TV Time: Hit & Run (Netflix)

My new TV obsession this week is Hit & Run, the American-Israeli production now streaming on Netflix. (One season so far, dropped earlier in August – 9 episodes total)

Set in Tel Aviv and New York, Hit & Run‘s main character is Segev Azulai (played by the intense Lior Raz). Segev seems to be a straightforward family man. He lives on a moshav (collective farm) with his second wife Danielle and his pre-teen daughter Ella. Segev is devoted to them, and spends his days as a jovial tour guide for visiting Americans.

Danielle is a dancer with the renowned Batsheva Dance Company, but as the story opens, she’s about to fly to New York for an audition with another company. She and her driver stop for coffee on the way to the airport, and as she’s crossing the street, she’s the victim of a hit and run. She dies soon after, leaving Segev bereft and deeply in mourning.

Segev’s mourning takes a turn when his home is broken into and he’s assaulted by the intruder (whom he kills in the struggle), but by the time the police arrive at his home, the body of the intruder is gone. This kicks off Segev’s suspicion that there’s more to the story. Why is he suddenly a target? How can he keep his daughter safe?

Assisted by his cousin Tali, a detective who happens to be six-months pregnant, Segev starts to look for answers. Secrets of his own past emerge — he has a shady history from years back, when he worked as a mercenary in Mexico and was responsible for a former friend being sentenced to prison. Could Danielle’s death have been planned as revenge on Segev?

I will not give any spoilers, but let’s just say that this is only the beginning of the twists and turns and absolutely shocking revelations that come up in every episode of Hit & Run. Just when we think we know what’s going on, some bonkers new secret completely blows all previous theories out of the water.

The action moves between Tel Aviv and New York, and is focused on the grittier sides of both. As you can see from the trailer (below), there are plenty of scenes of violence — hand-to-hand, gun violence, car chases, etc — which is usually so not my thing, but the suspense here was just so fantastic that I couldn’t look away.

The acting is terrific. Lior Raz is all quiet menace and grief and aching emotional wounds. Moran Rosenblatt as Tali is tough and lovely — you haven’t lived until you see a pregnant bad-ass woman chasing down bad guys. Sanaa Lathan is also great as Naomi Hicks, an American journalist whose past friendship with Segev leads her beyond mere investigation and into personal involvement and risk.

Each of the nine episodes is packed with great acting, hefty action sequences, and twisty plot developments that always contain surprises that pivot the story in yet further new directions.

For anyone who has spent time in Israel, and especially for anyone who speaks Hebrew, the series is very fun to watch. I was on the edge of my seat during one particular car chase early on, when suddenly the cars were speeding down the Tel Aviv road my family uses to get to the beach during every visit! As for the language, the dialogue throughout shifts between Hebrew and English depending on where the scene takes place and which characters are involved. The subtitles are fine, and it’s easy to keep up — but if you speak Hebrew, hearing the slang and the conversational interchanges is especially entertaining.

One interesting thing about the subtitles, as explained by a producer:

It was U.S. Netflix, but we shot half of it in New York and half of it in Israel. All of the scripts were written in English and then the parts that were in Hebrew were translated at a certain point. We got Netflix approval, or their promise, early on that when it came time for subtitles we would go back to the original English scripts, even if it was translated differently in Hebrew, so that we could keep the integrity of the story. It took them a little while to get used to the idea of showrunners. But eventually, they came to respect that.

The full article this came from is really interesting, but it’s full of spoilers, so proceed with caution.

As of now, season 2 has not been officially announced by Netflix, but given that season 1 ends with a cliffhanger, I think it’s safe to assume that the show producers are counting on getting a second season. And given how much buzz this show is generating, as well as its trending status on Netflix, I’m feeling really hopeful!

I mean, they can’t just leave me hanging like that forever, can they?

Hit & Run won’t be everyone’s cup of tea — it definitely doesn’t fall into my usual go-to categories of being upbeat or light or sweet. I’m glad I ventured outside of my comfort zone for this one. If you can tolerate blood and violence, the ups and downs and twists of the story, not to mention the fascinating characters, make this a show that’s well worth checking out.

TV Time: Virgin River season 3. So watchable. So annoying.

Virgin River Credit: Netflix

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Or, in the case of season 3 of Virgin River, newly released on Netflix, nothing really changes, and everything pretty much stays the same.

This show. Geez. I love watching it, but it’s also so ridiculous and laughable… and endearing AF.

So, season 3.

Note: SPOILER ALERT!! I’m going to be discussing plot points from the season, so if you haven’t watched, you may want to look away!!

Season 3 picks up soon after the cliffhanger ending of season 2. Season 2 ended with Jack lying bleeding on the floor of his bar, shot by an unknown assailant and on the verge of death. (Except he’s the main love interest and that makes him bullet-proof).

As season 3 opens, Jack is alive! He’s recovering from his bullet wound, but has no memory of who shot him. Signs point to someone connected with the illegal drug trade that once thrived in the woods near Virgin River, but there’s no proof, and the drug business is (thankfully) mostly gone from this season, after being raided and driven out.

