My Favourite Novels read in 2017!

My top fiction reads of

In 2017 I read 252 books, many of them were such brilliant reads, so it’s been really hard picking my top books of the year. Today I’m sharing my top novels read last year, and tomorrow I will share my top non-fiction reads so please look out for that post.

In no particular order the novels that I have loved, and the ones that are really staying with me are:

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The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

This book had (shamefully) been on my TBR for almost TWENTY years! I originally bought it in hardback soon after it was published and over the years have also bought a paperback and ebook copy but was still intimidated to start reading it. Well, I finally picked it up in 2017 and it’s been a huge lesson to me in not avoiding books because I adored it from start to finish. It really got to me and I still find myself thinking about it now.

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The Light We Lost by Jill Santopolo

This book made the list because I love the way it explored the idea of fate and whether some things are meant to be, or not. It really got to me and it’s a book that I often find myself thinking about. You can find my full review here.

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The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan

I loved this novel because I’m someone who wonders about lost things and this book gave me hope and comfort that the precious things I’ve lost over the years might be somewhere being looked after. You can find my full review here.

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The Way Back to Us by Kay Langdale

This is a novel that I read in one sitting, it just had me hooked from the very first page and I still find myself thinking about the family and wondering how they are now. The Way Back to Us explores family dynamics in a way that really makes you think and feel about each and every person involved. I highly recommend this book. You can find my full review here.

The wild Air by Rebecca Mascull

The Wild Air by Rebecca Mascull

This is a wonderful novel about Della who wants to be a pilot in a time when it was near impossible for a woman to train as such a thing. I adored this book, and the characters in it. The writing is so evocative that I really felt I was with Della every step of the way throughout this book. You can find my full review here.

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All the Wicked Girls by Chris Whitaker

All the Wicked Girls is one of those really special novels that just gets under your skin very early on. I still find myself thinking about the characters in this small town and wondering how their lives turned out. This book is just incredible and I implore you to read it if you haven’t already.  You can find my full review here.

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Little Deaths by Emma Flint

This is a fascinating novel looking at how women are viewed in the wake of something terrible happening. Ruth is a single mum who enjoys nights out once her children are in bed. One night her children go missing and the spotlight is on Ruth intensely from that moment on. She is judged by everyone for everything. This is a novel that really stays with you and I definitely recommend it. You can find my full review here.

Block 46 by Johana Gustawsson

Block 46 by Johana Gustawsson

This is a brilliant crime thriller, one that has really stayed with me in the months since I read it. It’s a harrowing read at times but the writing, and the characters make it a book that you need to keep reading. I’m eagerly anticipating the next novel! You can find my full review here.

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Final Girls by Riley Sager

This novel is so good! I was a little apprehensive about it as I don’t like horror, I don’t like to feel properly scared but this book was just so brilliant that I couldn’t put it down. I loved every minute that I spent reading it and I can’t wait to see what the author writes next. You can find my full review here.

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Sweetpea by CJ Skuse

This is another brilliant novel that I loved reading in 2017. It’s very disconcerting when you read a book about a serial killer but find yourself agreeing with some of the things that annoy her. It’s full of dark humour but it’s such a good read, one I’m sure I’ll go back to in the future. You can find my full review here.

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Exquisite by Sarah Stovell

This was a novel that I was desperate to get my hands on from the minute I first saw the publisher share a photo of the cover. The novel did not let me down! It grabbed me from the start and it kept me engrossed to the very end. It’s a novel about female friendship and obsession and it’s brilliant! You can find my full review here.

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The Lie of the Land by Amanda Craig

A quote from my own review of this book: ‘This is such a modern novel. On face value this is a novel about the breakdown of a marriage but it’s really about so much more than that. It’s such an incisive, multi-layered novel about the society we live in. It’s a character-driven story, which looks at class and race issues; it looks at how we define poverty. Amanda Craig really captures our society in a genuine and honest way, whilst also giving it a good dose of dark humour, wryness and wit’. The novel has really stayed in my mind since I read it so I highly recommend it! You can find my full review here.

