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My Top Ten YA Books of 2016

top-ten-3
My Top Ten Books of 2016

I hope you all had a lovely Christmas!

This post lists my favourite Young Adult books of this past year.

All the books I have chosen were published in 2016. I haven’t included any ARCs of books coming out next year, or any books published before this year.

Several of my favourite authors, such as Holly Bourne, V. E. Schwab, Sarah J. Maas and Rachel Caine, have written more than one fantastic book this year. However, I’ve only allowed one book per author into this Top Ten post.

This list is in no specific order. I loved all of these books for very different reasons so it is impossible for me to choose between them!

I’m so grateful to each of the authors featured in this post for writing such enchanting and engaging novels. Reading them over the course of this past year has brought me great joy. I know that I will reread each of the novels in this Top Ten time and time again and get more out of them every time.

  • Empire of Storms by Sarah J. Maas

Empire of Storms completely blew me away. Fast-paced, filled with heart-pounding action, tension and adventure and with a host of vivid and well-developed characters, it has to be my favourite book of the Throne of Glass series so far. It gave me a new favourite character: I loved Elide’s bravery, determination and spirit.

In my opinion, the best thing about Empire of Storms was the mind-blowing and thrilling finale. The final hundred pages were filled with many revelations and twists which linked back all the way to the beginning of the series. I always love it when an author has planned a series in advance so that they can reveal something late on which has been hinted at since the beginning. The explosive, jaw-dropping ending has me desperate for the next book and it also made me very emotional.

Full review:

https://librietlibertas.wordpress.com/2016/09/08/empire-of-storms-by-sarah-j-maas/

  • The Sleeping Prince by Melinda Salisbury

The Sleeping Prince was a spectacular sequel – it was even better than its predecessor! Melinda Salisbury has the best imagination. There were so many unique, inspired and fascinating ideas in the novel, such as the roles of vita and philtresmiths and the conditions that they can suffer, and I loved the incorporation of fairytales.

I also really enjoyed the fact that the book had a stunning and hugely dramatic opening, and that it was totally unpredictable; it had twists and turns throughout. It also had a wonderful cast of characters, from the dangerous, resentful yet charismatic Sleeping Prince to Unwin, the creepy Justice of Errin’s town. Errin herself was an instantly likeable and admirable heroine – always determined and selfless – but my favourite character has to be the mysterious Silas.

I am so excited for the finale to this series and luckily there is only a short wait left!

Full review: https://librietlibertas.wordpress.com/2016/04/17/the-sleeping-prince-by-melinda-salisbury/

  • Inferno by Catherine Doyle

‘Inferno’ was also a brilliant sequel. Thrilling and addictive, full of betrayal, passion, heartache and vengeance, I read it in one sitting as I absolutely could not put it down. I loved the fast pace, the punchy dialogue, the high stakes, and the fact that I could never guess what was going to happen next. The whole novel felt like an action movie.

I also loved the fact that we got to see a lot more of two of my favourite characters from the series in this sequel.

The first of these characters is Luca: I adored the dialogue between him and Sophie in the novel, particularly in the donut scene. This scene had me beaming at the book so widely that my face ached!

The second of these characters is Millie. She had some great moments in ‘Inferno’, including her dolphin-themed pep talk, her stealth driving when she and Sophie sensed that they were being followed, and her insults to the Falcone brothers. She’s a faithful and hilarious best friend to Sophie and I really enjoyed how she provided humour between the darker sections of the novel.

Full review:

https://librietlibertas.wordpress.com/2016/01/17/inferno-by-catherine-doyle/

  • Truthwitch by Susan Dennard

Truthwitch was my most anticipated novel of 2016. I’d heard amazing things about it, so I had high expectations. Truthwitch fulfilled them all and more. It contained everything I love to see in fantasy novels: an original, well-developed, magical and enveloping world, a memorable and engaging cast of characters, epic romance and electric chemistry, a fast pace, bucket-loads of action, and heart-stopping tension.

My favourite thing about Truthwitch was the friendship between Safi and Iseult. In some books it is the romance that takes centre-stage, but here it is friendship. Safi and Iseult were fiercely loyal to each other. They knew each other back to front and always had each other’s back. Each of them was a strong and determined heroine. Throughout the book I was right on the edge of my seat, cheering both of them on and smiling all the way. I cannot wait to read more of their story next month in Windwitch. 

