December 30, 2017

Alexa & Macky's Best Reads of 2017

It's coming a little bit later than planned, but we're bringing you some of our top recommendations from the year 2017. We're covering quite a few categories this year - books, movies, TV shows and music, to be precise. To kick things off, Macky & I thought we'd share our favorite books we read in 2017. We've broken down our list into different audience age groups in order to give you a (slightly) more well-rounded collection of recommendations, and we hope you find a new book or two to read in the year to come. So, grab a hot drink and a snack and settle in to check out our favorite 2017 reads! Please note that we didn't include rereads, but if we had, this list would have way more Tamora Pierce and more romance. And fair warning - this post is pretty massive, mostly because I couldn't help myself when it came to the YA portion!

Agents of Artifice (Magic: The Gathering) by Ari Marmell - I used to play Magic: The Gathering, and was drawn to these new Planeswalkers because they seemed so much more three dimensional than the other Planeswalkers that have come before them. Also, Nicol Bolas, that grade A stinker, is in this and I cannot help but like the old lizard. (Buy the Book)

Choices: The True Story of One Family's Daring Escape to Freedom by J.E. LauferI cried reading this because the true to life story of how one family finds a better life after the war just happens to be so well written in this book. It spans a long enough history that makes it so rich and moving. (Macky's Review | Buy the Book)

StarCraft: Evolution by Timothy ZahnFor anyone who loves both StarCraft II and the great Timothy Zahn (known mostly to me of Grand Admiral Thrawn from Star Wars fame), this book was such a well written "epilogue" to the video game series set at a time long after the events of the last StarCraft Installment. I totally heard all the familiar voice actors speaking in my head as I read through this book and wished so bad they would make it a real game addition like the Nova episodes. (Macky's Review | Buy the Book)

Temeraire Series (Books 1-7) by Naomi NovikI don't like historical fiction mostly as a preference… unless there are dragons. Boy are there many in this series and our Temeraire is quite the central character by which all things hinge around. (Buy the First Book)

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr - I've been meaning to read this one ever since I read my friend Hannah's glowing review, and I finally did it at the start of 2017! It's a compelling historical fiction novel told from two perspectives - Werner, a young boy determined to better his own life, and Marie-Laure, a blind girl who escapes from Paris to a small town called Saint-Malo. Narrating their lives as war rages all around them, I was glued to the story from the very first page. (Alexa's Review | Buy the Book)

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern - It's been years since I said I would read this one, and I have finally done it! I'm regretting waiting so long, because I ended up adoring it. I won't lie - the beginning was a little slow. But there was a turning point where I fell head over heels in love with the storytelling and the characters and had the burning need to know how it would all end. It was such a satisfying, atmospheric story, and I'm so glad I read it. (Alexa's Review | Buy the Book)

Written in Red by Anne Bishop - I'm admittedly not much of an urban fantasy reader, but I've heard high praise for this series so I really wanted to give it a shot. Thankfully, Rachel was on the same page and it ended up being one of our Flights of Fantasy Book Club reads this year! I really enjoyed the story, even though its plot elements felt very familiar. What really made me love this one was the incredibly appealing cast of characters that Bishop created. I can't wait to read the rest of the series (hopefully in 2018). (Alexa's Review | Buy the Book)

Year of Yes: How to Dance it Out, Stand in the Sun, and Be Your Own Person by Shonda Rhimes - I snagged this one during an Audible sale, mostly because I loved the premise. I'm really into stories about people doing something radical (in Shonda's case, saying yes) that shifts the course of their entire lives. It was a real treat to be able to listen to Shonda narrate her own stories, and I both laughed and teared up as I listened. But best of all, I finished this one feeling encouraged and inspired. (Alexa's Review | Buy the Book)

The Adventurer's Guild by Zack Loran Clark and Nick Eliopulos - Two POV's, two authors. Two best friends, one party, one big adventure that's basically, oh wait, there it is again: me and my friends save the world. I don't even mind the elves and dwarves. Superb world-building and story-telling. What's not to like!? (Macky's Review | Buy the Book)

Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians by Brandon Sanderson (ill. by Hayley LazoThis was not originally on the list, but I bumped a couple of books down because Brandon Sanderson is HILARIOUS and completely non sequitur in the narration of this "autobiography" of a boy who is secretly descended from a line of talented world-changers. Fresh lore, fresh story-telling and personally well ahead of its time. 5 stars! (Buy the Book)

Eye of the North by Sinead O'ConnorIt's like steampunk light for kids with, and here we are againm "me and my new found friend save the world." Plus, amidst the rip roaring adventure, we have a story of found families. Loved this! (Macky's Review | Buy the Book)

Fablehaven by Brandon Mull It makes it to the top 10 middle grade books of the year because it made me feel strong emotions. I love the lore. Not so much the characters. But not in a hateful way, but because one character in particular is so exasperating that for me this works great as a cautionary tale as well as a fun fantasy read. (Macky's Review | Buy the Book)

Frogkisser by Garth NixGarth Nix does it again! He manages to weave a perfectly fresh tale from the fairy tale tropes we all know and love. Magic spells, a young girl on the brink of finding her strength and a castle full of dogs. Done. (Macky's Review | Buy the Book)

The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill - This is what I would humbly call a modern fairy tale which deserves every ounce of it's newberry award. I'm usually not big on reading award winning books but I get how this accomplishes what it does while at the same time touching me very deeply. There is magic yet still in the world. This is proof. (Macky's Review | Buy the Book)

Howard Wallace, P.I. & Shadow of a Pug by Casey LyallBecause I live in a place where you need to save the world with your best friend, surely solving a contextually world-ending problem with a new friend counts. Howard and Ivy are the best gumshoes this side of 2017. (Macky's Review | Buy the First Book)

The Tapestry Series by Henry H. NeffWorks great if you read these first and read Impyrium as an epilogue story or read that first and this series feels like a prequel. It's such a fresh take on the middle grade trope of "me and my friends save the world" and that's where I live as a reader. Fun fun fun fun fun. (Macky's Review | Buy the First Book)

Wereworld Series by Curtis JoblingThis makes the cut, because I just had to blitz through all six books. It's pretty heavy for middle-grade (but not Harry Potter heavy), but ends on a good yet somber note. Plus why not set our hero-coming-of-age tale in a world where certain clans have the ability to shapeshift into were-animals. Lastly, Count Vega the WereShark Pirate King. *mic drop* (Macky's Review | Buy the First Book)

The White Tower by Cathryn Constable - This may as well be a Studio Ghibli film, what with it's amazing magical realism. There's a bit of alchemy in here too. But at the center? A young girl who has the courage to move past her personal tragedies and manages to unravel the mystery of the tower itself. Sold. (Macky's Review | Buy the Book)

Click'd by Tamara Ireland Stone - This story was utterly adorable! I loved that it had a main character who was interested in technology and creating her own app at such a young age. And I adored the app she came up with, mostly because it sounds like fun and also encouraged friendship and stepping out of your comfort zone. Plus, there was a ship (that's not really a ship explicitly because MG) that I thoroughly enjoyed. (Alexa's Review | Buy the Book)

The Dreadful Tale of Prosper Redding by Alexandra Bracken - Is it wrong that I really love the demon in this story? Because Alastor is my favorite thing about this one. This is Alex's first venture into writing an original middle grade story, and she did it beautifully. It's funny, it's smart and it's really fun to read, and I'd definitely recommend this one for autumn (especially around Halloween). (Alexa's Review | Buy the Book)

The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill - Quirky, hilarious and also heartfelt. Those are the words that come to mind when I think about this story. Macky read it first actually (as you might see up in his section), and then gifted me with a copy to read as well. I'm so glad I did, because it's a magical middle grade story with a fairytale feel to it that was right up my alley! (Alexa's Review | Buy the Book)

