As is known by now; I’m not that impressed by lyrical reviews. If the words ‘needs an Oscar!’ pass by, I roll with my eyes. There’s two reasons I still went to go see Parasite in theaters: I was curious, and I had a free ticket.
Now I’ve watched it and don’t know how to review it without giving the story away. But honestly, wow. Parasite moves through different genres and scores with every one of them. It doesn’t have to be a commentary about rich versus poor, about housing and loans; the images are there and clear enough.
So yes, it’s a story about a poor family that worms its way into the heart of a very rich family. Yes, you’re very probably going to have to read subtitles as well (unless you know Korean). But holy heck, what did I just watch?
It’s beautiful and sharp and cheeky, until it isn’t. It’s daunting, until it turns into something worse. It’s over two hours and only very few times that I felt like checking the time remaining, because you have to pay attention. Or rather, you want to. And in some way I feel like watching it again already – let me go back to the family.
Parasite, Neon 2019
When you first critique lands about ten minutes in, it’s hard to not view a film without bias. Why is everyone involved white, even the people in the ‘old-timey’ videos the main character views?
Then there’s the non-nuanced use of the soundtrack. A good soundtrack builds upon the scene, sharpens the emotions you are already feeling. In this case we got THINGS ARE SCARY pressed upon you while things weren’t all that scary. Or emotional. And lights flickering with no reason don’t mean that we’re worried either, just that we want an explanation about wiring suddenly being faulty when we’re looking for someone.
Is there anything nice to be said about this film? Not really – maybe that with small tweaks it could at least be a commentary on sovereign AI and its relationship with humanity, but that’s been done before – and better – as well. Even the explanation of the things happening is extremely unclear – did I nod off somewhere along the almost two hour ride?
So all in all, it’s just not much of anything. If someone’s mid-parting is the thing I’m irked about most, it doesn’t say any good about the plot. You can’t replace it with music bits either, nor flickering lights.
Good thing about all this is that at least it’s an utterly disbelieving dystopia: more sensible humans would have given up before any AI could get involved.
I Am Mother, Netflix 2019
We have no photographs of our early days, Danny and I.
Right up my alley, this one. Family secrets, a tinge of the supernatural and people using lipstick to write on mirrors.
After a death in the family, Seraphine discovers a photograph that makes her doubt her family history. She’s always felt different (isn’t that how it always starts?), and now feels like she can finally turn that feeling into something solid.
Good thing she still lives in her family home and plenty of hints are quite easily found. Is it witches, fairies, or just the cute little villagers that had always enjoyed a good gossip about the weirdos in Summerbourne house?
We are strung along just a tad too long, but the decorations along the way are fun enough to not be very disgruntled about it. In less than 300 pages Emma Rous sets up an entertaining tent with solid poles keeping up a well-set story. If there would have been more room for the supernatural, I would have given it an extra star.
The Au Pair, Emma Rous, Penguin Random House 2018
People wishing to time travel go to Houston Intercontinental Airport.
Is dystopia less scary to me when it happens in the past? For someone that doesn’t like dystopian stories, this is the second one I read in two months.
This time it’s an epidemic and time travel that gets us where we end up; although – we end up in the past. The protagonist is sent into the future from the eighties, and ends up in 1998. Oof, isn’t that an awful long time ago?
Of course, because that’s how it goes, things go quite awry, and Polly has to adjust not just to a new time, but to new surroundings and societal rules. This being a dystopian story – things didn’t improve.
The twist of this story – it masquerading as a love and time travel story, while it really isn’t – is also the most appealing feature of it. Besides that it’s too muted, lamenting and passive to feel anything but a tinge of relief of having finished this.
An Ocean of Minutes, Thea Lim, Penguin Random House 2018
‘They’ve found the pilot.’
I’ve owned this book for ages, and I’m pretty sure that I read it before or at least partially. Per story line my opinion fluctuated on it, and as a harsh, firm book owner, this book will be donated soon.
I’m sure both the cover as the summary will draw several eyes, though. There’s things going on, it’s science fiction without having too much science, there’s shenanigans and hijinks, and – both a pro and a con – a lot of different story lines for everyone to find something of their liking.
Because there is a young man traveling through the USA to surprise his girlfriend, but there’s also a recluse math genius, and that plane. There’s a very secret government agency, more secret-y people and a machine that might impact/ruin/improve everything.
Besides the several story lines that can make you feel so-so about this story, there’s also something strangely stilted about it. What if fewer lines would have been added, and more world-building to the rest? Why does the ending feel like the author just didn’t feel like writing any more, and should we view all this as a commentary on life, coincidences and authorities, or is that looking for something that isn’t there?
All that makes The Coincidence Engine more a collection of gimmicks than a mind-blowing, eye-opening story. Or even just full-time entertaining.
The Coincidence Engine, Sam Leith, Bloomsbury 2011
Toby Fleishman awoke one morning inside the city he’d lived in all his adult life and which was suddenly somehow now crawling with women who wanted him.
Good gravy, there is a lot going on here. One of those stories that pulls the rug under your feet and even while it happens, you are a bit disbelieving of the fact. I don’t even know if I liked this.
