Asterisks denote something I particularly enjoyed or found especially worthy of my time; your mileage may vary.
1. The Infinite Sea
* by Rick Yancey: This is the second book in a series, so I can't properly review it lest I spoil its predecessor. It's really good, though.
2. How to Build a Girl
by Caitlin Moran: After embarrassing herself on local TV with a terrible Scooby Doo impression, British teenager Johanna Morrigan reinvents herself as Dolly Wilde and manages to score a job as a music reviewer. She presents herself as a brash, cynical "swashfuckler", but she's still a virgin who has no idea how to navigate her new world. It's often very funny, and there's the occasional line that really hit home. This was one of my favorite passages: "This is the terrible thing about learning everything from books---sometimes you don't know how to say the words. You know the ideas, but you cannot discuss them with people with any confidence. And so you stay silent."
Side note: I went on a MASSIVE downloading spree while reading this, because it's set in the early 1990s and she talks about so many fantastic British bands that I kept going "Ooh, I could use some Ride/Pulp/Suede in my music library!"
3. The Walking Dead: Descent
by Jay Bonansinga: This is the latest installment in a series so I can't properly review it etc. It was meh.
1. Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory
* by Caitlin Doughty: The author (best known for her "Ask a Mortician" webseries) discusses her work as a mortician and how we view death in our culture. Morbidly fascinating, but if you're squeamish, stay away.
2. Not That Kind of Girl
by Lena Dunham: A collection of essays by the extremely polarizing creator and star of Girls
. If you're not already a fan, this won't win you over, but if you like her work (or, like me, you have a like/loathe relationship with it), it's a good read.
3. The Skeleton Crew
by Deborah Halber: A fascinating look at amateur sleuths who devote their spare time to solving cold cases by scouring the internet.
4. I Work at a Public Library*
by Gina Sheridan: A collection of weird stories from the author's job as a librarian, many of which are laugh out loud funny. I was surprised by one anecdote about a kid trying to check out an M-rated video game, though; where are these magical libraries that rent video games? Because the ones in Los Angeles county sure don't! Not that I'm complaining all that much; as long as they keep me in books, I'm happy. (Seriously, every single book/graphic novel/volume of manga and two of the DVDs listed here came from the library. If I didn't have access to a decent library system, I would either go broke buying books or read probably 1/10 as much.)
Side note: I've never worked in a library (and have no desire to, both because I wouldn't want to keep getting recertified and because I fucking hate people), but these are my two favorite personal library anecdotes.
#1: I went to the library immediately after work, so I still had my work clothes (back when we still had to dress up) and work badge on. An elderly woman came up to me and asked me where a particular book would be located. If I'd known, I would have told her, but I didn't, so I pointed at my work badge and said, "I'm sorry, I don't actually work here." She glared at me and barked, "Well, why the hell not?"
#2: I was looking at the new book section when a young man with Downs came up to me and said hi. I said hi back, and then he moved a little closer to me, took a deep breath, and said with a huge smile, "You smell like happy feels!" Still one of the best compliments I've ever gotten in my life. I just wish I could remember what perfume I was wearing at the time!
by Liz Prince
2. Say I Love You*
vols. 1-4 by Kanae Hazuki
3. Food Wars!
* vol. 2 by Yuto Tsukuda and Shun Saeki
4. My Love Story!!
* vol. 2 by Kazune Kawahara and Aruko
5. Kamisama Kiss
vol. 16 by Julietta Suzuki
6. The Walking Dead
* vol. 21 by Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard
7. What Did You Eat Yesterday?*
by Fumi Yoshinaga
vol. 20 by Bill Willingham and Mark Buckingham
by Michael Cho
10. Sugar Skull
by Charles Burns
11. No Matter How I Look at It, It's You Guys' Fault I'm Not Popular!
* vol. 5 by Nico Tanigawa
12. Spell of Desire
by Tomu Ohmi
: Jacob is an angry 13-year-old who constantly gets into trouble. But when his antics force CPS to remove his little brother Wes from the home, Jacob and his father try to get Wes back. The kid who played Jacob reminded me of a young River Phoenix in both looks and talent. And you know how sometimes a person inhabits an iconic role so completely that you can't see them in anything else without thinking of that role? Aaron Paul's so good as the father that I forgot he played Jesse Pinkman in Breaking Bad
. Although the story wasn't anything groundbreaking, the performances are so good that I'm giving this a star.
