Ink and Bone

“Hold still and stop fighting me,” his father said, and slapped him hard enough to leave a mark.

Maybe I’m just a little bit too demanding. There’s little wrong with this story, it ticks plenty of boxes and it’s a fun, light read. It just didn’t sweep me off my feet, being a tad too traditional in tropes and plots. The world-building, though. Libraries!

This is a world in which books and librarians are viewed quite differently from ours. It’s Big Brother through books, originals should only be owned by the Great Library and everyone’s got a journal which is basically your testament (to be added to the same library after your passing). In this world, it’s an honour to be part of the Great Library, so guess where the unlikely (“”) hero shows up.

He’s part of a group of aspirant librarians, but during his time in Alexandria he discovers that not everything is as rosy as it should be. Conspiracies and plots and maybe the good guys are really the bad guys and vice versa, adventure!

With a few twitches, all that could have been less fantasy-by-numbers, but of course there’s a sequel: maybe everything leading up to that will flourish in the second book. If you’re fine with fine, gritty world-building and another male protagonist, this story will do you very well.

Ink and Bone: the Great Library, Rachel Caine, Penguin Group 2015

Salt Creek

Mama often talked of this house when I was a child, and of its squirrels with particular fondness.

For a book of less than 400 pages, this took me quite a long time to finish, mostly because the first 100 – 150 pages are so hard to get into/through. It’s one of those books that are readable when you found the flow of the story, but aren’t particularly called to it, have that feeling that you want to read it whenever you can.

I picked this because it tells about Australian colonists and their relationship to Aboriginals. This – plus the endless, time correct misogyny – makes it often an infuriating story.

The descriptions of life in the Coorong and the backbone of main character Hester balance this out often enough to keep you reading, but it still isn’t an easy, light story. Salt Creek offers a frustrating view on Christian missionaries, traditional ideas that still hurt women and racist views that have never left (since).

View it as an informative slice of life, not as accessible entertainment.

Salt Creek, Lucy Treloar, Picador 2015

Career of Evil

He had not managed to scrub off all of her blood.

This is going to be a grumpy review, with some (mild) spoilers.

First of all, why did I expect things to be much less misogynistic because of a female author (Galbraith is J.K. Rowling)? Was that a very stupid idea? Don’t we know already from the serial killer’s actions that he really doesn’t like women? And I know she isn’t the most original writer, but really, we had to put rape in a woman’s background?

Okay, to the story. Cormoran Strike is still a big, ungainly, ugly private detective that can barely keep his agency upright. Robin, intelligent, smart, fun and kind of attractive, is still his partner/employee/potential love-interest. This time the case seems to be quite personal, because Robin gets sent a severed leg, at the office! This seems to be the gateway to learning a bit more about her, but sadly there isn’t much cheer to be had about this. And all the while is just misogyny left and right, oh – with some romance sprinkled in.

Because in the previous books, and about the previous books, there had been plenty of comments about how Robin and Cormoran should start something, but Robin’s engagement (to someone without any visible redeeming feature) always kept that off. So when that changes, both people involved seem to fall back to something instinctual that means you suddenly have to get romantic feelings about the people close to you. It feels so shoehorned in that I wonder if Galbraith wasn’t writing some romance on the side and swapped documents from time to time.

There’s plenty of good detectives out there, and J.K. Rowling writes enough if that’s the shot you were looking for. But you can dodge this one.

Career of Evil, Robert Galbraith, Sphere 2015

De witte weg

Ik ben in China.

Hoe kom ik nu weer terecht bij een boek over (de geschiedenis van) porselein? Oh ja, de algemene kennis verbreden, en vast ergens een enthousiaste recensie. Dit is wel non-fictie aan de kant van één hoofdstuk per dag, zeker in het begin en wanneer de auteur erg persoonlijk en/of navelstaarderig wordt.