Can I get a Hallelujah?? I hated everything about the drug-running subplots of the previous two seasons. Let’s just focus on small-town adorableness, with its quirky personalities and town gossip, and leave drug kingpins to other, darker shows.

OK, back to season 3. Some new characters are introduced, including Jack’s sister Brie, who gets involved with a bad boy and seems to like riding on the back of his motorcycle and other risky behavior. There’s also a notable supporting character missing — Hope, Doc’s sometimes-estranged wife, is out of town for the entire season, making a couple of brief appearances during Zoom calls (apparently because of COVID restrictions affecting the actress’s ability to participate in filming).

There are continuing stories about the son of a woman on the run being sheltered by her friend, teen romance, Doc’s own health issue, and a tearjerker about a local woman diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Meanwhile, Jack’s ex is STILL pregnant and being obnoxious, and in our main storyline, Jack and Mel are in love, but face ups and downs.

So….

Let me once again break it down into highs and lows.

The good stuff:

  • Once again, the scenery is AMAZING. I’d watch a travel documentary just showing aerial views of the woods, the rivers, and the mountains. Except Virgin River is a fictional location (supposedly in Northern California, but filmed in British Columbia). I want to go there! I want my own cabin on the river!!
  • The characters themselves are great, especially Mel. She’s a strong, professional woman with endless wells of compassion, a good friend, a devoted sister. I love her to bits and pieces.
  • As I said in my post about the first two seasons, any excuse to watch Tim Matheson in action is a gift. He’s just lovely as Doc, gruff and grumbly, but with a heart of gold and a gentle side too. This season, he gets to be particularly vulnerable as he’s put through an emotional wringer, and every time he tears up, my heart melts.
  • Small town cuteness!! There’s a lumberjack festival, for Pete’s sake!! Everyone wears flannel, there’s log rolling and a chainsaw competition, and it’s just so corny yet also adorable in all its weirdness.
  • And one more time… it’s just so pretty! Like this moment, for example:
VIRGIN RIVER (L to R) ALEXANDRA BRECKENRIDGE as MEL MONROE and MARTIN HENDERSON as JACK SHERIDAN in episode 304 of VIRGIN RIVER Cr. COURTESY OF NETFLIX © 2021

Which totally gives me this vibe:

The bits that drive me nuts:

  • Time moves SO slowly. As I wrote in my post about the first two seasons: A character who revealed a pregnancy at the end of season one is now (2 episodes from the end of season 2) nearing the end of her first trimester. So… she’ll give birth in season 4 or 5? I guess I was being prophetic: As of the end of season 3, that same character is MAYBE in her second trimester. So expecting her to give birth in season 4 is maybe even a bit optimistic!
  • Except in one instance, time moves too quickly. A character reveals early in the season that she was diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer, is opting for palliative care, and wants to live out her remaining days at home with her family and friends. And within a couple more episodes, she’s dead. No wasting away, no depressing episodes showing her weakening and getting sicker. Just boom — she goes to take a nap after a great day with friends, and then she’s dead. So weird.
  • Nothing really changes. Ever. We start the season not knowing who shot Jack. We end the season not knowing who shot Jack. Characters have ups and downs, but the plot is SO static so much of the time.
  • We end with Mel telling Jack that she’s pregnant, and that the baby might not be his. Well, we know why that is… but it’s utterly ridiculous. While visiting her sister in LA for a few days, Mel is reminded by her sister that she still has some embryos left from her fertility process with her late husband. Despondent over her break-up (very temporary) with Jack, Mel goes to the fertility doctor’s office. Well, apparently, she walked in and got impregnated, just like that. And that made me roll my eyes so hard I thought they’d fall out of my head. This is a woman with a history of fertility issues, who’s gone through multiple rounds of IVF. She was only in LA for a few days, as far as we could tell. If she was going to move forward with having embryos implanted, she should have been on hormones, at the very least. This is not a single trip to the doctor’s office situation!!
  • Jack’s ex is expecting twins (sometime in 2025, I guess), and apparently she’s engaged to some rich guy she’s just met, and everyone talks as if Jack would have no parental rights at all… and I just don’t understand. There’s DNA testing in the 21st century, people! Why does his lawyer act as though he has no chance of being the babies’ legal father unless Charmaine allows his name to be put on the birth certificate?
  • Inconsisent supporting characters — there are certain characters whose depiction seems to change depending on what scene they’re in, and I wish the show would just make up its mind! Connie is often shown as an interfering gossip, but then she’ll turn around and offer protection to someone with a secret and acts like other people’s most trusted friend. Which is she? Same with Muriel, who in previous seasons was set up to date Doc as a decoy by Hope (never mind, it’s complicated). Muriel is sort of depicted as someone who might not be trustworthy around other people’s husbands (ugh, I hate that judge-y kind of vibe), but she’s actually completely lovely. Muriel in season 3 is vivacious, supportive, and tons of fun… so why do I feel like the show wants us to be suspicious of her when it comes to Doc?
  • Lack of diversity. There is exactly one Black named/featured character on the show. I was shocked when a Black family was seen walking by at the lumberjack games. Wait, there are families of color living in Virgin River? The show needs to open its doors a little wider, is all I’m saying.

