2017’s Best Books: My Year in Reading

2017’s best books, for me, are based on the titles I read this year. Release dates, unlike reading dates, may vary (though I think most of these are actually new). I always feel it’s cheating a bit, to discuss the year’s reads in December, since the year isn’t over. December books get short shrift. But I acknowledge there’s no way to squeeze these lists into the final few days of the year. People want book recs early enough to do their holiday shopping, and by the last week of December, holiday celebrations take over.

Every year I wish for more time to read published books. But as anyone with a publishing-related job will tell you, reading time is at a premium. 2017 proved harder than most years. Politics and other concerns meant I spent more free time reading the news and less reading novels. When I did pull out a book for my own enjoyment, I had a difficult time focusing.

It probably surprises no one that the books making the biggest impression on me this year were difficult books. I don’t mean long or complicated books, but books that challenge perceptions and thought processes. Books designed to keep your brain churning long past the last page. Even the less serious books below have a darkish bend. Regardless, I recommend them all. And please do share your favorite 2017 reads in the comments!

2017’s Best Books: The Ones that Hit My Heart

the-hate-u-give-coverThe Hate U Give by Angie Thomas likely doesn’t need a whole lot of discussion, given how much has already been said about it. It deserves all the praise. Thomas tells the story of a black teenage girl, Starr Carter, who witnesses the unprovoked shooting of her unarmed friend Khalil by a police officer. In the aftermath, Starr finds herself caught between her poor black neighborhood and the elite prep school she attends, as friends from both social circles pass judgment and spread rumors about the circumstances of the shooting. Thomas’s writing is both honest and heartfelt, and the story, ripped from the headlines as it was, timely in a way you wish it wasn’t. If you haven’t read this one, you should.

 

All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood follows the story of Wavy, the young daughter of a drug dealer, from childhood into young adulthood. It’s the sort of book that’s tough going simply because it takes time to develop any sympathy for the protagonist. You know you should feel sorry for Wavy, but she’s unlikeable for a good portion of the book. Only once you understand the treatment that caused her behavior do you begin to feel for her. Greenwood’s vivid writing makes the story fascinating, however. You keep going in the same way as you watch a car accident unfold. You can’t help but be hypnotized by this world.

Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body by Roxane Gay is the honest, straightforward account of Gay’s nearly life-long battle with her weight, the brutal rape she suffered as a young girl that forever altered how she felt in her skin, and all the ways in which she has slowly worked through (and continues to work through) the reality of what all that has meant to her. As Gay says right upfront, this is not a weight-loss book. She does not speak of her successes losing weight, but rather what it means in our society to be a very large woman. It is the story of a woman honing her abilities as a writer, of a person defining her sexuality and working to take back what was stolen from her as a child. Despite the difficult subject, Gay’s story rings with  determination and hope.

2017’s Best Books: On the Lighter Side

language-of-thorns-coverThe Language of Thorns: Midnight Tales and Dangerous Magic by Leigh Bardugo collects six short fables written to fit into the world of Bardugo’s Grisha books. They stand alone beautifully, however. Fans of fairy tales or  Russian and Eastern European fables will love these clever stories. Each finds its foundation in some well-loved fairy tale, but Bardugo makes them her own. In some cases, I was nearly halfway through before I identified a story’s origins. They are both modern and old fashioned, current and nostalgic. Additionally, the hardbound version of this book is gorgeous, with illustrations and colored text. Makes a beautiful gift.

If We Were Villains by M.L. Rio is a literary mystery of sorts that features Oliver Marks, a young man who has just finished serving a ten-year prison term for a murder he might or might not have committed. Marks recounts the events of his final year studying Shakespeare at an elite arts college. He and his classmates had become somewhat typecast after years of performing the Bard’s works. When one of their number turns up dead, the remaining students must determine how much they are like the roles they traditionally play. Rio studied Shakespeare and theater and this book shines with her familiarity with both the texts and the world these actors inhabit. Great read for Shakespeare fans and theater geeks alike, with an ending that will keep you questioning.

