Another Take: Fall 2021

Don’t just take it from us, other readers like these books, too! And we have decided that we would like to showcase other reviewers and bloggers that have their own thoughts and feelings about books that we have loved. Here are a few of the books we’ve enjoyed recently and what other bloggers have to say about them.

Book: “Daughter of the Salt King” by A.S. Thornton

Book Description: As a daughter of the Salt King, Emel ought to be among the most powerful women in the desert. Instead, she and her sisters have less freedom than even her father’s slaves … for the Salt King uses his own daughters to seduce visiting noblemen into becoming powerful allies by marriage.

Escape from her father’s court seems impossible, and Emel dreams of a life where she can choose her fate. When members of a secret rebellion attack, Emel stumbles upon an alluring escape route: her father’s best-kept secret—a wish-granting jinni, Saalim.

But in the land of the Salt King, wishes are never what they seem. Saalim’s magic is volatile. Emel could lose everything with a wish for her freedom as the rebellion intensifies around her. She soon finds herself playing a dangerous game that pits dreams against responsibility and love against the promise of freedom. As she finds herself drawn to the jinni for more than his magic, captivated by both him and the world he shows her outside her desert village, she has to decide if freedom is worth the loss of her family, her home and Saalim, the only man she’s ever loved.

Serena’s Review (Rating 9)

Babbling Books (4 stars)

Evelyn Reads (4 stars)

Literary Weaponry (3 stars)

Book: “Forestborn” by Elayne Audrey Becker

Book Description: Rora is a shifter, as magical as all those born in the wilderness–and as feared. She uses her abilities to spy for the king, traveling under different guises and listening for signs of trouble.

When a magical illness surfaces across the kingdom, Rora uncovers a devastating truth: Finley, the young prince and her best friend, has caught it, too. His only hope is stardust, the rarest of magical elements, found deep in the wilderness where Rora grew up–and to which she swore never to return.

But for her only friend, Rora will face her past and brave the dark, magical wood, journeying with her brother and the obstinate, older prince who insists on coming. Together, they must survive sentient forests and creatures unknown, battling an ever-changing landscape while escaping human pursuers who want them dead. With illness gripping the kingdom and war on the horizon, Finley’s is not the only life that hangs in the balance.

Serena’s Review (Rating 9)

Mom with a Reading Problem (5 stars)

One Book More (4.5 stars)

Literati Lounge (4 stars)

Book: “For the Wolf” by Hannah Whitten

Book Description: As the only Second Daughter born in centuries, Red has one purpose-to be sacrificed to the Wolf in the Wood in the hope he’ll return the world’s captured gods.

Red is almost relieved to go. Plagued by a dangerous power she can’t control, at least she knows that in the Wilderwood, she can’t hurt those she loves. Again.

But the legends lie. The Wolf is a man, not a monster. Her magic is a calling, not a curse. And if she doesn’t learn how to use it, the monsters the gods have become will swallow the Wilderwood-and her world-whole.

Serena’s Review (Rating 9)

Reader Voracious

Jaye Rockett

ReadRantRock&Roll (4 stars)

Book: “Firekeeper’s Daughter” by Angeline Boulley

Book Description: As a biracial, unenrolled tribal member and the product of a scandal, eighteen-year-old Daunis Fontaine has never quite fit in, both in her hometown and on the nearby Ojibwe reservation. Daunis dreams of studying medicine, but when her family is struck by tragedy, she puts her future on hold to care for her fragile mother.

The only bright spot is meeting Jamie, the charming new recruit on her brother Levi’s hockey team. Yet even as Daunis falls for Jamie, certain details don’t add up and she senses the dashing hockey star is hiding something. Everything comes to light when Daunis witnesses a shocking murder, thrusting her into the heart of a criminal investigation.

Reluctantly, Daunis agrees to go undercover, but secretly pursues her own investigation, tracking down the criminals with her knowledge of chemistry and traditional medicine. But the deceptions—and deaths—keep piling up and soon the threat strikes too close to home.

Now, Daunis must learn what it means to be a strong Anishinaabe kwe (Ojibwe woman) and how far she’ll go to protect her community, even if it tears apart the only world she’s ever known.

Kate’s Review (Rating 10)

Library Looter (5 Stars)

Whispering Stories (4 Stars)

It Starts At Midnight (5 Clocks)

Book: “My Heart Is A Chainsaw” by Stephen Graham Jones

Book Description: In her quickly gentrifying rural lake town Jade sees recent events only her encyclopedic knowledge of horror films could have prepared her for

Jade Daniels is an angry, half-Indian outcast with an abusive father, an absent mother, and an entire town that wants nothing to do with her. She lives in her own world, a world in which protection comes from an unusual source: horror movies…especially the ones where a masked killer seeks revenge on a world that wronged them. And Jade narrates the quirky history of Proofrock as if it is one of those movies. But when blood actually starts to spill into the waters of Indian Lake, she pulls us into her dizzying, encyclopedic mind of blood and masked murderers, and predicts exactly how the plot will unfold.

Yet, even as Jade drags us into her dark fever dream, a surprising and intimate portrait emerges… a portrait of the scared and traumatized little girl beneath the Jason Voorhees mask: angry, yes, but also a girl who easily cries, fiercely loves, and desperately wants a home. A girl whose feelings are too big for her body.

Kate’s Review (Rating 10)

Run Along The Shelves

Horror Geek Life

Horror Obsessive

Book: “Slewfoot: A Tale of Bewitchery” by Brom

Book Description: A spirited young Englishwoman, Abitha, arrives at a Puritan colony betrothed to a stranger – only to become quickly widowed when her husband dies under mysterious circumstances. All alone in this pious and patriarchal society, Abitha fights for what little freedom she can grasp onto, while trying to stay true to herself and her past.

Enter Slewfoot, a powerful spirit of antiquity newly woken… and trying to find his own role in the world. Healer or destroyer? Protector or predator? But as the shadows walk and villagers start dying, a new rumor is whispered: Witch.

Both Abitha and Slewfoot must swiftly decide who they are, and what they must do to survive in a world intent on hanging any who meddle in the dark arts.

Kate’s Review (Rating 10)

Skelleycat (5 Stars)

Amanda M Lyons

The Writerly Reader

Highlights: October 2021

Fall is in full swing and we have entered October, the month that brings us all things creepy, crawly, and spooky! That means that it’s time for Kate’s annual Horrorpalooza review series, as well as all the horror movies, and it’s time for Serena to find all things cozy and autumn-esque! We also have a list of books that we are looking forward to this month as the days get shorter and pumpkin themed everything permeates our lives.

