Neighsayer

Neighsayer is an 18-year-old Australian guy who makes music.

I appear to have fallen into a candy covered lake of teen fantasies that feature ponies. What’s surprising is how refined but catchy the tunes are. It fits into the chill/downtempo genres usually with female vocals.

Unwoman

Unwoman is a San Francisco-based cellist-singer-songwriter Erica Mulkey. Layered with skillful cello, rich vocals, and electronically arranged beats, her solo music is a futuristic homage to her classical training. She has a unique, but mainstream voice, somewhere between Kate Bush and Tori Amos. There are plenty of good songs in a catalogue of 24 titles. These include covers and original songs. The cello is usually to the front of the mix and avoids most of the musical cliches associated with the instrument.

 

Zahn’s Cobras

Cobra Trilogy

This is military science fiction about Cobras, elite soldiers augmented with bionic technology. These modifications include built-in weapons, sensory enhancements, effectively unbreakable bones, and their characteristic combat reflexes. The modifications to the human body are invisible to casual inspection, and allow the soldiers to appear as ordinary unarmed civilians, allowing them to be effective resistance leaders.

However, most of the cybernetics are permanent, allowing Zahn to examine the position these individuals might fill in a society during peace-time.


Cobra (Cobra #1)
by Timothy Zahn (1986)

The Cobras wonder if they can return home after the wars–since humans fear their talents.


Cobra Strike (Cobra #2)
by Timothy Zahn (1987)

If anyone had told Jonny Moreau the Cobras would one day take orders from the alien Troft, he would have laughed without humor. He’d lost too many friends during the Troft war, though the Cobras triumphed in the end. Now, though, the Troft were trading partners – and they feared what might be a mutual danger. A new race, ruthless and tenacious, that threatened human space as well as Troft. And the offer was territory – five new planets for the overcrowded Cobra Worlds.


Cobra Bargain (Cobra #3)
by Timothy Zahn (1988)

Jasmine Moreau is reconsidered for Cobra treatment when a return mission to a dangerous planet becomes inevitable.


The first book is the best of the trilogy. Zahn is at his best in the setup and science of telling an interesting story. The second continues in a similar matter. Unfortunately the third book suffers from slow plotting. It feels like the author had an overall plot set out, but on writing the third book came up short and simply padded the last half of the third book out.

I will probably read the sequel series:
Cobra Alliance – Cobra War Book 1 (2009)
Cobra Guardian – Cobra War Book 2 (January 4, 2011)
Cobra Gamble – Cobra War Book 3 (January 2012)
Cobra Rebellion Trilogy – Cobra Slave (2013)
Cobra Rebellion Trilogy – Cobra Outlaw (2015)
Cobra Rebellion Trilogy – Book 3 (not yet released)

Midsomer 18.4

Midsomer Murders
Series 18 Episode 4 “A Dying Art”
Originally broadcast 3 February 2016

Art comes to the picturesque Midsomer village of Angel’s Rise with the opening of a new Sculpture Park. But when its launch is marred by murder, DCI Barnaby and DS Nelson have to get creative to crack a case where art imitates death, and everything has a deeper meaning.


Things really get silly here. Apparently a few sculptures in a field is enough to sustain the man. The characters are cardboard cutout caricatures of the British class system. And it all comes down in the end to a woman with a grudge. Rather forgettable.

 

 

 

Rogue One

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is a 2016 American epic space opera film directed by Gareth Edwards and written by Chris Weitz and Tony Gilroy, from a story by John Knoll and Gary Whitta. It is the first stand-alone film in the Star Wars Anthology series. Rogue One stars Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Ben Mendelsohn, Donnie Yen, Mads Mikkelsen, Alan Tudyk, Riz Ahmed, Jiang Wen and Forest Whitaker, and follows Jyn Erso, the daughter of the unwilling designer of the Galactic Empire’s superweapon, the Death Star, and her quest to retrieve his plans for destroying it.


The movie takes a while to get going. There is a lot of backstory and characters to introduce on the first half. But once everyone is ready for the mission, things get going. The space battles are great, but the highlight is a beach battle leading to the final confrontation. The movie neatly ties into ‘A New Hope’, so see this first.

