Best Books of 2017

 

It’s the new year! 2017 is behind us, 2018 has begun—and you all know what that means. An obligatory best books I read in 2017 post!

Kidding, kidding. I’m being entirely facetious there. I’m actually really excited to tell you the best books I read in 2017! So excited in fact, that I was already thinking back on the books I read and starting to decide which ones where the best ones back in early November, and even jotted down a tentative list at that time. I know, right? Calm down, Sam.

So, just to be clear, these books are the best books I read in 2017, which doesn’t necessarily mean they were all released in 2017—but many of them were! I’ll make a note of when they were released, but I just wanted to be clear that they didn’t all come out this year even though this is when I read them.

Also, I know it’s a cute thing to pick 17 favorite books for 2017, but I’d rather just choose ones that I absolutely 100% feel deserve a spot rather than forcing books onto the list to make a corresponding number. Plus, let’s admit it, as the years go on…that’s going to quickly get out of hand.

Madness, I tell you!

So, without further ado, these are my personal best books of 2017—in no particular order!

Spellbook of the Lost & Found by Moira Fowley-Doyle (released August 2017)

“If you’re not careful, you can spend your whole life looking for what you’ve lost.” – Spellbook of the Lost & Found

Spellbook of the Lost and Found is a young adult magical realism novel set in small town Ireland. It follows several teenagers whose stories all end up eventually intertwining—Olive and Rose, who wake up the night after a bonfire party and find that their belongings are steadily and mysteriously going missing; Hazel, Rowan, and Ivy, a group of three mysterious teenagers who have been squatting in an abandoned house in a partially built subdivision; and Laurel, Ash, and Holly, whose story becomes prevalent when Laurel’s strange diary pages begin appearing around town. All of them are linked not just by their experiences with each other, but—perhaps more importantly—by their experiences with the curious titular spellbook, featuring an all-too-tempting spell to help them find what they have lost.

At first glance, it may seem like there’s a lot going on here—and there kind of is. But Fowley-Doyle manages it beautifully and Spellbook of the Lost and Found turned out to be one of the best written books I’ve read in a long time. Not only was the writing gorgeous, but the plot was captivating, the characters were so real they could have been people I know—heck, they could have been me—and I really felt she handled the genre like a master. With a story like this that takes place in the “real world” but is imbued with so much magic and mystery and centers on spells and incantations, it would have been easy to cross the line into cheesy or overdone. But the author never does that. She executes this novel in a way that made me believe there really is magic in the world, no questions asked. Everything seemed like something that could really happen, and was believable while still being the perfect amount of whimsical.

If you love magic, beauty, and diversity, this book is for you! Plus, that cover. I mean, come on. Easily one of my favorite covers of 2017, as well.

Other Places I Mention This Book:

Book Review – Spellbook of the Lost & Found by Moira Fowley-Doyle

The Hearts We Sold by Emily Lloyd-Jones (released August 2017)

“Nothing comes for free. We just don’t know what it’ll cost.” – THWS

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again—I’m just going to keep mentioning this book until you all read it. Every single one of you. In the world.

The Hearts We Sold was released in August and was actually the book in the August OwlCrate, so I just have to say a major, major thank you to OwlCrate for bringing this one onto my radar. I am so glad they sent it because if they hadn’t I’m not sure when I would have stumbled across it on my own and I’m extremely grateful I got to read it the same month it was released! I wouldn’t have wanted to wait any longer.

The Hearts We Sold is a contemporary fantasy/urban fantasy novel centering on Dee Moreno, who lives in a world and society much like the one you and I live in—except that demons live among them as well. Beautiful, flawless-looking demons. Anyone is welcome to make a deal with these demons anytime they want—in exchange for one of their body parts. In this society, it’s not uncommon to see celebrities walking the red carpet with a prosthetic leg and wonder if they traded an appendage for an Oscar. But while most people wear their trades in a pretty visible place, Dee Moreno makes a deal with a very unique demon called the Heart-monger, who takes people’s hearts instead. This demon specifically likes to make deals with young people, and in giving away her heart she becomes part of a small troop called the Heartless, who are also called upon to assist the Heart-monger in destroying supernatural voids.