Serena’s Picks

Book: “Animorphs Graphix #2: The Visitor”

Publication Date: October 5, 2021

Why I’m Interested: I’m tickled pink that a cult YA series from the 90s is seeing a re-birth here in the 2020s. What a weird thing, to have read all of these books as a kid and now to be re-reading them as graphic novels when I have kids myself! I very much enjoyed the first book that came out about a year ago. I had a few quibbles about some of the artistic choices, but overall, I was surprised by how much fun I had reading that. With that firmly in mind, while I still don’t love the artwork (most notable in this cover), I’m really excited to dive into this second book and see how the events here are depicted in this format.

Book: “Blood of the Chosen” by Django Wexler

Publication Date: October 5, 2021

Why I’m Interested: I really enjoyed the first book in this series when I read it last summer. Wexler writes excellent fantasy (science fiction??) worlds and he fills them will well-formed, exciting characters. In this series, we follow a pair of siblings who were separated at a young age and find themselves on opposing sides of a brewing conflict that appears to have no winners. The stakes were high in the first book. So high, that I wonder where they will go from there. But Wexler has proven more than capable of handing escalating forces in past series of his that I’ve enjoyed, so I’m sure he’ll manage it here! I found myself preferring Maya’s story in the first book, and generally coming down on her side of the moral dilemma, so I’m curious to see if that will remain true here.

Book: “Vespertine” by Margaret Rogerson

Publication Date: October 5, 2021

Why I’m Interested: Margaret Rogerson is one of those authors I Goodreads stalk. In that, I’ve been checking her profile for updates of a new book almost since the day I read the last page of her latest book. It’s been a long wait, too, but “Vespertine” is finally here! Yet another cover that I think is fantastic, so she’s three-for-three there. The description focusing on a fighting nun sounds pretty awesome as well. I’m a bit bummed that there doesn’t seem to be any romance in this book, as that was one of the things I liked best about her first two books. But it’s also the first in a duology (I think it’s only two??), which is also a first from her as the previous two were stand-alones. So maybe there will be romance there? Or, of course, there are perfectly good books that don’t have romantic subplots. Just my preference that they do. Super excited to get to this one, as I’ve been patiently waiting for soooo long to crack it open.

Kate’s Picks

Book: “Cackle” by Rachel Harrison

Publication Date: October 5, 2021

Why I’m Interested: I really loved Rachel Harrison’s debut novel “The Return”, so of course I would be interested in reading her next book. Especially since this one has to do with witches! Annie has always been the type to go along to get along, so when she finds herself recently dumped by her long term boyfriend and in a whole new town, she is anxious, lonely, and a little bit lost. But the she meets Sophie, a beautiful and incredibly charismatic woman who is more than happy to take Annie under her wing. Sophie is gregarious and charming, but everyone else in town seems to be a little scared of her. Could it be that Annie’s new friend is a witch? And what does that mean for Annie? Witches are great, but so are complex female friendship plot points, so this one sounds doubly interesting!

Book: “Nothing But Blackened Teeth” by Cassandra Khaw

Publication Date: October 19, 2021

Why I’m Interested: Given that Japanese horror tales are some of the stories that scare me the most (I left “The Ring” as a fully traumatized teenager), when I saw that a new novella with such a theme was coming out I knew I needed to read it. And not only is the cover absolutely horrifying, “Nothing But Blackened Teeth” by Cassandra Khaw is a novella, the perfect length for a late autumn night. Cat and her friends have all come together for a wedding at a Heian-Era mansion in rural Japan. They’ve all been known to be thrill seekers, and a wedding in a haunted house sounds fun. Until Cat starts seeing things. And the story of a long dead, spurned bride starts to unfold right before her eyes. Ghosts and wedding weekends don’t tend to mix well. Throw in some yokai to boot and you have a blood curdling tale of terror!

Book: “Where They Wait” by Scott Carson

Publication Date: October 26, 2021

Why I’m Interested: I’m a super anxious person, and the past two years (between new parenthood and pandemic) has been very stressful at times. I have been trying to meditate more and look into mindfulness programs, but when I read the description for Scott Carson’s “Where They Wait” I was like ‘oh GREAT, let’s make THAT scary, huh?’ But I have to admit, it does sound intriguing. After he’s let go from his prestigious newspaper job, Nick is hired to do a write up of a new mindfulness app called Clarity. It seems like the usual program, but as he starts to look into it more, some things seem off. What kind of mindfulness app has a meditation segment with a creepy song that lulls people into a freaked out state before a good night’s sleep? Nick starts to look into this more, and realizes that he has a dark connection to Clarity and the song. I haven’t read anything by Carson yet, and this one sounds like it’s going to be a truly trippy story.

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

Not Just Books: September 2021

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 Courier”

My husband and I happened on this movie purely by opening up Amazon Prime and clicking on the first movie with a recognizable face. Both of the main actors, Benedict Cumberbatch and Rachel Brosnahan, were familiar from other things we’ve enjoyed…and that’s about all we knew. The story is based on real-world events where a British salesman ends up sneaking messages in and out of Russia during the Cuban Missile Crisis. It was a completely unfamiliar story to me, and entirely more stressful than I had planned for the evening. But it was a great film and the acting was superb. I recommend it for any fans of historical dramas.

TV Show: “Survivor” season 41

Covid has definitely thrown out all sense of normal, and one of the things to go has been my usual twice-yearly guilty pleasure show: “Survivor.” Well, at last it’s back! I was super excited to check out the first episode and, not surprisingly, things felt a bit disjointed after being off air for so long. I liked a lot of the twists that were introduced (lack of supplies, more choices that require strategic thinking). But there were also some big misses. The shortened length of time (while probably necessary due to Covid) makes it hard to get to know the cast even as we saw two go right off the bat. There were also a few awkward moments where the show may have been trying to make changes for the right reasons, but did it (twice!) in such the wrong way (performative and throwing some question marks on whose voice holds the most value) that they almost undercut the entire thing. Honestly, if they had just made this change quietly in the background without trying to get pats on the back from viewers, I’d have had a lot more respect for it. As it is…I think it didn’t play well. Ah well, what would the show be without these highs and lows?

TV Show: “Superman and Lois”

Of course I had to watch this show! I was a bit nervous going in, because, while I did watch all of “Smallville” back in the day, I didn’t continue with all of the other “Arrowverse” shows that came out since. And I knew that Superman and Lois both showed up in “Supergirl” on and off so I was concerned that I’d be lost without watching more of those shows (a huge time commitment at this point). But I’m pleased to report that the show stands perfectly well on its own. I was also a bit nervous about how I’d like a show that featured their kids so heavily. I’m usually there for the romance and action, not kid drama. But I did end up liking the choices that were made with the two teenagers. I also really, really liked Tyler Hoechlin as Superman/Clark. He perfectly embodied the character and is probably my favorite version of both characters since Dean Cain’s version way back in the 90s with my beloved “Lois and Clark.” Definitely check this out if you’re a fan of Superman stories!

