Pop Culture Free Time July 2021: American Horror Stories
Whew, this month just flew by. And as I told you in the June 2021 free time, I’m back to talk about some of the many, many pop culture treats that hit me like a tidal wave this month. But if you haven’t been here before, this feature is quite simple. Basically, this is where I talk about the stuff I listened to or watched or whatever just because I wanted to. That being said, here’s my July 2021 Pop Culture Free Time.
July 2021 Free Time in Books: Finally, I’m Not Disappointed
image via Blackstone Publishing
After the dull hues of last month, this month thankfully brought me some good books. Maybe July’s just an auspicious month for books. I can hardly think of it, after all, without thinking about the “July was hot” exchange from my favorite book, Lolita.
Anyway, what this month actually brought me was a few sequels to series…es I like. These included Robert Bryndza’s Darkness Falls, the next entry in his Kate Marshall series. That book’s not coming out until December, though, so it feels way premature to talk about it. If you like the Kate Marshall books, though, then you’ll want to pre-order it.
I also read the latest book in Lisa Regan’s Josie Quinn series, Her Deadly Touch. This book, which will be out on August 12, sees Josie trying to track down a killer who’s preying on the members of a grief support group. I wouldn’t say it’s my favorite so far, but it wasn’t bad. It was as compulsively readable as any of the other books in the series.
However, the best book I read last month was Karin Slaughter’s False Witness. Some mystery/thrillers–none mentioned above–I read only for cheap thrills. Slaughter’s books, on the other hand, are exciting, but also well-written. They incorporate contemporary themes in a way that feels natural and moving. This one, about a woman who has to confront a dark secret from her past, takes place in the now times, in the year we lost to the pandemic.
How I compare it to now is, at this moment we are all living through, everyone on earth is experiencing a suspension of loss. Over half a million people dead in the United States alone. The number is too overwhelming to accept, so we go on with our lives and we do what we can but, in the end, the staggering loss will be waiting for us. It always catches up to you, doesn’t it?
There’s Some Good Things on It, Though: Television This Month
American Horror Stories, image via FX on Hulu
I thought I might like American Horror Stories as soon as I read the description. I generally like the mothership, American Horror Story. At the same time, they’ve sometimes struggled over the course of a season to maintain the story. (I will say, though, that I liked recent seasons Apocalypse and 1984 much better than Cult or Roanoke.) So making each story bite-size–just an episode long–seemed like a great idea.
And for the most part, it’s really working for me. It got off to a rocky start with the two-part first episode, yes. That seemed more like a retread of AHS season 1 than its own thing. However, it really got rolling with the second week’s episode, “Drive In.” I do love a cursed movie story, like Masters of Horror‘s “Cigarette Burns.” “Drive In” delivered that and more, including a sly poke at self-serious horror goons.
On the much lighter side this month, though, is the return of Never Have I Ever for season 2. I really liked season 1, which was both hilarious and touching. Season 2 turned out to be just as good and maybe better. I think it was a smart idea to expand the storytelling, and give us more of Nalini (Poorna Jagannathan) and Kamala (Richa Moorjan)’s stories this season. But I still love Devi (Maitreyi Ramakrishnan) and appreciate that the show isn’t afraid to show her being an asshole.
Listening Booth: What I Heard This Month
Unsurprisingly, to literally anyone who has ever spoken to me for minutes on end, my favorite track this month is “Renegade” by Big Red Machine featuring Taylor Swift. “Featuring” is a funny description to me because if you didn’t know the credits, then you’d just assume it was a Taylor Swift song. She’s the voice you hear the most, after all. Further, as Big Red Machine comprises Aaron Dessner and Justin Vernon, both of whom collaborated with Swift on last year’s albums, Folklore and Evermore, the tune just sounds like another track from one of those records. And that’s just fine by me.
In podcasts, I mentioned that I enjoyed Last Podcast on the Left‘s series last month on the Black Death. This month, they hit us with another historic banger on the tragedy of the USS Indianapolis. I knew the vague outlines of that story. An American warship went down, taking many of its crewmen with her into the water, and then dot dot dot sharks. However, it wasn’t until listening to this episode that I understood the full horror of what happened.
And as LPotL’s Ben Kissel said, it all happened over what was basically a long weekend–three and a half days of madness in the water. It really puts my pettier problems into perspective. (Like, my grandfather was a teenage bootlegger when he went into the Army, where he learned to jump out of planes with a parachute that I can best describe as “good luck!” I, on the other hand, am currently annoyed that it’s really hard to find Diet Dr Pepper in cans.)
image via my family collection
And that was my month in pop culture. What did you enjoy this month? Tell me in the comments below or on our social media.
featured image via Netflix
Salomé Gonstad is a freelance writer who grew up in the swampy wilds of south Alabama. When she's not yelling about pop culture on the internet, she's working on a supernatural thriller about her hometown. Also, we're pretty sure she's a werewolf. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.