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

Archive: Genre


7th July, 2008
Speed reviews: part I
— Love @ 08:43 Comments (1)
Filed under: A-Z Reading Challenge, B, Book Blowout, C, Classics, D, English, GLBT interest, Historical, History, Lifestyle, Mystery, Religion, Romance, Science Fiction, Sex, sexuality & gender, Speed reviews, Swedish, To Be Read, Young Adult

Since I’m sick* and way behind on reviews, I’ve realised the only way to catch up is to make them speed reviews and post a whole batch at once.

The Age of Napoleon; Alistair Horne, eng, 235 British
Interesting, but a little choppily written, and also the author assumes you know certain things and never explains them, while others he explains over and over again.
C

Cold Comfort Farm; Stella Gibbons, eng, 253 British
Funny, though I accidentally didn’t read the preface, so I wasn’t 100 % how much of it was intentional (all of it, as it turns out, and as I suspected). Flora Poste is kind of annoying, but all right all the same.
For the TBR reading challenge and as part of the BBC Big Read.
B

Rebecca; Daphne du Maurier, eng, 410 British
A re-read, not as good as I remembered it, but still lovely. Maxim is both wonderful and creepy.
C

Med uppenbar känsla för stil; Stephan Mendel-Enk, swe, 128 Swedish
Interestingly written about men and what’s considered masculine. References Morrissey at some points, mostly in connection with a man who went berserk and killed people. Lovely… not!
C

Unspeakable Love: Gay and Lesbian Life in the Middle East; Brian Whitaker, swe, 230 British
Interesting, scary and occasionally a little bit hopeful.
C

Ingen behöver veta; Christina Wahldén, swe, 139 Swedish
About male rape and how it does exist, but people find it hard to believe. Kind of a non-ending, but then I suppose that’s sadly the case in most instances of actual male rape also.
C

Ingen grekisk gud, precis; Katarian Kieri, swe, 217 Swedish
Kind of brilliant tale of a young girl who falls for a teacher. Kind of brilliant mostly because the main character is into Morrissey, but for other reasons also. I was a bit worried where it was going to end, but it’s kind of perfect, really.
B

Sandman: The Kindly Ones; Neil Gaiman et al., eng, 335 British
I wouldn’t say Sandman is Gaiman at his best, but I do like the stories and so also in this volume. Not my favourite, though.
For the TBR reading challenge.
C

Doctor Who: The Nightmare of Black Island; Mike Tucker, eng, 255 British
Scary monsters and kiddies with nightmares. I liked it, but not as much as other DW books.
C

Doctor Who: The Art of Destruction; Stephen Cole, eng, 256 British
Farming in Africa, golden statues and creepy aliens. Good, but not great. Doctor’s always nice, though.
C

Doctor Who: The Price of Paradise; Colin Brake, eng, 255 British
References Franz Ferdinand and other pop culture a time or two. Not the best of the DW books I’ve read—I don’t much care for Colin Brake’s style of writing it, though I can’t put my finger on the exact reason.
C

Tro, hopp och burnout; Johan Unenge, swe, 228 Swedish
YA story about a guy who’s really into cars and death metal, who ends up going on a confirmation camp. It’s a decent story, and I was happy to see it didn’t end up quite where I expected it would, but the writing style is very, very choppy and not at all my cup of tea.
For the A-Z reading challenge.
C

Vadå feminist; Lisa Gålmark, swe, 188 Swedish
Basic guide to feminism. I wasn’t too keen on the writing and didn’t like the book all that much. Mostly it made me a little annoyed with the author, though it did contain sections worth thinking about. It bothers me that there is no question mark in the title.
For the A-Z reading challenge.
D

Homofamiljer; Sara Stenholm & Cecilia Strömberg, swe, 312 Swedish
About rainbow families and different ways to get one. Interesting, especially the personal stories, but not fab.
C

*Just a cold, but a bad one. I hate colds. And I’ve run out of Kleenex, which means my nose is very, very sore from regular paper towels. Woe.


5th July, 2008
Torchwood: Something in the Water; Trevor Baxendale
— Love @ 15:20 Comments (0)
Filed under: Book Blowout, C, English, GLBT interest, Science Fiction

Torchwood: Something in the Water; Trevor Baxendale Torchwood: Something in the Water
by Trevor Baxendale
British

English
255 pages
BBC Books
ISBN: 978-1-846-07437-0

First line: The Late Bob Strong.

Back cover blurb:
Dr Bob Strong’s GP surgery has been treating a lot of coughs and colds recently, far more than is normal for the time of year. Bob thinks there’s something up but he can’t think what. He seems to have caught it himself, whatever it is—he’s starting to cough badly and there are flecks of blood in his hanky.

Saskia Harden has been found on a number of occasions submerged in ponds or canals but alive and seemingly none the worse for wear. Saskia is not on any files, except in the medical records at Dr Strong’s GP practice.
But Torchwood’s priorities lie elsewhere: investigating ghostly apparitions in South Wales, they have found a dead body. It’s old and in an advanced state of decay. And it is still able to talk.

And what it is saying is ‘Water hag’…

Thoughts: This isn’t the first of the Torchwood books, but it is the first one I’ve read. I liked it well enough, even if I was freaking out a bit due to the fact that I’ve caught a cold (stupid crowded plane cabins) and was consequently hacking up my lungs as I read it. Now, I don’t know about you, but if I’m reading a book wherein the majority of the characters are suffering from a strange affliction which starts with a tickle in the throat and leads to massive coughing fits, complete with blood and great quantities of green phlegm being expelled, I don’t particularly want to be suffering from a bad cough myself. Not that there are times I would want to be suffering from a bad cough, but y’know, there are degrees of “do not want.”

Apart from the cough coincidence, it was pretty all right. Darker in tone than the Doctor Who books (just like the series is darker and more ‘grown-up’ than DW), but I think I actually prefer the Who books. At least some of them, and possibly not to all of the Torchwood books (time will tell).

My one biggest complaint is that there was much too little of Ianto in this. Ianto Jones is effin’ brilliant, so he deserves more page time than he got here, but what little he did get was pretty snarky, which was nice. I love snarky!Ianto. I also love Jack/Ianto, which there wasn’t much of in this particular book. I am told that there’s more of it in some of the others in the series, though, so I’m not giving up on that yet.

I’m giving this a C rating. Had it had more Jack/Ianto, or just more Ianto, I would have given it a higher rating, most likely, but as it is, a C is just the right one.


4th July, 2008
Hundår; Markus Zusak
— Love @ 06:14 Comments (0)
Filed under: A-Z Reading Challenge, Book Blowout, D, Fiction, Swedish, Young Adult

The Underdog; Markus Zusak Hundår
by Markus Zusak
Original title: The Underdog
Australian

For the A-Z reading challenge.

Swedish
128 pages
Richters
ISBN: 91-7130-027-9

First line: Det var medan vi tittade på teve som vi bestämde oss för att råna tandläkaren.

Back cover blurb:
Cameron Wolfe är en ensamvarg och underdog som slår i underläge. Alltid i underläge!
I Hundår berättar han om några månader i sitt liv. Inte för att det hände något särskilt. Bara hans försök att hitta sin väg genom livet. Och några boxningsmatcher på bakgården.

Thoughts: I don’t know if it was because of the translation, my mood at the time, or because Zusak is just not my cup of tea, but I didn’t like this book. I’ve been hearing a lot of good stuff about him, so I think I’ll probably try The Book Thief anyway, though not by buying it. If I’ll read it, I’ll borrow it from the library.

A D grade. It just wasn’t interesting to me.


30th June, 2008
A Game of Thrones; George RR Martin
— Love @ 20:10 Comments (1)
Filed under: C, English, Fantasy, First in a Series, Here Be Dragons

A Game of Thrones; George RR Martin A Game of Thrones
by George RR Martin
American

For the Here Be Dragons and First in a Series reading challenges.

English
837 pages
Bantam Books
ISBN: 987-0-553-57340-4

First line: “We should start back,” Gared urged them as the woods began to grow dark around them.

Back cover blurb:
In a land where summer can last decades and winters a lifetime, trouble is brewing. The cold is returning, and in the frozen wastes to the north of Winterfell, sinister and supernatural forces are massing beyond the kingdom’s protective Wall. At the center of the conflict lie the Starks of Winterfell, a family born as harsh and unyielding as the land they were born to. Sweeping from a land of brutal cold to a distant summertime kingdom of epicurean plenty, here is a tale of lords and ladies, soldiers and sorcerers, assassins and bastards, who come together in a time of grim omens. Amid plots and counterplots, tragedy and betrayal, victory and terror, the fate of the Starks, their allies, and their enemies hangs periously in the balance, as each endeavor to win that deadliest of conflicts: the game of thrones.

Thoughts: I kept pushing back reading this forever, as it’s such a big book. I didn’t use to mind big books—quite the opposite, in fact—but then I got a job and I don’t have as much time for reading as I used to, so I’ve rarely got time to finish big books in one sitting, which is what I prefer to do (example: I read A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth, which was 1239 pages in the translation I read, in less than two days).

Anyway, I went to London and I needed to have some reading material with me, or I’d go spare, but I also didn’t want to take too much, on account of weight issues and such, so this book got to come along with me. I didn’t finish it there, but I did get about half-way through. And then I finished it today.

For the first couple of hundred pages or so, it was pretty much just confusing. It’s written in third person. However it’s not one person we follow, but at least eight (I probably forgot someone now. It wouldn’t surprise me) and they never have two chapters in a row, which means that it took a while to get to know them.

Once I did, though, things did pick up a little and the story ends up being quite good. I even had a couple of favourite characters (Dany, Eddard, Jon and Tyrion). However, I don’t feel that it was good enough that I’ll likely want to read the rest in the series. Probably not, anyway. I am itching a little to know what happens next, so maybe one day I will end up reading the other books, but right now I doubt it.

It’s a C grade, which means it was a decent read, but not awe-inspiring.


29th June, 2008
The Uncommon Reader; Alan Bennett
— Love @ 22:19 Comments (3)
Filed under: A, English, Fiction

No cover image available The Uncommon Reader
by Alan Bennett
British

English
121 pages
Faber and Faber
ISBN: 978-1-84668-133-2

First line: At Windsor it was the evening of the state banquet and as the president of France took his place beside Her Majesty, the royal family formed up behind and the procession slowly moved off and through into the Waterloo Chamber.

Back cover blurb:
Led by her yapping corgis to the Westminster travelling library outside Buckingham Palace, the Queen finds herself taking out a novel by Ivy Compton-Burnett. Duff read though it is, the following week her choice proves more enjoyable and awakens in Her Majesty a passion for reading so great that her public duties begin to suffer. And so, as she devours work by everyone from Hardy to Brookner to Proust to Beckett, her equerries conspire to bring the Queen’s literary odyssey to a close.

Thoughts: This book is made of awesome and that’s a fact. I read it in just a little over an hour and I kind of wish I hadn’t read it yet, so I could read it again for the first time.

I love the ending. I think it was absolutely fab. The rest also. I laughed out loud more than once and giggled madly about three times that.

There was a paragraph—well, not actually even a whole paragraph really, but a bit of a paragraph— at the beginning of the book that made me shout with glee. This, to be exact:

[…] he was largely self-taught, his reading tending to be determined by whether an author was gay or not.

Because I have a tendency to do that. Well, not exactly. More like I tend to turn towards books that I know have gay characters, even if maybe they don’t sound terribly exciting otherwise. I am hooked on boy on boy, okay? IT IS AN *AFFLICTION, BUT I AM NOT ASHAMED! (I am, however, operating on about four hours of sleep and um, it’s starting to show?) Almost, without fail, if a book has a gay character, he will be my favourite. I am terribly predictable about this, but there it is. (And it doesn’t apply to females. Because most of the time I couldn’t care less about the womenfolk. Which is, err, not so great, actually.)

Aaaaanyway, then I finished the book and read the blurb about the author. And I realised I was well daft and that Alan Bennett of The Uncommon Reader is Alan Bennett of The History Boys, which set my gaydar off big time. Because there were certain elements in The Uncommon Reader and there were also elements in The History Boys (very cute elements. V.v. cute elements! Adorable, even! I should read the play. Like, yesterday) and sometimes I have a functioning gaydar.** After a quick Wikipedia check, I had all the confirmation I needed.

