Top 5 Books Read in 2016

I’d love to hear about the best books you read last year, so please feel free to share your favorites in the comment box. They can be from any genre, published in any year; the only stipulation is that you read the book sometime during 2016.

For those interested, here’s my complete reading list for 2016. I had more 4- and 5-star reviews than I expected, and many of those books had the WOW! factor for which I’m always on the prowl. Sadly, I have to whittle that list down to only my Top 5 (except for the few honorable mentions I sneaked in at the end). 😛

The Night Circus by Erin MorgensternThe Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern (Published 9/13/2011)

The circus arrives without warning. If you’re not compelled to read on, after that first sentence, you may not fall as head-over-heels as I did. When it came time to share my thoughts about this book, I was stumped. So many feelings to sift through to find an actual, logical thought. At its heart is a love story, surrounded by a competition between masters and their apprentices, wrapped in lots and lots of magic. I could see that magic, close my eyes and touch it. All my senses were fully engaged. It’s a rare book that uses smells and sounds with such clarity and power. My favorite book read in 2016!

My Review | Add it on LibraryThing | Add it on Goodreads

Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuireEvery Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire (Published 4/5/2016)

Most of us have read a portal fantasy; The Chronicles of Narnia and Alice in Wonderland being two of the most widely read. The adventure in a portal fantasy often focuses on escaping the fantasy and getting back to the “real” world. So what happens to the characters who found their portal but had to leave? Every Heart a Doorway explores that very situation. I loved this – beautiful, macabre, diverse – book, and I cannot wait to read its companion (available for pre-order). For anyone who ever searched and searched for their secret door, or for those who still do.

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All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane AndersAll the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders (Published 1/26/2016)

A weird mash-up of science fiction and fantasy presented with a unique voice. And I mean “weird” in the best possible way. Highly recommended if you’re looking for something different, something simultaneously imaginary and realistic.

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Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. ButlerParable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler (Published 11/1/1993)

It’s always bittersweet to read a new-to-me author praised as a master of their craft. I’m overjoyed to have FINALLY read one of their works; I’m also sad because I wish I would’ve read them decades earlier, especially in my tweens and teens. At the age when I so desperately wanted stories with strong female characters who weren’t white Mary Sues nor obsessed with romance. Lauren Olamina is forthright, loyal, rational…all qualities I look for in my real-life friendships. She’s the kind of leader a non-follower like myself would be proud to join on any quest.

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Where Futures End by Parker PeevyhouseWhere Futures End by Parker Peevyhouse (Published 2/9/2016)

Young adult dystopia. I can almost hear the eye rolls. 😉 But don’t let the saturated genre fool ya; this is young adult literature for the thinking teen (or adult). There’s time travel, an alternate universe and some scary ideas of just how far social media and corporate sponsorship could go. The author has described it as”Donnie Darko + Cloud Atlas.” Recommended to readers who like interconnected stories, non-linear narratives, and generally hard to label books.

My Review | Add it on LibraryThing | Add it on Goodreads

Honorable Mentions:
Weird Girl and What’s His Name by Meagan Brothers
My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry by Fredrik Backman
When the Elephants Dance by Tess Uriza Holthe
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

Top 5 Books Read in 2015
Top 5 Books Read in 2014
Top 5 Books Read in 2013
Top 5 Books Read in 2012

Top 5 Books Read in 2015

Of the 126 books I read in 2015, these five really stood out for me as having a WOW! factor that immediately earned their place on my “Top 5” list. For anyone interested, here’s my complete reading list for 2015.

The Night Sister by Jennifer McMahonThe Night Sister by Jennifer McMahon (Published 8/4/2015)

Alternating timelines. A family-owned motel in small town Vermont. Best friends. First love. A disappearance. Secrets. A murder mystery. And, at the heart of all that, is the enduring bond of childhood friends and the destructive nature of sibling rivalry. Recommended for hot summer nights, curled up in a chair by an open window, a warm breeze sneaking in to tickle your bare toes, and the sound of darkness pulsing on the other side of the screen.

My Review | Add it on LibraryThing | Add it on Goodreads

Memory of Water by Emmi ItärantaMemory of Water by Emmi Itäranta (Published 6/10/2014)

Dystopias centered around global warming or water shortages aren’t new. What is refreshing about this story, though, is its protagonist. Seventeen-year-old Noria is unforgettable. Couple that strong character with Itäranta’s evocative prose and the result is one of the most believable (and frightening) looks at a future we might face if nothing changes.

My Review | Add it on LibraryThing | Add it on Goodreads

Ancillary Justice by Ann LeckieAncillary Justice by Ann Leckie (Published 10/1/2013)

Mind blown! A story set in space, thousands of years in the future, in which people are not distinguished by gender; hence, everyone is referred to using only female pronouns. It took about 25 pages to get lost in the book but after that I was gone. (It may be important to note that I’m relatively new to the genre.) I absolutely loved everything about this story, and it’s the reason why I now actively seek out more science fiction.

