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Showing posts from April, 2006

Mystery author # 14: Patricia Wentworth

This time around I read three books for the review. Patricia Wentworth wrote about the same number of non-series mysteries/thrillers as she did Miss Silver books, but all I managed to get my hands on are Miss Silver stories, so the author review is based on them alone. (Typically, I came across some at the flea market on the weekend after I wrote the book reviews, but I’ll review them independently when I feel like reading them).

Title:Grey Mask
Series detective: Miss Maud Silver
No. in series: 1
Year of publication: 1928
Type of mystery: General crime
Type of investigator: Amateurs and private detective
Setting & time: London, England, 1920’s
Some themes: Blackmail, kidnapping, theft, murder

Story: Charles Moray returns to England four years after his fiancé, Margaret Langton, jilted him, a week before their wedding. He discovers that she is a member of a secret society and that some of its members are planning to cause an heiress, Margot Standing, to lose her inheritance. If she makes t…

Bibliophile reviews Every Boy’s Got One (romance)

Author: Meg Cabot
Year published: 2005
Genre: Romance
Setting: Italy, 21st century


The Story: Cartoonist Jane and foreign reporter Cal agree to accompany their eloping friends Holly and Mark to Italy to be their bridesmaid and best man. They take a violent dislike to each other at first sight and when Jane discovers that Cal doesn’t believe in marriage and intends to try to talk his friend out of marrying Holly, she likes him even less. But when a bout of food poisoning almost ruins the wedding plans and Jane and Cal have to rush to Rome to get some papers for the bridal couple, they get to know and understand each other better on the way.

Technique and plot: Like all the other Meg Cabot novels I’ve read, this is an epistolatory story. Jane writes in her diary, Cal writes on his PDA, and they both email back and forth with friends and family. The epistolatory form is Cabot’s specialty and she does it well. Managing to convey different personalities through a few lines of e-mail is no eas…

Mystery author #13: Georges Simenon. Part 2

Title:Maigret in Exile
Original French title:La Maison du juge.
Translator: Eileen Ellenbogen
Series detective: Inspector Maigret
No. in series: 21 (of the novels. If the short stories are included: 42)
Year of publication: 1942
Type of mystery: Murder, whodunnit
Type of investigator: Police
Setting & time: Rural France, 1930’s? (The story was written during WW2, but since there is no mention of the German occupation of France, I’m guessing pre-war)
Some themes: Love, sexual abuse, adultery, hate

Story: Maigret has done something to displease his superiors and has been sent into a kind of exile in a small town on the northern coast of France where nothing ever happens. He has fallen into a boring routine which is broken when a woman from the next town arrives to tell him that a corpse can be seen through her neighbour’s upstairs window. Maigret goes to investigate, and finds the neighbour, a retired judge, trying to dispose of the corpse, apparently not to hide the crime but because he do…

I love second-hand books

There is something slightly mysterious about some of them, especially when they contain inscriptions, margin notes and annotations. Others I just love because they are cheap.

If I bought every book I’m interested in at full price, I would have gone bankrupt a long time ago. Instead, I am saved from financial insolvency by second-hand bookshops and libraries.

I get most of my casual reading copies from those sources, through TitleTrader (incidentally, if you join TT through this link, I get a free trading point ;-)
or from a shop run by the local recycling company and various charities. The books at the charity shop are cheap, some are even free. I can get 18+ second-hand paperbacks there for the price of one new one, or 6-8 for the price of a second hand book from a bookstore. Of course, it is entirely up to chance whether I find anything that’s on my “want to read” list, but I usually find something that interests me.

Once a book has been on the shelves of the charity shop for a certai…

Mystery author #13: Georges Simenon. Part 1

I’m almost ashamed to admit that I had never read anything by French author Georges Simenon - who is still the most famous mystery writer of continental Europe - until I read the two following books, especially considering that a number of his books have been translated intro Icelandic.

All in all I have read four of his romans policier. I am splitting the review in two and will discuss the author in the second one. It will be interesting to read these books, as they are translated by different translators and have been published under various English titles.

Title:Maigret meets a Milord. Originally published in English as Lock 14. Another alternative title (different translation) is The Crime at Lock 14
Original French title:Le Charretier de la ‘Providence’
Translator: Robert Baldick
Series detective: Inspector Maigret
No. in series: 2 (possibly). Several Maigret books were published in the same year and may have been written in a different order from the publication)
Year of publication…

Bibliophile reviews Volga, Volga: A voyage down the great river (travel)

Author: Lesley Chamberlain
Year published: 1996
Genre: Travelogue

Chamberlain, a former reporter, returns to post-Communist Russia to travel down the Volga. She writes of her journey, people she meets and places she visits, and enriches the travelogue with history, literature and legends connected with the river.

Review: The author obviously has a rather uneasy relationship with Russia and her people. Even though she speaks the language, she finds it hard to understand them: their thinking processes are alien to her and she finds their behaviour contradictory, but she loves the country and its literature and searches for understanding through literary texts, history, legends and the landscape. Trying to understand and analyse the Russian soul proves to be harder than she expected, and she ends up alienated and suffering from culture shock.
The writing is straightforward, journalistic and matter of fact, with an occasional poetic burst.

Rating: An uneasy voyage down one of the world’s famou…

Bibliophile reviews The Barbie Chronicles: A living doll turns forty

Editor: Yona Zeldis McDonough
Year published: 1999
Pages: 240
Genre: social history

Like millions of other girls across the world, I had a Barbie when I was little. I think she was a Superstar. She came in a hot pink gown with spaghetti straps, had rigid bent arms with a scary hole through one hand for a huge ring that quickly got lost, and similar huge earrings, the removal of which left gaping holes that obliterated her earlobes. Before long, one arm was broken off at the elbow – I don’t remember how it happened, but I may well have been trying to unbend her unnaturally angled arm. After my brother broke the pin that attached her head to her torso by hitting her hard with his He-Man action figure, she was never the same, and one day she was gone. I never missed her. I certainly never felt I was expected to become a Barbie Superstar. I never even wanted to be blonde, let alone have DD breasts. As an adult I discovered that the pretty doll with the vacant stare and impossibly thick hair I…

Reader’s block

Ever pick up one book after another, read a chapter, then put it down and start on another, over and over? Ever want to read something, but none of your own books will do and there’s nothing interesting at the library? Ever pick up a book and then decide to watch TV, vacuum the floors, do laundry or go for a walk instead? In short: Have you ever had reader’s block?

That’s me right now. Reviewing will resume once I feel like reading again.

Edit:
Until then, here are some of my old reviews, including the original 52 Books reading project (so far only the fiction - I'm working on the rest).