The Best Novels I Read in 2016

Yeah, I should’ve done this earlier, but I just needed a break from 2016 for a couple of days. Most people do this in mid-December or so, but a few years ago (before this blog), the best novel I read that year was also the last. Ever since then, I just can’t pull the trigger until January 1.

I truly enjoyed all but a couple of books this year (at least a little bit), but narrowing the list down to those in this post was a little easier than I expected (‘tho there’s a couple of books I do feel bad about ignoring). I stand by my initial ratings, there are some in the 5-Star group that aren’t as good as some of the 4 and 4½ books, although for whatever reason, I ranked them higher (entertainment value, sentimental value…liked the ending better…etc.). Anyway, I came up with a list I think I can live with.

(in alphabetical order by author)

Morning StarMorning Star

by Pierce Brown
My original post
I was a little surprised (but not really) today to see that every book in the trilogy made my year-end Best-Of list — so it makes sense that this one occupies a space. But it’s more than that, this book was an exciting emotional wringer that ended the trilogy in a perfect way. I can’t recommend this one enough (but only for those who’ve read the first two). When I was informed a month ago that there was going to be a follow-up series? I let out a whoop, thankfully none of my family noticed, so I don’t have to feel too silly.
5 Stars

A Star-Reckoner's LotA Star-Reckoner’s Lot

by Darrell Drake
My original post
I’m afraid if I start talking about this one that I’ll spill a few hundred words. Let me just slightly modify something I already wrote and spare us all the effort (that could be better spent actually reading these books). I’m afraid I’ll overuse the word imaginative if I tried to describe what Drake has done here in the depth I want to in this book about pre-Islamic Iran. You haven’t read a fantasy novel like this one before — almost certainly, anyway — but you should.
4 1/2 Stars

Blood of the EarthBlood of the Earth

by Faith Hunter
My original post
This probably should be a dual entry with Blood of the Earth and Curse on the Land, but that felt like cheating. Between the two, I thought that this was a slightly better work, so it got the spot. While remaining true to the Jane Yellowrock world that this springs from, Hunter has created a fantastic character, new type of magic, and basis of a series. I love these characters already (well, except for those I wasn’t crazy about previously) and can’t wait for a return trip.
4 1/2 Stars

BurnedBurned

by Benedict Jacka
My original post
I’m just going to quote myself here: I’ve seen people call this the Changes of the Alex Verus series — and it absolutely is. I’d also call it the Staked in terms with the protagonists coming to grips with the effects that his being in the lives of his nearest and dearest has on their life, and what that means for his future involvement with them. Which is not to say that Jacka’s latest feels anything like Butcher’s or Hearne’s books — it feels like Verus just turned up half a notch. It’s just such a great read — it grabs you on page 2 and drags you along wherever it wants to take you right up until the “He is not actually doing this” moment — which are followed by a couple more of them.
5 Stars

Fate BallFate Ball

by Adam W. Jones
My original post
Since the Spring when I read this, I periodically reminded myself to keep this in mind for my Top 10, I was that afraid I’d forget this quiet book. It’s not a perfect novel, there are real problems with it — but it was really effective. I fell for Ava, just the way Able did — not as hard (and only in a way that my wife wouldn’t mind) — but just as truly. This one worked about as well as any author could hope one would.
4 1/2 Stars

All Our Wrong TodaysAll Our Wrong Todays

by Elan Mastai
My original post
My all-time favorite time-travel novel, just a fun read, too. I will over-hype this one if I’m not careful. So, so good.
5 Stars

The Summer that Melted EverythingThe Summer that Melted Everything

by Tiffany McDaniel
My original post
I’m not sure what I can say about this book that others haven’t — this trip into a magical realism version of the 1980’s Mid-West will get you on every level — it’s entertaining, it’s thought-provoking, the language is gorgeous, the characters are flawed in all the right ways. I wish this was getting the attention (and sales!) that it deserves — I really hope its audience finds it.
5 Stars

