Best of 2016: YA Book Madness’ Top 16 YA Reads

It’s been a crazy year. I’ve done so much that I never thought I would with writing and making blogger/author friends. Through all the chaos I’ve read some amazing books (though not all of them got reviewed). Last year I broke my top picks into categories. This year, I’ve decided to do an overall top 16 and then into broad categories. Tell me if you’ve read any on my list, what you thought, and feel free to recommend some of your top 2016 YA books!!!

BEST OF 2016 YA OVERALL 

BEST of 2016 SCIENCE FICTION

BEST of 2016 CONTEMPORARY

BEST of 2016 HORROR

BEST of 2016 THRILLER

BEST of 2016 PARANORMAL 

Pleasant reading, 

Jordan

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Review: The Dead House – The Naida Tapes by Dawn Kurtagich

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There is a box. A box that should never have been discovered. And a warning beneath the lid.

This was for Kaitlyn. It was a mistake. Forget this box and leave the Isle. Don’t look any further.
I’m begging you. N.C.D. 2005

After the inferno that swept through Elmbride High, claiming the lives of three teenagers and causing one student, Carly Johnson, to disappear, Naida Chounan-Dupre was locked away for the good of society.

But that wasn’t the end of the story.

Because you can’t play with the devil and not pay the price.

The chilling, psychological horror of The Dead House returns with never-before-seen footage of the Naida tapes.

review

4/5 Stars 

What I love about Dawn Kurtagich is her ability to make the uncanny ridiculously terrifying. The mind is a dark and twisted place, and as humans, we have an astounding capacity to become consumed by our thoughts. What Kurtagich excels at is making the reader question the characters, to doubt them, and to sift through the story and fight hard to uncover what’s real before it’s too late. Is it supernatural or are the characters just having a mental break? You decide.

Some scenes are graphic, grotesque and may be triggering for some readers. Kurtagich is never short on description and I eat that stuff up. If you’re one of those horror film lovers who gets ecstatic over Paranormal Activity, Insidious, or Sinister, pick this up. 

The story is lively. There’s absolutely never a dull moment. From the initial intro to the new characters and relearning the old. There’s mystery, terror, intrigue, and such darkness it will consume you. 

If you haven’t read The Dead House in a while, you might want to revisit the ending. I read hundreds of books a year so some mentions of characters really threw me and there wasn’t enough reiteration of the earlier book at the time they were mentioned to make me feel like I had a grip on the back story.

Naida’s dead house. Chills. Her fear, her anxiety, the overwhelming sense of dread that she’s going to let the word out. The way she mutilates herself. EVERYTHING is twisted, and dark, and made of a fantastic combination of desperation and hope. 

For the most part, the characters were well-developed and memorable. Scott felt wishy-washy as a love interest and didn’t have much personality. Apart from one sweet scene, it was a bit of a let down. 

The camera footage. You truly feel like you’re watching. Each bizarre, weird thing becomes doubly disturbing when Naida attempts to explain. Everything you think you know, maybe, just maybe, you know nothing. 🙂 

If you like any of the following, you’ll enjoy this:

Suspenseful reading, 

Jordan

Cover Reveal & Giveaway: The Ghost Files Volume 4 Part 1 by Apryl Baker

Amazon |  Amazon UK | iBooks | B&N
Cover Design by Wicked By Design
 syn
 Sleep, little children,
all safe in your beds.
But when the boogeyman knocks,
if you are up watching…
he’ll make sure that you wish you were dead!
Once every one hundred and fifty years he emerges from the darkest depths to feed. With each soul he takes, he grows stronger. There is but one gift he needs in order to gain the power he seeks. One gift that will allow him to walk amongst all the precious little children.
 
And it’s the one gift Mattie Hathaway possesses…the ability to bring images to life with just a drop of her blood. The demon Silas has warned her to never reveal this ability, not even to her father who shares her power to communicate with the dead. She’s heeded his warning, but hiding it may no longer be an option.
 
Children are disappearing all over the Charlotte area. When their bodies are recovered, they are always the same—broken, beaten, and bruised. Fear is spiraling out of control in the Queen City as parents glance nervously around each corner, seeing the boogeyman in every shadow.
 
When one little girl goes missing in Mattie’s neighborhood, it’s up to her and Officer Dan Richards to find the truth. In doing so, she uncovers a far greater evil than she’s ever come up against. The one thing she was bred to defeat.
 
Deleriel. A fallen angel…one of the first demons. He is powerful, ambitious, and now that Mattie is on his radar, she’s all he needs to complete his arsenal.
 
