The Monthly Media Catchup: Everything I Read, Watched & Listened To | August 2019
August has well and truly been a month of rest, mostly spent at home snuggled up on the sofa or in bed, ending with a dreamy week in Corfu. I’ve managed to get through some great books as well as a whole lot of TV shows that I’m genuinely sad to see the back of. I feel like having a month off everything (kind of) has meant I’ve watched every TV show that exists that I like because, despite the amount of trailers and first episodes that I’ve watched, I can’t seem to find any new ones that I click with, so recommendations are welcome! Anyway, here’s everything I read, watched & listened to during the month of August…
My Sister the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite |★★★★
I bought this book despite my self-imposed book-ban at the beginning of August and immediately began reading it, something I don’t often do, as my many unread books sat on my shelves will vouch for, hence the book-ban. What I’m trying to say is, this book really appealed to me. Some of my favourite literature is written by Nigerian novelists and much of it explores female relationships. Plus the title and the front cover are undoubtedly intriguing. The novel follows the life of a woman whose (wait for it) sister is a serial killer- she kills all her boyfriends. I found the plot to be slow but I enjoyed it for its writing style, its complicated female characters and, best of all, its short chapters, because god knows I am SO much more likely to read a book regularly if its chapters are short- I have commitment issues. 3.5 stars.
Available to buy on Amazon.
Whisper Network by Chandler Baker | ★★★★
I asked my mum to pre-order this book for me for my birthday back in January, after hearing Pandora praise it on The High Low, and I was obviously very confused when it arrived on its release day in July. After a few days, I remembered where it came from and added it to my pile of hardbacks to take on holiday with me, because they are too big to be carried around in my bag during day-to-day life. This book is a great ‘poolside read’. Following the lives of four female lawyers working for a company in which a man they know to have a history of sexual assault is about to become CEO, it’s very Big Little Lies: four complicated woman with issues going on in their personal life become entangled in a murder investigation. It’s a real page-turner and, as many critics have commented, feels like a reaction to the #METOO movement, exploring the nuances of sexual assault and why many women don’t report it.
Available to buy on Amazon.
Call Me By Your Name by André Aciman | ★★★★★
I adored this novel, perhaps even more than the film, which usually wouldn't be so much of a statement, because I am firmly books≥films, but after watching this film I wasn’t sure a novel could capture its vivid scenery, colours and feeling, but it really did. It’s one of those novels that you know every single word has been carefully thought about and this attention to detail really pays off because each sentence flows through to the next so beautifully. It’s narrated by Elio, a 17 year old boy living with his family in the Italian countryside, who becomes infatuated with the man, Oliver, his father, a well-known professor, takes in over the summer, in order to help him improve his academic work. It encapsulates the feeling of intoxicating love and infatuation so incredibly and I was moved so much by this novel. It’s definitely being added to my half of fame of books and I cannot wait for its sequel to be released this October!
Available to buy on Amazon.
The Mars Room by Rachel Kushner | ★★★
The plot of this novel really drew me to it, it takes place in a woman’s prison in California and sets out to explore the ‘absurdities of institutional living’, and let’s be honest, so did its pink and red, very well-designed, cover and the fact it was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2018. However I put off reading it for a while as I’d heard a lot of reviews from people who just couldn’t get to grips with it. After reading it, I can definitely see where they were coming from. It doesn’t really have a plot and I felt like it didn’t allow me enough time with the protagonist, Romy, to really feel for her and her struggles, and it allowed even less time with the seemingly more interesting prisoners. I mean, maybe this was the point of the novel and I’m sure it would be an interesting one to analyse, just not to read for pleasure. Despite this, it wasn’t a slog and I got through it pretty quickly. But I wouldn’t rush to recommend it, unless you’re a die hard fan of Orange Is The New Black, then you’ll probably really like it. 2.5 stars.
Available to buy on Amazon.
I’ve watched a whole lot of TV this month so I will try and keep these reviews as short and snappy as possible…
Jane The Virgin | ★★★★★
I lied. This isn’t going to be short and snappy. I could write an entire blog post about Jane The Virgin- no, I could create an entire blog dedicated to it. This beautiful, hilarious and unique series ended this month and I am going to miss saving the new weekly episode for whenever I most need it. The plot line sounds ridiculous (it is and that’s the best thing about it) so bare with me: Jane is a devout catholic who, despite being in a committed relationship, does not want to have sex before marriage. However, she is accidentally, artificially inseminated and becomes pregnant. The story continues from there and follows Jane’s life for five seasons and one hundred episodes. Its form is based on the Latin American telenovela, which means its very exaggerated, with lots of twists, fairytale endings and villains. But it’s also completely down to earth and explores very real topics and isn’t afraid to be political. It’s an absolute gem of a TV show and nothing can make me smile, cry or laugh quite like it. Please go and watch it- if you don’t believe my raving review, it has an 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
Jane The Virgin is available on Netflix.
