Monday, 15 January 2018

My Favourite Books Read In 2017!

I read a lot of fantastic books in 2017. More than in any year previously, actually. Looking back at my reading history on Goodreads, I can see that I average around 15 favourite books a year. Well, this year I have 30 favourite books. 30! Can you believe it? I can't. Anyway, fair warning, this'll be a fairly long post. So settle in, and enjoy this look back at my favourite books from 2017.

I was inspired to read The Passenger by Lisa Lutz after seeing a review of the book on Alex's blog. And this was a a fantastic book; totally gripping and unexpected. 

"Tanya DuBois doesn’t exist. At least not after an accident leaves her husband dead and thrusts her into the uncomfortably familiar position of Suspect No. 1. She has only one choice: Run."

The Couple Next Door, by Shari Lapena, was a twisty, rollercoaster ride of a read that had me on the edge of my seat throughout! A fantastic, gripping thriller. 

"Anne and Marco Conti seem to have it all--a loving relationship, a wonderful home, and their beautiful baby, Cora. But one night when they are at a dinner party next door, a terrible crime is committed. Suspicion immediately focuses on the parents. But the truth is a much more complicated story."

Only Ever Yours, by Louise O'Neill, was totally unexpected and a book that was so far out of my comfort zone, I really didn't know what to expect from it. I loved it, though. Inspiring, thought-provoking and so, so dark. 

"Freida and Isabel have been best friends their whole lives.

Now, aged sixteen and in their final year at the School, they expect to be selected as companions - wives to wealthy and powerful men. The alternative - life as a concubine - is too horrible to contemplate.

But as the intensity of the final year takes hold, the pressure to remain perfect becomes almost unbearable. Isabel starts to self-destruct, putting her beauty - her only asset - in peril.

And then, the boys arrive, eager to choose a bride.

Freida must fight for her future - even if it means betraying the only friend, the only love, she has ever known..."

Tinder, by Sally Gardner, is another book totally out of my comfort zone. The retelling of a classic fairy-tale, the story was accompanied by wonderful illustrations by David Roberts. A wonderful take on a classic.

"Otto Hundebiss is tired of war, but when he defies Death he walks a dangerous path. A half beast half man gives him shoes and dice which will lead him deep into a web of dark magic and mystery. He meets the beautiful Safire - pure of heart and spirit, the scheming Mistress Jabber and the terrifying Lady of the Nail. He learns the powers of the tinderbox and the wolves whose master he becomes. But will all the riches in the world bring him the thing he most desires?"

I'd read a lot of negative reviews of Baby Doll, by Hollie Overton, so went into this book somewhat warily. I needn't have paid any attention to the negative reviews though. I found Baby Doll to be a riveting, original thriller. Truly fantastic. 

"You’ve been held captive in one room.

You’ve been mentally and physically abused every day since you were sixteen years old.

Then, one night, you realise your captor has left the door to your cell unlocked.

For the first time in eight years you’re free.

This is what happens next."

The Roanoake Girls, by Amy Engel, was such a dark thriller. In fact, it was unlike anything I've ever read before. Truly original and unique. Definitely a stand-out novel. 

Everyone wants to be a Roanoke girl.

But you won't when you know the truth."

A Dog's Purpose, by W. Bruce Cameron, tore out my heart, stomped all over it and then pieced it back together again. Tissues are not optional when you read this book. 

"Surprised to find himself reborn as a rambunctious golden haired puppy after a tragically short life as a stray mutt, Bailey's search for his new life's meaning leads him into the loving arms of 8 year old Ethan. During their countless adventures Bailey joyously discovers how to be a good dog. But this life as a beloved family pet is not the end of Bailey's journey. Reborn as a puppy yet again, Bailey wonders, will he ever find his purpose?"

Love Me Not, by M.J. Arlidge, continues Arlidge's Helen Grace series. Most of his books in this series have featured in my "Favourite Books Read In" posts in the past. He writes superb crime fiction. 

