A Year of Great Stories

Xmas heartSusan 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.

Perugini woman reading

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-dovekeepers-9781451617498_hrThe 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 
Madwoman upstairsSamantha 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 Lastkingdom I 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
Mynotsoperfectlife kinsella  audioI'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!

Susan  

35 thoughts on “A Year of Great Stories”

  1. The Grave’s A Fine and Private Place is the opening line to my favourite Emily Dickinson poem. I love the wry humour and acceptance of death. It makes me think I should add Alan Bradley’s to my ‘new to me’ pile to read.

    Reply
  2. The Grave’s A Fine and Private Place is the opening line to my favourite Emily Dickinson poem. I love the wry humour and acceptance of death. It makes me think I should add Alan Bradley’s to my ‘new to me’ pile to read.

    Reply
  3. The Grave’s A Fine and Private Place is the opening line to my favourite Emily Dickinson poem. I love the wry humour and acceptance of death. It makes me think I should add Alan Bradley’s to my ‘new to me’ pile to read.

    Reply
  4. The Grave’s A Fine and Private Place is the opening line to my favourite Emily Dickinson poem. I love the wry humour and acceptance of death. It makes me think I should add Alan Bradley’s to my ‘new to me’ pile to read.

    Reply
  5. The Grave’s A Fine and Private Place is the opening line to my favourite Emily Dickinson poem. I love the wry humour and acceptance of death. It makes me think I should add Alan Bradley’s to my ‘new to me’ pile to read.

    Reply
  6. I love Alan Bradley’s Flavia books too, Susan, but I’ll wait and read my sister’s copy when she finishes. It saves book dollars for a romance or a poetry collection. That is an evocative title, reminding me not only of Marvell’s “To His Coy Mistress,” one of my favorite poems to teach, but also Peter Beagle’s wonderful novel, A Fine and Private Place, one of my all-time favorites.
    In 2017, I read about thirty-six books that ranked 4.5-5 stars for me. It was a very good reading year. I could not choose a single best read–or even a top three when I did my top ten for The Romance Dish. Culling my list to ten was difficult. Meredith Duran’s A Lady’s Code of Misconduct, Julie Anne Long’s Dirty Dancing at Devil’s Leap, and Lisa Wingate’s Before We Were Yours are all books that have lingered in my mind over the months since I read them.
    I have a calendar full of books that I am highly anticipating in 2018. There are a number of Wench books on that list. Most anticipated? Perhaps Mary Balogh’s Someone to Care. Just imagining Viola, one-time Countess of Riverdale and a grandmother, as the heroine of a romance novel makes me want to cheer.

    Reply
  7. I love Alan Bradley’s Flavia books too, Susan, but I’ll wait and read my sister’s copy when she finishes. It saves book dollars for a romance or a poetry collection. That is an evocative title, reminding me not only of Marvell’s “To His Coy Mistress,” one of my favorite poems to teach, but also Peter Beagle’s wonderful novel, A Fine and Private Place, one of my all-time favorites.
    In 2017, I read about thirty-six books that ranked 4.5-5 stars for me. It was a very good reading year. I could not choose a single best read–or even a top three when I did my top ten for The Romance Dish. Culling my list to ten was difficult. Meredith Duran’s A Lady’s Code of Misconduct, Julie Anne Long’s Dirty Dancing at Devil’s Leap, and Lisa Wingate’s Before We Were Yours are all books that have lingered in my mind over the months since I read them.
    I have a calendar full of books that I am highly anticipating in 2018. There are a number of Wench books on that list. Most anticipated? Perhaps Mary Balogh’s Someone to Care. Just imagining Viola, one-time Countess of Riverdale and a grandmother, as the heroine of a romance novel makes me want to cheer.

