I don’t often post about my fiction writing here- I tend to keep that on my writing blog, which you can find here if you’re interested.
However, in massive and exciting news, I’m publishing my first full-length novel on February 1st: The Scandalous Viscount. It’s a regency m/m romance with steamy scenes, pining and interesting characters. If you’d like to read more about it, you can click here, or you can preorder it here from Amazon.
I grew up in a house in the 90s with a Playstation: the first one, back before they were called PS Ones. It was a chunky, funky boy which was tragically given away by my mother, leading me to fight the constant temptation in adulthood to buy another one. (I did buy a Playstation 2 a couple of years ago to scratch the itch.) The game I loved the most as a kid was definitely Crash Bandicoot 2.
Some kids had Nintendo and Mario, but for me, Crash was the introduction to playing video games. (Well, that and the frankly awesome Alien Trilogy game which was definitely not suitable for kids but which I played anyway.)
Anyway. I was extremely excited for the new Crash game, although to be fully honest I still haven’t finished the original trilogy remasters on account of them being absolutely, horrifically difficult. That said, the new game offered an option where dying in the level would always take you back to last checkpoint, rather than making you return to the start of the level. I am not exaggerating when I say that, on some levels, I died almost 300 times.
The grind is still there. I don’t play many platformers these days- I incline more towards narrative-heavy games, often RPGs, or simulation games. I had almost forgotten the crushing lows of being stuck at a tricky bit on a level. With them, of course, comes the dizzying highs when you succeed. Amazing.
The game is good. I enjoyed it immensely, despite a couple of rage quits. It looks gorgeous and it’s got that 90s nostalgia by the bucket. It has all of the box-smashing, wildly-spinning goodness you remember, but manages to change up the formula with the addition of new masks, who each grant you a weird power like slowing time or turning off gravity.
The story is more engaging than you’d expect and the whole thing is charming, comforting and a whole lot of fun if this sort of game is your thing. If not, you might find it far too stressful for words. It’s definitely the sort of game where you need to play a level several times, and it encourages you then to complete time trials and ‘inverted’ versions of each level (which I didn’t do, because we don’t aim for 100% in this house).
I really like the characters- Crash Bandicoot is largely a brainless, box-kicking lad who doesn’t really seem to grasp what is happening around him, and his sister Coco is the brains of the operation. I always loved Coco as a kid, and being able to play as her instead is cool. Tawna Bandicoot, who in the earlier games is Crash’s slightly dull girlfriend, appears in this as an absolute badass. I love Cortex, and his whole arc in this game was fun, if predictable.
I would absolutely recommend this game. Lighthearted, often frustrating fun.
I hope, if you’re reading this, that you had a wonderful festive period and are preparing for a lovely start to 2021. I can’t really say anything that other people haven’t already said about this year- it was strange, miserable, challenging and frustrating. Although I don’t think all of our problems are going to magically disappear in 2021, it is nice to have a new start to look forward to, even if, in reality, we’re going to wake up tomorrow in the same position we’re in now. It’s funny, isn’t it, how these human-invented dates mean so much to our mental state?
December has gone by in a blur, and I haven’t managed to do all the things I planned. That said, I’ve had a fairly good time, despite the world.
December In Review
I finished The Mandalorian, and it was so good. I won’t post spoilers, but if you haven’t seen it yet, you absolutely must. The last episode was awesome.
Black Narcissus on the BBC was moody, gothic, strange and unsettling. If you didn’t catch it, it’s definitely worth a watch.
I’ve become a bit obsessed with true crime this year. Like many people, I’m sort of fascinated by serial killers and their motivations. The Ripper on Netflix is very interesting if you, too, share a interest in this sort of thing.
I picked up Crash 4 in the sale just after Christmas and I am enjoying it a lot, although it is really, really hard (or maybe I’m just not good at it!). I’ve still got quite a lot of it to play- it is taking me ages as I keep dying.
November went so, so quickly. In a year which has occasionally felt as though time has been going twice as slowly as usual, this felt odd, yet we’re here at the end of 2020 finally.
I haven’t been at the top of my game in November in really any way at all. However, here is a recap of stuff that’s been occurring.
God, Mandalorian is so, so good. I am obsessed with Baby Yoda (the lil guy has a name now, but I shan’t spoil it) and the whole Western/Samurai vibe of the show is amazing.
Walking Dead: The World Beyond
This is set many, many years after the original series and follows the adventures of teenagers in the apocalypse. It was fine- I watched the first series in a big clump, and it was definitely better towards the end. As with the other Walking Dead series, I found the pacing too slow at times.
Star Wars: Doctor Aphra
I am reading the current singles of this and it is really, really good, like queer Indiana Jones in space.
Good Girls Die First
The premise of this was really interesting- a bunch of teens are blackmailed to go to an abandoned pier and then they start dying. The ending was weird and disappointing, but I still mostly enjoyed this.
Things I Played
I am currently replaying Marvel’s Spider-Man before getting my hands on the Miles Morales sequel. It’s a powerfully good game for sure.
