Books I Read: Inaugural Year 2017

Sometime in April 2017 I decided to start keeping a list of all the books I’ve read since the start of 2017. I can’t remember why, but I did. It was easy enough to remember everything I’d read as of January because I’ve long run out of upright storage space on my bookcase and started keeping two distinct piles stacked on the shelves: books I’ve just read and books in line to be read. I got the list up to speed based on the books I’ve just read pile and then from there, whenever I finished a book, I wrote an entry for it in the list aptly titled Books I’ve Read This Year. 

Riveting stuff, surely.

And now I present to you, my readers, said list:

  1. What Alice ForgotLiane Moriarty
  2. End of Watch—Stephen King
  3. All the Missing Girls—Megan Miranda
  4. Ready Player One—Ernest Cline
  5. Never Knowing—Chevy Stephens
  6. God-Shaped Hole—Tiffanie DeBartolo
  7. N0S4A2—Joe Hill
  8. The Good Girl—Mary Kubica
  9. The Perfect Stranger—Megan Miranda
  10. Horns—Joe Hill
  11. The Dark Tower 1: The Gunslinger—Stephen King
  12. The Dark Tower 2: The Drawing of the Three—Stephen King
  13. The Dark Tower 3: The Waste Lands—Stephen King
  14. The Dark Tower 4: Wizard and Glass—Stephen King
  15. The Dark Tower 4.5: The Wind Through the Keyhole—Stephen King
  16. The Dark Tower 5: Wolves of the Calla—Stephen King
  17. The Dark Tower 6: Song of Susannah—Stephen King
  18. The Dark Tower 7: The Dark Tower—Stephen King

I was hoping to get the list to 19 before the year was out, it’s a Dark Tower thing, but alas, my quest for the Tower took me right through to December 30th and I didn’t feel up to starting a new book so soon after that epic and heart-wrenching journey was done just for the sake of 19.

So 18 it is, not too shabby. That’s exactly 1.5 books per month. For someone who worked a very demanding job and has a lot of other varied hobbies, I’m glad I managed to find time for some good stories.

The year started out relatively light, with some Liane Moriarty. I like her. You might know her best as the author behind Big Little Lies, the book that the Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman HBO mini-series was adapted from. What Alice Forgot gave us a woman experiencing a Dickensian epiphany of sorts. She loses sight of what matters in life and a bonk on the head resulting in amnesia helps her revert to a decades younger version of herself, reliving the past decade secondhand, learning how she stumbled and gradually grew into an abhorrent version of herself. Then of course lessons are learned and Alice gains perspective. At least Ebenezer Scrooge only lost one night of sleep. Poor Alice lost a whole decade!

End of Watch was awesome, the final instalment in Stephen King’s Bill Hodges Trilogy. I liked the second story of that series best, Finders Keepers, but this one gave us a fitting end to the trilogy.

I got sucked into the Megan Miranda books by the Indigo hot-sellers displays and they were okay. Quick, entertaining summer reads. All the Missing Girls is the better of the two, with The Perfect Stranger feeling like a repetitive, watered-down contractual obligation by comparison.

Ready Player One seriously kicked ass! Man, that book was so cool and endlessly entertaining. From the very first page right through to the last I was hooked. Classic nerd sci-fi/80’s nostalgia mashup fun galore! I was excited to hear that it would be a movie in 2018, but then I saw the trailer and well… BOOOO! Just based on the trailer alone, there’s no way that movie is going to capture any of the awesomeness of the book. Read the book, get wrapped up in it, enjoy it. Afterwards, let’s all agree to pretend that a movie version doesn’t even exist.

Never Knowing is officially the worst fucking piece of garbage I’ve ever read. It is the current leader in the “How the fuck did this even get published???” championship bowl. For real. Whoever wrote the summary on the book jacket deserves a prize for being able to polish that humongous turd just enough to make someone like me, who has an exceptionally honed eye for bullshit, purchase it. I want my $6 back Indigo value bin. The concept was intriguing, it could have been good. A woman who was adopted goes looking for her biological parents and finds out that her mother was the only survivor of a violent serial killing rapist, who is still at large. Sounds like it could be really good, right? Unfortunately, all of that potential was spun into shit, not gold, by the most hackneyed excuse for a writer since E.L. James. Does this woman even understand how people actually talk to each other in long-term relationships? Here’s some free insight for you, Chevy Stevens: men and women in their fucking 30’s in a committed long-term relationship don’t call each other “baby” every single fucking sentence they speak to each other. Unless they’ve been lobotomized. And if you interact this way with your partner, you need to stop. Like, right now, because I guarantee you are annoying the absolute fuck out of everyone in your lives.

God-Shaped Hole was an emotionally draining read, but in the best possible way. I got deeply invested in Beatrice and Jacob’s relationship and loved that Tiffanie DeBartolo provided a recommended playlist for this book. My love for Jeff Buckley was reignited and I spent most of May and June listening to his album Grace on loop as a result of reading this book.

