Fleetwood Mac at John Paul Jones Arena - I was ridiculously happy when I found out that Fleetwood Mac would be coming to Charlotteville, and even more happy that three of my cousins were able to come with me. Family bonding and amazing music, what could go wrong? Charlottesville traffic is what could go wrong. There was basically no police presence between Barracks Road and the John Paul Jones Arena, so traffic was at a standstill, and "reserved parking" was a joke. Being late to the concert even though our hotel was in walking distance was a little bit heartbreaking. We still got to hear most of our favorite songs, and it was kind of surreal seeing the band I've listened to my whole life as real people on a stage. Stevie Nicks interacted with the crowd the most and told the story behind the line "now I'm back to the Velvet Underground, back to the floor that I love" in Gypsy and talked about loving Charlottesville before "Landslide." Mick Fleetwood's drum solo after "World Turning" was awesome, and the crowd participation during "Don't Stop" was probably the best I've ever seen at a concert.
Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater (YA fantasy) - The Raven Cycle continues as Blue Sargent and her boys search for the resting place of a Welsh king and for Blue's missing mother in the mountains of Central Virginia. The characters' relationships grow more complicated in this addition to the series, as Gansey and Blue each rail against their attraction to one another and Adam realizes that Ronan's feelings for him go beyond friendship. Goodreads may classify the series as "urban fantasy," but I would argue that Stiefvater has made Rural Fantasy a Thing. Passages like this are why I love this series so much:
Blue had discovered that there were two distinct stereotypes for the rural population of her part of Virginia: the neighbors who loaned one another cups of sugar and knew everything about everyone, and the rednecks who stood on their porches with shotguns and shouted racist things when they got drunk. Because she grew up so thoroughly entrenched in the first group, she hadn't believed in the second group until well into her teens. School had taught her that the two kinds were almost never born into the same litter.
Hard Eight by Janet Evanovich (mystery) -When I am super stressed out with school work or have been reading a lot of serious books, Stephanie Plum books are the perfect anecdote. In Hard Eight, our favorite bail bonds agent enters unfamiliar territory, child custody bonds, when she is asked to track down a missing seven-year-old and her mother. Stephanie's past comes back to haunt her, as the missing girl's father is connected to scary Eddie Abruzzi, who "owned" the boxer Stephanie killed in One for the Money. Stephanie's still caught in a love triangle with Trenton cop Joe Morelli and beefy bounty hunter Ranger, both of whom come to her aid when Abruzzi's antics go from creepy to horrifying.
The Book Thief - I'm so glad I finally got around to seeing this film based on one of the most moving books I've ever read. The movie didn't disappoint me - the characters were so well-developed (Papa! Mama! Rudy!), the attention to detail was perfect (The alphabet wall! The library!), and since I'd read the book, I had that experience where your heart breaks right before things happen on screen.
Furious 7 - While I'm relatively sure I have missed most of the movies in the Fast and the Furious franchise, it didn't really affect my ability to enjoy the new movie (although I think seeing #6 probably would have helped). The main villain, Deckard Shaw, played by Jason Statham, has sworn to get revenge against Dom and Brian's team. He attacks Hobbs' and Elena's office and bombs Dom's house, nearly killing Dom, Brian, Mia, and little Jack right before they learn that Han has been killed in Tokyo. At Han's funeral, Brian promises that the team will only go to one more funeral - Shaw's. The team gets assistance from a private special-ops force led by Kurt Russell's "Mr. Nobody," who promises to help Dom catch Shaw in exchange for the team rescuing a computer hacker who has been kidnapped by terrorists. What follows is pretty much the craziest action movie ever, complete with cars crashing through high-rise buildings, cars parachuting out of planes, and a fight scene between Letty and my favorite MMA fighter Ronda Rousey as a bodyguard in Abu Dhabi. The end of the movie includes a tribute to Paul Walker (some of his scenes are actually CGI because they were filmed after his death) and a fitting farewell to Brian.
Agent Carter - Marvel had a tall order with Agent Carter - a sequel to Captain America: The First Avenger, a prequel to the one-shot about Peggy Carter, and Marvel's first property with a female main character - basically, the geek community had super high expectations for this one. Hayley Atwell's Peggy Carter was my favorite thing about The First Avenger, and I got pulled into her postwar adventures, trying to balance working for the Strategic Scientific Reserve while protecting Howard Stark, now suspected of treason. I was really delighted by little Marvel details like Edwin Jarvis as Peggy's sidekick and a nemesis, "Dottie," trained in the Black Widow program. I really appreciated that Marvel committed to producing a series about sexism in the workplace - Peggy goes from a position of power during the war to basically being treated like a secretary afterward and manages to use her coworker's underestimation of her skills to her own advantage. I really hope ABC renews this series!
The Night Shift - I feel like this medical drama series is still finding it's way, but the characters are very compelling and the crazy medical mysteries the writers come up with are interesting as they unfold. This season, the most interesting character is probably Paul, who comes from a family of famous surgeons and has a hard time adjusting to work in the emergency room - his storyline right now reminds me of Noah Wyle's Dr. Carter from E.R. You know a show has some serious drama when there's an infographic to help fans keep track of the past and present relationships.
The Middle - I've written before that what I love most about The Middle is that the Hecks feel like a real working-class American family. This season, where the ongoing storylines have been middle child Sue applying to college and youngest Brick learning to be more social, has been so much fun, especially the most recent episode where oldest child Axl's girlfriend, Devin Levin, tricks him into pretending to love Sue when she visits campus.