November 18, 2019

What I'm Watching | Violet Evergarden, The Boys, Burden of Truth

Violet Evergarden
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I hadn't binged an anime in forever and I have a tendency to watch the same kind –– magical girl and/or shōjo anime, preferably in a fantasy setting. But I kept seeing the Violet Evergarden pop up on Netflix and it just looked beautiful from the preview so I decided to give it a try. And wow. It totally blew me away with the story and multiple episodes brought me to tears (very unexpected!). It's set in a world where everyone is recovering from a recent major war and Violet Evergarden, a former child soldier, tries to adjust this new life. But it isn't easy. She had been trained to be an emotionless tool for the military until one of her superiors takes her in and shows her that there's more to life and more to her. In his final moments he tells her he loves her and throughout the series, her new "mission" is to discover what these words mean. She does this by taking up ghostwriting. She helps people write letters by putting into words what they feel but can't express. Which isn't without its mishaps given her robot-like personality at the beginning. And that's ultimately what makes the series so affecting. Because we see her get to open up episode by episode and begin to feel. Honestly, every time she told someone that she wanted to know what "I love you" meant, I felt a pang in my own heart. It's just such a poignant tale. Even if anime isn't your usual cup of tea, I would highly recommend giving this a try. // Season 1 on Netflix; as of right now, no plans for more seasons but I'm keeping my fingers crossed


The Boys
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This was absolutely not your average superhero series and I mean that as a compliment. (And a forewarning!) Right off the bat, the first episode shows you how bananas it's going to be and even I was still shocked by how dark, twisted and totally crazy it got by the end. But that's ultimately what made it stand out in comparison to other superhero shows I've watched, and I've seen a ton. The Boys was a subversive view on what we all know and usually love about superheroes while also providing some subtle and not-so-subtle commentary. It's based on a comic book, which I didn't actually know at the time. But in this world, "superpowered" people are recognized and treated as celebrities by the general public. They're all owned by Vought International, who markets and pays them and creates their personas to be loved by the world. But in reality, they're corrupt and care very little about helping people. The series follows two main groups: The Seven (Vought's superhero team) led by Homelander and "The Boys" led by Billy Butcher, who hates all aforementioned superpowered people. But the two people we truly get to follow are Hughie, who joins the Boys after his girlfriend is killed by one of the Seven and Annie / Starlight, the Seven's latest and genuinely good recruit. The two of them (plus my favorite Boy, Frenchie) really brought humanity to the show, especially in its darker and crazier moments. I have seen criticism though, mainly around the pacing being uneven or the plot and I'll admit, it's not a perfect series but what made it worth watching was the complexity of its characters (not to mention the jaw-dropping twists!). // Season 1 on Amazon Prime; Season 2 out mid-2020


Burden of Truth
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I've been a Kristin Kreuk fan since her Smallville days which is how I ended up watching Beauty & the Beast when it first aired (enjoyable at first, until it wasn't)  and why I decided to check out Burden of Truth this past week. I did not expect this show to be as good as it was! I binged both seasons in less than a week and was super impressed by the stories, the characters and the acting. Not only is Kristin Kreuk the lead on the show, she's also an executive producer. It made me realize how underrated she is as an actress and appreciate that she seeks out strong, multi-faceted female roles for herself. (It also made me want to visit Canada; yes, the show is Canadian!) Kreuk plays Joanna Hanley, a corporate attorney who returns to her hometown of Millwood to represent a large pharmaceutical company against a group of young girls who've become sick. While at first, it's all business for her, even as she runs into old friends and old grudges, something changes. She starts to see that she could be of help to these girls and if there's anything you'll learn about Joanna throughout the series, it's that she'll stop at nothing to get the truth. Each season focuses on a different case but the characters remain largely the same. And part of the appeal of the show for me are the connections she makes while in Millwood, such as an old best friend, an old classmate with whom she now has some underlying romantic tension (I was 100% shipping this) and the girls themselves. On top of that, the representation and just a lot of what the show said was so, so great. I can't believe it doesn't get more attention now that I've watched it! // Season 1 on Hulu; Season 2 partially available on CW app and coming soon to Hulu; renewed for a third season!

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What have you been watching?

November 15, 2019

Stacking the Shelves (74)

So I culled a bunch of books on a whim a few weeks ago and I feel really good about it. No regrets. Except soon after that, I felt the urge to buy a bunch of books, friends gifted me with books and some very kind publishers sent books my way. Basically, my TBR is back to where it was pre-culling but again, absolutely no regrets!

Here are the books!

PURCHASED
GIFTED


What new books have you guys gotten lately?

November 13, 2019

Friends With ARCs | Not the Girl You Marry + Meg & Jo

pub 11/12/19 by Berkley Romance
Romance - Contemporary
Received ARC from pub for review
Not the Girl You Marry is basically a gender-twist on the rom-com classic (and one of my personal favorites) How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days. Jack Nolan is a genuinely great guy who tends to give too much in his relationships and an aspiring journalist. But thanks to viral success and his good looks, he's stuck as the "how-to" guy when he'd rather cover politics. He makes a deal with his boss: if he writes "How to Lose a Girl" then he can write about what he's really interested in. Except when he meets Hannah Mayfield, he'd rather keep her than lose her (of course). For Hannah she's an successful and ambitious event planner who's been burned one too many times in her relationships. But to climb the career ladder, she has to show her boss that she's capable of being committed and doesn't totally scorn weddings. And again, she's also out to use Jack but he ends up being perfect for her. It's all fairly predictable. I would say almost too much, especially if you're familiar with the movie it's inspired by. I wish the author had made the story/plot more her own or added a bit more depth. But the characters are super likable and it was easy to cheer them on. I liked that she was a bit prickly and no-nonsense while he was serial monogamist who kept committing to women who weren't right for him. They just clicked and watching them play this cat-and-mouse game made me laugh along the way. 

Favorite rom-com | Definitely, Maybe! I've watched that movie so many times.  

pub 12/3/19 by Berkley
Fiction - Contemporary
Received e-ARC from pub for review
I just realized how fitting it is that we're reviewing these two books together! Meg and Jo is also inspired by an existing story and this one, as you can probably guess, is Little Women. I have a soft spot for both the classic and 90's film version so I was excited to see how Virginia Kantra would modernize it. And I was surprised by how much I loved her take on these four very different women, their relationships with each other, and what the March sisters would look like in the present day. Even though we get to see all four women, the book alternates between Meg and Jo's perspectives. Meg has settled down with her husband and kids in North Carolina, which is where they all grew up, and puts 100% into being a stay-at-home mom. Jo, on the other hand, immediately raced off to New York to pursue her writing dreams but things haven't panned out the way she hoped and she's now struggling as a prep cook and secret food blogger. When their mother gets sick, it spurs Jo to go home for the holidays, along with her other sisters. It was so interesting to be inside Meg and Jo's heads as their lives were dissolving into chaos. Jo March is such a vivid character to me but I always remembered Meg as the older, more serious sister who I felt faded into the background. But here, the author added these complex layers to each and I found myself relating to both women in different ways. We learn of the pressure Meg feels as the eldest and as the one who "stayed behind" but at the same time, she owns her choices and is doing exactly what she wanted to do. With Jo, we see more of the insecurity behind the brashness and I was far more invested in her love story here than I was in the classic. But most of all, I loved the entire family dynamics – messy, complicated but unconditional.

Which March sister do you relate to most? | It's always been Jo March (in the classic at least!).


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Collaborative feature with Alexa. We read ARCs together and post our reviews on the same date.


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