Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Top Ten Favorite Books of 2016

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish. There is a new subject each week and this week's theme is "Freebie".

I meant to share my list of favorites when that topic was covered in December but I missed that week due to illness. I got the idea for for the setup of my list from Christina at Confessions of a Book Addict. You can find her list of 2016 favorites here.

In 2016, I read 140 books. Several of those books were rereads. I had fun rereading the Harry Potter books on audio, rereading The Lord of the Rings, and rereading several classics (also on audio). I also read quite a few books I requested for review as well as some new to me authors I found out about at the library or through other book bloggers. Let's hope 2017 is filled with many more great books to be discovered.

My favorite 2016 books for adults:

Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult

If I had to pick just one book that would be my favorite of 2016, this would be it. In my review, I described it as a "thought provoking and unputdownable story". While her books can be hit or miss, this one hit it out of the ballpark.

America's First Daughter by Stephanie Dray

I decided to read this one after seeing a really positive review for it (thanks Christina!) and because I was in the middle of planning a trip to Monticello. I took the book with me and it really enriched my visit. It was also a fascinating look at Thomas Jefferson and other historical figures through the eyes of Jefferson's daughter.

Crosstalk by Connie Willis

I was initially hesitant about reading this though the premise sounded interesting. I wasn't sure if I would like it since it is technically science fiction but I loved it. In the story, couples can have a surgery done that will allow them to experience each other's emotions so they'll feel how much their partner loves them. The main character undergoes the procedure with her almost-fiance but it backfires and she hears another guy's thoughts instead.

The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman

I wanted to read this because it involves libraries and being able to travel to different worlds through the library. I thought it would be similar to Ink and Bone by Rachel Caine, a YA book I loved but it was refreshingly different. I have since read the sequel and now can't wait to get my hands on the third book. I think it is an interesting fantasy with dragons, fairies and librarians. There is even an evil rogue librarian on the loose. You don't have to be a librarian to enjoy this though. :)

A Murder in Time by Julie McElwain

A book that involves time travel and stopping a serial killer? It sounded like a win-win to me and it certainly was. I was recommended this book by a coworker of mine and I'm glad I listened to her and decided to give it a try. The main character is an FBI agent who suffered a serious and traumatic loss when her team is betrayed. While trying to stop the suspect, she ends up back in time in the early 1800s where a serial killer is on the loose. Sounds crazy but somehow it all works.

I Will Send Rain by Rae Meadows

I thought this was well written. I liked the descriptive writing style and imagery and the way the setting seemed to come to life. This would be a good pick for book discussion groups too.

The Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson

I loved Major Pettigrew's Last Stand and while this novel is different as a historical rather than contemporary, it also deals with village life like the first book. The setting is the summer leading up to WWI but I was reminded of the WWII TV series Homefires. The main character Beatrice Nash is a Latin teacher new to the village and there are those who feel she isn't right for the job and that a man should have been hired instead. 

One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid

One True Loves is the story of a woman who is tragically widowed when her husband's helicopter goes down over the Pacific and a few years later she has found love again. She is just newly engaged when she finds out that her husband is still alive. In the wrong hands this could have been tired melodrama but instead it is a thoughtful novel about love and life choices.

The Golden Son by Shilpi Somaya Gowda

Her first novel, Secret Daughter is one of my favorites so I couldn't wait to read this. Also taking place partly in India and partly in the U.S., The Golden Son is about Anil, a young man who dreams of being a doctor and what his life is like when he finally gets to go to medical school. He is torn between life in the U.S. and returning to India where he is expected to take up his dad's role as arbiter in his village. The other main character is Leena, Anil's childhood friend and the tough path life takes her on.

And Every Morning The Way Home Gets Longer and Longer by Fredrik Backman

This little novella packs a powerful punch. It is the story of Noah, his father and his grandfather who is suffering from dementia. Fredrik Backman is becoming one of my favorite authors. 

My favorite 2016 young adult books:

Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

Salt to the Sea is the beautifully written companion novel to Between Shades of Gray (though the book can be read as a standalone) and features Lina's cousin Joana. The novel tells the true story of the tragedy of the Wilhelm Gustlaf and the refugees who hoped to find freedom aboard the ship.

A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas

I thought this sequel to A Court of Thorns and Roses was even better than the first book. I loved the worldbuilding, the character development, the romance and the unexpected twists. Unfortunately the book ended with a cliffhanger and I can't wait till the third book is published in May.

Girl in the Blue Coat by Monica Hesse

This book is set in Nazi Occupied Amsterdam and the main character Hanneke makes a living by delivering black market goods for her boss. She gets involved (initially unwillingly) in the Resistance when one of her customers hires her to track down a missing Jewish girl she'd been hiding.  I think readers who liked Anne Blankman's Prisoner of Night and Fog or Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein would like this book

Like a River Glorious by Rae Carson

This is the sequel to Walk on Earth a Stranger. While I preferred the setting for that one as I love pioneer stories and reading about wagon trains, this was also interesting. The main setting is a mining camp. The characters also continued to grow, even the secondary ones and there was plenty of action. I can't wait for the next book.

