The Invisible Library

Irene passed the mop across the stone floor in smooth, careful strokes, idly admiring the gleam of wet flagstones in the lantern-light.

The Invisible Library, Genevieve Cogman, Penguin Random House 2016

Sometimes I wish authors would pass their ideas to better authors or just admit that they wanted to write a TV or film script.

Because The Invisible Library has a nice ideas (book guardians that hop dimensions to collect special books, seemingly all during steampunkish/victorian times), but the landing doesn’t stick. It’s a collection of descriptions with cardboard characters.

I’d watch the series if someone else did the writing, all I’m saying.

The Jasmine Throne

In the court of the imperial mahal, the pyre was being built.

The Jasmine Throne, Natasha Suri, Hachette Book Group 2021

Honestly a little bit surprised by how much I didn’t care for this book. It has fantasy with a non-western background, gay women, and attempts some world-building. Why so demanding, brain?

Because all of it feels like it’s been generated instead of created. I didn’t care for any of the characters or what they went through. Childhood abuse? Oh. Your brother trying to sacrifice you? Okay. Fighting for independence? Uhuh. Fighting a disease that turns you into a tree? Are there images?

None of it touched me because there’s this weird imbalance of continuously adding new characters while trying to flesh out previous ones. And the plot: it felt like I was reading a game concept, not a novel. Like someone wanted the epic world-building of a Tolkien, a Martin, but forgot to put the silly, appealing and terrible in.

And of course; it’s a set up for sequels. I might catch up if it’s ever turned into a TV-show.

How to be an Antiracist

I despised suits and ties.

How to be an Antiracist, Ibram X. Kendi, Penguin 2019

With certain books you feel bad about not loving it. This is important information, this is something to learn from, and I struggled from beginning to ending.

That’s partly because of the style of this book: much too often it felt like I was paging through a dictionary because definitions are added to everything and repeated often. It could be that I spend too much time online that I am already familiar with plenty of terms, but no matter if it’s for rookie or the more experienced: the message has to be delivered in an attractive way. And I know repetition is key to learning and remembering things, but now I just remember the repetition; not the message.

Kendi combines his own story with the story of racism and anti-racism and doesn’t protect himself in either. Maybe it’s better to look at this like a part of encyclopedia instead.

The Anomaly

It’s not the killing, that’s not the thing.

The Anomaly, Hervé le Tellier, Other Press 2021

I was promised an intelligent thriller, but hm-meh. This was definitely a very basic science-fiction story that tried to elevate it through some (faux) philosophy. Which is allowed, but don’t blow it up like this.

The thing is: a plane lands in March after experience extreme weather. The exact same plane, with the exact same people on it experiencing the exact same thing lands in June. With the flyers thinking it’s still March. Where were they? And how come there’s now two of them?

It’s surprising how quickly and effectively the American government decide on what’s going on and act upon it. It also takes away from the story: the flyers get some room to react to the situation, but there’s a lack of urgency that makes this story horror or social commentary. What do we need to take away from this; look at your surroundings, do you trust them? Never to late to start over?

Maybe I just don’t understand all the layers, but for now I’m sticking to ‘meh’.

Girl One

April 24, 1972

Girl One, Sarah Flannery Murphy, Farrar, Straus & Giroux 2021

Standard detective with an element that’s supposed to make it cool and original but really doesn’t – instead turning the whole thing into a slog to get through.

Girl One is one of the girls that have been created without any male influence – aka no sperm. This tidbit is mostly mentioned through how society looked at them, not adding any cool scifi-ish bits until the last part of the book. Before that, Girl One (Josephine) is looking for her mum. They don’t have a great relationship, but there’s a deserted looking home and she ~feels~ like she has to.

With the meeting of the other girls created the same way her mother’s disappearance seems to turn into something bigger, but details are fed so slowly and unclear that it’s just.. why should I bother?

The story ends with a Life-Changing disappointment for the protagonist. I mentally signed out long before that.

Kramer VS Kramer

105 min.

I didn’t know this was based on a novel. Anyway, I feel like this is viewed as a bit of a Classic and I finally watched it for the first time. Everyone is still such a baby, which is always fun to experience — although Dustin Hoffman looks quite a bit older than Meryl Streep, but maybe that’s part of the story.

Yes, it’s not very neatly done – how Streep’s character disappears and leaves behind husband and son because she can’t handle it anymore. But I’m sure that it was received with a much better shock because of a woman leaving WHAT SHE WAS PUT ON EARTH FOR than because of a woman leaving because she had to pick herself to survive.

