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Reading and Watching in 2017

In my Sundance reflection I posted over the weekend, I promised to catch up on my recent pop culture ventures since I’ve neglected my duties of late (full-time jobs really just hinder this whole recreational blogging thing).

So, in an effort to stay true to my word, here’s a quick glimpse at all the popular stuff I’m consuming these days. Spoiler alert: I’ve become kind of savage with things I don’t like, so you’re in for a treat.


Books

At the moment, I’m on my sixteenth book of 2017, but I doubt I’ll be finishing it any time soon. I’ve returned to the Outlander series with the fourth installment, Drums of Autumn. I’m at the 200-page mark in an 880-page saga, so who really knows when I’ll finish or what shenanigans I’m in for along the way. Thankfully, Diana Gabaldon doesn’t let me down and keeps things entertaining and unexpected, unlike many books I’ve started and stopped recently.

I’ve given up on two books so far in 2017, which generally provokes a sense of relief, while also being a big ol’ bummer. I don’t like to dislike books, especially when I spend 100 pages of effort on something I end up tossing aside. My rejected novels were Nick Hornby’s Juliet, Naked, which I bought on a whim at a used book store, and Barbara Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible. I didn’t have harsh feelings about The Poisonwood Bible—the same cannot be said of the former—but I just didn’t feel it going anywhere. To be fair, I started the novel and read a good chunk on my way to Sundance and didn’t really pick it up again until returning, so I was struggling to readjust. But at over 500 pages, I wasn’t feeling compelled enough to trudge through, so I put it aside. This is one I could see myself returning to in future, just not any time too soon.

Other quick reading notes: I’ve already crossed off 3 of the authors I planned to read in 2017, have made progress on 2 others, and have completed 2 other reading goals for the year. I read Rupi Kaur’s poetry collection milk and honey in about 12 seconds over the weekend and enjoyed it. I read a collection of Emily Dickinson’s works and consumed something like 700 poems in a week. I also recently read the Russian novella The Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk after seeing the film adaptation at Sundance. The novella is fun, but the film is far better.

I’ve basically been reading Drums of Autumn exclusively, but fairly soon I’ll double up with something else, likely Romeo and Juliet in my goal of reading four of Shakespeare’s plays this year. I don’t want to pair Drums of Autumn with another novel, so I’ll keep the balance with other plays or short story/essay collections for a while.


Movies

I’ve seen a fairly ridiculous number of movies in 2017—forty-three, to be precise, which is just two short of the number of days in the year thus far. To be fair, I did start the year at a film festival, but I’m also just in the kind of mood that basically involves at least one movie a day.

You can read my Sundance post to hear about what I liked there, but there have been plenty of other fun things I’ve seen on my own time. Arrival was the most recent Best Picture nominee I saw (I still haven’t seen Hidden Figures or Hacksaw Ridge) and I loved it way more than expected. Other things I’ve really liked include Sing Street (2016), Grey Gardens (2009), Y Tu Mamá También (2001), Temple Grandin (2010), The Handmaiden (2016)and Fifty Shades Darker (2017). Yes, the last one is kind of embarrassing, and yes, the last two have something very specific in common, but I’m fine with that.

Here’s hoping I reach 50 films—which is 1/2 of my goal for the year—by the end of the month (but honestly, it will probably happen by the end of this week).


Television

TV has been unexpectedly complicated for me in 2017. TV tends to be my breeziest medium, but I’m having a very difficult time finding something that clicks for me this year. To be fair, I’ve still completed 7 series this year, but each of those has been under 20 episodes, so I haven’t had to really commit.

My biggest surprise was my lack of interest in The Americans, a show I started expecting I would love it and planned to catch up before the new season comes later this spring. I watched the entirety of season 1 and the premiere of season 2, and just kept finding myself underwhelmed. This is the show every critic says is totally underrated and deserves nominations it rarely receives, but nothing about it really hooked me. I kept watching in the hopes that would change, but I finally decided to stop. It was a decision accompanied by a surprising amount of turmoil, but I really haven’t thought about the show at all since, so I think I made the right decision.

I’m finally committed to a new project with Flight of the Conchords, though this show is only 22 episodes overall, so again, it’s fairly temporary. It’s silly and strange and I like it. Same goes for Moone Boy, which I watched very quickly a few weeks ago.

There is a handful of shows currently airing/soon to return that I’m keeping up with, including: It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, The Mindy Project, Girls, Legion, and Bates Motel. It’s nice to have a few things to rely on, especially when I’m not particularly inclined elsewhere.

