Best Books of 2017

It has been such an amazing year for books that I decided to do a little something different this year.  Instead of my short list, I am separating my favorites into categories.  This way, if you’re looking for a specific type of book or want to give a gift, it’s easier to sort through the choices.  I wish I had time to read everything, but these are my favorites from what I did read.

You can click directly on the book images to get to their Amazon page.

LITERATURE & FICTION

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MYSTERY & THRILLER

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

HISTORICAL FICTION

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NONFICTION

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’d love to hear your thoughts on these if you read them and your favorites of 2017.  Leave me a comment.  Here’s to a healthy 2018 filled with loads of good reading!

Best Beach Reads of 2017

A lot of best of summer lists have books that release throughout the summer.  I want you to have access to these great reads NOW, so without further ado, here is my list for the best beach reads of 2017.

Everything We Keep by Kerry Lonsdale

This one has it all: heartbreak, romance, mystery, and even several beach scenes.  When you turn the last page and are disappointed it’s over: the sequel releases July 4!  You can preorder it here.  Both books are currently available on Kindle for less than $5!

 

Nine Women, One Dress by Jane Rosen

I blew through this book in less than 48 hours.  It’s a cute and quick read that features a unique cast of characters all with a relation to that little black dress.  You can read my full review here.

 

The Wedding Sisters by Jamie Brenner

I feel like weddings in books make the perfect summer read.  Everyone can remember having or attending a quintessential summer wedding.  This book has that times 3!  3 weddings of 3 sisters  or 3 sisters sharing 1 wedding?  Either way, this one keeps dropping secrets until the end.

 

The Drowning Girls by Paula Treick DeBoard

We can’t get through summer without a psychological thriller to keep you turning the pages eager to find out what happens.  This one reminded me of a horrible car crash where you just can’t turn away.  Not everything in this idyllic neighborhood is as it seems.  Some disturbing characters lead to deadly consequences.

 

The Assistants by Camille Perri

Super excited to find out a movie is in the works for this one!  Imagine Thelma & Louise as office assistants in today’s world and you have this romp of a novel.  Anyone who has ever dealt with office politics will appreciate the humor of this debut.

 

Forks, Knives, and Spoons by Leah DeCesare

Aside from a throwback to the ’80s, this book made me reminisce about my college days.  The lovable characters navigating relationships both in school and the real world made this a hard to put down debut.  You can read my full review here.

 

The Regulars by Georgia Clark

If you enjoy a little magical realism thrown into a story, I hope you will give this book a try.  It is a smart and modern age fairy tale for Generation X and Generation Y.  You can read my full review here.

 

I would love to hear what you thought of these books and what others are on your summer reading list!  This post contains affiliate links.

2017 Fictional Valentines

Whether you’re a fan of Valentine’s Day or not, I know you all enjoy reading books.  And who hasn’t imagined a fictional character in a book treating you the way you deserve, whispering sweet nothings in your ear?

I have to admit that I’ve never read Pride & Prejudice, so no Mr. Darcy here.  Here are 6 newish releases I picked for this year’s fictional Valentines.  Men only and no YA.  Thought that might be a little awkward.  So without further ado…

Josh from The Hating Game

Currently $7.99 on Kindle

A workplace love-hate relationship that turns quickly to love.  You’ll enjoy the funny banter between the characters and whip through this read.

Alexander from The Bronze Horseman

Currently $1.99 on Kindle

This soldier will go to any length to protect his true love during war.  A sizzling romance follows in Book 1 of this epic trilogy.

Pat from Center Ring

Currently $4.99 on Kindle

A Hollywood actor who spends his days with the most beautiful women on the planet falls for a PR executive and treats her like royalty.

Dominic from Falling

Currently $12.99 on Kindle

You’ll discover that family comes in all shapes in sizes when this single father landlord falls for his new tenant.

 

Patrick from I Let You Go

Currently $11.99 on Kindle

While only in this book for a short time, he’s the one that treats Jenna as she deserves, without asking questions of her past and judging her.

Andy from Who Do You Love

Currently $11.99 on Kindle

From first meeting Rachel as a child, Andy realizes throughout his life that love at first sight can happen at any time.

