Best of 2016: A Year in Reading and Reviewing

With that, 2016 is over. And thank god, because what a dumpster fire of a year it was. Can I get an amen??? Thankfully I had books (and friends, and wine…so much wine) to get me through, and I found some new favourites.

Some things change, and some things stay the same. While fantasy has consistently been my most beloved genre since I started blogging, this year the almighty romance novel also had an impressive showing. Since I didn’t review any of those books they aren’t listed below, but let me know if you think I should start reviewing romance novels here!

In no particular order, here are my favourite reads of 2016:

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No Good Dragon Goes Unpunished by Rachel Aaron: In the third Heartstrikers book, Rachel Aaron delivers even more delightful characters, expanded her unique world building, and raised the stakes higher than ever before. Dragons, mages, and ghost cats. What more could you want?

Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Cordova: This own-voices title is the first book in a series best described as a modern day, Latin American inspired Alice in Wonderland. Feminist role models abound in this YA novel that celebrates rather than denigrates family, and it features a bi love triangle. Instant favourite.

Marked in Flesh by Anne Bishop: If a fantasy series with a unique magic system set in a small town that also manages to sneak in critiques of the colonization of North America sounds good to you, then you need to be reading this series. After four books, the world still feels fresh and I’m more invested in the characters than ever. Plus, my OTP.

City of the Lost by Kelley Armstrong: Homicide detective Casey Duncan and her best friend move to Rockton, an isolated and off-the-grid shanty town to escape their dark pasts in this suspenseful thriller. It has all the goodness of a frontier town story with the modern dialogue and outlook of the 21st century…and it’s Canadian. #hellyes

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Certain Dark Things by Silvia Moreno-Garcia: Mexico City is the star of the show in this gorgeously written standalone urban fantasy novel, breathing new life and culture into vampire stories. If you love (literally) bloodthirsty heroines who get shit done and take no prisoners, or if you’re looking to read more diversely, this is a must read.

A Promise of Fire by Amanda Bouchet: A feisty seer is kidnapped by a warlord with a heart of gold and his gang of bros in this Greek mythology inspired fantasy romance debut. Amanda Bouchet has a talent for writing hilarious banter and heroines who refuse to be pushed around. I read it in one sitting!

Wake of Vultures by Lila Bowen: Gunslinging, horse riding, and monster hunting propel this weird western story forward, even as it explores themes of identity and belonging. Queer, mixed-raced protagonist Nettie Lonesome is hands down the most compelling character I read about this year, and her quiet strength and inner wisdom had me in tears.

Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire: This novella is a clever twist on portal fantasy, exploring the idea of what happens when human children return to earth from their adventures in magical lands. Seanan McGuire introduces us to these kids as they deal with their experiences at Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children. Beautiful, thoughtful, and queer as hell.

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Dreaming Death by J. Kathleen Cheney: Combining the best elements of historical and epic fantasy, this book introduces a richly detailed world and features the first blind protagonist I’ve come across in SFF. The friendship (and hopefully, slow-burn romance) between Shironne and Mikael was a delight to read about, and I can’t wait for news about book two!

The Gray Wolf Throne by Cinda Williams Chima: Princess Raisa and former street lord Han Allister are back at it again, dealing with politics, magic, and love in the world of the Seven Realms. These characters have my heart forever, and I consider this one of the best YA high fantasy series bar none.

Illuminae by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff: Sometimes you just want a fun, clever, bantery sci-fi romance, and ILLUMINAE delivers on all fronts. If you’re into metafiction, realistic portrayals of teenage texting behaviour (typos and all), and psychotic AIs, then this is sure to please.

Den of Wolves by Juliet Marillier: Blackthorn and Grim broke my heart and put it back together again in this gorgeous book. Juliet Marillier was crowned Queen of My Heart in 2015 and she easily held onto her title in 2016. Something tells me that a number of Marillier’s backlist titles will make it onto my “best of” list next year, too.

