This is my annual list of favorite books that I read and reviewed this year.
Break Me Like a Promise and This Raging Light were the two books that were most impactful to me and the two I most desperately needed to read this year. I haven’t stopped thinking about The Star-Touched Queen and In Some Other World, Maybe since I finished them. Passenger has become a defining book of key moments of this year and last (which is why I have three copies of it). Bookishly Ever After, Iron Cast, Tell Me Three Things, Three Dark Crowns, My Lady Jane, and The Museum of Heartbreak were all delightful surprises this year. Hands down, The Anatomy of Curiosity is one of the most inspiring books I have read. Ever.
You can click the cover photos to read my reviews. Since it’s 2016, I’m giving myself ten slots plus up to six honorable mentions. Alphabetical by author because picking favorites any more specifically is too hard.
- Bookishly Ever After by Isabel Bandeira
- Passenger by Alexandra Bracken
- Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum
- The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi
- In Some Other World, Maybe by Shari Goldhagen
- This Raging Light by Estelle Laure
- The Square Root of Summer by Harriet Reuter Hapgood
- Break Me Like a Promise by Tiffany Schmidt
- Iron Cast by Destiny Soria
- The Anatomy of Curiosity by Maggie Stiefvater, Tessa Gratton, Brenna Yovanoff
- Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo
- Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake
- My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, Jodi Meadows
- The Girl from Everywhere by Heidi Heilig
- The Museum of Heartbreak by Meg Leder
- This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab
This list is also a Pinterest board.
Here’s my list of favorite books from 2014.
(I’m limiting myself here to books that I’ve reviewed on the blog this year. For more favorites, check out this year’s End of Year Survey.)
- The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski
- In the Age of Love and Chocolate by Gabrielle Zevin
- To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han
- All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill
- And We Stay by Jenny Hubbard
- The Unbound by Victoria Schwab
- The Strange Maid by Tessa Gratton
- The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud
- Illusions of Fate by Kiersten White
- The Vanishing Season by Jodi Lynn Anderson
- Bad Luck Girl by Sarah Zettel
- Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater
- Mortal Heart by Robin LaFevers
- This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales
Shout out to Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld and Clariel by Garth Nix which were both very close to making the final cut! (And to Love and Other Perishable Items by Laura Buzo–I don’t think I’m getting my review of it written by the end of 2014 so watch for it on my 2015 list!)
This list is also a Pinterest board.
You might have heard that the much loved TV series Gilmore Girls has made its way to Netflix. If, like me, you don’t have Netflix (or if you have already re-watched the entire series), these books might help you capture some of the happy feelings from the series. If you don’t feel like reading this whole list I’ve discovered that in my mind I consider fantasy titles great read-alikes for this series in general. (Thanks to my friend Kristin for suggesting this list idea!)
If you want books with a quirky ensemble of characters:
- Heist Society by Ally Carter: Time is short and the job is monumental but Kat has a crack crew and, hopefully, enough talent to pull off an impossible heist (and maybe right a few wrongs along the way).
- Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley: As Ed walks Lucy through Shadow’s art, the night that promised to be a disaster turns into something else. In a city filled with missed connections and opportunity, Ed and Lucy are right where they’re supposed to be
- Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones: Sophie Hatter is the eldest of three sisters, which everyone knows means Sophie is doomed to failure should she ever set out to seek her fortunes. Sophie is resigned to her fate–living obscurely, and less than successfully, working in the family hat shop. Except that this is not a traditional fairy tale and events soon intervene to set Sophie on a very unexpected course indeed for an eldest daughter.
- The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater: Only one rider can win on race day–if they can stay alive long enough to finish the course–and the stakes for both Sean and Puck couldn’t be higher but as this unlikely pair trains side-by-side they might find a greater prize than anything from the race purse.
- Illusions of Fate by Kiersten White: Jessamin has been an outcast since she moved from her island home of Melei to the dreary country of Albion. Everything changes when she meets Finn, an enigmatic young lord. Armed with only her wits, Jessamin will have to navigate the murky waters of Alben politics and magic–not to mention the uncharted territory of her own heart.
If you want books with witty banter:
- Better Off Friends by Elizabeth Eulberg: Both Macallan and Levi are pretty sure they’re better as friends than anything else. Except they can’t help wondering if the complications that come with being more than friends might just be worth it.
- Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta: Sixteen-year-old Francesca Spinelli has a lot of limitations on her life. The worst might be her forced transfer to St. Sebastian’s, a former boy’s school that’s trying to turn co-ed.
- Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan: If every town has a story, so does every resident. Kami’s own story has caused her a fair bit of trouble over the years and not a few friends. That’s what happens when your best friend seems to be an imaginary boy you talk to in your head.
- The Archived by Victoria Schwab: Someone wants to hide something about the Coronado. And perhaps about the Archive too. If Mac can’t solve the mystery that remains the entire Archive could collapse.
- The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater: As Blue and these improbable raven boys find each other things start changing for them and their small town. Together they could unearth untold magic and power, as long as they can find it first–and control it.
If you want books with a sweet romance:
- To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han: No one was ever supposed to see Lara Jean’s love letters except for Lara Jean. They were never meant for anyone else. With all of her feelings laid bare for these five boys, Lara Jean isn’t sure how to go back to the girl she used to be before the letters were delivered.
- Enchanted by Alethea Kontis: In a land as ripe with magic as Sunday’s, it isn’t particularly surprising to meet a talking frog. The real surprise comes when he shows an interest in Sunday’s stories and quickly becomes her dear friend. And maybe something else.
- Open Road Summer by Emery Lord: It takes a cross-country tour but over the course of one unforgettable summer Reagan will learn that mistakes aren’t forever, even if friends are, and home doesn’t always have to be somewhere to leave.
- Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins: With uncertain plans for college and the future looming, Josh and Isla will have to learn to be apart before they have any chance of staying together.
- The Geography of You and Me by Jennifer E. Smith: Lucy and Owen don’t have a lot in common to start with. They don’t even know much about each other. Still their relationship plays out across the miles in the form of postcards and sporadic emails. Although both Lucy and Owen try to move on they soon realize an unfinished something keeps pulling them back to each other.
If you want books with an awesome family:
- Roomies by Tara Altebrando and Sara Zarr: What starts as an innocuous email about whether to buy a microwave or a mini-fridge turns into a series of emails that might lead to friendship and a few other insights during a summer filled with possibility.
- Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan: Dash and Lily don’t have much in common but somehow they connect on the papers bound in that red notebook. Will these two misfits make sense in person? Only time will tell if their fledgling relationship can survive Lily’s family, Dash’s friends, some comical disasters and, of course, the holiday season in New York City.
- The Year My Sister Got Lucky by Aimee Friedman: The harder Katie clings to her memories of City life, the more Michaela adapts to life in Fir Lake, leaving Katie to wonder what happens when your home doesn’t feel like a home and your best friend starts to look like someone you don’t know.
- Suite Scarlett by Maureen Johnson: Scarlett Martin and her family live in the Hopewell Hotel in the heart of New York City. That might sound like a dream come true but just ask Scarlett about her fifteenth birthday and it’s easy to see the sometimes harsh realities that owning and running a hotel can really entail.
- Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson: With the help of some unlikely friends, Sloane starts working her way through the list her best friend left behind when she disappeared with no notice. Apple picking at night should be easy. Dancing until dawn might actually be fun. Kissing a stranger could go either way. Skinny dipping? Stealing something? Those might take a little more work
If you want books about smart characters:
- When It Happens by Susane Colasanti: At the beginning of the year Sara and Tobey don’t really know each other. By the end, Sara and Tobey might have a whole new beginning together.
- Love and Other Foreign Words by Erin McCahan: Love is a word found in many languages. And with so many things around her changing, Josie is about to get a crash course in the true meaning of the word
- The Shadow Society by Marie Rutkoski: Darcy always wanted to be part of something, to belong somewhere. But she may have more than she bargained for with a mysterious boy named Conn and infiltrating an even stranger group called the Shades.
- This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales: With a chance at real friends and something that makes her truly happy, Elise might be able to change herself after all.
- Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac by Gabrielle Zevin: It starts with a coin toss. If Naomi had picked tails she never would have gone back for the camera. She wouldn’t have tripped on the stairs and hit her head. There would have been no ambulance and no amnesia. Naomi would remember her boyfriend and whatever it was they had in common. She’d remember the lives her parents have been living. She would remember her best friend Will and why he calls her Chief and keeps making her mix tapes. But Naomi picked heads.
