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Showing posts from March, 2010

Just finished reading

Carolina Moon by Nora Roberts. One of her better standalone romantic thrillers, IMO.

I found the secondary couple more interesting than the primary couple in this case, and I don't know if the hint was too obvious or if I simply had one of my hunches, but I had the killer pegged from his first appearance.

I have come to the conclusion that I like Nora's supernatural pure romances better than her non-supernatural pure romances, and her non-supernatural romantic thrillers better than her supernatural pure romances. The fantasy romances, thrillers or not, I can take or leave.

Carolina Moon is one of her supernatural romantic thrillers, but one without magic or fantasy elements, for which I am glad , because they would have ruined the story.

Dear reader

Please, if you can answer me this, I would appreciate it. Is there a Nora Roberts novel in which she uses neither the word "ravage" or the word "plunder" in the context of kissing?

Keeping and culling

I find it incredibly difficult to cull my books.

I convince myself that I have a good reason for keeping every one of my keepers. Most of the time I have, but not always. Generally, I keep a book I know or strongly believe I will read again. I have also kept some of my old university text books, knowing that they can be good for reference, and so it has proved, for some of them. Others I keep just because I once enjoyed them, and might again, which leads me me to the next category: the many books that I keep planning to re-read, but I never get round to. My travelogue collection is big on those. And then there are the travel guides I keep that are years out of date, because they have memories attached to them. Can't let go of those, now can I?

I cull about 95% of my owned books after I read them, which is a lot. Many go on my BookMooch list, some I give back to the charity shop, and the hardcovers and the paperbacks that are in a 'like new' condition I donate to the library…

Short stories 81-85

“A Rock and a Hard Place”, by Nancy Pickard. From Women on the Case. An interesting story about crime prevention with an intriguing protagonist.

“Being”, by Richard Matheson. From A Treasury of American Horror Stories. Quite a good alien horror story from a master storyteller.

“Heaven”, Mary Beckett. From Wildish Things. A story about a woman who values quiet so much that she becomes addicted to it, but doesn’t really begin to appreciate it until she no longer has much chance of enjoying it.

“New Moon and Rattlesnakes”, by Wendy Hornsby. From The Mysterious West. There are no limits to what a desperate woman will do. Made me want to read more, so I'll have to say Recommended.

“Eye Witness”, by Ellis Peters From A Rare Benedictine. A tale of robbery and how the money was recovered with a little guile.

Top mysteries challenge review: The Leper of Saint Giles by Ellis Peters

Year of publication: 1981
Series and no.: Brother Cadfael #5
Genre: Historical mystery
Type of mystery: Murder
Type of investigator: Monk
Setting & time: Shrewsbury, England; 1139

A wedding is to take place at the Shrewsbury abbey church, between an ageing knight and a young woman, the heiress to a great fortune who is being forced into the union by her greedy guardian. She loves one of her groom’s squires, and he her, but she is well guarded and escape is impossible. It becomes even more so after her young swain is accused of theft and barely escapes the clutches of the sheriff. When the groom is brutally murdered, suspicion naturally falls on the young man, but Brother Cadfael has reason to believe him innocent and sets out to investigate the matter thoroughly. Meanwhile, the fugitive plans to spring his ladylove from her guardians.

This is one of the best of the 5 Cadfael books I have read so far, but not THE best. This opinion probably comes from my having suspected, with growing cer…

Reading progress

Damn, how I wish The Anatomy of a Murder wasn't so depressingly cynical (I hate reading negative books when I am struggling with depression). I should have finished it by now, but instead I am stalled a few dozen pages in and the trial hasn't even started. Someone please tell me it gets better.


In other news: I was able to get The Book Thief from the library, and while I find it interesting enough to keep reading, it is not the page-turner I expected.

The worst kind of bad cover...

...is, in my opinion, not the ugly one or the tasteless one, but the one that gives away the solution to the mystery. I just finished such a book. I wonder how many other readers recognised the spoiler and were pissed off by it? I certainly hope the author was. I caught on as soon as one of the suspects was mentioned, which somewhat dampened my entusiasm for the story, although it was of course interesting to see just how the detective solved the case and got the necessary proof to put the killer away.

The cover design itself is quite stylish and appropriately sinister, although there are some details in the foreground that distract slightly from the overall effect, and the balance is slightly off as well. There will be no cover image this time, and I will not post the title or author in here, because I don't want to spoil it for readers who might otherwise not have recognised the cover image for a spoiler.

