Favorite books of 2016

Well, the year is almost over, and though I didn’t achieve my Goodreads Reading Challenge (not officially, though if you add in the 30+ graphic novels I read this year, I blew it out of the park), I still managed to read and discover a number of delightful stories.

I frequently gush about my current read at work with my coworkers, but this year I thought I’d compile a list of all the books I loved this year to share with the rest of the world.

Disclaimer** I’m listing my favorite books I’ve read this year, which may not necessarily translate to books published this year. Still, I’m hoping one or two readers might find a new title or two to enjoy. If you see something you like, click the picture for the Goodreads page, or the title to buy from Amazon!

  1. A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas
    Best book of the year, by far. A Court of Mist and Fury (A Court of Thorns and Roses, #2)There was just so much to love – the character growth, the emotion, the foreshadowing … I get goosebumps just remembering. This was one of those books where I finished and immediately wanted to read it again. What’s even more incredible? I felt pretty meh about the first book in the series. I mean, it was good, but it didn’t blow my socks off like the sequel has! Now I’m counting down the days until A Court of Wings and Ruin (goosebumps again!) releases this May. FYI – if anyone wants to send me an ARC of ACOWAR they’ll become my favorite person in the universe. Hint, hint, Madam Maas. 🙂
  2. Six of Crows (and Crooked Kingdom) by Leigh Bardugo – Six of Crows (Six of Crows, #1)Now, I will admit: this duology came a very close second to ACOMAF. Interestingly enough, I only picked Six of Crows up because it looked pretty. The pages are black around the edges (at least, for the hardcover they are) with gorgeous red end papers. Then I started reading it while waiting in line to get it signed … and I was thrilled to discover the story was just as incredible as it looked! I may or may not have finished the first in record time and ran straight to a store to buy the sequel … Plot twists, anti-heroes, unexpected romance, and tons of action abound in these two books, making them some of my favorites ever. Again, I had that itch to reread them as soon as I finished them. Always a good sign, in my opinion.
  3. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell –
    I don’t even remember Fangirlwhat made me pick this book up, but boy, am I glad I did! Unlike my first two choices (which are both fantasy), Fangirl is a wonderful new adult contemporary romance. Though, when I first started reading, I didn’t realize it was going to be a romance. I just liked it because the main character, Cath, is the epitome of an introvert and happens to write fanfiction as well. But the romance in this book is sooo sweet, and I love the challenges that Cath has to face regarding her family, her writing, and herself. I actually surrendered to the urge to reread this one … twice! It gets better every time. 🙂
  4. In 27 Days by Alison GervaisIn 27 Days
    I almost didn’t include this title, because it’s technically not out yet. I received an ARC of this incredible contemporary romance (with paranormal elements), and guys: you have to put this on your reading list now. Not only are there the usual comedic or swoon-worthy scenes found in YA romance, but there are some deep messages regarding depression and suicide. Even so, the book is still fun and enjoyable, and I look forward to reading it again and again!
  5. Heartless by Marissa Meyer
    HeartlessProbably the only book on this list that doesn’t have a happy ending … and no, that isn’t a spoiler, because Heartless is the origin story behind the infamous Queen of Hearts from Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. I mean, we all know what she’s like in that story, so something drastic had to happen to make her the way she was, right? However, one of the aspects of Heartless that I truly admired was the way Marissa Meyer wove all of the characters from Alice into her story. You learn how the Duchess came to have a pig-child, where the White Rabbit’s housemaid came from, the unfortunate origin of the mock turtle … and why the Queen of Hearts is so obsessed with beheading. And that’s just a few of them.
  6. The Black Orchid by Celine JeanjeanThe Black Orchid (The Viper and the Urchin, #2)
    This steampunk-esque fantasy series is one of my favorites. You have interesting characters (an assassin that can’t stand the sight of blood), a touch of romance (go Rafe!), mystery (poor Longinus and his black silk), murder (bloodless, even) and so much more. The author took the solid foundation of book one and created an even more compelling and incredible sequel – and I can’t wait to read the next installment! Honestly, I love and hate the fact that I fall in love with books in a series … because waiting for the authors to write new volumes is agony.
