FAVORITE BOOKS OF 2016

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THIS WAS A FUN FUN READING YEAR.

Well. No. That’s not entirely true. I wish I’d read more this year but the reading slump hit and stayed for like 5 months?!?! Either way, I read a lot of incredible books this year so let’s talk about them shall we? In no particular order:


BEST SCI-FI

Defnitely, The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer. I’ve read the first three books this year and there’s literally no way I can just pick one as my favorite.

HOW ON EARTH HAVE I WAITED SO LONG TO START THIS SERIES?!? Honestly I’m just 12139510glad I finally did because I loved everything about it, like there was never an instance where I did not enjoy these characters and this world. It has become one of those series that I can just escape in to, completely immersing my mind in it, and that hasn’t happened to me in so long with a book. I mean it’s what we all look for in a book right?

I gave all of these books (minus Winter because I haven’t read it yet *sob*) 5 stars. Without hesitation. It’s just that good. I loved Cinder and Kai. And then I loved Scarlet and Wolf. And then I loved Cress and Thorne. And I just continues to love every character as I went along through the series and just AHHH so so good. My favorite character is definitely Thorne though, I just love how confident and snarky he is without being arrogant. It’s very much a character driven series and I  don’t mind that at all because I’d pick characters over plot any day.

HONORABLE MENTION: 172 Hours On The Moon by Johan Harstad.

 

12860573.jpgThis book really pleasantly surprised me. I only picked it up because it was close to Halloween and I wanted to read something creepy yet fast paced for Dewey’s 24 Hour Readathon. So basically I stayed up all night (literally ALL NIGHT) reading this book and I was terrified. It isn’t straight up horror, there’s a lot of different elements in this book that really did add to the story and I really like the way it’s paced. I’m not gonna talk too much about what happens because I recommend you go in to this completely unaware of the contents.

BEST FANTASY

Dreams of Gods and Monsters by Laini Tayor. I mean, if you know me this won’t be a shock at all. Laini Taylor is one of my all time favorite authors and I think Daughter of dreams-of-gods-and-monsters.jpgSmoke and Bone was actually my favorite book of last year. I finally finished the trilogy this year and honestly these books are heavenly. They just get better and better as the series progresses and all the reads were easily 5 star reads for me. But ah, this finale to the series was so good. The epic battle just left me gasping and hyperventilating and there was so much detail in the writing and just it was all sorts of perfect. Not to mention Zuze and Mik got more time and I LOVE THEM SO SO MUCH.

HONORABLE MENTIONS:

20983362Passenger by Alexander Bracken would have definitely won the number one spot if it hadn’t been for the excellence that is Laini Taylor. But either way I enjoyed this so so much. Unlike most of my favorite books, I liked this one for the plot more than for the characters. In all honesty, I wish the characters had a bit more depth but the story and the time traveling aspect as well as Alexandra Bracken’s beautiful writing had me in love with this story.

My second honorable mention is The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern but I’m not gonna talk much about it because I have a full, rambly review for the book which I will link here. But all I will say is: Magic. Circus. Mystery. A dash of romance. 4.5 stars. Absolutely excellent.

BEST CONTEMPORARY

I usually read way more contemporary books than any other genre and this year was definitely no exception. I read a lot of excellent contemporary books this year but the best definitely has to be one I read just a few days ago actually and that is Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz.

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HOLY FLAMING POTATOES, GUYS. This book blew me away. It was just so beautifully written and Ari’s narrative felt so real and honest. It wasn’t overly pretentious in the way a lot of these popular contemporary books are (just being honest here) and I think that’s the reason I enjoyed it so much. And I liked being able to watch him and Dante grow up and it wasn’t like they were the perfect best friends, they had fall-outs and they grew apart and fell back together and it was all written and represented so beautifully.

