26 April 2013

Friday book list # 2: The Next Always by Nora Roberts

Time for another Friday book list. Last Sunday I finished - in one afternoon - The Next Always by Nora Roberts, in which the heroine is a bookshop owner. However, none of the book titles mentioned in the actual book were mentioned in connection with the bookshop, but rather with the inn which the hero and his family are renovating, in which each room is named after a pair of literary lovers (as is the case with the actual Inn BoonsBoro, which is owned by Roberts and her husband). There was also mention of other books, with no titles mentioned, but if you want to know what they are, just visit the inn's website and check out the list of rooms.

The books, novels all:
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Emmuska Orczy
The Thin Man by Dashiell Hammett

23 April 2013

Happy World Book Day!

Time for some Top Ten Tuesdays goodness

Today's task is to list "Top Ten Books I Thought I'd Like MORE/LESS Than I Did"

Top Ten Tuesdays is a weekly meme, hosted on The Broke and the Bookish. I recommend heading on over there to see some more answers to today's question when you've finished reading mine.

I decided to do 5 of each:

5 books I thought I would like MORE than I (eventually) did:
  • The Alchemist by Paulo Coleho. This is supposed to be a fantastic great revelatory philosophical parable, but I found it to be rater trite. The only reason I got through it was that I listened to the audio book version which was read by Jeremy Irons, who has a soothing and sexy voice that I would  listen to even if he were reading from the phone book.
  • The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown. I love a good thriller and I can overlook a host of writing crimes if the story is good, but his prose defeated me and I gave up reading it after about 50 pages.
  • Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke. I didn‘t hate it – even liked it –but I suppose the praise heaped on it had me prepared for something out-of-this-world fantastic, which it isn‘t.
  • The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova. Another much-hyped novel which could have been great – if it had had about 200 pages of fat trimmed away.
  • Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë. I suppose I would have enjoyed it more if I had‘t come to it having read all those fangirl ravings about the breathtaking romance between Heathcliff and Cathy and read it expecting just that. When I found only bleakness, cruelty and obsession in place of romance I was disappointed beyond belief. In hindsight I probably should read it again and reassess my opinion, but the experience was so wretched that I probably will not.

5 books I thought I would like LESS than I (eventually) did:
  • An Infamous Army by Georgette Heyer. This seems to be a book people either love or hate, I guess depending on which they like better: military stories or romance (in that order). I guess I listened too much to the latter camp, because I thoroughly enjoyed it and it is among my top 5 favourite Heyer books.
  • The Bible. Before I was assigned parts of the King James version for a course on classical influences in English literature I had mostly just read the gospels and the bowdlerised Bible stories for children. I ended up reading all of it, not in a religious way but much as one reads a book of myths and legends. Seen as such, many of the tales are quite thrilling, and I keep coming across allusions and references in the most unlikely places that I wouldn‘t otherwise have recognised as biblical.
  • The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks. I was expecting something different from what it turned out to be and ended up enjoying it more than I expected.
  • Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. I expected something heavy, dry and gloomy, but found instead quite a good psychological thriller.
  • Laxdæla saga. This is one of the longer Icelandic sagas, one that, for some reason, I had the idea would be dry and boring reading. This may in part have been because it was set reading for Icelandic literature at middle-school and my experience with set reading thus far had not been good. However, Laxdæla is a heroic epic full of romance, feuds, blood and betrayal and I thoroughly enjoyed it. 

I really had to add a bonus book, because it fits into both categories:
  • Bleak House by Charles Dickens. I came to it a Dickens fan and expected it to be good, but disliked it intensely when I first read it. It was set reading for a university class I took on 19th century British literature and I suppose I really disliked it so much because it is so long and I felt we should have read a shorter Dickens novel and instead maybe two or three more novels than we did, because I really didn't think (and still don't) that 4 novels (none by Austen, BTW) and a handful of poems are enough to give one a good overview of British literature in that century. However, I am aware that age and maturity can change one's opinion and so I embarked on a rereading of it and am now reading it for pleasure and finding it quite enjoyable.

19 April 2013

Book chair

This chair, made from books hung on a steel frame, is currently on display on the 5th floor of the Reykjavík public library.
The chair is named Málfríður and was designed by Sunna Ósk Þorvaldsdóttir of SOSK design. 
Click here to see the frame without books (slide show).



18 April 2013

Booking through Thursday

 Today's question on Booking Through Thursday is:

I saw a Latin edition of “The Hobbit” last time I was at the bookstore… Do you read any foreign languages? Do you ENJOY reading in other languages?

Answer: I definitely enjoy reading in foreign languages and actually do most of my reading in a foreign language: English. I also read Danish and Norwegian fairly fluently and can get through Swedish and German texts with occasional help from a dictionary. Lately I have also been reading in French (which I am learning), although so far it has mostly been simplified texts. I'm currently reading a Commissaire Maigret mystery in simplified French and plan to use the summer to get through another, unedited one.

This is too good not to share it

Warning: NSFW - Contains "language".
Golden moment: The Lord of the Rings comment.

12 April 2013

Old Mills & Boon Romances

I came across this stack of old M&B romance novels in a second-hand shop recently, and was thrilled to discover that once upon a time they were actually available as hardcover books. If you view the photo full size, you can read the titles.

