Monday, December 30, 2019

What to Watch January 2020

New year, new shows! I've listed my shows to watch for as well as complete listings for what's new on various streaming services. It can be hard to keep track of it all, but with a little list in your life it's all doable.

And away we go!

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams

Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

You're going to grow to care about this character and the life-changing journey she's on. It's a little rough around the edges at the start, but stick with it.

Queenie has a lot of issues, with men, with family, and with how she's willing to let herself be treated. I didn't have the exact issues or have them to the degree Queenie did when I was young and single, but man oh man did I make some bad dating choices, and it was often down to not knowing my own self worth or to immediately walk away from obvious BS. She has the additional challenge of dealing with racist attitudes, even from men who are trying to win her over. Her story really resonated for me, as I'm sure it will for a lot of women.

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

The 10 Best TV Shows of 2019

TV seems to just keep getting better and better, and 2019 was a doozy of a year for viewers. Several great new programs arrived on the scene, but it was also a killer year for new seasons of some existing shows. We even got two new streaming services that both offered must-see programs out of the gate from Disney Plus and Apple TV Plus.

I've compiled a list of my 10 top shows of the year. In a sign of the times, the overwhelming majority of them came from a premium service like HBO or a streaming service.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The way Elizabeth Strout writes can knock you sideways. The characters feel achingly real, and the little details about their lives are insightful and beautifully phrased. For instance:

"And any unpleasantness that may have occurred back in his home, any uneasiness at the way his wife often left their bed to wander through their home in the night’s dark hours—all this receded like a shoreline as he walked through the safety of his pharmacy."

It "receded like a shoreline." You can almost feel that emotion, touch it, see it. What a simple yet stunning use of simile. I don't know what sorcery this is, but we'll call it a gift. One the author has, one she shares with us.

Friday, December 6, 2019

Everyone's a Critic by Jennifer Weiner

This quick, light read dishes out a revenge fantasy from an author sick of feeling disparaged or ignored by literary critics. 

You can tell Jennifer Weiner has had it up to here as you read Everyone's a Critic. All the unlikable traits heaped on an increasingly unfortunate critic, Laurel, lets you know Weiner is pissed. The bladder-infection-from-Hell the critic suffers tells you Weiner is ready to BURN IT DOWN. 

Sunday, December 1, 2019

What to Watch December 2019

Holidays are here, and it's time to make your list and check it twice ... your December viewing list, that is. Santa will take care of the gifties, but I've got you covered on what to watch.

My personal picks for new shows and movies dropping on streaming services in December are below, along with links to full listings of what's coming to each streaming service. I've also compiled a list of links to a slew of holiday viewing guides you can find here, that includes everything from Hallmark Christmas movies to where to watch classics like It's a Wonderful Life or A Christmas Story.

And away we go!

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Holiday Viewing Guide December 2019

A veritable blizzard of Christmas movies will swirl around us like a joyous winter storm of festive cheer this holiday season, and the hardest part is keeping track of them all. So as my gift to you, in addition to my regular monthly listing of new shows coming to streaming, I've compiled a list of links to a host of holiday viewing guides.

Whether you want Hallmark Christmas movies, original new titles created by Netflix or Disney, classics like It's a Wonderful Life or Elf (yes, that is now a classic!), or musical specials and repeats of holiday episodes of classic TV sitcoms, I've got you covered!

Friday, November 22, 2019

Dear Girls by Ali Wong

Dear Girls by Ali Wong
I love Ali Wong's Netflix special Baby Cobra. It's hilarious. This book is no Baby Cobra. It's not bad, but temper your expectations.

Also, if you're shocked by strong language or frank talk about sex, please don't read this and give it a dismal review somewhere solely for those reasons. You should know that's part of the deal with Wong going in.

Dear Girls: Intimate Tales, Untold Secrets, & Advice for Living Your Best Life is very funny at times and I love Wong's insight into life as a female comic, though that's only a small slice of the book (I listened to audio). As it's a letter to her daughters, most of it is also about her husband, childbirth, raising young children, dating, and her experiences as an Asian American woman. She shares some interesting stories from her life, and some not so captivating.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson

With We Have Always Lived in the Castle, Shirley Jackson weaves an overall mood of fear, hostility, menace, and madness without being overt or graphic. I was chilled.

