Saturday, January 7, 2017

Top 16 Books of 2016: A post filled with the indecisive ramblings of myself

Before I begin, I would like to thank the author's below for their amazing novels and the wonderful words and worlds held inside of them. Thank you for changing my life for the better and making me believe that their is still good in the world, after all the terrible shit lately. You give me hope. And I will never forget that. I hope someday to repay you just a little. Hopefully. Again, Thank You So Much...

Without further ado...

In no particular order...

Here are my FAVORITE BOOKS OF 2016

(Which took me entirely too long to narrow down.)

The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi 2016
The Star-Touched Queen (The Star-Touched Queen, #1)
Synopsis: Fate and fortune. Power and passion. What does it take to be the queen of a kingdom when you’re only seventeen?

Maya is cursed. With a horoscope that promises a marriage of death and destruction, she has earned only the scorn and fear of her father’s kingdom. Content to follow more scholarly pursuits, her whole world is torn apart when her father, the Raja, arranges a wedding of political convenience to quell outside rebellions. Soon Maya becomes the queen of Akaran and wife of Amar. Neither roles are what she expected: As Akaran’s queen, she finds her voice and power. As Amar’s wife, she finds something else entirely: Compassion. Protection. Desire…

But Akaran has its own secrets—thousands of locked doors, gardens of glass, and a tree that bears memories instead of fruit. Soon, Maya suspects her life is in danger. Yet who, besides her husband, can she trust? With the fate of the human and Otherworldly realms hanging in the balance, Maya must unravel an ancient mystery that spans reincarnated lives to save those she loves the most…including herself.

Why it's on my list: Simple, really. This lyrical novel that has a Hades/Persephone Retelling vibe to it features not only one of the most swoonworthy romances in the YA game today, but memorable characters. This is a kind of story that sweeps you up entirely, and you never want to leave.

When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie Mclemore 2016
When the Moon Was Ours
Synopsis: To everyone who knows them, best friends Miel and Sam are as strange as they are inseparable. Roses grow out of Miel’s wrist, and rumors say that she spilled out of a water tower when she was five. Sam is known for the moons he paints and hangs in the trees, and for how little anyone knows about his life before he and his mother moved to town. But as odd as everyone considers Miel and Sam, even they stay away from the Bonner girls, four beautiful sisters rumored to be witches. Now they want the roses that grow from Miel’s skin, convinced that their scent can make anyone fall in love. And they’re willing to use every secret Miel has fought to protect to make sure she gives them up. 

Why it's on my list: This is my top book of the year. One of the only one's I am sure about it's placing. Not only is this novel my favorite magical realism novel, it's one of my favorite stories of all time. Learning about Sam and Miel opened my world up to so many things. This novel is lyrical and beautiful and simply elegant. The words flow together seamlessly. Mclemore crafted a story of heartache and heartbreak, and captures the moment of falling in love for the first time. Also, cover lust af. I honestly have trouble expressing how absolutely haunting this novel is. Such an important novel at that. A beautiful love story worthy of the world. This is the book I want everyone to read if they were to only read one book in the upcoming year. This one, you guys. Please don't miss it.

Kids of Appetite by David Arnold 2016
Kids of Appetite
Synopsis: The bestselling author of Mosquitoland brings us another batch of unforgettable characters in this tragicomedy about first love and devastating loss.

Victor Benucci and Madeline Falco have a story to tell.
It begins with the death of Vic’s father.
It ends with the murder of Mad’s uncle.
The Hackensack Police Department would very much like to hear it.
But in order to tell their story, Vic and Mad must focus on all the chapters in between.

This is a story about:

1. A coded mission to scatter ashes across New Jersey.
2. The momentous nature of the Palisades in winter.
3. One dormant submarine.
4. Two songs about flowers.
5. Being cool in the traditional sense.
6. Sunsets & ice cream & orchards & graveyards.
7. Simultaneous extreme opposites.
8. A narrow escape from a war-torn country.
9. A story collector.
10. How to listen to someone who does not talk.
11. Falling in love with a painting.
12. Falling in love with a song.
13. Falling in love.

