Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Media Roundup

 It's once again been a while. School keeps me busy, as does life these days. But I'm trucking along, and I'm still reading every night. I kinda' have to if I want to have any chance at sleeping.


The Glass Forest, by Cynthia Swanson

A mystery about a disappearance and a...suicide? Murder?

The author wraps in a character's story leading up to her disappearance, interspersed with the current investigation of her husband, found dead in the forest behind their house. Skillfully done. A story that will touch your heart and fold you into it as you try to figure out what's actually happening. But sometimes the secret keepers are really good at keeping those secrets.

Hidden Valley Road: Inside the Mind of an American Family, by Robert Kolker

This one was fascinating, not just for its study of a family where a majority of their kids have schizophrenia, but because of the glimpses of history it gave me of the city I live in. I couldn't help but feel deeply for the mother, left to deal with all these kids, many of whom had schizophrenia in varying degrees of severity, by a man who was more intent on getting what he wanted than caring for the family he had. The story of this family is truly heartbreaking, but the studies done on them have and will help future generations.

The Five: The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper, by Hallie Rubenhold

The research that went into this is astounding. A truly human look at the canonical five victims of Jack the Ripper. If you're looking for a book about Jack, this isn't the one. This is a set of mini biographies about the victims, most of whom were wrongly stereotyped as sex workers. The author pulls no punches, giving an honest look at the troubled lives of these women. The streets of England were cruel, even without a homicidal maniac running around. How anyone survived is beyond me.

Monster, She Wrote: The Women Who Pioneered Horror and Speculative Fiction, by Lisa Kroger and Melanie R. Anderson

This is a collection of mini biographies of the women who shaped horror and speculative fiction. It includes recommendations of books each one wrote, plus similar books if you'd like to explore more. 

Lucky Man: A Memoir, by Michael J. Fox

I grew up with Michael J. Fox on TV and in movies. This book traces the discovery of his Parkinson's Disease, but also his arrival in Hollywood and the shape it took. It's honest and raw. A good read if you're a Fox fan.

Mexican Gothic, by Sylvia Moreno-Garcia

A gothic horror novel set in Mexico, it's a different spin on the genre. Though it took me some time to get into the main character, Noemi, I realized that what I struggled with about the character was the very thing that made the character so real: her ability to act flighty and fickle, because that's what others around her expected. Creepy, with a setting that's a character, the book takes the reader to different world.

The Women of Brewster Place, by Gloria Naylor

Powerful. Stunning. Heartbreaking. Amazing.

This one caught me by the fingernails and dragged me along with it. The stories of several from a certain neighborhood revolve, some of them coming into contact, to give an unabashed look at the lives and struggles of black women in a troubled era. Raw, real, beautifully written. I wanted to know more.

Angel Falls, by Tess Thompson

Actually written by two women (Charlene Tess and Judi Thompson), it's a romantic suspense that focuses more on the romance, I'd say. The characters are good, especially the main character's abuela. Definitely a different spin on the usual romantic suspense. Magdalena runs a troubled resort plagued by issues. When one of those issues becomes a body in the water tank, it's clear things have escalated to a new level. Then Russell walks in out of the mountains with a backpack full of secrets. It was a little more romance than suspense for me, but once it picked up further along in the story, it grabbed my attention. Lots of little twists.

Night of the Mannequins, by Stephen Graham Jones

It all starts with a prank perpetrated by a group of teens. They dress up a mannequin and sneak him into the movie theater to trick the theater manager. But at the end of the movie, Manny gets up and walks out. Now they're dying off one by one. Is it Manny or something else? A nice, short piece of horror that will twist you up and horrify you.

Flipped: A Jillian McElroy Flipping Mystery, by K.A. Olgren

A cozy mystery that takes place during a house flip. Jillian McElroy knows what she wants, and she's determined to make it happen. But a villainous neighbor wants to stop her. What happened to the previous owner? What's the neighbor after? There's a great sense of humor and a fun cast of characters.


The Map of Tiny Perfect Things
(Amazon Prime)

This film is delightful, but also sad once you get down to the background. Two teens are stuck in a time loop, repeating the day over and over. Each must figure out why it's happening and try to get back to normal. Of course, plenty of shenanigans must first ensue.

