Welcome to Smugglivus 2017! Throughout this month, we will have guests – authors and bloggers alike – looking back at their favorite reads of 2017, looking forward to events and upcoming books in 2018, and more.
Smugglivus continues with our next Smugglivus guest – Claire Rousseau, the lovely reviewers, Booktuber and podcaster.
2017 has been a year of ups and downs for me. I’ve had mood swings and productivity dips, long reading slumps and several catch-up readathons, new professional opportunities and little time to work on personal projects.
It’s harder than ever to remember to shut down twitter, take a deep breath and give ourselves permission to just read that book, or watch that show, just because we think it’ll make us happy. In short, treat yo’self, but with great media because who has money for spending sprees?
In any case, here are some books, TV shows, podcasts and more that have made me happy in this ridiculous shitstorm of a year. I hope they can do the same for you.
We’ve had a pretty good year for superhero film, something I wouldn’t have predicted this time last year! As a complete newcomer to the DCverse, I fell in love with Diana Prince despite Wonder Woman‘s disappointing villain, and I even enjoyed Spiderman: Homecoming though I’m still irritated at how much of Avengers: Civil War‘s airtime was spent as a trailer for it.
But it was Thor: Ragnarok that made me fangirl the most! Not only because I’m a huge MCU fangirl to begin with, but also because everyone was having so much fun. A lot of the film was silly, and knew it, and didn’t mind. It was so refreshing to see a superhero film not take itself too seriously. Seeing some of my favourite characters faced down the end of their world with such good cheer was a treat. Truly a movie for our times.
Arabella of Mars by David D Levine
I read this delightful novel about a teenage girl dressing up as boy to sneak onto a ship and go to sea earlier this year and I absolutely loved it. This is one of my favourite tropes of all time, and once you throw in the fact that the ship is in fact an airship travelling to Mars, I was sold.
What stood out most when I was reading this book was the very rich and detailed prose, and the brutal descriptions of life and work onboard the ship. I loved seeing the subtleties of Arabella’s social status when she was herself and in her male disguise explored, as well as the intricacies of Martian society, habits and lore. There isn’t much that bugs me more in sci-fi novels than aliens that look and function exactly like humans, and that is definitely not the case in this book.
I can’t wait to read the sequel, Arabella and the Battle of Venus – it’s already out, but I need to find a quiet day to get stuck in, because I;m not going to want to put it down once I start.
Shipper’s Guide to the Galaxy
I’m a sucker for in-depth discussions of fandom, so it’s not surprising that I love this youtube channel so much. Shipper’s Guide to the Galaxy is run by Sasha, who releases several videos every week exploring different aspects of fandom.
Each video explores a specific topic in great detail – it’s most often all about a romantic pairing or ship, as the channel’s name suggests, but there are also videos about tropes, a series defining fannish terms for newcomers, fanfic recommendations and conversations with fans.
The scripts are well-written and nuanced but it’s the editing work that I think makes Shipper’s Guide truly stand out. I also find Sasha very funny and I enjoy all the little notes she adds on videos in post-production.
Rick & Morty
I watched both currently available seasons of Rick & Morty with my partner earlier this year, and although I wasn’t sold on the show’s particular brand of humour at first, by the time we had seen three episodes, I was completely hooked.
We follow eccentric genius asshole inventor Rick Sanchez, who lives with his daughter and her family, as he repeatedly takes his grandson Morty out of school to go on whacky space adventures that threaten to blow up minor planets and/or Morty. The show is full of twists and turns, and kept subverting my expectations as I watched. I spent a lot of time laughing at crass jokes, only to realise that a bunch of backstory and worldbuilding had been happening when it all came back to punch me in the feels at the end of an episode.
As much as I love it, this is probably a bit of a love-it-or-hate-it show, but I’d recommend giving it a try.
The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi
I’ve yet to read a John Scalzi novel I don’t enjoy, so it’s no surprise that The Collapsing Empire was one of my most eagerly awaited releases of 2017 – I’m delighted to say I was not disappointed! This is the first installment in a new series, a space opera truly epic in scope.
