Tag Archives: book

It’s January. Actually, it’s January 2013.

This is my semi-regular where the hell have I been post.  I’ve been writing these as long as I’ve been blogging.  I don’t think I write them for you, dear reader, but for me, so that I can remember what the hell I’ve been up to because frankly, I’m not very good at remembering.

It’s good sometimes to take stock, see where I am, what’s happened, where I’m going, why I’m doing whatever it is I’m doing.  This is, in the very best use of the word, meta.

Without a doubt, Twitter and to a lesser extent Facebook have replaced my desire or need to write blog posts.  Letterboxd has replaced the location I write about movies (and I quite like Letterboxd, let me tell you, although I’m not sure the social media side of it is going to work out, a lot of people follow a lot of other people and it’s not easy to see what’s going on there).  As a result, my blog takes second fiddle really, anything I feel the need to urgently blurt out happens in under 140 characters and I tend not to think about it in broader terms and turn it into a blog post.

That’s probably a shame, although I’m not sure it’s as if a thousand readers are missing out on my rambling.

Life in general is the same as life in general always is.  I’m still coming to terms with the recent death of my mother, and what that means for my life, and more importantly the life of my sister and her family.

P1120084I will risk the wrath of the car gods by saying that we finally bought into the new car market.  After 3 years of very painful car experiences, both in terms of cost and convenience, we’ve bought a new one.  Three year warranty, no MOT for the first three years either, low road tax, and most importantly, new.  That means it’s not carrying a whole bunch of latent problems that lie in wait until we have no money left that month and then leap out and bite us.  It’s the smallest car we’ve ever owned, but it’s new and it’s ours and it finally gives us a sense of security in terms of being able to get to places.  After 3 years we can use it as the deposit on another new car, and so on, and so hopefully over time, we’ll be in a much more stable position.

Of course, it’s not free, and there’s a monthly payment, but at the moment, the payment year on year is less than we were paying purely for repairs and MOT’s on previous cars.  I think one year the Mondeo cost us around £1200 in multiple essential repairs, each time you think it’s just low enough in cost to cover it, but over the year it always mounted up.  The new car is less than £100pm.

The house needs sorting.  So much stuff.  We’ve not decorated in any sense since we moved in, it’s not in us to just do it, and we can’t afford to pay someone else, but it’s going to have to happen soon.  Both sofas in the lounge are dead, and the excellent covering Grete made to hide the deadness isn’t going to last much longer.  We got the brickwork on the outside of the house sorted, after I blogged about it a while ago, and a nice person responded and said ‘out of all that, sort the bricks before winter’, so we did.  But there’s a bucket load that needs doing.  The drive is basically falling apart since next door removed the massive hedge and replaced it with a fence – I think the soil has shifted quite a bit, and the drive is slumping sideways.  Ah well, as with all things like this, we’ll wait until it becomes necessary rather than desirable and then deal with it.  Like the boiler and the central heating.  We’ll muddle along, doing what’s necessary, always hoping it’s enough until we win the lottery.

Work is work.  I’m not cut out for working for a living, but I manage to hide it pretty well.

I’m amazed daily at the pace of change in the world of IT and technology, if we think this is the future the next five to ten years are going to be amazing.  ‘Screens’ are going to essentially vanish, turning into work surfaces and converging so that they become computers.  Mobile computing will become the only form of computing.  Follow-me data will become the normal kind of data.  Privacy will face even greater challenges, and yet government agencies will continue to realise that they are losing a battle against encryption and secrecy.  The public will become more public and the private will become even more private.

I’m still diabetic, still taking the tablets, and still handling it okay, and all the while still pretending it’s okay not to really lose weight, and that somehow managing it is enough.  One day I’ll finally admit it’s not enough and that the closer I get to 50, the more I’ll have to work to stay off insulin.

We haven’t been to the gym for a very long time, sadly Grete’s back kept us away for a good portion of last year and frankly right now, it’s too cold, but I think if we made new years resolutions, which we don’t, then going back to the gym would be at the top for us both.  Grete’s doing amazingly well with her diet, getting back on that wagon.

My Spectrum fad isn’t over, but it’s on hold.  It turns out that I have room in my life for one hobby.  I’m either playing computer games, or reading, or watching films, or messing with computers, or painting miniatures, but I don’t seem to be able to balance all of them over a several week period.  At the moment, I’m back to games and movies.  Who knows how it’ll change over the next few months as the weather picks up.

bookthing-square2Speaking of books – BookThing is still going strong (and has a nice new logo), and I’m really proud of what Grete has built there.  Sanderson has finally finished the Wheel of Time series, taking over after the tragic death of Jordan.  I’m tempted, at times, to give the whole series a shot now.  I read a quick review of the final book and it suggests Sanderson has given it a fitting end, now that the end is there, maybe I’ll have the will to plough through the braid pulling and complete stupidity that some of the characters demonstrate.  Perhaps.

