Thursday, November 01, 2012

media update: October

Before I begin, I want to send much love to my friends on the east coast. Stay safe!

Also, Blogger, WHAT THE FUCK with this new interface?  The old one had its problems, but I didn't need to edit my posts five fucking times before they displayed properly!  Boo.  BOO TO YOU.

Got a whole lot of reading done this month, thanks to a dearth of decent TV/a string of quickly ejected Netflix flops and sitting in LAX for 4 hours and McCarran for 2. (Thanks, Delta!)

You may be shocked to see something other than Resident Evil 6 listed as game o' the month, but we're not quite finished as we've just unlocked the secret mission. Expect a full report next month!

(And can I just say that I ship Chris and Piers so frickin' HARD? Oh my god, I'm like an addict. I found and promptly bookmarked a Tumblr page devoted to their sexy hot manlove. Because of rampant spoilers, don't even think of going there if you haven't finished their campaign. Also, if you hate sexy hot manlove.)


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


1. The Incense Game by Laura Joh Rowland: In 1709, an earthquake devastates Japan, and the bodies of an incense master and two of her students are found in the rubble. Sano Ichiro, the samurai detective, quickly realizes that the women were poisoned, not killed by the earthquake, and he has to get to the bottom of it or risk the wrath of the students' outraged father. I've always really enjoyed Rowland's books, and this is a particularly good entry in the series. There's a subplot involving mystical hoodoo that was kind of bleh, but some excellent surprises made up for it.

2. The Likeness* by Tana French: Detective Cassie Maddox is called to a murder scene, where she's stunned to discover that the victim, Lexie Madison, could be her identical twin. Not only that, but the victim was using the alias that Cassie used when working undercover. Seizing upon this unusual opportunity, Cassie's boss tells Lexie's four roommates that she was only wounded, and after "Lexie" recovers, Cassie takes Lexie's place in the household, hoping the killer will try to finish the job. But the longer she stays in the house, the more she finds that she likes being Lexie.

Sure, the premise is improbable as all get out; seriously, what are the odds that not only is a completely unrelated individual your exact double, but you're able to imitate them to the extent that their roommates don't even suspect anything? But that aside, this is another corker from Tana French that I raced through in record time. And the very last paragraph is some of the best writing I've ever read, period.

3. The Diviners* by Libba Bray: In 1927, after causing a scandal in her Ohio hometown, freewheeling flapper Evie O'Neill is sent to live with her uncle in New York City. Even though he runs a museum devoted to the occult, Evie is reluctant to tell him that she can learn about a person merely by touching an object of theirs. But when a serial killer with a decidedly supernatural bent starts terrorizing NYC, Evie is determined to take him down.

Great literature? No. A fun, engrossing read? As Evie would say, posi-tute-ly! (Okay, her constant use of that word did get a little old, to be honest.) It's the first in a series, and I can't wait to read the next one.

4. Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo: The nation of Ravka has been split in two by the Shadow Fold, a stretch of darkness teeming with vicious monsters called Volcra. Alina is a teenage girl who discovers that she has magical powers that could dispel the darkness for good. This ability attracts the attention of a mysterious man called the Darkling, who brings her to the capital for training, but Alina begins to suspect that he may have ulterior motives. Enjoyable enough, but unlike book #3 above, I won't be pouncing on the sequel as soon as it's released.

5. May We Be Forgiven* by A.M. Homes: Harold has spent his life in the shadow of his older brother George, a successful TV executive. But then George causes a car accident that kills two people...and then things get even worse. Harold winds up taking care of his niece and nephew and trying to make sense of his life even as it falls apart all around him. As you'd expect from the woman who wrote The End of Alice (one of my ten favorite books of all time), this book is a pitch black, occasionally funny look at human nature and dysfunctional families.

6. In the Woods* by Tana French: When a 12-year-old girl is found murdered in the woods, homicide detective Rob Ryan and his partner Cassie Maddox (yes, the same one from book #2 on this list) take the case. But Rob has a secret: when he was a young boy, two of his friends disappeared from the same woods and he was found with his shoes full of blood and no recollection of what happened. The cases share a tenuous link, so if anyone finds out that Rob is the same child found in the woods, now living under an assumed name, it could put everything in jeopardy. I had a quibble with something I won't mention due to spoilers, but overall, this was another terrific book by Tana French. I'm just sad that now I've read all of her published work and will have to wait a long time for the next novel!

