Not Just Books: June 2018

The weather is warm, the sun is shining, and summer reading programs have started in libraries. It must be June! Between vacations and friend time, cook outs and hang outs, we have been enjoying our book piles and all sorts of other things. Here are our non-book picks for June!

Serena’s Picks

mv5bzgjinju3ztutn2mxnc00ythjltgwn2etnmvmzjkxytuxnjfhxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvymtkzoduwnzk-_v1_sy1000_cr006661000_al_TV Show: Masterchef

I probably highlighted this last year too, but I’m too lazy to check. Either way, I always look forward to summers and the return of yet another cooking competion show. While “Top Chef” and “The Great British Bake Off” are still my favorites, this one has been running strong for several years and I’ve watched faithfully the entire time. The judges have been rotating quite a lot, so I was surprised to tune in for the beginning of this season and see the return of Joe and the lost of Christina. It was a mix of feelings as I always liked Joe’s utter lack of f’s to give about doling out harsh criticism. It wasn’t a true season until he threw someone’s plate of food into the trash can. But Christina had also warmed to me quite a bit over the last few seasons, and I appreciated the show’s attempt to try to bring baking into it a bit more through her expertise. Ah well, change happens. I’m intrigued by the new format of the three judges each having teams, so we’ll see where this ends up going!

mv5bmdeyn2u1ytitndy1zi00yjljlwi5yzitnwu3ywviyjhiztgxxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvynjg4nzayota-_v1_sy1000_cr006661000_al_TV Show: “Elementary”

OMG, it’s been FOREVER since this show was on! And by “forever,” I mean an entire year. For a show that had regularly started each fall, this was a big disappointment when I started scouring TV schedules last September and couldn’t find it anywhere only to realize that it had been pushed back until May. I mean, I guess if the choice was cancellation or turning it into a summer show, I’ll take this, but man, the wait was long. I need me some Johnny Lee Miller! It also feels like the show has been revitalized during this delay. I was never a fan of the whole Shinwell arc last year and was more than happy to hate on the character even more now that we can blame him for Holmes challenging mental health condition. I’m also excited to see the show introduce what hopefully will be a season-long through line about this mysterious villain lurking around in the background. I like the procedural elements of this show, but I’d also be happy if it added a few more “Dexter-esque” serialized villains, too.

rs-130097-snood-1800-1394566664Arcade Game: “Snood”

Let’s go back in time! As you will see later, Kate is following the more cutting edge games while I seem to be traveling back to the good ole 90s where gaming was much more simple. This wasn’t my own choice but instead that of my husband, while on several long plane rides this last month he insisted on downloading this old game and having us play it obsessively for hours at a time. And I have to say, it was quite addicting for being such a simple concept. I was also terrible at it. While he quickly pulled off complicated bank shots off the walls, I was lucky if I even hit the target I was aiming for that was straight ahead of me. Ah well. We can’t be good at everything. But I still had way more fun than one would expect. I mean, who needs inflight entertainment when you have this gem?

Kate’s Picks

unbreakable-kimmy-schmidt-s4-poster-932x1140Netflix Show: “The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” Season 4 Part 1

You know that this show was going to be on my list again, because every year I look forward to Kimmy, Titus, Jacqueline, and Lillian getting into dark and goofy hijinks all over New York. This season the show tackles a number of relevant issues in its own absurd, yet shrewd, way, from white privilege to sexual harassment to certain streaming services that make a WHOLE lot of money off of true crime documentaries, and I was laughing the entire way. Sadly, it is a short season with the first half out now and the second half coming out in the future, as it’s also the last season of this amazing show. I’m sad, but also ready to see where all of my favorite characters end up (please oh PLEASE let Titus and Mikey end up together!!!).

pokemon-go-news-942620Video Game: “Pokemon Go”

YEP THAT’S RIGHT, I FELL BACK INTO THIS GAME!!!! When it was announced that there was going to be a new Pokemon game on the Switch, I was pretty stoked. But then when they said that there was going to be a tie in to Pokemon Go, I felt a need to dive back into that addictive game. What I like about Pokemon Go is that it lets me fulfill my collecting desires, and that it makes it so (in good weather) my husband and I can go for walks and collaborate together on tasks, be it tracking Pokemon or teaming up to take on a gym. It’s just a fun little game. And while I may not know really any of the new generation Pokemon, going out and taking the steps to evolve the friggin’ flying dragonbeast Gyarados made the game TOTALLY WORTH getting back into.

70153390-1TV Show: “Criminal Minds”

Oddly enough, I only watched “Criminal Minds” on and off in college and didn’t really watch any more of it beyond then. You’d think that I would have been all over that show given that it’s about serial killers and the quirky and damaged people who hunt them. So I decided to jump in and watch the show on Netflix, and I must say it’s been a pretty breezy experience. While I have to imagine that it’s kind of lost it’s luster (it’s STILL ON), the older seasons are still chilling and highly watchable. I like trying to figure out the real life inspirations for some of the storylines, and I like watching the members of the Behavioral Analysis Unit track the killers. My favorites are ALWAYS going to be bubbly computer hacker Garcia, earnest wunderkid Reid, and no nonsense and sarcastic Prentiss. We’ll see how long I can keep going on this show (thirteen seasons, y’all), but for now I’m all in.