I'll leave it at that, as Goodreads can fill you in on the synopsis if you're interested. If you prefer not to know too much (and I think that's best), skip the synopsis and dive in! At 162 pages it's not a huge commitment of time.

Reading anything by Shirley Jackson makes you want to know more about Shirley Jackson. The "Introduction" I found preceding the first chapter of Castle gave some background and insight into Jackson's life; not a lot, just enough to leave me wanting more.

You've probably even read her work and don't know it. At some point a teacher or friend surely laid before you a short story called "The Lottery."  What life, what experiences, creates that disturbing, unforgettable tale?

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead

Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead review
The striking tale told in Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk features an eccentric narrator philosophizing about life, animals and astrology, all while leading us through a murky trail of bizarre deaths.

The story is told by Janina, who lives alone in an isolated Polish village. We never learn her age, but she frequently ruminates on growing older, the feeling that people view her as an old woman who's easy to ignore and dismiss, and ailments that prove painfully debilitating at times.

Poet William Blake weaves his way through the text, with lines of his poems introducing each chapter and Janina herself working with a friend to translate his poetry. Not to mention the title itself comes from Blake. I'm not very familiar with his work, but I'm sure his fans will find all kinds of Easter eggs in the book that I missed.

Friday, November 8, 2019

So You've Got a Nemesis ... There's a Poem for That

So You've Got a Nemesis ...

I don't think I'm petty, but the feeling of joy that ensues when reading a particular poem wherein the author drags his nemesis may mean that perhaps, just a little, I am.

The poem that sets me all aglow with delight is "The Book of My Enemy has been Remaindered" by Australian writer Clive James. In it he celebrates the fact that his enemy's book has been remaindered, which is to say, it wasn't selling well so the publisher is liquidating remaining stock. If you've ever bought a book for $1 from a clearance pile and noted the black slash of a permanent marker along the edge of the pages, you just got a bargain thanks to a remaindered book.

James flings lovely daggers at his foe, such as:

Sunday, November 3, 2019

The Radium Girls by Kate Moore (Review)

The Radium Girls by Kate Moore
This true story of young girls and women poisoned by radium while working in dial-painting factories in the early 1900s reads like a novel.

The jobs paid remarkably well, especially for women. They were even fun and glamorous, as the young women got to work with the expensive, trendy, wonder-substance radium.

Looming beneath the glowing veneer of the job, however, lurked a danger that would lead to excruciating illnesses and, in many cases, death.

The women were taught to point their brushes with their lips to tame the splayed bristles, something they did repeatedly as they coated watch dials with radium. Even as the companies became aware of the danger, they ignored and hid it from the women, wishing to continue their lucrative business, all the while poisoning more young women. They also used every means possible to avoid taking financial responsibility for massive medical costs and suffering the women incurred.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

What to Watch November 2019

Temps are getting colder, but the shows are getting hotter! This month sees the launch of both Disney Plus AND Apple TV Plus. Disney's making much bigger waves, but Apple TV is quietly slipping in some interesting options, too.

Here's a link listing premieres from all channels & streaming services together by date, and I've included links to listings for specific premium channels and streaming services under my personal picks below.

And away we go!

Friday, October 25, 2019

Author Talk with Kate Moore (The Radium Girls)

The group of women known as the Radium Girls remained voiceless and largely forgotten until one author made it her mission to reach back through the years and let their voices be heard.

Kate Moore, author of The Radium Girls
Kate Moore
I was lucky enough to be in the crowd when Kate Moore discussed her book, The Radium Girls, and the emotional journey of writing it with fans at the Spencer Road branch of the county library system in St. Peters, Missouri, on Oct. 12.

"My mission in writing this book was to ensure that these important special girls were not forgotten. And it just means the world to have you come out to hear about them because I know you'll remember their tale ... . We're all collectively remembering them tonight and that's really special to me," she said.

Monday, October 21, 2019

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

I'd heard about this book, glowingly, for years when I finally took the plunge and bought it – at nearly full price, no less! I even bought the audio because it was on sale.

