Thursday, June 30, 2016

media update: June

'Sup, yo?  It's been a very stressful month for me because work has been sucking Satan's hairy balls.  This is not a new development, of course, but they keep piling straws onto this camel's back and it's about to break.  On the plus side, my dreadful boss got a promotion, so we're getting a new one next week.  She seems a little goofy (when she said she'd only be in the office once or twice a month, she threw her hands up in the air and said "Party in the office, whooooo!", which oh my god, lady, stop), but nice enough, and without doing something that would get her canned, there's no way she can be worse than the old regime.  For those of you keeping track at home, this will be my SEVENTH boss in 2 years.

On the video game front, I played the first Uncharted game and am well into the second one, which is considerably better (not that the first one was bad).  I hadn't planned on playing any of the Uncharted games, but the fourth one was written by Neil Druckmann, who wrote The Last of Us, so I figured Uncharted 4 was a must-play and I didn't want to go into it without playing its predecessors. 

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. Map of Bones by Francesca Haig:  This is the sequel to The Fire Sermon, so I can't review it properly lest I spoil its predecessor.  Unfortunately, I didn't like it nearly as much as its predecessor; to be honest, it was kind of boring, so hopefully the final book is better.  Also, I don't know why it was called Map of Bones, because there was no such thing.  Someone kept referring to a MAZE of bones, but no map.  Weird.

2. Girls on Fire* by Robin Wasserman:  In 1991, lonely teenager Hannah Dexter is befriended by Nirvana-worshipping, brash Lacey Champlain.  Hannah reinvents herself as "Dex" and they form a tight bond, but Lacey has some secrets that could destroy them both.  A dark and disturbing look at all-consuming female friendship that I loved.  One line that really stood out to me:  when Hannah says that before Lacey entered her life, she was "on the fast track to an uneventful life and just smart enough to care."

Warning: the inside of the book jacket spoils something rather major, so don't read it if you're interested in this book!  Amazon's synopsis is spoiler-free, so that's safe if you want to know more.

3. The Last Star by Rick Yancey:  This is the final book in the 5th Wave trilogy, so I can't review it properly lest I spoil its predecessors.  To be honest, I wasn't a fan of how it wrapped up.

4. End of Watch by Stephen King:  This is the final book in the Bill Hodges trilogy, so...well, you know the drill by now!  Not as good as Mr. Mercedes, but WAY better than Finders Keepers.

5. If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo:  After a troubling incident, Amanda transfers to another school and moves in with her father.  She doesn't want to get too close to anybody lest they discover that she's trans, but she finds herself falling in love with a handsome boy named Grant, and she's afraid he won't accept her if he finds out the truth.  Well written and mostly believable, probably because the author is trans herself.

6. Fellside* by M.R. Carey:  Jess is a heroin addict who is blamed for setting a fire that killed a young boy named Alex.  She's sent to a women's prison called Fellside, where she is visited by Alex's ghost, who absolves her of guilt and wants her to find the real killer.  It's sort of like a non-humorous Orange Is the New Black with a supernatural twist.

7. Sweetbitter* by Stephanie Danler:  Desperate for a new life, Tess moves to New York City and gets a job as a backwaiter for an elite restaurant.  She receives a culinary education, but also an education in drugs, sex, and love.

This got some of the biggest rave reviews I've seen in forever, so I tried to temper my expectations because I was pretty sure there was no way it was as good as the hype machine claimed, and I was right.  (I mean, for god's sake, the jacket blurb says "You will never again read a debut coming-of-age novel as stunning as this one."  Quite a claim!)  But even though it's not "OMG the best book ever!!eleventy!!", it's still very good and provides a warts-and-all look at the restaurant industry.  I also really liked this line:  "As I contemplated the skyline this double feeling came to me as one thought, pressing in from either side of the bridge, impossible for me to reconcile:  It is ludicrous for anyone to live here, and I can never leave."

8. Daughters Unto Devils* by Amy Lukavics:  Amanda's family moves from their small mountain home to the prairie to begin a new life.  But the walls of their new home are covered in blood, which turns out to be exactly the bad omen you'd expect.  I had to pick this up because one of the review blurbs said it was like Stephen King's version of Little House on the Prairie, which was pretty spot on.  A good creepy thriller to give you chills on a hot summer night.