Stella Gemmell has written a novel, due to be released later this year, which is just awesome news.  I so hope it does well, and it’ll be one of the first books I’ve looked forward to in a long time.  I wish Mike Carey would write another Felix Castor book, but it looks like he’s doing something else first.  I know you can’t force art, but come on Mike, for me? Please?  I started the new Dresden book but haven’t finished it, got sidetracked by movies and games (see above).  I think it’s better so far than Ghost Story was, but it still hasn’t kicked into the kind of enjoyment the previous books gave me.  I hope the spark isn’t gone, I hope the flame still burns somewhere and that the story picks up.

fringeFringe!  Fringe, Fringe, Fringe finished.  We watched all 13 episodes over a 2 day period, having specifically stored them all up and read nothing until the finale had been broadcast.  It was excellent.  One of the best TV series’ I’ve ever watched, and a criminal shame it ended so soon.  But at least they knew the end was coming, FOX gave them that gift.  Was it the best it could have been?  Maybe, maybe not, but it reminded us where the story had come from, it answered some of our questions, and it made sure to ask another one right at the end.  I would have liked more of some things and less of others, but art is art and they only had 13 episodes and a reduced budget.   Something has to change if we’re going to get good quality genre TV shows with high production values, rather than cheap serials with guys in capes shooting bows and low production values.  Networks must trust the shows to build a following over several seasons, they must give them the creativity they need and the chance to grow, not order half seasons at a time, risking leaving them in limbo.

Quality genre TV asks sweeping questions over many, many episodes, but I guess they didn’t learn with Babylon 5, nor Firefly, and Fringe won’t teach them anything either.  Advertising revenue is king, immediate gratification is the only option, and our TV will become more and more like the Running Man world we all laughed at (but secretly expected to happen).

the hobbit pressI saw The Hobbit – it was nearly 3 hours of indulgent awesomeness.

We’ve started watching The Following (Bacon is good, in sandwiches and on my TV), and Criminal Minds is back next week, so plenty of harrowing TV to watch, broken up with episodes of Rizzoli & Isles, Bones and hopefully soon Castle, to keep us calm and not fretting quite so much.  Ted Danson in CSI worked far better than I expected, and I’m looking forward to his return as well.  Since our cats bought us the entire Battlestar Galactica series on Blu-ray, we’ll need to get around to watching that eventually, and I’m assured by a friend at work that it’s as good as, if not better than, Fringe.  We’ll see, we’ll see.  Alcatraz got cancelled – you bastards, it was quite good, and Sarah Jones was superb in the lead role, a good, strong, solid, believable female lead character, brushed aside by a network which needs instant results.  That series could have been huge.

I put a long list together on LetterBoxd about movies coming in 2013, you can read it here.  It seemed like a good place to put it, although it’s garnered less interest there than when I previously put that kind of thing on my blog, so maybe I’ll do that next time.

And I’m slowing down which means I think I’ve probably said enough for one post.  This is 2013, even the date sounds futuristic – let’s make the best of it.

Books!

Have read both The Naming of the Beasts (Mike Carey) and The Ghost Brigades (John Scalzi) recently (as in, over the last couple of days).  Both very different books, but both excellent.  The Carey book is, well, hard to put into a box. Maybe urban fantasy, maybe urban private detective fantasy, maybe just urban, whatever it is it’s the fifth in the Felix Castor series and well worth reading.  The books can be a little bleak at times because the subject matter is a little bleak, but the payout is worth it.  The Scalzi book is clearly sci-fi with a solid emotional backing, and is the second in the series (although not a direct sequel).  It’s engaging, and packed a bigger emotional punch than the Carey book for me but that’s because it tugged at all the tight emotional triggers.  I’ve reviewed them both over on Grete’s BookThing website (the links above take you there).

The David Gemmell Legend Award for Fantasy Winner announced

This is the press release.

The first annual David Gemmell Legend Award for Fantasy has been won by Andrzej Sapkowski for his novel Blood of Elves (published in the UK by Gollancz).

The Award was accepted on Sapkowski’s behalf by his UK editor, Jo Fletcher.

Presented before an audience of publishing industry professionals, authors, media and fans at the Magic Circle headquarters in Euston, London on 19th June, the Award has been established in memory of fantasy author David Gemmell, who died in 2006. The trophy, supplied by Raven Armoury, takes the form of a butterfly axe, named Snaga, that featured in Gemmell’s fiction.

