Not Just Books: June 2019

The weather has still been somewhat mercurial, with days of super hot sun and then returns to the 60s with rain. But we’ll take what we can get. If only the bugs would disappear. (We can find something to whine about during every season, just you watch.) And yes, we both should probably get outside more to appreciate the long days, but…oh well! Here are some things other than books that we’ve enjoyed this last month!

Serena’s Picks

mv5boti5y2m3nmqtndg5zc00otq0lwezogytmjm4zjg0yzy0m2i0xkeyxkfqcgdeqxvynjkwnzewmzu40._v1_sy1000_sx675_al_Amazon Prime Show: “Good Omens”

Confession: I haven’t read the book this was based on. But I’ve read a good number of other works by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett, so I feel like it should count. In all honesty, however, my all-abiding love for David Tennant was the real draw behind my immediate interest in this show. While the subject matter (an angel and a demon team up to try to prevent the end of the world) would always be a pretty big appeal for me, Tennant is just one of those actors whose work I will always check out. There were a few moments where the complete absurdity was a bit too much for me, but overall, I loved heart of this story that is built up in the lovely relationship between said angel and demon. Overall, I really enjoyed it.

mv5bmdeyn2u1ytitndy1zi00yjljlwi5yzitnwu3ywviyjhiztgxxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvynjg4nzayota40._v1_sy1000_cr006661000_al_TV Show: “Elementary”

I actually fell a bit behind on this series and ended up binging season six earlier this fall. As usual, I quite enjoyed it. And, with doing no further research, I assumed the show was over. The ending of that season certainly implies as much with Sherlock and Watson both relocated to 221B Baker St, London and waxing poetic about how it feels as if they are where they’re meant to me. But, much to my surprise, while dinking around on the Internet I discover that there is in fact a season seven! And it started up only a few weeks ago! This is only a short, half season but it seems like it is confirmed to be the last, so I’m super excited to see what they’re going to do with it. Fingers crossed for a return of Moriarty! And let’s hope that they don’t ruin what could have been a perfectly satisfying end with the final episode of the previous season.

maxresdefaultYouTube Series: “The 100 Baby Sims Challenge”

This is super weird and I know it. But hey, a girl’s got to do something with all of those hours spent feeding a fussy baby. And what’s better to do when you baby boy is being a little idiot than watch someone play the Sims and have a character deal with raising 100 of these little monsters. There’s something bizarrely cathartic about it, I’ve got to tell you. Maybe it’s of particular interest to frustrated new mothers, but I do think it’s pretty hilarious to watch all on its own, too. Especially if you’re just looking for a good 20-30 minute distraction here and there.

Kate’s Picks

2b8401198-77d6-4651-b1951c330d84a8b1TV Show: “Pose”

When “Pose” first aired last year I had every intention of watching it, but never got around to it. I mean, my goodness, it covers themes and settings that I absolutely love: the New York City Ball Culture, the 80s, glamour, self actualization. When I saw that Season One was on Netflix, I decided to finally start it… and then proceeded to binge all of it in the course of two days. “Pose” takes place in 1987, and follows the rising House of Evangelista, led by Blanca, a trans woman who left her previous house and mentor to start a house of her own. Not only does “Pose” have great music, great characters, and a strong grasp of what was going on in the Ball and LGBTQ communities in the 1980s (with a very real and upsetting look at how the AIDS virus was affecting said communities), it also has a cast that is mostly trans actresses of color, reflecting the people whose stories they are telling. And Billy Porter is AMAZING as the snarky emcee Pray Tell. On top of all that, Season 2 has started, and there’s no way I’m missing it in real time this time around.

rocketman_28film29Movie: “Rocketman”

This will undoubtedly surprise no one, but I love Sir Elton John for his flamboyance, passion, and catchy/heartfelt tunes. When I first saw a trailer for “Rocketman” I turned to my husband and said ‘YOU NEED TO TAKE ME TO THIS’. And, good sport that he is, he did so once it came out. This movie is part musical fantasy, part biopic about John and his rise to fame and the hardships he had to overcome, from lonely childhood, to mental health issues, to addiction. Taron Egerton is remarkable as John, not only nailing his look and mannerisms, but performing his songs with zeal and gusto. He did so well that there were moments where I had to blink and squint because I could have SWORN John himself had slipped into the scene. But one of my favorite depictions on the screen was the friendship John has with his longtime writing partner, Bernie Taupin. Taupin is played by Jamie Bell and he and Egerton have such magical chemistry, really bringing their partnership and friendship to the screen. If you do go see this movie, bring tissues. Well all know things worked out for John, but man, the road was rough, and this movie has the emotional punches that come with it.

mv5bmtgwnja4mdkwnl5bml5banbnxkftztgwmje3ntgwodm40._v1_TV Show: “NOS4A2”

