2008 March archive at Stray Talk
an archive of my forays into fact and fiction

Archive: March ‘08


31st March, 2008
Catching up and branching out
— Love @ 22:08 Comments (6)
Filed under: General booktalk

The bad news I received last week was of the death of my grandmother on dad’s side of the family. She was old, but I didn’t at all expect it. Now grandfather is on his own and we’re all a bit worried about him, as his memory isn’t what it once was. He seems to be holding up fairly okay, but of course it’s hard on him.

I haven’t got much reading done at all of late, but I did finish a couple of books since my “In a slump”-post the other week. Today I played catch-up and wrote four reviews I’d neglected to do. As I always back-date my reviews to the day I finished the book in question, I thought I’d link you to the four of them to make them a bit easier to find—The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club (Dorothy L Sayers), Hey Nostradamus! (Douglas Coupland), Linas kvällsbok 2 (Emma Hamberg) and Making History (Stephen Fry).

Tomorrow I hope to post my March stats.

In other news, I went to Ikea with my family on Saturday and I came back with a couple of new bookshelves, and on Sunday my living room got the makeover I’ve been planning for a couple of months now.

Before:
IMG_6508

After:
IMG_6524 IMG_6530

IMG_6533

As you can see, I have four tall ones and one lower bookcase in the middle. I think it turned out really well. The huge framed photo over the lower bookcase is an enlarged print of a photo I took at the beach last fall. The framed pictures underneath are magazine clippings from the 1930s, all featuring Leslie Howard. It is a sad fact that one of my biggest actor crushes died more than forty years before I was even born. He was brilliant, though, and he’s the dead spit of the Lord Peter I see in my head whenever I read the Wimsey books.

And of course, now I have much more shelf space available for new book purchases!

I’ve put explanatory notes on the bookshelf photos on Flickr, so you can see how I have arranged my books (because I am a complete and utter bookgeek, and it’s sad, sad, sad). Just click on the photos to get there.


27th March, 2008
Making History; Stephen Fry
— Love @ 21:16 Comments (2)
Filed under: A, A-Z Reading Challenge, English, Science Fiction

Making History; Stephen Fry Making History
by Stephen Fry
British

For the A-Z reading challenge.

English
556 pages
Arrow
ISBN: 0-09-946481-0

First line: It starts with a dream.

Back cover blurb:
Michael Young is convinced his history thesis will win him a doctorate, a pleasant academic post, a venerable academic publisher and his beloved girlfriend, Jane.

A historian should know better than to think he can predict the future.

Leo Zuckermann is an ageing physicist obsessed with the darkest period in human history, utterly driven by his fanatical hatred of one man. A lover’s childish revenge and the breaking of a rotten clasp cause the two men to meet in a blizzard of swirling pages. Pages of history. When they come together, nothing—past, present or future—will ever be the same again.

Thoughts: I’ve read this book at least twice before (I could go back and count the exact number of times, but I’m currently too tired), and it’s just as good this time as it was the other times. I’ve read other books by Fry and while some of them, technically, feel like better books (perhaps) than this one, this is still my favourite. Because I am a sucker for gay and because I do like a happy ending every now and then.

An A rating seems perfectly fair.


20th March, 2008
Bad news
— Love @ 17:52 Comments (3)
Filed under: Memes

(I removed the test that was here because it really messed up the layout. Sadly enough. Basically, I was apparently 91 % book nerd.)

I got some bad news this morning, so I don’t know if I’ll get much reading or blogging done in the next few days. But I’ll be back eventually, you can count on that.


17th March, 2008
Linas kvällsbok 2; Emma Hamberg
— Love @ 20:51 Comments (2)
Filed under: A-Z Reading Challenge, C, Chick lit, Romance, Swedish, Young Adult

Linas kvällsbok 1 & 2; Emma Hamberg Linas kvällsbok 2
by Emma Hamberg
Title translated to English: Lina’s Nocturnal 2
Swedish

For the A-Z reading challenge.

Swedish
303 pages
Bonnier Pocket
ISBN: 978-91-0-011399-5 (in the same volume as Linas kvällsbok 1)

First line: Jag har inte skrivit en rad sedan den femte juni.

