Monday, November 30, 2015

media update: November

Howdy, folks!  I'm freshly back from New Mexico, where I spent a lovely week with G-Vo and his family.  We visited several art galleries and museums, went to an alpaca farm where I fell in love with a sweetheart named Scarlet, and just hung out watching movies and talking.  I also ate a metric fuckton of food, and G-Vo's mom even made an old-fashioned sugar cream pie (aka my favorite dessert of all time, bar none) for me!  It wasn't as good as the ones I grew up with (and you are NOT to tell her that on the off chance you ever meet her), but it was still excellent, and the thoughtfulness of the gesture really touched me.

Yesterday was one of the worst travel days ever, though.  There were some major issues at the airport, a small child sat behind me on the plane and alternated between kicking the back of my seat/crying/sneezing, and then we had to wait over an hour for the Roadrunner shuttle to pick us up at the terminal.  Our driver was very nice, but there was something off about him (he kept talking about weird shit and randomly singing "Surfin' Bird"; not kidding), so we were extremely glad to finally get home!

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


1. Little Pretty Things by Lori Rader-Day:  Juliet Townsend is still stuck in the town where she grew up, cleaning rooms at a crappy motel.  Then one night her former best friend Maddy shows up, and in the morning, Juliet finds Maddy's corpse hanging from the railing outside her room.  When Juliet becomes a suspect in the murder, she has to find a way to clear her name.  Decent, but there's no way you won't guess whodunnit pretty early on.

2. Depraved Heart by Patricia Cornwell:  Dr. Kay Scarpetta receives a text featuring strange surveillance footage of her niece Lucy, and she fears that an old adversary has come back into their lives.  It's not bad, but still a far cry from Cornwell's heyday, and it really needed a firmer hand with the proofreading.

3. The Foxglove Killings by Tara Kelly:  When the severed head of a deer is discovered, people assume it was just a prank.  But then one of the town's rich kids is murdered, and when suspicion falls on her best friend, Nova tries to solve the mystery herself.  It was okay.

4. Don't Fail Me Now* by Una LaMarche:  Michelle is a young African-American woman trying to take care of her brother and sister while their mother is in jail; Leah is a rich white girl.  The only thing they have in common is their father Buck, who abandoned them when they were little. When they find out that Buck is dying in a California hospice, they pack up Michelle's rickety old station wagon and head out on a road trip to see him, hoping to get the closure they've wanted for years.  It can occasionally be a bit melodramatic, but for the most part, I really enjoyed it, especially because the characters are so well drawn.

5. The Bazaar of Bad Dreams by Stephen King:  A collection of short stories (and a couple of poems) from the master of the macabre.  As a huge fan of his, it pains me to say that most of them are mediocre, and one of them ("Obits") is basically Death Note.  (Which, to be fair, is probably a complete coincidence; "no new ideas" and all that.)

6. Lie Still* by Julia Heaberlin:  When her husband Mike accepts a job offer in Texas, Emily is hopeful that the unknown stalker who has been harassing her for years will finally lose track of her.  But when she befriends a wealthy group of women, all of whom have dark secrets (and one who keeps them as blackmail material), she discovers that she may be in even more danger than before.  Gripping and enjoyable, with an important message near the end.

7. The Mare by Mary Gaitskill:  Velvet is a young girl from a troubled home who gets the opportunity to spend some time in the countryside, courtesy of the Fresh Air Fund.  Her host mother, Ginger, becomes extremely attached to her, and Velvet finds comfort in an abused mare named Fugly Girl.  It wasn't bad, but the story sure didn't need 400+ pages to be told, because it just kept repeating the same things over and over.  (Velvet's mom is jealous of Ginger; Velvet rides a horse; Ginger is sad; rinse and repeat.)

