The Gracekeepers

The first Callanish knew of the Circus Excalibur was the striped silk of their sails against the grey sky.

Now this is what I call a fairy tale. Remember The Secret of Kells and Song of the Sea? Like that, but a book. And maybe a bit more eerie on the side of gruesome, from time to time. And! It has a map that doesn’t just consist out of a large mass in the middle (fantasy pet peeve).

Maybe that’s because in this world, large parts of the planet are under water, only a few islands are left and parts of the human population just permanently live on ships, because there’s not enough land to go around. Some ships are churches, others are circuses, main character North was pretty much born in one, but things are threatening to chance her life on it.

Another character followed is a gracekeeper, some kind of undertaker with a bit of stranger habits than we’re used to. It all adds to the beautiful (and) strange atmosphere. Just wait until you meet the clowns.

The Gracekeepers is there for your mythological, pretty fantasy needs.

The Gracekeepers, Kirsty Logan, Harvill Secker 2015

White Chrysanthemum

It is nearly dawn, and the semi-darkness casts strange shadows along the footpath.

Do you need to use trigger warnings when the trauma shown is part of history? White Chrysanthemum is about (Korean) comfort women, used in the Second World War. If you don’t know what that means, it means rape.

White Chrysanthemums are flowers of mourning (for the Koreans), so don’t expect a clean escape as a reader either. This is a story of one of the many, both of the side of those left behind and those taken.

And yet, or maybe because of that, Mary Lynn Bracht manages to show such an appealing, visually attractive and easily to envision world and surroundings. Maybe to show that through it all, the environment will continue existing. Maybe to show that no matter how ugly the actions of humans, the world will keep turning. Maybe the author is just really good in descriptions.

The stories of Emi and Hana are worth your time. Not just to learn, but maybe also in a way – to mourn. That they were far from the last female victims of war crimes, even if it was less than hundred years ago.

White Chrysanthemum, Mary Lynn Bracht, Chatto & Windus 2018

 

The Locals

They were saying that all appointments were canceled, indefinitely, that it was the end of everything, but why would they assume that?

Last time I read this author I wasn’t quite sure how to recommend the book, and this time it isn’t much different. There’s an appeal to his writing, but the story? Not just a collection of too human people (you start with the honeymoon phase and you end up wanting to throttle them), but mostly not much happens? So why would I still, pretty surely, recommend this novel?

Maybe because it offers an uncensored view of “normal” Americans outside one of the well known states. Small town in Massachusetts in the aftermath of 9/11, but soon moving their attention back to their small town politics and each other. Not even the rich outsider can change that (permanently).

I like family sagas, following the same people through time and (family) issues. Usually I try to pick less familiar surroundings than western society, but these people are so alienating in their paranoid and petty thoughts, that things turn out pretty exotic after all.

The Locals, Jonathan Dee, Random House 2017

What If

98 min.

Also known as The F-Word. Online, anyway. Pretty clear why there was a name change, of course. The movie is based on a play called Toothpaste and Cigars, making this almost an Edge of Tomorrow situation.

what-if-movieIt took me a moment to get used to Daniel Radcliffe not just playing an adult, but also being the love interest. Harry Potter just sticks to someone, I guess. He’s a charming fellow though, even when playing a (bit of a) disgruntled loser. Wallace is a grumpy, single, medical school dropout who meets a great woman but oh no – she’s already got a boyfriend. Chantry tells him so from the start, and from time to time checks in to make sure that this is still all just a friendship. But no, not for Wallace, and what – if anything – should he do about it?

So instead of the super obvious plot line, What If keeps out on you for much longer. And when Wallace and Chantry get a bit dull in their will-they-won’t-they, at least you’ll have Allan and Nichole: Wallace’s best friend and his girlfriend. They’re weird and loud but most of the time more likeable than the main couple.

Situations push the story into a familiar direction, but it’s mostly quirky and light enough that you won’t mind much. It just makes it a romcom like the thousands that are already out there.

What If, Caramel Films 2013

Autoboyography

The end of our final winter break seems almost like the beginning of a victory lap.

