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

All Our Wrong Todays

So, the thing is, I come from the world we were supposed to have.

If the main character wouldn’t have been female, this book wouldn’t have been published or written of as chick lit and get none of the acclaim this one had. And ‘acclaim’ here is the categories my CloudLibrary put it in, so maybe it’s only Canadian acclaim, but still.

Anyway. I picked All Our Wrongs Today because it was time travel with a bit of The Jetsons and environmentalism sprinkled all over it. What’s not to like about that?

Well, probably the fact that all that is merely a background for half of the book, because protagonist Tom just whines about his life, his family, his actions (and inactivity), his life, his family and how his original surroundings are so much better than where he’s now. Mixed through that the reader gets a few female characters that are clear points to hang the plot on: mother, ex(es), (unattainable) love of his life.

But wait, it’s not just the women in Tom’s life that are merely plot points!

And like that, the reader might start hoping for Tom to time travel into nothingness, rendering this entire disappointing story non-existing. Or at the very least with 80 percent less navel gazing.

All Our Wrongs Today, Elan Mastai, Penguin Random House 2017

Las Chicas del Cable

16 x 50 min.

Ik vind helemaal niets aan soaps. Het acteerwerk is te dik aangezet, er gebeurt veel te veel in één mensenleven, de muziek is ten aller tijden dramatisch (om nog maar eens te onderstrepen hoe erg het allemaal is), kom op met me.
Ik heb het Spaanstalige Las Chicas del Cable (telefoonmeisjes), zeker het tweede seizoen, Las_Chicas_Del_Cable_netflixals een gigantische python in één keer geïnhaleerd.

Groot voordeel van het taalverschil – mijn Spaans is lager dan middelbare-schoolniveau – is dat je niet full time kunt focussen op het acteerwerk; je bent tenslotte aan het meelezen. En als je niet meeleest, zijn er genoeg mooie mensen om naar te kijken, wat ook weer afleidt.

De serie draait om een groepje vrouwen in jaren twintig Madrid, en hun worstelingen met meer zelfstandigheid, ouderwetse ideeën, relaties, werk (vinden) en in het geval van het hoofdpersoon – een complete identiteit overeind houden. Zoals iedereen dat wel eens gebeurt. Geen idee hoe historisch correct het allemaal is, maar wel mooi, allemaal.

En vermakelijk, dus ook.

Las Chicas del Cable, Netflix 2017

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

Career of Evil

He had not managed to scrub off all of her blood.

This is going to be a grumpy review, with some (mild) spoilers.

First of all, why did I expect things to be much less misogynistic because of a female author (Galbraith is J.K. Rowling)? Was that a very stupid idea? Don’t we know already from the serial killer’s actions that he really doesn’t like women? And I know she isn’t the most original writer, but really, we had to put rape in a woman’s background?

Okay, to the story. Cormoran Strike is still a big, ungainly, ugly private detective that can barely keep his agency upright. Robin, intelligent, smart, fun and kind of attractive, is still his partner/employee/potential love-interest. This time the case seems to be quite personal, because Robin gets sent a severed leg, at the office! This seems to be the gateway to learning a bit more about her, but sadly there isn’t much cheer to be had about this. And all the while is just misogyny left and right, oh – with some romance sprinkled in.

Because in the previous books, and about the previous books, there had been plenty of comments about how Robin and Cormoran should start something, but Robin’s engagement (to someone without any visible redeeming feature) always kept that off. So when that changes, both people involved seem to fall back to something instinctual that means you suddenly have to get romantic feelings about the people close to you. It feels so shoehorned in that I wonder if Galbraith wasn’t writing some romance on the side and swapped documents from time to time.

There’s plenty of good detectives out there, and J.K. Rowling writes enough if that’s the shot you were looking for. But you can dodge this one.

Career of Evil, Robert Galbraith, Sphere 2015