House of Names

I have been acquainted with the smell of death.

Like a Creative Writing exercise someone gave up on after a few hundred pages. Or fanfiction, but where’s the line between those two anyway?

Anyway. House of Names is about the characters in Agamennon’s story. His wife Clytemnestra, his daughters Electra and Iphigenia and son Orestes. The sacrifice of one of them leads to mayhem and disaster, and everyone but Iphigenia get to give their point of view on the aftermath of it.

And they do so, and it feels like the build up to regular fiction build on mythological and/or historical figures. But then it’s done. Turns out it’s a slice of life, a collection of character sheets, instead of the creation of a story.

Maybe I should have known seeing that it only had little over 100 pages (in my e-reader). You can pass this one in your search for historical fiction with familiar names.

House of Names, Colm Tóibín, Penguin Random House 2017

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Hot Milk

Today I dropped my laptop on the concrete floor of a bar built on the beach.

I honestly don’t know what to make of this, and I finished it two days ago. What’s the genre? How do I feel about it? Would I recommend it, and to whom? Well, at least it’s original (urgh, worst argument)!

Hot Milk is the story of Sofia and Rose. Sofia is the daughter taking care of her mother, who has strange symptoms no-one can diagnose in a successful way. Rose is the mother, the ball and chain of her adult daughter, suffering all kind of mental and physical aches. They end up in Spain for a specialist that might be their last chance.

Sounds pretty straight forward, but the story quickly goes of the rails in an almost fevered matter. The relationship between Rose and Sofia is far from healthy, but Sofia’s relationship with the world outside of Rose is unstable and confusing as well. Then there’s the specialist, whom seems to go for something between mad scientist and rich hermit. It feels a bit like an ugly, depraved version of magic realism, with the heat and discomfort sensible.

So …you could read it, if you don’t mind feeling annoyed and uncomfortable from time to time. It gets under the skin, I just can’t say if you’d like it there.

Hot Milk, Deborah Levy, Penguin Books 2016

The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There

Once upon a time a girl named September had a secret.

It was the first title I recognised in the endless collection that is Overdrive. It’s also the sequel to The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland In A Ship Of Her Own Making, because who needs short titles anyway (it’s not like Valente can’t do it, see Radiance).

Again, she offers a world brimming with colours, weirdness and smart little thoughts you wonder how you didn’t come up with them yourself. It’s fairy tales as they once were, yet with a Pratchettesque humor: don’t take the story teller, nor the experiences at face value.

Things went bad (again), and September is up to fixing it (again). She’s around after all. This time it’s in Fairyland (Below), making things a bit darker, including September. Small pieces of (ugly) reality meander through the adventures/quests/September’s wanderings.

Because even if you can survive the Forgotful Sea, you’re still someone’s child.

The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There, Catherynne M. Valente, Macmillan 2012

A Gentleman in Moscow

APPEARANCE OF COUNT ALEXANDER ILYICH ROSTOV BEFORE THE EMERGENCY COMMITTEE OF THE PEOPLE’S COMMISSARIAT FOR INTERNAL AFFAIRS

This was a book like a sofa. I feel like I’ve used this compliment before, which means that I have to go start looking for a new comparison. But spacious, comfortable and easy to stay put in.

Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov is a Former Person in the Soviet Union, which basically means that he’s part of all that was awful before the enlightened bolsheviks showed up. Because he wrote an amazing, wonderful, beautiful poem, they can’t just depart him. Instead, they tell him he can’t ever again leave the hotel he’s been staying  in (logical!).

And that’s where the book plays out, in a hotel. But luckily, not just any hotel. And the Count isn’t just any ordinary man. Time moves, people come and go, the Soviet changes, but the gentleman in Moscow is there.

I have yet to find a book involving Russia that doesn’t fascinate slash baffle me. This is one man’s story, this is a part of history. While being an appealing reason to sit down.

A Gentleman in Moscow, Amor Towles, Viking 2016

Wynonna Earp

13 x 40 min.

You want some small town western in your Buffy, with focus on more women than a Firefly? Here you go!

wynonna_earp_posterWynonna Earp needs a bit of an investment, largely because of the grumpy and not instantly love-able title character (hmm, how different would that be if she would have been a guy?). But if you can give her a break (she’s got a proper motivation, after all), you are welcomed into a diverse world full of nasties and a heroine that honestly, completely, excusez-le-mot, doesn’t give a fuck.

This creates a messy thrill, speeding along in such a way that plot bumps or disbeliefs don’t have room for growing. Go for the demon-vigilante with bisexual sidekick ride, yiha!

Wynonna Earp, SyFy 2016 (first season on Netflix)

Caterpillars Can’t Swim

“Go!”

So I discovered something new (NetGalley), and now I’m sure I’ll never want for something to read ever again. If the subscriptions to two international libraries and Overdrive weren’t going to take care of that, of course.

To the book. Young Adult with the main character having cerebral palsy, living in a very small town and saving another male teen that might not want to be saved. But still, pulling someone out of the water creates a connection.

Ryan feels responsible for Jack after that, even though Jack and Ryan’s best friend Cody try to stop making him feel so. Jack’s not the best, most social, fun loving guy around, while Cody is the pretty stereotypical jock.

What Liane Shaw does – and very nicely so – isn’t hurry either of them into a corner. Yes, someone’s disabled, but not his disability. Yes, someone’s gay, but not his sexuality. And yes, the jock can learn. All characters get room for development, and that doesn’t happen often enough.

It makes for a sweet, soft story, and a nice start of my Netgalley experience.

Caterpillars Can’t Swim, Liane Shaw, Second Story Press 2017

Every Heart a Doorway

The girls were never present for the entrance interviews.

I always feel so fancy when I’m offered books, even though it’s through a subscription and it’s me and a gazillion others. Hey, it’s still a free (e)book!

Every Heart a Doorway had been mentioned in the online reader circles I visit, viewing it as the Messiah of LGBQT-friendly YA versus ‘there was an attempt’. So basically, the usual range of opinions online.

All the characters in this tiny novel (little over 100 pages) once visited a fairy-ish world and are now back in the world as we know it. To deal with this, and to temper their hopes on ever return again, they’re at a school. Some come from gruesome worlds involving death and/or vampires, some lived in technicolour happy worlds.

Like being lost in your supposed home world isn’t enough to deal with, murders start to happen.

I’m on the ‘moh’ side of opinions. This novel feels like a set up for something bigger and possibly better. And LGBQT-friendly? One of the characters seems to be trans*, while an other calls herself asexual. It’s mentioned in passing, not as a main, defining point. Which is good, but I wouldn’t use it as its unique selling point. What is? I don’t really think it has one.

Every Heart a Doorway, Seanan McGuire,