Kate’s Picks

Video Game: “Doki Doki Literature Club Plus!”

I have never really dabbled in dating sim games, though I did give in and download “Choices!” on my phone at one point. But that’s my only experience. One week my husband said he was playing a really ‘strange’ game, and told me that I should give it a try. Like, said ‘it’s Friday night, I think you should play “Doki Doki Literature Club Plus!”‘. I didn’t really know what this game was, outside of him saying it was ‘strange’ and ‘dark’. So when I opened it up and it looked like a typical Japanese School Girl dating sim, I was confused…. Especially when I was bombarded with trigger warnings from the game itself warning me about ‘disturbing content’. So on the surface, “Doki Doki Literature Club Plus!” has you, the protagonist, join a school literature club with four cute girls, Sayori, Yuri, Monika, and Natsuki. But about halfway through it took a TURN. Which had me saying WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON over and over again. “Doki Doki Literature Club” is anything but a dating sim, and it messed me up in the best way a video game can. And that’s all I will say about it. Because you really gotta go in with little knowledge of what’s coming (but I will say take those trigger warnings at the jump seriously).

TV Show: “Only Murders in the Building”

Though it wasn’t super difficult for me to turn my back on scumlord Woody Allen and his movies, I will admit that the film “Manhattan Murder Mystery” was a movie I knew I would probably miss, as necessary as it was to cut it out of my viewing habits. But lucky for me, the new series “Only Murders in the Building” is VERY MUCH filling that admitted void. Steve Martin, Martin Short, and Selena Gomez play neighbors in an upper crust Manhattan apartment building, who are all true crime nuts. When there is an apparent suicide in their building, they are all so intrigued by the potential for murder that they start investigating it themselves… and stumble into something potentially dangerous. On top of that, they, too, have their secrets. With hilarious results! Martin and Short are always golden and they bring their A game to this show, but Gomez keeps up with them with ease. The chemistry is there, the characters are hilarious, and the mystery is solid. And I love seeing all these characters bumble their way through an amateur murder investigation, with witty dialogue and legitimate suspense to boot. I also find myself feeling very clocked at the true crime fandom satire, so that’s fun.

Docuseries: “LuLaRich”

While I myself have not been taken in by Multi Level Marketing scams, I know some people who have. I’ve known people who have sold Jamberry, Pure Romance, Beach Body, and hell, even my grandmother sold some aloe vera based products through such a thing back when I was a little girl (that said, the muscle balm she had lasted for years and it was SO EFFECTIVE). I had heard of LuLaRoe here and there as a particularly predatory one, so when I saw Prime had a new docuseries on that MLM called “LuLaRich” I was definitely interested to check it out. And oh boy, was it an even bigger mess than I ever could have imagined. Essentially, LuLaRoe is a clothing based MLM that sells gaudy leggings, and after it exploded in popularity a few years ago everything imploded. Women were pulled into an unsustainable and predatory scam, and while some flew high, others fell hard after going into serious debt. “LuLaRich” exposes a lot of the behind the scenes drama, and it interviews not only former employees, but the super disingenuous and creepy married couple that is still in charge today. It’s frustrating and maddening and super messy, and we binged it in one night because we couldn’t turn it off it was so engrossing.

Highlights: September 2021

Summer is starting to wind down, and we can start dreaming about fall. The time to be overwhelmed with all things pumpkin. But there are still some warm days ahead, good excuses to sit outside and read some books. Here are a few titles that we’re looking forward to this month!

Serena’s Picks:

Book: “The Last Graduate” by Naomi Novik

Publishing Date: September 28, 2021

Why I’m Interested: Confession: I received an ARC for this book back in the spring and, yeah, I couldn’t wait to read it. So I’m not so much looking forward to reading it at this point, but I am looking forward to sharing my review with you! After the dramatic events of the first book, El, Orion, and their friends have one more year in the dangerous Scholomance school before their own treacherous graduation ceremony. But it soon becomes clear that the school is not operating as usual, and El will quickly need to come up with a new approach if she and her friends have any chance of surviving. I’ll give you a super hot preview of my review: I loved the heck out of this book!

Book: “A Song of Flight” by Juliet Marillier

Publishing Date: September 21, 2021

Why I’m Interested: September is a real banger of a month, as not only does the second “Scholomance” book come out, but also the third and final book in Juliet Marillier’s “Warrior Bards” trilogy. About a year has passed since the end of the previous book, and Liobhan, Dau, and Brocc are more or less where you’d expect them. Liobhan and Dau attempt to balance their burgeoning relationship with the challenges posed as Swan Island warriors. Brocc continues to live in the Fae realm, attempting to puzzle out the secrets of the strange and dangerous Crow Folk. After a prince goes missing, the three all see their lives become upended, and mysteries both new and old begin to demand answers. I’m excited to see how this trilogy is going to wrap up!

Book: “The Bronzed Beasts” by Roshani Chokshi

Publishing Date: September 21, 2021

Why I’m Interested: This is probably one of the more buzz-y books of the month. I’ve been a bit tepid on this series overall, but I’ve still enjoyed parts of both of the first books. I definitely have favorite characters, and I’m curious to see how their stories will play out. At the end of the previous book, the crew believe Severin has betrayed and abandoned them. Instead, Severin has a long-game plan that will not only fulfill his promises to his friends, but hopefully save the life of his beloved Laila. The second book introduced a lot of bigger magical components, so I’m excited to see how they come into play here. I really have no idea how this one will wrap up, but I’m optimistic for a good ending.

Kate’s Picks:

Book: “Slewfoot: A Tale of Bewitchery” by Brom

Publication Date: September 21, 2021

Why I’m Interested: I love a “Beauty and the Beast” (romantic or not) tale, and if you have it take place during Puritanical times and involving some kind of devil-y creature and a woman who is out of place I am almost assuredly going to trip all over myself to read it. “Slewfoot: A Tale of Bewitchery” by Brom sounds like it’s going to be just that. Abitha is a young wife, sent to the colonies two years ago to marry a man she didn’t know, who now lives in a small Puritan community she doesn’t like. When he dies suddenly and unexpectedly her only ally is gone, and she is left to fend for herself in a community she doesn’t fit into. Slewfoot is an ancient entity that has only recently revived from a long sleep, and he isn’t sure what his place is in this new world. As both try to find their places in a new and strange world, they also find themselves targeted by the people in the community. On top of all this, there are beautiful illustrations to boot. It seems like the perfect read to gear up for the upcoming Halloween season!

