Monday, February 01, 2016

media update: January

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 ever, your mileage may vary.


1. Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff:  After a whirlwind courtship, Lotto and Mathilde get married, much to the horror of his rich mother, who disowns him.  After some very lean years, Lotto finds success as a playwright and Mathilde basks in the reflected glory, but things aren't quite what they seem.

Man, reading this was a weird experience.  I started it, got about 100 pages into it, didn't like it, and went on Amazon to read some (non-spoilery) reviews to see if I should continue.  Everybody said it got really interesting about halfway through, so I kept going, and although they were right, it still wasn't the amazing book I'd been led to believe.  The writing is gorgeous, but I absolutely despised just about every single person in it, and I was glad when I finally finished.

2. Defy by Sara B. Larson:  After her parents are murdered, Alexa disguises herself as a boy to serve in the king's army alongside her twin brother.  But she, her fellow guard Rylan, and Prince Damian are abducted by the enemy, and she's terrified that her secret will come to light.  It's not phenomenal or anything, but I was interested enough to pick up the sequels.

3. The Scamp by Jennifer Pashley:  Rayelle meets a reporter who's looking into the disappearance of several girls, and she decides to go with him in order to get out of her small town, but the investigation turns up some unsettling leads.  If you didn't know anything about this book other than the title, you'd probably assume it was a cute comic romp, and boy would you be surprised.  It's well written, but it's so dark and disturbing I wanted a shower and a nap after finishing it.

4. Descent* by Tim Johnston:   After Caitlin disappears during a vacation in the Rockies, her devastated family tries to pick up the pieces.  I don't usually cry over books (which is weird, since I usually cry at the drop of a hat, if you'll pardon the cliché), but I sure as shit cried over this one.  I did have two problems with the plot, neither of which I can share due to spoilers, but overall it's really good.

5. Ignite by Sara B. Larson:  This is the direct sequel to book #2 above, so I can't review it lest I spoil its predecessor.

6. The Expatriates by Janice Y.K. Lee:  The lives of three American women intersect in Hong Kong:  Mercy, a young woman whose negligence leads to tragedy; Margaret, one of the victims of that tragedy; and Hilary, who desperately wants a child.  Vivid and beautifully written.

7. Perfected by Kate Jarvik Birch:  Genetically engineered human "pets" are all the rage among the elite.  One of these pets, Ella, is placed in the home of a congressman, where she falls in love with his son Penn and begins to hope for a different life than the one she's been trained to accept.  Choppy writing, but the premise is interesting enough that I'll check out the sequel.

8. Passenger by Alexandra Bracken:  On the night Etta Spencer is scheduled to make her professional violin debut, tragedy strikes and she's thrust into the past, where she learns that she's a time traveler and a powerful family wants her to find something her mother stole from them.  I'm not generally a fan of time travel stuff, but I wanted to read this because I loved the author's Darkest Minds trilogy so much.  It was all right.


1. The Sound of Gravel by Ruth Wariner:  Unwilling to adhere to his church's restrictions against polygamous marriage, the author's father moved to Mexico and started a colony there.  He was murdered by his brother, and afterwards, Ruth's mother remarried a man named Lane, who---to put it mildly---was a shitty husband and stepfather.  It reminded me of Jesus Land by Julia Scheeres, and though it's not as good as that book (which is one of my favorite nonfiction books of all time), it's still a moving story of survival.


1. Attack on Titan: Junior High vol. 4 by Hajime Isayama and Saki Nakagawa

2. Attack on Titan: Before the Fall vol. 6 by Satoshi Shiki and Ryo Suzukaze

3. Citrus* vol. 4 by Saburouta


1. The Man from U.N.C.L.E.*:  This Guy Ritchie reboot of the old TV series flopped hardcore, but it really didn't deserve to.  It's stylish (that 60s couture!), the cast is great, and there are two laugh out loud funny scenes that were worth the rental alone.

2. Revolver:  I don't even know how to summarize this confusing mess, but basically Jason Statham (looking decidedly less hot than usual) gets out of prison and some loan sharks make him start working for them and bleh.  Not worth my time or yours going into more detail.

3. No Escape*:  After relocating to an unnamed Asian country, an American family immediately gets caught in the middle of a violent rebellion, and they have to get across the border before they're killed.  Incredibly intense and well done.

4. Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse:  When a zombie outbreak threatens their town, three scouts band together to save their friends.  It wasn't bad, but it REALLY wanted to be Zombieland or Dead Rising, and it failed.

5. Let's Be Cops:  Two buddies dress up as cops for a costume party and decide that they like the attention it gets them, so they pretend to be real cops...which puts them in the crosshairs of a crime lord.  Incredibly stupid, but it had some funny moments.

6. Amy:  A gripping but intensely sad documentary about the meteoric rise and tragic death of singer Amy Winehouse that will make you rage.  She had to take responsibility for her own choices, of course, but the enablers around her sure didn't make it easy.  That line in "Rehab" where she sings "I ain't got the time/and my daddy thinks I'm fine" is based on something her father actually said.  I know hindsight is 20/20, but I can't imagine anyone seeing her at her lowest point and thinking she was fine.  What a shame.

7. Infinitely Polar Bear:  When Maggie (Zoe Saldana) gets a scholarship for the MBA program at Columbia, she leaves her two young daughters in Boston with her husband Cam (Mark Ruffalo), who's bipolar.  And...that's about it.  There's no real character growth to speak of, and I was actually kind of pissed off at Maggie because (and this following rant is NOT mom/mental illness shaming) why the hell did she think it was a good idea to leave two children with a chain smoking man who REGULARLY decides not to take his lithium AND frequently leaves them alone while he goes out drinking?  Yes, she wanted to make a better life for her family, but come the fuck on.

8. Sinister 2:  Desperate to escape her abusive husband, a mother and her sons hide out in a rural farmhouse.  Unfortunately, because the farmhouse is haunted by a demon who uses young children to commit murder, she may be in even more danger than she was before.  The first movie really got under my skin, but this was a pretty pale imitation.  The home movies of the murders are still incredibly unnerving, though, and the soundtrack by tomandandy (who also scored The Mothman Prophecies) is fucking terrifying.  If we're ever blessed with another Silent Hill game and Akira Yamaoka isn't interested in participating, I'd be more than happy with tomandandy stepping up to the plate.

9. Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials:  This is a direct sequel, so I can't review it properly lest I spoil its predecessor.  I liked it more, largely because of the action sequences, but like G-Vo, I had a few moral qualms about some of the decisions made by the protagonist.

10. Mr. Holmes:  Battling dementia, Sherlock Holmes retires to the countryside, where he tries to remember his final case and why it haunts him.  It's a bit "small", but as you'd expect, Ian McKellen is perfect in the title role.

11. The Martian*:  A group of astronauts is working on Mars when a storm forces them to leave the planet early.  They think their crewmate Mark Watney (Matt Damon) is dead and they leave him behind, but he's actually alive, and he has to figure out how to signal Earth for help.  Immensely entertaining.

12. Sherrybaby:  After being released from prison, Sherry tries to reconnect with her little girl and learn how to live in society again.  It's depressing as hell, but Maggie Gyllenhaal is absolutely phenomenal as Sherry.  The fact that she didn't get nominated for an Oscar when this came out (2006) is a ripoff.

13. Terminator Genisys:  John Connor sends Kyle Reese back to 1984 in order to protect Sarah Connor, and because time travel is fraught with problems, shit happens.  Some pretty good action sequences, but I was confused throughout much of it because I'm not up on my Terminator lore.


As you can see from the tracks below, I went on a bit of an 80s/ new wave kick.

1. "Lawnchairs" by Our Daughter's Wedding

2. "Papa's Got a Brand New Pigbag" by Pigbag

3. "Bostich" by Yello

4. "Ball of Confusion" by Love and Rockets

5. "Rapture" by Blondie

6. "Beat Box" by Art of Noise

7. "A E I O U (Sometimes Y)" by EBN-OZN

8. "Who's That Girl?" by Eurythmics

9. "Steppin' Out" by Joe Jackson

10. "Space Age Love Song" by A Flock of Seagulls

11. "Oh Yeah" by Yello

12. "Rock Lobster" by The B-52's

13. "Destination Unknown" by Missing Persons

14. "Dancing in Heaven (Orbital Be-Bop)" by Q-Feel

15. "Der Kommissar" by After the Fire

16. Greatest (full album) by Duran Duran