Let’s be honest: 2017 was something of a garbage fire. Between the shitshow that is the Trump regime and wave after wave of abusers being outed, not to mention mass shootings and devastating hurricanes…it’s been a rough year.
But even though it mostly feels like this year has been a constant stream of shit, there have been some great things to come out of 2017, so I thought I’d spend my obligatory year-end wrap-up post oozing some positivity.
Best Album: Rainbow – Kesha
If you follow me on Twitter, have read a certain post on this blog, or know me IRL, you know I have a lot of Feelings about this album. It was only just released in August, and it’s still easily my most-played album on Spotify. It would be an impressive album coming from anyone in any circumstance – but given both our current climate and everything that Kesha has been through at the hands of abusers in the music industry, Rainbow is an especially beautiful and poignant piece of work. The front half in particular is loaded with emotional gut punches and kickass power anthems. In the mood for a catharsis cry? Put on “Praying.” (There’s a moment near the end that can only be described as part singing and part screaming, and it wrecks me to my core every time.) Need to crush a man under your stilettos? “Woman” is perfect for that. Want something sweet and romantic and wholesome, with a side of twang? Well, there’s a lovely duet with Dolly fucking Parton that fits the bill.
Runner-up: “What If Nothing” – Walk The Moon
I unironically and unabashedly adore Walk The Moon. I’ve loved them for years; I once bought a ticket to a Panic at the Disco show in my mid-20s, because WTM was the opening act. Their music is catchy and fun and often kinky as hell. (Seriously, go listen to “Shiver Shiver.” I’ve heard it hundreds of times at this point, and it still gives me subby feelings.) That said, I admittedly haven’t spent as much time with their new album as I’d like because I’ve been preoccupied with other music (see above), so while I really enjoy it, I haven’t decided where “What If Nothing” ranks for me in their discography. However, one song includes the lyric, “I can take a beating like a good pair of headphones,” so it’s safe to say it’s looking promising.
Best TV Season: The Good Place, season 1
(Yes, technically the first season premiered in 2016, but the season finale was in January 2017 plus I didn’t discover the show until this fall so I’m counting it, okay? My blog, my rules.)
This fucking show.
Do you like food puns, impressive bow tie collections, getting nerdy about philosophy and ethics, and contemplating the afterlife? This show is for you.
Honestly, I didn’t watch it when it first premiered because the elevator pitch of the show I’d heard didn’t really grab me. Kristen Bell in heaven, being guided by Ted Danson? Meh.
But I was wrong. So, so wrong. Thankfully, at the urging of my best friend, I finally gave the show a shot, and I binged all 13 episodes comprising the first season on Netflix in one sitting not long before season 2 premiered this fall. The Good Place – created by Michael Schur, of Office and Parks & Rec fame – is a shining example of just how great TV can still be, even in a traditional 22 minute format on a big 3 network. It’s hilarious and nerdy (actually nerdy, not Big Bang Theory nerdy) and charming and so, so smart. The cast is fantastic, and it’s not just Kristen Bell and Ted Danson. D’Arcy Carden in particular is a revelation. I can’t go into anything else too deeply without getting into spoiler territory, but please give it a shot; it’s so worth it.
Runners-up: Master of None, season 2; Bojack Horseman, season 4; The Bold Type, season 1; Big Little Lies, season 1
…Yikes, I watch a lot of TV. I won’t go super in-depth about each of these, but they’re all fantastic. Master of None’s sophomore season on Netflix was even better than its already impressive first, with some truly incredible standalone episodes that I’ll discuss in the next segment. Also on Netflix, Bojack Horseman – a show I can only really describe as a brilliant animated depression comedy – somehow upped its darkness factor even more in season 4. (And after the Sarah Lynn plot in season 3, that was a feat I didn’t know they had in them.) The Bold Type was a totally unexpected gem; it’s sort of campy and SATC-esque in its “group of women in their mid-20s live and work in NYC” premise, but despite this and airing on Freeform, it’s charming, surprisingly feminist and progressive, and just a lot of fun to watch. On the flip side, HBO’s Big Little Lies is dark, twisted, suspenseful, and very hard to watch at times. It’s a beautifully shot and well-plotted mystery that contains some incredible performances from a stellar cast, but major TWs for domestic abuse and sexual assault.