"She Loves Me
A woman's body lies in the road. At first it looks like a tragic accident. But when Helen Grace arrives on the scene it's clear she's looking at a coldblooded killing. But why would anyone target a much-loved wife and mother?

She Loves Me Not
Across town, a shopkeeper is killed while his customers are left unharmed. But what lies behind the killer's choices?

She Loves Me
Who lives? Who dies? Who's next? The clock is ticking.

She Loves Me Not
If Helen can't solve this deadly puzzle then more blood will be shed. But any mistake and it might be her own...

Helen Grace, now back at Southampton Central following her release from prison, is first on the scene."

You Don't Know Me, by Imran Mahmood, was another stand-out novel in 2017. I've never read a book like this before, that leaves the story open-ended, for the reader to make up their own mind as to the guilt or innocence of the main character. Amazing.

"An unnamed defendant stands accused of murder. Just before the Closing Speeches, the young man sacks his lawyer, and decides to give his own defence speech.

He tells us that his barrister told him to leave some things out. Sometimes, the truth can be too difficult to explain, or believe. But he thinks that if he's going to go down for life, he might as well go down telling the truth.

There are eight pieces of evidence against him. As he talks us through them one by one, his life is in our hands. We, the reader - member of the jury - must keep an open mind till we hear the end of his story. His defence raises many questions... but at the end of the speeches, only one matters:

Did he do it?"

Sometimes I Lie, by Alice Feeney, is a novel that, I know, many other bloggers were raving about. And for good reason. A fantastic, gripping thriller that had me sneaking in other chapters at all hours of the day and night!

"My name is Amber Reynolds. There are three things you should know about me: 
1. I’m in a coma. 
2. My husband doesn’t love me anymore. 
3. Sometimes I lie."

Good lord. The Yellow Wall-Paper, by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, traumatised me deeply. It's written so well, that you almost become the woman losing her mind. Deeply disturbing. 

"Written with barely controlled fury after she was confined to her room for 'nerves' and forbidden to write, Gilman's pioneering feminist horror story scandalized nineteenth-century readers with its portrayal of a woman who loses her mind because she has literally nothing to do."

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, by Gail Honeyman, is another stand-out novel of 2017. A fantastic portrayal of life with mental illness, I adored this book, and would recommend it to everyone. 

"Eleanor Oliphant has learned how to survive – but not how to live

Eleanor Oliphant leads a simple life. She wears the same clothes to work every day, eats the same meal deal for lunch every day and buys the same two bottles of vodka to drink every weekend.
Eleanor Oliphant is happy. Nothing is missing from her carefully timetabled life. Except, sometimes, everything.
One simple act of kindness is about to shatter the walls Eleanor has built around herself. Now she must learn how to navigate the world that everyone else seems to take for granted – while searching for the courage to face the dark corners she’s avoided all her life.
Change can be good. Change can be bad. But surely any change is better than… fine?"

The Girl Before, by JP Delaney, was nothing original, or unique. But I loved it, nonetheless. From the high tech gadgets of the house that both women lived in, to the creepy, darkness present throughout. Just a fantastic, gripping novel.

"Jane stumbles on the rental opportunity of a lifetime: the chance to live in a beautiful ultra-minimalist house designed by an enigmatic architect, on condition she abides by a long list of exacting rules. After moving in, she discovers that a previous tenant, Emma, met a mysterious death there - and starts to wonder if her own story will be a re-run of the girl before."

If I had to pick just one favourite book of 2017? It would almost certainly be The Honeymoon, by Tina Seksis. With an ending that made me gasp out loud, and an ominous feel looming throughout, this was a stand-out novel. 

"There's trouble in paradise. . .

For as long as she can remember, Jemma has been planning the perfect honeymoon. A fortnight's retreat to a five-star resort in the Maldives, complete with luxury villas, personal butlers and absolute privacy. It should be paradise, but it's turned into a nightmare.

Because the man Jemma married a week ago has just disappeared from the island without a trace. And now her perfect new life is vanishing just as quickly before her eyes. After everything they've been through together, how can this be happening? Is there anyone on the island who Jemma can trust? And above all - where has her husband gone?"

