media update: June
Bleh. Remember how April was really crappy? And then May lured me into a false sense of security by being decent? June wasn't as bad as April, but it still sucked. In chronological order: my laptop began acting the fool after a Windows update, which led to lots and lots of hair pulling (it's better than it was, but still has bouts of being a prick); my new supervisor fucked me out of an amazing opportunity and was just useless in general; and an old friend of mine (J) got seriously hurt. She fell down the stairs and hit her back against the handrail in such a way that it broke a vertebrae and ruptured several discs. J didn't realize just how bad it was until a couple of weeks after the incident, when she began experiencing excruciating pain and had to be rushed into emergency surgery. The last I heard, she was out of the hospital but not doing very well physically or (understandably) emotionally. J is one of the kindest people I've ever met (top 5 easy) and gave me some incredibly invaluable advice during the early days of my relationship with G-Vo, so this fucking blows. I'm an atheist, but I've been praying (in the general, "good energy out into the universe" kind of way) every night for her recovery.
Not too many movies on the list this month, as G-Vo and I binge watched My Mental Choices Are Completely Interfering with My School Romantic Comedy! (a very funny anime that is usually referred to as NouCome, a shortened version of its Japanese title, for obvious reasons) and finished up season 3 of Homeland. On my own, I finally got through season 2 of Orange Is the New Black and went through a long losing streak of Netflix discs that didn't pass the 20-minute test, but at least I got a lot of reading done!
Asterisks denote something that I particularly enjoyed or found especially worthy of my time; double asterisks are reserved for the absolute creme de la creme. Your mileage, as ever, may vary.
1. An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir: After Laia's grandparents are murdered and her brother is arrested for treason, she vows to do everything she can to save him. She agrees to be sold into slavery in order to spy on the Commandant, but she's not prepared to fall in love with the Commandant's son. I think my expectations for this book were way too high, because I thought I was going to love it. It's much better written than 95% of YA fiction, but I never felt emotionally involved. I think it would make a great movie, though, and I hope they get Tilda Swinton to play the Commandant.
2. Finders Keepers by Stephen King: Reclusive author John Rothstein is murdered, and the assailants steal his money and a stack of notebooks containing his unpublished work. Morris Bellamy kills his co-conspirators and buries the money and notebooks in a trunk, but then he's arrested and sent to prison for a different crime. When Bellamy is finally released, he goes to dig up the trunk...and discovers that someone else has gotten to it first. He is, to put it mildly, very unhappy, and he sets out to find and punish the perpetrator.
Stephen King is my favorite author, and has been for the vast majority of my life, but to be honest, this book was pretty disappointing. If it had been written by anyone else, I doubt I would have finished it.
3. Under Your Skin by Sabine Durrant: TV host Gaby Mortimer is taking an early morning jog when she discovers the dead body of a young woman. She reports it to the police, but an impulsive action she takes before doing so comes back to bite her in the ass in a big way. I liked it fine, but the ending was a colossal cheat.
4. I Take You* by Eliza Kennedy: Lily's fiance Will is a handsome archeologist who's also great in bed, but Lily just can't stop cheating on him. When they go to Key West for the wedding, her unusual family and his scheming mother make things even more complicated. Much smarter and snarkier than your average chick lit novel, and there are several lines that made me laugh out loud. It would make a GREAT movie.
5. The Shock of the Fall by Nathan Filer: Matthew has never been the same after the death of his brother Simon. Deep in the throes of schizophrenia, he thinks Simon has come back. Another one of those novels that got hyped up so much that I was sure I would love it, but I merely liked it. You'd think I would have learned by now!
6. Faces of the Dead by Suzanne Weyn: Marie-Therese is the daughter of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. She lives a pampered life at Versailles, but she wants to know more about the real world, so she disguises herself as her friend Ernestine and sneaks out to explore Paris. When the revolution breaks out, she goes into hiding. This was marketed as YA, but the reading level is lower than that. I only finished it because I was very hard up for reading material at the time.
7. A Court of Thorns and Roses* by Sarah J. Maas: While out hunting, Feyre kills a wolf, but it turns out to be a faerie in disguise. A beast comes to her house and demands that she accompany him to the faerie kingdom of Prythian as payment for killing his friend. When she gets to Prythian, her captor reveals himself as a very hot faerie named Tamlin. Feyre initially chafes against her captivity, but begins to fall in love with Tamlin, which is not such a great idea when Prythian is about to go to war. A delightful diversion, and surprisingly spicy for a YA novel. One quibble, though: if faeries are so dangerous and feared by everyone, why did Feyre's parents give her a name that sounds so much like "faerie"?
8. The Ice Twins by S.K. Tremaine: Sarah is still reeling after the accidental death of her daughter Lydia. She and her husband, along with Lydia's identical twin sister Kirstie, decide to move to a tiny Scottish island he inherited in hopes that a change of scenery will help them heal. But Kirstie begins to claim that she's actually Lydia, and that Kirstie is the one who died in the accident, and Sarah begins to wonder if it's true. It was okay; the premise was much better than the execution.
9. A Good Killing by Allison Leotta: After her sister Jody is accused of murdering a beloved high school coach, federal prosecutor Anna returns to their hometown to prove Jody's innocence. But as Anna investigates, she uncovers ugly secrets that throw everything she thought she knew into question. Occasionally a bit melodramatic, but I liked it.
