2016 shall forever be remembered as the redheaded stepchild that no one wants to acknowledge. I've had this Best Of post rattling around in my head for a few weeks now and felt like on this inauguration day, a day that has me filled with concern and doubt for the next four years, I wanted to take a moment to call attention to those little pockets of extraordinary from 2016. Because sometimes you just need to focus on things that make you happy. And all of these books make me happy. This past year I read 198 books: 89 print, 92 ebooks, and 13 audio. These numbers are staggering and when it came down to pick my favorites, I had so much trouble pairing it down.
Best Fantasy series
A Darker Shade of Magic & A Gathering of Shadows by Victoria Schwab
This series is killing me in all the best possible ways. Inventive magical worlds, characters I dream about, and razor sharp dialogue that has me rooting for Lila and Kell like nobody's business. I was already fangirling pretty hard after reading these two but meeting the author this summer clinched my eternal love for her writing. Book 3 is coming next month and I am tense.
Best Bookish (Keeper) Romance
The Hating Game by Sally Thorne
I can't even tell you how many times I've reread this charming book already, which is incredibly unusual for me. 3? 4? Lucy and Josh with their mutual love of strawberries have cemented their place on my keeper shelf. Surprising and witty, I can't wait to see what Ms. Thorne creates next.
Best West End Romance
Act Like It by Lucy Parker
This unexpectedly delightful romp of a romance between two London actors pretending to be in a relationship left me smiling for days. Gorgeous writing peppered with quick banter (and the occasional Harry Potter reference) easily made this a standout.
Best Fantasy/Mythological/Action Romance
A Promise of Fire by Amanda Bouchet
After hearing the promising buzz, I purposefully went into this compelling read completely blind and couldn't have been more impressed with the fantastic world building and intricate story. Cat is such a slippery character. Her snark and caginess are endlessly endearing and I inhaled it all in one sitting.
Best Graphic Novels series...okay, it's a tie
Giant Days and Lumberjanes
I'm a newbie to the bright and colorful world of graphic novels but have gotten some wonderful recommendations from friends Chachic and Maggie on what to start. Both of these series are intricately gorgeous and utterly hilarious. Which I wasn't totally expecting but am totally on board with. Giant Days reminds me so much of my own college dorm experiences and Lumberjanes is just a universally engaging story. It's always a struggle between my son and I over who gets to read the latest edition first.
Best Sports/Slow Burn Romance
Kulti by Mariana Zapata
One of the few books that I actually took the time to write a full review of this year still remains one of my favorites. It's got girl power written all over it with the best slow burn romance I've encountered in a while. As a rising soccer star, Sal is the best kind of heroine. Tough yet considerate with a unquenchable drive to be the best. I love her. I love her family. ...and I love Kulti.
Best Lady Mystery
A Study in Scarlet Women by Sherry Thomas
The first in a new Lady Sherlock series, Sherry Thomas once again managed to surprise and enchant me. Gone is the socially inept male Sherlock; Thomas' creation is feminine and not without her struggles despite her excess of brains. Not only a stunning mystery, it also manages to delve deeply into the expectations and prejudices concerning women. I'm looking forward to more surprises from Ms. Thomas.
Best Nasty Woman in Training Book
Summer Skin by Kirsty Eagar
"It's all Girl meets Boy, Girl steals from Boy, seduces Boy, ties Boy to a chair and burns Boy's stuff. Just your typical love story."
This tag is my favorite but deceptively lacking in conveying the rawness of this book. Yet another shattering offering from Australian Kirsty Eagar, its a biting story about women and their unapologetic sexuality in a college setting. I'm thrilled that an American edition is coming soon so that it can get the increased exposure it deserves.
Best Take You By Surprise Book
Tell the Truth, Shame the Devil by Melina Marchetta
Maybe I should give this one the best creep up on you and then pummel you with all the feels book. I really should have known better, but I didn't not expect such depth and twisting of emotion when I began Marchetta's latest. Mystery, fantasy, YA...if Marchetta writes it, I'm going to love it.
Best I had no I idea I would love this book so much
All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood
Giving into peer pressure, I got a Book of the Month membership this year and this was one of the first titles I received. Pitched to me as 'Beauty and the Beast in meth-land,' you know I was gonna be all over that. Alternating POVs deliver an unflinching look at what it means to be a family and the insane road one girl in particular has to take to get there.
Best New Author Discovery
A few months back I one-clicked a free copy of Neanderthal Seeks Human and thoroughly enjoyed the silliness contained. It didn't change my world, but it was an entertaining read and I decided then to watch out for more Penny Reid in the future. Flash forward to a love affair with Love Hacked and then a crash-course introduction to the Winston Brothers series (don't they have THE BEST covers?). I was lucky enough to meet the ever so charming Penny at a signing at The Ripped Bodice and I am a converted fan. Her stories are fresh with unexpectedly intelligent characters with humor to spare. Her books are the ultimate happy-making experience and I thoroughly recommend them all.
Not surprisingly, you'll notice an obvious trend towards female characters who couldn't care less about what people think they should or shouldn't do. Books about women who do things, who speak their mind, and who aren't afraid to rock the boat. Stories about people changing their world and I hope we see a whole lot more of that in 2017.
So what stories and characters did you discover this year? Please share your favorites too!