Weekly Digest – TV Special

Yes, I watch a lot of television, what of it? There’s so much good stuff at the moment, how can I not be regularly getting my fix, it would be rude. Plus, I hate to miss out.

Here’s what I’ve been watching…

The Handmaid’s Tale – Season 1

I know, I know – I am criminally behind on this fantastic show but better late then never, right? My friend Helen has been vocal about her love for the show ever since I met her and thankfully, I have finally been able to set aside some time to rinse the first series. (And then text her at every available opportunity to report my thoughts).

Hello June Osborne! For the uninitiated, the IMDB synopsis:

Set in a dystopian future, a woman is forced to live as a concubine under a fundamentalist theocratic dictatorship.

Elisabeth Moss plays our titular handmaid, currently living with Fred and Serena Joy Waterford, otherwise known as The Commander and wife (Joseph Fiennes and Yvonne Strahovski). There’s a revolution going on behind closed doors but on the surface, women no longer have any power, whatever their social standing – and it’s an incredibly difficult and though-provoking watch.

I’m not going into it too much because I’m only on episode 6 as we speak, and so much has happened. So many shocking and tragic things, and I need to sit with my thoughts for a while. But it is excellent, truly powerful and wonderfully crafted. The cinematography is mind blowing, with such subtle symbolism in even the smallest detail.

And the performances, well they’re all top notch but with stand-outs from Moss, Strahovski, Hereditary’s Ann Dowd, Alexis Bledel and beautiful Samira Wiley. No one character is truly good, nor truly bad – just human and trying to survive. I can’t wait to see what happens next.

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Sharp Objects

A reporter confronts the psychological demons from her past when she returns to her hometown to cover a violent murder.

The HBO adaptation of Gillian Flynn‘s INCREDIBLE novel. I’ve been waiting for this for so long and it is fantastic of course, with really quite brilliant casting, in the form of Amy Adams and Patricia Clarkson – and it’s made me revisit the book again, which I’m reading in tandem.

Exploring the topics of grief, motherly love, self-harm and mental illness, it’s a brutal but compelling tale of small-town mystery and I am loving every minute, frankly.

Sharp Objects’ central voice, Camille Preaker is a flawed heroine with many mental (and yes, physical) scars and even when she’s not pleasant (which is a lot), you’re on her side. Something Flynn does is write great flawed female characters and she does it damn well (maybe better than anyone).

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Castle Rock

Based on the stories of Stephen King, the series will intertwine characters and themes from the fictional town of Castle Rock.

This is another show I’ve been looking forward to ever since it was announced but I have to say, although the first two episodes opened well (if a little slow), I’m starting to struggle.

I will try to see it through though because there are elements I’m enjoying, not least all the references to some of my favourite Stephen King novels (SK also holds writer credits on the show).

PLUS, it boasts not one but two of my favourite actresses, I Don’t Feel At Home in This World Anymore alumni, Melanie Lynskey and Jane Levy. Also It’s Bill Skarsgård and Moonlight’s André Holland. With a cast like that it can’t be rubbish, can it?

I guess only time with tell…

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And a special mention to this next one, which I’ve been going through the motions with for the last few seasons (the last one of which I can barely recall that much about) – but JUST GOT GOOD AGAIN!

*Spoilers for past seasons*

Orange is the New Black – Season 6

I genuinely feel sometimes that I will never forgive the OITNB makers for the way they played Poussey (who I’m currently watching as Moira in The Handmaid’s Tale, above). And although the last, mostly forgettable series used her death as the catalyst for the prison riot and a larger conversation about the treatment of prisoners within the system, it wasn’t quite as impactful as I’d have liked. I’m not even sure why because looking back there was a lot of action.

Certain characters are always great – looking at you Taystee (Danielle Brooks), Nicky Nichols (Natasha Lyonne) and Red (Kate Mulgrew) but then there are others that are criminally underused. Looking at you Dyanara (Dascha Polanco) and Sophia (Laverne Cox) (IMHO) and I guess it must be hard to give all characters the airtime they deserve but my god can we move away from boring Piper Chapman (admittedly always going to be central since the series is based on her memoirs). But still.

This season, however introduces two great new characters, sisters from Hell Carol and Barb who each run their own wing. While their story is dark as shit, there is joy to be had in two such deliciously bad and bitter rivals as they dominate their environments and promote bloody, petty violence.

*Spoilers*

Stand out strands for me are Taystee’s trial (with devastating results) and the kick ball head to head – while I’ve still got nothing but love for Gloria, Blanca and Suzanne (Uzo Aduba). Can we also give Laura Prepon‘s Vause more to do – because she could be GREAT.

Oh, and Daddy (Vicci Martinez) is very cute indeed.

Orange Is the New Black

What are you watching?

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Sharp Objects Review

Photograph via Google
Photograph via Google

I enjoyed Sharp Objects so much, starting it on Sunday, a freezing cold afternoon fit only for nesting and finishing it just before bed the following day. It’s what one would term ‘unputdownable’ if there were such a word. (Is there such a word?)

The thing about Gillian Flynn in my eyes is that she’s good. She’s really good. There’s no denying that the woman knows how to spin a dark and atmospheric yarn with the best of them.