7. The Chocolate Money by Ashley Prentice Norton: Bettina is a young girl whose glamorous mother, Babs, is the heiress to a chocolate fortune. Babs is, to put it mildly, a shitty parent, but Bettina still craves her love. Starts off strong, but it begins to peter out in the middle and falls completely flat by the end.

8. The Bone Bed by Patricia Cornwell: A woman working on a dinosaur bone bed in Canada disappears, and a mysterious video clip shows up in Kay Scarpetta's e-mail. Things get even weirder when another woman's body is found being dragged by an enormous leatherback turtle. Better than most of the recent Scarpetta novels, but still nowhere near as good as Cornwell's heyday.


1. The Burning House: What Would You Take? by Foster Huntington: A fascinating collection of pictures of the things people would take with them if they had to flee their house in a hurry. My favorite response to the question is still Jean Cocteau's: "If I had to take one thing with me from a burning house, I would take the fire."

For the record, here are the things I would take within reason, by which I mean things that could fit in a large suitcase. (Seriously, some of the people in the book were bringing pianos and shit, which could only happen if it was the slowest fire in the history of all evertime, in which case their time would probably be better used putting the fire out.)

  • My purse, not because I'm emotionally attached to it but because it has my phone, wallet, and keys in it
  • My passport
  • A framed photo of my mom taken in 1971, when she was pregnant with me. She's wearing an awesome red jacket and sunglasses and throwing a peace sign.
  • My scrapbook, photo albums, and diaries
  • My iPod
  • My laptop
  • Don Don, a plastic gorilla that G gave me on our second date, which took place at the Santa Barbara Zoo. We didn't name him; he came with an Engrishy tag that said something like "Don Don is big gorilla!"
  • My Dreamcast (the games are inside the box too, so that's handy)
  • My prescription medication
  • As many clothes/pairs of underwear as I could frantically fling into my suitcase under duress
  • My signed John Connolly books
  • The maneki neko painting my friend Susan made for me
  • A bottle of Minnie Wilde Magic perfume. It's one of my absolute favorites and it's discontinued, but I recently managed to score a barely used bottle on eBay.
  • A stack of cards G has given me
  • A drawing of Nibbil (from the comic Small Favors) in a kimono, dedicated to me and signed by Colleen Coover

1. Flutter by Momoko Tenzen

2. Yotsuba* vol. 11 by Kiyohiko Azuma

3. Otomen vol. 13 by Aya Kanno

4. Library Wars vol. 8 by Kiiro Yumi

5. Stepping on Roses* vol. 8 by Rinko Ueda

6. Avatar: The Last Airbender - The Promise Part 3 by Gene Luen Yang and Gurihiru

7. Punch Up! vol. 2 by Shiuko Kano

8. An Ideal Day to Fall in Love by Ponkotsu-Works

1. Katy Perry: Part of Me: Okay, so I'm not a huge Katy Perry fan (though I do have several of her songs on my iPod), but I heard this was kind of fun. And for the most part, it was: bright candy colors, a Japan tour that included a visit to a cat cafe (which I totally want to go to because duh), awesome costumes. But then her marriage to Russell Brand fell apart halfway through filming, and there was a scene of her sobbing before a concert that was really kind of heartbreaking. She's sitting there weeping while her manager and assistants look on, thinking she's going to cancel the show, and then she gets dolled up and hops onto the elevator, still fighting back tears, and the second she's on stage boom, she's all smiles and yays. It was a startling glimpse of the actual human behind the persona.

2. Green Lantern: First Flight: In this direct to DVD cheapie, Hal Jordan (voiced by Christopher Meloni!) has to protect the Green Lantern from evil. The animation is meh, but the story's not bad.

3. The Five-Year Engagement*: Tom and Violet (Jason Segel and Emily Blunt) are a couple whose wedding keeps getting delayed by unexpected events. For the most part it's really funny, but it's got some surprisingly realistic relationship moments too. And of course I love Jason Segel, who also co-wrote the script.

4. Lola Versus: Lola (Greta Gerwig) is blindsided when her fiancé (Joel Kinnaman, who will always be Holder from The Killing to me) breaks up with her shortly before their wedding. She’s been with him for so long that she barely remembers life without him, and she struggles with being single again. It’s a little too self-consciously cute and quirky, but it’s not bad.

5. Snow White and the Huntsman: In this new take on the old legend, Snow White escapes from her evil stepmother Ravenna's clutches and flees to the Dark Forest. Ravenna sends a huntsman after her, but Snow White talks him out of killing her, and they band together to take Ravenna down once and for all. Some gorgeous special effects, but I wasn't emotionally involved at all.

