Thursday, November 01, 2007

media update: October

The third (and final) installment of my Vegas entries will appear tomorrow, as it's time for the media update. Asterisks denote something I particularly enjoyed or found especially worthy of my time; your mileage may vary.


1. The Nature of Monsters* by Clare Clark: In 1700's England, a young pregnant woman named Eliza is forced into seclusion, working as a maid for a mysterious man who wants to prove that frightening a woman during her pregnancy will result in the birth of a monster. When his experiments on Eliza fail, he turns his attention to Mary, a mentally challenged woman, and Eliza is determined to save Mary and her unborn child. Beautifully written, although unnerving and bleak at times; I couldn't put it down.

2. Five Things I Can't Live Without by Holly Shumas: A woman starts her own business punching up other people's personal ads, and in the process, she begins to wonder how happy she really is in her own life. A fun read that's a cut above most chick lit.

3. Dexter in the Dark by Jeff Lindsay: The third book in the series about a serial killer who only takes out bad guys. It should have been called Deeply Disappointing Dexter, because I loved the first two, but this one was just meh.

4. Smart Girls Like Me* by Diane Vadino: In this funny, bittersweet novel, set in 1999, a young woman prepares for Y2K and her best friend's wedding while trying to figure out what she wants for herself, and if she should even bother trying to find happiness when the world might be coming to an end. My only real complaint about this book is that it wasn't longer.

5. The Abstinence Teacher* by Tom Perrotta: Ruth, a human sexuality teacher, creates a firestorm of controversy when she tells her class that some people enjoy oral sex. Tim is her daughter's soccer coach, a former drug addict who found religion. This sharp, funny satire is about what happens when the two butt heads. Highly recommended.

6. The Almost Moon by Alice Sebold: After years of suppressing her rage, a woman snaps and kills her elderly mother. This book starts with the murder, and then goes on to tell how she finally reached that point. Just a really unpleasant novel with no sympathetic characters and some truly cringe-inducing lines. ("There it was, the hole that gave birth to me...This was not the first time I'd been face to face with my mother's genitalia.") I loved her other two books, Lucky and The Lovely Bones, so this was a real disappointment.


1. Blonde Ambition by Rita Cosby: Yes, I'm about as sick of Anna Nicole Smith stories as anyone else, but I wanted to read this before it gets yanked off the shelf. Howard K. Stern is suing the author for $60 million, and after reading this, I can see why; it's filled with unbelievable amounts of dirt. I'd heard most of it before, such as the supposed videotape of him and Larry Birkhead sucking each other off, but a few things were news to me, like the photograph he allegedly took of a distraught Anna Nicole cradling her dead son, hoping to sell it to the highest bidder. If even half the allegations in this book are true, I hope karma exists so that it can bite Howard K. Stern in his disgusting, greedy ass.

2. Sick Girl by Amy Silverstein: This is the author's account of her heart transplant and the tense years that followed it. I had a hard time getting into this because she seems so friggin' unpleasant. On the one hand, it was refreshing that she didn't try to act like some nobly suffering saint, but instead she just came across as selfish and whiny. I know full well how truly shitty it is to be seriously ill, but it doesn't give you carte blanche to be a constant sniveling bitch either. (Occasional sniveling and/or bitchiness is, of course, excused.)

3. Dating Amy by Amy DeZellar: When the author moved to Seattle, she started a website detailing her adventures in the dating world. It's not consistently funny, but it has its moments. My personal favorite: an anecdote from a friend of hers about using Alka-Seltzer to cure a yeast infection.

4. The Vixen Diaries by Karrine Steffans: Trash, garbage, swill. I found it especially grating when she referred to herself as an "icon". Yeah, because fucking every famous and/or rich guy she meets makes her an icon. The best part of this book was when it ended.

5. Look Me in the Eye by John Elder Robison: In this memoir, the author talks about living with Asperger's syndrome, which is a form of autism often characterized by, among other things, high intelligence, limited social skills, and an inability to look people in the eye. (Jesus, sounds kind of like me!) Some of the descriptions of his engineering feats drag, but overall it's an interesting read.

6. Beyond the Body Farm by Dr. Bill Bass and Jon Jefferson: The renowned forensic anthropologist describes some of his most memorable cases.

7. My Boring-Ass Life: The Uncomfortably Candid Diary of Kevin Smith*: This book gets repetitive at times, but if you love Kevin Smith and his movies, you ought to enjoy this immensely. There's a great section about helping Jason Mewes ("Jay") through heroin withdrawal, as well as some really funny lines and the occasional deep insight.

8. Foreskin's Lament* by Shalom Auslander: Terrible title, but the book itself is damn good. Growing up in a strict Orthodox family, the author struggled against Judaism in any way he could, from sneaking Slim Jims at the public pool to eagerly reading the skin mags he found abandoned at a place he reverently nicknamed the Stone of Pornography. There are some great lines in here; at one point, talking about using a stolen jar of Oil of Olay to masturbate with, he says "I was depressed and I was lonely, but my genitals never looked younger." Funny, angry, excellent stuff.


1. Swan* vol. 11 by Ariyoshi Kyoko


1. 28 Weeks Later*: Just when you thought it was safe to return to England, the "rage virus" starts spreading again, turning people into bloodthirsty, super-strong zombies. Nerve-wracking as hell.

2. The Bourne Identity*: I hadn't seen any of the Bourne movies before, so I wanted to catch up before the third one comes out on DVD. Anyway, I thought this was quite good and very exciting; my right thumbnail became a casualty during a particularly tense scene.

3. The Lookout: A young man who suffers from memory loss is duped into assisting with a bank robbery. Not as good as I thought it would be, but Joseph Gordon Levitt is amazing as always.

4. Flight of the Living Dead*: This flick about zombies taking over a plane was so much better than I thought it would be; there are some great lines and a couple of innovative death scenes. We're obviously not talking about a classic for the ages, but you could do far worse if you want a little gore spiced up with black humor.