Monday, January 6, 2020

Presents Of Mine

Wilhelm's post-Christmas totting up yesterday gave me the idea to follow suit. Whether anyone really wants to read my "what I got for Christmas" list is another matter, but I'll stick to stuff that might possibly be interesting to someone. No reviews of my jumpers. Although they were great...

Mostly, what I asked for - and got - were books, CDs and DVDs. I wonder sometimes whether any of those three things would still exist if it wasn't for people needing physical objects to wrap and hand over at Christmas and birthdays.

I do still read most of my fiction on paper, from choice, even though I do read some eBooks on Kindle, which I find equally satisfying. The romance of the physical is overrated, sometimes. And anyway, in its neoprene snug, my tablet is extremely tactile.

As for viewing, almost everything I watch on a screen shows up on my Kindle Fire, usually by way of Amazon Prime. Before I broke my Windows tablet I used to transfer my DVDs onto that to watch but doing the same for the Kindle is too much fuss.

These days, I mostly  put the DVDs on a shelf and forget to watch them at all. I did get through a lot of the backlog while I was off work last year, though. Those, I watched on my portable DVD player, which has pretty poor definition compared to the HD Kindle Fire. If it's a good story that doesn't matter at all.

As for music, there are pretty much only two ways I consume tuneage these days: on my decade-old iPod Touch as I travel to and from work or on YouTube on the PC or the Fire. I spent much of yesterday uploading my new CDs to iTunes before transferring them to my iPod. You can drag and drop from iTunes to your device now, which I always forget until I've already spent far too long trying to remember how to do it the old, stupid way.

I am not an Apple fan. I'd love to move outside of their peculiar bubble entirely but so far I've been unable to find any real alternative to the iPod Touch. I have other MP3 players and they are useless by comparison. When my iPod finally packs up I expect I'll grudgingly replace it with a new one.

So much for the how. On to the what. Here's my haul, or at least that part of it that somewhat fits the thrust of this blog:


The ones I've read so far.

Station Zero - Philip Reeve - The third and presumably final book in the Railhead Trilogy. Some of the very best space opera I've ever read - and I've read a lot. Philip Reeve is marketed as a Young Adult author by his publisher but this is pure, unadulterated adult SF.

Reeve doesn't waste time on nitpicking detail when it comes to world-building. The strokes are broad and bold. His greatest strengths are characterization and plotting. I'd recommend this series to anyone but particularly to fans of Ian M. Banks' Culture novels or M John Harrison's Kefahuchi Tract series. And that's heavy company.

Wayward Son - Rainbow Rowell - Another author inaccurately marketed as Y.A. Her first few novels were written for adults and published as such to little intererst from anyone. Her publisher decided to re-brand "Eleanor and Park" as Y.A. and it took off, so everything she's done since has to be labelled the same way.

This is the second novel set in the world of Simon Snow, a kind of twisted mirror image of Harry Potter, if Potter had left school, was gay, had wings and a tail and couldn't use magic. The first, "Carry On", was the entire seven books of Harry Potter rolled into one volume and done a hundred times better. I didn't thnk she'd be able to follow it but she has. Wonderful stuff.

The ones I still have to read.

Early Riser - Jasper Fforde - He infuriates me. He's a much better writer than he's usually given credit for, which is hardly surprising given the extreme self-indulgence of most of his output. I enjoyed all his Thursday Next novels and the Nursery Crimes series too, but it was the extraordinary "Shades of Grey" that really woke me up to his abilities.

Unfortunately, "Shades of Grey" sold badly compared to his series titles and although it was very obviously intended as the start of a sequence of novels he simply dropped it cold. This is not what creative artists are supposed to do. He does at least seem to have learned a lesson from that experience and "Early Riser" is described as a standalone novel. It's also supposed to be as good as "Shades". We'll see.

Marked, Fallen, Bound - Benedict Jacka - That's three different books, by the way. One of several followers in Jim Butcher's wake, I quite enjoyed the first few Alex Verus novels. They were beginning to get quite bleak when I stopped. I suspect these will be bleaker still, going by the titles.

Mortal Engines, Predator's Gold, Night Flights - Philip Reeve - The series that made Reeve's name and spawned a blockbuster movie that flopped. I've just started the first one and it's pretty good. Apparently this series was also conceived by the author as adult SF, or so I read, but unlike the Railhead books, my immediate impression is that this is core Y.A. Which is more than fine. I read a lot of Y.A. because so much of it is excellent.

WundeRSmith - The Calling of Morrigan Crow - Jessica Townsend - That central capital R is correct although I have no idea why it's like that. Follow-up to Nevermoor, this is a proper children's book (9-12 in publisher-speak). Nevermoor was the best book for that age range I read in 2017. I read a lot of children's books, too. 2017 was a long time ago and I can't remember much about it except it used umbrellas as a motif. Looking forward to reminding myself what it was all about and where the story left off.

Pumpkin Heads - Rainbow Rowell - A graphic novel about which I know nothing other than it's by someone I trust unreservedly to entertain me. I only discovered in the summer that she moonlights as a comics writer. A lot of authors try to make that transition and most of them fail horribly but I've read the first volume of her "Runaways" reboot and it's top flight comics writing. Infinitely better than the execrable Brian K. Vaughan original, which I thought was one of the worst comics I'd read in fifty years. I absolutely hated it!

I got a couple of other graphic novels that Mrs Bhagpuss found reduced somewhere, including the dreadful "Superman: For Tomorrow" by Brian Azzarello and Jim Lee (no fault of Lee's - his pencils are fine) and the very enjoyable "Legends", written by Len Wein, but let's move on to music.


