This list covers the second half of the year, July – December. For part one (and some really great books), head over here!
The Wildling Sisters by Eve Chase • my review
Last January I did a week-long series highlighting the 2017 novels of January – June I desperately wanted to read. I broke my own rules by including The Wildling Sisters in my historical fiction list. Eve’s debut Black Rabbit Hall was my top read of 2016 and remains a favorite to this day (I also dedicated a GoodReads Recommends to similar titles…and one of them will make an appearance later on in this list!) To say I couldn’t wait to read Eve’s follow-up would be a huge understatement – and I’m thrilled to say she didn’t disappoint.
Bouncing back and forth over a span of 50 years, The Wildling Sisters is the story of the four Wilde girls, the cousin who mysteriously vanishes one summer, and the new family who moves into the now-crumbling manor. Though I was far more intrigued by the past storyline than the present (first wife has passed away, new stepmom tries to form a connection with her teenage stepdaughter), Eve has one again delivered an excellent novel. If moody, Gothic atmospheres and houses-as-characters are your thing, look no further. Whatever Eve writes next, you can be assured it’ll find its way into my hands.
We Now Return to Regular Life by Martin Wilson • my review
Chalk this one up as the surprise of the year. When I copy arrived at my door I honestly didn’t know what to expect. I hadn’t heard of the book and wasn’t familiar with the author, but I’m SO thankful I didn’t pass this one over for something else. I couldn’t stop gushing over it in my review!
When Sam was 11 he was kidnapped. Three years later he returns home. The book is told in alternating chapters: his sister Beth is learning how to live with this boy who looks like her little brother but is completely different from the boy she knew, and Sam’s former best friend Josh is still holding on to a secret from That Day he never mentioned to police. If he had only said something Sam might have been saved. I truly can’t say enough about this book.
Freedom’s Ring by Heidi Chiavaroli • my review
2016 was the year I dove into Christian fiction. 2017 was the year Tyndale seriously brought their A-game. Part 1 of my top reads included The One True Love of Alice-Ann, a book I couldn’t stop rambling about (and STILL sing its praises to anyone who will stand still long enough!), part 2 has Freedom’s Ring. Just a few days ago I was surprised with an ARC of Heidi’s upcoming The Hidden Side and, y’all, I shrieked when I opened the package. It’s definitely one of my most anticipated reads of 2018!
It should have been a typical Boston Marathon. Only it wasn’t. Annie’s niece lost a leg to the bombing while Annie practically got off uninjured though she harbors an enormous amount of guilt. In the midst of the chaos, a man appeared out of nowhere to carry Annie to safety. Terrified, she begged him not to leave and he handed her a ring to look after. That ring is a family heirloom that connects Annie’s and Brad’s stories in the present with Liberty’s story during the American Revolution.
The Stolen Marriage by Diane Chamberlain • my review
Diane has become a staple in my Top Reads posts. The Stolen Marriage might not have been one of my favorites of hers (and, admittedly one aspect of the book had me seeing red), but it’s still a Diane Chamberlain novel and even an average Diane is a great read.
Tess is months away from marrying her childhood sweetheart. Vincent’s parents love her like their own daughter and she practically grew up in his house. Soon Vincent will be finished with his studies and will finally be able to settle down and start up his own medical practice (with Tess as his nurse, of course). So why does Tess suddenly end the engagement and move hundreds of miles away to marry a total stranger? Set against a backdrop of the polio epidemic, The Stolen Marriage was a novel I couldn’t set down and seriously had everything: a jilted lover, forbidden romance, a faked death, history, and a character who could communicate with spirits.
House of Shadows by Nicola Cornick • my review
Remember when I mentioned one of the books from the Black Rabbit Hall GoodReads Recommends post would be featured? This is it! House of Shadows is definitely on the longer side, around 500 pages, but once I got going, I couldn’t read fast enough! (I recently managed to score an ARC of her 2018 release and am SO pumped!)