The Someday Suitcase by Corey Ann Haydu - Corey is another author I hope never stops writing middle grade either. This is also a story about friendship, specifically how Danny and Clover are best friends. When Danny gets really sick, Clover believes she can find a way to cure him and the two of them set out on an adventure to do so. It was such a moving story to read, and Corey really knows how to get you in the feels. (Alexa's Review | Buy the Book)

Whichwood by Tahereh Mafi - I honestly hope that Tahereh never stops writing such whimsical, wonderful middle grade reads. I loved Whichwood! I'd been highly anticipating it ever since it was originally announced, and it surpassed all my expectations. It's a story about friendship, and about learning to open yourself up to other people and I particularly adored the emotional journey the main character Laylee experienced from start to finish. (Alexa's Review | Buy the Book)

Special Mention: The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang is a 2018 graphic novel that I would 100% recommend. It has the feel of a fairytale (which I'm obviously a sucker for), and it's also funny and heartwarming. Plus, the illustration style is so adorable, the story is fun and the characters are a delight. I would highly encourage you to pre-order this one

Akata Witch by Nnedi OkoraforDefinitely my top one YA book of the year. It's not a new book, but I feel, like Garth Nix's Sabriel, it will be fresh no matter the generation. It's timeless, extremely rich in lore and characters and I honestly have not had my imagination run this wild in years. (Macky's Review | Buy the Book)

Berserker by Emmy LaybourneViking lore and myth set in the Wild West with a strong female lead surrounded by an equally interesting family. There's a decent ship in here too that's just on the right side of subtle for my liking, so what's not to love? Plus, A+ on the stylized Viking lore that I CANNOT get enough of. (Macky's Review | Buy the Book)

The Epic Crush of Genie Lo by Genie LoAll hail the great Monkey King! That Genie Lo both as a book and as a character is so amazingly put together while all the while steeped in Monkey King lore/shenanigans tells me the author didn't just have an awesome idea and great talent - he also loved the heck out of writing this. (Macky's Review | Buy the Book)

The Hearts We Sold by Emily Lloyd-JonesSo, this was a surprise paranormal YA hit that for some reason I really, really just liked. It had such a cool concept about demons being out in the world and making deals with humans in exchange for a limb (which was apparently a huge plot point). I was not too crazy about the romance (mostly as a preference against the genre), but it landed on a good note in the end. (Macky's Review | Buy the Book)

Illuminae + Gemina by Amie Kaufman & Jay KristoffReading this series is an experience that can most likely only be rivaled by actually handing someone a box of video tapes and transcripts of the actual book events. Strong leads (the ladies being my faves), strong storytelling, superb execution of concept make these books land in my top three of 2017. (Macky's Illuminae Review | Macky's Gemina Review | Buy the First Book)

Lord of Shadows by Cassandra Clare - I am low-key Cassandra Clare trash and for such hipsterrific reasons, but I am especially a major fan of the Blackthorns since they debuted in the last Jace and Clary book. It's here, because I owe it to the Blackthorns to see their journey through, but this was not easy to read or put down. (Buy the Book)

The Nowhere Girls by Amy ReedDon't know if the #MeToo movement happened before or after this book, but there is something quite empowering about people standing up together to call out abuse and assault and the misogyny that allows these actions to thrive unchecked and unaccounted for. I personally could not have dreamed up a perfect storm of courage and trust that was brewed out of the lives of these 'nowhere girls' so that they could make their stand against those who think they could wrong others horribly and think they could get away with it. (Macky's Review | Buy the Book)

Nyxia by Scott ReintgenThis is a summer blockbuster waiting to happen. Or at least that's how the book played out in my mind with all the high action space hijinks. Still it makes my top ten because there is a strong lead here that is both believable and relatable and will make you care about how he manages to do what he needs to do for his family. (Macky's Review | Buy the Book)

The Rains & Last Chance by Gregg HurwitzMy first real foray into YA horror and this duology did not disappoint in any way, form or fashion. Creepy hair-raising mishmash of well-loved horror tropes (extra terrestrials & evil hordes) set to a family piece between two brothers and the girl they love. Sold. (Macky's Review | Buy the First Book)

