My Favorite Books of 2017

Copy of Eva - Blog Feature Image v1I have been an avid reader since day one. Well, maybe like day 3095. I frequented the children’s library in Arlington, Texas so often that when they redesigned the wing when I was 9, I got to cut the blue ribbon and give a speech about what books meant to me when it was reopened! Age 9 was also the year I discovered audiobooks. My librarian mentioned them to me and my actual thought was, “wait, I could be reading MORE while sleeping?!” I was hooked instantly. I’m 31 years old and still listen to an audiobook each night to fall asleep. I actually can’t listen in the car or on a road trip because my brain is trained to turn off when I hit play.

Over the past few years I’ve been reading less and less. This year, with the help of the Overdrive app and my new Kindle Paperwhite, I was really able to dive back into my love of reading. I set a goal for myself to read/listen to 50 books this year. AND I BEAT THAT GOAL! I read 36 books, listened to 22, and re-listened to 8 for a total of 66 books!

Now, I didn’t read a mixture of books, I am a creature of habit and I absolutely have a type. I rarely read nonfiction, I don’t read sci-fi or history, and I almost never pick up a business book. But, if you love chick lit, strong women, laughing and gasping aloud, and suspense, you’re gonna love my list!

My 10 Favorite Books/Audiobooks of 2017 In No Particular Order

behind closed doors
Behind Closed Doors/B. A. Paris

“Everyone knows a couple like Jack and Grace. He has looks and wealth; she has charm and elegance. He’s a dedicated attorney who has never lost a case; she is a flawless homemaker, a masterful gardener, and cook, and dotes on her disabled younger sister. Though they are still newlyweds, they seem to have it all. You might not want to like them, but you do. You’re hopelessly charmed by the ease and comfort of their home, by the graciousness of the dinner parties they throw. You’d like to get to know Grace better.

But it’s difficult because you realize Jack and Grace are inseparable.

Some might call this true love. Others might wonder why Grace never answers the phone. Or why she can never meet for coffee, even though she doesn’t work. How she can cook such elaborate meals but remain so slim. Or why she never seems to take anything with her when she leaves the house, not even a pen. Or why there are such high-security metal shutters on all the downstairs windows.

Some might wonder what’s really going on once the dinner party is over, and the front door has closed.”

I COULDN’T PUT THIS BOOK DOWN. I read this on a flight from NYC back to Dallas and literally was hoping to get delayed to finish this faster. This book is so unbelievably messed up that I literally felt bad recommending it, but if you love psychological thrillers, pick this one up. I also read The Breakdown by the same author and loved that twist, too.

dear mr. knightlyDear Mr. Knightley/Katherine Reay

Samantha Moore has always hidden behind the words of others—namely, her favorite characters in literature. Now, she will learn to write her own story—by giving that story to a complete stranger.

Sam is, to say the least, bookish. An English major of the highest order, her diet has always been Austen, Dickens, and Shakespeare. The problem is, both her prose and conversation tend to be more Elizabeth Bennet than Samantha Moore.

But life for the twenty-three-year-old orphan is about to get stranger than fiction. An anonymous, Dickensian benefactor (calling himself Mr. Knightley) offers to put Sam through Northwestern University’s prestigious Medill School of Journalism. There is only one catch: Sam must write frequent letters to the mysterious donor, detailing her progress.”

This was the second book I read this year on my Jane Austen retelling tour. Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld and Lizzy and Jane by Katherine Reay were great as well. Even though I guessed what was supposed to be a twist pretty early on, I really just loved this novel. Samantha’s character arcs were so rich and worth the wait.

before i go to sleepBefore I Go to Sleep/S. J. Watson

“Memories define us.

So what if you lost yours every time you went to sleep?

Your name, your identity, your past, even the people you love—all forgotten overnight. And the one person you trust may be telling you only half the story.

Welcome to Christine’s life.”