All The Rage, by Courtney Summers, is a novel I believe every single woman, and man for that matter, should read. Talking about rape culture, it's a very important book. Definitely not an easy read, but a worthwhile one.

"The footsteps stop but the birds are still singing, singing about a girl who wakes up on a dirt road and doesn't know what happened to her the night before..." Romy Grey wears her lipstick like armour, ever since the night she was raped by Kellan Turner, the sheriff's son. Romy refuses to be a victim, but speaking up has cost her everything. No one wants to believe Kellan is not the golden boy they thought he was, and Romy has given up trying to make herself heard. But when another girl goes missing after a party, Romy must decide whether the cost of her silence might be more than she can bear."

I read a lot of books that were totally out of my comfort zone in 2017. Nod, by Adrian Barnes, being one of them. A fantastic, gripping, uniquely original science fiction novel that I just loved. 

"Dawn breaks over Vancouver and no one in the world has slept the night before, or almost no one. A few people, perhaps one in ten thousand, can still sleep, and they’ve all shared the same golden dream.

After six days of absolute sleep deprivation, psychosis will set in. After four weeks, the body will die. In the interim, panic ensues and a bizarre new world arises in which those previously on the fringes of society take the lead.

Paul, a writer, continues to sleep while his partner Tanya disintegrates before his eyes, and the new world swallows the old one whole."

Last year I read, and loved, The Widow, by Fiona Barton. Her second novel, The Child, did not disappoint. I was as glued to this novel as I was to her first. She's certainly cemented herself as one of my favourite authors. 

"When a paragraph in an evening newspaper reveals a decades-old tragedy, most readers barely give it a glance. But for three strangers it’s impossible to ignore.

For one woman, it’s a reminder of the worst thing that ever happened to her.

For another, it reveals the dangerous possibility that her darkest secret is about to be discovered.

And for the third, a journalist, it’s the first clue in a hunt to uncover the truth.

The Child’s story will be told."

I wasn't sure I was going to like The Marsh King's Daughter, by Karen Dionne, when I first started reading this book. But by the end? I was hooked. A fantastic turn-around, and a novel I'm so glad I took the time to read.

"Helena Pelletier has a loving husband, two beautiful daughters, and a business that fills her days. But she also has a secret: she is the product of an abduction. Her mother was kidnapped as a teenager by her father and kept in a remote cabin in the marshlands of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Helena, born two years after the abduction, loved her home in nature, and despite her father’s sometimes brutal behaviour, she loved him, too...until she learned precisely how savage he could be.

More than twenty years later, she has buried her past so soundly that even her husband doesn’t know the truth. But now her father has killed two guards, escaped from prison, and disappeared into the marsh. The police begin a manhunt, but Helena knows they don’t stand a chance. Knows that only one person has the skills to find the survivalist the world calls the Marsh King—because only one person was ever trained by him: his daughter."

Dare To Dream, by Izzy Judd, probably hit me harder than it might others, as I could relate to Izzy's story so closely. Izzy's novel, where she talks about her own fertility struggles, was like a comforting hug, like a friend talking to me over a cuppa. Truly fantastic. 

'"All I ever wanted was to be a mum - I couldn't wait and it felt as though my time was so close. But the months started to tick by, with each one ending in disappointment and frustration. And then the inevitable panic started to set in ...'

Having been told by doctors that, due to Izzy's polycystic ovarian syndrome, they would have difficulty conceiving - and after two years of trying - Izzy and Harry turned to IVF."

The Dolls, by James Patterson, was a short but definitely not sweet read. Very creepy, chilling and realistic. This novel hit far too close to home as something that could be a not too distant possibility. 

"The Dolls are perfect lovers, perfect companions, perfect killers. 

Investigative reporter Lila Wallace has covered many crimes of passion in 10 years. But nothing will prepare her for the dark secrets of...The Dolls."

I'm not sure if I should admit to liking this book. Tortured, by Victoria Spry, is such an awful, heart-breaking story of a young girl abused and neglected by Britain's most sadistic mum. So hard to read, but a novel that will stay with me for a long time. 

