Friday, April 30, 2010

media update: April

Occasionally, I'll go on Amazon and type in the names of some of my favorite authors to see if they have anything new coming out. If so, I add the title and release date to an ultranerdy Word document I keep on my desktop so I know when to look for it at the library or Borders.

Anyway, as longtime readers of this humble blog know, my absolute favorite book of all time is As Meat Loves Salt by Maria McCann. But she hasn't written anything since, and after a while I gave up on checking Amazon, but something made me look again.

And her second book, The Wilding, is out!

...but only in Britain.

It's a fairly recent release, so there's no telling when it will make its way stateside, or even IF it will. As Meat Loves Salt was a critical darling, but it didn't exactly set the bestseller list on fire.

So that's why I just placed an order with, and while I was at it, I threw in a couple of Sophie Hannah books and the latest Mo Hayder, since those haven't come out here either. Would you believe that even with tax and shipping, it cost me LESS than they would have if I bought them over here in hardcover?

I'm sure the package will take forever to arrive, but when it does, I'm gonna have a hardcore reading orgy. Four books by three of my favorite authors? I might just call in sick for a couple of days!

(And fear not, I'm not expecting The Wilding to be anywhere near as good as AMLS, which would only set me up for disappointment. But she's such a phenomenal writer that I have to assume I'll still enjoy it!)

Not a whole lot of books this month, but a shitload of manga (thank you, LA County library system!) and plenty of movies, including the best one I've seen so far this year.

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


1. Deception by Jonathan Kellerman: When a woman's body is discovered in her apartment, the police also find a DVD in which she claims severe harassment at the prestigious prep school where she worked. Dr. Alex Delaware and Lieutenant Milo Sturgis decide to dig deeper and find out what really happened. Kellerman can be dicey, but I enjoyed this one.

2. A Murderous Procession* by Ariana Franklin: In the latest installment of the "Mistress of the Art of Death" novels, Adelia Aguilar accompanies Princess Joanna and her entourage to Sicily. But as bodies start piling up, Adelia realizes that a nasty figure from her past is back, and he wants revenge. One review called this series "CSI meets The Canterbury Tales", which sums it up perfectly. The first one is still the best, but this one is quite good too, aside from one minor irritation: too many sentences end like this...


1. Whip Smart by Melissa Febos: I used to joke about becoming a dominatrix, because I figured it would be easy money: kick some sniveling dude around, call him a few nasty names, and pocket a mad grip of cash. But after reading this blisteringly honest memoir about the author's stint as a domme, I can't think of too many jobs I'd want to do less. One of the passages about scat play actually made me gag a little.

Anyway, there are 7 blurbs on this book's jacket, and since every single one is from an author I've read and enjoyed, my expectations were pretty damn high. Unfortunately, they weren't met. It's riddled with typos; for example, someone "crains" their neck, and she carries a "vile" of cocaine in her purse. Also, one of her coworkers is Chinese-American, and her dialogue is irritatingly stereotypical (i.e. "rittle" for little). For all I know, that's how she actually talked, but for Christ's sake, don't spell it out like that! Just say she had a heavy accent. And the author comes across as extremely unlikeable and arrogant. Still, I have to give her credit, because this couldn't have been easy to write.

Side note: when people write really graphic memoirs like this, I always wonder about their kids (current or future). Like, maybe Melissa Febos will get in an argument with her kid one day, only to have him/her yell, "Yeah, well, at least I didn't shit in some dude's yarmulke, Mom!"

(And no, that's not the scat play anecdote to which I referred. Oh no...that one is much worse.)

2. Showgirls, Teen Wolves, and Astro Zombies: A Film Critic's Year-Long Quest to Find the Worst Movie Ever Made* by Michael Adams: Make sure to have several empty slots in your Netflix queue before reading this hysterical book, because I guarantee you'll find several howlers listed that you'll want to watch immediately.

By the way, my favorite line in this book is when he refers to Madonna's prefame softcore flick A Certain Sacrifice as "avant-giardia".

3. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks* by Rebecca Skloot: The powerful true story of the woman whose cells (called HeLa) survive to this day. She died of cervical cancer in the fifties, and doctors took cells from her body without her family's permission. The cells have been used for everything from developing the polio vaccine to testing the effects of outer space and atom bombs. Medical companies have made tons of money off her cells, but her family can't even afford health insurance. A troubling and brilliant book that raises some very important questions about ethics, race, and science.


1. Wild Ones vol. 9 by Kiyo Fujiwara

2. Baby & Me* vols. 10-18 by Marimo Ragawa

3. Crown* vols. 1-2 by Shinji Wada and You Higuri

4. Invisible Love by Rie Honjyo

5. We Were There vol. 2 by Yuki Obata

6. Love Com vol. 17 by Aya Nakahara

7. Total Surrender by Hiroko Ishimaru

8. Yotsuba* vol. 8 by Kiyohiko Azuma

9. You Make My Head Spin by Kazuhiko Mishima

10. Shy Intentions by Shoko Takaku


1. Rocket Science: Encouraged by his crush, a teenage boy with a bad stutter joins the debate team. Aside from a few scenes, it didn't do much for me, but props for not going remotely where I thought it would.