Born in Poland in 1948, Andrzej Sapkowski worked in business before turning to writing. His cycle of tales set in the world of The Witcher have made him a bestseller in his native Poland and internationally.

The other shortlisted authors were:

  • Joe Abercrombie: Last Argument of Kings (Gollancz & Pyr)
  • Juliet Marillier: Heir to Sevenwaters (Tor)
  • Brandon Sanderson: The Hero of Ages (Tor)
  • Brent Weeks: The Way of Shadows (Orbit)

Each of the runners-up were presented with a miniature version of Snaga.

The Award was decided by an open ballot, and attracted over 10,000 votes from 75 countries.

**Photographs of the award ceremony to follow.

Further information: millerlau@clara.co.uk

Official website: http://GemmellAward.com

Stan Nicholls (Chair)
Deborah Miller (Award Administrator)

Congratulations to Andrzej Sapkowski, and to everyone involved in the award (the first of hopefully many David Gemmell Legend Awards).

David Gemmell Legend Award for Fantasy

Here’s the official press release,

From:  Stan Nicholls – Chairman, DGLA Steering Group
Deborah J. Miller – Awards Administrator.

PRESS RELEASE: 22/09/08:

We are delighted to announce that preparations are underway to present the inaugural ‘David Gemmell Legend Award for Fantasy’ for the best Fantasy novel of the year (2008). The Award has the official support of Stella Gemmell, and has been instigated by friends and professional colleagues to celebrate David’s life and literary legacy.

Nominations are currently being sought from Editors of every major genre Fantasy list for full-length novels, in the English language, first published in 2008. The nominated novels must be deemed Fantasy in the spirit of David Gemmell’s own work. All nominated work will be added to the ‘Longlist’ – which will then be voted upon by the reading public on the Award website.

Voting will not be closing until March 2009, which will ensure readers a chance to read, and vote upon, all the nominees. The top 5 novels will go forward to the Shortlist phase, with the winner decided by a panel of Fantasy experts (to be announced on the website). The Award trophy – a replica of ‘Druss the Legend’s’ famous battleaxe, Snaga – will finally be presented in June 2009, at a ceremony in London. It is expected that the DGLA will soon become the most prestigious Award for authors working within the genre Fantasy field.

For any further information, please check the website for frequent updates: http://GemmellAward.com

Or, contact the Awards Administrator on:
Admin@GemmellAward.com

Hellblazer: Dangerous Habits

I guess this is sort of a review. I blogged a short while ago that I was reading a Constantine graphic novel (Hellblazer: Dangerous Habits, an anthology), and I promised to maybe let you know if I enjoyed it. So here I am. Dangerous Habits is the comic from which one of the main threads of the Constantine movie is taken, and there are a couple of other minor references in the movie to this anthology. I wanted to read this anthology as my introduction to the Hellblazer world exactly because it was the movie that got me interested in the character.

That was probably a mistake. Dangerous Habits is not, it would appear, a typical collection of Hellblazer stories. It’s enjoyable, and I wanted to finish the material, but I got the immediate feeling that this was really a transition period in Constantine’s life and not a regular story about his world.

The artwork is okay, I’m really not that enthused about comic / graphic novel artwork, I guess I’m more interested in the story and characterisation, hence my tendency towards regular fiction. I found myself focussing on the words, and really not looking that much at the art. Every few pages I would encourage myself to go back and look at the pictures. Maybe I’m so used to having to use my own imagination 100% to form images around the words I’m reading, I’m just not used to having them presented for me. I love movies, so I obviously have no problem watching someone else’s visualisation, but if I’m reading words on a page, I’m really not expecting someone else to present images showing me how things look.

Anyway, I found the writing ok, the overall storyline is interesting and the side-characters were interesting. However, I found both showdowns between Constantine and the Forces of Darkness to be lacklustre and without logic. Supreme evil isn’t necessarily entirely stupid. Of the two showdowns, the first, smaller one was the most absurd and beyond logic and destroyed any credibility the story had for me. The final one simply iced the cake, and although I can see where it was coming from and what it was trying to do, I just didn’t feel it was given enough context for it to be viable.

Now, this may be entirely because I’ve not read anything else in the Hellblazer universe, maybe the way the enemy behaved is entirely in-character and in-keeping with it’s normal behaviour, but if that is the case then Constantine has an easy life.

Overall, maybe I picked the wrong entry into Hellblazer, but this was a disappointing purchase which provided a few hours of diversion but no real feeling of satisfaction.

I have Hellblazer: Bloodlines, another anthology which I’m intending to read as well, and hopefully I’ll see some of the material which causes so much enthusiasm among the fans.