2017 was a rather lackluster reading year. I read some really great books, and I have a top five list of some really fantastic reads from the year. But I was also so distracted when reading this year that I think it prevented me from truly enjoying some of the other books I read, so I have a lot of reviews that aren’t quite as gushy as others might have made them. In some ways, I don’t think they would be anyway. I read some hyped books from 2017 that just didn’t live up to it the hype for me; it’s not that I didn’t enjoy them, I just didn’t think they were the best thing ever.
Before I talk you out of reading this post, there’s actually only one book on this list that I probably would have stopped reading if I wasn’t intent on “not wasting” a single page, since I knew it would be tight to make my tiny little reading goal. Although, if I had actually been reading it instead of listening to it on audiobook… eventually on double-speed… I probably would have. The rest of the books on this list were enjoyable. I just wanted to give the disclaimer: 2017 was a distracted reading year. I was ready for a fresh start when 2017 rolled around… and so far I’ve read/listened to three books that I really enjoyed. 👊🏼
Note – some of the links in this post contain affiliate links, which means if you make a purchase using one of them I will make a small commission, at no extra cost to you. Some of these books were sent for review. If a book was sent for review, it will be clearly noted. Thank you for supporting Dreams, etc.
She, Myself, and I by Emma Young
I was sent a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Rosa is a quadriplegic with a doting–but sometimes stifling–family. As her body grows weaker, her family is contacted about the possibility of a new and risky procedure: a brain transplant. Rosa and her family move from the UK to Boston, where Rosa’s brain is transplanted into the body of Sylvia, a teen who’s brain-dead and whose parents have donated her body to Rosa’s cause. When Rosa wakes up, the transplant appears to have been a success, but she finds herself increasingly obsessed with learning more about who Sylvia was and who she is now that she’s living in someone else’s body.
This book stands out in my mind as a unique book from 2017. It has such a strange premise to try and think through. I remember talking to people about it as I read it and they were all like, “😳.” And I kept checking the official synopsis as I wrote the blurb above. What I liked: it was a unique way to see a character explore who she is. Even though the idea of having my brain transplanted into someone else’s body seems so out there, the issues Rosa struggled with as a result felt so realistic. Not only are they, in some ways, issues everyone struggles with at some point in their life, but I think I’d have the same questions she did if I were in the same position she was. I also thought the way she acted throughout the novel was a realistic portrayal for someone who has lived the sheltered life she did and been through one of the craziest things you could go through, like she did. What I didn’t like: there was a brief religious aspect to it–a character who’s religious–that I didn’t like. It’s not that I didn’t buy what was happening; I thought it was believable. But it bothered me that if religion was brought into the story at all–this easily could have been left out and the plot wouldn’t have suffered–that it was just represented in this way. Possible concerns about this book: I wouldn’t be surprised–and have even read some reviews–if some people would be concerned about this book because it might be ableist. I totally get that concern; it’s something that went through my mind as I read it. Here’s a quadriplegic character who’s “getting another chance at life” and will “finally be able to live” and “have a life.” This kind of talk does happen in the book, so it’s something to be aware of if that would bother you. I think what makes this book stand apart from one like Me Before You is that, while we don’t know much about Rosa’s condition (it’s all very vague), it is known that her condition deteriorated very quickly and I believe they say that the condition was going to take her life–sooner rather than later. So, she was able to get another chance at life and was finally able to live and have a life because the condition would have ended her life. It’s all very vague and I wish it had been explained a little bit better.
Overall, it was a unique premise. I read this in a day at a time when it was taking me weeks and months to finish a book. But if it wasn’t for the unique plot point I probably wouldn’t remember much about it.
Read This If:
>> You enjoy a coming-of-age.
>> You’re intrigued by the unique plot.
Trust No One by Paul Cleave
Jerry is a best-selling crime novelist with early onset Alzheimers. As the disease starts to take over, Jerry begins to confess to some crimes. No one believes him–they all insist these crimes were in his books–but if he’s not a murderer, why do people keep dying?
I was so frustrated with this book in the beginning. It was confusing and I had a hard time making sense of it… and that’s when I realized it was kind of genius. You’re feeling what Jerry is feeling. It made me feel all the feels. There were times the story broke my heart, but it also had me on the edge of my seat and made me laugh. I had a few theories, one of which panned out. I listened to this on audiobook and found that I was going places and “cleaning” more just so that I could keep listening.
Read This If:
>> You enjoy thrillers.
>> You enjoy books with unreliable narrators, but are looking for one who’s a little different than the unreliable narrators who are currently saturating the market.
Heartless by Marissa Meyer
A story about the Queen of Hearts from Alice in Wonderland, before she became the queen when she was just a girl who had dreams to open a bakery and wanted to fall in love.
