Books I read in 2017

JANUARY

  • Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling (A) The book that started the phenomenon. It holds up really well and was great fun to re-read it.
  • Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race by: Margaret Lee Shetterly (B-) An interesting and important part of history but presented more like a text book. If you are looking for something closer to the movie you might want to get the young readers edition.
  • Kathy Griffin’s Celebrity Run-Ins: My A-Z Index by Kathy Griffin (C) I usually like Kathy Griffin’s stories especially since she has met nearly every celebrity, musician, Heads of State, and even British Royalty. However, the very short stories in this book are very dull and sanitized. Each one basically amounts to “I met [so-and-so] at a party; they were nice.”
  • Little Town on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder (A) Book #7 in the fascinating and delightful series.  Highlights include: Laura gets electrocuted, Mary goes to college for the blind, crows attack the crops, Almonzo courts Laura, and Pa does blackface. (All true.)
  • One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia (A-) In 1968, three sisters travel from Brooklyn to Oakland to visit the mother who walked out on them. They discover some interesting things about themselves through the organization their mother forces them into.
  • Tales of the City by Armistead Maupin (B) Book #1 of Maupin’s saucy, soapy, silly, sexy, series. A gay classic that holds up pretty well even if it takes a while for it to come together.
  • The Golden Egg by Donna Leon (B+) Book #22 in the Brunetti series. If you haven’t read any of these Venetian detective books I highly recommend them. Leon lovingly weaves in descriptions of Italian cuisine, architecture, and art into these mysteries. This one centers around the accidental death of a deaf-mute man and the circumstances surrounding it are too salacious for Brunetti not to give into his own curiosity. The books do not need to be read in order. Hillary Clinton is also a big fan of this series.
  • The Obsidian Chamber by: Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child. (C+) Book #16 in the Pendergast series was my least favorite. The entire book felt like a preamble to whatever is next for these characters. The ridiculous ending exists only to allow for the series to continue (which I will read.)
  • The Odds of Loving Grover Cleveland by: Rebekah Crane (B-) After a family incident, Zander is sent to a camp for “troubled teens.” There she meets a group of other cast outs and learns a lot about life and self-preservation. This YA novel does a decent job of developing complex characters and capturing what it’s like to be a “disturbed teen” (i.e. every teen.) Good for ages 15+.

February

March

  • Deadly Messengers (A psychological thriller) by: Susan May (C+) You know it’s a psychological thriller because the subtitle says so! Starting with an extremely graphic description of a serial killer’s rampage this book then veers into a paint-by-numbers plot of a freelance journalist who just has to figure things out even though she really doesn’t want to and oh yeah, she’s hot for the lead detective. Readable but not great.
  • Diva Rules: Ditch the Drama, Find Your Strength, and Sparkle Your Way to the Top by Michelle Visage (B-) I didn’t really care about the self-help aspect of the book (although it was mostly all good advice) but I really liked her life story. Always being part of the LGBT community, helped put Vogue-ing on the map, her relationship with RuPaul; was all very interesting.
  • Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by: JK Rowling (A) Book 3 is broadening the scope of this universe. The chess pieces are moving into place and setting up future events. Also, time travel is stupid.
  • More Tales of the City by: Armistead Maupin (B+) More adventures of the 28 Barbary Lane family involving a deadly illness, a hit-man, old lady sex romps, revealed secrets, and another death.