I’m really happy with my reading in 2016: I discovered some new authors and read a number of new books from long-time favourite authors. I also kept to my resolutions, which were to read more science fiction, more queer books, and more books by non-White authors. In 2017 I’m aiming to continue my diverse reading, and to read more books by Canadian authors. I’ve also decided that 2017 is going to be the year of the DNF: if I’m really not liking a book by 50%, I give myself full permission to put it aside.

What were your best reads in 2016? Did you accomplish your reading goals? What are you hoping to read more (or less) of next year? Let me know in the comments!

Related Posts

  • I loved Illuminae so much. My favorite 2016 read was Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult.

    Krystianna @ Downright Dystopian

    • Illuminae was such a pleasant surprise! The hype scared me but it was well deserved. I’ve actually never read a Picoult book, but I want to!

  • I so want to read the Rachel Aaron book but every time I check it says it can be ordered, booo

    • It should be available as an ebook or audiobook everywhere! Since it’s self-published, I don’t think the author is releasing a print version sadly.

  • Aw I’m sorry to hear that 2016 wasn’t a great year for you. 🙁 Hopefully there’ll be more blessings and amazingness to come this year, yes? 🙂

    I’m not familiar with any of these books but I’ve heard AMAZING things about Anne Bishop’s series! And I see “OTP”–definitely interested. 😉 OH, and I do have Illuminae sitting around here… Oops. Will definitely get to that as soon as I have time to read its monstrosity.

    AND YES TO READING QUEER BOOKS!! So glad there are more and more of those nowadays! <3

    Aimee @ I Adork You

    • I think 2016 was a pretty rough year for people en masse, globally…haha. But yes, I’m hopeful that 2017 will be an improvement!

      Anne Bishop’s UF is soooo good! The genre is so over-saturated and it can be quite derivative but she really brings the originality…and yeah, she’s an expert at writing shippable characters. ????

      SAME!!! Publisher’s catalogues for 2017 look extra queer so I’m really excited for the year in books.

  • Maraia

    We survived. o/ (I can’t quite bring myself to be happy about 2017, though, considering the poor decision my country made in November. xD)

    Your favorite books make me happy… Every Heart a Doorway! The Gray Wolf Throne! Illuminae! Den of Wolves! The last one was on my top ten list as well. Which I actually wrote and guest posted on my friend’s blog. (I’m really proud of myself for finally writing a blog post. xD)

    I was hoping to read less in 2016 than I did in 2015 so I could spend time doing other things like hanging out with people, and I think I succeeded. I still read a lot but didn’t always prioritize reading. Just most of the time. 😛 Next year I’m anticipating that I won’t have much time to read, since I’m moving to Germany in March. But I’m hoping to read fewer mediocre books and concentrate on ones I’m actually enjoying. 😀

    • Yeah…I wish I had some comforting words to offer you, but there’s really nothing I can say that will make that shit show look okay. ???? If it makes you feel any better, Canada is also having some horrible political problems (not quite Trump level, but still).

      OMG MARAIA! You finally took the blogging plunge! I’m gonna need a link to that ASAP so I can mosey on over and flail over your post! This is the first step towards you writing your own blog, haha.

      How funny, my 2016 goal was to spend less time with people! LOL. I’m joking…sort of. You’re moving to Germany??? Very exciting! I’ve only been once but I really liked it. Is that for work, school, or something else?

      • Maraia

        Really? For the most part, the only stories I hear about Canadian politics are about Trudeau being awesome or arguments about the use of the word “fart” in Parliament. What’s been going on?

        Here it is! http://buecher-monster.de/2016/12/29/top-10-tuesday-maraias-top-ten-best-books-of-2016/ We wrote a joint TTT post the week after, which was equally fun. I might be getting addicted, but don’t tell anyone. xD

        I guess that means you spend more time with people than I do. 😛 I was so good at avoiding them in 2015. I think I found a better balance in 2016, but I still have to force myself sometimes. I get comfortable hanging out in my pajamas, haha.

