Category Archives: #RecOfTheWeek

Recommendation of the Week: Sources Say

It seems like the 2020 election will never end, even as President-elect Biden’s inauguration draws nearer. Even though we all have election fatigue, it’s still important to be politically aware and responsible consumers of media.

Enter Lori Goldstein’s Sources Say, a young adult novel focused on a contentious high school election between two exes. Caught in the middle is a reporter, the sister of one of the candidates, attempting to do her best at covering everything truthfully and fairly.

Sources Say is a fun and easy read for readers of all ages to learn more about the realities of misinformation and politics in an accessible environment. The characters are likable and easy to grasp on to and the romantic plot is compelling. Though at times the plot devices and framework can feel a bit gimmicky, they work well within the overall story for a unique twist on social media and news.

If you want to learn more about Sources Say, I chatted with Goldstein over at Culturess about Sources Say and the role of her book in the larger political landscape. Sources Say is available now wherever books are sold.

Molly

Buy your copy of Sources Say here to support independent bookstores.

Disclaimers: I am an affiliate of Bookshop.org and I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. I received an ARC of this book through NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Recommendation of the Week: Surrender Your Sons

Adam Sass’s debut novel, a young adult queer thriller, is the perfect read for to kick off your Spook-tober. Surrender Your Sons follows Connor Major, a recently out gay teenager who is isolated in a small town in Illinois.

His only salvation from the Reverend who has taken over every inch of his tiny town, including his mother, is his boyfriend, Ario, and his weekly Meals on Wheels delivery to a disabled patient, Ricky Hannigan.

Unfortunately for Connor, his mother and the Reverend discover he uses his Meals on Wheels trips to also see his boyfriend, and put him under strict house arrest.

It’s not long after this that his mother willingly has him kidnapped and taken to a secret island in the middle of Costa Rica with the hopes that when he comes back, he’ll no longer be gay.

Even worse, Connor soon learns that the Reverend is at the center of this horrible conspiracy, his power looming even larger on the island, as Connor tries to unravel the mystery thanks to a clue from Ricky.

Conversion therapy and its many sins and cruelty are the throughline of Surrender Your Sons. Sass does a masterful job of proving that, despite the loss of focus on the topic, conversion therapy has never gone away; it’s just better at hiding itself.

With the dramatic Lost setting and Wilder Girls vibes, Surrender Your Sons threads plenty of tension and mystery on top of the devastation, making it so that readers keep turning the page, even as the realities become more gruesome.

But even though much of the queer experience for many people (both on the page and off) can be traumatic and violent, Sass also weaves in a powerful narrative of queer resilience, joy, strength, and love.

When Connor makes it onto the island, he learns he’s not the only person in his situation, eventually having to choose whether to save himself, or work with the other teens to defeat the Reverend and escape together.

This includes a blooming romance with another camper, Marcos. Unlike Ario, who pressured Connor to come out before he was ready, unwittingly putting him in danger, Marcos and Connor have matching scars.

Beyond the numerous beautiful and powerful queer themes, Surrender Your Sons is a masterful thriller and mystery, begging to be read and re-read with its numerous breadcrumbs and easter eggs and incredible supporting cast. You can get your copy today at your local library or wherever books are sold.

Molly

Buy your copy of Surrender Your Sons here to support independent bookstores.

Disclaimers: I am an affiliate of Bookshop.org and I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. I received an ARC of this book through NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Recommendation of the Week: Hillary

There are still a few days left in Women’s History Month, so we may as well recognize the woman who came closest to breaking that “highest and hardest glass ceiling” by winning the popular vote in 2016.

The new docuseries Hillary on Hulu examines Hillary Rodham Clinton with unprecedented access and provides new insight into her political campaigns, career, and private life. Regardless of what you think of Hillary as a person, she has paved the way for future female leaders and that deserves credit.

Read more of my thoughts on the docuseries for Culturess.

Molly

Recommendation of the Week: Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Okay, so my recommendation for you this week isn’t exactly new. In fact, Buffy the Vampire Slayer premiered on the long-departed The WB network nearly a quarter of a century ago. Buffy is by no means a perfect show and it hasn’t aged well in some ways (it is painfully white), but it is nonetheless extremely meaningful to television, the first show to blend genre and mythos with humanity in such a thoughtful way.

Because of this, Buffy is the perfect show to binge right now while self-isolating, or while dealing with generalized anxiety around the Covid-19 crisis. Whether you’re looking for catharsis or escapism, Buffy Summers is your girl. Read more of my thoughts at Culturess.

Molly

Recommendation of the Week: Shrill

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Shrill‘s newest season dropped January 24 on Hulu. In the current media landscape with more content than ever before, it can be easy to miss shows, even ones that are as good as Aidy Bryant and Lindy West’s love child. If you haven’t yet watched Shrill, now is the time to dive in, with the first two episodes of the series available to watch for free on YouTube for a limited time.

I wrote a full review of the season for Culturess (spoiler–I loved it) and a personal essay about the second season’s WAHAM episode. Take a look and let me know what you think of Annie’s continued adventures.

