Skip to main content

Posts

Showing posts from July, 2010

Now reading: Maps & Legends: Reading and writing along the borderlands by Michael Chabon

Entertainment has a bad name. Serious people learn to mistrust and even revile it. The word wears spandex, pasties, a leisure suit studded with blinking lights. It gives of a whiff of Coppertone and dripping Creamsicle, the fake-butter miasma of a movie-house lobby, of karaoke and Jägermeister, Jerry Bruckheimer movies, a Street Fighter machine grunting solipsistically in a corner of an ice-rink arcade. Entertainment trades in cliché and product placement. It engages in regions of the brain far from the centers of discernment, critical thinking, ontological speculation. It skirts the black heart of life and drowns life’s lambency in a halogen glare. They must handle the things that entertain them with gloves of irony and postmodern tongs. Entertainment, in short, means junk, and too much junk is bad for you—bad for your heart, your arteries, your mind, your soul.           But maybe these intelligent and serious people, my faithful straw men, are wrong. Maybe the reason for the junkine…

Friday Night Folklore: Father of eighteen in Elfland

Once upon a time there was a farmer’s wife. One summer day she was at home and looking after the house with only her young son, some three or four years old, for company. The boy had grown big and strong for his age, a bright child who had learned to speak correctly and clearly and was the pride of his parents.

The mother had some chores to do besides guarding the house and looking after her son, and had to leave him alone while she went to a nearby brook to wash the milk pails. She left the child in the doorway of the house and was gone for some time.

When she returned and spoke to the boy, he cried out and started yelling, kicking and crying in a strange and frightening way, which was surprising as he had always been a very quiet child, gentle and sweet-tempered. But all she could get from him now were yells and screams.

After this the boy never spoke a word, but was always crying and acting up and could not be consoled, so that his mother no longer knew him for the same child. This…

How to Become Ridiculously Well Read in One Evening

Picking up where I left off in January, here is a blast from the past. I plan to post these on Mondays until I run out of them. I will correct them for spelling/typing errors and bad grammar and add formatting where I think it is necessary for clarity and reading ease, but will avoid editing them unless I think it's absolutely necessary. They do not necessarily express opinions I hold now. I may add comments to some of them.

Originally published in July 2004, in 2 parts
Book 24 in my first 52 books challenge.

Compiled and edited by: E.O. Parrott
Year published: 1985
Genre: Poetry, pastiche, prose
Where got: Public library

I came across this amusing little volume while browsing in the library. It’s a collection of humorous summaries of some of the famous literary works considered (by some) necessary for a person to be well read, and therefore splendidly suited for someone who is trying to read more. It includes summaries of works both by English-speaking authors and works that have been …

Love Magic

This should really be titled "sex magic" but the person who wrote it down lived in a more prudish age than we do ;-)

Around 1820 there were two young men who lived on a farm in the Eyjafjörður area. They were studying sorcery in secret but were found out when one evening after dark one of them came into the common room and walked up to a young woman who was sitting there and kissed her passionately. She was surprised by this, especially as she thought she heard something rattling in the man’s mouth as he kissed her, and because all of a sudden she began to feel aroused. In the room were also two motherless lambs that were being fostered inside the warmth of the house, an ewe and a ram.

She thought quickly and said: “If you are playing a trick on me, it shall affect the ewe-lamb instead.” Immediately the ewe came into heat and kept offering herself to the ram all night long.

When the girl noticed this and felt the passion she had almost succumbed to subside, she questioned t…

Short stories 186-190

“Adios, Cordera!” by Leopoldo Alas. One of those nasty sentimental tales of the kind I used to hate as a kid, about the death of an animal (here as a metaphor for loss of innocence), that always made me feel as if I were being manipulated into crying. The introduction calls it “consistently charming and thoroughly Spanish”, whatever that means.

Here end the Spanish short stories and we jump back in time and all the way to China.

