Eren said that the top panel of this page was his favorite of the entire set that he made. He crafted a beautiful expression in Una that really hit all the different emotions I wanted her to be feeling. Ah, he did such a great job on all of these!!
So some of you may remember that I made myself a reading list for 2016 of diverse authors. Below I’ve summed up my feelings on all the books I read from that list (it grew as I added to it through the year). Since the list constantly expanded, the selection of books I have to choose from for 2017 is even longer. If folks want a look at 2017’s list, let me know. I can post that in a future blog post. For now, we’re looking backwards at…
My Favorite Books of 2016:
- My Bondage and My Freedom by Frederick Douglass: I’ve already talked about this one on here before, but it bears repeating. This is an incredible book by a man criminally neglected in my history classes. As a fictional story it would be compelling, but the fact that it is a true story makes it even more amazing. This book, one part personal story and another part impassioned persuasive essay, shined a light on a lot of unquestioned narratives that I’d always accepted as true because that’s what I’d always been told. Shockingly applicable to issues that are ongoing struggles in our culture today.
- The Cutting Season by Attika Locke: I can’t wait to read more by Attika Locke, but I have to pace myself because OH GEEZ SO TENSE!! The Cutting Season is a thriller and I learned very early that it would NOT be a book I could read before bed because my heart would start beating WAY too fast while reading it and my dreams (if I could fall asleep) were just wrecked from anxiousness. Which sounds bad, but honestly for a thriller I can’t think of a higher compliment. It got to me, it was awesome, I want more but I’m going to have to work up to it…and possibly read with a security blanket close at hand.
- Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor. I adored this book and I’m super excited that there’s a sequel coming out soon! Great mixture of lighthearted fun and disturbingly dark, rooted in its vibrant culture influences. It reminded me of Harry Potter in energy, except I liked this series way more. No discredit meant to HP, just a whole lot of love for Akata Witch.
- March by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, Nate Powell. I’ve only read Book One so far, but I’m eager to read the rest. Another true story, this book is very understated in its presentation and as a result the emotional impact crept up on me a bit. In that, “Oh hey, I am crying all of a sudden, why is that?” kind of way. It doesn’t try to manipulate emotions or pull on heart-strings, it’s just moving in a very natural and genuine way, and that’s really special.
- Gender Outlaws: The Next Generation by Various, edited by Kate Bornstein. Thought provoking, funny, beautiful, awkward, uncomfortable, inspiring, insightful, and everything in between. This book gave me so much to think about and relate to.
- Borderline by Mishell Baker. So refreshing to read a main character with mental health struggles that are acknowledged as such. While I don’t struggle with borderline personality disorder, I could relate to a lot of the mental hurdles encountered and coping strategies employed. It was just nice to see myself reflected a little in a character. Plus I’m a sucker for urban fantasy narratives that involve the Fae.
Books that I abandoned (ie: started, but did not finish) or I wish I had:
- Silver Phoenix by Cindy Pon: I had a bad feeling about this one very early and read it mostly in that “can’t look away from a train wreck” kind of way to see if maybe it would turn itself around. Very triggering, very hard to read. It really bothers me when authors use sexual assault as a central feature of their story, especially when the main character uses the act of being assaulted as a way to somehow gain power. I understand that such a concept might be cathartic for someone, and perhaps they need that, but a character repeatedly being victimized, or specifically trying to be victimized, as a way to “beat the bad guy” just feels all kinds of not okay to me personally. In general, one thing I wish all authors would stop doing is tossing sexual assault into their stories casually and without purpose. At least in this book it DID serve a purpose, but it still didn’t sit right with me. Maybe it would be good for another reader, but I really struggled with it.
- Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo: I really wanted to like this one…but I just couldn’t get into it. The cast is massive and I couldn’t get engaged by any of them. Something was simply missing in the characterization for me. The heist premise and the world building all should have got me…but they just didn’t and I don’t know why.
- The Grace of Kings by Ken Liu. I learned a valuable lesson from this book. If I as a writer feel the need to have a character make a defensive rant about how respectful they are to a group of people (in this case, women, but it could be any group) then I probably need to take a serious look at how I’m actually writing that group. Because an author treating a group of people with respect is very different than insistently telling the audience they’re being respectful. It’s made me reconsider the merits of some of my own previous writing and that’s made me more aware of potential pitfalls in the future.
- Incarceration by Catherine Fisher. Another one that I wanted to like, but couldn’t. The foreshadowing felt over-done (in that “I’m yelling at the characters to put the dang pieces together PLEASE” way) and the characters were just too slow for me to connect with. So either I played myself and it turned out that all that super-obvious-foreshadowing was actually a red herring (which means that it wasn’t foreshadowing, but kinda just lying to the reader with heavy misdirection) or everybody was just being very thick. I never read far enough to find out.
