Seventeen of my Favorite Books from 2017

Looking back over 2017, I can’t say I’ve accomplished all my goals, but I did meet and go beyond my goals for reading. Okay, I manage to accomplish that goal every year–through college, having babies, homeschooling, working on my masters, etc. No matter what my year may bring, I will always squeeze in some reading time.

So, what were my top reads of 2017? Trying to cull my favorites was challenging, but thanks to Goodreads (my memory is not so great), I have come up with my top 17 from various genres. Some of these have been mentioned in previous posts and one I plan to review later, but I didn’t want to leave them out.

Historical fictionThe House of Riverton Kate Morton; The Alice Network by Kate Quinn; The Women in the Castle Jessica Shattuck; Small Island by Andrea Levy; Wiley Cash The Last Ballad

Suspense/mysteryThe Dry by Jane Harper; The Devotion of Suspect X by Keigo Higashino; India Black by Carol K. Carr; Midnight at the Bright Lights Bookstore by Matthew Sullivan. All of these books were suspenseful, entertaining, and not what I was expecting. (I know; maybe if I read the blurbs? But sometimes they are so full of spoilers.) I picked up Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore because a book group I’m in was going to read it and because, well, a great cover. If I knew it would start with a suicide in a bookstore, and something terrible happened to the main character as a child, I probably wouldn’t have started it. But, once I did, (except for the night I knew the bad thing was about to happen, so I closed it until morning), I could hardly put it down. Great story. 

Historical Romance: The Painter’s Daughter Julie Klassen

Christian Living: Crossing the Waters by Leslie Leyland Fields

History/Biographical: Clementine: The Life of Mrs. Winston Churchill by Sonia Purnell; Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine, and the Murder of a President by Candice Millard (assassination of James Garfield); Ice Ghosts: The Epic Hunt for the Lost Franklin Expedition by Paul Watson. 

Literary Fiction: Bel Canto by Ann Patchett. I’ve heard for several years about what a great book this one is, but a book about some terrorists taking over a party of VIP guests in a South American country? Just didn’t sound appealing, but Ann Patchett is such a great writer, I finally had to try it. It took me a few chapters to get into it, but once I did, I was engrossed.

Young Adult: The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon. I listened to this one, and the narration is superb. 

Best Series: Shetland Island by Ann Cleeves (Read the first six; also belongs under Mysteries)

What about you? What were your favorites this year? What books are you looking forward to in 2018?

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Six Audio books of Different Genres For Your Listening Pleasure

As I’ve mentioned in a previous post (https://pmgilmer.com/2017/02/), listening to audio books is both a new and an old kind of reading for me. I started listening to some while walking, then tried while driving. When I first tried to listen while driving, I would find my mind wandering and lose track of the story. I now find myself frustrated if I don’t have a good book to listen to while driving. A few weeks ago, I started three different ones without even finishing the first disc. Having to drive with nothing but the radio (which I had done for years, after all) drove me crazy until I finally settled on a book I could enjoy.

Since I know there are a few others of you out there who enjoy audio books, I thought I would share some that have held my interest enough to make me want to take a long road trip to finish them. These books are of different genres as I get bored reading books of the same genre.

First, a children’s book, The War that Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley. Though I listen to Young Adult books on occasion, listening to this one made me realize I may have been overlooking some fun and entertaining books by not listening to more children’s books. Nine-year old Ada is never allowed to leave her one-room apartment because her mother is embarrassed by her clubfoot. When her brother and other children of the neighborhood are gathered to send them out of London to protect them from the coming war, Ada escapes to join them. They are taken in, rather reluctantly, by Susan Smith who treats Ada like a normal child for the first time in her life. As Ada learns to read and ride a pony, she also learns about love and trust. But, the war can’t last forever. Will she have to go back to her mother? And shouldn’t she want to?

For suspense: Behind Closed Doors, by B. A. Paris. When Grace meets Jack–a handsome, successful lawyer–she believes she’s found the perfect man. She can hardly believe he wants to marry her and willingly accepts her sister with Down’s Syndrome as part of their family. To the outside world, Jack and Grace seem to be the perfect couple. Except–why doesn’t Grace ever answer the phone? Or go out on her own? And why are bars on their bedroom windows? Honestly, not the type of book I usually read because it totally creeps me out. Which is also the reason I couldn’t quit listening.

Historical fiction: The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See. I’ve listened to several books by Lisa See and this is my favorite so far. See tells of a Chinese ethnic minority, the Akha, who raise tea in a very secluded environment. Their culture and traditions make a fascinating read, but it is the characters who make the story. Li-Yan receives an education that few are granted in her world and becomes an interpreter for her people. When she becomes pregnant out of wedlock, she manages to hide her baby (rather than kill her as her culture would dictate) and bring her to a city where she leaves her with a teacake. The baby is adopted by a wealthy California couple. Haley leads a happy life, but wonders about her origins. Meanwhile, Li-Yan goes on to learn more about the modern world and becomes a bridge between this new world and her old one. Through the world of tea, they both search and long for each other.

More historical fiction: The Alice Network by Kate Quinn. A difficult, but fascinating read about a woman, Eve, who was a spy against the Germans in WWI and now spends her days drunk, full of rage, fear and regret. In 1947, Charlie St. Clair, shows up at her door looking for her cousin. Though she finds Eve pathetic, she believes Eve can help her and eventually obtains her help. Along the way, she learns Eve’s story–about her grossly misshapen hands and the demons she tries to hide. This story is based on a true female spy network used in WWI.

Historical Mystery: A Study in Death by Anna Lee Huber. This is the fourth in the Lady Darby series, taking place in Scotland in 1831. I have listened to all four of these and look forward to the fifth book. (I reviewed the second book last year: https://wp.me/p1X6gd-fP) In this installment, Lady Darby has been commissioned to paint a portrait of Lady Drummond. When Lady Drummond is found dead, Lady Darby is appalled at Lord Drummond’s seeming lack of concern and suspects poison. She suspects Lord Drummond, too, but how can she prove it? He is a respected gentleman, and Lady Darby is still trying to overcome her past left her by her late husband.

Finally, the book I’m listening to now: Rise and Shine, Benedict Stone Phaedra Patrick. Benedict Stone, living in a quiet English village, finds himself stuck and his life falling apart. His marriage is in trouble and business at his jewelry store is almost non-existent. Then one night, a teen-age girl shows up on his doorstep. Gemma, the daughter of his long estranged brother who left for America years ago, has lost her passport and seems to be rather lost herself. Together, they learn about family and how to help and encourage one another.

How about you? If you listen to audio books, how do you find the ones you like? How important is the narrator to you?