Tuesday, 27 December 2016

Ten Of My Favourite Books In 2016

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish.

I change my mind on how to do this - whether to count just books published this year or everything, whether to include re-reads or not, and other things like that - every year. For this year, I'm including absolutely everything I've read (so a few aren't quite out yet - sorry!) and I'm throwing in 10 short stories too, in a separate list.

For both lists, I'm describing them as Ten Of My Favourites rather than an actual Top Ten - because as ever, my tastes change a LOT and there are some amazing books which haven't made it!

Ten Of My Favourite Books

(Order is roughly - because my record-keeping sucks - order in which I read them.)

Radio Silence by Alice Oseman

Study machine Frances makes a proper friend for the first time in the reclusive Aled, who is the genius behind the podcast she loves. When their friendship breaks down she's devastated, but she also has to cope with the secrets from her past, while he fights even darker things at university. 

I love the main two characters here - a brilliantly-written platonic friendship between a guy and a girl is NOT that easy to find in YA, sadly, but this absolutely delivers. There's a hugely diverse cast (yay for ace spectrum rep!) and Alice Oseman captures the pressure of sixth form and of university perfectly. She's also done an amazing job of showing the positives and negatives of internet culture, while Frances's mother is one of my favourite parents in YA - a fantastically supportive character.

This Song Is (Not) For You by Laura Nowlin

Bandmates Sam and Ramona are in love with each other, but neither has got around to telling the other that yet. Then new boy Tom joins their band and Ramona falls in love with him - but she still loves Sam too. How can they work this out?

Oh wow oh wow oh wow, ace representation again, an AMAZING love triangle, and three incredibly likeable main characters. This completely blew me away. I adored the way the central trio actually talk through things, I liked the relationships they had with their parents, and overall this stands out as pretty close to being unique in several ways. 

Right of First Refusal by Dahlia Adler (#2 in Radleigh University series, but completely readable as a standalone)

(New Adult - the only title on this list that isn't YA or MG.) Lacrosse player Cait Johannssen is stunned to find that her roommate's new boyfriend is Mase, who broke her heart at sports camp two years earlier. They agree to keep their past a secret but as the two see more and more of each other this gets ever harder.

Super hot, super intense. I love the central pairing here and there's a fabulous supporting cast (who are nearly all queer; lots of awesome representation!) Both the romance and the sports plotlines are incredibly well built and I was cheering for Cait and Mase all the way.

If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo

18 year old Amanda is pretty and popular and makes friends as soon as she starts at her new school. But Amanda was previously called Andrew and she's afraid that details about her past will leak out, while she's also trying to navigate a difficult relationship with her father. Can she keep her secret?

The first #ownvoices YA book I've read by a trans author, this is a gorgeously sweet coming of age story. Meredith Russo says in her author's note that she intentionally gave Amanda an easier journey than many trans people have - she's conventionally attractive, passes easily, and has a family trying hard to be accepting. However it's still a must-read; I adored Amanda and her friends and it's a wonderful and warm-hearted book.

Unboxed by Non Pratt

Four friends meet up at their old school to open letters that they - and a fifth, who has recently died - wrote several years ago. In the course of the evening, the reunited group of friends learn a lot about each other.

As ever, Non Pratt packs a real punch with another wonderful contemporary story. There is more character development here than you'll see in many much longer novels and the story is incredibly moving - it had me near tears when I read it in one sitting (during a break between panels at YALC.) For anyone who's had friends and grown apart from them (and, really, who hasn't?), reading this will bring back a lot of memories.

Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo (#2 in the Six Of Crows duology)

No plot summary to avoid spoilers for book 1.

Leigh Bardugo does the near-impossible and improves on the almost perfect Six Of Crows. This sequel has an even more gripping plot, the character dynamics between the Crows are even more compelling, and my heart felt like it never left my mouth while I was reading it. I ship several pairs of characters super hard here so I was desperate to see whether they'd get together as well as whether Kaz and his crew would outsmart their enemies.

Dragon With A Chocolate Heart by Stephanie Burgis

Young dragon Aventurine sneaks out by herself to try and capture a tasty human, only to be tempted by his hot chocolate and find herself magically transformed into a human girl. Declawed and defanged, she sets out to make the most of the transformation by getting a job as an apprentice chocolatier, but things don't go quite according to plan.

Completely and utterly gorgeous MG - the best MG I've read in 2016 - about dragons, chocolate, friends, family and finding your passion in life. I read this one with a massive smile on my face right the way through, and adored Aventurine and new friend Silke. I'm also left in awe of Stephanie after the ending - close to the end I couldn't see how she could wrap things up quickly enough but she pulled it off perfectly.

Enter Title Here by Rahul Kanakia

Reshma is desperate to get into Stanford and, when a literary agent approaches her, decides that a letter of recommendation from the agent would be the perfect way to stand out. She sets out to write a quick first draft of a YA novel - but knowing that she hasn't spent enough time with the popular kids to write a book she thinks would interest the agent, she decides to find herself some friends and a boyfriend to do the high school experience properly as research. Whatever it takes...