Book: “White Smoke” by Tiffany D. Jackson

Publication Date: September 14, 2021

Why I’m Interested: Tiffany D. Jackson is one of my must read authors, whose thrillers have kept me on the edge of my seat and knocked me down, emotionally. So when I read that she was going into full on horror mode with “White Smoke”, I was absolutely on board and not only requested it from NetGalley, but also put a preorder in at my local bookstore. I’m just that excited. Marigold and her newly blended family have moved to a new house, which has been provided by them through her mother’s new job. Sure, it’s a little run down, and sure, the contractual agreement to stay for three years seems odd. But Marigold has her own problems, like high anxiety and bratty stepsister Piper, that concern her more. Until strange things start happening in the house. Objects start moving around. The sound of footsteps can be heard late at night. And a rancid smell pops up, though Mari is the only one who can smell it. As things get more dire, Mari has to try and figure out what is going on. But the problem is that it may not just be the house, but the whole community that is the problem. I’ve been looking forward to this one for awhile, and am ready for Jackson to scare me!

Book: “As Good As Dead” by Holly Jackson

Publication Date: September 28, 2021

Why I’m Interested: We have finally come to the end of Holly Jackson’s “Good Girl’s Guide to Murder” series, and while I figured it would just be a trilogy I am not sure I am ready for it to end. Enter “As Good As Dead”, the third and final book. When we left off, our teen detective Pippa was on a bit of a downhill spiral. A trial she had connections to ended up going poorly, and an acquaintance was murdered right in front of her eyes, with her feeling a bit responsible. And now, as she’s getting ready to head off for college, she starts getting threats online, where someone is implying that SHE is going to be the next person to disappear. Will she be able to figure out who is after her? And will she be able to reconcile her guilt? I look forward to seeing how things work out for Pip, and I can’t wait to see how “As Good As Dead” wraps everything up.

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

Not Just Books: August 2021

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:

TV Show: “Alone” Season 8

Obviously, my husband and I immediately started watching this show when it started up this summer! I think it’s probably both of our current favorite reality series (honestly, probably his only reality series. I’m not classy and enjoy several). This time, participants are set down in a remote section of Canada that also happens to be the home of the most concentrated grizzly populations, so now all we have to do is wait for the first person to realize, oh, yeah, grizzlies really are that big! Also can’t wait to see who the first person is to leave for ridiculous pretenses and to award the prize for “most cool shelter.” Fun times!

Movie: “12th Man”

I watched this movie on a pretty big whim. I didn’t even know it was a foreign language film when I selected it, but that in no way hindered my enjoyment of the story. It’s based on a true story (oh, you know I went down a big rabbit hole about all the details after finishing!) of a Norwegian resistance fighter who survives a harrowing escape after being chased by Nazis for weeks. Very much like “Alone,” much of his story involves survival in terrible conditions with very little food. Unlike “Alone,” it features Nazis rather than grizzlies. But really, they’re both bad, so we’ll allow it. I really enjoyed this film. It’s both uplifting and also incredibly tense. It’s so amazing the things people can survive.

Computer Game: “Sims 4: Cottage Living”

When I get a chance, I do enjoy play a few computer games. “The Sims” has been a long-time favorite but I hadn’t returned to it in a while since the packs I have I’d pretty much wrung the enjoyment from. But then they released a new expansion, and I’m back in it! Longtime fans of “The Sims” have been clamoring for a farming pack for ages, and it’s finally here! There is so much cute stuff in this expansion, from the new building options, to the new clothes, to, of course, all of the great farm animals. I, of course, immediately formed very negative relationships with the chickens, so that was very true to life for me. It’s a super fun expansion, so if you’re a fan of this game, I’d definitely recommend it!

Kate’s Picks:

Film: “The Suicide Squad”

I, of course, love superhero stories, but honestly it’s the villains and the anti-heroes that truly hold the keys to my heart. While I didn’t see the first “Suicide Squad” movie (as I heard it was terrible), I did see “Birds of Prey” and enjoyed it. Because of that, I was very interested in seeing “The Suicide Squad”, James Gunn’s reboot of the supervillain turned kinda hero franchise. This time, the Squad, including Harley Quinn, Bloodsport, Rat Catcher 2, and King Shark (one of my faves) have been thrown into the middle of a military coup in a South American nation, as the new government is hostile towards America. Oh, and there is also a potential scientific weapon that the government may be getting its hands on. So send in a bunch of hapless, kinda psychopathic, yet exceedingly charming criminals to take care of it. Margot Robbie is always a treat as Harley, but newcomers Idris Elba (Bloodsport), John Cena (Peacemaker) and Sylvester Stallone (King Shark, I KID YOU NOT) really sold it for me. It’s a really fun, over the top, hilarious and gory as FUCK movie, and I am SO happy that they got James Gunn to do this because he nails the tone.

TV Show: “Wellington Paranormal”

I love the vampire comedy “What We Do In the Shadows”, a faux documentary about a household of vampires living their undead lives in Wellington, New Zealand. One memorable scene involves Wellington police officers ending up at the house on a complaint call, and now those police officers (and a few more) have their own documentary comedy show, “Wellington Paranormal”. Officers Minogue and O’Leary have been selected by their superior Sergeant Maaka to be the members of the Wellington Paranormal unit, a division that investigates supernatural phenomena. They are competent but a little bit perplexed by what they see. Part “The X-Files”, part “Reno-911!”, this show has the dry and quirky humor of the movie it has spun off from, and I loved practically everything about it. Much like “What We Do in the Shadows” there are some great moments of meta horror and trope deconstruction, and it’s charming as all get out. If you love the movie (augh I still haven’t watched the show!), give this a try!

TV Show: “Reservation Dogs”

If Taika Waititi is attached to something I’m almost assuredly going to be interested, but I also saw a lot of hype for “Reservation Dogs” on Twitter by some pop culture and movie people I really like. Like, some people saying that it was the funniest show on TV hype. I decided to give it a try, and yep, it’s pretty damn funny. “Reservation Dogs” follows a group of Indigenous youth in rural Oklahoma. Bear, Elora Danan, Cheese, and Willie Jack are a group of friends that are hoping to escape their poverty ridden area for California, and commit petty crimes to make the money to do so. Hilarious misadventures ensue. “Reservation Dogs” is also a show that can tout the fact that it is a mostly Indigenous cast, and has a mostly Indigenous creative team working on it. Oh, and as if that isn’t awesome enough on its own, Zahn Tokiya-ku McClarnon is on the show as the police officer who is trying to bust the teens to no avail, and he is a hottie. Anyway, I’m really digging “Reservation Dogs”.