This twist made me gasp. Out loud. On a plane. This book was better and worse with each page turn. And it’s apparently a movie that came out several years ago?! Just read this one so I can talk to someone about it.

let's pretend this never happenedLet’s Pretend This Never Happened/Jenny Lawson

“When Jenny Lawson was little, all she ever wanted was to fit in. That dream was cut short by her fantastically unbalanced father and a morbidly eccentric childhood. It did, however, open up an opportunity for Lawson to find the humor in the strange shame-spiral that is her life, and we are all the better for it.

In the irreverent Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, Lawson’s long-suffering husband and sweet daughter help her uncover the surprising discovery that the most terribly human moments—the ones we want to pretend never happened—are the very same moments that make us the people we are today. For every intellectual misfit who thought they were the only ones to think the things that Lawson dares to say out loud, this is a poignant and hysterical look at the dark, disturbing, yet wonderful moments of our lives.”

This memoir is brilliant. It’s filled with Jenny’s incredible ramblings and hilarious and wildly inappropriate tales. This book is also such an important read for anyone with mental health issues.

eleanor oliphantEleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine/Gail Honeyman

“No one’s ever told Eleanor that life should be better than fine. 

Meet Eleanor Oliphant: She struggles with appropriate social skills and tends to say exactly what she’s thinking. Nothing is missing in her carefully timetabled life of avoiding social interactions, where weekends are punctuated by frozen pizza, vodka, and phone chats with Mummy. 

But everything changes when Eleanor meets Raymond, the bumbling and deeply unhygienic IT guy from her office. When she and Raymond together save Sammy, an elderly gentleman who has fallen on the sidewalk, the three become the kinds of friends who rescue one another from the lives of isolation they have each been living. And it is Raymond’s big heart that will ultimately help Eleanor find the way to repair her own profoundly damaged one.

Smart, warm, uplifting, Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine is the story of an out-of-the-ordinary heroine whose deadpan weirdness and unconscious wit make for an irresistible journey as she realizes. . . 
 
The only way to survive is to open your heart.” 

I have almost no way to describe this book that will make you want to read it. It’s slow-paced, nothing major happens, it just is. It’s also a brilliant and chillingly real take on depression, very warm, and just a really, really good book. It’s been optioned as a movie by Reese Witherspoon’s production company and I’m so interested to see who they cast as Eleanor.

all the missing girlsAll the Missing Girls/Megan Miranda

“It’s been ten years since Nicolette Farrell left her rural hometown after her best friend, Corinne, disappeared from Cooley Ridge without a trace. Back again to tie up loose ends and care for her ailing father, Nic is soon plunged into a shocking drama that reawakens Corinne’s case and breaks open old wounds long since stitched.

The decade-old investigation focused on Nic, her brother Daniel, boyfriend Tyler, and Corinne’s boyfriend Jackson. Since then, only Nic has left Cooley Ridge. Daniel and his wife, Laura, are expecting a baby; Jackson works at the town bar, and Tyler is dating Annaleise Carter, Nic’s younger neighbor and the group’s alibi the night Corinne disappeared. Then, within days of Nic’s return, Annaleise goes missing.

Told backwards—Day 15 to Day 1—from the time Annaleise goes missing, Nic works to unravel the truth about her younger neighbor’s disappearance, revealing shocking truths about her friends, her family, and what really happened to Corinne that night ten years ago.”

While I keep turning the page on most suspense novels to get to the twist, this book was really about the journey. The reverse chronological structure is unlike anything I’ve read before and it really kept me hooked, even with a lackluster finish. The Perfect Stranger by the same author was decent but didn’t hook me as much.

down the rabbit holeDown the Rabbit Hole/Holly Madison

At 21, small-town Oregon girl Holly Cullen became Holly Madison, Hugh Hefner’s number one girlfriend. But like Alice’s journey into Wonderland, Holly’s plunge down the rabbit hole took her to a world where all was not as it seemed. The fairy-tale life inside the Playboy Mansion—which included A-list celebrity parties and starring in a number one television show—quickly devolved into an oppressive routine of strict rules, manipulation, and battles with ambitious, backstabbing Bunnies that nearly drove Holly to take her own life.

