25 August 2006

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:

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17 August 2006

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. The movie is out on DVD and video, and I heartily recommend it.

P.S. I would also like to apologise for the scarcity of reviews lately. I am in the finishing stages of writing my master's thesis and have only had time to read at such times when I couldn't sit at the computer and type, like mealtimes and my habitual half hour before bed-time. I am looking forward to the end of the month when I finally turn the thing in. Then, of course, comes the endless wait for grades and graduation, but that can at least be temporarily forgotten with the help of a good book.

14 August 2006

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 out in the size 19 by 5 cm. I recommend downloading them before printing, but they can be printed straight off the web if you want. Set the printing quality of your printer to 'high' or better and print the bookmark on cardstock. I recommend laminating them.



  

10 August 2006

Bibliophile reviews Love Bites by Lynsay Sands

Genre: Paranormal romance
Year of publication: 2004
Setting & time: Toronto, Canada; present day
Some themes: Love, jealousy, madness, sex



Story: Rachel Garrett has been stuck on the night shift in the morgue for three years and thinks it sucks. A madman is stalking Etienne Argeneau and trying to kill him, 1) out of professional jealousy and, 2) because Etienne is a vampire and the stalker has watched too many episodes of Buffy. One night, after a nearly successful assassination, Etienne is brought to the morgue with a bullet in his heart and Rachel saves his life by pulling it out. The second time they meet is when he is again brought in, and this time the stalker has followed and when he tries to behead Etienne, Rachel gets in the way and is mortally wounded and Etienne turns her into a vampire to save her life. At first she is incredulous and thinks she must be comatose and dreaming, but then she begins to accept what has happened and she and Etienne enter into a sexual relationship. It takes a kidnapping by the stalker to make them realise they love each other. Happy ending and wedding bells.

Review: Have I mentioned that I have a weak spot for paranormals? Not just romances, but horror and thrillers as well, plus I like humorous novels, so this looked like an excellent choice – a light, funny paranormal – when I discovered it at the second-hand shop, so I bought it and took it home to read. I wasn't exactly disappointed, but neither was I too pleased. The story, while somewhat interesting, doesn't have much substance and could have been told in about 100 pages less, simply by cutting out some of the many sex scenes that riddle it like cancer. Don't get me wrong, they are hot sex scenes, but mostly filler material none the less, and after about the second one I found my eyes glazing over when I got to the next one, and I started skimming them.

Neither of the leading characters is very interesting, but the secondary characters make up for it up to a point. I would especially like to see more of prankish cousin Thomas, and the story of Etienne's sister and her human lover has promise, but has apparently not been written yet (this is a series novel).

There is not much of the promised humour in the story – the best scenes being the chapters where Rachel still thinks she is dreaming. The chapters where she is held captive by the stalker are darkly humorous as well, but neither sequence is laugh-out-loud funny.

The romance is not much of a romance. This is one of those stories where (increasingly better) sex is supposed to fill in for bonding, and the realisation by the lovers near the end that they love one another is not convincing.
The style is easy and readable, and the story is not bad, but needs some pruning.

Rating: Slight entertainment for lovers of romance and vampires. Plenty of out-of-this-world sex. 2 stars.

05 August 2006

Bibliophile reviews My Sister's Keeper

Author: Jodi Picoult
Year published: 2004
Genre: Family drama

The Story: 13 year old Anna Fitzgerald has been in and out of the hospital her whole life, undergoing repeated painful medical procedures. Not as a patient, but as a source of blood and cells for her older sister, Kate, who has suffered from a severe form of leukaemia since she was a child. Now Anna has been asked to give a kidney to her sister, who will probably die anyway, and the kidney harvesting may prevent Anna from ever having a completely normal life. She hires a lawyer to get medical emancipation for herself and free her from the constant demands of her mother that she always be ready to sacrifice herself for her sister. She wants to make her own decision about what she donates to her sister. Meanwhile, her brother has found a destructive outlet for his feelings, and Anna's lawyer and her guardian ad litem have a history that may complicate matters.

Technique and plot: I could not put this book down. Once I started reading, I was hooked and read it through in one go. The story is told in the first person from different viewpoints that allow the reader direct access to all the principal characters and makes it difficult to assign traditional roles to them, such as Hero, Victim, Villain, Helper, and so on. The characters are simply too complex for such labels. The subject is controversial and complex, and Picoult's narrative method allows the reader to travel from one mind to the next and understand what is going on in their heads, how they see the events unfold and why they react in the ways they do. Even so, she still manages to put in twists, some of which are totally unexpected, like the ending.

Yes, the ending. It was rather anticlimactic, I thought, after the tour de force of the story. Picoult tells a story that could have happened in real life and adds a facile Hollywood ending where Anna is absolved of the guilt of possibly having been able to save her sister and the decision of donating the kidney is neatly taken out of her hands. Then Picoult adds insult to injury by tacking on a final chapter, set in the future, where Kate goes all maudlin over past events and neatly ties the story up into a cute little bow, even it if is edged with black. I cried at that end, and not because it was so emotionally loaded, but because it was so wrong for the story. Did the story have to be tied up so neatly? Why couldn't it be allowed to end without a final resolution, giving the reader the role of deciding what happened next? It would have made the story much more verisimilar to real life.

Rating: Loved everything about it except the ending. It is therefore getting 4 stars instead of the five I had decided on before I read that ending.

03 August 2006

Bibliophile's reading report for July 2006

I'm now spending most of my free time reading the translation (see previous posts) with the original to discover translation errors and missed sentences. After than, I will make a third pass and correct the syntax and grammar to remove the translation 'flavour' and make it more Icelandic than it is at present. After all, this is my master's thesis and I want to get good grades and get published :-)

I still managed to do some pleasure reading:

Reviewed:
Lovely in her bones: Sharyn McCrumb
The Merchant's House: Kate Ellis
Murder on the Yellow Brick Road: Stuart Kaminsky
Payback: Fern Michaels
Sick of shadows: Sharyn McCrumb
These old shades: Georgette Heyer
Vetrarborgin: Arnaldur Indriðason

Unreviewed:
Djöflatertan: Þóra Sigurðardóttir & Marta María Jónasdóttir
Strangled prose: Joan Hess (review is already written, will post it some day)

Rereads: (unreviewed)
Hogfather: Terry Pratchett
Soul Music: Terry Pratchett
Thief of time: Terry Pratchett

I'm re-reading all the Discworld books, by sub-series. I have finished the Death/Susan books and am now reading the Witches sub-series. I just finished Wyrd Sisters.

Total books read: 12