I reviewed the first half of 2017’s books earlier here. I’m not counting cookbooks, pattern books, and similar things here, although I read quite a few and reviewed them on Goodreads. Last year I read 27 books which was more than I’d read any other year since I started keeping count in 2007. This year I broke that record with 32 books read. I know a lot of people who regularly read a lot more than that every year but it’s a lot for me so I’m happy about it. 2018’s goal is 35 books!!!
My favorite: The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey
Five star winners: Anything is Possible by Elizabeth Strout; Sisters by Lily Tuck; Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond; The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey; Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward
My least favorite: Perfume: The Story of a Murderer by Patrick Suskind
The longest: Three Sisters, Three Queens by Philippa Gregory at 556 pages
The oldest: The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman published in 1892
Here is the second half of the list in the order I read them. I’ve included reviews for some and ratings on a scale of 1 to 5 stars for all. The book club I was in disbanded but we’ve started one at my library and I’m attending a class for work that involves reading a book then meeting to discuss it and watching the film adaptation. This is keeping me busy with reading plus I’m still getting a lot of great books from NetGalley.
16. The Toughest Indian in the World by Sherman Alexie – 3 stars
17. Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng – NetGalley – 4 stars
I loved Ng’s first novel, Everything I Never Told You, and I loved Little Fires Everywhere almost as much. The novel is a domestic drama set in the wealthy, planned community of Shaker Heights. Ng explores the lives of two families. One is “perfect” with a beautiful home and four all-star children and the other consists of a nomadic, somewhat mysterious artist and her 15 year old daughter. The families, and especially the two mothers, represent two ways of living life: planned and by the book and winging it based on feelings while chasing experiences and meaning. The end kept me from giving this book five stars. The novel opens with a tragic event and then backtracks showing us how that event came to be. The end and the reasons for it were not predictable until quite far into the book, but once it became obvious, due to an almost insulting amount of foreshadowing, I was let down a bit. Overall, it’s a great novel deserving of the buzz it’s getting it. Celeste Ng is a do not miss author for me.
18. An American Marriage by Tayari Jones – NetGalley – 3 stars
I raced to the end, reading the book in one day, which I never manage to do. There is a lot I really liked about this book, but the last fifth or so of the book disappointed me. The characters I came to care about exhibited choices and behavior that I feel are very much out of character. There were, in my interpretation at least, some disturbing values portrayed in the end too. Jones’ writing is often stunning and the dialogue is believable. I have to give her credit for getting the Louisiana speak right (making groceries, fixing a plate) – lots of books, TV shows, and movies fail miserably at their attempt at Louisiana settings and characters, but not Jones.
19. The Visitors by Catherine Burns – NetGalley – 3 stars
The Visitors is rather unputdownable. I expected it would be more of a thriller, based on the blurb, but it was a creepy character study instead. Nothing particularly scary happens, but the entire novel inspired a heeby jeeby feeling in me.
It’s about an older woman, Marion, who lives in her childhood home in England with her brother, John. From the blurb, we already know that he is keeping sex slaves in the cellar and she is, at least somewhat, complicit because how could she not notice that there are women in her cellar? The story is told by Marion as she goes back and forth between the present day and memories from her childhood. There is also an epistolary component. Surprisingly, the women in the cellar are not the focus of the novel. Rather, it’s mostly about Marion, her childhood, and her family and how she came to be the sad, lonely freak she is at the opening of the story.
20. Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right by Arlie Russell Hochschild – 4 stars
21. Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates – 4 stars
I listened to the audiobook read by the author. I know people have problems with Ta-Nehisi Coates and his views/politics but I really don’t. I think the book is worth reading/listening to.
22. A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman – books to films book club – 3 stars
I heard a lot of great things about this book but I thought it was just okay. It was formulaic and I wasn’t as moved by the protagonist as I should have been.
23. The Night Child by Anna Quinn – NetGalley – 3 stars
I rushed through this short novel in one day. I enjoyed it while I was reading it and was interested in reaching the end. Anna Quinn’s writing is great. I think there are several aspects that were not explored fully and the book suffered for it. I would like to understand what Nora’s mother and the rest of her family knew and how they coped with what they knew. I think it’s completely insane that several characters in the book knew children were in danger and did nothing to help them, including Nora herself. That doesn’t feel realistic to me. I don’t feel like I knew John, Nora’s boss, very well and he appears that he will play a major role in her life going forward. Other than those issues, it is a solid debut novel which I enjoyed reading.
24. The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware – book club – 2 stars
I really did not want to read this book, but it was the book club choice at work. I listened to the audiobook for the most part which was a terrible idea. The reading of this book was just plain awful and made me hate the book even more. I feel like The Girl on the Train was a less good Gone Girl and The Woman in Cabin 10 was a less good The Girl on the Train.
25. The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden – NetGalley – 3 stars
I was really, really loving this book until about 70% through. Around that point there started to be too much going on and too many mythical creatures. I am debating reading the second novel in the series.
26. Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi – 4 stars
I loved Homegoing. It was almost a 5 stars book for me but I had some issues with the ending. I feel that it is very improbable that the people at the end would have happened to meet and I didn’t understand why they became close enough to travel to another country together. Until that point though, I thought it was perfect. I love family stories that span generations. I really like that each chapter almost functions as a short story because the characters and point of view change with each chapter.
27. Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body by Roxane Gay – 3 stars
28. A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest J. Gaines – 4 stars
29. Exit West by Mohsin Hamid – 4 stars
30. A Simple Plan by Scott D. Smith – books to films book club – 4 stars
I saw this movie in the theater and really enjoyed it. That was a long time ago so I’d mostly forgotten the story. I don’t usually read this kind of book – it’s a bit of a thriller – but I really liked it. Just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse for the main character and his wife, something else happened. I like that it is a thriller with conscience. It has action but it’s more about the contemplative aspect of how can I do these things I know are wrong and yet continue to by myself, a regular person?
31. Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward – 5 stars
This is in the running for my favorite book I read this year. I am still giving favorite book read in 2017 to The Snow Child because I felt there were times when the writing of the internal thoughts/narration in Sing, Unburied, Sing did not match the speech of the narrators. It didn’t happen all the time but when it did it bothered me. Other than that, the book is perfect in my opinion and very deserving of the National Book Award.
32. Wine All the Time: The Casual Guide to Confident Drinking by Marissa A. Ross – 2 stars
I might have learned something but it wasn’t worth all of the awful writing and anecdotes I had to wade through to get to that information.