Down the Rabbit Hole is her introspective account of her time inside the Mansion: the drugs, abuse, infamous parties, and Holly’s real behind-the-scenes life with Bridget, Kendra, and Mr. Playboy himself. It is also her chronicle of healing and hope. By telling her story, both a cautionary tale and a celebration of personal empowerment, Holly reminds us of the importance of fighting for our dreams—and of finding the life we deserve.”

My girlfriends and I started a garbage book club this year. It’s exactly what it sounds like. We vote on an absolute garbage book in a specific category, read it, then eat a fancy meal out and discuss it…for like five minutes. This was the pick for Celebrity Autobiography and I genuinely loved this book. I loved watching The Girls Next Door and this dove into that and so much more behind the mansion’s gates. Holly Madison did NOT hold back. On the girls, Hef, Criss Angel, and more. This is such a juicy read and honestly, Holly either has an incredible ghostwriter or she’s way smarter than we ever gave her credit for. Personally, I’m rooting for the latter.

one of us is lyingOne of Us is Lying/Karen M. McManus

“Pay close attention and you might solve this.
On Monday afternoon, five students at Bayview High walk into detention.
    Bronwyn, the brain, is Yale-bound and never breaks a rule. 
    Addy, the beauty, is the picture-perfect homecoming princess. 
    Nate, the criminal, is already on probation for dealing.
    Cooper, the athlete, is the all-star baseball pitcher.
    And Simon, the outcast, is the creator of Bayview High’s notorious gossip app.
 
Only, Simon never makes it out of that classroom. Before the end of detention Simon’s dead. And according to investigators, his death wasn’t an accident. On Monday, he died. But on Tuesday, he’d planned to post juicy reveals about all four of his high-profile classmates, which makes all four of them suspects in his murder. Or are they the perfect patsies for a killer who’s still on the loose?
 
Everyone has secrets, right? What really matters is how far you would go to protect them.”

This was another Garbage Book Club pick – for YA Fiction. This was so juicy and filled the hole that Pretty Little Liars left in my heart. I read this in two days and strongly recommend it for a plane ride or beach vacation.

better nate than everBetter Nate Than Ever/Tim Federle

“Nate Foster has big dreams. His whole life, he’s wanted to star in a Broadway show. (Heck, he’d settle for seeing a Broadway show.) But how is Nate supposed to make his dreams come true when he’s stuck in Jankburg, Pennsylvania, where no one (except his best pal Libby) appreciates a good show tune? With Libby’s help, Nate plans a daring overnight escape to New York. There’s an open casting call for E.T.: The Musical, and Nate knows this could be the difference between small-town blues and big-time stardom.”

This was one of my first audiobooks this year and I loved the narration. This is pure magic for any theatre kid. It’s funny, insightful, and unapologetically authentic.

class momClass Mom/Laurie Gelman

“Jen Dixon is not your typical Kansas City kindergarten class mom—or mom in general. Jen already has two college-age daughters by two different (probably) musicians, and it’s her second time around the class mom block with five-year-old Max—this time with a husband and father by her side. Though her best friend and PTA President sees her as the “wisest” candidate for the job (or oldest), not all of the other parents agree.

From recording parents’ response times to her emails about helping in the classroom to requesting contributions of “special” brownies for curriculum night, not all of Jen’s methods win approval from the other moms. Throw in an old flame from Jen’s past, a hyper-sensitive “allergy mom,” a surprisingly sexy kindergarten teacher, and an impossible-to-please Real Housewife-wannabe, causing problems at every turn, and the job really becomes much more than she signed up for.”

I listened to this audiobook this summer and LOVED it. I’m not a mom yet, but this will absolutely be me as a class mom, inappropriate emails and reply-alls and all. There was an odd plot point that I could have done without, but overall I so enjoyed this book.

6 Books I Was Mildly to Super Disappointed In

the assistantsThe Assistants/Camille Perri

“Rule #1: All important men have assistants. Rule #2: Men rule the world. Still. Rule #3: There is enough money. There is so much money.

Tina Fontana is a thirty-year-old executive assistant to Robert Barlow, the CEO of Titan Corp., a multinational media conglomerate. She’s excellent at her job and beloved by her famous boss—but after six years of making reservations and pouring drinks from bottles that cost more than her rent, the glamour of working for a media company in New York has completely faded, but her student loan debt has not. 