 

Friday Links: A Bookish Holiday Guide

In honor of the holiday season, this week’s links feature a bookish holiday guide to help you find gifts for the readers and writers on your list, figure out what hints to drop to your loved ones, and maybe plan your vacation reads. Everyone needs a great book to read through the holidays. Whether you pick a new release or a classic, something seasonally themed or more personal, there are books for all types of readers.

Don’t forget to schedule some writing time this weekend, no matter how much shopping you have to do. Keep up with (or join) the December Writing Challenge. Even if you just take half an hour each day, make your writing a priority. No one else can do that work for you. Train your brain to be creative even when you’re busy. You’ll develop great habits to help kick off the new year.

Wishing you a wonderful weekend. I hope my bookish holiday guide helps with your shopping, and that your writing project flows. All the words count!

bookish-holiday-guide

This Week’s Links:

NPR’s Book Concierge: Our Guide to 2017’s Great Reads. – This might be my favorite annual book list, as NPR sets up their page to help you search for books by subject, etc. Wonderful, huge selection.

The Ultimate BuzzFeed Books Gift Guide. – Another big list of great books to give and get.

YA Books Gift Guide for 2017. – BuzzFeed also offers this great roundup of young adult books for the year, for the younger readers in your life, plus the young-at-heart readers as well.

10 Cookbooks Inspired by Children’s Books. – A fun list of cookbooks that readers will love, particularly if they tend to be nostalgic for their favorite childhood reads.

Historically, men translated The Odyssey. Here’s what happened when a woman took the job. – A look at the newly translated version of Homer’s epic, a great gift for the classics fan on your list.

Diaries are evidence of our days. – Okay, a little more writer than reader, but a great arguement from Austin Kleon on keeping a daily log book, something that can appeal to anyone.

New York Review of Books’ Reader’s Catalog. – A fabulous online selection of tons of book-themed gifts, from shirts to wrapping paper to novelty items.

The Little Bookroom. – A lovely little online bookshop dedicated to travel-related books.

Nalini Singh’s CHERISH HARD Releases Today

Nalini Singh‘s CHERISH HARD releases today, and so I’m here to wish her a very happy book birthday.  This shiny new contemporary romance both kicks off her Hard Play series, and serves as prequel to an earlier book, ROCK HARD.

Cover for Nalini Singh's Cherish Hard

About CHERISH HARD

New York Times bestselling author Nalini Singh kicks off her new Hard Play contemporary romance series with a sizzling story that’ll leave you smiling…

Sailor Bishop has only one goal for his future – to create a successful landscaping business. No distractions allowed. Then he comes face-to-face and lips-to-lips with a woman who blushes like an innocent… and kisses like pure sin.

Ísa Rain craves a man who will cherish her, aches to create a loving family of her own. Trading steamy kisses with a hot gardener in a parking lot? Not the way to true love. Then a deal with the devil (aka her CEO-mother) makes Ísa a corporate VP for the summer. Her main task? Working closely with a certain hot gardener.

And Sailor Bishop has wickedness on his mind.

As Ísa starts to fall for a man who makes her want to throttle and pounce on him at the same time, she knows she has to choose – play it safe and steady, or risk all her dreams and hope Sailor doesn’t destroy her heart.

CHERISH HARD is out today, so check out your favorite online retailer to pick up a copy: Kindle, Nook, iBooks, Kobo, Paperback. (Audio coming soon.)

And be sure to check out ROCK HARD, as well, available at a discounted price for a limited time.

 

Cover Reveal for Nalini Singh’s OCEAN LIGHT

Nalini-Singh's-OCEAN-LIGHT-cover

I’m happy to share this gorgeous cover for Nalini Singh’s OCEAN LIGHT, the next book in her Psy/Changeling series, and the second title in the new Trinity arc. I think the artwork for this one particularly beautiful. It practically glows. A big shout-out goes to Tony Mauro at the Berkley Art Department for his amazing work on Nalini’s covers.

