Friday, December 29, 2023

Favorite New Shows of 2023

Well, I already wrote about my favorite new books read in 2023, so now it's time for my other annual list - my favorite new TV shows of 2023! Unlike the books list, which is all about what books I've read, this list only includes those shows that debuted in 2023. Sometimes I'll make a little addendum at the end of those shows I would've included on previous years' lists if I didn't get around to them until later, but that's few and far between it seems.

Anyway! Enough blathering on about nothing, let's get on with it. My favorite new TV shows this year are...

Jury Duty
Jury Duty was a complete surprise this year! I had not heard of it at all, really, until someone mentioned it. Once I started watching it, I didn't want to stop. It's hilarious and super engaging, and if you haven't watched it yet, you really should. 

The Diplomat
Keri Russell is back in The Diplomat, a series that normally I wouldn't think would be my cup of tea. But this one is really well done from both a character perspective and a plot perspective. A bit fish out of water mixed with political intrigue, the show has a great cast and will definitely leave you wanting season two.

While there have been a number of Star Wars themed live action TV series on Disney+ in the past few years, Ahsoka is the only one I have actually enjoyed and looked forward to each episode. It felt the most Star Wars-y of all of the shows so far, if that makes sense. Plus, actual light saber battles and stuff, which, let's be honest, we all want more of. It was meant to be a limited series, but the ending really left things open, so who knows where things will go now.

Percy Jackson and the Olympians
Although only three episodes are available so far of Percy Jackson and the Olympians, this TV version of the book series is already superior to the film series that came out some years ago. The only thing that is holding this back thus far, for me, is that I don't feel a ton of chemistry between the trio. Otherwise, though, it's well shot and the story moves along at a brisk and engaging pace. If you liked the books or are looking for something with Harry Potter-ish vibes, give this one a go.

That '90s Show
Now I'm sure some people didn't like this update to That '70s Show, but honestly I really enjoyed it. It's light-hearted and fun, and has all of the '90s nostalgia. Would it work without Kitty and Red? Probably not, but the kids are coming into their own and the end of the season did set up some interesting drama to come.

A Murder at the End of the World
Who doesn't love a murder mystery set in a remote location? This series comes from creators
Zal Batmanglij and Brit Marling, who also created the show The OA. Their stuff is usually a little out there in some way, though I would say this is probably their most mainstream creation to date. Did I figure out most of the mystery's answers? Maybe. But with it being a complete story in seven episodes, that was okay. It was created as a standalone miniseries, but there has been speculation there could be a season two. Would it be as effective since this mystery was so personal for the lead character? That's the question.

Shows I want to watch but haven't had a chance to yet: Lessons in Chemistry, Gen V

Any new shows you loved that I should check out? Let me know in the comments!

Past Years:
2022 | 20212020 | 2019 | 2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011

Saturday, December 9, 2023

Favorite Books of 2023

I guess I've sort of abandoned this blog in favor of Retropond, but I figured I would still post my favorites at the end of the year. I find I myself come back to these lists to see what I said were my favorites each year, so let's not stop now. The list below is of my favorite books of the year. Now, these are my faves of the books I've read, not necessarily what was released this year, though some of them were. 

On to the list!

Synopsis: The Reaper is a legend, more myth than man: the savior of worlds, the leader of the Rising, the breaker of chains. But the Reaper is also Darrow, born of the red soil of Mars: a husband, a father, a friend. The worlds once needed the Reaper. But now they need Darrow. Because after the dark age will come a new age: of light, of victory, of hope.

Why it made the list: Okay, well, it's no secret that I'm a big fan of this series. Once I started reading these, I couldn't put them down, and now I look forward to every release date in anticipation to find out what happens next. While a couple in the middle I didn't enjoy quite as much, these last two have been really epic and awesome, and I really can't wait until the final one comes out. I've said it before and I'll say it again, if you're a fan of scifi and you haven't read these books, you really should. 

