This year I read a lot less than I normally do. I spent a lot of time reading magazines or listening to podcasts. The theme of the year seemed to be a short attention span. I did not want long books or even to watch movies. I was more interested in something that would occupy my time for about 30 minutes to an hour. But I did squeeze in some really great reads during the year too. Below are my top 10 picks from 2021!
This is one of the most delightful and relaxing shows I’ve ever watched! After a long day this show is just what I want to snuggle in and watch. A British couple with two small children decide to buy a French chateau that is literally falling down and turn it into their home and business. You soon find out they are both amazingly talented and they are a joy to watch!
Book & TV Show : Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy
I LOVE shows about food, and Stanly Tucci so this is a win-win for me! You get to watch as Stanly eats and drinks his way around Italy while imparting wisdom and fun little tidbits about the area he’s in.
Shortly after I binged Searching for Italy, the book Taste: My Life Through Food was released. Stanley writes sweetly about food and how it has shaped his life. It’s an amazing read and I’ve put it on my Christmas list.
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Podcast: Read or Dead
Read or Dead is a bi-weekly mystery fiction podcast dedicated to the worlds of mystery and thriller literature. However, I think it’s so much more than that. They hit on a lot of sub-genres and every time I listen to it my to be read list gets even more ridiculous than it already is.
You can find it on all podcast platforms.
I just finally jumped on the vinyl bandwagon. I had a little 45 player when I was around 5 years old and apparently I wore out a Go-Go’s record and my mothers patience. Now, many years later I purchased a new record player and have started slowly buying records.
I found this hidden gem a few months ago and have been waiting until Christmas day to play it. Let’s hope it’s as glorious as I think it’s going to be!
Summary: Stars of the Outlander TV show, Graham McTavish and Sam Heughan, take the reader on a journey through a year in Scotland. They cover important figures, dates, and events in the Scottish year.
My Thoughts: I really enjoy the bromance between these two men. They pick at each other good-naturedly but genuinely like each other’s company. While entertaining the reader they bring some really fascinating information about Scotland. I enjoyed the personal touches as well including stories about young Graham and Sam in Scotland and how they interacted with important sights in their native homeland. Plus adding some more items to my bucket list I also found a few whisky recommendations. I am not a whisky drinker but when I visit Edinburgh this spring I plan to taste a little to experience the Scottish life.
This is a perfect addition to their previous book, Clanlands, and their show, Men in Kilts. I would highly recommend each of these if you are planning a trip to Scotland or love Outlander.
FYI: Definitely go for the audiobook on CloudLibrary with your Kansas library card.
First Line: “I remember, in no particular order: –a shiny inner wrist; –steam rising from a wet sink as a hot frying pan is laughingly tossed into it…”
Summary: Tony has lived a relatively unremarkable yet comfortable life and is now retired. He was married and divorced, but remains friends with his ex-wife. They have a good relationship with their adult daughter who now has a family of her own. After receiving a letter notifying him that his former girlfriend’s mother has left him a couple of things in her will, Tony begins a journey of reflection and reexamination, thinking back on his youth—his idealism, his friends, and the brief but formative relationship he shared with Veronica. This piece of mail also puts him back in touch with Veronica, whom he finds as enigmatic, frustrating, and exciting as when he was young.
My Thoughts: You know how you can be staring out the window and to an outsider it may look like you’re doing nothing but really there’s a lot happening behind the eyes? That’s a bit what this book is like. It is a man, past his middle-age, ruminating. The action is mainly of the thinking variety. And I’ve been thinking about Tony and his life and my life and how much you can know yourself or another person ever since. But because I’m also a simple being who is completely satisfied in life with a beverage and a good meal, this book also makes me want to take myself out to dinner at a cozy pub and order a bitter and fish & chips.
FYI: I’ve just now discovered that this book was turned into a movie with a stellar cast including Jim Broadbent and Charlotte Rampling.
