With an icy start to 2021 combined with the realities of a pandemic, I’ve found myself spending a lot of time staying in and consuming stories. Some of them have been pretty great, so I’d thought I’d share that love by talking about a few of my favorites. Do you want to know about the most binge-worthy TV shows I’ve stumbled across? Doorstopper novels that have been worth their massive page count? What about some favorite movies that I’ve recently revisited? Read on for more!
The Empire of Gold by S. A Chakraborty– Long books and I don’t always get along. I don’t have anything against them, but my expectations go up the longer the page count is. If I read a 100-page novella, and it’s “just okay,” that’s not really a waste of my time. But when we’re talking about a massive fantasy tome pushing 800 pages? It better be freaking fantastic!
Fortunately, S.A. Chakraborty’s The Empire of Gold absolutely succeeds in that area. Just like the two previous books in The Daevabad Trilogy, The Empire of Gold is an exciting Middle-Eastern inspired fantasy novel that features a large cast of morally complicated characters from a wide variety of backgrounds. The Daevabad Trilogy has never been one to provide its characters with easy ways out, and this book is no exception, making its cast earn all of its wins. It’s been really exciting to see these characters grow and change over the years, and I find myself quite pleased with how everything ended up.
Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia- Don’t you love it when a book actually lives up to the hype?
Mexican Gothic is just what it promises in its title—a gothic horror novel set in a Mexican setting. In the beginning, our protagonist, Noemí, travels to the rural countryside to visit her recently married cousin, who has been sending her troubling letters. Only when Noemí gets there, she finds herself plunged into a troubling, restrictive house filled with secrets. But the further she digs in, the more horrifying the results are. Will she be able to save her cousin, or will she too be pulled into the darkness of the manor?
I’m not going to give away any more, because it’s best to go in a little blind. But if you enjoy intriguing puzzles and creeping horror that’s not afraid to explore some pretty crazy places, then Mexican Gothic is for you.
What Cats Want by Yuki Hattori- And now for something completely different! What Cats Want is a book about cat care, but what sets it apart from others is its adorable illustrations, also done by the author, Japan’s leading cat doctor. The information presented here is all good. I got this from the library, but I’m considering buying a copy myself in preparation for when my kitty gets a little older. Having that information presented side by side with the book’s cheerful infographic-esque illustrations makes for a very pleasant reading experience. A great selection for cat owners.
Bridgerton– I enjoy a good Regency romance, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen the experience so clearly translated to TV. The show focuses on the story of Daphne Bridgerton, a young woman on the lookout for a match during her first season. Between Bridgerton‘s sweeping melodrama, gorgeous (and gleefully anachronistic) costumes, and its passionate romance, the results are super addictive. I know they’ve just started casting season two, and I’m already looking forward to it.
The Queen’s Gambit– After Bridgerton, I found myself in the mood for another period piece, and while The Queen’s Gambit is tonally different, the results are just as binge-able. This story about a chess prodigy and her rise from orphan to the most celebrated player in the world is drama at its best. Lead actress Anya Taylor-Joy just won a Golden Globe for her performance here, and she very much deserved it. You don’t have to be a chess fan to be swept away by Beth Harmon’s tale, but you’ll certainly come out of the series with a greater appreciation for it.
WandaVision- And now for the show that everyone was watching. When I originally saw the traielrs for the first three Marvel Cinematic Universe Disney+ shows, I could already tell that WandaVision was going to be fantastic, And the results actually exceeded my expectations. As someone who grew up watching sitcoms, getting to see so many of my old favorites combined with superhero action and an intriguing mystery plot, it often felt like WandaVision was made just for me. Seriously. If Kevin Feige sat down with Jac Shaeffer and said, “Nancy’s had a rough year. How can we make her a TV show,” it would look a lot like this. Each new episode was often the highlight of my week.
I know that some people found the conclusion disappointing, but I was incredibly pleased. Wanda’s story about struggling with her grief was compelling from beginning to end, and I am excited to see how the MCU builds on these developments.
Millennium Actress– If you enjoy unique story structures, Satoshi Kon’s story about the career of a fictional Japanese actress will be catnip for you. Framed by an interview process, Milennimun Actress interweaves Chiyoko’s real-life experiences with her most famous roles, bending reality by jumping back and forth between both. The result is a film that covers both the history of Japanese cinema and one woman’s lifelong efforts to reconnect with her true love. Millennium Actress is a movie that I’ve seen several times now and look forward to watching again.
The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness– Hayao Miyazaki is my favorite director, but it wasn’t until I watched The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness that I felt like I really understood him as a creator. The documentary, which covers the production of the film, The Wind Rises, dives deep into the mind of Miyazaki, covering everything from his filmmaking process to his personal history and thoughts about the wider world. The result is both honest and enchanting, much like the work of Miyazaki himself.
So those are my current favorites. Any thoughts on the selections above? What about recommendations for me?