Even if you have never read a YA book in your life, you have probably heard about The Fault in Our Stars by John Green (TFIOS for short). Whether you have seen the movie, are number 594 in the hold queue, or just want more tear-jerking reads, these books should have you covered (spoiler: bring some tisssues!):
If you want more books about sick characters who transcend their illness (and maybe some tears):
- Zac & Mia by A. J. Betts: Zac and Mia meet at the hospital. They would never be friends friends in the real world. But different rules apply in hospital.
- Before I Die by Jenny Downham: Tessa knows she is dying. Instead of waiting to disappear without a trace, Tessa decides to complete her “before I die” list in the precious weeks she has left.
- Cures for Heartbreak by Margo Rabb: After her mother’s sudden death, Mia isn’t sure how to go on. Or even if she wants to.
- Somebody Up There Hates You by Hollis Seamon: Richard and Sylvie are the youngest people in the hospice. While everyone else tries to define them by their sickness or their treatments, Richard and Sylvie want to use the time they have left to live on their own terms.
- Catch & Release by Blythe Woolston: Polly and Odd barely knew each other before they became the only survivors of a MRSA outbreak in their town. Dealing with the aftermath of the outbreak and the mental and physical scars they now carry, both Polly and Odd have to figure out who they are now that they’re supposedly recovered.
If you want to cry but in an achingly beautiful sort of way:
- The Vanishing Season by Jodi Lynn Anderson: A ghost is tethered to the house on Water Street. She can see the danger circling. But even the ghost isn’t sure why she is still here watching the season unfold to its final, disastrous conclusion
- Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher: Hannah Baker killed herself a few weeks ago. Clay Jensen has no idea why until he receives a package of tapes in the mail detailing the thirteen reasons that led to Hannah’s suicide.
- We Were Liars by E. Lockhart: A wealthy, respected family. Summers on a private island. Four friends, the Liars, who have the world at their fingertips. Until one accident–one mystery–changes all that and nothing can ever be the same
- Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews: Greg is a master at blending in with his best friend Earl until his parents force him to rekindle his childhood friendship with neighbor Rachel who is dying of leukemia. When Rachel stops treatment, the obvious thing to do is make a film for her.
- Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein: A plane has crashed in Nazi-occupied France. The passenger and the pilot are best friends. One girl might be able to save herself while the other never stood a chance.
If you want a book that’s all about grieving:
- If I Stay by Gayle Forman: Before the accident Mia had a lot of decisions to make about her future. Should she follow her first love–music–to Juilliard in New York? Should she stay on the West Coast to be with her boyfriend? But after the accident, Mia only has one choice. Should she stay?
- Falling Through Darkness by Carolyn MacCullough: There was a crash. Something everyone else is calling an accident. Aidan is gone. But Ginny is left behind to piece together the shattered moments of her life with, and now without, him.
- A Map of the Known World by Lisa Ann Sandell: Cora’s life fell apart with a sudden crash. The Bradley family had been falling apart for some time, but when Cora’s older brother Nate dies in a car crash, everything is irreparably and irrevocably broken.
- The Edge of Falling by Rebecca A. Serle: Caggie should have everything she could want growing up as part of New York City society. She had everything until she lost the most important thing. Nothing seems to matter quite so much now that her younger sister is dead. Drowned.
- In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters: In 1918 the world is falling apart as the Spanish influenza runs rampant and the government sends young men to war. Mary Shelley Black watches others flock to seances and spirit photographers for comfort. Then her own boyfriend, dead in battle, appears to her as a spirit.
If you want a book with transformative friendships:
- And We Stay by Jenny Hubbard: Vacillating between guilt and anger, Emily Beam is sent to an all girls boarding school in Amherst, Massachusetts in the aftermath of her boyfriend’s death. Surrounded by history from Emily Dickinson’s life, Emily delves into poetry and her new life hoping to escape.
- The Tragedy Paper by Elizabeth Laban: When Tim finishes school he leaves behind a stack of CDs for Duncah. The CDs chronicle his own downfall and explain Duncan’s actual or perceived role in the final moments. Tim hopes Duncan can appreciate the rarity of this treasure and its ultimate value not just as an explanation but as the substance of Duncan’s own tragedy paper.
- Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta: Taylor Markham is used to having no one. But when the only person she can trust disappears Taylor discovers there is more to her own past, and the relationships she has with the other students at her school, as she becomes enmeshed in the annual territory wars between her school, the townies and a neighboring academy.
- Fracture by Megan Miranda: Delaney was pulled out of the water by her best friend Decker after eleven minutes. That’s long enough to die. Long enough to change everything.
- The Beginning of Everything by Robyn Schneider: During a year spent redefining himself in the wake of his own tragedy, Ezra has to decide what it means when some people can’t–or won’t–move past their personal tragedy .
If you want another story about a character falling in love with a grenade:
- The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson: Hayley and her father Andy have been on the road for the past five years. Sometimes riding in Andy’s rig. Sometimes laying low while Andy tries to hold down a job and Hayley does her version of homeschooling. But then everything stopped and Hayley has been moved back into a life she doesn’t want in a childhood home she refuses to remember.
- Salt & Storm by Kendall Kulper: You can beat a Roe Witch within an inch of her life, you can sicken her with strange magic and scar her, but you cannot kill a Roe Witch. If Avery Roe can unlock her magic in time with the help of a mysterious harpoon boy named Tane, she might be able to change her fate before she is murdered.
- The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl by Barry Lyga: Fanboy knows exactly what he wants and he has a plan: a secret scheme that will get him out of his lame little town and prove his worth to everyone once and for all. When the mysterious and angry Goth Girl bursts into his life, he might even have an accomplice.
- Damaged by Amy Reed: Kinsey Cole knows people can only bear so much bad fortune. That’s why everyone knows Kinsey’s best friend Camille died in a car accident when Kinsey was driving. It’s also why Kinsey hasn’t cried since the accident and is trying to avoid Camille’s boyfriend, Hunter, all while quietly falling apart.
- Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan: Every town in England has a story and Kami Glass thinks she knows hers. All of that changes when the Lynburns come back to Sorry-in-the-Vale. Their return brings many questions, as well as something more sinister, forcing Kami to question everything she thought she knew about her town, her friends, and even herself.
I’ve written off October for most other reasons but I still stubbornly enjoy Halloween (even with it essentially being cancelled last year thanks to Hurricane Sandy). I will be handing out candy later tonight even though I won’t be dressing up or going to any parties. To keep in the spirit though I do have to spooky Halloween-appropriate reads to share with all of you, dear readers!
- Companions of the Night by Vivian Vande Velde: The first vampire book I read and still arguably the best. Ethan is fascinating and repellant and Kerry is one of my favorite heroines.
- Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones: Honestly, you should read this retelling of Tam Lin any time of year, but with the spooky, atmospheric setting and Polly’s eerie double memories it’s a most excellent read for this time of year.
- The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black: This books is icky and gory and creepy but it’s also romantic and hopeful. Leave it to Holly Black to make a book about monsters into something kind of beautiful.
- Once a Witch by Carolyn MacCullough: I talk about this book all the time too. But what’s Halloween without a story about a witch?
- Conjured by Sarah Beth Durst: It was a touch call to put this one or Drink, Slay, Love on the list but with a heroine who knows nothing of her past and is being hunted by a serial killer, this one definitely is the scariest.
- The Caged Graves by Dianne K. Salerni: Verity Boone expects to find her father and her fiance when she returns to her birthplace. And she does find them. But she also finds two caged graves and a haunting secret.
- Paper Valentine by Brenna Yovanoff: A heat wave is on, a killer is on the loose, and only Hanna and the ghost of her best friend can stop the killer before it’s too late.
- The Archived by Victoria Schwab: A library where the dead are stored like books? Enough said.
- The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson: London. Ghosts. A Jack the Ripper copycat. And a girl who can see ghosts. The only problem? The ghosts can see her too.
- The Diviners by Libba Bray: Evie is thrilled to be exiled to New York when her flapper antics go too far. But strange things are happening to city and Evie isn’t the only one heading East. Dark forces are coming too. Darker than anything Evie has ever seen before.
- Sabriel by Garth Nix: Sabriel is her father’s daughter, learning his work as Abhorsen using their bells to send the dead back where they belong. But when her father disappears Sabriel is left alone to face a monstrous creature and find out the truth about the old kingdom.