Master of None

Master of None is one of the AFI’s 10 best shows from 2015 and 2017.

Episode watched? Pilot (Plan B)

Seen before? No

Would I keep watching? Absolutely.

Aziz Ansari plays a character who’s a much less annoying Tom Haverford (a selfish man-child but sweeter and, at least in the pilot, less ambitious with the business ideas). He toys with the idea of maybe having kids after a condom breaks but going to a friend’s kid’s birthday party and watching a different friend’s two kids quickly ends that. (Which I totally get—it all looked pretty awful.)

It was really funny and also pretty sweet. I would definitely keep watching (but not sure when).

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Transparent

Transparent was one of the AFI’s 10 best shows from 2014.

Episode watched: pilot

Seen before? No

Would I keep watching? I think so. It didn’t all work for me, but the parts that did really did.

Jeffrey Tambor is Maura, a trans woman who is trying to figure out how to come out to her grown children. At the end of the pilot, her older daughter finds out by mistake; she’s making out with her ex—the amazing Melora Hardin—and Maura comes home, dressed like Maura and not like the dad she’s used to seeing. It’s a great way to end the episode and I do want to see what happens next but not enough to keep watching right now.

Outspoken

Finished Outspoken by Veronica Reuckert. I received a copy for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Are you done with the mansplaining? Have you been interrupted one too many times? Don’t stop talking. Take your voice back.

Women’s voices aren’t being heard—at work, at home, in public, and in every facet of their lives. When they speak up, they’re seen as pushy, loud, and too much. When quiet, they’re dismissed as meek and mild. Everywhere they turn, they’re confronted by the assumptions of a male-dominated world.

From the Supreme Court to the conference room to the classroom, women are interrupted far more often than their male counterparts. In the lab, researchers found that female executives who speak more often than their peers are rated 14 percent less competent, while male executives who do the same enjoy a 10 percent competency bump.

In Outspoken, Veronica Rueckert—a Peabody Award–winning former host at Wisconsin Public Radio, trained opera singer, and communications coach—teaches women to recognize the value of their voices and tap into their inherent power, potential, and capacity for self-expression. Detailing how to communicate in meetings, converse around the dinner table, and dominate political debates, Outspoken provides readers with the tools, guidance, and encouragement they need to learn to love their voices and rise to the obligation to share them with the world.

Outspoken is a substantive yet entertaining analysis of why women still haven’t been fully granted the right to speak, and a guide to how we can start changing the culture of silence. Positive, instructive, and supportive, this welcome and much-needed handbook will help reshape the world and make it better for women—and for everyone. It’s time to stop shutting up and start speaking out.”

There’s something for every woman in here. We’ve been trained our whole lives to take up the least possible amount of space, to be quiet and let the men speak. This book is about how to change that.

It doesn’t mean screaming, of course, but how to change the way we talk (I’m guilty of hedging and uptalk, definitely, and probably a little vocal fry) and how to stop hunching in on ourselves on mass transit (if the guys can sprawl, we can—at the very least—sit up enough to be able to take deep breaths).

There’s a lot that’s valuable in here but not everything is applicable to every reader. Even so, I’m certain that every woman will find this book incredibly important and possibly even life-changing.

Highly recommended.

Stranger Things

Stranger Things is one of the AFI’s 10 best shows for 2016 and 2017.

Episode watched: All of them

Seen before? Yes but I binged the entire third season yesterday

Would I keep watching? Yes and I need the fourth season immediately or sooner.

I love this show so much! I’ve seen all three seasons now and the third one is my favorite (by a lot). I love the friendships between the characters, and I love the way that it balances the nostalgia of the 80s with horror. It’s a show that’s fun for everyone.

And, of course, the fact that Winona Ryder is in it doesn’t hurt at all. I’ve loved her my whole life.

Barry

Barry was one of the AFI’s 10 best shows for 2018.

Episode watched: Pilot

Seen before? No.

Would I keep watching? Yes.

Bill Hader plays Barry, a hitman who accidentally takes an acting class and turns out to really enjoy it (although he is also so, SO bad at it).

