My reading tastes tend to be pretty straightforward. I read non-fiction history, classic British mysteries and science fiction fantasy. I don’t read quite as much sci-fi/fantasy as I used to, but L. E. Modesitt remains one of my favorite authors.
Isolate is the first book in his newest series. It is set in a steampunk world with steamers (steam powered automobiles) and the beginnings of an industrial age. There are empaths who can detect emotions in others and use their feelings to protect or attack, susceptibles who are particularly able to be influenced by empaths, and isolates who are immune to empaths. While not devoid of action, much of the writing focuses around political intrigue and an exploration of issues that face society and government. I definitely enjoy the world building and the exploration of character that Modesitt portrays in this book. This is definitely a book I would recommend for those who enjoy reading intricate fantasy novels.
This is probably my favorite album of all time. Growing up in the 80s and 90s, I have always been a huge fan of the pop punk scene. This album started all of that for me. At the time, it was the highest grossing indie album ever, though I had no idea of that. I enjoyed that they sang about real life events but didn’t take themselves too seriously. It has quite a bit of strong language; I remember playing this cassette on the stereo in my room and having to turn it down whenever there was an extended bout of swearing. I don’t listen to The Offspring quite as much as I used to (I have two children with me much of the time), but they definitely remain a favorite.
Available to stream here or any music streaming services.
Hobby: Home Brewing
I really enjoy tasting craft beer and am a huge fan of Central Standard Brewing. However, there is a lot to be said for making something yourself, which is what got me into home brewing. I started simply about 10 years ago as an extract brewer with kits that I purchased online. Extract brewing involves taking a malt syrup extract or powder, boiling it with 3 or so gallons of water on your stove while adding hops and then putting it into a vessel to ferment. When it is done fermenting, you add some sugar and bottle it up. In 4 to 6 weeks you have beer.
I made some good beer this way, but when you are a home brewer you are always looking to up your game. At the start of the pandemic and unable to visit many of our favorite places, my friend and I decided to recommit to home brewing. He has an all grain system in his garage, so we started brewing exclusively on that. We began to develop our own recipes and have produced some excellent beer. While brewing does require a high level of cleanliness and precision, it is definitely a rewarding hobby. It’s a lot of fun to share a beer with your friends and hear, “You brewed this? It’s really good!”
TV Show: Castle
Growing up, I used to watch a show called Murder She Wrote with my mother. We both enjoyed its lighthearted nature and trying to figure out the killer before the reveal.
Fast forward twenty or so years, and my wife introduced me to a show called Castle. Just like Murder She Wrote, it features a mystery writer who solves murders when the police appear to be baffled. The two leads, Nathan Fillion and Stana Katic, have great chemistry that makes the show fun to watch. I enjoy the witty repartee and discovering who the killer is. True, it’s a bit more intense than Murder She Wrote, but it’s still a fun show. Like many long running TV series, I would definitely saw that the first three seasons are the best, though the series remains fun throughout.
Book:Last night a DJ saved my life: The history of the disc jockey by Bill Brewster
As a member of the MTV generation, I love music, especially techno, electronica, and house music, and this book dives deep into range of music scenes, from Chicago house music to Balearic beats and much more. You’ll find narratives about the top DJs, including Frankie Knuckles and Jose Padilla, and learn about their backgrounds and their approaches to mixing.
Luxury is one of my all-time favorite albums from one of my all-time favorite DJs, Fantastic Plastic Machine, and it’s been on repeat in my iTunes for weeks. Like many Shibuya-kei albums, it’s a mix of electronica, syncopated samba and bossa nova rhythms, and kitschy ‘60s sounds, especially from French pop music.
My favorite singles are “Honolulu, Calcutta” and “Bossa for Jackie,” but I love every track.
Phryne Fisher, a former street-urchin who, thanks to a large inheritance and experience as a nurse in the Great War, has transformed into a most glamorous private detective. After showing quick-wit in capturing in jewel thief, Miss Fisher is hired by a colonel to investigate the suspected poisoning of his daughter, Lydia. She throws caution to the wind and sets sail for Melbourne, but her hometown has become dangerous in her absence. Between the main suspect, Lydia’s husband, turning up dead, and an illegal abortion market, it’s anyone’s guess whether she’ll track down the culprit or get eliminated. Having enjoyed Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, I knew I’d like the novels. This first one is definitely superior to the show, fast-paced and complex. I’d recommend it for anyone who enjoys cozy mysteries.
Visit: Tacos from Roadrunner Mexican Fast Food in Wichita
I find myself gravitating toward Roadrunner when I don’t want to cook, which, to be honest, has been more often lately. It’s also reasonably close to my house. They have all sorts of good food, but I love their simple beef tacos best. You should check it out when you’re in the area.
Visit their website for location and more information.
