Thursday, May 31, 2018

media update: May

This month, I have contenders for both my favorite novel and favorite movie of 2018!

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. You Think It, I'll Say It by Curtis Sittenfeld:  A collection of short stories.

2. A Court of Frost and Starlight by Sarah J. Maas:  This is the latest in the series, so I can't give it a proper review lest I spoil its predecessors.

3. How to Be Safe** by Tom McAllister:  Anna Crawford is a high school teacher who's just been suspended for losing her temper in class.  While she's home, she's horrified to see a news report saying that there's been a shooting at her school...and that she's the primary suspect.  Even after she's exonerated, people still don't trust her, and the town falls into chaos as people try to make sense of the tragedy.  All too timely, and unfortunately it probably always will be.  My favorite novel of the year so far (and oddly enough, pushing another book about our society's gun obsession out of the #1 spot).

Side note: don't let the synopsis fool you; although it's dark, it can also be quite funny, as in the scene where Anna gets an angry phone call from a man threatening to smother her with dicks and she says "Where are you getting all of these spare dicks?  I could use a few."  Anna's one hell of a good character; she reminded me a lot of Frances McDormand in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.

4. The Perfect Mother by Aimee Molloy:  A group of friends, all new mothers, get together twice a week to share their experiences and just hang out.  One of the women, Winnie, is a single mother who's never left her baby Midas (oy) with anyone before, but the others convince her to get a sitter, and then they receive the horrifying news that Midas is missing. Overhyped.

5. The Pisces* by Melissa Broder:  After her relationship implodes, Lucy accepts her sister's invitation to dogsit for an extended period of time.  One night, Lucy is walking down by the beach when she meets a hot surfer guy who turns out to be a merman.  Yes, I know you're thinking of The Shape of Water, but this is sexier, quirkier, and much funnier, and damn does it stick the landing.

6. Ash Princess by Laura Sebastian:  After her mother, the Fire Queen, is murdered and her country invaded, Theodosia is taken captive by the Kaiser and given the mocking title of the Ash Princess.  She tries to cope as best as she can despite constant cruelty, but when the Kaiser forces her to murder an innocent man, she begins plotting a rebellion.

7. Circe* by Madeline Miller:  A retelling of the life of the mythical sorceress made famous by The Odyssey.  I thought this would be a "broccoli book" (i.e. "nutritious" but no fun), but it's really good!

8. Our Kind of Cruelty* by Araminta Hall:  Mike and Verity (who he calls V) have a game they love to play together.  They go to a bar, V starts flirting with a guy, and just as it's getting hot and heavy, Mike angrily interrupts them and then he and V go off and have passionate sex.  But after Mike and V break up, she gets engaged to another man rather quickly, and Mike is convinced she's still playing their game...just an especially elaborate version.

This was one of my most anticipated books of the year, not least of all because it got such a rave review from Gillian Flynn.  Unfortunately, my expectations were too high, but it was still pretty good.  A word of advice, though: if you are the type of person to read the acknowledgements first, even if they're at the end, DO NOT do it with this book!  I sometimes read them first, but I didn't in this case, and man, I was so glad I hadn't. 

9. The Mars Room by Rachel Kushner:  Romy has just been sentenced to two consecutive life sentences in prison.  (The reason isn't given until a good chunk of the book has passed, and astoundingly the inside cover doesn't spoil it, so I won't say what she did here.)  While she navigates  her new surroundings, she reflects on the choices that brought her there.

10. The Favorite Sister** by Jessica Knoll:  Kelly and Brett are sisters on a reality show called Goal Diggers, which showcases successful businesswomen.  Kelly is older but new to the cast, with a young daughter; Brett is a tattooed lesbian who runs a successful spin studio.  We find out on the very first page that Brett is dead, but we won't find out how or why until the end.  It's a nasty, savage, catty book (I mean these adjectives as compliments) with a pointed message, and I enjoyed it immensely.

11. The Outsider* by Stephen King:  When the mutilated body of an 11-year-old boy is discovered, all evidence points to the town's popular Little League Coach, Terry Maitland, as the killer.  His fingerprints and DNA match that found at the crime scene, and several eyewitnesses saw him covered in blood and acting strangely.  Just one problem: Terry was out of town with a group of coworkers for a lecture, and not only do his coworkers vouch for him, but he's captured on video asking the lecturer a question.  So who killed the boy?  Well, considering that this is a Stephen King book, it's no spoiler to say it was more of a "what".  Much better than most of his recent work.

2018 TOTAL SO FAR:  49


1. The Girl Who Smiled Beads by Clemantine Wamariya and Elizabeth Weil:  When Clemantine was six years old, she and her older sister Claire fled the massacre in Rwanda and spent the next several years wandering through Africa before being granted refugee status in the US.  They moved to Chicago, and although their fortunes were greatly improved, Clemantine was unable to forget her terrible past.

2. Not That Bad: Dispatches from Rape Culture* edited by Roxane Gay:  A collection of essays about sexual assault.  Not cheerful reading, of course, but important.

3. The Trauma Cleaner* by Sarah Krasnostein:  The riveting true story of Sandra Pankhurst, who survived abuse and neglect as a child named Peter, underwent gender confirmation surgery in the early 80s, became a sex worker, and eventually started a successful trauma cleanup service.  This book alternates between Sandra's life story and anecdotes from the job.

2018 TOTAL SO FAR:  16


Believe it or not, nothing this month!

2018 TOTAL SO FAR:  17 volumes of manga and 7 graphic novels


1. Batman Ninja:  Batman and his enemies are sent back in time to feudal Japan, where a whole lot of WTF happens.  There are gigantic mech buildings and a huge troop of monkeys that form a bigger monkey and it's all just incredibly weird.  The story is incomprehensible and filled with cliches, but it's beautiful to look at and it's definitely different!

2. Avengers: Infinity War**:  The Avengers team up against their most insidious foe yet in this REALLY FUCKING GOOD flick.  I had high hopes for it because the Russo Brothers did such a great job with the Captain America movies, and they did not disappoint.  It's dark, albeit leavened with some terrific humor, and Thanos is a much more compelling villain than you usually find in superhero movies.  My favorite movie of the year so far.

3. The Disaster Artist*:  When aspiring actor Greg (Dave Franco) meets an intensely weird dude named Tommy Wiseau (an unrecognizable James Franco, who also directed), they wind up making The Room, one of the worst movies of all time but also a beloved cult classic.  It's a funny and entertaining look at how sometimes your dreams come true...just not in the way you expected.

4. Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle:  A group of teenagers accidentally get sucked into a video game and turned into its avatars (i.e., the nerd is now Dwayne Johnson and the bitchy popular girl is now...Jack Black).  They have to beat the game in order to return to the real world.  Dumb but fun.

5. Bad Moms:  Amy Mitchell (Mila Kunis) is trying to juggle the demands of her career and motherhood, but she feels like she's doing a terrible job of it until she meets two other moms (Kathryn Hahn and Kristen Bell) who help her let loose.  I thought it would be funnier, but it has its moments.

2018 TOTAL SO FAR:  47