Also quick little note: I do not own a physical copy of this book, I listened to the audiobook that was narrated by Lin-Manuel Miranda and I’m not entirely sure if my undying love for this brilliant man enhanced my reading experience but I’m sure that even if I had read the book and not listened to it, it would’ve still made it on this list.

HONORABLE MENTION: I Am The Messenger by Markus Zusak

This book genuinely surprised me, I mean I really wasn’t expecting to love it as much as it did. I have read The Book Thief by Markus Zusak and while I enjoyed it tremendously, I probably enjoyed this more (*audience gasps*).

I just thought it was such an interesting concept and the character growth that you see throughout the book, not only for Ed but for his friends as well, was so fun to follow. And of course, a story as amazing as this one paired with Markus Zusak’s mind blowing writing style definitely deserves to be on this list. I cannot recommend this book enough.

BEST GRAPHIC NOVEL

Something very exciting that appeared in my reading life were graphic novels! I’m slowly nimona.jpgfalling in love with them. Now, I read nowhere near a lot of graphic novels but Nimona by Noelle Stevenson has earned it’s place in my heart as one of my FAVORITE BOOKS OF ALL TIME. That’s right, folks. It’s that good. I read this back in September and finished it in one sitting. It really isn’t the kind of book you can put down.

First off, THESE CHARACTERS. I loved all of them. If you haven’t heard of Nimona before (where have you been?!?!) it’s about this girl called Nimona who just one day randomly shows to be a sidekick for a villain called Ballister Blackheart. And at first he’s annoyed because he didn’t want a sidekick to begin with but as the story progresses we see them grow closer and form a friendship. And they go around causing mischief and it’s very fun to read about. There is also this knight (?) called Ambrosius Goldenloin who is the ‘good guy’, it is just one of those rare books where the characters and the plot are both equally good and go so perfectly together. Not to mention, Noelle Stevenson’s art is so adorable.

HONORABLE MENTION: LUMBERJANES

Lumberjanes is a comic series written by Noelle Stevenson (I’m really in love with her art, guys) and a bunch of other amazing authors, following a group of these 5 kickass girls at summer camp. And there’s a lot of mysterious and fantastical elements in their adventures that I was not expecting honestly.

I just picked up the first volume of this series just about a week ago as a way to complete lumberjanes_covermy reading challenge for the year but I have completely fallen in love with these girls, and I just finished the second volume last night. It is excellent in every way.

Me and my sister are actually reading the series together at the moment, because I really think it’s a great series for middle schoolers as well. I mean, there is such a diverse range of characters and the detail that’s been put in to each one of them is great because like I said, I love character depth. Did I mention it’s LGBTQ+? Yeah. It’s amazing.


And that’s it for my favorite reads of this year, folks. If you’ve read any of these books or read some REALLY good books this year then please do let me know in the comments.

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Let’s talk about diversity in YA #ownvoices

So this has become a very consistently discussed topic in the book community as of late, and rightly so. And I do not know a whole lot about this topic in detail, I’m newly 18 and still just learning and figuring all this out, and I understand that it’s a rather controversial topic but I’m just gonna tell you all a little bit about my experiences with diversity in books.

First off, I’m gonna let you all know that I’ve been reading YA since I was about 11 years old so it’s been a good 7 years of my life devoted to this category of books that I love and enjoy. I’ve grown to love and adore so many series and characters. Does this mean that I find a character whose ethnicity and sexuality is the same as mine in every book I read? No. Heck no. And the worst part is I didn’t realize this was a problem until people started talking about it and I thought “oh that’s a good point”.

I am Maldivian; therefore South Asian, as well as Musliml. I mean I am basically a mix of (correct me if I’m wrong) the most rarely represented characters in young adult fiction. For the longest time, I enjoyed reading about these straight, white, cisgendered protagonists (and I still do) not really realizing that it was a problem. It was fiction, and I just had this idea that that’s what it was and that’s how it always had to be which I realize now, is absolute crap. This is something that is slowly changing and still needs to be talked about a whole lot more for us to really make it the norm to pick up a book with an accurately represented gay or hispanic main character.

