What I Read: 2017 Edition

… This is also a “what the hell’s going on with Jessica” post as I haven’t updated my blog since (*quickly checks and blanches*) … wow, holy shit. This time last year. Damn. As always, I have to remind you: if you want to know what I’m doing day-to-day, want to get in touch, whatever, follow me on Twitter. It’s the only social media platform I actually like these days.

Professionally and personally, 2017 wasn’t a bad year. Au contraire, actually. I finished three books, two novels and a novella, and contracted two of them to Evernight Publishing (Dark Moon and Rapture–all links go to Amazon). The third is a giant dog’s breakfast of a first draft, all 68,000 words of it, and I will deal with it later on this year. I also took a solo trip to London, where I met up with my sister part way through as she made her way home from a month in India. I had a visit with my former Girl Guides penpal and always friend (we’ve met face-to-face three times since we started writing in 1995!), and finally met one of my longtime Internet friends after knowing each other via LiveJournal back in the day and then Facebook. I saw Arcade Fire live for the first time and it will not be the last. Seriously, dudes, they’re fucking incredible live. Best show ever, and I’m including both times I saw the Pixies on that list. I adopted Pepper in November, a gentle giant of a Bombay cat from the Toronto Humane Society who is constantly purring, trilling, meowing, and demanding to play.

On a sadder note, we had to say goodbye to Nieve in June, who was just shy of sixteen years old when we had to put her to sleep following a stroke. That was a very painful day, coming only a year after Stevie-cat passed away, one that we weren’t expecting to have to face when we did. MM and I know we gave her a good life and she’s in a better place now. Adopting another cat is the biggest way we’ve honoured their memories.

Now, with that sadness out of the way, before I melt into a puddle of tears on my keyboard… on to the annual book list. I read 76 books in 2017; this year, I’m going for 80.

Just a reminder: this is not a book review blog, so I will not be throwing shade at the books I didn’t care for. The books I’m reviewing weren’t necessarily published in 2017, but read in 2017. I don’t read strictly romance; there’s some sci-fi and memoir on the list this year. I’m not including any spoilers here, but all links lead to Goodreads, where there may be some. You’ve been warned.

The Radium Girls, Kate Moore

Told from the perspective of the women who fought and literally died for the right to safe working conditions and to hold their employers accountable for wilfully poisoning them, The Radium Girls is a book that manages to both enrage and break the hearts of readers. While there is still work to be done to further protect workers and their rights, the story of the Radium Girls drives home just how awful their working conditions were; it brings to mind men’s working conditions in the meat-packing plants during the same era (think Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle, although it’s fiction).

Harry’s Last Stand, Harry Leslie Smith

This is a more difficult mini-review for me to write.

Up until very recently, I preferred to keep my website and professional social media politics-free. Events over the last year have changed that notion, and while I’m not exactly shouting my stances from the proverbial rooftops, anyone giving my Twitter feed a passing glance can figure out where I stand on the political spectrum. Without going into too much detail and further derailing the point of this blog post here, I’ll get right to it: Harry Leslie Smith has become one of my heroes and I truly enjoy his writing. Harry’s Last Stand is a defence of social safety nets, reminding the reader what happens when universal healthcare and social assistance doesn’t exist, the horrific toll taken on humanity when we turn our backs on the less fortunate or anyone, really, who doesn’t earn a seven-figure income. We’re all in this together. Let’s take care of one another.

Indebted Series, Pepper Winters (Debt Inheritance, First Debt, Second Debt, Third Debt, Fourth Debt, Final Debt, Indebted Epilogue)

You guys know I like the occasional dark romance, right? I think I’ve written about that before. First off: the seven books in this series are not for the faint of heart. They’re really brutal and the first book nearly put me off the entire series. That said, it picks up in the second book, so any wary readers should hang in there. It’s a Romeo and Juliet story where Romeo is, frankly, a bit of an asshole not matter what his afflictions are (no spoilers for you!) although he redeems himself fairly early on in the series. It has a few melodramatic moments and there’s a bit of a mixup in its historical accuracy (the year of the recognition of the United Kingdom and a couple of other tiny details) but who cares. This was an addictive read. I tore through all of the books in less than a month. Read them, but be warned that they’re pretty damn dark.

Off the Grid series, Alyssa Cole (Radio Silence, Mixed Signals, Signal Boost)

I’ve complained about this before, but it bears repeating: stop trying to make zombie romance happen. The poor dental hygiene and the flesh eating… ugh, gross.

But post-apocalyptic romance… let’s do this. The series is set in a present-day nightmare that could actually happen and has happened, but during a time humanity wasn’t dependent on electricity and smartphones to survive. The trilogy follows three couples as they navigate their way through a world that has been totally unplugged and no one can figure out why. Mixed Signals is the only novel that acts as a standalone, FYI, although the entire series is worth reading. It’s very original and the big reveal unpredictable. But plausible, so that’s what makes it good/scary.

Ready Player One, Ernest Cline

My longtime LiveJournal friend and I made a visit to the Piccadilly Waterstones and wow, holy shit. If you’re in London, go. It’s six floors of books and the employees are lovely and enthusiastic readers themselves. This was one of the novels my friend recommended (the other being Good Omens, which is also on this list) and it’s so. Much. Fun. I read most of Ready Player One on the plane ride home and thoroughly enjoyed it, as will anyone who pays attention to pop culture phenomenons of the ‘80s and ‘90s, video games, movies–essentially, there’s something for everyone. And yes, I am super-excited for the movie coming out in March, despite YouTube complaints that it looks like a CGI clusterfuck. I don’t care. It looks just as fun as the novel.

I Love the 80s, Megan Crane

Speaking of the ‘80s… 1980s MUSIC AND TIME TRAVEL AND A MURDER MYSTERY?! I think you all know how much I love a good time travel romance, and this fit the bill. Much of its appeal for me lay in how horrified Jenna (the heroine) was at everything 1980s, as much as she obsessed about the decade in the 2000s–the hair, the makeup, the sexual harassment at work, the cesspit New York City is described to be circa 1987. It’s fun. Read it.

I was also a MuchMusic-addicted teenager in the ‘90s (kids these days with YouTube will never know the struggle of keeping a tape in the VCR just in case your favourite band came on and you wanted to record them to watch when you’re babysitting and your charges have gone to bed), so the novel being set at a music TV channel was just an added bonus, too.

Good Omens, Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman

The nuclear reactor scenes… oh, my God, this was brilliant and also purchased at the same Waterstones, recommended by the same friend who encouraged me to read Ready Player One. Oddly, this was my first foray into Terry Pratchett’s books (I know, I know, I’m a bad nerd) and it won’t be the last. I grew up in a religious home and at one point we all believed that the rapture would occur (rapture. Heh. Sorry, I had to). I can’t speak for the rest of my family but I’m no longer on that train, nor have I been for a long time, so I found Good Omens hilarious and will actually re-subscribe to Amazon Prime next year for the miniseries.

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