2007 December archive at Stray Talk
an archive of my forays into fact and fiction

Archive: December ‘07

31st December, 2008
Flying Colours; CS Forester
— Love @ 18:48 Comments (2)
Filed under: Adventure, B, Classics, English, Historical, Personal challenges, Seafaring Challenge

The Admiral Hornblower Omnibus; CS Forester Flying Colours (part of the Admiral Hornblower Omnibus)
by CS Forester

For the End of Year Mini Challenge and the Seafaring Challenge.

155 pages
Penguin Books
ISBN: 0-14-011940-X (for the whole Omnibus)

First line: Captain Hornblower was walking up and down along the sector of the ramparts of Rosas, delimited by two sentries with loaded muskets, which the commandant had granted him for exercise.

Back cover blurb:
Hornblower becomes a national hero when he escapes a French firing squad. But the Terror of the Mediterranean becomes Europe’s most wanted man, forced to fight alone for England — and liberty.

Thoughts: I tend to get confused about which Hornblower books I’ve already read and which I have not, since I’ve not managed to find them all previously and the old translations I have don’t always include the original title. It was, therefore, a bit of a surprise when I discovered that Flying Colours was new to me. It’s true that I knew the basic storyline, since it’s alluded to in a later short story (later chronologically, anyway. I think it might have been published before Flying Colours), but I hadn’t actually read the entire thing before.

I liked it. I liked it a lot. But then again, I don’t think I’ll ever cease being intrigued by the vast difference of Hornblower as he sees himself and Hornblower as others see him. That, by far, is my favourite thing about these novels, even if Hornblower’s relationships with his men (especially Bush) and all the high seas adventures come close behind.

At any rate, I’m giving this a B and will let that conclude this year of reading. I don’t expect I shall finish anything else in 2007.

30th December, 2007
The end is nigh
— Love @ 22:47 Comments (0)
Filed under: Back to History, General booktalk, Personal challenges, To Be Read

Not too many hours left of this year now—just over twenty-five here, actually.

I’ve looked over the challenges for next year and finally got around to joining two more I’ve been meaning to sign up for for a while. All lists are now set in stone (with the possible exception of the Decades challenge, which gives a little more leeway when it comes to changing one’s list).

  • The Back to History challenge, where you are to read twelve books, mixing both fact and fiction, set in historical times, during the year. My list is here, or under Challenges in the top navigation.
  • The To Be Read challenge, where the goal is to read (at least) twelve books that have been in your to be read-pile for at least six months (though this time limit is optional, I still chose to go with it). You also have the option to pick twelve alternates and I have done so. My list is here or, as always, under Challenges in the top navigation.
  • I will also be reading the Bible as a challenge during 2008, but that will be more behind the scenes, as I don’t think I will post much about it. The challenge is hosted by Caroline, though, and here is the challenge post itself. Like her, I shall be reading three chapters every day, except Sundays, when I shall be reading five. Unlike her, I will be reading a Swedish translation.

As you might also have noticed, in the last couple of reviews I’ve posted I’ve said that I read the books for the End of Year Mini Challenge, which is a personal challenge I came up with as a last minute thing to spur me on to manage 140 books this year. I only have one book to go now, so it seems likely I shall reach my goal.

I’m a ridiculous little book geek and every year I look forward to summing up the reading year that’s just passed, so expect one of those posts as soon as the bell tolls midnight on the thirty-first.

Happy New Year, everyone! (And by everyone I mean those who read this blog, which is a small set of everyones. All the same!)

30th December, 2007
Lord John and the Hand of Devils; Diana Gabaldon
— Love @ 20:07 Comments (0)
Filed under: B, English, GLBT interest, Historical, Mystery, Personal challenges

Lord John and the Hand of Devils; Diana Gabaldon Lord John and the Hand of Devils
by Diana Gabaldon

For the End of Year Mini Challenge.

317 pages
ISBN: 978-0-7126-8065-3

First line: Lord John Grey jerked his eyes away from the door.

