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Top Ten Tuesdays: Top Ten Books That Should Be In A Beach Bag

This meme is hosted by the Broke and the Bookish. To see more suggestions for holiday reads, please visit the hosting site and from there you can go to any or all of the other participating blogs.

I do not sunbathe and therefore I present Top Ten Books that should be in my carry-on bag (or on my e-reader when I get one) to ensure enjoyment and variety on a long flight or an even longer bus or train ride. Also useful, in combination with an mp3 player, when you want to be left alone for any reason:

Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. My all-time first choice for a travelling book. I know it so well that I can open it at random and begin reading on any page, yet I never grow tired of it. I am on my second copy, having read the first one to tatters. Alternative: Any of Pratchett's Discworld books.A travelogue of the place I am visiting. Preferably historical so I can make comparisons and annoy my co-tourists with useless trivia.One Georgette Heyer novel, because sometimes i…

Charity shop book haul

When I visited the charity shop on Friday I knew they must be getting in a lot of new books because they were giving away books, which is what they always do when they still need shelf space after having had a book sale. I was strong and didn't pick up anything, but when I was coming home from work yesterday my "book sense" went all prickly when I drove past the charity shop, and so I stopped by. And look at what I got (gloat, gloat):



I decided to only buy books I knew I wanted to read or own, and so I bought noting on speculation (which is what made my TBR so epic in the first place). This meant passing over several tempting YA urban fantasies, a couple of mysteries and half a dozen other vegetarian cookbooks.

The Madhur Jaffrey book alone is worth 6 times what I paid for the whole lot. I generally don't read celebrity biographies, but the Gene Simmons book was irresistible - Kiss was my first favourite rock band and still has a special place in my heart. As for the…

Persepolis: The story of a childhood by Marjane Satrapi

Originally published in March 2005, on my original 52 Books blog.
Persepolis is a memoir, a look under the veil and behind the high walls and shuttered windows of post-revolution Iran. Parts of it are very shocking, parts are funny, and the stark black and white graphics make it play almost like a movie before your eyes. The drawings are dark - there’s a lot of black - and simple, but they are simple enough to appeal to they eye and the emotions and there are no unnecessary details to draw the eye away from the main points.

Rating: A stark, strong, insightful memoir of life in Iran in the years after the revolution. 4 stars.

I'm hoping the library will also get part 2. I want to know what happened next!

Since writing this, I have also read part 2 and seen the film. All are recommended.

Dear Nikon Iceland,

When you're selling a camera that costs a cool quarter of a million krónur, could you at least make sure that the instruction manual is translated into proper and correct Icelandic?

The proof-reader in me is at her wits' end reading that thing. Your translator uses "skera" for "cut" when it should be "klippa", consistently uses "sé" when "er" is called for, and has made numerous grammatical errors and committed other translation crimes too heinous to describe. Some are so bad I smell Google Translate all over them.
-

The good news, Dear Reader, is that I finally bought a new camera. I realised I didn't need to wait for my tax refund, so I went ahead. It's a Nikon D7000, and I have a feeling we are going to have one hell of a good time together despite the crappy translation of the manual. I am, in fact, firmly trying not to huddle over it, stroking it and hissing: "My preciousssssss!"

I think my father is a b…

Publishing woes

As those of you know who have been visiting this blog for a long time, I have a degree in translation studies and work as a translator.

Part of my final thesis was the translation, into Icelandic, of the book Mouse or Rat: Translation as Negotiation, by Umberto Eco. Just after I finished it and received my degree my supervisor applied for and got a grant to get the book published. The book would be an interesting addition to the small number of books on translation available in Icelandic and thus useful for translators wanting to study the theory behind their art. 

I recently met with my supervisor and he told me that he had been trying to discover who owned the publication rights to the original book, since permission must be sought from this party in order to legally publish the translation. This is where it gets complicated: no-one seems to know.

