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Showing posts from 2007

Reading report for November 2007

As may be seen from the list I have been on a Ngaio Marsh reading binge, making her the author of half the books I read in November. It looks like I am not going to finish the 52 mystery authors challenge before the end of the year as I had planned. In fact, I will probably not be reading much until February, as I have just received a big translation job equivalent in length to a short novel (but not nearly as much fun to translate) that will take up most of the time I have allotted to daily reading. (As of December, I have only finished three books, two of which were quickie rereads. If I was reading at my normal pace, I would have finished 7 or 8 books by now). I have been trying to work up some momentum before I tackle Terry Pratchett’s latest offering, Making Money , by rereading Night Watch to get me in the mood, and I will probably read the previous Moist von Lipwig book, Going Postal , before I start on the new book. Pratchett is one of my favourite authors, but in the last fou

A sad blow to a family, and to lovers of fantasy literature

Today I learned that Terry Pratchett, one of my favourite authors, has been diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s. Having two relatives suffering from this disease, I know first had what it can do to a person, and I would just like to say: “I’m sorry to hear this, Terry, not just because you are a great writer, but because no-one should have to suffer through such a horrible experience.” Terry’s message announcing the news

All I want for Christmas... a bunch of books. Or, putting it another way: My book wishlist for Christmas: I feel the need to write something and I don’t have a book to review at hand, so I’m doing this list instead. I have left off the list the several cookbooks and foodie books I want, because I want to write about them over on Matarást, my other food blog (you’ll find a link on my profile page if you’re curious). The reading report for November is in the making. Not all of the books are new and the list is in no particular order of preference. Here goes: Jennifer Crusie & Bob Mayer: Agnes and the Hitman . I really liked the previous book by the Crusie/Mayer team and I expect I will like this one as well. The pairing of a romance with a thriller is not a new idea, but so often romance writers are not good at thrillers and thriller writers not good at romance, so having a romance writer and a thriller writer working together on a book makes sense, especially when they manage it as seamlessly as Crusie

Bibliophile reviews Kingdoms of Experience: Everest, the unclimbed ridge by Andrew Greig

Year published: 1986 Genre: Non-fiction: mountain-climbing, Mt. Everest Setting & time: Mt. Everest, Tibet, 1985. The Story: In 1984 Greig, then relatively inexperienced as a mountain climber, had joined an expedition to the Himalayas as a writer and member of the support crew. At the end of the expedition, the leader, Mal Duff, heard about an available climbing permit for Mt. Everest from the Tibetian side, and decided to put together an expedition to try to climb the then unclimbed north-east ridge of Mount Everest. Greig joined the expedition and the book tells the story, not just about the climb itself, but also the planning, putting together the team, financing and getting to Tibet. Review: This book, while probably of most interest to mountain climbers and those interested in climbing, can give non-climbers an insight into the immense amount of work that goes into an expedition like this one, the strain of high-altitude climbing and the dangers of it (not just falls and fr

Bibliophile reviews The Last Grain Race by Eric Newby

Year published: 1956 Genre: Non-fiction: Memoir, travel Setting & time: Aboard ship and shore leaves in the UK and Australia; 1938-9 The Story: In 1938, 19 year old Newby gave up his job as a clerk and signed on for a round trip as an apprentice seaman aboard the freighter Moshulu, one of the last sailing ships that plied the grain route between Britain and Australia. His descriptions of the excitement and hardships of shipboard life make for wonderful reading, and a documentary of a lifestyle that was soon to be extinct. The 1938-9 season was, according to Newby, the last time a fleet of sailing ships vied with one another for the fastest passage from Australia to Britain. After the Second World War was over, the fleet had broken up, many of the ships were destroyed, and ships with engines had mostly taken over the cargo routes. Review: Eric Newby had a wonderful way with words and this first book is no exception. He had the ability to make the things he wrote about come alive

