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Leah’s Top Reads of 2017…part 1!

Are we seriously halfway through 2017 already?! You know what that means…rounding up my favorites for the first part of the year! Ugh, can I just say I had a really hard time with this – last year I read a ton of really fantastic books, but this year I’m feeling like everything I’ve read has either been decent and enjoyable or absolutely horrendous.

2017 RELEASES

The Wicked City by Beatriz Williams • my review
A new Beatriz Williams novel is always cause for celebration. The Wicked City bounces between 1998 and the 1920s, though it certainly focuses more on Gin’s story in the past (no complaints here!) Anyone familiar with Williams’ novels knows they all center on her Schuyler sisters and this one is no exception. Little details and further backstory for these women can be found within the book’s pages and I would love to do a long binge read someday! I have to admit the ending here felt a little hurried with some elements seemingly abandoned or forgotten, but there is a sequel, Cocoa Beach, and I’m hoping it’ll pick up where this one left off!

Never Let You Go by Chevy Stevens • my review
After a pretty disappointing introduction to Stevens’ work, I’m thrilled to say I’m now a big fan! Never Let You Go instantly drew me in: over the course of 20 years, it gradually lets the reader into the lives of a young married couple from their initial meeting, to their admittedly quick wedding, to the cracks that begin to form. By the time Lindsey realizes she needs help it’s too late, and in a fit of rage, Andrew drunkenly tears after her, killing an innocent woman and winding up in prison. Nine years later he’s released and swears he’s a changed man, although Lindsey, having moved on, begins noticing strange things, feels as though she’s being watch, finds her car keys in places she didn’t leave them and e-mails read that she certainly hadn’t opened. This was a novel I enjoyed immensely – although I am extremely concerned that one character, the boyfriend of Lindsey’s daughter, was labeled a good guy although he exhibited MANY of the same abusive tendencies as Andrew. That aside, I was hooked.

A Bridge Across the Ocean by Susan Meissner • my review
Every so often a book will come into my life that completely takes me by surprise. Meissner’s latest was one that certainly sounded like a book I’d enjoy (hello, WWII, vanishing women, and a present-day link), but I didn’t expect to be so thoroughly wowed by it! This novel is told through the eyes of three women: a ballerina forced into a marriage with a highly ranked Nazi officer, a woman who is part of the French Resistance (and witnessed both her brother and father brutally gunned down in the street), and a modern day woman who has the ability to see spirits though she considers it more of a curse than a gift. The famous ship Queen Mary also plays a large part here and once the mystery kicked in I couldn’t look away! The entire time I was reading I was loving it, but toward the end Meissner throws in a reveal and, my goodness, it took the book to a new level. SO good.

Missing by Kelley Armstrong • my review
Missing is one of only two YA novels to be featured in this list. I love Kelley’s novels but this is my first YA of hers. Winter lives in a broken, run-down town of Reeve’s End where her only bit of happiness comes from a shack in the woods. When she discovers a boy left for dead, she realizes there’s something definitely wrong going on…and could it have anything to do with all the kids who left? Winter always assumed they couldn’t take another minute of their go-nowhere lives in Reeve’s End and went off in search of something better. But what if they didn’t leave on their own? I read this one in a single sitting and was engrossed to the point where my dinner was a pb&j sandwich lol – I didn’t want to set the book down long enough to cook!

The One True Love of Alice-Ann by Eva Marie Everson • my review
Alice-Ann was another novel that took me by surprise – in SUCH a good way! Since she was a child, Alice-Ann had been madly in love with her brother’s best friend Mack. Now, on the night of her 16th birthday party, she’s finally determined to tell him how she feels, praying he’ll see her as a woman and not just a little girl he taught to ride a bike. When news of Peal Harbor hits their tiny town, all the boys enlist – including Mack, though he promises to write. As the months turn into years, the two keep up a correspondence, with Alice-Ann all the while trying to make Mack view her as a wife, not a close friend. It’s when her brother’s other friend returns home that everything changes. Carlton is severely wounded – blinded and unable to walk – and as Alice-Ann helps to care for him, they grow close, though Alice-Ann still has her heart set on Mack, until the day a telegram arrives. I rambled on a LOT in my review – I absolutely devoured this book and am thrilled Everson has such a lengthy backlist!

The Garden of Small Beginnings by Abbi Waxman • my review
This one probably wins for my favorite debut so far! Four years after her husband is tragically killed, Lilian is finally picking up the pieces of her shattering life and coming to terms with her new status as both widow and single mother. Her job as an illustrator for textbooks doesn’t scream glamorous and exciting, but a new project is about to change everything. The company she works for has been tasked with illustrating a series of gardening manuals – and what better way to draw fruits and vegetables than by getting up close and personal? Her boss signs her up for a gardening class and the group Lili comes to know what such a wonderfully random, rag-tag bunch! This book is near 400-pages and yet I read it in a single sitting. Don’t let the widow thing scare you off – this book was SO clever and witty and upbeat! I was so impressed with this one and can’t wait to see what Waxman does next!