Well. I found it brimming with wonderful advice, as well as lots of bits that didn't seem particularly necessary or interesting. In the final analysis, as I looked back over the 100 highlights I'd made, it holds so much useful and encouraging advice for anyone brash enough to put pen to paper that I think it was worth my time and money.

Anne Lamott clearly wields some highly tuned writing chops and is an experienced writing teacher. You'll find quotes here you'll want to highlight, refer to, maybe post on your desk for encouragement. There's more quality and value in just a few of her best pieces of advice than some books have throughout the entirety of their pages.

Friday, October 18, 2019

Petition Fights Limits on eBook Sales to Libraries

Sign petition

On Nov. 1, Macmillan Publishers plans to implement restrictions on library ebook purchases. They'll allow a library to purchase only one ebook per title for the first eight weeks after a book's release. It doesn't matter the size of the library and its membership, large or small, libraries can only get one copy of Macmillan ebooks during the embargo period.

The publisher hopes to increase consumer sales by doing this, but they're giving library users the shaft. Not to mention that when libraries buy an ebook, they pay much more than you or I would. Libraries also have to renew an ebook's license after a certain time period or given number of checkouts. Make no mistake, publishers make more money than most people realize from library purchases. Checking out ebooks from your library does financially support publishers and authors.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Cool Stuff I'm Loving

As the temperatures finally cool down, I'm thinking back on the equally cool things I've watched and listened to in the last month or so. If you're up for some great entertainment, check these out:

Cool Stuff To Watch

Rocketman. I'll never tire of Elton John's music, and this biopic knocks his story out of the park. It's more musical theater than anything else, and that style allows for a brilliant, fantastical telling of John's life and music. Love him so much I bought it to watch the bonus material.

My Brilliant Friend. Based on the Elena Ferrante novel of the same name, this series premiered on HBO last year. I somehow didn't get to it until recently and found it riveting. In Italian with English subtitles, this requires attentive viewing when you're not also tooling around online (not that any of us ever watch TV that way!). Season 2, subtitled "The Story of a New Name," airs in 2020.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

The Joy of Cord Cutting & Why Youtube TV Rules

I ditched cable and it feels so good
Feels exactly like I dreamed it would
That big bill's in the past
And I'm having a blast
Now I've totally scored just by cutting the cord, hey, hey

Note: Yes, this is to the tune of Reunited by Peaches & Herb and no, I don't remember anything about that song except the chorus and neither do you. 

I finally freakin' did it! I got out from under a huge cable bill and experienced the delight of telling Charter "See ya, wouldn't wanna be ya!"

Net savings even after adding Youtube TV (a top-notch cable replacement if ever there was one) and Showtime to fill the cable-shaped hole in my heart: $108 sweet, sweet dollars a month. Suck on that, Charter!

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb

What happens when a therapist suffers a crisis she can't get past? She goes to a therapist herself of course – and just maybe finds a way to turn the ordeal into a bestseller.

The full title of Lori Gottlieb's introspective book is Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, Her Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed. It's a mouthful, but it comes as close to describing what you'll find in it's pages as possible without continuing the title on the back cover.

Gottlieb's wonderful relationship with her boyfriend came to an abrupt end when he announced he didn't want to spend the next 10 years with a kid under his roof (his kids had just left home, her son was 8, and they had plans to move in together). It rocked her world and she couldn't get past it.

Monday, September 30, 2019

What to Watch October 2019

It's my favorite time of the month again! Time to look ahead for what to watch for the new month, in this case October! I've made the list for the Choco household so we don't forget to watch anything spread across the many services we have, and I'm sharing it with you below.

Here are my picks for shows and movies to catch, as well as links to everything new coming to various streaming outlets so you can add your own picks.

And away we go!

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

The Testaments by Margaret Atwood

"The truth can cause a lot of trouble for those who are not supposed to know it."

Writing a followup to a classic like The Handmaid's Tale was a real risk. Hell, reading it was a risk – most readers wouldn't want to tarnish memories of the classic original with a lackluster sequel.

Fortunately, Margaret Atwood pretty much nailed it.

