Black Mirror Season 5

If you haven’t watched Black Mirror, what rock do you live under?

If you have watched it, you’ll probably agree that it kept getting better with each season for the first four iterations. But season 5 was a bit of a let down. It simply lacked the customary Black Mirror feel – the fear that comes with knowing how much technology is taking over our lives. The season casts some pretty amazing actors, but it feels as if that came at the cost of good writing.

WARNING: Contains some spoilers.

Striking Vipers, the first episode of the season, stars Anthony Mackie and is all about two dudes finding that they have a thing for each other but only in the form of game avatars. It’s all mushy, and TBH, a bit sad. It made me remember S01E03 The Entire History of You and the tension that was obvious between the main couple. Striking Vipers fails to portray any sort of tension between the Mackie’s character and his wife even when she feels something isn’t quite alright.

Smithereens is a slow burn, and at one point it becomes somewhat painful. I was looking forward to watching Andrew Scott on screen, and he plays his role to perfection. But the overall story was, again, lacking the necessary Black Mirror spunk.

Rachel, Jack and Ashley Too, the final episode of the season starring Miley Cyrus, is the only one I actually enjoyed. It kept getting interesting as the episode progressed. I’m not big fan of MC but she did a good job on the episode and Ashley Too is adorable, especially when her limiter is turned off.

Overall I feel the season didn’t live up to the Black Mirror hype. At lease it had only 3 episodes to be disappointed with. I’m hoping the next installment is better.

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Unmarriageable by Soniah Kamal

When I first came across the title for this novel, I thought, “Well, that’s me” (LOL). But I’d been looking forward to reading it from that point on. And after having it on my TBR for over a month, I finished it in 2 days!

In this one-of-a-kind retelling of Pride and Prejudice set in modern-day Pakistan, Alys Binat has sworn never to marry–until an encounter with one Mr. Darsee at a wedding makes her reconsider.
… Told with wry wit and colorful prose, Unmarriageable is a charming update on Jane Austen’s beloved novel and an exhilarating exploration of love, marriage, class, and sisterhood.

Alysba Binat, or Alys, is a character I instantly related with owing to her ideology that marriage is not the be all, end all and life should be filled with passion, ambition and, of course, books. (I love a character who’s a reader!) Being a Pakistani girl, around the same age as Alys is in the novel, I share her ideologies and am also not a favorite with the rishta-aunties (matchmakers). Also, relating to the second youngest sister, Qitty Binat, I’m plump-“bordering on obese” and someone who is regularly told advised to lose weight because for better marriage prospects. (UGH!)

I found the book a breezy read but one with a strong message, especially for the rishta hungry mothers in Pakistan, that marriage is not the main goal of one’s life. Unmarriageable gives a fresh spin on Pride & Prejudice and I personally believe Soniah Kamal has done Jane Austen proud.

Chernobyl (2019 Mini Series)

Every now and then you come across a TV show or movie that shakes you to your core. I’m somewhat of a stoic when it comes to TV and I’m not easily moved. But HBO’s Chernobyl mini series got to me from the first episode.

It is a poignant retelling of the explosion of Reactor 4 of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant – a catastrophe that could have been avoided were it not for bureaucratic incompetence.

From the get go it jumps straight into the action with the explosion and the events that occurred in its aftermath, how the spread of (“mis”)information was quelled, how the State refused to admit that something so catastrophic had occurred, and the number of people that died as a result.

Every moment of this mini series is heartbreaking and horrifying. The sheer amount of human negligence is astounding. There are a number of points in the show when I wanted to stop but I couldn’t because it is, after all, a brilliant production. But the facts, which the show largely sticks to, are dismal.

The series is wonderfully made. The production team did a brilliant job. Each actor plays their part brilliantly. The character of Ulana Khomyuk was fictitious but created to represent the dozens of scientists who helped Valery Legasov in finding the truth about the explosion.

What is the cost of lies?

