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Showing posts from August, 2010

Meme: Top Ten Favorite Heroines

Yay! I have finally managed to post a Top Ten Tuesday meme on time... This was a tough one, but here goes, in no particular order: My top ten favourite literary heroines: Anne Eliot from Persuasion by Jane Austen. She’s a quiet, uncomplaining and unappreciated but incredibly kind-hearted, patient and loving woman who finally learns that sometimes we need to trust our own feelings and not listen to others. Of all Austen’s heroines she is the one I like the best. Minerva Dobbs from Bet Me by Jennifer Crusie. A woman who doesn’t hesitate to say what she thinks. Anne Shirley from Anne of Green Gables , Anne of Avonlea and Anne of the Island by L.M. Montgomery. I was a bit like her as a girl, which is why I think I like her so much. I don’t like her so much after she marries, which is why I specify in which books I like her best. Miss Marple, from the books by Agatha Christie. She’s a sharp and inquisitive old bat who knows human nature in and out and uses that knowledge for g

The Resurrection Club

Originally published in August 2004, in 2 parts. Book 29 in my first 52 books challenge. Author: Christopher Wallace Year published: 1999 Pages: 231 Genre: Horror Where got: Public library Picked this book up at the library because I liked the title. The Story: Public relations man Charles Kidd is hired by sleasy Peter Dexter to promote a mysterious art exhibition. Also involved are a young IP lawyer, Claire, who works for an Edinburgh law firm, and Daniel Lowes, a man who participates in a happening organized by Dexter. The story of a Dr. Brodie, a 19th century Edinburgh doctor who has invented a device designed to store the human soul, is also told. The character’s paths all cross before the end, except Dr. Brodie who only meets two of the law firm’s representatives, who also turn up at the happening. Technique: The story is told in many voices: that of Charles Kidd telling his story, of a third person narrator telling Dr. Brodie’s story, someone at Claire’s law

Dear Reader: Do you find this image offensive?

Do you think it is pornographic or just suggestive? Photobucket refuses to host this photo, presumably because its photo recognition software registers it as a nude man with an erection and a tremendous amount of pubic hair, instead of as a marble statue buggering a bat - wait, that must be the reason! It thinks this is an image showing zoophilia. I still can't decide if this is bad design, or if it is deliberately cheesy, but it certainly is eye-catching.

Short stories 221-230

From Norway: “ The Blacksmith Who Could Not Get Into Hell ”. Collected by Asbjörnsen and Moe. An amusing folk tale about beating the Devil. Recommended. (A different translation from the one I read. “The Father” by Björnstene Björnsson. About a proud father and a parish priest. “Skobelef” by Johan Bojer. A humorous tale about a horse that has a tremendous influence on a small rural community. Beautifully translated. Recommended. From Sweden: “ Love and Bread ” by August Strindberg. A rather cynical tale about a man who discovers that one cannot live by love alone. Recommended. (This is such a very different translation that it makes me want to read the original to see which is truer). “The Eclipse” by Selma Lagerlöf. A heart-warming tale about an old peasant woman who needs an excuse to invite the neighbours over for coffee. Recommended. “The Falcon” by Per Hallström. A haunting tale about a peasant boy who rescues a hunting falcon. Beautifully translated. Recommended.

Friday Night Folklore: The Eight Gentleman’s Daughters

Gandreið (gand-ride) is a common occurrence in Icelandic fairy tales about magic. See the story for one definition of the phenomenon. This tale is clearly related to the German fairy tale of the Twelve Dancing Princesses , but with important and dark differences. There was once upon a time a gentleman who had eight daughters. He also had eight men in service. They often discussed between themselves how tired and depressed they always felt when going about their daily chores. One of them had a good friend at a farm near the gentleman’s estate. Once, when visiting his friend he told him how tired he always felt and that he had to force himself to do his work every day, and that all of his fellow servants were the same, being hardly able to move for fatigue. He found it really strange because the work was not that hard. “Well, if you can’t guess why, then I’m sure I don’t,” said his friend, “unless someone is using you for gand-riding while you sleep so that you don’t get any rest at