        I am! Want to come visit? 😀 Where did you go in Germany? I’m moving to be with my boyfriend! (He’s the one whose blog I guest posted on. :P) It’s very exciting and terrifying, lol.

  • Sara Letourneau

    Nice to see Dreaming Death on your list! It didn’t quite make my Top 10, but I haven’t seen a lot of coverage for it, so it’s good to see it getting some love. 🙂 And I really want to read A Promise of Fire!

    As for my favorite reads of 2016… my favorite new books were Leigh Bardugo’s Crooked Kingdom, N.K. Jemisin’s The Obelisk Gate, Elizabeth May’s The Vanishing Throne, and Ryan Graudin’s Blood For Blood. And my favorite pre-2016 books were V.E. Schwab’s A Darker Shade of Magic (which I just finished on NYE, so it just squeezed in!), Rae Carson’s Walk On Earth A Stranger, N.K. Jemisin’s The Broken Kingdoms, and Andy Weir’s The Martian.

    • I totally agree, Dreaming in Death doesn’t get enough love! There’s something about J. Kathleen Cheney’s writing that I adore — so much so that I bought all her backlist books, too. Promise of Fire was so fun! Very bantery.

      I have GOT to get caught up on N.K. Jemisin’s series and I really want to read Elizabeth May’s stuff too. I’ve had The Falconer on my e-reader for years but I just haven’t gotten around to reading it yet. Soon!

      Yes, yes, yes to The Broken Kingdoms and Walk on Earth a Stranger! Two very different, very awesome fantasy offerings. ????

  • Certain Dark Things has been on my radar for awhile. I feel like I HAVE to get ot it after reading so much ggoodness about it recently.

    • Yes Verushka, you HAVE to read it! ???? But in all seriousness, I think you’d really love it. Silvia Moreno-Garcia is an incredibly talented writer and definitely one to watch!

  • Three cheers for the end of 2016! I want to say 2017 will be better but I’m scared I’ll jinx it and 2017 will be a hot mess before it’s even started.

    You just know any of these books on here I’ve not read are immediately going on my to read list. I am guilty of still not reading Labyrinth Lost (I know, but my expectations are so high, what if I don’t like it?) but the rest are totally getting bought/borrowed/stolen so I can get reading. Also, how have I still not gotten around to reading A Promise of Fire? I am so behind everyone else.

    I like the idea of quitting books if you’re still not enjoying when you’re halfway through, that is something I need to implement going forward. It’s hard to admit defeat with a book, though.

    • Ugh, you’re so right. I’m extremely wary of 2017 and I’ve already given it some serious side-eye, especially since it seems to be the year of the Great Job Hunt which isn’t exactly a barrel of laughs. Hahaha…sigh.

      Eeeee yay! I mean, your list did the exact same thing to my TBR. There are just so many good romance novels that you keep recommending, like Act Like It (which I adored). Now I need to read The Hating Game next! You will really like Promise of Fire, I’m certain of it. I will say nothing about LL though, because I know how you feel about too much hype. ????

      Oh I completely agree! I’ve had a strict no-DNF rule for myself pretty much since I started reading chapter books. But I just read 52% of The Bird and the Sword a few weeks ago and it was so bad and problematic that I dreaded reading the rest, and I just thought…why am I doing this exactly? So I gave up on it, and I’m happy to say that I don’t even feel guilty!

      • Ugh, job hunting is the worst so I feel your pain. I remember when I finished uni it was a long dark period of job hunting and rejection. It was the most depressing time. I hope your hunt doesn’t last too long because that definitely won’t improve your feelings towards 2017 otherwise.

