Book Beat’s best of 2016! Recommending my 30 (!) favorite books of the year!

Can you believe we’re almost done with 2016? Yeah, good riddance. While this isn’t the best year, there were some remarkable books that helped make this year tolerable. These are my books I read in 2016 so a few came out last year and there are some great 2016 books I haven’t had a chance to read yet. (They are balefully staring at my from my bookshelf — soon my little pretties!) Here are books you’ll be sure to enjoy and P.S. they make great gifts!

Big endings (Completed series)

For those who like to binge-watch TV, you can binge-read a couple of these terrific series now that the final book is out!

  • The Winner’s Trilogy (The Winner’s Curse, The Winner’s Crime, The Winner’s Kiss) by Marie Rutkowski -This romantic fantasy series has a historical flavor as several countries are on the brink of war. Its beautifully written, smart, emotional and just excellent.
  • The Young Elites (The Young Elites, The Rose Society, The Midnight Star) by Marie Lu – This epic fantasy is about how a girl becomes the villain. In this world, a select few of society’s undesirables develop superpowers and Adelina decides it’s time that they were no longer repressed. Despite the horrible things that she does, you’re with her all the way even through a lot of surprising twists.
  • Reckoners (Steelheart, Firefight, Calamity) by Brandon Sanderson – If you like superhero movies, then you’ll enjoy this trilogy where a strange event brings out superpowers. Action, great characters, it’s a great comic book in novel form.
  • Reliquary (Reliquary, Splinter, Mosaic) by Sarah Fine – This series may or may not be completed since the author has fulfilled the three book deal, but she’s willing to go back and continue this very dark and very sexy series.  I’m hoping there will be more books in the future! Mattie Carver falls into the mob scene when her fiance’s secrets come crashing down. Only this mob scene is unlike any other — they trade in powerful magics.
  • Other worthy completed series: The Remnant Chronicles by Mary E. Pearson (epic fantasy, political romance), Worldwalker trilogy by Josephine Angelini (witches and parallel worlds)



Looking for a little magic (Fantasy)

Ah! A great escape to a different world! Fans of Westworld and Game of Thrones may want to particularly check out The Diabolic and Nevernight.

  • A Torch Against the Night by Sabaa Tahir -This is the second book in a beautiful and epic series so make sure you start with An Ember in the Ashes. Inspired by ancient Rome, society is ruled by the military and education is repressed. The daughter of a scholar, Laia goes undercover as a slave to spy on the military and help take down the empire. Thrilling, moving, romantic and heartbreaking. Read this one!
  • The Diabolic by S.J. Kincaid – Another tale of a girl who goes undercover, but this is about an android bodyguard in space. Very different! Nemesis was created to protect the senator’s daughter and she takes her place as a political hostage. Is she just an android or is she something more? Hello echos of Westworld! The Diabolic has been optioned as a film so we may see this on the big screen some day. This is a standalone book if you don’t want to invest in a series, there is just this one book. (Here’s hoping that the author decides to write more stories set in this universe!)
  • Nevernight by Jay Kristoff – A girl is orphaned and joins a guild of assassins to learn the skills to avenge her family. This start of a new series is bloody and dark with some amusing commentary to help lighten things up. If you watch Game of Thrones, this is what Arya’s time in Bravos should have been and not wiping down corpses (yawn!).
  • Other worthy fantasy books: The Reader by Traci Chee (a world where reading is outlawed), A Promise of Fire by Amanda Bouchet (adult romance fantasy about a woman who’s kidnapped for her ability to read people), Black Moon by Romina Russell (book #3 in a huge science fiction saga)



Something completely different

If you think that there’s nothing original out there, here are a few books to prove that wrong! These authors mixed up a few genres to give us something completely original. These books may sound a bit kooky, but they work!

