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Weekly Geeks: Movies and books

The Weekly Geeks blogging prompt is a juicy one this week:

“Do you have a best list? a worst list? Perhaps a why-oh-why list? Which movies (based on books) would you recommend most? Do you always compare the book and the movie? Or are you able to enjoy each separately? Does a film have to be faithful to the book to be good? Are there any films that you like better than the book? Has a movie ever inspired you to pick up the book? Are there any books that you'd love to see as a movie? Do you have a music playlist--soundtrack--for a book?”
I already did the “best” list as a Top Ten Tuesday meme, but this happens to be a subject I can talk about for hours, because it is part of my field of study (translation). As a matter of fact, I considered writing my thesis about book-to-film adaptations as translation.

Translation isn’t just the rendering of a text in one language into an equivalent text in another language. Translation studies also cover interpretation of the spoken word and the

Wednesday night video: Dance of the books

I recently came across this wonderful time-lapse video of book-case reorganisation. It doesn't hurt one bit that I love the music they chose.



Quotation from a book I'm reading

...I began to fear it might happen to me as to certain translators, and imitators of Shakespeare; the unities may be preserved, while the spirit is evaporated. Clara Reeve (1729–1807), from The Old English Baron
This is indeed a problem for many translators, especially those who translate literature. They manage to render the story faithfully, but lose the spirit of the original.

Gothic Reading Challenge Review: The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole

This is my third Gothic challenge read and the first classic Gothic novel I read for the challenge.


Genre: Gothic novel; historical
Year of publication: 1764
Setting & time: Medieval Italy, during the  Crusades

Conrad, son of Manfred, Prince of Otranto, is crushed beneath a gigantic helmet on the day he is to be wed to the Princess Isabella. Manfred, determined to secure a replacement for his only son and heir, decides to divorce his wife and marry Isabella, who objects and seeks sanctuary in a nearby church with the aid of a mysterious young man. These events are only the beginning of a convoluted and suspenseful story.

This, the very first Gothic novel, is a defining novel of the genre, with its air of perpetual menace, supernatural events, gloomy setting, driven villain, missing heirs, convoluted plot, thrills, shocks and revelations, noble heroes and damsels in distress. It is highly entertaining, although to me, a modern reader, probably not quite in the manner intended by the…

The Kalahari Typing School for Men

Originally published in July 2004, on my original 52 Books blog.
Author: Alexander McCall Smith
Year published: 2002
Genre: Literature, detective story
Where got: Public library

The story:
The agency has got some competition and Mma Ramotswe and her assistant/secretary Mma Makutsi are both worried about the future of the business. In order to make some extra money for herself, Mma Makutsi starts the business the book takes its title from, giving evening classes in typing to men, and one of her students falls in love with her. Meanwhile, Mma Ramotswe takes a case investigating whether a husband is cheating on his wife, and makes a disturbing discovery. Another client asks her to track down some people he hasn’t seen for about 20 years, so he can make restitution for things he did to them. Both cases present their own unique difficulties, but with her common sense and philosophical way of looking at things, Mma Ramotswe solves both cases to the satisfaction of all involved (except the cheati…

Buchmesse challenge review for March: The Ambassador by Bragi Ólafsson

Icelandic title: Sendiherrann, ljóð í óbundnu máli
German title: Der Botschafter (2009)
Danish title:Ambassadøren (2008)
Genre: Literary fiction
Year of publication: 2006
Setting & time: Iceland Lithuania; contemporary

Bragi Ólafsson is an Icelandic poet, playwright and novelist (and former member of the band The Sugarcubes). This novel was nominated for the Icelandic Literary Prize and the Nordic Council's Literature Prize in 2006. It was published in English in 2010.

The novel tells the story of Sturla Jón Jónsson, a middle-aged Icelandic poet who has just published what he intends to be his last book of poems. He is on his way to a poetry festival in Lithuania when the story begins. Once he is there trouble starts piling up, starting with a man back home in Iceland who accuses him of plagiarism and escalating from there.

