Last month I binged 3 different TV series. Three. My eyes are somewhat square to say the least! I can’t remember the last time I watched 3 different TV series in a month. Possibly never: my mother was very much of the opinion that fresh air was king. So naturally I missed out on all the cool TV series of my youth.
I also read three books last month. Hardly any, I know, but I don’t feel that I missed out as the three I did read were very enjoyable. I’m not sure whether it is the same for you, but my reading tends to ebb and flow throughout the year. Right now I’d rather be enjoying a walk in the summer rain than curled up under a blanket with a book.
I’ve been revelling in the amount of Mandarin I’ve been able to understand when I watch TV programmes now. Of course I don’t know nearly enough Mandarin to understand more than snatches of dialogue, but it is exciting to understand enough to watch series and get more than just the gist of what is going on.
For example, when I watched the Taiwanese version of Peach Girl (starring Vanness Wu), I recognised “底片” without having to pause and squint at the subs for a moment, which was a small but uplifting victory.
Books I read
- Murder Most Fab – Julian Clary
Julian Clary’s never been a favourite entertainer, but the premise for Murder Most Fab sounded, well, fab so I read it. Rows of tents are less brilliantly camp than our illustrious (anti-)hero, Johnny Debonair. He is propelled from high-brow male escort into the world of showbiz. Along the way he develops a cocaine habit, and becomes a serial killer, but that’s all by the by, darling.
It has the warm-hearted bitchiness that I associate with JC, and is approximately a laugh every page, and a gasp every other. Thoroughly recommend it for froth, a hilarious anti-hero, and a beautiful subversion of all the “gay serial killer” tropes.
- The Hive – Gill Hornby
Absolutely hilarious satire about the struggle to become Queen Bee in the local school.
A little heavy-handed in places, as almost all the women who are in the running to be queen bee have floral names. Except for the current Queen Bee who is called Beatrice. Yes, we see what you did there, Hornby! Congrats. Oh, and the new headteacher is called Mr Orchard. Yep, we see what you did there too. Gosh.
Apart from that, it is an absolute delight: droll, and pitch-perfect Middle England social put downs at their finest. Some of the characters put me in mind of people etched into my memory from childhood. It was uncanny.
- Midnight Sun – Stephenie Meyer
My best friend and I made a pact in 2008(?) to read this book, having devoured the first few leaked chapters. Obviously it was only published in full a year or so ago.
This has aged terribly. Where to begin? Well for starters, Edward is problematic as heck. Purportedly 117, he acts like a slightly childish teenager from the first. For about 1/3 of the book we are treated to 200 pages of variations on one theme: “Bella Smells and I want to kill her”. Great song title for an anxiety teenage band trying to be edgy.
After he decides to stop ignoring her and save her life (before going back to ignoring her) he decides that he can only keep her safe from the world if he (the only character who has spent afore-mentioned first 1/3 of the book saying that he wants to kill her) breaks into her house to watch her sleep every night. Oh to be young, and in “love”. In the original Twilight series I found the ‘watching her while she sleeps’ thing a bit problematic, but reading his ridiculous reasoning behind it just made it all worse somehow.
The writing dragged, and believe me when I say that those 662 pages aged me about 100 years.
Series I watched
- Peach Girl – T-Drama
Since watching Meteor Garden (2001) and falling in love with the actors, and Angie Chai’s style of producing I’ve slowly been working my way through her back catalogue.
Peach Girl was aired in 2001, shortly after Meteor Garden and, pleasingly, in the same world as them. In one scene, the 3G gang (including Edward Ou who was also in MG) drop in a reference to creating some “F4 inspired hors-d’oeuvres” which made me squee. The cherry on top was when Vanness’ character, Ah Li, performed an a capella version of “Ni bu ai wo ai shei” (from F4’s first album Meteor Rain).
I love it when fandoms have crossovers, and when there’s some cast overlap between productions. It puts me in mind of NZ company, Cloud Nine who were active during the same time, and who also launched the careers of several ‘home-grown’ celebs.
The plot was a typical college romance/ love triangle complete with pale-skinned beauty who is absolutely evil and who wants to be in a relationship with one of the male leads at any cost. But gosh was it dark. Rape, gaslighting, abortion, blackmail, revenge porn, your brother nicking your girlfriend… it’s all somehow jammed into 13 episodes and there’s still time for some character development, and enough humour to make me laugh once an episode!
- The Imperial Coroner – C-Drama
I finished watching this excellent series last month. Here is my review for the first 21 episodes, and here is my review for the last 15. If you watch one period C-Drama in your life, then this is the one to cut your teeth on. I cannot wait to see the main characters in other series.
- Diamond Lover (Director’s Cut) – C-Drama
This was a re-watch because I still haven’t found a copy of the longer original version with the ending I know I will prefer. I really disliked the ending for this one, but I adore both Tiffany Tang and Luo Jin. (Don’t @ me for not being sold on the character Rain plays. It’s a culture difference thing).
As ever, I loved the series, and the plot twists (etc), and I have nothing but respect for Rain for taking on this project but I’m still not wild about the ending.
- Qing Luo – C-Drama
An honourable mention must be made to this series, of which I watched the first 5 episodes before deciding it wasn’t for me. Review here.
Next month I’m hoping to read/ listen to a couple of books but as I’ve started training for a (walked) ultramarathon I’m not sure whether I’m going to have time to consume as much culture before September. We’ll see!
Happy reading to one and all!