Sunday, April 25, 2010

Already running out of ideas

A few days back I had the crazy idea of trying to blog ever day. After two days of reviews, though, I ran out of time and focus and instead decided to try and think of something to blog about every day, but not worry if I can't. Last couple of days I've even failed to manage that much.

I suppose I could add to the mountains of words that have been written about the general election campaign, but I still feel a little underqualified to do so, being a political naif in many ways. (In fact one of my biggest problems with blogging is that I constantly doubt the validity of my own opinions and thus cannot see why anyone would be interested in them. This is probably why I suck at small talk, too.) There's TV shows and stuff, but I think I'd be even more rubbish at reviewing them than I was with Coraline and Locke & Key. I could probably ramble at length about how not to run a rpg campaign, and maybe some other stuff but I need more motivation (i.e. more poking) so maybe during the week.

That just leaves life and stuff, and not much has been happening. Mother-out-law been ill and still hasn't kicked her chest infection so may or may not be up to looking after active six-year-old for a weekend. Thankfully my parents jumped at the chance to have him, so we will be off to the Spring Moot next week without him, and I get a "proper" event without being tied to the tent once he falls asleep. Managed to get enough people together for a six-player game of Battlestar Galactica - I was a Cylon, much to C's delight as he always accuses me anyway. That's because he's a Cylon, of course. Last few days I've been quite "meh" which may just be down to being on reduced dosage or that time of the month or something else I just haven't thought of yet. Nice weather and mostly managing to not stress, but still feeling just a bit sad for some undefinable reason. Trying to ignore it and get on with housework, reading (Complete Arcane at the moment. I'm pretty much banned from running D&D v3.5 so it's mostly for ideas. And completeness, because it's a book we own I haven't read yet), watching TV and doing game prep when I remember. Not sure how successful the ignoring part is being, though.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

"You know I don't like recipes"

After far too long of not getting round to reading it, and having never managed to see the film either, my wonderful SO gave me a copy of Coraline for my birthday. (The original novella, not the graphic novel.) And it is, as everyone said it was, marvelous.

If you don't know the basic plot I can only assume you were living under a rock when the movie was made or really really dislike spoilers. If the latter, stop reading now. It's the story of slightly neglected, bright young girl who discovers a passageway to another world just like her new house but better and more interesting: a world occupied by her "other mother" who wants spend time with her and cook her favourite foods and make her life fun and full and wonderful. And to stop Coraline going back, the "other mother" steals her parents. Of course, Coraline isn't going to put up with that and goes about rescuing her parents and the other mother's previous victims, and it all works out happily in the end, although not quite as easily as Coraline first hopes.

The story is beautifully and simply written, as one expects coming from Neil Gaiman. Coraline is an absolute gem of a protagonist and a realistically crafted child of indeterminate age whose attitude and voice seem "right" from my not-too-grown-up perspective. The "real world" supporting characters are colourful enough to start with (while still being believable) to make their fairytale "other" versions all the more frightening. The plot plays out at just the right pace, gripping while not seeming rushed, and the (often grotesque) details bring the other world to life in its delightfully creepy entirety. It is, frankly, as brilliant as everyone said it is, and I can't wait to read it to the Terror because I'm sure he'll love it too.

Although the risk of him developing koumpounophobia (fear of buttons) is something to consider first.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Shadows over Lovecraft

Locke & Key is the best comic series out there. You should be reading it.

I must've raved about this before, shirley? I'm sure I've been telling people to buy it for months now. At least, I've been thinking it pretty loudly.

Roughly speaking, it's the story of three children coping with their father's brutal murder and discovering the weird secrets of their new home, the aptly named "Keyhouse". Only, that doesn't really do it justice. I'm not sure any summary can, because half the pleasure is in the wonderful art of Gabriel Rodriguez (gorgeously coloured by Jay Fotos) and the other half is in the sheer....madness. The weirdness quotient just builds and builds: most of the way through the third miniseries and I thought nothing could surprise me any more, but no, there was another brain-melting moment in the last few pages of the latest issue (Crown of Shadows #4). Perhaps if I took some time to step back and reread the whole series more carefully, I'd be able to offer a more constructive review, rather than just gushing with praise, but that's for later. Right now I'm enjoying the ride.