When Lux and her boyfriend are hired to sail two women to a remote island for a large chunk of change, it seems like the opportunity of a lifetime. After a few days at sea, Meroe Island is every bit the paradise they expect, despite a mysterious history of shipwrecks, cannibalism, and even rumors of murder. And when one person goes missing and another turns up dead, Lux begins to wonder if any of them will make it off the island alive.
There is quite a bit of tension and unease throughout this book. What seems to be a light and fun time suddenly becomes a nightmare. Nothing major happens in this book until about a third of the way into it, and then it becomes fast-paced and full of action. It all happens so quickly, so I think the ending could have been a little tidier, but otherwise, this is an interesting island thriller!
The long-awaited season four of Stranger Things came out this summer and… WOW! I watched seasons one through three in a several-day-long binge with my husband in 2019, so we have been patiently waiting for the story to continue for the past few years. Season four came out in two parts, and for each one, we spent the day hunkered down binge-watching! I am so excited about how the plot is progressing in the series. If you have no clue what Stranger Things is about, here is a summary.
“When Will Byers suddenly goes missing, the whole town of Hawkins, Indiana, turns upside down. Many people search for Will, including his mother Joyce, his brother Jonathan, his friends Mike, Dustin, Lucas, Police Chief Jim Hopper, and a few others. But one thing leads to another, creating a supernatural trail. And things get even weirder when a girl, Eleven, comes into the story. She has telekinetic powers and is on the run from the Hawkins Laboratory. The laboratory is researching supernatural phenomena and might have unwittingly unlocked a gateway to another dimension.” (imdb.com)
If you have not watched Stranger Things yet, I recommend hopping on the bandwagon because the next season will be the final season!
Available to stream on Netflix.
Hobby:MadFit for Lifestyle/Health
When the world shut down in 2020, we all had to find ways to live our lives within our own four walls. Working out is something I enjoy, and I go to the gym nearly every day. I like working out in a way that works strength and mobility, but not in a way that makes me feel like I am dying (no offense runners). I discovered the YouTube channel MadFit in my search on how to do at-home workouts without equipment. Maddie Lymburner runs the channel and offers workouts for literally everything. HIIT workouts, dance workouts, stretching, strength, and anything else you can think of. Even now that the gyms are open again, I have her workouts written down in my notes on my phone, so I do them there too.
Recently, she has created an app where you can pay for a subscription to keep you on track with your fitness goals. This app helps track your diet and make workout plans designed for your needs. I just like to use the free YouTube videos, but this is a great option for anyone who might want a little more structure with getting started!
Available to watch here and the MadFit app can be downloaded on the App store or Google Play.
Music: Harry’s House
Oh boy, do I love a good Harry Styles album. Harry’s House is the third solo album from Harry since the band he was in, One Direction, went on a hiatus. Many may not know, but I was an avid Directioner (still am), which is what One Direction fans called themselves back in 2012. While I occasionally listen to the other four member’s solo music, Harry’s has consistently been my favorite. I have even gotten my family to be fans of the music. Harry’s House ranks second on my list of his albums. My absolute favorite is the first album, Harry Styles, and third is Fine Line. All are amazing, and I recommend you give them a listen if you haven’t already. My favorite songs from the new album are Matilda and Daydreaming.
Here is 12-year-old me pumped to get a magazine with One Direction on the cover for my birthday. I guess I am just as big of a fan girl as I was ten years ago!
Stream the album here or any music streaming platform.
This is one of those books that will stay with me forever. The Center of Everything is about Evelyn and her journey from childhood to the end of high school in a small town in Kansas. She’s being raised by a single mother and has a younger brother with mental development issues. Evelyn is an intelligent girl with a lot of opportunity, but she’s battling poverty and being raised on a single income.
I loved everything about this book. The timeline didn’t feel slow at all, and the progression from her being a young girl to an almost college student felt natural. She’s spunky and funny, and though it can feel easy to feel frustrated at her sometimes, remembering she’s a young fictional girl dealing with a lot of grown-up issues really sets the story in perspective. Evelyn deals with religious questioning and peer pressure all throughout the book, as well as figuring out her relationship and feelings towards her mother. These difficult topics in this book hit hard, and the way Evelyn deals with it all is realistic for a teenage girl just trying to figure out life. The other characters in this book are also well written, in my opinion. No one is perfect, and there are a lot of characters I feel like I’ve met before. Another thing I liked about this book was that it was set back in the 1980s, so seeing how a young Kansas girl’s life was back then was cool. I am so glad that I was able to read this book as a young adult because I feel like a lot of my teenage memories are still fresh, so I was able to really immerse myself in Evelyn’s world, a world that was very similar to mine.
It’s been years since I’ve binge watched a show in one sitting, but Under the Banner of Heaven changed that. I had seen the book being checked out quite frequently and noticed it had a large hold list, but I’d never given it much thought until I saw it being advertised on the home page of Hulu. From the first episode, I was hooked. The story and characters were intriguing, so I had to keep watching. The story centers on the Mormon faith and a real-life murder in Utah. Andrew Garfield plays a fictional detective, but his character was by far my favorite. His personal dilemma keeps the show interesting, and I loved his interactions with any of the characters on the show. The show goes between past, present, and historical times, which I did like because it helped set context for what was going on. Because of how fantastic this show was to watch, I am now reading the nonfiction book on which it was based.
