Monday, May 01, 2017

media update: April

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. Rabbit Cake* by Annie Hartnett:  After her mother drowns, 10-year-old Elvis and her family try to come to grips with their grief.  Her older sister Lizzie sleepwalks (and sleep-eats), her father wears her mother's lipstick and brings home a parrot that speaks in her mother's voice, and Elvis decides to finish writing her mother's book.  It's quite good, but it really needed to end one chapter sooner than it did.

2. Blood Rose Rebellion by Rosalyn Eves:  Anna is a member of the Luminates, an order of magicians who use their power to control pretty much everything, but her only real ability seems to be breaking other people's spells.  When she screws up her talented sister's magical debut, Anna is sent to live with family members in Hungary, and she discovers that her power might not be as useless as it initially seemed.  It wasn't bad, but I doubt I'll pick up any future installments as it never really grabbed me.

3. The Secrets You Keep by Kate White:  After a car accident, Bryn is slowly recuperating mentally and physically, so she isn't thrilled when her husband Guy wants to throw a dinner party.  She reluctantly agrees, and regrets it almost immediately when the caterer turns out to be a bitch, several hundred dollars go missing, and someone leaves a box of burnt matches behind, which she takes as a reference to the car accident.  Things continue to go downhill from there, including the copyediting, because there were a shit ton of typos in here.

4. One of the Boys by Daniel Magariel:  The narrator of this book (who's never named) and his older brother move to New Mexico with their drug addicted father, whose behavior keeps getting worse.  Dark and sad.

5. A Simple Favor* by Darcey Bell:  Stephanie is a young widow and "mommy blogger" who befriends glamorous Emily, the mother of her son's friend Nicky.  One day Emily asks if Stephanie can pick up her son after school, and Stephanie agrees, but Emily never picks Nicky up, and her disappearance leads to all sorts of trouble.  This cribs pretty heavily from something else I won't mention for obvious reasons, but it's still really good.

6. Lola* by Melissa Scrivner Love:  Lola's boyfriend Garcia is in a gang called the Crenshaw Six, which has recently partnered with a Mexican drug cartel.  Everybody outside of the gang thinks Garcia is the leader, but the Crenshaw Six knows the truth: Lola is the boss, and when a drug drop goes horribly awry, Lola has to use her street smarts and the cartel's ignorance of her true status to survive.  The author is a screenwriter, which probably explains the super sharp dialogue.  An addictive page-turner that practically begs to be made into a movie.  I was going to give it one of my rare double star ratings until some nonsense near the end, but it's still a great read.

7. Marlena* by Julie Buntin:  Cat isn't thrilled when her family moves to a tiny Michigan town, but then she meets her next door neighbor Marlena.  They quickly form a close friendship, but Marlena's problems catch up with her, and decades later, Cat tries to come to grips with the tumultuous year they spent together.  Beautifully written and a keen observation of female friendships.

8. It Happens All the Time by Amy Hatvany:  Amber and Tyler have been friends since they were teenagers, and although Amber wants to keep it platonic, Tyler doesn't feel the same way.  After college, Amber comes home and starts spending more time with Tyler, and one drunken night, she impulsively kisses him, and then he sexually assaults her.

I've read all of Amy Hatvany's books, and her work is similar to Jodi Picoult, except that she doesn't throw in stupid and/or enraging twists.  So if Picoult has pissed you off one too many times, like me, then give Amy Hatvany a try.

9. Dead Little Mean Girl by Eva Darrows:  Emma doesn't care that her mother has started dating another woman, but she DOES mind when the other woman moves in and brings her daughter Quinn, a nightmarish bitch who makes Emma's life hell.  But when Quinn dies of an allergic reaction (which doesn't happen until well past the halfway point; I'd have skipped this detail due to spoilers, but the title kind of gives it away), Emma reconsiders her relationship with Quinn.