(If you really want to know, read the comment, but only if you have to know)

Short stories 76-80

“A good man is hard to find“, by Flannery O'Connor. From A Good Man is Hard to Find. A very well constructed story of senseless violence.

“Rumpole and the Showfolk”, by John Mortimer. From The Trials of Rumpole. One of those slyly funny stories where Rumpole is left feeling like he’s been had. Recommended.

“Cyberworld” by W.D. Valgardsson. From The Divorced Kid’s Club. A kid forced to spend time away from the computer discovers that cyberspace is bigger than he thought.

“Bylestones”, by Arthur Morrison, From A Century of Humour. Hard to describe without giving away the plot. Very cinematic and would make a great episode in a sitcom or a chapter in a movie.

“Skin”, by Roald Dahl. From Completely Unexpected Tales. One of Dahl’s more chilling unexpected tales, even if the ending wasn’t all that unexpected. Recommended.
When I was a child and teenager my family would watch Tales of the Unexpected almost religiously every week. Completely Unexpected Tales contains two of Dahl‘s short sto…

Finished: Nora Roberts: Dream trilogy

This trilogy is made up of three interconnected novels: Daring to Dream, Holding the Dream and Finding the Dream, and focuses on three women, raised under the same roof, who consider themselves to be sisters, and the men they fall in love with.

It's not the best Roberts trilogy I have read (that would be a tie between the In the Garden and Chesapeake Bay trilogies), but it's okay. The last book is a little too recycled for my taste - the plot reminded me too much of the one in Irish Rebel which I read recently.

What I really like about trilogies and series like this is being able to re-visit characters that were leads in other books and have returned as supporting cast, giving the reader the ability to see "happily ever after" in action.

Short stories 71-75

“The Debutante”, by Leonora Carrington. From Wayward Girls and Wicked Women. A rather nice absurdist story.

“He pales next to you” by Susan Compo. From Malingering. A slice of life story that reads more like the beginning chapter of a longer story or novel.

“Kim’s Game” by M.D. Lake. From Malice Domestic 2. A young girl with a very good memory nails a killer. The motive is missing, which is a big miss.

“Significant Moments in the Life of My Mother”, by Margaret Atwood. From Bluebeard’s Egg. A slice-of-life story, much like the stories one imagines the storyteller the story is about would tell. Elegant turns of phrase and a light touch make it a delight to read.

“The Great West Raid”, by E. Phillips Oppenheim. From A Century of Detective Stories. A realistic and rather dull police procedural.

This made me smile:

...although my mother is sweet and old and a lady, she avoids being a sweet old lady. When people are in danger of mistaking her for one, she flings in something from left field; she refuses to be taken for granted.

Margaret Atwood, "Significant Moments in the Life of My Mother" from Bluebeard's Egg (a short story collection).

Dear Nora:

Couldn't you have used some other word than turgid?

It's a word I associate with lofty, overwritten prose, and not with foreplay, although lord knows I have read some romances in that style - not one of yours, I hasten to add. It's not a good word to use in a romance. But, then again it could have been worse: you could have used to describe something other than a throbbing pulse...

Current read:Daring to Dream by Nora Roberts

I've finished My Lady Notorious, which is a nicely steamy adventure of a historical romance to lose oneself in. The best thing is that it's the first in a series. I will definitely be reading more of Jo Beverley's books, and the next book in the series seems to be the way to go.

I have now moved on to a modern romance: The first in Nora Roberts' Dream trilogy. Here is a snippet of dialogue that made me chuckle:

"You've lost a little weight. How come you never lose it in your boobs?"
"Satan and I have an understanding."

Current read: My Lady Notorious by Jo Beverley

He had found his damsel in distress, but it wasn't sweet Verity. It was the difficult, angry, beautiful Charles.

At this point in the story, the heroine, disguised as a man, has kidnapped the hero, who has seen through her disguise but decided not to embarrass her by revealing that he knows she is a woman.

I have always enjoyed reading cross-dressing historical novels, although I am fully aware of the difficulties of successfully disguising either sex as the other. However, there are plenty of true stories about the subject, mostly about women who chose to dress and act like men and got away with it. Sometimes these real cross-dressers may have been transgendered (of both physical sexes) and in some cases they were women who chafed at the restrictions put upon them by a patriarchal society, but the most common stories are of women following their men to war and dressing as men to avoid being sent home or becoming the victims of sexual violence.

