My Favorite Books of 2017 (So Far!)

Hi friends!Top Ten TuesdayIs your week off to a good start? I’m making my way though Adele Griffin’s Be True to Me — who can resist a ’70s set story of romance and betrayal? Not I, clearly — and whipping up a recipe with fresh fruit from the farmer’s market before popping some popcorn for tonight’s iZombie finale. It’s the pattern of my summer thus far: relaxing and reinvigorating, just how I like it!

In addition, I’m still wrapping my head around the fact that we are now halfway through 2017, as evident by this week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic: Best Books We’ve Read in 2017 So Far. With college and other extracurriculars on my mind during senior year, I didn’t read as much as I usually do, so you’ll find below the eight novels I did read that I consider current favorites. What books have you enjoyed so far this year?

Before I begin, a reminder: Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by the always wonderful bloggers at The Broke and the Bookish. Pop on over to read posts from others or to add your own!

The Upside of UnrequitedTo start, Becky Albertalli’s sophomore novel, The Upside of Unrequited, is nothing short of a gem. It was the first book I read this year, giving me ample time throughout the winter to suggest it to friends and family alike ahead of its release this past April. I’ve continually recommended it for good reason: the characters are drawn with humor and plenty of heart, and Albertalli shapes the story with her knack for teen romance. A book is good when it has me smiling from beginning to end.

How to Break a BoyI’ve read quite a few young adult debuts this year, but none have stood out to me so much as Laurie Devore’s How to Break a Boy. Taking the typical “mean girl” narrative for a spin, Devore delivers a compelling and realistic story that packs an emotional punch and develops characters who are certainly flawed, but who also force readers to listen, think, and reflect. I’m only bummed that the novel has flown under the radar since its release, as I, for one, can already tell it will be one of my favorites by the year’s end.

We Are OkayLike any form of art, there are some books that enter your life at the right time.  My list of such novels is long, but among them is Nina LaCour’s We Are Okay, which I read and fell in love with this past spring. Weaving together such emotions as grief, love, and loneliness after the narrator’s family has been lost, it is quiet and simple and right up my alley. The lyrical, pensive, and oft-melancholic style won’t appeal to all readers, but I myself plan to read it once or twice more through, along with the rest of LaCour’s collection.

Flying Lessons and Other StoriesOn the middle grade end of things, one book comes to mind from what I’ve read this year: the anthology Flying Lessons and Other Stories, compiled by one of the founders of We Need Diverse Books. That the book showcases kids of such a wide range of backgrounds, abilities, and interests is reason alone to recommend it, but I consider it a favorite of the year because not one story fell too short from the bar, a rarity with short story collections. Is it too much to hope for another one in the works?

The Names They Gave UsI absolutely adored Emery Lord’s 2017 release, The Names They Gave Us, but that should come as little surprise, for Lord has consistently written novels with well-developed characters, strong familial and friendship dynamics, and plots that make me cry, not because they are sad, but because her writing can prompt a cathartic release. The Names They Gave Us follows in the same tradition, as readers follow the protagonist Lucy’s summer as a camp counselor and her mom’s battle with cancer. In short? I loved it.

The Importance of Being EarnestIt’s not often that I share the books I’ve read in school here on Ciao Bella, if only because I typically found my English classroom curriculum rather dry {or, on the flip side, found no reason to review a classic already loved and adored by so many, myself included!}. With that said, however, this list wouldn’t feel complete without Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest, a play I read for AP literature. I rarely laugh out loud while reading, and yet, Wilde’s satirical look at Victorian society had me giggling with each flip of the page. A winner, no doubt.

The Things They CarriedSimilarly, The Things They Carried also hails from my AP Lit syllabus, though its setting and subject are a far cry from Wilde’s English drama. A collection of stories linked by the Vietnam war and the experiences of the author Tim O’Brien, the novel effortlessly moves between fact and fiction to produce what has been rightfully called a “classic work of American literature.” As someone who generally avoids “war stories,” for lack of a more specific term, I didn’t expect to like it as much as I did, nor did I expect the stories to linger in my mind for so long.