Back cover blurb:
Diana Gabaldon, the New York Times bestselling author of A Breath of Snow and Ashes, delivers three tales of war, intrigue and espionage featuring the unforgettable Lord John Grey. In the heart of the eighteenth century, Lord John’s world is one of mystery and menace; where allies have the power to destroy him with a single blow. As he ventures into an ominous unknown, his companions are haunted soldiers, sinister family secrets and lingering memories of a fiery-haired Scot named James Fraser.

In The Hellfire Club, Lord John is drawn by an attractive stranger in the doorway of a gentlemen’s club, where he witnesses the shocking murder of a young diplomat. Vowing to avenge the death, he is lead into a maze of political treachery and a debauched underground society, the notorious Hellfire Club.

In The Succubus, Grey’s assignment to a regiment in Germany finds him caught between two threats: the advancing French and Austrian armies and the menace of a mysterious ‘night-hag’ who spreads fear and death among the troops.

In The Haunted Soldier, Lord John is called to testify in the case of an exploding battlefield cannon and is forced to confront his own ghosts. Knee-deep in a morass of gunpowder, treason and plot, he is haunted by a dead lieutenant and followed by a man with no face.

Thoughts: Lord John is back! And he’s still the Lord John I’ve come to love. Poor, poor man, though—he never seems to get a moments peace. Still, I suppose that is one of the things that makes me like the stories about him, because they are filled of adventure and mystery and other fantastic things. Mind you, I still am not fawning over Gabaldon’s writing. Her language isn’t fantastic, but she does get her point across and, of course, her characters are marvellous people, which is what’s made me stick around for so long.

One of the stories in this volume, I’d read before (it’s included in one of my two copies of Lord John and the Private Matter and, to be honest, the reason I have two copies of that book in the first place), but the two others were new to me, and I quite enjoyed them all.

This volume receives a B rating and it’s a well-deserved one.

Apparently, there is another Lord John novel in the works and you won’t hear me complaining about it! (Well, that is to say, unless I make a remark or two that it’s taking a little long…)

30th December, 2007
A Son Called Gabriel; Damian McNicholl
— Love @ 03:09 Comments (0)
Filed under: C, English, Fiction, GLBT interest, Personal challenges

A Son Called Gabriel; Damian McNicholl A Son Called Gabriel
by Damian McNicholl

For the End of Year Mini Challenge.

346 pages
CDS Books
ISBN: 1-59315-231-0

First line: The choice was school or the big stick and seemed easy to make.

Back cover blurb:
Set in the hills of Northern Ireland in the 1960’s and 70’s, A Son Called Gabriel is a deeply felt and often funny coming-of-age novel that is ultimately unforgettable.
Gabriel Harkin, the eldest of four children in a working-class family, struggles through a loving yet often brutal childhood. It’s a turbulent time in Ulster, and in the staunchly Catholic community to which Gabriel belongs, the rigid code for belief and behavior is clear. As Gabriel begins to suspect that he’s not like other boys, he tries desperately to lock away his feelings, and his fears. But secrets have a way of being discovered, and Gabriel learns that his might not be the only one in the Harkin family.

Thoughts: It took me a while to finish this book because it wasn’t one of those that immediately grabs you and keeps your attention focused on it, and it alone, until you’ve turned the last page. It was good, though, in a quiet and slightly bleak sort of way.

Everyone was very, very Catholic, even if the main character had issues with religion at points, and one of the better bits was actually uttered by one of many, many priests featured in the story. In any other book, I would not have approved of what he said, but in this particular tome his voice felt like one of reason and one of acceptance and almost tolerance. Funny what a little bit of perspective can do, isn’t it?

Speaking of religion, I don’t know the reason behind it, but for some reason my copy of the book arrived with a business card, telling me that everyone breaks at least one of the Christian Ten Commandments pretty much every day and urging me to read the Bible daily, stuck in it. Weird that. Especially since the message was printed in reverse and you had to hold it up in front of a mirror to be able to read it properly (I was able to read it even without the mirror—I’m not stupid, or blind (yet)—but a mirror certainly made it easier).