The Testaments takes place about 15 years after events in the first book. This time we follow the tale through writings or testimony of three women – the famed and feared Aunt Lydia along with two young women, one a girl from a prominent family in Gilead and another a teenager from outside the fray in Canada.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

My Tips to Bag eBook Bargains

How to Bag eBook Bargains

I love books and I love bargains, so mingling the two gives me all the happy feels whenever I track down a deal.

The best books deals are often on ebooks, which suits me fine. I adore my Kindle tablets and Paperwhite, so saving money while increasing my personal ebook library is a treat.

You can seek out these deals several ways, most of which mean simply checking a couple of things daily. These options involve a quick click and scroll, something I enjoy doing over morning coffee. There's also a tracker you can set up for sale alerts as well as some sites you may want to check now and then that don't require a daily visit.

Here are my methods. Hopefully some of you will find them useful in getting deals on books you love as well!

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Amazing Memoirs that Captivate & Inspire

"When you put down the good things you ought to have done, and leave out the bad ones you did do — well, that’s Memoirs."

Will Rogers was known for being quick with a quip like the one above, but I beg to differ on this point — the best memoirs tell everything, messy mistakes and all!

Recently I mentally roamed over the list of memoirs I've read and loved, which ones I need to read again, which I haven't read yet but want to. Some of these are life stories, some focus mainly on a particular experience or career, some are even a memoir of a vocation, like writing.

I'm sharing my personal list of riveting memoirs here, including links to Goodreads so you can explore the titles yourself and add any you find compelling to your "Want to Read" lists. I'm sure I've left a few out unintentionally, but these are the ones that sprang to mind as I thought back on my reading life.

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Normal People by Sally Rooney

Normal People by Sally Rooney
I greatly enjoyed this story of two young lovers falling in and out of each other's orbits in high school and college, set in Ireland. In Normal People by Sally Rooney, Connell is a popular, yet poor, kid in high school. Marianne is the rich kid snubbed as an oddball.

Marianne has a low sense of her own self and lets others treat her as they will, so she puts up with Connell's demand that their relationship be secret. He's constantly worried what people will think. They drift apart due to one of many instances of miscommunication and misunderstanding each other that they'll have over the years.

But at college, Marianne is reborn, socially, at least. She fits in with the wealthy kids, she becomes popular, she changes her look and her beauty doesn't go unnoticed now. Connell's experience is the opposite, where here he feels out of place, not fitting in with the confidence and lifestyle of his more affluent peers.

Saturday, August 31, 2019

What to Watch September 2019

What to Watch September 2019

Hello all, time to look ahead to what to watch in September! I've made a list for my household so we don't forgot to watch anything across our array of streaming options, premium channels and even broadcast TV. We seriously lose track of the shows we meant to watch otherwise.

Here are my picks for shows and movies to catch, as well as links to everything new coming to various streaming outlets so you can add your own picks to the list.

And away we go!

Monday, August 26, 2019

Cool Podcasts & Shows I'm Loving

Time to check in again with links to things I've been loving lately! I've found some good episodes on my favorite podcasts and several amazing shows to watch on streaming to boot. By the by, I find and listen to my podcasts via the PlayerFM app, though you can also play them in a web browser or find them wherever you listen to podcasts.

So, if you're on the hunt for a good listen or watch, keep reading!

Thursday, August 22, 2019

The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai

The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai
The Great Believers richly deserves every award and recognition it's received, every bit of buzz and inclusion on most "must read" lists. On a scale of 1 to 5, I'd give it 10 stars if I could.

Set primarily in 1985 in Chicago and 2015 in Paris, it weaves a story of love, friendship, loss and hope against a backdrop of the AIDS crisis. We see this through Fiona, a caretaker and keeper of memories to many friends who died, including her brother, Nico. We also experience the period through the eyes of Yale, a friend of Nico's, who loses so many through the devastation of AIDS that eventually the closest person left in his life is Fiona herself.

This novel manages to recreate the loss, fear, paranoia and even denial that enveloped the gay community in Chicago in the early years of the disease when details about AIDS were foggy for many and better drugs to fight it didn't yet exist.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Drunkard's Chicken: How Maya Angelou taught me to cook (one thing, at least)

The late Maya Angelou was an amazing, caring, talented woman. Not only was she a deeply gifted writer and poet, she was also a brilliant dancer and singer. Most people probably know all of that. But, did you know that on top of all her other gifts, she was a fabulous chef as well?