Why it's on my list: An unforgettable cast of characters, a keep-you-on-the-edge of your seat premise and quirky dialogue are just the beginning of this phenomenal novel by none other than David Arnold, author of Mosquitoland. Kids of Appetite is just a wonderful bundle of, exactly-my-type of book. And I'd be doing you a disservice if I didn't tell you to read it. Also: One of the main characters, Vic has Moebius Syndrome, making it so his face is basically paralyzed. And honestly, this made me love the book even more. Carefully researched, and so important to the novel. I love this book. (and all of these books)

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo 2015
Six of Crows (Six of Crows, #1)
Synopsis: Ketterdam: a bustling hub of international trade where anything can be had for the right price—and no one knows that better than criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker. Kaz is offered a chance at a deadly heist that could make him rich beyond his wildest dreams. But he can't pull it off alone...

A convict with a thirst for revenge
A sharpshooter who can't walk away from a wager
A runaway with a privileged past
A spy known as the Wraith
A Heartrender using her magic to survive the slums
A thief with a gift for unlikely escapes

Kaz's crew are the only ones who might stand between the world and destruction—if they don't kill each other first.

Why it's on my list: Well, I loved this book so much that I read it twice in 2016. It's that good you guys. This book has my favorite characters like ever. I honestly don't want to tell you anything about them because I'm afraid to spoil something. But basically, they are all phenomenal. (But especially Wylan. And Jesper. And Matthias. And Inej. And Nina. And Kaz. So, all of them) Super dangerous heist for lots of money goes awry, and holy shit. IT'S THAT GOOD YOU GUYS. Yay for antiheroes!

A Darker Shade of Magic/A Gathering of Shadows by V E Schwab 2015/2016
A Darker Shade of Magic (Shades of Magic, #1)A Gathering of Shadows (Shades of Magic, #2)
Synopsis: Kell is one of the last travelers--magicians with a rare, coveted ability to travel between parallel universes connected by one magical city.

There's Grey London, dirty and boring, without any magic, and with one mad King--George III. Red London, where life and magic are revered--and where Kell was raised alongside Rhy Maresh, the roguish heir to a flourishing empire. White London--a place where people fight to control magic and the magic fights back, draining the city to its very bones. And once upon a time, there was Black London. But no one speaks of that now.

Officially, Kell is the Red traveler, ambassador of the Maresh empire, carrying the monthly correspondences between the royals of each London. Unofficially, Kell is a smuggler, servicing people willing to pay for even the smallest glimpses of a world they'll never see. It's a defiant hobby with dangerous consequences, which Kell is now seeing firsthand.

Fleeing into Grey London, Kell runs into Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She robs him, saves him from a deadly enemy, and finally forces Kell to spirit her to another world for a proper adventure.

Now perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, they'll first need to stay alive.

Why it's on this list: Because Victoria Schwab is a writing goddess. That is all. Just kidding. It's because this world is simply the most intriguing and well built world I've read about in years. Kell is a hardass, lovable, hardass. Yes, I said hardass twice. Lila is badass as can be. And my god, don't get me started about her. Or Kell. Or Rhy. Or people we meet in the second novel. But like, read this book you guys. I wrote a review on it, and that goes into more detail of how I really feel. I have a feeling everyone can and will love this book.

The Rose and the Dagger by Renee Ahdieh 2016
The Rose & the Dagger (The Wrath & the Dawn, #2)
Synopsis:The darker the sky, the brighter the stars.

In a land on the brink of war, Shahrzad is forced from the arms of her beloved husband, the Caliph of Khorasan. She once thought Khalid a monster—a merciless killer of wives, responsible for immeasurable heartache and pain—but as she unraveled his secrets, she found instead an extraordinary man and a love she could not deny. Still, a curse threatens to keep Shazi and Khalid apart forever.

Now she’s reunited with her family, who have found refuge in the desert, where a deadly force is gathering against Khalid—a force set on destroying his empire and commanded by Shazi’s spurned childhood sweetheart. Trapped between loyalties to those she loves, the only thing Shazi can do is act. Using the burgeoning magic within her as a guide, she strikes out on her own to end both this terrible curse and the brewing war once and for all. But to do it, she must evade enemies of her own to stay alive.

The saga that began with The Wrath and the Dawn takes its final turn as Shahrzad risks everything to find her way back to her one true love again.