Every Heart a DoorwayEvery Heart a Doorway

by Seanan McGuire
My original post
Here’s a book that doesn’t have to worry about attention or audience, it has one — and it’s probably growing. It deserves it. Short, sweet (and not-sweet) and to the point. I may have to buy a two copies of the sequel so I don’t have to fight my daughter for it when it’s released.
5 Stars

Lady Cop Makes TroubleLady Cop Makes Trouble

by Amy Stewart
My original post
Stewart took the really good historical crime novel she wrote last year and built on that foundation one that’s far more entertaining without sacrificing anything that had come before. We’ll be reading about the Kopp sisters for a while, I think.
4 Stars

Genrenauts: The Complete Season One CollectionGenrenauts: The Complete Season One Collection

by Michael R. Underwood
My original post
Yeah, here I am again, flogging Underwood’s Genrenaut stories — whether in individual novellas, audiobooks, or in this collection — you need to get your hands on this series about story specialists who travel to alternate dimensions where stories are real and what happens in them impacts our world — Underwood has a special alchemy of Leverage + The Librarians + Quantum Leap + Thursday Next going on here, and I love it.
5 Stars

There were a few that almost made the list — almost all of them did make the Top 10 for at least a minute, actually. I toyed with a Top 17 in 2016 but that seemed stupid — and I’ve always done 10, I’m going to stick with it. But man — these were all close, and arguably better than some of those on my list. Anyway here they are: What You Break by Reed Farrel Coleman (my original post), Children of the Different by SC Flynn (my original post), Thursday 1:17 p.m. by Michael Landweber (my original post), We’re All Damaged by Matthew Norman (my original post), A Hundred Thousand Worlds by Bob Proehl (my original post), and Mechanical Failure by Joe Zieja (my original post).

I hope your 2016 reads were as good as these.

A Few Quick Questions With…Adam W. Jones


Here’s Part Deux of the Book Tour for Adam W. Jones’ Fate Ball — the review posted not too long ago, and Mr. Jones was gracious enough to keep participate in a Q&A with me. There were a bunch of questions about the book I wanted to ask — I was only 49% or so done with the book, so I didn’t ask most of them.

A quick look at his author bio shows that he has too much on his plate to spend too much time with me. Thankfully, I try to keep these brief, so he didn’t have to. I do appreciate the time he gave — as well as the A’s he provided to my Q’s. Hope you enjoy.

What prompted this particular story? What was the genesis of the book?
Fate Ball is loosely based on a past relationship. It was a life-altering relationship that stayed with me for years after we split up. Fate Ball began as a way to work through some emotions and put the relationship behind me. After it sat on the shelf for many years I decided to turn it into a work of fiction. It’s 80% fiction and 20% fact. The real Ava is alive and well…although still fighting her demons.

I almost phrased the question, “How much of this is autobiographical?” But was sure that if I did, he’d respond with something like, “It’s all imagination . . . ”

In the writing of Fate Ball, what was the biggest surprise about the writing itself? Either, “I can’t believe X is so easy!” or “If I had known Y was going to be so hard, I’d have skipped this and watched more TV”.
Once I decided to make Fate Ball fiction it really became easier to write. I found that my imagination would flow easily and I could get into a groove when I wasn’t trying to be factually correct. It started out in first person and the conversion to third person was a bit of a struggle, but once there things came easily.
I see you’ve done some articles and short pieces before this, what got you into writing? Who are some of your major influences? (whether or not you think those influences can be seen in your work — you know they’re there)
I’ve always enjoyed writing and telling stories. I consider myself a storyteller more than a pure writer. In 7th grade I won a national award for a poem I wrote and, Ms. White, my teacher really encouraged me to keep writing. I wrote for my high school newspaper, then studied Journalism at Carolina..getting several class projects published which bumped your grade a full letter. After college I did some freelance writing and had several travel and children’s stories published. I don’t believe I have a writing influence…if anything, I was influenced by my extended family who were always telling stories around the table or on the porch at the beach.
Fate Ball strikes an almost impossible balance between romance, humor and drama, why did you select that approach, and how did you pull it off (if you know)?
I guess I got lucky. As I said, I am just telling a story and everything fell into place. I did not have a specific plan when I began writing Fate Ball other than telling the full story…full of emotion both good and bad.
Your author bio says this is your first novel — what’s next for you (if you know)?
Originally, I was planning a trilogy with the Able character and having the other two books be prequels to Fate Ball. Those prequels would be “The Headman Chronicles” which is Able’s coming of age story during his trek across Europe after high school; and “The Rabbit Field” which is Able’s childhood experiences with young friends. Since Fate Ball is now out there I have considered an alternative by doing a non-Able story. My most recent thought is a love story entitled “Trailer Bride” set in Charleston. It’s a story about a young man from a socially elite family who falls in love with a girl from the other side of the tracks.

