Tuesday, September 30, 2014

media update: September

And how was your September?  For the most part, mine was uneventful, but holy god was there some irritating shit at work.  (Feel free to skip the next couple of paragraphs if you know me in real life/follow me on Twitter, 'cause you've heard all this before.)  They asked for vacation requests for October through December, and because so many people have retired or quit recently, they can only allow 1.5 people off on any given day.  Well, as you can imagine, with 15 people in our department, that made scheduling an effin' nightmare.  Nine people wanted the week of Christmas off alone!  Our new bosses, who are actually really cool but have limited power as far as that kind of shit goes (it was a corporate decision), said they'd round it up to 2 people a day and take the fallout should any come from up high.  So they put us all in a conference room for a Vacation Hunger Games to let us all duke it out.  I managed to score December 26th-January 2nd off, so I emailed G-Vo to let him know.

But wait!  A challenger appears!  My coworker Durr (so nicknamed because she is exceptionally stupid) got butthurt because Bossy (not to be confused with either of my bosses; this is a C-word with whom I have beef going back, I shit you not, 13 years) got the weeks of Thanksgiving and Christmas off, which granted wasn't fair.  This led to our bosses taking back the time that had already been granted and having yet ANOTHER meeting.  It was like when Katniss wins and the Capitol is all "LOL bitch back in the arena with you."  Thanks to this new meeting, I wound up losing the week of Christmas, which means I won't get to spend it with my dad and brother.  (G-Vo's parents are renting a house in the city where my dad and stepmother live, and obviously they don't celebrate Christmas, so I was going to spend that day and a couple of others with my blood family.)  Not only that, but my brother is leaving on the same day we arrive, so I probably won't get to see him at all!  If I hadn't gotten the time off to begin with, I wouldn't have been so upset, but since I had already told everyone that I'd gotten it, I had to go back and say "Uh, sorry, they fucked me after all."  And then fucking Durr, who felt the need to jump down my throat during the meeting and say "But you aren't even religious!" (which a) I don't even know how she knows that, since I don't go around telling people I'm an atheist and b) is fucking irrelevant, which to her credit Boss #1 immediately stepped in and said...well, without the "fucking"), sent me the most condescending email after the meeting saying "Tell your family you'll see them next year under the Christmas tree!", followed by clip art of a giant smiley face wearing a party hat.  Tell YOUR family they'll see YOU in a fucking body bag if you ever fuck me with no lube again and then try to make me feel better about it, you flaming whore.

Enough of that; my blood pressure is going up just thinking about it.

Anyway, it's technically fall but it sure doesn't feel like it here in SoCal, which is why I read so much this month.  I can't wait until it cools down so I can wear my cute new boots and go on long walks with G-Vo while crunching through leaves and drink chai lattes and wrap myself in the blanket Madre made for me while dozing on the couch.  Plus, as much as I love sitting in the break room (assuming no loud assholes are in there) and reading, the scorching weather meant that I wasn't walking 3 miles a day, which made my energy level plummet and the day seem twice as long.

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


1. Never Fade* by Alexandra Bracken:  This is the second book in the Darkest Minds trilogy, so I can't review it properly for fear of spoiling its predecessor.  It didn't grab me quite as hard as the first book did, but it's still very good, and I'm looking forward to reading the finale when it's released next month.

2. The Secret Place* by Tana French:  At an elite girls' boarding school, someone pins a postcard onto a bulletin board that says "I know who killed him" and shows a teenage boy who had been murdered on the grounds the year before.  Detectives Moran and Conway investigate, and they open an ugly can of worms in the process.  I mainlined all of French's books a couple of years ago, and I was sad when there weren't any more to be read, so I was anxious to get my hands on this, and I wasn't disappointed.  Few people can end a book as well as French does.

3. Dear Daughter* by Elizabeth Little:  Janie Jenkins was a socialite whose world came crashing down when she was convicted of murdering her rich mother.  After spending 10 years in prison, she's released on a technicality, and she begins her search for the real killer.  A very clever mystery with some seriously funny lines.  (One of my favorite passages: "The denim of his jeans was rougher than I'd expected.  Probably a cowboy sort of thing...protection against tumbleweeds and accusations of metrosexuality.")

4. The Young World by Chris Weitz:  A mysterious disease kills everybody but teenagers, who are left behind to forge a new civilization.  Unfortunately, they aren't doing a particularly good job of it, so a group of friends sets out to find a research center that may hold the key to a cure.  It's chock full of cliches, and the author tried way too hard to make one of the POV characters sound like a "typical" teen.  I won't go out of my way to read the next one when it's published (because of course it's the first book in a trilogy), but might pick it up during a dry spell.

