Top 10 Books I Read in 2017

2017 Top 10 (1)

 

It’s already MAY, but I had such a hard time choosing between the 56 books I managed to read last year. I am SO PROUD of that number. I worked hard for it. I figured that now is as good a time as any to share them with you because maybe you’ll want to pick them up over the summer. People read then, right?

In an effort to shorten the judging process that got me to this point, I decided to only nominate books that I read for the first time, and to exclude all re-reads from this contest. In no particular order, here are the top 10 books I read in 2017.

 

 

 

Grace-Not-Perfection-Emily-Ley
Source: Goodreads

 

1 – Grace, Not Perfection – Emily Ley
This book changed my life. I read it while I was nannying for my baby cousin, so even the more maternal bits really hit home. Whether you are young and virtually single like me, or raising a bunch of munchkins, or just living your best life, this book will help you make it even better. I can’t wait to pick up Emily’s second book, A Simplified Life, this year.

 

 

Diviners-The-Diviners-Libba-Bray

 

2 – The Diviners – Libba Bray
1920s New York City + strange magical abilities + teens sleuthing to stop a supernatural serial killer? SIGN ME UP. This is one of those books that you pick up at the library because of the cool cover and then run away with it once you finish reading the blurb because it’s so cool. And even at a whopping 500+ pages it just flies by because the writing is just that good. I’m saving my reviews of this series for October. Look out for it then!

 

 

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Source: Goodreads

 

3 – A Novel Bookstore – Laurence Cossé
Let me just say… WOW. This birth-of-a-bookstore/mystery novel about the fictional The Good Novel bookstore in Paris and its founders blew me away. A tiny bit slow in some places, but the intertwining narratives of the founders, reviewers, and their loved ones was wonderfully written and lovingly translated from the original French.

 

 

shades-of-magic-a-gathering-of-shadows-v-e-schwab
Source: Goodreads

 

4 – A Gathering of Shadows – V. E. Schwab
This whole series is wonderful. I’ve never read anything like the Shades of Magic trilogy, and I am so SO excited that Schwab will be blessing us with a spinoff sequel trilogy, as well as a prequel comic book. Of the trilogy, the second novel was my favorite, and the cover art especially drew me in. The character development is just expert level here, and I can’t wait to get my hands on more of Schwab’s work.

 

 

uprooted-naomi-novik
Source: Goodreads

 

5 – Uprooted – Naomi Novik
This book. THIS. BOOK. I haven’t read a story like this since I picked up the actual Grimm’s Fairytales. The plot is phenomenal, the characters aren’t perfect, or entirely lovable or hateable, and the forest. is. alive.

Uprooted gets a lot of hate for the romance aspect of it, but I think it was handled really well and people need to get used to the idea that semi-immortal beings need love too. You don’t hear people complaining about Bella and Edward being together because Edward is like 900 years older than her, do you? So don’t come at me about Agnieszka’s romance. It’s as healthy a love as she is going to get in these crazy times.

 

 

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Source: Goodreads

 

6 – Elantris – Brandon Sanderson
An arranged marriage alliance + a religious war + a mysterious plague that only effects the god-like people of Elantris? Trust me when I say the roughly 600 pages are worth it. I haven’t read worldbuilding like this since Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time saga — which makes sense if you think about it because Jordan chose Sanderson to finish his work when he was passing.

 

 

M-Train-Patti-Smith

 

7 – M Train – Patti Smith
I’ve never read a memoir written by a musician before, and let me tell you, this was delightful. Patti Smith is not just a musician, poet, and author, but also a mother, wife, icon, and member of a former mysterious society. This memoir is written mostly stream-of-consciousness style, but that only adds to the magic of the words. From writing in coffee shops (like I am now), to traveling the globe, to singing in cafeterias at midnight, M Train is sure to inspire you to write more of your own work and see the everyday magic around you.

