Years later, I am still appalled by “Yesterday”‘s untapped potential

Yesterday (2019 poster).png

I don’t watch many movies, which is a tad odd given that I work in the movie/tv industry, but that’s the truth. As such, there are very few movies that truly get me excited, and usually it takes a bunch of convincing (from myself and others) to get me to go to the theatre to watch a a new film.

Yesterday (Dir. by Danny Boyle, Universal Pictures, 2019) was a movie that since I saw the trailer I was eager to watch. The premise is wonderful: One day everyone forgets that the Beatles ever existed, except for a single person, Jack Malik (played by Himesh Patel), a struggling musician who takes advantage of the situation and decides to take credit for their music, becoming incredibly famous.

If you haven’t watched the movie, I recommend you do before you read this, because there will be SPOILERS.

As I said, I was so excited to watch Yesterday, both because I love the Beatles and because I have thoroughly enjoyed Danny Boyle’s movies in the past. And while watching it I remember kind of enjoying it.

But then, as the film progressed, I felt a certain surge of uneasiness rise within me. I first attributed this to what I have dubbed “The Film School Graduate Curse”, in which now movies are held to a higher standard for no other reason than you kind-of understand the way movies are made due to having gone to Film School. It is a petulant curse to have and I wish I didn’t have it, since I enjoyed movies waaay more before going to film school, but I can’t deny I have it and while it makes me uncomfortable to admit that I am a bit petulant when it comes to films, I have to admit I am. It’s a full disclosure kina thing.

Once the credits rolled though, and I examined the whole movie in my head, I realized it wasn’t my curse rising up.

The movie wasn’t good. The premise was underdeveloped. The story left a lot of questions open-ended just because they weren’t brave enough to pursue an answer to them. What the heck. Bear in mind this is a 2 year old movie and it still bothers me.

My two main issues with the movie are

  • The wasted potential of The Beatles never having existed and the impact of that in modern society and musical culture
  • The fact that the romantic comedy part of it took over the interesting premise and it vouches for certain unhealthy dynamics in romantic relationships.

First the wasted potential. Jeez, how infuriating this is.

So the Beatles never existed. In a hypothetical universe where this happens, what would the musical scene have looked like? What bands would have taken their place? Would Ed Sheeran even exist? (Because let’s remember he was for some reason a super important part of the plot) Not only that, but would Ed Sheeran’s songs even sound the same way they do? The movie makes no effort to try to find out, they just kept everything the exact same way, just sans Beatles. That makes no sense. What if Sheeran’s parents met or fell in love to a Beatles’ song? Maybe he would have never been born. This would have been a great chance to use actual celebrities like Sheeran as actors, but changing their demeanor, profession or style! There was also a focus on Oasis’ “Wonderwall”. Would that song have existed without the Beatles? Maybe not!

Let’s assume things would have been the same, like in the movie. Everyone would revere the music of The Kinks, maybe, or The Hollies, or maybe The Who would be even bigger than it is now. And that’s just assuming that the “British invasion” would have been as prominent without The Beatles. There was this weird thing in the movie where everybody treated Jack’s music, the stuff he stole from the Beatles, as if it was the best music ever written. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Beatles, but I think it simplifies things too much to say they were the best of the best of the best and everything they wrote was too good to ever be surpassed by anything else. No single musician has this quality, in my opinion, as much as we like an artist there will never be an objective “best of the best”, because music taste is super subjective. Plus after 60 years, with how interesting and elaborate and profound music in general has become, I can see how The Beatles would have become less revolutionary.

The only way in which Beatles music would have made as big a splash nowadays, as it did in the movie, would have been if the global music scene hadn’t changed at all since the 60s. Now that would have been an interesting place to take it to.

The filmmakers could have taken the chance to make a different (not necessarily extremely so, but reasonably so) society for Jack to find himself in, where pop culture has changed due to the fact that 60 years of art/music inspired by the Beatles are gone. Then, maybe, that’s why The Beatles’ music would have been so successful in this new world. Instead they made a half-hearted “everything is exactly the same just. Just with no Beatles. Ugh.

And these are just my ideas, from playing with the concept for about 20 minutes, and I am sure Hollywood has plenty of people more creative than I am. The movie’s budget, according to Wikipedia, was somewhere between 26 and 41 million US dollars. So much could have been done with that. Let’s move on.

