Even though it’s already the 11th January and everyone has moved on to write about what they’re going to read in 2017, I still have to last 2016-related post to publish: my best (read: hits) and worst (read: misses) reads from the year.
Let’s start off with the worst books of the year. They fall into at least one of the following categories: a) really disliked it or b) it let me down (I had higher expectations).
1) Alienated by Melissa Landers
This is a young adult romance following Cara Sweeney, an American senior student in high school, during the year she hosted the first-ever L’eihr exchange student, Aelyx, in her home and life.
The only positive thing I have to say is that the author never tried to pass the book off as science fiction, and thank God for that. While I can forgive her for not being scientifically accurate throughout the story, I can’t forgive her for the lack of originality in her work. If you swapped the alien related bits and pieces for references to a country with little to no diplomatic ties with the United States, say for example Iran, the story would have been better and more realistic. Of course I know that aliens aren’t realistic and that them coming to earth is even less plausible, but one thing I hated was how similar to humans they were. Their DNA was basically the same as human’s, for crying out loud!
2) Love and Other Foreign Words by Erin McCahan
The first time I heard about this book I was eager to get a chance to read it. It was probably upon its release, so mid-2014-ish? Either way, you can imagine how happy I was when I bought the ebook copy, I thought I was going to love it so much — well, that didn’t happen.
Love and Other Foreign Words is a young adult novel about a super bright kid, academic wise, sixteen year old Josie. She’s finishing high school while also taking college classes on the side, has an amazing family who’s supportive of her and an awesome friend called Stu. She seems to have it all, until her older sister brings a boyfriend home and announces that they’re getting married. Needless it is to say that Josie doesn’t approve of this and concocts a plan to separate the two.
The story arc was so unbelievably predictable that anyone who finishes reading the first five chapters, give or take, can figure out what is going to happen in the end. The way the characters were written bothered me a lot, they felt plastic and artificial and never organic. Josie’s personality was intolerable, she was a brat and for a really smart girl her decision making was horrible.
3) The Sacrifice by Joyce Carol Oates
The last bad book I read in 2016 that I’m going to talk about is Oates’ adult novel set in a New Jersey town somewhere in the past (think around 1980s) following the story of a fourteen-year-old black girl, the act of racial violence committed against her and the repercussions it had in other people’s lives — it sounded right up my alley.
Oh boy, was I wrong. This follows multiple points of view, in theory this technique is a good idea because the reader gets to see how the incident has shaped other people and how they look at racial violence (this is particularly interesting when we find out the race of the narrator of each chapter). In practicality, it sucked. It slowed down the plot unnecessarily, some narrators added nothing of substance to the story and it made me put the book down several times before giving up because nothing was happening.
1) Sleep by Haruki Murakami
This is one of the best books I have ever read. This short story follows a Japanese house wife who, one day, stops getting tired and never sleeps anymore.
I fell in love with the book from the opening line, “I haven’t slept for seventeen days”. It set up the feel of the story amazingly well, I might even say that it’s my favorite opening line. The character has a very pronounced growth arch, the way she occupies her days and nights changes throughout the story along with the change of her mood — and sanity.
Murakami’s prose is breathtaking. I am amazed at how well he captures the mood of the story, setting a light tone in the beginning of the story and as days go by intensifying it.
Side note: If you’re thinking about buying a copy for yourself, get the physical one and check that it’s hardback and illustrated. They are gorgeous, from the blue, white and silver palette to the actual drawings, done by the fantastic Kat Menschik.
2) Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay
If I die tomorrow and my parents want to know which book has influenced me the most, this would have to be it (you’re welcome!). When I read this collection of essays about feminism, race and being a black woman in America (and in the world, really) back in July it blew my mind.
Roxane Gay explores a variety of themes relevant today, from “lighter” topics such as her favorite shows to heavier topics such as rape culture. Some of these essays are filled with funny and witty commentary, while others, due to their nature, are harder to read. However they’re never dull and always made me think about what I stand for and the ideals I’m willing to defend.
If you’re looking to learn more about feminism (or want to read more non-fiction) read this, specially if you don’t know what intersectional feminism means.
3) The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
The last book that is getting the spotlight is the epic fantasy novel The Name of the Wind, first book in The Kingkiller Chronicle series. This follows the epic tale of the magically gifted Kvothe from his childhood trouping with his traveling family to his teenage years studying the magic world.
Kvothe is one of my all-time favorite characters. Patrick Rothfuss has done good by him in creating such a vivid and realistic character in a world where our reality doesn’t equate to the status-quo. We are introduced to him as a small child and see him grow from there until he becomes a teenager, which was incredibly rewarding. The world is also very rich, you can tell that the author put a huge effort into creating it, it’s no wonder it took him almost 14 years to develop it!
If you’re interested in reading more, or starting to read, epic fantasy then this is the book for you. I might even do a review in the future once I read the following two books — this will take me a long time, though, they’re around 900 pages each.
This past year I was lucky enough to have read a lot of awesome books, so obviously I couldn’t feature all of them here, so I opted to choose different genres to give you a panoply of great options to choose from. If you want to know what other great books I read (and rated five-stars) you can see them here in my Goodreads shelf.
What are the worst and best books you read last year? Do you share my opinions about these books? Let me know!