 

 

Tyme-Disenchanted-The-Trials-Of-Cinderella-Megan-Morrison

 

8 – Disenchanted: The Trials of Cinderella – Megan Morrison
It’s no secret that I adored the first Tyme novel by Morrison, Grounded: The Adventures of Rapunzel,  but Disenchanted did me one better if that’s possible. “Cinderella” comes from a family of fashion. Her new stepmother is a trial, but she probably means well. The private school she goes to is full of rich and royal brats, most of whom will grow up to work in the family business: that is, fashion. The entire Blue Kingdom runs on fashion. But not everyone loves it. Ella knows which families use sweatshop labor, and sets out to bring. them. down. Even if it means ruining her chances with the cute but cursed prince in the process. I can’t wait for the third installment (involving the Frog Prince!), due out in the next year.

 

 

In-Other-Lands-Sarah-Rees-Brennan

 

9 – In Other Lands – Sarah Rees Brennan
If you’ve been reading fantasy your entire life and wondering why tropes are what they are — the guy gets the girl, everyone loves the hero, the maidens need rescuing, etc. etc… LOOK NO FURTHER. Brennan turns every single trope on its head and it’s flawless. Not only does everyone hate Elliot, he doesn’t even get the girl, or get to save the world, or have a touching reunion with his parents. Nope. Elliot gets shipped off to a school in a war zone in a magical land because his teacher doesn’t like him, and spends most of his time in the library wishing he could meet mermaids despite everyone telling him how dangerous they are. Elliot is not a hero, and he certainly doesn’t like the would-be hero, Luke Sunborn, with the beautiful golden locks. Nope. Not one bit.

 

 

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10 – Lois Lane: Fallout – Gwenda Bond
I didn’t even know I needed a series about Lois before Clark until I saw Bond’s book on the shelf, and now I need her to be consulted with on anything and everything to do with Superman and Lois Lane that is ever created in the future. I have always loved Lois, but never before have I gotten the chance to really get to know her. Now that the military brat has settled in one place for the first time, attending a Metropolis high school and interning at The Daily Planet, she has a bit of free time on her hands, and a lot of bad guys to take down. Now if only she could convince her online crush SmallvilleGuy to meet in person.

 

 

Honorable Mentions:
Elise Kova’s The Alchemists of Loom
Helen Simonson’s Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand
Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451

Baseball Season Has Arrived!

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You guys. I am SO excited to be going to my third major league baseball game ever.

My first game was at the old Yankee stadium when I was maybe six years old, wayyy back in 1998. It was just after my birthday, the middle of an exceptionally hot July, and I was just learning to read. Not that it mattered. I already knew most of the important names: Andy Pettitte, David Cone, David Wells, Daryl Strawberry, Paul O’Neill, Tino Martinez, Bernie Williams, Joe Girardi, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Mariano Rivera, and this hot shot shortstop from my mom’s hometown – Derek Jeter.
My dad’s job sponsored a family bus trip into the city for the game and my father, elder brother, and I attended. Our seats were in the blazing sun and we eventually moved to shady seats that someone had never shown up to claim. I barely noticed. I was too busy watching baseball.
I’ve spent years watching my Yankees on television, and going to most every baseball game that I can get tickets to. Now my 1998 team only plays in the Old Timers Game, and I watch with the same ferocity that I watch the World Series. But I’ve never made it to another Yankee game.

My second game was a Red Sox vs. Orioles game last year that my uncle got free tickets to at a trade show. My uncle, aunt, and baby cousin left early, but I stayed until the very end. I didn’t care that I knew absolutely no one there, much less anyone in the entire city.  And I only cared a little bit that it was a Red Sox game and not a Yankee game. I even cheered for the Red Sox. They won. And the Orioles moved down to the #2 spot, letting my Yankees slide into the #1. 😉

This time around, I bought my own ticket, and I’m taking myself to the ballgame. I don’t even care that it will probably downpour all day and the game will drag on due to rain delays. I’ll be in one of my favorite cities, watching my New York Yankees take on their biggest rivals – my new home team – The Boston Red Sox. And I already know all the important names. ⚾️

 

The Summer Before the War – Helen Simonson

The-Summer-Before-The-War-Helen-Simonson
Source: Goodreads

 

Accepting the position of smalltown Latin teacher was a no-brainer for Beatrice Nash. Finally on her own, she can’t wait to make her own money and get out from under her stifling family’s thumb and her father’s shadow. But war is looming. A great, big, world war, the likes of which have never been seen. With men signing up left and right, it’s only a matter of time before Beatrice’s students and colleagues start to head for the continent, closely followed by the new officers comprised mostly of the lesser gentry. A young surgeon and a poet, a Romani and a scholar, the war keeps its distance from no one. And so beings the summer before the war.