Now, the romantic comedy bit.

Did it have to be a romantic comedy? I don’t think so. I think the love interest bit and the one sided attraction from Ellie (played by Lily James) to clueless Jack was charming and a good aspect of the film, but I don’t think it had to take over. The unhealthy dynamics that I referred to previously is the fact that once Ellie confesses to Jack, he realizes he actually liked her all along, but since Ellie doesn’t want famous Jack, she wants the Jack that she fell in love with (earnest, kind), she decides it’s time to move on. Plus, he never really noticed, and she’s tired of waiting.

Two things about this: first, she could have made the first move. The trope of the female character waiting for the male to make a move is so outdated and silly nowadays. Give some agency to your female characters, for crying out loud. Putting that aside, I think her decision to move on is good. Like, really good. Especially if the direction in which Jack is going is not something she wants to be involved with. If Jack is so immature that he gets FOMO now that he knows she loves him, that’s on him, and it’s not her responsibility to take him in now that he is suddenly into her.

And it seemed that she would move on and Jack would end up having to deal with the fact that he missed out on a potentially good relationship with a person close and dear to him. That would have been a good opportunity for growth and development, especially after the way he gives up on his fame dream at the end. If he manages to grow and move on in spite of that, that demonstrates he has learned from his journey. But instead she dumps her actually lame boyfriend (who happens to look kinda like George Harrison? That’s… not kind to Harrison, filmmakers) and gets together with him and they live happily ever after. Sigh.

I don’t know, it didn’t feel warranted. It felt like a cheap way to have a happy ending and tie “loose ends” that didn’t need tying? They didn’t need to get together, in my opinion. I was more interested in learning why the whole Beatles never existing happened, and why only a handful of people remembered them (did they all get hit by a bus? I don’t recall them explaining this and I won’t watch the movie again).

One minor criticism: Patel’s singing of “Help!” was obnoxious.

On the other hand, it was a very pretty film, quite well made, and the photograpgy and cinematography were wonderful. Also the crazy manager (played by Kate McKinnon) was fantastic.

But yeah. That’s pretty much the rant I go over in my head every time I remember how much the untapped potential of this movie infuriates me. Jee. Pers.

Thanks for reading.

Yooka-Laylee (2017) review – NSW

7.6 out of 10

A collectathon platformer that brings a lot of fresh ideas to the genre — some of them executed really nicely and some of them lacking in the execution —, Yooka-Laylee is a fun, punny and inventive game that gets you to keep playing in spite of its shortcomings.

I first played YL in 2017, when as a backer I got access to it through Steam. I had played around with the toybox, and I was really excited about the game coming out, since its developers, Playtonic Games, were behind my favorite game of all time, Banjo-Kazooie (1998, N64), as well as behind heavy hitters like Donkey Kong Country and Conker’s Bad Fur Day.

I won’t lie about it: I was expecting to play a Banjo clone from the very start. The game had been advertised as a spiritual successor to Banjo, and Playtonic did everything to make it as similar to the bear and breegull as possible:

  • Lots of puns
  • Silly voices
  • Buddy-duo
  • Transformations
  • Lots of collectibles
  • Googly eyes
  • Even the music sounds like it came out of BK or Banjo-Tooie.

I had been waiting for a new Banjo platformer since Tooie came out in 2000, and this was shaping up to be exactly what I was looking for. YL was the first project I ever backed on Kickstarter.

So I started playing Yooka in 2017, with all my hopes up, and as I played my hopes started to be dashed. It looked like Banjo. It sounded like Banjo. It even played a bit like Banjo. But the camera controls felt weird, the cutscenes felt dragged out and all in all, it felt like it was trying too hard to be Banjo.

Wait a minute.

Wasn’t that exactly what I wanted? Wasn’t that what we all wanted as backers of the project? Just exactly what we had been promised? Why was I so put off by how hard the game was trying to be Banjo?

I couldn’t quite put my finger on it.

So after I expanded the first grand tome and got annoyed at being defeated by Rampo time and time again due to a variety of (I think) bugs, I threw my hands in the air and quit the game. I decided I would try it again once it came out in a console of my preference, in this case the Nintendo Switch.

Years passed and YL sat in my backlog waiting patiently.

Then, in 2019, Playtonic announced out of nowhere that they had a new game coming, Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair, a sidescrolling platformer that looked a lot like DKC.