Molly

Recommendation of the Week: In Praise of “Special’s” Codependent Mother-Son Relationship

For anyone who has a really close relationship with their mom, especially if they are queer and/or disabled, the new Netflix series Special will hit close to home. The show centers on Ryan (Ryan O’Connell), a young gay man with cerebral palsy learning how to live independently and truthfully. O’Connell also wrote and directed the series which is loosely based on his own life.

There are so many things to love about this show:  Punam Patel’s performance as the loving and vivacious Kim, Ryan’s mile-a-minute puns, or the sweet budding romance between Ryan and Carey (Augustus Prew). But what really resonated the most with me is the close relationship between Ryan and his mother, Karen (Jessica Hecht). At the beginning of the series, Ryan still lives at home with his mom. He doesn’t date. He’s beginning a new internship (which appears to be his first job ever). He still regularly needs help from his mom due to his disability. But his mom is also overprotective and afraid to let him leave.

As the series continues, Ryan moves out and they each gain a bit of independence from each other. His mom begins to date, though secretly behind Ryan’s back because she’s afraid of how he’ll take it, and Ryan is learning how to do more things on his own. The fifth episode told from Karen’s perspective is a high point of the series, showing the way women and mothers take on the emotional labor in families as caretakers not just for their children, but also for everyone around them.

I don’t have anything as serious as cerebral palsy, but I have several chronic illnesses that also caused my mother and I to have a similar relationship growing up as Ryan and Karen’s. I lived with my parents until the age of 25 (at which point, I moved in with my sister–baby steps). I didn’t have a place of my own until I was 27. Now that my mom is gone and I’ve been forced to gain independence from her, I can see that she was pretty overprotective about a lot of things. While I understand why, I also can’t help but look around at my peer group and see how things were different for them, or even how my siblings were treated differently (hello, curfew). I wish I could watch Special with her. It serves as a love letter to these very specific codependent mother-child relationships and how they can shape the lives of both involved.

Special hasn’t been renewed yet. The episodes are 15 minutes each and there are only eight, so you can watch the whole thing in the amount of time it takes to watch a movie. The writing is out of this world and there are so many good, heartfelt, and hilarious moments. So what are you waiting for?

Molly

Recommendation of the Week: The Fall

Police procedurals about white male serial killers murdering white women are a dime-a-dozen these days. Shows that were once inventive and the best of the genre are either over or tired (Law & Order, CSI, etc.).

Enter The Fall, a British drama about two hunters, a serial killer, Paul Spector (Jamie Dornan), and the police officer, Stella Gibson (Gillian Anderson), trying to catch him. The beautiful Belfast, Ireland provides an antithetical backdrop for the horrific crimes. Additionally, Gibson must battle sexism, politics, and her own psyche as she closes in on the killer.

Don’t expect any stereotypically dramatic scenes of frustration or fear from Anderson’s Gibson as she solves the crime. Gibson is completely in control of her emotions, of her surroundings, of her sexuality at any given time. Gillian Anderson gives a quiet and subtle performance of a complex woman who understands the implications of what it means to be a woman in power who shows her emotions.

Contrary to many similar shows, the identity of the killer is not a secret to the viewer. We get to know the criminal as well as the police. Spector is a husband and father. He works as a bereavement counselor. He’s handsome and charming. …he also stalks and kills young women. The Fall utilizes Jamie Dornan’s physicality and good looks as a way to mess with the viewers’ perceptions. Many scenes with Dornan have no dialogue and are acted entirely through facial expressions.

The second season of The Fall dropped on Netflix Friday. The whole series is only 11 episodes so you can easily binge-watch it before Fifty Shades of Grey comes out on Valentine’s Day. It is unknown as to whether there will be a third season.

Have you already watched The Fall? Just now starting? Hurry up and finish. I need to talk about that ending.

Molly

Recommendation of the Week: Kroll Show and Broad City

If you haven’t seen Kroll Show, it’s not too late to catch up on the insane character-driven sketch show that lovingly mocks television and the people who populate it. Kroll Show spoofs everything from Degrassi to Bravo-style reality shows to public access to infomercials with scarily accurate detail. The best part of Kroll Show, though, is simply taking in the vast amount of characters its star and creator, Nick Kroll, embodies in any given episode.

Sadly, the third and final season of Kroll Show premieres tonight.  While the news is somewhat heartbreaking, you have to give mad props to Kroll for going out with class. “…as opposed to stringing out more seasons, we wanted to feel like we were going out with the best work that we’ve done.”

The one episode to watch:  “Can I Finish?” (S1E5) Pony Tales:  A look into the secret lives of men with ponytails. Fabrice, Fabrice:  “The name so nice you have to say it again.” Though this episode contains a few characters who rarely don’t really reoccur, it has some amazing moments and provides a wonderful peek into Kroll’s sensibilities.

If you haven’t met Liz & Liz yet, Brian LaCroix, or Bobby Bottleservice, it’s not too late. The first two seasons are free on Amazon Prime and Comedy Central. The first episode of the final season of Kroll Show airs tonight on Comedy Central at 10:30 e/9:30 c.