I got my 2021 diary and I am so hugely excited for next year.
I am going to spend December watching Christmas films and wearing glitter.
A perhaps uncharacteristically sentimental post, but recent events have got me- and probably most other people- unusually glum and miserable. This year has been hard. Lockdown life has dramatically reduced options for things to do.
It’s been miserable, frustrating and dull. However, I like to look on the bright side. This year has shown me that I have a lot to be grateful for- some big, some small.
I think like other people I’m guilty of taking the good things in my life for granted, so it’s nice to stop and reflect on them.
Having a place to live
I have spent a lot of time in my house this year, and I’m super lucky to have a place to call my own. Sometimes I get frustrated that my flat is so small and needs so much work done, but actually, I’m fairly lucky to have somewhere.
God, isn’t food good? Unlike a lot of people, I didn’t really get more into cooking during lockdown- if anything, I’ve found myself less motivated than usual to cook- but I have eaten a lot, and I can confirm that eating food is always good.
I’ve barely seen my friends for months, but I really miss them- and that reminds me how much I love them, and what a lovely time we’ll have together next year.
Sleep is so good. Feeling tired? Go to bed. Feeling miserable? Go to bed. Feeling cold? Go to bed. I’ve fallen in love again with bed this year.
5. The internet
Imagine if this had all happened in 1990. Actually, let’s not. It’s too grim to contemplate.
I feel very lucky and blessed, and I am also intently aware of my privilege and comfort in comparison to many, many other people. I’m glad this year is almost over.
It’s finally here! Spooky Season! The week of the witch! The night of the year where it’s appropriate to eat so much sugar you twitch for a whole fortnight! (Maybe the last one is just me.)
I watch a lot of films, and I have a special soft spot for horror- in particular, trashy B movies and zombie films, but I like all sorts of stuff. In this list, I’m going to give a few less obvious (and a couple which are less spooky!) Halloween film choices.
The Dead Don’t Die
This is a sort of frightening, but mostly just bizarre and very meta zombie film. The writing is razor sharp and it’s definitely got the strangest twist ending. It’s a got a great cast- Tilda Swinton, Adam Driver, Bill Murray- and it’s beyond weird. I imagine it’s a bit of a Marmite film, but I loved it.
I actually really wish I hadn’t already watched this so I could watch it again for the first time. It’s a hilarious horror comedy which perfectly balances the extraordinary and the utterly mundane. It’s sweet and very funny. If you watch anything on this list, watch this one.
I watched this the other day on Amazon Prime Video, expecting very little from it but being charmed by the trailer. It’s low on spookiness, but funny with a sweet heart and strangely charming characters. Well worth a watch.
This is one of those films that’s not super scary in terms of what you see on screen- although there are a couple of moments that are fairly frightening. What really makes this an effective horror is the way it builds up the sense of dread while taking place almost exclusively in one location. This one stuck with me for a while after I’d seen it.
Another Prime Video find- there are loads of films like this- zomedies with hapless characters who somehow have to battle their way to safety in the face of sudden zombies. This one stands out because it’s pretty funny and because of the cast- Zachary Levi is scenery-chompingly brilliant as the bad guy and Karan Soni is hilarious.
I found this one absolutely terrifying in a really clever way. Definitely not one to watch if you’re a wimp like me- I spent a lot of it hiding behind a blanket- but it’s very, very smart and enjoyable.
This is my favourite time of the year. I love the late, dark nights wrapped in sweaters and scarves, sipping Baileys with my friends and wandering around the shops looking for Christmas gifts and decorations.
Sadly, this year isn’t going to quite be that, and I’m trying hard to remind myself that I also love being outside on cool crisp afternoons, cuddling up under a blanket and watching Christmas movies. In light of current circumstances, I think it’s a good idea to make a list of things that are still possible to do to enjoy the season.
So, without further ado, here is an uncomprehensive list of things I’m aiming to do before winter properly takes hold…
Crisp autumn walks
I grew to love walking in the summer, in part because it’s one of the only activities left open to us in the covid times, but also because it’s good for my mental health. As the days get shorter and cooler, I’m going to get out and enjoy some brisk walks and lovely autumnal nature.
2. Decorate the house
For Halloween, for Christmas, for other holidays I’ve yet to invent… I’m looking for any excuse at the minute to make my house as warm, cosy and welcoming as possible, since I’m going to be spending a damn huge amount of time there. I’ve even taken up sewing and I’m making my own Halloween decorations. I’m planning on draping the house in fairy lights.
3. Cook some new stuff
I’m planning on going vegan in the new year, so this is a perfect time to practice my culinary skills before then. The cooler weather calls for heavy, carb-heavy meals and I am all about those.
4. Video games
5. Work through the Netflix to-watch list
Does anyone else have this problem? In the modern world, where I have a frankly ridiculous amount of streaming services, I actually can’t keep up with how much there is to watch. I am constantly ‘adding things to the list’ when people recommend things, but in reality, there isn’t really a list, just my dawning sense of panic at the thought of loading up Netflix.
