Wednesday, November 30, 2016

media update: November

Hello, everybody; I hope this finds you in fine form and that you enjoyed your Thanksgiving holiday.  G's family (except his nephew I.), plus nephew D's girlfriend, came to California for a visit.  On Thanksgiving itself, we had dinner (underwhelming, which especially sucked because the Yelp reviews were so good) at a local joint, and on Friday, we went to the Getty.  Unfortunately, G had to work on Saturday, but the rest of us (except his parents, who were visiting friends) went to Little Tokyo, where I managed to score 12 bags of the jyaga bata chips that G and I love so much.  (They're a seasonal item, so we have to grab as many of them as we can on the rare occasions we find them!)  Afterwards, we dropped the kids (they're both 19, but I've known D since he was 7 so he'll always be a "kid" to me) off at the Greyhound station, and the rest of the group left on Sunday after the Giants/Browns game.  All in all, a lovely long weekend!

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

You'll note that I don't go into much detail on some of the following titles, but that's because I honestly couldn't think of a thing to say about them.  


1. Replica by Lauren Oliver:  The most interesting thing about this book is its format: one side tells the story of a clone named Lyra and the other tells the story of a teenage girl named Gemma, and after reading one side of the story in whichever order you choose, you flip the book over and read the other.  Aside from the novelty factor, though, there's not much to recommend it.

2. The Patterns of Paper Monsters by Emma Rathbone:  Jacob Higgins is a teenage boy living in a juvenile detention facility.  While he’s there, he pines for a girl named Andrea and tries to figure out what a creepy resident named David is planning.  I still have no idea what the title means.

3. Cruel Beautiful World by Caroline Leavitt:  When Lucy runs away with her high school English teacher, her sister Charlotte and guardian Iris try to pick up the pieces of their shattered lives.

4. The Walking Dead: Search and Destroy by Jay Bonansinga:  Sequel etc., and not a very good one.  Christ, the author referred to a character as "the portly woman" three times in TWO PAGES.  We get it, Norma is portly, stop fatshaming the poor chick.

5. Paris for One by Jojo Moyes:  A novella and eight short stories by the author of Me Before You.

6. IQ* by Joe Ide:  Isaiah Quintabe is known around the neighborhood as IQ in deference to his intellect.  He solves cases and charges those who can afford it higher rates to make up for the people who can only pay him in tires and blueberry muffins, but there are far more of the latter than the former, so a job involving a rapper is just the cash cow he's been hoping for...if he doesn't get killed in the process.  Really different and enjoyable; think Sherlock Holmes in the hood.  The epilogue hints at a sequel, and I'll definitely pick that up too.

7. Chaos by Patricia Cornwell:  The discovery of a dead bicyclist turns out to have startling connections to Dr. Kay Scarpetta.  Meh for the most part, like most of Cornwell's recent novels, but the ending takes a very interesting turn.

8. The Weight of Zero by Karen Fortunati:  Catherine is a bipolar teenage girl who's stockpiling medication for the day that Zero (as she refers to depression) finally takes over.  But when she falls in love with a classmate and forms a close bond with a girl in her therapy group, she starts to gain hope for the future again.  Handled in a very sensitive and realistic way.

9. The Diabolic* by S.J. Kincaid:  Nemesis is a Diabolic, bred to have superhuman strength.  Her sole reason for existing is to protect Sidonia, the daughter of a galactic senator.  But when the emperor orders Sidonia to be sent to his kingdom, Nemesis undergoes body modification and goes in Sidonia's place.  I wasn't sure what to expect from this book, especially because the names are so goddamn goofy, but it was really good!   

2016 TOTAL SO FAR: 115


1. The Best of Dear Coquette: Shady Advice from a Raging Bitch Who Has No Business Answering Any of These Questions*:  I'd never heard of Dear Coquette, but I saw this on the shelf at the library and couldn't resist the title, so I had to pick it up.  Good choice!  Her advice is brutal but usually fair, and occasionally so sharply witty you could cut yourself on it.
2. Bandit by Molly Brodak:  A memoir of the author's relationship with her bank robber father.

