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  • Writer's pictureDanielle Stinson

Reflections and Favorite Reads of 2017

I can’t believe 2017 is over. It has been a long road complete with epic highs and lows. This year I  learned how to be a mother of twin boys and my two other kiddos under seven. I spent most of the early months walking around like a zombie, throwing perfectly good silverware into the trash and stowing trash in the dishwasher. This year I searched my own limits, cheered on friends and loved ones who inspired me, worked on a book, and took some much needed space from the craziness of the world. On that note, I wanted to highlight some of the books that added magic to 2017. Here they are in no particular order:

Below Northern Lights by Ashlee Cowles

See my review of this beautiful book here:BNL Review. This book took me on an adventure across the Scottish Highlights that I won’t soon forget. The military community has been my home for most of my life. As a daughter/sister/wife of former soldiers, I am always taken by the accuracy and insight of Ashlee Cowles’s portrayal of our community. She knows it because she lived it. In fact, we lived it together. I first met Ashlee in tenth grade at Wurzburg American High School on a US Army base in Wurzburg, Germany. Our friendship has spanned decades and continents.  Ashlee’s writing has always inspired me. Beautiful prose, gorgeous setting, heart and humor abound in this book. There is also a scene between Lucas and Skye that has become one of my new standards for romance. It so perfectly captures the strength and courage it takes to make yourself vulnerable. I fell in love with everything about this book.

The Last Magician by Lisa Maxwell

If you haven’t read this book, you are making a very poor life decision. Go do it. Right now. This book is easily one of the most imaginative, tightly plotted, twisty-turny, keep you up into the wee hours books I have read in recent memory. The story arcs are epic. The pace smoldering. More than that, Maxwell has a gift for making the past real. I felt like I was walking the streets of old New York City, watching the events unfold through a frosted windowpane. The characters fly off the pages. Every one of them was beautifully realized. In short, this story was brilliant and unforgettable. Lisa Maxwell is a rare sort of writer. She is also a pretty kick ass human being.  Full review here: TLM review.

Wild Beauty by Anna-Marie McLemore

This book. It is unspeakably gorgeous. It held me spellbound from the very first page. Wild Beauty is my new gold standard for magical realism. This book is a gold standard for a lot of things, to be honest. A lushly imagined setting unlike anything I’ve read. Romance that made me ache and sigh. Magic that left me breathless. Characters that drew me into their world until I felt like I was a part of it. The generations of Nomeolvides women were so beautifully and richly rendered, they became like my own family. I loved how McLemore explored those multi-generational relationships in all their complexity. We need more of this in the world an in YA. Last but not least, the writing was… Nothing I can say will do it justice. You need to experience it for yourself.

Allegedly by Tiffany D. Jackson.

I read this book in one sitting. My mistake was starting it at night, because once I started, I wasn’t putting it down till it was over. This book was absolutely worth bleary eyes the next morning. Mary’s voice was amazing. It had a rawness and a realness that compelled me to keep turning the pages. The tension was out of control. Every word, every line is rife with it. I don’t know how Jackson did it, but the results were pretty stunning. I don’t want to give away the ending, but I will say that this book will keep you wondering what is fact and what is fiction; what is truth and what is fabrication right up until the last page. Amazing debut.

One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus

This book has been everywhere for a reason. MANY REASONS. The mystery gets going early on and is utterly engrossing. The pace doesn’t let up. Not even a little bit. Even though the story is told in multiple POVs, each and every voice was distinct and fresh. I always knew exactly where I was in the story based solely on the voice. I cared about each of the main characters, and I found myself cheering for them even when they seemed to be in conflict with one another. No idea how McManus did this, but she totally did. The twists and turns keep coming. This book is also packed with realistic romance, humor, and enough tension to keep your butt in the chair and your hands flipping the pages. One of Us is Lying will keep you up late into the night.

Words in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley

I am a Cath Crowley fangirl. There is no other way to put it. Cath Crowley is the type of writer that makes you feel things. I love everything the woman writes, and I await her novels with holiday-like anticipation. Two of her earlier novels, Graffiti Moon and A Little Wanting Song, have their own places of honor on my forever shelf. Words in Deep Blue gave me everything I was hoping for from a Cath Crowley book, along with some things I wasn’t expecting. There is butterflies in the stomach romance. Kick you in the guts grief. In true Crowley fashion, there were brilliant, shining moments of humor to add lightness to even the hardest parts. Words In Deep Blue is a book about family, friendship and community. It is a story about love and loss. About reaching for the things we need and want while learning to let go of what is beyond our control. But mostly, it is a book about the power of words to change and sustain us. Whether you are a writer, an avid reader, or just someone looking to spend a few hours with a fabulous story populated by fabulous characters, Words in Deep Blue is not to be missed.

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