Additionally, if you’re already a fan of Kroll Show, or just a comedy nerd, you should check out the brand new Comedy Bang Bang! episode featuring Oh, Hello characters (Kroll and John Mulaney) as well as this older episode with Jenny Slate where Kroll deftly plays a stunning amount of characters in a single act. Kroll isn’t just funny–he’s wickedly smart.

Oh, Broad City, how I love thee. In short, Broad City, web series-turned-Amy Poehler-produced Comedy Central show, follows real life best friends Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer as they navigate life as modern young women in New York City. Hilarity–and insanity–ensues. Bonus:  comedian Hannibal Buress–yes, that Hannibal Buress–guest stars as Ilana’s lovable and crazy dentist FWB.

As laugh out loud funny as this show is, though, the heart of it lies with the very real friendship of its stars who will do anything for each other. Anything.

The one episode to watch:  “Destination Wedding” (S1E8) Like all of the great Broad City episodes, there are elements of adventure abounding as Abbi, Ilana, and friends travel to a wedding and meet many obstacles along the way. Importantly, though, the episode also provides insight into just how deep the friendship between Abbi and Ilana goes.

If you missed Broad City last season, you can also catch up with the girls on Amazon Prime Comedy Central before the premiere Wednesday at 10:30 e/9:30 c. Additionally, old episodes of their web series are still available on YouTube, and definitely worth a watch.

Already a fan of Kroll Show and/or Broad City? Just now watching? Let me know what you think.

Molly

Recommendation of the Week: Rainbow Rowell

I hope to make this a weekly post (obviously) but I’ve already failed to meet my goal of posting at least once a week so we’ll see how this goes.

I was originally going to write about John Green and The Fault in Our Stars, largely because I was hesitant about it in the beginning (the whole cancer-patient-trope kind of bugs me). However, I inevitably enjoyed the book and the movie–especially as I had time to absorb it and think about it. But I think the Internet has done that for me.

I’m an avid consumer of the podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour from NPR. If you don’t listen to it, they critically analyze all forms of popular culture–books, music, television, movies, video games, tropes, etc.–in a very fun and snappy way. I highly recommend it. They end each episode with a segment called, “What’s Making Us Happy This Week” where they basically recommend different pop culture artifacts. Sometimes it’s a YouTube video. Sometimes it’s an album. Sometimes it’s a book.

Last fall, I was listening to the podcast and heard Linda Holmes mention the book Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell and how good it was. She kept bringing it up in subsequent episodes and I also saw it pop up on HelloGiggles. The world was telling me to read this book. However, I don’t get to read too much for pleasure throughout the school year, but I was heading to Minneapolis for a conference (by car–from Oklahoma) and decided to buy it on my Kindle.

In short, I read the book in three days. I devoured it. As soon as it was over, I immediately wanted to pick it up and read it again. I didn’t want to say goodbye to Eleanor and Park.

Eleanor & Park is a special book. It is rare in YA fiction to see characters who are so carefully crafted across the board.

Throughout the book, Eleanor deals with an abusive stepfather. She shares a bedroom with her four little siblings and pins scraps of fabric to cover up the tears and holes in her secondhand clothes that don’t quite fit, drawing the negative and unwanted attention of the mean, popular kids who call her “Big Red.”

Meanwhile, Park is the only half-Korean kid at school and struggling under the weight of his dad’s imposing masculinity. He walks through school with his head down. He finds comfort in punk rock and experiments with eyeliner.

Somehow, he and Eleanor find each other. Through comic books and The Smiths and Watchmen.

I don’t want to say too much about this book, because you should just read it. As YA demi-god John Green said in his book review, “Eleanor & Park reminded me not just what it’s like to be young and in love with a girl, but also what it’s like to be young and in love with a book.”

Additionally, I just finished Rowell’s other YA novel, Fangirl. Again, I read it in two days. Essentially, Fangirl is about fearful and anxious Cath, an epic fan-fiction writer who goes to college with her twin and struggles when her sister, Wren, decides she wants independence. That means Cath has to live with a scary potluck roommate, Reagan, whose boy-toy? Levi never leaves the room. Cath has to learn how to do college on her own–and in the beginning she just doesn’t. Instead of going to the caf, she lives off of protein bars in her room. Eventually, Reagan takes pity on Cath and their friendship is sweet and hilarious.  “But you’re so helpless sometimes. It’s like watching a kitten with its head trapped in a Kleenex box,” Reagan tells her.

Throughout the book, Cath is also trying to finish her giant fan-fiction before the end of her favorite saga comes out (the equivalent of writing a fictional Harry Potter Book 7 before JK Rowling published her version) while balancing a “literary” fiction-writing class. Anyone who’s taken a workshop class can guess what happens next.

Fangirl, like Eleanor & Park has great romance, but it also touches on mental illness, family drama, and what it’s like to be a freshman in college. It’s also a book about writing in a very elegant and meta way without being too showy, which is hard to do. Fangirl was a really fun read. I couldn’t help but relate to the protagonist who was painfully introverted and painfully nerdy, both of which Rowell celebrated.

Rowell is also the author of the adult novels Attachments and the upcoming Landline. You can follow her on Twitter @rainbowrowell. (She’s really nice!)

Molly