The Careful Undressing of LoveFinally, for someone who has felt unsatisfied with Corey Ann Haydu’s work in the past, I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed her latest release, The Careful Undressing of Love. With thanks to Haydu’s dreamy and descriptive writing, readers are invited into an enchanting, reimagined world where the Devonnaire girls reside. From the eye-catching cover to the stunning last chapter, I was captivated from beginning to end. Magical realism fans would do well to pick it up.

Have a lovely Tuesday!
B

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Top Ten Anticipated Reads for the Rest of 2017

Hello!

Top Ten TuesdayHappy Tuesday! How are things? I’m nearing the end of a whirlwind month of events and am now just left with a few more rehearsals before I gather with my grade for Class Day and Graduation. It’s an exciting time, for sure, but I’ll be honest, I’m also looking forward to reading and blogging a bit more once things quiet down. Are there any other graduating seniors out there? How is your end of the year coming along?

With all that said, I want to thank you for sticking with me through my brief hiatus! To ease back into blogging once again, I wanted to participate in a weekly favorite: The Broke and the Bookish’s Top Ten Tuesday. Back in January, I shared my most anticipated releases from the first half of 2017, but now that the year is halfway over {how does time fly by so quickly?}, this week’s topic has us rounding out the list. So without further ado, here are the novels I can’t wait to read in the coming months, presented in rainbow order, naturally. What books are you excited to grab?

Far From the TreeFirst on my list is Far From the Tree, a new release from an old favorite, author Robin Benway. Dynamics between family and friends are Benway’s sweet spot, and so I’m excited to see what’s in store when the three main characters, Grace, Maya, and Joaquin, all adopted since birth, realize their ties as biological siblings. With a heartfelt plot, a unique and developed group of characters, and a stunning cover to boot, I think I’m in for a treat. October, come quicker? {out October 3}

Neighborhood GirlsI have anxiously been awaiting the release of Jessie Ann Foley’s sophomore release ever since I read and fell in love with her debut, The Carnival at Bray. Fortunately, I won’t have to wait much longer, as Neighborhood Girls will be coming to bookstores in September. A literary coming-of-age tale, the novel tackles the impacts of crime on a family and the harm done by toxic friendships after Wendy’s father is sent to jail. In all truth, it could be about anything and I’d clear my calendar on the release date – I’ll buy anything by Foley! {out September 12}

Little & LionIt’s been several years since I read Brandy Colbert’s debut, Pointe, but its rich characterization and dynamic plot are both still vivid in my mind. Needless to say, I’m looking forward to reading her second book: Little & Lion, which has been described as “a stunning novel on love, loss, identity, and redemption” in its exploration of mental illness and sexual identity. Its release date thankfully falls before I head off to school, so I plan to devour it in a day – I have no doubt the wait will have been worth it. {out August 8}

The ArsonistWhenever someone is in need of a suspenseful, compelling mystery, I have a list handy. The novel on top? Stephanie Oakes’ debut, The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly, a page-turner that kept me up far past my typical bedtime so that I could finish it. I wouldn’t be surprised if her next book, The Arsonist, does the same, given its intriguing synopsis: main characters – and outsiders – Molly and Pepper work together to solve the death of a German teenager in the 1980s. Early reviews have consistently praised the lyrical writing and strong character development, so I take that as a sign that Oakes has produced another winner. {out August 22}

The Great HibernationI fell in love with Tara Dairman’s writing at the first mention of a young protagonist who loves to cook {that’d be Gladys of All Four Stars fame}. She’s an author I continually recommend to middle grade fans, and so, I can’t wait to get my hands on her next novel, titled The Great Hibernation. Who can say no to a middle grade mystery, particularly one that involves small town traditions and a cast of whip-smart kids? It goes without saying, but September couldn’t come soon enough. {out September 12}

