The Girl Who Fell From The Sky

“You’re my lucky piece,” Grandma says.

A mixed race girl moves in with her black grandmother after a family tragedy. Suddenly she discovers how important society thinks the colour of her skin is. While trying to adjust to that, she has to come to terms with being the only one of her family left.

It’s an utterly depressive premise and yet this book is spiked with glimmers of hope. It’s so easy to root for the main character, to tell her to not fall into temptation of the easy escape, to become everything she can be while the reader can do nothing more but watch her stumble.

It’s also -for me as a white person- a new, raw experience to read what a big part skin colour is for some people. The ‘real’ black people don’t want her, the white people don’t understand where she fits in. Her grandmother just wants her to turn into a ‘good woman’ who will make a husband happy (and therefore her). The main character lets herself be shaped by her surroundings while at the same time trying to disappear from this world without her family.

The Girl Who Fell From The Sky leaves you with questions, but also a small glimmer of hope. Outside that, you will just have to take this story inside you and carry it around.

The Girl Who Fell From The Sky, Heidi Durrow, Oneworld 2010

The Waterproof Bible

The limousine taking Rebecca Reynolds and Lewis Taylor to the funeral had stalled in the middle of an intersection.

Rebecca can’t stop broadcasting her feelings to people around her. Lewis meets a woman who claims to be God. A mermaid/human hybrid named Aby (short for Aberystwyth) left the ocean for the first time to search for her mother. Oh, and a pair of rainmakers that can really make it rain. With almost lethal result.
Amused by this? Get the book. Cocking your eyebrow in a ‘Oh, really now?’ fashion? Escapes are on your left.

The Waterproof Bible has a lot going on that places it firmly in the ‘quirky, absurd’ category of books. Yet Kaufman balances that part perfectly with a plot line about growing up, (and) moving on in/with life, without making either too much. Aby’s race is interesting, the characters are portrayed in such a way that neither of them are turned into caricatures and the entire story feels like a faerie tale from another world.

The only thing that stuck just the tiniest bit in my caw was the lack of answers. Towards the ending some plot lines end pretty much like ‘Well it is what it is’. But, because the entire story lacks any highs and lows that will rock your world  it isn’t even so much of a bother, if you can survive a book that will leave you with a shrug and an ‘okay’.

The Waterproof Bible, Andrew Kaufman, Telegram 2010

Red Seas under Red Skies

Locke Lamora stood on the pier in Tal Verrar with the hot wind of a burning ship at his back and the cold bite of a loaded crossbow’s bolt at his neck.

Back to Locke Lamora and his (unintentional) (mis-)adventures. This time ’round he’s in a new country and spends a lot of time on the ocean. Because Lamora becomes a pirate. Sort of. And it wasn’t his idea either.

Red Seas under Red Skies being a sequel means there is less joy and surprise over characters, plots and world building. Yet again Lamora (and his friends) aim high, but have to stumble through a lot of hoops before they get it (sort of). This time he lands in the middle of a tug-of-war between the rulers of the underworld and ‘upper’-world. And some pirate captains.

But even without the surprises, there is another bout of gorgeous (and lethal) world- and character building. One of the things I liked best is that the women have numerous functions in high places without them being femmes fatale or butch masculine creatures. Equal opportunities don’t happen all that often in fantasy. Again, the tempo is high, a lot happens and -in comparison with the first book- there are more story lines.

And just like with the prequel, I breezed through it, thoroughly enjoying myself. If the other books don’t fail (and maybe step away from the ‘Big heist in a creative way’ plot), this could turn into one of my favorite fantasy series.

 Red Seas under Red Skies, Scott Lynch, Gollancz 2007

 

The Lies of Locke Lamora

At the height of the long wet summer of the Seventy-Seventh Year of Sendovani, the Thiefmaker of Camorr paid a sudden and unannounced visit to the Eyeless Priest at the Temple of Perelandro, desperately trying to sell him the Lamora Boy.

This is everything a (fantasy) story should be. There is gorgeous world building, well-rounded, fascinating characters, exciting plot lines (pretty much all of them), humour, excitement and so on. It’s a book you want to finish in one go and not to ever let it end.