However, writers, and especially roma…

My relationship with short stories

I have always admired short story writers for being able to tell a complete story, sometimes in only a handful of pages, because it’s not easy at all. I should know because I have only managed to write a couple that I am really happy with (and I don’t really know what an editor would make of them).

One of the regrets I had when I was studying English literature and language at university was that there was no special course on the short story among the available literature courses. I did read and even analyse a fair number of them as parts of several courses, but it was more because some teachers wanted to cram as many authors into their courses as possible than from a real desire to explore the short story as an art form. The most memorable of these was Shirley Jackson’s chilling tale “The Lottery”, by many considered to be the most perfect example of a short story in existence. I haven’t read enough short stories to judge that for myself, but I know that I have read more scary short…

Short stories 66-70

“Dundi” by Þórarinn Eldjárn. From Ó fyrir framan. A rather good tale of the “unexpected ending” type.

“Philomel Cottage” by Agatha Christie. From The Listerdale Mystery. What to do when you discover that your new husband is a murderer? This story offers one solution.

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

“The Price of Light” by Ellis Peters. From A Rare Benedictine. A sweet little story of love and a betrayal avenged. A comfortable read and a change from the usual murders of the Brother Cadfael novels.

“The Hunt Ball”, Freeman Wills Crofts. From Masterpieces of Mystery. A short tale of what selfishness and desperation can lead to, and what bad planning will do to a man.

Current read: Expletives Deleted

A short passage from the author's Introduction:

...I like to write about writers who give me pleasure. Pleasure has always had a bad press in Britain. I'm all for pleasure, too. I wish there was more of it around. I also like to argue. A day without an argument is like an egg without salt.

This bodes extremely well for this collection of Angela Carter's literary reviews.

Crazy For You by Jennifer Crusie

On a gloomy March afternoon, sitting in the same high school classroom she'd been sitting in for thirteen years, gritting her teeth as she told her significant other for the seventy-second time since they'd met that she'd be home at six because it was Wednesday and she was always home at six on Wednesdays, Quinn McKenzie lifted her eyes from the watercolor assignments on the desk in front of her and met her destiny.

Since this is a romance novel, you might think her destiny was tall, sexy and gorgeous, but, this being Jennifer Crusie, the next sentence goes:

Her destiny was a small black dog with desperate eyes, so she missed the significance at first.

And so begins a by-turns funny and suspenseful romp, but with a very serious side story about stalking. This was my first Jennifer Crusie book and although I stated in the review that I had no intention of rereading it, I have done so at least twice. In fact, I finished re-reading it yesterday for (possibly) the third time. B…

Review of Mulata de tal (The Mulatta and Mister Fly) by Miguel Ángel Asturias, journal entry 2 and review

This is the second book I finish in the Global Reading Challenge, the North-American one. Guatemala, the author’s home land and setting of the book, is part of Latin America which makes people with a not-too firm grasp of geography sometimes assume it’s in South America. This novel is the first I read that takes place in Guatemala, although I had read about the country in travelogues before.


Year originally published: 1963; English translation: 1967
Transleted by: Gregory Rabassa
Genre: Literary novel (fantasy, magic realism, surrealism)
Setting & time: Guatemala, timeless

The story begins with a humorous description of one Celestino Yumí’s disgraceful behaviour at a realistically described village fair, then moves into magic realism territory and from there on to fantasy, finally culminating in a vortex of surrealistic descriptions. The story tells the tale of Yumí, his wife Catalina Zabala, and the Mulatta, a magical, sexual being connected to the moon, who charms Yumí and enrages C…

Sharyn McCrumb

If he stayed chained naked to this post much longer, there just wouldn't be any afterward to the foreplay.

There is something very comfortable about Sharyn McCrumb's novels. Even when she's writing about gruesome stuff like murder or gloomy subjects like mental illness, injustice and ghosts, she still manages to exude a feeling of cosiness and comfort. Her books are always humourous as well, but the humour is never gratuitous. It lightens up the mood but doesn't trivialise the serious stuff.

