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?

4 Cărți pe care vreau să le citesc în această toamnă

În loc de un book haul, așa cum am văzut pe alte bloguri, am optat să scriu un scurt articol despre cărțile pe care vreau neapărat să le citesc în perioada următoare. Anul acesta am citit primele cărți ale unor serii care păreau interesante și volume primite pentru recenzie de la câțiva autori. Unele cărți au fost excelente, altele bune, iar câteva m-au dezamăgit. Acum, după ce am citit aproape toate cărțile primite, a venit timpul să întocmesc o mică listă de lecturi pentru această toamnă. Nu sunt noi apariții, însă mi s-a pus pata pe aceste patru cărți de ceva vreme și am așteptat cu mult entuziasm să le pot citi într-un final.

Mai jos voi menționa fiecare titlu, dar și motivul pentru care vreau să citesc volumele perspective.

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Twentieth Century de Terry Deary, la fel ca restul seriei de cărți pentru copii Horrible Histories, relatează fapte și povestioare macabre sau scârboase din istorie, cu scopul de a-i distra și învăța pe copii istoria recentă sau îndepărtată a Angliei sau a lumii prin intermediul jocurilor și stilului plin de umor al autorului britanic. Deși aceste cărți se adresează cititorilor foarte tineri, eu ador această serie care mă amuză, mă relaxează și mă învață lucruri pe care nu le-am studiat niciodată la școală. Mă întreb ce lucruri noi voi afla despre fiecare decadă a secolului douăzeci?

The Mark of Zorro de  Johnston McCulley. După ce am frunzărit Zorro: Începe legenda de Isabel Allende, care m-a plictisit și dezamăgit deopotrivă, m-am gândit să citesc povestea originală a faimosului bandit din California. Dacă am început anul cu Zorro, firesc ar fi să îl termin tot cu el, nu-i așa?

Despre Băiatul cu pijamale în dungi de John Boyne am înțeles că este o carte sfâșietor de tristă despre cel de-al Doilea Război Mondial văzut prin ochii unui copil. Vă puteți închipui ceva mai dureros decât o astfel de perspectivă? Deși este o carte pentru copii, sunt sigură că povestea nu îi va lăsa indiferenți nici pe cititorii maturi. De când am citit trilogia The Lady of the Pier, tot mi-am dorit să mai citesc niște volume de ficțiune istorică, iar această carte mi-ar putea potoli setea de lectură în acest sens.

 

Munții înalți ai Portugaliei de Yann Martel se află printre cărțile menționate în sondajul postat cu ceva timp în urmă pe blog. Deși această carte nu prea a primit voturi, eu voi face o excepție de această dată și o voi alege înaintea Malalei pentru că îmi este dor de Lisabona, iar povestea mi-a trezit interesul în ultimul timp. Chiar sunt curioasă cum se vor lega toate misterele din această carte, a cărei acțiune are loc într-o țară care m-a fascinat prin frumusețea, istoria și muzica ei.

Deocamdată voi lăsa doar aceste cărți pe primele poziții ale listei mele de lecturi, deși sunt o sumedenie de alte titluri tentante, însă până le voi terima pe acestea, nu mă voi gândi mai departe.

Voi ce cărți ați citit din această listă? Cum vi s-au părut?

 

Review: Wicked Words by Terry Deary

Title: Wicked Words

Author: Terry Deary

Illustrator: Martin Brown                

Genre: Non-Fiction, History, Children’s Books, Humour

First Published: 1996

Year of Publication of this Edition: 2013

Publisher: Scholastic Non-Fiction

Collection: Horrible Histories Special

Rating: 3/5 stars

Though I’m no stranger to the English language, I was still curious to read what Terry Deary had to say about it, the origins of some of its words and the great writers who influenced and changed its shape forever. As you already know from the title, today I’m going to review Terry Deary’s Wicked Words, the third Horrible Histories book I’ve read this year.

In the Introduction, we are told that words are power and they can hurt as deep as a sword. But, In order to gain this power and learn how to use it, we have to read this book. So, the purpose of this short volume is to make the young readers be both accustomed to and entertained by the English language and its secrets. Before the timeline, there’s a chapter dedicated to prehistoric times, the first language humans spoke (which made the difference between our survival and extinction) and what archaeological findings reveal about this topic. The Horrible Histories timeline for the English language stretches from Rome’s rule over Britain to the 20th century. But it also includes Gutenberg’s printing press, two of the most influential English writers and Dr Samuel Johnson’s English dictionary.

The table of content of this book is arranged alphabetically and each letter comprises a chapter or two and an aspect of the English language. Personally, I would have preferred the chronological order because it was strange to read about Dickens before Shakespeare. But let’s move on. In this book, you will read about the history of the English language (divided into six brief parts), Anglo-Saxon literature, stylistic literary devices such as alliteration, great English writers and poets such as Geoffrey Chaucer, William Shakespeare and Charles Dickens, William Caxton, words and their etymologies, euphemisms, slang words, swear words and many more. You will also find fragments from, Beowulf, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, The Vision of Piers Plawman, The Canterbury Tales, Macbeth, A Tale of Two Cities, A Christmas Carol etc. However, but beware, the endings of these literary works are spoiled in this book; so skip those parts if you haven’t read them yet.

