I’m going to start recommending my favorite 2016 books next week, so I thought I’d post a roundup of what I’ve recommended at Coven Book Club since June (when I posted my Winter/Spring 2015 roundup post.)
If you haven’t read the first book in Mary E. Pearson’s trilogy, The Kiss of Deception, do so ASAP and you’ll likely be devouring The Heart of Betrayal just a few days later. This series is addictive, and this second book in the trilogy did not suffer from a sophomore slump and is equally good, if not better, than the first book. I want the third book so badly. GIMME NOW.
In Lair of Dreams, the Diviners must catch a serial killer who is causing a deadly sleeping sickness. After Evie’s frightening showdown with the serial killer that took place in Libba Bray’s The Diviners (2012), she’s become a celebrity Diviner. The world now knows her special talent: she can “read” objects and discern people’s pasts (and their secrets). But despite fame and fortune, her troubles aren’t over. (Read Allison’s recommendation of The Diviners audiobook here.)
The Accident Season, by Moïra Fowley-Doyle, is literary horror at its best: magical realism and eloquent, imaginative prose amplify the horror narratives and play to our most primal fears. Seventeen-year-old Cara’s family is cursed. Every October (The Accident Season), Cara, her mother, her sister Alice, and her step-brother Sam find that no matter how many precautions they take, “[b]ones break, skin tears, bruises bloom,” and sometimes family members (her father and uncle) die. (Read my full recommendation here and Allison’s recommendation here.)
Slasher Girls & Monster Boys, edited by April Genevieve Tucholke: I loved this anthology of scary stories by many of my favorite YA authors (Nova Ren Suma, Leigh Bardugo, Marie Lu, and more). This collection pays homage to classic horror films and literature, urban legends, fairy tales, and myths; yet these stories are original and disturbing in their own right. (Read my full recommendation here.)
What I like most about Kate Elliott’s Court of Fives–pitched as “Game of Thrones meets The Hunger Games meets Little Women” —is its strong heroine, Jes, who fights for freedom and justice in a very classist, racist, and sexist society that resembles Ancient Greece and Ancient Egypt. As the daughters of a Patron father and a Commoner mother who are forbidden from marrying, Jes and her three sisters struggle to fit in with the Imperial Patrons. Jes, especially, doesn’t want to obey the rules and she secretly trains for an elite athletic competition, The Fives. When her family is torn asunder, winning fame and fortune through The Fives becomes of the utmost importance….Even if she is falling in love with a competitor?
Eleanor Herman’s Legacy of Kings (Blood of Gods and Royals #1) reimagines the early years of the reign of Alexander the Great, Macedonia’s sixteen-year-old heir, through multiple POV characters. Tangled up in Alexander’s web are Katerina, who’s determined to kill Alexander’s mother; Katerina’s lover, Jacob; and Alexander’s betrothed Persian princess, Zofia.
Rae Carson’s Walk on Earth a Stranger, the first book in the Gold Seer trilogy, offers a fresh perspective on the Gold Rush narrative. Fifteen-year-old Leah is a brave, resourceful heroine who, masquerading as a boy, runs away to California after a terrible tragedy compromises her freedom. (Read my full recommendation here.)
Like Walk on Earth a Stranger, Erin Bowman’s Vengeance Road features a tough, gender-bending heroine; this time, in Gold Rush Arizona (1877). Like Leah, eighteen-year-old Kate (a Mexican-American) disguises herself as a boy (Nate) and heads further west, after a tragedy leaves her parentless. (Read my full recommendation here.)
Erin Bow’s The Scorpion Rules is set in a near-post-apocalyptic future. After environmental disasters and devastating wars almost wiped out humanity, an Artificial Intelligence, called Talis, achieves world domination and world peace by forcing all of its territories’ rulers to exchange hostages. A child from each territory (usually the ruler’s son or daughter) must be held hostage at one of Talis’s schools (called Preceptures), governed by A.I. agents, until he or she turns eighteen, to be harmed or even killed if his or her country incites conflict. (Read my full recommendation here.)
