Friday, August 31, 2018

media update: August

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 Were Made for This* by Michelle Sacks:  After moving to Sweden from the US, Merry and Sam seem to have a perfect life and a perfect marriage.  Then Merry's (female) friend Frank comes for an extended visit, and the cracks in Merry and Sam's life start to widen.  I read the first 30 pages or so and wasn't sure if I'd finish it, but then an offhanded comment made by Merry caught my attention, and I decided to stick with it.  I'm glad I did, because it got very intriguing and super dark.

2. Jar of Hearts by Jennifer Hillier:  When she was in high school, Georgina Shaw helped her boyfriend Calvin cover up the murder of her best friend.  Fourteen years later, Angela's body is discovered and Georgina is arrested for her part in the crime, but Calvin has escaped custody...and it looks like he's back to his old tricks.

3. America for Beginners* by Leah Franqui:  After her husband dies, Pival Sengupta leaves India for a tour of America, where she hopes to reconnect with her estranged gay son.  She's accompanied on this journey by a guide named Satya, who's from Bangladesh but posing as Indian, and Rebecca, an aspiring actress hired for modesty's sake.  A charming novel with some interesting thoughts about culture clashes.

4. Watch the Girls* by Jennifer Wolfe:  After her younger sister disappeared, teen star Liv Hendricks quit acting.  Fifteen years later, she hears about a small California town called Stone's Throw, made famous by a horror director, where several young women have vanished.  Hoping to kickstart her career again, Liv begins a webseries and goes to Stone's Throw to investigate.  An engrossing thriller.

5. The Cheerleaders by Kara Thomas:  Five years ago, five cheerleaders at Sunnybrook High died in three separate incidents:  two in a car crash, two were murdered, and one (Jennifer) died by suicide.  While looking for pain pills, Jennifer's sister Monica discovers a locked drawer in her stepfather's office, and what she finds makes her reconsider the truth about the tragic events.

6. Her Pretty Face by Robyn Harding:  Frances Metcalfe is a lonely stay-at-home mom who manages to befriend the beautiful and wealthy Kate Randolph.  But there's a catch: one of them is not who she seems.  Too many parentheticals in this book, and I guessed a major thing that happened way before it actually did, but it was a pretty enjoyable read.

Side note: if you plan on reading this, I'd skip the inside cover blurb as it spoils something rather big.

7. The Darkest Legacy by Alexandra Bracken:  A standalone novel set in the Darkest Minds universe following Suzume as she goes on the run after being framed.  The best part of it was a new character named Priyanka who got a ton of really good lines.

8.  The Line That Held Us* by David Joy:  It isn't deer season yet, but when Darl Moody sees a huge buck, he decides to shoot it because the meat will last through the winter.  He accidentally shoots and kills a man instead, and not just any man: the brother of Dwayne Brewer, the meanest man in town.  Excellent Southern noir that would make a great movie; after seeing #4 on the movie list below, I could really imagine Joaquin Phoenix as Dwayne.

9. Jane Doe* by Victoria Helen Stone:  Jane has just gotten a job at an insurance company, where she hopes to catch the interest of Steven, one of the managers.  He takes the bait, but what he doesn't realize is that Jane isn't who she says she is, and she wants revenge.  Smart and nasty.

10. Pieces of Her by Karin Slaughter:  Andy is having lunch with her mother Laura when a gunman bursts into the restaurant and shoots two women.  Despite having no combat training, Laura manages to kill the gunman with a knife through his neck.  Shit manages to go even further downhill from there, and Andy has to go on the run in hopes of discovering the truth about who the hell her mother really is. pains me to say this, because Karin Slaughter is easily one of my five favorite authors, but this book did absolutely nothing for me.  It's the only one of her novels where I wasn't rushing to pick it up whenever I had a free moment, and at times, I struggled to continue.  I'm sure it's just a hiccup; one meh novel is nothing compared to over a dozen excellent ones.

11. Vox* by Christina Dalcher:  In the not-so-distant future, women are restricted to 100 words a day, whether verbal, written, read, or gestured.  If they go over their limit, a counter on their wrist gives them a painful shock; additional infractions make the pain considerably worse.  Dr. Jean McClellan, a linguist, chafes under this rule, but when she's asked to help the president's brother after a traumatic brain injury, she sees a way out for herself and her daughter.  Intelligent and all too plausible.