The Story of Ming-Y” by Anonymous. Originally from Marvellous Tales, Ancient and Modern (Kin-Kou-Ki-Kuan). A charming and romantic little ghost story. Recommended. (This is the same translation, except the first paragraph, which gives away an important plot element, so avoid reading it if you can. The link will open a pdf-file).

“A Fickle Widow” by anonymous. Originally from Marvellous Tales, Ancient and Modern (Kin-Kou-Ki-Kuan). Yet another of those horrid stories where people feel obliged to test the fidelity of a spouse. Admittedly, this one is more enter…

Useful website of the week: Book Drum

I first heard of this useful website through the July issue of the Discworld Monthly e-newsletter.

Book Drum offers a way for readers to read or contribute "Profiles" of books. These consist of several features, including a summary, setting information, glossary, author information and reviews.

The most exciting feature is the "Bookmarks". This is a collection of multi-media annotations for the book, utilising text, photos, maps, and even music, sounds and videos to explain and clarify the text.

As of yet they have fewer than 100 Profiles posted, but thanks to a dedicated group of users you can expect it to grow continuously. Anyone can register and contribute a profile, and once a profile is published, other users can add to it.

So, Dear Reader, do pay it a visit. Read it and spread the word, even register and add a profile. I plan to register myself and test how easily the profiles can be posted and added to. Expect a review when I have become fully acquainted wi…

Short stories 181-185

How Lazaro Served a Bulero” by Diego Hurtado de Mendoza. Originally a chapter from Lazarillo de Tormes. A story about a scoundrel and seller of papal indulgences that rings very true, considering what I have read about them. I think I’ll put Lazarillo de Tormes on my reading list, because I love me a good picaresque tale. (in the link, scroll to the chapter "How Lazaro Went to Work for a Pardoner and the Things That Happened to Him Then" - obviously this is not the same translation as the one I read)

“Guzman and My Lord Cardinal” by Mateo Alemán. Originally a chapter from Guzmán de Alfarache , another famous early picaresque novel. In this narrative Guzman, the narrator, is hoist with his own petard when he tries to swindle a Cardinal of the Roman church who turns out to be a truly good man.

“Rinconete and Cortadillo” by Miguel de Cervantes. Originally from the Exemplary Novels. A funny little picaresque, written in the florid language of a courtly Romance with the low-l…

Kicking paranormal butt (a review)

The new girl in town arrives and makes friends among the school outcasts: a geeky girl who has an unrequited crush on the nerdy guy who develops an embarrassing crush on the first girl. She antagonises some of the popular kids and meets an older man who assumes the role of her mentor, even if he can’t quite keep her wild impulses and independent spirit under control. Then strange things start happening, and she meets a mysterious, sexy guy who appears to be a few years older than she is but is in fact, much, much older than he looks. She is attracted to him but knows she shouldn’t be, because he is part of her job calling.

Sound familiar?

It should – I’m talking about Buffy, right?

Wrong. I am in fact referring to Shadowland by Jenny Carroll (pseudonym of Meg Cabot, later re-published under that name)

Year published: 2000
Genre: Urban fantasy, young adult
Series and no.: The Mediator #1
Setting & time: California, USA, contemporary



On her first day at her new school, psychic Susannah Sim…

Friday Night Folklore: The Priest's Little Box

Once upon a time there was a priest who was thought to be a white wizard with the power to exorcise and bind demons. Once he was riding out on an errand and had taken a young serving boy with him. They had ridden for a while when the priest suddenly remembered that he had forgotten to take with him a little box he always carried with him and sent the boy back home to get it, warning him not to open the box.

The boy rode home and found the box where his master had told him. But as he was riding back with it he was overcome with curiosity about the contents of the box and opened it to have a look inside. Out flew a myriad of midges, in a cloud so thick that he could not see the sky for it. He heard it buzz into his ear: “What to do, what to do?”

The boy realised that they must be imps and could easily harm him. But he was a quick thinker and answered: “Braid me a rope from the sand.”

After some time the midges came back and buzzed: “It is done, what to do now?”

