30 September 2009

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 enjoyable as well.
  • The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot. Another series written for teenage girls, but enjoyable for adults as well.
  • I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith.


Here are some more ideas (from Wikipedia).

28 September 2009

I have posted a poll on the side bar

I am curious to know how book buyers feel about dust jackets on books. Please vote in my poll!

25 September 2009

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 with different kinds of people and what emerges is a portrait of a man who was contradictory in many ways.

Strong willed and selfish, generous, charming, moody and used to having his own way, yet admired and loved by people who knew him, Durrell was no ordinary person. His upbringing was eccentric and his education sporadic and specialized: he basically read a lot of books, studied everything to do with animals and nature, and didn't bother much with the rest. Yet he emerged as a fine writer and an enthusiastic nature lover and conservationist who was capable of sweeping other people along with his writing. After all this, it's hard to believe that he was shy and retiring when it came to meeting the public or standing up to make speeches.

This books only gives snippets of biographical information, mostly concentrating on Durrell's personality. I really think I will have to read his biography now to get the whole picture.

Rating: A biographical appetizer that one might follow up with Durrell's own autobiographical books for the main course, followed by his official biography as a dessert to complete the meal. 3 stars.

23 September 2009

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. The book is organised like a diary, i.e. by date, and within the date by year, so the oldest entries come first. I am reading it day by day, so that it will take me a year to finish.

Diarists whose writings you may find interesting:
20th century: Anne Frank; Virginia Woolf; Anais Nin; Sylvia Plath; Joe Orton; Victor Klemperer; Kenneth Williams; Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara
Earlier: Samuel Pepys; James Boswell; James Woodforde; John Evelyn

If you read an anthology like the one I mentioned above, you can find many more diarists you might want to give a try. Here are a few titles:

  • Revelations: Diaries of Women, edited by Mary Jane Moffat & Charlotte Painter
  • The Assassin's Cloak: An Anthology of the World's Greatest Diarists edited by Alan Taylor
  • Women's Diaries of the Westward Journey edited by Lillian Schlissel
  • A Book of One's Own: People and Their Diaries edited by Thomas Mallon

21 September 2009

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 the narrator’s sarcastic humour. Few if any of the characters are truly likeable, except perhaps for the femme fatale, whom one can not help liking on a certain level, even though she is scheming and greedy.

The narrative is in the first person, told by the Continental Op, Hammett’s nameless first hard-boiled detective about whom he wrote two novels and a series of short stories, some of which he elaborated on and connected together to make this novel. The Op is a true hard-boiled detective, a prototype for those who would follow: Sam Spade, Philip Marlowe, Lew Archer and more of their ilk. He is cold, tough, calculating, hard-dinking, clever and manipulative and possessed of a great deal of shadenfreude. In fact I would describe him as a sociopathic bastard of the first order, capable of anything, including murder. He is rather too inhuman for my liking, but then I happen to dislike violence for the sake of the same and with this dislike comes a dislike of violent people, and since this novel is a collection of both, I didn’t like it much. 2+ stars.


Books left in challenge: 91.

Place on the list(s): CWA: #94; MWA: #39.

19 September 2009

Some recently acquired books


Here are some books I have acquired recently:
Photobucket

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.

18 September 2009

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 be stark raving mad and a satanist to boot. His narrative seems to tie in with the modern chapters, where it appears that people are being murdered in the neighbourhood of churches Dyer has built.

Part two should start giving some explanations - I hope. I hate it when mysteries continue to be mysterious after I've finished reading them.

Part 2:

Finished the book. Now for the review:

As I mentioned before, the narrative is in two totally different styles. The first chapter and every second chapter after that is written in the1st person, 18th century style English. The 1st person narrator is Nicholas Dyer, a character very loosely based on real life English architect Nicholas Hawksmoor. In the book, Ackroyd attributes to Dyer the six churches Hawksmoor is most famous for designing, and the narrative is as much based around the churches as it is around Dyer, inspector Hawksmoor and other characters in the book.

The second chapter and every other chapter following is written in the 3rd person, modern English. In part one of the book these chapters introduce, with great compassion, characters who end up being murdered at the sites of Dyer's churches, in an echo of sacrificial deaths, accidental, by murder or by suicide, that are connected with the building of the churches (in the story). In part two the modern chapters tell the story of inspector Hawksmoor who is investigating the murders, and his increasing frustration over getting nowhere with the cases.

