My Favourite Things: 2016

2016-feature

It’s time for my annual round up of all the things I loved! Despite 2016 being a sh*tty year (or perhaps in spite of it), I have a full list. I’m going to kick it off with Best in Show. Yep, it’s my book and it’s one of my favourite things about this year for a number of reasons:

  1. It was fun. I’d never written a shifter story before. I had no plans to write a shifter story. But I had an idea. I only had a month to write it, so I told myself it didn’t matter if I didn’t finish. I’d just start writing and see where it went.
  2. It went straight to the end, effortlessly.
  3. Dreamspinner Press declined it for the Daily Dose.
  4. Before I had a chance to wallow in rejection, Dreamspinner offered a contract for Best in Show as its own thing, outside of their Daily Dose anthology.
  5. The amazing cover. Artist A.J. Corza took my vague and rambling ‘I’d really like the cover to be fun’ spec sheet and gave me something awesome and, most importantly, fun.
  6. Early reviews weren’t great. In fact, they left me sweating and wishing I’d never had this stupid idea. But despite the low score on Goodreads, people kept buying the book. To date it’s my best selling solo title. The book I wrote for fun. And a lot of people really do like it. They’ve sent me notes to tell me so and… I’ve not really had readers do that before.
  7. I got to be number one in Japan. It was only for a day and a half, but you know what? Being number one in Japan was super cool.no1injapan

One of the lessons I learned this year was that it was okay to love my books. I’m a writer. My favourite thing about 2016 sure as hell can be one of my own books. 😀 Of course, with me devoting a good portion of my time to reading, I had a lot of other favourites as well. 😉 As always, highlighted entries point to my reviews and rambles.

Books

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Fantasy: The Black Prism by Brent Weeks

I love it when I’m wrong. I tossed a Brent Weeks book some years ago and just figured he wasn’t for me. But people kept talking about this series, so I decided to give it a try. I found The Black Prism utterly absorbing. The book starts out with the usual suspects, but as the story progresses, the familiar is twisted, slightly, then violently, until you’re not quite sure who the good guys are, or if the bad guys are really bad. I have books two and three on the shelf and ready to go.

Fantasy and I have an odd relationship. Sometimes we don’t see each other for months or years and then we’re back together again, as though no time had passed. This year I also finished all available Riyria books by Michael Sullivan. It’s one of the best fantasy series I’ve ever read and I can’t wait to delve into Legends of the First Empire. I continued reading The Demon Cycle by Peter V. Brett with The Skull Throne being my favourite book yet. I also finished Robin Hobb’s Liveship Traders trilogy with the last book, Ship of Destiny, literally carrying me away on a stormy sea of tears. Finally, another new to me author captured my attention for three books—meaning I read all three books of a series one right after the other. That…never happens. I don’t do that. Blood Song by Anthony Ryan made me do that.

Science Fiction: Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen by Lois McMaster Bujold

This was always going to be my favourite science fiction novel this year. Even before it was published. I had so many feels reading this book and they mostly had to do with following the adventures of Miles and his family for close to a decade. The Vorkosigan Saga will always be my go to for best series, saga, space opera and just all time great science fiction. The only issue is choosing which book is the most fantastic—because I also finally went back and read Mirror Dance this year. Why can’t Lois McMaster Bujold write Vorkosigan books always and forever?

I also finished the Hyperion Cantos and I’m kind of in awe of Dan Simmons at this point. All of his books tackle such BIG ideas.

Mystery: Conspiracies by F. Paul Wilson

Conspiracies gets all the points for making me laugh between scenes of murder and mayhem. Other notable entries this year were A Drink Before the War by Dennis Lehane and IQ by Joe Ide.

Romance: If You Only Knew by Kristan Higgins

You know what? I wouldn’t actually classify this book as romance. Essentially, it’s the story of two sisters moving forward from turning points in their lives. But there is a love story in it and it’s one of the loveliest I read this year. This book also highlighted for me the fact that my favourite romance novels this year had little to no sex on the page—and I didn’t miss it.

Other great examples were Looking for Group by Alexis Hall and Dinner at Jack’s by Rick. R. Reed. Both wonderful love stories. I also enjoyed reading Marie Sexton and Sarina Bowen.

Fiction: A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

The most wonderful book I read all year. I also enjoyed (sobbed through) Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes and Lily and the Octopus by Steven Rowley.

Historical: Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry

I was surprised by how much I loved this book—and by how easy it was to read. I fell so quickly into the rhythm of the Old West that I wanted to go there. I wanted to drive cattle from Texas to Wyoming. I didn’t necessarily want to fall into a nest of river snakes along the way, however. Or get scalped. Violent and beautiful and some of the best character examination I’ve ever read.

Other great historical reads included The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro, which—predictably—wrecked me, and The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller, which also wrecked me.

Comics: Injustice: Gods Among Us by Tom Taylor

Not like any superhero comic I’ve read before. This series plays with all the established legends, twisting many before turning them upside down. It’s brave and brutal and the art is beautiful.

East of West continues to be my favourite comic series. I also enjoyed Y: The Last Man and Camelot 3000.