6. Prometheus*: After discovering a clue to the origins of mankind, a group of scientists embarks on a journey to find out more. Spoiler alert: they don't like what they find. Gorgeous visual effects and some tense moments, but not as scary as I was hoping it would be considering its origins.

7. Battleship: More like Battleshit, amirite?

...okay, okay, it wasn't THAT bad, though it certainly wasn't great and I'd rather have spent those two hours reading or playing RE6 or something. Anyway, aliens come to our planet, wreak havoc, shit gets blown up durn good, and Liam Neeson (who classes up everything with his mere presence; seriously, he's like a human tuxedo scarf) cashes an easy paycheck.

8. The Revenant*: When Bart is killed in Iraq, his body is shipped back to the US, where he inexplicably comes back to life. He's not the man he used to be, though; he's a revenant, which is sort of a cross between a zombie and a vampire, and he needs fresh blood to keep from decaying completely. His slacker friend Joey comes up with an idea: as long as Bart has to feed on humans to stay "alive", why not take out bad guys in the process? Throw Dexter and Shaun of the Dead into a blender, add a pinch of Boondock Saints, and stir with a rabbit pearl vibrator, and you get an instant cult classic.

This is a little longer than the things I usually post, but my god is it worth it. I was pounding the couch with my fist, tears were rolling down my face, I was howling like a loon, and since it was almost midnight when I watched it, I'm probably lucky my downstairs neighbors didn't bang on the ceiling with a broom. Louis C.K. is fucking awesome.

1. Flood by They Might Be Giants

2. "Not Pretty Enough" by Kasey Chambers: I was watching an Australian horror movie called The Loved Ones, which had a pretty interesting premise: shy teenage girl named Lola asks boy to the dance, he politely declines because he has a girlfriend, girl goes nuts and conspires with her crazycakes dad to throw a private prom that's anything but fun for the guest of honor. Then it got all torture porn and I was like "nope nope nope" and ejected the DVD. I like horror movies, but I absolutely can't stand anything that exists basically to show all of the awful ways a human being can be taken apart.

...why did I bring this up again? Oh yeah. Lola plays this song constantly and god is it awesome. She might be nuttier than a squirrel turd, but she has excellent taste in music.

This will be a much shorter game review than usual, because unless you're familiar with Persona 3 and/or 4, it would take absolutely forever to explain the background and characters.

In a nutshell: Yu Narukami (the protagonist of P4, although in the original game you got to choose his name; this is the name they used for him in the anime) comes back to the small town of Inaba for Golden Week. He meets up with his friends, only to discover that the Midnight Channel is back to its old tricks. This time, there's a fighting tournament going on, and Yu is forced to fight his friends in order to discover the truth. Along the way, he runs into characters from Persona 3 as well: cool beauty Mitsuru Kirijo, caped boxer Akihiko Sanada, and cheerful robot girl Aigis.

Fighting games aren't usually my style, but I had to check this out because Persona 4 is one of my 10 favorite games of all time. And as it turns out, it's more of a visual novel than anything else, because you do a LOT of reading.

  • Gorgeous, smooth graphics.
  • P4 featured some of my favorite video game characters of all time, and seeing them again was like spending time with old friends.
  • With the exception of Chie and some minor characters, the English voice acting is superb. There's a reason why Yuri Lowenthal (Yosuke, who's my favorite character from P4) and Troy Baker (Kanji, my second fave) get so much work in anime and video game dubs; their line reads are perfect.
  • The fighting sequences are really fun, and Teddie in particular has some awesome moves. Even if you don't care about story mode, you should give this a try if you enjoy fighting games, because they have an arcade mode as well.
  • Excellent soundtrack featuring many favorites from P4, as well as some good music I assume is from P3.
  • Tons of replay value. You can play as every major character from P4, as well as three characters from P3, and you unlock two additional characters along the way.
  • It gets awfully repetitive at times. Even though each character's story has unique elements, they all end pretty much the same. By the time we got to the last few characters, G and I were hitting the fast forward button for a lot of the dialogue because it was basically the exact same thing.
  • Nothing really gets explained, which was annoying, but I'll forgive them if they put out Persona 5. Considering that P4 was a massive success in Japan---it even spawned a musical!---that's probably a given.

Persona 4 Arena isn't an absolute must play, but if you enjoyed P3 and/or P4, you ought to enjoy this too.