Full review:

https://librietlibertas.wordpress.com/2016/01/15/truthwitch-by-susan-dennard/

  • The Deviants by C. J. Skuse 

I found C. J. Skuse’s The Deviants absolutely thrilling. It was a real page-turner; it hooked me right from the opening, when a dead body was found on a beach, and I could not put it down until I’d finished the story. There were constant surprises in the novel so I could never guess what was going to happen next, and I loved that feeling.

I also loved the characters in the novel. Each of them felt gritty and 3D, with flaws as well as positive attributes. I really enjoyed the friendships between the members of the Fearless Five and found some scenes between them very moving. The part where Fallon tells Ella, to Ella’s extreme disbelief but pride, that Ella has inspired her and the part where Ella and Zane go to the island especially touched me. The characters now feel like old friends. Not only were the characters extremely vivid, but each scene was, too: whether Max and Ella were on a date in the garden centre, or Ella was boxing and running with her coach Pete, or the gang were in Fallon’s kitchenette, I was picturing every section as I read. The novel truly captured my imagination.

The Deviants kept me right on the edge of my seat. Mysterious, dark and unsettling, it’s the kind of novel you wish you could wipe from your memory just so you could have the pleasure of reading it again for the first time. I’d highly recommend it, especially for fans of We Were Liars. 

Full review:

https://librietlibertas.wordpress.com/2016/09/02/the-deviants-by-c-j-skuse/

  • The Forbidden Wish by Jessica Khoury 

The Forbidden Wish was an innovated and inspired reimagining of Aladdin. It managed to be original and authentic, but also satisfyingly true to the original story. I loved the way that Jessica Khoury developed the both characters of original legend (giving backstories to Aladdin and the genie, toughening Caspida (princess Jasmine), and giving an explanation for the king’s weakness and the ease with which the vizier could take advantage of him) and the story-world.

When reading the novel I was swept away and totally enveloped in the world of the story. Each scene in the novel was vividly imagined and beautifully written: Jessica Khoury’s prose had a beautiful, dream-like quality to it and her words were as charming and hypnotic as Nessa’s flute.

Exciting and enchanting, full of wondrous adventure, swoon-worthy romance, true friendships and tension that has you right at the edge of your seat, The Forbidden Wish is one of the best retellings I have ever read and a must-read for fans of The Lunar Chronicles and The Wrath and the Dawn. 

Full review:

https://librietlibertas.wordpress.com/2016/12/14/the-forbidden-wish-by-jessica-khoury/

  • This Savage Song by V. E. Schwab

I found everything about This Savage Song was brilliant and epic, whether it was the world-building, the characters or the plot itself.

The characters were striking and memorable, especially Kate and August, the two protagonists. Kate was strong and fierce, but she had a softer, more vulnerable side. This was brought out by the game she kept playing with herself – she kept asking herself ‘Where is Kate?’ and picturing alternative and happier versions of herself. She was very likeable in the way that she treated August. August himself was very easy to like. He was  trapped as someone he didn’t want to be and terrified about going dark again. I loved his friendship with his sister most of all.

I thought that it was very clever and neat that August and Kate essentially contrasted with each other – the humane monster and the monstrous human – but that they shared and were united by both an inner sensitivity and a need to be strong and monstrous when it counted.

The world of the novel was fascinating and immersive. I liked that it was complex enough to be enveloping, developed and to capture the reader’s imagination, but that at the same time it was simple enough, with having just three types of monster and two ruling families, that it could be easily grasped and very memorable. The premise of having violence breed violence was very logical.

‘This Savage Song’ was gripping, gritty and utterly un-put-down-able. The ending was also unpredictable, rich in twists, turns and revelations. It left me desperate for the next book, but at the same time feeling satisfied and blown away by just how amazing and imaginative this first installment was.

 Full review:
  • How Hard Can Love Be? by Holly Bourne

‘How Hard Can Love Be?’ was definitely one of the best books I read this past year, and indeed one of the best and most relatable books I’ve ever read. Heartfelt and honest, it had some very funny scenes that put a huge smile on my face– like the scene where Amber has to try to row a kayak and Amber’s reaction to her mother’s boyfriend’s summer camp’s replacement of Slytherin with Dumbledore’s army – but also some very moving and powerful scenes between Amber and her estranged mother, who started a new life in America and left her daughter behind. Holly Bourne always gets the balance exactly right between humour and seriousness.

I loved the fact that while I had initially assumed the title (‘How Hard Can Love Be?’) referred to romantic love, actually the book explored other types of love, such as love for parents and for friends, with equal focus. I also loved how relatable Amber was: the use of first person made her feelings and disappointment very palpable and made me empathise greatly with her. However, most of all I loved the Spinster Club meetings featured in the novel and the chats about feminism, because these scenes left me feeling both inspired and empowered.