Even though I have an unabated love for just about anything that Joe Hill writes, as of now my favorite of his novels is “NOS4A2”. It’s about Charlie Manx, a vampire-like being that kidnaps children. He takes their essences to keep himself forever young, and traps them in an ‘inscape’ (a supernatural alternative plane he can manipulate) he calls Christmasland. But he meets his match when he runs into Vic McQueen, a teenage girl who can create her own inscapes, and may have the power to stop him. I was very interested to see what AMC was going to do with it when I heard that they were going to make it into a TV show. And let me tell you, thus far I am VERY happy with what they are doing with it. I knew that I was going to be one hundred percent satisfied with Zachary Quinto as Manx, but was worried about any portrayal of Vic, as she is one of my favorite literary characters. But Ashleigh Cummings is FABULOUS, bringing the spunk and vulnerability that the character needs. And, most importantly, the show really achieves the creepy and unsettling tone that this story requires. It’s suspenseful and eerie, and I’m eager to watch as it unfolds.

 

Not Just Books: May 2019

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

mv5bmte0ywfmotmtytu2zs00ztixlwe3otetytniyzbkzjvizthixkeyxkfqcgdeqxvyodmzmzq4oti40._v1_sy1000_cr006751000_al_Movie: “Captain Marvel”

I actually watched this last month before the second “Infinity Stones” movie, but I forgot to list it, so I’m including it here! I was a bit skeptical about how this movie would turn out as I’m not a huge fan of the actress. But surprise, surprise, I really enjoyed it! Per the usual for Marvel movies, it did an excellent job balancing action, humor, and a compelling narrative arc for our hero. The villain, also per the usual, left a bit to be desired, but as far as origin stories go, this one was excellent. I did wonder how they were going to handle her in the “Infinity Stones” movie, however, given that she’s pretty much invincible and could take out Thanos and his entire army herself, essentially. But I was also really pleased with how that was handled and also the built in excuse provided for where she is when the inevitable other conflicts appear in future movies that she could also handle without breaking a sweat.

p11936366_b_v8_aaTV show: “Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries” 

After a certain epic fantasy show proved to be a massive let down in my (our) personal opinion, I needed a bit of a palate cleanser that would just be some light, good fun. Enter “Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries,” a show I had been hearing good things about for a while but had never had the full motivation to start. And now I’ve blown through the first season and a half in about a week. And it already has such a short run! But I did read that they made a movie that is going to be on limited release in the U.S. sometime this year, so I’ll definitely be keeping my eyes out for that!

mv5bmdg3nmnjntitywu2mc00owjhltlkzjqtmmiynjlhztvizdljxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvynjg4nzayota40._v1_sy1000_cr006661000_al_TV show: “The Amazing Race”

It’s been a while since the last season of this show aired, so I was excited when it finally started up again. I was also intrigued by this season’s theme that brought back past teams from this show, as well as from “Survivor” and “Big Brother.” I have no opinion on “Big Brother,” having never watched that show. And I was sadly disappointed by the “Survivor” contestants that showed up, as none of them were really favorites for me on that show (really, of the three teams, two of them were made up of “villains” from that show, as far as I can remember). But I have enjoyed the returning “Amazing Race” teams, as several of them were favorites when they raced originally. I’m excited to see who comes out on top!

Kate’s Picks

22-the-last-days-of-august.w330.h330Podcast: “The Last Days of August”

I heard about “The Last Days of August” on another podcast, and after waffling about taking on another podcast I decide to give it a listen. And boy, am I glad that I did. In December 2017, adult film star August Ames, after tweeting out a message that was perceived as anti-LGBTQIA and getting piled on for it, committed suicide. Her husband, porn director Kevin Moore, accused a number of big names in the industry of being responsible for her death for piling on. Jon Ronson had just finished a podcast on the adult film industry when Ames killed herself, and decided to do a follow up, thinking that it would be a story about online shaming and the consequences (as he also wrote the book “So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed”). But what he found was something much more complicated, and perhaps more nefarious. This podcast is very evenhanded and well researched, and Ronson does a GREAT job of telling August’s story, as well as addressing very difficult issues like emotional abuse, mental illness, and the horrible outcomes of misogyny when left unchecked. And a warning: there are disturbing accounts of sexual assault.

dead20to20me20poster20Netflix Show: “Dead to Me”

I don’t even know how or why I stumbled upon “Dead To Me”, a new Netflix show starring Christina Applegate and Linda Cardellini. But one night I kinda saw it sitting there on Netflix and I said to myself ‘well why not give this a try?’ Before I knew it, I had binged the entire show. Jen Harding (Applegate) is a grieving and angry widow whose husband was killed in a hit and run, and decides to give grief counseling a try. There she meets Judy (Cardelinni), a free spirit who is attending because of a loss of her own. Jen and Judy become quick and close friends, and Jen invites Judy to come stay with her. But Jen doesn’t know that Judy may be hiding some things from Jen. Both Applegate and Cardellini are superb in their roles, and show the ups and downs of complicated, adult friendships, especially when grief is so prevalent in one’s life. There are lots of laugh out loud moments, which definitely dabble in gallows humor, but it also explores themes of sadness and loss in realistic, sometimes ugly, ways.

