Friday, December 09, 2016

best of 2016: fiction

I can't believe it, but it's already that time of year again when I sort through everything I've read/watched and make my top 10 lists.  A few notes before I begin:

  • Not all of these were first released in 2016, but that's when I read 'em.
  • These are basically in preferential order, though I keep wavering on a few of them.  Number one was definitely my favorite, though.
  • G-Vo, skip #1 and #4.
  • Obviously 2016 isn't over yet (which is a shame as this has been one shit year), so if I read something between now and 12/31 which belongs here, I'll update accordingly.
  • This is my second time trying to post this, and I don't have the time or patience to keep messing with it, so if it looks like shit, I apologize.  This has been happening more and more with Blogger, so I might pack up and go elsewhere if it continues.
  • As ever, your mileage may vary.

1. The Last One by Alexandra Oliva:  While competing in a reality show set in the woods, Zoo (as the producers call her) gets separated from her teammates.  Because they're cut off from the outside world, they don't realize it's been ravaged by a pandemic, and when Zoo finds evidence of the devastation, she assumes it's a trick being played by the producers.  All she wants is to get back to her husband, and her ignorance of the truth will either save her or kill her.  A clever premise, expertly executed.

2.  The Captive Prince trilogy by C.S. Pacat:  After his half brother usurps power over the throne, Damen is captured and sent to serve as a pleasure slave to Laurent, the prince of an enemy kingdom.  Suffice it to say things don't turn out how either one of them expects.  It's a bit of a cheat to list a trilogy of books as one item on this list, but this is my blog so I'm gonna.  Very well written, and scorchingly hot at times.  I started the first one on a Monday night and took the next day off work so I could finish it, after which I immediately started the second one, like the literary equivalent of chainsmoking.  (Note: in order, the books in this series are Captive Prince, Prince's Gambit, and King's Rising.)

3. Sweetgirl by Travis Mulhauser:  Concerned for her drug addicted mother's safety during an impending blizzard, 16-year-old Percy sets off for a local meth dealer's cabin in hopes of finding her.  Instead, she finds the dealer and his girlfriend passed out, the corpse of a rotting dog, and a crying baby left in a freezing cold room.  Impulsively, Percy takes the baby, setting off a chain of unfortunate events.  Alternately funny and heartbreaking (it made me cry, which books rarely do), and it would make an absolutely killer movie.

4. The Fireman by Joe Hill:  Millions of people are infected with a plague nicknamed dragonscale, which causes most of the carriers to spontaneously combust.  When school nurse Harper Grayson finds out that she's not only infected, but pregnant, she flees for a camp where survivors have taken shelter, but it's not necessarily the safe haven she was hoping for.  Riveting, and Harper is a great heroine to root for.  (Joe Hill is exceptionally good at writing female characters.)

5. A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas:  This is the sequel to A Court of Thorns and Roses, so I can't properly review it lest I spoil its predecessor, but it was excellent.  Bonus points for really hot (and surprisingly graphic for YA) sex scenes, too.

6. Security by Gina Wohlsdorf:  Manderley Resort is a luxury hotel that's getting ready to open for business, but somebody doesn't want it to ever open its doors, and the staff is getting murdered one by one.  Tense and exciting; it would make one hell of a movie, and thanks to several "split screen" passages, Brian De Palma would be the ideal director.  

7. The Kingdom of Little Wounds by Susann Cokal:  In the 15th century city of Skyggehavn, Princess Sophia has just gotten married.  She is the royal family's greatest hope, as the other children of the king and queen have either died or are suffering from a mysterious illness.  But her wedding night goes horribly awry, and the kingdom is thrown into turmoil.  In the midst of it all, a disgraced seamstress, a mute nursemaid, and a scheming count try to survive by any means necessary.  The sumptuous writing reminded me of As Meat Loves Salt by Maria McCann, which is not a comparison I would make lightly, but be warned: it's classified as YA (and won a prestigious award given for excellence in young adult literature), but in my opinion, that was a mistake.  It contains several graphic descriptions of rape and sexual blackmail, a story about a woman mating with a monkey, and horrifying descriptions of dead bodies and debilitating illness.  But if you can handle its darkness (and it is DARK), I think you'll find it well worth the read.

8.  All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood:  Wavy's father is a drug dealer and her mother is mentally ill, so she's left to her own devices most of the time, which she's fine with.  She's obsessed with constellations, and one night she's staring up at the sky when a man passing by wrecks his motorcycle.  The man is Kellen, an associate of her father's, and they form a friendship that other people don't get.  Beautifully written and extremely uncomfortable at times; it's probably the only book I've ever read where I agreed with both the 5 star reviews and some of the 1 star reviews on Amazon.  (Explaining the latter would be a massive spoiler, as the reviews in question are negative because of plot elements, not the writing.)

9. IQ by Joe Ide: Isaiah Quintabe is known around the neighborhood as IQ in deference to his intellect.  He solves cases and charges those who can afford it higher rates to make up for people who pay in tires and blueberry muffins, and there are far more of the latter than the former, so a case involving a rapper might be the cash cow he's been waiting for.  Really different and enjoyable; think Sherlock Holmes in the 'hood.

10. The Kept Woman by Karin Slaughter:  When a dead body is found at a construction site, it turns out to have startling links to detective Will Trent.  As you'd expect from Karin Slaughter, it's engrossing as hell and filled with plenty of surprises.