The general gist I knew about this book before reading it was “The Godfather, but women.” My Italian grandfather grew up in Brooklyn with guys who either ended up in the Mafia IRL or pretended to be in the Mafia in movies, and strangers regularly tell my dad he resembles Al Pacino. So, this book felt like it would be somewhat familiar territory.
In The Family, Antonia and Sofia are the daughters of two best friends recruited by the mob in the mid-twentieth century in Brooklyn’s Red Hook neighborhood. The girls are inseparable until Antonia’s father disappears, causing new feelings about this society that has sucked in their families. Antonia becomes disillusioned with this lifestyle, while Sofia is determined to prove her worth to the men in charge.
The book has a slow start, but once the girls grow and begin following their own, separate paths, the story just envelops you and refuses to let go until it ends. Family dramas taking place over decades are my catnip in fiction, and this was no exception.
I find that Christina Lauren books are either straight-up rom-coms or dramedies, and I usually prefer their more serious stories to the fluffier ones. However, The Soulmate Equation was a surprising blend of these two extremes, and I ate it up completely. I love when the sexiness of certain romance novel scenes is just so palpable on the page, and this was especially true of this book.
I kicked off 2021 with a New Year’s Day marathon of Dash& Lily after friends kept telling me it was right up my alley. Any reminder of New York City at Christmas in the before times initially seemed too devastating, but this was exactly what I needed at that point in time. Lily, a romantic and old-fashioned teenager, leaves a notebook in the Strand bookstore with the intention of a boy finding the dares she wrote on its pages. Cynical, guarded Dash discovers the book, initiating a series of wild missions for the duo across the city before they even meet. Yes, it’s a slightly bittersweet viewing, but being quite the Lily myself, the series was almost a restorative balm for me.
I had a delayed start to the Bridgertoncraze, but better late than never! After finishing and loving Season 1, I began binge-reading Julia Quinn’s books, and I’m now up to Eloise’s story, To Sir Phillip, With Love. I love how readers can identify certain aspects that the TV writers clearly honed in on for an adaptation tweak. That being said, the books aren’t as enveloped in the family’s world and contemporaries as the series is, and their focus remains firmly on a particular story’s starring couple. I’d compare their differences to something like The Princess Diaries — they’re both so beloved for what they are and each has elements you can appreciate separately from its other representation. Basically, the two mediums are more like close cousins than identical twins.
I’ve struggled emotionally over the past few weeks. I think it has to do with both the election and the end of the year seeming closer than ever with only the vaguest of pandemic resolutions in sight. So I’ve embraced the eff-it attitude, soaking in joy-inducing entertainment that reminds me that this might be a temporary normal but, God willing, it doesn’t have to be our new forever. Think of my new 2020 mentality as Emily in the Gilmore Girls reunion when she’s happy to toss anything that doesn’t bring her joy.
I’ve never had any particular feelings for or against Drew Barrymore, probably because E.T. just freaked me out as a child and none of her other work was formative for me. But her earth mother-esque quality intertwined with brutal honesty is what won me over about her new talk show’s YouTube channel. While her actual interviews become a little too earnest for me, I recommend her pre-premiere “The Art of the Interview” videos with Andy Cohen, Whoopi Goldberg, and Gayle King, followed by Chloe Fineman’s SNL parody of the show.
I loved the episodes of The Michelle Obama Podcast with Barack Obama, her girlfriends, and her brother Craig. To be frank, I miss having warm, personable humans in the White House, so listening to this weekly insight into the former First Lady’s thoughts and relationships has been so refreshing.
I read Omid Scobie and Carolyn Durand’s Harry-and-Meghan tell-all, Finding Freedom. There honestly wasn’t too much in there that was new or shocking to me, but the narrative that really stuck with me was how passive the Duchess of Cambridge reportedly was in trying to befriend Meghan. I firmly believe that sisters–in-law don’t have to be best friends or even close, so I respect that these two didn’t click naturally. On the other hand, this was such a unique and overwhelming situation that I really don’t understand the supposed argument that Kate was too loyal to William to bother trying. Still, consider me in the camp of believing that the Sussexes and Cambridges are exactly where they’re meant to be now and that some form of forgiveness will happen down the road.
In other royals new, the Meghan Markle and Gloria Steinem conversation was really exciting. I’m also really interested in seeing how the Sussexes’ Netflix deal pans out, but I definitely understand the critique that the move supports the belief that they’ll go full Hollywood. But then again, how about all those British tabloids turn their attention to Prince Andrew’s seedy ties rather than a couple just trying to contribute positively to the world?
Weekdays off in elementary school meant watching Live! with Regis and Kelly and giggling uncontrollably at the opening conversation. Now looking at all of these commemorative clips of Regis Philbin, I realize just how much his joy and self-deprecating humor remind me of my grandfathers, both lifelong, hearty New Yorkers of that age and likely to have experienced the same cultural touchpoints. Sure, America chose to wake up to him, but New Yorkers had a particular familarity with him. Kathie Lee Gifford’s tribute to him on TODAY made me cry, and although I don’t remember the Regis and Kathie Lee era, their occasional reunions on TODAY‘s fourth hour showed me just how magical their daily dynamic must have been. For a laugh, watch Regis’s delight at a bird landing on Kathie Lee’s head and then his Halloween stint as Gelman on TODAY in 2016. I also love his guest spot on How I Met Your Mother.
