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Bibliophile reviews To love and be wise by Josephine Tey

A belated Merry Christmas!

I apologise for the long break, but I have been working on a translation and have had neither time nor inclination to write reviews.

Series detective: Inspector Grant
No. in series: 4
Year of publication: 1950
Type of mystery: Missing person, possible homicide
Type of investigator: Police
Setting & time: Rural England, 1950s
Some themes:

...there was never proud man thought so absurdly well of himself as the lover doth of the person loved; and therefore it was well said, that it is impossible to love, and to be wise.
Francis Bacon (1561-1626), "On Love"

I thought it suitable to give the relevant full quote from which the book's title is derived, as it has a bearing on the story told in the book.

Said story is a delicious detective tale that knowingly and effectively breaks one of Van Dine's principal rules of detective fiction, but since it would give away too much to reveal which one, I will leave it to you to find out. I will say that a characte…

Bibliophile reviews the movie Mýrin (Jar City)

The film Mýrin (The Mire)is based on the book of the same title by Icelandic crime writer Arnaldur Indriðason. It was published in English as Jar City (also as Tainted Blood). I read the book a couple of years ago but never got round to reviewing it. Here is a link to Maxine's review: Jar City review.

The story begins with the discovery of the body of a murdered man in a basement apartment in a neighbourhood known as Norðurmýri, The North Mire, so-called because that is what was there before the houses were built. He turns out to have been a vicious thug and the investigation soon leads the police to start trying to find the victims of crimes he committed years before and which may explain why he was murdered. They also decide to re-open the investigation into the disappearance of one of his cronies many years before, an investigation that was closed with what Erlendur, the leading investigator, thinks is suspicious haste.

The movie was directed by Baltasar Kormákur who is probably …

Bibliophile reviews The Roads to Sata (travel) by Alan Booth

Subtitle: A 2.000 mile walk through Japan
Year published: 1985
Genre: Travel (non-fiction)
Setting & time: Japan, 1980's

Booth had been a resident of Japan for 7 years and spoke the language fluently when he embarked on a walk from the country's northernmost corner at Cape Soya, to it's most southernmost, Cape Sata, in an effort to learn to understand Japan and the Japanese better. The book describes his mostly lonely journey of several months, his visits to tourist sites along the way and to places no tourist would ever go, and his encounters with people that ranged from absurd to funny to near tragic. He met people who refused to believe he spoke Japanese even though he did, people who viewed him like a circus freak and people who were afraid of him, but also people who accepted him with open arms and showed him kindness and friendship.

The most striking things about this travelogue, apart from the high quality writing, is the author's feeling of alienation towards hi…

Mystery author #26: Catherine Aird

Title:Henrietta Who?
Series detective: Detective Inspector Sloan
No. in series: 2
Year of publication: 1968
Type of mystery: Murder, identity
Type of investigator: Police
Setting & time: Rural England, 20th century, post WW2

Story: Grace Jenkins is found dead, a hit-and-run victim, in the middle of a village road, and her autopsy shows two things: her death was no accident and she can't possibly be the biological mother of Henrietta, the young woman she has brought up as her daughter. But who was she then, and what's more important: who is Henrietta? She and her boyfriend, and DI Sloan and his men race to try to find the answers, which prove to be, if not entirely unexpected for the reader, rather shocking for the characters.

Review: Here is a genuine old-fashioned mystery with a classical twist. I can't say too much about it, as the whole story hinges of it, but it is about identity that may or may not have to do with the murders that take place in the story. The reader of co…

Bibliophile reviews The Flame Trees of Thika by Elspeth Huxley

This is the first of my From the Stacks challenge books I finish reading.


