June 2018: Wrap Up

Hey June, thanks for a month full of exciting reads and rereads. Featuring: unexpected rereads, a new gem of a TV show, and exciting seven books:

ON THE SPECTRUM:

This new Israeli contemporary show follows three young people on the autism spectrum who share a flat together. And watching it felt like discovering a true gem.

I consider On the Spectrum to be a true surprise, considering how its slow start made me, foolishly, put it aside for a hot minute, but upon noticing my mind circling back to it, I, thankfully, went back to complete the remainder with stars in my eyes.OTS-- bookspoils 2OTS-- bookspoils 1(That Husky in the left corner, though!!)

I know a show is good when, upon completing it, I make my mom look into the first episode so that I can vent all about it. I practically talked her ear off on the first episode alone… On the Spectrum is the kind of show I crave to devour all at once, so having to wait for new episodes to release every week is excruciating, so much so that I’m low-key piqued whenever an episode comes to an end; it always arrives all-too-soon.

The slow revealing nature of the show, with keeping the cards off the table to keep us engaged, was delicious. The creators trust us enough to slowly piece together the bigger picture through tiny revelations on our own. Plus, major props to the writers for not dropping plot lines the following episode. Something that occurred in previous episodes will probably receive closure within the next one. Like, the dog from the street. (Won’t go into details, though, because this show deserves to be watched and discovered through fresh eyes.)

Ben Yosipovich, The actor that plays Amit’s character, says it best when, to paraphrase, he talks about how the show succeeds in showing big emotional moments not because they’re these Big Emotional Moments, but because they’re these subtly embodied gestures, just like in real life.

The trailer with English subtitles:

The tree mains are:

  • Zohar who has her overprotective brother, Asher, with a heart of gold, taking care of her.23I can clearly hear Zohar’s voice reverberating through this powerful scene. I get chills on her aching “But I want to be touched already!”
  • Ron who lives in his routine bubble of avoiding life so he doesn’t feel fear, which is why he likes it and is hesitant to change course.

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  • Amit, who’s the hardest to pin down in writing, but the most intriguing to follow on his outings. Like, his bird watching in the second episode:

OTS-- bookspoils 5Screen Shot 2018-02-28 at 09.46.55

That was my June wrap-up, thank you for reading!

May 2018: Books, Vines & TV Shows

Since I made it a reading goal of mine to be more meaningful and careful in the books I pick this year, the amount I read each month has been scaling down. Thankfully, May brought with it some much-needed binge-worthy books to consume. In total, I read six books:

Book Tags: 

vine book tag-- bookspoils
I jumped on the opportunity to answer the Vine book tag with its burning, must-know questions, and it resulted in experiencing THE MOST FUN doing so. Including my favorite combination of books and vine compilations with titles like: “ancient vines i watch with my grandfather,” “vines rarer than a good night’s sleep,” and “vines 2 trick you into feeling happiness.”

Check it out in full here.

BLANK:

After months and months of rewatching SKAM (season two, to be specific), watching all the reactions to said favorite season, and watching all the remakes (except for one*), I was beyond elated to find a new show that is genuinely on par with the iconic content produced in the aforementioned.

BLANK is a Norwegian online series that uses an identical format of releasing real-time clips throughout the week that are then gathered into a full episode on Sunday mornings, to quote from the site that translates the clips.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. I’ll start at the beginning by noting that I was a tad apprehensive when I was a couple of minutes into the show since there didn’t seem to be any driving point the main character was heading to. As well as having the plot follow nineteen-year-old Ella, unsure of her future after completing high school and letting life happen to her instead of participating, didn’t do any favors to the developing storyline.

The scenes oddly felt like I was watching one of those “A Week in my Life” videos with the everyday banal exchanges, like, getting home, sending emails, preheating the oven for pizza, accompanying a friend on a Tinder hook up, etc. But whereas those vlogs tend to end after ten-or-so minutes, this first episode was over forty… So just as I was wondering what this show had going on for itself, a certain hooded boy appeared on screen and changed the pace of Ella’s daily life.