It looked so good. Like, ridiculously so. I knew I had to play it when it came out.

But in order to do that, I told myself, I had to play and finish the first game. I have always liked to play games in a series in order, unless it’s super evident that I don’t need the knowledge of the first game in order to enjoy the second one. I knew that this one in particular wasn’t entirely dependant on the first one’s story, being described by the devs as “not exactly a sequel”, but still, I felt like I had to give the first YL a chance. Every time I saw it in my game library it felt like I had done it a disservice.

So I played it with a clean slate, trying not to think of the disappointment of my first play.

Now, 25 and a half hours later, I have 100% the game and my views on it have (mostly) changed radically, and I find that I actually thoroughly enjoyed it as what it is: a new game, its own thing, and not Banjo.

Beware, this review will contain spoilers.

Some things to know about Yooka-Laylee

As mentioned previously, YL is a collectathon, meaning that there’s a whole lot of little thingies to find and hoard throughout the game. These are:

  1. Quills – Used to purchase new moves. Collecting all of the quills in a world will net you a Pagie.
  2. Pagies – the main collectible of the game, comparable to Jiggies in Bano or Power Stars in Super Mario 64. Much like in those games, Pagies will help you unlock new worlds, and in YL they allow you to make a world bigger. More on this later.
  3. Butterflies – Running into them will replenish your Power Bar, and eating them with Yooka’s tongue will replenish your health. Clever and economical, but took me a while to get used to it and to use the correct ‘ingestion’ method for the right situation.
  4. Mollycool – When you hand one to Dt. Puzz she will transform you into a thing or creature using her DNRay.
  5. Play Coin – Let’s you play in Rextro’s arcade.
  6. Extra health – One hidden in the overworld, and one hidden in each world. Personally, I recommend finding them all.
  7. Power bar extender – does exactly what the name implies. One hidden in the overworld and one hidden in each world.
  8. Pirate treasure – One of these is hidden in each world, and it’s an “unofficial” collectible, since it is not reflected anywhere in the totals menu, similar to the stop & swoop feature in Banjo.

One of the interesting features of YL is the existence of the Power Bar, which depletes when you use some of the many moves that Trowzer will teach you.

Power bars are not a revolutionary feature, but it is an interesting one in YL, since it is an interesting way to handicap the player and make them be more mindful of what moves they use. For example, once you gain the flight ability in the later game (the animation for which makes me smile every time, as Yooka chugs Laylee into the air), it is tempting to just fly everywhere, making the way simpler. The Power bar, however, limits you in this abuse, and makes you be more careful if you’re just flying willy-nilly.

Now, whether this handicap works as well as intended, is up for debate. Personally, I believe the existence of Flight-Pads in the Banjo series made me more conscientious of when I wanted to fly to any spot in a level, for example, whereas having the flight ability ready for use whenever in YL makes me rely in it a bit too much. The developers knew this, and so there are multiple invisible in places where they knew you could skip a puzzle if you had the right ability.

This weakness is somewhat countered by the fact that you only get the flying move before the last level, which also turns it into a bit of a strength: it makes traversing previous levels faster, making backtracking way less tedious.

I think that the Power bar works well within the context of the game, and it’s an interesting tool that, if you use well, can make the game quite easy.

Another interesting feature of the YL series is the ability that the player has to completely change levels, seen in this first game as the option to expand the worlds into bigger worlds after trading a few Pagies.

Lastly there’s the Tonics, which you unlock by completing in-game challenges, and that can alter the game cosmetically, give Yooka Pants, make certain attacks stronger or consume less of the Power Bar than they would normally. I found there were 3 Tonics I used most: The Hunter Tonic, that made collectibles whistle at you so that you could find them faster; the Baller Tonic, that made the rolling ability consume Power slower; and the LiveWire Tonic, that made the PowerBar regenerate faster.

Tribalstack Tropics: the first hurdle

The first thing on my list would be to play through the parts of the game I had played before and get past them in order to actually see what the rest of the game looked like. So I went through the tutorial and through the first bits of Tribalstack Tropics, the first world, up until the boss fight with Rampo.

The first thing I noticed is that the controls and camera controls felt tighter than the first time I played it, and I recalled that there had been a series of patches released in the past two years. So that was fixed. There were still some collision and camera bugs (and features, too) that I didn’t like, but the game at least felt more solid than the first time around.