Year published: 1959
Genre: Biography, expatriate memoir

Robin and Tilly Grant and their 5 year old daughter, Elspeth, came to Thika in Kenya in 1912 to start a coffee farm. The book tells the story of the first years of their life on the farm until World War 1 started and Robin joined the army and Tilly and Elspeth left for England. With great clarity and beautiful prose Elspeth writes about the people, both Africans and European settlers, about nature and animals and events. She writes about what she saw as a child, but with an adult’s insight. The narrative is somewhat disjointed at times, as she often jumps years forwards in the middle of a sentence to show what the future outcome of some action or event was, and sometimes I was not sure she had gone back to the same place in the narrative where she had been before the jump. Her story gives an insight into the problems faced by the white settlers of Kenya and o…

November 2006 reading report

I read 21 books this month, mostly mysteries. I am behind with my reviewing, for which I apologise, but I have been reading, which is much more important that writing (for me). I read books by five new mystery authors last month, and will be writing reviews on them soon.

Reviewed and upcoming:
After effects and Henrietta who?: Catherine Aird
The Demon Archer: Paul Doherty
Detection Unlimited: Georgette Heyer
The Flame Trees of Thika: Elspeth Huxley
Death in the Andamans: MM Kaye
Prepared for Murder: Cecile Lamalle
The Dogs of Riga: Henning Mankell
Gideon's Day: JJ Marric
To love and be wise: Josephine Tey

Unreviewed:
The Cat who talked to ghosts: Lilian Jackson Braun
The Homecoming: Marion Chesney
Sex, lies and online dating: Rachel Gibson
Unreliable memoirs: Clive James
Cleopatra's sister: Penelope Lively
Notes from an Italian garden: Joan Marble
Living with books: Alan Powers
Korea: A walk through the land of miracles: Simon Winchester

Rereads: (unreviewed)
Eric: Terry Pratchett
Interesting time…

Bibliophile reviews News from Tartary (travel) by Peter Fleming

Year published: 1936
Genre: Travel (non-fiction)
Setting & time: China & India, 1930's

In 1935 the author and his travel companion Ella "Kini" Maillart set off from Peking to travel across Chinese Turkistan (Sinkiang) and all the way to India. The journey took them 7 months, alternatively by truck, on foot, on horseback and by camel, and without major mishaps (but many small ones). The author tells the story with wry humour (mostly at his own expense) and is often full of indignation at the natives for their treatment of their animals, while he carefully avoids admitting that he himself and his companion were also guilty of mistreatment of their own pack and riding animals. The descriptions of the landscapes are often beautiful, while the descriptions of the people they meet are unsentimental and sometimes somewhat coloured by British feelings of superiority, i.e. because he was British he seems to have felt that naturally he knew better how to do things that the na…

Bad book covers revisited

I have mentioned on several occasions my dislike of bad cover art. Well, I'm not the only reader who feels insulted when publishers put something tasteless, confusing or just plain butt ugly on a book cover. Click on the link (the post title) to see the results from the annual All About Romance worst cover contest. Unfortunately I somewhow managed to miss the 2005 voting, but never mind - I plan on voting in the 2006 contest.

From the Stacks report

I am finally reading the first book of the five I set myself. I am 8 1/2 chapters into The Flame Trees of Thika and liking it so far. I can not help but compare it with other African memoirs I have read, especially Karen Blixen's Out of Africa and the impressions of later visitors to the area, such as Evelyn Waugh and Dervla Murphy.

While the book attempts to show things from the point of view of a child, it is written with knowledge the child could not have possessed at the time, so it is interesting to see how Huxley balances her childhood memories with adult judgment and opinions.

Can someone tell me why...

...some books smell like tobacco? I don't mean the ashtray-scented books that come from smoker's homes, but brand, spanking new books straight from the bookshop than give off a smell similar to a newly opened pouch of fresh pipe tobacco.

It's kind of a nice smell (it reminds me of my grandfather who used to roll his own cigarettes using pipe tobacco), but it seems to me it doesn't belong in books, and I have only ever smelled it on new or new-ish hardcovers.

Bibliophile reviews A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush (travel) by Eric Newby

Year published: 1958
Genre: Travel (non-fiction)
Setting & time: Afghanistan, 1950's

In 1956 Newby and his friend Hugh Carless embarked on a quest to climb Mir Samir, a mountain in Nuristan, a remote area of Afghanistan. Considering that neither had any real mountain-climbing experience and they were badly under-equipped and not in very good physical shape, it is amazing how few accidents they had and that they managed to climb almost within sight of the top of the mountain, after which they travelled even further into Nuristan, apparently in order to become the first white men to visit the place.

