Top Ten Tuesday: Books I’ve Read This Year (So Far)

Kerry O'Donnell | July 26, 2016

Since we’re already nearing the end of July, and a little more than half the year is over, I’m feeling a bit reflective. So take a look back with me and check out the books that have been the most memorable to me thus far. (In no particular order…)

TruthwitchTruthwitch by Susan Dennard

Synopsis: Book 1 in a series. On a continent ruled by three empires, some, like Safi and Iseult, are born with a “witchery,” a distinct magical skill that sets them apart. There are almost as many types of magic as there are ways to get in trouble—as these young women know too well. Safiya is a Truthwitch, able to discern truth from lie. It’s powerful magic that many would kill to have on their side, especially the nobility. Now, with the help of Prince Merik, she and Iseult—a Threadwitch who can see the invisible ties that bind and entangle the lives around her—will need to learn how to wield their magic to preserve the balance of their world.

Why I Liked It: I’m a fantasy fan, through and through, and one of the things that struck me when I was reading this was how unique this world was. Dennard has built something that feels fully formed, a world with history, and mystery, and people with differing cultures that bring tension to the story. It read like a more adult fantasy than I typically find in Teen (or YA) books, and I LOVED that. It made the story as a whole more rich and exciting. Now I can’t wait to see where the rest of the series goes!

The Long GameThe Long Game by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Synopsis: Book 2 in a series. The Kendricks help make the problems of the Washington elite disappear…but some secrets won’t stay buried. For Tess, a junior at elite Hardwicke School in Washington, D.C., fixing runs in the family. When asked to run a classmate’s campaign for student council, she agrees. But when the candidates are children of politicians, even high school elections can involve life-shattering secrets. Meanwhile, a terrorist attack calls into doubt who can—and cannot—be trusted on Capitol Hill. Tess knows that power is currency in D.C., but she’s about to discover firsthand that power always comes with a price.

Why I Liked It: The first book in this series (The Fixer) was really unique for a YA audience, almost a Scandal meets high school, and I really enjoyed the drama that occurred both on and off-campus for this heroine. Book 2, The Long Game, raised the stakes higher than I ever thought they’d go in a book for teens. And that was awesome. Also the discussion of politics and the maneuverings of the powerful elite felt very current to our own political climate. Two thumbs way, way up for this story!

Marked in FleshMarked in Flesh by Ann Bishop

Synopsis: Book 4 in a series. Since the Others allied themselves with the cassandra sangue, the dynamic between humans and Others changed. Some, like Simon Wolfgard, wolf shifter and leader of the Lakeside Courtyard, and blood prophet Meg Corbyn, see the new, closer companionship as beneficial–both personally and practically. But not everyone is convinced. A group of radical humans is seeking to usurp land through violent attacks on the Others. What they don’t realize is there are older, more dangerous forces than shifters and vampires protecting the land that belongs to the Others–and those forces are willing to do whatever is necessary to protect what is theirs.

Why I Liked It: Ann Bishop is perhaps my all-time favorite writer, the kind that I like so much I actually buy her books right when they come out, in hardcover. This is the second-to-last book in her Others series, and it’s tumultuous and full of action. It felt like this was the book where everything that’s been building up finally came to a head, and with the end, I’m completely unsure of what the last book will bring. Which, of course, makes me want it even more. Her stories are the kind that stay in my head for days after I finish them, and Marked in Flesh was no exception.

The Hidden OracleThe Trials of Apollo: The Hidden Oracle by Rick Riordan

Synopsis: Book 1 in a series. How do you punish an immortal? By making him human. After angering his father Zeus, the god Apollo is cast down from Olympus. He must learn to survive in the modern world until he can somehow find a way to regain Zeus’s favor…

Why I Liked It: This is the third series of Riordan’s that focuses on the  pantheons of the Greek and/or Roman Gods, and each one brings something completely unique to the table. In this newest series, the script is flipped and our story is told through the eyes of a (former) God instead of one of the Demigods. Yet all of the same trademark humor and reinvention of the old Greek and Roman myths are present. I cracked up at Apollo’s lack of self-awareness, and while his boastful nature might be annoying to some, I found it wonderfully sarcastic. It was also great to have moments with characters who are old-favorites, but I really loved that the majority of the story brought new characters into the spotlight.

FlamecasterFlamecaster by Cinda Williams Chima

Synopsis: Book 1 in a series. Thrown together by chance and united by their hatred of an evil king, Ash, a gifted healer, and Jenna, a girl abandoned at birth, find themselves on the run from the King’s Guard. Set in the world of the acclaimed Seven Realms series a generation later, this is a thrilling story of dark magic, chilling threats, and two unforgettable characters walking a knife-sharp line between life and death.

Why I Liked It: Flamecaster really got my emotions going. I was a huge fan of the earlier series Chima wrote, and so attached to those characters. Finding out what has become of them years later brought on many, many feelings. But as I delved into this new story I quickly grew attached to the new characters and the new areas she explored. I felt like the world was expanding before my eyes and the ending left me gasping for more!

