54321 Interview with Celeste Ng!

Celeste Ng Muse Monthly Little Fires Everywhere

 

I can’t tell you how beyond thrilled I was to receive word that Celeste Ng would be curating our September box. Her debut work, Everything I Never Told You is a favorite not only on my personal shelf but among readers everywhere, and Little Fires Everywhere is bound to be no different. Already it has captured the attention of the literary community, and is poised to be one of the best book releases of this year. Not only is Celeste an incredible author, but also a kind and generous person. I was so excited that she agreed to answer a few questions for us, and so without further ado, I present our first 54321 Interview!

 

5 Books You’d Recommend to Everyone 

·  The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison: a masterpiece of American fiction and one everyone needs to read.
·  Howl’s Moving Castle, by Diana Wynn Jones: a children’s book that more than holds up for adults, with a strong heroine and a John Donne poem to boot.
·  Euphoria, by Lily King: One of the best novels I’ve read in years.
·  We Should All Be Feminists, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: Do I really need to explain why?
·  The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood: Ever more relevant as the days pass.

4 Favorite Contemporary Female Writers 

·  Mira Jacob: A fantastic fiction writer with a forthcoming graphic memoir on parenting and race–can’t wait to read it.
·  Nicole Chung: The former managing editor of The Toast somehow manages to be eloquent AND insightful AND witty about culture, adoption, and race in America.
·  Rebecca Solnit: Start with her essay “Men Explain Things to Me” and proceed in any direction from there.
·  Roxane Gay: If you don’t know her work, it’s time.

3 Things That Make You Happy 

·  Flowers
·  Puns (especially bad ones)
·  The questions my six-year-old asks

2 Things to Let Go Of 

·  Guilt, if you can (if so, please tell me how).
·  That book you’re not going to read. Nothing’s for everyone. Pass it along–someone else will love it–and go read something else.

 1 Quote to Live By

Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.

 

Thanks to Celeste and the Penguin Press team for making this happen, and I hope all of you enjoy Little Fires Everywhere!

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year: BookExpo America (BEA) Weekend!

BookExpo America or BEA is an annual event that is basically book heaven. It’s a time when publishers and industry experts come together to discuss the state of the publishing world, as well as the amazing books that are being published this year. There are panels, author signings, presentations, and best of all – advance reader copy giveaways. BEA is the best 3 days of my year. It’s exhausting but exhilarating, and I can’t wait to go every year. It’s my fashion week. This year, BEA is back in New York, and I could not be more ready.

What is the difference between BEA and BookCon?

I’ve never been to BookCon, so here are the differences from what I understand:

BEA is an industry event. Is is a chance for publishers to connect with booksellers, agents, librarians, etc. – people who buy and promote books. The intention is to show off what is being published within the next year so that they can make sales. BookCon is open to the public, and is designed more towards the reader. This is a chance to meet authors, talk about books, attend panels, and make friends. I also hear that BookCon is crowded and tends to have a younger, louder crowd.

Why does Muse Monthly go to BEA?

The first year we went mostly to network. We wanted to introduce the company to publishers and get some face time with people we’d been emailing with so that Muse Monthly could grow and thrive. But I also learned that the books I find at BEA usually set up boxes for the rest of the year, so now we go with the intention of filling out our fall/winter season.

Tips for BEA

1) Have a plan

Theoretically you could go into BEA with no plan at all and just pick up whatever ARCs you see, wander around and meet people, visit booths and talk to publishers about what is coming up for the rest of the year. But my feeling is that there are so many things going on that you’d miss something if you didn’t at least have a little bit of a plan. The BookExpo team release information about author signings and appearances that you can put on a schedule right on their website, but here’s the real trick: somewhere, some time before the convention, some entrepreneurial spirit on the internet will have miraculously created a google doc featuring all the signings, galley drops, and other special events that will be going on at BEA. How do they find this information? I have no idea. I’ve been going to BEA for three years and I still have no clue. I’m assuming they’re a wizard. It’s different every year and you have to go hunting for it, but it always happens. Keep an eye out for that, and then make yourself a little calendar so you can make sure to get in line for all the important things.

2) Bring an empty suitcase.