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The Last Act of Hattie Hoffman by Mindy Mejia

This is such a gripping and compelling novel that really got to me. I hadn’t heard of it before I was offered the chance to read and review it but I fell in love with it on reading it. Hattie Hoffman is one of those characters that really got under my skin and my heart was breaking for her as I read her story. Go read this book if you haven’t already. You can find my full review here.

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Maria in the Moon by Louise Beech

This book appealed to me because Louise’s first novel was one of my favourite books last year, and also because this one is set during the floods in Hull. I knew this book would be one I loved but it even surpassed that very high expectation. I got so engrossed in Catherine’s story and felt at such a loss after finishing this book. I still think about this novel and wonder how Catherine is. You can find my full review here.

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See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt

I won an advance proof of this book and was so excited when it arrived. It was one of the first books that I read in 2017 and it stayed with me throughout the year and absolutely deserves a place as one of my favourite reads of the year. This is such a visceral and evocative novel and I still feel like I’ve been in that house where Lizzie Borden took her axe. If you haven’t read this novel yet, go grab a copy and read it asap! You can find my full review here.

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Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

I loved this book from start to finish! Eleanor Oliphant is such a fascinating character, and one I couldn’t help but like. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine is a tender and moving look at loneliness, at how it is to be given a chance and what it is to find a friend having had a lifetime of just getting through the days. A beautiful novel that I highly recommend. You can find my full review here.

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The Things We Thought We Knew by Mahsuda Snaith

This book came into my life at such a perfect time that it seemed meant to be. It’s an exploration of the complexities of pain, in all its forms, and how we deal with the darkest moments of life. Ravine is someone who will really stay in my heart, I won’t ever forget this book and what it means to me. You can find my full review here.

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Snow Sisters by Carol Lovekin

I adored this novel, almost beyond being able to put into words. It had a lot to live up to as Ghostbird, Carol’s previous novel, very quickly became one of my all-time favourite books but I’m happy to say that Snow Sisters did live up to it. Carol is an incredible writer that weaves stories that just wrap around you and pull you right in. I highly, highly recommend this book. You can find my full review here.

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Tin Man by Sarah Winman

This book broke my heart – I read it in one sitting and I fell completely and utterly in love with it. It was stunning and it’s definitely a book that I want to re-read soon. I didn’t manage to write a review when I read it but I will review it when I read it again. It’s a beautiful novel and it’s stolen my heart!

So, there’s my list of the best novels that I read in 2017! It was an amazing reading year and I’m already so excited to be in a new year and discovering lots more fabulous books. What was your favourite novel from 2017? If you’ve blogged about it please feel free to leave a link and I will go read your post and leave a comment.

Tomorrow (all being well!) I’ll be sharing my top non-fiction reads from last year so please look out for that post!

#BookReview: SweetPea by C.J. Skuse #SweetPea @HQStories @CeeJaytheAuthor

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About the Book

The last person who called me ‘Sweetpea’ ended up dead…

I haven’t killed anyone for three years and I thought that when it happened again I’d feel bad. Like an alcholic taking a sip of whisky. But no. Nothing. I had a blissful night’s sleep. Didn’t wake up at all. And for once, no bad dream either. This morning I feel balanced. Almost sane, for once.

Rhiannon is your average girl next door, settled with her boyfriend and little dog…but she’s got a killer secret.
Although her childhood was haunted by a famous crime, Rhinannon’s life is normal now that her celebrity has dwindled. By day her job as an editorial assistant is demeaning and unsatisfying. By evening she dutifully listens to her friend’s plans for marriage and babies whilst secretly making a list.

A kill list.
From the man on the Lidl checkout who always mishandles her apples, to the driver who cuts her off on her way to work, to the people who have got it coming, Rhiannon’s ready to get her revenge.

Because the girl everyone overlooks might be able to get away with murder…

My Thoughts

I received SweetPea in the post as a total surprise and I was immediately drawn to the stunning cover design and wanted to know more about the book. I was then intrigued by the synopsis and the idea of a serial killer being described as a girl-next-door type.