I enjoyed the pilot and am excited to see where it goes from here. It’s got a dark sense of humor, which I tend to enjoy.

Something Like Gravity

Finished Something Like Gravity by Amber Smith. I received a copy for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

For fans of Love, Simon and Eleanor and Park, a romantic and sweet novel about a transgender boy who falls in love for the first time—and how first love changes us all—from New York Times bestselling author Amber Smith.

Chris and Maia aren’t off to a great start.

A near-fatal car accident first brings them together, and their next encounters don’t fare much better. Chris’s good intentions backfire. Maia’s temper gets the best of her.

But they’re neighbors, at least for the summer, and despite their best efforts, they just can’t seem to stay away from each other.

The path forward isn’t easy. Chris has come out as transgender, but he’s still processing a frightening assault he survived the year before. Maia is grieving the loss of her older sister and trying to find her place in the world without her. Falling in love was the last thing on either of their minds.

But would it be so bad if it happened anyway?”

I’ve loved Amber Smith and this (her third) is my favorite yet. There’s a lot going on (grief and trauma and family issues) but there’s also a lot of good (love!). She’s becoming one of my most favorite authors because of the way she tackles these incredibly hard issues. It never feels like a melodrama and it never feels like an afterschool special where things are really glossed over, either. Things are handled with the sensitivity and gravity they deserve, but it never feels cheesy or hopeless. It’s got to be an incredibly hard thing to do but she makes it look effortless.

There’s a lot to love here but my personal favorite is how Maia is not at all fazed by Chris being trans. She literally could not care less, which is how we should all be.

It’s an Amber Smith book so you can expect two things: it’s going to be really good and it’s going to be very hard to read. It’s intense and painful in parts, but it’s so worth the effort and tears.

Highly recommended.

Forward Me Back to You

Finished Forward Me Back to You by Mitali Perkins. I received a copy for review at ALA.

Summary (from Goodreads):

“Katina King is the reigning teen jujitsu champion of Northern California, but she’s having trouble fighting off the secrets in her past.

Robin Thornton was adopted from an orphanage in Kolkata, India and is reluctant to take on his future. Since he knows nothing about his past, how is he supposed to figure out what comes next?

Robin and Kat meet in the most unlikely of places — a summer service trip to India to work with survivors of human trafficking. As bonds blossom between the travel-mates, Robin and Kat discover the healing superpowers of friendship.

At turns heart-wrenching, beautiful, and buoyant, Mitali Perkins’ new novel explores the ripple effects of violence — across borders and generations — and how small acts of heroism can break the cycle.”

Mitali Perkins is one of the best YA authors writing today. Her books deal with heavy topics (this one deals with human trafficking, attempted sexual assault and someone trying to find a biological parent) and yet they’re also full of hope. They’re also full of characters who fight, which we definitely need more of.

I loved Forward Me Back to You. Kat and Robin are the kinds of narrators who burrow into your heart and don’t leave. I’ll be thinking about them for a long time, and I hope we get a sequel. (They both plan to return to Kolkata, so there are more stories to be told!)

Highly recommended.

The House That Lou Built

Finished The House That Lou Built by Mae Respicio. I received a copy for review at ALA.

Summary (from Goodreads):

“Lou Bulosan-Nelson is going to build her dream. She shares a room with her mom in her grandmother’s house in San Francisco, and longs for a place of her own where she can escape her lovable but large extended Filipino family. Lou has a talent for woodshop class and creating projects, and plans to build a tiny house, 100 square feet, all her own, on land that she inherited from her dad, who died before she was born. Then Lou discovers it’s not so easy to build one, but she won’t give up on her dream—and her friends and family won’t either. This heartwarming coming-of-age story explores culture and family, forgiveness and friendship, and what makes a house a true home. ”

This is an incredibly sweet middlegrade. I loved every character in it (especially Lou) and I was rooting for Lou and her mom to be able to stay in San Francisco. I was also hoping that Lou would be able to build her house even though, realistically, it’s such a huge undertaking and Lou was basically like, “Well, of course I can do this because I’m great in shop class.”

