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Wednesday reading experience #39

Now that you have read a real diary, try a fictional one.

Last Wednesday I recommended a real diary because it helps to be familiar with the non-fiction diary form when reading fictional diaries. In fiction the diary form has been used to good effect in parody and for satire, but also for more innocent humour. It has also been used in dead earnest in fiction. It is one of the forms which epistolatory novels take, a sort of monologue where the reader takes on the role of the narrator's confessor.

Here are some that I can recommend:
The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13 ¾ and The Growing Pains of Adrian Mole by Sue Townsend. These are ostensibly written for teenagers, but can be enjoyed by adults as well. I have not read the sequels, but I do own them and plan to read them.Bridget Jones's Diary by Helen Fielding.Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging by Louise Rennison. Written for teenage girls, but quite enjoyable. Have not read any of the sequels, but expect them to be enj…

Review of Himself and Other Animals

Originally published in 2 parts, on March 17-23, 2004
Book 8 in my first 52 books challenge.

Entry 1:

Full title: Himself and Other Animals: Portrait of Gerald Durrell
Author: David Hughes
Published: 1997
Where got: public library
Genre: Biography, memoir

This week's book is about one of my favorite authors: Gerald Durrell. David Hughes, a longtime friend of Durrell's, wrote the book as a tribute to his friend back in the seventies, but it wasn't published until after Durrell's death. It's more a portrait of the man than a regular biography - I guess it should be called a memoir rather than a biography.

Entry 2:

Finished it last night. The book is well written and set up as a busy week in the life of Gerald Durrell, back in the 1970's when it was originally written. Interspersed with descriptions of Gerry's daily routine, character and moods are comments and reminiscences of himself, his friends and his family. He is shown in different environments and interacting w…

Wednesday reading experience #38

Read a published diary/journal or a collection of excerpts from diaries/journals.

Diaries can be an excellent way of seeing into someone’s mind and also to find out little things about daily life in the past that can hardly be found anywhere else. For this reason historians find diaries to be an excellent source of research material. They also make good material for biographers.

While the diaries and journals of famous people may be most interesting to the general public in the authors’ life time or recently after their death, in the long run it is often the diaries of ordinary people like Anne Frank and Samuel Pepys that end up being much more fascinating. While parts of Frank’s diary were written with the view of later publication, Pepys probably never intended his diaries for publication and so he is more candid and outspoken than he might otherwise have been.

I am currently reading The Faber Book of Diaries, a collection of interesting diary entries chosen and edited by Simon Brett. …

Top mysteries review: Red Harvest

Year of publication: 1929
Series and no.: The Continental Op, first novel, preceeded by and based on short stories
Genre: Noir thriller
Type of investigator: Private detective
Setting & time: Personville, a fictional town in the western USA, probably California or Nevada.

Story:
The nameless narrator, know to the reader only as the Continental Op, arrives in the small city of Personville where the crime situation has become so bad that people have started calling it Poisonville. His client is murdered before he can meet him, but the dead man’s father retains his services to find the killer. The Op starts investigating and uncovers all sorts of nastiness, and events finally lead to him becoming so annoyed with the place and it’s criminal elements that he decides to clean up the town.

Review and rating:
Like the previous two Hammett novels I have reviewed, this one is written in a spare and quick style and the narrative moves fast. The story is nasty and brutal and slightly tempered with th…

Some recently acquired books

Here are some books I have acquired recently:


About half are BookMooch acquisitions and the rest I got at a second hand shop that sells stuff for charity.
The one you can't see the title of is A Voyage by Dhow by Norman Lewis.
I have already read The Thirteenth Tale, but getting it in hard covers was a piece of good luck.

Review of Hawksmoor

Originally published in 2 parts, on March 9-12, 2004.
Book 7 in my first 52 books challenge.

Part 1:

Author: Peter Ackroyd
Published: 1985
Where got: public library
Genre: mystery, horror

I read this book years ago as part of a college course on modern English literature, but I remember nothing about it. Even now, when I'm almost finished with part one, I still remember nothing about the previous reading, which I guess shows how interested I was in it at the time.