3. On Living* by Kerry Egan:  The author, a hospice chaplain, reflects on the lessons the dying have taught her.  It may sound maudlin, preachy, or depressing, but it's absolutely not; it's very moving and thought provoking.

2016 TOTAL SO FAR:  21


1. Ajin vol. 8 by Gamon Sakurai

2. No Matter How I Look at It, It's You Guys' Fault I'm Not Popular!* vol. 9 by Nico Tanigawa

2016 TOTAL SO FAR:  60 volumes of manga and 18 graphic novels


1. Holidays:  An anthology of horror shorts revolving around different holidays.  The best were Easter, which featured a creepy Easter bunny/Jesus hybrid (and gave me a huge jump scare; I was watching it on Netflix with headphones and just about leaped out of my skin, which of course startled the shit out of G too) and Father's Day, which reminded me of Silent Hill 2 (music and general mood, not story).

2. X-Men: Apocalypse:  The X-Men team together to fight an ancient mutant named, yup, Apocalypse.  It could have been much better if Apocalypse had been a more interesting villain (and if they hadn't buried sexy Oscar Isaac under all that blue paint and prosthetics), but it's decent enough.  As usual, Quicksilver gets the best scene by far.

3. Disconnect:  A drama about a group of people and the effect technology has had on their lives.  Interesting character studies (and some nice eye candy in the form of Alexander Skarsgard and Max Thieriot), but not required viewing or anything.

4. The Legend of Tarzan:  Now living in London under his birth name of John Clayton, Tarzan (Alexander Skarsgard yet again, looking particularly nffff-able) is reluctant to go back to Africa, but he's convinced by an American to go and investigate rumors of slavery. 

5. Sausage Party:  In this extremely raunchy animated flick, the sentient food items living at a grocery store are excited to go out into the "great beyond", but when they find out what really happens to them, they stage a revolt.  Not nearly as funny as it should have been, but it has its moments, and I'll give it credit for a scene that shocked even me.

Side note:  the character design for the hot dog bun freaked me out.  WHY DID IT HAVE BOOBS.

2016 TOTAL SO FAR:  95

Tuesday, November 01, 2016

media update: October

Hey folks, what's the haps?  Not a whole lot is new with me, although there is a light at the end of the shit chute that is my job.  (Quick recap: a reorg meant all phones all the time for me and my fellow cube jockeys.)  But hark!  New boss emailed me and asked if I would be willing to work on a project that would keep me off phones 100% of the time.  I was like "Lady, unless the project involves crush videos, I'm your gal!"  (paraphrased)

Well, because absolutely nothing can ever be easy, the new project sucks balls.  It involves proprietary software that I've never used before, and it's about as user friendly as a barbed wire toilet seat.  I don't consider myself to be particularly stupid (math excepted), but this is making me feel like a real goddamn dunce.  I'm going to suck up my pride and ask for help tomorrow, because I don't want to go back on phones.  Shit, I had to log into phones today because the call volume was unusually high, and I was very quickly reminded WHY I hate phones so much.  Prime example, though not from today: a woman called and was pissed that Hertz gave her a Mercedes rental instead of a Jaguar (pronounced "JAG-you-are", because of course) and, AND, the car was "filthy".  I expressed empathy because we're supposed to even if we don't give a shit (and believe me, barring a fatality/serious injury call, we DON'T) and she said "Someone left a MAP in the glove compartment."  Oh no!  Not a MAP!!!!!!  God, the way she built up to this horrifying revelation, I thought she was going to say she found a turd or used condom in the car.