Her characters are so well padded that they appear before you as if they were actually living and breathing; and however you feel about them, I’m thinking about Nick and Amy Dunne now in Gone Girl, they feel real.

*GONE GIRL SPOILER AHEAD*

After I read the aforementioned GG, I was told (or read somewhere) that it wasn’t Flynn’s best book. Hard to qualify this I know, given that these things are subjective but I admit that I was curious. It feels like I talk about that book a lot, of how I had loved it a lot, couldn’t stop reading it until it ended and left me enraged.

I ranted to every person I knew had read it about how it didn’t make sense and how it would never ever happen.

One colleague liked it and explained why in her own words, which made me examine it from another angle. I suppose, as with the Fifty Shades Trilogy, sometimes you have to accept that just because you wouldn’t live a certain way within a relationship, doesn’t mean other people don’t.

Some people make extraordinary things work and sometimes dysfunctional is functional, to them. (See also the film Secretary).

I digress but what I want to make clear here is that I would, and most likely will, read everything that Flynn writes from now on because I enjoy the way she writes. And you know what? I read Dark Places not long after Gone Girl and I did think it was better.

I think Sharp Objects is even better than that.

Camille Preaker is a reporter in Chicago. Not exactly setting the world alight with her journalistic prowess, even she’s not convinced she’s any good. But when a second murder is committed, in her own hometown, she has little choice but to stage her own homecoming. Is there a serial killer terrorising the small Missouri town? And will Camille be the one to break the story before larger and better newspapers get wind of the story?

Did I mention that I loved this tale? It’s very Gothic in its telling, based around the pristine home of Camille’s mother, Adora, the most revered woman in town, and the town itself, Wind Gap. Adora is a woman mourning the death of her daughter, Marian, who died when Camille was young. She now has another daughter, precocious, gorgeous Amma. Camille doesn’t know her half-sister at all, and sees her return to Wind Gap, albeit a reluctant one, as her opportunity to get to know her a bit.

I liked Camille a great deal. I get that she’s probably not supposed to be that likeable, given her past and issues, but I did. She’s been damaged in so many ways, not least by the cold and usual way in which she has been brought up by Adora. Adora has a unique mothering style, now devoted entirely to 13-year-old Amma, who plays a good game.

Sharp-ObjectsPart angel, part witch, Camille herself becomes fascinated with her little sister, watching her run rings around the townsfolk. What is this strange hold she has? More importantly though, is the matter of why she is back in the first place: who kidnapped and killed two girls, a year apart? And, why?

As the town becomes overshadowed by the rapidly spreading unease, Camille starts to build a story for each of the dead girls, stitching together witness accounts of their characters with a bit of urban legend mixed in. Were they chosen or was it random?

I’ll leave it here. All I can say is, if you enjoy a thriller that has you panting for the ending, while lamenting the fact that you’ll soon have to move on, then this is a good bet.

Book details:

  • Sharp Objects
  • Publisher: W&N; New Ed edition (17 Sept. 2007)
  • ISBN-10: 0753822210
  • ISBN-13: 978-0753822210
  • Bought paperback (new)

Reading List

Yesterday, while spending an obscene amount of time shopping for stationery with my friend L, she asked me to help her find some good reads. She’d be the first to admit she’s not a book-worm so I promised her I would write a list of my favourite all time books and get it to her so she can start building a collection.

(I’m not saying my opinion is the be all, it’s a guide rather than a compulsory reading assignment). What can I say? My friend trusts me.

I thought I would turn that list into a blog post soon. In the meantime, here’s a look at my most pressing To Read list. I’ve been a little off the boil literature wise since December but am getting back in the game now.

Can’t wait to get my mitts on the following:

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Hello babies

In no particular order:

Geek Love by Katherine Dunn
A birthday gift from my Sister-in-law, this has been on my Amazon wish list for a long time. Maddie said she read the back and knew it was for me, even before she realised it was on there. I cannot wait to dig in.

Bone Jack by Sara Crowe
I absolutely loved Crowe’s Campari for Breakfast (reviewed here) and couldn’t put it down. So I have nothing but high hopes for this. The former book was reminiscent of early Sue Townsend and that can only ever be a really good thing. I think Sara Crowe is one to watch.

Bellman & Black by Diane Setterfield
Another second visit, this one has been on my radar ever since I read The Thirteenth Tale. Setterfield can really spin a yarn spiked with all sorts of surprises. Perfect for cold Winter’s nights and tea. Lots of tea.

Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn
I have a love/hate relationship with Flynn. I mean Gone Girl was hard to put down until it pissed me off so much I had to get as far away from it as possible. Dark Places was good though and I’ve heard word on the street that this is a corker too. Some people believe that GG is the worst of Gillian’s trilogy so that bodes well.

IMG_20150118_115726Yes Please by Amy Poehler
Hello, it’s Amy’s first book full of personal stories. What could be better?

The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters
Ms Waters is in my top three Favourite Authors and I think this might be why I haven’t yet thrown
myself head first into this story. She’s never let me down before and I have no reason to believe she will start now, but I’m still going to take my time.

Reviews of each to follow.

What are you reading right now? I’d love to know!