I have to say that while this novel is a masterpiece in many ways, it is not a satisfying read. It has an ending, but no conclusion or resolution, leaving the reader to try to work out happened. The use of 1st person narrative for the insane and evil Dyer and the 3rd person for Hawksmoor, who's closest to being the good guy in the story, serves to make the reader feel compassion for Dyer and indifference towards Hawksmoor. Most of all it underlines how alike they are, their thought processes and frustrations are very similar, like two sides of the same coin.

Hawksmoor should really be read with a map of London at hand, as it will give the reader a better feel for the area in which the story happens. Make that TWO maps, one of the contemporary city and one of 18th century London, as some of the street names have changed. Knowing what the churches in the book look like will help as well - here's a link to a page with pictures of some them.

Another good reference to have at hand for historical detail is Ackroyd's own London: A Biography, but it's not absolutely necessary.

Rating: A dark and morbid narrative, in turns horrifying and puzzling, that should appeal to admirers of gothic literature and murder mysteries. 3 stars for quality, none for satisfaction.

Ackroyd links:
Peter Ackroyd bio and bibliography
Review of Hawksmoor

16 September 2009

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 series
  • The Books of Magic
  • The Death series (spin-off from Sandman)
  • Stardust (also a traditional novel and a movie)
  • Coraline (children's book. Also a movie)
  • The Daughter of Owls
  • The Facts in the Case of the Departure of Miss Finch
  • Harlequin Valentine

By others:
  • Maus: A Survivor's Tale by Art Spiegelman
  • When the Wind Blows by Raymond Briggs
  • The Lucky Luke books by Morris & Goscinny
  • The Astérix books by Goscinny and Uderzo
  • Some of the Tintin books by Hergé. While some of the books are racist and offensive in other ways, others are just pure fun.

11 September 2009

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 about the way Alexander McCall Smith puts these words into the mouth of his private detective heroine, Precious Ramotswe.

The book is more a collection of interconnected sketches than a continuous narrative. It moves backwards and forwards in time, telling the story of Precious and some of the people connected to her, in a simple and flowing style. Background information is dispersed throughout the book and you slowly get to know about Precious' past and the experiences that have brought her to the point where she decided to set up a detective agency.

Armed with her intuition, a manual for private detectives, and minimal assets that would make any American or European private eye hand in his licence on the spot, she starts the business with money inherited from her father. The book is about her first cases, which range from a cheating husband to a missing one, a variety of con men to expose and a missing boy who may have been murdered to make magic amulets. She solves (or in some cases doesn't solve) the cases to her customer's satisfaction (sometimes not), through intuition and knowledge of human nature, occasionally resorting to lying and sneaking about in search of clues.

The image you get of her is that of a woman who has learned to accept life as it is, whether it be happy or sad, and has not let the suffering she has lived through get her down. The descriptions of her and other character's reactions to misfortune are quite matter-of-fact, giving you an idea of a people who accept suffering with equanimity, much as they rejoice in good fortune.

The humour is sly and sneaks up on you, like the following:
"Now constipation was quite a different matter. It would be dreadful for the whole world to know about troubles of that nature. She felt terribly sorry for people who suffered from constipation, and she knew that there were many who did. There were probably enough of them to form a political party - with a chance of government perhaps - but what would such a party do if it was in power? Nothing, she imagined. It would try to pass legislation, but would fail."

I like it that the author has made his heroine a non-traditional one. Writing a story about a fat lady who runs a detective agency in Africa is an original idea and the author definitely took a risk with it. I'm sure he can have had no idea that it would become such a hit, or that people would be crying out for more of the same. There are now five book in the series and its popularity just keeps on growing.

Favourite quote:
"Nobody was missing, nobody was cheating on their wives, nobody was embezzling. At such times, a private detective may as well hang a closed sign on the office door and go off to plant melons."

Rating:
Great and unusual detective novel that convinces the reader that maybe she too can become a private eye. 4 stars.

10 September 2009

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 talent and wants to capture her and use her genes for nefarious purposes. However, before the bad guys can kidnap her she is captured instead by a mysterious man who claims he is saving her from being killed, but of course she doesn’t believe him and, ignoring the obvious attraction she feels for him, seeks ways to escape from him. Meanwhile, Lucan and Samantha (from the Darkyn books) are on the trail of a mutant maniac who is seeking Jessa with lust and murder on his mind…

Review and rating:
This is the first of Viehl’s books I have read, although I have been a fan of her blog for some time. I may therefore have missed some of the implications of the scenes including the Darkyn, but I will say that Viehl obviously doesn’t expect the reader to have read the Darkyn books because she shows the reader the things they need to know about them with very little actual explaining, which shows that she knows her craft.

