My Favorite Reads of 2016

I don’t think this one needs an explanation… Here are my favorite reads of 2016!

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The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

Despite their differences, sisters Vianne and Isabelle

have always been close. Younger, bolder Isabelle lives in Paris while Vianne is content with life in the French countryside with her husband Antoine and their daughter. But when the Second World War strikes, Antoine is sent off to fight and Vianne finds herself isolated so Isabelle is sent by their father to help her.

As the war progresses, the sisters’ relationship and strength are tested. With life changing in unbelievably horrific ways, Vianne and Isabelle will find themselves facing frightening situations and responding in ways they never thought possible as bravery and resistance take different forms in each of their actions.

The Infernal Devices Trilogy by Cassandra Clare7171637

Clockwork Angel: In a time when Shadowhunters are barely winning the fight against the forces of darkness, one battle will change the course of history forever. Welcome to the Infernal Devices trilogy, a stunning and dangerous prequel to the New York Times bestselling Mortal Instruments series.

The year is 1878. Tessa Gray descends into London’s dark supernatural underworld in search of her missing brother. She soon discovers that her only allies are the demon-slaying Shadowhunters—including Will and Jem, the mysterious boys she is attracted to. Soon they find themselves up against the Pandemonium Club, a secret organization of vampires, demons, warlocks, and humans. Equipped with a magical army of unstoppable clockwork creatures, the Club is out to rule the British Empire, and only Tessa and her allies can stop them…

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Clockwork Prince: In the magical underworld of Victorian London, Tessa Gray has at last found safety with the Shadowhunters. But that safety proves fleeting when rogue forces in the Clave plot to see her protector, Charlotte, replaced as head of the Institute. If Charlotte loses her position, Tessa will be out on the street—and easy prey for the mysterious Magister, who wants to use Tessa’s powers for his own dark ends.

With the help of the handsome, self-destructive Will and the fiercely devoted Jem, Tessa discovers that the Magister’s war on the Shadowhunters is deeply personal. He blames them for a long-ago tragedy that shattered his life. To unravel the secrets of the past, the trio journeys from mist-shrouded Yorkshire to a manor house that holds untold horrors, from the slums of London to an enchanted ballroom where Tessa discovers that the truth of her parentage is more sinister than she had imagined. When they encounter a clockwork demon bearing a warning for Will, they realize that the Magister himself knows their every move—and that one of their own has betrayed them.

Tessa finds her heart drawn more and more to Jem, but her longing for Will, despite his dark moods, continues to unsettle her. But something is changing in Will—the wall he has built around himself is crumbling. Could finding the Magister free Will from his secrets and give Tessa the answers about who she is and what she was born to do?

As their dangerous search for the Magister and the truth leads the friends into peril, Tessa learns that when love and lies are mixed, they can corrupt even the purest heart.

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Clockwork Princess: Danger and betrayal, love and loss, secrets and enchantment are woven together in the breathtaking finale to the #1 New York Times bestselling Infernal Devices Trilogy, prequel to the internationally bestselling Mortal Instruments series.

THE INFERNAL DEVICES WILL NEVER STOP COMING

A net of shadows begins to tighten around the Shadowhunters of the London Institute. Mortmain plans to use his Infernal Devices, an army of pitiless automatons, to destroy the Shadowhunters. He needs only one last item to complete his plan: he needs Tessa Gray.

Charlotte Branwell, head of the London Institute, is desperate to find Mortmain before he strikes. But when Mortmain abducts Tessa, the boys who lay equal claim to her heart, Jem and Will, will do anything to save her. For though Tessa and Jem are now engaged, Will is as much in love with her as ever.

As those who love Tessa rally to rescue her from Mortmain’s clutches, Tessa realizes that the only person who can save her is herself. But can a single girl, even one who can command the power of angels, face down an entire army?

Danger and betrayal, secrets and enchantment, and the tangled threads of love and loss intertwine as the Shadowhunters are pushed to the very brink of destruction in the breathtaking conclusion to the Infernal Devices trilogy.

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes15507958

They had nothing in common until love gave them everything to lose . . .

Louisa Clark is an ordinary girl living an exceedingly ordinary life—steady boyfriend, close family—who has barely been farther afield than their tiny village. She takes a badly needed job working for ex–Master of the Universe Will Traynor, who is wheelchair bound after an accident. Will has always lived a huge life—big deals, extreme sports, worldwide travel—and now he’s pretty sure he cannot live the way he is.

