Favorite Books of 2017

It seems like this always happens – my favorite book I read this year wasn’t published in 2017. I try to stick to the current year when making my list of favorite books each December and I’ll keep with that tradition, but it’s worth mentioning that Dark Matter by Blake Crouch is exceptional and well worth the read if you enjoy sci-fi thrillers.

Out of the 64 titles that I read this year (exceeding my Goodreads goal by 2!), here are the best of the best, in my opinion.

by Stephanie Graber

I wrote an in-depth review of this title earlier this year (you can read that here) but this title was simply magical. I loved the world Garber set the story in and can’t wait for book two next year. If you enjoyed The Night Circus or just particular to fantasy, this one should be right up your alley.




9781524720841Grace and the Fever
by Zan Romanoff

I loved this one – probably because it hit so close to home. Grace has always been a fan of the boyband Fever Dream and even though her friends have all moved on, she remains one of their biggest fans and secretly cultivates an online persona dedicated to them. When she unexpectedly meets a member of the band, Grace embarks on a crazy adventure every woman who’s been in a fandom could only dream of.

Truth be told, I only picked this title up because the author’s about me said she was a Hanson fan (and we fans like to support other fans). However, it turned out to be a perfect read for me!

Daring to Drive

by Mana Al-Sharif

An inspiring and eye opening memoir about a Saudi woman who dared to challenge cultural oppression by “driving while female” in the streets of Saudi Arabia. I highly recommend this title for anyone seeking to understand Islamic culture and Women’s rights abroad.




9780800726881Between Heaven and the Real World
by Steven Curtis Chapman

Any former Evangelical youth group kid probably grew up listening to Steven Curtis Chapman. His songs defined Christian music in the 90s and I personally owned and loved Signs of Life, Speechless, and Declaration.

This was a very personal, honest and down-to-earth memoir chronicling his life as a child in Paducah, KY to his rise to stardom in the Christian music industry. Chapman openly talks about struggles in his faith, marriage and career and doesn’t try to gloss over mistakes he’s made in life. The chapter about his daughter Maria, who tragically died when his older son hit her in the driveway of their house, is especially moving and brought tears to my eyes.

It’s hard to say whether or not this will appeal to non-fans, although people with a general interest in music biographies may find Chapman’s career interesting as he does cross paths with secular artists from time to time.

51JxBtS6L9L._SX327_BO1,204,203,200_Lies She Told 
by Cate Holahan

Lies She Told isn’t a groundbreaking thriller/mystery but it IS different from the others because of the way the story is structured. The main character is also a mystery writer who is working on her next novel, so the story flip flops back and forth between the two different stories. It’s an entertaining read, although I found myself more interested in the main character’s plot rather than the plot of the book she’s writing. You need to read both though as it’s important to the story. For fans of Gillian Flynn, Kimberly McCreight and Mary Kubica.


41lLN7GZjpL._SY346_An Unkindness of Magicians
by Kat Howard

Every so often a book comes along that makes you want to hide away in your room and read it long into the night until you reach the final page. An Unkindness of Magicians had that special feeling right from the first few pages, drawing the reader in to the complicated magical world author Kat Howard created.

Deep in the heart of New York City, families of wealthy, powerful magicians live in their Houses, unknown to the human world. Only one House at a time serves as the head of their community and the time has come for the Turning – an intense battle of magic that one by one pits the different Houses against each other until a champion prevails.

This one was hands down the best book written in 2017. For fans of: The Magicians, darker Harry Potter and secret magical worlds.

Girls Made of Snow and Glass

by Melissa Bashardoust

A wonderfully re-imagined tale of Snow White. Told in dual points of view, the evil step-mother and Lynet (Snow), Bashardoust puts a fresh spin on the classic fairy tale.

The female characters are strong, the writing imaginative and the ending quite different from the Snow White you knew from your childhood!


Sisters First
by Jenna Bush Hager & Barbara Pierce Bush

bush, bush, sisters first_cover sm
This was a lovely read that gave some insight into the Bush twins life growing up in the political spotlight. I especially enjoyed the stories about their father and grandfather as it gave an glimpse into the personal lives of former Presidents we don’t see depicted in the media.

The sisters are close and that comes through in the writing. They take turns writing the chapters and both women each have something unique to offer on the subjects of sisterhood, family and relationships.



Fierce Kingdom

by Gin Phillips

It’s almost closing time at the zoo and Joan and her son are rushing to leave before the gates close. But on their way out, Joan sees something terrifying – armed gunmen are in the zoo and in that moment, everything changes.