Rhiannon is such a brilliant character; she’s so funny and sarcastic and her observations of the people around her are just so darkly amusing. There were so many times in the book that I was properly laughing at something she had said. I love the way she writes a kill list at the start of her diary entries about the people that have annoyed her on that particular day, it’s brilliant. It becomes so easy to understand her annoyances, and some of the things that annoy her are the exact things that annoy me, and that was unnerving when you then remember that this is a woman who deals with her issues with people by killing them. I actually stuck lots of sticky notes to highlight my favourite Rhiannon quotes but when I looked through the book to quote some here they’re mostly too crude or sweary to share! I did really identify with her hatred of all things to do with hen parties – that bit made me giggle. Also, I don’t want to quote it here in case it causes offence to anyone but personally as someone who suffers from a neurological condition I have to admit that I properly burst out laughing at her ‘movers and shakers’ idea for the newspaper she worked for.

A quote I will share is this one because it made me laugh so much and when I tried to read it out to my husband I couldn’t get my words out for laughing:

I didn’t cut off the penis this time. It’s not a trophy thing with me. That would be stupid, like the burglars who always leave the taps on in Home Alone. Besides, where would I put them all? We’ve only got a two-bed flat. It was hard enough deciding where to put the dehumidifier.

This is what makes the book so brilliant – Rhiannon has such an hilarious and sarcastic way of saying things that really appealed to me.

The way Rhiannon tortures her school bully is horrible to read, and the way she goes after men to kill them isn’t exactly pleasant either but because as the reader you’re in Rhiannon’s head and therefore are seeing her reasoning it’s almost as if you forget that she’s actually a psychopath. You get totally wrapped up in what Rhiannon is saying and then you pause and realise that she, aside from being a serial killer, actually comes across as a really normal woman, and someone that you could see yourself being friends with it is so deeply unsettling.

Rhiannon as a character does have depth to her too, it’s not all witty retorts and evil thoughts and deeds. She survived an horrific and brutal attack when she was a young child and whilst that is never given as a reason for her turning out the way she has, you can see a child-like side to her at times. She’s obsessed with her Sylvanian Family and spends a lot of time making her doll’s house perfect and no one is allowed to touch it. It seems odd for a grown woman to be so fixated but it felt to me like it was a lingering effect of the damage that had been done to her.

I read the final two thirds of this novel in one go because I just wanted to know what was going to happen and how it would all turn out for Rhiannon. Her behaviour escalates throughout the novel, and at the same time there is are snapshot of a slightly more normal side of her emerging too so it becomes impossible to put the book down as you just want to know which side of her will win out. It’s a weird thing when you don’t want someone to get caught and yet you know she’s unhinged and has murdered people – I couldn’t see how the book was going to end. I won’t give any spoilers but I thought the ending was perfect for the story.

This is a darkly funny novel that really gets under your skin; Rhiannon is like Bridget Jones mixed with Psycho – she’s such a unique character and someone I won’t forget for a very long time to come. SweetPea is a laugh-out-loud funny novel about a very sarcastic and witty psychopath… and if that doesn’t make you want to read it I don’t know what will! This is the first book that I’ve read by C.J. Skuse but it absolutely definitely won’t be the last.

Sweet Pea is due to by published on 20th April in the UK and I highly recommend you pre-order your copy now!

I received a copy of Sweet Pea from the publisher HQ in exchange for an honest review.

 

About the Author

C.J. SKUSE is the author of the Young Adult novels PRETTY BAD THINGS, ROCKOHOLIC and DEAD ROMANTIC (Chicken House), MONSTER and THE DEVIANTS (Mira Ink). She was born in 1980 in Weston-super-Mare, England. She has First Class degrees in Creative Writing and Writing for Children and, aside from writing novels lectures in Writing for Young People at Bath Spa University. C.J. is currently working on adult novel SWEETPEA for HQ/HarperCollins (out April 2017).

C.J. loves Masterchef, Gummy Bears and murder sites. She hates carnivals, hard-boiled eggs and coughing. The movies Titanic, My Best Friend’s Wedding and Ruby Sparks were all probably based on her ideas; she just didn’t get to write them down in time. Before she dies, she would like to go to Japan, try clay-pigeon shooting and have Ryan Gosling present her with the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay.

You can find C.J. Skuse on Facebook or on Twitter CeejaytheAuthor