Nalini Singh’s OCEAN LIGHT

New York Times bestselling author Nalini Singh dives beneath the surface of her Psy-Changeling world into a story of passionate devotion and selfless love…

Security specialist Bowen Knight has come back from the dead. But there’s a ticking time bomb in his head: a chip implanted to block telepathic interference that could fail at any moment—taking his brain along with it. With no time to waste, he should be back on land helping the Human Alliance. Instead, he’s at the bottom of the ocean, consumed with an enigmatic changeling.

Kaia Luna may have traded in science for being a chef, but she won’t hide the facts of Bo’s condition from him or herself. She’s suffered too much loss in her life to fall prey to the dangerous charm of a human who is a dead man walking. And she carries a devastating secret Bo could never imagine.

But when Kaia is taken by those who mean her deadly harm, all bets are off. Bo will do anything to get her back—even if it means striking a devil’s bargain and giving up his mind to the enemy…

OCEAN LIGHT goes on sale June 12, 2018, but you can preorder it now from your favorite retailer. Find it at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iBooks, or put in an order at your favorite local bookstore. For a sneak peek, head over to Nalini’s Facebook page to read an early snippet from the book.

Cover Reveal for Nalini Singh’s CHERISH HARD

Cover for Nalini Singh's Cherish Hard

Nalini Singh‘s CHERISH HARD kicks off her new Hard Play series. These contemporary romances spin off from her earlier Rock Kiss series, specifically book 2: ROCK HARD, and feature the brothers of that book’s hero, Gabriel. I’m so excited to reveal the gorgeous cover for this new title.

Nalini Singh’s CHERISH HARD

New York Times bestselling author Nalini Singh kicks off her new Hard Play contemporary romance series with a sizzling story that’ll leave you smiling…

Sailor Bishop has only one goal for his future – to create a successful landscaping business. No distractions allowed. Then he comes face-to-face and lips-to-lips with a woman who blushes like an innocent… and kisses like pure sin.

Ísa Rain craves a man who will cherish her, aches to create a loving family of her own. Trading steamy kisses with a hot gardener in a parking lot? Not the way to true love. Then a deal with the devil (aka her CEO-mother) makes Ísa a corporate VP for the summer. Her main task? Working closely with a certain hot gardener.

And Sailor Bishop has wickedness on his mind.

As Ísa starts to fall for a man who makes her want to throttle and pounce on him at the same time, she knows she has to choose – play it safe and steady, or risk all her dreams and hope Sailor doesn’t destroy her heart.

CHERISH HARD publishes November 14th, 2017. Preorder your copy now through your favorite e-book retailer, including Amazon Kindle, iBooks, and Nook. Or check out Nalini’s post on her blog for additional retail links as they become available.

Banned Books Week: Stand Up for Your Freedom to Read

Banned Books Week challenges the idea that anyone can tell you what to read. Or what not to read. This week, look through your TBR pile or scan lists of challenged books. Pick up a title you might not normally choose. Don’t let anyone tell you that a book is too racy or radical or risky for you. Dare to read dangerously.

Every year, the American Library Association tracks what books have been challenged or banned. Challenging a book involves attempting to remove access by a person or group, where banning successfully removes that book. People challenge books for many reasons, objecting to sexual content, religious ideas that conflict with their own, or subjects they find distasteful. Check out the books most frequently challenged, organized by year, and including books for children and young adults, as well as titles challenged for diverse content and even classics.

If you’re interested in recent challenges, the ALA provides handy annual infographics.

Top 10 Most Challenged Books 2016
Artwork courtesy of the American Library Association

Banned Books Week takes place every September, but people challenge or ban books all year long. They attempt to block your access to material that might change your way of thinking or open your mind to new ideas. We fight for the publication of more diverse books, but we must also stand for the right to read them.

Take a Stand

Do you love a book that people threaten to ban? Speak out this week on social media. Tell us why you love that title. If you hear about someone challenging a book in your town or city, make your opinion known. Speak up and explain what makes that book important. Check out the ALA for ways to help, ideas for boosting the signal, and resource materials. Share your love of books by helping to keep them accessible to everyone.