 

Helen Simonson does it again. The author of Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand – one of my favorite reads of 2017 – is back with another well-developed look at England’s less viewed history, and hits her mark. The characters are well developed and engaging, as well as incredibly refreshing. A book about an Edwardian surgeon! The first women authors! Single women living alone and working a respectable job! POETS. and so, so many underlying narratives about race and sexuality. Absolutely wonderful. 10/10 would read again.

I would like a prequel about Beatrice’s life with her father and then with her Aunt. Also, a novel purely about Aunt Agatha and her husband who works for the foreign office and who I am sure does spy things. I think they’re all just so interesting!

The book itself starts out relatively lighthearted, following the main premise of Beatrice settling into the town and her interactions with the townsfolk. About 3/4 of the way through, the war is finally upon us, with dire consequences for many. Simonson wraps everything up neatly, but not before she rips our hearts out and forces us to acknowledge that not everyone can live happily ever after.

 

HHC Rating: 5 Stars

 

Other reviews for works by this author:
Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand

Someone to Love (Westcott, #1) – Mary Balogh

Westscott-Someone-To-Love-Mary-Balogh

Source: Goodreads

 

Anna Snow has grown up in an orphanage in Bath, where she now teaches, supported by a mysterious benefactor for as long as she stays. A letter summoning her to London is not only surprising, for she knows no one outside of Bath, but life-shattering when the identity of her benefactor is revealed.

Avery Archer, the Duke of Netherby, is only Harry Westcott’s guardian because the boy’s father died a year too early. Avery wouldn’t even have taken charge of his nearly grown step-cousin, except that his own father promised to look after Harry in the event of the Earl of Riverdale’s death. With the Earl’s death fresh on everyone’s mind, it strikes Avery as odd that the late Earl’s wife is sending their solicitor on a fool’s errand to find Riverdale’s bastard daughter and tell her that her allowance will be cut off now that her father has died. He likes the plan even less when the solicitor instead drags the girl to London and announces that she is the sole heir to the Earl of Riverdale’s fortune and that Harry and his sisters are the real bastard children.

 

 

The premise for this series is just amazing. The role reversal is definitely unique and interesting to dive into. However, the execution could use some work. I dearly love many of Balogh’s books, but not only does the Westcott series start off with one too many side plots, but the characters all fall kind of flat. I’m hoping this is a single-book-problem like we had with Ben and Samantha in The Escape. Sometimes there’s just too much plot going on for proper character development. Granted, Balogh is just churning out new books in this series, but I would much prefer that the characters were more developed than to have a new book every six months.

 

I loved Anna, I loved Camille, I loved Elizabeth, and I loved Alexander. Avery I had trouble with because of his strange history and the side plot which goes with it that just didn’t work with the rest of the story. His public self and his private self just don’t mesh well together, and it made it impossible for me to really understand him and therefore support the main relationship. Overall, I felt the book put more character development into Camille and Elizabeth than anyone else. I have the second book from the library, so I will let you know if the characters get any better.

 

HHC Rating: 3.5 Stars

 

Other reviews in this series:
Book #2 – Someone to Hold
Book #3 – Someone to Wed
Book #4 – Someone to Care
Book #5 – Someone to Trust
Book #6 – TBA
Book #7 – TBA
Book #8 – TBA

Star Trek: The Original Series – “The Naked Time” and “The Enemy Within”

 

 

 

Star Trek - S1E4 S1E5 - _The Naked Time_ and _The Enemy Within_
Original Image via Wiki Media Commons

 

Welcome the third installment of my Star Trek watch through! You can find other posts in this series linked at the bottom, and the original post – including my watch order – here. I’m still not obsessed, but the show is going pretty well so far. I’m getting to know the characters very slowly, but it’s been interesting to see who will become more prominent as the series goes on.

