Books I read in October

Autumn/Winter time in general- and more specifically the very strange 2020 vibes- have made me want to go back to rereading and the comfort it brings, something that I’ve been making a conscious effort to do less of for a couple of years due to the never ending pile of new books I have, hahaha. I just love the welcoming atmosphere of rereading an old favourite, even better if it’s a childhood book on a cold Winter’s night. In October I read two new books and reread four childhood favourites (I also meant to read some spooky Halloween books but I just wasn’t in the right vibe)

The Black Flamingo- Dean Atta (Physical book, new read)

‘A boy comes to terms with his identity as a mixed-race gay teen – then at university he finds his wings as a drag artist, The Black Flamingo. A bold story about the power of embracing your uniqueness. Sometimes, we need to take charge, to stand up wearing pink feathers – to show ourselves to the world in bold colour.’ (Black Flamingo synopsis)

I didn’t know what to expect from this book because I often don’t really like young adult unless I read it as a teen, just because I often find it cheesy, however, this book is beautiful and I ended up absolutely loving it. It was real, poignant and even made me cry a lil bit. I appreciate that it doesn’t overdo any of it’s themes, but will be very beneficial to a number of people. The prose also makes it very quick to read which I always love as I want to keep going and really engage with the characters. I’d highly recommend this book for everyone. I also love family themes where you can feel the love and connection coming through, please recommend any books that come to mind.

Favourite/meaningful quote:

To have a loving family is to feel afraid and yet believe you are going to be all right.

Don’t.
Don’t come out unless you want to. Don’t come out for anyone else’s sake. Don’t come out because you think society expects you to.
Come out for yourself.
Come out to yourself.
Shout, sing it.
Softly stutter.
Correct those who say they knew before you did.
That’s not how sexuality works, it’s yours to define
.’

Meat Market- Juno Dawson (new read, audiobook)

‘Jana Novak’s history sounds like a classic model cliché: tall and gangly, she’s uncomfortable with her androgynous looks until she’s unexpectedly scouted and catapulted to superstardom…But the fashion industry is as grimy as it is glamorous. And there are unexpected predators at every turn.‘ (Meat Market synopsis)

I enjoy/get very enraged reading books about the fashion industry because I feel very passionate yet mixed about the messages associated with the industry. Fashion can be exciting, interesting and obviously has a part to play in everyone’s lives. I have respect for models who are very hardworking and have to spend lots of time in what I can imagine would be a very isolating job at times. However, I am extremely passionate about ensuring that children and young adults do not have to grow up in a world that condemns people for what they look like, promotes weight loss, eating disorders and a negative perception of self image; again, I am not condemning models who are naturally slim, it is not wrong to be skinny and there is too much body shaming concerning tall, slim individuals, however, it is disgusting that the people who work behind the scenes in such industries, and in magazines promote only one image and imply that everybody should have a slim body type that is only natural to a few people. Not only are diets promoted and disordered eating encouraged (obviously not by all), but the fashion industry is also extremely racist, ageist and in many cases transphobic. I went on a lil rant there, I’ll get onto the book now.

This is a young adult book (this is the first month in ages that I’ve only read YA!) and it does well to tackle some of these themes, as seen from the first hand account of the narrator, who herself is growing and learning as the story progresses. It has a number of stereotypical tropes associated with fashion and YA, and at times I felt like it dragged a little bit, however, for the most part it was very interesting with an important message. Trigger warning- this book includes themes of assault and one of the main themes in the second half of the book is the me too movement. I felt like this subject matter was handled well. There are also themes that may be triggering for anyone recovering from an eating disorder or substance abuse. I’d recommend this book if you are interested in the themes, I enjoyed it.

‘Girls’ series- Jacqueline Wilson (reread, physical books)

Back at it with the Jacqueline Wilson books, this is definitely my favourite series of hers, I still find these books incredibly interesting and love the characters (most of them). I find them so readable and they have Wilson’s typical ability to touch on heavy themes in an engaging and almost comforting way. Ellie is such a lovable (if angsty) character and I feel so at home and comforted every time I revisit these books. P.s. I swear I read these when I was about 9, my mum just saw Jaqueline Wilson and assumed they were fine, but they really are more for teens hahaha, please beware of this.

Girls in Love– focuses on the pressure to be in a relationship as a young teen, with darker themes of grooming.

Girls under Pressure– discusses eating disorders and image, background themes of grief and loss in family

Girls out Late– first relationships and pressure with changing friendships. (I hate Russell, good lord what a character).

Girls in Tears– again pressure to have sex, relationships, grooming, friendships and jealousy.

This has been a month where I’ve felt like I’ve read nothing, but I’ve actually read some pretty lovely (and in many cases comforting) books 🙂 I hope you’re well!

