Welcome to Smugglivus 2017! Throughout this month, we will have guests – authors and bloggers alike – looking back at their favorite reads of 2017, looking forward to events and upcoming books in 2018, and more.
This was a year of worldwide stress – so in other words, I leaned hard on comfort books this year! I’m splitting my favorites of the year into genres, but really, there’s no hierarchy among them.
If a book was fun, if it had characters I loved and a happy ending I could believe in, then I devoured it with so much gratitude this year. And these were my top favorites:
In MG fiction, Sibéal Pounder’s Bad Mermaids was as hilarious and wacky as the title makes it sound – and better yet, it was filled with fabulous illustrations by Jason Cockcroft that made the story even funnier!
Karina Yan Glaser’s The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street is warm and full of comfort and love, perfect for fans of The Penderwicks or The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher.
Claire Fayers’s Journey to Dragon Island includes dinosaurs and dragons in a swashbuckling adventure full of heart.
Sheela Chari’s Finding Mighty is a vividly suspenseful contemporary mystery full of parkour, graffiti, diamond-smuggling and tenderness.
And Hilary McKay’s brilliant, subversive Fairy Tales took my breath away with the brilliance of her unique retellings. (It would be worth buying that book for the first story alone, a retelling of Rapunzel that was so emotionally powerful, I just sat in stunned silence for ten minutes after reading it. It is SO GOOD!)
In YA, Renee Watson’s Piecing Me Together was so absorbing, so gorgeously written and so infused with intense emotion, I could NOT put it down. I can’t imagine anyone who’s ever felt like a misfit in their own surroundings *not* identifying with her deeply emotional – and uplifting – story!
Louise Gornall’s Under Rose-Tainted Skies is one of the sweetest YA romances I’ve ever read even as it’s also an unflinching (and own-voices) look at agoraphobia, OCD and anxiety.
And Katherine Webber’s Wing Jones (known in North America as The Heartbeats of Wing Jones) is just gorgeous, heartfelt, warm, and cathartic. I put off reading it for far too long because I thought I was too stressed to cope with anything but a light read, but I was wrong. Once I finally started reading it, I absolutely DEVOURED it, and it was completely uplifting, compassionate and full of hope even in great darkness. Just right for 2017!
In adult fantasy and science fiction, Vivian Shaw’s Strange Practice was an absolutely delightful new discovery – one of the warmest and coziest adult fantasy novels I’ve read in a very long time, despite the fact that most of the characters are undead (and one is even a demon). Set in contemporary London, it’s full of vampires, ghouls (and adorable, rat-eating baby ghouls!) and humor, with a very, very slight romantic subplot and a lot of heart and friendship. I loved it and can’t wait for the next in the series.
Rene Sears’s novella Strangehold begins another urban fantasy series, this time set in rural America and starring a 43-year-old female spellcaster who’s grown into her power but suffered real losses along the way. She’s a fabulous mix of mature strength, competence, and practicality, and I loved the prickly dynamics within her family as well as the hints at a fabulous romantic interest in her future.
The romance is full-on in Ilona Andrews’s White Hot (Book 2 in their Hidden Legacies series), and I absolutely adored it. I love the way this series mingles fantastic magical adventures with laugh-out-loud family dynamics and very, very hot romance.
Aliette de Bodard’s
And I finally, finally started reading Genevieve Cogman’s urban fantasy series with Book One, The Invisible Library, which mingles magical librarian-spies with huffy dragons, dangerous fairies, and robot crocodiles in a witty, madcap adventure full of fantastic twists and turns. So much fun!
In adult romance, Lucy Parker’s Pretty Face is achingly romantic, starring two smart, ambitious people who are both excruciatingly well-aware of just how bad an idea it would be for them to get romantically involved…but who have such an intense and unmistakable emotional connection that their relationship is breathtaking to follow. I read the last 60% of the book in one intense 3-hour gulp because I COULD NOT STOP READING, even though it meant skipping a large chunk of my own scheduled writing session that day!
Nalini Singh is my long-time favorite author of paranormal romance, and while I loved all three of her books this year, Silver Silence (the book that begins a brand-new “season” of her Psy-Changeling series) was my very favorite of all of them. I loved the brilliant, cool-headed heroine, the sweet, bear-shifter hero, and the ridiculously fun family dynamics of his whole pack.
And my favorite new (to me) romance discovery of the year was Alyssa Cole’s work, which I found through her first historical romance novel, An Extraordinary Union. Set in the American Civil War and starring an African-American heroine and a white hero, both spying for the Union in terrifyingly perilous circumstances, it was full of intense danger, tension and high stakes, as well as rich and fascinating historical detail – and a romance that utterly blew me away. I’m in the middle of Book 2 in the series – A Hope Divided – right now, and so far, I think it might be even better than Book 1, which is saying a LOT. I’ve spent the year catching up on all of Cole’s past work, and the end result is that I will buy anything she writes from now on! She’s become one of my very favorite writers.
Finally, Alyssa Cole, Courtney Milan, and Rose Lerner banded together for my favorite anthology of the year in any genre, Hamilton’s Battalion, which features a trio of historical romance novellas set around the American revolution. Every single novella is smart and sharp and fun and heartfelt. You don’t need to be a fan of the Hamilton musical to love this anthology – but if you (like me) love the musical, you really need to read this now!
That’s it for me! (Whew.) But I’d love to hear any of your recommendations for fun, uplifting books in any of those genres!