2016 In Review

For a holiday week break, I thought I’d recap the Best and Worst of 2016! (Really, the best are just gushing, glowing reviews, and the worsts are nonstop castigations. But isn’t that more fun?)

Bests:

Quest for a Maid. A beautifully-told, engaging, thrilling story that truly does a little of everything. Drama, humour, family strife, romance, politics, natural disasters, you name it. All with fantastically evocative details and Scots words that never cross into twee or annoying. I can’t recommend this one enough.

These Are My Words. New this fall from Ruby Slipperjack, it’s heartbreaking and while it’s not a particularly plot-intensive book, its subject matter is so hard to get through that it’s cruel at times. Most of this story is told in subtext, rather than text, which I think makes it particularly good for both kids and adults. Wonderful and important.

Anacaona: Golden Flower. This book is like poetry. I know almost nothing about Haitian history and I still loved reading this book. It didn’t matter. It’s a fascinating story, wonderfully told, and sent me down a million joyful Wikipedia holes.

Graves of Ice. I realized that the I Am Canada books might really be worthwhile to read! This was far more thrilling than I gave it credit for, and I actually really did stay up late reading it because I couldn’t stand to put it down. I know I could have figured it out faster by reading the Wikipedia page for the Franklin expedition before I started, but hey. It was more exciting this way!

No Safe Harbour. I love this book. I loved it when I read it the first time and I love it more on every reread. It breaks my heart every time, but in a wonderful way. Just…read this one. Read them all, but read this one particularly.

Worsts:

Diana. Do I need to explain why the Sunfire books are here? Don’t ever date people who are rude to you! Don’t be a fickle, faithless jerk! Don’t have your books be finally resolved in the last twenty pages by “twists” that are actually ridiculous and stupid!

Megan. “1980s girl transported back in time, makes idiotic decisions, nearly gets killed and unfortunately isn’t.” Anachronism party.

The Fences Between Us. Oh good god. I loathed the very concept of this book—I hated the concept that the story of Japanese internment could be better told by a white girl. Why does this book even exist? Why did it get approved? Who wanted that? No. It’s not even a good story. It’s whiny and annoying and horrible.

Cassie. Seriously? Every single person in this book is either confusing or a total jerk. I hate them all and I wanted them all to have an unhappy ending. Except maybe for Cassie’s Indian fiancé, because she treated him terribly and he didn’t deserve that. I hope he found a better wife.

Grace of the Wild Rose Inn. Remember this one from way back in January? Let’s bring it back, because IT’S DREADFUL. In addition to the books being horribly written (every single one of them) and cartoony, this one has the terrible message of “If you don’t like your current fiancé, break up with him and marry his best friend three days later in front of all your friends and family.” None of this is a good idea. Doing that might be a worse idea than just marrying your shitty fiancé in the first place!

So what have we learned this year? That Dear Canada books are mostly great, and Sunfire books are mostly terrible! That I have very little patience for people making decisions that make zero sense given their time frame. That I expect authors of historical fiction to have more than a passing knowledge of the time period they’re writing about, or maybe have read more than a Time-Life book on the subject. That better books are written by authors who are emotionally invested in their work. And most of all: that 2016 was an excellent year for reading. Go forth and read more in 2016, and get back next week ready to read more recaps, reviews, and trash!

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