Mystery author # 41: Ann Granger

Title: Say it With Poison Series detective: Consul Meredith Mitchell and D.I. Alan Markby No. in series: 1 Year of publication: 1991 Type of mystery: Murder Type of investigator: Amateur and police Setting & time: The Cotsworlds, Britain, late 20th century (timeless) Story: Meredith Mitchell arrives in the Cotsworlds for the upcoming wedding of her cousin’s daughter. D.I. Alan Markby of the local police has been asked to give away the bride. Shortly after Meredith arrives, her cousin’s seemingly nice young neighbour is found murdered, and both Meredith and Alan start investigating. Review: This is a really good first novel, and a great mystery as well. The two don’t always go together, and it’s refreshing to see a book that has no noticeable symptoms of firstbookitis in neither writing or plotting. The characters are realistically drawn, the writing is good, the mystery has some interesting twists and the clues are devious enough to satisfy even the most demanding mystery lo

Waste of trees and time (and petrol)

This isn’t directly about books, although I have read some that were a true waste of paper and by extension both trees and time. I participate in two book trading societies on the web: Book Mooch and Title Trader. The books I get from my trading buddies abroad have to go through customs. The customs procedures are incredibly bureaucratic and not nearly as streamlined as they could be. The system, as delivery concerns, goes something like this: Customs receives my package and the officer decides it could be a delivery from an Ebay seller, and thus fees and taxes would be due. A couple of days later I get a letter, telling me this and asking for permission to open the package to look for an invoice. The law for the protection of personal information is such that they need permission every time. As far as I can tell a standing permission is out of the question for individuals. I sign the permission and fax it back, with an explanation saying I am being sent the books free of charge, which

Mystery author # 40: Edmund Crispin

Title: The Case of the Gilded Fly Series detective: Gervase Fen, professor of English at Oxford University No. in series: 1 Year of publication: 1944 Type of mystery: Murder Type of investigator: Gifted amateur Setting & time: Oxford, England, during World War 2 Story: An obnoxious young actress is murdered. Several people heard a gunshot, but no-one actually saw a thing, and with supreme assurance of his success, Oxford professor Gervase Fen steps in to solve the case. Review: The writing is not bad and the plotting is not too bad, but for some reason I found myself not liking this book. Possibly it’s because I have rarely come across a less likeable sleuth (not even Poirot or Gideon Fell), or possibly it is because there is something too smug about the tone of the book for my taste. Also, I dislike books where all the characters are described in detail right at the start, but the clincher was when I was still not able to tell some of them apart without looking at said desc

Mystery author #39: Michael Pearce

Title: Death of an Effendi Series detective: Gareth Owen, head of Cairo's Political CID No. in series: 12 Year of publication: 1999 Type of mystery: Murder, political intrigue, historical Type of investigator: Police Setting & time: Cairo, Egypt; 1909 Story: Owen is sent to keep an eye on a Russian businessman during a conference, but the man is short during a bird hunt and Owen suspects it is murder and not an accidental shooting. But proving it is another matter, especially when a man who may possibly have important information is being kept out of reach. It takes some clever manoeuvring to get to him, and what is revealed is a curious story of idealism, business and politics, but it it may be a small thing for Owen compared with the wrath of his girlfriend when one of the witnesses turns out to be a beautiful woman. Review: Pearce writes with a wonderfully light and airy touch, and his characters are three dimensional and human. He manages to tell a light-hearted stor

Mystery author #38: Elizabeth Daly

Title: Evidence of Things Seen Series detective: Henry Gamadge, author and expert on rare books No. in series: 5 Year of publication: 1943 Type of mystery: Murder, possibly supernatural Type of investigator: Amateur sleuth Setting & time: The Berkshires, NE-USA; 1940s Story: Mrs. Clara Gamadge is holidaying in the Berkshires. Her husband is away on government business and she is alone in a rented summer cottage with her maid. The two women feel a bit creeped out by a mysterious, ghostly figure in a sunbonnet that appears at sunset every 2-3 days, but not enough to flee the house. When the ‘ghost’ scares a horse outside the house, causing an accident in which the cottage’s owner is injured, they bring her into the house. During the night she is murdered, and the police seem to suspect Clara of having done it in a fit of madness. Her husband arrives at this point and immediately figures out whodunnit, but he needs proof, and spends the last half of the book looking for it (th