Anyway, I digress. The final rating of the book is a C. It was good, I do think so, but it wasn’t great and it wasn’t brilliant and it got me down a little, because there did not seem to be any chance at all of the main character for accepting himself for who he was.

29th December, 2007
The Night Watch; Sarah Waters
— Love @ 13:10 Comments (0)
Filed under: D, English, GLBT interest, Historical, Personal challenges

The Night Watch; Sarah Waters The Night Watch
by Sarah Waters

For the End of Year Mini Challenge.

506 pages
Virago Press
ISBN: 978-1-84408-241-4

First line: So this, said Kay to herself, is the sort of person you’ve become: a person whose clocks and wrist-watches have stopped, and who tells the time, instead, by the particular kind of cripple arriving at her landlord’s door.

Back cover blurb:
The Night Watch is the extraordinary story of four Londoners: Kay, who wanders the streets in mannish clothes, restless and searching… Helen, who harbours a troubling secret… Viv, glamour girl, recklessly loyal to her soldier love… and Duncan, an apparent innocent, struggling with demons of his own.

Moving back through the 1940s, through air raids, blacked-out streets, illicit liaisons and sexual adventure, to end with its beginning in 1941, this is an astonishing novel.

Thoughts: I borrowed this book from the library in the spring, but never got more than a few pages in. I found it quite cheap in an online book store a while back, so decided to get it and try again. I’ve seen it read all over the places and people have really liked it, plus I’ve read all the other books by Waters.

However, while I did finish it this time around, I just did not like it. It’s told backwards, almost, and I found it really hard to get invested in the characters. Every time I had managed to start to care, even a little bit, and was curious as to what would happen to them next, the story jumped back in time and it was like starting all over again.

I’m giving this novel a D rating, because no matter how much I might have wanted to like it—love it, even—I just couldn’t. I’m not sure I’ll read any more Waters, if she does write something new. All her books have had, to me, tedious passages that I struggled to get through to get at the good bits, but it seems that each new story from her has more and more of these. I’m sorry, Miss Waters, but I think we’re through.

25th December, 2007
Here Be Dragons
— Love @ 17:12 Comments (32)
Filed under: Here Be Dragons

Here Be Dragons What? Read 3-5 books featuring dragons.

When? 1st of January to 30th of June, 2008

Why? I realised that I had a few dragon-related books on my to read-list, decided to challenge myself to read them and figured maybe others would like to join in.

How? Comment on this post with your name and a link to your list and you’re in! Once the challenge has officially begun, I will make a post for reviews and add a link to it in this post. Comment there with links to your challenge book reviews.

Here are a couple of buttons for the challenge (please upload to your own server if using):
Here Be Dragons Here Be Dragons

Book suggestions:

A Wikipedia list of fictional dragons.

A Strong and Sudden Thaw; RW Day The Hobbit; JRR Tolkien Guards! Guards!; Terry Pratchett
Dragonhaven; Robin McKinley Dragonflight; Anne McCaffrey Eragon; Christopher Paolini
Eldest; Christopher Paolini Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone; JK Rowling Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire; JK Rowling
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

The Pit Dragon trilogy:
Dragon's Blood; Jane Yolen Heart's Blood; Jane Yolen A Sending of Dragons; Jane Yolen

The Farseer trilogy:
Assassin's Apprentice; Robin Hobb Royal Assassin; Robin Hobb Assassin's Quest; Robin Hobb

The Liveship Traders trilogy:
Ship of Magic; Robin Hobb The Mad Ship; Robin Hobb Ship of Destiny; Robin Hobb

The Tawny Man trilogy:
Fool's Errand; Robin Hobb Golden Fool; Robin Hobb Fool's Fate; Robin Hobb

A Song of Ice and Fire:
A Game of Thrones; George RR Martin A Clash of Kings; George RR Martin A Storm of Swords: Steel and Snow; George RR Martin
A Storm of Swords: Blood and Gold; George RR Martin A Feast for Crows; George RR Martin

