The Orenda

We had magic before the crows came.

My first (consciously experienced) Canadian author, very probably the first story I read about the First Nations People. Now that I’m in Canada I feel kind of obliged to know more about the history of the country, and what better way than to discover it through (fictional) stories?

The Orenda tells about ‘New France’ and its influence on the native people of the country in the seventeenth century. Also known as colonialism, European diseases wiping out populations and destroying land and communities. We view this happening through three story tellers: Snow Falls, a daughter from an enemy tribe, taken. Bird, an important man in his community and the one that adopts her to fill the place that the deaths of wife and children left. And Christophe, the Jesuit priest that so very desperately wants “those sauvages” to come to the light that’s God.

It’s not an easy story to read, and not just because as the reader you know only how much more destruction will follow. Boyden starts out very strong and appealing, but seems to get lost near the middle of the book. Situations start to feel repetitive, and, even though I understand that we have to learn about the scary fundamentalism of the white saviour, Christophe’s chapters start to drag like he’s lost in a desert.

The Orenda is loosely a part of a trilogy, and I have already been told that the other two are (much, much) better. In this case, there’s still enough interest to give an author another chance. And maybe The Orenda can be edited in the meantime.

 

The Orenda, Joseph Boyden, Penguin Groups 2013

Jane the Virgin

40 min/22 episodes

Know how some people like to use the argument “you just have to suspend disbelief” when recommending stuff? For Jane the Virgin I’m going to give it a twist: “please remember it’s based on and inspired by telenovelas”.

"Pilot"
The CW Network, LLC. All rights reserved

Because seriously: virgin gets accidentally inseminated and pregnant. With the sperm of her boss, while staying abstinent until marriage with her boyfriend. For me, with my ideas about sex and sexuality, it took me a long time to get myself to try it (because “it’s so much fun”, “so sweet!”, “so cute!”). Why not get an abortion, sue the gynecologist and carry on with your well planned life?

Well, and with gold stars for the writers, all that is explained. And even though you may not agree with it, by then you’re sucked in by the sweet, cute fun.

That doesn’t mean that the telenovela (Latin American soap operas, P.S.) part sometimes is too loud and bright. But it’s so nicely balanced out by family love, friendship and adorably (awkward) silliness. It’s cotton candy, but with a heart.

Jane the Virgin, The CW 2014

The Little Paris Bookshop

How on earth could I have let them talk me into it?

Now this is a book that deserves my time, that very probably already landed a spot on my end of the year book list. A book like a four course meal, every dish not just bright and good looking, but a new experience in taste. This is Eat, Pray, Love in one country, Chocolat  for book lovers, an encyclopedia for emotions for those that can’t recognise them.

This might be the first male mid life crisis I have rolled absolute no eye over. Nary a blink. Because what else to call it, the discovery of a gross mistake leading him to throwing away twenty years of his life?

Luckily,  Nina George looks out for the lost Jean. Both travel, country and people help him, without it ever feeling too convenient, too easy or not human enough.

I’m glad I read this.

The Little Paris Bookshop, Nina George, Crown Publishers 2015

Waitress

108 min. 

A delicious little story about light at the end of the tunnel.

waitress_movie_poster
So many pies

The waitress from the title, Jenna, is stuck in a job and a husband. Her only reliefs are her colleagues/friends and her pies. Her pies may be her way out of this miserable life, but then a pregnancy blows up that option. Luckily there’s a love interest in the shape of her gynecologist, a grumpy old man that wishes her the best and her never stopping, pie creating mind.

The pies are shown beautifully, so better not start this movie hungry. There are definitely some things to frown upon, but as a (short) lesson about never giving up, recognising your self-worth and that friendship trumps romantic relationships, Waitress is tooth-achingly sweet for a lazy film watch.

Waitress, Fox Searchlight Pictures 2007

Beauty Queens

The book begins with a plane crash.

Sometimes it’s very on the nose (for someone who calls herself an intersectional feminist), but I’m very pleased that Libba Bray unapologetically laces this story with lessons about racism, sexism and feminism. I was looking for another book by Bray, but any will do if you want to discover the style of an author.

Beauty Queens on their way to a pageant end up in a plane crash. While they slowly discover that they’re worth more than their looks, the sponsor and producer interject commercials and hostile take overs to make sure the reader still remembers her place.

It’s a parody, a complaint, an educational pamphlet and a book stuffed to the brim with girl power. Just when it gets a bit too much, it adds heart. A smart read for both girls and boys.

Beauty Queens, Libba Bray, Scholastic 2012

Scrotal Recall

24 min. 6 episodes

Isn’t that a fun title to recommend to friends? Originally a Channel 4 show, but now to be found on (Canadian) Netflix as well, Scrotal Recall is a perfect little weekend show with plenty of ‘awwww’ moments.

scrotal-recall-poster-channel-4Well it doesn’t really start out very romantic. Main character discovers he has chlamydia and is told to inform previous sexual contacts. Good luck. At least he has a list of the women he slept with, and per episode we view the meeting, and the confrontation. But in the background there’s best friend Evie and ..well, things keep happening while both of them are off making plans.

It’s how rom-com’s should be, down to the awkward endings and weird side characters. Heck, there’s even more diversity than in most Hollywood rom-com’s combined. So brownie points for these stumbling fools, and a nice night of soft entertainment.

Scrotal Recall, Channel 4 2014

We Never Asked For Wings

It wasn’t too late to turn back.

I fell for it, hook, line, and sinker. A new book? From the Express Collection (meaning you have to read it in one week so everybody gets a chance)? A New York Times bestselling author? This would put me on the book of my read-better-books resolution, wouldn’t it? What a rookie mistake.

We Never Asked For Wings isn’t a horrible, bad, ugly book, it’s simply closer to the Happy Family trope of any Harlequin book than literature with a capital L. Which is fine, but what I had not set out for. With a plot about an absent mother having to returning to her children because her Mexican parents leave, the threat of poverty and deportation ever present elements in their lives, I was ready for some lessons I’d never experience in my privileged world. Sure, there was mention of a “She Will Have To Chose” plot line, but love doesn’t necessarily pulls down the quality of a novel.

The easy shocks and the quick solutions, the dramatic turns that are neatly tied up in the next chapter, the annoying, two-dimensional characters, do. It felt like I was reading a beginner’s steps into telenovela writing. Entertaining but flat.

This just shows you can’t even trust librarians these days. Maybe I should have gone for The Marriage of Opposites after all.

We Never Asked For Wings, Vanessa Diffenbaugh, Ballantine Books 2015