Thursday, March 31, 2016

media update: March

At the beginning of every month, I start a draft in this humble blog where I keep track of my viewing/reading material, and then at the end of the month, I do some last minute tweaking and post my media update.  Well, much to my intense dismay, something went wrong last week and I lost my fucking March draft.  I tried to recreate my list as best I could from memory, my Twitter feed, and my/G-Vo's Netflix rental histories, but I might have forgotten a couple of titles, and these aren't necessarily in chronological order of when I read/watched them, but rather when I remembered them.  I'm seriously cheesed about this, but hopefully it doesn't happen again.

Also, my font and spacing look kind of weird to me, and I've tried to fix it but my patience grows ever thinner, so my apologies if this looks like ass.  Hopefully things are back to normal next month.

As ever, asterisks denote something I particularly enjoyed; double asterisks denote the absolute creme de la creme.  Your mileage may vary. 


1. Glass Sword by Victoria Aveyard:  This is a direct sequel to Red Queen, so I can't give it a proper review lest I spoil its predecessor.  It's not one of my favorite YA series, largely because it's so derivative of other stuff (Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Hunger Games being two of the biggest), but it ends on an intriguing note.

2. Cruel Crown by Victoria Aveyard:  Two novellas from the same universe as the above.

3. The Kingdom of Little Wounds** by Susann Cokal:  In the city of Skyggehavn in the 15th century, Princess Sophia has just gotten married.  She is the royal family's greatest hope, as the other children of the king and queen have either died or are suffering from a mysterious illness.  But her wedding night goes horribly awry, and the kingdom is thrown into turmoil.  In the midst of it all, a disgraced seamstress, a mute nursemaid, and a scheming count try to survive by any means necessary. 

I found this book in the YA section of the library, and I hadn't gotten very far into it before I began wondering if it had been put on the wrong shelf.  But not only did the spine bear the YA sticker, but there was a seal on the front proclaiming it the winner of a prestigious award given for excellence in young adult literature.  I don't know who decided it was YA, but man, they fucked up.  It's got a story about a woman mating with a monkey, numerous (and very graphic) scenes of rape and sexual blackmail, horrifying descriptions of dead bodies and debilitating illnesses, and a man who has sewn jewels under the skin of his penis.  It is a DARK fucking book.  It's fantastic---the sumptuous writing reminded me of As Meat Loves Salt by Maria McCann, which is a comparison I would never make lightly, seeing as it's my favorite novel of all time---but it is absolutely not for everyone.

4. 13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl* by Mona Awad:  Thirteen short stories---some told from the point of view of Lizzie, the protagonist, and some told from the POV of people around her---about being fat and getting thin, but still feeling unfulfilled.  Sharp and poignant.

5. The Long and Faraway Gone* by Lou Berney:  In 1986, several movie theater employees are murdered during an armed robbery, and a beautiful teenage girl named Genevieve disappears from the state fair, leaving her little sister Julianna behind.  Twenty-five years later, Wyatt, the lone survivor of the movie theater massacre, is working as a private investigator in Las Vegas, and he reluctantly agrees to go back to Oklahoma City to look into a harassment case for a friend.  Meanwhile, Julianna is still struggling to find out what happened to her sister.  I was a bit bothered by an aspect of Wyatt's story that I can't discuss due to spoilers, but overall I really enjoyed this beautifully written book, and it has the most fantastic final chapter I've read in ages.  It took my breath away.

6. Hidden Bodies* by Caroline Kepnes:  This is a direct sequel to You, so I can't review it lest I spoil its predecessor.  All I'll say is that it's like a blackly funny rom-com narrated by Dexter Morgan or Patrick Bateman, and if that sounds appealing (and, of course, you've already read You), then you'll love it.

7. Captive Prince* by C.S. Pacat:  After his brother seizes power, Damen is stripped of his identity and sent to the enemy nation of Vere to serve as a slave to its prince. It's like Game of Thrones meets the classic yaoi series Ai no Kusabi, and when I finished it, I couldn't wait to pick up the next one. Unfortunately, there was a (thankfully short) waiting list at the library, so I had to keep myself occupied with the next book on this list until the sequel came in.

