The best books I read in 2016

I read lots of good books in 2016 across several different genres. I always enjoy revisiting a few old favorites as well as discover new books and authors. Here are a few of the best books I read this year.

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The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead will probably be the last book I finish this year. It is without a doubt one of the best. I discovered Whitehead through the recommendation of a friend in the early 2000s. His first book, The Intuitionist, had come out to much critical and commercial acclaim. I read it and liked it. But I didn’t read any of his subsequent books over the years, until The Underground Railroad. I recognized it’s author from his first book. And I couldn’t ignore this book after it won the National Book Award. His writing impressed me in his first book, and it wowed me in his latest one. Whitehead’s story of that famous “railroad” is brought with a combination of well-done research, sympathetic characters, and self-assured, lyrical prose. I will be reading the books of Whitehead’s that I missed, and I give his latest book my highest recommendation.

 

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The second book on my list is also historical fiction. It comes from one of my favorite writers that I discovered this year. Erika Robuck writes historical fiction revolving around the lives of famous writers. She caught my attention with novels based on the lives of two of my favorite authors: Ernest Hemingway (Hemingway’s girl) which is pictured above, and F. Scott Fitzgerald (Call Me Zelda). She has written several other novels as well. Robuck has a wonderful way of writing about complex characters and relationships, while painting a clear picture of the specific time and place. I was also honored she accepted my invitation to talk about her books, and writing in general on my podcast, La Literati.

 

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I read A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman with my friend, Jenny. It’s a story about a grumpy curmudgeon who has his life disrupted by people he would rather not have anything to do with. What follows is a novel with equal amounts of humorous and heart-warming moments. I’ve also recently seen a movie trailer, so I look forward to watching the film adaptation of this story.

 

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Next on my list is unique in that it is a one-act play written by my friend, Briana Morgan. Touch is a drama that takes place in a world where deliberate physical contact is a crime. The main character has never spent much time questioning this taboo. But the arrest of some of her classmates changes this. She decides to do it, and discoveres the power of touch, and how it affects people. It’s a short, thought-provoking read that I enjoyed.

 

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I am a great fan of Westerns. This is probably due to my Dad’s enjoyment of John Wayne movies. In time, I came to love the Westerns that Clint Eastwood starred in. At any rate, I seek out these types of stories in books and movies. Fortunately, there are quite a few good ones to be enjoyed. True Grit is one of my favorites. I watched the movie with John Wayne playing the role of Rooster Cogburn. But I didn’t learn that it was a book until the remake came out with Jeff Bridges playing the marshal. I love this story, and prefer the remake to the original, which is a point of friendly contention between my Dad and me.

 

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The last two books I want to mention are science fiction and fantasy, respectively. In Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline, we are in the year 2044. Wade, the main character, like many other people don’t care much for the real world. Their escape is the OASIS, which is a virtual utopia created by James Halliday. Halliday has hidden clues to a golden egg: a massive fortune that is promised to the person who can solve all the riddles steeped in 1980s pop culture references. Halliday grew up in that decade, as I did. So that made this story a fun read. But even if you don’t understand or like all of the pop culture references, there is still the virtual quest with some romance added to the mix to keep you entertained.

 

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The last book is a modern fantasy, Uprooted by Naomi Novik. I heard about it through a combination of online buzz, and friends working at Barnes & Noble who kept asking me if I had read it yet. The Dragon is not a literal dragon, but a man. He is a magician who lives in a tower outside of town. The Dragon protects the town from the evil forces in the Wood. As part of the arrangement, the Dragon takes a girl from the town every ten years to serve him and live with him in the tower, after which time she leaves to start her life over eslewhere.

The time for the next choosing is nigh. And Agnieszka fears what everyone thinks, that the Dragon will choose her best friend Kasia. But he doesn’t choose her. What follows is a very original story with elements of folklore and fairy-tale.

 

So these were a few of my favorite books that I read this year. I would love to hear what you thought of any of these that you read. And what books would make your list of the best books you read this year?

A Scholarly Gentleman

My friend, Tosha, shared this with me in honor of my upcoming birthday. She is the best friend I could ever ask for, and an extremely talented writer and singer. Her blog is a wonderful read. I highly recommend it.

One of my best friends is celebrating his birthday soon and I wanted to do something special for him. Niles and I go way back and we’ve been seen some (insert curse word here) Twelve years of friendship and our bond just grows stronger. This is my tribute to a gentleman with a lovely creative […]

via A Scholarly Gentleman — Everything I Never Told You

Dragon Tales

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I’ve been nominated for the Dragon’s Loyalty award by my friend, Tosha Michelle. She writes beautiful poetry, has a fantastic sense of humor, a wonderful singing voice, and a huge heart. You should check out her blog here.