Review: Eric Newby was a humourist in the best English tradition, a master of funny understatement and irony. This, while not his only travelogue, is the one he will be remembered for. It pops up on many lists of the world's best travelogues, and for good reason, and it seems destined to become a classic of the genre. It is well written, funny and interesting, and describes one of …

Mystery author #25: Paul Doherty

Also writes as: Anna Apostolou, C. L. Grace, Ann Dukthas, Michael Clynes, Paul Harding, P. C. Doherty, Paul C. Doherty, Vanessa Alexander. Some books have been published under two different names: one of the above, and later the name Paul Doherty, which I believe is his real name and under which he now writes all his books.

Note: Much of what I want to say about the writing style and characterizations and plotting and so on is applicable to all three books, so I will put it in the author review.

Title:The Nightingale Gallery, being the First of the Sorrowful Mysteries of Brother Athelstan
Series detective(s): Brother Athelstan, a Dominican friar, and Sir John Cranston, coroner of London
No. in series: 1
Year of publication: 1991, under the name of Paul Harding; reissued in 2002 under the name of Paul Doherty
Type of mystery: Murder, locked-room
Type of investigator: Amateur and professional
Setting & time: London, England, 1377
Number of murders: 4
Some themes: Locked-room murder, adultery…

Bibliophile recommends: Gerald Durrell

I discovered Gerald Durrell when his classic memoir, My family and other Animals, was translated into Icelandic. My brother and I loved to be read to, even after we could read perfectly well ourselves, and our mother loved to read to us. The two books she read to us most often were My Family… and Tolkien’s fantasy story The Hobbit. Both books were pure magic to us, Tolkien’s because of the fairy tale element and Durrell’s because of the humour and his talent for description, of places, nature, people and animals.

Later, when the family was able to afford holidays abroad, we bought Durrell’s other books whenever we found them, and now my mother and I have most of his memoirs and two of his novels in our book collections. My Family… is still just as magical as it was when I was a child, and is one of my perennial reads. Other favourites include The Bafut Beagles, The Whispering Land and The Drunken Forest.

Durrell’s prose is beautiful and flowing and he writes with humour about himself …

Some fantasy novels I have enjoyed

I haven’t been reading much lately (only six books this month so far), and have been suffering from selective writer’s block as well – I have something like six half-written reviews on the go and can’t bring myself to finish them, but find it perfectly easy to write short essays. To keep the blog going, here is a list of book recommendations I wrote ages ago but never published until now:

First I have to say that my explorations into fantasy literature have not taken me far into the world of series fantasy. The reason is that I have too often discovered that the book I was reading was part of a series where the story was so interwoven with previous books that it was impossible to enjoy it without having read those first, or that the story actually started X books ago, and/or would not end for another X books. I have nothing against series, but each book must be readable as an independent story with a solid beginning and end to interest me. This goes for any genre. The only exception is…

Organising your books, continued

Link to part 1

How I organise my own library:

I am not the kind of person who needs to have everything perfectly organised – just organised enough to be able to find things fairly quickly without having to refer to a catalogue or index, and my system reflects that. This is a system I arrived at after several moves which I used as opportunities to try out different arrangements, since I had to take the books down from the shelves anyway.

Books I am reading are strewn all over the house, several in each room. Those I think I have been reading for too long and want to finish soon reside on top of the back of the living-room sofa. Another pile sits on one of the kitchen chairs, well out of splattering range of the stove but within an arm’s reach of the table.

Cookbooks and food reference books belong in the kitchen. Food history, food travel books, essay and article collections and foodie memoirs, however, go with the rest of the history, travel and biography books until I find a decent …

The new Blogger

I have switched over to the new Blogger and am beginning to explore the possibilities it offers. The first thing I will be doing is to go back to the beginning and label all the posts to make it easier for my readers to find posts with similar themes. I am starting with the challenge authors and plan on having them all done by the end of the week and then I will label the other posts at leisure. Hopefully the work will be done by the end of the month.

This may confuse some feed readers - I know Maxine's has been reporting all the reposts.