Amid of whirlwind of secrets coming to light, Mattie is faced with uncovering the truth about her own heritage. She must come to grips with it before she can begin to prepare for the battle of a lifetime…a battle she never asked for but is caught in the middle of.
Can she face her own truths before it’s too late?
 giveaway
 Enter for your chance to win a Kindle Fire & a $100 Amazon gift card to fill it up with lots and lots of books!!!!
 http://bit.ly/GhostFiles4Giveaway
author

USA Today Bestselling Author 

So who am I? Well, I’m the crazy girl with an imagination that never shuts up. I LOVE scary movies. My friends laugh at me when I scare myself watching them and tells me to stop watching them, but who doesn’t love to get scared? I grew up in a small town nestled in the southern mountains of West Virginia where I spent days roaming around in the woods, climbing trees, and causing general mayhem. Nights I would stay up reading Nancy Drew by flashlight under the covers until my parents yelled at me to go to sleep.
 
Growing up in a small town, I learned a lot of values and morals, I also learned parents have spies everywhere and there’s always someone to tell your mama you were seen kissing a particular boy on a particular day just a little too long. So when you get grounded, what is there left to do? Read! My Aunt Jo gave me my first real romance novel. It was a romance titled “Lord Margrave’s Deception.” I remember it fondly. But I also learned I had a deep and abiding love of mysteries and anything paranormal. As I grew up, I started to write just that and would entertain my friends with stories featuring them as main characters.
 
Now, I live Huntersville, NC and a small town in WV where I entertain my niece and nephew and watch the cats get teased by the birds and laugh myself silly when they swoop down and then dive back up just out of reach. The cats start yelling something fierce…lol.
 
I love books, I love writing books, and I love entertaining people with my silly stories.

 

https://www.facebook.com/RedCoatPR/

Spooky reading, 

Jordan

Lost Review & New Review: Illuminae and Gemina by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff

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synThis morning, Kady thought breaking up with Ezra was the hardest thing she’d have to do.

This afternoon, her planet was invaded.

The year is 2575, and two rival megacorporations are at war over a planet that’s little more than an ice-covered speck at the edge of the universe. Too bad nobody thought to warn the people living on it. With enemy fire raining down on them, Kady and Ezra—who are barely even talking to each other—are forced to fight their way onto an evacuating fleet, with an enemy warship in hot pursuit.

But their problems are just getting started. A deadly plague has broken out and is mutating, with terrifying results; the fleet’s AI, which should be protecting them, may actually be their enemy; and nobody in charge will say what’s really going on. As Kady hacks into a tangled web of data to find the truth, it’s clear only one person can help her bring it all to light: the ex-boyfriend she swore she’d never speak to again.

Told through a fascinating dossier of hacked documents—including emails, schematics, military files, IMs, medical reports, interviews, and more—Illuminae is the first book in a heart-stopping, high-octane trilogy about lives interrupted, the price of truth, and the courage of everyday heroes.

review4/5 Stars

***I received this eARC as a gift in exchange for an honest review via NetGalley & Knopf Books for Young Readers.

Illuminae is a reading experience. The documents, interviews, emails, and recordings get the reader involved in every clue, panic attack, and bit of romance in this epic space thriller.

The pacing is inconsistent. At first, it’s an action-packed thrill ride that will keep you guessing and on the edge of your seat. The setting is insane. The danger, the terror of the invasion-it’s beyond intense. The middle part, despite the varied documents lags behind that initial hysteria only to pick up at the end with an unexpected and terrifying twist. 

Some scenes are gory and full of sickening detail. It’s awesome. The attacks are straight out of your favorite horror film and darkest nightmares. 

The world building is fierce and complex and full of politics that put profit over humanity. It’s cruel, despicable, and packed with drama. 

Kady is stellar as a protagonist. She’s conflicted in love, nostalgic, occasionally scared and so relatable, despite being a mad hacker on a space ship. Kady has skills. She uses her brain to dip into the computer systems and uncover secrets, take control, and steer everyone aboard away from utter destruction. The adrenaline is high. Her task has slim odds for survival and yet, Kady NEVER gives up. No matter how much is thrown at her, she fights and fights and keeps fighting for her people. 

The AI, wow. Unexpected and so cool. He’s got personality and such a presence. He’s dangerous, deadly, and struggles to understand emotion, but he’s sort of lovable in a weird way and the only thing saving our heroes from total devastation.

gemina

Goodreads/Amazon/B&N/iBooks

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Moving to a space station at the edge of the galaxy was always going to be the death of Hanna’s social life. Nobody said it might actually get her killed.

