What I’ve Been (Binge-)Watching #58

I wanted to wait with this post until I had watched Shadow and Bone, but then I wrote a whole post just about the show yesterday. If you’ve missed it, you can check it out here, although I have to warn you that I did not hold back and went into detail quite a bit. Anyway, I still have plenty of shows and movies to talk about, so, let’s get started!

Starstruck (Season 1)

It was impossible to find a trailer for this show on Youtube, so I hope you can live with the link to the twitter post, but what a shame! Because this show was so adorable and funny and heartfelt.

I’ve always liked Rose Matafeo as a comedian and this was a passion project of hers for several years. She plays a woman in her late twenties, who just sort of got stuck in London after failed relationships that brought her to the country. Then, one night, she meets a famous actor (without knowing that fact about him) and a whirlwind romance starts.

The six episodes are short (roughly twenty minutes), but span over the course of a year. It has this kind of self-insert wish-fulfillment quality to it, in a way that makes you wonder if maybe a handsome actor could also fall madly in love with you if you just met them at the right time. I laughed, I cried, I enjoyed the open end that left the possibility for more. Genuinely think this is a hidden gem in the BBC programming.

Mythic Quest: Everlight (Single Episode)

I love Mythic Quest. It’s one of my favorite workplace comedies (which seem to be a specialty of Apple TV) and I like how they bridged the gap between Season 1 and Season 2 so far. Their quarantine episode literally had me sobbing, but I didn’t expect the Everlight episode to also hit home. While I wasn’t ugly-crying, I can’t deny how beautiful and uplifting Everlight was. It really brought the team back and set up the new season in a great way and I admired the use of CGI as well. So freaking well done! It may just have been one episode, but it made me so excited for the new content that will come May 7.

Dad Stop Embarrassing Me (Season 1)

Not going to lie, this isn’t really my kind of sitcom. It’s the laugh tracks and the characters turning to the screen to break the fourth wall. It’s kind of like The Crew wasn’t my thing either. I mostly ended up watching it for Heather Hemmens, because that woman has me in her grasp, and for that alone it was totally worth it! The show actually covered some deeper topics than I thought it would and I’m sure it will find its audience.

The Letter Room 

I don’t talk about short films often, but this one has Oscar Isaac. Need I say more?

Admittedly, my knowledge of the prison system is mostly from films and books. It’s essentially not a topic I have spent much time on, but I thought it was handled in an interesting way here. As Oscar’s character gets assigned to the letter room, to scan all correspondence, he gets too attached to a certain exchange. It all boils down to the fact that we all need someone to love us and I enjoyed this interpretation of it.

Monday

I was so excited for this movie, because I like Sebastian Stan’s random indie movie choices. However, this movie unfortunately didn’t manage to capture me. I’ll just copy and paste my letterboxd review (feel free to add me!):

Some relationships are like Fridays. You’re done with work, you’re ready for the weekend and the freedom that comes with it. There’s lots of sex, music, dancing and partying without thinking ahead too much. Why care about your troubles from the work week as long as you get to enjoy the now, right?
Well, at the end of it all, you still have to face Monday. The reality of life and all its messiness and your choices.

Monday (the movie) shows two broken people who would rather get lost in each other and ignore all their issues in favor of passion. It doesn’t always work and while I am sure people enjoy the various sex and nude scenes, they’re a lot and often just an avoidance in order not to have to deal with the real problems. The end is odd and open, because you’ve never seen them facing their issues and this might be the first step towards doing that, but the movie leaves you a bit empty and with a feeling of doom for the couple.


Have you watched anything I mentioned? Do you want to? Let’s talk about it!

My Thoughts on the Shadow and Bone Netflix Adaptation!

It has been no secret just how very excited I was for the Shadow and Bone series (as well as the Six of Crows duology) to be adapted by Netflix. While the streaming platform doesn’t always get it right, I was really optimistic early on and the trailers looked fantastic. Before I watched it, though, I caught up on all the books as to really know what I am talking about (only Rule of Wolves is missing for me now, but that’s irrelevant for the show at the moment) and even before going into details on my thoughts, I think they did a great job!

Obviously, the Grishaverse is huge and vast and has quite the fanbase because of the books series. But not everyone has read those and Netflix offers a platform that exposes the material to millions of people all over the world. Not everyone will be happy with everything, but I would like share my personal opinions in the following post.

*I could not do this without going into detail on some topics, so this might not be for you if you want to go into the show with as little knowledge as possible. SPOILERS ahead!!!*

THINGS/CHANGES I DIDN’T LIKE

I want to get the “bad” things out of the way, because some of it really irked me. It did not overshadow my enjoyment entirely, because I binged the show in a day, but I find it necessary to point them out regardless.