Later on I may change the look of the blog, provided it will be possible to copy all the alterations I have made to the current template over to the new one. Who knows, I may even create my own personal template.

Organising books

The photos below of the colour-organised bookshelves got me thinking about book organisation. I once got the task of organising a small school library. There were not a lot of books in it, probably about 1500 or so (certainly fewer than in my home library right now), but it was an eclectic collection of mostly reference books and novels, with some art and technical books in-between, all in no order at all, except fiction was kept in a different room so it wouldn’t get mixed up with the non-fiction. I decided right away that this was not a Dewey job and invented a coarse system that suited the library and the disorganised lending system.

This was the lending system: you took whatever books you wanted and returned them to the shelves once you were finished with them. Or not. There were no cards, no lending list and no catalogue, and most of the students (adults, one and all) could not be trusted to remember from what shelf they took the book, basically just sticking the books back where…

I've joined a group reading challenge

OK, so I am already doing a challenge of my own, but the 52 authors challenge does not have any time constraints (although I would like to finish it before the end of 2007).

I discovered this one through Jenclair's (mostly) book blog,
A Garden Carried in the Pocket. The challenge was issued by Michelle and is called From the Stacks. The aim is to read 5 books that have been languising in the TBR stack before 30 january 2007. Click on the above link to read the rest of the rules and join in the fun (there's prizes).

Here are the books I picked and the reasons why (besides having been TBR for too long). To be fair I have not included any book that I plan to read as part of my own challenge:

Conspiracy in Death by J.D. Robb, because I started reading the In Death series in order of publication but have been stalled at this book for nearly a year.

The Flame Trees of Thika by Elspeth Huxley, because it's been on my night table for a year and a half and I have fond memories of th…

Bibliophile reviews Borderlines (travel) by Charles Nicholl

Subtitle:A journey in Thailand and Burma
Year published: 1988
Genre: Travel (non-fiction)
Setting & time: Thailand and Burma, 1986

The Story: Nicholl recounts his three month journey to Thailand in search of enlightenment in a forest temple. Instead he found the reality of Thailand, a land of contradictions where drug smuggling and prostitution exist side by side with ancient rituals and traditions and no-one seems to find anything unusual about it. He meets Harry, a Frenchman who trades in all sorts of commodities (although he denies being involved in drug smuggling) and accepts his offer of a guided tour of the Golden Triangle in return for picking up his Thai girlfriend and chaperoning her while Harry is off on an expedition to connect with people who can sell him gemstones. Katai, the Thai girl, turns out to be a complicated and intelligent young woman who is very conflicted about her relationship with Harry. Together the three explore the borderland between Thailand and Burma be…

Running out of steam

Has this ever happened to you?
You pick up a book, it turns out to be very gripping but you can’t finish it in one sitting so you put it aside and get on with whatever you have to get on with. Then the next time you have time to pick up the book – say the next day – you just can’t get into it. It doesn’t grab you the way it did when you started to read it and although you want to know how the plot resolves itself you no longer feel like reading it all the way through.

I’m sure this happens to many readers.

Right now, it is happening to me. I started reading Elizabeth Kostova’s The Historian three days ago and expected to finish it in four sessions (it’s a large format book and 600 pages long), but when I came home last night and picked it up to start reading, I could not get into it. It sometimes takes me a chapter or two to get back into a book, but after five chapters I gave up and started reading a crime mystery instead. I’m still interested in the book, but last night when I was t…

Bibliophile reviews She Walks These Hills by Sharyn McCrumb

No. in series: 3
Year of publication: 1994
Type of mystery: Murder
Type of investigator: Police
Setting & time: North Carolina, USA, contemporary
Some themes: Second sight, madness, family ties, ghosts, legend

Story: Police dispatcher Martha Ayers wants to become a policewoman. After some hesitation, Sheriff Arrowood takes her on, saying if she passes her probationary period he will send her for training and make her a full member of the small police force in Dark Hollow. Her lover, police officer Joe LeDonne, isn't too pleased and finds an outlet for his feelings that could break up the relationship. Meanwhile, an escaped convict is making his way towards the town and his ex-wife and daughter. He suffers from a mental disorder that makes him think he is still back in the sixties and it's only a few days since he last saw them. At the same time a student of folklore is trying to retrace the trail along which a young woman captured by Indians 200 years before escaped, and psychic…

Reading reports for August, September and October 2006

As my regular readers will know, I was very busy doing other things than writing reviews during most of the summer, and neglected some of the regular features of this blog. One of these things was the reading report. Now I want to make amends, so here are reading reports for the last three months, all in one blog entry.