    Reply
  8. I love Alan Bradley’s Flavia books too, Susan, but I’ll wait and read my sister’s copy when she finishes. It saves book dollars for a romance or a poetry collection. That is an evocative title, reminding me not only of Marvell’s “To His Coy Mistress,” one of my favorite poems to teach, but also Peter Beagle’s wonderful novel, A Fine and Private Place, one of my all-time favorites.
    In 2017, I read about thirty-six books that ranked 4.5-5 stars for me. It was a very good reading year. I could not choose a single best read–or even a top three when I did my top ten for The Romance Dish. Culling my list to ten was difficult. Meredith Duran’s A Lady’s Code of Misconduct, Julie Anne Long’s Dirty Dancing at Devil’s Leap, and Lisa Wingate’s Before We Were Yours are all books that have lingered in my mind over the months since I read them.
    I have a calendar full of books that I am highly anticipating in 2018. There are a number of Wench books on that list. Most anticipated? Perhaps Mary Balogh’s Someone to Care. Just imagining Viola, one-time Countess of Riverdale and a grandmother, as the heroine of a romance novel makes me want to cheer.

    Reply
  9. I love Alan Bradley’s Flavia books too, Susan, but I’ll wait and read my sister’s copy when she finishes. It saves book dollars for a romance or a poetry collection. That is an evocative title, reminding me not only of Marvell’s “To His Coy Mistress,” one of my favorite poems to teach, but also Peter Beagle’s wonderful novel, A Fine and Private Place, one of my all-time favorites.
    In 2017, I read about thirty-six books that ranked 4.5-5 stars for me. It was a very good reading year. I could not choose a single best read–or even a top three when I did my top ten for The Romance Dish. Culling my list to ten was difficult. Meredith Duran’s A Lady’s Code of Misconduct, Julie Anne Long’s Dirty Dancing at Devil’s Leap, and Lisa Wingate’s Before We Were Yours are all books that have lingered in my mind over the months since I read them.
    I have a calendar full of books that I am highly anticipating in 2018. There are a number of Wench books on that list. Most anticipated? Perhaps Mary Balogh’s Someone to Care. Just imagining Viola, one-time Countess of Riverdale and a grandmother, as the heroine of a romance novel makes me want to cheer.

    Reply
  10. I love Alan Bradley’s Flavia books too, Susan, but I’ll wait and read my sister’s copy when she finishes. It saves book dollars for a romance or a poetry collection. That is an evocative title, reminding me not only of Marvell’s “To His Coy Mistress,” one of my favorite poems to teach, but also Peter Beagle’s wonderful novel, A Fine and Private Place, one of my all-time favorites.
    In 2017, I read about thirty-six books that ranked 4.5-5 stars for me. It was a very good reading year. I could not choose a single best read–or even a top three when I did my top ten for The Romance Dish. Culling my list to ten was difficult. Meredith Duran’s A Lady’s Code of Misconduct, Julie Anne Long’s Dirty Dancing at Devil’s Leap, and Lisa Wingate’s Before We Were Yours are all books that have lingered in my mind over the months since I read them.
    I have a calendar full of books that I am highly anticipating in 2018. There are a number of Wench books on that list. Most anticipated? Perhaps Mary Balogh’s Someone to Care. Just imagining Viola, one-time Countess of Riverdale and a grandmother, as the heroine of a romance novel makes me want to cheer.

    Reply
  11. I loved “The Last Painting of Sara de Vos” by Dominic Smith, “Jasper Jones” by Craig Silvey, “The Dry” by Jane Harper and “Jean Harley was Here” by Heather Taylor Johnson. I’m also working my way through Beatriz Williams’ novels. I love, love, love her characters and her dual storylines covering past and present (like someone else we know…)

    Reply
  12. I loved “The Last Painting of Sara de Vos” by Dominic Smith, “Jasper Jones” by Craig Silvey, “The Dry” by Jane Harper and “Jean Harley was Here” by Heather Taylor Johnson. I’m also working my way through Beatriz Williams’ novels. I love, love, love her characters and her dual storylines covering past and present (like someone else we know…)

    Reply
  13. I loved “The Last Painting of Sara de Vos” by Dominic Smith, “Jasper Jones” by Craig Silvey, “The Dry” by Jane Harper and “Jean Harley was Here” by Heather Taylor Johnson. I’m also working my way through Beatriz Williams’ novels. I love, love, love her characters and her dual storylines covering past and present (like someone else we know…)

    Reply
  14. I loved “The Last Painting of Sara de Vos” by Dominic Smith, “Jasper Jones” by Craig Silvey, “The Dry” by Jane Harper and “Jean Harley was Here” by Heather Taylor Johnson. I’m also working my way through Beatriz Williams’ novels. I love, love, love her characters and her dual storylines covering past and present (like someone else we know…)

