St. Patrick’s Day/Irish Themed Books!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! The day everyone wears green and likes to claim some loose, loose connection to Ireland to justify a night out on the town. We here at The Library Ladies like to use any/all holidays for a completely different purpose: as a loose, loose excuse to create random, themed booklists. So here are a few books that have some (remember “loose”) connection to Ireland or St. Patrick’s Day!

13928Book: “Daughter of the Forest” by Juliet Marillier

Publishing Info: Tom Doherty Associates, February 2002

Juliet Marillier is one of my (Serena’s) favorite authors. Her writing flows off the page in a beautiful, lyrical style, often combined with a fairytale-like feel. She often has a whole host of books that are set in a historical, fantasy-based version of Ireland. I could make an entire list on this theme all written by her. But my favorite of her works is still her first story, “Daughter of the Forest” that is a re-telling of the “Seven Swans” fairytale. I consider it the definitive version of this fairytale, even, that’s how good it is. Throughout the story, we see how important Sorcha’s homeland is to her identity and the beautiful descriptions of its deep forests and quiet lakes is simply one more reason to check out this fantastic tale.

249747Book: “Artemis Fowl” by Eoin Colfer

Publishing Info: Disney-Hyperion, April 2003

Just in time for the growing hype about the movie version of this beloved middle grade book, “Artemis Fowl” is also a perfect fit for this list given the location of Fowl Manor on the outskirts of Dublin. Not to mention the host of fairies who live below ground and work for the LEPrecon Unit. Artemis Fowl himself is a 12-year old genius who gets on the wrong side of said fairies when he takes one of them hostage in a ploy to regain his family’s lost wealth. He’s the kind of precocious protagonist who manages to be both frustrating and root-for-worthy at the same time. If you somehow missed this one, best check it out now before the movie hits screens! There are also a bunch more in the series, so you could potentially have quite a reading list on your hands.

300932Book: “Lion of Ireland” by Morgan Llywelyn

Publishing Info: Forge, March 2002

This is a historical fiction novel that attempts to novelize the story of Brian Boru, a 12th son who grew up to be one of the greatest king’s of Ireland. In many ways, his is also thought to be a story that lay behind the legend of King Arthur. Set in the 19th century and drawing from the scant information that is known about the man himself, Llywelyn attempts to novelize the life Brian, documenting his rise to power and his ability to gain the loyalty and love of a people. The story is long, but full of action and romance. Readers in the mood for a historical story that is at least partially based on a real-life person, look no further than “Lion of Ireland.”

873783Book: “The Hounds of The Morrigan” by Pat O’Shea

Publishing Info: Oxford University Press, 1985

When you take two siblings, a Goddess of Death, and some hell hounds with a tenacious streak, you get the fantasy book “The Hounds of The Morrigan”. This YA adventure is set in Galway, and takes Irish and Celtic mythology and brings it to the 1980s. When ten year old Pidge finds an old manuscript, he unwittingly releases the vicious serpent Olc-Glas. Now that Olc-Glas is free, he gains the attention of The Morrigan, the Irish goddess of death and destruction, and she wants to join forces with the snake to cause mass chaos. Pidge and his sister Brigit are the only ones who can find a magic stone that can destroy Olc-Glas and hopefully save the world, but The Morrigan has sent her Hell Hounds to hunt the siblings down. Taking classic mythology and giving it a 20th Century twist, “The Hounds of The Morrigan” is a fun adventure with an Irish twist!

7093952Book Series: “The Dublin Murder Squad Books” by Tana French (“In The Woods”, “The Likeness”, “Faithful Place”, “Broken Harbor”, “The Secret Place”, “The Trespasser”)

Publishing Info: Penguin Books, 2007-2016

Tana French is a name you probably know if you are a big mystery/crime procedural fan, and her most popular books are those in “The Dublin Murder Squad” Series. The first in the series, “In The Woods”, concerns a detective who suffered a childhood trauma that he hasn’t quite let go. When a new case involving a murdered girl happens in the same woods of his trauma, he has to try to keep his past at bay. The next book in the series follows another member of the Murder Squad, and the book after that follows another one, etcetera etcetera. The books have a devoted following, and the peripheral connections are fun to see within high tension and sometimes very upsetting mysteries.

