Tuesday, January 2, 2018

A Year of Books - 2017

A Year of Books - 2017

I read 63 books this year. I am slowing down! My top 10% picks are highlighted in red.

Adult Fiction & Non-Fiction

1. Mad About the Boy by Helen Fielding. I enjoyed seeing Bridget in the role as a parent and juggling responsibilities. Being a widow added a dimension to her character that was not there before. There were many laugh out loud moments as Bridget sailed through single-working-parent scenarios with things never quite working out as planned, but often with a better ending.

2. My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry by Fredrik Backman. This book was a little different than the things that I usually read - and I loved it. When Elsa's Grandmother dies, she begins the task of delivering letters to others in her apartment building, all with the message that her Grandmother is sorry. Elsa learns that all of the fairy tales her Grandmother has told her has their roots in the lives of all of these people.
3. Dumplin' by Julie Murphy. I really enjoyed this light read about Dumplin' and her journey through high school romance, balancing changing friendships and family situations and entering the beauty pageant her mother runs.
4. The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd. I was surprised to learn how much of this novel was historical. This story follows the life of Sarah, a well-to-do daughter of the Charleston elite and her household slave Handful. While Sarah goes out into the world and discovers Quaker values and fights for the abolition of slavery she also discovers that fighting for the rights of others awakens a discovery that women's rights are important to her. Meanwhile Handful navigates the strict slave laws of Charleston and yearns for a life where she is in charge of her destiny.
5. Little Brother by Cory Doctorow. An interesting read on security, privacy, terrorism and freedom. This fictional book describes how a movement among teenagers to regain privacy after a terrorism attach in San Francisco has everyone questioning what is privacy and what is the cost to security.
6. Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld. While this book started off as goofy, it seemed that the characters will a little too scripted for modern day - I ended up getting really involved in the storyline! This retelling of Pride and Prejudice is set in modern day Cincinnati, OH and has a slightly older cast. Modern issues such as artificial insemination, transgendered spouses and reality tv make their way into the novel as storylines. But, of course, it's Liz and Darcy's story that leaves you wanting to find out what happens next!
7. Garment of Shadows by Laurie R. King. I had a little harder time getting into this book than previous in the series. For most of the book Mary Russell does not remember who she is as she is in unfamiliar Morocco with the backdrop of revolutions.
8. The Hope Chest by Viola Shipman. A heartwarming tale of loss, change and family. Don and Mattie find their lives altered with Mattie's ALS diagnosis. Rose enters the story as their caretaker who brings a young daughter into their lives. While Don and Mattie grow to love Rose and Jeri, Rose finds healing from her mother's earlier death.

9. The Secret Life of Violet Grant by Beatriz Williams. This book drew me in right from the start. In 1964 Vivian receives a suitcase that her Aunt Violet lost in 1914 on the eve of the first World War - although she previously did not know of this aunt. As she digs deeper into the mystery she has to sort through the intrigue, assumptions, lies, dead-ends and parallels to her own life. I loved the sense of history this book gave, jumping between two time-lines, and especially how women were perceived and treated in two different eras that also differ from my own.
10. Journey to Munich by Jacqueline Winspear. Maisie impersonates an English daughter trying to get her father back from the German government in pre-WWII Munich and discovers how close to war Germany is.
11. Legally Blonde by Amanda Brown. This was the exception where the movie was better than the book!
12. Fitness Junkie by Lucy Sykes. When I got this book I was a little concerned that I wouldn't be able to relate to Janey because I thought it would be the journey of a 20-something on her way to the perfect body and therefore perfect life. It turned out that 40 year old Janey, who never had to try to control her weight before, was totally relatable. Janey has reached a point in her life where everything she thought she knew gets turned upside down. She has a falling out with her best friend/business partner and gets the ultimatum to lose weight. Janey explores many wacky weight-loss and exercise schemes and along the way meets colorful characters and reconnects with old friends and family. I enjoyed reading Janey's journey as she discovers who she wants to be on her own terms.

