Waypoints: My Scottish Journey Book Review

Mother nature has a way of providing a fresh perspective as nothing else can. She challenges us to examine what we think we know and ask ourselves hard questions.

The new travelogue/ memoir, Waypoints: My Scottish Journey is written by Outlander star Sam Heughan. It is more than the average celebrity autobiography. While telling the story of his life and career, he describes the journey he took while hiking Scotland‘s West Highland Way.

Raised by his single mother after his father walked out on the family, Sam decided early on that he wanted to be an actor. Taking the typical route of a working performer, he would eventually earn worldwide fame as Jamie Fraser.

I truly enjoyed this book. Instead of coming off as obnoxious and “look at me”, Heughan is down-to-earth, intelligent, and warm. I appreciated his honesty about fame and its trapping, both good and bad. What struck me was the pressure to look a certain way in order to achieve success. Though it may appear to only be a woman’s issue, the truth is that it affects everyone who wants to be in front of the camera.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

Waypoints: My Scottish Journey is available wherever books are sold.

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Dangerous Liaisons TV Review

Since time immemorial, sex and love have been used to yield power. It is one of those tools that can be used for good or for evil (for lack of a better term). How it is used is wholly dependent on the individual and their needs.

The new Starz series, Dangerous Liaisons, is a prelude to the infamous 18th-century novel Les Liaisons Dangereuses by Pierre Ambroise François Choderlos de Laclos. Pascal Valmont (Nicholas Denton) gets around. Among his many partners is the wealthy, middle-aged, and bored Genevieve de Merteuil (Lesley Manville). Though he claims to love and wants to marry Camille (Alice Englert), Camille is not pleased when she finds out that she is not his only one.

Turning her anger and hurt into blackmail, she makes the following demand. Camille will say “I do” if he can seduce Jacqueline de Montrachet (Carice van Houten).

My first thought in watching the premiere episode was confusion. I was expecting the series to follow the narrative of the book (and its adaptations up to this point). While what was presented was compelling, I kept wondering where the series was going. When Camille revealed her hand and her plan, that is what caught my interest.

What makes this version different is that it is the women who have the power. Though they live in a world in which they are second-class, they are not wallflowers. Using the cards they have been dealt, they are using what is at their disposal to get what they want.

Do I recommend it? I am leaning toward yes.

Dangerous Liaisons airs on Starz on Sunday night at 8PM.

I Was Wrong About The Serpent Queen

When a new television series hits the small screen, the question is whether or not it will succeed with audiences and critics.

The Serpent Queen premiered on Starz back in September. It tells the story of Catherine de Medici, a 16th-century French Queen. Samantha Morton plays the title role as an adult and Liv Hill plays the same role as a young woman.

I have to admit that I was wrong about the program. Morton, as the grownup Catherine, has a Miranda Priestly quality about her. After years of being a woman in a man’s world, she has learned how to survive. Instead of yelling and screaming, she uses her intelligence and the knowledge she has gained about her world to survive. If that means a little bloodshed and an execution or two, so be it.

I look forward to the rest of the season and I hope there will be a second one at some point.

The Serpent Queen Review

It is a truth universally acknowledged that for most of human history a woman in a seat of power has had a precarious position. She is either beloved (i.e. the recently deceased Queen Elizabeth II) or reviled as a temptress and viewed as unworthy of the title (i.e. Cleopatra).

The new Starz eight-episode miniseries, The Serpent Queen, tells the story of Catherine de Medici. Based on the book Catherine de Medici: Renaissance Queen of France, by Leonie Frieda, the first episode tells the story of the French Queen. Played by Samantha Morton, she tells her story to Rahima (Sennia Nanua), a servant girl who has been sent to bring the Queen her dinner. Through backstory, we learn about the young Catherine (Liv Hill) and her traumatic path to the throne.

What I like is that so far, is the younger Catherine breaks the fourth wall. She is also cheeky, intelligent, and driven. As an adult, she is also not above using underhanded methods to retain power.

So far, I have mixed feelings about the series. It’s compelling but has yet to completely suck me in as a viewer. As a character, Catherine breaks the mold in an unsettling way that makes me curious, but also sends warning signs to my brain. This woman is not one to be ignored to taken lightly.

Do I recommend it? I am leaning toward yes.

The Serpent Queen airs on Starz on Sunday at 9PM.

Becoming Elizabeth Review

I find the origin stories of famous historical figures to be fascinating. Knowing who they were before allows us to understand them as fully formed human beings, not just names in a textbook.

The new Starz series, Becoming Elizabeth, is the origin story of Elizabeth I of England. Then known as Elizabeth Tudor (Alicia von Rittberg), her world turns upside when her father, Henry VIII dies. Though it is her younger brother, Edward VI (Oliver Zetterström) ascends to the throne, neither she nor her elder sister Mary I (Romola Garai) are free from court intrigue. She must both deal with being a teenager and the very tricky politics of sex, religion, and power.

