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An Amazing Year of Reading

How do you find a great book to read? I look for recommendations! I especially love those lists that have the best books of the month or the best books of the year.  

So, I thought I would try this! Here are my favorites from this year. And let me just tell you…this was hard. I only wanted to list the five best. And it was hard.  

The choices finally came down to the books that left an imprint on me. These are the ones I remember for one reason or another. These are the ones I thought about days later or the ones I missed. I didn’t want them to end. Enjoy!

Reviews of favorite books read in 2017! Recommendations from an avid reader!

Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult

Amazing! I am a fan of this author (most of the time). I still remember reading  Nineteen Minutes many years ago and being totally mesmerized by it. 

This one is the story of Ruth, a black woman and a nurse in labor and delivery.

Ruth examines a newborn one day only to be told by its father that she may never touch his son again. Dad is a devout believer in white supremacy and does not want an African American taking care of his child. (And the term African American is not the one he uses!) Some hours later Ruth finds herself alone with the baby and when he stops breathing she is torn about what to do. Should she help the baby or not touch him as she has been ordered by the head nurse? When the baby dies some minutes later Ruth is caught up in the tragedy and accused of killing the baby.   

The book alternates between Ruth as the narrator, Turk (the dad) as the narrator, and Kennedi, Ruth’s lawyer as the narrator. It’s quite a story and being told in three voices adds to the drama.  

I listened to this book and I am so glad I did. The audio version has three different people reading- a different “voice” for each and this made it perfect. This is a book you need to read! There are some twists throughout and especially at the end that were just brilliant. I highly recommend it!

Why is this on my Best of 2017 list? I still remember being so angry at the events in the book, so caught up in the emotions of the characters. I wanted Ruth to be vindicated. I intensely disliked Turk. I loved this book!

November 9 by Colleen Hoover

Oh, my. First, let me tell you this is a chick book and if you like those, then you will LOVE this book. If you don’t, then you should still read it. I am not a chick book lover because I find them very formulaic and trite and improbable, but every once in a while don’t we all want that little romance? A little mystery….maybe even impossible situations?

The first Colleen Hoover book I read was It Ends with Us: A Novel and I loved it. You can read my review {HERE}.  

So, when I ordered this one I did know I might like it! Meet Fallon, a young girl, (age 18ish) who was badly burned in a house fire caused by her father. She formerly was an actress but now cannot get hired due to scarring from the fire. She has decided to move away from Los Angeles to New York to try something different and is sitting in a restaurant telling her father her plans. Sitting close by is Ben and he overhears the mean things the dad is telling her about moving, her scars, and her future. And in he swoops, pretending to be her boyfriend. She plays along with it and they spend some time together that day which just happens to be November 9. At the end of the day, she flies off to New York and she and Ben decide they will not communicate at all, but they will meet at the same restaurant in exactly one year. Improbable, right?  

But they do and this goes on for a couple of more years. Many real life things happen to both of them and, of course, they are hopelessly in love. And that is all I will tell you, except the book did take an interesting little turn that I didn’t expect.  

I read this book in a day and a half and I can say you should definitely read it! It is written well, a little R-rated, but tastefully so. Five stars for this one!  

Why is this on my Best of 2017 list? Simple! I really liked the characters. I loved the story of meeting every year and all the drama that happened with these two. It reminded me of another book called One Day I loved that book, too. Yes, this one is a chick book, but try it.

Days Without End by Sebastian Barry

This is a beautifully written book set in the 1850’s. The story follows Thomas McNulty and his friend John Cole as they travel across the USA. Thomas left Ireland as a young boy and made his way alone to the USA where he meets John. Together they make it to Daggsville where they take a job dressing as girls and dancing with miners.

This lasts for two years- until they grow too tall to pull it off anymore. Next, they join the US Army and get involved in specific Indian wars- most of which are described as massacres of Indian villages. The book is somewhat graphic in these accounts.