        And I feel like 2016 & 17 will need some good romance. Romance is the genre which is always good for a pick me up. The apocalypse may start this year but at least we’ve got some damn good romance to keep us going. And I hope so, I’ve bought Promise of Fire now, at least. I just need to play ARC catch up and I can read stuff I want to read again. Yay! And no more hype, I can’t take it. I find enough excuses to put off reading a book as it is because I am secretly a crazy person.

        You are right, DNF-ing is the way forward. I no longer have time to waste on bad books. I even have a posted dedicated to DNF-ing which I will hopefully post in the next couple of weeks.

  • AMEN!

    I vote hell yeah on whether you should start reviewing romance books here:0).

    This list makes me super jealous of your reading year! All these books sounds so interesting and awesome and I’ve not read any of them dang it! I do already have some on my TBR, many thanks to your earlier recs, and added a couple more from here.

    My goals for 2017 are to read all of these books (lol), read more of the books I own particularly on my kindle and in my Audible library, and read more internationally. I also want to continue to chip away at all the series I’m in the middle of.

    • Hallelujah! That’s what comes next, right??? Clearly I spent a lot of time in church as a kid, LOL.

      Excellent, because I think that’s what I’m going to do! There are way too many romance novels on my TBR to ignore reviewing them, and I often have a lot to say about them when I’ve finished (for good or ill).

      I did have a good reading year in 2016, which is a relief because 2015 was pretty sub-par in terms of books (aside from my discovery of Juliet Marillier).

      HA! I feel the exact same way when I read other people’s “best of” lists. How will we make time to read them all? Oh yeah, I need to do better with reading the books I own too, although I’m making more of an effort with my print books than my ebooks. It’s always a bit embarrassing when someone comes over and asks what I thought of a book on my shelves and I have to say “errrr, I haven’t read that.” Good luck with your reading goals, Stephanie!

  • Greg Hill

    2016 sucked! Glad it’s over. City of the Lost was of course awesome, but Certain Dark Things has my interest because I’ve seen a few really good reviews for it so far. And Every Heart A Doorway just SOUNDS awesome w/ that premise.

    I’m hoping to read more Canadian and Aussie authors this year. Good luck with your goals!

    • Goodbye 2016, don’t let the door hit you on the way out! City of the Lost was sooo good, I can’t wait to read A Darkness Absolute soon. Certain Dark Things was epic and Every Heart a Doorway was SO DAMN GOOD. Highly recommend both.

      Three cheers for reading more from Canadian authors in 2017! Same to you, Greg. ????

  • So many winners! I agree with a lot of them, which makes me want to pick up the books you have on there that I haven’t read, but have on my TBR – Labyrinth Lost and Cinda Williams Chima in particular. In 2016 I had fewer YA books that stood out for me, compared to last year where there were 2 or 3 on my favorites for the entire year. I’m not finding the right books!

    • Ooooh, Labyrinth Lost is probably one of my most recommended reads of 2016. It was everything I want from YA fantasy: diverse, non-Western, great characters, and really creative world building (even if the plot was somewhat predictable). It’s definitely a bit of a gamble trying to find the right YA books these days!

  • So thankful that 2016 is over! We made it haha.

    I own Labyrinth Lost and Wake of Vultures but haven’t gotten around to reading them yet. Glad to know they’re great reads!

    I’ve seen some mixed reviews of A Promise of Fire so I’m not really sure whether I’ll end up liking it if I do pick it up. Certain Dark Things is definitely on my to read list.

    I really need to start reading Kelley Armstrong and Anne Bishop books and I’m hoping to this year! Also, finally going to binge Seven Realms series.

    Love Illuminae!

    I definitely read most sci-fi and queer books in 2016 than in any of the previous years and that was without even meaning to. Some of my top favorites are A Gathering of Shadows, Morning Star, Vortex, Sleeping Giants (which I actually read in 2015 but still worth mentioning) and The Song of Achilles.

    • We made it through! Just barely. ????

      Definitely, both of those were awesome! It’s nice to read creative, diverse, smart YA books — I just wish more people were reading those two.

