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Wrap-Up: February 2021

  • When No One Is Watching by Alyssa Cole (★★★★☆)
  • Legendborn by Tracy Deonn (★★★★★)
  • The Unbroken by C.L. Clark (★★★★☆)
  • A Song of Wraiths and Ruin by Roseanne A. Brown (★★★★★)
  • Passing by Nella Larsen (★★★★☆)
  • The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett (★★★★★)
  • Lakewood by Megan Giddings (★★☆☆☆)
  • Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (★★★★★)
  • Midnight in Cairo: The Divas of Egypt’s Roaring 20s by Raphael Cormack (★★★★★)

MONTHLY TOTAL: 9
YEARLY SO FAR: 15

I managed to do very well with my Black History Month TBR; I read 6/10 of the books I wanted to, and then I swapped out Honey Girl for Lakewood, because I’m gonna buddy read Honey Girl with a friend later in March. I really enjoyed the majority of what I read, and I think I even found some favorites with The Vanishing Half, Pride and Prejudice, and Midnight in Cairo!

I am currently reading:

I think I’m probably going to make a concerted effort to read less this month, because I really need to focus on revising a writing project with a deadline that is fast approaching. I was very tied to my TBR in February, but this month I have no TBR at all, just a vague idea of what books I might like to read. So hopefully that will mean I feel little pressure and can focus more on writing than reading.


Television & Film Update

The Ripper

So I actually watched this documentary last month, right after Bridgerton, but I completely forgot to mention it in January’s wrap-up. That in no way reflects the contents of the documentary, however, because it was absolutely riveting; I devoured it in two sittings. It’s about the Yorkshire Ripper, a serial killer who targeted women in 1970s Northern England. The documentary explores the case while highlighting the incompetence of the police force, and their misogyny in particular, which derailed the case by years and multiple victims.


Ramy (S2)

This season was…sublime. I have to admit, when I first started, I was frustrated by the heavy focus on Ramy’s obsession with sex and porn, but thankfully, we quickly move away from that and focus more on Ramy’s core issues: he is selfish and self-centered. As one character angrily tells him: “It’s all about you and your precious self-improvement. The rest of the world exists so that you can reflect on it and perfect yourself? Is that it?”

The tragedy of Ramy’s entire being is that he so desperately wants to be a good person, a good Muslim, but he is, for some reason, a completely broken human, with little to no regard for the feelings or lives of others. He doesn’t mean to be a destructive force that constantly hurts people, but that’s always what ends up happening because he has no impulse control, lacks any kind of self-awareness, and is so monumentally self-centered that it’s almost funny.

The episodes featuring other characters — Ramy’s parents, sister, and uncle — are all spectacular. The episode featuring his sister, which focuses on the evil eye, at times borders on horror, and made for absolutely riveting viewing. But it’s the episode featuring his uncle Naseem that is the stand-out, even though it is probably the most slow-paced episode of the entire series. Naseem, an openly racist and generally repugnant fellow, is shown to be struggling with his sexuality. He is desperately lonely, but he pushes everyone, including his family, away. The final few frames of this episode are absolutely heartbreaking.

Generally speaking, this season is so much sadder than the first one; deep undercurrents of nihilism and cynicism propel almost every single episode. Thankfully, this is balanced by some truly excellent, sharp humor; this season really leans into absurdist/surrealist comedy. Most episodes I was literally slapping my thighs because I was laughing so hard. Still, I’ve come away from the season feeling very heavy, almost like I’m grieving. It doesn’t help that the final scene of the season is a callback to another tragic character harmed by Ramy’s interference. There was something so poignant about that particular scene that I pretty much started sobbing, and I still feel that deep well of grief, but in way that’s good and resonant.

I didn’t start any other shows, but most of the shows I’m keeping up with have returned, so I’m catching up on those in my free time. They include: Harrow, Prodigal Son, Big Sky, Grey’s Anatomy, Station 19, Superstore, Law and Order SVU. Because these are keeping me busy, and because I want to focus more on writing and reading, I doubt I’ll be starting any new shows in March, sadly, but we’ll see! Maybe I’ll finally get around to watching the final seasons of Schitt’s Creek and The Good Place.


Sense and Sensibility

After reading Sense and Sensibility with the book club, we decided to watch the 1995 adaptation. I don’t have very strong feelings about it; as an adaptation, it was pretty great! It definitely gave a spark of life to Edward Ferrars, who is a bit of a nonentity in the novel. Alan Rickman and Greg Wise are great in their respective roles as Colonel Sanders and Willoughby. Kate Winslet definitely has a spark that makes her great as Marianne. I didn’t love Emma Thomopson as Elinor, but that may just be because she was far too old for the role. It’s a very pretty film, with great costumes, and as I said, adapts the source material well enough, so it was enjoyable, but nothing to write home about!


