It’s once again time for my monthly Wrap Up, and February was an amazing month. As you guys know, I went to Palm Springs for a week in February.. and I had SUCH high hopes for my reading goals during the trip. The amount I actually read was honestly PATHETIC. I brought four hardcover books with me, jammed into my overflowing suitcase… and guess how many of these I read? ZERO. I read like four pages of one of the books… but in my defense, we were obviously having way too much fun, for me to get any real reading done. Also I was way too stoned and terrified on the plane, to actually read anything… other than the flight attendant’s expressions. I always try to see if they look nervous, haha. Let me tell you though… there is almost nothing more terrifying than seeing a flight attendant look nervous. Pure terror.
As soon as I got home.. like the DAY after we landed in Vancouver.. my very best friend in the world unexpectedly gave birth to her baby boy, a month early! When we booked our Palm Springs trip, I was worried I would miss his birth.. but I kept saying “Oh she has another month to go, we will be fine”. I can’t BELIEVE how close I came to missing this moment. I am so grateful I was home for this amazing day. Her son is absolutely PERFECT, and I couldn’t be more proud of her, and more in love with him <3 So needless to say the last week or so, I’ve been totally consumed with going back and forth to the hospital to visit her, and with catching up on work.
Also the week I came home, it SNOWED here in Vancouver… and not just a little bit. It snowed more than I’ve seen it snow here in YEARS! It was beautiful.
I did manage to read a few books, and discover a few new amazing movies & shows! I’ll give you the run-down of course,
1.) “The Good Place”
Currently On: Netflix
I’ve had so many people tell me how amazing this show is, and I’ve been meaning to check it out for way too long. Not to mention, while Ryan and I were at Universal Studios: Hollywood, we did the studio tour of this set!
Firstly, I LOVE Ted Danson way too much, and I think his best/most hilarious role ever is his part in HBO’s “Curb your Enthusiasm”. He is brilliant in “The Good Place” as Michael, and I just can’t rave about him enough. Kristen Bell is so good as well, and I love the dynamic between her and Ted Danson so much as well.
I have seen posters for this show for a while, and I’ll admit I made a pre-judgement about it.. based on nothing but the way it was marketed. It seemed to me like just another, random sitcom.. nothing really stood out about it. I think that’s because this show is hard to really explain in a TV-Guide “blurb” way. This show COMPLETELY surprised me, with how smart and well written it is! It’s SO clever, and honestly every single episode ends with a cliffhanger.. and it’s IMPOSSIBLE to stop watching. Which is fine, because the entire first season is streaming on Netflix.. perfect for binge-watching! Ryan and I watched every single episode in two nights. The TWISTS in this show, blew our minds.
It’s sort of impossible to explain the plot of this, without totally spoiling the major twists! I’ll share the official Wikipedia plot blurb, because it really sums it up perfectly, and I know it’s not spoiling anything, which I fear I would probably do! It’s not a great summary, but I honestly want you guys to go in blind for this experience.
Enjoy, I can’t recommend it enough!
(After her death, Eleanor Shellstrop (Bell) is welcomed into the afterlife by Michael (Danson), the facilitator and architect of Eleanor’s new neighborhood in a “perfect utopia” called the “Good Place”. When Michael tells Eleanor she made it into The Good Place as reward for her life of selfless devotion to helping others, she realizes she must have been mistaken for someone else. She also learns that each person in The Good Place has a soulmate with whom she or he is matched and (accordingly) with whom she or he will live for eternity. Each episode of the first season features flashbacks from one of the main characters and ends with a cliffhanger leading into the following episode).
2.) “Queer Eye”
Reality Show/ Life Makeover/ Home Makeover Show
Currently On: Netflix
I think this show is hands down the GREATEST thing I’ve seen in years. I loved every single second, of every single episode. Each episode made me actually CRY, which I never ever do watching T.V. It’s so inspiring, and charming.. and just overall such a fantastic show.
Many of you probably remember the show “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy”, that was on T.V in the early 2000’s. This is the Netflix re-boot of the beloved series, and features five brand new guys.. taking the reins from the original “Fab 5”. Each guy on the show focuses on a certain thing.. we have Bobby (The Design/Home Interiors) & Antoni (The Food Expert) & Jonathan (Grooming Expert) & Tan (Fashion Expert) & finally Karamo (The Culture Expert). These five men are all so wonderful, and the group chemistry is unlike anything I’ve ever seen.
This show takes place in Atlanta, and every single episode focuses on a new guy who needs a life-makeover & a little guidance from these five experts. They focus on straight men, and also gay men. The show is so welcoming, and so inclusive.. it’s amazing.