Despite my grumbling, I freely admit that I’m hooked on the show. I just wish more would happen in a season. How long is the wait until season 4? Arrrrrggh.

And one final thing: I still haven’t read the books. Should I???

TV Time: Last Tango in Halifax

If you’re looking for feel-good viewing with quirky, (mostly) lovable characters, I don’t think you can go wrong with Last Tango in Halifax.

Now streaming on Netflix, this BBC production originally aired starting in 2012, continuing over five seasons (on and off) through 2020. Altogether, there are 24 episodes (which Netflix presents as 4 seasons, but it’s all the same show.)

Here’s the trailer for season 1:

The basic plot: Alan and Celia, widowed and in their mid-70s, reconnect on Facebook after their respective grandchildren set them up with social media accounts. Meeting again after last seeing each other in their teens, they each confess that they were in love with the other way back when, but were separated by occurrences outside their control. Now reunited, they shock their families by announcing on the day the meet that they plan to get married!

Their backgrounds are starkly different: Alan lives on his daughter Gillian’s sheep farm with her and her teen-aged son, and Celia lives in the guest apartment of her daughter Caroline’s big, posh house.

Gillian is a crass, outspoken, hardworking farmer who likes casual sex without strings, even though her flings tend to catch up with her. She’s still haunted by her abusive husband’s death 10 years earlier, which is not made easier by her former brother-in-law’s constant suspicions.

Caroline is the head of a well-to-do private school. She is very refined and upscale, although her personal life is messy too — her husband John left her for another woman, then tries to come back once discovering the other woman is an alcoholic. I’m not sure why the expression “sad sack” entered my mind (it’s not a term I remember ever using!), but it suits John to a T — he’s such a loser that he’s utterly pathetic, and yet he just sticks around constantly.

Celia and Alan have their differences too, on very different sides of the political spectrum and with very different ideas when it comes to acceptance and judgment and their children’s lives. Still, there’s no denying their instant connection, and their giddy stages of early love are quite lovely to behold.

As the show moves forward, the circles expand and overlap. Gillian and Caroline, against all odds and despite major blow-ups, become close friends. Alan and Celia’s relationship experiences ups and downs. The grandkids grow up and have their own lives, Caroline finds new love, and the plot weaves in and out between all the characters, showing the glorious mess of having a large, unconventional family.

I went into Last Tango in Halifax expecting something light and silly — and while there are plenty of light, silly moments, there’s also real depth, sorrow, and drama here too. The cast is superb (I mean, really, Derek Jacobi!!!), and I got completely caught up in the characters’ lives. And even though my opinions of them changed over the course of the episodes (I started out thinking Caroline was snooty and awful, yet by the end, I think she was my favorite character — and Celia just made me bonkers so often with her intolerance, yet still charmed me whenever she’d giggle at Alan), I was invested in all of them and basically loved them all.

I’m so glad I made the time for this excellent show! Please check it out — you’ll be glad you did!

Note: The video below is a lovely look at the cast and character dynamics, but it does contain some plot spoilers, so proceed at your own risk!

TV Time: Binge-watching/hate-watching Ginny & Georgia

I just finished the 10-episode first season of Ginny & Georgia on Netflix… and I have thoughts. And even feelings.

First up, let’s be clear: The blurbs (and even the show itself) keep comparing this show to Gilmore Girls. But friends, I’m here to tell you: This ain’t no Gilmore Girls.

I mean, okay. Mother and daughter? Check. Mother who had daughter as a teen? Check. Sweetness, sassiness, cleverness? Uncheck. Don’t watch Ginny & Georgia expecting the mother/daughter as best friends trope, or the sweet quirky small-town vibe trope. Yes, it’s a small town. But no, there’s no particular sweetness. And this mother and daughter are far from best friends.

Here’s the trailer:

Georgia is first introduced as a free-spirit, whisking her children off on a new adventure and starting a new life in a small town in Massachusetts. Ginny, age 15, is the same age Georgia was when she had her. Georgia positions this move as a fresh start, a chance to finally settle down, stop forcing her kids to start over again and again, and have a real, normal life.

There are problems, of course. We quickly learn that Georgia can afford her nice new suburban house because she’s recently widowed. Her wealthy late husband’s ex is contesting the will, so Georgia’s new fortune is tenuous at best. Ginny and her younger brother Austin have never lived in one place long enough to make friends, but Georgia swears that this time, life will be different.

As they settle in, the family becomes close to the family across the street, a very decent couple and their 15-year-old twins. Ginny becomes best friends with the girl, Max, and has an on-again, off-again flirtation/hook-up/maybe more with the boy, Marcus.

Meanwhile, Georgia goes full Southern belle on the town, with a big Julia Roberts-esque smile and a huge Southern accent, and charms her way into a job in the (very hot and single) mayor’s office.

With me so far?

So why did I end up hate-watching this show?

SPOILERS AHEAD!