Meme: Top Ten Books I Can't Believe I've Never Read – TBR bookshelf edition

As my regular visitors will have noticed, I’m going a bit nuts with memes. This one was thought up by Julia of The Broke and the Bookish and properly belongs to Top Ten Tuesday postings, but as I came to it late I am posting it today. There were so many books to choose from that I decided to only include books that I actually own (and have in some cases owned for several years). Brennu-Njáls Saga ( The Saga of Burnt Njal ) – This is one of the longer Sagas and by all accounts a juicy one, full of heroism, betrayals, passion, revenge, conspiracies and blood-feuds, but I have never got round to reading it. Shame on me, as this is one of the fundamental works of Icelandic literature. Don Quixote by Cervantes – I actually bought a copy a couple of years ago, but I have never felt in the mood to read it. Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke – I have started reading this something like five times, and never been able to bring myself to read farther than about 50 pages

Meme: My life as a book

I learned about this funny meme from Dorte , but it was originally posted on the Pop Culture Nerd blog. The rules are simple: answer the question using only titles of books you have read this year. This was quite a challenge, but I finally did it. The links will take you to my reviews/discussions of the books. By the way, this very nearly became "My life as a Book: Edward Gorey Edition", but a couple of the questions posed insurmountable difficulties. In high school I was: Devil's Cub (Georgette Heyer) People might be surprised I’m: My Lady Notorious (Jo Beverley) I will never be: Welcome to Temptation (Jennifer Crusie) My fantasy job is: Making Money (Terry Pratchett) At the end of a long day I need: A Rare Benedictine (Ellis Peters) (the liqueur. I can do without monks, thank you very much!) I hate it when: Death takes up a Collection (Sister Carol Anne O‘Marie) Wish I had: The Curious Sofa (Edward Gorey) My family reunions are: Wild (Lori Foster) A

Short stories 211-220

Next come the Polish stories: “ The Lighthouse Keeper of Aspinwall ” by Henryk Sienkiewicz . A wonderfully lyric tale of a happy interlude in a long life full of misfortune. Recommended. (this appears to be the same translation as I read) “Forebodings, a sketch” by Stefan Zeromski. There were actually two sketches, but one was too short to include here. About finding peace in adversity. And now the Yiddish authors: “A Woman’s Wrath” by Isaac Loeb Peretz. A rather harrowing tale of n incident between a woman and her good-for-nothing husband. Recommended. “The Passover Guest” by Sholom Aleichem. A wryly humorous tale about the power of good storytelling and a Jewish family who entertain an exotic foreign guest during Passover. Heartily recommended. “A Picnic” by Z. Libin. A humorous tale about a family picnic gone wrong. Recommended. “The Kaddish” by Abraham Raisin. About a man obsessed with having a son. “Abandoned” by Sholom Asch. Both sad and humorous, about a criminal

The Last Unicorn

Originally published in August 2004, in 2 parts. Book 28 in my first 52 books challenge. Edited out some information that had nothing to do with the book. Author: Peter S. Beagle Illustrator: Mel Grant Year published: 1968 Pages: 212 Genre: Fantasy Where got: Public library I first read this book a long time ago, before I became really proficient in English, and when I came across this special illustrated anniversary edition, I decided it was about time I read it again. Being older, having read a lot in the interim and understanding the language better, all effect how re-reading books affects a person. When I first read The Last Unicorn I was about 20, was just about to start university and although I could keep up a fairly fluid conversation in English, I didn’t have the feeling for the nuances of the language I do now. Back then, I found the book beautifully written but felt something was missing, namely the spark that separates a good book from a great book. It wi

Bibliophilic Book Challenge: The Classic Era of Crime Fiction by Peter Haining

This is the 12th and final book I read as part of the Bibliophilic Books Challenge . Year published: 2002 Genre: Literary history; non-fiction Despite the unfortunate error I mentioned in an earlier post, this book gives a great overview of the roots and development of the crime genre. Haining clearly loved the subject and unfolds it in 8 chapters, each of which covers a particular sub-genre and era of crime literature and the authors who developed these genres into what they are today. He begins with the penny bloods , which gave readers in the 19th century cheap chills and thrills, goes on to discuss the stories of crime-fighters and early detective stories which gave rise to Sherlock Holmes and his rivals, which led to the development of the tough Private Eye stories that led to hard-boiled crime stories and the crime noir novels, and ends with spy novels. The book is written in a matter-of-fact informative style without being dry, covers a large number of authors and book