Hallelujah! The Welcome Table by Maya Angelou
I can't cook much of anything, and I'm not particularly bothered by that fact. But I did give it a try for awhile, about a decade or so ago when my marriage was new enough that I still tried to feed my husband once in a blue moon. He didn't expect it, but it was a nice treat for him when it happened. I mostly went in for the simplest of recipes with the least prep and bother. Or I'd just buy frozen meals and make rice as a side. We lived in England at the time, and there were some marvelous frozen Indian meals as well as a very tasty chicken cordon bleu I could get at the grocery store.

Around this time I found an inexpensive used copy of Angelou's book "Hallelujah! The Welcome Table: A Lifetime of Memories with Recipes." It's as much a memoir as it is a recipe book, so it's a good read even if you're not interested in tackling the cooking.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

The Dutch House by Ann Patchett

Reading this book was a delight. It seems like most of the books I picked up lately fell short of expectations at best, or were so bad they angered up my blood at worst.

Then I opened The Dutch House, and suddenly the clouds parted and golden rays shone down on my Kindle. The reading slump was over!

This compelling novel tells the story of family and mistakes made, the bond between a brother and sister, and a past they can't shake. Overshadowing and influencing it all is the grand house of the title.

Danny is our narrator, the youngest son of the man who bought the Dutch House as a surprise for his wife. The domino effect starts there, setting in motion events that will impact all of their lives for decades.

Friday, August 9, 2019

Vinyl Nostalgia: Flashback to Steve Martin & Sgt. Pepper’s (but not the one you think)

Filmstrip of A Wild and Crazy Guy and Sgt. Pepper'sWhen I was a kid I'd tag along with my mom on shopping trips to the PX (that's Post Exchange to non-Army brats). I'd wander the aisles, usually without a cent in my pocket, aimlessly picking up and turning over merchandise in my broke-ass little hands.

On one trip, however, I actually had a few bucks to my name. I made a beeline to the record section.

I can't remember how old I was, but was probably still in elementary school, maybe early '80s. My personal record collection at the time amounted to kid stuff I hadn't bought myself. Prime example: the Star Trek comic book that came with a 45 rpm record dramatizing the story. Which I just realized was my first audiobook (I still have it).

Music transported me, felt mystical and special, even if just about everything I'd listened to so far was the music my much older siblings or ancient parents played (my dad's favorite singer was Slim Whitman, if that gives you any idea of the hell I endured).

Monday, August 5, 2019

Parker: Selected Stories by Dorothy Parker

Listening to this audiobook made me crave a gin rickey and a good cry while hiding behind the mammoth ostrich feathers of my best hat, slumped in a corner table of a grubby speakeasy. It's a mood.

David Sedaris called Parker: Selected Stories by Dorothy Parker (as read by legendary Broadway star Elaine Stritch) "one of the greatest audiobooks ever." In this June 2018 interview for Audible Range he also noted: "Elaine Stritch is the perfect person to read Dorothy Parker, and she understands those stories perfectly."

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Cool Stuff to Read and Watch

Hello again! Around here the temperature finally dropped (a smidge) and I've been enjoying reading, watching TV, and nosing around the web. Here are some cool things I've found that you may like, too:

Cool Links for Book Lovers

Song lyrics as book covers. Someone's only gone and designed vintage book covers inspired by and featuring his favorite song lyrics! It's creative, cool, and available to buy as prints.

Books page at The Guardian. In addition to book reviews, author interviews, and bookish news, they offer a roundup of selected readers' book comments and Bookstagram posts in their recurring "Tips, links and suggestions" feature. You can join in by tagging book-related Instagram posts with #GuardianBooks.

Monday, July 29, 2019

Streaming Picks for August 2019

It's that time again! New month, new shows and movies popping up on streaming and premium services. I'm making my list and checking it twice so I don't forget to watch anything from the 2.5 million different streaming options out there.

As always, I'm sharing my personal must-watch list as well as links to full listings of new offerings where available. Great viewing is coming up in August on HBO, Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, and Showtime. And away we go!