Big Little Lies | ★★★★★
I finished season 2 of Big Little Lies this month and it really proved itself as an incredible piece of television. It started off a little slow but that really served to make the ending more impactful. It deals with motherhood, grief and abuse of all kinds in such an intense yet sensitive way that it’s hard not too feel overwhelmed whilst watching it, which is the reason I can never binge-watch it. Each episode feels like a work of art, from the cinematography, to the soundtrack, to the outstanding acting and cast. Nicole Kidman’s performance was particularly brilliant this season and I was so moved by her story, whilst Meryl Streep’s character was so frustrating, I often had to turn the TV off, yet I also found myself sympathising with her, which goes to show how brilliant her portrayal and character is. I may not have enjoyed every moment of this season but it’s impossible to give it anything less than a 5 star review, because even the slow parts seem intentional looking back, and it is this impeccable attention to detail that makes Big Little Lies so great.
Big Little Lies Season 2 is available on Sky.
Gossip Girl | ★★★★★
I finished re-watching Gossip Girl for the third (or fourth?) time this month and I feel ridiculous giving it a five star review but it just has to be done! It’s so bad that it’s good and despite its cringe-worthiness, the story line is generally compelling. It’s my ultimate easy watch, especially when I’ve finished all of my other series, and I always go back to it. I love how unattainable the characters lives are to me as well as the New York lifestyle it portrays. It’s also really nostalgic for me as I first watched the series when I was 13, staying up all night during my summer holidays binge-watching it, and I think it’s what made me fall in love with NYC. Definitely worth a watch if you’ve never seen it before, or if you have because it’s so re-watchable.
Gossip Girl is available on Netflix.
GLOW | ★★★★
GLOW stands for the ‘Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling’ and that’s what it’s about- the cast of a female wrestling TV show set in the 80s. The third season was released this month and I enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed the first and second seasons. It’s nothing mind-blowing but it’s generally funny, sometimes moving and it can be politically relevant at times too which usually makes for the most interesting episodes; I particularly liked it’s exploration of relationships this season.
GLOW is available on Netflix.
Years and Years | ★★★★★
Years & Years didn’t initially appeal to me because it all sounded a bit intense and overwhelming, which isn’t generally what I want out of a TV show, but after watching the trailer and feeling at a complete loss for what to watch on a Friday night, I decided to give it a go. I’m so glad I did. Years & Years follows the lives of the Lyons family as each episode jumps ahead a few years, ending in 2030, portraying the effects of a dystopian world (or is it just our world?) in chaos on this particular family. The thing about this TV show is that it’s easy to watch (the Northern accents and its Manchester setting make it seem somewhat normal) but it’s also completely overwhelming. It’s plot is unbelievable but also very, very plausible. The more episodes I watched, the more terrifying this series became and it really made me feel the urgency of the problems in the world around us, specifically the rise of the alt-right and the refugee crisis. I sobbed at Episode Four like I’ve never sobbed at a TV show before and I really couldn’t shake off the feeling it left me with for some time. I think this TV show is a necessary watch and one that I won’t forget about any time soon.
Years and Years is available on BBC iPlayer.
I promise we’re nearing the end! Especially because I only watched two films this month (excluding Flushed Away which I won’t review well, because, it’s obviously worthy of 5 stars and more)…
I finally got round to watching this film! It’s set in the 1970s when a black man who is working in the investigations department of his local police force, Ron Stallworth, responds to a Ku Klux Klan advert, asking for more information, only to be immediately phoned back, meaning he must pose as a white man. A white man who also works in the investigations department (Adam Driver, who I love and adore) then attends the KKK meetings, posing as Ron, whilst Ron continues to speak to the KKK members over the phone. This film was slow and most of its action took place right towards the end of the film, which (much like Big Little Lies) only made it more impactful. It was the sequence at the end of this film though, with clips of the racist Charlottesville terrorist attack that took place in 2017 that really left a mark on me, as it emphasised how, much like they did in the 1970s when this film was set, people underestimate how much racism is still present within our society. (NB: I looked into it after and this film is based on a true story and so many of the crazy details from the film did actually take place, which makes it far more interesting and scary).
BlackkKlansman is available on Sky.
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood… | ★★★
Maybe I would have rated this film higher if I had any awareness of the Manson Murders before watching it but, alas, I did not, and I came out thinking that the film had no plot line whatsoever. Nevertheless, I still enjoyed it, the incredible cast, the portrayals of Los Angeles in the 70s, the clothes, but three hours is a long time to watch a film that seems like it has no plot. I’m not sure if not knowing about the Manson Murders is one of my many blips in historical knowledge and that everyone else knows about them, but I r do wish I knew before watching the film, at least, that Sharon Tate was murdered and that the film’s trailer/descriptions would have advertised how integral this fact is to understanding the it. Anyway, watching it with that knowledge might be a totally different experience, but without it, it’s just great outfits, great actors, oh, and a great soundtrack, with no plot, which can’t really warrant more than a 3-star review.
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood… is in cinemas now.
I though I’d share my monthly playlist this month too (seeing as I actually made one). My music taste is beyond varied and sometimes I just listen to the same old stuff, but here are some of the new songs I listened to this month:
Phew! We’re done. My short and snappy reviews were not so short and snappy this month. But I think there are some great recommendations in this blog post so I hope you find something you like from it!