Global Reading Challenge Review: The Tunnel by Ernesto Sabato

This ended up being my South-American book in the Global Reading Challenge – I seem to have gone off Captain Pantoja for the time being. Certain parts of the review may contain SPOILERS, so consider yourself warned. Genre: Literary novel Year of publication: 1948 Setting & time: Buenos Aires, Argentina; contemporary This book is set up as the first-person confession of a criminal, or perhaps rather a description of the events that led up to the narrator’s murder of his lover. Celebrated painter Juan Pablo Castel spots a woman at an exhibition of his paintings, and it seems to him that by focusing on a minor detail in one of the paintings she has shown herself to understand him in a way that no-one else does. He becomes obsessed with finding her and getting to know her, and when he finally does, they enter into a stormy, obsessive and abusive relationship that ends in murder. The narrator, Castel, gives an account of his development from being a rather lonely misanthro

Friday night folklore: Kindness repaid

There was once upon a time a farmer and his wife in Eyjafjörður. They were rich and wanted for nothing. The pantry of their house was built in such a way that a large rock that had been impossible to move when the pantry was built had become part of the wall and jutted into the room. One evening in early winter the woman was doling out food for the household and noticed a large, unfamiliar askur* sitting on the rock. She asked the maid if she knew to whom the askur belonged, but she had never seen it before. She decided to put some fresh milk in the askur, and then they left and locked the room. In the morning when she came into the pantry the askur was there, but empty. The woman put milk in the askur every day throughout the winter, reasoning that she had milk to spare and someone clearly needed it. The askur would be empty after every meal. This continued until spring. On the first night of summer the woman dreamt that a strange woman came to her and said “You have been very kind

Short stories 201-210

' Oh, whistle, and I'll come to you, my lad ' by M.R. James. Originally from Ghost Stories of an Antiquary . An almost perfect little ghost story. Recommended. This one is not from Great Short Stories of the World - it was mentioned in a book I was reading ( Maps & Legends ) and I read it to be able to better understand the discussion of it in that book. I then decided it was perfect for the challenge. “ St. John’s Eve ” by Nikolai Gogol. A story written in the form of an oral tale – rambling and very well rendered. Recommended. “ The District Doctor ” by Ivan Turgenev. Another story in the oral form, even more confusing that the last one. (different translation) “ The Christmas Tree and the Wedding ” by Feodor Dostoievsky. A well-told story about status and money and how they affect people. Recommended. (appears to be the same translation) “ The Long Exile ” by Leo Tolstoy. This is what the editors of GSS call this story, but the original title is “God sees t

Salinger's Toilet , OR, The lengths to which some people will go to make money

I couldn't help but laugh out loud when I read that an old toilet from a house that belonged to author J.D. Salinger was up for auction on Ebay. I laughed even louder when I read that the asking price was 1 million US Dollars. The thought that anyone would actually buy something like this strikes me as very funny, but in today's celebrity culture it wouldn't surprise me if someone actually bought it. I also couldn't help thinking that "Salinger's Toilet" would make a fine title for a surrealistic short story or a novel.

Top mysteries challenge: The Dreadful Lemon Sky by John D. MacDonald

There is no going past that point. All the roads are barricaded and all the bridges are blown. The fields are mined and the artillery has every sector zeroed in. This is a good extended metaphor and an eloquent way of belabouring the point, which is then spoiled by a truce shortly afterwards. Can you guess what the metaphor refers to? Year of publication: 1974 Series and no. : Travis McGee # 16 Genre: Mystery/thriller Type of mystery: Murder Type of investigator: Amateur, crime magnet Setting & time: Florida, USA, contemporary Travis McGee gets a visit from Carrie, an old friend, who asks him to store nearly 100 thousand dollars (in cash) for her or, if she doesn’t return within a given time, get the money to her younger sister. Carrie is killed, seemingly in a traffic accident, but McGee senses foul play and he decides he owes it to her to investigate her death. This leads him and his friend Meyer into the company of all kinds of people, some suspicious and some n

Georgette Heyer fans, take note!