“Go back in the box,” said th…

Meme: Favourite genres

I have never participated in a blog meme before, but I have often come across them and I think they are a good social tool to bring together bloggers with similar interests. So I decided to participate in one, and whenever I come across one that interests me I will participate in it.

I found this one on Lost in Books. The question is simple (perhaps deceptively so): What are your favourite genres?

My absolute number one all-time favourite genre is Travel Literature. I prefer the non-fiction kind, i.e. travelogues and travel memoirs and, to a lesser extent, ex-pat memoirs, but I also like to read road novels, which is probably why I like The Hobbit so much.

In second place I must place Mystery Fiction, along with the related genres of Detective and Crime Fiction.

These two genres have been with me longer than any other. Other genres come and go, but these two have stayed.

I also have a weak spot for Fantasy, but I can hardly count it as a favourite genre because I am very picky when it c…

Review of If Angels Burn by Lynn Viehl

I found the first two books in this series at the library, and dearly hope they will buy the remaining six in the series. I feel I need to read these books because I think that while Viehl has done a good job of making the spin-off Kyndred books that I have been reading independent of the Darkyn books, I feel I need to know more about the world and background they take place in.




Year published:2005
Series and no.: Darkyn, #1
Genre: Urban fantasy, paranormal romance
Setting & time: Chicago and New Orleans, USA, with scenes in Rome, Italy; 2000’s

Chicago reconstructive surgeon Dr. Alexandra Keller repeatedly refuses to see an out-of town patient despite his increasingly urgent and generous offers of reimbursement, because she doesn’t want to leave the patients under her care for the time it would take to examine him and do the surgery in New Orleans, which he is not willing to leave. But Michael Cyprien is not used to people saying ‘no’ to him and has her kidnapped and brought to him. Th…

Cleaning up my act

I have been a bit haphazard about adding labels to my blog posts and have sometimes been using two or even more similar labels (often one in the singular and another in the plural) where one would do, so I decided to clean up the labels to make them easier to navigate, and to add missing labels to the older posts.

In order to not have too many labels, I decided to only put author names as labels when I have posted more than once about a particular author, so I have removed all authors with only a single label, and put "Author:" in front of the others so that they all appear together in the label list, like I did from the start with locations. I am also considering doing this for the type of mystery and the type of detective, to make them easier to find.

I also removed all book titles from the labels, so that if you want to find multiple posts for the same book, you must now either use the search function or click the author label.

This is a work in progress, so any changes will…

How's that for a "It was a dark and stormy night..." beginning?

It was the dark hour before dawn. Rain fell in a ceaseless torrent upon the sodden clifftops and smashed straight as stair rods onto the churning, while-flecked sea beneath. Great waves rose in the Channel and surged around St. Catherine's Point to curl and break upon the tagged rocks in a thundering, relentless roll, sending white spray into the darkness.

From the prologue to The Least Likely Bride by Jane Feather.

This is the last in a trilogy of historical romances that take place during the English civil war. I obtained the first two a couple of years ago and have already read them (another 2 books off the TBR list - yay!), but only got the third a couple of months ago.

Review: Vision in White computer game

You may wonder why I am (very unscientifically) reviewing a computer game on a book blog, but since the game ties in with a book, Vision in White by Nora Roberts, I decided to go ahead.

I downloaded the demo for the game, which gives you 60 minutes of playing time, and got through about 3 chapters and several scenes in that time. I chose to play an untimed game, but it's also possible to play against the clock.

This is a hidden object game - you get a list and have to find all the objects and bonus items hidden - sometimes in such plain sight thay you simply don't see them - in the gorgeous and complex scenes on the screen. The boards or scenes you play through are very intricate and lovely, and the items you have to find are often very cleverly hidden. There are all sorts of other hidden items in the scenes that are clearly meant to confuse you, so you need to pay attention to the list.