This book was an instant 5 out of 5 for me. Everything about this was just done perfectly. It helps that this is absolutely one of my favorite genres. Urban and contemporary fantasy just work for me on so many levels, and this one works particularly well. The world building is believable and also really interesting. I loved reading about the integration of the demons into everyday society and the different points of view that characters had on where they came from or why.

The characters in The Hearts We Sold are relatable and likable, and while I adore Dee, and Dee and James (the main couple in the book), this novel introduced me to one of my new favorite best friend/sidekick characters of all time in the form of Dee’s roommate, Gremma, otherwise known as a lovably surly badass who vivisects teddy bears for fun and carries a fire axe in her purse—for emergency situations.

This book was a perfect blend of fantasy, supernatural, coming of age struggles, and romance, and I also felt that the romance was very well written (including a frank discussion of safe sex and responsible sexual relationships between two teenagers which, let’s be serious, is probably something we need more of).

If you want to hear me gush more about all the ways this book is amazing (admit it—you do), you can check out my full review here. This instantly became one of my favorites not just of the year, but one of my favorites overall. I highly, highly recommend it. To everyone. All the time. To a point that people are probably sick of me recommending it.

Other Places I Mention This Book:

Book Review – The Hearts We Sold by Emily Lloyd-Jones

August OwlCrate Unboxing

August Book Haul

Not-So-Scary Books for Your Halloween TBR

A Map for Wrecked Girls by Jessica Taylor (released August 2017)

“Nobody could hold the same place in your heart as your sister, love her or hate her…Only your sister could know how it felt to grow up in the house that made you you.” – A Map for Wrecked Girls

Notice anything that these last three have in common? That’s right, August 2017 was a hell of a month for books, specifically YA releases. Even more specifically, YA releases by badass women.

A Map for Wrecked Girls, by Jessica Taylor, is a YA contemporary thriller about sisters Emma and Henri who become shipwrecked on a remote island with only each other a young man named Alex. The sisters must learn not just how to survive on the island, but how to live with each other again after a massive falling out before their doomed vacation.

This book was so, so interesting, and, like the first two books on the list, the writing was impeccable. I really loved not only seeing the relationships between Emma and Henri, Emma and Alex, and all three of them during their time on the island, but also loved the survival aspect of the book as three young people were forced to pool their resources and their knowledge just to stay alive in such horrible and unforeseen circumstances. I love the idea of seeing how people react in such dire situations, and to place young adults, who are already learning about themselves, in a setting like that was captivating, as well as seeing two sisters navigate survival when they can barely navigate looking at each other without arguing.

This is another book I have a full review of here on my blog, and if you’re interested in checking it out click here to give it a read! A Map for Wrecked Girls may take place on a tropical island, but don’t wait until summer to read this multi-faceted vacation gone wrong tale—put it near the top of your 2018 TBR!

Other Places I Mention This Book:

Book Review – A Map for Wrecked Girls by Jessica Taylor

August Book Haul

Disappearance at Devil’s Rock by Paul Tremblay (released June 2016)

Okay, let’s move away from YA novels released in August of 2017, shall we? Contrary to how the beginning of this list looks, not all my favorite books of 2017 came out in August, nor are they all YA. Those three just happened to really hit out of the park for me. But another book that really hit it out of the park in 2017 was Disappearance at Devil’s Rock by Paul Tremblay, which actually came out in 2016 and was on my list of books to get ever since I read A Head Full of Ghosts—and if you’ve ever read my blog literally ever, you know how much I loooove A Head Full of Ghosts.