Cleaning Out The Ashtrays - Lloyd Cole - A longtime favorite of mine, Lloyd has settled into a peculiar role as custodian and creator of his own legacy. He re-packages and re-issues his body of work as though managing a posthumous estate. This is a luxurious, four CD boxed set of demos, B-sides and out-takes, complete with individual sleeves and a lengthy booklet. For fans only. Fortunately I am one.

Guesswork - Lloyd Cole - His actual new album. The first for a couple of years. Haven't heard it yet but he hasn't made a bad record in thirty years so it's a safe bet I'll like it. Some of the tracks are a lot longer than his usual running time, which is intriguing.

 Loops In The Secret Society - Jane Weaver - Someone else who seemingly can't make a bad record. I've been following her since her Kill Laura days in the '90s. The world suddenly woke up to her with her last release, Modern Kosmology, in which she perfected her unique meld of psychedelic folk and krautrock motorik. To my surprise, Loops comes complete with a hardback book book and a DVD. I listened to the album yesterday and it's superb. Haven't watched the DVD yet.

Mighty Joe Moon - Grant Lee Buffalo - Their debut, "Fuzzy", is old favorite from the early '90s but for some reason I never followed it up with any of their others. Better late than never.

Client, City - Client - Again, that's two different albums. I happened upon this peculiar duo by way of a YouTube algorithm last year and was instantly taken with their lack of affect. I like my electronica to sound like the music of machines and this does. I was more than a little taken aback to learn later that Client is what Sarah Blackwood did after Dubstar split up. I mean, I didn't mind Dubstar but who would have predicted this?

Fish - Shitkid - Is that the name you want to go with? Seriously? Oh, well... Purveyor of disturbingly NSFW videos and as I now see from the inside cover equally disturbing lyrics (sample: "burnt up a dog and got away with it"), Shitkid (aka Åsa Söderqvist or "The weirdest musician in Sweden") is really quite scary. Catchy tunes, though.

MeadowLanePark - Le SuperHomard - Another YouTube find about whom I know nothing. Except I think they're French. And they're on Elefant Records, which means they're bound to be worth a listen.

And finally...


None of which I've watched yet.

Avengers Endgame, Captain Marvel, Guardians of the Galaxy 2 - Still playing catch-up with the MCU. I watched almost all of the others last summer. These are the ones I missed.

Jessica Jones Season 1 - Was there a season 2?  Marvel without the costumes, I believe. I have the vaguest memory of her from before I stopped reading comics but why and how she got her own show I have no clue. Nor why I wishlisted it.

Young Sherlock Holmes - I was dumbfounded to get this. Apparently it was on my Amazon wishlist. Once again, I have no idea why.

Veronica Mars: The Complete Collection - The TV Show and the Movie. I know next to nothing about this (do you sense a theme developing?) other than it came up in a search I did for things to watch after I reached the end of seven years of Buffy and was feeling bereft. Wikipedia calls it "an American teen noir mystery drama " which does look to be right in my wheelhouse.

And that's about it. I might start feeding in a few more tv, movie, book and comic reviews as the year goes on. I certainly have plenty to say about that stuff. There's a surprise...


  1. That's a lot of stuff. My wife and I have a child... or had a child, she has since became an adult... to buy stuff for so we tend to focus on that and try to limit what we buy for each other. (Though I am not falling for that "you don't have to get me anything" trap!)

    I did get one very nice coffee table book about the show BoJack Horseman and how it came together and where the inspiration for its particular style came from. It is called "The Art Before the Horse." Worth it for that alone.

    1. I've always liked to buy a lot of presents - and get them. One thing that's always seemed completely unrealistic to me is the convention in movies and tv shows where couples give each other one present each for a birthday or at Christmas. I've never believed there was anyone who actually did that.

      On the other hand, though, pretty much everything in the post is stuff I would have bought for myself months (or in some cases years) ago if I hadn't needed to hold off so as to have enough things to put on the list. The whole Christmas thing is nuts when you stop and think about it...

      I watched a couple of episodes of Bojack Horseman on YouTube a few years back after I first heard you talking about it. I think you're the onl;y person I've ever heard mention it although we did have a book about it at work a while back (not the one you got, I think). I thought it looked pretty interesting - it's on my long list!

    2. Huh, we've always been single present people... we're both quite bad at always buying anything that strikes our fancy immediately, so that it's hard enough to find even the one present. (Though I agree with Wilhelm that "let's not bother this year" is a trap.)

  2. I love Philip Reeve's books, though I haven't complete his Predator Cities series yet. You've added music to your blog, how about sneaking in some talk about books?

    1. Chances are good that there will continue to be leakage from other media onto this blog now the gates have been breached.

  3. If this is a double post, it looked like my comment got eaten so I'll try again.

    I love Grant Lee Buffalo. After reading your post I went to listen to 'Demon Called Deception' again, one of my favourite songs of the 90's. It's as good as I remember.

    And I'm definitly gonna check out some of those book series, it's not that haven't already enough to read. I loved the Thursday Next series, but haven't read any of his other books. And I still have to finish the Mortal Engines series.

    Regarding Jessica Jones, I think the first season is the only one worth watching. The second I found much less. I also enjoyed the first season of Veronica Mars and found the second season not bad, but more of the same. I haven't watched the next seasons.

    You have good taste, I discovered some gems like Dolly Mixture through your blog. Thanks for these posts.

    1. Apologies for the insanely late reply. Particularly since I don't get a lot of feedback on the non-gaming stuff so I hate to miss any. So pleased I got someone into Dolly Mixture!

      I've heard the third season of Veronica Mars is a bit problematic but I don't want to prejudice my own experience so I haven't delved into why that is. Still not started watching it. I watched all three seasons of the original Roswell, which I loved, and now I'm waching Doom Patrol, which is excellent. So much to see!


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