What I’ve Been (Binge-)Watching #50

So, here it is, my last update on what I’ve been watching in the year of 2020. I really tried to pack in as much as possible, but some things just didn’t fit in (e.g. I only made it halfway through the final season of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina so far). Now, I honestly have to say that I am rethinking this format a little bit. I’ll likely always watch as much, but to continue the numbering will be … interesting, as we are so high by now. I am open for title suggestions!

Bridgerton (Season 1)

Bridgerton is based on a book that I have not read and cannot make a comparison to, but I enjoyed my binge of the show very much. It’s not without fault and I can see certain moments being problematic even, but this is basically Gossip Girl during regency times. (I hope we all know that the people in GG were not it)
I liked that they changed history and did not mean to completely portray the reality from back then. Instead they put people of color in ruling positions and honestly, why not? Also, I thought it was funny that the showrunners called this season “the education of Daphne Bridgerton”, because she really does have her sexual awakening. Be aware of many sex scenes!

For fans of: Gossip Girl in regency times

Hilda (Season 2)

I don’t often talk about animated shows, so, I just wanted to make sure that I include the ones I actually really enjoy. I like the Scandinavian vibes of Hilda and how it explores family and friendship packed into fun magical adventures. Simple as that.

For fans of: cute animation

We Can Be Heroes

This is not a serious recommendation or anything. I haven’t even seen Lavagirl and Sharkboy in full, so I am not even a fan of that movie to justify watching the sequel, but Pedro Pascal. As a dad. That’s my weakness.
Maybe, if I was a kid, I would have enjoyed it more, but it’s tacky and over the top and not exactly acted very well. I can’t blame them, cause they are kids and that is totally okay. It had fun bits. But it was also ridiculous.

For fans of: Lavagirl and Sharkboy, Pedro Pascal as a dad

Wonder Woman 1984

I wanted to like this so much, but I only found it mediocre. The thing is, there’s no way the movie had to be two and a half hours long. It also felt tonally different in the first and the second half and I much preferred the first.
It’s hard to explain, because I understood the motives of the villains. I completely got the point of the sacrifices that were made. I definitely think I comprehended the message they were trying to convey, but … I just didn’t buy it. While Diana had some great and frankly emotional scenes, I also just didn’t buy into others. Some things were resolved too quickly, others left in the air. I don’t know if I just expected too much.

For fans of: Wonder Woman, Pedro Pascal as a dad

The Midnight Sky

This movie did not need to be more than two hours long. Aside from the storyline seeming very familiar to anyone who has watched any movies set in space as of late, there was just a legit 10 minutes of the crew repairing a ship. I do not need to see that for such a long time and it might have felt more dynamic and engaging with a different cut. On top of the predictability and length, it was just very choppy, with three different storylines finding their way together. The “solution” to their problem didn’t even make sense to me in the end. There’s no way I would recommend this as a worthwhile watch.

For fans of: space movies, slow pace, George Clooney as director and actor

Sylvie’s Love

Jazz enthusiast will surely love the soundtrack of this movie. It was beautiful and warm and such a nice watch. Obviously, the cast is top notch. The styles incorporated fit the decades depicted so well and all the costumes are to die for.
It has an “old Hollywood” kind of vibe, but with a black cast that might not have been able to see themselves in a sincere love drama like this back in the day. I fully support this revival of something that felt a bit old-fashioned, but I also have to say that it had its lengths. While I am sure people will fall under the spell of the impeccable mood depicted, the story stilted sometimes and some moments felt too planned and/or convenient for the narrative.

For fans of: anyone on the cast, jazz, music, sweet love stories that span decades

Soul

Soul is just a really lovely, inspirational movie. All criticism, especially that black characters either get turned into animals or blobs for the majority of movies, is completely valid, but I also enjoyed myself so very much. The music was fantastic, everything was jazz-infused. I loved the animation style that made so many objects and lighting situations feel so realistic. I really don’t know what else to say other than this was a work of art and is definitely worth the watch.

