Monday, March 31, 2014

media update: March

Hey yo.  Sorry I haven't been posting much recently, but not a lot is going on.  I have a few interesting things in the works, though, so watch this space!

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

G-Vo, skip fiction review #2.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  * 


1. Grasshopper Jungle* by Andrew Smith:  Austin and his best friend Robby are bored with life in their tiny Iowa town.  But things get considerably less boring when they inadvertently release a plague of gigantic praying mantises.  This novel is a breed all its own; the closest counterpart I can think of is John Dies at the End with a splash of Naked Lunch.  I mean, there are chapters titled "There's Blood on Your Spam" and "Never Look for Ice Cream in a Sperm Freezer".  If that doesn't pique your interest, stay far away; otherwise, dig in for a delightfully fucked up treat.

2. The Troop* by Nick Cutter:  A troop of boys and their scoutmaster head to a remote Canadian island for a camping trip.  But an alarmingly emaciated man crashes the party, and he's brought some very nasty company along with him.

I knew I had to read this when I saw the cover blurbs from Scott Smith (The Ruins) and Stephen King (duh), and they didn't steer me wrong, because The Troop is excellent.  Fair warning, though:  it gets extremely gross.  REALLY gross.  As in, "don't read it right before bed or you will have seriously awful dreams" kind of gross.  Learn from my fail.

Side note: There are several extremely disturbing scenes of animal cruelty, so caveat reader.

3. The Girl You Left Behind by Jojo Moyes:  In 1916 France, in the middle of World War I, a young woman named Sophie catches the eye of a German commander.  When she takes a risk in hopes of being reunited with her husband, things go very wrong.  Almost a century later, a portrait of Sophie becomes the centerpiece of a heated legal battle.  I found the sections from Sophie's point of view far more interesting than those of Liv's, the woman who owns the portrait, but the entire book was pretty good overall.

4. The Weight of Blood* by Laura McHugh:  When the dismembered body of her childhood friend Cheri is found stuffed into the hollow of a tree, Lucy is determined to find the killer.  But in her quest for justice, she discovers that the disappearance of her mother many years before may have a shocking link to Cheri's murder.

As soon as I saw the blurb on the front cover from Karin Slaughter, one of my favorite authors, I knew I had to pick this up, and Ms. Slaughter didn't steer me wrong.  It's like Gillian Flynn crossed with Winter's Bone, and it's really freakin' good.  I tore through it in two days.

5. Half Bad by Sally Green:  Nathan is shunned by society because he is the illegitimate son of a white witch mother and a black witch father, but not just any black witch...the most reviled and vicious witch in the world.  (Imagine Harry Potter if Voldemort was his father.)  He's never known his father, but he wants to find him and receive the three gifts that will cause his own magical powers to blossom. 

I was really excited to read this because it's getting so much buzz, but it left me a bit cold because I didn't like most of the characters.  Still, it's not half bad (hurr hurr see what I did there), so I'll probably pick up the next volume as well when it comes out.  Yes, it's going to be a trilogy; I think it's an actual law now that all YA novels with any sort of fantasy/dystopian/magical bent have to be trilogies.

6. Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers:  As if to prove my previous point, this is book one of a trilogy.  It's about Ismae, a teenage girl raised by a convent that worships Saint Mortain, the god of death.  She's trained as an elite assassin and sent to a court in Brittany to deal with some political shiz.  It's pretty good, and I've already requested the second book from the library.  (The final volume drops this fall.)

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *


1. Never Have I Ever: My Life (So Far) Without a Date by Katie Heaney:  A memoir of the author's quest to find a boyfriend.  Like most books of this type (with the very notable exceptions of Let's Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson and Meaty by Samantha Irby), the author thinks she's much funnier/more interesting than she really is, but it has some good moments.

Side note:  The front cover has a typo on it, if you can believe that.  The FRONT COVER!  Lame.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *


1. Locke & Key* vol. 6 by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez:  An excellent ending to an amazing series.

2. Midnight Secretary vols. 1-4 by Tomu Ohmi:  I wouldn't call this a hate read, because the art is pretty and the story is entertaining, but holy balls is the male romantic lead a dick.  He's a vampire who uses his secretary Kaya for her particularly fragrant blood, and he apparently went to a charm school run by Christian Grey.  "You are mine", "You no longer belong to yourself but to me", that kind of bullshit.  So of course she thinks he's the greatest thing ever.  Kaya needs to stake him in the heart and get together with the nice non-dick non-vampire dude who also likes her and has a cat. 