Summoner series by Taran MatharuThis was a gem of a find and one of the few books with elves and dwarves that I genuinely appreciate (Eragon and The Adventurer's Guild being the other two so far for me). Plus, summoning demons was never so benign and fantastical. Great leads and plot too! (Buy the First Book)

Alex, Approximately by Jenn Bennett - This was such an adorable YA contemporary read, and it gives me all the warm fuzzies when I think about it. Set up like a You've Got Mail type tale, there is so much more to it than just this relationship between two people who have never met face to face. It's also about the main character's journey towards figuring out what she wants during one summer, and I'm a sucker for stories like that so it's no surprise I enjoyed it. (Alexa's Review | Buy the Book)

Battle Magic by Tamora Pierce - I'm so, so glad I finally read this one because I can say that it is my favorite of the Emelan books. Pierce chronicles the experiences of Evvy, Rosethorn and Briar when they are caught up in the war in Yanjing, and it is one hell of an emotional read. It's a heavy thing, war, and Pierce doesn't hold back as she tells of all the hardships and heartbreak these three experience. It is so well-written, utterly compelling and the emotional through line is insanely good. I would 10/10 recommend reading this book, though you'll have to read the rest of the Circle series first! (Buy the Book)

Before She Ignites by Jodi Meadows - I'm partial to stories with strong character development, and this novel is definitely one of my favorites that falls into that category. Jodi introduces her readers to a new world, one populated by seven different islands with different cultural beliefs and dragons of all sizes. In the middle of all the plot threads is a girl named Mira, and it's her character development (and the fact I could relate to her so deeply) that I found so spectacular. (Alexa's Review | Buy the Book)

The Careful Undressing of Love by Corey Ann Haydu - I've always been a fan of Corey's books, and her latest young adult novel was no exception. It was tragic, it was magic and it was, as usual, written beautifully. I was immersed in the world of these girls and their story, and I had no idea where it was going but I was happy to just be along for the ride. (Alexa's Review | Buy the Book)

Coming Up for Air by Miranda Kenneally - I've always enjoyed Miranda's books, and this one was certainly no exception. Not only do you get an utterly adorable romance (Levi is my fave! *heart eyes*), but there's also the story of a girl who is struggling to make sense of things for herself. I love that it made me laugh, swoon and tear up. I couldn't put it down once I'd started, and I'd say this is a perfect contemporary pick-me-up if you're on the hunt for one! (Alexa's Review | Buy the Book)

A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas - I honestly don't foresee a time when Sarah's books won't make my list of favorite reads, because I always end up absolutely adoring them. This series ender (a first from Sarah!) is no exception. I devoured this one from start to finish, and was impressed by the way Sarah portrayed this particular chapter of Feyre's story. It was filled with exciting scenes and heartfelt moments, and I was immersed in this world for the couple of hours I spent reading this one. I love this series, and can't wait for the next part of it! (Alexa's Review | Buy the Book)

Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia - This novel is a love letter to fandom, and I adored it. The main character writes her own extremely popular web comic (which also sounds like something I would read so I wish it were real) and she eventually meets in real life folks who are huge fans of her story (enough to write fan fic about it, apparently). I really liked Francesca's thoughts on fandom and her character development for Eliza, though I will say that there is a thing about the near end of the story that did bug me a bit. Still, it's a good story overall. (Alexa's Review | Buy the Book)

Far from the Tree by Robin Benway - Oh goodness, but this is the one book on this list that really had me sobbing like a baby when I was reading it. (Seriously, there came a point around halfway where I just could not stop crying.) I loved how Benway captured all sorts of familial relationships here, whether it's by blood or by choice. Her approach to how these three siblings who share the same birth mother reunite and look into their roots is so, so lovely, and I would certainly recommend snagging a copy of this one ASAP. (Alexa's Review | Buy the Book)

