It’s a bit late in the year for putting up a best-of-the-year list, but it’s been so long since I last blogged… and I just had to recap some of the defining blogworthy moments for me of 2012. Here they go:
1. Chime by Franny Billingsley
Th Book Smugglers recommended this book, and I thought let’s give it a shot. I heard it out in audiobook moreover, which was a lucky chance for me, because Susan Duerden gives this haunting fantasy story a voice all of its own. I could not have chosen a better narrator for Briony, the lead character, who is broken, bitter and mysterious. Briony lives in a village covered with swamps, and for some reason she hates herself. That’s how the prologue begins, and I can’t give away more, except that Briony’s past hides a secret that is a recipe for disaster for the entire village.
Don’t go by the cover of the book— which shows a blonde girl in black and white, with a rose and lightning/ thunder/ cobwebs in the background. Er? The cover does hint at the story, but it’s not all that encouraging for the Reader. Go ahead and try out the audiobook.
2. Bleak House BBC TV Series
I have a thing for a BBC television series, whether it be Jane Eyre, Robin Hood, Tudors or Pride and Prejudice. Bleak House was adapted from Charles Dickens’ massive tome of the same name, a grim and ruthless satire on the legal system. I am sorry to say that the legal system since the 1850s has still not changed. I recently visited Court, and the tedious, painstakingly slow machinery of our procedural hurdles made me appreciate Bleak House even more. Only the wigs on the judges were missing, everything else remains the same. The show was adapted from the book by Andrew Davies, who has a done a fine job, if I may say so. Watch out for the spinechilling scenes where the mad Miss Flite (played by the redoubtable Pauline Collins) feeds her parrots, named Hope, Joy, Youth, Peace, Rest, Life, Dust, Ashes, Waste, Want, Cunning, Folly, Words, Wigs, Rags, Sheepskin, Plunder, Precedent, Jargon, Gammon, Spinach Ruin, Despair, Madness and Death.
3. Discovering Science Fiction
I was always a fantasy fan— Rowling, Tolkien, Briggs, Kay, other names, and positively abhorred the idea of science fiction. Except that, this one time I read on Kirkus that “if you don’t need to be a ghost to read ghost fiction, why do you need to be a scientist to read science fiction?” That comment made me chuckle, and led me to the path of discovering sci-fi. If you like Star Wars and Star Trek, sci-fi should be right up your alley.
Sci-fi doesn't deal with lengthy expositions about nuclear science and rocket science and quantum physics and batshit relativity— well, not always. The trick is to make cool inventions and machines and giant space shuttles using these principles, travelling to new planets/ galaxies, meeting different looking and behaving aliens, and getting involved in interplanetary wars. Something along those lines. In fact, more often than not, sci-fi seems to deal with philosophy more than science, for example— what if the concepts of gender were reversed, good/ evil were reversed, what if utopia did exist, the ethics of cloning and genetic engineering, and so forth.
I started off with the Hugo list, which is the Booker prize for science fiction, and that brought me to Cordelia’s Honour by Lois McMaster Bujold. You can read my review of the book here; suffice it to say that I am in love with this author now. My next sci-fi stop is The Lathe of Heaven by Ursula K. le Guin.
4. Game of Thrones Season 2
Game of Thrones just keeps getting better and better. Never mind the fact that the series still has to be written completely and we are still on Season Two. The cunning George R. Martin has a habit of making good guys turn traitor and bad guys turn good, and then letting the whole thing reverse again. This is one battle for the throne, where no one is what they seem, and everything is subject to change. I am not sure if I prefer my heroes to turn into villains, but hey, it’s fun, it’s gorgeous cinematography, and it’s action-packed. Love it!!!
5. Revisiting Georgette Heyer
I read Georgette Heyer when I was in high school. My parents had brought me up on a regular dosage of the good old English classic novelists, like Dickens and Victor Hugo and Stevenson and of course, Austen. So Heyer was pretty easy to read.
