The library book

Even in Los Angeles, where is no shortage of remarkable hairdos, Harry Peak attracted attention.

You had me at libraries, you from time to time lost me about the focus on not just the Los Angeles Public Library (so okay, it’s one of the main plots), but especially the background of the possible culprit and fluffy descriptions of ever person involved in any way. I would rather have seen book covers, if Susan Orlean felt like she needed to add some visuals.

But still: there is so much love for books and libraries and librarians that you almost feel yourself slip into that world that is more than only centered on books. Libraries are miniature societies, and Orlean shows it well.

So, if you’re about books, architecture, and American history through librarians – this is the book of your dreams. If just any of these categories do it for you: consider it as a bit of an encyclopedia; read a few chapters from time to time. That way, you’ll always have some time left to visit your own library.

The library book, Susan Orlean, Simon & Schuster 2018

The Rules of Magic

Once upon a time, before the whole world changed, it was possible to run away from society, disguise who you were, and fit into polite society.

It’s the book that your mother loves. Or, like, the book the mothers love in movies about small, sleepy towns and antagonists that dream about a more exciting life but are told by those mothers that you shouldn’t want that because look what could happen. If someone would have told me that this book was written in the nineties, I would have believed it. It’s absolutely stale, and I don’t even mean this in a very negative way, but just because it feels like you’ve seen this movie a hundred times already. It’s comfortable, but never thrilling.

The Rules of Magic is the (“long awaited”) prequel to Practical Magic, which was a book before it was a movie with Nicole Kidman and Sandra Bullock. Both are about a family of witches, The Rules is just a few decades earlier, so you get New York city of the sixties and seventies, which might be one of the things that make the story appealing. The Owens family is cursed to destroy those they love, so it’s moping about that, destroying (unwittingly) and avoiding anything remotely looking like love. Although it seems to only be about romantic love, else there wouldn’t have been a family at all.

Anyway, there’s nothing wrong about this book, it’s not just very exciting. I wasn’t eager to read on and stay up late, and it’s been a while since I had that with a book which might have made me more impatient.

The Rules of Magic, Alice Hoffman, Simon & Schuster 2017

Autoboyography

The end of our final winter break seems almost like the beginning of a victory lap.

Smartest title encountered this year or too thought through? Because y’all, this book is about two young book writers falling in love with each other! I think it’s cute, just as the story.

Tanner is a bisexual male teen that kind of goes back into the closet after his family moves to Utah, specifically a town with a Mormon majority. He’s not even out to his best friend, so how do you handle falling in love with the wonderful, beautiful, very Mormon TA?

It would have been easy to turn this into a pro or con story about religion and Mormons, but both authors stick close to the love story and darn, do they do it sweetly. Just like Tanner and Sebastian can’t seem to think about anything else, it’s sometimes a challenge to not discard the pages without them. Will they? Won’t they? In how many ways will organised religion ruin this?

Characters that aren’t these two sometimes get a bit the short end of the stick, but both secondary characters and surroundings make this a cute high school romance.

Autoboyography, Lauren Billings & Christina Hobbs, Simon & Schuster 2017

 

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo

Film legend and ’60s It Girl Evelyn Hugo has just announced that she will auction off 12 of her most memorable gowns through Christie’s to raise money for breast cancer research.

No-one is (very) likeable in this story. Not that that is a requirement for a story (in my opinion), nor that it means that The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is less accessible and/or entertaining because of it. I’m just saying there isn’t much people to root for.

The stories are entertaining enough, old Hollywood glam with a woman who will do many things to get where she wants to go. Evelyn Hugo is the embodiment of self-made, and now, close to her death, she wants someone to write a biography of her. Journalist Monique doesn’t know why Evelyn picked her all of people to do so but don’t worry: you Will Find Out (dramatic soundtrack).

Per husband, Evelyn explains her life decisions and shares the saucy anecdotes freely. It’s a novel for those that like pretty things; romance and likeability is sacrificed for it. Is it too early to call this a proper beach read?

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, Taylor Jenkins Reid, Simon & Schuster 2017

Alex, Approximately

He could be any one of these people.

En als je dan even iets lichters nodig hebt, zonder gelijk je haar uit het hoofd te trekken omdat het allemaal zo vreselijk dom is, ga je voor een tienerromance die vanaf het tweede hoofdstuk duidelijk voor je neerzet hoe het af gaat lopen. Niks mis mee.

Hoofdpersoon Bailey is een groot fan van klassieke films, chat daarover met een leuke, slimme, vriendelijke jongeman online (Alex), en verhuist naar zijn dorp zonder het hem te vertellen, zodat ze kan ontdekken of hij in het echt net zo leuk, slim en vriendelijk is. Maar dan ontmoet ze een vervelende maar leuke jongeman op haar nieuwe werk, en wordt de vraag om Alex steeds kleiner. Oh nee, hoe zal dit nu aflopen.

Alex, Approximately voorkomt dertien in een dozijn te worden door een paar scherpe randjes die de motivatie van Bailey goed onderbouwen. Verder is het zalig zwijmelen in een surfersparadijs.

Alex, Approximately, Jenn Bennett, Simon & Schuster 2017

The Marriage of Opposites

I always left my window open at night, despite the warnings I’d been given.