  • Blood for Blood by Ryan Graudin – (Alternate history + shapeshifting + thriller) This is the conclusion to Wolf by Wolf, set in a world where Hitler won World War II. Yael, the product of Nazi experiment, goes undercover in a cross-continental motorcycle race to assassinate Hitler. Such a crazy good series!
  • My Lady Jane by Brodi Ashton, Cynthia Hand and Jodi Meadows -(Alternate history + shapeshifting + comedy) For something a little lighter, My Lady Jane is a comedic twist on the history of Lady Jane Grey who was queen for 9 days before Mary Tudor took the throne. In this wacky world, England isn’t torn apart by Catholics and Protestants — its warring over shapeshifters. Lady Jane is engaged to Lord Dudley who spends his mornings as a horse.
  • A Shadow Bright and Burning by Jessica Cluess – (Historic fiction + paranormal + dash of Jane Austen) Set in Victorian times, Henrietta trains to be the first female sorcerer in a world filled with magic and monsters.
  • Other worthy choices: Timekeeper by Tara Sims (LGBT steampunk with clocks that control time), Scythe by Neal Shusterman (dystopian utopian story where everyone lives forever…unless a Scythe decides you have to die)



Living in the present

If you’d rather read books set in the here and now, here’s my favorites of the year which range from cute/lighthearted to heartbreaking. So many good books here!

  • The Serpent King by Jeff ZenterWhile the title may sound like a horror book, its a contemporary. The Serpent King is about three misfit kids who are trying to figure out if their lives are already determined by the small town they live in. It’s a beautiful and heartbreaking tale of finding yourself.
  • Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum -A cute romance which features a girl who moves to a new town and has a secret admirer. Adorable emails and a great ending!
  • First & Then by Emma Mills – Inspired by Pride and Prejudice with a bit of Emma, a girl crushes on the wrong guy and adjusting to life with a new brother. Lots of cute dialogue, this is a lot of fun with heart.
  • Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld – How about a full-on re-telling of Pride and Prejudice? This version is complete with reality shows, fitness gurus and more. A lot of what the Bennett sisters do would horrify Jane Austen, but she would certainly recognize her characters and story.
  • A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro – A charming love letter to Sherlock Holmes! The great, great, great grandkids of Holmes and Watson meet in prep school. When one of their classmates dies, they pair are the prime suspects and team up to solve the murder. There are lots of loving homages to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock and Holmes, but Charlotte Holmes and Jamie Watson are all new and original.
  • Other worthy contemporary titles: The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson (finding a new path after her father is embroiled in a big scandal), This Adventure Ends by Emma Mills (filled with fun banter, a girl falls into a new group of fun and adventurous friends), The Start of You and Me by Emery Lord (girl tries to re-gain her life after her boyfriend dies), The Secret of a Heart Note by Stacey Lee (girl uses her extraordinary sense of smell to mix perfumes that make people fall in love)


Timely for the Next 4 Years

Well, these books deal with issues that are, sadly, going to be super-relevant for the next four years. They are amazing books that will hopefully open eyes and make people understand each other just a little bit more.

  • Simon vs the Homo Sapien Agenda by Becky Albertalli – One of my all-time favorites, Simon is blackmailed by the class clown/bully who threatens to out him if he doesn’t fix up the bully with a friend. It’s a hug and a laugh and such a great book. The movie version is in the works with Nick Robinson (Jurassic World, X-Men: Age of Apocalypse) set to star.
  • Outrun the Moon by Stacey Lee – While Outrun the Moon is historic fiction, it’s theme of racism and making a difference are timeless. Taking place just before the San Francisco earthquake of 1906, Mercy Wong is determined to get into an exclusive school when The Big One hits. In the aftermath of the earthquake, she needs to figure out how to survive and find her family again.
  • The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon – A girl, about to be deported, meets a guy who’s trying to figure out if he wants the future his parents planned or something different. What is fate? Are things meant to be? How can people who are so different make things work out? This is adorable, honest and refreshing.
  • All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendon Kiely – Told from two points of view, All American Boys sheds light on why the Black Lives Matter movement exists. Moving, heartbreaking, this is a must-read.
  • Exit, Pursed by a Bear by E.K. Johnston – Hermione is raped and faces life at school as the pregnant girl. Beautifully written, this is a re-telling of Shakespeare’s A Winter’s Tale, but don’t let that scare you!
  • Other worthy titles: Something in Between by Melissa de la Cruz (very personal story of a girl who discovers she’s an undocumented immigrant), When the Moon was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore (beautifully told transgender story set in a whimsical, magical world)


Whew! So many good books this year! Grab a book and enjoy!

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