The Readers of Broken Wheel recommend

The strange woman standing on Hope’s main street was so ordinary it was almost scandalous.

Cutely annoying, not annoyingly cute (which I think is weird to say as both a negative or positive critique, by the way). And I say this because the main character takes her time with growing a spine and taking her place in the world, and that her surroundings are one-dimensional small town cliches for a while. This book needs a bit of your patience.

But darn it if it doesn’t turn out to be adorably charming, with just the right amount of quirk to save you from having to roll your eyes.

A Swedish tourist visits a small American town and stays. She comes alive, the town comes alive around her. There’s plenty of love for books, and a belief that there’s a book for everyone. There’s romance, on different levels.

And just like that, the fish-out-of-water plot turns into love-for-life. Life lessons for everyone, cuteness all around, a novel like a biscuit with unexpected great tasting filling.

The Readers of Broken Wheel recommend, Katarina Bivald, Chatto & Windus 2015

Consider the fork

A wooden spoon – most trusty and lovable of kitchen implements – looks like the opposite of “technology,” as the word is normally understood.

Now this is my kind of non-fiction, and not just because of the subject. Clearly written with fun and love for the subject, it’s the kind of books that makes you share facts with a smile. Not a school book, but a book of knowledge.

Consider the fork is about your kitchen, kitchens in the past, kitchens in the future. It’s about ways to prepare food, about utensils, about how certain foods and materials have influenced our diets and diets around the world. It explains why the Japanese are satisfied with using only one knife, while the Western world prides itself on a case full of them. Why the wok was for the poor, and why fridges were looked at with suspicion. It’s a history book through the kitchen.

Bee Wilson adds anecdotes, but never makes the story about her. It’s excitement and facts thrown together, making it a very tasty stew (no, I couldn’t resist such a corny metaphor).

Consider the fork, Bee Wilson, Basic Books 2012

Dear White People

10 x 30 min.

Ik kreeg het niet voor elkaar om de film te kijken, maar gelukkig hielp Netflix (weer eens): nu is er ook een serie.

dear-white-people-netflixMet hetzelfde gegeven: zwarte studenten op overmatig witte campus die in mindere en meerdere mate tegen racisme ingaan. Hoofdpersoon is misschien wel Sam met radioshow Dear White People, maar – heel fijn – anderen krijgen elk ook een aflevering. Iets met ‘verschillende, nodige invalshoeken’ en zo.
Zo leer je waarom sommigen “zo min mogelijk zwart” willen zijn, of hoe het is om waarheid te ontkennen voor je eigen veiligheid.

En door het evenwicht van continu activisme en ‘ik wil gewoon leven, hoe dan ook’ wordt Dear White People geen eenzijdig pamflet. Hoeft ook niet; de ervaring van met de neus op de bittere feiten gedrukt worden gebeurt toch wel.

Dear White People, Netflix 2017

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

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

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

John Wick: Chapter 2

122 min.

Can you get any more violent? When you’re talking to John Wick versus John Wick: Chapter 2, the answer is yes. Maybe the question should be: can it be more bloody? Also, yes. When the first five full-on-screen exploding skulls and body parts might make one flinch, there’s so many of them it’s tempting to just go ‘Ah, you again’ after a while.
john-wick-chapter-2

Viewers were promised more of the world building regarding the criminal world (and hotels) through which John moves. The promise was full-filled, although scantily. This time we learn that this world is international, spending one third of the film in Rome (and under it). Again it’s beautiful surroundings, beautiful people and some worrying rules these people live by.

But mostly it’s violence. With weapons, without. On the roof, under ground (and in the underground), anywhere. But don’t worry about the dog this time, Wick does it utterly, completely by himself.

John Wick: Chapter 2, Thunder Road Productions 2017