2016 Year in Review

Time to see what I did this year!

I read 76 books this year (29,359 pages)! Not bad considering my goal in January was 40.
I bought 42 books, received 12 as gifts and 1 as a prize!

One of my goals was to read more recommendations from friends/family – I think I succeeded!

CP’s: Captive Prince, Prince’s Gambit, Kings Rising, Wolf by Wolf, Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, Finnikin of the Rock, The 3 Writing Thesauruses (Emotion, Positive and Negative Traits), Three Dark Crowns, Milk and Honey
Grandfather: The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, The Mill on the Floss (partial)
Friends: Pax, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, When We Collided, The Start of Me and You

I had a few other little challenges I wanted to complete this year but I think I failed pretty much all of them!

Read one classic novel a month: 5
Read one nonfiction book a month: 6
Read the Harry Potter series again: 1

Read the 10 books on my Goodreads TBR the longest: 1
Debut novels: 14

Better luck next year, Future Me!
How did I like what I did read this year?

5 stars – 33%
4 stars – 48%
3 stars – 16%
2 stars – 4%

Out of all of these books, which one was my Best Read of 2016?

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It was an incredibly hard choice – until I read Monstress! (See my review here!) I can still barely talk about this book without screaming–I absolutely love this story and I can’t wait to buy the next bound volume! It’s dark and feminist and has beautiful as well as brutal moments. The art is a bonus–every panel is lovingly detailed and kept me from reading too quickly. If you want deep world-building, flawed characters fighting for their goals, and a story that demands you keep up with it, grab this now! I enjoyed every page.

And Best Surprise Read of 2016 goes to….

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I had seen this cover pop up a couple times on Instagram and I finally picked up a copy of this debut novel because I was curious about the magical realism. (See my review here!) This book had me enthralled! The themes of family, identity, growing up, traditionalism vs change, what makes a full life–Carolina and her family felt so real to me and I savored their story. It is a rare example of a perfectly packaged tale with that nostalgic feeling you normally reserve for something old. I look forward to coming back to this again and again!

What did I achieve with my writing?
1) Revised and polished YA fantasy
2) Attended my first writing conference
3) Pitched to agents for the first time
4) Chose to shelve YA fantasy and begin a new project
5) Completed the 83,000 word draft for Fox Story in 3 months
6) Learned. So. Much.
7) And of course, I posted twice a week here, rain shine or deadline!

New things coming for 2017

Give this year’s goals another chance:
-1 nonfiction book a month
-1 classic novel a month
-Read Harry Potter again
-Get through those books that I’ve meant to read for years!

THIS IS MY LAST POST FOR 2016 – HAPPY NEW YEAR!

January

February

March

April

May

June

July

August

September

October

November

December

Awakening – Monstress Vol. 1

29396738by Marjorie Liu (writer) & Sana Takeda (artist)
Graphic Novel
5 of 5 stars
This is a review of the first 6 issues of Monstress

When I finished this story I was incoherent for hours. It felt like I’d been waiting for this to be made for years without knowing it! I picked it up months ago and I have no idea how Janella was so calm after she read and asked if I’d gotten to it yet and I said, “Oh, I will soon!” (months later)

This is phenomenal and quite possibly my favorite read of 2016! Every page had me enthralled — the art is rich with detail and beauty, the story is dark and captivating, the characters come alive with every panel.

We meet the Arcanic Maika when she is nude and chained, about to be sold as a slave to humans–and this is not the first time. But we quickly learn something else is at work, and once she begins to orchestrate her escape there isn’t a moment to breathe until the last page!

Maika’s mysterious past comes to light, always raising more questions than answers, especially when it comes to the strange power lurking inside her. Sharp and aloof, she is unable to keep allies away from her. Whether that is her closest friend Tuya or Kippa, a fox Arcanic she rescues. There are wonderful twists and surprises within these pages, but the basic plot follows Maika Halfwolf as she tries to uncover her dead mother’s secrets and avenge her murder.

I definitely do not want to spoil this collection! Aside from intense world-building, plot, and pacing, the themes of war, power, racism, slavery, and what makes a monster hit you hard with unapologetic candor. Yet another bold move is a 95% female cast coupled with intersectionality that is hard to find in YA novels.

Reading this called to mind Mad Max: Fury Road–I honestly have never read anything like this that could have me tearing up, laughing, or sweating bullets at any given moment.

There are already several more issues out if you just can’t wait, and I would guess the next bound volume will be released summer 2017. I can’t recommend this enough!

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, Heartless is available on Goodreads and on Barnes & Noble’s website here. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!


