Thursday, June 23, 2022

Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney

Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

There was a time in my life, my younger life, when it might've been cool to know these people. To sit around a table, pretending to sip wine I don't really like, and having conversations about anything. Getting annoyed, being annoying, circling back. Flirting, wondering if you're being flirted with. They aren't all likeable, but they seem to have interesting lives.

Now I'd probably find these people annoying, but to everything there is a season. The one thing that hasn't changed, since I first discovered Sally Rooney, is that I really love her writing.

It's uncomplicated, yet layered at the same time. It feels like the thoughts, actions, fears and failures of real people. Uncertainty, longing, insecurity — it's all there, like real life. 

Thursday, June 16, 2022

Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah

Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Trevor Noah knocked it out of the park with this one.

Not only did he describe his difficult early years with humor, but he served up a clear history lesson about apartheid and it's aftermath in South Africa.

There are a few troubling tales involving animals. Somehow, the suffering of animals can hit harder than the suffering of humans; maybe it shouldn't, but I think it's true for many that they can't stand to hear of an animal being mistreated. There were a few rough passages along those lines in the book; just a warning that it's there, but it's also easily skipped past if you want to, and worth it to experience the rest of the book. 

Wednesday, June 8, 2022

House of Hilton: From Conrad to Paris: A Drama of Wealth, Power, and Privilege

House of Hilton: From Conrad to Paris: A Drama of Wealth, Power, and Privilege by Jerry Oppenheimer

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This gossipy tale of the Hilton clan is fun trash.

Heavy on the gossip, not light on the trash, either.

Look, I enjoy the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. Which didn't exist at the time this book came out in 2006 to capitalize on Paris Hilton's notoriety, but went on to eventually include all three of the Richards sisters and ample mentions of their late mom, Big Kathy, who floats through the reality series and into our homes like the ghost of Dysfunctional Hollywood Momager Past. 

Wednesday, June 1, 2022

What to Watch June 2022

A slew of new shows and movies are landing on streaming and TV in June! Netflix is going comedy crazy all month with specials filmed at the Netflix is a Joke Fest, in addition to airing the sixth and final season of Peaky Blinders. Hulu's got season two of Only Murders in the Building in addition to Oscar-nominated The Worst Person in the World. Highlights from HBO Max include Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain, a new Father of the Bride remake, and season four of Westworld. Amazon Prime Video rolls in hot with the latest 007 flick, No Time to Die, as well as a new season of The Boys

As always, I've compiled my top picks and I'm sharing them here, along with links to everything new, so you can make your own picks for must-watch viewing. Most of what I've collected is on streaming, but a few shows can be found on good old-fashioned network TV. And away we go! 

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Hello, Molly! by Molly Shannon

Hello, Molly! by Molly Shannon
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

You probably know Molly Shannon from Saturday Night Live in the '90s. She's been in many movies and TV shows since then, but I always think of her first as Mary Katherine Gallagher (Superstar!) or the radio host from the Schweddy Balls sketch.

Hello, Molly! rounded out my picture of who she is and the amazing, hilarious, tragic, upbeat life she's led.

Sprinkled throughout are stories illustrating how a positive outlook repeatedly made things better for her (and, I'm sure, those around her). It's genuinely inspiring. 

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Comedy Comedy Comedy Drama by Bob Odenkirk

Comedy Comedy Comedy Drama by Bob Odenkirk
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

3.5

If you're interested in the trajectory of how actors/comedians/writers slog away for years before finally making it, you'll probably enjoy this glimpse into Bob Odenkirk's professional life. If you're a huge fan of his, you'll LOVE this inside look.

I mainly know him as a dramatic actor with great comic chops as well from Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul. I'd heard of Mr. Show, but forgot he was part of it and never watched. The descriptions of sketches from it reminded me why; it doesn't sound like my thing. I'm going to watch a few he mentioned, anyway, in case it's something I might love after all. 