The Good Girl was another inconsequential thriller with a hyped up “you-can’t-see-it-coming-plot-twist” that was easily predicted within the first quarter of the book. Meh.

This year I discovered how fucking awesome Joe Hill is, and so much like his dad, Stephen King. Even if I had no idea who he was, his writing would immediately feel eerily familiar to me, having read as much King as I have. N0S4A2 is dark, creepy, thrilling, and exciting. Charlie Manx is as vile a villain as there ever was and the imaginative plot is immediately enthralling. Loved it, would highly recommend to anyone who wants a good spooky, action-packed adventure. Horns was stellar too, I read it the week we were in the Dominican, and while it might not be the general population’s idea of a “vacation read” I couldn’t put it down. I relished every minute spent with Ig while his newly sprouted horns compelled everyone around him to express and enact their innermost fucked up thoughts and desires on his path to uncover his beloved Merrin’s true killer. Read Joe Hill, he rules!

Then, towards the end of July, I felt compelled to finally start my quest for The Dark Tower. I bought the first four books a long time ago and they sat on my shelf, idling. I don’t think my heart or my mindset were in the right place to start an epic journey until the second half of 2017. The movie was coming out in August and I stupidly assumed it would be an adaptation of the first book, that it was going to be a Harry Potter kind of deal, 7 books = 7 movies, give or take. So I finished The Gunslinger, and I was halfway through book two, The Drawing of the Three, when D and I went to see the movie. Imagine my complete disappointment when I left the theatre after a 90-minute oversimplified, boiled down glimpse of the entire series.

That fucking sucked. As a standalone movie for D, who was never going to read the books and just wanted to watch it with me, it was fine. There were cool scenes, and good action. But there was no heart. There was no time to even get a sense of who Roland Deschain is, one of the greatest tragic anti-heroes I’ve ever come to know and love. That sucks, man. Most sacrilegious of all there was no ka-tet! No Eddie Dean, no Odetta Holmes/Detta Walker/Susannah Dean, and no Oy! We didn’t get to gear up for an epic quest at all. Shows over folks, make sure you put your garbage in the bins on your way out.

I carried on with my quest to read the rest of the series by the end of 2017 and I succeeded. I loved and cherished every single second of it. I know it gets a lot of flack from fans who read the series in painstaking real-time, waiting years between books for another instalment, but I especially loved book 4 Wizard and Glass. That was my favourite book of the series. People who complain about how it didn’t advance the quest because it was all Roland’s backstory disappoint me. Roland is our dinh and we get to experience a deeply insightful, formative period of his early life firsthand. We get to know his first ka mates, Alain Johns and Cuthbert Allgood personally! We get to experience his first love with Susan Delgado, and his first heartbreak. We get to learn more about how Roland strategizes, how he plans, how he outsmarts his opponents. What an absolute privilege to have a writer give you that rich backstory. If you’re not going to enjoy the journey, why are you even questing in the first place? That’s the reason guys like Stephen King take on these epic storytelling endeavours, because they have rapt readers who want to get immersed in the story right alongside them. We don’t care how long it takes, hell they can make it last even longer if they want and we’ll gladly savour every delicious morsel of tale they can provide. If you’re just reading something to know how it ends, I don’t think you understand the point of reading to begin with.

So there you have it, the list of books I read in 2017. I didn’t really start the year with a plan or a direction, I just read what appealed to me and added it to the list when I was done.

I’m going to start a list for 2018 as well and see how it goes. I think this year I’ll add a note for the date I finished each book, just to see how that looks. I love reading and doing this allows me to look back on a year of reading and appreciate all the adventures I had.

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That Night in Toronto…

If you read this blog, you know me. You know that in my core, in my bones, I am passionately, proudly Canadian. I’m a hoser, man. Through and through. I fucking love the shit out of Canada and I am especially proud of our incredible music. I could get lost in Rush for days. The first concert I ever went to was Bryan Adams. I worship The Barenaked Ladies and hum Crash Test Dummies in my sleep. And honestly, I know the words to a lot more Shania Twain songs than people even realize. If I listed here every single Canadian artist on my iPod right now, you’d get dizzy. CanRock is everything. It’s just simply a fundamental of who I am.

And yet, none of these gods or goddesses in the great CanRock pantheon come even remotely close to inspiring the devotion in me that The Tragically Hip does. This band is Canada itself, personified. Their music reaches me on a cellular level and connects to parts of me that nothing else can. And I’m not being intentionally hyperbolic, this is serious shit. If there’s music in your life that you fucking love like I love The Hip then you get it. If you’re some kind of weirdo that doesn’t even like music then I feel sorry for you. I feel sorry that you’ll never know what it’s like to be affected on every level of your being by artistry so divine. Artistry that nurtures and nourishes your soul. It’s crazy, but that’s what it is. It’s the life-sustaining thing that my soul needs. I need The Hip’s music like I need air to breathe.

That’s what I thought when I heard the news about Gord; the air that I need to breathe, to live, is being taken away.