Georgette Heyer I have only just discovered, to my delight, that Austenprose, a blog dedicated to celebrating all things Jane Austen is celebrating Georgette Heyer's birthday (August 16th) by having a Georgette Heyer marathon that began on August 1st and will end on the 31st. Being late to the party, I have a fair bit of reading to do to catch up, but I'm not complaining. Austenprose is a blog I visit occasionally - something like every couple of months, just to see what's new, but now I have added it to my feed so I will not miss anything.

Bibliophilic Book Challenge: So Many Books, So Little Time by Sara Nelson

"Explaining the moment of connection between a reader and a book to someone who‘s never experienced it is like trying to explain sex to a virgin." Sara Nelson on the phenomenon when a reader gets sucked into the book. Bibliophilic book number 11. Only one to go. Not that I‘m counting ;-) Year published: 2003 Genre: Memoir At the end of 2001, Sara Nelson decided to set herself a reading challenge, a simple book-a-week affair for one year, and keep a diary about it. The result was this book, which most readers should be able to, on some level, to enjoy. Although she is a seasoned, professional writer of book reviews, this is not a collection of reviews or even of literary theory or analysis, but more of a meditation on and a revelling in different aspects of reading, interspersed with snippets of information about whichever book she was reading at the time each essay was written. She covers issues most readers will be familiar with, like trying to turn a non-reader in

Congratulations, Yrsa!

She has good reason to smile!  Yrsa Sigurðardóttir has been nominated for the Shamus Award in the category Best P.I. Novel, for My Soul to Take , the only translated novel to be nominated this year, so her translator should be congratulated as well. Congratulations and good luck, Yrsa!   Read some reviews of the book: Euro Crime   The Independent   Iceland Review Reviewing the Evidence The Guardian And here is a Youtube video where Yrsa discusses the book

The Crying of Lot 49

Originally published in July and August 2004, in 2 parts Book 27 in my first 52 books challenge. Author: Thomas Pynchon Year published: 1966 Pages: 183 Genre: Literature Where got: Public library This book was recommended to me by Oedipa. I had never heard of it, but it is apparently a classic of 20th century American literature. After a bit of web browsing for information, I decided it would be worthwhile reading. This review contains possible SPOILERS The story: Oedipa Maas is unexpectedly made the executor of the estate of her former boyfriend, Pierce Inverarity. Before long, she is immersed in the investigation of a secret, underground postal service that appears to have its roots way back in history. Along the way, she meets with all sorts of people, some crazier than others, and the book ends as she sits down to attend the auction of Inverarity’s stamp collection, which contains some stamps that may or may not have been made by the people who run the mysteri


I am now reading The Classic Era of Crime Fiction by Peter Haining, and wow!, is there ever an error on page 114, in the discussion on the "Big Four" female detective writers of the Golden Era. He discusses Agatha Christie and Dorothy L. Sayers, and then turns his attention to Margery Allingham and Ngaio Marsh, saying about Marsh: "...and Ngaio Marsh (1895-1982) whose 1940 book, Surfeit of Lampreys , featuring aristocratic investigator Lord Charles Lamprey..." This begs the question: How many errors have I not spotted?

Top mysteries challenge review: Time and Again by Jack Finney

Year of publication: 1970 Genre: Speculative fiction, sci-fi, thriller Type of investigator: Amateur, time traveller Setting & time: New York, USA; 1882 and 1969 Illustrator Simon Morley is recruited to take part in a top-secret project to travel back in time. Once he is back in the 19th century, he is only supposed to observe and not meddle in anything, but when he discovers that a young woman he meets in the past and cares for has become entangled with a dangerous man, he knows he has to do something. That something leads them to become involved in a horrific event that puts them both in mortal danger. I suppose that technically Time and Again is science fiction, although giving it that classification might give readers the idea that it’s full of science, aliens and strange technology. Nothing could be further from the truth. There is, for example, no time machine, the time travel being achieved by self-hypnosis, although only after extensive training that includes ac