10. Freedom's Child* by Jax Miller: After spending two years in jail for the murder of her husband, Freedom Oliver is living in the witness protection program to hide from her husband's insane family. When she learns that the daughter she gave up for adoption is missing, Freedom steals a gun and a motorcycle and heads out to find Rebekah. It reads like early Lehane, and it's damn good.
2015 tally so far: 43
1. Visiting Hours by Amy Butcher: When the author was in college, her friend Kevin stabbed his girlfriend Emily to death. In this memoir, she tries to make sense of the tragedy and deal with how it affected every aspect of her life. Decent, but it kind of bothered me how she made everything about her and not, you know, the actual victim.
2. The Harm in Asking: My Clumsy Encounters with the Human Race by Sara Barron: This batch of humorous essays is nowhere near as good as Barron's previous book, People Are Unappealing: Even Me, which is similar in theme but much funnier. Try that one instead.
2015 tally so far: 11
1. The Walking Dead vol. 23 by Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard
2. Say I Love You vols. 7-8 by Kanae Hazuki
3. Southern Bastards vols. 1-2 by Jason Aaron and Jason LaTour
4. Food Wars!* vol. 6 by Yuto Tsukuda and Shun Saeki
5. Kamisama Kiss vol. 18 by Julietta Suzuki
2015 tally so far: 45 volumes of manga and 12 graphic novels
1. Batman vs. Robin: Batman finds himself at odds with the Court of Owls and his son Damien (aka Robin). Terrible character designs, and why they had Kevin Conroy voice Thomas Wayne and not Batman is beyond me, but there were some great action sequences.
2. Fifty Shades of Grey: A young nun (Dakota Johnson) begins to question her commitment to the church. When she's sent on a mission to Rwanda to help war orphans, she rediscovers her faith and finds a new purpose in life.
...JK LOLing y'all know exactly what this movie is about. The books were garbage, and the movie is also garbage. G-Vo and I had to stop halfway through for shots of Jagermeister and whipped cream vodka in order to make it through the rest. There were a couple of hot moments, but overall this was dreadful. And Jamie Dornan was terrible, which I wasn't expecting because he was so good in The Fall (the British miniseries, not my beloved Lee Pace movie). Even though Charlie Hunnam didn't really match up with the physical description of Christian, I think he would have been a much better choice.
3. Chappie: A scrapped police robot is rescued from the junk pile and given sentience by his creator. Chappie winds up falling into the hands of a gang who want to use him in their heists. It's not great, but it isn't bad either, and Chappie himself is very endearing. (I particularly loved how his "ears" would flatten against his head when he was sad or scared, just like a dog.)
4. About Time*: When Tim turns 21, his father lets him in on a little secret: all of the men in their family can travel back in time, but only to their own past. Of course, Tim doesn't believe him, but he tries anyway and is astonished to find out that it's true. When he meets Mary (Rachel McAdams, starring in her second time travel romance after The Time Traveler's Wife), the woman of his dreams, he uses this ability to "fine tune" their relationship. You have to ignore the loopholes/logistics of any movie involving time travel, and this is no exception, but that's fine because it's such a lovely, charming, sweet movie. Tissues are mandatory.
2015 tally so far: 48
ADDED TO MY IPOD
1. Crazy for You (full album) by Best Coast
2. "Embrace That Sky" (Kimagure Orange Road OST)
3. "Thrill" by Band-Maid: This is an awesome song by an all-female Japanese heavy metal band. They dress in adorable maid costumes, but they really don't need the gimmickry because they're actually really good. Give this a whirl on YouTube and see if you don't agree.
4. Drones (full album) by Muse
VIDEO GAME OF THE MONTH
In this PS4 exclusive, London is being terrorized by werewolves and anti-government rebels. Fortunately, the Order isn't taking this shit lightly. The men and women who belong to the Order are sworn to protect the city, and armed with a magical healing potion called Blackwater and weapons crafted by Nikola Tesla himself, they take up arms and try to clean up the streets and unravel a conspiracy.
- First and foremost, this game is GORGEOUS. It's one of the most visually stunning games I've ever played. The facial animations are terrific, and the backdrops are beautiful.
- Excellent voice acting.
- I really liked the characters, especially protagonist Galahad and his fellow knights, Lady Igraine and Sir Lafayette. Oh my god did I have a crush on Lafayette. At one point, when he was acting particularly sexy and French, I squealed "Laffy-kun, daisuki!", which G-Vo really enjoyed. (no he didn't)
- The gunfights were challenging without being rip-your-hair-out obnoxious.
- This is the first video game I've ever played with full frontal male nudity, which I appreciated because I want dong equality in my video games. True, none of the dongs belonged to people I particularly WANTED to see naked, but I certainly appreciated the effort. I can only hope that the sequel, if there is one, features a scene with Lafayette unlacing his trousers and purring, "Mademoiselle, voici mon dong." I will buy it immediately.
OUT OF ORDER
- This game is SHORT. I think it took us a little under 10 hours to finish, and there's no replay value, so once you're done, you're done. One of the biggest criticisms of this game was its length, and I can see why; who wants to pay $60 for such a short game?
- Because the characters alternate between their real names and their Order names, I sometimes got confused who the hell people were talking about.
- The werewolves actually don't factor all that heavily into the story, which was disappointing because they were one of the things I was most looking forward to.
- It's like playing a movie, which is great as far as visuals go, but not so much as far as the gameplay is concerned. I like a bit more gaming in, y'know, my video games. I know this sounds a bit rich coming from someone whose second favorite video game of all time is Heavy Rain, but Heavy Rain had a LOT more actual gameplay in it, and much more replay value thanks to its multiple endings.