2016 TOTAL SO FAR: 63


1. Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War* by Mary Roach:  The science writer looks at the science behind keeping soldiers alive, ranging from uniform design to shark repellent.  It wasn't one of my favorites of her books, but it's still well worth reading.  How could anyone resist a book with a chapter called "Leaky SEALs: Diarrhea As a Threat to National Security"?  Also, it includes the line "a tasting flight of sodden tampons" (referring to an experiment to see if bears really are attracted to menstruating women; most bears are not, but polar bears get REALLY excited by it, so stay the fuck away from polar bears if you're raggin', or ever, really), which is truly one of the weirdest sentences I've ever read in a book.

2. The Vegas Diaries by Holly Madison:  In her second memoir, the author talks about starring in a now-defunct Vegas revue called Peepshow and trying to shed her image as Hugh Hefner's former girlfriend.  Not as good as Down the Rabbit Hole, largely because it doesn't spill any new tea, but enjoyable enough.  She didn't really talk about her husband and daughter, so I'm guessing she'll be writing another book!

3. Sex Object* by Jessica Valenti:  A candid, often funny, and even more often depressing memoir about sexism and the toll it has taken on both the author specifically and women in general.

2016 TOTAL SO FAR: 10


1. Avatar: The Last Airbender - Smoke and Shadow* vols. 1-3 by Gene Luen Yang and Gurihiru

2. What Did You Eat Yesterday? vol. 10 by Fumi Yoshinaga

3. Yotsuba! vol. 13 by Kiyohiko Azuma

4. A Silent Voice by Yoshitoki Oima

5. Food Wars!* vol. 12 by Yuto Tsukuda and Shun Saeki

6. Say I Love You vol. 14 by Kanae Hazuki

7. Kamisama Kiss vol. 21 by Julietta Suzuki

8. So Cute It Hurts!! vol. 7 by Go Ikeyamada

9. The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service vol. 14 by Eiji Otsuka and Housui Yamazaki

10. Hot Dog Taste Test by Lisa Hanawalt

11. Something New* by Lucy Knisley

2016 TOTAL SO FAR:  8 graphic novels and 33 volumes of manga


1. The Revenant*:  After being mauled by a bear and left for dead by the other members of his fur trapping team, Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) has to fight to survive at least long enough to get his revenge.  Brutal but good, with absolutely stunning cinematography.

2. Batman: Bad Blood:  The Bat Family investigates Batman's disappearance.  The animation is a cut above the usual straight-to-video DC fare, and kudos for not straightwashing Batwoman.  Also, my thirst for Nightwing is so great that not even 100 gallons of Gatorade could possibly quench it.

3. Anomalisa**:  Michael Stone is alienated from other people to the point that they all look and sound alike to him, even his wife and son.  But when he's on a business trip, he hears a woman talking in the hallway of his hotel, and her voice is different, so he runs after her.  Her name is Lisa, and they form a strange and tender bond.

Oh man, you guys, this movie is something else.  It's weird, as you'd expect from a Charlie Kaufman movie, and wonderful and heartbreaking and funny.  The stop-motion animation is incredible (be sure to watch the "making of" featurettes on the DVD to see how much work went into it) and the voice acting is terrific and it's the best movie I've seen so far this year.

4. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies:  It's all right there in the title: the classic novel, but with zombies thrown in!  We weren't expecting much out of it, but it was surprisingly decent.

5. Darling:  A young woman moves into an old house in Manhattan to serve as its caretaker, but she slowly begins losing her mind.  It's a bit of a ripoff (or homage, if you're feeling generous) of Repulsion, but the black and white cinematography is gorgeous and the sound design is superb.

6. 10 Cloverfield Lane*:  After a car accident, Michelle wakes up handcuffed to a cot.  A man named Howard walks in and tells her that he rescued her and brought her to his bomb shelter because the world has been decimated by a chemical attack.  Is he really her savior, or something worse?  The ending was a little goofy, but it's incredibly tense and well done, and John Goodman is great as Howard.

7. The Brothers Grimsby:  Nobby and Sebastian (Sacha Baron Cohen and Mark Strong) were separated as children.  28 years later, Nobby is a soccer hooligan with 9 kids and Sebastian is an elite spy.  When they're reunited, Nobby fucks up an important mission, and he and Sebastian have to try to make it right.  We weren't expecting much from this, but it was pretty funny and features what is quite possibly one of the grossest scenes in film history.  Also, some of the action scenes were actually quite good, probably owing to the fact that Louis Leterrier also directed The Transporter and Unleashed.

8. The Drop Box*:  This documentary follows a South Korean pastor who built a drop box where people could safely leave unwanted infants, most of them with special needs.  Pastor Lee has so much compassion it's practically a superpower, and I cried throughout pretty much the whole thing.   

2016 TOTAL SO FAR: 55