Happy New Year!
I decided to make my last blog post of 2017 both my top 17 favorite books of the year combined with my reading year in review, starting with the review.
I read a total of 67 books this year. 2017 was the first year of the five I’ve been on Goodreads that I decided not to do a yearly reading challenge. I decided to do this because in 2016, I felt an enormous amount of pressure to read midst trying to finish college and get a job after graduation. I also did away with monthly TBRs to read what I wanted when I felt like it.
In the first half of the year, it worked. At the time, I was working retail and often mentally too drained to read at the end of the day. Then, the store I worked in closed and I found work with a temp agency. Through the agency, I was hired to work in a library, with about an hour and a half commute every day. Suddenly, instead of going on Netflix or YouTube, I had motivation to read more.
For the first few months of 2017, my average number of books read per month was five. My friends would call that successful, only I was struggling with it. Mainly because I knew I could do better. In fact, in November, I set a Goodreads of 65 books when I was at about 58 books read trying to see if having a goal helped me read. It worked.
The biggest issue I have with my reading in 2017 as a whole is the quality of books I read. There were so many great books sitting unread on my shelves, yet I kept putting them aside for titles that ultimately disappointed me. Looking at my reading stats for 2017, I realized that is often what happened.
Don’t get me wrong: I did read some real gems this year. But compared to 2016 or even 2015, 2017 was lukewarm. I have enough favorites for seventeen, but if you asked which one was my all-time favorite, I would not be able to tell you. These aren’t in any particular order; they are simply books I read this year I really liked.
And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
And Then There Were None was the first book I have ever read by Agatha Christie. Now I know why she is called the Queen of Mystery.
The story is set in a mansion on a secluded island, where ten strangers are invited to a dinner party. While there, the guests discover they have been targeted by a madman for their perceived sins and are trapped there during a storm as they are killed one-by-one in the method of a child’s nursery rhyme. And Then There Were None was exactly how I like my mysteries: darkly compelling setting, fast-paced, and morally gray characters.
A Torch Against the Night by Sabaa Tahir
The sequel to An Ember in the Ashes, A Torch Against the Night confirmed that I love Sabaa Tahir’s series more than Sarah J. Maas’s…and I’m not ashamed to say that whatsoever. I love the main characters, Laia and Elias. The world building is amazing and the story is fast-paced and exciting, even with its size. Now, I am just anxiously waiting to get my hands on the third book in the series, A Reaper at the Gates.
All We Have Left by Wendy Mills
All We Have Left is a young adult contemporary novel following two teenaged girls connected to 9/11. The first is Jesse, a sixteen-year-old in 2016, whose older brother died in the Twin Towers. All her life, she has lived in his shadow, causing her to make a stupid mistake that forces her to finally uncover the secrets to her brother’s death. The other POV is Alia, a teenaged Muslim girl in 2001 that finds herself trapped inside the Towers with a boy she just met but must rely on to survive.
The writing in this novel was beautiful, filled with great quotes about friendship, family, religion, Islam phobia, and other subjects. Both Jesse and Alia have the best character development I have ever seen in a young adult contemporary, Jesse especially, as she starts out an angry, lonely kid but grows up fast.
A List of Cages by Robin Roe
A List of Cages is a 2017 young adult release that follows two boys, Adam and Julien. Five years ago, the boys were foster brothers until Julien’s uncle came and took him away. Now, the boys are in high school, Adam a senior and Julien a freshman, and the former realizes the latter is in terrible trouble at home. The writing in this novel was so beautiful, you would never think it was Robin Roe’s first book. I loved Adam and Julien. I cried because I could not protect Julien from what was happening to him. There was discussion of learning disabilities, as both boys have them, as well as child abuse. A List of Cages had a strong friendship element I loved, too.
City of Saints and Thieves by Natalie C. Anderson
City of Saints and Thieves is set in modern-day Kenya, following sixteen-year-old Tina, a refugee from the Congo. Five years prior, Tina’s mother was murdered and she fled the estate where her mother worked as a maid, intending to return to seek revenge on the man she believed killed her mother. Tina has survived all these years as a thief for the most notorious gang in the city. But when her supposedly perfect plan goes wrong, she is forced to face the secrets of her mother’s past that put everything she thought she knew into a new perspective.