Back cover blurb:
I Linas kvällsbok 2 lär Lina 16 år oss om det här med att välja. Tryggt eller vilt? Cello eller hasch? Kärlek eller passion? Pojkvän eller älskare? Singel eller bigamist? Hur mycket kärlek kan ett hjärta innehålla innan det sprängs? Och hur mycket får den man är förälskad i dricka och skolka egentligen? Och hur mycket måste ens pojkvän veta om saken…

Very short synopsis in English: Lina writes a journal, except she calls it a nocturnal since she almost always writes in it late at night. This year, she moves away from her parents and her childhood home, to start secondary school at an agricultural boarding school. In her class is also Kevin, gorgeous “bad boy” and an almost irresistible temptation. But at home is Ivar, her boyfriend…

Thoughts: I’ve read this once before, last fall (a couple of months before I started this blog). It’s not a terribly good book, but it’s a pretty easy read, so when I was in a slump and just wanted a feelgood novel, this was the one I chose. As usual, this is a pretty angst-ridden story, but then all my feelgood novels are.

The biggest reason I went back and read it again, however, is that it reminds me so much of my time at secondary school. You see, I too went to an agricultural boarding school, so I recognise so many of the things that happen in this story. It’s a little insane, really. Mostly because I didn’t really like it all that much there! Though I think in part I made myself think it worse than it really was while I was there.

In fact, just today (31 March, which is the day I’m writing this. Back-dating all the way, baby!) I got a phone call from my friend L., who is the only person from secondary school that I still keep in touch with, and there’s a reunion this May for all old students, and since it’s five years since we graduated, it’s supposed to be extra-special for us. Or something. Either way, I’ve decided that I’m going. Why not, right? L. kind of wanted me to come and it could be fun to catch up with others, even if I was the weird kid in the corner for all three years. Apparently a ton of the others have kids already. This is quite Scary, if you’re me. (This one bloke, T., who really reminds me of Kevin in Linas kvällsbok 2, apparently has a four-year-old daughter. And doesn’t know where he lives. He always was a little creepy and scary, though.)

But back to the book: it’s decent enough, but not brilliant, so a C rating it is.


16th March, 2008
In a slump
— Love @ 19:35 Comments (1)
Filed under: General booktalk

This weekend I’ve managed to finish one book (Hey Nostradamus! by Douglas Coupland — review coming later), but then the air sort of went out of me. I’ve started four books and am getting nowhere in any of them. Simply put, I’m in a slump.

I get like this sometimes and don’t read for weeks. I hope this one won’t last that long, though, as I have a couple of pretty easy work weeks coming up, and I’d really like to spend that extra free time on reading. Perhaps I shall re-visit old favourites for a bit of comfort reading.


15th March, 2008
Hey Nostradamus!; Douglas Coupland
— Love @ 20:31 Comments (1)
Filed under: B, English, Fiction, To Be Read

Hey Nostradamus!; Douglas Coupland Hey Nostradamus!
by Douglas Coupland
Canadian

For the To Be Read challenge.

English
260 pages
Harper Perennial
ISBN: 0-00-718258-9

First line: I believe that what separates humanity from all else in this world—spaghetti, binder, paper, deep-sea creatures, edelweiss and Mount McKinley—is that humanity alone has the capacity at any given moment to commit all possibly sins.

Back cover blurb:
Cheryl Anway, 17, secretly married to her high-school sweetheart and pregnant, doodles “God is nowhere, God is now here” on her class binder. Hours later, clutching the same binder, she is shot dead…

Thoughts: Not my favourite of Coupland’s books, but not by any means a bad read, this is a melancholy sort of tale. It earns a B rating from me.


12th March, 2008
The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club; Dorothy L Sayers
— Love @ 19:18 Comments (1)
Filed under: B, English, Historical, Mystery

The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club; Dorothy L Sayers The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club
by Dorothy L Sayers
British

English
243 pages
Harper Mystery
ISBN: 978-0-06-104354-3

First line: “What in the world, Wimsey, are you doing in this morgue?” demanded Captain Fentiman, flinging aside the ‘Evening Banner’ with the air of a man released from an irksome duty.”