Walk of Shame
(HBO Max)

I found this under "NSFW Comedy," so take that as you may. There's nothing truly naughty or dirty in it. Elizabeth Banks plays an up and coming newscaster who gets caught in the ultimate walk of shame. After getting trapped on a fire escape outside a club, having had a few too many shots, she gods home with the bartender. Sneaking out before he wakes up, she discovers her car's been towed and she has no way back in the building, because there aren't any names on the bells, just apartment numbers. Plus, the door's locked. She must find her way through the big city in the middle of the night, with nothing but her car keys since her purse was in the car and she's left her cell phone in his apartment. Mistaken for a sex worker, she gets into progressively more trouble, chased by the cops and an angry cab driver, etc. A funny, if irreverent movie.

Irma la Douce
(Amazon Prime)

This was funny, adorable, and ridiculous. Perfect for a mental escape. I'm a bit late to the game since this came out in 1963. Starring Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine, he's a too-honest cop and she's a sex worker. But when he gets fired for busting the police chief in a den of iniquity (whoops), he somehow ends up as her pimp. But he wants her to himself and devises a plan with an accomplice to keep her from sleeping with other men. Eventually, it leads to a lot of trouble. A Billy Wilder film, which probably tells you some of what you need to know.


Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel

An at times overdramatic look at the Cecil Hotel and it's history. The Cecil is where Elisa Lamb met her mysterious fate in the water tank atop the hotel. Footage of her behaving oddly in the elevator is truly chilling every time it's played. They get down to the real details and the official call. 

The Secret of Skinwalker Ranch

A "documentary" about investigating the background of Skinwalker Ranch and the reason behind all the strange events that happen there. I put documentary in quotes, because it was very dramatic and silly in some ways, but an interesting watch. If you can get past the cheesiness of the cast, it's worth a watch.

Call Me Kat

A cute, lighthearted show where Mayim Bialik's character regularly breaks the fourth wall. The owner of a cat cafe, Kat gets into shenanigans on the regular.

The Crew

A Kevin James show where he's NOT the buffoon. You heard me. It's a pleasant change. Does he get into dustups? Of course, but the buffoon comedy comes from a couple costars instead of him. My husband and I dipped our toes into this one with trepidation, but are both enjoying it. It's set in a NASCAR garage, with Kevin as the crew chief. The driver's an idiot, but he's good at his job. Along comes the owner's daughter, fresh out of business school and rearing to change everything. Kevin's the dinosaur who has to balance her out.

(Disney +)

Quirky fun that gets darker and more serious as the series progresses. Wanda and Vision are stuck in an alternate reality of some sort. Each episode of this show occurs in a different era, beginning with black and white and parodying the types of shows from each decade. The first episode is a bit Donna Reed and it keeps on going up through the last episode, which was very Modern Family. There are plenty of easter eggs for Marvel fans (many which I'm sure are escaping me). It'll be easier to watch if you're caught up on the Avenger series of films. I'd only seen the last one once, so it took me a bit of catching up at times. If you're familiar with the comics, I've heard there's tons in this show that play off the original stories.



An amusing podcast with co-hosts Jason Bateman, Sean Hayes, and Will Arnett. I happened across this one accidentally, and I'm glad I did! Each episode one of them brings on a guest that's a surprise to the other two, and they come up with interview questions on the spot. Their guests include actors, comedians, and even a politician, so far.

I know I've watched other movies, but I can't for the life of me remember. What have you been watching or reading lately?


  1. Hi Shannon - what a great list ... I've made a note of some of the books. I've watched odd things ... but at the moment seem to be content reading, watching the news ... and generally just being. Well done on doing so much - studies, work etc - stay safe - Hilary

  2. The Five and Mexican Gothic have been on my watch list, so I'll take the plunge.

  3. Really looking forward to the last show of Wanda Vision. Heck of a ride so far.

  4. I've been curious about Mexican Gothic. Glad you liked it. And I added The Vanishing at Cecil Hotel to my Netflix list. Thanks for all the recommendations.

  5. Oh my goodness, you've been busy. Thanks for these reviews, Shannon. Saves me some time and trouble. I remember the story of the military family. Yes, it was very sad. Michael J. Fox grew up not far from where I grew up, though I think I was gone by the time he left for Hollywood. I think everyone in BC was proud of him. I love Kevin James. I'm checking that one out tonight. Thanks again.

  6. I've had Monster, She Wrote on my TBR list for ages. One of these days....

    I've never heard of The Crew, but I'm a big fan of Kevin James so will definitely check it out. Thanks!

  7. We just finished watching The Americans at my house. I very much want to see Wanda Vision. Also very much enjoyed The Good Demon (book), which you might like as well.