This wasn’t my favorite book. I’m not the biggest fan of Alice in Wonderland–I enjoyed reading the original story, but haven’t really liked any of the movie adaptations or… I was going to say retellings, but I’m not sure I’ve read any of others. I picked this up because I (surprise, surprise) love the Queen of Hearts! I enjoy villains and wanted to see what led her down the path to becoming the evil queen she was. Unfortunately, I could not get into the story. I didn’t particularly like Catherine when we were first introduced to her. There was nothing particularly unlikable about her, she was kind of forgettable. I thought it took too long for the book to really get into the action and I wasn’t necessarily sure I bought her descent from the Cath at the beginning of the novel to the person who became the evil Queen of Hearts. I listened to the audiobook of this and it was okay. I listened to this on audiobook and I’m not sure I would have finished it if I was physically reading it. That being said, there are a lot of people out there who love this book, so if it appeals to you, definitely check it out. I have heard that Meyer really tried to hold true to the original and if you read Alice in Wonderland and Heartless back-to-back you can see her nods to the original. And others didn’t have the same issues I had with the book. As I always say, a book that appeals to you might not appeal to me. A book that isn’t my favorite could become your fave, so if you want to read it, definitely check it out.
Read This If:
>> You’re a fan of villain origin stories.
>> You’re a fan of Alice in Wonderland retellings.
Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie
Hercule Poirot is summoned back to England, but on the way the train he’s traveling on derails and a murder occurs. The owner of the train asks Poirot to solve the murder before they reach the next station.
Agatha Christie has a writing style that I typically can’t get into. I like to connect with the characters and the story and feel like I’m in it, but Christie’s writing is a bit distanced. For me, at least. Still. I enjoy reading her books, even though I don’t read them often. This was on my to-read list for awhile, but I finally got around to it this year when I saw the movie was coming out. (And then I went to see it. Twice. Once with my mom and once with my niece. I really enjoyed it–both times. It’s a beautiful movie, particularly the nod to the Last Supper. Stunning!) If you’re interested in reading this book, be sure to listen to the audiobook. Dan Stevens narrates. You’re welcome. As I mentioned, I was feel like Christie’s writing keeps me at a distance, but I was definitely engaged in the mystery as I tried to figure out whodunnit. I sorted through all the evidence and actually spent a lot of time trying to come up with a theory and I didn’t solve the crime. Sigh. Maybe next time.
Read This If:
>> You’re a fan of mysteries and enjoy the classics.
Listen to This If:
>> No ifs about it… just listen to it. Dan Stevens narrates. Need I say more?
Confess by Colleen Hoover
Auburn is working to rebuild her life, so when she walks by an art studio looking for help, she applies for the job. She’s immediately drawn to the artist, Owen. They both recognize their attraction for each other, but they’re both hiding secrets, and a secret from Owen’s past could take away everything that matters most to Auburn.
I heard that there was an artistic element to this novel, with artwork included in it, so of course I had to read it. I love when books incorporate different things like that and the artwork in this novel did not disappoint. It was so beautiful and I spent quite a bit of time looking at each piece. I also loved the story of his artwork–where he drew his inspiration and how he ran his studio. Basically, I wanted more of the art and the studio, but I also realize that it needed something to make it a compelling story, I just wish the something was more closely related to his art and his studio than it actually was. This was an interesting read, because I was into the story and then one of the secrets was revealed. I lost interest at that point and actually put the book down, but there were some details that I wanted to find out more about so I picked it up again. Another secret is eventually revealed and that one I saw coming, but it’s also the one that pulled me back into the story. I enjoyed the read. It wasn’t my favorite of the year, but it was entertaining.
Read This If:
>> You enjoy a love story that has some substance to it.
They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera
Mateo and Rufus both receive phone calls from Death-Cast shortly after midnight: they’re going to die today. When they both find themselves alone without their loved ones on their End Day, they download the app Last Friends and meet each other through it, just in time to team up for one last adventure.
As soon as I heard the synopsis for this I knew I had to read it, especially once everyone started to read it and rave about it. (Also, it’s about time I finally read a book by Adam Silvera.) I didn’t love this one as much as a lot of people did. To be honest, I was more interested in Death-Cast and the End Day than I was in Mateo and Rufus. I thought it might just be the plot point used to bring these two characters together and to give them a limited amount of time to spend together, but Death-Cast is such a big part of that world. Everyone lives in fear of receiving the call to tell them it’s their End Day and because of how big of a role Death-Cast played in the lives of the characters, I wanted more information about that. I also thought it was a bit of a slow starter and there was a period in the middle where it really slowed down. I didn’t cry at the end (or at any point through the book), but I was satisfied with the ending.
Read This If:
>> You’re a fan of Adam Silvera. (Of course, if you are, you’ve probably already read it.)
>> The premise is fascinating to you.
Piper by Jay Asher & Jessica Freeburg
In order to be completely honest and transparent: I know Jessica Freeburg. She is one of the nicest people you will ever meet. This, of course, does not influence my opinion for the book one way or the other.