The Geek's Guide to Unrequited Love by Sarvenaz Tash

I've never been to a Comic Con though my library has held our own mini Comic Con event for the past two years. I loved all the "nerdy" references and couldn't help but root for Graham to win Roxy's heart. From my review: The Geek's Guide to Unrequited Love was a joy to read. It is a sweet and funny story about friendship, love and fandom.

The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson

I really enjoy Morgan Matson's books and this one didn't disappoint. I liked Andie and Clark and I loved the development of Andie's relationship with her dad and the portrayal of the ups and downs of teen friendship. 

All We Have Left by Wendy Mills

This book was pretty sad. In one storyline teenaged Alia is upset with her parents and decides to visit her dad at his office in the World Trade Center on September 11th. In the other storyline Jesse is growing up under the shadow of her brother who died in the World Trade Center ten years before and she gets in trouble for a racist incident. Both stories interconnect and make for a moving and thought provoking read.

My favorite 2016 middle grade books:

Pax by Sara Pennypacker

I decided to read this book when it was nominated for a Goodreads Choice Award. Pax is a fox who was rescued as a kit by his boy Peter. Now Pax and Peter have been separated by a war and both boy and fox are trying to make their way home to each other. Such a sweet and bittersweet story. 

Summerlost by Ally Condie

Summerlost is the story of Cedar and her mom and younger brother Miles who have just arrived at their summer home for the first summer after the death of Cedar's dad and brother Ben. It is touching and funny and I enjoyed seeing Cedar's friendship develop with Leo and how they changed each other's lives. The theater is an important component of the story and there is also a little mystery to be solved.

My favorite books for adults published prior to 2016:

Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah

This is partly historical fiction set in Russia during World War II and partly a modern day story about two sisters and their complicated relationship with their cold and distant mom. It is fascinating and deeply sad as their mother's history and the truth is revealed. One member of my book group said she thought it was better than The Nightingale

These is My Words by Nancy E. Turner

I wasn't sure I was going to like this historical novel. It is written in diary entry form and the main character starts out with poor grammar and spelling (she is barely literate at the beginning) but as the story progressed, her grammar and spelling improved and I found myself sucked in to a fascinating tale about life on a wagon train in the late 19th Century. Also it's based on a true story.

My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry by Fredrik Backman

I read this with my book group and while I didn't like it as much as A Man Called Ove, it was still pretty good. I liked the close bond between Elsa and her grandmother as well as all the humor. 

A Fireproof Home for the Bride by Amy Scheibe

I read this with my book group and I think it is perfect for book discussion. The main character Emmy is growing up in a really strict household in 1950s Minnesota and she is expected to marry Ambrose who is not the greatest guy. Emmy grows from being this acquiescent and biddable girl to a young woman with her own mind in a place where women were expected to abide by the rules of their husbands or fathers. 

We Never Asked For Wings by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

This is another book I read with my book group. I haven't read her debut novel The Language of Flowers though it got so much buzz but I thought this was pretty good. I felt frustrated with the mother, Letty, at times but I liked her more as she stepped up to become a better mom.

Sweetshop of Dreams by Jenny Colgan

I almost added The Bookshop on the Corner to my honorable mentions list but didn't like that one as much as this. I loved Rosie and her aunt and the residents of Lipton (except the dentist). The setting was fun and although a lot of the sweets were new to me, I liked the descriptions of the sweetshop. It sounded like a magical place.

A Window Opens by Elisabeth Egan

I thought this was both funny and a thoughtful look at careers, family, and the importance of books.

My Favorite Books for Teens Published Prior to 2016:

Nimona by Noelle Stevenson

This graphic novel was creative and funny and I loved the illustrations. Nimona is a strong character and I liked Lord Ballister Blackheart, villain with a heart of gold. This is probably the most unexpected and surprisingly good book I read in 2016.

The Heart of Betrayal by Mary E. Pearson

I loved The Kiss of Deception but didn't get around to this sequel till this year. The Heart of Betrayal really develops the characters from the first book and introduces the fascinating setting of Venda. A lot changes over the course of the book and there is a cliffhanger ending.

All In by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Another fantastic entry in this YA suspense series about some talented teens working for the FBI. The main character has a gift for profiling killers. It can be chilling to read at times. 

Newt's Emerald by Garth Nix

This was a fun historical fantasy novel set during the Regency. There is a theft of a jewel, magic, some crossdressing, plenty of humor and adventure. I wish there was a sequel!

Best Audiobooks:

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, read by Rosamund Pike

This is the first classic I listened to from Audible Studios. I loved Rosamund Pike's narration. She does a great job with all the voices and her interpretation of Mrs. Bennet and Mr. Collins had me in stitches. I wish she'd read Jane Austen's other novels too.

Anne of Green Gables, read by Rachel McAdams

Rachel McAdams did a fantastic job bringing Anne Shirley to life. I enjoyed listening to this story and do wish she'd record the rest of the series for Audible too.

Emma by Jane Austen, read by Juliet Stevenson

I've heard that Juliet Stevenson is the narrator to listen to when it comes to Jane Austen (I make a notable exception for Pride and Prejudice though I may give her version a try someday). What made this so fun to listen to (aside from the novel itself) was her performance as Mrs. Elton since she so memorably played the character in the Gwyneth Paltrow film version.