It is so heartwarming to see these five.. meet with a new man, and completely transform his whole world. They re-model his home, give him a makeover.. and help each guy out with something they may be struggling with. In one very powerful episode, the guys help a man come out to his family.. and in another they help a man try to win back a lost love. I can’t even begin to tell you how moving this show was to watch.. just unreal.
I am so obsessed with EACH of the Fab 5, and I can’t wait for the next Season. This show isn’t all fashion and makeovers.. it tackles some very real subject matter, oftentimes difficult.. like the racial tensions between cops and the black community.. as well as homophobia in parts of the state. They handle each topic so well, and the entire show is just perfection.
1.) “A Ghost Story”
Currently On: Netflix
I wouldn’t exactly call this movie a “horror” movie, but it does involve a ghost/haunting. My Sister and I watched this movie on the plane home from Palm Springs. This film is one of the most gorgeous pieces of Art I’ve seen in a long time. The actual plot is quite depressing, and slow… but beautifully so. Every single frame is so gorgeous.. I must have pulled out my headphones ten times to look over at Paige and say “OHMYGOD it’s so pretty. Oh WOW look at that shot! Ahh look at this frame”. I was nerding out so hard for the cinematography the entire time. It was actually stunning.
The actual plot is very sad. It’s about a young couple, who are separated by a horrific loss. The young woman tries as hard as she can to pick up the pieces, and move on with her life. Little does she know.. she’s about to be haunted by a certain someone. It’s not scary though… and it’s actually breathtakingly sad. You can just feel the aching from the man/ghost as he watches life move on without him. It’s almost claustrophobic to watch, and so deeply sad. I can’t stop thinking about this film. I’ll attach the Rotten Tomatoes plot summary, they said it better than me, haha.
(With A GHOST STORY, acclaimed director David Lowery (AIN’T THEM BODIES SAINTS, PETE’S DRAGON) returns with a singular exploration of legacy, loss, and the essential human longing for meaning and connection. Recently deceased, a white-sheeted ghost (Academy Award-winner Casey Affleck) returns to his suburban home to console his bereft wife (Academy Award-nominee Rooney Mara), only to find that in his spectral state he has become unstuck in time, forced to watch passively as the life he knew and the woman he loves slowly slip away. Increasingly unmoored, the ghost embarks on a cosmic journey through memory and history, confronting life’s ineffable questions and the enormity of existence. An unforgettable meditation on love and grief, A GHOST STORY emerges ecstatic and surreal – a wholly unique experience that lingers long after the credits roll.)
2.) “Eden Lake”
This is your classic… married couples goes for a weekend getaway… gets terrorized by the local kids. Except it’s HORRIFYING. One of the most chilling horror movies I’ve seen in a while. I love Horror movies, and I’ve seen almost every single one. I was looking for something to watch one night, and came across this list on Reddit of the “Most Underrated Horror Movies of All Time”, and this was on the list.
It starts a bit slow and predictable, but it REALLY picks up… and to be totally honest, it’s not an easy watch. It’s actually quite graphic, and very disturbing… but if you like those kind of horror movies.. this is for you! Also who doesn’t love Michael Fassbender?
The kids in this movie, give the children from “The Children of the Corn” a run for their money, that’s for sure.
1.) “The Perfect Nanny”
By: Leila Slimani
Thriller/ “Winner of France’s most prestigious literary award, the Prix Goncourt”
“This is a great novel. . . . Incredibly engaging and disturbing . . . You read the entire novel knowing something terrible is coming. In that, Slimani has us in her thrall.” —Roxane Gay, New York Times bestselling author of Bad Feminist and Hunger
One of the many reasons I love Instagram so much, is the ability to meet and make friends with people from all over the world. I met Maj on Instagram, bonding over our shared love of books… and she lives all the way in Finland! She and I decided to start our own little book-club, and the first book we read was “The Perfect Nanny”. We both LOVE thrillers, and not only is this a very well reviewed & buzzed about thriller.. but it’s actually set in Paris, France.. which we are both in love with as well. This was the perfect choice for us!
This book starts out with a BRUTAL first sentence. “The baby is dead.. it took only a few seconds”. Shocking! We find out the horrific crime, in the first sentence.. and this book then goes back in time to tell the story.. of how it came to this sickening finale.
This book isn’t a story about “who did what”, it’s not really a mystery. It’s a deeply disturbing psychological profile of a very disturbed woman… and we sort of watch her descent into madness, with every page. It was very interesting to watch all the different factors and incidents.. that led her to this shocking moment.
