The Girl Who Fell From The Sky

“You’re my lucky piece,” Grandma says.

A mixed race girl moves in with her black grandmother after a family tragedy. Suddenly she discovers how important society thinks the colour of her skin is. While trying to adjust to that, she has to come to terms with being the only one of her family left.

It’s an utterly depressive premise and yet this book is spiked with glimmers of hope. It’s so easy to root for the main character, to tell her to not fall into temptation of the easy escape, to become everything she can be while the reader can do nothing more but watch her stumble.

It’s also -for me as a white person- a new, raw experience to read what a big part skin colour is for some people. The ‘real’ black people don’t want her, the white people don’t understand where she fits in. Her grandmother just wants her to turn into a ‘good woman’ who will make a husband happy (and therefore her). The main character lets herself be shaped by her surroundings while at the same time trying to disappear from this world without her family.

The Girl Who Fell From The Sky leaves you with questions, but also a small glimmer of hope. Outside that, you will just have to take this story inside you and carry it around.

The Girl Who Fell From The Sky, Heidi Durrow, Oneworld 2010

The Waterproof Bible

The limousine taking Rebecca Reynolds and Lewis Taylor to the funeral had stalled in the middle of an intersection.

Rebecca can’t stop broadcasting her feelings to people around her. Lewis meets a woman who claims to be God. A mermaid/human hybrid named Aby (short for Aberystwyth) left the ocean for the first time to search for her mother. Oh, and a pair of rainmakers that can really make it rain. With almost lethal result.
Amused by this? Get the book. Cocking your eyebrow in a ‘Oh, really now?’ fashion? Escapes are on your left.

The Waterproof Bible has a lot going on that places it firmly in the ‘quirky, absurd’ category of books. Yet Kaufman balances that part perfectly with a plot line about growing up, (and) moving on in/with life, without making either too much. Aby’s race is interesting, the characters are portrayed in such a way that neither of them are turned into caricatures and the entire story feels like a faerie tale from another world.

The only thing that stuck just the tiniest bit in my caw was the lack of answers. Towards the ending some plot lines end pretty much like ‘Well it is what it is’. But, because the entire story lacks any highs and lows that will rock your world  it isn’t even so much of a bother, if you can survive a book that will leave you with a shrug and an ‘okay’.

The Waterproof Bible, Andrew Kaufman, Telegram 2010

The Night Eternal

On the second day of darkness they rounded them up.

The Strain Trilogy of Guillermo del Toro & Chuck Hogan doesn’t give the reader an easy, fluffy experience. The story of a vampiric virus let loose on civilization isn’t a pretty one. The three books go through the stages of denial, fighting back and trying to survive a new world order. The Night Eternal shows that not every human being can or will be a hero.

The vampires and their Master rule the world, and yet, as it goes, there is a small group of rebels. They are looking for ways to end the vampire-reign, although the odds are very much against them.
This is one of my favorite things about this trilogy: Del Toro and Hogan paint an incredibly gritty, desperate and depressing picture. As a reader you’re pretty sure that there will be a happy ending (that’s how fiction works, right?), but both of the authors deliver you plenty of hints and pokes that you might be wrong. There is no One Hero, no MacGuffin that suddenly shows up in the second-to-last chapter. Characters are corrupted and self-centered, badly adjusting to being placed at the bottom of the food chain. It is ugly.

If you love that, want to be scared and get uncomfortable because of what humans turn into when society disappears, go for it. If you want an original version of the creature we can vampire these days, go for it (start with book #1 though) .  And enjoy, with delicious thrills and the feeling of ‘Oh no’, running down your spine.

The Night Eternal, Guillermo del Toro & Chuck Hogan, HarperCollins 2011

 

Red Seas under Red Skies

Locke Lamora stood on the pier in Tal Verrar with the hot wind of a burning ship at his back and the cold bite of a loaded crossbow’s bolt at his neck.

Back to Locke Lamora and his (unintentional) (mis-)adventures. This time ’round he’s in a new country and spends a lot of time on the ocean. Because Lamora becomes a pirate. Sort of. And it wasn’t his idea either.

Red Seas under Red Skies being a sequel means there is less joy and surprise over characters, plots and world building. Yet again Lamora (and his friends) aim high, but have to stumble through a lot of hoops before they get it (sort of). This time he lands in the middle of a tug-of-war between the rulers of the underworld and ‘upper’-world. And some pirate captains.

But even without the surprises, there is another bout of gorgeous (and lethal) world- and character building. One of the things I liked best is that the women have numerous functions in high places without them being femmes fatale or butch masculine creatures. Equal opportunities don’t happen all that often in fantasy. Again, the tempo is high, a lot happens and -in comparison with the first book- there are more story lines.