Friday, July 26, 2019

Force of Nature by Jane Harper

Force of Nature by Jane Harper

Sometimes a talented gymnast will wobble a bit on the balance bar and you realize she won't go home with gold, but she's definitely going to medal. Until the dismount. Suddenly she loses balance, flails her arms in the air, throws a leg behind her and steps back. She doesn't fall, but she doesn't seal the deal on a winning performance, either.

Which is to stay, it's hard to stick the landing.

Force of Nature by Jane Harper isn't about gymnasts. It's a thriller set in Australia about an investigator who chases financial crimes and, because it's related to one of his cases, becomes peripherally involved in examining the case of a missing hiker.

Monday, July 22, 2019

Best Books of 2019 So Far

Best Books of 2019 So Far

The year's more than half gone, and looking back I've read a lot of great books in 2019 (and a few duds, to be honest, but I'll focus on the awesome titles). Some of these are new releases, some a bit older, but all made the Top Ten list of books I read and loved recently. All of these would make great book club selections as well!

Friday, July 19, 2019

Three Things About Elsie by Joanna Cannon

Three Things About Elsie by Joanna Cannon
Blurb: Eighty-four-year-old Florence has fallen in her flat at Cherry Tree Home for the Elderly. As she waits to be rescued, she thinks about her best friend, Elsie, and wonders if a terrible secret from their past is about to come to light. If the charming new resident is who he claims to be, why does he look exactly like a man who died sixty years ago?

What an extraordinarily insightful, compassionate book.

With Three Thing About Elsie, author Joanna Cannon presents her characters and their stories with caring and kindness, as well as an eye for noticing those who often seem invisible. In this case, that means the elderly, and the book takes a gentle look at the way lives change and worlds sometimes shrink when the years ahead are fewer than those behind.

Monday, July 15, 2019

10% Happier by Dan Harris stands out as a self-help book that's actually helpful

10% Happier by Dan Harris
"The brain, the organ of experience, through which our entire lives are led, can be trained. Happiness is a skill."

I read 10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works by Dan Harris nearly a year ago for a book club. One that got cancelled at the last minute and never met again. Such is the way of book clubs.

I had excitedly looked forward to the meeting, eager to discuss this book that I recommended to the group and found to be both an interesting memoir and a self-help guide that actually helped. I made 23 notes and 186 highlights in my Kindle copy, planning not only to discuss the key points but to put some of them into practice.

Friday, July 12, 2019

Cool Stuff I'm Loving

Cool Stuff I'm Loving

Hello all, hope you're enjoying summer! If the heat's getting too oppressive, why not stay in and enjoy watching some shows or reading your way around the Internet? Here are a few things I'm enjoying right now.

Cool Stuff to Watch 

Chernobyl. This HBO miniseries tells the story of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, shedding light on what went wrong, the effort to right it, and the human cost. It's riveting and somehow had us hanging on the edge of our seats even though we already knew what happened. We finished this binge-worthy series in a few nights.

Monday, July 8, 2019

The Last Mrs. Parrish by Liv Constantine

The Last Mrs. Parrish by Liv Constantine
The Last Mrs. Parrish tells the story of Amber, a conniving woman from a poor background who schemes to break up the marriage between a gorgeous and mind-blowingly rich couple, Jackson and Daphne, in order to nab the wealthy husband and fabulous lifestyle for herself.

The first half of this book sped by, all fun trash and uncomplicated, shallow characters and plot. It seemed an enjoyable light summer read, if one with a couple of fairly obvious plot twists. At least it looked like it would be a fun ride to watch the story unfold.

But as we all know, looks can be deceiving.

Friday, July 5, 2019

Theft by Finding by David Sedaris

Theft by Finding by David Sedaris
"I’m always struck by how many times people get stabbed. It seems like it’s never just once or twice. It must be one of those activities that, once you get started, you just can’t stop."

Observations like the one above explain why David Sedaris moves so many copies. With Theft by Finding: Diaries, we get a look into his life and mind that swings from insightful and hilarious to horrible and horrifying. If you've read his essays, you won't be surprised. If not, buckle up, this gets weird!

