My Ten Favorite Books in 2017: The Last Five

I keep my promises. Here’s the second five books in an eclectic list that helped me survive 2017, books that kept me up at night, perhaps made me cry or my heart beat faster, made me want to put on boots and explore, turn the pages as fast as possible or thrilled me with the sheer beauty of the words the author choose to use. All of them memorable, and again, in no particular order:

6. News of the World by Paulette Jiles. I’ve been a fan of Paulette Jiles for years. She writes about the West of the past like few can. But this one’s special. Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd travels from place to place in late 1860s Texas, delivering the news to farflung communities. He gets paid $50 to deliver an orphan girl rescued from the Kiowas back to her relatives. She has little interest in rejoining “civilization” and Captain Kidd, better than anyone, knows just how uncivilized the world is. This is a masterpiece in every way, from characters to description to plot and action. 

7.  Lost City of the Monkey God by Doug Preston. Who can resist a title like this? Not me, and Preston delivers big time. A lost city hidden in the Honduran jungle is the focus of this expedition, and not the first one. Between fer-de-lance invaded campsites, better than movie-quality explorers, impenetrable jungle, mysterious temples and lethal parasites, armchair explorers will delight in this true tale. Preston himself contracted leishmaniasis, the deadly parasite, as did others. Full disclosure: I’m a huge Preston fan, both of his non-fiction like Cities of Gold and Monster of Florence and of course the superb Pendergast novels with Lincoln Child. I can’t recommend anything he writes more highly than “go read this, NOW,” which pretty much applies to everything he writes.

8. The Cruelty by Scott Bergstrom. This one’s the cuckoo in the nest, I guess. It’s a thriller, which I love, however the protagonist is 17-year-old Gwendolyn Bloom, a nerdy high school student whose father has disappeared. From New York to Prague and points between, the action never stops in her search for him and our Gwen is a fast learner, turning into a vengeance machine. Of course it’s over the top but that’s part of the fun. There’s a movie in the works and a sequel. Technically billed as a YA novel, it’s the most adult YA book I’ve ever run across.

9. The Little French Bistro by Nina George. Nina George writes modern fairy tales for adults. Her first book, The Little French Bookshop, was one, and so is The Little French Bistro. Bistro tells the story of Marianne, a woman who walks away penniless from a loveless marriage while on vacation in France with her husband, and ends up in a coastal village. She gets a job in a restaurant as a cook, and makes a new life and friends among the eccentric but welcoming villagers. There’s much more, but to say more would ruin the story. It’s an enchanting one that’s well worth immersing yourself in for a day or two.

10. Cinnamon and Gunpowder by Eli Brown. I ran across this one on NPR’s best books and it sounded intriguing. It’s that and much more. It’s 1819, and chef to the nobility Owen Wedgewood is kidnapped by the dread pirate Mad Hannah Mabbott. He will be kept alive only if he can conjure up a fabulous dinner for her every Sunday, while on the high seas.  Mad Hannah is not quite what she seems and she has an agenda that Owen learns as they sail on. It’s a mad tale of adventure, love and haute cuisine as they scour the seas for revenge. Beautifully written and one of a kind. Can I have more, please, Mr. Brown?

There you have it. I’ll bring others to you as the year progresses. To escape into a good book is not just a pleasure but a necessity in the world we live in. Luckily, there’s lots of them. I’ll ferret out my favorites for you and hopefully you’ll love them as much as I did.