3. Black Bird vol. 18 (final volume) by Kanako Sakurakoji

4. The Walking Dead* vol. 20 by Robert Kirkman, Charlie Adlard, Stefano Gaudiano, and Cliff Rathburn

5. Rin-Ne vol. 14 by Rumiko Takahashi

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *


1. In A World...*:  A vocal coach (Lake Bell, who also wrote and directed) is determined to become the first female movie trailer announcer, but she'll have to beat out her wildly successful father first.  This was a delightful little surprise; the dialogue is quirky and funny without being completely unrealistic.  (*cough Juno cough*)  G-Vo and I really liked it.

2. Nebraska:  Woody Grant (Bruce Dern) is an elderly man who thinks he's won a million dollars in a sweepstakes, and he wants to go to Lincoln, Nebraska to claim the "prize" in person.  After trying to dissuade him without success, his son finally agrees to take him.  Along the way, they visit family and friends who want a chunk of the money.  The performances were great (especially June Squibb as Woody's sharp-tongued wife), and it had some really funny lines, but it was a bit overhyped.  Also, there was absolutely no reason for it to be in black and white other than sheer pretentiousness.

3. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire*:  Although everybody who cares has already read or seen this, I'll refrain from spoilers.  I'll just say that I really enjoyed it.  Bonus:  Effie Trinket's costumes are really amazing.

4. Thor: The Dark World:  Megahunky superhero Thor fights to protect the Nine Realms from an evil dude who wants to plunge the entire universe into darkness.  Goofy but fun; it has some really funny scenes and a nice cameo.  Also, there's a special feature on the DVD about the Mandarin (from the Iron Man movies) that's well worth watching.

5. Dark Touch:  After her entire family is killed, young Neve insists that their house was possessed and caused the tragic accident.  Needless to say, nobody believes her...until things start happening again.  It gives things away WAY too early and I wasn't a huge fan of the ending, but for the most part it's a decent little thriller.

6. Escape Plan: Ray (Sylvester Stallone) has made a good living by figuring out how to break out of maximum security prisons.  But when he finds himself stuck in a prison that stumps even him, he enlists a fellow inmate (Arnold Schwarzenegger) to help him break free.  Not essential viewing by any stretch of the imagination, but it has its moments.

7. Justice League: War:  The Justice League bands together to fight an alien menace.  The voice acting isn't particularly good and the plot is meh, but there are some really funny lines (mostly courtesy of Green Lantern being snarky towards Batman) and decent action sequences.

8. 12 Years a Slave*:  This best picture Oscar winner is based on the true story of Solomon Northup, a free black man who was kidnapped from New York and sold into slavery.  It's very well done and the performances are terrific (especially Michael Fassbender as a particularly cruel plantation owner and Lupita Nyong'o as Patsey, the slave he takes a fancy to), but it's almost unrelentingly grim and watching it kind of felt like a punishment.  I know that sounds rich, like "Awww, sorry you found this historically accurate movie hard to watch, white woman", but that's how I felt.  I'm still giving it a star on the basis of its performances and the beautiful cinematography, and because it's a story that deserved to be told, but I never want to see it again.

9. Frozen*:   After she inadvertently traps her kingdom in eternal winter, Elsa flees to the wilderness and isolates herself in a castle made of ice.  Her sister Anna, accompanied by a mountaineer, heads out to find her and break the curse.  Beautifully animated and sweet, and the talking snowman didn't annoy me nearly as much as I thought he would.

Side note:  G-Vo pointed out how much the song "Let It Go" sounds like Katy Perry's "Firework".  Listen for yourself!

10. Avengers Confidential: Black Widow & Punisher:  The title characters team up to stop an illegal arms dealer, but Punisher's methods go against SHIELD's directives.  The animation (by Japanese company Madhouse) is gorgeous, but the story was just meh.  I was astounded when the credits rolled and I saw that Black Widow was voiced by Jennifer "Deb from Dexter" Carpenter and Punisher was voiced by Brian "Alex from Silent Hill Homecoming" Bloom, because I didn't catch that at ALL.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

1. Pure Heroine by Lorde:  Yeah, I'm sick of "Royals" like everybody else with a radio, but there are some great tracks on here.  My favorite is "Tennis Court".  It amuses me to no end that there are actually Lorde age truthers out there, i.e. people who refuse to believe she's only 17, but after listening to this album, I'm about to join their ranks.

2. "FU" by Miley Cyrus