Despite taking 4 glorious days off as staycation, I didn't get much reading done this month, at least by my lofty standards.  The reasons are twofold:  SoCal's heat wave FINALLY eased up, which meant I walked on my work breaks instead of reading, and goddamn fucking Hidden City.  It's a downloadable game where you find hidden objects in crowded scenes.  It's got beautiful art and the barest of storylines, and in addition to the hidden object sections, it also has three minigames (as far as I know, anyway): a Minesweeper ripoff, a Bejeweled ripoff, and a memory card game.  It's about as addictive as black tar heroin and if the energy wasn't limited (i.e. once it runs out, you have to wait a while to play again, and it reups SLOOOOOOW), I would probably do little else.  I got G-Vo hooked on it and I feel so bad about it.  Don't download it.  It will eat your life.  Say nope to dope, ugh to drugs, and...uh...tough titty to Hidden City?  IDK IDK.

Anyway, on to the media update!  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. A Shadow Bright and Burning by Jessica Cluess:  Victorian England is under attack by seven horrific creatures called the Ancients, and sorcerers are the only hope of killing the creatures.  Henrietta Howel is the first female sorcerer in hundreds of years, and as such is the prophesied "chosen one" who will end the fight once and for all, but she might not be up to the task.  The author's acknowledgements mention that a friend referred to this book as "Victorian Cthulu Harry Potter", which is pretty much dead on.  Mind you, it's nowhere near as good as the Harry Potter books, but despite a slow start, it got pretty good by the end.

2. Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo: This is the sequel to Six of Crows, so I can't review it properly lest I spoil its predecessor.

3. The Regulars by Georgia Clark:  Evie, Krista, and Willow are best friends and "regular" women who are trying to get by in New York City.  One day Krista is approached by a woman and given a bottle of "the Pretty", a magic potion that turns all of them spectacularly gorgeous.  Needless to say, the process has major complications, and shitting their pants during transformation is the least of it.  I saw this book described as a feminist fairy tale, and that description is pretty spot-on.  The writing is occasionally a bit clunky, but it's still a fun read.

4. Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult:  Ruth is an African-American labor and delivery nurse who is told that the white supremacist parents of a newborn don't want her anywhere near them or their infant.  Ruth complies, but when she's the only nurse around, the baby goes into cardiac arrest and she hesitates before performing CPR.  The baby dies, and Ruth is charged with murder.  This is the first Picoult novel I've finished in a long time, and reading it, I was reminded why I peaced out on her last 3 books.  It's got an intriguing premise, but it's SO frickin' heavy-handed and melodramatic, and there's a twist near the end that sucked BAAAAAAAAAAALLS.  (I don't normally say if something has a twist because that's kind of a spoiler, but saying a Jodi Picoult book has a twist in it is like saying an M. Night Shyamalan movie has a twist in it; people expect it by now.)

5. The Black Key by Amy Ewing:  Sequel etc.

6. The Trespasser* by Tana French:  Irish detective Antoinette Conway is finding her plum gig on the Murder Squad a bit different than she expected; everybody but her partner seems to hate her, pissing in her locker and Photoshopping her face onto porno pictures.  She thinks she may have finally landed a case that will make everybody respect her, but of course there are complications.  A typically excellent thriller from Tana French, and BOY can she nail an ending.  I've read every one of her books, and I don't think there's been a single one where I didn't think the ending was perfect.

7. All the Ugly and Wonderful Things* by Bryn Greenwood:   Wavy's father is a drug dealer and her mother is mentally ill, so she's left to her own devices most of the time, which is the way she likes it.  She's obsessed with constellations, and one night she's staring up at the sky when a man passing by wrecks his motorcycle.  The man is Kellen, an associate of Wavy's father, and they form a sweet friendship that other people don't seem to understand.

Boy, is this a hard one to review, because I really don't want to spoil it.  Suffice it to say that it's beautifully written and extremely uncomfortable reading at times.  It's probably the only book I've ever read where I agreed with both the 5 star and at least one of the 1 star ratings on Amazon.

8. Arrowood* by Laura McHugh:  When Arden Arrowood was eight years old, her twin sisters vanished and were never seen again.  As an adult, Arden moves back into her family's historic house hoping to discover what really happened on the day the twins disappeared. 

