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Entertainment in spring

Hello, world. It’s spring, which mostly means I get a lot of crippling headaches while I try to appreciate all the new blooms from a distance.

Since the weather is usually topsy turvy at this time of year, I see no problem spending most of my free time enjoying things from the indoors (which, to be fair, is true year-round).

So, in an attempt to stay true to this blog that I sometimes neglect, here’s a quick update of all the entertainment I’m enjoying these days. Feel free to share your recommendations!

TV Most of my viewing time of late has been devoted to television, largely because I have a hefty list of currently-airing shows to keep up with. While the rest of the world adored HBO’s Big Little Lies, I found it both exhausting and infuriating. I loved the book when I read it last fall, but I think the show lacked all the book’s charms. Thankfully, Sunday nights have also been providing the perfect antidote to Big Little Lies in the form of FX’s Feud. I spend most episodes giddy with delight, and if you ask me, the Big Little Lies team could have taken some serious pointers on how to develop complicated, flawed, and lovable female characters from Feud. If, for some crazy reason, you’re on the fence about watching this show, watch this clip of Bette Davis singing and your decision will be made. Then feel free to watch it many times a day for years to come as I plan to.

As far as streaming shows go, I’ve also done my fair share, though I’m currently in a lull. About a week ago I finished a marathon viewing of Malcolm in the Middle, which was a delightful little jaunt. Though I don’t think it’s one of the greatest sitcoms of all time, it was a joy from beginning to end. I also spent the last week watching Netflix’s newest hit, 13 Reasons Why, which is far better than typical teen shows. I loved the book when I read it in high school, but the TV adaptation does a great job of developing the story further. The characters are complex and the story is moving from start to finish. I also knocked out season 2 of Chewing Gum after watching the first season in January, and I may just go through it all again any day now. Michaela Coel’s creation is delightful and ridiculous and generally upsetting because there are so few episodes. And finally, I fell completely in love with The Great British Baking Show while on spring break and fully believe I am a baker now. What a joyful and entirely un-American approach to reality TV.

I’m planning to watch Part 2 of The Get Down this week since I watched Part 1 in 2016, but after that, I don’t have much of an idea of what my next big streaming project will be. Suggestions?


Movies — My movie watching has taken a bit of a hit since I’ve had so much TV to keep up with. To be fair, though, my film list for 2017 is already at 64 new (to me) films for the year, so I don’t really feel bad about slacking. Though I haven’t seen anything that I’ve loved lately, I did really enjoy the new Beauty and the Beast and Nocturnal Animals, which I missed out on during awards season. While I’m in this in-between of TV shows, I’ll probably use the empty time to up my moving viewing in an effort to shuffle through the many films waiting on my Netflix list.


Books — After knocking out Diana Gabaldon’s Drums of Autumn at the end of March, I’m feeling free and motivated with my reading projects. I’ve gone through three books so far in April—The Hate U Give, Me Talk Pretty One Day, and Romeo and Juliet—and I’m hoping to keep rolling through my bookshelf.

Since I finished Romeo and Juliet just moments ago, I’ve grabbed Carson McCullers’s The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, which I’ve been intending to read since at least 2014. I’m hoping I really enjoy it and haven’t accidentally just over-hyped this book for three years. Otherwise, I’m also planning to read Jhumpa Lahiri’s Interpreter of Maladies soon, and will likely also knock out Liane Moriarty’s Truly Madly Guilty. I sped through Big Little Lies in no time, so I’m hoping her newest novel is equally motivating.

So while the rest of you spend some time enjoy the spring weather by being active outside, I’ll continue to enjoy with a book in hand.

Favorite TV Shows of 2016

Writing about my TV-viewing habits as the year winds down brings about mixed feelings for me—I love TV and I love watching it, but I do get just slightly horrified upon realizing how much of it I’ve consumed.

