A Book & A Show

Oh this is January, and what have you done?

I think I just spliced several different concepts, songs, quotes but we’re all good with that right? Right. Happy New Year everyone! Times they are a changing and it’s 2016 in the big town baby.

Wow, my brain is just one giant pop culture machine.

So, as you may have noticed I haven’t blogged in a while. There I said it. The old me would be obsessing over this fact, but obsessing is so yesterday people (thanks Hilary Duff). Also, as part of my job I have to blog for 4-7 other entities, post to a myriad of social media accounts as a ghost writer (spooky), and type until my little fingers chap (yum), but I know, I know…I should dutifully blog for the few folks who love books, television, traveling, more books, and general craziness.

Guess what, though? This blog is for you, yes, but it’s also for me. It’s a way for me to be bonkers and discuss the things that make me happy—the same things that I think might make you happy—and so I’m not going to apologize because enough women out there have apologized for lame reasons (I’m sorry for you bumping into me. I’m sorry for serving food that’s too hot. I’m sorry for being smarter than you.) so I’ll just refrain this time.

Whew, now that that’s over with, let’s get down to biz-naz.

Everyone loves talking about goals and resolutions and new beginnings in January. Not sure if you’ve noticed that…

Normally I love digging into a good cliche and tearing it to pieces through thinly veiled sarcasm and biting apathy but this time, you guessed it, I’ll refrain. I mean what’s wrong with trying to be better? What’s wrong with trying to push yourself to learn a new language, try a new workout, stop guzzling Diet Coke (too good, though, y’all.  Just…too good), or make an online dating profile (a personal nightmare of mine).  The new year is exciting and fresh so it’s kind of a no-brainer people would grab on to it with all of their might, even if that zest only lasts a month or so. 

There was my (second?) soapbox and now on to what you really want—recommendations. Let’s start the new year off on the right foot with some quality. We get enough trash already with the internet and television (even though, when one consumes trash willingly say, by binge watching Real Housewives…that’s, like, a whole other thing) so why not try out a few things with some substance?

The Book

After finishing this book I had that thick teary glob that gets stuck in the throat and kind of hurts but also kind of reminds you you’re alive. Anyone tracking with me?

When I get the glob, I know it’s a good book.

Kitchens of the Great Midwest is the real deal people. J. Ryan Stradal brings to life the food, the flair, and the people of America’s Midwest through weaving the lives of each character around the story’s protagonist—Eva Thorvald, a cooking savant.

Each character that is introduced is real and engrossing and their stories, although varied and unique, seem to somehow orbit cohesively around Eva and her cooking abilities. You don’t have to be a foodie to enjoy the book, though. The way Stradal shifts from lighthearted tales of young love to deeper situations like the death of a mother or divorce will keep you guessing and prevent you from feeling complacent.  Even though, if you’re a foodie, you’ll definitely enjoy the descriptions of every type of food from new age organic concoctions to homemade butter-laden “dessert bars” passed down from generation to generation. There are even recipes in the book!  Kitchens has a whole lot of heart and exhibits deep, beautiful knowledge of the unique Midwestern culture. It’s the perfect way to begin your reading journey for the new year.

The Show

I’m a self-proclaimed Netflix fangirl. Also, I adore Parks and Rec. So when Aziz Ansari came out with his show on Netflix called Master of None, I was sold. The show chronicles Dev (played by Ansari) and his dating experiences in New York.  It’s a whole lot more than “The Bachelor: New York Edition,” though.

Firstly, it’s not total garbage.

Secondly, it’s got range.  From what happens when everyone around you starts having kids, to dealing with racism and sexism, to trying to navigate how to live with someone, Master of None strikes the perfect balance of biting commentary and farce—the writers acknowledge that millennials are self-centered and insecure while creating endearing, hilarious characters you can’t help but love. Master‘s wit is biting and the stories are memorable which is basically what everyone is looking for in a television show.

So there you have it, a couple worthwhile things that can fill up your time without making you feel like a total sloth.

 

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3 Kiddie Pool Classics or 3 Easy-to-Read Classics that Shouldn’t Scare the Pants off of You

Hey all! Today is the day you’ve been waiting for. The day I offend literati all over the inter web by comparing books that are stained with their (AND MY!) tears of adoration, to the shallow end of a pool. It’s going to be a ball. If you’ve made it this far, I assume the pitchforks aren’t quite sharpened and the torches only dully glowing, so please hear me out before things get cray.

