We have no photographs of our early days, Danny and I.
Right up my alley, this one. Family secrets, a tinge of the supernatural and people using lipstick to write on mirrors.
After a death in the family, Seraphine discovers a photograph that makes her doubt her family history. She’s always felt different (isn’t that how it always starts?), and now feels like she can finally turn that feeling into something solid.
Good thing she still lives in her family home and plenty of hints are quite easily found. Is it witches, fairies, or just the cute little villagers that had always enjoyed a good gossip about the weirdos in Summerbourne house?
We are strung along just a tad too long, but the decorations along the way are fun enough to not be very disgruntled about it. In less than 300 pages Emma Rous sets up an entertaining tent with solid poles keeping up a well-set story. If there would have been more room for the supernatural, I would have given it an extra star.
The Au Pair, Emma Rous, Penguin Random House 2018
Marsh is not swamp.
Subconsciously I picked out two books about protagonists who are – by their surroundings – viewed as dangerously different. This one plays out in the (recent) past, but both Kya and Evan suffer from living in a small town.
Kya’s family is very, very poor, living in the marshes (or on the edge of it) and there’s not enough happiness around for anyone. Her family members leave her, and she falls back onto her familiar surroundings instead of the judgmental villagers.
This goes on for years, and might have gone on longer – Kya turning into something of a Tarzan, except with gulls and other birds – if a murder mystery wasn’t added to the equation. And what happens when disaster strikes? People look at the stranger.
This isn’t as greasy and damp as Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, but Owens does create a colourful, sometimes feverish world in which every human is a misfit – except for Kya. Yes, there could be more background about certain things, and the murder mystery is tied up not completely satisfying, but it’s a book with a feeling. And quite a few ornithology lessons.
Where the Crawdads Sing, Delia Owens, G.P. Putnam’s Sons 2018
11 x 45 min.
Alweer een DC tv-serie. Heel lang vond ik dat DC vooral Batman was, en Batman vond ik niet zo spannend (ik weet nu beter, excuses). Maar tegenwoordig, met Black Lightning, Gotham, Legends of Tomorrow, en nu dus Titans verander ik straks nog in een DC-fan.
Titans zit redelijk tussen de laatste twee: het donkere van Gotham (zowel als in gebruikte kleuren als onderwerpen) als het (licht-)idiote en kleurrijke van Legends of Tomorrow. Ook deze keer zijn er weer jonge mensen met bijzondere krachten, maar hun omgeving lijkt daar al redelijk aan gewend te zijn. Totdat één van de jongelingen wel een zeer destructief talent lijkt te hebben, en ander een alien blijkt. Je maakt wat mee.
Er zitten plotlijnen en hele afleveringen tussen die het tempo uit de serie halen; maar het viertal dat als hoofdpersonen telt, houdt de boel heel redelijk overeind. Voordeel is dat je geen achtergrondsinformatie hoeft te hebben: dat wordt hier en daar toegevoegd zonder dat je het gevoel krijgt dat er wéér iets uitgelegd moet worden.
Voor men die van het soort superhelden-zonder-maillots houdt, en een niet al te gevoelige maag heeft.
Titans, DC/Netflix 2018
Everyone has a Cordova story, whether they like it or not.
Marisha Pessl loves her similes. Every subject and person gets a description added, no wonder that the book is so thick. After a while it gets noticeable, and – in my case – a bit annoying.
The first strike was having a male main character. I read female authors because they usually write female characters, and that thusly I don’t have to worry about a man mishandling/manhandling a woman and her life. Now I still have to read about the grumpy and socially disgraced male detective (oh wait, he’s a journalist).
Scott has a bucketload of issues, with casual sexism possibly the most annoying one. His side characters have the potential to be interesting, but never really get to be on the stage as a person. Strike two.
The story in itself is pretty amusing, though. There’s a reclusive director with a cult-like following, a thin line between realistic horror and magical, all in a lush noir-light background. If there aren’t any movie/TV-plans yet, I can see them happening. Plenty of the similes can be dropped, the main plot is easily streamlined and there will be less time to navel-gaze for Scott. Everybody wins.
Night Film, Marisha Pessl, Random House 2013
I don’t really know what this movie wanted to be. Is it about Lisbeth and how trauma makes for dysfunctional people? A hacker thriller? Family saga? Complaint about evil authorities? Because it might have been all of that, but the movie as it was, didn’t even manage to dip below the surface of any of it.
This is my first Lisbeth Salander-experience, so I can’t say how it works in comparison with the books or the other movies. I know a bit about the character, but only saw the flaws people have written about. She’s one-dimensional, and even when emotions are finally shown, it’s the soundtrack and close ups that show the importance of it. And why is she half naked so much?
This time a job of hers goes wrong, making her hunted by authorities and hardened criminals and maybe also by someone from her past as well. Lisbeth only seems to work with men, and except for ‘the American’ they’re all white as well. Will her name be cleared and the criminals get what they deserve? Will we care?