And that’s when I cracked up about the quote again. Because it shouldn’t matter, and it doesn’t, but it does. (One day I will show you the little symbols I use in my little black book of books and you will laugh at me.) HI, I’M SHALLOW AND I LIKE BOYS WHO LIKE BOYS.

I think I might have got a bit sidetracked there. Y’know, just a smidgen. The Uncommon Reader gets an A grade, because it’s brilliant, but not because it has boy on boy (it doesn’t. Really) or because my gaydar worked on the author, but because it is about books and about reading and it’s funny and quirky and I LOVED IT!

Um, I think I should go to bed now…

*Being hooked on it, I mean. Not the boy on boy. Never!
**Which would be useful, except it only works on authors and fictional characters, more’s the pity.


22nd June, 2008
A Strong and Sudden Thaw; RW Day
— Love @ 16:30 Comments (2)
Filed under: A, English, GLBT interest, Here Be Dragons, Romance, Science Fiction

A Strong and Sudden Thaw; RW Day A Strong and Sudden Thaw
by RW Day
American

For the Here Be Dragons reading challenge.

English
333 pages
Iris Print
ISBN: 978-0-9787531-1-5

First line: There’s an old scenic view about halfway up the mountain, alongside where the old highway runs.

Back cover blurb:
Dragons in Virginia?

Nearly a hundred years after the Ice changed the face of our world, the people of Moline work to reclaim the frozen land, both from the cold and from the dragons that now live in the hills outside of town—dragons that the government won’t believe exist.

David Anderson knows very little of the world outside of his family’s farm, until Callan, an assistant healer from the south, arrives in Moline and begins to teach him of a world he never knew, full of books and ideas, and history long forgotten. When Callan is found in the arms of another man—a crime in this post-Ice world—David learns a frightening truth about himself, and the difference between what is legal… and what is right.

After trouble hits the nearby town of Crawford, David and Callan discover the seeds of a plot that affects not only their home, but towns just like Moline across the world. Now they must fight to save their home, not only from the dragons, but from a government that wants them dead!

Thoughts: I loved this novel to tiny little pieces. I was a bit sceptic, because a person, whose taste in books I usually do not agree with at all, liked this a lot, and so I thought that I probably wouldn’t. For this reason, I kept pushing back reading it until I couldn’t really push it back any longer, as the end of the Here Be Dragons challenge came nearer and nearer.

I picked it up one night, read until I couldn’t keep my eyes open a second longer, slept, woke up and read the rest of it. It was that good. I will say that it took me a little while to get used to the language used. David, the main character, might by some be considered a hillbilly/redneck, and he usually doesn’t bother too much about proper grammar when speaking. Don’t let that put you off, however, because once you get used to that, the story is so worth it.

David and Callan’s relationship is absolutely beautiful and heartbreaking at the same time and I simply can’t find proper words to describe why this book is awesome. Just trust me on that.

It’s an A grade. I can’t give it anything else. This is the first book in quite a while where the characters stayed with me for at least a couple of days after I turned the last page, and I immediately wanted to go back and read it again.

The one biggest thing I wasn’t super thrilled about (yeah, there were a few things like that) was the ending. It doesn’t feel at all finished and lots of things are left unresolved. Still, it doesn’t feel like a bad thing, exactly, but more like an opening for a sequel (which I understand is being written/has been written and is waiting for publication).

Edit: It appears that Iris Print, the publisher of this book, has closed down without telling its authors, and that a couple of them has had trouble getting in touch with the publisher and RW Day had a royalty cheque bounce. While I do want a lot of people to read it, I don’t exactly feel comfortable recommending anyone buying it, with things being what they are at present. You can read more about it here, at the author’s website.


22nd June, 2008
Throne of Jade; Naomi Novik
— Love @ 15:52 Comments (0)
Filed under: Adventure, B, English, Fantasy, Here Be Dragons, Historical

Throne of Jade; Naomi NovikThrone of Jade
by Naomi Novik
American

For the Here Be Dragons reading challenge.

English
399 pages
Del Rey
ISBN: 978-0-345-48129-0

First line: The day was unseasonably warm for November, but in some misguided deference to the Chinese embassy, the fire in the Admirality boardroom had been heaped excessively high, and Laurence was standing directly before it.

Back cover blurb:
When Britain intercepted a French ship and its precious cargo—an unhatched dragon’s egg—Capt. Will Laurence of HMS Reliant unexpectedly became master and commander of the noble dragon he named Temeraire. As new recruits in Britain’s Aerial Corps, man and dragon soon proved their mettle in daring combat against Bonaparte’s invading forces.
Now China has discovered that its rare gift, intended for Napoleon, has fallen into British hands—and an angry Chinese delegation vows to reclaim the remarkable beast. But Laurence refuses to cooperate. Facing the gallows for his defiance, the captain has no choice but to accompany Temeraire back to the Far East—a long voyage fraught with peril, intrigue, and the untold terrors of the deep. Yet once the pair reaches the court of the Chinese emperor, even more shocking discoveries and darker dangers await.

Thoughts: I read the first book in this series back in January, then bought the second book in mid-February, but I haven’t got ’round to reading it until know. Don’t ask me why, as I have absolutely no idea.

It’s a really good story. There is adventure and swashbuckling and excitement, and I could hardly put the book down. I adore the main characters (Laurence and Temeraire) and their relationship with each other, as well as the plot that takes them to China. I was a little worried that I’d find the voyage there a little dull, but Novik manages to make eight months at sea quite interesting, by skipping over the parts where nothing much happens. Good on her!

I will definitely get the rest of the books as soon as I can, because this is a series I want to follow to its conclusion. There are already two more books out (possibly three by now, as I do not know the exact publication date for the fifth in the series, except that it was supposed to be sometime in June, which is almost all gone now), which is nice. The only thing is that the two books I own so far are the ones published by Del Rey, and the ones published by Voyager really have so much prettier covers. However, I refuse to mix covers.

As for the rating, it’s a B.


9th June, 2008
Annika Larsdotter: barnamörderska; Inger Lövkrona
— Love @ 13:40 Comments (0)
Filed under: Back to History, C, History, Swedish, To Be Read, True crime

Annika Larsdotter: barnamörderska; Inger Lövkrona Annika Larsdotter: barnamörderska
by Inger Lövkrona
Swedish

For the Back to History and To Be Read reading challenges.

Swedish
255 pages
Historiska Media
ISBN: 91-88930-64-5

First line: Boston — Min vän slänger tidningsartikeln på skrivbordet med en kort kommentar: “Ja, här har du en till.”

Back cover blurb:
Annika Larsdotter avrättades 1765, 18 år gammal. Hon hade då erkänt dråp på sitt nyfödda barn genom kvävning. Barnets far var Annikas svåger som hade tvingat henne till sexuellt umgänge, men sedan förnekade faderskapet.

Annika Larsdotter var en av tusentals unga svenska kvinnor som under 1600-, 1700- och 1800-talen anklagades för barnamord eller fosterfördrivning. Brottet ansågs vara samtidens största samhällsfara. Barnamörderskor dömdes strängt och utan förbarmande — kvinnan beskrevs ofta som en osedlig, ondskefull och grym moder, i nära släktskap med häxor.

Denna bok handlar om Annika men också om några av hennes olyckssystrar. Varför valde dessa kvinnor att mörda sitt barn? Varför valde de inte istället att, i likhet med andra ogifta mödrar, ta på sig rollen som ogift mor?

Etnologen Inger Lövkrona söker svaren genom att studera rättsfall från perioden 1729-1776. De bevarade domstolsprotokollen ger unika möjligheter att komma nära barnamörderskornas handlingar, tänkbara överväganden och känslor.

Very short synopsis in English: This is the study of eight cases from 18th century Sweden where young, unwed women murdered, or were accused of having murdered, their newborn children. Why did they do it?

Thoughts: This was a very interesting read, but what struck me as most shocking was an excerpt at the very beginning of the book, about “prom moms”. It’s easy to read about a case from the 18th century, where shame and desperation led someone to commit almost unspeakable offenses, and think that at least we’ve moved on from that now. Not everywhere we haven’t. Young women still sometimes don’t see any other way out. It’s absolutely horrifying and sad — it was then and it is now.

The book was sometimes a bit tricky to follow, but that always happens to me when I haven’t read academic texts in a while. All things considered, a C grade is in order.


8th June, 2008
Doctor Who: The Resurrection Casket; Justin Richards
— Love @ 13:20 Comments (0)
Filed under: Adventure, B, English, Science Fiction

Doctor Who: The Resurrection Casket; Justin Richards Doctor Who: The Resurrection Casket
by Justin Richards
British

English
254 pages
BBC Books
ISBN: 0-563-48642-2

First line: Death was hiding in Kaspar’s pocket.

Back cover blurb:
Starfall — a world on the edge, where crooks and smugglers hide in the gloomy shadows and modern technology refuses to work. And that includes the TARDIS.

The pioneers who used to be drawn by the hope of making a fortune from the mines can find easier pickings elsewhere. But they still come — for the romance of it, or in the hope of finding the lost treasure of Hamlek Glint — scourge of the spaceways, privateer, adventurer, bandit…

Will the TARDIS ever work again? Is Glint’s lost treasure waiting to be found? And does the fabled Resurrection Casket — the key to eternal life — really exist? With the help of new friends, and facing terrifying new enemies, the Doctor and Rose aim to find out…

Thoughts: Again with the Doctor Who — sorry (I have three more Ten+Rose books coming in the post any day now, but after that I should be able to shut up about them — at least in this book blog).

This was a fun adventure novel about space pirates, with quite a few reveals I didn’t see coming from a mile away (sometimes, surprises are nice) and the nicest vicious monster ever. A B rating again for the good Doctor and his companion.


6th June, 2008
Doctor Who: The Stone Rose; Jacqueline Rayner
— Love @ 13:11 Comments (0)
Filed under: Adventure, B, English, Science Fiction

Doctor Who: The Stone Rose; Jacqueline Rayner Doctor Who: The Stone Rose
by Jacqueline Rayner
British

English
254 pages
BBC Books
ISBN: 978-0-563-48643-5

First line: Rose carefully dropped three pound coins into the large collecting box at the entrance to the British Museum.

Back cover blurb:
Mickey is startled to find a statue of Rose in a museum — a statue that is 2,000 years old. The Doctor realises that this means the TARDIS will shortly take them to ancient Rome, but when it does, he and Rose soon have more on their minds than sculpture.

While the Doctor searches for a missing boy, Rose befriends a girl who claims to know the future — a girl whose predictions are surprisingly accurate. But then the Doctor stumbles on the hideous truth behind the statue of Rose — and Rose herself learns that you have to be very careful what you wish for…

Thoughts: I’m still on a Doctor Who kick, still pathetically in love with the tenth Doctor and still enjoying the companion books. I was a bit worried at first that I wouldn’t like them at all (which is why I just got one or two at first to test the waters a bit), but I do. Now, the writing isn’t the best thing I’ve read in my life, but it gets the job done portraying the Doctor and giving a sense of adventure, which is all I’m asking for.

They are different writers, of course, so the tone is slightly different from book to book, but I haven’t been let down yet. The Doctor, Rose, Mickey and Jackie are all written in a way that I can hear their (well, the actors’, technically) voices in my head.

The Stone Rose is a nice adventure and mystery and deserves a B grade (I’ll let it be known that that rating is tremendously influenced by my love for anything Doctor+Rose, however).


6th June, 2008
A Christmas Carol; Charles Dickens
— Love @ 12:58 Comments (1)
Filed under: C, Classics, Decades '08, English

A Christmas Carol; Charles Dickens A Christmas Carol
by Charles Dickens
British

For the Decades ’08 reading challenge (first published 1843) and part of the BBC Big Read.

English
77 pages
Dover Publications
ISBN: 978-0-486-26865-1

First line: Marley was dead: to begin with.

Back cover blurb:
In October 1843, Charles Dickens—heavily in debt and obligated to his publisher—began work on a book to help supplement his family’s meager income. That volume, A Christmas Carol, has long since become one of the most beloved stories in the English language. As much a part of the holiday season as holly, mistletoe and evergreen wreaths, this perennial favorite continues to delight new readers and rekindle thoughts of charity and goodwill.