Review: Private Demon by Lynn Viehl

From the book: He found the fact that she hid the candy and the books in her desk rather endearing. He had even read one of the books— Pride and Prejudice —although he had thought many of the heroine’s problems could have been solved if someone had simply strangled her mother. Genre: Urban fantasy/paranormal romance Year of publication: 2005 No. in series: 2 Setting & time: Chicago, USA; contemporary Darkyn (i.e. vampire) Thierry Durand, cured in body but not in mind after the horrific events described in If Angels Burn , has escaped from captivity and arrives in Chicago, full of angst and knowing that he cannot be sure of being able to control himself from going totally berserk when met with difficult situations. He feels like he needs to redeem himself for past events and plans to start by exacting revenge on a group of men who mutilated a young protégé of the doctor who healed him. In Chicago, heiress Jema Shaw is trying to live a normal life in the shadow of

Friday night folklore: A Drunkard in Hell

This short tale is an example of the kind of humorous tales told by Icelanders in the olden days. One day there were two men working in a farm smithy. Late in the afternoon a man arrived at the farm, so drunk that he passed out and rolled off his horse into the mud in front of the farmhouse. The two smiths took him and carried him into the smithy and laid him on a pile of wood coal, where he slept until it was dark outside. When he began to wake up, the smiths were just finishing their work for the day but had not yet put out the fire in the forge. They decided to observe the drunkard when he woke up, to see if anything funny would happen, and hid in a corner. The drunkard woke up and felt all around him. Realising that that he was lying on a heap of coal and seeing the fire he came to the conclusion that he must have died and gone to Hell. He rose up and listened for a while, but when he heard nothing he began to be bored and called out: “Can none of all the demons gathered here g

Now reading: So Many Books, So Little Time: A year of passionate reading by Sara Nelson

Woody Allen once said that the advantage of bisexuality is that it doubles your chances of finding a date on a Saturday night. Having a bifurcated reading brain—one part that likes „junk“ and one that reveres „literature“—is the same kind of satisfying. You don‘t have to be any one thing and you don‘t have to think any one way. And should you happen upon different kinds of people in different situations, your pool of conversation topics is twice as deep. From the chapter „Double-booked“

Bibliophilic Book Challenge: Charles Dickens by Jane Smiley

This makes 10 books in the Bibliophilic Books Challenge, which means I have only 2 to go. Year published: 2002 Genre: Biography, non-fiction Charles Dickens isn’t so much a biography as an attempt by one author to understand and interpret another. Dickens’s adult life is painted in the broadest of strokes, with plenty of speculation about the effects of his public and personal life on his work, extrapolated from known facts, with some excursions into psychoanalysis and literary theory. This is a nice introduction to Dickens as a person, giving just enough information about him to either satisfy a reader’s curiosity to know a little bit about the man behind the novels, or to serve as an amuse-bouche - a little something to awaken and prepare the taste buds for further reading. It is well-written and short enough to make for light reading, but it’s really neither one thing or another, being unable to decide between being a portrait, a biography, or an analysis. 2+ stars.

Meme: I just don't like them!

I am breaking my rule of not posting twice in one day to post this excellent meme. Tahleen of The Broke and the Bookish came up with this meme to name one’s top 10 most dislikeable characters in literature , and boy, did I have fun deciding! I haven’t numbered them because I really can’t decide which ones I like the least. Dolores Umbridge from Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling. She is a cruel, sadistic, bigoted, bureaucratic toady who will use any means to achieve her goals – even ones she would be shocked to see others use. She is unable to accept facts that are under her nose and she shows not regret over her actions, in fact it never even occurs to her that she is anything but one of the good guys. Caveat : I just finished re-reading the book, so this was the very first character that sprung to mind. On a different day I might not even have remembered her, but re-reading the book brought back to me why I found it so uncomfortable to read (Harry’s stu

Now reading: The Dreadful Lemon Sky by John D. MacDonald

Meyer to McGee, when urged by the latter to take a run along the beach for exercise: "Would that I could. When the beach people see you running, they know at a glance that it is exercise. There you are, all sinew and brown hide, and you wear that earnest, dumb, strained expression of the old jock keeping in shape. You have the style. Knees high, arms swinging just right, head up. But suppose I cam running down this beach? They would look at me, and then look again. I look so little like a runner or a jock that the only possible guess as to what would make me run is terror. So they look way down the beach to see what is chasing me. They can't see anything, but to be on the safe side, they start walking swiftly in the same direction I'm running. First just a few, then a dozen, then a score. All going faster and faster. Looking back. Breaking into a run. And soon you would have two or three thousand people thundering along the beach, eyes popping out of the sockets, cords i

