2017 Reading in Review: A Look Back

2017 Reading in Review: A Look Back

The end of the year is upon us once again. Can you believe it? As far as my reading goes, 2017 has been most excellent. I hit my goal and am still chugging along. I have already compiled my top books of the year and wanted to get this post out now — work and the holiday season will surely keep me busy!

Before we get to my top fifteen books overall, take a look at a few other categories I decided to throw in. Clicking on the book cover image will direct you to my Goodreads review.




 (no review available)





It is probably too soon to declare this my new favorite book of all-time, but I am sure Rebecca will earn that distinction soon enough. A titan of the Gothic genre, this mysterious, intricate, and luscious tale of deceit and jealousy features the sort of perfected character work and prose I live for. du Maurier is now in the center of my radar, and I will be reading her other books in 2018. Will she top my list again next year? It’s likely.

Now, here are fourteen other books I read and loved in 2017. And yes, they are ranked. They got me through the good and bad; a reader can’t go wrong with any of them. The only qualification was I had to have read them for the first time this year — no rereads allowed.


nineteenminutes33280160beartown-9781501160769_hr (1)







Widow’s Point  - Richard T. Chizmar

As of late, I’ve become fascinated with video recordings of the explorations of abandoned places—psych hospitals, schools, shopping malls. There is a treasure trove of this type of thing on YouTube. (Dan Bell is my favorite, check him out!) Perhaps I am a little late to that particular party, but I have arrived all the same. Like most folks, I think the mystique of locations long forgotten is a powerful one, though I am too easily scared to explore such places in real life.


Widow’s Point, the upcoming novella by Richard Chizmar and son Billy Chizmar, plays on this interest: what if an acclaimed author of thirteen books about the supernatural were to spend three nights locked in the aged, possibly haunted Widow’s Point Lighthouse? And what if he were to record in real time his findings (or lack thereof)?


Due to an early camera malfunction, a good chunk of this story is told in first-person by author Thomas Livingston — he is using his trust audio recorder. Things are fine, uneventful . . . until they’re not. In the pages leading up to dizzying, throat-clenching climax Livingston informs whoever happens to hear his recordings when all is said and done of the lighthouse’s history: the murders that have happened there, the suicides, the vanishings, the possessions. The Chizmars do an excellent job of conveying the history of this lighthouse with getting bogged down in excessive detail or needless exposition. The weight and importance of this place, these possibly cursed grounds, are quite apparent from the first.


A rich and satisfying tale, Widow’s Point is a haunted ‘house’ story that utilizes the conventions of the genre while turning them on their heads, making for a totally original, frightening, and unforgettable tale of macabre, intrigue. No doubt will I revisit this nasty little bugger in the future.


Thanks to Richard Chizmar for the ARC, which was provided in exchange for an honest review. This is it.

Original post:



Rebecca - Daphne du Maurier, Sally Beauman

Though this has been on my TBR for years, I was not expecting to read it any time soon. Honestly, Rebecca never called to me. I assumed it would be a stuffy, near-insufferable romance filled with stiff, unlikable creatures. Oh, I was wrong.


This classic 1938 is a titan of the gothic genre, and rightfully so. Daphne du Maurier is quite apparently a master of mood, setting, and pacing. Not once did I want to put this down — that iconic first line (“Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again…”) grabs the reader and never, ever lets go. How is it possible to make an unnamed narrator so empathetic? How is it she, Maxim de Winter’s second wife, walks in the shadow of Rebecca, his first wife, and yet stand on her own? It is no small writing skill, that.


Because art is so subjective, I am hesitant to call any book ‘perfect,’ but I believe Rebecca is as close as it gets . . . for me. I might just have a new all-time favorite novel. Really. Shame on me for not reading this sooner. Shame, shame, shame.


Stuffed with quotable lines (try the whole friggin story) and memorable characters and delightful twists, this is a classic novel that retains all its original power; in fact, it could be argued this mighty tale has only gained stature over time. My highest recommendation.