Monday, May 9, 2022

Today a Woman Went Mad in the Supermarket by Hilma Wolitzer

Today a Woman Went Mad in the Supermarket: Stories by Hilma Wolitzer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Today a Woman Went Mad in the Supermarket is a fantastic title, and the book lived up to it.

Most of these stories were written in the '60s and '70s, with a new one from the Covid era, but they felt current. They were smart, funny, poignant, unexpected and kept me engaged in a way short stories usually don't. I'll pick up a book of 'em, enjoy the first few, then lose interest. Hilma Wolitizer's tales snagged me and held me tight throughout the book.

I'd never read her work before, but now I'm down for more. She's such a good writer! Here are a few lines I loved: 

Sunday, May 1, 2022

What to Watch May 2022

What to Watch May 2022

May is blooming with new shows! Highly anticipated fare coming this month includes Star Wars: Obi-Wan Kenobi, season 2 of Hacks, season 4 of Stranger Things, and the premiere of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds. I'm also looking forward to Conversations with Friends (based on the book by Sally Rooney), The Time Traveler's Wife (based on the book by Audrey Niffenegger), and The Essex Serpent (based on the book by Sarah Perry). It's a very literary month for viewers!

As always, I've compiled my top picks and I'm sharing them here, along with links to everything new, so you can make your own picks for must-watch viewing. Most of what I've collected is on streaming, but a few shows can be found on good old-fashioned network TV. And away we go! 

Saturday, April 23, 2022

Reckless Daughter: A Portrait of Joni Mitchell by David Yaffe

Reckless Daughter: A Portrait of Joni Mitchell by David Yaffe

Reckless Daughter is a soulless look at an iconic musician who bared her soul with her songs.

I made it to a little more than 30 percent before I punched out. Normally, I would just add this to my DNF file and skip a review. But I couldn't shake the lost opportunity of what this book could have been.

The author skims the surface with various comments by Mitchell from interviews he conducted and others he used as sources. They paint her as fairly harsh and conceited. Maybe she is, or maybe she was a woman in a business where she had to believe in herself and stand up for herself to get anywhere. And maybe there was more to her than the side we see here. 

Friday, April 15, 2022

Strange Weather in Tokyo by Hiromi Kawakami

Strange Weather in Tokyo by Hiromi Kawakami
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I thought this book was going to be cool and quirky. I was half right.

Strange Weather in Tokyo falls into the category of something I saw highly recommended somewhere, grabbed the book when it was on sale cheap, and didn't really know or remember much about its description. I do that a lot.

In this case, it fell just a little flat with me. I'd describe it as a good book, written with a unique style and vibe all its own. I liked it well enough. But it never full-on clicked for me until the very end, at which point, well, it was over! 

Friday, April 8, 2022

Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar by Cheryl Strayed

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This beautiful, heartbreaking, hopeful hybrid of advice and memoir had me from the start.

Written by Cheryl Strayed, whose memoir Wild became a bestseller and a movie, it shouldn't be surprising that her advice is steeped in stories of her own life. It's as much memoir as advice, and maybe quite a bit more on the memoir side.

There were a couple of places where I wasn't as interested, that she lost me for a moment. I simply skipped to the next chapter and sailed on. 

Friday, April 1, 2022

What to Watch April 2022

What to Watch April 2022

April will rain down with new shows to watch, and I haven't even caught up on what premiered in March! I'm excited to watch The Outlaws, a BBC show created and directed by Stephen Merchant, who's also in the cast. We're also getting new seasons of Russian Doll, Selling Sunset, The Flight Attendant, Barry, Better Call Saul and many more. Then there's new series like The Offer (about the making of The Godfather), Billy the Kid, The Man Who Fell to Earth, and much more where that came from!

As always, I've compiled my top picks and I'm sharing them here, along with links to everything new, so you can make your own picks for must-watch viewing. Most of what I've collected is on streaming, but a few shows can be found on good old-fashioned network TV. And away we go! 

Thursday, March 24, 2022

In Pieces by Sally Field

In Pieces by Sally Field
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

As I read In Pieces, I first thought it was an enjoyable three-star read. By the final third, I'd shifted gears to thinking of it as a four-star read. When I turned the final page, brushing away tears, I had to give it five.