I am considering going back and buying a few of them for my cover art collection.

Click to enlarge

11 April 2013

Booking through Thursday

 Today's question on Booking Through Thursday is:

What’s the last book that made you spring to your feet, eager to spread the word and tell everyone how much you enjoyed it?

A: I generally don't have quite such strong emotional reactions to books, but the last book I needed to tell people about having read was Dodger by Terry Pratchett. I have lent my copy to a number of people and have started recommending it as a Pratchett starter book to people who are overwhelmed by the Discworld series or who want to read Pratchett but are not really fond of fantasy (which is funny, because Dodger is fantasy - it just happens to take place in this universe rather than an invented one).

05 April 2013

Friday book list #1: The Watersplash by Patricia Wentworth

Announcing a new feature: book lists of written works mentioned in books.

I have started compiling a list I have been considering for a while: of titles (and authors) of written works, real and imaginary, that are mentioned in the books I read. Once upon a time I came across a website wherein were listed such titles. I even bookmarked it, but some time later, when I was cleaning up my bookmarks, I found that the website had disappeared. There probably are other such lists out there, but I though it would be fun to compile my own. I plan to list books, short stories, essays, poems, magazines and newspapers, both real and imaginary that I come across in the books I read. To keep some order, I will post such lists on Fridays, but of course it might be weeks or even months between postings.

First up is the book I have just finished reading: The Watersplash by Patricia Wentworth. This is the 21st Miss Silver mystery.

Links in author names lead to biographical information and links in book titles lead to the books when they are available online, e.g. on the Project Gutenberg website. Author names are in brackets when not mentioned along with the title(s). Only writings with titles are listed.

In chapter XIX:
Context: The heroine of the book, Susan Wayne, is dusting and classifying books in the library of one of the suspects in a murder case that series detective Miss Silver is about to start investigating.


  • The Spectator
  • The Rambler (there were two such publications. It is not stated which it is, but I think it must be the one I have linked to)

Additionally, two unnamed books are mentioned in chapter XXXVII, one a fictional book of sermons, the other a book of prayers which one would assume to be the Book of Common Prayer.

01 April 2013

Reading report for March 2013

I had one of my big reading months in March, with a total of 24 books finished. I had a lot of free time in March, having taken a week off from work at the beginning of the month, and then there was Easter. This gave me plenty of time to read.

Romance predominated, but I also read in various other genres, including mysteries (one historical and one historical and supernatural), cultural history, natural history, folk-tales, parapsychology, a travelogue, a classic children‘s book, and a book about pseudoscience and science fraud.

Just like last month, one of the month‘s stand-out reads was a reread: Persuasion is by far my favourite Austen novel. The other stand-outs were Spook, which I thoroughly enjoyed, just like the other two Roach books I have read (Stiff and Bonk) and Where the Wild Things Are, which I would have loved had I read it as a child and still thoroughly enjoyed as an adult.

I also must mention What the Librarian Did by Karina Bliss, which was brought to my attention by the Smart Bitches blog a couple of years ago as an excellent contemporary romance, which it is. Thanks, Smart Bitches, I owe you.

And now I think it is time I came out and said it: I am addicted to Nora Roberts‘s romance novels. I am fine with her standalone novels – I can read one and then go and read something by someone else, but if I start one of her series books, I must finish the rest of the series. I read 2 series – a total of 9 books – in March, plus the first book in a third series. Most of the series books she wrote for Silhouette aren‘t up to the same standard as her longer standalone novels but I find myself drawn to them despite the often recycled characters (and sometimes plot points) and annoying recurrent expressions because these books pack an irresistible and gratifying positive emotional punch into a relatively small number of pages and they never fail to cheer me up.

The Books
  • Tasha Alexander: And Only to Deceive. Historical mystery.
  • Jane Austen: Persuasion. Romantic fiction. Reread.
  • Bjarni E. Guðleifsson: Náttúruskoðarinn I: Úr dýraríkinu and Náttúruskoðarinn II: Úr jurtaríkinu. Natural history.
  • Karina Bliss: What the Librarian Did. Romance, contemporary.
  • Colin Cotterill: Thirty-three Teeth. Historical mystery (supernatural).
  • Jennifer Crusie: Anyone But You. Romance, contemporary. Reread.
  • Ben Goldacre: Bad Science. Pseudoscience, fraud.
  • Georgette Heyer: The Reluctant Widow. Historical romance. Reread.
  • Ewan & Charley Boorman McGregor: Long Way Round. Travelogue.
  • Ólafur Davíðsson: Íslenzkar þjóðsögur I. Folk-tales.
  • Mary Roach: Spook: Science tackles the afterlife. Popular science, parapsychology.
  • Nora Roberts: Calhoun Women series: Courting Catherine, A Man for Amanda, For the Love of Lilah, Suzanna's Surrender, Megan's Mate. Romance, contemporary.
  • Nora Roberts: MacKade Brothers series: The Return of Rafe MacKade, The Pride of Jared MacKade, The Heart of Devin MacKade, The Fall of Shane MacKade. Romance, contemporary.
  • Nora Roberts: Night Shift. Romantic suspense.
  • A. L. Rowse: Heritage of Britain. Cultural history.
  • Maurice Sendak: Where the Wild Things Are. Fantasy, illustrated children‘s book.