Acceptance

Just out of reach, just beyond you: the rush and froth of the surf, the sharp smell of the sea, the criscrossing shape of the gulls, their sudden, jarring cries.

And the Southern Reach Trilogy is done. As it looks like I haven’t reviewed the previous novels, I’ll just judge the entire trilogy in one go. It’ll be easier than just Acceptance, the last (and biggest) novel.

The Southern Reach Trilogy is an eerie set of books you’d best ignore if you like your conclusions clear and your clues obvious. In these three books, especially the first one, a lot of uncomfortable weirdness builds up, but Jeff VanderMeer doesn’t give you a breather.

There’s an unfamiliar place where life functions along different rules. It infects, it controls, it changes the research teams that enter, and no-one seems to be able to understand if it’s aliens, the planet itself, or something they can’t even think of.

The first two books are small ones, just enough to give the reader the creeps without feeling like you’re being brought along for a ride to nowhere. Acceptance might mean that the people involved are accepting, but the reader will have to do without a clear answer. The creeps stay though, just in a lesser amount.

Acceptance, Jeff VanderMeer, HarperCollins 2014

Clariel

Old Marral the fisherman lived in one of the oddest parts of Belisaere, the ancient capital of the Old Kingdom.

I’m pretty sure that Garth Nix is my favourite male fantasy author. Even when I’m a bit ‘hmm’ about some of his stories (for a younger audience), I’ll always appreciate his style and world building. This time it wasn’t any different.

Clariel is part of the The Old Kingdom series, but doesn’t fit into it chronologically. Not having read any of the series for a long while, this was kind of convenient for me. Just remember the necromancy, anything else can be new knowledge.

It being a (kind of) prequel also means that there’s not complete freedom to move and develop. Because of this the reader gets the slice-of-life option, things ending up before the (more) exciting and terrifying.

But I am a Garth Nix fan. I’ll read all of it.

Clariel, Garth Nix, Harper Collins 2014

Influence

I can admit it freely now.

The author admits that he’s been a patsy for his entire life. Luckily he doesn’t just knows that, but also knows how to get out of situations that try to use that weak spot of his for someone else’s profit.

There’s many ways to persuade, and many varieties of persuasion. Cialdini is a writing professor, making the set up of the book traditionally school book-ish. There’s an anecdote, data, a conclusion. That doesn’t mean that the material is dull, just a bit dense from time to time. A lot of what’s mentioned is recognisable (to me), but the addition of extra layers provide new information.

It took a few chapters before I really had an epiphany, but I guess that completely depends on what knowledge you start with. It’s an accessible insight to the human mind and action, and maybe one day – when buying a car for example – you can use it to get out of situations you’d otherwise be the patsy in.

Influence: the psychology of persuasion, Robert B. Cialdini, HarperCollins 1984

Nevernight

People often shit themselves when they die.

Ah nice, just some ordinary, entertaining sword and dagger (and dagger, and dagger) fantasy. Is it a stand alone? I don’t think so. Can it be read as one? Definitely.

Preteen girl goes through a traumatic experience, uses it to get into Superb Killer’s School to become one and punish those that put her through it. Along the ride there’s a lot of high school tropes (cliques, hateful teachers, romances) with some fantasy ones (surely there’s never been one as good as her).

It’s fun and satisfying, with some nice (with some gruesome details) world building along the way. Did it blow my mind and will stay with me forever? No. Was there anything annoyingly wrong with it? Not that I can remember.

Nevernight, Jay Kristoff, Harper Collins 2016

The Wizard Returns

Sometimes you just have to cut your losses, the Wizard thought as the rolling green fields of Oz dropped away from his balloon.

I think I will add a new category: snack reads. Will you learn something from it, walk away a changed person, gain new insights, be blown off your feet? Nah, but it’s fun/entertaining/delicious.

The Wizard Returns is a prequel to the Dorothy Must Die series (another twist on the going ons of the Oz world and its inhabitants) and a novella, so not too large either. It is as it says on the tin, Dorothy and other familiar characters are mostly mentioned in passing, this is for the Wizard.

Paige uses this as an excuse to give/show more history to/of Oz and the Wizard, and to just go – once more – completely all out on technicolour descriptions on this strange but sort of familiar world. The Wizard is a brat, the monkeys fly, the reader is entertained for a hop and a skip.

The Wizard Returns (A Dorothy Must Die prequel novella), Danielle Paige, HarperCollins 2015

The Burning Sky

Just before the start of Summer Half, in April 1883, a very minor event took place at Eton College, that venerable and illustrious English public school for boys.

Stories don’t have to be original to be entertaining. Unlikely hero? Absolutely beautiful, but cold-hearted-because-of-plot-point prince? Cruel authorities? Cross dressing for safety? Pompous names? Now I come to think of it..where’s the adorable pet/companion animal in this story?

Iolanthe has been warned by her guardian to not do certain things. With her listening to him, there wouldn’t be a story, and suddenly Iolanthe turns out to be a threat and a treasure to the powers that be. Good thing there’s a handsome prince that won’t let them get her. Instead, she should stay close to him, hidden away on Eton.

Emotions, hormones, friendships and a book that’s a gate way, a training room and a virtual reality of royal history all make sure that there’s nary a dull moment. Is the will-they-won’t-they sappy? Yes. Does Thomas go off on a much too long description of all the beautiful people around? Definitely. But sometimes someone wants a story you can race through without feeling like you have missed out on details, plot and information. I’m even interested in the other two books (of course this is part of a series), even though I wouldn’t know what they could be about. Sacrifice? More angry kisses? Good thing the trilogy is already completely published.

The Burning Sky, Sherry Thomas, HarperCollins 2013

Beautiful Ruins

The dying actress arrived in his village the only way one could come in directly – in a boat that motored into the cave, lurched past the rock jetty, and bumped against the end of the pier.

Wist ik bij Fates and Furies niet hoe ik mijn onder-de-indruk-heid moest overbrengen, weet ik nu niet hoe dit boek als ‘goed maar teleurstellend’ uit te leggen. Het lijkt wel een beroep, dat recenseren.

Beautiful Ruins werkt van veel mysterie (wat zijn de verbanden tussen deze mensen, waarom leven ze (niet) op deze manier, wie is de vader) netjes alle lijntjes af tot alles duidelijk is. Bijna te duidelijk dus, want zo verandert zwoel avontuur in “verkeerde tijd, verkeerde plaats, verkeerde persoon”. Een kater van een boek, verdorie.

Misschien had ik moeten onthouden dat het mij aangeraden was als een ‘summer read’, net meer om het lijf dan de aanraders van Cosmopolitan. Maar het zette zo hoog in!

Beautiful Ruins is dus best te lezen en fijn vermakelijk. Houd de verwachtingen alleen laag.

Beautiful Ruins, Jess Walter, Harper Collings 2012