Highlights: August 2021

It’s hot. Oh, need more? It’s also humid, and we’ve had a lot of smoke drifting in from fires. So, summer is definitely here! While we both appreciate our A/C for the magic it is, neither of us is quite prepared to complain enough to want winter back. Fall, on the other hand…But the evenings are still lovely and there are a bunch of books lined up to fill our time this coming month. Check out our picks below!

Serena’s Picks

Book: “Forestborn” by Elayne Audrey Becker

Publication Date: August 31, 2021

Why I’m Interested: Firstly, I love everything about this cover. Without reading the book description at all, I could already have a fairly clear sense of the type of fantasy story we’re dealing with. Rora and her brother are shifters, a kind of magical being that are particularly feared recently after a dark omen has foretold two shifters and death. But they’ve found their way, under the watchful arm of their friend, the young prince of the land. But when he falls ill with a magical disease, Rora, her brother, and the prince’s grim older brother must venture into the wild lands in pursuit of a cure. This book has a lot of potential to be just the sort of thing I like! I mean, I’m always down for the “grim older brother” romantic interest type at the very least.

Book: “Nolyn” by Michael J. Sullivan

Publication Date: August 3, 2021

Why I’m Interested: Yes, yes, I know. I haven’t even managed to read and review the very last book in his previous series! But what can I say? I have a hard time finishing things I’m enjoying so much! But now that Sullivan is releasing a new trilogy, it’s probably safe to finish that one out. At the very least so I can jump into this one next! Set in his same world of Elan, only many centuries after the events of the “Legends of the First Empyre,” the stories follows Nolyn, the heir to the empyre who returns from exile to find himself caught up in more than he had expected. I still haven’t read Sullivan’s original series, but all of his books are written to be enjoyed by new comers as well, so I’ll probably still jump to this one next rather than go back to the first ones. I’m really excited to see what’s in store next!

Book: “Wildwood Whispers” by Willa Reece

Publication Date: August 17, 2021

Why I’m Interested: In some of the marketing and early reviews for this book, I found some comparisons to “Practical Magic” and that’s all it took! I can definitely see it, too, given the description of a grieving woman returning to her small-town home in the Appalachian Mountains after the death of her best friend. The story describes a town full of old folktales, deep woods, and mysteries to be found and explored, all while delving into what it means to return home and to process grief. I think this one will ride or die on the strength of the writing, but if it’s anything like the style found in “Practical Magic,” I’m sure I’ll love it!

Kate’s Picks

Book: “The Dead and the Dark” by Courtney Gould

Publication Date: August 3, 2021

Why I’m Interested: While it’s true that sometimes YA horror can be a bit hit or miss for me, I am always looking for a book that will hook me in and give me a case of the willies. If a cute side romance is involved I’m even more game. So when I heard about “The Dead and the Dark” by Courtney Gould, it definitely had potential! In small town Snakebite, Oregon, teenagers are disappearing. Logan is visiting with her two dads, who grew up in Snakebite but left as outsiders, and now have a ghost hunting show. Ashley is a local and well to do daughter of a popular family, but her boyfriend is missing and Ashely has been seeing visions of him. When the town thinks that Logan’s dads are to blame, she and Ashley team up to try and figure out what is going on, and start to fall for each other. This has ‘Kate’ written all over it, honestly.

Book: “How We Fall Apart” by Katie Zhao

Publication Date: August 17, 2021

Why I’m Interested: Similar to the above statement, I also am always on the lookout for YA mystery thrillers where it’s hard to know who to trust, and everyone seems like they could be duplicitous. “How We Fall Apart” by Katie Zhao seems to have the potential to check all those boxes. When Queen Bee of Sinclair Prep Jamie Ruan goes missing and ends up murdered, it’s her former friend Nancy and her new friends Krystal, Akil, and Alexander who brunt the suspicion of their peers. The rumors are started by the online persona of The Proctor, who has everyone’s secrets up their sleeves to air at their whim. Now Nancy and her friends need to find out who really killed Jamie, before they all lose everything. Downright scintillating.

Book: “My Heart Is a Chainsaw” by Stephen Graham Jones

Publication Date: August 31, 2021

Why I’m Interested: Jones is one of my must read authors, as his horror stories are deeply disturbing as well as supremely moving. He weaves in lots of themes with the scares, about identity and hope and what it means to be Indigenous in the United States. But he also has a deep love for all things horror, so when it was announced he was writing a ‘final girl’ slasher story, I was PUMPED AS HELL. “My Heart Is a Chainsaw” is the story of Jade, a teenage girl in a small Idaho town that is starting to gentrify. When she starts seeing the tell tale signs that her town is falling victim to a slasher killer, she taps into her encyclopedic knowledge of the slasher genre to try and find the ‘final girl’ who will save them all. This is not only a highly anticipated book of the month for me, but also of the entire year.

Not Just Books: July 2021

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

Documentary: “The Barkley Marathons: The Race That Eats Its Young”

After watching “Eco Challenge” and reveling in my own laziness as I watched teams complete ridiculous feats of strength and endurance, it was only natural to jump into another such story. This time, a documentary on the strange, bewildering world of The Barkley Marathon, a crazy-pants race that embraces all the weirdness. For one thing, you have to be invited to participate. And then there are a bunch of random rules, like the fact that on the day of the race’s start, no one actually knows when it will begin until they hear the sound of a Conch shell being blown. And once the race actually begins, its a cross-over between endurance cross-country racing and one’s ability to navigate a largely unmakred trail. Oh, and it’s five loops of a brutal, uphill and down 20 mile track that must be completed within 60 hours. The thing is so crazy that it went years and years before anyone even completed it, and only 15 people have completed it in the race’s 35 year history. The documentary is not only a great look in the the history of the marathon, but it follows a particularly interesting year for the race itself. Definitely check it out if you want to be amazed at what the human body can do!

Reality Websites: Zillow/

This is only being included because there’s finally a happy ending to what was a grueling spring for me and my family. After our second son was born last fall, our cozy little house was suddenly way too small, so we got into the housing market. At THE WORST TIME EVER! Anyone who’s looked for a house this last year can attest to how crazy the market has been. We looked at around 50 hours and made double digits’ worth of offers on houses before finally getting one. We move in about three weeks, so really what I’m highlighting here is my absolute joy to NEVER look at Zillow or again (at least not for the foreseeable future!)