Either the Queen has an obvious favorite among the grandkids or she feels really bad about Princess Beatrice having to cancel her original wedding plans and deal with Prince Andrew’s shenanigans. Whichever it is, I loved how Beatrice wore an old, tweaked gown of the Queen’s as well as her grandmother’s wedding day tiara on her own big day. I wouldn’t want to wear Beatrice and Eugenie’s wedding dresses, but they both did such great jobs of achieving classic fashion while still adhering to royal modesty rules.
The Parent Trap is one of two or three movies I can quote verbatim, and as her fellow Long Islander, I’m always going to want Lindsay Lohan to be well. How great did she seem in Katie Couric’s cast reunion?
I keep track of every book I read in a year, so in 2020, I look at this ongoing list and see a clear divide between the books I read while commuting and the ones I read during the stark emptiness of early quarantine. Erin Hahn’s More Than Maybewas a slight crossover between the two stages, distracting me from the rising panic of the New York metro area and introducing me to the delightful world of Luke, Vada, and their dreams to fill the world with music.
While Hahn’s first YA romance, You’d Be Mine, followed the summer tour of teen country music stars Clay and Annie, More Than Maybe picks up in a typical suburb, introducing Luke, the son of a rocker, and Vada, an aspiring music journalist. As Luke hides his songwriting from the rest of the world, he can’t help but like the ambitious Vada, who strives toward getting into a prestigious music journalism program and scoring an internship with Rolling Stone. With the help of Phil, local musical legend and Vada’s mom’s boyfriend, the two teens must learn how their growing feelings for each other fit into the visions that they have for their futures.
On shelves July 21, More Than Maybe was such a delight to read in uncertain times. Luke and Vada’s love of music and their growing trust in each other is reminiscent of Sarah Dessen’s This Lullaby, one of my all-time YA faves. On top of an earnest portrayal of first love, More Than Maybe also hooks older readers with insight into the second-chance romance between Phil and Vada’s mom Mary that is rarely seen in YA. If you sorely miss summer concerts and local hangouts, the story is the perfect antidote for corona blues.
I was lucky enough to ask Erin Hahn some questions about her book ahead of its release. Thank you for being so great, Erin!
After focusing on budding country music stars in You’d Be Mine, what was the inspiration for More Than Maybe and exploring teens with a similar love for music but who are living a more typical life?
The Plot AgainstAmerica, which I watched during a week-long free trial of HBO Max, was a little too slow and vague for me, but the finale was particularly good. I loved Zoe Kazan as a terrified Bess trying to soothe a hysteric child over the phone. If anything, the series got me more interested in the work of both Kazan and Anthony Boyle, and the parallels between Philip Roth’s original story and today are startling.
We finally downloaded Disney+ to indulge in the wonder that was Hamilton, but since that inaugural weekend, I’ve traveled down memory lane and watched some of my favorite old DCOMs. Gotta Kick It Up!, Go Figure, andRead It and Weepwere still really delightful, and I have viewings of my ultimate favorites — Stuck in the Suburbs, Smart House, and Cadet Kelly — to anticipate. Since the movies are so short, it’s really easy to get through one right before bed.
Thank God for the much-delayed renewal of Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist. At the rate everything is going, I was expecting heartache on this front, so this is at least one nice thing to look forward to in the ambiguous future. If you haven’t watched this yet, I highly recommend it. It honestly feels a little naughty getting to watch this cast and their caliber of talent in every episode.
I recently binged Mindy Kaling’s Never Have I Ever and absolutely loved it. Anything Kaling-adjacent is a must-watch for me, but I was a little wary about this beforehand. I typically don’t enjoy most teen shows because of characters’ unrealistic or oversexed situations, and without full episodic context, the trailer was sort of giving me those vibes. But chalk it up to iffy marketing, because Never Have I Ever was so multifaceted, emotional, and witty in that classic Mindy Kaling fashion.
Since police killed George Floyd on May 25 and an international fight against police brutality and systemic racism began, blogging about pop culture felt highly inappropriate. So rather than writing here, I’ve spent this transformative time after Floyd’s passing trying to educate myself, check my privilege as a white woman, and learn how to do better.
In the past few days, laws have passed that give me hope that we’re living out the same kind of turning point seen during the civil rights movement. But with quarantine still in place in major cities and not much else to distract us from this moment, resting on the belief that change will come doesn’t suffice. You can donate, sign petitions, and protest, but it’s also important to take note of what you choose to consume in pop culture and how it contributes to your knowledge about race.
That’s when books, TV, and movies come into play for me. Sticking to the news cycle can be overwhelming and depressing, especially in this already unprecedented time, but one concentrated source of information at a time can leave just as impactful of an influence. So after taking in plenty of recommendations and consulting my existing TBR list and streaming queues, here are the things about Black lives and experiences or made by Black creators that I plan to read and watch, as well as a few select titles I already love. My list is obviously far from complete, and I recognize that my pop culture choices often have a severe lack of diversity. So if you have more recommendations, please let me know!