Tuesday, October 31, 2017

media update: October

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. A Poison Dark and Drowning by Jessica Cluess:  Sequel etc.

2. Sleeping Beauties by Stephen King and Owen King:  A strange phenomenon causes women to fall asleep and become encased in cocoons that, if removed, will cause the woman to become extremely violent.  (This is also my reaction if I'm sound asleep and someone or something wakes me up.)  A mysterious prisoner, seemingly immune, could hold the key.  Interesting idea, but the execution left something to be desired.

3. Before the Devil Breaks You by Libba Bray:  Sequel etc.

2017 TOTAL SO FAR: 84


1. From Here to Eternity: Traveling the World to Find the Good Death by Caitlin Doughty:  An exploration of how different cultures handle death and funeral rituals.

2. After the Eclipse** by Sarah Perry:  When the author was 12, her mother was brutally murdered as Sarah hid in the next room.  Sarah spent the next several years being shuffled between family members and trying to cope with her immense loss.  Alternating between "before" and "after", this memoir is beautiful and heartbreaking; to quote a blurb on the back, the author wrote her mother back into the world.  It's my favorite nonfiction book of the year so far.

3. Spoiler Alert: The Hero Dies by Michael Ausiello:  A memoir about the author's life with his husband Kit, who died of a rare form of cancer.  As you can imagine, tissues are mandatory.

4. Nasty Women: Feminism, Resistance, and Revolution in Trump's America*:  An anthology of essays by female writers about life after Trump's election.  My favorite was, unsurprisingly, "Country Crock" by Samantha Irby, but there are many other great ones in here too.  

5. Black Dahlia, Red Rose: The Crime, Corruption, and Cover-Up of America's Greatest Unsolved Murder* by Piu Eatwell:  A new look at the 1947 murder that scandalized America, with a closer look at a suspect the author thinks committed the crime for sure.  She provides plenty of compelling evidence to support that theory, too.  I know it's too late for justice for Elizabeth Short, as the murderer(s) is/are long dead, but it would be nice closure if the case could be solved once and for all.  It will probably never happen, though, thanks to the cover-up mentioned in the subtitle and the fact that so much evidence was "lost".

6. Theft by Finding: Diaries 1977-2002 by David Sedaris:  What it says on the tin.

Side note that absolutely nobody gives a shit about but me:  I finished this book in October, but I actually started it a couple of months ago.  It wasn't really something I could read for hours at a time, but it came in handy when I was between books and just needed something to tide me over until I could get to the library.

2017 TOTAL SO FAR: 32


1. A Bride's Story vol. 9 by Kaoru Mori

2. Food Wars!* vol. 20 by Yuto Tsukuda and Shun Saeki

3. The Water Dragon's Bride vol. 3 by Rei Toma

2017 TOTAL SO FAR: 39 volumes of manga and 11 graphic novels


1. The Big Sick*:  Kumail is in love with his girlfriend Emily, but his parents insist on an arranged marriage for him, so he reluctantly breaks up with her.  But when Emily becomes deathly ill, he has to decide what's more important: his feelings for her or his family's wishes.  Based on a true story, and really good.

2. Born in China*:  A Disney documentary following three animal families in the wild:  pandas, snow leopards, and golden monkeys.  The narration can be a bit goofy and there's some creative editing that was annoying, but it's beautifully shot and, of course, the baby animals are excruciatingly cute.

Note:  Although this is G-rated, there's a scene that might upset young children.  Hell, WE were upset! 

3. The Fate of the Furious:  When Dom goes rogue, his team tries to stop him.  Like all of these movies, it's pretty stupid, but it has some nice eye candy (goddamn, Jason Statham, Y U so hot) and good action scenes, the best of which involves "zombie" cars.

4. Baby Driver*:  Baby (Ansel Elgort) works as a getaway driver for a group of bank robbers, but when he falls in love with a pretty waitress, he wants out.  Stylish as all hell (check out that uninterrupted shot near the beginning) and a whole lot of fun.