I admit, there are elements of this show I really got caught up in:

  • The teen drama is actually pretty good. Ginny’s friend circle is fun and interesting, and while some of the girls’ issues are only addressed on a surface level, there are enough distinct personalities to make them a great group to get to know. I just wish the show’s focus was more on them and less on the adults (more on this in a moment), so it could go deeper into their stories.
  • Ginny is biracial in a mostly white town, and I felt that this component of her story was well portrayed. From her issues of not quite fitting in anywhere, to dealing with a racist teacher who doesn’t even seem to know he’s racist (he voted for Obama! twice!), I couldn’t help but admire Ginny’s courage in taking a stand, yet also feel sorry for her struggles to understand herself in the context of her friends and her new town.
  • Max is a sweet, outrageous character, and the actress who portrays her did a great job showing Max’s vulnerable side even while she’s totally out there and hilarious.
  • Jennifer Robertson, so great as Jocelyn Schitt on Schitt’s Creek, appears in Ginny & Georgia as Max and Marcus’s mother Ellen, who becomes close to Georgia. She’s just as wonderful as you’d expect, and it made me so happy to see her in this show.
  • Overall, the young cast playing the teens is very good, and I’m especially impressed by Antonia Gentry, who plays Ginny so well and with such emotional range.

The things I couldn’t stand, found irritating, or that just plain sucked:

  • Georgia. She’s just an awful person. I think we’re meant to admire her spirit, but she’s a terrible mom who continually puts her children at risk. Plus, she has a very dark past that maybe is meant to show her tenaciousness and ability to survive, but really just shows that she’s amoral and dangerous.

Getting really spoiler-y here…

  • Scott Porter, so charming in Hart of Dixie, plays the mayor in Ginny & Georgia, and it’s like the show couldn’t decide what kind of character he was playing. For most of the episodes, he comes across as super sweet, somewhat innocent, very wowed by Georgia and kind and loving toward her children… until near the end, when he makes a speech to Georgia about how they’re both motivated by seeking power, and it just doesn’t jibe with anything we’ve seen of him so far. He hadn’t once been portrayed as power-hungry, and now that’s all he cares about?
  • Georgia’s criminal past isn’t charming or endearing. It’s impossible to root for her, so why does the show want us to?
  • At age 15, Georgia and Zion (Ginny’s father) are living with Zion’s parents, who propose becoming legal guardians to Ginny. And really, that makes total sense — but instead, Georgia takes off in the middle of the night with Ginny. And again, I couldn’t help but wonder whether the show wanted us to see this as a brave move. Because it was irresponsible and crazy and put both of them at risk, when it would have been the best thing for all concerned for the adults in this situation to take responsibility for Ginny and provide the security and stability needed for her upbringing.
  • I haven’t even touched on how awful Georgia is when it comes to the younger child Austin, whose father is in prison for embezzlement (and we have to wonder, did Georgia frame him?). She allows Austin to live in a fantasy world in which his father is a wizard imprisoned at Azkhaban, and then wonders why he gets bullied all the time — but then we he gets pushed too far and stabs a kid (!!!), doesn’t even get him therapy.
  • Ginny is approached by the seemingly only other Black girl at school, but basically brushes her off until she needs her. Why not allow her to explore finding a place with the small Black community? We’re supposed to empathize with Ginny’s struggles to figure out her identity and where she fits in, but her callousness and unfriendliness toward Bracia seem so unnecessary.
  • One more time, because I just can’t say it enough: Georgia is awful. It’s a bad sign when one-half of your title characters are simply impossible to feel positively toward. While we may want Ginny and Austin to finally get a “normal”, stable life, I couldn’t help feeling that they’d be much better off without Georgia at all. Go live with Zion! Have a responsible, non-criminal parent! Ugh.

Whew. Ranting over.

Despite how much I disliked certain characters and plotlines, I did binge my way through this show this past week, and couldn’t look away.

It hasn’t been announced yet whether there will be a season 2, but given how season 1 ends, it certainly would appear that Netflix is planning on it. Also, the show has done really well for Netflix, so I can’t imagine they won’t continue.

Will I be back for season 2?

Ummm… probably? I do want to see what happens to Ginny next. But, is that enough of a reason to tolerate sitting through more of Georgia’s awfulness? TBD.

Has anyone else watched Ginny & Georgia yet? Please let me know what you think!

TV Time: Virgin River is so dumb. So why can’t I stop watching?

Season two of the Netflix series Virgin River (adapted from the book series by Robyn Carr) just dropped last week, and as of this writing, I have 2 of the 10 episodes yet to watch (and I will definitely finish them tonight).

Friends, this show is dumb. But it’s also incredibly watchable.

The basics: 30-something Mel Monroe is an accomplished nurse practitioner-midwife from LA who moves to Virgin River, a small rural town in Northern California, to accept a one-year position in a medical clinic.

Mel’s husband died in a car accident the year before, and she’s been consumed by her grief ever since. She’s hoping that a complete change will help her heal and move forward with her life.

What she doesn’t know is that the doctor whose practice she’s joining doesn’t want her — he’s been pressured into accepting her by the town busybody, who is also the town mayor and his estranged wife.

