11.22.63

I have never been what you’d call a crying man.

Stephen King is one of those authors I’d like to read more from, but somehow never end up doing so. But with 11.22.63 came time travel, and if there’s something I’m fond of ..

Jake Epping is the time traveler who can move back to 1958 by stepping into ..something in the back of a diner. Whenever he goes back to 2011 the past overwrites and he can start over again, but he’s not traveling for that. He wants to prevent president Kennedy from being killed. Because that doesn’t happen for another five years, he has to fit in. Become a person of the sixties and lay low, because the past doesn’t want to be changed.

Jake (George, in the past) fits in, maybe a bit too well. He gets a job, he gets friends and falls in love. More and more he gets entangled in this version of the world, while at the same time he wants to keep his distance. He’s here for something very important after all and doesn’t want to spend another five years doing it again if he fails. Because of that there’s this underlying tension throughout a large part of the book that itches underneath your skin. I liked that, because you know there’s something building up and either way how it ends, a lot will change. It also makes you take the story with you even after you closed the book.

I wish that the book was like the story, so that every time I’d start again there’d be a slightly different story. I need to get another chance for a different ending. I finished this book four days ago but it’s still moving through my head. And I like that.

11.22.63, Stephen King Hodder & Stoughton 2011

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The Dark Glamour

“Thanks.”

This could have been more. Now it was just detail-riddled (this outfit and these shoes and this new bag and such a pretty home) chicklit with some magic.

Jane Boyle has to lay low to escape her crazy witch mother in law, discover where her husband (who sort of tried to kill her) went and in the mean time discover the secret of her supposed to be dead sister in law. Besides all this she is a powerful witch -which she only recently discovered- and has to get used to her powers.

Gabriella Pierce writes in an amusing way and her details about the rich side of New York could easily feature in a Gossip Girl story. It’s just the navel-staring of Jane that takes the speed out of the story, making every plot point curl up until it’s related to her. I would have liked it better if there would have been more about how the magic worked, how the old magic families worked and arrived in New York.

I’ll put this in the category of ‘Early Summer Read’.

The Dark Glamour – A 666 Park Avenue Novel, Gabriella Pierce, Morrow 2011

The Boy In The Striped Pajamas

One afternoon, when Bruno came home from school, he was surprised to find Maria, the family’s maid – who always kept her head bowed and never looked up from the carpet – standing in his bedroom, pulling all his belongings out of the wardrobe and packing them in four large crates, even the things he’d hidden at the back that belonged to him and were nobody else’s business.

What a bloated, sentimental story. I had heard of the book, side-stepped the film to not be spoiled on the plot (even though that wasn’t so hard to figure out) and was ready to finally read it. It’s not so much that I’m full stop against any blown up emotions to make the reader have a good cry, I like a good cry. It’s just that the blown up emotions and underlined “hints” about how bad all of this was, were there all the time. Which -to me- reeked a bit of mistrust in your reader. We get it, mister Boyne. Really. 

Bruno is a spoiled young boy. His family moves to Auschwitz and after weeks of being bored, he sees someone on the other side of the fence. Bruno doesn’t understand why the fence is there, why the boy is so skinny and why everyone wears striped pajamas, but they strike up something similar to a relationship. Until Things Go Wrong, of course.

Even though Bruno is only nine years old, his naivety irked me. There wasn’t a moment I felt sympathy for him.  His impossibility to not remember the name Auschwitz correctly (Out With) seems like a cheap ploy to keep the readers longer in the dark. Pretty sure that most people will recognize the ‘people in German camps’ situation here. Bruno isn’t the only annoying character, most of the others don’t even get the freedom of being more than two-dimensional. 

I was relieved that I could close this book, because it was so clunky and trying hard to tear-jerk. Some times it’s better to keep waiting for a book, that much is clear.

The Boy In The Striped Pajamas, John Boyne, David Fickling Books 2006

Het geheugenpaleis

Andere overlevenden waren er niet.

Ik denk nog steeds aan ingelegde knoflook, al betwijfel ik of het in Nederland verkrijgbaar is. En er was ook iets met Robert de Niro en zijn vrouw in een oneerbiedige positie. Beiden zijn creaties uit Joshua’s Foer’s geheugenpaleis.