5.  Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales:  A largely unenjoyable turd with some really embarrassing attempts at humor.  The special effects and a monkey in an outfit are the only reason I gave this a 3 on Netflix instead of a 2.

6. Landline:  In 1995, two sisters discover that their father is having an affair.  Very good performances, especially from Jenny Slate and Abby Quinn (who I don't think I'd ever seen in anything before, but she really stood out) as the sisters.

7. Spider-Man: Homecoming*:  Peter Parker dons a spiffy new Spidey suit, courtesy of Tony Stark, and tries to take down a new foe called The Vulture...well, in between crushing on a girl and trying to study, that is.  It's quite funny, and Tom Holland is very charming.  Also, I really appreciated the fact that they spared us his backstory; now if only the Batman movies would do the same.  Yes, D.C., we all know that his parents were gunned down in an alley, so we don't really need the dramatic slo-mo shot of Martha's necklace breaking and pearls scattering all over the place.  WE FUCKING KNOW.

2017 TOTAL SO FAR: 70


Persona 4 is one of my favorite video games of all time, so I was pretty excited to get my hands on Persona 5 when it came out, and G-Vo (being awesome) got me a copy for my birthday.  Did I like it?  Spoiler alert: oh hell yes.

In P5, you play an unnamed teenage boy (hereafter referred to as "you"; we named him Kubo and gave him my real last name) who tries to save a woman from being assaulted by a politician, who promptly uses his connections to get you in trouble.  You're sent to live with Sojiro Sakura, a gruff cafe owner who immediately tells you that you better keep your nose clean...which will be easier said than done.  It would take forever to explain, but in a nutshell:  you receive access to a supernatural app that allows you to access the Metaverse, where you explore "palaces" in order to change the hearts of bad people.  Along with beautiful and perky Ann, foulmouthed but lovable bro Ryuji, and a sassy talking cat named Morgana, you form the Phantom Thieves in hopes of changing the world one evildoer at a time.  (You'll get several more team members along the way, but because they don't show up until later, I figured they might count as spoilers.)


  • This game is unbelievably stylish, from the loading screens to the menu to the creature and palace designs. 
  • A wonderfully intuitive interface.
  • Like P4, P5 has fantastic characters that you will absolutely fall in love with.  When the game ended, I felt like I was saying goodbye to real friends.
  • Aside from a few very minor characters, the voice acting is terrific.  One big flaw with Persona 4 was that the voice acting for one of the main characters was really bad, so I was a bit worried, but all of the main characters in P5 are great.  (Bonus: one of them is played by Matthew Mercer, who also voices Leon Kennedy, my forever #1 video game bae.) 
  • The vibrant Tokyo setting made me want to hop the next plane to Japan.
  • A fun, jazzy soundtrack from series stalwart Shoji Meguro.
  • Addictive gameplay, from dungeon crawling to daily life things like part-time jobs and school.
  • Some really nice animated sequences.
  • There's a fast forward feature, which rapidly scrolls through dialogue.  Not that you'll want to use that all the time, of course, but it will come in very handy for new game plus or if you wind up having to replay an area for whatever reason.  
  • Along the same lines, you can press the square button for the log if you missed any bits of dialogue.  You can even replay the voices if applicable.
  • Did I mention the sassy talking cat?