Legends and Lattes by Travis Baldree

Synopsis: After a lifetime of bounties and bloodshed, Viv is hanging up her sword for the last time. The battle-weary orc aims to start fresh, opening the first ever coffee shop in the city of Thune. But old and new rivals stand in the way of success—not to mention the fact that no one has the faintest idea what coffee actually is. If Viv wants to put the blade behind her and make her plans a reality, she won't be able to go it alone. But the true rewards of the uncharted path are the travelers you meet along the way. And whether drawn together by ancient magic, flaky pastry, or a freshly brewed cup, they may become partners, family, and something deeper than she ever could have dreamed.

Why it made the list: If you're looking for a cozy fantasy novel that isn't all about big wars and epic magical stuff, I wager this one might hit the spot. And don't let the "cozy" moniker fool you into thinking that nothing happens, because there most certainly is a plot with twists and turns. I was surprised how much I enjoyed this one, so you might be too.

Synopsis of Book Lovers: Nora Stephens’ life is books—she’s read them all—and she is not that type of heroine. Not the plucky one, not the laidback dream girl, and especially not the sweetheart. In fact, the only people Nora is a heroine for are her clients, for whom she lands enormous deals as a cutthroat literary agent, and her beloved little sister Libby. Which is why she agrees to go to Sunshine Falls, North Carolina for the month of August when Libby begs her for a sisters’ trip away—with visions of a small-town transformation for Nora, who she’s convinced needs to become the heroine in her own story. But instead of picnics in meadows, or run-ins with a handsome country doctor or bulging-forearmed bartender, Nora keeps bumping into Charlie Lastra, a bookish brooding editor from back in the city. It would be a meet-cute if not for the fact that they’ve met many times and it’s never been cute. If Nora knows she’s not an ideal heroine, Charlie knows he’s nobody’s hero, but as they are thrown together again and again—in a series of coincidences no editor worth their salt would allow—what they discover might just unravel the carefully crafted stories they’ve written about themselves.

Synopsis of People We Meet on Vacation: Poppy and Alex. Alex and Poppy. They have nothing in common. She’s a wild child; he wears khakis. She has insatiable wanderlust; he prefers to stay home with a book. And somehow, ever since a fateful car share home from college many years ago, they are the very best of friends. For most of the year they live far apart—she’s in New York City, and he’s in their small hometown—but every summer, for a decade, they have taken one glorious week of vacation together. Until two years ago, when they ruined everything. They haven’t spoken since. Poppy has everything she should want, but she’s stuck in a rut. When someone asks when she was last truly happy, she knows, without a doubt, it was on that ill-fated, final trip with Alex. And so, she decides to convince her best friend to take one more vacation together—lay everything on the table, make it all right. Miraculously, he agrees. Now she has a week to fix everything. If only she can get around the one big truth that has always stood quietly in the middle of their seemingly perfect relationship. What could possibly go wrong?

Why they made the list: Look, from here on out, I'll probably read every Emily Henry book, even if her latest one (Happy Place) I didn't love quite as much as all the others. I mainlined three of her books this year, and these two were my favorites, with Book Lovers getting the slight edge. There's something about the way she writes romance that isn't too over the top; it feels like you're watching a romantic comedy in written form. Seriously, if you like romance at all and you haven't read Emily Henry's books, what are you doing? 

Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus

Synopsis: Chemist Elizabeth Zott is not your average woman. In fact, Elizabeth Zott would be the first to point out that there is no such thing as an average woman. But it’s the early 1960s and her all-male team at Hastings Research Institute takes a very unscientific view of equality. Except for one: Calvin Evans; the lonely, brilliant, Nobel–prize nominated grudge-holder who falls in love with—of all things—her mind. True chemistry results. But like science, life is unpredictable. Which is why a few years later Elizabeth Zott finds herself not only a single mother, but the reluctant star of America’s most beloved cooking show Supper at Six. Elizabeth’s unusual approach to cooking (“combine one tablespoon acetic acid with a pinch of sodium chloride”) proves revolutionary. But as her following grows, not everyone is happy. Because as it turns out, Elizabeth Zott isn’t just teaching women to cook. She’s daring them to change the status quo. 