 

Episode #4 – “The Naked Time”

This episode starts with space suits involving some mix of chicken wire and bubble wrap. So that’s cool. Then we get a strange bio-weapon that at first looks like blood and quickly has all the crew members acting like Lady Macbeth, and losing all of their inhibitions. This episode was full of opportunities for great acting, and everyone did wonderfully. I especially enjoyed O’Reilly’s singing and Irish pride. “You know what his mistake was, sir? Not being born an Irishman.” is just a great line.

Not a lot happens until the very end, when Scotty discovers that O’Reilly has turned the engines off completely and they must attempt starting the engines at full throttle from scratch, which has only ever been done in theory. The resulting implosion, rather than pushing them away from the dying planet they’ve been orbiting, sends them into a time warp. Which basically means they’re moving so fast that time actually runs backward, and when they come out of the time warp, they are three days earlier in time. It was only a moment of time travel, but Spock and Kirk agree that they might want to test that in the future.

The crew wiping their hands on their clothes and basically reenacting the “Out Damn Spot” scene from Macbeth was pretty entertaining, as was an uninhibited Spock, crying over his shame at having feelings. Great acting all-around made up for the lack of forward-moving story in this one.

The only downside to this episode is that the title makes no sense. No one is naked. Only Sulu takes his shirt off. I’m just confused.

 

 

Episode #5 – “The Enemy Within”

The crew of The Enterprise is visiting a planet where the temperature hits -120 (Fahrenheit?) at night, and contains strange magnetic yellow dust. Their inspection of the planet is going well, and they’ve found an animal (read: A puppy in a monster suit) they want to test further, when one of the crew injures themselves in a rockslide and must be sent back to the ship. Upon arrival, the transportation beam nearly burns out, but Scotty fixes it. Captain Kirk beams up soon after and doesn’t look so hot himself. It is only later when they beam up the ‘dog’ that they realize the transporter is malfunctioning and creating duplicates of everything that gets beamed up or down.

After a horrible moment in the life of Yeoman Janice Rand, we find out that Kirk was also duplicated. The rest of the episode is spent trying to catch the duplicate, and once it is determined that they’re not duplicates but halves, figuring out how to put them back together and prevent more people from getting split before the crew remaining on the planet freezes to death.

This episode is basically a montage of William Shatner, with Yeoman Rand, Spock, Scotty, and McCoy thrown in for variety. I can’t say that I loved it, but it was an interesting scenario at least. The previous episode allowed for much more breadth of acting. To be completely honest, this felt like Shatner wanted an episode where his character has a mixed up personality because everyone else got to do it in the previous episode and he felt left out. When in reality all he did to differentiate was to make Kirk-1 really boring and forgetful and Kirk-2 really mean and creepy. Kirk-2 has a terrifying gleam in his eyes that there is only one word for: rapey. And guess what almost happens to Yeoman Rand?

Kirk-2’s need for power and control is completely psychopathic, and while they tried to write off Kirk-1’s lack of decision-making skills on his lack of an evil side, I think it was more along the lines of confirming that Kirk is probably a creep deep down, and only through rigorous practice manages to keep the creep-vibes from showing while he is piloting the ship. As we saw in the previous episode, he wanted to take Yeoman Rand for a walk on the beach and go on a date, etc… but felt tied to the ship like he was married to it and not allowed to look at other women.

So far, the only consistent thing I’m disliking… is Shatner. And I feel kind of bad about that, but I’ve also never been a huge fan of him, so I’m not really all that surprised either.