"As a child, Victoria Spry was brutally beaten, neglected and starved by the woman she called Mummy.

To the outside world Eunice Spry was a devoted parent, but behind closed doors she was an evil tyrant. Instead of protecting, loving and caring for Victoria, she forced bleach and urine down her throat, knocked out her teeth, tied her up naked and made her live in squalor. It took eighteen years of heartache and despair before she found the courage to expose her mum.

Tortured is Victoria’s gripping story of survival."

Behind Closed Doors is the book that turned me on to author B. A. Paris. I devoured this book in hours, because once I'd picked it up? I just could not put it down!

"Everyone knows a couple like Jack and Grace: he has looks and wealth, she has charm and elegance. You'd like to get to know Grace better. But it's difficult, because you realize Jack and Grace are never apart. Some might call this true love.

Picture this: a dinner party at their perfect home, the conversation and wine flowing. They appear to be in their element while entertaining. And Grace's friends are eager to reciprocate with lunch the following week. Grace wants to go, but knows she never will. Her friends call—so why doesn't Grace ever answer the phone? And how can she cook such elaborate meals but remain so slim?

And why are there bars on one of the bedroom windows?

The perfect marriage? Or the perfect lie?"

The Diary of a Bookseller, by Shaun Bythell, is another unexpected novel. I picked it up, thinking it was a fictional story about, well, a bookseller. I was wrong, this is the nonfiction diary of an Edinburgh bookseller. But, I loved it. I really enjoyed this book, and it was such a refreshing change from my usual dark, grisly reads. 

"Shaun Bythell owns The Bookshop, Wigtown - Scotland's largest second-hand bookshop. It contains 100,000 books, spread over a mile of shelving, with twisting corridors and roaring fires, and all set in a beautiful, rural town by the edge of the sea. A book-lover's paradise? Well, almost... In these wry and hilarious diaries, Shaun provides an inside look at the trials and tribulations of life in the book trade, from struggles with eccentric customers to wrangles with his own staff, who include the ski-suit-wearing, bin-foraging Nicky. He takes us with him on buying trips to old estates and auction houses, recommends books (both lost classics and new discoveries), introduces us to the thrill of the unexpected find, and evokes the rhythms and charms of small-town life, always with a sharp and sympathetic eye."

Copycat, by Alex Lake, was a creepy, gripping thriller for the Facebook generation. A fantastic thriller with an original take on a done to death plot. 

"Your stalker is everywhere.
Your stalker knows everything.
But the real problem is that your stalker is you.

Sarah Havenant discovers–when an old friend points it out–that there are two Facebook profiles in her name.

One, she recognizes: it is hers. The other, she has never seen. But everything in it is accurate. Recent photos of her and her friends, her and her husband, her and her kids. Even of her new kitchen. A photo taken inside her house.

She is bemused, angry, and worried. Who was able to do this? Any why?

But this, it soon turns out, is just the beginning. It is only now–almost as though someone has been watching, waiting for her to find the profile–that her problems really start…"

Arrowood, by Laura McHugh, is a novel I picked up on a whim in Tesco as part of a 2 for £7 deal because there was nothing else I wanted. I wasn't sure what to expect when I started reading this novel, but it turned out to be a twisty read, that kept me guessing throughout. 

"Arrowood is the grandest of historical houses lining the Mississippi. It has its own stories and ghostly presence: it’s where two small twin girls were abducted ten years ago…

Now, Arden has returned to her childhood home determined to establish what really happened to her sisters that traumatic summer.
But the house and the surrounding town hold their secrets close - and the truth, when Arden finds it, is more devastating than she ever could have imagined."

Mirror Mirror started out as a novel I was determined not to like because, hello? It's written by Cara Delevingne. Well, I'm forced to eat my words, as this turned out to be a rollercoaster ride, that had me gasping out loud when all was revealed. 

"Friend. Lover. Victim. Traitor.
When you look in the mirror, what do you see?