  • Casting Jessie Mei Li as Alina was a beautiful choice. Jessie is a ray of sunshine and hence amazing to watch as the sun summoner. They have great chemistry with on screen partners and I’m so very glad they got cast for this role. In the books, Alina wasn’t biracial though. This was a choice made to bring more diversity to the on screen adaptation, but where they went wrong (in my opinion) was by adding anti-Asian slurs and racism to portray the treatment of people from Shu Han. Nowhere in the books was this kind of racism ever present and we are dealing with a Fantasy world where Alina already faces enough struggles and could have dealt with a number of different circumstances that made her feel othered if that was what they wanted to portray so badly. Every time they inserted a slur such as “rice-eater” or “half-breed” it felt forced and unnecessary and I imagine hurtful to certain audiences. The problem is that they never contextualize this behavior, because they simply claim that being at war with Shu Han is enough to warrant the hostility, but that’s really not the take they thought it was.
credit: Netflix
  • Amplifiers in the books, while still kind of barbaric, are jewelry made out of bones/scales/claws/etc. and can be anything from a necklace to a bracelet or ring. Grisha can only have one amplifier in their lifetime (yeah, I know exceptions exist) and can never take it off. The Grisha who killed the animal the amplifier is from has the power over it. I think that’s all pretty cut and clear, so, why did the show change them into some kind of body horror?
    When the Darkling puts the antlers on Alina, she does not get a badass necklace, but rather the antlers fuse into her collar bone, making it an extremely uncomfortable scene to watch. I worry about this change, not just because she eventually absorbs the antlers into her body entirely and they are not visible anymore at all, but also because it makes me feel that the producers thought putting a literal collar on a person was not horrific enough and they needed another violation of Alina’s body to showcase the Darkling’s evil nature. Apparently, people wouldn’t be put off enough by his disregard for consent and need to control everyone around him.
  • Speaking of the Darkling! Due to budget constraints and everyone adoring Ben Barnes (he is a great actor), they opted to not show the Demon in the Woods short story as part of a flashback, where the Darkling would have been only 10 years old, but rather showed a grown up Darkling. In that tidbit from the past, he seemed enamored with a Grisha called Luda, who did not exist in the books, but came across as a love interest in that scene. Her death causes the creation of the Fold, making it feel like fridging (where the girlfriend/wife/love interest of the male protagonist dies in order to propel his story). In an interview with Insider, the showrunner explicitly said they weren’t trying to do that and even actively tried to avoid it, but nothing in that scene told me they weren’t romantically involved. (You can read the interview here!)
    Also, I keep calling him the Darkling, because that’s how I knew him for 7 books. Yes, his first name is Aleksander, but in the books that’s revealed very late. His name is a mystery and Alina is the only person in that world to know it, which felt special, but here he just throws his name around like it means nothing. The show really humanised him a lot.
credit: Netflix

GENRAL STUFF I ENJOYED OR NOTICED

The following points that I will mention were neither huge mistakes nor masterful choices. I just collected some of my thoughts that I found interesting or necessary to mention to give you all a complete picture.

  • As someone who has read all the books, short stories and anthologies (Language of Thorns and Lives of Saints), I feel like I have a pretty good grasp on the Grishaverse. However, had I been someone who didn’t have that prior knowledge, I could have easily seen myself struggle with some of the concepts. They really barely explained anything to do with Grisha orders, amplifiers or something as simple but vital as the belief systems (Fjerdan god vs. Ravkan sainsts etc.). I doubt that anyone could understand some of the important components to their full extent having none of that knowledge and background info. Whereas I understand it’s difficult to include, a little more would have been appreciated from my side.
  • While waiting for the show to release, I always said that I did not care about the faithfulness of the story, but rather about the accurate representation of the characters and their personality and I still stand by that. Yes, Jesper should have been played by a dark-skinned actor, but Kit Younger has his personality DOWN. And not just him, EVERYONE either behaved exactly like I imagined they would (even if they didn’t all look like they had in my head) or even improved on the characters by playing them softer and with more nuance and vulnerability (e.g. Matthias Helvar). I cannot wait to see who they will bring in for the twins, Nikolai and Wylan next season.
credit: Netflix
  • The overall pacing and the amount of story they packed into this first season was well handled. From what I heard, the showrunner has a three-season-plan, which would correlate nicely with the three Shadow and Bone books. I really hope that the next season would also start implementing the Six of Crows plot, because this was a nice prequel to their characters, but I need to see the big heist happening. However, since everything is more interconnected, they might change things up further and I’d be excited to see what that looks like.

SOME IMPROVEMENTS

In some cases, I even think that the show did better than the book. Having the ability to show several points of view, whereas Shadow and Bone the book only offered Alina’s side really gave them the chance to explore the characters some more. Also, it probably helped that the producers already knew about all the later books Leigh Bardugo wrote as well. Here’s some changes I thought worked well:

  • When I first read Shadow and Bone, I hated Zoya. She literally broke Alina’s ribs and just treated her terribly, because she was jealous. Early on in the books, there are few redeeming qualities to Zoya and while she improves over time, I always felt a grudge until I got her side of things in King of Scars. While she starts out similarly in the show, I was grateful that they allowed an insight into her backstory earlier in the season than in the books. She is such an important character, but I think audiences would have struggled later on, just like I did while reading, if they hadn’t softened her up.
  • I think I am part of a small group of people who actually liked Mal in the books, but I think Archie and the writing on the show made the character so much better. They scratched unnecessary and childish jealousy scenes (which was annoying but fine in the books, because they were younger) and genuinely made his connection to Alina seem sweet and fated. I’m so happy people are now actually rooting for them.
  • Milo the goat is the real MVP.

VERDICT

I loved seeing some of my favorite characters brought to life on the screen. My expectations were high and I could have easily been disappointed but I was really pleased with how everything came together. Shadow and Bone is by no means flawless, but the effort they put into wanting to do the material justice came through. I honestly didn’t know if I would understand the involvement of the crows before watching, but it was integrated beautifully and they provided some of the best parts of the season. If you enjoyed the books, I think you will like this as well. Even if you weren’t a huge fan of the Shadow and Bone books, but only enjoyed Six of Crows, I can easily see you liking this better. 

credit: Netflix

Previous Reviews from this books series and Leigh Bardugo’s work:


Have you watched Shadow and Bone yet? Do you plan to? What were some of your favorite and least favorite moments? Let’s talk!

The Falcon and the Winter Soldier: Episode 6 “One World, One People” Review (Season Finale)

This is the review/recap for the season finale “One World, One People” of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. As per usual, the following post is full of Spoilers and meant to be read after watching the show. Proceed with caution!

credit: Marvel Studios

What was it about?

Sam takes on the mantle of Captain America and faces off against the Flag Smashers in one final battle (with the help of more than just his trusted friends). 

My thoughts?

Let me tell you, this episode was a rollercoaster of emotions for me! I cheered, I cried, I was in awe. In all sincerity, I don’t remember the last time I was so proud and appreciative of a character as I am of Sam Wilson. What Anthony Mackie brought to this role and what they allowed him to explore on this show was such a fantastic feast to watch and I’m forever grateful they chose these characters to dig deeper.