The book was written in English and published in Britain and thus the logical place to start was the British publisher. The British publ…

Icelandic folk-tale: Trunt, Trunt, and the trolls in the mountains

For most of Iceland’s human occupation people lived in farming communities near the coast and the interior of the country was an uninhabited non-man’s land, only visited by humans when travelling from one place to another and during the annual sheep and horse round-ups. No wonder then that belief in elves, trolls and outlaws was ripe. Trolls were believed to kidnap both men and women for breeding purposes. They were heathens and could not tolerate the sound of church bells, so they lived in the very remotest parts of the country. Apart from travelling and round-ups, another thing that brought people up into the wilderness of the highlands was Iceland moss, which is actually a lichen. The Icelandic name for it means mountain grass, and I will be using that name in the story. It was a valuable commodity that was gathered to be used as food and to make medicines and to make a dye for wool. It only grows above a certain height above the sea-level, and groups of people would head into the h…

Quotation for today

The time to read is any time: no apparatus, no appointment of time and place, is necessary. It is the only art which can be practiced at any hour of the day or night, whenever the time and inclination comes, that is your time for reading; in joy or sorrow, health or illness. George Holbrook Jackson (1874-1948)

Online reading: Comics, part II

Here are some of the comics I like where you can jump right in and quickly figure out the story (if there is one):

Questionable Content. My favourite online soap opera. Exploring the lives of a group of twenty-somethings in a world with some resemblance to our own. Updated Mondays to Fridays. It's better to have read the whole thing from the beginning, but you can quickly catch up even if you don't.

Kevin and Kell. The adventures of anthropomorphic animals in a world that mirrors our own. It is better to have started from the beginning, but the "About" and "Cast" pages will fill you in on some of the details and help you catch up if you don't feel like reading the whole thing. Updated daily with an extra large strip on Sundays.

Toothpaste for Dinner. Random humour. Updated daily.

Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal. Random humour, sometimes not funny, sometimes very much so. Updated daily.

Nickyitis. Often quite funny. Updates weekdays. Three days a week it…

Wednesday Nigth Video: What to do if you find yourself inside a fairy tale

Neil Gaiman reading, "Instructions", a lovely poem about how to survive being in a fairy tale:

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

I am skipping the Top Ten Tuesdays meme this week, so here instead is some list love:

I came across an old post of mine that reminded me of three pet peeves about mysteries that I completely forgot about when I drew up the original list. That was quite a feat, since I actually react more strongly to them than I do to suicide endings, but I forgot about them because I haven’t come across any of them recently, so my ruffled feathers had settled sufficiently for me to have forgotten about them.

Here is the original list, and below is the new one, with new items in blue:

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 chara…

A Cook’s Tour in search of the perfect meal

Originally published in October 2004, on my original 52 Books blog.
Author: Anthony Bourdain
Year published: 2001
Pages: 274
Genre: Travel, food
Where got: Public library

I’ve wanted to see the TV series ever since I read about it on a cooking website, but for now I will have to make do with the book.

This is the story of Bourdain’s round-the-world journey in search of interesting food and eating situations. This was first just supposed to be a travel-foodie book, but then Television got involved, and he ended up traveling around with a TV crew in tow. Some of the visits yielded plenty of delicious food, like the visit to The French Laundry in California, others were nostalgic and unfulfilling like the trip to France, and still others pointless, like the journey to Pailin in Cambodia.
The dining experiences were sometimes exotic, often delicious, at other times scary or just horrible. Some brought the intrepid chef face to face with his food, still on the hoof, or swimming, crawling or s…

Icelandic folk-tale: The Black Skirt

People who do not conform to what is considered good and normal by society have a much better time of it today that they did back in the old days. Reproductive freedom is now considered to be a human right, but back then people who didn’t wish to have children were considered abnormal, even evil. Consider this story:

Once upon a time, log ago, there were a middle-aged couple, rich and respectable, who had one daughter. She was an attractive, lively girl and had many suitors, but turned them all down. Finally the parish minister, a young man with good prospects, came to ask for her hand. The parents were all for the match, but the girl absolutely refused to giver her consent. Her parents asked her how she could turn down such as wonderful prospect but she answered that she was so mortally afraid of the terrible pain of childbirth that she couldn’t possibly consent to marry anyone, however good the prospects were.
“There is a way out of that, my daughter,” said the woman. Then went her cl…

Quotation for today

The following quotation is probably the source for a particular incident in one of Terry Pratchett's Discworld books. I love it when I discover the source of some particular nugget of intertextuality.



