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Everything I Read, Watched, and Listened to in August 2021

September 5, 2021

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I’m changing the format of my book reviews and trying something new this month! This post has been expanded to include movies, television, and podcasts. Hopefully, you’ll enjoy the new format and find some gems that you can enjoy this fall!

WHAT I READ

The Wife Between Us, by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen (Fiction)

When I shared a video of this book on Instagram, I was flooded with messages that all said some version of the same thing: “that book is so good.”

Everyone was correct. The Wife Between Us was excellent. I read it over a weekend and had a hard time putting it down. It’s a twisty story about a recently divorced woman and the person who is about to take her place as Richard’s wife.

I loved the story, the writing, and the ending. But if I may air a grievance, the only thing preventing me from giving this five stars is a plot device that I find problematic: using mental health and alcoholism as a way to make the protagonist an unreliable narrator. It was interesting when I read Girl on a Train, but now it seems like more and more books are following the same model, and it has lost its luster.

Other than that, listen to my Instagram friends. This book is gold and you’ll be glad you picked it up!

The Serendipity Mindset: The Art and Science of Creating Good Luck, by Christian Busch (Non-Fiction)

If I had to choose a favorite read from August, The Serendipity Mindset would be the winner. It’s part self-help, part inspiration, part common sense that most people tend to overlook.

The book helps you to open your mind and your eyes to the opportunities that surround us. We are only able to take in so much information at once, and a lot of our attention span is eaten up by negative sources like the news, past traumas, and personal insecurities.

In reading The Serendipity Mindset, you’ll be awakened and encouraged to engage in situations that will give you an advantage. The methodology won’t work the same for everyone. The author doesn’t shy away from the fact that our current circumstances are not all equal. However, all humans share this commonality: we each have infinite possibilities for growth.

This book was super inspiring and one I’d love to revisit. Tactically, it encouraged me to step outside of my comfort zone and pursue opportunities that I thought were out of reach. In less than a month, I’ve already experienced the positive fruits of those efforts. I would absolutely recommend it to anyone who strives to live to the fullest.

Mystic River, by Dennis Lehane (Fiction)

My husband read Mystic River when it was first published in 2001, and recently asked if I would watch the film with him. Like any good reader, I refused to do so until I read the book first.

Mystic River begins in the past. Jimmy, Sean, and Dave are three boys growing up in the outskirts of Boston. On one fateful afternoon, as they are playing together, one of them is abducted. He escapes and returns four days later.

Shifting to the present day, the three boys are now men who have grown apart but remain tied together. A new tragedy brings them back into one another’s orbit and the three are forced to face the unresolved issues from their past.

It wasn’t the type of novel I’d typically pick up, but I loved this book. The story moved quickly and the writing was fantastic, especially the world-building and character development. The ending was dark and sad, but so good. I love every choice that author Dennis Lehane made as a storyteller.

But on the whole, it is a rather depressing tale. I decided that I’d rather not watch the movie after all.

The Molecule of More, by Daniel Z. Lieberman and  Michael E. Long (Non-Fiction)

My niece had brain surgery earlier this year (she is recovered, doing great!), and her illness sparked a newfound fascination with our minds and how they work. My sister and I read this one together, and it was an interesting study.

This particular book focuses on dopamine: how it works, what it causes us to do and not do, and how altering its levels can impact our lives.

The first half of The Molecule of More focused on addiction, and I almost stopped reading because I was having a hard time engaging. However, the second half of the book begins to explore other topics like how dopamine affects our creativity, political beliefs, and happiness.

I’m glad I read it in its entirety but this isn’t one that I’d be quick to recommend unless addiction is a subject in which you’d like to become an expert.

WHAT I WATCHED

Photo: ISABELLA B. VOSMIKOVA/NETFLIX © 2021

Never Have I Ever, Season 2

My level of obsession with this show is borderline embarrassing since I’m likely a bit older than its intended age demographic. Never Have I Ever is a show that follows an Indian-American high schooler named Devi as she navigates life after the loss of her dad. The show is smart, fresh, hilarious, and incredibly well written. I loved Season 2 just as much as its first.

Mindy Kaling’s humor isn’t for everyone, but it is exactly my speed. If you binge Never Have I Ever more quickly than you intend, you can look forward to Season 3, which has already been announced.