5. Amity by Micol Ostow:  Gwen and her family move into a house that was the site of a tragedy ten years earlier.  But it's not just any house; it's Amity, and it's not done causing trouble.  Not essential, but decently creepy.

6. Broken Monsters* by Lauren Beukes:  Now this is essential AND creepy.  When the corpse of a young boy is found with his upper half fused to the bottom half of a deer, Detective Gabriella Versado hopes that it's just a one time thing.  But then more bizarre creations are discovered, and it becomes apparent that a serial killer has made Detroit his hunting ground.  A beautifully written and surreal thriller; it's my favorite novel of the year so far.

7. Safe with Me by Amy Hatvany:  After her daughter is killed by a car, Hannah makes the difficult decision to donate Emily's organs.  By coincidence, one year later Hannah meets Maddie, the teenage girl who received Emily's liver, and Maddie's mother Olivia, who's stuck in an abusive marriage.  Very predictable, and a bit too Lifetime Movie of the Week for my tastes.

8. Love Me Back by Merritt Tierce:  Marie is a young single mother who works in a succession of restaurants and tries to numb her pain with drugs, self-harm, and indiscriminate sexual encounters.  Well written, but depressing as hell, and the ending is pretty abrupt.


1. Bad Feminist* by Roxane Gay:  Excellent essays from a feminist perspective that cover everything from the problematic lyrics of "Blurred Lines" to the women on Twitter who said they'd let Chris Brown beat them whenever he wanted.  Warning: in the essay titled "Not Here to Make Friends", she spoils the shit out of Gone Girl, so skip that one if you haven't read GG and/or plan to see the movie and have magically remained unspoiled up to this point.


1. Library Wars vol. 12 by Kiiro Yumi 

2. Attack on Titan: Before the Fall vol. 2 by Satoshi Shiki and Ryo Suzukaze

3. Midnight Secretary vol. 7 (final volume) by Tomu Ohmi

4. Sisters by Raina Telgemeier


1. Transcendence:  After Dr. Will Caster is killed by anti-tech terrorists, his desperate wife uploads his consciousness into a supercomputer; complications ensue.  It has some interesting ideas, but I found myself zoning out rather frequently.

2. Lego Batman: The Movie:  When the Joker teams up with Lex Luthor, Batman and the Justice League must find a way to stop them.  We weren't expecting much, but were pleasantly surprised.

3. Captain America: The Winter Soldier*:  When S.H.I.E.L.D. is compromised, Captain America and the Black Widow have to get to the bottom of it.  But things get even more complicated with the appearance of the mysterious Winter Soldier.  Thanks to lots of terrific action and some snappy lines, it's the very definition of a fun popcorn movie.  Plenty of eye candy, too.

4. Need for Speed:  A subpar Fast and Furious ripoff that features lots of gorgeous car porn, but not much else to recommend it.  Plus, and I know this is going to make me sound like a crotchety old fuck, but by the end I was rooting for the cops.  I don't give a shit if you endanger your own life and limbs; I DO give a shit if you endanger the lives and limbs of others.

5. Palo Alto:  Based on a book of short stories by James Franco (who also stars as a sleazy soccer coach), this movie follows a group of disenchanted teenagers growing up in the titular town.  It has a dreamlike feel, and Emma Roberts (who usually bugs the shit out of me) is pretty good in it, but it's very slow and has a "wait, that's it?" kind of ending.

6. DCU Batman: Assault on Arkham:  When the Riddler steals a flash drive filled with vital information, the government assembles the Suicide Squad to break into Arkham Asylum and get it back.  Needless to say, Batman ain't happy.  Much darker than these direct-to-video superhero flicks tend to be.  I enjoyed it, and G-Vo said he got a massive nerd boner because it tied in to his beloved Batman Arkham games.

7. Oculus*:  Ten years after the brutal deaths of their parents, Kaylie and Tim try to prove that an evil mirror was responsible.  Yes, it sounds goofy, but it was better than anticipated thanks to some clever touches, and the actors who play Kaylie and Tim as kids were surprisingly good. 

8. Godzilla:  How the hell did they manage to make a movie about Godzilla and barely even have him in it?!?  Not only that, but they kept setting up scenes that promised to be awesome, like Godzilla about to battle a Muto (another mutated creature) and then cut away to, like, soldiers trudging through the city...and then they'd never go back to the freakin' fight!  It has some nice disaster porn, but man, they made some weird decisions.

9. Enemy:  While watching a movie, a professor (Jake Gyllenhaal) notices an actor in the background who looks exactly like him, and he becomes obsessed with tracking him down.  Confusing as hell, and it has the biggest WTF ending I think I've ever seen.  I understood it a little better after reading theories online, but I still wouldn't recommend it unless you like movies that are destined to be shown in film studies classes and everyone sits around afterwards and pretends that they got it when they totally didn't.