Take the beginning line of this post, which constitutes the first paragraph of The PMS Outlaws, the latest (and possibly last, seeing as it came out 10 years ago) of her Elizabeth MacPherson novels. One main storyline of the novel - the one it takes its title from - is about two women fugitives who trawl bars looking for lonely men whom they fool into thinking they are going to have a threesome, then handcuff them naked to something solid, rob them and take off with their cars. You …

Short stories 61-65

“Racine and the Tablecloth” by A.S. Byatt. From Sugar. A beautifully written story about a girl and one of those horrible, disapproving teachers who can make one’s life hell without ever realising it. Disappointing ending, but otherwise good.

“Klámhundurinn” (The Porn Dog) by Þórarinn Eldjárn. From Ó fyrir framan. A darkly funny story about one of those dogs. (if you need an explanation, just ask...)

“The President of San Jacinto” by H.C. Bailey. From Great Tales of Detection. An intriguing little mystery, my first Reggie Fortune story.

„Dýrið“, by Þórarinn Eldjárn. From Ó fyrir framan.

Father and Son” by Guy de Maupassant. From Mademoiselle Fifi and other stories . A coy and brilliant little story about a man succeeding his father in an unexpected way. (Link is probably to a different translation). Recommended.

The Mulatta and Mister Fly by Asturias, journal entry 1

Cheat ! Tramp ! Pig ! Having fun among the simple people down from the hills and villages to have a good time at the fair, which was less of a fair than a lair of wild delights, now that they had done their duty at church and bought or sold their animals, there was time to gab with friends, and anybody picking a fight would get himself chopped up with a machete or stuck with a knife, and all around there were clusters of eyes glistening at the sight of such pretty, teaty, well-haunched women who were the product of an over-abundant rather than an aberrant nature.

Thus begins the tale of Celestino Yumí and his wife, Catalina Zabala, and their picaresque process from peasants to... whatever it is they will become, since I am only on page 207 out of 333. Currently they are in the process of trying to become great sorcerers.

I have been reading this book very slowly, because although it is a fun read in some ways, I simply can not connect with the protagonists.

An experiment

I have been going over the blog entries for the last several months with a mind to doing something new. Not just to change things for the sake of change but to change for the sake of making the blog more interesting, for me and for the handful of readers who visit it. There are three things I would like to try and I will have to see if I have the stamina for it because it calls for more frequent posting and some scanning and image editing on my part.

The first thing is to include more reading journal entries, i.e. comments on books I am in the process of reading. The second is to write something about each and every book I finish. I don't think I will have the stamina to review them all, but I want to try to mention each book. This might include posting the opening sentences or passages of all the books I read and any interesting passages that have caught my attention, made me laugh, made me stop and think, or impressed me in some other way, but I'm making no promises about tha…

Short stories 56-60

I am making an effort to finish the stories in two Icelandic short story collections I borrowed from the library, because I have to return them soon. I don’t really think anyone is going to be looking for them based on my descriptions of the contents, so I’ll just list the titles.

From Ó fyrir framan by Þórarinn Eldjárn: “Saga svefnflokksins” and “Opinskánandi”.

From Sjöstafakverið by Halldór Laxness: “Corda Atlantica”, “Jón í Brauðhúsum” and “Fugl á garðstaurnum”

The books we love and hate

There is an interesting discussion going on in the comments section of a post on the Jezebel blog, on books people have loved or hated.

One comment jumped out at me:
"I know a girl who hates To Kill a Mockingbird because she had a terrible teacher who ruined it for her. I think that's a bigger tragedy than a kid reading Twilight."

I guess this means I will have to go read Twilight so I can form my own opinion on it.

Another interesting comment:
"There are no bad books, just terrible and misguided authors."

Reading report for February 2010

I finished 15 books in February. 4 were crime novels, 6 were romances, 7 were historical.

A special mention must be made of The Song of Bhagavad-Gita. It is a chapter from the great Hindu epic, The Mahabarata, where Krishna, one of the many manifestations of God in Hinduism, explains religious philosophy to Prince Arjuna on the eve of a great battle. I don’t know how accurate the translation is, since I don’t know Sanskrit, but I do know that it is beautiful and mixes prose and verse in a nicely balanced way. It took me nearly three months to read it, as it soon became apparent that it needed to be read slowly and each chapter thoroughly digested before moving on. I can’t say that much of its message stuck, but I do know that after reading a chapter – always at bedtime – I would have a wonderfully restful night’s sleep, because it had such a soothing and calming effect on my mind.

Challenge count:
Top mysteries: 0
Global Reading Challenge: 1
Bibliophilic Book Challenge: 2
TBR Challenge: 8