Side note: the cover doesn't make it clear that this is a gay romance, so if you're not interested in reading dude on dude action, then I wouldn't recommend it.  If that flips your kilt, though, you are in for a treat.

7. What Was Mine by Helen Klein Ross:  Lucy is desperate for a child, so when she's at IKEA and sees an unattended baby girl, she impulsively takes the baby and raises her as her own, telling her friends and family that Mia was adopted.  But her carefully constructed web of lies falls apart twenty years later due to one of the dumbest mistakes a character has ever committed in the history of fiction, and needless to say, her actions come back to bite her in the ass.  It reminded me of Jodi Picoult in both good and bad ways.

8. Prince's Gambit** by C.S. Pacat:  This is a sequel to #7, so obviously I can't review it lest I spoil its predecessor.  I'll just say that holy mother of god, chapter 19!  This would have been "just" a one star book, but that chapter was so fantastic that I gave it two stars instead.  I was so grateful that...

9. Kings Rising* by C.S. Pacat: ...this arrived at the same time as Prince's Gambit.  God bless the LA County library system!  When I finished PG, I immediately began this one, like the literary equivalent of chain smoking.  Man, what a great series.  It's only a trilogy, but I hope the author writes more in this universe because it gave me so many delicious feels.  (And NO, not all of those feels were in my pants.)

10. The Book of Ivy by Amy Engel:  After nuclear war decimates the population, a small band of survivors creates a new society.  But two families want control, and after the dust has settled, the powers that be decide to marry off the sons of the winning side to the daughters of the losing side in hopes of maintaining peace.  Ivy is about to marry the president's son, and her father and sister want her to get information that will lead to his family's downfall, but instead she finds herself falling in love.  It was pretty good, so I'll be picking up the sequel.

11. The Widow by Fiona Barton:  Jean's husband was accused of a terrible crime, but after he's acquitted, they slowly begin to put their lives back together.  But when Glen is killed in a traffic accident, Jean decides she finally wants to share her side of the story.  It's decent, but not the twisty thriller the reviews made it out to be.  (And JFC, can reviewers PLEASE stop comparing every goddamn book to Gone Girl or The Girl on the Train already?  It's lazy shorthand, and it's almost never accurate.)

12. Shelter* by Jung Yun:  Kyung has never been close to his parents, but after they're brutally victimized during a home invasion, he reluctantly allows them to move in with him.  He tries to be sympathetic, but he can't seem to forget the past or forgive his parents' part in it.  Beautifully written and redemptive.

13. Multiple Listings by Tracy McMillan:  Nicki is a single mother who has a bad habit of always picking the wrong guy, and her current boyfriend Jake is no exception.  Her life becomes even more complicated when her estranged father gets out of prison and winds up on her doorstep.  Predictable as hell, but a decently diverting read.


Nothing this month.


1. Rosalie Lightning* by Tom Hart

2. The Ancient Magus' Bride* by Kore Yamazaki

3. Rin-Ne vol. 20 by Rumiko Takahashi

4. Apothecarius Argentum vols. 2-3 by Tomomi Yamashita

5. My Love Story!!** vol. 7 by Kazune Kawahara and Aruko:  This series keeps getting better and better, hence the double stars.

6. So Cute It Hurts!! vol. 5 by Go Ikeyamada

7. Black Rose Alice vol. 6 by Setona Mizushiro:  The ending of this volume hints at more to come, but I think I'm done because of the way sexual assault was handled in this series.  Seriously, we're supposed to root for the heroine to wind up with the "hero", who raped his beloved and drove her to commit suicide?  Or are we supposed to root for her to wind up with the dude who raped his twin brother's girlfriend, and then his brother shot her (yes, the VICTIM) in the stomach?  Yeah, no thanks.

