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.
  • If It’s Not One Thing, It’s Your Mother by Julia Sweeney (A-) A funny, poignant, and touching memoir of Julia’s process of adoption and being a single mother.
  • 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.

JULY

  • Anything Is Possible by Elizabeth Strout (A-) Interwoven stories of life in a small, downstate, Illinois town. Strout weaves a rich narrative with each unique story and richly builds the characters in this engaging and quick read.
  • Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodhouse (B) I have a hard time reading

verse.

The author puts line breaks and pauses

at their discretion. Should I include them

or ignore?

The beautiful memoir of her childhood; recollections of what a child should

or should not do. Be.

Written in verse. Not prose, inverse.

  • Falling In Love by Donna Leon (B+) #24 in the Brunetti mysteries. This time a local opera singer (Flavia from book #1-Death at La Fenice) is being stalked by an obsessed fan.
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by JK Rowling (A-) The trio is on the run trying to solve the puzzle of how to destroy you-know-who. A large chunk of the book is an isolating relationship drama but the resolution makes up for it.
  • Lost City of the Monkey God by Douglas Preston (B) Deadly snakes, insects, curses, drug cartels, and modern technology all conspire against this true account of the author’s harrowing trek through the Honduran jungle to find an ancient “lost” city. What they find changes history and what they inadvertently bring back changes their lives.
  • Pop-ups, Paneling, & Pontiacs: Adventures in 1980’s Suburbia (vol.2) by Jen LiMarzi (B+) If you took a road trip pre-internet you will most certainly relate to the vacation antics that Jen had to endure. It really brought back memories of my family’s 14-hour drives from Pittsburgh to South Carolina each summer. Another fun read!
  • Stuart Little by E.B. White (B) The Little mouse who could.
  • Theft by Finding: Diaries 1977-2002 by David Sedaris (A) I could not stop reading this book. His diary entries from a burn-out teen in Raleigh to an international best-selling author are acerbic, though-provoking, and often hilarious. I would love to get an audio book of it.
  • Where Things Come Back by John Corley Whaley (B+) A boring small town in Arkansas is riveted by two scandals the summer of Cullen Witter’s senior year: the return of a long thought extinct woodpecker and the disappearance of a beloved teenager. Whaley really captures the complex minds of young adults.

AUGUST

  • A Hologram for the King by Dave Eggers (B) Alan is having a mid-life crisis that is exacerbated by the fact that he is trying to present a tech innovation to the constantly delayed king. A quick, enjoyable read.
  • Animal Farm by George Orwell (B) Read it now in the Trump-era and it’s as relevant as it was 70+ years ago.
  • Exit West by Mohsin Hamid (C) A young couple finds love during a war in their Middle Eastern city. “Magical doors” lead to escape in sanctuary cities but sometimes where you go is worse than where you came from. Interesting premise but long, drawn out sentences made for a very dull book at times.
  • FirstLife (Everlife #1) by Gena Showalter (D) Dystopian, fantasy, annoying, teenage romance.  I made it to page 200 of 410 and decided that I hated the world she was creating, didn’t care about any of the characters, and couldn’t figure out what the heck was happening.
  • No Place to Die (Murder in the Keys) by Jaden Skye (C-) So dumb. It was a Bookbubs.com freebie, thankfully. A woman’s fiance’ dies on vacation and only she can solve the murder…because the cops are idiots basically. Quick read but wow was this poorly written.
  • The Inquisitor’s Tale: Or, the Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog by Adam Gidwitz (C+) Some of the stories were centered around scatological humor, which I did not like, and others were extremely violent and graphic. It started out okay (multiple people recounting portions of a tale of these “saintly” kids) but then it started to shove religion in every page to excess. I got bored around page 200 (of 350) but plowed on.
  • Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick (B) Very humorous and intimate autobiography of the Tony and Oscar nominated actress. She is frank about her insecurities and sex life (or lack thereof) and it really grounds her. She seems like someone I wish I was friends with.
  • The Storied Life of AJ Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin (A) Fikry is a grumpy, snobbish, widower who lives above his bookstore on a small New England island. His entire life changes after someone steals something from him and another leaves something else behind. A very good read. Well written and engaging.
  • The Tales of Beedle the Bard by JK Rowling (B-) Collection of kids faerie tales based on a story plot-point in the Harry Potter universe.

September

  • Hogwarts: An Incomplete and Unreliable Guide by JK Rowling (B) Small companion guide to the Harry Potter series. More backstory and Sir Nicholas, “Hat stalling”, the Hogwarts Express and more. A must read for Pottephiles.
  • Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll (A-) Ani is one of the most complex, yet truthful characters I have ever read. The writing style can take a bit to get into but once the secrets come to light I was hooked. A very upsetting and polarizing book that will stick with you for weeks.
  • My Name Is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout (B-) Companion book to Anything is Possible. This one fell a little flat for me. Strout’s usual style of interweaving lives is set aside for Barton’s narrative about her hospital stay and her visiting mother.
  • The Cat Who Smelled A Rat by Lillian Jackson Braun (C+) I jumped into this “cozy mystery” series at book 23 (not that it matters.) The gist of every book is that these cats “guide” the hero towards solving a mystery; in this case arson and murder. It was fine, nothing remarkable or memorable.
  • The Gunslinger (Dark Tower Series #1) by Stephen King (B) The first in the 7 book series. Dreamlike and philosophical. It’s a little hard to follow at times but I just went with it.