Advent Day 21: Black Mirror

Pssst. Have you heard the rumor? Apparently, we’ll enjoy more Black Mirror creepy goodness before the end of 2018. Nothing could be better (when it comes to TV entertainment, let’s not mess this up with politics).

With Black Mirror set to drop new episodes December 28, this means all my fears about future and technology will be raised just before the new year. Yay. Black Mirror has excelled at weaving together technology and human failings to produce episodes that terrify you and make you think. Last year’s U.S.S. Callister was easily a stand-out, with a group of people who’d essentially become prisoners in a video game plotting a mutiny. Then there was Arkangel. How can a technology meant to help you keep your child safe be so destructive? Dang, last season was a great season. The high water mark for me is still season 4’s San Junipero, but every season of this show has delivered. I can’t wait for more.

 

Advent Day 22: The Oddling Prince

Advent Day 23: The Americans

Advent Day 24: Fight Fascism

Advent Day 25: Bodyguard

Advent Day 26: Baskets

Advent Day 27: Literature

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Advent Day 22: The Oddling Prince

51agxqz0ttl-_sy346_It is so hard to express just how much I loved this delightful story. Reading it felt like skipping along a path through the trees on a glorious day when the sun shines through at just the right angle to make everything shimmer in gold. It’s rare for me to associate a reading experience so strongly with emotion or a mental image – particularly if it’s a pleasant one! – but I loved every minute of this read.

It’s a quest, but not a conventional quest, and the way the story unfolds both surprises and delights in equal measure.

This is, quite simply, a great story that I thoroughly enjoyed. My first Nancy Springer book, and I guarantee it won’t be my last. You can read my original review here.

Advent Day 23: The Americans

Advent Day 24: Fight Fascism

Advent Day 25: Bodyguard

Advent Day 26: Baskets

Advent Day 27: Literature

Advent Day 23: The Americans

 

For six years, The Americans followed Philip and Elizabeth Jennings as they lived their covert life, acting on behalf of their country to further the Soviet agenda during the Cold War.

Not an easy show at times. Not easy to root for the bad guys. Yet these characters are anything but one dimensional. Elizabeth is a rape victim. She is a survivor. They are parents. They genuinely love their children.

They also genuinely love their country.

And yet, Philip wrestles with what they’re required to do. He doesn’t follow blindly. Neither does Elizabeth, although people may see her as more of a patriot than her husband.

We went into the last season wondering how on earth they would wrap it up and as the season progressed they seemed to be adding loose threads rather than resolving things. We spent hours guessing who would live and who would die …

No spoilers, but I will say this: the ending wrecked me. Simply one of the best series endings ever. I don’t say that lightly. It wasn’t at all what I expected and yet it was remarkably satisfying.

And that one scene – if you watched the finale then you know the one – God, I need tissues again. I’m still gutted. With or Without You.

And Gad. Damn. Gad.

Bonus: If you love your 80s music, the soundtrack is stellar.

I’ve long maintained that the most amazing endings have you wondering what X or X character is doing after the final page or shot, because they live on in your mind as though they are a part of your reality, and for the characters that made it through to the end, I have often wondered if they were apart of certain significant world events or whether they reconnected with so-and-so, etc. etc.

This amazing crew made these characters do real for me. And I still miss them.

 

Advent Day 24: Fight Fascism

Advent Day 25: Bodyguard

Advent Day 26: Baskets

Advent Day 27: Literature

Advent Day 25 – Bodyguard

This British thriller series is on Netflix. Honestly, had it not been for a friend recommending it, I’m not sure it would have been on my radar, and that’s a shame. It has one of the most intense beginnings of any show or series that I’ve ever seen. They also tackle some pretty tough things, like PTSD and how men deal (or don’t deal) with their problems in a realistic way.

And I loved how the show played with prejudices and assumptions and used them in the story.

Advent Day 26 – Baskets

This is a show that isn’t easy to categorize. It’s a comedy, sure, but it also has some very keen insights about people, human nature, relationships and identity. And it’s really offbeat, but I mean that in the best possible way. You’ll laugh. You’ll groan. And you’ll cry.

And you’ll always end a season wanting more.

So, how do I love thee, Baskets? Let me count the ways.

First, there’s Chip. This aspiring clown who aspires to so much and falls short spectacularly. He has so much heart and he’s always got his eyes on what he can’t have, and can’t see the good things right in front of him sometimes. He’s beyond spectacular and relatable and I’m rooting for him.

Then there’s Christine. Oh Christine. She really sees the world one way, but every now and again she edges out of her zone and surprised herself, and the audience in the process. She really means well, and shows just how much damage a person can do to someone else with their good intentions.

Martha is a trip. She’s the classic gal who doesn’t stand up for herself and complies to keep the peace, which means she’s usually the one that makes everything come apart at the seams. Or she’s inadvertently coerced into things way beyond her comfort zone. Only Martha could take in a stray dog that turns out to be a wild coyote, God bless ‘er.

Eddie. Great with horses. Not so great with people, unless you count conning them.

Ken. He amplifies Christine’s crazy sometimes, but in the best possible way. Love Ken.

Season 4 could mark a real shift for the show, so I’ll be very curious to see what happens next.

 

Did you miss Advent Day 27? Check out LiteratureAdvent Day 27? Check out Literature.

Advent Day 27 – Literature by Guillermo Stitch

41juy2wqr-l-_sy346_I liked this book so much that I wrote two different reviews of it and interviewed the author. One of my tests for any entertainment is how memorable is it. Did it stay in my thoughts for days after the fact and make me think about the characters or the outcome or (in the event of a series) possible future developments? Did it inspire me to think about life or a philosophy or human nature?

One of the reasons I have to put this book front and center in my advent feature is that it is a book that has stayed with me. It has stayed with me for months. While I’m often struggling to remember all the titles I’ve read in any given year, this one had a huge impact on me.

I loved the fact that it defied genre conventions and boundaries and brazenly told its story. I loved the fact that it was action-packed and intense, and also profound and insightful. I loved the fact that the author didn’t follow formula.

Sometimes, authors are a little too enamored with their own use of language and all the pretty words. Guillermo Stitch offers spare prose that gets straight to the point, grabs us by the throat and doesn’t let us have a chance to catch our breath.

If I made such pronouncements, I’d likely declare this the best book I read in 2018. And the fact that it’s a self-published title that was able to get industry reviews and pretty much universal praise? Inspiring.