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Showing posts from April, 2011

Friday night folktale: Boat-talk

I probably should post a tale today about a girl who gets her prince, but since I am by now thoroughly disgusted with all the royal wedding talk, I'm not going to.
Sometimes you can hear wooden boats and ships creaking even if there is no wind and they are standing on dry land. This is because the boats are talking together and only a few people can understand their speech.
Once a man who understood the language of boats came to a place where two fishing boats lay in the sand side by side. He heard one of the boats say to the other:
"Long have we been together, but tomorrow we must part.“
"We shall never part,“ said the other. "We have been together for thirty years and have grown old together, but if one of us is to be sunk, we both shall be sunk.“
"It will not happen. Tonight the weather is good, but tomorrow it will be different and none will go out to sea except your foreman, but I and all the other boats shall stay behind. You will go and never return and we …

Cover rant - a very mild one, but still warranted

Dear Reader, does it bother you when the cover design of a book doesn’t fit the contents of the book?

I have occasionally mentioned book covers and how important I think they are for the appearance of a book. One of the things that annoys me about cover images is when they show something that is either wrong or not in the text. Here is a good example:



I had one of these books recommended to me but I couldn’t find the single volume edition, so I bought a reissued volume with both novels in it. The cover image is that of a typical Regency romance cover, with a handsome man gazing into the eyes of a beautiful woman, their body language and facial expressions suggesting that kissing is about to commence. So far so good. Then I read the first novel, Viscount Vagabond, and found out that the hero of that novel has dark blond hair and the brown-haired heroine only comes up to his chest. While the original cover is wrong about her height, at least it gets their hair colours right:


 When the …

Wednesday Night Video: Poetry reading about reading

Taylor Mali reads "Reading Allowed".
Not only does this guy have a sense of humour, but he knows how to capture the attention of an audience and the poem is not one of those high-brow odes that only the poet and two other people can understand.

Top Ten Tuesdays: Mean girls in books

The Top Ten Tuesdays meme is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. Please visit the host site and click on some of the submitted links for more mean girls.

They are the characters who can be the source of anything from minor twists to major plot complications. They are the bitches we love to hate, the women who can't help being nasty, the meanies who make life interesting and unpleasant for the protagonists, the wicked, the spiteful, and often the most memorable characters in literature: The Mean Girls.

Jane Austen wrote some very realistic mean girls, including:

Fannie (Mrs. John) Dashwood from Sense and Sensibility, Maria Bertram from Mansfield Park, andCaroline Bingley from Pride and PrejudiceOther mean girls and women I'd like to slap around:
Dolores Umbridge from Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. RowlingScarlett O'Hara from Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell. (love her or hate her, you must admit she is both mean and spiteful at times)The Snow Queen…

Frederica

Originally published in August 2004, on my original 52 Books blog. Edited to remove spoilers.
Author: Georgette Heyer
Year published: 1965
Genre: Romance, historical (Regency)
Where got: Public library

The cast:
Him: Vernon, Marquis of Alverstoke, 37.
Her: Miss Frederica Merriville, 24.
Others: Her siblings: Charis, Harry, Jessamy, Felix; Lufra the dog; Alverstoke’s secretary, Mr. Trevor; Alverstoke’s 3 sisters; Alverstoke’s heir, Mr Endymion Dauntry & his mother and sister.


The story:
The Marquis of Alverstoke is known for his perfect dress sense, impeccable manners and self-centered lifetyle. It is therefore as much a surprise to him as to everyone else when he decides to answer a request for assistance from Frederica, the daughter of a man distantly related to him by marriage, to whom he is by no means beholden. Frederica’s sister, the exquisitely beautiful, airheaded Charis, needs to be launched into society and as Frederica knows no-one capable of this, she writes to the Marquis fo…

Reviewing slump

Just checking in to let you all know I'm alive. I had some vacation time left over from the summer that I wanted to enjoy and I used it in combination with my Easter holiday to take 10 days off from work.

I have been reading a lot, but not books I have felt like reviewing, and I only had a few blog posts prepared ahead of time, so I haven't been very active lately. However, I will be back in business on Tuesday.