Disappearance at Devil’s Rock centers on a family struggling with the disappearance of their teenage son and brother, Tommy, after he vanishes in a local state park near a landmark he and his friends refer to as “Devil’s Rock”. I’m always interested in missing person cases, fictional or real, so the premise of this was already pretty appealing. But what could have been a straightforward thriller becomes so much in Tremblay’s capable hands as he imbues it with the ambiguity and straight up spookiness that made me fall so in love with A Head Full of Ghosts. While reading Disappearance, you’ll find yourself wondering if many of the occurrences are natural or supernatural. It’s hard to tell if a lot of what happens is a result of the stress and worry Tommy’s disappearance is causing for his mother and sister or if there really is something paranormal that we just don’t understand. Tremblay will keep you guessing—and thus, keep you super invested—until the very end, while also getting you attached to the characters and impressing you with his talent for looking at difficult situations with a creative eye. This spook-fest is very high up on my list of favorite books from 2017, and I’ll definitely be reading more of Tremblay’s work in 2018. He really is an incredible and, in my opinion, underrated writer.

Other Places I Mention This Book:

Book Review – Disappearance at Devil’s Rock by Paul Tremblay

Zombie by J.R Angelella (published 2012)

“Zombies represent our greatest fears. Humans must seek salvation in order to survive.” – Zombie

Speaking of underrated writers and spooky books, let me talk about Zombie by J.R. Angelella again. The story of how I stumbled upon this book is actually kind of a cool one, in my own totally unbiased opinion. I remember seeing this bright orange cover with the little ransom note looking title on it and it was so captivating, but at first I didn’t pick it up, and continued roaming around the shelves of the bookstore looking at other things. But eventually, fate (you know, book buying fate—y’all know what I mean) pulled me back because I just couldn’t stop thinking about that neon orange cover. When I picked it up and began looking at it what it was about, I was immediately intrigued. Zombie follows fourteen-year-old Jeremy Barker, who is so obsessed with zombies that he lives his life according to his own personal Zombie Survival Code—a method that in and of itself was inspired by none other than…a zombie movie.

But before you read this book and get all worked up saying, “ermahgerddd, but it’s like, not even actually about zombies!” I’m just going to tell you upfront—there are no literal zombies in this book. Calm down. It’s gonna be okay.

Jeremy, who attends an all-boys Catholic school, gets bullied day in and day out, can’t tie a respectable not in his tie, and crushes on girls he thinks are out of his league. It would be a pretty ordinary life, except for his family. His mother is a drug addict, his brother is a sex addict, and his father—well, his father is definitely up to something, but at the beginning of the book, we just aren’t sure what. He is disappearing every night with no explanation and acting very strangely, prompting Jeremy to do what any good teenager does—snoop. But what he finds is a lot weirder than he could have expected (and I do mean a lot), and ends up leading him down a dangerous, twisting road as he tries to find out more and ends up getting dangerously close to the situation. All while navigating the throes of being a young teenage boy.

Bonus points if you sang that while reading it 😉

Seriously, this book is creepy, it’s mysterious, it gets the adrenaline pumping as you figure out what the heck is going on here, and best of all, it’s funny, with the kind of wry, observational humor that fans of Chuck Palahniuk will love. When thinking about my favorite books of the year, there was no question in my mind that this one would be on the list!

Other Places I Mention This Book:

5 “Weird” Books for When You Want an Unsettling, Unconventional, or Just Plain Trippy Read

Book Recommendations Based on Your Favorite Video Games

The Merciless III: Origin of Evil by Danielle Vega (published July 2017)

“The seats and tables and walls are neon pink with white trim, and Taylor Swift plays on an endless loop. Basically, this place is hell.” – The Merciless III

As a huge fan of The Merciless and The Merciless II, as well as Danielle Vega’s standalone YA horror novel Survive the Night, I was beyond excited for The Merciless III to be released in July and ran out to pick up my copy ASAP. I then proceeded to read it in one night, because I just did not have the self-control to put it down and come back to it the next day.

It’s difficult to talk about The Merciless III without talking about the first two books in the series, so just as the briefest of brief rundowns, I’ll tell you that in The Merciless, which I most often describe as Jawbreakers meets The Exorcist meets The Haunting of Molley Hartley, new girl in town Sofia ends up roped in with a group of popular, devout Christian young women who kidnap a young woman from their school named Brooklyn in an effort to “exorcise” her—which in their eyes means torturing the demon out of her. After a sequel that follows Sofia to Catholic school, Brooklyn—arguably the most interesting character in book one—finally gets her own story in The Merciless III, which takes place before the events of The Merciless and The Merciless II.

