Best Books of 2017

Happy New Year everyone! I hope you had a lot of fun celebrating the arrival of 2018. I still feel a bit festive, therefore I’m bringing you today the list of the best books I read in 2017, but before that, I would like to add that I had a very good year both online and offline. I still can’t believe that I had the courage to build my own blog and connect with like-minded people who follow me, comment on my posts or send me nice messages. This was one of my biggest dreams and I would like to thank all of you (ordinary readers, fellow bloggers and writers) who read my content, share it and interact with me online. It means the world to me.

Though I didn’t expect it to happen, I read 44 books in 2017, ranging from children’s books/middle-grade to suspense/thrillers; definitely a personal best for me. One of my goals was to read all the first instalments of the series I owned in ebook format, to figure out which series are worth continuing and I’ve accomplished it with a few abandoned books along the way. This year, I want to read more non-fiction because I must to read the creative writing books I own to learn more about the writing process and to improve my writing. I intended to pick them up last year, but I ended up reading fiction instead; therefore I failed at reading them and consequently, I failed at writing, but now I don’t have any more excuses for procrastinating and not working towards my dreams.

Anyway, let’s go back to the best books I read in 2017. I wasn’t sure if I should arrange the titles in a particular order because it’s pretty tricky to weight if you loved more s thriller, a young adult sci-fi novel, a non-fiction children’s book or a paranormal romance. However, I managed to rank each book based on how I felt about it.

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller is the closest book to my heart because it’s a fantasy novel inspired by Greek Myths. However, it’s not only a retelling of the Trojan War but also the love story of Achilles and Patroclus, their friendship and the obstacles they had to overcome, in order to stay together and avoid (if possible) the terrible prophecy clouding Achilles’s life. If you grew up reading Greek Myths, I highly recommend this beautiful, yet heartbreaking LGBTQ+ love story. If you read Homer’s Iliad, you already know how everything ends, but trust me, it’s worth reading Ms Miller’s novel.

I wanted to read The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne for a while because I read a few reviews about it online and everyone was devastated after reading it and I was curious to pick it up. I’m not a fan of war novels or stories set around WWII because they are heavy reads for me. However, I found Bruno’s voice unique and a symbol of innocence because he sees some of the atrocities done by the Nazis, but he doesn’t quite understand what is really going on and nobody is actually willing to explain concisely why the people in the striped pyjamas are seen and treated differently by the German soldiers. This book was pretty terrifying because, as an adult, you already know what Bruno doesn’t. I highly recommend this book because it will make you think about, the recent history, (Lack of) humanity, war and even the disadvantages of innocence. It’s a scary read in a realistic way because WWII was as real as the cruelty the people in the striped pyjamas had to endure.

Escape from Sudan (Book 9 of Lust, Money & Murder) by Mike Wells is probably the most intense sequel and thriller novel I’ve ever read. I raved about it many times before, so I’ll let you read the review or my Mid-Year Book Tag post.

The Makers (Book 2 of H.A.L.F.) by Natalie Wright is also an intense read and for me, it was the best book of Ms Wright’s young adult sci-fi trilogy. It deals with mind control, aliens, secret societies, a deadly virus and a few teens who try to save humanity from a merciless future. If you are scared of picking up a sci-fi book, please try H.A.L.F. because it’s easy to read and understand. Trust a reader who gets bored when she’s overwhelmed by details in regard to advanced technology.

The Ebb and The Flow (Book 1 and 2 of The Lady of the Pier) by Effrosyni Moschoudi are the first two books of The Lady of the Pier trilogy, a paranormal romance I’ve devoured last summer because it contains themes and other elements I adore: a studious and shy Greek girl, two alternating plotlines set in different time periods, gorgeous descriptions of Corfu, a ghost, poetry and the themes of love, identity and the need to follow one’s heart. If you enjoy reading romance, give this indie author a try.

Enchanted (Book 1 of The Summer Solstice) by KK Allen is a young adult contemporary fantasy, in which Kat discovers that she is different from other girls. She gradually finds out and understands her true identity after she moves in Grandma Rose’s vast estate, where strange visions torment the teen more and more. Who is she and what will happen on her 16th birthday which coincides with the Summer Solstice?

Twentieth Century (Horrible Histories Special) by Terry Deary is a non-fiction children’s book which teaches young readers interesting facts about each decade of the 20th century through entertaining timelines, stories, tests, drawings, handwritten letters and so on. Though I’m an adult, I still enjoy a good short history book that makes you laugh and learn things teachers never told you at school.