15926229Book: “Making Sense of The Troubles: The Story of the Conflict in Northern Ireland” by David McKittrick and David McVea

Publishing Info: Penguin, October 2001

During the latter part of the 20th Century, Northern Ireland was caught in a struggle between those who wanted Northern Ireland to stay with the U.K. and those who wanted Northern Ireland to join The Republic of Ireland, and while it wasn’t technically religious in nature it tended to split along Protestant and Catholic lines. The conflicts had many instances of violence, with bombings, kidnappings, riots, and targeted violence coming from both sides. It’s a complex and dark time in Irish history, and “Making Sense of The Troubles” is considered to be a comprehensive and even handed account of the decades long conflict. It’s a dark book to finish the list with, but given how The Troubles are still in living memory, it’s an important read nonetheless.

Do you have any favorite stories set in Ireland? Share yours with us in the comments below!

Highlights: March 2019

Will spring ever arrive? This is the question on every Minnesotan’s mind as we stare out at our snow-covered lawns, our icicle-encrusted roofs and our thermometers that are still, somehow, showing single digits. But at least we can add an extra hour of light in the evenings soon? Literal light at the end of this cold, snowy tunnel?? As always, however, we have a list of books to look forward to to distract us!

Serena’s Picks

42506143Book: “The Shadowglass” by Rin Chupeco

Publication Date: March 5, 2019

Why I’m Interested: I’ve been loving “The Bone Witch” series from book one. Not only is the world-building and dark, death magic completely fascinating, but the narrative is structured in such a way that we have essentially two timelines to follow at once: Tea’s past self and her experiences growing into her Bone Witch powers and the adult Tea who has seen some shit. By the second book, each storyline was jam packed with its own action, and while some questions were being answered here and there, many of the primary mysteries behind how things ended up the way they were in adult!Tea’s timeline in the first book are still unclear. So not only do we need to catch up to that point in this book, but the present timeline was also getting pretty intense in the last book, so it’s hard to even imagine how that will conclude as well!

30518319Book: “A Dangerous Collaboration” by Deanna Raybourn

Publication Date: March 12, 2019

Why I’m Interested: I mean, obviously. I’ve been loving this series from the start and this was the first book that had a serious wait time attached to it given the timing of my discovery of the series. I’m also particularly intrigued by the Gothic, ghost-centric, missing bride angle at the heart of this mystery. I’m sensing some serious “Jane Eyre” vibes all over this thing, and that can only be a good sign! Beyond that, Veronica and Stoker’s relationship seems to be coming to a head, so I’m intrigued to see where the series goes with that! Will this actually be followed through on? Or will we get more of the same will-they-won’t-they we’ve seen for the last several books? I definitely have a preference!

38734256-1Book: “Sherwood” by Meagan Spooner

Publication Date: March 19, 2019

Why I’m Interested: A few years ago I read and adored Spooner’s retelling of my favorite fairytale, “Beauty and the Beast,” in her book “Hunted.” There were just enough callouts to the original story for it to feel familiar, but, for the most part, the story was completely new. Add to that a compelling, strong heroine at its heart and you had a hit on your hands! So when I saw that she was releasing another standalone story, this time a version of Robin Hood with Marian as the focus, I knew I would have to check it out! Like has so often (sadly) been the case with “Beauty and the Beast” stories, I’ve read a fair share of Robin Hood stories that cast Marian in a more important role (often the archer herself) and been left underwhelmed. However, given Spooner’s past success and the fact that the book description starts out with the provocative line “Robin of Locksley is dead”…yeah, I’m game to see where this one goes!

