A Window Opens

I drag my suitcase out from under the bed and start packing.

Eentje die niet op De Lijst stond maar mijn aandacht trok met de cover en blurb ‘voor fans van Where’d You Go, Bernadette‘. Daar ben ik het maar een heel klein beetje mee eens, trouwens. De kaftkleuren komen nog het meest overeen. A Window Opens is voor fans van boeken, lezen en vrouwelijke karakters die het wagen menselijk te zijn.

Voor Alice (eind dertig, man, drie kinderen, part time baan) gaat alles heel redelijk, tot er voor financiële redenen een nieuwe baan gevonden moet worden. Eerst lijkt de perfecte gevonden te zijn, en snel ook. Vervolgens beginnen andere categoriën in haar leven uit elkaar te vallen.

Dit is geen boek anti-werkende moeders of een lofzang voor minder werken en meer leven. Dit is Alice’s verhaal en zij leert wat wel en niet voor haar werkt. Met en lekkere sneer naar nieuwe start-ups die altijd boeken lijken te haten.
Het is chick-lit zoals elk navelstarend manspersoonboek dude-lit is, hier zijn de karakters alleen (veel) beter ingekleurd dan bij de zwakkeren in het genre. Alice lives and learns, en al zijn het geen mindblowing lessen, ze zijn wel van het soort dat niet vaak genoeg herhaald kan worden.

Een fijn boek gewoon, klip en klaar.

A Window Opens, Elisabeth Egan, Simon & Schuster 2015

The Ice Twins

Our chairs are placed precisely two yards apart.

This is a scary one, out of the ‘humans may be the worst monsters’ category. It just stays unclear for a long time which of the people involved you have to be scared off.

Angus and Sarah have suffered a horrible fate: one of their twin daughters died. To start anew, they move to a distant Scottish island. With a daughter that says she’s Lydia, the girl they thought to have died.
And the little girl isn’t the only one adding confusion. Angus has secrets, Sarah has (paranoid?) doubts, and no matter how beautiful their Scottish surroundings are, they may be too natural for them as London-folk to prosper in.

With twisted turns the reader gets a family drama made gothic by its location. A neatly written novel, one that will make you appreciate electricity, central heating and – if applicable – your plain, ordinary family.

The Ice Twins, S. K. Tremayne, Grand Central Publishing 2015

Obernewtyn

In the days following the holocaust, which came to be known as the Great White, there was death and madness.

Finally some oldskool fantasy-ing. That’s not on the book of course, I just feel that you can only read so many unlikely-hero-in-medieval-inspired-settings stories before starting to compare them. At least contemporary and/or urban gives you a spot-the-similarities option.

Anyway, Obernewtyn. Recommended by a patriotic Australian who said that if I wanted more (fantasy) female authors in my life, that I couldn’t ignore Isobelle Carmody. Carmody started writing at a young age and this book shows that it’s not just for children, but also by a child. The sentences are simple, the hints and messages clear. It takes a while to get to the plot, but if you hang on there is an entertaining world to be found. With an unlikely hero.

In a post-apocalyptic world there are mutants, Misfits. You don’t want to be one, because the Council doesn’t like them. Main character Elspeth, already on the low side of society as an orphan, is discovered to be one, and shipped off to Obernewtyn, where the master is interested in curing them. Or so they say.

Nasty characters, strange friends, telepathic animals and hidden plans to take over make up the more colourful, appealing side of things. Combine that with an eighties cover and a traditional map, and you have your shot of easy-breezy-as-it-should-be fantasy for the month. If I’m going to stick around for the other six books of the series? Not sure yet. There is a To Read List to work through, after all.

Obernewtyn, Isobelle Carmody, Penguin Books 1987

Across The Universe

133 min.

The number of musical movies I like could be counted on one hand, but sometimes other people’s enthusiasm overrides habit. I had the day off and nowhere to go (why is everything closed on Good Friday?) so why not try this?

ATU poster sony pictures‘This’ is Across The Universe, a musical with The Beatles songs against a backdrop of the Vietnam war and protests. There’s Jude who leaves Liverpool for a better life (in the USA), there’s Lucy who learns more about the world in one summer than her years at school. Connecting factor is Max (her brother, his friend) and a selection of colourful characters that have their own message for that time and over that subject.

The soundtrack makes things very easy to like, but the main three characters add bundles of chemistry and appeal as well, making the entire package bright and enjoyable. Yes, I’m an ATU enthusiast now as well. The movie can be found on (Canadian) Netflix.

Across The Universe, Sony Pictures 2007

Dora: A Headcase

Mother is cleaning the spoons again.

“A female fightclub”, “Hopefully to replace Catcher in the Rye in reading lists for the alienated” and an introduction from Chuck Palahniuk – I was very curious about why the heck I had added this book to my To Read list.

While reading the question returned to me on a regular basis, because this isn’t a fun, accessible book. Yet finishing it, I noticed that I’m glad I did. That I took thoughts and ideas and silent hopes of the teens involved into the world with me. Maybe I didn’t like it, but it definitely left me something. Which I think everyone needs with a book from time to time.

Dora is Ida, a girl in love, a daughter off parents that seem not to care or not to be able to function as parents, a psychiatrist’s client. She’s angry and prickly and – a teenager; so of course oh so smart and intelligent and with a clear view of how the world really works. Was she a passive element in one of Freud’s case studies: this time everything but her and her friends seem to be inactive, passive elements in a slow motion world.

