Fifty Shades Darker

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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Book Update #7: 31-35

I can’t believe that I’ve been making progress so quickly! For the past few years, I’ve come in at just under 40 books for the whole year, so I think my progress thus far has been pretty great. Anyway, here are my reviews for my most recent reading ventures.

Insurgent

31. Insurgent, Veronica Roth

As I said in my last post when I reviewed Divergent, I’m kind of obsessed with these books. The sequel puts heroine Tris in more dire situations as she and her cohorts struggle in a war between factions, and the war against Divergent citizens continues to worsen. One thing to note about this series: author Veronica Roth does not hesitate to kill off important characters in a way that can be surprising for the pacing of the books. This novel definitely ends with a bigger cliffhanger than its predecessor, so I’m already anxious to be able to read the final installment when it’s released this October. Until then, I’ll be keeping up with filming updates for the Divergent movie which is scheduled for release in March of 2014.

The Penultimate Peril

32. The Penultimate Peril, Lemony Snicket
I must say, The Penltimate Peril was one of my very favorite books in this series. Though there isn’t a ton that gets accomplished during this novel, it’s still quite important to the story and provides lots of great humor. (Side note: I was reading this on a flight back home from New York and couldn’t stop laughing at this line: “But the three siblings were not born yesterday. Violet was born more than fifteen years before this particular Wednesday, and Klaus was born approximately two years after than, and even Sunny, who had just passed out of babyhood, was not born yesterday. Neither were you, unless of course I am wrong, in which case welcome to the world, little baby, and congratulations on learning to read so early in life.”). I’m really looking forward to finally reading the last book in this series, but I’m sure it will be a bittersweet conclusion. However, I’ll be very thankful to have closure on this wonderful story of the Baudelaire orphans.

Fifty Shades of Grey

33. Fifty Shades of Grey, E.L. James

Okay, the most embarrassing thing about this is that this was my second time reading this book. Yeah. So… I was on an airplane and wanted some mindless entertainment and this was on my iPad, so voila, that’s how a girl ends up reading the Fifty Shades trilogy for a second time. Whatever. In terms of review: um… Christian didn’t bother me a much as he did when I first read this a year ago, but I assume that’s because I know where the story is going. And I guess because I’m in a phase of crappy entertainment, I’m probably going to be rereading the other two books as well. Thank God for summer break when reading can be this silly.

Fifty Shades Darker

34. Fifty Shades Darker, E.L. James

Okay, again, this is embarrassing, but it happened, so oh well. This is my guilty pleasure summer indulgence reading at its finest. There isn’t really much to say about it, except that I have enjoyed the characters more during my reread. Other than that… It’s silly, trashy, mindless entertainment, which is sometimes exactly what you need.

The Cuckoo's Calling

 

35. The Cuckoo’s Calling, Robert Galbraith

Being a huge J.K. Rowling fan, it was absolutely necessary for me to purchase The Cuckoo’s Calling once the news leaked that the book had been written by Rowling under a pseudonym, and I’m very happy to say it did not disappoint. The Cuckoo’s Calling features a fairly minor group of characters in comparison with Rowling’s other works, but this allows readers to get a better sense of who these characters really are. The story centers on Cormoran Strike, a detective who’s been hired to investigate the alleged suicide of supermodel Lula Landry. The pieces in this mystery come together very slowly, but they ultimately result in a satisfying conclusion. If you’re a fan of Rowling’s other works, this book definitely contains her characteristic writing flair, and I’d recommend it if you’re looking for a good read to end your summer. Rowling proves herself as an intriguing crime author, including enough twists and turns to bring Agatha Christie to mind. I’m very interested to see if Rowling decides to continue with these characters in a series. If so, count me in.

Next stop: The End, the conclusion to A Series of Unfortunate Events. Stay tuned!