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Showing posts from February, 2010

Annual reading report for 2009

2009 was a very good reading year for me, with a total of 196 books finished. This is 43 books more than in 2008, making my weekly average 3,77 books.

I hardly expect to read as many this year, unless I start reading shorter books. However, reading a large number of books has never been a priority for me. What I want, above all else, is to read enjoyable books. This year I actually want to focus a bit more on my other hobbies, not just the bookbinding, but also rock painting and crochet, and my stash of quilting fabrics could also do with some attention.

As in 2008, there were very few unfinished books in 2009, and they consisted of guide books.

Breakdown:
Fiction: 139 (70,9%), down by 5,6% since last year.
Non-fiction: 54 (27,6%) up by 7,3% since last year.
Mixed: 3 (1,5%)

My non-fiction percentage is up from 2008, which means I managed to fulfil my goal to read more non-fiction in 2009 than in 2008.

Total no. of pages read: 49672, compared with 44691 in 2008.
Average number of pages per bo…

Short stories 51-55

“Veiðitúr í óbygðum”, by Halldór Laxness. From Sjöstafakverið.

“Double Damnation” by Michael and Mollie Hardwick. From 50 Great Horror Stories. A story about guilt and psychic projection. Very cheesy but could be told as an effective ghost story if the part explaining the phenomenon were skipped.

“Aðsókn”, by Þórarinn Eldjárn. From Ó fyrir framan.

“Kórvilla á Vestfjörðum”, by Halldór Laxness. From Sjöstafakverið.

“Áhrínið” by Þórarinn Eldjárn. From Ó fyrir framan.

Review of Sullivan’s Woman by Nora Roberts

This is my second book in the Bibliophilic Books Challenge. It qualifies because it features a writer as the heroine. Her writing is very important to her and the narrative frequently shows her writing, working out scenes or joking about her manuscript and its journey from publisher to publisher. Technically speaking, it could go in the Global Challenge as well, but I am trying to read all new (to me) authors in that one, so I’m not counting it in.

Year published: 1984
Genre: Romance
Setting & time: San Francisco, contemporary (modern timeless)

Struggling writer Cassidy St. John can’t keep any job for long, so being offered a steady one sitting for celebrated painter Colin Sullivan is a blessing... to begin with. Colin is a hard taskmaster, egotistical, passionate and extremely sexy and it isn’t long before Cassidy has fallen in love with him. But Colin is known for not sticking to any one woman for long, and Cassidy is not the kind of woman who likes being discarded like yesterday’s…

Short stories 46-50

“The Devil in the Flesh” by Ronald Seth. From 50 Great Horror Stories. An attempt to turn the true story of the judicial murder of 4 old women into chilling entertainment. Would have been okay if the story had been made up, as it is well written, but as it is based on true events and uses the real names of women who fell victim to witch hunts it is, in my opinion, tasteless to say the least.

“Dúfnaveislan” (The Pigeon Feast) by Halldór Laxness. From Sjöstafakverið. Surrealistic and funny. This is a library book that I will need to return soon, so I will be reading all the stories from it within a short time.

“Death wears a Mask” by Steven Saylor. From The Mammoth Book of Historical Detectives. An interesting early Gordianus the Finder story.

The Bo’sun’s Body, by Michael and Mollie Hardwick. From 50 Great Horror Stories. An entertaining retelling of a folk tale.

“Í Draumi sérhvers manns”, by Þórarinn Eldjárn. From Ó fyrir framan.

Mystery review: Ashes to Dust by Yrsa Sigurðardóttir

According to Amazon UK this book is due out in Britain in an English translation in July. I could find no information about publication in the USA.

Original Icelandic title:Aska (Ash)
Genre: Murder mystery
Year of publication:2007
No. in series: 3
Series detective: Thora Gudmundsdottir
Type of mystery: Murder
Type of investigator: Lawyer
Setting & time: Reykjavik and the Westman Islands, Iceland, 2007.

Three desiccated corpses and a head are discovered in the basement of a house that is being excavated after having lain under volcanic ash since the 1973 volcanic eruption in the Westman Islands. It falls to lawyer Þóra (Thora) to represent the man who found the bodies in the basement of his childhood home, since certain facts of the matter have cast suspicion on him, not only for the deaths of the four men, but also for the recent death of a woman from the islands who is in some way connected to the head and possibly the bodies as well.

Yrsa Sigurðardóttir keeps getting better. Her writing…

Short stories 41-45

“Rökkur” by Anton Chekhov. From Á ég að segja þér sögu (translated short stories by Chekhov, Maugham and others). A very short funny story about a woman who wakes up in the middle of the night and sees a prowler enter the house. Recommended.
I would appreciate if someone who recognises the story from the above description could tell me the English title, because it wasn't given in the translation.