I am hooked so far. The young lady we are watching on screen is both ordinary and extraordinary. Her ordinariness comes from experiencing the same growing pains that we all went through at that age. The extraordinariness comes from being seen as nothing but chattel while using every tool at her disposal to survive. It is brilliant, it is entertaining, and I am looking forward to the rest of the season.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

Becoming Elizabeth airs on Sunday night on Starz at 8PM.

Throwback Thursday: The White Queen (2013)

Women have always been the power behind the throne. But for all of that power, we are still fighting for the right to be acknowledged as leaders.

The 2013 Starz ten-part miniseries, The White Queen, takes place during the War of the Roses in 15th century England. The prequel to The White Princess, the series follows three women who all vie for the throne. The first woman is Elizabeth Woodville (Rebecca Ferguson), whose marriage to Edward IV (Max Irons), is not exactly welcomed with open arms. The second is Lady Margaret Beaufort (Amanda Hale), the matriarch of the future Tudor dynasty. The third woman is Anne Neville (Faye Marsay).

As each woman battles it out for her right to the crown, the country is thrown into a bloody battle. Someone is going to walk away the winner, but not before lives are lost and history is forever changed.

The series was and still is, intriguing. Obviously, being an American, this subject was not part of the curriculum while I was in school. While the casting is spot on and I love that the women are front and center, I found that the ending lagged a little bit. Other than that, it is thoroughly enjoyable and entertaining.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

Gaslit Review

The definition of gaslighting is as follows:

Gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation in which the abuser attempts to sow self-doubt and confusion in their victim’s mind.

The new Starz series, Gaslit, premiered last Sunday. Set in the 1970s, it follows the events of the Watergate scandal. Martha Mitchell (Julia Roberts) is the outspoken wife of John Mitchell (Sean Penn), who was then the Attorney General under the late President Richard Nixon. Together with John Dean (Dan Stevens), their goal is to ensure that the President is re-elected, even if it means using less than honorable or legal means.

Martha becomes an unlikely hero for democracy as she realizes that her husband is in on the scheme and does everything she can (in her own way of course), to save the nation and her man.

What I am enjoying so far is that the spotlight is not on the usual suspects (i.e men), but on the women whose heroic acts are either ignored or downsized. I also like that Martha is unwilling to stay silent in the face of truth, even if it means opening the door to trouble. The acting is fantastic, the storytelling (so far at least) is easily watchable, and the politics is a reminder that even though it’s been 50-ish years, nothing has changed.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

Gaslit airs on Starz on Sunday night at 8PM.

Outlander Season 6 Review

I apologize for the late publishing of this review. Life got in the way.

Warning: this review has spoilers from the end of season 5. Read at your own risk if you have not seen season 5.

For as much creativity as it takes to start a new narrative, it takes more creativity to continue in multiple segments. The writer(s) must be willing and able to expand their horizons and allow the characters to grow beyond their initial storyline.

The new season of Outlander premiered earlier this month on Starz. It starts not long after the previous season ended. Claire (Caitriona Balfe) is still dealing with the emotional effects of being kidnapped and raped. Up until this point, she has been able to present a strong front and now show any weaknesses. But the experience has started to break down those walls.

In addition to being concerned about his wife, Jamie (Sam Heughan) is dealing with problems from his past and his present. Meeting up with an old rival, Tom Christie (Mark Lewis Jones), and his children Malva (Jessica Reynolds) and Allan (Alexander Vlahos), he comes face to face with a part of his life he would rather forget. While this is happening, the Revolutionary War is slowly getting closer to Fraser’s Ridge, threatening to upend the lives of its residents.

So far, this season has lived up to my expectations and then some. What I love is that the first few episodes have focused on where the characters are emotionally. Add in the clouds of war on the horizon and the reaction will be nothing short of explosive.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

Outlander airs on Sunday night at 9PM on Starz.

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Outlander Review

The narrative of a stranger in a strange land is one of humanities oldest stories.

Outlander (based on the books of the same name by Diana Gabaldon) premiered on Starz back in 2014. In post World War II Scotland, former British military nurse Claire Randall (Caitriona Balfe) is enjoying a second honeymoon with husband Frank (Tobias Menzies). Then somehow, she is sent back two hundred years in the past. In order to survive, she marries Jamie Fraser (Sam Heughan).

Can she return to her own time and if she can’t, what changes must she make to adapt?

I am presently about 2/3rds of the way though the first season. Though I never read the books and cannot make any comparisons to the series, I am enjoying it. It has elements of the different genres that play well together to create a story that is engaging and very entertaining.

I absolutely recommend it.

Outlander is now streaming on Netflix.

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