This novel is full of very subtle humour and observations of Icelandic society and Icelanders, and specifically of what it‘s like to be a poet in Iceland. It i…

Friday night folktales: The Mountain Man

Tales of the unknown abound in Icelandic folklore, and they teem with stories of mysterious strangers, elves, trolls, outlaws and other strange folk. Here is one:
Once upon a time there was a couple living on an isolated farm on a high moor in Iceland. They had one young child. They were poor but self-sufficient for food. They never closed the house for any reason or in any season. The house was an old-fashioned building with a loft where the people slept and a cow-byre on the ground floor. The loft was closed off from the byre with a hatch with a handle on top for opening. 
One night they were sitting up in the loft with the hatch open. Suddenly a very big man came up the stairs and sat on the edge of the opening. They had never seen such a large man, but he did not look like a troll for all that. No-one spoke to him and he sat there in silence the whole night without speaking a word. They were frightened of him but tried not to show it. When bed-time came the woman put her already sle…

List love: 10 more bookish pet peeves

Thursday’s meme only gave me an opportunity to list 10 of my bookish pet peeves, but I have many more, so I decided to make a list of an additional 10 that irk me just as much as the first 10. Here it is, in no particular order:

Introductions or prefaces to novels that give away important plot points or endings. Especially prevalent in modern editions of classic novels.Mary Sues and Gary Stus, i.e. characters so perfect that the sun apparently rises out of their exquisite arses. Perfect characters give no leeway for character development and because they are perfect, problems aren't really problems for them, so there can be no real conflict in the story.Reading a book and only discovering at the end that it’s the first in a trilogy or series and the story will not end for several more books. I have no problem with series books if each book is a self-contained story that can be read out of order of publication.Writers who give their books happy or perfect endings when it is clear …

Wednesday Night Video: Librarians do Gaga

The singing may be a bit off at some points and the lyrics a bit stretched in some places, but this video still kicks ass:



Weekly Geeks: Ten things about books and myself

This is the first time I participate in a Weekly Geeks theme.This week it's a meme:

Tell us ten things about you with regard to books and reading. Let your imagination run wild! Here goes: 
I collect bookmarks and I match them to the books I read.I have never read 40% of my books. That’s not counting books that are not meant to be read from cover to cover. I read, on average, about 160 books a year. Generally only one or two will have been published in that year. Since the year 2000 I have cut my rereading from about half of all the books I read in a year down to fewer than 10. About 70% of my books were bought second hand.I have about 150 cookbooks and regularly use 3 of them.I am usually reading 4+ books at a time.When I was a child and young teen, I would go deaf when I was reading.I would love to own an e-reader.I think people who highlight words, dog ear or tear out pages, smoke or apply perfume while they are reading library books should be put in the stocks and pelted with …

Meme: Top Ten Tuesdays: Top Ten Bookish Pet Peeves

The meme Top Ten Tuesdays is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. If you want to see what irks other readers, go visit the mother site and click on some of the links to the other participating blogs.

I have so many bookish peeves that I decided to just pick a random sample of 10 from my long-list.

Movie covers on books. When a book has been adapted into a movie and they put the actors on the front to increase sales of the book.It rarely looks good and it spoils my perception of the characters - I like to imagine them myself rather than be told that this person looks like this actor, and so on, thank you very much.Errors on book covers. Here is a doozy. Too many spelling mistakes, typos and bad grammar. This makes me wonder if a book was self-published, or if both the editor and the proof-reader were having a bad day.Too much information on the back cover - especially when an important plot twist is given away.Perfect bound hardcovers. Why? The  book will fall apart at the same speed as…

Face Down Upon an Herbal

Originally published in June 2004, on my original 52 Books blog.
I went to explore the new location of my favourite second-hand bookshop (which I approve of, although some of the mystery is gone - along with the mustiness) and came home with this book. It’s the second in a series, with all the books titled Face Down “something” .

Author: Kathy Lynn Emerson
Year published: 1998
Genre: Mystery
Sub-genre(s): Historical
Where got: Second-hand book store

The story:
Susanna, Lady Appleton, is sent to Madderly Castle, ostensibly to help Lady Madderly finish a book on herbology, but in reality to provide an excuse for her husband, Robert, to come there to investigate the murder of a man who was apparently involved in a conspiracy against Queen Elizabeth I. Shortly after arriving, the body count starts to mount and Susanna’s young protége, Catherine, falls in love with of one of the prime suspects. Solving the crimes takes the combined efforts of Susanna, Catherine, Robert and a couple of other peop…

Mystery review: 120 Rue de la Gare by Léo Malet

This is both a TBR challenge book and a What’s in a Name challenge book – the one with a number in the title. That leaves only one book in that challenge.

Year of publication: 1943: English translation: 1991
Translated by: Peter Hudson
No. in series: 1
Genre: Detective story
Type of mystery: Murder
Type of investigator: Private detective
Series detective: Nestor "Dynamite" Burma
Setting & time: Lyon and Paris, France; 1941.

