Top 10 Books I Read in 2017

It was a busy year when it came to reading and out of the 32 books I completed (ranging from children’s books, to sci-fi, to murder/mystery, to fiction, historical fiction and audio books), I have narrowed down my favorites to 10 finalists. The winners are

IMG_20171111_172307_6451. THERE WAS AN OLD MUMMY WHO SWALLOWED A SPIDER BY JENNIFER WARD – is an illustrated Halloween children’s book filled with silly rhythmic and funny words perfect for capturing any young child’s attention. In short, a mummy wakes up from his sleep and sees a spider and decides to swallow it. Throughout the story he continues to swallow an eclectic range of items and living organisms making any child squirm and squeal with skepticism and delight. With phrases like “He swallowed the ghost to scare the witch….” and “He swallowed the rate to chase the spider” the reader wonders what on Earth the mummy will swallow next. Will it be another strange item or will it perhaps be you? Definitely worth picking up for any young reader who enjoys Halloween and being silly.  Category: Children’s Picture Book
https://g.co/kgs/SshH9b

IMG_20171024_164700_3832. THE CRUCIBLE BY ARTHUR MILLER – One of my all time favorite plays and classic pieces of literature. Miller’s play captures the essence of the contagious and rapid insanity of “witchcraft” hysteria during the years of 1692 and 1693 in Salem, Massachusetts. Through descriptive character development Arthur Miller takes the readers on a journey back in time to witness the chaos, torture, desperation and despair. Through these accusations and ultimate deaths of many of the characters, Arthur Miller eloquently displays how men at that time used religion as a means of control to achieve a desired outcome. They used the fear of God to persuade people to conform whether they wanted to or not, which is against the true meaning or message of Christianity. The Crucible’s strong undertone proves how corrupt man’s spirit can be despite religious affiliation and how righteous a man’s spirit can be even if he has committed sin. Witchcraft be only the icing on top of this cake. In the event that you haven’t absorbed this play yet, please consider it a must read and place it on your “to be read” list as it is written beautifully and touches upon human characteristic flaws and how if provided a spark everything will ignite. Remember, history does repeat itself.
Category: Historical Fiction, History, Plays, Dramatic Theater
https://g.co/kgs/fUZjRp

IMG_20171025_095500_9983. ROOM ON THE BROOK BY JULIA DONALDSON –  A delightfully illustrated children’s book perfect for Halloween time. It’s a simple, short and entertaining rhythmic story about a witch who shares her broom with a dog, a cat, a frog and a bird. With the simple teachings of being kind to others and they’ll be kind to you, this is a funny and cute story to read to little ones this Halloween season.
Category: Children’s Picture Book, Halloween
https://g.co/kgs/ENLLPG

IMG_20171016_145520_7394. LIES SHE TOLD BY KATE HOLAHAN– Ever tell that lie so much that you’ve come to believe it yourself? Is there a distinct line between fiction and non-fiction? One never really knows except the story teller as the truth normally dies with them. This is a mind-boggling, line blurring, cross over of fiction versus non-fiction suspenseful murder/mystery novel in which the author, Cate Holahan engulfs the reader into the similarly complex lives of Liza and Beth. This makes the reader ponder which is the lie and which is the truth. A must read for anyone who enjoys character manipulation, suspense, murder/mystery, psychological drama and mind games. I highly recommend this novel as a must read for Fall as I haven’t read a story like this before.
Category: Murder/Mystery, Psychological Thriller, Fiction
https://g.co/kgs/dmK7sM

IMG_20170922_131010_3365. DARK MATTER BY BLAKE CROUCH – if you had to look at yourself standing right in front of yourself, would you trust that other version of you? This novel of science-fiction, mystery and quantum mechanics turns into a game of chess, a battle against his own thoughts (Jason, the main character) and a survival of the fitness leading into much suspense and murder. A fast paced, engaging and contemplating novel is an excellent read and leaves the reader in awe. Remember, life is laid out in a matter of minutes and in each minute we have a choice. Depending on what you choose will alter all the other minutes in your life. What choice will you make?
Category: Science Fiction/Fantasy, Romance, Fiction
https://g.co/kgs/Nd446R


