So Many Great Books!!! 2016 Bests

Hi there! Well, it’s been a YEAR! Ugh! I’m not going to bemoan it too much, because this blog is a way for me to escape the everyday drama. So, let’s do that, shall we!

First, it’s been a book-filled year! 279 books, and 58,968 pages logged through Goodreads, though I’ve forgotten some and ran out of time to add others. So, you’ll see those reviews in the coming year.

I usually make a whole long list, and this year is no exception. It isn’t a Top Ten countdown, or anything. I’d recommend any of these books equally. Hit the links for a full review.

FLIP-THE-BIRD-2Awesome YA books:
Flip the Bird by Kym Brunner. A high school freshman and training falconer falls for a girl whose parents are animal rights fanatics. Big trouble, great messages.

Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan. Slice of life book about questioning young gay persons. Really got my heart engaged. Also fell into the Most Challenged (Banned) category that I was interested in exploring.

Girl Against The Universe by Paula Stokes. A girl struggles to get past her guilt, and rebuild her life after tragedies take away half her family.

Simon V. The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli: Coming out shouldn’t be this way. Simon’s awesome, and lovely.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz. I felt transported to 1987 Texas. It’s not a place I’d want to be–but I’d go there just to be with Ari and Dante. Thick book devoured in a day.

Great anybody reads:
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by John Tiffany, James Thorne, and JK Rowling.  Harry’s all grown up, and saving the world, yet again. This time his son is the biggest problem.

illusory-prophetCrossing the Horizon by Laurie Notaro. Brave and bawdy ladies of the air try to be the first to cross the Atlantic.

Illusory Prophet by Susan Kaye Quinn.  A futuristic saga with an enhanced human trying to save the rest of humanity. This is the third book in a series. Get them all.

Goldfish by Nat Luurtsema. Lou is a champion swimmer whose been cast out of the pool. It’s pants-wettingly funny.

Great Gay romance:
My goodness. I read SOOO many of these. (more than 100! in 2016) Here’s a few hightlights:
Fave Hurt/Comfort: WHAT REMAINS by Garrett Leigh. Man. This one broke my heart into a million pieces by the end. A man struggles to support his lover after a traumatic brain injury destroys his partner’s memories of their love affair.

A Bear Walks Into A BarFave Dirty Pleasure read: A BEAR WALKS INTO A BAR is a straight up gay erotica from Eden Winters. There’s no man the big bad bear won’t have. Once, or twice. Multi-partner, orgy and various shifters dead ahead.

Fave Paranormal: WOLFSONG by TJ Klune. Pick this one up to curl up with over a cold weekend. It’s really long, yet the unconventional prose had me riveted. It’s a fated mates, shifter story that blew me away.

Fave Virgin Lover: PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT by Jay Northcote. This is so fun, with a nerdy college student trading love lessons for stats tutoring with his sporty neighbor. I enjoyed every moment of them crossing sexytimes off the list.

Fave Steampunk/Alt History:
CLOCKWORK HEART by Heidi Cullinan. A French tinker saves a dying Hungarian with the long-sought clockwork heart technology his master has been hiding for years. Let the pursuit begin.

walk-like-a-manFave Shifter romance: HOW TO WALK LIKE A MAN by Eli Easton. This is the second book in a series, and I think readers will enjoy all of them, but this one is my favorite, so far. The story revolves around a man who used to be a dog, and how he copes with being human, and finding love with a fellow police officer.

Fave Ugly Cry: SELFIE by Amy Lane. Features a Hollywood star living through the death of his closeted partner—and his complete and utter heartbreak. Suicide ideation, depression, coping, and new love. It was a rollercoaster of feels—all of them intense.

Fave Series: CAPTIVE PRINCE by C.S. Pacat. I read all three of these books in a week back in March, because I lost my mind with the first book and dove headlong into the series. Sleepless for at least one night so I could get to the end. Amazing if you like fantasy/political intrigue. PRINCE’S GAMBIT KINGS RISING, are the other two books. Must read.

Fave Sequel: FIGHT THE TIDE by Keira Andrews. This is the sequel to KICK AT THE DARKNESS and it kicked ass. Surviving in a post-apocalyptic world is rough, but it’s easier when your boyfriend is a werewolf. So many zombies…

TOO HOT TO HANDLE - coverFave Het Romances:
TOO HOT TO HANDLE by Tessa Bailey. A chef burns sown her mother’s former restaurant, and cobbles her busted family to go on a vision quest trip from San Diego to NYC. Sweet and raunchy by turns.

JACKSON’S TRUST by Violet Duke. Love for two sports reporters/analysts with an unhealthy dose of crappy family drama.

COCKY BASTARD by Penelope Ward and Vi Keeland. Very fun story about a lawyer running from her disastrous past, and the sexy soccer player who scoops her up in the middle of nowhere.

bright-blazeFave ending to a series:
BRIGHT BLAZE OF MAGIC by Jennifer Estep. This is the third book in an urban fantasy YA series that rocks. I recommend all the books highly, but this finale did NOT disappoint. Magic, magical creatures, fighting for your family until the death, a wee bit of love and romance? Bam! It’s all there.

MANNERS AND MUTINY by Gail Carriger. I’ve completely fallen for this steampunk world of intrigue and assassins.

Fave transgender YA read:
THE ART OF BEING NORMAL by Lisa Williamson. Heartbreakingly freaking awesome. Some part of me will always remember this one. For kids/parents who are questioning gender dysphoria, I highly recommend.

