You ask me to start at the beginning, Marin, my dear, but you do not know what you ask.
Yoohoo, traditional fantasy alert! Although.. our unlikely heroes this time are very unlikely and not all that heroic. Not yet anyway, but of course this is the first book in a series.
The Ninth Rain plays out in a pretty much post-apocalyptic world. There’s the memory of darkness and despair, but some are living through it more than others. There’s an ancient race that should have been the heroes but fell, there’s humans that – like humans do – just toil on. And then there’s a threat of things that might just come again.
Yes, there’s the burly male, the scared little young woman with more power than she can control and the eccentric bringing them all together, but they don’t fit their clichés exactly. Combine that with a luscious world building and it matters very little that this plot has been done before. You get that comforting ‘Down the fantastic rabbit hole’-feeling in return.
The Ninth Rain, Jen Williams, Headline 2017
Our relationship was over before it began.
I’ve read another memoir. Maybe it reads easier when you don’t know the person writing it, or the recent ones just were written entertainingly and well. I’m guessing the truth is somewhere in the middle.
Michael Ausiello is an entertainment writer, and this story is about how his partner dies. With a title like this there’s little surprise to the ending of his story, but Ausiello manages to write it in such a way that you start to doubt that title – the man knows what works to keep your reader compelled, after all. So there’s chapters about the highs and lows of their relationship, the beginnings and (almost) break ups. He writes himself down while his partner is plucked from the heavens, even when he’s being quite terrible.
It’s a story very close to someone; and to recognise that these people are(/were) really alive makes it sometimes terribly uncomfortable. Should the reader be around of another round of bad news or self-doubt? Is it not too close, to follow someone’s mourning on this level?
Because Spoiler Alert is about love and loss and other four letter words, but also very much about Michael Ausiello.
Spoiler Alert: the Hero Dies; a memoir of love, loss and other four letter words, Michael Ausiello, Atria Books 2017
It wasn’t until my second year of university that I started to think about black British history.
I guess August was for non-fiction, or that This Lovely City just put me in the mindset to learn more about black British history. Because of course, of course – in some way you know that the islands aren’t an utopia for black and brown people, but how much of black history is focused on the USA (effectively making it possible for Europeans to dodge any responsibility?)? Turns out – when it comes to my knowledge – a lot.
Don’t write this title off as a history book now (why would you write off any book because it has history, you don’t love history?), because as anything involving people; history is just one part of it. As Eddo-Lodge explains it probably better than I do: intersectionality is a thing, and you can’t discuss a human issue without looking at the place where it intersects.
So, this book is about history, about feminism, about the media and white privilege. It’s about health and education, and every other part of human life. In clearly cut chapters, in clear language, Eddo-Lodge doesn’t only answer the title’s question, but also explains to you why you should take responsibility regarding it.
And just like that, I’ve got my first book for my students to read (from).
Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race, Reni Eddo-Lodge, Bloomsbury 2017
Ayoola summons me with these words — Korede, I killed him.
This is why I don’t read hyped up books. So much excitement and build up and no-one who mentioned the sheer disappointment of most of it but definitely the ending.
And that’s impressive for a story that’s only 200 pages and with a plot – see title – that could definitely provide a lot of thrills, philosophising and secondary story-lines.
Instead you get a repetitive, stagnant story filled with passive characters. There is very little motivation (why does she kill, why doesn’t she put a stop to it, why doesn’t she actively participate in her daughters’ lives), no-one seems to learn. Even the lack of different surroundings doesn’t provide anything to the story or even a sense of claustrophobia, only slightly more boredom.
The end – always a risky business – is sheer “Ma’am, I’m done with my assignment!” in hopes of being allowed to leave early.
And just like that it’s 200 pages of hoping for ‘so much more’ wasted.
My Sister, the Serial Killer, Oyinkan Braithwaite, Doubleday 2017
22 x 30 min
I know it’s based on a game, but to me it felt – from time to time – like it could have been part of the same world that The Sandman Chronicles play out in. It’s bleak and gruesome but also beautiful in the Gothic way and the story telling comes first through spare, solid story lines that aren’t endlessly muddled with side plots.
Castlevania is about vampires, but not really. Or just kind of. It’s about a sad Dracula, vicious vampire women, monster hunters, magical monks (sort of?) all played out in a greyish and brownish Eastern Europe. Maybe. The castle moves around, after all.
If you want lore, mythology, beautiful animation, snarky yet terrifying vampires and their ilk plus quite a quick fix (those 22 episodes are three seasons), you should try it. If you don’t like gore in any way, and prefer your shows bright and bubbly – better you pass this one.
Castlevania, Netflix 2017
But first, Roo was born.
“This sounds like it’s going to hurt. I’m so excited!” Me, after almost two months of disappearing books.