With its characters exhibiting many qualities—as well as failures—often ascribed to Dickens himself, the imaginative and entertaining tale relates Ebenezer Scrooge’s eerie encounters with a series of spectral visitors. Journeying with them through Christmases past, present, and future, he is ultimately transformed from an arrogant, obstinate and insensitive miser to a generous, warmhearted, and caring human being. Written by one of England’s greatest and most popular novelists, A Christmas Carol has come to epitomize the true meaning of Christmas.

Thoughts: I’ve been meaning to read this for years and years and years, but I never did get around to it until now.

I knew the basics of the story already, of course, having seen an animated adaption or two in my day, but I was pleasantly surprised at how good I found it. Somehow, I don’t know why, I was expecting to almost struggle through it and want to give up because of boredom, or what have you. There really was no reason for me to be expecting that, as I’ve liked all the Dickens I have read so far, plus there has to be a reason for its popularity.

At any rate, I get to mark another book on the BBC Big Read as successfully read, and to dole out a C rating.


3rd June, 2008
Människohamn; John Ajvide Lindqvist
— Love @ 12:27 Comments (0)
Filed under: C, Fiction, Swedish

Människohamn; John Ajvide Lindqvist Människohamn
by John Ajvide Lindqvist
Swedish

Swedish
451 pages
Ordfront
ISBN: 978-91-7037-373-2

First line: Välkommen till Domarö.

Back cover blurb:
“Pappa, vad är det där? På isen?”
Det är en strålande vinterdag. Högst upp i Gåvastens fyr står Anders med sin sexåriga dotter Maja. Isen ligger snötäckt så långt ögat kan nå och Anders kan inte se något speciellt där hans dotter pekar.
Maja går för att undersöka och fem minuter senare börjar mardrömmen. Trots att det inte finns någonstans där Maja kan försvinna, är det just det som händer. Hon försvinner. Spårlöst. Anders och hans hustru Cecilia har inte längre något barn.
Det lyckliga livet på ön Domarö i Roslagens skärgård är slut. Bara förtvivlan och skilsmässa återstår.
Ett par år senare återvänder Anders till ön, nersupen och deprimerad men fast besluten att leva. Då nås han av ett meddelande som tänder ett vansinnigt hopp: Maja finns ännu i världen, på en plats där han inte kan nå henne.
Ett sökande tar sin början. Det kommer att föra Anders till Domarös hemlighållna förflutna, mot havets mörka hjärta. Genom avgrunden måste han gå för att finna den han älskar. Om det nu verkligen är hon.
En mopedmotor hörs i skogen om nätterna. Brevlådor vandaliseras och hus brinner. Havet kastar sig mot klipporna. Någon hatar oss.

Thoughts: Människohamn is Ajvide Lindqvist’s most recent novel and as I’ve liked his previous books a whole lot, I pretty much had to go out and get this as soon as I could when it was out.

On the whole, it’s a good book, but I felt that the ending was a bit lacking (endings are, to be honest, not Ajvide Lindqvist’s forte) and so it doesn’t reach the same heights as Låt den rätte komma in (his first novel, now available in English as Let the Right One In — read it) did.

Människohamn does have its moments, though. I’m thinking, of course, of the Smiths-quoting ghosts. It’s impossible not to feel utter glee at them. Well, it’s impossible if your name is Love and you happen to be a big Smiths/Morrissey fan…

När sommaren kom stod det klart att Henrik och Björn hade hittat sin grej. Meat is murder [sic] hade kommit några månader tidigare och Anders tyckte att var en helt okej skiva, men inte som Hatful of hollow [sic]. Henrik och Björn tyckte annorlunda. De kunde varenda textrad på skivan och båda hade blivit vegetarianer, möjligen de första någonsin på Domarö.

That John Ajvide Lindqvist is a big Morrissey fan is a fact well-known to those who know it well1, and the title of his first novel is actually taken from a song written by Morrissey. It bothers me slightly that the English title of that book isn’t quite what it should be (Let the Right One Slip In), but I guess you can’t have it all.

Människohamn is a decent book, but not scary, which was both quite nice (as it didn’t keep me from falling asleep) and quite disappointing (I was expecting to be scared). I’m giving it a C, which would have been a higher grade if the ending had been better and the rest of the book hadn’t had quite so many passages that didn’t really move the story forward.

1. Cookies to the person who can tell me who I stole that phrase from.


1st June, 2008
En liten chock; Johanna Lindbäck
— Love @ 11:45 Comments (0)
Filed under: C, Swedish, Young Adult

En liten chock; Johanna Lindbäck En liten chock
by Johanna Lindbäck
Swedish

Swedish
272 pages
Tiden
ISBN: 978-91-85243-98-3

First line: Han ansträngde sig inte direkt för att komma i tid, det kan man inte säga.

Back cover blurb:
Gustav hoppades på tre saker när han började gymnasiet:

  1. En flickvän, eller en tillfällig tjej att ha sex med, åtminstone en gång.
  2. En massa nya kompisar med samma intressen som han, det vill säga inte sport.
  3. En ny personlighet.

Nu är det bara ett par månader kvar till studenten och Gustav har nästan gett upp hoppet. Men så bildar han och Elin i klassen en pakt. De ska göra något oväntat—något som gör dem mindre missnöjda med varandra och sina förutsägbara liv. Något som gör att de slipper dö av tristess och leda.
Det drar ihop sig till en liten chock…

Thoughts: This was a decent little YA read. Most of the reason I liked it as much as I did (not more than a C rating, though) is because it’s set in Umeå, which is where I studied at university, so I know the city. It’s always neat to have places you are familiar with appear in fiction.


27th May, 2008
Mr. Darcy Presents His Bride; Helen Halstead
— Love @ 06:57 Comments (4)
Filed under: Back to History, D, English, Historical, Romance

Mr. Darcy Presents His Bride; Helen Halstead Mr. Darcy Presents His Bride
by Helen Halstead
Australian

For the Back to History reading challenge.

English
310 pages
Ulysses Press
ISBN: 978-1-56975-588-4

First line: What a joy it is to have a worthy topic of conversation, to hold the power to amaze!

Back cover blurb:
In Pride & Prejudice, Jane Austen brought together one of the most beloved literary couples of all time—Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy. Now, Mr. Darcy Presents His Bride continues the story of these passion-filled newlyweds as they enter London’s glamorous high society.

This page-turning novel finds Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy entangled in the frivolity and ferocity of social intrigues. Although Elizabeth makes a powerful friend in the Marchioness of Englebury, the rivalry and jealousy among her ladyship’s prestigious clique threatens to destroy the success of her new marriage.

Written in the style of Jane Austen, full of humour and sardonic wit, Mr. Darcy Presents His Bride brings Regency society vividly to life and continues the romantic, sometimes tragic, stories of other popular Pride & Prejudice characters including Georgiana Darcy and Kitty Bennet.

Thoughts: This is the first sequel to Pride & Prejudice that I have ever read (I tend to go for re-workings of the story, rather than continuations of it) and I can’t say I liked it much.

One of the reasons why was that the author felt that she needed to include explanations of who original characters were, and reminders of events of the original novel. It might just be me, but I would think that, if you decide to read a fan-written sequel to a well-known novel, you are probably quite a big fan of said novel already, and would know such basic facts as who Sir William Lucas is, &c.

It wasn’t all bad, though. I quite like Halstead’s take on Miss Anne de Bourgh, for example, and Lord Maddersfield (that’d be Lady Catherine’s brother and Darcy’s uncle) was quite amusing.

On the whole, though, it was not the best of reading experiences. I might add to this later (I have seven minutes before I have to leave for work), but for now, I shall leave it at this and give this work of fiction a D rating.


25th May, 2008
Heart of Darkness; Joseph Conrad
— Love @ 19:51 Comments (2)
Filed under: C, Classics, Decades '08, English, Historical

No cover image available Heart of Darkness
by Joseph Conrad
British

For the Decades ’08 reading challenge (first published 1902).

English
111 pages
a Project Gutenberg e-book

First line: The Nellie, a cruising yawl, swung to her anchor without a flutter of the sails, and was at rest.

Back cover blurb:
In this tale of colonial exploitation, the narrator, Marlowe, journeys deep into the heart of Africa. But there he encounters Kurtz, an idealist apparently crazed and depraved by his power over the natives, and the meeting prompts Marlowe to reflect on the darkness at the heart of all men.
This text refers to an edition other than the one I read.

Thoughts: I’ve heard this book mentioned again and again, and I’ve always sort of meant to read it, but I’ve never really known anything about it except the title.

This afternoon I took the time to read it and it was an interesting story. Very dark, but I should maybe have clued into that from the title, had I not been a complete idiot. I did find the narrative a little hard to follow at times, but I’m not sure how much that had to do with the format I read it in (e-book), and how much it was due to the actual writing.

Heart of Darkness receives a C rating. It was an okay read, but I had some issues with the flow of narrative, and at times I was made exceedingly uncomfortable by the blatant racism. It’s true that it was written over a hundred years ago, when racism was more accepted, but I’m reading it now, with 21st century sensitivities, and of course that’s going to colour my reading experience.


25th May, 2008
Doctor Who: The Feast of the Drowned; Stephen Cole
— Love @ 12:18 Comments (0)
Filed under: Adventure, B, English, Science Fiction

Doctor Who: The Feast of the Drowned Doctor Who: The Feast of the Drowned
by Stephen Cole
British

English
254 pages
BBC Books
ISBN: 0-563-48644-9

First line:How can something so big sink so fast?

Back cover blurb:
When a naval cruiser sinks in mysterious circumstances in the North Sea, all aboard are lost. Rose is saddened to hear that the brother of her friend, Keisha, was among the dead. And yet he appears to them as a ghostly apparition, begging to be saved from the coming feast, the feast of the drowned.

As the dead crew haunts loved ones all over London, the Doctor and Rose are drawn into a chilling mystery. What sank the ship, and why? When the cruiser’s wreckage was towed up the Thames, what sinister force came with it?

The river’s dark waters are hiding an ever darker secret, as preparations for the feast near their conclusion…

Thoughts: Since Eurovision was on last night, it pushed Doctor Who off the air and there was no episode this week. To get my weekly Doctor fix, I decided to read the second of the DW novels I bought the other week.

This one was loads better than I Am a Dalek, but if that’s just because this was a “proper” book, or because it’s written by someone else, I don’t know. Either way, Cole captures Ten perfectly, as well as Rose, Mickey and Jackie,

I’m giving this a B rating, because I think it deserves it, and now I’m itching to get the other Ten and Rose novels. And to think that, before I started watching new Who, I was so certain I’d never in a million years like Rose. Shows what I know!


22nd May, 2008
Strong Poison; Dorothy L Sayers
— Love @ 11:48 Comments (1)
Filed under: B, English, Historical, Mystery

Strong Poison; Dorothy L Sayers Strong Poison
by Dorothy L Sayers
British
English
261 pages
Harper Mystery
ISBN: 978-0-06-104350-5

First line:There were crimson roses on the bench; they looked like splashes of blood.

Back cover blurb:
Mystery novelist Harriet Vane knew all about poisons, and when her fiancé died in the manner prescribed in one of her books, a jury of her peers had a hangman’s noose in mind. But Lord Peter Wimsey was determined to find her innocent—as determined as he was to make her his wife.

Thoughts: The back cover blurb lies. Harriet Vane was never engaged to the murder victim in this novel, and that’s the truth. I’m just sayin’.

This, then, is the story where Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane first meet. And it’s brilliant. Not as fantastically brilliant as Murder Must Advertise, Unnatural Death or Whose Body, but still loads better than a lot of things out there.

Here’s a few quotes from Wimsey’s first meeting with Harriet Vane, in which he’s just proposed to her:

“I wish you wouldn’t sound as if you thought it was rather funny. I know I’ve got a silly face, but I can’t help that. As a matter of fact, I’d like somebody I could talk sensibly to, who would make life interesting. And I could give you a lot of plots for your books, if that’s any inducement.”
“But you wouldn’t want a wife who wrote books, would you?”
“But I should; it would be great fun. So much more interesting than the ordinary kind that is only keen on clothes and people. Though of course, clothes and people are all right too, in moderation. I don’t mean to say I object to clothes.”