Temeraire, or His Majesty's Dragon; Naomi Novik Throne of Jade; Naomi Novik Black Powder War; Naomi Novik
Empire of Ivory; Naomi Novik

23rd December, 2007
This and that
— Love @ 13:52 Comments (3)
Filed under: First in a Series, General booktalk

I’m visiting my parents for Christmas (I have four days off from work. Four! That’s the most I’ve had off in a row since June and it is bliss!) and I thought I’d dig around my old room here to see if I could find two books that have mysteriously gone missing. No luck so far, unfortunately, but I’m still hoping I might turn them up when I give my room a thorough tidying up. If I don’t, I know I’ll eventually cave and order those two books again. (Something also tells me that about two seconds after the order has been sent and it’s no longer possible to cancel it, the books will show up. As they tend to do.)

I have also taken the opportunity to join another challenge. It’s called First in a Series, is hosted by Thoughts of Joy and my list is to be found here (or under Challenges in the top navigation).

Speaking of challenges, I’ve had an idea for one myself, so watch this space in the next couple of days for an announcement post.

23rd December, 2007
Darcy’s Story; Janet Aylmer
— Love @ 13:14 Comments (1)
Filed under: C, English, Historical, Romance

Darcy's Story; Janet Aylmer Darcy’s Story
by Janet Aylmer

277 pages
Harper Collins
ISBN: 0-06-114870-9

First line: It is a consequence of possessing an income of ten thousand pounds a year that a man may order his life to his own liking, and chose his own society.

Back cover blurb:
Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice has long stood among the most beloved novels of all time. The story of Elizabeth Bennet’s blossoming romance with “haughty, reserved and fastidious” Fitzwilliam Darcy has enchanted readers for nearly two centuries. Yet, Mr Darcy has always remained an intriguing enigma—his thoughts, feelings, and motivations hidden behind a cold, impenetrable exterior… until now.
With the utmost respect for Austen’s original masterwork, author Janet Aylmer lovingly retells Pride and Prejudice from a bold new perspective: seeing events as they transpire through the eyes of Darcy himself. One of the world’s great love stories takes on breathtaking new life, and one of fiction’s greatest romantic heroes becomes even more sympathetic, compelling, attractive, and accessible, all through the imagination and artistry of a truly gifted storyteller.

Thoughts: When I was fourteen, I discovered Austen-inspired fanfiction online. It’s been a long time since I last read any, but upon browsing a few book blogs a couple of months ago, I was reminded of the published and printed fanfiction that is out there. Darcy’s Story is the first of these that I read and, while I can’t say that it was absolutely and utterly fantastic, it was a decent read. I minded a bit that certain parts were repetetive in the extreme, and I thought the style of writing was a bit far from Austen’s own, but on the whole, the book still earns itself a C.

22nd December, 2007
Austenland; Shannon Hale
— Love @ 14:24 Comments (0)
Filed under: C, Chick lit, English

Austenland; Shannon Hale Austenland
by Shannon Hale

197 pages
ISBN: 1-59691-285-5

First line: It is a truth universally acknowledged that a thirty-something woman in possession of a satisfying career and fabulous hairdo must be in want of very little, and Jane Hayes, pretty enough and clever enough, was certainly thought to have little to distress her.

Back cover blurb:
Jane Hayes is a seemingly normal young New Yorker, but she has a secret. Her obsession with Mr. Darcy, as played by Colin Firth in the BBC adaption of Pride and Prejudice, is ruining her life. No real man can compare.
When a wealthy relative bequeaths her a trip to an English resort catering to Austen-crazed women, Jane’s fantasies of meeting the perfect Regency-era gentleman suddenly become realer than she ever could have imagined. Decked out in empire-waist gowns, stripped of her modern appliances, Jane throws herself into mastering Regency etiquette and flirts with gardeners and gentlemen—or maybe even, she suspects, with the actors who are playing them.
It’s all a game, Jane knows. And yet the longer she stays, the more her insecurities seem to vanish. Is she about to kick the Austen obsession for good, or could all her dreams actually culminate in a Mr. Darcy of her own?

