Five-Star Reads, 2017

I'm a writer, so it's almost a given that I'm also a reader. I love blogs, I love books, I'll read a cereal box. When I was little, my family would joke that if it had words on it, I would be there, hungry to read them - and for the most part, that hasn't changed at all in the years since.

In fact, the love has only gotten stronger, and I'm incredibly proud to be able to say that I've also been able to pass that love on to my youngest daughter, who is a bigger book nerd than her mama ever dreamed of being.

But 2017 was a hard year for my family - there were money problems and family problems and health issues and car trouble. It seemed like as 2017 wore on, my pile of issues just got bigger and harder to manage. I juggled as hard as I could, but every day I seemed to be dropping one ball or another, and I barely got through one crisis before getting hit with another.

It didn't leave much time for reading, to tell you the truth, because mostly I just felt like I was drowning. Still, I did carve out some time for reading as self-care, so here are some of the books I loved most in 2017.

01.) The Hunger Games (Trilogy), by Suzanne Collins. (Children's Books). The blurb says:

BOOK ONE: Winning means fame and fortune. Losing means certain death. The Hunger Games have begun ... In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. The Capitol is harsh and cruel and keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV. Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen regards it as a death sentence when she steps forward to take her sister's place in the Games. But Katniss has been close to dead before - and survival, for her, is second nature. Without really meaning to, she becomes a contender. But if she is to win, she will have to start making choices that weigh survival against humanity and life against love.

BOOK TWO: Against all odds, Katniss Everdeen has won the annual Hunger Games with fellow district tribute Peeta Mellark. But it was a victory won by defiance of the Capitol and their harsh rules. Katniss and Peeta should be happy. After all, they have just won for themselves and their families a life of safety and plenty. But there are rumors of rebellion among the subjects, and Katniss and Peeta, to their horror, are the faces of that rebellion. The Capitol is angry. The Capitol wants revenge.

BOOK THREE: The greatly anticipated final book in the New York Times bestselling Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins. The Capitol is angry. The Capitol wants revenge. Who do they think should pay for the unrest? Katniss Everdeen. The final book in The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins will have hearts racing, pages turning, and everyone talking about one of the biggest and most talked-about books and authors in recent publishing history!!!!

This year I won't be linking to my reviews of the books mentioned on this list because most of them were checked out from my local library, which means I most often did not review them. However, you can rest quite assured that any book mentioned on this blog will be one of three things:
  • a book I have read and would be personally willing to vouch for as a solid read,
  • a book by an author I trust and would vouch for in general even without having read whichever book I happen to be suggesting, or
  • a book that's currently on my reading wish list or TBR because I genuinely want to read it.
The Hunger Games is a series I did actually read - I read them most recently, actually, and even though I just read them because Eden had mentioned there being some content I might not approve of (for her) in the first book, I ended up so hooked and in love with the story that I spent probably a good week pestering Dana to get them and read them so that I could fangirl properly over them. Eden has now finished the second book, and she says her favorite part of the series so far is that "it's like super adventurous, you know?" For me, I like that there's a female so firmly in the spotlight of both the series and its world.

And with that said, let's move on to ...

02.) The Keeper of the Lost Cities (Series), by Shannon Messenger. (Children's Books). The blurb says:

BOOK ONE: In this riveting debut, a telepathic girl must figure out why she is the key to her brand-new world—before the wrong person finds the answer first. Twelve-year-old Sophie has never quite fit into her life. She’s skipped multiple grades and doesn’t really connect with the older kids at school, but she’s not comfortable with her family, either. The reason? Sophie’s a Telepath, someone who can read minds. No one knows her secret—at least, that’s what she thinks… But the day Sophie meets Fitz, a mysterious (and adorable) boy, she learns she’s not alone. He’s a Telepath too, and it turns out the reason she has never felt at home is that, well…she isn’t. Fitz opens Sophie’s eyes to a shocking truth, and she is forced to leave behind her family for a new life in a place that is vastly different from what she has ever known. But Sophie still has secrets, and they’re buried deep in her memory for good reason: The answers are dangerous and in high-demand. What is her true identity, and why was she hidden among humans? The truth could mean life or death - and time is running out.

BOOK TWO: Sophie befriends the mythical Alicorn - and puts her mysterious powers to the test - in this enchanting sequel to Keeper of the Lost Cities. Sophie is settling in nicely to her new home and her new life in the world of the lost cities. And it helps that living at Havenfield means getting to spend time with rare, precious species - including the first female Alicorn, who shows herself to Sophie and trusts no one but her. Sophie is tasked with helping to train the magical creature so that the Alicorn can be revealed to the people of the lost cities as a sign of hope, and Sophie wants to believe that the recent drama and anguish is gone for good. But the secrets buried deep in Sophie's memories remain, and before long she's back in incredible danger, risking everything to find the answers to questions that could save not only her life, but the life of someone close to her ...