Maggie–a girl who’s blind and deaf–meets the Pied Piper and is drawn to him. However, the closer she gets to him, the more she sees that he a dark side.
I’m the worst reviewer when it comes to graphic novels. (Which I also think I said about non-fiction.) I just feel a little out of my element when it comes to graphic novels. I don’t read them often, but I enjoy them when I do and I like to read more. I always feel like I don’t read them properly and I should read them like you read poetry (which I also don’t read properly). All of that is to say I think I read them too fast and should slow down a bit. I think it’s also partly that I don’t really know what goes into a graphic novel. They’re kind of an enigma for me. 😂 So. I enjoyed this a lot. As I read it I realized that I don’t think I really know much about the legend of the pied piper, so I had to do some research. (It also explains why Jessica wanted to take pictures with a rat awhile back and why she had one at the book signing for What Light.) The artwork is really beautiful! I also gave my niece and nephew (their own) copies of the book and it’s already been nephew-approved.
Turtles All the Way Down by John Green
I think most people know what this is about, but in case you don’t: Aza and her best friend decide to investigate the disappearance of a local fugitive billionaire in the hopes of claiming the monetary award if they figure out where he is. But Aza used to be good friends with one of his sons and her investigation brings them face-to-face again. Throughout everything, Aza battles her OCD and the thought spirals it causes.
I think I’ve mentioned this before, but maybe not? It’s not something I talk about a lot because 1) I don’t feel the need to rant about the authors/books I don’t like whenever the slightest opening to do so occurs (unless we’re talking the A Walk to Remember movie, where they took out the walk to remember) and 2) he’s so loved that I’m kind of afraid to. 😂 But, John Green isn’t my favorite author. I feel like his characters are usually pretty similar. I’ve stopped reading a couple of his books, I’ve read and enjoyed others, but I don’t have the same love for his writing that so many people do. When I heard that he had a new book coming out I didn’t think I’d read it, but then I heard him talk about and how personal it is to him (more on that in a bit) and at that point I knew I’d read it. I wanted to see what this one would be like. Out of the John Green books that I’ve read, this was definitely my favorite. It felt different than his books usually do and I appreciated that. However, it still wasn’t my favorite book. It actually took me awhile to get through. That being said, this is Own Voices for OCD representation and I thought that was handled well. I’ve also heard that those who can identify with the rep have said it’s an accurate portrayal. That was definitely my favorite part of this; it was something that was very real and even though I don’t know what Aza’s going through, she felt real to me because of it and it was something that let me connect with her. I’ve never really found that with his characters. I enjoyed the millionaire storyline, just because it added a little quirkiness to an otherwise heavy storyline, but I was definitely most interested in Aza and what she was dealing with personally. Would I recommend this one? Yes, definitely. It wasn’t my favorite book, but I think it’s one that should be read.
Read This If You:
>> are a fan of John Green or the vlog brothers
>> would like to read a book about mental health in teens that isn’t handled quite poorly.
Binti by Nnedi Okorafor
Binti is given the opportunity to attend Oomza University, the finest institution for higher learning in the galaxy, but going there means leaving her family and friends behind to travel to a place where she’s different than everyone else.
I’m not going to lie… this one confused me a bit. I wasn’t tracking it at all. Like I said earlier, 2017 was a really distracted reading year, which is partly why I think of my reviews from the year are lukewarm, but I also think this one suffered from that because it wasn’t long so I didn’t time t get acclimated with the story in my distracted reading state. I’ll definitely be rereading this one, since I’ve heard such great reviews about it.
Read This If You:
>> are a fan of sci-fi
>> are looking for a shorter book to read
The Chimes by Charles Dickens
Another story by Dickens in which someone is visited by spirits at night to show him something he needs to learn. This one takes place at New Year’s Eve.
I’m a big fan of A Christmas Carol (particularly the audiobook, narrated by Tim Curry), but this is the first time I’ve read (well, listened to) The Chimes. It was a good, quick read, and because of it I was able to get a classic in. I don’t think I read any other classic in 2017.
Read This If You:
>> are looking for a small book to read
>> are interested in reading classics.
Previously Reviewed (sent for review by publishers)
Disrobed by Syl Tang | How fashion can predict the future (like the results of a presidential election) and how it impacts the environment. I enjoyed this one and would recommend it. See my first review.
We Need to Talk by Celeste Headlee | Becoming a better communicator by learning what you’er doing wrong, or right, in the interactions we have each day. I think this is an important book to read in a culture that appears as though it’s replacing actually conversations. See my first review.
Whew, that’s everything! I’m going to be switching up how I do roundups in the future. I’ll do them more frequently (probably after five books so that these roundups aren’t massive) and will probably do them in video form. Keep an eye out for that!
What have you read recently? Let me know in the comments.