Yes, I do. Just like the Donna Lewis song from 1996. I love you always and forever. Near and far, close together. Everywhere, I will be with you. Everything, I will do for you … my beloved books of 2017. Before we leap into a new year that is hopefully full of amazing and satisfying books, I want to share the books that left an indelible mark on me this past year.
A Few Fun Observations from 2017
A few interesting tidbits about my reading habits.
- Whoa. I read a lot last year: 78 books, excluding DNFs. While I don’t set reading goals, I’m very impressed with myself.
- The most books read in a month was 10, achieved in January, February and April.
- The lowest number of books read was one book in October. I was undergoing a massive reading slump.
- 50 out 78 books would fall broadly into the mystery/thriller/suspense genre. So yeah. I like my mysteries!
- My best source of recommendations, to absolutely no one’s surprise, is Show Us Your Books. My most mixed source is Bookbub. Most of my meh, loathed or DNFed books were Bookbub recommendations. And yet the best book I read last year was recommended by them.
I’m not setting a reading goal for 2018 because I read whatever catches my fancy. Plus, it is my nature to get weirdly obsessive about things and don’t want anything to affect my reading pleasure. Because that’s why I read: for pleasure and entertainment.
The Best, Most Awesome Books I Read in 2017
All right! Let’s get this party started. I broke my best books into categories because that’s how I roll and this is my blog.
In the past, I loved YA. This year I loved it a bit less. 😀
Salt to the Sea by Ruth Sepetys
I read this as part of Erin’s 5.0 (I think) Challenge last year. It received numerous rave reviews but I was initially a little hesitant. Not because I didn’t believe the reviews, but I really have to mentally prepare myself whenever I read a WW2 book. This book truly earned its high praise. I instantly connected with the characters and did my typical begging throughout: please, please don’t die. Spoiler alert: Some did die. My heart broke numerous times and yet my faith remained steadfast and hopeful that even as cruel and hateful as man can be, we also have so much capacity for goodness too.
The Memory Box by Lara Avery
This is not the book to read if you want something lighthearted. This is not the book to read in public, unless you’re cool ugly crying in front of others with snot dripping down your nose. This book devestated me and I love it. I love the heart, the hope and the honesty of life because death is a part of life, even when it cruelly involves a teen.
Thriller! Thriller Night … for me is a good mystery. I expanded this section because the bulk of my books fit into the category.
Roses of May by Dot Hutchison
This is slightly controversial if you’re a fan of The Collector Trilogy because The Butterfly Garden is without a doubt the superior book, but it’s my #2 because I just simply love this book. I read Roses when I desperately needed all the fabulously fierce women in it. When I needed men (or at least the majority of men) to also be good guys and not entitled douche bags (and maybe for the good men to not require pats on the back for being a decent being, a la Matt Damon). And whenever I need a I am Woman: Hear Me Roar moment, I reread my favorite parts of this book and roar.
Please note: This is part of a trilogy so read The Butterfly Garden first!
Butterfly Garden by Dot Hutchison
This is book #1 in The Collector Trilogy. It has a very original, unique and horrifying story line that will keep you riveted. When I finished it, I didn’t know if my heart would let me read it again, even though I really enjoyed it. Fortunately, my heart is stronger than I thought because I’ve reread it twice and my heart grows fonder (and stronger) every time I do.
Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel
Sometimes I wonder what it says about me that I enjoy such messed up books. 😀 This is another doozy. It deals with a very difficult topic (if you’re super anti-Team Lannister — and not because Ceri is a right bitch — you probably won’t enjoy this) and Lane can be difficult at times as you alternate between wanting to hug and smack her. But you respect her bitterness and still want her to escape becoming another Roanoke Girl.
Trust No One by Paul Cleave
This is the only Cleave book I’ve read but all of his others books are on my TBR and Jana says (HA, Jana says! I’m such a nerd.) they are all must reads. This may shock you but it’s a pretty messed up book with a unreliable narrator, perhaps one of the most interesting ones. He’s not trying to mislead but Jerry suffers from dementia. It also broke my damn heart.
The Yard (Scotland Yard Murder Mysteries) by Alex Grecian
I read three or four books in the series thus far and have enjoyed them all. It takes place in London after Jack the Ripper’s reign of terror. It’s a great choice for people who like historical mysteries with less graphic murders. Now, they are part of the Murder Squad so murders do occur and generally awful murders. You just don’t get every gruesome tidbit (The Devil’s Workshop was a tad more graphic) and bless my ever loving Saucy Jack heart, he eventually returns to wreak havoc.
Next of Kin by James Tucker
Is this the best mystery I read last year? No. But did I rip through it in a few hours, completely engrossed? Yup. And that’s the definition of a good book to me! In fairness, it also received a few extra love points because it’s the book that broke my book funk. It’s a new series and one I’m looking forward to continuing. I enjoyed the main characters and Tucker gave them enough shading to make me care about them and eager to learn more about them in the subsequent books.
This is my mishmash category. 😀
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
This was my first Taylor Jenkins Reid book. Since she receives constant praise from many participants in Show Us Your Books, I worried she wouldn’t be able to live up to the hype and the pedestal I built for her. Silly Tanya! She killed it! Evelyn is my hero. PERIOD. We could use a lot more Evelyn’s. And now, with #MeToo, the book and Evelyn’s experiences in Hollywood resonate even stronger.
Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult
I made my IRL book club read this because left to my own devices I wouldn’t have read it. Everyone has triggers and racism is my biggest. This book honestly scared me and I waited until the day before book club to read it. And I won’t lie: there were parts I skimmed because survival required it. I was also deeply impressed by how well it was written. Picoult is obviously a pro, but a white woman writing about a black woman’s experience seemed like a recipe for making Tanya scream. But she nailed it and I tell people to read it just for the TJMaxx scene. I sorta broke my book group too since we all had strong opinions. Some were a bit defensive because it was the first time they became aware of their privilege. And that’s why you need to read it. We all have prejudice and bias and privilege that blinds us to the reality that others live every day. No one is immune, but the truly brave are willing to go to uncomfortable, difficult, eye-opening places to better themselves. This book helps you start that journey.
Dark Matter by Blake Crouch
I’d like to have coffee with Crouch, just to learn how he comes up with such interesting ideas. While this book dragged at times with too much science/math stuff, it was such a weird trip that I didn’t mind. I also like that it made me think about what I would do in Jason’s shoes which really plays with your head (I won’t tell you why it messes with your head so much but if you’re curious — go read the book!). This book definitely requires that you get your Fox Mulder on and “believe” and if you can’t, then this probably isn’t the book for you. Because it is weird. But good!
I used to hate horror. And now, well, I kinda like it.
The Devil’s Prayer by Luke Gracias
Honestly, this book is a bit uneven. Gracias did a ton of research and it shows. He just tends to share his knowledge a bit like a research paper, which tone-wise felt distinctly different from the fictional horror elements (he’s trying blend a bit of fact and fiction). But there is a section that is exceedingly awesome and exciting and horrifying and I loved it.
The Final Girls by Riley Sager This is a slasher movie in book form. While slasher movies are generally my least favorite kind of movie, I did like this quite a bit. I like that I wasn’t sure where it was going. That I didn’t know who to trust. Ultimately Sager played it a little safer than I preferred, but it’s still a great read for horror fans.
The Silent Corner/The Whispering Room by Dean Koontz
I don’t really know if I consider these books to be horror. Horror-lite? Sci-fi? Koontz is normally classified as horror so that’s why I put them here, but the bad guys are very much human with no Mike Myers or Freddy Kruegers in sight. Somehow that actually makes it more terrifying since what’s going on at the core of these books is scarier than any boogey man because it seems not only possible (although extremely difficult) but also something that many would applaud.
Braving the Wilderness by Brene Brown
Brown hit it out of the ballpark again. As always she was dropping truth bombs on me left and right, which also left me uncomfortable. After all, it’s always easier to point out other people’s obvious faults than to examine your own. And with today’s increased polarization, this book feels even more relevant and necessary. Also, to be clear, this is not about a woman who goes on a trip or adventure to discover herself, like Eat Pray Love or Wild. Brown is referring to the outside world (or people with differing views than your own) as the wilderness.
Troublemaker by Leah Remini
Generally, I am not a big fan of memoirs but I really enjoyed this. I find Scientology to be fascinating and Remini definitely opens the curtains and shows the “wizard” behind it. She is her characteristic blunt self. She’s honest about her own past complicity, what opened her eyes and her new mission to expose the truth.
Yup, you read that correctly, WORST Surprise. Last year I shared the books that surprised me by how great they were. While I expect every book to be great, sometimes a book exceeds my wildest expectations and blows me away. This year the books that surprised me are also the best books I read this year. Thus, I decided to share two books by authors who earned spots on my 2016 Best of list and their follow-ups disappointed mightily.
I See You by Clare Mackintosh
I Let You Go earned a spot on my 2016 Best Books list. Her follow-up was a hot mess. The actual premise is better, in my opinion, but the execution is not. It’s boring. And while some found I Let You Go to be slow (to be fair, it is slow and atmospheric which I liked), there was relevant stuff happening. Here, we’d endure long periods of nothing. Plus, the villain reveal was awful. Just awful. Like stupid awful. And then she made it a 100 times worse by adding a twist in the epilogue that made me actually throw the book.
Heartless by Marissa Meyer
I loved the Lunar Chronicles so I was really excited to read Meyer’s new book, then I realized it a redux of Alice in Wonderland, which is one of my least favorite fairytales. But still I figured Meyer would find a way to make me like it; I was wrong. I immediately connected with the characters of Lunar Chronicles but not so much here. No character stood out, none captured my heart and most were blah, meh or forgettable. It possible my dislike of the original story influenced me but this left me cold.
The 2 Best Books I Read in 2017
Drum roll, please … the best books I read in 2017!
Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough
This is a love/hate kind of book for many. Obviously, I fall into the love side and almost always know who won’t like the book, but I feel it’s wrong of me to say why because it reveals a secret. And I’m no secret-breaker! I love that it played against a very familiar trope of a meek wife with a controlling husband and flipped everything around. It shocked and surprised me, which rarely happens, and it made me laugh like a loon (not because the book is funny but I was so pleased to be surprised) at the end and immediately begin rereading it. And again, I had to set the book down and laugh and laugh and laugh.
The Mothers by Brit Bennet
This is probably the most beautifully written book I read last year. Bennet has a way with words. Her writing is so effortless and thoughtful. I could just lose myself in her writing and am terribly jealous of her abilities. 😀 I also happen to love the story. It is not a feel-good story that makes you high on life but it is an incredibly honest story about the choices we make and the real consequences of those decisions. The characters felt like real people too, making bad and good choices because it was true to who they were, not for the sake of the novel and adding another few hundred words.
To More Great Books in 2018
First, I would like to think Jana and Steph for hosting the awesome Show Us Your Books Link-Up. For us book nerds, and we are legion, the second Tuesday of the month is the best day of the month. Thank you for your hard work and helping create this awesome community of book lovers! Please be sure to the visit their Best Of 2017 link-up and see all the participants favorite books from the past year. Second, I am looking forward to another great year of amazing books that make me laugh and cry and think and dream. I cannot wait to see what fantastic new books and authors I discover. Here’s to Happy Reading in 2018!
What was your favorite book in 2018?