For the Love of Books, Year in Review

Shelly’s Year in Books | 2017

It’s that time again!  Time to review my reading for 2017.  All in all, it’s been a pretty good year for me – bookwise at least – with far fewer low points than high points.  I won’t dwell on any low points as I didn’t read anything so unbearable that I felt compelled to give it only one star or even a generous two.  So I’ll mention some of the high points.  I read so many great books this year that I’m finding it very difficult to narrow it down to just one favorite.  Here are a few of the highlights:

  • My first exposure to Liane Moriarty could not have gone better.  Big Little Lies is both impulsively entertaining and thought-provoking.  I can’t wait to read more of her work.
  • The first book in Amy Stewart’s wonderful Kopp Sisters series, Girl Waits with Gun was my top read of 2016 and the third book in the series, Miss Kopp’s Midnight Confessions, which came out this fall, did not disappoint.
  • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone is not in the running for top-read since this was my second reading of the first book in J.K. Rowling’s blockbuster series, but it was still a high point in my 2017 reading.  It’s always nice to visit an old friend.
  • Not only did I enjoy Sophie Kinsella’s My Not So Perfect Life but so did many others as it was one of the finalists for Goodreads.com’s books of the year.
  • BBXX: Baby Blues:  The First Two Decades became a welcome addition to my collection of comics anthology.  Not only did I laugh out loud at Rick Kirkman and Jerry Scott’s hilarious comic strips but I learned quite a bit about the behind-the-scenes of comic strip creation.
  • Abbi Waxman’s debut novel, The Garden of Small Beginnings was one of the most hilarious and heartfelt novels I’d read in a long time.  I loved it so much that I told all my reader friends that they had to read it.  I don’t often do that.
  • Kelly Harms’s The Good Luck Girls of Shipwreck Lane is The Garden of Small Beginnings main competition for top-read this year.  They each had a wonderful sense of humor, a whole lot of heart, and lovable characters.

In the end, though, I think I’ll give the honor of top-read to The Garden of Small Beginnings simply because I want to spread the word about this delightful novel about a widow raising to precious and precocious little girls even further.  Waxman’s second novel is coming out in 2018 and I hope that I’ll be sharing another wonderful review for her in the coming year.

For a comprehensive look back at all 50 of the books I read in 2017, click here:

Check out My 2017 Year in Books on Goodreads!  And I wish you all happy reading in 2018.  Happy New Year!

Source: Shelly’s Year in Books | Goodreads

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Reader's Rights

I Read Banned Books

Banned BooksBut given the number of classic books that have been banned through the decades, who doesn’t?  Without knowing it, I proudly declared some of those oft-banned books among my favorites.  To Kill a Mockingbird, the entire Harry Potter series, A Wrinkle in TimeAre You There God, It’s Me Margaret, and A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein just to name a few.  Seriously?  What did they find offensive about the poetry of Shel Silverstein?  Is it too funny, entertaining, and honest?  That’s the key, isn’t it?  Honesty.  Certain factions of society don’t want people to develop open minds about the world, to see the world as it truly is, or to think for themselves.  And they want to stop it as early as possible.  That’s why so many of the books that have been banned are ones written for children and young adults.  That makes me angry and that’s why I proudly declare I READ BANNED BOOKS!  This week, September 20 – October 3, 2015, is banned books week.  If you want to learn more about books that have been banned and see lists of the 100 most banned books from the last two decades, visit http://www.ala.org/bbooks/frequentlychallengedbooks/top100

Characters

Fictional Friends (and Boyfriends)

What makes an unforgettable character?  A hero you want to root for?  A villain you love to hate?  If I knew those answers, I’d probably be a better writer than I am.  All I know is that there are some characters that have, for one reason or another, stayed with me since I met them.  Some are like friends I visit often for some comfort and a good laugh, some just seem like they’d be fun to hang out with, some become book boyfriendsJ, and some are so wonderfully bad that I love to hate them.  Now that I’ve added Soulless’s Alexia Tarabotti to my list of favorite characters – yes, I have a list, doesn’t everyone? – I thought I would introduce you to a few of my other favorites:

  • Sherlock Holmes – No, I’m not on some bandwagon though I am obsessed with BBC’s “Sherlock”. I’ve loved the character of Sherlock Holmes since reading “The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle” and “The Speckled Band” in middle school (probably even longer thanks to The Great Mouse Detective, but discussion of that would be in another blog altogether).
    I couldn't resist! Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock Holmes complete with death frisbee.
    I couldn’t resist! Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock Holmes complete with death frisbee.

    Yes, he’s brilliant and solves impossible cases but what I like most about Sherlock is his snark.  In the books, he is excellent at insulting people without them realizing it.  And, most of the time, he only insults the characters that deserve it.  He’s actually pretty nice (by his standards) to the good people in the stories.  He just has an awesome bulls**t detector.

