Girls For Breakfast

I’m standing on top of the water tower behind my house, thinking about my death and the inevitable bronze statue the graduating class will erect in my memory.

The amount of times I thought “is this really how boys think?” while reading this YA novel was probably staggering.  Of course, this is fiction, from another time zone and – with the Korean background of the main character – laced with race-connected details. And yet. Really?

The reader follows Korean-American Nick Parker from eight to eighteen, more or less. He’s at his graduation day, hiding away and looking back on his desperate need for popularity, girls, friendships and fitting in.

Nick’s discovery at a certain age that he is a banana, that he may think himself as white but definitely isn’t viewed as such, keeps Girls For Breakfast from becoming another navel gazing coming of age story. He doesn’t just has to deal with growing up, he has the whole different race thing going on, without his consent.

Girls For Breakfast, David Yoo, Random House Children’s Books 2005

Edge of Tomorrow

113 min.

This movie can be used as an example in lessons on Marketing. Mainly, about how not to put something into the market. There were different titles, taglines that were exchanged with the title, trailers that wobbled on different genres and so on. Frankly, it’s a surprise that it didn’t even did really bad, although it’s probably not on the level of a Tom-Cruise-Film.

Edge of Tomorrow poster
Warner Bros.

It is a Tom-Cruise film, but for once he isn’t the super hero, at least not for starters. He pisses off the wrong person and is sent off to the front, to go fight aliens. Something goes spectacularly wrong (he doesn’t even has fighting experience) and he dies.

And starts the day again. Private Cage is caught in a time loop, forced to live through the same day again and again until he takes out the alien alpha. Emily Blunt’s character, Rita, is his mentor, an unapologetic killing machine, the strong yet silent character that’s usually only reserved for male actors. This film isn’t without flaws. Besides Rita there are only two other women with lines, for something inspired by a Japanese manga there weren’t a lot of not-white actors (and again, with little lines) and even though Tom Cruise plays the fool, he still ends up in the unlikely hero trope. But boy, is it exciting and a thrill. Lovely Saturday night entertainment.

Edge of Tomorrow, Warner Brothers 2014

Tanglewreck

At six forty-five one summer morning, a red London bus was crossing Waterloo Bridge.

The idea was lovely, but the execution could have been better. And I don’t think it was because Winterson tried to keep things age appropriate: ‘dumbed down’ isn’t the problem here.

So what is? Because taking too much/too little time literally, and almost having a Roald Dahlian feel to it sometimes, Tanglewreck definitely isn’t bad.

The characters just aren’t that good. They’re very child book like, not very multi-dimensional. Even when a Good Guy is revealed, there’s nothing more than an “Oh, okay” feel to it, because there’s simply not much excitement when it comes to the people of this story.

Anyway, the world building with time tornadoes, alchemists leeching time from people and mammoths in the Thames, is definitely amusing enough for a quick read. And the house gets a few bonus points, for being what it is. Everything could just possibly have been more than it was.

Tanglewreck, Jeanette Winterson, Bloosmbury 2006

The Cuckoo’s Calling

The buzz in the street was like the humming of flies.

I’m one of those readers that thinks that if you read one (good) detective, you have read all of them. Of course, it’s very hard to be (completely) original, but I think detectives definitely suffer from one set-in-stone trope. The detective is a (grumpy) loser who will have to work hard to prove that he is right, after all.

Robert Galbraith (although by now everyone probably knows him to be a cover for J.K. Rowling) manages to at the same timer push the trope to the background and upholster it in a shiny new outfit. The author creates so many characters, so many (landscape) views, so many backgrounds, that it;s easy to forget about the detective case.

It was suicide, everyone thinks so. Except the brother of the famous model, and he wants Cormoran Strike to prove it. Likely and unlikely suspects, witnesses and friends pass through while Strike ties the ends together.

The Cuckoo’s Calling is a thrilling, whirlwind, exciting novel you want to race through.

The Cuckoo’s Calling, Robert Galbraith, Sphere 2013

Wool

The children were playing while Holston climbed to his death; he could hear them squealing as only happy children do.

Authorities deciding that they know what’s best for you down to every little detail, are terrifying. Living in a world where you can’t escape them because your world is one big silo, probably makes things even worse.

The sky outside is poison. The silo is a micro-climate, and thinking about going outside, changing the inside processes and authorities, are enough to get you sent outside, to clean. Because even though the world outside is a wasteland, authorities still want their lenses trained on it.

And when there are rules about what you can’t and can think about it, there is rebellion. But is there a better world out there, or will they have to do with what has been the entire world for decades?

Hugh Howey creates a stark world in a superb visual way. The characters are gritty, but never more or less than human (although the villain leans a little bit towards 2D). And even though it’s part of a series, it absolutely holds up on its own.

Wool, Hugh Howey, Century 2013

We Need New Names

We are on our way to Budapest: Bastard and Chipo and Godknows and Sbho and Stina and me.

Ik lees graag over Afrika en van Afrikaanse auteurs (dit is namelijk niet per sé hetzelfde). Het is niet alleen vaak een stijl van schrijven die ik niet kan vinden bij schrijvers uit de Westerse samenleving, maar zij passen er ook voor om te voldoen aan de (westerse) ideeën over Afrika en de landen, stammen en individuën die daar leven. Helaas bood We Need New Names niet helemaal wat ik wilde.

Er is genoeg potentieel. Er wordt een wereld geschept die tussen revoluties en nieuw en oud zit, hoe armoede maar geaccepteerd wordt en de enige opties voor een betere wereld Het Amerika is. De auteur sprenkelt details over het verhaal van het hoofdpersoon en brengt het land tot leven.

De tegenhanger hiervan is helaas warrigheid. Er wordt met tijd gejongleerd, er mist een urgentie, alsof alles onder het oppervlak blijft borrelen zonder door te breken. Ja, dit is Coming to America met een spin over hoe immigranten zich nooit ergens thuis zullen voelen, maar wanneer valt de klap nu?

Zo blijft de lezer verward en enigzins comfortabel achter. We weten hoe het niet moet, maar opluchting noch oplossing lijken in de buurt.

We Need New Names, NoViolet Bulawayo, Chatto & Windus 2013