Best Books I Read in 2017


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Out of 17 books I read this year 2017, I did not finish 1 and did not review another. In addition, I read 2 nonfiction books. Without further ado, these are the literary works that I rated four stars or higher this year, 11 in total.
Why I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming by Mike Brown (♦♦♦♦): is for the most part a science memoir of almost a decade long search for trans-Neptunian objects of significance, now denominated “dwarf planets” (for lack of a better term) […] Mike Brown’s memoir is candid…At once funny and page-turning, it will both instruct and entertain you, and will do so in under 300 pages.
The Beautiful and Damned by F. Scott Fitzgerald (♦♦♦♦): Its sentences are lyrical, beautifully constructed, with very accessible language…Fitzgerald spikes the dialogues with keen observations about life and human nature, leaving, at least in the first part of the book, no other choice than to chuckle; he also peppers the dialogues with cynicism—rare among the young and privileged—, that increase in frequency and somberness as the novel progresses. Perhaps the book should have benefited from a tighter edition process though I’m not sure I would change anything in the telling of the story...
Stolen Beauty by Laurie Lico Albanese (♦♦♦♦): is a novel of art, love, loss, courage facing insurmountable odds, and sexual desire and awakening. It is also an exploration on marriage, faithfulness, and fulfillment as an individual within a marriage; it is a novel on promises broken, haunting memories, and finally, about redemption and the power of family. In all these counts, Stolen Beauty succeeds.
Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders (♦♦♦♦): is an unconventional novel, both in topic and structure. Interspersed with the chapters that describe the spiritual journey of young Willie Lincoln in the graveyard, are chapters sprinkled with historical sources…I found it endearing and I chuckled on occasions despite the somber topic…My only complaint is that I wish it had been a tad shorter, particularly towards the end.
Conclave by Robert Harris (♦♦♦♦): Robert Harris certainly didn’t tread new ground in Conclave, but the politics and trivia he went into, he nailed. He also commented on current affairs of the Church as a keen observer. In addition, he managed to breathe life into one of the most bureaucratic machines on earth. And let me tell you, that conclave was far from boring…
Minds of Winter by Ed O’Loughlin (♦♦♦♦): is 500 pages long and it reads like a literary page-turner, but some passages could have been tighter edited as I think they contribute little to the central mystery…The novel is very well developed and kept me guessing until the final page, though some mysteries I could work out on my own from the clues planted by the author throughout. My only criticism is regarding the ending, which left me with unanswered questions that I would like to discuss further.
The Shadowy Horses by Susanna Kearsley (♦♦♦♦½): In it, Susanna Kearsley successfully combines romance, ghost story and mediumship, family secrets, background on archaeology and Roman military constructions, Latin, literature, folklore, and local history. All those topics make for intriguing and wonderful entertainment.
The Daughter of Time (Inspector Alan Grant Book 5) by Josephine Tey (♦♦♦♦½): Despite its relative brevity by modern standards, Josephine Tey has managed to write an intriguing mystery, and convince the reader of the solidity of the case… With his knowledge of human behavior, Alan Grant, aided by his sidekick, deconstruct historically accepted facts, and builds a case that will make you wonder not only if he got it right, but what other cases of distorted history have been laid before your trusting eyes.
To Love and Be Wise (Inspector Alan Grant Book 4) by Josephine Tey (♦♦♦♦½): oftentimes modern mysteries and thrillers lean heavily towards the creepy and grotesque, thus I have found myself avoiding that genre as years go by. To Love and Be Wise is not that kind of mystery. It is a police procedural with a unique and refreshing twist, engrossing... breezy, and as literary as anything in the genre can be.
House of Spies (Gabriel Allon Series Book 17) by Daniel Silva (♦♦♦♦): like all its predecessors in the series, it is a page-turner that manages to entertain and inform the reader on international affairs, displays dark humor courtesy of the spy community, has an intriguing premise at the core of which is "the new normal" state of the world, and also manages to formulate eerie possibilities…
The Twelve Caesars by Gayo Suetonio (Translated by Robert Graves) (♦♦♦♦): This 2000-year-old biographical compendium on the life of the Caesars would read like a modern political account if it weren’t for the portents, omens, and innumerable poisonings and assassinations attempted and accomplished. Suetonio dishes out on the best and the worst of the Caesars, also including contemporary gossip and lampoons that make this account fresh, at times funny, and very juicy, without losing its historical value.

Comments

  1. I enjoyed Conclave this year too and I also loved The Daughter of Time when I read it a few years ago. The Shadowy Horses is one of the only Susanna Kearsley books I still haven't read - maybe I'll read it in 2018.

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    1. All three are outstanding. I still have Season of Storms and Every Secret Thing to read by Kearsley; I'll be reading them this coming year. She is supposed to release a novel this upcoming year too. Hopefully she will continue her trend of writing great novels. :-)

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  2. That's a diverse group. I need to read more Josephine Tey. And more Daniel Silva. Maybe in 2018. And I need to get my "best of" list together. Perhaps by New Year's Day. Happy New Year!

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    1. Happy New Year, Dorothy, to you as well! 😊

      It's a diverse group alright. I recommend you more of Josephine Tey and Daniel Silva. I have it easy with my bookish "best" list because I typically don't read that many in a year, you on the other hand... Let's just say I don't envy you for that task. You have a great crop of books to choose from this year. I look forward to your list when you publish it.

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  3. Nice recap Carmen. I'm especially impressed that you made thru the Minds of Winter novel. I looked at picking that one up but then thought it seemed to meander and I wasn't sure if I'd be able to follow all of its 500 pages but perhaps if you liked it. You have a good variety on your list.

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    1. I seem to favor historical fiction, but yes, this year I read a variety of genres and topics. I did like Minds of Winter a great deal; it was among the best I read, though the ending baffled me. I still think about it because cannot figure it out. The length didn't bother me much.

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  4. Last year I read and really enjoyed The Shadowy Horses by Susanna Kearsley, while this year I read and loved Kearsley's Season of Storms. For next year I have a copy of The Firebird to look forward too.

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    1. The Winter Sea and The Firebird are my top Kearsley favorites. Next year I will be reading Season of Storms and Every Secret Thing, and I will be done with her published works thus far saved The Splendour Falls, which I don't want to read because it has received mixed reviews. If you read it and liked it please let me know and I will add it to my TBR.

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  5. Great list with variety! So you made it through the Caesars! I am glad to know that at book # 17 Silva still has it. Happy New Year!

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    1. Happy New Year to you and yours! Thanks, Judy. Yes, I made it through the Caesars, though I won't be publishing my review any time soon. Silva still has it, but this latest installment could have benefitted from tighter editing.

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