Last week I went over the books which made my list of Regrettable Reads of 2016. This week I focus on the books which stuck with me throughout the year either because they captured me emotionally or were just plain fun to read.
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern: A pick by my book club, this is a beautiful book revolving around The Night Circus, an ethereal, magical circus unlike any other. At the center two magicians trained under rival magicians for the purpose of competing against one another. The fathers of the two magicians have been rivals for centuries, engaged in a continuous battle to prove who the best is.
What I loved about this book were the characters from the protagonists to the supporting cast of circus performers.
I loved the circus itself since it isn’t the kind we are used to. There are the more traditional acts one finds at a circus from a fortune teller to animal tamers to acrobats, but all of it is tinged with real magic. The color scheme of The Night Circus is black and white which should have presented a hindrance to Morgenstern to make the circus vivid, but she does a wonderful job presenting unique, gorgeous visuals for the reader.
I also loved the romance which developed between the two protagonists. It is developed slowly, subtly over the years and comes across as natural and not overdone. You actually root for them to fall in love because they mutually respect each other’s gifts and realize how dangerous and pointless the rivalry set in motion by their fathers is.
The Ming Storytellers by Laura Rahme: First let me start off with a warning. This book was self-published and is riddled with typos, formatting issues, and could have used another editing pass. That being said, I’m still putting it on my Best Of list because the story, characters, and prose were that compelling.
Set in the early days of the Ming Dynasty, it’s an epic historical fiction story. We follow several characters from a trusted naval general, who happens to be eunuch, as he falls in love with one of the Emperor’s concubines to the concubine herself to an unsavory government official to a Persian merchant and a mysterious storyteller.
All the characters were intriguing and fleshed out along with each of their stories. What I loved was the stories sometimes were directly woven into other stories and other times not, however, Rahme makes sure all the stories serve the larger story of the novel.
I loved the setting descriptions and felt like I was in this time period; key to historical fiction. Again, with a little bit more editing a book which is already pretty special could have been spectacular.
Drinking From a Bitter Cup by Angela Jackson-Brown: I previously reviewed this book and still find myself haunted by it. Doesn’t help that I finished it the day a particularly emotion wrecking episode of “Game of Thrones” aired. I don’t recommend reading this book if you’re watching that show. You’ll be ruined for days.
A Skeleton in the Family by Leigh Perry: Another book I previous reviewed. I’ll simply add that what I loved most about this book is how much of a fun it is.
The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George: A charming book set in Paris, it follows Perdu, a bookseller whose shop is a boat. He believes books are medicine, a literary apothecary, and recommends book to people to “heal” people simply by looking at them. He lives in an apartment nearby and at first the book starts off as a possible romance with a neighbor. Like him, she is lonely, suffering from heartbreak yet wishes for love. An event causes Perdu to leave Paris in his floating bookstore and travel the Seine River to the town his long dead one and only love lived. Along the way he picks up an interesting cast of characters including a young author not dealing well with sudden success.
Though ultimately a romantic love story, it is also a love story to books and the impact they have on us. It’s also a love story to living life and taking chances.
Perdu is an empathic and compassionate soul whom the reader roots for him to be truly happy and let go of the past. The cast of supporting characters I loved for their eccentricities and varying views on life and for being at different stages of their lives.
Thieftaker by D.B. Jackson: One more book I reviewed previously. I’ll only add that I’ve read the second book in the series and look forward to reading books three and four in 2017.
The Last Adventure of Dr. Yngve Hogalum by D.L. Mackenzie: A self-published Steampunk novella, The Last Adventure of Dr. Yngve Hogalum is the first in a series. It’s a breezy read revolving around the assistant to the now deceased Dr. Yngve Hogalum, Phineas Magnetron, who assembles a crazy batch of scientists to go on a daring adventure.
Like A Skelton in the Family, this book is a fun, delightful read. The characters are insane in a good way and it’s not dark like some Steampunk novels tend to be. It knows what it is and Mackenzie shows he was inspired by late Victorian era science fiction.
I’m also impressed by how well Mackenzie accomplishes so much in fifty-three pages without sacrificing any elements. I loved the writing style and look forward to reading the next two novellas in the series.
So there you have it. My favorite reads of 2016. While these books are all over the place in terms of genre, they all share compelling characters and wonderfully individual stories I completely immersed myself in. They represent to me the kind of writing I wish to do in that they elicit a joyous response in the reader.