The funny thing about leaving a full-time job to go back to school, and taking a two-month gap is that it leaves you a lot of time to both clean and catch up on things. Personally, I chose to catch up on books, because that’s the way I roll, but I did finish a few wonderful televisions shows on Netflix as well.
So, here are the Top 10 Things-I-Read/Watched in December that I think everyone should read/watch (in no particular order). (All photos from amazon.com).
“Parks and Recreation”
Never have a watched a show and thought, “Oh my gosh, I can relate to that brand of crazy,” more than when watching Leslie Knope on this show. Leslie Knope is a woman who works in the Parks Department in a town Pawnee, Indiana, and she is determined to make life better for her citizens and co-workers, whether they like it or not. She’s always making lists, over planning, constantly having three backup plans…she’s wonderful.
But it’s not just Leslie’s story; we also have her boss/friend Ron Swanson, who hates the government (their friendship is amazing), her best friend Ann, her husband Ben (who can handle Leslie’s crazy and loves her for it), and her other coworkers (who I won’t list, because it would get too long), who round out the cast of government employees in this show, filmed like “The Office.” I laugh every time I watch this show. I just love it.
“Hell On Wheels”
Normally, I am very picky when it comes to shows set in the 1800s; I kind of wrote my master’s thesis on this era, so I get very annoyed when things are too “off.” However, this show. I love this show. It follows a former Confederate soldier, who is seeking revenge on the Union soldiers that killed his wife and finds himself in the midst of Hell on Wheels, the town that follows the building of the transcontinental railroad.
The dynamics in the show are fascinating. You have former Confederates who don’t trust the Yankees (and vice versa), the conflict between the African American workers and the Irish workers, and the conflict between the former Confederates and the freed slaves. All of these conflicts are historically accurate (and logical), and portrayed as such. The cast is fantastic, though I think Anson Mount’s Cullen Bohannan and Common’s Elam Ferguson are my favorite characters, because I love the relationship that they build through the show (plus, they’re two complex characters).
I don’t really have anything to say here, other than if you haven’t watched M.A.S.H., you’re missing out. It’s the story of an army hospital near the front lines in Korea during the Korean War, who deal with the reality of death and suffering all around them by turning to humor.
It’s not always a hilarious show, but MASH is able to walk the line between making you cry tears of laughter and tears of sadness. It never forgets that it is set in a war, and the characters are wonderful. It’s just good.
“Last Man Standing”
This is the story of Mike, a man’s man who has been traveling the world for the Outdoor Man catalog, a sporting goods store where he works as Marketing Director. When his boss tells him that the catalog is scrapped (because funds), and his wife, Vanessa gets a promotion at work, Mike finds himself staying home and in a world dominated by women (his wife and their three daughters). He moves the advertising to focus on vlogs, and begins to be more involved as a “hands-on” parent, as IMDB calls it.
The show is basically this family as they grow and change throughout the years, and the way that a very conservative father deals with his daughter’s boyfriends and neighborhood crises. One of the funniest episodes is where he tells his wife: “Of course I’m not happy, I’m raising three daughters. Two of them are democrats,” and realizes that he is raising strong independent women (and he married one, so he should have seen it coming).
Tim Allen plays Mike in such a way that even if you disagree with him, you can’t hate him. Nancy Travis as Vanessa is a wonderful foil to his character, and the two of them handling and raising their children is hilarious and often poignant to watch. Basically, it’s a really fun show.
Where has this show been hiding?! I had heard that it was funny, but I was not prepared for just how hilarious this show was. The story follows JD, a young attending doctor and his friends as they learn and grow. There are also moments where we see what is in JD’s head (musical numbers, fire-breathing bosses, that sort of thing).
The characters are, even at their most annoying, still likeable and the show feels real, without getting overwhelmed in the sadness of working in a major hospital. It’s the hospital show I didn’t know I needed. It’s brilliant.
I realize that I might be many years behind on this one, but I’d only ever seen the musical version. Personally, I prefer my films to be musicals unless they involved Nazi punching or dinosaurs, so I still like the musical version better, but I did really like the film.
“The Lunar Chronicles” by Marissa Meyers
I’ve actually written an entire book review on each of the five books in this series, so I’ll try to keep it to basics here. Basically, “The Lunar Chronicles” takes our favorite fairy tales, “Cinderella,” “Little Red Riding Hood,” “Rapunzel,” and “Snow White,” reworks them, and sets them in a technologically advanced dystopian society.
There is also a kingdom on the moon, made up of people who have magic powers and are ruled by the cruel Queen Levana, but are secretly hoping that the long-lost Princess Selene will return to save them (a wish the people of Earth share). The story follows Cinder, a cyborg mechanic who is more than what she seems, and her friends (new friend added in each book or so), as she learns about her destiny and fights to save her people.
It’s clever, witty, engaging, and not just a tired old retelling. If you haven’t check out “The Lunar Chronicles,” give them a read.
“The Land of Stories” Series by Chris Colfer
This series was one that I was very pleasantly surprised by. Not that I doubted Chris Colfer’s abilities, I just wasn’t sure how a series about a pair of twins who are sucked into a fairytale book, find themselves trapped, have to journey on a quest to be freed, and learn that they may have close ties with this worl–okay, I lied. I knew I would love this book from the get-g0.
As soon as I cracked the pages, I was sucked into the world that Colfer had created. It’s witty, often hilarious, and ties the fairytales that I know and love beyond “happily ever after.” It’s a fun and engaging series that is still being written right now, so I’m excited to see where Colfer takes it.
“The School for Good and Evil” Trilogy by Soman Chainani
The series follows the adventures of Agatha and Sophie, two friends who are chosen to go to the School for Good and the School for Evil. However, they do not go to the places they are expected to go to. I hardly ever review books on Goodreads, but I made an exception here, and below are some snippets from those reviews:
“This trilogy was genius, to me. The first book while looking at the power of friendship and the love we have for our friends. It also reminds us that sometimes appearances can be deceiving, while the second one shows our heroines that actions have consequences, and sometimes a Happy Ending can be re-written. The final book in the series was a satisfying conclusion to a wonderful series of fantasy books. With Evil running amok (the classic villains are re-writing their stories), the school now just for Evil, and an Evil Queen crowned, Good’s numbers are dwindling. How can a girl who doesn’t feel worthy of her role as Princess and who just wants to save her best friend, work with her Prince and the legends of Good to save their world? Bonds will be tested and secrets will be revealed in “The Last Ever After.”
The ending of “The Tale of Sophie and Agatha,” and the series, is wonderfully written and discusses, choice, love, destiny, fate, good versus evil, love of friends and love of soul mates, choice, loving others and loving yourself, the nature of good and evil, and loyalty.
Another thing I love about this series is that Chainani writes his female characters very well (probably because they are characters who happen to be women). Content Note: It was in the Juvenile Lit section at Hastings, but the series is “Heroes of Olympus” or “Goblet of Fire” dark, with the third book reaching “House of Hades” and “Deathly Hallows” levels.”
“The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho
This book had been on my radar for a while, and I finally said, okay, I just need to read this and see what the fuss is about. The story follows Santiago, who is searching for treasure. On the way, he learns and grows and finds a treasure worth more than he could have dreamed.
He learns how to listen to his own heart, to see opportunities before him (and the wisdom to act on them), and the importance of following his dreams even when things seem impossible. Short, sweet, and very thought-provoking and inspiring, if you haven’t read “The Alchemist,” I would do it.