her defiance against all she had believed in, Lysandra and her strength, Elide and her determination and selflessness despite her injury, and of course, Aelin. I also found new ships that I pray will not sink, especially Lorcan and Elide. I need this pairing! Overall, strong female leads, a strong fifth installment.
“And I wondered if love was too weak a word for what he felt, what he’d done for me. For what I felt for him.”
I just had to have two Sarah J. Maas books on my list! The second installment of A Court of Thorns and Roses was a million times better than the first. What made it so great was the way Sarah developed her characters, especially Feyre and Rhysand who were the pinnacle of this novel. We got answers to the things covered up in A Court of Thorns and Roses, and the true colours of some original favourites were revealed. More importantly, Feyre’s struggles after what she endured Under the Mountain are validated and her recovery is something that Rhysand makes a priority. Once again, this is somewhat character-driven and the Inner Circle were great supporting characters, adding to the plot rather than acting as pretty things to discuss. The plot points throughout the novel were solid and dramatic, with only a couple being a bit off-putting and contradictory to the first installment. Overall, the writing was brilliant, the characters hold a special place in my heart and Feyre and Rhysand are my ultimate OTP on my long list of OTPs.
Full review can be found here.
“He was good. The best fighter she’d ever faced. But Safi and Iseult were better.”
I’d been looking for a YA fantasy book that didn’t have romance as one of its main themes. I wanted something with friendship, struggle and fantasy and this book delivered exactly that (with a side dish of a blooming romance that wasn’t the crux of the novel). The concept of witches in this universe was intriguing are that they have their own skillset, with Safiya’s being truth and Iseult’s being threads. What I loved was that Safiya and Iseult have a bond like sisters and it’s their loyalty to each other that drives the story as they flee from a Bloodwitch and travel with a Windwitch. The politics of their world feel like a sub-plot, but it’s made up for with action scenes and witchy goodness. Overall, Dennard has a brilliant writing style, the fantasy elements are great and the witch culture is interesting. Worth a read!
“First, the colours.
Then the humans.
That’s usually how I see things.
Or at least, how I try.”
This is a re-read because why not. The beauty about re-reading books is you pick up on things you missed the first time, and this time I found that this book is more wonderful than I initially thought it was. Death as a narrator will always be my favourite thing about this book, aside from the beautiful writing and the heartbreaking plot. There’s something about WW2 books that I just can’t get enough of.
“You wanted to feel alive, right? It doesn’t matter if you’re monster or human. Living hurts.”
Dystopian world, monsters big and small, two main characters who will snatch your heart and make it ache. Just for some background, V-City is divided in two and swarming with monsters big and small. Kate Harker is the daughter of the crime lord who runs the North, and August Flynn is the son of the rebels in the South. As per usual, these two characters find each other tangled in a race to find out how to save their city and themselves. But this one was different – there is no romance, no cliche, nothing you would have expected. As my first Victoria Schwab novel, this took me a wild ride and I was blown away. It raises questions on morality, on what it means to be human, on what you’re willing to sacrifice. I also loved how dimensional Kate and August were as protagonists. An excellent read!
For a full review, you can find it here.
“And I asked myself about the present: how wide it was, how deep it was, how much was mine to keep.”
This satricial piece is my first Vonnegut novel and I was not disappointed. His writing is effortless yet so powerful as he draws on his own WW2 experiences, a manipulation of fiction and non-fiction. The Narrator introduces the story of Billy Pilgrim and his story is mostly linear as we jump between his war life, life before the war and post-war life, with the bombing of Dresden, an event Vonnegut witnessed, being the reason behind the story. It’s about war, about life, about love and hate, about sanity and about death. It’s thought-provoking and it will leave you bewildered.
The famous quote “Everything was beautiful and nothing hurt” finally makes sense, yet I found that there were other parts of the novel that resonated with me more. Vonnegut’s repetition of “So it goes,” as a narrative transition and as a means of explaining the things he cannot explain hit me harder than anything else. The way Vonnegut writes about the continuation of life, especially after death, is raw and somewhat jumbled, but it suits the existential and postmodern concepts of the novel. This reads like an autobiography, as an outlet for Vonnegut’s experiences he couldn’t put to words when it was all initially happening. I had no expectations going into this and I was thoroughly impressed at how much I enjoyed this anti-war novel.
“My words are unerring tools of destruction, and I’ve come unequipped with the ability to disarm them.”
Can I say I officially think Stiefvater is one of my new favourite authors? The Raven Boys is a beautifully written first installment, dusted with touches of magic and Welsh mythology. I love how character driven it is, and oh the characters. Blue Sargent, you are too precious for this world. Growing up around psychics, Blue is a unique character whose determination and kindness shines through. And all the raven boys: Gansey, Adam, Ronan and Noah. They act like a tight knit family more than school friends, and I love their interactions varying from sassy banter to fierce arguments. Their loyalty to each other is admirable. The overarching quest to find Glendower is ever present, but I found myself more intrigued with the characters than anything else. They’re just so interesting! This is an excellent read!
“Don’t be afraid. There’s the two of us now.”
I adored the TV show (Sam and Caitriona have the best chemistry as Jamie and Claire) so picking this up was a no-brainer, and I loved it. The book is rich, vibrant and full of action, romance and complicated relationships. I loved the Scottish elements, the touch of magic and how the story just sang off the page. A perfect read for lovers of Scotland, romance and drama.
As the only poetry collection I read this year, it delivered everything I could have wanted and more. Reminiscent of those poems I read on tumblr, Kaur’s writing is raw, heartbreaking, yet warms the bottom of your chest. The themes of survival, feminism, loss and love are all written beautifully and it’s a testament to modern poetry, especially feminist poetry.
That’s it for my top 10 for 2016! What were your favourite books this year? I’d love to hear about them.
Until next time.