Just… I AM SO HAPPY THIS SHOW EXIST, AND I’M KEEPING MYSELF FROM SCREAMING OF JOY.

(Accurate visual of finishing the second episode and realizing I’ve finally found a new favorite show after nearly two years of watching and rewatching SKAM.)

BLANK excels at zeroing in on startling realistic scenes between two people overtly in sync with each another’s presence because CRUSHES TAKE EVERYTHING FROM YOU. Simen and Ella’s exchanges are mostly all non-verbal and there’s just so much power in their glances. Like, watching their every move like a hawk but making sure they don’t catch you looking, or walking by them and sneaking a glance and then channeling all your inner strength to not look back over your shoulder … Just utter happiness at soaking in their presence, not even having to talk. It’s these little moments that make everything so damn real and I am l i v i n g for it. This is exactly what I’ve been seeking: a romantic relationship I can vicariously live through.

Also:

  • I finished the second episode and punched the air from utter joy, like Amy from B99 below, because it ended on Ella walking away like a cool girl while Simen admired her move as he stood by, watching her move away.
  • I haven’t even mentioned the meta moment when Ella’s watching Skam Austin and starts discussing the show with Mats and comparing it to the original… 

It’s just so nice to have a show that makes me feel passionate again because I was starting to feel terrified that it wasn’t going to happen again anytime soon. Same for the books I’ve been reading this year. But thankfully the month of May pulled through with both.

*Germany can piss off before I’d consider giving them views.Screen Shot 2018-02-28 at 09.46.55

That was my May wrap-up, thank you for reading!

Parks and Recreation Book Tag

To commemorate my final binge-watch of Parks and Recreation, which I first noted in my January 2018 Wrap Up where I rave about season three, I decided to answer this phenomenal book tag dedicated to the show and its characters. As of right now, there are two original Parks and Rec book tags, but since I liked certain questions for certain characters more, I decided to mix the tags together to create all-around more fulfilling answers. The questions were created by Wanderlust Books & Icebreaker694.

For me, the magic of the show is that, on top of being a comedy that prioritizes joy instead of conflict or drama, it includes a wide cast of characters that is essentially one of a kind, so coming up with answers that served them justice was a bit of a head-scratcher. But I figured it out, eventually!

Note: I’m an Amazon Affiliate. If you want to buy any of the reads I mention in this post, just click on the books below to go through my link. I’ll make a small commission!

Leslie Knope:

A strong female character who has lots of determination

Leslie’s zeal and passion for her work and those in her surrounding (and waffles) is frankly both terrifying and inspiring to watch from the sidelines. So coming up with a character to match her enthusiasm and dedication was unheard of… until I recalled Mia from Little Fires Everywhere, whose fiery dedication comes through at a turning point in the storyline, so much so that I can still feel its aftermath reverberating off the book. 

But it’s this next passage on mother/daughter bonds, which I shared in my review, that is so worth the lengthy read to capture the essence of her character:

“It had been a long time since her daughter had let her be so close. Parents, she thought, learned to survive touching their children less and less. As a baby Pearl had clung to her; she’d worn Pearl in a sling because whenever she’d set her down, Pearl would cry. There’d scarcely been a moment in the day when they had not been pressed together. As she got older, Pearl would still cling to her mother’s leg, then her waist, then her hand, as if there were something in her mother she needed to absorb through the skin. Even when she had her own bed, she would often crawl into Mia’s in the middle of the night and burrow under the old patchwork quilt, and in the morning they would wake up tangled, Mia’s arm pinned beneath Pearl’s head, or Pearl’s legs thrown across Mia’s belly. Now, as a teenager, Pearl’s caresses had become rare—a peck on the cheek, a one-armed, half-hearted hug—and all the more precious because of that. It was the way of things, Mia thought to herself, but how hard it was. The occasional embrace, a head leaned for just a moment on your shoulder, when what you really wanted more than anything was to press them to you and hold them so tight you fused together and could never be taken apart. It was like training yourself to live on the smell of an apple alone, when what you really wanted was to devour it, to sink your teeth into it and consume it, seeds, core, and all.”

