Freshwater

The first time our mother came for us, we screamed.

Sometimes a book leaves you with a feeling instead of easy-put-into-thoughts words. Freshwater is exciting, eerie, scary and frustrating, both the story and the story telling. It’s a book you’d recommend with a long disclaimer.

Main character Ada (or the Ada) is born with one foot in the other world, she’s possessed by creatures/things/ghosts, and they have quite the impact on her health, her life and her loved ones. It’s not just her that gets to speak either, it’s the ‘we’ and others that get to control the human Ada from time to time, or at the very least debate her decisions.

It makes for a creepy, aggravating story that isn’t always easy to get through, like it’s not just Ada that’s being dragged down and manipulated by the other ones. At the same time it’s such a balanced story about a culture (Nigerian) that doesn’t view all this as too exotic, but at the same time has elements that prevents Ada from speaking the truth. So there’s different layers to her straddling two worlds, even when she hasn’t has her creatures involved.

Freshwater, Akwaeke Emezi, Grove Press 2018

House of Names

I have been acquainted with the smell of death.

Like a Creative Writing exercise someone gave up on after a few hundred pages. Or fanfiction, but where’s the line between those two anyway?

Anyway. House of Names is about the characters in Agamennon’s story. His wife Clytemnestra, his daughters Electra and Iphigenia and son Orestes. The sacrifice of one of them leads to mayhem and disaster, and everyone but Iphigenia get to give their point of view on the aftermath of it.

And they do so, and it feels like the build up to regular fiction build on mythological and/or historical figures. But then it’s done. Turns out it’s a slice of life, a collection of character sheets, instead of the creation of a story.

Maybe I should have known seeing that it only had little over 100 pages (in my e-reader). You can pass this one in your search for historical fiction with familiar names.

House of Names, Colm Tóibín, Penguin Random House 2017

The Girl from the Well

I am where dead children go.

And the third book of the ‘no more than two hundred pages’ theme that I seem to be working with the past few weeks. I feel like 1) it could have been even shorter (just a bit, to tighten it a little, and 2) this one would have been more appealing, extraordinary, without a sequel, but it’s clear that there’s one coming.

The girl from the well in The Girl from the Well is just one of the main characters, a ghost who looks out for abused and murdered children. So why did she gravitate towards the alive Tarquin, and his cousin Callie? And why isn’t the only creature?

The Girl from the Well uses Japanese mythology and turns the trope of the Chosen One inside out. It does so with some horrific elements, because the girl didn’t end up in the well for pleasant reasons, nor is what she recognises in Tarquin very pleasant. But besides that, Tarquin is still a teenager in high school, and Rin Chupeco keeps that nicely balanced.

If you like your ‘quick summer reads’ with some horror dolloped in, this one’s for you.

The Girl from the Well, Rin Chupeco, Sourcebooks Inc 2014

Guardian of the Dead

I opened my eyes.

Between okay and “why did I put this on my list” non-fiction, I previously had the wonderful Fates and Furies to lift my reading experience up. Now I can add Guardian of the Dead as a delightful breath of fresh air (nothing bad about non-fiction meant, it just has to work harder to blow me away).

This book (a debut novel) did. This isn’t just another YA novel. The usual suspects of love triangle, unknowingly perfect hero(ine) and lack of any friendships/relationships are almost non-existent (the author has a good excuse for the last one). But probably the most exciting thing was the use of Māori mythology. And not in an ‘ Oh, Ah, how exotic and strange’ way, but very much as a part of daily, contemporary life. It shows that there’s more to mythology than another version of Zeus messing up things.

Not that messing up doesn’t happen. Main character Ellie walks into a bite-more-than-you-can-chew situation that might turn into the end of New Zealand as we know it. Throw in frustrations about family, school, and body, add a crush (there is a slightly mysterious love interest), some female friendships and enemies,  some unexpected magic and you get a maelstrom of entertainment.

Read it, love it hopefully as much as I do.

Guardian of the Dead, Karen Healey, Hachette Book Company 2010

 

The Magician

The charity auction hadn’t started until well after midnight, when the gala dinner had ended.

Nergens op de cover of info-flap staat beschreven dat dit het tweede boek uit een serie is, in plaats van alleenstaand. Niet dat het veel uitmaakt hoor, alles wordt in hapklare brokken opgediend.

Er is Nicholas Flamel, zijn vrouw en andere onsterfelijken en die vechten tegen andere onsterfelijken die mensen in slaven en voer willen veranderen. Er is een tweeling, de machtigste tweeling ooit, zodra ze hun magische machten onder conreole hebben en aan welke kant zullen ze eindigen?
Er zijn – puntje voor de auteur – mythische creaties en eens niet alleen uit de westerse wereld. Gooi daar explosies, woeste magie en geheime bad guys bij en het kan zo in het rijtje voor-kinderen-ook-super-vermakelijk-boven-20.

Alleen dat gebrek aan duidelijkheid hè. Liep ik tegen een open einde omdat de auteur niet genoeg had aan 500 pagina’s.

The Secrets of The Immortal Nicholas Flamel: The Magician, Michael Scott, Random House Children’s Books 2008

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