Heyer is a mixture of the Shakespearean comedy of manners, some brilliant historical research and some generous sprinklings of romance. The romance doesn’t hurt (*grins*) but it’s the humour content which made me revisit Georgette Heyer’s books. There can be a completely new post on why I like Heyer so much, but this one is restricted to why I find The Talisman Ring, The Devil’s Cub and Cotillion so downright laugh-out-loud funny. I know a guy would never be caught dead reading a Heyer, but you should know that Heyer’s books were edited by her own husband and were the biggest source of livelihood for her family. If you can think of P.G. Wodehouse locked up in the Regency Era, it would be Georgette Heyer. Here's a piece at BBC about her.
6. The Mixed Up Investigative Files Korean Drama
I can run, but I can’t hide. I keep going back to that crazy teenage period of my life where all I ever did was watch Korean/ Asian dramas— with subtitles by fans. I have watched numerous ones over the years, and The Mixed Up Investigative Files is the latest one in that list. A karate teacher, a bookseller, a mad psychic/ medium, and a broken rich girl are out to track down a cartload of ancient gold treasure hidden away by a traitor to the Korean royalty. Oh, and there's the mafia too. It is one of the most well-directed shows I have ever seen. The execution is crisp, and not a single scene or word is out of place. The relationships among the four people are hilarious, charming and heart warming. And the mystery is a darned good one. You can find an illustrated recap guide for the show at Dramabeans.
7. Adele’s Music
I didn’t hear of Adele for a really long time. Sad, but true. Then one of my neighbours played Someone Like You, and opened my ears to Adele’s lovely deep and strong voice. My personal favourites are Set Fire to the Rain and Skyfall. And of course, I have to try out her biography.
8. Catching on to the EBooks Revolution
Move over paper, we’re digitising even you— except that’s old news now. Catching on to the eBook fever is nothing short of madness. Suddenly, everything is just a credit card swipe away. Instant delivery, no hassles over not being in good condition, all good.
You would assume that eBooks would be cheaper, because you don’t have to print them on hardcopies and you don’t have to pay shipping charges. Not. EBook publishers know their economics, that whole cost-benefit analysis thing.
The other thing about eBooks that I have issues with is that they have all these regional boundaries. You may buy a certain eBook only if you’re residing in a specific part of the world. Now, why would you put restrictions like that? If I have a globally accepted card and a universally acceptable existence, and you don’t have to ship the books--- why does my ‘current location’ become a problem? Take Waking the Moon by Elizabeth Hand. I’ve been desperate to read this book, it got the Tiptree and Mythopoeic awards and all that. But… Its eBook is not available on Amazon. Kobo Books doesn't supply it to locations outside USA. And Barnes & Noble gives these books only in Nook format. So my Kindle doesn't stand a chance! What is a poor reader supposed to do, hmm? Ultimately, I had to buy the damned thing in hardback, and it sorta killed my enthusiasm.
EBooks— you still have a long way to go.
9. Starting off with Work
Well, this goes long down the list. Like any other college student, I was eager to get rid of university and start working. Become independent, start earning, etc. etc. Joining work has not been such a dream, however. It’s like a good wallop of reality. There’s less time to read and travel. There’s more desk work, and work which spills on to your weekends, and crazy deadlines and late nights, and [fill in the blanks]. Some days, I feel like getting a time machine and going back, way back.
But if there’s one thing that’s good about starting a work life— it’s this. You get a goal, a purpose. Leisure is all very good, but you would not be able to stand too much of it. And as dear Spider Man would say, “With great power comes great responsibility.” Well, I am getting there. One step at a time.
10. Hunger Games: the Movie
I was so not a fan of this book. Kids caught in a dystopian world, fighting for life and death. Kill everyone else, or you won’t win and you won’t survive. Typical Young Adult thoroughfare, and I thought I was over it. I am not.
The first scene made me think it was some Cuban guerrilla warfare going on, what’s with all the plebeian outfits and Che Guevara moustaches. Then Katniss came on screen, and everything fell away. It’s just her, and the wonderfully adapted movie, the great direction, and the lovely soundtrack. I was recently quite boggled to see Jennifer Lawrence (Katniss) as the lead in Silver Linings Playbook. Wait, you haven't seen either of these movies? What are you waiting for?
So where’s your recap 2012?