First line: Leonie presses her palm to the outside of the shop window.
Summary: Ruby has spent many nights watching her neighbor do yoga. She is startled when she notices his previously unknown family. After a chance encounter with her neighbor she is invited into his world. Even though she is drawn to Gregor she feels that she cannot interfere with his family. But as she gets to know Gregor, Constance and their daughter, Leonie, she finds out that the Gregor she knows is not the same as the one seen by his family. With each encounter, Ruby becomes more convinced that Constance and Leonie need to leave and she plans to help them.
My Thoughts: Melanie Golding does a great job again by merging a thriller with mythical events. In the story, Ruby believes that Constance has some mental issues when she talks of her life in the sea. How does this woman believe that she was once a seal?! And as a reader I kept wondering if I believed her or not too. It seems outlandish but also Constance really believes it to be true.
The story is told during different time hops. We see Ruby’s sister dealing with the near death of man in his bathtub, Ruby meeting Gregor and memories of a man who has done some dastardly deeds. As a reader you know that it is all leading to one point but how it’s going to get there is the fun of it. When everything comes together it was shocking. There are many little things from Gregor’s past that make the story thrilling. I could not wait to get to the end as I was reading. It was an elaborate cat and mouse game until the very end! And I was not disappointed.
FYI: Thriller with a mystical twist.
*This can be found on Hoopla in eBook and eAudiobook form.
The Nanny is a reliable old favorite, perfect for relaxing after a day of non-stop social interaction. Fran Drescher is charming in the title role. The stories get convoluted, often, but you watch it for the humor; and who doesn’t love Niles and C. C.?
I have the DVD, but it is now available on HBO Max and Prime Video.
I saw Almost Christmas for the first time. Gabrielle Union, one of my favorite actresses, portrays perfectly the awkward girl-next-door we all know, Mo’Nique shines in anything, and Danny Glover is substantial as the family patriarch. It’s a good family comedy with some high-key dramatic moments.
Available for streaming on Prime Video and for checkout as a DVD through KanShare Libraries.
I recently read Gabrielle Union’s second memoir You got anything stronger?: Stories. She’s intimate and self-aware, sharing her journey in self-development and overcoming adversity as a black actress in Hollywood, as a mother, and as a woman. I believe it will inspire others to share their stories.
Demon Days is Gorillaz’ second album and one of my all-time favorites. When it came out, I was in college, going through early-adulthood growing pains, and it spoke to me. “Feel Good Inc.” was the big single, played a lots of nightclubs, but I also like “Dare”, “Dirty Harry”, and “Demon Days. I couldn’t recommend it highly enough. I only recently learned that Damon Albarn from Blur co-created the Gorillaz, with comic book creator Jamie Hewlett, as a satire of the music industry.
Available on iTunes and for checkout as a CD through KanShare Libraries.
Video Game: Sumikko Gurashi
I started playing Sumikko Gurashi™ Gonna Make a Garden because I wanted something to do when I need a break from Pokémon Go. Perfect for Kawaii fans and Farmville nostalgics, it combines crop and product management with set-building, as you gain plots of land, facilities, decorations, and increased productivity as you progress. You can also make friends in-game and send them gifts.
First line & Summary: To the children of J. R. R. Tolkien, the interest and importance of Father Christmas extended beyond his filling of their stocking on Christmas Eve; for he wrote a letter to them every year, in which he described in words and pictures his house, his friends, and the events, hilarious or alarming, at the North Pole.
My Thoughts:The Hobbit is one of my all-time favorite books. I have read it numerous times, I own several copies, watched all the movies and even have a lanyard with the map on it. Tolkien wrote magical worlds filled with interesting characters and I have loved each story. However, I had never seen this book before.
I figured since it is Christmas time that this book would be a perfect quick read. It is beautifully created using images of the letters and drawings that Tolkien wrote to his children from Father Christmas. Each year he builds on the stories and characters such as Polar Bear and the snow babies and their shenanigans. As he brings to life the world at the North Pole he also reminds his kids about some of the hardships that other families are dealing with during the depression era and beginning of the Second World War.
