Beauty Queens

The book begins with a plane crash.

Sometimes it’s very on the nose (for someone who calls herself an intersectional feminist), but I’m very pleased that Libba Bray unapologetically laces this story with lessons about racism, sexism and feminism. I was looking for another book by Bray, but any will do if you want to discover the style of an author.

Beauty Queens on their way to a pageant end up in a plane crash. While they slowly discover that they’re worth more than their looks, the sponsor and producer interject commercials and hostile take overs to make sure the reader still remembers her place.

It’s a parody, a complaint, an educational pamphlet and a book stuffed to the brim with girl power. Just when it gets a bit too much, it adds heart. A smart read for both girls and boys.

Beauty Queens, Libba Bray, Scholastic 2012

The Incorruptibles

We rode through fields burning like the plains of Hell – Fisk on the black, Banty on the roan bay, and me on Bess, the mule, leading a string of ponies.

The disappointing news: it’s part of a series. The good news: a darker fantasy without becoming overly gruesome, some tense world building without it being on the level of George R.R. Martin.

Two men need to lead a bunch of scouts, soldiers and other along a river boat full of important people. The boat is fueled by a jailed demon, the mountains are full of ancient, sardonic creatures and the family’s guest turns out to be the one reason for or against war with neighboring countries.

This is a gray, grimy fantasy, and – except for the reminiscing, oh-so-different story teller – pretty trope and cliché free. It’s up there in creations from Joe Abercrombie. There’s story and there’s world, neither of them are just very pretty.

The Incorruptibles, John Hornor Jacobs, Gollancz 2014

The Box and the Dragonfly

When Horace F. Andrews spotted the Horace F. Andrews sign through the cloudy windows of the 77 eastbound bus, he blinked.

While sometimes the target group shows, Ted Sanders definitely delivers a bright, vibrant and interesting fantasy world. The author shows that gathering a bunch of tropes (nerd is the unlikely hero, the sullen female sidekick with tragic background, the unreliable good guys and so on) isn’t necessary a bad or unoriginal thing.

Horace discovers a different world full of magical creations and elements and the people that keep them. Of course, just around the time that he’s being initiated as a Keeper, a war is brewing. And he and the other kids need to be on the front line.

Adventures that need their talents and characteristics follow, surrounded by very appealing and grandiose imagery. It’s a book that makes you wonder how the TV series or film would look like. Yes, sometimes there’s a bit too much of wise lessons and repeated explanations but oh well – it’s almost summer somewhere. Make it an adventurous snack.

The Keepers Book 1: The Box and the Dragonfly, Ted Sanders, Harper Collins 2015

Mirror Mirror

106 min.

Zo mooi, zo dom. Mirror Mirror was onderdeel van Hollywood’s Sneeuwwitje jaar (de ander was Snow White and the Huntsman, dit jaar is Assepoester aan de beurt) en koos voor esthetiek.
Relativity Media 2012
Relativity Media 2012
Deze keer is de prins vooral comic relief, het slachtoffer van de stiefmoeder die alleen met hem wil trouwen voor de macht. Zij is zelf ook een karikatuur, en daar had Julia Roberts duidelijk zin in. Daarentegen zijn de dwergen – met nieuwe namen – het hart van de film, meer dan het dunne liefdeslijntje tussen de prins en Sneeuwwitje. Harmer en Collins lijken meer familie dan true love.
Gelukkig ziet alles er ontiegelijk mooi uit dat de rest bijzaak is. Kleding, decor, omgeving, alles is tot in de puntjes geregeld. En hiervoor is de film de 106 minuten van je tijd best waard.
Mirror Mirror, Relativity Media 2012

The Ocean at the End of the Lane

It was only a duck pond, out at the back of the farm.

I have always been a fan of Neil Gaiman. I feel like his Neverwhere was my first experience with the contemporary fantasy genre. So of course I had my eyes peeled for his latest.

At first I had to get used to the world and the story a little. It starts with a (seemingly) plain grown man, in a normal situation. When the flashbacks start, and his neighbors are introduced, is when the fantasy braids itself into every plot line. It turns into more organic, softer, flowing than I’m used to with Gaiman’s work. The world created is terrifying and beautiful and painted in otherworldly colors.

And in the center of all that it’s just a story about just a young boy that tries to grow up. Because that’s something Gaiman does nicely as well.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane, Neil Gaiman, Harper Collings 2013

The Looking Glass Wars

Oxford, England. July 1863.

Alice in Wonderland was real, just not the way you always thought it to be. Alyss Heart is destined to become the queen of Wonderland, but horrible things happen and she has to flee to the world we know as our own. Years pass, and she’s unsure if her past is even real. Until it finds her again: she needs to save Wonderland.

It’s clear that Frank Beddor had lots of fun with this. The well-known characters and world get a spin, the plot moves fast and without any side-lining. It’s bright and colorful and silly, especially the “sound effects” used during battles.

And – a big plus in my book – it’s a stand alone story. Or can be read as stand alone. No super obvious open endings to plot lines that could have been rolled up pages ago, only neat endings. It all comes together in an enjoyable, speedy read.

The Looking Glass Wars, Frank Beddor, Egmont 2004

Edge of Tomorrow

113 min.

This movie can be used as an example in lessons on Marketing. Mainly, about how not to put something into the market. There were different titles, taglines that were exchanged with the title, trailers that wobbled on different genres and so on. Frankly, it’s a surprise that it didn’t even did really bad, although it’s probably not on the level of a Tom-Cruise-Film.

Edge of Tomorrow poster
Warner Bros.

It is a Tom-Cruise film, but for once he isn’t the super hero, at least not for starters. He pisses off the wrong person and is sent off to the front, to go fight aliens. Something goes spectacularly wrong (he doesn’t even has fighting experience) and he dies.

And starts the day again. Private Cage is caught in a time loop, forced to live through the same day again and again until he takes out the alien alpha. Emily Blunt’s character, Rita, is his mentor, an unapologetic killing machine, the strong yet silent character that’s usually only reserved for male actors. This film isn’t without flaws. Besides Rita there are only two other women with lines, for something inspired by a Japanese manga there weren’t a lot of not-white actors (and again, with little lines) and even though Tom Cruise plays the fool, he still ends up in the unlikely hero trope. But boy, is it exciting and a thrill. Lovely Saturday night entertainment.

Edge of Tomorrow, Warner Brothers 2014