    Reply
  15. I loved “The Last Painting of Sara de Vos” by Dominic Smith, “Jasper Jones” by Craig Silvey, “The Dry” by Jane Harper and “Jean Harley was Here” by Heather Taylor Johnson. I’m also working my way through Beatriz Williams’ novels. I love, love, love her characters and her dual storylines covering past and present (like someone else we know…)

    Reply
  16. I read lots of books in 2017 and I enjoyed most of them. Too many to name here though. In 2018 I’m looking forward to Ellie Dean’s new book in her Cliffehaven series along with a few others but the one I’m really looking forward to is Murder at Half Moon Gate by Andrea. I loved the first one in the series and can’t wait to see what happens next!

    Reply
  17. I read lots of books in 2017 and I enjoyed most of them. Too many to name here though. In 2018 I’m looking forward to Ellie Dean’s new book in her Cliffehaven series along with a few others but the one I’m really looking forward to is Murder at Half Moon Gate by Andrea. I loved the first one in the series and can’t wait to see what happens next!

    Reply
  18. I read lots of books in 2017 and I enjoyed most of them. Too many to name here though. In 2018 I’m looking forward to Ellie Dean’s new book in her Cliffehaven series along with a few others but the one I’m really looking forward to is Murder at Half Moon Gate by Andrea. I loved the first one in the series and can’t wait to see what happens next!

    Reply
  19. I read lots of books in 2017 and I enjoyed most of them. Too many to name here though. In 2018 I’m looking forward to Ellie Dean’s new book in her Cliffehaven series along with a few others but the one I’m really looking forward to is Murder at Half Moon Gate by Andrea. I loved the first one in the series and can’t wait to see what happens next!

    Reply
  20. I read lots of books in 2017 and I enjoyed most of them. Too many to name here though. In 2018 I’m looking forward to Ellie Dean’s new book in her Cliffehaven series along with a few others but the one I’m really looking forward to is Murder at Half Moon Gate by Andrea. I loved the first one in the series and can’t wait to see what happens next!

    Reply
  21. I read many books in 2017 and I liked a good portion of them. It would be difficult to choose my favorites.
    For 2018, I am looking forward to the next book in Mary Balogh’s series among others. I also have discovered some British classic mysteries which have been republished. Many of the authors have been unknown to me, but I plan to remedy that.
    I unfortunately have almost never met a book I did not like. Oh, there have been some which became DNF books for me. But, generally I am drawn into many of the books I choose. I am not cheap, but I am easy.
    I admire people who are capable of creating a new world populated by wonderful new people. It is difficult for me to not want to read and fall in love and find out how things end. I have been reading for many years. I always feel an urgent need to see what happens. Even when I read history books, it is necessary to find out how things truly end. After all, who knows if the next book will tell me who really won the Battle of Waterloo.

    Reply
  22. I read many books in 2017 and I liked a good portion of them. It would be difficult to choose my favorites.
    For 2018, I am looking forward to the next book in Mary Balogh’s series among others. I also have discovered some British classic mysteries which have been republished. Many of the authors have been unknown to me, but I plan to remedy that.
    I unfortunately have almost never met a book I did not like. Oh, there have been some which became DNF books for me. But, generally I am drawn into many of the books I choose. I am not cheap, but I am easy.
    I admire people who are capable of creating a new world populated by wonderful new people. It is difficult for me to not want to read and fall in love and find out how things end. I have been reading for many years. I always feel an urgent need to see what happens. Even when I read history books, it is necessary to find out how things truly end. After all, who knows if the next book will tell me who really won the Battle of Waterloo.

    Reply
  23. I read many books in 2017 and I liked a good portion of them. It would be difficult to choose my favorites.
    For 2018, I am looking forward to the next book in Mary Balogh’s series among others. I also have discovered some British classic mysteries which have been republished. Many of the authors have been unknown to me, but I plan to remedy that.
    I unfortunately have almost never met a book I did not like. Oh, there have been some which became DNF books for me. But, generally I am drawn into many of the books I choose. I am not cheap, but I am easy.
    I admire people who are capable of creating a new world populated by wonderful new people. It is difficult for me to not want to read and fall in love and find out how things end. I have been reading for many years. I always feel an urgent need to see what happens. Even when I read history books, it is necessary to find out how things truly end. After all, who knows if the next book will tell me who really won the Battle of Waterloo.

