Monday, 12 December 2016

Recommendations/Reflection: Best Reads of 2016

EDIT 12/3/18: In light of recent revelations about Santino Hassell, I am no longer comfortable featuring his co-written book Fast Connectionas on this post. it has been removed from the 'Top 5 Unreviewed Reads' section, leaving it with only 4 items, instead of the original 5.

It's that time of the year where wrapping-up-the-year's-reading posts are a dime a dozen, so here's mine. My best 10 books of 2016 - five that I reviewed, and five that never got reviewed - plus an extra five that I read this year, but were not published in 2016. They're listed 1-5 in each category in terms of reading order, not as an internal ranking within that category. In instances where I haven't reviewed the book, I've linked to other reviews where the reviewer has felt the same way about the book that I have. Looking back, I've had a really good reading year, with lots of great discoveries, but there are also some things that I'm looking to change and refine as we move towards 2017.

Top 5 Reviewed Reads of 2016

1. Level Up by Cathy Yardley
Sweet, geeky flatmates-to-lovers story between two colleagues at a video development company. Light-hearted, but nuanced. Read full review

2. Earth Bound by Emma Barry and Genevieve Turner
1960s space race romance, with female computer engineer squaring off against misogynistic sausage fest. Grumpy chief engineer hero who's her adversary during the day, and her lover once they clock off. Atypical romance arc makes it very engaging and satisfying. Read full review

3. The Hating Game by Sally Thorne
This office romance was one of the year's most loved romances, and I was a definite fan. Funny, off-beat with a great slow-burn enemies-to-lovers romance at its core. Read full review.

4. The Gossip by Jenny Holiday

It's campus cop versus popular college girl in this swoony 1980s novella that packs a massive emotional punch despite its short length. Read full review.

5. Summer Skin by Kirsty Eagar
An Aussie YA/NA romance where the hero and heroine are young, imperfect and at competing university colleges. Raw, honest and feminist. Read full review

Top 5 Unreviewed Reads of 2016

1. Let it Shine by Alyssa Cole
Bittersweet novella about the romance between a young black woman and her Jewish childhood friend, set in the 1960s against the background of the Civil Rights Movement and Freedom Rides. Read review by Rudi at Book Thingo.

2. Sofia Khan is Not Obliged by Ayisha Malik
Chick lit-slash-contemporary romance told through diary entries. Sofia's attempts to chronicle Muslim dating for the publishing house where she works are hilarious, insightful and leads to a very sweet romance! Read review by Carrie at Smart Bitches, Trashy Books.

3. A Gentleman's Position by K J Charles 
Inter-class romance between a lord and his valet in another strong book from K J Charles. I truly admire the way that she can take a situation and spin it so that the reader empathises with each character's perspective. Read review by Jay at Joyfully Jay

4. The Horseman by Charlotte Nash
The mystery sub-plot and well-developed characters in this rural romance set in Victoria make it a real page-turner. Read review by Lee at Scandalicious Book Reviews

Top 5 Not Published in 2016

1. Under the Sugar Sun by Jennifer Hallock (2015)
In the Philippines at the turn of the century, an American schoolteacher meets a kind-hearted mestizo sugar baron. Heart-squeezy romance and heart-wrenching exploration of colonialism ensues. Read full review

2. Act Like It by Lucy Parker (2015)
Probably one of the most praised books of this year, even if it was published in November last year. Fake romance trope-y goodness between a Darcy-esque West End actor and his castmate to counteract bad publicity. Read review by Sarah by Smart Bitches, Trashy Books.

3. Haveli by Zeenat Mahal (2013)
In 1970s Pakistan, headstrong Chandni resists her grandmother's attempts to push her into a union with a family friend's son, Taimur a.k.a 'Alpha Male'. Masterful novella with such strong characterisation. Read full review

4. Jasper and the Dead by R J Astruc (2013)
I only gave this M/M AU romance four stars (damn third-person present tense writing style) but the original yet familiar worldbuilding of Astruc's AU colonial Sydney has stuck with me over the course of the year, and I've recommended it to several people since, so I think it deserves to be here. Read full review

5. Chocolate Cake for Breakfast by Danielle Hawkins (2013)
Small-town New Zealand romance with All Black hero and vet heroine. Quirky but so emotional. Read full review.

Concluding Thoughts

The Top 5 unreviewed section is the most diverse, with 2 M/M romances, Cole's Let it Shine with a Black heroine and Jewish hero, and Malik's Sofia, a British Muslim of Pakistani extraction. This is disturbing and - quite frankly - not good enough. It's not good enough to be reading diversely if my blogging doesn't represent the full extent of this, especially when they are books that I could have reviewed positively. Clearly, next year, I need to more closely examine what I choose to review, what I choose not to review, and the unconscious bias or reasoning behind it. 

Recently, classifying my reviews by setting, I realised how few books I'd reviewed that were set on my own turf, which prompted my to check how many books from Australia and New Zealand I'd actually read this year. The results were dismal: 7 entirely set in Australia, and 5 in New Zealand. Given those stats, the Antipodes is grossly over-represented on this list, with 3 books set in Australia, 1 in New Zealand and 2 more (1 each) by Australian and Kiwi authors that were set elsewhere (Act Like It takes place in London, and The Hating Game in a unspecified New York-style city). Good books set in Australia or New Zealand bring with them a warm, familiar feeling, and every time I experience that, I wonder why I don't read more local fiction. Next year, I will. 

Lastly, thank you to everyone who has read and supported this blog over the last two years. It's been a blast. 

Onward and upward to 2017!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...