After You by Jojo MoyesAfter You

Synopsis: Book 2 in a duology. How do you move on after losing the person you loved? How do you build a life worth living? Louisa Clark is no longer just an ordinary girl living an ordinary life. After the transformative six months spent with Will Traynor, she is struggling without him. When an extraordinary accident forces Lou to return home to her family, she can’t help but feel she’s right back where she started. Her body heals, but Lou herself knows that she needs to be kick-started back to life.

Why I Liked It: I read both books starring Louisa Clark, and while I did genuinely enjoy Me Before You, I found myself actually more drawn to her in After You. It’s definitely less happy as a story than the first book, but I think what makes this book the one in my Top 10 list is that she felt more real to me here. I empathized with her struggle, and that constant questioning of herself and what she really wanted out of life. I think because I am fairly close in age, it was a struggle I felt I could share with her. Of the two books with these characters, After You is the one that stuck with me longer.

A Court of Mist and FuryA Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas

Synopsis: Book 2 in a series. Though Feyre now has the powers of the High Fae, her heart remains human, but as she navigates the feared Night Court’s dark web of politics, passion, and dazzling power, a greater evil looms–and she might be key to stopping it.

Why I Liked It: This story just completely blew me away. I actually was a bit reluctant to read it at first because I didn’t enjoy the first book in the series as much as I anticipated. So I waited a few weeks after it came out to get it. And WOW! Am I glad I stuck with this series! Not only did the plot become more intricate, but Maas brought readers much deeper into this world through the places visited and through her extensive character development. Just fantastic, all-around. If I was going to give out a first place title, this book would be my strongest contender.

Night StudyNight Study by Maria V. Snyder

Synopsis: Book 2 (or 5) in a series.Ever since being kidnapped from the Illiais Jungle as a child, Yelena Zaltana’s life has been fraught with peril. But the recent loss of her Soulfinding abilities has endangered her more than ever before. As she desperately searches for a way to reclaim her magic, her enemies are closing in, and neither Ixia nor Sitia is safe for her anymore. Especially since the growing discord between the two countries and the possibility of a war threatens everything Yelena holds dear.

Why I Liked It: The numbering of this series can get really confusing. If you read it as part of the current trilogy it is the second book. If you take it as a continuation of the author’s first series, it is the 5th book told from these characters’ points of view. That being said, I adore these characters and was so excited to start this latest book because the previous one ends on a fairly large cliffhanger. So things open at a fast pace and the story never really slows down. There were so many twists I never saw coming! Just when you think you’ve figured everything out, someone else will do the unexpected. A gripping read to say the least!

Breaking the RulesBreaking the Rules by Katie McGarry

Synopsis: Book 1.5 in a series. For new high school graduate Echo, a summer road trip out West with her boyfriend means getting away and forgetting what makes her so…different. It means seeing cool sights while selling her art at galleries along the way. And it means almost three months alone with Noah, the hot, smart, soul-battered guy who’s never judged her. Echo and Noah share everything—except the one thing Echo’s just not ready for. But when the source of Echo’s constant nightmares comes back into her life, she has to make some tough decisions about what she really wants—even as Noah’s search for his last remaining relatives forces them to confront some serious truths about life, love and themselves. With one week left before college orientation, jobs and real life, Echo must decide if Noah is more than the bad-boy fling everyone warned her he’d be. And the last leg of an amazing road trip will turn…seriously epic.

Why I Liked It: So if you’re curious about the whole, 1.5 business, I’ll just say, I read this as an ebook, and it would probably be considered a novella, so I’m not sure if they actually printed it or not. But I got to read it through the library, and loved it. This is a continuation of a love story, and that’s what had me so interested. Most romances end with the supposed happily ever after, and I very much enjoyed that this story was full of “but how do we get there?” questions. Noah and Echo are young and in love with their whole lives ahead of them. They both have goals, and those goals may just separate them. I think my favorite part of this book was the exploration of whether or not these two are actually meant to be together, or if they just got caught up in their high school romance. I’d love to see more books explore what comes after the happy ending…

StakedStaked by Kevin Hearne

Synopsis: Book 8 in a series. Iron Druid Atticus O’Sullivan has a point to make—and then drive into a vampire’s heart. When a druid has lived for two thousand years like Atticus, he’s bound to run afoul of a few vampires. Now the toothy troublemakers have become a huge problem requiring a solution. It’s time to make a stand. As always, Atticus wouldn’t mind a little backup. But his allies have problems of their own. As Atticus globetrots to stop his nemesis Theophilus, the journey leads to Rome. What better place to end an immortal than the Eternal City? But poetic justice won’t come without a price: In order to defeat Theophilus, Atticus may have to lose an old friend.

Why I Liked It: Nobody cracks me up like Atticus O’Sullivan and his faithful hound Oberon… Except maybe all the other characters in this book. Once again Hearne’s storytelling was so good he had me laughing out loud on public transportation! If you haven’t read the rest of the series, go back to book 1 (Hounded) and get started. The modern setting and mix of pantheons never fail to make me want to learn more about the varied mythologies (especially the Irish ones.) I was hooked from page 1, and something tells me that what happened in Rome will definitely not stay in Rome!

Well, there you have it. My current Top 10 Books for 2016, so far. There are still a few left that may knock one or two of these off the list, but you never know. If you like one of these, or have a question, feel free to sound off in the comments. Just remember, no spoilers please!