In 2016, I have watched/caught up on 35 TV series/miniseries (you can see my complete list here). This does not include shows I watched multiple times during the year or anything I watched during its regular airing (and honestly, this number could grow in the final days of December). This adds up to something like 735 episodes of television, which is a lot. Basically, I like TV.

Bearing that in mind, the following is a list, in alphabetical order, of my favorite shows of the year. This includes shows that I both streamed and watched in real time. You’ll also find a list of honorable mentions at the bottom.

What TV shows did you love in 2016?


Call the Midwife

I’m a sucker for a good British period piece (as you may deduce from other listings to come), and Call the Midwife is the perfect balance of wholesome, kindhearted English entertainment that feels like ideal viewing on a cold winter night. I watched the first four seasons of the show in early January and quickly came to love the women of Nonnatus House, where a group of nuns and midwives works to serve underprivileged women of 1950s London. While Call the Midwife is undeniably charming, I think the thing I love most about it is its refreshing take on a diverse group of women without the cattiness that is so often represented in working women on the screen. Also, there are cute babies, so how could you not enjoy it?

Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones is essentially what my entertainment life is built around (if you exclude Hamilton, of course). I watched the entirety of Game of Thrones at least twice over the past year, not to mention that I watched each episode of season 7 twice during its normal airing. It might be obsessive, but come on—Jon Snow is alive and the Battle of the Bastards was the most stressed I’ve ever been. Also, please don’t speak to me about Margaery. I’m still not ready.

Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life

As a fan of Gilmore Girls for more than a decade, I’m a bit jaded about the immense surge in popularity it’s had in the past year or two. I love that people love the show, but I was here for a long time and I like to keep some things to myself. Because of my long love for this show, the thought of a reunion was both thrilling and terrifying, but I’m so very pleased with the result. Lauren Graham and Kelly Bishop especially gave such beautiful performances in this miniseries, and I certainly hope they’re recognized after being overlooked by major awards when the show originally aired. While I’d love to see more of this revival, those last four words left me more satisfied than the entirety of season 7, and that’s more than I could ask for.

Insecure

It’s probably a little inaccurate to say that Issa Rae is basically my best friend, but that’s the kind of positive thinking I’m looking to implement in 2017. Insecure was one of the funniest shows on TV this year that also knows how to pack an emotional wallop when needed. I love a show that confidently hits its stride from the get-go, which is exactly what this show does in depicting twenty-something black women looking for love and success. Set yourself an afternoon to catch up on season 1 if you didn’t enjoy it this fall.

The Mindy Project

At the moment, I’m still making my way through The Mindy Project (though this journey has progressed at an alarmingly fast rate). I saw some of the shows first 2 seasons when they aired on Fox and never felt inclined to watch religiously, but after reading Mindy Kaling’s second book, Why Not Me?, a few weeks ago, I jumped in headfirst. Turns out, I love it. Kaling is hilarious and ridiculous as heroine Mindy Lahiri, a woman who’s smart enough to be a gynecologist but otherwise, generally an idiot. The biggest surprise for me has been how much I enjoy the supporting cast (though my crush on Chris Messina has been serious for a few years now, so everyone else should just back off). Though I’m glad this show is still in progress, I’m a little sad that I’ll soon be waiting until February for new episodes, and even then only on a weekly basis. This show has been a perfect excuse to lounge around and “accidentally” watch 7 episodes without moving.

Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries

There are few fictional heroines I want to be more than Miss Phryne Fisher. The girl is rich, has a great wardrobe, a generous spirit, perfect hair, a cool job, and a flirtation with a hot detective—what could be better? Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries is the kind of show you hope will magically have 50 more episodes waiting for you when you finish the three seasons currently on Netflix. Phryne is an unofficial detective with a knack for solving crime in 1920s Australia. She’s basically the cool girl you’d really want to be friends with if that cool girl was also nice and smart. 2017, I’m counting on you to get season 4 in the works.