Will is acerbic, moody, bossy—but Lou refuses to treat him with kid gloves, and soon his happiness means more to her than she expected. When she learns that Will has shocking plans of his own, she sets out to show him that life is still worth living.

A Love Story for this generation and perfect for fans of John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars, Me Before You brings to life two people who couldn’t have less in common—a heartbreakingly romantic novel that asks, What do you do when making the person you love happy also means breaking your own heart?

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

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It’s just a small story really, about among other things: a girl, some words, an accordionist, some fanatical Germans, a Jewish fist-fighter, and quite a lot of thievery. . . .

Set during World War II in Germany, Markus Zusak’s groundbreaking new novel is the story of Liesel Meminger, a foster girl living outside of Munich. Liesel scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can’t resist–books. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement before he is marched to Dachau.

This is an unforgettable story about the ability of books to feed the soul.

Alicia: My Story by Alicia Appleman-Jurman401838

After losing her entire family to the Nazis at age 13, Alicia Appleman-Jurman went on to save the lives of thousands of Jews, offering them her own courage and hope in a time of upheaval and tragedy. Not since The Diary of Anne Frank has a young voice so vividly expressed the capacity for humanity and heroism in the face of Nazi brutality.

Clockwork Prince by Cassandra Clare

Title: Clockwork Prince (Infernal Devices #2)10025305
Author: Cassandra Clare
Pages: 502
Year: 2011
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Rating: 5/5

Goodreads Synopsis: In the magical underworld of Victorian London, Tessa Gray has at last found safety with the Shadowhunters. But that safety proves fleeting when rogue forces in the Clave plot to see her protector, Charlotte, replaced as head of the Institute. If Charlotte loses her position, Tessa will be out on the street—and easy prey for the mysterious Magister, who wants to use Tessa’s powers for his own dark ends.

With the help of the handsome, self-destructive Will and the fiercely devoted Jem, Tessa discovers that the Magister’s war on the Shadowhunters is deeply personal. He blames them for a long-ago tragedy that shattered his life. To unravel the secrets of the past, the trio journeys from mist-shrouded Yorkshire to a manor house that holds untold horrors, from the slums of London to an enchanted ballroom where Tessa discovers that the truth of her parentage is more sinister than she had imagined. When they encounter a clockwork demon bearing a warning for Will, they realize that the Magister himself knows their every move—and that one of their own has betrayed them.

Tessa finds her heart drawn more and more to Jem, but her longing for Will, despite his dark moods, continues to unsettle her. But something is changing in Will—the wall he has built around himself is crumbling. Could finding the Magister free Will from his secrets and give Tessa the answers about who she is and what she was born to do?

As their dangerous search for the Magister and the truth leads the friends into peril, Tessa learns that when love and lies are mixed, they can corrupt even the purest heart.

WOW WOW WOW. I still cannot believe how long it took me to read this series because it is phenomenal. Seriously. 10/10 would recommend. I understand why people call Cassandra Clare the Queen of Trilogies (Is that a thing? It should be.) because this book was the perfect arc. There were many major plot points that were wrapped up in this book, but many other story lines that were introduced or left with loose ends for the next book. Clare finagled these novels to be just satisfying enough to make me feel like we were making progress, but enticed me enough to read the next book. (Needless to say, I downloaded Clockwork Princess immediately after finishing this one.)

Due to the events in Clockwork Angel, Charlotte is threatened to be removed as head of the London Institute unless she and her merry band of lost boys/girls can discover what the Magister is planning and capture him. Not to be deterred, the Shadowhunters dive into the Clave archives to search for clues to the Magister’s past. This prompts them to go on a wild goose chase to Scotland, during which they discover Will’s family living in the Magister’s home. We find out that Will abandoned his family because he was cursed by a demon when he was younger, which explains a lot about his character. (Not that being cursed entitles one to be an asshole… It doesn’t. FYI.)