Thoughts: I rarely, if ever, read pure chick lit, but I have to admit I have a soft spot for more or less anything Austen-related, so I felt I had to read this book (though I think I might have confused it with another Austen-inspired novel). It wasn’t too bad, but it wasn’t fantastic either. There was a little bit uncertainty on how it would end, but just a little. Still, I admit I got caught up in the story after a while and was quite happy with the ending, although I felt it was maybe a little bit too perfect. Some endings are like that.

A C this time, not so much for the writing itself, which was pretty boring, but for the character Mr. Nobley, who quite managed to win me over. Which I suppose was pretty much the whole point of the book.

Also, I would like to add that I am in no way ashamed about my own Colin Firth-as-Mr. Darcy obsession, thankyouverymuch.

18th December, 2007
Ut ur skuggan; Jessica Kolterjahn
— Love @ 13:54 Comments (1)
Filed under: B, C, GLBT interest, Historical, Swedish

Ut ur skuggan; Jessica Kolterjahn Ut ur skuggan
by Jessica Kolterjahn

257 pages
ISBN: 978-91-7001-533-5

First line: Minne: Jag spelade piano.

Back cover blurb:
Jag fotograferar. Det är det enda som känns som om det är mitt eget. Allt annat är någon annans. Någon annans val.

Agnes växer upp i en rik överklassfamilj i Stockholm under 1920- och 30-talen. Hemmet är kyligt och kärlekslöst och Agnes liv präglas av längtan. Hon längtar efter ett eget liv, efter att få göra något meningsfullt, efter att bli älskad.

Först när hon får en kamera av sin morfar börjar hon känna sig hel. Genom den upptäcker hon världen på ett nytt sätt och får en egen identitet.

Steg för steg bryter Agnes sin isolering. Hon umgås med spännande människor i ett Stockholm som sjuder av jazz, politiska motsättningar och sexuell frigörelse. Hon får uppleva kärleken – både den förbjudna och den socialt accepterade.

Agnes väljer att gå sin egen väg, men till slut inser hon att hon aldrig kan glömma sitt livs stora kärlek.

Thoughts: A couple of years ago I read a book by Marika Kolterjahn, who is married to Jessica ditto (I think it’s quite neat with an author couple, I must admit). That was a young adult tale of a girl discovering her sexuality. This novel deals with more or less the same topic, but is written for adults and, in my opinion, the better of the two. There was something here, something I couldn’t quite put my finger on, that kept me reading until I’d turned the last page, which ended more or less where I felt the story should end.

On the whole, a good book, and one well deserving a B rating.

18th December, 2007
Ge aldrig upp; Michael Alonzo
— Love @ 13:44 Comments (0)
Filed under: Biographies, C, Swedish

Ge aldrig upp; Michael Alonzo Ge aldrig upp
by Michael Alonzo

239 pages
Frank förlag
ISBN: 978-91-858565-00-0

First line: Jag sprang in på apoteket.

Back cover blurb:
I Ge aldrig upp berättar Michael Alonzo, den förre sÃ¥ngaren i kultpunkbandet KSMB samt Stockholms negrer, sin egen historia. Det är berättelsen om hur han lever med en kvinna som utÃ¥t sätt är kärleksfull och god, men som inom hemmets väggar snart visar sig vara en djävul — en kvinna som slÃ¥r och misshandlar sin man. När hon senare väntar parets barn bestämmer hon sig dessutom för att hon inte vill ha Michael som far, varpÃ¥ hon kidnappar pojken och försvinner.

Naket och självutlämnade berättar Michael Alonzo om hur han av sonens mamma blir fråntagen rätten att träffa sin son. Och vi får därefter följa den svåra kampen för att få honom åter.

Thoughts: This book is interesting in that it tells the tale of a man who was physically and verbally abused by his wife. It’s not often you hear stories like that, and some people even refuse to believe that such cases exist. Alonzo, whose tale it is, really had to struggle, not only with having been abused and had his son stolen away, but with not being believed and almost being ridiculed for what he had experienced.