Mel arrives to find that the home she’s been promised is a decaying old shack, and that she’s already managed to insult the doctor she’ll be working for. On the bright side is local restaurant/bar owner Jack, a sweet, sexy man with a deep soul, who has demons of his own — he’s haunted by his memories of his time as a Marine sergeant and the young soldier in his squad who didn’t make it back.

Naturally, Mel and Jack have instant chemistry, and it seems likely that their friendship will blossom into romance. Meanwhile, Jack has a casual girlfriend who’s much more invested in the relationship than he is; there’s a town full of quirky characters to meet; and there are some unsavory types adding an element of danger as well.

So why do I think it’s dumb? But why is it so watchable?

First, I’ll focus on the good:

  • The scenery is AMAZING. While the town of Virgin River is supposed to be located in Humboldt County, California, the series was shot in British Columbia, and it shows. The rivers and mountains and forests are absolutely breathtaking. I think at least half the reason I keep watching is for the pure delight of seeing the gorgeous setting.
  • Mel herself is a great character. She’s strong and accomplished, an expert in her field, and full of compassion for her patients (even when they treat her like dirt). Over the course of the first season, we see flashbacks that establish the deep loss she experienced — scenes from her marriage to Mark, the tragic loss of their stillborn baby and subsequent struggle with infertility, and the accident that took Mark’s life. Actress Alexandra Breckenridge does a terrific job of portraying Mel’s straightforward approach to life.
  • Side note: This is shallow, but I love Mel’s wardrobe! I want to live insider her big, fluffy, cozy sweaters.
  • Tim Matheson as Doc Mullens. If you like Tim Matheson in Hart of Dixie, you’ll like him in Virgin River — he’s basically playing the same character! He’s always a delight to watch, and seems to have cornered the market on grumpy older doctors who don’t want to change.
  • Small town wholesomeness — any TV show set in a small town, whether it’s suburban Stars Hollow, Connecticut (like Gilmore Girls) or a southern town like Bluebell, Alabama (Hart of Dixie) or even a place riddled with supernatural beings like Mystic Falls, Virginia (Vampire Diaries) seems to thrive on showing town fairs, special traditions, barn dances, carnivals — you name it. Virgin River has its share of small town celebrations, just as you’d expect — even a super competitive egg relay race.

The bits that drive me nuts:

  • Manly men acting manly. Jack is an ex-Marine, as are his best buddies, and they’re all very noble and manly and protectors of the women folk. It can feel like a recruiting ad at times.
  • There’s a drug trafficking subplot that seems SO unnecessary — an illegal pot grower in the woods with bad guy enforcers with big guns, injecting an element of danger (and giving Jack an adversary to face down.) Why does a small town drama need drug runners? Why?
  • Time moves slowly. A character who revealed a pregnancy at the end of season one is now (2 episodes from the end of season 2) nearing the end of her first trimester. So… she’ll give birth in season 4 or 5?
  • Town gossip. I know, small town drama and all, but the small town gossip element is just silly. The drama between Doc and his sometimes-wife Hope is annoying as hell. They decide to reconcile, but Hope pushes him to pretend date someone else to throw people off their tracks, which seems all kinds of silly and mean to the other woman (who’s perfectly lovely and actually seems like a better match for Doc than moody, demanding Hope, who has held a grudge over a repented-for infidelity for 20 years!)
  • Teen drama. Of course one of the older women from town has her trouble-child niece come to town, and of course the niece is a stereotypical bad girl who’s leading the sweet town boy astray.
  • Let’s see, what else? Well, every possible small town drama plot point we’ve seen before, including a baby on the doorstep, a domestic violence survivor hiding out under an assumed name, petty jealousies, a surprise pregnancy, PTSD, and more.

Still, as I said, it’s highly watchable even while having moments that are absolute clunkers. Mel is really a great character, and I feel invested in her, even if it’s just watching her go on her morning runs through the forest and across the suspension bridge. I really appreciate her vulnerability as a person, which never keeps her from being the consummate medical professional.

Maybe it’s not fair to call the show dumb. It has its entertaining, heart-warming moments, and it’s definitely drawn me in.

But, ugh! PLEASE dump the drug runners and all the stereotypical small town plots already.

So, in other words:

Me: Grumble, grumble, grumble, this show is dumb.

And also me: Bring on season 3!

Query for readers: Has anyone read the Virgin River books? Should I give them a try? Or will I be just as annoyed as I am by the show?

Book Review: The Case of the Missing Marquess (Enola Holmes, #1) by Nancy Springer

Title: The Case of the Missing Marquess (Enola Holmes, #1)
Author: Nancy Springer
Publisher: Puffin
Publication date: 2006
Length: 228 pages
Genre: Middle grade
Source: Library
Rating:

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Meet Enola Holmes, teenaged girl turned detective and the younger sister to Sherlock Holmes.