Back cover blurb:
Ninety-year-old General Fentiman was definitely dead, but no one knew exactly when he had died—and the time of death was the determining factor in a half-million-pound inheritance. Lord Peter Wimsey would need every bit of his amazing skills to unravel the mysteries of why the General’s lapel was without a red poppy on Armistice Day, how the club’s telephone was fixed without a repairman, and, most puzzling of all, why the great man’s knee swung freely when the rest of him was stiff with rigor mortis.

Thoughts: While not a bad book in any way, this is still not one of the best Wimsey novels there are. I would say more, except that I am writing this to catch up with my reviews and I’ve still got a few more to go and am quite tired already. So brief I shall be!

What I can say is that Mr. Murbles, Wimsey’s solicitor friend, is quite an amusing character:

“Bless my soul,” said Mr. Murbles. “Let us go at once. Really, this is most exciting. That is, I am profoundly grieved. I hope it is not as you say.”

So yes, my lack of proper review concludes with a B rating.


10th March, 2008
Unnatural Death; Dorothy L Sayers
— Love @ 20:55 Comments (5)
Filed under: A, A-Z Reading Challenge, English, Historical, Mystery

Unnatural Death; Dorothy L Sayers Unnatural Death
by Dorothy L Sayers
British

For the A-Z reading challenge.

English
280 pages
Harper Mystery
ISBN: 978-0-06-104358-1

First line: “But if he thought the woman was being murdered—“

Back cover blurb:
The wealthy old woman was dead—a trifle sooner than expected. The intricate trail of horror and senseless murder led from a beautiful Hampshire village to a fashionable London flat and a deliberate test of amour—staged by the debonair sleuth Lord Peter Wimsey.

Thoughts: I realise this might not sound like much of a book, if judged by its back cover blurb, but I have come to the conclusion that, apart from Murder Must Advertise, this is my favourite Wimsey mystery.

I am in the habit of keeping a pad of transparent Post-It notes in different colours by my side whenever I’m reading a book, so that whenever I come across a paragraph (or just a sentence) that I really like, and might want to quote in a later review, I can stick one on the page for easy access later. I average somewhere between five and ten notes in a really good book and less if it’s not all that special. After I turned the last page of Unnatural Death, I went back and counted all the Post-Its I’d stuck in it. There were twenty-three of them. Suffice to say, there was a lot to like about it!

One thing that holds true to the entire series of Sayers’s mysteries, not just this installment, is that the resolutions, and the process of getting there, relies so much on forensic evidence. I’ll grant you that I haven’t read a terrible lot of mystery from this era of late (apart from Sayers, I’ve mainly read Christie, Marsh and Quentin Patrick, and those were mostly a while ago), but I have the definite impression that they don’t generally deal with forensic evidence (finger printing, shoe prints, fibers &c) in at all the same manner. This is most certainly a point in favour of Sayers, at least in my way of thinking, and probably a big reason why I like her novels so much.

Another reason, of course, is her characters. In this book, we meet not only Lord Peter Wimsey himself, but also Detective-Inspector Charles Parker, Miss Alexandra Katherine Climpson, and others.

Miss Climpson is quite the character and any part of the story she’s involved in is invariably a hoot to read, her letter-writing especially.

“[…] WELL!!! The AUNT of these two girls came to pay a visit to Mrs. Budge’s girl this afternoon, and was introduced to me—of course, as boarder at Mrs. Budge’s I am naturally an object of local interest—and, bearing your instructions in mind, I encourage this to an extent I should not otherwise do!!
“It appears that this aunt was well acquainted with a former housekeeper of Miss Dawson’s—before the time of the Gotobed girls, I mean. The aunt is a highly respectable person of FORBIDDING ASPECT!—with a bonnet(!), and to my mind, a most disagreeable CENSORIOUS woman.”

“‘Better to reign in hell than serve in heaven.’ Dear me! I wonder if it’s uncharitable to compare a fellow-being to Satan? Only in poetry of course—I dare say that makes it not so bad.”

There is a strong under-current of a lesbian love story. It’s never spoken aloud, but you’d be silly not to read it between the lines at all. Actually, there are two stories of this kind within the novel. One with a happy outcome, one with a disastrous end.