If I had to choose one series to recommend to all other teenagers, it would be Holly Bourne’s Spinster Club series.

Full review:

https://librietlibertas.wordpress.com/2016/06/23/how-hard-can-love-be-by-holly-bourne/

  • Midnight Bites by Rachel Caine 
The ‘Morganville Vampires’ series means a lot to me, as I have been reading (and rereading!) these books for the past eight years, and they have taken me from the start of my teenage years to nearly the end of them. The characters are all very dear to me, and so reading ‘Midnight Bites’, a collection of new and old short stories, felt like a reunion with old friends. It was fantastic to see them all again!

I loved so many aspects of this short story collection. Firstly, I really liked the fact that this was a diverse collection of stories. There were many different points of view, including Hannah Moses’, Myrnin’s and Sam’s, as well as the four main characters, Eve, Shane, Claire, and Michael’s. Each character voice was unique, but they were all engaging. Additionally, the stories each had a different feel to them. Some of the stories were very emotional, such as ‘Grudge’, the story of the day that Shane angered Monica Morrell and his family was changed forever; some stories were creepy and mysterious, including ‘And One for the Devil’ in which Room 13 disappears and takes someone with it; other stories were more light-hearted and are romantic, such as ‘Lunch Date’. Each story was superb.

I really enjoyed seeing younger versions of Eve, Shane and Michael. It was very sweet to see Eve’s initial feelings for Michael. It was also fascinating in these stories to see more of Eve and Shane’s relationships with their family members, particularly their siblings. However, seeing Shane and Alyssa’s relationship, and his reaction to the fire, was heartbreaking. I also loved seeing more of Eve’s psychic friend Miranda in this collection, as well as more of Myrnin. He’s a unique and fascinating character, one of my favourite characters in YA. The stories provided information about his origins. It was enlightening to see him in multiple centuries, with his past and present selves meeting in some tales. I found this quote from his narration captivating and moving:

‘Lady Grey walked him into dark hallways, and for some ill reason Myrnin felt safer in the gloom than he had in the light. He’d adapted to the shadows, he thought. So many years in the dark, it had seeped into him and stained him.’

Morganville really is a place you never want to leave and I’m so glad Rachel Caine gave us the chance to return to it with this wonderful short story collection. Here’s hoping there might be another novel one day!

Full review:

https://librietlibertas.wordpress.com/2016/03/13/midnight-bites-by-rachel-caine/

  • Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

Crooked Kingdom was absolutely phenomenal. I loved it so much that I wrote an alphabet of reasons why everybody should read it! Here are the first few reasons from my post(there rest can be found at the link below).

ACTION

‘Crooked Kingdom’ is action-packed. It’s ceaselessly exciting and a complete thrill ride from start to finish.

BACKSTORIES

In ‘Crooked Kingdom’ we learn more about each of the six main characters and we see their backstories, particularly Inej’s, Wylan’s and Jesper’s. These develop the characters further and make them even more 3D.

CLIFF-HANGERS

The novel is divided into numerous sections with different titles and between these sections, and between many of the chapters, there are tense cliff-hangers. These make the book impossible to put down as you are desperately eager and impatient to find out what will happen next.

DIALOGUE

The dialogue in ‘Crooked Kingdom’ is snappy and realistic – it never feels staged. Leigh Bardugo is a master at showing us what characters are doing through dialogue as well as through narration – for example, when Kaz tells Matthias to ‘stop gawking’. She gets the perfect balance between dialogue and narration through the novel. I also love the fact that each character has a distinctive personality and voice, to the extent that if the ‘said ….’ bits that inform you who is speaking were taken out, I would still know who was talking.

EMOTIONAL

Several sections of the novel are very moving – particularly chapters 14 and 39. I cried a couple of times while reading. I always think it’s amazing when a book makes you cry because it shows just how powerful the writing is. In fact, I felt very emotional when reading the whole book because it is the final novel in the duology and I did not want to have to say goodbye to the characters.