According to the rules of the award, I’m supposed to write seven interesting things about myself. Here goes:

1) I’ve loved to read since I learned to at a very young age. But I discovered a love of writing when I was eleven years old, and the school curriculum focused heavily on writing. The more I wrote, the more I loved it. And I never stopped. I’d love to be able to do it for a living.

2) Most people see me at my most outgoing. So people are usually surprised to hear me say that I am an introvert. I attribute that to learning good people skills. I can be friendly with almost anyone. And I’m not shy. But very few people really know me well.

3) I’ve been interested in Astronomy for a long time. If I understood math and science better, I probably would have pursued a career as an astronaut or astrophysisist. But Physics got in the way, as I understood just enough to get through my Astronomy classes in college.

4) I come from a very musical family. Lots of my family members can sing and/or play an instrument, such as my Mom and brother.  But I only have a basic understanding of piano, guitar, and percussion. And I wouldn’t subject you to my singing voice on purpose.

5) While the rest of my family has brown hair and blue eyes, I have hazel eyes and reddish/blonde hair. So I always felt like I stood out growing up. Speaking of hair, a lady who cut my hair a couple of times when I was a teenager told me that she wished she could bottle my hair color, because I used to have natural highlights.

6) Despite being quiet and reserved in crowds, I enjoy public speaking. One day, I’d like to find a part in a community theatre play to audition for. It might go terribly, but at least I could say I tried.

7) Ever since my first visit to the Great Smoky Mountains, I’ve dreamed of living in a log cabin in the mountains one day.

The Lover/ The Fighter

To be a lover; a gentleman
Like one in a Fitzgerald tragedy
Chasing amor ideal
Striving to master his domestic domain
To live the good life; to eat, drink, and be merry
Three piece suits and a classical music score
Filling his mind with the best of literature

To be a fighter; an adventurer
Like one in a Hemingway tale
Drunk on spirits and constant action
No time to waste sitting, thinking
Searching for the next grand chapter to his story
To dare, and attempt the daring
To feel the rush of adrenaline once more

Two masculine polarities, each with its own merits
With qualities worth aspiring to
But somewhere in the middle, I believe
Is where life’s magic lies

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Artwork by my friend, Tosha Michelle, and used by permisson.

The Gentleman Blogger

Thanks to my friend, Tosha, for sharing about my blog and one of my poems.

Everything I Never Told You

Shameless plugs Wednesdays. It is now a thing. I’d like to introduce you to my friend Niles. Niles is not officer, but he is a gentleman. Suddenly, it’s lame sentences Wednesdays.

But I digress. Niles is like a brother to me. I’ve known him for years. He’s a lovely human being and a wonderful writer. I know he would be honored, if you would drop by his blog and check out his work. I’ve provided a link below.

Thanks,

Tosha

Autobiography – http://wp.me/p1E0N3-e3

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A Poem for Niles

Everything I Never Told You

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This post was written for a dear friend.  Happy Birthday, Niles. You are the calm to my storm. The voice of reason to my insanity. The jitter to my bug. The Niles to my girly Frasier

Without further ado, I give you my ode to you.

There’s once was a guy from Macon
who like to shake his bacon
his hips, yours for the taking

Kidding….

but seriously….

Still Waters

While other men measure success by titles and cash
He dreams of making text dance over the crevices
of uncharted pages, imaginary characters alive in his mind
He longs to breathe life into figures he has never met.
to fire his own artistic semantic round.
to pen The Great American Novel,
with sophisticated soulful prose that linger

While other men play golf and women
He’s happier with his nose in a book
Getting lost in CS Lewis and Hemingway
Sliding…

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“Self Help to Self Harm: The Dubious Guide to Life, Love, and Relationships”- a review

My friend, Tosha Michelle, is a woman of many talents. She is a gifted singer, writer, and artist. I am in awe of the skill she displays at all three. I would be happy if I could do one as well as she. In addition to her creative talents, she is one of the kindest souls I have had the good fortune to encounter. And her quirky sense of humor is the perfect compliment to her well-rounded personality.

She put her poetic talents on display in her book Confessions of a Reformed Southern Belle: A Poet’s Collection of Love, Loss, and Renewal. She also showed the beginnings of a penchant for long book titles. But I digress… She opened up herself to her readers with the beauty of her words and creativity.

Now Tosha Michelle is back with her own unique addition to the self help genre: Self Help to Self Harm: The Dubious Guide to Life, Love, and Relationships. In its pages she draws from her life experience to give both women and men advice on dealing with the opposite gender, and life in general. She does this with a combination of openness, grace, humor, and confidence that only a daughter of the South can.