The sci-fi saga that began with the breakout bestseller Illuminae continues on board the Jump Station Heimdall, where two new characters will confront the next wave of the BeiTech assault.

Hanna is the station captain’s pampered daughter; Nik the reluctant member of a notorious crime family. But while the pair are struggling with the realities of life aboard the galaxy’s most boring space station, little do they know that Kady Grant and the Hypatia are headed right toward Heimdall, carrying news of the Kerenza invasion.

When an elite BeiTech strike team invades the station, Hanna and Nik are thrown together to defend their home. But alien predators are picking off the station residents one by one, and a malfunction in the station’s wormhole means the space-time continuum might be ripped in two before dinner. Soon Hanna and Nik aren’t just fighting for their own survival; the fate of everyone on the Hypatia—and possibly the known universe—is in their hands.

But relax. They’ve totally got this. They hope.

Once again told through a compelling dossier of emails, IMs, classified files, transcripts, and schematics, Gemina raises the stakes of the Illuminae Files, hurling readers into an enthralling new story that will leave them breathless.

review

4/5 Stars 

My core issue with Gemina was the lack of rehash early on. There’s no explanation of previous events in Illuminae so I spent most of the book wondering what was going on and when it would link up with the previous story. I was super confused for much of the book. 

Hanna has a big personality, maybe even more epic than Kady’s in book 1. She’s a total, unabashed B.A. character. She’s fierce, intelligent, sexy, and full of sass. She flirts and plays and is one heck of a vixen, but underneath her perky, blonde exterior is a deadly force. Her fighting skills, her Sun Tzu references, her tactical skills, she’s wicked awesome and completely refreshing. She owns her body, her life, and will mess up anyone that threatens her. I’m impressed with how she transforms from a party girl to a warrior. The transition is smooth, floating to the surface because it was always a part of her. 

The added dynamic of Russian gang life was a marvelous addition to this story. The danger, the intrigue, the stories that went along with the Knives, the drama, it totally swept me away. 

Cat and mouse game to the extreme. Man the hunt is deadly, bloody, full of gross description, and the code names alone-each and every character is different, has a strong personality, and has their own reason for trying to capture Hanna. 

There’s a twist. It’s made of science and theory, and is a little confusing but the illustration helps. Oh the illustrations. They’re beautiful and hilarious, part comic book style and part precise diagrams. 

Elena. Oh my gosh, I love her. She’s a sarcasm queen, witty, and full of life. She doesn’t take put downs from anyone and is a genius on the computer. She’s a heroine that may even trump Hanna. Her interactions with Nik are adorable and lively. They fight like siblings, but the love floats off the pages.

Nik is complex. He’s a pervert, a flirt, and his comebacks are hilarious. He’s got the House of Knives gang cred and the tattoos to prove it. He’s so much more than meets the eye. He’s a big softy underneath that tough exterior and loves so hard it will make you swoon. His story is made of drama and lies and twists that will keep you guessing about who he truly is. 

I loved the set up at the end. The parallel between Hanna and Nik, the use of color, the poetic way it works together as one narrative despite the circumstances *no spoilers*. You have to see it. Trust me, it’s genius. 

If you like any of the following, you’ll enjoy this:

Intense reading,

Jordan

Release Day Blitz: Affliction by Amy Miles

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Though Avery Whitlock may have won the battle of the Grand Opry hotel, she knows the war is just beginning. Cable would stop at nothing to have her now that she was within his grasp—but to stay meant endangering innocent lives. No longer fully human and unwilling to accept her fate as a flesh eating zombie, she must abandon the only place she could call home in order to save Nox and his people. 

Driven to prevent anyone else from suffering from the same fate, she follows the trail of the doctor responsible for the heinous mutations as he races to reach the Atlanta Safe Zone. But with spilled blood on her hands and malice in her heart, her cravings to kill become amplified—and her grip on her humanity begins to slip. 

Only the love of those closest to Avery can bring her back from the edge, but will they be able to reach her in time to save their own lives?
author

 Facebook | Website | Twitter | Goodreads
 Author Amy Miles has always been a bit of a dreamer. Growing up as an only child, and a military brat to boot, she spent countless hours escaping into the pages of a book, only to spend the following days creating a new idea of how to twist up the story to make it unique.
 
Since becoming a mother, Amy has slowly nourished her love of the written word while snatching writing time in the midst of soiled diapers, tumbling over legos and peering around mounds of laundry and dishes that never seem to go away. Once her only son started school, Amy was free to let her fingers dive into dark mythology, tales of betrayal and love, and explore human nature in its rawest form. Her love of seeing the world from a different angle bloomed.
 