  • Some screens have a weird border around them that was very distracting until we got used to it.
  • Like all RPGs, some of the background dialogue/music/battle comments get very repetitive.
  • It took longer than expected to really grab us (though once it did, it REALLY did).
  • I wouldn't say I loathed it per se, but there's an additional area called Mementos that I wasn't a huge fan of.
  • If you aren't a fan of grinding and/or fusing new personas, you are going to have a tough time of it.  Fortunately, G-Vo IS a fan of grinding and fusing new personas, so he took care of those aspects, but if you don't have a G-Vo in your life, you'll want to find a good fusion FAQ online and have it handy.  Grinding is probably not completely necessary, but it's certainly recommended, since you don't want to go into nasty boss battles with an underpowered team.  [nerd voice]  I mean, come on, you don't want to go into a boss battle with a level 6 Hua Po, DUH.
  • I have great respect for people who do localization for video games, since I know that can't be easy, but that being said...some of the localization is pretty bad.  For example, the title of one of the DVDs you can rent, about a dude who improvises to get out of tough situations, is "Guy McVer".  Oy.
  • One of the palaces is REALLY FUCKING IRRITATING.
  • There's a gay couple that hangs out in Shinjuku, and they're cringeworthy stereotypes, complete with flapping wrists, who make predatory comments towards some of the underaged characters.  I'd love to see a same sex romance option in future Persona games, but failing that, could they at least avoid negative portrayals? 
  • Some of the romance options are, uh, morally problematic.
  • A pretty major plot point is left unresolved.
  • There's absolutely no way you can see and do everything in one playthrough.  (Though this could be a good thing too, since it means you get to play it again!) 
  • The pronunciation of character names is sometimes inconsistent, and I don't know why they insisted on pronouncing Ann's name like "Ahn".   
  • There's an enemy that looks like a syphilitic green dick riding a chariot (google "Mara Persona monster" if you're really curious and absolutely must have that image in your head), and every time it showed up, it really grossed me out.  I wound up using overpowered attacks to take it down as quickly as possible just so I wouldn't have to look at it any longer than necessary!

Overall, Persona 5 was a wonderful addition to the series that basically ate our lives until the final frame.  It kicked Odin Sphere out of my top ten video games of all time, taking its rightful place next to, and even surpassing, its predecessor.  I'm honored to give this game 9 cups of Leblanc coffee out of 10.

Tuesday, October 03, 2017

media update: September

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. Eat Only When You're Hungry by Lindsay Hunter:  When his drug addicted son GJ goes missing, Greg embarks on a road trip to Florida in hopes of finding him.

2. Unraveling Oliver* by Liz Nugent:  "I expected more of a reaction the first time I hit her."  Talk about a doozy of an opening line!  This riveting novel is about Oliver, the titular psychopath, and the victims he leaves in his wake.  Not a cheerful read by any stretch of the imagination, but an engrossing one.

3. Persons Unknown* by Susie Steiner:  Detective Manon Bradshaw begins working on a murder case that turns out to have major implications on her personal life.  It was really good, although I wish I had read the previous book (#5 below) first as I think some prior knowledge of the main character would have been helpful.

4. Mask of Shadows by Linsey Miller:  Sal is a genderfluid thief who finds out that the Queen is holding auditions for the newest member of her elite team of assassins.  Sal immediately signs up, but of course it's no walk in the park, and things are complicated even further when they fall in love with Elise, the woman assigned to tutor them.

Side note: in the book, Sal says that they want to be addressed by however they're dressed at the time (i.e. she/her if Sal is wearing a dress, him/he if they're wearing traditional men's clothing).  Since that's not really possible to do in a review, I chose "they" to refer to Sal.

5. Missing, Presumed by Susie Steiner:  When a beautiful graduate student named Edith Hind disappears, it sets off a media frenzy, and police detective Manon Bradshaw must race against the clock to find Edith...preferably alive.  Not as good as #3.

6. Tower of Dawn* by Sarah J. Maas:  Sequel etc.

7. Y is for Yesterday by Sue Grafton:  When a tape depicting a sexual assault is stolen, the suspected thief is murdered.  Ten years later, one of the perpetrators has been released from prison, and a copy of the missing tape is sent to his parents, who contact private investigator Kinsey Millhone for help.

8. Class Mom by Laurie Gelman:  Jen Dixon is a reformed groupie who has two daughters (one of whom might be Michael Hutchence's kid) and a 5-year-old son named Max.  She reluctantly takes on the role of class mom for Max's kindergarten, but her particular style of handling things makes her plenty of enemies.  It's pretty funny, and I could see it making a decent airplane movie.  (Which sounds like an insult, but isn't; when I refer to an "airplane movie", I mean something that's light, doesn't require a big screen for special effects, and helps you pass an enjoyable couple of hours on a flight.)