I had VERY high expectations for this book, and I really did this it was brilliantly written, and amazing. I was a bit disappointed with the ending, and I think that’s only because I was waiting for some big “twist”, but I should have known better. This book is more of an introspective look into a character…. and it’s very much character-study driven. There is no big “reveal”.. we find out exactly what happened on page one. I think the only reason I was disappointed, was because I’m so used to thrillers with big “twists”, and this was a totally different type of book.
I really loved it though, and I’m so excited to pick up more from this author in the future. I’ll attach the Chapters/Indigo Plot Summary as well, in case you are interested.
(“You won’t move until you reach the last page.” —People
“Talk about a guilty pleasure.” —The Washington Post
Instant National Bestseller
Named One of 2018’s Most Anticipated Books by NPR’s Weekend Edition, Real Simple, The Millions, The Guardian, Bustle, and Book Riot
She has the keys to their apartment. She knows everything. She has embedded herself so deeply in their lives that it now seems impossible to remove her.
When Myriam decides to return to work as a lawyer after having children, she and her husband look for the perfect nanny for their son and daughter. They never dreamed they would find Louise: a quiet, polite, devoted woman who sings to the children, cleans the family’s chic Paris apartment, stays late without complaint, and hosts enviable kiddie parties. But as the couple and the nanny become more dependent on one another, jealousy, resentment, and suspicions mount, shattering the idyllic tableau. Building tension with every page, The Perfect Nanny is a compulsive, riveting, bravely observed exploration of power, class, race, domesticity, motherhood, and madness—and the American debut of an immensely talented writer.
The #1 international bestseller and winner of France’s most prestigious literary prize, the Goncourt)
2.) “The Conjoined”
By: Jen Sookfong Lee
As soon as I read the plot of this book I was OBSESSED. It sounded fantastic! Also it was set in Vancouver, where I live! It felt like a match made in Heaven, but it was really just.. blah. I feel really bad giving a not so great review, but I was just so disappointed with this one.
Okay so the plot for this is very inciting… “A young woman’s mother dies, and while cleaning out her house.. she discovers the BODIES OF TWO young girls.. in the mother’s FREEZER”. I mean if that’s not a hook, I don’t know what is. Add into the mix.. that these girls were two young girls who were fostered by her mother, years ago… and the fact it’s set in Vancouver.. I thought this was going to be my next favorite book.
Okay so the positives first.. I really loved the plot, and I was incredibly addicted to finding out what happened to those girls. It was also really fun to read a book set where I actually live, and it gave me a thrill to read about streets I know so well.
Cons…. the CHARACTERS! The main character was such an un-likeable awful girl. Not un-likeable in a brilliant way, like Amy in “Gone Girl”.. but just plain awful. She was so selfish, and rude… and really terrible to read about. I found so many things she thought/said/ and did.. either offensive or just ridiculous. Also the story had no point, because you NEVER FIND OUT WHAT HAPPENED. I’m sorry if that’s a spoiler, but I don’t want you guys to waste time reading this, and then being like “what the hell was the point of this”, like I did. Also in this story, Jessica is a Social Worker (like her Mother), and her attitudes towards social workers/the system/foster care.. were appalling. I can’t even get into it.
It’s sad because if the main character had been a bit more likeable, and if this book had provided ANY type of resolution.. I would have loved it! Her writing style was great, and the book was a fast read. Just ultimately really un-satisfying. I’d say skip this read if you were even considering it.
Good-Reads Plot Summary
(On a sunny May morning, social worker Jessica Campbell sorts through her mother’s belongings after her recent funeral. In the basement, she makes a shocking discovery — two dead girls curled into the bottom of her mother’s chest freezers. She remembers a pair of foster children who lived with the family in 1988: Casey and Jamie Cheng — troubled, beautiful, and wild teenaged sisters from Vancouver’s Chinatown. After six weeks, they disappeared; social workers, police officers, and Jessica herself assumed they had run away.
As Jessica learns more about Casey, Jamie, and their troubled immigrant Chinese parents, she also unearths dark stories about Donna, whom she had always thought of as the perfect mother. The complicated truths she uncovers force her to take stock of own life.
Moving between present and past, this riveting novel unflinchingly examines the myth of social heroism and traces the often-hidden fractures that divide our diverse cities.)