Former private detective Nestor Burma is released from a POW camp in Germany and sent home to France. At the train station in Lyon he spots an old friend and former employee, who is shot before his eyes and mutters the words “120 Rue de la Gare” before he dies. Having heard the words before, from another man who died shortly afterward, Burma becomes curious and begins to investigate. It immediately becomes apparent that he is in the trail of a ruthless killer, but the more the killer tries to stop Burma, the more Burma becomes determined to discover his iden…

Friday night folktales: The Last of the Bakki-brothers

Read part one. Read part two. Read part three. Read part four. Read part five. Read part six. Read part seven.
Read part eight.
Read part nine.
Once the brothers decided to go and fetch firewood. In the old days this was either done by collecting driftwood or by finding some shrubs and tearing them up by the roots and drying them. The brothers went for the latter option. 
The shrubs were situated on a steep mountain-side. The brothers tore what they thought they needed and tied the wood into bundles which they planned to roll down the mountain. Then they started thinking and worrying that maybe the bundles would break apart on the way down or maybe they wouldn't be able to find them at the bottom. 
Therefore they decided to put one of the brothers inside one of the bundles so he could keep an eye on the bundles on the way down. So Eiríkur and Helgi took Gísli and packed him into one of the bundles with only his head sticking out and rolled all the bundles down to the bottom of the slope. 
Bu…

Wednesday night video: Book helpdesk

My second book video of the week is that hoary old classic: the Norwegian Medieval helpdesk skit:



Direct link.

Gothic Reading Challenge review: Evermore by Lynn Viehl

I hadn’t planned to review this book, but then I realised that not only was it a perfect fit for the Gothic reading challenge, but also that I had already reviewed the previous four books in the series, so why stop there?

It fits the Gothic theme because much of the story seems to happen at night, in a medieval style castle (even if it does have electricity and hot and cold running blood water), parts happen on a medieval battlefield which is pretty damn scary, there are vampires involved and supernatural threats, there is considerable angst, and there is cloak-and-dagger villainy that threatens the heroine (who, however, is no shrinking violet and is fully capable of defending herself).

Intro, necessary for understanding of some of the below. Cue a bad Christopher Lee vocal imitation doing the starting voiceover to an episode of The Dark and the Dangerous: "The Darkyn were once people, but centuries ago they became infected with an organism that stopped their ageing process and tu…

The Merciful Women

Originally published in June 2004, on my original 52 Books blog.
Original Spanish title:Las Piadosas
Author: Federico Andahazi
Translator: Albert Manguel
Year published: 1998 (original), 2000 (translation)
Genres: Fantasy, gothic horror

Where got: Public library

The story:
In the wet summer of 1816, five people arrive at the Villa Diodati on the shores of Lake Leman: Lord Byron, Percy Shelley, Mary Godwin and her stepsister, Claire Clairmont, and John Polidori, Byron’s secretary. Upon arriving, Polidori finds a mysterious letter in his room, written by a monster who proposes a deal with him: something of his in exchange for literary fame. Polidori, who has suffered much humiliation at the hands of his employer, accepts the deal, but not before further humiliations and events that convince the others that he is going mad.

Technique and plot:
The translation is fluid and beautifully done and the book comes across as if it had been written in English. The style is reminiscent of Poe and Lovecraf…

Top Mysteries Challenge review: The Four Just Men by Edgar Wallace

Apparently, Edgar Wallace was a very famous writer in his day, but I must admit to never having heard of him before starting this challenge.

Genre: Thriller, crime story
Year of publication: 1905
No. in series: 1/3
Type of investigator: Police
Setting & time: London, contemporary

The British foreign secretary is trying to pass through parliament a bill enabling the government to send back to their home countries people who, for one reason or another, have fled to Britain. A group of men, three conspirators and one recruit, calling themselves the Four Just Men, threaten to assassinate him unless he withdraws the Bill, which they see as unjust, as it would enable the extradition not only of escaped criminals, but also of political dissidents who would face certain death upon their return home. The four have already carried out several other assassinations/murders of people who they judged to be worthy of death on grounds moral, criminal, or both, but were beyond the reach of the law. Th…

Friday night folktales: The Bakki-brothers and the Foot Problem

Read part one. Read part two. Read part three. Read part four. Read part five. Read part six. Read part seven.
Read part eight.