And just like with the prequel, I breezed through it, thoroughly enjoying myself. If the other books don’t fail (and maybe step away from the ‘Big heist in a creative way’ plot), this could turn into one of my favorite fantasy series.

 Red Seas under Red Skies, Scott Lynch, Gollancz 2007

 

The Lies of Locke Lamora

At the height of the long wet summer of the Seventy-Seventh Year of Sendovani, the Thiefmaker of Camorr paid a sudden and unannounced visit to the Eyeless Priest at the Temple of Perelandro, desperately trying to sell him the Lamora Boy.

This is everything a (fantasy) story should be. There is gorgeous world building, well-rounded, fascinating characters, exciting plot lines (pretty much all of them), humour, excitement and so on. It’s a book you want to finish in one go and not to ever let it end.

The Lies of Locke Lamora tells the stories of Locke Lamora and his adventures as growing up from a little orphan to a Gentleman Bastard, stealing from the rich in elaborate ways and ..doing nothing with the majority of the bounty afterwards. He and his ‘brothers’ are small parts of the mob-like constitution that rules the underworld of the city, pretending towards them and everyone else that they’re just small fish.
Of course things go wrong. A dark figure attacks the constitution and Locke Lamora seems -somehow- to be involved. The tempo picks up and the whirl-wind starts.

I would recommend this to a lot of people. Look past the fantasy tag if that’s not your thing and dive head-first into this delightful experience. Only one warning: it’s part of a series (up to seven books) and the author isn’t finished yet. So there might be a time that we will have to do without Locke Lamora and his adventures.

The Lies of Locke Lamora, Scott Lynch, Gollancz 2006

Anne of Green Gables

Mrs Rachel Lynde lived just where the Avonlea main road dipped down into a little hollow, fringed with alders and ladies’ eardrops and traversed by a brook that had its source away back in the woods of the old Cuthbert place; it was reputed to be an intricate, headlong brook in its earlier course through those woods, with dark secrets of pool and cascade; but by the time it reached Lynde’s Hollow it was a quiet, well-conducted little stream, for not even a brook could run past Mrs Rachel Lynde’s door without due regard for decency and decorum; it probably was conscious that Mrs Rachel was sitting at her window, keeping a sharp eye on everything that passed, from brooks and children up, and that if she noticed anything odd or out of place she would never rest until she had ferreted out the whys and wherefores thereof.

Dit boek heeft – naar mijn idee – in Engelstalige landen de plek die bij ons door Pippi Langkous wordt ingenomen. Al is Pippi een stuk stoerder.
Anne (“nooit de E vergeten!”) kan nooit stoppen met praten, heeft rood haar en sproeten waardoor ze zeker weet dat ze nooit een Goed Persoon kan worden maar vooral: ze heeft een gigantische fantasie. Een fantasie die er voor zorgt dat cakes mislukken, meisjes bang worden voor bossen en veel huiswerk en klusjes nooit afraken.

Anne of Green Gables speelt zich af in het Canada aan het begin van de twintigste eeuw, een tijd waarin meisjes hulpzaam en stil moesten zijn. Het is dus heel begrijpelijk dat heel het dorp op zijn kop staat door dat luide, wilde meisje. Maar om bijna 300 pagina’s te vullen met “Oeps ik ben weer mijn naaiwerk vergeten want ik dagdroomde over een mysterieuze knappe man waar ik mee ging trouwen!” ..misschien ben ik te bekend met dagdromen om er gecharmeerd door te zijn.
Gelukkig blijgt Anne wel nuchter en daardoor 95 procent van de tijd charmant en herkenbaar in gedachten en acties. En daarnaast creëert het boek – zowel het verhaal als de setting – een mooi tijdbeeld.

Ik koos dit boek omdat ik wel eens wilde weten wie die Anne was. Nu weet ik dat en hoef ik haar niet verder (er zijn meerdere vervolgen) te leren kennen.

Anne of Green Gables, Lucy Maud Montgomery, L.C. Page & Co 1908

Intouchables

112 min.

Uneducated poor person meets over-educated rich person and the meeting and following friendship changes both of their lives. It isn’t a very original premise.

Intouchables makes it into a very entertaining, heartfelt, bitter-sweet, social film.

Quad Productions

It’s a joy to watch Omar Sy and his interaction with François Cluzet. The knowledge that the film is based on true life doesn’t make it sappier or drag with scenes that rub ‘This Really Happened’ in your face. There isn’t a scene that feels like it’s in the wrong place or unnecessary and less than five minutes in you can feel this is a very special relationship (while laughing over some inappropriate jokes).

The man that did a little introduction before the film ‘warned’ that everyone would leave with a big smile on their face, and it was true. The little questions that you leave with (for example: why was film-Driss a black man while the real-Driss looked Arabic?) don’t leave spots on the shine of the film. This film deserves the compliments it received.

Intouchables, Quad Productions 2011