Reading report for October 2007

I finished 12 books in October, several of them mysteries by authors I had previously not read, so if I can get myself going with the writing, there should be some challenge reviews coming up. About time too, since I want to finish the challenge before the end of the year. The books: Anthony Bourdain: Bone in the Throat - hard-boiled crime. Suzanne Brockmann: Everyday, Average Jones - romance with a touch of thriller. Edmund Crispin: The Case of the Gilded Fly - murder mystery. Mary Daheim: Auntie Mayhem - murder mystery. Franklin Dixon: Frank og Jói á Íslandi - my first (and probably last) Hardy Boys mystery, read because it takes place in Iceland. Ann Granger: Say it with Poison - murder mystery. Andrew Greig: Kingdoms of Experience - travel and mountain climbing. Tony Hillerman: The Blessing Way - mystery thriller. Eric Newby: The Last Grain Race - memoir. Nancy Pearl: More Book Lust - lists of reading recommendations. Barbara Sjoholm: The Pirate Queen: In search of Grace

Mystery author #37 Tess Gerritsen

Title: The Surgeon Series detective: Jane Rizzoli – in this book with Thomas Moore No. in series: 1 Year of publication: 2001 Type of mystery: Serial murder, police procedural, thriller Type of investigator: Police Setting & time: Boston, USA; modern timeless SPOILER Warning: if you haven't read the books, there is a minor spoiler for book 1 in the synopsis for book 2. There are also minor spoilers in the reviews. Story: A serial murderer is on the loose in Boston and his handiwork is chillingly similar to that of another serial murderer who has been dead for 2 years, killed in self-defense by his last victim, Dr. Catherine Cordell. Police detectives Jane Rizzoli and Thomas Moore begin to suspect that there might have been two killers working together, but Cordell has no memory of another man. Before long, it becomes apparent that the killer has fixated on Cordell and has plans for her. The killer is relentless and when he captures Cordell, it is a race against time to

Mystery author #36: D.R. Meredith

Series detectives: Paleoanthropologist and assistant librarian Megan Clark and her sidekick, history professor Ryan Stevens, aided and abetted by the Murder by the Yard mystery reading group. Type of investigator: Amateurs Setting & time: Amarillo, Texas, USA; 21st century Title: Murder in Volume No. in series: 1 Year of publication: 2000 Type of mystery: Murder Story: Megan drags Ryan, who happens to be her best friend even though he is old enough to be her father and secretly in love with her (just had to get that in), with her to a meeting to form a mystery reading group, even though Ryan never reads mysteries. A couple of meetings later, a young female member lashes viciously out against the others, belittles everyone and storms out, only to be found after the meeting outside the store with her throat slit. Megan can't miss the opportunity to use her education and examines the body before the police get there, and so gets blood on her clothes, making her a prime sus

Reading report for September 2007

I am beginning to go into a reading slump. The symptoms usually start with the feeling that I have nothing to read, even though I in fact do have a TBR stack of about 300 books in my bedroom and a TBR list of over 1000, at least a third of which I can get from the library. Then I start to read one book after the other and decide I‘m not interested in any of them, and the books I am already committed to read stop being interesting. This usually leads to a cull of my TBR stack, but so far I am resisting that temptation. This has happened almost every autumn since I was in my early twenties. Much as I love this season, the diminishing daylight does mean that I start getting the winter blues and a reading slump is usually the first warning sign. School has been somewhat effective in dispelling this seasonal gloom in the past, and when I have not been at school I have learned to keep busy and find new interests to keep the blues at bay. This winter I‘m taking a second bookbinding cours

