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Favorite books of 2016 by month: 12/11/16

Favorite books

Here we are in December. As the year winds down it's time to look back and reflect on the standouts. My first list isn't a top ten. It's a top twelve, if you will. I went through my reading list for the year and picked one favorite from each month.

Keep in mind, these are my strictly my favorites. They're picked for sentimental reasons, for that initial emotional zing.


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Steal the Sky by Megan E. O'Keefe

Derring-do, airships, capering, and general mayhem. A simple heist turns out to be anything but, throwing the crew into the middle of a hot steaming mess of political intrigue, shape shifters, and revolt.


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The Love That Split the World by Emily Henry

I'm reminded here of 1Q84 for how competing decisions can cleave the world as we know into distinct possibilities. Only those directly involved in that moment can interact, cross form one reality to the other. But crossing is hard and heart breaking. Knowing how things should have worked out, is ultimately devastating.


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Amulet 7: Firelight by Kazu Kibuishi

The Amulet series is coming to a close with two more volumes planned. I've been following it since the very beginning. While I'll be sad to see it go, I've enjoyed watching the characters grow and the world expand. There's a very definite arc to the series.

The artwork throughout the series has been beautiful and detailed. Every volume, though, seems to be prettier and more complex than the last. This one features wonderful cutaway diagrams of an airship. It also has a delightfully silly fish slap.


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The Circle of Lies by Crystal Velasquez

This is the sequel to Hunters of Chaos. A group of girls at an elite all girls school in New Mexico have learned they have the power to transform into magical cats. Their powers have gotten the attention of Anubis and he is trying to keep the girls separated to conquer them one by one. Three of the girls head to Mexico to look for Ana's missing aunt and uncle. The other one has been sent to India to find her family completely changed and probably under Anubis's spell!

Book two ends on a cliff hanger and I hope that means a third one is the works.


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Rutabaga the Adventure Chef: Book 2: Feasts of Fury by Eric Colossal

Feasts of Fury is another sequel. It's a graphic novel series that I've been talking up since the first book was published last year. Usually in a quest story, the main character carries a sword. That's not always, of course. Look at Taran from the Chronicles of Prydain; he's an assistant pig keeper. Rutabaga, is a chef. He travels the world looking for new recipes, new ingredients, and heroes or kings to cook for.

To me, this series is a mashup of Food Wars! and Avatar: The Last Airbender. I don't know if there's a third book in the works, but I guarantee you I will be first in line to preorder it, if one is announced.


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The Nameless City by Faith Erin Hicks

Here's a book that everyone's been talking about. It's a graphic novel about a city that has been conquered so many times, no one is sure of it's history. Kaidu, has come to the city to learn how to be a warrior but his world view is turned upside down and inside out by a chance meeting with a street urchin named Rat.

It's an entertaining but thought provoking introduction to conquest, privilege, and institutionalized racism.


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Hour of the Bees by Lindsay Eagar

This book takes place in New Mexico and I happened to read it while on a road trip through New Mexico and Arizona. I admit, the timing of the two contributed to an extra magical reading experience. At first glance, this book is about a family coming to terms with the deteriorating health of the patriarch — a man who has stubbornly stayed on his drought ridden ranch. As the family works to move him off the ranch and into assisted living, he tells his grand daughter a magical story of a village kept young by a tree. As the villagers grew bored with a sheltered life they began to take apart the tree, hoping to carry its protection with them into the world. Ultimately the destroy the tree and with it, the land among them.

The question then becomes, how much truth is in the grandfather's story? How real is the magic he speaks of? Did the bees really steal the water and are keeping the rain away?


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Hip Hop Family Tree Book 4: 1984-1985 by Ed Piskor

Hip Hop Family Tree is another of my favorite series. This one uses comics to chronicle the history of hip hop. 1984-1985 covers artists and albums that even I as a clueless suburbanite had heard of back in the day.


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Save Me a Seat by Sarah Weeks and Gita Varadarajan

Ravi and Joe don't seem like they would end up being friends. Ravi is from India and is struggling with no longer being the popular kid. He's also insulted at being given ESL lessons. Joe needs extra help coping with the stress of school. He knows the subjects but he gets distracted. Meanwhile, the boy that Ravi looks up to is the same sort of bully that he used to be. Except now, Ravi's the one being bullied.

Normally I'm skeptical of alternative points of view, but here Weeks and Varadarajan take turns to make their characters shine. We get into both boys' heads to see the big picture. All this comes together in the final chapter when there's a class exercise to see how well the students know each other.


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Radio Girls by Sarah-Jane Stratford

Radio Girls was my lunchtime book for the remainder of summer. The book is set in the late 1920s and the early 1930s in London. Maisie Musgrave is struggling to make a go at living here. She doesn't want to go back to New York. She's been hired into a tug of war between the director general of the BBC and the head of Talks, Hilda Matheson.

Maisie quickly catches the eye of Hilda and eventually becomes her personal secretary. It is through the interactions of the two that we get to see Europe gearing up for WWII.


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Finding Fortune by Delia Ray

An absent father prompts Ren to explore the failing town of Fortune, once a boomtown in era of buttons made from shells. She befriends the woman and her boarders who are trying to keep the place going. She has a treasure hunt. And it's all based on a real place — there is an afterword with photographs and other info.


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Ruby Lee and Me by Shannon Hitchcock
Review coming

Shannon Hitchcock draws on her own childhood experiences to write a fascinating story of a family adjusting after a horrific car accident. The youngest, a six year old, survives but needs physical therapy. The physio combined with the other hospital expenses forces them to move to the family home. All of this family drama is played against desegregation. Sarah and Ruby have been friends forever but the stress of Robin's recovery and the adults talking in shushed tones about how much trouble desegregation will bring, takes their friendship to the breaking point. It's a very frank look at racism and doesn't offer any sort of pat, happy ending — save for Robin's eventual recovery.


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Comment #1: Saturday, January 7, 2017 at 23:03:30

Kathleen Burkinshaw

Great books!

Comment #2: Sunday, January 8, 2017 at 22:32:33


Yes, yes they are. Thanks.

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