Saturday, December 30, 2017

My Top Ten Reads of 2017

Nothing to Declare


I didn't want to post my Top Ten reads of 2017 too soon, in case I read something really great in the last few days of the year, but I think I'm safe enough publishing this now!

Over the last twelve months, I got through 137 books (currently reading #138). I used the library more than I had in years, and I fully embraced audiobooks. This list includes a couple - I really recommend them if you've struggled to read a certain book (I had attempted Rebecca several times in print but flew through it over 3 days in audio form).

This list has changed about ten times, but I've finally narrowed it down to something I'm 100% happy with. Here are my Top Ten reads of the year (not all were released in 2017).

10. Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
I read this in March, just before the TV adaptation aired (I wanted to read the book before I watched it). It's a really engaging story about a group of women all linked via their children, who all attend the same pre-school. An incident on the first day is the catalyst for a series of actions that drive some of the women together - but some of them are hiding pretty big secrets.  A great book that I couldn't wait to get back to whenever I had to put it down.

09. Tin Man by Sarah Winman
I picked this up in August, while on our annual holiday in Galway. I ended up reading it in one sitting - it's a beautiful story of love, loss, and longing that starts off with a woman winning a painting of Van Gogh's Sunflowers at a raffle. The story follows her son, Ellis, and his friendship with Michael, through several decades. Fans of John Boyne's most recent offering may enjoy this, it's one that has stayed with me since I read it.

08. The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman
This is the long-awaited prequel to Practical Magic. It follows the cursed Owens sisters, Franny and Jet (those familiar with the sequel will know them as the Aunts of Sally and Gillian) and their brother Vincent in the 1950s. It's beautiful, I wanted to start it again the minute I finished it. It almost broke my heart, but it was just stunning and I'd recommend it for people who enjoy strong characters and beautiful storytelling.

07. Good Me, Bad Me by Ali Land
I still remember the Sunday I read this - it was really sunny, and I didn't budge from the garden chair until I had read it from cover to cover. It's about how a fifteen year old girl copes while her mother is awaiting trial for horrific crimes against children. Milly has been given a second chance - a new identity, a new family - but when Milly comes up against some trouble at school, she needs to figure something out - is she good, or is she bad? This was one of those rare books I wanted to just devour, I couldn't read it fast enough. An intelligent, tense, unsettling thriller.

06. A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas
As a fan of book accounts on both Instagram and Youtube, I had seen a lot about Sarah J Maas' two series - A Court of Thorns and Roses and Throne of Glass. I ended up reading both series in 2017 (bar one book) - consider me a total fangirl (and 100% on #TeamRhysand). This one was my favourite of hers - it's the second book in the Thorns and Roses series, and the world building was phenomenal. Her attention to detail with both characters and setting is wonderful, it makes me feel the same as I did when I read the Harry Potter books for the first time. Sure, the sometimes insta-love and the Alpha male growling and purring stuff can be off-putting, but there's a solid story underneath and as fantasy series go, it's one I'll follow to the end. Fairies, warriors, magic, quests, war-hungry Kings hell-bent on revenge? Gimme.

05. Oh My God, What a Complete Aisling! by Emer McLysaght and Sarah Breen
From fairies and warriors to dangly earrings and a hotel breakfast - OMGWACA, as it is lovingly known, began as a Facebook page a few years ago. I always assumed it was a group for people who were called Aisling, and when I finally joined I was completely confused by mentions of Deddeh, BGB and GJ - but slowly, it became apparent that Ireland is a special little place. Where else could you post a picture of a biscuit tin and get a debate going on whether or not it contained biscuits or a sewing kit?  Unsure how this would translate to a novel form, I bought this without really reading any reviews. It's a sweet, funny, and warm tale of Aisling, a country girl who works in the city. When her long-term boyfriend John fails to produce the much-anticipated engagement ring, Aisling decides that things need to change. I adored this, it was the absolutely perfect comfort read.

04. A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay
The first of two audiobooks on the list - I listened to this over a couple of days while out walking. It's about two sisters, Marjorie and Meredith. Fifteen years ago, their family was the subject of a reality TV show, called The Possession. Now, a horror blogger is writing about the show, and Meredith is telling her story to a writer. Eventually we piece together what happened during the recording - was there really a possession? I loved this, it was very enjoyable and I really liked the way it was written (or told). For me, it had echoes of We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson. That's never a bad thing if it's done right - and here, it's done right. I'll definitely listen to this again. 

03.  The One by John Marrs
The second audiobook on my list. This was read by a full cast, and they did such a wonderful job. Every single one of them was engaging, but I think my favourite was the lady who read Jade. This is a story about a dating agency with a difference - people are matched by DNA samples, ensuring that they end up with their true DNA soulmate. But what would happen if you were already with your soulmate and you got matched with someone else? Or if your match turned out to be a serial killer? Or on the other side of the world? Or dead? This follows five people as they're faced with five very different scenarios after taking the test. I'd highly recommend this, it's a really unique thriller and the premise is fascinating. Would you take the test?

02. The KLF: Chaos, Magic and the Band who Burned a Million Pounds by John Higgs
Yes, THAT KLF. The band who had Tammy Wynette singing about an ice cream van. Not a band I've ever been majorly interested in, to be fair, but I had heard that this book was worth a read. It's not only worth a read, I'd go as far as to say it's essential reading if you're interested in coincidence, the origins of the illuminati, 1990s pop culture, and the most interesting, bonkers characters that you couldn't even make up. The sections about money and Ideaspace are worth it alone - just consider the fact (because it is a fact) that everything around you this very minute began as an idea in someone else's mind. Also, when I finished this book I checked my phone and it was on 23% and it absolutely MADE my evening.

01. The Heart's Invisible Furies by John Boyne
Ah, Cyril. I still miss him months after reading this book - this is his story. Cyril was adopted into the Avery family after his mother was banished from her parish when she became pregnant with him. This follows him through the decades of his life - one ordinary man in Ireland from the 1940s until the present day, and all the changes, friendships, and relationships that could possibly bring. It's a gorgeous book, one that left me with a book hangover for a very long time afterwards. How can you miss someone who never existed? That's real magic. The power of books!

So, there we go. What was your favourite read of the year? Or have you read any of these? I've a lot coming up here over the next few months, book posts will be more regular plus I'll be mixing it up with the lifestyle posts in between. I have my Monthly Reads next week, plus a post on the Popsugar 2018 challenge, my most anticipated reads of 2018, a brand shiny new Books 2018 page, a whole basket full of product empties, a money saving challenge and an analysis on whether or not a pricey beauty advent calendar was worth the cost this year. If there's anything else you'd like to see, please pop it in the comments!

As always, thank you so much for reading and for sticking around for another year!