Kate’s Picks

34993030Book: “The Lady from the Black Lagoon: Hollywood Monsters and the Lost Legacy of Milicent Patrick” by Mallory O’Meara

Publication Date: March 5, 2019

Why I’m Interested: As the horror connoisseur on this blog it comes as no surprise that a book about the woman who designed The Creature from the Black Lagoon is something that has caught my attention. Milicent Patrick created the now iconic creature from the Universal Monsters line up, but the credit was stolen by a male colleague, and Patrick’s legacy was stolen from her. Mallory O’Meara, angered by this injustice, went out and found out everything she could about Patrick’s life, and has now written a biography of a woman whose contributions to the horror film industry has been long overlooked. While I’m sure the sexism and misogyny is going to make my blood boil, I can’t wait to learn about a lady horror fan whose impact within the genre was formidable.

38167114Book: “Internment” by Samira Ahmed

Publication Date: March 19, 2019

Why I’m Interested: With our Government and this current administration promoting racist and Islamaphobic policies, “Internment” feels like a timely, and very scary, warning of a novel. It’s the story of Layla, a seventeen year old Muslim American, and how she, her family, and Muslims across the country are rounded up by the Government and relocated to Internment camps, echoing America’s shameful and horrific past of Japanese American internment during WWII. While Layla’s parents hope that remaining silent and compliant will keep them safe, Layla has other ideas, and wants to fight back. Heavy stuff, but given that this ‘what if’ scenario feels all too plausible it’s probably also necessary to think about.

39080472Book: “The Everlasting Rose” by Dhonielle Clayton

Publication Date: March 5, 2019

Why I’m Interested: Given how much I greatly enjoyed “The Belles” last year, I OF COURSE have to put it’s sequel, “The Everlasting Rose”, on my list! When we left off, Rogue Belle Camille has run from her duty to Princess Sophia and has met up with her sister Belle Edel, in hopes of fighting back against Sophia’s oppressive regime. Camille and Edel have to team up to find Sophia’s sister Charlotte, the rightful heir to the Orléans Throne, and have to keep themselves safe and hidden along the way. We’ve entered the revolution part of this dystopian tale, and the stakes are quite high. Will Camille and Edel, along with the help of former guard Remy and an underground rebellion group, be able to save Orléans from tyranny?

What books are you looking forward to this month? Let us know in the comments!

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.

A Fine Romance: Romantic Books for Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day is around the corner, and along with candy and flowers comes some lovey dovey feelings. While we here at the Library Ladies aren’t exactly hopeless romantics, we do love a good book with a focus on love. In honor of the holiday, we have some recommendations of love oriented books to check out.

98687Book: “Call Me By Your Name” by André Aciman

Publishing Info: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2007

The film adaptation of this book made a huge splash when it came out in 2017, and I took it upon myself to read the book afterwards because the story had such an impact on me. Set in the Italian countryside in the early 1980s, “Call Me By Your Name” concerns the love, passion, and heartbreak between Elio, the son of a professor, and Oliver, a graduate student on an archaeological project. The chemistry between Elio and Oliver is crackling, and it tackles the ups and downs of first love for a younger person, and the fears of coming out for an older one. Given the time period, the age difference, and the personalities of the two main characters you can see where things are going, but even as they end up at their logical conclusion the reader is still taken in by the sweeping romance and tenderness between Elio and Oliver. Read it but be sure you have a box of tissues to cry into when all is said and done.

7716140Book: “Married with Zombies” by Jesse Petersen

Publishing Info: Orbit, 2010

Unconventional romance can be fun as well, and what could be more unconventional than a married couple finding themselves again during the zombie invasion? Sarah and David are a married couple who are having relationship problems. Sarah thinks that they may be on the brink of divorce, and David doesn’t seem to care. But then the zombie apocalypse happens, and the two of them realize that they won’t be able to survive without helping each other. And as they try to make their way through the wasteland in hopes of finding safety, they start to remember why they fell in love with each other in the first place. “Married with Zombies” is the first in a campy and fun series that explores love and romance in an honest way when it comes to a marriage on the rocks, and brings in charming characters and fun zombie action.

