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?

Review: The Flow by Effrosyni Moschoudi

 

Book 2 of The Lady of the Pier

A WWII British drama

Title: The Flow

Subtitle: A WWII British drama

Author: Effrosyni Moschoudi

Genre: Paranormal Romance, Historical Romance

Year of Publication: 2015

Self-Published

Series: The Lady of the Pier

Rating: 5/5 stars

WarningThe Flow is the second book in The Lady of the Pier trilogy where every book is a sequel to the previous one. If you haven’t read the first book and you are interested in doing so, please return to my review after finishing it because this review contains spoilers from the first book.

In The Flow, Laura and Christian are back together again, but Ruth, Laura’s mother, is not willing to accept her daughter’s choice because she still hopes that Laura will marry someday a rich and influential man like Willard and not a poor peasant like Christian.  However, Ruth’s health declines and Charles jumps at the opportunity to get close to Laura again, according to his wicked plan. But Laura seems to be more mature and wiser than before, leaving her ambitions behind because she realises that her dream of being surrounded by rich people was just an illusion, which almost ruined her relationship with Christian and caused her a lot of trouble.

“The dreams she had initially held when she came to Brighton, to be part of the rich and fortunate crowd, had all stemmed from her mother. They had crept into her heart over the preceding years of hardship, like a poison (…). It was the same poison which had nearly made her lose Christian.” (p. 30)

Despite her mother’s discontentment, nothing made Laura happier and complete than being by Christian’s side. Unfortunately, she had to learn her lesson the hard way. We know that Laura is a hard-working woman, but she is also willing to sacrifice herself for the love of her nearest and dearest. For example, she skips classes at the society to take care of her mother, whose health is deteriorating rapidly. When Charles invites Laura to Lakeview Castle, she is somehow obliged to go, despite her gut feeling and Christian’s plea to refuse. But what Willard has in store for Laura is more than a private party; it’s a trap which will change the protagonist’s life forever. Some decisions are crucial without us knowing it and unfortunately, this is the case with Laura. Though this is just the second book of the trilogy, I think that her decision to go to Willard’s castle was like the first piece of domino that fell causing a chain-reaction of events which led to the end of this amazing story.

I rooted for Laura because she becomes a strong woman who learns how to confront Willard, despite all the misery and heartbreak he causes her. Trapped in a life she loathes, Laura turns to poetry and the few people she can rely on or love: Maggie, Paul, Meg, Ian, James and Freddie who is the apple of her eye. After what happened, it looks like Christian was right after all, but Laura can’t fix anything for now and even though she still loves Christian, he becomes nothing more than a memory to her due to the current state of affairs and Laura regrets her foolish mistake deeply.

“They’d both made wrong decisions. Some were down to misjudgement and others were due to pride and insecurity, not to forget the cruel hand of fate. (…) Fates had been cruel, and it was no use lamenting any longer.” (p. 140-141)

Charles is arrogant, manipulative, controlling and jealous because he doesn’t only plan to bring Laura back and force her into a loveless marriage, but he makes her life a living hell, especially after he has a sort of revelation about Freddie and he is still jealous of Christian who is out of Laura’s life for now. Yes, Charles is a despicable human being and a psychopath, but he also loves music and has a good taste for arts in general. That doesn’t make him more human though. If ruining the life of a kind and loving woman wasn’t enough, he also tries to make a profit after World War II breaks out by taking people’s pieces of jewellery in exchange for food.

This time, I enjoyed Laura’s story a little more than Sofia’s because of what happens to her in Willard’s castle and the consequences she has to endure. That certain event is narrated pretty vaguely, but it still made my hair stand on end when I read about it and I was very disgusted by Charles’ actions. I also think that Laura chooses the wrong man, not only because she fell into Charles’ trap, but she tried somehow to protect Christian from Charles’ quick-temper and extreme jealousy.

It’s really hard to judge Laura for her mistakes because any woman in her place living in that time period would have tried to save her reputation, which was something crucial in society’s eyes. Laura wants desperately to make everyone happy by neglecting her emotions and sacrificing her own happiness. But not everything is lost because Maggie remains Laura’s best friend who helps her cope with the miseries she endures every day from within and the outside world. Maggie is for Laura the shoulder to cry on, but also the bearer of hope. Even if Christian thinks that Maggie took sides, she cannot tell him the truth about Laura because she cares too much for her friend and respects her wish to keep the secret well-guarded. It’s a pretty delicate and complicated situation from which Laura doesn’t seem to find a way out.

“Maggie thought she was remarkably brave, the bravest woman she’d ever met. Life had only granted Laura happiness in tiny treat-size chunks while tossing pain at her by the bucket loads.” (p. 212)

In contrast to Laura’s complex and emotional story, Sofia’s almost looks like a cute contemporary romance, but this doesn’t mean that her story is uneventful. Sofia goes back to Athens and waits for her final year of studies to be over, in order for her to move to England for her Master’s Degree. In her spare time, Sofia writes letters to Loula back in Corfu and with Danny in Brighton, the cheeky lad she fell in love with. Sofia is still visited by the mysterious lady sometimes at night, but also during the day when Sofia reads her poems aloud. However, this doesn’t mean that the girl feels comfortable with this unusual presence. It becomes an obsession which she doesn’t want to share with a lot of people because she is afraid that they might think she is mad.

 “She felt her in her heart all the time now, yearning for her lost love and lamenting for past mistakes. (…) The Lady’s grief was overwhelming sometimes, making Sofia sad for no reason at all, especially at night when the world around her grew quiet and there were no distractions.” (p. 25-26 )

It’s really hard to cope with the longing you have for the one you love and Sofia knows that too well. But distance isn’t the only culprit to Sofia’s heartache. Danny seems to grow cold and doesn’t respond to her letters after a while. On the other hand, Loula makes remarkable progress in learning English, so she and Steve send each other letters back and forth, a perfect long-distance relationship Sofia would die for if I weren’t so hard to read Danny’s mind. Besides Danny’s silence, Sofia’s love for him is put to the test too when she meets another Brit who may want to steal her heart. The previous experiences that pulled Sofia out of her comfort zone made her more courageous, confident in herself, bold and more independent than before. These characteristics are reflected in her attitude towards her father because she is no longer afraid of him, but she’s determined to talk him out of his plans for her future and convince him that a Master Degree in Art and Design in Brighton is more suitable for her.

“It was all about taking the leap of faith. It said that the fear that stops us from doing what we really want is often not based on reality. We shape our fears in our heads, but things are so much easier than we think.” (p. 216 )

Besides the themes mentioned previously, there’s also the theme of war, which will also appear in the third book. Fortunately, for people like me who feel uncomfortable reading detailed descriptions of war scenes, this isn’t that kind of novel. The narrator just mentions a bit of context and certain events to help the reader get into the atmosphere of the novel, but they are not the main focal point of the story. Another interesting thing is that, despite the turmoil and the fighting, the story shows us that even during hard times, people still live their lives as normally as possible: they go to the cinema or are caught in an unhappy family life like Laura. Even if the war is seen through the women’s eyes waiting anxiously for news on the radio or letters from their husbands who are fighting on the battlefield, it’s still a heart-wrenching read.