I was sold on this by Gossip Girl meets House of Cards comparisons and wow, does it deliver! Antihero Reshma is an utterly amazing character with an incredibly strong voice and, while she's often awful, you can see exactly WHY she does things. It's a sharp and witty read, and behind the humour there's real depth as it looks at tough topics including institutional racism and the abuse of study drugs.

Traitor To The Throne by Alwyn Hamilton (#2 in the Rebel of the Sands series)

No plot summary to avoid spoilers for book 1.

After an explosive ending to book 1, we're plunged straight back into the action here. Amina is an amazing heroine - brave and resourceful, but left doubting herself here as she starts to wonder if the rebellion will really be the best thing for her country. Stunning supporting characters, with newcomer Sam possibly stealing my heart from Leigh Bardugo's Sturmhond. The shades of grey characterisation stands out as superb!

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Starr, torn between two worlds - the poor neighbourhood where she lives and the rich suburban high school she attends - finds both of them forever changed when her best friend is shot by a white police officer. As the only witness, and knowing that he was unarmed and posed no threat, Starr has to figure out what to say with her community potentially about to be torn apart, and death threats coming her way.

A compelling and heartbreaking story of courage, standing up for what's right, fighting prejudice and the power of community. I fell hard for MC Starr, her brother and father, and the rest of the characters. There's an intense, justified, anger here - particularly on a devastating final page - but also moments of joy, and an optimism that things CAN get better if enough people use their voice. I hope readers are inspired to follow Starr's lead. One of the very best books I've read for years and a massively important read.

Also a special mention goes to The Good Immigrant, edited by Nikesh Shukla. I didn't quite feel I could include a book I'm still reading in the list, but I have no doubt that when I finish it'll make it into my top 10 - everything I've read so far in this collection of essays has been outstanding. (I particularly loved pieces by Daniel York Loh, Riz Ahmed, and my incredible friend Wei Ming Kam.)

Ten of my Favourite Short Stories

(I'm saying less about these because I always worry about spoilers when it comes to shorts!)

The Terracotta Bride by Zen Cho - wonderful novella, set in the tenth circle of hell, about the relationships between the three wives of one man (the third of whom is an artificial woman made from terracotta.)

Emily & The Detectives by Susie Day (from Egmont's Mystery & Mayhem collection) - fabulous Victorian detective story; Emily is a brilliant heroine.

God's Eye by Frances Harding (from Egmont's Mystery & Mayhem collection) - Frances Hardinge's prose is gorgeous and the mystery, about an artist falling to his death from a hot air balloon, is an intriguing one. (I didn't guess it, needless to say!)

Superior by Jessica Lack - super-cute m/m romance between a supervillain's apprentice and a superhero's intern. One of my favourite romantic pairings of the year.

The Magic of Midwinter by Amy Alward (from Simon & Schuster's Winter Magic collection) - in a book set in the world of her Potion Diaries series, Amy Alward gives us a gorgeous tale of a girl trying to find the perfect present for her friend.

Family You Choose by Cat Clarke (from Stripes's I'll Be Home For Christmas collection) - Effie goes to the Annual Waifs and Strays Anti-Christmas Dinner, accepting her friend AJ's invitation instead of her 18th birthday party as she can't face her family after being dumped by her girlfriend. This is, surprisingly given how often Cat breaks my heart with her writing, super-sweet!

Homo For Christmas by Juno Dawson (from Stripes's I'll Be Home For Christmas collection) - Another gorgeous Christmas story about a guy going home to tell his mother that he's gay, so that in future he can bring his boyfriend with him.

Undead Philosophy 101 by Stephanie Burgis - Stephanie Burgis is one of my very favourite short story writers and this one, about a girl trying to rescue her roommate who's been twice bitten by a vampire, is exceptional. Grumpy Amanda is a stunning protagonist and the world-building in such a short story is really outstanding.

Legends Are Made, Not Born by Cherie Dimaline (from Bedside Press's Love Beyond Body, Space and Time: An Indigenous LGBT Sci-Fi Anthology) - Really sweet and lovely story about a young child being raised by Auntie Dave, a two-spirit, who teaches them about two-spirit traditions. 

Fighting Demons by SL Huang - Stunning sequel to Hunting Monsters sees two protagonists with very different relationships with their mothers come together and influence each other. Oh, there's also an imprisoned snake demon and an army coming to the rescue!


  1. Oooh, ace rep! I'm gonna take note of those.

  2. If I Was Your Girl was so close to making my list this week. Great choices!

    Check out my TTT and my current giveaway.

  3. It looks like you read a lot of short stories! This year I read probably the most novellas/short stories that I've ever read and it's still a pretty slim number. I usually have a hard time getting into them, but pretty much all of the ones I read this year were so good I'm going to have to start giving them more of a chance!