Reading, Watching, Listening to Lately – June 2017

We’re inching ever closer to the school holidays here in the north of Scotland, and I for one can’t wait for the possibility of a few extra minutes with a cup of tea and a book each morning before we think about getting ready for the day. Despite the rushed mornings June hasn’t been a bad month for me on the entertainment front, but before I get started on my monthly update I do have a small confession: I started two books this month that I didn’t actually complete. This wasn’t a reflection on the books themselves (in case you’re wondering they were Life After Life by Kate Atkinson and Britt-Marie Was Here by Fredrik Backman). No, this abandonment was all about me and the realisation that this month, I just needed to focus on books that didn’t have too many characters, too many plotlines or the ability to tax my weary brain too heavily. They’re both books by authors I normally enjoy so I do hope to come back and review them at some point in the not-too-distant future. In the meantime, on to what I did actually manage to read, watch and listen to this month before the last few days of June slip away for good!

My first (well technically, third) book this month was Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist, a wonderful memoir about the author’s deliberate decision to make a turnaround after years of ‘busyness’, ‘hustling’, and a constant striving to achieve that left her feeling like a bystander in her own life.  I loved this book so much that it inspired a whole post from me on saying no to perfection, which you can read here if you missed it when I published it last week. Suffice to say I’d suggest this book for anyone who struggles with perfectionism, people-pleasing and saying yes to everything that’s asked of them. It’s one of the most affecting books I’ve read in years, and I’m sure at some stage, I’ll be dipping into it again.

Present Over Perfect

My second book for June couldn’t have been more different, and The Girls, by Emma Cline, is one of the darkest novels I’ve read in quite a while. I’d seen it mentioned a few times on Instagram and in the top ten at a bookstore I popped into lately, so when it was sitting on the display shelf of my local library during my last visit, I knew I had to grab it before it disappeared. Flicking between now and the late sixties, it tells the story of Evie, a teenager feeling on the outside of life who becomes embroiled with a cult populated mainly by teenage girls. As Evie sinks further into the group and the girls’ wayward lifestyle, she starts to lose sight of her own life as a series of increasingly horrific events unfold. The Girls is shocking, disarming, and ultimately utterly compelling, and Cline’s amazing command of language make the novel very difficult to put down. It would be a fantastic read for a book club or discussion group as it opens up so many questions about power, isolation and the relationships between men and women. I’d definitely recommend it to anyone seeking something a bit different this summer – but be warned, it’s about as far away from a feel good novel as you can possibly get.

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Onto what I’ve been watching this month, and GB and I have been steadily working our way through the latest series of House of Cards on Netflix. On the off chance you haven’t seen it, it’s a fantastic political drama about a Washington power couple who will do just about anything to maintain influence at the top of America’s political elite. In this series the couple – now the President and First Lady – are doing everything they can to incite fear in their own citizens in a bid to cling onto their increasingly fragile power. It does make you wonder what really goes on in the realms of government – fingers crossed it isn’t quite as bad as this!

Continuing the theme of contrasts, we also finished off the first season of Designated Survivor, another fantastic US political drama, this time starring Kiefer Sutherland in an (altogether more honorable) Presidential role. Most of the seasons’ cliff-hangers had us pining to binge watch in the way we might have done pre-children, but these days watching two episodes on a Saturday evening is about as rock n’ roll as our lives get.

With the kids, we’ve been enjoying getting back into Once Upon A Time (which we lost track of during a brief Netflix hiatus), a fantasy about the residents of a sleepy village who funnily enough, turn out to be Snow White, Prince Charming and the Wicked Witch. Featuring Robert Carlyle in fine form as Rumpelstiltskin, it’s an action packed romp through the story books full of adventure, romance and betrayal. We’re on season 4 now and Elsa and Anna from Frozen have just made an appearance – here’s hoping someone starts belting out ‘Let it Go’ at full volume very soon.

Onto what I’ve been listening to lately and I’ve been enjoying taking time out for the Headspace meditation app after reading about it in the Davina McCall autobiography I reviewed on here last month. It really is a fantastic introduction to meditation and I’d recommend it to anyone who wants to give their mental health a boost.

I’ve also been enjoying getting back into Sarah Painter’s Worried Writer podcasts this month and reminding myself that despite my forays into other pursuits like photography, writing is still the creative equivalent of my one true love. It’s interesting to hear about other writers’ routes to publication and the methods they use within their writing process – speaking of which I think it’s time to finish up here and get some of my other writing projects done!

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So that’s it for my latest reading, watching and listening to update. I’ll be back in July with more (or perhaps a little bit less), of the same. Until then, have fun and keep reading, watching and listening (*insert jazz hands*). Let’s hope the Great British Summer is finally on the way!

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