My Review | Add it on LibraryThing | Add it on Goodreads

Big Fish by Daniel WallaceBig Fish by Daniel Wallace (Published 10/1/1998)

I’m a huge Tim Burton fan, so I’d already watched the movie by the time I learned it had been based on a book. Having adored the movie, I decided I better give it a few years before I read the book; I didn’t want to constantly compare the book to the movie which, I admit, is often unavoidable. Thankfully the book version was every bit as good, if not better than, the movie adaptation. Ultimately it’s a father-son story, but I was able to easily relate based on my own life experiences.

When a man’s stories are remembered, then he is immortal.

My Review | Add it on LibraryThing | Add it on Goodreads

The Rabbit Back Literature Society by Pasi Ilmari JääskeläinenThe Rabbit Black Literature Society by Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen (Published 1/20/2015)

The Land of Laughs meets The Snow Child.

A secret Society for writers, a book plague, a (maybe murder?) mystery, the disappearance of a Snow Queen-ish character, mythological mapping … will absolutely be a hit or miss for the average reader. For me, it was the perfect amount of weird. Matter of fact, as I’m writing this, I want to pick it up again to re-read it. Loved, LOVED, loved this story!

My Review | Add it on LibraryThing | Add it on Goodreads

Top 5 Books Read in 2014
Top 5 Books Read in 2013
Top 5 Books Read in 2012

Top 5 Books Read in 2014

Every year for the last five years I’ve challenged myself to read a certain number of books. The first couple years I came up short, but since 2012 I have met and exceeded my yearly challenge. For 2014 I wanted to read at least 100 books – my biggest goal ever – and I ended up reading 112! For anyone interested, here’s the complete list.

In looking back over the year’s reads, there weren’t many with that coveted WOW! factor. So this year I’m sharing with you what I consider the best of what I read in 2014.

The Supernatural EnhancementsThe Supernatural Enhancements by Edgar Cantero (Published 8/12/2014)

You might expect a run-of-the-mill haunted house story, and you’d be wrong.

Instead you get a mysterious family history, a secret society, tons of riddles and puzzles, and one of THE best sidekicks ever. Oh, and said sidekick is also mute.

Highly recommended to the thinking reader.

My Review | Add it on LibraryThing | Add it on Goodreads


20th Century Ghosts
20th Century Ghosts by Joe Hill (Published 10/16/2007)

I loved this collection! It’s only one of two 2014 reads that I had to buy as soon as I finished with the library’s copy. (Einstein’s Dreams was the other.) My favorite thing about Joe Hill’s writing is how he takes a seemingly overdone, cliche theme, such as ghosts, and gives it a whole new perspective. Genre doesn’t matter; his are simply great stories.

My Review | Add it on LibraryThing | Add it on Goodreads


Bird Box
Bird Box by Josh Malerman (Published 5/13/2014)

What’s scarier than something you can’t see but know is right beside you? Eek!!

An impressive debut which I hope will lead to many, many more terrifying tales from Malerman.

My Review | Add it on LibraryThing | Add it on Goodreads


Raising Stony Mayhall
Raising Stony Mayhall by Daryl Gregory (Published 6/28/2011)

One of the most touching zombie-themed books I’ve read to date. Gregory writes the (yes, often overused) subgenre exactly as I think it was meant to be written: as an allegory for society’s current events, issues, fears, beliefs, etc. I still haven’t finished writing my full review for this one – that’s how much it affected me.

My Review | Add it on LibraryThing | Add it on Goodreads


The Golem and the Jinni
The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker (Published 4/15/2013)

Uses two mythological creatures to explore what it means to be human. Some might even call it a love story…without romance. The beginning has a slowish pace but I promise it’s SO worth your patience. Truly powerful stuff for those who want to dig below its surface.

My Review | Add it on LibraryThing | Add it on Goodreads


Top 5 Books Read in 2013
Top 5 Books Read in 2012

Note to Self: Stunts by Charles L. Grant

Jacket cover Stunts by Charles L. GrantStunts by Charles L. Grant was published in 1990 and the hardcover edition I was reading had 438 pages. I couldn’t finish this book but I did manage to force my way through 161 pages. Unlike Broken, I was just getting interested in the story when I had to return it to the library on March 12th. And, because my car has decided to give me attitude, I didn’t know when my next visit to the library would be, so I couldn’t check out anymore books.
…Click to keep reading

Not Wasting Enough Time? LibraryThing Can Help

If you’re in the minority, who feel like they need to waste just a little bit more time each day, then I invite to check out LibraryThing. It’s free, it’s easy, and it’s addictive.

For years, I’ve cataloged and inventoried my CD and DVD collections, but I’ve never gotten around to doing my books. The wait is over. I began using LibraryThing on July 23, 2009 and I’ve already added 200 books to my library. Free memberships are only allowed to add up to 200 books. Paid memberships are allowed an unlimited number of books. The paid memberships are very affordable and they even offer a $25 lifetime membership, which for a book lover, possibly bordering on hoarder, that’s right up my alley.