Similar reads:

  • Batman: Hush by Jeph Loeb (writer) & Jim Lee (artist) – I haven’t read nearly enough graphic novels but I love the art in this one and the story intrigued me as well. All your DC favorites are here to deliver exactly what you’d hope for from a Batman comic.
  • Nimona by Noelle Stevenson – Decidely more lighthearted than Monstress, this explores similar themes from a quirky perspective. Nimona is a shape-shifter who apprentices herself to villain Lord Blackheart. He quickly realizes there is more to her than a desire for villainy. See my review here.
  • The Female of the Species – A YA novel that tackles a murder, rape culture, and sexism through the eyes of three senior students in a small town. See my review here.
  • Nevernight by Jay Kristoff – Mia Corvere apprentices herself to the Red Church in hopes of becoming a skilled assassin that can avenge her family’s murder. See my review here.
  • Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith – This is the third installment in J.K. Rowling’s crime novel series and it’s by far the darkest. If you want a thriller mystery that makes you a bit uncomfortable, try this out. See my review here.
  • The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman – This novella is one of my favorites. The unnamed narrator describes experiences from his childhood and realizes with increasing alarm that the strange and deadly things happening were not in his imagination as his family insisted. See my review here.

What to read again:

Ever since Harry Potter I’ve enjoyed re-reading the previous books in a series before the next one comes out. You get to soak up all the nuances and speculate about what’s going to happen next—it just makes the whole experience richer and more fun! What am I going to start re-reading?

A Darker Shade of Magic series by V. E. Schwab

I fell in love with this series from the first line–it’s exactly the type of fantasy story I love! Kell is one of the only Antari left (magicians who can travel between the four parallel Londons) and has a bad habit of smuggling between the worlds, which is forbidden. When he accidentally brings a piece of Black London (destroyed by magic) to Red London all hell breaks loose.

These characters are incredible, and if you want a heart-stopping twisting read look no further! (See my review here if you don’t believe me). If you need a spoiler-filled refresher, you can find what happened in the first two books here. I’m so excited for the conclusion to this trilogy in February!

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The Hundred and One Dalmatians

16650024by Dodie Smith
Classics / Children’s Lit
3 of 5 stars

This little book is probably better known as the Disney film, but I picked it up last year and loved it, and I enjoyed reading it again this year.

There are some big differences between the two, for instance the fact that Pongo and Missis have the 15 puppies, and Perdita is a lost dog the Dearlys take in to help nurse them all. There are characters removed from or changed for the film (Cruella’s white cat, Perdita’s husband, the puppy Cadpig was combined with Lucky, the two nannies were combined into one, and the farm cat Tibbs is female in the book, to name a few).  They have a series of adventures both searching for and bringing back their puppies, and its charm is irresistible. There are fresh surprises here even if you’ve seen the film.

The best part of this story is the author’s knowledge of dogs. She owned seven Dalmatians during her lifetime and this cute story is packed with facts, jokes, and tips on how to have a happy Dalmatian in your home. It’s also quintessentially British in its descriptions (Mr. Dearly is “not handsome but has the sort of face one does not grow tired of” and Pongo “chewed the wicker on his basket as a man might smoke a pipe”) and each interaction Pongo and Missis have with other dogs is ruled by etiquette and manners.

This is a fun read for a night by the fire in December! If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, The Hundred and One Dalmatians is available on Goodreads and on Barnes & Noble’s website here. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!


Similar reads:

  • The Secret Horses of Briar Hill by Megan Shepherd – Another Christmas tale about a girl in the countryside during WWII. She and the other children are sick, but she is the only one who can see the winged horses in the mirrors of the mansion-turned-hospital. See my review here.
  • Fortunately, the Milk by Neil Gaiman – A silly story with fun illustrations about a father explaining to his young children why it took him so long to get the milk.
  • The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo – A brave little mouse is sure his destiny is to become a knight, and when the Princess Pea is endangered, he sets out to save the day. I love this story! It’s so cute and such a good representation of the light and dark in us all.
  • Maybe a Fox by Kathi Appelt & Alison McGhee – A winter tale about two sisters, a family of fox kits, and the way their lives intersect after a terrible accident. See my review here.

The Secret Horses of Briar Hill

25488299by Megan Shepherd
Children’s Lit
5 of 5 stars

This beautiful little story feels fresh and familiar. I absolutely loved it!

I’m not sure that I can write a better review than Maggie Stiefvater’s. This story seems deceptively light until you pay attention to the details Emmaline notes (or omits) as you piece together clues not only about the winged horses in the mirrors of the mansion-turned-hospital but to the people there and the war going on and the childrens’ health. You want to believe Emmaline’s charming, sweet, sharp voice–especially when her emotions cut at you with their resonance.

Emmaline and several other children with the “stillwaters” live with a few nuns that care for them as the war rages in Europe. They’ve all lost people and their pasts. Some of them have accepted this. Others choose to hope that if they can wait long enough, everything will go back to the way it was before. Emmaline has seen winged horses in the mirrors of the house since she arrived, but nobody else can see them. When a wounded horse turns up in the garden on her side of the mirrors, Emmaline vows to the Horse Lord that she will protect Foxfire from the Black Horse that hunts for her.

Deftly woven into Emmaline’s mission are the fragile lives of the children, the nuns, and the groundskeeper, Thomas. Surviving each day is its own victory, and everyone has to hunt for moments of joy, beauty, and light amidst their gray, war-torn existence. The atmosphere and adventure in this story evoked so much emotion in me–I know I’ll be rereading this many times.

The perfect read for Christmastime – magical realism for a magical time of year!

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, The Secret Horses of Briar Hill is available on Goodreads and on Barnes & Noble’s website here. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!