“People have been wrongly condemned before now.”
“Exactly; simply because I wasn’t there.”
“I never thought of that.”
“Think of it now. You will find it very beautiful and inspiring. It might even help to distinguish me from the other forty-six, if you should happen to mislay my features, or anything. Oh, by the way—I don’t positively repel you or anything like that, do I? Because, if I do, I’ll take my name off the waiting-list at once.”
“No,” said Harriet Vane, kindly and a little sadly. “No, you don’t repel me.”
“I don’t remind you of white slugs or make you go gooseflesh all over?”

“[…] It’s my hobby. Not proposing to people, I don’t mean, but investigating things.

Because this is not the best Wimsey-book, I don’t want to give it an A rating, but since it’s still brilliant and all, a B is a must.


20th May, 2008
Daddy-Long-Legs; Jean Webster
— Love @ 11:33 Comments (1)
Filed under: B, Classics, Decades '08, English, Young Adult

No cover image available Daddy-Long-Legs
by Jean Webster
American

For the Decades ’08 reading challenge (first published 1912).

English
160 pages
J.M. Dent & Sons Ltd/E.P. Dutton & Co. Inc.
ISBN: n/a

First line: The first Wednesday in every month was a Perfectly Awful Day—a day to be awaited with dread, endured with courage and forgotten with haste.

Back cover blurb: n/a

Thoughts: I’ve read Daddy-Long-Legs before, but always in Swedish, so this was a bit like reading it for the first time. I’ve always liked it in Swedish, and I like it even more in the original.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with it, it’s the story of Judy, a girl who’s grown up in an orphanage. Her real name is Jerusha, because the head of the orphanage had a habit of picking first names from head stones (and last names from the phone directory, which is why Judy is an Abbott). When Judy’s eighteen, one of the trustees of the orphanage decides to sponsor her education at college. His only demand on her is that she write him one letter a month, to tell him how she’s doing at school.

In essence, then, it’s a novel in letters. A format that is not always easy to pull off, but that Webster truly excelled at (she wrote other novels in the same style—the sequel to this one, called Dear Enemy, being one of them).

I’m giving this a B grade, in part because the writing is such that I got pulled in, and in part because there is an underlying romance that is lovely, but not too in-your-face and definitely not the only thing in the story. I like that sort of thing.

If you haven’t already read it, do it now! (Or at least soon. If you’re not averse to reading things on the screen, you can find this, and its sequel, at Project Gutenberg.)


20th May, 2008
Doctor Who: I Am a Dalek; Gareth Roberts
— Love @ 11:26 Comments (0)
Filed under: Adventure, C, English, Science Fiction

Doctor Who: I Am a Dalek; Gareth Robert Doctor Who: I Am a Dalek
by Gareth Roberts
British

English
106 pages
BBC Books
ISBN: 0-563-48648-1

First line: Rose checked the seal on her space helmet, then she looked across the TARDIS controls to the Doctor.

Back cover blurb:
Equipped with space suits, golf clubs and a flag, the Doctor and Rose are planning to live it up on the Moon, Apollo-mission style. But the TARDIS has other plans, landing them instead in a village on the south coast of England; a picture-postcard sort of place where nothing much happens… until now.

Archaeologists have dug up a Roman mosaic, dating from the year 70 AD. It shows scenes from ancient myths, bunches of grapes—and a Dalek. A few days later a young woman, rushing to get to work, is knocked over and killed by a bus. Then she comes back to life.

It’s not long before all hell breaks loose, and the Doctor and Rose must use all their courage and cunning against an alien enemy—and a not-quite-alien accomplice—who are intent on destroying humanity.

Thoughts: I had a dream a couple of weeks back that I went to a bookstore to pick up some of the Doctor Who novels and I had the tenth Doctor help me look. It was pretty brilliant, to be honest. When I woke up, I went to my favourite online bookstore and ordered two of the Ten/Rose novels that exist. I didn’t want to order too many at once, in case I decided the writing really, really sucked.

I Am a Dalek is one of the two I ordered. I missed that it was a Quick Reads book at first, but it was decent all the same. Being a Quick Reads book, it was a quick read that left me wanting more. I’m giving it a C rating, which would’ve been a B, had it been a regular book.


20th May, 2008
Sent i november; Tove Jansson
— Love @ 11:22 Comments (0)
Filed under: Adventure, C, Children's lit, Fantasy, Swedish

Sent i november; Tove Jansson Sent i november
by Tove Jansson
Finnish

Swedish
164 pages
Alfabeta
ISBN: 91-501-0473-X

First line: En tidig morgon i Mumindalen vaknade Snusmumriken i sitt tält och kände att det var höst och uppbrott i luften.

Back cover blurb:
Det är höst i Mumindalen. För dem som kommer dit ser allting annorlunda ut, inte riktigt som de hade tänkt sig. Och muminfamiljen tycks inte vara hemma. De som samlas i det tomma muminhuset får försöka bo och leva med varandra bäst de kan. Det är Filifjonkan och Hemulen, Mymlan, Onkelskruttet och den lilla homsan Toft. Långt bortifrån kommer Snusmumriken vandrande tillbaka i dalen där han tappat något mycket viktigt. Ute i trädgården ligger den blå glaskulan på sin pelare och speglar stora förändringar medan mörkret blir tätare omkring dem. Och slutligen en kväll börjar en helt liten men stadig ljuspunkt lysa inne i glaskulan.

Thoughts: In this book, we don’t even meet the Moomins. They are off somewhere (probably on the island they relocated to in Pappan och havet), and other characters move into their house in Moomin valley. Again, it’s a bleak and depressing tale, and most of the people populating the story are unappealing. At least Snufkin hangs around for a greater part of the story.

A C grade is what I give this. It’s not that it’s a bad story, exactly, it’s just that compared to Jansson’s earlier works, I don’t like it at all as much.


20th May, 2008
Pappan och havet; Tove Jansson
— Love @ 11:14 Comments (0)
Filed under: Adventure, C, Children's lit, Fantasy, Swedish

No cover image available Pappan och havet
by Tove Jansson
Finnish

Swedish
203 pages
AWE/Gebers
ISBN: 91-20-06402-0

First line: En obestämd eftermiddag i slutet av augusti gick en pappa omkring i sin trädgård och kände sig onödig.

Back cover blurb:
Långt ute i havet låg Ön. Den var så gott som öde. Där fanns en fyr, men den var släckt. På en udde bodde en fiskare, men han teg. Till denna ö förde pappan sin familj, som han ville beskydda och försvara.
Ön var annorlunda. Den var något helt annat än Mumindalen, där allting var som det skulle.
Sanningen att säga höll det på att bli ganska förfärligt på ön. Den var nära att förvandla alla — utom lilla My. Och orsaken var havet, som man inte kunde förstå sig på.
Vad som behövdes var en storm, en bärgningsbragd och att fyren tändes igen. Havet hade kanske dålig karaktär, men det var en bra fiende.
Tror du att denna roman handlar bara om muminfamiljen?
Läs den då en gång till — det gör man gärna — så får du se.

Thoughts: This is the second to last of the Moomin novels and gone are the optimistic and happy tones of the previous installments. It’s bleak and depressing, and my favourite character is missing, which is why I don’t rate this one particularly high. The best Moomin books are Trollkarlens hatt (Finn Family Moomintroll) and Farlig Midsommar (Moominsummer Madness). Well, in my opinion, anyway.

Pappan och havet receives a C grade.


19th May, 2008
Det osynliga barnet; Tove Jansson
— Love @ 23:09 Comments (0)
Filed under: Adventure, C, Children's lit, Fantasy, Swedish

No cover image available Det osynliga barnet
by Tove Jansson
Finnish

Swedish
167 pages
AWE/Gebers
ISBN: 91-20-07544-8

First line: En lugn och molnfri kväll i slutet av april kom Snusmumriken så långt norrut att snöfläckarna låg kvar på nordsidan.

Back cover blurb:
Om Snusmumrikens vårvisa och Ti-ti-too,
Homsans hemska äventyr och mote med lilla My,
Filifjonkan som trodde på katastrofer,
Den sista draken i världen, inte större än en tändsticksask,
Hemulen som älskade tystnad och byggde ett nöjesfält,
Det osynliga barnet som blev synligt igen,
Hatifnattarnas hemlighet,
Den lilla plysch-hunden Cedric med topasögonen,
och om Mumintrollens jul under granen i snön

handlar denna underbara bok för alla åldrar.

Thoughts: This is a collection of short stories all featuring one or more characters from the world of the Moomins. The longest of these is the one about the invisible child, which is also the one that’s given its name to the collection.

It’s not the best of Jansson’s works, but it’s more than decent all the same. A C rating is in order.


18th May, 2008
Tjuvlyssnat; Damon Rasti & Gloria Hedman
— Love @ 18:34 Comments (1)
Filed under: B, Humour, Non-fiction, Swedish

Tjuvlyssnat; Damon Rasti & Gloria Hedman Tjuvlyssnat
by Damon Rasti and Gloria Hedman
Title translated to English: Eavesdropped
Swedish

Swedish
140 pages
Känguru
ISBN: 978-91-85476-61-9

First line: n/a

Back cover blurb:
Vi har alla gjort det: tjuvlyssnat på andras samtal.
På tunnelbanan, i kön i mataffären, på ett café—det går helt enkelt inte att låta bli. Att tjuvlyssna är mer än ett behov. Det är en livsstil, ett folknöje, en del av samtidskulturen. Men vad är det egentligen de säger?
Sedan ett år tillbaka finns några av de bästa tjuvlyssningarna publicerade på sajten tjuvlyssnat.se. Men de allra bästa är sparade till denna bok. Här blandas högt och lågt, humor och allvar, det personliga med det allmängiltiga.

Thoughts: Tjuvlyssnat.se is basically the Swedish version of Overheard in New York and similar sites. I read the site pretty much every day and today I ran out of reading material on the train and decided to buy the first book of collected Tjuvlyssnat gems to help pass the time.

It’s hilarious most of the time, which earns it a B grade, but it’s not exactly something that sticks in your mind.

Can I just say also that I will never again read fourteen books in a single week without writing reviews after each one? Because writing fourteen catch-up reviews in a single evening is hell, even if the reviews are short and utter crap like mine.


18th May, 2008
Trollvinter; Tove Jansson
— Love @ 18:30 Comments (2)
Filed under: Adventure, B, Children's lit, Fantasy, Swedish

No cover image available Trollvinter
by Tove Jansson
Title in English: Moominland Midwinter
Finnish

Swedish
131 pages
AWE/Gebers
ISBN: 91-20-07551-0

First line: Himlen var nästan svart men snön var klarblå i månskenet.

Back cover blurb:
Det är inte lätt att vakna ur sitt vinteride i januari och inte kunna somna om.
Mumintrollet var det mumintroll som nånsin upplevat vintern, och i början var han förfärligt ensam i det sovande. Men småningom befolkades hans dal med vinterns hemlighetsfulla varelser, och den här boken handlar om hur han försökte klara sig med dem och den främmande iskalla värld han ramlat in i.

Very short synopsis in English: The Moomins normally hibernate during the winter months, but this year Moomintroll wakes up in January and finds the world a changed place, with strange creatures and new people who aren’t out in summer.

Thoughts: This book has no Snufkin (except there is a letter from him and Moomintroll occasionally thinks of him), but it’s still quite brilliant. A B grade.


18th May, 2008
Farlig midsommar; Tove Jansson
— Love @ 18:23 Comments (1)
Filed under: A, Adventure, Children's lit, Decades '08, Fantasy, Swedish

Farlig midsommar; Tove Jansson Farlig midsommar
by Tove Jansson
Title in English: Moominsummer Madness
Finnish

For the Decades ’08 reading challenge (first published 1954).

Swedish
146 pages
Alfabeta
ISBN: 91-501-0478-0

First line: Mumintrollets mamma satt på trappan i solskenet och riggade en barkbåt.