For fans of: lovely heartfelt animation movies, Pixar


Have you watched any of the show or movies above? Do you plan to? What are some of the last things you binged in 2020?

TMP – TV Edition: Space/Aliens

I just want to preface this by saying that there’s another post about what I’ve been watching coming your way as well today. AND I also wanted to say that all my rankings for 2020 (be it film, TV or books) will be posted in the upcoming days. So, loads of posts ahead – I hope you won’t get tired of me!

As we’ve established by now, I am doing the Thursday Movie Picks feature. This series is hosted by Wandering through the Shelves and offers you a weekly prompt to post some movie recommendations/talking points according to the theme. Usually, you are supposed to post about 3-5 examples, which I find a very manageable amount.

The thing is, to keep the lists spicy and interesting, there’s sometimes exceptions to the theme where we get to venture into the land of TV. You all know that it’s more my strong suite than movies, so I am excited to talk about aliens and space today!

Lost in Space

This show will soon go into its third and final season and I have enjoyed following the lives of the Robinson family so much. The visual effects are top notch and the characters will all grow on you so much. I haven’t seen the original, but dang, do I love this version.

Another Life

I am just trying to patiently wait for season 2, because I need to know how my favourite AI is doing. Otherwise, the crew can get a bit annoying … because who picked for those people to be in a tightly confined space together?? But I’d still like to know how it continues.

Roswell, New Mexico

I actually adored the original of this one, but I have come to love this version as well. It has its flaws and season 2 was all over the place (which cannot even be blamed on covid entirely). I just want Maria to be treated better and get all the happy she wants and deserves.

Steven Spielberg presents Taken

Taken is a mini-series from the early 2000s, so, bear that in mind should you want to check it out. I was OBSESSED with it as a kid and I am sure we still have the DVD box set at home somewhere. It’s this multi-generational tale of how people were abducted by aliens and how that affected the course of their lives. The aliens themselves were pretty cliché, but the families – so intriguing how everything came together.

Honorable Mentions

This is actually a “genre” or topic I quite enjoy, so, there’s loads and loads of shows I love to watch. Here are some other examples that I enjoyed but that I didn’t want to go into detail with, because I do have a problem with keeping these posts short.

  • Roswell (the OG version)
  • Dark Matter
  • Killjoys
  • Doctor Who
  • Torchwood
  • Firefly
  • Steven Universe

What did you think of my picks this week? What are some of your favourite space/alien-themed shows? Let’s chat!

This Is Not a Ghost Story by Andrea Portes (Book Review)

Publisher: HarperTeen
Page Count
: 288

CW: suicidal ideation, depression, mental health decline, grief

When I hear the phrase “this is not a ghost story”, my mind immediately goes to the latest installment of the Haunting series – Bly Manor. So, it came as no surprise when this book was recommended to me as the perfect complimentary read. However, once I started I more and more got Hill House vibes from it (a menacing house working against you, rapidly declining mental health). Then again, it doesn’t seem like either one and yet would fit into the series really well … that is, if you were focusing on just one 17-year-old girl instead of a large ensemble cast. But I digress.

This Is Not a Ghost Story is written in a stream of consciousness/inner monologue style that immediately made Daffodil (the main character and our narrator) endearing to me. She is chaotic, daydreaming, binges conspiracy theory documentaries on Netflix all day and manages to not move from her bed unless strictly necessary. Human contact? Who needs that!?
While I adored her voice, because it helped lighten some of the creepier scenes with a tinge of humour, I could also see a couple people struggling with it. The way I see it is that it’s one of those things that’s either totally your thing or not at all.

As you all well know, I don’t really do horror. OR I mostly only do horror light, so, this worked really well for me. The title already says it, it is not a ghost story. It sure feels like one at times, but there’s a lot more to it that just keeps unraveling and tricking you. This book is for all the people who hear a creepy noise and deliberately ignore it until no longer possible. It’s for all of us who will try to explain away the most illogical and impossible things like there is any kind of rationale to it.

