Drums of Autumn

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.

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2017 Reading List #22: Drums of Autumn, by Diana Gabaldon

I’ve been very absent from my little blog here for far too long, so apologies for that.

In truth, a bit part of my being M.I.A. was reading Drums of Autumn, which is no insignificant read at 880 pages. But this week I completed my journey through the book and enjoyed pretty much every second of it.

I completed Drums of Autumn in just over six weeks, which is about on par with how I’ve read the previous books in the series. I also did my best to not be distracted by other novels while in the process, though I did read a few plays and a book of poetry alongside it (to be fair, three of those plays were for my teaching obligations, so real life has to find its place among my personal reading projects).

Drums of Autumn finds Claire and Jamie Fraser in the Colonies, but it balances their storyline with coverage of their daughter, Brianna, and her beau, Roger Wakefield, in England/Scotland/Boston in the 1960s and 1970s. I won’t say too much so I don’t give it all away, but their storylines eventually merge, though not without lots of trials and complications and physical harm to Jamie (because that’s how Jamie works).

One thing I found most enjoyable about the book was how invested I felt in Brianna and Roger’s characters. I was a bit nervous knowing that Gabaldon would introduce more leading characters to rival Claire and Jamie, but Brianna and Roger are equally compelling. And, as this book finds Claire and Jamie creating new lives in North Carolina, Gabaldon also introduces several important Native American characters that I’m happy to say are complex and interesting, not just caricatures or stereotypes. I’ll be interested to see how this plays out in season 4 of the TV series.

And speaking of the show, season 3 isn’t set to air until this fall (sadly), and my biggest concern for it and future seasons is seeing more of Brianna on screen. When she joined the cast in the season 2 finale, I wasn’t blown away by her acting skills, but I have high hopes she’ll improve, especially since she grows into a leading character. Let’s hope for the best.

Since finishing Drums of Autumn on Tuesday night, I’ve felt like a newly free woman. I’m now reading Angie Thomas’s debut novel, The Hate U Give and really liking it so far, so I’ll be sure to post again soon. And as for my future with the Outlander series, I’ve got book 5, The Fiery Cross, waiting on my bookshelf, and I’m quite sure I’ll take that on later in 2017. For now, I’d like to move along with some shorter projects that don’t require quite the same effort.

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.