2016 TOTAL SO FAR: 106


1. This Is Not My Beautiful Life by Victoria Fedden:  While her house was being renovated, the pregnant author and her husband moved into her parents' beautiful Florida mansion.  Unfortunately, she found out just where all that money came from when her parents were charged with wire fraud and money laundering.  An interesting read that will remind you that your family ain't so dysfunctional after all.  (Well, probably; I don't know your life.)

2016 TOTAL SO FAR: 18


1. A Bride's Story* vol. 8 by Kaoru Mori

2. The Demon Prince of Momochi House vol. 6 by Aya Shouoto

3. So Cute It Hurts!! vol. 9 by Go Ikeyamada

4. My Love Story!!** vol. 10 by Kazune Kawahara and Aruko:  This is by FAR my favorite currently running manga series.  The characters are just goddamn delightful!

5. Food Wars! vol. 14 by Yuto Tsukuda and Shun Saeki:  Man, there sure are a lot of manga titles with exclamation points in 'em (and even double exclamation points, like #3 and #4 above.)

6. The Greatest of Marlys* by Lynda Barry

7. Say I Love You vol. 16 by Kanae Hazuki

8. Ghosts by Raina Telgemeier

9. Trashed by Derf Backderf

2016 TOTAL SO FAR: 18 graphic novels and 58 volumes of manga


1. The Shallows*:  While surfing, Nancy (Blake Lively) is attacked by a shark and has to fight to stay alive.  Very tense and exciting; I'm glad we didn't see this in the theater because we kept yelling at the screen!

2. The Neon Demon:  Jesse (Elle Fanning) moves to Los Angeles to become a model and finds herself the target of jealous bitches in this visually stunning but heavy handed and poorly acted flick.  My friend Ruth said it was like Showgirls without the laughs, which is spot on.  Please see my previous two entries if you'd like a more detailed (and, fair warning, spoiler-filled) review.

3. The Jungle Book*:  In this live action (well, sort of!) adaptation of the classic novel/Disney cartoon, man-cub Mowgli explores his jungle home with his animal friends and tries to avoid the very nasty tiger Shere Khan in the process.  The CGI is fantastic, and I appreciated the fact that it didn't end the same way as the animated movie did.

4. Neighbors 2:  Mac and Kelly (Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne) are about to sell their house, but a sorority moves in next door, putting the sale in jeopardy.  Fortunately, their former nemesis (Zac Efron) is willing to help them drive the sorority away.  Uneven in several spots, but often very funny.

5. Ghostbusters:  Hoo boy.  I WANTED to like this reboot, because it passes the Bechdel test in spades and it has such a great cast and it got so much hate before it even came out, but it just was not good at all.

6. The Big Short*:  A group of people working in finance predict the housing bubble collapse of 2008, and they decide to bet against the banks and make a fortune.  Fascinating and surprisingly funny; it won the Oscar for best adapted screenplay, and rightfully so.

7. Dead Rising: Endgame:  Reporter Chase Carter (Jesse Metcalfe) discovers that the government and pharmaceutical giant Phenotrans are in cahoots to profit off the zombie apocalypse, and he must expose the plot before millions of people are killed.  Nowhere near as good as the first movie, largely because they took it way too seriously (and if you've ever played the Dead Rising games, you KNOW how wonderfully goofy they are), and the zombie action takes way too long to get started, but it has its moments.  Currently streaming for free on Crackle, although you will have to sit through the same McDonald's/Call of Duty ads over and over again.

8. The Purge: Election Year:  A presidential candidate vows to eliminate the Purge (a yearly occasion when all crimes are legal for 12 hours), which puts her squarely in the crosshairs on Purge Night.  Scary, but nowhere near as scary as this ACTUAL election year.

Side note:  one thing I appreciate about the Purge series is that although all crime is legal on Purge night, they've never shown or even hinted at sexual assault, which I really appreciate.  (I could be forgetting something, so please feel free to correct me if I'm wrong on this, and I'm not just saying that.)

2016 TOTAL SO FAR: 90