Reading has become my salvation and sanctuary in a really testing year as an author – thankfully I’ve been spoiled for choice for awesome books in 2017. There are lots of ‘best books’ lists, so here’s mine. Some books I was lucky to read as advance copies, most I bought myself. Not all of the books in my Top Twelve below were published in 2017, but I read them this year, which is why they are included. So, without further ado, I proudly present my 2017 Books of the Year:
Unconventional – Maggie Harcourt
I read this as a proof at the beginning of 2017 and completely fell in love with it. Maggie Harcourt’s writing is sublime – at turns funny, touching and clutch-at-your-heart-and-sigh romantic. Her book-within-a-book is downright genius, too. On a personal note, Unconventional was the one that made me fall in love with reading again after a very dry spell that followed losing my dad. It’s a gorgeous, uplifting, original and thoroughly unputdownable book and is pretty damn perfect.
The Killer on the Wall – Emma Kavanagh
I’m a self-confessed huge fan of Emma Kavanagh and have loved every one of her books. The Killer on the Wall is a twisty, psychologically dark crime thriller that tests your loyalties as a reader to the beautifully drawn characters. I loved how Emma drew me into the story and gradually twisted everything around me. It’s so filmic, too – I could picture every location, every scene and every character. Loved it!
The Last Beginning – Lauren James
I hadn’t read any of Lauren’s books before I was asked to take part in a reader event with her at the beginning of this year, so I read The Last Beginning before I met her and am now a firm fan! Clever, funny, mind-bendingly brilliant, this is an across-the-ages tale of true love and mystery. What I love most is the way Lauren’s characters grab you from the first page – you’re right in there, rooting for them.
Crooked Kingdom – Leigh Bardugo
This is the first of Leigh Bardugo’s books I’ve read and I completely fell for her storytelling. It’s like a heist movie in a fantasy world – a band of outlaws out to get justice against an evil villain. I hadn’t read much fantasy for a while, so picked up Crooked Kingdom to redress the balance and my life, what a ride! Cool, gorgeously written, pacy and hugely compelling.
Then She Was Gone – Luca Veste
In recent years I’ve become a fan of crime thrillers, first reading Ian Rankin’s Rebus novels, then Ann Cleeves’ Vera and Shetland books. I’m a huge fan of the Two Crime Writers and a Microphone podcast (I even have a t-shirt!), which introduced me to the Murphy and Rossi series by Luca Veste. I read Then She Was Gone on holiday in Cornwall in January and it completely hooked me. You know a book is good when you carry it round with you all day, using any opportunity to sneak a read! I adore Murphy and Rossi and love how Luca draws you into their personal lives. Edge-of-your-seat, twisty awesomeness!
The Boy Who Saw – Simon Toyne
I’ve been a fan of Simon Toyne’s books since his debut Sanctus and love his new Solomon Creed series. This is the second book featuring the mysterious protagonist and it’s fantastic. A mystery, a thriller with a touch of the supernatural, The Boy Who Saw is gripping and twisty and so pacy you feel you’re hanging onto the book for dear life. What I love most about Simon’s thrillers is that they are peopled with characters who feel real – not just two-dimensional plot devices. And I really want to hug Solomon, poor lamb. He’s been through a lot…
Hold Back the Stars – Katie Khan
Do you remember the scene in Sleepless in Seattle where Sam’s sister cries retelling the story of An Affair to Remember? Well, Hold Back the Stars by Katie Khan has that effect on me whenever I talk about it. It’s an achingly gorgeous, utterly original love story set in space and I loved every word. Writing for a living can make it difficult to fully enter into books, so I love it when I’m completely swept away like I was with this story. Absolutely wonderful.
The Summer of Impossible Things – Rowan Coleman
When Rowan Coleman told me she was going to write a time-travel novel, I was so excited. I knew it would be brilliant, but what I wasn’t prepared for was how beguilingly beautiful and affecting The Summer of Impossible Things would be. Luna’s journey to unravel the mystery of her mother’s life – and the huge questions it poses to her own – is utterly compelling, heart-breaking and uplifting. And that ending… Wow!
Together – Julie Cohen
Julie Cohen has long been one of my favourite authors. With every book I think she can’t possibly better it, but every time she does. Together is no exception – in fact, I think it’s her masterpiece. I was very lucky to read an early version and it blew me away. The story of Robbie and Emily is told in reverse, from the day Robbie dies to the first time they meet. What follows is a powerful, brave and heart-breaking story of love against the odds and a terrible secret that both binds them together and threatens to tear them apart.
The Plea – Steve Cavanagh
I don’t often read a book in less than a week, but I devoured The Plea in three days (a personal record for me this year!). It’s a legal thriller with a twist and a lead character who knocks all the others out of the park. Eddie Flynn is brilliantly world-weary, chasing his own demons as much as the bad guys and thrown into so many life-or-death situations I don’t know when he even finds a second to breathe! I loved this book and Steve’s writing is sublime.
The State of Grace – Rachael Lucas
Easily the most original voice of the books I read this year, fifteen-year-old Grace draws you into her world in The State of Grace. Navigating life is challenging enough for a teenager, but when you have Asperger’s and you’re falling in love it can be a rollercoaster. What I loved most about this book is the insight it gives into Grace’s view of the world – and how it makes sense. It’s a celebration of her life and her worldview and is honest, rip-roaringly funny and touching. Loved, loved, loved it!
Calling Major Tom – David M. Barnett
The term ‘UpLit’ was coined this year (yuck!) and while I don’t like it or the way the literary media seem to think they’ve created the genre (they haven’t, some of us have been writing uplifting stories for years!), there are some books published this year that are truly uplifting. Calling Major Tom absolutely fits the bill. I was sent an early proof of this book and it completely stole my heart. Packed with fantastic characters and stuffed to the ginnels with brilliant Northern humour, David’s story of a marooned astronaut and the family who reach out to him is the one I can’t stop thinking about. It’s life-affirming, emotional, laugh-out-loud funny and reduced me to tears with its fantastic conclusion. I’ve loved all the books I’ve read in 2017, but Calling Major Tom is my Book of the Year.
Which books have you enjoyed this year? Which should I add to my reading list for 2018? I’d love to know your thoughts. Leave a comment below or tweet me!
Coming soon – the five books I’m recommending for 2018!