my favorite books of 2016!

It’s been a few years since I wrote my roundup of favorite books of the year, and I decided it was time to revive the tradition. I read about seventy-five books this year and enjoyed almost all of them, but I limited my favorites to twelve (one per month). My list includes books I read in 2016, but they weren’t necessarily released in 2016. For one thing, I spend so much money on my reading addiction, I often wait for books to come on sale before I purchase them to keep expenses reasonable. Additionally, my TBR includes more than a hundred books and it sometimes takes me a year to read from the time I bought. Now that my disclaimer is out of the way, I present to you, my 2016 favorites list:

My Not So Perfect Life (chick lit) – Sophie Kinsella. This book won’t be published until 2017, but I was fortunate to get an ARC from Netgalley. I loved it. It was deeper than her other books, but still so funny and charming and everything you’d expect from Sophie Kinsella.

Tell me Three Things – (contemporary YA) Julie Buxbaum. I loved everything about this novel. In fact, I love everything Julie Buxbaum writes. This was another book I couldn’t put down, but didn’t want to finish.

tell-me-three-things

Bond Girl (chick lit) – Erin Duffy –Bond Girl is for 2016 what Party Girl was in 2015 – my favorite chick lit book of the year. From page one, I was drawn in and tearing through the pages like each one contained the secret of life.

Wake-up Call (chick lit) – Amy Avanzino – I am so happy to have discovered this new voice in women’s fiction. This book had all of the feels – funny, sentimental, sad, and romantic. Wake-Up Call struck the perfect balance between humor and depth and I highly recommend it

You (thriller/suspense) – Caroline Kepnes – Creepy, sexy, and Oh so good.

you

The Wedding Sisters (women’s fiction) – Jamie Brenner – The content inside the book matched the beautiful cover. I loved it! As the youngest of three girls, the idea of sharing a wedding with them both intrigued and terrified me and so I knew I was in for a treat. The book had everything: humor, sex, romance, betrayal, politics and loss to name a few.

The Summer I Became a Nerd (contemporary YA) – Leah Rae Miller – I’m a huge fan of humorous, romantic (but clean) contemporary YA where the characters act like teenagers as opposed to adults with less birthdays. This book was a perfect example.

Millie’s Fling (chick lit) – Jill Mansell – I only just discovered Jill Mansell in 2016, and I’ve now read about ten of her books.  Her dialogue is consistently brilliant—always original, quirky, and never stilted. As a reader, I love this author’s books for pure entertainment. And as a writer, I learn something new with each one that helps me with my own craft.

The Devil Wear Scrubs (chick lit) – Freida McFadden – This was a free download on Amazon, and I loved it. A fast, witty read with endearing characters. What a pleasant surprise.

the-devil-wears-scrubs

Say What You Will (contemporary YA) – Cammie McGovern – I don’t think I’ve read a book in quite a while that made me laugh almost as much as it made me cry. I chuckled on the subway and I cried on the stair climber. I felt all the feels.

50 Acts of Kindness (chick lit) – Ellyn Oaksmith – it was a refreshing change to read a book in this genre with a “different” sort of main character – Kylie would never be described as “sweet” or “naive” – she was aggressive, strong-willed, and kind of mean at first. But she was real, and her character arc was fantastic and believable.

The Balance Project (chick lit) – Susie Orman Schnall – This novel reminded me a bit of The Devil’s Wear Prada, but in a good way. And there were enough differences that kept it original. I loved the whole premise of whether it is possible to have it all, and I absolutely stand by the conclusion reached in this book.

And there you have them! Have you read these? What were your favorite books this year?

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I simply remember my favorite books and then I don’t feel so bad

It’s been said that in order to be a good writer, you should be a good reader but that is not why I started reading.  I started reading because my oldest sister offered to pay me .25 cents for every book I read.  (This was in the late 70s when .25 cents was actually worth something.)  Before she paid me, I had to prove I read the book by writing a brief paragraph about it. Clever me used to paraphrase the back cover, but eventually my sister figured it out and would ask me specific questions about the book I wouldn’t know if I hadn’t really read it.  I was probably not pleased at the time, but eventually, I discovered the wonders of reading and the power of escape it afforded and I never looked back.  I’ve been an avid reader ever since.    It’s been probably 30 years since my sister began this exercise and although I no longer get paid, I’ve since read a countless number of books. I’ve read good books, bad books, great books, terrible books, lousy books that I loved anyway and classics I couldn’t bring myself to finish.  I obviously cannot remember all of them but these are some of the books that hold a special place in my heart.