Newt's Emerald by Garth Nix, read by Faye Adele

Although I have an ARC of this book I chose to listen to the audiobook when I found it through my library on Overdrive. It was such a fun book to listen to and very entertaining for my work commute. I enjoyed it so much that I may listen to it again sometime.

The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan, read by Katherine Kellgren and Kevin R. Free

At first I almost returned this to Audible because I am not a fan of Katherine Kellgren's voice. I got used to it though as the story progressed (it was only shrill every once in awhile) and got caught up in the adventure. I am sure I will listen to this series again in the future.

The Princess, the Scoundrel and the Farm Boy by Alexandra Bracken, read by Marc Thompson and Rebecca Soler

I wanted to read this book but when I saw that Marc Thompson read the audio (as well as Rebecca Soler, who narrated the Lunar Chronicles so well) I knew I had to listen to the audio version. The story is a retelling of the "first" (as in original 1977) Star Wars movie, mainly through the eyes of Leia. It really helps add depth to her character and everything that happens. Both the story and the narration were fantastic. 

Honorable Mention Books for Adults:

The Choices We Make by Karma Brown
On Second Thought by Kristan Higgins (published Jan. 2017)
The Masked City by Genevieve Cogman
Somewhere Out There by Amy Hatvany
The Matchmakers of Minnow Bay by Kelly Harms
The Sheriffs of Savage Wells by Sarah M. Eden
The Things We Keep by Sally Hepworth

Honorable Mention Books for Teens:

Wanderlost by Jen Malone
A Shadow Bright and Burning by Jessica Cluess
Sword and Verse by Kathy MacMillan
The Beauty of Darkness by Mary E. Pearson
These Vicious Masks by Tarun Shanker and Kelly Zekas
Exile for Dreamers by Kathleen Baldwin
Flying by Carrie Jones
United by Melissa Landers
Starflight by Melissa Landers


  1. This is such a great list! The Unexpected Everything and Like a River Glorious were 2 of my favorites as well. I have One True Loves on audio so I'm happy to see it on your list!

  2. Oh my gosh, what fantastic lists you've made! I want to read so many of the books you've loved. The Golden Son also made it to my list of favorites and I've borrowed The Vicious Masks, which I hope to read soon. I bought America's First Daughter but have yet to read it.

  3. One True Love. Yes, yes, 100x yes. I absolutely loved this book so so much. Surprisingly, I haven't read any of the YA books, but all are on my TBR. I'me excited for them all, Salt to the Sea, especially. Pax, I'll be getting that book for my nephew (and for myself). It sounds lovely. Okay, I'd go through every bit here, but my comment would be forever long. So many books I want to read and so many more books that I want to add to my TBR :)

    My TTT

  4. What a great post! I haven't read half of these books but definitely am very interested in some of them. I really want to read A Murder in Time. That story sounds right up alley. Starflight and A Shadow Bright and Burning are also on my radar.

  5. Hah, I think this is a little more than 10 ;) I adored The Unexpected Everything. I'm so happy I discovered Morgan Matson in 2016! I really want to read The Geek's Guide to Unrequited Love! It sounds so cute and nerdy and I've heard wonderful things about it. Great list!!

    My TTT!

  6. Ooh that premise for crosstalk- wow! That sounds interesting! The Invisible Library *nods* and Taylor Jenkins Reid- I read a different book of hers but that one sounds good too. she seems to really explore choices. The geek's Guide and PAx I'd like to read...

    Exile Dreamers and Starflight- great honorable mentions.

  7. Wow, this list is thorough. It’s good that you liked Salt to the Sea. That one is on my TBR list.

    Aj @ Read All The Things!

  8. Wow, lots of titles to look into reading!!

    Here's a link to my TTT post for this week: http://captivatedreader.blogspot.com/2017/01/top-ten-tuesday-freebie-top-ten.html

  9. Some great books on your list!
    My TTT: https://jjbookblog.wordpress.com/2017/01/24/top-ten-tuesday-93/

  10. What a fantastic list! Thank you so much for the shoutout. I want to print out your list and take it with me next time I go to the library - so many good books on there that I want to read! I completely agree w/ you regarding America's First Daughter, Court of Mist, One True Loves, Salt to the Sea, and Unexpected Everything. I didn't get around to reading Summer Before the War and really want to read it! I also enjoyed Fireproof Home and Wanderlost. I also am intrigued by The Choices We Make and will have to get that one out from the library. Thanks for sharing your favorites with us!

  11. Wow, I enjoyed all the different categories. I started the year with Small Great Things, great discussion but I had a major book hangover that I am still recovering from.

    I have One True Love and the Naturals series on my list.

    Fredrik Backman has became a popular read author last year after the release of Ove.

    Kristin Hannah is one of my favourite authors, Nightingale was a top ten in 2016 but I haven't read Winter Garden and look forward to getting to that one.

  12. Invisible Library, Crosstalk, and Murder in Time are all on my tbr. I can't wait to read them since you enjoyed them so much.


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