Those moments in which the camera kinda locks itself in an uncomfortable position without warning, like when jumping on the smiley/frowny platform in the main temple where you find Trowzer, really threw me off and made me make mistakes that I wouldn’t have made otherwise.

But all in all, I felt more comfortable with Yooka and Laylee’s first few moves, and I understood better how I was supposed to tackle the Rampo battle, beating him without too much trouble. Ok, good, first hurdle passed.

Now I explored the expanded tome.

I believe that one of YL’s most interesting features is that of expanding the worlds in order to truly see all the things they have to offer. But I don’t think that this feature was implemented to the best of its capabilities, since at many points I felt that the worlds had:

  • A lot of empty spaces
  • A lack of memorable landmarks
  • No much ‘signage’ in the shape of quills that point you in the right direction.

I also think that at points the worlds’ expansions worked against the player, since there are some areas and Pagies that you can’t access until you have abilities acquired later in the game, such as the flight or the cloaking abilities, and given the lack of pointers and of memorable landmarks, finding these places again can be a hassle. This is all true especially of Tribalstack Tropics.

All that said, Tribalstack Tropics is an impressive level. It looks gorgeous, being one of the prettiest levels in the game. It also is a good introduction to all the common Pagie quests/challenges you will find throughout the game, such as the Pig Knights, Kartos, the Ghost Writers and the Pagies in Cagies, as well as Dr. Puzz and her DNRay and Rextro and his arcade. Things seem to be scattered without a lot of forethought, but it’s not the hardest level to navigate, in my opinion (that spot is reserved for Moodymaze Marsh).

Let’s talk about those things for a bit.

The Ghost Writers are a pretty good evolution of Banjo’s Jinjos, what with each one of them being very well hidden in each world and each one having a specific way of catching them. It adds a nice level of challenge to the game.

The Pig Knights, on the other hand, will send you on quests, but it does feel like there was some wasted potential to them.

Kartos is… well, an interesting stage in each world, definitely not my favorite. When you find and talk to Kartos, it will trigger a Minecart challenge, in which you have to jump and dash around a track in order to collect gems so that you can get a Pagie. It is a cool idea, definitely, but it is one of those things that feels like it was not as developed as well as it could have been. The controls feel wonky, and hard to get a hang of, and in later worlds you can lose gems if you get hit after finishing the course, which can feel very unfair if it makes you go through it again. Maybe I’m just bad at those sections, but I didn’t really get the hang of the controls until Capital Cashino, and even then I never felt like I mastered them.

Dr. Puzz works in a similar way to Mumbo Jumbo and Humba Wumba, needing for you to collect a special item in order to activate their transformation power. She needs a Mollycool, which activates her DNRay, and in this level it transforms you into a bouncy flower that can… pollinate things. Her transformations range from interesting and underused to weird/obnoxious and also underused. My favorites are the fish in Moodymaze Marsh and the Pirate Ship in Galleon Galaxy.

Rextro and his arcade are another instance of a thing that is a great idea that also feels incredibly not polished. All levels have a Play Coin hidden, and once you collect it you can use it to play Rextro’s game in that world. The minigames included are all great in concept, but most of the time they feel too easy and/or broken. I don’t know if this was to emulate cheap, bad arcades, or if the production time really didn’t allow for them to be better made. The most fun tend to be the more irritating, with the exception of the one in Galleon Galaxy: That one was fun and felt less broken than the others.

Ok. Now onto the worlds themselves.

-*Glitterglaze Glacier*-

Right off the bat it is clear that this world is a bit more thought out than Tribalstack Tropics.

All the areas that encompass this world are interesting in their own way. There’s the lake, the peak, the igloos, the grotto, and my personal favorite, the Icymetric Palace. +100 points for the pun, it had me grinning the whole time I played through it. Only bad thing about the palace is that you can only access it once you expand the tome. That and the transition animation that plays every time you enter or exit a room.

Sadly most of the level is quite empty. The lake is huge but not much can be found there, and once you collect the things it becomes a barren… ice water container.

Loved the quest for returning hats to the snowmen, as well as the aforementioned Icymetric Palace. Also the well hidden pirate treasure in the grotto, which overall was a fun platforming exercise.

The Glaciators mini game was fun. Not super inventive or anything, but definitely fun.

