Top 10 Books to Read in 2016

I’m planning to read quite a few books this year and participate in several reading challenges, but the following books are the ones I absolutely CAN’T WAIT to read.

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    The Obelisk Gate by N.K. Jemisin
    The sequel to the amazing The Fifth Season! Unfortunately The Obelisk Gate won’t be released until August. Booo.
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    A Traveler’s Gulide to Belonging by Rachel Ford

    The combination of a new dad losing his wife and traveling around India with his baby makes this book sound very compelling to me.
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    The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald

    Oh, I love the idea for this book! Imagine traveling to another country to meet your penpal, only to discover she has just died, and then staying to open up a bookstore! I also love the title and cover.
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    Wolf Winter by Cecilia Ekback

    As far as intriguing book covers and titles go, this one has really won me over. Plus, it takes place in Scandinavia 300 years ago and has a distinctly creepy vibe, so I’m definitely all in.
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    Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor

    I’m excited to read several of Okorafor’s books this year, but the title and setting of this book in a futuristic and violent Africa has me particularly intrigued. Plus, there’s magic.
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    The Expatriates by Janice Y. K. Lee

    I just have a good feeling about this book. The setting (Hong Kong, early 20th century), the themes (motherhood, marriage, race, friendship), and the favorable reviews all have me very excited about this book. AND it will be released tomorrow!
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    Wherever There is Light by Peter Golden

    Amazon describes this as “a sweeping, panoramic tale of twentieth-century America, chronicling the decades-long love affair between a Jewish immigrant and the granddaughter of a slave.” That kind of moving plot, the gorgeous cover, the focus on art/art history, the recurring themes of oppression and freedom- yeah, I can’t wait for this one.
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    1Q84 by Haruki Murakami
    One of many books I have already read but plan to reread this year, this is the one I’m most excited about. Murakami is my all-time favorite author. Sure, some of his early stuff is really not very good, but Norwegian Wood, The Windup Bird Chronicle, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage…this guy can really write. 1Q84 is unusual for me, because unlike most of Murakami’s other books, I’ve only read it once. Probably because it is so long! But it is a really lovely story of love, parallel worlds, and (as always with Murakami) the darker underside of the world in which we live.
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    A Constellation fo Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra
    Ok, I admit that I was won over immediately by the title and cover of this book. I’m a serious judger of books by their covers, I confess! But just look at it- it’s beautiful. Plus, it is a story of love and war in Chechnya, so it will likely be incredibly moving.
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    All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
    I’m pretty sure I’m the last person left who still hasn’t read this book. I’m not sure why I haven’t read it yet, but it sounds beautiful and has (obviously) been very well received.

Book Review: A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

DSCN0354I really expected to love this book, because the concept is so cool: several Londons, with varying degrees of magic, and a mysterious traveler between the worlds. But, I think the book was only average in the end. The character development was shallow and not very believable. I found myself questioning whether any of the main characters would actually do certain things, and I realized about halfway through that I didn’t really care what happened. I mean, the worlds were interesting, and the prose itself was pretty good, but without interesting believable characters, the plot obviously suffers. It started to feel a bit contrived, which I’m guessing is because the best plots spring directly from interesting characters in interesting situations.

I really think V.E. Schwab could write something amazing. She’s clearly got good ideas and can write well- all that’s lacking are some complicated, interesting, believable, and likable characters.

If I were doing a star rating I’d go with 3 out of 5. It is a pretty good book, but certainly not great.

Book Review: The Cuckoo’s Calling

I’m so glad I decided to participate in reading challenges this year. I’ve already discovered two great new books, and we’re less than two weeks into 2016!

This week I read The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith (aka JK Rowling)  for the Monthly Motif Reading Challenge. Now, murder mysteries really aren’t my thing, and I got bored when I tried reading The Casual Vacancy (Rowling’s book between Harry Potter and The Cuckoo’s Calling) so my expectations were pretty low.

But….I loved it! Seriously. Rowling (Galbraith? Sorry, but I have a hard time taking pen names seriously) may have just won me over to a whole new genre. I definitely plan on reading the other Cormoran Strike books at the very least.