The fact that the people responsible for the explosion only got 10 years of hard labor as punishment is criminal in itself. The fact that the official death toll according to the Soviets is still 31 is also criminal. And yet, watching the series, I realized how pertinent the timing of this reminder is. The last episode is aptly titled “Vichnaya Pamyat” which translates to “Eternal Memory” – because forgetting such a catastrophe is not an option.

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

It took me a very long time to convince myself to pick this book. I normally don’t read Pulitzer Prize winners because the few I have made me miserable and put me in deep reading slumps. I came across this book on multiple occasions and I ignored it every time until a few weeks ago when I finally decided, despite my reluctance, to give it a try.

It would be an understatement to say that I enjoyed it.

Aged thirteen, Theo Decker, son of a devoted mother and an absent father, miraculously survives an accident that otherwise tears his life apart. Alone and rudderless in New York, he is taken in by the family of a wealthy friend. Theo is tormented by longing for his mother and down the years clings to the thing that most reminds him of her: a small, strangely captivating painting that ultimately draws him into the criminal underworld.

I like mysterious blurbs that give away only enough of the premise to hook a reader – and this blurb did it perfectly, for me at least. Yet the blurb does not do justice to the book. It does not warn you that the book will wrench your heart out and puree it at times.

I’m not good with stories about sudden loss of a parent or guardian. It’s a bit too close to home for my liking. But I love how this book deals with loss, how Tartt shows that some losses are all-encompassing.

It is indeed a triumph, as Stephen King says in his review of the book. Once I finished this book, all I wanted to do was call Donna Tartt up and thank her.

I’m also excited to know that the movie adaptation is coming up and with a stellar cast with Nicole Kidman playing Mrs. Barbour and Ansel Elgort playing Theodore Decker. I’m a bit conflicted about Jeffrey Wright playing Hobie because all throughout the book I kept imagining Billy Eichner as him. But the movie trailer looks promising. The movie adaptation is expected to release in September this year, and I can’t wait to watch the story play out on the big screen.

The Fiery Cross (Outlander #5) by Diana Gabaldon

Have you ever read a book that made you feel like it was taking ages to finish? When I finally closed this book, I let out such a huge “Finally!” because, somewhere in the middle, I had actually begun to feel that I would never finish it. And it’s not that I didn’t love the book, I love the story and I’m in love with the Jamie and Claire dynamic. And big books have never scared me. It’s just that this book was unnecessarily long.

The year is 1771, and war is coming. Jamie Fraser’s wife tells him so. Little as he wishes to, he must believe it, for hers is a gift of dreadful prophecy—a time-traveler’s certain knowledge. Claire’s unique view of the future has brought him both danger and deliverance in the past; her knowledge of the oncoming revolution is a flickering torch that may light his way through the perilous years ahead—or ignite a conflagration that will leave their lives in ashes.

Goodreads

A vague blurb, isn’t it? The book is just as vague. In all the 4 preceding books, much happened and characters was almost always on the move. But this book just wanders around a little aimlessly with a couple major events occurring well past the 500 page mark. All before that was useless preamble, and even afterwards there are many details that could’ve been done without.

The book starts where the previous one left off, at the Gathering on Mount Helicon. There’s a lot happening in the book, that’s for sure. But IMO the story doesn’t move on much except for a few major incidents. The book feels more like a prologue to the events surrounding the Civil War that will inevitably befall Jamie, Claire and the rest of the party.

The book spans a whopping 1443 pages. Now as I said before big book don’t scare me, but this one had so many little details and detours from the main story that it became tedious. There’s a whole part about this Beardsley couple that could’ve completely been left out and it wouldn’t have mattered. There are tons of details about the characters that could’ve been left out.

I’m all for an immersive story. I believe that details are important to make a reader feel connected to the story, but there is such a thing as too many details as is evident in this book. The previous books were amazing, and while this one does push the story a bit further, all the minute details kind of push the story back.