  • Augustus McCraeLonesome Dove could be unbearably heavy and dreary without someone to lighten the mood (just read Streets of Laredo and tell me it’s not a bit depressing). But Gus isn’t just a funny guy who likes to enjoy his life.  His quips and anecdotes are often full of wisdom and he really is a great leader of men.  Unfortunately, he’s also stubborn as hell in the end.  I’m still mad at him.

    Robert Duvall as Gus in the mini-series version of Lonesome Dove was perfection.
    Robert Duvall as Gus in the mini-series version of Lonesome Dove was perfection.
  • Ramona Quimby – In my younger days, I considered the star of Beverly Cleary’s delightful series one of my best friends. Like me, she is a little sister but she has the spunk I wish I had and the courage to get into all the trouble I wish I had been brave enough to get into.
    Ramona the Pest (Ramona #2) by Beverly Cleary
    Ramona the Pest (Ramona #2) by Beverly Cleary

    My favorite Ramona book is Ramona the Pest when she’s in kindergarten.  She chases a boy, pulls a classmate’s bouncy curls, draws her Qs into little cats, and gets into all sorts of scrapes at school and home.  As a shy quiet child, I wanted to be Ramona.

  • Atticus Finch – I hope it isn’t a crime these days to say Atticus Finch is one my favorite characters. I haven’t read Go Set a Watchman yet, so as far as I’m concerned, To Kill a Mockingbird is the only source for the character of Atticus or any of the Finches.  He is probably the noblest character in American literature, living by and standing by his values even when it is difficult and potentially dangerous.  Most importantly, though, he is the kind of father I would want for my children.

    Another reason to love Atticus Finch. It gives me an excuse to post a picture of Gregory Peck looking all noble.
    Another reason to love Atticus Finch. It gives me an excuse to post a picture of Gregory Peck looking all noble.
  • Sydney Carton – The main protagonist of Charles Dickens’s A Tale of Two Cities may seem like the polar opposite of Atticus Finch what with his drinking, laziness, and gloomy view of the world but he is every bit as noble. He finally finds a cause or purpose, whatever you want to call it, and then sacrifices himself (literally!) for it.  He dies so that the woman he loves can be happy with the man she loves.  And right before he loses his head, he says one of the most beautiful lines in all of literature:  “It is a far, far better thing that I do than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.”
    Ronald Coleman as Sydney Carton in the 1935 film adaptation of A Tale of Two Cities.
    Ronald Coleman as Sydney Carton in the 1935 film adaptation of A Tale of Two Cities.

    I would’ve loved you, Sydney!

  • Elizabeth Bennett – If I can’t actually be Pride and Prejudice’s enviable heroine, Elizabeth Bennett, I would love to just hang out with her (and Jane, and Charlotte). Elizabeth is feisty, opinionated, intelligent, and has a wicked sense of humor.  And she got the dreamy Mr. Darcy just by being her feisty, opinionated, intelligent self.  And by learning to see beyond certain prejudices of course.

    Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth Bennett from the 1995 BBC mini-series
    Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth Bennett from the 1995 BBC mini-series

The mention of Mr. Darcy brings me to the subject of book boyfriends.  Mr. Darcy is definitely on that list as are a few other Austen heroes.  Mr. Tilney from Northanger Abbey runs a close second to Mr. Darcy thanks to his delightful sense of humor and Persuasion’s Captain Wentworth is a favorite because of the incredibly romantic declaration of his love for Anne (swoon!).  There are some fantastic fictional men not penned by Miss Austen.  If you’re looking for a good man, try Levi from Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl, Colin Byrne from Ain’t She Sweet by Susan Elizabeth Phillips (he has kind of a Sherlock Holmes meets Mr. Darcy thing going on), Hugh of Harrowfield (also known as Red) from Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier, Matthew Clairmont from Deborah Harkness’s All Souls trilogy (or Gallowglass if you prefer your vampires a little rougher around the edges, or everyone’s current favorite Scotsman, Jamie Fraser from the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon.  There have been so many more literary men in my life; these are just a few of my favorites.

You'd didn't think I'd miss the opportunity to post a picture of Colin Firth did you?
You’d didn’t think I’d miss the opportunity to post a picture of Colin Firth, did you?

There are so many unforgettable characters out there, whether they are noble heroes, wicked villains, or scene-stealing secondary characters, that I can’t possibly go into detail about them all.  Here are a few of my Honorable Mentions:

As you’ve probably guessed, I could go on and on but for now, I’ve gone on and on long enough.  These are just a few of the memorable characters I’ve encountered in my lifetime of reading.  Who are your favorite characters?