My Mad Fat Diary

One of the saddest moments for a TV lover like me is suddenly realizing you’ve come not just to the finale of a season, but of a series. This is what happened to me last week when I fell in love with the British teen dramedy My Mad Fat Diary. The show follows the life of Rae Earl, a teenager who’s just been released from a psychiatric hospital after being admitted for self-harm. Rae’s life post-hospital features a supportive and sometimes frustrated single mom, a new group of friends and potential love interests, and therapy with a kind-hearted and stern psychiatrist (spoiler: her therapist is Professor Quirrell!). MMFD is an honest and real show that I came to love in an astoundingly quick time, especially considering the entire series only lasts 16 episodes.

Outlander

It would be wrong to say I only watch Outlander for smoldering shots of Sam Heughan, but those certainly don’t hurt the show’s cause. In truth, Outlander is like my little pet show. I’ve read the first three books in Diana Gabaldon’s series (books 4 and 5 are on my shelf and ready to go for 2017) and I rewatched season 1 more often than I care to admit. Thankfully, season 2 did not disappoint. It’s still beautiful, steamy, violent, and surprisingly funny (Ryan, insert your soixante-neuf comment here). Gabaldon’s narrative goes on a surprising journey from book to book, so I’m glad to see the show successfully keeping pace. I can’t wait to follow this journey further in the new year.

Rick and Morty

Okay, Rick and Morty is the undeniable outlier on this list, but that doesn’t mean I love it any less. Who knew a bizarre little animated show about a young boy and his mad scientist/weirdo of a grandfather could be equally hilarious, insane, and heartbreaking? If you’ve never seen Rick and Morty, here are a few things to look out for: a surprising amount of burping and stuttering, lots of aliens and alternate realities, some Tiny Rick songs that you’ll want on a playlist, and a character named Mr. Poopy Butthole. This show is a national treasure.

Sex and the City

I’m pretty sure watching Sex and the City is a rite of passage for millennial women, and since I was seven when the show started on HBO in 1998, this year seemed like the time to get myself initiated. I watched Sex and the City embarrassingly quickly—seriously, I watch a lot of TV, but this was scary fast. Here are some things to know: I hated Miranda for a very long time but also I kind of am her (so I want a Steve, please), I thought Samantha Jones was too much but turns out she’s an icon and I adore her, and Mr. Big is the worst character to ever grace a TV screen and I hate him and do not comprehend why people like him. Though I’ve not yet watched the film sequels, I bought used copies this fall and look forward to a viewing party complete with drinking and lots of discussion with some people I love in the near future.

Stranger Things

I was a month or two late to the Stranger Things party because my roommate and I decided to watch together. We were both skeptical of the hype, but then the hype was correct and we loved it. We virtually adopted Dustin as our son. I generally hate child actors, but I loved this show and pretty much everything about it.


Honorable Mentions: American Crime Story: The People vs. O.J. Simpson, Catastrophe (season 2), The Crown, Felicity, The Girlfriend Experience, Girls, Grantchester, The Good Place, O.J.: Made in America, Pushing Daisies

2016 Reading List #33: Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death, by James Runcie

Last week I spent some Amazon and Barnes and Noble gift cards I’d been holding on to for a while, and I’d say my reading habit has been happily indulged because of it.

Though I’m still working through Thomas Hardy’s classic Tess of the D’Urbervilles, I’m not rushing through it, and having a handful of new reading project arrive on the doorstep was too exciting a prospect to wait for.

Of these new treasures, I started with (and unintentionally sped through) Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death, the first book in the Grantchester mysteries series upon which the television series is based. My mom and I recently watched and loved the first two seasons of the TV adaptation, so I thought I’d give the books a try as well.

Luckily, the book series packs the same enjoyable punch as the TV series. This novel explores six different (but interwoven) mysteries through the eyes of Canon Sidney Chambers, an Anglican priest with a knack for crime-solving. Generally, the TV adaptation follows the book accurately, though some of the mysteries are reimagined and the supporting characters are made more dynamic on screen.