2. Fantastic Mr. Fox*: In this quirky stop-motion fable, Mr. Fox promises his wife that he won't raid chicken coops anymore, but soon the temptation becomes too much to resist. It may sound cheesy as hell, but since it's based on a Roald Dahl book and directed by Wes Anderson, it's anything but. Charming fun.

3. Black Dynamite*: A pitch-perfect parody of the blaxploitation genre.

4. Where the Wild Things Are: Man, I could not get into this at ALL. Considering how much talent was involved, I thought it was boring as hell. Somebody on the IMDB board said something like "If you didn't like this movie, you just didn't get it," and I was all, bish please. Yes, I figured out that the monsters represented different aspects of himself or people in his life. No, I didn't care.

5. Groundhog Day*: In this sweetly strange comedy, Bill Murray plays a pissy weatherman who's none too happy about having to cover the annual appearance of Punxsutawney Phil. Things get weird when he keeps repeating the same day over and over again, and after his initial freakout, he takes the opportunity to make a change for the better.

6. 2012: It's the end of the world as we know it, and nobody's feeling too damn hot about it in this cheesy slice of disaster porn. Stupid and loud, but the terrific special effects (with the exception of some surprisingly bad greenscreen work) make it worth a watch. Be sure to check out the alternate ending, which is so unbelievably bad it makes the one they used look like the ending of The Sixth Sense.

7. Ninja Assassin: A rogue ninja goes on...oh, who cares. You either like this kind of thing or you don't. Fun, but I wish they'd concentrated more on the martial arts and less on the gore. At times it looks like an explosion in a red paint factory.

8. Princess: In this intensely depressing Danish animated film, August is a man who takes custody of his 5-year-old niece Mia when his sister, a porn star who goes by the name of Princess, dies. He blames the porn industry for her death (the cause of which is never explained, but drugs are hinted at), and when the studio for which she worked refuses to pull her movies from the shelves, he goes on a violent rampage. The animation is absolutely terrible, but the story is engrossing. I'm not usually keen on remakes, but I could see this being really good if the animation was better. (A live action film would have to be severely toned down due to some of the scenes involving Mia.)

9. Big Fan*: Patton Oswalt (in a stellar performance) plays Paul, a sad sack parking attendant who's such a rabid New York Giants fan he makes G and Padre look like haters. His whole life is devoted to watching football games and calling in to a local radio show to defend his team. So when he sees his favorite player at a gas station, he follows him, first to a seedy neighborhood and then to a strip club. He approaches the player to get his autograph, but things go wrong and Paul's idol viciously attacks him. When he recovers, he has to choose between doing the right thing for himself or doing the right thing for his beloved team.

10. Kick-Ass*: Dave is a teenage boy who loves superheroes and dreams of becoming one, even though he's just an ordinary kid. So he makes himself a costume out of a wetsuit and heads out to fight crime. He sees a man being beaten by thugs, and he interferes...and promptly gets the shit kicked out of him. But bystanders tape the incident on their cell phones, and he becomes an Internet sensation. Of course, he soon gets in over his head, and he's rescued by Hit Girl, a foulmouthed 11-year-old with supremely mad skills. He also meets her father, Big Daddy, and a fellow teen superhero named Red Mist, but when they all run afoul of a crime syndicate boss, things get nasty indeed.

I fucking LOVED this movie. It is over-the-top, balls-to-the-wall awesome. It's funny, action-packed, bloody, and even poignant at times, AND it features a song by the criminally underrated Sparks, one of my favorite bands ever. And Hit Girl is one of the coolest characters I've seen in a long time. Whether she's dropping F-bombs or slicing up bad guys, she steals every scene she's in. I'm sorry Kick-Ass isn't doing better at the box office (which surprised me; it was literally standing room only when we saw it), because I would love to see a sequel or a Hit Girl spinoff. I can't remember the last time I left a theater feeling so exhilarated.

11. New Moon: Okay, I'm going to lose whatever shred of street cred I have left, but...I didn't hate this movie. Yes, it's stupid and melodramatic and the CGI wolves blow and every time the vampires sparkled I laughed my ass off and I still don't understand why everybody is so obsessed with Bella when she has the personality of a wet paper towel, but I kind of enjoyed it. I'm sorry.

12. The Lovely Bones: Susie Salmon is a teenage girl who attracts the attention of a psychotic neighbor, and he lures her into an underground shelter and murders her. When she arrives in heaven, she watches over her grieving family and the neighbor, who's starting to plan his next attack.

I was expecting much more from this, because I loved the book by Alice Sebold, and of course I totally fangirl over Peter Jackson. But there was something about it that just didn't sit right with me. Heaven is portrayed as a psychedelic wonderland, and although it looks cool, it's also kind of cheesy. I think the special effects wound up overpowering the story.

Side note: although they removed any mention of Susie's rape (which was fine by me; the scene in the book was gutwrenching, and is described in a line that has stuck with me all these years: "My body was a river he pissed and shit in") and toned down the murder, that scene is still incredibly disturbing, and is followed by one that was straight out of Silent Hill and gave me a really wretched nightmare. I'd advise anyone who's extremely sensitive to stay far away.