Here’s a photo of the dent in my shoulder from the first year. We didn’t know we could bring an empty suitcase the first time around, so I was in pain. A lot of pain. Books are heavy, y’all, and your shoulder can only take so much. Bring an empty suitcase and check it at the door, then you’ll have somewhere to dump your loot so your arm doesn’t fall off. Also, bring the biggest effing tote bag you can find. Trust me. I’ve seen people carrying stuff in their arms and it is not fun.

3) Wear comfortable shoes.

You will die. There is no place to sit, your feet will fall off.

4) Bring an extra battery for your phone.

In the Javits center there are actually plugs and sometimes one of the publishers will have a charging station, but EVERYONE needs juice and it’s so rare that you’ll actually find a space. Plus, being in New York will eat up your charge. Invest in an external battery and that way you’ll be safe.

5) If you’re a little shy, make a business card.

I know this seems weird but it’s actually a good idea for people who may have a little trouble with conversations and connecting like I do. Bring something to give people with all your information – social, email, etc – so that people can find you on the internet in case you forget to tell them. Also, there are a lot of people at BEA so it’s a good idea to have them for exchange, that way they remember you!

I am so excited to be going this year with our brand new team member, Kate! If you’ll be there, let me know so we can meet up! Happy book hunting!

Summer Recommended Reading

Summer Reading - Muse Monthly books tea reading bookworm summer

We are fast approaching my favorite season, a season made for laying outside (or inside if you’re me, because outside are where the bugs live), being lazy, and plowing through as many great new books as you can. Summertime just feels like book reading time, doesn’t it? It’s probably leftover from our school days; the excitement of finally getting to read what we want to read, rather than what’s assigned. There isn’t a better feeling than having some time and some extra daylight hours to actually get through all these books we’re so excited about. Get out your Book Beau and take them to the beach or the park and get your read on. Or, you know, just crack open a window. That’s okay too. You do you.

Here are a few we’re adding to our TBR this season:

White Fur – Jardine Libaire: When Elise Perez meets Jamey Hyde on a desolate winter afternoon, fate implodes, and neither of their lives will ever be the same. Although they are next-door neighbors in New Haven, they come from different worlds. Elise grew up in a housing project without a father and didn’t graduate from high school; Jamey is a junior at Yale, heir to a private investment bank fortune and beholden to high family expectations. Nevertheless, the attraction is instant, and what starts out as sexual obsession turns into something greater, stranger, and impossible to ignore.White Fur follows these indelible characters on their wild race through Newport mansions, downtown NYC nightspots, SoHo bars and WASP-establishment yacht clubs, through bedrooms and hospital rooms, as they explore, love, play, and suffer. Libaire combines the electricity of Less Than Zero with the timeless intensity of Romeo and Juliet in this searing novel that perfectly captures the ferocity of young love – May 30 from Hogarth

The Book of Joan – Lidia Yuknavitch: In the near future, world wars have transformed the earth into a battleground. Fleeing the unending violence and the planet’s now-radioactive surface, humans have regrouped to a mysterious platform known as CIEL, hovering over their erstwhile home. The changed world has turned evolution on its head: the surviving humans have become sexless, hairless, pale-white creatures floating in isolation, inscribing stories upon their skin. Out of the ranks of the endless wars rises Jean de Men, a charismatic and bloodthirsty cult leader who turns CIEL into a quasi-corporate police state. A group of rebels unite to dismantle his iron rule—galvanized by the heroic song of Joan, a child-warrior who possesses a mysterious force that lives within her and communes with the earth – April 14 from Harper

 

 

 

The Leavers – Lisa Ko: One morning, Deming Guo’s mother, Polly, an undocumented Chinese immigrant, goes to her job at a nail salon—and never comes home. No one can find any trace of her. With his mother gone, eleven-year-old Deming is left mystified and bereft. Eventually adopted by a pair of well-meaning white professors, Deming is moved from the Bronx to a small town upstate and renamed Daniel Wilkinson. But far from all he’s ever known, Daniel struggles to reconcile his adoptive parents’ desire that he assimilate with his memories of his mother and the community he left behind. Set in New York and China, The Leavers is a vivid examination of borders and belonging. It’s a moving story of how a boy comes into his own when everything he loves is taken away, and how a mother learns to live with the mistakes of the past. – May 2 from Algonquin

 

 

