Saturday, December 21, 2019

Favorite books and TV shows of 2019

Once again, 2019 was a phenomenal year in books and TV for me. I didn't watch a lot of movies, so I'm going to skip over those. If you're interested in any of the books, click the covers for buy links. 

Favorite books of 2019

The Soulless/Parasol Protectorate series by Gail Carriger -- I've had a paperback of Soulless sitting on my bookshelf for oh, umpteen million years it seems. I finally got around to reading it this summer and laughed my ass off! And then I promptly set about reading everything else Carriger has written. (I'm still working on it and enjoying every minute.) You might think, like I did, that Victorian steampunk crossed with vampires and werewolves isn't your jam. Well, you're wrong. Read these! You'll thank me later. 

The Fire from Heaven series by Ava Martell -- I picked the first one up because it was about Lucifer, and I was suffering during the drought between seasons 3 and 4 of Lucifer the TV show. Martell's Lucifer is more serious, but still great fun, and she's built a rich story world for her characters to play in. Add some swoony romance and plenty of angst, and I'm a goner! 

Kiss of Steel by Bec McMaster -- More Victorian steampunk with vampires and werewolves, but this time of the sexy and angsty variety. Great worldbuilding! There's a lot more to this series, and I can't wait to dig in. Guess where my Christmas money is going!!!

Soul on Fire by Tal Bauer -- Another fantastic book from Tal Bauer. I really loved both of the leads (Ikolo and Elliott) as well as the African setting. Once again, Bauer puts you firmly in both men's shoes as they fight to stop a terrorist from hatching a horrible plan. There are some unexpected twists, and the story feels very real (and possible). I also liked how Bauer truly shined a light on the problems that plague Africa and her people and on the systemic racism that Elliott faces in the United States, instead of treating these issues as mere plot points. After seeing the problems that Ikolo and the people of Africa face, Elliott realizes that while his problems are big, theirs are enormous, and he's inspired by Ikolo to try to be part of the solution.

Bauer is truly talented; his books aren't just page-turners. They dig into the issues the lead characters face and give you some insight into what's going on around the world in cultures that aren't as frequently explored as they ought to be.

Ruined by Fen Wilde -- As with Close (a truly excellent book), Fen Wilde writes a complex, multi-layered story of complicated, true-to-life characters. I found myself puzzling over this story and characters for days after reading it, and I thank the author for writing a story that made me think long and hard about race, the immigrant experience, and the kind of psychological damage that people can inflict through the best of intentions. Fen Wilde is truly a writer to watch, and I look forward to whatever she does next.

Enemy Within & Enemy Games by Marcella Burnard -- I'm ashamed to say that Enemy Within sat on my bookshelf unread for WAY too long. I'm glad I finally picked it up because it had everything I love in a story -- impossible conflicts, twists I never saw coming, and leads who truly complement each other and are both worthy of the labels "hero" and "heroine." The same is true of the follow-up, Enemy Games. I hope more books are coming in this series, because I'm not ready to leave it yet. If you love sci-fi romance (or even if you think you don't), pick these books up now!

Favorite TV shows of 2019

Supernatural -- This final season of my all-time favorite show is the best kind of torment. Yes, it's been fifteen wonderful years, but I'm not ready to say goodbye to my boys, not ready one bit. Thank you, thank you, thank you, Jensen Ackles, Jared Padalecki, Misha Collins, and the rest of this fine cast and crew for giving it your all, and for being most-excellent people in real life as well. 

The Rookie -- The Rookie was my favorite new show of 2018, and it got even better in its second season. Nathan Fillion is great as usual, but the rest of the cast is equally good, and the storylines are compelling. Again and again this show asks: What makes a good cop? What makes a great one? And can you lead with your heart, or will that get you killed? 

Peaky Blinders -- How did I go so many years without watching this show??? Cillian Murphy is phenomenal as Thomas Shelby, the head of a crime family in post-WWI Britain. Shelby is a fascinating character, by turns cynical and mercenary, fiercely loyal to his family, and unabashedly in love with a woman who's just as complicated as he is. 

Deadwood, the movie -- Deadwood fans waited forever for this movie, and we were not disappointed. Okay -- it would have been great to have several more hours (years!) to wrap everything up, but what we got was fantastic. And even though not everyone got the HEA I was hoping for, I loved every minute. If you've never watched this show, drop what you're doing and pick up the remote!  