santa-clarita-diet-season-3-netflix-scheduleNetflix Show: “Santa Clarita Diet”

First of all, I want to say that it’s a freakin’ travesty that this show was randomly cancelled by Netflix at the end of the third season. IT IS SO GOOD AND SO FUNNY AND EVERY CAST MEMBER IS A TREASURE! And the biggest shame is that it has changed and grown and still sustained its charm when the premise (that of a zombie housewife trying to live her not really life and her family dealing with it as well) could have easily been wrung out at this point. In Season 3, Sheila and Joel are trying to figure out what group is trying to hunt her down, and if they can potentially circumvent its detection, while their daughter Abby has to cope with the consequences of a crime she committed, as well as figuring out her feelings for her best friend Eric. EVERYONE on this show is perfection, the comedy is on point, and the mythology expands in the most satisfying ways. So the fact it’s done is a real shame. Go watch it. It’s a delight.

 

 

 

Not Just Books: April 2019

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

p14660823_b_v8_aaTV Show: “Marvel’s Agents of Shield”

This show has been airing for quite a while, and while I always had a vague idea of its existence, I never particularly felt very interested in watching it. Part of was my lingering annoyance with the fact that they undid Coulson’s death (I think the character is awesome, but c’mon, someone has to die every once in a while in this dang universe and his death was pretty moving in the movie). The other part had to do with some idea I had that this was a very episodic, NCIS-but-with-superheroes! type show. But when I was laid up after having my baby, my husband and I decided we needed some show with a nice build up of episodes and a low commitment level to get us through the sleepless days and nights. And turns out we both really enjoyed this! So much so that we blew through about 3 seasons-worth in about two weeks. The show was way more serialized than I had thought and there were some legitimate surprises in store as well as some fun Easter eggs for those really in the know. I particularly have liked the ongoing villain of the series, as well as, of course, Coulson (though I’m bitter now that the fact that he’s by far the best character in the show undermines my continued annoyance at said death scene previously).

mv5bmjiwmdiwnjayof5bml5banbnxkftztgwnde1mdc2ntm40._v1_sy1000_cr006311000_al_Movie: “How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World”

Though I’ve always really enjoyed the “How to Train Your Dragon” series, I had no idea that this movie was coming out soon or was even in the works until I saw the adorable promo piece featuring GOT’s Kit Harrington and Toothless (honestly, I had no idea that Kit Harrington even voiced a part in these movies and was pretty confused by the whole combination until I looked into it further.) So count that as a win for the marketing department! I really loved this movie. This entire trilogy is one of those rare beasts that has held up through its entire run. While I don’t think anything can really top the first movie, the second two did nothing to detract and this one wrapped up the entire story in a pretty excellent way. As usual, the visuals, particularly the flying sequences, were gorgeous and the heart of the story of a boy and his dragon is enchanting. I did spend a good portion of the movie trying to hide the fact that I was crying a ton from my husband though. There was also a little boy sitting a few seats away from us who was getting pretty teary eyed, and props to his dad who didn’t try to hush him!

mv5bmtc5mde2odcwnv5bml5banbnxkftztgwmzi2nzq2nzm40._v1_sy1000_cr006741000_al_Movie: “Avengers: Endgame”

Obviously. While I prefer DC comics, there’s no denying the amazing feat that Marvel has pulled off with their movie universe. I mean, look at the failures of both DC’s attempts as well as the horrid “Dark Universe” that Universal studios tried to launch with “The Mummy.”  It’s clearly not as easy as it looks. I think we were all pretty skeptical about how “Infinity War” was going to work juggling that many characters. And I know I was super impressed by that movie. So that made the build up to this movie even more fun. Not only was there a massive cliffhanger at the end of the first movie, but by this point, I felt fairly confident that they would actually pull it off, so gone was much of the worry, leaving only anticipation. And I thought this was not only a thoroughly enjoyable movie, managing to have a solid selection of comedy beats in the midst of a pretty bleak situation, but also wrap up a ton of storylines while setting up stories for our continuing characters. I could predict a few parts of it, but there were also a good number of surprises in store. Between this and GOT, the internet is a spoiler-ridden minefield, so really, there’s no excuse not to just go out and see it as soon as possible!

