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Showing posts from September, 2011

Icelandic folk-tale: Dead Man's Skull

Cruentation was accepted as proof in murder cases in several European countries well into the 18th century. It was an accepted belief that the wounds of murdered people would start to bleed in the presence of the murderer, and here is an Icelandic variation on the theme: Once upon a time a grave was being dug in the graveyard of an Icelandic country church. As will often happen in old graveyards when graves are being dug, some bones from an old burial came up with the soil, and among them was a skull. This particular skull had a knitting needle stuck right through it.  The minister took the skull into his keeping and the next time he said a mass the took it to church with him and when the congregation had all entered the church, he put it on a shelf above the church door. After the service, he and his helpers exited the church ahead of the congregation and observed the people as they left the church.  Nothing unusual happened, but when they checked to see if anyone was still inside

Do you recognise the place?

I am reading a book about it right now, and hope to post a review before long. I took the photo the weekend before last, on a trip to London ? Taken at the Natural History Museum in London. Because of the neo-Gothic architecture I thought black-and-white suited the subject better, although it did look pretty good in colour as well, because of the colours of the stone.

Reading report for August 2011

I suddenly realised I hadn't posted a reading report for August, so here it is: The reading slump continues, although things are slightly better this month than they were in July. I re-read 5 books and reduced the TBR stack by 4 books, and read the last page of one of the online comics/graphic novels I was reading online. 2 of the re-reads were audio books and it was the first time I have listened to them. I an becoming ever more enamoured of audio books – with my myalgia long reading sessions have been getting ever more difficult and painful, and being able to just listen while I do other things, like cook or tidy up around me, is very nice. The first-time reads were: Catherine Aird : The Religious Body . Murder mystery, police procedural. Warren Ellis (writer) & Paul Duffield (artist) : Freak Angels . Graphic novel, steampunk. Nick Hornby : The Complete Polysyllabic Spree: The diary of an occasionally exasperated but ever hopeful reader . Columns, reading. Laurie

Icelandic folk-tale: The Whale of Whale Lake

Geirfuglasker (Great Auk rock) is a small island off the coast of Reykjanes in southern Iceland, that was one of the last refuges of the great auks before they were hunted to extinction.  Hvalvatn is a lake in western Iceland, situated in the highlands above Glymur, the country’s tallest waterfall. Power poets (kraftaskáld) were people who could do magic with their versification, and were thought very highly of. Once upon a time some men sailed out to Geirfuglasker, presumably to hunt great auks. Due to high breaking waves they had to leave one man, whose name was Gísli, behind in the island when they left for home, and it was believed that he must have been swept off the island and drowned. A year later another expedition went out to the island and found Gísli there alive and in good health. They brought him back to the mainland, but although he was asked about his stay in the island, he would not talk about it much. However, someone was able to get out of him that he had been stay

The Cereal Murders by Diane Mott Davidson

Originally published in May 2005, on my original 52 Books blog. This is the third in a series of mysteries that combine cooking and crime, as amateur sleuth and professional caterer Goldy Bear serves up one delicious dish after another while sleuthing on the side. In this installation, Goldy has been hired to cater a series of events at an expensive prep school. The peace is disrupted by two murders (a third appears to be connected), and someone starts harassing her and her son. Through it all Goldy serves up one delectable dish after another (recipes included) and observes the graduating students and their parents battling it out over who deserves to go to which exclusive university. It’s a matter of touch and go whether Goldy will manage to solve the mystery in time to prevent a fourth murder. As in most amateur sleuthing series, the murders and the murderer’s methods are highly unlikely - especially how it is Goldy who finds two out of three bodies - but the characters are rounded

