Susan here – Yuletide is done, the cold winter winds are whistling around outside the house … the holiday paraphernalia is tucked away in boxes, the pine needles are vacuumed up, plaid tablecloths cleaned and put away, green wreath off the door. The new year is just a week old, and hopes are high for 2018. Some of 2017 proved to be, for my family, a bit of Toad's Wild Ride, but the year brought good things too – including wonderful reads that I'm so glad I discovered. A few of these are now sitting on my keeper shelves, and I'll find space there for the incredible new reads of 2018.
So here are some of my favorite books from 2017 – delightful, touching, powerful and light, I loved them all. I haven’t included the books written by the Word Wenches – that would need a whole new blog! – though you already know how much I love and admire their books (see our sidebar for their 2017 titles)! All these and other wonderful books made 2017 a year of great stories . . . .
The Dovekeepers, Alice Hoffman
The story of four women in ancient Judea whose lives and paths interweave and bring them to Masada and the final, fatal standoff between the Romans and the Jews there, this is a powerful novel, exquisitely written, brilliantly realized. Hoffman conjures a complete world and immerses the reader in what becomes a very real journey.
The Madwoman Upstairs, Catherine Lowell
Samantha Whipple is the last descendant of the Brontë family, a reputation that precedes her as she enrolls in Oxford as a grad student in literature. A quirky, feisty, funny, brilliant heroine, a juicy academic treasure-mystery steeped in lore and lit, the story is intelligent, imaginative, fun and unexpectedly romantic. I’ll definitely read this one again someday!
The Last Kingdom, Bernard Cornwell
I finally got around to starting this series, and I’m so glad I did. Set in 9th century Britain during the Viking invasions and the reign of King Alfred, it’s the story of Uhtred of Bebbanburg, one of Cornwell’s own ancestors. This is dynamic historical fiction, gritty and realistic, centering on a strong, complex main character and the struggles and power shifts as the Danes came to England’s shores. The early medieval centuries particularly appeal to me, and Cornwell creates it fully in these great reads.
My Not So Perfect Life, Sophie Kinsella
I'm a Kinsella fan, and this is one of her best—breezy, funny, endearing, even as it touches on themes of friendship and forgiveness with subtle wisdom. Katie Brenner leaves the corporate London world in the midst of a dilemma, and ends up running a bed and breakfast at her family’s farm. When the troubles – and the temptations, a really yummy hero – that she left behind in the city suddenly appear on the B&B’s doorstep, she has much to face. Katie is a Kinsella heroine, calamitous and endearing, and very well drawn–and a surprising turn deepens story and characters. One of my favorites among her books so far. I listened to the audio, beautifully narrated by Fiona Hardingham.
What am I looking forward to in 2018? A great year — with great stories!
I’ve pre-ordered Alan Bradley’s newest Flavia de Luce mystery, The Grave’s A Fine and Private Place, coming later in January. I’m a huge fan of the Flavia mysteries, and I’ll be listening to the audio by narrator Jayne Entwistle, who always brings a sense of delight and brilliance to Bradley's Flavia books.
I’m also pre-ordering a new novel by Sophie Kinsella, and I’ll continue Cornwell’s Saxon Tales, and plan to read more of the Jane Austen mysteries by Stephanie Barron—I quite enjoy those—and … well, let's see what books the year brings for all of us. And of course, I'm eagerly awaiting the new books coming soon from my Word Wench sisters!
What were your favorite reads in 2017? What made it to your keeper shelf? And please let us know what new releases you’re looking forward to in 2018.
Wishing everyone a happy, healthy, prosperous and simply amazing new year!