BOOK THREE: Sophie uncovers shocking secrets - and faces treacherous new enemies - in this electrifying third book in the Keeper of the Lost Cities Series. Sophie Foster is ready to fight back. Her talents are getting stronger, and with the elusive Black Swan group ignoring her calls for help, she’s determined to find her kidnappers - before they come after her again. But a daring mistake leaves her world teetering on the edge of war, and causes many to fear that she has finally gone too far. And the deeper Sophie searches, the farther the conspiracy stretches, proving that her most dangerous enemy might be closer than she realizes. In this nail-biting third book in the Keeper of the Lost Cities series, Sophie must fight the flames of rebellion, before they destroy everyone and everything she loves.

BOOK FOUR: Sophie battles the rebels - and recovers dark memories from her past - in this jaw-dropping fourth book in the bestselling Keeper of the Lost Cities series. Sophie Foster is on the run - but at least she’s not alone. Her closest friends from the Lost Cities have gone with her to join the Black Swan. They still have doubts about the shadowy organization, but the only way to find answers is to start working with them. And as they settle into their new lives, they uncover secrets bigger than anything they’d imagined. But their enemies are far from done, and unleash a terrifying plague that threatens the safety of an entire species. Sophie and her friends fight with everything they have - with new allies joining them - but every choice has consequences. And trusting the wrong person could prove deadly. In this game-changing fourth book in the Keeper of the Lost Cities series, Sophie must question everything to find a truth that will either save her world - or shatter it.

BOOK FIVE: Dark schemes unfold - and Sophie’s loyalty is pushed to the limit - in this thrilling fifth book in the New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling Keeper of the Lost Cities series. Sophie Foster is back in the Lost Cities - but the Lost Cities have changed. The threat of war hangs heavy over her glittering world, and the Neverseen are wreaking havoc. The lines between friend and enemy have blurred, and Sophie is unsure whom to trust. But when she’s warned that the people she loves most will be the next victims, she knows she has to act. A mysterious symbol could be the key - if only she knew how to translate it. Every new clue seems to lead deeper into her world’s underbelly and the Black Swan aren’t the only ones who have plans. The Neverseen have their own Initiative, and if Sophie doesn’t stop it, they might finally have the ultimate means to control her.

BOOK SIX: Sophie and her friends face battles unlike anything they’ve seen before in this thrilling sixth book of the New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling Keeper of the Lost Cities series. Sophie Foster is struggling. Grieving. Scrambling. But she knows one thing: she will not be defeated. The Neverseen have had their victories—but the battle is far from over. It’s time to change tactics. Make sacrifices. Reexamine everything. Maybe even time for Sophie to trust her enemies. All paths lead to Nightfall - an ominous door to an even more ominous place - and Sophie and her friends strike a dangerous bargain to get there. But nothing can prepare them for what they discover. The problems they’re facing stretch deep into their history. And with time running out, and mistakes catching up with them, Sophie and her allies must join forces in ways they never have before. In this spectacular sixth book in the New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling Keeper of the Lost Cities series, Sophie must uncover the truth about the Lost Cities’ insidious past, before it repeats itself and changes reality.

I haven't actually finished with this series just yet - I'm currently reading the fifth book and looking forward to the sixth, but so far I love the series and can't wait to share it with Eden. When I first picked it up, I did it thinking it might be good for her - but I wanted to read it first to be sure since she's reading at a level far higher than her age and emotional maturity. So far it's just perfect for her - and I love that it turned out to be just perfect for me, too. (You can see my mentions of this series here on the blog here, here, and here.)

The crazy thing for someone who loves reading as much as I do is that this is truly the list of what I most loved reading in 2017. I'm a little sad about how short this list is in that it only has two series on it, but it does come down to nine books if I count all of them - which is like one book every six weeks or so. And even if I truly only count the ones I've finished, that's still not too bad considering my level of chaos and busy-ness this year. It also doesn't count the audiobooks I've "read" throughout the year, so I'm happy enough.

Still, I'm thinking in 2018 I'll be aiming for at least one finished book a month, not only because reading is important, but because for me, curling up with a warm dog, a cozy blanket, and a good book really does count as the highest level of self-care.

(PSST: Wanna check out great reads from a Dad's perspective? Head over to the Single Dad's Guide to Life, where you can check out what the amazing David Elliott read and loved in 2017.)

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