The Brrreeze Block boss was a great fight, creative and entertaining, but it honestly felt like Rampo on Ice, kind of. Less obnoxious, thanks to the lack of rolling logs.

-*Moodymaze Marsh*-

This might be my least favorite level. I feel like there was a lot of potential in it, and while some areas realized it, most didn’t.

First, it was a nightmare to find myself in the level. I could never really figure out where exactly I was, in spite of some of the huge landmarks, such as that incredibly big house (that didn’t have much going for it) or the lake where you can turn into a school of piranhas?

The level itself was quite reminiscent of Mad Monster Mansion in the original Banjo Kazooie, with it being dark and moody, but MMM seems to have fine tuned how much content there was in relation to the size of the level.

Really enjoyed the pagie where you have to roll around several platforms, also the one where you turn switches on and off to control underwater fans, and also enjoyed the one where you de-shroom a garden for… shopping carts. Why are there shopping carts here, again? I don’t mind, I’m just curious.

The boss fight was cool. I love me a tentacle-based boss as much as the next guy, but unlike the past two bosses, Trey did feel like it could easily be cheesed.

I feel like the piranha school transformation could have used a couple of extra missions, maybe if we got some more range and were able to swim around more of the level, instead of just the one pond.

And the BeeBop mini game was super obnoxious. I wanted to like it, but I was mostly frustrated while playing it; it felt broken and unresponsive.

-*Capital Cashino*-

Visually, the least interesting world. All the bling and such looked somewhat outdated on the NSW, though I’ve seen it on the XBox and it actually looks really nice. Sadly, it suffers from also being sort of empty.

The helicopter transformation was fun, and I enjoyed shooting the missiles, though it felt sort of clunky when controlling it. Not good clunky, either.

Loved the variety in tasks in this level, and having the added goal of collecting tokens which you can then exchange for Pagies was quite fun and clever.

Kartos in this level was just. Atrocious. If you don’t jump at the end of the course, even though you’ve gotten the message of “finished”, you will get hit by fire and lose some points, which will make you start the course again. Super infuriating.


Right after you finish Kartos successfully you get to fight I.N.E.P.T, which I thught was a cool twist to the use of Kartos. I.N.E.P.Twas a great boss too. Super challenging, somewhat unfair, but actually quite fun. It was a good kind of frustrating.

The Hurdle Hijinx minigame was not bad, definitiely a step up from BeeBop, but still annoying. At this point I just found it a chore to have to beat the game twice in order to get the extra Pagie.

-*Galleon Galaxy*-

One of the most interesting worlds, by far, and in my opinion the crown jewel of the YL worlds. Design wise? Amazing. Love the color palette and little island sections. This was a really well designed world, though the only thing is that you can pretty much use the fly ability to get anywhere and avoid waiting in the travel tubes. This is at your own risk, though, since running out of energy will most certainly net you a death.

Most of the Pagies in this world were quite memorable, from racing the cloud again (nice throwback to world 1) to creating a blackhole in the middle of the sky. The guy stuck in the bathroom was quite hilarious as well.

And the boss. That was incredibly funny, I was not expecting to accidentally kill that old comet, and when Planette shows up I was rolling on the floor laughing (almost literally). That was such a good joke, it almost feels like by the end of the game the devs were starting to get their bearings and really get all the juice they could from the game. they knew the characters and the settings and could exploit this knowledge creatively to create a really, really memorable boss fight.

The Up N’ Nova minigame is my favorite from the bunch, and the one that feels the most polished.

-*The overworld*-

The overworld is fun as heck. A lot of the time empty, but I can tell that the devs tried their hardest to really give Shipwreck Creek and Hivory Towers a lot of character, and I think that they really succeeded in that front.

Love all the little hidden sections and the huge landmarks (yeah, here there are landmarks that are recognizable and easy to navigate to), the sheer over-the-topness of it all. Getting pagies in the overworld was at times more fun than inside some of the worlds, and I did enjoy the fact that it was interconnected, just like the Isle O’ Hags in Banjo Tooie.

The final battle was good. If you have certain tonics equipped (slower stamina depletion, for example), it makes it less tricky and actually fun. That isn’t to say it is an easy battle: Capital Bee might be a fool, but he’s a tough fool, and the four stages of the fight are quite hard.

Alas, it gave me an incredible sense of satisfaction to finally beat him after many, many tries. I finally had made up for unjustly judging the game back in 2017.