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When I actually started reading books with diverse characters, I really did see a difference in how the story was represented and it felt refreshing. As an example, I’m just going to draw your attention to a wonderful book that I read this year called Does My Head Look Big In This? by Randa Abdel-Fattah. It’s a book that follows a Muslim girl, who is the only one in her school (?) in Sydney, Australia and she decides to wear the headscarf. More than ‘normalizing’ our religion, for me reading this, it felt familiar in a way that made me very happy. Now, I don’t wear a hijab (a lot of the women in my family do though) and I was lucky enough to grow up in a community of Muslims so there was nothing odd or threatening about wearing a headscarf in public but the representation of her family in this book was so nice to read about, because she was like me. She was Muslim and at the same time she liked to listen to the Spice Girls (this was released in the early 2000s) when she was sad, and she had a crush on a boy at her school and she went shopping with her friends. Randa Abdel-Fattah, being a Muslim herself did not alienate the character of Amal.

It in no way is an absolutely perfect novel with breathtaking writing. I gave it a 3.5 out of 5 stars on Goodreads. However, this book made me think “why aren’t there more books like this?” which is something that more of us need to be thinking regarding correct representation in books.

Recently there was someone on twitter who was claiming that by asking for representation and asking for clear portrayal of diverse characters is in some way eliminating progress to make us all ‘people’. To not see color is not something we can so easily do, we need representation because we live in a world where everyone is labeled with a stereotype based on the color of their skin or who they love or a majority of other reasons. To right these backward beliefs and not have those people looked at through a white lens is not only important but comforting as well. It makes us stop and think “oh hey she/he’s like me”.

Now I’m not even going to try and explain everything wrong with representation in YA fiction because that’s far too vast and I cannot possibly accurately talk about what other minorities must be feeling. If you are interested in finding a bit more about this, whittynovels on YouTube made a collaboration with a bunch of wonderful booktubers discussing diversity and #ownvoices which I will link here.

This is just a short post talking about my thoughts. If you have any points to add or if I’ve made any incorrect points please kindly let me know in the comments of this post. Also if any of you know a YA book where there is a south asian main character who is portrayed accurately please please let me know!

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THE NIGHT CIRCUS BY ERIN MORGENSTERN REVIEW

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Format: Audiobooks

Goodreads rating: 4.03/5 stars

My rating: 4/5 stars

I don’t know how I have not yet written a review of this book yet oh my gosh it completely slipped my mind but here we are. Let’s head back to the circus for a little bit shall we?

The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night.

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The Night Circus happened to be the first audiobook I’ve ever listened to so there was both the experience of a new book and the experience of listening to it being read that was all just very new to me. I do not own a physical copy of the book, I plan to one day but right now I don’t and I don’t know if I’m missing out on something in terms of the reading experience. Regardless, I really really enjoyed it.

The story itself, felt to me like an adventure. It’s been a while since I have actually been able to completely immerse myself in a book and occasionally forget that I am reading (I feel like any reader would understand how epic that feeling is) and this book did that for me. The detail when it came to all the descriptions of the circus just blew my mind, I honestly felt like I was there and finishing the book felt like I was leaving and I didn’t want to leave. There were this brief chapters here and there that were in second person which I absolutely adored.

Some people describe this book as a love story and honestly, I can’t say I agree. Granted, there is romance but it is just a small aspect of the story and nothing more. The real story is more about the circus and us, as readers discovering it’s mysteries as we move from chapter to chapter. The reveal that Tsukiko was one of Alexander’s students actually made me pause the book for a second because whoa.

The variety in all the different characters was actually very fun to read about. My favorite character is hard to pick honestly because I was really attached to almost all of them. The Murray twins definitely stand out though, and I felt like I was actually watching them grow up and it felt right that they should grow up to take on the circus seeing as they were practically born for the job. And I really really loved Bailey, he is just this precious little human.

