Book Review: Fangirl Vol 1: The Manga

I love the Fangirl novel by Rainbow Rowell. It is one of my favourite books ever, and it is still something I will reread when I need something comforting. It follows Cath, a nerdy college student whose love of Simon Snow (essentially Harry Potter) is the most important thing in her life.

I think it is important to preface this by saying that Rainbow Rowell has received criticism about her portrayal of her Korean character Park in Eleanor & Park, and she hasn’t really addressed this. It doesn’t pertain specifically to this book, but I think it is useful information to have when thinking about whether or not to go for a book. My love of Fangirl predates this particular issue, so I imagine I may feel differently about approaching it for the first time if I was to think about it now.

This manga adaptation is by Sam Maggs, who has worked on all sorts of comics, and by manga artist Gabi Nam in her first English manga. The first thing I have to say about this is that it is beautiful. Every panel is absolutely gorgeous and there’s something whimsical about the way the characters are drawn that I just love.

The plot is exactly the same as the novel- shy, nerdy fanfiction writer Cath heads off to college. She’s feeling disconnected from her twin sister Wren and struggles to find her place in college. Her roommate Reagan and Reagan’s sort-of boyfriend Levi take Cath under their wing. All of this takes place while Cath’s dad is struggling with his mental health.

The characters in this story are great- I personally love Reagan, who is big (literally, she’s portrayed in such a powerful way in the manga) and brash, completely unapologetic about the space she takes up in the world.

It’s sort of romantic; there are definitely romantic elements, but this story is really about Cath. I think it deals beautifully with the idea of fandom: to what extent is fandom a good thing? Is fanfiction a valid form of creative writing? (To which the answer, in my opinion, is yes, of course.)

It is sweet, and feel-good, and beautiful. I’d definitely recommend this one.

A change of name

After many years, I am beginning the process of changing my online handles from ‘lordcoledemort’. When I first started using it, it was almost a decade ago, and at the time, it was a cute play on my actual name, Cole. However, as time has gone on and JKR has repeatedly behaved in a way I cannot (in any small way) support, it has become clear that I need to use something different.

I should have made the change ages ago, and for that I apologise. I’m functionally useless and it seemed like a daunting task. However, that’s not really a good enough excuse, so I’ve finally started the process today. I suspect it’s going to take a while to change everything, but the main things I use- Twitter and this blog- are changed now.

The Games I’m Playing In 2021

Or… why can’t I stop playing games I’ve already played?

It’s a funny old time, isn’t it? We collectively hyped 2021 up as the end to the misery and suffering of 2020, and yet, unsurprisingly…. the misery and suffering just continues.

I live in the UK, where the vaccine rollout is going fairly well (in comparison to almost every other aspect of the pandemic, which could arguably have been better handled by three Labradors wearing a trenchcoat, but I digress) but normal life is still a very distant dream.

I had big plans for 2021. I wanted to finish 52 games, or one per week. In my head, this was going to include both big games and small, indie games you can finish in a single sitting. In actuality, however, I have played almost exclusively big, ongoing simulation games I was playing long before this year.

The reason is simple: it is comforting. So, here are my top picks for good games to play while the world is on lockdown.

The Sims

Well, obviously. I enjoy all of the Sims games for different reasons- 4 is gorgeous, but lacks the functionality of 2&3. To be honest, I have slightly lost my zest for The Sims in the last couple of weeks. I haven’t played the latest spooky pack, but I have no doubt I’ll be back soon. The Sims is like a siren, luring me in even when I’d quite like to resist.

Stardew Valley

Stardew Valley is infinitely replayable, I think. I have had it for the Switch for ages, and I’ve just bought it for the PC. With a few mods, it is a totally fresh experience. There is something so chill about Stardew; the music is gorgeous and the gameplay is simple and rewarding.

Prison Architect

This one is dark. You play as the architect of a prison (obviously) and need to tend to your prisoners’ needs while encouraging them to behave and reform. It has a simple graphic style and surprisingly complicated gameplay, hard enough to be engrossing without being too difficult.

Shameless self promo: my new novel

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.

Thank you so much for your support!

Video Game Review: Crash Bandicoot: It’s About Time

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.)

Pew pew!

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.

Month In Review: December

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.

Happiest of new years to you!

Month In Review: November

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.

The Mandalorian

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.

Other Stuff

I got my 2021 diary and I am so hugely excited for next year.

Looking Forward

I am going to spend December watching Christmas films and wearing glitter.

Lockdown Lessons: Things I’m Grateful For

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.

  1. 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.

2. Food

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.

3. Friends

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.

4. Bed

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.

Offbeat Halloween movies to watch this week

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.

Extra Ordinary

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.

The Selling

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.

Pontypool

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.

Office Uprising

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.

Ghost Stories

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.

Autumn/winter: a covid to-do list

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…

  1. 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

Well, obviously.

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.