In conclusion

I am glad I gave this game another chance.

Having grown up with Banjo as my favorite game (still is), the prospect of a spiritual successor made by a good number of the devs was mouth watering. I made the mistake of expecting something I wasn’t going to get from them: A new Banjo. And honestly, we should never expect a new Banjo from them.

I think Playtonic has more than proven itself to be able to create memorable worlds, characters, figths and game mechanics, and while they took a Pagie from their previous successes, Yooka-Laylee is its own thing. It’s disrespectful, I believe, to ask them to be something they’re not, and in this ignoring the actually good game we have in Yooka-Laylee.

Yes, it was broken and irritating in many stages, and there’s a lot of things that could have been polished had the team had more time to develop it. But taking into account they were not expecting to be such a success in Kickstarter, and that they delivered such a good spiritual successor in such a tight timeline, I think they did a fantastic job.

Granted, a lot of the QOL stuff that we enjoy now in YL is stuff that was added through updates and patches, but again, they were working on a tight schedule, and all those patches were part of the course of the original release; it’s not like they charged for that.

But overall YL has incredible music, some really good boss fights, some great dialogue, super memorable main characters and villains, decent world design and a lot of charm.

Plus, without YL we wouldn’t have Yooka Laylee and the impossible Lair, which I’ve already played and finished (not 100% though) and I can assure you it’s a masterpiece.

  • Main Characters: 9/10
  • World design: 7.1/10
    • Tribalstack Tropics: 6.8/10
    • Glitterglaze Glacier: 7/10
    • Moodymaze Marsh: 6/10
    • Capital Cashino: 7/10
    • Galleon Galaxy: 8/10
    • Overworld: 8/10
  • Boss fights: 7.6/10
    • Rampo: 7/10
    • Brrreeze Block: 8/10
    • Trev the Tenteyecle: 7/10
    • I.N.E.P.T.: 7.8/10
    • Planette: 8.6/10
    • Capital Bee: 9/10
  • Rextro: 7.1/10
    • Kartos Karting: 7/10
    • Glaciators: 8/10
    • Bee Bop: 5/10
    • Hurdle Hijinx: 7/10
    • Up N’ Nova: 8.5/10
  • Dialogue: 8/10
  • Length: 8/10
  • Music: 9/10
  • Moveset: 7.8/10
  • Overall fun: 7.9/10

“The colour of Bee Larkham’s murder” – Review

This book reminded me a lot of The curious incident of the dog in the night-time (Mark Haddon, 2004) , due to it’s topic and choice of protagonist, as well as its portrayal of autism.

Adding synesthesia and face blindness into the mix, however, made this whodunnit a very fascinating read. I thought that keeping every character as a stroke of color made it even more engaging and interesting, and made the reader feel like they were truly experiencing the world through Jasper’s eyes.

The act of placing the reader inside Jasper’s mind was and experience that i found enjoyable but that also made me impatient. At various points in the book I grew slightly bored with the pacing, and annoyed with jasper’s obsessions about certain things. This never stopped me from wanting to know what happened next, however, and I think that that is commendable. I don’t have to fully enjoy or approve of a protagonist’s actions in order to be completely entranced by a book. At first it did bother me, but the more I thought about it the more remarkable I think it is that Harris’ book managed to suck me in to such an extent in spite of my mixed feelings towards Jasper and other characters.

I still believe that the book had some pacing issues, and it also felt like one of the core problems of the plot was somewhat overlooked (to mention it would be a spoiler, I think, but suffice to say that it has to do with Bee Larkham herself). A lot of it seems to be based on the premise that “hurt people hurt people”, which is true to an extent, but also a bit simplistic. I suppose it also could be part of the author’s intention, what with only having Jasper’s point of view and experiences as a frame of reference.

All in all, I found it a very enjoyable read, and would recommend it.

Rating: 3.8/5
Published by: The Borough Press, 2018

A couple of book reviews

The lovely bones (Alice Sebold, 2006)

This book is definitely an important one, given its topic and the raw depiction it has of rape, murder, and the way it can go unnoticed and/or unsolved. That on its own makes this book an important novel. I also understand its cathartic nature, given that the author wrote it based on personal experience.

As a novel, though, it has a lot of aspects that I don’t quite enjoy, and the more I think about it, the less I find I like this book, which is a shame.

