As I was finishing the IB for the first half of this year, and started university in the second half, I didn't get much chance to read anything that was not assigned reading. From the limited books I did read, I present you with the best of the bunch - the best six (technically seven) books I read this year!

1. Ink and Bone by Rachel Caine

My early teenage years were spent reading all fifteen books in the Morganville Vampire series, so when I discovered that the author of that series had written a new book about something that fascinated me - the Library of Alexandria - I basically put aside everything I was doing and began to read it immediately.

The premise is that in the world of the novel, the library of Alexandria never burned down, and in the equivalent of the current day, the Library has control of the majority of the world, and is at war with the places it does not (such as Wales). Book ownership is unheard of, as people can access all the books that the library has (supposedly all the books in existence) through their 'codexes', which are, for lack of a better way to describe them, magical notebooks. The protagonist comes from a family of book smugglers, who make money by illegally selling people copies of books for them to personally own. He also has great interest in the library, unbeknownst to his family, and gets the opportunity to work for them. From the inside, he goes on to discover that things are perhaps not as great as they appear to be.

This book is an amazing concept well executed, and is a clear example of how thought provoking Young Adult fiction can be - it should not be dismissed because of the audience it is marketed to. The only aspect of the novel that I didn't like was one of the relationships that happened - it seemed very forced, it was very one-sided for the first three quarters of the novel, and then suddenly in the last quarter the feelings were reciprocated and the way in which it subsequently framed one of the characters didn't sit well with me.

Anyway, this book made me slightly less sad about all the knowledge that was lost that night!

2. On the Other Side by Carrie Hope Fletcher

I have followed Carrie as a YouTuber since I knew what YouTube was, have seen her in both Les Mis and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and was going to buy and read her book regardless of whether I liked the sound of it or not. When I read the book, I was delighted to find that it is amazing!

The novel follows Evie Snow, who has just died and finds herself back in the apartment building she lived in when she was younger. When she tries to get into her old apartment, she finds that the door won't open, and is informed by the old doorman that she has to become 'lighter' before she can go through, which means getting rid of the secrets that bogged her down in life. The book switches between explaining Evie's past, of how the secrets came to be, and the future, of how she gets rid of her secrets. I do not know why, but I expected the book to be a typical chick lit sort of thing (not that there is anything wrong with that) but Fletcher's writing instead veers into the realm of magical realism, producing a very interesting read.

I loved the book start to finish, and I read it within a day. I'm very much looking forward to reading whatever Carrie produces next!

3. Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeline Thien

Quite different from the books so far, not only in the genre but in that I also had to read this book - in a sense.

For one of my modules this term, I had to read a book from the Man Booker, Goldsmiths, Forward, T S Eliot or Bailey's prizes' shortlists, write a review of and a creative response to it. I chose to buy Do Not Say We Have Nothing due to my interest in the history of the Chinese Civil War and communist China, having studied it for my IB, but obviously having not seen the more personal side of it.

The book centres around young Marie as she finds out about her father's life in communist Russia from the daughter of one of his closest friends, sent to stay with Marie and her mother in Canada to escape the prosecution after the events in Tiananmen Square.

I am yet to actually finish the book, but I already love it. The musicality of the written words is phenomenal, you can practically hear the instruments being played. The manner of writing is also fantastic, as it is so personal and clearly reflects real emotion, yet is not horribly graphic in a way that would turn many readers away. The book is a moving account of the realities of life in China under Mao, and I would recommend it to anyone.

4. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath (I know, I'm a little behind on the times)

I spent so long trying to avoid this book, thinking that after hearing nothing but praise for it, it could do nothing but disappoint me. Oh boy, I was wrong.

In case you don't know what it's about, the book centres around the character of Esther Greenwood, and her battle with her mental health. It is enchantingly written, and makes me very sad that Plath never wrote another novel (although her poems and journals are more than enough to keep me occupied).

I would encourage anyone who hasn't read this book to read it, even if you're not if it's for you, just give it a try. You would be hard-pressed to find nothing to take from it.

5. Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

This is one I read because I saw the film trailer, and I have a rule that I cannot see a film based on a book until I have read the book. Although I read the book back in August, I am yet to see the film (perhaps because I feel I need something a little more uplifting!).

The plot centres around Louisa Clark and her life after she takes a job as a carer of Will Traynor, who is a succesful and wealthy man, whose active lifestyle was put on hold when he was in a motorcycle accident. It's beautifully touching and thought provoking in many ways.

I read this book in a day, literally did nothing else other than shower and eat. It was one of those books that you can't help but devour quickly, you have to know what happens. I loved it for the romance, and also for the deeper ethical questions it posed. The only thing that I would say is that although I loved it, I'm not sure I'm going to read the sequel; I quite like the way the book finished and I think it would be best as a stand alone novel.

6. Clockwork Prince and Clockwork Princess by Cassandra Clare

Technically two books, but they have one spot on the list because they're from a series. I read the Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare years ago, and I read the first book of the Infernal Devices - Clockwork Angel - soon after. For a variety of reasons, I just didn't read the other two until this year, when I took them on holiday with me and read them by the side of the pool (it was torture).

The series is set in Victorian London, and centres around some of the ancestors of the characters from the Mortal Instruments (as it is a prequel series). The protagonist, Tessa, is a young American who travels to England at the behest of her brother, Nate. Once there, she discovers the world of Shadowhunters, and how she is inextricably tangled within its web.

Having finished this series, I think I like it more than the Mortal Instruments. I find the characters more likeable and the story is better as it makes sense encapsulated within the three books, rather than the six of the Mortal Instruments. Although Clare has said that the series can be read in either order, I would recommend this series first, as you then understand the characters' involvement in the Mortal Instruments. The only thing that would be lost through this is some of the dramatic irony that makes parts of the Infernal Devices quite funny.

7. Where She Went by Gayle Forman

I read If I Stay last year, and I was dubious as to how good Where She Went could be, but I had such a strong desire to know what happened to the characters that when I saw it was on offer on the Amazon Kindle store, I couldn't help myself.

If I Stay is the story of a girl, Mia Hall, after she is involved in a car accident. (Spoiler for the first book!) Her parents and brother all die due to the accident, and she is in a coma, able to hear what is going on and debating whether or not to wake up. It is a great read, and the film is also very well done. Where She Went is the follow up, written from the perspective of her boyfriend from the first book, Adam. At the start of the book, they have broken up and haven't spoken for years. The plot centres around him and his life after the accident, and is just beautifully sweet. If you've read If I Stay, I would say definitely read Where She Went, you won't be disappointed.

 

So, having finished the list of books I have read, I feel it is only right to include the books that remain on my to read list:

  • Paper and Fire by Rachel Caine - the sequel to Ink and Bone. I have to read this because I refuse to accept the ending of Ink and Bone, it better not be what I think it is.
  • Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs - one of my friends has been nagging me to read this for over a year, since we saw it in a bookshop when we went to Washington. The book in itself seemed really cool, and when I saw the film trailer I immediately went out and bought a copy that is now sitting on my desk, patiently waiting.
  • The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry - I've only heard good things about this, and also although I know you're not supposed to judge a book by its cover the cover is so pretty!
  • The Sellout by Paul Beatty - I was debating doing this for my coursework, and so bought it when I bought Do Not Say We Have Nothing and just fell in love with the latter before I had a chance to try the Sellout. As it won the Man Booker Prize, and the first page itself had me laughing out loud, this remains firmly on my to read list.
  • The Girl of Ink and Stars by Kiran Millwood Hargrave - Again, another book with a pretty cover and pretty pages as well, with a very cool sounding concept. Plus, the author came to give a guest lecture at my uni and was so lovely, I left the lecture wanting to read it immediately.

So there you have it, my books of 2016. I hope maybe you'll consider reading one of them in the new year!

Published by Alyx Hurst