Which not only means I enjoyed the book, but that Goodreads thinking is firmly implanted in my brain!

Sally Field has been a small part of the pop culture background noise throughout my life, having already become famous before I was born. I haven't seen all of her work, but I always enjoyed what I saw.

She managed to be unflinchingly honest in this book, while at the same time not going into a lot of what I'm choosing to think of as "side details." 

Thursday, March 17, 2022

A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In college, I signed up for what sounded like a cool modern lit class, one that focused on science fiction. It was fun, and opened me up to a world of new (to me) authors.

My main experience with science fiction and fantasy before then came from borrowing books in my older sister's extensive collection. Her paperbacks were mostly lacking in substance or exceptional authors – with a few golden finds sprinkled in, like The Hobbit.

Then came college and that lit class. The point was to read and discuss excellent examples of sci-fi writing, and the book I loved the most from that class was The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin. 

Wednesday, March 9, 2022

Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I think I need to read everything by Taylor Jenkins Reid. So far, she's never done me wrong by wasting my reading time.

At the onset, I got hit with surfer dread. I don't dread surfers, but I didn't realize until I started Malibu Rising that I also don't give a flip about catching some waves and waxing boards or whatever the hell you do while bopping to the Beach Boys and flipping your bushy blond hairdo. (Note: No Beach Boy was harmed in the pages of this book, and in fact the band was only passingly mentioned once.)

You'd think the cover would've tipped me off, but I didn't look closely at it. It depicts four, count 'em, FOUR, tiny dots of surfers floating on boards in the vastness of the ocean. My bad. 

Tuesday, March 1, 2022

What to Watch March 2022

If you turn to favorite TV shows and streaming services for a mental break from all your worries, March is delivering in a big way. Four best picture nominees land on HBO Max, along with several new series and documentaries. Netflix is in the race with a heap of new offerings, including the much-anticipated season 2 of Bridgerton. Across various services (including cable/broadcast), we've got options like Star Trek: Picard season 2, Atlanta season 3, Below Deck Down Under, and so much more!

As always, I've compiled my top picks and I'm sharing them here, along with links to everything that's coming so you can make your own picks for must-watch viewing. Most of what I've collected is on streaming, but a few shows can be found on good old-fashioned network TV. And away we go! 

Thursday, February 24, 2022

Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay by Elena Ferrante

Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay by Elena Ferrante

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

There's a grim darkness to Elena Ferrante's work that's as compelling as it is quietly brutal. And she writes it so well.

Ferrante's riveting exploration of a complex and consuming friendship between two women throughout their lives fascinates me throughout this series (Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay is third out of four books). 

I even managed to enjoy it despite all the talk of politics and upheaval in Italy of the 1960s and '70s, about which I know nothing and wasn't dying to find out. My husband is a politics professor, and on our first date when he told me what he taught, I groaned, "Ugh, I hate politics!" And immediately realized I may have put my big foot directly in my big mouth. But he burst out laughing, and I breathed a sigh of relief. Anyone that can roll with and get my sometimes ill-advised speaking of my mind is alright with me. 

Thursday, February 17, 2022

Verity by Colleen Hoover

Verity by Colleen Hoover

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Verity is a little unsettling, a tad chilling, and a lot of fun to read.

It's chock-full of page-turning revelations and more than a few steamy sex scenes. The latter is something I'm not always that into in books and can even find them an unnecessary addition if not done well, but these feel key to the story development and are just enough without being too much. To my sensibilities. Your mileage may vary.

I also liked the aspect of the story being about two writers, one struggling, one successful. Some segments about writing hit home (though I'll admit, some of it didn't make much sense and seemed an unlikely "thing" invented in service of the plot). 

Thursday, February 10, 2022

I Would Be Doing This Anyway by Jia Tolentino

I Would Be Doing This Anyway by Jia Tolentino
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Lives lived on social media, superficial Insta posts, artificial perfection. This short story delves into that and more, feeling very of the moment.