Every other chapter happens in the 18th century and is written in the style of that time, which takes a while to get used to. The other chapters are written in modern English and happen in modern times. The narrative point of view shifts between chapters, from 1st person to 3rd person. These stylistic changes necessitate a shifting of mental gears at the beginning of each chapter and make the book challenging to read.

So far I'm finding it to be a dark and rather menacing narrative. Dyer, the 18th century narrator, appears to…

Wednesday reading experience #37

Read a graphic novel. If you are not already a fan of comic strips and/or comic books, you might be surprised to find just how sophisticated they can be.

Graphic novels tell a story in graphic form, using the images and minimal text style of comics to convey what a regular novel does in words alone. The term is used about stories too long to publish in one single edition of a comics magazine, and describes both works originally published in book form and works originally published in episodic form in comics magazines and later collected into book form.

There is some debate as to the exact definition of a graphic novel, but for the purpose of this blog post let’s define a graphic novel as a book containg a single long story or a collection of shorts stories with a common theme or setting, told in graphic form.

I can personally recommend:

By Neil Gaiman and various artists:
The Sandman seriesThe Books of MagicThe Death series (spin-off from Sandman)Stardust (also a traditional novel and a mo…

Reading journal on The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency

Book 5 in my first 52 books challenge.
Originally published in several parts on February 22-22, 2004.

Entry 1:

Author: Alexander McCall Smith
Published: 1998
Where got: public library
Genre: Detective novel

Reason for choosing:
I first read about this book in a book review in one of the daily newspapers in Iceland. The title caught my attention and I decided that such an unusual and humorous name was very promising as to the contents of the book. So far I have not been disappointed (after reading chapter one).

Entry 2:

I'm quite enjoying the book so far.

Here are some links with information about the author and some of his other works:

About the series
Publisher's website, dedicated to the series

Entry 3:

"I love all the people whom God made, but I especially know how to love the people who live in this place. They are my people, my brothers and sisters. It is my duty to help them to solve the mysteries in their lives. That is what I am called to do."

There is something enchanting …

Review of Shadowlight by Lynn Viehl

When the publishing date of this book was pushed forward, it left Lynn Viehl’s publisher unable to print and send out advance reading copies (known in the publishing industry simply as ARCs), Lynn decided to take matters into her own hands and offered the readers of her blog, Paperback Writer a chance to read the book by sending out e-ARCS, in exchange for reviews (the offer has now expired).

This book will be in bookshops on October 6th.

This is the first book in a spin-off series from the Darkyn books by Viehl, featuring some characters readers of that series will be familiar with.

Year published: 2009 (coming in October)
Genre: Urban fantasy
Series: The Kyndred (#1)
Setting & time: (mostly) Atlanta, Georgia; contemporary.

For those who want to be totally surprised by this book: potential SPOILERS coming up.
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The Story:
Jessa Bellamy has a psychic talent that has helped her build a business that screens job applicants for companies, but someone has discovered that she has this …

Wednesday reading experience #36

Read a bibliobook.

A bibliobook is a book that is about or prominently features books and/or book people, and can include both fiction and non fiction. Bibliobooks are perhaps the best proof of the enduring love people have for books and reading.

Some suggestions:
Non-fiction:
84 Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff. Memoir about her long-lasting intercontinental relationship with a book shop and its staff. There is a charming movie starring Anne Bancroft as Hanff.At Home with Books by Estelle Ellis & Caroline Seebohm, photographs by Christopher Simon Sykes. Here’s an excerpt from my review of it: “…a gorgeous, big book with oodles of pictures and chapters on various millionaires, aristocrats, collectors and designers and their libraries, interspersed with advice on how to care for and display books. The libraries range from small and cosy to huge and imposing, but all the owners are real bibliophiles who read their books and obviously love them. ... Cool coffee table book.”Living with …

Review of Toujours Provence

Originally published in 2004.

Author: Peter Mayle
Year published: 1991
Genre: Memoir, living abroad
Sub-genre(s): People and places
Where got: Second-hand bookstore

The Story:
Unlike the first book in the series, there is no story this time, just chapters on various subjects, ranging from the truffle business, to singing toads, to being a celebrity, wine tasting, turning fifty, eating wonderful food, living in a tourist area and so on.