Kate’s Picks

sabrinaseason2-blogroll-01-1554745013954_400wNetflix Show: “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina”

My favorite witches are back, and this time they’re really sticking it to the patriarchy! When we left off in “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina”, Sabrina had just signed her name in the Book of the Beast, pledging her devotion to Satan and seemingly choosing her witch side over her mortal one. But Sabrina has been having some struggles since she made that choice. Her mortal friends are growing distant from her, her new boyfriend may not be as trustworthy as she wants him to be, and her Aunt Zelda is getting close to Father Blackwood, the misogynistic head of the Coven who has a vendetta towards Sabrina. When Sabrina starts to make serious waves that go against the male dominated Coven, she may find herself in danger. This show is still witchy fun with a dark twist on a beloved character, and it has sucked me in AND piqued my interest in feminism in relation to the Dark Arts. And plus, Lucy Davis is still a charming delight as the bubbly and loving Aunt Hilda!

us-movie-poster-384x600Film: “Us”

There was no questioning that “Get Out” displayed Jordan Peele’s talents as a horror director, but it’s his newest film, “Us”, that solidifies his prowess as a horror maestro. When Adelaide and her family go on vacation to Santa Cruz, she tries to suppress memories of a trauma from her childhood. But on their first night, the family is confronted by strangers outside their vacation home. When the strangers come into view, they turn out to be doppelgangers of Adelaide and her entire family. And they are armed with scissors and a bloodthirst. As Adelaide tries to keep her family safe, the mysterious doppelgangers do their best to take them all out. This movie is complex, disturbing, and filled with hidden meanings and Easter eggs that will keep you talking long after its final scenes unfold.

mv5bmtcyodgymzq5n15bml5banbnxkftztgwodmymzg1nzm40._v1_Hulu Series: “The Act”

As the true crime nut on this blog, it’s probably not terribly surprising that I was totally sucked in by the Gypsy Rose and Dee Dee Blanchard saga. The short version is that Dee Dee abused, poisoned, incapacitated, and manipulated her daughter Gypsy and made it seem like she had a number of debilitating conditions in hopes of getting attention and money. Eventually Gypsy and her online boyfriend conspired to murder her mother. It’s far more complicated than that very brief Cliffs Notes. And now Hulu has a limited dramatization of the case called “The Act”. It stars the incandescent Patricia Arquette as Dee Dee, and she is intense, scary, and very saccharine in the role. But it’s Joey King as Gypsy who steals the show, as her performance as a manipulated and abused woman who goes to terrible lengths to get her freedom is heartbreaking and eerie.

Not Just Books: March 2019

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

aa6041accee0a0148d85fd41d0e742ef59f09e879d52779c4c80fcc98ec99387a2def3b457a1a4293b7b8a8c5e047533431742d41bdf69d4fbdc97c7d226b5ef_28129Podcast: “Binge Mode”

In a perfectly timed moment of pure luck, I happened to read an article about an apparently super popular podcast called “Binge Mode” that releases its episodes in a Netflix-like style where you can then “binge” an entire “season” of podcasts. An intriguing idea, sure. But even MORE intriguing when I realized that they started this podcast/format to review each season of “Game of Thrones.” And, as we all know unless we’ve been living under a rock, the final season of “Game of Thrones is almost upon us! So what better time to go back and re-experience all 7 previous seasons in podcast format? And really, this podcast is excellent. It really deep dives into all the intricacies of the show and the books in ways that I haven’t seen other reviewers attempt. And as I only got through the first book in the series, there’s been a lot of really interesting background information that I’ve picked up while listening to this. So, if you have, oh, 60-ish hours of free time before the final season drops, I definitely recommend checking this out!

mv5bzwyxodvimgytmge2zc00zgq3lthhmwutytvknge3owu4nwrkl2ltywdll2ltywdlxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvymjywnda2mde40._v1_TV Series: “Planet Earth II”

This is one of those series where I both love it and hate it. When it popped up on Netflix, my husband immediately turned it on and I was like “Yaaayy…??” Because, let’s be real, I cry at the drop of a hat where animals are involved and yes, yes, I know “circle of life” and all of that. But that literally has zero impact on my crazy-immediate and intense attachment to any animal that pops on the screen, and then watching the predator/prey reality play out…it hurts me! But I also love animals! And there’s no denying the sheer wonder that is the cinematography and crazy moments that they somehow managed to capture on film. So yes, while I spend a stupid amount of time covering my cat’s eyes so he “doesn’t witness the violence” (an obvious ploy to simply distract myself from said crying), I also can’t deny how incredible this series is.

his-dark-materials-e1536684005776-700x348Teaser Trailer: “His Dark Materials”

Omg, I’m WAY too excited about this. Which is also simply terrifying given the absolute dumpster fire that was the first attempt at bringing this story to the screen. At least this time, they’ve started out on the right foot by admitting that the sheer scope of this trilogy necessitates a TV series rather than a simple movie format. And while I will always think that Nicole Kidman was perfectly cast as Mrs. Coulter, and it’s a shame she was in such a wreck of a movie, I’m also pretty excited about this cast, especially the excellent Dafne Keen as Lyra, who I loved in “Logan.” This is just a teaser trailer, so there’s not a whole lot to go on. But like I said, I’m way too excited to NOT feature it on this list. Be prepared for various other iterations of this to show up here in the future as things progress!