 

Not Just Books: May 2018

While we do love us some books, believe it not, we do have a life outside of reading. So to highlight our other pop culture interests, on the last Monday of each month, we each will highlight three other “happenings” from the last month. Big events on favorite TV shows, new movies we’ve watched, old movies we’ve “discovered,” etc. Pretty much whatever we found of particular interest outside of the book world during the last month. Share your own favorite things in the comments!

Serena’s Picks

mv5bmji0mdmzntq0m15bml5banbnxkftztgwmtm5nzm3ndm-_v1_sy1000_cr006741000_al_Movie: “A Quiet Place”

Yes, looking at that movie poster, you’re right to be thinking “Wait…this is Serena’s pick??” Well yes! While I am not the connoisseur of horror that Kate is, but I do like a specific variety of creepy films, mostly those that walk the line with science fiction. And the second I saw this trailer with Jim Hal-, I mean John Krasinksi, sneaking around a mostly silent set hunted by creepy alien/monsters, I knew this would be one I’d be checking out. And I absolutely adored it. Not only was it pitch perfect for the type of horror that I enjoy, but it felt completely new and refreshing. It’s one of those films that I found myself thinking and talking about for days after I’d seen it. I didn’t know until after the credits rolled that Krasinski was also the director of this film, and that just makes it all the more impressive. Plus there’s the cuteness factor of him and his co-star Emily Blunt being married in real life. Even if horror isn’t your first pick for movies, if you like science fiction, this is definitely worth checking out. I’ve been telling people that it’s like “Signs,” but, you know, better.

mv5bmjmxnjy2mdu1ov5bml5banbnxkftztgwnzy1mtuwntm-_v1_sy1000_cr006741000_al_Movie: “Avengers: Infinity War”

As Kate will admit to later in this post, I am the more dedicated Marvel movie fan of the two of us. I think I’ve seen all of them. Probably all in theaters, too. And while I’m still always going to prefer my beloved Superman and DC comics as a whole, there’s no denying that Marvel has completely blown DC out of the water with their film franchise. I mean, even this, a movie so bloated that even the most dedicated fan would have a hard time naming every cast member, somehow was pulled off and fun as heck. Fun, being the key word! coughDCcough. But the fun isn’t the heart of this movie, and while it does help lighten the mood, this is an action-packed culmination of years of build up. And it doesn’t flinch away from the realities of what a powerful villain would actually be capable of. Marvel’s most successful move, probably, is setting out enough pieces and clues to leave fans talking and theorizing while they’re forced to wait another year to get the second half.

mv5bmja4njuzntk4nv5bml5banbnxkftztgwodi1oty0ntm-_v1_sy1000_cr006741000_al_TV Show: “Arrested Development”

I know that I am very late to this train, but my husband has been making all of these jokes, and I’ve been so confused. Really, it wasn’t until I started watching this that I realized some of his jokes were even referencing something. I just thought he was kind of weird on his own. But I’ve finally arrived and I’ve been gobbling up this show with nightly installments. It’s another perfect palate cleanser from some stressful weeks with its quirky cast of characters and recurring jokes. I’m pretty picky about my comedy and there’s really only a handful of shows I’ve really enjoyed, so it always feels like a little bit of magic when I find a new one. I’m still in the early seasons, and I know it was cancelled and brought back, so I’m curious to see how it changes and compares as I get further in.

Kate’s Picks

22c4252b09ebb1d5923eea34392f2e1d495b8cb5Netflix Series: “Evil Genius”

So I was just starting college when the Pizza Bomber Case happened. Basically, a pizza delivery man named Brian Wells entered a bank with a bomb collar strapped around his neck and robbed the place. After police got him quarantined, not believing the the bomb was live, it exploded, killing him. I was both horrified and fascinated by the case, but it kind of fell out of my focus for awhile. Now, Netflix has put out the true crime docuseries “Evil Genius”, which chronicles the crime and the aftermath. And it is BANANAS. It also examines mental illness in American society, and how sometimes people who need help don’t get it… which can lead to deadly consequences. It’s an engrossing and disturbing four part series, and I devoured it in a day. But warning: It is graphic. It does show the actual explosion around Wells’s neck.

cobra-kai-william-zabkaYouTube Red Series: “Cobra Kai

Even though I was born in the 80s and did sustain myself on a steady diet of 80s cinema, I never really got into “The Karate Kid”. It’s fine, but it wasn’t a go to like “Bill and Ted” or “Ghostbusters”. But I was definitely into the idea of “Cobra Kai”, a YouTube series that picks up in the present day and follows both Daniel and Johnny and what they are up to now. Daniel is a successful businessman and car salesman, while Johnny is a down on his luck loser who decides to reopen the Cobra Kai Dojo, which leads to him teaching a new generation of misfits and geeks. I never knew that I needed this, but it is pretty great. The most interesting thing about it is that it mostly focuses on Johnny, and how broken and down and out he is. It’s really cool seeing William ‘Billy’ Zabka revisit this cardboard cut out character and to give him some tragic depth (most of which being the trauma of his abusive karate teacher from the movies), while still keeping him realistically assholeish. I haven’t finished the series yet, but I’m really enjoying it.