Mystery author #35: Ngaio Marsh (WARNING: Very long post)

It may well surprise some to discover that until last month I had not read a single book by this illustrious mystery author, whose name is often mentioned in the same sentence as those of Agatha Christie and Dorothy L. Sayers, but it is really not surprising when you consider that Marsh's books seem to be mostly out of print (which makes me wonder: if she is as good as Christie and Sayers, why are her books not in print? Perhaps they are between printing cycles?). It is to be hoped that they will be re-issued as the ones I read are quite entertaining and certainly better than some of the modern mysteries I have been reading lately. The author review is based on the first five books in the series. It will be interesting to see if my opinions change with further reading. I will only review the books briefly and rate them. I will discuss the things they have in common in the author review. Series detective: Chief Detective-Inspector Roderick Alleyn of the Scotland Yard. In four of th

Bibliophile reviews Going to Extremes by Joe McGinniss

Year published: 1980 Genre: Non-fiction, travel Setting & time: Alaska, USA, late 1970s McGinniss wanted to experience Alaska in all it's guises and seasons and went to live there for a year. The outcome was this report, often funny, sometimes sad or poignant, about a land and society during a period of rapid change. He takes a look at the problems facing the native communities, many of which were caused by the social-upheaval brought on by the arrival of the white man, and also at pioneers, oilmen, opportunists, politicians, scholars and ordinary people, all of them trying to make a living in the harsh environment of the USA's biggest state. McGinniss does his best to avoid criticising the less savoury aspects of what he saw by trying to describe without judging, but one can not avoid noticing the subtle sarcasm that creeps into his prose whenever he mentions the oil pipeline, oilmen or oil-supporters and oil-supporting politicians, so his stance on that subject is rath

Mystery author #34: Nancy Martin

Series: The Blackbird sisters Series detective: Nora Blackbird, aided by her sisters Libby and Emma and Michael Abruzzo whom she is sort of dating but afraid to commit to Type of investigator: Amateurs Setting & time: Philadelphia, PA, USA; modern timeless Type of mystery: Murder Title: How to Murder a Millionaire No. in series: 1 Year of publication: 2002 Story: When her parents flee the country and leave her with the family farm that has a 2 million dollar tax debt on it, recently widowed Nora Blackbird needs to find a job to pay the bills. A former debutante and society wife, all she really knows how to do is plan parties and be a hostess. This turns out to be the perfect background when she is hired as a society reporter by an old friend of the family who happens to own a newspaper. But then Nora finds him dead and it turns out he was murdered. The police ask for her help, as she knows everyone involved and knows how Philly high-society works. She becomes deeply involv

Reading report for August 2007

I finished 13 books in August, and added three new authors to my challenge (I am writing the last review). I managed to finish 4 books I had started some time ago and then stopped reading. Reviewed: Laura Childs: Shades of Earl Grey Deborah Crombie: A Share in Death Unreviewed: Leslie Carroll: Miss Match Lorrain D'Essen: Kangaroos in the Kitchen Barry Paris: Audrey Hepburn J.K. Rowling: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Georges Simenon: Maigret and the Toy Village Paul Theroux, ed.: The Best American Travel Writing 2001 Reviews coming up: Ngaio Marsh: A Man lay dead , Enter a murderer , The Nursing Home Murder , Death in Ecstacy Nancy Martin: How to Murder a Millionnaire (I'm reading the second book in this series and will review them together)

