Son of a Trickster

His tiny, tightly permed maternal grandmother, Anita Moody, had never liked him.

This was such a much weirder story than I expected. I expected a YA novel about a dark and moody male teenager that throws in some (Norse) mythology to make it urban fantasy. Instead I got ..what did I precisely get?

Jared is a weed cookie maker, problem finder, care taker for his dad and stepsister, mother and senior neighbours. He almost can’t help himself, taking care while he should be getting some. For a long time this just seems to be it, a story of a screw up screwing up, surrounded by losers and failures. Until it isn’t, and there’s talking ravens and people-eating otters and things you can’t keep blaming on eating mushrooms. Mythology is added, but not in the cookie cutter Marvel way. No Norseman to be found either, because we’re in Canada, and their First Nation People have got some different stories to build on.

Even though the reader knows this isn’t just mushrooms any more, it’s tempting to blame them; the weirdness just builds up with left and right some violence thrown in. Where is this story going, why is main character Jared still at the unlikely part of the trope ‘unlikely hero’? Is this because it’s the first book in a trilogy? Either way, this might be the first YA that leaves you completely bewildered by what you’ve just been put through. And yet I don’t know how I should change anything if I could.

Son of a Trickster, Eden Robinson, Knopf 2017

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo

Film legend and ’60s It Girl Evelyn Hugo has just announced that she will auction off 12 of her most memorable gowns through Christie’s to raise money for breast cancer research.

No-one is (very) likeable in this story. Not that that is a requirement for a story (in my opinion), nor that it means that The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is less accessible and/or entertaining because of it. I’m just saying there isn’t much people to root for.

The stories are entertaining enough, old Hollywood glam with a woman who will do many things to get where she wants to go. Evelyn Hugo is the embodiment of self-made, and now, close to her death, she wants someone to write a biography of her. Journalist Monique doesn’t know why Evelyn picked her all of people to do so but don’t worry: you Will Find Out (dramatic soundtrack).

Per husband, Evelyn explains her life decisions and shares the saucy anecdotes freely. It’s a novel for those that like pretty things; romance and likeability is sacrificed for it. Is it too early to call this a proper beach read?

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, Taylor Jenkins Reid, Simon & Schuster 2017

Lean on Pete

When I woke up that morning, it was still pretty early.

I didn’t know there was a book before the film. Now I know the story, I’m … going to skip the film. There are amounts of pain/trauma you don’t want to go through twice. See also: The Green Mile.

Lean on Pete is a horse, but it’s Charley’s story, and it’s a collection of miseries. Charley and his little-good father move through the USA to wherever work is, his mother is mostly unknown and there’s never enough money, furniture or food.

Because his father disappears from time to time, and it’s the summer holiday anyway, Charley (15 years old) goes looking for a job. He finds one in taking care of race horses, with a dodgy fellow, because those seem to be the only kind in his life.

The story is hailed for being Americana, humane, a slice of life and so on, but for a large amount of time it is just sadness upon badness upon abuse. Don’t mistake this book to be something for horse fans, either.

The only reason I’d call this a summer read because in winter there isn’t even nice weather outside to distract you from the shit luck Charley has, again and again. Yes, all of it is nicely written, but just consider the sacrifice of happiness.

Lean on Pete, Willy Vlautin, Faber and Faber 2010

The Golden House

On the day of the new president’s inauguration, when we worried that he might be murdered as he walked hand in hand with his exceptional wife among the cheering crowds, and when so many of us were close to economic ruin in the aftermath of the mortgage bubble, and when Isis was still an Egyptian mother-goddess, an uncrowned seventy-something king from a faraway country arrived in New York City with his three motherless sons to take possession of the palace of his exile, behaving as if nothing was wrong with the country or the world or his own story.

The first #readathon book, my second Rushdie. I picked this book because a review made it sound like satire about the present American president. You could say that a character shows up with definite resemblance to the man, but he’s a side character of a side character. And with the actions of this president … there’s a thin line between satire and reality here.

So what is The Golden House about? The family Golden, rich immigrants come to New York City. They’re leprechaun gold, new money, and it mesmerises main character RenĂ©, a (script) writer. Mesmerised turns into obsessed and entangled, which makes an exciting story, but makes several victims.

In the end you might agree with this being satire about the present American president, maybe not so much solely him, but also the world he came from and the inhabitants of that world who are sure that everything can be bought. The very rich society of Manhattan is almost as alien as creatures from a science fiction story, these just have more influence on our media and politicians.

The Golden House, Salman Rushdie, Random House 2017

Of Things Gone Astray

Mrs Featherby had been having pleasant dreams until she woke to discover the front of her house had vanished overnight.

For a few months, I’ve only read books from my To Read list. It’s satisfying to see the number go down, but now there’s mostly nonfiction and yet unavailable books, I gave myself the freedom of going to the library without a list. Yes, wild, I know (I still managed to find two books of my To Read list, but it’s not about that right now).

Of Things Gone Astray got my attention with its cover, and the description was appealing enough for me to ignore it being a collection of stories (pro: there have to be at least a few that are nice. con: the nice ones will never last long enough).

Even though it’s a collection of different characters, some of them slowly move into each other’s orbit, making it feel more like a world building from different angles than completely stand-alone stories. I feel like this made me like the story more, making it a bit more eerie than playing connect-the-dots.

Still, it’s not a novel that will stay with me forever, it was different and random enough to be something weird and quirky in my reading. A bit like a pause, maybe.

Of Things Gone Astray, Janina Matthewson, HarperCollins Publishers 2014

Fitness Junkie

“I can’t believe you ordered that.”

This gives you much more to think about than you might expect looking at the cover and summary. All that, and some fun and heart!

Main character Janey is told by her friend and business partner Beau that she’s getting fat and that he can’t have that. Because of their toxic relationship, she just doesn’t laugh in his face, but attempts to change her “fat” body. Probably also because he doesn’t want her in the office until things change; it’s that kind of toxic relationship.

What follows is all kinds of exercise someone with less free time on their hands probably couldn’t come up with. This happening in New York City makes the divide between satire and reality quite thin sometimes.

But the best part is probably how much Janey discovers about herself, her body and how society views it. How she starts to have fun with food, dating and exercise (all is that one based on dodgy ground). Maybe you’ll be motivated to start exercising, but have at least your take away from this novel be that it’s your body and your decisions.

Fitness Junkie, Lucy Sykes & Jo Piazza, Doubleday 2017

Young Jane Young

My dear friend Roz Horowitz met her new husband through online dating and Roz is three years older and fifty pounds heavier than I am, and people have said that she is generally not as well preserved, and so I thought I would try it even though I avoid going online too much.

Someone told me that this was “similar to the Monica Lewinsky story, but from Lewinksy’s point of view”. It is, except you don’t just get the victim’s view, but also her mother’s, her daughters, and of the wife of the cheating politician. This little difference took some time adjusting to.

But when you do, you not only get a ‘behind the scenes’ view of the Jewish community (through the mother and grandmother), but also a take-no-prisoners view on how this relationship and its falling outs should have been handled, opposed to how it had been handled.

Also surprising; none of the characters are dealt softening characteristics and/or circumstances to support their motivations. Women make stupid decisions as well, and do or don’t suffer the consequences. Women can hate and despise each other, men (can) stay assholes.

It’s refreshing in a slightly bitter way.

Young Jane Young, Gabrielle Levin, Viking 2017