However, as much as I loved this journey I also have some small quarrels with the finale and as per usual, a lot to talk about. Without further ado (and because I know how lengthy these posts get) let’s dive in!

  • Sam Wilson is now officially and without a doubt in the world Captain America. I think that’s the most important part of the episode, so I just needed to get that right out of the way. Not only did he get new wings from the Wakandans, but also a badass Captain America suit to go with it and I couldn’t be happier. I love how he called himself Captain America when he showed up, how the cc captions called him Captain America the entire episode and even bystanders, because he truly is everything Cap stands for. I’m not exaggerating when I say I squealed with joy every single time it was said.
credit: Marvel Studios
  • From last episode, we pick up again with GRC being on lockdown and getting evacuated but in actuality kidnapped by the Flag Smashers. Bucky is already on scene, Sharon is also there as support (for a second I thought she was a skrull, but she just wore a mask) and you can be sure that John Walker is on his way as well. As always, the fight choreography is outstanding and the action really goes on for the majority of this episode. There’s fights on different fronts and between different people, they really tried to cover their ground with everyone here. I don’t really see the point in rehashing all of them, but here are some noteworthy developments:
    • Sam vs. Batroc: It was interesting to see Sam actually use the shield to fight for the first time. Not all moves worked perfectly yet, but he had a really good handle on it and that training montage from last week paid off.
    • Bucky will always prioritize saving people over fighting someone and it was so nice to see him smile when people thanked him for that. He’s a good guy and the winter soldier no longer has a grasp on him.
    • When Walker showed up, I wasn’t on his side. That man is deranged and needs psychological help. I am still shocked his DIY shield didn’t crumble to pieces, but I did feel sad when he confronted Karli and she said that Lemar’s life didn’t matter. It showed just how far she was gone and, once again, her willingness to sacrifice people for her cause made her inner circle waver in their trust and loyalty to her. They still went with her plan, but she was beyond jaded at that point.
    • Walker was presented with a similar dilemma as Bucky. He could either go after Karli or save a convoy of GRC representatives and I was not sure what he would do, but he ultimately also opted to help people rather than fight. I honestly wasn’t sure that’s what he would go for, but I also don’t know how I felt about that “redemption arc” for Walker in general. As I said above, he is an incredibly unstable man and that’s due to untreated PTSD among other things, but his “team up” with Sam and Bucky just felt off. I get that they had a common foe in that moment, but it made me feel so uncomfortable to have him on the good side?
credit: Marvel Studios
  • I almost called it one of the biggest reveals of the episodes, but it really was pointing towards it all along, so, I’m going to call it one of the confirmations of the season and that’s the fact that Sharon is the Power Broker. I know that a lot of people will not be happy with that development and it is far removed from comic book Sharon’s persona. I don’t think it’s out of character for MCU Sharon, but I can definitely see fans being upset that a character they liked wasn’t treated right by the movies/shows … again.
    In a heart to heart with Karli it is revealed that Sharon is indeed the Power Broker. She had taken Karli in because she reminded her of a younger self, but whereas Sharon wants to control the world that hurt her, Karli wants to change it, making their differences irreconcilable. I don’t think we got a lot of Sharon’s reasoning in that scene, the audience rather has to piece that together on assumptions what she had to go through while in exile. Believe me, I don’t fault Sharon for what she did and making the most of her skillsets, but I would love more depth to it.
  • In a last battle between Karli and Sam, he refuses to fight her. No matter how much she wants him to hit her back, he stands firm, but in a stand-off, Sharon takes it into her own hands to save Sam and kills Karli in the process. I’m sure this hurt Sharon, because she was her protegee, but I can also see her doing it as an insurance policy so that no one knows her identity as the Power Broker (just like she presumably killed Batroc because of the same reason – I phrase it like that, because we never saw a body after the lights went out).
  • Karli ultimately dies in Sam’s arms, apologizing with her last breath. I’m sad that’s how Karli’s story ended, making her a martyr when other characters were given redemption instead. All the while, Bucky and Walker use the Flag Smasher app to round them up and arrest them.
  • One of the most beautiful and meaningful moments of the episode and the first real emotional scene after the fighting is done comes when Sam talks to the GRC. His speech is live-broadcasted everywhere as he presses for the GRC to reconsider their stance and does so masterfully. His words really hit home and I was with him every single second of that scene. It all boiled down to how you use the power you are given, a message that has been woven into the series as a whole.
  • As the Flag Smasher super soldiers were supposed to get transported to the Raft, we can see their car explode. It was caused by Zemo’s butler, who ultimately made sure that Zemo’s plan to not let any super soldiers (aside from Bucky) live was being seen through. I honestly didn’t expect to see him again this episode, but oh wow, did he look happy when he heard that they did not survive the explosion. I can’t help but wonder what he would do if he knew that Walker had taken the serum too. Does he know?
  • Valentina also came back this episode and is still as mysterious as ever. I cannot tell who she is working with, but she officially made John Walker U.S. Agent and I did not like that one bit. I suppose it was always going to go this way, but the fact that he gets to operate officially as U.S. Agent after what he did as Captain America is wrong on so many levels.
credit: Marvel Studios
  • Bucky really listened to Sam last week and made some more amends. We can see him telling Yori the truth about his son and then gifting his notebook with all the names crossed off, accompanied by a thank you card, to his therapist Dr. Raynor. It was brief, but none the less emotional and I am happy to see Bucky on a journey to healing.
  • Whenever Anthony Mackie and Carl Lumbly (as Isaiah Bradley) have shared the screen this season, they have given us amazing scenes together. This finale was no exception and my heart soared when Isaiah admitted that Sam was someone special. You could really see that glimmer of hope returning to his eyes and it made me so happy. Even more emotional was the moment Sam showed Isaiah and Eli an installation in Steve Roger’s museum, which was specifically dedicated to Isaiah’s life and good deeds. Him returning his history to him, making sure people would never forget what he sacrificed ever again – I love when a story comes full circle!
credit: Marvel Studios
  • The season ends with Bucky in Sam’s hometown, joking with kids and letting them play with his arm and people fawning over Sam. The music, the atmosphere, the imagery – everything was so much brighter, happier and more hopeful and I adored that as a conclusion! Also, I could have just interpreted too much into it, but I liked that Bucky was on Sam’s right in that final shot, because Steve is always going to be on his left.
credit: Marvel Studios

