The “Best Of” lists have been compiled, so let’s dig deeper into my 2017 reading year shall we? I won’t repeat my Best Read books, because those are already showing here and here. ;-) But, we’ll delve into the best characters, best book covers, the books abandoned (so many in 2017! :-( ), etc.
Let’s start with the positives and look at my favourite covers for this year:
I do completely judge books by their covers! Sometimes it is because of the cover that I’m drawn towards a book, and I choose to read them solely based on their covers. These are the ones that I found to be the most appealing, with #1 being Deafening by Frances Itani. I knew nothing about Itani, or about how much I would grow to love reading her novels, before buying Deafening. Originally, this was completely an impulse purchase because of its stunning cover! The History of Bees was another impulse purchase – I already owned the ebook – but this cover is stunning and the tactile experience is wonderful – the pollen on The History of Bees title, and all over the book’s cover was one I could not stop touching and running my hands over.
Let’s take a look at some of the covers that just didn’t appeal to me at all. The contents under their covers may (or may not) have been very good ones, but their covers did absolutely nothing to excite me. (Big Little Lies is here because I never like the “movie” covers! And my adoration for Eleanor Oliphant had me feeling great pain over its terrible cover.)
Most Beautifully Written Book
I have a number I could put here and most appear in my best read books this year.
- Deafening, by Frances Itani. She’s the queen of lovely, quiet and beautiful.
- The Boat Runner, by Devin Murphy. A beautifully written debut!
- The Loney, by Andrew Michael Hurley. His writing is incredible. His descriptions are breathtaking!
- The Rain Before it Falls, by Jonathan Coe. So sad so many times, but the power in his writing is what made you feel that so hard.
- Both Louise Penny’s The Great Reckoning and Glass Houses.
- Six Degrees of Freedom, by Nicolas Dickner. His writing is superb, and the translation was like butter.
Most Memorable Characters
Well there are plenty to list here! This year was all about the characters! So many characters pulled at my heart and stayed imprinted on my heart.
- Eleanor Oliphant, from Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine. Serious character hangover after reading about Eleanor!
- John Alexander, from The Unlikely Redemption of John Alexander. He left me in a puddle of tears, I loved him so much!
- Robin and Beauty, from Hum If You Don’t Know the Words. Fierce! They were beautiful people.
- Grace from The Stars are Fire. Go Grace! (her husband Gene could win as a memorable character too for what a tool he was – I wrote that there were many times when he earned the need to put a pillow over his face and hold it there while he was sleeping!)
- Just about everyone in The Loney! Characters that leap from the page! Especially Father Bernard, Father Wilfred and “Mummer”, Smith’s mom.
- Ella May Wiggins from The Last Ballad.
- Rosamond from The Rain Before it Falls.
- Susanna Moodie as written about in The Lost Diaries of Susanna Moodie. What an amazing woman!
- Must mention the real “characters” too – people I read about like Hillary Clinton, Tom Wilson and the Bettencourt family (L’Oreal) need a mention for sure!
Most Surprising Best Book Read in 2017
I have to give this one to The Loney. I really did not anticipate loving it as much as I did. I just read one really great review of it and decided to pick it up. I was blown away by Hurley’s writing, his descriptions, his characters – I am absolutely eager to read his latest, Devil’s Day.
Books Abandoned in 2017
Good lord there were plenty of books I abandoned this year! :-( Too many abandoned books, but I just felt that I couldn’t spend a minute more with them since the reading experience was too bad to continue. These books are different from the other list I’ll make below. There were also too many that appear on my Most Disappointing this year, but should not be confused with the ones here in which I completely abandoned.
- Grief Cottage by Gail Godwin. Every page had the explanation hammered home as to why the cottage was called Grief Cottage. Got it the first time, didn’t need to read that every single time the cottage was mentioned.
- Sophie’s Choice, by William Styron. So surprised this was a DNF! I just couldn’t get through it – Stingo’s overly horny perspective wasn’t helping me out and I was strangely detached from the characters.
- The Shoe on the Roof, by Will Ferguson. This year is not the year (it’s never any year) to be writing a condescending and crude perspective of women and having this superior male attitude.
- Uncertain Weights and Measures, by Jocelyn Parr. Dense and repetitive.
- Mother Land, by Paul Theroux. Filled with whining, complaining and repetition.