  7. My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Jodi Meadows, Brodi AshtonMy Lady JaneI’ll admit, I wasn’t very thrilled to receive this book in my first ever Owlcrate, because it didn’t seem like something I’d enjoy. Boy, was I wrong. In less than three pages, I was howling with laughter and completely hooked on the story: who wouldn’t be when you learned that this alternate history had shapeshifters in it, and Henry VIII would turn into a lion and eat people instead of beheading them? You know the saying, “Don’t kill the messenger?” In My Lady Jane, it’s “Don’t eat the messenger.” I kid you not. If that’s not good enough, wait until you get to the horse jokes. Seriously, this was one of the most enjoyable books I read this year, in that it had me in stitches throughout the whole thing. I love books that make you laugh out loud!
  8. P.S. I Like You by Kasie WestP.S. I Like You by Kasie West
    Despite the fact that I saw the plot twist coming from a mile away, P.S. I Like You is a sweet romance capturing all the drama of high school. The characters are all identifiable, make ridiculous assumptions and mistakes (just like I used to in high school), and have realistic problems and issues that they work out during the story. This book might not be life-changing, but it was adorable and refreshing and I think folks should read it anyway. 😀
  9. The Burning Sky by Sherry Thomas
    The Burning Sky by Sherry ThomasThis book has everything I could possibly ask for in a fantasy. Magic, royalty, humor, romance, ridiculous attempts for the female MC to masquarade as a boy … well, I guess that last one isn’t a requirement. But it sure made for fantastic tension and great shenanigans! I also really liked the parallel universe setting – though it was a little confusing at first. After all, I knew Eton was in England – but the book starts off somewhere else. Also, the little footnotes scattered throughout the book were a little annoying … but not enough to stop me from enjoying the story and characters! Now I need to stop being lazy and go read the rest of the series …
  10. To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han To All the Boys I've Loved Before (To All the Boys I've Loved Before, #1)Another book that had me rolling with laughter. Take a typical high school girl, have her (for some crazy reason) write love letters to the guys she’s fallen out of love with because of whatever reason (they’re taken, she’s realized they’ll never like her back, they move away, etc), ADDRESS THEM, only to put them in a box in her closet. That’s not a recipe for disaster, now is it? Needless to say, hilarity abounds in this lighthearted story.
  11. Do Not Wash Hands In Plates by Barb Taub
    Do Not Wash Hands In Plates by Barb Taub My only non-fiction title on the list, and y
    et another book that will have you laughing so hard you might wet your pants. Do Not Wash Hands In Plates is a tongue-in-cheek travel memoir depicting the real-life issues author Barb Taub encountered in India, complete with pictures. My one piece of advice? Make sure you read the prologue, because you definitely need to know about horn sonar. Well, and try not to drink anything when you read … and if you don’t like giggling like a lunatic in public, maybe make sure to read the book in the safety of your own home.
  12. Walk On Earth A Stranger by Rae Carson – After My Lady Jane, I decided to give Walk on Earth a Stranger  (The Gold Seer Trilogy, #1)historical fantasy more of a chance; Rae Carson’s novel did not disappoint. Set during the Gold Rush-era America, it follows Lee Westfall, a girl who can sense gold. When her parents are murdered, she embarks on a journey west to California. Lee’s magic is woven seamlessly into what’s basically a historical novel, complete with all the hardships and obstacles settlers moving west would have encountered. In fact, at times it felt a lot like a fantasy version of Little House On The Prairie meets the Oregon Trail … complete with dysentery.
  13. Truthwitch by Susan Dennard
    Truthwitch by Susan Dennard
    Recommended by my favorite author, Sarah Maas, Truthwitch is a classic YA fantasy … and boy, does it live up to its recommendation! The action scenes are awesome, the magic system fascinating, and the characters are wonderful. I particularly liked Merik and Aeduan, though Safi and Iseult are fascinating as well. I still want to know more about Iseult’s abilities and history. I can’t wait to see where the story goes next. Even if Truthwitch ended on a heartbreaking note …
  14. Bookishly Ever After by Isabel BandeiraBookishly Ever After One of the most identifiable books I’ve ever read, with a main character eerily similar to … me. Phoebe is a book worm, the type that gets sucked into a story during lunch and is forced to socialize by her best friends. A hard core fan that has outfits designed after her favorite characters, and then wears them in public. The problem is, she’s more in love with fictional boys than real ones … Seriously, this sounds like a transcript of my life! But I honestly enjoyed the story, and the blossoming romance, and the fact that Phoebe learns that one shouldn’t always judge a book my its cover … or a boy by his resemblance to fictional characters.
  15. The Start of Me and You by Emery Lord
    Another great contemporary romance, The Start of Me and You
    with a dark, serious streak running through the plot. This is another story with incredible character growth, and I particularly liked that – for the first time ever – the main character chooses the guy I rooted for!