Amy is the author of several novels, including her popular young adult immortal books, The Arotas Series, which are an Amazon and iBooks bestselling series. Unwilling to be defined by any one genre, she proceeded to flip over to a science fiction/fantasy based idea with her Rising Trilogy. She then dove into contemporary romance with her novel, Captivate and explored the depths of her own faith with In Your Embrace.
 
She is currently working on completing her Immortal Rose trilogy, a prequel to her Arotas novels. She has also embarked on two new journeys this year, one in the form of a co-written banshee trilogy, The Hallowed Realms, which is currently represented by GH Literary.

OTHER BOOKS IN SERIES

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Adventurous reading, 
Jordan

Lost Reviews Series: Amity by Micol Ostow & Shadowboxer by Tricia Sullivan

PSA: Akin to the theme reviews series I started yesterday, I’ve decided to add lost reviews as well. These are the books that I’ve read, but haven’t reviewed because at the time I couldn’t put my opinions into words. Some of these books were read over a year ago and now that I have time to reflect back, my opinions are more firm. These reviews will be much shorter than my average reviews. 

amityGoodreads/Amazon/iBooks/B&N

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Here is a house of ruin and rage, of death and deliverance.
Here is where I live, not living.
Here is always mine.

When Connor’s family moves to Amity, a secluded house on the peaceful banks of New England’s Concord River, his nights are plagued with gore-filled dreams of demons. destruction, and revenge. Dreams he kind of likes. Dreams he could make real, with Amity’s help.

Ten years later, Gwen’s family moves to Amity for a fresh start. Instead, she’s haunted by lurid visions, disturbing voices, and questions about her own sanity. But with her history, who would ever believe her? And what could be done if they did?

Because Amity isn’t just a house. She is a living force, bent on manipulating her inhabitants to her twisted will. She will use Connor and Gwen to bring about a violent end as she’s done before. As she’ll do again. And again. And again.

Inspired by a true-crime story, Amity spans generations to weave an overlapping, interconnected tale of terror, insanity, danger, and death.

review

3/5 Stars

***I received this book as a gift in exchange for an honest review via NetGalley & EgmontUSA

Amity is bone chilling, nail-biting, creepy as sin. There’s so much that will leave you reeling and breathless, uncertain of what’s going on only to hit you with something so horrific, you’ll wish you didn’t know. 

The house itself is terrifying. It has a life of it’s own that is both poetic and so disturbing. It’s alive and breathing. You feel it watching, almost as if it can leap from the pages. If you’ve read The Dead House by Dawn Kurtagich, you’ll know what I mean. 

There are two stories that alternate. One 10 years in the past and one in the present. One male, one female. Both perspectives are strong. Gwen and Conner are worlds apart and yet living the same fate. They’re forced to question everything and doubt their own minds. You may doubt yours too. Sometimes the flips between POVs are trippy and confusing and throw you off. Other times, they’re eerie and oh so dark.

The pacing is moderate to slow. Some sections lag quite a bit despite the creep factor. 

I could have taken or left Conner. He couldn’t keep me invested. Gwen and Conner both talk to the reader, almost in a diary form. Even with that format, it wasn’t powerful enough. 

If you’re looking for a spooky Halloween read aloud, check this out. 

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Thai martial arts, international crime, celebrity and mythical creatures combine in this masterful new tale of two people facing incredible dangers, from award-winning author Tricia Sullivan.

Nothing she’s faced in the cage will prepare her…

Jade is a young mixed martial arts fighter. When she’s in the cage she dominates her opponents—but in real life she’s out of control.

After she has a confrontation with a Hollywood martial arts star that threatens her gym’s reputation, Jade’s coach sends her to a training camp in Thailand for an attitude adjustment. Hoping to discover herself, she instead uncovers a shocking conspiracy. In a world just beyond our own, a man is stealing the souls of children to try and live forever.

review

2.5/5 Stars

***I received this book as a gift in exchange for an honest review via NetGalley & Ravenstone

Shadowboxer is one of those books that had so much potential and had the two main story arcs been separate books and then later intertwined, it probably would have worked better. Instead, these two stories don’t line up like they should. It feels like two separate books. When the stories come together, it feels contrived, forced, and messy.