2017 TOTAL SO FAR: 31


1. Scared Selfless: My Journey from Abuse and Madness to Surviving and Thriving by Michelle Stevens, PhD:  When the author was 8 years old, her mother became involved with a man who was only interested in Michelle.  He proceeded to make the next several years of her life a living hell, sexually abusing and torturing her and pimping her out to other sick fucks.  She developed multiple personalities, but managed to survive, get her PhD, and help other abuse survivors.  My synopsis might have been enough warning, but I'm going to give you another one:  she doesn't spare many details, and this book is exceptionally disturbing.  I'm glad she went on to live a beautiful life (her words, not mine), because she certainly deserves it.

Side note: at a couple of points, she mentions a civil suit she brought against her stepfather and mother (who knew about the abuse and did jackshit to stop it), but she never mentions the outcome, which was frustrating as I wanted to know what happened!

2. The Rules Do Not Apply* by Ariel Levy:  A memoir about how the author thought she had it all and then watched as it turned to shit.  It's deeply sad, but it's full of thought-provoking moments and even some humor.  (She even managed to make me laugh at her cat's funeral.)

2017 TOTAL SO FAR: 10


1. Carry This Book by Abbi Jacobson

2. Rin-Ne vol. 23 by Rumiko Takahashi

3. Food Wars!* vol. 17 by Yuto Tsukuda and Saeki Shun

4. Sweetness and Lightning vol. 5 by Gido Amagakure

5. Everyone's Getting Married vol. 4 by Izumi Miyazono

2017 TOTAL SO FAR:  14 volumes of manga and 3 graphic novels


1. Logan**:  In the near future, Logan (aka Wolverine) is slowly losing his regenerative powers.  (He even has to wear reading glasses, which I thought was a nice touch.)  He's isolated himself in the Mexican desert with Professor X, who is suffering from dementia.  All he wants to do is save enough money to buy a boat where he and Professor X can safely live out the rest of their days, but he reluctantly finds himself charged with getting a young mutant (newcomer Dafne Keen, who's really good) to safety.

I mean...goddamn.  It's violent, dark, exciting, often quite funny, and the performances are terrific.  (Patrick Stewart deserves a supporting actor Oscar nomination.)  And ooof, the feels.  So many feels!  It's my favorite movie of the year so far.

2. Moana*:  After demigod Maui's antics put her island in jeopardy, young Moana sets off across the sea to right his wrongs and save her people.  Beautifully animated and quite charming.

Side note: considering that this is a Disney movie, I was really surprised (though not in a bad way) that there was no romantic angle at all. 

3. The Edge of Seventeen*:  Surly Nadine (Hailee Steinfeld) has always lived in the shadow of her super popular older brother Darian.  She finds comfort spending time with her best friend Krista, but her world falls apart when Krista and Darian start dating.  Excellent performances and a great script; it was like an updated John Hughes movie.

4. Desierto:  A group of Mexicans trying to cross the border are targeted by an unhinged sniper (Jeffrey Dean Morgan).  The ending is a bit abrupt, but the performances are good and it was suitably tense.

5. Nocturnal Animals:  When Susan receives a copy of her ex-husband's new book, a dark revenge thriller, she starts to think it's actually about her.  Great performances, but I found the sections from the book much more interesting than the main story.  Also, the ending was kind of ambiguous, but we found some pretty good theories online.

6. Hell or High Water*:  Two brothers resort to robbing banks in order to save their family's ranch, but a Texas Ranger (Jeff Bridges, who was excellent) is hot on their heels.   A beautifully shot modern western.

7. The Girl with All the Gifts*:  An unusual young girl named Melanie may hold the key to humanity's survival after a fungal infection causes a zombie outbreak.  A very good adaptation of Mike Carey's excellent novel.

Side note:  If this sounds a lot like The Last of Us to you, you're not alone.  When I read the book a couple of years ago and got to a particular point, I thought the author had completely ripped TLoU off!  But I read an interview with him that mentioned the similarities, and he said he was almost done writing the book when the game came out and considered scrapping the whole thing, but he'd put too much time and effort into it.  

8. La La Land*:  Aspiring actress Mia (Emma Stone, who won the best actress Oscar) and jazz musician Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) fall in love while chasing their dreams in this bittersweet musical.  It was a bit overhyped, but still charming enough that I really enjoyed it.

2017 TOTAL SO FAR: 26