Ann Perkins:

A character that you would like as your best friend
I jumped at the opportunity to read an ARC of Leslye Walton’s The Price Guide to the Occult since I’d been waiting to dive into more of the author’s words for close to two years. It did not disappoint. And I have a full review raving all about it that you’re more than welcome to visit here.

The friend in question is Savvy, aka the Guardian of Unwanted Things, who shows our main character Nor the bottomless support of female friendship.

“Though Savvy couldn’t actually solve the bulk of Nor’s problems, Nor felt better having been reminded that she had someone who gave enough of a shit to try.”

In her second novel, Leslye Walton spins a dark, mesmerizing tale of a girl stumbling along the path toward self-acceptance and first love, even as the Price Guide’s malevolent author—Nor’s own mother—looms and threatens to strangle any hope for happiness.

Expected publication: March 13th, 2018

Andy Dwyer:

A character that seems to get in a lot of trouble but that all the readers love
The second volume of Wires and Nerve by Marissa Meyer dropped this month, so it’s quite impossible not to mention the charismatic “Captain” Carswell Thorne. The shared characteristic that both Andy and Carswell posses is the ability to be the goofiest of goofballs around.

“A captain always knows where his ship is. It’s like a psychic bond.”
“If only we had a captain here.”

O Captain! My Captain!

April Ludgate:

 A grumpy character that still steals your heart

The day I randomly decided to watch Andy and April edits online, after watching the Chris Pratt bloopers from the show, was one of the wisest decisions. Those two led me to finally watch season three, which is where they are most heavily featured, and the rest is history.

Oh, and it’s in one of those videos that I found a comment that perfectly summarizes their characters: It’s like watching a grumpy cat and golden retriever get married.

So to answer this question I’m going with a book that I absolutely adored last year but haven’t seen that many people mention: Motherest by Kristen Iskandrian.

motherest-bookspoilsMotherest is an inventive and moving coming-of-age novel that captures the pain of fractured family life, the heat of new love, and the particular magic of the female friendship-all through the jagged lens of a fraying daughter-mother bond.

Set in the early 1990s, Agnes is feeling acutely alienated from everything and everyone upon starting her first year as a new college student. And it’s all captured brilliantly through the author’s writing style that I still think about constantly. In particular, I keep spinning around this exchange with her crush in my head:

“Hey.”
“Hey.”
I keep walking. He slows down a little as if to chat, and I move faster. I want to turn around so badly that walking feels like pushing through the heaviest revolving door in the world, but I keep going.”

This may be small, but it speaks volumes. As I mentioned it in my review, this novel excels at capturing the more quiet and subtle moments in life, and I was so here for it.

Ron Swanson:

 A character that you didn’t think you would end up loving

For this, I had to go with Reagan from one of my all-time favorite Fangirl, who is notoriously known for speaking her mind and not being anybody’s fool.

“Are you Zack, or are you Cody?”

I made the wise call to revisit the book through audiobook for the first time, and I feel like even the narrator is enjoying herself with the character because I can always hear a hint of a smile upon reading Reagan’s lines.

“I look like this because I’m alive,” Reagan said. “Because I’ve had experiences. Do you understand?” 

Oh, Levi. You perfect sunflower.

Donna Meagle

A character who’s confident in what they do

I didn’t even have to think too long before Large Marge from Kristin Hannah’s The Great Alone popped to mind! Set in the 1970s around “the harsh, uncompromising beauty of Alaska,” this novel tackles a variety of topics, including domestic abuse, the importance of having a support system, young love, and so much more.

