Wednesday, July 31, 2019

media update: July

 July has been a really weird-ass month, full of things both good and wretched.  On the good side:  a lovely visit with our friend Root, birthday celebrations galore, and a visit to the cat cafe.  On the bad side:  earthquakes, breaking my hand, heatwaves.

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. Her Daughter's Mother by Daniela Petrova:  Lana accidentally-on-purpose meets her anonymous egg donor and strikes up a friendship, and when the donor goes missing, suspicion falls on Lana.

2. Stone Cold Heart by Caz Frears:  A murder suspect's alibi is contradicted by his wife, but she may have a hidden agenda.

3. Shamed by Linda Castillo:  Police chief Kate Burkholder investigates the murder of an Amish woman and the disappearance of the victim's granddaughter.

4. The Need** by Helen Phillips:  Molly is confronted by a mysterious intruder in her home.  Do they have anything to do with the fossil dig where Molly found several mysterious and anachronistic items?  An excellent and creepy read; one part freaked me out so badly I double checked the front door.

Side note: out of curiosity, after I finished, I checked the reader reviews on Amazon and was astonished to see tons of bad ones.  It's definitely not for everyone, but if you like Karen Russell's short stories, I bet you'll gobble this up.

5. The Chain by Adrian McKinty:  Rachel is on her way to a doctor's appointment when she receives a strange call:  her daughter has been kidnapped, and in order to free her, she must kidnap someone else's child.

2019 total so far: 44


1. The Killer Across the Table* by John Douglas and Mark Olshaker:  A look at four of the FBI profiler's most disturbing cases.

2. American Predator* by Maureen Callahan:  A riveting look at a serial killer who, thanks to his unusual meticulousness and some shocking lapses by law enforcement, managed to get away with it for over a decade.  Warning: extremely graphic, even more so than the book above.

3. Three Women* by Lisa Taddeo:  An intimate look at the lives of three women: Maggie, whose affair with her teacher led to a scandal; Lina, who starts sleeping with her high school crush because her husband won't even kiss her; and Sloane, whose husband likes to watch her have sex with other men.

2019 total so far:12


1. The Handmaid's Tale: The Graphic Novel (art and adaptation of the Margaret Atwood novel by Renee Nault)

2. Our Dreams at Dusk vols. 1-2 by Yuhki Kamatani

3. Ao Haru Ride vols. 1-5 by Io Sakisaka

4. Rin-Ne vol. 30 by Rumiko Takahashi

5. Citrus vol. 10 (final volume) by Saburouta

2019 total so far:  31 volumes of manga and 17 graphic novels


1. Under the Silver Lake*:  Sam (Andrew Garfield) meets a young woman swimming in the pool at his apartment complex, and when she disappears, he tries to find her.  It's like Donnie Darko and Brick had a baby that spent all its spare time on Vigilant Citizen, or as G put it, like a slacker version of The DaVinci Code.

2. Murder Mystery:  Nick and Audrey (Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston) go on a very belated European honeymoon, but when they accept an invitation to visit a mysterious stranger's yacht, they get entangled in---spoiler alert!---a murder mystery.  It's not great, but it had some funny lines/scenes, and Jennifer Aniston is delightful as always.

Side note:  G and I were watching this when the earthquake hit, and after things calmed down, I thought to myself "God, that would have sucked if fuckin' Murder Mystery was the last movie I ever saw."

3. Hotel Mumbai:  An extremely tense dramatic retelling of the 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai in which several sites were targeted, including a 5-star hotel called the Taj. 

4. Shazam!:  A 14-year-old receives powers that turn him into an adult superhero when he says...well, I'll let you guess.

5. Always Be My Maybe:  After falling out on the night they lost their virginity to each other, Sasha and Marcus don't speak for 15 years.  But when Sasha returns to their hometown to open a new restaurant, they reconnect.  A cute rom-com with a great cameo by a superstar poking fun at his image.

6. Family:  Kate Stone (Taylor Schilling) reluctantly agrees to watch her niece Maddie while her brother and his wife are out of town.  Much to Kate's surprise, Maddie becomes a Juggalo, or a superfan of the horrorcore rap group Insane Clown Posse.

7. Justice League vs. the Fatal Five:  What it says on the tin.

8. Little Woods:  Ollie (Tessa Thompson) is on probation for selling prescription drugs, and she wants to stay straight, but when her sister gets pregnant and her home is about to be foreclosed on, she finds herself desperate for cash.

2019 total so far: 55

Monday, July 01, 2019

media update: June

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. The Woman in the Dark by Vanessa Savage:  Sarah reluctantly agrees to move into her husband's childhood home, even though it was the site of a brutal murder.  But things get weird almost immediately, and she wonders if the house is haunted.

2. Into the Jungle by Erica Ferencik:  Lily is an American working in Bolivia.  She falls in love with Omar, who takes her back to the remote jungle village where he was raised, and needless to say, it's a dangerous life.  I found this book incredibly irritating for reasons I won't get into due to spoilers.

3. Magic for Liars* by Sarah Gailey:  Ivy is a private investigator who is asked to look into the murder of a teacher at the Osthorne Academy of Young Mages.  She doesn't have any magical abilities herself, but her estranged sister does, and Tabitha just happens to work at the school.  Imagine Harry Potter crossed with Jessica Jones, and you'll get an idea of this unique novel.

4. The Kingdom by Jess Rothenberg:  Ana and her "sisters" are half-android, half-humans who work as princesses at the Kingdom, a Disneyland/Westworld hybrid.  Ana's programming begins to malfunction, and she starts to see the rot underneath the pretty surface.