Genuine FraudThere are few authors as revered as E. Lockhart in the YA world. With a career spanning over ten years, she adds what I expect will be another favorite to her growing list of novels with the release of Genuine Fraud. Inspired by The Talented Mr. Ripley, the story offers a character on the run, hiding with the help of multiple disguises. Additionally, in the fashion of We Were Liars, we readers are surely in for lyrical writing, complex characters, and an intense mystery. Yes, yes, and yes. {out September 5}

Click'dTamara Ireland Stone has written stellar YA contemporaries again and again, to the point that I consider her an “auto-buy” author; no matter the title or topic, I know I’m in for an excellent read when I sit down with one of her novels. I’m sure I’ll find it the same with her new book, Click’d, which follows middle school student Allie after her very own app goes viral. It’s marketed to a different age group than Stone’s typical audience, but I just see that as an excuse to fuel my middle grade obsession. In short? I can’t wait. {out September 5}

They Both Die at the EndIf there’s any consolation to the year 2017 has so far been, it’s the fact that Adam Silvera has not one, but two books hitting shelves. I still need to pick up his earlier release, History is All You Left Me {thank goodness summer vacation is nearly here}, but in the meantime, I’ve been reading up on his next novel, They Both Die at the End. Combining elements of the science fiction and contemporary genres, the story focuses on two strangers brought together by their impending deaths. Tissues will certainly be needed. {out September 5}

Before the Devil Breaks YouLibba Bray’s The Diviners and the sequel, Lair of Dreams, are wonderfully written and developed, but the series is also notorious for the wait between installments. You can then imagine my surprise when I found the title and release date of the third book: Before The Devil Breaks You, out in October. This time around, the Diviners are tasked with facing the ghosts that haunt an asylum on Ward’s Island. I can’t wait to dive into the 1920s paranormal world once again – and, better yet, right before Halloween! {out October 3}

Tash Hearts TolstoyFinally, I haven’t yet read a book by YA author Kathryn Ormsbee, but my excitement remains sky-high for her June release, Tash Hearts Tolstoy. The YA genre is sorely lacking in representation of asexual and aromantic characters, and so, I’m delighted to see the storyline tackled with the grace and respect it deserves: when the protagonist Tash becomes an Internet superstar, she also finds herself crushing on a fellow vlogger. Her only issue? How to tell him she’s asexual. It’s a book that already makes my heart happy. {out June 6}

Have an awesome day!
Bella

Psst. Need more 2017 books? Here’s my list of debuts that have caught my eye.

My Spring 2017 TBR List

Hello, hello!

Top Ten TuesdayHappy Tuesday! I’m home from school today thanks to a mid-March snowstorm, and while I can’t say I want winter to last any longer, I’ll take any opportunity to read a little longer, sleep a little later, and bake and blog a bit more. On that same note, it seems strange to write about the books I hope to read this spring with snow still piling up outside my window, but it’s that time of year for The Broke and the Bookish‘s seasonal TBR lists! At this point, you surely know how it works: I’ve rounded up several novels I hope to read in the coming months {in addition to the books I’ve already featured earlier in the year}. I like to think of it as a no-pressure way to bring some variety to my bookshelf. What do you want to read this spring?

A Season of Daring GreatlyTo kick off my list, I have A Season of Daring Greatly from seasoned author Ellen Emerson White. I’ll admit, I was originally drawn to the book solely for its clever cover, but the synopsis kept my interest: mere days after her high school graduation, the main character starts an athletic career on a major league baseball team. A similar premise has found success on the small screen {have you watched Pitch?}, so I have my fingers crossed it resonates with the YA audience  – myself included! – just as well. {already out}

FireworksLike many an author in the YA genre, Katie Cotugno is a writer I continually see in reviews and discussion, though whose work I have yet to check out. I’m hoping to change that this spring with the release of her novel Fireworks, a fun romp in which two best friends are unexpectedly thrown into stardom. Realistic fiction is right up my alley, YA can always use another music-centered plot, and ’90s settings are some of my favorites. Needless to say, I’ll be grabbing this as soon as it hits shelves. {out April 18}