My favorite part of LibraryThing is the ability to tag all of the books in your collection. This means you can search your library for books sharing the same tag or you can search other users’ tags. While browsing my library’s author tag cloud, I realized that I don’t diversify in my personal reading as much as I want to–I saw a lot of the same authors and  I’m not reading nearly enough non-fiction.

Plus, you can search through the entire LibraryThing author tag cloud. It’s like digging for buried treasure. The great thing about their author tag cloud is you can discover thousands of authors you’ve never heard of or re-discover authors you might’ve forgotten about. For example, by simply scrolling down the page, I was able to see that Neil Gaiman is super popular as are William Shakespeare and Terry Pratchett, and I found an author I’d never heard of, Orson Scott Card, simply by scrolling down the page and seeing his tag was huge, meaning a lot of users had added books by him.

Now, if only WordPress would allow scripts, then I could embed the LibraryThing widget directly in my blog.

Check it out! Let me know what you think about LibraryThing or similar services.

WARNING: If you decide to visit the LibraryThing website, please consider that once you start, you won’t be able to stop. I’ve spent probably a total of 8 hours on the site so far, which is great for my growing list of “to read” books, but not so good for my [selectively ignored] daily “to do” list. Please realize the site might possibly be one of the biggest time sucks I’ve run across. But it’s fun and informational. Just consider yourself warned 🙂

Books I Want to Read – An Ongoing List

I’m trying to compile (in one place) a list of books I want to read before I die. Yes, there’s probably hundreds, if not thousands of them, but I’m a listmaker so here’s my list, and it’s in no way complete or in any order.

Southern Vampire series – Charlaine Harris (I just started 4/24/09)

Harry Dresden Files – Jim Butcher (I’m two away from being caught up)

Odd Thomas series – Dean Koontz (I’m two away from being caught up)

The Watch series – Sergey Lukianenko, Vladimir Vasiliev

Dead Witch Walking – Kim Harrison

The Good, The Bad and The Undead – Kim Harrison

Deadly Desires – Keri Arthur

What-the-dickens – Gregory Maguire

Mirror, Mirror – Gregory Maguire

Son of a Witch – Gregory Maguire

Emily Dickinson Poems – Collection published by Castle Books

Children of the Night – Mercedes Lackey

The Forgotten Beasts of Eld – Patricia McKillip

The Dante Club – Matthew Pearl

The Mammoth Book of Vampire Stories by Women – Edited by Stephen Jones

Mina – Marie Kiraly

Inkspell and Inkdeath – by Cornelia Funke

Diplomacy of Wolves – Holly Lisle

Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens (Great Expectations is my fav Dickens)

1984 – George Orwell

Slaughterhouse Five – Kurt Vonnegut

Twilight – Stephanie Meyer

[Author’s Note on March 12, 2011: I’m still working out the best way to keep track of my home library, what I read prior to 2010, and what I want to read, in a way that will benefit me and readers looking for new titles for their own “to be read” pile. Suggestions happily accepted: leahabney at gmail dot com.]

Summer’s over, fall is here.

Welp, fall has arrived and it makes me a little sad to see everything dying. I try to remind myself this is part of the cycle, death is a necessary part so that everything can be reborn and beautiful in six months or so. I could do without the blizzard this year, if I’m being a little selfish.

I am officially way behind in the writing course. Thankfully, I’ve read several classmates’ postings saying they are as well. It’s coming up on Week 10 and I’m still on Week 5. I don’t feel so bad when I read others are still around Week 3 and 4. I’m not totally disappointed with my progress but I need to get back on the wagon quickly so I don’t lose the momentum I was steadily building up in Week 4. It’s a great course though.

My aunt is starting an online creative writing class that sounded pretty interesting so I think I’m going to enroll in that after my six month class with Holly is over. I want to get myself disciplined to write regularly…that’s the only way I’ll ever get published so it’s a high priority on my to-do list.

I am making progress on my new blog. I’ve been brainstorming / clustering ideas for topics to write about. I’m trying to tie it into a book as well so I want to be sure and get ideas down in a setup I can save outside of my blog and build up then compile into a book format.

On a personal note, my daughter is doing well in fourth grade. We’re getting into a routine of getting out of the house for “Field Trip Fridays” and we’re looking to volunteer on a regular basis as well. I think that will definitely help build up her character and help teach her how important it is to give back, pay it forward, if you will.

I went on a fabulous first date this weekend and it looks very promising. Finally someone who is exactly who they say they are. I think we’ll be having a lot of fun together in the coming months. I also watched Eagle Eye this weekend and it was terrific. I’m starting to develop a little crush on Shia *smile*, but nothing to compete with my Josh Hartnett crush *grins*…yet.

I finished Inkheart by Cornelia Funke on Monday and started Jim Butcher’s Proven Guilty (another Dresden Files novel). I need to re-read The Lord of the Rings trilogy before the end of the year because I haven’t done so in 2008; it’s a yearly thing 🙂

Until next time–follow your dreams and never stop reaching for the stars!