3.) “Unraveling Oliver”
By: Liz Nugent
This is the book I bought while I was in Palm Springs, and I absolutely ADORED it. This is a very dark and shocking psychological thriller. It unfolds almost like a True-Crime Documentary… like “Making a Murderer” or something. It starts out with Oliver committing a disgusting act of violence against his wife, and then the story really begins. The book is told in several different perspectives… everyone from Oliver himself, to his college friends, neighbors, ex-employers.. and random acquaintances… basically everyone that knew Oliver over the course of his life.
It was so fascinating to see a story told this way, and I’ve never read anything like it before. Every chapter, had a new voice.. and it sort of gave you a new piece of the puzzle each time. It was fascinating to see Oliver from so many people’s individual viewpoints. You sort of piece Oliver together, with each tidbit… and you slowly start to understand how a person could do something so truly horrific. It’s like seeing into the mind of a psychopath… told by everyone close to him.
I LOVED this book, and it’s 100% one of the best I’ve read all year. If you are into True-Crime, or Documentary Style Crime… this is for you. Obviously this is a work of Fiction, but it reads in that addicting “Dateline” style true-crime feel.
Good-Reads Plot Summary
(In this “compelling, clever, and dark” (Heat magazine) thriller, a man’s shocking act of savagery stuns a local community–and the revelations that follow will keep you gripped until the very last page. This work of psychological suspense, a #1 bestseller in Ireland, is perfect for fans of Patricia Highsmith and Ruth Ware.
“I expected more of a reaction the first time I hit her.”
So begins Liz Nugent’s astonishing debut novel—a chilling, elegantly crafted, and psychologically astute exploration of the nature of evil.
Oliver Ryan, handsome, charismatic, and successful, has long been married to his devoted wife, Alice. Together they write and illustrate award-winning children’s books; their life together one of enviable privilege and ease—until, one evening after a delightful dinner, Oliver delivers a blow to Alice that renders her unconscious, and subsequently beats her into a coma.
In the aftermath of such an unthinkable event, as Alice hovers between life and death, the couple’s friends, neighbors, and acquaintances try to understand what could have driven Oliver to commit such a horrific act. As his story unfolds, layers are peeled away to reveal a life of shame, envy, deception, and masterful manipulation.
With its alternating points of view and deft prose, Unraveling Oliver is “a page-turning, one-sitting read from a brand new master of psychological suspense” (Sunday Independent) that details how an ordinary man can transform into a sociopath.)
4.) “Heating and Cooling: 52 Micro Memoirs”
By: Beth Ann Fennelly
I just randomly picked this book up a few weeks ago, and read it in one sitting. It’s a tiny little book, of 52 short (often times one-paged) stories.. all from this woman’s life. Beth Ann is so hilarious, and deeply insightful. Her stories are at once funny, sad, dark, and overall very nostalgic. I loved every single little story.. and I am so glad I just fell into this one. Kind of a random read for me, but I really enjoyed it. If you are looking for a quick little read, this one’s for you.
Good-Reads Plot Summary
(The 52 micro-memoirs in the genre-defying Heating & Coolingoffer bright glimpses into a richly lived life. They build on one another to arrive at a portrait of Beth Ann Fennelly as a wife, mother, writer, and deeply original observer of life’s challenges and joys. Some pieces are wistful, some poignant, and many of them reveal the humor buried below the surface of everyday interactions. Heating & Cooling shapes a life from unexpectedly illuminating moments, and awakens us to these moments as they appear in the margins of our lives.)
Other Random Hi-Lights From February
This actually happened at the very end of January, but I forgot to mention this EPIC day to you guys. I’m not sure if you all know this.. but I’m a massive/obsessed/insane “Lord of the Rings” fan. Like.. I saw “The Two Towers” FOUR times in theaters.. own all the action figures.. actually ordered a replica of this ring on Amazon” type of fan. When I saw on Facebook that the local “Rio Theater” was hosting an “ALL DAY 10 HOUR + Marathon” I immediately got tickets. My Sister and Luke joined us.. and it was the greatest day.
I never thought I would get the chance to see “Lord of the Rings” on the big-screen again… and let me just tell you.. it was as magical as it was ten years ago. Such a wonderful day. We didn’t make it through the entire marathon.. but they were playing the EXTENDED EDITIONS.. and they are like 3 Hours + each!
Thank you all so much for reading my Blog, and for all your continued support! It’s SO exciting to see all the readers I have from places as far away as India and New Zealand! I love you all so much. See you very soon with some fun Blog content. Also I’m off to Mexico in a month.. so that will be a very exciting Blog Post to come.
(All Images @Carly Ingram Photography 2018)
(All Images of TV Shows/Movies/ Lord of the Rings Marathon @Google 2018)