This is the only Bakki-brothers tale that is likely to make anyone laugh:
The brothers had been told that soaking their feet and legs in hot water was very beneficial for their health, but since they they usually only had enough firewood for cooking they didn’t often heat water to bathe their feet.
Once when they were on the go they came across a hot spring and immediately decided to soak their feet in it, since they could do it for free. They all removed their shoes and socks and sat side by side with their feet and lower legs in the hot water and enjoyed the heat.
When they decided they had had enough, they realised that that they had got their feet mixed up and none of them dared stand up for fear of accidentally walking away on his brother’s feet. So they sat there until a traveller came by and called to him to come and help them. He asked what the problem was and …

Quotation for today

I came across this funny description of illusions getting shattered in Louisa May Alcott's  Little Women that I want to share:

Miss Norton had the entree into most society, which Jo would have had no chance of seeing but for her. The solitary woman felt an interest in the ambitious girl, and kindly conferred many favors of this sort both on Jo and the Professor. She took them with her one night to a select symposium, held in honor of several celebrities.
Jo went prepared to bow down and adore the mighty ones whom she had worshiped with youthful enthusiasm afar off. But her reverence for genius received a severe shock that night, and it took her some time to recover from the discovery that the great creatures were only men and women after all. Imagine her dismay, on stealing a glance of timid admiration at the poet whose lines suggested an ethereal being fed on 'spirit, fire, and dew', to behold him devouring his supper with an ardor which flushed his intellectual countenan…

Gothic Reading Challenge review: Sex and the Single Vampire by Katie MacAlister

My second Gothic Reading Challenge book, but the first to be reviewed. I’m working on the review for the other one.
Fits the Gothic theme because: a lot of it takes place at night, there are vampires, ghosts and demons involved, there is angst, the heroine shows some genuine Too Stupid To Live behaviour (a required plot element in the Gothic novels of old), and the hero is tall, dark and dangerous, and was alive during the Gothic era.

Genre: Urban fantasy, romance
Year of publication:
No. in series: 2
Setting & time: London, UK; contemporary

Inexperienced Summoner Allegra Telford is in London to prove she can summon and bind ghosts when she begins to have dreams about a wounded, bleeding man. Coming across him for real wasn’t in the bargain, but she does and is swept into an adventure involving ghosts, demons and Moravian Dark Ones (aka “my vampires must be unique” by any other name). There are hardships to overcome and the reward is one Christian Dante, the nearly hero of the previou…

Quotation for today:

I think the following may just be the most unromantic proposal of marriage scene I have read:
     'So Mrs Van Hopper has had enough of Monte Carlo,' he said, 'and now she wants to go home. So do I. She to New York and I to Manderley. Which would you prefer? You can take your choice.'      'Don't make a joke about it; it's unfair,' I said; 'and I think I had better see about those tickets, and say goodbye now.'      'If you think I'm one of the people who try to be funny at breakfast you're wrong,' he said. 'I'm invariably ill-tempered in the early morning. I repeat to you, the choice is open to you. Either you go to America with Mrs Van Hopper or you come home to Manderley with me.'      'Do you mean you want a secretary or something?'      'No, I'm asking you to marry me, you little fool.' From Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier.
It's no wonder she had to ask what he meant.

And in case you were wondering:…

Wednesday night video: Library Week (Ireland)

I'm trying out  new feature on this blog: weekly book videos. I often come across interesting, funny or informative videos about book-related issues and I would like to show them to my readers. Since my own weekly video night usually takes place mid-week, I decided to designate Wednesday night as video night on this blog.
If I don't find a worthy video some week, I will simply skip it, so it's not going to be a regular-as-clockwork feature like the Friday Night Folktale. Videos will post at 8 p.m.

The first Wednesday night video is a promotional video for Library Week in Ireland, which started last Monday and ends on Sunday. It's a lovely and simple idea, but if they did this all by hand and not digitally, then it must have taken hours to set up:

Reading report for February 2011

I finished 15 books in February. 2 were rereads, both of them by Terry Pratchett. One was a Top Mysteries Challenge book, 3 were What's in a Name Challenge books, and 8 were TBR challenge books. I also reviewed a Buchmesse Frankfurt challenge book that I didn‘t read during the month.

I discovered a new author, or rather author team, that I want to read more books by: Brahms and Simon, whose mystery, A Bullet in the Ballet, was the funniest book I have read in a long while (and I definitely needed some cheering up in February).

The best read of the month was A Month in the Country by J.L. Carr, a perfect little gem of a novella. Now I want to find the movie and watch that.

The Books:
Caryl Brahms & S.J. Simon: A Bullet in the Ballet. Murder mystery, very funny.
Suzanne Brockmann: The Unsung Hero and Into the Night. Romantic suspense.
Nancy Marie Brown: A Good Horse Has No Color. Travelogue and memoir.
J.L. Carr: A Month in the Country. Literary novel.
Jean Hager: The Grandfath…

Meme: Top Ten Tuesdays: Top Ten Dynamic Duos

The Top Ten Tuesdays meme is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. Please visit the mother blog and click on some (or all) of the participating blogs to see more dynamic duos.

