GregHorrorShow’s Non Gaming 2020 Round Up

I’m kicking off my round up of the year that was 2020 with a look at all things non-gaming, the gaming round up will land early in the new year!

I was lucky enough to use some of my extra time at home from not commuting to plough through lots of books, mainly over the summer months. In terms of fiction I particularly enjoyed Before The Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi, a wonderful time travel story, Call For The Dead by John le Carre, an old school mystery thriller and Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto, a touching tale of loss and grief. The second Black Prism book, The Blinding Knife by Brent Weeks was also a novel I enjoyed – coming in at over 700 pages meant it was a hefty read though!

On the graphic novel front I really liked the 4th instalment of Lumberjanes by Noelle Stevenson, The Last Of Us: American Dreams by Druckmann/Hicks and Vox Machina: Origins by Mercer/Colville. However my absolute highlight was Paper Girls (Vol. 2 & 3), which might be one of my favourite graphic novel series ever. The story continues as the four paper girls meet future selves and travel through time – I imagine it won’t be long until this gets made into a TV show.

I read a lot of factual books as well in 2020. Spotify Teardown was an interesting, if dry, look at what makes the streaming giant tick and I really liked Ed Catmull’s Creativity Inc, a look inside how Pixar works and the best ways to work in a creative environment. Rockonomics by Alan Krueger was a brilliant look at the music industry and everything in it while my favourite book this year, EMI: Selling The Pig by Eamonn Forde, focuses solely on the troubled times of the legendary record label EMI before it was acquired a few years back. Fascinating stuff for music buffs.

As usual I have a playlist of some of my favourite tracks from the year, embedded below:

In terms of big artists it was hard to avoid Dua Lipa or Billie Eilish during 2020, with both delivering a great run of singles. Blackpink continued their dominance of the pop scene with tracks that included duets with Lady Gaga and Selena Gomez. Taylor Swift dropped two excellent albums within months of each other to remind everyone why she is one of the biggest, and best, pop stars in the world.

It was brilliant to see Haim back with another superb album and very early in the year The Big Moon released a fantastic album after some really great singles last year. Celeste was everywhere and for good reason, she is an amazing artist with a wonderful voice and we also saw a new album from Disclosure that had a host of bangers on, along with some brilliant vocal guests.

I discovered some awesome new artists in 2020 – Baby Rose, Gracey, Bree Runway and Tiana Blake all had a big impact and Chelsea Cutler‘s debut album was a huge highlight during a tough year. However my album of the year goes to Kelly Lee Owens for ‘Inner Song.’ What an amazing collection of songs, On, Melt!, Re-Wild – I could probably just list them all as high points. It sounds familiar but fresh, a most enjoyable listen!

I didn’t see a huge amount of new films this year, as we spent a lot of time as a family rewatching old classics (Bill & Ted, Sister Act, The Goonies etc.), but I loved The Go-Go’s and Motown Records documentaries. Both were brilliant looks at legendary performers and the Motown one was packed with stories about famous songs and artists. A great watch. One film that really had an impact was the excellent Rocks, the story of a young girl and her brother surviving in London after their mother leaves them alone. Trolls 2, Onward, Jumanji 2 and Spies In Disguise were all fun kids films and for the festive season we found some new holiday classics in the shape of Christmas Chronicles 2, Noelle and Jingle Jangle. My film of the year though was one that I actually didn’t have high expectations for – Enola Holmes came highly recommended via Netflix and ended up being a really smart, well written film that all the family enjoyed.

There was so much new TV arriving during the year that I feel bad about the amount of programmes I started but didn’t get through the season – I really liked The Comey Rule, The Mandolorian, The Pale Horse, The Queen’s Gambit and Devs but never made it all the way through. I’m sure I’ll return to them at some stage. We enjoyed Glitch Techs and Fast & Furious: Spy Racers with the kids but it was the Netflix trinity of She Ra, Carmen Sandiego and Kipo & The Age Of Wonderbeasts that really got the majority of family view time. All three of those are excellent, which work on various levels for both the adults and the kids.

DC’s Legends Of Tomorrow and Umbrella Academy provided some much needed superhero escapism, while The Inbetween and Evil brought the scares. Evil has been great so far and while The Inbetween isn’t up to that standard it does have my favourite scenery chewer Paul Blackthorne (Laurel!) so it’s not all bad. I really enjoyed Small Axe: Mangrove, an important show and a difficult watch but much needed during these times.

Blood and Treasure was continent hopping nonsense but good fun and Stumptown showed us the life of a struggling P.I, unfortunately the show was renewed but then cancelled due to the pandemic. I enjoyed Miss Scarlet & The Duke, a sort of historical Murder She Wrote with a new crime each week. The Rookie was back again and delivered some tense thrills and lots of warm hearted fun. Looking forward to seeing where they take things in the next season.