And speaking of my lack of interest, my roommate and I have developed an exciting and cut-throat habit of “canceling” movies and books and TV shows (aka we deem things “canceled” when we stop liking them, and they cease to exist). So The Americans? Canceled. Together we tried to start back on Penny Dreadful, having both watched the first season when it aired, but that only lasted 14 minutes before cancelation. I also canceled The Leftovers after watching 19 minutes and feeling like I never needed to return. I have a lot of random things on my TV list for the year, and I expect some of them to be canceled as well. At least I’m giving them all a shot.

Of the things I have actually watched, I would most highly recommend A Series of Unfortunate Events because it is just delightful, and I also had fun watching Chewing Gum, Looking, and Glitch in January. And seriously, Moone Boy is super sweet and charming if you’re looking for that type.


Now I’m off to go finish a movie I started this afternoon and enjoy some quality reading time. Next time I write, I fully expect to have canceled a few more things.

I can’t wait.

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2017 Reading List #4: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, by J.K. Rowling

It’s probably silly of me to try to objectively review this book knowing my feelings about Harry Potter, but I’ll give it a fair shot.

I received the illustrated edition of Chamber of Secrets for Christmas, and, like last year, my mom and I reread it together, just as we did when first reading the books many years ago.

Again, it was perfect, and the added bonus of Jim Kay’s beautiful illustrations only makes the reading experience more enjoyable. I’m particularly fond of his detailed illustrations of  the Mandrakes and the Phoenix.

These illustrated editions of the series are the perfect way to enjoy some quality time revisiting the series that has forever changed me. Though I am starting to think I need an entire bookcase dedicated to Harry Potter books and their related texts. I guess I’ll have to continue my dreams for a home with a library…

2016 Reading List

 

Below is my complete reading list for 2016. Titles in bold are those I particularly enjoyed.

