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

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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)

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,

The Good Place

26x 20 min.

Wat is dit voor leuke onzin? Het zag er leuk en helder gekleurd uit (á la Pushing Daisies, dat ik altijd als standaard voor ‘TV met felle kleuren’ zal gebruiken), en online was er enthousiasme voor, maar nog niet op de vervelende door-de-strot manier. The-Good-Place-poster

Blijkt het stiekem geen onzin. Maar toch ook wel, maar dat moet je zelf ontdekken. Kort gezegd: Eleanor is nogal een eikel, sterft en komt in The Good Place terecht. Hier komen activisten, professoren, zeer goede mensen terecht. En zij dus, en ze heeft vrij snel door dat ze er niet hoort. Maar ja, als je elke keer hoort dat de andere optie vliegende vier-koppige beren zijn ..

Eleanor probeert dus een beter mens te worden. De mensen om haar heen maken het er niet makkelijker op.

Het is een snelle, lichte serie met genoeg kneepjes waardoor het allemaal net wat scherper wordt. En het staat hier op Netflix, dus je kan er helemaal snel en soepel doorheen schieten.

The Good Place, NBC 2016

Homegoing

The night Effia Otcher was born into the musky heat of Fanteland, a fire raged through the woods just outside her father’s compound.

A much recommended book that didn’t disappoint one bit. How often does that happen (rhetorical question)?

I often appreciate a family epistle, using people to show history through the centuries. Sometimes their surroundings are more interesting, something the characters and their impact on later generations are the elements that make the story.

Homegoing does both. It starts in Ghana, with the time when white people were just a minor element, a mark in between tribal issues. It goes on into the twenty-first century. So that means kingdoms rising and falling, slavery, wars, segregation, the American civil war and civil rights movements, fear for lives solely because they’re being lived in dark(er) skins. And during all that, people. Likeable people, confusing people, people you worry for. There’s their family mythology, but Yaa Gyasi never makes you forget that these are (just) humans.

It’s ugly, how close to the skin it plays. Colorism, racism, the superiority feelings of white people. This is reality, and there’s no judging tone; the situations speak for themselves. Doesn’t mean this story is non-stop hard to read, just another gold star for in Gyasi’s book. All in all, add me to the voice of recommendations.

Homegoing, Yaa Gyasi, Alfred A. Knopf 2016

The Abyss Surrounds Us

Any other morning, I’d dive into Durga’s observation bay without hesitation, but this is the day before my life begins.

Scifi pirate lesbians with mutant turtles! In the ocean(s)! Honestly, if that’s not up your alley, I don’t know what else to say to sell you on this (again, short) story.

In a world where huge, mutated sea creatures defend all kind of ships, Cass Leung’s maiden voyage as a trainer of one, goes completely belly up. Yes, because of the previously mentioned pirates.

Emily Skrutskie creates a steampunk-ish, Guillermo del Toro-ish (I’m thinking Pacific Rim) world that’s honestly ripe for the taking by any television-bobo’s, it’s such a complete package. Entertaining, different, diverse characters, fun, action, romance, bam bam boom.

Is there going to be a sequel? Could well be. Is it necessary? Not exactly, if you’re looking for a very quick read (again, just 200 pages in the e-reader), you’re more than fine with this one. After that, pay it forward into the direction of the Hollywood hotshots you know.

The Abyss Surrounds Us, Emily Skrutskie, Flux 2016