 

Until next time,

Amanda

 

 

Other posts in this watch through:
Star Trek: The Original Series
“The Cage” and “The Man Trap”
“Charlie X” and “Where No Man Has Gone Before”
“Mudd’s Women” and “What Are Little Girls Made Of?” (COMING SOON)

Sorcery and Cecelia: or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot (Cecelia and Kate, #1) – Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer

Cecelia-and-Kate-Sorcery-and-Cecelia-or-The-Enchanted-Chocolate-Pot-Patricia-C-Wrede-and-Caroline-Stevermer
Source: Goodreads

 

Magic is in the air in Regency England. Cousins Kate and Cece find themselves separated for the London season, with Kate off to London and Cecelia stuck in the country. Known to their family as troublemakers, it is no surprise that the distance between them can’t prevent these two from getting into a scrape of epic proportions. And it all starts when a witch attempts to poison Kate at the Royal Society of Wizards induction ceremony.

 

I picked up the Kate and Cecelia series in middle school because Patricia C. Wrede was one of the co-authors and I had just finished and adored The Enchanted Forest Chronicles. Little did I know that this series would blow me away as well! Wrede and Stevermer write back and forth in letter form in character. This was quite confusing at first, but once I got into the swing of things I forgot that it was presented in letters and simply became wrapped up in this world where magic exists alongside my favorite time period. The letter format eliminated the need for chapters, and also placed the reader in a forever-cliff-hanger so that I found myself reading quite past my bedtime because I needed to know what was going to happen next.

Kate and Cece are strong and independent female lead characters – MY FAVORITE – and the men whose problems they become entangled in are delightfully equal parts pride and chivalry.

This is one of those series that I just want everyone to read because it’s so innovative and unique. I can’t wait to dive into the second book, The Grand Tour.

 

HHC Rating: 5 Stars

 

Other reviews in this series:
Book 2 – The Grand Tour
Book 3 – The Mislaid Magician
Book 4 – Magic Below Stairs

Reviews for other works by these authors:
The Enchanted Forest Chronicles
Book 1 – Dealing with Dragons
Book 2 – Searching for Dragons
Book 3 – Calling on Dragons
Book 4 – Talking to Dragons

Ready Player One – Ernest Cline

 

Ready-Player-One-Ernest-Cline
Source: Goodreads

 

It is 2044 and the world is dying. Rather than confront the global issues at their doorstep, humanity has retreated into the virtual reality universe known as The Oasis. Wade Watts lives in a tower of mobile homes somewhere in Ohio, his only refuge the virtual high school he attends in The Oasis. The sudden death of Oasis creator James Halliday forever alters the lives of Oasis users when it is announced that Halliday has hidden the key to his massive inheritance – and the ownership rights to The Oasis – inside his own game as an easter egg. Now with Halliday’s biggest rivals like IOI closing in, it is up to a few good egg hunters – known as gunters – to reach Halliday’s egg first and keep The Oasis free and accessible to all.

 

I had heard about this book in passing numerous times, and it always popped up on my radar, but I ignored it. Maybe I wasn’t in the mood to read about video games. Maybe I thought I would miss too many of the 80s references, and the book wouldn’t make sense as a result of this inherent failing on my part. Maybe a lot of things.

It surfaced on my radar again three years ago when my sister’s university had to read it as part of their one-book-one-campus initiative. She loved it, but I was in the middle of rereading Harry Potter. It’s been high on my list since then, and I finally picked it up from the library last month.

 

This book is awesome. The 80s references are great, and since I was blessed with a mother who loves science fiction and fantasy, I understood at least eighty-five percent of the references and jokes.

Wade and his cohorts develope well as characters, and IOI makes for an intimidating enemy. The Oasis itself steals the spotlight. Its MMORPG (Massively-Multiplayer-Online-Role-Playing-Game) meets space opera structure is as beautiful and thoughtfully created as the book’s plot.

This journey through games, film, and music from one of the most iconic (in my opinion, at least) eras of history is not to be missed. And with a film version of the book hitting theatres next month, there’s no time like the present to pick up a copy. **Just a friendly heads-up that this book does contain some not-safe-for-child-consumption bits, so maybe save this one for the 15+ crowd. I’m assuming they’ll just pull these bits from the film script to get a PG13 for violence rating instead of pushing the edge of R for a pointless m*****b****n scene.**

 

HHC Rating: 4.5 Stars