City of Saints and Thieves is the first book I’ve read both set in Kenya and about a refugee. While there has been some criticism around this book not being OWN voices, I found the author’s experience as a volunteer working with refugees from the Congo still worth something. She was not shy about showing how hard life is in that part of the world. She also brought to life a strong, fierce Tina, someone I think Aelin from Throne of Glass would tip her hat to. Tina is what made this book for me.
The Forbidden Wish by Jessica Khoury
The Forbidden Wish is a beautifully written retelling of Aladdin with a female genie as the protagonist. Zahra, the jinn, has been trapped inside a lamp for centuries until the mortal thief Aladdin releases her. When the King of the Jinn offers Zahra a chance at freedom, she agrees to help Aladdin in his quest for revenge against the royal family in order to reach her own goal. There’s just one problem: Aladdin falls in love with Zahra—and she with him.
The world of the jinni in The Forbidden Wish was both fascinating and terrifying. Zahra was a great protagonist; wise and strong in her own way. Aladdin himself was as swoon-worthy as the boy in the Disney movie. Plus, this book had an ensemble of lady assassins that made it even more fun.
Lady Midnight by Cassandra Clare
I finally read Lady Midnight this summer, just in time for Lord of Shadows to come out a month or two later. Since I have yet to read the sequel, I can say so far The Dark Artifices has a chance of becoming my new favorite series in the Shadowhunters Chronicles.
I love feisty and smart Emma Carstairs. Julien Blackthorn is the first Shadowhunter guy—aside from Jem Carstairs—to make me feel so weak in the knees. I love the Blackthorn family and the crew at the Los Angeles Institute. The plot of this novel is darker, more interesting than previous Shadowhunter novels. Plus, the reviews surrounding Lord of Shadows promises that The Dark Artifices will only get better with each book.
The Rose & the Dagger by Renee Ahdieh
The second and final novel in The Wrath & the Dawn duology, The Rose & the Dagger was as good as the first. Renee Ahdieh has a lovely writing style that made the book seem to fly by, even being over 400 pages. I love Shazi and Khalid as a couple as well as individuals. The world the author created was so magical and vivid; I hope she someday writes more books in the series. While I think I liked The Wrath & the Dawn slightly more than The Rose & the Dagger, it was still a satisfying, heartwarming conclusion to the duology.
Saga, Vol. 7 by Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples
The Saga graphic novels are the only science fiction stories I am seriously into. The last few volumes in this series were mildly disappointing. For most of Saga, Vol. 7, I would have rated this book 4 stars or lower. Then, the ending happened…The last chapter of this volume broke my heart. Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples went there with this story. Now, I’m excited to see where Vol. 8 is going to take the rest of the series.
I remember I finished Saga, Vol. 7 on the train home and I couldn’t cry because there were people.
Made You Up by Francesca Zappia
Another young adult contemporary novel, Made You Up follows Alex, a schizophrenic high school senior. She tackles life with her polaroid camera and a Crazy 8 ball to separate her delusions from reality. When she transfers high schools, she meets Myles, a boy she thought she made up at eight years old, and uncovers a mystery that makes her wonder if she is not the only “crazy” person at her new school.
Despite its heavy topic, Made You Up is a fun, easy read that gives insight to a mental illness not often seen in literature and often dramatized by media. Alex is sassy and does not let her mental illness define her. The story was also not one you see often in young adult literature, which I enjoyed the most.
Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye
The next retelling I read and loved this year, Jane Steele is a reimagining of Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. Only the Jane Eyre in this story, Jane Steele, is a morally gray but ultimately good-natured serial killer who targets men that abuse women and children. The writing was beautiful and the story was engrossing. Jane Steele was an interesting main character. The plot was twisted and the atmosphere was a realistic, grittier portrait of Victorian London. Lastly, Charles Thornfield, the Mr. Rochester of the novel, was ten times sexier than the original.
Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly
My favorite historical fiction of this year, Lilac Girls centers on an untold story of World War II: the experiments done to the prisoners at Ravensbruck, the Nazi concentration camp for women. The novel follows three women—American Caroline Ferriday, Polish teenager Kasia Kuzmerick, and German doctor Herta Oberheuser—all having ties to the Ravensbruck experiments. The whole novel was amazing and the characters equally amazing. It also showed that, while men might have been serving at the front, women were the backbone of the country during the war. And human beings can do terrible things to each other, but humans are also terribly complicated.
Truthwitch by Susan Dennard
Truthwitch is the first novel in a high fantasy series in a world ruled by witches. That is all I needed to know when I read it and this first book did not disappoint. I liked the two leading ladies, Safi and Iseult, and I loved their friendship. Prince Merrick made me feel weaker in the knees than Rhysand ever did. The world building was great and the magic system was fascinating. I can dare say I loved Truthwitch more than Sarah J. Maas’s Throne of Glass series or even her A Court of Thorns and Roses trilogy….
Passenger by Alexandra Bracken
Passenger was a book that took me by surprise. I liked Alexandra Bracken’s The Darkest Minds trilogy but I didn’t love it. Passenger and its sequel Wayfarer show she’s already improved so much.
The time-traveling element was as complicated as one would expect time travel to be. The story was fast-paced. Etta Spencer is an underrated female protagonist; she’s strong without needing a sword and she uses her head. Nicholas Carter is one of my new favorite romantic heroes. I don’t understand why more people aren’t as obsessed with him as they are with Rhysand or William Herondale. I also don’t understand why more people don’t love this duology as much as I do. But his to their own, I suppose.
The Afterlife of Holly Chase by Cynthia Hand
I completed Cynthia Hand’s Unearthly trilogy this year and it is one of my favorite series of all-time. I picked up The Afterlife of Holly Chase, her most recent release, last month from the library to read for the holidays. It is a retelling of Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol, which follows Holly Chase, a failed Scrooge, that spends her afterlife working as the Ghost of Christmas Past for Project Scrooge, an organization dedicated to redeeming a Scrooge every year. This year, though, everything changes for Holly with this year’s new Scrooge: Ethan Winters.
I don’t know why, but I never expected to love The Afterlife of Holly Chase as much as I did. The overall book was simply delightful. Holly had her annoying moments, but she also had good character development. I can’t wait to actually buy it myself.
Daughter of the Pirate King by Tricia Levenseller
Daughter of the Pirate King was an impulse buy. Thankfully, it did not let me down. Alossa was a morally gray badass female pirate captain. The book accurately portrayed life on a pirate ship, especially what it was like for a woman. The story was fun and action-packed with twists and turns searching for the treasure map. Lastly, Riden, Alossa’s only love interest, is another swoon-worthy gentleman you can’t help but love.
The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli
The Upside of Unrequited was a little low on the rating scale compared to all the other books on this list, but it was the most relatable. Molly is a real-life teenager with real-life teenaged problems and a real-life family. The romance in this story is super sweet and cute and relationship goals for me. The book covered everything from friendship, family, romance, and sexuality. The Upside of Unrequited made me feel all the feels.
Wicked like a Wildfire by Lana Popovic
I really liked Wicked Like a Wildfire for its beautiful writing and setting as well as the magic in the story. However, I had some problems with it, enough that earned it a spot as an honorable mention instead of a favorite.
The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi
The Star-Touched Queen had beautiful writing and a beautiful world based in Indian mythology. It is a Hades and Persephone retelling with a female protagonist I really liked. Unfortunately, the story fell a little flat for me in the end.
Love and First Sight by Josh Sundquist
I loved Love and First Sight for its comedy, writing style, and the blind/disability representation. I liked the main character, Will, and his romance with Cecily was super cute. But at some point it went in a direction I was not expecting, as it felt too much like John Green, that I had to dock down a few points.