36521316Book: “The Shape of Water” by Guillermo del Toro and Daniel Krauss

Publishing Info: Feiwel & Friends, 2018

Guillermo del Toro’s “The Shape of Water” was the Best Picture at the 2018 Oscars, and while a number of people like to make fun of it (‘the Fish Fucking Movie won?!’), at the heart of it is a truly sweet and sweeping romance between two outsiders who are looking for companionship. Elisa is a mute woman working as a night cleaner at a scientific laboratory, and while she has friends she feels isolated because of her disability. But when she stumbles upon a secret project, which involves the captivity of a hidden creature taken from the Amazon River, she forms an immediate connection. The book is an adaptation of the film, but in written form it gives more in depth perspectives of a number of the characters, and approaches the romance from other angles. Fans of the movie will like the additional content, and those who haven’t seen it will probably want to after reading it.

33413958Book: “Your One and Only” by Adrianne Finlay

Publishing Info: HMH Books for Young Readers, 2018

For a science fiction angle, we recommend this YA title featuring a future populated entirely by well-regulated clone generations. Their orderly lifestyle and strict cloning process is thrown into chaos, however, by the introduction of Jack, the first non-clone boy to exist in this world for decades. Being the new kid at school takes on a whole new light from this angle, but luckily he forms a connection with Althea-310 who sees his struggles and becomes curious about this new form of life and what he may have to teach them. Their romance is sweet, while also leaving plenty of room for a deep-dive exploration into a dystopian society and what it means to be human.

33574143Book: “The Beautiful Ones” by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Publishing Info: Thomas Dunne Books, 2017

Technically this is a historical fantasy, but I feel it fits much more neatly under the “historical romance” category as the fantasy elements only exist on the far outreaches of the story itself. And that story is first and foremost a romance. Told from three perspectives, we see the pains of old romance slowly give way to the joys of new love. Antonina, Hector, and Valerie each have distinct voices and challenges, and what made the book particularly enjoyable was not only being able to root so strongly for our main duo, but having a villain, who while sympathetic to a point, was also great fun to hate. Fans of historical romance are sure to appreciate this one!

24473763Book: “Radiance” by Grace Draven

Publishing Info: Grace Draven, 2015

This one solidly falls under the romance category, being similar to “The Shape of Water” in its presentation of a non-typical romantic duo. Brought together through a politically arranged marriage, Brishen and Ildiko have much to learn about not only the stranger they married, but the very different worlds and cultures they each have come from. But what makes this book stand out from others is the truly sweet and respectful way that this romance unfolds. It just goes to show that angst, drama, miscommunication, and general “bad boy” behavior is not necessary to make a romance spark. Both of our main characters are simply wonderful people and it makes their love story all the more enjoyable for it!

Highlights: February 2019

After getting slammed by a sub zero nightmare last week, it is now February and we are hoping that temperatures are more reasonable from here on out (aka: above zero). We may be in the middle of winter, but with February comes an air of romance and LOTS of candy, as well as a new crop of books coming out! Here are some titles we’re looking forward to this month.

Serena’s Picks

32949202Book: “Dark of the West” by Joanna Hathaway

Publication Date: February 5, 2019

Why I’m Interested: This debut YA fantasy novel’s description reads more like a historical political piece than anything else, and at this point, I think that’s probably a good thing! I love me some fantasy, but it might be refreshing to find a “Game of Thrones” esque YA work where the emphasis is more on the politics and military maneuvering than anything else. I’m also intrigued by the time period during which it seems to be set as there is mention of airplanes and other WWII era inventions. Add a dash of forbidden romance between teens in rival nations, and I’m there!