IMG_20170901_173117_0496. THE HANDMAID’S TALE BY MARGARET ATWOOD – 
 (Audiobook read by Claire Danes)This novel was originally published in 1985 but touches the reader as though it was written today. This well written novel of a dystopian society scarily coincides with what takes place with women’s rights and politics today. Claire Danes’s voice adds familiarity and emotion to the story that I don’t feel I would have gained if I had just read the book alone. Her reading performance is wonderful and adds a voice to Ofred (the main character). Loved this audiobook and highly recommend for readers on the go and for all men/women. he Handmaid’s Tale is such a predominate piece of literature that it is considered a classic and must-read for men and women, young and old. I highly recommend this novel, for it surely will leave you stunned and breathless.
Category: Fiction, Women’s Interest
https://g.co/kgs/taeHpm

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7. THE FANTASTIC FLYING BOOKS OF MR. MORRIS LESSMORE BY WILLIAM JOYCE- a wonderful children’s book! Gorgeous illustrations & a terrific children’s book to inspire/teach the love and appreciation of books to youth. A must have in any children’s library or in any classroom. Category: Children’s Picture Book  https://g.co/kgs/1XrTcr

 

IMG_20170819_212438_3338. FINAL GIRLS BY RILEY SAGER – Thoroughly enjoyed this novel as it is filled with amazing plot twists loaded with suspense and psychological drama. Enjoyed every minute and could not put down. It plays on the human mind and how we block things out we don’t want to remember and how sometimes those closest to us are really the ones we should fear the most. Highly recommend. What really happened at Pine Cottage in the middle of the woods? Find out in this murder-mystery/psychological thriller. Heart racing, fast paced while leaving you on the edge of your seat. 
Category: Thriller, Murder/Mystery, Fiction 
https://g.co/kgs/QNX4oC

IMG_20180206_1235059949. THE SEVEN HUSBANDS OF EVELYN HUGO BY TAYLOR JENKINS REID – Excellent book about classic Hollywood during an era in which stars and studios were everything. The story follows one woman Evelyn and how she had her ups and downs and what she did to rise to fame and what she did for the love of her life. The question is who was the love of her life? Was it one of the seven husbands or was it someone else? Were all the marriages for love or publicity? What really happens once the cameras stop rolling and the paparazzi is gone? Excellent historical fiction read filled with a great plot twist, sprinkled with juicy brain candy. A pure delight and I can’t wait to read it again.  Category: Historical Fiction, Romance   
https://g.co/kgs/ZfwC43

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10. FAHRENHEIT 451 BY RAY BRADBURY – a literary classic originally published in 1953 and yet the content of the story is so relevant to today’s time (2017). Having read it once in high school and once this year, I consider it to be a must read for all readers young and old. This novel will stop anyone today in their tracks & make them observe their surroundings. Read this wonderful novel to discover all that is important and why books and knowledge are always the most powerful resource.
Category: Science Fiction, Fiction 
  https://g.co/kgs/dUuXv8

 

IMG_20180206_123532054_HDR***BONUS*** EXIT WEST BY MOHSIN HAMIDAn excellent story that I consider to be a realistic fiction. While the story is fictitious, it could very well be one survivors story. Mohsin writes about Nadia and Saeed who are living their lives in the Middle East and end up falling for each other in one of their colleges classes. Starting out as friends, their relationship grows into something more as their town is soon taken over by the military and is subjected to air raids. The dismantle of their home, loss of loved ones and loss of electricity forces them to seek refuges elsewhere. They end up in Greece, then London and finally California. Though Mohsin Hamid does not specify the exact settings, one understands through context clues that this story is highly based on the Syrian refugees who fled to Greece, then London and then came to America. It is a beautifully and poetically written novel that touches the human soul through human connection, love, the need for survival, violence, anger, confusion, hate, despair, friendship and above all hope. A literary must read. This novel is one of the top 20 Amazon Editors picks for best books of 2017 (https://www.amazon.com/b?node=17276804011a book of the month club pick for March 2017, (bookofthemonth.comand a NY Times Top 10 Best Books of 2017. https://g.co/kgs/e7tEYN

