Tuesday, May 31, 2016

media update: May

CONFIDENTIAL TO G-VO:  Skip fiction review #6 as you may want to read it at some point.

Oops...I just realized that I've been forgetting to keep track of how much I've read/watched since the beginning of the year, so I'll start doing that again as of this entry.

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


1. Maestra* by L.S. Hilton:  Judith Rashleigh works for a prestigious London art house, but when she's fired for daring to suggest her boss is trying to sell a forgery, she realizes that being good has never gotten her anywhere.  She reinvents herself as a femme fatale, living the glamorous life and getting herself in all kinds of sticky situations, from the gruesome to the erotic.  It's quite the page-turner, with an interesting antiheroine and some legitimately hot sex scenes.  Maestra is the first book in a planned trilogy; I'll definitely be curious to see what else Judith gets up to.

2. The Nest by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney:  The Plumb siblings have been waiting to get their hands on The Nest, a trust fund set up by their father that has grown to a significant amount over the years. But when their brother Leo gets into a drunk driving accident that costs his passenger her foot, their mother taps into the fund to pay the settlement, causing a serious rift in familial relations.  A bit overhyped, but decent enough.

3. The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson:  Princess Lia doesn't want to be forced into an arranged marriage, so she flees to a faraway village and starts a new life under a new name.  When two men show up at the inn where she works, she's attracted to them, but unbeknownst to her, one of them is an assassin sent to kill her and the other is the prince she was supposed to marry.  I enjoyed it enough that I'll be picking up the sequels.

4. The Heart of Betrayal by Mary E. Pearson:  This is the sequel to #3, so I can't review it properly lest I spoil its predecessor.

5. Food Whore by Jessica Tom:  Tia Monroe moves to New York City in hopes of pursuing her culinary dreams.  When an internship she'd hoped for doesn't pan out, she thinks she's lost her big chance, but then another one pops up when the restaurant critic for the New York Times lets Tia in on a secret: he's lost his sense of taste but doesn't want anyone else to know, so he asks her to be his ghostwriter in exchange for sumptuous meals.  It's like The Devil Wears Prada set in the culinary world, and I liked it.  I do wish it had a different title, though; I had to fashion a plain paper cover so I could read it in the break room at work without getting hauled in front of HR.

6. The Fireman** by Joe Hill:  Millions of people are infected with a plague nicknamed Dragonscale that causes most of the carriers to spontaneously combust.  When a school nurse named Harper Grayson finds out that she's not only infected, but pregnant, she flees for a camp where survivors have taken shelter, but it's not necessarily the safe haven she's hoping for.  I kept wondering whether I should downgrade this to one star, due to spoilery reasons, but I went with two because it's riveting and Joe Hill writes really good female characters.

7. The Assistants* by Camille Perri:  Tina works as the executive assistant to the CEO of a major media company.  One day, an error on an expense report works out in her favor, and instead of correcting it, she uses the money to pay off her student loan.  She vows never to do anything like it again, but other assistants in the company manage to find out, and they all want a piece of the embezzlement pie.  A quick, clever, enjoyable read.

8. A Court of Mist and Fury** by Sarah J. Maas:  Sequel etc.  I will say that it's excellent, and holy crap, Sarah J. Maas writes REALLY hot sex scenes.  Surprisingly graphic for YA, too, though I've also seen this book shelved under "new adult", which is probably much more appropriate.

2016 TOTAL SO FAR:  55


1. Shrill** by Lindy West:  A collection of essays by the former Jezebel contributor, covering everything from flying while fat to confronting a particularly nasty Internet troll who impersonated her dead father.  Blisteringly honest, often uproariously funny (I literally, and I mean literally in the actual sense and not the way it's usually used, sprayed masticated pretzels across a break room table while reading this because I was laughing so hard), and an absolute must-read.

2. Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City* by Matthew Desmond:  A stark look at how evictions have become commonplace in the US due to the never-ending cycle of poverty.  Not a fun read, but an important one.

2016 TOTAL SO FAR: 7


1. The Ancient Magus' Bride* vols. 2-3 by Kore Yamazaki

2. Food Wars! vol. 11 by Yuto Tsukuda and Shun Saeki

3. Say I Love You vol. 13 by Kanae Hazuki

4. The Demon Prince of Momochi House vol. 4 by Aya Shouoto

5. The Walking Dead* vol. 25 by Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard

2016 TOTAL SO FAR:  3 graphic novels and 25 volumes of manga


1. Vacation:  In this spiritual sequel, Rusty Griswold (Ed Helms) decides to take his family on a road trip to Wally World; complications ensue.  It's nowhere near as funny as the original, of course, but Ed Helms and Christina Applegate have good chemistry, Chris Hemsworth (as Rusty's super hung brother-in-law) is hot as hell, there's a hysterical cameo by Norman Reedus, and it made me laugh hard and often.  I don't know if I would have been as forgiving if, say, I'd paid to see it in the theater as opposed to getting it from Netflix, but I did enjoy it.

2. Room*:  Joy (Brie Larson, very deserving of her Oscar) has been confined to a small shed for over seven years by a man she calls Old Nick, along with her 5-year-old son Jack (Jacob Tremblay, not nominated but should have been).  Despite their situation, Joy has given Jack the best life she could, but she's reaching her breaking point.  Very moving, with terrific performances, and I cried throughout most of it.

3. The 5th Wave:  After alien invasions decimate Earth, Cassie (Chloe Grace Moretz) is separated from her brother and tries to find him, but staying alive won't be easy.  It was a massive commercial and critical flop, but it really wasn't that bad.  The book was way better, though.

4. Spotlight*:  This is the true story of how the Boston Globe exposed the Catholic church's practice of taking priests accused of sexual molestation and moving them elsewhere...you know, because a change of location would keep them from hurting kids.  I don't know that it was worth the Best Picture Oscar, which probably should have gone to Room instead (though I haven't seen all of the nominees yet) but it was still very powerful.

5. Dirty Grandpa:  Jason (Zac Efron) reluctantly agrees to drive his grandfather (Robert DeNiro) to Florida for spring break, and they wind up getting into all sorts of shenanigans.  It had a couple of really funny lines/scenes, and Robert DeNiro looks like he's having a blast, but it lost steam about halfway through, and I'm getting really tired of the shrewish fiancee stereotype.  Also, the stinger was so fucking creepy I actually squirmed.

6. Justice League Vs. Teen Titans:  Robin is being a little bitch, so Batman sends him to live with the Teen Titans.  While he's there, Raven's demon father Trigon possesses the Justice League, so the Teen Titans have to fight him and restore order to the world.  Decent enough, but not one of the better installments in the direct-to-video DC movies.

7. The Witch:  After being banished by their settlement in 1600s New England, a family makes a new home at the edge of a forest.  It seems idyllic, but there's something VERY nasty in those woods.

I was really looking forward to this movie, because it got great reviews, but aside from one genuinely disturbing scene near the beginning, it's just not scary.  I didn't care about anyone (which dooms pretty much anything for me, but especially horror movies), and I fear the hype machine led me to expect something much better.  I'll give it credit for beautiful cinematography and an eerie score, but I was very let down, and G-Vo absolutely hated it.  (He gave it 1 star to my 3.)

8. Captain America: Civil War*:  The United Nations wants to limit what superheroes are allowed to do, and although some of the Avengers are okay with restrictions, others don't like the idea at all, causing a serious rift and some truly badass action scenes.  Immensely entertaining (far more so than The Avengers: Age of Ultron) and am I a Stucky (Steve/Bucky) shipper now?  Goddamn right I am. 

2016 TOTAL SO FAR:  47