Post-credit scene: Once again, the final episode had a post credit scene where we see Sharon Carter getting her full pardon, as Sam promised he would make sure she’d get. It’s clear that she is going to use her reinstated title to further her business as the Power Broker, setting her up to be a future antagonist.

credit: Marvel Studios

I think it was clear that I loved a lot of moments in this final episode. I do have my quarrels with the lack of depth for Sharon as the Power Broker, because that was all very vague, but could also be a potential set up for future seasons/movies. And in addition to that, I didn’t like this attempted “redemption” for John Walker. I’m not sure that really conveyed the right message there, but then again, they didn’t say he was good … for now. I’d much rather focus on the character development we got for Sam and Bucky and how much I’m going to miss them for now. I am sure we will see these characters again in some of the upcoming movies, but even more so, I hope we see them once more for a season of

Captain America and the Winter Soldier

(although I think it should be Captain America and the White Wolf, but baby steps)


PREVIOUS THE FALCON AND THE WINTER SOLDIER REVIEWS


Now, let me bid you goodbye with these weekly Friday reviews for now! I might see you again when Loki comes around. Please let me know in the comments if that is something you would be interested in! And of course, let’s talk all things Captain America and the Winter Soldier!

The Falcon and the Winter Soldier: Episode 5 “Truth” Review

You know how it works, but I will repeat it either way that the following review/recap of episode 5 called “Truth” of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier will include spoilers and is meant to be read after watching the show! You have been warned!

credit: Marvel Studios

What was it about?

Walker has to deal with the repercussions of his actions, while Sam turns inward to figure out his next move.

My thoughts?

I don’t believe a lot of the sites that spread rumors about cameos and episode lengths (we all know where that got us wit WandaVision), but “Truth” really was the longest episode of the season thus far. I’m phrasing it like that, because if we detract the endless credits, it really was only fives minutes longer than previous ones. Still, I enjoyed it a lot.

On the one hand, there was a lot happening and happening fast, but this felt like a more quiet episode compared to the others. We finally got some really great introspective moments with Sam and I cannot wait what it will lead up to in next week’s finale. Considering that this was the penultimate episode and we still had a lot of loose ends, I thought it made everything come together and moved it towards a singular destination quite well. I’ve mentioned this before, but I doubt any of the MCU shows will be completely resolved in their storylines, but I like where The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is headed.

Let’s break down what happened in “Truth”:

  • Sam and Bucky don’t hesitate to confront John Walker after his unhinged execution of the Flag Smasher. In his delusion, he still believes he can be Captain America and that the man he killed was actually responsible for Lemar’s death.
    The fight that ensues is brutal and results in a glitching arm for Bucky, ripped off wings for Sam and John Walker’s arm getting broken in order to take the shield from him. In a gesture that could be an admission that the shield is rightfully his (but had underlying tones of disgust for it being soiled with blood), Bucky throws the shield to Sam, who cleans it.
  • We haven’t seen much of Torres in the past episodes, but he still is as much of the upbeat puppy as when we first met him. I don’t know if I am projecting on him, but it always feels like he is fangirling over Sam and Bucky just as much as me. When Sam turns to leave and Torres reminds him of the broken wings he left behind, Sam tells him to keep them, turning this into another hint that Joaquín Torres will be the next Falcon.
  • John’s murder spree is a huge international incident and we soon see him stripped of his title, authority, benefits and retirement. I wish real life consequences for perpetrators like him would also be as swift, but at least they held him accountable immediately, even if he doesn’t seem to have to serve any kind of sentence? The people in charge credit their lenient decision on his infallible behavior thus far, making Walker get even madder, because he only ever did what he was told. I can’t help but agree that these people made him into who he is now, or at least were partially responsible for it. Letting him just walk off still seemed incredibly dangerous though.
  • As Walker and his wife talk about their next steps (he wants to run away, she wants him to meet with Lemar’s family) we get an appearance I did not see coming. Enter Contessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine! (played by Julia Louis-Dreyfus) I can’t tell who or what exactly she will be in the MCU, but in the comics, she was a former SHIELD agent turned terrorist, also known as Madame Hydra. She used to date Fury but also flirted quite a bit with Steve, which led to a frosty relationship with Sharon Carter, who was dating him at the time. All of this obviously won’t be replicable on the show, but there are many possibilities for her role in all of it. Is she the power broker? Does she work with the power broker? Is she feuding with Sharon here as well? It’s interesting to introduce a character like her so close to the finale and it definitely isn’t a good sign that she is interested in Walker.
  • Last week, Zemo ran off, but it didn’t take Bucky long to find him in Sokovia and confront him. While Zemo tries to convince Bucky one last time that the only option to contain Karli is to kill her, he eventually just seems resigned to his fate when he gets taken in by the Dora Milaje. I’m glad Bucky came around and worked together with them.
    It seems like this was the end of Zemo’s storyline, which was a little anti-climactic, but at the same time necessary? He will live out his days at the Raft to pay for his crimes (which will be much harder to escape from), he did what he needed to do for our heroes and he even took the liberty of crossing off his name from Bucky’s book. There’s not much more he could possibly add in my humble opinion, unless you were just here for his snark and charm, which was obviously fun.
credit: Marvel Studios
  • Sam, now in possession of the shield, meets with Isaiah to learn about what happened back in the day. The parallels of his accounts to real life events such as the Tuskegee experiments are still chilling. And you understand Isaiah’s anger and reluctance to have any part in this star-spangled madness, but at the same time you can see Sam struggling with what he learns. We as the viewers KNOW that Sam is everything Captain America is supposed to be. He deserves to carry that shield and title, but does America deserve him in that role? 

