Sunday, December 17, 2017

Favorite Reads of 2017, A Very Good Year

2017 has been such a great year for reading new publications that I have an especially long list of favorites.  And, I didn't even get to all the new books that I think would have made the list.  I tried to limit the numbers, but I just can't leave out any books that kept me up reading into the wee hours of the morning or that left me with a sense of complete reader satisfaction.  

The reasons for each book being a favorite are as varied as the stories of the books themselves.  With The Last Place You Look by Kristen Lepionka, as well as being a thriller extraordinaire, the lead character was bi-sexual, whose sexual identity was honestly and beautifully portrayed as I've not seen the bi-sexual person ever portrayed better.  With Blame by Jeff Abbott, the story was so well plotted and paced, and it definitely kept me up at night. I love a story with twists, and Blame has delicious ones, with characters that keep peeling layers. The Day I Died by Lori Rader-Day continues to show what a master this author is at creating memorable characters whose off-the-beaten-path story captivates completely.  Lori's main character, Anna Winger, is a handwriting expert, and I found that a fascinating new area to explore in this novel.   

There are authors whose books are always a favorite because they know how to keep a series going that keeps it fresh and fascinating.  These authors include Terry Shames (I have a huge crush on Samuel Craddock), Deborah Crombie (Duncan Kincaid and Gemma James and London, oh my), Elly Griffiths (at the rick of sounding all Annie Wilkes, I may be Ruth Galloway's biggest fan), Rhys Bowen (as if Lady Georgie and Molly Murphy and Evan Evans weren't enough, Rhys is now writing stand-alones), Sara Blaedel (Louise Rick is one tough cookie, but Sara finds a way to make her wonderfully human, too), Karin Salvalaggio (I fell in love with Macy Greeley in Bone Dust White and Karin has continued to make this series special) , Susan Elia MacNeal (WWII and London and Paris and Maggie Hope in one of the best historical mystery series), Louise Penny (If you haven't been enchanted by Three Pines and gasped at the scope of the Armand Gamache books, stop reading this and start reading Louise's series, now), James Ziskin (Jim writes the voice of Ellie Stone like, well, a girl.  He doesn't miss a beat with the 60s setting and the investigations Ellie becomes involved in as a newspaper reporter), Anne Cleeland, (If I were any more enamored of Kathleen Doyle and Micahel Sinclair/Lord Acton and their working together on the London police force and navigating their marital relationship, I would be considered obsessed, something that Lord Acton knows quite a bit about), and Allen Eskens (Detective Max Rupert has a complex and tragic story, but he is a moral compass we can count on, or is he?).  Then, there's Kristi Belcamino, who gave us a new series this year with the lead character named Gia Santella, who swung in and grabbed our hearts and souls as a Italian female force of kick-ass energy.  And, Kristi still gave us another Gabriella Giovanni and one of the best YA books of the year, City of Angels.  Authors who write series and also write stand-alones are a special kind of crazy and talented.  Rhys Bowen, Sharon Bolton, and Catriona McPherson are three more who obviously have more than twenty-four hours in their days.  In Farleigh Field, Dead Woman Walking, and House.Tree.Person are easily three of the best books written in 2017.  Sharon Bolton's Lacey Flint novels have been long-time favorites of mine, but I think this stand-alone, Dead Woman Walking, might be my favorite book by her yet.  I am kicking myself for being behind in Catriona's Dandy Gilver series, and now she has a third line of books coming out next spring, Lexy Campbell in the Last Ditch Mysteries.  I already have Scot Free pre-ordered.

There are some new authors, ones with whom I'm unabashedly in love with already and who are on their first or second book.  In this talent pool are Jennifer Kincheloe, Clare Mackintosh, Jane Harper, and Kristen Lepionka.  Jennifer published her second Anna Blanc novel, The Woman in the Camphor Trunk, this fall, and Anna's determination to do the unheard of, to investigate crimes as a woman on the Los Angles police force in the early 1900s continues, this time to Chinatown, a world in itself.  Jane Harper's The Dry is her debut novel, and I'm still finding that hard to believe.  It's already topping many of the "Best of 2017" lists in both major publications and the blogging world.  Stuart Neville apparently tired of succeeding under that name and gave us Here and Gone under his pseudonym Haylen Beck, or maybe he just thought giving readers a nervous breakdown reading this new book should come under a different name.  Authors Jen J. Danna and Ann Vaderlaan have a series that is on Book #2, Before It's Too Late.  They write this FBI K-9 series under the name of Sara Driscoll, and it addresses an area of crime that interests me greatly, the use of canines in search and rescue.  These authors did an interview here on my blog last year talking about how this series came about, http://www.readingroom-readmore.com/2016/11/interview-with-jen-j-danna-and-ann.html?showComment=1497149305023   