*All website links are dated as of February 6th, 2018*

 

 

 

Lies She Told by Cate Holahan

IMG_20171016_145520_739Ever told a lie to get out of trouble or to avoid the truth? Ever tell that lie so much that you’ve come to believe it yourself? When do dreams end and reality begins? Is there a distinct line between fiction and non-fiction? One never really knows except the story teller as the truth normally dies with them……

“Lies She Told” is a mind-boggling, line blurring, cross over of fiction versus non-fiction suspenseful murder/mystery novel in which the author, Cate Holahan engulfs the reader into the similarly complex lives of Liza and Beth.  This makes the reader ponder which is the lie and which is the truth. Our main character, Liza is a thirty something female author living in NYC who undergoes intense hormonal treatment in hopes of achieving a baby with her attorney husband David. While Liza’s first book, “Drowned Secrets” was a best seller her most recent novels have flopped. Her handsome British accented, black editor Trevor permits her an extension (of one month) on her new novel encouraging her to write more of a romantic suspense story sprinkled with hints of sociopaths. With the pressure mounting, Liza embarks on this new novel and creates the character Beth. Beth, also happens to be married and living in NYC, but already has a new born baby girl (something Liza hopes for). Like Liza’s husband David, Beth’s husband Jake works long hours, isn’t home that much and doesn’t engage in great lengthy conversations. As Liza progresses with her writing, both Liza and Beth deal with their husbands who are hiding secrets.

In Liza’s life, David’s business partner Nick has disappeared and it is ripping him apart from the insides as though Nick was more than just a friend. David obsesses over Nick’s disappearance and goes on for a month of non-stop attempting to solve the case and find his friend. Nick was also the best man at Liza and David’s wedding and has never approved of David marrying Liza, causing some waves amongst their marital bliss. Conveniently in Liza’s story Beth begins to notice that there is something disturbing her marriage with Jake. That disturbance is non other than police officer Colleen who has mesmerized Jake with her curvaceous pre-baby body and her skillful maneuvers in the bedroom. While Beth’s insides shake like a wild animal caged at the zoo, she goes to confront Jake about the affair, but gets manipulated by her blue eyed dreamy husband and is persuaded to see a therapist (Jake believes her issues are due to being cooped up inside the apartment with the baby and postpartum depression). Similarly, Beth’s new therapist Taylor, is also a muscular, smooth skinned British accented black male just like Liza’s editor Trevor.

Needless to say the similarities of Liza’s and Beth’s lives are very close and it doesn’t stop there. Next thing you know Liza’s gun (which she keeps in her closet) is missing and Beth is heaving Colleen’s body into the East River. Turn a few pages, and the police knock on Liza’s door claiming Nick’s body has been seen and pulled up out of the East River, all while the police knock at Beth’s door stating that Colleen is missing. (Cue the Law and Order scene change noise aka dum dum). 

Questions and words of plea on all ends fly from each character to another like daggers in sword fight. Phrases of “How could you?” and “Why?”and “How could you do it?” and “I don’t remember!” and “But it was only a story!” are screamed.  Despair, infidelity, loss, murder, rage and revenge are the icing on this cake of suppressed psychological and physical trauma. The reader believes the question of “how far will one go to achieve the so called perfect life?”, but towards the end we realize something more. We discover how beautiful and dangerous is the human mind in creating a web of fabricated lies to protect the individual’s soul from the memories of anguish and torment. For Liza who is also known as Beth, her story ends with the truth, but begins a new with lies. 

A must read for anyone who enjoys character manipulation, suspense, murder/mystery, psychological drama and mind games. I highly recommend this novel as a must read for Fall as I haven’t read a story like this before. 

