Thursday, December 29, 2016

Hello and Goodbye 2016

Not much blogging happened in 2016 -- a whopping one book review! And I am not even sure that I'll be back for that much more in the next year. But I figured it'd be nice to talk about the books I did manage to read this year.

In order of enjoyment:
1. Burning Midnight by Will McIntosh
He's becoming one of my favorite science fiction writers. I've really enjoyed everything I've read by him so far. This one is a bit of a departure into almost YA sci-fi, but it's a new world with a cool magic system (you can search for spheres and use them to augment your abilities) and lots of action. Maybe not as strong as The Defenders, but I liked the characters and the twist at the end.

2. The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty
This is both chick-lit and a suspense novel in one. I like the characters in Moriarty's novels: moms, women who know their mind, capable and strong. In this novel, Cecilia finds a letter that she wasn't supposed to find, written and lost by her husband, confessing to a secret that should maybe stay secret. There are other characters too, each with her own burden, and their lives end up entwined in funny ways. I enjoy the way Moriarty resolves the conflict, sometimes it's a little too neatly tied to be realistic, but it's a good escapist type of read.

3. Red Rising / Golden Son / Morning Star by Pierce Brown
Yet another series in the spirit of Divergent and The Hunger Games. This futuristic YA takes place on colonized Mars, where a group of workers live underground for generations, mining the ore needed to fuel the planet -- except no one has told them that the planet has long been populated. In a strict caste society, a hero arises from the miners, and leads the revolution. While the premise is familiar, the execution is excellent and the books are quick and fun reads.

4. A Great Reckoning by Louise Penny
Another installment in the Inspector Gamache series. In this book Gamache takes a posting at the Police Academy to root out the residual corruption there. A professor is murdered and four students are suspects. Still, lots of scenes are set in Three Pines and we get to see the usual gang of characters as well as learn some pieces of history of Quebec. Cozy mystery at its best.

5. The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton
Laurel lives idyllic life on a remote English farm until one day she witnesses her mother murdering a man. Fifty years later she resolves to discover what exactly happened that day and begins digging into her mother's past. The story takes us to WWII and follows Dorothy, Vivien, and Jimmy as they make their way in the world and then ties their stories together to the present. I did not see the twist coming (though maybe I should have) and I love the WWII narrative part of the story -- lots of rich detail and drama. Overall, an enjoyable read.

6. The End of All Things by John Scalzi -- review

7. Big Little Lies / What Alice Forgot / Three Wishes by Liane Moriarty
Three different novels -- these are not a series, but they all have similar themes. They happen in Australia, the main characters are women, the characters' relationships play a major role. Moriarty has a certain style that I was in the mood for this year -- I would call it "mom-lit" more than "chick-lit". 

8. Any Place I Hang My Hat by Susan Isaacs
I am not even sure why I started reading this novel, but it turned out better than I expected. Amy grows up in a poor neighbourhood with her half-crazed paternal grandma. Her father is in jail most of her formative years and her mother left when she was a baby. Using scholarships, she graduates from a prestigious private school and then an Ivy league university and ends up a successful journalist. The book is her quest to find herself by looking for her mother and discovering what really happened.

The characterization in the novel was good and there were interesting, smart points to the novel, and clear character growth. There were also some frustrating parts where Amy is just the most oblivious person in the universe. Overall it's a good read, though slow in some parts.

9. The Girl on the Train by Pawla Hawkins
This book seemed to pop-up all around in blogs and conversations. I decided to give it a go, but wasn't blown away. A mystery told by several women in 1st POV with some elements of unreliable narration. A woman taking the train oversees something that may hold a key to the disappearance of a young woman. At the beginning the story held my attention well, but half-way through I somewhat lost interest and the book dragged its feet for awhile. I wasn't surprised by the ending, except for the part where the main character does something so incredibly stupid (and unnecessary) to bring the book to resolution. Overall, meh.

10. Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
My local bookstore's employees post little cards with comments next to the books they've enjoyed and this was one of them. The main character is a rather dull and plain young woman who needs a new job and gets hired to look after a quadriplegic adult son of a prominent family in her town. He's bitter and she just suffers it for the money until one day she discovers that he plans to get himself legally euthanized.  Then she decides to do everything in her power to change his mind -- and falls in love in the process. This book would have been better if I didn't dislike the main character. Overall, a quick read, but I wouldn't gush about it in a bookstore. Lesson learned.

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