large_dp2Movie: “Deadpool 2”

While I’m ambivalent at best when it comes to most of the Marvel Comics world, I am ALWAYS going to be a fan of Deadpool and his snarky self aware raunchiness. I loved the first “Deadpool” movie, as it’s filled with laughs, sarcasm, and a whole lot of heart, so I was eager but nervous to see “Deadpool 2”. And outside of one issue that I had with it (must we really use women’s deaths to fuel manpain?), I GREATLY enjoyed the sequel. Wade Wilson is back, he’s as meta and morally ambiguous as ever, and this time he’s recruited some other people to help him fight against the bitter and broken Cable (Josh Brolin is KILLING IT this summer, right?). But the real stand out in this movie is Julian Dennison, who plays the teenage Firefist. Firefist is an abused and lonely mutant who is going down a dark path, and Dennison plays him with pathos, heart, and yeah, a healthy dose of attitude. I never expected a “Deadpool” movie to make me cry, but Dennison achieves it. It’s not as good as the first, but it’s still pretty damn good.

 

Not Just Books: April 2018

While we do love us some books, believe it not, we do have a life outside of reading. So to highlight our other pop culture interests, on the last Monday of each month, we each will highlight three other “happenings” from the last month. Big events on favorite TV shows, new movies we’ve watched, old movies we’ve “discovered,” etc. Pretty much whatever we found of particular interest outside of the book world during the last month. Share your own favorite things in the comments!

Serena’s Picks

BioShock2_boxVideo Game: “BioShock 2”

I think I may have started playing the first BioShock years ago, but I never finished it and only remembered vague details about it being some under-water dystopia game. But when I was browsing through Half-Price Books the other weekend, I spotted this for $5 and thought, why the heck not?! And then I proceeded to binge play it for the next week, finishing it up in record (for me!) time. It was a bit gory for my personal taste, but I really enjoyed the storyline and setting for this one. I usually play open-world, Bethesda games, so it was a change going back to a story-based RPG. But this one stood out from others I’ve played with the moral choices presented throughout the game and the effect these choices have on the ending itself. I enjoyed it quite a bit and recommend it for fans of RPGs, especially those who liked games like “Mass Effect.”

scd1Netflix Show: “Santa Clarita Diet” Season 2

I think Kate featured this show around this time last year, but this time I beat her to it with season 2! I, too, absolutely had a blast when this show came out of nowhere last year with its quirky premise and all-star cast. My husband looked over as I was watching it the other day and was like “My god, they all overact!” And I was like “Don’t you come at me! This show is a JOY!” And yes, the “overacting” is part of its charm! It just goes to show how far charisma in your leads can take you. Barrymore and Olyphant definitely play up the camp, but they’re just so adorable that their quirky and expressive ways are tons of fun. This season, I feel like the two teen leads also really got a chance to shine, and I was surprised by the bizarre return of a past villain, now in a new…role?

logo-white-rktvYouTube channel: Tiny Kittens HQ

As everyone should know by now, both Kate and I love our cats, and cat memes, and cat videos, and cat accessories, and all things cats. I have not taken this love to a new and very unhealthy extreme with my discovery of Tiny Kittens HQ, a small organization in Canada that works with several large feral cat colonies, working to reduce the cat population by spaying, neutering and finding homes for these adorable cats. This month is kitten extreme, as they brought in three feral mama cats who were all expected to have kittens within weeks of each other. A warning: amidst all the kitten cuteness is the harsh reality of what life is like for neglected, feral cats and their kittens who may not be born perfectly healthy due to this life of hardship for the mothers. But most of the time it’s just tons of cuteness, and I encourage anyone who has a passion for cats and helping improve the lives of feral cats to check it out.

Kate’s Picks

50052TV Show: “The West Wing”

So okay, I didn’t watch “The West Wing” on the regular when it was originally airing. My Dad did, though, and I absorbed enough through osmosis, the occasional episode, and pop culture aptitude to know enough about it to carry on conversations with others. But when my husband discovered it was on Netflix he suggested that we do a re-watch for him and a completion watch for me. Going back into it has been a bit bittersweet given the horrific shit-show that is American Politics at the moment, but boy am I really enjoying it (even if it’s making me tear up about our own reality). I still have a serious love for Josh Lyman, as I am very much like him in my utter lack of chill and complete disdain for Congress. But really, the entire cast is wonderful, the writing is snappy, and the themes show that some things don’t really change even after twenty years.

19-ogMovie: “Best F(r)iends: Vol. 1”

Remember back when I reviewed “The Disaster Artist” and I said that I had never seen “The Room”? Well, I rectified that earlier this year, and then, totally hyped on the magic that it was and the inadvertent charm that is Tommy Wiseau, I knew that I needed to see “Best F(r)iends”. Greg Sestero, author of “Disaster Artist” and Mark in “The Room” wrote this movie specifically for him and Wiseau to star in, and…… my God. It’s…… I can’t even describe it because it’s so odd and wondrous and baffling. Sestero plays a drifter, Wiseau plays a mortician, and they get caught up in some bad stuff…. with lots of laughs? Potentially meant to be laughs but they play it so straight but SURELY they had to be intentional???? I don’t really know. I do know, however, that I was laughing so hard I was crying. “Vol. 2” is coming out in June, and I am SO. THERE.

mv5bzti0mjllmgmtogyxmi00mtczlwjimzmtnta2zmyxmde5nmrixkeyxkfqcgdeqxvynjkwnzewmzu-_v1_sy1000_cr006661000_al_Amazon Prime Show: “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”

I actually watched this in its entirety earlier this year, but during the week of Passover my husband and I were watching bits of it again and I’m mad at myself for leaving it out the first time! Taking place in the late 1950s in New York City, Midge Maisel is the perfect housewife…. But then her lout husband Joel, after a bad night doing his stand up act, decides to leave her. So what does Midge do? She breaks into stand up herself. I love the zingy and barbed dialogue and I love the characters, from Midge, to her sarcastic manager/confidant Susie, to Abe Maisel, Midge’s high strung but ultimately loving father (played by my old favorite Tony Shalhoub). But something that both my husband and I love is that it is proudly and unabashedly Jewish, and it brings to life a New York City and a culture that my father-in-law spent his childhood years in and my husband has heard many stories about. So many brisket and deli jokes. For serious laughter, lots of heart, and a very handsome Lenny Bruce character, give “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” a go.

Not Just Books: March 2018

While we do love us some books, believe it not, we do have a life outside of reading. So to highlight our other pop culture interests, on the last Monday of each month, we each will highlight three other “happenings” from the last month. Big events on favorite TV shows, new movies we’ve watched, old movies we’ve “discovered,” etc. Pretty much whatever we found of particular interest outside of the book world during the last month. Share your own favorite things in the comments!

Serena’s Picks

mv5bnwu4nmy3mtmtmtbmmi00njfjltkwmmitywzhzwuwndg5m2exxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvynduyotg3njg-_v1_sy1000_cr006741000_al_Netflix Series: “The Defenders”

I have a very hit and miss track record as far as watching Netflix’s Marvel shows. I loved “Daredevil” and “Jessica Jones” but then didn’t watch “Luke Cage” and was scared off of “Iron Fist” by the bad reviews. But as I loved “Jessica Jones” the most out of them all (take a wild guess as to what’s my next pick on this list!), I felt the need to watch this team up show before watching the second season. And I was glad I did! I know this show, too, go a weaker reception than was expected, but I quite enjoyed it. For one thing, I think I felt better about having not felt like I had to spend hours watching every single series leading up to it. And as far as the story goes, I had no problem figuring out what was going on without having watched two of the series. Daredevil and Jessica Jones were by far the best part of this show as well, so I feel like I made the right decisions there. And I did love the outright mocking of Iron Fist that went down in this show. If anything, it definitely got me excited for Daredevil season 3 whenever that comes out!

mv5bmtkxmdk5ntq3mf5bml5banbnxkftztgwnzg3odu3ndm-_v1_sy1000_cr006741000_al_Netflix Series: “Jessica Jones” season 2

No one is surprised! I mean, I watched a whole other series in prep for this thing, so obviously it was going to make its way on this list unless it somehow bombed, which it did not. Krysten Ritter is definitely the strongest part of this series. She is pitch perfect as Jessica and manages to sell even the weaker moments of this season’s run. While I don’t think it reached the highs of the first season (for one, how do you top David Tennant’s terrifying Kilgrave??), it also managed to pull off the dreaded “origin story” superhero arc. There were a couple familiar faces popping in here and there, but at the heart, this is always Jessica’s story. It covers a lot of ground on some familiar topics (trauma and recovery from trauma) and new one ground with regards to family and memory. If you enjoyed the first season, I think this one is well worth checking out!

1200px-minnesota_united_fc_28mls29_primary_logo-svgSports: Minnesota United Soccer

Proof that I went outside last month!! So both my husband and Kate’s have been huge soccer fans for forever and have been buying season tickets together to our local soccer club for about as long. I enjoy sports more than Kate, so I’ve been tagging along for the last several years as well. Our team just moved up to the national level last year (let’s not talk about how well we did…), so this is the second year on the “big stage” as it were. This month’s season home opener was particularly fun as it was the first beautiful sunny day in the 50s we had had and our team pulled out an exciting win! This is probably the first and last time you’ll hear about sports on this blog, but quietly, in the background, I’ll be attending every home game we have, proof that not all librarian stereotypes hold water!