2. They Came Together
: In this semi-spoof of romantic comedies, Molly (Amy Poehler) owns a small candy store that's about to be gobbled up by a huge company. It's hate at first sight when she meets Joel (Paul Rudd), who works for the competition, but can they overcome their differences and fall in love? The laughs are pretty scattershot, but there are a few that hit hard, and it's worth seeing if you like Poehler or Rudd. (And if you don't, I'm sorry your taste is so floptacular.)
3. The Signal
: Nic and Jonah are buddies who are helping Nic's girlfriend move across the country to a new school. When they finally pinpoint the location of a hacker that's been trolling them and discover that he's on their route, they decide to pay him a visit, and things don't go as planned. I'm not giving it a star because I thought it started much stronger than it finished, but it's unique enough that it's worth a look. A piece of advice, though: if you want to see this, go into it knowing as little as possible.
4. The Normal Heart
*: Based on the Larry Kramer play, this movie follows an activist (Mark Ruffalo) and his friends as they fight to raise awareness at the beginning of the AIDS crisis. At times it's a bit too obvious that it started out as a play, leading to some stilted pacing, but the incredible performances and some truly heartrending moments made up for it.
5. A Million Ways to Die in the West
*: Albert (Seth MacFarlane) lives in a small western town, tending his sheep and hoping for a more exciting life. He gets his wish when gorgeous Anna (Charlize Theron) moves to town, but then her gunslinger husband (Liam Neeson) shows up. This was actually really funny, although if you're not already a fan of MacFarlane's brand of humor, I doubt this will change your mind.
Side note: If you want to watch the unrated version instead of the theatrical version, you can choose it in the extras section, which unfortunately we didn't discover until after we'd already watched the movie. Most DVDs let you pick a version BEFORE you watch the damn movie, so that was annoying. Speaking of the extras, there's some great stuff in there, so if you like the movie, check those out too!
6. Edge of Tomorrow
*: Major William Cage (Tom Cruise) is a bit of a coward who's never actually engaged in combat. But when an alien race attacks Earth, he's dropped into battle and caught in a time loop, forced to relive the same day over and over again. By learning from his mistakes, he gets closer to ending the fight once and for all. Very clever and surprisingly funny, and Emily Blunt is terrific as the badass who helps Cage out. This movie tanked hard, but it really didn't deserve to.
7. Brick Mansions
: In the near future, a crime-ridden area of Detroit is walled off from the rest of the city. Cop Damien Collier (Paul Walker in his last completed role) goes undercover to infiltrate the area and track down the drug lord who killed his father. This is a remake of the French flick District B13
, so if you've seen that you probably don't need to see this one too, but it was fun.
8. The Fault in Our Stars
*: Hazel (Shailene Woodley) is a teenage girl in remission from cancer. She meets Gus (Ansel Elgort) at a support group, and they fall in love. Even if you're not familiar with the book this is based on, you can probably guess what happens. A surprisingly funny and very sweet movie, and oh god will you need tissues.
9. Cold in July
: After killing an intruder in his home, Richard Dane (Michael C. Hall) is visited by the intruder's father, and what initally seemed like a standard revenge thriller turns into something more complicated. Tense and grim.
: A married couple (Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne) are unhappy when a fraternity moves in next door, but they try to be welcoming. Then the frat's loud parties keep them and their baby up at night, and they begin plotting ways to drive the frat out of their neighborhood for good. It's pretty goddamn funny, and a welcome palate cleanser after the unrelenting darkness of the previous movie on this list.
ADDED TO MY IPOD
1. "Manmadeiya!" by Chubbiness: This is the debut single of a Japanese idol group that's been getting some buzz, even here in the US, because their gimmick is that all of the members are "chubby". Here's the video so you can see just how chubby they really are.
Yeah, that's chubby in Japan. Jesus Christ, in the US they'd be used as thinspo! Only one of them could be considered remotely overweight, and certainly not by much.
Anyway, there's a lot about idol culture that I find problematic, but this song is catchier than the flu and they're freakin' adorable. I'd like them to branch out and do songs that deal with things other than their weight, but I love them and hope they do well. Plus Kawai Akina (the one in purple) tweeted me, so I kind of feel like we're BFFs now.
