Not Just Books: December 2020

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

Movie: “The Devil All the Time”

Let’s be honest, I mostly watched this movie because the cover image on Netflix featured Tom Holland who can pretty much do no wrong. I didn’t even know much of what it was about! Which is probably for the best, because it was way darker than I probably would have picked at the time. But still, oh so good! Telling the winding story of young man growing up trying to save those he loves from the evil lurking all around him, this movie takes its time spinning out just how awful everyone can be. Other than Tom Holland, of course! About halfway through the movie I started getting super nervous about where it would end, but I’ll say I was pleased with how it ultimately turned out. Also, interesting note, this is yet another reminder of how good of an actor Robert Pattinson is. I’m always glad to see him in things like this where it seems he is beginning to recover from the…vampire…incident.

TV series: “West Wing”

Ok, ok, I know I said I watched “The American President” because I didn’t want to commit to a re-watch of this entire series. But I caved, alright! The election was stressful and what followed afterwards has been stress ongoing. So yes, I retreated to a fantasy world where politicians (on both sides of the aisle, for the most part!) all behaved like decent human beings. One of my favorite parts of this series is the last few seasons that focuses on the next presidential race. There, the show makes a concerted effort to portray the nominees for both parties as worthy candidates with their own strengths. It’s really the epitome of wish fulfillment! We’ll see if I make it through the entire series or, more likely, this will become the kind of thing that I revisit whenever the real world of politics begins to feel like too much noise.

TV series: “Supernatural”

Can my whole summary paragraph for this choice just be me sobbing uncontrollably? Because that’s the most accurate depiction of how I feel right now. I didn’t get around to finishing this until this month (turns out that, shocker!, two babies are more work than one!), but I managed to avoid spoilers in the meantime. My sobbing reaction is twofold: 1.) Obviously this show loves to tug on heartstrings and has been doing it for years. So there’s no way fans were going to escape unscathed from the finale. And 2.) It’s over. After 15-16 years, it’s actually over! I mean, at this point, this show has been my longest long-term relationship pretty much! I started watching this at the beginning of college, and it’s seen me through all the ups and downs of my 20s and through to my mid-thirties, married and with two kids. In a lot of ways, I feel like I was on a journey right alongside Dean and Sam. There isn’t a single other show that I’ve followed as faithfully or loved as thoroughly. It might sound cheesy, but I have a hard time seeing another show ever really replacing it as my all-time favorite.

Kate’s Picks

Netflix Show: “The Queen’s Gambit”

I’m no chess player, though I do have a nice nordic viking style set that I got back in high school. I haven’t actually played on it, however. But when I heard all the hype about “The Queen’s Gambit” from not only the Internet but also my cousin and her husband, I decided that I should give it a go. It follows Beth Harmon, an orphan in the 1960s who learns to play chess from the janitor at her orphanage, and who is a prodigy. As she grows and hones her skills, she starts competing in tournaments and making a name for herself because of her youth, prowess, and gender. But fame and winning comes with a price, as Beth struggles with her new notoriety, insecurities, and a growing substance abuse problem. Anya Taylor-Joy is fantastic as Beth, and the ways that the show depicts her process, and makes chess into a thrilling and pulse pounding event, kept me on the edge of my seat.

HBO Max Show: “The Flight Attendant”

So I read Chris Bohjalian’s thriller novel “The Flight Attendant” around the time it came out, and it never made it to the blog because I didn’t find the room for it. But when I saw that it had been adapted into a TV series, I thought that it would work a LOT better in that format, and boy does it! Cassie is a globetrotting flight attendant who likes to drink, party, and hook up all around the world. But then she wakes up in Thailand next to the body of handsome and mysterious Alex Shokolov, the man she had met on a flight the day before, whose corpse is covered in blood. No memory of the night before, Cassie panics, cleans the scene, and flees. But what she doesn’t know is that not only are the feds in the U.S. interested in what happened, so is someone else who is tailing her. My husband and I are addicted to this thrilling show, with great performances from Kelly Cuoco, Rosie Perez, and Michele Gomez.

Film: “Wonder Woman 1984”

Was it as good as the first one? No. In fact, a lot of people seem to be disappointed with “Wonder Woman 1984” But I’m not sure that it could have matched the emotional weight of the war film that was “Wonder Woman”. And since I think that trying to match that tone could have led to many inauthentic stumbles, I am okay that it didn’t try to meet that level. Instead, “Wonder Woman 1984” is more of a traditional superhero movie with a super hero and some super villains with outlandish plans, but set against an 80s back drop. Diana is now living in Washington D.C. and trying to leave the weight of her loss of Steve Trevor behind. When a mysterious stone falls into the hands of wannabe oil tycoon Maxwell Lord, people’s wishes start coming true, including Diana’s wish of getting Steve back. But when the cost of the wishes starts to spiral into chaos, Diana has to step up to try and stop Lord. Gadot was awesome as always, and newcomers Pedro Pascal and Kristen Wiig hold their own. Again, not as good as the first one, and at times it can feel a little scattered. But it is also fun and entertaining and hopeful. Which is all I wanted for the end of 2020 as my husband, baby, and I spent Christmas in quarantine.