9-1-1 -- Yes, it can be (and often is) over the top, and I love every second of it. I especially love the characters. My hat's off to Ryan Murphy for building a show around a cast that's diverse not just in terms of race and sexual orientation, but also in age. I look forward to every episode!

Schitt's Creek -- Another show I took way too long to discover! I was in stitches from the very first episode and settled in for what I thought would be a cynical snarkfest. But the writers (father and son Eugene and Daniel Levy, who play father and son John and David Rose) surprised me by bringing real heart to the show. The romances between David and Patrick, Alexis and Ted, and John and Moira have been a pleasant surprise, as has the revelation that the Roses' lives are far richer now that they don't have any money. Catch up on Netflix now before season 6 debuts in January!

What We Do in the Shadows -- My hands-down favorite new show of 2019! If you loved The Office or Flight of the Conchords or if the idea of a vampire mockumentary sounds good to you (or even if it doesn't), check this show out. Every episode is absolutely hilarious. And so is the original WWDITS movie. You'll never look at crepe paper, traffic cones, or topiary sculptures the same way again. 

Evil -- I wasn't sure what to expect when I tuned in to this show. I'd heard it compared to The X-Files, and sure, it has a bit of that vibe in the believer/nonbeliever dynamic of a priest in training and the psychologist who works with him as they investigate possible cases of demonic possession. But Evil isn't just a "monster of the week" show. It's an intriguing examination of faith, the supernatural, and science, and the show refuses to come down on one side or the other of the argument. And with a truly chilling villain (is he a demon or is he a psychopath?) circling the two investigators and invading their lives without them quite knowing it, I'm hooked!  

Mindhunter -- I meant to check out this show about the beginnings of the FBI's Behavioral Sciences unit last year, but I lost track of it somehow. Fortunately, I was reminded of it when season 2 debuted this year, and I was hooked from the very first episode. The blend of fact and fiction isn't always easy to watch (many real-life cases and killers are featured and the details of the cases are often gruesome), but the characters are intriguingly complex, no matter which side of the law they're on. 

Prodigal Son -- I was curious to see what Tom Payne would do after leaving The Walking Dead, and I'm so very glad he decided to take on the character of Malcolm Bright -- brilliant forensic profiler and utter basketcase. Malcolm chases murderers, and he's exceptionally good at it because he grew up around a famous serial killer -- his father. The interplay between Malcolm and his dad -- who may or may not have involved Malcolm in his crimes -- is the best kind of cat and mouse game. Are the haunting images that plague Malcolm the product of a fractured psyche or are they repressed memories? And if they are memories, what does that mean for Malcolm? 

Lucifer -- Thank you, thank you, thank you, Netflix for rescuing Lucifer and giving it a new lease on life. Season 4 was funnier, sexier, and better than ever as Lucifer and Chloe deal with her realization that Lucifer is in fact, a devil of his word and always has been. While I'm sad that season 5 will be its last, I'm overjoyed that we got to spend more time with this fine cast. I can't wait to see what they cook up next year! 

Ozark -- A master class in acting and writing. Every episode of this show about a financial planner (Marty Byrde) turned money launderer for a drug cartel ups the ante. I tuned in for Jason Bateman, and I'm so glad I did. He does some of his finest work here, as does Lauren Linney playing his wife. But the real revelation of the show is Julia Garner, who plays a low-level local criminal the Byrdes get entangled with. Her character, Ruth, desperately wants a better life than she's been stuck with, and she sees an opportunity when Marty reluctantly involves her in his schemes. At first they're adversaries, and then they come to care about each other in a father-daughter relationship that neither one expected or wanted. One of the best surprises of the show is that the female characters are exceptionally well-drawn, with storylines as compelling as Marty's. I can't wait to see where the next season of this show goes. No doubt I'll be on the edge of my seat the whole time! 

Saturday, December 14, 2019

50% off SALE on 2020 Seattle Readers & Writers Event tickets!

Woot! Here's your chance to get 50% off on tickets to the July 18th, 2020 Readers & Writers Seattle event! I've signed at this event the last two years (and I'll be there again in 2020) and I absolutely love it.

General Admission and After-Party tickets are only $7 with the promo code HOLIDAYSPECIAL, so get your tickets now! (Offer ends December 31st)