9. Bluebird, Bluebird by Attica Locke:  Texas Ranger Daren Mathews gets tangled up in a murder investigation that could cause racial tensions to decimate a small town.

10. One Dark Throne by Kendare Blake:  Sequel etc.

11. The Salt Line* by Holly Goddard Jones:  A lethal tick-borne virus leads to an extreme new form of tourism where the rich pay to tour what's left of nature, knowing full well it could lead to their deaths.  A group of tourists is kidnapped and taken to a camp outside the safe zone (aka the salt line), where the residents have special plans for them.  Really engrossing; if the movie rights haven't already been snapped up, then someone's sleeping on the job.

12. There's Someone Inside Your House by Stephanie Perkins:  A small Nebraska town is thrown into chaos when high school students start getting murdered in extraordinarily gruesome ways.

2017 TOTAL SO FAR: 81


1. My Fair Junkie* by Amy Dresner:  A memoir about the author's struggles with drugs, alcohol, and sex addiction.  She doesn't come across as particularly likeable or sympathetic, but I still found this book worth reading.

2017 TOTAL SO FAR:  26


1. My Love Story!!** vol. 13 by Kazune Kawahara and Aruko:  This is the final volume, which sucks as I love the characters so much.  It wrapped up beautifully, at least!

2. Food Wars! vol. 19 by Yuto Tsukuda and Shun Saeki

3. Kaze Hikaru vol. 25 by Taeko Watanabe

4. What Did You Eat Yesterday? vol. 12 by Fumi Yoshinaga

5. Citrus vol. 6 by Saburouta

6. Everyone's Getting Married vol. 6 by Izumi Miyazono

7. My Brother's Husband by Gengoroh Tagame:  If anyone googles the author's work after reading this, they're in for a surprise!  He usually does extremely graphic gay BDSM stuff.  But this is a sweet, PG-rated story about a single father in Japan who's shocked when his estranged brother's widow, a cheerful Canadian named Mike, shows up on his doorstep.

8. So Cute It Hurts!! vol. 14 by Go Ikeyamada

9. Sweetness & Lightning vol. 8 by Gido Amagakure

10. Spinning by Tillie Walden

11. The Walking Dead* vol. 28 by Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard

2017 TOTAL SO FAR:  36 volumes of manga and 11 graphic novels


1. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2:  Peter Quill, aka Star Lord (Chris Pratt), has always wondered about his father, but when he finally meets him, it's not necessarily the reunion he was hoping for.  I dunno, man; it wasn't a bad movie, but I was pretty lukewarm about it and its predecessor, so maybe the Guardians just aren't my thing.

2. Wilson:  The title character (Woody Harrelson) is an irritating asshole who finds out that his ex didn't have an abortion like she claimed, but gave birth to a daughter she put up for adoption.  Based on the Daniel Clowes graphic novel.

3. Rough Night:  A bachelorette party goes very wrong when one of the attendees accidentally kills a male stripper, and the bride (Scarlett Johansson) and her friends must scramble to cover it up.  Imagine if 90s dark comedy Very Bad Things and a much less funny Bridesmaids had a baby that was then raised by Weekend at Bernie's.  I really wanted it to be better, because it was written by people who work on Broad City.  But the cast was great, and there were a few laughs to be had.  I actually found little moments here and there, like Kate McKinnon's panicked interaction with a pizza delivery guy, much funnier than the "big" scenes.

4. Alien: Covenant:  Man, this was so boring I don't even have anything to say about it.

5. King Arthur:  Guy Ritchie's take on the legend has plenty of style, but I felt absolutely no emotional attachment to the characters, which always makes it difficult to truly enjoy something.

6. Wonder Woman*:  After learning of a massive war from a pilot who crashes on her island, Diana leaves home to help out.  I was going to give this a double star until the last third, where it stumbled a bit, but it was still extremely enjoyable.  (Fingers crossed for an Etta Candy spinoff.)

2017 TOTAL SO FAR:  63