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

Miss India America

95 min.

Sometimes the best love stories are the ones involving friendship and self esteem. Although you could just call this a cute coming-of-age story as well and don’t worry about in your face Life Lessons and soppy scenes.
miss india americaMain character Lily always wins, no matter what the battle is. She has her entire life planned out, but of course life – being what it is – doesn’t go with that. Her boyfriend breaks off with her, because of a pageant miss! One of those dumb, shallow creatures (it takes her some time to realise her misogynistic ideas)!
Of course this means that Lily is going to have to win a pageant to win her boyfriend back. Even though she knows it’s a superficial mess, pulls her best friend away from what she wants (to participate), and just doesn’t know yet that you can’t ‘win’ people.
Boyfriend is just the katalysator for things here anyway, and nary a man is found after the first few scenes. They’re all weaker than Lily and her friends and competition, whom are learning about their culture, their place in it and that there are lines you don’t cross to win.
That’s how we get Lily recognising that you can’t keep an iron clad grip on everything-/one, and that life is nicer with people around than medals.

Miss India America, Simhan and Kapoor 2015

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

Girls on Fire

See them in their golden hour, a flood of girls high on the ecstasy of the final bell, tumbling onto the city bus, all gawky limbs and Wonderbra cleavage, chewed nails picking at eruptive zits, lips nibbling and eyes scrunching in a doomed attempt not to cry.

I’m both angry at and feeling supportive towards this book. I didn’t like it.

Books like these – underlining how they realistically show what it is like to grow up as a girl, to have female relationships, always set my teeth on edge. Not just because it’s so easy to make it look like this is a world-wide experience versus a personal one, but also because it can easily turn into sexist material: “dumb, jealous, hormonal, pitiful creatures, these girls”.

It’s humanity and society that’s tackling these two main characters. Hannah and Lacey barely need anything or anyone else but each other for (self-)sabotage. A small American town as their stage doesn’t help either.

So there are too many recognisable things, too much hurt and frustration to come out of this story light and happy. Because gosh darn it, why didn’t we know then what we know now, and where did the fire go?

Girls on Fire, Robin Wasserman, Little Brown 2016

Radiance

Come forward.

First of all, I’m not very fond of the novels that show their story through a collection of notes, diaries, pamphlets, and so on. Add those as decoration, but it feels too fragmented to build a story from. Or that’s simply laziness from me.

Secondly, there’s more room for world building than plot. Yes, I know, me complaining about too much world building? On this blog? But with Radiance there is no balance between the two. Character names are thrown around while my mind’s still reeling from learning about Mars’ society, more time spent on the interior of a space ship than motivation of caring for the main characters. Who are even the main characters?

The main plot – at least I think it is – is about how a company tries to reconstruct the disappearance and or ending of one of their employees. This being a film company, and the employee being a director and daughter of a Well Known Director, makes things just a bit more glamorous.
Because that’s what Radiance is, glam. Shiny. A picture book set in words.

 

Radiance, Catherynne M. Valente, Corsair 2015

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