Kate’s Picks

fullsize_6306_1420729530Podcast: “Last Podcast on the Left”

So maybe you’re looking for a true crime podcast that also covers supernatural happenings, aliens, and conspiracy theories. And maybe you want your hosts to be three guys who are all kinds of inappropriate, but also do IMPECCABLE research into the case that they are tackling for each episode. If so, you should check out “Last Podcast on the Left”. Ben Kissel, Marcus Parks, and Henry Zebrowski have done episodes covering such subjects as the Aum Shinrikyo Death Cult, Ted Bundy, The Amityville Horror, and Roswell, with lots of black humor and lots of VERY thoroughly explored information. The series that hooked me was all about 90s Norwegian Black Metal and the murder of Euronymous, if only because of the hilarious but relevant tangents taken during the episodes. Expect some bad taste, but know that they take their research VERY seriously.

3dac38a0577560178dabb0c45c62e321f03cb7d8Netflix Series: “Wild Wild Country”

SPEAKING OF CULTS, who here has heard of the Rajneeshee Bioterror Attack??? Basically, in the early 1980s followers of Baghwan Rajneesh bought up some land and built a commune in the middle of nowhere Oregon. In an attempt to take over the town, one of their higher ups, Ma Anand Sheela, poisoned a number of local restaurant salad bars with straight up Salmonella in hopes that the townspeople would be too sick (or dead) to vote in the upcoming election. Hundreds were sickened and eventually the cult was run out of town. Well guess what! Netflix has a show about the group and the conflict with the town. What surprised me the most about this series was that it doesn’t just paint the Rajneesh followers as total monsters, but also examines the cultural conflict between this group and the people of the small town of Antelope, Oregon. You can see the motivations and feelings of both sides, and I came away feeling bad for a number of the followers who really felt like Rajneesh was their savior, as well as for the townspeople who were, uh, poisoned by the cultists. Deeply fascinating, and disturbing, stuff.

mv5by2iwotrkyjctymnhys00nthllthkzgetzdq1y2iwzdlmztbmxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvymtmxodk2otu-_v1_ux182_cr00182268_al_Netflix Series: “Everything Sucks”

As a person who hit middle school right during the mid to late 1990s (starting sixth grade in 1996), I feel a fair amount of nostalgic joy when I watch the show “Everything Sucks”. I mean, there are so many things that I completely remember and relate to when it comes to this show. My closet was filled with flannel and Doc Martens. I hung out with the geeks, but had a HUGE crush on one of the bad boy upperclassmen. And like many of the characters on this show, I was trying so, so hard to figure out who I was, and how to navigate through the awkward awfulness that was middle and high school. The real standouts are Luke (Jahi Winston), the freshman AV geek who is earnest and adorable, and Kate (Peyton Kennedy), a lonely sophomore who is slowly discovering her sexuality. Not only are the storylines filled with humor and fun, there is the undercurrent of bittersweetness (I was weeping openly during one scene with the use of the song “Rocketman”). 90s kids, check it out, but everyone else should too.

 

 

Not Just Books: February 2018

While we do love us some books, believe it not, we do have a life outside of reading. So to highlight our other pop culture interests, on the last Monday of each month, we each will highlight three other “happenings” from the last month. Big events on favorite TV shows, new movies we’ve watched, old movies we’ve “discovered,” etc. Pretty much whatever we found of particular interest outside of the book world during the last month. Share your own favorite things in the comments!

Serena’s Picks

mv5bmwrmyjvjm2ytndawmi00zgzmltgzmjqtyjy4mtnjmtljnjhjxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvymjexmjk0odk-_v1_sy1000_cr007081000_al_TV Show: “Broadchurch”

So clearly I’m on a bit of a kick with the whole British murder mystery TV shows. I highlighted “Wallander” last month, and now I’ve moved straight on to “Broadchurch” which I’m loving even more. The season long mystery is excellent with a bunch of red herrings and various suspects (for someone who kind of prides myself on being able to call the killer early in shows, I didn’t manage to get this one until a few episodes from the end. A definite plus!). But beyond this, there’s no getting away from the fact that the show lives and dies on the power of the two leads: David Tennant and Olivia Colman. These two are known powerhouses, so it’s not a surprise that they are excellent here. The combination of them together though? Just magic. Their characters have excellent chemistry. If there was a criticism I had for “Wallander” it was that its lead character was too broody/ansty without an appropriate foil. “Broadchurch” does better at striking this balance, relying on Tennant to provide the broodiness (but even he brings a bit more comedy than Branaugh’s Wallander had) and Colman to bounce off him with exasperation and humor. Supposedly there are two more seasons, but I’m not sure how they can recreate the magic that this one was, so we’ll see!