 

 

 

 

The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware

IMG_20171002_123824_951Before diving into The Woman in Cabin 10, I heard Ruth Ware was an excellent author whose writing resembles that of Agatha Christie and that her novel “In a Dark, Dark Wood” was excellent. Even Reese Witherspoon has raved about her on instagram, so I was extremely enticed to read Ruth’s Woman in Cabin 10 (published June, 2016), but upon commencement I was disappointed. This murder/mystery, “who done it?” novel is filled with plenty of interesting characters responsible for the unique plot twists and turns that keeps the reader intrigued.  However, it is in my opinion that the creative writing is masked by the insistent whining and nausea of the over-dramatic, anxiety driven, booze gulping main character Lo (short for Laura Blacklock). Granted in the beginning of the story, Ruth has Lo endure a home invasion in which the burglar does nothing to Lo but slam the door in her face, trash the place and take her purse. Lo was not attacked in a way that would justify the consistent use for booze and worry. 

Progressing forward into the chain of events, Lo who happens to work for a travel magazine is provided the career breaking opportunity to experience the madden voyage for the Auruoa Luxury Norwegian Ship. Feeling that this is an opportunity she can’t pass up, and that it may be the relaxation she needs, she goes without hesitation. While reading the passage in which Lo boards the luxury liner I imagined a grand, luxurious ship somewhat like a Carnival Cruise Liner. The descriptive language that Ware used to depict the grand stair case and Swarovski crystal chandelier gives the reader the sense  and epitome of luxury. Apparently that was not the case, because as I continued to dive further into the novel Lo constantly complains about how she feels each movement of the ship and each wave that thrashes upon the bowel resulting in vertigo and nausea. This leads me to believe the ship is not a ship but more of a yacht. This discrepancy in the writing bothers me, because how could all the crew, the crew cabins, ten luxury passenger cabins, a spa, a hot tub, a dining hall and more fit on a yacht? I really wish there would have been more of a concrete setting. 

Moving forward, during the first night out at sea, Lo is getting read for the evening event, and realizes she hasn’t brought mascara with her. Rather than asking if the stewardess can bring her some, Lo decides to knock on the door of Cabin 10. A beautiful, strong featured, black-haired beauty donning a Pink Floyd t-shirt answers the door in an abrupt and sharp manner. practically thrusting the well known Maybelline pink and green mascara in Lo’s hand saying “keep it” the woman in cabin 10 slams the door closed sending Lo back to her cabin. Later in the evening after the luxury dinner and evening events, Lo returns to her cabin overwhelmed with exhaustion, dizziness, nausea and drunkenness resulting in her passing out on the bed. Suddenly, early in the morning Lo is awakened by a loud, terrifying scream and the sound of a great big splash. Thinking it was just a dream, but feeling that it was real, she goes to her balcony, pears out to sea, sees nothing, and pears over the glass to the next balcony of cabin 10, all to find blood smeared on the glass doors. With shock and horror, she leaps back into her cabin afraid that whatever happened to the woman in cabin 10 will happen to her. 

From here, the story progresses into a “I know what I saw, but no one believes me” situation in which Lo is left fearing for her safety all while unable to let go of what she saw. She heads out on a mass detective spree with another character Ben (who is also her ex-boyfriend and who happens to also be enjoying the madden voyage), ultimately trying to discover “who done it?”.  Moderate paced, descriptive vocabulary, entertaining yet annoying characters, and surprising twists and turns sprinkled with yet again unnecessary anxiety, nausea and booze, this novel is a good read, but not what I consider a must read. Worthy of three stars (3 Stars). Happy Reading. 

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

IMG_20170922_131010_336.jpgWhen you look into the mirror do you trust the person looking back at you? Most likely the answer is yes, but what if you had to look at yourself standing right in front of yourself, would you trust that other version of you? You know it is another of version of you, but does that mean they’re exactly like you and have the same morals? It’s a tough question and something that one will not know the answer to until they are in the moment like Jason Dessen, the main character of Dark Matter by Blake Crouch. Jason lives a wonderful life as a physics professor and has a beautiful wife Daniela and a great son Charlie. One night he goes out to meet his old friend Ryan for a drink and on his way home, Jason is kidnapped, drugged, held at gunpoint and ultimately wakes up strapped to a gurney surrounded by hazmat suits. However, Jason also leaves the bar and arrives safely home and makes love to his wife on the same night. 

