Friday, March 31, 2017

media update: March

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. The Burning World by Isaac Marion:  This is the sequel to Warm Bodies, so I can't review it properly lest I spoil its predecessor.  I'll just say that I didn't enjoy it very much.

2. Heartbreak Hotel by Jonathan Kellerman:  Child psychologist Alex Delaware is surprised when Thalia Mars, a woman in her late nineties, calls him for an appointment.  He goes to see her at the hotel where she's lived for many years, and Thalia is cryptic about what she wants, but she promises to tell him everything during their next meeting.  When her body is discovered the next day and foul play is suspected, Alex and his police lieutenant friend Milo Sturgis decide to look into it.  Not one of Kellerman's better books, but still entertaining.  I could have done without Alex saying "The Internet raped privacy a long time ago" at one point.  Not cool, Kellerman.

3. The Lonely Hearts Hotel by Heather O'Neill:  While living at an orphanage, piano prodigy Pierrot and charming Rose fall in love.  They're separated as teenagers, and their lives take squalid turns, but they never stop trying to find each other.  Some really gorgeous writing in this book.

4. I See You by Clare Mackintosh:  Zoe Walker is stunned when she sees her photograph used in a classified ad, but the next day, a different woman's picture is in the ad instead.  Zoe tries to put it out of her mind, but the ad shows a new woman every day, and some of them are turning up dead.  It was okay.

5. What You Don't Know* by JoAnn Chaney:  Jacky Seever was beloved by his community until the discovery of 33 bodies in his crawl space.  He's now on death row, but the effects of his crimes still continue to reverberate with the cops who arrested him, the reporter who wrote about him, and his unsuspecting wife.  Then new victims with ties to Seever start showing up, and everyone's lives are thrown into turmoil again.  It reminded me a lot of early Lehane; it's terrific.

6. Things We Have in Common by Tasha Kavanagh:  Yasmin is having a miserable adolescence:  her father recently died and she's being bullied over her weight.  She idolizes her beautiful classmate Alice, and when Yasmin sees a man watching Alice, she fantasizes about him kidnapping Alice so she can rescue her...and then Alice actually disappears.  A decent read, and the ending is quite good.

7. Dead Letters* by Caite Dolan-Leach:  Ava fled her dysfunctional family and moved to France, but she's forced to come back home when she finds out that her twin sister Zelda has died in a fire.  She hadn't spoken to Zelda for two years, and she's convinced Zelda is really alive and just playing an elaborate game on her, so she starts following the clues she thinks Zelda left behind.  It took a while to hook me, but MAN does it get good at about the halfway mark.  One of the best last lines I've read in a while, too.

8. Long May She Reign by Rhiannon Thomas:  Freya is a teenage girl who's 23rd in line to the throne, but she has no real desire to be royalty anyway; she just wants to experiment in her lab.  But when a Red Wedding-esque banquet leaves everyone else in line dead, she finds herself with a crown on her head and a target on her back.

9. The Roanoke Girls** by Amy Engel:  When her mother commits suicide, 15-year-old Lane Roanoke is sent to live with her grandparents and cousin Allegra on their huge estate in rural Kansas.  Lane enjoys her new life until something happens that forces her to flee.  She never plans on going back, but eleven years later, her grandfather calls to say that Allegra is missing, and Lane reluctantly returns to see if she can find the cousin she left behind.  The big secret won't come as any surprise, and to her credit, the author doesn't draw out the suspense, but it's still good; imagine a beautifully written V.C. Andrews novel.

2017 TOTAL SO FAR: 22


1. How to Murder Your Life* by Cat Marnell:  The author is a trainwreck, and before you chastise me for being mean, she'd be the first to agree.  This memoir covers her life of magazine jobs, pill popping, alcoholism, bulimia, and stays in both rehabs and psych wards.  I'd say it needed tighter editing, but the stream of consciousness style works really well because it's like she's telling you all about it in person.  Exhausting and occasionally frustrating (so many enablers!), but---please pardon the pun---addictive.

2. Dirty Thirty by Asa Akira:  A collection of essays by the popular porn star.

3. Eating Korea: Reports on a Culinary Renaissance by Graham Holliday:  Title says it all!

2017 TOTAL SO FAR: 8


1. Black Dahlia by Rick Geary

2. Sweetness & Lightning vol. 4 by Gido Amagakure

3. The Walking Dead* vol. 27 by Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard

2017 TOTAL SO FAR:  10 volumes of manga and 2 graphic novels


1. Moonlight*:  This coming of age story follows Chiron as he grows up in a rough neighborhood with his crack addicted mother.  It's pretty slow, but I'm giving it a star on the basis of its strong performances, especially Mahershala Ali (who won the best supporting actor Oscar) as a drug dealer who serves as a father figure to Chiron.

2. Bad Santa 2:  Alcoholic crab-ass Willie (Billy Bob Thornton) reluctantly teams up with his old friend turned nemesis Marcus and his estranged mother (Kathy Bates) to rob a charity.  Not nearly as good as the original, but it was still much funnier than the dismal reviews would have you believe.

3. Elle:  After she's raped in her home, Michele (Isabelle Huppert) decides not to go to the police because she's had bad experiences with them before.  She proceeds with her life as though the assault didn't affect her all that much, but has she really put it all behind her so easily?  I had a shitload of problems with various aspects of this movie, but Isabelle Huppert (who received an Oscar nomination) is absolutely magnificent.   Major trigger alert: the movie starts with Michele's rape and revisits it several times, and it also includes an extremely violent tentacle rape scene from a (fictional) video game.  (Oh, and a brief clip from what appears to be a real crush video, so thanks to Paul Verhoeven for THAT.  Seriously, he couldn't just have Michele reacting to what she's seeing on the computer instead of actually showing it?  JFC.  Without getting too graphic, it wasn't one of the more problematic kinds of crush videos, but it was still fucking gross and awful.)

4. Passengers*:  On an intergalactic voyage to a new planet, the passengers are placed in suspended animation for the 120-year flight, but a computer malfunction wakes two of them (Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence) up 90 years early.  This was a huge commercial and critical flop, but we actually liked it a lot!  I had the same problem with [plot spoiler] that a lot of people did, and G-Vo had some great ideas as to how different elements could have been improved, but overall, it didn't deserve the hate.

5. Justice League Dark:  Batman has to team up with John Constantine (nfffff) and several other supernaturally inclined superheroes to fight an evil threat.  The animation was just okay, but the plot was decent and it had some good lines.

6. The Handmaiden*:  A Korean woman is hired to serve as a rich Japanese woman's handmaiden, but she's secretly conspiring with a con man to steal all of her money instead.  Gorgeously shot, clever, and erotic.  I was also really impressed by how they adapted Sarah Waters' novel Fingersmith; they kept the meat of the story but added a very unique spin.

2017 TOTAL SO FAR: 18