13. Along the Infinite Sea by Beatriz Williams. This is the second book I've read by Beatriz Williams and I LOVE them! This book also switches timelines from pre-WWII in France & Germany to 1960s Florida. Both timelines tell about Annabelle from being young and in love to matron who presides over a large family. Pepper Schuyler's life begins to intertwine with Annabelle's when she finds Annabelle's abandoned Mercedes that was used by her family to escape from Nazi occupied Germany. As the timelines flipped back and forth, I couldn't wait to hear how the stories would end up!
14. Barefoot by Elin Hilderbrand. This novel shows the life of three women over a summer and how they all handle the looming crises in their lives.
15. Off to Be the Wizard by Scott Meyer. When Martin finds out his life is a computer program he sets out to alter it and ends up in England during the Middle Ages only to find he is not the only person who has figured this out.
16. My (Underground) American Dream: My True Story as an Undocumented Immigrant Who Became a Wall Street Executive by Julissa Arce. Book review at https://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Book-Reviews/Current-Past-Book-Reviews/My-Underground-American-Dream.aspx 
17. Tiny Little Thing by Beatriz Williams. I read this book out of order and it ended up being my least favorite in the series - however there was a twist at the end I really enjoyed. Tiny is the perfect wife of an aspiring politician in the 1960s, but she comes to realize that she is only what others expect her to be. Can she find her way back to being herself?

18. I Am the Messenger by Markus Zusak. While this book was not a religious books, there were moments in it that I found holy. Ed starts receiving names of people who he must find out what they need. Along the way Ed becomes more connected to those in his town and learns about himself and those he loves more. I didn't really like the ending about who the messenger was - but I loved Ed's moments of connection.
19. The Senator's Children by Nicholas Montemarano. I received an Advanced Readers Copy of this book and I really enjoyed it. The Senator's Children jumps around through timelines to tell the story of 6 people all intertwined by their links to the Senator. The chapters almost read as vignettes. The topic of loss is reoccurring. The loss of a privacy through a political lifestyle, death of a child, loss of trust, loss of a parent, loss of health and yet there is hope through new relationships. We see the Senator as he first runs for office, as a seasoned politician running for President, as a father who grieves the death of his son, and as an aging elderly man who cannot always remember what has happened. We get to know his wife, son, daughter and another daughter who was the result of an affair. Each chapter in this book reveals another slice of their life. The Senator's Children does not offer platitudes or solutions, but does offer a look into the Christie family and events that shaped the lives of everyone who was important to the Senator.
20. The Zookeeper's Wife by Diane Ackerman. This book was a little drier than I thought it would be. I expected a more intimate introspection into the zoo's human family. However, the facts about Warsaw's occupation were eye opening.
21. What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty. I loved this book. Alice awakens after an accident at the gym and finds she can't remember the last 10 years. She last remembers being pregnant, newly married and renovating a house together. She finds she now has 3 children, a fully renovated house and is in the middle of a divorce. Not only does Alice question how she became the person she is, but others around her start looking at their lives in different ways.

22. Savannah Breeze by Mary Kay Andrews. This was an enjoyable fun read! What happens with Bebe's fling takes off with her money? She sets out to get even while also restoring an old motel on Tybee Island. 

23. Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult. This book brings up powerful topics. What is race? What is racism? Can we "not see color?" Ruth is a nurse who is asked by white supremacist parents not to care for their newborn because of her color -and the hospital honors their request. When the baby dies after a routine surgery Ruth becomes embroiled in a court case which leaves her white public defender questioning institutional racism and what she has taken granted up to now in her life. Not only are these topics timely, but the narrative of the story takes many twists and turns so that you are always wondering what will happen next.

24. Three Wishes by Liane Moriarty. So far I have loved everything I've read by Moriatry, this book is no exception. As the Kettle triplets turn 34, they look back on their past year. A year that has been filled with an affair, a divorce, new love, pregnancies, miscarriage, parenting trials and not to mention their estranged parents dating again. Looking at the lives of these three sisters was entertaining, enlightening and made me reminisce myself.

25. Size 12 and Ready to Rock by
A Man Called Ove by
Antiques Roadkill by Fun, easy murder mystery. What happens when Brandy moves back to her hometown after a divorce and finds her eccentric mother has lost a house full of antiques to an unscrupulous dealer? Of course, they next stumble (or drive) across his dead body and then interfere with the police as they investigate on their own. 

