Spring Break

Don’t get too excited — this isn’t going to be a post chronicling all the exciting adventures I’ve had in my days off. Actually, my spring break has primarily been spent sitting on my bed with either a screen or book in front of my face. This, of course, is my little version of paradise.

My spring break was made a little sweeter since we got an extra two days off because Kentucky has been a haven for major snow fall in recent weeks. Two weeks ago, we had a week off school for about a foot-and-a-half of snow and ice. Last Wednesday and Thursday, we received another 21-23″ that closed the university two days early for spring break. Now it’s 60 degrees. Things have been a bit odd in the weather department, to say the least.

Since it’s been a few weeks since my last post of this sort, I thought I’d take a few minutes to do another update. Here’s what I’ve been watching and reading lately.

Books – I haven’t accomplished as much reading over break as I’d hoped, but I’ll try to remedy that in my last days off. Earlier this week I finished Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking, a book I’d read partially several years ago, but came back to after borrowing it from my roommate. Didion’s nonfiction is relatable and comforting, especially if you’ve recently lost a loved one.

Last night, I finished Cecelia Ahern’s Love, Rosie, previously published as Where Rainbows End. I got it as a cheap Kindle download from Amazon, and knowing it was from the same author as P.S. I Love You (which I haven’t read), I hoped it’d be a decent book. I found the writing incredibly weak and the overall story rather boring and frustrating, so that was a pretty giant waste of time, unfortunately.

Now I’m turning back to my assigned school reading. My plan is to begin reading John Kennedy Toole’s A Confederacy of Dunces today. The book isn’t due for a few weeks, but since it’s long and, I’m assuming, fairly dense, I want to have ample time to finish it. I’ve also got some Flannery O’Connor short stories to read for classes next week, so I’ll try to get a head start on those. O’Connor is always a pleasure, so that’s something I’m excited about.

Movies – I haven’t watched much recently that’s very noteworthy, but I’m at least happy to be making progress on my intended watch list for the year. I rented two Redbox movies this week, Chasing Hearts and Men, Women & Children. The first was really lame; because Jamie Dornan is the film’s star, the distributors apparently tried to milk his Fifty Shades success, but the movie was mostly boring.

I rented Men, Women & Children because I really like Jason Reitman, but his movies have been rather off lately, especially since this was the first film he directed following the ridiculous Labor Day. The movie’s cast is good, but the story is rather melodramatic and depressing; it presents the dark side of a society controlled by technology. I was interested enough in the story to keep watching, but it’s not a film I’d watch a second time.

I also watched the film adaptation of Love, Rosie, which is thankfully far better than the book. The film’s writer and director took lots of liberties with the book’s story, and ended up producing something much more entertaining. It’s a pretty formulaic romantic comedy, but those can be fun, so I’d recommend it if you looking for something of that type.

TV – I think most of my viewing time this break has been spent on TV-bingeing. I started watching Teen Wolf on a whim just over two weeks ago, and I’m currently watching the final episode so I’ll be caught up when season five begins this summer. It isn’t a great show by any means, but it’s fun and entertaining, and I’m glad to have something to watch during the dry months of summer TV.

My mom and I also started watching Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt on Netflix. We got through the first five episodes in one sitting, but haven’t returned to it yet because our timing hasn’t really worked out, but I think I’ll plan to finish it now that I’m done with Teen Wolf. Once that’s done, I’ll return to Lost, since I paused in the break between seasons two and three.

As for on-air TV, I’m SO excited that Bates Motel returned this week. It looks like things have officially gotten inappropriate this season, so that should be loads of fun. It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Broad City, and Girls will all be reaching season’s end in the next week or so, so that should lighten my TV-watching load a bit (though I’m sad to see them all go). Otherwise, I’m still keeping up with Jane the Virgin, Reign, and Scandal, and I believe I’ll wait until the summer to binge on the current season of Broadchurch with my mom, so that will slowly begin building up on our DVR.

Now back to real life. Here’s to soaking up my last moments of no obligations before school and all those pesky deadlines and assignments return.

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Book #22: The Year of Magical Thinking, by Joan Didion

Happy spring break, world! (Or not, since I’m one of the lucky few experiencing a week off right now). I just realized that I forgot to post about finishing this book a few days ago, so better late than never, I guess.

I remember reading some of The Year of Magical Thinking in high school after my mom read it, but I never finished the book. In my writing workshop class we’ve discussed Didion a bit, so I borrowed this book from my roommate so I could remind myself of Didion’s memoir.

This book is perfect for anyone coping with the loss of a loved one. Didion’s husband died of a heart attack in 2003, and at the same time, her only daughter was hospitalized in critical condition after a severe bout of the flu.

Didion writes about the first year of life after her husband’s death, which unfortunately saw many more complications with her daughter’s health. Her writing is honest and sometimes fragmented, much like the thoughts of those coping with death.

I think The Year of Magical Thinking is a must-read for anyone dealing with a recent loss. I think I had a bit of difficulty in relating to some of the book because (thankfully) I haven’t dealt with death in a long time in my direct family, but I imagine this is a book that readers could revisit many times through life when loss is a bit more raw.

Now I’m ready to turn back to my required school reading. My plan is to jump ahead a bit to start reading John Kennedy Toole’s A Confederacy of Dunces, required for my Southern Lit class, in the hopes that I can continue to stay ahead on the seven novels I still have left to read for the semester.

Child of God

Book #21: Child of God, by Cormac McCarthy

Let’s just say that my most recent reading ventures was… an experience. I’ve never read any Cormac McCarthy before, so I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect except maybe something fairly grim. I was basically right, but Child of God also has its fair share of humor, though it’s a very dark brand of comedy.

