Wednesday, 28 December 2016

My 16 Favourite Reads in 2016




What an amazing bookish year 2016 has been. I read a total of 103 books and managed to hit my Goodreads challenge once again (though, in fairness, it was lowered considerably from my usual target as this year has been far busier for me working wise and blogging wise and so I knew that elusive 125 books was out of reach early on. This is the year I discovered my love for beautiful non-fiction books, redisovered my love for young adult fiction, and I started collecting beautiful hardback to prettify my shelves. My favourite books of the year are mostly YA and non-fiction titles, though there is general fiction in there too, as well as a children's series I reread and fell head over heels in love with again. So without further ado, here are my 16 favourite reads in 2016!


15. The Amateurs by Sara Shepard (Hot Key Books)

I love a good detective and no-one does young adult murder mystery quite as well as Sara Shepard, author of Pretty Little Liars, The Lying Game, The Perfectionists and many more ace series with kick-ass teenage characters outwitting most of the adults around them. The Amateurs introduces a whole new cast of seemingly unlikely young super sleuths, who take the reader on a roller-coaser ride filled with twists and turns. It's at least as good a kick-off to an ace new series as its precedents, if not better. Read my full review here >>


14. The Twelve Days of Christmas by the V&A (Picture Puffin)

Sometimes a book comes along that is so stunning in design that the only logical response is to stroke the cover upon first laying eyes upon it. Non-fiction book The Twelve Days of Christmas, using intricate patterns from the Victoria and Albert Museum's William Morris collection with new illustrations by Liz Catchpole, is one such a treasure. This is not a book that evokes emotion through carefully crafted words, instead it does just that with its beautifully designed pages. Read my full review here >>


13. Mother Tongue by Julie Mayhew (Hot Key Books)

Young adult novel Mother Tongue depicts a horrifying and heartbreaking moment in history with immense care and sensitivity. And while it kicks off her novel, Julie Mayhew does not only linger on the terrifying Beslan school siege. She also deftly transports the reader to the sounds, smells and tastes of Russia with her detailed descriptions, creating a richly layered eye-opener exploring a country and culture not often central within young adult fiction – though if Mother Tongue is anything to go by, it really should be. Read my full review here >>


12. A Christmas Cornucopia by Mark Forsyth (Penguin Books)

A Christmas Cornucopia delves into the origins and meanings behind many of the seasonal traditions and stories we've come to see as normal during the holidays. Do you know why we bring a dead tree into the house, for instance? Why we're counting down the days to Christmas with Advent? Or, heck, even why we celebrate the day on December 25th? Whether you're a Christmas obsessive or you're more of a Grinch about the season of merriness, you'll find plenty to enjoy within the pages of A Christmas Cornucopia, as it enlightens you in a hilarious way on the peculiar customs so many of us make the bane of our lives each December. Read my full review here >>


11. London Belongs to Us by Sara Manning (Hot Key Books)

London Belongs to Us has got to be one of the best contemporary YA reads ever! It is fresh and funny, with a fantastic protagonist and as every chapter started with a little bit of history about the iconic London location main character Sunny would be exploring the next few hours it also made me discover more (in a hilarious way) about the city that I've been calling my home for the past 6 years. This is truly a love letter to London and one of the funniest books I have ever read. I could not stop reading out passages to friends and I'm still giggling over the whole broom management theme. And when a novel has pie charts too, you know you're definitely onto a winner. Read my full review here >>


10. Seven Ways We Lie by Riley Redgate (Amulet Books)

This is the story of seven teenagers, each trying to make it through their formative years as unscattered as possible, which is easier said than done. Covering topics such as sexuality, mental health and forbidden romance, this is a novel that doesn't hold back on the many different insecurities and issues that the main characters are struggling with throughout. While initially their stories are laid out individually, and they only overlap occasionally in the hallways of their high school, a twist of fate brings them together at a pivotal turn within the book, and from that moment onward they're bound by a secret that's not theirs to share. With a diverse cast of characters, this is a clever, gripping and hugely relatable novel, making it not only a fun read for today's teens but also a very important one. Read my full review here >>


9. Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard (Orion)

This is a fantasy epic in which The Hunger Games meets X-Men meets Game of Thrones. With a kick-ass protagonist, a really well thought-out plot which became more action-packed with each passing page, and a very accessible writing style, this novel also single-handedly has made me interested in exploring more YA fantasy novels. It's a testimony to Victoria Aveyards compelling storytelling, which pulls the reader completely in, as well as her intriguing world-building, that I was so enthralled by her story that I read the book in pretty much a single day (minus the first few pages which I read a day prior) and I'm now desperate for more YA fantasy! Read my full review here >>


8. The One-in-a-Million Boy by Monica Wood (Headline Review)

Ona Vitkus is a 104-years-old when she meets the boy. Eleven years of age, his contagious enthusiasm and genuine interest make Ona feel more alive than she has in decades and grateful for the people that have defined her. But then he stops visiting and it is the boy's father who takes up the reigns. This inspirational novel about unlikely friendships, world records and following your dreams made me smile and cry. It's a stunner. (This one was reviewed for Heat magazine, so no online review to link to.)


7. The Song of Seven by Tonke Dragt (Pushkin Press)

I was so excited when last year I discovered that Pushkin Press had brought out English translations of Dutch children's classics The Letter for the King and The Secrets of the Wild Wood by Tonke Dragt, because – finally – more people could discover the incredible words and illustrations from an author who was a big part of my childhood in the Netherlands. And Pushkin Press didn't stop with her most famous duology either. Together with translator Laura Watkinson they published another work by Tonke Dragt: standalone adventure The Song of Seven. This is an intriguing mystery, ghost story and treasure hunt, all wrapped into one exciting adventure. Tonke Dragt has an incredible imagination and once again she has created a world where once you dive into it you don't want to leave. Read my full review here >>


6. The Girl From Everywhere by Heidi Heilig (Hot Key Books)

Nix Song is sixteen years old and she's a time traveller. She lives aboard the ship the Temptation with her father Slate, who is the captain, and an assorted crew of people they've picked up on their travels. Nix's original time is 19th century Hawaii, yet her father's is 20th century New York. The Girl From Everywhere is a complex, intricate and oh so very clever story of swashbuckling time travelers and discovering what – and who – is really important in life. It's not like any other young adult novel I've read, or any book really, and its complete uniqueness really added to its appeal. This book is highly imaginative and endlessly engrossing, and it is a must-read for anyone who loves mythological adventures, time travelling pirates, or simply a story of a girl navigating the choppy waters of growing up. Read my full review here >>


5. The Art of Being Normal by Lisa Williamson (David Fickling Books)

A YA contemporary about identity, acceptance and friendship, this was an incredible novel; insightful and hugely important. The book provided a fascinating glimpse into a very current topic, which I hope will inspire those that might need encouragement themselves to be just as brave as the main characters, and start the long journey towards feeling happy with who they are and want to be. While I do think it was a little too "happily ever after" towards the end, as the characters within received a tremendous amount of support, which many are not as fortunate to receive, and they still have a long and difficult road ahead of them (I actually wish it didn't finish quite when it did as I wanted to know more about what would happen next!), this was otherwise a powerful and beautiful read. I also had a lump in my throat throughout those final pages because those moments were just so incredibly lovely. Read my full review here >>


4. Passenger by Alexandra Bracken (Quercus)

Etta is a 17-year-old violin prodigy in 21st New York City at the cusp of making her debut when a screaming sound interrupts her performance and makes it impossible to continue on playing. Just moments after leaving the stage Etta's world changes beyond recognition as the music teacher who is like a second mother to her is shot in front of her, and Etta herself is pulled away from the crime scene only to open her eyes and finding herself on a ship in the middle of the ocean. Not only is she far away from the city she calls her home, she's even further away than she initially thought when she discovers that during the time she was passed out she hasn't only travelled geographically, but also across centuries. Impeccably researched, cleverly put together, and hugely intriguing, Passenger is an action-packed coming-of-age adventure, which doesn't only focus on a physical journey throughout the ages but is also an inspirational voyage of diversity and empowerment. Read my full review here >>