Kate’s Picks

medium26aTV Show: “Medium”

Back in college I remember a friend referring to the show “Monk” as ‘a show I love in spite of me not being part of the target demographic’. And my equivalent, I said, was the show “Medium”. I love the crime procedural/fantasty/family drama about Allison Dubois, an Arizona wife, mother, and psychic who helps the District Attorney with her visions of crimes and victims. The center of the show is Patricia Arquette, who played Allison with so much heart, empathy, and realism that she won an Emmy for her portrayal. While the mysteries and cases are always well done and unsettling, the true strength of this show is the Dubois Family. Allison’s wonderful and devoted husband Joe (played by Jake Weber) is a great foil for her, and when you add three psychic daughters into the mix (who are all wonderful actresses as well) you get one of the best and most realistic portrayals of family life I’ve seen on TV. And it’s streaming on Amazon Prime right now, so you KNOW that I rewatched it and took joy in doing so (though I refuse to watch the finale. Fans know why.).

STAR TREK: DISCOVERYTV Show: “Star Trek: Discovery”

I was raised by two “Star Trek” geeks, so it’s no surprise that I have inherited a huge love for the franchise and the universe that Gene Roddenberry created. Like other “Star Trek” fans, I was very happy to hear that we were getting a new TV show, but sad that it was going to be on a streaming service that I couldn’t justify to purchase with my other streaming services (that said, I’m wavering on that). But now “Star Trek: Discovery” Season 1 is on DVD, and you KNOW that the hubby and I tore through it! Set before “The Original Series”, “Discovery” shows the origins on the war between the Federation and the Klingons, with a focus on the science vessel The Discovery. I like the overarching mystery of the first season regarding what Captain Lorca of The Discovery is actually motivated by, and while I am getting a little sick of all the Klingon re-designs that happen I do love seeing things from their POV, as they are my favorite alien species in the mythology. It’s a bit darker than past series, and I LOVE our main character Michael Burnham, the intelligent and complex former Star Fleet officer AND first African American woman main character “Star Trek” has seen.

p16594939_b_v8_aaTV Show: “RuPaul’s Drag Race”

It’s not “All Stars” this time, it’s the regular show! Which means a whole new set of drag queens and a whole new set of challenges, runways, fashion choices, and drama! I’ve been watching the show as it airs since season 4, and now we’re at season 11 and I don’t know where the time went. I always prefer the regular show to the “All Stars” format, as the new talent and new dynamics are always fun to see unfold. My favorite so far is Yvie Oddly, an avant garde queen who pushes the limits on glamour and creepy, but there are so many talented contestants this year it’s hard to predict who is going to make it to the top 3. And while it’s true that the move to VH1 has potentially led to some, uh, QUESTIONABLE format changes, overall I still quite enjoy watching all of the queens doing what they love to do.

 

 

Not Just Books: February 2019

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

mv5bntfhotk1ntgtywm1zs00nwi1ltgzyzatyme5mjzimde0nzlhxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvymtkxnjuynq4040._v1_sy1000_cr006751000_al_Netflix Show: “The Umbrella Academy”

I think we can all relate to the ordeal that is picking a new show to watch. Especially when it is a joint watch between you and someone else. My husband and I mostly have the same tastes, but that doesn’t seem to make it much easier. After we mourned the last episode of “The Great British Bake Off,” we were in it again. Until, out of nowhere, by husband was like “hey, what about this show? I think it’s about super heroes?” And, like a dummy, had never even heard of it! And thus began a new happy reign of Netflix watching. I also haven’t read the comic that this was originally based upon, but one of my favorite things about this adaptation is that there are multiple points in every episode where I can clearly see a scene that had to have been pulled directly from the pages. It’s artsy without getting lost in its concept. Funny, heart-breaking, and still has us guessing as to where everything is leading! I can’t speak for how faithful it is to the original material, but whatever it is we’re getting here, I’m thoroughly enjoying it!

ea95b42f4d8029ac2510571cc8dbdae4

Video Game: “Red Dead Redemption II”