  1. 01/03: Brooklyn, Colm Toíbín
  2. 01/05: The Merchant of Venice, William Shakespeare
  3. 01/06: Attachments, Rainbow Rowell
  4. 01/10: Twelfth Night, William Shakespeare
  5. 01/11: The Man Who Had All the Luck, Arthur Miller
  6. 01/12: All My Sons, Arthur Miller
  7. 01/13: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, J.K. Rowling
  8. 01/13: Death of a Salesman, Arthur Miller
  9. 01/17: The Bluest Eye, Toni Morrison
  10. 01/31: The Castle of Otranto, Horace Walpole
  11. 02/09: Career of Evil, Robert Galbraith
  12. 02/16: After You, Jojo Moyes
  13. 02/17: The Importance of Being Earnest, Oscar Wilde
  14. 02/18: Collected Sonnets of Edna St. Vincent Millay
  15. 02/20: Much Ado About Nothing, William Shakespeare
  16. 02/24: The Glass Menagerie, Tennessee Williams
  17. 02/27: A Wild Patience Has Taken Me This Far, Adrienne Rich
  18. 03/02: Biloxi Blues, Neil Simon
  19. 03/08: ‘Night, Mother, Marsha Norman
  20. 03/09: The Lonesome West, Martin McDonagh
  21. 03/11: Never Let Me Go, Kazuo Ishiguro
  22. 04/10: Cannery Row, John Steinbeck
  23. 05/01: Hamilton: The Revolution, Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeremy McCarter
  24. 05/22: Voyager, Diana Gabaldon
  25. 05/24: Between the World and Me, Ta-Nehisi Coates
  26. 05/27: Finding Fraser, KC Dyer
  27. 06/01: The Cherry Orchard, Anton Chekhov
  28. 06/07: The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood
  29. 06/13: Definitely Dead, Charlaine Harris
  30. 06/15: An Enemy of the People, Arthur Miller
  31. 06/17: The Crucible, Arthur Miller
  32. 06/18: A View From the Bridge, Arthur Miller
  33. 06/24: Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death, James Runcie
  34. 06/26: Luckiest Girl Alive, Jessica Knoll
  35. 07/03: Tess of the D’Urbervilles, Thomas Hardy
  36. 07/03: In the Heights, Lin-Manuel Miranda
  37. 07/04: The Seagull, Anton Chekhov
  38. 07/06: Tiny Beautiful Things, Cheryl Strayed
  39. 07/12: The Twelve Tribes of Hattie, Ayana Mathis
  40. 07/12: The Elephant Man, Bernard Pomerance
  41. 07/24: Light in August, William Faulkner
  42. 07/28: After the Fall, Arthur Miller
  43. 07/30: Incident at Vichy, Arthur Miller
  44. 07/31: The Price, Arthur Miller
  45. 08/01: The Creation of the World and Other Business, Arthur Miller
  46. 08/01: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany, and Jack Thorne
  47. 08/04: Green Hills of Africa, Ernest Hemingway
  48. 08/07: At Fault, Kate Chopin
  49. 08/22: The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo, Amy Schumer
  50. 08/23: Sidney Chambers and the Perils of Night, James Runcie
  51. 08/28: Bayou Folk, Kate Chopin
  52. 08/31: Collected Poems of Edna St. Vincent Millay
  53. 09/03: You’ll Grow Out of It, Jessi Klein
  54. 09/04: The Archbishop’s Ceiling, Arthur Miller
  55. 09/06: The American Clock, Arthur Miller
  56. 09/14: Bel Canto, Ann Patchett
  57. 10/03: Sense and Sensibility, Jane Austen
  58. 10/03: Hogwarts: An Incomplete and Unreliable Guide, J.K. Rowling
  59. 10/05: Short Stories from Hogwarts of Heroism, Hardship, and Dangerous Hobbies, J.K. Rowling
  60. 10/06: Short Stories from Hogwarts of Power, Politics, and Pesky Poltergeists, J.K. Rowling
  61. 10/21: The Girls, Emma Cline
  62. 10/22: The House on Mango Street, Sandra Cisneros
  63. 10/22: The Book of Other People, edited by Zadie Smith
  64. 10/25: The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl, Issa Rae
  65. 10/27: A Monster Calls, Patrick Ness
  66. 10/30: The Widow, Fiona Barton
  67. 10/31: The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Robert Louis Stevenson
  68. 11/05: Big Little Lies, Liane Moriarty
  69. 11/06: Playing for Time, Arthur Miller
  70. 11/09: The World’s Wife, Carol Ann Duffy
  71. 11/19: Dark Sparkler, Amber Tamblyn
  72. 11/23: State of Wonder, Ann Patchett
  73. 11/25: The Ride Down Mt. Morgan, Arthur Miller
  74. 11/26: A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens
  75. 11/26: The Last Yankee, Arthur Miller
  76. 11/27: Broken Glass, Arthur Miller
  77. 11/28: Carry This Book, Abbi Jacobson
  78. 11/29: Mr Peters’ Connections, Arthur Miller
  79. 11/30: Resurrection Blues, Arthur Miller
  80. 12/03: Sweetbitter, Stephanie Danler
  81. 12/06: Paris for One and Other Stories, Jojo Moyes
  82. 12/09: Why Not Me?, Mindy Kaling
  83. 12/12: The Remains of the Day, Kazuo Ishiguro
  84. 12/14: Three Tall Women, Edward Albee
  85. 12/15: Joe Turner’s Come and Gone, August Wilson
  86. 12/18: Hedda Gabler, Henrik Ibsen
  87. 12/21: Camino Real, Tennessee Williams
  88. 12/26: The Autumn Garden, Lillian Hellman
  89. 12/27: Winesburg, Ohio, Sherwood Anderson
  90. 12/27: A Hatful of Rain, Michael Gazzo
  91. 12/28: Talking as Fast as I Can, Lauren Graham
  92. 12/29: Cravings, Chrissy Teigen

2016 Reading List #39: The Twelve Tribes of Hattie, by Ayana Mathis

Sometimes the best answer to a lazy day is spending it in bed with a good book.

Welcome to my Tuesday.

After returning last night from a 4-day trip to visit friends in Nebraska and thirteen-hours in the car, I think it was fair to enjoy a quiet day in. Everyone needs a little time to recover.

I started The Twelve Tribes of Hattie while we were on vacation, but I’d hardly made any progress in my reading. Today, though, I read 240 pages and finished this multi-generational tale.

The Twelve Tribes of Hattie is a bit difficult to categorize—it’s a novel, but in some ways it reads more like a short story cycle. Hattie Shepherd is at the novel’s center, but each chapter focuses on one of her eleven children. The book spans 55 years in the life of Hattie’s family, offering limited glimpses into each of her children across time.

I appreciated the simplicity of Mathis’s novel. Because of the book’s style, we really do only get small glimpses into these characters’ lives, which is sometimes unsettling, but also bring an air of authenticity to the reading experience. These are not necessarily extraordinary moments in their lives, but moments of clarity or growth. I wished to know more about some of them before the novel’s end, but I think Mathis’s decision to remain a bit ambiguous maintains the book’s realistic qualities.