Why it made the list: To be honest, the synopsis of this book did not really make me want to read it. It sounded a little too, I don't know, trying hard? But like most books with a historical bent, once I started reading it, I really enjoyed it. I haven't had a chance to watch the show yet to see how it compares, but I did hear they changed some things, so we'll see. This book also does something that I don't really like, but I had to look past that because the rest of it was so good.

Fourth Wing by Rebecca Yarros

Synopsis: Twenty-year-old Violet Sorrengail was supposed to enter the Scribe Quadrant, living a quiet life among books and history. Now, the commanding general—also known as her tough-as-talons mother—has ordered Violet to join the hundreds of candidates striving to become the elite of Navarre: dragon riders. But when you’re smaller than everyone else and your body is brittle, death is only a heartbeat away...because dragons don’t bond to “fragile” humans. They incinerate them. With fewer dragons willing to bond than cadets, most would kill Violet to better their own chances of success. The rest would kill her just for being her mother’s daughter—like Xaden Riorson, the most powerful and ruthless wingleader in the Riders Quadrant. She’ll need every edge her wits can give her just to see the next sunrise. Yet, with every day that passes, the war outside grows more deadly, the kingdom's protective wards are failing, and the death toll continues to rise. Even worse, Violet begins to suspect leadership is hiding a terrible secret. Friends, enemies, lovers. Everyone at Basgiath War College has an agenda—because once you enter, there are only two ways out: graduate or die

Why it made the list: Now here's the thing, this book is what you might call a sensation in that it's extremely popular, but also extremely divisive. And while I have some issues with it, I couldn't put it down. Is it full of tropes and some questionable dialogue? Sure. But am I going to read the next one? Yep.

Other books I enjoyed this year, but wouldn't necessarily call my absolute favorites: Stars and Smoke by Marie Lu, Happy Place by Emily Henry

You can check out all of the books I’ve read on my Goodreads page, but let me know if you’ve had any favorites from this year that I should check out!

Past Years:
202220212020 | 2019 | 2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012

Monday, December 12, 2022

Favorite New Shows of 2022

Boy, there are a lot of shows that exist in the world these days. Lots of shows that debut and then don't get renewed, or you only find out about them after they've been on for a couple of seasons. But there have been quite a few this year that I watched and highly enjoyed, with a number of them being a complete surprise as I had no idea what they were beforehand. 

So let's get on with it, my list of my favorite new TV shows watched this year...


By far the best show of the year, Severance is both funny and dramatic, and features a very interesting concept at its core. It's full of tension, and the finale will leave you wanting more. Hopefully the next season can keep up the quality.

Wolf Like Me

I didn't know much about this show going into it, but figured it was worth checking out with the lead cast at its core. It draws you in pretty quickly, and while the concept might seem weird or goofy, it's done in a way that resonates well. What is strange, though, is why Isla Fisher is made to be American when the show takes place in Australia and she could just use her native accent. But, whatever!

I Love That For You

This show really has it all, from an awesome cast, to a compelling story, to a great sense of humor, and more. Vanessa Bayer is great as the lead character - and what's even more interesting is that it is partially based on her own life. If you're looking for a new comedy to watch, give this one a go.

House of the Dragon

I wanted to feel excited about House of the Dragon, but definitely felt a bit trepidatious based on how Game of Thrones ended. That said, the show has been delivering so far. It was a bit jarring to have some of the main actors change partway through the first season, but the story itself has continued to be compelling throughout, even if the characters themselves aren't very likable. Can they keep up the momentum? Let's hope.

The Rehearsal

If you've never seen Nathan Fielder's Nathan For You, then you would probably go into The Rehearsal with a very different mindset. Nathan has a certain quality about him where you can't tell what's real and what's fake, and a sense of humor that likely not everyone would understand. While you may think the show is going to be a certain thing based on the first episode, it really changes and develops over the first few episodes into something else entirely. How much is scripted and how much isn't? That's part of the fun of watching.