 

 

Stiletto

Stiletto
(The Checquy Files #2)
by Daniel O’Malley (2016)

The Rook returns to clinch an alliance between deadly rivals and avert epic—and slimy—supernatural war.

When secret organizations are forced to merge after years of enmity and bloodshed, only one person has the fearsome powers—and the bureaucratic finesse—to get the job done. Facing her greatest challenge yet, Rook Myfanwy Thomas must broker a deal between two bitter adversaries:


At over 200,000 words this is a long book. Gone is the info-dump flashbacks. Instead the long excursions into history are part of the main narrative, Unfortunately this really drags the story down and after 20% I lost interest and abandoned the book.

What is needed is a good editor to half the novel’s length.

 

 

Vader Rises

The Rise of Darth Vader
(Star Wars: The Dark Lord Trilogy #3)
by James Luceno (2006)

Throughout the galaxy, it was believed that Jedi Knight Anakin Skywalker the Chosen One had died on Coruscant during the siege of the Jedi Temple. And, to some extent, that was true. Anakin was dead.
From the site of Anakin Skywalker s last stand on the molten surface of the planet Mustafar, where he sought to destroy his friend and former master, Obi-Wan Kenobi a fearsome specter in black has risen. Once the most powerful Knight ever known to the Jedi Order, he is now a disciple of the dark side, a lord of the dreaded Sith, and the avenging right hand of the galaxy s ruthless new Emperor. Seduced, deranged, and destroyed by the machinations of the Dark Lord Sidious, Anakin Skywalker is dead . . . and Darth Vader lives.


A fair by-the-numbers Star Wars book about Darth Vader’s rise to power.

 

Rooks

The Rook (The Checquy Files #1)
by Daniel O’Malley (2012)

“The body you are wearing used to be mine.” So begins the letter Myfanwy Thomas is holding when she awakes in a London park surrounded by bodies all wearing latex gloves. With no recollection of who she is, Myfanwy must follow the instructions her former self left behind to discover her identity and track down the agents who want to destroy her.

She soon learns that she is a Rook, a high-ranking member of a secret organization called the Chequy that battles the many supernatural forces at work in Britain. She also discovers that she possesses a rare, potentially deadly supernatural ability of her own.

In her quest to uncover which member of the Chequy betrayed her and why, Myfanwy encounters a person with four bodies, an aristocratic woman who can enter her dreams, a secret training facility where children are transformed into deadly fighters, and a conspiracy more vast than she ever could have imagined.


This is a good read and entertaining throughout, mainly due to the writing prose style that has a very modern feel. A major part of the narrative is the flashback/info-dumps provided be the main character. They provide the world-building and explanation for the characters.
Frequently being extensive and long they often feel like short stories dropped into the main narrative. The disadvantage is that they act to break and interrupt the flow of the main story.

There is a distinct tone shift in the second half as more humour in introduced into the characters and situations. It almost feels like the author is trying to correct for the rather grim-dark tone of the first half. So over all, an engaging read. It looks like the next book will dispense with flashbacks and could be better for it.

Turbo

Turbo is a 2013 American 3D computer-animated comedy sports film produced by DreamWorks Animation and distributed by 20th Century Fox. It is based on an original idea by David Soren, who also directed the film in his feature debut. Set in Los Angeles, the film features an ordinary garden snail whose dream of becoming the world’s fastest snail comes true.
The film stars the voices of Ryan Reynolds, Paul Giamatti, Michael Peña, Snoop Dogg, Maya Rudolph, Michelle Rodriguez and Samuel L. Jackson.

The film was met with generally positive reviews. Despite earning $282.5 million on a $127 million budget, the studio had to take a total of $15.6 million write-down on behalf of the film. A television series based on the film, titled Turbo FAST (Fast Action Stunt Team), was put into production a year before the film’s release and aired on Netflix on December 24, 2013.


A fun and well paced film with a (sort of) predictable ending. Recommended family viewing.

 

PM English

Simon William “Bill” English
(born 30 December 1961)

became Prime Minister-designate of New Zealand and leader of the National Party on 12 December 2016. Since 2008, he has been the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance.