Remarkable Creatures

Lightning has struck me all my life.

I don’t particularly feel like going to hunt fossils right now, but I am curious about the small village of Lyme Regis. Tracy Chevalier has a style in this novel that makes you forget you’re reading digital. The pages take on structures, the story adds a physical sensation, like the book shelters touchable details.

Main characters are spinster Elisabeth, wild and poor child Mary, and the beaches, fossils and water of Lyme Regis. In this short story (under 300 pages, which seems to be a common denominator in last books read), the reader goes along for the fossil hunt and discovering skeletons from creatures previously unknown. This is early nineteenth century England, crocodiles are the height of exotic creatures.

It’s a novel for the senses, filled with a variety of female characters. It’s lovely.

Remarkable Creatures, Tracy Chevalier, Penguin Books 2010

The Imperfectionists

Lloyd shoves off the bedcovers and hurries to the front door in white underwear and black socks.

Oh boy, a novel involving journalists, editors and media. At least the title vouches for a neutral, not-myth-making point of view?

It definitely does. There (still) seems to be such a charm attached to the media making branch, while at the same time having entire populations look down on it. The Imperfectionists need neither, cocking up and showing human weaknesses all too often themselves.

The story is about the going-ons of an English-language newspaper in Rome. Editors, correspondents, even a loyal reader — all get a chance to share their point of view.  Over fifty years there’s not only the societal changes, but also ones in the branch that show that decades of years at the same company isn’t a good idea for many people.
It makes things (all too) recognisable, funny, sad, and the reader possibly left with a craving for a visit to Italy.

It’s a light, quick read that might make you think differently about media and journalists, but definitely will make you feel less like a stubborn fool. There’s this crowd, after all.

The Imperfectionists, Tom Rachman, The Dial Press 2010

Guardian of the Dead

I opened my eyes.

Between okay and “why did I put this on my list” non-fiction, I previously had the wonderful Fates and Furies to lift my reading experience up. Now I can add Guardian of the Dead as a delightful breath of fresh air (nothing bad about non-fiction meant, it just has to work harder to blow me away).

This book (a debut novel) did. This isn’t just another YA novel. The usual suspects of love triangle, unknowingly perfect hero(ine) and lack of any friendships/relationships are almost non-existent (the author has a good excuse for the last one). But probably the most exciting thing was the use of Māori mythology. And not in an ‘ Oh, Ah, how exotic and strange’ way, but very much as a part of daily, contemporary life. It shows that there’s more to mythology than another version of Zeus messing up things.

Not that messing up doesn’t happen. Main character Ellie walks into a bite-more-than-you-can-chew situation that might turn into the end of New Zealand as we know it. Throw in frustrations about family, school, and body, add a crush (there is a slightly mysterious love interest), some female friendships and enemies,  some unexpected magic and you get a maelstrom of entertainment.

Read it, love it hopefully as much as I do.

Guardian of the Dead, Karen Healey, Hachette Book Company 2010

 

Discord’s Apple

Finally, after driving all night, Evie arrived.

Ah, wonderful, beautiful, (contemporary) fantasy as it should be. From the To Read list, and worthy of its spot.

Evie’s father is ill, terminally. This means she has to prepare for inheriting knowledge and subjects she never knew about, and which have a lot of pull on the less-than-human creatures in this world. But what and why and can her father please just cooperate instead of ignore everything?

Coming apocalypse(s), mythology and comic books are mixed into a story that’s coloured half in gray tones, half in the most vibrant colours in existence. It’s attractive and enticing, with a woman you easily root for at its centre.

Discord’s Apple, Carrie Vaughn, Tor 2010

 

Luther

57 min. 16 afleveringen

Luther is Idris Elba, maar om het weg te zetten als niet meer dan een stervehikel zou een belediging voor de show en een gemis voor de kijker zijn.Heeft de eerder genoemde Paul Rudd misschien alle charme, Idris Elba is een magneet in wat hij ook doet, hoe lelijk of aggressief ook.

Luther_TV_Series_BBCWant, zoals vele hoofdpersonen-van-politieseries voor hem, detective John Luther is geen lieverdje. geen gezellig type, op trouwe collega Ripley na geen mensenman. Dat komt deels vast door de zaken die hij moet oplossen, gruwelijke situaties waardoor je bijna Londen niet meer in zou durven.

Wat Luther geen zaak-van-de-week serie maakt, zijn Elba en zijn collega’s. In welke plotlijn ook, of ze nu voor of tegen hem zijn, de serie is een bastion van acteerwerk.Voeg daar het karakter van zeer vreemde vogel Alice Morgan aan toe en de show is meer karakterstudie dan politie-en-verlos.

Ondanks de kleine hoeveelheid afleveringen raad ik ‘binge watching‘ toch af. Je wilt je nog wel af en toe ergens veilig voelen.

Luther, BBC 2010

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

I was still bleeding… my hands shaking.

I’ve always been interested/amused by vampire stories, probably stemming from a large amount of Buffy episodes as a (pre-)teen. I have vampire standards though. I’m open to variations on their lore but stubborn about some of the “rules“.

I added this book to my To Read list because adding fiction to (past) reality can work out really well, why not learn more about Abraham Lincoln, and vampires. I’m not sure how Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter scored on any of these parts. I would have to do research to check facts versus fiction, and besides one creative turn, the vampires aren’t all that.

That’s the entire book though: not all that. It’s not awful, boring, lame, but it’s not fun, exciting or enticing either. It’s the kind of book you read when you want to read and this is the only one around. At least I can finally cross it off my To Read list.

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, Seth Grahame-Smith, Grand Central Publishing 2010

Skippy dies

Skippy and Ruprecht are having a doughnut-eating race when Skippy turns purple and falls off his chair.

You could say that this is the school/teenager version of Everything I Never Told You: someone dies, the reader learns about all the lives connected to and entwined with the death character.
But that would ignore a large number of differences, so let’s just keep the second part of the sentence. Skippy’s dying isn’t a large part of Skippy Dies, really.

The reader moves around Seabrook College, following some of the students and staff. Male teenagers of every age, with the familiar (male) teenage problems.
But there’s never just one dimension when there’s humans involved, and Paul Murray slowly peels away all the layers. Illnesses, abuse, shame, and is the reader supposed to change their judgment of character because of them or not? What does that say about our view of the world?
Of course there’s coolness, girls and futures to worry about as well. The characters are frustratingly human, rooting for them sometimes only possible because of how the story moves them.

I finished the book with a final sprint of the last 200 pages and am still a bit subdued. Skippy Dies isn’t a 600 page sob story about the decline of the (educational) world, but it definitely does remind you of all the sides of a person we never/barely see, yet shouldn’t forget about.

Skippy Dies, Paul Murray, Faber and Faber 2010