      If you find romance novels and some of their tropes unappealing or problematic (they definitely can be the latter, but problematic faves y’all!) then it’s probably a good idea to avoid fantasy-romance in general, but I did really like A Promise of Fire. Certain Dark Things though, that’s one I can recommend unequivocally!

      YES BINGE SEVEN REALMS! Then report back, because that series is everything. Princess Raisa is my future wife, and Han Allister can be my side piece, LOL.

      Illuminae was such a pleasant surprise! I just picked up Gemina from the library and I’m excited to get to it soon.

      Oooh okay, I haven’t actually read any of those! I know it’s horrible, I still haven’t read ADSOM…*hangs head in shame* Definitely going to check out Vortex and Sleeping Giants!

  • Labyrinth Lost sounds Amazing, and wasn’t on my radar!!! what a wonderful review on your reading! Thanks for sharing!

    • It was SO GOOD! Hopefully you get a chance to pick it up, Tori. I really liked it!

  • A Promise of Fire made my list too and Illuminae made my list last year 🙂

    Nereyda│ Nick & Nereyda’s Infinite Booklist

    • Both were so good! I’m holding out hope that A Breath of Fire and Gemina will make my 2017 list, too.

  • Lynn Williams

    Some great books on here! I’ve bought Wake of Vultures with one of my Xmas vouchers and – because everyone raved about it so much I just went ahead and bought No.2 as well! Now if I could just purchase a little time!
    Happy 2017 – here’s to lots of good reading to come this year.
    Lynn 😀

    • Oooh I can’t wait to hear your thoughts on Wake of Crows! I have a review copy of the second book but I haven’t been able to get to it yet — clearly I could do with purchasing a bit more time too, hahaha.

      Same to you, Lynn! All the best for 2017. 😊

  • Ooh, the year of the DNF, I like that. I should implement a resolution like that, too.

    I have Labyrinth Lost on my Kindle and will be tackling it soon! It sounds really good.

    And I can’t wait for more of Aaron’s books – I saw somewhere that she means to publish books 4 AND 5 this year, completing the series!

    I hope 2017 will be a good reading year for you.

    • I thought I would feel guiltier about it, but so far I’ve DNFed two books this year and I feel lighter for it.

      LL was definitely one of my favourite reads of the year, very unique and a really interesting diverse read. I hope you love it, Kaja!

      OMG books 5 AND 5 in the same year?? Rachel Aaron truly blesses her readers! Thanks Kaja, back at ya! 😊

  • I definitely think you should start
    reviewing romance novels on your blog, Danya! It’s always a pleasure to read your
    reviews. While I love finding new-to-me fantasy books via your blog, I would
    love to read your thoughts about romance titles and chat with you about them (as
    romance my favorite genre). I’ve seen your post about romance books, so you
    decided to give it a try, am I right?

    I don’t know many books on your
    list, but I do have Kingmaker Chronicles and The Others series on my tbr-list,
    and after you wonderful review I finally want to read Illuminae.

    50% seems like too much for a
    book you didn’t like, at least for me. I give up at 20%. This is actually
    funny, because I used to be a reader who finish books no matter what. Lately I
    have less time to read, I think this is the reason I DNF easier.

    I hope 2017 would be great for
    you in real life and in readingblogging.

    • Hahaha yes, you caught me! 😉 My romance roundup post is the first of many (hopefully) to come about romance novels on the blog. Normally I read lots of fantasy with romantic subplots, but I want to expand a bit.

      The Others is one of my favourite series! It’s got a really different style to it and I know some readers don’t like the writing style, but personally I love it. Oooh, Illuminae! I have to admit I wasn’t that interested in it when the hype was strong, but it really took me by surprise. I hope you enjoy it, Ksenia!

      Haha, I hear you! I’m just happy I’ve finally gotten to a place where I don’t feel guilty for DNFing. Thank you so much, you too! 🙂

      • Looking forward to more Romance
        posts!