That being said, I liked the stories as separate entities. Give me a badass female character who speaks her mind, knows how to throw a punch, and doesn’t let anyone push her around. Jade is loud, bossy, take charge, and ready to jump in any fight for what she believes in. Jade has worked so hard to get where she is and strives for excellence in her martial arts. She’s abrasive, rude, crass, wholly herself, and doesn’t apologize for who she is and that makes her someone you can respect, even if you don’t like her. Despite these awesome qualities and the story that goes with them, I didn’t particularly like Jade. Sure she’s overcome a lot, she works for everything, and has super big dreams, but the girl is catty and rude and a mess. She doesn’t even shell out the respect she gets. 

The pacing is abysmal. Jade has a strong voice and stuff happens but it’s so slow and takes ages to get to the second story arc where they merge together. You’ll wonder as chapters alternate what exactly is going on and why it matters. Not knowing in some ways pushes you to read more and in others makes you forget everything as you struggle to piece it together. 

The second story arc in Thailand is excellent. The scenery is diverse and rich and colorful and there’s so much life in those pages. You’ll feel like you’re transported. It’s not always pretty, but it’s real and raw and sucks you in.

The soul stealing. When I read this book, I didn’t bother with the blurb-I almost never do-and so I read those sections without knowing what was happening and it kind of added to the mystery. There’s this cool shadow realm that full of Thai lore and spirituality. It’s fascinating and engaging. You’ll want that poor little girl to escape her fate. 

Overall, Shadowboxer was interesting but easy to put down and forget about. It was complicated, packed with info, and voice, but dragged too much to keep attention. 

If you like any of the following, you’ll enjoy this:

Creepy reading, 

Jordan

ARC Review: And the Trees Crept In by Dawn Kurtagich

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A stunning, terrifying novel about a house the color of blood and the two sisters who are trapped there, by The Dead House author Dawn Kurtagich

When Silla and Nori arrive at their aunt’s home, it’s immediately clear that the “blood manor” is cursed. The creaking of the house and the stillness of the woods surrounding them would be enough of a sign, but there are secrets too–the questions that Silla can’t ignore: Who is the beautiful boy that’s appeared from the woods? Who is the man that her little sister sees, but no one else? And why does it seem that, ever since they arrived, the trees have been creeping closer?

Filled with just as many twists and turns as The Dead House, and with achingly beautiful, chilling language that delivers haunting scenes, AND THE TREES CREPT IN is the perfect follow-up novel for master horror writer Dawn Kurtagich.

review

4/5 Stars

***I received this eARC as a gift in exchange for an honest review via Little Brown Books for Young Readers

Dawn Kurtagich is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors. The twists get me every single time. The darkness, the creepy, the utter shock, and grotesque horror will wrap you up in a gripping downward spiral towards madness. 

I loved this story. There are layers and layers of arcs and distractions that keep you guessing until the very end and when you get there, you still won’t be certain, and will have to ask yourself what just happened and if the end is truly reality. 

There’s a Gothic atmosphere that permeates the story. Despite being set in 1980 and 2013, there’s a gritty desperation that makes you feel like your sinking, slowly into the past. From the creaking floorboards, the blood red of the manor, and the shadows that lurk around every corner, get ready to be on edge until the bitter end. The isolation is killer. It consumes and tricks and manipulates so that you can’t be certain of anything but what is going on in the manor, and even that is suspect. 

Scattered throughout are cryptic diary entires, different POVs, and creepy (think little kids sing-songing in horror films or giggling in a corner) rhymes. You’ll feel it. That sinking certainty, the wrongness of every action. The corn husks, the sack dolls, the Creeper Man getting closer, beckoning from the deep and all-to-alive trees of Python wood. 

Madness. Complete insanity. The slow, torturous crack to the inevitable loss of all reason. It’s there in sharp clarity. Each chapter brings Silla closer to the edge, that black hole of total madness. She straddles the line and each bit of wrongness is another blow to her psyche. The process is grueling and terrifying and SO IMPRESSIVE. I’ve never read insanity so stark and horrible. The confusion, the anger, the pain, the hope. It’s all there. 

Silla has a heart of stone, but she loves so fiercely that it becomes a prison. She can’t let anyone in and it becomes a single-minded goal to protect Nori at all costs. She sacrifices so much for her sister. She forgoes food, she shucks off her own hopes for escape or safety because the Creeper Man is a threat to her beloved little sibling. 

The ending. Explosive. Heartbreaking. Emotional carnage. So much tragedy. This story, the pain is immense and raw and oh so potent. Sometimes it’s all-consuming grief and sorrow. Others, love becomes both blessing and curse.

My one issue is that some parts dragged by and there wasn’t enough bizarre in those sections to keep me interested. But wade through reader, it’s worth it. 

Also, that cover. 

If you like any of the following, you’ll enjoy this:

Cryptic reading, 

Jordan