Visually stunning, to start out with a cliche compliment. A book that could very well be turned into a TV show, but is vibrant, bright and visual enough to not necessarily need the obvious image to accompany the story. The story is the image, full of them, bursting in technicolour.
The blurb talks about the life of the mother of painter Camille Pizzarro, but ‘story about stubborn woman on a small island in the 1900s’  would have done fine as well. Rachel isn’t impressed by what her parents, religious community and society tells her to be and do, and fights their ideas in many ways. Old stories, mythology and distance to the rest of the world turn her into a heroine in a magical-realistic world.
That doesn’t mean that she’s likeable full time, the woman is stubborn and arrogant and stubborn. Camille – being her carbon copy – doesn’t make things easier inside the family (home). It does make for bigger surroundings, with Paris becoming a participant of the story later into the book. And through Hoffman’s words, Paris might have never looked lovelier.
Still, this is Rachel’s book, and she deserves it.
The Marriage of Opposites, Alice Hoffman, Simon&Schuster 2015

A Window Opens

I drag my suitcase out from under the bed and start packing.

Eentje die niet op De Lijst stond maar mijn aandacht trok met de cover en blurb ‘voor fans van Where’d You Go, Bernadette‘. Daar ben ik het maar een heel klein beetje mee eens, trouwens. De kaftkleuren komen nog het meest overeen. A Window Opens is voor fans van boeken, lezen en vrouwelijke karakters die het wagen menselijk te zijn.

Voor Alice (eind dertig, man, drie kinderen, part time baan) gaat alles heel redelijk, tot er voor financiële redenen een nieuwe baan gevonden moet worden. Eerst lijkt de perfecte gevonden te zijn, en snel ook. Vervolgens beginnen andere categoriën in haar leven uit elkaar te vallen.

Dit is geen boek anti-werkende moeders of een lofzang voor minder werken en meer leven. Dit is Alice’s verhaal en zij leert wat wel en niet voor haar werkt. Met en lekkere sneer naar nieuwe start-ups die altijd boeken lijken te haten.
Het is chick-lit zoals elk navelstarend manspersoonboek dude-lit is, hier zijn de karakters alleen (veel) beter ingekleurd dan bij de zwakkeren in het genre. Alice lives and learns, en al zijn het geen mindblowing lessen, ze zijn wel van het soort dat niet vaak genoeg herhaald kan worden.

Een fijn boek gewoon, klip en klaar.

A Window Opens, Elisabeth Egan, Simon & Schuster 2015

Parrotfish

I could hear Mom at the phone in the kitchen gleefully shrieking to her younger sister, my aunt Gail.

I put this book on my To Read List because it’s main character is a transgender teen. Society still has so little clue (or care/interest) about the subject, and I think that fiction can be an accessible way to learn more. It clearly been written for teenagers gives some hope about future generations being more understanding. It also gives the not-teenage reader the feeling that they’re reading a children’s book (short sentences, point of view on certain subjects).

Our main character is Grady, whom used to be Angela, a girl and daughter. He needs to get used to shifting perspective, ‘coming out’ as to who he really is, but so do family, friends and school. His naivety fades quickly when he learns that humans really really need everyone to fit into a certain box. Luckily there are supporters (in unlikely places).

The Life Lessons are worked through quite effortlessly, but if you view this book as a first introduction to the subject, it might be best to keep it contained. It shows how support is so very important, and that character should trump exterior and gender.

Parrotfish, Ellen Wittlinger, Simon & Schuster 2007

Child 44

Since Maria had decided to die, her cat would have to fend for itself.

I was too late to watch the movie. I think I made the right decision reading the book (first).

No-one in the Soviet is safe from the system, not even those enforcing it. It all starts with the murder of a child. But murder is a crime, and crimes only happen in capitalist societies, so the protagonist has to deny it happening, naming it an accident to make it easier and safer for everyone. Of course that safety doesn’t last long.

How do you prove a crime if every authority wants it not to be one? Main character Leo and his wife quickly discover that it’s a brutal path, the communist society being another player in this detective story. The story itself is fiction, but every insane government rule or fear mongering is bizarre enough to be believed by the rule of truth being stranger than fiction.

For those interested in the Soviet and okay with pretty visual violence imagery, definitely a recommendation.

Child 44,  Tom Rob Smith, Simon & Schuster 2008

Rash

Gramps, who was born in 1990, once told me that when he was my age the only way to wind up in prison in the USSA (back when it had only one S) was to steal something, kill somebody, or use illegal drugs.

So this is – at least partly – a YA version of Twenty-Thirty. Sadly the world building drops off for a hurried teen version of Prison Break mixed with a sport (football) story.

Main character Bo (short for Bono), is the odd one out. In a super safe, barely criminal, society, he’s the one with half of the family in jail and a grandfather that keeps bringing up illegal things. Bo has an anger problem and that puts him into trouble: an one way trip a correctional facility.

Life there is brutal and monotonous, but of course he manages to become part of an elite team pretty soon. And this team does illegal things: play something called football, without any protection. This looks like the right place for some Life Lessons, but Pete Hautman seems to be to enthralled by explaining several football maneuvers.

The second half and ending seems to be a bit rushed, which really breaks the initial fun down. Not bad, not very good either.

Rash, Pete Hautman, Simon & Schuster 2006