Why it's on this list: Because this was everything I wanted from TW&TD sequel and more. See, I liked TW&TD but I LOVED ROSE. Because their was something so magical about it, that I couldn't put it down. I read it at every single possible free moment. (Most of it being read during a shift at work. Muhahahah. It's that good. The magic. The characters. The world. The dynamics. Everything was perfect, to me.

More Happy than Not by Adam Silvera 2015

More Happy Than Not
Synopsis: In his twisty, gritty, profoundly moving debut—called “mandatory reading” by the New York Times—Adam Silvera brings to life a charged, dangerous near-future summer in the Bronx.

In the months after his father's suicide, it's been tough for 16-year-old Aaron Soto to find happiness again--but he's still gunning for it. With the support of his girlfriend Genevieve and his overworked mom, he's slowly remembering what that might feel like. But grief and the smile-shaped scar on his wrist prevent him from forgetting completely.

When Genevieve leaves for a couple of weeks, Aaron spends all his time hanging out with this new guy, Thomas. Aaron's crew notices, and they're not exactly thrilled. But Aaron can't deny the happiness Thomas brings or how Thomas makes him feel safe from himself, despite the tensions their friendship is stirring with his girlfriend and friends. Since Aaron can't stay away from Thomas or turn off his newfound feelings for him, he considers turning to the Leteo Institute's revolutionary memory-alteration procedure to straighten himself out, even if it means forgetting who he truly is.

Why does happiness have to be so hard?

Why it's on this list: If you have to ask yourself this question. Go out and buy this book immediately. Go on... I'll wait. Then come back and read this. Okay? Now that you understand, this book broke my heart. Not into a million little pieces. But into mismatched shards of glass. This book took what my heart once was, tore it up bit by bit, and threw it into a meat grinder, cooked it on a grill, went through someone's digestive system, then was stomped on by grape stompers, processed so it looked like a heart, but instead gummy form. And then it was lit on fire. Okay, so I might be exaggerating a little bit, but my love for this book knows no bounds. As I've said before... Required Reading.

Seven Ways We Lie by Riley Redgate 2016
Seven Ways We Lie
Synopsis: Seven students. Seven (deadly) sins. One secret.

Paloma High School is ordinary by anyone’s standards. It’s got the same cliques, the same prejudices, the same suspect cafeteria food. And like every high school, every student has something to hide—from Kat, the thespian who conceals her trust issues onstage, to Valentine, the neurotic genius who’s planted the seed of a school scandal.

When that scandal bubbles over, and rumors of a teacher-student affair surface, everyone starts hunting for someone to blame. For the seven unlikely allies at the heart of it all, the collision of their seven ordinary-seeming lives results in extraordinary change.

Why it's on this list: It's underrated as hell. Because I love it. Yay for pansexual rep, and aromantic rep, and for the diversity of this book. And for the fucking phenomenal writing. And for everything this book is. And for the fact that Riley is hilarious and this book is just the best thing. I feel lucky to have read it so early.

Beyond the Red by Ava Jae 2016
Beyond the Red (Beyond the Red, #1)
Synopsis: A story of betrayal, love, and loss—all on a technologically advanced alien planet where monarchy reigns, but lies rule.Alien queen Kora has a problem as vast as the endless crimson deserts. She’s the first female ruler of her territory in generations, but her people are rioting and call for her violent younger twin brother to take the throne. Despite assassination attempts, a mounting uprising of nomadic human rebels, and pressure to find a mate to help her rule, she’s determined to protect her people from her brother’s would-be tyrannical rule.

Eros is a rebel soldier hated by aliens and human alike for being a half-blood. But that doesn’t stop him from defending his people—at least until Kora’s soldiers raze his camp and take him captive. He is given an ultimatum: be an enslaved bodyguard to Kora, or be executed for his true identity—a secret kept even from him.