Other Reading

“I’LL TRY VIOLENCE”: PATTERNS OF DOMESTIC ABUSE IN CHARLOTTE BRONTË’S JANE EYRE: Unfortunately I don’t believe this research article is publicly available at the moment, but hopefully it will be at some point, because it is a spectacular drag of Rochester! It maps Rochester’s behavior onto criminologist Jane Monckton-Smith eight stages of domestic violence, clearly showcasing that Rochester is abusive.

ONLINE FOR-PROFIT COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES AND THE EVOLVING ROLE OF ACADEMIC LIBRARIANSHIP: This is a super niche article that probably no one is interested in, but given that I work for a for-profit online university as a librarian, it was very interesting to me! It’s basically a summary of a survey of librarians working for these types of universities; mainly it left me wanting more data.

THE HAUNTING OF 657 BOULEVARD IN WESTFIELD, NEW JERSEY: I don’t even know what to make of this bizarre situation, but it’s about this family who moved into a house and then started receiving very creepy and threatening letters from someone calling themselves “The Watcher.” The situation doesn’t really escalate, but it’s worth reading the article for the letters alone, because they are thoroughly unhinged.

YEARS BEFORE ELSA AND ANNA, TANGLED REINVIGORATED THE DISNEY PRINCESS TRADITION: Tangled is my favorite Disney film, and one of my favorite films in general, so it was very gratifying to read this article about its creation, and how it breathed new life into the princess genre.

BRIDGERTON HAS A RAPE SCENE, BUT IT’S NOT TREATED LIKE ONE: Even if you haven’t watched Bridgerton, you’ve probably come across someone talking about one of its most controversial scenes. This article goes into detail and even compares the TV scene to the book scene. It dissects it really well and neatly breaks down protestations that it wasn’t really rape.

BRIDGERTON IS AN ADDICTIVE ENTERTAINING PERIOD ROMANCE THAT ALSO FEELS HOLLOW: This is a pretty interesting critical review of Bridgerton that basically argues that the show doesn’t really commit to its period-ness or its anachronisms or its themes of feminism and/or racial equality, and is ultimately thematically hollow, but entertaining, fluff.


Miscellaneous

I turned 29 this month; it’s kind of surreal that I’m one year away from turning thirty. Anyway, I had a really nice birthday and got some great presents from family and friends. I got to eat cake twice, which is definitely a win.

Otherwise…I can’t really think of anything significant that happened, because we’re mostly still in quarantine. So, I’m going nowhere except shopping for groceries. Same old, same old.

11 thoughts on “Wrap-Up: February 2021

  1. Happy (belated) birthday!! Having cake twice does sound like a win!
    Also happy to see so many high ratings in your February reading- I think Legendborn was one of my fave reads this month and I’m also aiming to get to The Vanishing Half in the next week or two (and have Passing on my TBR as a follow-up) so it’s great to see you got on well with all of them.
    Best of luck with your revising in March! 🙂

    Like

    1. Thank you!

      Reading Passing and The Vanishing Half together was really satisfying, I think! They’re definitely in conversation with one another on several levels so it was really fun to compare.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Happy belated birthday, Hadeer, I’m glad you had a good one!! ❤ Double the cake is always a win in my books. I bought myself a really large cheesecake last year for my birthday and I still have two slices of it rolling around in my freezer, and I'm not quite sure what I want to do with them lol. And I haven't seen Ramy, or heard about it until now, but from what you've said, the character work sounds really phenomenal and complex.

    Like

    1. Thank you! I had strawberry shortcake myself haha!

      oooh, I highly recommend Ramy! If nothing else, it’s absolutely hilarious, but it’s the kind of show that is deceptively well-written too!

      Like

  3. Hope you had a great birthday!

    It looks like you had a brilliant reading month. I am so looking forward to reading Legendborn and Wraith and Ruin so really glad to see you gave them both 5 stars!

    Like

  4. I didn’t get on with Lakewood at all, and I’m assuming from your rating you didn’t either – glad I wasn’t the only one! I loved the idea behind it but thought the execution was pretty poor.

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    1. Same here re: Lakewood! I was really intrigued by the plot, which had some moments that were really eerie and gross, but ultimately none of it came together in a satisfactory manner. There were no real answers given; not only that, but it felt like the book was building up to a big climax but then it just…fizzled out. Nothing really happened. And then in the end there was a weird plot swerve, with a new element introduced that wasn’t properly explored. The plot also dragged a lot; it was really repetitive. It felt like it was more an exploration of ideas and themes than an actual story, but even those themes weren’t really explored as explicitly as I would have liked.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Completely agree about the ending – it all became too surreal for me. But at the same time there was a tendency to spell out exactly what we should take away from the book, which was a weird combination!

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Happy Belated birthday!

    After reading your thoughts on the subject, I think I’m gonna give Ramy another shot. Like you, I was kinda put off by Ramy’s fixation on porn and what not. Given the way it starts, I never would’ve imagined it taking the route you spoke of. Now that I know what’s to come, I’ll make sure to give it more time to grow on me.

    Like

    1. Thank you!

      Yeah, the first season especially really revolves around sex even when it comes to Ramy’s mom and sister, but the second season tries to take a step back from that, and I think it works really well!

      Like

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