35715518Book: “Crown of Feathers” by Nicki Pau Preto

Publication Date: February 12, 2019

Why I’m Interested: Yes, yes, I just got done saying how nice it will be to read a fantasy novel that has less fantasy, and now here I am highlighting a book with phoenixes at the heart of the story. What can I say? But what really did make this book stand out for me was essentially the swap out of dragons for phoenixes, something I’ve never come across before. I’m curious to see what other elements of the phoenix mythology will come into play or whether much of it will remain similar to other dragon-rider type stories. It also includes a diverse cast of characters, and, again, another war torn country with rebellion at its heart. I’m sensing a theme for the month…

34213319Book: “Four Dead Queens” by Astrid Scholte

Publication Date: February 26, 2019

Why I’m Interested: And we’ve gone full circle and we’re back to the tried and true medieval fantasy story that I find myself reading all the time! But this time there are four, count them, four queens and they all end up…dead? I’m also a sucker for any story that features a pickpocket thief at its heart, and of course, that’s our YA heroine for this story. There does also seem to be some political elements at the heart of the story, so I’m curious to see how that will play out. And, of course, there’s a romance too. That’s always seems to be my tripping point with books like this, so we’ll have to see how that goes!

Kate’s Picks

39863488Book: “The Lost Man” by Jane Harper

Publication Date: February 5, 2019

Why I’m Interested: I have found myself invested in Jane Harper’s “Aaron Falk” mystery series and the fun Australian setting, so when I found out that Harper had written a new standalone thriller, I knew that I wanted to read it as soon as I could. When a dysfunctional family is rocked by the death of a middle brother, family secrets and complicated relationships start to unravel. For Nathan Bright, he starts to wonder if he knew everything about his dead brother, and if his death wasn’t as open and shut as it initially appeared to be. Harper writes dark characters and vast and sprawling Australian settings like few others, and I am very excited to dive into this newest story.

37868569Book: “We Set The Dark On Fire” by Tehlor Kay Mejia

Publication Date: February 26, 2019

Why I’m Interested: We have another non sword and sorcery fantasy series with dystopia/utopia themes and a boarding school location, so you know that I am going to be on board. In an elite school where girls are trained to become powerful wives to powerful men or doting mothers to important children, Dani is on track to live a life of luxury. But she’s hiding the fact that she isn’t from the illustrious background that she claims to be. If she is found out she could be sent back to a life of poverty and hardship. But there is also a resistance growing, and Dani approached to work for them in hopes of bringing equality to their society. It sounds like the kind of fantasy that I like, and I can’t wait to see how it stacks up.

35068618Book: “On The Come Up” by Angie Thomas

Publication Date: February 5, 2019

Why I’m Interested: I was so completely entranced by Thomas’s debut “The Hate U Give” (as was the rest of the world, and deservedly so!) that once I heard that she was writing another book I needed, NEEDED to get on the request list at work. I was lucky enough to request early enough that I will be in the first wave of requests, and let me tell you I can’t wait. Her newest book is about Bri, an aspiring rapper who is hoping to become famous one day. After he father, a rapper with a cult following, died when Bri was young, it’s been her, her mother, and her brother ever since. And when her mother loses her job and they start to slide into debt, Bri is more determine than ever to achieve her dream and make it big. It may not be in my usual genres, but “On the Come Up” is still one of my most anticipated reads of the year.

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…

Highlights: January 2019

Oh man, only one more year until we have to start typing out the year “2020.” That’s just too weird and disturbing to contemplate. So, instead, let’s look at some upcoming titles that we’re excited to check out this month!

Serena’s Picks

35839460Book: “The Kingdom of Copper” by S.A. Chakraborty

Publication Date: January 8, 2019

Why I’m Interested: “The Kingdom of Brass” was on my “Top Ten” list last year and took my completely by surprise. Not again! This time I know enough to be already ALL IN on this sequel. While the first book didn’t end on a cliffhanger, necessarily, things were definitely reaching a peak in the story and our two main characters were in tough positions: one banished from his home land, likely to be set upon by assassins at any moment, and the other trapped in said home land, preparing to be bargained off in a political marriage to ensure the control of a ruling family that wronger her own many centuries ago. There is just so much in this series: so much history, so much deep characterization, and so many conflicting histories and wrongs that it’s almost impossible to imagine resolution. And we won’t even be getting it here, as this is just the second in the trilogy! But I’ll take what I can get!

