Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Wrapping Up 2016

It may seem a little late for this post, but because I ended up not blogging about so many things this year, I put too much pressure on this post! But alas, I want to talk about a few things, at least, that mattered to me in 2016 so here goes.

I read more last year than I had for the few years prior to it due to a change in circumstances and much thanks to audiobooks. I read a lot of books and series I had missed out on over the years due to blogging obligations and accessibility. It was a great reading year as a result!

The book I read most recently that really impacted me was Sisterland by Curtis Sittenfeld. I also read Eligible, her 2016 release which I enjoyed a lot, but Sisterland was next level for me. Part of the reason for this was the choice to set this story in St. Louis and make that setting matter. I grew up in St. Louis and it is often one of the most overlooked cities for stories. Yet, it has its own interesting culture and history that make it an interesting setting for a story. I sort of thought this book was brilliant in the way it was crafted. I don't want to say too much, but while everything is very deliberate, you never necessarily feel that while reading it. It's about twin sisters very different from each other. There's a small earthquake in St. Louis and that prompts Violet, one of the sisters, to predict a much larger one will hit the area. There's so much going on in this book, though. While there is a small supernatural element, I wouldn't be put off by that. And it's just...man such an honest look at family and love and relationships and even just being, lol. I loved it.

The other book that I loved and vaulted to potentially a favorite book is Paul Tremblay's A Head Full of Ghosts. Again, I read his 2016 release, Disappearance at Devil's Rock, which is absolutely brilliant in its own way (the end--forever crying) but A Head Full of Ghosts is a perfect modern addition to the small collection of books about exorcisms. It is, in fact, a perfect counterpart to the original The Exorcist novel. If The Exorcist was about doubt and faith, A Head Full of Ghosts is almost about too much faith. But it has such a fresh, original, and exciting premise. A family wants an exorcism and is willing to allow it to be filmed for reality TV. The story goes back and forth between the present and the past. It feels like it should be an instant horror classic. There's a constant uncertainty about what is going on and even the ending may leave you with theories of your own. If you can handle exorcism stories and are a horror fan, this is one you absolutely must read in my opinion.

The other horror book I read this year and liked a lot was Night Film by Marisha Pessl. A young woman is found dead and a journalist suspects it is not suicide. He begins to investigate and discovers many details about her past. Her father is Stanislas Cordova and infamous cult film director who hasn't been seen in public for a very long time. The deeper the investigation goes, the more questions he unearths. And the story may not end satisfactorily for the reader who wants everything tied up, but it was a fantastic ending of why can't both be true? Sort of also reminded me a bit of the ending to the first season of The Missing. (a fantastic show!) Definitely recommended.

But I loved so much I read this year. I finally read The Rosie Project and thought it was delightful. I absolutely adored The Rules of Civility (probably partially thanks to Rebecca Lowman who is a wonderful reader). Heart of the Matter by Emily Giffin, Leave Me by Gayle Forman and The Lucy Variations by Sara Zarr were wonderful emotionally true and honest books that made me think. The Light Between Oceans and Me Before You made me cry and think. Dark Matter by Blake Crouch was profoundly thought provoking while also unsettling, The Fireman by Joe Hill was an interesting post-apocalyptic world. You Will Know Me by Megan Abbott was a gorgeously written thriller with an intensely satisfying ending, while her Die a Little was everything I could dream a noir crime novel to be. Sleeping Giants was an excellent audio production as was Illuminae. You and Hidden Bodies by Caroline Kepnes were laugh out loud funny while also being a disturbing reminder of our uncomfortable public lives in the age of social media. And I still feel like I haven't scratched the surface! Hopefully, I'll find time to write a little more about these, but for now, just know it was a great reading year!

Circumstances have changed again so I'm not expecting to read as much in 2017, however, I am looking forward SO MUCH to Sophie Kinsella and Joshilyn Jackson's new books among many others, I'm sure!


I also watched less TV in 2016, but there were some great shows I loved a lot.

The Walking Dead--In particular 6B, although 7A had its gems. 6B was so exciting as the group discovered a world outside of Alexandria and a threat. The way they dealt with it in various stages as other things also came to take their toll..i.e. Carol's PTSD, Rick and Michonne realizing they are in love (yesssss!!!), etc. gave the season a sense of urgency, allowed various cast members to show off their acting chops, brought fun new characters to the scene (Jesus!) and built a profound sense of dread. I was not in favor of the cliffhanger nor was I pleased with the marketing surrounding it, but you cannot deny that the finale was an excellent example of building dread and tension. The finale in 7A was also fab, as Team Family comes together to fight another day. Rick and Michonne are being written beautifully, I really can't complain, so I'm looking forward to what comes next!

Bates Motel--So perfect this season. I remain in awe of the amazing talent that is Freddie Highmore. He not only acted convincingly as an increasingly unhinged Norman Bates, but he also wrote an episode of the season! Vera Farmiga should never not be mentioned as well, she gave one hundred percent to her role. Of course you know that eventually Norma must die in order to bring about Psycho, but I was still in denial. A lot of denial. Her death really hit me hard and it's partly because Bates Motel is a tragedy. Norma found a few moments of true happiness and peace before her death, but her life was HARD and the previous seasons explained all the reasons why. She fought hard though and it's hard not to think with more education, resources, slightly different events, things could have been different. And that's why it's so sad. Still, I recommend this show so much.

For something lighter, I also totally loved The Good Place Completely, I really can't recommend it enough. It's a show with heart, but also genuine laugh out loud humor, and surprising cliffhangers that leave me excited for the next week. Please give it a go on streaming or on demand if you can because it really needs to continue.

I want to give a shout out to Fear the Walking Dead which I think found its voice in the second half of its second season as finally being a horror show about family. And The Exorcist was also an absolutely perfect horror TV show. It's probably one of the few pieces of horror media to actually creep me out. But it engages ideas of faith and autonomy in interesting ways and the cast is also superb.

I think I'll leave my wrap up here, as I didn't watch enough films to write about and I probably listened to zero new music of substance.

What were your favorites in 2016? Do we like any of the same things?


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