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Showing posts from March, 2007

Bibliophile reviews I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith

(I finally gave in and cheated on the shelf challenge...)

Year originally published: 1948
Genre: Novel
Setting & time: England, 1940s

The Story: The book is written with 17 year old Cassandra Montmain as a narrator. She is keeping a journal in which she tries to capture the character of castle she lives in and all its inhabitants. Her father once wrote a very important book, but has not written a thing in 12 years, her artist's model stepmother is wildly eccentric but also rather domestic at heart, her sister Rose is willing to sell her soul to the devil to take herself and her family out of their poverty-stricken situation (they have no regular income), and Stephen, who is a sort of servant and sort of family member, is very much in love with Cassandra, who cares for him very much but is not romantically interested in him.
The arrival of two brothers in the neighbourhood bodes changes in the family's fortunes, and here I think I will say no more, as this book is hard to review…

What I found inside The Southern Gates of Arabia

Some months ago I wrote about things I have found in books. Back then, I had not really started thinking about how finding stuff in books could become part of this blog, but I have been thinking it over and I think I will begin a new feature about it. I am not about to go into any kind of competition with the good people of Found magazine and the Found blog, as my finding things in books usually happens at long and irregular intervals, but I think it can be interesting to look at the things people leave inside books and consider what it can tell us about them and the books.

My first featured find is the three items I discovered inside The Southern Gates of Arabia by Freya Stark.

The first is simply a plain bookplate stating that the book is a bequest to the National Library of Iceland from Mrs. Ellen Gertrude Austin, dated 1942. Presumably the book is part of a bigger bequest of books. The edition was published in 1938, so the book was almost new when it was given to the library.

Abou…

Pruning my book collection

I have been doing a bit of pruning in my TBR shelves and am putting the 'cuttings' on my BookMooch trade list. When I got them, some of the books were being given away for free and looked interesting at the time, although I now can no longer remember why they looked interesting, while with others I know I can easily get them from the library and also that I will have no desire to own then after I read them. And then there are the books I do no remember being given, buying or taking from the 'free books' table. How they got into my book collection is a mystery.

If anyone can give me reason why I should keep and read any of these books, please drop me a comment.

Iain Banks: The Wasp Factory - I am only mildly interested in it and if someone mooching it suddenly makes me want to read it, I can easily read it in 2 hours before sending it off.

John Bunyan: The Pilgrim's Progress. Not only can I get it from the library – it is also available on the net. I have mostly been…

Bibliophile reviews Tender at the Bone: Growing up at the table by Ruth Reichl

Year published: 1999
Genre: Memoir, food, recipes
Setting & time: USA 1950s to 1970s.

I got this book on some solid recommendations from the foodies in my online reading group, and I am not sorry.

Reichl writes about growing up in New York with a caring but rather distant father and a bipolar mother and some of the characters, many of them wonderfully eccentric, who contributed to her education about food. She becomes a rebel, but only when her parents can't catch her at it, has friendships, travels, falls in love and marries, and lives in a commune in California and works in a cooperative restaurant. All of this contributes to her wide knowledge of food that would later lead her to become a restaurant critic, and throughout the book food is a constant theme.

Reichl writes an easy and light style and her prose is entertaining but without ever being fluffy. The book is a collection of episodes from Reichl's early life rather than being one story told straight through, probably …

Bibliophile reviews a (gasp!) new(ish) book

Author: Naomi Novik
Title:Temeraire
American title: His Majesty’s Dragon
Year published:2006
Genre: Fantasy/alternative history

Yet another independent bookshop in Reykjavík is closing and it looks like soon there will only be two chains left, both owned by the same company. But this is supposed to be a review, not a lament for the demise of the independent bookseller. At the closing sale I came across this book, which caught my attention with the cover artwork: a black dragon hovering over an old-fashioned warship under full sail. The blurb promised a novel of the Napoleonic era – only with dragons. I decided to cheat on my reading diet and read the book while my interest in it was still fresh, so here is the review:

The Story: When William Laurence and his crew capture a French ship Laurence wonders why the French put up such very fierce resistance to the taking of the ship. The reason becomes clear when a dragon’s egg is discovered in the hold. Dragons must be harnessed straight from the…

Reading report for February 2007

I managed to read 15 books in February. Apart from that, I have taken apart, repaired, re-sewn and rebound four more and printed, folded, sewn and bound one. In other words: the book binding course is going well, but as a result I have not had much time or inclination for blogging. I am proud to say I read four books in Icelandic, three of which were written in the language and one translation.

Reviewed:
MM Kaye: Death in Zanzibar
Ellery Queen: Cat of many tails
Georges Simenon: Maigret and the burglar's wife

Unreviewed: (at least two of which I will review later)
Mary Balogh: Slightly scandalous (historical romance)
Leslie Charteris: Hefndargjöfin (a Saint story, but there is no original title given)
André Dominé & Michael Diker, eds.: Culinaria: European specialties 2 (seriously cool foodie book)
Bramah Ernest: Four Max Carrados detective stories (the first blind sleuth)
Phyllis Hartnoll: The Theatre: A concise history
Hendrik Ottósson: Gvendur Jóns og draugarnir á Duusbryggju (half-t…

Bibliophile reviews Maigret and the Burglar's Wife by Georges Simenon

Original French title:Maigret et la grande perche
translator: J. Maclaren-Ross
Series detective: Chief-Inspector Maigret
No. in series: 66
Year of publication: 1951
Type of mystery: Missing person/possible murder
Type of investigator: Police
Setting & time: Paris, France; 1953s

Story: A woman who once embarrassed Maigret when he was a young policeman comes to him with a fantastic story: her husband, a safecracker famous for his bad luck, found a murdered women in one of his break-ins and has fled the city for fear of being suspected of the murder. However, no murder has been reported in the suburb where it happened, and Maigret is unsure as to whether to believe the story or not. After speaking with the inhabitants of the house, a middle-aged man and his mother, his policeman's sixth sense is aroused he begins to believe the story and starts an investigation.

Review: It was interesting to read this book so shortly after having watched the same story unfold in an episode of the British …