Watch on Netflix 

Photo: JOSE PEREZ/BAUER-GRIFFIN

Gossip Girl

It was an odd choice to start the revival of this show, considering I never watched the original run, but HBO Max’s advertising did its job. This 2021 version follows a pair of estranged sisters, their uber-wealthy friends, and a group of teachers who are secretly trying to bring them down.

I’m a sucker for high production quality, and beautiful settings. Gossip Girl delivers on both. The story wasn’t intriguing enough for me to go racing back to it after pausing for a couple of weeks as I traveled. Still, I’ll likely return to it eventually, to see how it all panned out in the end.

Watch on HBO Max

Friday the 13th

My brother-in-law recently gifted us with a book that prompts a new movie challenge for every week of the year. We’ve been going through it slowly, landing on Friday the 13th, which checks the “Small Budget, Big Box Office” category. My husband saw it years ago, but it was my first viewing.

Horror is not my genre, but I knew it would be a fun watch, especially since it’s a summer movie, and it literally takes place on my birthday, (three years early ????). 

I am excited to share that I thoroughly enjoyed this film. I’m not sure that I would have felt the same if I had watched it when it first came out, but I always have an appreciation for older movies. Even if this means that I too am old.

Rent from Amazon Prime Video

THE CHAIR (L to R) SANDRA OH as JI-YOON, NANA MENSAH as YAZ, and HOLLAND TAYLOR as JOAN in episode 106 of THE CHAIR Cr. ELIZA MORSE/NETFLIX © 2021

The Chair

This show singlehandedly got me in the mood for fall. Academia! Tweed! Brick buildings and stacks of leather-bound textbooks! 

It is a six-part series that stars Sandra Oh as an English professor who has recently taken over the role of department chair at a fictitious New England college. It’s well-written, visually appealing, and the episodes move quickly. My only gripe is that the story leans heavily on the trope of “hot mess” which is never really funny to me in the way that I think it is intended.

I adored Holland Taylor’s character of Joan, and hope that there is a second season, purely to see her in action again.

Watch on Netflix 

Schmigadoon!

I held onto my Apple TV subscription solely to watch this limited series about a couple (played by Cecily Strong and Keegan Michael Key) who get stuck in a 1940’s era musical.

It had all of the makings of a perfect (to me) show: my favorite broadway performers, an idealized town (the motto of which is “We always strive for peace and happiness”), musical numbers, and fabulous costumes.

Sadly, this series fell flat for me. The plot was so-so. I didn’t love the characters, even though I adore every actor in the cast. But mostly the songs were lackluster. There have been many other musical parodies that came before Schmigadoon! (like the show Something Rotten, one of my favorites). To me, it just didn’t stack up. 

The fact that it didn’t send me running to stream the songs says it all. Still, we musical theater lovers can’t be choosers! Even though this particular project did not leave me yelling “encore,” I’ll gleefully welcome any new Broadway-inspired content that hits the screen.

Watch on Apple TV

WHAT I LISTENED TO

I listen to so many podcasts and will spare you from listing all of them. Here are the two that I particularly enjoyed this month:

No Place Like Home

A nine-part series that follows the theft and recovery of the most famous pair of shoes in the world: Dorothy’s Ruby Slippers. In this podcast, you’ll learn about Judy Garland, movie memorabilia, theft, and the impact that The Wizard of Oz has had on society and culture.

You may have heard Steve recommend this in a recent episode of A Podcast for Creatives. I second his endorsement. My husband and I listened to the series in one sitting on our drive home from the Northeast and it made the trip fly by.

From C13 Originals. Listen on Apple Podcasts

Gene and Roger

Delivered in the same format as No Place Like Home, Gene and Roger is a limited series, that I found inside the feed of one of my favorite shows, The Big Picture.

It catalogs the journey of America’s most well-known film critics, Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert. Although I consider myself a film enthusiast, I knew very little about the duo and was delighted by what I learned. The podcast follows the story of these two icons through the entirety of their lives and partnership.

For me, it hit all the right notes: it educated me, made me laugh, cry, and gave me a deeper appreciation for film culture. If you’re in any way interested in cinema or grew up in the ’80s and ’90s, you will love this series.

From The Ringer. Listen on Spotify or in The Big Picture feed on Apple Podcasts.

If you buy something through the links in this post, I may earn an affiliate commission, at no cost to you. Thank you for your support!

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