Will’s curse was so incredibly heartbreaking, because all throughout the first novel we can tell how much he loves and longs to be with Tessa, but when he has an opportunity to tell her how he really feels, he craps on her feelings like a pigeon on a car. At first I thought he was just being a massive douche canoe, as per Herondale protocol. But it turns out that he was cursed by a demon that he released from a pyxis in his father’s office, the curse being that everyone who loved him would die. First of all… what the damn hell? If I was a Shadowhunter raising a mundane family I would not keep a demon-box in my house… much less a place my 12 year-old son could find it. Second of all, the first rule about being told you shouldn’t touch something is to touch the thing as soon as physically possible. Hence, demons getting released into the wild like doves at weddings. (#birdimagery) Second of all, Will doesn’t strike me as an idiot but it was so obvious that the curse was fake. Not only that, but did he really think that no one loved him? Charlotte and Jem’s love for Will just poured off of the pages, and he didn’t think it was odd that they were still alive?  Will’s feelings for Tessa prompt him to start looking for a cure to his curse. Probably something he should have done years ago, but slow and steady wins the race I suppose. Magnus Bane is his less than willing partner on this escapade, helping Will summon demons so he can find the one who cursed him so it can be lifted.

While Will is questing, Jem is wooing Tessa. Tessa and Jem get much closer than they were in the first book, but I still have Jem taking grenades in the middle of the friend-zone. Tessa ends up with feelings for both guys, and this results in a love-triangle. (Gag.) Even though I hate love-triangles, I was more or less fine with this one. Tessa has good reasons to want to be with either guy, or neither. But we have to remember that boys aren’t cake, you can’t have it and eat it too. Tessa is back and forth between the two guys throughout the entire novel and it was exhausting. All I wanted was for her to figure out that Will is the love of her life, but Jem proposes to Tessa right before Will is able to tell her how he feels. And I was YELLING. If you read my Clockwork Angel review, you know how hard I ship Will and Tessa, so you can imagine my annoyance when she accepted his proposal. Tessa and Jem’s relationship seems to be more out of pity than actual love. Tessa knows that Jem is dying and feels like she can’t turn him down because he loves her and she wants to make him happy. However, she spends most of their engagement pining after and worrying about Will. She still displays feelings for Jem, but they aren’t as strong as the ones she has for Will. (Despite the way he has treated her.)

While this is happening, the Shadowhunters are betrayed by one of their own to the Magister. Shocking, but not that shocking when you think about who it is. (It’s Jessamine, FYI.) Jessamine is the most tragic character in the series in my opinion. When we meet her, she is an orphan with little to no knowledge of the Shadowhunter world. She has lived her entire life as a mundane, and now has to conform to a completely different set of rules and standards. She sees herself as trapped, forced into this world she never asked to be a part of and is willing to do anything she can to escape. This escape finally comes in the form of Nathaniel Gray, who has ulterior motives of his own. Even when she is betraying her friends and the people who have taken her in and cared for her, she sees herself as doing it for love. She loves Nate, and is willing to sacrifice what she can to be with him. The revelation that he doesn’t love her is heartbreaking because she ends up with nothing. This doesn’t justify her actions by any means, but it would be worth it if she got something out of it.

Another laugh out loud, spell-binding book from Cassandra Clare. Stay tuned for my Clockwork Princess review!

Too Late by Colleen Hoover

Title: Too Late32972080.jpg
Author: Colleen Hoover
Pages: 383
Year: 2016
Publisher: Hoover Inc.
Rating: 3/5

Goodreads Synopsis: Sloan will go through hell and back for those she loves. And she does, every single day. After finding herself stuck in a relationship with the dangerous and morally corrupt Asa Jackson, Sloan will do whatever it takes to get by until she’s able to find a way out.

Nothing will get in her way.

Nothing except Carter.

Sloan is the best thing to ever happen to Asa. And if you ask Asa, he’d say he’s the best thing to ever happen to Sloan. Despite Sloan’s disapproval of Asa’s sinister lifestyle, he does exactly what he needs to do in order to stay a step ahead in his business. He also does exactly what he needs to do in order to stay a step ahead of Sloan.

Nothing will get in his way.

Nothing except Carter.

This is my first Colleen Hoover book, and something tells me I maybe shouldn’t have started on this one. Okay, not something… Everything. Too Late was one of the most graphic novels I have ever read, depicting domestic abuse, rape, drug use, graphic sex scenes, murder, etc. From the very first page we are getting down in naked town, and it is SO aggressive. I get it though, sex sells. (And your sex cells make all the lost boys drool.) But seriously, give a girl a little warning!

