The Gemma Doyle Trilogy

A Great and Terrible Beauty
Rebel Angels
The Sweet Far Thing

This is a ton of words about a girls only boarding school in Victorian society. I think each goes over the 600 pages mark, with the last one ending in double that. No wonder I didn’t manage in the three weeks the library gave me, no matter how easy to read the novels are.

It’s not just boarding school; main character Gemma has to adjust to a new country (she moves to England from India), her family falling apart, and oh yeah – having a magical connection to another world.

So, Gemma has to juggle new friendships and enemies, magic, society’s expectations of a young woman, school, and a crush on a may-or-may-not-be bad guy.

Usually the first book out of a series, is the strongest, but I think I enjoyed the second one more this time. Everything and -one is fitted more into the right space, and the magical world(s) are developed a bit more. The third book is seemingly never ending, but gives a sobering, slightly surprising conclusion.

I’d take breathers between the three of them, or just go for Libba Bray’s other work. The Diviners, for example.

The Gemma Doyle trilogy, Libba Bray, Random House Children’s Books 2007

Love is a mix tape

The playback: late night, Brooklyn, a pot of coffee and a chair by the window.

Sometimes it’s easy to stick to your resolutions. The best non-fiction may not feel like non-fiction. Love is a mix tape is an autobiography through music, but because most of it being balanced out with the people around it, Sheffield manages to not turn this into another collection of navel gazing.

Maybe because he is a journalist and editor (for Rolling Stone, right now). The story is musical history and how songs and bands and acts can influence a people and a society, not just (little) Rob.

It’s clear that music is his life, creating connections and arguments and motivational scrambles over which fits where, how Hanson and Missy Elliott are connected. This book is a passion between two covers, and he delivers it the right way.

Love is a mix tape, Rob Sheffield, Crown Publishing 2007

Across The Universe

133 min.

The number of musical movies I like could be counted on one hand, but sometimes other people’s enthusiasm overrides habit. I had the day off and nowhere to go (why is everything closed on Good Friday?) so why not try this?

ATU poster sony pictures‘This’ is Across The Universe, a musical with The Beatles songs against a backdrop of the Vietnam war and protests. There’s Jude who leaves Liverpool for a better life (in the USA), there’s Lucy who learns more about the world in one summer than her years at school. Connecting factor is Max (her brother, his friend) and a selection of colourful characters that have their own message for that time and over that subject.

The soundtrack makes things very easy to like, but the main three characters add bundles of chemistry and appeal as well, making the entire package bright and enjoyable. Yes, I’m an ATU enthusiast now as well. The movie can be found on (Canadian) Netflix.

Across The Universe, Sony Pictures 2007

Parrotfish

I could hear Mom at the phone in the kitchen gleefully shrieking to her younger sister, my aunt Gail.

I put this book on my To Read List because it’s main character is a transgender teen. Society still has so little clue (or care/interest) about the subject, and I think that fiction can be an accessible way to learn more. It clearly been written for teenagers gives some hope about future generations being more understanding. It also gives the not-teenage reader the feeling that they’re reading a children’s book (short sentences, point of view on certain subjects).

Our main character is Grady, whom used to be Angela, a girl and daughter. He needs to get used to shifting perspective, ‘coming out’ as to who he really is, but so do family, friends and school. His naivety fades quickly when he learns that humans really really need everyone to fit into a certain box. Luckily there are supporters (in unlikely places).

The Life Lessons are worked through quite effortlessly, but if you view this book as a first introduction to the subject, it might be best to keep it contained. It shows how support is so very important, and that character should trump exterior and gender.

Parrotfish, Ellen Wittlinger, Simon & Schuster 2007

Waitress

108 min. 

A delicious little story about light at the end of the tunnel.

waitress_movie_poster
So many pies

The waitress from the title, Jenna, is stuck in a job and a husband. Her only reliefs are her colleagues/friends and her pies. Her pies may be her way out of this miserable life, but then a pregnancy blows up that option. Luckily there’s a love interest in the shape of her gynecologist, a grumpy old man that wishes her the best and her never stopping, pie creating mind.

The pies are shown beautifully, so better not start this movie hungry. There are definitely some things to frown upon, but as a (short) lesson about never giving up, recognising your self-worth and that friendship trumps romantic relationships, Waitress is tooth-achingly sweet for a lazy film watch.

Waitress, Fox Searchlight Pictures 2007

Bad Blood

Above a densely forested hillside black bird-shapes wheel and turn over a weed-clogged tarn.

Horror voor tieners, maar sneaky genoeg om degene die de tienertijd heeft verlaten ook een beetje zenuwachtig te maken. Lijk je het in het begin allemaal wel te zien aankomen (“Oh, poe, poppen), Rhiannon Lassiter voegt op een tergende manier steeds een meer bangmakende details toe.

Een samengestelde familie gaat op vakantie in een oud familiehuis dat al heel lang niet meer in gebruik is. Iedereen is boos op elkaar en op de ouders die zo graag doen alsof, maar familierelaties worden op de proef gesteld als iets ouds en gewelddadigs ook een connectie met ze lijkt te hebben.

