Well, folks, I am no longer in denial. It’s officially 2023. Ready or not, the New Year is here. I still haven’t made any resolutions or started the obligatory diet. I have lots of unfinished work and no time to complete it. Book reviews are due, and my shelves are overflowing. Needless to say, the year is off to a slow start which has me feeling less than thrilled. So, I’m working through my feelings the only way I know how: baking cookies, blasting through books and watching feel-good films. Let me take you on a tour of what I’m reading, watching, and cooking in this edition of What This Week: January 9.
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What This Week: Reading
If you haven’t already heard or seen on my social media accounts, I’m officially addicted to Netgalley. I am SO over my head in advanced reader copies it’s not even funny. Thankfully, most are spaced out so I’m able to read one to two a week and still stay ahead. Don’t get me wrong, I love having access to new books to read, but when I overextend myself I’m not as able to focus on backlist books. Alas, there will be time for those as my schedule calms down a bit with work, but for now, the focus is on reading all the new books!
Up first is The House of Eve, the much anticipated new novel by Sadeqa Johnson. Sadly, I still haven’t read The Yellow Wife (shame on me), but I know it’s a favorite of many of my fellow historical fiction readers. I just started The House of Eve this weekend and am really enjoying the author’s writing style and the character development. I think it will be a highly enjoyable read!
I’m about 25% of the way into the very lengthy Shrines of Gaeity, a dark 1920s novel that’s highly atmospheric and reminiscent of a Dicken’s tale. There are A LOT of characters to keep up with, so I’m not sure how enjoyable it will be in the end. I’m really enjoying the language and the setting, though, so we shall see.
Last, but certainly not least, is a brand new book that I’m really thrilled to be reading early! The Minuscule Mansion of Myra Malone is a magical realism novel about one woman’s isolated life, her magical dollhouse, and the unexpected connections she makes because of it. I literally screamed when I opened the book mail containing my gifted copy from Berkley Publishing! Magical realism is a favorite genre of mine, so I’m sure this one will not disappoint.
What This Week: Watching
OMG, y’all, I finally watched the latest Downton Abbey movie, Downton Abbey: A New Era, and, unsurprisingly, I LOVED it! I was a HUGE fan of the series, waiting with bated breath between each season (back in the day before streaming). I even had a collection of DVDs featuring the first few seasons. The first movie came out right after my “divorce”, and I can remember how good it felt to get out of the house and go to the movie alone without feeling lonely. It was a turning point in my grief after the end of a 10-year relationship. I’ll never forget how choked up I got just hearing the theme song over the loudspeakers of the cinema.
So, it’s super surprising that it’s taken me so long to finally watch the new film! I blame my boyfriend, who hates period films and monopolizes the new TV for watching sports because it’s UHD. Just kidding…but not really. 🙂 There were so many things to love about this new film! It sucked me right back into the world of Downton, which felt like being wrapped in a warm blanket. If you’re a fan of the show and haven’t watched the new film, here’s your sign!
We also watched The Fablemans this past week, the latest film by Steven Spielberg. I’m a huge fan of his early work, but there have been some misses in his later career that had me questioning whether I would enjoy this movie. Luckily, he seems to re-capture some of the early magic with this semi-autobiographical film. While it’s not a 5-star film by any means, it’s a solid 3-4 depending on the audience. Michelle Williams is simply brilliant, as is Paul Dano (who tends to chew up the screen IMO). Gabriel LaBelle did a wonderful job in what’s likely his first leading role. If you’re a fan of film, you’ll likely appreciate the cinematic aspects of the film: the shots, the lighting, and the brilliant editing. It’s very meta, which I also enjoy in a film. Best of all, the relationship between the young director and his parents is beautiful, particularly that of the mother/son.
What This Week: Cooking
I have a secret I’m going to let you in on: I make the best chocolate chip cookies known to man. Now, you, too, can make good cookies that your family and friends will beg for over and over again. Just follow this recipe to the tee and discover the magic of the perfect combination of flours (yes, plural), sugars (also plural), and butter. Do not skip any steps, do not change anything, and, most importantly, chill your dough! I roll mine up in little balls and put them in the freezer, giving me perfectly portioned cookies whenever I want. Do not overcook! I underbake mine at just 14 minutes at 350 degrees on the second rack of the oven using an Air Bake cookie sheet. The result is an absolutely perfect soft-baked cookie. Seriously, these are the best!
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