 

So who did I miss?  Who would be your fictional Valentine?  Please let me know!  Happy Valentine’s Day!

 

Best Books of 2016

I know 2016 was a great year for books when all but one of these selections published for the first time this year.  This list contains multiple genres, everything from memoir to YA and even a new one for me, sci-fi.  So grab a cup of coffee and get your holiday gift lists ready!

The Sound of GravelThe Sound of Gravel by Ruth Wariner: A fascinating memoir about growing up in a polygamist community in Mexico and it’s one of those cases where truth is stranger than fiction.  Beautifully written considering the author’s trials and tribulations and a perfect book for fans of The Glass Castle.

All the Winters After by Sere Prince Halverson: This beautiful and All the Winters Afterhaunting novel is not just words written on paper, but a multilayered story of a family and their grief over time.  At its heart is also a love story, not only between two people, but one between a person and his home.  The setting is chilling and the story is full of hope and promise.

Behind Closed DoorsBehind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris: I truly was holding my breath in spots as I turned the pages of this book.  It had a hold on me that didn’t let up until I finished the entire thing.  For a debut author, that’s quite an accomplishment.  This is the one thriller I’ve recommended to everyone this year.  I guarantee you won’t think of a “perfect marriage” the same way after finishing this book.

The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner: When I think of outstanding YA, my brain automatically goes to John Green for The Fault in Our Stars or Rainbow Rowell for Eleanor & Park.  Make room on your The Serpent Kingbookshelves for Jeff Zentner.  He had me laughing in one paragraph to crying in the next.  I was so emotionally invested in these characters.  They were extremely well drawn out that I couldn’t help but form a tight connection.  I was sad to see them go as I turned the final page.

Small Great ThingsSmall Great Things by Jodi Picoult: As important as this novel is, so is the author’s note at the end.  Jodi portrays three completely different characters with such grace and credibility.  You know a ton of research went into creating them.  It’s a story of race relations and it couldn’t have come at such an important time in our history.  I applaud her for not shying away from writing this story, which needed to be written, when she knows people will react with hatred.  I know when I pick up one of her books I will never be disappointed.

Aftermath by Clara Kensie: Lots of books have been written about a tragedy, where something Aftermathhappens to a family as they all have to deal with it.  Aftermath takes place when a tragedy is resolved, and the repercussions of a kidnapped child and how the family handles it today.  I loved the short chapters which made it easy to keep reading.  The story itself was compelling and there were plenty of surprises along the way.

The One ManThe One Man by Andrew Gross: Mix historical fiction with a thriller and you have this hard-to-put-down novel.  Gross used to co-write with James Patterson but he clearly deserves the individual accolades for this one.  It is an extremely well-paced story about trying to infiltrate the Auschwitz concentration camp during WWII and then having to break out.  So far, this is the defining book of his career.

Center Ring by Nicole Waggoner: Nicole jokes that she was so homesick when she moved away from her hometown that she invented 5 best friends to keep her company and that’s how this Center Ringstory was born.  I related to multiple characters in this book, especially when they were trying to balance it all, like the circus theme suggests.  It ends with a cliffhanger but happy to report Book 2 in the trilogy, The Act, releases in February!

When Breath Becomes AirWhen Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi: A beautiful reflection of living life and living it to the fullest told by this neurosurgeon as he faces his imminent death from cancer.   Yes, the story is heartbreaking, but his words will move you.  This is a tiny book but it sure packs a powerful punch.

The Forgetting Time by Sharon Guskin: I knew I was in for a treat when I saw this debut was recommended and blurbed by both Jodi Picoult and Diane Chamberlain, two of my favoriteThe Forgetting Time authors.  This has one of the most unique storylines I’ve ever read and had me spellbound.  It even has a mystery embedded in the story.  I cannot recommend it enough.

Emmy & OliverEmmy & Oliver by Robin Benway: A sweet and fun contemporary YA.   Oliver is kidnapped by his father and reappears years later in his hometown when all his elementary school friends are now teenagers.  Emmy’s personality is full of wit and snark and just jumps off the page.  A truly heartfelt read that answers the question, “Does absence make the heart grow fonder?”