Mystery author #33: Laura Childs

Title: Shades of Earl Grey Series detective: Theodosia ‘Theo’ Browning No. in series: 3 Year of publication: 2003 Type of mystery: Theft, possible manslaughter Type of investigator: Amateur Setting & time: Charleston, SC, USA; modern timeless Story: When a number of valuable antiques are stolen and a young groom is tragically killed in a possibly theft-related incident, Theodosia seems to be the only one who thinks there might be a cat burglar specialising in antiques at work in Charleston. Some speculation and a little investigation reveals three possible suspects, and she and her sidekick, Drayton, plan a trap to capture the thief. SPOILER WARNING: Review: I love cozy mysteries and I had expectations of this book, but unfortunately it fell a long way from those expectations. It’s cozy all right, but the plotting is weak and the sleuthing consists mostly of conjecture and asking a friendly police officer some questions. Additionally, the sleuth commits what to me amount

Mystery author # 32: Rex Stout – the Nero Wolfe series

Series detective: Nero Wolfe, adied by narrator Archie Goodwyn. Title: Fer-de-lance No. in series: 1 Year of publication: 1934 Type of mystery: Murder Type of investigator: P.I. Setting & time: New York and nearby cities, USA; 1930s (early to mid- 20th century timeless setting) Story: A young woman asks Wolfe to find her missing brother. When he turns up murdered Wolfe is able to link his death to that of a college president who collapsed on a golf course. Wolfe then proceeds to investigate the case in order to collect a rich reward offered by that man's wife and tests his wits against a clever murderer. Warning: minor SPOILERS follow. Review and rating: I must start by admitting that I detest gimmick murder weapons in mysteries, and unfortunately this one has not just one, but two. The snake I can forgive, since this is a relatively old story and the snake probably had not become a cliche when it was written (although some might say it became so already in Doyle's

Reading report for July 2007

I read 11 books in July. I could have read more, but the weather was good and I spent a couple of weekends travelling with my family. One book was a reread, one of my perennials in fact. Three of the others were books I had started reading earlier and needed to finish to keep my promise to myself to finish some of the partially read books that are all over the place in my apartment. Kate Adie: The Kindness of Strangers Roald Dahl: Matilda J.J. Marric: Gideon's Week Sharyn McCrumb: The Rosewood Casket John Mortimer: Rumpole of the Bailey Terry Pratchett: Strata J.D. Robb: Loyalty in Death Georges Simenon: Maigret's Revolver Rex Stout: Three Doors to Death and Fer-de-Lance Reread: Terry Pratchett: Good Omens

DailyLit: Reading in instalments

I recently discovered that it is possible to subscribe to literature on the Web. It is by no means a new thing – after all, some of the most popular classic novelists, such as Dumas and Dickens, wrote some their books in instalments that were eagerly awaited by readers. I decided to try it, and have subscribed to a book I started reading a couple of months ago but have kept pushing aside for other books. Now I can simply read it during my coffee breaks and lunch break at work, instead of at home where I am surrounded by scores of other books that keep diverting my attention from it. The book is The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins. For the next 286 weekdays I will receive it in instalments in my inbox, from DailyLit . It will be interesting to see if I manage to stick with it, or whether at some point I will go back to the book. I think this is an excellent way for people who think they are to busy to read books to relax for a few minutes every day over a good book. DailyLit mostly

Mystery author # 31: Andrea Camilleri

Translator: Stephen Sartarelli Series detective: Inspector Salvo Montalbano Type of investigator: Police Setting & time: Vigàta, Sicily (and neighbourhood), Italy; late 20th century This time, I read two books by the author. Note that the given year of publication is for the original Italian publication. Title: The Shape of Water Original Italian title: La forma dell'acqua No. in series: 1 Year of publication: 1994 Type of mystery: Death under mysterious circumstances (possibly murder), police procedural Story: A famous and respected Sicilian political leader is found dead from a heart attack. There is no doubt of the cause of death, but as the circumstances of the finding of the body and the place where it was found are rather suspicious, Inspector Montalbano decides to get to the bottom of it, despite pressure from the authorities to close the case. Was it an accidental death during a sexual encounter with a prostitute, or was the heart attack manufactured, making i