The Merciless III, like the first two books, is spooky, gorey, and really keeps you on your toes with all the twists and turns. Vega has a knack for storytelling and creating creepy, atmospheric settings that serve as the perfect background for demonic tomfoolery.

And as the cherry on top of this demonic sundae, Vega recently announced that summer of 2018 will bring a fourth installment to this series, The Merciless IV: Last Rites.

Cue dying of excitement.

The Merciless III was not only one of my favorite books of 2017, it was also one of my most highly anticipated releases, and The Merciless IV is shaping up to be the same thing for 2018. If you haven’t read this series yet, you are missing out! Get on it!

Other Places I Mention This Book:

Book Review – The Merciless III by Danielle Vega

Mini Reviews: The Merciless, The Merciless II, & Survive the Night by Danielle Vega

June & July Book Haul

Spooky Book Recommendations: Part Two

Cinder by Marissa Meyer (published January 2012)

“Even in the future, the story begins with Once Upon a Time.”

So The Lunar Chronicles is a series that I feel like I got in on pretty late in the game. I’ve always seen these books around the bookstore (I mean, you can’t miss these gorgeous purple and red covers) and knew, of course, that they were retellings of classic fairytales. But it wasn’t until earlier this year that I learned a little bit more about them and thought that this series might be for me. Up until recently, I didn’t actually realize that the titular character of the first book in the series was a cyborg, and that, along with the futuristic setting, political implications following the fourth World War, and outer space elements are what really got me interested. I finally picked up Cinder and immediately fell in love. Cinder, the main character of the first book and a remaining constant throughout the series, is a total badass—she’s part cyborg, she’s the best mechanic in the city, and she has a sarcastic response for just about everything. As mentioned before, if the original Cinderella had been more like this incarnation, I would have liked her a heck of a lot more. This book gave me a whole new appreciation for the classic fairytale of a girl who loses her glass slipper at the ball—only in this version, it’s her whole foot. Her whole cyborg foot.

I read all The Lunar Chronicles books this year, but I’m only including Cinder on this list because it was my absolute favorite of the series. In my opinion, Cinder is the breakout and absolute best of the books. I liked the volumes that followed less, perhaps because Cinder is my absolute favorite character in the series and I was reluctant to allow sharing of page time with other characters. (Not saying I disliked the other characters by any means, but my basic outlook was MORE CINDER!! ALL THE CINDER ALL THE TIME!! Because let’s face it, she’s the best.) As a result, despite the fact that I read—and definitely enjoyed—the entire series, Cinder is the one that makes it as one of my favorite books of 2017, and my favorite book of The Lunar Chronicles. I’ll definitely be reading more Marissa Meyer in 2018. In fact, I just received her recent release Renegades for Christmas, so I’m looking forward to checking that one out soon!

Other Places I Mention This Book:

Cinder by Marissa Meyer & Fallout 4: Similarities & My Love for Both

Book Recommendations Based on Your Favorite Video Games

We Are Okay by Nina LaCour (released February 2017)

“I learn that I am a tiny piece of a miraculous world.” – We Are Okay

We Are Okay centers on college freshman Marin, who, in addition to dealing with her first year at college, is also dealing with the grief following the death of her grandfather (who raised her) and the ramifications of her own actions after leaving for college without saying goodbye to anyone—including her best friend and love interest, Mabel. But now, for the first time since Marin left, Mabel is coming to visit her and stay with her in her dorm over winter break.

This contemporary YA is very understated and yet says so much. I fell in love with it immediately and fell to pieces over how beautiful it is. It is beautifully written, it has a beautiful message, it has a beautiful, realistic romance—everything about it is just gorgeous. Marin is so relatable, and really portrays things in a way that resonated with me as a reader. Plus, LaCour writes excellent female/female relationships, so it’s really nice to see that representation here.

