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Showing posts from December, 2009

Unseen Academicals by Terry Pratchett

Year published: 2009
Genre: Fantasy
Setting & time: Ankh-Morpork, can remember what year (it’s mentioned in the book)

For some reason I have not yet been able to bring myself to finish Terry Pratchett's last Discworld book, Making Money, possibly because it failed to grip me in the first chapter, and also because I do not find Moist von Lipwig that interesting a character. I had no such problem with Unseen Academicals. It is interesting from the first page, and while it didn’t turn into a must-finish all-nighter for me, I did enjoy it. The humour is less dark than it has been in several preceding books, and the book sparkles with good humour throughout, even when nasty things seem to be about to happen, are happening, or have just happened.

As with most of Pratchett’s other Discworld books, this one presents the reader with several interwoven story threads involving a number of characters that gradually come together into bigger strands and finally become one as the story nears i…

Trouble with Lichen by John Wyndham

Year published: 1960
Genre: Science fiction, satire
Setting & time: England, mid-20th century

Two scientists discover an anti-ageing substance derived from lichen and put it to use in very different ways. When the public find out about the substance it is not, as one might expect, unanimously welcomed, and society is divided into different factions when people start to realise all the implications.

I don’t quite understand why this book is labelled as science-fiction even if a scientific discovery and its consequences are at the centre of the plot. The science is explained in simple layman terms and doesn’t dominate the plot even though it is of course the factor that sets the plot in motion. This is an interesting moral satire on British society in the mid-20th century and an intelligent examination of what might happen in such a society if the people discovered that it was possible to double their expected lifespan.

This is a fun read rather than a funny one, as the undertone is qu…

Review of Sex and the City

Merry Christmas Everyone!


Originally published in June 2004, in 2 parts
Book 22 in my first 52 books challenge.

Author: Candace Bushnell
Year published: 1996
Genre: Social life and customs
Sub-genre(s): Sex, dating, relationships
Where got: Public library

Came across this while browsing in the library and decided to give it a go. It will be interesting to see what the book that spawned the hit TV series is like.

The Story:
There isn’t really a story as such, this being mostly a collection of articles about the mating habits of New Yorkers that appeared in Bushnell’s newspaper column, but some of the same people pop up repeatedly and you get to know something about them and their relationships with each other and others. Sex, dating, marriage and the attendant social rituals are the order of the day, and are sometimes investigated through conversations between people comparing notes on the subject and sometimes as little story vignettes that illustrate the subject. Faithful viewers of the TV ser…

Wednesday reading experience # 51

Read a sequel/prequel or rewrite of a famous novel that features some of the same characters but is written by a different author.

This could be, for example, a modernisation of a famous novel such as Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice as retold in Kate Fenton’s Vanity and Vexation or Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre retold as science fiction in Sharon Shinn’s Jenna Starborn.
Examples of sequels and prequels (and spin-offs) include all of Jane Austen’s books (authors include Emma Tennant and Joan Aiken) and Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes books (authors include Laurie L. King and Nicholas Meyer).

Additionally, you can find thousands of (mostly unauthorised) short stories and some novels that have only been published on-line, written by fans (and not all of it is slash fiction). Most of it is not terribly good, but if you search hard you can find some gems among the rubble.

Some questions to consider:
How did you feel about reading about characters you knew and loved from the original, in…

Review of The Haunting of Hill House

Originally published in June 2004, in 2 parts
Book 21 in my first 52 books challenge.

Author: Shirley Jackson
Year published: 1959
Where got: Public library
Genre: Horror
Sub-genre: Haunted house tale

I started reading this book a couple of days ago and have finished the first two chapters. Although nothing supernatural has happened yet, a subtle sense of suspense and creepiness has started to build. So far, I’m reminded of the beginning of both the TV series Rose Red and the movie The Legend of Hell House, but I guess there are limited ways in which you can start a haunted house tale.
--

Finished it this afternoon. This is a book that is best read in broad daylight – not that it kept me awake or gave me nightmares, but it took me quite a bit longer than usual to fall asleep after reading the first two chapters at bedtime.


The Story:
Two young women, Eleanor and Theodora arrive at Hill House, a fancy country mansion, to meet Dr. Montague, a researcher of psychic phenomena who has asked them to h…

Books I acquired during my trip to India

Most of these books I bought or was given in India, but three I bought in London, two on the way to India and one on the way home. The first two were the guidebooks, and the third was Ulysses by James Joyce, because I couldn't find an edition in India that I liked.




Some of the books pictured had been on my wish list for varying lengths of time, others were bought on speculation because I liked the look of them. The books that it's hard to see titles or authors in the photo are, from the top:
1. Incident on the Kalka Mail by Satyajit Ray.
4. Le Morte D'Arthur, part II by Sir Thomas Mallory (I have had part I for ages but never could find part II until now).

Books number (from the top) 2, 8, 9 & 17 I was given by my friends.

Not pictured are the books that I bought, read and exchanged for other books: No Full Stops in India by Mark Tully, and The Age of Kali by William Dalrymple. Both were interesting reads and very informative about various aspects of Indian society, but nei…

Wednesday reading experience # 50

Celebrate the Christmas season with a holiday-themed read.

Any one of Charles Dickens’s Christmas novels will serve to get you in the mood. Start with A Christmas Carol, then move on to The Chimes and The Cricket on the Hearth. I leave it up to you whether you also read the less popular The Battle of Life and The Haunted Man and the Ghost’s Bargain.