Fate Ball by Adam W. Jones


Welcome to Part One of our participation in the Fate Ball Book Tour — a brief interview will follow in a couple of minutes. Hope you enjoy both of these posts half as much as I enjoyed this book.

Fate BallFate Ball

by Adam W. Jones

PDF, 279 pg.
Wisdom House Books, 2016

Read: April 14 – 15, 2016

Parents always seem to think that saving the day is a good thing, but really it just postpones the inevitable. Sometimes, they should just let their kids crash and burn, so they learn their lesson the hard way. Parents can be the biggest enablers of them all when they’re acting out of love and kindness, but that usually just makes things worse.

That’s not the most dazzling piece of writing in Fate Ball, nothing catchy or inherently memorable, like I try to start with — but this is the heart of the book. People trying to help an addict not ready to be helped, and inadvertently making things worse.

In the prologue, Able Curran receives news that Ava Dubose has died — Chapter One takes us back 14 years to 1980 to meet her. In Chapter Two (one of the best chapters I’ve read this year), Able meets her — and falls for her almost instantly (and many readers will, too). Over the next few chapters, you see the two falling deeper and deeper in love — one of the cutest couples you’ve read.

All the while, you know that things are leading to the fateful phone call Able receives in 1994. We start to see some signs of trouble (well, those started before this) long before Able does. When he finally gets clued it, it destroys him — and they don’t see each other for some time. From there we watch these two lives intersect from time to time over the next 15 years (usually, Able trying to help her), as well as getting glimpses of their lives between the intersections.

This is really the story of two addicts — one who lets their dependency control and destroy them. The other who learns how to live with the problem, controlling and eventually overcoming. And even as you know it’s happening, you still hold out hope for Ave to shake things off, to achieve the serenity — or at least the contentment that she so desperately needs. Things get worse and worse — yet Jones is able to keep things from despairing, there’s a lightness to the prose that keeps things moving. While things fall apart for Ava, they move on for Able and their friends — success, new love, children, life.

In some hands, you’d be beaten over the head with the contrast, Jones doesn’t do that however. It all spools out naturally, easily (the kind of ease that takes work to pull off). You like everyone here enough that you’re pulling for them, no matter what stupid choices they make. Jones as come up with a perfect blend of humor, romance, drama, and tragedy.

There are plenty of little touches along the way to keep things light, to immerse you in the world — which is good because the book could become too fixated on Able and Ava.

His mother was always asking, then answering her own questions. That’s why she was always right. She could have a whole conversation with herself, even a fight depending on the subject matter, and no one had to say a word. All Able needed to do was just nod his head once in a while and she would take care of the rest.

This is not the best book I’ve read — not even the best novel on addiction. But it works well enough that it doesn’t matter. I’m not saying it’s a bad book, or there are glaring problems — but objectively, I just think it could be better. But when you’re reading it? It delivers everything you want, and some things you don’t expect. I really enjoyed this and think you will, too.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the kind folks at Wisdom House Books in exchange for an honest review.

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4 1/2 Stars