2020, A to Z Mysteries, Big Band Love Songs, chapter books, Escaping from Houdini, Gemini Man, January, Kerri Maniscalco, Knives Out, middle grade books, Monthly Mental Munchies, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, Strange Case of the Starship Iris, The Lighthouse, Virginia Mysteries, White Teeth, Will Smith, Zadie Smith
I don’t know what it’s like where you live, but it has been an underwhelming and wet January here in the mid-Atlantic of the United States. What little snow we’ve had melted within a day, and we’ve even had a few “shorts and tees” days. Even as I type this, the weather is 44 degrees (Fahrenheit) and rainy. Still, I like January because it means the holiday hustle and bustle is over, which means more time to relax. LOL—I’m kidding about the relaxing part. I’m actually a bit overwhelmed with writing projects (my own fault, I know…) Still, I’m sneaking in a bit of personal entertainment and enjoyment here and there, so it’s not ALL work and no play. Just mostly. Anyway, here are my mental munchies for the first month of 2020:
Books & Stories: I started January with Escaping from Houdini by Kerri Maniscalco. My youngest kid gifted the book to me for the holidays, and the circus theme fits the plot of my latest work-in-progress, so I dove right in! Generally, I liked it. Maniscalco imbues a sense of richness and indulgence to the carnival setting on board a luxury liner. I wanted to be a part of the circus fun she describes! I then turned to a set of booked loaned to me by a friend from my writing critique group. They included The Virginia Mysteries Collection (books 1-3) by Stephen K. Smith, and two books (The Absent Author and The Deadly Dungeon) from the A-Z Mysteries by Ron Roy. I’m currently editing my middle grade book, so I’ve been trying to read more children’s literature. These particular books fall into the chapter book and lower middle grade categories, respectively, which means I powered through them all in about four days. I’m now finishing out the month with something completely different—White Teeth by Zadie Smith. White Teeth has been sitting on my shelf for a few years, waiting patiently for me to leave my young adult and middle grade book reading phase. I’m only halfway through as of this blog post, but I’m enjoying the change of pace from kid lit, and it’s an entertaining read.
Movies & Shows: We hit the theater twice this month. The first time we planned to see Jumanji, but it was sold out so we pivoted to Knives Out. My youngest kid had already seen it but was willing to watch it again—and I’m so glad! This movie is hilarious and brilliant. We still plan to see Jumanji, but we’ll probably wait until it comes out on DVD at this point. The second theater-worthy movie was—of course—Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. There are many polarizing opinions on this movie out there; Star Wars is, after all, one of the most active (and unforgiving) fandoms. My take? I enjoyed it. It wasn’t everything I’d hoped for, but I wasn’t disappointed. My one critique regarding the entire trilogy is that it’s apparent they didn’t plan out the entire three-story arc. I think they could have crafted a truly epic and mesmerizing opus to the Star Wars franchise if they’d scripted out the major storylines through all three movies. But, I’m happy with what we’ve been given, particularly the greater inclusivity of this trilogy. As far as shows go, we spent a date night at home on the couch watching Gemini Man—I LOVE Will Smith in almost any SFF movie—and The Lighthouse. The Robert Eggers-directed movie was…well, I can appreciate it for what it was—an artsy cinematic experience. I know it’s not a “high-brow” take, but I honestly preferred Gemini Man to The Lighthouse. But then, I’m a dyed-in-the-wool speculative fiction girl.
Music & Audio: I’d started “The Strange Case of the Starship Iris” podcast back in the summer, but left off at episode 3 when the fall weather began to distract me. I picked it back up last month and have two episodes to go in the 8-episode series. I love this dramatic podcast—the voice actors are talented, and the writing is tight and lovely. It manages to deal with issues of social and identify politics but it an entertaining and often humorous way. I dug through my music collection and dusted off my “Big Band Love Songs” compilation album for my current editing project. I’m working on my prohibition era-set noir story for my writing groups upcoming anthology, and the music helps.
It’s been a busy month, and with edits, outlines, interviews, publishing projects, and blog posts on my to-do list, it will only get busier as I head into February. Wish me luck, and I’ll see you next month!