The woman in Cabin 10

The first inkling that something was wrong was waking in darkness to find the cat pawing at my face.

The narrator being unreliable (or do I only think she’s unreliable?) definitely set my teeth on edge, almost as much as the paranoia slowly building.

Main character and narrator Laura (Lo) has to experience a luxurious cruise for work. If only the tight spaces didn’t remind her so much of the very recent home burglary she experienced.

Instead of work, the luxuries and familiar faces present to distract her, Laura is sure that one night she witnesses a murder. Her frazzled state never ceases, only grows, because there was no woman in that cabin, and is it true that she’s been recently traumatised?

The roll up and conclusion aren’t completely satisfying, but the way towards it is creepy enough for a few hours thrilling entertainment.

The woman in Cabin 10, Ruth Ware, Harvill Secker 2016

Divines

107 min.

Flikken de Fransen het weer. Verdorie, wat een film. Na Black en Girlhood een film vanuit de banlieus, de lelijkste plekken van Frankrijk met (pijnlijk) bewijs dat de mensen die daar wonen, heen gestuurd zijn, gedumpt zijn, niet minder menselijk zijn dan de Franse clichés die rond de Eiffeltoren flaneren.

divines easy tigerDeze keer weer een vrouwenvriendschap, met romance ver op de achtergrond. Zij houden vooral van elkaar. Dat het geld waardoor ze extra lol hebben van drugs en diefstal komt – liever niet over nadenken.

Dat het niet mooi afloopt (die Fransen toch) hoef ik niet aan te stippen, in deze film gaat het over de eindeloze liefde tussen twee vriendinnen, hoe cliché ideeën over mannelijk en vrouwelijkheid (de vrouw is de dealer, de man danst, de vrouwen zijn agressief, de mannen volgen) ondersteboven gezet worden zonder het onder je neus te wrijven. Het gaat om de eindeloze, uitzichtloze hopeloosheid van groeien naar alles waar je beticht van wordt. Zijn het beesten, of zijn het hun omstandigheden? En kan dat wel veranderen zonder dat het barst?

Divines, Easy Tiger 2016

Everfair

Lisette Toutournier sighed.

Well, it could make an amazing looking TV-show. The world building is there, it’s bright and diverse (both in surroundings as represented race and sexuality). It’s just the plot that ..not really isn’t.

Everfair is the name of the reclaimed, bought Congo and later parts of surrounding countries. With steampunk elements and money from societies and countries world wide, Africans, Europeans, Americans and Asians build up a country without colonial rule. Cool, original, awesome idea.

And that’s about it. The author seems to be in a hurry to showcase the rise and fall of this young country, hopping ahead in time like she was told not to use too much pages on character development. The story only gets sadder because of this as well, pulling the reader out of the freshly created fantasy.

I’m very fond of stand alone books, definitely in the fantasy series, but maybe Everfair could have done better with being a two-parter.

Everfair, Nisi Shawl, Tor 2016

The Unseen World

“Hello,” it said.

It took a while, but this story comes with a punch. It’s about the family you choose and build, the place in society you can create and can be created for you. It’s about a love for education, knowledge and science, sometimes overruling familial love. It’s also about tragedies. Yes, I know this might not sound like the most appealing story.

Adding to that, the characters are all flawed in different kind of ways. The father figure chooses work and science over traditional parenting (and family) life, the neighbour falls regularly short in her attempts to add normalcy, the daughter is a stubborn yet passive creature. It takes a while to root for those that are all so awkwardly flawed.

David – the father – is losing the control over his mind, and Ada – his daughter – is only twelve. With his mind deteriorating, so does the world he built around her, the story he created for himself. Ada has to adjust to puberty, traditional life and saying goodbye to the father she knew, in different ways.

Science may just be the only that is left standing.

 

The Unseen World, Liz Moore, Windmill Books 2016

Nevernight

People often shit themselves when they die.

Ah nice, just some ordinary, entertaining sword and dagger (and dagger, and dagger) fantasy. Is it a stand alone? I don’t think so. Can it be read as one? Definitely.

Preteen girl goes through a traumatic experience, uses it to get into Superb Killer’s School to become one and punish those that put her through it. Along the ride there’s a lot of high school tropes (cliques, hateful teachers, romances) with some fantasy ones (surely there’s never been one as good as her).

It’s fun and satisfying, with some nice (with some gruesome details) world building along the way. Did it blow my mind and will stay with me forever? No. Was there anything annoyingly wrong with it? Not that I can remember.

Nevernight, Jay Kristoff, Harper Collins 2016

Do Not Say We Have Nothing

In a single year, my father left us twice.

This was work. I don’t know how I managed to read two similarly build up novels (the other one being Disappearing Moon Cafe), but this one was the tougher of the two. Maybe because the comparison material was so recent. Both left me wondering how I’d like something contemporary written by an Asian actor.

Anyway, time moves every way but chronologically in Do Not Say We Have Nothing. Keep your head with you, because there’s a lot of characters going through a lot of things. The most brutal one, probably Mao’s ‘Cultural Revolution’ and the horrors of Tiananmen Square.

These aren’t light, bright stories. There seems to be no end to what a family can be put through, and the small, mythology-like side steps only make the difference starker. How did anyone come out alive?

It’s a novel to take in in small doses, to learn and see through another set of goggles.

Do Not Say We Have Nothing, Madeleine Thien, Granta 2016

Hidden Figures

127 min.
I think it was pretty clear when there were parts and lines added to make (small-minded) white people feel better, but (or maybe because of that, help?) I enjoyed Hidden Figures a lot. An uplifting movie with unlikely heroines that are smart, funny, well dressed and black.
hidden figures poster

‘Based on true life events’ seems to be a forewarning for sappy, Hallmark-like stories that are described as having heart while not really having or showing it. This story about the black, human computers of NASA could have been much more inspirational, much brighter and louder and beautiful and grating. Now it’s largely a show of how people can learn not to be sexist and racist because they’re confronted with smart black women. This happens in the 1960s, and it ends a bit too much with the unsaid message of how all that is very much in the past. While we know it isn’t, of course.

Didn’t I say this movie was uplifting? It is, kind of. The characters move from okay to better, the bad guys are only the confused guys, there’s pictures and blurbs at the end to show you the real life counterparts. There’s a cute soundtrack and as said before, the heroines are lovely. It could have simply been sharper, more vibrant, more honest.

Until we get that story, Hidden Figures is a cleaned up history lesson worth watching.

Hidden Figures, Levantine Films 2016