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Book challenge ’23: a blue cover

Not great at challenges or finishing them, but I got this book from the library and then discovered it could be used for a reading challenge so who knows let’s see.

I’m always slightly amused when I discover that I read something from an author already. It’s why I appreciate the ‘Also by’ lists in the front (not in the back!) of a book. Turns out that before Weather by Jenny Offill, I read Dept. of Speculation. Can mostly remember the cover and title though, so let’s not yet say that she leaves a big impression.

There was a gap between reviewed summaries and the one on the back of the book, and the paragraph-ish style of writing took a bit getting used to as well. It makes for a quick read though – all that white. That also makes it a bit more of a challenge to get invested – it’s a stream of consciousness, commentary about society and sometimes suddenly being a semi-active part of society. What do I have to take from this? Or do I even have to take anything from this?

The Incendiaries

They’d have gathered on a rooftop in Noxhurst to watch the explosion.

The Incendiaries, R.O. Kwon, Riverhead Books 2018

Well, I know the only way isn’t necessarily up, but I hope the only way after this is up. You’d think that a story about how a woman becomes part of a cult because she feels guilt about her mother’s death would be very interesting. That it’d be the center-point of a story.

Not here. Here there’s weird almost purple prose and loads of lethargy that will make you want to give up as well. My advice: don’t even start.

The Year 2022

Maybe I should be at peace with the fact that if you read so much as I do, it’s not that strange to have less than ten absolute gems to recommend.

It’s not like everything I read was absolutely terrible: it’s just that I want to recommend books I 100% support. So let’s go:

Crying in H Mart , Bolla, Shuggie Bain, Infinite Country, Moederstad and everything read written by Brandon Sanderson – starting with The Way of Kings (epic fantasy while staying readable and a quick entertaining fix the entire time). I don’t know what it says about me that while slowing down on reviewing I seemingly also read fewer things I wanted to review. Hm.

Film, then?

I picked up a cinemember-membership that really improved my film watch-ratings; but I didn’t put them online (oh no!). So, what did I watch in 2022 what’s worth your time – in my opinion?

Hytti nro 6, Nine Days, The Death of Stalin, Sorry We Missed You, Tampopo, Cidade de Deus. Also liked The Menu, but it’s more superficial than the others.

Dandelion

My father’s older sister Auntie Choo Neo placed chicken satay sticks on the backyard barbecue.

Dandelion, Jamie Chai Yun Liew, Arsenal Pulp Press 2022

If you’re still looking for children-of-immigrant stories. This time, the mother disappears and stays gone. It makes for an incredibly frustrating story; can’t the suffering be put on pause for a bit? – but it never takes over Lily’s story.

Dandelion shows all the small ways of feeling alien and does it well.

A Marvelous Light

Reginald Gatling’s doom found him beneath an oak tree, on the last Sunday of a fast-fading summer.

A Marvelous Light, Freya Marske, MacMillan 2021

September hasn’t been for reading. The only reason why I finished this was because I had already rejected another novel (Ninefox Gambit – scifi, read like the transcript of a game walk-through video).

A Marvelous Light has potential with unknown magicians in society, some nice ideas about magic (connected to blood, to land, how it’s done) and decided to balance that out with a lot of visual to very visual sex scenes and a vocabulary that reads as a bad translating bot attacked it. It was such a slog. Even 90% in I couldn’t keep the two main characters apart, and only at one third some relationships with secondary characters are being clarified? Editor, where?

Anyway, good thing the month’s over now.

De verdeelde Nederlanden

Een hevige cultuurstrijd splijt Nederland in tweeën.

De verdeelde Nederlanden, Sjoerd Beugelsdijk, Balans 2021

(pfaaaaah)

Ik had al redelijk snel het vermoeden dat dit boek ‘t niet zou worden voor mij. Ook omdat de informatie mij al bekend was (globalisering, individualisering etc.), maar vooral omdat Beugelsdijk geen centimeter buigt. Het kan zijn dat ik iets lees waar niets is, maar op mij kwam het allemaal erg over als “niet zeiken, lief spelen en bij de grootste groep aansluiten, hup!”. In een boek dat De Verdeelde Nederlanden heet..?

Mensen zijn makkelijk manipuleerbaar en politici en media zijn schuldig. Hier komt het echter over als de natuurlijke staat van dingen in plaats van gebrek aan kennis en inlevingsvermogen.

The Way of Kings

Kalak rounded a rocky stone ridge and stumbled to a stop before the body of a dying thunderclast.

The Way of Kings, Brandon Sanderson, Tor 2010

YESSS, finally some good fucking epic fantasy!

This one has been on my Holds list forever, which might see something about how popular it is or how few copies the library has. That’s always a risk because what if the story/positive review lost their appeal or have been completely forgotten?

With 1200 digital pages The Way of Kings was a risky investment, but it paid off beautifully. World-building, politics, magic and nary a sex scene. It never gets dense and the details keep the regular plots (apocalypse looming, political corruption) fresh.

This is a book you keep the TV off for, and stay up past your bed time.

The Dictionary of Lost Words

Before the lost word, there was another.

The Dictionary of Lost Words, Pip Williams, Affirm Press 2020

Why, why would you write this in first person?

After having finished this book, I know why. To make sure that we not only get a limited view of an interesting time, but also to make sure all the added drama really strikes home. I’d say.

I thought this story about how women were allowed to add less to the creation of the Oxford Dictionary than men would have been interesting on the subject of language, gender, and history. Instead I got a soap opera lead by a Mary Sue.

Frustrating.

We Are Totally Normal

The music in the car was so loud that my teeth vibrated.

We Are Totally Normal, Naomi Kanakia, Harper Collins 2020

God, I hope not. I picked this YA novel because it was on a queer reading list; I did not expect this showcase of casual alcoholism in teens with absent parents and severe cases of word-vomit (and also regular ones).

Main dude Nandan (I assume he’s a teen?) is lost in life and in the societal hierarchy of things, while pondering if he’s confused about his sexual identity or just wants to use it to become popular (yes).

Maybe it’s a clear sign that I’m too old but I really hope that teenagers going from hangover to hangover, performing oral sex at a first meetup and walking home alone at night is a normal thing. Nandan may be confused about what he wants (until he very suddenly isn’t anymore), he manages to showcase that in an entirely unappealing way.

This is what I get for trusting library recommendations?

Mannen, ik haat ze

Op een dag schreef ik op mijn blog dat ik de apathie en het algemene gebrek aan interesse van mannen voor de vrouwenzaak moe was.

Mannen, ik haat ze, Pauline Harmange, atlas contract 2021

Kort maar krachtig. Pauline Harmange stipt aan dat mannen vrouwen geen enkele reden geven om ze niet te wantrouwen en te haten en dat is een fijn inzicht. Excuses om mannen te haten zijn dan ook niet nodig want de complete samenleving is er een verzameling van. Bondig essay, lekker duidelijk, ik ga zo door.