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch: Sci-fi is not a genre I normally read but when I heard all the raveDark Matter reviews for this one, I knew I had to pick it up.  It is a complete mind warp that has your brain working in new ways.  As I was reading, I was envisioning it playing out as a movie right in front of me.  So even if this isn’t normally your cup of tea, if you like thrillers and fast-paced books, please give it a try.

 

Did you read any of these books and feel the same way?  What were your favorites of 2016?  I’d love to hear and welcome any comments.  Have a Happy New Year!

 

 

Best Beach Reads of 2016

The weather is getting warmer.  The sun is showing up.  Now is the time to choose your summer vacation reads.  Here are my recommendations for 2016.

image The Status of All Things by Liz Fenton & Lisa Steinke

This dynamic duo makes the writing flow seamlessly that you would never guess it was written by two women together.  This is the story of Kate who is dumped the night before her wedding by her fiancé.  When she discovers she can alter the course of her life via Facebook statuses, she has to decide whether changing history will make her happy.

image The Knockoff by Lucy Sykes & Jo Piazza

One reviewer described this novel as making “The Devil Wears Prada look like My Little Pony.”  I couldn’t agree more.  When Imogen Tate returns to work at her magazine after a leave, she finds her former assistant angling for her job.  If you’ve ever rooted for the underdog, or know the feeling of being the underdog, you will be a big fan of this book.

image The Royal We by Heather Cocks & Jessica Morgan

If you have any interest in the Royal Family, this is a must read book.  It is such a fun and joyous read that had me completely sucked in to the love story of Nick and Bex and the scandal that ensued.  As soon as I finished, I was demanding a sequel.  A movie is in the works so be sure to read the book first.

image The Blue Bistro by Elin Hilderbrand 

No summer would be complete without an Elin Hilderbrand novel in your beach bag.  This is an oldie but goodie that had me longing to spend a summer on Nantucket to explore the beaches and restaurants.  I was enthralled in this love story that takes place in a busy restaurant.  And it will make you very hungry.

image What She Knew by Gilly Macmillan

When Rachel’s son goes missing after a walk in the park, her world is turned upside down.  Told in alternating viewpoints between her and the detective in charge of the case, you’ll be as eager to find out what happened as she is.  All psychological fiction fans will be flipping the pages and should add Macmillan as a writer to watch.

image Summer at Hideaway Key by Barbara Davis

This was my first novel by Barbara Davis but certainly won’t be my last.  When Lily’s father passes away and leaves her a cottage on the beach, she is determined to find out the story behind it.  If you enjoy historical fiction, Davis incorporates some back story in this novel as well.  A little romance thrown in makes this a perfect book for all readers.  See my full review here.

image Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum

There was so much to love about Buxbaum’s first venture into contemporary YA.  This is the story of Jessie whose father relocates her across the country to California and how she has to start fresh at a brand-new high school.  When a student anonymously emails her, a friendship develops.  The reader and Jessie try to figure out who the mysterious sender is in this sweet book.

image A Drop in the Ocean by Jenni Ogden 

Ever wish you could just drop everything and travel to an exotic location to get away from it all?  That is the premise of Ogden’s debut novel.  When she suddenly finds herself out of a job, Anna jumps at the chance to head to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef for a new beginning in a place that she soon learns will become home.  See my full review here.

If you get a chance to read any of these books, I’d love to hear your review too!  Have a great summer!