But – to me – it’s mostly about how every relationship falls apart in different ways. These two aren’t a good fit; not anymore. How to keep things together for their child, though?

In Hope Gap it’s the child that doesn’t necessary needs his parents to stay together; he just wants the break to be clean. He’s a grown up with his own life but is used as a communicator and manipulator between his leaving father and stunned mother. The three actors clearly have room to act their pants off, but that’s all this film is: a demonstration of acting (and Acting, sometimes). Of course, with every film you can wonder if it was necessary to be made, but with Hope Gap it’s a loud wondering. With it being based on a play, that somehow makes it feel even less essential.

Night Teeth

108 min.

Talking about lost potential.. here’s a prime example. We have snappy, chrome/neon looks, youths that can be considered attractive and vampires – a genre that never needs much to still deliver.

So to not do that could be called impressive. Almost everything that can go wrong, goes wrong. Bad acting? Could be saved with okay plot. Corny, cringe-worthy dialogue? Could be accepted with some smooth (action) scenes. But in the story of a cab-driver driving around vampires on a rampage it’s error on error. Bad decisions are made without any back up to make it slightly believable. Plot motivations are thin. Acting is bored or over-done. It’s vampires! Any kind of nonsense lore would have sold this film!

But no. It seems like they went for a music video with a bit of blood and fangs and forgot about the rest – ending with a whole lot of nothing.

Firedrake: the Silver Dragon

93 min.

After nixing some too-kiddy-looking animation from my Netflix list, it was Firedrake‘s chance to prove me wrong.

It ticks all the (recent) animated films boxes: intro in a different animation style (which is always prettier than the main one used), goofy, too rounded characters (literally, definitely not characteristically – was Antz really the last film that dared to use angles?), and a Life Lesson plot.

Sadly, that also mean it’s riddled with clichés. Overly angry female sidekick. Annoying male sidekick viewed as heroic and wise. Only other female character? Old. Although this at least saved me from a dragon with fake eyelashes. Just as with The Harder They Fall this plot could have been tightened up: the entirety of Ben drags things down just to add that Life Lesson.

Honestly, I’m still shocked by how ugly the animation is. You have dragons and turn them into boulders. Who will stop animated Hollywood?

The Harder They Fall

139 min.

I wouldn’t have watched this if it hadn’t been this cast; I don’t care for westerns They seem to be the original genre in the category Film’s Too Long.

That’s one of the issues here: dare make it a straight revenge film without the unnecessary straight romance. Don’t bother fleshing out side-characters if you’re only going to do it half-cocked (because it a western, get it?).

The OST manages to carry almost the entire film on its back, but in the end it’s the running time that cripples us all.

Mary, Mary

It was a Saturday night and Mary Ryan had a hot date with Mrs. Aucoin.

Mary, Mary, Lesley Crewe, Nimbush Publishing Limited 2016

Meestal houd ik de regel ‘gelezen in Engels = geschreven in Engels” aan, maar dit was zo’n vreemde verzameling van woorden dat het voelt alsof ik mijn verwarring hierover het beste in het Nederlands kan uitdrukken.

In Mary, Mary is de hoofdpersoon eens niet het zwarte schaap maar het witte schaap. Ze is te geduldig, te vriendelijk en haar moeder en grootmoeder maken daar misbruik van. Volgens de blurb ~gebeurt er iets~ waardoor dat allemaal verandert; en daar kijk je ook snel naar uit met die snertkarakters. Fijn zo’n twist, maak het maak naar en miserabel.

Alleen – dat gebeurt maar niet. Situaties veranderen, maar de grote HAPPENING komt maar niet. Het verhaal wordt meer absurd en de tweederangs karakters krijgen meer ruimte, terwijl ons dat helemaal niet boeit want die hebben allang bewezen dat ze dat niet verdienen.

In één ruk las ik de laatste 100 pagina’s: er moet vast iets zijn wat dit allemaal bij elkaar gaat brengen. Neen. Het wiebelt alle kanten op als een slordig geschreven telenovela. Geven we om Mary? Om haar familie die door omgeving en situatie gevormd zijn? Of moeten we het allemaal maar snel vergeten?

Enige zonde vind ik dat ik niet meer kan herinneren waarom dit op mijn TBR lijst stond. Hoe kwam ik er op?