Movie: “Ford v. Ferrari”

Lastly, a movie that I really enjoyed (though there were more tears than I was expecting from a moving about car racing, something I’m actively uninterested in for the most part). This movie had been on my radar for a bit, mostly because I like Matt Damon in practically anything. However, I’m not a huge Christian Bale fan (though I recognize his talent) and, as I said, car racing…But I enjoyed the heck out of this movie! I didn’t know anything about this story or the car companies behind it and their connection/process with race cars. Most likely, I enjoyed this history side of the story more than anything. But if you’re into car racing, this is definitely a movie to check out. And even if not, the strength of the story and acting are enough to elevate it to appeal to most everyone, especially those who appreciate movies with connections to true stories.

Kate’s Picks

TV Show: “Cold Case”

Right after I graduated college into a recession and limited employment options, I would spend my days job searching and watching reruns of cop procedurals on cable. One of my favorites was “Cold Case”, a show about homicide detectives who would reopen unsolved cases that could span back decades, and also deal with their own personal issues. For years I figured that it would never be released on DVD or streaming, as every episode used popular songs from the era of the case, and therefore licensing would be a nightmare. Well either it’s different with streaming or HBO ponied up, but regardless “Cold Case” is on HBOMax WITH THE ORIGINAL SONGS! That was my one caveat on a rewatch: it had to have the music, as the music really sells the emotional punches and beats (there are actually a few episodes I know I can’t watch because they are so sad, no small part due to the music selections). I also like that we get to know the victims a bit because of the flashback format, which makes it feel more personal and resonant. I’ve cried MANY times on my rewatch, so you know it still packs a wallop.

Podcast: “I Pray You Put This Journal Away”

I’ve mentioned the podcast “Some Place Under Neith”, and when they did a series on the Institute on Basic Life Principles cult with a focus on the Duggar family, I was both deeply fascinated and also completely horrified (especially when they went into a deep dive on predator Josh Duggar; my God. LOCK HIM UP AND NEVER LET HIM OUT). One of the podcasts that they recommended was “I Pray You Put This Journal Away”, and I knew I had to listen to that next. It is a podcast by a man who not only grew up in the IBLP, but was also friends with Josh Duggar, and left the church when he was older and realized how oppressive and predatory this fundamentalist Christian lifestyle was. This podcast is partially him talking about the Duggars, but is mostly him reading through his journal at the time and reflecting about what it was like to grow up in this kind of culture, especially as someone with undiagnosed autism. It’s personal and very reflective, and I enjoyed his insight into the IBPL’s fucked upness, as well as how he and his wife (also an ex-fundamentalist) went on journeys of self discovery and empowerment.

Film Trilogy: “Fear Street”

Trust and believe, I am going to go into full deep dive reviews on all three movies in this trilogy to complement my “Revisit to Fear Street” series on here, but I just want to give a shout out to it as a whole. Because AHHHHH, this trilogy is SO DAMN FUN! As you all probably know, I grew up reading “Fear Street” books, and couldn’t have been more pleased to find out that Netflix was releasing movies based on the books. Well, sort of. They’re a lot gorier than anything on the page, but that works out just fine for me because I love me a good slasher film! A group of teens in 1994 accidentally awaken the dark powers of long dead witch Sarah Fier, and to save themselves they need to figure out what she wants. This happens to involve a curse that goes back centuries, and therefore they are going to need some help from those who have dealt with it before. With homages to the original series and some new mythos, as well as really enjoyable characters and gnarly death scenes, the “Fear Street” Trilogy is a blast. Look for more comprehensive reviews in a couple weeks!

Not Just Books: June 2021

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

TV Show: “Lucifer”

I’ve highlighted this one before, but it finally, finally, dropped the second half of episodes for its two-part fifth season. I was particularly excited for the musical episode that had been promised in the promotions, and boy, did it deliver! The show came up with a clever excuse for this sort of episode and it, of course, played perfectly to Tom Ellis’s strengths as a singer. My favorite song was his spectacular rendition of “I Dreamed a Dream.” As a whole, I’m still enjoying the heck out of this show. It’s been particularly good in recent seasons as it has embraced the supernatural aspects of its concept and moved further and further away from its strictly procedural beginning. The sixth season has already been filmed, so I’m hopeful that the wait won’t be as long before we get our next set of episodes!

Documentary: “This is a Robbery: The World’s Greatest Art Heist”

My husband and I took a break from watching documentaries about bombers and instead dived into this interesting piece about a robbery that took place in 1990 at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. Neither of us had even heard about this robbery, but the documentary is quick to point out that, by price, it was the largest art theft to have ever taken place (a bigger one happened only in 2019). There are many curious events all wrapped up in this robbery, from the strange selection of pieces that were taken to the baffling fact that none have been recovered in thirty years, despite massive rewards being continuously posted. I don’t have any unique interest in art theft, so it speaks to the quality of this documentary that I was completely absorbed by the story and still think about it fairly often. Definitely check it out if you’re looking for an interesting documentary series that isn’t focused on a serial killer!

TV Show: “The 12 Monkeys”

I never watched the 90s movie “The 12 Monkeys.” For some reason, I had it in my head that it was a horror movie? Thusly, when I saw that there was a tv show inspired by it, I assumed that, also, was horror. Well, I randomly looked into it a bit more recently and discovered, nope, it’s pretty much just a straight up time-travel/post-apocalyptic story, the exact kind of thing that’s right up my alley. So far, I’ve really been enjoying it. The best that can be said is that the show is entertaining enough that I’m not getting too caught up in the mechanics of time travel, something that is always the biggest challenge for any story featuring that device. Instead, the use of time travel so far has been very clever and interesting. We’ll see how it resolves in the end, though, since I think that’s always the biggest challenge with time travel: how do you finally close the loop?

Kate’s Picks

TV Show: “Loki”

I’m definitely not at all caught up when it comes to the MCU, and I’m not really in a hurry to be (my one regret: I still haven’t watched “Wandavision” and I know I need to!). But I’ve always had a soft spot for Loki, and I DEFINITELY have a thing for Tom Hiddleston, so I bumped the new TV series “Loki” to the top of my MCU priority list. Am I a little lost? Sure. But it doesn’t matter! It’s still fun! Loki has found himself detained by The Time Variant Authority, a bureaucratic organization that monitors the Timeline to make sure nothing messes it up. Which Loki has. Now he has to work with them to stop a more dangerous time ‘variant’, and perhaps earn his freedom. Hiddleston is great, and the show is both really funny, and also a snappy crime thriller procedural. And Owen Wilson is a fun TVA agent named Mobius who is a mentor to Loki, and is utterly not phased by his histrionics.

