Talon

 Observe.

Is me dat even sappig allemaal. Negeer af en toe de iets te uitgebreide omschrijvingen van uiterlijk, gevoelens en interieurs en je hebt zowaar een vermakelijk, semi-origineel YA verhaal in handen.

Semi-origineel? Ja, want deze keer zijn het draken, in plaats van vampiers of heksen. Draken die zich in een mens kunnen veranderen en dus gewoon in de samenleving rond kunnen lopen. Zolang hun aartsvijand, de Orde van St. George, hen niet ontdekt.

Gelukkig is de hoofdrolspeler wel heel knap, is er een love triangle, een corrupte groep om tegen te vechten en (kortstondig) een verzameling pestkoppen. Genoeg YA elementen om niet off the beaten track te gaan.

Maar lekker. Bijna puur vermaak, amper een frustratie te vinden. Het is wel het eerste boek van een trilogie, maar herhaling lonkt al snel, dus misschien het gewoon hier bij houden.

Talon, Julie Kagawa Harlequin TEEN 2014

The Diviners

In a town house at a fashionable address on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, every lamp blazes.

Yay, finally! It feels like this book has been on my list for at least five years, but because it’s 2016 and the book was published in 2012, that’s not possible. Anyway, it felt like a long time. And now I finally read it.

First of all, for ‘YA’ it’s a big novel, over 500 pages. Secondly: there’s no love triangle. Adjust to that, and add Roaring Twenties, diverse characters with diverse motivations, and a scary edge that keeps it just teen friendly enough.

Something bad is happening, and it isn’t impeding economical doom. Luckily the main characters all have some kind of power, they just have to stay alive long enough to understand it and the reason for having it.

It’s the first book of a four book series, but luckily Bray doesn’t go for huge, annoying cliffhangers to invite you to hang on. The story itself manages to do that.

The Diviners, Libba Bray, Little, Brown and Company 2012

The Vicious Deep

I hear the first wave before I see it-

Teenage boys really think about their dicks a lot. Being related to the king of the mermaids isn’t that important, where did his dick go?

But okay, mermaids for once, instead of vampires or werewolves. And no matter how often the main character wishes he would have a more masculine problem (oh, male teenagers), there’s nothing girly or frilly about the world he ends up in.

Tristan has – I assume – plain male teenager problems, until he survives a freak wave, gets sick and starts dreaming of a scary mermaid.

Combine discovering a whole new side of himself and his family with a best friend/love interest and finishing high school, and neither the reader or Tristan get time to take a breather.

The Vicious Deep offers some nice world building and (strange) insight to the teenage boy’s mind. It’s the first book of a series, but can do fine without any sequels.

The Vicious Deep, Zoraida Córdova, Sourcebooks 2012

Undermajordomo Minor

Lucien Minor’s mother had not wept, had not come close to weeping at their parting.

Uh, well, erm, what kind of book was this? Pretty early into it I already tweeted “This book is going to be awesome-weird or how-what-why-frustration-fueled-weird” and it landed largely on the side of the last option.

The blurbs call it darkly comedic, a fairy tale, a commentary. I only recognised the fairy tale part. There’s an unlikely hero (soft on the hero part), a strange village with a stranger castle with even stranger people inhabiting it. Mysteries happen as well, but somehow, along the way, the author seemingly decided to start unveiling them.

This turns things from a-bit-out-there to too neatly wrapped up, and with an unsatisfying end to boot. I don’t know why it was on my To Read list, but I’m not going to pass it on.

Undermajordomo Minor, Patrick DeWitt, Anansi 2015

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

 

The Gilda Stories

The Girl slept restlessly, feeling the prickly straw as if it were teasing pinches from her mother.

I wish I liked this book more. It’s original vampire fantasy, mixed with history from a black woman’s point of view.

The Girl is turned in the fifties of the nineteenth century, and the reader follows her into the fifties of the twenty-first century, adding some science fiction with a dire outlook as well.

I just didn’t care. Some of the secondary characters bring excitement to the chapters, but never stay long enough. Maybe it’s the writing, which feels flat and colourless to me, maybe it’s the main character’s aloofness that prevents me from connecting. It’s only 252 pages yet it took me weeks to get through it. The historical point of view interested me more than all of Gilda’s stories.

It could definitely work as a (mini-)series, I think. I’d give it a second chance on a screen.

The Gilda Stories, Jewelle Gomez, Firebrand Books 1991

Ruby Sparks

104 min.

For a long time I had absolutely no urge to watch this movie, even felt mildly offended about it. Writer creates a Manic Pixie Dream Girl that is all about him, she comes to life and he’s just so so in love with her. Blurgh, like we need more stories about how men can’t handle/view a woman as an independent person.

ruby sparks posterBut then. Then it showed up on lists of “Underappreciated Films” and people admitted to being pleasantly surprised and getting more than expected. And after Everything Before Us I maybe felt a little bit like an unconventional romance.

Well, that was just part of the movie. Even though writer Calvin promises to not write anything regarding to her as soon as she pops up in his life, it’s clear that this relationship isn’t equal. And instead of learning from that, and allowing her to develop, the ugly relational elements of control and paranoia pop up. There’s even hints of a thriller in this movie, suddenly.

Still, it feels like Ruby Sparks doesn’t want to rock the boat too much with questions about consent and control, ending on a bit of a lukewarm note. Did Calvin learn? We’re not completely sure.

Ruby Sparks, Fox Searchlight Pictures 2012