Foolish Hearts by Emma Mills - As a reader, one of my favorite things is to read a story where I feel like the experiences reflect my own. It's nice to be able to relate to a character on a personal level, and that's exactly what happened with main character Claudia in this story. Even though we have vastly different lives, there were a lot of things in my own life that were a part of her story, and I loved that loads. It's a book that I finished with a smile on my face, and I'd suggest it to anyone looking for a feel good contemporary YA read. (Alexa's Review | Buy the Book)

Forest of a Thousand Lanterns by Julie C. Dao - I had high expectations going into this one, and it surpassed them all! It read like a fairytale, but centered around a character with a morally gray story and set in an immersive world filled with both magic and politics. I certainly didn't expect to love this story as much as I did, but I definitely enjoyed reading about Xifeng and I'm dying to read the sequel when it comes out next year. (Alexa's Review | Buy the Book)

Geekerella by Ashley Poston - Of all the retellings I read this year, this was my favorite! Ashley did an excellent job taking the elements of the traditional Cinderella story and weaving them into a modern day fairytale. It's a major bonus that this story is also a kind of love letter to fandom, and that it also has an adorable romance and a wonderful friendship. I'm so glad that I read this one, and would certainly recommend you check it out as well. (Alexa's Review | Buy the Book)

I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith - I finally read this classic novel, and I'm so thrilled I did. It reminds me a little bit of A Little Princess crossed with Anne of Green Gables, and since I adored both of those stories, it's no surprise that this one was right up my alley. I loved reading Cassandra's observations of her life and her family, and this story totally made me want to find an abandoned castle to visit. (Alexa's Review | Buy the Book)

Invictus by Ryan Graudin - I'm so impressed by how Ryan handled time travel in her latest novel! I loved the fact that she took us along as her story jumped from one time period to the next (particularly the historical ones, which were amazing). Not only was the story so fun, I also thought she did a really great job bringing to life the crew of the Invictus. It's such a fun standalone, and I would certainly recommend you picking up a copy! (Alexa's Review | Buy the Book)

The Language of Thorns: Midnight Tales and Dangerous Magic by Leigh Bardugo - When this collection of fairytales set in the Grishaverse was originally announced, I was over the moon because it combined two things I loved. Thankfully, it totally lived up to the hype in my head! Even though I'd read plenty of these stories before (when they were released as novellas), I still found myself engaged and interested in seeing Leigh's spin on things. Plus, it's beautifully illustrated in a way that goes perfectly with the vibe of these tales. I really loved it and would highly recommend it. (Buy the Book)

The Last Magician by Lisa Maxwell - I honestly didn't expect to love this one as much as I did, but it happened. It's got plenty of elements I adore (time travel, magical abilities, historical New York City), and Lisa really wove it all together into a story that's compelling and twisty. I do want to mention that it's the type of story that you have to be really immersed in, and that it's hard to dive back in after you take a break from reading it. But it's so worth it. (Alexa's Review | Buy the Book)

Letters to the Lost by Brigid Kemmerer - This is the second of the You've Got Mail type stories on this list, though it has a more solemn vibe to it. Juliet writes letters to leave by her mother's grave, and Declan discovers the letters and starts writing back to her, which marks the start of an unlikely relationship. I really liked this one as well, as I was so moved when I read it. (Alexa's Review | Buy the Book)

The Names They Gave Us by Emery Lord - Oh, but Emery can write a story that will make me laugh and cry and feel everything in between. I fell head over heels in love with her latest release, particularly because it's the story of a girl dealing with what life has thrown at her, making sense of it all and also figuring out where she stands in her faith. (Alexa's Review | Buy the Book)

Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu - This novel is so, so important for the way that it encourages the reader to embrace feminism and standing up for what's right. Viv's journey isn't all sunshine and roses; she learns that it can be really difficult to stand firmly and confidently for what's right in the face of so much ingrained prejudice. But it's also a story that makes the reader hopeful for change coming if only we try. I personally really love how this story challenged and inspired me, and I'm so glad that Jennifer decided to tell it. (Alexa's Review | Buy the Book)