Cormoran Strike and his assistant Robin are interesting, likable, and intriguing characters, and the plot is fast-paced and unpredictable. The characters and plot are complicated enough, that even when I was sure I had it all figured out (never mind that I reached several different conclusions throughout the book, every time as certain as the last) I was always surprised by some character being more complicated than I’d previously assumed.

The dialogue was great too. This was my second time listening to an audiobook, and it was really well done. The believable and entertaining dialogue made it a really fun listen. (Though I will point out that this definitely isn’t something you can listen to with kids around if you care about profanity!)

All in all, it was a great book, and it reminded me just how awesome J.K. Rowling is. (Again, though-  why the pen name? And why a guy’s name? I find it off-putting).

Books I Want to Read This Year

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by NK Jemisin
The Obelisk Gate by NK Jemison
The Broken Kingdoms by NK Jemisin
Comeback Love by Peter Golden
Nothing to Envy by Barbara Demick
Year of Yes by Shonda Rimes
The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda NgoziAdichie
Rooftops of Tehran by Mahbod Seraji
The Secret Lives of People in Love: Stories by Simon Van Booy
Flight of Dreams by Ariel Lawhon
Medicis Daughter: A Novel of Marguerite de Valois by Sophie Perinot
13 Ways of Looking by Colum McCann
Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Fingersmith by Sarah Waters
A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra
It’s What I Do: A Photographer’s Life of Love and War by Lynsey Addario
The Fifth Season by NK Jemison
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Hesitation Wounds by Amy Koppelman
A Darker Side of Magic by Victoria Schwab
Wherever There is Light by Peter Golden
Last Night in Montreal by Emily St John Mandel
All Our Names by Dinaw Mengestu
Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert
The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith
The Expatriates by Janice Y. K. Lee
A Traveler’s Guide to Belonging by Rachel Ford
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor
Uprooted by Naomi Novik
Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling
Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor
Binti by Nnedi Okorafor
Wolf Winter by Cecilia Ekback
Children of the Stone by Sandra Tolan
The Kingdom of Gods by NK Jemisin
The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald
The Briefcase by Hiromi Kawakami
The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedmen
The Martian by Andy Weir
Northanger Abbey by JaneAusten
Slaughterhouse Five by Vonnegut
Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey
The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce
The Road by Cormac McCarthy

Books to Reread
Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
Black Beauty by Anna Sewell
The History of Love by Nicole Krauss
Timebound by Rysa Walker
Daring Greatly by Brene Brown
The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
1Q84 by Haruki Murakami
Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami
Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami
Station Eleven by Emily St. John- Mandel
The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury
Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer
Daytripper by Gabriel Ba and Fabio Moon

Let’s start with a book.

This week, I read one last book for 2015: Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro. I loved it almost as much as his book Remains of the Day, which has been a long-time favorite of mine.
I can’t comment much on the plot without ruining it, but the writing! It is sparse, haunting, and beautiful. I’ve read only two of his books, but I feel I can safely say that he is one of my favorite writers. Never Let Me Go is about very unusual kids in very unusual circumstances, but what strikes me the most about this book is how beautifully ordinary the characters are. They could be teenagers anywhere. Ishiguro doesn’t have any flat stereotypical characters, either. Clearly, he loves them all, faults and all, and you can’t help but love them too.
One of my favorite things about both Never Let Me Go and Remains of the Day is the way the story builds. At first, you might think the story is good but a bit ordinary but, almost without realizing it, you get drawn into a story that gets progressively more complex, more heart wrenching, and you feel almost surprised by how much you love it. Because he draws you in at the perfect pace. He makes you love his characters without you even realizing it and after the story is over, you are in awe. I’m telling you, Ishiguro is a sneaky genius. A few days have passed since I finished this book, and my love for it is still growing. These characters are sticking with me, without a doubt.
I’m annoyed with myself for waiting so long to read this book. I read Remains of the Day years ago! I spent the first several pages thinking about how butlers aren’t really my thing and didn’t even notice when I became completely hooked. I read that book in one sitting (and I would have with Never Let Me Go too but, well, life). Perhaps I forgot how amazing Ishiguro’s writing is, because he is so unassuming. There are no unnecessary flourishes. He isn’t trying to showcase his brilliance; I think he just can’t help himself 🙂
I definitely need to read more of his books.