The competition between Marco and Celia honestly confused the hell out of me, I guess that was the intended effect but either way. Speaking of which, there was so much direct focus on the competition and setting it up that got blurred and lost in the circus itself, later in the story. At some points, I forgot there was even a competition at all. Other than that and the fact that it was rather slow paced, I don’t have any complaints.

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The Crown by Kiera Cass REVIEW (and a little goodbye to The Selection)

Format: Paperback

Number of pages: 278

Goodreads rating: 3.82/5 stars

My rating: 3.5/5 stars

Alright, folks, I was all set to finish off this book today and then write a vague annoyed review about it but godammit this book made me cry and here I am with a hot mug of tea, not 5 minutes after I put down the book so you better prepare for some emotions.

Let’s just begin with just the book before we get to other sentiments. Overall, it was good (good good *sobs*). I gave it a 3.5 stars and I think that is a pretty good rating considering that I was all set to give it a 2 star rating. I mean, these books have earned the place in many people’s hearts as ‘guilty pleasure’ reads, much like reality tv. And the writing is in no way phenomenal, the main character, Eadlyn, is an annoying little snob most of the time and I wanna shove her, but regardless I enjoyed it.

I like the fact that Kiera Cass included not one, but two gay suitors in this book (a statistic that she had unintentionally overlooked in the past four books). Although it was sort of stereotypical for one of them to be the one that was interested in fashion, it was sort of made up for by the fact that he discovered himself and honestly, it surprised me. I thought Hale would be the winner of The Selection, I honestly did. And for that I applaud you, Kiera Cass. You managed to surprise me in an otherwise very predictable book.

Speaking of predictability, this book definitely had it. I mean, it’s about a princess, what did you expect? She ended up with the man she loves and everything ends up almost cartoonish in it’s perfection. I’m not kidding, the bit at the end where Madrid shows up all ‘this won’t be the last you’ve heard from me’ reminded me of a disney movie. Regardless of all that, I had fun reading this. This book. This series.

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Now on to the sappy stuff. I started this series when I was 14 and I just finished it a few days after my 18th birthday. I didn’t plan for it to be sentimental, I honestly just wanted to finish my Goodreads reading challenge. And I didn’t ever think of The Selection as a series I had a grown with but it has become that.

This is not even in the top 5 of my favorite series. Not even close. But these annoying ass characters and these predictable plot lines meant something to me when I was 14 and although it’s not the same, they still mean something to me now. So yeah, I cried a little over the end of this series and that’s always kinda nice (don’t get me wrong, I’m emotional, NOT heartbroken. I do not want to know about Eadlyn’s married life and children, Kiera Cass. You did good)

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Press pause

Perhaps I had a bit of a crisis

A bit? It’s been 2 months

Yes. A bit.

Minimal.

Unimportant.

The crisis? Or me?

I’m not a crisis,

I’m a person.

A person having a crisis?

Maybe. Sometimes.

Some crisis,

it stops for breaks.

I find tiny expanses

Of sky and escape.

And the crisis goes,

“What now? Do I stop?”

But of course it doesn’t.

Instead,

it pauses.

The pauses fill me up,

swallow me whole,

surround me.

And yet

I do not drown in the pauses,

I drift.

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE NATURALS BY JENNIFER LYNN BARNES – REVIEW

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Format: Paperback

Number of pages: 308

Goodreads avg. rating: 4.15/5 stars

My rating: 3.5/5 stars

The Naturals by Jennifer Lynn Barnes is described as Criminal Minds for the young adult crowd. Now, I’m not really a person that reads a lot of crime fiction, in fact I think this may be the first of its kind that I have ever read. And as it is a young adult novel it definitely is a lot lighter than most crime fiction novels but it surprised me and I ended up actually enjoying it. This is one of those books that I think would be really really popular as a movie.

