Top 5 Favorite Books of 2016

I read quite a few great books this year. I decided to make a list of five instead of ten this time but it was a challenge to narrow them down. These are the books I felt stood out to me the most. In no particular order!

Flora and Ulysses  by Kate DiCamillo
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This is what a great children’s book should be like. I can’t praise it enough. It has a fun and silly premise but still carries a great message. I wrote a full post awhile back.

Salem’s Lot by Stephen King
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I’ve read loads of King’s books but I didn’t read one of his most famous until 2016. Weird, I know. This is definitely one of his best. It moves at a slow pace but I was captured by the atmosphere of the book. This is one of the best vampire and horror novels out there.

The Monstrumologist by Rick Yancy
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It’s great to see such a creative and original book in the YA category. This novel is shockingly gory and is reminiscent of the old fashioned gothic horror novel. There’s pretty much nonstop suspense and horror I loved it. Unfortunately, I thought the second book in the series was “meh” and not as good so I’m a little wary about moving on to the next books in the series.

The Search for Wondla by Tony DiTerlizzi
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“Wondla” is an amazing sci-fi adventure accompanied with some good illustrations, it’s surprising that this book isn’t more popular (I’ve never heard anyone talk about it!). I loved the main character and her robot mom along with the world in general. This is also one book that begs to be made into a movie. I hope to purchase and read the next books in the series soon.

The Child Thief by Brom
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 This is one of the best retellings I’ve ever read (maybe even the best) There’s so many layers and great characterization, another book that I think deserves more attention. I also did a full review.

So that’s my top 5, I hope everyone will read them and enjoy too 🙂 Up next will be a worst of 2016. 

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Joyride by Jack Ketchum| Book Review

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Spoiler-ish.

Joyride is about a woman named Carole and her lover Lee who end up murdering her abusive ex-husband as an act of desperation. A death-obsessed man named Wayne witnesses the act and hopes to commit more murders with them.

The two protagonists of the novel don’t have a really good plan when it comes to murdering Carole’s ex-husband. The whole set up seemed extremely sloppy. Basically the plan is: Bludgeon him to death with a bat on a hiking trail and make it look like a hiking accident. They do a very poor job. Especially since the ex-husband puts up a fight.

Both of them have a lot to lose, so I would have thought they would have come up with a more full-proof plan. Not to mention, Carole is friends with an officer that checks up on her every now and then (because of the past issues with her ex-husband). So, that is one of the glaring issues with the novel.

I also didn’t feel a lot of chemistry between the two leads. And if their willing to commit a murder together, I would think that they would have a more intense relationship. In fact, at times they hardly seem into each other. Maybe this was intentional but I still didn’t like it.

Then we have Wayne, the antagonist. He’s a man who feels intense excitement for the act of murder. He comes close to strangling his girlfriend but before that it seems he never built up the courage to go through with killing a person.

That is until he witnesses Carole and Lee. He’s impressed that they’re able to murder someone. He even covers up the body better for them. Eventually he finds the two of them and wants to go on a killing spree with them. Not surprisingly, they aren’t into it.

Next comes the series of murders. Wayne seems to want to abandon their normal lives in order to go on a road-trip style killing spree. However, he soon realizes that Carole and Lee do not want to be his friends and so he turns on them.

Wayne is the most interesting character in the book – from a psychological stand point. Especially when something very creepy about his mother is reviled. The sections of the book inside his head were the best. He incites a certain level of sympathy (but only a little), and I like when writers do that with the bad guy.

Joyride has a few flaws but it’s a good book. At times, I felt it didn’t go as far as it could have gone but it was a satisfying read in the end.

3.5/5

 

Let’s Go Play At the Adams’ by Mendal Johnson | Underrated Horror Book

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Let’s Go Play At the Adams’ is a horror novel about a babysitter named Barbara who is kidnapped and held captive by a group of kids whose parents are away. While Barbara is completely helpless and afraid the kids have many awful things in store for her. That’s the basics of the plot and before reading I was expecting just a non-stop torture and gorefest. In fact that’s exactly what I was looking for so I went in with high hopes. But the book turned out to be a lot more than that.