Yeah, I’ll always have their music right at my fingertips anytime I want it. But knowing that there will eventually be an end to it, no more new stuff to get lost in, its unbearable. I’m not a “just the hits” kind of gal, I live for it all.

Deciding to tour after going public with Gord’s news about the incurable brain cancer was absolutely the right thing for the band to do, the only thing. And after the concert on Wednesday night, I’m convinced that he’s immortal anyways. Cancer won’t kill Gord. When he’s good and ready he’ll just decide to start his next chapter, that’s all it is. Cancer doesn’t get to have a say, Gord’s in charge and he does things his own unique way, he always has and he always will. It’s why I love him so much. That casual cavalier who-gives-a-fuck-what-anyone-thinks approach to just being himself, it’s inspiring.

I’ve seen The Hip live a number of times, and you never get the same show twice. You can’t ever tell what Gord will do next and it’s thrilling. You follow where he leads and you love every goddamn minute of it, that’s how you experience The Hip.

I was lucky enough to get tickets for the first in a series of three Toronto shows on their final tour. I got hosed on the pre-sale and the general public sale, but a couple of weeks later when more tickets were released I’m convinced that my kind and generous CanRock Gods let favour swing my way. Like I said, I’m bonkers for this band. While I saw plenty of other people give up saying “I’ve seen them before, guess that’ll do”, I wasn’t willing to give up hope so easily. I thought about it every single day. I even considered shelling out thousands for platinum seats in more feverish moments. If it came down to it, sure, I’d bend the knee for the StubHub lords, whatever it took. I just felt it, that I would go to this show. I needed to be there and the universe gladly obliged. I got an email through the fan club about more tickets being released, I marked it in my calendar and I wished with all my might. The day of the sale, it all worked out and I’m eternally grateful.

When the tour started I devoured every single piece of news about it. I loved seeing the band’s set lists on their Instagram account. I read so many fan reviews and stories about the shows. All of it just stoking the fire of my anticipation. Waiting was excruciating, but so worth it. It was impossible not to get emotional any time someone asked me about the show. I feel my feelings quite freely, no shame in that, and plenty of times I cried just telling people what this concert means to me personally. And most of the people I talked to were kind enough to not call me insane directly to my face, instead they probably thought it politely in their heads while nodding along, which I appreciated.

And then all of a sudden it was time.

5 minutes

This night will live in my heart forever.

the hip show

We had rear view seats, which I was a little worried about, but turned out amazingly well. There were massive screens on all four sides of the stage, so we didn’t miss a single thing. I saw every beautiful nuance of Gordie’s face while he sang to us. It was also really cool getting to see the bulk of the audience facing us, seeing what the band sees when they play to these sold-out maniacal crowds. What an amazing view!

audience

And the setup with the screens was perfect. Gord knew where the cameras were and he didn’t shy away from them at all. He loved using the cameras as a way to connect with everyone. There was this really wonderful moment where he just stared straight into the lens, a myriad of expressions passing across his face, and it felt like he was looking right at you, looking into you. Such a special thing, it allowed 20,000 people to feel like they got to have one personal moment with Gord.

They played so many great songs. The Hip have the most incredibly robust catalogue. So many crowd pleasers, too many for one performance. Some fantastic deep cuts too, stuff that is just always so surprising, but awesome to hear live. The new material fit right in. What Blue and Tired As Fuck felt like they were old gems I’ve always loved. Grace Too, 50 Mission Cap, Lake Fever, Little Bones, Three Pistols, Music at Work, Fully Completely, Wheat Kings… they just gave and gave.

Gordie

I expected to cry the whole time, to just be overcome. But I wasn’t. We rocked the fuck out, the band made sure of it. They played for over two and half hours and while there were lots of emotional moments peppered throughout the evening, the overall tone was much more triumphant than sad. It was a passionate and heady performance. I cried as soon as I heard the first few notes of Fiddler’s Green mostly because that’s just such a weighty song anyways. And again I cried hearing one of my personal favourites, Ahead By a Century… that lyric “disappointing you is getting me down” just felt too real.

But the most emotional moment of the whole concert was after the encore, Bobcaygeon, when Gordie bowed to the crowd and said “Thank you, Toronto. Thank you forever.” Instant waterfall of tears. Bawling, all of us, a whole stadium of people.

Gordie

It couldn’t last forever though, no matter how much I wished it would. All things end.

When it was time to say goodbye we cheered our hearts out for Gordie for a full three minutes while he stood there soaking it in, waving and bowing so appreciatively back at us. A thunderous amount of love for the man who means and has meant so much to so many of us, to this nation, for over 30 years. That was our moment to say what we needed to say to this great man. We fucking love you. So much.

You can watch it, our applause for Gord. And if you couldn’t get the tickets that you desperately wanted for one of the shows, I’m sorry. That fucking sucks. But you can take comfort in this little sliver of the magic that I bottled up and saved for you:

Best concert ever. Period.

The Hip

I’ll never forget that night in Toronto.