Wednesday, February 28, 2018

media update: February

February was quite an interesting and (mostly) good month for me.  They changed my department's job duties yet again, but for once, it was a change for the better!  Although taking claims had its moments, like the time a guy reported that his windshield was broken by a "replica male organ", overall it was tiring and people could be so rude and/or stupid that I was borderline incoherent with joy upon hearing that we wouldn't be doing it anymore.  My new responsibilities aren't exactly exciting, but they're much better than taking claims!  As a bonus, there's plenty of idle time while waiting for work to arrive, so I got a lot of reading done this month.

In other work news, three of my coworkers took early retirement, so today is their last day.  I had a neutral relationship with the mail guy, and the woman I refer to as Big Bang Theory Fangirl (because oh my god she never talks about ANYTHING other than her grandkids or BBT) and I have a mutual loathing of each other, but I'll really miss MP, who sat directly next to me and is one of the nicest people I've ever met.  End of an era.

As far as other things go, my work bestie (who transferred to Arizona a couple of years ago) came out for a visit, and we went to a cat cafe for lots of delightful feline lovin' and then to one of our favorite restaurants for dinner and a chat.  And, of course, Valentine's Day with G was wonderful.

Anyway, on to the media update!  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. Reign of the Fallen by Sarah Glenn Mars: Odessa is a necromancer tasked with bringing nobility back from the dead, but once she's revived them, they must remain completely shrouded or they turn into a dangerous Shade.  When far too many Shades start appearing, putting the entire kingdom in jeopardy, she tries to figure out the cause.

2. Poison's Cage by Breeana Shields: This is a sequel, so I can't review it properly lest I spoil its predecessor.

3. The Other Side of Everything by Lauren Doyle Owens: A Florida community is rocked by the murders of several elderly residents.

4. Brass* by Xhenet Aliu: Teenage Elsie works at a diner in a town that fell apart after the brass mills packed up and left.  She falls in love with a married Albanian line cook and gets pregnant; 17 years later, their daughter Luljeta tries to find out more about her long-absent father.  Sharp and enjoyable.

5. Force of Nature* by Jane Harper: A group of women go on a corporate retreat deep in the Australian wilderness, but one of them doesn't return.  Like Harper's debut The Dry, it reminded me of Tana French, and I loved it.

6. Still Me by Jojo Moyes: The continuing adventures of daffy heroine Louisa Clark, this time in New York City as the assistant for a troubled trophy wife.

7. The Belles* by Dhonielle Clayton: In the world of Orleans, a group of young women has the power to change people's appearances.  Camellia desperately wants to become the Queen's favorite so she can live in the palace, but court life is different than she imagined, thanks to psychotic Princess Sophia.  An interesting premise and some beautiful descriptions.  (I want a teacup elephant.)

8. Night Moves by Jonathan Kellerman: Psychologist Alex Delaware agrees to help his friend, LAPD homicide detective Milo Sturgis, with a weird case:  a faceless and handless body is found dumped inside a family's living room, and they have no idea who the corpse is.  Kellerman tends to be hit or miss, but this one was pretty good.

9. Only Child by Rhiannon Navin:  First grader Zach Taylor survives a school shooting; his older brother Andy does not.  As Zach's parents fall apart, Zach tries to figure out a way to help them heal.  I started this only a couple of days after the Parkland shooting (and it was released the week before the shooting), so it was perhaps not the greatest timing.

10. The House of Impossible Beauties* by Joseph Cassara:  A vibrant, fictionalized account of the House of Xtravaganza, the legendary Harlem ball house made famous by the documentary Paris Is Burning, and the people who created a family there.

Side note: there is a LOT of Spanish in this, and although much of it can be figured out by context, some of it can't, so have Google open if you're not fluent.

2018 TOTAL SO FAR:  21


1. Brave by Rose McGowan: The actress and activist talks about being raised in the notorious Children of God cult, coming to Hollywood, and trying to survive in its predatory waters. 

2018 TOTAL SO FAR: 2


1. My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness** by Nagata Kabi: This autobiographical manga covered a lot of topics I've never seen depicted (or depicted realistically) in manga: self-injury, eating disorders, debilitating depression, and coming to terms with one's sexuality.  It was terrific, and I highly recommend it.  A sequel is out in June, and I've already preordered it from Amazon.

2018 TOTAL SO FAR:  4 volumes of manga and 2 graphic novels


1. Super Dark Times: When horseplay turns tragic, a group of teenage boys tries to cover up the incident. It started strong, but ended poorly.