Foer twijfelt of we de ‘kunst van het onthouden’ langzaam vergeten. We hebben tenslotte non-stop toegang tot materiaal wat voor ons onthoudt. Nieuwsgierigheid over het geheugen, waarom we sommige dingen wel en andere dingen nooit kunnen onthouden en hoe dat te veranderen leidt hem naar een jaar van trainen voor geheugenkampioenschappen. Mensen die bij elkaar komen om te laten zien dat ze complete kaartspellen in enkele seconden uit hun hoofd kunnen leren, of willekeurige getallenreeksen.

De wereld van geheugenkampioenschappen en de mensen die er aan meedoen, zijn bijzonder. Zij zorgen -tussen de feiten over de geschiedenis van de geheugenkunst – voor de komische noot. Foer gaat sowieso geen moment het licht absurde van zijn queeste uit de weg, waardoor de soms aanwezige herhaling snel vergeten is.

Dit is geen roman. Soms wordt het een klein beetje te gimmicky door elke denkoefening en zijn vreemde details, maar de vrolijke verbazing die Foer over deze wereld en wat zijn geheugen kan, komt duidelijk over. En natuurlijk wil je nu weten wat Robert de Niro in een vreemd standje doet.

Het geheugenpaleis: De vergeten kunst van onthouden, Joshua Foer, De Bezige Bij 2011

Paper Towns

The way I see it, every person gets a miracle.

Another YA novel that doesn’t need fantasy elements to stay upright or trigger any emotions (usually frustration). Basically a YA novel from before the time that Young Adult was synonymous to covers with mopey witch teens and love-triangles involving vampires and/or mermaids.

Paper Towns is about plain teenagers who suffer from unrequited love, feel lost and directionless and try hard because they feel like they have to, instead of because they want to. Protagonist Quentin is an inbetweener – not a loser, nor a winner. Some friends, but not a lot. Not exactly sure what he wants in life and rather floats than battles currents. Margo Roth Spiegelman is everything that he isn’t, adventurous and popular. She’s also his neighbour,  possibly love of his life and after one shared night full of adventure, she disappears.

At first Quentin tries to continue with his life, she’ll come back and he’s just a neighbour to her anyway. But then he starts finding hints and something takes him. He has to find Margo. What follows is an endearing trip through known and unknown surroundings. Quentin discovers that everyone has a different version and he becomes less sure if he wants to find Margo’s version of Margo.

Especially that – the who are we when we’re alone, who are we surrounded by others –  lifted this book from road trip to coming of age, getting to see the familiar from strange angles and handling disappointment. The people in these books are real humans, and that’s refreshing and frustrating at the same time.

Paper Towns, John Green, Penguin Group 2008

Temeraire

Het dek van het Franse schip was glibberig van het bloed en deinde op en neer in de woelige zee.

Eigenlijk wil ik dit boek nogmaals lezen, in de oorspronkelijke taal. Want deze vertaling bezorgt Temeraire strafpunten. Jammer, want Novik komt met leuke ideeën die eens niet het Onwaarschijnlijke Held lijntje volgen.

Die leuke ideeën bevatten onder meer een wereld waarin draken bestaan (ten tijde van Napoleon) en ze waarin ze worden ingezet voor het leger. De drakenrijdersamenleving is heel anders dan de marine-achtergrond waar de hoofdpersoon vandaan komt, alleen al door de gelijkheid tussen de seksen. Zonder de aanwezige vrouwen in kenaus te veranderen, iets dat bij ‘sterke vrouwen’ in fantasy nogal eens mis gaat. De omschrijvingen van de draken zijn zo gedetailleerd dat je uitkijkt naar een encyclopedie er over. De hoofdpersoon doorgaat een geloofwaardige verandering, allemaal prima.

De taal is zo bombastisch en plakkerig af en toe dat ik mij afvroeg of iemand van de Candlelight reeks het had vertaald. Dat er eenmaal ogen glimmen met verzwegen emoties, vooruit. Maar dat het om de zoveel hoofdstukken tegenkomt ..dat leidt gewoon af.

Zoek Temeraire dus wel op, maar in het Engels.

Temeraire, Naomi Novik, Uitgeverij M 2006