The understated quality of this novel, though, is perhaps what I love most about it. One of the criticisms this book got from people who disliked it was that it was boring (“nothing happens”), which is a criticism I can understand—but completely disagree with. What happens in this novel is life, unfolding bit by bit just how it does in real life. One of LaCour’s talents lies in observing the everyday—a set of ceramic bowls, a sign hanging in a window, two people preparing dinner together—and observing it with a writer’s eye. An eye that can take those “mundane” or everyday things and imbue them with meaning and beauty. And if that’s not what a writer is supposed to be doing, then what is? If you’re a reader who loves convoluted plots and tons of action sequences and twists and turns, then fine—We Are Okay may not be for you. But this book blew me away. Easily one of my top faves of 2018—and another one that I have a full, detailed review on if you’d like to know more!

Other Places I Mention This Book:

Book Review – We Are Okay by Nina LaCour

Book Review – Everything Leads to You by Nina LaCour

Bird Box by Josh Malerman (released March 2014)

“It’s better to face madness with a plan than to sit still and let it take you in pieces.” – Bird Box

Bird Box, a post-apocalyptic horror novel by Josh Malerman, is the book on this list that I read most recently, and one of my last reads of 2017—and boy was it a good way to wind down the year of reading. While I have been reading other books since this one, I am only including books I finished in 2017 on this list, and I haven’t yet completed the others. So this is the last one I read in its entirety.

A full, detailed review on this book is forthcoming very soon (most likely later this week), but I wouldn’t have felt right leaving this book off the list of favorites for the year because it. Was. AWESOME.

Bird Box takes place in a “post-apocalyptic” setting in the sense that society has completely broken down as a result of a mysterious pandemic that has taken over the world. There is something—some creature or mysterious entity—out in the world that causes a person to go completely insane and violently kill the people around them and then themselves. As a result, the few survivors left in the world must always cover their eyes when outside for fear of seeing this mysterious creature. Malorie, the main character of the novel, is about to embark on a journey down the river to a potential safe haven with her four-year-old son and daughter, who simply go by Boy and Girl. And she will have to do it completely blind, relying only on her hearing and the impeccably trained ears of her small children—who have literally never seen the world outside the home. They’ve never even looked out a window.

The novel alternates between present chapters and past chapters, which is really dynamic and interesting and not only ratchets up the tension but also gives us important details and backstory about society, how it came to be this way, and Malorie’s experiences with moving into a post-apocalyptic group home, as well as being pregnant and giving birth in this terrifying version of society.

Y’all, this book was terrifying. Seriously. The fact that this was a more understated version of horror really drove home how scary it was, coupled with the fact that with a slight belief in the paranormal or suspension of disbelief, it really seems like something that could happen. It’s easy to put yourself in the characters’ shoes and think about how terrifying life would become if you knew there was something just beyond your sight that could completely destroy you, and imagine how it would be to have to adapt everything about the way you live accordingly.

Malerman is truly a talented author and creates a terrifying setting and characters with diverse points of view on the situation. The tension in this book is so high, there were moments where my heart was racing and I was truly scared for the characters. I am so excited for this to be made into a film (with Sandra Bullock taking the helm as Malorie) and can’t wait to see how the creative minds behind it pull it off. Hopefully it’s not overdone, because by far one of my favorite things about this book is how straightforward and understated it is. So much horror these days is filled with gore and totally over the top, but not here. Peter Straub praised the author by saying, “Josh Malerman does the job like a fast talking, wised-up angel”, and this statement rings so true. Easily one of the best books I read in 2017 and is definitely going to become one of the books that I recommend to everyone everywhere all the time until they’re sick of hearing me talk about it—so get ready for that in 2018!

So that does it, everyone! These are the nine best books I read in 2017. I chose them carefully and lovingly, and I hope you found some interesting things here to add to your 2018 TBR! (Because it needs to be bigger, right?)

What about everyone else? What were your favorite books of 2017? What’s up first on the TBR for 2018? Let me know in the comments below! You know I’d love to talk. <3

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