As always, if I haven't reviewed it, you can request a review.

August report:

Reviewed:
The Seagull's Laughter: Kristín Marja Baldursdóttir (in Icelandic)
My sister's keeper: Jodi Picoult
Love bites: Lynsay Sands

Unreviewed:
Matarsögur: Sigrún Sigurðardóttir & Guðrún Pálsdóttir, eds. (interviews and reminiscences about food by Icelandic women, with recipes)
Nerd in shining armor: Vicki Lewis Thompson (romance)

Rereads: (Unreviewed)
Equal rites: Terry Pratchett
Lords and Ladies: Terry Pratchett
Wyrd sisters: Terry Pratchett
Witches abroad: Terry Pratchett


September report:

Reviewed and upcoming reviews:
Death of a hussy: MC Beaton (upcoming)
Anyone but you: Jennifer Crusi…

Mooching books

One of the ways I aquire books is by trading them for other books, but many trading websites either cost money to use (meaning I could just as well go and buy the books) or are restricted to one country or continent. The one I have been using, TitleTrader, is international, well designed and easy to use, but there are not many traders there who trade to Europe. Most of the users are Americans who only trade within the USA, and if they trade abroad, it is usually only to Canada. The result is that it can take months before I find a book I want.

Now I have discovered BookMooch. Not only does it have loads of European traders, but it has a system that is designed to encourage traders to trade outside their country and continent: you get 3 trading points for sending to another country (only 1 if you trade within your own country), but you only have to pay 2 trading points to request (or mooch) a book from abroad (1 point for local books), meaning that a free trading point is generated ever…

Bibliophile reviews The Stone Boudoir by Theresa Maggio

Subtitle:In search of the hidden villages of Sicily
Year published: 2002
Genre: Travel, memoir, social life and customs
Setting & time: Sicily, 1980s & 1990s

Theresa Maggio, a third generation Italian-American, describes her many visits to her grandparents' native Sicily over a number of years where she visited not only their native village, but also many other small and remote villages. Her purpose was to both to discover her heritage and to record the ways of life of Sicilian villagers, both traditional and modern.

Rating: A very enjoyable and informative book about a love affair with Sicily that is enough to make anyone want to visit the place. 4+ stars.

Stack of books...

Stacked, originally uploaded by Netla. ...nevermore to be read. Glued and screwed together to make a work of art. Kind of sad.

Location: Reykjavík City Library (main branch, second floor)

Bibliophile reviews The Hangman's Beautiful Daughter by Sharyn McCrumb

No. in series: 2
Year of publication: 1992
Type of mystery: Murder
Type of investigator: Police
Setting & time: North Carolina, USA, contemporary
Some themes: Life and death, second sight, cancer, madness, family ties

Story: Two teenagers are the only survivors of a family tragedy that ended in a triple murder and suicide, a woman expecting her first child is beset by loneliness and doubt, a young mother wants the best for her child, and an old man discovers that the cancer that is killing him may be the result of drinking polluted water. All of these stories begin to knit together little by little, with Sheriff Arrowood and seer Nora Bonesteel observing and occasionally participating in the story.

