Welcome to a brand new feature for the new(ish) year in which I round-up my thoughts on a selection of different types of fiction which I have seen/read/experienced/devoured/ogled at throughout the month. Firstly, time for a trip to the cinema...
A film with a ton of hype you can't have missed, Les Mis sees Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway, Russell Crowe, Amanda Seyfried and Eddie Redmayne (among others) stretch their vocal chords as a host of characters having a grim old time in Revolutionary France. It's a big, sprawling musical epic which goes right for the emotional impact - which in this instance is a good thing, as I did rather enjoy it. I'm not an amazing fan of musicals but this one is so emphatic in its approach it's hard not to be won over. A very good production with some great performances, it's well worth a watch. A warning, though, you may be humming the tunes for days.
Although Neil Gaiman is one of my favourite writers (quite possibly my most favourite) I've still to read his entire output - he's done a lot you know. The latest of his works I've come to is the most recent collection of his short fictions, written at various points over his career. As expected from Mr Gaiman, although the stories are all very different - covering a multitude of genres, tones and forms - the standard is consistently high. My favourites include the quirky yet melancholy 'October in the Chair' (which went on to inspire his children's novel The Graveyard Book), the enchanting poem 'Instructions' and the Sherlock Holmes story with a twist 'A Study in Emerald.'
The Simpsons (Season Eight)
Being a fan of The Simpsons for many years, I've of course seen this season before, but rewarded myself by re-viewing (and then reviewing it here) this month. From back in the show's most prestigious period, nearly every episode is a classic, each hilarious but also often being touching and intelligent. There's also a lot of time dedicated to supporting characters who get to steal the limelight for a change - Ned Flanders, Principal Skinner and Edna Krabappel being among the characters who get an episode to themselves. Some may disagree with me but I think it's the best Simpsons series.
Alan Moore's Watchmen, often seen as a seminal work in its field, explores an alternate reality where superheroes actually exist and the effect on society and the world this has. It follows a particular band of disparate heroes who's various motives and reasons for doing the extraordinary things they do are discussed, including the vigilante Rorschach, God-like Doctor Manhattan (the blue one) and the 'world's smartest man', Ozymandias. It's a gripping and engaging read that gives a wholly more believable and thought-out rendering of superheroes than you'll find anywhere else.