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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Girl Gang: Stephen King Character Edition

Inspired as always by the brilliant Meghan Lightle and her Avengers Girl Gang, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the mighty female characters of Stephen King’s books. While some of his books are decidedly female-ccentric, it isn’t always the girls that get the glory. I’m here to round them up for my own personal girl gang needs.

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Emily Perkins (1990) ~ Sophia Lillis (2017) ~ Annette O’Toole (1990)

Beverly Marsh

“I’m not afraid of you!”

Our Bev is a fighter and no mistake. A victim of childhood abuse at the hands of her father, she grows up to fulfill her creative dreams but still has to deal with the weak bullshit of men throughout her life. The only girl in the Losers Club, I feel like Bev could do with some girl power in her life, not that there’s anything wrong with the dynamic of that original squad (icky adolescent orgy aside).

Bev isn’t afraid to get stuck in when it comes to bullies nor stick up for what is right at all costs, and these are qualities you need in a friendship circle. Plus, she’s a ginger like me (in the book and most recent adaptation).

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Timothy Hutton and Amy Madigan (as Elizabeth Beaumont) in George A. Romero‘s The Dark Half (1993)

Elizabeth Beaumont

In The Dark Half, Elizabeth is a plucky and resourceful character who has to deal with an awful lot of upheaval when her author husband Thaddeus takes on his supernatural killer twin, George Stark. Stark is best described as other-wordly and not altogether human, born of the page created by Thad himself. When she finds herself caught in all the drama of Stark’s ‘birth’ (read the book), Elizabeth remains level-headed and pragmatic. She’s a mother lion ferociously protecting her twin cubs (twins run the family, what can I say) and she doesn’t suffer fools.

In all of Thad’s scenes I wanted to read more about Elizabeth, who deserves more than just a supporting role. More female central protagonists please, Mr King!

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Chloë Grace Moretz (2013) ~ Carrie cover ~ Sissy Spacek (1976)

Carrie White

“It was time to teach them All a lesson, time to show them… a thing or two!”

Okay, so Carrie is a little bit freaky deaky but she’s a talented telekinetic and how fun would that be? You could have her tip cups of coffee over mansplainers all day long with no come back.

Plus, how much did Carrie just need a damn good friend to stand beside her and say, You’re fine babe just as you are and these high school days, they mean nothing in the end? I’d take her under my wing and I’d just have to be sure I never upset her.

(Admittedly, the movie version of Carrie White seemed a little fluffier than the book version).

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Shelley Duvall (1980) ~ Rebecca De Mornay (1997) ~ Wendy Torrance fan art

Wendy Torrance

Mrs T is slightly irritating but she’s also a damn survivor and that makes her okay in my book. She’s quick to pick fault in her husband Jack but to be fair he’s not the nicest dude (in the book more so – he breaks his son’s arm even before he goes insane in The Overlook).

I think we’d get on because I know what it’s like to be in a relationship that has you walking on eggshells (past, don’t worry) and I kind of dig her kooky wardrobe. She seems like fun when she’s not stressed out.

Who’s in your gang?

UPDATE: A friend on Twitter pointed out that she’d choose Rose Madder and Dolores Claiborne for not putting up with any shit from men and I realised I’d forgotten to add Rose to my list.

Dolores I’m sure is a worthy contender but I haven’t read her story yet, and can barely remember the film. So shout out to these two women who are welcome to join the gang anytime! 

Weekly Digest

This week I am loving:

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The Fall

I’m very late to this party but I’ve become obsessed. I’ve done the first two seasons already this weekend. Could being able to rinse an extraordinary amount of television within a tiny window of time be considered a super power?

In The Fall, a strangler is terrorising Belfast with his sadistic woman-murdering ways. He has a very particular type too, so dark-haired, beautiful professional women beware. Hot on the heels of this monster, thankfully is Gillian Anderson‘s Stella Gibson, MET officer and all-round badass – so he better fucking watch himself.

There’s little mystery here, from the start you know whodunnit but as it unravels we learn more about the psyche of the man behind the killer – and it’s a compelling watch. PHEW-EE.

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Stella Gibson from The Fall

A shout out to the character of Stella Gibson as mentioned above for her cool demeanor – and her chic-as-shit wardrobe. Stella is fighting the good fight for the victims of the Belfast Strangler and I enjoy her very much. She doesn’t seem frightened of anything in the heat of the moment but she’s a deep and interesting character.

I really enjoy Stella’s confidence, attitude towards the Patriachy and her chemistry with both PC Danielle Ferrington and pathologist Reed Smith.  Who run the world?

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Pet Sematary – Film & Book

My god I love this book. I’ve recently finished it and can honestly say it’s one of my favourites so far. While I was expecting it to be super trashy, I was actually greeted by a sad lament on grief and loss – by way of an abandoned Indian burial ground, of course.

Nobody can spin a yarn the way Uncle Stephen can and I’m still firmly in love with his mind. Who knows what I’ll find next?

As for the 1989 film adaptation, well it is what it is. And what it is, is: AWESOME.

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This Week’s Graffiti

Just a few of my favourite bits of graffiti/street art from this week. Brighton is great.

What are you digging this week?

Misery (Book) Review

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“She can’t be dead, MISERY CHASTAIN CANNOT BE DEAD!” ~ Annie Wilkes

The latest in my long overdue Stephen King Odyssey and one of the best so far.

When I shared that I was reading this on social media, some of my friends popped up to say how brilliant it is, even in comparison to the film – and they weren’t wrong. The adaptation is great and although it’s been a while since I saw it, I don’t remember it being as tense as the book. I guess your imagination will do that to you and it must be hard to capture the inner workings of a trapped man’s mind on film (even if the film is still terrifying, don’t get me wrong).

Misery is, of course, the story of how famous novelist Paul Sheldon comes to live in the home of ex-nurse Annie Wilkes, seriously injured and against his will.

Following a nasty car accident one snowy night in Colorado, Paul is rescued from the wreckage and dragged back to Annie’s where she nurses him back to consciousness. While there is nothing conventional about this set up, Annie’s former career affords her the skill to keep Paul alive and his pain (mostly) at bay.

Though Paul distrusts spooky Annie from the get-go, he reluctantly becomes dependent on her particular brand of health care, not to mention the very strong medication she has been plying him with. Did I mention that our very own Ms. Nightingale is also Paul’s “Number one fan”? What a coincidence, eh?

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Nobody needs me to give away the rest of the story, since it’s a tale as old as time and if you haven’t read it, you totally should.

But Paul’s most famous fictional character, the titular Misery has just been killed off in his last novel.He’s keen to move onto new projects and put Misery to bed for good but when Annie finds out, she goes ape.

There’s only one thing for it as far as she’s concerned, and that’s to bring Misery back to life… I’ll leave the rest up to you.

I loved this book because it completely engulfs you, putting you in Paul’s shoes. Things could not be worse for him either. Not only is he a disabled prisoner aware of the expiry date above his head, he’s also being systematically tortured by the person who’s supposed to care for him. His only bargaining chip is his mind.

My only issue with the book is that I pictured James Caan as Paul Sheldon throughout and that was hard to shift. Further proof I let myself down as an adolescent by not reading more SK before watching the films.

Book details:

Misery
Publisher: Hodder Paperbacks (7 July 2011)
ISBN-10: 1444720716
ISBN-13: 978-1444720716
Bought paperback (new)

What are you currently reading?

The King & I

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I didn’t grow up with Stephen King, which seems odd to me now. I liked horror alright but I just never got around to plundering SK’s catalogue. In place of his classics I was all over Judy Bloom, Jilly Cooper and Jackie Collins.

I guess I was a precocious kid in my reading tastes, I like the feeling of being more adult than my years, even if I didn’t understand most of it. I loved Dean Koontz too and the Sweet Valley High series (you can decide which is scarier).

In some ways I’m sad I don’t share the same nostalgic feelings my loved ones have for his stories but I’m in the happy position of having an awful lot of material to work through now. In the last few years I’ve done: The Shining and Doctor Sleep. Needful Things and Rose Madder.

More recently, the mammoth IT and Carrie. Next on my list is Mr. Mercedes. I’ve also got On Writing waiting for me on the shelf. It’s safe to say then that, along with the rest of the world who can’t get enough of his adaptations this year, I am very much into The King.

His books aren’t without criticism and he has written characters unflatteringly, AKA fat. See Carrie, her mother Mrs White, one of the kids’ mums in IT – more. Fat isn’t a problem as a descriptor obviously but there’s a way to do it. As I read more of his books I’m sure I will uncover more comments of this nature.

So King can be problematic (certainly for the fatphobia) but I love him. He’s such a compelling writer who taps into something deeper. Yes, it’s part nostalgia for the children we were, sometimes it’s guilt, hope, terror – magic. I don’t know if you can pinpoint exactly what it is about Stephen, all I know is that is one of the most satisfying relationships I’ve ever known. He’s part of me now and I’m so happy to have found him.

Which Stephen King stories are your favourite? 🎃🍂👻🍁🔪

Autumn Reading List 🍂 

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It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Yep, Autumn reading season and I can’t wait to get stuck in.

Inspired by new podcast What Page Are You On, I’ve purchased some new books and added them to a few I already had queued up. Now I just need some chunky knitwear and some slightly cooler evenings, and I’ll be good to go.

Here’s what I’m planning on reading:

Carrie

I added this to my pile because of a conversation had on WPAYO podcast. Alice and Bethany discuss how fat characters are/have been portrayed in literature, and the subject of Carrie came up.

Carrie White was apparently written as fat but has been represented in every screen adaptation as slim (because, Hollywood). I thought this was interesting, so I want to read it for myself.

Stephen King: On Writing

You’ll notice a pattern within this post, as this is the second of three books I was influenced to buy by the above mentioned source. On Writing has been on my radar for years and is meant to be a great read – now is as good a time as any, right? (Definitely having a SK revival/love-in after It, which I loved).

Dumplin’

This is a YA book but it sounds amazing and I’m looking forward to meeting Willowdean (AKA Dumplin’), a fat Texan teen who enters a beauty pageant to annoy her mother. Right? Break me off a piece of that.

The Girl Who Takes an Eye for an Eye

I only learnt about this new release this week and snapped it up immediately. Another chance to spend time with Lisbeth? No brainer. Plus, Ms Salander’s currently in a prison situation, which sounds brilliant.

Nocturnal Animals

I enjoyed the film adaptation of this but the book is, as expected, much better. I have the last chapter to go but I’ve loved it so far. The story within a story framing is interesting, as we witness Susan Morrow reacting to her first reading of ex-husband Edward’s debut novel. The tale is dark, both in ‘real time’ and within Edward Sheffield’s book – and there’s something really pleasant about the writing.

This was on my Winter Reading List last year but I kept putting it off because I thought it would be too heavy and kind of dull. I was wrong.

What are you guys reading? Let me know!

On Reading IT for the First Time

I’m finally reading Stephen King’s IT. Yes, aged 39, I have finally decided to dip my toe in Pennywise the Clown’s rancid world.

Although, it should be said that I no longer have one foot poised precariously over the swamp that is the town of Derry. I am now fully submerged, head and all.

Stephen King’s novels were not part of my childhood. I’m quite sad about that, especially when I hear people I love talking excitedly about his stories and how they built a foundation for their love of horror during their formative years.

I was more of a Jackie Collins’ kind of girl, getting all my sex ed from Hollywood Wives. As I developed a love affair with books, my tastes became much darker and I read a lot of Dean Koontz, Shaun Hutson (Slugs, anyone?) – Stephen King style writers, basically. But not actual Stephen King. Where’s the sense in that?

I watched a lot of his films though (including 80’s IT) and maybe there’s a clue there. Maybe watching was easier for me, so I didn’t feel the need to pick up the paperbacks. I’ve corrected that in adulthood but I’ve still only read a handful. It was running joke in our house for years that Glynn would always ask me, “Have you read Pet Cemetary/Thinner/Dark Tower?” and I’d be all, “You know I’ve only read Needful Things.” Now I’ve added Rose Madder, The Shining, Doctor Sleep and almost IT to the list.

(So far I think IT is the most powerful, though I loved The Shining too. Oooweee!)

Back to this story though. IT is the tale of a maniacal clown sure, one who can manifest himself into anything horrifying that frightens a person (there’s even a shark in the novel, who swims serenely up the river past a terrified secondary character). It’s about a rotten to the core town where things turn evil and twisted, every 25 years or so.

But at its heart it is also about friendship, grief, letting your freak flag fly, overcoming fear and bullies – about getting out of an awful situation and then going back because you made a pact when you were twelve.

It’s about hope for a better day, one without evil. Man, sound familiar?

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I wanna be in their gang

This is not a review. I haven’t finished the book yet, and I dread the day I do. I’m 800 pages in and there are nearly 1400. It’s a wild, detailed terror ride, for real. Like, who knew your own imagination could be churned into such a frenzy by a few words?

I’m beside myself for the new film adaptation and Pennywise but more importantly, I can’t wait to meet the kids. I’m getting major Stranger Things vibes from the trailers, not least because of Finn Wolfcastle’s involvement. And that can only be a very good thing.

I can’t wait to hang out with Ben, Stanley, Mike, Big Bill, Richie, Beverley and Eddie again, and I haven’t even left them yet.

So, please excuse me while I go back to my book and my new friends. Damn I wish I’d known them when I was a kid.

Remember the curfew 🤡🤡🤡