2016 has come to an end, and it’s time to do a recap of a turbulent year. Foremost, 2016 was the year this blog was established, a project Chantal and I worked really hard for over the summer. This year, I received my Bachelor of Science in Psychology. I travelled to the place of my mother’s origin, the beautiful island of Sicily. I met two more Goodreads friends in person, after having finally met my friend and co-blogger Chantal last year. I worked at two child and adolescent mental health facilities which was so interesting and highly gratifying. I’ve seen half the globe but visited England for the first time ever, which was a dream come true. And can you believe Leonardo Di Caprio won his first Oscar this year? Yes? Yes.
Unfortunately, 2016 was a year of struggle, too. It was the year a majority of Great Britain’s population voted to leave the EU, though these weren’t necessarily the people who will have to bear this decision the longest. Many beloved celebrities died, most recently George Michael. It was a year in which terror and violence shattered us, poisoned our hearts. Ultimately, this lead to the biggest tragedy of them all in 2016: A misogynistic, racist, politically rash, rich white man took over the most powerful position this globe currently has to offer, spreading the poison fast like a viper. Suspicion and hate has flared like a wildfire.
Which is why I love logging into sites like Goodreads, connecting with friends on the blog, and gushing over other people’s bookstagram shots (which are truly amazing). Amongst the book community, though we have our differences about books, too, we spread love. Love for books. I feel that, through our mutual passion for books, many other gaps are bridged – people from different genders, sexual orientations, countries, races, and religions come together to share their enthusiasm for the written word. Literature is a weapon, and therefore we are armed and powerful. I hope that we will continue to find our strength in books and in each other as friends, regardless of the distances and time differences.
To share my love for books wrapped into one package, I would like to present my Top 5 favourites of 2016 which all merited 5 stars from me. Clicking on the titles will lead you to my reviews, either on the blog or on Goodreads.
Inferno by Catherine Doyle
This books gave me all the feels. It’s that simple. I’m a sucker for Mafia-inspired stories and star-crossed lovers anyway but something about the sequel to the Blood for Blood series completely swept me off my feet – and a certain dreamy underboss has a lot to do with my love for this book (schhh Luca is mine). It is not, however, due to the romantic subplot that I adored this book so much, or not solely. Vendetta was a solid debut but I had issues with its insta-love, the lack of depth, and the predictability. Inferno pulled a 180 on its predecessor. The plot turned grittier, darker, twistier. The characters grew in their complexity. The romantic subplot demonstrated the holes of an insta-love. Luca Falcone was the sassy dreamboat he had always been, though he received a lot more page-time, which is less than this cupcake deserves but still progress. Most of all, this book had me hooked from start to finish. This series is like a drug for me, honestly, and I had to race through this sequel in spite of upcoming exams, or the need for nutrition, or sleep. This book was everything.
Prince’s Gambit by C.S. Pacat
The Captive Prince series underwent a similar development as the Blood for Blood series. The first instalment dug its hooks into my flesh but it would have been an easy matter to make them loose and untie myself. Captive Prince was too primitive for me. Many aspects of the book struck me as underdeveloped. The violence and rape culture was overdone, way past making a point or underpinning the world-building. The plot was more like a slow creek than a gripping river. But the main character, the beginning alliance, and the underlying tension made me continue with the series, and I was addicted from the first page of Prince’s Gambit. Best decision I’ve ever made. Prince’s Gambit was everything I would’ve wanted Captive Prince to be. A plot full of scheming, action, and twists. More character depth, pulling back the layers of power and revealing vulnerabilities. And a slow burn romance which was simply epic to watch as it turned from flame to fireworks. I thought I wasn’t going to be able to get on board this ship after the abuse of the first book, but holy shit, Pacat made me throw my reservations out the window. Though it is quite graphic, I do not view this as an erotica. An erotica is written for the sole purpose of depicting pleasure but this series offers so much more than that. It is a gripping tale of power play, of betrayal, and of enemies made lovers. I have so much love for this series and, even if you end up despising the first book, I recommend you at least read the sequel before abandoning the series.
The Winner’s Kiss by Marie Rutkoski
I had astronomical expectations for this book, and it did not disappoint. The Winner’s Crime left me agape, in absolute panic. The atmosphere has always been a dark one, but in the final instalment, the air of war and hardship were more palpable than ever. Rutkoski constructed a powerful storyline of politics, scheming, and battle, underpinned by her beautiful, metaphoric writing. The Kestrel she showed me in The Winner’s Kiss was my favourite one. In the first book, she was tame, and in the second one, she was deceitful. In the final instalment, she was neither. What I still love most about Kestrel, though, is that she makes for a strong opponent in spite of her physical incapability with a weapon. Do you know why she no longer holds a sword on this cover? Because she doesn’t need the bloody thing. Furthermore, Arin grew ferocious in this book, redeeming his previous mistakes, and Roshar was absolute sassmaster (if he wasn’t into men, I’d be on him like a cougar). Oh, this book was heartbreaking and gut-wrenching. The Winner’s trilogy is unique and beautiful and a gem among stones. Rutkoski’s skill for the written word and the flawed, relatable characters she crafts are out of this world. The finale was the fireworks this wondrous journey deserved. Utter perfection. I will push this series on everyone and their grandmother.
