Although it’s already February 2018, I think there is still time to discuss some good books from last year. Having read 100 books in 2017, I can say that there were some very good ones that I would highly recommend to any reader.
*NOTE: not all of the books on this list were published in 2017 (perhaps I’ll make that list another day). Mostly, these were books I happened to read in 2017 that stood out to me as excellent due to their plot, world-building, and character development, or in the case of nonfiction, how captivating and well-researched it is!
10. The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion, and the Fall of Imperial Russia (Candace Fleming, 2014).
While I am generally not a fan of nonfiction, I found myself captivated by this story of the tragic Romanov family. Fleming dives into Russian politics, the disconnect between the royal family and their country, and the lives of the Romanovs themselves. I have always loved the movie Anastasia, but I knew it was false. None of the Romanov children survived the execution. Fleming excels in stating facts, but also in humanizing the family, which makes their tragic end even more difficult to read. I enjoyed that images of the Romanov family were included and that Fleming took the time to add extra little facts about the family, especially the children and their lives within the palace. If you’re looking to jump into nonfiction, I would suggest starting with this book. It’s a fast read with a great deal of information.
9. Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic (Sam Quinones, 2015).
More nonfiction! Dreamland focuses on the opiate epidemic that is currently plaguing America. Quinones discusses how opiates made their way into the United States and the impact they have had. This book explores drug culture, addiction, and what it has done to families in the United States. I found this book difficult to read at points because of the amount of information that is provided. It is interesting, heart-breaking, and so very real. Ohio, my home state, has been plagued with opiate overdoses for some time now and it is devastating, especially to read about. Dreamland might take some time to read, but it is well worth it. Here is a link to more information regarding drug deaths in America from 2016/2017 (https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/06/05/upshot/opioid-epidemic-drug-overdose-deaths-are-rising-faster-than-ever.html)
8. Wires and Nerve, Volume 1 (Marissa Meyer, 2017. Illustrated by Douglas Holgate).
Graphic novels! In late 2016, I began my graphic novel adventure, and I have to say that I’m kicking myself for waiting so long to read them! Graphic novels are fantastic, and I would encourage anyone and everyone to give them a try. Wires and Nerve is the graphic novel follow up series to Marissa Meyer’s The Lunar Chronicles series, which I read and loved. Wires and Nerve focuses on Iko and her quest to save the world from wolf-hybrids that have gone rogue (I can’t say too much without spoiling the entire story of The Lunar Chronicles). One of my favorite parts about graphic novels is that I get to admire the art and the words. While I was initially uneasy about the art, I grew to enjoy it. Holgate excels in expressions and creating a world that is full of uncertainty and hope. The dialogue is witty and full of heart, and Lunar Chronicles fans will delight in seeing their favorite characters assist Iko in her quest. The character of Iko is also expanded greatly, and I’m looking forward to what the next installment of Wires and Nerve will bring. If you want to read this, please, please read The Lunar Chronicles first. Those books include: Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, Fairest, Winter, and Stars Above (that is the order I suggest reading them).
7. Archie, Volume 1: The New Riverdale (Mark Waid, 2016).
ARCHIE ANDREWS. Today, his name means something different to everyone. Some people look back fondly on the Archie comics of their childhood while others (myself included) gush and bingewatch Riverdale on the CW, which is much darker than its original comic. So where does that leave Archie: The New Riverdale? Well, this graphic novel is almost a mix of the two. It has the visual appeal of the tv show, but with more humor and fewer grisly murders. Archie and friends are back for more fun in the 21st century. If you’re looking for some laughs and a solid story, I would suggest you give Archie: The New Riverdale a try. It’s great for anyone who is new to graphic novels and wants to test the water before they commit.
6. The Night Circus (Erin Morgenstern, 2011).
Mysterious, whimsical, and lovely. Those probably aren’t the best words to describe The Night Circus but they’ll have to do (mostly because I don’t know how to describe this book and I’m very exhausted while I type. Please send coffee). When I was a student assistant at my public library, this book was the talk of all the book clubs. Everyone wanted to get their hands on it, and I did not get my hands on it until 2017 – yikes. It is easy to get transported to this world where a circus “arrives without warning” and the audience can interact with it all night. Little does the audience know, there is a competition happening between two magicians Celia and Marco, who have trained their whole lives to compete with one another. Although they are both very skilled, neither knows the impact this competition will have on them. This is not a book that you can read while distracted. You need to dedicate your mind to it because so much is constantly happening. Morgenstern creates a magical world full of characters that are unlike any other. This engaging story will leave you surprised at the end, and it will leave you wishing that a circus like this existed so that you could explore it.