Too Late rotates between three POVs. Weepy college student, Sloan, her “more issues than Vogue” drug-dealer boyfriend, Asa, and undercover cop and limp noodle extraordinaire, Carter. Sloan has been in a relationship with Asa for the past two years. Despite physical, mental, and verbal abuse and being repeatedly raped by Asa, Sloan pretends that everything is hunky-dory because he is paying for her brother’s care. She owes him financially, so she feels like she needs to stay with him. This is somehow portrayed as her being “strong” and “unyielding” but to me it just felt “stupid” and “weak.” As a victim of a mentally abusive relationship myself, I understand that sometimes you feel like you have no way out of that situation. Your partner isolates you, drains your confidence and self worth, and makes you feel dependent on them. They control every aspect of your life and make you feel helpless. However, Sloan is very much aware of what Asa is and what he is doing to her. She knows that she needs to get away, but she insists on risking her own life for the sake of her brother’s. To me, that didn’t come off as strong. It came off as stupid. Maybe I’m being insensitive here, but it really frustrated me to see Sloan lie down at Asa’s feet to be kicked over and over again. Not only that, but she had to rely on another guy to get her out of this situation.

Which brings us to Carter. Carter is an undercover cop who is looking to bust Asa’s drug ring. This story line is introduced in the beginning of the novel and then we get maybe a page and a half of updates after that. To be completely honest, I have no idea why Carter is even written as an undercover cop because it doesn’t add much to the story.  It was announced, dropped, and then kicked under the bed where we found it, dusted it off for a few pages, and then put back.  We get next to nothing about the investigation, its progress, and what the police plan on doing to bring Asa down. What we do get is a lot of mooning around and pining after Sloan. Carter meets Sloan in Spanish class, and decides that he is in love with her. YAWN. Insta-love is so Disney, and I am SO OVER IT. Carter’s character exists only to be a sidekick to Sloan, and gets little to no character development.

Asa was the most compelling character by far. Even though he might actually be the spawn of Satan, he was so complicated and interesting to read. We find out that he was abused and neglected as a child and has a family history of paranoid schizophrenia. (Both of which we don’t really touch on until the end of the book.) He is a product of his background and upbringing, showing signs of narcissism, obsessive compulsive disorder, fear of abandonment, and a plethora of other issues linked to mommy and daddy that you’ll have to read to find out about. He goes from zero to psychopath real quick, and carries out several schemes that are a bit implausible. He’s a bit too smart and careful for how he is portrayed, so I found it unrealistic that a mentally unhinged person would think things through so carefully and without mistake.

If you read this book, just stop at chapter 45 because it all goes downhill from there. There are multiple epilogues and flashbacks that should have been incorporated into the original story or dropped altogether. If Colleen wanted to write an epilogue that was almost as long as the book itself, she should have just written it into the original story to begin with. However, it was unnecessary and made the book drag on for so much longer than I needed it to.

Speaking of dragging, we have at least 14 different climaxes (pun intended) throughout the book. I kept thinking the book was almost over because we would build and build up to a conflict, but it ended up being a tease. Despite my complaints, it was still a really interesting read. I wasn’t completely pulled in by it, but I still read it fairly quickly which is more than I can say for other books.

My Favorite Historical Fiction Books

Historical fiction is one of my favorite genres to read, so I thought I would make a list of my favorite historical fiction novels. This list will probably grow over time, considering that I haven’t read every book in the world… yet. But here are my favorites that I have read up to this point (including some I read when I was much younger) in no particular order:

1. The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah21853621

Despite their differences, sisters Vianne and Isabelle have always been close. Younger, bolder Isabelle lives in Paris while Vianne is content with life in the French countryside with her husband Antoine and their daughter. But when the Second World War strikes, Antoine is sent off to fight and Vianne finds herself isolated so Isabelle is sent by their father to help her.

As the war progresses, the sisters’ relationship and strength are tested. With life changing in unbelievably horrific ways, Vianne and Isabelle will find themselves facing frightening situations and responding in ways they never thought possible as bravery and resistance take different forms in each of their actions.

 

2. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak19063

It’s just a small story really, about among other things: a girl, some words, an accordionist, some fanatical Germans, a Jewish fist-fighter, and quite a lot of thievery. . . .

Set during World War II in Germany, Markus Zusak’s groundbreaking new novel is the story of Liesel Meminger, a foster girl living outside of Munich. Liesel scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can’t resist–books. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement before he is marched to Dachau.

This is an unforgettable story about the ability of books to feed the soul.

