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.

 

 

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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.

 

 

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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.

 

 

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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.

 

 

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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.

 

 

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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.

 

 

Lois-Lane-Fallout-Gwenda-Bond

 

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

A Conjuring of Light (Shades of Magic, #3) – V.E. Schwab

Shades-Of-Magic-A-Conjuring-Of-Light-V-E-Schwab

Source: Goodreads

The third book in the Shades of Magic series picks up where A Gathering of Shadows ends, with a familiar darkness spreading across Londons and our protagonists in peril.

I really wanted to love this book, but when I picked it up soon after finishing the second volume, I found myself burned out by the constant action. Book two was fairly fast paced, and A Conjuring of Light is a continuation of that same situation. I ended up having to put the book down for three months before I could pick it up without feeling completely drained. I don’t see this as a problem for the people who read the series as it came out because the books were released a year apart, but going forward, it’s important to note the potential for burnout if you plan to read the books back-to-back.

I enjoyed all of the characters, but much like the first volume, I found it hard to be invested in them when I couldn’t personally identify with any of them. The storyline was good, the fabric of the plot woven tightly, with nearly all of the ends getting bound up neatly in the conclusion while leaving room for universe expansion both forward and backward. Some bits, such as the history of Kell’s coat, would be entertaining to explore in the future.

While I was taking my reading break from A Conjuring of Light, my sister borrowed and devoured the series in its entirety while studying for finals. I feel that I must add that she loved all of the characters and never experienced the burnout that I did.

Overall, I enjoyed it, and it was a fitting end to the trilogy. I would definitely recommend it to fantasy readers of all kinds for its plot, its diverse characters, and its beautiful world building. V.E. Schwab has done great things with this series, and I only wish I hadn’t gotten burned out and had been able to enjoy it to its fullest potential.

 

HHC Rating: 4 Stars

 

Other reviews in this series:
Book #1 – A Darker Shade of Magic
Book #2 – A Gathering of Shadows

 

 

 

 

A Gathering of Shadows (Shades of Magic, #2) – V.E. Schwab

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Source: Goodreads

Four months after the events of A Darker Shade of Magic, Kell and Rye prepare for the international magic tournament known as the Essen Tasch, while Lila sails dark seas in search of a new version of herself. In another London, long gone magic is brewing, threatening to upset the balance that has kept Red London safe.

OH MY GOSH, VICTORIA. Pardon my language, but having read the last half of the book in nearly one sitting today, my emotions are in pieces. It’s not just the cliffhanger, I swear. I have the final book, A Conjuring of Light, sitting next to me, waiting for me to finish typing this review before I dive in (and presumably drown).

As hard as I found A Darker Shade of Magic to get into, A Gathering of Shadows is the utter and complete opposite. You’re thrown right in, the worlds you met in the first installment bright and welcoming alongside everything you never knew. The action is near non-stop, what with the tournament and the enemies plotting, and Kell and Lila’s constant dancing around each other’s feeling that is only amplified by Rhy’s own issues bubbling to the surface.

The writing is superb, dragging you along in its current as if you were drowning in the Isle. I was reading in a Starbucks one morning and had to leave because I kept laughing, squealing, and gasping with every sentence. I’ll admit that just about everyone felt a little flat in the first book, but not anymore. It’s as if they’ve all been hooked up to air pumps and made into 3D. I feel like I haven’t breathed since I started reading at 8 am this morning. I only took a break because it’s Sunday and I had to go the church (it’s really hard to concentrate on God when all of your favorite characters’ lives are in potential peril). And then I came home and haven’t left my room since. This book. Everything about it is brilliant. It has easily cemented its place on my 2017 favorites list, and my family and friends can now expect it to be shoved down their throats in the very near future. Also, Delilah Bard is my favorite human.

HHC Rating: 5 Stars

Other reviews in this series:
Book #1 – A Darker Shade of Magic
Book #3 – A Conjuring of Light

A Darker Shade of Magic (Shades of Magic, #1) – V.E. Schwab

shades-of-magic-a-darker-shade-of-magic-v-e-schwab

Source: Goodreads

Kell is a traveler, one of only two people in existence who can move between Londons. There’s Grey London, where King George III rules a world where magic is only a legend. There’s Red London, where magic flourishes and the Thames glows with power. There is White London, where rather than be forced into subservience, natural magic has fled, leaving those with amulets and runes the only wielders of the power left. Then there’s Black London, so consumed by its own magic that it was cut off from the others. Abandoned. Forbidden. Hidden. Until now.

Kell is a collector despite the fact that moving anything except royal mail across Londons is illegal. When he is given a token from a stranger to return to Black London, he knows he’s in trouble.

Delilah Bard is a thief who dreams of adventure. When she stumbles upon Kell and the Black London token, she only sees opportunity.

Holland is the White Traveler, but despite this rare freedom, he has become hard and unbearable. Without the Black London token he is hopeless, but getting it could put him in even more danger.

V. E. Schwab’s first novel in the Shades of Magic series sweeps readers up in Kell, Delilah, and Holland’s adventures through multiple worlds where magic is alternatingly unknown, praised, and desperately sought after. Told from multiple points of view, the reader learns about the many Londons and the worlds they inhabit slowly, despite the characters’ knowledge of them. This is one adventure that is both humorous and dark while being twisting and intricate. The first few chapters moved a little slowly for me, in part because it jumps in head first, and adjusting to the multiple Londons takes some time. Once I was used to the world, I couldn’t get enough. The suspense of what would happen to my favorite characters was akin to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (See my review of that here), in that you never knew who was safe, and the dark magic would like to have a mind of its own, thank you very much.

I picked this novel up after seeing it everywhere from BookTube to my Amazon and Barnes & Noble recommendations list, and I am not sorry I did. At 390 pages in paperback, this book is a pretty good size. The organization of the work is amazing. Each section has a name, and the chapters are numbered but not named within each section. The jury is still out on whether this made reading it feel faster or slower. I’m the kind of person who prefers world-building to be upfront rather than scattered in the wind, so this was overall a slow read because I had trouble picturing things where they should be, and also keeping all the Londons straight in my head. But still, the plot was good and the characters mysterious and intriguing, so it’s a win on my list.

I enjoyed the lack of romance. There were hints, here and there, as well as diversity in race and sexuality that were very nice, but this was not a love story within a fantasy adventure, and for that I am grateful. Apparently we’re getting some steamy scenes in A Conjuring of Light, however, so I may need to reassess after I read that installment. I’m curious about Kell and Holland’s pasts, and I can’t wait to learn more about Black London when I pick up A Gathering of Shadows later this month.

Book two, A Gathering of Shadows, was just released in paperback (and conveniently arrived at my house the next day), and book three, A Conjuring of Light, comes out TODAY in hardcover. My covers aren’t going to match, but at least I’ll have all three books for the V. E. Schwab signing I’m going to on the 27th (Next Monday!) here in Boston. This will be my first book event, so I’m very excited.

HHC Rating: 3.75 Stars

Other reviews in this series:
Book #2 – A Gathering of Shadows
Book #3 – A Conjuring of Light