The most useful bits, if you fancy putting pen to paper yourself, reside in the intro where he gives some journaling tips he's followed throughout his life. For instance, he says: "If nothing else, a diary teaches you what you're interested in." Which is a good point – whatever deep thoughts you start out jotting down may not really be what you long to focus on. However, the things you write about over and over is where your true interest lies.

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee Season 11 Trailer has Landed!

Season 11 of Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee comes to Netflix on July 19, and the trailer has finally dropped! I've been looking forward to the new season, and this tease will help me pass the weeks.

The guest list this go-round includes:
  • Eddie Murphy
  • Seth Rogen
  • Ricky Gervais
  • Matthew Broderick
  • Jamie Foxx
  • Sebastian Maniscalco
  • Martin Short
  • Mario Joyner
  • Melissa Villaseñor
  • Bridget Everett
  • Barry Marder
If you've never seen the show, you're in luck, because a treasure trove of past episodes are up on Netflix. I can't say if all the seasons are up, because Netflix seems to have compiled some past seasons into five options after the show made it's move from Crackle. Either way, there's plenty to watch!

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Streaming picks for July 2019

We like a couple hours of TV in the Choco household every night, and there's no shortage of options. Unfortunately, the shows we watch are sprinkled among so many services that remembering them all is like trying to keep track of a handful of marbles scattered across my dusty floor.

I've resorted to making lists so I can remember what to watch. My husband says it's a good problem to have; I say he should finally catch up on all those episodes of Fear the Walking Dead clogging up our DVR before we run out of space.

Most of what we watch, however, streams through our Roku TV like a gift from the entertainment gods, no DVR space required. Join me, won't you, as I compile my streaming watchlist for July?

Thursday, June 27, 2019

10 Brilliant Book Titles

10 Brilliant Book Titles

It seems I'm always reading about or looking at books. They pop up like old friends I haven't met yet in my Goodreads feed, book bloggers' tweets, and new ebook additions to my library's catalog. And lists. I can't resist new and notable, year's best, summer reads, book club favorites. You list it and I'm probably there, scrolling away and saving to wishlists or setting a library hold.

Now and then a delightful title reaches out and almost physically grabs my attention. I experience a brief joy bubble when I find one of these. The creative, irreverent, funny, saucy and badass titles always have a home in my heart and my links folder.

Monday, June 24, 2019

Trust Exercise by Susan Choi

Trust Exercise by Susan Choi
Oh my, it's hard to write this one. I wanted to love this book, and at several points I nearly did. But I greatly disliked it many times as well. On a scale of 1 to 5 stars, I alternated between feeling it was a 2, and believing it was definitely at least a 4. I'll split the difference and go with a 3.

Based on critical reviews and enthusiastic endorsements from other authors, I was excited to get my hands on Trust Exercise. It proved a slog for roughly the first 50 pages before it picked up for me, becoming increasingly interesting with each flick of the page. But wouldn't you know it, the drudgery returned and increased to fever pitch at the start of the second section, which switched up perspective, tone and time period. I made notes along the lines of "This is so fucking boring." Then this section slowly morphed into something more intriguing, much as the first had. The author's fancy footwork and deft writing skills became ever clearer, drawing me back in.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

6 Awesome Books Worth a Read AND a Listen!

Some people love reading a book, some groove to a good listen, and sometimes, when the planets align just right, you'll find a book that's worth your time to do both.

I discovered this quite by accident, but realized I could gain something unique and complimentary by both reading a book I loved AND later going back and listening to it (or, in some cases, alternating between both at the same time).

Monday, June 17, 2019

Sticky Fingers: The Life and Times of Jann Wenner and Rolling Stone Magazine

Sticky Fingers by Joe Hagan
“Those bastards broke up Cream?!”

Yes, a negative Rolling Stone review that included the words “blues clichés” made Eric Clapton faint, then ditch Cream in 1968. “I was in a restaurant and I fainted. After I woke up, I immediately decided that it was the end of the band,” Clapton is quoted as saying in the book (there was no word on how high you have to be to pass out over a bad review).