Salt Houses – Hala Alyan: On the eve of her daughter Alia’s wedding, Salma reads the girl’s future in a cup of coffee dregs. She sees an unsettled life for Alia and her children; she also sees travel, and luck. While she chooses to keep her predictions to herself that day, they will all soon come to pass when the family is uprooted in the wake of the Six-Day War of 1967.  Salma is forced to leave her home in Nablus; Alia’s brother gets pulled into a politically militarized world he can’t escape; and Alia and her gentle-spirited husband move to Kuwait City, where they reluctantly build a life with their three children. When Saddam Hussein invades Kuwait in 1990, Alia and her family once again lose their home, their land, and their story as they know it, scattering to Beirut, Paris, Boston, and beyond. Lyrical and heartbreaking, Salt Houses is a remarkable debut novel that challenges and humanizes an age-old conflict we might think we understand—one that asks us to confront that most devastating of all truths: you can’t go home again. – May 2, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

 

Spoonbenders – Daryl Gregory: Teddy Telemachus is a charming con man with a gift for sleight of hand and some shady underground associates. In need of cash, he tricks his way into a classified government study about telekinesis and its possible role in intelligence gathering. There he meets Maureen McKinnon, and it’s not just her piercing blue eyes that leave Teddy forever charmed, but her mind—Maureen is a genuine psychic of immense and mysterious power. After a whirlwind courtship, they marry, have three gifted children, and become the Amazing Telemachus Family, performing astounding feats across the country. Irene is a human lie detector. Frankie can move objects with his mind. And Buddy, the youngest, can see the future. Then one night tragedy leaves the family shattered. Decades later, the Telemachuses are not so amazing.  To make matters worse, the CIA has come knocking, looking to see if there’s any magic left in the Telemachus clan. And there is: Irene’s son Matty has just had his first out-of-body experience. But he hasn’t told anyone, even though his newfound talent might just be what his family needs to save themselves—if it doesn’t tear them apart in the process. – June 27, Knopf

 

Happy Reading!

 

The Women of Muse Monthly

I didn’t get the chance to celebrate International Women’s Day yesterday as I wanted to, so I wanted to take the time out today to write a little something. As a female business owner, it has always been important to me to work with and support other women. Muse Monthly would not be the business it is today if it weren’t for some amazing women that I was lucky to meet along the way, and I am so grateful for their help and their friendship. Here is just a (not-so)quick list of badass ladies we’ve worked with who have been absolutely essential and amazing:

Of course, we’ll start off with our badass lady authors. From the start, I always wanted to use Muse Monthly to feature not only primarily debut authors, but also marginalized voices, including women and especially women of color and LGBTQ women. We’ve been so proud to feature Claire Fuller, Carola Dibbell, Aislinn Hunter, Natasha Pulley, Claire Vaye Watkins, Susan Abulhawa, Rebecca Scherm, V.E. Schwab, Ashley Ream, Yaa Gyasi, Jessie Burton, Margaret Atwood, Janie Chang, Emily Robbins, and Jami Attenberg.

Katelyn from Penguin Random House, Lauren from Simon & Schuester, Mary and Kelsey from Macmillan, Taryn and Kimberly from HMH, Gillian from HarperCollins, and Karen from Greywolf who are always providing us with beautiful book choices and making author collaborations happen!

Karen, Cheyenne, and Camille from Cratejoy, who make sure this thing runs smoothly and that Muse Monthly gets in the hands of beautiful bookworms everywhere!

Amanda from Out of Print, Benita from BookBeau, Julia from Brew Labs, who makes our custom teas happen and Courtney from Holbrook Candle Company, who made our gorgeous candles for our one year anniversary

Sam from BadGirlGoodTea, Kelly from Mountain Witch Tea Company, Brittany from Wight Tea Company, Stephanie from Forest Witch Tea, Sharon and Sue from Angry Tea Room, Kate from Ajiri Tea, and Judith from Amiteas, who make delicious tea and have been such a joy to work with. All of these women own small businesses and most of them work completely on their own to make and package all the tea we send out each month. It’s always a huge request and we are so happy to support them and get their product into the hands of a new audience!

Our wonderful artists who keep Muse Monthly pretty: Talula Christian, Mishie Del Rosario, Rebecca Graves Prowse, Lindsay Goldner, and Brittany from Novelly Yours

Liv, Summer, Shauna, Emma, Whitney, Reagan, Jose, Caroline, Hannah, Heather, Christina Marie, Tilly, Tasha, Jane, Jenni, and all our beautiful blogger friends who help share our love of books and tea

I also want to say that while I try to keep Muse Monthly pretty gender neutral in terms of content, the majority of you Muses are women, so thank you so much for joining me along this journey. I feel so blessed to have an amazing group of subscribers and I really am thankful for each and every one of you. You’re all incredible women, and I will always work to make sure that Muse Monthly puts a smile on your face!

