Tuesday, January 01, 2008

media update: December

Asterisks denote something I particularly enjoyed or found especially worthy of my time; your mileage may vary.


1. The Flawless Skin of Ugly People* by Doug Crandell: Hobbie is a man with serious acne; his longtime girlfriend, Kari, is morbidly obese. She leaves him to attend a weight loss clinic, and his life changes in ways he couldn't have anticipated. There are occasional moments that don't ring true, but I was able to overlook them because, overall, this is a beautifully written and profoundly moving novel.

2. T Is for Trespass* by Sue Grafton: When Kinsey Millhone's elderly neighbor Gus is injured, his niece hires a private nurse named Solana Rojas to look after him. Kinsey doesn't like the nurse, and when she finds out that Solana is a sociopath who's stolen a former coworker's identity, she must try to stop Solana before Gus falls victim to her schemes. By far Grafton's most disturbing book, and (in my opinion) also her best.

3. The Darkest Evening of the Year by Dean Koontz: If you plan on reading this book, there's something you should know first: Dean Koontz loves dogs. I mean, LOVES dogs. Not in a creepy, illegal way, mind you, but he thinks they are just this side of holy and can do absolutely no wrong. (I think Diane Whipple might disagree with you, Mr. Koontz.) But if you can overlook the constant dog worship, this is a reasonably entertaining read about a woman whose life takes an ominous turn shortly after she rescues a golden retriever from an abusive household.

4. Songs Without Words by Ann Packer: The longtime friendship between two women is tested when one of their daughters tries to commit suicide. Well written, but ultimately a bit too much like a Lifetime movie for my tastes.

5. Double Cross by James Patterson: Alex Cross is in a pickle when his old nemesis Kyle Craig escapes from prison, and if that isn't bad enough, he's got a particularly flamboyant murderer to track down. So many of Patterson's books have been complete shit lately, but this one isn't bad.

6. Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides: The sprawling, Pulitzer Prize-winning epic about three generations of an incestuous Greek family. I loved Eugenides' first book, The Virgin Suicides, but this one didn't really grab me.

TOTAL READ IN 2007: 83


1. No Reservations* by Anthony Bourdain: A terrific collection of photos and anecdotes from the notoriously cranky (but always entertaining) chef.

2. Japan Ai: A Tall Girl's Adventures in Japan* by Aimee Major Steinberger: A charming and beautifully illustrated account of the author's trip to Japan.

TOTAL READ IN 2007: 84


Bored out of my skull, I visited a different library than the ones I usually frequent, and I found a treasure trove: almost ten full shelves of manga, including several volumes from the Harlequin Pink series. Apparently, Harlequin hired manga artists to illustrate some of their more popular books, and that's what numbers 6-12 are on this list. They're quick reading, cheesy as hell, and the epitome of a guilty pleasure.

1. All the Rage: The Boondocks Past and Present* by Aaron McGruder

2. Dramacon* vols. 1-3 by Svetlana Chmakova: A teenage girl is excited about attending her first anime convention, especially since she and her boyfriend will be selling their new comic book in the artist's alley. But when her boyfriend starts being a dick and flirting with every cute girl that comes to their table, she begins thinking about a possible romance with the cute guy she keeps bumping into. There's a plot device in volume 3 that was a little too convenient for my tastes, but overall I loved this series; it's very funny with the occasional sprinkling of angst.

3. Blankets by Craig Thompson

4. Presents by Kanako Inuki

5. Kitchen Princess* vols. 1-2 by Natsumi Ando and Miyuki Kobayashi

6. My Real Fake Boyfriend by Amanda Browning and Hiromi Kobayashi

7. Misunderstood by Roberta Lee and Tsukasa Shimeno

8. Heart on Fire by Charlotte Lamb and Yohna

9. A Prince Needs a Princess by Barbara McMahon and Reiko Kishida

10. Never Kiss a Stranger by Madeleine Ker and Mayu Kasumi

11. A Girl in a Million by Betty Neels and Kako Itoh

12. Idol Dreams by Charlotte Lamb and Yoko Hanabusa

TOTAL READ IN 2007: 51


1. Live Free or Die Hard*: A group of terrorists tries to shut down the government's computer system, but John McClane ain't having it. Goofy fun for people who like lots of 'splosions.

2. Beowulf*: Based on the old story that tormented so many of us in high school literature, this is probably the most visually stunning movie I've ever seen. It's completely computer animated, but at times, you honestly can't tell. If you have any interest in seeing this movie at all, I would strongly urge you to catch it before it leaves theaters, because it will lose so much impact on the small screen. We saw the 3D version, and it was spectacular.

3. Waitress: A waitress in a small town is none too happy to discover that she's pregnant by her abusive husband. She has a knack for making pies, so she plans to enter a baking competition, win the prize money, and escape. Keri Russell is great in the title role, and the script has some sweet moments, but it was a bit too schmaltzy to be truly engrossing.

4. Lars and the Real Girl: Ryan Gosling is fantastic as a troubled young man who orders a life-size doll online and treats her like a real person. His friends and family, after some hesitation, decide to play along. This is one of the oddest movies I think I've ever seen, and although I didn't like it as much as I thought I would, it had its moments. (And yes, goddammit, I cried at the end...much to the amusement of the elderly couple sitting in front of me.)

5. Superbad*: In hopes of getting laid, two teenage boys try to score booze for a party. Needless to say, things don't turn out quite the way they expected. This was like an unbelievably raunchy John Hughes movie, and I laughed my freakin' ass off.

6. The Simpsons Movie*: Yes, it's like an extra-long episode with mild profanity and full frontal (animated) nudity...but it's also extremely funny.

7. Babel: Well, THAT was depressing.



1. Hedwig and the Angry Inch (soundtrack)
2. "Mickey Mouse" by Sparks
3. "Yuruga Kotonai Ai" by Naomi Tamura


Okay, so it's a full-length CG movie and not a new game, but Leon and Claire together again? OMFGYESPLZ.