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  • Bonnie Randall


Top 7 Reads of 2017

Every year I embark on the Goodreads Challenge with a (modest) goal of 52 books and a commitment to keep it eclectic; as a writer, I don’t think we attain skills unless we a) read a LOT and b) read with our toes in the water of many genres. This year I met my goal (hurrah!), though I must admit I was saved by a couple really short books of poetry and one short story (hey—it’s not cheating if I admit it, right?)

To that end and for anyone out there who loves reading and stories as much as I do, I offer you my Top 7 of 2017 with the understanding that most of the authors whose stories I read carried me away this year, but these books stuck out. Let’s get started, but first, a disclaimer:

**I read some outstanding fiction and non-fiction by friends who are within the writing industry. I have purposely - with the exception of ONE writer - left any of these friends off this list in the spirit of objectivity and not wanting to look like I have played favorites.

The exception is not so much for the author as for the character she created, one who I (*sigh*) fell quite a lot in love with. Forgive me.

Okay. NOW let's get started!

No Way To Run by Holly Crichton

Holly married Sandy after he swept her off her feet; she was a miniscule, female race horse jockey. He was a big burly guy who protected her.

Until he didn’t.

Sandy harbored a deadly temper and sickening secrets. After a lifetime of abuse—which included Sandy continuing to terrorize her even after a riding accident left her a paraplegic—their son, Mattie, shoots him dead in attempt to defend himself.

This memoir was written well before the #metoo campaign and will horrify—genuinely—any woman (and hopefully man) who reads it. Raw, honest, and unflinchingly brave. If only we were all as resilient as Holly.

My full review here:

Clean by Alex Hughes

He’s a psychic in a world where psychics are common—but not trusted. He’s also an addict who can’t be trusted. In a precarious arrangement where he works for the Atlanta PD, and in a dystopic world where technology has become villainous, he’s walking a thin line between survival, sanity, and a life wholly worth living.

No lie—I fell more than a little in love with the hero here, and now I’m hooked on the series.

Full review:

Pastrix: The Cranky, Beautiful Faith Of A Sinner & A Saint by Nadia Bolz-Weber

She’s got a gutter mouth and a history that would make a gang leader blush. She’s also got faith and an ability to teach & preach the Gospel that would have me glued in Church every Sunday morning if she were my pastor. This memoir touched my soul—literally. I would love to have a conversation, during which I’d likely pour my heart out, to Nadia.

My review:

# 4

She Walks These Hills by Sharyn McCrumb

You know that saying ‘I am homesick for a place I’ve never been’? That’s how I feel when I read any of McCrumb’s renditions of Appalachia. The characters are like old friends and the geography she draws is as beautiful and vibrant as the loving eye with which she views it. I loved this book and did not want to leave ‘Hamelin’ after I closed the cover following the last chapter.

The Black Witch by Laurie Forest

This novel caused waves before it ever even hit book stores; one keyboard warrior in particular decided to form an army of readers (who ironically proceeded to not read it) who then black-balled this novel (and the author) in the most vicious way possible. “It’s racist!” they cried. “It’s misogynistic!” “It is ableist!” (Note for the record that I didn’t have a hot clue what ‘ableist’ meant prior to reading the uproar of rantings and ravings that posed as reviews for this novel on Goodreads, and it was out of sheer curiosity that I then read the back-jacket blurb for the book).

And I am so glad I did.

Imagery-rich prose and a fascinating world where the heroine is indeed deeply flawed—which is the whole point of her arc. I thought this story was wonderful, and I am eagerly awaiting the second book in the series this year.

Full review:

The Girl Who Chased The Moon by Sarah Addison Allen

I am cheating a bit here, as I just got this title for Christmas and am only a third of the way in. Even so, I know that this delightful, delicious novel is going to chime in as #2 on my list. No one crafts magical realism—my all-time favorite genre, and one I covet being able to write well myself—like Sarah Addison Allen. Her characters are always every day people who are chock-full of quirk. They hang around long after you’re done, and you’re always so grateful that Addison-Allen gave them their happy-ever-after.

No review for this one has been completed yet. Just….trust me. It’s wonderful.

And then there’s….

A Head Full Of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay

This is not just the best book I read in 2017, it may well be the best book I have read in my lifetime. Anyone who follows my social media has already heard me shout about this title from the rooftops; the first piece of literature since my years as an undergrad completing a BFA that I wanted, desperately, to analyze line-by-line. It is theatric and frightful and completely brilliant. Just revisiting this book in my thoughts takes my breath away. It is THAT good.

Full (and very long-winded) review here:

And that’s a wrap for 2017! I have well over 200 books stacked up on my to-be-read pile for 2018 (during which I will keep my modest goal of having 52 books read—hey: I have to write (and work a day-job!) sometimes!) and before I know it, I’ll likely be carving out a whole new list to share as the calendar will once again feel like it’s in a foot-race toward December. Hopefully this list, though, serves to light up your own book shelf with a title or two we can share as one that made us fall in love.

Happy New Year!


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