Here’s to hoping the next installment doesn’t carry on in the same way and leaves some details to the reader’s imagination.

Check out reviews for Outlander, Dragonfly in Amber, Voyager, and Drums of Autumn.

Drums of Autumn (Outlander #4) by Diana Gabaldon

I spent a good part of two years trying to get my hands on the complete set of of this series. Now that I have and am making my way through it, I’m glad I made such a fuss of getting them all together or none at all. I’m sure waiting to get my hands on the next book after I finished one would’ve driven me mad.

I watched the first three seasons of the TV show before I got my hands on the books. The premise made me wonder how much the story could possibly expand even though I knew the book series already contained 8 books with Gabaldon working on a 9th. But, reading the books, the story just keeps getting better and better.

… Brianna has made a disturbing discovery that sends her to the stone circle and a terrifying leap into the unknown. In search of her mother and the father she has never met, she is risking her own future to try to change history…and to save their lives. But as Brianna plunges into an uncharted wilderness, a heartbreaking encounter may strand her forever in the past…or root her in the place she should be, where her heart and soul belong….

Goodreads

When I was reading Voyager and discovered that Claire had decided to leave Brianna in the 20th century to go back to Jamie in the 18th, I kept wondering if that would be it for Brianna. Obviously, it couldn’t be – she IS Jamie Fraser’s daughter. Plus how could that be the last of Roger Wakefield/Mackenzie. Drums of Autumn, thankfully, is mostly about these two and their own journey through the stones. Jamie & Claire also get featured obviously!

Jamie and Claire have made their way to America, the New World, and are trying to make a home for themselves. On the other hand, Brianna discovers a troubling detail about their lives in the past and journeys back in time to warn them. Again, we see the same trope – can the past be re-written. Interestingly, this book only presents the problem and we’re a few years away from finding out if Brianna‘s warning helped.

There is so much happening in this book. It’s exciting, interesting, and doesn’t skip a beat. The best part of this book was Roger. I absolutely adore the guy. He journeys through the stones to find Brianna without even knowing if she still has feelings for him – only because he loves her! (Hello, Diana Gabaldon? Where can I find a Roger?!) He does end up in deep trouble (Damn you, Lizzie!) but the end is satisfying, with all the important characters safe in Fraser’s Ridge.

Haven’t reached so far in the series? Check out my review for Outlander, Dragonfly in Amber, or Voyager.

Voyager (Outlander #3) by Diana Gabaldon

This series just keeps getting better! I have a rule – if I have a complete series on hand, I space out consecutive books with others on my TBR so I don’t get tangled too deeply in the series universe. But when I finished reading Dragonfly in Amber, I started the next one immediately.

… Claire must choose her destiny. And as time and space come full circle, she must find the courage to face the passion and pain awaiting her…the deadly intrigues raging in a divided Scotland… and the daring voyage into the dark unknown that can reunite—or forever doom—her timeless love.

Goodreads

Two decades have gone by since Claire Beauchamp first stepped into the stones and into the arms of everyone’s favorite Highlander, James Alexander Malcolm Mackenzie Fraser, in Outlander. After failing to rewrite history to stop the Battle of Culloden, Claire steps back through the stones to come back to her own time in Dragonfly in Amber, pregnant with Jamie’s baby, Brianna, raising her with Frank in 20th century Boston. She, along with Brianna, travels to Inverness after Frank’s death where they meet Roger Wakefield who starts looking into the survivors of Culloden on Claire‘s request.

Voyager starts off right where the previous book left off with Claire finding out that Jamie is alive in the parallel past, two decades after Culloden. She ventures through the stones once more to find Jaime and what ensues is a book that travels through Scotland to the islands of Hispaniola and finally to the New World.

I’m in awe of Diana Gabaldon and the amount of historical research she must’ve done for this series. This third installment was just as riveting as the first two.

If you’re looking to start the series, you can check out my reviews for Outlander and Dragonfly in Amber.