There is torture, of course but not much gore. And that’s fine because the most terrifying thing about this book is the psychology of the kids and Barbara’s fear. It’s told in third person omniscient so the reader gets to see the thoughts and feelings of all characters. It’s very well written and one of the best horror stories that I have read.

It’s also insanely underrated. Most people seem to have completely forgotten about this great book, except for a few horror fans that is. It seems to be out of print and I had to get a copy from one of the libraries in my state. I really want to own a copy of my own, it would be great on my bookshelf. However, the used copies on Amazon their selling are about $40 and up, no way I’m paying forty dollars for a single book.

Despite sadly not owning my own copy, I feel like this novel is a real treasure. It was the author’s one and only novel and there doesn’t seem to be much information on him.  I know it was published in the 70s but I wish it would somehow get more attention than it does. It’s not just some cheap horror book that gives you a quick scare, it actually stay with you. At least, that’s how it was for me.

Let’s Go Play at the Adams’ was possibly inspired by the Sylvia Likens case. There are some similarities due to the fact it involves suburban kids terrorizing someone. Although In the book there’s no adult leading them. A fairly well known horror book inspired by the case is The Girl Next Door by Jack Ketchum which I have read and own a copy. The two books can easily be compared.

So when I compare the two I definitely enjoy Mendal Johnson’s book a lot more. In fact despite all the praise it gets from many horror fans, I didn’t like Ketchum’s novel that much. It’s still good and definitely a page turner but it wasn’t as shocking or as terrifying as I expected…it just wasn’t deep enough for me. The narrator was annoying and maybe that was intentional but the book just wasn’t what I wanted it to be.

Adams’ on the other hand wasn’t exactly what I expected it to be but it was definitely something I wanted.

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell | Review and Fanfiction Nostalgia

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Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell is one of the most recent books that I’ve read. I had heard about it again and again on Booktube and the premise really interested me as a former fanfiction writer. I went in with pretty high expectations and overall the book pretty much met those expectations. It’s a very good story that I’m sure many people can relate to, including me.

Fangirl was an engaging book with some great characters. Even though I found Cath annoying at times, she was actually a lot like me. In terms of being introverted and writing fanfiction. But the great story aside, the best thing about this book was the memories it brought back of my fanfic days.

The Simon Snow series/fandom that Cath writes for in the book is probably based on the Harry Potter fandom. Well I’ve written a few fanfics for Harry Potter along with other fandoms but the main thing I wrote for was InuYasha. In the same way Cath loved Simon Snow, I loved InuYasha and even though I no longer write fanfiction for it, it still means a lot to me.

In the book Cath’s really popular on the fanfic site that she writes for. Well, I wasn’t that popular but I still got plenty of reviews and hits. I remember how great it was reading and writing the fanfiction, being able to do what I wanted with my favorite characters. Also like Cath, I often shipped same sex pairings (but unlike her I often did femslash aka girl on girl) although my OTP (One True Pairing) for the InuYasha fandom was a heterosexual ship.

I think many people don’t understand how much a fandom can mean to someone, for a lot of people it’s just entertainment. Simon Snow is more than just entertainment to Cath, it’s a big part of her life. InuYasha was/is a big part of my life, it wasn’t just some anime to me. It was something that consumed me and helped me when I was down. Even though I’ll probably never write fanfiction again, I still watch my InuYasha dvds over and over again. It will always be with me.

One thing I don’t have in common with Cath is that she preferred to write fanfiction over original works. That was never the case with me, I always preferred writing original stories over my fanfics. And now I just strictly write original work. Reading Fangirl made me consider writing fanfiction again and maybe I might write a few one-shots sometime in the future.