There is also a select group of ladies who have been the heart and soul of Muse Monthly from the beginning, even before we launched the Kickstarter, without whom I would be drowning in self-doubt and anxiety: my dearest friends – Kate, Nikki, and Kelsey, and of course, my mom and my sister.  My mother especially has been incredible from the start. She always read to me as a child and instilled in my this love of books and tea, and if it weren’t for her, none of this would have been possible.

I am so grateful to all the strong, intelligent women that have come into my life during the past two years. Thank you is simply not enough!

“There is no limit to what we, as women, can accomplish.” —Michelle Obama

Your Bookish Heart: Where to Donate Your Books this Holiday Season

Muse Monthly Holiday 2016 Where To Donate Your Books

 

The spirit of giving shouldn’t be limited just to December, but people are always in a more charitable mood at this time of year. And it’s a great thing, because there are so many wonderful programs that need your help.

Here at Muse Monthly we believe in the power of literature as a learning tool. Reading can help you expand your vocabulary, visit far-off lands, learn about new cultures, and stretch your brain to new ideas and concepts. But more than anything, reading helps you empathize – it helps you understand people, their struggles, their emotions, and their choices. Books can help educate, end the cycle of poverty, and change communities.

But of course, not everyone has access to books, and therefore these learning tools are out of reach. That is why we encourage giving your unwanted or used books to one of these wonderful programs that helps bring the joy of reading to the world.

 

HousingWorks Bookstore & Cafe, NYC

Housing Works Bookstore Cafe bookshop New York City Manhattan Soho Muse Monthly books bookworm

HousingWorks is a program in New York City that helps those living with HIV/AIDS get healthcare, find housing and jobs, and legal assistance to ease the hardship of living with the illness. HousingWorks has both a Thrift Shop and a Bookstore/Cafe in Manhattan which is run by volunteers and stocked by donations. 100% of the proceeds go towards their efforts helping people living with HIV/AIDS. Beyond being one of the most beautiful bookshops in the city, HousingWorks is filled with kind people, and does a world of good for the community.

Send donations to: 126 Crosby St., NYC, 10012 Attn: General Donations

 

Prison Book Programs

From Orange is the New Black

This may seem like an unusual choice, but prisons are one of the best place to send your book donations. Of course, there are restrictions, but this can really be a situation of books saving lives. Not only are you promoting education and literacy, but you’ll also be providing some much-needed escapism to those in an unfortunate situation. Of course, there are some guidelines, but this may be a good idea if you’re looking to donate textbooks, especially for legal studies, languages, or test prep.

There are several book donation programs for prisons, as prisoners typically cannot receive donations from an individual. These programs vary from state-to-state so I’d suggest doing a bit of research before sending them off, but here are just a few:

Donate
http://www.booksthroughbarsnyc.com/
http://prisonbookprogram.org/
http://www.wpbp.org/
http://lgbtbookstoprisoners.org/

 

Children’s Literacy Programs

Michelle Obama reads The Cat In The Hat

Michelle Obama reads The Cat In The Hat

You know it. I know it. We all know it. The books we read as children are the ones that truly stick with us, and reading is a formative part of our education. Who would we be if not for books?

It is so important for children to have access to books, but of course, not everyone has that luxury. Children who are homeless, living in shelters or group homes, or are living in areas without libraries are depending on your donations. This is a great opportunity to clear out old baby books, or send over a bunch of your favorites that you think another child would enjoy.

http://www.milkandbookies.org/about/ (does a variety of work to promote childhood literacy, family time, and foster a love of books)
http://www.projectnightnight.org/ (for homeless children 12 and under)
http://www.pajamaprogram.org/ (for children living in poverty, living with homelessness or in shelters, foster care, or are victims of abuse & neglect)

 