April

  • By Its Cover by: Donna Leon (A-) One of my favorite author’s returns with a unique mystery. Commissario Brunetti is tasked with solving the theft of some rare books from a local library. Like its Venice setting, the story takes some interesting turns. I love Leon’s descriptions of the Italian architecture and cuisine. This is book #23 in the series but reading them in order is not necessary. Great read!
  • Drug of Choice by John Lange (AKA Michael Crichton) (B-) After two unrelated people turn up in the hospital comatose and with a bizarre side-affliction, Dr. Clark finds himself on a psychological thrill-ride into the world of designer pharmaceuticals. Engaging and captivating, this one kept me guessing at each turn.
  • Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by: JK Rowling (A-) Shit’s gettin’ real, people! Book 4 starts with multiple murders and ends with some serious repercussions. Dark times are ahead, indeed.
  • In The Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin by Erik Larson (C) My e-book from the library expired before I could finish and I didn’t bother to renew. It was pretty dull. There was no storyline to propel the reader forward. It was just event after event after event.
  • Last Night I Sang to the Monster by Benjamin Alire Saenz (B) Eighteen-year-old Zach wakes up in a rehab facility. Through his healing process we learn the traumatic circumstances that brought him there.
  • My Trip Down The Pink Carpet by Leslie Jordan (B-) Famous comedic actor tells tales about growing up a southern sissy and making it in Hollywood. He had some serious rough patches and is lucky to be alive. Entertaining and a quick read.
  • The Egg by Andy Weir (A-) A very short story by the writer of The Martian (which is one of my favorite books ever) about life after death.
  • The Enigma Strain by Nick Thacker (B-) A park ranger and a CDC researcher must team up to stop a deadly virus from proliferating across the U.S. The story moved quickly but it was not an original plot. The characters were a bit amateurish as well. And for some reason two characters are both named Ben, which was confusing. Not terrible for a free Bookbub.com recommendation.

MAY

  • Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith (A) The third and best in the Cormoran Strike series. This time someone close to Strike is murdering women and sending him clues. Plus his relationship with Robin takes some very interesting turns.
  • Extraction by Preston & Child (B+) Short story in the Pendergast series tells the tale of a New Orleans urban legend involving an evil “tooth fairy”.
  • Further Tales of the City by Armistead Maupin (B-) This one gets a little ridiculous: murder, multiple kidnappings, cult leaders (again). While those are exciting the better moments are in the smaller stories.
  • Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling (B+) Harry is a real moody teen for most of this book but with good reason. The longest of the series and the most dense. This book is mostly relationship building which will pay off later in the series.

JUNE

  • A Handful of Dust by Evelyn Waugh (C+) Acerbic, cynical, and witty this satire on 1910s British middle-class and a dissolving marriage can be rather entertaining but the third act fell flat for me.
  • Dragon Teeth by Michael Crichton (B)  A fictionalized account of the real-life fabled “dinosaur wars” of 1876. It’s paleontologists in the wild, wild, west. Entertaining.
  • Doll Parts by Amanda Lepore (B) This fascinating autobiography details Lepore’s struggle transitioning from a young boy in New Jersey to a walking work of art in the high fashion scene.
  • Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell (C)  College freshman Cath would rather write on-line fanfic than deal with her own life but a pushy roommate, a bipolar father, and a cute boy change that. Cath’s coming-of-age story was mostly interesting but the fanfic that is peppered throughout is really annoying and pointless. I found myself skipping whole sections of that crammed in story-within-a-story.
  • Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling (A-) Finally Dumbledore stops treating Harry like a kid. Book six moves very quickly and really preps for the finale. It’s one of the best in the series.
  • Perms, Pleats, and Puberty: Adventures in 1980s Suburbia by: Jen LiMarzi (A-) Three short stories about being a kid in the 80s. While set in New York the themes and incidents are entirely relatable to anyone over 30 from any city. I found myself reliving memories of shopping, haircuts, and general awkwardness. I loved what these stories conjured up for me.
  • Steal Like An Artist by Austin Kleon (C+) Meant to inspire you to be more creative. There are some okay points in here but nothing new. “Inspirational” books are just regurgitated superficial truisms. One quote I found interesting: “Everything that needs to be said has already been said. But, since no one was listening, everything must be said again.” but Kleon didn’t say it first, Andre Gide did.
  • The Fact of a Body: A Murder and a Memoir by Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich (B-) Riveting true story of how a lawyer (AM-L) is assigned to research the case of murderer Ricky Langley, the facts of which uncover buried memories of her own family’s secrets that she must reconcile before she can move on.
  • The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton (A+) What an amazing book! I had never read this or seen the movie so I didn’t know what to expect and I loved every word. Hinton was 16(!) when she wrote this and although the times have changed the themes are still relevant today.