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

media update: August

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


1. House of Sand and Secrets by Cat Hellisen:  This is the second novel in the Books of Oreyn series, can't review it properly lest I spoil its predecessor, etc.  You know the drill by now!

Side note:  The library had this (and the previous book) shelved in the YA section, and I'm assuming they knew what they were doing, but the language and sexual content are much stronger than anything I've read in YA novels to date.  Just an FYI in case you were thinking of picking this up for a teenager.

2. The Darkest Minds* by Alexandra Bracken:  A mysterious disease called IAAN kills the vast majority of the children in the US, but the ones that survive are endowed with powers and sent to government internment camps.  Ruby thinks she's a Green, one of the most benign types, but it turns out that she's actually an Orange, one of the most dangerous types of all, capable of reading people's minds and making them do whatever she wants.  She manages to escape the camp before the authorities can kill her, but it turns out that the outside isn't much safer.  It's terrific, and I'm glad I discovered this series when I did, because I just checked out the second book and the third comes out in October.

3. One Kick by Chelsea Cain:  At the age of 6, Kick Lannigan was kidnapped by pedophiles and rescued five years later.  Now, as an adult, she practices ways to keep herself safe and investigates missing children.  A man named Bishop approaches her and asks her to help him investigate two recent kidnappings, and she agrees, but the case has ties to her past that she isn't prepared for.  It's good, but it didn't grab me as much as I hoped it would.


1. Take This Man* by Brando Skyhorse:  The author's mother was Mexican, but she reinvented herself as a Native American and took up with numerous men.  As a child, Brandon never really knew who his father was, and struggled to accept his mother's occasional abuse and constant pathological lying.  (Discussing the tragic siblings he never met and who might not even have existed, Brandon says "My mother had so much pain to share that she had to invent people to hurt.")  A hell of a story, beautifully told.

2. The Other Side* by Lacy M. Johnson:  The author was in a relationship that started passionately and ended with him kidnapping her and holding her hostage for several hours until she was able to escape.  This memoir is about her struggle to overcome the toll the experience took on her.  It's really good, but because it includes many descriptions of physical, sexual, and emotional abuse, I must include a trigger warning.

3. Last Chain on Billie by Carol Bradley:  This is the story of a circus elephant whose miserable life brightened considerably when she was transferred to a Tennessee sanctuary.  It's not an easy read; the anecdote about an elephant who was shot and killed in Maui when she killed a trainer made me tear up because I remembered seeing it happen on the news back in 1994 and crying so hard I almost puked, and there's a heartbreaking photo of a baby elephant being trained with bullhooks, and her little fuzzy mohawk and tiny flappy ears made me wonder who in the fresh fuck could ever be cruel to her.  But although it's not an easy read, it does have a much deserved happy ending.

Side note:  One of the things I found most interesting in this book was the description of the "good cop, bad cop" training method that's often used.  One trainer wears a brightly colored outfit and a face mask and beats the elephant for several days.  Then a different trainer, wearing a different colored outfit and no face mask, comes in while trainer #1 is beating the elephant, pretends to kick the shit out of trainer #1 and scare him off, and then trainer #2 soothes the elephant and gives it treats, thereby endearing themselves to the elephant and making it much more likely to obey trainer #2.  It's kind of genius in its sheer evil.

Augh, now I'm getting all teary again remembering this book, so here is a cute picture of a baby elephant playing with egret chicks as a palate cleanser.

4. Working Stiff: Two Years, 262 Bodies, and the Making of a Medical Examiner* by Dr. Judy Melinek and T.J. Mitchell:  A morbidly fascinating memoir about the author's two years of training as a forensic examiner.  One of the best anecdotes in here involves a police detective bringing her a bucket full of mysterious objects, some of which were obviously biological in nature, that was found in the hallway of an apartment building.  The bucket contained a porcelain figurine of kissing angels, dozens of maraschino cherries, and what turned out to be two enormous penises from a donkey or horse.  A coworker who had trained in Florida said he used to see that kind of thing all the time and it was probably a Santeria love potion. I'm dying to know if it actually worked!


1. Through the Woods by Emily Carroll:  The story in here titled "The Nesting Place" fucked me UP.  I need to choose my bedtime reading more carefully, methinks.