Fannie Flagg’s A Redbird Christmas is funny and somewhat sentimental, but many of us like sentimentality around Chrismas.

Connie Willis has an excellent fantasy and science fiction themed collection titled Miracle and other Christmas Stories.

For younger readers J.R.R. Tolkien’s Father Christmas Letters is both heartwarming and funny and while Dr. Seuss’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas! may have been written and drawn for children many adults find it enjoyable as well.

Christmas probably wouldn’t be complete for many Americans without "A Visit from St. Nicholas", better known as "The Night Before Christmas". This famous po…

Wednesday reading experience # 49

This should of course have been published on the 9th, but I thought I had it on automatic posting and didn't even check. So here it is now, none the worse for being a little late:

Choose a major literary award, local or international, and read some books that have been given the award.

It can be any kind of award, not just literary fiction. It could, for example, be for crime writing, romance, travel writing or science, etc.

Did you agree that it should have won the award? For a fairer comparison, you could also read the books that were nominated alongside the winner and decide which one you like best and why.

Review of Closed at Dusk

Originally published in June 2004.
Book 20 in my first 52 books challenge.

Author: Monica Dickens
Year published: 1990
Where got: Bookstore (sale)
Genre: Thriller, mystery


I was going to read Umberto Eco’s Foucault’s Pendulum as this week’s book, but I’m too busy right now to read such a long and dense text in only one week. Instead I have switched to another mystery that is shorter and less demanding.

I’ve read several of Monica Dickens’ children’s books and the autobiographical book One Pair of Feet, about her experiences as a nursing student during World War 2. It will be interesting to see how I like her adult fiction.


The story:
This is not a mystery as I first thought it was, but a thriller, or perhaps it might be called an insider mystery, as the reader knows who the villain is nearly the whole time. In this particular edition, the blurb cleverly gives a hint, but I at least didn’t catch on to it until I reached the chapter where the villain’s identity is revealed, and then I turned to …

Reading report for November 2009

As might be expected I finished only a small (for me) number of books in November. They were mostly read in hotel rooms after dinner to delay sleep so I wouldn't wake up at 4 a.m. and on long train journeys when the company was less than convivial (or I had no company) and I was tired of looking at unchanging landscapes.

6 of these books are about India in one way or another. 2 are travelogues, 2 are collections of articles, and 2 are novels by Indian authors.

One of the friends I visited on my trip introduced me to R.K. Narayan – in fact she gave me the book, and I thoroughly enjoyed my first visit to Malgudi. Satyajit Ray I discovered on her bookshelves and subsequently bought another book by him that I have just finished reading. They are written for children but are thoroughly enjoyable for adult mystery lovers and beautifully translated.
My friend also recommended Bill Aitken to me and I bought one of his books that I still haven‘t read. Dalrymple and Shand are old acquaintanc…

Reading report for October 2009

I´m back from a great holiday in India.

Here is the reading report for October. I will post the one for November soon, plus a photo of my book acquisitions from India and possibly some reviews.

I only read one Top Mystery in October, and only one Icelandic book, but I did quite well in the TBR challenge, with 7 books altogether.

Árni Gunnarsson (text) and various photographers: Eldgos í Eyjum (documentary)
M.C. Beaton: The Skeleton in the Closet (mystery)
Suzanne Brockmann: Force of Nature (romantic thriller)
Edmund Crispin: Frequent Hearses (murder mystery)
Jasper Fforde: The Well of Lost Plots (futuristic fantasy)
Nicki Grihault: Culture Smart! India (cultural guide)
Thomas Hardy: Under the Greenwood Tree (romantic novel)
HRF Keating: The Murder of the Maharajah (murder mystery)
Sarah Macdonald: Holy Cow! (travelogue)
Ngaio Marsh: Singing in the Shrouds (murder mystery)
Stuart Mclean: Stories from the Vinyl Café (short stories)
Ellis Peters: Death to the Landlords (murder mystery)
Unknown: The E…

Review of The Stainless Steel Rat

Originally published in May and June 2004, in 3 parts.
Book 19 in my first 52 books challenge.

Entry 1:

Author: Harry Harrison
Published: 1966 (this edition: 1997)
Where got: Bookstore, sale
Genre: Science fiction, action

I’ve wanted to read this book since I read and enjoyed Harry Harrison’s short story “The Golden Years of the Stainless Steel Rat” in the comic fantasy collection The Flying Sorcerers.

This is classic science fiction, as can be seen from how long this book has been in print. First published in 1966, it is still being reprinted.

Harry Harrison’s official website.


Entry 2:

Progress report:
So far so good. This is not as funny as I had thought it would be after reading the short story, but maybe the stories get funnier in the later books (did I mention this is the first in a series?). The style is very straightforward and reminds me of classic macho tough guy detective stories. The story is plot driven and there has been action on nearly every page so far. The Stainless Steel Rat …

Wednesday reading experience #48

If you have a favourite genre and a favourite sub-genre within that genre (say historical mysteries or paranormal romances), choose a different sub-genre you are less familiar with and try that (e.g. forensic mysteries or Amish romance).

I find I often stick to a comfort zone in my choice of reading materials, concentrating on one or two particular sub-genres and tending to ignore the others, but my original 52 books challenge had me reading out of my comfort zone and I have tried to continue that practice. It has introduced me to authors, genres and sub-genres I might otherwise never have discovered.