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Showing posts from January, 2010

Short stories 26-30

“Þrándur” by Björnstene Björnsson. From Sögur frá Noregi. A story laden with metaphor about a boy who is a natural on the violin.

“Viðsnúnings hressandi hristingur”, by Þórarinn Eldjárn.

“Women are the scourge of the earth”, by Frances Molloy. From Wildish Things. A chilling account of an abusive relationship. Recommended.

"The case of the Middle-aged Wife" by Agatha Christie. A little piece of problem-solving by Mr. Parker Pyne.

“Eftir spennufallið,” by Þórarinn Eldjárn. From Ó fyrir framan. A nicely imagined and humorous modern retelling of the story of Adam and Eve and the Fall. Recommended if you read Icelandic.

And the 2010 Bibliophilic Books Challenge

This one is by Lesley of the A Life in Books blog. The 2010 Bibliophilic Books Challenge is simply to read a given number of bibliobooks during the year 2010. Since I generally read a number of bibliobooks each year anyway, I will be bold and join the Bibliomaniac part of the challenge, which is to read twelve books that have to do with books or reading, in the course of 2010.

As with the Global Reading Challenge (see previous post), I will try to read as many books as possible from my TBR stack and thus combine both these outside challenges with by own TBR challenge.

2010 Global Reading Challenge

I have joined the 2010 Global Reading Challenge. Dorte of DJs Krimiblog had an idea to expand her reading horizons and has invited other bloggers to join in.

For starters I will be going for the easy challenge, but who knows: I may upgrade to the medium or even the expert challenge.

First thing I will do is look through my TBR books to see if I have books that fulfil the stipulations of the challenge. I know I have books from Europe, North-America, Australasia and Asia, but I may have to look further afield for books from South-America and Africa. However, I would like to read authors that are new to me, so I will probably have to visit the library for a book from Australasia.

Short stories 21-25

The Signalman”, by Charles Dickens. From The Penguin Book of English Short Stories. A typical Victorian creepy story. Well told but too predictable to give one goosebumps.

“Forbidden Things”, by Marcia Muller. From The Mysterious West. A mystery story about a family tragedy, well written but predictable.

“Harvest“, by Gay Longworth. From Big Night Out. A clever retelling of a well-known urban legend. Recommended.

“Lúlli og leiðarhnoðað”, by Þórarinn Eldjárn. From Ó fyrir framan. A fun little story based on a folk-tale phenomenon: a way-finding ball of string.

Tarnhelm”, by Hugh Walpole. From The Midnight Reader. A very good supernatural tale with just the right amount of creepiness. Recommended.

Empires of the Indus: The Story of a river by Alice Albinia

Year published: 2008
Genre: Travel, history

In this book, the author begins her journey at the mouth of the Indus river, moving up river and backwards in time and exploring the history, archaeology and geology of this long and immensely important river that flows through three countries: from its source near Mount Kailash in Tibet, through the Indian state of Ladakh and down the length of Pakistan to the sea.

This is a perfect combination of travelogue and history that should be read by any woman who fears travelling alone, as well as anyone who is interested in the history of the region and in adventurous travel off the beaten track. It’s also a must for river fanatics.

It took me a long time to finish, nearly 2 months, but that was because I felt that each chapter needed to be properly digested and considered before I moved on to the next, and not because of anything else. It is well written, and while scholarly, it is neither dry nor boring. Recommended. 5 stars.

There is an official w…

Short stories 16-20

“The Veiled Lady” from 13 For Luck by Agatha Christie. Hercule Poirot solves another case. Not one of the good ones.“In and Out”, by Freya North. From Girl’s Night In. A funny little story about not letting a man interfere with women's friendships.“The Genuine Tabard”, by E.C. Bentley. From Trent Intervenes. An interesting story about very bold criminals.“Myndin”, by Þórarinn Eldjárn. From Ó fyrir framan. A funny story about a painting, by Iceland’s greatest short story writer. Recommended.“Five Hundred Carats”, by George Griffith. From More Rivals of Sherlock Holmes. A rather lame story about a highly risky way of committing a crime that didn’t work out completely as envisioned by the criminals.