ARCHANGEL’S VIPER Out Today! Nalini Singh’s Guild Hunter Series

Guild Hunter series: Archangel's Viper by Nalini Singh cover art

Happy Book Release Day!

Archangel’s Viper, book 10 in Nalini Singh‘s Guild Hunter series, hits stores today, brought to you by Berkley Books. This title features Venom, one of Archangel Raphael’s elite private guard, and the mysterious woman he longs to protect. Keep reading for a peek into his story and this world where Archangels and vampires walk beside humans.

Enter New York Times bestselling author Nalini Singh’s breathtakingly passionate Guild Hunter world with the story of a woman who isn’t a vampire or an angel…or human…

Once a broken girl known as Sorrow, Holly Chang now prowls the shadowy gray underground of the city for the angels. But it’s not her winged allies who make her a wanted woman—it’s the unknown power coursing through her veins. Brutalized by an insane archangel, she was left with the bloodlust of a vampire, the ability to mesmerize her prey, and a poisonous bite.

Now, someone has put a bounty on her head…

Venom is one of the Seven, Archangel Raphael’s private guard, and he’s as infuriating as he is seductive. A centuries-old vampire, his fangs dispense a poison deadlier than Holly’s. But even if Venom can protect Holly from those hunting her, he might not be able to save himself—because the strange, violent power inside Holly is awakening…

No one is safe.

Archangel’s Viper joins the rest of Nalini Singh’s Guild Hunter series available everywhere in print, e-book format, and audio. Visit your favorite brick-and-mortar bookstore or online vendor and get your copy today. Or check out the series from the beginning, and  pick up a copy of Angels’ Blood.

Happy Book Release Day to Nalini Singh!

archangelsheart_finalcover

A very happy book release day to Nalini Singh, whose latest installment in her Guild Hunter series — ARCHANGEL’S HEART — comes out today.

One of the most vicious archangels in the world has disappeared. No one knows if Lijuan is dead or has chosen to Sleep the long sleep of an immortal. But with her lands falling into chaos under a rising tide of vampiric bloodlust, a mysterious and ancient order of angels known as the Luminata calls the entire Cadre together to discuss the fate of her territory.

Accompanying her archangelic lover Raphael to the Luminata compound, guild hunter-turned-angel Elena senses that all is not as it seems. Secrets echo from within the stone walls of the compound, and the deeper Elena goes, the uglier the darkness. But neither Raphael nor Elena is ready for the brutal truths hidden within—truths that will change everything Elena thinks she knows about who she is…

Nothing will ever be the same again.

Elena and Raphael are back, digging deeper into the secrets that surround the world of the archangels. Find them at your favorite brick-and-mortar or online retailer today.

Book Release Day: WILD EMBRACE by Nalini Singh

Wild Embrace_M

Wishing a very happy book birthday to Nalini Singh, whose collection of all-new, never-published Psy/Changeling novellas, WILD EMBRACE, comes out today. Enjoy four wonderful stories set in the Psy/Changeling universe, meet some new characters and revisit old friends.

Echo of Silence

In a deep-sea station, Tazia Narif has found her life’s work as an engineer, keeping things running smoothly. But she wants nothing more than to break down the barrier of silence between her and her telekinetic Psy station commander…

Dorian

A changeling who can never shift lives a life of quiet frustration–until he learns how to let his leopard come out and play…

Partners in Persuasion

Still raw from being burned by a dominant female, wolf changeling Felix will never again risk being a plaything. But for dominant leopard Dezi, he’s the most fascinating man she’s ever met. She just has to convince this gun-shy wolf that he can trust the dangerous cat who wants to take a slow, sexy bit out of him…

Flirtation of Fate

Seven years ago, Kenji broke Garnet’s heart. Now the wolf packmates have to investigate the shocking murder of one of their own. And the more Kenji sees of the woman Garnet has become, the deeper he begins to fall once more. But even his primal instincts are no match for the dark secret he carries…

Find WILD EMBRACE today at all your favorite bookstores and online retailers.