*This post contains affiliate links

 

19 Can’t Miss Debut Reads

Oftentimes with the first book of an author, you might not be very impressed and hope that in time their writing and stories improve.  In the cases of these talented novelists, I couldn’t wait for their next release because the debut was incredible.  Here are my 19 Can’t Miss Debut Reads in no particular order.

imageCalling Me Home by Julie Kibler

As soon as I finished this one, I wanted to give it a hug and never let go.  This was the best women’s fiction novel I had read in years.  It broke my heart and comforted me at the same time.  Aside from the main story focusing on race relations, it tells a story of an unlikely friendship between a young and old woman as they take a road trip.

imageThe Magician’s Lie by Greer McAllister

I’ve always been fascinated by illusionists and magicians, so I knew this story of a female illusionist would be a perfect match.  I read this in 24 hours because of how compulsively readable it was.  If you liked The Night Circus, don’t miss this one.  So excited to see a movie in the works too!

imageBeautiful Malice by Rebecca James

Imagine being a teenager and having to move to a new city.  You’re the kind who doesn’t intentionally draw attention to yourself but now you are befriended by the most popular girl at school.  Would you trust her to keep your secrets? This is a true “not everyone is who they seem” story.

imageJulia’s Chocolates by Cathy Lamb

Once I finished this book, I became a lifelong fan of Cathy Lamb.  She puts so much love and personality into her characters.  After leaving her abusive fiancé at the altar, Julia is on the run.  This novel has a hopeful message but is filled with funny and unusual characters and scenarios along the way.

imageOnce We Were Brothers by Ronald H. Balson

A legal thriller and a story of a family torn apart during the Holocaust, this book had me flipping the pages to discover what happens next.  It was originally self-published but came so highly recommended and popular that St. Martin’s Press had to publish it under their imprint.  If the WWII era is a must read for you, don’t miss out on this one.

imageWhat Was Mine by Helen Klein Ross

This novel asks the question, What defines “motherhood”?  Is it the act of giving birth or raising a child?  Can it be one or the other?  Book clubs will have lively discussions surrounding those questions as they learn a 4-month-old baby is kidnapped from a shopping cart and raised by a woman eager to have a baby.

imageBefore I Go by Colleen Oakley

Have tissues handy.  The protagonist in this novel, Daisy, beats cancer once only to find out it has returned and she only has months to live.  In her short time left, she wants to make sure her husband is taken care of, so she sets out to find him a wife.  Oakley sprinkles some humor throughout so the book isn’t a complete downer and had me thinking of what I would do in a similar situation.

imageThe Promise of Stardust by Priscille Sibley

Another great read for book clubs, this thought-provoking novel is a ripped from the headlines story and has you questioning your beliefs.  Sibley is a former nurse and writes from experience.  As a family is torn apart dealing with an ethical dilemma, the reader is left wondering how it will play out.

imageStill Missing by Chevy Stevens

This disturbing thriller put Stevens on the map for page-turning mysteries and now I won’t miss one.  If you want an easy to read book, the short chapters make for one that won’t take you forever.  If you like shows like CSI and Criminal Minds, be sure to give this author a try.

imageA Paris Apartment by Michelle Gable

Art, antiques, love, Paris.  That was enough to win me over.  But I loved how Gable combined two storylines, one historical and one in the present to unearth the truth.  So much of that reminded me of a favorite author, Sarah Jio.

imageShelter Me by Juliette Fay

I was worried a book about a widower and her young children wouldn’t be able to hold me captive but I was glad I was wrong.  You will find yourself cheering for this flawed mother as she takes the year to reflect on heartbreak and forgiveness and realizes you don’t have to do it all alone.

imageLetters from Home by Kristina McMorris

In this day and age, when we so commonly communicate with emails and texts, reading this historical fiction told through handwritten letters was refreshing.  The story is based in part on the love story of her grandparents. So if you need a book to pull you out of your fast-paced and hectic life into a romance of an earlier generation, this is it.

imageThe Forgetting Time by Sharon Guskin

As soon as I finished reading this one, I started recommending it to friends.  It is absolutely going on my best reads of 2016 list, as it had the most unique storyline I’ve ever read.  I was completely caught up in this spellbinding premise and loved how Guskin was even able to incorporate a mystery.

imageRoses by Leila Meacham

Roses is a saga in every sense of the word, one that spans three generations of three families over the 20th century.  Even though it’s hefty at over 600 pages, it reads quickly because you’ll be eager to learn the fates of these families.  Gone with the Wind fans will especially enjoy this one.

imageThe Good Girl by Mary Kubica

When you see a psychological thriller debut being compared to Gone Girl, you are likely to be skeptical.  But Kubica really hit it out of the ballpark with this novel and did it with such ease.  New writers will be having their books compared to hers in the future.  Read more about this book and Kubica’s writing process in my interview with her here.