Before you go, please visit the post about my least favourite books of 2017. Which are your picks for 2017? What reading goals do you have for 2018?

Series I Might Continue Reading

Almost three weeks ago, I wrote an article about the Series I Won’t Be Finishing and today I’m revealing the article about the series I might continue reading. Now, you know how I feel about book series in general and there are two first instalments I really enjoyed and hope to explore more when I’m in the mood for fantasy and contemporary romance. The titles of these books are Enchanted (The Summer Solstice) by K. K. Allen and The Rocker Who Holds Me (The Rocker) by Terri Anne Browning. On the other hand, there are four series I’m on the fence about, either because the first book wasn’t intriguing enough or I didn’t particularly like the author’s writing style. Only time will tell whether I pick up their sequels or not, in the future.

The Prince’s Special Bride (Royal Romance) by Devika Fernando

I know that modern Cinderella stories appeal to women of all ages and Devika Fernando does a pretty good job building the imaginary Kingdom of Taragonia and the sumptuous atmosphere of the royal court with its glamour and code of conduct. However, I felt that the story needed a little more depth as well as the main characters: Marie and Prince Christian. The sequel follows Princess Olivia, Christian’s sister, and her struggles to become a stronger woman and queen and to find true love. The excerpt I read seemed better written than the previous book, but I’m still not sure if it’s my type of story.

Passion, Powe & Sin by Mike Wells

This is a financial thriller in which themes like poverty vs wealth, family, addiction, love, morality and the thin line between truth and lie are woven into a realistic story whose protagonist can be anyone in dire need of money. How far can a person go to get money fast enough to save one’s parental house from foreclosure? Is it moral to accept the help and instructions of an online friend whose identity is unknown to you? The psychology of addiction was well-written and intriguing, but the first book ends a bit abruptly and the twist I was anticipating didn’t actually happen here. Will I read the next book? That’s a very good question I don’t know the answer to.

Forbidden by Mike Wells and Devika Fernando

Forbidden is a romantic thriller comprising of two plot lines: one is set in the past and it follows Lady Sotheby’s early life, while the other focuses on the present and it follows Jayne whose life changes drastically after hearing the truth about her real family. I loved the way Eleanore Sotheby’s story unfolds with all the suspenseful elements specific to Mike Wells’ writing style. However, the story set in the present reminds me a bit of soap opera I’ve watched in the 90s due to some elements I found in the book. Now, don’t get me wrong, I enjoy reading a good romance, but in this case, I‘ve pretty much anticipated what’s going to happen; therefore. I’m on the fence about giving the sequel a go.

Song At Dawn (The Troubadours Quartet) by Jean Gill

This book is a romantic thriller as well, but it is set in medieval times during the reign of Eleanore of Aquitaine. Though I thought that this book would be something I would definitely enjoy because it has troubadours, court intrigues and a runaway girl whose talent can help her become a trobairitz. However, I was disappointed because I found the story hard to get into, the pacing was very slow, the characters were interesting, but I couldn’t warm up to them and I was pretty confused with all the conspiracies involving people from the court and beyond.  Now, this doesn’t mean that I didn’t enjoy anything, but besides a few well-done scenes, I didn’t feel that much the tension of a true thriller. The synopsis of the second book sounds more appealing, but if I didn’t enjoy the first instalment, is it worth continuing the series?

Before I wrap it up, I would like to know which are the series you are on the fence about.

Review: Enchanted by K.K. Allen

Book 1 of The Summer Solstice

 

Title: Enchanted

Author: K.K. Allen

Genre: Contemporary, Fantasy, Young Adult

First Published in 2014

Self-Published

Series: The Summer Solstice

Rating: 5/5 stars

Note: I purchased this book as a freebie. However, this aspect didn’t influence the review I wrote or the rating I gave this book.  In this review, you will find only my honest thoughts and opinions about the book I’ve read!

I don’t know about you, but one of my favourite themes is family secrets and boy what a life-changing secret the protagonist is about to discover in the book I’m going to review today! Enchanted is the first instalment in K.K. Allen’s Young Adult Contemporary Fantasy trilogy entitled The Summer Solstice. In this novel, we follow Katrina Summer’s story, a teenage girl who is unaware of the special bloodline she comes from for almost sixteen years. After her mother’s unexpected death, Kat moves to Apollo Beach, Florida, to live with her estranged grandmother Rose, she has never met before, a respectable yet mysterious lady, who acts cold towards her at first, but things will change as they get accustomed to each other. As Kat’s sixteenth birthday approaches, she experiences strange visions and vivid nightmares whose hidden messages she’s unable to grasp.