2015 tally so far: 82


1. Rookie Yearbook 4:  A collection of articles, art, and photographs from the popular website.

2. Wildflower by Drew Barrymore:  The actress shares her life through a series of informal essays.  It can get a bit hippie woo-woo at times, but then that's always been part of her charm.

3. Rice, Noodle, Fish* by Matt Goulding:  This book about Japanese food will make you ravenously hungry, so be prepared to head to your nearest Japanese restaurant immediately upon finishing it.

2015 tally so far: 24


1. Get Jiro: Blood and Sushi by Anthony Bourdain, Joel Rose, and Ale Garza

2. A Bride's Story* vol. 7 by Kaoru Mori

3. Secret vols. 2-3 (completed) by Yoshiki Tonogai

4. Kamisama Kiss vol. 19 by Julietta Suzuki

5. Kaze Hikaru vol. 23 by Taeko Watanabe

6. What Did You Eat Yesterday? vols. 8-9 by Fumi Yoshinaga

7. Killing and Dying* by Adrian Tomine

8. Alex + Ada vols. 1-3 (complete series) by Jonathan Luna and Sarah Vaughn

9. The Demon Prince of Momochi House vol. 2 by Aya Shouoto

10. Food Wars!* vol. 8 by Yuto Tsukuda and Shun Saeki

11. Library Wars vol. 14 by Kiiro Yumi

2015 tally so far: 74 volumes of manga and 20 graphic novels 


1. Air:  After Earth's air becomes unbreathable, a group of scientists are cryogenically frozen, and two engineers (Norman Reedus and Djimon Hounsou) are supposed to keep watch over them.  But when their friendly relationship frays, the entire project is put at risk.  The performances are good, but it's so fucking slow that G-Vo and I kept checking to see how much time was left in the movie, which (needless to say) is not a glowing endorsement.

2. The Gift:  While shopping for their new home, Simon and Robyn run into an old acquaintance of Simon's.  Simon barely remembers Gordo, but Gordo sure remembers him, and things are about to get fucked up.  A decent little thriller.

3. Monkey Kingdom*:  A Disney documentary following a troop of Sri Lankan monkeys.  The narration can get awfully juvenile (which is the fault of the script, not Tina Fey, who's good), and I could have done without "Hey Hey, We're the Monkees!" on the soundtrack, but I'm giving it a star because of the gorgeous cinematography and, of course, the monkeys.

4. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl*:  Greg is an aimless high schooler who makes film parodies with his friend Earl.  One day, his mother insists that he go visit Rachel, a classmate who has just been diagnosed with leukemia, and he reluctantly does so, but they wind up forming a close bond.  Despite the subject matter, it can be very funny, and it's far more realistic than most movies about terminal illness.  Tissues are mandatory.

5. The Woman in Gold:  An elderly woman (Helen Mirren) enlists the help of a young lawyer (Ryan Reynolds) to recover a Klimt painting that the Nazis stole from her family during WWII.  Helen Mirren is great, and it's an interesting true story, but it was a bit schmaltzy and predictable...well, inasmuch as you can call a true story "predictable".

6. Burn After Reading:  In this deeply weird flick, a woman desperate to pay for plastic surgery and her meatheaded coworker (Frances McDormand and Brad Pitt) concoct a scheme to blackmail a former CIA agent, leading to all sorts of complications.  The great cast also includes John Malkovich, Tilda Swinton, and George Clooney,  but it was a bit too pointless to be thoroughly entertaining, and there's not a single sympathetic character in the bunch.

7. Jurassic World:  Some people never learn from their mistakes, so they build a new theme park called Jurassic World that features lots of dinosaurs, including a new genetically engineered one called Indomitus Rex.  When she gets out and goes on a killing spree, the park superintendent and a "dino whisperer" (Bryce Dallas Howard and Chris Pratt) have to take her down.  Intensely stupid, but lots of fun.

2015 tally so far: 97


1. Honeymoon (full album) by Lana Del Rey

2. Emotion (full album) by Carly Rae Jepsen