At this point, I stopped reading and excitedly told my Clapton-loving husband the tale. To which he exclaimed, “Those bastards broke up Cream?!” I was delighted at how ticked off he was, especially since the band broke up before either of us was born. It’s those delectable tidbits culled from four decades of Rolling Stone covering the music world (and Hollywood and politics) that make this book a fascinating read.

Friday, June 14, 2019

SeinLanguage by Jerry Seinfeld

SeinLanguage by Jerry Seinfeld
Seinfeld remains one of my favorite sitcoms ever. I own the DVD set with a tiny collector's puffy shirt, and I went back and watched all of the commentary long ago. Yet I had never read Jerry Seinfeld's SeinLanguage even though it's been out for almost 25 years!

I decided to rectify that recently. I picked up the mass market paperback on the cheap, and reading it served as a reminder why I never want mass market paperbacks again. The book is itsy, the print is bitsy, and it overall doesn't feel nice to hold or read. So, last one of those that's coming through my door.

As for the content in those little pages, well, it was OK. It's composed of various of his stand-up bits, organized by topic. For instance, in the first section titled "Freeway of Love," it's further divided into "The Date," "The Sex," "The Relationship," and "The End." Many of the jokes here were featured in the stand-up segments of his show. I've been rewatching Seinfeld the last few weeks, and recognized a lot of the material.

Monday, June 10, 2019

Young Jane Young by Gabrielle Zevin

Young Jane Young by Gabrielle Zevin
Young Jane Young by Gabrielle Zevin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It’s a tale as old as time – or at least as old as the existence of political internships. Very young woman meets much older, powerful man and sparks fly. The one who’s got the balance of power weighted massively in his favor and who supposedly has so much more to lose should not encourage the crush, should shut it down – but doesn’t.

And when the truth hits the fan, and it always hits the fan, it’s a temporary bit of rough seas for the man, which does not derail his life, career or marriage. The former intern, however, becomes a punchline, her education and intern experience now meaningless on resumes that no one wants.

Friday, June 7, 2019

Manage when library ebook loans arrive using OverDrive & Libby

Ever get a notice the ebook you put on hold at the library is available, but the timing isn't ideal to start a new book for some reason? Or it's just a bad time to start that particular book? I used to run up against that digital wall all the time.

Maybe it was bad timing because I had another book (or two) in play already, or I wasn't in the mood for that book at that moment, or it was for a book club and I preferred to read it closer to the meeting date. The last one is a biggie echoed by several others I've been in book clubs with over the years. Many people (myself included) prefer to read the book within a couple weeks before their group's discussion so it's fresh in their minds.

Monday, June 3, 2019

20 romcoms that give a jolt of happiness

Sometimes I need a mood boost, something uncomplicated to make me happy and forget my woes or stress. It's not always easy to find. A good movie can give my spirits a lift, but it needs to be sweet and fun, with no sad ending or violence to bring me down.

That's where romcoms come in to save the day! But when I'm feeling like I need perking up, I can't always decide what will do the trick. That's why I made a list of go-to movies to provide a much needed pick-me-up, just to keep in my back pocket for a rainy day (rainy days being perfect, of course, for snuggling up on the couch under a plush throw to watch a lovely, happy, romantic comedy. Preferably with a glass of wine and chocolate). These are my favorite go-to romcoms; I know there are some hugely popular ones not on this list, but I'm just adding ones that ring my bell. Augment at will!

Friday, May 31, 2019

Summer Reading Guide 2019

As summer approaches and temperatures rise, the days stretch into evening and the bibliophile's heart turns to thoughts of what to read next. I've compiled a list of ten books I'm excited about this summer, and I think they'll be perfect whether your reading spot of choice is a sunny beach or a cozy couch.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

The Library Book by Susan Orlean

The Library Book by Susan Orlean
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“The library is a gathering pool of narratives and of the people who come to find them. It is where we can glimpse immortality; in the library, we can live forever.”

The Library Book practically sings with the music of gorgeously crafted sentences. It’s part history, part mystery, and all love letter to libraries – the books that fill them, the patrons that use them, and the staff that keeps them humming along.

It centers around a 1986 fire at the Los Angeles Public Library that destroyed 400,000 books and damaged 700,000 more. The Fire Department said it was arson; but if so, who was the culprit? You’ll have to read the book to see how that tale unfolds.