Back cover blurb:
Där kommer en teater på drift och med den driver muminfamiljen in i en midsommarnatt som är full av trolldom och överraskning, av nya vänner och fiender.
Vet ni att hattifnattar kommer ur frö och att man måste så dem på midsommarnatten? Har ni nånsin borrat hål genom ert eget golv eller sett en självlysande parkvakt? Och är ni medvetna om hur hemskt farligt det är att vissla på teatern?
Det här är en berättelse om vad som hände i den magiska månaden juni samma år som det eldsprutande berget rörde på sig och Mumintrollets mamma gjorde sin vackraste barkbåt.

Very short synopsis in English: After a huge wave floods Moomin Valley, the Moomins make their escape to a floating theatre.

Thoughts: I love Snufkin. I kind of always have. He’s fantastic and I’m terribly sorry to those who don’t read Swedish, because I am going to post some quotes and they are amazing but you won’t be able to tell. Woe is you.

Skräm dem med Mårran föreslog hon. Det gör min syster.
Blir du snäll då? frågade Snusmumriken.
Naturligtvis inte! sa Lilla My och skrattade så att hon ramlade omkull.

Förmårrade ungar! sa Snusmumriken som stod och tvättade deras strumpor vid husknuten. Har ni glömt att vi tjärade taket i morse? Vill ni att jag ska överge er, kasta mig i sjön eller slå ihjäl er?
Ingetdera! skrek ungarna och drog honom i rocken. Du ska läsa ditt brev!

There’s another quote from Snufkin that I love, but I forget which book it’s from. No matter, I shall insert it here and pretend I’m doing it just because I was talking about him anyway.

One can never be entirely free, if one admires someone else too much.

That is a very wise thing to say, indeed.

Farlig midsommar receives an A grade as well, because it deserves it.


17th May, 2008
Trollkarlens hatt; Tove Jansson
— Love @ 18:16 Comments (1)
Filed under: A, A-Z Reading Challenge, Adventure, Children's lit, Fantasy, Swedish

Trollkarlens hatt; Tove Jansson Trollkarlens hatt
by Tove Jansson
Title in English: Finn Family Moomintroll
Finnish

For the A-Z reading challenge.

Swedish
158 pages
Alfabeta
ISBN: 91-501-0479-9

First line: En grå morgon föll den första snön över Mumindalen.

Back cover blurb:
Den här berättelsen börjar med trolldom en tidig vårmorgon och slutar en varm augustinatt som aldrig kommer att glömmas i Mumindalen. Däremellan ligger Mumintrollets långa sommar, full av solsken och åskväder. Den kunde ha varit som en vanlig sommar med upptäckter av nya öar, med långrevsfiske i duggregn och lyckliga bad i bränningarna och hemlighetsfulla nattvandringar—men så hittade muminfamiljen Trollkarlens hatt. Och efter det var ingenting som vanligt längre.
Farlighet och spänning hade kommit in i dalen och tassade hotfullt kring deras hus. Varje dag händr otroliga och upprörande saker—de hade med andra ord aldrig haft så roligt förr!
Det här är historien om små och stora kryp och om glada händelser och hemska händelser som alltid måste vara hopblandade för att ens sommar ska bli riktig och underbar.

Very short synopsis in English: After the Moomins find a peculiar hat, their summer turns into a strange one.

Thoughts: MOOMINS! =D Coherence has gone right out the window, sorry.

This is basically amazing and possibly my favourite Moomin book. Read it! (Banquo says it better.)

An A rating, yes.


17th May, 2008
Från en annan planet; Tamara Bach
— Love @ 18:13 Comments (1)
Filed under: B, Fiction, GLBT interest, Swedish, Young Adult

Från en annan planet; Tamara Bach Från en annan planet
by Tamara Bach
Original title: Marsmädchen
German

Swedish
168 pages
Berghs
ISBN: 91-502-1541-8

First line: Mitt namn är Miriam.

Back cover blurb:
“Laura och jag bredvid varandra på väg mot klassrummet. Steg, andas in, steg, andas ut. Lagom takt. Ska jag säga nåt? Hålla tyst? Andas. Där framme är dörren och jag kan inte göra nåt utom att gå, andas gå. Och jag vågar inte se på henne.”

Om Miriam 15 år, som bor i en småstad där det aldrig händer något. Men när Laura börjar i hennes klass förändras allt. Miriam har äntligen hittat en vän, och vänskapen övergår till kärlek.

Very short synopsis in English: Miriam is fifteen and lives in a small town. Laura is new in her class and they become friends, and maybe more.

Thoughts: This is the first lesbian-related YA novel I’ve read and properly liked. Still can’t remember one with a decently upbeat ending, though. Everyone always moves away. Or dies.

Either way, read it if you find it. I think it’s called Girl from Mars in English.

A B rating.


17th May, 2008
Lugn för dej, Gelika; Olga Wikström
— Love @ 18:10 Comments (1)
Filed under: A-Z Reading Challenge, D, Historical, Swedish

No cover image available Lugn för dej, Gelika
by Olga Wikström
Swedish

For the A-Z reading challenge.

Swedish
204 pages
Bokförlaget Settern
ISBN: 91-7586-051-1

First line: Hon levde i en värld där allt fanns ovanför henne.

Back cover blurb:
Hon heter Gelika. Hon är en vallonflicka, mörk, ful tycker hon själv. Gelika bor på en stor gård i Värmland. Fadern, den älskade, har övergett möbelkonsten för lantbruket, därför att hustrun vill det. Någon riktigt bra bonde blir han inte. Han lever upp då han arbetar i trä. Han är och förblir en konstnärsnatur.
“Ska vi dansa, Singoalla?” frågar studenten. Han och Gelika dansar bort i vägen, som en gång Frödings ungdomar. “Vem är Singoalla?” undrar Gelika. En dag vet hon det, men då har mycket hänt och Gelika känner att vingarna bär. Hon är en skönhet och hon är på väg ut.

Very short synopsis in English: Gelika is a farmer’s daughter and, in her own mind, quite ugly. This is the story of her growing up, of the tragedies that strike, and the realisation that she’s not so bad-looking after all.

Thoughts: I was quite disappointed in this. The back cover blurb made it sound like it would be about something else than it was. Well, actually, what was on the back cover blurb did happen in the book, but made up maybe one fifth of the entire novel, whilst the blurb made it seem like it would be the majority.

I don’t like being disappointed, and besides it wasn’t very good anyway, so a D grade.


14th May, 2008
Ior och hästarna; Renata Wrede
— Love @ 18:08 Comments (1)
Filed under: Biographies, C, Fiction, Swedish

No cover image available Ior och hästarna
by Renata Wrede
Title translated to English: Eeyore and the horses
Swedish

Swedish
133 pages
Forum
ISBN: 91-37-06412-6

First line: Vi låtsas inte om, känns inte vid, vill inte medvetet medge den mänskliga faktorns existens, i alla fall inte hur stark den är, trots att den är det starkaste vi har, den är starkare än vi.

Back cover blurb:
“Kärleken till hästar har många namn: mani, passion, snobbism, dårskap eller lyte”, säger Renata Wrede i denna entusiastiska bok om ett livs hästupplevelser. Själv kallar hon det alltså kärlek.
Ior och hästarna är en lovsång till hästen och prisar samarbetet mellan häst och människa. Den är fylld av glädje och beundran.
Renata Wrede berättar om hästar som hon känt, vårdat, tävlat med eller bara ridit. Hon skildrar hästar med personlighet: Courbette, U-17, Naseva, Herr Hildeberg och andra. Glimtar från krigstidens sjukstall, från tävlingsbanor—Kviberg, Skabersjö, Niinisalo, Rom—från skånska och finska landskap utgör bakgrunden till dessa intensivt livfulla porträtt av hästen som kamrat och medarbetare—och av människorna i sadeln.

Very short synopsis in English: Renata Wrede writes about horses she’s known in her life.

Thoughts: Decent book about one woman’s love of horses. I used to read this kind of book by the dozen when I was younger. A C grade.


13th May, 2008
Drakvinter; Elvira Birgitta Holm
— Love @ 18:06 Comments (1)
Filed under: D, Fiction, GLBT interest, Swedish, Young Adult

Drakvinter; Elvira Birgitta Holm Drakvinter
by Elvira Birgitta Holm
Title translated to English: Dragon Winter
Swedish

Swedish
186 pages
Bonnier Carlsen
ISBN: 91-638-3847-8

First line: Hjälp!

Back cover blurb:
Plötsligt slog Madeleine armarna om Bim, drog in henne i famnen så att hennes ansikte pressades mot Madeleines hals, hon kunde känna Madeleines bröst mot sina nyckelben, doften av mandel från Madeleines hud.
Bim ville slita sig loss, hon ville stå kvar, nej, hon visste inte vad hon ville. De stod där orörliga.

Akta dig för vargarna, hade Madeleine sagt. Men Bim hade inte kunnat göra någonting för att skydda henne.

Very short synopsis in English: Bim is thirteen and kind of lonely. Madeleine, who used to be her enemy, suddenly takes a special interest and things change. Especially after that fateful New Year’s Eve.

Thoughts: This was kind of boring, to be honest, so it doesn’t get more than a D grade.


13th May, 2008
Ser mitt huvud tjockt ut i den här?; Randa Abdel-Fattah
— Love @ 18:00 Comments (0)
Filed under: C, Fiction, Swedish, Young Adult

Ser mitt huvud tjockt ut i den här?; Randa Abdel-Fattah Ser mitt huvud tjockt ut i den här?
by Randa Abdel-Fattah
Original title: Does My Head Look Big in This?
Australian

Swedish
350 pages
Bonnier Carlsen
ISBN: 978-91-638-5367-8

First line: Det slog mig under ett intensivpass på löpbandet därhemma medan jag tittade på en Vänner-repris för nittonde gången eller så.

Back cover blurb:
High school är tufft nog utan slöja…

Vad ska mina klasskompisar säga när jag kommer till skolan med slöja för första gången? Gissa om de kommer att freaka ut. Det skulle vara lättare att gå in i klassrummet naken. Har jag blivit en religiös fanatiker? Att bli den första tjejen med slöja kommer att stämpla mig som tidernas största loser.

Och vad ska Adam säga?

Amals beslut att bärja [sic] slöja kräver mycket mod. Klarar hon av att stå emot alla fördomar, behålla sina kompisar och få skolans snyggaste kille att tycka att hon är läcker?

Thoughts: I’ve seen this talked about all over the place, so when I randomly saw it at the library, I took it home with me. And it’s a good story. It’s not your typical YA novel in some ways, but in other ways it is completely.

A C grade is reasonable, and I’d say more about it, except I’ve fallen behind on my so-called reviews and when you have fourteen to do to catch up, well, you don’t have the energy to say much about each one (at least I don’t!).


12th May, 2008
Bananflugornas herre; Fredrik Eklund
— Love @ 18:05 Comments (0)
Filed under: C, Fiction, GLBT interest, Swedish

Bananflugornas herre; Fredrik Eklund Bananflugornas herre
by Fredrik Eklund
Title translated to English: Lord of the Fruitflies
Swedish

Swedish
152 pages
Debutantförlaget
ISBN: 91-974438-4-0

First line: “Ever thought of doing movies?”

Back cover blurb:
“Ever thought of doing movies?”

Jag stirrade på skärmen utan att förstå. Avsändaren var Male Eagles. Om mamma eller pappa hade ringt på mobilen och sagt att middagen var klar. Om Joel hade velat gå ut och dricka öl. Om staden bara hade visat mig en enda glimt av vad jag förväntade mig i livet. Då hade jag aldrig gjort porr.

Bananflugornas herre tar oss med på en resa in det förbjudna tillsammans med en sökande och stolt huvudperson. En som vill befria sig från omgivningens konventioner, visa sina fjädrar för hela världen, finna sanningen på sitt sätt. Det är en bok om att skapa sig själv, om utanförskap och homosexualitet, om modet att välja.

Very short synopsis in English: A novel about a young Swedish man, on a journey, both physical and mental, to start doing gay porn in the US.

Thougths: I started this fairly late at night and realised immediately I wouldn’t put it down until I’d finished it. Luckily, it was a pretty short novel, so the impact it had on my sleep was minimal. Minimal is also the impact it has had on me since I finished it. It’s only a week ago as I write this, but I can’t remember the name of the main character no matter how hard I try (it might possibly be Jonas).