When Enola Holmes, sister to the detective Sherlock Holmes, discovers her mother has disappeared, she quickly embarks on a journey to London in search of her. But nothing can prepare her for what awaits. Because when she arrives, she finds herself involved in the kidnapping of a young marquess, fleeing murderous villains, and trying to elude her shrewd older brothers—all while attempting to piece together clues to her mother’s strange disappearance. Amid all the mayhem, will Enola be able to decode the necessary clues and find her mother?

After watching the delightful Netflix adaptation of this book (more about this below), I just had to check out the source material! I’m glad I did — the first book in Nancy Springer’s Enola Holmes series is clever, funny, and full of adventure.

In The Case of the Missing Marquess, Enola wakes up on her 14th birthday to discover that her mother is missing. When her older brothers, Mycroft and Sherlock, arrive on the scene, it’s clear that they have no faith in the ability of a woman to fend for herself or to think rationally. As for what to do with Enola, boarding school is the obvious choice, as far as the men are concerned.

Enola is having none of it, and resolves to run off and go in search of her mother. Using clues left for her by her mother, Enola sets out in clever disguise, making use of the awful requirements of women’s dress (including corsetry and bustle) to find hiding places for money and other essentials.

Along her journey, she stumbles across the case of the missing Marquess — a 12-year-old boy from a prestigious family who’s been reportedly abducted, but Enola sees enough through her own perspective to realize that he’s probably run away as well.

As Enola travels to London, she crosses paths with the Marquess, and together they endure hardships, threats, near-death encounters with bad guys, and a thrilling escape.

By the end, Enola has not yet found her mother, but she’s learned a lot about the ways of the world, how women are viewed and how to use that to her own advantage, and how to survive on her own.

Enola is a delightful character, and the book is a fun caper story. It’s geared toward a younger crowd than YA, which is why I’d call it middle grade, although it might skew somewhere in between.

The writing and dialogue are clever, and it’s quite fun to see how Enola uses society’s view of women to her own ends, subverting the patriarchy right under the patriarchy’s chauvinistic noses.

I’m not sure that I’ll continue with the series — while this book was really enjoyable, I’m not really feeling the need to carry on with something that’s essentially a children’s book series. (If my kids were still in the the target age range, I might feel differently.)

In terms of the Netflix adaptation, well.. it’s not really a fair comparison! The books are a great read for the right age group, but as an adult, I just loved the Netflix version, its cast, and its super-clever approach to the story.

The adaptation also has a much more intricate plot and more story threads to unwind. I do wonder whether some of these other pieces will come into play in later books, but not really enough to make me want to keep reading.

I’d recommend the books for middle grade readers (and parents/teachers/friends of middle grade readers), but for adults looking to enjoy the essence of the story, Netflix’s Enola Holmes is the way to go!

Top Ten Tuesday: Books that should be adapted into Netflix shows or movies

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, featuring a different top 10 theme each week. This week’s topic is Books that Should be Adapted into Netflix Shows/Movies.

Two of the types of watching I like to do on Netflix are (1) scifi/fantasy series and (2) light and fluffy romantic movies. Yes, these are really completely different, but each takes me away from the day-to-day and lets me become immersed in other worlds or other people’s lives. And who doesn’t need that right now?

My top ten picks:

First, to be made into one or more seasons of a series:

1. The Folk of the Air series by Holly Black: The story of mortals being raised in Faerie and rising to power by their wits could be so excellent as a series! I’d love to see the scenery, the magical elements, and the characters themselves.

2. The Finishing School series by Gail Carriger: Can you imagine how awesome this would be as an ongoing series? Maybe one season per book? The characters, the costumes, the dirigibles — I need this in my life!

3. InCryptids by Seanan McGuire: I think this could have a little bit of a Grimm or Supernatural vibe, but a little more light-hearted. A big extended family of cryptozoologists dealing with scary enemies and all sorts of entertaining otherworldly beings. All this, plus ballroom dancing!

4. Wanderers by Chuck Wendig: Well, now probably isn’t the best time for a series about a pandemic wiping out humanity — but I loved this book, and could see the story working as a 10-part series.

5. The Beauty (graphic novels) by Jeremy Haun: Again, a story about a virus maybe isn’t a great choice — but it would be very cool to see this story about beauty being a sexually transmitted disease brought to life. It’s weird and dark, but I think it could work!

6. Old Man’s War by John Scalzi: The concept is so fantastic, and don’t we need another great space battle saga in our lives?

Next, a bunch of sweet books that would make great rom-com movies:

7. Well Met by Jen DeLuca: Romance at the Ren Faire! And since there are two more books on the way, if the first movie was a success, there’s material for more.

8. The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary: The basic concept of two people sharing an apartment but never meeting is just so cute. I’d love to see it on my screen. I bet it would be hilarious to watch.

9. The Bookshop on the Shore by Jenny Colgan: Any of the three books in this loosely connected series would be great, but this one is my favorite. Between selling books out of a van, finding true love in the Highlands, and dealing with a strange but endearing family, I think it could be a hit! And like with Well Met, there are more books, so more related plots to spin off!

And finally, a book that I think would make a terrifying movie:

10. Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia: The clothes! The setting! The creepy house and the weird people there! It’s just begging to be made into a film.