The Shadow of Death offers everything you can hope for from a British crime novel: jealousy, intrigue, a love triangle, jazz clubs, and a sweet puppy named Dickens. It was an incredibly quick read, and one that left me excited to continue through the series.

If you’re interested, give the TV series a try! It’s available on Amazon Prime (and James Norton is sure to keep your interest) and the perfect solution to a rainy summer day.

My life lately

It feels like years since I’ve updated, but part of that comes from the timing of the semester. Three weeks ago today, I defended my master’s thesis project (and passed!), though it somehow feels like that was really decades ago. Apart from some final copy editing, my thesis is DONE! I’m both thrilled and a little sad to say goodbye to this project. I have a strong sense I’ll return to it in the future (dare I say dissertation?), but I’m quite content to both physically and metaphorically put it on the shelf for now.

Since preparing for my defense and rigorously studying for my oral exam are no longer activities that occupy my days and nights, my time has felt suspiciously free. As a present to myself for my defense, I ordered Voyager, the third book in Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander book series, which was really the perfect treat to come home to. Reading for fun without feeling any guilt is one of the most wonderful feelings.

I’m also entering the final weeks of my first semester of teaching, though that seems ridiculous. Somehow I feel like the semester has just started, when in fact we’re three weeks from its conclusion. I will certainly be sad to see my first crop of students go (though I can’t say every moment of teaching and prepping are all that joyous).

So, to atone for being M.I.A. for a month, here’s my update of the pop culture I’m consuming these days. No one ever said being a teacher meant you couldn’t still enjoy copious amounts of television (and I think I’ve proven that).

Books — As mentioned above, I’ve been thoroughly enjoying Voyager–though, at 870 pages, it isn’t what you’d call a quick read. I’m only now closing in on the halfway point in the book, but knowing that there are still several other books in the series to dive into means I’m hungry to keep going.

Before starting Voyager, I’d been reading John Steinbeck’s Cannery Row, though starting a new book meant I sort of abandoned this one until finishing it last weekend. This was the third Steinbeck I’ve read (after Of Mice and Men in 2014 and The Grapes of Wrath in 2015) and very tonally different from the others–Cannery Row is a very place-oriented, descriptive novel, not a plotty one. It wasn’t my favorite, but it’s a book I see myself returning to later in life.

I’ve generally felt like I’ve been slacking on my 2016 reading list, though I’ve still read 22 books thus far this year. Depending on my pace with Voyager, I may work through another Arthur Miller play or something of that sort to speed up a bit and feel like I’m making better progress. I’ve also got Hamilton: The Revolution (also known as the Hamiltome) waiting on me at home. Though I’m regretting the decision to have it shipped there since I won’t see it until next weekend, the distance means I’m not diving straight into another book, so that’s probably a good thing.

Movies — My movie-watching pace has also slowed considerably (though I’ve currently seen 41 new-to-me movies this year, so I really shouldn’t be complaining). I’ve not seen anything very noteworthy either, though I did watch The Danish Girl last weekend. I liked it, but it makes sense to me that it wasn’t nominated for Best Picture. I’ll likely be spending a quiet weekend in, so this might be a good time to knock a few things off my Netflix and Amazon viewing lists.

Television — It would be fair to say that my movie-watching has been hindered by my TV-watching, because I’ve been doing more than my fair share. As far as current programming goes, I’ve been keeping up with Bob’s Burgers, The Last Man on Earth, Call the Midwife, Girls, Jane the Virgin, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Bates Motel, The People vs. O.J. Simpson, Broad City, and Outlander (and, because I’m kind of an old woman, even Dancing with the Stars and Survivor). Since Girls, Broad City, and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend all come to an end this week, my schedule will be a bit freer (though they’ll be replaced next week by Game of Thrones and Veep, so I guess things aren’t changing that much).