Back to the authors who write more than one book a year, you will notice that Rhys Bowen appears on my list three times---Her Royal Spyness series, Molly Murphy series, and her stand-alone--and Elly Griffiths appears twice--Ruth Galloway series and the Stephens & Mephisto series.  Elly also has books previously published under her actual name, Domenica de Rosa.  Anne Cleeland, who writes the Acton and Doyle series also treats her readers with a serial publication on her Web site of a romantic adventure novel at least once a year, and then the book comes out in print.  The Barbary Mark was delightful this past year, and a new one, The True Pretender, is now on Chapter Three on Anne's site.  When do these people sleep?  

Will North writes the Davies and West mystery/crime series set in Cornwall, my #1 place I want to visit, and he brings it so alive to me that Trevega House had to make the list.  I'm always surprised, although I shouldn't still be, that a book I consider outstanding can have a setting that I don't find appealing, a setting that I wouldn't seek out for that element of the story.  The Dry by Jane Harper, set in Australia, and The Last Place You Look set in Columbus, Ohio are two books where the setting could have been a factor in me passing up these books.  What a mistake that would have been!  Lesson learned!  

The one and only Jamie Ford had a new book out this year (I do wish he'd write faster, but the wait is so worth it), Love and Other Consolation Prizes, which is such an epic tale that shows us the stuff people are made of, historical fiction with great heart.  Hallie Ephron doesn't put out a book every year either, and each one is a stand-alone special tale, with this year's You'll Never Know, Dear capturing the essence of its South Carolina setting in a generational mystery.

One more liberty I have taken, besides the large number of books listed for 2017, is adding at the end of the 2017 list two books I read this year but were published in 2016.  Black Rabbit Hall by Eve Chase and The Mountain Story: A Novel by Lori Lansens were such amazing reads for me that I have to share them here, too.  Eve Chase is a new author, with Black Rabbit Hall being her first novel.  Her second book, The Wildling Sisters came out this year, but I haven't gotten to it yet.  I will.  Lori Lansens is a long-time favorite, with her book The Girls being one of my top ten favorite books of all time.



So, here is the list, in no particular order: 




Favorite Reads of 2017


The Woman in the Camphor Trunk by Jennifer Kincheloe






 


An Unsettling Crime for Samuel Craddock by Terry Shames






 
Garden of Lamentations by Deborah Crombie








  
I See You by Clare Mackintosh









 
Blame by Jeff Abbott








 
The Dry by Jane Harper







 



Here and Gone by Haylen Beck








 
The Last Place You Look by Kristen Lepionka







 

In Farleigh Field by Rhys Bowen








 

The Chalk Pit by Elly Griffiths








 

The Lost Woman by Sara Blaedel








 

The Day I Died by Lori Rader-Day







 
Blessed are the Peace Makers by Kristi Belcamino







 


Silent Rain by Karin Salvalaggio








 

Cast the First Stone by James Ziskin







 
The Blood Card by Elly Griffiths








 

You’ll Never Know, Dear by Hallie Ephron







 
The Paris Spy by Susan Elia MacNeal








 

House. Tree. Person. by Catriona McPherson







 
Glass Houses by Louise Penny








Murder in All Honour by Anne Cleeland







 


Murder in Shadow by Anne Cleeland







 
City of Angels by Kristi Belcamino








 
Love and Other Consolation Prizes by Jamie Ford







 

Dead Woman Walking by Sharon Bolton








The Deep Dark Descending by Allen Eskins






 
On Her Majesty's Frightfully Secret Service by Rhys Bowen







 

The Ghost of Christmas Past by Rhys Bowen






 
Trevega House by Will North 








The Gia Santella books by Kristi Belcamino  























Before It's Too Late by Sara Driscoll














2016 Publications on Favorite List This Year

Black Rabbit Hall by Eve Chase







The Mountain Story: A Novel by Lori Lansens 










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