Bibliophilic Book Challenge: A Pound of Paper: Confessions of a book addict by John Baxter

My 9th book in the Bibliophilic Book Challenge, and one that doesn’t need any justification as to why it’s bibliophilic. Genre: Memoir Year of publication: 2002 I didn’t know who John Baxter was when I picked up this book in the bibliobooks section of the Icelandic national library and I would never even have noticed the book, let alone given it a second glance, had it been filed in the biographies. But someone was inspired enough to put it in the section reserved for books about books, which is usually the first shelf I gravitate towards when I visit that particular library. After reading it I still don’t know much about John Baxter, except that he is an Australian-born dedicated bibliophile and book collector who has, through his career as an entertainment journalist, film critic, biographer and fiction writer, been lucky enough to meet and in some instances befriend a number of book people, literary figures and authors, sometimes while in hot pursuit of their signature for

Cold Comfort Farm

Originally published in July 2004, in 2 parts. Book 26 in my first 52 books challenge. Author: Stella Gibbons Year published: 1932 Pages: 240 Genre: Parody Where got: Public library This is a book I have wanted to read for a long time, but it always seemed to be checked out of the library even though the database system said it was available. I was beginning to think it had been stolen from the library and I would have to buy a copy when I finally found it where someone, probably a browsing library patron, had put it on the wrong shelf. The Story: When Flora Poste is orphaned at age 19 and left with only 100 pounds per annum to support herself and objecting to have to work for a living, she decides to go and live with family and sponge off them. Arriving at miserable and gloomy Cold Comfort Farm, the abode of her relatives, the Starkadders, she sees that much needs to be done. The family are living under the autocratic rule of Aunt Ada Doom, who once saw something nas

Now reading: Charles Dickens by Jane Smiley

...when the novel is first published, it may seem to be a true and faithful rendering of the life of the time it is looking back to, but almost every historical novel dates very quickly and soon comes to epitomize its own period more than the period in which it is set. On A Tale of Two Cities This makes me wonder what the bodice-rippers that were so popular back in the 1970's and 80's will tell the readers of the future about that era? Smiley continues a little later: For all the research that goes into it, and for all the weight it seems to have, the historical novel is one of the most ephemeral genres and reveals most clearly an author's intellectual and imaginative limitations. On A Tale of Two Cities This book is more of a portrait than a biography of Dickens and only traces his life in broad sketches, instead trying to show this complex man to the modern reader, trace how his work developed and perhaps increase our understanding of what made him such a great w

Short stories 191-200

“The Pier” by Mori Ogwai. An elegant story about the sorrow of parting from a loved one and not being able to express one’s feelings. Recommended. “ A Domestic Animal ” by Shimazaki Toson. A heart-warming tale about how one’s appearance can affect people’s attitudes. Recommended. (The link will take you to a page from which you can jump to the book containing the translations of this story and the previous one, in various different formats, including pdf and Kindle). Here end the Japanese tales, and we jump back to Europe, to The Netherlands. “ The Story of Saïdjah ” by Eduard Douwes Dekker. Originally from the novel Max Havelaar. What at first seems to be a simple story about young lovers turns out to be scathing criticism of the behaviour of the Dutch colonialists in Java. Recommended. (The same translation, only the version I read was edited to make it shorter). “ Grandfather’s Birthday Present ” by Herman Heijermans. Originally from Sketches. A lovely, funny story about a s

Friday night folklore: Dumb and dumber

One upon a time two women were arguing as to which one had the dumber husband. Finally they decided to test the men to see if they were really as stupid as they seemed. One, when her husband came home from his work in the fields, sat down with her wool combs and her spinning wheel and began to go through he motions of combing wool and spinning it into thread, but neither her husband not any other person could see any wool in her hands. When her husband saw this he asked her if she had gone mad, to be scraping together the combs and turning the spinning wheel without any wool, and demanded to know what she was up to. She answered that it was no wonder that he couldn‘t see what she was spinning, as it was very fine linen that she meant to use to make clothes for him. He accepted this and began to express his wonder at his wife‘s talents, saying that he was very much looking forward to wearing these very fine and beautiful clothes. Once the woman pretended to have spun enough thread, s

