Archive for December 29th, 2012

My favourite things of 2012

Everyone is doing an end-of-year best-of-year blog post, and people grow weary. Which is fair enough, although personally I dig hearing about what people dug, given so much of my entertainment – books, movies, TV, music – comes from personal recommendations.

But I digress. This is my list of stuff what I liked this year.

This year I actually discovered my two favourite books ever, one after another, neither of which came out in 2012. They are Veronica, by Nicolas Christopher (first published in 1997)…

…and Winter’s Tale by Mark Helprin (first published in 1983)…

Both are examples of literary fiction straying into genre – Winter’s Tale is probably best described as magical realism, while I think Veronica is more a straight urban fantasy. I’m torn between the two – Winter’s Tale is extraordinary, not just in terms of scope but the writing itself, which is wonderful. But it is very long, and there’s not a lot going on, plotwise. Veronica is much shorter and far less dense, and while the events within are distinctly weird, absolutely everything is explained and locks together by the end. Which is probably more my cup of tea.

Whatever. They’re both amazing and I recommend you read them. Both books are set in (and are about) New York City, and I happened to pick them both up while I was there in January.

This year I read 37 books, I think – 33 that I was able to add to Goodreads and another four that are not listed there yet. Which is one of the perks of being friends with authors – you get to see stuff early! It’s extremely difficult to pick favourites, as they were all genuinely great reads – if I don’t like a book I’ll stop when I’ve figured out that I don’t like it, as life is too short to keep reading just to be able to tick it off. But highlights this year include: Dead Harvest by Chris F. Holm, Even White Trash Zombies Get The Blues by Diana Rowland, This Dark Earth by John Hornor Jacobs, Alpha by Greg Rucka, The Testimony by James Smythe, Shift by Kim Curran, The City’s Son by Tom Pollock, Prepare to Die! by Paul Tobin, City of the Lost by Stephen Blackmoore, and The Professionals by Owen Laukkanen.

There were also three 2013 releases, which I’m listing separately as they’re not out yet: Pantomine by Laura Lam, The Split Worlds: Between Two Thorns by Emma Newman, and The Shambling Guide to New York City by Mur Lafferty. Three fabulous books – but Mur’s Shambling Guide (which I *utterly* adored) just pips it for me. See, it’s the New York thing again.

Moving to music – the album of the year for me is Kill My Blues by The Corin Tucker Band

I’ve been a fan of Corin’s since Sleater-Kinney, and her second solo(ish) album is probably the best thing I’ve heard since her old band’s last album, The Woods, came out in 2005. I’ve also enjoyed Lost Songs by …And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead and This Machine by The Dandy Warhols.

Film and TV – actually, I’ve lost track of what I watched at the cinema this year. The Avengers was loads of fun but not a film to think too deeply about, while The Dark Knight Rises was an illogical mess of plot holes. To be honest, cinema in 2012 didn’t leave that much of an impression on me. What else did I go and see that was a new release? I actually can’t remember.

Unlike television – this year I have enjoyed Person of Interest (still my favourite show), Revenge (I love the cheese and melodrama), 666 Park Avenue (and it’s a big shame it got the chop) and Elementary (Jonny Lee Miller is brilliant) and Longmire (can’t wait for season two of that). Homeland was good, but I think the concept has run its course now and I’ve probably had enough of it. Five seasons on, Castle continues to be marvellous when they have fun and terrible when they go all serious. Haven had a very rough start to the season then steadily improved, while Fringe continues to limp towards its finale with a truly dismal season, to my mind the worst drop in quality during a series since Heroes season two. I’ve also been watching Arrow, although I’ve paused mid-season and I’m not sure it’s quite good enough for me to continue.

And finally comics… this is a tough one. From someone who used to try and stay up to date with monthly comics, I’ve found myself being drawn more and more to collected editions, possibly because I don’t have the time to keep track of everything. I did make a concerted effort to get into some of the new Marvel Now! titles, but I fell behind one month and suddenly discovered there were like six issues of Iron Man to catch up on. I did enjoy what I read, even if I was a little lost some of the time – not being a Marvel reader, I thought this would be a good place to jump in (much like the DC New 52), but a few of the titles (Uncanny Avengers in particular) seemed to assume you’d been following along for a while now.

So of current comics, I did enjoy the new Aquaman, but my pick for 2012 has to be the first volume of the new DC Archive Edition series, Superman’s Girl-Friend Lois Lane, beginning a new collection of the frankly bizarre and occasionally disturbing Silver Age title.

However, anyone who has read Seven Wonders will know I have a soft spot for Silver Age wackiness. Maybe we’ll see the start of the Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen archives in 2013? I certainly hope so!

And that’s the stuff I like in 2012. Well, most of it. This year I also got thoroughly engrossed in the Formula 1 season (I’m a big Alonso fan) and have been enjoying Mists of Pandaria, the fourth (and I think best) expansion for World of Warcraft.

This year was also rather important for me, professionally, but more about that later.