2016 sucked. We all know it, and I think everyone who lived through it has something dismal to share that isn’t only about the holes in the fabric of humanity that David Bowie and Leonard Cohen’s passings left (or the celebs of your choice). Closer to home, my pet rat died in January (he was just over two years old, so I wasn’t totally surprised about that, but it’s still sad), and one of my cats in April (which was a surprise since he was only nine. What an awful day).
I graduated from my college program on time this spring–with honours, woo-hoo!–and I’m infinitely glad to have that part of my life behind me. It’s exhausting going back to school full-time in your thirties, far more than doing it right out of high school or in your early twenties. Since I view education as a lifelong endeavour, I’ll be returning again at some point, but I’m going back to part-time courses. But for now–IT’S OVER.
Anyway, onwards to the favourites of 2016.
I only read 75 books this year. This low number is due to a stressful final semester and in the summer, re-reading all of my Linnea Sinclair novels. I also started reading The Stand this winter and I’m nearly finished. Had I started it a little earlier, it would be on this list (no spoilers, please).
As always, not all of the books here were published in 2016, I just read them in 2016. All links lead to Goodreads. There may be spoilers, so you have been warned (except for The Stand. Don’t spoil it for me). As this isn’t a review blog, I’m only writing about books I liked, my tastes are varied, and I’m pretty easy to please. I did read a few duds, as one does, but I’m not going to trash them here or anywhere (per my usual end of the year lists).
As the World Dies, Rhiannon Frater
There’s been a trend in horror romance in which zombie plagues are curable and zombies are romantic partners. I like romance and I like zombie stories, so I’ve read a few of them and never cease to be gobsmacked because I cannot get past the idea of banging a dead guy. I’ve written and tweeted before about how grossed out I am by vampire heroes for the same reason, but at least vampires are well-groomed and, I’m assuming, brush their teeth. Anyway, the As the World Dies trilogy (The First Days, Fighting to Survive, and Siege) are not those kinds of books. It’s relatively rare to find a really good zombie series that features female protagonists–and I’m not talking about the “strong, independent woman” trope, because neither Jenni nor Katie fit that stereotype. It’s a story about female friendship in the zombie apocalypse, and while I was pissed off with the ending of the third book (when it happens, you’ll know), it didn’t diminish my overall enjoyment of the series.
Europa Europa, KS Augustin
While Salvia, this novella’s heroine, didn’t have a tail, she was still essentially a mermaid. MERMAIDS IN SPACE! Of course I wanted to read it. Salvia is a genetically-modified human created in a lab who works for The Company’s installation on Jupiter’s moon . Being mostly human–albeit one who can thrive water cold enough to make a polar bear say “Fuck that noise”–she gets lonely, and insists on having a companion to keep her company or she won’t work anymore. She gets her wish when Rhus is delivered to her, and they fall in love. They figure out pretty quickly what The Company wants to do with Salvia now that she’s asserting herself, and it isn’t an awards ceremony. It’s a short, satisfying read.
Dead Ringer, Heidi Belleau and Sam Schooler
ALL THE FEELS. Oh, my God, I loved this book. I don’t recall how I found it, only that it shares the same title as one of mine, and I think it might be my favourite romance of the year. It’s as much of a love letter to old Hollywood icons as it is Brandon and Percy’s love story, and as a fellow lover of old films that alone sold me on it. There are elements to the story that aren’t for everyone–they meet after Percy hires Brandon, an escort and lookalike for his favourite actor (and Brandon’s deceased grandfather). Percy is a very lonely, very wealthy young man with juvenile arthritis who rarely leaves his home and is cared for by a nurse who wouldn’t be out of place in a Ken Kesey novel. It’s a plot that has to be handled with a great deal of care, and the authors did so. It isn’t often that I read a book and feel sucker-punched rather than irritated by the angst, but this did it.
Diabolical, Jana Deleon
I’ve written before how much I like Jana Deleon’s mysteries, and Diabolical is no exception. It solves the mystery of how Shaye Archer came to be Shaye Archer–as a teenager, she was found wandering the streets of New Orleans with total amnesia that stays with her until this book–very nicely, and keeps the door open for more books. Which makes me happy, because I thought this would be the final novel in the Shaye Archer series.
The Pawn, Skye Warren
I read a few books from Skye Warren this year (The Pawn, Hold You Against Me, Anti-Hero, and To the Ends of the Earth) and really, any of them could have shown up on this list. It’s only been in the last couple of years that I’ve really given dark romance a try, and Skye Warren is one of my favourite authors in that subgenre. It’s difficult to create likeable characters who also happen to be morally ambiguous or outright sketchy people, but she does it. It’s not a subgenre for everyone (but then, what is?) and if you’re looking for romance novels with airy plots, adorable barista heroines, and benevolent billionaire heroes, move on. The Pawn is pretty damn dark–Avery, the heroine, is forced to offer her virginity at a private auction to save her home and her father, who really doesn’t deserve saving, IMHO. The winning bidder is Gabriel, who was ripped off by Avery’s father and started the ball rolling on his downfall. It does end on a cliffhanger, for those out there who hate them, but the next novel in the series is going to be released in a couple of weeks as of this writing.
The Wayward Pines Trilogy, Blake Crouch
I hadn’t watched Wayward Pines when I picked up all three novels (Pines, Wayward, and The Last Town) at one of those tables piled up with books in the International Centre at the CNE in August, so I didn’t know what to expect. Blake Crouch likes his short sentences and sentence fragments. Like, a lot. To the point that after I read some reviews on the books I saw how much his style irritated readers. But it didn’t bother me, although Ethan Burke, the protagonist, is a douche-copter to the nth power for the bulk of the first book, just so you know (hugely douchey. Cheating on his wife and unable to totally regret it level of douchey). Having not seen the show, I didn’t know what the Big Twist is, and I was not expecting it, so between that and the ending the trilogy ends up on this list. I did start watching the show before Rogers TV discontinued its Shomi service but didn’t finish it before Netflix ate it. Damn you, Rogers.
(I cannot damn Netflix as much. It has Firefly. But seriously, Netflix, get your shit together and get the Canadian rights to more shows.)