If Sony wanted to use this as an introduction, there should have been more introductions. If they want to James Bond this thing (who cares who plays Lisbeth), they should have trusted the character and not add extra fibs to round her out (and fail).
It’s just not all that, and a bit too long as well.
The Girl in the Spider’s Web, Sony 2018
Wat is het toch met films die niet weten wanneer ze moeten stoppen? Bad Times at The El Royale is heel lang vermakelijk (op een vervreemdende en absurde manier, verwacht geen haha-comedy), maar dan blijven scènes naar het einde toe ineens maar duren en duren. Zet die schaar er toch eens in.
Een hotel in de jaren zestig met wat vreemde trekjes en nog vreemdere gasten. Klinkt als horror en is het ook een klein beetje, maar doordat elke gast zijn/haar moment krijgt, is het te fragmentarisch om echt spanning op te bouwen. En wanneer de slechterik er is, duurt het dus allemaal net iets te lang (zie vorige alinea).
Had de film iets meer verschoven naar de achtergrond van het hotel dan naar de kartonnen slechterik die te weinig verbinding heeft met de andere gasten. Gaat dit over de onschuldigen die hoe dan ook gewond zullen raken? Hoe ziek de wereld is? Of was er helemaal geen les, en alleen de six pack van Chris Hemsworth?
Bad Times at The El Royale, Twentieth Century Fox 2018
Amber Patterson was tired of being invisible.
This was insanely fun, until it got serious, and then luckily got fun again. A story like a roller-coaster, no matter how big a cliche that is. It’s fast, gets a bit scary/ugly at some times, and gives you no break from it.
It starts out with Amber, who’s planning to take a rich woman’s husband and with that, a woman’s life. Take over, there’s no need for murder, although Amber definitely has some murderous thoughts from time to time. She feels grossly neglected by faith and luck and life, so honestly – shouldn’t she grab whatever she can?
Then there’s Daphne Parrish, the delicate rose whom refuses to recognise how good she’s got it, no matter how often she says she does. It’s easy to view Amber as a bit of an angry Robin Hood, but the Constantine sisters (the author exists out of a duo) flip that around, having the reader end up in the ugly part.
And all this with such a tempo that it feels like the story is being poured straight into your brain. I honestly can’t remember downsides to it; it just leaves you with such a ‘FUCK YEAH’ feeling that blemishes are blown away.
The Last Mrs. Parrish, Liv Constantine, Harper Collins 2017
Batshit crazy, pretty much the entire story and the people involved. But in such a stupidly entertaining way.
Besides that, there’s jealousy-inducing wardrobes involved, Anna Kendrick showing that she can act and that Blake Lively can’t play anything other than the Serena Woodsen – good thing her character isn’t the emotional type.
Super mom Stephanie befriends super cool aloof power woman (whom happens to be a mom as well) Emily. Emily has some weird habits, but look at the house and the outfits and the martinis! And then she goes missing.
During what follows, pretty much everyone is a suspect, red herrings and embellishments are thrown out left and right, and the women are well dressed (and Henry Young’s character as well).
Could all this have been cut down to a brighter Gone Girl? Very probably, but the two hours would have been far too much then. Better to just keep it as a sugar rush roller-coaster.
A Simple Favor, Lionsgate 2018
After finishing this, I don’t know if I should go change all my passwords, or share them with loved ones. Searching is a search through your digital and online presence, and it shows first of all how easy it is to get to everything you share and secondly all the traces you leave behind.
The search mentioned is by a father for his teenage daughter, and it’s completely shown through iMessage, FaceTime, live news items etc. At first it feels a bit gimmicky, does one really use FaceTime that often, but quickly it becomes uncomfortably intimate. Not just the father scrolling through his daughter’s videos and texts, but also the endless surge of stimulants; hashtags, texts, chats, videos, messages. Give everyone involved time to think, please.
The movie threw me a few times, using red herrings that only add to the feeling of discomfort. As said above: I don’t want to experience all this, but I don’t know how to prevent it either. Except for some decisions to make, but that would spoil the clue.
Searching, Sony Pictures 2018
The twelve men congregated in the smoking room of the Crown Hotel gave the impression of a party accidentally met.
This is over 800 pages, I’m just going to share that before anything else. And the first 300 – 400 are basically just world building and giving you the background of the characters involved. If I wouldn’t know better (Tolkien isn’t a kiwi author), I’d say kiwi authors can’t write short and to the point.
The point here is a detective mystery. Some people show up dead in this nineteenth century gold miners town, some things go missing, some relationships are destroyed and made. Before the reader gets to the conclusion of this mystery, they might be worn down by all the endless details shared leading up to it.
If you start this novel knowing that a very long game is being run here, you might enjoy it in an almost encyclopedic way. I didn’t know before that there was a New Zealand gold rush, I enjoyed the descriptions of nineteenth century New Zealand and the immigrants living there. I can’t remember precisely how the mystery was solved, though.
The Luminaries, Eleanor Catton, Granta 2013