"A real book is not one that we read, but one that reads us." W.H. Auden (1907-1973)

Online reading: Comics, part I

There are several on-line comics that I follow almost religiously. They appeal to me for different reasons, but mostly I like ones that are humorous or ones that tell a compelling story, even if the artwork is crap. I am still catching up with the back issues of some, others are already finished, and some I am current on. Some are episodic, some are single stories, and others can be enjoyed at random. I am posting links here to the ones I enjoy the most.


I'm splitting this up in two posts, one about the ongoing stories that need to be read from the start and where a whole page is posted at a time, and the other about comics where each strip or image is either a standalone or you can easily get into the story without reading it from the start.


In no particular order:


Scary Go Round's Bad Machinery. About a group of English school kids having spooky adventures. Shares a background and some characters with Scary Go Round (link to first strip) which has run its course (and with w…

Wednesday Night Video: One of my favorite actors reads one of my favourite poets

Alan Rickman has one of those voices that make my knees go weak.  Here he reads Shakespeare's most romantic sonnet:

Top Ten Tuesdays: Top Ten Favorite Minor Characters

( you know... all those great supporting character or a VERY minor character that might have been only in there a page or two but had an effect on you)
Top Ten Tuesdays is a weekly blogging meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. Please visit the hosting blog to see more lists.

These are only the minor characters I could remember from off the top of my head, so if I were to do this list again it might look totally different.

This very nearly became a Terry Pratchett only list, but I was able to restrain myself (but only just).

In no particular order:

Fred from Anyone But you by Jennifer Crusie. The archetypal lovable ugly mutt with a personality.Davy Dempsey from Welcome to Temptation by Jennifer Crusie. Sharp and dangerous and very probably a criminal but also a loving brother who will do anything to protect his family. I’m glad he got a book of his own (Faking It).Jemmy from Viscount Vagabond by Loretta Chase. My favourite lovable urchin.Greebo the cat from the Discworld books by Te…

Going Postal by Terry Pratchett

Originally published in October 2004, on my original 52 Books blog.

Year published: 2004
Pages:
Genre: Fantasy, humorous
Where got: Amazon.co.uk

The story:
When Lord Vetinari, ruler of Ankh-Morpork, gives con artist Moist von Lipwig a second chance at life if he will take over running the city’s disabled Post Office, Moist knows there has to be a catch. Finding tons of undelivered mail is nothing compared with finding out that four of his recent predecessors died in mysterious “accidents”. It looks as if the job will be simple: get enough postmen and deliver the mail, even if it will take decades, get the service up and running and print some stamps. Then there is Miss Dearheart, who renders Moist quite speechless with her icy cold manner and severe mode of dressing, and whom he would like to get to know a lot better. The plot thickens when the operators of the Grand Trunk Semaphore Company decide the Post Office is a threat, and begin a campaign to get rid of the competition, and Moist f…

Icelandic folktale: Death Diverted

This is one of many Icelandic miracle tales:
When the Black Death raged through the Skagafjörður area in 1403 the angels of death travelled the land by day in the form of a blue mist, but at night they looked partially human. 
One night the farmer of Fornu-Vellir woke up to the sound of sheep grazing on the roof of the farmhouse. He got up to drive them off and when he had done this he noticed through the dark that two of the angels of death were standing by the gate to the home pasture. He suspected that they had business at the farm that they were discussing. He listened in and heard one of the angels say: 
“We shall visit here and here we shall visit.”
The other replied: “We shall not visit here and here we shall not visit.”
The first one then said: “We shall not visit here and here we shall not visit, for the light of the sainted Mary shines from a tussock and we shall leave as soon as can be.”
After that the angels departed, and the Black Death never came to the farm. The farmer gave t…

Navel-gazing

Here is a marvellous new word I just learned: omphaloskepsis = contemplation of one's navel as an aid to meditation.

I have been involved in a bit introspection lately and one of the the things I have been examining is my reading habits and bookish likes and dislikes. I have come to the conclusion that I have some very fixed, if not positively staid, reading habits.