My favourite tv programmes

Game of thrones

I started watching this programme just before season 3 came out and I just absolutely love it. I was so glad when it became so popular because it was getting hard to convince my friends to watch a programme that features incest and a child being thrown out a window in episode one hahaha. This show is so incredibly well written- it obviously went downhill after the writers ran out of GRRM’s book material, but even so I’ll forgive it it’s many flaws. The characters are so intriguing, well rounded and realistic (most of the time) and the fact that GRRM has no problem killing and torturing makes you root for the characters and watch in fear when your favourites are in danger. With the exceptions of Ramsay and Joffrey, there are no definitively ‘bad’ characters that I hate. The Starks are obviously the ‘good’ family that the audience can grow with and root for, but the Lannister’s are incredibly interesting. I don’t think I can pick favourites; I love them all. I also love the character development throughout the story, characters often lose what is essential to their makeup for example, (SPOILERS!:)

 Cersei’s constant fear of losing her children, Jaime his hand which represents his safety, pride and arrogance, Sansa her idealistic view of the world and so on. Jaime and his redemption arc (kind of ruined at the end by the writers but ah well) is a good representation of the extremely rich, well written arcs in this programme. Even the minor characters who I typically wouldn’t find interesting such as Tywin have depth to their character and an intrigue (made even better by the exceptional acting). The power dynamics and different geographical locations are incredibly interesting, and I love the politics (Littlefinger and Varys are amazing). I also love the fantasy elements and I think they are so well woven into the plot; this is a political, character driven story overall and I think that is so important. I was going to talk about a few of my favourite characters but in trying I’ve realised that I honestly love them all, it’s too hard. Most of my thanks goes to GRRM because his source material definitely makes the programme what it is, but the acting, costume design, special effects and so many things that come together make this an amazing programme. The writers made mistakes and I feel that the show would have benefitted from another season or two, but I’m happy they pitched the idea of a tv programme, or we might never have had the chance to watch this. If you were let down by the last couple of seasons, I’d recommend reading the books, they are absolutely amazing and don’t feature any of the issues within the tv show (such as the unnecessary horrific rape between Daenerys and Khal Drogo and Cersei and Jaime). The books also have time to add depth to the minor plot points and are so so intricate. I’m now going to rewatch Game of Thrones immediately.

Killing eve

This is such an unusual programme and the relationship between Sandra Oh and Jodie Comer really make it. The mystery and music are used so well to create an intense and intoxicating atmosphere that keeps you really intrigued. I think season two has been my favourite so far, but I love the different plot points and elements of focus that each season brings, as well as the ever-changing dynamics between Eve and Villanelle. The characters in this programme are amazing, I love Carolyn and Constantine, and I’m so interested in Villanelle and Constantine’s relationship. I don’t want to say too much about the show, I think it’s better to watch it not knowing too much but it’s so intriguing and very addictive (however, I do think it might be a love it or hate it type of show). This is also one of the rare instances where I’ve liked the programme better than the book it’s based on, the writers have developed the story so well, and the actors are exceptional (Jodie is the queen of accents). The fact that this is a female driven story that steers away from gender stereotypes and positively represents sexualities (this is a hard one to explain because the story is written in a way that promotes good gay and bisexual representation, however, Villanelles relationships or rather fixations are definitely not okay hahaha, I hope you get what I mean).  

Gavin and Stacey

I love programmes that focus on everyday events and ‘normal’ relatable characters that focus on ‘British humour’. The characters in Gavin and Stacey are obviously slightly characterised for humour but I relate to so many aspects of the events and both families are incredibly relatable (I agree with Smithy, food is not for sharing and I will always get my own hahaha). It is the ability to empathise with the characters that make this programme so funny and heart-warming, this is such a good programme to watch if you feel a bit down or in need of comfort. The Christmas special just reaffirmed how well loved this programme is and created a sense of community with everyone else watching. James and Ruth are incredibly good writers and extremely funny actors, what a skill to write a show where the title characters are the least interesting. I would love to hear from anyone outside of the UK who has watched this programme, I’d be really interested in how it comes across. 😊 p.s the catch phrases will stay in your mind forever, I find myself saying ‘Oh my Christ!’ constantly hahaha.

The Inbetweeners

This is another programme with this type of British humour, the caricatured personalities are still incredibly (and depressingly haha) relatable and lots of the joy of this programme is cringing at the misfortunates as you decide what character you are most like. I’ve probably seen each episode 20 times and I still find is so funny, I’ve never really watched anything from the same genre that lives up to it. I think my favourite episodes are maybe Caravan club, and Will’s birthday with the French guy.  I think I might be a mixture of Neil and Simon, but as long as I don’t become Jay I can deal with it.

Friends

This is the type of programme that I will always find funny and comforting, and I probably know 90% of the words to every episode. The characters are incredibly likeable (although I’m still not sure how to feel about being compared to Phoebe more than once hahaha, I think I’m her with a lil bit of Chandlers sarcasm and self-loathing thrown in) and it’s overall just a classic, I’m not even sure what to say about it because everyone has seen it! I think Ross is probably very underrated (although he does have many MANY issues), so many of his moments are the best (holiday armadillo, sandwich, english accent at uni, FRONT AND BACK), but I love every character. I also appreciate the minor characters, Gunther’s hair, Mike’s piano miming and Janice’s laugh will stay with me forever. I just rewatched Friends in order and strangely season one and ten are my least favourites. In saying this, I’ll watch any episode that’s on forever and feel instantly comforted.

