Saturday, December 30, 2023

Favorite books, TV shows, and movies of 2022 and 2023

I try to do this every year, but 2022 didn't go as planned, so here's the round-up of what I loved in 2022 and 2023. 

Favorite books of 2022 and 2023

Crudrat, The 5th Gender, and the Tinkered Starsong series by Gail Carriger
-- I loved, loved, loved Gail Carriger's steampunk series, but I wasn't sure about her pivot to sci-fi. Was I ever wrong. I LOVED these books and couldn't read them fast enough! I can't wait to see where Carriger goes next in the Tinkered universe. 

The Interstellar Angel and Dark Witch series by Laura Navarre
-- If you love reverse harem, look no farther. Both of these series feature amazing worldbuilding, kickass characters, and sex that is off-the-charts HOT. No one writes RH as well as Navarre!!! 

The Stillhouse Lake series by Rachel Caine
-- Caine puts a new spin on the "woman in jeopardy" theme by featuring a heroine who learns to her absolute horror that she's been happily married to a serial killer. Even from behind bars, he refuses to let her go, and the way she's stalked and harassed by both his followers and the families of his victims is relentless throughout the series. And yet Gwen manages to find a way forward for herself and her family by helping other people who are caught in similarly horrible circumstances. This would make an excellent TV series! 

The Immortal Doc Holliday series by MM Crumley -- We're 14 books into the Immortal Doc Holliday series, and it just keeps getting better. If you're in a funk, pick up this series today. Funny, inventive, and a rollicking good adventure in each installment. Plus, with the charming, inveterate rascal Doc Holliday as the lead, you know you're in for a damn good time! The good-natured banter and bickering between Doc and his crew -- talking plant Thaddeus, vampire Jervis, and witch Jury -- just adds to the fun. I've laughed out loud dozens of times while reading this series, and I'm eagerly looking forward to more. I would love to see these books get turned into a TV or movie series! I also recommend Crumley's "The Legend of Andrew Rufus" series -- it's a great companion to this one, and gives more insights into Doc and his world. 

The Mercenary Librarians series by Kit Rocha -- Post-apocalyptic librarians save the world? Sign me up! The kickass, genetically enhanced heroines and heroes of this series all have hearts of gold (even if they REALLY don't want to show it), and the genuine love, caring, and teamwork between them make this series really shine. If you loved the Beyond series by Kit Rocha, buy this one, stat!

Favorite TV shows of 2022 and 2023

The Witcher -- This series got even better in season 3. Cirri is growing up, and threats to her and the world are intensifying. I'm not sure how the series will go on without Henry Cavill, but I'm looking forward to season 4. 

Bridgerton and Queen Charlotte --  The second season of Bridgerton was just as much fun as the first (though sadly, it's missing Rege-Jean Page -- be still my heart!). The real surprise for me was how much I loved Queen Charlotte. We get so much insight into the queen's and Lady Danbury's early years, and there's also a poignant storyline for Violet Bridgerton as well. Can't wait for season 3 of Bridgerton!

What We Do in the Shadows
 -- Season 4 features some of my favorite episodes ever -- Pride Parade had me laughing so hard I was literally crying. Don't know what it's about? Think The Office meets vampires, but like, really incompetent vampires. Trust me, you'll love it. (Bonus: The movie it's based on is hilarious too!)

The Rookie
 -- This show just keeps getting better and better. I love all of the characters, and the stories have remained intense and thought-provoking. Even though Nathan Fillion is the star, each character is well-drawn and has their own storyline. While John's story was the one that drew me in, the other characters -- Lucy and Tim, Nila, and Angela and Wesley -- are just as engaging and lovable. I'm so happy that Lucy and Tim FINALLY got together!!! Can't wait for the next season! I'm very sad that its companion show, The Rookie: Feds, starring Niecy Nash-Betts, got cancelled after just one season. It was funny, fierce, and so much fun. I'm going to miss it. 

-- If you're not watching this, you're really missing out. Okay, yes, it's yet ANOTHER doctor show. And yet it's not. Set in Canada, it's about a Syrian doctor. Bashir's quick thinking and years of scrappiness and improvisation in war-torn Syria make him a great fit for an ER, but sometimes they're his downfall. The tensions between his past, his family life, and his new job make for great TV. The secondary characters are all well-drawn and make this show a cut above many others, and the romance between Bash and Maggie is both sweet and realistic.  

 -- Stalker Joe Greenberg should be no one's hero. He's a mess, falling obsessively in love with woman after woman, and when things don't work out, he's prone to making life-altering mistakes... including murder. And yet, I can't help rooting for the guy to sort his life out. He so wants to stop what he's doing and live a normal life. By the end of season 4, it appears that Joel has kind of gotten himself together, but will it last? We'll find out in season 5. 