My favourite show of the year though, was Blindspot. Something I could sit and watch with a smile on my face and just enjoy. Is it a ridiculous premise? Even more so as time has gone on but the writing is fun and it’s fast paced with enough action and laughs to sustain every episode. And that’s exactly what I needed during this year. (Also can we get some sort of a Patterson/Rich DotCom spin off please?!)

So there we go, a weird and wild year in the rear view – hopefully better times ahead in 2021.

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GregHorrorShow: The Books Of 2012

LemonCake

So the awards season kicks into gear for 2012 and first up it’s books.

I’ve read some really great books this year. I admit my reading time did take a bit of a battering when my Vita arrived in February… for about a month I didn’t read on the commute to and from work, as I was too engrossed in my new shiny handheld toy 🙂

So as usual in no particular order, here are the books I’ve read in 2012 that I’d recommend checking out:

  • ‘The Hare With Amber Eyes’ – Edmund De Waal
  • ‘Beyond The Shadows’ – Brent Weeks
  • ‘I Am Ozzy’ – Ozzy Osbourne
  • ‘The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets’ Nest’ – Stieg Larsson
  • ‘Battle Royale’ – Koushun Takami
  • ‘Sense And Sensibility And Sea Monsters’ – Ben H Winters
  • ‘Deus Ex: The Icarus Effect’ – James Swallow
  • ‘The Odyssey’ – Homer
  • ‘Neuromancer’ – William Gibson
  • ‘Ready Player One’ – Ernest Cline
  • ‘Listen To This’ – Alex Ross
  • ‘The Particular Sadness Of Lemon Cake’ – Aimee Bender

BeyondShadows

I kicked off 2012 with ‘The Hare With Amber Eyes’, Edmund De Waal‘s interesting look at the history of a collection of Netsuke that has been in his family for hundreds of years. While I did feel the book dragged a little in the middle I thought overall it was an entertaining read.

I rounded out the Night Angel trilogy with Brent Weeks‘ ‘Beyond The Shadows‘ which was thoroughly excellent and while on the subject of closing trilogies I also wrapped up the Millenium trilogy by Stieg Larsson with ‘The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets’ Nest‘. Dark and gritty doesn’t really cover it but it truly is one of the best set of books I’ve ever read. Seriously, if you haven’t read them check them out!

I Am Ozzy‘ is Ozzy Osbourne’s hazy attempt to piece together what has happened in his life 😆 and was interesting from various viewpoints. Of course the band history and music side were entertaining but it also gives you a good insight into how much the music scene changed people’s lives in the UK in the 60’s.

BattleRoyale

Koushun Takami‘s ‘Battle Royale‘ took up a big chunk of my time, it’s a long book but well worth the effort. I haven’t seen the film so I went in cold and absolutely loved it. An intricate and clever story with plenty of mistrust and betrayal, it’s the tale of a class of school mates essentially dumped on a secluded island and told to fight to the death.

After enjoying ‘Pride And Prejudice And Zombies‘ a while back, I was intrigued to check out ‘Sense And Sensibility And Sea Monsters‘ by Ben H Winter and (of course) Jane Austen. Unfortunately it didn’t quite hit the heights of the zombie romp but it was enjoyable and gave me a (somewhat distorted) idea of the plot of the ‘real’ Sense And Sensibility. I actually saw Deus Ex: The Icarus Effect in a second hand book shop for the princely sum of £2.00. I couldn’t resist at that price and I’m glad I picked it up. Expanding the universe of the game from last year it really showcases the strong point of the fiction, with lots of augmentations and cyborg parts.

I always like to try and read one ‘classic’ a year and I was most impressed with ‘The Odyssey‘, Homer‘s tale of Odysseus’ journey to try and get back to his family. Of course reading something this old does take a bit of patience but I would say it is definitely worth reading. You can see bits of lots of other stories that have ‘borrowed’ from this classic work over the years. Another older novel I read was ‘Neuromancer‘ by William Gibson, which is set in a cyberpunk universe and tells the story of a ‘crippled’ hacker who ends up fighting for his life to turn the tables on the corporation that has set him up.

ReadyPlayerOne

As a big gamer ‘Ready Player One‘ by Ernest Cline was right up my alley. The quote on the front of the book sums it up best ‘Willy Wonka meets The Matrix’. A challenge is set for gamers everywhere – the person that solves the puzzles will inherit a global powerhouse of a computer company – with all the cash benefits that would bring. Well written and really engaging, if you’re into games (especially retro games) then check it out. Alex Ross walks you through some of the different figures in music through the ages in ‘Listen To This‘. From Mozart to Radiohead, there is good reason to delve into this and find out some more about music and it’s makers.

But my favourite book this year has to be ‘The Particular Sadness Of Lemon Cake‘ by Aimee Bender. This beautifully written story is about a girl who suddenly discovers that her food no longer tastes of food – she can instead taste the feelings of the person who made it. Tragic and heart-breaking in places, warm and funny in others, this was a book I read in one day. I literally couldn’t put it down. So good and very much recommended.

So there you go – what have you guys been reading? Anything you’d recommend checking out?

