Little Fires Everywhere

Everyone in Shaker Heights was talking about it that summer: how Isabelle, the last of the Richardson children, had finally gone round the bend and burned the house down.

Writing this review made me feel like reading the book for the second time, consider me a fan of Celeste Ng’s (you pronounce it as ‘ing’) work.

Again it’s a seemingly lovely, decent family of which the image (they project) slowly starts to show cracks. This time it’s literally and figuratively a small town story, and even though something quite big happens, there’s such a subdued, rosy-tinted tone to everything that even the moment when it all boils over, you don’t feel more like a soft ‘huh’. Because it wasn’t inevitable, but mostly because Ng writes in such a way that you’re swaddled, embedded into these lives and can almost feel the possibilities pass left and right. Maybe Izzy (Isabelle) will find her way sooner than later, maybe Mia and daughter Pearl will air out the secrets between them and for once put roots down somewhere. Maybe Mrs. Richardson can become a person again, instead of a connection between others.

So you wait, and hope while things crash and literally burn, while still ending on a high note. Because Celeste Ng is good like that.

Little Fires Everywhere, Celeste Ng, Penguin Publishing 2017

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms


I’m so glad I gave this author another chance. The Fifth Season may have been a bridge too far or simply not the right book at the right time (when you read so many books, sometimes it’s weird to accept that you can’t ‘crack’ one right away), but girl, was The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms the cool, easy accessible fantasy you just might need.

With accessible I mean that the story line is (mostly) chronological, the lines drawn between good and evil are (mostly) clear and that the world building takes enough of a back seat to not confuse you about which surroundings you’re supposed to read a situation in.

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms starts with an unlikely hero, a young woman brought to the royal family. But instead of letting her work her way through the fitting tropes, N.K. Jemisin quickly turns it around, and keeps adding little turns to the regular ideas.

What I really liked was the mythology used, and although this is the reason that does make the book less clean cut towards the end, by then you’ll be too enamored to want to give up.

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, N.K. Jemisin, Hatchette Book Group 2010

Early Man

89 min.

Mum and I always like to support whatever Aardman produces. It’s not just super recognisable English fun, it’s about the endless effort they put into their claymation (clay animation).

Early-Man-character-posterEarly Man is quite … muted, though. Few laughs, and although I understand that you can’t have things look very refined or play word jokes in the back because it being prehistoric surroundings, the humour was noticeably sparse. While cave men playing football to keep their surroundings sounds like something that could be idiotically funny, doesn’t it?

The other thing I wondered about was why the bad guys had German and French (sounding) accents.

It’s fun to recognise Aardman elements (the pet is smarter than the owner, the villain overruled by a woman, spunky female character), but if you want claymation, I’d recommend watched Shaun the Sheep (again).

Early Man, Aardman 2018

The Tortilla Curtain

Afterward, he tried to reduce it to abstract terms, an accident in a world of accidents, the collision of opposing forces – the bumper of his car and the frail scrambling hunched-over form of a dark little man with a wild look in his eye – but he wasn’t very successful.

And the prize for Most Depressing Book read in January goes to.

The tortilla curtain is the border between Mexico and the USA. The Tortilla Curtain is about the people on that thin line that just want to have a comfortable life, but are prevented from having it by paranoia, racism, and society. The one side is simply much more privileged than the other, but don’t let that fool you into thinking they could have an easier life (add a note of sarcasm here).

I had to read this one for school, because we’re doing a course called Aspects of the USA and well, racism definitely is one.

The book’s well written, luring into supporting one side until everybody just shows how ugly their thoughts and prejudices are. The one side is just allowed more, under the guise of honesty and worry. It’s over twenty years old, but the story can definitely be retold today.

The Tortilla Curtain, T.C. Boyle, Bloomsbury 1995

Peaky Blinders

30 x 60 min.

Eén van de stoerdere geschiedenis TV-series (The Americans en Black Sails zijn de andere twee) met de stoerste soundtrack. Peaky Blinders zijn de Shelby familie en hun aanhang, vrienden en collega’s, en ze hebben 1920’s Birmingham onder controle. In meerdere en mindere legale mate.

Peaky Blinders posterNoem ze maar gangsters, maar dan wel zo verdraaid slim en charmant dat het makkelijk vergeten is dat ze gewelddadige eikels zijn. Dit drie seizoenen lang, met hoogtepunten en dieptepunten, want soms overleeft die Thomas Shelby wel verdraaid veel.

Maar Thomas Shelby wordt gespeeld door Cillian Murphy, en die man druipt charme. Is ie weer op allerlei doordachte (en gewelddadige) manieren de tegenstander (andere criminelen, autoriteiten, een mix van de twee) te slim af, en op zo’n mooie manier ook!

De vrouwelijke rollen – op de geniale Polly na – komen er te vaak bekaaid van af, en de bijrollen zijn soms voor onverstaanbare karikaturen, maar het is verdorie allemaal zo stoer en vlot en had ik het al charmant genoemd?

Voor de liefhebbers van het gesjeesde met een jaren twintig aankleding.

Peaky Blinders, BBC 2013

Black Panther

135 min.

I’ve had Jidenna’s Long Live the Chief stuck in my head ever since leaving the theater for the Black Panther showing, and I think that could give you a bit of a clue about the film and how it leaves you. Assuming you don’t hate superhero movies, and aren’t racist or sexist. P.S.: the song isn’t in the film, the soundtrack is cool and fitting (either way).

Black Panther film posterThe character of Black Panther has been shortly introduced in previous Avengers/Marvel movies, but finally he and his country get their own movie. Which of course comes with a moderately interesting villain, love interest, family issues and hardships he has to work through.

But, and here where it turns out not to be a black Captain America; the director doesn’t take one step back on the blackness and African-ness of it all. It’s in the music, it’s in the accents, it’s in the attitude; for once there’s a story in which an African people are by far the superior ones. With special mention to all the women that are allowed in the spotlight, showing all the things they can do without needing (the leadership of) men.

So even though it’s still a Marvel movie in many more colours, it’s cooler and feels less plastic. And the soundtrack, that soundtrack.

Black Panther, Marvel 2018

The Power

Dear Naomi,

I’ve finished the bloody book.

And Dud Read in February goes to The Power. If there wouldn’t have been some well timed critiques read, I would have walked headfirst into disappointment, because so many people were so_positive about this one.

I mean, Margaret Atwood supported the author in this (at least, that’s what’s mentioned in the acknowledgments), critics mentioned a science fiction story that would make you question patriarchy, the poison of the male fragility, how power corrupts and so on. All that, and teenage girls managing to shoot electricity from their hands.

But then there’s the execution, and the execution is crummy. There’s no fiber, no rhythm, no connection between the characters, the chapters, the paragraphs. It’s an idea dump, sketches of world building that are deserted before you can imagine the image. There’s no push to care about these characters, the worlds they (try to) destroy or build up. It’s not refined enough to add men(‘s right activists) without making it feel like the story is excusing them, and the conclusion of Power Corrupts is clear from early on.

Just don’t bother; I’m sure there are books out there with similar themes that do manage to come out more balanced.

The Power, Naomi Alderman, Hachette 2016