Nina’s Top Five Favourites of 2016

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 🙂

12 Comments

  1. I always take great recommendations from you guys! That was a great list. Here are my favorites:
    -It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover.
    -Six of Crows AND Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo.
    -Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
    -ACOMAF by SJM
    -A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf.

    • nina

      December 31, 2016 at 11:17 AM

      Your comments are always precise as a clock, Kimi! It’s like we post and literally a few minutes later there’s a comment from you ❤

      I definitely agree with you on Six of Crows (one of my all-time favourites) but Crooked Kingdom, though I did enjoy it a ton, could not quite level with the first instalment for me. I love that it’s among your favourites, though!!! Daughter of Smoke and Bone – the whole series really – is epic, and I’m so happy you picked up Taylor’s magical books 😀

      ACOMAF. Sigh. As a guilty pleasure read, definitely among my favourites. As a work of literature, I’m a little more skeptical. Though again, I’m so happy you enjoyed it, and in the end, that is ALL that really matters, isn’t it? 😉

      HAPPY NEW YEAR, KIMI ❤❤❤
      We’ll see you on the other side 😉

      • Haha I get an email notification and come running xD

        I can totally see why some people might not enjoy Crooked Kingdom as much especially with that thing that happened towards the end. You know, the thing lol

        Ikr? SJM’s books have become guilty pleasure reads. When did this happen? How did we get here? I blame everything on 2016.

        What do you think of Colleen Hoover’s books? I don’t think I ever saw you talking about her (I could be wrong though) If you haven’t picked up any of her books, I will annoy the living hell out of you until you do haha and if you have and didn’t enjoy them … our friendship is in some serious danger haha Just kidding.

        • nina

          December 31, 2016 at 11:59 AM

          You’re adorable ❤❤❤

          Anyways, it wasn’t just the we-must-never-speak-about-it-again thing that happened in CK, though how that went down certainly didn’t sit well with me. It was also that she kind of ruined Kaz’s character for me (*collective gasp*). I really adored his character in the first book, but in the second, everything was too easy for him. Or too easily resolved in general. Kaz gets his hands on rock-solid information. He does not GUESS his way out of sticky situations. I WILL NOT STAND FOR THIS. My trickster soul is wounded.

          I blame 2016 for a lot of things, honestly, and this is one of them. My purely emotion-based rating of ACOMAF was 4 stars. But then I looked at the long list of issues, which were pretty much in balance with the positive aspects, so I had to take away half a star. I wonder what she will do with ACOWAR. She better tie a neat ribbon on this package OR ELSE 😛

          I have never touched a Colleen Hoover book (*another collective gasp*), mainly because I cannot stand fluffy contemporary books. I prefer my books dark. Like my soul. Sooo, pushing me to read a CoHo book and expecting me to like it could be a dangerous mission, my friend. Though I will receive your recommendation for the best CoHo book in your opinion and maybe approach it. With extreme caution. And velvet gloves 😉

          • Interesting! I didn’t feel like that at all. I’m usually not a huge fan of characters that are too good at solving problems like a certain queen of Terrasen we know but I don’t remember feeling that way about Kaz.

            I’m really not sure about the direction that SJM is taking all her books. I used to think she was one of my favorite authors but then 2016 happened haha (when in doubt, blame 2016)

            LORD RULER! You have never read any CoHo book because you think they’re fluffy? Guuurl! CoHo writes the most intense books I have ever read. Since you’re into the dark stuff I would HIGHLY recommend that you start with Too Late. It’s by far one of the most messed up books I have ever read and definitely the darkest from all of Hoover’s books. You HAVE to read it. No pressure. lol

        • nina

          December 31, 2016 at 4:56 PM

          The comments have been slimmed down to a minimum, so I had to answer to the upper comment. Anyways, I can point out a specific scene to you which really blew the lid off this thing, but should Chantal be reading this, she’d be spoiled, so I’ll take it over to GR 😉

          The longer SJM writes, the more frustrated I grow. Where is the diversity? Where are the steamy graphic scenes that do not give too much away? Where are the SINGLES? (Like, come on, even Nesta gets a mate and she’s as prickly as a porcupine)

          I think my problem with contemporaries lies more with the genre than the “fluffiness”. I rarely find contemporary works, especially YA, that knock me off my socks. But if you think I should, then I’ll give Too Late by CoHo a try. Is this your favourite book by her, though? Or is it It Ends With Us?

          Btw, I’ve read Never Never (#1), if that counts as a CoHo book, even though she co-authored 😀

          • Ikr? But somehow I find more issues with the ToG series than with the ACOTAR one, maybe this will change with ACOWAR though.

            I wouldn’t say Colleen Hoover books are YA, Most of them are NA. I think you should give it a try. I’ve never read anything like CoHo’s books. IEWU is definitely my favorite but just because I related waaay too much to one of the story lines. It felt like I was reading about my own life which was the weirdest thing ever. I almost put it down at one point because there was just too much of me in those pages. I’m pretty biased about this one and it’s usually not the one I recommend. I like to recommend starting with Maybe Someday because I feel like it’s the one that would appeal to the widest audience, but since you said you wanted the dark stuff Too Late is the book for you. Oh and the Never Never books are the absolute worst thing CoHo has ever written, at least in my opinion. Big ball of cheese, that’s what I call it.

        • nina

          December 31, 2016 at 5:29 PM

          I can’t really contribute because I haven’t continued the ToG series, but it seems there are parallels between the two. I just need ACOWAR not to be a pile of mush, thank you (and by that, I mean no more random outcries of “You’re my mate!” PLEASE) 😉

          Oh, you thought Never Never was rubbish? Thank God, now I can blindly trust your opinion 😛 Not that I haven’t before but I’m always cautious around contemporary lovers because it’s really not my genre. But alright, you’ve convinced me. I will put a CoHo book on my 2017 TBR (but don’t hurt me if I didn’t like it because it doesn’t feature epic fantasy battles, ok? It’s in my nature to love all things dark, gritty, and gory) 🙂

          • I know I’m not actually part of this conversation but I’m just gonna peep in anyway: I actually read Maybe Someday and really didn’t like it. CoHo is definitely not for me, but maybe you would like it Nina? I’m really not sure tbh

          • nina

            December 31, 2016 at 5:41 PM

            I’ve always been wary of CoHo but I guess I won’t know if she really isn’t for me unless I’ve tried at least one of her books. But then maybe I should go with something else instead of Maybe Someday. I’ll see which premise most speaks to me 🙂

  2. Chantal! I’m trying to get Nina excited about CoHo, you’re not helping lol. I feel like CoHo is one of those authors you either love or hate. I’m crossing my fingers for Nina to be on the love side. I need a CoHo fangirl buddy. I’ve said CoHo way too many times in this comment.

    • nina

      December 31, 2016 at 7:11 PM

      My fellow fantasy fangirl is just trying to protect me from disappointments dabbling in the contemporary genre 😉 But don’t worry, I will give CoHo a fair chance since many others love her books as well!

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