3. Other-Wordly by Yee-Lum Mak and Kelsey Garrity-Riley (Chronicle Books)

Other-Wordly is a gem of a book that has captured weird and wonderful words from across the globe, illustrated with the most beautiful drawings in muted autumn and winter colours that make this an especially apt gift for this time of the year. There is an incredible range of languages within the world, and many contain words that don't exist in other cultures or countries. The first one I always think of if I am talking to international friends about this is the Dutch word gezellig, which in a single word captures the feeling of a cosy atmosphere and togetherness at home with the family. I often say something is 'gezellig' and find it such a shame there isn't an equivalent within the English language so I love that this book brings this wonderful word, and many more, to more people. Other-Wordly is quirky, insightful and one of the most stunning non-fiction books I've had the pleasure to read in a very long time. Read my full review here >>


2. The Little Book of Hygge by Meik Wiking (Penguin)

Hygge is a Danish word that encompasses the feeling of cosiness and living well. Denmark is often called the happiest country on earth and the concept of hygge is one of the main attributions to this. With the darker winter months settling in and people's working and social lives being more busy and stressful than ever before, we can all use a little hygge in our lives. And this gorgeous book by the CEO of the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen can help you do just that. The Little Book of Hygge was an absolute delight and inspiration to read. It's filled with tips and tricks to achieving hygge, many of which are really not that hard to achieve as long as you make sure you actually do them. Not only that, but it looks absolutely stunning too and would make a gorgeous gift for friends, family and colleagues, don't you think? We can all use a little more hygge in our lives – and isn't spreading the love of hygge, hygge in itself? This little book has quickly become my bible to a happier lifestyle and I'll be sure to share my own experiences and tips & tricks to a more hyggelig life in 2017. Read my full review here >>


1. Caraval by Stephanie Garber (Hodder & Stoughton)

Caraval is an annual theatre performance, festival, treasure hunt and life-changing game all wrapped into one magical package. Ever since her mother disappeared when Scarlett Dragna was a little girl she has been writing to Legend, the Master of the Caraval, to ask him to travel to her island so she can watch a performance. For seven years her letters go unanswered, until she finally receives a reply and tickets to a special invitation-only Caraval in a private location. In a young adult market over-saturated with similar titles exploring similar worlds and themes, it's a rare joy to find something so unique, imaginative and exciting as Caraval. This is a world, and novel, that is impossible to compare to any other books, as it's so unlike anything I've ever come across before. It has elements of a fantasy, a dystopia, a fairy tale and oodles of magic, packaged into an adventure of a lifetime. It wasn't only the originality that set this novel apart from so many others, it was also the beautiful writing and the wonder that leaps off the pages with each new discovery within the Caraval. This is one of the most innovative, atmospheric and highly original YA novels I've ever read. I cannot wait for January to come around so you can all discover this fantastic world and we can gush over it together! Read my full review here >>


*SPECIAL MENTION* Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling (Bloomsbury)

This is of course not a recent release at all, but because I spent a considerable amount of time rereading (and absolutely loving) these books in 2016 they had to be included. In anticipation of the Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them film release I decided to reread the Harry Potter series in its entirety which I hadn't done for many, many years. I used to be a huge Potterhead but as the years passed by my fangirling over this series died down somewhat, however it was reignited with a force this year! Rereading all the books over the course of just a few months was an amazing way to immerse myself into this world again and I even picked up on some subtle details I completely missed the first time around. This is, without a doubt, my favourite series ever and I'm hoping to find the time to reread it every few years as it's so completely worth it. I can't possibly rank it with my list of 2016 favourites because that wouldn't be fair to the newer releases – hence the special mention, which it totally deserves. ♥

And those are my favourite reads of the year! What books did you love in 2016?


2 comments:

  1. I think my three favourites were The Year of Yes, Swing Time, and A Boy Made Of Blocks. So impressed at your 103!

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    Replies
    1. I've heard SUCH great things about A Boy Made of Blocks, I must check it out in 2017 :)

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