“‘Betty,’ she said, ‘I mean to be an old maid so does Miss Clara, and we’re going to live together and be ever so happy, without any stupid, tiresome gentlemen.'”

And so they did, and it was adorable, even if all we hear of it is in the recollections of the people who were around them.

Then of course there’s my darling Parker. My favourite will always be Wimsey, but Parker holds a special place in my heart as well.

Parker was one of those methodical, painstaking people whom the world could so ill spare. When he worked with Wimsey on a case, it was an understood thing that anything lengthy, intricate, tedious and soul-destroying was done by Parker. He sometimes felt that it was irritating of Wimsey to take this so much for granted.

The best thing about Parker is not him alone, though—it is how Wimsey and he address each other and act around one another.

“[…] Why this interest all of a sudden? You snub me in my bed, but you woo me in my bath. It sounds like a music-hall song of the less refined sort. Why, oh why?”

“It’s starting to rain,” observed Parker, conversationally.
“Look here, Charles, if you’re going to bear up cheerfully and be the life and soul of the expedition, say so and have done with it. I’ve got a good, heavy spanner handy under the seat, and Bunter can help to bury the body.”
“I think this must be Brushwood Cross,” resumed Parker, who had the map on his knee. “If so, and if it’s not Covert Corner, which I thought we passed half an hour ago, one of these roads leads directly to Crofton.”
“That would be highly encouraging if we only knew which road we were on.”
“We can always try them in turn, and come back if we find we’re going wrong.”
“They bury suicides at cross-roads,” replied Wimsey, dangerously.

“Bear up, doctor,” said Parker, “he’s always like this when he gets an idea. It wears off in time.”

Mind you, Wimsey on his own is not bad either.

“It’s quite all right,” he said apologetically, “I haven’t come to sell you soap or gramophones, or to borrow money, or enrol you in the Ancient Froth-blowers or anything charitable. I really am Lord Peter Wimsey—I mean, that really is my title, don’t you know, not a Christian name like Sanger’s Circus or Earl Derr Biggers. I’ve come to ask you some questions, and I’ve no real excuse, I’m afraid, for butting in on you—do you ever read the News of the World?”
Nurse Philliter decided that she was to be asked to go to a mental case, and that the patient had come to fetch her in person.

I would be fool indeed to quote you all of my favourite passages, but if you thought you’d be able to get away without a single one, well—more fool you! Just be glad I exercised at least some level of restraint (little though it was—I fear this review is even more fragmented and scatter-brained than is my usual habit).

I don’t think I really need to say it, as it should be pretty obvious by now, but Unnatural Death receives an A.

And that’s that for now.


9th March, 2008
The 2008 book sale
— Love @ 14:17 Comments (4)
Filed under: Shopping

Elvis nosing at my bargain books Every year, at the end of February, there is a huge book sale here in Sweden. In the past couple of years, it’s lost a bit of its appeal as it’s not so special anymore as it used to be, but I am still a huge fan.

Most bigger book stores open at midnight to allow book-loving bargain hunters inside to make the find of the year. As much of a bibliophile as I am, I’ve still not been to one of these late-night book store events. Before, it was because I did not have the opportunity to get there and back again at that time of night, but lately it’s more to do with the fact that I aim my interest at books in English, of which there aren’t many to find in the regular bookshops. However, the book sale is also very much in evidence in the online shops, and so I usually aim my attention in that direction.

This year, I bought twenty books all in all. (Actually nineteen. The twentieth was a bonus book that I Did. Not. Want, but couldn’t decline (it was tacked on to my order no matter what I did), and have no idea what to do with.)

Book sale finds: Pile 1The Age of Napoleon by Alistair Horne (non-fiction)
När kommer du tillbaka? by Marika Kolterjahn (YA fiction)
Att leka med elden by Karl-Erik Nylund (non-fiction, on sects)
102 minuter (102 Minutes: The Untold Story of the Fight to Survive Inside the Twin Towers) by Jim Dwyer & Kevin Flynn (non-fiction, about the time from the 9/11 attack until the WTC towers collapsed)
Sanna historier om pirater (True Stories of Pirates) by Lucy Lethbridge (YA non-fiction)
Sanna historier om första världskriget (True Stories of the First World War) by Paul Dowswell (YA non-fiction)
Sanna historier om andra världskriget (True Stories of the Second World War) by Paul Dowswell (YA non-fiction)
Flickan i källaren (Girl in the Cellar: the Natascha Kampusch Story) by Allan Hall & Michael Leidig (non-fiction)