Movies

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In Theatres: Eddie the Eagle

What a wonderful, wonderful film. The ultimate in entertainment. You will laugh and you will cry. You will cringe and cheer. At the end you will give Eddie a standing ovation. Then, afterward, you’ll think about the direction and the script and the acting and the attention to period detail and appreciate the seamless beauty of it all. So very well done.

After drafting this post I went to see Rogue One. It could very nearly have been my favourite movie of 2017. I liked it so much better than The Force Awakens.

X-Men: Apocalypse repaired the damage done to this delicate fan by Days of Future Past. I loved every minute of it and refuse to listen to any other opinion. 😀 I also really enjoyed Star Trek Beyond. Beyond takes the new franchise in the logical direction and I was beyond (har har) pleased with the deft handling of recurring themes.

On DVD: When the Game Stands Tall, The Siege of Jadotville

I could write an entire blog post about both of these films. Superb storytelling and powerful performances.

TV

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Stranger Things took a lot of us by surprise, I think. I started watching for the nerdy kids playing D&D in the basement and kept watching because… I honestly don’t know. Was it Winona Ryder’s hair? Or the creepy fingers pushing through the wall? The flash back to my own childhood? Or the desperate need to know what the f*ck was going on…

The Expanse continued to enthrall me at the beginning of the year. I also enjoyed the second season of Grace and Frankie about as much as the first. Shut up and Dance, a Black Mirror episode, left me feeling ill for a couple of weeks. The Fall kept me on the edge of my seat for a single week in December. Oh how I wish that series were longer. Then again, it’s probably good that it isn’t.

Games

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Favourite Game: The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt

I know, this was my favourite game last year too. It takes me a while to conquer these open worlds, okay? Every hour spent wandering with Geralt was so totally worth the cricked neck and aching back, though. This story made me laugh and cry and at the end of the day, I, er, reloaded and replayed the last thirty hours because apparently I suck as a father. The last DLC, Blood and Wine, kept me happily entertained for another month or more and is probably the best, most worthwhile DLC I’ve ever played.

I also played Fallout 4. You can read all about that here. The other stand out games this year were Dishonored and Dishonored 2, which I plan to write about soon. Great art, interesting world and a dozen different ways to complete every quest. What’s not to love?

Music

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Song of the Year: “Take Your Time” — Sam Hunt

The first time I heard this song I pretty much wanted to go somewhere private and work out my feelings (read: go to my bunk). Sam Hunt’s voice got me right there. You know where I’m talking about. Lyrics are pretty special, too, which is why this song is on my Block and Strike playlist.

A total earworm for me this year was Heathens by Twenty One Pilots. I also discovered AWOLNATION and can’t understand why Sail doesn’t get more air time on the radio.

I was likewise pretty obsessed with the title theme for Fallout 4. I played it A LOT.

Food

You probably don’t actually want to know what Chicken Salt is, so I’ll just relate the relevant facts:

  • It’s an Australian thingchicken-salt
  • Hot chips (French fries) aren’t the same without it
  • My husband tried to make it, thinking he would make his fortune distributing it in the U.S. We had dried chicken skins in our fridge and moldy mushroom powder on our countertop for weeks. Thankfully the obsession has passed.

Activity

I got back to the trails this year and Thursday—hiking day—quickly became a highlight of my week. A part of it was being fit enough to hike again. The greater part, after I’d been out there a few times, though, was just being disconnected for a while. I don’t listen to music or audio books when I hike. I just walk with my thoughts, chat with the squirrels and crash other hiking parties. 😀

I’m looking forward to more happy trails in 2017!

Well, that’s it, another year reduced to a list of bits and pieces. It was a whole lot more, of course. It always is. I got to go home to Australia over the summer and I saw five of my books get published. I signed new contracts and wrote maybe my favourite story ever. I also made a lot of great new friends. Here’s to 2017 being better and brighter for all of us!

4 thoughts on “My Favourite Things: 2016

  1. Jenn Burke December 28, 2016 / 10:04 am

    You need to move up here! Sail got plenty of time on the radio a couple of years back. I guess Canadian radio is just better. 😉

    Great lists, Kel. And I absolutely 100% support you having one of your books as your #1. It’s a great book, lots of fun, and I’m so happy it was one of your faves to write.

    • Kelly Jensen December 28, 2016 / 10:30 am

      It’s probably more that it’s an older song than the fact it didn’t get a lot of air time? And my radio listening habits are spotty, lol. Glad you enjoyed the lists!

  2. romanowrites December 28, 2016 / 10:27 am

    Yup, I may have been the one to get you hooked on Sail. It was on my playlist for book 1 in my series from back in 2015. I played it relentlessly on repeat. Love that song. Geralt is still kicking my ass, but I love him. 🙂

    • Kelly Jensen December 28, 2016 / 10:29 am

      Actually, I first heart Sail in the movie When the Game Stands Tall. It sounded vaguely familiar, but hearing it then, during that particular scene, was a powerful introduction. 🙂 It’s a great song, isn’t it?

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