International Programs

Sometimes our hearts can extend overseas, and children across the world need books as well. Donating to programs with international reach means not only are you changing a child’s life, but also the life and the wellbeing of a community. The US has a literacy rate of 97.9%. Other countries are not so fortunate. We have to remember that we are a global community, and that every little bit helps us move forward together. If you’re looking at the bigger picture this season, here are some programs to take a look at:

https://www.roomtoread.org/ (works to provide education for young girls – nearly 800 million people are illiterate and two thirds are women and girls)

https://www.booksforafrica.org/ (provides books to school libraries, orphanages, adult literacy programs, and community centers in Africa)

http://www.intlbookproject.org/ (promotes literacy in underserved areas of the world, domestic and international)

 

Your local school or library

Schools and libraries are where it all begins. When I was younger, my mother took me to storytime at our library, a place where the children of the community could come and love books together. I remember being told I was trying to check out too many books at school, I remember having girl scout meetings in the library, I remember checking out books on Egypt and the Amazon and Cryptography and Nellie Bly and so many other subjects.

If you’re a reader, I bet you have memories like this too.

Giving to your local library or school ensures that your love for reading goes right back into your community. Schools and libraries are the front lines for education, literacy, imagination, and growth. Give that gift to another budding bookworm, and change a life forever.

 

I always find it hard to take books off my bookshelves, but it’s easier knowing that my books will be going somewhere they are truly appreciated. Please consider donating to any of these wonderful programs this year, and spread the joy of reading.

Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood: Review

Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood Muse Monthly book review

I want to share a little story about how this epic partnership came to be. Even before Muse Monthly officially launched, I knew I wanted to do author curated boxes. It was something I could only dream about, and had a wishlist of people I wanted to work with. But of course, when a business is young, you have to stay reasonable. No one knew about Muse Monthly yet, and there was no way someone who had published several award-winning novels would want to dedicate any time to a new subscription box.

After our collaboration with V.E. Schwab (which happened because I asked her through instagram), I felt a little more confident in asking my publishing friends if we could do something similar again. I asked who had books coming out that might be interested, and a few names were tossed around, Ms. Atwood’s being one of them. Never in a million years did I think she’d agree to it – but they asked, and she did.

Of course, it helps that she’s a tea lover.

I feel so grateful to Ms. Atwood for taking time out and signing bookplates, choosing a tea, and writing a lovely letter about her book to our faithful subscribers. This collaboration was beyond a dream come true.

I knew Hag-Seed was going to be a fantastic read. The Tempest was the first Shakespeare play I ever read, so I feel a lot of attachment to the story. It was assigned my eighth grade year and I remember being swept up by the magic, by spirits and monsters and revenge. It is one of Shakespeare’s best.

Ms. Atwood has taken the tale and not only modernized it, but presented it in a way that feels so real and concrete it is impossible not to flip eagerly through the pages. Her take on the Tempest changes Prospero to Felix, an artistic director for the theater, who is usurped and fired by his co-worker, Tony. Felix, devastated to lose his job after also losing his wife and child, Miranda, takes a job teaching Shakespeare in a prison. Here, he is able to use his talents and bring his production of the Tempest to life.

Atwood presents a meta-theatrical version of the Tempest – a play within a play, echoing aspects of the original play. The creation of theatrical magic is paramount in Atwood’s version, primarily present in how the prisoners bring the play to life with limited resources. Atwood brings The Tempest into a real world; the prison becomes the island, betrayal is bureaucratic. Atwood expertly writes the themes reflected on multiple levels – the ‘real world’ finding echoes in Shakespeare’s text, as well as the play being mirrored by the characters. She writes with an expert intricacy, and creates an intense revenge plot that makes Hag-Seed a real page-turner.

The Gentleman by Forrest Leo – Review & Playlist

The Gentleman by Forrest Leo book review Muse Monthly

The Gentleman was one of those books that came along to me as an underdog. A lot of the time when I’m choosing a book, there are a few options for each month, but one stand out. Then, like this month, there were a lot of books that seemed exciting but were just not right for some reason – either the story just wasn’t as compelling as I’d hoped, or it’s too similar to something we’ve done before. And then something different, something I would have never thought to look at will emerge from under my disastrously large To Be Read pile, and it will be perfect. A diamond in the rough.

And that’s what we do over here at Muse Monthly – we’re all about finding that hidden gem.

And The Gentleman was just awesome. It’s a fun, easy read, which we all need sometimes. We all need a laugh, especially when the real would can be so stressful.