Okay, so lots of different stuff to pick from because I have eclectic tastes. Hopefully something piques your interest, too. Share your fave reads in the comments so I can find something new, or just commiserate.

Going forward into 2017, I have a plan to pick up TBR reads on Thursdays, because, wow, to I have a lot of books in my queue. And, I probably won’t be posting quite as many reviews…because I’m back to teaching in February, that shaping young minds takes up a LOT of reading time, yo.

As always, thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends!


Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a contemporary M/M YA romance form Becky Albertalli. SIMON VS. THE HOMO SAPIENS AGENDA is a book that has met with critical acclaim, and for good reason. It’s fantastic. As a YA romance it’s not steamy, but it’s got so much heart, and a beautifully told coming-out story. Today is this is the First Book-iversary, as it was originally published 4/7/15, so I thought I’d give it a shout out.

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens AgendaAbout the book:

Sixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier prefers to save his drama for the school musical. But when an email falls into the wrong hands, his secret is at risk of being thrust into the spotlight. Now Simon is actually being blackmailed: if he doesn’t play wingman for class clown Martin, his sexual identity will become everyone’s business. Worse, the privacy of Blue, the pen name of the boy he’s been emailing, will be compromised.

With some messy dynamics emerging in his once tight-knit group of friends, and his email correspondence with Blue growing more flirtatious every day, Simon’s junior year has suddenly gotten all kinds of complicated. Now, change-averse Simon has to find a way to step out of his comfort zone before he’s pushed out—without alienating his friends, compromising himself, or fumbling a shot at happiness with the most confusing, adorable guy he’s never met.

My Review:

I just adored this YA contemporary coming out M/M romance.

Simon is a 17 y/o junior growing up in a suburb of Atlanta. His school is mixed and he has friends of color, notably Abby his close friend. His longtime friends Leah and Nick are kind and fun, but a bit more sedate than Abby who is a cheerleader and the object of admiration of many males–firstly, Nick, who is simultaneously the crush of Leah. Makes for an awkward dynamic for Simon. Secondly, Martin Addison, a goofy, lanky boy in the drama club who is infatuated with Abby enough that he blackmails Simon to ingratiate himself into their “group”.

See, Simon is a closeted gay teen, and he has an anonymous email pen pal–another gay teen (calling himself Blue) at his high school. They have been in contact for the past few months, using pseudonyms and decoy email addresses in order to safely explore their places in the world. The emails serve as a sounding board/confessional/journal for the boys and Martin intercepted these communications one day when Simon neglected to completely log out of the library computer. Martin’s an (almost) decent kid who makes some seriously d-bag decisions, and Simon has to decide if he wants to go along with Martin’s plans, or come out. And this is something he can’t reveal to Blue because he’s afraid that Blue will stop communicating with him to protect his own secrets.

It’s a beautifully written teen romance with no steam and some real fun. There is limited angst, and when it does exist it’s not all about the gay thing. Simon’s nervous about the status of his friendships in general. Leah’s frustrated about Nick liking Abby, and Simon always feels in the middle of that. Plus, Leah’s disappearing more and more from their hang out time, and Nick’s not helping by being ignorant to Leah’s feelings.

On the homefront, Simon’s got a rather supportive set of parents, even if his dad makes some off-color jokes regarding gays. Words he’s later sorry for. I loved the family dynamic, and how close-knit it is. Simon makes a “choice” (under duress pretty much) to come out and that causes a bit of a ruffle, but not in the expected way.

I don’t want to give away too much of the plot, but I believe even if I gave a verbatim account of the book it’s STILL a worthwhile read. Simon’s character is a fantastic sketch of today’s youth. He’s not quite sure why he has to come out as “gay” when all those around him don’t have to reveal, or explain, their straightness. And, that’s an interesting idea. When Simon becomes a “topic” at the high school his friends aren’t just in his corner, they are ready to do battle. Even people who aren’t his particular friends are willing to step forward on his behalf. It’s a heartening scene, especially as it’s set in the Deep South. that said, expect some instances of homophobia.

Also, I nearly wet myself when they all went to the “gay”-borhood in Atlanta and Simon was a bit too adventurous. So sweet and cute and endearing.

In all, Simon’s dearest wish is to meet Blue. After five months of sharing his most secret and personal self online he just wants to meet the boy he considers his boyfriend. Blue’s so resistant, and when Blue discovers Simon’s identity and still won’t meet?  It’s more than a little crushing.

Don’t fear though. The books sings with an HEA. It’s just the right amount of tenderness, and there’s no doubt that Blue is just as smitten with Simon. This is a book that I’d recommend to all readers of contemporary YA. It’s completely innocent sexually, and has only a tiny bit of alcohol use. There is strong language at times, including f-bombs, which were not a trouble for me, especially as I was reading a 17 y/o boy’s perspective.

I loved the diversity here. There are a few prominent black characters, and a couple who are Jewish, and others who have no religion and some who are religious and some who are gay, straight or bisexual. The mix was refreshing and fun and awkward and whole. I loved the meddling and the machinations, and the high school antics and hi jinks and the blessed union of Simon and Blue and an end that I never wanted to reach. I’d read about Simon and his life for volumes, probably.

Interested? You can find SIMON Vs. THE HOMO SAPIENS AGENDA on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes and goodness knows how many other discount outlets and your local library.

About the Author:

You can find out all about Becky Albertalli on her website, which is really, really something. She’s also on twitter and There are some notes in the webspace that she’s working on a loosely-connected sequel-of-sorts to SIMON, and people are clamoring for it. Me among them.