She is also a great storyteller. The narrative never gets bogged down with unnecessary scenes (unless you don't like romance, in which case you shouldn't read this book in the first place), and it isn't overloaded with gratuitous sex, unlike some other examples of the genre I have read (Laurell K. Hamilton, anyone?). If the book has an obvious flaw, it's that Jessa and Gaven are a little too beautiful, a little too perfect. I much preferred Rowan, who has obvious flaws, and am looking forward to read her story, Dreamveil.

But all in all I am satisfied with the book. It is well written, well plotted and difficult to put down and both the action and romance angles are well done, something one can not always expect in a romantic thriller. 4 stars.

09 September 2009

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 Books by Alan Powers. Another gorgeous coffee-table book about libraries, public and private.
  • Ex Libris: Confessions of a common reader by Anne Fadiman. A collection of essays about books and reading.
  • Used and Rare: Travels in the book world by Lawrence and Nancy Goldstone. About how they became book collectors. Warning: contains a proliferation of proofing errors.
  • The Surgeon of Crowthorne: A Tale of Murder, Madness and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary (American title: The professor and the Madman) by Simon Winchester.
  • A Gentle Madness: Bibliophiles, Bibliomanes, and the Eternal Passion for Books by Nicholas A. Basbanes. A collection of anecdotes and essays about various aspects of books.
  • Book Lust and More Book Lust by Nancy Pearl. Reading recommendations galore.
  • A Passion for Books: A Book Lover's Treasury of Stories, Essays, Humor, Love and Lists on Collecting, Reading, Borrowing, Lending, Caring for, and Appreciating Books, edited by Rob Kaplan. What the title says.

  • I am slowly working my way through The Western Canon: The Books and School of the Ages by Harold Bloom, but will only recommend it to very patient readers.

Fiction:
  • The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco. A fantastic literary bibliomystery.
  • The Eyre Affair and its sequels, by Jasper Fforde. Entertaining fantasy/alt-reality bibliothrillers.
  • The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield. A gothic thriller featuring a writer and her biographer.
  • Parnassus on Wheels and The Haunted Bookshop by Christopher Morley. The first is a story about a woman who buys a travelling bookshop and the second is a spy mystery centered on a bookshop.
  • I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith. The story is told in the first person by a young woman who is trying to write a book describing the place where she lives and its inhabitants.
  • The Neverending Story by Michael Ende. Fantasy about a boy who reads himself into a book.
  • The Dante Club by Matthew Pearl. A historical mystery about murders copying scenes from Dante’s Inferno.
  • Death on Demand by Carolyn G. Hart. A murder mystery centering on a bookshop. All of the books in the series that follows contain allusions to mysteries and authors and frequent mentions of both.
  • Bimbos of the Death Sun and Zombies of the Gene Pool by Sharyn McCrumb. Both are about a writer. The first takes place at a fantasy/sci-fi convention, the second centers on a buried manuscript.
  • The Club Dumas Arturo Pérez-Reverte. About an unscrupulous rare-book dealer on the trail of a book of magic.


On my TBR list I have:
  • The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón.
  • The Book Thief Markus Zusak.
  • So Many Books, So Little Time: A Year of Passionate Reading by Sara Nelson.
  • Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury.
  • The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer.
  • The Yellow Lighted Bookshop by Lewis Buzbee.
  • Inkheart by Cornelia Funke.
  • People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks.
  • The Booklover mysteries by Julie Kaewert. I have three of them lined up, but want to find the first before I start.

07 September 2009

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 what the other one couldn’t: It made me want to visit Provence.

Rating:
The charming second installation in Peter Mayle’s saga of life in Provence. 3+ stars.

06 September 2009

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 travelogue. It’s more like a current history and a portrait of certain strata of the city’s inhabitants, and while he doesn’t go into raptures over the city like so many others have done, his love for Venice shines through.

This book is hardly going to be of much use to people who plan on exploring Venice, but it may well provide insights for people who plan on living there. Most of all, it is well written and makes a cosy read. 4 stars.