    Book sale finds: Pile 2

    Longitude by Dava Sobel and read by David Rintoul (non-fiction, audio book I thought was a regular book and thus a bit of a mistake purchase)
    Vampirates: Demons of the Ocean by Somper (YA fiction)
    The Testosterone Files by Max Wolf Valiero (non-fiction, about one man’s transition)
    My War: Killing Time in Iraq by Colby Buzzell (non-fiction)
    Gustaf III by Leif Landén (non-fiction, about (perhaps un-surprisingly) Gustaf III)
    To the Tower Born by Robin Maxwell (YA historical fiction)

      Book sale finds: Pile 3 Fantomerna by Klas Östergren (the bonus book I didn’t want)
      Dragon’s Bait by Vivian Vande Velde (YA fantasy)
      Castaways of the Flying Dutchman by Brian Jacques (YA fiction)
      Four Days in June by Iain Gale (historical fiction, about the battle of Waterloo)
      Serving in Silence by Margarethe Cammermeyer med Chris Fisher (non-fiction, about a military nurse who told when she wasn’t asked. You’ve probably heard about her before. I had, and I live in Sweden!)
      Tenderness by Robert Cormier (YA fiction, about a teenaged serial killer)

        As always, if you click on the photos, you are taken to larger versions of them.


        9th March, 2008
        What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew; Daniel Pool
        — Love @ 13:39 Comments (4)
        Filed under: B, English, History, Literature

        What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew; Daniel Pool What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew
        by Daniel Pool
        American

        English
        416 pages
        Touchstone
        ISBN: 978-0-671-88236-5

        First line: What were the assizes?

        Back cover blurb:
        For every frustrated reader of the great nineteenth-century English novels of Austen, Trollope, Dickens, or the Brontës, who has ever wondered whether a duke outranked an earl, when to yell “Tally-ho!” at a fox hunt, or how one landed in debtor’s prison, here is a “delightful reader’s companion that lights up the literary dark.” (The New York Times)
        This fascinating, lively guide clarifies the sometimes bizarre maze of rules, regulations, and customs that governed everyday life in Victorian England. Author Daniel Pool provides countless intriguing details (did you know that the “plums” in Christmas plum pudding were actually raisins?) on the Church of England, sex, Parliament, dinner parties, country house visiting, and a host of other aspects of nineteenth-century English life—both “upstairs” and “downstairs.”
        An illuminating glossary reveals the meaning and significance of terms ranging from “ague” to “wainscoting,” the specifics of the currency system, and countless other curiosities of the day.

        Thoughts: I’ve read a lot of 19th century British fiction in my day (though there’s a lot more out there that I haven’t), and some things I’ve picked up on from context, but some (most?) I still had a woeful lack of understanding for. This book cleared up some of those, by virtue of being full of useful facts.

        What’s more, though, is that it is also full of little interesting anecdotes related to these facts. My favourite, which made me giggle out loud, follows below.

        The neutral ground of a great estate, after all, was one of the few mattress-filled places a woman could go in the days before “ladies” could visit restaurants and hotels. Assignations, therefore, were apparently not unknown, although negotiating one’s way around a large mansion at night in order to carry them out was sometimes eventful. Lord Charles Beresford in the 1880s flung himself gleefully into a darkened room one night and jumped into bed, with a shout of “Cock-a-doodle-do”—only to find, when the lamps were lit, that the bishop of Chester was on one side of him and the bishop’s wife on the other.

        Also, as the back cover promises, it gives one (if one is at all interested) the definition of the word “wainscoting”, which has had, for the past five or so years, an uncanny ability to randomly pop up inside my head and refuse to leave me alone, so I’m stuck having to silently repeat the word time and time again inside my own head. (I might have inadvertently proclaimed myself to be mental right there, but I’m not much bothered.) For those of you who don’t know:

        Wainscoting: Wainscot was a kind of fancy oak imported from Russia, Holland or Germany. The term “wainscoting” was applied to panels that were originally made out of such oak.