What stands out for me about The Gentleman is how easily writer Forrest Leo captures the style of Victorian literature. The narrative voice of lovelorn poet Lionel Savage is strong throughout, colored by the sassy footnotes of his fictional editor. For someone who enjoys the anachronism, it was refreshing to read something so wonderfully stylized. And the story itself brought to mind the best of adventure stories – Around the World in 80 Days meets the tales of Allan Quatermain meets Doctor Faustus, with hilarious mishaps and trysts along the way. It’s safe to say, you’ll never read another book like The Gentleman. It’s nerdy and weird and funny, and best read with a lovely cup of tea – or maybe a glass of wine.

The Muse by Jessie Burton – Review & Playlist

The Muse by Jessie Burton Muse Monthly book review

So I will admit that I was a little hesitant to pick this book up, simply because of the title. Cuz, you know. It’s a bit too obvious a choice, right? But I’m so glad I did, because I was really blown away by how perfect this book was for Muse Monthly. It was just the right thing at the right time, and everything seemed to fit together so well. I was looking for a book that not only had a great story with historical elements, but also shown a light on the complexities of women – and The Muse does just that.

If I had to pick a single word to describe this book, that word would be ‘passion’ – and we talk about passion in lots of different ways. We can talk about the obvious – about passion between people and of people, about lust and the many facets of human affection. We can talk about passion turning to obsession. We can talk about the dangers of passion, and how quickly it can become desperation. We can talk about Odelle and the slow burn between herself and her Mr. Scott, about passion that builds slow and steady as someone’s walls come crumbling down. We can talk about passion that is immediate and intense, like when Olive sets eyes on Issac like he’s a target. We can talk about passion in secret, passion that hides away, that comes through in stolen glances. And we can talk about passion that leads to heartbreak, and the tragedy of Theresa wanting what she can’t have.

But at the same time we can also talk about passion as it relates to art, and an artist’s passion for their work and for creating. I think the story of Olive’s talent having to be hidden away due to her family circumstances is a compelling one when we think about the lengths she took to get her work seen. We still live in a world that can be difficult for women who make art, and many women (famously JK Rowling and and the Bronte sisters) adopt male personas to sell or market their work. It is this act that causes the lives of two families to intertwine and tangle. But did she have another choice? At the same time we also have to talk about Marjorie Quick and her passion. The enigmatic Quick is the point around which the story spirals, and we see her careful passion for art and her work, as well as the secrets and lies that she has built her life upon. And Quick showcases another important aspect of the story – a support for other women, and the importance of female friendships and the relationships between women in the novel.

The Muse is a novel that a reader can easily get wrapped up in. The writing is intense and realistic, and the story unravels in the most brilliant way. It’s exciting to follow the lines that connect people through history, and Jessie Burton does an amazing job of showcasing all the passions of a full life.

Binge Life: 10 TV Shows We Love To Marathon

Muse Monthly Doctor Who Stranger Things Parks and Recreation Broadchurch Jessica Jones Buffy the Vampire Slayer Chef's Table Sense8 Narcos Long Way Round

I love good TV just as much as I love good books – it’s all about the telling of a great story. And I don’t think I’m alone in loving shows that are best viewed all at once instead of on a week-to-week basis, aka the Binge Watch. Here are some TV shows we love to watch over and over again!

Doctor Who

I am a huge Whovian – as evidenced by the very prominent Bad Wolf tattoo on my clavicle. It’s the best show in the world. It’s got everything you want – adventure, action, aliens, romance, snarky wit, social commentary, David Tennant, history, Shakespeare, and so much more. It’s the longest running show for a reason. Best show of all time. Anyone who says differently can fight me.

Stranger Things

Stranger Things is a new release on Netflix and it is excellent. The story centers around the disappearance of a young boy in a small town and the weird events that take place afterwards. Superbly acted on the part of Winona Ryder and the young actors in the show, it’s good and weird and creepy and totally engaging. Once you start watching, you won’t want to turn it off. But also, keep the lights on.

Parks and Recreation

Parks and Rec is my favorite show. Parks and Rec is the show that I watch when I have an anxiety attack. It’s familiar and comforting and funny without ever making jokes at someone’s expense. Parks and Rec is about friendship, hard work, and a group of weirdos just doing the best they can. This is a show that is nothing but pure joy from start to finish.

Broadchurch

I’m not usually one for detective stories, if I’m honest. It’s hard to find police procedural shows that are really well written and intriguing, that don’t have a predictable ending. Broadchurch is not only a masterclass in emotional range from David Tennant and Olivia Colman, but a police drama that will keep you on the edge of your seat. If you love it, also check out Happy Valley on Netflix.