At the last battle, a group of Indian children is taken captive. One of these eventually goes away with Thomas and John – as a servant. The two travel with Winona until they learn of the Civil War, so they leave Winona with someone and go to fight. Eventually, they return to her and travel to Tennessee to live. This, however, is not their happily ever after, as a soldier arrives to tell them the chief wants Winona back. There’s a lot more that comes with the event, but I will leave that to you to read. The book also delves into the relationship between the two men. They are lovers, but this is never related in great detail.

The writing of this novel is beautiful but different. It is told in the voice of Thomas, an uneducated man, with a definite way with words. Here’s a sample. This passage is describing the beauty of the country:

“We begin to see a country whose beauty penetrates our bones. In the far distance we see a land begin to be suggested as if maybe a man was out there painting it with a huge brush. He is choosing a blue as bright as falling water for the hills and there is a green for the forests so green you think it might be used for to make ten million gems. Rivers burn through it with a enameled blue.” 

I would give this book 5 stars. It’s quite amazing!

Why is this on my Best of 2017 list? It’s different. The style was fabulous and I loved the historical content. I also really hoped that Thomas and John would be alright in the end.

House Rules by Jodi Picoult

Mesmerizing! Jacob is an 18-year-old boy with Asperger’s. There is also a 15-year-old brother Theo and mom Emma. Jacob struggles with the normal problems of children on the autism spectrum. He has OCD tendencies, sensory overload issues, and problems with communication.

He thinks and responds in literal terms and cannot understand when this causes confusion for him (like telling him to study by saying to hit the books doesn’t make sense). Jacob is also very honest and a rule follower. Always a rule follower! And very quickly into the book, you meet his social therapist Jess and eventually her boyfriend, Mark. Also, complicating this story are the problems Theo has in dealing with how much attention and time his brother requires. Theo begins to go out at night to break into houses, stealing things or using other people’s belongings. This leads him to accidentally going to the therapist’s house and seeing her unclothed – which inadvertently results in tragedy.

Jacob is then accused of a crime and manages to confuse everyone because he actually stages the crime scene using forensic techniques he is very knowledgeable about. The remainder of the book tells the story of his trial and the problems created by his own conflicting behavior. Does he really understand the Miranda rights he can quote verbatim? Can he give a testimony on his own behalf- given that he thinks completely literally? At one point in the trial, he is asked if he knows what it means to waive his rights.

His response:

“Then slowly, the right fist Jacob has been banging against the wooden railing unfurls and is raised over his head, moving back and forth like a metranome.”

As I finished this book I can tell you I had learned a great deal about Asperger’s and how the brains of those with this disorder function. That makes it a great book in my mind and the reason it will stick with you for a while like it did for me. Yes, it has some improbable parts and it is quite lengthy. I still give it 5 stars! It’s a typical Picoult book with alternating chapters told from each character’s point of view. I have listened to other books by this author in which different readers read the character parts. This one would be great if read in that style. Try it!

Why is this on my Best of 2017 list? I learned so much from reading this book. It will truly give you a perspective of Asperger’s that will stick with you!

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Oh, my. This book grabs you from the first page and you will not be the same. This is the story of Starr, a teenage African-American girl, who lives in a not nice part of her town but travels to go to school in a predominantly white area. Her family is caught up in the neighborhood drama with gangs and unruliness, but her father keeps his family protected and ever watchful.

He has taught his children to be respectful of authority and always mindful of doing what they are told- by white people in an administrative position- like policemen. So, it is just completely tragic when Starr is in a car with a dear friend, Khalil, and gets stopped by an officer. He did nothing wrong.

There is no reason for the officer to stop them. Khalil does not react favorably to the officer and is shot.  He dies. The story the officer tells later is completely different than what actually happened. I will leave the rest for you to read. Just know it will forever change the way you see televised reports of this kind of traffic stop that ends in tragedy. I would give this book 5 stars and you should read it.

Why is this on my Best of 2017 list? This is the one book you must read. It will resonate with you for quite some time and the next time a tragedy like this one occurs you will find yourself questioning the stories of those involved. 

Thanks so much for sticking with my monthly book reviews! Here’s hoping that 2018 will bring some new reads our way that keep us up into the wee hours of the morning!