“They will never let a black man be Captain America. And even if they did, no self-respecting black man would ever want to be.”

  • After his talk with Isaiah, Sam goes home to his sister and nephews and a series of really amazing scenes follow. This episode showcased the importance of community, as Sam called in some favors and was gladly helped, because his family always made sure to help others as well. There’s a montage of Sam and Bucky, who joined him, fixing the family boat. Just two guys working side by side, no words needed.
    Sam and Bucky also finally have that heart to heart that they so direly needed, where Bucky admits that neither Steve nor he ever considered what it would feel like for a black man to be handed the shield. I liked that he acknowledged being unable to put himself into Sam’s shoes and apologizing for his previous behavior. That self-awareness is a great step in the right direction and their bonding moments are everything to me.
    It is followed by some tough love from Sam, resulting Bucky to want to do the work and not look to others to define who he is anymore. He wants to make those people on his list, the ones he has wronged, feel better instead of making himself feel better about what he did. And while there are many, he just needs to start with one and I wonder if we will meet Yori from episode 1 again. Either way – baby steps.
    They part ways, but it is pretty clear that they will always be there for each other when needed, because they are a team, whether they want to admit it or not.
credit: Marvel Studios
  • The montage of Sam training with the shield was everything! He doesn’t need superstrength to wield it either.
  • Sam also has a lovely moment with his sister after they fixed the boat. She ends up not wanting to sell it, making Sam incredibly happy, because that boat is part of their history and it would be a shame to let go of it. This mirrors the conversation he had with Isaiah, where he revealed that the government erased him, his history. They had been doing it to Black people for 500 years and to not let Sam get his history taken away was a great moment. Also, while Sam told Bucky to not let others define who he is, it is Sam who needs the reminder from his sister that Isaiah cannot dictate how he handles the legacy of the shield. The continued connection between the scenes was amazing.
  • Before I forget it, Bucky and Sarah meeting was the cutest thing ever! Despite Sam telling Bucky to not flirt with his sister, I ship it. Their smiles were so wide and genuine and adorable.
credit: Marvel Studios
  • Sharon, once again, was only briefly in this episode and I have no idea what to think. She called Batroc, who we remember from the movies as well as the first fight scene in episode 1 of the show, to get him a job. She was responsible for him not rotting in an Algerian prison and it sounded like she was the one calling the shots on his last mission. A mission where he fought the Falcon and now wants revenge on him. If you didn’t believe Sharon was involved in some shady stuff before (which you should, considering that she was literally an illegal arts dealer in a city full of mercenaries and pirates), you should now. I am unclear what her end goal is and I’m a bit impatient about the show holding back on her story so much.
  • At the end of the episode, a fed up Karli is ready to attack. The GRC is holding a vote on what to do with the refugees and she is not about to just let them to do what they want. In order to reach her goal, she is partnering up with Batroc, who wants to kill the Falcon in return for his help. (Did Sharon just set up Sam? Or did she use Batroc to get to Karli?) Every episode, Karli’s inner circle questions her more and we could see they weren’t thrilled to work with a known criminal. I wonder how deep their loyalty to her really runs …
  • Back home, Sam realizes what Karli has planned and gets the box Bucky brought from the Wakandans (a favor he called in and which Ayo seemingly granted, although she had just told the White Wolf to make himself rare in Wakanda) to join the fight in New York City where the GRC meeting is attacked. We still don’t know what’s in the box! Is it new wings? Is it a Captain America suit? It BETTER be the suit! I cannot wait to find out!
credit: Marvel Studios

We have a post-credit scene again! The first one of the season and it shows Walker making his own shield, clearly still not having let go of the idea that he is Captain America and has to avenge Lemar.

In general, I thought it was a really good penultimate episode. We moved along quite a lot in the plot, got great character moments for almost everyone, but especially Sam. I wanted that for him so bad and the show delivered, even if there is still a lot of pain involved. I honestly am excited and cannot wait to see what the finale holds in store for us! A showdown with Walker and Karli is more or less guaranteed.


Fun fact I posted last week, but wasn’t sure if everyone saw: Marvel has set up a tourism website for Madripoor, which you can visit under exploremadripoor.com. It will let you click through several pages with hidden images and wanted posters. If you need passwords to enter certain areas, I also got you!

The art auction can be entered with the code “sharoncarter” and the docks with “powerbroker”. When you are in the container area, you may also search for any random container you like by entering a four-digit-number. E.g. 1273 will show you Sharon’s wanted poster, whereas 4261 was the container Dr. Nagel was in and will show footage from episode 3. Allegedly, some containers used to show names of X-Men such as Mystique, but have since been removed.

AND the string of numbers on the wanted posters for each character feature the date and issue the characters made their comic book debut. As I said, Marvel and its little details.


PREVIOUS THE FALCON AND THE WINTER SOLDIER REVIEWS


What did you think of Truth? Did you enjoy it or wanted something more action packed for the penultimate episode? Let’s talk!

Hana Khan Carries On by Uzma Jalaluddin (ARC Review)

Publisher: Berkley Publishing Group
Page Count
: 368
Release Date: April 13, 2021

*I was provided with an eARC by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review!*

CW: racism, Islamophobia, racially motivated hate crimes, loss of a loved one

Hana Khan Carries On releases soon and I cannot wait for everyone to get a chance to read this book. Set in one of my favorite places on this planet (Toronto), the book is a bold romantic comedy playing out in the world of rivaling halal restaurants, but it is also so much more than that. Let me explain!

Hana is a fantastic narrator, which makes sense as she hosts her own podcast and pursues a career in the radio industry. I loved following her thoughts and quarrels from the get go. We quickly learn that she is a South Asian Muslim woman in her twenties and daughter to immigrant parents, who juggles many things in her life even before the real drama starts. While there were always hints at what all this book would ultimately deal with, it starts out with all the makings of a romantic comedy that promises rivals to lovers excellence. There was an immediate attraction and familiarity between Hana and Aydin even when they clashed. They are not afraid to play dirty in order to come out on top, which leads to many a regretful decision. The fire and sparring between them was definitely fun, even when it was easy to guess the big revelation they’d both eventually have to face.