One of my favourite Hallmark tropes is ‘big city businesswoman goes into the country and falls in love with both nature and some sort of country boy’. This is absolutely a film with that trope as its main plot.
A lot of the effectiveness- or lack thereof- of these films comes from the charm of the main characters (because, if we’re honest, there’s very little plot in one of these bad boys). Alex is our main character here, a pleasant businesswoman struggling to fit in at her job as part of a sportswear retail company. She’s fine, I guess. Good hair. Josh Ketchum is the romantic interest, and he is automatically more interesting than Alex because his name makes me think of Pokémon. He doesn’t want to sell the ranch he loves and runs with his sister, but they’re out of money, and Alex’s company wants to buy it. They have some nice chemistry in the bland, inoffensive way of these films.
The most interesting character by far is Alex’s utterly bizarre boss, a sort of fleece-wearing Steve Jobs type who insists on having meetings halfway up a climbing wall and rides a bicycle around the office. There’s also a fairly cute side romance between two other visitors at the ranch.
The mild drama in the film is in the form of Josh’s ex-girlfriend, a woman with excellent boss bitch sunglasses who also wants to buy the ranch. There is also a guy who works with Alex who she’s up against for a promotion. Both of these people want the ranch for nefarious purposes that I guess we’re meant to believe are less morally good than Alex’s reasons.
This Hallmark film is a bit on the weaker end of the scale, I think. It was fine, but didn’t hold up to some of their better (slash more cheesy) entries.
This series of posts is named after MBMBAM‘s segement That’s A Christmas To Me, which is a delight if you love dreadful festive movies.
I am a strong believer that ‘guilty pleasures’ is a dreadful phrase, and that you shouldn’t be ashamed of liking cheesy things. I write romance novels, so maybe I’m biased about this, I don’t know.
Hallmark festive movies are weirdly compelling to me. They’re not without their flaws- god knows they’re pretty much all white, cisgender, heteronormative nonsense. They all have basically the same plot and possess possibly the lowest stakes possible for a film to still claim it has a plot. That said, they’re like catnip to me, especially as we enter this cooler, Christmassy time of the year. I inevitably watch about a dozen each year, so I have decided to review them, because I can.
Pumpkin Pie Wars is a new one for me this year. The ‘plot’ basically involves the adult children of rival bakeries entering the pumpkin pie competition that their mothers first forged their intense hatred of each other in a decade ago. The issue is that Casey cannot cook, as she is a business graduate (top of her class, apparently, although for some reason works at her mum’s bakery) and Sam wants to be a proper chef, not a mere baker. They forge a plan to help each other in secret, and, well, it’s a Hallmark film, so there’s some PG-rated smooching and they fall in love.
This is a very short film, coming in at fewer than 90 minutes, and I am sort of loath to say this about a Hallmark movie, but it could have done with being longer. The ‘misunderstanding’ that one expects in a romance film came 15 minutes from the end, and then there was another key plot point thrown into the mix about five minutes later. Carnage, obviously, for the last ten minutes.
The main characters were about as bland and politely charming as you’d expect in this, but their mothers were amazing and vicious to each other. The whole thing plays like Romeo & Juliet but without all the stabbing.
It’s trash, and the pacing is off, but the delicious animosity between their mothers is delightful, so I’d say this is a good medium-bad Hallmark movie.
I just like collecting consoles and games. I probably like collecting them more than I like playing them.
Consoles I Own
My favourite console ever I think. I absolutely love my PS4. It’s the console that gets the most use by far.
I am very guilty of not using this as much as the PS4. In fact, I’ve cancelled my Xbox Live subscription. It’s nice, but I don’t think it’s as fast as the PS4, and I think mine struggles a bit with age.
I have had about six of these and always seem to end up with one in my possession. The current one isn’t plugged in, just sat in a bag beside my TV. I should probably plug it in- I could go for a Mass Effect replay.
Also not plugged in at the minute. I honestly haven’t played this very much. I need to get on it.
I love Wii Fit but don’t use this for much else. I really need to get some more games for it.
Amazing console, although sadly slightly ignored since I got the Switch. I love Phoenix Wright on the 3DS.
I mostly got this for playing otome games on. It is such a cute little console. The games are quite expensive and hard to get hold of, though.
The Switch is amazing, obviously. Animal Crossing is life.
This one doesn’t really count but… I love it so much.
Consoles I Want
I have a Vita but I feel like the PSP has a great game library. Plus, the pink one is super cute. I’ve been pricing these up a lot recently and I’m very tempted to pick one up. There still seems to be a lot of games available second hand, and for much cheaper than the Vita games tend to be.
Oh, the throwback. I’m fairly sure I did have one back in the day. I’d love to enjoy those old Pokemon games again.
I don’t think I ever had one of these, but aren’t they super cute?
I really, really want a Wii U. I know they’re a bit weird, but I just love them. Any sort of weird gimmick in a console sells it to me.
In conclusion, I have far too many consoles- I probably shouldn’t buy any more.