When I announced in September that I was reducing my blogging schedule, I knew that change would mean ending the monthly Recent Reads series. But I didn’t want to walk away from the idea of discussing books we’ve recently read. Then I read Leanne Sowul’s summer reading round-up here, and inspiration sparked. Why not do a seasonal reading recap – and also make it fun for my readers?
So, today I’ll share my 10 favorite reads from Fall 2016 (September through November). What you’ll find after the jump aren’t reviews, but rather blurbs that mention why I enjoyed each book with links to my full reviews at Goodreads and Amazon. As for the fun part: The title says it all, so stay tuned for the Rafflecopter link and instructions at the end of this post! 😉
Blood for Blood by Ryan Graudin (YA Alternate Fantasy)
I read Ryan Graudin’s Wolf By Wolf over the summer and was enthralled and terrified by its imagining of a post-World War II world where Hitler and the Axis Powers had won. That story was still fresh in my mind when I picked up its sequel, Blood for Blood. And… Wow. Between the heightened stakes, the relentless suspense, and Yael’s strengthened focus and determination, I had a REALLY hard time putting Blood for Blood down. The best part, though? Graudin finally gave me reasons to like Luka Lowe. I couldn’t stand him in Wolf By Wolf, but after this book I understand him better – and, most importantly, like him more – than I did before.
Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo (YA Fantasy)
Another case of a sequel that was (in my opinion) better than its predecessor. And for Crooked Kingdom, that was no small feat, since Six of Crows was one of my favorite reads last year. The expanded character development, the intricate plotting and unrelenting tension… And the way that certain characters were pushed beyond their emotional limits tugged at my heart. So, for me, Crooked Kingdom is THE reason why you should read the Six of Crows Duology if you haven’t yet. It’s Leigh Bardugo’s best work to date, and it shows how much she’s grown as a writer since her Grisha Trilogy.
Life of Pi by Yann Martel (Fiction)
I saw the film adaptation of Life of Pi a couple years ago. So, yes, I had sort of spoiled things for myself before reading the book. But I don’t feel guilty, because now I know I love both versions. (NOTE: The film is faithful to the book for the most part.) If you’re not familiar with Life of Pi, it follows Pi Patel as he spends 227 days on a lifeboat with a Bengal tiger after their freighter ship sinks. Their ordeal is terrifying and (for vegetarian Pi) grisly, as well as enlightening and life-affirming. Martel also covers important events and self-discoveries that Pi makes before his journey, from his open embracing of religion to the eye-opening experiences at his father’s zoo. But the real joy in Life of Pi is the protagonist’s narrative voice. Pi’s eagerness, intelligence, and unexpected “funny bone” radiate through Martel’s writing, making this cleverly written, thoughtful tale of survival and resiliency truly memorable.
Like a River Glorious by Rae Carson (YA Historical Fantasy)
What a precious and unique series this is shaping up to be! Rae Carson’s Like a River Glorious continues the story of gold-sensing Leah Westfall, who has arrived in California with her friends and is ready to seek her fortune in the Gold Rush. But Leah’s uncle Hiram has survived his own journey and will stop at nothing to control his niece’s powers to benefit his mining empire. I loved how this book focused more on Leah’s magic than Walk On Earth A Stranger had and finally let Leah and Jefferson’s slow-burn romance come to fruition. Plus, the in-depth historical research, the authentic narrative voice – gosh, I loved just about everything in Like a River Glorious. Except Uncle Hiram… but that’s all I’ll say about him.
The Reader by Traci Chee (YA Fantasy)
Set in a fictional world where literacy is considered dangerous, Traci Chee’s YA fantasy debut The Reader stole my breath with its very first pages. Sefia is left alone with a mysterious artifact after her aunt is kidnapped. She quickly realizes that this artifact – a book – might help her rescue her aunt and teach her about her burgeoning magical powers. But that proves to only be the beginning of her journey… And with pirates, mythic legends, a new friend-who-could-be-something-more with a traumatized past, and Sefia’s fierce determination, it’s a journey for readers as well. The book’s clever art direction also takes its “story within a story” concept to another level. So I can’t recommend The Reader enough, especially if you’re looking for a beautifully written, deftly layered YA fantasy.
Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys (YA Historical Fiction)
Ruta Sepetys’s Salt to the Sea is a fictional account of four young characters whose lives are changed when the Wilhelm Gustloff sinks during World War II. This maritime disaster might be one of the least known events of that war (I never learned about it in school), so gaining insight on it through this book… It’s hard to put into words, and I mean that as a compliment to Sepetys. The depth of her research shines through, and her lyrical writing takes you to the heart of each POV character. I wasn’t crazy about the book’s structure; the vignette-like chapters didn’t ground me long enough in each scene or setting to make it an immersive reading experience. But that didn’t stop the empathy and bravery of its characters and Salt to the Sea‘s overall power from haunting me days after I finished it.
The Slow Regard of Silent Things by Patrick Rothfuss (Fantasy Novella)
I really enjoyed this side novella for Patrick Rothfuss’s Kingkiller Chronicles. But if you haven’t read it yet, here’s fair warning: You might not like The Slow Regard of Silent Things if you a) haven’t read either Kingkiller book yet, b) are looking for a continuation of Kvothe’s story, or c) think you won’t be interested in following Auri, one of the series’ side characters, around her underground home for one week. That said, if you’re intrigued Auri and the Underthing and want to lose yourself in Rothfuss’s elegant wordplay once again, then give this a try. It took me a little bit to get into The Slow Regard‘s rhythm and personality. But once I did, I was equally entranced and aching for this sweet, beautifully broken girl who thinks the world of Kvothe.
Steeplejack by A.J. Hartley (YA Steampunk / Mystery)
Steeplejack seems to have slipped under most people’s radars, so I’m thrilled to tell you how FANTASTIC this book is. Or maybe all I should say are the words, “YA South African steampunk murder mystery”? 😉 The story centers on Ang Sotunga, a young steeplejack who’s hired to investigate a possible connection between her apprentice’s murder and the disappearance of one of the city’s most prized artifacts. I loved the mystery focus and think Ang is a wonderful addition to the “strong female character” spectrum for her physical and emotional qualities. But the real star of Steeplejack is its world-building, with its richly layered history, savanna outskirts (and animals you’d find in Africa!!), and racial / cultural tensions. So it’s not just a unique and authentic read, but also a relevant one in today’s social climate.
Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff (Steampunk Fantasy)
Now THIS was a trip. Stormdancer was my first Jay Kristoff book, after hearing so much about his Lotus War Trilogy as well as the Illuminae and Nevernight books. It’s about a hunter’s daughter who befriends a thunder tiger and becomes part of a rebellion that rises up against their oppressive government. Did I mention that the story’s world is inspired by Japanese culture and mythology, with a steampunk twist that shows the environmental dangers of its industrialization? 😉 I had some issues with the overly flowery writing and uneven pacing, but overall Stormdancer delivers with stunning world-building, bloody violence, and a fantastical take on human-animal relationships. I’m not kidding. Words still fail to describe how much I adore the thunder tiger Buruu.
This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab (YA Urban Fantasy)
This Savage Song is my first Victoria Schwab book, and also the first book I read after the recent U.S. presidential election. And… gosh, did this turn out to be the book I needed then. Yes, it’s dark, gritty, and violent. But at its heart, This Savage Song is about two young characters – one human, the other monster – who learn what it means to cling to one’s sense of humanity or goodness, and what it means to lose it. The worldbuilding fascinated me, though it was a little difficult to grasp at first; and I was thrilled to see no romance between Kate and August. Their relationship is tentative and tenuous, and rooted in their need for survival and a mutual understanding and acceptance that develops from their short time together.
It’s (International) Giveaway Time!
Did any of the books catch your eye? If so, great – because now you have a chance to win one! One (1) lucky person will win their book of choice from my Favorite Reads of Fall 2016 list via The Book Depository. (Click here to see if your country is on that list.)
This giveaway is international (i.e., open to all countries that TBD ships to) and ends at midnight Eastern time on Tuesday, December 13th. Click on the link below to access the Rafflecopter widget, then follow the instructions to earn points for comments, social media, etc. Also, let me know which book you’d like to win in your comment on this post. (You might want to list second and third choices, too, in case your first choice isn’t available.) The winner will have 48 hours to respond to my email and claim their prize.
EDITED ON 12/14/2016: The giveaway has ended. Congratulations to Amanda Wallace for winning a copy of This Savage Song!
How about you? What were some of your favorite reads this fall? What are you looking forward to reading over the winter?