Original post:



Bag of Bones Hardcover - September 22, 1998 - Stephen King

I cheated in my Stephen King chronological reread series. Desperation was up next, but… I really dislike that book, okay? I wanted to get to a King novel I love before the year’s end, so here we are.


This was my third reread of Bag of Bones; this time it hit me deeper than ever before. Now that I’m familiar with Kong’s entire oeuvre, connections big and small (Thad Beaumont gets a shoutout, there’s a scene with Ralph Roberts and Norris Ridgewick, names like Polly Chalmers and Bannerman are mentioned) stood out, deepening my enjoyment of this novel.


This is King’s grief story. Yeah, his early ‘80s works deal in grief, too, but this 1998 tome is steeped in the blues. Four years after his wife’s death, author Mike Noonan moves from Derry to their summer home in TR-90. Dealing with writer’s block and haunted by ghosts both physical and metaphorical, it is a period of intense mourning. This has been a year of mourning, for me, so this particular narrative really hit me hard.


A gorgeous, spacious look at romance and small town life and mourning loss, this is a King classic. If it isn’t in my top five, it’s certainly in my top ten. This is when, I think, King went to a whole ‘nother level in his writing. The move to Scribner did him a world of good. Equal parts moving and terrifying, I cannot recommend this one enough.

Original post:



The Five - Robert R. McCammon

The Five has been on my radar for at least four years, and I’ve finally read it. After also working through Boy’s Life, They Thirst, and Gone South this year, one thing is for sure: Robert McCammon is now tied with Stephen King as my favorite author. Really!


This tome follows The Five — an independent rock band — on the road during the final weeks. They are unsuccessful and financially strained; two members are taking flight and the future is uncertain. A chance interview leads to the band being stalked. Horror (and success) soon unfolds.


I liked this book, though admittedly not as much as I thought I would. Mister McCammon has said he feels this is his best book, and I just respectfully disagree. The ‘villain’ feels a little too 2-D for my tastes, and the supernatural elements are a bit haphazard, shoehorned in. And I do feel the story has a little too much junk in the trunk; I found myself skimming some, especially on toward the end.


That said, I did the core cast of characters — especially Nomad and Ariel. They are some of McCammon’s finest creations. His character developmental skills are on full display in this hefty book. I could have spent more time with them, even.


McCammon can’t write a bad book. Though this one does have faults, I did enjoy the ride. Being the music lover I am, The Five hit a lot of the right notes. You can’t ask for much more than that.

Original post:

Robert McCammon Book Signing/THE LISTENER Preview!

Meant to post this earlier in the week but forgot. Author Robert McCammon did a reading and signing at Alabama Booksmith in Birmingham, AL. on Tuesday night. It was a fun, relaxing, and informative night. Mister McCammon is incredibly nice and took the time to sign everyone’s books — even books attendees brought from home. He is one of my biggest inspirations and favorite authors. It was an honor to get to listen to him, and speak with him one on one. One of the highlights was discovering the store had in stock a first edition of Speaks the Nightbird, and getting it signed by the author.







Original post:

THE DRY Review

The Dry - Jane Harper

As I read this, Jane Harper’s debut novel, I struggled with how I wanted to rate it. It would grab me and lose me, grab me and lose me . . . I found myself skimming for chapters at a time, and then totally intrigued for a while. Talk about an uneven reading experience!


This is filled with elements I typically like in novels: at its heart is a seemingly unsolvable murder case, which happened in a small town filled with secrets. Federal Agent Aaron Falk — raised in the town — has returned after some twenty years, as it was a childhood friend involved in the murder and he, Aaron, wants to check things out. The Dry is very much about memory and growing up and life in a small town. All stuff I usually love, but for some reason it just didn’t click for me here. Maybe it’s me, where I’m at right now. Maybe I’ll reread this in a year or two and find I like it.


This novel is easily readable and has just enough hooks to keep the reader involved. I didn’t much care for it, but it isn’t without merit. Just not my cup of tea (for now).

Original post: