Please note that these are not necessarily books published in 2017, only books I've read during this year. I also had to change the title from novels to books, because of the awesome PAPERBACKS FROM HELL, which is more of a reference book. I've read a lot of great books this year, and making up this list was so difficult, that I've added a few "Honorable Mentions" at the end of the list.
Without further ado, (please click the cover to see my original review):
1. by Christopher Golden. I haven't read very many books by Mr. Golden, but I own quite a few of them. I have had the pleasure of meeting him numerous times at the Merrimack Valley Halloween Book Festival, where he is always friendly and humble. This story about the discovery of Noah's Arc was fun and frightening all at once and I loved it!
2. by Christopher Buehlman. This author is my favorite discovery of the year. Over the past 12 months I've read or listened to every novel he's written and I'm eagerly awaiting the next. The Suicide Motor Club features a road trip with vampires in American muscle cars. It couldn't have been more perfect or fun for me!
4. by Ken Greenhall. This novel was originally published in the late 1970's. Brought back by Valancourt Books with a new cover and an introduction from Grady Hendrix, this book about an evil dog is spellbinding fun!
7. by the AWESOME John Connolly. I've read a lot of series books over the years and very few of them have kept up the quality continuously throughout like this series about fictional detective Charlie Parker. I feel in my bones that the series is coming to an end and I will be so sad when that happens.
8. by Grady Hendrix. I don't even know what else to say about this GORGEOUS volume. It's a reference book, really, but no reference book EVER in history was as much fun or as pretty as this one. With colorful commentary about the times in which these books were originally written, no other book has had such a powerful impact on my TBR list as this one.
9. by Ken Greenhall. This is his second entry on my list. Originally published in the 70's, (like Hell Hound above) and brought back by Valancourt Books, this novel is CHILLING in its depiction of a nasty, calculating witch of a girl. (Also, please note both of these are referenced in Hendrix's PAPERBACKS FROM HELL.)
10. by Eric Scott Fischl. This book isn't classified as horror, but I put it solidly in the land of dark fiction and as such, it belongs on this list. I know it's not a popular or well known book, but it sure was a unique, fun and interesting ride. This one slid under most everyone's radar, but I thought it was great and I humbly hope its mention on this list helps it to get more attention.
As mentioned above, I have three honorable mentions, (click title to see my review):
THE LISTENER by Robert McCammon. Much as I loved ARARAT, this was my favorite book of the year. Except that it isn't even out yet. Publishing in 2018, I didn't feel it was fair to add it to this list. (And even though I read it in 2017, be assured that it will be on my BEST BOOKS OF 2018 post.) An amazing novel of magic, friendship, crime and love, I cannot wait until more people read it, so I can discuss it with them!
SPINAL TAP: THE BIG BLACK BOOK by Wallace Fairfax was a total blast. This book features fun facts about the fictional band as well as a discography and other interesting tidbits. I haven't seen this book mentioned or talked about anywhere, and that's a damn shame. Any fans of the film This is Spinal Tap would love this book.
ASH WEDNESDAY by Chet Williamson was a fantastic book of quiet horror. It was slow burning and horrific, but not in a bloody or gory way. I took away from it a sense of the value of life and time-we have to make the most of the time we have.
This has been the year of the audiobook for me. I believe I've listened to more of them this year than ever before. And boy, this year brought two of my favorite authors to life through the power of voice. Let's get on with it, shall we? (Oh, and click the cover to see my original review!)
Blackwater by Michael McDowell, narrated by Matt Godfrey
1. My number one audio of the year, (and indeed, of ALL time) is Blackwater. Written by the fabulous Michael McDowell and performed by Matt Godfrey, this epic tale spans generations of the Caskey family and their matriarch, who may or may not be altogether human. The star of this show is McDowell's writing-he brings his sharp wit and his knowledge of family dynamics to the table and then Matt Godfrey brings it all home. Blackwater clocks out at just over 30 hours of listening, and I was never, ever bored.
The Lesser Dead written and performed by Christopher Buehlman
2. Christopher Buehlman was unknown to me at the beginning of 2017. Now, in December, I count him among my favorite authors. I've read or listened to ALL of his novels since April, starting with Those Across the River and ending with The Lesser Dead. Mr. Buehlman narrates The Lesser Dead himself and in most cases, I don't think that's wise. In this case, he knocked it out of the park. I later learned that he performs at Renaissance Fairs, sometimes as a storyteller and sometimes as a professional insultor. Perhaps his experiences with performing has honed his voicing skills because this book was KILLER. After I finished listening, I "rewound" it, so to speak, and listened to the last chapter again. Oh my goodness, oh so killer!