‘The Way Of Shadows’ by Brent Weeks – Review (Book)



The Way Of The Shadows is the first book in the ‘Night Angel’ trilogy and tells the story of Azoth, a street urchin in Cenaria City.

He longs to be an assassin, or wetboy as they are known in this universe, and decides he will do anything to become one.

He tries to secure an apprenticeship with Durzo Blint – widely regarded as the greatest living assassin but Blint refuses to take him on.

The book tells the story of how Azoth gives up almost everything in his pursuit of the apprenticeship and how his actions have a knock on effect in the world around him.

Brent Weeks has done a great job of tying it all together. While Azoth is the main character, several other plot strands with different characters are introduced and expertly tied together further down the line.

This was one of those books that once I started I couldn’t put down – well written and with a strong story to boot, I’m looking forward to checking out the rest of the trilogy.

Rating 8/10

GregHorrorShow: The Books Of 2010

I decided to structure things a little differently this year with regards to my end of year round ups.

Games and TV will be getting the full awards treatment but for Books, Films and Music I think an overall list of my favourites would be better suited as, unfortunately, I haven’t had the time to dedicate to them as much as I’d have liked.

So to kick off the awards season here are ten books, in no particular order, I’d recommend that I read this year:

Zombie Survival Guide – Max Brooks

Max Brooks brings us this handbook to help out in the event of a Zombie apocalypse. It’s written as a serious guide, which lends it a surreal but fairly scary feel.

Playing through Dead Nation and watching The Walking Dead have made me glad I own a copy of this… y’know just in case 😉

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Outliers – Malcolm Gladwell

Outliers is the latest book from New Yorker writer Malcolm Gladwell. Gladwell here puts forward a compelling argument for children born at the ‘wrong’ time of year being overlooked as less intelligent than their counterparts, when really it’s a lack of maturity that is the problem.

He discusses the knock on effect this can have. Interesting stuff.

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Homicide: A Year On The Streets – David Simon

This is one hell of a book, both in terms of size and tone.

The ficitonalised account of a real life journalist’s year as part of the Baltimore Police Department’s homicide unit. Harrowing and depressing at times – the life of a murder detective has never been so laid bare. One of the best books I’ve ever read. A must read.

FULL REVIEW

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The Strain – Guillermo Del Toro

The book begins with a plane landing at JFK Airport then shutting down completely on the runway and this is a novel that doesn’t let up from the start.

Upon investigation every passenger is dead with no sign of struggle. Creepy much?

The book follows Dr. Eph Goodweather of the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) as he tries to work out what the hell is going on.

FULL REVIEW

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Gentlemen Of The Road – Michael Chabon

The story of an African and a German, both Jewish, who are road travelling bandits around the year 950AD stands alone in both tone and good old fashioned story telling.

Gentlemen Of The Road is the kind of book I’d expect my father or grandfather to have read as a child – it’s written in a very traditional style and this certainly lends some character to the proceedings.

FULL REVIEW

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The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo – Stieg Larsson

Set in Sweden and telling the story of Mikael Blomkvist, a publisher at Millenium magazine, and Lisbeth Salander, a private investigator, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is a great piece of storytelling.

The pacing is superb and Stieg Larsson creates some wonderfully believable characters. Not just the main characters either – the entire supporting cast seems to be very well thought out.

There is plenty going on here alongside the good old fashioned murder mystery. Once this book got going I could not put it down.

FULL REVIEW

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Gone Tomorrow – Lee Child

Lee Child’s writing style is wonderfully laid back and easy to read – I always find his books a great experience and ‘Gone Tomorrow’ is no different.

Telling the story of Reacher’s direct involvement in a political/government plot, ‘Gone Tomorrow’ opens in spectacular style and rarely lets up.

FULL REVIEW

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By The Light Of The Moon – Dean Koontz

I’m a big fan of Dean Koontz and for me this supernatural thriller is up there with his best work.

Telling the story of Dylan O’Conner and his brother Shep, Koontz explores an interesting path of deception and intrigue. The characters are thrown in at the deep end along with the reader and it’s great to be along for the ride.

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Dead Space Martyr – B.K Evenson

A prequel to the video game Dead Space was something I was always likely to pick up having loved the game.

This didn’t disappoint as Evenson immersed us in the world of Dead Space and created a great set of characters around an existing universe. In fact some of the characters come direct from the game’s folklore.

If you liked the game you should pick this up, definitely a great read and Evenson does a brilliant job of giving everything that Dead Space ‘feel.’

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The Way Of Shadows – Brent Weeks

I stumbled across this in the bookstore and thought it looked quite cool. I think it helped that I was fresh off the back of playing Assassin’s Creed II so was in the right frame of mind.

I finally got round to reading it earlier in the year and thoroughly enjoyed it. The origin story of a young street rat who is desperate to train as an assassin and the tale of what happens when he gets what he wished for.

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So there you go – a few recommendations for you.

Let me know what you’ve read this year in the comments, I’m always looking for new books to read!

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