As I write this, I’ve fallen behind on my reading goal of 150 books this year. I moved the goalposts up from 100 to 150 sometime around September or October as I was within a handful of titles from reaching it. Now, I’m 3 books behind. I suppose I was slightly over-optimistic. There’s still a month yet, so I’m sure I can catch up as long as I stop re-reading my favorites. Below are those that wowed me.
First, let me be clear that this isn’t a list of what is objectively the best book published in 2016, only that I read these books during the calendar year and found them to be the best to me. Not all were published this year (most weren’t). I’m grabbing two from each category if possible because I’m wimpy and want to rave about what I’ve read.
Obsidian is Kaleb’s story from the Psy/Changeling series and…wow! He’s smoking hot. I’d probably want to beat him with a stick or run and hide from him if he was a real guy, but reading him? Yeah, I’ll take one, please.
Archangel’s Consort is the third book in the Guild Hunter series. Elena and Raphael have settled in together, learned a bit more about each other, their limits, and the depth of their love. While the first two aren’t bad by any stretch of the imagination, just like the others in the Psy/Changeling series aren’t bad, Consort just pushes all my buttons.
Best Contemporary Romance—Rock Hard by Nalini Singh.
This is #2 of the Rock Kiss series. Singh’s stories tend to be on the sweet side, but I loved watching T-Rex help his Charlie-Mouse find her confidence again. He was determined without being stalkerish; Alpha Male without being an Alpha-hole. There’s only one in this section because I simply don’t read much contemporary romance. If I chose a second book, it’d be in the same series. There’s only four, so just grab them all.
Best Fantasy (Romance)—Radiance by Grace Draven.
Radiance is an amazing look at two people who make the best of a political marriage and find love along the way. It’s humorous and poignant and lovely and sad. There’s romance and adventure and finding friends in unexpected places. Again, only one in this category. I almost put Master of Crows in here but I considered it more as straight fantasy rather than fantasy romance.
Is it any wonder that the Andrews team would show up? I adore this series. Kate kicks some serious ass. Curran’s hot. Jim and Dali are such a cute, perfectly mismatched couple. Binds leads up to the wedding of the century, with all the craziness you’d expect from the former Beast Lord, Kate, her father, and post-shift Atlanta. Roman as the officiator was a perfect touch.
Fair Game is the third in the Alpha & Omega series, an offshoot of the Mercy Thompson series. Charles and Anna Cornick are having some issues. Charles is being haunted. Anna has butted heads with Charles’ father, the Marrok. It’s…tense. After Adam (from the Mercy Thompson series) is unable to leave his mate to fly to Boston, the Cornicks go help the FBI track down a serial killer. Their growth here, especially Charles’, is wonderful to see.
Third in the Codex Alera series, Tavi joins a fledgling Legion company to stand fast against the invading Canim. He rejoins old friends, forges some shaky alliances, and overcomes astonishing odds to protect Alera. This series is great if you love military fantasy or Jim Butcher.
I thought Wake of Vultures, the first in the Shadow series, was the best book I read in 2015. Ravens falls a bit short of Vultures, but that doesn’t mean it’s not good. It’s an outstanding book and it’s great to see the protagonist grow and find his place in the world. I’d recommend either one to anyone looking for paranormal western with a diverse cast and excellent, excellent writing.
Runner Up—Master of Crows by Grace Draven. Silhara is such a wonderful bastard of an anti-hero. I’m not sure he deserves Martise and I’m really not sure what wrong she’s atoning for to deserve him, but they’re such a great couple.
Best Science Fiction—Star Wars: Aftermath by Chuck Wendig.
I love me some Chuck Wendig so I had to grab this one to hold me until Thunderbird comes out. Aftermath is set after the Return of the Jedi and is part of the new Star Wars canon. It doesn’t have the familiar cast of characters except in the periphery and I think that’s a great thing. It tells the stories of people affected by the power vacuum left after the fall of the Empire and how both the rebels and the empire are scrambling to find their footing in this new reality. Wendig’s style is…unique to say the least, so read the sample first.
Best Historical—The Bone Jar by Candice Robb.
A novella in the Owen Archer series set in the Middle Ages. In this one, we reconnect with Owen, the archer turned spy for the Archbishop of York, and Magda the river woman. She’s asked him for a favor: guard a jar on her island. She fears theft by the relic dealers, especially since a dark figure has been lurking around and watching her home. I’m a huge fan of the Owen Archer series and getting to dive back in, even for a novella, was a wonderful treat.
Best Steampunk—The Greyfriar by Clay and Susan Griffith
I picked this up because I really liked another of Griffith’s steampunk titles, The Shadow Revolution, and adored the premise. This book, the first of three in the series, follows the mysterious Robin Hood like character, the Greyfriar, and Adele, a sometimes annoying princess with strange powers. Adele had to grow on me. She was a bit too whiny at first but grew a backbone when she needed it. The Greyfriar, though, was such a lovely, lovely character. Subsequent books in the series didn’t live up to the promise, but if you just read this one I think it’d be enough for a really good tragic romance.