Again, after the loss of our beloved “Fallout 4,” my husband and I have struggled to really find a good replacement video game that can eat up months of our time. Neither of us really grew up with a lot of gaming, so it takes us both a bit to really get a feel for a new game and how to best play it. That being the case, we like to find the largest games we can that will help off-set our slow-learning. Bethesda games have been perfect for that reason. But we heard through the grapevine that “Red Dead Redemption II” was not only an excellent open world game (our favorite type) but also had an even larger map than “Fallout 4.” So, on a spur of the moment whim, we went out and nabbed this game last weekend. And…yeah, that’s been our life ever since. I think we could agree that while some of the complicated menuing systems leave something to be desired, and that it definitely took us even longer than usual to feel up to speed, now that we’re in it…this game is worth the time and effort. There’s just tons to do! And while my husband can be overly trigger happy (we waste half our money paying off bounties on our head, I feel), I spend most of my time bonding with our horse and figuring out how many horses we can have at one time. So we’re both happy!

a1vfjqg6pfl._sx466_Board Game: “Ticket to Ride”

Lest it be thought that I do nothing but read, and then watch TV or play video games, here is something new! I’ve owned this game for…forever. As evidenced by the state of the box itself. It’s literally taped together in places and the cards are…”worn” is a kind word for the state of them, I think. But for some reason, we just hadn’t played it for quite a while. Until we had house guests a few months ago and played like 8 games over the entire weekend. And then ever since, my husband and I have worked out a variation to make it 2-player and have played it several times again each week for the past month. I think we have all of the routes memorized at this point. Probably time to look for the European option!

Kate’s Picks

aaaabfhyy-qyfnzchi54kwp5j7c-j0mcgrq0epjn5rtq39gfldzsunofdfd9yod9krblb1f9jejzm1bz9updyqjanf97wezzzfjstvqunmb0kcyu96t5kx1tzk1dip8bwehigmcptc0gfqNetflix Show: “Russian Doll”

Part “Groundhog Day”, part time and space theory, “Russian Doll” is a dark comedy/thriller/science fiction puzzle that completely blew me away. I’ve loved Natasha Lyonne since I was in high school, and seeing her in a starring role with so much material to work with is a real joy. Lyonne plays Nadia, a woman who is a bit of an emotional train wreck, who dies when she’s hit by a car after her 36th birthday party. Then she wakes up at the party again…. Only to die again, only to wake up again. And again. And again. This show is a brain teaser with slick and interesting writing, fun characters, and a lot of mysteries, but it isn’t until episode three that a plot twist brings the show from good writing to GREAT writing. “Russian Doll” is addictive and fabulous.

c4db7c43ce9a74a206a336c13f124897ac676b296be98fc2a376bcc800dc4868a8f52b725b73ca55a50a19fccd1e7a5a6737488f02c09a207b59aa7032c2e07aPodcast: “Over My Dead Body”

While I’m usually content to re-listen to episodes of “My Favorite Murder” and “Last Podcast on the Left”, I’m always on the lookout for new podcasts of the true crime variety. Wondery Network has consistently put out deep dive and fascinating series, such as “Dirty John” and “Dr. Death”, and their newest series, “Over My Dead Body”, as captivated me as well. It’s the story of the marriage of Dan Merkel and Wendi Adelson, which ended with divorce, acrimony, and murder. I went in with very little knowledge of the case at it’s center, and I think that it’s good to go in blind because the reveals are meticulous and, quite frankly, nuts. Wondery has always been a great network for gripping and responsible podcasting, and now that I’m hooked on “Over My Dead Body” whenever a new episode drops I make it a priority to listen as soon as possible.

mv5bmtgyntqynjuwn15bml5banbnxkftztgwnjmwnjuznzm40._v1_Netflix Show: “The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”

While I appreciate that “The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” opted to end the show on a high note before it ran out of ideas/became too wacky to remain tenable, I was very sad to see it end. As it is, the outlandish characters and storylines hadn’t yet overstayed their welcome, so when my husband and I sat down to watch the final episodes we were pretty bummed out. But, in pure Kimmy fashion, the entire cast is able to give us a fine farewell, and to bring some bittersweet, and still hilarious, closure to a series that properly balanced darkness with light. While this show wasn’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination, the character growth and the biting satire were top notch. The final episodes feel a bit quick, but over all I was happy to see where all of my beloved characters, Kimmy and Titus especially, ended up.

Not Just Books: January 2019

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

mv5bmtk0mdqzntq5mf5bml5banbnxkftztgwnzy3njq3njm@._v1_TV Show: “The Great British Baking Show”

I’ve highlighted this one before, but it’d just be a lie to not admit that I’ve spent a large chunk of January re-watching this show. But I have an excuse! My husband hadn’t seen it, so on a whim we put it on one night, and, predictably, he is now hooked and I have a built in excuse to re-watch it! Being the more experimental of the two of us, the unforeseen consequence of this is that now whenever we have people over or need to go anywhere, he sees it as an excuse to try out one of the complicated bakes highlighted on the show. For all that we do see failures on the show, it’s also too easy to watch an episode and take some of the smaller steps they go through completely for granted. For example, many of the bakers make macaroons purely for decoration on larger bakes. Well, we tried to make them…and it took several disasters before ending up with something worth eating! It’s much harder than it looks!