(I realize that sounds really dismissive of me, but Lou is actually really skilled at building and probably could build an entire house, given enough time and access to materials.)

WARNING: You will want food after reading this; you should probably just prepare for that now. The book isn’t composed entirely of cooking/eating scenes, but they’re in there and the descriptions are excellent and mouth-watering.

Recommended.

Evvie Drake Starts Over

Finished Evvie Drake Starts Over by Linda Holmes. I received a copy for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

“In a small town in Maine, recently widowed Eveleth “Evvie” Drake rarely leaves her house. Everyone in town, including her best friend, Andy, thinks grief keeps her locked inside, and she doesn’t correct them. In New York, Dean Tenney, former major-league pitcher and Andy’s childhood friend, is struggling with a case of the “yips”: he can’t throw straight anymore, and he can’t figure out why. An invitation from Andy to stay in Maine for a few months seems like the perfect chance to hit the reset button.

When Dean moves into an apartment at the back of Evvie’s house, the two make a deal: Dean won’t ask about Evvie’s late husband, and Evvie won’t ask about Dean’s baseball career. Rules, though, have a funny way of being broken–and what starts as an unexpected friendship soon turns into something more. But before they can find out what might lie ahead, they’ll have to wrestle a few demons: the bonds they’ve broken, the plans they’ve changed, and the secrets they’ve kept. They’ll need a lot of help, but in life, as in baseball, there’s always a chance–right up until the last out.”

You guys, there are no words for how much I loved this book. It’s sweet and fun, a perfect summer read. This is a romantic comedy for adults, and it’s a total delight.

I loved Evvie immediately and it took me about ten minutes to feel the same way about Dean (who knew that I would care about baseball?). The secondary characters (including their mutual friend Andy) are equally amazing. We don’t spend much time with them, but they’re all fully realized and I have hope for companion novels (especially for Andy, please and thank you).

The only word for this book is “charming.” Highly recommended.

Searching for Sylvie Lee

Finished Searching for Sylvie Lee by Jean Kwok. I received a copy for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

“A poignant and suspenseful drama that untangles the complicated ties binding three women—two sisters and their mother—in one Chinese immigrant family and explores what happens when the eldest daughter disappears, and a series of family secrets emerge, from the New York Times bestselling author of Girl in Translation

It begins with a mystery. Sylvie, the beautiful, brilliant, successful older daughter of the Lee family, flies to the Netherlands for one final visit with her dying grandmother—and then vanishes.

Amy, the sheltered baby of the Lee family, is too young to remember a time when her parents were newly immigrated and too poor to keep Sylvie. Seven years older, Sylvie was raised by a distant relative in a faraway, foreign place, and didn’t rejoin her family in America until age nine. Timid and shy, Amy has always looked up to her sister, the fierce and fearless protector who showered her with unconditional love.

But what happened to Sylvie? Amy and her parents are distraught and desperate for answers. Sylvie has always looked out for them. Now, it’s Amy’s turn to help. Terrified yet determined, Amy retraces her sister’s movements, flying to the last place Sylvie was seen. But instead of simple answers, she discovers something much more valuable: the truth. Sylvie, the golden girl, kept painful secrets . . . secrets that will reveal more about Amy’s complicated family—and herself—than she ever could have imagined.

A deeply moving story of family, secrets, identity, and longing, Searching for Sylvie Lee is both a gripping page-turner and a sensitive portrait of an immigrant family. It is a profound exploration of the many ways culture and language can divide us and the impossibility of ever truly knowing someone—especially those we love.”

While this is definitely a mystery (what happened to Sylvie and why?), for me, this book was more character-driven than anything else. Jean Kwok is an amazing writer and her biggest skill is in writing characters who immediately feel real and who we immediately love at first introduction.

There is no other word for this than “captivating.” The prose is gorgeous and the pacing is very deliberate. We care so much about all the characters that seeing them suffer is actually heartbreaking.

Hurry up and read this before it gets spoiled for you. Highly recommended.