Week two of #AugustReviews

Guys, guys! Guess what?! I managed to achieve all of my goals this week, and I even got to play the new World of Warcraft patch! Ah, the sweet taste of success … I shall have to continue this wonderful winning streak.

What goals, you might ask? Well, first, I made sure to write a page a day this week. Granted, most of the pages weren’t for my newest book, but at least half of them belong to a short story due to be released this November. Short story number two. 😀 So yeah, writing! Yay!

I also reviewed a week’s worth of books (though I may have possibly doubled up a few days to meet my quota – work and writing and reviewing and hobbies don’t always fit together in one day.) Here’s what I reviewed this week:

Note that this time I included the genre with each title: I’d like to give a huge thanks to Terry Tyler for that idea. Hopefully, it might help potential readers find their next favorite book. 😉

August 2016 is Write An Amazon Review Month! By @TerryTyler4 #AugustReviews

August 2016 is Write An Amazon Review Month! By @TerryTyler4 #AugustReviews

A fun project for fellow book bloggers or readers to consider!

On Monday 25th July, book blogger Rosie Amber wrote this post encouraging readers and writers alike to post a short review on Amazon for any book they’ve read and enjoyed ~ following this up, Terry Tyler is starting an initiative along with other writer-bloggers including Rosie, Cathy from Between The Lines, Barb Taub, Shelley Wilson, Alison Williams … and yours truly!

The idea is that, starting August 1st, everyone who wants to participate uses their Amazon account to post just one review on one book that they’ve read. Since I have so many finished books I’ve left unreviewed, I’m going to post a review a day (though no one else has to get that crazy).

The book doesn’t have to be read in August: it can be any book you’ve read, any time.  Nor does the book have to have been purchased from Amazon. However, if it is you get the ‘Verified Purchase’ tag on it (which can add legitimacy to your review) – but again, it isn’t necessary. Especially since Kindle Unlimited downloads or Kindle library borrows won’t show the VP tag, either.

Remember, this isn’t the Times Literary Supplement, it’s Amazon, where ordinary people go to choose their next $1.99 Kindle book.  No one expects you to write a thousand word, in-depth critique. Just a few words saying “I loved this book, I was up reading it until 3am“, or “I loved Jim and Vivien and the dialogue was so realistic”, or whatever it was that appealed to you about the book is more than enough.

Why should you write a review?

They help book buyers make decisions.  Don’t you read the reviews on Trip Advisor before deciding on a hotel, or any site from which you might buy an item for practical use?  Book reviews are no different.

If the book is by a self-published author, or published by an independent press, the writers have to do all their promotion and marketing themselves ~ reviews from the reading public is their one free helping hand.

The amount of reviews on Amazon helps a book’s visibility (allegedly).  If you love a writer’s work and want others to do so, too, this is the best possible way of making this happen.

Consider it your one good deed for the day, one that will only take five minutes! 

A few more pointers:

If you need any help with writing your review, do click on Rosie’s post above or feel free to follow my Goodreads activity.

A review can be as short as one word.  

You don’t have to put your name to the review, as your Amazon ‘handle’ can be anything you like.

No writer expects all their reviews to be 5* and say the book is the best thing ever written. Amazon breaks down their star rating, or you can look at the star rating guide on Rosie’s post.

Would you like to tell the Twittersphere about your review?  If so, tweet the link to it with the hashtag #AugustReviews ~ and thank you! 

Lets make the world a better place for readers and authors alike!

My first book subscription box.

My first book subscription box.