Arrrgh! Mouldy book

Went to the library yesterday and wandered over to the corner where they sell books they have no more use for and found two cookbooks I had long wanted, plus a volume with both of Douglas Adams’ Dirk Gently books. A quick check showed there were no pages missing, so I went to the desk and bought them. Last night I sat down after dinner to leaf through the cookbooks and discovered mould in one of them. Little spots of bluish-black mould the size of fingerprints were growing outwards from some of the seams in the book. Mould in regular books is a nasty, ugly thing, but mould in a cookbook could be dangerous if it got into the food being prepared. Ouch! And arrrrgh! I really, really want to keep that book, but I don’t want to have it near my other books, knowing that if I ever have a dampness problem or a water or steam accident in my house, it could contaminate them. I don’t suppose applying a fungicide will do the paper any good, but at least I can minimise the risk of contaminating any

Reading repors for May and June 2007

Just poking my head in to report on my reading :-) May: In May I finished a book on average every 2,4 days: 13 books that total 3562 pages. I started reading some of these books months ago and had been reading them on and off since. I have always liked having a wide variety of books to read and I mix together books that can be read over a long time with books that are best read, if not quickly, than at least over a period of just a few days. I started reading The Literary Gourmet three years ago and would pick it up every now and then and read a chapter and then put it on the shelf again. I thought it had great promise when I first got it, but I was disappointed with it. The book is a collection of food and eating passages from famous literary works, with recipes researched by the author/editor and adapted and tested by chefs. I think a book like this is probably most interesting when you have read the majority of the books mentioned in it, and I have not, which is probably why I foun

Why buy hardcovers? Or putting it another way: Why buy paperbacks?

I see these questions and variations thereof pop up regularly on the reading forums I visit on the web. Sometimes they’re posted in an attempt to start an earnest discussion about the pros and cons of each, while at other times the asker wants to convince the other forum members that one rules and the other sucks. I’m sure most book lovers know the pros and cons of each, so I’m not going to bother listing them here, but I do want to tell you about my own preferences. I prefer to buy paperbacks when I am new to the author, I’m not sure I will want to keep the book after I have read it, all my other books in a series are paperbacks (e.g. J.D. Robb’s In Death books), or I have little money to spare on books. I prefer hardcovers when I am going to give the book as a present, when I know I am going to want to keep and reread it, when I need to replace a paperback I have read to tatters, and when I can’t wait for the paperback. I don’t give any thought to resell value or collectability or h

Mystery author #30 Veronica Stallwood

Title: Oxford Shadows Series detective: Kate Ivory No. in series: 8 Year of publication: 2000 Type of mystery: Murder, partly-historical, cosy Type of investigator: Amateur (romance writer) Setting & time: Oxford, England Story: Suffering from writer's block and depression following a deadly attack (presumably in a previous book in the series), romance writer Kate Ivory is being hounded by her agent to begin work on a new, preferably spicy, novel. When workmen who are fixing the floors in her boyfriend's apartment find a box of papers and other items dating back to World War 2 under the floorboards and Kate comes across the owner's name on a tombstone shortly afterwards, she becomes interested in researching the war years for a novel. Before long she is digging after more information about the owner of the box, a young boy names Chris who was billeted in the house during the last months of the war along with his sister. The house had then belonged to an aunt of

Reading report for April 2007

I surpassed last year's monthly average a bit this month, with 18 books, a total of 4645 pages. Two were rereads. Most were less than 300 pages long and could be read in under 3 hours. I have not been much interested in reading long books lately, but now I intend to try to finish the first part of the Gormenghast trilogy, which is about 400 pages of small type, by the end of the month. Another long book I have started reading is Wilkie Collins' classic novel The Woman in White , which is about 650 pages in the Oxford World's Classics edition, so I don't expect to read quite as many books this month, but just as many pages. I have many partially read books strewn around my apartment and I think I should try to make an effort to finish some of them so I can either put them in my permanent collection or donate them back to the charity shop where I got them. I just finished one that I started reading in 2005 and feel very proud of myself, but I need to do more, so I have re