        All in all, a very interesting book which, apart from earning a B rating, has made me really want to re-read Tess of the d’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy, preferably two seconds ago. Alas, I don’t think I have the time for it at the moment, so I’m saving it for later on this month when I have a lot of time off from work (and also plan on reading Crime and Punishment).


        6th March, 2008
        Meme: Six Word Memoir
        — Love @ 22:17 Comments (4)
        Filed under: Memes

        I was tagged for a meme by Kim L and it’s the first time in my book blogging life I’ve been properly tagged, so now I feel all special (even though I probably shouldn’t ;D). The idea was to write your own memoir, using no more (or less) than six words.

        At first I thought that it sounded terribly hard and couldn’t for the life of me figure out what I would pick. Then Elvis jumped up on the bed and suddenly it wasn’t so tricky any more.

        Voluntary solitude with cats and books.

        And here are the rules:

        1. Write your own six word memoir
        2. Post it on your blog and include a visual illustration if you’d like
        3. Link to the person that tagged you in your post and to this original post if possible so we can track it as it travels across the blogosphere
        4 .Tag five more blogs with links

        5. And don’t forget to leave a comment on the tagged blogs with an invitation to play!


        5th March, 2008
        Nu heter jag Nirak; Peter Pohl
        — Love @ 21:21 Comments (1)
        Filed under: C, Fiction, Swedish, YA Challenge 2008, Young Adult

        Nu heter jag Nirak; Peter Pohl Nu heter jag Nirak
        by Peter Pohl
        Title translated to English: Now My Name is Nirak
        Swedish

        For the Young Adult reading challenge.

        Swedish
        240 pages
        Alfabeta
        ISBN: 978-91-501-0787-6

        First line: Jag, ett damm, irrande i bländljusa stråk, vilse så som allting annat då, innan tiden föddes, innan rummet slöts inom sina gränser.

        Back cover blurb:
        Vuxenvärlden störtar sig över Karin, snart fjorton. Hon som inte ens hunnit släppa sin låtsassyster Nirak. Och vad hjälper Niraks röst när förälskelsen slår till, förblindar tonåringen Karin som handlöst kastar sig in i en kärlekshistoria där många borde veta bättre och se vad som händer. Men de vuxna väljer att inte se och själv vet hon bara vad hon känner och vill. Och Nirak kan inget göra.

        Very short synopsis in English: Karin is about to turn fourteen, and still has an imaginary friend, when her mother brings home her new boyfriend. Karin falls, fast and hard, for her mother’s boyfriend, who responds in kind. The world around them stops mattering to Karin and no one seems to see what’s going on. No one, that is, except Nirak, the imaginary friend.

        Thoughts: I didn’t particularly like this book. Partly because the writing style wasn’t exactly up my street, partly because I was squicked, time and time again, by the sex scenes (and some others. Seriously, I don’t really want to read about a man doing sit-ups clad only in a thong. No, no, no and yet more no!). It’s a rather unappealing topic to start with and I was definitely uncomfortable reading about it as it was described here. Maybe if the writing style had been different, I would have liked the book better (I would still have been uncomfortable. I don’t think I could not be, given the subject matter). As it is, I’m giving the book a C rating. Partly for the reasons outlined above, partly because there was no character in the book that didn’t want me stab myself in the eye out of sheer annoyance.


        5th March, 2008
        Lost in Austen; Emma Campbell Webster
        — Love @ 13:44 Comments (1)
        Filed under: A-Z Reading Challenge, C, English, Historical, Romance

        Lost in Austen; Emma Campbell Webster Lost in Austen
        by Emma Campbell Webster
        British

        For the A-Z reading challenge.

        English
        348 pages
        Riverhead Books
        ISBN: 978-1-59448-258-8

        First line: It is a truth universally acknowledged that a young Austen heroine must be in want of a husband, and you are no exception.

        Back cover blurb:
        Your name: Elizabeth Bennet. Your mission: to marry both prudently and for love, avoiding family scandal. Equipped with only your sharp wit, natural good sense, and tolerable beauty, you must navigate your way through a variety of decisions that will determine your own romantic (and financial) fate. Ever wonder what would happen if Elizabeth accepted Mr. Darcy’s proposal the first time around? Or ran from his arms into those of Persuasion‘s Captain Wentworth? Now is your chance to find out.