Since I sped through The Twelve Tribes of Hattie so quickly today, I’m a bit unsure where to turn next in my reading ventures. Here’s to many more quiet days spent with good books.

Movies I Saw in 2015

I’m usually good at meeting my movie goal lists, so I think I’ll stick with 100 new movies as my goal for 2015. In 2014, I set a goal of 125 new movies, but the fact that I attended the 2014 Sundance Film Festival and watched more than 20 new movies in January was really helpful in getting a head start on my goal. Let’s hope 2015 goes well also! For reference, the bolded titles have been movies I’ve enjoyed most.

  1. Foxcatcher (2014): B+
  2. That Awkward Moment (2014): B-
  3. Mortified Nation (2013): C
  4. Thanks for Sharing (2012): C
  5. Selma (2014): A
  6. Calvary (2014): C
  7. Pride (2014): B+
  8. Mystic Pizza (1988): B
  9. A Long Way Down (2014): C
  10. The Maze Runner (2014): B-
  11. The Theory of Everything (2014): A
  12. Frank (2014): B
  13. Life After Beth (2014): B-
  14. The Imitation Game (2014): A
  15. Pulp Fiction (1994): A
  16. Behaving Badly (2014): F
  17. Labor Day (2014): C-
  18. Mud (2012): A
  19. Restless Virgins (2013): C
  20. Geography Club (2013): C+
  21. Still Alice (2014): B+
  22. Chef (2014): B-
  23. And the Oscar Goes To… (2014): B+
  24. The Apartment (1960): B
  25. Friday the 13th (1980): C
  26. High Noon (1952): B+
  27. The Bling Ring (2011): C-
  28. Advanced Style (2014): B
  29. St. Vincent (2014): B+
  30. Racing Hearts (2014): C-
  31. Love, Rosie (2014): B
  32. Men, Women & Children (2014): C+
  33. Two Night Stand (2014): C
  34. No Good Deed (2014): B
  35. Top Five (2014): B-
  36. Dear White People (2014): B
  37. Child of God (2014): B-
  38. Tricked (2013): B+
  39. Rich Hill (2014): A
  40. Frontline: Secret State of North Korea (2014): B
  41. Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief (2015): A
  42. Ask Me Anything (2014): C
  43. The Babadook (2014): B
  44. Monkey Kingdom (2015): A
  45. Chimpanzee (2012): A
  46. They Came Together (2014): C
  47. Breathe In (2013): C
  48. His Way (2011): B
  49. Joe (2013): C
  50. Fifty Shades of Grey (2015): B
  51. Life Partners (2014): B
  52. Ex Machina (2015): A
  53. Spy (2015): B
  54. Harmontown (2014): B-
  55. His Girl Friday (1940): B
  56. American Sniper (2014): C
  57. A River Runs Through It (1992): B+
  58. The Big Chill (1983): A
  59. A Deadly Adoption (2015): B-
  60. Kramer vs. Kramer (1979): A
  61. Dolores Claiborne (1995): B+
  62. The Shawshank Redemption (1994): A
  63. The Goodbye Girl (1977): B
  64. A Beautiful Mind (2001): A
  65. Phenomenon (1996): C
  66. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl (2015): A
  67. Mr. Holland’s Opus (1996): B
  68. The Full Monty (1997): B+
  69. Little Shop of Horrors (1986): B
  70. Inside Out (2015): A-
  71. Kingsman: The Secret Service (2015): B+
  72. Cake (2014): B-
  73. 7 Days in Hell (2015): B+
  74. Philadelphia (1993): B
  75. Good Will Hunting (1997): A
  76. Garden State (2004): C-
  77. Endless Love (2014): C
  78. Trainwreck (2015): B+
  79. Paper Towns (2015): B+
  80. It Follows (2015): B
  81. Dave (1993): B
  82. Tig (2015): A-
  83. Serena (2014): D
  84. Insurgent (2015): B-
  85. Groundhog Day (1993): B
  86. Nightcrawler (2014): B+
  87. In Bruges (2008): A-
  88. Election (1999): A
  89. The Wolf of Wall Street (2013): B+
  90. Hurricane of Fun: The Making of Wet Hot (2015): B
  91. Hot Girls Wanted (2015): B
  92. Stripes (1981): B
  93. Showrunners: The Art of Running a TV Show (2014): B
  94. Hitler’s Children (2011): B
  95. Wetlands (2013): B+
  96. Fed Up (2014): B+
  97. The Diary of a Teenage Girl (2015): A
  98. Welcome to Me (2014): B+
  99. Leap Year (2010): C
  100. Private Benjamin (1980): A-
  101. Conception (2011): C
  102. Save the Date (2012): C+
  103. 6 Years (2015): B-
  104. If I Stay (2014): D
  105. Nine Months (1995): B-
  106. Dirty Dancing (1987): B
  107. The Interview (2014): C+
  108. Clue (1985): B+
  109. The Sixth Sense (1999): B+
  110. Still Life (2013): C+
  111. Boogie Nights (1997): A-
  112. National Theatre Live’s Hamlet (2015): A
  113. Cinderella (2015): A-
  114. Amy Schumer: Live at the Apollo (2015): A
  115. The Martian (2015): B+
  116. Dark Places (2015): C
  117. True Lies (1994): B
  118. We Need to Talk About Kevin (2011): B+
  119. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 (2015): B+
  120. The Wiz Live! (2015): C
  121. Mad Max: Fury Road (2015): B+
  122. The End of the Tour (2015): B-
  123. Creed (2015): A
  124. A Very Murray Christmas (2015): C
  125. Brooklyn (2015): A
  126. Far From the Madding Crowd (2015): A
  127. White Christmas (1954): B
  128. It’s a Wonderful Life (1946): A
  129. Schindler’s List (1993): A