12. Sweet Little Lies* by Caz Frear:  When a woman's body is discovered, London policewoman Cat Kinsella is called to the scene.  She thinks the corpse looks familiar, but once the victim is identified as Alice Lapaine, Cat dismisses her initial reaction.  But then it turns out Alice is actually a woman named Maryanne Doyle, who had been missing for years...and Cat had always suspected her own father of having something to do with Maryanne's disappearance, which complicates the investigation.  A really enjoyable mystery that reminded me of Tana French's Dublin Murder Squad novels.  (I hasten to add it's not as good as Tana French, which I don't remotely mean as an insult; that's a very high bar!)

2018 TOTAL SO FAR:  84


1. Lush by Kerry Cohen:  A memoir about the author's struggles with alcohol addiction.

2018 TOTAL SO FAR:  20


1. The Water Dragon's Bride vol. 6 by Rei Toma

2. Everyone's Getting Married vol. 8 by Izumi Miyazono

3. The Promised Neverland** vols. 1-5 by Kaiu Shirai and Posuka Demizu:  I hadn't even finished the first chapter of the first volume when something happened that made me gasp out loud.  I highly recommend this series, but if you have any interest in it, don't spoil it for yourself!  It's going to be an animated series next year, too.

4. Kaze Hikaru vol. 26 by Taeko Watanabe

5. Food Wars!* vol. 25 by Yuto Tsukuda and Shun Saeki

6. What Did You Eat Yesterday? vol. 13 by Fumi Yoshinaga
2018 TOTAL SO FAR:  36 volumes of manga and 8 graphic novels


1. Ready Player One:  In the future, practically everyone spends their free time in a virtual reality world called OASIS.  When the creator dies, he leaves behind a video challenging OASIS players to find three keys, which will give the winner the rights to OASIS and a massive fortune.  Visually impressive, but I found it a bit too messy and chaotic.

2. Tully*:  Overwhelmed by the demands of her family, including a newborn, Marlo (Charlize Theron, excellent as always) accepts her brother's gift of a night nanny who's almost too good to be true.  An uncompromising and often quite bleak look at motherhood, but it includes some snappy dialogue courtesy of Diablo Cody's screenplay.

3. Gemini:  The assistant (Lola Kirke) to a starlet (Zoe Kravitz) unexpectedly becomes embroiled in a murder investigation in this interesting neo-noir.

4. You Were Never Really Here*:  Joe (Joaquin Phoenix) is a hitman hired by a senator to rescue his underage daughter from a bordello.  A grim but very good Taxi Driver for the new millennium.

5. Lockout:  When the president's daughter is held hostage during a riot at an outer space prison, a man framed for murder is recruited to rescue her in exchange for having his charges dropped.  Dumb but fun, and Guy Pearce shows some surprisingly good comic timing.

6. Revenge:  Jen accompanies her married lover Richard on a hunting trip, but when his friend rapes her and Richard seems to take it in stride, Jen threatens to tell Richard's wife.  Things get worse, and Richard and his friends leave Jen for dead in the wilderness, but she's alive...and now she's REALLY pissed.  I don't ordinarily watch rape revenge movies---you would have to pay me a LOT of money to watch I Spit on Your Grave, for example---but this got a good review on Jezebel, so I figured it wasn't going to be sexualized.  It was visually stylish and the rape scene, though obviously upsetting, was not graphic.  (I'm guessing the fact that this was directed by a woman had a lot to do with that decision.)  Warning: very gory.

7. The Death of Superman:  Superman takes on his most dangerous foe yet, and as you can tell from the title, it doesn't go so well.

8. Isle of Dogs:  In this animated movie, all of the dogs in Japan are banished to Trash Island after an outbreak of "snout fever", and a young boy goes in search of his lost pet.  Visually inventive, but an inexplicable plot decision about halfway through robbed it of a star.

9. The Strangers: Pray at Night:  In a deserted trailer park, a trio of masked killers terrorizes a family.  Thanks to its trim length (not even 90 minutes) and the fact that we actually care about the family in question, the tension remains high throughout.

10. Deadpool 2*: Deadpool tries to stop a time-traveling mutant named Cable from killing a kid who will eventually grow up to murder Cable's family.  I enjoyed this one much more than the first one; it's extremely funny and has one of the best stingers ever.

11. Unsane:  After inadvertently being committed to a mental hospital, Sawyer is horrified to see that her stalker works there, even though she moved to another state to get away from him.  But is he really there, or is he a figment of her imagination?  An interesting thriller, shot almost entirely on an iPhone by director Steven Soderbergh.

2018 TOTAL SO FAR:  72