8. Say I Love You vol. 12 by Kanae Hazuki

9. Lady Killer by Joelle Jones and Jamie S. Rich

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

11. No Matter How I Look at It, It's You Guys' Fault I'm Not Popular!* vol. 8 by Nico Tanigawa

12. Ajin: Demi-Human vol. 7 by Gamon Sakurai


1. 99 Homes*:  Dennis Nash (Andrew Garfield), his mother, and his young son are evicted from their home by a sleazy real estate broker (Michael Shannon).  Dennis is desperate for cash, so he reluctantly starts doing construction work for the broker, but he soon finds himself evicting people too...a turn of events that leaves him highly conflicted.  A powerful movie with terrific acting; Michael Shannon in particular needs to call the cops because he was robbed of an Oscar nomination.

2. Sicario*:  FBI agent Kate Macer (Emily Blunt) is dragged into the drug war at the U.S./Mexico border.  Gritty and tense.

3. Bloodsucking Bastards*:  After losing his girlfriend and a promotion in the same week, Evan (Fran Kranz) thinks his life can't get much worse, but then his company is taken over by vampires. It reminded me of Shaun of the Dead, and although it wasn't as good as that movie (no disrespect intended; that's a damn high bar!), it was really funny and much better than expected.

4. Crimson Peak*:  Edith Cushing (Mia Wasikowska) is swept off her feet by dashing Thomas Sharpe (Tumblr's boyfriend Tom Hiddleston), who takes her to his estate in England.  The house is in serious disrepair, his sister Lucille (Jessica Chastain) hates her, and oh yeah, there are ghosts roaming around the halls.  Absolutely gorgeous costumes and production design, combined with excellent performances, made this a nifty little treat.

5. Spectre:  This James Bond flick was so flabby and disappointing that I don't even feel like giving it a real review.  Daniel Craig still looks hot, though, so at least there's that.

6. Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension:  A new family is terrorized in this decent (and often surprisingly funny) installment.

7. Ratter:  Emma is a graduate student who's moved to New York to continue her studies.  She's enjoying her new life until a cyberstalker (or a "ratter") hacks into her devices and starts watching everything she does.  It's shown entirely via her computer and cell phone, much like Unfriended, which brings immediacy to the action.  It also reminded me of Entrance, in that it's a slow burn for 95% of the movie and then things go utterly batshit at the end.  It's not a classic for the ages or anything, but I liked it more than I thought I would (i.e. I actually finished it).

8. The Good Dinosaur:  Arlo is a scaredy-cat dinosaur who gets separated from his family, and while he's trying to find his way back home, he runs into a feral child who used to steal his family's crops. Initially they're at odds, but they become friends along the way.

Man, is this a hard movie to review.  About ten minutes into it, I was so annoyed by the dinosaur family's cornpone accents that I was tempted to quit.  But it's a Pixar movie, and although not every one of their movies has been a gem, their track record is good enough that I'm willing to give anything they've made a fair chance.  And it did get better as it went along, but I had some major complaints.  First of all, the CGI is absolutely stunning; half the time, you can't even tell the backgrounds are animated!  But the dinosaurs are very cartoony, and it's a jarring juxtaposition against the photorealism of the backgrounds.  It reminded me of (and man, am I dating myself here) Dot and the Kangaroo.  The dinosaurs either needed to be more realistic or the backgrounds needed to be LESS realistic so the contrast wouldn't be so jarring.  (Sorry to use "jarring" again so soon, but I couldn't really think of a better word offhand.)  Second, there are two scenes that seemed awfully shocking for a movie aimed at young kids: a startlingly violent decapitation (true, it's just a very large beetle, but the results were unnervingly realistic) and a scene where Spot (the kid) and Arlo eat fermenting fruit and then proceed to have what looks like an acid trip.  It's definitely not the weakest Pixar movie---that would be Cars 2---but it was certainly disappointing.


1. 25 by Adele (full album)

2. Music and Lyrics soundtrack (full album)

3. "The Rose" by Bette Midler:  This is one of two songs that makes me choke up every single time I hear it.  (The other one is "The Rainbow Connection", but it has to be Kermit's version.)

4. "To Cut a Long Story Short" by Spandau Ballet