2. "Candy Pop in Love" by Tommy February6
3. "Q-TEE" by Ai Ichikawa
4. "Frustration Music" by Hysteric Blue
5. "Blue Knife" (Japanese version): This is Kitty-N's theme from the classic PS1 rhythm game Bust a Groove. One New Year's Eve my friend Tara and I rented a hotel room and got drunk and played this game for probably six hours straight. I kicked her ass (except when she was playing Gas-O and I couldn't get the timing right) and it was awesome.
6. "Mei Q" (ending song from Tantei Gakuen Q)
7. "Searching for New World" by Strawberry Jam
8. "Mouse" by Under 17
9. "Spicy Marmalade" (from the Gravitation OST)
10. "Blind Game Again" (from the Gravitation OST)
11. "Where Are You Baby" by Betty Boo
12. "Vapour Trail" by Ride
13. "Common People" by Pulp
14. "Something Sweet" by The Allies
15. "Canta Per Me" (from the Noir soundtrack)
16. "My Insatiable One" by Suede
17. "Bruise Violet" by Babes in Toyland
18. "Sweet '69" by Babes in Toyland
19. "Lollirot" by Jack Off Jill
20. "Water Boy" by Imperial Teen
21. "Pepper" by Butthole Surfers
22. "You're the Best" (South Park version) by Joe Esposito
23. "Lipstick" by Orange Caramel
24. "Credens Justitiam (Mami's Theme)" from Puella Magi Madoka Magica
25. "Tell Me" by Wonder Girls
26. "Goodbye" by Wonder Girls
27. "Milkshake" by Orange Caramel
28. "Aing" by Orange Caramel
29. "Bubble Bath" by Orange Caramel
21. "Temporary Ground" by Jack White
VIDEO GAME OF THE MONTH #1
In the busy shopping district of Akihabara (often shortened as "Akiba"), vampire-like creatures called synthisters are draining people of their energy. The only way to stop the synthisters is by methodically stripping them of their clothes, thus exposing them to the sun. The protagonist (whose name the player picks; I chose Yosuke in honor of my favorite Persona 4 character), who was turned into a synthister, bands together with his friends to defend the neighborhood they love.
- It's a delightfully bizarre ode to otaku culture.
- Although the game is obviously chock full of fanservice (no nudity, though), at least it's pretty evenly divided between gender lines.
- It's often very funny. For example, in the English dialogue/subtitles, Yosuke's younger sister Nana calls him names like "Brotagonist" or "Brototype". In the Japanese dialogue, she only calls him "nii-nii" (a very cutesy and childish nickname for an older brother), so the localization team did a great job with their creative license. I also particularly enjoyed this dialogue tree choice: "Kickass! You'll be a hit, girl!" If you don't get why that's awesome, then I'm sorry but we can no longer be friends.
- I liked the smartphone interface for checking side missions, email, maps, and stats.
- You can read "Pitter" feeds, which are a spot-on parody of Twitter and YouTube comments.
- The game covers a wide area, so the fast travel option was very welcome!
- The English voice acting was pretty dismal, so we switched to the Japanese option after about 10 minutes of playing.
- The music and gameplay get rather repetitive.
- There are lots of side missions you can do, but with rare exceptions, they're not really worth the trouble, especially since half the time we couldn't even find the person we were supposed to be helping.
- Oddly enough, considering this is a Japanese game, for the most part the characters didn't look "authentic" to me. They looked more like Deviant Art sketches of anime characters than the real deal.
- I never really felt connected to any of the characters. The layout of the screen when talking to someone was very reminiscent of Persona 4, but unlike P4, when I was done with the game, I didn't immediately miss the characters.
Overall, this is a fun little fighting game that's worth a rental just for the sheer WTFery of it. I give it 6 ripped maid uniforms out of 10.
VIDEO GAME OF THE MONTH #2
I've said this many times for books, but I don't think I've ever said it before for a video game, so here goes: This is a direct sequel to the first game, so I can't properly review it lest I spoil its predecessor. I'll just say that it's terrific, and Clementine is one of my favorite video game characters, so it was wonderful spending time with her again. If you have any love in your heart for the Walking Dead universe and/or zombies in general, do yourself a favor and check this series out. It's tense, the story is great, and it's almost as much fun to watch as it is to play. I give it 8 shuffling zombies out of 10.