If you have not  heard of this book before, it revolves around this group of kids with “special abilities” but by that they don’t mean super powers. Oh, no. That’s where this is a little different from the norm. The kids in this book have skills such as a natural ability to read people, or emotions, or detect lies and because of this, the FBI offer them an opportunity to be trained in these skills in exchange for solving cold cases. That’s pretty much the basic summary. This is also the first book in a 4 book series.

My opinion on this book changed drastically at different points in my reading progress. When I first saw the book in the store, I was intrigued by the cover – I mean look at that, it’s a GIFT wrapped in POLICE TAPE.WHAT COULD IT MEAN?? – so I went ahead and read the synopsis. And then I was confused – the FBI need teenagers…? – but I just figured what the hell, so I bought it and started reading it immediately.

For me, the book started of pretty slow. Not much was happening and I believe I was 150 ish pages in when I started to wonder “WHEN IS THE COOL MYSTERY STUFF HAPPENING?” but from that point it started to pick up and there were all these plot twists and I was just entranced. I fled through it. So the only reason this book didn’t get a 4 star rating is because it started off slow.

✖️✖️SPOILERS AHEAD✖️✖️

So let’s talk about Cassie. She’s more or less the typical young adult protagonist. She’s confused about some things and I don’t really know how to put it, I just didn’t LOVE her a whole lot. My favorite character from the book is actually Sloane. I just loved that she’d randomly spurt out all these statistics and facts.

Also the “romance” felt like it was just thrown in to the mix because it had to be. There was no real gradual build up in her emotions towards Michael and vice versa so it wasn’t really believable to me. Maybe it will get better in the next books but for now I really have no interest in this unnecessary “love triangle” between Cassie, Michael and Dean. Although I suppose Michael’s feelings toward her did have a plot point towards the end?

Speaking of the end, I DID NOT SEE THAT COMING. I’d forgotten that Locke even had red hair and when it was revealed that she was the killer I just took a moment to go “Wait whaaaat?” and I was entirely immersed in those pages.

My favorite part was when Cassie started to tie all the murders to her mother’s. And those short “you” chapters just gave me chills. It was honestly terrifying to be in the mind of a killer and when she was sending that gift to Cassie ugh I was freaking out.

Overall, I really enjoyed this and I will definitely be continuing with the rest of the series asap.

 

 

Flawed by Cecelia Ahern – REVIEW 

Rating: 3/5 stars 

This book gets so many mixed reviews, I honestly wasn’t even gonna pick it up. But then it was lying on my shelf and one day I just ACCIDENTALLY started it. I know, what you’re thinking: how does one accidentally start a book? Well I was just trying to figure out which book to read next and I was going through my TBR pile, reading a page of every book until I came upon Flawed. And before I realized it I had read 30 pages.

So, I suppose what I’m saying is that it’s initially an interesting concept. Much like the Selection series. It’s too draggy, not much plot or everything is all over the place, but you just gotta keep reading.
In case you don’t know what this book is about and you’re mwindering what on earth I’m rambling about, lemme sum it up in a non-spoiler-y way:

It’s a dystopian novel about a society where the slightest “immoral” mistake is punished by branding the letter F on your body. It’s public humiliation to be considered “Flawed”. And then there’s this apparently perfect and flawless girl called Celestine North somehow ends up in this huge mess. That’s all I can really say.

I found it predictable in some parts or confusing. Although that is entirely to do with the way it was written, I suppose. The premise and the overall concept, I found terrifying. You come across all these Flawed people who barely did anything and they’re just publicly humiliated and disgraced. And then it occurred to me that our world is already slowly falling in to this sort of society. Discrimination is a serious issue, and I feel like this book sort of tries to bring that up, very vaguely though.

I didn’t hate the book, didn’t love it either. Will I pick up the second book next year? Eh, who knows. Maybe I might “accidentally ” pick up that one too 😂