SPOILER ALERT! If you are an Owlcrate subscriber and have not received your June box -and if you want the contents to remain a surprise- read no further!

You have been warned.

Now, for the rest of you, let me explain how I came to discover this incredible phenomenon. A few of my friends subscribe to Loot Crate and Nerd Block, which are monthly based subscription services where you receive a box full of goodies that revolve around your interests. There are gaming boxes, anime boxes, themed boxes for stuff like Doctor Who and Game of Thrones … and the loot involved is anything from t-shirts to figurines to toys to books. Now, I thought these boxes sounded interesting, but risky as well because I’m probably in the 1% of the nation that hasn’t seen Doctor Who or Game of Thrones or tons of other pop culture icons that I can’t even think of off the top of my head. But the idea that they might come with books … that intrigued me.

Then I discovered that there are completely book-themed crates, and even better than that: there are two services that exclusively focus on young adult titles! (For those of you keeping track, my two main reading genres are fantasy and young adult … oftentimes together.) I agonized and drooled over the past boxes shown on the Owlcrate  and Uppercase Box websites. A lot of the past books were ones I enjoyed, and the items that came with the book often featured my favorite authors and stories. The problem was, I couldn’t decide which one to try: Uppercase was cheaper per box, and had a lot more familiar titles, but Owlcrate themed their boxes, which meant I’d be less likely to get something I wouldn’t like. (Dystopian and contemporary romance titles can be hit or miss.)

Then Owlcrate announced the theme for June, and I was sold. A royalty theme – with items inspired by the Lunar Chronicles and Red Queen, which are both some of my favorite books (although I ranted a lot with Red Queen when I finished it).

I received my box Saturday evening and let me tell you: it was awesome.

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The contents were: a hardcover edition of My Lady Jane with a letter from the authors and a paper crown, a Red Queen art print, a Lunar Chronicles bracelet (with the quote, ‘Even in the future, the story begins with once upon a time’), a set of three royalty-themed magnetic bookmarks, a Disney Princess mystery mini Funko (mine was Anna), and a couple of pretty cards from Owlcrate (one is a teaser for next month’s box).

All in all, I felt the box was more than worth its price. And the book? Let’s just say I got it Saturday, and by Monday it was finished. (I had to work Sunday, otherwise it would’ve been done in one day.) See my Goodreads review if you want to know more!

Now, of course, to provide fair and equal judgement for both subscription services, I’m going to have to test out Uppercase Box. You know, for comparison’s sake.

Do any of you subscribe to a book service or other Loot Crate type deal? Tell me about it! And as always, questions and comments are welcome.

Now excuse me while I reread my new book with my new crown. 😀

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Attention readers!

Attention readers!

Do you like to read fantasy? Are you looking for a new series to sink your teeth into?

For a limited time, I’m offering FREE eBook copies of my first two books, UnBlessed and Fire Blessed, in exchange for honest reviews.

If you’re interested in discovering Myrillia, you can get your free eBook a number of ways:

  • Use my contact form at the top of the page
  • Email me at crystingoodwin@gmail.com
  • Comment on this post (note: ebook will be sent to email associated with your wordpress account)

I have both kindle and epub versions available: don’t forget to let me know which format you prefer!

Book Review: The Black Orchid #steampunk #TuesdayBookBlog

Book Review: The Black Orchid #steampunk #TuesdayBookBlog

Men are vanishing and dying in the Rookery, and the Marchioness of Damsport finds herself suddenly (and astonishingly) in need of urchin Rory’s connections to discover why and how her subjects are disappearing. 

Meanwhile, an even more sinister plot awakens as far as Longinus is concerned. For someone is trying to eliminate black silk from Damsian markets … and how can Longinus maintain his reputation as the most elegant assassin in Damsport if he can’t dress the part?

A few of you may remember when I read The Viper and the Urchin last year. The title has since changed to The Bloodless Assassin (a fabulous title!), but the story remains the same … and The Black Orchid once again brings us back to the world of Rory and Longinus.