My first Lipstickparty mag piece — check it out!

Today my first piece with Lipstickparty magazine was published online in a series called “Cool Girls Read,” which asks contributors to talk about the influential books that made them love reading. No surprise here, I wrote about Harry Potter.

Here’s the link if you’re interested in reading my piece, and make sure to check out the other cool stuff on the website!

Ah, Summer

In the merest of blinks, I have somehow already completed my first year of graduate school. Actually, I’ve been done for almost two weeks now. How could that possibly have happened?

Maybe I haven’t really processed it because I haven’t finished any books since the semester ended (this is tragic and unusual for me, and a real sign that I’m spending my time strangely). But that doesn’t mean I’ve been idle, exactly. Actually, I’ve been finishing up at work and managed to squeeze in a quick jaunt to New York last week. Weird.

Anyway, here are some of the things that have been happening in my life.

  1. School ended and many of my friends graduated. Hooray for them! The distance between me and undergrad life grows every day (but, like, it really does. That’s how time works). While they celebrate freedom, I find myself thinking more and more about how I’ll have students of my own come January. What a weird thing to be true.
  2. New York, what? I flew in for a quick visit last Thursday, meeting my dad and stepmom there. We had a fun whirlwind of a trip, but one that was long enough for me to catch up with them and spend a lovely afternoon with some super cool people. Also, this lady sat next to me in the airport with a carry-on bag which she promptly unzipped to reveal a mannequin head wearing a wig. Then she zipped it back up and walked away and I pretended I hadn’t jumped at the sight of it. Things can get pretty weird at Laguardia.
  3. Literarily speaking, I’ve felt kind of stagnant, but that’s actually not the case. I’ve been working my way through Outlander, but that is a long book, you guys. I’m close to finishing, but I just never seem to make as much progress as a expect. My goal is to finish by the end of this weekend. I’m also still inching along through Flannery O’Connor’s complete short story collection. My goal is to read one story a day, which works sometimes. This is bound to be my long-term summer reading project.
  4. As for TV, I’ve been a bit of a lost soul (pun kind of intended) since finishing Lost. This often happens to me after long TV projects; I spend so much time with one thing that I don’t know where to go. After toying with a few ideas, I ended up starting the HBO miniseries John Adams, of which I have watched three of the seven episodes. I’m really enjoying it, but it’s not a project I feel the need to speed through. I’ve also been watching Wayward Pines since summer TV is such a draught, and it’s fun enough to maintain my interest.
  5. I’ve not been doing much movie-watching, but EX MACHINA IS GREAT, YOU GUYS. Like, crazy-amazing-wonderful-I can’t stop thinking about it great. My thesis advisor recommended it to me because of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl presence, and that was really the only expectation I had going into it. I sat in the theater by myself in awe. Now I just need a friend to see it so I can discuss it.
  6. Friday is my last day in my current job, then I get to head home for the weekend before my mom and I head out on a pretty crazy road trip en route to Austin, TX for the ATX Television Festival and I AM SO EXCITED. The TV fest is our reason for traveling, obviously, but we’re going to make it interesting by heading to Graceland and finding reasons to drive through Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi.

All right, summer, you seem pretty cool.