04 September 2009

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 the autobiographical stuff and accounts of people he's met is useful information about kitchen tools, what foods to avoid in restaurants and even a chapter on kitchen jargon.

Bourdain freely admits to having been a drug addict for many years, but somehow you never feel sorry for him, maybe because he obviously doesn't feel sorry for himself. One of the things you catch onto quickly is that he obviously loves food. Right from his childhood experiences with raw oysters in France and all the way to his visit to the sushi place in Tokyo, you sense that here is a man who first and foremost does what he does because he loves food.

I'm not going to go into the "don't order fish on Mondays" thing, as it has already been discussed to extremes (it was the thing most media latched onto when the book became a hit), but I am going to mention one chapter that will be useful to anyone who thinks they need a kitchen full of gadgets to be able to cook like a professional. To condense it somewhat: You don't!

As if the excerpts weren't enough to give an idea of the writing style, here is a quote that made me laugh. Bourdain has reached the bottom, is recovering from heroin addiction and still doing other drugs, is thin as a rake, nervous and generally not in good shape, when he gets a call from Bigfoot, an old employer. To begin with, the guy lends him 200 $:

"Looking at me, and hearing the edited-for-television version of what I'd been up to in recent years, he must have had every reason to believe I'd disappear with the two bills, spend it on crack and never show up for my first shift. And if he'd given me the twenty-five instead two hundred, that might well have happened. But as so often happens with Bigfoot, his trust was rewarded. I was so shaken by his baseless trust in me - that such a cynical bastard as Bigfoot would make such a gesture - that I determined I'd sooner gnaw my own fingers off, gouge my eyes out with a shellfish fork and run naked down Seventh Avenue than ever betray that trust."

Rating: Recommended read for anyone who is interested in the restaurant business, and especially what happens on the other side of the kitchen doors. 4 stars.

02 September 2009

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, and the Shopaholic books by Sophie Kinsella.

See here for further definitions and a list of sub-genres: ChickLitChicks

Lad-lit (sometimes called “dick-lit”) is basically chick-lit with a male protagonist and featuring the same themes as chick lit (love, sex, family, work), only from a male perspective. It is ostensibly written for men, but it is generally read by both sexes.

Some well-known titles include About a Boy and High Fidelity, both by Nick Hornby.

01 September 2009

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:

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 stories
  • Eggert Ólafsson : Kvæði (Íslensk úrvalsrit) -poetry
  • Helgi Valtýsson : Þegar Kóngsbænadagurinn týndist og aðrar sögur - short stories
  • Jón Þorláksson : Ljóðmæli (Íslensk úrvalsrit) - poetry and poetry translations
  • Rannveig Tómasdóttir : Fjarlæg lönd og framandi þjóðir - travelogue

2 books from the TBR list:

Unfortunately I must admit that I have failed to keep to the TBR challenge list. The sin registry numbers a whole 8 books that I read because I wanted to read them more than I wanted to read any book on the challenge list, although at least 4 of them actually fit the challenge criteria. The books were:
  • Andrea Camilleri: The Terracotta Dog - Murder mystery
  • Polly Evans: Kiwis Might Fly - Travelogue
  • Ngaio Marsh: Off With His Head and Scales of Justice - Murder mysteries
  • Nora Roberts: Midnight Bayou and Northern Lights - Romantic thrillers
  • Dorothy L. Sayers: Have His Carcase - Murder mystery
  • (No. 8 was the reread).




The TBR-for-over-a-year challenge:
I am beginning to feel that having such a long master list is becoming a chore. Since reading is supposed to be fun, I have decided to change the TBR challenge, make it more spontaneous and allow myself to read books I am in the mood for reading that don’t belong in the challenge. I am now going to run the challenge on a monthly basis, at least to the end of the year. At the beginning of each month, I will pre-choose 5 books that fit the original criteria (I have owned them for more than a year but not read them yet), to read during that month. When I have finished reading those 5 books, I will be free to read all the non-challenge books I want, to the end of the month when the cycle begins again. Any books I read that fit the criteria but aren't on the list count towards the final tally. I am beginning with the 4 books on the original list I am most interested in reading right now (indeed, I have started reading one of them already), and adding 1 new one I am in the mood for reading.

The Books:
Heaven’s Command by James Morris
La Cucina by Lily Prior
Onions in the Stew by Betty MacDonald
Portrait in Death by J.D. Robb
The City of Falling Angels by John Berendt