House of Shadows bounces between the 1600s, the early 1800s, and the present day, each story connected by two objects purported to have the ability to foretell the future. Elizabeth of Bohemia knows exactly what the pieces can do; she’s witnessed their power firsthand. A young courtesan writes a scandalous memoir. A woman hunts for her brother after he vanishes one day. Three seemingly unconnected women are brought together by two legendary artifacts and I couldn’t get enough of this book!
The Ghost of Christmas Past by Rhys Bowen • my review
I have NO shame when it comes to jumping into series way late. I have always wanted to read a Rhys Bowen novel – they all practically scream my name! – but never found the time until an amazing publicist mentioned this one. Now I’m hooked and it’s entirely her fault ha! Thankfully Rhys has a massive backlist (the Molly Murphy series alone has 17 books!) and I snagged an ARC up an upcoming standalone!
Still reeling from a miscarriage, Molly and her husband are lying low and planned on spending the holidays together at home. When an invitation arrives with the chance to spend Christmas at a friend’s sprawling estate, the pair wonder if this is just what they needed, a chance to get away for a bit and take their mind off things. When they arrive, however, they learn their hosts suffered their own tragedy: 10 years ago, their 3-year-old daughter wandered out into the snow and was never seen again, despite a lengthy search. While the guests are gathered around the piano, there’s a knock at the door, and the young woman on the other side claims to be the couple’s long lost daughter. Could it be? Molly isn’t so sure.
The Vanishing Season by Joanna Schaffhausen • my review
There’s nothing like sinking into a mystery during the winter. Joanna’s debut was MAGNIFICENT and perfect for a snowy day. Just a heads up, in my review I brought up a spoiler. I avoid them unless they involve animals, in this book’s case, a dog is shot and is believed to be death. Later though, it’s revealed he made a full recovery :)
Fourteen years ago a serial killer terrorized the nation. His trademark? Severed hands. Abby was the sole survivor of the brutal attack and now lives under a new name, working as a cop. When she notices a string of missing persons cases that bears a striking resemblance to Francis Coben, she tries in vain to convince her boss, her fellow cops, anyone to believe her. As a last resort she calls the FBI agent who rescued her from a dark closet all those years ago. Reed is her last chance to get someone on her side and possibly save another girl.
Grocery: The Buying and Selling of Food in America by Michael Ruhlman
Some of the best nonfiction I read all year were books I never got around to reviewing. Grocery was one of those books. I’m a HUGE fan of microhistories and this tale of how grocery stores came to be was fascinating. Shopping carts weren’t initially a thing, what goes on behind-the-scenes that determines expiration dates, the genius of frozen foods, and how even the ‘healthy’ foods aren’t really that good for you all came together to form one incredibly interesting (and slightly horrifying) book.
The Radium Girls by Kate Moore
I grabbed this audio on a whim and wound up with a top read of the year. In the early 1900s young women flocked to radium-dial factories, eager for work. They had no idea about the dangers of radium until it was too late: The Radium Girls pulls no punches and describes their suffering in stack detail. These women were literally falling apart, their bones were crumbling in their bodies. There was one description that stood out for me about one woman who went to see her dentist because her teeth were starting to become loose and he actually reached inside her mouth and plucked out a piece of her jawbone. These women fought – and died – for justice and I was completely captivated.
Never Caught by Erica Armstrong Dunbar • my review
Another book first mentioned in my serious of 2017 books I wanted to read, this time from the nonfiction post. The story of One Judge, a slave owned by George Washington, and her amazing escape to freedom – I mean, do I really need to go on?? It took nearly the entire year, but thanks to Tackling the TBR I was finally able to check this one off my list!
Headstrong: 52 Women Who Changed Science – and the World by Rachel Swaby
Oh I love books like this. Another audio pick and I was so enchanted I nearly finished it in a single sitting. Shh, I listened to this one at work and some of the women mentioned were SO intriguing I couldn’t help but stop what I was doing to jot down notes so that I could read more about them! While there were a handful of names I recognized (Sally Ride, Ada Lovelace, and Florence Nightingale all appeared in quick succession, followed shortly by Hedy Lamar) the majority I (sadly) had never heard of!