When I originally started this blog, or rather the blog that spawned this one, which was hosted on tblog and titled 52 Books, I did it in order to shake up my almost fossilised reading habits. I used the blog to keep myself on track with the book-a-week challenge I had set myself, with the aim of reading one book a week by an author or in a genre new to me, and getting off the reread carousel I had been on for the last several years leading up to the challenge. Not that rereading is in itself a bad thing, but when nearly half the considerable amount of books (in my case 150+) one reads in a given year is rereads and th…

Wednesday Night Video: P&P

A bit of irreverence here, and funny in a juvenile kind of way:

A quotation for today

Books that have become classics - books that have had their day and now get more praise than perusal - always remind me of retired colonels and majors and captains who, having reached the age limit, find themselves retired on half pay. Thomas Bailey Aldrich (1836-1907)

Top Ten Tuesdays: Top Ten Jerks In Literature

Or, as they put it on the hosting blog: "( all those jerky guys in books..those who truly WERE asshats and those who just acted like one but could be quite loveable)"Please visit The Broke and the Bookish to see more lists of jerks in literature.

There are no loveable jerks on my list, although some of them are protagonists (which, as we all know, is no guarantee that we will like the guy. Just witness Humbert Humbert in Lolita (who I couldn't include as I haven't read the book yet).
Professor Snape from the Harry Potter books. He may have been a troubled hero, but he was also a huge jerk with a huge chip on his shoulder against Harry’s father that he took out on Harry.Draco Malfoy from the Harry Potter books. Some people are just born mean. Add jealousy to the mix and you get Draco.Holden Caulfield from The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger. The worst kind of jerk: a whiny one.Hamlet from the play by Shakespeare. Another whiny jerk I wish would get over himself. D…

Legally Blonde

Originally published in September 2004, on my original 52 Books blog. My comments in different type.
Author: Amanda Brown
Year published: 2001
Pages: 272
Genre: Chick lit
Sub-genre(s): self discovery
Where got: Bought in Prague

The story:
For those who have not read the book or seen the movie and don’t want to know the ending or of either, please stop reading NOW!

SPOILERS ahead

Those who have seen the movie are already familiar with the basic plot of the book: Bel Air princess Elle Woods is rejected by her boyfriend and follows him to law school to show him that while she is a blonde, she is not dumb. All kinds of funny chaos ensues, Elle defends Brooke, a former sorority sister in a murder trial, gets sexually harassed by her supervisor, and finally rejects the ex in favour of continuing law school and being with the cute lawyer she met.

That was the movie.

The book has the same basic plot, but with important differences. One is that instead of heading east to Harvard and losing all connec…

Icelandic folk-tale: The Seal Wife

Icelanders share a belief in selkies with their cousins in the Faeroe Islands, Scotland and Ireland. This is the most commonly told selkie story:

Once upon a time the was a man in the Mýrdalur area who was walking along the sea-shore at the foot of some high cliffs very early in the morning, before most people were awake. He came to a cave and heard the sounds of revelry and dancing from inside. Outside he saw a large pile of seal-skins. He took one of the seal-skins with him as he went on his way, took it home with him and locked it in a trunk.
Later in the day he returned to the cave and found there a pretty young woman. She was nude and crying. This was the seal to whom the skin belonged. He gave her some clothes, dried her tears and took her home with him. She was shy and aloof with everyone but him, and would often sit and look at the sea. 
A while later the man proposed to her and was accepted. They had a happy marriage and had several children together. The man kept the skin firml…

Quotation for today

"To me, the light of the sun, the day, and life itself, would be joyless and bitter if I had not something to read."
Leo Allatius (1586-1669)

Orchid Fever, by Eric Hansen

I just realised I got through the whole of April without writing a single review, and yet I posted something nearly every day of the month. This has to be a record for me. Of course there were reviews, but they were recycled ones that I wrote years go.

Full title:Orchid Fever: A Horticultural Tale of Love, Lust, and Lunacy
Year published: 2000
Genre: Non-fiction, travel, history, flowers

I came across this book at a second hand shop a couple of years ago and was intrigued by the title. I then stuck it in the dreaded TBR stack and forgot about it, until last month when I was browsing my TBR for something to read. I promptly picked it up, started reading, and was soon engrossed in the world of orchids and orchid people.

