Thursday, August 31, 2017

media update: August

I've got a particularly big media update for you this month, as a couple of personal days and blistering heat led to lots of hours inside reading in air conditioned comfort.  There aren't a lot of movies listed, though, because G-Vo and I are addicted to Persona 5, so we're spending the bulk of our time together playing that instead of watching movies.  Obviously I can watch movies on my own too, but I've gone through a massive string of flops.  (Oh, Dwayne Johnson, I love you and your charms are ample, but I couldn't make it through Baywatch even for you, my darling.)

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. Sugar by Kimberly Stuart:  Pastry chef Charlie Garrett is sick and tired of being unappreciated at her job (join the club, sis), so when she gets a juicy offer to work for her ex-boyfriend, she agrees.  But then it turns out he's developing a reality show about his new restaurant, and the drama that ensues isn't just on the screen.  A fluffy bit of fun; have something sweet handy, as you will want it after reading the borderline pornographic descriptions of desserts.

2. The Lying Game by Ruth Ware:  Four women who have been friends since boarding school share a dark secret that's come back to bite them in the ass.  I loved Ruth Ware's previous two novels, but this one was really disappointing.  I swear to god, half the book was devoted to scenes with one character's baby breastfeeding (nothing against breastfeeding, of course, but there was a breastfeeding scene on practically every other page) or throwing a fit.

3. Domina* by L.S. Hilton:  This is a direct sequel to Maestra, so I can't review it properly lest I spoil its predecessor.  It wasn't as good as Maestra, but it was still really frickin' good.  I'm curious to see how this trilogy wraps up.

4. Goodbye, Vitamin by Rachel Khong:  Reeling from a breakup, Ruth moves home to help take care of her father, who's losing his memory.

5. The Secrets She Keeps by Michael Robotham:  Agatha is a lonely supermarket worker who's pregnant, but her boyfriend is away at sea and not returning her calls.  She starts to fixate on a customer named Meg, who's also pregnant but seems to have a much better life than Agatha.  This is a book that rewards patience; I was close to giving up on it, but was glad I didn't.

6. Fierce Kingdom* by Gin Phillips:  Joan and her 4-year-old son Lincoln are getting ready to leave the zoo when Joan sees a man with a rifle.  She grabs her son and runs back into the zoo to hide, hoping they can survive until the police get there.  A tense thriller that explores some tough moral questions as well.  My only real gripes are that it didn't wrap up as well as I would have hoped (it was a double star until the last 15 pages) and that Lincoln seemed too articulate for a 4-year-old, but I'll admit that I don't have much experience with kids of that age, so I could be way off base on that.  Anyway, it's fantastic, and I think it would make a great movie.  I can see Naomi Watts as Joan, although good luck finding a child actor that young who could pull it off.

7. See What I Have Done* by Sarah Schmidt:  A fictionalized version of the Lizzie Borden murder case that reads like an exceptionally creepy fever dream.

8. Are You Sleeping by Kathleen Barber:  After her father's murder becomes the subject of a wildly popular podcast and her mother commits suicide, Josie reluctantly returns to her hometown, where she's reunited with her estranged twin sister.

9. The Good Daughter* by Karin Slaughter:  When sisters Charlie and Sam were teenagers, their lives were ripped apart by a horrifying tragedy.  Twenty-eight years later, they're estranged from each other, with Charlie still living in their small hometown and Sam working in patent law in New York City.  Then Charlie is witness to a new tragedy, which uncovers some shocking truths about the previous one.  It's much different than her usual novels, and I didn't like it as much as the ones featuring Will Trent, but it was still riveting.  Usual warning, though: Karin Slaughter is very aptly named, and her books aren't for the faint of heart.  This one isn't nearly as bad as most of them (seriously, Pretty Girls was legitimate nightmare fuel), but it still has some really disturbing moments.