Around the halfway point of the book, the story shifts into something more serious though. As I said, the groundwork for this was laid, because this book was never going to be “just” a romantic comedy. While out with Aydin and her cousin, Rashid (who is visiting from India), Hana encounters a group of hate-filled racists and the situation soon escalates on a much grander scale than she could have ever anticipated. It’s never easy having to come to terms that there are people out there who want to harm you and push you out of a country you were literally born in. It was even more painful when no one came to Hana’s aid (please never be that person when you see someone being attacked. Not doing anything is being complicit), that is until she found the courage to seek refuge in her community.

As much as Hana Khan Carries On is about love and finding your place in the world, it is also about family – the one you are born with and the one you choose. This was an excellent example of how gratifying being part of a community can be and how they can help you through the darkest times. Hana always had to deal with people who were willing to talk over her (a boss using covert racism to undermine her ideas, a co-worker so desperate to fit in that they sold out and a myriad of other characters that show up and will have you wringing your hands not to punch them), but she also had people in her corner willing to go to bat for her and you were right there with them, rooting for her when she found her voice and spoke up. And that’s not an easy thing to do, to stand up to people knowing that it will leave you vulnerable. But she had a life made up of choices, choices she was very grateful to have, and she wanted to make the right ones.

I really loved reading this book and to follow along as Hana uncovers family secrets and finds her voice. I cannot possibly put myself in her shoes, but I was filled with pride and joy at her development regardless. There’s no denying that I would understand if people would rather not be faced with reliving that particular trauma when seeking out a romantic comedy, but I personally appreciated that there was no sugarcoating of racist situations like it happening still. Those parts will never get easier, but we’re not doing anyone a service by ignoring them either.

Fazit: 4/5 stars! An amazing romantic comedy, if you are also prepared for hard-hitting reality.


Would you like to read Hana Khan Carries On? I seem to pick up at least one “You’ve Got Mail”-esque book per year now and I have no regrets! Let’s talk!

What I’ve Been (Binge-)Watching #56

Before the end of the month, I wanted to make sure to have another one of these posts ready for you. I have been watching on and off, but not a lot of it with great enthusiasm. This past year, I have consumed so much content that it has become increasingly difficult to really excite me, but I hope I can talk to you about a couple things today!

Calls

TW: emetophobia

Many people will likely say that this show could have easily worked as a podcast, but I actually appreciated the text and visuals provided. They had a certain hypnotizing quality and not seeing what was actually happening beyond the phone call just made it all the more terrifying in many cases.

Overall, this was such a unique and intense experience. It does get a bit repetitive towards the middle, but the overall picture was chilling and even gave me slight Dark vibes. Another very brilliant Apple TV+ production with many well-known voices to enjoy. I keep loving their content!

For fans of: podcasts, strange happenings and ensemble casts

Zero Chill

It’s no secret that I have a thing for ice skating shows. I was ALL for Spinning Out when it premiered on Netflix, just for them to cancel it after one season. To be frank, if I could have picked another season of Spinning Out or this show, Zero Chill, I would have picked the former.

Zero Chill is much more lighthearted than Spinning Out and doesn’t quite convince as much with their performances (on and off the ice). What I originally thought to be about an ice hockey player and a figure skater working together, is rather a drama about a family that struggles to fulfill both their children’s dreams. It has some really great moments, especially when it comes to friendships and relationships in general, but I think it’s one of those shows likely kept on in the background.

For fans of: ice sports

The One

I’m pretty sure we all have heard of a similar concept to that of The One before. Initially, I was intrigued by the genetic component, making it a scientific matter to find your one true soulmate (barring that I think it’s silly to think there’s only ONE person for you out there ever and insinuations that come with it as a whole concept, but the show proves it isn’t that simple anyway). It quickly became obvious that this series isn’t just about romantic struggles though, but has a lot of focus on mystery and thriller elements. The police investigations take up a big chunk of the screentime.

My struggle here was that I simply did not like or care for many of the main characters. It’s really hard to have a story centered on someone you don’t like and especially with the character of Rebecca Webb, you just didn’t know what her endgame was. She seemed ruthless but to what point exactly was unclear to me and when I cannot gauge someone’s motives, I just get frustrated.

But … I’d still let myself get matched if we had the technology … I’m THAT desperate.

For fans of: soulmatery and crime

Country Comfort

This is one of those really silly shows with questionable acting and laugh tracks which you will either put on for the heck of it or not touch with a ten foot poll. It’s up to you! It had some lovely moments about grief, family and moving on, but it’s also the definition of corny and over the top.

For fans of: The Nanny but make it more Christian and country


Did you watch any of those shows as well? Let’s talk!

The Summer of Broken Rules by K.L. Walther (ARC Review)

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Page Count
: 386
Release Date: May 4, 2021

*I was provided with an eARC by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review!*

CW: loss of a loved one

Sometimes a book comes around and it just sweeps you off your feet. The Summer of Broken Rules was definitely that for me! It’s not easy for a story to be fun as well as moving, but somehow this one struck the perfect balance and just made it an incredibly engaging read.

You meet Meredith and you can easily relate to her. I think anyone who has ever lost someone close to them understands the way you yourself get lost in your grief. Every corner you turn, you see that person and remember how things used to be, but can’t be anymore. The Summer of Broken Rules managed to make this story a beautiful exploration of grief, while also the journey of reemerging from that cloudy haze that comes with loss, without it ever feeling too heavy. I may have shed a tear or two, but I laughed and smiled even more.