The only thing I am kind of grapple with is the end. It’s not that it doesn’t make sense. It really does, but I am not sure if it feels right? Some have described it as lackluster, which isn’t even my issue with it. I am just uncertain about the involvement of a certain someone in getting Daffodil into this situation in the first place. It just does not sit right with me entirely, but maybe … maybe that is just not for me to understand. As Daffodil said, there’s not yet words for some things you want to say.

In the end, I did pick up a horror-esque book on purpose and … I enjoyed myself! A LOT! I have really ventured out of my comfort zone a little bit this year and I am really proud of that. Maybe this book isn’t perfect, but I am basing this rating on how much it entertained me and I more or less inhaled This Is Not a Ghost Story.

Fazit: 4.5/5 stars! Still trying to come to terms with the ending, but overall I really enjoyed this!


What are we thinking? Would you pick up this book? Let’s talk in the comments!

Beartown by Frederik Backman (Book Review)

Publisher: Washington Square Press
Page Count
: 415

CW: rape, physical assault, racism, homophobia, substance abuse, suicidal ideation

I’ve wanted to read Beartown for the longest time. Many people I know have read and liked it, but I especially keep thinking of my good friend Lois @My Midnight Musing when I think about the book. She, too, encouraged me to pick it up and it’s not even like I didn’t want to. I really did! I was just also extremely scared. Somehow I just knew that once I would start reading it, this would become one of my all time favourite books and … I was not mistaken, but it was also so incredibly emotional.

“One of the plainest truths about both towns and individuals is that they usually don’t turn into what we tell them to be, but what they are told they are.”

Backman talks about Beartown and makes it seem like it could be in pretty much any country (although it’s set in Sweden). He has a talent in taking this small community in the middle of nowhere that has no other topic than hockey to talk about and make it seem like the most relatable town there is. They are tight-knit yet judgmental, they are proud but also so very hopeful for a better future, they are hard-working to the point of breaking … they are full of shame and guilt.

“Difficult questions, simple answers. What is a community?
It is the sum total of our choices.”

For a town that likes difficult questions and simple answers, I feel like the book gives the reader the exact opposite experience. It asks seemingingly simple questions about sports, community, parenthood, culpability, friendship, family and love. You, for yourself, might even have very clear answers on what those things mean to you, but Backman makes sure you see all the angles. You might not always agree, but it sure will make you think.

There is a relief in finding a character at the beginning of a story, latching on to them and finding out that they truly are the shining light you hoped them to be. In the grand scheme of things, the adults are definitely far worse than the kids/teens, but there were still some incomprehensible choices made all around. With so many disappointments and resentment building towards certain people in this story, I was so appreciative of the ones that did the right thing over and over again, no matter how hard or impossible it seemed. I even developed a certain pride for people as if they were my own children/siblings/loved ones.

“If you are honest, people may deceive you. Be honest anyway. If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfishness. Be kind anyway. All the good you do today will be forgotten by others tomorrow. Do good anyway.”

I don’t want to go into detail about what happens in the novel. The foreshadowing, and I am not sure you can really call it that, since it’s so very blatant and in your face, is cruel. Your heart picks up pace every time you turn the page wondering when the inevitable destructive act will take place. Not one moment goes by where you don’t know that happiness is fleeting and soon these lives will crumble to pieces. You are just not certain if they will be able to rebuild it all.
At the end, you might ask yourself if justice was dealt, but things will never be the same for the characters either way. I think our actual real life justice system fails people over and over all the time. People make victims out of predators and treat others less humane depending on their value to the community. It’s heartbreaking in a way you want to do nothing but sob for days, but it’s also realistic. You cannot always sugarcoat reality. We, as humanity, still have so much farther to go and I enjoyed how Backman lit the situations from so many different angles. Although my answer is clear. No, there was no real justice.