Review: Calling this installation in the Ballad series a mystery is simplifying things. It is not just a mystery but also a psychological thriller, a true-to-life story about ordinary people, and an ode to the Appalachians and their inhabitants. But "mystery" is perhaps as good a la…

Bibliophile reviews Ritual Murder (mystery) by S.T. Haymon

Series detective: Inspector Ben Jurnet
No. in series: 2
Year of publication: 1982
Type of mystery: Murder
Type of investigator: Police
Setting & time: England, contemporary
Number of murders: 1
Some themes: Religion, drug-dealing, anti-Semitism, social injustice
Awards: The (British) Crime Writer's Association Silver Dagger Award, 1982

Story: A choirboy is found murdered in the cathedral of Angleby (a fictional town based on Norfolk) and signs on the body indicate that someone wanted to recreate the murder of Little Saint Ulf, whose holy bones are buried under the church and whose death had sparked a mass murder of the Jewish inhabitants of medieval Angleby. Ben Jurnet, who has now made a decision in the matter he was considering at the end of Death and the Pregnant Virgin (important for the story), is called in to investigate. He soon finds out that no-one seems to have liked the murdered boy much, but neither does anyone seem to have hated him enough to kill him. The murder sparks a …

Subscribe to Another 52 books

I thought I would make it a bit easier to subscribe to Another 52 Books. On the left sidebar just under my picture there is an icon like this one:
Just click on it and it will take you to my site feed where you can subscribe with any of several popular news readers, like My Yahoo!, Newsgator, Pluck, My AOL, and more.

Books as decoration

Books as decoration, originally uploaded by Netla. Another shelf of books arranged by colour. I have done this myself, with my TBR books, but my other books are organised by a much more mundane and practical system: by size, then genre, then author (not necessarily alphabeticlly). I don't bother with organising by title because once I'm down to that I can easily find the book. Of course, I only have about 3000 books - I suppose once I hit 5 figures I will have to organise them with more precision...

Color coded books

Color coded, originally uploaded by Netla. A cool way of organising your books. Very decorative but I'm afraid this would massively annoy any librarian who came near it. Seeing books organised like this, by colour but not by tone, actually makes me look at them as individual books and not as a collection.

Location: Góði Hirðirinn charity shop, Reykjavík, Iceland.

Tension relievers for book lovers

You are anxiously waiting for someone or something, and need to put your mind off it so you will not start throwing things and screaming to relieve the tension. Books have a calming effect on you, but you are too wound up to read. Well, I've been there, and here are some suggestions for book-related activities:

Dust your books. Dust is an enemy to books just as much as dampness and sunlight.

If you are the type who finds books more by what they look like than by knowing exactly where they are, organise your books by size or colour rather than subject. I've done this with part of my TBR stash and they not only look good on the shelf, they actually look tempting, which might mean I will finally go and read some of them.

Hunt down lost bookmarks. I am a typical bibliophile and if I do something with books, chances are that many other book lovers do the same. I keep putting half-read books away with the bookmark still inside and don't realise I'm doing it until I run out of…

My favourite bookshop

Uppáhalds bókabúðin, originally uploaded by Netla. Although I buy most of my second-hand books at a local charity shop, this is the book-shop that is closest to my heart. I can browse in there for hours, just looking at book after book and soaking up the atmosphere.
Clicking on the image will take you to a bigger version.
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Mystery author #24: Kate Atkinson

Title:Case Histories
Year published: 2004
Type of mystery: Literary mystery, murder, missing persons
Type of investigator: Private detective
Setting & time: Cambridge, UK, contemporary
Number of suspicious deaths: 3
Some themes: Missing persons, family, hopelessness, murder

You may wonder why I am counting Kate Atkinson as a mystery writer. Simple: she has written two mysteries so far which is all it takes to make it onto my mystery author reading list. I am trying to get my hands on her other mystery, which is about the same lead character as this one.

Story: Jackson Brodie is a typical depressed, divorced and chain-smoking hopeless P.I. Three cases land on his table: a child's disappearance more than 20 years before, a 10 year old unsolved murder, and a missing person. The stories of Jackson's investigations into these cases, his private life and the lives of some of those involved intertwine and in the end some things are solved for the participants and others only for the read…

Lovely old books

Lovely old books, originally uploaded by Netla. I came across these lovely old books recently, while searching for used furniture at my favourite second hand shop. I thought they looked so lovely that I snapped a photo of them.

Bibliophile reviews Anyone but you by Jennifer Crusie

Year published: 1996
Genre: Romance
Setting & time: USA, 1990s

Have I mentioned I'm a Jennifer Crusie fan? I am. Every time I open one of her books I know I am guaranteed a funny read, even when the story itself is disappointing (not that this one was).

