This will be a long one as I’m rolling two rollercoaster months into one. We flew to the US to attend the better half’s sister’s wedding, which involved a massive amount of ballsache with a long period of frantically catching up with people in a mostly responsible way. Then about ten days ago, I found out my dad’s been diagnosed with cancer and because of other medical conditions, their treatment options are limited to the point of “sooner or later, and likely sooner”. Which has inspired its own frenzy of activity, much of it of the “don’t look back in regret” type because there’s not a lot of other useful activity. No magic jewel to go questing for here.
I think there might have been a certain amount of displacement activity/sense of time expiring behind the recent rush of activity here. I think it’s 27 posts in the last week? Anyone who read them all deserves a medal. Still. That’s the background. Let’s talk about the books I read, and other stuff I did, in those two months. Apologies to anyone who read the W&W list and thinks some of the list looks a little similar!
Night Watch by Sir Terry Pratchett – Maybe the best fantasy book ever written. I’ll stand by that all day long.
Lioness Rampant by Tamora Pierce – This series kinda overstayed its welcome for me, and became less about charming coming of ages and more about irritating coming of ages due to irritating people. I might revisit the first few books some day, but not this one.
Monstrous Regiment by Sir Terry Pratchett – V entertaining. V thought provoking. Use of story, of stereotype & character, of theme, lands spot on for me. Happy that Sir Pterry did a book about soldiers – but its women and men too, & so much more The dead are not your masters
The Broken Sword by Poul Anderson – Back on the horse! It starts slow but once it grips and you get into its rhythm, it absorbs the concentration with its bleakly savage take on Norse myth.
Elric of Melnibone by Michael Moorcock – I think this is a book where you’ve got to be deep into it and supplying the details Moorcock only hints at. Great baroque, moody, edgy S&S if you are. Somewhat mediocre S&S if you aren’t.
King of Scars by Leigh Bardugo – This is how I want all big commercial fun Epic Fantasy books to be, please and thank you. Emotional and funny, plenty of twists and cool magic, some great fight scenes.
The Summer Tree by Guy Gavriel Kay – So this three make up the Fionavar Tapestry, arguably the most mythic and dramatic High Fantasy of them all. The Summer Tree is mostly an exploration and identity arc, with two I found very powerful;
The Wandering Fire by Guy Gavriel Kay – The Wandering Fire is a “rally the troops” type one, with lots of focus on willingness to give, and processing anger. It’d be easy for this to be the weakest one but there’s enough great scenes to carry it.
The Darkest Road by Guy Gavriel Kay – And this is a final showdown one, with some heavy resilience and free will vs fate themes. Really brings the series to a close in all the ways.
The Fellowship of the Ring by JRR Tolkien – The core beat of the prose and story still work very well for me. Some of the decoration didn’t, but they’re easily skipped – and I lingered on some parts with joy. Frodo gets too much sass from the internet; Gandalf remains a marvel.
The Legend of Deathwalker by David Gemmell – Interesting little nugget. The scenes are great. Do they build into a great story? I’m not sure. I think maybe a little too much happens too quickly to get full effect.
The Moonsteel Crown by Stephen Deas – This one is a goodie. Great character voice. Twisty plot, good mix of investigation and action – really sucked me in. Wish I knew more about the world. There were a few transitions that lulled, a few confusing moments – but liked it a lot
The Shepherd’s Crown by Sir Terry Pratchett – Some books leave you exulting. Some books leave you griping. Some tho, leave you with a quiet sense of something lost and something gained. This is one of those. It’s a fairly sweet slice of life on being a Witch more than anything; I’d want to be Tiffany’s friend. Not as sharp and subtle as it could be, but so be it.
The Bone Shard Daughter by Andrea Stewart – Pretty good in places, but way too much frustration with it for me.
The Sandman: Preludes & Nocturnes by Neil Gaiman – Tons of gothic mood, drifts a little, but still a lot of fun.
Sandman: The Doll’s House by Neil Gaiman – A harder, sharper, more emotional story than Preludes & Nocturnes. Characters take more shape here.
Artesia: The First Book of Dooms by Mark Smylie – Not as good as I remembered. A lot of style but not much story; I never got hooked on Artesia’s character. And while there’s still, it’s a somewhat incoherent style. Enjoyable enough comic, but not much more.
John Constantine, Hellblazer: Original Sins by Jamie Delano – Didn’t quite come together for me. Constantine either got away with things too easily or was too passive for most of it. Liked it, but went “huh” more than “wow”.
General Blog Stuff
Well, for one thing, I’m pretty darn happy that I smashed my previous highs on the blog. Over 60 followers, over 1k views for the month, and a weekly high of 398 (infuriatingly short of a nice round number). Wyrd & Wonder wasn’t just fun, it was good for spreading my particular brand of nonsense. Thank you to everyone who’s been here, it’s fun knowing I’m making people happy. I’m probably not touching those views for a while but I’ve got a few plans.
One is to finally get that fantasy sub-genres survey going. I’m not quite sure how to do that, so I might just launch some surveys and see where it goes. Other plans include a successor to Game of Wings in Wheel of Booze, an homage to David Gemmell for the 15th anniversary of his death, a return to my early fantasy series and more Fantasy Faction contest winners.
Fitness – I’ve started getting serious about doing stretches and using the exercise bands on my ankle, which has meant more walking, which has meant zero improvement in my fitness but it’s possible to see an improvement down the road. I’ve even run a few strides. Also doing some upper body stuff. Big question now is whether I want to find a local gym to do some serious cardio? Hmm.
Food & Drink – There has been some *serious* gluttony over the past two months. As such, I’m only going to list the five highlights.
- Mokaya Brownies. Look, I like brownies. I’ve eaten a bunch. I think we’ve got mail order from three separate places in the UK over the past few months. These have been hands down, blow me away, the best. If you are in the UK and love brownies more than it makes sense, you need to get these. You really do. Trust me.
- Craft Beer Junction – On Enid Street, on the Bermondsey Beer Mile in London, there is a brand new beer shop that has some mental good imports. We shared a bottle of Hidden Springs The Tower which was near perfect decadence, and I’ve got another three cans of sour which I need to love on at some point.
- Utz Maui BBQ Chips – From the high end to the low end, but still delicious. I love a good weird crisp flavour and this is now my favourite American crisp flavour until I find a good General Tsos chip there. Or if someone wants to make Pork Al Pastor flavoured chips, please and thank you.
- Untitled Art Black Forest Cake Smoothie Stout – If you want my undying loyalty, feed me great cakey stout. A friend got this for a beer sheer in America and I’m misting over thinking about it. I made out like a bandit, but this one is staying in the head.
- Crown Peach – Okay, this isn’t really on the list, but it’s a family thang, yo, even if it tastes like diabetes.
Music: I’ve inducted VNV Nation’s Empires into my favourite albums. Unreqvited’s Empathica has got a decent amount of time too. There’s a bunch of other stuff I’ve been listening to, but not much that’s been sticking.
TVs & Movies: We’ve watched the 11th season of Taskmaster and if people in the next flat block don’t know what my laugh sounds like I’ll be shocked. It’s an epic show to begin with but this season’s just been magnificent chaos with one of the best casts they’ve ever had. We’ve also done a watchthrough of the MCU and recently finished Age of Ultron. I’d forgotten how much I liked Guardians of the Galaxy, which has two fantastic dickheads in Drax and Rocket, and one of the greatest intro credits scenes ever in the second one.
And that’s all this time.