The+Boy+Who+Hasn't+LivedPodcast: “The Boy Who Hasn’t Lived”

This is a new podcast that I’ve discovered and have systematically binged. It features one host, dedicated and rightly obsessed Harry Potter fan, Arlie doing a first-time read through with his friend CJ who has never been exposed to the series before. My love of Harry Potter definitely expands to the point of loving watching other people experience it for the first time. I mean, really, if I could have any series to read for the first time ever, it would be this one, so it’s great fun hearing about someone else’s first time experience. Both hosts are hilarious and bring the perfect amount of geeky knowledge (Arlie) and new found wonder (CJ) to the experience of reading this series. If I had the time, I’d be doing a re-read with them, but, alas, I hear my next Animorphs book calling.

11669536Comic Collection: “The Complete Calvin and Hobbes”

Ok, yes, this one is kind of cheat-y because it’s more reading, but…but…they aren’t books! So it’s ok?? I’ve always loved Calvin and Hobbes and have a bunch of the smaller paperback collections, but also splurged on this lovely hardback full collection a few years ago. This last month I’ve been pretty stressed by some things that I don’t have much control over, and these comics have been a great resource for my tired mind. I mean, when reading an actual novel seems like too much work, you know it’s bad! But this collection provided the perfect amount of humor and whimsy that I needed, and all in a format that didn’t have a requirement for “finishing the book.” Some of the references are also hilariously dated, and really, that just makes it all the better!

Kate’s Picks

assassination-of-gianni-versace-teaser-and-key-art-1-600x600TV Show: “American Crime Story: The Assassination of Gianni Versace”

I remember riding home from school when the news broke over the radio that Gianni Versace had been shot and killed outside of his mansion in Miami. I remember when it was announced that Andrew Cunanan, a serial killer who started his spree in Minnesota, was the culprit. It was the first time I was following a serial killer in real time, and I was freaked out and horrified. So when Ryan Murphy announced that the second season of his anthology series would focus on Cunanan and Versace, I was very excited to watch it and get a new look at it all. Not only does this show have great performances (Darren Criss as Cunanan! Penelope Cruz as Donatella Versace!), it is also a fascinating examination of obsession with fame and celebrity, and gay culture in the 90s and how the lingering stigma was not only unfair, it was downright deadly for some. I love this show, and it’s SO well done even my true-crime disinterested mother is watching it with me.

91zyrtg1vl-_ri_TV Show: “RuPaul’s Drag Race: All-Stars 3”

That’s right, gang, not only are we getting a new season of drag queen shenanigans, it’s once again the Quarter Quell The All Stars Season! Former contenders come back to try and get the crown they missed out on the first time round, and the stakes are upped as the challenges are made more challenging and pressing. Some of my favorites (Chi Chi Devayne, Trixie Mattel, BenDelaCreme) from past seasons are here this time, making it VERY difficult to pick whom I want to win. But it’s always excellent seeing these ladies come back to perform, throw shade, and crack wise all while looking absolutely devastatingly fabulous. I also like that they kind of shake elimination procedure up during All Stars, as the queens lip sync for the weekly win, AND the opportunity to eliminate a fellow contestant. CUTTHROAT! DRAMATIC! ENTERTAINING! RuPaul’s back on our screens and I’m pleased as can be.

mv5bmtg1mty2mjyznv5bml5banbnxkftztgwmtc4ntmwndi-_v1_ux182_cr00182268_al_Movie: “Black Panther”

So perhaps you’re thinking ‘another Marvel movie? I thought Kate was a DC girl!!!’ And yeah, okay, so maybe this is ‘uncharacteristic’ of my usual allegiances. But guys, “Black Panther” is pretty badass. For one, the cast is fabulous, from Chadwick Boseman to Lupita N’yongo to Angela Basset to FOREST FRIGGIN WHITAKER (who is NOT wasted in his role, unlike in “Rogue One”). For another, this movie brings some excellent social commentary to a universe that could easily coast on superhero bust ups. Not only do we get the return of T’Challa, one of the more compelling parts of “Captain America: Civil War”, we also get a SLEW of kickass ladies who get shit done. I had a very fun time while watching this movie, and it brings MUCH NEEDED representation to a traditionally super white universe. All hail T’Challa, to be totally certain.

Not Just Books: January 2018

While we do love us some books, believe it not, we do have a life outside of reading. So to highlight our other pop culture interests, on the last Monday of each month, we each will highlight three other “happenings” from the last month. Big events on favorite TV shows, new movies we’ve watched, old movies we’ve “discovered,” etc. Pretty much whatever we found of particular interest outside of the book world during the last month. Share your own favorite things in the comments!