The show has seven episodes, and each is about an hour long. Viewer discretion is advised for topics such as religion, abuse, abuse of children, and murder.
Available on Hulu and we do have the book the show is based available to check out here.
Music/Album: Un Verano Sin Ti
Have you listened to Bad Bunny’s Un Verano Sin Ti? I would be surprised if you haven’t, seeing that the album is the most streamed album so far this year, earning 357 million streams just on the Spotify app on its debut day.
Besides listening to every music genre under the sun in English, I also grew up listening to just about every music genre in Spanish. Reggaeton quickly became one of my favorite genres when I was little, as it was a mix of Latin and Caribbean sounds paired with American hip-hop rap and music. It’s a fun genre that I will never get tired of. Bad Bunny is a modern reggaeton artist from Puerto Rico, influenced by the same classic artists I grew up listening to. His most popular album, YHLQMDG, is regarded as one of the most important albums in reggaeton music. His newest album was no exception to that popularity.
The album title in English is “A Summer Without You,” and it makes the perfect summer playlist for a day by the pool or at the beach. Each song is danceable and no song is just like the last, as Bad Bunny experimented a lot with this album. There are a lot of sounds that are familiar to me, but that is because he samples old songs from the many genres I grew up with, like merengue or hip-hop. The album has two sides, with one being pure party and the other being easier to listen to. Side B has a lot of political songs with great messages, all tied together with instrumentals rarely seen on a party album. Nonetheless, Un Verano Sin Ti is still a high energy album for sure, and I make sure to play any song at the loudest volume possible. I can listen to this album at any time, it doesn’t matter if I’m cleaning, walking, or swimming. My favorite songs are Despues de la Playa, Efecto, Andrea, Party, and Me Porto Bonito.
Even if you don’t speak Spanish, especially Puerto Rican and Caribbean Spanish, I think this important album is a must-listen to if you’re looking for a top tier summer playlist.
Available to stream here or on any music streaming platform.
Video Game: Kirby and the Forgotten Land
The Kirby games are a huge comfort for me, since I was probably 8 years old. Kirby is my favorite video game character and I’ve enjoyed all the Kirby games I’ve played. Needless to say, I was super excited for the release of Kirby and the Forgotten Land. The pre-release footage looked so fun and the story seemed fascinating. Thankfully, our library is pretty good at getting new video game releases out to be circulated!
The game was adorable and nostalgic. A lot of Kirby’s powers were just like his powers from some of the previous games, but the new ones were just as funny and cute. The villains were exciting, and some of them were tough to beat, admittedly. While Kirby is the cutest creature in the universe, this is a fighting game through and through. Getting to learn how to use certain powers and upgrades was challenging, especially when you’re fighting with a low health bar. The story almost had me playing this game in one sitting too! Not only that, but the mini-games and hidden levels make it so easy to get out of the main story. There’s so much to learn about the game, and I’m excited to beat the game again and again to make sure I don’t miss a thing.
Kirby and the Forgotten Land is available to check out here for the Switch.
Hobby/Concert: Monsta X Tour Show
I’ve been waiting for this concert for years—literally. I originally bought my tickets back in January 2020, fully expecting to attend the show that following June. A pandemic, rescheduled shows, and a canceled one later, I would finally get to go see a favorite group of mine at a new show with new seats.
Before I turned 18, besides studying, I actually spent most of my free time at concerts. Since college and the pandemic, I haven’t been to a concert in a very long time. I mainly just went to punk rock shows and the occasional pop or rap artist, but my tastes have grown since then to include the Korean boy group, Monsta X. They’re natural performers, winning awards back home for their stage presence and ability to sing and dance live. I don’t really like pop boy groups, but Monsta X easily stole my heart. If you don’t like listening to music in a language you don’t understand, they have two English albums dedicated to their international fans, full of pop and R&B songs.
The concert itself was just top-tier amazing. They are so interactive with the crowd (I even got a wave!) and hype the audience up all the way. Their live vocals are fantastic, even while dancing, and their dancing abilities are insane. I also loved all the outfits they wore throughout the show. They matched the themes of their songs and helped set the scene for what they were about to perform. I have so many favorite moments from the concert. From solo stages that showcased their individual talents and strengths, from the EDM-esque songs that led me to bump into the people around me, and especially their speeches. Three of the members are near fluent in English, so it was so nice to hear them talk to their international fans about how the pandemic affected them and their tours. All of the members love touring and performing live, and after leaving that show, it was beyond a doubt proven to me.
Below are some of my favorite photos that I took from the show.
You can listen to Monsta X here or on any music streaming platform.