Short stories 11-15

"Death in the Dawntime", by F. Gwynplaine MacIntyre. From The Mammoth Book of Historical Detectives. A detective story set among Australian aborigines, about 35.000 years B.C.E. Interesting."The Return of the Crusader", by Anonymous. From The Penguin Book of French Short Stories. A very short 15th century story about infidelity. Originally an oral tale, the period's equivalent of an urban legend, told to amuse people at court."Parties Unknown by the Jury: Or, the Valour of my Tongue", by P.M. Carlson. From Women on the Case. A historical crime story, partly based on a real lynching case. Interesting voice and well written."The Ruff", by Michael and Mollie Hardwick. From 50 Great Horror Stories. A nasty, haughty girl gets a comeuppance. Historical, Poe-esque and pretty good."Beauty and the Beast". Fairy tale from Best-loved Folktales of the World. This is the longest and most detailed version I have read of this story. Recommended.

Top mysteries challenge review: The Franchise Affair by Josephine Tey

I must admit up front that I have a soft spot for Josephine Tey, so you may expect some prejudice in the review ;-)

Year of publication: 1949
Genre: Mystery
Type of mystery: Kidnapping
Type of investigator: Lawyer
Setting & time: England, contemporary

A teenage girl accuses two women of having kidnapped her and held her against her will for a month. The case seems to be solid, but solicitor Robert Blair, retained by the accused to speak for them, is convinced of the innocence of his clients and sets out to prove it.

This is the second Tey novel I read that effectively breaks one of S.S. Van Dine's detective story writing rules, and I admire her for making it so readable, because it is rule no. 7 that is broken: There shall be but one crime, and that crime is murder (my rephrasing).

It is difficult to sustain reader interest in a mystery without a corpse for nearly 300 pages, but Tey not only pulls it off, she does it so well that I could hardly put the book down. It is written with he…

Top mysteries challenge review: The Hunt for Red October by Tom Clancy

(The challenge really should be called the best crime a books challenge, since the American list also features thrillers, but it’s too late to change it now).

I loved thrillers when I was a teenager, and read everything I could get my hands on by the likes of Alistair MacLean, Desmond Bagley and Ken Follett. Since then, the thrillers I have read have mostly also been mysteries, caper stories or police procedurals, and it wouldn’t be stretching it too far to say that this one is a caper story – albeit a deadly serious one that deals with treason.

Year of publication: 1984
Series and no.: Jack Ryan, #1.
Genre: Thriller, military.
Type of hero: CIA man.
Setting & time: USA, the Soviet Union and the Atlantic ocean, contemporary.

A Soviet submarine captain and his officers steal the Red October, a nuclear submarine, and sail it towards the USA with the intention of defecting and handing the USSR's most advanced nuclear missile submarine to the Americans. CIA analyst Jack Ryan is brought …

The next 5 short stories

Mademoiselle Fifi”, by Guy de Maupassant, from Mademoiselle Fifi and other stories. A story about a bad guy getting what's coming to him from an unlikely source. Too melodramatic for my taste.“Problem at Pollensa Bay”, by Agatha Christie, from Problem at Pollensa Bay and other stories. An entertaining little story about young love, starring Mr. Parker Pyne. Okay, but not outstanding.“The Nutcracker”, by Ben Travers. From A Century of Humour. A story about young love and naughty boys. Not particularly funny, but well told and would make a nice humorous short film.“The Jigsaw”, by Leonard R. Gribble. From A Century of Detective Stories. A nice little detective story, a twist on the jigsaw puzzle urban legend."The Ring of Thoth", by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. From Tales of Unease. A short creepy story from the author of the Sherlock Holmes stories. Recommended.

Review of the His Dark Materials trilogy

Originally published in June and July 2004, in 7 parts
Book 23 in my first 52 books challenge.


Entry 1:
Title:The Golden Compass
Alternative (British) title:Northern Lights
Author: Philip Pullman
Year published: 1995
Genre: Fantasy, children’s
Where got: Public library

I've wanted to read this book for a long time, but not enough to buy it (I may change my mind after reading it). Finally found a copy when I went exploring the suburban branches of the Reykjavik city library. I'm looking forward to start reading it.


Entry 2:
Reading progress:
I'm about halfway into The Golden Compass and it's great. A captivating story, and yet not so much that I feel I need to read it all in one sitting. Much better written and plotted than the last two Harry Potters, and although it is supposed to be a story for children/teenagers, it's still enjoyable for adults.