It was decent enough, I don’t deny that, but it’s not a book you remember very well after and none of the characters were once I fell completely in love with. Still, it earns a C. Could have been better, but could also have been so much worse.


12th May, 2008
Allting som är trevligt är bra för magen; Tove Jansson
— Love @ 17:54 Comments (1)
Filed under: C, Children's lit, Fiction, Swedish

Allting som är trevligt är bra för magen; Tove Jansson Allting som är trevligt är bra för magen
by Tove Jansson
Finnish

Swedish
92 pages
Schildts
ISBN: 951-50-1301-1

First line: Det är underligt med vägar och floder, funderade Sniff, man ser dem gå förbi och får en hemsk list att vara nån annanstans.

Back cover blurb:
Tove Janssons muminböcker är en outtömlig källa till skratt, insikter och igenkännande. Citaten i Allting som är trevligt är bra för magen är valda ur de åtta textböckerna från Kometen kommer till Sent i november. Citaten speglar varje boks speciella stämning och karaktärer, men samtidigt är de underbart allmängiltiga och träffande. I sin korta form ger de uttryck för den osvikliga humor och livshållning som är muminvärldens särmärke.

Very short synopsis in English: The Moomin-books are a source of many a good quote. Here is a collection of some of them.

Thoughts: A cute collection of quotes from the Moomin books, this gets a C grade.


12th May, 2008
Kårnulf Was Here; Josefine Adolfsson
— Love @ 17:49 Comments (0)
Filed under: B, Biographies, Fiction, Swedish

Kårnulf Was Here; Josefine Adolfsson Kårnulf Was Here
by Josefine Adolfsson
Swedish

Swedish
167 pages
Bokförlaget Atlas
ISBN: 91-7389-132-0

First line: När jag och min tonårsbästis Anna är femton, flyttar hon hem till en trettio år äldre man som heter Charles.

Back cover blurb:
“När jag och min tonårsbästis Anna är femton, flyttar hon hem till en trettio år äldre man som heter Charles. Vi sitter ofta i soffan på hans inglasade veranda och äter chokladkladdkaka och sköljer ner Valium, Stesolid, Sobril och Rohypnol tillsammans med te och honung. Vi håller alltid varandra i handen när vi somnar.”

Så börjar Kårnulf Was Here—en dokumentär roman om det som skaver. Det handlar om människor som på olika sätt försöker att skaffa sig en plats i samhället men som hamnar utanför ramarna. Moa som knaprar Valium för att klara av att gå på svenskalektioner, Ida som drömmer om att bli aupair hos Madonna och Cecilia som föredrar att gömma sig hos torskar som misshandlar henne framför att hamna på institution.

Kårnulf är en reaktion på en vuxenvärld som abdikerat och ett samhälle som föredrar att förenkla. Men Kårnulf är också motstånd, lust, kärlek, nyfikenhet och vänskap. Ett försök att skapa ett eget utrymme och hantera känslan av att det finns något som skulle vara förutbestämt eller normalt, något som man själv inte har tillgång till.

Kårnulf Was Here är en hembygdsskildring från Sverige.

Very short synopsis in English: Moa and her best friend Anna start doing drugs at the age of fourteen. This is fact-based fiction telling their story.

Thoughts: This was a quick read, but one that left a bad taste in my mouth. Not because the writing sucked or because I didn’t think it was interesting, but because of the subject matter and what these girl have lived through.

As always, non-fiction (even if this technically isn’t that. It’s fact-based fiction, which, though close, isn’t the same thing) is hard to rate. A B grade is what it ends up with.


12th May, 2008
Bögslungan; Per Alexandersson
— Love @ 17:44 Comments (2)
Filed under: C, Fiction, GLBT interest, Swedish, Young Adult

Bögslungan; Per Alexandersson Bögslungan
by Per Alexandersson
Swedish

Swedish
136 p
LL-förlaget
ISBN: 978-91-7053-187-3

First line: Max ligger helt utmattad i sin säng, med huvudet djupt i kudden.

Back cover blurb:
Det är veckan innan nian slutar. Nu händer allt. Bråk ställs på sin spets och kompisar blir fiender. Det gäller att inte bära väskan på fel sätt, ha på sig fel kläder eller säga något klumpigt. Minsta felsteg och du går från cool till mobbad. När Max äntligen får en tjej blir han lycklig, men är han verkligen kär i henne?

Max blir livrädd när han börjar tänka för mycket på Niklas. Är han bög?!

Very short synopsis in English: It’s one week until the end of ninth grade and it’s never been as important to fit in as it is now. Max fights with his best friend, gets a girlfriend and starts to have strange feelings for Niklas, the bullied kid in school.

Thoughts: This was the winner in a contest held by LL-förlaget, a publisher specialising in books that are easy to read, for those who perhaps aren’t that good at reading (yet). The reason I read it was because it came up when I did a search on ‘homosexuality’ in the library database. It was so new, apparently, that they hadn’t even had time to put in in the ‘Just in’ case.

It’s a pretty cute story, but nothing terribly special, so the rating is a C one.


12th May, 2008
Kometen kommer; Tove Jansson
— Love @ 17:38 Comments (1)
Filed under: A-Z Reading Challenge, Adventure, B, Children's lit, Fantasy, Swedish

No cover image available Kometen kommer
by Tove Jansson
Title in English: Comet in Moominland
Finnish

For the A-Z reading challenge.

Swedish
150 pages
AWE/Gebers
ISBN: 91-20-07546-4

First line: Samma morgon som mumintrollets pappa fick bron över floden färdig gjorde det lilla djuret Sniff en upptäckt.

Back cover blurb:
Sommaren är som den brukar i Mumintrollets dal, varm och full av hemliga möjligheter.
Det lilla djuret Sniff har hittat en egen grotta, en mycket stor händelse.
Men sent på natten kommer stormen…
Om man är mycket liten är det svårt att fatta att världsrymden är kolsvart och aldrig slutar och att jorden är en försvinnande liten gnista av liv. Plötsligt—långt ute i mörkret—lyser ett rött öga, det blir större dag för dag.
Det är kometen som kommer närmare och närmare Mumindalen! Himlen är röd och havet kryper längst ner i sina hålor, vartenda knytt packar ihop sina saker och flyr. Men Snusmumriken tog sin munharmonika och spelade visan om äventyr som inte är lagom stora utan alldeles kolossala, och så gav de sig rakt ut i farligheten.
Följ med!

Very short synopsis in English: It’s the middle of summer and a comet is heading for Moomin Valley. Moomintroll and Sniff decide to journey to the observatory to ask the Professor about the comet. On their way, they make new friends.

Thoughts: It’s been ages since I last read the Moomin books (actually, I don’t think I’ve actually read them myself before, but have always had them read to me), but they still hold up now. My favourite character is Snufkin, who is the rebel who doesn’t like owning things and sometimes just needs to be alone with his thoughts and his pipe.

Kometen kommer receives a B grade.


11th May, 2008
Atonement; Ian McEwan
— Love @ 16:31 Comments (3)
Filed under: C, English, Historical

Atonement; Ian McEwan Atonement
by Ian McEwan
British

English
481 pages
Anchor Books
ISBN: 978-0-307-38884-1

First line: The play—for which Briony had designed the posters, programs and tickets, constructed the sales booth out of a folding screen tipped on its side, and lined the collection box in red crêpe paper—was written by her in a two-day tempest of composition, causing her to miss a breakfast and a lunch.

Back cover blurb:
On a summer day in 1935, young Briony Tallis witnesses a moment’s flirtation between her older sister, Cecilia, and Robbie Turner, the son of a servant. But Briony’s misunderstanding of adult motives and her precocious imagination bring about a crime that will change all their lives, a crime whose repercussions Atonement follows through the chaos and carnage of World War II and into the close of the 20th century.

Thoughts: My god, this novel made me sad. It was good, though, if a little slow to get into. I much preferred part two over part one, because that one covered ground more quickly. Part one tells the events of two or three days, while part two tells the events of at least a couple of months. I’m not a huge fan of all that slow stuff, to be honest.

The rating is a C. It would have been higher if I’d enjoyed the language more.

I’m still trying to decide if I should watch the film. Part of me wants to, but part of me is also very much anti Keira Knightley, which is making watching the film seem like less of a good idea.


6th May, 2008
Hästen från Porten; Carina Burman
— Love @ 15:40 Comments (0)
Filed under: B, GLBT interest, Historical, Mystery, Swedish

Hästen från Porten; Carina Burman Hästen från Porten
by Carina Burman
Swedish

Swedish
354 pages
Albert Bonniers Förlag
ISBN: 978-91-0-011729-0

First line: För andra gången kom jag till Philadelphia.

Back cover blurb:
Han hette Djinn. Åtminstone var det så hon kallade honom, succéförfattarinnan Euthanasia Bondeson, när de möttes i den syriska öknen.
Det fanns varken lugn eller inspiration där i hettan, där sanden letade sig in överallt och städerna mest bestod av ruiner. Återigen måste Euthanasia Bondeson utreda ett försvinnande. Sökandet leder henne till den myllrande storstaden Konstantinopel, på gränsen mellan väst och öst.
I ökensol och bland mörka gränder möter Euthanasia mystiska resenärer, tvetydiga poliser och tillmötesgående haremsdamer. Det är mars 1853, och den nyfikna författarinnans svärmeri för antiken måste stå tillbaka för den alltmer påträngande politiken. Under andningspauserna mellan överfall och utredningar gör hon även förvånande fynd inom erotiken—men ingenting förbryllar så som Djinn, den vackraste arabhästen av dem alla.

Very short synopsis in English: Euthanasia Bondeson, amateur detective and writer of fiction, has left Europe for the Middle East. In the Syrian desert, she meets Djinn, the most gorgeous of horses, who soon thereafter disappears. Stolen, as far as anyone can tell, but why and by whom? Miss Bondeson’s investigations take her back to the border between East and West, to Constantinople, where she suddenly finds herself involved in political intrigue.

Thoughts: I’ve been waiting for this book. I would’ve got it the second it was published, if I hadn’t made that month one of the two of my embargo on book buying. The moment the embargo was lifted, however, I made it down to the bookshop to procure it. Of course, they didn’t have it in, so I had them place a special order and the week after I popped ’round to pick it up (at a discounted price, I might add).

I then proceeded to read it in one sitting. Now, it’s not as good as my favourite in the series (Babylons gator, now out in English as The Streets of Babylon, which is set in London, 1853 and has molly houses and all sorts of other good stuff), but it’s still more than just okay. An old favourite of mine, from the first book, is back, which was nice, and even though this installment is not quite as queer as the previous two, it still has its moments.

Now, I’m not sure if it was intentional, or if it’s just my mind going places it shouldn’t, but I get disturbing “sailor and his goat”-vibes à la Patrick O’Brian’s Master and Commander from a certain character. Probably it’s just my mind. I certainly hope so. (Talk about omnisexual, though.)

What else? There is a wonderful moment of not-so-subtle mocking of Jan Guillou’s Arn books (which I don’t ever plan on reading—yuck!) that had me laughing out loud.

To conclude: yes, good book! (a B rating, methinks), but not quite queer enough (though certainly queerer than I was lead to expect by other reviews) and if the author ever finds out about my sailor and his goat”-vibes, I shall be most cross. I’m just sayin’.


6th May, 2008
My War: Killing Time in Iraq; Colby Buzzell
— Love @ 15:30 Comments (1)
Filed under: B, Biographies, English

My War: Killing Time in Iraq; Colby Buzzell My War: Killing Time in Iraq
by Colby Buzzell
American

English
358 pages
Berkley Caliber
ISBN: 0-425-21136-3

First line: Kids from the suburbs don’t really join the military.

Back cover blurb:
Colby Buzzell traded a dead-end future for the army—and ended up as a machine gunner in Iraq. To make sense of the absurd and frightening events surrounding him, he started writing a blog about the war—and how it differed from the government’s official version. But as his blog’s popularity grew, Buzzell became the embedded reporter the army couldn’t control—despite its often hilarious efforts to do so.