It's told in the time of Covid, and deals with the odd place we're in now. It involves a friendship (kind of?) between two women, one a wealthy Instagram influencer who faces backlash for some of her out-of-touch posts, the other a down-on-her-luck social media coordinator. 

Tuesday, February 1, 2022

What to Watch February 2022

The country's in winter storm mode, so it's a perfect time to plan what to watch this month while you're snuggled up at home cradling a hot drink and a remote control!

As always, I've compiled a list of shows I want to see that drop soon, and I'm sharing it here along with links to everything coming to those streaming services so you can pick your own must-watch viewing. Most of what I've collected is on streaming, but a few shows can be found on good old-fashioned network TV. And away we go! 

Friday, January 28, 2022

The Lost Daughter by Elena Ferrante

The Lost Daughter by Elena Ferrante
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As always, Elena Ferrante's is a fantastic writer and unafraid to present bleak tales.

She doesn't shy away from dark topics and even darker personalities, and you probably won't love the people you meet in this short book. But damn, you'll want to see where it goes and appreciate the character development along the way.

The Lost Daughter is a tale of imperfect motherhood, and also a story of what it is to be the daughter of an imperfect mother. The main mother here, Leda, simply wasn't into motherhood all that much. She can be selfish and unkind, and provides food for thought on how motherhood isn't the same experience for everyone. 

Friday, January 21, 2022

The Vacationers by Emma Straub

The Vacationers by Emma Straub
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I had trouble rating this book. It worked the magic of keeping me engaged and happy to return to it (in between bouts of indulging my new Bravo addiction), but it didn't blow me away.

This story of infidelity, family and figuring out what you want in life had a crispness to it, an easy style. But a certain depth was missing for me, I'm not sure what it was. This would be a good read for the beach or plane, being breezy and entertaining without offering much challenge or complexity.

I mean that as a compliment, truly — sometimes I want a light read, but not so light as to be pointless or poorly written, and this book is neither of those things. 

Friday, January 14, 2022

Misfits: A Personal Manifesto by Michaela Coel

Misfits: A Personal Manifesto by Michaela Coel
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Writer and actor Michaela Coel lays her life bare in so many ways through her work. Ways that seem scary, dangerous and difficult, but she's fierce enough to reveal what most would hide from the light.

Misfits is the text of a lecture she gave in 2018. In it, she cracks herself open to share thoughts on individuality, not fitting in, and doing what you can to make things better as you go. It's honest and powerful and kinda badass, just like she is.

This book is like a mini memoir, and it was both satisfying and left me wanting a full-fledged memoir from Coel at some point. 

Friday, January 7, 2022

Ark by Veronica Roth

Ark by Veronica Roth

Ark by Veronica Roth
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a beautiful short story, submerged in a sense of pending doom and loss as the end of the world nears. Hope flowers nonetheless (little pun intended there).

There were many lines I loved for various reasons. Here's an example of the author's lovely way with words:
The wind shifted, and flakes of ash blew toward her face, pricking at her eyes. One landed on her lip, and she tasted it with her tongue. It tasted like burned leaves curling up at the edges in the flames, like musty old coats, like breaths you could see unfurling.
Evan Rachel Wood delivers a pitch-perfect narration, capturing the story's mood. This is lovely as a listen or a read.  

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Saturday, January 1, 2022

What to Watch January 2022

What to Watch January 2022

The new year started off with a flash of fireworks displays in cities around the world, and it's kicking off with a bang on streaming, too! In January, I look forward to a slew of new shows and movies, with highlights including The Righteous Gemstones Season 2 and the final season of Search Party on HBO Max, The Eternals on Disney Plus, The Tender Bar on Amazon Prime Video (based on a book I very much loved), and so much more. 

As always, I've compiled a list of shows I'd like to see that are coming soon, and I'm sharing it here along with links to everything coming to those streaming services so you can go through and pick your own must-watch viewing. Most of what I've collected is on streaming, but a few shows can be found on old-fashioned network TV. And away we go!