The newly-crowned Empero, Cardenia, is learning how to rule when she learns of a looming threat to the very core of the Interdependency, and she has to decide whether to ignore it and play for time, or face it head on and risk a coup. We also meet a group of scheming siblings, a physicist with a crucial legacy to carry out, the delightfully foul-mouthed daughter of a prominent trading family and a host of great secondary characters. As with previous Scalzi novels, this book is fast-paced and funny, and it is a wonderful ensemble.
Goodreads tells me the next book is due out in 2019, which is just unfair! In the meantime, I sure hope some studio exec somewhere comes to their senses and pick the series up for adaptation immediately.
The Sims 4 Cats & Dogs
I haven’t played the Sims consistently since I was at university, but I do always enjoy taking an evening off to build a ridiculous Sim mansion now and again. This past month, though, I’ve been playing a lot more, all thanks to the game’s latest expansion pack, Cats & Dogs. It does what it says on the tin and allows you to have pets in the game, and let me tell you – they are very good pets.
You can choose your pet’s breed or make them any cross you can think of, you can customise their coats to look as realistic or as silly as you want, you can run a vet clinic or you can just have your Sim hang out at home with their cats and play laser pointer a lot. By the time I’d played a few hours, I’d made a very convincing Sim version of my cat Tabby and she had gained over 200 Simstagram followers, as she very well should.
I find the game incredibly relaxing, so let’s just say I have now played much more than ‘a few hours’ and leave it at that…
Buffering the Vampire Slayer
This is a funny, smart, irreverent Buffy podcast and I love it to bits. Every time a new episode comes out, I have to get it into my ears as soon as humanly possible.
The show is hosted by musician Jenny Owen Youngs & LGBTQ+ advocate Kristin Russo, who rewatch every episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer one at a time before discussing it on the podcast. Jenny & Kristin are riotously funny & have got wonderful podcasting chemistry, but also don’t skirt away from discussing how problematic this fave can be. They also ship everyone as much as I do, which I enjoy a lot.
The shows is very well produced, with jingles for beloved characters as well as regular guest contributors, interviews with Buffy alumni and an original song at the end of every show, recapping the episode they’ve just watched.
Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia
Eliza is a shy high-school senior with a secret identity; online she is LadyConstellation, the artist and writer behind the mega popular webcomic Monstrous Sea. These two sides of her life life are kept in neatly separate boxes until she accidentally befriends the new kid in school. Wallace looks like a football player, but he’s even shyer than Eliza, and he writes exquisite Monstrous Sea fanfiction.
I always look out for books about fandom, since it’s been a big part of my life for a long time, and there aren’t that many stories about it out there. I always hope to see a fannish experience that I recognise portrayed in the media I consume, and I’m often disappointed but I absolutely adored Eliza and Her Monsters. I inhaled this book in a day and I would very much recommend it to any fannish people out there.
[Content Warning: depression, mentions of suicide]
The Boy Who Hasn’t Lived
A podcast about one friend forcing the other to read the entire Harry Potter book series for the first time. As is often the case, hosts CJ and Arlie are the main reason I love this show. They’re both warm, insightful and hilarious.
CJ wasn’t allowed to read books about wizards growing up and they’ve never seen the film, so they are that rare breed – someone who has absolutely no clue what happens in the whole series. If you’re a long-time Potterhead like me, you will feel for CJ’s co-host Arlie who does a fabulous job not commenting on whether CJ’s guesses about what will happen later in the series are completely off the mark and scarily close to canon – they often are the latter!
The Boy Who Hasn’t Lived manages to do the almost impossible: help me recapture the feeling of reading these books for the first time, waiting for the final few books to come out so I could find out what happens next.
The Turner series by Cat Sebastian
I’m still very new to reading romance but I’m already addicted to Cat Sebastian’s writing. The books in the Turner series all feature gay couples in historical settings, and as with many romances series, they can also be read out of order – I’d say each book stands alone but I doubt any reader will stop at just one book when they could get all three in their eyeballs.
I was ready to fight for every one of these characters within a page of being in their head and I believed in their chemistry from the word go. These are happy, fluffy books which only the lightest smattering of angst here and there. There are also some really good discussions of mental and physical health, which I appreciated.
Cat Sebastian’s next book, It Takes Two to Tumble, is the first in a new series and came out on December 12th.