Smartest title encountered this year or too thought through? Because y’all, this book is about two young book writers following in love with each other! I think it’s cute, just as the story.

Tanner is a bisexual male teen that kind of goes back into the closet after his family moves to Utah, specifically a town with a Mormon majority. He’s not even out to his best friend, so how do you handle falling in love with the wonderful, beautiful, very Mormon TA?

It would have been easy to turn this into a pro or con story about religion and Mormons, but both authors stick close to the love story and darn, do they do it sweetly. Just like Tanner and Sebastian can’t seem to think about anything else, it’s sometimes a challenge to not discard the pages without them. Will they? Won’t they? In how many ways will organised religion ruin this?

Characters that aren’t these two sometimes get a bit the short end of the stick, but both secondary characters and surroundings make this a cute high school romance.

Autoboyography, Lauren Billings & Christina Hobbs, Simon & Schuster 2017

 

De geniale vriendin

Vanochtend belde Rino.

Naar mijn idee is de meeste hype over Elena Ferrante (wie is het echt?) en haar boeken alweer voorbij, maar zoals wel vaker gezegd: soms lees ik het liefst gehypete media ver na de hype, zodat ik ze neutraal kan ervaren. Voordeel met boeken is dat ze dan ook makkelijker in de bieb verkrijgbaar zijn.

Ik ben nog steeds vrij van mijn TRL, en De Geniale Vriendin leek licht genoeg tussen wat ik net had gelezen en nog ging lezen. Plus dat het gewoon een titel was waarvan ik net genoeg wist om het te herkennen in de bibliotheekkasten.

Enfin, dit is pas het eerste boek uit een serie, maar ik vermoed dat de anonimiteit van de auteur flink heeft bijgedragen aan de hype. Want ja, men krijgt een eerlijk kijkje in naoorlogs Napels, armoe versus rijkdom, de rol van meisjes en vrouwen en hoe sommigen daar uit proberen te klimmen. De levens van Elena en Lila in fijn detail, met Napels als heel de wereld. Een variatie van afwijkende karakters komt langs, en het is allemaal makkelijk weg te lezen. Maar wat wordt er gelezen?

Met een mannelijke auteur was dit alles waarschijnlijk een Groots Literair Werk genoemd, waar deze boeken weer als pulp en vakantieverhalen worden genoemd. Er is weinig meer dan het opgroeien van de twee meiden, en in hun opgroeien zit protest tegen de rol van vrouwen, het gezin als bouwsteen van de samenleving, hoe (gebrek aan) geld verschillende soorten rijkdom in de weg zit. Het is een interessante en frustrerende blik op recente geschiedenis, maar het eindeloos meeslepende en verslavende heb ik niet ervaren. Voor wie dat wel doet: er zijn nog drie andere boeken.

De geniale vriendin,  Elena Ferrante, Wereldbibliotheek 2013

Gentlemen prefer blondes

A gentleman friend and I were dining at The Ritz last evening and he said that if I took a pencil and paper and put down all my thoughts it would make a book.

I didn’t know there was a book before there was a movie, but the title is such a solid part of entertainment (history) that when I saw the book in the library, I was sure it was related to the Marilyn Monroe’s movie. I was right.

I haven’t watched the movie (yet), but if it’s as much as cheeky fun as the book, I’ve cut my next movie night planned. The only thing you might have to get to used to is the grammar and spelling used. This is from another time after all, and Lorelei doesn’t sound like the kind of woman whom cares about language. So no, it’s not like there was never an editor involved. Heck, after a while it becomes almost as charming as Lorelei herself.

Anyway, we move through the USA and Europe in a time when two women could without a worry in the world, and plenty of men would rain gifts, money and attention on them, without (really) knowing them. Lorelei knows which one to play best, while Dorothy sometimes makes the silly mistake of getting a crush of them. London doesn’t do much to them, but Paris does, and French really isn’t that hard (is that the last time an American felt like that?)!

It’s a tiny ball of silly fun with a world so far away from our reality, that it might well be a fantasy novel.

Gentlemen prefer blondes, Anita Loos, Liveright 1925