The reason I stopped writing fanfics in the first place is hard to explain, I guess I sort of got caught up in other things and lost the motivation. But being involved was still a fun time in my life that I’ll always remember. In the end, Fangirl is amazing maybe not perfect but still great. It will definitely click with all the fanfiction writers or former fanfiction writers out there.

Note: I posted this review on my old blog awhile ago.

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe | Book Review

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Things Fall Apart follows Okonkwo, a man respected in his village for being a wrestling champion. Due to his father’s failures, he spends his life striving to be an ideal man. Okonkwo eventually has to deal with his life and culture changing drastically when European colonizers show up.

I enjoyed Things Fall Apart. Even though the writing style is simplistic I thought the story was very profound. The culture (Ibo/Igbo) is captured very well – as someone unfamiliar it was really interesting to read about.

Okonkwo was also an interesting character. He’s not likeable and does some pretty terrible things but I thought his character was complex. He’s basically a flaw, tragic figure. His desperation to not be like his father and the pressures he faced to be a strong man were great character development.

I think the best thing about the book is that it gave an African culture a complex story. Many books at the time (like Heart of Darkness which Achebe had a few choice words about) tended to portray the cultures and people as barbaric.

The way the book presents the Ibo people shows it’s like most other cultures, with both good and bad practices. The people are real and have a story of their own – they deserve to have their side told.

However, there is some misogyny in the book that could be pretty uncomfortable (Okonkwo beating his wives and strongly wishing his favorite daughter was a boy, are just two examples.) I can’t really tell if the text is supporting it or just being honest about the portrayal of the culture.

Either way, when the European missionaries showed up in the novel it’s a tragic ordeal, Okonkwo’s world falls apart and the text portrays that well. The ending was also very heartbreaking – not just because of Okonkwo’s fate but because of what it says about one of the dangers of colonialism.

Things Fall Apart is a must read.

4/5

 

Kindred by Octavia Butler | Book Review

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Kindred is a science fiction book about a modern day black woman (modern as in 70s) who keeps getting sent back and forth between her time and slave times. Each time she has to save the son of a slavemaster named Rufus from life threatening situations he keeps getting in. Every time she returns and as Rufus gets older her experiences become more and more dangerous.

I’ve seen the book classified under science fiction, fantasy, historical fiction or just literature. It doesn’t really have that much of a sci-fi feel, someone who doesn’t like or read that genre could probably enjoy it. I’ve hardly read any science fiction (though I’m thinking of reading more) and still loved it.

 The book is a quick and exciting read but has many deep themes about things like race, women, history and more. Kindred was definitely a great read, I now consider it one of my hall of fame books. I can’t say Dana’s first person voice was anything unique but the story itself and the emotion of it are what makes it great.

Dana’s odd relationship with Rufus is the best part about the book. Their relationship was not romantic or anything but it was intense. It probably would have been interesting if Dana had developed romantic feelings for Rufus but hated him at the same time but I understand why this wasn’t the case.

Also the cover on this edition doesn’t do the book justice at all. 5/5

Note: I posted this review before on my old blogger site called sadiereads, I changed to this one awhile ago.

Reading Wrap-Up | November 2016

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I didn’t read that much this month. But I’d still say it was a good reading month. I also haven’t done a wrap-up in awhile, and I want to get back into doing so.

Jasmine by Bharati Mukherjee

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I like reading about other cultures and I thought the narrator’s life in her home village in India was pretty captivating. However, the book is mostly full of soap opera-like events throughout the rest of the book. The main character also become very unlikeable, especially with the ending.

Nancy Drew Files #1: Secrets can Kill by Carolyn Keene

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I was in the mood for some Nancy Drew. This is one of the best Nancy Drew books. Except Nancy’s crazy attraction to Daryl was kind of awkward. Otherwise this is a fun little read, I may even do a full review.

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

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This was a really great book. The way it captures the complexity of one culture is amazing. The main character isn’t likeable but he is an interesting and tragic figure.

Foe by JM Coetzee

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There’s just something I really love about this book. It’s weird and experimental but there’s something really masterful in it’s overall theme.