Best TV Episode: “Thanksgiving” – S2 E8, Master of None
I will never be able to adequately articulate my love for this episode, but I will do my best. It chronicles the Thanksgivings throughout the years that Dev (Aziz Ansari) spends with his friend Denise (Lena Waithe) and her family. It’s about love, family, coming out, being a black woman in America, and so much more. It is already a new Thanksgiving tradition for me; I watched it twice, once alone and once with my mother, who thankfully also loved it, meaning I don’t have to disown her.
Oh, and Denise’s mother? She’s played by Angela fucking Bassett, and unsurprisingly, she steals the whole show. Her performance is nothing short of breathtaking.
Runners-up: “Michael’s Gambit” – S1 E13, The Good Place; “New York, I Love You” – S2 E6, Master of None
“Michael’s Gambit” is the season 1 finale of The Good Place, but because of spoilers I won’t say much about it other than it completely floored me when I watched it for the first time. For me, it’s as close to perfect as a season finale can be.
“New York, I Love You” is another crowing achievement in the second season of Master of None, and it would be my favorite episode of the season were it not for “Thanksgiving.” (Interestingly, both of my favorite episodes of this season were ones that didn’t focus on Dev.) This episode follows different New Yorkers over the course of a day, ultimately culminating in everyone taking in a midnight showing of a new horror movie that’s been the buzz of the city.
Best Movie: Get Out
I don’t watch nearly as many movies as I do TV shows, and the majority of my yearly movie-watching tends to happen at Sundance, meaning a lot of the films I do manage to see don’t make it into a wide release. So you’d think that this would be a difficult category in which to pick a favorite, and in other years, you might be right. But not this year. Get Out wins, hands down, no contest.
Honestly I don’t know what else I can say about this film that hasn’t already been said by many people who are much smarter and more eloquent than I am, but if you haven’t seen it yet, please find a way to watch it, especially if you’re white. Even if you don’t like horror movies – I don’t either – Get Out absolutely deserves your time. Be prepared to get uncomfortable and sit with your privilege.
Runner-up: Star Wars: The Last Jedi
(No spoilers here, so if you haven’t seen it yet, fear not.)
Look, I know a lot of Star Wars nerds hated this film. I’m sure some of them had completely legitimate reasons, but let’s be real: most of them are whiny, misogynist man-babies who can’t handle seeing people who aren’t white men take control of shit. No, it wasn’t a perfect film, but I enjoyed the hell out of it. It was packed with action and silly jokes and droids being adorable and all the other ridiculous but fun trappings of a Star Wars movie, along with plenty of emotion and heart. Seeing Carrie Fisher in her final role was painful and beautiful to the point that I cried every time she was on screen.
“We’re with the Resistance.” You’re goddamn right we are.
Best Podcast: LeVar Burton Reads
This category was extremely difficult for me, not because I don’t have any favorite podcasts, but because I’ve been listening to most of them for longer than a year and the ones I have discovered this year have either already been or will be featured in my Hermione Danger Recommends series.
LeVar Burton Reads, however, does not fit my recommendation post requirements but absolutely deserves to be highlighted. As the title suggests, each episode is a piece of short fiction read aloud by LeVar Burton (best known for Star Trek TNG, Roots, and READING FUCKING RAINBOW, DUH), and it is such a delight. LeVar, of course, has a wonderful reading voice, and because I don’t read much in the way of short-form fiction, the podcast has opened me up to new authors I never would have read or heard otherwise. Episodes generally range from 30-50 minutes, which make them perfect audio accompaniment for a morning commute or a lunch break.
Runner-up: Deadly Manners
Continuing the LeVar Burton theme (and Kristen Bell too), Deadly Manners is a relatively recent discovery of mine. Imagine a darkly comedic and campy Clue in audio drama form with a bunch of people you might recognize doing the voices, and you have at least an idea of what Deadly Manners is. It’s funny, it’s weird, and it’s narrated by LeVar Burton, so naturally, I was super into it. All 10 episodes have been released now, and each episode is < 30 minutes, so it’s something you can easily binge in an afternoon. Or, if you like to keep yourself in suspense, stretch them out!
Best Book: A Conjuring of Light – Victoria Schwab
This is the third and final book in one of my favorite series of the last several years. I have loved pretty much everything of Victoria Schwab’s that I’ve read, but this trilogy is easily her best work, IMO. It contains all of the things I love in a fantasy series: magic, adventures, complex characters, and a world that resembles our own in some ways but greatly differs in others. It doesn’t fall into the traps that many fantasy series, especially trilogies, fall into; the first book, A Darker Shade of Magic, is an impressive debut and it hooked me immediately, but instead of getting progressively weaker in subsequent books (looking at you, Hunger Games), the overall story gets better. There’s no Temple of Doom problem here: book two, A Gathering of Shadows, isn’t merely a bridge, a way to pass the time between the bookends of the series. Each installment has its own contained plot, its own struggles to overcome, but the series-long arcs are consistent. This is remarkably difficult to do, but Schwab executed it brilliantly.