mv5bmtzhnjnjngutytc2ni00zdc4lwjjndmtyjvloti5ogi5yze5xkeyxkfqcgdeqxvymtk3ndawmzi@._v1_Stand-up Comedy: Trevor Noah

Other than a few of their more exception original shows, one of the things I’ve liked the most from Netflix’s original programming is the increase in stand-up comedy routines available. I’ve discovered a good set up new comedians to follow, but have particularly enjoyed watching the several routines of Trevor Noah’s that are available. I confess to have fallen off the “Daily Show” bandwagon after Jon Stewart left, but the few segments I’ve seen with Noah as a host have seemed solid. But I’ve particularly enjoyed his stand-up routines, I’ve found. There are a lot of great reflections on American culture as seen through the eyes of someone who grew up in South Africa. But at the same time, he’s never just bashing the country and you can tell he has a genuine affection for the same nation that he’s ridiculing. It’s an endearing combination.

mv5byjrkyti3m2etzwq4ny00ota2lwfmmtmty2e4mteyzmnjotmxxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvyndg4njy5otq@._v1_sy1000_sx675_al_Movie: “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

The latest Coen brothers film is everything you’d expect from the film-making duo. That is, it’s completely unexpected at every moment. I’ll confess to having mixed feelings about this one. I’m not an avid Coen brothers fan, but I’ve enjoyed some of their work in the past. Knowing that, combined with the film’s anthology structure that tells six, unique Western stories, I went in with some trepidation. And once you just accept that what you’re getting is going to be completely strange, off-the-wall, and at times, disturbing, the movie has you hooked. I’d like to place a slight emphasis on disturbing, since there was at least one vignette that I found particularly messed up. But the fact that I’ve still been thinking about this movie days later does speak to the strength and execution of the film makers’ vision.

Kate’s Picks

mario-kart-8-deluxe-switch-coverVideo Game: “Mario Kart 8 Deluxe”

When I was in high school my younger sister had a Nintendo 64, and one of our go to games was “Mario Kart 64”. I became very good at racing, always as Luigi, and we were always willing to challenge the neighbor kids or school friends to a grand prix race. Now our household owns “Mario Kart 8 Deluxe” on The Switch, and the races are between me and my husband (though I rarely ever win; he’s far better at video games than I). “Mario Kart 8 Deluxe” has a huge expansion from the game I was used to, with far more boards and cups to compete in, more options for Battle boards, and a huge swath of characters from not just Mario, but other Nintendo franchises. Playing this game has really taken me back to my childhood, and with old favorites like Rainbow Road and Yoshi Valley still playable and characters like Daisy and Ludwig as options, I am a true happy camper. Let’sa go!

fyre-fyre-fraud-postersNetflix and Hulu Documentaries: “Fyre” and “Fyre Fraud”

I remember dwelling in the delicious, delicious schadenfreude of The Fyre Festival as it imploded in real time on social media. For those unfamiliar, a guy named Billy McFarland and rapper Ja Rule conceived of a luxurious music festival on a private island in the Bahamas, sold a bunch of tickets for thousands and THOUSANDS of dollars, and then when the day came to have the festival it was absolute chaos. It was all documented by angry, scared, and shocked festival goers in real time on all platforms of social media, and became a huge joke about entitled rich white people living out “The Hunger Games”. And now there are two documentaries about it, and how it all came to be. They are both good in their own ways, and while I’m sure Netflix didn’t appreciate Hulu dropping their version unannounced, DAYS before Netflix was going to unveil theirs, it just means we get two movies to relive the madness. But what I also appreciate about both of them is how they unmask a very duplicitous con artist, and how social media and its ‘influencers’ enabled him to run scam after scam. That’s not as funny.

all-stars-s4-cast-photo-square_v1_currentTV Show: “RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars 4”

Yes, it’s that time again! While I myself wasn’t totally bummed about how the last “All Stars” season turned out, I am, of course, back for more drag queens showing off their skills and gender bending! Some of my old favorites are back, most notably Manila Luzon, Monet Xchange, and Latrice Royale, and others who I wanted to see more of (Monique Hart!!) have also come back to try again for a crown, and a place in the ‘Drag Race Hall of Fame’. While I do think that the VH1 influence has made the show become more mainstream and less subversive, I still highly enjoy seeing all of these performers showing off their immeasurable talents. Now if we could just get rid of the ridiculous ‘jury’ system that they enacted in the previous season…

Not Just Books: December 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

MV5BMTU0OTc3ODk4Ml5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMzM4NzI5NjM@._V1_Movie: “Roma”

I just got done watching this movie yesterday, so it was quick to come to mind when thinking what to highlight this month in this post. I hadn’t even heard of this movie until, when browsing Netflix, my husband spotted it and mentioned that he had heard of it. Directed by Alfonso Cuaron, this movie was definitely different than much our typical watching-fare. It’s in black and white and is a foreign language film, detailing the life of Cleo, a young maid working for a wealthy family in Mexico City. The story is quiet, contemplative, and then will hit viewers with a bang at the most unexpected moments. It’s also a story of the strength of women and the complicated roles they can play in each others’ lives. It’s also definitely Oscar bait, but I still very much enjoyed it and strongly recommend it!