Orange is the new black

I haven’t seen this since the final season came out, so my memory has faded a little bit, but this is such an incredible programme. I love the time that has been spent developing each character’s arc and creating everyone’s voice and story, and the way that the writer’s use the plot to highlight social justice issues. I would define this as a drama/dark comedy, and I think there is an incredible balance between each of these elements. This is another example of a tv show that I have enjoyed more than the book it’s based on (although the book is good), and it was such a good decision to move on from Piper’s story to represent the less privileged characters that make up the majority of the prison system. I have so many issues with the prison systems and justice system in general (particularly America’s, the gun crime and corruption between police officers and POC is horrific), and this programme does such a good job of emphasising that woman in prison are people before they are criminals, so many crimes are related to addiction and mental health issues, and the lack of rehabilitation and prison conditions are doing nothing positive to counter the cycle of deprivation and lack of opportunity. I would definitely recommend this programme to all and think it has something to offer everyone, please do be prepared to cry (although you will laugh lots too). 😊

Grey’s anatomy

This is a programme that I watched around two years ago and haven’t seen since, I’ve still to watch the last season but I’m really not in the place to be crying at 3am just now haha. This programme is not realistic, both in terms of the number of main characters to die horrific deaths and- as my nurse friend has informed me- examples of the medical treatments administered. My memory is a little bit fuzzy as to what exactly makes this so addictive (and has made me stay up until 5am on many a night), but I think it’s the interesting characters and melodramatic yet easy to watch plots that create an addictive combination (interestingly, I find Meredith incredibly annoying and yet that doesn’t put me off the programme). I think the earlier seasons are slightly more enjoyable as everything felt new and the many MANY character deaths felt slightly more realistic, and I preferred the programme before (SPOILERS!):

Sandra Oh left (I love her), and most of the main characters died or left the show. Lexie’s death got me most of all, that was one of the few that wasn’t spoiled for me and I SOBBED at 3am, that whole episode was so intense and haunting. I may eventually re-watch Grey’s (when I want to torture myself haha) and return to the crazy world. 😊

Honourable mentions:

Misfits– this programme is incredibly unique and funny, I love the black humour, characters, and crazy plotlines. The music in this show is also amazing, I created many an angsty playlist based on this show in my teenage years. I preferred Misfits before Nathan left (he was an incredible character), but it stayed original throughout.

Peaky blinders– this would probably be in my favourites, but it’s another show I haven’t seen for ages so I can’t remember much about it (and I haven’t seen the last season, please no spoilers). I really enjoy the suspense and atmosphere, I love a programme that can feel relatively slowly paced but keep me intrigued, and I of course love Tommy Shelby and the outfits. I will also always be thankful to Peaky Blinders for sparking my love of Arctic Monkeys (I’m starting to realise that music has a large part to play in my enjoyment of a tv show or film).

You– a good example of black humour, my old favourite. This is such an interesting concept for a show and every time I watch it, I binge it within a day. Somehow despite the incredibly annoying characters (Joe’s a psychopath, Beck is so irritating, and I despise Love), this is amazing. I think the characters are actually meant to be annoying to parallel society and reflect Joe’s perception (I hope so anyway because it’s quite a talent to write such intensely irritating characters). Based on this list I think I’m drawn to a good psychopath now and again.

Black mirror– another incredibly interesting concept, I love this programme. If you haven’t seen it, I will advise that it’s very dark and maybe not ideal for these crazy pandemic times haha, but it’s so so interesting. I also love that each episode is standalone (although that didn’t stop me from binging it), though there are little linking features throughout, such as that one song that comes up in most episodes. This was another show that made me look a bit like a psychopath when I recommended it to family and friends, given that the first episode really sets the tone with the prime minister/pig scenario (I actually think they’ve swapped the Netflix order so that that episode doesn’t put people off haha).

Girls/broad city– every so often I like a self-involved parody of twenty something year olds in New York. I really enjoyed watching Girls, however, I’m vaguely aware that there is controversy surrounding Lena Dunham and Girls has a number of issues, such as the lack of representation of POC in the early seasons. These characters are incredibly selfish and very unlikable towards the end haha, but this is almost the point of the programme and it’s well written. Broad City has the same humour and satirical vibe (sorry for saying vibe hahaha I can’t think of another word), but a far better representation of issues of feminism, racism and discrimination throughout- although it is predominantly a satirical comedy.

Vampire diaries– this is such a guilty pleasure; I haven’t watched this in a couple of years and I’m so tempted to rewatch it during lockdown. Elena is incredibly whiney, and Stefan irritates me (as do many of the characters) but there are surprisingly touching elements and I love the melodrama (I love Damon hahaha). I did stop watching when Nina left, I don’t think it was the same after this point. The programme has many problems but for its teen angsty vampire genre, it is not the worst I’ve seen.

Overall, I think my favourites are character driven, heart-warming addictive tv shows, with a few psychopaths and eccentric characters thrown in. I also like to torture myself with programmes that will make me cry at 3am. Please let me know some of your favourite programmes and feel free to recommend! Thank you for reading, I hope you’re well! 😊