Review: Cider with Rosie by Laurie Lee

Genre: Memoir Year of publication: 1959 No. in series: 1 of 3 Setting & time: The Cotsworlds, England, 1910’s and 20’s In this book, Lee lovingly describes his early life in the small village of Slad, in thematic chapters that cover different aspects of his childhood and upbringing. This memoir had been languishing in one of my TBR bookcases for much too long when I finally decided to read it. It had been repeatedly recommended to me by people who knew I liked to read biographies, and I would like to thank them for it, because in it I have found a new addition to my “perennial reads” list. This is a wonderful and often funny account of a somewhat unconventional upbringing in a small village that in many ways seems to have been like a close-knit family. It is beautifully written and often poetic, but still always remains down to earth. It’s sweetly nostalgic and can with some justification be called a prose-poem in remembrance of a simpler time gone by. It was fortuna

Tentative reading plan for August and July progress

I didn't manage to finish Time and Again as I had planned, mostly because I don‘t want it to end, but I will have to finish it this month because I can‘t keep it much longer and must return it to the library soon. I did finish Between the Woods and the Water and am now hoping against hope that Fermor will publish the third and final part of this travelogue before he succumbs to old age. I also finished rereading the second Harry Potter book as planned, and three non-fiction books, which was fewer than I wanted to but more than I expected. Finally, I made no headway at all with the Top Mysteries Challenge. Hopefully my little break from reading mysteries will give me a renewed interest and a boost for August. As to what I would like to accomplish this month: I visited a public library branch I don‘t often go to and came home with a stack of interesting travelogues. I would like to finish at least three of them in August. Let's call it a mini-challenge to read more non-ficti

Reading report for July 2010

Depending on how you look at it - i.e. I read yet another Edward Gorey anthology - I read either 17 or 32 books in July. Counting the Gorey books was tougher than usual, because this one contained both previously published and unpublished material, some of it single drawings rather than books. I finally decided to count the 15 previously published pieces as separate books and the unpublished stuff as one book. I didn‘t read a single straight mystery this month, which is very unusual for me, although one of the romances and one of the paranormal novellas did have mystery elements. I read a number of paranormal romantic thrillers, some romances and three memoirs. Of the books I read, 2 were Bibliophilic Book Challenge books and 5 were TBR challenge books. One was a reread (the Harry Potter book) and 3 volumes (including all the Gorey books) were un-justified non-challenge books. One was an online graphic novel. The rest were gloms (for an explanation of this term, please see the Ter

Vampyres: Lord Byron to Count Dracula

Originally published in July 2004, in 2 parts Book 25 in my first 52 books challenge. I have edited this review slightly for the sake of clarity. I think it's fitting to post this now, since I am again taking an interest in paranormal literature. Author: Christopher Frayling (author & editor), et al. Year published: 1991 Pages: 429 Genre: Literary theory, literature Sub-genre(s): Vampire stories Where got: Public library I had considerable interest in vampire stories when I was studying English literature at university, and even wrote a final essay on Dracula for an interesting course I took on horror literature. I used this book as one of my sources, but never read it all the way through, only concentrating on the first part, which traces the history of vampires in literature. The contents of the book: The first part of the book is Frayling’s dissertation on the vampire in literature. Although vampire stories owe much to folk-tales they made the jump into l

Bibliophilic Book Challenge: Maps & Legends: Reading and writing along the borderlands by Michael Chabon

I would like to propose expanding our definition of entertainment to encompass everything pleasurable that arises from the encounter of an attentive mind with a page of literature. From the essay “Trickster in a Suit of Lights: Thoughts on the modern short story” Year published: 2008 Genre: Literary essays This is a collection of 16 interconnected essays (and a 17th supplementary essay) on literature, reading, writing and the genesis of three of Chabon’s novels. It starts with a proposition to expand the definition of entertainment (see the beginning paragraphs of the opening essay, “Trickster in a Suit of Lights”, that I already posted) and goes on to explore aspects of popular culture like short story writing, genre fiction and comic books, and their influence on Chabon and other authors. He is unapologetic, albeit sometimes a bit defensive, about his enjoyment of genre literature, and makes the same argument as I have sometimes tried to make about genre fiction being unfai