The_Sims_3_Refresh_CoverComputer Game: “Sims 3”

To follow that lofty note of true art, I also had a Saturday shift this month and got super bored. So what to do? Download “The Sims 3” and play it all day, of course! As a kid, I played the first two versions of “The Sims” pretty obsessively. We won’t get into the rather ridiculous and maybe even messed up things that my friends and I did with that game (…we MAY have created and proceeded to kill a bunch of Sims so that we could have a hundred tombstones in our cemetery…). And I think I might have played “Sims 3” at one point or another, but definitely not to the same level. So it was high time to get back into a quality time-waster such as this. What exactly is the true appeal of trying to re-create your actual life on a virtual platform, two pet cats and all? I’ll never know, but I sure as heck enjoyed it.

p15885732_b_v8_acTV Show: “Jeopardy!”

We don’t have TV, so we’re not one of those families who sit down and watch this nightly. No, we’re probably even worse: we’re the kind of family who, upon seeing that there are now seasons available on Netflix, spent the next week binging entire “Jeopardy!” championships. Yes, we have an exciting life, don’t get too jealous. But, in all seriousness, I’ve always enjoyed this show, so it was fun to find some of it available to stream. Kate and I are on a trivia team together, so she knows how bad I really am at trivia. But for some reason, the format and kinds of questions featured on “Jeopardy!” play better to my strengths. Though it’s still a fight to get an answer out before my husband, who is a trivia guru. We also had an exorbitant amount of fun choosing favorites and least favorites from among the tournament participants.

Kate’s Picks

iconTV Show: “King of the Hill”

If you were to ask me what my favorite animated TV Show of all time is, I would absolutely say “King of the Hill”. It follows the various anecdotes from the daily lives of people living in a small Texas town called Arlen, with the main focus on Hank Hill and his wife Peggy and son Bobby. It’s understated and sardonic, with the kind of humor that is highly quotable while still staying firmly in reality. I have loved this show since it was on the air for it’s 13 Seasons, and when I saw that it was back to streaming on Hulu I was overjoyed. While I do love all the characters on this show, the biggest stand out for me is the paranoid and eccentric Dale Gribble, whose complete lack of chill is far too relatable (though John Redcorn is a very close second). This show has so much heart and is so timeless, and episodes from almost twenty years ago still resonate today. If there was ever a comfort show for me, this is it.

PuhHRfNGbPs3MCRRIsm6WjrEsnn0DZAgVideo Game: “Let’s Go, Eevee!”

I have the fondest of memories of playing “Pokemon Blue” on my Gameboy back in high school. So when I found out that Nintendo was pretty much remaking it on The Switch, and this time you could start with Eevee if you so chose, I WAS SO EXCITED! “Let’s Go Eevee!” is pretty much a remake of “Pokemon Blue” (with “Let’s Go Pikachu” being “Pokemon Red”, which my husband got for himself), though it has added and tweaked some factors that make it a bit more immersive. You can play with your Eevee, you can have an additional Pokemon follow you around, so I of course picked Meowth, and you can see the unique personalities that each of your pokemon have. I was playing this game a lot during a stressful time this past month, and it really mellowed me out as I did so. If you have a Switch and have nostalgia for the original Pokemon games, “Let’s Go Eevee” and “Pikachu” should definitely end up on your list of games to check out.

theres-more-to-the-marvelous-mrs-maisel-season-2-than-meets-the-eye-750-1544444384-1_cropAmazon Prime Show: “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”

My favorite show about a Jewish Comedienne in 1950s New York is back!! When we left Midge Maisel in the Season 1 finale, her soon to be ex husband Joel had discovered that she was doing stand up with him as the punch line. When we get back into her life, we see not only the fallout from that, but we also see how high her star has been rising. Rachel Brosnahan continues to shine as the charming Midge, though this time around he has a few more moments of poignancy when it comes to her complicated feelings for Joel. And Alex Borstein shows exactly why she won an Emmy for her portrayal of Susie, Midge’s curmudgeon of a manager and confidant. And let me tell you, the moment Midge and her family went to the Catskills for an extended vacation, my husband and I were basically shouting in glee at the blatant proud Jewishness on display. Pride, man. This show is still marvelous.