Friday night folktale: A Little Trip to Heaven

I wanted to post an Easter tale today, but the only one I could find in my small collection of folktales is a variation of a story I have posted before, so here instead is a tall tale. 
Tall tales are a favourite among most societies, and Icelanders are no exception. I seem to recall a Munchausen’s tale that has some elements in common with this one.
Once upon a time there was a king and queen who ruled over a small country. They had one daughter.There was also a widow who lived on a small farm. She had one son. 
The king had sworn to give his daughter‘s hand in marriage to the first man who would tell him something he did not believe. Many had tried, but all had failed. The widow‘s son now decided to try his luck and went to the palace and offered to tell the king a tale. His offer was accepted and he began his tale so: 
"Once I was with my mother in her kitchen and she was whipping some milk and doing it with such gusto that soon a solid column of whipped milk rose up into the air …

Wednesday night video: Library Day (Iceland)

Last Thursday was Library Day in Iceland. The day was celebrated with many events in libraries all over the country. This video was made by staff of the Municipal Library of Akureyri, which was my local library for the four years I was at school there.

The theme of the day was "The Library - Gym for the Mind" and the message of the video in English is "Exercise your Mind - Visit the Library".

Books in the living room: A grand old Icelandic tradition

Displaying the finest volumes of the family library in the living room is a good old Icelandic tradition.  Visit an Icelander of my parents’ generation or older, and it is likely that there will be books in the living room, even in the humblest of homes. It might be one shelf, incorporated into a unit also displaying such dust catchers as crystal, ceramics, family photos, small stuffed animals and the family stereo system. On the other hand, it might just be a whole book-case. The books on such public display will generally be nice-looking ones, bound in leather or faux leather, with gilded spines and always looking suspiciously new. There will often be whole oeuvres of works by particular authors, all from the same publisher and in the same identical bindings. You will in all likelihood spot the name of Halldór Laxness on book-spines on such shelves, as well as those of Jónas Hallgrímsson, Davíð Stefánsson and Gunnar Gunnarsson, along with the Sagas and Tales of Chivalry, and possibl…

A Man of Many Talents

Originally published in July 2004, on my original 52 Books blog.
Author: Deborah Simmons
Year published: 2003
Pages: 320
Genre: Romance, historical (Regency period)
Sub-genre(s): Mystery
Where got: Public library


The cast:
Christian is a hero to die for: handsome, charming, witty and talented, with a self-depreciating sense of humour and oodles of sex appeal.
Abigail is a bit harder to figure out - until you discover what drives her and why she is so repressed.
The secondary characters are unfortunately flat - pretty much the standard usual suspects found in many mysteries. But they don’t really matter that much, they are just there to provide suspects in the haunting, which, while an important plot element in bringing together the hero and heroine, nevertheless takes second stage to the love story.

The story:
Former lady’s companion Abigail Parkinson has inherited a country mansion that she doesn’t want, but the sale of which will bring her financial independence and enable her to buy the…

Friday night folktale: The Soul of my Dear John

This is a story known to most Icelanders, if not through the folk-tale, then through the poem Davíð Stefánsson wrote based on it, or the play Gullna hliðið (The Golden Gate - that's the Icelandic name for the Pearly Gates) he also based on this tale. It’s a story about worthiness, sacrifice and love, and is unusual in being quite critical of Christian morals.

Once upon a time there was a couple, an old woman and an old man. The old man was rather unruly and unpopular, and in addition he was lazy and did not do his share of the work that needed doing in the home. His wife didn’t like this one bit and kept nagging him and saying that all he was good for was to waste and spoil all that she contributed to the household, but she was always active and working to get what was needed, and was a shrewd businesswoman who was not easily tricked. 
Although this disagreement existed between them the old woman still loved her man very much and made sure he wanted for nothing. This went on for a l…

A chilling and memorable opening paragraph

"There is something distinctive about the sight and sound of a human body falling from the rain forest canopy. The breathless scream, the wildly gyrating arms and legs pumping into thin air, the rush of leaves, snapping branches, and the sickening thud, followed by uneasy silence. Listening to that silence, I reflected on how plant collecting can be an unpleasant sort of activity." From Orchid Fever: A Horticultural Tale of Love, Lust and Lunacy, by Eric Hansen.


This would make a thrilling start to a novel, but since it's the beginning sentence of a non-fiction book, it's just horrifying. Fortunately we learn that the man survived the fall, but the author takes more than half a page to get to that fact.

Wednesday Night Video: Book-speak translated into techno-speak

This could have been made even funnier with a less ironic delivery, but its pretty good:


Congratulations, Gyrðir Elíasson!

