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Showing posts from March, 2008

Wanted: Travelogues off the modern travelogue writer’s trodden path

I would like to find modern (i.e. written in the last 40 years or so) travel books about the countries that don’t seem to be in vogue with travel writers/publishers. For example, I have read half a dozen travelogues (including ‘placelogues’) about Spain and France in the last five years, but the only travel account I have read about neighbouring Portugal was a chapter about slaughtering and eating a pig in Anthony Bourdain’s book A Cook’s Tour, and while it did give me some insight into the importance of pork in the Portugese diet, it told me very little else about the country and people.

It is relatively easy to find travelogues about Ireland, France, Spain, Italy, Greece, Egypt, India, Thailand, Australia, Kenya, Peru, the USA (especially Alaska), Cuba, Russia, China, Mongolia and Norway. But where are the travelogues about Germany (Mark Twain wrote one, but what about new ones?), Switzerland, Finland, Portugal, Honduras, Libya, the UAE, Benin, Liberia, Malaysia, Georgia and Azerbai…

Bibliophile reviews A Girl’s Guide to Vampires by Katie MacAlister

Year published: 2003
Genre: Paranormal romance, mystery
Setting & time: The Czech Rebublic, modern timeless

The Story:
Joy Randall doesn’t believe in the existence of vampires. Nevertheless, she humours her best friend Roxy – who does believe – and goes with her to the Czech Republic to seek them out. The vampires Roxy wants to find are the “dark ones”, tortured but not really evil vampires that best-selling author C.J. Dante writes about. These dark ones are always male, and they can be saved from eternal damnation only if they find their Beloved, human women who are their soul-mates. Almost immediately after they arrive, one of those dark ones makes mental contact with Joy, and she has recurring visions where she shares his feelings and he calls her his beloved. He has to be one of the three men who are fighting for her attention, but which one? There is gorgeous Dominic, the owner of a travelling goth fair; handsome, smart, likeable Christian, a local resident; and tall, sexy Rapha…

Bad book covers

Is this a sexy cover, or what?



This is the cover for the British edition of one of Katie MacAlister's paranormal romances.
It's well-designed and well-balanced and the red colour (my scanner didn't quite reproduce it as red as it really is), the woman with a crossbow and the gothic lettering (not to mention the title) leaves no-one in doubt that it is a vampire story, probably a thriller, possibly a horror story, while the title playfully suggests romance.
The only problem is, it‘s misleading. No woman in the book wears a dress covered with bats under a full moon, and there is certainly no female vampire (or even vampyre) killer in the story. This, in my book, is enough to make it a bad cover, however well-designed and sexy. The American cover, while cheesy as hell, at least isn't misleading, except maybe by overemphasising the romance aspect:



Honestly, though, if I had to choose, I think I would take the British cover, misleading as it is, because at least it's cool…

Books I acquired this week

I'm thinking of adding a new feature to the blog: Photos of all the books I acquired in a particular week or on a particular day. Here is the first stack:



The bottom three were delivered by the postman last night, an order from Amazon.
The next six volumes I bought second hand at my favourite used book shop today, and the rest are BookMooch trades. That makes 21 books in 17 volumes. Not bad at all ;-)

BTW, this is an unusual number of books for one week. Sometimes several weeks pass when I don't buy or receive any books at all.

Bibliophile reviews The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

Year published: 2006
Genre: Novel
Setting & time: Britain; modern timeless

Margaret Lea, a young woman who works in her father’s antiquarian bookshop and occasionally writes short biographical essays about dead authors, gets an unexpected invitation from bestselling author Vida Winter to write her biography. Winter is well known for never telling the truth about her past, so Margaret is a bit suspicious, but Winter seems sincere and provides enough evidence of her real identity to satisfy Margaret. What unfolds is an incredible story about a childhood lived in a house full of madness, framed by Margaret’s own narrative about herself and her attempts to verify that Vida has been telling her the truth.

It would perhaps be repetitive to say that this is a brilliant piece of storytelling, since it is what most reviewers say about it. But it is undeniably a brilliantly told story, or perhaps I should say collection of stories, because Vida tells Margaret about her childhood in a series of …

Mystery author #42: Tony Hillerman

For this author I chose to review one book about each of the two detectives of the series and one about both of them, plus the Edgar award-winning Dance Hall of the Dead, which is the second book in the series.

Series detective(s): Navajo tribal police officers Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee

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Title:The Blessing Way
Detective(s): Navajo tribal police officer Joe Leaphorn
No. in series: 1
Year of publication: 1970
Type of mystery: Murder, thriller
Type of investigator: Police
Setting & time: The Navajo Indian reservation, Four Corners area, USA; 1960s

Story:
Lieutenant Leaphorn investigates the death of a young man who had been on the run from the police after wounding a man in a fight. Leaphorn suspected strongly that he was hiding in a particular area, but the body was found far away from there, and so he deems the death suspicious. Meanwhile, an anthropologist who had been planning to gather stories in the area where Leaphorn believed the dead man had been hiding, discovers his partner gone an…

Bibliophile reviews Princess Academy by Shannon Hale

Year published: 2005
Genre: Fantasy for older children/younger teens (especially girls), coming of age story

The Story: In a medieval type fantasy country, Miri, a young girl, is coming of age among the quarry workers of the mountains. They quarry linder, a valuable kind of rock that is in demand as building material for palaces and fine houses in the lowlands. Traders come to the village once a year to trade food and other necessities for linder, but in Miri's 14th year a messenger comes from the king, proclaiming that a prophesy has foretold that the bride of the crown prince will come from the mountains. Therefore, all the mountain girls aged 12 to 17 must attend a princess academy to prepare them for meeting the prince, who will choose one of them as his bride once they are ready.
Miri's father has never allowed her to work in the quarry for reasons she doesn’t understand, making her feel like an outsider, so in a way she welcomes the chance to experience something different…

Reading report for February 2008

I decided to include the genre and my star ratings with the books this time. Some reviews will follow later in the month.

As you can see, I am below average in my reading this month. It is not surprising, since an annoyed customer managed to put a damper on my reading activities. I got the big translation project I have mentioned before through a translation centre that I do freelance work for and my middleman misunderstood the client’s deadline requirements, telling me I had 10 days longer than I really did. My plan had been to finish 3-4 days ahead of the deadline I thought I had, but an emergency call from the middleman changed all that and instead of finishing at a leisurely pace, I had a couple of long days of proofreading the translation at double my usual pace, resulting in a myalgia-related headache that lasted a week and two physiotherapy sessions. But I did it and now I have free time to read again.

Jennifer Crusie: Charlie All Night (contemporary romance): 3+ stars
Susan Dono…

Bibliophile reviews Roughing It by Mark Twain

This was my classic for January and I should really have posted it before my review of Cranford (February’s classic, but I forgot I had written it.

Title: Roughing It
Author: Mark Twain (Samuel L. Clemens)
Year originally published: 1872
Genre: Memoir, travelogue
Setting & time: Western USA, mid-1800s


In Roughing It, Twain tells the story of how he left the east and travelled west, intending to stay for a few months and ending up staying several years. He tells of his own adventures: how he worked as a reporter, prospected for silver and attempted to start a lumber camp, among other things, ending up as a public lecturer. He also tells tales, both tall ones and ones that ring true, and most of all he describes the life in the silver mining towns and other places he lived in or visited, and the magnificent natural surroundings he saw, for example at Lake Tahoe and in Hawaii, which was then called the Sandwich Islands. The story is an entertaining mixture of fact and fiction, which can of…