10. The Last Place You Look by Kristen Lepionka:  Private investigator Roxane Weary is contacted by a woman whose brother Brad is on death row for the murders of his girlfriend Sarah's parents fifteen years ago.  Sarah disappeared on the night of the murders, and Brad's sister insists that she just saw Sarah at a gas station.  Roxane thinks the sister is grasping at straws and that the case will be easy money, which couldn't be further from the truth.  An enjoyable debut novel.

11. Mrs. Fletcher* by Tom Perrotta:  After her son Brendan leaves for college, lonely divorcee Eve Fletcher becomes obsessed with MILF porn.  Meanwhile, Brendan finds out that the somewhat caddish charm on which he's coasted his entire life won't fly in today's world.  Funny and incisive.

12. Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth Scott:  Alice was abducted when she was 10 by a sadistic pedophile.  Now 15, she's become too old for his tastes, and he wants her to help find her replacement.  Alice knows this will mean her death, but she's looking forward to it.  It's not even 200 pages long, but it still manages to be one of the most disturbing books I've ever read.  It's categorized as a young adult book, which in my opinion is a grave error.

13. Sour Heart by Jenny Zhang:  A collection of loosely connected stories about Chinese American girls coming of age in New York City.  The ending of one of them ("The Empty the Empty the Empty") was fucking horrifying, making this the second book in a row I read that made me feel really gross inside.  I mean, it's well written, but it's no chucklefest.

2017 TOTAL SO FAR: 69 (nice)


1.  American Fire* by Monica Hesse:  A riveting account of a string of arson incidents in rural Virginia.  I knew I was going to like it as soon as I read this paragraph on the opening page:  "I spent the next two years trying to understand why he did it.  The answer...involved hope, poverty, pride, Walmart, erectile dysfunction, Steak-umms, intrigue, and America."

2. The Hot One: A Memoir of Friendship, Sex, and Murder by Carolyn Murnick:  As kids, the author and her friend Ashley were very close, but drifted apart.  When the author found out that Ashley had been murdered (a case that gained some notoriety due to Ashley's association with Ashton Kutcher, who went to pick her up, looked through the window when she didn't answer the door, saw blood on the carpet, thought it was red wine, and left, which: WTF?  Considering that she was stabbed 47 times, that would've been a LOT of fucking wine), she decided to investigate Ashley's troubled life to see what had happened.  I liked it, but it seemed like the author managed to make the whole thing about herself instead of Ashley.

3. Beautiful Bodies by Kimberly Rae Miller:  A memoir of the author's lifelong struggles with her weight, interspersed with historical anecdotes about how the idea of the perfect body has changed over the centuries and what people have done to try to attain it.

2017 TOTAL SO FAR:  24


1. Sweetness & Lightning* vol. 7 by Gido Amagakure:  I don't think I've ever given this series a star before, but this volume made me cry twice, so I figured it deserved one!

2. No Matter How I Look at It, It's You Guys' Fault I'm Not Popular!* vol. 10 by Nico Tanigawa

3. Rin-Ne vol. 24 by Rumiko Takahashi

4. Monstress** vol. 2 by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda

5. The Water Dragon's Bride vol. 2 by Rei Toma

2017 TOTAL SO FAR:  27 volumes of manga and 9 graphic novels


1. The Belko Experiment*:  Eighty employees in an office building are locked in and told they must start killing each other or they'll all die courtesy of the microchips implanted in their heads.  I was expecting this to be a bit funnier due to a review that called it "Office Space meets Battle Royale" and the fact that James Gunn (Slither, the Guardians of the Galaxy movies) had written it, but it was still a really good, tense, viscerally upsetting movie.

2. Ghost in the Shell:  A visually stunning but incredibly dull live action version of the classic anime.

3. Colossal*:  After her boyfriend kicks her out, Gloria (Anne Hathaway) returns to her hometown, where she discovers that she has an unusual connection to a monster terrorizing South Korea.  Quirky and entertaining, though quite a bit darker than I was expecting.

4. T2 Trainspotting:  This sequel to the 90s cult smash was way better than we expected it to be.  Fair warning, though: unless you're Scottish or exceptionally good at decoding accents, you WILL need your subtitles on.

2017 TOTAL SO FAR:  57