Fazit: 5/5 stars! I think this one will stick with me for a long while.


Have you read Beartown? Would you like to? Have you read any of the other novels Frederik Backman has written? Let’s chat!

Thursday Movie Picks – Holiday Action Movies

Merry Christmas and happy holidays everyone! I don’t know if you celebrate, but where I live, we celebrate Christmas on the 24th, which means I totally thought ahead and scheduled this post! Yay me!

As we’ve established by now, I am doing the Thursday Movie Picks feature. This series is hosted by Wandering through the Shelves and offers you a weekly prompt to post some movie recommendations/talking points according to the theme. Usually, you are supposed to post about 3-5 examples, which I find a very manageable amount.

Today’s theme is Holiday Action movies, which is not my forte at all. But I shall try my best!

Die Hard

I could not not mention it. It’s like THE classic action Christmas movie, because it’s set during Christmas AND has loads of action. Do I really need to say more?

Shazam!

Is a superhero movie automatically an action movie? I don’t know, but I am counting it towards that goal. There’s a winter carnival and everything, helping get some general themes across.

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang

I loved this movie so much when I was younger. I completely forgot it was set during Christmas time, even though there’s several holiday parties and a toy store robbery and Michelle Monaghan in a sexy Mrs Santa outfit, but a little research brought back the memory.


Obviously there weren’t as many picks as I usually am able to present. Do you have some notable holiday action movies? I don’t think we were limited to Christmas, although that’s mostly what I went for.

Naughty or Nice Tag

Was I tagged for this two years ago? Yes, I totally was. Since this is the Naughty or Nice Tag, I figured I should come clean right away … you know, as a precaution. However, I really want to thank the orang-utan librarian regardless, because I love getting tagged (even if I am perpetually late) and their blog is absolutely top notch!

The Rules

  • Tag & link the person who tagged you.
  • Tag and link Jenniely’s post, for she’s love to read everyone’s answers!
  • Tick/cross off the ones you’ve done
  • Tag another 10 people. (I am going to skip this step and just invite anyone who wants to do this to go ahead and consider themselves tagged!)

Received an ARC and not reviewed it

To start out, I want to say that I have never actually received a physical ARC. If we are taking eARCs into consideration as well though, there may have been 2-3 I didn’t end up reviewing. Look, I am not proud of it, but I didn’t enjoy them and didn’t even finish the books, which made me feel like I shouldn’t review them.

Have a less than 60% feedback rating on Netgalley

100% BABY!!!! I never thought it would happen, but I have been super diligent since I barely get approved anyway.

Rated a book on Goodreads and promised a full review was to come on your blog (and never did)

I don’t think so? Correct me if you remember that differently, but I can’t recall doing that.

Folded down a page of a book

I don’t like having my books dogeared or bent, folded, otherwise altered … but I guess I have done it at some point. No denying it unfortunately.

Accidentally spilled on a book

School books … yeah. (They were my own and not ones returned to the school after the term or anything like that). I hated it so much though.

DNF a book this year

Nope.

Bought a book purely because it was pretty with no intention of reading it

Sometimes they’re just so pretty. I want them. And then … I never read them. Maybe I intend to read them, but just don’t end up doing it …

Read whilst you were meant to be doing something else (like e.g. homework)

Oh, I have definitely done that. So sure.

Skim read a book

Again … school books … cause I could not care.

Completely missed your Goodreads goal

I once adjusted a goal … but like a month before the end of the year and not because I was missing it by  A LOT. So, I’d say that doesn’t count.

Borrowed a book and not returned it to the library

Aside from the fact that libraries aren’t my biggest friends in my country because they have none of the books I want, I think the last time I borrowed something was in elementary school. They would not have let it slide if I hadn’t returned that.

Broke a book buying ban

Probably?