Serena’s Picks

mv5bmjq1mzcxnjg4n15bml5banbnxkftztgwnzgwmjy4mzi-_v1_ux182_cr00182268_al_Movie: “Star Wars VIII: The Last Jedi

Look, this is by no means a perfect movie. But, being of the “prefer Star Trek anyways” mindset, lack of perfection in Star Wars is nothing new to me, and I’m just there for the fun characters and the sci-fi action. And this had plenty of both! I do think the movie was overly long and I questioned some of the decisions they made with some of the main character (hard to like Poe now; Finn’s storyline was functionally unnecessary). But I loved all of the parts of the story that, you know, actually focused on the Jedi. Rey, Luke, and Kylo Ren’s arcs were all compelling and their performances were by far the strongest of the entire movie. In the end, I had a fun time watching it and am curious to see where things go next, and that’s pretty much all I ask of most movies.

mv5bmzjkyzg3mjqtodfhns00m2rlltgzndmtndrkodi1otdmy2u5xkeyxkfqcgdeqxvymjq1njeynze-_v1_uy268_cr40182268_al_TV Show: “Wallander”

I’ve always loved British crime dramas, but somehow had missed this one featuring the always-amazing Kenneth Branagh. And when I say “British,” I mean “British actors speaking with a British accent but pretending that they’re Swedish living in Sweden and speaking Swedish and all the written things you see are in Swedish, but please ignore that the actors are totally still speaking English in a British accent.” But once you get over the weirdness of that decision, the show’s pretty great! Wallander is definitely of the “brooding & brilliant” character type, so if you’re looking for a lot of jokes and pep, this might not be your thing. But if you like character-driven, beautifully shot, detailed crime dramas, than this might be for you!

indexComputer Game: “Civilization VI”

I remember playing the very first “Civilization” game when I was a kid with my sister and Dad back in the 90s. Really, my Dad played while we watched since we were still pretty little. And ever since, every few years or so, I’ll remember how much I love this game series and download the most recent version and disappear off the edge of the earth for a month or so. And now my poor husband is being exposed to his first round of this habit life-long habit. In the few weeks, I’ve literally spent entire days playing this and doing nothing else. Have to win a Cultural Victory! Now a Science Victory! Now I must conquer the world! It’s an obsession. But, as always, this newest iteration is as enjoyable as the first, and for those who like strategic games, “Civilization” is probably one of the biggest ones out there. Plus, they may have just released a new expansion. My poor husband…

Kate’s Picks

mv5bndk3ntewnjc0mv5bml5banbnxkftztgwnzyxntmwmzi-_v1_uy1200_cr9006301200_al_Movie: “Call Me By Your Name”

With all the awards season buzz going on right now, “Call Me By Your Name” is getting tossed around as a serious contender, as it absolutely should be. I went to see it with my friend David, and we were absolutely blown away with how touching and moving it was. This coming of age romance about Elio and Oliver, his father’s grad student, is so beautifully filmed and told, with excellent performances by both Armie Hammer and Timothée Chalamet. Their romance is touching and bittersweet, and the vistas and scenes of Italy made me feel like I was there in the moment. You will absolutely get lost in this movie, as it’s imagery and locales are completely intoxicating. I will say that you should probably bring a box of tissues with you, however, as by the end I was basically sobbing into my hands I was so emotionally rung out. Just ask David, I was a total mess. But it was worth it.

i-tonya-posterMovie: “I, Tonya”

I was in fourth grade when the whole Tonya Harding/Nancy Kerrigan scandal happened, and totally remember the media frenzy surrounding it. Nancy Kerrigan was the injured ice princess, and Tonya Harding was the conniving bitch who arranged to have her knee cap broken. “I, Tonya” puts forth the notion that Harding was vilified unfairly in the media, ignorant to the means her husband and his friend went to. It addresses her horrific background of being a victim of classism from the skating community, and physical and emotional abuse from both her mother and her husband. Margot Robbie plays Harding with the perfect combination of defensive petulance and desperation, and Sebastian Stan plays her piece of shit husband Jeff to a T. But it’s Alison Janney, who plays her abusive mother with both the blackest of black humor and terrifying cruelty, who really stands out. It has made me rethink a lot of things about Tonya Harding and the trial by media she endured.

rsz_5a2385b56c9a0TV Show Rewatch: “Monk”

So about sixish years ago I went through a rough spell of getting a bad bad case of norovirus, and the show that I watched while wanting to die was the delightful detective dramedy “Monk”. It went off Netflix shortly thereafter, and I didn’t think much of it. But then near the holidays this past year I got a nasty case of the flu/maybe walking pneumonia(I think? I’ve had it before and boy was it similar), and was bedridden with no energy for a few days. So what did I find on Amazon Prime around that time? “Monk”! This series follows Adrian Monk, an OCD and highly anxious private investigator whose fabulous detective skills make him the best in the game, even if he’s emotionally a bit stunted. Tony Shalhoub is a gem as Monk, and the supporting cast is a real joy with lots of great chemistry. Namely, Ted “Buffalo Bill” Levine who plays police Captain Stottlemeyer, Monk’s best friend and colleague. True, it’s a bit dated now after being off the air for ten years, but I greatly enjoyed my rewatch.

Not Just Books: December 2017

While we do love us some books, believe it not, we do have a life outside of reading. So to highlight our other pop culture interests, on the last Monday of each month, we each will highlight three other “happenings” from the last month. Big events on favorite TV shows, new movies we’ve watched, old movies we’ve “discovered,” etc. Pretty much whatever we found of particular interest outside of the book world during the last month. Share your own favorite things in the comments!