The result is an extraordinary narrative, rich with unforgettable scenes: the Iraqi woman crying uncontrollably during a raid on her home; the soldier too afraid to fight; the troops chain-smoking in a guard tower and counting tracer rounds; the first fierce firefight against the “men in black.” Drawing comparisons to everything from Charles Bukowski to Catch-22‘s Yossarian, My War depicts a generation caught in a complicated and dangerous world—and marks the debut of a raw, remarkable new voice.

Thoughts: You’ll have to forgive me for being briefer even than usual in this review, but I don’t quite know what to say about this book. It was interesting as all that, and I quite liked Buzzell’s language, but he seemed sometimes so completely removed from me and my world that I didn’t know what to make of him (and sometimes he was closer, such as when he mentioned music and really digging The Smiths/Morrissey).

The book is based on Buzzell’s blog (http://cbftw.blogspot.com), but seems to be much more than just the blog entries transfered onto a book page. In the end, I liked it enough for a B rating and I don’t mind recommending it to others.


5th May, 2008
I Am America (And So Can You!); Stephen Colbert
— Love @ 21:17 Comments (3)
Filed under: A-Z Reading Challenge, B, English, Humour, Politics, Religion, Sex, sexuality & gender

I Am America (And So Can You!); Stephen Colbert I Am America (And So Can You!)
by Stephen Colbert
American

For the A-Z reading challenge.

English
iPod audiobook

First line: Hi, I’m Stephen Colbert and I am no fan of books.

Back cover blurb:
Realizing that it takes more than thirty minutes a night to fix everything that’s destroying America, Colbert bravely takes on the forces aligned to destroy our country — whether they be terrorists, environmentalists, or Kashi brand breakfast cereals. His various targets include nature (“I’ve never trusted the sea. What’s it hiding under there?”), the Hollywood Blacklist (“I would have named enough names to fill the Moscow phone book”), and atheists (“Imagine going through life completely duped into thinking that there’s no invisible, omniscient higher power guiding every action on Earth. It’s just so arbitrary!”). Colbert also provides helpful illustrations and charts (Things That Are Trying to Turn Me Gay) and a complete transcript of his infamous speech at the 2006 White House Correspondents’ Dinner all of which add up to a book that is sure to be a bestseller and match the success of Colbert’s former Daily Show boss Jon Stewart’s America (The Book).

Thoughts: I recently decided that I really need to get fitter and as a step in the right direction, I’ve started going for walks with audiobooks on my iPod. I can’t listen to them unless I’m out for a walk (or, as time goes by, a run), which I’m hoping will be a bit like killing two birds with one stone—I get fitter and I get some reading done, all at the same time!

Works great so far. I Am America (And So Can You!) was the first book I picked. It’s just over three and a half hours long and I finished listening to it in three walks. Or, in other words: the plan worked! I wanted to go out walking so I’d get to hear the next part of the book, which I found really amusing (worthy of a B rating, actually).

Exercise and audiobooks really are the ideal combination. My only problem is that I can’t figure out how to count these in my book stats, as page counts are a vital part of them, and that doesn’t quite work with the spoken word. I’m sure I’ll figure something out at some point, though.


4th May, 2008
102 minuter: den sanna berättelsen om kampen för överlevnad inne i World Trade Center; Jim Dwyer & Kevin Flynn
— Love @ 20:38 Comments (0)
Filed under: B, History, Swedish

102 minuter: den sanna berättelsen om kampen för överlevnad inne i World Trade Center; Jim Dwyer & Kevin Flynn 102 minuter: den sanna berättelsen om kampen för överlevnad inne i World Trade Center
by Jim Dwyer and Kevin Flynn
Original title: 102 Minutes: The Untold Story of the Fight to Survive inside the Twin Towers
American

Swedish
427 pages
Bra Böcker
ISBN: 91-7002-370-0

First line: Under 102 minuter på morgonen den 11 september 2001 slogs 14 000 människor för livet i World Trade Center.

Back cover blurb:
At 8.46 am on September 11, 2001, 14,000 people were inside the Twin Towers in New York — reading emails, making calls, eating croissants… over the next 102 minutes each would become part of a drama for the ages, one truly witnessed only by the people who lived through it — until now. Of the millions of words written about that unforgettable day, most have been from outsiders. New York Times reporters Jim Dwyer and Kevin Flynn have taken the more revealing approach — reporting solely from the perspective of those inside the towers, 102 Minutes is the epic count of ordinary men and women, and includes incredible stories of bravery, courage, and overcoming unbelievable odds including the construction manager and his colleagues who pried open the doors and saved dozens of people in the north tower; the police officer who was a few blocks away, filing his retirement papers, but grabbed his badge and sprinted to the buildings; the window washer stuck in a lift fifty floors up who used a squeegee to escape; and the secretaries who led an elderly man down eighty-nine flights of stairs.

Chance encounters, moments of grace, a shout across an office shaped these minutes, marking the border between fear and solace, staking the boundary between life and death. Crossing a bridge of voices to go inside the infernos seeing cataclysm and herosim one person at a time, Dwyer and Flynn tell the affecting, authoritative saga of the men and women — the 12,000 who escaped and the 2,749 who perished — as they made 102 minutes count as never before.
(This text refers to an edition other than the one I read.)

Thoughts: This was one of the books I got in the book sale this year and this morning, when I woke up at five am with terrible cramps, it was one of four books I brought into my bedroom to try to keep my mind off the cramps, before the ibuprofen and paracetamol had time to work their magic. The plan was to read a chapter in each book and then decide which one to continue in. What happened was I picked up 102 Minutes, read a chapter, then read another chapter, until I found it was nearly seven o’clock and I was about a hundred pages in. I went back to sleep again then, and when I woke up again later, I picked the book right up and finished it.

It’s a good book, though a horrifying read, and cried for parts of it. It was hard not to, reading what those people went through, and given the fact that if things had been different — organised differently, built differently, communicated differently — it might not have been a disaster on such a massive scale.

A B rating, though as always I find it hard to rate non-fiction.


1st May, 2008
Rockabilly: en bok om de sista romantikerna; Josefin Ekman
— Love @ 17:26 Comments (1)
Filed under: B, Fashion, History, Lifestyle, Music, Swedish

Rockabilly: en bok om de sista romantikerna; Josefin Ekman Rockabilly: en bok om de sista romantikerna
by Josefin Ekman
Title translated to English: Rockabilly: a book about the last romantics
Swedish

Swedish
263 pages
Atlas förlag
ISBN: 978-91-7389-303-9

First line: I juli 1959 reste den amerikanske vicepresidenten Richard Nixon till Moskva för att öppna American National Exhibition, en utställning om de tekniska och materiella framsteg som USA gjort.

Back cover blurb: n/a

Very short synopsis in English: This book is a report on the state of rockabilly today, mainly concentrating on Sweden, but briefly dealing with the US as well. A book about those whose passion in life is rockabilly—the music, the cars, the style.

Thoughts: I’ve had a fascination with the rockabilly style for a couple of years now, so when I saw this book I knew I had to read it sooner or later. It was an interesting work of non-fiction and I learnt a thing or two—apparently, true rockabilly fans absolutely abhor psychobilly (personally, I really like psychobilly), and (this was news to me) rockabilly is more alive and kicking in Sweden than almost anywhere else. I had no idea! (In other words: if this is true, why do I almost never see anyone with a quiff?)

Ekman’s language is well suited for the work and was a big part of why I enjoyed this book as much as I did. A B rating seems perfectly in order. And now I’m off to take a bath and wash my hair. You see, unlike 50’s hairstyles, mine does not stand to go more than a day or two without a wash.


30th April, 2008
Educating Rita; Willy Russell
— Love @ 17:15 Comments (1)
Filed under: B, English, Plays

Educating Rita Educating Rita
by Willy Russell
British

English
123 pages
New Longman Literature
ISBN: 0-582-43445-9

First line: I was born in Whiston, which is just outside Liverpool.

Back cover blurb:
Rita feels that life is passing her by. She wants an education but does Frank, her lecturer, have anything to teach her? Willy Russell’s play is a hilarious yet moving account of a young woman’s determination to change her life.

Thoughts: I’ve read Russell’s The Wrong Boy previously, and it’s one of my favourite books, so when I found this play of his in the bookshop I knew I had to have it. Plus, it was cheap, which was another reason to indulge (this thus failing my two-month no-new-books embargo. At least it was on the last day of the two months).

I wasn’t disappointed. Russell is funny and I really liked this play. I did wonder, though, if perhaps the language had been modified to suit the “14-18 year olds of all abilities” that the back cover says this printing is for. Not that it matters much, since it was still enjoyable. Plus, there’s an intro from Willy Russell himself and that was a nice touch.

I’m giving the play a B grade and declare this my come-back to reading.


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.


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.


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
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).


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
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.


24th February, 2008
Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead; Tom Stoppard
— Love @ 23:04 Comments (3)
Filed under: A-Z Reading Challenge, B, Decades '08, English, Humour, Plays

No cover image available Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead
by Tom Stoppard
British

For the Decades ’08 (first performed in 1967) and the A-Z reading challenges.

English
77 pages
e-book

First line: “Heads.”

Back cover blurb: n/a

Thoughts: A couple of years ago I saw bits and pieces of the 1991 film adaption of this play. I don’t remember a lot of it, just that it seemed totally absurd and quite funny. Exactly what my thoughts on the play are, in fact. It’s so completely bizarre and absolutely hilarious — I loved it.

Rosencrantz: Shouldn’t we be doing something — constructive?
Guildenstern: What did you have in mind?… A short, blunt human pyramid…?

R: Would you like to play Questions?
G: How do you play?
R: You have to ask a question.
G: Statement! One – love.
R: Cheating!
G: How?
R: I hadn’t started yet.
G: Statement. Two – love.
R: Are you counting that?
G: What?
R: Are you counting that?
G: Foul! No repetitions. Three – love. First game to…

Reading the script was in other words a nice experience (one that warrants a B in my way of thinking), but my plan now is to hunt down the film once more and actually, properly watch it this time.

As a small morsel of trivia, I can tell you that the street I live on is named after Rosencrantz. In case anyone else thinks that’s as neat as I do.


24th February, 2008
Postcards from No Man’s Land; Aidan Chambers
— Love @ 20:34 Comments (4)
Filed under: A, English, Fiction, GLBT interest, YA Challenge 2008, Young Adult

Postcards from No Man's Land; Aidan Chambers Postcards from No Man’s Land
by Aidan Chambers
British

For the Young Adult reading challenge.

English
312 pages
Speak
ISBN: 0-14-240145-5

First line: Not knowing his way around, he set off back the way he had come.

Back cover blurb:
Jacob’s plan is to go to Amsterdam to honour his grandfather who died during World War II. He hopes to go, set flowers on his grandfather’s tombstone, and explore the city. But nothing goes as planned. Jacob isn’t prepared for love — or to face questions about his sexuality. Most of all he isn’t prepared to hear what Geertrui, the woman who nursed his grandfather during the war, has to say about their relationship. Geertrui has always been known as Jacob’s grandfather’s kind and generous nurse. But it seems that in the midst of terrible danger, Geertrui and Jacob’s grandfather’s time together blossomed into something more than a girl caring for a wounded soldier. And like Jacob, Geertrui was not prepared. Geertrui and Jacob lived worlds apart, but their voices blend together to tell one story — a story that transcends time and place and war.

Thoughts: This year I’ve revisited a lot of books I’ve read previously, but only in Swedish. This is another one of those. Aidan Chambers, I think, has to be one of my favourite authors of fiction for young adults. He deals with some of my favourite topics (if you hadn’t clued into the fact that I like gay-themed stories, then I might as well just come out and say it now. I like gay-themed stories! Young adult ones more than others), but in a quiet sort of way that I absolutely adore. Sometimes I wish he’d be more obvious and outspoken, but if I really think about it, I think I like it best the way it is now. It’s all there if you look for it (and you don’t have to look all that hard), but it’s not glaringly in-your-face either, which I have to say is nice. I like a bit of subtlety now and again.

Like I said, I hadn’t read this book in English before and doing it brought a new dimension or two that I hadn’t noticed before. In the Swedish translation, it wasn’t always so obvious that all the Dutch characters, when speaking English, were not using their mother tongue and that they had a Dutch accent (this was also the case with A Countess Below Stairs. I’d never known, before, that Anna’s accent was so noticeable, simply because it was lost in translation).