Full review:

https://librietlibertas.wordpress.com/2016/09/27/crooked-kingdom-by-leigh-bardugo/

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August 2016 reads, Uncategorized

What’s A Girl Gotta Do? by Holly Bourne

  • What’s A Girl Gotta Do? by Holly Bourne

Rating: * * * * *

Series: The Spinster Club #3Screen Shot 2016-08-16 at 16.44.05.png

Publisher: Usborne

Publication Date: August 2016

Goodreads Synopsis: HOW TO START A FEMINIST REVOLUTION:

1. Call out anything that is unfair on one gender

2. Don’t call out the same thing twice (so you can sleep and breathe)

3. Always try to keep it funny

4. Don’t let anything slide. Even when you start to break…

Lottie’s determined to change the world with her #Vagilante vlog. Shame the trolls have other ideas…

The Spinster Club series is one of my very favourites. We had Evie and Amber’s stories – now it’s the turn of their friend and aspiring Prime Minister Lottie, and her story is just as un-put-down-able and heart-warming as the other two were.

Feminism is a very important and very popular discussion point in YA fiction – there is a Twitter chat with the hashtag #FeminisminYA every Tuesday – and feminism is at the very heart of ‘What’s A Girl Gotta Do?’. The novel tells the story of Lottie’s campaign to be an active feminist and to fight sexism by pointing out every case of sexism she notices – whether it’s in a store with the unfair cost of razors or ibuprofen for period pain or it’s in a restaurant with the waiter automatically handing over the bill to the man – for a month. Holly Bourne explores the consequences Lottie faces during her campaign, from taunts from boys at school who view her as ‘man-hating’ to being a source of irritation to insulted teachers when she points out sexism in their lessons. Lottie must overcome the difficulties, disappointments and costs associated with fighting boldly for a cause that not everyone agrees with or understands. At times over the novel’s course, Lottie really struggles to continue with her project. These sections are very moving and the reader is completely behind Lottie, urging her on all the way and feeling very proud and full of admiration whenever she pulls through a particularly difficult stage.

One of my favourite things about each of the books in this series has been the way that Holly Bourne is able to blend humour with poignancy and sensitivity. As I’ve mentioned, there are numerous very difficult and emotional time periods for Lottie in the novel, but there are also very funny sections of the novel – particularly in the dialogue – which will have you laughing at loud and will put a massive smile on your face. I’m especially thinking here of Lottie’s ‘banter’ with her cameraman Will.

I also really enjoyed and appreciated the fact that Lottie’s parents play an active role in this novel (as parents have in all the books in this trilogy in fact). This is different to many YA novels – particularly genres like fantasy and dystopia – in which the main characters are orphans or alternatively they have conveniently constantly-absent parents, so we fail to see the relationship between young adults and their parents/guardians , a relationship at the very centre of teenagers’ lives. Lottie’s parents are not particularly interested at the beginning in her feminist vlog – they worry it will affect her Cambridge application and her A-level grades – nor indeed is her mum happy when Lottie points out that the allotment of household chores in their house is sexist and her mum does everything while her dad relaxes after work. Lottie’s feminist campaign affects every sector of her life – both her school life and her home life.

I love the friendship between the three main characters in this series – Lottie, Evie and Amber – and the fact that, while all three characters have romantic relationships, their friendship is what is central to the series and what matters most to them. All these things that are sometimes overlooked in YA – parental relationships and friendships are often side-lined in favour of crushes and romances – are at the forefront of this series and it is fantastic to see them taking the focus, not least because partners come and go but parents and best friends are constant.  In this novel, we see the first major upset in the three Spinsters’ friendship and I thought this was very realistic and relatable.

And that leads me to another major point about this series – these are three of the most relatable books I have ever read. I can identify with so much in these novels – whether it’s a situation one of the main characters is in or whether it’s a thought, emotion or worry that they have. I see myself in them, and there is something very comforting about that – about knowing through an author’s writing that others feel the same as you and have the same thoughts. The first scene of the novel, for a start – where Lottie is verbally abused by men for wearing lipstick – is something I think that every girl can relate to. We have all, unfortunately, experienced this in some form. Lottie’s story is all of our stories.

To summarise, ‘What’s A Girl Gotta Do?’ is a novel that should be on everyone’s shelves. It’s striking, memorable and impactful, the kind of book that stays in your mind long after you’ve turned the final page. It raises countless points about everyday sexism, points that it is crucial that we all recognise, discuss and fight against. Most importantly, this book left me, as I’m sure it will every reader, feeling inspired and empowered to act and to fight for the changes I want to see happen.

 

 

June 2016 Reads, Uncategorized

How Hard Can Love Be? by Holly Bourne

  • How Hard Can Love Be? by Holly BourneScreen Shot 2016-06-23 at 19.18.04.png

Rating: * * * * *

Series: #2 The Normal Series (coming after Am I Normal Yet?)

