The Dark Gifts trilogy

  • Gilded Cage
  • Tarnished City
  • Bright Ruin

For YA, there’s a surprising amount of politics and commentary on political systems. Mostly still on a YA-level – don’t expect deep-going analyses and there’s just a hint of ‘maybe grey is the best possible option in a world of black and white’ but it was a pleasant surprise. It even kept me going through the first book after realising the author was setting up the plainest of romances.

Anyway, there’s magic users in power and not-magic users that have slavedays: ten years of their life have to be devoted to working for the country with nothing in return. Of course there are people who agree with this, who disagree with this, and those that just want to be and/or stay in power.

Two families are followed, on either side. Some are skeptical from the start, some naive, blood flows, death follows, and more and more often reality sinks in.

That sometimes it’s all a bit clunky and certain plot lines aren’t as neatly finished as they could have been might be a sign of its target audience, or just a lack of editing. Either way, it was more fun entertainment than expected. I didn’t even mind it being a trilogy.

Crazy Ex Girlfriend

62 x 40 min

Crazy Ex Girlfriend; or how shows sometimes really need to put up a disclaimer with regards to both title and summary: no it’s not what it looks like and maybe take things literally for once.

Because it’s probably widely viewed as crazy to move to the other side of the country for someone you dated a couple of weeks when the both of you were teenagers. And it might not be up everyone’s alley to turn this element into something that needs musical numbers. A lot of them. About all kind of subjects.

Musicals make me itch.

So, I forwarded the few musical numbers, and maybe some of the scenes in which Rebecca was just too much. Awkward, honest, scared, sad – all of them.
But then. Then you may slowly but surely catch up to what’s going on. Recognise that the comedy part of this dramady may be more sour than saccharine and the drama part too hard-hitting to be comfortable. And yet: the balance stays.

Laughing, hurting, crying, cringing: suddenly Crazy Ex Girlfriend turns out to be an intelligent show on mental health and society’s ideas about romance and relationships. With smart, hilarious lyrics when they do add a musical number.

Yes, I was very surprised as well. Now – after having completed it three weeks ago – I miss the show.

Trickster Drift

The clouds finally broke into a sullen drizzle after a muggy, overcast day.

Trickster Drift, Eden Robinson, Alfred A. Knopf 2018

I can’t remember the last time I was so consciously waiting for a book. I read Son of a Trickster a long while ago, so why library – why did it take you two years to get me a sequel that was written in the year I read the prequel? Rhetorical question, I don’t need an answer.

With the first novel it took me a while to adjust to the story and appreciate what I took from it. With that knowledge, I expected to struggle again this time, but get a satisfying pay-off. Except – no struggle in sight. The e-book is almost 600 pages and I flew through them. Maybe Robinson found her flow, maybe I did, but I didn’t want to stop reading.

Jared has escaped some of the wild, eerie, lethal shit that was braided through his life and surroundings, but not all of it. And now he’s adding sobriety and study to them. So even though it seems like there’s more love and care around him, we should probably give him a break when he doesn’t immediately (positively) react to it (I tried, boy – did I try).

As it been two years since I’ve read the previous book, I can’t say if this one got scarier or more gory, but gosh – there’s a fine line between things that should only be myths and our reality in Robinson’s world.

It’s deliciously eerie, and can the library please get the completing novel in soon?

The Ninth Rain

You ask me to start at the beginning, Marin, my dear, but you do not know what you ask.

Yoohoo, traditional fantasy alert! Although.. our unlikely heroes this time are very unlikely and not all that heroic. Not yet anyway, but of course this is the first book in a series.

The Ninth Rain plays out in a pretty much post-apocalyptic world. There’s the memory of darkness and despair, but some are living through it more than others. There’s an ancient race that should have been the heroes but fell, there’s humans that – like humans do – just toil on. And then there’s a threat of things that might just come again.

Yes, there’s the burly male, the scared little young woman with more power than she can control and the eccentric bringing them all together, but they don’t fit their clichés exactly. Combine that with a luscious world building and it matters very little that this plot has been done before. You get that comforting ‘Down the fantastic rabbit hole’-feeling in return.

The Ninth Rain, Jen Williams, Headline 2017

How to Love a Jamaican

The first time I saw Cecilia, she was the only other black girl in our small group during freshman orientation.

I like pleasant surprises.

After a frustrating couple of hours concerning my e-book reader app, I ended up with Libby. To make sure it was the app and not my tablet (six years old), I borrowed something to make sure the novel would show. How to Love a Jamaican was that novel, and it showed.

It’s also a collection of (short) stories, for those that are apprehensive about those (like myself). They all involve a Jamaican, Jamaica and love in some kind of way – self, family, friendships, romantically.

I know that PoC authors and their stories are all too often described as “colourful” or “vibrant” so I’m going to refrain and say that these stories were fun, even when they subject wasn’t. There was a certain kind of life in them, even when you can’t recognise the situation mentioned. Immigration is a part of these stories, but not the story, and – what a surprise – all protagonists go through the same things people in white authored stories go.

All in all, this was a great start with my new reader app and it better continues delivering.

How to Love a Jamaican, Alexia Arthurs, Ballantine Books 2018

The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance

10 x 50 min.

Some things you have to give a second chance, I guess. Even a bit of a third. Worse was that I didn’t like how I didn’t straight away love this. Original fantasy! Puppetry! Diverse world-building! Meanwhile I could only notice how the puppets didn’t completely move the way they should, while plot barely seemed to move at all.

dark crystal posterI felt this frustration for 2 – 3 episodes, when episode 4 suddenly clicked (episode 7 is still the best, though). I stopped watching the artistry of it all. Maybe it’s because several plot lines come together, or because you start to catch on to the world these stories move through. The writers hold no punches, making stakes high and losses real and touching. The comedy is cute and cheeky, the terrors legitimately scary.