Hello out there!

edited to add a fourth reading challenge, because I like to set my goals perhaps too high 🙂

My (albeit cliche) plan was to start this blog January 1st, but I have a couple things to mention before the new year (and my first blog!) “officially” begins. I have huge, as in, unreasonably huge, goals for this blog and for 2016. Totally unsurprising if you know me. However, I am officially giving myself permission to not follow through with all of my plans. I’m not perfect and so my blog won’t be either. I have lists upon lists of things I want to make, books I want to read, photography projects I want to try, etc. But ultimately, I have two goals for this blog: to motivate myself to be more creative and to record the joy and beauty of my daily life, both as a way of better appreciating life as I live it and as a record for my children.

So, if I don’t meet my lofty goals of posting several days a week, taking pictures every day, teaching myself to sew, or completing multiple reading challenges, oh well. With that said, I’m really excited about blogging and I think it will be fun and inspiring. And, hey, maybe eventually I won’t only be writing to myself! 😉

As for the above mentioned reading challenges, I’ve found four that look fun and doable.


  1. The 2016 Monthly Motif Reading Challenge at Girlxoxo. I’m really excited about this one! Some of the motifs will definitely force me to branch out a bit with my reading habits, which should be fun. Here’s the complete list of motifs:

JANUARY- Who Dunnit?
Crack the case and solve the mystery with your first book of the year.

FEBRUARY- New Releases
Read a book released in the last year.

MARCH- Take a Trip
Time Travel or read a book set in a country different than where you live

APRIL- Best of the Best
Read a book that has won recognition or a literary award

MAY- Story of Survival
Make it out alive, beat the odds, save yourself stories. Try thinking beyond the typical wilderness survival. Surviving high school? Surviving a family road trip? Yep- those count too! PS. Dystopians would work great in this motif too.

JUNE- Girlxoxo Recommends
We’ve read a lot of great books. Check out our archives and pick one of our recommendations off our book lists.

Hilarious memoirs, silly chick lit, comedic scifi. Pick a book that is guaranteed to make you laugh out loud.

AUGUST- Genre Jumble
Read from a genre that you don’t normally read from

SEPTEMBER- Steampunk, Science Fiction, and Fantasy
Pretty self explanatory and loads of great books to pick from in this motif.

OCTOBER- Things That Go Bump in The Night
Cozy mystery ghost stories, paranormal creeptastic, murder mystery- it’s up to you!

NOVEMBER- Fiction Takes A Break
It’s all about Nonfiction November this month!

DEC- That’s a Wrap
Finish a series you’ve been meaning to finish or read the next book in a series you started but never finished.

  1. The Full House Reading Challenge at Book Date. Not to be confused with the old school (and awesome) TV show. There are 20 categories to be filled in any order, including some tricky ones such as “setting begins with B” or “way out of your comfort zone.” I like the flexibility with this challenge.Full House Challenge Grid 2016

3.The 2016 Re-Read Challenge at Tea and Titles. Another challenge with a theme for each month, this challenge is perfect for my already somewhat compulsive tendency to re-read my favorite books. Monthly themes for this challenge:

January: A Re-Read of a favourite childhood book.

February: A Re-Read that tugs at your heart strings.

March: A Re-Read in preparation for a sequel.

April: Re-Read a book that made you cry.

May: Re-Read a book with less then 250 pages

June: Re-Read a book with 500 or more pages

July: A Re-Read of a book you read this time last year.

August: Re-Read a book from a favourite author.

September: Re-Read a favourite sci-fi book.

October: Re-Read a book featuring a mental disability

November: Re-Read a book written in interesting prose ( verse, email, letters etc)

December: Re-Read a trade or graphic novel

4. The 2016 Reading Challenge at Modern Mrs. Darcy 12 books in 12 categories over the course of the year, at any time and in any order. The categories are broad but interesting, so this challenge should be easy and fun!

I’ll have to read about five books every month to complete all four challenges, which might not happen, but why not try? I’m looking forward to reading more next year. And maybe, just maybe, I’ll write a book review every once in a while!