14 December 2007

Reading report for November 2007

As may be seen from the list I have been on a Ngaio Marsh reading binge, making her the author of half the books I read in November.

It looks like I am not going to finish the 52 mystery authors challenge before the end of the year as I had planned. In fact, I will probably not be reading much until February, as I have just received a big translation job equivalent in length to a short novel (but not nearly as much fun to translate) that will take up most of the time I have allotted to daily reading. (As of December, I have only finished three books, two of which were quickie rereads. If I was reading at my normal pace, I would have finished 7 or 8 books by now).

I have been trying to work up some momentum before I tackle Terry Pratchett’s latest offering, Making Money, by rereading Night Watch to get me in the mood, and I will probably read the previous Moist von Lipwig book, Going Postal, before I start on the new book. Pratchett is one of my favourite authors, but in the last four years or so I have found it increasingly difficult to start reading his newest books. I think it’s because I have read the previous ones so often that they have stopped surprising me (I still enjoy the jokes but now I start chuckling a couple of paragraphs before they actually happen) and deep down I dread not having a new Pratchett book to look forward to. Now that he has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, it looks like that dreaded moment is not as far off as I had imagined (or hoped).

The list:
Edward Abbey: Desert Solitaire
Viktor Arnar Ingólfsson: Engin Spor ("No Trace")
Ngaio Marsh: Artists in Crime, Death at the Bar, Death in a White Tie, Overture to Death
J.D. Robb: Witness in Death
Amy Sutherland: Cookoff: Recipe Fever in America
Mark Twain: The Innocents Abroad

The reread:
Terry Pratchett: Night Watch

13 December 2007

A sad blow to a family, and to lovers of fantasy literature

Today I learned that Terry Pratchett, one of my favourite authors, has been diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s. Having two relatives suffering from this disease, I know first had what it can do to a person, and I would just like to say: “I’m sorry to hear this, Terry, not just because you are a great writer, but because no-one should have to suffer through such a horrible experience.”

Terry’s message announcing the news

07 December 2007

All I want for Christmas...

...is a bunch of books.

Or, putting it another way: My book wishlist for Christmas:

I feel the need to write something and I don’t have a book to review at hand, so I’m doing this list instead. I have left off the list the several cookbooks and foodie books I want, because I want to write about them over on Matarást, my other food blog (you’ll find a link on my profile page if you’re curious).
The reading report for November is in the making.

Not all of the books are new and the list is in no particular order of preference.

Here goes:

Jennifer Crusie & Bob Mayer: Agnes and the Hitman. I really liked the previous book by the Crusie/Mayer team and I expect I will like this one as well. The pairing of a romance with a thriller is not a new idea, but so often romance writers are not good at thrillers and thriller writers not good at romance, so having a romance writer and a thriller writer working together on a book makes sense, especially when they manage it as seamlessly as Crusie and Mayer.

A hardcover 3 volume edition of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy. I made the mistake of lending my one-volume paperback edition to someone who doesn’t respect books and I got it back in horrible condition that has only gotten worse over several of my own re-readings of it. It has become obvious that this is a perennial read for me, so a longer-lasting hardcover edition is better than a soft cover one, and it’s a big book, so it makes sense to want 3 smaller volumes rather than one large one.

Peter Ackroyd: London: The Biography. I have read part of it and liked it, and want to finish it and have it available to dip into when the mood grabs me. Hardcover for preference, as it’s a big book and thick softcovers tend not to last long.

Neil Gaiman: Angels and Visitations, Smoke and Mirrors, Fragile Things, and the collected Sandman graphic novels. Gaiman is a master of the short story and I would love to own all of his short story collections, and his Sandman comics are just great.

Bella Bathurst: The Wreckers: A Story of Killing Seas, False Lights, and Plundered Shipwrecks. I like reading about history, but not the sweeping kind. I prefer specific histories, such as biographies of persons, the history of specific places or things (like the spice trade or the East India Company), rather than the kind that covers whole countries and focuses on kings, politicians, famines and wars. If it’s about something that is usually not covered in the history textbooks, like domestic life or food or a little know expedition, that’s all the better, so this seems to be my kind of book.

Ella K. Maillart: Forbidden Journey. I have already read the “he said” part of this journey through Turkestan: Peter Fleming’s travel classic News from Tartary, and now I would like to read about it from Maillart’s point of view.

There are lots more, but these are the ones I could remember.

04 December 2007

Bibliophile reviews Kingdoms of Experience: Everest, the unclimbed ridge by Andrew Greig

Year published: 1986
Genre: Non-fiction: mountain-climbing, Mt. Everest
Setting & time: Mt. Everest, Tibet, 1985.

The Story:
In 1984 Greig, then relatively inexperienced as a mountain climber, had joined an expedition to the Himalayas as a writer and member of the support crew. At the end of the expedition, the leader, Mal Duff, heard about an available climbing permit for Mt. Everest from the Tibetian side, and decided to put together an expedition to try to climb the then unclimbed north-east ridge of Mount Everest. Greig joined the expedition and the book tells the story, not just about the climb itself, but also the planning, putting together the team, financing and getting to Tibet.

Review:
This book, while probably of most interest to mountain climbers and those interested in climbing, can give non-climbers an insight into the immense amount of work that goes into an expedition like this one, the strain of high-altitude climbing and the dangers of it (not just falls and frostbite), and as it was not written by a professional climber, the language does not lapse into technical jargon. The few technical terms, mostly for pieces of climbing equipment, are easily looked up in a dictionary, but even if you don’t look them up (like me) their presence does not slow down the reading or mar the reading pleasure.

The story as told from Greig’s point of view gives the book structure, but is complemented by frequent entries from the other expedition members’ journals, so we get to see some of the key events of the climbing and their thoughts about it, but also about daily life in the camps.

Rating: A very interesting look at mountain climbing, even for a non-climber. 4 stars.