At first, Katrina is an insecure teenager and she feels a little awkward in the wealthy neighbourhood she moves in because she used to live a modest life in a bubble her overprotective mother built for her in order to hide the truth from her. Kat was also in foster care for a while and she went to public school, but she was laughed at and considered a weirdo. As time goes by in Apollo Beach, Kat befriends Alec Stone, the cute boy next door who helps her adapt to her new life, but she can’t tell him anything about her visions or her secret powers because it would reveal the true identity of the inhabitants of the community. Encouraged by Rose and her friend Charlotte, Kat learns about the family history of The Summers and she’s trained to control her powers. Of course, like any teenager, Kat makes some mistakes that almost cost her life and her visions and nightmares gradually come to fruition like horrible prophecies or trials she must go through in order to show her ability to right the wrong and to become a better person. Kat will also meet a lot of outlandish people through her wealthy grandmother, who is an important figure in the community and most people admire her for her involvement in keeping the town healthy and safe. Kat basically enters into a period of transition from the quiet and uneventful life she has lived with her mother, to the one that leads to her life-purpose: “there is a circle of life before you and it all begins on the day of your sixteenth birthday.” (Loc. 999)

I know that this review is a bit vague, but you need to discover the book at your own pace and I assure you that you won’t regret a single second that you have read it. However, all I can say is that reading about the stories and legends Grandma Rose told Katrina gave me chills down my spine. To a certain point, I felt confused and my head was full of information which is actually a good thing because I felt that the author did her research well. Though Kat considers her grandmother to be a bit insane when the woman talks about the special powers her granddaughter has inherited from her ancestors, in the end, all makes sense and the only thing Kat has to do is learn to master elemental magic and accept her new identity.

The writing is beautiful, visual and full of colour while the story is suspenseful and a real page-turner that doesn’t let you put the book or your reading device down. The characters are well fleshed out, the situations are realistic with the exception of the visions and nightmares that torment Kat, which make your heart skip a beat; Kat and Alec’s relationship is sweet (not excessive like in other books) and you root for them and, you cannot help yourself but love Grandma Rose even when she is stern with Kat. Charlotte is also a lovable character, even more than Rose, because of her kind and affectionate nature that makes me think she is a mother figure to Kat.

In short, the experience I had with his book was amazing and besides a few editing slips, I don’t have anything bad to say about it. The parts about magic and the stories about The Summers’ family history and Kat’s ancestors are truly fascinating and I had to pause for a minute or two to take it all in. The descriptions of Apollo Beach and Tampa Bay were so vivid that I was transported there through K.K. Allen’s writing. I highly recommend this young adult contemporary fantasy novel to anyone who loves elemental magic, myths and family secrets. There are still some unanswered questions and some fresh ones at the end of this first instalment, but there are two more books to satisfy one’s curiosity. I would really like to pick them up somewhere in the near future.

Mid-Year Book Freak Out Tag

I actually had a book review planned for this Friday, but I changed my mind because June and July are two crazy months for me, so I opted again for a book tag which suits this time of the year. Plus, I’m always happy to talk about the current state of my TBR pile.

The Mid-Year Book Freak Out Tag was created by two book-tubers (Chami and Ety) and it comprises of fourteen questions, mostly regarding the books you read in the first half of the year. I read twenty-six books until now including the dnf-ed ones, so I think that I have enough material to answer properly to each and every question.

1. Best book you’ve read so far in 2017.

This year I wanted to read all the first instalments in the series I own because I plan to continue only the series or trilogies I’ve found unique and enjoyable to explore further on. For the best book I’ve read until now I choose The Essential Book Blog by Ken J. Howe, Saul Tanpepper, Michael Guerini and Cheryl L. Seaton, which is an easy yet informative guide for each new book blogger or newbie author and it teaches you anything from how to build your own blog, what your review should include, how to get traffic on your blog, how to get books and even how to earn money through your blog. Personally, I can’t wait to review this blogging guide and reread some of the sections in order to apply them to my blog.