**Updated to add: Wishes do come true! Hulu is developing Mexican Gothic as a series! Woo hoo! Read about it, here.**

 

What’s on your TTT list this week? Please share your links!

Save

Save

Save

Save

Binge ideas needed – ready, set, go!

Photo by JESHOOTS.com on Pexels.com

Binge-watching during the pandemic… well, it passes the time! I’ve actually watched some great TV over the last several months, and now I need some fresh ideas.

So hey, why not turn to the hive-mind for suggestions? I’ll tell you what I’ve loved, and hopefully, you’ll tell me what to watch next. Deal?

So far, my best binges have been:

  • Harry Potter movies
  • Fast & the Furious movies (yes, I have a teen-aged son…)
  • Jane the Virgin
  • Gilmore Girls
  • Schitts Creek
  • Derry Girls
  • Harlots
  • Veronica Mars
  • The Witcher
  • Never Have I Ever
  • Dead To Me
  • Hollywood
  • Sex Education

I don’t like to watch:

  • Police procedurals
  • Hospital procedurals
  • Crime, violence, gangs, drug cartels (so despite my son’s best efforts, I’m not going to watch Narcos or Queen of the South)

Series I’ve started but haven’t finished:

  • Anne with an E: I enjoyed the few episodes I watched (only 3 or 4), but just haven’t been in the mood to continue
  • The Vampire Diaries: I watched devotedly through season 6, then walked away. Should I go back?
  • The Umbrella Academy: I watched three episodes of season 1, but I don’t really see myself continuing.
  • The Outsider: I loved the book, and I thought the few episodes I watched were really good — but I just don’t think I’ve been in the right mindset for something this dark.

I’ve been thinking about watching Cursed, and I’ve been told I should watch Succession. Meanwhile, I’m watching season 1 of Supernatural in bits and pieces, but don’t feel hooked yet.

So….

I’m open to suggestions! What have been your favorites binges during your months at home? What should I bump to the top of my to-watch list?

All ideas are welcome — ready, set, go!

TV Time: What’s Lisa watching? Further random thoughts from my couch.

Check it out — my 2nd TV-related post in two days!

I wouldn’t say I’ve been watching more TV than usual lately, but I thought I’d mention a few shows that were highlights for me this past week:

The Big Bang Theory. Is it too obvious to say that this show when out with a bang? After 12 seasons, the series finale of The Big Bang Theory aired this past week. I’ve had my moments of absolutely loving this show, although I think the last few seasons have been kind of spotty and the jokes a little too predictable. Still, twelve seasons with characters we care about is a pretty big accomplishment. For the most part, I was happy with the finale. (Spoilers ahoy!)

  • Sheldon and Amy won a Nobel prize!
  • Raj got to go the award ceremony with Sarah Michelle Gellar — not too shabby for a guy who didn’t used to be able to speak in front of women.
  • We finally got to see the Wolowitz children. (Adorable, of course).

Okay, but here’s where I get a little stuck: Penny is pregnant. After making very clear that she had no desire to have children, ever, and Leonard asserting that he accepted her choice, the show left Penny with a surprise, unplanned pregnancy, and she and Leonard seem perfectly happy about it. What happened? Why did the show feel the need to tack this on at the very end? If Penny had been ambivalent, or had said she didn’t want kids YET, it might feel more okay. But no, suddenly she’s totally into it, with no on-screen discussion whatsoever.

Look, I get that these are fictional characters on a sit-com and that the series finale is not the place for a serious conversation. But then why include it at all? It’s as if the show is saying that a marriage can’t be truly happy without children, that a couple needs a baby to be complete. And I think this sucks. Why not respect Penny’s very clear choice? Or at the very least, deal with it earlier in the season so Penny and Leonard could talk about it in a meaningful way? Choosing to be childless is a valid choice, and the show should have respected it, rather than forcing Penny and Leonard — a couple who don’t follow the usual path in their marriage — into a happily-ever-after formula that doesn’t suit them. Grrr.

Dead To Me. Who else is watching/has watched Dead To Me on Netflix? I just binged it this weekend, and loved it. With a terrific cast and a pretty dark sense of humor, the show zips through 10 30-minute episodes. Never boring, often deeply emotional, with plots twists and craziness and ridiculous situations galor, Dead To Me is hard to describe without giving away key plot elements. Let’s just say: It’s the story of a recently widowed mother of two who befriends a somewhat kooky woman through a grief support group, but really nothing is as simple as it seems. There’s a powerhouse ending — I want more!

Check out the trailer:

Awesome, right?

Santa Clarita Diet: Oh, I’m so sad to have come to the end of this zombies-in-suburbia series! What a pity that Netflix has chosen not to renew it for a 4th season. Drew Barrymore and Timothy Olyphant are spot-on hilarious as realtors Sheila and Joel, who sell houses, raise their daughter, and find bad guys for Sheila to kill and eat in order to quench her cravings for flesh. Sheila is undead, you see, and that’s kind of hard on a marriage. This show is amazing, really — crazy developments, terrific cast and guest stars, and buckets and buckets of blood (which means that if you’re at all squeamish, you probably shouldn’t watch).