        Lost in Austen: Create Your Own Austen Adventure begins in Pride and Prejudice, but your decisions along the way will lead you into the plots of Austen’s other works, and even newly imagined territory.

        Lost in Austen is a labyrinth of love and lies, scandals and scoundrels, misfortune and marriages that will delight and challenge any Austen lover. Will Elizabeth succeed in her mission? It’s all up to you.

        Thoughts: The premise here is quite entertaining and Webster pulls it off well enough, though sometimes I found her a little too insulting of the reader. That might possibly just be me taking offence where I shouldn’t, though.

        I think I shall definitely have to play through the book at least once more, as this time around I stuck pretty faithfully to the plot of Pride and Prejudice, except for a few forays into the worlds of Emma and Jane Austen: A Life/Becoming Jane.

        A fun idea, all in all, but not the best book I’ve ever had in my hands, so I find it merits a C, but not more. If Webster hadn’t been so insulting, a B might have been the order of the day, but as it appears that I am quite quick to be wounded to the core (well, not quite), that was not to be.


        4th March, 2008
        Sanna historier om andra världskriget; Paul Dowswell
        — Love @ 13:08 Comments (1)
        Filed under: A-Z Reading Challenge, C, History, Non-fiction, Swedish, Young Adult

        Sanna historier om andra världskriget; Paul Dowswell Sanna historier om andra världskriget
        by Paul Dowswell
        Original title: True Stories of the Second World War
        British

        For the A-Z challenge.

        Swedish
        160 pages
        Historiska Media
        ISBN: 91-85057-78-9

        First line: Trots att det nu gått mer än sextio år sedan andra världskriget rasade kommer det hela tiden nya filmer, tv-dokumentärer och böcker om kriget som vittnar om ett fortsatt starkt intresse för kriget.

        Back cover blurb:
        Sanna historier om andra världskriget berättar om några av de mest hjältemodiga, mest katastrofala och några av de mest avgörande händelserna under andra världskriget. Paul Dowswell förmedlar en stark känsla av det lidande människor drabbades av, men också av det med som många soldater och civila visade. Berättelserna skildrar olika sidor av kriget; de spektakulära sjöslagen mellan jättelika krigsfartyg, de stora drabbningarna mellan arméer med hundratusentals man, dueller mellan fientliga prickskyttar och ensamma individers kamp när de ställs inför en nästan säker död.

        Thoughts: What a waste of human life is war. Especially the sort of modern warfare that was first seen in the first and second world wars. With a machine gun (or a hundred…), where’s the need for man-to-man combat? With the atom bomb? It’s really, really terrifying. Not that man-to-man combat with swords, bayonets and rifles, as of old, isn’t horrifying in its own right (I can’t decide if I think it more or less brutal than the impersonality of modern war).

        While an interesting subject, Dowswell’s writing leaves something to be desired, so the rating ends up nothing more than a C.


        2nd March, 2008
        February stats
        — Love @ 19:37 Comments (1)
        Filed under: Stats

        February wasn’t as good a reading month as January, but then I have noticed that January is nearly always my best month. I am at least keeping up with my personal goal of reading four books a week, and that’s always something.

        February books:

        1. Eclipse; Stephenie Meyer, B
        2. Sickened; Julie Gregory, D
        3. Monty Python’s Flying Circus – Just the Words: Volume 2; Graham Chapman (not reviewed)
        4. Dream Boy; Jim Grimsley, B
        5. By a Lady; Amanda Elyot, F
        6. Clouds of Witness; Dorothy L Sayers, B
        7. A Countess Below Stairs; Eva Ibbotson, A
        8. The Gum Thief; Douglas Coupland, B
        9. Murder Must Advertise; Dorothy L Sayers, B
        10. By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept; Elizabeth Smart, D
        11. Duty and Desire; Pamela Aidan, C
        12. Profile of a Criminal Mind; Brian Innes, B
        13. Den hemlösa sexualiteten: en antologi, D
        14. The World According to Clarkson: And Another Thing…; Jeremy Clarkson, D
        15. Standish; Erastes, D
        16. Britta och Silver på ridskolan; Lisbeth Pahnke (not reviewed)
        17. Postcards from No Man’s Land; Aidan Chambers, A
        18. Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead; Tom Stoppard, B

        Challenge stats:

        *I’ve read eight books for this challenge, but the eighth book is not chronologically near the other seven, hence the 7/8.
        **I decided to add another dragon book to my list, hence the 1/4 instead of 1/3.


