The Best & Worst of 2016

2016 is finally over! It was a tough year for me, even right up to the end where I caught a nasty holiday bug. I did read a lot of great books last year. According to my Goodreads profile, I read 208 books, nearly 100 less than the year before. I blame my new found love of Netflix bingewatching for that. Here are my favorite 11 books of the year, in no particular order (no counting rereads).

Red Rising by Pierce Brown

BrownRedRising

 

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

ClineReadyPlayerOne

Skin Game by Jim Butcher

ButcherSkinGame

Cemetery Lake by Paul Cleave

Tofu will help me hide the bodies.
Tofu will help me hide the bodies.

Anne Manx on Amazonia by Larry Weiner

WeinerAnneManxOnAmazonia

Chapelwood by Cherie Priest

PriestChapelwood

The Green Children by Domino Finn

FinnTheGreenChildren

Dragon Gate by Gary Jonas (Jonathan Shade #3)

JonasDragonGate

Zaria Fierce and the Enchanted Drakeland Sword by Kiera Gillett

GillettZariaFierceAndTheEnchantedDrakelandSword

You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) by Felicia Day

Chupa being weird.
Chupa being weird.

Cthulhu Armageddon by C. T. Phipps

PhippsCthulhuArmageddon

I did some rereads this past year – The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher (yep, from the beginning), Terre D’Ange Cycle by Jacqueline Carey (I’ve been reading with a great group of on-line friends and we’re up to Book 7 now), Dune by Frank Herbert (just because it’s awesome), Babel-17 by Samuel R. Delaney (I read this in paperback some years ago but now it’s available as an audiobook and it is incredibly well done).

Here are the top 3 books that didn’t do it for me:

Lover Eternal by J. R. Ward

WardLoverEternal

A Hunger Like No Other by Kresley Cole

ColeAHungerLikeNoOther

Hair Power by Piers Anthony

AnthonyHairPower

I also joined a romance book club. I’ve never really enjoyed romance novels. I don’t mind if a book has romance in it but the main plot has to be something more than finding true love or getting laid for me to really enjoy it. So, I thought perhaps I was wrong in binning romance books all together and pretty much ignoring them. With that in mind, I joined this lovely group of people and gave the romance genre a real shot at winning my heart. We read several paranormal and urban fantasy romances, a few contemporary romances (some with suspense and one with BDSM), and 1 historical fiction romance. In general, I was underwhelmed. Some of the books did exceed my expectations and for romance novels they were good, but none of them made it into my top 50. Let me slightly amend that. I had the opportunity to host twice, which means I picked the book we read. Both times I picked books I had not previously read and one of them was Darkness Haunts by Susan Ilene. There is no romance in this novel. There’s a spattering of flirting, but that is all. While several people enjoyed it (including me), it does not count as a romance novel. Obviously, I’m not a good host for a romance book club but the group was great about it.

Also here are some of my notable firsts for 2016:

My first Stephen King novel – 11-22-63

King112263

My first Star Wars novel – Heir to the Jedi by Kevin Hearne

Guess which side of the Force Chupacabr is on?
Guess which side of the Force Chupacabra is on?

My first Podiobooks audiobook – Marker Stone by Paul J. Joseph

JosephMarkerStone

My first Kurt Vonnegut novel – Cat’s Cradle

VonnegutCatsCradleTofu

As 2016 ends, I am looking forward to a better year in 2017. I spent all of 2016 sick and most of it on bed rest. It took quite some time and many doctors to get diagnosed. I now know that I have CTEPH and in February I will be in San Diego having PTE surgery to hopefully correct the issue. It’s a major surgery and I could be in the hospital recovering for up to 20 days. So if Dab of Darkness goes dark between Ground Hog’s Day and Valentine’s Day, it’s just me laid up in a hospital recovering. Life should get better after that surgery and I’m just really looking forward to being on the other side of it. 24/7 supplemental oxygen makes life rather boring, as I can now attest to.

Darkness Haunts by Susan Illene

IlleneDarknessHauntsNarrator: Cris Dukehart

Publisher: Tantor Audio (2014)

Length: 9 hours 2 minutes

Series: Book 1 The Sensor

Author’s Page

Melena Sanders, ex-military, is planning to attend college in the fall in California but right now she has to track down her missing friend, Aniya. A cryptic message left by her points Mel to Fairbanks, Alaska. There she discovers a war brewing that involves plenty of supernatural folks. Not all are human friendly. Luckily for Mel, she’s a little more than human. She’s a Sensor and that gives her just enough of an edge to be a true threat to these werewolves, vampires, and witches.

This is my new favorite urban fantasy series. This book is off to a good start, introducing our main character, Mel, and the paranormal world she deals with. Her dedication to her friends is a key component to the plot for this book. In her search for Aniya, she tries to keep Lizette out of it for her own safety. However, this goes a bit awry and I’m sure these two will have some words for each other later. She also makes some new friends in Alaska, some out of necessity and others out of choice. She needs all the assists she can get as she tries to find Philip Mercer, the last person Aniya was seen with.

There’s tons of alliances in this book and some of those alliances pull good folk into bad situations while other alliances pull questionable people into doing good deeds. Things, actions, and people are not always clearly evil or good and I really liked this aspect of the book. It kept me on my toes and engaged throughout the story.

There’s a powerful magic user, Variola, who holds several witches and werewolves in fealty. Mel has to make a deal with her and she wants an ancient vampire, Nikolas, found so she can destroy him in some ritual. However, the alpha werewolf, Derrick, isn’t too happy with how things are going down. Then there’s this Nephilim, Lucas, that follows Mel around. Half the time he’s keeping her from harm and the other half of the time he’s threatening to end her life. It’s a complex relationship that involved Lucas killing Mel’s protector, Wanda, several years ago with no explanation. Just because allegiances aren’t convoluted and strained enough, things get shook up once again when Nikolas comes out of his vampire sleep. Oh, yes! Whoever decides they want Nikolas dead is going to have their hands full!

One of the main draws for me was Mel’s character. She’s not without training and life experience. She has some years under belt and has had to make her way in the world for some years. She has been honed by both joys and tragedies. In short, she knows her own mind and walks into this story knowing exactly what her goal is (to get Aniya back) and can make her own decisions on how to go about it. She’s knowledgeable about guns and other weapons and not afraid of hurting or killing, if that is what’s needed. Yeah, I want to be Mel when I grow up.

On the other side of the coin, there’s a touch of flirtation here and there. Others have told me that there’s a full romance later on in the series, so for those of you who enjoy romance, you have that to look forward to. I found the flirtations of Nikolas amusing and they added a little bit of humor to a pretty tense book.

The ending did leave me with several questions concerning Lucas and Mel’s future. She has some hard choices to make, I think, in the next book. So I’m glad that the entire 6 book series is out, ready for me to tear through.

The Narration:  I enjoyed Cris Dukehart’s narration. She started off a little rough, making bullet statements, but within the first hour she smoothed out. I did like that she didn’t sound all girly, but rather as a grown woman who’s used to making her own decisions – which fits the main character perfectly. I also liked her various accents for some of the older characters. She made a very believable flirtatious 800 year old vampire. 

What I Liked: The main character – she has some life experience under her belt; the Alaskan setting; moose!; werewolves, vampires, witches & more; Mel has no hesitancy about using guns or other weapons; things aren’t black and white when it comes to good versus evil; her complex relationship with Lucas; the cover art.

What I Disliked: Nothing – I really enjoyed this book!

What Others Think:

Urban Girl Reader

Para-Urban Reviews