Saturday, January 7, 2017

Reviews in Review 2016

e-books sadly not included. 
Another year, and another stack of incredible books! I'm a little late on this post, but better late than never. I think I was a little too eager to put 2016 behind me (aren't we all), but I got the chance to read some really awesome books and work with some incredible artists this year. I can't let the year slip away without a bit of reflection. As well as being a bit of my "Best Books of 2016," this list serves as another look at my reviews. Feelings can sometimes change on books; some that impacted me greatly while reading become hardly memorable, while something about a mediocre book could stick with me for months.

I made a goal of reading 25 books this year, same as last year. I made it much closer to my goal this year with 19 books, and so I'm setting my goal against for 25 in 2017. I'm confident that I'm going to make it this year, and not just because of short books. (Though I'm having deja vu of saying this last year, hah.)

I found it really hard to narrow down a list this year, which I suppose is a great sign. Without further adieu, let's get this rock show started!

Most Class
Life of Pi by Yann Martel 

Nothing classier than a classic. I figured I should get the obvious choice out of the way first. Life of Pi rocked my summer reading in a way only excellent literature does. For months after I found myself flipping through passages and looking up quotes, still enamored with the story and its storytelling. One of the main reasons why I loved this read so much was because I learned a lot about writing from it. Not only about tension and execution, but as an incredible in-depth character study. The reader gets to know Pi as intimately as themselves, and that's something I haven't seen done so well before or since.

Delightfully Different
The Migrant Report by Mohanalakshmi Rajakumar

I was offered a chance to read this book in exchange for a review, and I was so glad that I did. It's one of the books that sticks out most for me this year, if only because of the rich culture and characters. Though there was a large cast of POV characters for this novel, the author balanced it well and kept each character vivid and original. I was a little turned off by the sequel baiting, but months later I'm still delighted thinking back on the characters and all their interwoven problems. It is an #ownvoices book, as it is staged in the Arabian Gulf where the author lives and writes. My only real complaint comes back to wanting more from the book, yet it's one I often end up recommending, mostly because I feel like it is an awesome story that deserves the love. 

A Bad Aftertaste
The Outliers by Kimberly McCreight

I was probably a little too forgiving in my review of this book. Then again, it's probably just that the few good parts I enjoyed have faded from memory, leaving only the bad. I call this book a bad aftertaste as it perfectly describes the feeling I get when I think of it. The main character was such an unlikable jerk, the romance was highly unbelievable, the beginning fluctuated between a "telling" backstory and break-neck tension and pacing, and the end is a string of bad fantasy tropes, all disguised in a contemporary. The main character is the "chosen one," it ends on a cliffhanger of people hunting after them, along with the reveal that we've got super special powers. It almost felt like a bait and switch of a book-- painting itself to be a contemporary story about character and growth, instead turning into the epitome of urban fantasy cliches. 

Most Warm Fuzzies of the Year
Something in Between by Melissa de la Cruz

This book delighted me from beginning to end. Perhaps it was because I read it right after an especially dark book, but the tone and writing of Something in Between was so positive, so bubbly and fun that it really lightened my spirits. It is a bit of the quintessential love story, but focused on a Filipino family and their struggle of impending deportation. The book balanced the love story with an #ownvoices look at Unites States immigration. It tackled the issues with the seriousness they deserve, but kept the story hopeful and fun right up until the end. It was such a breath of fresh air to read. 

Best Let Down of the Year
Welcome to Night Vale by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor

Ah, Night Vale. After hearing about this book, I was so excited to immerse myself in the world of weird. A couple of my friends read it and encouraged me to pick it up, so I was fairly hyped up about what I was getting into. But after diving in, I found myself quickly bored of the strangeness without direction, and a plot hastily tied together at the end. There were tiny glimmering aspects of the book that I really fell in love with, which made the book even more of a let down to me. It may simply come down to personal preference, but I really felt like this book could have been so much more. It was the first book I read of the year and that disappointment still rings as strong as the day I finished it. 

Surprise Delight
Death of a Scratching Post by Jackson Dean Chase

I'm not usually one for cute coffee table books, but I picked up this poetry collection on a whim, mostly because I love cats. I was surprised and delighted by how much I fell in love with the author's prose. Yes, every poem was about a cat, but held a lot of passion and depth that I wasn't quite expecting. I really enjoyed the author's approach and even now I find myself flipping back to the poems and reading through. It's a short but sweet read and has stuck with me for longer than I expected. 

Honorary Mention: Holy Shit Technology
Between Worlds by Skip Brittenham

I felt like I couldn't go without mentioning this book. The story itself was pretty standard and didn't actually wow me-- it was the augmented reality app that did it. This is a middle grade book, and in an attempt to engage kids who might be a little too attached to their electronics, an app was constructed as a "how to" guide for all the creatures the main characters discover in the new world they're transported to. Using the phone's camera, the app projects a 3D creature standing on the book (think Pokemon Go). As you read through the book, the reader discovers more pages that show new creatures. I was impressed because I felt like the app helped to facilitate reading and encouraged the reader to get more into the story, instead of taking away from it with too many flashy add-ons.

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