If you like fantasy, especially the kind that doesn’t go the ~High Fantasy~ route of the likes of Sanderson, Jordan, etc., please give this series a shot. (I’m sure you can find them at your local public library, wink wink!) And if you love them, check out Schwab’s other works – including an upcoming series set in the Shades of Magic universe, which was announced earlier this year.
Runner-up: Shadowhouse Fall – Daniel Jose Older
There are several other books I wanted to include here, but I’ve decided to focus solely on Shadowhouse Fall, because Older and his work deserve their own section. Shadowhouse Fall is the second book in this particular series (Shadowshaper being the first) about Brooklyn teens who have abilities to see, communicate, and harness the power of spirits. But my meager description doesn’t do it justice; Older’s descriptions of Brooklyn – his Brooklyn, the Brooklyn filled with black and brown faces, the Brooklyn being shoved out thanks to gentrification – are breathtaking. The characters are flawed and believable; they talk and act like teenagers, not adults masquerading as teenagers like you so often see in YA novels. Even if you’re not into so-called “urban fantasy” or books dealing with the paranormal or supernatural, the themes of love, loss, family, racism, and police brutality are present throughout, creating powerful narratives that extend beyond the genre.
Best Sex Toy: Standard Glass S-Curve
Unlike most of my sex blogging friends, I am not a toy reviewer, so any toys I own are ones that I (or Swarley) have purchased. I also have fairly high standards when it comes to toys, thanks to the knowledge I have gained from research and other bloggers. Because of this, I am fairly choosy about toys I do decide to buy, especially if they’re $100+ – and even more so if they’re dildos, as insertables tend to not be my go-to masturbation tools. But y’all, the S-Curve is easily one of the best purchases I’ve ever made in my entire life, and my only regret is not buying one sooner.
I’ve only owned one glass dildo before, one in the relatively cheap Icicles line, and while I didn’t hate it, it was never a favorite. Something about the rigidity and the texture just didn’t do it for me or my vagina. “Maybe glass toys just aren’t for me,” I thought.
But after seeing both Taryn and Kate profess their love for this toy, I started to reconsider. I loved the look of glass toys, and I so wanted my body to love them too; maybe I just hadn’t found the right one yet. Then, about a month ago, I had just received a promotion and a raise at work, and I saw that they were back in stock online at Smitten Kitten. So I took the advice of Parks and Rec and treated myself.
Y’all, I haven’t loved a new toy this much in years. It’s easily my favorite non-vibrating sex toy ever. Its curve is perfect for the particulars of my body; it nestles in my vagina in such a way that I barely have to do any work to make myself orgasm. I have never been able to orgasm without external clitoral stimulation, at least not that I’ve been able to recall. But I can with this toy, and it’s incredible. It makes me feel like I’m not broken.
Plus, I mean, it’s fucking gorgeous. Look at it.
If you have a vagina, or love someone who does, consider this toy. It’s basically magic. And as of this writing, Smitten Kitten still has some in stock, so buy one now before they sell out again!
Runner-up: Vixen Creations Mustang
As I mentioned above, I am not generally drawn to insertable sex toys, whether they vibrate or not. But I wanted to expand my dildo horizons a bit this year, and I had heard great things about the VixSkin line of toys over at Vixen Creations, so I went dick hunting. After much deliberation, I decided on the Mustang, as it seemed to best fit my size and shape preferences in penises. I also opted for the tie-bright option, because it seemed so much more fun and whimsical than the skin tone options. The silicone is dual-density, meaning it’s soft and squishy on the outside but firm on the inside, giving it a fairly realistic feel. My only complaint is that the silicone collects dust and hair (especially dog hair, which is omnipresent in my house thanks to Arya), but that is an easy problem to solve. This toy is my go-to when I want to masturbate with the closest thing to a real penis as I can (and it makes for super hot fellatio nudes!)
So there you have it, folks, my Best of 2017 selections! It was harder than I expected to compile this list; turns out, there was a lot of good to come out of this year along with the bad. Anything you loved this year that I didn’t mention? Any other category in which you want to know my favorites? Tweet me with your comments!