Entry 3:

Finished the book – what a great story. I was completely hooked once I got to part two.

The Story:
Lyra, a young girl, …

Reading report for December 2009

December was an unusually varied reading month for me.

Mysteries have dominated my reading for the last 10-15 years or so, but this month I only read two of them.

I have always enjoyed the Ripley’s Believe It or Not books, even when I find information in them I know or suspect to be wrong. I keep a couple of them in my bathroom for myself and guests to browse through when things get boring.

Two anthologies of poems and verse made it into my reading in December. Lately I have been reading a lot more poetry than I have done since I was in my teens, and I am becoming reacquainted with my favourite poets and versifiers in my native language and discovering new ones.

I mentioned the diary anthology in my last entry. Spending a year reading it took willpower, especially when the editor put in entries by the same person several days in a row when an interesting mini-story was to be told. I decided that it would be interesting to explore some of the excerpted diaries better. For example, I will d…

A look at the first 5 short stories

I know I said I wasn’t going to review them, but I couldn’t resist writing something about them, if only to say which ones I would recommend.

"The Two Brothers" by unknown (Ancient Egypt, written down about 1400 B.C.), from Great Short Stories of the World. Did you think the short story was a recent phenomenon? Well, apparently, it’s not. This narrative has all the crucial elements of a short story, while also being a mythological text that tells a story of human destiny and heavenly justice. In fact, parts of the story remind me of the Biblical story of Potiphar's wife, and they probably have a common root. For me, it is mostly interesting because I am interested in Egyptian mythology – I wouldn’t recommend it as pleasure reading. I have a gripe with the translation - not that I read Ancient Egyptian, but the 19th century translator not only used 17th century Biblical language, but also appears to have attempted to use some of the original writing style, resulting in str…

First review of the year: Dr. Nightingale Comes Home by Lydia Adamson

Genre: Mystery, cosy
Year of publication: 1994
No. in series: 1
Series detective: Dr. Deirdre “Didi” Quinn Nightingale, veterinarian
Type of mystery: Murder
Type of investigator: Amateur
Setting & time: Rural New York state, contemporary

A good friend of Didi’s is found dead, apparently mauled to death by wild dogs. His mistress claims he was murdered, but disappears before Didi can persuade her to reveal why she thinks so. By examining the crime scene photos and coroner’s report through the perspective of a vet, Didi realises that he must have been murdered, but has a hard time convincing the police that she is right, so she ends up investigating the case on her own.

This is a pretty solid cosy murder mystery with a nicely thought out plot with some unexpected twists and red herrings. The writing is plain and straightforward and gets the story across without going into flourishes of language, and the main characters are interesting. A promising start to a series – I will definitely be on…

The 365 short stories challenge

As I mentioned in my New Year’s Day message (see previous post), I am starting a personal challenge to read one short story per day for the duration of the year 2010.
This challenge arose out of two things:
While surfing the net for literary blogs some time last year I came across a blog dedicated to a short story reading challenge and thought "this could be something for me!"
I was looking at my bookshelves recently and realised I have several big, thick short story anthologies that I have never even opened, and several more I have read a few stories from but no more. Most of the books are themed and only a few contain stories by a single author. Since most are anthologies, and anthologies tend to be long and not really meant to be read straight through like single author short story collections sometimes are, I decided to have several books on the go so I could choose the theme that appeals to me most at any given time. I also decided to include fairy tales in the mix, to inc…

New year, mostly the same old challenges

Happy New Reading Year!

May your year be filled with good friendship, good cheer and good reading!
I ended the year 2009 with four reading challenges on the go: the Top Mysteries challenge, the TBR challenge, the challenge to read more Icelandic books, and a fourth challenge I'm not sure I have ever mentioned here.

The Top Mysteries challenge is an ongoing project that is probably going to take me until 2012 to finish, so it will continue this year. I started with 120 books (counting one trilogy as a single book) and ended with 89, meaning I finished 26% of the listed books. This puts me right on plan, as I had hoped to reach that percentage by the end of the year.

The TBR challenge will continue as well. To recap the rules: it is a challenge to read more books than I buy, choosing books that have languished in my TBR stack for over a year.
I failed in that aim in 2009, ending up with more TBR books than ever, mostly due to BookMooch. But I am not giving up, and this year it looks …