Started a review, left it for ages then forgot what the book was about

I don’t remember what book exactly that would have been about, but I am so sure it happened at some point. Although … I probably never started the review to begin with, I just put off writing it in general until I forgot.

Wrote in a book you were reading

I have books where you’re SUPPOSED to write in them. So … I have! AND I was meant to do that!

Finished a book and not added it to your Goodreads 

If so, not on purpose and not that I can remember.

Borrowed a book and not returned it to a friend

Since I would never want anyone to do that to me, I would never not return a book. NEVER.

Dodged someone asking if they could borrow a book

I know that I like my books way more pristine looking than the majority and if you want to have your book look well-read, that’s totally cool. But I want mine looking like they’re fresh off the press. And since a friend once had the contents of basically an entire pool dumped on a book she was borrowing from me and then tried to give it back to me like it was no big deal … I tend to avoid that stuff.

Broke the spine of someone else’s book

I would NEVER!

Took the jacket off a book to protect it and ended up making it more damaged

No?

Sat on a book accidentally

Definitely. But nothing happened. No books were harmed in the process.


As mentioned above, if YOU want to do this tag – consider yourself tagged!!! What did you think of my answers? Could you relate?

What I’ve Been (Binge-)Watching #49

As mentioned already, at least I think I’ve said it before, I now have designated binge-days on Friday where I really tear into new releases and then finish them over the weekend. That way, I feel super up to date and can share my thoughts on a lot of things with you in a quick fashion. If you ever want more detailed reviews again, please let me know! I just figure that these short mini-reviews get more done, but maybe you’d want to know more!

The Wilds (Season 1)

I don’t want to go into a lot of detail, because I really don’t want to spoil anything for you. Suffice to say, this show is very character-driven and what brilliant characters they are. Maybe you won’t always like everyone right away, but they are complex and authentic and will inevitably grow on you.

There’s a couple good “WTF!?” moments, even if I found some of the twists and turns predictable because I watched too much similar content. It’s all very twisted and disturbing and deals with heavy subject matters such as mental health, predatory relationships, body image issues, adultification and judgment of gay relationships. Add to that that they are teen girls stranded on remote islands and I think the potential for conflict is clear.

For fans of: Lost, the Maze Runner but with girls, female-centric plots

Tiny Pretty Things (Season 1)

I have not read the book this is based on and cannot tell you if it is a faithful adaptation. I saw a lot of people in the book community excited, so I’d like to think it’s close to the source material, but I also saw that names of main characters were changed, so … I don’t know.

The promotion for this show was very misleading. It made it look like Neveah would be the lead character, therefore having a focus on a black ballerina, which would have been cool but is not actually the case. However, in reality, Tiny Pretty Things is very much an ensemble show and Neveah’s character gets sidelined a lot. I thought it was important to mention that.

Having said that, I watched Dance Dreams: Hot Chocolate Nutcracker (a brilliant short documentary about Debbie Allen’s dance academy) before this show and it introduced Kylie Jefferson, who plays Neveah, to me ahead of time. I grew quite attached to her and didn’t mind that the acting wasn’t always top notch. This show hired dancers rather than actors and sometimes that’s quite obvious, but the dance scenes are all the better for it.

I am not going to say that it’s the best show out there, but I did enjoy myself. The relationships kept changing and I really enjoyed a certain bromance and some ships, despite the ones I wanted to happen not happening.

For fans of: Black Swan, Flesh and Bone, Center Stage, ballet, the book this is based on

The Mess You Leave Behind (Season 1)

Not gonna lie, I started this show solely because of Aron Piper, who you might know from another Spanish hit Netflix show – Elite. The Mess You Leave Behind also deals with the unraveling of the death of someone in a tight-knit community and an “outsider” coming in and figuring things out. However, this is the more “adult” version of Elite I suppose. Anyway, Aron can play the biggest douchebag and I’d still enjoy his face on my screen.