Film: “The Conjuring 3: The Devil Made Me Do It

This selection is partially about the film itself, but partially about the context in which I watched this film. I have vaguely mixed feelings about “The Conjuring” franchise, as while I really love Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga as Ed and Lorraine Warren, the real life Warrens were manipulative, overzealous con artists. I also have a really hard time with the fact that these films are, in a lot of ways, Evangelical Conservative propaganda. BUT ALL THAT SAID, they’re pretty fun as well as kinda gross. And my friends in my Terror Tuesday horror movie club decided that we should get together in my backyard to watch it so some of us could meet in person for the first time. In this one, Ed and Lorraine investigate the case of a man who is accused of murder, and claims that he is possessed and the demon was the one who killed his victim. It has some fun scares, and some creepy content. So “The Conjuring 3: The Devil Made Me Do It” was not only a fun film, horror movie wise, but also it was a wonderful time with dear friends who could finally get together and see each other.

Film: “Moana”

This is definitely not a ‘new to me’ film, as I have loved “Moana” since around the time that it came out. It is making this list because my kid just discovered it, and therefore we have been watching it almost every day together. But as I’ve been watching it, again and again (and again and again) it hasn’t lost any of it’s shine or charm. I really love the story of Moana, the daughter of an island leader who is chosen by the ocean to return a magical stone to a goddess. For if she doesn’t, the entire world, including her island, will fall to waste and rot. The songs are phenomenal, the main character is well drawn out, and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is always a joy, this time as Maui, the demi-God who inadvertently set off the chain of events. I suppose I’m lucky that my kid’s obsession is a movie that holds up after repeated viewings. Because I have a feeling this is going to be a thing for awhile…

Beach Reads: Summer 2021

Back for 2021, here is a list of some more favorite beach reads! “Beach read” is a very fast and loose term for books people read over the beautiful summer months when we really should be outside “doing things” but are instead reading…maybe outside. Some people see these months as an opportunity to slog through long classics (we’re looking at you “Moby Dick”) before the busy-ness of of the fall starts up, but for the sake of this list, we’re limiting our choices to stand alone, mostly feel good books (though there’s some obvious leeway here for Kate’s horror tastes!) that could be easily brought along on vacations. So, still a very loose definition, but hey, we had to start somewhere! We will select one title for each of the genres we most read.

Serena’s Picks

Fantasy Title: “Spinning Silver” by Naomi Novik

I highlighted “Uprooted” in this list several years ago, but I think now is as good a time as any to return to the well and select Novik’s follow-up fairytale fantasy, “Spinning Silver.” In theory, these two books exist in the same world. In practicality, they each can be read as complete stand-alones. This time, Novik tackles “Rumpelstiltskin,” but her complete expansion and unique take on the fable leaves only the barest hints of the original story. Miryem is the daughter of a moneylender, and when forced to take up the role herself, find she has has a particular talent for the role. So much so that she draws the eyes of powerful magical beings who would put her skills to an even greater use. But this isn’t simply Miryem’s tale. We also follow the path of a nobleman’s neglected daughter and a peasant girl who is trying to protect her family. Honestly, it’s hard to say which I like better between this book and “Uprooted,” so just go ahead and read both.

Science Fiction Title: “Driftwood” by Marie Brennan

This was a favorite sci-fi read from last summer, and a perfect book for this summer’s beach read list. Not only is it a stand-alone title, but it’s also a short, quick read. Driftwood is the world where all other worlds go to die. After whatever apocalypse took them out, the final scraps of the land and its inhabitants find themselves mashed up against other failed worlds, slowly grinding themselves into oblivion. But even here, life flourishes and civilizations rise and fall. But where everything eventually comes to end, one being endures, a man named Last. Weaving through a variety of tales and worlds, Last’s story slowly unfolds, though there, too, histories and mysteries are layered one upon another. This was such a unique read that I’ve been raving about it pretty much since the moment I set it down. Definitely check it out if you want a quick, science fiction read.

Mystery Title: “Crocodile on the Sandbank” by Elizabeth Peters

I actually had to look past through our Beach Reads posts of the previous summers, because I couldn’t believe that I hadn’t featured this one yet! It’s been a while since I’ve read a book in the “Amelia Peabody,” series, but I will never forget the sheer joy of reading this first book for the first time. I was sitting outside a coffee shop in the summer, and I ended up sitting there for like four hours just blowing through this book and laughing out loud. Oh, the days before children! Of all the books I’m featuring this go-around, “Crocodile on the Sandbank” is by far the best fit for a Beach Read in that it’s just a sheer joy to read. Fans of historical mysteries have to check it out, and if you like intrepid heroines, this one’s also for you!

Historical Fiction Title: “Kindred” by Octavia E. Butler

Technically, this book could fall under sci-fi/fantasy as well, as it features time travel at the heart of the story. But as most of it is focused on the historical aspects of time travel rather than the science fiction behind it, I thought it would work well here. Dana, a young African American woman, suddenly finds herself wrenched from her life in 1976 back to antebellum Maryland. She saves a young white boy from drowning and only barely escapes with her life. The story jumps back and forth through time as Dana’s life continues to intertwine with this same young man. This book is a staple of science fiction literature and, obviously, Butler is one of the genre’s most beloved authors. If you’re looking for good historical fiction novel as well as one to check off on many “must read” lists, definitely get your hands on “Kindred.”

Kate’s Picks

Horror Title: “Feed” by Mira Grant

I reviewed one of the spin off books on this blog, “Feedback”, which takes place in the same zombie tech universe, but I haven’t touched much upon the original story that started it all. In a world where cures for the common cold and cancer became a reality, the solutions merged into a virus that turns people into zombies. Now society has figured out ways to adapt and move on, and bloggers and vloggers act as sources of news. We follow Georgia and Shaun Mason, sibling reporters who are in high demand, and who have been hired by a Presidential candidate to cover his campaign. But as they get deeper into the politics, they start to find disturbing connections to the zombie hordes. It’s savvy, it’s fun, and it’s wholly unique, and a great read for a vacation.

Thriller Title: “Help for the Haunted” by John Searles

When Serena and I and some of our friends stumbled upon an Alex Award presentation about this book at ALA in 2014, we hadn’t heard of “Help for the Haunted”. But it became clear almost immediately that it would be a thriller that is right up my alley. Sylvie Mason is one of the daughters of a famous ghost hunting duo, and after a call in the middle of the night takes her and her parents to an abandoned church, her parents end up dead. A year later, Sylvie is living with her older sister Rose, who may know more than she’s saying about their parents’ deaths. On top of that, the family basement, which houses the haunted artifacts left over from their parents cases, has been acting up. Sylvie wants to find out the truth about her parents… no matter what that truth may be. Given that this is loosely based on Ed and Lorraine Warren, and that “The Conjuring 3” is now released, this thriller is a timely choice.