At some points during the book, I was almost boiling with rage, because it was all so completely unfair. If you are a man, and you are a father, and you’ve fallen out with the mother of your child(ren), it’s almost impossible to win back your rights to spend time with your child.

The book could have been better, but it still earns itself a C.

13th December, 2007
Le petit prince; Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
— Love @ 22:50 Comments (0)
Filed under: B, Children's lit, Classics, French

Le petit prince; Antoine de Saint-Exupéry Le petit prince
by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

101 pages
Collection Folio
ISBN: 2-07-040850-7

First line: Lorsque j’avais six ans j’ai vu, une fois, une magnifique image, dans un livre sur la forêt vierge qui s’appelait Histoires vécues.

Back cover blurb: n/a

Thoughts: I haven’t read anything in French since 2004, which means that my grasp on the language has almost completely gone, which is why I decided to re-read Le petit prince in hopes of reviving it at least a little bit (more re-reads of other books I’ve read in French are to follow).

It’s a lovely book, but then that is almost one of those truths universally acknowledged, given that it’s been translated into over 160 languages and is on the list of top 50 best-selling books. Personally, I especially like the chapter with the fox.

I give it a B rating.

12th December, 2007
Kaninernas kulle; Robert Lawson
— Love @ 21:48 Comments (0)
Filed under: Children's lit, D, Fiction, Swedish

no coverKaninernas kulle
by Robert Lawson
Original title: Rabbit Hill

140 pages
En bok för alla
ISBN: 91-7448-685-3

First line: Hela kullen kokade av upphetsning.

Back cover blurb:
It has been a while since Folks lived in the Big House, and an even longer time has passed since there has been a garden at the House. All the animals of the Hill are very excited about the new Folks moving in, and they wonder how things are going to change. It’s only a matter of time before the animals of the Hill find out just who is moving in, and they may be a little bit surprised when they do.
(This text refers to an edition other than the one I read.)

Thoughts: I read this book a couple of times when I was wee and I loved it every time. The time, I thought, was ripe for a re-read. Sometimes, with books like that, I like them a lot still just because of nostalgia; sometimes, I like them still because they really are good and sometimes, like now, I don’t particularly care for them at all now that I’ve grown a little older.

I’m not sure if that’s because it’s genuinely not good, or if it’s because I am at a time in my reading life where I really do not care for books in Swedish. I might’ve liked it more if I hadn’t read the translation. I probably won’t find out which it is, though—at least not for quite some time yet.

The rating, I might add, ends up a D, if only because I still fall for the kind of cheesy ending.

12th December, 2007
Leave Myself Behind; Bart Yates
— Love @ 21:33 Comments (1)
Filed under: A, English, Fiction, GLBT interest

Leave Myself Behind; Bart Yates Leave Myself Behind
by Bart Yates

262 pages
Kensington Fiction
ISBN: 0-75820349-7

First line: I’ve never wanted a different mother.

Back cover blurb:
Meet seventeen-year-old Noah York, the hilariously profane, searingly honest, completely engaging narrator of Bart Yates’s astonishing debut novel. With a mouth like a truck driver and eyes that see through the lies of the world, Noah is heading into a life that’s only getting more complicated by the day.

His dead father is fading into a snapshot memory. His mother, the famous psycho-poet, has relocated them from Chicago to a rural New England town that looks like an advertisement for small-town America—a bad advertisement. He can’t seem to start a sentence without using the “f”-word. And now, the very house he lives in is coming apart at the seams—literally—torn down bit by bit as he and his mother renovate the old Victorian. But deep within the walls lie secrets from a previous life—mason jars stuffed with bits of clothing, scraps of writing, old photographs—disturbing clues to the mysterious existence of a woman who disappeared decades before. While his mother grows more obsessed and unsettled by the discovery of these homemade reliquaries, Noah fights his own troubling obsession with the boy next door, the enigmatic J.D. It is J.D. who begins to quietly anchor Noah to his new life. J.D., who is hiding terrible, haunting pain behind an easy smile and a carefree attitude.