Born to Run written and narrated by The Boss
3. I'm not a big fan of Bruce Springsteen, but I'm a bigger fan since I listened to his memoir. I have always been a fan of his songwriting abilities and it seems that that skill transferred well to writing this book. I'm sure a true Springsteen fan would get even more out of this book than I did, but I sure did love listening to that husky voice relate how he got started, learned to dance, (to pick up women), and how he struggled to get and keep a band, not to mention a marriage, together.
Between Two Fires by Christopher Buehlman, narrated by Steve West
4. Between Two Fires by Christopher Buehlman, narrated by Steve West was totally and completely INSANE! Some truly scary scenes were depicted in this story and thanks to the vivid writing and expressive voicing, I can still picture them clearly in my head.
The Memory of Running, written and performed by Ron McClarty
5. The Memory of Running, written and narrated by Ron McClarty. I got turned on to Ron McClarty because he narrated Empire Falls by Richard Russo. Then, when I looked for additional performances by him I discovered The Memory of Running. From what I gather, it was originally available only as an audio book which Stephen King highly recommended. Eventually it became available in paper form as well. Anyway, Mr. McClarty used to play a recurring judge on Law & Order, but writing and narrating is most definitely his forte. I loved this weird tale of memories, acceptance and bicycling across the United States.
Nightmares and Geezenstacks by Fredric Brown, narrated by Matt Godfrey
6. A thoroughly entertaining collection of short stories, some of them super short, but all of them a lot of fun. For the most part, I prefer reading short stories rather than listening to them, but Matt Godfrey's talent made me change my mind about that.
You Will Know Me by Megan Abbott, narrated by Lauren Fortgang
7. Competitive teenage girls are just about the scariest monsters out there, and I know scary!
Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough, narrated by cast
8. The book everyone was talking about at the beginning of the year! Usually, I avoid those like the plague. However, the audio was available at the library, so I decided to give it a go. I vividly remember listening to this while I was cleaning and then, for the last half hour or so, I just sat on the sofa, stunned.
The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick, narrated by Ray Porter
9. Audible was giving this one away for free, so what did I have to lose? I loved the movie, but as usual, the book was a little different. That said, I loved the book too!
Empire Falls by Richard Russo, performed by Ron McClarty
10. This book came to me highly recommended by a fellow reader. Even though a book about small town life with no evil children or haunted houses is really not my thing, Empire Falls MADE IT my thing. I've since listened to two more audiobooks of Richard Russo's work, (Everybody's Fool and Nobody's Fool), and I tracked down McClarty's Memory of Running, (see above.) Now, I just need to track down the HBO series of this FANTASTIC novel.
This year I've learned the following:
Ron McClarty and Matt Godfrey can both narrate the hell out of any story, and I will happily listen to them perform their grocery lists.
Authors sometimes CAN perform their own stories and do it better than anyone else.
I've finally accepted that audiobooks are an acceptable form of reading and I look forward to finding new narrators and discovering new worlds to listen to in 2018.
Thanks for reading if you've stayed this far! I hope you'll join me in enjoying audiobooks in 2018!
So I decided to go ahead and use this book for the In the Dark, Dark Woods square, because it actually does take place pretty squarely in the woods and it helps me keep the mystery secure of what actually lies beyond the river! Trust me, to spoil that would be to spoil the enjoyment of this whole book. So you're welcome. Hahaha.
Truth be told, this book read a little slow at the beginning. A lot of attention was paid to Frank's backstory and, although I felt like it was important, it started to feel a little drawn out after a while. Frank is a veteran, and Buehlman shows how much that still haunts him through the use of dream sequences. Which is actually a good idea! However there are a lot, and after a while they're repetitive. I felt like I could easily understand Frank's head space without the monotonous use of these dreams. Plus, and I'm not being a prude here at all trust me, there are also a LOT of references to sex is this book. If you're not comfortable with some steamy scenes, you might want to skim read. Let's just say that Frank and his beau have a very, very healthy sex life.
Now, to the part that made me whiz through this book! Buehlman puts a character into the mix that is fascinating, mainly because he's so secretive. As the book progresses, and he becomes more essential to the plot, you begin to realize what really lurks beyond the river. I do think he could have been used a little more heavily, but I was happy with his interactions with our main characters. He pushed the book forward, keeping things mysterious, and really upping the tension.
The other great part about this book is that once the action gets going, it is like a freight train! There are definitely some gory scenes in this book, just to warn you, but it all fits perfectly where it should. "Those Across the River" is an apt title, and all I kept wondering is why everyone didn't just run away and never look back. Yes, I know there wouldn't be a story then. That's what I'd do though. I want to live. LOL.
Overall, a solid book! Buehlman intrigues me, so I'll be searching out more of his work.