The Nordic Council Literature Prize 2011 goes to Icelandic poet and author Gyrðir Elíasson, for his book of short stories, Milli trjánna (Between the Trees). He is the seventh Icelandic author to win this prize.

Meme: Top Ten Tuesday: Ten books I'd like to see made into movies

The Top Ten Tuesday meme is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. Today's meme is about books we hope will be made into movies. To see more lists, visit the hosting blog and from there visit some of the other participating blogs.


Hearing that a beloved book has been optioned for a movie can be both cause for anticipation and anxiety. Anticipation because when Hollywood gets it just right, you can add another movie to your favourite-movies-based-on-books list, and anxiety because when they don’t get it right it can range from mediocrity to disaster and, worse yet, discourage people from reading the book. Here’s a list of 10 books I’d like see made into movies - books I think would make fantastic movies if only they’d get it right.

Since The Hobbit seems to finally be in production, it seems fairly certain that Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman is going to be made into a TV mini-series, Shirley Jackson’s We Have Always Lived in the Castle is listed on IMdb as being in pro…

The Quiet Gentleman

Originally published in July 2004, on my original 52 Books blog. Edited to remove spoilers.
Author: Georgette Heyer
Year published: 1951
Genre: Romance, historical (Regency period)
Sub-genre(s): Mystery
Where got: Public library

The story:
Soon after Gervase arrives at Stanyon castle to take up his duties as the Earl and landowner, it becomes apparent that someone wants him dead. The most likely suspect is Gervase’s passionate younger brother and heir, Martin, but Gervase is not ready to believe that without further evidence. Complicating the matter for the would-be killer is Drusilla, a practical young lady who is staying with the dowager Countess, and who always seems to be there when Gervase needs protection from the would-be killer. 


Technique, characterisation and plot:

The book is absorbing and funny, not just chuckle-chuckle funny, but laugh-aloud funny.
The romance was subdued - in fact neither hero nor heroine gave any indication of being in love until the last 20 pages or so, and …

Friday Night Folktales: The Money Ghost

Once upon a time, long ago, there was a rich farmer. He was believed to have great riches in coins as well as property, but when he died and the estate was divided between the heirs, no money could be found. After he had been buried the people of the farm where the church was located noticed that there was something haunting the cemetery.
One of the farm-workers was a fearless man. He decided to spend a night in the cemetery and see if he could find out more about the haunting. He wanted to blend in if there really were ghosts there, so he wrapped himself in a white linen shroud and rolled himself in consecrated soil and took up a position near the cemetery gate.
The sun set and it was getting dark when he saw the earth above the farmer’s grave begin to stir as if it were being shovelled from the grave. Soon the farmer came out of the grave, dressed in his shroud. He noticed the farm-worker and walked up to him, saying, “Are you one of us?”
“Yes, I am” answered our man.
“Then come with me…

Quotation for today

No poet or novelist wishes he was the only one who ever lived, but most of them wish they were the only one alive, and quite a number fondly believe their wish has been granted. W.H. Auden (1907-1973)

News: New book by Arnaldur Indriðason due out in English

Myrká, a police procedural by Arnaldur Indriðason that was published in Icelandic in 2008, is due out in an English translation in June, the 23rd to be precise.
The English title is Outrage and the translator is Anne Yates.
Here is my review from 2009.

Wednesday Night Video: Book comes to life

Here is a wonderful example of how a book can be brought to life:

Laurie Lee's first sight of London

A few mornings later, coming out of a wood near Beaconsfield, I suddenly saw London at last - a long smoky skyline hazed by the morning sun and filling the whole of the eastern horizon. Dry, rusty-red, it lay like a huge flat crust, like ash from some spent volcano, simmering gently in the summer morning and emitting a faint, metallic roar.
No architectual glories, no towers or palaces, just a creeping insidious presence, its vast horizontal broken here and there by a gasholder or factory chimney. Even so, I could already feel its intense radiation - an electric charge in the sky - that rose from its million roofs in a quivering mirage, magnetically, almost visibly, dilating.
A little later he continues describing his first impressions of the city:
My village, my town, each had a kind of duck-pond centre, but London had no centre at all, just squat little streets endlessly proliferating themselves like ripples in estuary mud. I arrived at Paddington in the early evening, and walked aroun…

List Love: More bookish pet peeves, detective novel and mystery version

Since I am not participating in the Top Ten Tuesdays this week, I decided to continue with my literary pet peeves list, moving on to specific genres. First up is detective novels and mystery fiction. My top peeves for that genre appear below in no particular order, except that no. 1 is my absolute favourite pet peeve.