5. Heartless (Marissa Meyer, 2016)
Back at it again with Marissa Meyer. While The Lunar Chronicles focuses on retelling old fairy tales in a futuristic setting, Heartless is more of an origin story for the infamous Red Queen of Wonderland. I was nervous at first. I don’t care for Wonderland in any way, shape, or form (I’ve read the books, seen the movies, and they freak me out). However, Meyer does the unthinkable and creates Wonderland in a new way. She also humanizes the Red Queen, who is actually just Cath, a girl who loves to bake and dreams of owning her own bakery. Her parents have other plans for her that involve marrying the king, but Cath finds herself drawn to the court jester – Jest, and sets out to create her own destiny and bake lots of lemon tarts. As a reader, you get to watch Cath change and anyone who knows anything about Wonderland will catch her little “tells” that you see in the Red Queen. Heartless is heartbreaking and beautiful. Meyer poses the question: can we really avoid fate? Can we avoid what we are destined to become?
4. Six of Crows (Leigh Bardugo, 2015)
A few years ago, Leigh Bardugo blew my mind with her Grisha Trilogy. Now she’s back but with a criminal as the leading character and his band of misfits who are some of the deadliest characters you’ll ever meet. Kaz Brekker is an expert at crime. He’s ruthless, smart, and determined to succeed at any job he is presented with. Riches beyond his dreams are offered if he can complete a deadly heist that will more likely than not (we’re talking 99% chance) leave him dead. To Kaz, this extreme version of breaking and entering, hostage retrieval, and general theft is well worth the risk, so he assembles a team (like the Avengers, but darker and less heroic). Each member of Kaz’s group has their own talent, but will it be enough to complete this heist? If you’re looking for a dark, gritty, action-filled book with characters that have extremely loose morals…. look no further. Six of Crows could be your 2018 book.
3. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe (Benjamin Alire Saenz, 2012).
The length of this title might seem odd and intimidating, but I assure you it is worth it. The focus of this book is on two Mexican-American boys, both very different, but they share an incredible bond. Aristotle has a brother in prison and he is generally pretty angry and frustrated, while Dante is more laid back and has a unique world view. An unlikely bond forms between the two boys over the summer that will change their lives forever. I’m not sure what I liked best about this book – the characters, the development, or the writing! It all flowed in such an incredible way that I could not put this book down! This book touched something in my heart and soul that I have never felt before. The simplicity of the story is part of what makes it so amazing and unique. I felt like I learned a lot while also just enjoying the story. It’s difficult to explain. But seriously, pick up this book. You won’t regret it.
2. A Darker Shade of Magic (V.E. Schwab, 2015)
I recommend this book to everyone, no joke. Schwab has been one of my favorite authors since I picked up The Near Witch on a whim at my library. She is the goddess of world-building and story development. If you’ve wanted to give sci-fi a shot, start with A Darker Shade of Magic. The story follows Kell who is a magician of sorts (an Antari, to be specific) and he is one of the last in all of the 4 Londons. Yup, there are 4 Londons (Red, Gray, White, and Black) and Kell is one of two people that can travel through all of them. He is the adopted son of the royal family of Red London and serves as an ambassador of sorts, delivering messages to Gray London (rules by an ailing king and his scheming son) and White London (controlled by the horrific and terrifying Dane Twins). When he isn’t corresponding with royalty, however, Kell enjoys some good old fashioned smuggling, which is technically treason. He sees no issue with this seemingly harmless practice until an exchange goes very, very wrong and his world, Red London, is in grave danger. With the help of a Gray Londoner thief and wannabe pirate, Lila Bard, Kell sets off an adventure of a lifetime to save a world he loves. This book is full of humor, wit, and suspense that will keep you on the edge of your feet. Do 4 Londons sound fascinating? Don’t worry. Like I said, Schwab is a master at world-building and you’ll soon know your Londons as well as Lila, much to Kell’s dismay. Do yourself a favor and get this book. You might end up reading it more than once (I sure did!).
1. Scythe (Neal Shusterman, 2016).
THE NUMBER 1 BOOK OF 2017 (according to me): SCYTHE. Imagine having the power to kill. Actually, imagine that it’s your job. Do you think you could do it? Shusterman creates a futuristic world where death is cured, Thunderhead knows everything, and humans now live forever. Cool, right? Yes, until that issue of overpopulation grows and grows…. That’s why there are scythes! The purpose of these people is to maintain population numbers. Although people never die, there is always a demand for more scythes. That’s where Citra and Rowan come in – they are apprentices. Although this is not the job that either teen wants, they must learn how to kill. If you like questioning yourself, give this book a shot. You get to meet so many scythes and learn their methods on how they determine who to kill. Some prefer a mathematical approach, some kill at random, and some prefer mass killings. While some might seem less horrible than others, you might soon find yourself questioning everything you thought you stood for. Now imagine how Citra and Rowan feel. Scythe will keep you on the edge of your seat from beginning to end. I read this book in January of 2017 and I thought about it nearly every day after. Shusterman builds a world that really is too good to be true and presents readers with clever, flawed, and unique characters with different perspectives that will make you question many things. This is the kind of book I think should be in book clubs. It is engaging, thought-provoking, and quite frankly, terrifying. If you can only read one book this year, let it be Scythe.