Thoughts: This book has been compared to Catcher in the Rye and, while it’s been a couple of years since I read that, I can see the similarities.

I really fell for Noah, not in the sense that I am head over heels in love with him, but in the way that he is the one who grabbed my attention and pulled me into the novel. I think he’s my favourite main character of late—his voice is just that great.

I know it’s soon—I gave one out just the other day— but it’s time for another A rating.

10th December, 2007
Now & Then; William Corlett
— Love @ 15:52 Comments (1)
Filed under: A, English, GLBT interest, Historical

Now & Then; William Corlett Now & Then
by William Corlett

346 pages
Abacus Fiction
ISBN: 0-349-10775-0

First line: The room he died in smelt of Dettol and bonfire smoke.

Back cover blurb:
Now, Christopher Metcalfe returns to his family home in Kent after the death of his father. Sorting through a box of memorabilia from his days at public school, Chris is suddenly confronted by the face that has haunted him for thirty years.

Then, as a callow fifth former enduring the excesses of a school system designed to run an Empire that no longer existed, a most extraordinary thing happened amid the thrashings and cross-country runs: he was seduced by Stephen Walker, a prefect two years his senior with whom he went on to share a brief but intensely passionate affair. Now, again, alone, approaching the age of fifty, Christopher is painfully aware of the price he paid for letting go, and resolves to find Stephen, and discover what became of the only person he has ever loved.

Thoughts: I started reading this at a couple of minutes to ten one night, intending to put it down and go to sleep after half an hour or so. Three o’clock in the morning, on the dot, I closed the covers after having finished the whole thing.

I haven’t been this captured by a book in quite some time. I simply adored it. If you can recall, one of the issues I had with While England Sleeps was that I felt that the language didn’t really fit—wasn’t British enough, if you will—but I had no such problem with this novel. It’s written by an Englishman, and you can really tell. The language is lovely and British and I’m sorry, but for some types of stories, you have to have that to make it work. (I probably sound like such a language snob now.)

Either way, I really, really loved this book. It has a good mix of moments of happiness, of gloom and of angst, the language is wonderful and it’s part set in a public school. There’s no way the rating is going to be anything other than an A. Go read it—now!

6th December, 2007
The Rules of Modern Policing: 1973 Edition; DCI Gene Hunt (Guy Adams & Lee Thompson)
— Love @ 11:08 Comments (0)
Filed under: C, English, Humour

The Rules of Modern Policing: 1973 Edition; DCI Gene Hunt (Guy Adams & Lee Thompson) The Rules of Modern Policing: 1973 Edition
by DCI Gene Hunt (Guy Adams and Lee Thompson)

128 pages
Bantam Press
ISBN: 9780593060209

First line: Sit down, shut up and pay attention.

Back cover blurb: n/a

Thoughts: I know you’re not supposed to take this book seriously, but it didn’t amuse me quite as much as I’d hoped it would either. However, I do love me some Gene Hunt and photos of the man himself is always a plus, so a C it is.

6th December, 2007
Historiens största mordgåtor; Andreas Nyberg (ed.)
— Love @ 10:51 Comments (0)
Filed under: D, Swedish, True crime

Historiens största mordgåtor; Andreas Nyberg (ed.) Historiens största mordgåtor
by Andreas Nyberg (ed.)

214 pages
Bokförlaget Semic
ISBN: 91-552-3186-1

First line: I det dagliga livet har vi ett stort behov av ordning.

Back cover blurb:
FN:s kontroversielle generalsekreterare Dag Hammarskjöld dog i en flygkrash i Kongo 1961. En olycka menar många. Andra hävdar att en bomb placerats i planet. 1998 fick den sydafrikanska säkerhetskommissionen dokument som tyder på att landets säkerhetstjänst låg bakom kraschen.

Tändstickskungen Ivar Kreugers död 1932 brukar betraktas som självmord, men var det verkligen det? Han hittades skjuten, med en revolver i vänster hand trots att han var högerhänt. Mycket tyder på att han blev mördad av någon som ville åt hans enorma tillgångar.