Of Mess and Moxie: Wrangling Delight Out of This Wild and Glorious Life by

Book Club

1. After You by Jojo Moyes. I enjoyed this book so much more than the first. I felt the characters developed more fully and I could see their growth. Life seemed to happen around them while they struggled to keep up and yet their interactions with each other and new people made for a more vibrant experience.

2. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by John Tiffany (Adaptation), Jack Thorne, J.K. Rowling. This book was picked for book club and I was not really looking forward to it since I stopped reading the Harry Potter series due to the increasing size of the books. However, the play format made for a very fast read! I also really liked seeing the characters as adults with children of their own.
3. The Charm Bracelet by Viola Shipman. I liked the Michigan references in this book, but the plot was a little predictable.
4. The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield. There was mystery upon mystery in this book that lead to a good discussion!

5. Loving Frank by Nancy Horan. While I enjoyed reading about the lives of Frank Lloyd Wright and Mamah Borthwick Cheney, the ending of this historical book was deeply disturbing.
6. Naked in Death by J.D. Robb. At first I didn't like this book. It seemed so violent, but as the book developed the plot began to make more sense and I devoured the last 1/6 of the book to see what would happen next!

7. The Circle by I read this book for bookclub and it really made me think. Security vs Privacy. And what is your limit as to what should be public information - is it the same limit everyone else has? I actually found myself agreeing with many parts of the book until my line was crossed and that made me go back and question how long it took me to get there.

Children & Young Adult

1. The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster. Milo starts the book by wondering why he has to learn about useless information in school but a trip through the Phantom Tollbooth shows him the usefulness of language and numbers.
2. Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell. My 10 year old and 13 year old boys loved this book. I found it a little slow, but I'm glad they liked it. I did like how it was based on a historical event and how O'Dell imagined life alone on an island may have went for a girl who spent many years alone.
3. Double Down by Jeff Kinney. Classic antics made us laugh again at Greg Heffley.

4. Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech. This book was really good. As Sal sets off on a cross-country trip with her Grandparents she tells them a story about her friend Phoebe, however Phoebe's story and Sal's own echo each other. A journey across the country also is a journey of grief and discovery. Death, friendship, relationships, secrets and the definition of family are all explored. I loved getting to know the people in Sal & Phoebe's lives as this story unfolded.
5. Little Rock Nine by Marshall Poe. This graphic novel is a great way to introduce kids to history - however, I'd put a disclaimer on what age group this is appropriate for due to racial slurs and messages of hate and killing, so I'd put this as more appropriate for middle school and higher.
6. Evil Spy School by Stuart Gibbs. I think this was the best so far in this series! When Ben gets kicked out of spy school, he has an inkling that Erica arranged circumstances so that he would be available to join the evil spy organization SPYDER. Ben infiltrates SPYDER and makes friends with the "evil spies" his age but is still not sure what the evil master plan is until it's too late - or is it?
7. Countdown by Deborah Wiles. Franny navigates middle school friendship with the backdrop of the Cuban Missile Crisis and the communist scare.
8. Armstrong & Charlie by Steven B. Frank. I read this book with my 10 year old and 14 year old and we loved hearing about Armstrong & Charlie's antics! I enjoyed the historical perspective of the mid-1970's and the social movements of the time - this book focusing on school busing between black and white neighborhoods in California. Armstrong and Charlie both learned that there are similarities that bind us together and differences that make us unique. Not only did they learn from each other, but also from each other's families. We now have a new phrase in our house, "do me an Armstrong!" when we ask someone to get our laundry from the basement like Armstrong bringing in his sisters' clothes from the laundry line. Language alert: this book had quite a bit of swearing for being a book about 6th graders.
9. Home of the Brave by Katherine Applegate. This short children's book was excellent. Kek describes coming to the US as a refuge who has been separated from his family. He struggles to make sense of his new home and what he experienced. He finds help from his neighbor who lives with her foster mom. When Kek starts to work at a small farm he finds hope and encouragement, but also heartbreak again. This book would be good for upper elementary ages as an introduction to other cultures.
10. The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin. Suzy struggles to make sense of life and death and growing up.
11. The Hammer of Thor by Rick Riordan. Magnus Chase and his friends search for the hammer of Thor.
12. The Hidden Oracle by Rick Riordan. After Apollo falls to earth as a mortal, he must figure out what has happened to all the oracles.
13.The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson. Gilly has to navigate growing up while being a foster child who is always on the lookout for her mother. Just as she grows attached to her foster family, Gilly's biological family re-enters.
14. Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella. I laughed my way through this book that addresses serious topics: bullying and mental health. 14 year old Audrey describes her wacky family and how they are all trying to cope, and help her cope, with a bullying event that led to her eventual breakdown and detachment from society. Through the help of a therapist and a new friend, Audrey comes to terms with the ups and downs life brings everyone and how we can all help each other out. Kinsella does a perfect job of describing the families foibles while also endearing each character to the reader. While I enjoyed this book as an adult, this would be perfect for middle-school aged kids, especially as a conversation starter regarding the tough topics Finding Audrey handles.
15. Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson. Isabel is a slave who finds herself involved in Patriot and Loyalist plots during the Revolutionary War.
16. The Fixer by Jennifer Lynn Barnes. I had just finished reading a heavy historical novel, so this young adult book was a fast-paced break that I really enjoyed. Tess Kendrick unexpectedly moves in with her older sister in Washington DC only to find that she's not exactly sure what her sister does as a job, but she is a "fixer." Tess further gets the reputation at her new school of following in her sister's footsteps, only to be embroiled in a mystery with her new friends.
17. The Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny, and the Fight for Civil Rights by Steve Sheinkin. This book was a powerful description of the events that took place at the naval Port Chicago during WWII that shaped civil rights in the military. Having never heard of Port Chicago I was fascinated to read about these historical events. This is a Young Adult book so it is written on a jr high level, which made it a quick read.
18. The Lemonade War by Jacqueline Davies. Brother and sister Evan and Jessie start a lemonade war to see who can win by selling the most lemonade. Along the way the reader is exposed to business strategies. Perfect for elementary aged children.
19. The Land by Mildred D. Taylor. Paul grows up in the post-Civil War era torn between two worlds. He has grown up on his white father's plantation, but as he gets older he sees the differences in how blacks and whites are treated. While his mother is a former slave, his complexion is light enough to make everyone unsure of how to interact with him. Throughout this book Paul shows a determination to own his own land even though he encounters prejudice and many stumbling blocks along the way. While this book was hard to read at times, I loved Paul's perseverance and the sense of community that develops as Paul allows himself to trust others.
20. Flunked by Jen Calonita. Cute read about envisioning how "the other half" lives in fairy tales. Gillian in a cobblers daughter from a large family who steals to supplement their income. When she is caught one to many times, she is sent to Fairy Tale Reform School and finds the evil villains plotting to take over the kingdom.

21. The Time Hackers by Gary Paulsen. Very interesting short read on time travel. My kids, ages 10 & 14, and I both enjoyed Dorso's adventures as his computer is hacked and takes him through time as the hackers engage in a game that could bring serious changes to the future's timeline.

22. The Dark Prophecy by Rick Riordan. Apollo and his friends seek the ancient oracles and end up in the Midwest. The character of Apollo is still funny with his dry humor. But beware, the book doesn't really end, it just says "to be continued."

23. Charmed by Jen Calonita. This book continues the story of Gillian Cobbler and her array of friends at Fairy Tale Reform School who battle villains in their attempt to take over their town of Enchantasia.

24.The Long Game by Jennifer Lynn Barnes. I really enjoyed this series and would love if there were a 3rd book available. In this fast-paced book teenage Tess uncovers conspiracies, plots and discovers that things aren't always as they seem especially in the political capital of the nation.

25. The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin. The kids and I re-listened to this book, I think it's been 3 years since we first heard it. The characters, plot and mystery are so great that you can come back to this book and still find it fresh and entertaining.

26. Flying Solo by This was a cute book on what might happen if a 6th grade class didn't have a substitute and ran their day themselves. 

27. Tricked by

The Getaway (Diary of a Wimpy Kid #12) by


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