Iron Chef: Quest for an Iron Legend

What's this? A reality competition series on this list? Why not! This is an all-new version of Iron Chef, pitting "wannabe" chefs against Iron Chefs in different culinary battles. Some of the food is really amazing, and it's cool to see how different people take on different challenges. Definitely an easy show to binge.


I hadn't really heard much about this show when we decided to watch the pilot. While the pilot itself is good, the show gets better as it goes, with some true laugh out loud moments along the way. The cast is awesome, with one of my unexpected favorites being Calum Worthy as Zack Jackson, a perky former child star. But the rest of the cast is great as well - Keegan Michael Key, Paul Reiser, Rachel Bloom, Judy Greer, Johnny Knoxville... Another great comedy to check out if you haven't seen it!

Love on the Spectrum US

If you were worried that the US version of the original Love on the Spectrum wouldn't be as heartwarming or engaging, worry no more. The docuseries follows autistic adults looking for love, and will have you tearing up when they do or do not find it. It's been renewed for a second season, so let's hope we get to catch up with everyone while also meeting some new people.

Any new shows you loved that I should check out? Let me know in the comments!

Past Years:
20212020 | 2019 | 2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011

Monday, December 5, 2022

Favorite Books of 2022

Life really gets in the way of reading some good books, you know? This year, I had time to actually finish a couple books which was super nice, and also renewed my love for reading, which had felt like it was dwindling somewhat in the last couple years. I've gotten a little lackadaisical in keeping up with writing book reviews for every book I've been reading this year. I only have so much energy, you know?

Anyway, on to the list...

Beach Read by Emily Henry

Synopsis: A romance writer who no longer believes in love and a literary writer stuck in a rut engage in a summer-long challenge that may just upend everything they believe about happily ever afters. Augustus Everett is an acclaimed author of literary fiction. January Andrews writes bestselling romance. When she pens a happily ever after, he kills off his entire cast. They’re polar opposites. In fact, the only thing they have in common is that for the next three months, they're living in neighboring beach houses, broke, and bogged down with writer's block. Until, one hazy evening, one thing leads to another and they strike a deal designed to force them out of their creative ruts: Augustus will spend the summer writing something happy, and January will pen the next Great American Novel. She’ll take him on field trips worthy of any rom-com montage, and he’ll take her to interview surviving members of a backwoods death cult (obviously). Everyone will finish a book and no one will fall in love. Really. 

Why it made the list: I was skeptical about whether I would like this book or not, but I could not keep it down. I was drawn into this book from the start, and even though I knew that the two would eventually get together, I still wanted to see just how they would. It's definitely a romance, so if you're not in to that, you might not like it. But I definitely did!

Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir

A Good Girl's Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson

Synopsis: Ryland Grace is the sole survivor on a desperate, last-chance mission—and if he fails, humanity and the earth itself will perish. Except that right now, he doesn’t know that. He can’t even remember his own name, let alone the nature of his assignment or how to complete it. All he knows is that he’s been asleep for a very, very long time. And he’s just been awakened to find himself millions of miles from home, with nothing but two corpses for company. His crewmates dead, his memories fuzzily returning, Ryland realizes that an impossible task now confronts him. Hurtling through space on this tiny ship, it’s up to him to puzzle out an impossible scientific mystery—and conquer an extinction-level threat to our species. And with the clock ticking down and the nearest human being light-years away, he’s got to do it all alone. Or does he?

Why it made the list: While I didn't always love Weir's writing style and some of the ways he decided to tell the story, the story itself was super compelling. I could not wait to see what would happen next, just waiting for the next moment I could go back to reading it. I've heard this is being adapted into a movie as well, which I can totally see. You can read my longer review here.

Nothing More to Tell by Karen M. McManus

Synopsis: True crime can leave a false trail. Four years ago, Brynn left Saint Ambrose School following the shocking murder of her favourite teacher. The case was never solved, but she's sure that the three kids who found Mr. Larkin's body know more than they're telling, especially her ex-best friend Tripp Talbot. He's definitely hiding something. When Brynn gets an internship working on a popular true-crime show, she decides to investigate what really happened that day in the woods. But the further she dives into the past, the more secrets she finds. Four years ago someone got away with murder. Now it's time to uncover the truth...