There’s a lot of book clubs connected to this one, and the summary has definitely housewife-novel potential. A happy woman with a house full of boys only to realise – dum dum dum – that her youngest doesn’t want to be a boy. Maybe.
But instead you get what Ducks, Newburyport tried to be. The inner life of a frantic mum who tries and fails to keep all balls up in the air.
Because how do you take care of five children, your job and your husband even with ignoring your own needs and fears?
This Is How It Always Is sets you to thinking about gender and how we view it, how different societies look at the subject differently.
And it definitely shows what the life of a mother entails, how kids and their lives are on one’s mind all-the-time.
It left me staring into the distance after finishing it, considering everything.
This Is How It Always Is, Laurie Frankel, Flat Iron Books 2017
In 2010, after six years of training and a further six years on the wards, I resigned from my job as a junior doctor.
There’s very little joy to be found here, but heck – even the title tells you that. Besides that, it’s non-fiction and about the NHS (Britain’s national health). Even if you don’t know anything about that subject, the sum of these must ring a small alarm bell.
Adam Kay isn’t a doctor anymore, and these are his diary notes that have led up to that decision. Mostly it’s terribly politics and how hospitals deal with it, but patients don’t go scot-free either. This way even the awkward giggles feel bad because there’s lives at stake here and only those that can’t do anything about it, seem to care.
There are bits when Adam sounds a bit too full of himself, and maybe some more background would be nice, but this is a man’s personal story. Use it as motivation to do your own background research. If you’re sure that you want to know more about the state NHS is in, anyway.
This is Going to Hurt, Adam Kay, Picador 2017
Terwijl westerse filmmaatschappijen romcoms en romantische films maar blijven afschuiven op kleine feestdagen (Moedersdag, Valentijnsdag) met een klein budget en D-niveau acteurs, is er een plek waar de liefhebber van zachte, oppervlakkige, (absurd-)grappige romances nog terecht kan: Nigeria.
Want Isoken en The Wedding Party zijn niet de enige films in dit genre: misschien is het zelfs een subgenre: men moet trouwen maar oh jee [x] gebeurt! [x] kan hier vervangen worden door ruziënde families, bittere exen, rampzalige wedding planners of een combinatie van drie.
In het geval van Isoken is het De Liefde. Moet je gaan voor De Liefde of voor zekerheid? En in hoeverre moet je daarbij ook aan je familie denken (die is zéér belangrijk)?
Of het zelfspot van Nigeriaanse filmmakers is, of dit gewoon Nigeriaanse humor is, weet ik niet, maar al de slapstick-achtige situaties en karikaturale personages zorgen voor een lekker melig zooitje tussen de zoete momenten door.
Dus, kijk niet voor de veertiende keer Love Actually of Bridget Jones’ Diary maar zoek het eens zuidelijker.
Isoken, Tribe85 Productions 2017
Net zoals bij boeken, ben ik bij films altijd een beetje huiverig wanneer ze claimen een comedy te zijn, of nog erger: satire of “donkere komedie”. Hmhm, maar gaat je dat ook lukken zonder racistische en seksistische grappen?
Dat lukt Suburbicon wel. Ik kan Matt Damon niet echt uitstaan, maar ik heb een zwak voor het cliché ‘Het is helemaal niet zo idyllisch in dit idyllische plaatsje’ dus ik klikte ‘m toch maar aan op Netflix.
Het niet-zo-idyllische is tweezijdig: buitenwijk in de jaren zestig verandert in racistisch monster wanneer een zwarte familie er komt wonen, terwijl achter de nette gordijntjes van de buren wat onfrisse dingen gebeuren. Hypocrisie ten top, en regisseur George Clooney wrijft dat er flink in.
De aankleding is heel fijn, dat alle hoofdpersonen schaamteloos naar zijn ook. Je wordt niet afgeleid door tientallen bijplotjes en er is weinig ruimte om je af te vragen hoe lang de film nog duurt.
Is het allemaal subtiel? Verre van, maar wel vermakelijk.
Suburbicon, Paramount Pictures 2017
The feeling when a film is part of several genres and therefore part of none at all, or maybe something new. Colossal largely went under (my) radar, except for maybe a wayward comparison to Pacific Rim: both have huge monsters in Asian surroundings. Colossal is no Pacific Rim.
This huge monster is connected to Gloria and starts showing up when she returns to the place she grew up in. Life isn’t great, the place she grew up in isn’t great, and the few people surrounding her aren’t either. Or are they? And how is the monster created, and how is it connected to her? Is it even part of this reality?
This summary might make it sound weirder than it seems, but what makes all this eerie is that it isn’t weird. Or well — it is, of course, but nothing in the cinematography or dialogue shows you that the film and the characters are in on the joke. This is a story about a barely functioning woman, and Anne Hathaway does it well without barely ever going overboard.
You can find Colossal on Netflix.
Colossal, Neon 2017