Not Just Books: August 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

mv5bndvkyju0mzctmwrmzi00ntkxltgwzwetowvhyjzlyjllymu4xkeyxkfqcgdeqxvynta4nzy1mzy-_v1_TV Show: “Friends”

This is a definite guilty pleasure for me! I was late to this bandwagon (and probably just too young to be interested), so I watched this originally sometime during college and blazed through it. I don’t even typically watch sitcoms, but the amazing chemistry between every single member of the cast is truly what made this show stand out to me. And so, this month which has been filled with more exhaustion and illnesses than should be allowed in summer, this was a natural choice when I just need some comfort TV watching. Sure, some of the jokes don’t age well, but I don’t care, I’ll give it a pass all day long and have no regrets! And it took several episodes for me to re-gain my deafness to the laugh track. What a weird thing that existed?! And watching comedies now without it and going back to it? Very bizarre! But I’ve still been enjoy the heck out of it. #ChandlerAndMonicaAreTheBestCouple!

mv5bytdhnwmwytmtnzq3oc00odzjlwi0yzqtyjvlodziowvlytjlxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvynta4nzy1mzy-_v1_sy1000_cr007071000_al_TV Show: “Luther”

This one comes with a massive caveat: DO NOT WATCH PAST THE SECOND SEASON! But those first two, quite good! Of course, the main reason for me to tune in was Idris Elba, cuz, duh. But I’m also a fan of detective mysteries and the fact that it’s a BBC production just made it all the more appealing. Plus, when the police don’t have guns, the action is much more fun to watch than you see in the typical America-based crime stories. Luther is an interesting character himself, living just on the line between good cop and slightly crooked (as far as doing what is morally right, but maybe not legally right), which added a lot of interesting depth to the story telling. And then season three happened…my husband and I were watching it and honestly started wondering whether the writers were drunk when they were scripting it? It’s hot trash, especially if you’re at all familiar with crime investigations. The disbelief is impossible to suspend. But those first two seasons, go for those!

28354-default-lLocation: Boundary Waters

Before said exhaustion/illness set in, my husband and I got in one more great summer vacation. This time we stayed in Minnesota but headed north to the Boundary Waters, a gorgeous natural wilderness that is part of the Superior National Forest. It’s made up of tons of lakes that you can canoe through, then pack up your canoe and portage (hike) over to the next lake, and thus and so criss-cross your way to some of the remote camping locations. We went for a three night trip and it was an absolute blast. I’ve grown up loving to hike and camp, but I had never been on a lake canoe trip like this, so it was definitely a unique experience. I’m sure we’ll be going again in summers to come!

Kate’s Picks

mr-mercedes-poster-mr-mercedes-tv-series-40549124-182-268TV Show: “Mr. Mercedes”

When I heard that they had turned the “Bill Hodges” Trilogy (all reviewed here) into a TV series, I was excited. When I heard that Brendan Gleeson was playing Bill, the retired cop trying to solve that one last case, I was ecstatic! But when I found out that it was on Direct TV, my heart sank, because I knew I’d have to wait. But I waited, and when it came out on DVD I got it from the library, and plowed through it. The first thing to love is the casting. Brendan Gleeson aside, you have Mary Louise Parker as his love interest Janey, Justine Lupe as my girl Holly Gibney, and a sinister and creepy Harry Treadaway as the villainous Brady Hartsfield. But this show also does a great job of showing the ins, outs, and quirks of small town life, making it feel grounded and focused in spite of all the upsetting and scary moments.

shawntaker“Sport”: Professional Wrestling

Back when my husband was a little kid, he LOVED pro-wrestling. Recently he started up watching the ‘big’ matches like the Royal Rumble and Wrestlemania, and what started as me keeping him company has turned into a full on enjoyment, especially of old school matches. I like the soapiness, I like the characterizations that are so over the top and entertaining, and I like the actual acrobatics that some of these guys and gals do. Add in a local bar that serves excellent Mexican food AND shows vintage wrestling on the TVs, and you have a new mindless and fun past time for me and him. Sometimes we are on opposing sides (I’m team Undertaker and he’s team Shawn Michaels, so that match was contentious), but it’s really fun just taking in the dramatics and enjoying the show together.

mv5bmjmzmdyxnza3mv5bml5banbnxkftztgwndazndq4ntm-_v1_ux182_cr00182268_al_Hulu Show: “Castle Rock”

We got our second Stephen King show on here, and let me tell you, “Castle Rock” is phenomenal. I had been on pins and needles waiting for this show to come out, and once it did it immediately hooked me. Henry Deaver returns to his hometown of Castle Rock, Maine (one seen many times in King lore), after the warden at Shawshank Prison committed suicide and a mysterious man was found caged in an abandoned cellblock. The man specifically asked for Henry. And this man may or may not be a demon, whose captivity kept possibly Castle Rock safe. The cast is phenomenal, with some King favorites, like Bill Skarsgård, Melanie Lynskey, and the amazing Sissy Spacek, and the King Easter Eggs are plentiful and fun to spot. Plus, the mystery itself is compelling. Who is The Kid, what is his deal, and what does Henry Deaver’s past have to do with it? It’s addictive, it’s chilling, and it’s SO very Stephen King (what with a prolonged act of violence playing out to the tunes of Roy Orbison). King fans should watch it, but so should fans of thrilling, mysterious plots.

