It’s been a great year for books with so many terrific voices offering new perspectives. Here’s my look back at my favorites, organized by book craving. Remember books make great gifts and (rumor has it) the last day to to ship to ensure pre-Christmas arrival with regular shipping is the 19th. Also, check out indie bookstores like Books of Wonder if you’re looking for signed books!
Let’s Get it Started
Fantasy is one of my favorite genres and this year saw the start of quite a few outstanding new series. These books have terrific, intricate and fascinating worlds with huge journeys for their characters.
- Caraval by Stephanie Garber – Want to join a dreamy, slightly sinister circus? Scarlett finally gets an invite to elusive, magical Caraval where she has to play the game to rescue her sister.
- Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh – Want to be a ninja? This is a ninja origin story combined with the re-telling of Mulan set in feudal Japan where Mariko infiltrates the groups of assassins hired to kill her.
- City of Brass by SA Chakraborty – Want to escape to a whirlwind historic fantasy? Nahri is a pickpocket who accidentally calls a djinn who isn’t happy about it.
- The Last Namsara by Kristen Ciccarelli – Want to play with dragons? Asha slays dragons for the king and until she starts to learn that there is something else out there for her.
- The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden – Want to disappear into a lush Russian medieval fairy tale? A beautiful tale and a must-read for horse lovers.
The Saga Continues
Don’t have the patience to wait for the next book? Well, two of these series are now complete and the third will complete in a few months.
- Traitor to the Throne by Alwyn Hamilton – The sequel to Rebel of the Sands is an inclusive epic fantasy with a girl who really kicks butt. Amani is a sharpshooter caught up in a fight to liberate her desert nation. The final book in the series is out in March. (Hurry up, March!)
- Retribution Rails by Erin Bowman – The companion novel to Vengeance Road, this is a modern and fresh Western. Charlotte and Reece are both desperate to escape the path they’re on, but can they trust each other?
- A Crown of Wishes by Roshani Chokshi – You don’t need to read The Star-Touched Queen since A Crown of Wishes is a seperate story with the same wildly imaginative imagery and a much stronger and compelling story. Gauri and Vikram are strangers who pair up to compete in the dangerous and fantastical Tournament of Wishes.
Fight the Future
Does life imitate art? Big corporations keep gaining more power and here are a few science fiction titles where certain corporations basically rule the world.
- Want by Cindy Pon – This futuristic dystopian is a heist thriller, social commentary, a love letter to Taipei and a bit of a romance. Our future environment is so toxic, only the wealthy 1% can live in comfort while the rest of the world has a short life expectancy. A group of hackers decide to take on the big company and change things.
- This Mortal Coil by Emily Suvada – Putting the science back in science fiction, a deadly virus is killing off the human race and a shadowy company, Cartaxus, has taken over. Catalina’s father might have created a cure, if she can only find it.
- Warcross by Marie Lu – A virtual reality game called Warcross is everything and Emika Chen is hired to hunt down potential cheaters from inside the championship games.
I Need a Hero
Superheroes are everywhere on TV and in the movies, but here are some different takes on the genre.
- The Epic Crush of Genie Lo by F.C. yee – The title sounds like a romance, but it’s really not. Think Buffy the Vampire Slayer but with demons inspired by Chinese folklore. Funny and original, it’s a fun read.
- These Ruthless Deeds by Tarun Shanker and Kelly Zekas – Think X-Men in Victorian England in this second book in the series.
- Renegades by Marissa Meyer – Two groups of superheroes are fighting for power. The Anarchists took over from the Renegades. Nova infiltrates the Anarchists to take her revenge, but perhaps there’s more to the story than she knew.
Pirates, spies and love triangles may seem like old news, but these books have a fresh approach to wake up the genres.
- The Daughter of the Pirate King by Tricia Levenseller – Turning pirate stories on their head like the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie, this romp is packed with plot twists to keep you guessing.
- Rosemarked by Livia Blackburn – Zivah is a healer who helps Dineas infiltrate the Amparan Empire. There’s a twist to how Dineas goes undercover that sets up a wholly original and fascinating story.
A Fine Romance
Want a story to break and warm your heart? How about these delicious romances?
- Alex Approximately by Jenn Bennett – An update of You’ve Got Mail/Shop Around the Corner/She Loves Me that still finds a fresh approach to this classic set up. Two people who fall in love over texts, but don’t realize that their pain-in-the-butt co-worker is their big crush.
- Foolish Hearts by Emma Mills – Emma Mills writes great stories about friendship and first crushes with mixed signals. Claudia is forced to work the school play with the mean girl and the boy with the cute dimples.
- Geekerella by Ashley Poston – Cinderella goes to a cosplay ball! It’s a super cute update with so much heart.
- Once and For All by Sarah Dessen – OK, this love story is about grief and moving on so it’s a gut-wrencher, but it’s lovely, too.
Romance with a dash of fantasy
Are contemporary love stories not magical enough for you? Let’s add some actual magic then!
- A Million Junes by Emily Henry – A Romeo and Juliet romance set in something like a warm summer night with fireflies and the scent of grass in the air. Aching and magical.
- A Night of Cake and Puppets by Laini Taylor – This novella is a part of the Daughter of Smoke and Bone series and I loved this without reading that series. It’s a perfect first date. Now my first date expectations are ridiculously high.
No, You’re Crying…
Sometimes I just want a book that will give my heart a workout. These books will just make you feel everything.
- Starfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman – Oh boy. This was my big cry of the year since this lovely book deals with racism, mental illness, abuse and more. Don’t let the heavy topics scare you from this beautiful book. Have tissues ready.
- You Bring the Distant Near by Mitali Perkins – A love story between mothers and daughters as different generations tell their story. Think an Indian YA version of The Joy Luck Club.
- What to Say Next by Julie Buxbaum – An unexpected friendship grows between the proverbial popular girl and the loner boy with more in common than anyone thought. Fans of Dear Evan Hansen should definitely pick up this book.
Hope for our time
Over the past couple of crap years, empathy is more important than ever. These books go a long way to helping people understand. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas is terrific and probably on everyone’s best of 2017 list so I wanted to highlight some others that deserve a good read as well. These are all excellent books which just happen to also focus on some of our biggest problems today.
- American Street by Ibi Zoboi – Gorgeous writing propels this story about a girl who immigrates to the US from Haiti, but her mother is deported.
- Dear Martin by Nic Martin – Justyce is an upstanding citizen, but that means nothing when the police judge him guilty because of the color of his skin.
- City of Saints and Thieves by Natalie C. Anderson – This is a great murder mystery which also happens to highlight the plight of refugees in Kenya.
Chills and Thrills
I’m not a big fan of horror novels, but sometimes I want to go down a rabbit hole. These psychological thrillers are super creepy, but also hypnotic in their descent into madness.
- A Line in the Dark by Malinda Lo – Obsession gone wrong. The main character does terrible things, but I couldn’t stop reading this one.
- This Darkness Mine by Mindy McGinnis – Split personality and really crazy stuff happens. It’s so fascinating, but also very twisted.
Whew! And the crazy thing is, I still have a ton of books I didn’t get to read yet. I’m pretty sure some of them might make this list, but I just ran out of time this year!
Thanks to Penguin Random House, Macmillan, Simon & Schuster, Disney Hyperion, HarperCollins, HMH, Abrams, Quirk and Little, Brown for an amazing year!
What were your favorite reads? Comment below with any suggestions on a great book I might have missed!
Happy holidays and happy reading!
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