Lassiter creeërt mooie plaatjes met donkere bossen en krakende deuren om het pijnlijke verhaal van twee geliefden die wel heel graag willen, maar terug gehouden worden door hun kinderen. Een tweezijdige horror van tegen je wil een nieuwe familie hebben en vervolgens het paranormale in je schoot geworpen te krijgen.

Bad Blood, Rhiannon Lassiter, Oxford University Press 2007

God Is Dead

Disguised as a young Dinka woman, God came at dusk to a refugee camp in the North Darfur region of Sudan.

I wonder what made people angrier about this book. The fact that God shows in a woman, an African woman, or him being without any real power. I’m sure there was many a pearl necklace clutched. But is the death of God in war-torn Africa a gimmick, or does the story bring something to the image of how the world looks at (Christian) religion?

First of all, God Is Dead is closer to a collection of stories, the death being what drives but the fall out definitely being the direction they are taken in. Except for one recurring character, all stories are independent. They are about losing not just religion but faith, a purpose, and how society is clambering for replacement.

Personally, I wondered a few times why other religions wouldn’t have carried on, or if there would be more new ones than the one mentioned. The stories are mostly based in the United States, while the experience in Hindu India might have been very interesting as well.

Still, the stories are half adventurous novel, half terrifying future. It’s a very bleak future, how humankind will look without anything to believe in, but for the small size of the novel, it is very doable.

God Is Dead, Ron Currie, Picador 2007

Playing with the Grown-ups

The phone is ringing.

Ik vond dit een heel leuk boek, een fijn boek dat lekker op alle zintuigen inspeelt. En toch weet ik niet hoe en aan wie ik het zou moeten aanraden. Het is meer dan oppervlakkige chick-lit, maar er zijn wel een boel vrouwen aanwezig die een mannelijke lezer zou kunnen afschrikken (waardoor ik ‘m juist aan zou raden, want het is niet alsof vrouwen ooit wordt verteld een boek niet te lezen omdat er te veel mannen in voorkomen). Het is coming of age in Technicolor.

Hoofdpersoon Kitty heeft een bijzondere familie, met een hele bijzondere moeder. Ze is jong en stoer en apart en nooit saai. Haar zussen zijn als fairy godmothers voor Kitty en haar broertje en zusje en grootouders Bestepapa en Bestemama maken het Jan-van-Steen huishouden compleet.

Helaas is Kitty’s moeder ook heel wispelturig in wie en wat goed voor haar en haar kinderen is. Ze reizen door de VS en de VK, wonen bij de Hare Krishna, in luxe appartementen in New York of in kleine huisjes in Londen. Kitty moet opgroeien tussen haar moeder’s stuiptrekken door.

De mensen, outfits en omgevingen die passeren zorgen voor kleur, sfeer en een duidelijk kader om Kitty’s eenzaamheid.  Vrolijk, verdrietig, meeslepend.

Playing with the Grown-ups, Sophia Dahl, Bloosmbury 2007

The Titan’s Curse

The Friday before winter break, my mom packed me an overnight bag and a few deadly weapons and took me to a new boarding school.

After watching the two movies based on these series, I’ve decided to try one of the books (“The films were all wrong, the books are so much better!” Is there ever someone that liked the film version over the book version?).

As per the title, there is a prophecy with a Titan’s Curse involved. Friends disappear, threats are made and a quest has to happen. Just like the myths Rick Riordan borrows his gods from. Because – for those not in the know – Percy Jackson and his friends are half-breeds, children of the gods of Olympus and a human parent. This creates a very entertaining mix of teen adventures and mythology (and a successful one, looking at how large the series are).

The Titan’s Curse is packed with action, entertainment and teenage emotions. I don’t know if there will be a third movie, but I’ll definitely continue with these series.

The Titan’s Curse, Rick Riordan, Hyperion Books For Children 2007

How To Talk To A Windower

Russ is stoned.

29 years old, a stepson but not really, a pregnant twin sister that left her husband, a dysfunctional family (mum drinks too much, dad had a stroke) and a dead wife. A dead wife that’s with him the entire way, weighing down every try to living.

Oh, this hurt. This grated, got under the skin. Douglas does (for a long time) absolutely nothing to escape the horrible pain of being left behind. Anything can trigger the realization that his wife is dead and only tears and alcohol can help him through. His wife’s gone and so is he.

But, it being a year later, the world slowly tries to reel him back in. Family, affairs, his agent and the stepson that officially hasn’t has any ties to him. It’s sink or swim while Doug can only work up the energy to float.

Jonathan Tropper keeps it clinical and clean and heart wrenching at the same time. The reader is the bystander, cringing through another sad show and immediately feeling bad because poor, poor man. A man who is obnoxious (stupid macho things!), heart breaking, painfully honest.

How To Talk To A Windower is a pamphlet for love lost, (not) dealing with it and trying to live again.

How To Talk To A Widower, Jonathan Tropper, Orion Books 2007