The Mess You Leave Behind seemed like a limited series to me and I don’t think I would need/necessarily want another season. The characters were sometimes hard to root for, but eventually they do grow on you. Although, I still don’t agree with a lot of stuff that happened, it was an aesthetically pleasing show.

For fans of: Spanish Netflix content, Aron Piper?, thrillers, mental health examination

Home for Christmas (Season 2)

I love this show! The main character, Johanne, is so messy, but you simply want her to be happy and find that person she is looking for. Episodes are very short, so, you kind of blink and the new season is over again, but it still leaves you with a happy feeling. This time around, there is no cruel cliffhanger, but instead you see her ending up with someone you might not have necessarily guessed in the first season. I adored the ending and would love maybe one more season to see them make it work.

For fans of: Norwegian Netflix productions, messy adult love life

The Mandalorian (Season 2)

This season was so good!

The Mandalorian has quickly proven to be far better than the sequel trilogy and restored a lot of people’s faith into the Star Wars franchise, including myself. They weave characters from the past into the storyline so effortlessly and brilliantly, it’s just a joy to watch. You never cease to get that giddy feeling when a familiar face pops up and they don’t mess up the integration of the character. I am genuinely happy we will get more seasons of this.

For fans of: Star Wars?

Safety

You know that I have a thing for sports stories, American Football alongside Baseball and Ice Hockey in particular, so this movie would have been interesting to me anyway. The fact that Hunter Sansone, from Stargirl, had a role in this as well and kept promoting it a lot and me being happy that he was getting more roles had me downright pumped.

Safety was such a nice movie! In true Disney fashion, it does not get as dark as the real life circumstances probably were and yes, this is based on someone’s life and I am sure it wasn’t always easy. But it had you invested and rooting for everyone to be successful despite ridiculous rules. Definitely sweet and inspiring, something for the whole family. 

For fans of: inspiring sports movies, tight family, found family trope


Did you watch any of these programs as well? Do you plan to? Let’s talk!

This Is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar/Max Gladstone (Book Review)

Publisher: Saga Press
Page Count
: 209

I went into this book pretty naive. I thought that if I could grasp movies like Inception (not that it thematically has anything to do with this particular book, I was more thinking in terms of complexity), I’d surely be able to understand This Is How You Lose the Time War. Oh, how foolish a thought of mine!

From the get go, you get plunged into a world or multiple complex interweaving time strings you are not going to be able to comprehend. There is no explanation of this universe. There is no easing you into the matter of Red and Blue (the main characters who tell the stories, partly through letters but also just as you follow their path) and their unique rivalry turned deep connection. You just have to accept prompts such as:

Burn before reading.
Bubble to read.
Every seed is a letter.

When you start out, none of this makes sense. How do you burn a letter and THEN read it? But you soon come to accept that there are words on the page you know, that are familiar, but that don’t make sense in this constellation or context to you. It’s a process that took some time for me to come to terms with and just read like I understood what was going on. But then, Red and Blue aren’t “normal” people/humans. You cannot expect them to operate the way you would and to be confined to our meager options. They are agents of the Garden and the Agency respectively and that means something entirely new and complex again.

But as you go on, dive deeper, it doesn’t have to all seem logical to you. Maybe there is no universal logic that will ever be able to be applied to this novella and that is okay too. It works in its own unique way. I can see a lot of people struggling with it though and it is something to be aware of when you pick up This Is How You Lose the Time War.

What “saved” this book is the sapphic longing that oozed off the pages. It was beautiful and gave this confusing mess a purpose. There is really no other way to put it.

“I love you. I love you. I love you. I’ll write it in waves. In skies. In my heart. You’ll never see, but you will know. I’ll be all the poets, I’ll kill them all and take each one’s place in turn, and every time love’s written in all the strands it will be to you.”

Fazit: 3/5 stars! It makes more sense towards the end, but it’s still utterly confusing in its lyrical beauty.

What is the last read that had you all confused? How important is worldbuilding to you when the focus of the story lies on emotions? Let’s talk!