The writer, Joe Hill, first came to my attention when I entered a book review competition a few years back purely to get my hands on a new book before it went to print. The book I was given was Heart Shaped Box and, not being much of a horror fan, I was pleasantly surprised. I wrote my review and didn't win, but I did get an honorable mention, which is what I keep clinging onto whenever I get the crazy idea to start writing reviews again. (If I ever find the review, I'll post it or something. If I haven't already.) So I saw Hill had brought out a new comic miniseries that came highly recommended by the usually reliable SFX, I thought I'd pick up the first copy to see what it's like.

It's now the only comic I buy as it comes out, and the wait between issues is excruciating.

The first miniseries, Welcome to Lovecraft, introduces us to Tyler, Kinsey and Bode Locke, who move, with their mother, to the family estate in Lovecraft, Mass. following the death of their father. There, the youngest, Bode, discovers a door that separates body and spirit when you try to go through it, and meets, and later frees, a supernatural being that was probably trapped on purpose for a good readon. Their father's killer escapes prison, with help of said supernatural being, and goes after the family again. Ok, I know that sounds a little predictable, but trust me, it's a good story, and a good-looking one too. It's now available in paperback, and as well as acting as a prologue to the rest of the series, is probably the most self-contained, so really you have no excuse not to give it a go. Go buy it. Now. If you read it and hate it, you need never listen to any of my recommendations again.

If you love it, though, you can move on Head Games (which will be out in paperback). This is where things start to get really strange. We get hints of things in the Locke family past, and Bode finds another key. If I have one criticism, it's that it just ends too soon and asks far too many questions while answering very few. But again, the art is beautiful, the characters alive and believable, and the world rich and deep enough for me to want to explore much more. (A friend said it's a very game-able setting - I'd love to see what he'd do if he got the licence for a L&K RPG.....) Fortunately, I didn't have to wait too long before the most recent miniseries started: Crown of Shadows. Just read #4 of 6, and so far we've discovered more about the past, realised how awesome and bad-ass Kinsey actually is and had everything go badly for the kids as the bad guy(s) went on the attack. Oh yeah, and another key. Unless you want to scrounge around for back issues, you'll probably want to wait for the collection, but I'll probably be raving about the last two issues before then, if not here, then on twitter. Maybe there'll be proper spoilers at some point. Just warning you.

So that's my not-quite-review of Locke & Key. The one for Heart Shaped Box was probably better.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

New start

I keep having new starts. Maybe one of them will stick.

So, hectic Easter holiday: was mostly OK I suppose, although I did get a bit down and stressed toward the end, including tears and inability to talk for a while. On reduced dose of fluoxetine as neither me nor doc is convinced it was really helping. Still not sure I'm sleeping well, but don't want to try cutting out caffeine and alcohol entirely. Good weekend just gone though, BBQ with added baby cuteness at friends' house and then my birthday of still-not-being-thirty. Parents came down for flying visit and we had lunch at the Black Bull which was nommy.

Now boy is back at school, corrected thesis is handed off for checking, and I've got my days to myself again. Started Wii Fit again again - I've lost a fair bit of weight actually, but could still do with a flatter tummy and it's better to stay active than put the weight back on again. Trying to make headway with tidying and clearing the house - went through videos last night and have a black bagful to take to tip so shelves look a bit tidier but still not more room unfortunately! And need to get on with job search and maybe even confront the horrendous question of what I want to do with my life, rather than just what is available and within my comfort zone (which is currently nothing).

And, yeah, maybe I should try writing/blogging more often. But I so rarely have time or motivation and I'm not utterly convinced I'm any good at it, so I may need some encouragement (Hint, hint).