Essentially, Child of God is about Lester Ballard, a man in East Tennessee who lives off the land as an outsider; he’s falsely accused of rape early in the book and spends most of his time on the outskirts of society just trying to survive. Things start to get pretty weird, though, when Lester finds a young couple dead in the backseat of a car in a compromising position. Lester is lonely and takes the female for a “companion”… I assume you can connect the dots.

Now that I’ve finished the book, I’m anxious to watch James Franco’s 2012 film adaptation of the novel, a new addition to Netflix. I love James Franco and we have very similar literary tastes, so I have high hopes for the movie.

In Our Time

Book #20: In Our Time, by Ernest Hemingway

I’d say reading 20 books before the end of February is a pretty solid start to my reading list in 2015. I just finished Ernest Hemingway’s In Our Time, a collection of short stories I have to present on in my American Short Stories class later this semester. If you know much about my literary tastes, you probably know that I have a major soft spot for Hemingway, so I’ve been especially studious in getting my reading done for this several weeks in advance.

I’ve also read several of these stories before, in my Hemingway and Faulkner class a few years ago. Most of the stories in In Our Time are Nick Adams stories, which chronicle Adams’s life from childhood to his return from World War I.

Generally, these stories deal with the savagery of war, particularly in an internal, personal sense. Hemingway also presents several scenarios of masculinity and femininity that are characteristic of his writing. As Hemingway’s second publication, In Our Time is a perfect example of his earliest works that helped establish his deceptively simple writing style. Hemingway fans, put this one on your to do list.

The Hound of the Baskervilles

Book #18: The Hound of the Baskervilles, by Arthur Conan Doyle

Since I’m on snow day #4 of a full week off school during our snowpocalypse, so I’ve had more than enough time to binge on reading, TV, and books. So much for my academic productivity.

My latest reading venture was one I’ve looked forward to for a long time: Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Hound of the Baskervilles. Considering I’ve written two lengthy research papers on Sherlock Holmes, it seemed time that I actually read one of his books. The story is fun and light, and since I adore BBC’s Sherlock, I truly enjoyed imagining Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman as the famous detective duo.

If you’re spending some time inside on these cold, cold days, spend some time with my favorite detective.

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Snow Days

I couldn’t be happier to be writing this from the comfort of my bed, snuggled under a pile of blankets with snow falling outside my window. My semester got off to a busy start, so I thought I’d take this moment of reprieve to write a quick update of my pop culture life these days.

Books – School reading obviously takes precedent over any leisurely reading, but I’m still free enough that I’m able to maintain something for myself. After forging my way through a book of William Inge plays, I took a sharp turn to reading Daniel Handler’s The Basic Eight, a fun teen novel about murder (I guess it doesn’t sound that funny, but it really is). My latest Southern lit reading assignment was Erskine Caldwell’s Tobacco Road, a super strange and darkly comic book chronicling the strange lives of a group in Depression-era rural Georgia. It’s a truly entertaining read. This past weekend I finished My Ideal Bookshelf, a collection of lists made by various celebrities of the handful of book they’d put on their “ideal” bookshelves. It was especially fun to read the lists of celebrities I like (like James Franco), and the book provided me with several books I’ve added to my own reading list.

Currently, I’m in the middle of reading Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Hound of the Baskervilles and I’m enjoying the experience tremendously. I’ve also started Ernest Hemingway’s short story collection In Our Time, a book I’m required to present about in one of my classes next month. This snow day (which just might turn into two snow days) is giving me the perfect opportunity to stay in and read guilt-free.

Movies – I’m well on my way with my 100 movie goal for 2015, having watched 23 new movies this year. Some recent favorites include the classic Pulp Fictionwhich I hadn’t seen until recently, and Still Alice, the movie for which Julianne Moore is likely to win an Oscar. Admittedly, I also got really into this Lifetime movie called Restless Virgins that I watched on Netflix, so I guess that should make the list as well. Sometimes you need something mindless to watch, I guess.

TV – I’m not sure I’ve ever felt so busy with TV-watching as I do now. I’m making pretty good progress on my rewatch of Lost (I’m currently watching episode 2×15), but I’m also kept very occupied by all the normal TV shows I watch that are airing. This list includes: Downton Abbey, Girls, Bob’s Burgers, Jane the Virgin, Parks and Recreation, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Broad City, Scandal, Reign, and How to Get Away with Murder. It’s both sad and a little stress-relieving that Parks and Rec and How to Get Away with Murder will be ending in the coming weeks so my watch list can be pared down a bit. However, Bates Motel, Game of Thrones, and Veep will all be returning soon, so the madness continues, I suppose. For now, though, I’m content to stay in my bed and enjoy my cozy day inside.

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Book #14: Tobacco Road, by Erskine Caldwell

My most recent reading venture for my Southern lit class was an especially memorable one: Tobacco Road by Erskine Caldwell is the kind of book filled with so much ridiculousness you won’t be able to stop reading. The theme of our class reading list is Southern Gothic and the Grotesque, so this isn’t exactly a book for everyone, but it’s one I found highly entertaining.

It tells the story mostly of the Lester family, dirt poor in Depression era rural Georgia. Jeeter, the family patriarch, has no way to make a living, but he believes God will eventually provide for him. His stubborn faith that something good must come eventually drives the cyclical plot, and spoiler alert: Jeeter never gets the miracle he hopes for.

The enjoyable thing about this book is just how darkly comic and insane it is. These people are hardly more civilized than animals, and the strange circumstances in which they find themselves are nothing short of dark comedy’s paradise. Tobacco Road may be a quick read, but it’s sure to leave you thinking long after the last page is turned.