2. Dunkirk: During WWII, Allied soldiers are stranded on the beaches at Dunkirk, trying to survive until they can be evacuated.  Technically impressive, but I never felt emotionally connected to anyone.

3. Batman: Gotham by Gaslight*: In this animated flick, set in Victorian era Gotham City, Batman tries to stop Jack the Ripper.  It sounds goofy, but it was quite enjoyable.

4. It*: Teenage misfits band together to fight a monstrous child-eating clown in this adaptation of Stephen King's classic.

Side note: I was kind of a goody-goody in school, but one of the only times I ever got in trouble was when I got caught reading this in home ec.  No wonder I still can't cook.

5. The Foreigner: After his daughter is killed in a terrorist attack, Quan (Jackie Chan) sets out to track down the perpetrators.  Much more serious than most of Jackie Chan's work, and not nearly enough action for my tastes.

6. Train to Busan*:  A train trip turns into a nightmare when it's overrun by zombies.  Strangely thoughtful and moving for a zombie flick.

7. The Lost City of Z:  Based on the true story of a British explorer searching for (you guessed it) a lost city in the Amazon, this movie is reeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeally slow.  I mean, it's not bad, but you could fast forward huge chunks of it and not miss much.

8. Free Fire:  A meeting to purchase illegal weapons goes horribly awry.  Meh; I wanted to like it much more than I did.

9. The Cloverfield Paradox:  Astronauts test a particle accelerator in hopes of solving Earth's energy crisis, but they wind up creating a different type of problem instead.

10. The Florida Project:  Young Moonee and her mother live in a dilapidated Florida motel in the shadows of Disney World.  Although they live hand to mouth, Moonee still manages to find joy in every day with her friends.  I'm not sure why this got so much critical acclaim; although it's beautifully shot and the child actors are good, the characters (with the exception of Oscar-nominated Willem Dafoe as the weary motel manager who tries his best to help the motel's residents) are really goddamn bratty and largely unsympathetic.  Hell of an ending, though.

11. Suburbicon:  An idyllic community in the 1950s is rocked by two events---a home invasion that ends in murder and an African-American family moving in---and the neighborhood is more horrified by the latter than the former.  It tried to do a few too many things at once, but overall it was pretty good; certainly much better than the reviews led us to believe.

2018 TOTAL SO FAR:  21


Shortly before Uncharted 4's release, Kotaku featured a video from the game (for those of you who have played it: the couch scene), and I was so instantly charmed I knew I had to play it.  But I didn't feel like I should do so without playing the others, and it just so happens that G-Vo owns them all!  So I plowed through Uncharted 1-3 in rapid succession, and then I tucked into the fourth, and potentially last, installment.

This is going to be a slightly unusual review in that I don't feel like I should get into the plot, as it might spoil character developments from the previous games, so I'm just going to go straight into the bullet lists.  This review also covers the DLC, The Lost Legacy; if something is specific to one or the other, I'll put (U4) or (TLL).


  • Uncharted 4 has the best graphics of any video game I've ever played, period.  The scenery is jaw droppingly good, and some of the little details are amazing too.  There are a couple of parts where you explore houses, and everything from the bedspreads to the bookshelves is carefully designed.  They didn't skimp on The Lost Legacy's graphics either; they didn't even reuse any areas!
  • The voice acting is top notch, as you'd expect from a cast that includes Nolan North, Troy Baker, and Laura Bailey.  A special shout out to Emily Rose, who's not as well known as those previous names but does a fantastic job as Elena.
  • Great scripts by Neil Druckmann (U4) and Josh Scherr (both) that include both funny moments and touching ones.
  • Lemurs (U4) and elephants (TLL)!
  • Exciting gun battles.
  • They're pretty generous with the autosaves, which was a very good thing indeed; see my first item in the "loathed" section.
  • That epilogue in U4...[clutches heart]


  • It's pretty difficult; I bet I died hundreds of times, and that's not an exaggeration.  (Though sometimes it could be really funny, like the time I survived an epic firefight only to fall off a cliff while trying to climb onto a fucking box.)
  • Those exploding mummies can fuck right off.  (U4)
  • There was a fencing section that was so difficult I would have ragequit if I hadn't been so close to the end.  (U4)
  • Although I didn't have any issues with sim sickness for any of the other games in the series, there was a section near the end of TLL that made me barf and gave me a headache.
Although the Uncharted games aren't my favorite type of gameplay, I definitely enjoyed my time with all of them.  Uncharted 4 and The Lost Legacy both earn 8 pirate coins out of 10.