When a technical error with Robert’s expense report presents Tina with the opportunity to pay off the entire balance of her loans with what would essentially be pocket change for her boss, she hesitates. She’s always played by the rules, but this would be a life-changer. As Tina begins to fall down the rabbit hole of her morally questionable plan, other assistants with crushing debt and fewer scruples approach her to say that they want in. Before she knows it, she’s at the forefront of a movement that has implications far beyond what anyone anticipated.”

I was so excited to read this book, the plot seemed totally up my alley – 9 to 5 mixed with Ocean’s 11, but it totally fell flat. They got caught too soon, the characters weren’t likable, it was just a disaster.

truly madly guiltyTruly Madly Guilty/Liane Moriarty

“Six responsible adults. Three cute kids. One small dog. It’s just a normal weekend. What could possibly go wrong?

In Truly Madly Guilty, Liane Moriarty turns her unique, razor-sharp eye towards three seemingly happy families.

Sam and Clementine have a wonderful, albeit, busy life: they have two little girls, Sam has just started a new dream job and Clementine, a cellist, is busy preparing for the audition of a lifetime. If there’s anything they can count on, it’s each other.

Clementine and Erika are each other’s oldest friends. A single look between them can convey an entire conversation. But theirs is a complicated relationship, so when Erika mentions a last minute invitation to a barbecue with her neighbors, Tiffany and Vid, Clementine and Sam don’t hesitate. Having Tiffany and Vid’s larger than life personalities there will be a welcome respite.

Two months later, it won’t stop raining, and Clementine and Sam can’t stop asking themselves the question: What if we hadn’t gone?

I was so anticipating this book and was on the wait list for several months at the library for it, but was so disappointed. While most of her other books are predictable they were at least page turners or fun to read, but this one just sucked the life out of me. I didn’t like the characters and hated the twist. This was honestly a beating just to get through.

maybe in another lifeMaybe in Another Life/Taylor Jenkins Reid

“At the age of twenty-nine, Hannah Martin still has no idea what she wants to do with her life. She has lived in six different cities and held countless meaningless jobs since graduating college. On the heels of leaving yet another city, Hannah moves back to her hometown of Los Angeles and takes up residence in her best friend Gabby’s guestroom. Shortly after getting back to town, Hannah goes out to a bar one night with Gabby and meets up with her high school boyfriend, Ethan.

Just after midnight, Gabby asks Hannah if she’s ready to go. A moment later, Ethan offers to give her a ride later if she wants to stay. Hannah hesitates. What happens if she leaves with Gabby? What happens if she leaves with Ethan?

In concurrent storylines, Hannah lives out the effects of each decision. Quickly, these parallel universes develop into radically different stories with large-scale consequences for Hannah, as well as the people around her. As the two alternate realities run their course, Maybe in Another Life raises questions about fate and true love: Is anything meant to be? How much in our life is determined by chance? And perhaps, most compellingly: Is there such a thing as a soul mate?

Hannah believes there is. And, in both worlds, she believes she’s found him.”

I so badly wanted to like this book. It was named the “book of the summer” by several girly magazines I love, but it really just had no substance. It was definitely a fun concept and I liked the concurrent storylines, but they BOTH were lacking. Plus this book just kind of ended with no real resolution to any of the plot points. I have several of the author’s other books on my list for 2018 though, so we’ll see if they’re any better.

crazy rich asiansCrazy Rich Asians/Kevin Kwan

“Crazy Rich Asians is the outrageously funny debut novel about three super-rich, pedigreed Chinese families and the gossip, backbiting, and scheming that occurs when the heir to one of the most massive fortunes in Asia brings home his ABC (American-born Chinese) girlfriend to the wedding of the season.

