What’s Making Me Happy: February 2016

February isn’t quite as bleak as January. At least in February we get the soft, sweet reds and pinks of Valentine’s Day (and chocolate, lots and lots of chocolate, on sale at discount prices). This shortest month of the calendar year has brought its share of pleasures.

The Pool of Two Moons, the second in Kate Forsyth’s “Witches of Eileanan” series. After Forsyth won my allegiance with Bitter Greens and The Wild Girl, I decided last year to begin her multi-volume epic fantasy series, and so far, as I progress through Book 2, I’m finding in it much of what I love seeing in the genre: a world apart from our own, with a distinctly Celtic tinge in the landscape and culture; nonhumans both trustworthy and treacherous; a strong sense of danger and conflict; and capable, important female characters, both young and old, positioned all along the moral spectrum. I’m very glad I have plenty of books left to enjoy this world and its people.  (And thanks for the Twitter follow, Kate!!)

Tower of Thorns, the second in Juliet Marillier’s “Blackthorn and Grim” fantasy-mystery series. If this series doesn’t quite reach the stylistically lyrical heights of Wolfskin and the original Sevenwaters Trilogy, it doesn’t really have to. I love the two central characters. Big, bulky, wise, and generous Grim is one of the most purely sympathetic male characters I’ve seen in a while; he’s the series’ beating heart. As for Blackthorn, I love her because she isn’t always lovable. In some ways she strikes me as a younger edition of Terry Pratchett’s Granny Weatherwax, a weary, cynical, observant, and sharp-tongued woman who would be worse than she is if only Fate and her own inner core of decency would let her. It’s a pleasure to see a heroine who’s such a mess, bitter and distrustful yet still capable of kindness and empathy. Besides, on a much shallower note, I just think Blackthorn is a cool name for a heroine.

The return of The Muppets. When the show changed showrunners and was said to be undergoing “retooling,” I admit I was a little worried, but what I’ve seen so far of the season’s second phase has given me little cause for alarm. Some commenters have complained that the show has gone “sappy,” but I see in it the same mix of sharpness and sweetness that I loved about the first phase, and that I’ve always loved about the Muppets in general. A recent episode delighted me with its showcase of the friendship between Miss Piggy and her swaggering, hammy dresser Uncle Deadly (my new favorite Muppet). Any tip of the hat to male/female friendship is bound to win points with me. Plus we got to see Uncle Deadly in a blonde wig aping Alicia Silverstone’s Clueless performance. There’s no way I wouldn’t love that.

Spotlight. From the quirky and often ridiculous I now move to the deeply earnest. My husband and I saw this one at Cine in Athens, GA, our favorite art-house movie theater, to get ready for the Oscars. Whatever the Academy voters end up doing, I’m very pleased to have seen this one. Like recent Best Picture winner Argo, this movie features a group of dedicated professionals banding together to right a great wrong, and I have a soft spot for such stories, old-fashioned as they might seem. All the performances are solid, but I have to mention Rachel McAdams as the woman on the team, another heroine I can root for. I can never have too many of those.

The return of Blindspot. This one comes back tomorrow night, the very last night of February, so I can’t say too much about it. I just know it will make me happy.

One more thing: my husband insisted that I get an iPhone so that I can use Twitter appropriately.  Why not give me a follow at @nanmonroeauthor?  Thanks!

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