Taking on the persona of wedding photographer Mackensie Eliot, you visit different rooms …

Friday Night Folklore: The Kelpie

Iceland shares a belief in kelpies with several other northern countries like Scotland, Ireland, Norway and the Faeroe Islands. These are malevolent water creatures that most usually take the form of a gray horse that has its hooves and withers on backwards. The horse is docile, even friendly, until mounted. Once someone has mounted a kelpie, they can not get off again (some say touching it is enough to get stuck) and the kelpie will take the helpless rider into its lake with it and eat them. Most stories about kelpies are of this nature – someone usually gets eaten and someone escapes – so I decided to tell a different kind of kelpie tale:

Once upon a time a group of farmers were at work restoring the wall around their parish church in rural Iceland. Early one morning they were all at work except one old man who was a loner and not very convivial company due to his bad temper. It was mid-day before he appeared, leading a grey horse. The other men scolded him over his lateness, but he…

Tabs

As you may have noticed, I have added some pages to the blog. One is a glossary of terminology that I use or may use in my reviews, and the other is an explanation of how I rate the books I read. I may add more tabbed pages in the future, if I decide I have something I want to share but don't want to put it in a blog post.

I have considered adding a page with the epic TBR list and possibly the REALLY EPIC TBR but not owned list, but it's a lot of work so it may happen gradually.

I am working on putting my BookMooch wishlist on a page.

Short stories 176-180

“Mendicant Melody” by Edmondo De Amicis. More of a meditation on the human condition than a short story, this tells of poor people who earn their living by singing. Beautifully translated. Recommended.

“Lulu’s Triumph” by Matilde Serao. A clever little romantic story about a young woman who has wisdom and insight beyond her years. Recommended.

“The Hero” by Gabriele D’Annunzio. A horrifying but powerful story of religious fervor. Recommended.

“Two Miracles” by Grazia Deledda. A touching tale of two very different miracles. Recommended.

Here end the French stories and the Spanish begin.

“The Son and His Friends” by Juan Manuel. Originally from Count Lucanor. About a “true” test of friendship. Rather distasteful, but well written.
365

A little teaser for you

Everyone has seen in actuality or on film the splendid glittering length of Fifth Avenue, the wide wide street solidly lined with incredible towers of metal, glass, and soaring stone: the sparkling Corning Glass Building, its acres of glass walls rising forever; the enormous aluminium-sided Tishman Building; the great stone masses of Rockefeller Center; weather-worn St. Patrick's Cathedral, its twin spires submerged down among the huge buildings which dwarf it. And the sparkling stores: Saks, Tiffany's, Jensen's; and the big, old soiled-white library at the corner of Forty-second Street, its stone lions flanking the wide steps of its main entrance. They must be the most famous seventeen blocks of the world, and beyond them even farther down the length of that astonishing street, the unbelievable height of the Empire State Building at Thirty-fourth Street, if the air should happen to be miraculously clear enough to see it. That was the picture - asphalt and stone and sky-to…

Short stories 171-175

“The Friar of Novara” by Angolo Firenzuola. About an avaricious friar who gets a comeuppance for his un-Christian behaviour.

“The Greek Merchant” by Giovanni Battista Giraldi Cinthio. Another comeuppance story, this one about a miserly merchant and a poor, honest widow.

“The Venetian Silk Mercer” by Carlo Gozzi. A humorous moral tale about a clever merchant wo falls prey to an unlikely thief. Recommended.

Cavalleria Rusticana” by Giovanni Verga. A lively tale of love and honour that became the libretto of Mascagni’s epynomous opera. (different translation)

“The Peasant’s Will” by Antonio Fogazzaro. A sorrowful tale of greed and hard-heartedness.

Reviev of Dreamveil by Lynn Viehl

I bought this book yesterday, started reading it once I got home, and didn't put it down until I had finished.

