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.

Pub Day Repost: Lady Cop Makes Trouble by Amy Stewart

Lady Cop Makes TroubleLady Cop Makes Trouble

by Amy Stewart
Series: The Kopp Sisters, #2eARC, 320 pg.
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016
Read: August 6 – 8, 2016

Miss Constance Kopp, who once hid behind a tree near her home in Wyckoff, N.J., for five hours waiting to get a shot at a gang of Black Handers who had annoyed her, is now a Deputy Sheriff of Bergen County, N.J., and a terror to evildoers. — New York Press, December 20, 1915

The novel’s epigraph tells you pretty much everything you need to know. In the previous book, Girl Waits with Gun, Constance goes to extremes to protect her family from criminals, now she’s moved on to being an official “terror to evildoers.”

Constance begins the novel as a Deputy Sheriff, but political pressure removes her (temporarily she’s assured) and she’s demoted to matron of the women’s jail. She’d been serving in that capacity anyway, but now that’s all she does. She notes, and is probably on to something, that the police are far more willing to arrest women knowing there;s a matron at the jail to watch over them than they were when it was just men. That’s probably not the kind of women’s equality that people hoped for, but I guess you take what you can get. During this time, Constance makes a horrible blunder — one that jeopardizes her career as well as that of Sheriff Heath.

Bound and determined to keep her job (and for her friend and boss to keep his), as well as to see justice done, Constance ignores orders, protocol and (what some would consider) good sense and sets off to correct her error. Doing so will take her out of her comfort zone and into a long investigation that will remind her just what kind of evil lurks in the hearts of men.

Reading about Constance — and some of the professional women she meets in NYC — reminds me of the book I recently read about Nelly Bly and the efforts of female journalists to be taken seriously, and given the opportunities to do more than society page work. Another female law enforcement officer that Constance meets in the opening pages isn’t allowed to do much at all in her role — far less than Constance can (and does). Now this other woman seems content in that, even scandalized at Constance manhandling a suspect, but that doesn’t change the fact that times are changing, and it’s determined women like Constance and Nelly Bly that are going to make them change.

The friendship — and mutual respect — between Constance and Sheriff Heath continues to bloom, and be misunderstood by everyone (with the possible exception of Norma) from Mrs. Heath to juvenile delinquents. But really, there are no romantic sparks (and I expect Stewart will keep things that way — as did history, it seems). I do wish that more people in Bergen County — particularly some of her coworkers (even just one) — most people outside of her home (see especially almost everyone in New York) seem to be encouraging/accepting of a female Deputy.

Norma and Fleurette aren’t as important to the progress of the plot in the sequel — Norma’s stubborn, no-nonsense streak keeps Constance moving when she needs it. Fleurette’s naïveté and desire for a different life fuel Constance’s desire to make the world a better place — at least their corner of it — and to keep the money rolling in. Watching the Sheriff Heath interact with these ladies is a hoot.

I’m not sure it stacks up to its predecessor as a novel — it’s not as deep, the story’s really straightforward, and you might argue the ending is a bit rushed. But, it’s a whole lot more fun to read. Having established the world so effectively in the first book, Stewart can just let her characters live in it. This is a solid crime novel, elevated by the historical circumstances and actual history that undergirds it. Stewart really won me over with this one, I hope we have many more installments to come.

Disclaimer: I received this eARC from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt via NetGalley in exchange for this post — thanks to both for this.
N.B.: As this was an ARC, any quotations above may be changed in the published work — I will endeavor to verify them as soon as possible.

—–

4 Stars

Lady Cop Makes Trouble by Amy Stewart

(slightly modified to address something I forgot earlier)

Lady Cop Makes TroubleLady Cop Makes Trouble

by Amy Stewart
Series: The Kopp Sisters, #2

eARC, 320 pg.
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016

Read: August 6 – 8, 2016


Miss Constance Kopp, who once hid behind a tree near her home in Wyckoff, N.J., for five hours waiting to get a shot at a gang of Black Handers who had annoyed her, is now a Deputy Sheriff of Bergen County, N.J., and a terror to evildoers. — New York Press, December 20, 1915

The novel’s epigraph tells you pretty much everything you need to know. In the previous book, Girl Waits with Gun, Constance goes to extremes to protect her family from criminals, now she’s moved on to being an official “terror to evildoers.”

Constance begins the novel as a Deputy Sheriff, but political pressure removes her (temporarily she’s assured) and she’s demoted to matron of the women’s jail. She’d been serving in that capacity anyway, but now that’s all she does. She notes, and is probably on to something, that the police are far more willing to arrest women knowing there;s a matron at the jail to watch over them than they were when it was just men. That’s probably not the kind of women’s equality that people hoped for, but I guess you take what you can get. During this time, Constance makes a horrible blunder — one that jeopardizes her career as well as that of Sheriff Heath.

Bound and determined to keep her job (and for her friend and boss to keep his), as well as to see justice done, Constance ignores orders, protocol and (what some would consider) good sense and sets off to correct her error. Doing so will take her out of her comfort zone and into a long investigation that will remind her just what kind of evil lurks in the hearts of men.

Reading about Constance — and some of the professional women she meets in NYC — reminds me of the book I recently read about Nelly Bly and the efforts of female journalists to be taken seriously, and given the opportunities to do more than society page work. Another female law enforcement officer that Constance meets in the opening pages isn’t allowed to do much at all in her role — far less than Constance can (and does). Now this other woman seems content in that, even scandalized at Constance manhandling a suspect, but that doesn’t change the fact that times are changing, and it’s determined women like Constance and Nelly Bly that are going to make them change.

The friendship — and mutual respect — between Constance and Sheriff Heath continues to bloom, and be misunderstood by everyone (with the possible exception of Norma) from Mrs. Heath to juvenile delinquents. But really, there are no romantic sparks (and I expect Stewart will keep things that way — as did history, it seems). I do wish that more people in Bergen County — particularly some of her coworkers (even just one) — most people outside of her home (see especially almost everyone in New York) seem to be encouraging/accepting of a female Deputy.

Norma and Fleurette aren’t as important to the progress of the plot in the sequel — Norma’s stubborn, no-nonsense streak keeps Constance moving when she needs it. Fleurette’s naïveté and desire for a different life fuel Constance’s desire to make the world a better place — at least their corner of it — and to keep the money rolling in. Watching the Sheriff Heath interact with these ladies is a hoot.

I’m not sure it stacks up to its predecessor as a novel — it’s not as deep, the story’s really straightforward, and you might argue the ending is a bit rushed. But, it’s a whole lot more fun to read. Having established the world so effectively in the first book, Stewart can just let her characters live in it. This is a solid crime novel, elevated by the historical circumstances and actual history that undergirds it. Stewart really won me over with this one, I hope we have many more installments to come.

Disclaimer: I received this eARC from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt via NetGalley in exchange for this post — thanks to both for this.
N.B.: As this was an ARC, any quotations above may be changed in the published work — I will endeavor to verify them as soon as possible.

—–

4 Stars