MUSIC - JAN
Birnam Wood by Eleanor Catton (novel, physical book, NZ, 2023)
Potentially the best book I'll read this year and it's only Feb. If you loved The Luminaries you'll love this. Don't let the thriller billing lead you astray (though it does get thrilling) - this is a novel that revels in moving fully rendered, psychologically complex characters around the stage and getting them together at opportune/inopportune times (or, excitingly, for me at least, alone: a couple of these lonely, quiet moments seem to act as tent poles for the three act structure).
If you are one of the people who talk openly about never finishing The Luminaries, when in the last 10 years did you start admitting this like it was a badge of honour? Go take a hard look at yourself in the mirror, then read Birnam Wood, though you might find it too slow as well. In which case, I've got nothing for you. I guess you don't need to be devastated as deeply as I do.
The Mirror Book by Charlotte Grimshaw (non-fiction, audiobook, NZ, 2021)
A different kind of devastation. Bold, sure. No one comes out looking good. The way certain phrases (mostly one's her father used in his work or interviews) keep coming back, unrelentingly... I couldn't decide if it was artful or unhinged (like Coach Mosley's church deacon-esque tirades in Last Chance U: Basketball).
Radical Uncertainty by John Kay & Mervyn King (non-fiction, audiobook, UK, 2020)
I don't put everything I read for my doctorate up here, but this felt general fiction-y enough to qualify as a book "consumed".
Haven by Emma Donoghue (novel, audiobook, Ireland, 2022)
I enjoy bleak survival tales, especially when they're largely self-imposed. Monks, eh?
This Time Tomorrow by Emma Straub (novel, audiobook, US, 2022)
I enjoy family dramas told via time travel, especially when they get the level of meta-ness right. This did.
Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel (novel, audiobook, UK, 2009)
Yeah, okay, I get it now.
Brightness Reef by David Brin (novel, audiobook, US, 1995)
My first sci-fi for the year, if you don't count Straub's time travel lit-fic.
1979 by Val McDermid (novel, audiobook, UK, 2021)
1989 by Val McDermid (novel, audiobook, UK, 2022)
I saw McDermid speak at an event in the tail end of last year and she mentioned how her Allie Burns series was her way out of writing her autobiography. I enjoyed 1979. 1989 felt more of a pastiche, with perhaps too many big events from that year being brought into the narrative. Or maybe I'd just read it too soon after its predecessor??
Tracking stats: 78% female, 100% white, 100% anglophone, 78% fiction
On pace for: 54 books read in 2023 (if you don't count the three other books I'm partway through, 2 physical and one audiobook).
FILM & TV
Andor Season 1 - I haven't watched any of the Star Wars shows since season 1 of The Mandalorian (snoozefest) but kept seeing people rave about Andor... And gosh, this was right up my street. I loved the stretch where Andor was in prison. The closed world, the arcane routine. And it came after a heist that felt like it might be the climax of a normal season, and before another big showdown. All with minimal faffing around with The Force or reliance on Skywalker family ties.
Star Wars: Rogue One (rewatch)
The Banshees of Inisherin
Poker Face Season 1
Top Gun: Maverick
Last Chance U: Basketball, Season 2
White Noise - one of my favourite novels... didn't like this film. Too faithful to DeLillo's dialogue. It seemed to be about the dialogue, as if that's what made it great. It was like someone adapting Roald Dahl and depicting every cruelty as it is described (or dashed-off) in the book. (I guess adapters will have issues with that now that Dahl's been watered down... This is not a statement for or against the literary sanitation dept... Whatever I say can and will be used against me in my public shaming).
The Sacramento Kings keep lighting the beam, baby! On Saturday my time they won a double OT thriller against the stacked Clippers in the 2nd highest scoring game of all time, which isn't a knock on the defence: both teams were trying, but the Clippers in particular were locked on, and the refs were very suss... Incredible that heart and superior chemistry got the Kings over the line and they're closer to 2nd place in the West than 4th. They've been the healthiest team in the league this year, though, and they're young and inexperienced. They can't keep this up for another 24 games and win a first round playoff series, can they?
MUSIC - FEB