Friday, June 30, 2017

media update: June

It's gotten hotter'n hell here, so this is a particularly meaty media update as I was spending my work breaks reading instead of walking.  I also took 3 personal days, during which I managed to plow through a nice stack of books in between epic naps.

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.


1. Gwendy's Button Box by Stephen King and Richard Chizmar:  Young Gwendy receives an odd present from a stranger: a box that dispenses silver dollars and chocolate candy, but also has the ability to destroy any location she chooses.  It was pretty disappointing, to be honest.

Side note #1:  This book isn't even 200 pages (many of which were either blank or full-page illustrations) and costs $25, which is fucking ridiculous.  Thank god for libraries.

Side note #2:  Stephen King has a novel coming out this fall which is also co-written, this time by his son Owen King.  I really hope he's not starting to go the James Patterson route, i.e. giving someone a story outline, making them do all the writing, and then raking in the cash.

2. The Leavers by Lisa Ko:  When he was 11 years old, Deming's mother Polly went to work and never came home.  Her boyfriend Leon and Leon's sister take care of Deming for as long as they can before handing him over to social services.  He's adopted by a white couple and renamed Daniel, and he tries to assimilate to his new life, always wondering what happened to his birth mother.  I found Polly's sections much more interesting than Daniel's, but the whole book was moving.

3. The Arrangement by Sarah Dunn:  After moving to a small New York town, Owen and Lucy attend a dinner party where the topic of open marriage comes up.  At first the idea horrifies them, but then they decide to give it a try for six months, with some strict ground rules.  Needless to say, things get a bit complicated.  For the most part, it's often quite funny, although there were a few things that bothered me, such as this line:  "Sunny Bang narrowed her already narrow Korean eyes."  Uh, seriously?!

4. Grit by Gillian French:  Darcy has a reputation as the town tramp, but she doesn't care; she's much more worried about the disappearance of a friend and a dark secret she shares with her cousin Nell.  A little slow, but good.

5. The White Road by Sarah Lotz:  In order to write an article for his website, Simon hires someone to guide him through the infamous Cwm Pot (not a typo; it's a Welsh name) caves where three spelunkers lost their lives.  The trip goes horribly wrong, and Simon barely manages to survive.  To his shock, the story of his nightmarish journey goes viral, so he decides to top it by climbing Everest; suffice it to say that trip doesn't go much better.  I loved her previous books, but this one left me pun intended.

5. Not A Sound by Heather Gudenkauf:  After a freak accident leaves her deaf, trauma nurse Amelia Winn drowns her sorrows in alcohol and loses her job and her marriage.  She's trying to get her life back together, but when she finds the corpse of a former coworker, she's drawn into a mystery that could wind up unraveling her life all over again.

6. Spectacle by Rachel Vincent:  This is the sequel to Menagerie, so I can't review it properly lest I spoil its predecessor.  But MAN, was it disappointing!  I absolutely loved Menagerie, but this one was just not very good at all.

7. Thief's Cunning by Sarah Ahiers:  Sequel etc.

8. Do Not Become Alarmed* by Maile Meloy:  Two families decide to go on a cruise together, and the children disappear during an onshore excursion.  Wildly improbable at several points, but still very entertaining.

9. White Fur* by Jardine Libaire:  Elise grew up in public housing with a single mother; Jamey was born to an actress and a powerful banker.  Sparks instantly fly when they meet, and they try to forge a relationship despite the fact that everybody tries to keep them apart.  It sounds like a romance novel, but it's not...well, at least in the traditional sense of the word.  Beautifully written.

10. The Marsh King's Daughter by Karen Dionne:  Helena is happily married with two daughters, but she has a secret: her mother was kidnapped as a teenager by a survivalist and held hostage for many years, and Helena was born as a result.  When Helena's father escapes from prison, killing two guards in the process, she knows that she's the only one who can find him.

11. What Angels Fear by C.S. Harris:  In 1800s England, Sebastian St. Cyr is a brilliant nobleman with almost superhuman senses.  When he's accused of the brutal murder of an actress, he goes on the lam in order to prove his innocence.  I love a good historical mystery, and I enjoyed this enough that I'll be picking up the other books too (and there are a LOT of them).

2017 TOTAL SO FAR: 49


1. On Edge: A Journey Through Anxiety by Andrea Petersen:  This book is both a personal account of the author's struggles with anxiety and a look at past and present treatments and research.

2. We Are Never Meeting in Real Life** by Samantha Irby:  Another outrageously funny (and occasionally heartbreaking) collection of essays by the Bitches Gotta Eat blogger.  I was reading this in bed while suffering from a massive allergy attack, waiting for the Benadryl to kick in, and there was one scene where her cat was hugging and kicking her dildo and she was screaming "Give me back my dick!" and I started laughing so hard I was weeping.  As I began passing out,  I was still chuckling intermittently, which is honestly a pretty terrific way to fall asleep.

Side note: Samantha Irby favorited a tweet of mine once and it was like getting a benediction from a foulmouthed, witty angel.

3. My Life with Bob: Flawed Heroine Keeps Book of Books, Plot Ensues* by Pamela Paul:  Since she was young, the author has kept a diary of every book she reads, from the cheesy to the literary.  A fun love letter to the joy of reading.

4. Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud by Anne Helen Petersen:  A collection of essays about women who are "too" whatever for some people.  Similar to, but not nearly as good as, All the Lives I Want by Alana Massey.

2017 TOTAL SO FAR: 18


1. Imagine Wanting Only This by Kristen Radtke

2. The Water Dragon's Bride by Rei Toma

3. My Favorite Thing Is Monsters** by Emil Ferris:  This was fantastic and I very highly recommend it, BUT a caveat.  It ended on a cliffhanger and I was like "wait, whaaaaaaaaat?" and it turns out there's a second volume coming out in October.  I don't know if there will be any more after that (considering how labor intensive this must have been, I'd be amazed), but you might want to wait until the entire series is out before starting.  It's one hell of an achievement, I'll say that.

4. Food Wars! vol. 18 by Yuto Tsukuda and Shun Saeki

5. Erased* vol. 2 by Kei Sanbe

6. Sweetness and Lightning vol. 6 by Gido Amagakure

2017 TOTAL SO FAR:  21 volumes of manga and 6 graphic novels


1. The Great Wall:  I might have been asleep when they taught this in history, but it turns out that the Great Wall of China was built to repel ravenous lizard-dog aliens!  Thankfully, William (Matt Damon) and his buddy Tovar (Pedro Pascal) are ready to lend a hand to the beleaguered Chinese army.

Okay, hear me out.  The recap above makes this movie sound dumb as hell, and that's because it was, but it was also REALLY FUN.  Yeah, the "great white savior" thing is tacky and the special effects weren't all that special, but it had a surprisingly snappy script, a fun bromance between William and Tovar (I ship it!), and a kickass female general.  I couldn't bring myself to give it a star, because it wasn't THAT good, but honestly, it was entertaining.

2. xXx: Return of Xander Cage:  I never saw the other two xXx movies, but somehow I doubt it mattered.  In this one, Xander (Vin Diesel) comes out of retirement to help stop a powerful weapon falling into the wrong hands.  It was incredibly dumb, but it had some nice eye candy (Ruby Rose, nnnffff girl, I see you) and some good action, and I'm always glad to see Donnie Yen and Tony Jaa getting work, although Tony Jaa was completely underused.  Seriously, you nab one of the world's best martial artists for your flick and you waste him on a couple of flips and kicks?  Criminal!  Director, I insist that you (re)watch The Protector and think about what you did.

3. John Wick: Chapter 2:  John Wick reluctantly returns to the life of a hit man once again.  Some really fun action in this, but some of the "gun fu" got repetitive, and as much as it pains me to say it because he's so goddamn hot (seriously, does he age?!  HOW IS HE 52) and reportedly one of the nicest celebrities ever, Keanu Reeves is a terrible actor.

4. The LEGO Batman Movie*:  Batman tries to stop yet another takeover of Gotham City by the Joker, aided by Barbara Gordon and Robin, an orphan he accidentally adopts.  Really cute and funny.

5. Get Out*:  Chris is nervous about meeting his girlfriend's parents for the first time, because he's black and they're white.  They're very welcoming, but something just isn't right.  A smart horror flick with a satirical edge that slices deep.

6. Life*:  A team of scientists is returning to Earth with a life form they discovered on Mars, a cute little thing they call Calvin, and let's just say Calvin doesn't STAY cute.  Way better than expected; it was a box office bomb, but we really enjoyed it, and it has one hell of an ending.

7. Vacancy 2: The Final Cut:  Tired from a long drive while moving across the country, a couple and their friend check into a motel.  But their night turns out to be anything but relaxing, because the sleazy motel owners have a side business selling snuff tapes, and our unlucky trio is about to be their newest stars.  This prequel was nowhere near as good as Vacancy, but not bad; the female lead makes some smart decisions (always refreshing, and rare, in a horror movie) and it had one really great line in it. 

2017 TOTAL SO FAR: 44