Hansen immersed himself deeply in the orchid world, interviewing collectors, breeders and horticulturists, and obsessively hunting down some collector/breeders who had run afoul of the catch-22 of the CITES convention: in order to own and sell orchids on the CITES list, yo…

Wednesday Night Video: Writing a romance

I loved this when I first saw it. Clearly these ladies (or whoever wrote the skit) know their romances:

Reading in Reykjavík on Scene of the Blog

My blog is being featured on Kittling Books in Scene of the Blog today.
 Every Wednesday, Cathy, the Kittling blogmistress, shares another book blogger’s blogging space with her readers. Book bloggers from all over the world have sent her photos and descriptions of the areas where they do most of their blogging from. This has proved to be a very popular feature and a great way for bloggers to connect. I’m thrilled to be included in the group.

 Kittling Books is an award-winning book blog which features reviews, author interviews, announcements of upcoming titles and other interesting features.

I just got a new pair of glasses

This is not really news, but a year ago I started feeling that my eyesight was changing and I went to my  opthalmologist to get a check-up. He told me I would soon be needing bifocals and added that I was 10 years early for those. Great.

When I went for my check-up last April I got a prescription for multifocals and since my father had good experience buying his mutifocals from abroad, I placed an order with the company he has used. The glasses arrived yesterday. I have been wearing them since I got up this morning, and I can see they will take some getting used to. It's somewhat like having your head underwater. Using them is going to involve more head movements and more eye movements while my physical memory gets to grips with the gradually changing focal lengths of the lenses, but hopefully it will only take a few days to get used to. It will be a relief to not have to peer under the rims when I am doing my crocheting or sewing while watching TV and to not have to take my glasse…

Reading report for April 2011

First I want to report an error in the report for March – I forgot to enter two books into my reading journal. One was Gigi by Colette, which I reread after having first read it many, many years ago. The other was a webcomic, The Phoenix Requiem (click on the link to start reading it) by Sarah Ellerton, which I discovered last year but which had then been running since 2007. Ellerton finally finished it in March, and is now working on a print project. I had already read another of her webcomics Inverloch and enjoyed it very much, and I was saving a third comic of hers, Dreamless, for later. I guess I'll read that now. And now we resume our regular programming:

I finished 18 books in April, which is pretty good considering I began the month while suffering from a very specific kind of reader‘s block: the inability to finish what I had started. I would grab a book, read the first few dozen pages and then I would need to go cook a meal, or go to work, and when I would return, I woul…

The Guy Next Door

Originally published in September 2004, on my original 52 Books blog. Slightly edited for length and to remove spoilers.
American title:The Boy Next Door
Author: Meggin Cabot
Year published: 2002
Pages: 392
Genre: Chick lit/romance
Where got: Public library

This book was recommended to me by an online friend. It was written by the author of The Princess Diaries.

The story:
Gossip columnist Melissa “Mel” Fuller is in danger of losing her job because she’s always late for work. As the book begins, she is late again, but this time she has an excuse: her elderly neighbour has been assaulted and Mel has had to call the police and then take care of the old lady’s pets, two cats and a Great Dane. Getting hold of the old lady’s heir, playboy photographer Max Friedlander, is hard, but finally she tracks him down in Florida where he is cavorting with a supermodel and has no intention of coming to New York to take care of his aunt’s pets. To make sure he doesn’t lose his inheritance if the old lady wak…

Challenges, schmallenges

I’m sick and tired of reading challenges. Whenever I fail to reach a certain goal within a given challenge, my conscience acts up and makes me feel guilty for not reaching the goal and indeed for reading other books. This is not good, because when it comes down to it, reading is supposed to be fun.

The only one of my challenges that hasn’t become a chore is the TBR challenge, and I have already reached the goal I set myself for that one for 2011: to reduce my TBR stack to below 840 books.

The Buchmesse challenge is a chore because the books that have been translated into both English and German are mostly literary fiction and crime novels and I really need to be in a very specific frame of mind to enjoy the former, and the latter I have already read and reviewed all of those that fit the criteria, in some cases several years before the translations came out.

The Top Mysteries Challenge is throwing in my path some books that I just don’t want to read at this point, e.g. political t…