While all the TV shows and commercials are depicting snow, here in L.A. it’s raining ash and debris. Happy holidays!
Because a smoke advisory is in effect, I have to stay inside and read. Luckily, cabin fever and I have never met. I could shelter in place for years.
This month’s Nerdy Special List, our final of 2017, features some favorites from this year that didn’t appear on previous lists, because we read them after publication or had too many strong choices that month. But these are special, too, and we wanted to make sure they’re on your radar.
Many thanks to Jen, Rory, Lauren, Erin, and Patti for contributing recommendations throughout the year. Each month I look forward to seeing what your choices are, and you expand my reading universe. I couldn’t do this without you.
From Jen at Brown Dog Solutions:
My Fairy Godmother Is a Drag Queen by David Clawson (Sky Pony Press/Skyhorse, May 30)
David Clawson’s young adult debut is a modern retelling of Cinderella. Following the death of seventeen-year-old Chris’s father, his stepfamily is determined to regain the wealth and social status they lost in the recession. Chris’s stepmother plots to marry her daughter off to J.J. Kennerly, New York’s most eligible bachelor. But her plan goes awry when J.J. falls for Chris instead.
My Fairy Godmother is full of sharp dialogue you’ll want to read out loud just to taste the words. The characters are amazingly rich, and the themes are both powerful and timely. It’s funny, it’s deep, it’s smart, and it’s at the top of my recommendation list for YA books.
A Stone of Hope by Jim St. Germain, with Jon Sternfeld (Harper, July 4)
This book should have been called A BOULDER of Hope. Jim St. Germain is a Haitian immigrant who grew up on the streets of Brooklyn, found trouble at a young age, and had the luck to be placed in a rehabilitation program called Boys Town.
Stone takes readers through his experience at Boys Town and how it put him on the path to give back to others like him. His story is inspiring, but it’s also an excellent look at the destructive nature of poverty, and at an effective justice system with the potential to change our society. In our current climate of hopelessness, A Stone of Hope is a reminder that goodness still exists—and matters.
From Rory at Fourth Street Review:
My Absolute Darling by Gabriel Tallent (Riverhead, August 29)
Turtle Alveston is 14 years old, being raised by her father. That’s where any sense of normalcy ends, though Turtle doesn’t know that. Raw eggs, guns, and beer begin her day. Turtle does her best to please her survivalist father, but she never quite succeeds.
Within the first few pages of Gabriel Tallent’s debut novel, the reader knows tsomething has gone very wrong in the Alveston household, but the author does an exceptional job of slowly revealing the true depth of Turtle’s torment, her confusion, and her rare moments of happiness. Artfully barbaric and masterfully written, My Absolute Darling is one of my favorite novels of the year.
From Lauren at Malcolm Avenue Review:
This Is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel (Flatiron, Jan. 24)
An orange peel on the cover didn’t tell me much, and by the time I got a copy from the library, I didn’t remember what it was about (seriously, no clue) or what might have intrigued me.
But I cracked the cover and discovered one of my top 5 favorite reads this year. I’m not going to tell you what it’s about, either. Because the moment I read the line that told me where it was going was so lovely and heartbreaking and…everything, I wouldn’t ruin that for anyone. It’s a topical book about a beautiful family. Just do a trust fall with me and let this book catch you.
The Driver by Hart Hanson (Dutton, August 8)
This book is like Ocean’s 11 in book form. Friendship, action, smart dialogue, great pacing, crime, humor, and a little heartbreak. Michael Skellig, highly educated and decorated military veteran, owns Oasis Limo Services, employing a dedicated and unique tribe of fellow veterans. Skellig gets embroiled in the dangerous problems of a client, testing his moral compass and putting everyone around him at risk. The Driver is a rip-roaring good time.
I Found You by Lisa Jewell (Atria, April 25)
A handsome man with amnesia, an abandoned bride, and long-ago events in a seaside town are somehow linked in this layered, well-paced mystery. The characters ache with loneliness and a desire to belong, making me root for them even while I suspected a happy ending wasn’t possible for everyone. Sometimes I have to pick between strong plot or characters but Lisa Jewell let me have both, plus an atmospheric setting. I’m glad I found her.