Some heart comes from Ida’s friends, but mostly it’s a pool of tar covered in glass shards. Yes, it should replace Catcher, maybe for the sole reason to show that girls can be broken and angry and frustrated with the world as well, while still gain wings to fly through it.

Dora: A Headcase, Lidia Yuknavitch, Hawthorne Books & Literary Arts 2012

Hushed

“I feel that suicide notes lose their zing when they drag on too long.”

One of the reasons I liked this book was because the queerness of the main character isn’t the main subject. This isn’t A Story With A Not Straight Person, it’s a sad, ugly story about what life (and life events) can do to people.

Archer has been looking out for Vivian for her entire life. It’s what she deserves, after he couldn’t save her that one time. So with every bad break up, whenever Vivian calls, he is there, folding his life around her needs, because he has to make things better. He tries to do so by cleansing her life of unwanted subjects, permanently.

Someone new in his life shows him that this isn’t the way a relationship, a friendship should be, but how do you free yourself from a parasitic connection?

Hushed is a thriller in which humans are the scariest creatures, and shows that love can both reap destruction as build bridges.

Hushed, Kelley York, Entangled Publishing 2013

Friendship

The temp agency’s application was only four pages long, but somehow Bev hadn’t managed to fill it out.

Another one of my To Read List. Expect a lot of those in the upcoming months. I worry a little bit that it might clash with my resolution of reading less, but better books, because some have been on that list for a long time, some I don’t even understand adding to that list (and will be viewed with less priority).

The title is Friendship and about friendship it is. Was Life Partners about an equal relationship that went off,Friendship starts off as wobbly and moves to worse. Even with the explanation about how the two met and found each other, it’s unclear why they stuck together. Some big life changes only show that friendships can’t survive some things.

It isn’t easy to care though. Bev and Amy are both understandable, but the way to relate to either of them is mostly recognizing them as the people you don’t want in your lives. That turns the novel into a piece of schadenfreude: at least I’m not that awful at life, friendship and relationships.

Friendship, Emily Gould, Farrar, Straus and Giroux 2014

Growing up Amish

One fateful, starless, April night, I got up at 2:00 a.m. in the pitch black darkness, left a scrambled note under my pillow and walked away – all my earthly belongings stuffed in a little black duffel bag.

Zeventien-jarige Ira Wagler is Amish en vertelt met welke moeite hij is opgegroeid: drie keer verliet hij zijn gemeenschap, de derde keer bleef hij weg. Het is een autobiografie, ik was er nieuwsgierig naar omdat ik interesse heb in hoe en waarom religie en religieuze gemeenschappen werken.

Daar leerde ik redelijk over, al in het eerste hoofdstuk, met het feit dat Canada ook Amish communities heeft. Het is een interessant en bizar kijkje in een redelijk onbekende wereld. Ira’s verhaal echter, elke keer weer de wollige, dramatische zinnen over emoties en twijfels, had best strenger geredigeerd mogen worden.

Ik weet dat een waar verhaal minder makkelijk opgesierd kan worden, maar bijna letterlijke herhaling, uitgesponnen naar pagina’s in plaats van alinea’s, wordt heel snel heel saai. Wederom – aangezien het op mijn To Read List stond, vraag ik me af hoe ik er opgekomen ben.
Wagler heeft ook blogs: als je een tipje van de Amish-sluier wilt oplichten ben je daar misschien sneller klaar mee – http://www.irawagler.com.

Growing up Amish, Ira Wagler, Tyndale House Publishers 2011

Life Partners

95 min.

Another cute female-led movie(/romcom) that won’t make you feel like attacking your senses in despair.

life-partners-poster-haven entertainmentSasha and Paige have been friends forever. Now they’re close to thirty and their paths have split: Paige has a job, a future, is ready for more. Sasha hates her job, and is unsure about a lot of things. Paige getting a boyfriend and growing into a serious relationship with him only adds more insecurity.

In all too familiar fashion the gap grows, frustrating both sides while at the same time trying to work through/around the What’s Next For Me questions. It’s all very human and accessible, making you shift loyalties every other scene. Who didn’t have that friend. Who has never been the one that didn’t want to say sorry first.

Adam Brody is as usual a nice addition in his Adam Brody character part, but it is Leighton Meester and Gillian Jacobs that give the movie its soft, gooey centre. Underneath the spiky exterior of cursing each other out in public and lonely mozzarella sticks drive through dinners.

Life Partners, Haven Entertainment 2014

Murdoch’s World

The man at the center of the maelstrom sat across the parents of a dead girl, his head cradled in his hands.

Yet again, truth is stranger, more confusing, and more terrifying than fiction.

Rupert Murdoch may not be a name someone unrelated to the world of media can recognise. Fox News, News of the World (hacking scandal), Wall Street Journal may be mainstream names enough to give an inkling about to where the man’s tentacles reach. This book tells about News Corp, but mostly the man in charge: Rupert Murdoch.

It is impressive, how he took over the (media) world, buying and influencing and pushing in any way he wanted to and could. Politicians, law and other authorities have experienced what working with and against him could result in, and thousands of people can thank him for a job.

But (isn’t there always a but): Murdoch thinks he’s above and beyond the law. Uses his power and channels to affect societies, and that’s when a very dystopian look of things shows. The one media that is a fortress, acting like it has The Truth and attacking those that are not with them.

It’s a detective times horror story times family drama, which left me very curious about what will happen when this empire falls. And not just because of the deserved reckoning for a lot of people involved.

Murdoch’s World: The last of the old media empires, David Folkenflik, PublicAffairs 2013