Suicide endings, especially when it is out of character or not necessary to avoid the death sentence. Can be found in a number of Robert Barnard novels and the works of many other authors.Sub-intelligent or useless sidekicks. I much prefer teams that make up for each other’s faults to a star detective and a side-kick who is useless except as a dumb stand-in for the reader. I feel that the side-kick must be a developed character of at least normal intelligence and able to contribute to the investigation on other ways than just being a sounding-board for the detective. She could, for example, be the brawn to the detective’s brains or he could be the one with common sense e…

One Pair of Hands

Originally published in July 2004, on my original 52 Books blog.
I’ve been on a reading spree lately - a book per day on average - mostly books I'm too lazy to review, but here’s one I recommend:

Author: Monica Dickens
Year published: 1939
Pages: 140
Genre: Autobiography, memoir
Where got: Public library

The story:
This is Monica Dickens’ memoir of her one-and-half years as a cook general and housemaid in the 1930’s. She started this work because she was bored and didn’t have anything to do with herself, rather than from any real need for money. This is quite a funny glimpse of a profession that doesn’t exist any more in Britain. Dickens mostly worked for respectable middle class families that today would at the most have someone come in to do the cleaning, but she also got a taste of working as a cook at a country manor. She tells of her own kitchen accidents, sloppiness and incompetence with good humoured sarcasm, and doesn’t spare her employers or co-workers either, but also gives pra…

Reading report for March 2011

I read 16 books in March, several of which I started reading in a previous month. 6 were TBR challenge books, one a Top Mysteries challenge read, 2 were Gothic Challenge reads, and one a Buchmesse read.

One was an audio-book, Unseen Academicals, which was also a re-read, if you can call listening to audio-books "reading". I suppose you could call it "absorbing", because it is actually more than just listening.  Shortly before I listened to it I had read The Rules of Association Football 1863, a tiny little book that contains a short overview of the history of football and the original rules of the modern game, which  enhanced my enjoyment of Unseen Academicals because quite a lot of that book is taken up by a football game, although it isn‘t, per se, about football.

It looks as if April is going to be another month of finishing up books I started in a previous month, because in the last week I have started reading something like 9 books, and lost interest in all …

Bookmarks redux

I haven’t done a bookmark post in quite a while, but since I have found a number of good printable bookmarks online since my last bookmark post, I’m going to post some links. First, here are links to a selection of my other bookmark posts:

How to make a simple origami bookmarkDIY Bookmarks onlineMore bookmarks online: printables   (I have updated the links on this one and removed one dead link)Collecting bookmarks
These include my own bookmark designs:
Printable bookmarksMore printable BookmarksBookmark: Graffiti

And now a dozen new links. Some of these are promotional, but nice nonetheless.
DIY PAPER BOOKMARKSSeveral nice printablesA large collection of simple printable bookmarksLee Hansen GraphicsPrincess crafts  (some of these are very nice)Harry Potter bookmarks (these are very nice)4 printable origami bookmarksActivity Village (meant for kids, but quite nice) National Geographic bookmark factory (assemble bookmarks online and print out - requires Flash)Floral Art Nouveau Free Printabl…

Friday night folktales: The Lagarfljót Worm

An old folk belief explains the gold-hoard of dragons thus: When a lindworm lies on top of a piece of gold, it makes the dragon grow bigger, and the gold hoard will grow as well. 
In the east of Iceland there is belief in a serpent or dragon that is supposed to live in the Lögurinn, a long lake through which the Lagarfljót river flows. It takes its name from the river and is known as Lagarfljótsormur or the Lagarfljót Worm. It is Iceland’s best known monster, sometimes referred to as Iceland’s Nessie. This it the story of its origins:
In ancient times there was a woman living on a farm near the Lagarfljót. She had one teenage daughter, who she loved very much. She gave this girl a gold ring.
The girl asked her how she could profit the most from the gold, and her mother answered that she should take a lindworm and lay it on the gold. The gold hoard would grow with the worm and thus increase and make her rich. 
The girl got herself a tiny lindworm and laid it on top of the gold ring inside …

Quotation for today

All the best stories in the world are but one story in reality -- the story of escape. It is the only thing which interests us all and at all times, how to escape.
Arthur Christopher Benson (1862 – 1925)