2. Kaze Hikaru vol. 22 by Taeko Watanabe

3. Daddy's Girl by Debbie Drechsler [trigger warning for graphically depicted incest and sexual assault]

4. Black Rose Alice by Setona Mizushiro

5. Food Wars!* by Yuto Tsukuda and Shun Saeki

6. Rin-Ne vol. 15 by Rumiko Takahashi

7. Avatar: The Last Airbender - The Rift Part 2 by Gene Luen Yang and Gurihiru


1. The Final Member:  This documentary is about the Icelandic Phallological Museum, whose curator has collected the penises of many mammals, but he really wants a human specimen.  A feisty nonagenarian from Iceland and a guy named Tom Mitchell from the US agree to donate their organs, but Tom wants to be the first so badly that he's willing to donate his dong before he even dies.  He even gets a tattoo of the American flag on the tip!  It's pretty interesting, but man, Tom is frickin' creepy.

Side note #1:  One of the editors is named Andrew Dickler.  I am not making this up.

Side note #2:  When my brother and I visited Iceland in 2005, I REALLY wanted to go to this museum.  We tracked down the address, but there was an eye doctor there instead.  So we went inside and asked, and an employee very politely and patiently (I got the feeling we weren't the only people who had come by looking for the museum) told us it had been relocated about 30 miles away.  I was very disappointed, but at least now I feel like I've sort of seen it!  I wish I'd been able to go to the gift shop, though; imagine the post cards!

2. The Protector 2:  Kham's elephant has gone missing yet again, and this time, it's been kidnapped by people who want to plant a bomb in its tusks (yes, really) to kill a politician.  But apparently the kidnappers never saw the first movie, because you do NOT want to fuck with Kham's elephant.  (I'd like to sic Kham on some of the assholes in Last Chain on Billie.)

The Protector is one of my favorite movies of all time, so I was really looking forward to this, especially because it stars Tony Jaa AND Jeeja Yanin.  (If you haven't seen Chocolate and you love martial arts movies, you need to add that to your Netflix queue immediately.)  But unfortunately, the filmmakers had a bigger budget and they managed to screw things up with bad special effects.  Dude, Tony Jaa and Jeeja Yanin ARE special effects!  There are still plenty of fun action scenes, but the movie as a whole was kind of a letdown.

3. 300: Rise of an Empire:  "God king" Xerxes schemes to invade Greece, but Themistokles and his soldiers are determined to stop him.  It's got some fun action, a cool visual style, and lots of hot dudes in skimpy clothes, so I enjoyed it quite a bit.

4. The Amazing Spider-Man 2:  When a supervillain named Electro is created, Peter Parker (which would be a great gay porn star name) dons his Spider-Man suit to protect the city.  This movie was a massive flop, but I didn't think it was that bad.  Some of the pacing was off, and a couple of lines were cringeworthy, but Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone have great chemistry, there was some decent action, and there was a scene that choked me up HARD. 

5. Divergent:  In a dystopian world, people are divided into factions based on their chief virtue.  But when Tris is tested and her results show that she is a Divergent, meaning she fits into several different categories, her life is in danger.  I tried reading the book a few years ago and couldn't get into it, but the movie was decent enough that I might pick up the second book if I hit a dry spell.

6. The Sacrament:  A Vice reporter and two of his friends head to a religious commune in search of his sister and a good story, but what seems like a peaceful place is much more sinister than it initially appears.  It's not a must see or anything, but as far as found footage/faux documentary movies go, it's not bad.

7. The Lego Movie:  Emmett is a Lego construction worker who becomes embroiled in a quest to stop Lord Business from permanently gluing everyone and everything down.  The animation is great, and there are some really funny lines (mostly from Batman), but I think the hype machine set our expectations too high.

8. Filth: In this pitch black comedy, Bruce (James McAvoy) is a corrupt Scottish cop who will stop at nothing to get a promotion, no matter who gets hurt in the process.  It's twisted as hell (as you'd expect from the guy who wrote Trainspotting) and has its moments, but man, you will not like anybody in this movie.

9. Guardians of the Galaxy*:  Peter Quill was abducted from Earth as a kid and is now a cocky thief who finds himself in possession of a mysterious orb.  Trouble is, a supervillain named Ronan the Accuser wants the orb too, and he will stop at nothing to get it back...even if it destroys the universe in the process.  So Peter gathers a motley crew of two humans, an anthropomorphized raccoon named Rocket, and a gentle tree creature named Groot, to help him stop Ronan before it's too late.

To be honest, this is another movie where the hype machine went into overdrive and raised our expectations too high.  I really enjoyed it, but I didn't LOVE it like I thought I would.  Still, it's definitely a lot of fun and well worth a watch if you're into campy space antics.

10. Year One:  Two hunter-gatherers (Jack Black and Michael Cera) are ousted from their tribe and set out on an epic journey, encountering many biblical figures along the way.  It's pretty dumb, but it has some funny moments.

Side note: If you decide to watch this despite my lukewarm review, be sure to watch the alternate ending in the special features section, because it's much better than the one they chose.


1. "Pompeii" by Bastille

2. "Problem" by Ariana Grande feat. Iggy Azalea