Welcome to this month’s reviews post.
There’s only so much down time we have each day but in an ideal world, I’d have time to watch, read and listen to things that amuse, entertain, inspire or challenge me every day while minimising the stuff that upsets, frustrates or annoys.
And let’s face it, there’s been some really tough stuff to deal with lately, and it’s not just the events but the commentary that’s been hard to comprehend.
So this month, more than ever, I hope you’ll find some new things to either amuse, entertain, inspire or challenge you.
I do love a well written bio (you can check out some of my favourite bios and memoirs here) and Michelle Obama’s bio did not disappoint.
I can’t say exactly what I expected – maybe a flatteringly nostalgic account? – but what I found was a very frank, honest and fascinating account of Michelle Obama’s childhood and formative years (in the section titled Becoming Me), how she met and fell in love with Barrack (Becoming Us) and then finally, the surreal experience of being the First Lady and it’s immediate aftermath (Becoming).
I found Becoming so illuminating and interesting on so many levels, not just for Michelle’s perspectives – which I enjoyed – but also for the glimpses it gave about Obama himself – his enormous intellect, his capacity to negotiate and be calm in the face of huge challenges and his lifelong commitment to service and community work.
The impression I was left with was that the toll of political life has been massive, and, given the election of Trump and his immediate action to roll back much of Obama’s legacy, disbelief and disappointment as well as a question around how worthwhile the sacrifice was, despite the incredible opportunities and platform the experience provided.
I was also left with the sense that it will be a very long time before another U.S. president even remotely approaches the calibre, humility, ethics and intellect of Barrack Obama.
If you haven’t already read Becoming, consider listening to the audio book which Michelle narrates herself. This would add an extra level of fabulousness to an already excellent book.
I picked The Girl on the Page up having listened to an interesting review by Annabel Crabb on the podcast Chats 10 Looks3. I was intrigued by the idea of a novel set in the publishing world.
And I continued to be intrigued when reading it.
It’s an interesting book on a few levels. On the surface, particularly at the beginning, it reads like a Jackie Collins-esque raunch-a-thon as it follows protagonist Amy who is brilliant, stunningly beautiful and a successful ghost writer slash editor and has a penchant for sex with random strangers, married men and/or colleagues. In this sense, it has many of the hallmarks of formulaic successful commercial fiction.
It then shifts gears as we’re introduced to her next assignment, working with the critically acclaimed author Helen Owen and her literary critic husband. It’s through her relationships with them and their intense relationship with each other that the ideas of what is commercial fiction and what is literary fiction are explored. Are they mutually exclusive? What is published by whom and why? What impact does our “reading diet” have upon us over time? What do readers demand and how does this sit alongside quality writing and the often lack of commercial success that accompanies it? What will the generation of readers raised on Harry Potter, Twilight and the Hunger Games demand to read as adults?
In this sense The Girl on the Page achieves two things – it’s easy to read in the style of commercial fiction but bigger questions are asked, demanding more from the reader, more in the style of less accessible literary fiction.
Overall, I found this to be an easy to read, page turning book that was an interesting hybrid of styles that somehow worked.
I’m almost halfway this interesting book of essays written by Melbourne author Maria Tumarkin. Axiomatic, if you’re wondering, means “self evident, or unquestionable”. In her book, Maria Tumarkin takes a number of sayings, such as “Time heals all wounds” and “History repeats itself”, and questions the unquestionable, telling stories and reflecting on the ideas and realities of these oft spoken cliches.
So far, I’ve really enjoyed her story telling although she doesn’t write in a conventional way as far as structure and sequence are concerned. There are many thoughts and ideas here, interrupted and mixed up with a range of stories, anecdotes, conversations and experiences but she somehow manages to draw them all together. It’s interesting and engaging reading though so far. I’ll be back with a full review next month.
Like many, we sat down to watch Ricky Gervais’ newly released series After Life on Netlfix.
I did really like the overall premise – how different people deal with grief – and the casting was great.
I’m probably on my own here but I’m not a huge fan of Gervais, and in this, I found him a bit crude. And while there were plenty of great observations about grief and amusing situational comedy, overall I didn’t love it. Different strokes for different folks.
On a different note, we do love our British crime shows, and we’ve been enjoying Line of Duty, and have already knocked over Season 1. It’s not predictable and has a good cast of characters and plenty of material for future seasons. I think season 5 has just been released, so we’re looking forward to eventually watching that once we’ve knocked over seasons 2 -4.
I’ve also started watching The Americans at long last, although that’s my series for when Mr SnS is out, so it’ll take me a while to get through it.
On a lighter note, we’re still enjoying Brooklyn 99 for light relief in between times and on nights when we just want an easy laugh. There is a lot to be said for 21 minute episodes.
I’m still enjoying weekly episodes of Who The Hell is Hamish (The Australian). Man, it is seriously jaw dropping and shocking. I do find it very difficult to comprehend the depths of deception and level of repeated exploitation detailed in this show. Mind continually blown.
I’m also obsessed by the Maddie series. The horror of an abduction is just incomprehensible but that aside, I am completely fascinated by the evidence, the various police investigations and the many theories that have been touted and tested.
I finished Season 3 of Unravel True Crime (ABC), which delves into the unsolved murder of Belinda Peisley in the Blue Mountains in 1998, which was very good as well as the last episode of season 1 of US show Over My Dead Body (Wondery). Two great series if you love a true crime mystery.
I also really enjoyed and would highly recommend the interviews with my friend and fellow blogger Carly Findlay on both Conversations (ABC) and No Filter (Mamma Mia). Do yourself a favour and check out her book, Say Hello, too.
Another highlight this month was the excellent interview by Mia Freedman on No Filter (which aired on International Women’s Day) titled, “How Emotional Labour Makes Women Feel Exhausted”. I’ve talked about it with so many friends since – it really articulates the reality and exhaustion of the mental load. It’s compulsory listening for any woman who wonders why she is so tired all the time.
I’ve been to the flicks a couple of times lately but only for kids’ flicks.
On the long weekend we went as a family to see Captain Marvel which had a decent story line, great special effects and several strong female leads. It’s no Star Wars or Lord of the Rings though.
We also saw The Lego Movie 2 which was a bit excroosh from my perspective but my younger boys (aged 10 and 7) really loved it and have dug out our Duplo which they’ve been playing with non stop since.
I would really like to see a grown up film though – any recommendations???
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So over to you, what have you been reading, watching and listening to lately?