Year published:2010
Series and no.: Kyndred, #2
Genre: Urban fantasy, romance
Setting & time: New York city, USA; 2000’s

Shape-shifter Rowan Dietrich arrives in New York, almost as if drawn there. She’d had an unhappy childhood there, first with abusive foster parents and then as a street child, and really just wants to visit the graves of some old friends before heading onwards to Boston and the job that awaits her there. A motorbike accident throws her in the path of alluring and mysterious chef Jean-Marc Dansant, who (not entirely out of the kindness of his heart) gives her a job at his restaurant, lends her an apartment and arranges to have her neighbour, the sexy but hostile Sean Meriden, repair the bike for her.

Rowan finds herself drawn to both men, but finds it hard to decide which one she wants more, and so the tension between then begins to mount. Meanwhile, a te…

Reading report for June 2010

Of the 28 books I read in June, 3 were TBR challenge books, 21 were non-challenge, and there were 1 each from the Top Mysteries Challenge, Global Reading Challenge and the Bibliophilic Book Challenge. 1 was a re-read.

The links lead to the reviews and teasers I posted over the past month.

The books:
Loretta Chase: Viscount Vagabond Edward Gorey: Amphigorey Also (The Utter Zoo, The Blue Aspic, The Epiplectic Bicycle, The Sopping Thursday, The Grand Passion, Les Passementeries Horribles, The Eclectic Abecedarium, L'Heure bleue, The Broken Spoke, The Awdrey-Gore Legacy, The Glorious Nosebleed, The Loathsome Couple, The Green Beads, Les Urnes Utiles, The Stupid Joke, The Prune People, The Tuning Fork ) Cyril Hare: Tragedy at Law Georgette Heyer: Faro's Daughter Katie MacAlister: Sex, Lies, and Vampires Charlotte MacLeod: Exit the Milkman Guillermo Martínez: The Oxford Murders Zakes Mda: Ways of Dying J.K. Rowling: Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (the re-read)
Mary Ann…

Friday night folklore: Doing business with a sorcerer

Icelanders in the old days believed strongly in magic, both good and bad, as may be seen from the many folktales about the subject. Contrary to many other European countries where practitioners of magic were in the main thought to be women, in most Icelandic folktales they are men, and during the witch-hunts of the 17th century only one of the 20 executed victims was a woman. However, when featured in folktales about sorcery, women tend to be better at it than men, and are often featured as the ones who help to lift an evil spell, as in the story below.

Once upon a time a group of men were on a journey far from home. The aim of the journey was to buy stockfish for the winter. This was long before the automobile was invented, and most roads in Iceland were just well-trodden paths, so everyone travelled either by foot or by horse. The men rode their saddle horses and brought with them a train of pack horses to carry provisions and to load up with stockfish for the return journey. They a…

2010 Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest

Congratulations, Molly Ringle! To see her entry and the runners-up, click here.

For those unfamiliar with this award, it is given for the 'best' made-up bad opening sentence for a novel. The award is named after Victorian novelist Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, who was the first to use the "It was a dark and stormy night..." opening. The aim is to deliberately produce the kind of purple, pompous and generally terrible prose that tries to be profound and/or original when written in earnest but only manages to be unintentionally funny. Here is the full sentence:

It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents—except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness.
From Paul Clifford by Bulwer-Lytton.

Now if only there was a William Topaz MacGonagall award, …

Multiple books syndrome

I read. This is no secret, and I would hardly be running a reading blog if I didn’t, but there’s more to my reading than just reading one book after another. I read multiple books at a time. This may just be pure biblio-gluttony on my behalf, but I like to think it’s simply because for me books are like food, and I like variety in my reading fare just as I do in my culinary diet.

When I go to a lunch buffet, I don’t restrict myself to just one dish – I try to sample as many as I can, reject some and go for seconds of others. Since I have a TBR stack of nearly 900 books, a collection of over 1500 possible rereads and a small but beguiling pile of library books by my bedside, I look upon these books much as I do a buffet. A very large buffet, to be sure, but one I know I can make it through with steady effort.

I used to be a ‘one book at a time’ girl, but when I started secondary school this became impossible. Besides all the non-literature subjects like history and mathematics, by the t…