When Kora and Eros are framed for the attempted assassination of her betrothed, they flee. Their only chance of survival is to turn themselves in to the high court, where revealing Eros’s secret could mean a swift public execution. But when they uncover a violent plot to end the human insurgency, they must find a way to work together to prevent genocide

Why it's on this list: Because I loved this book so much. And was blown away by the addictive writing, the well-paced adventure, and the slow-burn of a romance. Because I loved Eros. And I admired Kora and her strength. I just loved so much about this book, and I want to read it again and again and again. The sequel, Into the Black has become one of my most anticipated releases of 2017. This book deserves more love, you guys. Please, for the love of god, read it.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe
Synopsis: Aristotle is an angry teen with a brother in prison. Dante is a know-it-all who has an unusual way of looking at the world. When the two meet at the swimming pool, they seem to have nothing in common. But as the loners start spending time together, they discover that they share a special friendship—the kind that changes lives and lasts a lifetime. And it is through this friendship that Ari and Dante will learn the most important truths about themselves and the kind of people they want to be. 
Why it's on this list: Well, because I didn't read it sooner because I am a stupid human being who didn't know what he was doing with his life. Ari and Dante are real and this book is so poetic and gorgeous. And I loved it. And it's a gaaaaay book. But you all know that. And I looooove it sooo much. Yeeeee.

The Sun is Also A Star 2016
The Sun Is Also a Star
Synopsis: Natasha: I’m a girl who believes in science and facts. Not fate. Not destiny. Or dreams that will never come true. I’m definitely not the kind of girl who meets a cute boy on a crowded New York City street and falls in love with him. Not when my family is twelve hours away from being deported to Jamaica. Falling in love with him won’t be my story.

Daniel: I’ve always been the good son, the good student, living up to my parents’ high expectations. Never the poet. Or the dreamer. But when I see her, I forget about all that. Something about Natasha makes me think that fate has something much more extraordinary in store—for both of us.

The Universe: Every moment in our lives has brought us to this single moment. A million futures lie before us. Which one will come true?

Why it's on this list: Because it's simply a constellation-worthy love story that will make you believe at love at first sight once again. Because this book made me feel as if I could be in this situation, even though that's not even a possible thing because I'm white. But that's how beautifully raw and truthful it is. It can make you feel something you could never experience. And that's what's so special about this book. That it can make you feel like this. I adore this book with all my heart.

The Girl From Everywhere by Heidi Heilig 2016
The Girl from Everywhere (The Girl from Everywhere, #1)
Synopsis: Nix has spent her entire life aboard her father’s ship, sailing across the centuries, across the world, across myth and imagination.

As long as her father has a map for it, he can sail to any time, any place, real or imagined: nineteenth-century China, the land from One Thousand and One Nights, a mythic version of Africa. Along the way they have found crewmates and friends, and even a disarming thief who could come to mean much more to Nix.

But the end to it all looms closer every day.

Her father is obsessed with obtaining the one map, 1868 Honolulu, that could take him back to his lost love, Nix’s mother. Even though getting it—and going there—could erase Nix’s very existence.

For the first time, Nix is entering unknown waters.

She could find herself, find her family, find her own fantastical ability, her own epic love.

Or she could disappear.

Why it's on this list: Because it wouldn't be complete without this book here. Heidi Heilig writes phenomenally, this much is clear. And her time-travel rules are so different than any other book I've read. Honestly, I didn't know about this book for the longest time... then I got an ARC through a big giveaway... and didn't read it until a little before it's release. I HATE MYSELF FOR THIS YOU GUYS. This book was unputdownable. So freaking good. (Also, I love Heidi with all of my heart)

The First Time She Drowned 2016
The First Time She Drowned
Synopsis: Cassie O’Malley has been trying to keep her head above water—literally and metaphorically—since birth. It’s been two and a half years since Cassie’s mother dumped her in a mental institution against her will, and now, at eighteen, Cassie is finally able to reclaim her life and enter the world on her own terms.

But freedom is a poor match against a lifetime of psychological damage. As Cassie plumbs the depths of her new surroundings, the startling truths she uncovers about her own family narrative make it impossible to cut the tethers of a tumultuous past. And when the unhealthy mother-daughter relationship that defined Cassie’s childhood and adolescence threatens to pull her under once again, Cassie must decide: whose version of history is real? And more important, whose life must she save?

A bold, literary story about the fragile complexities of mothers and daughters and learning to love oneself, The First Time She Drowned reminds us that we must dive deep into our pasts if we are ever to move forward.

Why it's on this list: Because it destroyed me and everything I am. Now this book is well written. Extremely well written. The writing is why this book is so magical. (Without being literally magical because there isn't any magic in this one, guys.) But like, Cassie is unforgettable and everything with her and her mother (the center of this book) kills me. The big reveal, murdered my feelings. And if you need a good cry, I recommend this book.

