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