5. The Body in Question by Jill Ciment:  Two jurors (only referred to by their numbers for most of the book) serving on a murder trial have an affair.  It's not really a courtroom drama or a romance; it's kind of hard to categorize.

6. In at the Deep End* by Kate Davies:  Julia has always considered herself (mostly) straight, so she's surprised when she finds herself attracted to another woman.  She and Sam begin having a steamy affair that everyone but Julia can tell is toxic.  It's often quite funny, but just as an FYI: it's very sexually graphic, so take that as either an endorsement or a warning.

7. Necessary People by Anna Pitoniak:  Stella and Violet have been best friends since college.  Stella is a spoiled rich girl; Violet comes from a dysfunctional home and has had to fight for everything she's ever had.  Violet thinks her fortunes are finally looking up when she gets a job at a cable news network, but Stella begins to force her way into that world too, causing Violet to make an impulsive decision that will change their lives forever.

8. Mostly Dead Things* by Kristen Arnett:  Jessa-Lynn takes over her family's Florida taxidermy shop after her father's suicide, but she also has to deal with her mother's strange new penchant for obscene art and her aimless brother.  Weird and wonderful.

9. The Last Widow* by Karin Slaughter:  When Sara Linton is kidnapped after a domestic terrorism incident, Will Trent will stop at nothing to find her.  I REALLY disliked Slaughter's last book, so I'm happy to report she's back in fine form, and I was glad to see Sara and Will back too.  (Not out in the US until August; I read the UK version)

Side note: I have absolutely no idea where the title comes from.  Sara is a widow, but that doesn't have anything to do with the plot.  I haz a confused.

10. The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware:  Rowan thinks she's found her dream job when she lands a lucrative position as a nanny.  The house, isolated in the Scottish countryside, is a bizarre mix of Victorian and ultra-modern (almost everything is controlled by an app), and Rowan starts to think it might be haunted.  If the title reminds you of a certain classic by Henry James, there's a reason for that.  (Not out in the US until August; I got an ARC)

11. The Perfect Fraud by Ellen LaCorte:  A sham psychic and a mother with a desperately ill child meet on an airplane, and this chance encounter will change both their lives.  About 25 pages in, I was pretty sure I knew where it was going, and I was right.  One of the blurbs on the back cover says the plot goes in ways we never see coming, and I thought "Hey, congratulations on reading your first book!"  It's not bad; it's just very predictable.

2019 total so far: 39


1. Anthony Bourdain Remembered:  A lovingly curated collection of anecdotes and photos about the late and very much missed chef, food writer, and TV personality.

2. Notes to Self* by Emilie Pine:  A deeply personal collection of essays about everything from infertility struggles to caring for an alcoholic parent.

2019 total so far: 9


1. Sweetness & Lightning* vol. 12 (final volume) by Gido Amagakure

2.  The Legend of Korra: Ruins of the Empire by Michael Dante DiMartino and Michelle Wong

3. Avatar: The Last Airbender - Imbalance vol. 2 by Faith Erin Hicks and Peter Wartman

4. Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up with Me* by Mariko Tamaki and Rosemary Valero-O'Connell

5. Food Wars!* vol. 30 by Yuto Tsukuda and Shun Saeki

2019 total so far:  22 volumes of manga and 16 graphic novels


1. How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World:  When outside forces threaten the dragons, Hiccup has to find the fabled Hidden World where dragons can be safe.  Some gorgeous animation, but every single attempt at humor fell flat.  I found one of the shorts on the disc ("Bilby") much more engaging.

2. Triple Threat:  An heiress risks her life by dedicating a huge amount of her fortune to wiping out crime, putting her in the crosshairs of a major syndicate.  Fortunately, she's got some people on her side, and they just happen to be played by three of the best martial artists in the world: Tony Jaa, Iko Uwais, and Tiger Chen.  Not as much action as I would have hoped, and they utterly wasted Jeeja Yanin's talents, but it definitely had its moments.

3. Mortal Engines:  In the far future, cities are set on wheels and move about freely, consuming smaller cities for fuel, and a young woman is determined to stop one of them from using a devastating weapon.  This was a massive commercial and critical flop, but we liked it!  True, the dialogue was pretty cliched, but it was beautiful to look at.

4. Greta:  When Frances (Chloe Grace Moretz) finds a lost purse on the subway, she returns it to its owner, Greta (Isabelle Huppert).  Greta is lonely and Frances has recently lost her mother, so they strike up a friendship, but Greta is not what she seems.  An entertaining thriller.

Side note:  this is probably the only movie I've ever seen that would fail the Bechdel test in reverse!  (i.e.: a movie should have at least two named female characters in it speaking to each other about something other than a man.  It's astonishing how many movies fail this pretty basic standard.)  Seriously, the only two significant male characters only talked about Frances.  It was refreshing, honestly.

5. Us*:  A family's vacation turns into a nightmare when their mysterious doppelgangers appear in this delightfully creepy thriller.

6. Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindewald:  The evil wizard Grindewald is gathering up followers, and Newt Scamander tries to stop him.  Like its predecessor, it's beautiful to look at but has a bad tendency to meander.  (Newt ScaMEANDER LOL okay I'll shut up)

7. A Silent Voice*:  In elementary school, Shoya bullied the new girl, Shoko, for being deaf.  Years later, Shoya unexpectedly runs into Shoko again and tries to make amends.  Beautifully animated and utterly heartbreaking.

2019 total so far: 47