Sonen till den världsberömda flygaren Charles Lindbergh kidnappades 1932 och återsågs aldrig. Man har antagit att han mördades. Men det finns åtminstone två personer som lagt fram bevisning för att de är den försvunne sonen.

Författarna skriver kunnigt och underhÃ¥llande om nio av historiens största mordgÃ¥tor, bland annat om Marilyn Monroe, den omstridde amerikanske fackföreningsledaren Jimmy Hoffa och Hammarbymordet — Sveriges kanske mest uppmärksammade mordfall.

Thoughts: Apparently all the authors involved in this joint effort are conspiracy theorists and it shows! It’s true that circumstances surrounding these nine cases were a little iffy, but there are limits to how far you can go with wild theories without sounding like a complete nutter. This somewhat ruined what would have otherwise been a pretty interesting book, and pulls the grade down to a D.

5th December, 2007
While England Sleeps; David Leavitt
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Filed under: C, English, GLBT interest, Historical

While England Sleeps; David Leavitt While England Sleeps
by David Leavitt

309 pages
Abacus Fiction
ISBN: 0-349-10953-2

First line: In the early 1950s, history and politics conspired to create a circumstance in which it was impossible for me to ply my chosen trade—namely, writing.

Back cover blurb:
At a meeting of republican sympathisers in London, Brian Botsford, a young middle-class writer and Cambridge graduate, meets Edward Phelan, an idealistic self-educated London Underground worker. They share a mutual attraction. Across the divisions of class they begin an affair in secrecy.
But Edward possesses ‘an unproblematic capacity to accept’ Brian and the love that dare not speak its name, whereas Brian is more cautious and under family pressure agrees to be set up with a suitable young woman. Pushed to the point of crisis, Edward threatens to volunteer to fight Franco in Spain.
In While England Sleeps, David Leavitt, highly praised for his precisely observed portrayal of the complexity of intimate relationships, depicts the violent drama of war and forbidden love in a historical novel of great resonance and breadth.

Thoughts: I’ve read one other book by Leavitt (The Lost Language of Cranes) and since I really liked that, I was prepared to be swept off my feet by this one, especially given that it’s set in 1930’s England with commies and queers. Really, I thought, there was no way I could not like it. Well, as it turns out, I was wrong.

At first, I really struggled with it. I found the language a little irritating and not at all fitting the story (I guess I had a bit of a problem with how this American author wrote a British middle-class man, even if said man had lived in the US for decades), so I put it down and I didn’t touch it for a little over a week. Then I started again and I suddenly found myself dragged in and not bothered by the language much at all.

Of course, though, being a story of commies (though not as much as I’d thought) and queers, it was doom, doom, DOOM all the way through. I wonder why I ever think it’s going to turn out differently?

Like I said, it won me around a little by the end, but not enough to earn it more than a C.

2nd December, 2007
Stardust; Neil Gaiman
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Filed under: Adventure, B, English, Fantasy

Stardust; Neil Gaiman Stardust
by Neil Gaiman

214 pages
Headline Review
ISBN: 978-0-7553-3755-2

First line: There was once a young man who wished to gain his Heart’s Desire.

Back cover blurb:
In the sleepy English countryside at the dawn of the Victorian era, life moves at a leisurely pace in the tiny town of Wall. Young Tristan Thorn has lost his heart to the beautiful Victoria Forester, but Victoria is cold and distant as the star she and Tristan see fall from the sky one evening. For the prize of Victoria’s hand, Tristan vows to retrieve the star for his beloved. It is an oath that sends the lovelorn swain over the town’s ancient wall and into a world that is dangerous and strange beyond imagining…

Thoughts: I’ve wanted to read Stardust for a while now, and since my brother managed to get me an autographed copy of it (I curse the fact that I had to work that afternoon and could not myself stand in line to have Gaiman sign a book for me), there has really been no excuse not to.

I found it a quick and easy read, but with lovely language and a story-line and characters that pulled me in. I’ve been generous with them of late, I know, but this is another book that’s earned its B rating.