Forget Me NotOn the middle grade side of things, I’m looking forward to reading Forget Me Not by debut author Ellie Terry. Already garnering several words of praise, the novel follows narrator Callie as she navigates moving to a new school, making and keeping friends, and dealing with Tourette syndrome; just as exciting as the plot is the prose, Callie’s story written in verse. It releases today, so I hope a copy will make its way into my local library circulation soon. {out today!}

I Believe in a Thing Called LoveIf the bright colors on the cover of Maurene Goo’s sophomore novel, I Believe in a Thing Called Love, doesn’t have you thinking spring, I don’t know what will. The story inside seems to me to be just as fun: after years of failed flirting attempts, Desi turns to Korean dramas for lessons on how to win over her crush. With promises of a sweet heroine, strong family relationships, and scenes that have readers laughing out loud, this sounds just like the fluffy, light-hearted read I’ll need come May. {out May 30}

One Day We'll All Be Dead and None of This Will MatterWith a title as humorous as One Day We’ll All Be Dead and None of This Will Matter, should I expect anything less than good things from Scaachi Koul’s memoir? Koul currently writes for Buzzfeed, and in her first published book, it’s said that she brings the same “clear eye and biting wit” that one can find in her work on the web. I love a good essay collection when things get busy {i.e. hours of AP preparation are made all the better with a few funny passages}, so I’m counting down the days until I have a copy for myself. {out May 2}

The Fashion CommitteeI consider Susan Juby’s The Truth Commission a hidden gem of the YA shelves; it has a set of memorable characters, a sharp sense of humor, and a wonderful blend of quirk and heart. You can thus imagine my excitement when I came across her newest book – and companion novel! – The Fashion Committee, slated for release this May, in which characters and friends Charlie and John compete for a spot at the same prestigious art school that won my heart the first time around. I can’t wait for its reappearance. {out May 23}

The RefugeesSince devouring Flying Lessons and Other Stories in one sitting, I’ve been itching to try another anthology. Add in the current political climate, and I think there’s no better time than the present to read The Refugees, a collection of short stories centered around the Vietnam War by author Viet Thanh Nguyen. Since its publication in February, it’s been praised by readers and critics alike; I think it will only be a matter of weeks before I too get to fall in love with the characters Nguyen has crafted. {already out}

The Sky is EverywhereMy spring reading list has no shortage of new releases, but when it comes to backlist novels I hope to read, I have my eyes on only one: Jandy Nelson’s The Sky is Everywhere. Her debut, the book has been described as “a celebration of love [and] a portrait of loss” as the main character finds comfort in other after her older sister’s sudden death. I’m excited to fall for a new love triangle, of course, but more importantly, I’m excited to finally have reason to join in the Jandy Nelson fan club. {already out}

WindfallWhen someone is looking for well-developed characters and cute romances, I’m quick to recommend any book by Jennifer E. Smith, as she has time and time again delivered pitch-perfect contemporaries. That said, it’s been far too long since I last picked up a novel of hers, which is why, perhaps, I’m so anxious for the release of her next book, Windfall. With an interesting premise, a well-drawn protagonist, and a colorful cover to boot, I can’t see why Smith wouldn’t be keeping up her streak. {out May 2}

Word By WordFinally, for my fellow “word nerds” and budding lexicographers, can we all agree to read Kory Stamper’s Word by Word at some point this spring? Stamper, an editor and writer at Merriam-Webster, invites the audience into the history of dictionaries, including such tidbits like the first use of “OMG” and the length it can take to define a single word. Readers who have already seen a copy have awarded it high praise, which I take to mean that this nonfiction piece will have me smiling from beginning to end. Yes please. {out today}

Have a wonderful day!
Bella