At this point, I as the reader begin to wonder if I missed something? Did I skip a page by mistake? The answer is no and so the story unfolds as such. This science-fiction novel is sprinkled with quantum mechanics propelling Jason into a multitude of time travel adventures where he can witness first hand how his life would have been different had he made a different decision in different moments. Having witnessed his life is splendid times and horrific times he is now desperate more than every trying to figure out how he ended up where he is and if he can ever return to his real home and be with Daniela and Charlie. As his misadventures down the time travel cube (which he created in another life of himself) Jason gets closer to where he wants to be, but ultimately is being followed and targeted by other versions of himself who are attempting to get back to the same rendition of reality that he knows is the one he wants.

Once Jason achieves the goal of going through the door that leads him to his original life (where the book started), this novel of science-fiction, mystery and quantum mechanics turns into a game of chess, a battle against his own thoughts and a survival of the fitness leading into much suspense and murder. The reader ultimately begins to feel like Jason and initiates the questions of what is real? Who is real? Did it happen or are you dreaming? Can you trust yourself even if it isn’t the current version of you? How do our decisions change versions of ourselves? How far is one willing to go for love? What is one willing to do to oneself so save the ones you love? This fast paced, engaging and contemplating novel is an excellent read and leaves the reader in awe.

Remember, life is laid out in a matter of minutes and in each minute we have a choice. Depending on what you choose will alter all the other minutes in your life. What choice will you make?

 

The Girl On The Train by Paula Hawkins

IMG_20170919_140115_799.jpgGirl on The Train by Paula Hawkins is a great psychological thriller/mystery sprinkled with alcoholism, murder, adultery and deception. This best seller follows Rachel, as she commutes back and forth between her suburban town and London. Like any commuter who isn’t reading or listening to music, she day dreams gazing out the window of the train pondering or enjoying the scenery. Everyday the train stalls at the same spot and Rachel has the opportunity to admire the beautiful house that once belonged to her and Tom (now her ex-husband). New couple, Megan and Scott now occupy the house and she witnesses them everyday (on what used to be her back porch) hugging, kissing, drinking coffee etc. Rachel imagines their life to be the beautiful life that she once thought she had with Tom, but that all changes when one day she sees Megan with a man who is not Scott. Her fantasized image of the couple is now broken, (which for anyone else would just be disappointing), but for Rachel it is devastating. How could Megan do such a thing? Since Tom left Rachel for Anna while they were living in that house, Rachel reverts back to her feelings of being betrayed and transfers her anger and disappointment towards Megan.

Days later Megan is in the newspaper announced missing and the disillusioned Rachel feels as though she must get to the bottom of this. Her obsession becomes more than just a concerned citizen and border lines that of disturbing and psychotic. The novel then progresses forward unveiling dark secrets not just about Megan’s and Anna’s past but Rachel’s as well. We see Rachel’s world through wine induced glasses where even the reader doesn’t know if she is just a drunk or onto something real. As she dives deeper into the complicated web of lies and deceptions, Rachel discovers Scott has a dark past filled with control issues and rage, just like Tom. Caught in a dangerous situation with Scott, Rachel ultimately begins to uncover the truth of what she already knows but was buried underneath her hangover after hangover. Ultimately Megan’s body appears in the woods and Scott is now the major suspect. Statements of Tom being abusive, a sex-addict and more become relevant, and Anna (Tom’s new wife) no longer knows if she is safe.

What is real and who should you trust becomes the theme, leaving every character strong and yet vulnerable. At times sad, emotional and perplexing this novel definitely keeps the reader guessing, feeling and pondering….Did she? Did he? Will she? Will he? How? When? Why? Is this real or just the alcohol? Can Rachel untangle this complicated web of lies and reveal the truth or die trying? The ending is heartbreaking and encouraging for the main character. I recommend this novel as a great fall read… especially if you’re a daily commuter. Enjoy!