Lost Face”, by Jack London. From A Treasury of American Horror Stories. A man desperately tries to escape an excruciating death. Recommended.

Setna and the Magic Book” by Anonymous. From Great Short Stories of the World. An Egyptian tale of magic and mysticism from 1400 B.C.E. Interesting.

“The Listerdale Mystery”, by Agatha Christie. From The Listerdale Mystery. A nice, if tad predictable, little mystery.

“Tryggur Staður” (A Safe Place), by Halldór Laxness. From Sjöstafakverið. A nice little story in the form of a childhood memory by Iceland’s only Nobel Prize winner.

Review: The White Castle by Orhan Pamuk (Global Reading Challenge and Bibliophilic Book Challenge)

Part of Dorte’s Global Reading Challenge that I am participating in was to discover a new author or read a book from a country or state on your own continent that you have not read before. With this book I have done both. I have also managed to kill two birds with one stone by combining both outside challenges I am participating in, the Global challenge and the Bibliophilic Book challenge).

Year published: 1979 (English translation: 1990, by Victoria Holbrook)
Genre: Historical novel
Setting & time: (mostly) Turkey, 17 century.

The former imperial astrologer to the Sultan of Turkey tells the story of two men, one an enslaved Venetian and the other his Turkish master, who, over their long acquaintance, come to know each other almost better than they know themselves.

This is an interesting novel, a historical tale of an unhealthy relationship of love and loathing between two men who cannot part from each other, one because he is the other’s slave and fears punishment for trying to escap…

A closer look at the short story

If you share my interest in short stories and would like to do some background reading about the genre, here are some links for you:

WikipediaA short history of the short story from Prospect MagazineThe history of the short story as seen by the Grumpy Old Bookman, one of my favourite bloggers (who sadly seems have retired completely from blogging). First the official history, and then the true history (as he sees it).Finally, The Guardian book blog has an ongoing series surveying the short story. Start at the bottom and work you way up.

Short stories 36-40

“Grace Notes”, by Sara Paretsky. From Windy City Blues. A V.I Warshawski story. This is the first V.I. Warshawski story I have read (shameful admittance from a mystery fan, I know). It’s okay, but not conducive to make me like Warshawski.

“The Black Gondolier”, by Fritz Leiber. From Night Monsters. A well-written and interesting story about a dreadful conspiracy that may or may not be imagined. I have a special fondness for Leiber, having devoured many of his Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser fantasy stories some years ago. This is the first I read of his horror stories, and I also have a volume of his sci-fi short stories that I would have liked to include in the challenge, but I can‘t find it.

“W.S.” by L.P. Hartley. From Roald Dahl's Book of Ghost Stories. A chilly story about an author who starts getting mysterious postcards. Recommended.

“The Market Basing Mystery”, by Agatha Christie. From 13 For Luck. A locked room mystery with a twist.

The Haunted Mind”, by Nathaniel Hawthorne. Fr…

Short stories 31-35

The Tapestried Chamber”, by Sir Walter Scott. From Classic Victorian and Edwardian Ghost Stories. A fine example of a 19th century ghost story that manages to come across as if it were a real story, so understated and realistic is the horror. Recommended.

An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge”, by Ambrose Bierce. From A Treasury of American Horror Stories. A terrifyingly effective horror story. Highly recommended.

The Gentle Boy”, by Nathaniel Hawthorne. From Nathaniel Hawthorne‘s Tales. A sentimental story about religious persecution. Not one of Hawthorne’s best.

“The Entertainer and the Entrepreneur”, by W.D. Valgardson. From The Divorced Kid’s Club. A moral tale about prejudice, for kids.

Faithful Johannes”. From The Complete Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm, vol. 1. A bloody and violent fairy tale about the rewards of duty and gratitude, far from the sanitised tales I read as a kid. (This is probably a different translation from the one I read).

Reading report for January 2010

January has ended and in addition to the 22 books I have finished I have read enough short stories to fill a volume or two.

In the challenges, I reduced the TBR challenge stack by 11 books and read 2 Top Mystery Challenge books. What was unusual this month was that none of the challenges overlapped – the top mysteries were ones I acquired less than a year ago and so didn’t qualify for the TBR challenge.

I only managed to read 1 Icelandic book, but have plans to do better in February.

9 books were non-challenge (counting the Icelandic book, which didn't qualify for the TBR challenge), mostly books I knew I wouldn’t read at all if I didn’t finish them soon, books I took a peek at and got pulled in by, and one I started on the flight home from India and had been savouring for nearly 2 months.

I went on a Ngaio Marsh mini-glom and read 4 of her Roderick Alleyn books. I think I may very well finish the series before the end of the year. As to genres, I read my usual dose of mysteries, sev…