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

IMG_20170909_213716_986

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

IMG_20170910_184606_051

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*

 

 

 

The Crucible by Arthur Miller

IMG_20171024_164700_383One of my all time favorite plays and classic pieces of literature is The Crucible by Arthur Miller. 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. The Salem Witch Trials were a dark time in American history in which roughly 200 men and women were accused of practicing witchcraft and roughly 20 people were hanged on the accusations. Interesting thing about the Salem Witch Trails is that a lot of the accusations had to do with “witnesses” claiming falsehoods as true and fabricating elaborate stories to seek a desired outcome. Through descriptive character development Arthur Miller takes the readers on a journey back in time to witness the chaos, torture, desperation and despair. 

Abigail Williams is a teenage girl who lusts for John Proctor, who is a good Christian farmer and married to Elizabeth Proctor with three sons. In a night of lust John commits the sin of adultery providing Abigail with false hope. Abigail who is young and filled with lust and envy asks Tituba (a slave girl from Barbados) to conjure up spirits to help her get rid of Elizabeth in hopes of becoming John’s new wife. During the night in which Abigail, Tituba, (and two other Christian girls from the town), Betty and Mary head into the woods and dance around in a circle as Tituba sings, Reverend Parris witnesses this and finds it uncouth. The next day Betty (Reverend Parris’s daughter) is ill in bed and will not wake up. Reverend Parris (being a man of God) chooses to look at the “dancing” as the Devil’s worship and that the girls were working for the Devil. (In the modern world of today we tend to look at dancing in the woods as free-spirited fun). Abigail denies she had any part in it and blames it all on Tituba saying that it was Tituba that spoke with the Devil. From this point forward accusations of “I saw”, “she saw”, “she did”, “she didn’t”, “I did” and “I didn’t” are thrown like a ball at a ping pong match.  

John Proctor’s wife Elizabeth is convicted of witchcraft because she happened to have a poppet (a doll) with a needle in it inside her home and John is thrown into jail for not knowing all 10 commandments, adultery and saying “God is dead in this town”. The mid-wife Rebecca Nurse is also convicted of witchcraft for helping deliver babies who happened to be still born or die shortly after. (Remember that was common for that time period due to lack of proper medical care). Giles Corey is crushed to death by stones for neither denying or agreeing to committing witchcraft stating the famous phrase “more weight” choosing to die with his pride and his name intact. 

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. Read, learn and be aware. Happy reading. (5 stars)

 

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! 

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

IMG_20170901_173117_049The Handmaid’s Tale written by Margaret Atwood 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.

Ofred (the main character) is a handmaid and lives in what is essentially America, but is extremely micro-managed by the religiously extreme government entitled the Republic of Gilead. This Republic divides women into classes of legitimate or illegitimate. Legitimate women are then classified as either wives, daughters, handmaids, aunts, marthas and econowives. The illegitimate women are classified as either unwomen or jezebels. The handmaids are women who have voluntarily (or should I say involuntarily) offered themselves as basically sex slaves, but not for sex, but rather to consistently reproduce for the “wives” they are assigned to. That’s right, if a woman is considered fruitful “blessed be the fruit” she is called a handmaid and then is assigned to a wife and husband (or commander) who are not. The handmaid is basically a surrogate and serves no other purpose is life but that. The process to become impregnated is torturous to read and feels more like rape. The handmaid is to lie in bed with her head on top of the wife’s pelvic bone, hold the wife’s hands and then allow the husband of the wife to penetrate her (the handmaid). While reading this I actually said out loud “did it really just say that?!”.

Once a handmaid produces a child for the family, she is considered highly valuable and is sent to another family to do the same thing. Once a handmaid can no longer reproduce (whether she hits menopause or not) she is essentially sent out to pasture. Does Ofred remain trapped in this society or does she manage to escape to freedom in what is today’s Canada? Does she give birth or is she sent away as a useless woman?

Written with such raw depths of emotion and confusion, this novel is at times curious, relentless, humorous, downright torturous and terrifying while ironically providing a sense of optimism. Margaret Atwood’s ending to the story leaves the reader unknowing while knowing everything. The 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. 

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

IMG_20170910_184606_051Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury is a literary classic originally published in 1953 and yet the content of the story is so relevant to today’s time (2017). It dives into the concept of how the lack of education/knowledge and with books being forbidden that individuals will become less enhanced relying on “technology” for entertainment. Due to this dependency on “technology” people as a whole become a failed species and develop into nothing more than a massive brain warped/communication breakdown society.

The main character of this dystopian novel is firefighter Guy Montag whose job is to ignite fires with the purpose of demolishing books. In this community education is the enemy, reading is forbidden & sources of entertainment are electronics, tv walls and headsets that are filled with mindless chatter. Schools have closed, teachers hide, & books are the most dangerous items on the black market. Those caught with them will be thrown in jail or killed. During a raid Guy Montag witnesses a woman willing to die in her house surrounded by her books & curiosity gets the best of him. What is so great about these books? Why are people willing to die for them? With a swift hand he swipes one for himself before it’s engulfed in flames causing his life to be forever changed. With his brain dead wife hauling off in their car, Guy narrowly escapes the sting of a massive robotic dog. With all of society watching, he’s in danger and on the run from his co-workers and the government. Along the way he befriends intellectuals who have been in hiding preserving the last remaining books. From there he discovers a whole new aspect to life that he never thought existed.

This story is funny, suspenseful, thought provoking, and heart wrenching as we realize our society today is very much becoming the lifeless society in the book. Has our society today let technology take over our lives? Are we loosing our ability to think? Can we be like the main character by sticking to the truth and keeping the love of knowledge and books alive? 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