I am still thinking about it, though. About the people involved, and how important it is to have the right angle on any subject.
Which Fleishman is in trouble? Toby Fleishman is the main character – at least for a very long time. He’s divorcing his wife Rachel, and the narrator follows him in every part of his life (neatly compartmentalised): at work, as a father, as a(n almost) single man. It’s that last part that could well get on your nerves quite fast: Toby describes in detail how he feels like a kid in the candy store; the candy here being women of every shape, size and age.
But is this a story about a man’s middle life crisis, or a lament for the softer kind of man that chose children over endless riches and career promotions, and who managed to end up with a woman that did the complete opposite?
You can’t say too much about Fleishman is in Trouble without showing too much of the story, nor do I exactly know how to put its appeal into words. Maybe it’s disaster-tourism: maybe the unpleasant surprise of bad judgement.
Fleishman is in Trouble, Taffy Brodesser-Akner, Penguin Random House 2019
Tapton School, Sheffield, 2007
‘You loved me – then what right had you to leave me?
Ah, delicious by-the-numbers contemporary romance with just a few reminders of real life to not make it saccharine sweet. My kind of romance.
Boy meets girl, they fall in love, it’s the end of high school – fade out. Man meets woman, claims he absolutely can not remember her, even though she recognises him straight away. What’s going on? What happened during the fade out? And why is her mother less-than-supportive about pretty much everything she does?
Don’t You Forget About Me hits all the spots in chronological order, has the fun friends/side kicks (pleasantly fleshed out, that doesn’t always happen), and a few laugh-out-loud laughs.
Main Georgina sells it, though. Her frustrations, fears and self-doubt never get navelgazy or woe-is-me, but are (too) recognisable. She’s for the single women in their thirties, with the shitty job and the feeling of being without direction but unable to find the compass either.
I read McFarlane’s Who’s That Girl? before, and think I can conclude that for fun, romantic, quick-to-read time this author is a good fit.
Don’t You Forget About Me, Mhairi McFarlane, HarperCollins 2019
Mitch was smiling so big his back teeth shone in the soft light of the solar-powered lamp we’d scavenged from someone’s shed.
I don’t like post-apocalyptic stories; they make me very nervous. With the way the people in power are ignoring environmental and societal issues, it’s – for me – not that hard to believe that sooner than later we’ll be scavenging food and fighting for survival. It’s not something I enjoy thinking about, so why did I still start The Marrow Thieves?
Because of the author and the point of the view of the story: indigenous people. I always try to read more by indigenous writers, books using indigenous stories (although that’s a whole other (potentially sticky) kettle of fish), and this one made it sound more sci-fi-ish than “the world has gone to the crapper and humans are terrible”. We all make mistakes, sometimes.
Cherie Dimaline keeping the story short (less than 200 pages) and the characters very recognisable and deserving of your support prevents you from leaving this story feeling absolute despair. Yes, humans are terrible. Also yes: humans have family, hope and determination.
I still hope we don’t need those in a post-apocalyptic setting.
The Marrow Thieves, Cherie Dimaline, Cormorant Books 2017
Francis Gleeson, tall and thin in his powder blue policeman’s uniform, stepped out of the sun and into the shadow of the stocky stone building that was the station house of the Forty-First Precinct.
I enjoy family stories. I’m quite the sucker for generational stories that sometimes are big and grand enough to be called family epics. It’s character based, sometimes with time and surroundings being an extra character, but simply about all the people involved (or some of them).
Ask Again, Yes shouldn’t be called epic. Maybe not even a family story. It somehow feels like it has picked the least exciting characters to hang the story up on, and then seems to just shrug about how they can’t carry whatever plot (points) they pass. Why not more information about the previous generation, their immigration, the world they moved into? Instead the reader gets childish stubbornness that never really gives any reason to warm up to it.
So, if you want the story of a family, and all of it, go for The Woo-Woo, or Run, Hide, Repeat or The Locals. They’ll give you something more enticing.
Ask Again, Yes, Mary Beth Keane, Scribner 2019
Night fell as death rode into the Great Library of Summershall.
I’m sure Margaret Rogerson hadn’t planned on setting such a dramatic scene with just the first sentence. It’d have been Death or DEATH otherwise, of course. Anyway, let’s not go off on a tangent.
I wanted some easy, accessible fantasy and Sorcery of Thorns didn’t disappoint. It even looks to be a stand-alone! And even though it’s YA pretty by the book (unlikely hero who’s Different, a dark and mysterious love interest, a funny sidekick), it doesn’t become a bother. The story doesn’t take itself too seriously, the tempo is high and there’s plenty of twists and turns to keep you entertained.
Elisabeth Scrivener (I know) was left as a baby at one of the Great Libraries and grew up in one. Books are magical creatures, but those that manage those powers are kind of feared and frowned upon. So of course, she ends up with a sorcerer after an accident, and magic becomes a large part of her life.
The clear love of books gets Sorcery of Thorns an extra star: if it wouldn’t have been so dangerous, I would have loved to have a look around in its libraries.
Sorcery of Thorns, Margaret Rogerson, Margaret K. McElderry Books 2019