Sunday, May 31, 2015

media update: May

I got a metric fuckton of reading done this month due to bouts of crappy weather, 2 doctor's visits, 2 trips to the mechanic (one for basic maintenance and then another because they forgot to reset my TPMS; yeah, wasn't too happy about that), Memorial Day weekend, a week without G-Vo (he went to Florida for his nephew's graduation, but unfortunately I didn't have enough vacation time to join him), AND a couple of books (6, 7, and 10 on the fiction list) that were so damn good I didn't bother to do anything else but read during my leisure time.

No video game review this month, although G-Vo and I did play P.T., the teaser game for the now aborted (GODDAMN IT) Silent Hill game.  Sony pulled it from the Playstation store, but fortunately I had advance notice thanks to Kotaku and we were able to get it before it was gone.  Usually first person games make me nauseated, but I wanted to at least try, since P.T. would be the closest thing I'd get to a new Silent Hill game for a long, long time...if ever.  (EVERYTHING IS AWFUL)  Astoundingly enough, it didn't make me sick, probably because there wasn't that much action.  But what it lacked in action, it more than made up for in sheer, nerve-wrenching creepiness.  It was the first game I've played since Dead Space 2 that made me pause at one point and say "I don't know if I can finish this because I am sincerely freaking the fuck out right now."  If P.T. was any indication of what the new Silent Hill was (FUCK YOU, "WAS") going to be like, then we missed out on something truly special, my friends. 

Asterisks denote something that I particularly enjoyed or found especially worthy of my time; double asterisks are reserved for the absolute creme de la creme. Your mileage, as ever, may vary.


1. The Sin Eater's Daughter by Melinda Salisbury:  Twylla is engaged to a prince and lives in a castle, but her life is far from idyllic: as the embodiment of a goddess, she instantly kills anyone she touches, save for the royal family, and serves as their executioner.  But when a new guard befriends her, Twylla dares to hope for a different life.  It's similar to the His Fair Assassin series by Robyn LaFevre, although it's nowhere near as good as that series.  I liked it fine and will read the inevitable sequel, but won't rush to get it or anything.

2. Lacy Eye by Jessica Treadway:  Hanna's daughter Dawn has always been very awkward, so when Dawn brings a handsome new boyfriend to her sister's wedding, Hanna is thrilled.  But Rud seems to have a dark side, and when Hanna and her husband Joe are brutally attacked in their home, Rud is tried and convicted of the crime.  Hanna can't remember what exactly happened that night due to the severe head injury she'd suffered, so when Rud files an appeal, she tries to figure it out in hopes of keeping him in jail.  The title is absolutely dreadful (though it's explained in the book), but it's a decent little mystery.

3. Pretty Ugly by Kirker Butler:  Miranda Miller is a stage mother who's obsessed with child beauty pageants; her daughter Bailey is sick of being her mother's personal doll, and she secretly binge eats in hopes of getting too fat to compete.  But Miranda's pregnant, and if Bailey won't perform to her expectations, she's going to pin all of her hopes on the new baby.  The world of child beauty pageants is ripe for a good satire, but this ain't it.  There are some funny lines and moments, but the writing is very stilted and there's not a sympathetic character in the bunch, which always makes it much harder for me to enjoy something.

4. Dirty Rush by Taylor Bell:  The protagonist of this novel, also named Taylor Bell, comes from a long line of sorority sisters, so she reluctantly pledges Beta Zeta and is surprised to find herself enjoying the experience.  Her decision comes back to bite her in the ass when all sorts of nasty drama unfolds.  It was very similar to Pretty Ugly in that it looks at a world that's ripe for satire, but just about everybody in it is such a bitch/asshole that I kept hoping for a fatal frat party fire.

5. The Glass Arrow by Kristen Simmons:  In this dystopian YA novel (yup, another one), women are treated as chattel to be bought and sold.  Aya has managed to hide out in the wilderness with her family, but she's captured and taken to a facility to be sold at auction.  But she keeps acting out so nobody will buy her, and when she's chained up in the solitary yard, she meets a young man who might be her ticket out.  It was okay.

6. Luckiest Girl Alive** by Jessica Knoll:  When she was a teenager at an elite prep school, something very bad happened to TifAni FaNelli (yes, that's how it's spelled).  She reinvents herself as Ani and lands herself a terrific job and a gorgeous fiance, but the past keeps threatening to destroy everything.  It's so good (there's one chapter where I basically forgot to breathe, and I'm not exaggerating; I don't remember the last time a book made me that tense) that I'm giving it one of my rare double star ratings, even though the ending was confusing and a bit unsatisfying.  Still, if you're looking for a compelling read that you'll probably tear through in record time, look no further.  It's the best book I've read so far this year.

Side note:  if you read this, I'd very much welcome your thoughts on the ending.

7. Oh! You Pretty Things* by Shanna Mahin:  Bored barista Jess jumps at the chance to work for an Oscar winning composer.  She thinks she's got it made, but the job isn't as cushy as it initially seems, so she quits to work for an actress instead.  Things are looking pretty good until her estranged mother decides to pay an extended visit.  Sharply drawn and very funny.

8. Where They Found Her by Kimberly McCreight:  The discovery of a dead baby girl in the woods shocks a small college town to its core.  Still grieving the loss of her own baby, journalist Molly Sanderson is assigned to cover the story, but she uncovers a bigger one in the process.  If this sounds vaguely familiar, it's because last month I reviewed another book with similar themes.  But The Unraveling of Mercy Louis was excellent; this one was merely good.