Like The Scorpion Rules, Mercedes Lackey’s Hunter (Hunter #1) depicts a treacherous, post-disaster future. The barriers between our world and the Otherworld have opened (called the Diseray), mythical monsters roam the earth, destroying cities, and humanity’s survival depends on the Hunters, a group of magically-gifted, monster-fighting teens. (Read my full recommendation here.)
I can see why Anna-Marie McLemore’s The Weight of Feathers is being called “Night Circus meets Romeo and Juliet,” but it is not another Night Circus. This star-crossed romance between the daughter and son of two rival families of traveling performers (white-scaled “mermaids” vs. black-feathered tree-walkers) is inventive, magical, poetic, and multicultural. (Read my full recommendation here.)
I effortlessly fell in love with Nicola Yoon’s Everything, Everything. Told through diary entries, instant messages, emails, vignettes, charts, illustrations, and more, Yoon’s debut is an imaginative, heartwarming love story about a girl and a boy whose relationship is doomed from the beginning, but that doesn’t stop them from being romantic, funny, hopeful, and adventurous. (Read my full recommendation here.)
Mackenzi Lee’s This Monstrous Thing is an alternative historical fantasy set in 1818, Geneva, that brilliantly reimagines Frankenstein with a steampunk twist. Alasdair Finch is a Shadow Boy, an illegal mechanic who supplies humans with clockwork parts. Two years ago, he secretly brought his brother back from the dead, but Oliver is more monster than man. (Read my recommendation here.)
Mindy McGinnis’s A Madness So Discreet is not as gory as American Horror Story: Asylum, but it does paint a horrific picture of what it’s like for an innocent young woman to be trapped in Boston’s Wayburne Lunatic Asylum in the 19th century. Grace has escaped one hell–an abusive father–for another–the asylum’s dark cellars, where she has no hope of surviving (at least with her brain intact). But she’s saved by a doctor who appreciates her genius and relocates her to an ethical asylum in Ohio. Together they try to catch a killer who preys on young women.
The first book in a planned trilogy, Illuminae is co-authored by Amie Kaufman (The Starbound Trilogy) and Jay Kristoff (the Lotus War series). Its storyline goes something like this. It’s 2575 A.D. and two interstellar megacorporations are at war. When BeiTech discovers its competitor is running an illegal mining operation, called the Kerenza colony, on a small, isolated planet, it attacks with brutal force. (Read my recommendation here.)
The Rose Society (The Young Elites #2) brings Adelina Amouteru’s villainy to a whole new level. For those of you who don’t know, this series is set in a fantasy world in which some of the malfettos (“marked” survivors of a deadly blood fever) have special powers and are called The Young Elites. As a malfetto, Adelina is vulnerable and victimized until she discovers she’s an Elite, gifted with powers of illusion that feed off of her fear and fury. Adelina is a perfect villain. Motivated by revenge and destruction, not compassion, love and heroism, she’d rather be everyone’s adversary than risk being anyone’s victim. (Read my full recommendation here.)
Ryan Graudin’s Wolf by Wolf, the first book in a duology, reimagines what could have happened if the United States had stayed isolationist and the Axis Powers had won World War II. It’s 1956, and the Third Reich and Imperial Japan have conquered much of Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. Each spring, to celebrate their joint victory, they host the Axis Tour: a motorcycle race, in which ten Hitler Youth members and ten citizens of Greater East Asia ride from Berlin to Tokyo. The protagonist, Yael, wants desperately to win. The award? A dance with Hitler at the Victor’s Ball. A chance to kill him. (Read my full recommendation here.)
Alyssa recommends new and upcoming releases in young adult fiction (and occasionally middle grade and adult). She thanks Edelweiss, NetGalley, the Boulder Book Store, and publishers for providing her with ARCs and DRCs for review purposes. Please follow her on Tumblr and Twitter.