A romance reader bites back

I came across a wonderfully sardonic description of some of the many formulas used in modern literary fiction, written by a fan of another genre that has been much abused for being formulaic, namely romance. If you didn’t think there were any formulas behind literary fiction, think again. Here is the full article: Guidelines for Writing Literary Fiction . I especially like the last bit: "On completing the book, the reader should have a satisfied feeling of accomplishment. There are a number of reasons for this, not the least of which is value. He or she will be able to say he enjoyed the book, but will probably not be able to explain why without reading a review. He or she can feel fully satisfied in recommending it to a book club." I, of course, explore my feelings about books, and not just literary fiction, by writing reviews. So, have you read a piece of modern literary fiction that didn’t follow any of those formulas? I know there must be some, but most of what I have re

Bibliophile reviews The Search by Iris Johansen

Year of publication: 2000 Genre: Romantic thriller (with brief and mild descriptions of sex; some paranormal elements) Setting & time: USA (mostly), S-America, Taiwan Story: Rich and powerful John Logan forces dog trainer Sarah and her trusty search dog Monty to help him find a missing person. Unlike a previous book where the person was dead, this one is alive and has been kidnapped by Logan's arch-enemy, his former brother in law who could never forgive Logan for taking his sister away from him. There is also the small matter of having been sent to prison in a Thailand hell-hole for 15 years by Logan. (If you think this is a spoiler, think again – this all comes out early on in the story). The man is wreaking systematic revenge on Logan by destroying people and places he cares for, and once he discovers that Sarah is helping Logan, he incorporates her into his plans for total revenge. Here is where the SPOILERS start. Review: Reading this book feels like reading a story

Mystery author #29 Robert B. Parker

Book 1: Title: Stone Cold Series detective: Jesse Stone No. in series: 4 Year of publication: 2003 Type of mystery: Serial murder, rape Type of investigator: Police Setting & time: Massachusetts, USA, late 20th or early 21st century Story: Two serial killers are operating in Stone's territory and when they target his former girlfriend the case turns personal. He also gives personal attention to the case of a teenage girl who has been gang-raped. Book 2: Title: The Judas Goat Series detective: Spenser No. in series: 5 Year of publication: 1978 Type of mystery: Murder, terrorism Type of investigator: Private detective Setting & time: USA (scene setting), England (London), Denmark (Copenhagen), The Netherlands (Amsterdam), Canada (Montreal), 1970s Story: Tough P.I. Spenser is hired to headhunt a group of terrorists whose bombing of a London restaurant wiped out the family of an American billionaire and left him paralysed. In prison or in the morgue, the man doe

A reading aphorism

Reading a newspaper's literary and cultural supplement recently, I came across this aphorism. The original is a poem, but I have translated it without keeping the poetic form: “It takes a long time to wear out a bad book and to finish a boring one” Amen to that.

Reading report for March 2007

Another month has gone by and this time I finished reading 13 books, gave up on one and read parts of several more, some of which I expect to finish in April. I always hate it when I have to give up on a book I had good expectations of, but sometimes even a favoured author can disappoint. This was the case with Eric Newby in his collection of short travel accounts, Departures & Arrivals . Much as I loved A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush , I was disappointed by this book. While I found some enjoyable writing in a couple of pieces, most of them were just boring and finally I decided to stop torturing myself and stop reading the book. I may come back to it later when I am in a mood to finish it, but for now it's going in the unfinished file. As for the rest, I apologise for the scarcity of reviews lately, but with this and that I have not had much time for writing reviews, what with the bookbinding (lots of homework) and travel planning (it's still many weeks until I leave, but