The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold – this book came out long before the paranormal frenzy and it was the first time I’d ever read a book written from the perspective of someone who had died.  The novel was haunting, beautiful and sad and it touched me in a way I recall each and every time I see the light blue cover in a book store.

The Opposite of Love by Julie Buxbaum – this novel came as a recommendation by my mother.  She was so enthusiastic about it that I suggested it to my book club.  I found myself deeply relating to the protagonist, her fears and insecurities – and was motivated to take a good look at myself and make some much needed changes.  I am forever grateful for this book.

Watermelon by Marian Keyes – I believe this book was my foray into the “chick-lit” genre. Before this book, I read mostly deeper women’s fiction from authors such as Jodi Picoult and Wally Lamb or  psychological thrillers and contemporary fiction from authors like Dean Koontz and Tom Wolfe.  I had no idea that books about women could be so funny and relatable to a twenty-something like myself.  Since then, chick-lit has been my “go-to” genre for pure escapism and fun.  I organize a chick-lit book club for other lovers of the genre like myself and my own novel, Just Friends With Benefits, is written in humorous and conversational voice and most often categorized as “chick-lit”.

A Separate Peace by John Knowles – Of all of the classics I had to read for Junior High and High School, A Separate Peace was my favorite.  Maybe it was because it was about boys in prep school and maybe because the movie starred that actor from the Hardy Boys, but I really loved this book back then.  As an adult reading the book by choice, I was better able to appreciate the themes of friendship, trust, competition, jealousy etc. and I still loved it.

All of the Ginny and Geneva books by Catherine Wooley  – these were the books of my childhood, before I entered my pre-teen years and devoured every novel by Judy Blume (more to follow).  If I recall, my favorites were Ginny and the New Girl and A Room For Cathy.  I loved reading about girls my age and their adventures in friendship.  Sometimes I am tempted to spend the day in the library, reading these books all over again and perhaps getting a little bit of that innocence back, if only for the afternoon.

Everything ever written by Judy Blume – I am forever beholden to Judy Blume for writing books that reassured me I wasn’t much different than other tweens/pre-teens.  Are You There God, it’s Me Margaret, showed me I probably wasn’t the only girl to lie about when she got her period; Blubber was evidence that it is not easy to stand up for yourself or others when you are afraid of being the next victim of the mean girl in school; and while I did not relate in any way to Sally J. Freedman, I think I read Starring Sally J. Freedman as Herself more than any other books as evidenced by the worn cover and ripped pages.  There was something so exciting about reading about Sally’s time in Florida, her crush on Peter Hornstein (the Latin Lover) and her fascination with a man she thinks is Hitler in disguise.   I had never heard of a “nocturnal emission” before reading Then Again Maybe I won’t.  And, of course, Forever – the first book I read with sex scenes.  ‘Nuff said.

The Promise by Danielle Steele – I’m not typically a fan of Danielle Steele because she uses about six pages to describe a wooden table and, to me, “wooden table” is a good enough description.  That being said, I loved The Promise.  I loved the story about a couple tragically torn apart by a car accident that leaves the man thinking his lover died when the truth is that his wealthy mother paid a surgeon to reconstruct the woman from the wrong-side-of-the-track’s horribly damaged face in exchange for her agreement to let him believe she died.   When the man and woman reconnected and he somehow knew it was her despite her completely different face, well, it was magic.

She’s Come Undone by Wally Lamb –I was  half-way through reading the book before I looked at the cover, saw that the author’s name was “Wally” and asked my sister to confirm that “Wally” was, in fact, a female.  When she said “Uh, no, Wally Lamb is a man,” I was astounded.  I met Wally Lamb at a writer’s conference once and was so excited for the question/answer session so I could ask him how he could so believably write from a woman’s perspective but someone else beat me to it.  And whenever I discuss the book with other women, the sentiment is echoed.  It has been more than ten years since I read this book but, still, whenever it’s mentioned in conversation, my first thought is “Damn, I can’t believe that book was written by a man!”

And finally,

A Shore Thing by Snookie.  Just joking.   I just wanted to make sure you were really reading!!

So, what do you think of my list?  Agree?  Disagree?  I’d love to hear about the books on your list!