I am glad that the author decided to transcribe the letters because they can be a little hard to read at times but being able to see the actual letters makes them even more enchanting. I can imagine the kids’ joy when they received the letter from Father Christmas. I am very thankful that the family saved and shared these little peeks into the lives of the Tolkien Christmas tradition.
First line: When Samuel Johnson published his Dictionary of the English Language in 1755, more than two hundred years after Holbein’s death, he understood a biographer to be ‘A writer of lives; a relator not of the history of nations, but of the actions of particular persons.’
Summary: Hans Holbein was the court painter to Henry VIII of England. But even though he achieved stardom at the English court he started as the son of painter in Augsburg, Germany. He learned his trade from his father and worked his way up the social ladder with introductions for well-known clients until he reached the height of his career. Using his talent, he brought the world the best known portraits of the Tudor court including the king himself, his courtiers and several of his wives.
My Thoughts: I have loved Holbein’s work ever since I became interested in the Tudor period. His art is beyond his time. He brings life to his subjects making them almost appear in 3D. Many of his works survive and there are probably some still to be discovered. The few that I have seen are outstanding in their detail.
I really enjoyed this look into Holbein’s life. Before reading this I basically knew his name and his works. I learned a lot about the time period in which he lived, his rise through friendships with Erasmus and Thomas More, and the lives of painters in the sixteenth century. I always assumed that someone who worked for the court was well off but many painters struggled to make enough for their families. There are many rules surrounding the painters’ world including inclusions in guilds and requirements of marriage. I found this to be a great insight into another world inside the one I already knew from my years of reading Tudor history.
Moyle’s biography can be fairly dense with information but I found it easy to read. She follows a linear storytelling while she explains the culture and religious tensions of the time and how they affected the young painter.
The book includes color prints of some of his father’s works (Hans Holbein the Elder), early religious works (Hans Holbein the younger), and his portraits from the royal courts.
Playing piano is one of my favorite hobbies. I have played on and off for about 7 years. I love playing Disney songs like The Colors of the Wind from Pocahontas. I also enjoy playing classical music and one of my favorites is the Moonlight Sonata. I have performed in several places and was part of my former schools’ piano club, serving as vice president.
The TV show Psych is about 2 best friends who run a psych business. It is a comedy mystery and will make you laugh out loud. I enjoy watching it because it makes me laugh, but also allows for my brain to work by trying to solve the mystery before the actors on screen do.
My favorite movie is The Princess Bride. I have watched this movie over and over again and memorized half the lines and it never gets old. I love the whole movie, but I like some parts more than others. This movie takes us on an adventure of love, mystery, wonder, and action. Westley, the main character, is off on an adventure to save his beloved from an evil prince. Despite it sounding like an all-around Disney fairy tale it is anything but that. It has blood, sabotage, backstabbing and peoples’ worst fears tied up into one amazing and thrilling movie.
My favorite book is The False Prince, written by Jennifer A. Neilson. This book is an action packed, thrill giving, hilarious, and mysterious book. It is about several young boys who are being tested to become a false prince. The story goes into depth on how they were trained and life before being kidnapped and forced to train with other boys who all look somewhat similar to each other. We follow the boy who gets picked to be the false prince and see the struggles he faces. This book is fun for any age and I would strongly recommend it to anyone who is stuck on what to read next.
I love listening to country because the tune can get stuck in your head but when you need it to go away it does. A few of my favorite country artists are Gabby Barrett, Luke Combs and George Strait. A few of my favorite songs are, I Cross My Heart by George Strait and One of the Good Ones by Gabby Barrett.
Music CDs by George Strait, Gabby Barrett and Luke Combs available in the KanShare catalog. Digital music by George Strait and Gabby Barrett available through Hoopla.