Bibliophile reviews I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith

(I finally gave in and cheated on the shelf challenge...) Year originally published: 1948 Genre: Novel Setting & time: England, 1940s The Story: The book is written with 17 year old Cassandra Montmain as a narrator. She is keeping a journal in which she tries to capture the character of castle she lives in and all its inhabitants. Her father once wrote a very important book, but has not written a thing in 12 years, her artist's model stepmother is wildly eccentric but also rather domestic at heart, her sister Rose is willing to sell her soul to the devil to take herself and her family out of their poverty-stricken situation (they have no regular income), and Stephen, who is a sort of servant and sort of family member, is very much in love with Cassandra, who cares for him very much but is not romantically interested in him. The arrival of two brothers in the neighbourhood bodes changes in the family's fortunes, and here I think I will say no more, as this book is hard t

What I found inside The Southern Gates of Arabia

Some months ago I wrote about things I have found in books . Back then, I had not really started thinking about how finding stuff in books could become part of this blog, but I have been thinking it over and I think I will begin a new feature about it. I am not about to go into any kind of competition with the good people of Found magazine and the Found blog, as my finding things in books usually happens at long and irregular intervals, but I think it can be interesting to look at the things people leave inside books and consider what it can tell us about them and the books. My first featured find is the three items I discovered inside The Southern Gates of Arabia by Freya Stark. The first is simply a plain bookplate stating that the book is a bequest to the National Library of Iceland from Mrs. Ellen Gertrude Austin, dated 1942. Presumably the book is part of a bigger bequest of books. The edition was published in 1938, so the book was almost new when it was given to the library. Ab

Pruning my book collection

I have been doing a bit of pruning in my TBR shelves and am putting the 'cuttings' on my BookMooch trade list. When I got them, some of the books were being given away for free and looked interesting at the time, although I now can no longer remember why they looked interesting, while with others I know I can easily get them from the library and also that I will have no desire to own then after I read them. And then there are the books I do no remember being given, buying or taking from the 'free books' table. How they got into my book collection is a mystery. If anyone can give me reason why I should keep and read any of these books, please drop me a comment. Iain Banks: The Wasp Factory - I am only mildly interested in it and if someone mooching it suddenly makes me want to read it, I can easily read it in 2 hours before sending it off. John Bunyan: The Pilgrim's Progress . Not only can I get it from the library – it is also available on the net. I have mostly be

Bibliophile reviews Tender at the Bone: Growing up at the table by Ruth Reichl

Year published: 1999 Genre: Memoir, food, recipes Setting & time: USA 1950s to 1970s. I got this book on some solid recommendations from the foodies in my online reading group, and I am not sorry. Reichl writes about growing up in New York with a caring but rather distant father and a bipolar mother and some of the characters, many of them wonderfully eccentric, who contributed to her education about food. She becomes a rebel, but only when her parents can't catch her at it, has friendships, travels, falls in love and marries, and lives in a commune in California and works in a cooperative restaurant. All of this contributes to her wide knowledge of food that would later lead her to become a restaurant critic, and throughout the book food is a constant theme. Reichl writes an easy and light style and her prose is entertaining but without ever being fluffy. The book is a collection of episodes from Reichl's early life rather than being one story told straight through, pro

Bibliophile reviews a (gasp!) new(ish) book

Author: Naomi Novik Title: Temeraire American title: His Majesty’s Dragon Year published: 2006 Genre: Fantasy/alternative history Yet another independent bookshop in Reykjavík is closing and it looks like soon there will only be two chains left, both owned by the same company. But this is supposed to be a review, not a lament for the demise of the independent bookseller. At the closing sale I came across this book, which caught my attention with the cover artwork: a black dragon hovering over an old-fashioned warship under full sail. The blurb promised a novel of the Napoleonic era – only with dragons. I decided to cheat on my reading diet and read the book while my interest in it was still fresh, so here is the review: The Story: When William Laurence and his crew capture a French ship Laurence wonders why the French put up such very fierce resistance to the taking of the ship. The reason becomes clear when a dragon’s egg is discovered in the hold. Dragons must be harnessed stra