The Marvel Shows: Jessica Jones & Daredevil


So I eat up everything Marvel spits out, but these Netflix-exclusive shows have just been mind blowing. The writers have done a really great job of going in depth with well-known characters, and I always love shows that are gritty and emotional and have expertly choreographed fight scenes. I want to especially mention Jessica Jones and it’s perfect depiction of an abusive relationship. And, you know, more David Tennant. I can’t wait for Luke Cage and Iron Fist, and then the Defenders!

Buffy the Vampire Slayer

The best female led-show ever. Buffy defines the “strong female” trope. Buffy is funny and emotional and action-packed and smart. What isn’t perfect about Buffy? Nothing. That’s what. Nothing. Buffy is perfect. Fight me.

Chef’s Table

Besides being pure food porn, Chef’s table is a beautiful exploration of the creative process. The show features an in-depth profile of master chefs all over the world, delving into how their lives are woven into their craft. It’s beautifully filmed and absolutely engaging from start to finish.

Sense8

Sense8 is another Netflix exclusive, like Stranger Things, that kind of came out of left field. I was told by a friend to watch it and was immediately hooked. It’s such a wonderfully diverse and inclusive show, and a story about beautiful souls helping each other and falling in love and banding together to fight the bad guys. What really makes this show is the cast’s chemistry. You won’t regret it, I promise.

Narcos

I really love stories about criminals. I love when a well told show or novel makes you think about the world from a different perspective, especially if said perspective is that of the ‘bad guy’. The story of Pablo Esobar is really fascinating, and this show is so tense and thrilling that I couldn’t look away, even when the violence got out of control. Plus, there’s Pedro Pascal and Boyd Holbrook. Mmmmhmmm.

Long Way Round / Long Way Down

The concept: Ewan MacGregor and his friend Charley Boorman drive on motorcycles around the world. The reality: Ewan MacGregor and his friend Charley spend 9 episodes being total goofballs while taking their motorbikes from London to New York – as the title so aptly puts it – the long way ’round, through Siberia. And then they do it again and travel from London to Cape Town, South Africa. Both series are hilarious and heart-felt, and have gorgeous views of their travels. It’s a really good watch, and you’ll totally fall in love with Ewan and Charley’s friendship.

What shows do you love to marathon? What Netflix gems do you recommend to all your friends?

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi – Review & Playlist

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi novel book book review Muse Monthly subscription box  Ghana

Okay, okay yeah, I know. It’s not a beach read. But bare with me, okay?

I go through a lot of books before making a choice for each month. Sometimes it’s 3, sometimes it’s more like 6. And sometimes, rarely, there is The One. Sometimes there’s a novel that is just the choice, the only choice, the most epic and brilliant thing I’ve read, head and shoulders above the rest. It’s like the clouds part and a choir of angels descend.

Homegoing was definitely a ‘choir of angels’ moment. It’s an expertly woven tale of a family separated – two half-sisters at the start and their subsequent sons and daughters. Each chapter is a unique history, bringing us through time on two different continents. Through Gyasi’s storytelling, we as readers are absolutely transported. Homegoing gives a whole new meaning to the phrase, “take a walk in someone else’s shoes”.

Gyasi has really written an epic of the black experience in America and beyond, a full-bodied story of humanity, each generation individual and rife with problems unique to the characters and their respective time periods. Each story stands both on it’s own and as a collective, creating an intricate puzzle of a family tree. It is a story of slavery, of racism and oppression, of loss and love, of family. But most of all, it is a story of resilience.

Since each chapter is a new person’s story, Gyasi has risen to the challenge of completely fleshing out these characters within a shorter time span. There is a sense of pride in these characters – even through hardship, their conviction remains strong, they remain truthful to themselves and their people even when they are being taken advantage of, and a lot of advantage is taken. But they remain, throughout all that, rooted in themselves and their families. There is always a sense of moving forward, and while where they came from is always important, never are they stuck.

I think there’s a lot we can take away from Homegoing, as readers. Personally I love books like this, where I get to experience a life (or in this case, several) that are so radically different from my own. It’s important to let literature open us up in this way – to open our eyes and our hearts to new experiences and new worlds.

And I want to thank Yaa Gyasi for doing just that.