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The 2017 HodgePodge Awards

Happy New Year! 

Another year has come to a close, and its time to recount all the goodies that 2017 brought my way. In no particular order, the winners for me were....

The Most Visually Inspiring Award — The Secret of Kells

What A Sight!

The Secret of Kells is one of those wonders that has to be seen to be believed. The greens and blues are near hypnotizing, as we follow the life of a young novice monk at the Abbey of Kells, who is charged with protecting the sacred and secret Book of Kells against the invading hordes. The story admittedly is predictable, but this kind of animation movie is watched not for the plot, but for the sheer visual appeal. Watch the trailer on YouTube. Now, all I need to do is grab hold of the adult coloring book they have made on this one.   

Listen, and I shall tell you...

The Most "Epic" Music Award — Thomas Bergersen

Honestly, how can anyone be so talented? If you like instrumental music, epic music, music that you can play on endless repeat for its sweeping scale and heroic undertones, music that evokes a thousand feels at once -- try Bergersen's neo-orchestral world music. Your life will never be the same again. My personal favorites are Rada and Starvation (from his album, Illusions), Blackheart (from SkyWorld) and The Truth Unravels (from Two Steps from Hell).

The Most Intriguing Podcast Award — Lore

Are you ready for this?

I have just started listening to this podcast narrated by Aaron Mahnke, which gives a historical/ non-fictional account of some of our oldest folklore and superstitions, many of which constitute fodder for modern SFF fiction. We're talking about ghosts, vampires, elves, weres, witches, goblins, spirits, you name 'em. What is it about human imagination, that weaves seemingly unconnected facts into stories about the inexplicable? 

Lore has been listed frequently in iTunes Best Of lists, and has recently been adapted for television as well (available on Amazon Prime). It just gets better and better. Subscribe to the podcast here.

The Most Hilarious Comedy Award — The Trouble with Harry

He Just Can't Stay Buried

There were two contenders for this one -- Clue and The Trouble with Harry. I ultimately settled with The Trouble with Harry (available on YouTube), because I find Hitchcock's crafty, dark wit much more memorable. Here's what I had written about it in my original review

"Everyone and everything is so distinctly odd that odd becomes the new mundane. Like the door being loose and sliding open most mysteriously again and again. Like finding the statue of a vermillion mermaid and washed underwear in the studio apartment of an old tugboat captain. Like confessing the most private secrets in a prosaic tone, as if you were discussing the weather. Like having to dig up a dead body four times in the same day."

The Loveliest Art Awards — There's More than One Winner

Deep in the Garden Thickets

I tried taking up watercolor painting in 2017, and failed spectacularly at it. I don't think I have the kind of patience that's required to excel in the depth and shades and techniques and whatnots of watercolors. Blame it all on Judith Merkle Riley's The Serpent Garden (which I read this year and liked a lot) about a Flemish painter's daughter in medieval Europe who somehow ends up painting miniature portraits for the Tudors and spying for Cardinal Wolsey. {A much more detailed book review is available here.} Hijinks ensue, and art becomes a tool of political intrigue. 

I do recommend the book (Kobo link), and I also recommend the online art tutorials on YouTube of the super-talented Anna Mason, The Watercolor Misfit, and Kelogsloops.

The Best Obscure Book Unearthed Award — Brood of Bones

Hiresha Perturbed

While I was trawling through SFF fora on Goodreads, clicking link after link of books read by other readers with tastes like mine, I came across Brood of Bones by A.E. Marling. It seemed like a quick, interesting read, and I found that the book had also been made available as a free audiobook on Scribl. Thus started my walk-while-you-listen affair with Hiresha, an elder enchantress of Morimound. Hiresha has been called in because all the women in Morimound, both young and old, are mysteriously becoming pregnant simultaneously. Some villain is using dark magic to suction life out of them, and Hiresha is the only one who may be able to stop him. 

It's a pity this book (Amazon link) is not more widely known. I liked it so much, I immediately purchased the other novels in the series as well from Amazon.

The Most Swashbuckling Hero Award — Moribito

Balsa in Action

Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit is the Emmy-Award nominated television show (IMDB link) based on a  popular Japanese fantasy series. A young prince with the mysterious powers of the River God is on the run from his narcissistic, half-mad father, under the protection of a bodyguard, Balsa. The prince and Balsa are hunted throughout their journey by mysterious assassins who want the power of the River God for themselves. 

I may be biased but I could find nothing wrong with this show, or with Balsa, who is definitely one of the most honorable and swashbuckling characters in fantasy fiction. Watch the trailer.

The Coziest Read of the Year Award — Tooth & Claw

Fee Fo Fum

Jo Walton's Tooth & Claw (Amazon link) was first published in 2003, but I only read it in 2017. Yes, I was living under a rock, to have missed this grand dragon family adventure. Here's what I had written about it in my original review

"... Walton's characterizations are simple but her observations about people (even if they are in anthropomorphic forms) are so very succinct and on-the-mark that it was impossible not to smile with glee as the story unfolded. There is an underlying droll humor too, throughout the pages, which made the book a cozy pleasure. Satire and comedy of manners were what Trollope and Austen did best, and Walton's Tooth and Claw follows in the same footsteps.

The icing on my cake came when Walton herself somehow found my review online, and liked it on Twitter. *Squee*

The Best Period Drama Award — Parnell and the Englishwoman 

BBC / Penguin Cover

How does BBC do it? How does BBC make such great period dramas, every single time? Parnell was an Irish Nationalist Party statesman, and his countrymen expected great things from him in uniting his people to ask for Irish independence. Except, Parnell falls in love with a married English woman, and the resultant scandal destroys his career and disables the Irish independence movement. You might want to blame Parnell for not having enough wits and will to prevent the disastrous affair in the first place, but the drama portrays the affair as a bond of true love and friendship which lasted for more than 15 years and right until Parnell's death. 

The 1991 BBC version of the book by Tony-Award winning playwright, Hugh Leonard, is available on YouTube; the print is old and yellowed with age, but is so tastefully directed that its definitely worth a watch. 

The Simplest Dessert Award — Microwave Chocolate Mug Cake

The Pioneer Woman's Chocolate Mug Cake

And now, to end on a more festive note: If you are anything like me, you would know that you and the Kitchen do NOT mix. Then I discovered this little gem of a recipe from The Pioneer Woman (also try out her other recipes), and I knew I had to try this out the next time I had a sugar craving. The Chocolate Mug Cake is a simple, sweet confectionery that costs hardly anything and takes hardly any time. You won't regret it!


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