The Story: Nina endured a long marriage with a social climber and finally divorced him. One of her gestures of independence after she is free is getting the dog he always denied her. However, when she goes to the pound to find a suitable puppy she spots Fred, a middle-aged, ugly and sad looking bloodhound-bassett mix who is about to be put down. She rescues him and takes him home, seriously doubting her own sanity, but happy that she has saved a life. Fred soon brings her into contact with her sexy younger neighbour, Max. The result is instant attraction on both sides but since Nina thinks Max is too young for her and Max thinks he isn't sophisticated enough for Nina, they become friends.
We all know how it will end, but I'…

Bibliophile reviews Wintersmith by Terry Pratchett

Year published: 2006
Genre: fantasy (aimed at young readers but accessible to all ages)
Setting & time: Discworld, whenever

The Story:
Tiffany Aching (heroine of The Wee Free Men and A Hat Full of Sky) is almost thirteen and is still in training to learn witchcraft. This time it's Miss Treason she is working for, a formidable old witch who is both loved and feared by the people she looks after. But old doesn't necessarily mean wise, and when Miss Treason refuses to tell Tiffany the significance of a dance they witness one dark autumn night, Tiffany ends up participating in the dance and catching the eye of the wintersmith, the powerful spirit of winter. But that is not her only problem. There is Horace, and Anagramma, and the Nac Mac Feegles, and Roland. What's a girl to do? Tiffany handles the problems in her own unique fashion, but I don't think I will say any more or it will spoil the fun of finding out for yourself.

Technique and plot:
The book is clearly written for…

Is it too much to ask for a spoiler warning?

I consider it a courtesy to the people who read my reviews to warn them if there is anything that could be called a spoiler in my review, and I expect the same from others, and although I do sometimes reveal spoilers, I would never, ever reveal the ending to a mystery. Others obviously feel differently. Today I came across a Robin Paige book on TitleTrader that had a review that suggested it was interesting. A visit to Stop! You're killing me showed that it was the second in a series, so off I went to Amazon.com to check out the star rating and, if I liked what I saw, to buy the first book in the series. And what did I find? An author's message by one half of the writing team that reveals the ending to a mystery I was about to start reading, and without a spoiler warning.

Thank you so very, very much, Ms. Albert. If this is typical of your tact in general, I don't think I want to read any of your books any time soon. How would you like it if someone forced the ending to yo…

It's done – TBR stack: here I come!

The thesis is done and is now at the print shop. I'm picking it up from the printers tomorrow to turn it in. I should feel euphoric, but I'm just tired – I put in a good sprint towards the finishing line and am now in a sort of post-victory daze. It's amazing how much work it is getting a thesis ready for printing: double-checking and proofreading and re-checking and making sure the printers can't mess up the layout and discovering last minute changes that need to be made and then nervously checking everything again.

Now all I have to do is turn the thing in and wait for my grades – I have hopes of graduating cum laude, but I'm not opening the champagne bottle until I know for sure. It will be wonderful to go back to reading just for fun – my TBR bookcase is double-stacked and overflowing, and I have sworn not to renew my library card until I have cleared at least a shelf.

I hope to have the blog running again at full speed soon.

Mystery author #23: Sebastien Japrisot

Title:A Very Long Engagement
Original French title:Un long diamanche de fiançailles
Year of publication: 1991 (original), 1993
Type of mystery: Missing person
Type of investigator: Amateur
Setting & time: France, 1917-1924, with flashbacks and flash-forwards
Number of corpses: Many
Some themes: Love, hate, perseverance, truth, war crimes

I had originally intended to review One Deadly Summer (L'été meurtrier) because I had seen and enjoyed the film, but I didn't like the first person narrative style of the book and gave up on it. I also suppose it was not that exciting for me to read because I already knew what the surprise twist was. When I came across this book I remembered that there had been a critically acclaimed film of the same title and a random reading of a few lines told me it was not written in the same narrative style as the other book, so I bought it.