Not Just Books: July 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

mv5bmjqxnziznzi1mf5bml5banbnxkftztgwmtuzndk2ntm-_v1_sy1000_cr006751000_al_Netflix Show: “Anne with an E” Season 2

While the first season of “Anne with an E” was met with varied responses, I was one of those who really enjoyed this new version of Anne’s story. I, of course, love the older version as well and the books themselves, but I don’t have the same nostalgic attachment to it as others do that would tinge my appreciation of another series going in a completely new direction. In fact, I very much liked not knowing exactly the way the story was going to go. Here, in season two, the creators and writers have doubled down on this “new version” of Anne and we see a good number of new story lines introduced. Not only did I love the increased action they brought to the story, but through these new avenues, the show was able to explore a variety of topics like racism and homophobia that weren’t addressed in the books. So yes, this isn’t the “Anne” you grew up with, but I, for one, enjoy now having both options at hand! Plus, Gilbert is as cute as ever.

mv5bnzixmjywndewn15bml5banbnxkftztgwmzk5mdi3ntm-_v1_Movie: “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom”

Of course I went to see this movie!! Was that ever even a question? And I, for one, don’t think it deserves the critical panning that is is receiving! Is it as good as the original? Absolutely not! Is it better than some of the other sequels? Definitely! Is it as good as its own direct prequel? Yep, I think it’s even better! Honestly, I think that “Jurassic World” got a big ole pass from the movie critics simply for being a Jurassic Park sequel that came after a long drought, and it threw in quite a few references and familiar musical themes to pluck the nostalgia threads. But other than that? It was kind of just ok. But where it struggled, “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” improved upon. It got rid of the annoying nephews that no one cared about. The woman lead was given a bunch more to do and was generally made less intolerable. They allowed Chris Pratt to make more jokes. Plus, there was a lot more action in this one to keep you distracted when you brain started to wake up and question the somewhat suspect script. Plus, there was a scene towards the middle that legit made me cry. Not that that’s saying much…

mv5bn2eyyjrhzjqtyznhni00mdbjlwfhodqtztrlotkyytfkmjq1xkeyxkfqcgdeqxvymjexmjk0odk-_v1_sy1000_cr007071000_al_Netflix Show: “The Frankenstein Chronicles”

This probably more likely falls under Kate’s usual genres, but I’m a sucker for Sean Bean and period pieces, so I thought I’d give this horror/thriller show a go. And I’m glad I did! Yes, it’s scaring the crap out of me, but that doesn’t stop me from enjoying the heck out of it. The story walks a thin line between science fiction/horror and mystery. What’s more, it often feels similar to many other detective stories, with the narrative following the investigation of Sean Bean’s character into a mysterious death of a child who washed up in the river and was made up of several children’s bodies sewn together. So, yeah…it’s fairly gruesome. But I do like playing the game “spot the British actor” and the beautiful cinematography and talented cast make up for some of its more icky bits. And no, I won’t reveal whether Sean Bean dies in this show.

Kate’s Picks

dg51ingu0aeyrqfNetflix Show: “GLOW Season 2”

My favorite Netflix show is back, and with it comes amazing ladies, some badass wrestling, and all the 80s nostalgia I could ask for! This season the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling have to contend with newfound fame, changing power dynamics, and the ugly and inevitable challenges of sexism and misogyny in the pro-wrestling world. While it’s hard for me to pick my favorite performance this season, Betty Gilpin’s turn as Debbie is particularly strong as she is dealing with the fallout from her divorce and her lingering resentment towards her ex friend turned wrestling partner Ruth. But then there’s Chris Lowell as Bash, the enthusiastic but spoiled fanboy turned producer who goes through some serious character growth. And I am of COURSE rooting for Ruth (Alison Brie) and Sam (Marc Maron) to JUST GET TOGETHER ALREADY. It’s such a good show. I need Season 3 yesterday.

mv5bzgvmmmixngetmtk1yy00ngiwlwe4mgmtytq5m2q1zte0ytqyxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvymjqzotm1ntc-_v1_uy268_cr40182268_al_Netflix Show: “Aggretsuko”

Back at the beginning of July my pal Laura and I were waiting to head out to a Sci-Fi Fantasy convention and were looking for a way to spend the time. She suggested that we watch an anime on Netflix about a red panda who combats the ills of work life with death metal. Does that sound surreal? It is. But it’s also SUPER CUTE AND FUNNY AND EXCELLENT. “Aggretsuko” takes Sanrio characters (you know, the Hello Kitty people) and makes a comedy about the drudgery of office life. Retsuko is a frustrated office drone who feels trapped in her job, her only solace being death metal karaoke. But when she starts to be mentored by two other women at the company who are higher up on the food chain, she starts to realize her own worth and find her self esteem. This show is adorable and all kinds of relatable when it comes to frustrating jobs, sexism in the work place, and the ups and downs of adult social lives. Did I mention a Sanrio red panda who does death metal karaoke?

the-sinner-poster-183bbTV Show: “The Sinner”

When I was visiting my old library to pick up some books, I saw the DVDs of “The Sinner” on the new wall. I had heard of it in passing, mostly that it was a mystery involving a murder, and so I grabbed it thinking that I’d maybe give it a whirl. Boy, once I picked it up I couldn’t stop watching. Jessica Biel plays Cora, a young wife and mother who, for no apparent reason, gruesomely murders a stranger in broad daylight on a very crowded beach. Bill Pullman plays Harry Ambrose, a detective who is assigned to the case. But what he thinks is an open and shut matter turns out to be far more complicated than he could have imagined, as Cora has a dark past with a lot of secrets, some of which she herself doesn’t even remember. I binged this entire series in about 24 hours time, and I cannot recommend it enough. If you like thriller novels (this is, indeed, based on a novel), “The Sinner” is going to be right up your alley.

 

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.