But don’t let the title fool you. There is plenty of wisdom in this book. Reading it feels like she is sitting with me, sharing a box of Godiva chocolates (kidding- I would let her keep those all to herself), and conversing about life with the sister I never had. This is a book I will enjoy plucking from my bookshelf regularly for its wonderful glimpse into the mind and heart of one of my favorite people. And I hope you will read and enjoy this book as well.

You can purchase it from Barnes & Noble here

And Amazon.com here

 

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20 Random Questions With Author, Raelee May Carpenter

My friend and La Literati cohost, Tosha, has posted interviews with guests we have had on our podcast to her blog. You can find her blog here. It seemed like fun, so I invited our recent guest, the writer Raelee May Carpenter, to answer 20 random questions from me. I hope you enjoy reading, and check out Raelee’s books if you haven’t already.

 

1. What three items do you always have with you?

A pencil or pen with sticky notes. My iPod. And lip balm, because I am an addict.

2. If you were going to write an article about yourself, what would the headline be?

“Grace In the Gutter”

3. If you were a drink, what would you be? Why?

Irish Breakfast Tea, bold yet surprisingly comforting. But with fresh cream and local honey, because I ain’t low cal.

4. What childhood fear do you still have as an adult?

Spiders. Seriously. Not even Charlotte could save me from that.

5. If you could choose just one thing to change about the world, what would it be?

Everyone would quit devaluing people based on stupid things like poverty, lack of education, nationality, developmental disabilities, etc. It would solve so many other problems if we truly believed all were created equal.

6. What’s your favorite poem?

It’s a hard choice, but “The Death of the Hired Man” by Robert Frost immediately comes to mind. It’s such a good picture of grace, and I love the line, “Home is where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.”

So either that or Psalm 46. It’s so descriptive and inspiring, my favorite Psalm, definitely. It got under my skin in a big way when a certain politician misquoted it in a huge televised speech a while back. I’m still trying to let that go. If I’m ever famous enough to meet said politician, I’ll probably make a little mural of my favorite Psalm—with the right words, frame it, and present it to him as a gift.

7. Does darkness soothe you or frighten you?

It depends. I love sunshine during the day, but when I’m trying to sleep, I need dark. What I don’t like is gray, like the sky can’t make up its mind. That’s just frustrating.

8. If you ruled your own country, who would you get to write your national anthem?

Adam Levine, because if my country’s gonna have an anthem, I want it to be a Hit. Mad royalties and all that.
Seriously, though, am I allowed to go back in time? I’d really want Fanny Crosby to write it. She was awesome. “Blessed Assurance” is my anthem. If I have to pick someone who’s alive today, I don’t know…maybe Stevie Wonder?

9. If Hollywood made a movie about your life, who would play you? What would the title be?

Geez, I don’t know. I love Taraji Henson, but I’m so pathetically white. How’s Keira Knightley’s American accent? Maybe Natalie Portman, Anne Hathaway, or Ellie Kemper, who plays Kimmy Schmidt. Haha, how’s that for variety?
The title would be “ImPossible.”

10. Clowns- creepy or cool?

Creepy. So, so creepy. I think It ruined clowns for my entire generation. Thank you, Stephen King.

11. If you made a documentary, what would it be about?

Modern Day Abolition work

12. What’s your favorite song?

Today, I’ll say Britt Nicole’s “Still That Girl,” because hazel eyes notwithstanding, I am that girl.

13. Your favorite country to visit?

Hard choice. I have a list of places that I haven’t been yet, but Ireland is a wonderful place that I have been, and I’d like to go back someday. There are still a lot of places here in the US that I want to see or go back to.

14. Does pressure motivate you?

I have ADHD, so I have this constant drive in my brain and my limbs that makes it hard for me to relax. I tend to get a lot done on my normal setting, and added pressure is more of a distraction than anything else.

15. Does love dry up your creative juices, or make them flow faster?

Faster. Definitely.

16. Do you hear voices?

I can hear my character’s voices. That’s why I’m so good at writing dialogue. So good, in fact, I can make you hear them, too. 

17. Are you the paranoid type or calm, cool, and collected?

I’m not paranoid, but I do have ADHD, so I don’t think anyone would describe me as “calm.” Haha.

18. Narnia or Middle Earth?

Oh, I don’t know. Narnia is the fantasy of my childhood, but Middle Earth has so much adventure! I’d also really, really love to have a TARDIS. So many ‘verses, so little time!

Unless you do have a TARDIS… 😉

19. Are you more like fire or earth?

Fire. Yeah. LOL

20. What makes you, you?

Oh, I think you’d have to ask God that. I am His, as He made me, and I’m still trying to figure it all out.

Raelee May Carpenter is the author of “The Lincoln High Project”, “Kings & Shepherds”, and the upcoming novel, “Liberation Song”. You can find information on her and her books at raeleemaycarpenter.com

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