- The Diviners by Libba Bray. For some reason I just didn’t click with this one. Got two chapters in and moved on. It might be a fine book, but it didn’t grab me. The same was true for Cast In Shadow by Michelle Sagara and The Game of Love and Death by Martha Brockenbrough. Might have to revisit at a later time.
- The Murder at the Vicarage: A Miss Marple Mystery by Agatha Christie. Maybe it was because I had heard so much about how great Agatha Christies was and had overly high expectations, or perhaps I just got a dud by accident on my first outing, or maybe I’m just not a big fan of mysteries, but I was very disappointed with this book. It didn’t feel like the author played fair with their clues, a lot of the characters just wouldn’t TALK TO EACH OTHER in order to maintain a sense of “they’re guilty!” and I found the final reveal deeply unsatisfying. Maybe I should just keep to mystery TV shows. My foray into mystery novel left me frustrated.
Everything I read in between, and how I’d rate them:
- School for Good and Evil (series) by Soman Chainani, Iacopo Bruno. 2/5 stars: This is one of those book series that the sequels actually drug the initial impression from the first book down. I saw some potential in it, thought it was okay, and then took a look at the rest of the series to see if it would realize some of that potential. Instead the opposite happened and I found myself progressively more disappointed.
- Pinned by Sharon G. Flake. 3/5 stars: Wish I could give this to some of the reluctant readers I used to work with at the school.
- A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park. 3/5 stars. Charming read.
- The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros. 3/5 stars. I think the structure of this one just made it a little hard for me to connect with. It was a good book, but it never captured or transported me.
- This One Summer by Jillian Tamaki. 3/5 stars. One of those books that I didn’t really enjoy reading it, but I’m glad it exists. Feels a little unfinished to me, which was frustrating, but I feel like it did have some important things to explore.
- White Cat by Holly Black: 3/5 stars: Some interesting ideas and I appreciated the flawed characters and exploration of family, trust, and power.
- Shadowfell by Juliet Marillier. 3/5 stars…ish. This is one of the books that has the “now I casually toss in an assault for no real reason and it never comes up again but it sets a weird tone” aspect and my memory of the book suffers for it. That said, I did read the rest of this series and found it fairly satisfying. Just wish that one little bit had been cut in the editing stage.
- Huntress by Malinda Lo: 3/5 stars: Perhaps I was just spoiled by Ash, but for some reason I found this book largely forgettable…I remember enjoying it well enough when I read it, but I couldn’t tell you a thing about it now.
- Ash by Malinda Lo. 4/5 stars: Gave me hope that romance might not be dead after all.
- Sula by Toni Morrison. 4/5 stars. Intense. Compact and efficient writing style that managed to convey a lot in a very brief amount of time. Still digesting this one. May need to re-read just to fully process it.
- Some Assembly Required and Rethinking Normal, Two Teens, Two Unforgettable Stories by Arin Andrews and Katie Rain Hill. Technically two separate books, but the version I read had both of them combined. 4/5 stars. Very personal, interesting to see two sides of a shared true story.
- I Am J by Cris Beam. 4/5 stars. Not always a pleasant book to read, (sometimes I struggle with books about teens because then I have to remember how miserable I was as a teen) but a valuable book to read.
- The Killing Moon by N. K. Jemisin. 4/5 stars. Intense, creative, great world-building, and lots of dream-related magic. Which is a big draw for me, obviously.
- Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon. 4/5 stars. Engaging, fun, unique, and still with a pretty serious heart. I saw the twist, but it was still a good one. And I think I only saw it because I knew the signs to look for.
- Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell. 4/5 stars: Thought provoking and definitely interesting. Might need to read again to fully digest this one.
- Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott. A totally different take on the writing process than what I’d been previously exposed to. Is now part of a spectrum of Types of Writers theory that I have cooking in my brain.
- The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer. 4/5 stars: I listened to the Audio book version at exactly the right time.
- Beka Cooper: The Hunt Records by Tamora Pierce. 5/5 stars: Are there flaws in this series? Absolutely, but I enjoyed it so much that I just don’t care. I’ve been eagerly devouring more of Tamora Pierce’s work ever since, which I shall not list because it would make this long list even longer. (To all the people that recommended her to me a bajillion times: YOU WERE RIGHT. THANK YOU.)
And that was my 2016 reading! Add to that sequels (not listed here) and books read for research and I probably read somewhere between 40 and 50 books this year.
What books were your favorites from 2016, and which were disappointments? Any books on your reading list for 2017?