2017 in (book) review

I fell in love with reading when I was a kid. I devoured books from the school library and used all my allowance money each month to purchase the next Baby-Sitters Club book in the series until I had almost the whole collection. Later, as a teen, I discovered the book section at our local Goodwill, a store I still frequent today. Back in the mid-90s, paperbacks there were 50 cents each (now they’re $1). Through my purchases at the Goodwill, I discovered Stephen King and V.C. Andrews novels (the ones she actually wrote before the “trust” pirated and diluted her memory—another story for another day) that I was probably too young to read at the time.

At the beginning of 2017, I set a goal on Goodreads to read 52 books or one per week. I wasn’t sure I would make it, because from 2008 (when my son, Drew, was born) up until the end of 2016, I averaged two to three books per year that didn’t have illustrations or animal characters in them.

Well, I not only met but exceeded my goal. I read 59 books in 2017. Most of them, I enjoyed (three to four stars), and a few changed my life (five stars). I discovered some great indie authors and some traditionally published work that moved me in some way. I’m actually reading another indie author book right now (by someone I used to know) thanks to my Kindle Direct 30-day free trial. I’m not sure it’s a good idea to reveal what book it is, but I’ll think about it.

Top two (out of six) independent authors I read in 2017:

  1. Brad Carl, The Grey Areas Saga: Books 1-4. A set of novellas following the adventure of a mysterious man who moves to a small town and gets enthralled in illegal activity.
  2. Rebecca Yelland, Dancing at Midnight and The Other Side of Midnight. A set of beautiful novels about a woman’s journey learning about the past pain of her mother through a diary she discovers.

Top ten traditionally published work I read in 2017:

  1. Ordinary Grace, William Kent Krueger, 2013. An older man recounts a summer when he was a teen in the 60s during which he grew up and learned lessons about death. “Ordinary” is in the title, but extraordinary is a better description.
  2. Wish You Were Here, Renée Carlino, 2017. This was a story of love at first sight and longing to be with a soulmate. It also proves that a person can have more than one in a lifetime. This novel was the first I read from Carlino, having stumbled upon it in a list of new releases. It made me laugh and cry, and I was disappointed when it ended because I wanted to know more. Now, I’ve read all but one of her other novels.
  3. I’m Thinking of Ending Things, Iain Reid, 2016. This book was a mind-trip from the very beginning. Never learning the narrator’s name, I followed the story of a young woman thinking of breaking up with her boyfriend. Without revealing too much, the ending was not what I expected.
  4. The Book Thief, Markus Zukak, 2005. This was not an easy read, and I was surprised by the depth of this young adult novel. The narrator is Death (as a character) who follows a young girl through World War II as she steals books. It is absolutely worth the time to read it.
  5. Thirteen Reasons Why, Jay Asher, 2007. I devoured this book before watching the Netflix series. As almost always, the book was much better than the amazing series. I think it should be required reading for high school students to make them think about their actions. It follows a teenage boy as he listens to cassette tapes that reveal the reasons why a teenage girl committed suicide.
  6. Where She Went, Gayle Forman, 2011. This is the sequel to If I Stay, about a young woman, Mia, who loses her family in a car accident and faces a life or death decision. Told from the perspective of Mia’s boyfriend, Adam, this novel follows Mia’s journey after surviving the car accident. An emotional read, I would suggest devoting a weekend to reading them both, watching If I Stay, the movie, in the middle.
  7. The Lovely Bones, Alice Sebold, 2002. The movie was great, but again, the book was better. Told from the perspective of a girl who was murdered in the 70s, she watches the devastating effects of her death on her family and tries to lead them to her killer.
  8. Last Seen Leaving, Kelly Braffet, 2006. Told from two perspectives, a mother and her daughter, who has gone missing (on purpose). A captivating thriller that caused me to stay up way too late to finish it one night.
  9. Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn, 2012. The movie can’t hold a candle to the book. What a warped story of two characters who have no redeeming qualities. It goes to show how messed up relationships can be when both people are completely nuts. A fascinating read, but not an easy one.
  10. On the Road: The Original Scroll, Jack Kerouac, 1955. This was the biggest mind-f%&* I read all year. Kerouac wrote this story during a drug-binge on a continuous scroll of typing paper he had taped together. It lacks paragraphs, much punctuation, and a clear storyline, but it is an interesting trip through the mind of an alcoholic drug abuser. There are other versions that have been edited and punctuated, but I wanted to get the story straight from the original source. It was not an easy read but a worthwhile one.

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What’s the best book you read in 2017? I challenge myself to read 60 books in 2018. My next novel, Jordan’s Sister, will be published in the spring of 2018, so maybe someone will have it on their top ten list this time next year. More details are coming soon.

Happy New Year, everyone!

-Brandi Easterling Collins

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