As for all these shows… I think The People vs. O.J. Simpson was a really terrific season of TV all around. I smell a well-deserved Emmy in Sarah Paulson’s future (though my ideal situation would feature a tie between Paulson and Kirsten Dunst) and hopefully the same treatment for the stellar Sterling K. Brown. I think Bates Motel is the best it’s been since season 1, and I kind of love the romance between Norma and Alex. I don’t think this is Broad City‘s best season, but there have been a couple standout episodes, including last week’s wonderful Mrs. Doubtfire homage. And OUTLANDER! There’s only been one episode so far in season 2, but I’m enthralled. I’ve rewatched bits of season 1 and can’t seem to get enough of this show lately, so I’m quite happy for its return.

Apart from what’s currently airing, I’ve also done a significant amount of side watching, including lots of Game of Thrones prep. This week I watched the Starz ballet miniseries Flesh and Bone, which was only okay. Lots of pretty dancing, melodramatic storylines, and mediocre acting. And just today (because I’m kind of terrible) I watched all of season 2 of Amazon’s Catastrophe, which I find very charming. Having met these characters last summer in a quick-moving first season, I was glad to see that season 2 developed them further into funny and likeable people (not to say they weren’t that way already). I’ve also watched the pilot episode of the new Starz series The Girlfriend Experience, which I think I’ll stick to since it’s getting good reviews. I didn’t have any particularly strong reactions to the pilot, but I’ll stick it out. And tomorrow’s release of season 2 of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt on Netflix means my weekend will be just a little brighter (in a fairly literal way, considering Kimmy’s costuming).

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In summary, I’ve been watching a lot of TV–though I swear I do other things too. What things are you reading and watching? I’m always up for additions to my ever-growing lists! 🙂

 

TV Shows I Watched in 2015

I’m a bit of a champion at television-watching, so my TV list is usually rather impressive, especially at the end of the year. I don’t really set numeric goals of how many shows I hope to watch, but here’s my general list of things I wanted to watch in 2015.

Some members of my original list have been pushed to 2016, and I have two on-going projects that I’ll be finishing early in 2016 (those are the shows listed in bold). Here’s a look at what I watched this year.

  1. The Affair (1 season, 10 episodes)
  2. Angels in America (miniseries, 6 episodes)
  3. Bloodline (1 season, 13 episodes)
  4. Broadchurch, season 2 (1 season, 8 episodes)
  5. The Casual Vacancy (miniseries, 3 episodes)
  6. Catastrophe (1 season, 6 episodes)
  7. Empire (1 season, 12 episodes)
  8. The Fall, season 2 (1 season, 6 episodes)
  9. Frasier (11 seasons, 264 episodes)
  10. Game of Thrones (watched season 1 – season 5, episode 5)
  11. Inside Amy Schumer (2 seasons, 20 episodes)
  12. The Jinx (miniseries, 6 episodes)
  13. Jessica Jones (1 season, 13 episodes)
  14. John Adams (miniseries, 7 episodes)
  15. Lost (6 seasons, 120 episodes)
  16. Luther (3 seasons, 14 episodes)
  17. My So-Called Life (1 season, 19 episodes)
  18. The Office (U.K.) (2 seasons, 14 episodes)
  19. The O.C. (watched season 1 – season 3, episode 14)
  20. Olive Kitteridge (miniseries, 4 episodes)
  21. Outlander (1 season, 16 episodes)
  22. Rectify (3 seasons, 22 episodes) 
  23. Teen Wolf (4 seasons, 60 episodes)
  24. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (1 season, 13 episodes)
  25. Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp (1 season, 8 episodes)
  26. Wolf Hall (miniseries, 6 episodes)

After all this, I watched a grand total of 26 series and miniseries in 2015 and 764 episodes this year (though this doesn’t count any of the shows I watched live, so these numbers are a bit low).

Here’s to much more great TV in 2016!

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.

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.