Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Brown Paper Packages Tied Up With String...

These are few of my favorite books read during 2017. Criteria?: Did the story linger after I finished the book? Did the character(s) evolve (I like excitement and adventure, but usually prefer character-driven over plot-driven books.) Were there surprises? Did it have emotional resonance? Did I excitedly look for time to continue reading it? Would I read it again? (Two of these books I've read or listened to twice.) If it was fantasy or science fiction (my favorite genres) - did it feel true?

My very favorite read from 2017, out of 100+ books, is Philip Pullman's The Book of Dust. It is an elegantly written tightly drawn suspenseful fantasy set mostly in a canoe on the River Thames, from Oxford to London, during a great flood. It is Malcolm's story chronologically before The Golden Compass takes place. Lyra is a baby in the story. This story was riveting from start to finish. I was bereft when I finished it, and immediately looked up interviews with Philip Pullman to find out when the next book in the trilogy would appear. Apparently the second volume in the series is finished - but no publication date has been set. Practicing patience here...

Number 2 in the top 5 of my top 10 is the audiobook of Born A Crime, by Trevor Noah. Read by Trevor Noah. This book gains so much nuance and flavor from the author's narration that I recommend listening to it over reading it. Trevor speaks five languages and incorporates words and expressions from those languages into his story. His memoir is both educational and greatly entertaining. It is a window into a slice of South Africa history.

Number 3 on my favorites list, The Hate U Give, was the book I sponsored this past summer for school choice summer reading for HWRHS. (I have written about this book in a previous post.)

Favorite Number 4 was a surprise as I was not expecting to like it as much as I did. The reviews and summaries did not do it justice. After reading And I Darken, I was thrilled that the second book in the Conquerors Saga trilogy was published this year so that I could go right on reading in that world. The character development of the brother and sister in the Saga is completely engrossing. It's a fantastic historical fiction story, loosely based on actual people and events during the Ottoman Empire, that feels like fantasy because of the world building. Though I have not had a chance to hear them, we also have the highly rated audiobooks of the Conquerors Saga, in our audiobook collection.

I encourage both reading and listening to The Pearl Thief, as I did. Maggie Service,the audiobook narrator of The Pearl Thief, does a superb job with the accents and the different character voices. The print format lets you savor the story and pick up some of the details that you will probably miss in the delight of listening to the Scottish accents in the audiobook.

If you read any of the books on this list, come and talk with me, I'd like to hear what you think. The book summaries below are from our library catalog, sometimes paraphrased by me. Click on the title to place a hold.

1 The Book of Dust: La Belle Sauvage, by Philip Pullman, 2017. When Malcolm finds a secret message inquiring about a dangerous substance called Dust, he finds himself embroiled in a tale of intrigue featuring enforcement agents from the Magisterium, a woman with an evil monkey daemon, and a baby named Lyra. Fantasy fiction. First book in The Book of Dust trilogy, prequel to The Golden Compass.

2 Born A Crime: Stories From a South African Childhood, by Trevor Noah, read by Trevor Noah, 2016. The host of The Daily Show With Trevor Noah traces his wild coming of age during the twilight of apartheid in South Africa and the tumultuous days of freedom that followed, offering insight into the farcical aspects of the political and social systems of today's world. Adult books for Young Adults. Memoir. Audiobook time: 8 hrs., 50 min.

3 The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas, 2017. After witnessing her friend's death at the hands of a police officer, Starr Carter's life is complicated when the police and a local drug lord try to intimidate her in an effort to learn what happened the night Kahlil died. Realistic fiction.

4 And I Darken, by Kiersten White, 2016. In this first book in a trilogy a girl child is born to Vlad Dracula, in Transylvania,in 1435--at first rejected by her father and always ignored by her mother, she will grow up to be Lada Dragwlya, a vicious and brutal princess, destined to rule and destroy her enemies.
Now I Rise, by Kiersten White, 2017. This sequel to And I Darken finds a vengeful Lada striking out at anyone who stands in her way and finding herself unexpectedly rejected by her skillful brother, Radu, who reluctantly works as a spy for a power-hungry Sultan, Mehmed. Historical fiction. LGBTQIA diverse. First two books in the Conquerors Saga trilogy.

5 The Pearl Thief, by Elizabeth Wein, 2017. Set in 1938, 15-year-old Julia Beaufort-Stuart wakes up in a hospital not knowing how she was injured, and soon befriends siblings Euan and Ellen McEwen, the Scottish Travellers who found her, and later, when a body is discovered, she experiences the prejudices their family has endured and tries to keep them from being framed for the crime. Prequel to Code Name Verity. Historical fiction. Mystery.

6 Release, by Patrick Ness, 2017. Struggling with his family's religious beliefs, an employer's ultimatum and his unrequited love for his ex, Adam struggles to move on with a best friend and a new relationship while trying to find the courage to stay true to himself. Magic Realism. LGBTQIA fiction.

7 The Bear and the Nightingale, by Katherine Arden, 2017. Raised on a steady diet of stories, "wild maiden" Vasilisa Petrovna, known as Vasya, has grown up wandering the grounds of her father's rural estate, befriending the spirits of the natural world. But when Vasya's pious stepmother joins forces with an ambitious young priest to force the villagers to forsake the old ways (and the old gods), they set in motion a tragedy that only Vasya can avert. First book in the Winternight trilogy. Historical fantasy. Mythological. Adult books for Young Adults

8 Tower of Dawn, by Sarah Maas, 2017. Following the shattering of the glass castle and the deaths of his men, Chaol pursues recovery by searching for healers in the southern continent while trying to convince Dorian and Aelin to ally with him and Nesryn in order to avoid war. Sixth book in The Throne of Glass series. Fantasy fiction.

9 Down Among the Sticks and Bones, by 2017. In Every Heart a Doorway we met Jack and Jill, two sisters bound together yet alienated. In this installment, we learn how they escaped their parents when they exit the world we know for a realm of fairy-tale horror via a magic stairway, appearing in a trunk in a locked room. This is a story about two young women and the trauma that shapes them; a story about love, hate, and the thin line between. Second book in Wayward Children series. Fantasy fiction. Adult books for Young Adults.

10 Killer of Enemies trilogy, by Joseph Bruchac, 2013. In a world that has barely survived an apocalypse that leaves it with pre-twentieth century technology, Lozen is a monster hunter for four tyrants who are holding her family hostage.
Trail of the Dead, 2015. With an assassin on her heels, Lozen leads a group of survivors to the valley where her family once took refuge but arrives to find a terrible surprise, forcing her to reluctantly put her trust in Bigfoot and Coyote to find safety.
Arrow of  Lightning, 2017. In the final installment of the Killer of Enemies trilogy, Lozen attempts to live a life without the violence that so far has defined her life, but the remaining Ones will not let that happen without a fight. Science Fiction.