From the get go, I was just in love with the setting. I haven’t been on a vacation in forever and definitely have never been to Martha’s Vineyard (it feels like a rich people destination in my head and I cannot explain why?), but I could almost feel the sun on my face, smell the ocean breeze and couldn’t shake that odd feeling when you just know it’s unavoidable to get sand everywhere. Add to that a huge group of relatives and friends, where you sometimes lose track of just how you are related, but you know you are family either way because of the shared bonds and you have captured my heart. At times, I had trouble following the who’s who, but never when it came to the important players.

When it comes to the love story, I thought it was interesting how easily I was swayed by Wit. Many times, I have complained about insta-love and insta-lust, but somehow the connection between Meredith and Wit just felt natural. You basically just follow them through the course of a week, but every interaction felt authentic and made me root for them rather than roll my eyes at their quick attachment.
I’d also like to praise that there was a discussion, albeit brief, about how Meredith tends to latch on to her love interests and detach from her friends as a coping mechanism for her grief. Having scenes with that as a context puts them in a different light and, in this instance, makes them work all the better. With the characters being aware of how fast things are developing and even questioning their behavior, I thought it was refreshing. In the end, it didn’t change how I felt about them though and I was happy to see them grow together through the hurdles they had to overcome.

I can’t say I’ve ever been as competitive or invested in a game as the entire extended Fox family is when it comes to “Assassin”, but what a treat it was to follow them for a week. As serious as they take it, it also created some hilariously brilliant moments and I understand how it became a tradition for them. It’s almost something you’d want to revisit yourself every year to see how everyone was doing, which was why I was so grateful for a little epilogue from the future!

As a final note, this was my first time reading a book by K.L. Walther, but I heard that there are lovely little easter eggs to her previous novel “If We Were Us”. I adore when authors put in those tiny references for readers and it has me very tempted to check out her debut novel.

Fazit: 4/5 stars! Fun and moving – a great summer read along the lines of Morgan Matson books!


Could you see yourself picking up The Summer of Broken Rules? What are some summer reads you enjoyed a lot? Let’s talk!

King of Scars by Leigh Bardugo (Book Review)

Publisher: Orion Children’s Books
Page Count
: 514

With the imminent release of the Shadow and Bone Netflix series (if you haven’t heard me talk about that basically all the time as of late, where have you been? Watch the trailer here) and the even closer release of the second book in the duology King of Scars is a part of – Rule of Wolves – I thought it was time I finally caught up on the Grishaverse.
It’s been a while since I’ve read Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom, but I still vividly remember how easily I fell in love with the characters and the world they inhabit. It has been much more recent that I tore my way through the Shadow and Bone trilogy, finally catching up on Alina’s storyline and getting that proper introduction to Nikolai Lantsov. He deserved that grand entry like no other! I’m glad I picked up all the previous books before reading King of Scars, because I think I would have been lost without people’s backstories. 

That’s the thing with the books in the Grishaverse; in the beginning you might have been able to just read one series or another, but we are in so deep now, with everything being interconnected, that it would do you a disservice not to know the previous material. In fact, it’s necessary, because so much of this series is built on your feelings for the characters and what is about to happen to them.

“The monster is me and I am the monster.”

King of Scars, just like the Six of Crows duology, offers multiple POVs. The most important ones are likely Nikolai, Zoya and Nina, although I have to say that I struggled to really find a proper connection between Nina’s storyline and the others. She felt very much apart with her mission in Fjerda, even if her plot made sense for her character development and offered a great new path for Nina. It’s something only she could effectively pull off. And I could see those small crumbs that tried to hint at how it would link to the business in Ravka, but (at least in this part of the duology) it felt very much like it could have been a completely unrelated just simultaneously running story.
So, I couldn’t help but feel more drawn to what was going on with Nikolai. I think I wasn’t alone in quickly having him become a favourite even without him having his own perspective back in Shadow and Bone. This broken golden boy just has his charms, as every other character in the Grishaverse could probably attest to. The fact that he now has a major part in this duology just shows that Leigh Bardugo knows what her fans like to read about.

“Most of us can hide our greatest hurts and longings. It’s how we survive each day. We pretend the pain isn’t there, that we are made of scars instead of wounds.”

While I felt like the plot was moving along quite slowly at times and not necessarily contradicted previous books, but definitely rewrote a couple narratives (just throw out your knowledge about amplifiers now for example …), which I did not care about massively, I did appreciate how much more we got to know the characters.
Again, Nikolai is not just charming, he is a really good man. The way he puts Ravka above all his needs is incredible and possibly not healthy, but he just wants to do better than the weak men who came before him. He would give his life if it meant that the people he is trying to serve as a ruler will get to have a more stable and prosperous life. As boisterous and superficial as he can seem, he is one of the most selfless characters.
But most of all, I appreciate that I got to know Zoya more. I’m not going to lie, I struggled with her character for a long time in previous books, because I just couldn’t forget her mean girl behaviour from the beginning. I don’t enjoy people who make others feal scared or lesser than just to feel superior and she has always given off that vibe. She was never kind, nor good, she was ruthless. Now though, I feel like this showed us why she is the way she is. Why she thinks kindness is such a weakness, even if that’s not true at all. Why she is all prickly like thorns despite her beauty like the most gorgeous flowers. There’s really quite a lot of selflessness in her too.

“Most women suffer thorns for the sake of the flowers, but we who wield power adorn ourselves with flowers to hide the sting of our thorns”

King of Scars definitely isn’t my favourite book in the Grishaverse, but it does what it is supposed to – it keeps me wanting more. I always want to know and probably always will want to know how these characters are doing and if lasting peace is an option. But it’s Ravka … something always goes wrong.

Lastly, which is really more of a personal side note than a criticism, I wish there wasn’t this incessant need to always pair everyone up. Tolya is literally the only person I can think of who currently doesn’t have a crush and it’s a lot to me. Sometimes characters can just be friends … or partners in crime … or confidants … or alone?

Fazit: 3.5/5 stars! I rounded up, but I did struggle with this book at times.


Have you read King of Scars? How deep are you into the Grishaverse? I, for one, can’t wait for the show and the upcoming release of Rules of Wolves!