imageA Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

I did not know what to expect when I received this book. Hailed as an international bestseller, this novel from Sweden didn’t seem like it was up my alley. It follows Ove, a grumpy widower not sure how to spend his days other than doing daily neighborhood inspections. As the book quickly grew on me, so did Ove. I dare you to read this and not feel good when you’re done.

imageA Walk Across the Sun by Corban Addison

This is a beautifully written story about an extremely ugly topic, human trafficking.  Addison seamlessly weaves an important message throughout this story.  With a background in law and activism, his books always teach me something new.

imageFive Days Left by Julie Lawson Timmer

When a new book is blurbed by Jodi Picoult, I know I’m in for a treat.  And sure enough, this didn’t disappoint.  Told in two separate storylines of two characters with five days left before the world they know is changed forever.  This novel constantly had me asking myself, what would I do in their situation?

imageHush Little Baby by Suzanne Redfearn

This emotionally charged story of domestic violence had me so captivated that I neglected my responsibilities while reading it.  It was one of those books where you know what’s going to happen, but you don’t know when or how, like a car crash you can’t turn away from.  All the characters felt so real to me.  It’s impressive when fiction reads like it could be nonfiction.

What debut novels did you love that didn’t make the list?  I would love to hear your recommendations and your reviews on the ones I loved.

This post contains affiliate links.

 

 

 

Best Read-Aloud Picture Books

I think I’m still a kid at heart.  There is some magical quality to picture books that entertains me along with my kids.  Oftentimes I’m presented with the opportunity to read aloud to my children’s classes.  If that’s the case for you, here’s a great list of picture books sure to be a hit.  These are also perfect for bedtime reads or anytime you’re looking for a smile or laugh.

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The Book with No Pictures by B.J. Novak: After reading this to my daughter’s kindergarten class, I was begged for an encore and her teacher told me she’s never had her class laugh so hard.  If you haven’t discovered this laugh-out-loud read yet, you are missing out.  It’s so clever having the reader say nonsense phrases which kids find hilarious.

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Press Here by Herve Tullet: Even better for a younger crowd, this allows a group of children to each take a turn pressing on the page to see what magic they can create with their fingers.  Imagine something interactive without electronics and you have this book.  For those looking to take it a step further, they even have a coordinating board game.

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Creepy Carrots by Aaron Reynolds: Imagine a child’s version of a psychological thriller and you have this picture book, complete with a twist.  The pictures were worthy enough to be nominated for a Caldecott Medal but the story is the ultimate surprise.  We are big fans.

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The Day the Crayons Quit and The Day the Crayons Came Home by Drew Daywalt: I’m not sure if we like the original or its sequel more.  These creative books had me laughing and my kids mesmerized.  I sure hope there will be another in this series, written by a box of crayons to their user, Duncan, complete with grievances and complaints.  You’ll completely change how you look at crayons.

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Meet the Dullards by Sara Pennypacker: If you ever hear the words “I’m bored,” try reading this story of a boring family.  I can guarantee their boredom is nothing like the kids in this book have to deal with.  Adults also will get a kick out of the dull situations Pennypacker presents.

These are our favorites.  I’d love to hear yours!  And please let me know your thoughts if you get a chance to read these.

Best reads of 2015

2015 was an incredible year for new releases. Some of the best books were published in 2015. I read so many outstanding ones that I couldn’t even narrow my list down to 10. I have books in all categories: fiction, nonfiction, thriller, historical fiction, even ones for your kids. So here are the top 12 books (in no particular order) I loved this year.

Best reads of 2015

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I Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes: If you’ve ever seen an episode of 24, you’ll know what I mean when I say “edge of your seat.” This debut was like an episode of 24 … on speed. It is a roller coaster ride that spans decades and continents. The author is a screenwriter, and they’re talking movie, so make sure you read this ahead of time. It’s long but I guarantee you won’t notice as you’re flipping pages at a breakneck speed.