When Rachel Chu agrees to spend the summer in Singapore with her boyfriend, Nicholas Young, she envisions a humble family home, long drives to explore the island, and quality time with the man she might one day marry. What she doesn’t know is that Nick’s family home happens to look like a palace, that she’ll ride in more private planes than cars, and that with one of Asia’s most eligible bachelors on her arm, Rachel might as well have a target on her back. Initiated into a world of dynastic splendor beyond imagination, Rachel meets Astrid, the It Girl of Singapore society; Eddie, whose family practically lives in the pages of the Hong Kong socialite magazines; and Eleanor, Nick’s formidable mother, a woman who has very strong feelings about who her son should–and should not–marry. Uproarious, addictive, and filled with jaw-dropping opulence, Crazy Rich Asians is an insider’s look at the Asian JetSet; a perfect depiction of the clash between old money and new money; between Overseas Chinese and Mainland Chinese; and a fabulous novel about what it means to be young, in love, and gloriously, crazily rich.”

I expected to LOVE this book and dive into the rest of the trilogy. Instead, I made it about a quarter of the way through the first book and even that was a struggle. There were SO many characters. At one point I started keeping notes and that’s just too much work for a fun beach read. Every blogger I read that does book roundups raved about this book and I just do not get it. Maybe I’ll see the movie? I love Constance Wu, so we shall see.

the singles gameThe Singles Game/Lauren Weisberger

“How far would you go to reach the top? 

When America’s sweetheart, Charlotte “Charlie” Silver, makes a pact with the devil–the infamously brutal tennis coach Todd Feltner–she finds herself catapulted into a world of celebrity stylists, private parties, charity matches aboard mega-yachts, and secret dates with Hollywood royalty. Under Todd’s new ruthless regime, Charlie the good girl is out. Todd wants “Warrior Princess” Charlie all the way. After all, no one ever wins big by playing nice. 

Celebrity mags and gossip blogs go wild for Charlie as she jets around the globe, chasing Grand Slam titles and Page Six headlines. But as the Warrior Princess’s star rises on and off the court, it comes at a cost. In a world obsessed with good looks and hot shots, is Charlie Silver willing to lose herself to win it all?” 

You know this author because she wrote The Devil Wears Prada…and it’s been downhill since. This is her 4th or 5th followup novel I’ve read and while this wasn’t the worst one, it was up there. I loved the behind the scenes angles and all the PR stuff, but the lead character just had zero respect for herself, so how could I? Unless you’re just a crazy huge tennis fan, I would skip this one.

behind her eyesBehind her Eyes/Sarah Pinborough

“Louise is a single mom, a secretary, stuck in a modern-day rut. On a rare night out, she meets a man in a bar and sparks fly. Though he leaves after they kiss, she’s thrilled she finally connected with someone.

When Louise arrives at work on Monday, she meets her new boss, David. The man from the bar. The very married man from the bar…who says the kiss was a terrible mistake, but who still can’t keep his eyes off Louise.

And then Louise bumps into Adele, who’s new to town and in need of a friend. But she also just happens to be married to David. And if you think you know where this story is going, think again, because Behind Her Eyes is like no other book you’ve read before.

David and Adele look like the picture-perfect husband and wife. But then why is David so controlling? And why is Adele so scared of him?

As Louise is drawn into David and Adele’s orbit, she uncovers more puzzling questions than answers. The only thing that is crystal clear is that something in this marriage is very, very wrong. But Louise can’t guess how wrong—and how far a person might go to protect their marriage’s secrets.

Welcome to my most disappointing book of the year. Honestly, I’m angry just writing about it. The problem with this book was that it was billed as a psychological thriller…and it was (and it was brilliant)…until it wasn’t. *SPOILER ALERT* this twist is not psychological, it’s supernatural. Had it been billed correctly I never would have picked it up. But if that’s your thing, definitely read it, you’ll probably love it!

Any books that I MUST READ in 2018? Comment below!

2 Comments on My Favorite Books of 2017

  1. Kayla Illies
    January 4, 2018 at 9:55 pm (4 months ago)

    These books look great!!!!! I’m a total book lover and I love seeing other people’s recommendations! Thanks for sharing these!

    Reply
  2. Nikki
    January 5, 2018 at 6:11 am (3 months ago)

    I will have to check these out! I haven’t read any of these, so I’m excited to add them to my list.

    XOXO, Nikki
    http://www.casualblonde.com

    Reply

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