Wat is er verder? Een reis over drie continenten (Noord Amerika, Europa, Azië) om te bekijken hoe porselein koninklijke huizen en rijkelui helemaal van het padje kunnen krijgen. Leren hoe porselein wordt gemaakt en hoeveel soorten er zijn, en wat voor impact de mijnen en fabrieken op dagelijkse levens heeft.

Op die manier wordt het een geschiedenisboek van/voor de gewone mens, iets waar ik altijd graag over lees. Lees De Waal’s mijmeringen met een half oog en houd de aandacht voor de porseleinen paleizen en Duitse alchemisten.

De witte weg: verslag van een obsessie, Edmund de Waal, De Bezige Bij 2015

Half the World

He hesitated just an instant, but long enough for Thorn to club him in the balls with the rim of her shield.

It’s like a bodice ripper with barbarians. Usually I’m fine with what Joe Abercrombie has on offer; brutish fantasy with some comedic relief. Nothing highbrow or what you have to put your brain to work for but still, entertaining. Not so much this time.

The unlikely hero is a young woman that wants to fight, but she’s a woman so she’s laughed off and despised for being better than most. It is also repeatedly mentioned that she’s ugly and not-feminine. Anyway, she ends up as part of a trip around the world and both she and the (male) people around her learn that there’s more to her anger, violence and unappealing face.

This time even the world building just seems to be filler between the fight scenes and insult filled dialogues. I know that sequels are always viewed as to be a bit more challenging, but this was just a slog. If you want barbarian fantasy, try some of his other series.

Half the World, Joe Abercrombie, HarperCollins 2015

The Gracekeepers

The first Callanish knew of the Circus Excalibur was the striped silk of their sails against the grey sky.

Now this is what I call a fairy tale. Remember The Secret of Kells and Song of the Sea? Like that, but a book. And maybe a bit more eerie on the side of gruesome, from time to time. And! It has a map that doesn’t just consist out of a large mass in the middle (fantasy pet peeve).

Maybe that’s because in this world, large parts of the planet are under water, only a few islands are left and parts of the human population just permanently live on ships, because there’s not enough land to go around. Some ships are churches, others are circuses, main character North was pretty much born in one, but things are threatening to chance her life on it.

Another character followed is a gracekeeper, some kind of undertaker with a bit of stranger habits than we’re used to. It all adds to the beautiful (and) strange atmosphere. Just wait until you meet the clowns.

The Gracekeepers is there for your mythological, pretty fantasy needs.

The Gracekeepers, Kirsty Logan, Harvill Secker 2015

Grace & Frankie

52 x 30 min.

Ik schrijf deze review vooral om de paar mensen die deze show nog niet hebben gezien te laten weten dat het écht niet alleen ‘voor de (oude) vrouwtjes’ (en daarom suf en tuttig) is. Vooral omdat het niet in die hoek was geschoven als de rollen waren omgedraaid, en het twee oude mannen als hoofdpersoon waren. Grace_and_Frankie

Enfin, Grace & Frankie begint met twee bejaarde vrouwen die er achter komen dat hun mannen niet alleen homoseksueel zijn, maar ook al jarenlang in een affaire met elkaar zijn. Ze zijn te verschillend om al die jaren ook bevriend te zijn geweest, maar bij wie moet je dan terecht in zo’n situatie?

Het begint dus zo, maar door de seizoenen heen (vier), gaat het vooral over nooit te oud om te leren, vriendschappen, zelfstandigheid en familie. Eerst is dat comedy over hoe vreemd Frankie’s familie en hoe gevoelloos Grace’s familie is, maar daar blijft de show dus niet in hangen. Ontwikkelingen links en rechts, voor iedereen. Wat heel makkelijk tweedimensionaal had kunnen zijn en blijven, groeit zo’n groot hart dat je je er bijna zorgen om gaat maken (het blijven bejaarden, tenslotte).

Dus ja, dit is ook leuk en lief om te kijken zonder bij je ouders te scoren.

Grace & Frankie, Netflix 2015