My reading year in 2016 was more of a blast to the past than most years, but that wasn’t for a lack of trying. Still, I read some 2016 books. I finally started reading Tamora Pierce’s Alanna series, and domestic thrillers. I also found that even the strangest dimensions can hide epic love stories.
Guided by the reviews on AAR, I bought lots of historicals. But it was the contemporaries that won me over this time. Thanks to Emily Wittmann’s review of Empty Net by Avon Gale, I started reading my first hockey m/m romance Really, my first hockey romance, period. Then I realized I’d like it a lot more if I read the previous book in the series, so I went back and bought Power Play. I’ll have to get back to Empty Net later!
And if it hadn’t been for LinnieGayl’s review, I never would have thought to read The Girl from Summer Hill by Jude Deveraux. Back in the day, I read lots of Jude Deveraux’s historical romances. And of course A Knight in Shining Armor, a time travel novel so famous people called it AKISA. But the closest I got to her contemporaries was the paranormal romance Wishes. LinnieGayl had me convinced when she reassured us that Deveraux’s new book wasn’t any old modern twist on Pride and Prejudice, and I’m glad I read the review. That book was unexpectedly fun!
This year, unlike others, most of the newer young adult I read just wasn’t doing it for me. So it was time to finally pay attention to the experts (other fans) and read Tamora Pierce’s Song of the Lioness series. I read Alanna: The First Adventure (Song of the Lioness series Book 1) while on vacation and then went right on to the second book, In the Hand of the Goddess. Some of today’s authors could take lessons from Tamora Pierce, and their heroines could certainly take lessons from Alanna. Yes, Alanna falls in love, but not instantly, and love doesn’t keep her from being a kick-ass heroine. Speaking of kick-ass heroines, I finally started reading Throne of Glass, the first book in Sarah J. Maas’ popular Throne of Glass series. I even bought the gorgeous Throne of Glass Coloring Book!
2016 was also the year I plunged into the chilly waters of the domestic thriller trend. The highlight remains The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins, which I finally read this year. Yeah, I know. What took me so long? I loved the unreliable narrators and the twisting narratives, but even more, I liked watching the really screwed up main character, Rachel — in part because I was afraid of what she might do next.
I read several newer books that were supposed to be the next “Gone Girl on the Train.” They weren’t, but they still were good thrillers. The first was The Widow by Fiona Barton — a story that takes on the “She must have known!” trope. I don’t know how Barton managed to weave the points of view of three characters (the widow, the detective, and a journalist), go back and forth in time, and still keep up the suspense, but she sucked me right in. I also zipped through Behind Closed Doors by B. A. Paris. The cover asks “The perfect marriage? Or the perfect lie?” Come on, we know the answer, and that’s why we read books like this – to find out what went wrong, and what could go worse. But don’t go into either story expecting to find another Amy or Rachel.
This was also the year I returned to graphic novels. Most of my recent comic book stores purchases were reprints of old-school horror comics from the 1950 — books with names like Zombies (The Chilling Archives of Horror Comics!). Then I read a post where some guy complained that writer Gail Simone had “ruined” the Red Sonja comic. Thanks to his post, I knew I just had to read her series! I loved Red Sonja Vol. 1: Queen of Plagues so much that I went out and bought Red Sonja Vol. 2: The Art of Blood and Fire that same weekend, and came to like that story even more. This is a reboot and a refreshingly different take on the character.
From there, it was only natural that I found myself returning to the classic Elfquest seres for the first time in decades, thanks to The Complete Elfquest Volume 1: The Original Quest. While I remembered the story of how Cutter met his lifemate Leetah, I’d forgotten how strong their relationship was, how integral to the plot, and how realistically its ups and downs were portrayed. I also picked up on lots of subtext that I’d missed when I was younger. Even better, I learned that Wendy and Richard Pini are writing a new Elfquest series! If you like fantasy stories, I recommend picking up this collection. But pick it up carefully — Volume 1 is over 720 pages long.
And thanks to the movies, I found myself rediscovering a character I’d followed now and then in the 1980s — Doctor Strange. I used to think of him as the rather stuffy guy who fought creatures in psychedelic surroundings and said things like “By the Hoary Hosts of Hoggoth” and “By the Mystic Moons of Munnopor!” Who knew he was part of a legendary power couple? In the Doctor Strange: A Separate Reality Epic Collection, I learned that Doctor Strange had a love interest named Clea, a powerful magic-user in her own right. Who can resist a hero who not only introduces a woman from another dimension to snow for the first time, but can also conjure up warm clothing for her. He even introduces her to Tom Wolfe. In Times Square. On New Year’s Eve. Top that, ordinary mortals! Sadly, like so many comic book lovers, Doctor Strange and Clea broke up in recent years — a move that was controversial with fans.
Like Red Sonja, Doctor Strange was also rebooted. I devoured Doctor Strange Vol. 1: The Way of the Weird and Doctor Strange Vol. 2: The Last Days of Magic. It’s a new take on the character, and on the effect of magic on those who use it. There is also a new character, a librarian named Zelma Stanton, who is horrified by the way Doctor Strange treats his books. As readers, I’m sure we can relate! Even better, in November of this year, in the Doctor Strange Annual, Clea has returned to the world of Doctor Strange! Now things get even more interesting… Will Doctor Strange and Clea get together again? Will Zelma become his live-in librarian (nudge nudge)? Or will the path to love be as convoluted as the Dark Dimension itself?