Publisher: Usborne

Publication Date: February 2016 (I didn’t read it until now because I knew that when I did I would be bursting for the next book! Luckily the next book comes out in a couple of months!)

Goodreads Synopsis: Amber, Evie and Lottie: three girls facing down tough issues with the combined powers of friendship, feminism and cheesy snacks. Both hilarious and heart-rending, this is Amber’s story of how painful – and exhilarating – love can be, following on from Evie’s story in Am I Normal Yet?

All Amber wants is a little bit of love. Her mum has never been the caring type, even before she moved to California, got remarried and had a personality transplant. But Amber’s hoping that spending the summer with her can change all that.

And then there’s prom king Kyle, the guy all the girls want. Can he really be interested in anti-cheerleader Amber? Even with best friends Evie and Lottie’s advice, there’s no escaping the fact: love is hard.

‘How Hard Can Love Be?’ is definitely one of the best books I’ve read this year, and indeed one of the best and most relatable books I’ve ever read. Holly Bourne understands perfectly the ups and downs, wishes and worries, of being a 21st century teenager. This makes her books very readable and means that it is very easy to identify with and sympathise with the main characters. ‘How Hard Can Love Be?’ is heartfelt and honest, with some very funny scenes that put a huge smile on your face – like the scene where Amber has to try to row a kayak and Amber’s reaction to her mother’s boyfriend’s summer camp’s replacement of Slytherin with Dumbledore’s army (Although, as a Harry Potter fan, I could totally see where Amber was coming from – who would do that and think it was ok?!) – but also with some very moving and powerful scenes between Amber and her estranged mother, who started a new life in America and left her daughter behind.

One of my favourite aspects of this book and this series is the inclusion of feminism, with Amber and her two best friends Evie and Lottie’s Spinster Club meetings. In this novel, because Amber’s in the USA, their meetings take place in Skype and unfortunately Amber is left out of the all-important accompanying cheesy snacks! (I would recommend having some cheesy snacks next to you as you read this as you will get a craving for them!) I love Lottie’s enthusiasm when she talks through her ideas about feminism – she bursts to life in the novel with her bubbly, eager and energetic nature and her enthusiasm is infectious. The scenes in this series with the Spinster Club meetings always leave me feeling very inspired, not only to join a club like this, but to do things like the Bechdel test and to fight for equality. I think that a book has to be very powerful and skilfully written to leave you feeling inspired and empowered in this way.

I also really enjoy the fact that although when you read the title ‘How Hard Can Love Be?’ you immediately think of romantic love, the book presents other types of love with equal focus. There’s the love that Amber has for her mother, which she finds very difficult because at times it does not seem like it’s reciprocated by her mother – when she arrives in the US, she sees that her mother keeps her picture not in her own bedroom, but in the spare room, and this makes Amber feel like a discarded spare part. The use of first person makes Amber’s feelings and disappointment very palpable and makes you empathise greatly with her. We discover more about Amber and her mother’s relationship as Amber recalls what used to happen before her mother left England and her mother’s struggles with alcoholism. The final scene between Amber and her mother is very moving, powerful and satisfying.

Additionally, there’s the love and bond between friends, not just between Amber, Evie and Lottie, but also the friends that Amber makes on camp. I think it’s really important that books put focus on friendships as well as romances, and Holly Bourne does this very successfully. My favourite of the friends Amber makes is Whinnie, who is a faithful and caring friend to Amber. She shares Amber’s good-humour and also has a very interesting life philosophy based on Winnie the Pooh. Their friendship seems very natural.

The romantic relationship in the novel is also very well done. Although on the surface Kyle and Amber may not seem to have much in common, underneath they do and they really connect to each other. It’s clear that Kyle really values Amber and appreciates and is entertained by her good-humour. I really like the fact that although they both like each other, that doesn’t mean that their relationship is totally smooth-sailing.

I love how the heading between sections changes for the last section into a positive; it’s a lovely touch and makes the novel ultimately very uplifting.

Overall, ‘How Hard Can Love Be?’ is a fantastic addition to YA and if you haven’t read it, you definitely should! I think that if I had to choose one series to recommend to all other teenagers, it would be the Normal series, and that Holly Bourne is one of the most important YA writers out there, with her exploration of key issues like feminism, mental health and relationships. Her books are very relatable and blend humour and patches of light-heartedness with more serious and emotional sections perfectly.

‘What’s A Girl Gotta Do?’, Lottie’s story, comes out in August and I can’t wait!