After I drew up this list, I realised to my amazement that I had only put one romance supercouple on my list. This is perhaps because I decided to not include duos who are “just” great lovers, but who are also a great team in other respects.

Eve and Roarke from the In Death books by Nora Roberts. Not only are they a sizzling couple, they also work well together solving crimes.Rincewind and the Luggage from the Discworld series. Together they can get into more trouble than a troop of street urchins and cause more mayhem than a reasonably large army of monkeys, but they always land on their feet again.Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg from the Discworld series. One is sharply intelligent, openly powerful and intimidating, the other comforting and friendly and possessed of no less strong but much more subtle magic pow…

A Good Horse Has No Color: Searching Iceland for the Perfect Horse by Nancy Marie Brown

Genre: Non-fiction, memoir/travelogue
Year of publication: 2001
Setting & time: Iceland; 1996 and 1997

Nancy Marie Brown and her husband, writer Charles Fergus, came to Iceland with their young son to spend the summer of 1996 while still reeling from a family tragedy. Fergus recounted the story of their stay there in Summer at Little Lava, which I reviewed some years ago. I reposted the review yesterday.

When I became aware that Nancy was also a writer, I decided to read one of her books and of the two available in the National Library, I chose this one, as to me it’s the more interesting of the two. In a way it picks up from where Fergus left off, showing how Nancy fell in love with the Icelandic horse breed and returned to Iceland a year later determined to buy a couple of horses of her own and take them home to Pennsylvania. She recounts her adventures and experiences among Icelandic horse people (a unique breed in themselves) and her search for the perfect horse (for her) and sp…

Summer at Little Lava: A season at the edge of the world by Charles Fergus

Originally published in June 2005, on my original 52 Books blog.
I chuckled when I first came across this book. The title, plain and serious as it is to an outsider, is unintentionally funny to an Icelander. Little Lava is the abandoned farm in NW-Iceland where Charles Fergus, his wife Nancy and son William spent the summer of 1996. But Little Lava, or Litla Hraun as it is known in Icelandic, is also a prison in southern Iceland. In fact, it’s THE prison - the one where the majority of Icelandic criminals are sent to serve out their sentences. Fergus even mentions it in the book, and it is probably the reason why he chose to translate the farm’s name into English, in order to distance it from the prison image. I can’t say he has quite succeeded, but gives the reader who is in the know something to smile about.
Fergus’ original plan had been to write a simple nature study, but when he found his mother murdered in her home, the plans changed. Instead of becoming just a place to stay for …

Friday night folktales: The Bakki-brothers and the Cow

Read part one. Read part two. Read part three. Read part four. Read part five. Read part six. Read part seven.
One summer one of the brothers’ cows had no calf*. The brothers wanted to fix this and find a bull to mate with the cow. The next time the cow was in heat, they took it to a neighbour farmer who had a bull and asked him for permission to bring the cow and bull together for mating. The farmer gave his permission and told them where to find the bull. 
The brothers brought the cow to the bull and were gone a long time. Finally they came back to the farmer, saying that the bull wasn’t interested in the cow. The farmer asked them what they had done, saying it wouldn’t surprise him if they had done something foolish, as was their wont. They explained that, “Oh, no, we laid the cow on her back and held her in place for the bull.”  “That’s what I thought,” said the farmer. “You three are no ordinary fools.” --
* Explanation for city kids: This means that the cow wasn’t producing any milk, wh…

"Dearest" Spammer

Yes, you. I realise you probably have a very good reason to want to spread your muck love as far and wide as possible, but please, not on my turf. I already have all the fertiliser love I need, and I don't want any more. Not even if you disguise your crap message as a genuine, pertinent comment on the greatness of my blogging skills.
If you are wondering how I found you out, wonder no more: it was the link to your incredibly ungrammatical website. Although you were only trying to direct traffic to it and presumably hoping someone would be desperate enough to do business with you, I really don't appreciate it. So just stop it. I am not going to use the "P" word.

Isn't this ironic?

My irony levels shot up when I read that Reykjavík has applied to become a UNESCO City of Literature.

According to the UNESCO website, a city needs to fulfil the following criteria to become a City of Literature:

Quality, quantity and diversity of editorial initiatives and publishing houses;Quality and quantity of educational programmes focusing on domestic or foreign literature in primary and secondary schools as well as universities;Urban environment in which literature, drama and/or poetry play an integral role;Experience in hosting literary events and festivals aiming at promoting domestic and foreign literature; Libraries, bookstores and public or private cultural centres dedicated to the preservation, promotion and dissemination of domestic and foreign literature;Active effort by the publishing sector to translate literary works from diverse national languages and foreign literature;Active involvement of media, including new media, in promoting literature and strengthening the m…