I love reading – everything about it! Stories, worlds, characters, bookstores, new book smell, finding written notes on old pages, rereading something and it hitting me the same way it did the very first time — I’ve learned so much from books and have been an avid reader my entire life. My favorite genres have been pretty consistent throughout most of it, but recently I’ve tried branching out a bit by reading a bit more nonfiction and stuff that wouldn’t necessarily be ‘my standard’. 😛
I originally set a goal of 30 books this year but surprised myself by surpassing that goal and hitting my new one of 52 books! There have been so many great ones (and even more on my to-read list that I’m trying to wait until 2018 to officially start), but I managed to narrow it down to a list of 10 of what I’d consider my Favorites of 2017
Keep in mind that, despite my attempts to broaden my horizons, with these recommendations comes my clear adoration for all things horror/thriller/suspense, so if that isn’t your thing, you’ll likely not find anything you want to read here (but check anyway – maybe you’ll surprise yourself & I did read a few that I surprised myself by loving so much!)
✨ Fantasticland by Mike Bockoven (Fiction – Horror, Suspense, Gore)
Summary: A theme park on the coast of Florida is hit pretty hard by a hurricane, and despite the plans initially in place to prevent a disaster, one occurs anyway. The staff stuck in the park during the storm quickly devolve into factions at war with one another, teenagers and adults alike willing to do anything to stay alive — including murdering their coworkers in really awful ways. It questions the thin line of civility, and how easily groups of people scared for their lives can cross it. The story is told from an interviewing perspective (a la World War Z), and I thought it feels like a cross between Battle Royale and Lord of the Flies – which I loved. If you’re not a fan of gore, you may want to skip this one entirely!
✨ A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay (Fiction – Horror, Thriller, Possession)
Summary: A normal New England family is terrorized when their 14 year old daughter, Marjorie, starts displaying signs of what is at first believed to be schizophrenia. Upon speaking to a priest, they decide to treat it as a possession and order an exorcism. Somewhere in all this, a reality television production company gets involved and the family becomes the center of a reality television show aptly titled ‘The Possession’. The story is told in two parts – one from the past focusing on Marjorie’s episodes and the TV show, and then also from 15 years later, focusing on Marjorie’s younger sister being interviewed about the family’s history. The book includes a sort of twist ending which I liked and I read this straight through my last vacation – I couldn’t put it down!
✨ Night Shift by Stephen King (Fiction – Short Stories, Horror, Sci-Fi)
Summary: I’m not normally a huge fan of short story compilations, but I make an exception for a few authors every time – King included. Night Shift contains some of his most popular short stories, about 20 in all – and more recent editions include never before published stories, like ‘Jerusalem’s Lot’ and ‘Quitters, Inc’. The stories vary from touching to terrifying, although I will say that a few of these stories were very weird / ‘out there’ but I found them pretty entertaining anyway. My favorites in this are: Night Surf, The Mangler, Trucks, Sometimes They Come Back, The Last Rung on the Ladder and I Know What You Need — which is eerily similar to another book on this list a bit later on!
✨ The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne (Fiction – Historical, LGBT+, Cultural)
Summary: It’s hard for me to describe this book as a whole because it’s made of so many different components, each seeming as vital as the next. As a general summary, the book follows the life of a man named Cyril Avery from his time in his mama’s belly in old school, homophobic, sexist Ireland through love, heartache, deaths, redemption, hope, and a million other situations and emotions to various locations throughout Europe, America, and back again. You watch the character grow, see him change and become something different from the person you maybe didn’t care for too much early on. And throughout the book are conversations and lines of dialogue that are hilariously witty in a dry humor sort of way, which actually caused me to laugh out loud a couple of times! The book is a pretty long one, but it has well deserved high ratings and has been hailed as one of the best books of 2017 for a reason — definitely check it out if you can!
✨ The Sun and Her Flowers by Rupi Kaur (Poetry – Feminism, Abuse, Cultural)
Summary: This is the second book following Rupi’s previous “Milk and Honey”. While I didn’t like TS&HF quite as much as I enjoyed M&H, I did find a lot of her poems that resonated with me and it’s really eye-opening to read some of the poems that are about the differences in how the author was raised and how her culture impacts her as someone who isn’t a part of it. Themes of love, loss, pain, healing and growth are spread throughout every poem, some more personal than others but the majority able to be related to by a wide variety of different people. The style is very simplistic, and sometimes this is viewed by people negatively, so I’d definitely recommend checking her out online first before purchasing just in case it ends up not being your thing – but I’m a definite fan and will gladly be pre-ordering her next release just as quickly as I did this one!