Story: In the winter of 1917 five French soldiers who have been sentenced to death for cowardice are pushed out into n…

Bookmark: Graffiti

This piece of graffiti is part of a huge mural that can be seen when driving along the Sæbraut road in Reykjavík, Iceland.

The larger bookmark (first image) is 19 by 6 cm and the smaller one is 10 by 5 cm. Click on the images to bring up the full-sized image. Print on cardstock or thick paper. I recommend laminating.





Bibliophile reviews Fasting, Feasting by Anita Desai

Year published: 1999
Genre: Literary fiction (if that can be called a genre)
Setting & time: India and the USA; 20th century (semi-timeless)
Some themes: Tradition, family, unhappiness, gender roles

Shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 1999.

Warning: contains what some may consider to be SPOILERS

The Story: The story, such as it is (I will explain later) revolves around an Indian family that is so steeped in tradition that it has tragic consequences for the children, none of whom are happy with their lot. The first half of the book deals with Uma, the eldest girl who is plain and has not been able to get a husband. She lives at home with her parents and is more like an upper servant than one of the family and yearns for a life outside the family home, but she can never realise those dreams because it would be unseemly and disgraceful for the family if she did. In between we see glimpses of family history, the siblings growing up and the younger sister's arranged marriage in which she…

Request a bookmark

I am thinking about starting a bookmark of the week project. I have a huge collection of photographs I have taken over the years, some of which I have been moving over to Flickr. I want to do something with them, and here's my idea: visit my Flickr page and if you notice a photo you would like to see on a printable bookmark, drop me a comment on this blog with the title of the photo and I will feature it as bookmark of the week. To see my photographs, click on the link in the heading, choose a photo, copy the title, then come back here and make your request.

P.S. I only ask that you do not request bookmarks made from mosaics I have made from images by other Flickr users. There are copyright issues at stake.
As regards the graffiti images, they are on the walls for the world to see and while I would never try to make money from selling photos of them, I see no harm in distributing them to a bigger audience for free.

Printable Bookmarks

Here are a couple of bookmarks to print out. The first one is single-sided, the other is double sided. You can print them on cardstock or if you want to lamintae them, on heavy paper. The double one should be folded down the middle and the blank sides glued together. These are not shown full size.

I'm taking a break from blogging for a while

I am working on my thesis and will therefore not post any reviews until after September 10. I may add some short essays or thoughts about books and reading if the spirit grabs me (I find it's a good way to get myself writing in the mornings to write something unrelated to the thesis). Until then, here's a mosaic of some of the books I read and reviewed in the past:




The Seagull's Laughter

Today I am going to recommend a movie. I have just finished reading Mávahlátur (The Seagull's Laughter) by Kristín Marja Baldursdóttir, and loved it. I had previously enjoyed the movie and can now with certainty say that it is the most faithful movie adaptation of a book I have seen. It’s a combination of mystery, satire and coming of age story, with the central character Agga turning from girl to woman in the course of the book, while observing her mysterious cousin Freyja, who may or may not have murdered two men, and her struggles with the class system. The class-conscious society of an Icelandic fishing town in the 1950s is beautifully drawn (Freyja is working class, the man she marries is as close to being an aristocrat as is possible in Iceland), and while Americans have been puzzled over the catty class clashes (I have been reading movie reviews), people from more class-divided countries like Britain should be able to enjoy the story on a more equal footing with Icelanders.…

Printable bookmarks

It's funny about bookmarks. They belong to that special group of things that also includes keys, pens and one half of any pair (socks, earrings, etc.), i.e. items that keep getting lost. Ergo, readers can always use more bookmarks.

According to my web counter, about half the visitors who come to my blog every day do so in search of printable bookmarks. My bookmark posts seem to have a high rating on Google if the right search words are entered, and I only hope the one bookmark I have actually published so far has come in handy for many readers.

So as not to disappoint, here are a couple of printable bookmarks. All I ask in return for you using them is that you leave a comment. I would especially like to know what kind of bookmarks you would like to see here in the future. If I get enough comments, I will make this a regular feature, either as bookmark of the week or bookmark of the month.

Instructions: Click on an to bring up the full-sized bookmark. The bookmarks should print …