    Reply
  24. I read many books in 2017 and I liked a good portion of them. It would be difficult to choose my favorites.
    For 2018, I am looking forward to the next book in Mary Balogh’s series among others. I also have discovered some British classic mysteries which have been republished. Many of the authors have been unknown to me, but I plan to remedy that.
    I unfortunately have almost never met a book I did not like. Oh, there have been some which became DNF books for me. But, generally I am drawn into many of the books I choose. I am not cheap, but I am easy.
    I admire people who are capable of creating a new world populated by wonderful new people. It is difficult for me to not want to read and fall in love and find out how things end. I have been reading for many years. I always feel an urgent need to see what happens. Even when I read history books, it is necessary to find out how things truly end. After all, who knows if the next book will tell me who really won the Battle of Waterloo.

    Reply
  25. I read many books in 2017 and I liked a good portion of them. It would be difficult to choose my favorites.
    For 2018, I am looking forward to the next book in Mary Balogh’s series among others. I also have discovered some British classic mysteries which have been republished. Many of the authors have been unknown to me, but I plan to remedy that.
    I unfortunately have almost never met a book I did not like. Oh, there have been some which became DNF books for me. But, generally I am drawn into many of the books I choose. I am not cheap, but I am easy.
    I admire people who are capable of creating a new world populated by wonderful new people. It is difficult for me to not want to read and fall in love and find out how things end. I have been reading for many years. I always feel an urgent need to see what happens. Even when I read history books, it is necessary to find out how things truly end. After all, who knows if the next book will tell me who really won the Battle of Waterloo.

    Reply
  26. I read The Dovekeepers for my book group a couple of years ago; it was an enjoyable read.
    Favorite books of mine this past year were all series ~ Anne Bishop’s The Others, Anne Cleeland’s New Scotland Yard mysteries, and Lyn Gala’s series featuring Liam and Ondry which is a a few years old.
    I’m looking forward to new books by Anne Bishop (a spin-off of the series above), Anne Cleeland, Lisa Kleypas, Mary Balogh, and a host of others.

    Reply
  27. I read The Dovekeepers for my book group a couple of years ago; it was an enjoyable read.
    Favorite books of mine this past year were all series ~ Anne Bishop’s The Others, Anne Cleeland’s New Scotland Yard mysteries, and Lyn Gala’s series featuring Liam and Ondry which is a a few years old.
    I’m looking forward to new books by Anne Bishop (a spin-off of the series above), Anne Cleeland, Lisa Kleypas, Mary Balogh, and a host of others.

    Reply
  28. I read The Dovekeepers for my book group a couple of years ago; it was an enjoyable read.
    Favorite books of mine this past year were all series ~ Anne Bishop’s The Others, Anne Cleeland’s New Scotland Yard mysteries, and Lyn Gala’s series featuring Liam and Ondry which is a a few years old.
    I’m looking forward to new books by Anne Bishop (a spin-off of the series above), Anne Cleeland, Lisa Kleypas, Mary Balogh, and a host of others.

    Reply
  29. I read The Dovekeepers for my book group a couple of years ago; it was an enjoyable read.
    Favorite books of mine this past year were all series ~ Anne Bishop’s The Others, Anne Cleeland’s New Scotland Yard mysteries, and Lyn Gala’s series featuring Liam and Ondry which is a a few years old.
    I’m looking forward to new books by Anne Bishop (a spin-off of the series above), Anne Cleeland, Lisa Kleypas, Mary Balogh, and a host of others.

    Reply
  30. I read The Dovekeepers for my book group a couple of years ago; it was an enjoyable read.
    Favorite books of mine this past year were all series ~ Anne Bishop’s The Others, Anne Cleeland’s New Scotland Yard mysteries, and Lyn Gala’s series featuring Liam and Ondry which is a a few years old.
    I’m looking forward to new books by Anne Bishop (a spin-off of the series above), Anne Cleeland, Lisa Kleypas, Mary Balogh, and a host of others.

    Reply

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