January Monthly Roundup

Okay so weekly roundups are apparently not a thing that I can mentally commit to, especially with school this semester. So we’re going to make it a monthly thing instead. January seems to have flown by.

Just as a disclaimer–none of my links are paid/sponsored/solicited. It’s just stuff I like or wanted to share.

Eventful Events and Happening Happenings

January is always a busy month because of Paul’s birthday and our date-aversary. This year I found a bunch of DnD related gifts for Paul including the new DnD book Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything, a world building journal, dice made out of blue sandstone, and a gorgeous dice case (from this Etsy seller in case you’re interested. His work is beautiful and he gave great customer service). On his actual birthday we went to see a friend who was leaving town for Taiwan. We’d been trying to get together for a while, but you know–pandemic. Still, it was really nice to see him and get out of the house for a bit.

It’s hard to believe that Paul and I have been together for 11 years. We don’t usually make a huge deal out of our dating anniversary, but since we take any excuse to eat a nice dinner, we brought sushi and sake in to celebrate. We’ve reinstituted date night this year, and we’ve had to get creative since we can’t really go anywhere. This month we’ve taken the Legos out, done a science experiment kit (which was kind of a dud, so we watched a movie), played a video game (Paul played and I narrated the dialogue), enjoyed a floor picnic in a fort, and answered some interesting questions. If you’re looking for new discussion topics with a significant other (or even a close friend), I’d recommend this box of questions. I am really enjoying them so far.

School started again. I can’t believe this is my last semester. This year has been a total whirlwind. The last two years have been to be honest. I’m working on my ePortfolio, which has examples of some of the projects I’ve worked on throughout the program, doing a virtual internship, and taking two other classes for fun–history of US libraries and history of the book, which I’m very excited about.

Books Read

The Blood of Flowers by Anita Amirrezvani This lovely book was recommended by my mom. It tells the story of a carpet maker and her quest for learning and success in a male dominated sphere. I found the writing to be immersive and convincing.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The Office of Historical Corrections by Danielle Evans Smart, sharp stories fill this collection. I loved every moment with the sets of very different and complex characters. Evans sense of empathy, humor and wit is evident on every page in these stories that deal with the complexity of the past and how it makes its mark on the present. These are stories that bite, but lick the wounds clean.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The Fifth Season / The Obelisk Gate / The Stone Sky by N.K. Jemisin My friend and I read The Broken Earth Trilogy together this month, and we both really enjoyed it. The trilogy follows an orogene–an evolved human who has the power to both stop and create tremors in the earth–as she tries to stop the destruction of the human race. This fantasy trilogy has a lot of science fiction elements in it, and a fascinating use of geologic time scales, which I’ve never seen before in fantasy. The books have very complex characters without clear villains, and there’s a fascinating earth-based magic system. Like all great science fiction, it probes the question of what it means to be human, and like great fantasy includes a hero’s journey, some dope magic, and a quest (though sadly no dragons).

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Eva Luna by Isabel Allende If you’re looking for a book that weaves magic into reality, that has interesting characters, and that proclaims the power of storytelling you should probably read this book. Allende is an amazing writer with a strong command of place and a great understanding of people and power.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee Mom and I read this book together, which is one of the best family sagas I’ve ever read. My mom did not want it to end–even though it was over 450 pages long! We follow a Korean family living in Japan throughout the course of the 20th century, learning about their struggles against discrimination, poverty, illness, war, and the kind of secrets that can tear a family apart. The writing is so good, and Min Jin Lee has an excellent sense of how long to stay with a particular moment before moving the story along. This is a fast-paced book despite its page length.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The Henna Artist by Alka Joshi I must admit I had slightly higher expectations for this book than I probably should have. It’s still a pretty interesting tale of a henna artist, dealing with her family, her ambition, and her mistakes, but I wish the character evolution had been a little more interesting.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

The Library of Fates by Aditi Khorana This YA novel follows Princess Amrita on her journey to save herself and her people from a would be conqueror. Although aspects of this book, especially the mythologies it pulls from, are really intriguing, the writing and characterization really fell flat for me and I had a hard time believing the magic within the universe.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Movies Watched

Effie Gray (2014) This biopic follows Effie and her dismal, dreary, and disheartening marriage to John Ruskin. While the film itself is mostly tragic, Gray’s life does eventually take a turn for the better or at least less dreadful. However, we do not get to see that in this film. The cinematography is beautiful though…so that’s something. Streaming on Netflix.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Tea with the Dames (2018) A documentary featuring some of the great British actresses of the 20th/21st centuries: Dames Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Joan Plowright, and Eileen Atkins. They talk about their lives and careers. I really enjoyed it. Streaming on Hulu.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Tiny Shoulders: Rethinking Barbie (2018) When I was little my parents didn’t want me to have a Barbie, but I begged and begged. She’s a complex figure–on the one hand she is emblematic of one particular vision of beauty and womanhood, but on the other hand she represents the first doll of her kind–one that allowed girls to act out their own dreams and ambitions. This documentary details the history of the doll as well as her new evolutions towards body positivity. Streaming on Hulu.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Margaret Atwood: A Word After a Word After a Word is Power (2020) I think Atwood is an amazing writer. This documentary mostly focuses on A Handmaid’s Tale and Alias Grace along with some of her earlier works, but it’s a great insight into her process and character. If you’re a fan of the author, you should definitely check out this documentary. Streaming on Hulu.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The Secret Garden (2020) A new adaptation of the classic children’s story. I’m not sure we needed that much actual magic in the garden to be honest. It was all a little bit much and not very convincing. Though watching it did make me wonder if I’ve ever really liked this story. I don’t remember loving it that much as a kid either. Maybe it’s just not for me.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

The Mummy (1999) I had never seen this movie before, and I’m not gonna lie I mostly wanted to watch it because it has a librarian in it. But oh goodness, a librarian causing a domino effect in her library? Cringe. Also the props in this film are some of the least convincing things I’ve ever seen. I’m glad I watched it because there are a lot of random references to it, but mostly it was….showing its age in terms of not only its special effects, gender politics, and racism.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

David Copperfield (1935) I think of this story as kind of a gender swap version of Cinderella. Boy has wonderful mother. Mother remarries to evil stepfather. Mother dies tragically. Boy has to work for evil stepfather. Boy gets rescued by godmother–not a fairy godmother, but close enough. Then some other stuff happens…but it’s all quite entertaining until David marries the wrong girl. But he figures it out eventually so all’s well that ends well. The acting is over the top, but it’s still pretty fun.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

What was the best thing you read/watched in January? Let me know in the comments!

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