The Well of Ascension by Brandon Sanderson
Though I adore Sanderon’s gritty plots and detailed world-building, I wouldn’t love the Mistborn series half as much without these precious characters. I root for them, laugh with them, cry with them. The sequel had a different feel from the first. While I do prefer heists and rebellions, Sanderson sure knows how to pull of some mind-blowing political schemes and action-packed tactical warfare. Bow to the master. But the epicness of this book rises and falls with these characters, with their flaws, and struggles, and friendship and love they share for each other. The book does have slow passages but I was too invested in the characters’ fates to care. Do you know that feeling when you constantly have to fear for characters’ lives because you know the author could rip them to shreds because they have no heart? Yes, that’s what this book will do to you. Sanderson didn’t go easy on my babies, and it was this all-encompassing feeling that made me love The Well of Ascension so much.
The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater
The Celtic-inspired capaill uisce (waterhorses dangerous to man), the subtle but heart-stopping romance, and the steady build-up of tension before the Scorpio races made for a wonderful, gripping read. Stiefvater knows how to paint luscious settings, how to carve swoon-worthy characters, and how to transform the journey into the goal. Because, though this book is called the Scorpio Races, it focuses on the eventes before the race. It highlights the fears of the characters, the friendships between humans and their horses, the struggles of families and individuals on a God forsaken island off the coast of Ireland. Puck was a great heroine to root for, determined, feisty but caring is how I love them. Sean won me over in a heartbeat, because hidden beneath his rough edges awaited a gentle soul, a cunning mind, and a lonely heart (in other words, an Irish dreamboat y’all). The Scorpio Races tells a beautiful tale, adorned with a masterful skill of language, as we all know Stiefvater can do. The Scorpio Races appealed to the nostalgia in me. I recommend this book if you like something slow-going but highly emotional.
As you can see, 5 stars are hard-earned rewards. I do not hand those out light-handedly. Admittedly, I’m not easy to please these days, but only the books that really worm their way into my heart, blinding me to all other faults, can get those 5 stars out of me at the moment. This does not mean that there haven’t been other books which impressed me this year.
Honourable mentions go out to those books which moved me but couldn’t quite knock me off my socks. Aka the 4.5-star reads.
➽ A Gathering of Shadows continued the adventure of Kell and Lila, drove deeper into this incredible world of multiple Londons and dark magic. In spite of a couple of flaws, this book was absolutely breathtaking and produced more ships than I can count, ha! (And a cliffhanger, how dare you, Victoria Schwab).
➽ On The Jellicoe Road was another Marchetta masterpiece, a story about loss, loneliness, and guilt. I don’t know how this woman does it but something about her contemporaries just opens my floodgates, which hardly ever happens with any other author.
➽ And I Darken appealed to my feministic streak, bringing forth a heroine so despicably good, sibling relationships so painfully realistic, and a setting so historically authentic that I couldn’t put it down. This was dark, fierce, and powerful.
➽ I adored Tiger Lily, a Peter Pan reimagining, told from the unique perspective of Tinkerbell, touching upon three forms of love: A doomed one, a tragic one, and a whole-hearted one. This book has incredible depth, going beyond a simple love story, adding new facets to the original tale which took me by surprise.
➽ The epitome of geekiness, Ready Player One was a fantastic sci-fi with a unique setting, as most of the plot takes place in a virtual reality multi-player utopia. Cline transformed an imaginative idea into a brilliantly executed one. Geeks for the win.
➽ I went into The False Prince completely blind, and I was surprised by a slow-going but gripping plot and a snarky little shit for a main character. Most of the plot was built on the foundation of the character dynamics but it worked brilliantly.
➽ Blue Lily, Lily Blue gave me all the feels, but mostly RONAN FUCKING LYNCH.
➽ Prince of Shadows was a Romeo and Juliet retelling that introduced an imaginative twist, and a ship that pushed Romeo and Juliet into the shadows, which is the best kind of retelling: The one that offers a different perspective.
➽ The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly offered a sensitive take on trauma, first love, and belief, based on the tale of “The Handless Maiden” which already tells you a lot about the main character, a girl who ends up in juvie after having fled her sect which lived deep in the woods – such an inspiring debut!
➽ Lastly, my most recent read, Golden Son, made it onto this list as well for being a shocker of a sequel, the setting turning more sci-fi, the stakes rising higher, and my love for Darrow growing stronger.
Though 2016 hasn’t been as good a reading year as 2015, I look back quite fondly at these wonderful books, which now grace my shelves. 2017 is already waving at me with more challenges, one of them being my master thesis, so I will have to cut back on my reading but I have my eyes set on the release dates of beloved series and potential favourites, so it might be a good reading year still.
In this sense, I wish everyone a lovely and peaceful New Year’s Eve, a stressless first day of 2017, and a year full of happiness, luck, success, adventure, good health, friendship, and love. And stay bookish, everyone.
What were your favourite books of 2016? Would you say you had a good reading year and a good year in general? Please let me know in the comment section below! I would love to hear about your year of 2016 🙂