List love: 10 animal books I enjoyed, part 2: Anthropomorphised animals

I am not participating in the Top Ten Tuesdays meme this week, so here is a list of my own making: Last week I posted a list of books about animals being animals. Now it’s time for animals being more or less human. We have a strong tendency to ascribe human emotions, rationality and morals to animals, sometimes to the point where they really come across as little more than humans in animal suits. Often these are moral tales or fables, although occasionally an author is able to avoid that and simply write an entertaining tale. This list contains some of both. The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame. Although each chapter is in itself a moral tale, it never gets preachy or sentimental and it is at heart not a moral tale but a tale of friendship. Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling. As a child I was enchanted by the tale of the The Cat That Walked by Himself , and later enjoyed reading the rest of these whimsical children’s tales. The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling. Another

See Jane Score by Rachel Gibson

Originally published in May 2005, on my original 52 Books blog. I read this funny romance over the weekend. When journalist Jane Alcott is asked to cover the ice hockey beat while the regular reporter is on sick leave, she jumps at the chance. Not only is it a better paying job than writing her monthly “sex and the city” type column, but it is a step up the journalism ladder for her. She is expected to cover all the Seattle Chinooks’ games, and it quickly becomes clear that her presence on the team plane and in the locker-room is not wanted. She meets with hazing that might discourage a less determined woman, and open hostility from sexy goalie Luc “Lucky” Martineau, whom Jane secretly fancies. After an incident where she is first fired for bringing the team bad luck, and then rehired for bringing them good luck (by barging into the locker room and giving them a goodbye speech) a ritual develops between Jane and the team that gets funnier and funnier as the story progresses. The incid

Friday night folktale: Idle hands doing the Devil's work

Here is a moral tale that applies to all work, not just farming: A young and inexperienced farmer was out in the hayfield, cutting the grass with his scythe. The weather was hot and the farmer liked to take it easy, and was in fact very lazy by nature. Suddenly a man came walking up to him and said to him: “Rest awhile, resting is good.” He then left. No-one knows what the man looked like or how the farmer liked the look of him, but he took the advice he had been given and took it easy for the rest of the summer, with the result that when autumn came around he only had one haystack with which to feed his sheep and cows over the winter. Then and only then he realised that he had not acted very sensibly during the summer and blamed everything on the stranger. One day the stranger came back and grinningly said to him: “Lazy man, little crop,” and then disappeared. This was really no consolation to the lazy farmer, who had become convinced that he had taken advice from none other tha

Wednesday night video: How books are made

A video that shows how machine-bounds books are put together:

List love: 10 animal books I enjoyed, part 1: Animals being animals

I’m not participating in Top Ten Tuesdays this week, so here instead is a little List Love: Animals appeal to a lot of people for different reasons. They bring out in us both the hunting instinct and the mothering instinct, and to some of us they are the best friends we have ever had or the thing we are most afraid of . We have a strong tendency to anthropomorphise them by ascribing to them human emotions, abilities and personalities. I have read my share of animal books and I have come up with some lists based on my reading. The one below covers books I have liked that are about animals or feature animals in pivotal roles as themselves without attempts to anthropomorphise them. Some time or other I will post the others. Encounters with Animals by Gerald Durrell. Essays. Animals: Various. As much as I would have liked to put My family and other Animals on this list, it simply is not enough of an animal book to count here. I could actually have named several other Durrell titl

Auntie Mame by Patrick Dennis

Originally published in May 2005, on my original 52 Books blog. This book had been sitting in my TBR pile for nearly a year, so it was about time I read it. I love these old pulp covers! In short, the book tells of the escapades of the narrator’s aunt Mame, his legal guardian. Mame is offbeat, outrageously fashionable, adventurous, and a sucker for a sad story. She is the kind of woman who throws herself wholeheartedly into all she does, including her relationships with men. She becomes a southern belle for the millionaire from Georgia whom she marries, Irish for the Irishman whom she falls for, and so on. She seems unable to recognise when she is being played for a sucker until the facts stare her right in the face, but when realisation dawns, she is quick to act and can extricate herself from all sorts of situations. She also has a knack for getting her nephew involved in her adventures. The book is told like a biography in the form of snapshots, seen from the point of view of