Hello, everyone! So it’s almost 2017 and like many, I am reflecting on this year and all it has had in store for me. More specifically, I’ve been reflecting on the reading I’ve done this year. It’s been a bit uneven. I began this year reading more canonical, more academic, and theological works for the first few months of the year. I barely read for fun, yet a few days after I returned home after graduating from college, I began binge reading novels to my heart’s content. Then, toward the end of the summer, I didn’t really want to read much of anything, though I continued to read now and then. Regardless of its ups and downs, 2016 was a pretty good reading year all around. I managed to read a tidy total of 25 books. I thought I’d share my thoughts about some of those books in a question and answer format. Let’s get to it.
1.Which of the books you read this year was the biggest disappointment?
This one is fairly easy. It’s And I Darken by Kiersten White. I read this a little over a month after it came out and while I initially enjoyed it since the story started off really well, it quickly grew slower in terms of pace. It’s basically a gender-swapped Vlad the Impaler story. The characters were incredibly complex and interesting and were the only reason I made myself push through my reluctant reading feelings and finish the book. Maybe it’s because I don’t know that much about Vlad the Impaler, I don’t know. It had some wonderful elements and could have been a truly fantastic book if it was paced a little bit better. Though I didn’t enjoy it as much as I thought I would, it was still an okay read.
2. Most unusual book you read this year?
That would have to be To Stay Alive by Skila Brown. It’s a novel written in verse about the Donner Party’s tragic journey west in 1846. Let me just reiterate that. It’s a novel written in verse. About the Donner Party. I just finished this novel today and while I’m fairly sure it’ll be the last one I finish this year, I will definitely be thinking about it well into 2017. It tells the story of Mary Ann Graves, who’s 17 when her family sets out to settle in California. I can’t really say more than that without spoiling anything. It’s a gut-wrenching, gripping read where the land they traverse becomes a character in and of itself that challenges them and pushes to their limits.
3. Which book was the biggest surprise?
Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake. I’ve never read anything by Kendare Blake before, but I heard quite a bit about this book when it came out in September and I loved the cover when I first saw it on the book shelf at the library where I work. It’s a story about three sisters who are all princesses of a diverse island and they will have to battle each other in order to see which of them will be crowned queen. This story was surprising in that while it wasn’t well-written, I couldn’t put it down. The characters didn’t change much and some of the characters were completely unnecessary. The setting descriptions were pretty good but nothing too special. What really had me turning the pages was the premise of this story. It’s incredibly rare that a book’s premise will keep me invested in a story, yet it was that yearning to know who would eventually become queen that kept me reading. And of course the book ended on a total cliffhanger. I’m fairly sure it’s going to be a trilogy, so hopefully the books will only keep getting better as the story progresses.
4. Which book are you likely to reread next year?
I read so many books this year that I might be tempted to pick up again in 2017, but the one that tops that list is A Torch Against the Night by Sabaa Tahir. I don’t know if I’ve ever looked forward to a book release more than this one. That’s a lie, the seventh Harry Potter book probably has this beat. This book is a follow-up to the smash hit An Ember in the Ashes that came out in 2015 and takes up Laia and Elias’s story as they flee Blackliff and head north to rescue Laia’s brother from Kauf prison. I read this story in three days, breezing through it because I just HAD to know if they made it in and out of Kauf alive. In reading it so quickly, I feel that I missed quite a bit of the nuances that the story has to offer. I’m already wanting to reread this, but I should probably finish some of the books I’m currently reading.
5. Top three books you read this year?
It was hard to whittle it down to these three but here we go.
3.Page by Paige by Laura Lee Gulledge. This is an adorable graphic novel about a teen artist who moves from Virginia to New York City with her family and has to undergo the highs and lows of a new school and finding new friends. The art in this graphic novel is amazing and the artistic struggles that Paige undergoes are incredibly real and not romanticized in any way. Even if you’re not a fan of graphic novels, check this one out. You won’t be sorry you did.
2. The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman. This was my first Gaiman novel that I’ve ever read (I’ve read a few of his short stories and am amazed that you can be that awesome within the confines of a short story). I tried reading this last year and got about 30 pages into it and decided to return it to the library. I picked it up again early on in the summer, began reading, and couldn’t stop until the last page was turned. This is the story of a man who returns to his childhood hometown for a funeral and, as he wanders down to a house at the end of the lane, starts to recall what happened there when he was little. A truly fantastical tale, The Ocean at the End of the Lane is one book you definitely should read. I’m only sad that it took me so long to do so.
1. Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys. This book wrecked my heart in every way. It’s the story of four teenagers who find themselves aboard the doomed ship, the Wilhelm Gustloff. Everything in this book is so well done. The characters, the pacing, the descriptions, and the historical detail all make this a stunning story that will break your heart, only to glue it back together to make it bigger. There are two things that I found especially chilling and important about this book. The first is that it’s about refugees. The narrative of the refugee is incredibly necessary right now because of the millions of refugees that are crying out for help right now. The second is, astonishingly, the character Alfred. He truly is an amazing character in how bad he is and how strange he is. And while his perspective is difficult to read, it’s important to not only consider the stories of those who rebelled against the Nazi mentality but the stories of those who went along with it or embraced it. Sepetys tackles this subtly and through Alfred, explores not only the sick and twisted Nazi mentality, but how sick and twisted people could become by adopting that mentality. It’s just a truly fantastic work and completely deserves the Goodreads award it won. Please read it.
So that’s the best of my 2016 reading. What were your favorite books of 2016? Do let me know in the comments and if you’d like a recommendation, please don’t hesitate to ask. I will write again soon! Bye for now!