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Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel: Ever deserving of its multiple awards, this post-apocalyptic story is more about the characters than the setting. This book jumps back and forth in time as it introduces a Hollywood actor and a band of traveling actors, some of who we meet prior to the flu apocalypse that wipes out civilization and some who we meet after. Its originality and writing is like nothing I’ve ever read.

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What She Left Behind by Ellen Marie Wiseman: If you’re a fan of Orphan Train, then make sure to add this one to your list. It’s similar in structure but with a historical story I found hard to put down. Our main character, Clara, is institutionalized in the 1920s because her society parents disapprove of her new love. As she’s fighting to prove her sanity and escape, we learn there’s more to the mystery. You’ll be racing to find out what happens as you’re left hanging after so many chapters.

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Beneath the Surface: Killer Whales, SeaWorld, and the Truth Behind Blackfish by John Hargrove: Once I saw the documentary Blackfish, I knew I had to read this first-hand account by one of the trainers featured. John spends time discussing his life as a trainer and what the whales are subject to. I appreciated that this “whistleblower” story doesn’t spend all its time knocking down SeaWorld, but rather presents the information in a way that reads like fiction. This is both a fascinating and devastating read that explores the true behavior and history of orcas.

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A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler: Please go into this novel knowing that it isn’t plot heavy. Instead, it is a beautiful portrayal of family dynamics told through multiple generations and viewpoints. The way it was set up reminded me a lot of one of my favorite southern authors, Pat Conroy. I hear this might be Tyler’s last book, which saddens me, but I know if it is she went out with a bang.

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The Kind Worth Killing by Peter Swanson: I can’t believe that this book was not an instant bestseller. It has so many tricks up its sleeves that it’s perfect for anyone who likes a good psychological thriller. You’ll go through all the emotions (shock, anger, surprise) as you are constantly teased about who is playing who in this cat-and-mouse read. I look forward to many more by this author.

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The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate: If you’re an adult, you can easily read this book in a few hours. A beautiful middle grade book told from the perspective of Ivan, a gorilla, that performs in a mall with a few other animals. I appreciated all his insight on human behaviors and laughed out loud several times. The Newberry Medal award winner will leave you with complete faith in humanity.

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Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness by Susannah Cahalan: This book is a completely fascinating (and very freaky) account of a young journalist experiencing seizures, psychosis, and madness when she had been completely healthy days before. It took weeks in the hospital to determine the cause and she became the 217th known case of her disease. The book is written so well that it has you turning the pages. If you have any interest in science, medicine, or psychology, you will be absorbed in this memoir. And movie fans — they just cast Chloe Grace Moretz for the film!

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Come Away with Me by Karma Brown: I’m still thinking about this novel, even months after finishing it. If you liked Eat, Pray, Love, think of this as a fictionalized version. After a terrible accident, Tegan is overcome with grief and doesn’t know how to get back to feeling like herself. When her husband suggests a worldwide adventure, she learns how to forgive. This debut will have you feeling all the emotions, and I shed many tears.

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The Admissions by Meg Mitchell Moore: While I don’t have any children old enough to be applying to college, I can definitely relate to the “keeping up with the Joneses” mentality, especially coming from a real estate background. I loved how the viewpoints kept changing throughout but still managed to propel the story forward. It was hard to stop reading about this family as bit by bit they started unraveling at the seams. Author Elin Hilderbrand even offered a money-back guarantee on its merits.

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The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin: This is a truly poignant middle grade novel about a young girl dealing with the grief of losing her best friend. I love how the science was sprinkled throughout but was never technical. Definitely worthy of its National Book Award nomination and a must read for ages 10-adult.

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The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah: It’s no wonder Kristin Hannah is an instant bestseller. Just when I thought she had it all wrapped up in women’s fiction, she surprised me with this historical fiction novel of WWII told through the viewpoints of two sisters. The amount of 5 star reviews on this heartbreaking and profound novel is just incredible. With scenes hard to read at times, I wouldn’t want her to erase any word. This book will resonate with me for a long time.

I can’t wait to hear your reviews of any of these books and what your favorites were this year. Hope you had a wonderful holiday season!