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

Rich People Problems

PROBLEM NO. 1

Your regular table at the fabulous restaurant on the exclusive island where you own a beach house is unavailable.

Follow up from Crazy Rich Asians and China Rich Girlfriend, now with even some issues that everyone that isn’t a billionaire or millionaire could relate to. Maybe.

Does one read books of these series for recognising situations from their own lives? Probably not. Bring in the details about the clothes, the planes, the houses, the spending.

Again, there’s so many characters that the genealogy in front of the book can be helpful. The author ramps up the amount of notes as well, this time using them (more often) to comment, instead of to explain. But in between all of that is a brightly coloured, very expensive (looking) story full of dramatics and diamonds. It’s silly, it’s superficial, it’s quite delicious (especially in between Year of Wonders and writing essays about The Catcher in the Rye).

Rich People Problems, Kevin Kwan, Doubleday 2017

The Rathbones

Moses knows what will happen.

Marine magic realism or dark family fairy tale? The Rathbones are a huge whale hunting family in the (early) nineteenth century. The novel spans little over a century of family connections.

The family patriarch has a special connection with the ocean, making him and his offspring extraordinary hunters. They become legends, but every legend has foes, disaster and tragedy. The family tree moves in every which way but the prospering one.

Janice Clark creates a tapestry of myths, family and nature. It’s filled to the brim with details, colors and secrets. It’s a fairy tale and magic and just a family tome. And definitely worth your time.

The Rathbones, Janice Clark, Doubleday 2013

Unseen Academicals

It was midnight in Ankh-Morpork’s Royal Art Museum.*

Finally a Discworld novel again. With author Terry Pratchett suffering from Alzheimer’s, it’s unsure how many more he’ll be able to create. But until then; let’s enjoy what’s around.

Unseen Academicals is one of the Discworld novels centered on Ank-Morpork and its Unseen University. Of course the regular suspects are there (The Watch, DEATH, the ruling dictator) but the wizards and their personnel are the main characters this time.

Well, them and soccer. Lord Vetenari, for reasons not particularly clear, wants to clean up the game of soccer and for starters thinks that the wizards should form a team and be the shining beacon that will make the game ready for the next generation. Just some rules, less casualties and something to keep the plebeian mob happy, it should be a walk in the park.

Of course it isn’t, but this road is covered with bad jokes, good jokes and tickling-smart word play. Because that’s what Pratchett does and he does it well.

Unseen Academicals: a Discworld Novel, Terry Pratchett, Doubleday 2009

The Stolen Child

Don’t call me fairy.

I wanted to read this book as soon as I read a review about it seven years ago. I liked the combination of mythology, the lost children trope and the fairy tale feeling to the entire novel. So now, having read it seven years later, I’m glad it didn’t disappoint.

The Stolen Child is about changelings, children that are stolen and replaced by hobgoblins. In this novel, the reader gets both sides of the stories, the thief and the stolen one. The hobgoblin becomes Henry Day, a seven year old human boy. Henry Day becomes Aniday, the youngest hobgoblin of a small group of them.
Henry Day needs to get used to human life again, needs to remember to age physically, while Aniday needs to get used to nature all around him, no privacy, no hygiene and the loss of his family.

Both of them are aliens ruled by time. Henry Day needs to keep up, while Aniday loses all grip on it. The other hobgoblins, children from other centuries don’t care for it, are fine with their lives and their possible returns to the human world. Because that’s the only goal in life: find a child to change with and become part of a family again.

There is a melancholy to both of their stories, a heaviness that comes with the better (non-Disneyfied) fairy tales. I wish both of them a happy ending.

The Stolen Child, Keith Donohue, Doubleday 2006

Before I Go To Sleep

The bedroom is strange.

This was “I’ll take one – no, two trains later just so I can finish this” good. The twist was a slap in the face. The festering paranoia got under my skin. I am impressed.

Before I Go To Sleep tells Christine’s story. She’s suffering from amnesia, in a particular horrible way: as soon as she goes to sleep, she forgets everything she experienced that day. Every morning she wakes in a strange bed room with an unknown man next to her.
If that wouldn’t cause enough oddness in someone’s life, Christine’s called by a doctor every morning and told by a journal she keeps. A journal to contain and hopefully trigger memories of the twenty years she’s missing. With every day her journal entries grow. Sometimes she has flashes of memories, but mostly it’s what her husband tells her.

When she starts noticing that not all his stories check out, that there is a gap between her collected reality and the one she’s living in, the cat and mouse game with reality really starts. And it’s a thrill.

A book worthy of the term page turner.

Before I Go To Sleep, S.J. Watson, Doubleday 2011

Runelight

Five past midnight in World’s End, three years after the End of the World, and, as usual, there was nothing to be seen or heard in the catacombs of the Universal City – except, of course, for the rats and (if you believed in them) the ghosts of the dead.

The second book (a blurb on the back shares with much delight ‘Several books!’ so I don’t know how many are yet to come) about Norse gods, runes, the end of the world and a young girl wham-bam in the middle of it. Runelight happens a couple of years after the adventures of the previous book, but there’s a helpful summary from Joanne Harris in the start in case you’ve forgotten what happened.

This time main character Maddy discovers that she has a twin. The only problem is that the bad guy has her and is brain-washing her to start the end of the world (again). Maddy was quite successful to prevent the previous one, but what do you do when you have to fight your just discovered sibling?

The twin is the only new element in this story, which pretty much copies the previous book with (unwanted) discoveries, gods down on their luck and one of the main players (presumed) dead. It is for Joanne Harris’ easy, entertaining writing that it doesn’t feel like you’re reading the first book for the second time. Yes, Maddy and her twin Maggie are sometimes annoying teenagers who make dumb mistakes. They are also two seventeen year olds with the weight of the worlds on their back, which might cut them some slack.

And  I like it so much what Harris does with the gods. Running gags, arrogance and self-doubts; they are the cherry on the cake. Don’t expect to be blown away, simply enjoy.

Runelight, Joanne Harris, Doubleday 2011