The show ended with a cliffhanger, which makes it all the more awful that there won’t be more. C’mon, Netflix, give it another chance!

Game of Thrones: For anyone talking about TV today, this is the elephant (dragon?) in the room. But I’m just not going to get into it right now. There are thousands and thousands of opinion pieces out there related to the season so far — no one needs mine on top of that! As I write this, we’re about 4.5 hours away from the series finale, and I can barely breathe through all my anxiety over the ending. Will I be satisfied? Will the show do the remaining characters justice? AAAAAAGH. So hard to wait.

♦♦♦♦♦

Are you watching any of these? Please share your thoughts!

Save

A book & a movie: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before

It’s the classic tug-of-war: Book or Movie?

In the case of To All the Boys I’ve Love Before, why not enjoy both? That’s what I did this past week!

I watched the Netflix movie last weekend. Here’s the synopsis (via IMDb):

When her secret love letters somehow get mailed to each of her five crushes, Lara Jean finds her quiet high school existence turned upside down.

Okay, that doesn’t really tell us all that much.

The movie is super adorable. 16-year-old Lara Jean, a high school junior, lives at home with her widowed dad and her two sisters — but older sister Margot’s departure for college in Scotland throws the normal family routines out of whack. Lara Jean is missing Margot… and then somehow, her old love letters to five different crushes from her past end up in the boys’ hands, and things get rom-com cute and chaotic.

But what about the book? After watching the movie, I decided I needed to read the book — ya know, just for comparison’s sake. The book, by Jenny Han, is sweet and quirky (kind of like Lara Jean!). Here’s the book synopsis, from Goodreads:

What if all the crushes you ever had found out how you felt about them… all at once?

Sixteen-year-old Lara Jean Song keeps her love letters in a hatbox her mother gave her. They aren’t love letters that anyone else wrote for her; these are ones she’s written. One for every boy she’s ever loved—five in all. When she writes, she pours out her heart and soul and says all the things she would never say in real life, because her letters are for her eyes only. Until the day her secret letters are mailed, and suddenly, Lara Jean’s love life goes from imaginary to out of control.

In both versions, the main boys on Lara Jean’s very confused mind are Josh, the boy next door and Margot’s ex-boyfriend, and Peter Kavinsky, the super popular guy who once kissed Lara Jean back in middle school. Josh is blown away by Lara Jean’s letter confessing feelings for him, and Peter is trying to deal with a break-up from his long-term girlfriend, so Lara Jean and Peter end up as fake boyfriend and girlfriend, just to get everyone off their backs. Yes, the fake relationship plot has been around for a while, but To All the Boys manages to keep it fresh and fun.

The movie version is a great way to enjoy the full story without a whole lot of time invested, and the cast is pretty terrific. I have a definite weakness for John Corbett, who plays the dad (which gives you a good idea of my demographic, btw), but I appreciated the young’uns who make up the teen characters’ part of the cast.

I was a little confused, watching the movie, by the ethnicity of the sisters. According to the book, Lara Jean and her sisters are biracial, with a Korean mom and a white dad. The TV sisters appear to be from different ethnic backgrounds, which I kept thinking the movie might explain (are they adopted? I hadn’t read the book yet when I watched it). To complicate matters further, according to IMDb, the actress playing Lara Jean is of Vietnamese descent, and the actress playing Margot is of Chinese descent. No info on the younger sister (who, based just on looks, doesn’t appear to be Asian), but I thought it was odd casting to pick three girls who look nothing alike and then just ignore their diverse backgrounds. Sorry, I’m not trying to be offensive here, but not being familiar with the story beforehand, I was distracted by how distinctly un-related the sisters looked, and it took me a while to realize that the movie was just going to leave it all unacknowledged. Weird to get hung up on that, I know, but there it is.

The movie advances the plot a bit further than the book — the book leaves the ending on an open note. We know (and Lara Jean finally knows) how she feels, but not what the outcome will be. The movie has a suitably romantic and adorable ending… but since the book is the first in a trilogy, I assume we’ll get there in book #2.

Of course, I’m now a little worried about how there can be two more books’ worth of story left to tell, because the movie ending was pretty perfect and swoony. Now I’m anxious about what comes after that happy ending, and what direction books 2 and 3 might take the characters in.

So, which did I like more — book or movie? Hard to say! I’m glad I watched the movie first (which is definitely unusual for me). It strikes all the right notes, condensing teen worry, flirtation, hard family issues, mean girls, fitting in, first crushes, and the rush of first love, into a (less than) two hour experience that feels fun, fresh, and totally satisfying. If you need a quick mood boost, this is perfect (maybe with a mug of hot cocoa and some delicious cookies to go with). I liked the book a lot, especially the deeper look into the relationships between Margot, Lara Jean, and younger sister Kitty, and I’m glad I read it — but even if I hadn’t, the movie hits all the right beats and feels complete in and of itself.

So yeah, I say do both! Watch the movie, read the book… and as for me, I’m already moving on to book #2, PS I Still Love You… hoping there’s plenty more quirky romance and sisterly shenanigans in store!