In the end, I think that this book is great for children who are interested in language and grammar because Terry Deary explains everything clearly and inserts jokes, games riddles and stories along the way. For me, on the other hand, this book didn’t have a lot of new information to offer because I already knew enough about the English language and its history. Also, I wasn’t a big fan of the football metaphor for the various invasions of Britain, but I guess it might work for younger readers. Overall, it was a nice read, so please give this book a try, if you or your kids are into languages and British humour.

Review: Vile Victorians by Terry Deary

Title: Vile Victorians

Author: Terry Deary

Illustrator: Martin Brown

Genre: Non-Fiction, History, Children’s Books, Humour

First Published in 1994

Year of Publication of this Edition: 2011

Publisher: Scholastic Non-Fiction

Collection: Horrible Histories

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

Of all the Horrible Histories books I own, I was very excited to read Vile Victorians because some of my favourite writers belong to this period and because the 19th century is fascinating to me. With these ideas in mind and with child-like anticipation, I picked up Terry Deary’s book hoping to learn new and disgusting things that happened during Queen Victoria’s reign.

 In the Introduction, Terry Deary writes that there are two kinds of histories: the horrible history and the glorious history. It really depends on the teacher if one chooses to relate the truth about that certain period or one is carried away by the great deeds of the remarkable people from the past. Also, the author warns the reader that this book is not suited for sensitive persons; therefore: “If you have a weak stomach then don’t read it or, if you have to read it, then read it with your eyes closed.” (Loc. 27) Now, this is the funniest disclaimer I’ve ever read. However, I think that such a warning would have been necessary before the first chapter of Horrible Histories Gruesome Guide: London too because that book really grossed me out.

The Vile Victorians’ timeline stretches from Queen Victoria’s coronation in 1837 to her death in 1902 and the author highlights the good, the bad and the ugly aspects of this historical era. In this book, you will read about: Queen Victoria, Victorian childhood and its hardships, Victorian schools, games, Victorian literature, aspects of Victorian life (towns, work and funerals), strange food, Victorian army, villains and so on.

Although I was very excited to read this book, it didn’t impress me as much as I’ve expected to because I already knew some of the information about Victorian Britain from the Horrible Histories TV show I watched a few years ago. Indeed, there are a lot of shocking facts that you probably didn’t know and some are very hard to believe, but if you read at least one of Charles Dickens’s novels, you will notice how hard life was for the poor and for the children living in London and in other parts of Britain. Small kids were forced to work in warehouses or in mines for many hours, putting their health at risk and their lives in danger for very few money. On the other hand, Victorian schools weren’t any better either, because teachers were very harsh and the pupils were usually punished for insignificant reasons. Another topic I’ve found both interesting and sad was the way girls were selected to become maids in the Victorian household and the schedule a maid had from the moment she was awake to her bedtime.

Besides Terry Deary’s jovial and witty style, I enjoyed the way he mocks writers playwright and poet for the excessive melodrama found in their works and he also gives some examples, including a small excerpt from Dickens’ novel The Old Curiosity Shop. There are also a few stories that will break your heart and question the sanity of adults and human nature in general.

In the end, Terry Deary concludes that the Victorian age wasn’t overall that bad because Britain had electricity and cars at the turn of the century. The author believes that the following quote from A Tale of Two Cities would have described Victorian Britain perfectly, not only France and its tumultuous Revolution: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way.”(Loc. 1300)

Review: London by Terry Deary

Title: London

Author: Terry Deary

Illustrator: Martin Brown                 

Genre: Non-Fiction, History, Children’s Books, Humour

First Published: 2005

Year of Publication of this Edition: 2012

Publisher: Scholastic Non-Fiction

Collection: Horrible Histories Gruesome Guides

Rating: 4/5 stars

The first time I’ve begun reading a few pages from Horrible Histories Gruesome Guides: London was some years ago before visiting Britain’s capital. However, when I came back, other books caught my attention, so I left it unfinished for a while. In March I finally picked it up again feeling determined to finish it.

In the introduction, Terry Deary puts side by side two testimonials of two priests regarding the London of 1190, which are complete opposites. What does that tell us about history? It is never accurate because everyone sees the world from one’s perspective. In order to understand how people really lived in London throughout the centuries, “this book will only tell you the horrible bits of London’s history –about the bad, not the brave, the horrible, not the happy, the dreadful, disgusting and dirty, not the dear, drippy and delightful.” (Loc. 40-41)

And this book was gruesome indeed with a timeline that stretches from Ancient times to the Victorian era. You will read about legends linked to London and its history, interesting facts about The Tower of London, how horrible people treated animals for their entertainment in the Middle Ages and not only then, criminals and executions, ten dangerous and dirty jobs in London, stories about abused children and forced labour, some bits of information about some iconic buildings in London London’s underground and so on. Every time period has something interesting or disgusting to reveal. Besides the funny illustrations made by Martin Brown, there’s also a map of historical London at the end of the book.

Though the Horrible Histories books are usually very whimsical and you learn new thing while having fun, taking tests and laughing out loud at the jokes the author cracks, this time I think that the gruesomeness surpassed the humour because the animal beatings and fights, the stories about criminals and executions and those about child abuse, filth and disease made my stomach turn. However, I understand the purpose of this book. Usually, we learn at school about the bright side of history and about the brave or brilliant people who changed the world; but there’s also a darker or filthier side of history that is more appealing to us because it revolves around the ordinary people – the sick, the orphan the illiterate and the poor.

What do you think about this book? Have you read it? Leave your answers below.