A taught thriller that focuses on the lengths a mother will go to to protect her son, Fierce Kingdom is suspenseful and quick read with an unexpected ending. This one has all the makings of a blockbuster Hollywood film (and movie rights have been sold).

Non-Fiction Round Up

I’ve been reading quite a bit of non-fiction over the past few months, so I thought I’d share some of the more interesting titles along with a short review of each. I try to read both in and out of my comfort zone so I get information from all viewpoints.

Confessions of A Secular Jesus Follower
by Tom Krattenmaker

Tom Krattenmaker is a USA Today columnist on religion whose writings have appeared in many publications. In this book, he shares how one can follow the teachings of Jesus without confessions_jesusprofessing to be a born-again Christian.  I was pretty fascinated by this book. As a life-long conservative Christian, it was hard to wrap my brain around the concept of a secular Jesus follower. The author is very clear that he follows the teachings and examples Jesus set forth in His time on earth but he rejects the notion of salvation or heaven/hell.

While I think it’s commendable that he’s choosing to live his life the way Jesus taught, I feel he misses the point of Christianity all together. We’re saved by grace and have a sin nature so even if we try to lead a perfect life, we can’t. Which is why not everyone will simply do good because they can – without Jesus as our Savior, evil and sin creeps in causing all that is bad in this world.  Still, this was a really interesting read and very thought provoking. It sparks a little bit of a challenge to Christians and non-Christians to live more compassionate lives.

The Happiness Effect: How Social Media is Driving A Generation to Appear Perfect at Any Cost
by Donna Freitas61gcHkEepOL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_

Social media is meant to connect us to each other, especially when families and friends live hundreds of miles apart and friends. While it’s a great tool for keeping in touch, it’s also turning us in to narcissists, bullies and liars.

In this book, Freitas  interviews over 200 students and it’s mostly essays on how social media is affecting them. While the book was interesting, it wasn’t quite what I expected. Maybe it’s because I’m in the generation that uses Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter constantly but I didn’t find out anything that shocking. I would definitely recommend it as a source for a research paper and others who might be interested in how social media is affection our youth’s culture and perception of the world around them.

Women Who Work
by Ivanka Trump

51kauwY0hJL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_ A guide for women starting out in their careers with the intention of equipping the reader with the best tools and advice on how to navigate interviews, shifting careers, taking on leadership roles and balancing family and work.

The good: there is some worthwhile advice here for young women starting out in their careers although I doubt most people will get past the Trump name and actually give it an unbiased read.

The bad: Ivanka was born in to privilege. That’s not to say she doesn’t work hard but she definitely has had an advantage over most people. Also, she relies way to heavily on quotes and thoughts from other people to flesh out the content, which I feel is lazy writing.

The verdict: not terrible but there are better reading options out there, like…

by Sophia Amoruso

A self-made entrepreneur, Sophia Amoruso went from sketchy teen to successful owner18667945._UY475_SS475_ of the online Vintage shop Nasty Gal. I especially LOVED the fact that right off the bat, she states #GirlBoss is not feminist manifesto and opens with:

“Is 2014 a new era of feminism where we don’t have to talk about it? I don’t know, but I want to pretend it is. I’m not going to lie — it’s insulting to be praised for being a woman with no college degree. But then, I’m aware that this is also to my advantage: I can show up to a meeting and blow people away just by being my street-educated self. I, along with countless other #GIRLBOSSes who are profiled in this book, girls who are reading this book, and the girls who are yet to become a #GIRLBOSS will not do it by whining — but by fighting. You don’t get taken seriously by asking someone to take you seriously. You’ve got to show up and own it. If this is a man’s world, who cares? I’m still really glad to be a girl in it.”

AMEN. I get so tired of today’s whiny feminists. I’ll admit, if it hadn’t been for the Netflix show that I randomly decided to watch, I probably wouldn’t have picked this title up, but I found it to be funny, truthful and pleasantly surprising.

Daring to Drive 

by Manal Al-Sharif

In 2011, Manal Al-Sharif filmed a video of herself driving a car down the streets of Saudi Arabia. Even though there are no laws existing stating women can’t drive, it’s culturally unaccept51DTuKgAgeL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_able for women to do so. Her video went viral, she was arrested for “driving while female” and so began her path to activism.

Al-Sharif’s paints a very real picture of what it’s like for a woman to live in an Islamic country. The book is heartbreaking at times – her parents (and later her husband) beat her and both she and her sister are child victims of genital mutilation.  For a time, she embraces Islamic extremism until 9/11 happens and she begins to question how that strain of her religion could carryout such a horrific act.

An inspiring and eye opening memoir that will challenge and enlighten readers. I highly recommend this title for anyone seeking to understand Islamic culture and Women’s rights abroad.