The things that rub me the wrong way start with the the mom’s affair with the policeman. Not necessarily the way it happened, mind you, because I know that people deal with grief differently and cope with loss in different ways (though, let me interject that the affair did feel forced, and that both her and the policeman behaved like absolute terrible people given the situation, but I guess that’s the point). No, the thing that bothered me about the affair was the way the mom just abandoned the family for a decade or whatever and then she came back and met relatively little resistance from the dad and the sister (the little boy’s reaction was the most realistic one I think). Like, the dad is accepting her back just like that? Because of what, some warped concept of love in which it forgives even the unforgivable abandonment of her family in an incredibly painful situation? No, screw you, you made choices that made your family’s difficult situation even harder and a saintly dad character who forgives anything is not only unrealistic, but lazy for the sake of a pseudo-happy ending.

Then there is the idealization by a lot of the males in the book for the “exotic, mysterious, sexy-but-distant foreign woman”, who makes them fall in love with her just by looking at her. Don’t feel great about this sexist/racist trope either. It also never goes anywhere; the author kinda toys with the idea of the dad having an affair of his own, but no, he is too pure for that.

Then there’s the fact that the main character comes back from the dead only to fulfill a sex fantasy and does not in any way give her grieving family any closure or respite. What.

And the rapist/murderer is never caught, and dies a “karmic death” under a pile of snow, which fair enough, is somewhat satisfying, but nowhere near as good as him facing the music and paying for his crimes.

“Oh”, I hear you say, “but him not getting caught makes it more realistic”.

Yeah, sure, but my suspension of disbelief was already through the roof after the dead-girl-possession-sex-fantasy-fulfillment described above.

So yeah. This book is mostly well written, and touches on very important subjects that must have been REALLY hard to write about, and I commend the fact that they’re being talked about. But as a novel it’s so-so at best.

Rating: 2.5/5

The shape of water (Andrea Camilleri, 1994)

I had never heard of this series until my book club received a copy from

I don’t think this book was for me. The case itself was somewhat interesting, but the way the book was written failed to engage me. The dialogue seemed like it was written for a very cheesy soap opera, and there was a very surprising amount of sexism and racism that felt like offhand comments unnecessary to the story itself.

Then, all the characters seemed to have a very similar deductive ability to that of the main character, so all the answers sort of landed on his lap? That takes away from the fun of a whodunnit, in my opinion, but then again I haven’t really read many in the genre. Oh, and the fact that the ending had no real resolution, with no one facing justice or being confronted about the murder(s) really felt like the book was incomplete.

Rating: 2.2/5

Chuck Palahniuk – Fight club (review)

The Chronicles Of Cowboy Jimmy images Fight Club Book ...

I am not going to start this review with the clichéd repetition of the book’s mantra, as I am tempted to, but I as I know plenty of others have done already.

Instead, I will say that I wish I hadn’t watched the movie starred by Edward Norton and Brad Pitt, and directed by David Fincher in 1999, since it took away from me the joy of finding out the biggest twist in the story (which I won’t comment on if you have not, at this point, either watched the movie or read the book).

This is an excellent book. Dark, yes, but not as dark as I am led to believe that his other books are (by my girlfriend, who has read most of them). I like the short story quality that each of the chapters has, and I like how every single piece of seemingly “useless” trivia mentioned within the book ties to the story in a neat, delightfully cohesive fashion.

It was such a good read that I finished it in just a couple of days, hypnotized by Palahniuk’s prose and the dystopian nature of the piece. I also find myself increasingly distrusting of high-end food establishments after reading it.

It is terrifying, however, to find out how misunderstood the book (and movie) are. The whole idea is to take a jab at toxic masculinity, the “hey let’s see whose dong is longer” and “boys will be boys”; but it became some sort of a ‘self fulfilling prophecy’ in that people who are toxically masculine got inspired by the book. Not changed, Not horrified. Inspired. I still remember that one time a coworker asked me to join a fight club, back in México, in 2015. He might have been joking, but he might have not, and given his character I’m more inclined towards the latter.

I believe that the book is a masterpiece of fiction, with a satisfyingly rounded character and story arc and a successful “back to the beginning” feeling at the end. I’m almost a little too afraid of checking out Fight Club 2 (a graphic novel), afraid that it will mess with what I consider to be one of the best novels I’ve read this year.

Rating: 4.3/5
Publisher: (Edward) Norton