NOTE: Yes, we know that this isn’t the last Monday of the month and this isn’t a scheduling snafu. Instead, we’re working on a super special and exciting post for next Monday that also happens to be Christmas Day, so keep your eyes out for that!

Serena’s Picks

1487358575482TV Show(s): ALL the HGTV home make over shows

Look, I’m not proud of it, but there’s a good reason for this pick, just hear me out. As Kate knows (as in, this is all she’s heard about for a year now), my husband and I have been finishing the basement of our house. It started as “partially finished” (read: moldy wreck), and over a year we did demo, leveled the floor, added in-floor heat, tiled the floor, re-structured and laid out rooms, built walls, added a reading nook under the stairs, added built-in book shelves, installed a gas fire place, etc etc. And we finally finished this month. And ever since, we’ve been enjoying the new TV room by doing absolutely nothing but veg out in front of it re-living our trauma through the various home makeover shows on HGTV. Seriously, I think we have PTSD, but we can’t stop watching and triggering ourselves. It’s a sick obsession at this point.

mv5bodk2yme5mjetmmqzny00mzzjltgxndatytgzmthlztg1m2e3xkeyxkfqcgdeqxvymjiwnti1mtm-_v1_sy1000_cr007061000_al_Netflix Show: “Glitch”

This seems to be one of those Netflix shows that is largely unknown by people. The first season came out two years ago, and yet somehow I never really looked at this one, and I’m not sure why. Set in Australia, the story rotates around 7 people who have mysteriously risen from the dead. No bells or whistles, they’re just back, and no one knows why. What’s even more strange is that they’re all back from different time periods, some as recently as a few years, some who have been dead for centuries. As the season progresses we learn more and more about each of these character’s lives and the suspense grows around the mystery of their return. I’ve really been enjoying binging this show and part of it is simply the fun of listening to their accents. “Come this way, mate. That’s right, now just take it easy” all in the classic Aussie drawl.

Movie: “Miracle on 34th Street”

 (I WILL RE-POST THIS ONE EVERY YEAR, I DON’T CARE!) Obviously this falls under the category of old movies we’ve “discovered,” but even that’s not true! Let’s be real, I watch this movie EVERY Christmas. It’s a classic for a reason and there is something to love for just about everyone. You have the romance, the friendship, the family, the humor, the villains, the court room action, and the feel goods. Not to mention, the adult in me loves this movie even more now than I did as a kid, with its main message being that even adults should believe in Santa Claus! And the larger message, that whether or not he was actually Santa Claus was beyond the point: Christmas is about loving and caring for everyone, and in that, Mr. Claus was the epitome of Christmas.

Kate’s Picks

search-party-s2-key-artTV Show: “Search Party Season 2”

So the first season of the darkly hilarious “Search Party” involved a group of New York Hipsters trying to solve the mystery of a missing girl. Dory (Alia Shawkat) is sucked into the disappearance of a college acquaintance named Chantal, and is convinced she met foul play. The season ends with them finding Chantal alive and well and vapid as ever…. except Dory and her friends accidentally killed a man who had been helping them look for her. Season 2 is dealing with the fallout… And yes, it’s still hilarious. My favorite character remains Elliott, played by the snide and snarly John Early, whose mild sociopathy and need for self preservation send him on a disconcerting, but also pretty amusing in some ways, mental breakdown. For those who like their humor dark, give “Search Party” a try, and know that Season 2 is pretty amazing.

23755322_130283744328423_6702880009203054438_nPodcast: “Bigfoot Collectors Club”

I have a fun little obsession with the supernatural and cryptozoology. My favorites include Mothman, El Chupacabra, and The Jersey Devil, and while I’m solidly a skeptic who wants to believe, it’s fun hearing stories about this stuff. Given this interest, I was pretty happy to discover the podcast “Bigfoot Collectors Club”. Hosted by Bryce Johnson and Michael McMillian (one of my faves), this fairly new podcast tackles strange and unnatural events, as well as tales of cryptids, aliens, ghosts, and personal experiences of the unexplained. While I may not be as true blue believing when it comes to Sasquatch, their enthusiasm and earnestness is contagious.

jingle_all_the_way_posterMovie: “Jingle All The Way”

So last year I talked about the movie “Scrooged”, but that is just ONE of MANY Christmas movies that I like to watch this time of year. This year I’m going to talk about the SMASH HIT HOLIDAY CLASSIC “Jingle All The Way”. Is it a good movie? No, not really. But it’s one that my husband and I HAVE to watch every year because 1) We love Arnold Schwarzenegger, 2) it takes place in Minnesota and treats both Minneapolis and St. Paul as interchangeable cities, and 3) Phil Hartman is treasure, may he rest in peace. The plot is flimsy, it feels like one long toy commercial, and it’s super dated and actually pretty problematic in a number of ways, but hey, we can’t deny a cheesy and stupid movie such as this? Put the cookie DOWN!! NOW!!!

What non books have you been enjoying this month? Let us know in the comments!