My Favorite Books of 2016

Goodness...where to start?

I guess I should mention that these are my top five picks from the books I read in 2016 and they are presented in no particular order.  To see a more comprehensive look at all the books I read this last year, take a peek at Krista's Year in Books (2016).

The Black Jewels Trilogy: Daughter of the Blood, Heir to the Shadows, Queen of the Darkness (The Black Jewels, #1-3)
Technically, this should count as three books but, as the trilogy was packaged in one massive tome, I'm going to count it the same way Goodreads did: as one gigantic book.

This was the first book I read in 2016.  Apparently, I like to tackle the thickest of books right at the beginning of my challenges because this year I selected Stephen King's 11/23/63, which is 849 pages long.

The Black Jewels Trilogy by Anne Bishop came in at a whopping 1204 pages!

And I loved every single word of it.  I thought Jaenelle Angelline's growth throughout the series was precocious without being tiresome.  In this trilogy, Jaenelle appears first as a young girl that catches the heart of three men: the Lord of Hell and his two sons.  As she grows, their love for her becomes more defined: the father-figure, the brother, and the lover.

Yet, it is Jaenelle's character that kept me so thoroughly engaged.  Her legendary power is offset with emotional and psychological vulnerabilities that were spawned in childhood.  Watching her grow over the course of the three books was a true delight.

Just talking about this story makes me want to jump right back into the story, which is why this is definitely on my keeper shelf.

Alight (The Generations Trilogy, #2)
My last read of 2016 was the second book in The Generations Trilogy by Scott Sigler.  I had read the first book, Alive, in a couple of days in mid-July 2015.  As I had quite enjoyed Alive, I wanted to make sure I kept on track for the final book's release, which I believe is scheduled for publication in March 2017.

I'm glad I made it a priority as it did not disappoint.  Em and the other Birthday Children have an interesting tale to tell.  Sentient clones with fragmented memories, this group of teenagers and tweens managed to survive their awakenings, a run-in or two with their progenitors, and some space-travel dangers in the first book.

In Alight, Em and the Birthday children find themselves on a strange new planet with a whole new set of troubles.  There are strange creatures that make it a challenge to address even their most basic of needs.  There are alliances and coups.  There are unsettling discoveries about who they were and who they might become.

I am really looking forward to how Scott ends this trilogy.  I think he's going to have a lot to do in a few hundred pages.

Small Great ThingsThis is not the kind of book I would normally pick up.  There are no dragons.  No magic.  No space ships.  No technological wonders. Nothing supernatural or supersonic about it.

That being said, this is still one of the most memorable books I read last year.  The story flowed effortlessly between the three main viewpoint characters: Ruth, the black nurse; Kennedy, the privileged white female attorney; and Turk, the racist white man whose actions cost one woman her job and, tragically, his son his life.

I felt a wide range of emotions as I read this book. First, I felt outrage for the untenable position Turk's prejudices put Ruth in.  In a moment of crisis, she had to choose between honoring the family's wishes, which were being supported by the hospital's administration, or ignoring direct orders in order to honor her profession.  Her choice is the linchpin upon which this story rests.  As the narrative unfolds Ruth, Kennedy, and Turk provide insight into the ugly reality of race relations in America.

It was riveting.  It was tragic.  And it was timely, at least for me.  As the 2016 American Presidential race steamed forward, the themes Picoult played with in Small Great Things transcended fiction and began appearing almost everywhere in my life.  I saw racism and sexism everywhere.  It was on the news.  It was in the newspapers and magazines I read.  It reigned supreme on my Facebook feed.

Picoult's book may not have any answers, but it at least raises awareness.  It dares the reader to step outside their own lifetime experiences and consider what their life might have been like had they not been born into their current circumstances.

Arena (Arena, #1)This book was just plain and simple fun.  Kali Ling is a gaming goddess, which she proves time and again when she enters a virtual gaming world that streams live for all the world to see.  The RAGE tournaments are streamed live to the world and watched much like today's Superbowl game.  There's big money in it, not just for the players but for the company that sponsors the VR athletes.

Kali and her teammates learn how to navigate the Virtual Gaming League's social and professional standards.  When the unthinkable happens to one of her teammates, Kali's fantastical world is shown for the illusion it is.  I appreciated that these gamers suffered the price of fame, that the life of a professional gamer wasn't made out to be a utopian fantasyland.  I liked the ugly and gritty underbelly.

Oryx and Crake (MaddAddam, #1)I should list the entire Maddaddam trilogy here.  You can't read Oryx and Crake and just stop there, not when  you have the rest of the trilogy near at hand.  Or maybe you could.  I couldn't.  I read them in fast succession.

I was fascinated with this first book in the trilogy.  It introduced me to Snowman, who in turn introduced me to the cataclysmic Crake and the woman that fascinated them both, the mysterious Oryx.  In true Atwood fashion, though, the backstory for each character took multiple books to fully explore.  The present and past blend and blur,  Story lines jump and pivot.

Atwood is a brilliant writer.  How she manages to keep everything straight in her own head is a mystery I will never be able to solve because I can hardly keep what I've read straight.  For all the connections I managed to make between the three books, I'm positive I've missed a hundred more.  This is likely why this is on my keeper shelf and will be pulled out again and again. Forewarned and forearmed and all that jazz....