Sixteen-year-old friends Red, Leo, Rose, and Naomi are misfits; still figuring out who they are and who they want to be. Life isn't perfect, but music brings them together, and they are excited about what the future holds for their band, Mirror, Mirror. That is until Naomi vanishes before being pulled unconscious out of the river.

She's left fighting for her life in a coma. The police claim it was a failed suicide attempt, but her friends aren't convinced. Will Naomi ever wake up? What - or perhaps who - led her to that hospital bed? And how did Red, the self-styled protector of the group, fail to spot the warning signs?

While Rose turns to wild partying and Leo is shrouded by black moods, Red sets out to uncover the truth. It's a journey that will cause Red's world to crack, exposing the group's darkest secrets. Nothing will ever be the same again, because once a mirror is shattered, it can't be fixed."

After reading, and loving, Behind Closed Doors by B. A. Paris earlier in the year, I picked up another book I had by Paris on my TBR shelf. The Breakdown was just as good as Behind Closed Doors and I'm super excited now to read Paris's other novels.

"Cass is having a hard time since the night she saw the car in the woods, on the winding rural road, in the middle of a downpour, with the woman sitting inside—the woman who was killed. She’s been trying to put the crime out of her mind; what could she have done, really? It’s a dangerous road to be on in the middle of a storm. Her husband would be furious if he knew she’d broken her promise not to take that shortcut home. And she probably would only have been hurt herself if she’d stopped.

But since then, she’s been forgetting every little thing: where she left the car, if she took her pills, the alarm code, why she ordered a pram when she doesn’t have a baby.

The only thing she can’t forget is that woman, the woman she might have saved, and the terrible nagging guilt.

Or the silent calls she’s receiving, or the feeling that someone’s watching her…"

They All Fall Down, by Tammy Cohen, would be a close contender to the title of favourite book of 2017. Fantastic, gripping and original. I loved it. 

"She knows there’s a killer on the loose.
But no-one believes her.
Will she be next?

Hannah had a normal life – a loving husband, a good job. Until she did something shocking. Now she’s in a psychiatric clinic. It should be a safe place. But patients keep dying.

The doctors say it’s suicide. Hannah knows they’re lying. Can she make anyone believe her before the killer strikes again?"

The Good Mother, by Karen Osman, was a totally unexpected powerhouse of a novel. Throughout, I was trying to figure out exactly how the three women in this story were connected. When I realised? I was shook. 

"Catherine is a good mother and a good wife. The family home is immaculate, her husband's supper is cooked on time, but when she starts writing to Michael, a prisoner convicted of murder, she finds herself obsessing about his crime and whether he can ever truly be forgiven... 
Kate has no time for herself. Caught in the maelstrom of bringing up two young children with no money, and an out-of-work husband, she longs to escape the drudgery of being a wife and a mother. And she soon starts taking dangerous risks to feel alive... 
Alison has flown the nest. But university life is not what she had hoped for, and she finds herself alone and unhappy. Until the day her professor takes a sudden interest in her. Then everything changes... 
Three women – all with secrets. And as the days tick down to Michael's release, those secrets can no longer be ignored."

I didn't expect to like There's Someone Inside Your House, by Stephanie Perkins. A young adult thriller, I expected it to be full of clich├ęs and thoroughly disappointing. I was wrong, again. Don't sound so surprised. It happens! A gripping, exciting, deep novel, this defied my expectations.

"Love hurts...

Makani Young thought she'd left her dark past behind her in Hawaii, settling in with her grandmother in landlocked Nebraska. She's found new friends and has even started to fall for mysterious outsider Ollie Larsson. But her past isn't far behind.

Then, one by one, the students of Osborne Hugh begin to die in a series of gruesome murders, each with increasingly grotesque flair. As the terror grows closer and her feelings for Ollie intensify, Makani is forced to confront her own dark secrets."

And that's a wrap on my favourite books read in 2017. It was a fantastic year for reading. I finished the year on over 120 books read, and 30 of them were five-star reads. I can't wait to see what books 2018 has in-store for me; lots more great reads, hopefully! 

What did you read, and love, in 2017? 

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