It’s enthralling and adventurous but I think my biggest argument for watching is how much heart it has.

So yes, it might take some time to adjust to what you’re watching. But try!

The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance, Netflix 2019

Just One Damned Thing After Another

There have been two moments in my life when everything changed.

Time travel! Dinosaurs! Bad guys and unlikely heroes! First book of a series!

Yes, I know, I will forever be overly bitter by the fact that a standalone fantasy novel is hard to find. Sue me (don’t sue me).

On the other hand – I’m a sucker for time travel and will accept a lot for the sheer fact of time travel being involved. It’s just a convenient genre: you get history, adventure, romance (often), sometimes science fiction – all in one book.

Just as in this case. Just One Damned Thing After Another has the scrappy heroine with the dodgy history, very villain-y villains, dinosaurs and mentions enough historical events to make sure you don’t forget the time traveling part. Jodi Taylor provides the majority of this with a bit of tongue-in-cheek, which (might) make(s) the reader more acceptable of the times when things get a bit too trope-y. Is that me complaining about getting everything I wanted from this kind of story? Yes.

If there wouldn’t be sequels, there wouldn’t have been several set-ups that took (a bit) too long to pay off. Without the scrappy heroine-background, there would have been less time spent on moping and self-pity.

So, yes, this is what to expect from the genre. I was just hoping for more.

Just One Damned Thing After Another, Jodi Taylor, Accent Press 2013

Ninguém Tá Olhando

8 x 25

Netflix biedt het aan als Nobody’s Looking, maar op deze manier weet je tenminste gelijk dat het ondertiteling lezen wordt.

nobody's looking netflixDeze korte serie (ik keek ‘m in een avond en kon nog om tien uur naar bed) gaat over een bureau van beschermengelen waarin een nieuwe aanwinst redelijk snel elke aanwezige regel overtreedt en er nogal een zooitje van maakt. Voordeel van deze serie is dat er ook niet veel meer aan het plot is: niet meerdere plotlijnen die door elkaar lopen en in het niets verdwijnen – dit is gewoon wat er aan de hand is. En dat is vermakelijk.

Tussendoor zijn er nog kleine steekjes onder water over hoe vreemd en kwetsbaar mensen zijn, maar zelfs beschermengelen accepteren dingen ‘omdat het nu eenmaal zo is’, dus zoveel pijn doen die steekjes niet.

En, als roodharige, is het grappig om eens niet de zielloze maar juist de brave hendrik te zijn. Al lijkt het bij sommige beschermengelen wel alsof het niet hun natuurlijke haarkleur is …

Nobody’s Looking, Netflix 2019

 

Men in Black: International

114 min.

Oef, wie heeft hier de beslissingen gemaakt? Chris Hemsworth en Tessa Thompson waren een redelijke combinatie in Thor Ragnarock, met Men in Black was er al een duidelijke template om mee te spelen, en het in de zomer parkeren betekent dat het voor iedereen duidelijk is dat verwachtingen niet te hoog moeten zijn, toch? En dan nog zo’n mislukking.

men-in-black-international-posterWant dat is het probleem van deze film: het is saai, en suf, en ongemotiveerd. De ‘grappige’ momenten landen niet, de ‘spannende’ momenten zijn een verzameling van snel-bewegende beelden zonder kop of staart, zelfs de slechteriken lijken niet zeer gemotiveerd? En waar zijn al de cameos, de lopende grap dat verschillende beroemdheden wereldwijd eigenlijk aliens zijn? Zo ploetert het maar door met een conclusie die van mijlenver te herkennen is; als je tussendoor niet afgehaakt bent.

Meestal heb ik suggesties over hoe een film beter had kunnen zijn aan het einde er van; nu had ik het al na de eerste tien minuten. Heel Men in Black: International voelt aan alsof je de restjes van een leukere, vlottere film aan het bekijken bent. Het transport naar verschillende landen is nog wel het leukst gedaan, eigenlijk.

Men in Black: International, Sony 2019

La casa de las flores

13 x 30 min.

Nog niet genoeg drama in je leven? Zeker niet als het in de vorm van een telenovela is? Ik werk me langzaam door het Spaanstalige aanbod van Netflix, en na Las Chicas del Cable kwam ik terecht bij La Casa de las flores oftewel Het huis van bloemen/The House of Flowers. U raadt het misschien al: deze keer speelt het drama zich af in een bloemenwinkel.

la_casa_de_las_flores_posterDeze keer volg je een familie die op het eerste oog traditioneel, hecht en gelukkig is. Dat eerste oog houdt het niet lang vol, maar het imago van zowel de familie als de winkel is heel belangrijk, dus er wordt in allerlei bochten gedraaid en gevouwen om alles binnenhuis te houden. Dat lukt sommige familieleden íets beter dan anderen.

Dit is gemaakt voor (leed)vermaak; geen van de karakters hebben veel ruimte om zich te bewijzen als iets anders dan een karikatuur, en de ontwikkelingen volgen zich zo snel op dat je bijna een rooster bij moet houden om te zien waar wie nu weer in vastgeraakt is. Maar niets mis met vermaak, en dit is zo af en toe van het niveau kakelen. De boeketten steken er af en toe bleekjes bij af.

La casa de las flores, Netflix 2018