✨ Things Are What You Make of Them: Life Advice for Creatives by Adam J. Kurtz (Nonfiction – Creativity, Spirituality, Life)
Summary: This is a super quick read, moreso filled with aesthetically appealing quotes and snippets of advice than a ‘book’. Some people may view some of the things in the book as very ‘duh, I know that’, but sometimes for people in a creative rut, it can be hard and so reading things as facts from someone else can be all it takes to push yourself through the mud and out to the other, more colorful & creative side! (That all said, the advice in this can be taken in varying degrees by those even those who may not label themselves as “creatives”, so don’t knock it based on that alone if that’s the only reason you may not be interested!)
✨ Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick (Nonfiction – Autobiography, Humor, Celebrity)
Summary: I really adore Anna Kendrick in basically everything she does, and this is the first book I’ve ever listened to the audio version of simply because I thought her voice and delivery would heighten the experience (it totally did but I’m not gonna lie, I followed alone on an ebook for a lot of it because I am extra af), so if you can read this with the audio option, go for that! If the book is your only choice, it’s absolutely worth the read and contains some really wonderful gems of quotes that I especially loved, like: “I love rules and I love following them. Unless that rule is stupid.” And, “Having to fight for the thing you want doesn’t mean to deserve it any less”, which has been something I’ve had to repeat to myself quite a few times this year and has really helped put things into perspective for me. I’m pleased that Anna’s just as relatable via memoir as she seems in acting and in interviews, and I really wish we could be best friends.
✨ You by Caroline Kepnes (Fiction – Thriller, Serial Killer, Antagonist Narrator)
Summary: This was such an unexpected A+ 100% for me! I went into it not knowing much about what to expect, and was immediately swept up by how simultaneously charmed and revolted I was by the main character. The plot follows the MC, a stalking serial killer who is insanely smart and has a great love of books, as he spots a stranger he deems the “girl of his dreams” and uses her social media and personal email account to manipulate his way into her life. The story doesn’t end well (and the most fucked up part is that, despite how revolting the MC is, for a second I almost wished it would, which is the sign of an excellent antagonistic narrator imo!), and there’s been a recent sequel released called ‘Hidden Bodies’ that will be one of my first books of 2018!
✨ Final Girls by Riley Sager (Fiction – Horror, Slasher, Thriller)
Summary: While the rest of my books got a 5 star rating from me this year, this and the next one on the list managed a 4. I loved the proposed plot of this story – there are certain girls who survive horror movie-scale massacres, and they become dubbed by the media as the “Final Girls”. They form a tenuous bond, but eventually drift apart – until, of course, they start dying in mysterious ways. While I was pulled in immediately into this story, I will say that it was more entertaining than thrilling and a lot of it was very predictable as someone who reads a lot of books in similar genres. That said, it was still really fun to read and I may even give it a reread eventually because I did enjoy it.
✨ The Child Finder by Rene Denfeld (Fiction – Thriller/Mystery, Kidnapping, Abuse)
Summary: Another one that fell slightly below my 5 star mark, but it was still a really good one. ‘The Child Finder’ is Naomi, a PI with a specialized talent for finding lost or kidnapped children. At the start of the story, she’s being called to a town by the parents of a little girl who disappeared 3 years prior, and who refuse to give up hope despite the fact that the police will no longer continue their search due to the length of time since they’d had any success. Spaced throughout the chapters about Naomi and her search are also chapters from the perspective of Madison, the little girl who has aged from 5 to 8 years old in the company of only her kidnapper and has forgotten almost everything she once knew, instead clinging to one of her favorite old fairy tales and deeming herself the Snow Girl. As a whole, I enjoyed this book a lot and felt the tension during certain parts as I’m assuming the author intended. My only gripe came with the weird tossing in of multiple love interests for seemingly no reason, since the MC is pretty tirelessly focused in her goal of not only uncovering Madison’s disappearance mystery, but of one that has started resurfacing from the back of Naomi’s own mind, buried long ago when she was a ‘lost girl’ herself. There was no need for a romantic subplot, and the story likely would’ve earned a 5 from me without it. (But hey – if romance is your thing, do you booboo!! Give it a shot, it’s a pretty quick read!)
So there you have it! If you’ve read any of these, I’d love to hear your thoughts on them — feel free to let me know so we can talk about it! 😀 I hope to read a lot more good stuff next year; my goal is 75 but I’m mentally aiming for 100 — wish me luck!