 

3. Outlander by Diana Gabaldon10964

The year is 1945. Claire Randall, a former combat nurse, is just back from the war and reunited with her husband on a second honeymoon when she walks through a standing stone in one of the ancient circles that dot the British Isles. Suddenly she is a Sassenach—an “outlander”—in a Scotland torn by war and raiding border clans in the year of Our Lord…1743.

Hurled back in time by forces she cannot understand, Claire is catapulted into the intrigues of lairds and spies that may threaten her life, and shatter her heart. For here James Fraser, a gallant young Scots warrior, shows her a love so absolute that Claire becomes a woman torn between fidelity and desire—and between two vastly different men in two irreconcilable lives.

 

4. Annie, Between the States by L.M. Elliot713897

Annie Sinclair’s Virginia home is in the battle path of the Civil War. Her brothers, Laurence and Jamie, fight to defend the South, while Annie and her mother tend to wounded soldiers. When she develops a romantic connection with a Union Army lieutenant, Annie’s view of the war broadens. Then an accusation calls her loyalty into question. A nation and a heart divided force Annie to choose her own course.

 

 

 

 

5. The Ransom of Mercy Carter by Caroline B. Cooney470175.jpg

Deerfield, Massachusetts is one of the most remote, and therefore dangerous, settlements in the English colonies. In 1704 an Indian tribe attacks the town, and Mercy Carter becomes separated from the rest of her family, some of whom do not survive. Mercy and hundreds of other settlers are herded together and ordered by the Indians to start walking. The grueling journey — three hundred miles north to a Kahnawake Indian village in Canada — takes more than 40 days. At first Mercy’s only hope is that the English government in Boston will send ransom for her and the other white settlers. But days turn into months and Mercy, who has become a Kahnawake daughter, thinks less and less of ransom, of Deerfield, and even of her “English” family. She slowly discovers that the “savages” have traditions and family life that soon become her own, and Mercy begins to wonder: If ransom comes, will she take it?

 

6. Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blum49465

For fifty years, Anna Schlemmer has refused to talk about her life in Germany during World War II. Her daughter, Trudy, was only three when she and her mother were liberated by an American soldier and went to live with him in Minnesota. Trudy’s sole evidence of the past is an old photograph: a family portrait showing Anna, Trudy, and a Nazi officer, the Obersturmfuhrer of Buchenwald.

Driven by the guilt of her heritage, Trudy, now a professor of German history, begins investigating the past and finally unearths the dramatic and heartbreaking truth of her mother’s life.

Combining a passionate, doomed love story, a vivid evocation of life during the war, and a poignant mother/daughter drama, Those Who Save Us is a profound exploration of what we endure to survive and the legacy of shame.

 

7. Ashes of Roses by Mary Jane Auch577184

Sixteen-year-old Margaret Rose Nolan, newly arrived from Ireland, finds work at New York City’s Triangle Shirtwaist Factory shortly before the 1911 fire in which 146 employees died.

Sixteen-year-old Rose Nolan and her family are grateful to have finally reached America, the great land of opportunity. Their happiness is shattered when part of their family is forced to return to Ireland. Rose wants to succeed and stays in New York with her younger sister Maureen. The sisters struggle to survive and barely do so by working at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory. Then, just as Rose is forming friendships and settling in, a devastating fire forces her, Maureen, and their friends to fight for their lives. Surrounded by pain, tragedy, and ashes, Rose wonders if there’s anything left for her in this great land of America.

 

8. The Help by Kathryn Stockett4667024

Twenty-two-year-old Skeeter has just returned home after graduating from Ole Miss. She may have a degree, but it is 1962, Mississippi, and her mother will not be happy till Skeeter has a ring on her finger. Skeeter would normally find solace with her beloved maid Constantine, the woman who raised her, but Constantine has disappeared and no one will tell Skeeter where she has gone.

Aibileen is a black maid, a wise, regal woman raising her seventeenth white child. Something has shifted inside her after the loss of her own son, who died while his bosses looked the other way. She is devoted to the little girl she looks after, though she knows both their hearts may be broken.

Minny, Aibileen’s best friend, is short, fat, and perhaps the sassiest woman in Mississippi. She can cook like nobody’s business, but she can’t mind her tongue, so she’s lost yet another job. Minny finally finds a position working for someone too new to town to know her reputation. But her new boss has secrets of her own.

Seemingly as different from one another as can be, these women will nonetheless come together for a clandestine project that will put them all at risk. And why? Because they are suffocating within the lines that define their town and their times. And sometimes lines are made to be crossed.