Any Place But Here by Sarah Van Name (ARC Review)

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Page Count
: 336
Release Date: May 1, 2021

*I was provided with an eARC by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review!*

CW: underage drinking

Any Place But Here is my first encounter with Sarah Van Name’s writing and I immediately felt drawn into the world of her characters. You meet June and Jess at an evening that feels like it could be any night of the week for them, beyond tipsy and definitely drunk, just that it’s at a school venue and things are spiraling fast after they get discovered with booze in the bathroom.

After that, no matter what June says, her parents don’t trust her anymore and send her off to live with her grandmother (lovingly called Oma, which is also what I have always called my grandmothers too) to attend an all-girls-school. In the beginning, I struggled a bit with that punishment. I understand the concern of June’s parents and the way they mostly blame it on her “friendship” with Jess, but June is literally a straight A studen and … I come from a country where the legal drinking age is 16, so I always roll my eyes a bit at American laws. Of course, there is a difference between drinking responsibly and just getting wasted and I don’t condone the reckless kind since I’m not much of a drinker myself, but it’s always a bit difficult for me to wrap my head around why it is such a huge deal. I literally had bartending classes at my school when I was 16, but I’m veering off course. This conflict sets up the rest of the novel and does so really well.

Who would want to leave behind everyone they know, including the person they care about most, to live in a town where they know no one and nothing ever happens? I can tell you that the answer is not June.

As we see the world through her eyes, it quickly becomes clear that June’s relationship with Jess was more than “just” a friendship. Whenever she speaks about her, their shared bond seems undeniable, but the longer they spend apart, the harder it becomes. And you also start to wonder what held them together in the first place. Things become even trickier when June’s new friends bring up the question of her sexuality (in an intimate and non-pressure related setting) and June has no real answer for it, especially since she finds herself drawn to one of the new acquaintances. I find it’s not often that bisexuality is explored in young adult books, but I enjoyed the way it was done here.

I have spent my fair share of time away from family and friends and I always felt like I was a different person when I came back. Sometimes I was shocked to see how much had changed in my absence, other times I found myself annoyed with the lack of change in my environment when I felt so utterly different. This book perfectly mirrored my emotions and dealt with how hard it can be to let go or fight to keep someone in your life. It’s always a decision you have to make and sometimes you don’t ultimately get what you want.

When you meet new people that enrich your day to day and you find new hobbies that bring you joy, it can be hard to arrange and combine this with your old life. Things change and so do people. Aside from this beautiful exploration of love and friendship, it was also a great but nonchalant portrayal of family. The messiness of it, but the love that was woven through all decisions really warmed my heart. Even with them being miles apart, June’s younger siblings were always present in her thoughts and the struggle with her parents was so relatable. They always made her feel like she had to compete for their approval, but when she lived with her grandmother she experienced such a different parenting style and through that could actually find things she enjoyed.

Overall, I loved being on this ride with June and seeing her find her own way. It also got me really interested in photography, which I didn’t expect, but hey, maybe I’ll find my own Sam there.

Fazit: 4/5 stars! A great read about changing relationships, family and expectations. Enjoyed it a lot!


I know the release is still a while away, but could you see yourself pick up Any Place But Here? Have you had experiences with toxic relationships? Let’s talk about it!

Soulswift by Megan Bannen (Book Review)

Publisher: Balzer+Bray
Page Count
: 480

Honest question: Why has no one told me about this book before!?!?

I’m definitely not the most up to date person when it comes to book releases, but after reading the marvel that is Soulswift, I can whole-heartedly say that this book deserves more attention. I’m going to do my very best to not spoil anything for you, while still trying to convince you to pick up this book in the near future!

First off, I want to point out that Soulswift is a standalone fantasy, which is a rare bird to come across anyway (pun fully intended). So very often, you have to brace yourself for multiple volumes to release over an extended period of time to get to your conclusion, but somehow Bannen managed to pack a fully formed story, neither rushed nor dragging, into this one single book. I am in awe of that woman’s writing!

Stories about faith, even made up ones, are never easy in my opinion. There is such a fine line between religious fanaticism that feels harmful and a naivete towards the world and other beliefs that might be frustrating and annoying at times (although it didn’t feel annoying to me here), but offers great potential for growth. Bannen allowed us to draw our own conclusions, hearing different aspects and exploring the various angles. It felt very natural for the world she created and I loved that I knew that there were always going to be three sides to the belief system: Gelya’s version, Tavik’s story and the truth.

Why should I worship something that cares so little for me, or for you?

As I moved through Soulswift, I found myself attached to Gelya and Tavik more and more. Their enemies to friends to lovers dynamic and banter was endearing like nothing else, but they were also great characters on their own accords. They both have to overcome a vast amount of prejudice and yet their bond is so strong and frankly beautiful. You will weep for these characters, without a shadow of a doubt, because they are so strong and dedicated and devoted. By the end, it’s just a question of who to.

Aside from really enjoying the religious aspect, the created world and the characters, it was the small things that made this novel stand out for me. It challenged gender norms and stereotypes without throwing it in your face, but rather letting the characters question their world view through dialogue and realistic situations. For example, I cannot recall another Fantasy novel where a character got her period while on the road, which wasn’t dismissed here, but also not made into this awkward big deal. I really appreciated that!

Life and Death
All things in balance.

Why wouldn’t this book be for you?

Aside from the topic of faith, which might not be everyone’s cup of tea, be it fictional or not, the ending isn’t something every reader will love either. I’m fully in the camp “a good ending doesn’t mean a happy ending”, but if you seek a story that will leave you warm and joyful, this is not it. I’m not saying it ends it utter devastation, because everything makes sense and is very beautiful in its own way, but also tragic. So very tragic and sad. I cried.

fly, little soulswift, fly

Fazit: 5/5 stars! 100% one of my new all-time favourites!!!


Could I convince you to take a look at Soulswift? Was it on your radar before? Let’s talk!