Graphic Novel Title: “Ms. Marvel (Vol.1): No Normal” by G. Willow Wilson and Adrial Alphona (Ill.)

While my reactions to the “Ms. Marvel” stories have had their ups and downs, I absolutely loved the very first book, “Ms. Marvel: No Normal”. In this first volume we meet Kamala Khan, a teenage Muslim girl living in Jersey City who suddenly has super powers thrust upon her. She becomes Ms. Marvel, and her life of fighting crime as well as trying to survive high school begins. “No Normal” has the perfect set up which introduces Kamala, as well as her family and friends, and shows us a dynamic and engaging superhero that gives voice to those who aren’t as represented in comics. And while the series does have moments of being a little aggressively quirky, “No Normal” is pretty much on point and excellent from start to finish. Definitely check this one out if you are looking for a comic series with a lot of heart.

Non-Fiction Title: “The Last Black Unicorn” by Tiffany Haddish

Non-fiction is such a broad swath of genres, but I thought that for beach reading you probably want to keep it lighter! So instead of going for my usual true crime pick, we turn to humorous memoirs, and there we find “The Last Black Unicorn” by Tiffany Haddish! Haddish has established herself as a gifted comedienne in the past few years, and her memoir is a collection of reflections about her life. Some of it is VERY funny (naturally), while other parts of it are poignant and at times hard to read. But through it all Haddish has wry self awareness and some really fun stories about her life. “The Last Black Unicorn” feels like a good mix of the fun and the painful, and I found myself laughing and shedding a few tears throughout. It’s the kind of memoir that you won’t want to put down, and will make you root for Haddish the whole way through.

What books are you taking to the beach with you this summer? Let us know in the comments!

Not Just Books: May 2021

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

TV Show: “Victoria”

My love for romantic period pieces is ever-lasting. However, I had been long resisting checking this one out because, well, obviously the ending isn’t super happy. But in a moment of weakness, it being too long since my last period piece indulgence, I finally started it up a few weeks ago. And that’s what I’ve been doing ever since! This is a beautiful show full of all the period touches that lovers of this genre look for. Gorgeous costumes! Excellent dialogue! Romance summed up in tension-filled dance sequences! It’s also gotten me down a number of historical rabbit holes as I’ve researched the real-life events the show incorporates. But I’ve still promised myself that I’m going to preview upcoming seasons/episodes so that I can “nope” right on out of there before getting to, you know…that part. Don’t judge me!

Amazon Show: “The World’s Toughest Race: Eco-Challenge Fiji”

So, apparently this was a show from super early in the reality tv era, back in the 90s in fact! But these types of extreme races have taken place continuously since then and Amazon wisely read the room on reality competition shows and revived it. I had never heard of adventure racing before this, but man, it’s crazy. Essentially, teams of racers have to cover a massive course and have time limits on reaching certain mileposts along the way. I’m talking hundreds of miles over crazy terrain (hiking, biking, swimming, etc.) covered in a few days on very little sleep. It’s truly insane watching some of these teams go. It was also really interesting seeing teams from around the world and the various cultures and approaches they all brought to the race. If you enjoy reality competition shows, this is definitely one to check out.

Movie: “Prospect”

I’m probably in the huge minority for this opinion but…other than baby Yoda, I didn’t really like “The Mandalorian.” So much so that I haven’t even bothered to watch the second season. Part of my displeasure with it was the absolute waste of Pedro Pascal as the main character. He’s such an excellent actor, and losing the ability to watch his expressive face as he portrays a character is just such a shame. So I was really excited to check out a sci-fi movie where we get to better appreciate his skill! Add to that the intriguing, tension-filled concept of an odd-couple pair trying to escape a dangerous planet in order to catch the last ship going by. The world building was really interesting and both lead performances were phenomenal. Definitely check it out if you enjoy science fiction stories.

Kate’s Picks

TV Show: “The Serpent”

In a moment that feels classic to my mother’s and my relationship, she texted me asking if I was going to watch “The Serpent” on Netflix because it sounded like I’d like it but would be ‘too dark for her’. I immediately looked it up, and on my viewing list it went. Surprisingly to me, I had never heard of French serial killer Charles Sobraj, who murdered backpackers in South Asia along the Hippie Trail. “The Serpent” is a dramatized mini-series about Sobraj, and the Dutch Embassy investigator Herman Knippenberg who is on his trail after two Dutch tourists go missing while in Thailand. Tahar Rahim plays Sobraj with cool malevolence, his demeanor incredibly calm as he does terrible things. But honestly, it was Jenna Coleman who really shined, as she plays Marie-Andree, the wife of Sobraj who is complicit in his crimes after falling madly in love with the killer and the lavish lifestyle he uses to lure in his victims. It’s suspenseful, disturbing, and addictive as we watch Sobraj kill, and Knippenberg pursue.

Film: “Nobody”

I have loved Bob Odenkirk since his time as Saul Goodman on “Breaking Bad”. I’ve also had a not so subtle crush on him since about that time as well, which a few people have informed me is strange. So when the trailer dropped for “Nobody”, in which Odenkirk plays a former hitman and kicks a whole lot of ass and looks good while doing so, I pretty much yelled from the rooftops “WHO’S LAUGHING NOW, HUH?!” In “Nobody”, Odenkirk plays Hutch, a retired ‘auditor’ whose profession had taken out incredibly dangerous people that the Government couldn’t get otherwise. His retirement has made him feel soft and inadequate, and after his house is robbed and he doesn’t act, his frustration gets taken out on bad men with bad connections. Now Hutch has to save his family from an eccentric Russian mobster who loves karaoke. It’s a whole lot of fun, over the top, and Odenkirk looks damn good and puts in a fun performance.

Video Game: “New Pokémon Snap”

If it’s a new Pokémon game, I’m going to be on board, as relaxation and cuteness are two things that I like to indulge in from time to time. And this past month I was dealing with some frustrating medical issues (nothing dangerous, just inconvenient) that made me really want to be able to relax and relieve any kind of tension I was feeling. So I got myself “New Pokémon Snap”! Like the original game on the N64, the basic premise is that you go around taking pictures of Pokémon, and the better or more interesting the shot, the more points you get. Given that the original game only had the original 150, and this new game has ALL of them up until this point, this has a lot of potential for novelty (especially since I am not as familiar with a good chunk of the newer Pokes). It’s cute and chill and low stakes, and I love taking pictures of all these cute critters!