What struck me, in particular, was the community of women that came together to help a family in need, without questions asked. It was one of the most beautiful things to grow out of this novel. Marge Birdsall, aka Large Marge, was the one that remained with me long after I finished the last page. Her unwavering support still rings so loudly in my mind. Like I said in my review, my aesthetic is having Large Marge shut down entitled men.

“You want to fight this battle?” Large Marge advanced, bracelets clattering. “If this young woman misses a single day of school, I will call the state and turn you in, Ernt Allbright. Don’t think for one second I won’t. You can be as batshit crazy and mean as you want, but you are not going to stop this beautiful girl from finishing high school. You got it?”
“The state won’t care.”
“Oh. They will. Trust me. You want me talking to the authorities about what goes on here, Ernt?”
“You don’t know shit.”
“Yeah, but I’m a big woman with a big mouth. You want to push me?”

Tom Haverford:

A character who likes to dream bigJanuary was also the month where I received the opportunity to read an incredible short story written by Dahlia Adler in The Radical Element anthology. Daughter of the Book was the introducing story to the collection, and my immediate first thought upon completing it went, “I don’t know how any following tale will top that one.” (And as you can tell, since I’m not writing this in the review for the anthology, I had to put the book down because I couldn’t continue reading without comparing each following tale to the phenomenal opening one.)

Set in 1838, Savannah, Georgia, Daughter of the Book follows Rebekah’s fight and journey to receive a more fulfilling Jewish education.

“Tell them I’m Jewish first.”

Dahlia Adler created one of the most memorable protagonists I’ve encountered in my reading with Rebekah Wolf. And it is the first time that I’m actually aching for a short story to be expanded into a full novel.

The Radical Element 1-- bookspoils

I’ve read a whole lot of short stories in anthologies these past few years, but I’ve truly never felt so seen before. There are talks of Hebrew, Torah, the Prophets, our history, language, and people. To paraphrase this article, it was how I talked, how my mom talked, how my sister talked. This was the writer of our experience. And as someone who does listen avidly to Torah lessons, I couldn’t have asked for a better story to capture the essence of my appreciation.

Also, having watched the Israeli show Shababnikim, which is about four young Orthodox yeshiva students, made the characters in this short story stand out that more. Speaking of which, I would highly recommend giving the show a try if you enjoyed Dahlia Adler’s story because it showcases formidable female characters challenging the norm, as well as featuring situations with outstanding humor and precise commentary that makes everything shift in your point of view.

If you’re interested, the first episode is available to check out with English subtitles on the official Youtube page:

Jean-Ralphio Saperstein:

A character that annoys the socks out of you

The limit does not exist to the extravagance that is Jean-Ralphio Saperstein, especially with Mona-Lisa his “twin sister from the same mister” around. I can only imagine the blast the writers must have writing those scenes.

So finding a character as outrageous as Jean-Ralphio was nearly impossible until I  finally recalled someone coming just close enough: Kenji Kishimoto. With the fourth Shatter Me book coming out this March, all the love I held for these characters in 2014 has been coming back in a rush to me.
I mean, just read this next bit and tell me that you don’t hear Jean-Ralphio in the last line:

“Please—please get up—and lower your voice—”
“Hell no.”
“Why not?” I’m pleading now.
“Because if I lower my voice, I won’t be able to hear myself speak. And that,” he says, “is my favorite part.”

Even though I don’t care that much for the world created in these dystopian books, the characters… Oh, man, that is a whole ‘nother deal.

Unrelated: Tahereh Mafi can write romance scenes like no one other, in case you’re wondering what I’m most excited for in the newest book…tahereh mafi-- bookspoilsScreen Shot 2018-02-28 at 09.46.55

And that’s a wrap on all my answers for the Parks and Recreation book tag. I hope you enjoyed reading! If you’re interested in answering these questions, I tag you.

Oh, and let me know your favorite character from the show in the comments below!