Technique:
Written in the same light and humourous style as the previous book, but in some ways a better book. There is no attempt at telling a story, this is just a collection of anecdotes. In A Year in Provence, Mayle connected the chapters together by telling the story of the renovations being made on his house, and it made the book ramble a bit. Here, he is writing for people who have read the first book and know who the people he’s talking about are, so there is no need to introduce any of them, and it makes for a more flowing narrative.

This book did for me…

Review of The City of Falling Angels by John Berendt

Year published: 2005
Genre: History, portrait of a city
Setting & time: Venice, 1996-2003, with historical background going back farther

John Berendt arrived in Venice a few days after La Fenice (The Phoenix), Venice’s opera house, went up in flames, and visited it repeatedly over the next 8 years, interviewing people and doing extensive research. The book is a portrait of the city’s artists, aristocrats and glamorous expatriates at that time, with the story of the Fenice fire and its aftermath up to the grand re-opening as the backbone of the narrative, even when discussing other matters, like the debacle over Ezra Pound’s papers.

The book begins with a gripping account of the night of the fire, looking at it through the eyes of some of the people whose portraits he draws later in the book, and continues with a tightly woven tapestry of words. Berendt, like a good journalist, always keeps back and is rarely in the forefront of the narrative, so the book can’t really be called a trave…

Review of Kitchen Confidential

Book 4 in my first 52 books challenge.
Originally published in several parts on February 16-21, 2004.

Part 1:

Author: Anthony Bourdain
Published: 2000
Where got: Public library
Genre: Autobiography

I first got wind of this book shortly after it was published in 2000, when, browsing on Salon.com, I came across an excerpt from it. I liked the style which is refreshingly honest and has great descriptions of people, and I immediately decided I wanted to read it. Below is a link to that excerpt:

Kitchen god


Parts 2-3:

Kitchen Confidential extract

Interview with Bourdain

Anthony Bourdain’s top 10 books about food


Part 4:

Kitchen Confidential is for the most part a memoir, but one which is interspersed with anecdotes and advise and littered with profanity. This funny and entertaining account of Anthony Bourdain's progress from dishwasher to chef is written in a tough and macho tone and sprinkled with inventive vulgarisms that might offend some readers and make others laugh out loud. In between…

Wednesday reading experience #35

Try some chick-lit or the male equivalent: lad-lit.

If you’re a woman who already reads chick-lit, give lad-lit a try, and vice versa.

If you are unfamiliar with either:
Chick-lit is a term used for a specific sub-genre of women's fiction (i.e. books written for and marketed to women). It separates itself from romance fiction in that the main focus is not on romantic relationships, although they may be (and usually are) included, but equally on the female protagonist’s relationships with family, friends and co-workers, and on their careers and other aspects of their lives. These novels are generally light-hearted and humorous and the females portrayed in them tend to be in their 20s or 30s, are generally single, building a career (often in some seemingly glamorous profession like fashion or publishing), and are often obsessed with career-building and fond of shopping.

Some well-known titles include Bridget’s Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding, The Devil Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger,…

Reading report for August 2009, and changes to the TBR challenge

I finished 20 books in August:

1 perennial re-read:
Gerald Durrell: Catch Me a Colobus - memoir, animal collecting
5 books in the Top Mysteries challenge, one of them part of a trilogy that’s listed as one book in the CWA list, so you could say I have read 4 1/3 TM titles. They are:
E.C. Bentley: Trent's Last Case - Murder mysteryErskine Childers: The Riddle of the Sands - Espionage thrillerLen Deighton: Berlin Game - Espionage thriller (to be reviewed with the rest of the trilogy)Harper Lee: To Kill a Mockingbird - NovelDorothy L. Sayers: Gaudy Night - Murder mystery
5 in the Icelandic books challenge: 2 so-so short story collections, 2 pretty good poetry books, and one travelogue that pretty much sucked due to being mostly a rewrite of the historical and descriptive chapters of some guide book, interspersed with only a handful of observations by the author herself. They are:
Andrés G. Þormar : Hillingar - short storiesEggert Ólafsson : Kvæði (Íslensk úrvalsrit) -poetryHelgi Valtýsson…