2. Best sequel you’ve read so far in 2017.

 

At the beginning of this year, I promised myself that I will not be as generous as I used to be with the 5-star ratings and by far, there are just three books that had the wow factor I was looking for. The first 5-star sequel I rated in 2017 is Escape from Sudan, the 9th book in Mike WellsLust, Money & Murder series because I was on pins and needles while reading this book. It really was a roller-coaster of emotions for me and Elaine’s (almost impossible) mission through such a war-torn and dangerous country made my adrenaline levels increase.

3. New release you haven’t read yet, but want to.

I’m not very interested in new releases for now because I have a lot of unread books sitting and collecting dust on my shelves and many eBooks on my Kindle too; so I prefer to stick to those.

4. Most anticipated release for the second half of the year.

I read Mike Wells’ blurb for Panacea, the 11th book in the Lust, Money & Murder series, which is set in Ukraine and the book, is going to be released in September. This is the only sequel I’m excited to devour.

5.  Biggest disappointment.

Well, I have a few disappointments and dislikes reflected on my ratings and on my dnf-ed shelf, but the biggest one came from an author I haven’t read before. I’m sorry for the repetition, but I was extremely disappointed by Isabel Allende’s Zorro. How can a book about California’s famous bandit be so boring with so many info-dumps, lifeless characters and no hook? I loved the fact that Diego is mixed-race, but besides that, his friendship with Bernardo and how his father met his mother, I didn’t find anything of interest in the chapters I read.

6. Biggest surprise.

 

The biggest surprise was The Rocker Who Holds Me by Terri Anne Browning, a book which didn’t deal only with the dissolute lives of rock stars, but also with abuse, heartache and lack of communication. I really love it and I recommend it to anyone who enjoys rock star romances.

7. Favourite new author. (Debut or new to you)

My new favourite author is KK Allen who wrote Enchanted, the first instalment in The Summer Solstice. Besides her beautiful and visual writing, I enjoyed spending my time with her well-built characters, the plot was extremely interesting and the elemental magic blew my mind along with its complexity. The ancient wisdom passed on to Katrina is a combination of Greek myths and Wiccan beliefs. For those of you who are wondering, the review is coming soon.

8. Newest fictional crush.

Nik from The Rocker Who Holds Me might be a potential fictional crush because he is talented, caring and a very hot guy, but he makes Emmie suffer a lot. On the other hand, she is afraid to talk about her feelings for him.

9. Newest favourite character.

I’m currently reading The Lady of the Pier trilogy written by Effrosyni Moschoudi and though I root for both protagonists of the two alternating stories, Sofia Aspioti is very dear to my heart, not just because she is Greek, but she is also a book nerd, a hardworking student, an animal lover and she also writes poetry. She is shy and very cautious because she is aware that everything she does might reach her strict father’s ears, an overprotective parent who forbids her to stay out late or to do anything silly. Despite the restrictions that suffocate her life, Sofia longs for freedom and adventure especially after meeting Danny, an outgoing and non-conformist British tourist whose laid-back attitude makes Sofia fall for him.

10. Book that made you cry.

Though I’ve shed a tear occasionally when I read about Sofia’s kind and loving grandparents from Corfu who reminded me of my own, none of the books I’ve picked up in the first half of the year made me cry hysterically for a certain character or situation.

11. Book that made you happy.

 

It’s hard to say that one of my recent reads made me feel happy, but You & Me Forever is a collection of romantic YA and NA stories written by eight authors including Megan Linski and Pamita Rao, a book that made me feel good most of the time because the short stories range from sweet to dark and they are easy to read especially while you are travelling. I highly recommend it for the summer.

12. Most beautiful book you’ve bought so far this year (or received)

I adore the new covers for The Lady of the Pier trilogy; they are so gorgeous and suit the novels perfectly with that beautiful and mysterious woman standing on the pier.

13. What books do you need to read by the end of the year?

Besides the books mentioned above, I want to continue reading the two remaining novels from the Try a Chapter Book Tag and afterwards to flip through or even reread some classics I’ve read a few years ago, but I haven’t reviewed yet.

 14. Favourite Book Community Member

For now, I’ll give a shoutout to my best friend and awesome reviewer, Elena from eLitere.ro who has great tastes in books and movies. Check out her website and show her some love!

If you enjoyed this book tag, give it a try and leave your answers below in a comment or through a link to your blog or YouTube channel. Have an awesome weekend! See you next time!