I have a gift. Just one. I discovered it at a young age. I have now passed it on to my eldest child. Come close and I’ll tell you…
*whispers* I am a very fast reader. (A bit of a let down? Sorry. This is real life. You want magical gifts, read a book!) My gift came in handy in college, has aided my ability to procrastinate for as long as I can remember, and never ceases to amaze my husband. I have memories from years ago in college of looking up from the middle or end of a good book to find him just staring, perplexed. I’d give him my “what?!” look and he’d mutter, “Didn’t you just start that book this morning?”
Academically, my gift was good for more than impressing friends- it was a handy asset and helped me become the excellent procrastinator that I am today. Who waited until the day before the essay was due to speed read a book and churn out five pages? This girl right here! When going on vacation in the days before e-readers, however… not so handy. I used to fill half my suitcase with books when traveling. Every pocket, nook and cranny would be packed with paperbacks, my clothes wedged into the spaces between as afterthoughts, then I would finish most of them before the plane landed. Ugh. E-readers came along and helped me (literally) lighten my load when traveling, but I’ll admit it: I’m a total snob and prefer “real” books. (While I’m confessing my sins, I’m also a chocolate snob and a water snob. Yeah, Deer Park water tastes greasy and Hershey’s chocolate is sandy. Sorrynotsorry.) I really really prefer to hold a paper book in my hands rather than an e-reader, by an order of magnitude of about a million. E-readers make books sad and blah, somehow, and they don’t smell like a book. In a pinch, an e-book is better than no book, of course, but if I have a choice, I want a real book. I also prefer paperbacks to hardcover, for reasons even I don’t understand. Maybe because my arms get tired when lying in bed with a heavy hardcover lifted above me? Not sure.
This year was a big year for me as a writer as I completed two manuscripts and took two writing classes, and all of this cut into my reading time quite a bit. By my best count (yeah, ok, I’m not good at keeping track of things. It’s part of my charm. Or not.) I read about 30 books this year. Last year I read close to a hundred and pre-kids I often finished two or three books a week, so this year has seen a big drop. Also, most of the books I read were in my genre of choice (speculative/dystopian/Young Adult/SFF) because I was trying to studying the mechanics of the genre in order to improve my own writing. I focused on filling my writing engine with fuel in order to break it down into pieces and then build it back into my own writing. Like food for my writer brain.
So, here is my list for 2016. I can’t review all of the books in this small space, and there are book bloggers who are much better at that than I am (I also can’t find it in me to give a bad review so I won’t call out any that I disliked- not many, thankfully) but if you are looking for a new author or an intriguing premise, feel free to leave a comment with the type of book you’re looking for or a question about any from this list and I’ll do my best to recommend one that I think would appeal to you.
A few recommendations:
Anything by V.E. Schwab/Victoria Schwab- my favorite discovery of the year. This woman’s brain is a treasure trove of ideas, she churns out books like a machine, and her writing is just GORGEOUS. I have a total writer crush on this author and I’m not ashamed to admit it. Everything I’ve read of hers has been excellent so far, but if you like Young Adult, start with This Savage Song. If you prefer adult fantasy A Darker Shade of Magic may be a better fit. If you like comic books or superhero tropes start with Vicious.
The Water Knife, by Paolo Bacigalupi- this one is not Young Adult, but it is dystopian. It is gritty, violent, and TERRIFYING in a oh-no-the-world-is-really-going-to-hell way, but beautifully written and a fine example of what dystopian can be. It will make you think, write your senator, and if you live in Texas, California, or other water-strapped states, well… after reading this book you may want to move. I literally rolled over in bed a few times to poke my husband and say, “OMG we’re all doomed!” but it was goooooooood.
Six of Crows, by Leigh Bardugo- I heard about this book a LOT before I read it, and I now know why. It is so well written, with a complex cast of characters, a fleshed out fantasy setting, and so much more. I’m actually still finishing this one at the moment, but I give it two thumbs up without hesitation.
Furiously Happy, by Jenny Lawson- If you’re not into SciFi or Fantasy but you read my blog anyway because you love me, aw, thanks! Read THIS book. It will make you cry with laughter. Jenny is a blogger who is quirky, funny, and endearing. She tells stories about her childhood, her struggles with anxiety and depression, and about a giant metal chicken named Beyonce, all in hilarious detail. You will embarrass yourself if you read it in public, I promise. Don’t drink anything while reading this in Starbucks or you may accidentally pull off an SNL-worthy spit take. SO FUNNY!
An Ember in the Ashes, by Sabaa Tahir- a lovely YA fantasy story inspired by Ancient Rome but infused with a middle eastern flavor. A quick read and a fun adventure, with a sequel already out and a third book coming soon.
Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline- there’s a movie in the making right now and anyone who knows me knows how I feel about reading books before seeing the movie (imperative, obviously. And I swear to all that is holy, anyone who shows my daughters a Harry Potter movie before they’ve read the books will be shunned for eternity. Not kidding. Don’t even think about it!) I listened to Ready Player One as an Audio book and I highly recommend doing so. Much of the story takes place inside a massive interactive video game competition. It merges every aspect of geek lore into one fun, exciting romp AND the audio book is read by Wil Wheaton, nerd idol and my first ever celebrity crush. He played Wesley Crusher in Star Trek, if you don’t know, and I thought he was adorable back then. I even had his action figure. Aaaaaand… now I’m slightly embarrassed. ANYWAY, listening to him narrate a book with nods to every nerdy delight, including Star Trek and a brief homage to himself, was a lot of fun. I’m very excited for the movie!
Ok, too many to discuss them all in detail, but here’s the rest of my list. Do you have recs for me for 2017? I’d love to hear them so leave a comment and let me know!
My 2016 list:
Station Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel
Life as we Knew It , Susan Beth Pfeffer
The Dead of Night, John Marsden
The Water Knife, Paolo Bacigalupi
The Darkest Minds, Alexandra Bracken
After, Nineteen Stories of Apocalypse and Dystopia, Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling
The Last Star, Rick Yancey
Unravel Me, Tehereh Mafi
AngelFall, Susan Ee
World After, Susan Ee
End of Days, Susan Ee
The Girl on the Train, Paula Hawkins
Furiously Happy, Jenny Lawson
Yes, Please, Amy Poehler
In the After, Dimitria Lunetta
We All Looked Up, Tommy Wallach
This Savage Song, Victoria Schwab
A Darker Shade of Magic, V.E. Schwab
Vicious, V.E Schwab
An Ember in the Ashes, Sabaa Tahir
Red Queen, Victoria Aveyard
Ms. Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, Ransom Riggs
Unwind, Niel Shusterman
Ready Player One, Ernest Cline
Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Laini Taylor
Monument, Emmy Laybourne
Delirium, Lauren Oliver
A Promise of Shadows, Justina Ireland
Six of Crows, Leigh Bardugo