At first glance, you’d think these two made an unlikely pair, but I absolutely love the dynamic duo. They are perfect foils for the other’s personality, and I really enjoyed their growing friendship/alliance … as well as the tumultuous moments introduced in this book. I simply adore Longinus, adore that he’s equal parts pompous snob and brilliant assassin. I particularly enjoy how his intuition is almost always spot on … but for all the wrong reasons. Not to give too much of a spoiler, but his missing black silk actually plays a huge part in solving the mystery. The author did a wonderful job of utilizing his unique personality to progress the plot and it never once felt forced or contrived.

And Rory …? Who wouldn’t love cheeky, confident, practical Rory? This book frequently highlights Rory’s growth, not just as a character, but as a young girl trying to find her place in her newly expanded world. Her personality and the issues she faces were perfectly created: I could identify with her multiple times during the course of the novel. (Tears weren’t shed, but I definitely had to pause a couple of times to battle the emotion. Especially when she runs away from the party … ah! I wanted to hug her!)

Also, I’m dying – literally dying – to have more of the romance hinted at in this book. I’m not going to say who, because I don’t believe in spoilers, but ooohhh how I loved the romance. (There better be more in book three, Ms. Jeanjean! You hear me?! More romance! I need my urchin love story!!!) Again, there’s only hints of romance (so far) so don’t be put off if you’re not into that sort of thing. There’s plenty of mystery and action and humor to appease everyone.

That brings me to my recommendation: read it. Everyone, just go pick up a copy and read it. The story stands quite well on its own, but you really should grab The Bloodless Assassin to go with it, so you can have an entire weekend of well-made sassy characters, sword-fighting action, blood-chilling assassinations, witty banter, and all the other amazing goodness to be found in this series.

I mean it. If you enjoy reading at all, you’ll definitely find something to enjoy in this entertaining world. Personally, I think it’s going to be the assassin terrified of blood … but then again, that might just be me.

Book review: The Burning Sky #fantasy #TuesdayBookBlog

Book review: The Burning Sky #fantasy #TuesdayBookBlog

A two-for-one review day!

Iolanthe Seaborne is an elemental mage, capable of controlling fire, water, and a little bit of earth. She’s unusual, but not incredibly rare. She certainly isn’t a great mage; she isn’t someone that should attract the attention of the Master of the Realm.

Or so she thought.

It turns out she is incredibly rare. She could possibly be the greatest mage of her generation, which explains the sudden interest of Prince Titus. But there are others who seek her power, others who don’t have her best interests at heart. Luckily, Prince Titus has spent his entire life planning on how to protect and train her.

Except all his plans hinged on the belief that she’d be a boy …

From Crystin’s Definitely-Gotta-Read-This Checklist:

Magic, check. Royalty, check. Character disguises (basically, cross-dressing), check. Humor, check. Romance, double-check.

Oh yeah, this is gonna be good.

In fact, there were only two aspects of the book I didn’t like … or well, three – but the third one is sort of a spoiler, so I’m not going to go into detail regarding that one.

One: the prologue completely and utterly confused me. Mainly because there was reference to Eton – which I know is a school in England. So I started reading the book thinking it was set in England … which it wasn’t. However, this complaint quickly turned into grudging admiration, because the story utilizes a sort of parallel-universe/alternate reality base for the events. Basically, mage realms (where the story starts) exist alongside non-mage realms (Earth), and mages can travel between the two. So the characters do go to the Eton I envisioned … eventually. I had to muddle along for a few chapters before I figured it out, though. The initial confusion was well worth it in the end, I think.

Two: the random footnotes bothered me. Maybe it was just the kindle version, but I’d be fully immersed in the story and enjoying the events, when suddenly a random little number would mark the end of a sentence. You know, like the kind that you’d find in research papers or educational manuals that cite a source or something. Now, when I got to the end and read what those little notes were for – yeah, it was kind of interesting. I like the additional backstory and explanations … but the implementation could have been done differently. It turned my wonderful romantic fantasy into a sort of textbook. No. Bad author … or formatter or whoever. Let me live the story without distraction, thank you. I’ll happily read all the little explanations at the end, no citation needed.

Did I like it? Uh, heck yeah. Would I recommend it? Duh! My only forewarning (other than the above) is that it suffers from series-syndrome. The ending isn’t too abrupt or cliff-hangerish … but the story definitely isn’t finished.

At least the next one is already published. No year-long wait here … heh heh heh. >:D