Rebel Seoul by Axie Oh - Not enough people are talking about how gosh darn amazing this one was, and we need to fix that! Set in an alternate Korea, this tells the story of a well-trained soldier who is conscripted into the army to help out with a program that turns out to be all about genetically enhanced folks. Trust me when I say that it's got action, it's got a bit of romance, it's got excellent characters, and all in all, it was such a satisfying read. (Alexa's Review | Buy the Book)

Renegades by Marissa Meyer - This is a novel about young adult superheroes, and it also happens to be a story that tackles the fine line between right and wrong, good and evil. I adored the cast of characters, found the plot extremely engaging and wanted to scream with frustration that I didn't have the next one in my hands when I turned the last page. (If that isn't the sign of a story I'm invested in, I don't know what is.) (Buy the Book)

Retribution Rails by Erin Bowman - Oh man, but I absolutely loved this follow-up to last year's Vengeance Road! In fact, I may have loved it just a little bit more... But how was I supposed to resist when it features two well-written main characters who just so happen to end up in a hate-to-love relationship, Western shenanigans (including train robberies and gunfights) and cameos from familiar faces? The answer is that I couldn't resist and I fell head over heels in love with this story. (Buy the Book)

Tower of Dawn by Sarah J. Maas - Surprise, surprise, another Sarah J. Maas novel has made it onto my list! I am so in love with this installment of the Throne of Glass series, y'all. First of all, it's about my favorite male character (Chaol Westfall, my one true TOG love). Second, Sarah really did justice to his story, particularly with the aspects centered around his healing (physically and emotionally). It was just so, so brilliant, and I adored every second of it. (Buy the Book)

Warcross by Marie Lu - Hi, my name is Alexa and I'm so obviously obsessed with this book since I can't seem to stop talking about it and telling other people to read it. It's about a teen girl bounty hunter/hacker who is hired by the CEO of the biggest immersive reality experience in the world to try and find out who is messing with things behind the scenes, and it is so damn good. I enjoyed being immersed in this story tremendously, and I'm dying to get the sequel in my hands! If you've not yet read this one, what are you waiting for? Seriously, go and grab a copy. Now. (Alexa's Review | Buy the Book)

Wayfarer by Alexandra Bracken - I loved the way Alex wrote the follow-up to last year's Passenger. It was one of those books where I just let the author take me on this journey with the characters, and I don't have any regrets about allowing that to happen. It was a whirlwind adventure with time travel and different locales and very stressful character experiences, and I really enjoyed it all (and now kind of want to reread it again). (Alexa's Duology Review | Buy the Book)

When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon - It's wonderful how this year has been all about more diverse stories being published, and this novel is one of them! I love that it's a hate-to-friendship-to-love tale that made me laugh and made me swoon. I adored main characters Dimple and Rishi too, which basically cemented this story as one that was going right onto my shelf despite the fact that I felt it was a touch too long. (Alexa's Review | Buy the Book)

The Wish Granter by C.J. Redwine - I'm seriously so impressed by CJ's ability to shape familiar fairytales into entirely new stories that I love just as much. I wasn't sure how this retelling of Rumplestiltskin would work out, but I loved it even more than its predecessor. There was just something magical about this one - the sibling relationship, the sassy and smart main character, the interesting villain, the adorable romance. I loved it all. (Alexa's Review | Buy the Book)

Special Mentions: I'm obsessed with The Cruel Prince by Holly Black, which is an intensely compelling tale about a girl determined to prove that she deserves a place in the land of the fae. (Seriously, go and preorder this one, stat.) I'm also pretty confident in letting y'all know that Meet Cute: Some People Are Destined to Meet is my favorite short story collection from a group of young adult authors, with each story focusing on, you guessed it, a meet cute. And to round up my 2018 books to recommend, I have Batman: Nightwalker by Marie Lu, the book that made me fall in love with Bruce Wayne (but only teen Bruce).

And there you have it, folks! These are the 50+ books that we read this year and wanted to highlight for you all. We both hope that you find something new to add to your list, or that you've already read and loved some of these stories as much as we did. Happy reading!


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