The Kiss Quotient

“I know you hate surprises, Stella.

A romance involving a poc love interest and a protagonist with Asperger’s; look at the genre entering the twenty-first century!

I know romance is (usually) frowned upon, but looking at it (this and fantasy), it might be the category that gives room most easily to someone other than the white heterosexuals. Good for them, good for us.

Stella is on the spectrum, and after another push of her parents with regards to dating she decides to approach sex and romantic relationships the way she does everything else: fully logical and mathematical. That includes hiring an escort and To Do lists to tick off.

But of course! Lust and love happens, and both are described in delicious ways. The only sour note in the entire story is Michael’s actions near the end of the story; they could have prospered with a better motivation and/or argumentation for accepting it. Don’t let that keep you from a lovely, sexy romance.

The Kiss Quotient, Helen Hoang, Penguin Random House 2018

The Luminaries

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

Suicide Squad

137 min.

In de categorie recente DCEU films keek ik zowel Wonder Woman als Suicide Squad. Omdat de eerste voor mij zo tegenvallend mat was, schrijf ik alleen een blog over deze. In Suicide Squad gebeurt er in ieder geval meer, in meerdere kleuren.

suicide-squad-posterDat van die kleuren is bijzonder, omdat een groot deel van de DCEU films iets te maken hebben met Zack Snyder, en Zack Snyder heeft het niet zo op kleuren buiten zestig tinten blauw. Bij Suicide Squad is het nog steeds mat, maar wel in enkele primaire kleuren. Misschien omdat het onderwerp deze keer bad guys zijn.

Als tegenhanger van Superman en dergelijke, wilt een gruizige organisatie graag een team met supersterke, bijzondere mensen; gewone wapens doen niets tegen machtige aliens tenslotte. Hiervoor wordt een stel criminelen verzameld, en om zich te laten gedragen, krijgen ze een explosieve chip geïnjecteerd.

Het vermakelijke zit in hoe enkele acteurs hun rollen invullen. Will Smith is altijd makkelijk om naar te kijken, en zo zijn er nog een paar die je er aan herinneren dat je niet te veel op het plot of de speelomgeving hoeft te letten. De rest zit helaas vast in stereotypes of slecht acteerwerk.

De soundtrack is ook wel leuk, en als je de te lange vechtscènes doorzapt (wat is dat toch voor vervelende trend?), ben je net zo snel door de film als je bak popcorn. Allebei hebben hetzelfde niveau van voedzaamheid.

Suicide Squad, Atlas Entertainment 2016

 

Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows

Why did Mindi want an arranged marriage?

And yes, the erotic stories are shared.  Just because of the title, I expected comedy, some coming of age and Learning Life’s Lessons, but I got much more. It’s a credit to Jaswal’s writing that I wasn’t disappointed by that, sooner the opposite.

Yes, there’s definitely comedy, and main character Nikki (Mindi’s sister) needs to discover what she wants to do in live and how she’ll do that without hurting her Punjabi family (and surroundings, in a way). This is definitely a story about the two lives immigrants/children of immigrants live, but it’s never just that. Nikki thinks she’s going to teach the widows Creative Writing, the widows prefer to share their creativity in another way.

Alongside that is a plot line that at first might feel tacked on. Missing girls, bitter feuds, really? But then it all starts to connect and this isn’t just a comedy any more, this is an all too realistic calling card to look at misogyny. Suddenly the tempo is picked up and the reader has to juggle several plot lines colliding.

But as mentioned before, Balli Kaur Jaswal does it well. Making this novel all-round entertaining and informing.

Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows, Balli Kaur Jaswal, Harper Collins 2017

Exit West

In a city swollen by refugees but still mostly at peace, or at least not yet openly at war, a young man met a young woman in a classroom and did not speak to her.

This is an author of which I like his stories, and usually his detached way of writing, yet find it hard to put into words what I precisely like about both things mentioned.

This time he manages to make the refugee story (people fleeing versus people accepting and or fighting their addition to their familiar surroundings) slightly magical and/yet apocalyptic. Because the main characters are refugees, but they manage to leave their country through a door, a black hole, that can appear behind any door. This means that people from all around the world appear all around the world without the lethal trips and troubles.

But after that, there’s still acceptance to fight for. The book is pretty evenly divided between before, during and after the migratory moves and changes. This way you don’t have to think about the ever after, Hamid provides.

In the end, it’s kind of a hopeful story with plenty of realism to make you feel better about the subject.

Exit West, Mohsin Hamid, Hamish Hamilton 2017

The Dressmaker

Travellers crossing the wheat-yellow plains to Dungatar would first notice a dark blot shimmering at the edge of the flatness.

I completely understand why they turned this into a movie. Because The Dressmaker is not just a contained (small Australian village) story, it’s so full of detail that the visuals are already all there. Characters are clear cut, there’s an enticing plot of highs and lows and wardrobe can go all out because there’s nothing this dressmaker can’t make.

Tilly goes back to this small village of her birth, but even though she changed, the opinions on her and her mother didn’t. When discovering thus, she doesn’t accept it for the second time, but goes about it in a creative way.

That might make things sound like a thriller, but the back text calls it a shrewd comedy, and isn’t wrong in that. It’s a compact story as well; finding and watching the movie might take you longer. Is it still hot enough outside to call this a summer read?

The Dressmaker, Rosalie Ham, Duffy & Snellgrove 2000

The Drawing of the Three

The gunslinger came awake from a confused dream which seemed to consist of a single image: that of the Tarot deck from which the man in black had dealt (or purported to deal) the gunslinger’s own moaning future.

I really thought I had read more from these series, but I’m pretty sure I would have remembered this book if I would have. So here we are, the second book in the Dark Tower series. Now I definitely understand people’s confusion about trying to tell this story/these stories in just one movie.

As usual with series, it’s a bit of a challenge to not spoil previous books, especially because I can’t remember anything from the first novel. Luckily, in these editions is a handy ‘Here’s What You Missed’ part before the story picks up again.

What you probably should know, starting these series, is that this is eerie Stephen King, not straight shooter/thriller Stephen King. There’s fantastical elements but also some that veer quite close to horror territory, and there’s not many straight plot lines. If you don’t mind that and are looking for (the build up of) an epic, I’d definitely recommend trying this series.

The Drawing of the Three, Stephen King, Sphere 1990