9. Hyacinth Girls by Lauren Frankel:  After the death of her best friend Joyce, Rebecca becomes the legal guardian of Joyce's daughter Callie.  When Callie gets in trouble at school for bullying, Rebecca refuses to believe Callie could be capable of such a thing, but there's more to the story than she realizes.  Drags a bit in spots, but the descriptions of bullying are so vivid they practically gave me PTSD.  God, I'm glad the internet didn't exist when I was a kid.

10. All the Rage* by Courtney Summers:  Romy was sexually assaulted by the son of the town sheriff, and nobody believed her.  She drags herself through life in a daze, but when a classmate goes missing, she thinks it may be connected to her assailant, and she has to decide whether she can continue to keep silent.  A really powerful, beautifully written, searing indictment of rape culture.

11. Tiny Pretty Things by Sona Charaipotra and Dhonielle Clayton:  At an elite ballet school, three dancers will do absolutely anything to get to the top and stay there.  It's like a cross between Black Swan and a well written soap opera, and I enjoyed it more than I thought I would, but it ends on such a weird note that I'm wondering if it's the first in a series.

12. The Blondes* by Emily Schultz:  When Hazel Hayes learns she's pregnant with the child of her married professor, she thinks things can't possibly get worse.  Then a rabies-like disease starts affecting blonde women and turning them into violent killers, and the world is plunged into panic.  A nice creepy read with a wide streak of black humor.  My only real complaint is that the disease affects not just natural blondes, but women who have dyed their hair, which didn't make sense to me.  I thought it would have been more interesting to have blonde women dyeing their hair in order to "pass", so you never really knew who to trust, thereby amping up the paranoia.

2015 tally so far: 33


1. A Few Seconds of Radiant Filmstrip* by Kevin Brockmeier:  In third person, the author remembers his experiences in seventh grade, from friends who inexplicably turn against him to booby trapping his lunch to catch a sandwich thief.  I think pretty much anyone could relate to this book, but especially if you came of age in the 80s.

2. Everything You Ever Wanted by Jillian Lauren:  After a tumultuous life that included drug addiction and a stint as a member of the Prince of Brunei's harem, the author finally got sober and settled down.  She and her husband adopted a little boy from Ethiopia, but they weren't prepared for the challenges parenthood had in store for them.  It's much less saccharine (as in not at all) as other parenting memoirs and fairly interesting.

3. The Undertaker's Daughter by Kate Mayfield:  The title pretty much sums this memoir up.  It wasn't bad, but it also wasn't as interesting as I thought it would be.  Read Fun Home by Alison Bechdel or Driving with Dead People by Monica Holloway instead.

2015 tally so far: 9


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

2. Saint Cole by Noah Van Sciver

3. Secret by Yoshiki Tonogai

4. Spell of Desire vol. 4 by Tomu Ohmi

5. No Matter How I Look at It, It's You Guys' Fault I'm Not Popular!** vol. 7 by Nico Tanigawa

6. Black Rose Alice vol. 4 by Setona Mizushiro

7. Fables vol. 21 by Bill Willingham and Mark Buckingham

8. Resident Evil: The Marhawa Desire vol. 4 by Naoki Serizawa

9. Attack on Titan: Junior High* vol. 3 by Saki Nakagawa

2015 tally so far: 41 volumes of manga and 9 graphic novels


1. The Equalizer:  Robert McCall (Denzel Washington) is an unassuming man who works at a home improvement store.  He has trouble sleeping, so he often spends his nights reading in a nearby diner.  He befriends a young prostitute (Chloe Grace Moretz) who hangs out there, and when she's brutally beaten by her pimp, he takes revenge...which doesn't go over so well with the Russian mob.  It's a pretty standard vigilante thriller, but enjoyable enough.

2. Justice League: Throne of Atlantis:  The queen of Atlantis is searching for her firstborn son Arthur (aka Aquaman), who's currently living on Earth.  But when the queen is killed, Aquaman teams up with the Justice League to find the murderer and prevent a war.   It's decent, and Nathan Fillion steals the show as Green Lantern.

3. Avengers: Age of Ultron*:  Tony Stark tries to create a new peacekeeping computer program, but when it gains sentience and decides to wipe out humanity, the Avengers team up to take it down.  I wasn't thrilled with the rape joke and a conversation about Black Widow's past that really needed to be phrased differently so as not to be hideously offensive, but it was still a very fun popcorn movie with exciting action and tons of delectable man candy.

4. Taken 3:  When Bryan Mills is framed for murder, he goes on the lam while trying to prove his innocence.  The first two movies were fun, and you know I love me some Liam Neeson, but this was really bad.  The dialogue sounded like it had been poorly translated from another language, and the action wasn't even all that good.

5. Wild Card*:  After a friend of his is raped and beaten, Nick (Jason Statham) helps her get revenge, but doing so puts him in the crosshairs of the mob.  We didn't have high hopes for this movie because it was straight to DVD, but it was actually really good!  William Goldman wrote the script, so it was much smarter than your average action movie, and the fighting scenes, though few and far between, were great.

6. Wild*:  Completely unmoored after her mother's death, Cheryl Strayed (an excellent Reese Witherspoon) decided to hike the Pacific Crest Trail by herself.  I loved the memoir, and the film adaptation did it justice.

2015 tally so far:  44


1. "Cat Burglar" by Flesh for Lulu

2. "In Dreams" by Roy Orbison

3. "(Don't Put Another Dime in the) Jukebox" by The Flirts

4. "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes" by The Platters

5. "Under My Thumb" by The Rolling Stones

6. "Sweet Talkin' Woman" by ELO

7. "Motto HOT!" by Chubbiness

8. "Opening Theme from Nurse Angel Ririka"

9. "Plowed" by Sponge

10. "Reapers" by Muse

11. "Girl You Don't Need Makeup" (One Direction parody from Inside Amy Schumer)