36621586Book: “The Winter of the Witch” by Katherine Arden

Publication Date: January 9, 2019

Why I’m Interested: January is truly a month of riches, as far as my reading choices go. Alongside “The Kingdom of Brass,” Arden’s “Winternight” trilogy has been one of my most unexpected and most loved series to read in the last few years. And alas, this will be the final book in the trilogy! (You can’t win either way: it’s either second books that won’t resolve the story, or final books that sadly will.) This series has only gotten stronger from book to book, and given the description of this story, it seems that Vasya is going to expand her power and influence even further. I can’t wait to see what happens in the story, but I’m also so excited to spend more time with our favorite witty horse, Solovey, and to see what, if anything, will come from the cautious romance being struck up between Vasya and the Winter King.

43204703Book: “A Curse So Dark and Lonely” by Brigid Kemmerer

Publication Date: January 29, 2019

Why I’m Interested: It’s also important to try new things, dear readers, rather than just obsess over known factors, like previously-loved series. Enter: “A Curse So Dark and Lonely.” I don’t know where I first heard of this book, but it’s been hanging out on my mental lists of books to highlight come January for several months now. We all know what my luck has been like recently with “Beauty and the Beast” retellings, but I just can’t help myself! From the looks of things, this should be yet another interpretation of the story, but one that takes on a darker tone and features multiple POVs, including one from the cursed Prince himself. Color me intrigued!

Kate’s Picks

39863515Book: “An Anonymous Girl” by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen

Publication Date: January 8, 2019

Why I’m Interested: Given that I really enjoyed “The Wife Between Us”, I was very stoked to see that Hendricks and Pekkanen had a new collaboration coming out in the New Year! And given that my B.A. is in psychology, a story about potential psychological manipulation and gaslighting is always going to catch my eye. When Jessica signs up for a psychological experiment in hopes of making a few bucks, she meets Dr. Shields, the conductor of the study. As the sessions become more controlled and disturbing, however, she starts to wonder what in her life is real and what is just part of the experiment. Hendricks and Pekkanen did a great job with their previous book, and this one sounds a little beyond the usual ‘domestic thriller’ fare. The twistier, the better!

34723130Book: “Slayer” by Kiersten White

Publication Date: January 8, 2019

Why I’m Interested: In high school I was a complete and total “Buffy” addict, so when I saw that Kiersten White was taking on the Slayerverse for her new book, I was ECSTATIC! It follows Nina and her twin sister Artemis, both going to the Watcher’s Academy and training to be Watchers to Slayers, girls with supernatural powers to protect the world from evil. But then Nina’s path changes, and she finds out that she is actually a Slayer herself. And not only that, she’s going to be the last Slayer. White has shown that she knows how to tackle nuanced and fascinating women in both historical fiction and fantasy, and I have every amount of faith in her that she will do the Slayerverse justice! And, uh, maybe we’ll get a cameo from Spike, my all time favorite bad-boy with a heart of gold vampire. Maybe? PLEASE?

38225791Book: “Two Can Keep A Secret” by Karen M. McManus

Publication Date: January 8, 2019

Why I’m Interested: I was completely taken in by McManus’s previous work, “One Of Us Is Lying”, so when I saw that she had a new book coming out I, of course, really wanted to read it. This time it concerns a small town that has a history of girls going missing or ended up dead. When Ellery moves to Echo Ridge, she knows the tragedies of the town mostly because her aunt disappeared there years ago. Five years previous, the homecoming queen was murdered. And now, with a new Homecoming season under way, someone has decided to repeat history, as another girl goes missing. Ellery has her own secrets to contend with, but with a potential killer on the loose she may be in more trouble than she realizes. Oh man I cannot WAIT to read this because it smacks of homages to “Twin Peaks”!

What books are you looking forward to this month? Let us know in the comments!