- Crying for the Moon, by Mary Walsh. No light, no humour and left me with disturbing dreams.
- The Hidden Letters of Velta B. by Gina Oschner.
- The Red Car, by Marcy Dermansky. It was painful. I bailed when she said, “Oh, I decided I really liked plants”. The main character was a complete flake, sex-crazed and shallow. My opinion is vastly different from others that read this however. I just couldn’t continue?
Eight books abandoned! That’s too many books to mark as DNF. :-(
Most Disappointing Books
Okay, here is where my opinion on some of these books largely differ from so many others. So many other readers proclaimed some of these books to be their best read in 2017. And, sadly, so many of these disappointing books were by authors that I love and adore and are usually guaranteed successful! This year however, that just wasn’t the case. This could turn into a long list, and that is disconcerting. (It’s also what compelled me to look back at my past Best Books and other Year End in Reviews and think nostalgically, because this year, overall, it just wasn’t the absolute greatest in reading for me, especially when you look at the number of abandoned and disappointing books compared to the small number of books listed for my best read.)
- The Only Cafe, by Linden MacIntyre. Right? What is Linden MacIntyre doing listed under my Most Disappointing Books?! Sadly, it was – it wasn’t the best one I’ve read by him. I’m certain the next will work better for me, so I’m anticipating another MacIntyre hopefully soon. Until then, I’ll just hit up his backlist titles that I own but haven’t read yet.
- The Heart’s Invisible Furies, by John Boyne. Here’s one appearing on numerous Best Of the Year lists. I must have read a different book, but I felt that Boyne cheapened this one with his overly detailed dialogue, conversations, descriptions and stories about sex. Again, I’m not worried about my wobble with this one, Boyne is a well-loved author for me, so I’ll just have to wait until the next one again and hope they are like his The Absolutist and The History of Loneliness.
- Little Fires Everywhere, by Celeste Ng. Another reaping the praises for best book ever and one where it just didn’t live up to my expectation. I couldn’t connect with any of the characters, and I found the story to be predictable. It didn’t win me over the way Everything I Never Told You did. EINTY was close to a 5-star read for me!
- The Lying Game, by Ruth Ware. Last year I was proclaiming and recommending Ruth Ware to everyone. Her first two books knocked it out of the park for me and restored my enjoyment in the thriller/suspense novel. Not so for The Lying Game. I found it heavy-handed in the melodrama and foreshadowing departments and the reason why the girls had to play this “lying game” was too weak to be credible. She has a new one coming in 2018, and it sounds pretty good, so I’m of course going to be checking it out! (The Death of Mrs. Westaway)
- Number 11, by Jonathan Coe. After the great success of Coe’s The Rain Before it Falls, Number 11 was kind of dull and flat for me.
- Little Deaths, by Emma Flint. Another one on many great reading lists, but the hype didn’t live up to my expectation and it felt like a recycled “Gone Girl” marketing ploy gone wrong.
- The Nature of the Beast, by Louise Penny. I found it kind of “funny” that the aspect of the novel based on real-events was the most far-fetched and unliked part by me. This is actually almost an abandoned one from me!
- The Fact of a Body, by Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich. She mashed together a memoir and a crime story where both should have stood on their own, or really, her memoir should have been the primary focus.
- The Heirs, by Susan Rieger. I can only say this was painfully dry and boring for me. Sorry.
- Birdcage Walk by Helen Dunmore. I was eagerly anticipating reading my first Dunmore novel. Unfortunately, Birdcage Walk had these odd storylines and I was confused by them. Overall a weird and dull story. It won’t stop me from reading more Dunmore however. I have a number of them on my TBR.
- Seven Days of Us by Francesca Hornak. Only one character in this pathetic bunch had any redeeming qualities to read about. I have often repeated that The Long, Hot Summer by Kathleen MacMahon does this style of story better.
- The Rules of Magic, by Alice Hoffman. Sigh. Another Hoffman that fell very flat for me. The extremely straightforward and plain writing made this dull and dry and couldn’t hold my interest.
My lists of “Abandoned” and “Most Disappointing” are exceedingly lengthy aren’t they? That makes me very unhappy and certainly overshadows the seemingly slim pickings I made for my “Best Read” this year. I am also still searching for a book that will blow me away and knock my socks off to end this year. I want one where I completely lose track of time and become so fully engrossed in the story that I neglect everything and everyone else. Do you have any recommendations for me?