The Lies of Locke Lamora tells the stories of Locke Lamora and his adventures as growing up from a little orphan to a Gentleman Bastard, stealing from the rich in elaborate ways and ..doing nothing with the majority of the bounty afterwards. He and his ‘brothers’ are small parts of the mob-like constitution that rules the underworld of the city, pretending towards them and everyone else that they’re just small fish.
Of course things go wrong. A dark figure attacks the constitution and Locke Lamora seems -somehow- to be involved. The tempo picks up and the whirl-wind starts.

I would recommend this to a lot of people. Look past the fantasy tag if that’s not your thing and dive head-first into this delightful experience. Only one warning: it’s part of a series (up to seven books) and the author isn’t finished yet. So there might be a time that we will have to do without Locke Lamora and his adventures.

The Lies of Locke Lamora, Scott Lynch, Gollancz 2006

Slaughterhouse-5

All this happened, more or less.

Two people close to me told me they weren’t sure this was a book I was going to like. One of them said I shouldn’t count the ‘So it goes’. The text on the back warned me for potential philosophic babble.
This all accounted to me expecting an not-understandable mass of deliriously written paragraphs without a (satisfying) end. I braced myself.

For me – and I realize that I might be looking at this story in just one dimension – Slaughterhouse-5 wasn’t a mess. In fact, it was pretty coherent and I enjoyed several parts of it.

Protagonist Billy Pilgrim survives World War 2 and a plane crash, travels through time, is abducted by aliens and is -by a lot of people- seen as an idiot. The reader follows his travel and his thoughts and as Pilgrim isn’t much impressed with either, nor is the reader.

What I like most, or can appreciate about this book, is that you can take several things from it. Is it but a fantasy in the mind of the ‘I’ person? Is Vonnegut ‘I’ or Pilgrim? Is this nothing more but a War Is Bad message with a lot of pomp? Do you believe Billy Pilgrim or is he sorriest sod alive? Is this even a book? If the reader wants to, it can create different puzzles from the same pieces.

I recommend this novel. It isn’t too crazy, too plain, too fantastical or too boring. It’s a nice puzzle, for the reader to decide what to take away from it.

Slaughterhouse-5, Kurt Vonnegut, Dell 1991 (repr.)

The Great Gatsby

In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since.

There were two reasons why I read The Great Gatsby. I like to read a Classic from time to time (to see what the fuss is about) and I really liked the trailer of the film Baz Luhrmann is making, based on the story. And -maybe subconsciously for a third reason-  it is quite a thin book, so even if it would be utterly shit, it wouldn’t be a big waste of time.

It wasn’t utterly shit. Author F. Scott Fitzgerald creates an attractive, vibrant world without drowning the reader in detail and pointers. I managed to not have been ‘spoiled’ about the story and therefore could enjoy it without already knowing how it would end. To let other people enjoy the story without any knowledge about it as well, I’ll just say that -in the beginning and for me- it’s a love story. A love story with life and the world intervening.

As it is a little story, there is not much more to say. Even though the story is written over eighty years ago, the age doesn’t show in language. The characters are sketched with just a few lines and words, but aren’t card board characters. I would recommend it, not only so you know what The Great Gatsby (and its fuss) is about, but for the small, bitter sweet experience you get from hanging out in those 156 pages.

The Great Gatsby, F. Scot Fitzgerald, 1926

Whatever Makes You Happy

‘What’s happened?’

Whatever Makes You Happy made me very curious about the author, because he spouts a lot of ideas that felt a bit outdated, not female-friendly nor male-friendly. And all that in a book that got a place in my library’s Humor category!

The novel tells the stories off Matt, Daniel and Paul and their mothers. The three men are thirty-somethings and their mothers are Very Disappointed with the lives of their sons. And because they are their mothers, their creators and eternal supporters, they decide to live in their son’s houses for a week to fix things. Because by now they should be married and have created offspring because the mothers need to be grandmothers, it’s what they’re here for.
Surprisingly, none of the men tell their mothers to sod off, but allow them to intervene. Of course some life lessons pass, but the bombardment of clichés override every situation. The date-savvy guy thinks that when a woman says no, she just wants to have the man put more effort into it. The grandchildren-crazy mother effectively stalks a couple because she just can’t help herself, she was born for being a grandmother. And the child being a girl, she can only buy pink stuff.

It goes on like that, making Whatever Makes You Happy more a risen-eyebrow-worthy essay of examples in old-fashioned and guy/girl-mag thinking than a laugh about mother-son relationships. And that’s a bit of a shame, because the author created several nice characters. They deserved more.

Whatever Makes You Happy, William Sutcliffe, Bloomsbury 2008