Similar reads:

  • The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett – A young girl leaves her life in India behind for fresh start in the moors of England. Then she learns she isn’t the only child staying in the manor, and there are secrets everywhere to be uncovered. Timeless and magical!
  • Maybe a Fox by Kathi Appelt & Alison McGhee – Sisters Sylvi and Jules are inseparable, especially after their mother’s death. But when Sylvi disappears too, Jules is left to wonder how she and her father can continue on. A fox kit observes this from the forest, knowing she is meant to help this sad girl. See my review here.
  • Hour of the Bees by Lindsay Eagar – Carolina’s family spends a summer at her grandfather Serge’s remote desert ranch to pack it up for sale. But Serge’s strange tales begin to seep in to house, and Carolina isn’t sure that he is making them up. See my review here.
  • The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle – A lone unicorn tries to find the rest of her kind as she travels the wide world. This story is short and beautiful, I wish I had read it sooner!
  • The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis – Four siblings go to the countryside to be safe from the war. Lucy pokes around the old house’s disused rooms and find a wardrobe that transports her to a magical kingdom, but her siblings don’t believe her until they see it for themselves–and become drawn into a war between good and evil for the fate of the land called Narnia.
  • The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater – Another story about horses, but these prefer to eat humans rather than befriend them. Puck is the first girl to enter the deadly race, where only the survivor gets the winner’s purse. See my review here.

What to read again:

Ever since Harry Potter I’ve enjoyed re-reading the previous books in a series before the next one comes out. You get to soak up all the nuances and speculate about what’s going to happen next—it just makes the whole experience richer and more fun! What am I going to start re-reading?

Truthwitch by Susan DennardTruthwitch

I adored this book and the pacing is unmatched! Nonstop action with incredible characters and world-building. Best friends Safi and Iseult have gotten into and out of a lot of scrapes over the years, but now they’re in over their heads. Three different groups and governments are hunting Safi for her truth-seeing abilities, and they don’t know where to turn or who to trust. As they race around the world, barely one step ahead, the true nature of the plot begins to come together.

No more spoilers, but you can see my review here! Windwitch is the second in this series of four books. It comes out in a few weeks, so pick this up now because you’ll want more of this story!

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Blood for Blood

26864835by Ryan Graudin
Historical Fiction
4 of 5 stars

This year has been absolutely fantastic for sequels! Once again I was not disappointed.

Welcome back to 1956 under the rule of the Axis Powers. Skinshifter Yael’s mission to assassinate Adolf Hitler went disastrously awry, and now she’s fleeing for her life with Double Victor Luka Lowe and Adele Wolfe’s brother, Felix. They are trying to meet up with the resistance, which is struggling to overthrow the Third Reich even as reports of Adolf Hitler surviving the Victor’s Ball start surfacing throughout the empire.

Now that she’s not alone, Yael must decide who to trust–and how much–with her past and her present. Through all three characters’ points of view, we see the iron grip of Hitler begin to crumble, and tenuous alliances form.

The break-neck pacing and continuous cliff-hangers of the first book are here too; moments to breathe are brief and few! Through Yael we see desperation, vengeance, and hope from someone who can’t afford the luxury of putting their head down to survive. Through Luka, what happens when “good people” avoid looking at what is going on around them because it is easier. Through Felix, how selfishness can crowd out empathy for anyone else.

I’ve found revolution books tend to struggle in the final act because the stakes have gotten too large for the main characters. Their role in events becomes unbelievable (teens with no experience leading armies?), or it becomes overwhelming to read. This isn’t the case here! Yael and the rest fit in perfectly and realistically in the narrative and still their decisions are surprising.

This is a fitting end to Yael’s story and if you liked the first book it will captivate you just the same!

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, Blood for Blood is available on Goodreads and on Barnes & Noble’s website here. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!


Similar reads:

  • Vengeance Road by Erin Bowman – Kate’s father was killed over a map to a rumored gold mine and she is ready to avenge him. This YA western is addictive and atmospheric! See my review here.
  • Risuko by David Kudler – Risuko is just a girl who loves to climb, but when her skill is noticed by a noblewoman, she is plucked from obscurity and begins training to become a “very special kind of woman” who may change the course of her country. See my review here.
  • Passenger by Alexandra Bracken – Etta’s violin debut does not go as planned. She is dragged to 1776 by an estranged family member and her family history only gets stranger from there. Etta wants to return to her own time but if she doesn’t locate the astrolabe for her grandfather, she won’t save her mother’s life. See my review here.
  • Something Strange and Deadly by Susan Dennard – Eleanor’s brother goes missing and when she contacts the Spirit Hunters to find him, she learns that a necromancer has captured him. And that a horde of the Dead are going to invade Philadelphia. This might put a damper on her mother’s plans to set her up with a nice boy. See my review here.
  • Briar Rose by Jane Yolen – A contemporary retelling of Sleeping Beauty through Becca’s quest to uncover her grandmother’s past. As she travels the world and starts realizing that her grandmother’s bedtime stories were all true, she must confront dark secrets before she can learn who her grandmother really was.

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