Why it made the list: I've liked most of McManus' mysteries, and this one was no exception. Not only is there a mystery (and mysteries are always compelling unless they are boring), there is also a developing romance that you know is coming, but can't help but root for regardless. The answer to the mystery is unexpected, even though I now can't remember what it is! 

Wrong Place Wrong Time by Gillian McAllister

Synopsis: Can you stop a murder after it’s already happened? Late October. After midnight. You’re waiting up for your seventeen-year-old son. He’s late. As you watch from the window, he emerges, and you realize he isn’t alone: he’s walking toward a man, and he’s armed. You can’t believe it when you see him do it: your funny, happy teenage son, he kills a stranger, right there on the street outside your house. You don’t know who. You don’t know why. You only know your son is now in custody. His future shattered. That night you fall asleep in despair. All is lost. Until you wake... and it is yesterday. And then you wake again... and it is the day before yesterday. Every morning you wake up a day earlier, another day before the murder. With another chance to stop it. Somewhere in the past lies an answer. The trigger for this crime—and you don’t have a choice but to find it...

Why it made the list: I love a good time travel story, and this one is definitely unique in that the lead character is continually going back in time to try to figure out what happened when the book first starts. There are mysteries upon mysteries, and it all wraps up in a very satisfying way. 

Other books I enjoyed this year, but wouldn't call my favorites: The Midnight Library by Matt Haig, Good Girl, Bad Blood by Holly Jackson

You can check out all of the books I’ve read on my Goodreads page, but let me know if you’ve had any favorites from this year that I should check out!

Past Years:
20212020 | 2019 | 2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Book Review: Good Girl, Bad Blood (A Good Girl's Guide to Murder #2) by Holly Jackson

Book Review: Project Hail Mary by Andy WeirGood Girl, Bad Blood by Holly Jackson

Published: April 30, 2020

Genre: Mystery, Young Adult

Pages: 417

Synopsis: Pip is not a detective anymore.

With the help of Ravi Singh, she released a true-crime podcast about the murder case they solved together last year. The podcast has gone viral, yet Pip insists her investigating days are behind her.

But she will have to break that promise when someone she knows goes missing. Jamie Reynolds has disappeared, on the very same night the town hosted a memorial for the sixth-year anniversary of the deaths of Andie Bell and Sal Singh.

The police won't do anything about it. And if they won't look for Jamie then Pip will, uncovering more of her town's dark secrets along the way... and this time everyone is listening. But will she find him before it's too late?

Thoughts: In this sequel to A Good Girl's Guide to Murder, one of my favorite books read in 2021, the story picks up a bit after the events that took place in the first book, with Pip having started a podcast about her investigation. It takes a little while for the story to really get going as Pip has decided she doesn't want to be a "detective" anymore, but once a new mystery takes hold, she of course gets pulled back in.

Though it's a slow start at first, once things get going, the story picks up quickly, and before I knew it, I was already nearing the end. The mystery itself takes some unexpected twists and turns, and to be honest I had no idea it was going to end in the way it did. While sometimes that would be annoying because there's something to be said for anticipation, I do enjoy when a mystery isn't cut and dry and goes in an unexpected direction.

While the first book focused on what you'd call a "cold case" and digging up information about something that had happened in the past, this book's mystery is very much in the present and focuses on actively trying to find a person who has gone missing. That mystery, combined with Pip evolving and changing into someone a bit darker than she was in the previous book, gives this one a bit of a different feel. Though I enjoyed it, I would definitely say that I prefer the first book over this one.

Still, I enjoyed it enough to round out the trilogy. Here's hoping it sticks the landing!

Rating: 4/5

Buy on Amazon 

What I'm Reading Next: You'll Be the Death of Me by Karen M. McManus

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