City of Light, City of Poison by Holly Tucker
One of just two nonfiction books on the list! I’m a little upset I never took the time to share my thoughts – even as a mini review. This is part true crime, part dark magic and I was hooked! After a mysterious string of murders, Paris’s first police chief installs lanterns throughout the city. As his investigation brings him into the court of the Sun King, he uncovers a secret world of poisoners and witches. That this is true fascinates me even more!

Duels and Deceptions by Cindy Anstey • my review
The second of the two YA novels! Oh man, this book. It was my intro to Anstey and I couldn’t be happier to have her in my life! This Regency-era novel was fun and quick with fantastic characters. Miss Lydia Whitfield is set to inherit her late father’s vast fortune (and estate) once she comes of age, but until then, her uncle will see to things and he has decidedly disastrous ideas about how to run the grounds. Luckily for Lydia, she can bypass the who of-age issue by marrying and while Lord Aldershot isn’t exactly the love of her life, she’s content and so visits a law office to have the marriage contract drawn up. It’s at the law office that she and a young clerk are kidnapped and I had a blast with this one!

Grief Cottage by Gail Godwin • my review
The moody atmosphere of this story is what sets Grief Cottage apart. That cover is perfect for this book and does a fantastic job at capturing the dreary tone. When his mother dies, Marcus is sent to live with an aunt he’s never met. Charlotte is the definition of reclusive artist and would be happy to spend the rest of her life holed up inside her seaside cottage, painting the ruins of an abandoned home the locals dubbed Grief Cottage. Decades ago a hurricane tore through, ultimately catching a tourist family in its wake. No one quite knows the story, but somehow the parents and boy were separated – were they out looking for him or did he leave the house in search of them? – and their bodies were never recovered. Grief Cottage is a quiet, slow novel and I loved it. One element I didn’t enjoy (surprisingly enough!) was the paranormal aspect. Marcus begins seeing the ghost of the boy who died and I could have done without that, but the rest of the novel is excellent!

Second Chance Season by Liora Blake • my review
The most recent read on this list and probably one of my favorites out of all the books mentioned! While Second Chance Season is the second book in this series, it features a different couple than the first and can easily be read on its own (though now that I’ve read this one I definitely want to go back and read the first!) Cara is a privileged girl from Chicago who threw away her cushy career to try her hand at freelance work. Her gig for the next eight weeks takes her to rural Colorado where she’ll be interviewing families who have been farming for generations as well as the new wave of hipster wine enthusiasts and brewers. Garrett’s plans were put on hold when his father passed and he learned how bad things had actually been on their farm. While a tiny apartment and a minimum wage job aren’t exactly what he had in mind, Garrett is content – until a hybrid Lexus rolls into town. I LOVED this book and can’t believe I’ve never heard of this author before!! I need to jump on her backlist ASAP.

PRE-2017 RELEASES

A Matter of Class by Mary Balogh • my review
I recently fell HARD for historical romance and when author Sarah MacLean posted a list of recommendations on her site, I definitely took note! One title in particular caught my eye, all because of her blurb: I don’t want to tell you anything about it, just trust me. And do not read about it before you read it. My curiosity got the better of me (helped by the fact that this novella is barely 200 pages!) and I tracked down a copy at my library. Like Sarah, I don’t want to spoil anything, but my goodness, this was great. A young woman’s reputation is permanently ruined when she’s caught running away to elope with the coachman. Her parents’ solution? Marry her off to the son of their neighbors. He’s been unruly for far too long and needs to settle down. So good.

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
Unlike million of high school students, I never had to read Steinbeck in class. I came to his work pretty late, picking up East of Eden in my early 20s (and to this day it still remains one of my favorite books EVER). One evening I noticed the audio of Of Mice and Men was available from my library and wasted no time grabbing it. I cried when it was over and still cry just thinking about it.

The Romanovs: 1613-1918 by Simon Sebag Montefiore
And now the second of the two nonfiction books! Is anyone surprised this made it on the list? I have to admit I opted for the audio – though 29 hours was just as intimidated as the size of the physical copy! Montefiore covered the entire dynasty starting at the very beginning and, naturally, working his way up to Nicholas II. I made it a point to take my time and savor this one.

Misery by Stephen King
Do I really need to say anything here?

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4 thoughts on “Leah’s Top Reads of 2017…part 1!

  1. I don’t read a lot of Christian fiction, but I really enjoyed The One True Love of Alice Ann. It was a really sweet story. I’m a huge Beatriz Williams fan, so looking forward to Cocoa Beach! I agree though, it has been a rough reading year; I’m not finding much I’m truly in love with.

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