I think reading is one of the most powerful things you can do.

I think opening a book, diving into it, feeling the feelings of the characters,and empathizing with people and situations outside of your narrow world is noble and brave.  I fall at the feet of the writers of classics.  I’m not worthy of cobbling the shoes of Austen, Faulkner, Dostoyevsky, and O’Connor. Though if they asked me to cobble, cobble I would (man cobble is a fun word).  Calling one of their works a “Kiddie Pool Classic” may not confirm the respect I feel, but it might entice someone to crack open a great book, which I feel is a grand effort all the same.

A Kiddie Pool Classic is an approachable classic. It’s a read you can’t help but devour like chips and queso on a Friday night. It’s a classic that won’t make you feel like the zit faced redhead swaying alone by the punchbowl at the high school dance. I’m a ginger so I can perpetuate this stereotype.

Taking a bite (or nibble) out of the classics is an admirable goal, but sometimes their language, context, and character development (or lack thereof) is difficult to swallow and even more difficult to understand. Especially if, say, you have a full time job and barely any time to water your (dying) plants, let alone tuck in to chapter 797 of Anna Karenina.  These three Kiddie Pool Classics are by no means shallow, but they are approachable and un-put-downable (sry I’m a scholar with my made up words).  Think how great you’ll feel once you read the last page of your first Austen book and finally, finally understand what all the fuss is about.  So here are three classics I absolutely adore and recommend if you want to take a walk on the Wilde side (see what I did there?)

BeFunky Collagess

Whoops, Wilde isn’t on this list, but the joke was worth the lie. 

The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald

K, predictable right? It’s an American classic, one often referenced and lauded, and it’s a slim lil’ book.  The story is thick with drama, heartbreak, and love (all things I prefer with my afternoon tea). Fitzgerald’s language and glitzy then grimy 1920s setting is downright addicting. The famous characters of Daisy, Nick, and (le sigh) Jay are what will help you battle that 4 o’clock desire to mindlessly scroll through your Instagram feed, and instead tell your lazy self No, today I choose culture. Today I choose Literature with a capital L…or something like that. Gatsby contains themes of living in the past and the broken American dream, themes that are pretty stinking relevant today.  After reading Gatsby you’ll also be able to do what all great readers of literature love–snootily comparing the book to the movie. This time, you’ll be able to honestly say the book is better, because it seriously is (even though I love me some Baz Luhrmann and muh boo, Leo)

Emma, Jane Austen

I’m going to come right out and say it. If you “love” (yes, I’m putting the word in hostile quotations) Jane Austen because of her romantic words and general appreciation of the weddin’ things, then talk to the hand. That’s not my Jane…sorry.  Good ol’ Austen was a complicated broad, one that loved snark almost as much as I do.  She was a master of satire, irony, and slamming her society, which means (GASP) she actually didn’t get all googley eyed when suitors came to call. People kind of freak out when you tell them that most of the time Austen was making fun of the air heads of her society rather than gushing over just how much baby’s breath belonged on their wedding centerpieces. With this in mind, reading her works is a little more fun. The novel Emma is about the main character, Emma (see easy!) a”handsome, clever and rich” matchmaker who doesn’t need anyone or anything because homegirl has. it. togetha. Because she has money in the bank, she doesn’t see much need to marry. Instead she (badly) plays matchmaker with her friends and at times acts like a total brat who simply cannot understand how people do not totally agree with her.  The book is lively and funny and brimming with interesting characters. And it comes with the benefit of saying you’ve “read” (insert watched Kiera Knightly version) something besides Pride and Prejudice.

The Color Purple, Alice Walker

Ok, ok, ok, I know, a story of racism, rape, incest, and heartache isn’t exactly what you’d expect in the Kiddie Pool Classic section. The Color Purple has many moments of ugly, but that’s because we as a society experience many moments of ugly. This truth was no different in the 1930s. It’s a Kiddie Pool Classic because once you start, once you grasp Celie’s rural Georgia and get a feel for the language and her struggle, it’s damn near impossible to put down. The book is structured as an epistolary novel or a book of letters (Literary buzz words for $100, Alex.) from Celie to God. They are personal and heartbreaking and powerful.  Against all odds (abuse, bigotry, loneliness) Celie holds onto her dream of being reunited with her sister which seems to make such deep, dark moments bearable. Walker’s writing style is cutting and unapologetic, which I think we all need a little more of every now and again.

What is your favorite classic?