The Bear and the Nightingale

It was late winter in Northern Rus’, the air sullen with wet that was neither rain nor snow.

Just like The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms an enthralling, easily accessible fantasy novel, with plenty of room for a cool (literally, in this case) female protagonist. Yay!

With my discovery of the CloudLibrary app (I’m not paid for this), I found a new way to more books. These are Express, so you can only borrow them for a week, meaning I just have to read faster. Alas.

As mentioned before, The Bear and the Nightingale is such an easy read, with only 300+ pages as well, that that time limit wasn’t an issue. It’s a (Russian) fairy tale about fairy tale elements being part of daily life. The young protagonist is too wild and strange for her family, and supports the ‘old’ gods and creatures besides Christianity. When the super religious join her house, things start rolling (into chaos).

I’m fond of reading stories set in Russia, and even though this is a romanticised version of history, it still gives an interesting look at early Moscow and its surroundings. But mostly it’s just a tasty morsel of a fairy tale that – even though it already got a sequel – can definitely stand on its own.

The Bear and the Nightingale, Katherine Arden, Penguin Random Publishing 2017

Undermajordomo Minor

Lucien Minor’s mother had not wept, had not come close to weeping at their parting.

Uh, well, erm, what kind of book was this? Pretty early into it I already tweeted “This book is going to be awesome-weird or how-what-why-frustration-fueled-weird” and it landed largely on the side of the last option.

The blurbs call it darkly comedic, a fairy tale, a commentary. I only recognised the fairy tale part. There’s an unlikely hero (soft on the hero part), a strange village with a stranger castle with even stranger people inhabiting it. Mysteries happen as well, but somehow, along the way, the author seemingly decided to start unveiling them.

This turns things from a-bit-out-there to too neatly wrapped up, and with an unsatisfying end to boot. I don’t know why it was on my To Read list, but I’m not going to pass it on.

Undermajordomo Minor, Patrick DeWitt, Anansi 2015

Ever After

121 min.

Van sommige films neem je gewoon aan dat je ze vast wel eens gezien hebt. Voor mij is één daarvan Ever After: A Cinderella Story. Nineties, romantische comedy? Drew Barrymore? Vast! Nou niet dus. Gelukkig is dat nu eindelijk recht gezet.

ever-after-a-cinderella-story-movie-poster-1998Ever After is weer een versie van het Assepoester-sprookje, maar deze keer met extra ruggegraat. Schoonmoeder Anjelica Huston (altijd fijn om te volgen) doet het er maar mee. En daar doet ze haar best voor ook, met dochters/stiefzussen als ammunitie en collateral damage.

Zo valt het heel mee met de mierzoetigheid en wijze levenslessen en is de film niet meer en niet minder dan een aandoenlijk plezier om naar te kijken.

Ever After: A Cinderella Story, Twentieth Century Fox 1998

Trigger Warnings

Short fictions and disturbances

Nou ja, dat was een tegenvaller. Een lange introductie over wat trigger warnings zijn (waarschuwingen voor gevoelige beelden en/of verhalen die men aan trauma’s/nare herinneringen kunnen laten denken), nogmaals een waarschuwing dat deze verhalen misschien oncomfortabel kunnen maken, ik was klaar voor jeukende ruggegraten en onzekerheid over het complete leven.

Ik kreeg zachtgeprakte, (soms) originele sprookjes, fictie geïnspireerd door Sherlock Holmes en Doctor Who en gedichtjes. Ik lees Neil Gaiman graag en weet dat hij best vreemd en spooky kan schrijven, dus wat hier nu is gebeurd.. geen idee. Misschien ben ik zelf te veel afgestompt om niet door deze verhalen geraakt te worden.

Probeer dus maar zijn andere bundels of romans maar.

Trigger Warnings, Neil Gaiman, HarperCollins 2015

Tinder

After reading Habibi, I was eager for more illustrated stories. This, a retelling of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Tinderbox, wasn’t in the same league.

First of all, the lines felt very stilted. Maybe it’s to create a certain atmosphere, but it makes it harder to get into the story. This does make it feel a little like you have found a story, instead of picked a book from the library.

It honestly didn’t leave any mark on me. I remember some of the drawings, but I only remember the bare bones of the plot. It feels like someone had to summarize a short animated movie, and did so, feeling like they had to put down every detail.

Potential, but not enough. Maybe something for someone who loves fairy tales in any shape or form.

Tinder, Sally Gardner, Indigo 2013

Habibi

Wow.

I wanted to read this for a very long time and I’m so pleased that it was completely to my satisfaction. It was beautiful, exciting, educational. And with about 700 pages, really not ‘just a quick comic’.

But what is it about? Where to start. It’s about two people that society has rejected, about the creation of the Quran and the science that came with it, about being on the fray while living in dreams and myths.

From time to time, especially during the darker, more confusing moments, it reminded me of the Sandman Chronicles. In those, there’s beauty in darkness as well, situations that leave you feeling a little bit unhinged.

If you are looking for a beautifully drawn book that will affect you and tickle your mind, this is for you.

Habibi, Craig Thompson, Pantheon 2011

Villa Pacifica

Ute was not just well travelled, she was professionally well travelled.

Isabel Allende like indeed. Or Gabriel Garcia Marques, or any other author that bases magic realism in South America. Villa Pacifica is a sticky, sweaty, uncomfortable small story that builds up like a tropical storm.

Ute writes and edits travel guides. Her husband is with her this time, and they find a hidden away park, a community, a paradise. It’s luxurious and private in surroundings that are empty and poor, and it’s a retreat in every sense of the word. Ute’s husband – Jerry – immediately takes to it, becomes inspired by it and its people, but it takes a heavy toll on Ute. When the storm finally arrives (is it a real storm?), things fall apart messily and violently.

This wasn’t a story I could read in one go. From the start, it starts to itch and build up under your skin, everyone’s discomfort so very potent and present. It’s the feverish feeling of The Heart of Darkness combined with your growing disbelief that will keep you turning pages. It’s a winter read because you’re going to need the cold to cool off and get back to reality again, but don’t read it near dark: the jungle may still get too close then.

Villa Pacifica, Kapka Kassabova, Penguin Books 2010