Ted Lasso -- A show about an American college football coach who goes to England to coach a failing soccer team is NOT something I ever thought I'd enjoy. But I LOVED this show with every bit of my heart. It made me laugh so much, and also cry at times. There are so many great characters on this show, all of them so well-drawn, and the storylines are sweet, funny, and often touching. Excellent from start to finish! 

-- Imagine literally not knowing what you did all day at work. The characters in Severance have all undergone a procedure that blocks them from accessing their workday memories outside of work (and vice versa). But when one of them starts to realize that there's a sinister side to their inscrutable workplace, the secrets he and his co-workers uncover lead to disturbing revelations. Like the characters, you have no idea what's going on either, and as the true nature of what they're doing and why is revealed, you'll be as fascinated and horrified as they are. The first season ends on a hell of a cliffhanger, and I wish season 2 was here already!

Star Trek: Picard
-- The first two seasons of Picard were a bit uneven (though still very good), but the third and final season is the satisfying and poignant wrap-up that Picard and the Star Trek: TNG characters deserve. I loved every minute, and I actually cried at the end, it was so well-done. 
The addition of Ed Speelers as Jack Crusher was genius, and I hope that the Star Trek: Legacy show that's teased at the end happens! 

The Mandalorian
-- I've always loved Star Trek more than Star Wars, but this show grabbed me and wouldn't let go.
 The relationship between the Mandalorian and Grogu is funny and heartfelt. How Pedro Pascal makes you care -- despite having to act 99% of the time behind that mask -- is beyond me, but it truly works. Be sure to watch Boba Fett to get the complete story. 

The Last of Us
-- Speaking of Pedro Pascal being the best adopted dad anyone could want, he does it again in The Last of Us, when he takes orphaned Ellie under his wing for a journey across a post-apocalyptic America that's under siege from zombie-like hordes of people who've been infected with a fungus that turns them into mindless spreaders of the infection. Ellie is immune to the infection, and Joel is taking her to researchers who think she can help them develop a cure. I cried so many times while watching this show, especially during the episode that focused on two side characters, Bill and Frank, who meet and fall in love during the chaos. Their love story unfolds in only 60 minutes, but by the end of it, you'll be a puddle. Can't wait for season 2!

Star Trek: Strange New Worlds
-- I loved, loved, loved Anson Mount's portrayal of Captain Christopher Pike in Star Trek: Discovery, and I couldn't wait for the first season of Strange New Worlds. It did not disappoint! If Discovery was too different for you (I loved it, but I know some folks didn't), Strange New Worlds is as close to the original series as you're going to get, but it's even better. I love the entire cast, and season 2 was even better than season 1. Can't wait for more!

Sex Education
 -- Poor Otis. His mom Jean (played by the remarkable Gillian Anderson) is a sex therapist, a fact that Otis is continually embarrassed by. That is, until he finds himself handing out sex advice to his hapless classmates at the urging of his gay best friend Eric and the school bad girl, Maeve (who keeps her keen intelligence a secret) in a scheme to make cash. The love lives and friendships between Otis and his friends -- and Jean's messy romantic past and present -- collide in a funny and delightful fashion. The whole cast is wonderful, with Ncuti Gatwa as Eric a particular standout. His portrayal of Eric is heartbreaking, hopeful, and sweet, and Gatwa lights up the screen every time he appears. The final season wraps everything up beautifully. I'm really going to miss all of these lovely characters and their hilarious, touching, and raunchy mishaps. 

-- I fell hard for this show in season 1, and season 2 did not disappoint! Great characters, great writing, and a wicked sense of humor make this show a delight. By turns gruesome, scary, thrilling, sexy, touching, and snarky, it's one of the few shows where I can't predict what's coming next. Need more now! 

Favorite movies of 2022 and 2023

There's so much amazing TV out there that I don't see nearly as many movies as I used to. But here are a few that stand out. 

The John Wick series
-- The worldbuilding in these was the cherry on top! Each movie exposed a new layer of this universe of assassins, and each movie put John through yet more mayhem. Are these movies believable? Not even close. Are they a lot of kickass fun? Hell yes! 

-- I hardly knew how to feel after watching this glorious and profane look at the Silent Film Era of Hollywood and how the shift to "talkies" -- and the imposition of the Hays "morality" Code -- destroyed so many of its early stars. The characters played by Margot Robbie, Diego Calva, and Brad Pitt all go through their own journeys, and only one of them survives to look back on all of the hedonism and insanity of those years. This is NOT a family-friendly movie, so be warned. It's both a celebration and a critique of Hollywood. Despite its three-hour run time, I was never bored, and I've thought about it many times since seeing it. 

-- I loved this much more than I expected, from the "2001" parody at the beginning to the very end, when the Barbies smash patriarchy. The highlight of course is America Ferrara's "It is literally impossible to be a woman" speech. I hardly expected the Barbie movie to end up being more or less a feminist manifesto, but kudos to the filmmakers and Mattel for doing it.  

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