        2nd March, 2008
        Dragon’s Bait; Vivian Vande Velde
        — Love @ 19:36 Comments (3)
        Filed under: A-Z Reading Challenge, C, English, Fantasy, Here Be Dragons, Young Adult

        Dragon's Bait; Vivian Vande Velde Dragon’s Bait
        by Vivian Vande Velde
        American

        For the Here Be Dragons and A-Z challenges.

        English
        196 pages
        Magic Carpet Books
        ISBN: 0-15-216663-7

        First line: The day Alys was accused of being a witch started out like any other.

        Back cover blurb:
        It is going to eat her… All because the villagers in her town think she is a witch and have staked her out on a hillside as a sacrifice.
        It’s late, it’s cold, and it’s raining, and Alys can think of only one thing—revenge. But first she’s got to escape, and even if she does, how can one girl possibly take on an entire town alone?
        Then the dragon arrives—a dragon that could quite possibly be the perfect ally…

        Thoughts: This book was by no means brilliant, but it was good enough to pass an hour or two with. My favourite thing about it is that Alys finds out that maybe revenge isn’t really the best solution to things. A grade of a C seems reasonable enough.1

        1. Can you tell I’m really tired? I mean, I know I don’t usually write a lot, and never anything profound, but this quite possibly takes the cake even for me.


        2nd March, 2008
        När kommer du tillbaka?; Marika Kolterjahn
        — Love @ 19:21 Comments (1)
        Filed under: A-Z Reading Challenge, C, Fiction, Swedish, YA Challenge 2008, Young Adult

        När kommer du tillbaka?; Marika Kolterjahn När kommer du tillbaka?
        by Marika Kolterjahn
        Title translated to English: When Are You Coming Back?
        Swedish

        For the Young Adult and A-Z reading challenges.

        Swedish
        202 pages
        Tiden förlag
        ISBN: 91-88879-77-1

        First line: Innan jag hunnit längta eller ens tänka på det är tiden inne att flytta hemifrån.

        Back cover blurb:
        “Vi sätter oss på några stenar och ser ut över en åker. Vi sitter där bredvid varandra och är tysta en stund. Hon har gett mig mycket att tänka på. Jag tänker: Vad rädd hon har blivit, för ensamhet, för människor, för livet utanför hemmet. Nu litar hon på mig. Nu tar hon tag i mig. Tänk om jag inte kan leva upp till hennes förväntningar? Tänk om jag sviker henne?”

        När Johanna börjar gymnasiet i stan blir hon vän med Magda, en tyst och tillbakadragen tjej som har det tufft med sig själv. Johanna vill hjälpa henne, men vill Magda ha hennes hjälp? Eller tycker hon bara att Johanna är skitjobbig?

        Very short synopsis in English: Johanna moves from her childhood home to start high school. In her class is Magda, a quiet and introverted girl who quite obviously is not doing too great. Johanna tries to help her and pull her out of her shell, but are her efforts at all appreciated or does Magda think she’s just a pain in the arse?

        Thoughts: I read Marika Kolterjahn’s first book a couple of years back and thought it was decent. Not much more, but then there’s not much lesbian young adult fiction out there at all, so it doesn’t do to be too choosy. For that reason I decided I wanted to read this other book of her’s. As it turned out, this is just young adult fiction, not lesbian young adult fiction, and so I felt that it does do to be, if not too choosy, then at least choosier. Quite honestly, Marika Kolterjahn isn’t the best of writers, in my opinion. She’s not outright bad, though, she’s just boring. Her wife is much better.

        One good thing did come out of reading this book — I have now read eleven of my twelve picks for the YA challenge. Only one more to go, in other words. This one gets a C. It doesn’t deserve much more than that. Not much less either, for that matter.