2017 Books
Caraval by Stephanie Garber
Caraval (Caraval, #1)
Synopsis: Whatever you've heard about Caraval, it doesn't compare to the reality. It's more than just a game or a performance. It's the closest you'll ever find to magic in this world . . . Welcome, welcome to Caraval—Stephanie Garber’s sweeping tale of two sisters who escape their ruthless father when they enter the dangerous intrigue of a legendary game.

Scarlett has never left the tiny island where she and her beloved sister, Tella, live with their powerful, and cruel, father. Now Scarlett’s father has arranged a marriage for her, and Scarlett thinks her dreams of seeing Caraval, the far-away, once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show, are over.

But this year, Scarlett’s long-dreamt of invitation finally arrives. With the help of a mysterious sailor, Tella whisks Scarlett away to the show. Only, as soon as they arrive, Tella is kidnapped by Caraval’s mastermind organizer, Legend. It turns out that this season’s Caraval revolves around Tella, and whoever finds her first is the winner.

Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. But she nevertheless becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic with the other players in the game. And whether Caraval is real or not, she must find Tella before the five nights of the game are over, a dangerous domino effect of consequences is set off, and her sister disappears forever.  

Why it's on this list: Well, duh. Because it literally is magical. Because Tella was my favorite. Because the romance, gah kill me so perfect. Because the concept is perfection. This book that promises to be spectacular, lives up to the hype.

History is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera
History Is All You Left Me
Synopsis: When Griffin’s first love and ex-boyfriend, Theo, dies in a drowning accident, his universe implodes. Even though Theo had moved to California for college and started seeing Jackson, Griffin never doubted Theo would come back to him when the time was right. But now, the future he’s been imagining for himself has gone far off course.

To make things worse, the only person who truly understands his heartache is Jackson. But no matter how much they open up to each other, Griffin’s downward spiral continues. He’s losing himself in his obsessive compulsions and destructive choices, and the secrets he’s been keeping are tearing him apart.

If Griffin is ever to rebuild his future, he must first confront his history, every last heartbreaking piece in the puzzle of his life.

Why it's on this list: Adam Silvera knows how to hit me hard. So much so that he's on this list twice. Which is a hard thing to do as I generally have a rule for repeat authors in Top ___ lists, because otherwise all I would ever do would put the same authors again, and again, and again. But Silvera deserves it man. This book comes out on January 17th, and I want you all to preorder it immediately. A beautifully haunting portrait of grief and what it can do to a person. I can't wait to reread.

The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli
The Upside of Unrequited
Synopsis: Seventeen-year-old Molly Peskin-Suso knows all about unrequited love. No matter how many times her twin sister, Cassie, tells her to woman up, Molly can’t stomach the idea of rejection. So she’s careful. Fat girls always have to be careful.

Then a cute new girl enters Cassie’s orbit, and for the first time ever, Molly’s cynical twin is a lovesick mess. Meanwhile, Molly's totally not dying of loneliness—except for the part where she is. Luckily, Cassie's new girlfriend comes with a cute hipster-boy sidekick. If Molly can win him over, she'll get her first kiss and she'll get her twin back.

There's only one problem: Molly's coworker, Reid. He's a chubby Tolkien superfan with a season pass to the Ren Faire, and there's absolutely no way Molly could fall for him.


Why it's on this list: Last on this list here, but certainly not least... Because it's Becky Albertalli and her writing speaks to me. And she's my favorite author. And my favorite person. And the Oreo Goddess. (Queen of the Oreos?) But my love for Becky aside, I loved this book for a few things: It's utter nerdiness. It's inclusion of a lesbian couple, and diversity in general. A fat, jewish MC. Thank you for that. Especially, for me, the fat part. The raw emotion expressed could only be truly expressed by someone who knows how it feels to be fat. And my god, I understood it all. And cried. And then I loved it even more because Molly is just so damn wonderful. And the boy. THE BOY. Nerdy level maxed out and I loved it. And the little cameo from Simon. If you are afraid you won't like this after the amazingness that is Simon, don't. You will. I guarantee it.

Here we are! The end of my list! What did  you think? See any of your favorite books on this list? I'd love to see your top books from 2016!

- Cody Roecker

Roecker Reviews <3

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