Booksgiving: Books We’re Thankful For

There are many things to be thankful for, family, friends, experiences in life and challenges faced. But here at the Library Ladies we do tend to focus on one thing: books. So going into this season of thanksgiving, here is a list of some of the books that played an important part in our lives and for which we are thankful.

Serena’s Picks:

Book(s): “Song of the Lioness” quartet by Tamora Pierce

Why I’m Thankful: There are a lot of reasons why I’m thankful for reading this series as a middle school girl. There’s the obvious strong heroine who is making her way in a man’s world, proving her metal and taking names, of course. But there are also quite a few books that tackle this subject. What made this series stand out is how it also drew in other important aspects of Alanna’s life as a woman into the story. Always good at the fighting part, Alanna has more to learn about valuing her feminine side, learning the powerful magic of weaving and working with string. She also learns the crucial lesson that first love, while powerful, is not always the be-all, end-all of romance, and not to allow herself to be blinded by this first sweep of emotion. She goes on to have several romantic relationships before finally finding the one man who is right for her. As a young woman going through the angst of teenage years, this was a crucial lesson for me and one that is often missed in YA books today which often present the very trope-y, very silly “one true love” story as beginning and ending with the first guy the protagonist thinks is cute at age 16.

Book: “The Princess Bride” by William Goldman

Why I’m Thankful: Between the book and the movie, I feel like “The Princess Bride” is the story that just keeps giving. It’s the ultimate comfort read book for me and was one of the first books I read that really showed what good comedy writing looks like. I have yet to find a fantasy comedy that even comes close (though I have read some other good ones). Goldman set a pretty high bar! Of course, it’s not just funny. It’s a high adventure fantasy where the action seems non-stop. Add on top of that the clever meta commentary of Goldman writing the book as if he is editing a dry, historical tome written by another author. Whenever times are tough, this is a book I’m thankful to have in my arsenal for re-reads.

Book(s): “Oz” series by L. Frank Baum

Why I’m Thankful: My family always read books together before bedtime. I think a lot of families do this, but my parents were super dedicated, and we were still doing it in junior high, I’m pretty sure. It was a really nice time, and we all enjoyed it. Of course, reading every night for so long, we had to have a bunch of books to get through. The “Oz” books were probably one of the first long series that we made it through with 14 books in total. Only a few of them stand out in my memory, but I do remember enjoying them all as we read them. I have a long list of books that I’m planning on reading to Will, and this series is right up there near the top! Not only do I hope that he enjoys them too, but I’m excited to revisit so many of the stories that I don’t remember as well.

Kate’s Picks:

Book: “Carrie” by Stephen King

Why I’m Thankful: It too me awhile in my younger elementary and high school years to find my people. As someone who went to the same institution from Kindergarten through senior year who was a misfit (and surrounded by a class of people who were notoriously awful), I was fairly bullied and lonely for a long time. So reading “Carrie” in middle school was INCREDIBLY cathartic for me. The story of a bullied teenage girl who finds out she has supernatural powers that empower her was something to strive for, and while I definitely knew the whole ‘and then she kills everyone at the Prom’ plot point, that was merely incidental (aaaand the cathartic part). But it was Stephen King’s rather authentic and wholly relatable teenage girl characters, Carrie and nice girl Sue Snell, that really spoke to me in the text. Plus, this was the second King book I’d ever read, and it solidified my love for the man.

Book: “Watchmen” by Alan Moore and David Gibbons (Ill.)

Why I’m Thankful: When I was a kid, I dabbled in comics on and off, but was more inclined to watch the movie or TV versions of my favorite DC superheroes and superheroines. Once I got to college, I did pick up graphic novels like “Maus”, “The Crow”, and “Bone”, but it wasn’t really my wheelhouse. And then I read “Watchmen” and everything changed. I was blown away by the intricate and dark storyline, the compelling and sometimes unsettling characters impressed,(Rorschach is a fave, even though he is a MONSTER in a lot of ways), and the inversion of superhero tropes and themes blew me away. I mean, when the big reveal about Ozymandias’s plan happened, I literally gasped in the middle of the library I was taking a work break in. It’s one of my very favorite books, and I credit “Watchmen” with my current love of graphic novels.

Book(s): “The Baby-Sitters Club” by Ann M. Martin

Why I’m Thankful: Soooo along with the scares of “Fear Street”, “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark”, and “Goosebumps”, the other big series that I loved as a kid was “The Baby-Sitters Club”. And I think that it was this series that made me a compulsive reader, as I was always wanting to get my hands on the next in the series (unlike “Fear Street” or “Goosebumps”, where I skipped around based on plot). The stories of a group of middle school girls running a business, navigating friendships, and growing up were aspirational for me, as at the time I didn’t really have the ideal group of girl friends that the books presented. Mary-Anne was my favorite, but I wished I was as cool as Stacey, and all of them made me want to be a good babysitter (and I was, during the few babysitting jobs I had as time went on). “The Baby-Sitters Club” will always have a special place in my heart, and I can’t wait to see how it continues to shape and change as time goes on (and for when my own daughter gets to be the age where she could read them)!

What books are you most thankful for? Let us know in the comments!