It was also a couple of years since I last read Postcards, which, again, brought a fresh perspective. The first time I read it, I wasn’t sold on the gay theme yet (that is not to say that I minded it, though). The second time, I had started to read more gay lit in general, so that part of the story appealed to me more than before, and this time, I have new experiences and views that I hadn’t on the previous occasions, and that made me appreciate the story even more.

“[…] Love is not finite. It is not that we each have a limited supply of it that we can only give to one person at a time. Or that we have one kind of love that can only be given to one person in the whole of our lives. It’s a ridiculous thing to think so. I love Ton. I sleep with him when we both want it. Or when one of us needs it, even if the other doesn’t want it then. I love Simone—“
“Simone?” Jacob said.
“She was here the other morning when you left. She called out to you. She lives two streets away. Ton and Simone know each other. They were friends before I met them. We’ve talked about it. Ton never sleeps with women. That’s the way he is. Simone only sleeps with me. That’s the way she is. I sleep with them both. That’s the way I am. They both want to sleep with me. That’s how we are. That’s how we want it. If we didn’t, or if any one of us didn’t, then, okay, that’s it. All the stuff about gender. Male, female, queer, bi, feminist, new man, whatever — it’s meaningless. As out of date as marriage forever. I’m tired of hearing about it. We’re beyond that now.”

I was in a relationship at one time that went really bad, because the other party needed more than I could give, and while at the time I was terribly upset and depressed about it, in hindsight, I think that’s acceptable. That is, I think such a situation is acceptable if everyone involved is totally honest about what’s going on and the thing is talked about. In my situation, it wasn’t really, so there were hard feelings, a lot of anger on my side, and hurt feelings also.

Now I’m in a new situation, where the person I’ve fallen for is on another continent entirely and with another person at the same time as they are with me. I’ve never had an issue with this, because all along, between me and them, there’s been complete honesty and I’ve never been lied to. And this other person, my person, if you will, is okay with the fact that I might at some point want to find someone a little closer to me geographically. I might not find such a person, and if I did, they might not be okay with the situation I’m in, in which case I’m going to have to make decisions based on that. But that’s just how I feel. Everyone’s different, and different things are right for different people.

“[…] I’m not sure I’m — I dunno — strong enough. Brave enough. Not like you and Daan.”
Ton gave a little huffing laugh. “Bravery it isn’t! It’s just how we believe life should be. Not for everyone. But for us. And people who think like us. We’re learning how to live it while we live it. What else is worth doing?”

I’m pretty sure that told you more than you ever wanted to know about me, but can I help it that the book touched me so? ;D

I don’t like all of it, though. The character of Hille annoys me, and Geertrui’s parts of the story, while essential, did not move me quite as much as the present-day story of Jacob, Ton and Daan. In the end, though, the great parts of it completely outweigh the not so good and thus I’m still quite enamoured of the book. Much like Jacob fell in love with Amsterdam.

[…] the day (smiling to himself) he fell in love with the city. For I have, he thought, haven’t I? It’s just like falling for a person. Not wanting to be parted from it, wanting to know everything about it, liking it as it is, the bad as well as the good, the not so pretty as well as the beautiful, its noises and smells and colors and shapes and oddities. Liking its difference from everywhere else. And its history as well as its present. And its mystery, for there was so much he did not understand. And the people who had begun to show him how to see it, Daan and Ton.

Oh dear, I think this might be my longest thoughts on a book so far. I’d better start wrapping up by giving a rating. This is a tricky one. I’m not sure it reaches quite the heights of an A, but on the other hand a B doesn’t feel quite like enough. What shall it be, what shall it be? The deciding factor, I think, will have to be that I have, after all, read it not only once, or twice, but actually three times now, so obviously I like it a lot. An A then. And you should read it too. Just sayin’.


24th February, 2008
Standish; Erastes
— Love @ 13:38 Comments (2)
Filed under: Back to History, D, English, GLBT interest, Historical, Romance

Standish; Erastes Standish
by Erastes
British

For the Back to History reading challenge.

English
215 pages
P.D. Publishing Inc.
ISBN: 1-933720-09-3

First line: The candle guttered, and Ambrose looked up at it with a frown, the long blond hair falling away from the sides of his face.

Back cover blurb:
A great house. A family dispossessed. A sensitive young man. A powerful landowner. An epic love that springs up between two men. Set in the post-Napoleonic years of the 1820’s, Standish is a tale of two men — one man discovering his sexuality and the other struggling to overcome his traumatic past.

Ambrose Standish, a studious and fragile young man, has dreams of regaining the great house his grandfather lost in a card game. When Rafe Goshawk returns from the continent to claim the estate, their meeting sets them on a path of desire and betrayal which threatens to tear both of their worlds apart.

Painting a picture of homosexuality in Georgian England, Standish is a love story of how the decisions of two men affect their journey through Europe and through life.

Thoughts: From the moment I came across this book on Amazon.co.uk, I knew I had to read it. The story sounded amazing and I just love historical gay romance, there’s no denying that. Unfortunately, I was in for quite a disappointment.

I started reading it in January, got about a third of the way through during my first sitting with it, and then I put it down and did not pick it up again until now. I kept trying to persuade myself that if I read only one chapter a day, I would finish it in less than a month, but there just was no way of doing it. I wanted so badly to love the story, and I just couldn’t do it. I had such a hard time with the language and the way it was written — they didn’t appeal to me at all.

Finally, I picked it up again and found that if I just skimmed certain bits, it was tolerable. And so I finished the remaining two-thirds in a second sitting. I even, towards the end, found myself almost enjoying it. A part of the reason for this was, I dare say, the character of Padraig Fleury who appeared in the second half of the novel.

In the end, I didn’t like it even half as much as I had hoped to going in, but on the other hand, I did like it more than I thought I would after the first third. Even though it’s nowhere near the best book I’ve ever read, I am glad I decided to stick with it and read the entire thing. I have rarely been so close to making a book a DNF (did not finish), though. If it weren’t for the fact that I had it on my (no changes allowed) list of books for the Back to History challenge, or the fact that I had paid money for it and didn’t much like the idea of that being wasted, I don’t think I would have finished.

However, apart from all that I have outlined above, there was another thing that particularly bothered me. At one point Ambrose reads Dracula. Which is, y’know, cool and all. Except Standish is set in 1821 and Dracula wasn’t published until 1897, so unless there was time travel that I completely missed, that’s a big mistake on the part of the author, and that loses them a lot of respect from me.

I should think it obvious that the rating is not going to be a great one, but in the end, solely thanks to Fleury, it does manage a D, rather than an F. I realise we are only at the end of February and that much of the reading year remains, but I will be much surprised if this does not end up being “Disappointment of the Year.”


23rd February, 2008
The World According to Clarkson: And Another Thing…; Jeremy Clarkson
— Love @ 13:28 Comments (1)
Filed under: D, English, Humour, Non-fiction

The World According to Clarkson: And Another Thing...; Jeremy Clarkson The World According to Clarkson: And Another Thing…
by Jeremy Clarkson
British

English
340 pages
Penguin Books
ISBN: 978-0-141-02860-6

First line: I suppose all of us were out and about before Christmas, pummelling our credit cards to within an inch of their lives.

Back cover blurb:
Jeremy Clarkson finds the world such a perplexing place that he wrote a bestselling book about it. Yet, despite the appearance of The World According to Clarkson, things — amazingly — haven’t improved. Not being someone to give up easily, however, he’s decided to have another go.

In And Another Thing… the king of exasperated quip discovers that:

  • bombing North Carolina is bad for Yorkshire
  • we can look forward to exploding at the age of 62
  • Russians look bad in Speedos. But not as bad as we do
  • wasps are the highest form of life.

Thoughts: I love Top Gear, which, if you’re unfamiliar with it, is an outrageous sort of motor programme that even such car un-enthusiasts as myself can thoroughly enjoy. As Clarkson is one of the three presenters on the show, I found it hard to resist when I saw a copy of one of his books in a bookstore. After reading it, I discovered that it had been better for me had I managed to resist the temptation. Simply put: he drives me up the wall and infuriates me with pretty much every little column he’s ever written. I have thus come to the conclusion that I will keep watching, and enjoying, Top Gear, but will keep as far away as possible from anything of Clarkson’s that is not directly related to the show. (I now have to figure out if I should give in to the temptation to read any of the books by James May and Richard Hammond (the two other presenters), or if it’s best to just stay away from those as well.)

As for the rating, a D will do.


23rd February, 2008
Den hemlösa sexualiteten: en antologi
— Love @ 13:21 Comments (0)
Filed under: A-Z Reading Challenge, D, GLBT interest, Religion, Swedish, To Be Read

Den hemlösa sexualiteten: en antologi Den hemlösa sexualiteten: en antologi
by a number of different authors
Swedish & American

For the A-Z and To Be Read reading challenges.

Swedish
286 pages
Bokförlaget Libris
ISBN: 91-7195-402-3

First line: n/a

Back cover blurb:
Homosexualitet är en av de mest brännande frågorna i kyrkorna i dag. Ämnet väcker starka känslor. Många tycker att det är svårt att ta till orda, andra tycks redan vara klara med frågan.
Antologin Den hemlösa sexualiteten vill medverka till ett konstruktivt och nyanserat samtal i kyrkan om homosexualitet. Om kristen tro innebär att man ställer hela livet i relation till Gud och evangeliet, då är homosexualitet också en teologisk angelägenhet för kyrkan. Det väcker frågor om:

  • Vad säger Bibeln om homosexualitet?
  • Vilken syn har kristna på sex och samlevnad?
  • Hur ska kyrkorna reagera inför de orättvisor som homosexuella drabbas av?
  • På vilka villkor kan homosexuella välkomnas i församlingen?
  • Kan partnerskap välsignas i kyrkan?

Författarna till Den hemlösa sexualiteten tar upp dessa och andra frågor. Utgångspunkten är klassisk kristen tro i förening med lyhördhet och respekt inför de homosexuellas situation. Frågorna blir belysta ur fyra olika perspektiv — bibliska, etiska, kulturella och pastorala. De 18 författarna representerar olika kristna traditioner.
Boken ger inga färdiga svar, men läsaren får hjälp att själv orientera sig i frågorna utifrån en kristen livsvärld.

Thoughts: This is another book I got in the 2006 book sale and that has been in my TBR-pile ever since. Unlike Profile of a Criminal Mind it is actually included on my list for the TBR-challenge, so I can strike one off there now. Yay!

Another thing that differs compared with Profile… is that I really liked that one, and I didn’t particularly like this. I have to admit that when I bought it, I thought it was a different sort of book than it turned out to be. I initially thought that it was a collection of essays by Christians who were positive when it came to homosexuality, perhaps homosexual themselves, and how they managed to make their beliefs and their sexualities match. That was not the case, however. Rather, the approach in the book is more along the lines of “hate the sin, love the sinner.” Interesting, yes, but also a little prone to making me angry. I will not touch on that too much, but I will mention one thing in particular: it drives me absolutely nuts that people so often seem to think that bisexuality always means a complete lack of ability to be monogamous. Seriously, people, homosexuality, bisexuality and heterosexuality are on a completely different scale than monogamy vs. polygamy/polyamory. You can be heterosexual and polyamorous, or you can be bisexual and monogamous. Just because a person has the ability to be attracted to persons of both genders1, doesn’t mean that they want to be with people of both genders at the same time. (Sorry for rambling, but that really is a pet peeve of mine.)

I’ve mentioned it before, but I find rating non-fiction quite difficult. A book can be well-written and well-argued, but if I personally don’t agree with the views expressed in the book, that will obviously colour the grade I give it. Keep that in mind when I now dole out a D to Den hemlösa sexualiteten.

1. Or is attracted to people with a complete disregard of gender. I am being consciously simplistic here.


22nd February, 2008
Profile of a Criminal Mind; Brian Innes
— Love @ 13:16 Comments (1)
Filed under: B, Diseases and disorders, English, True crime

Profile of a Criminal Mind; Brian Innes Profile of a Criminal Mind
by Brian Innes
American

English
256 pages
Silverdale Books
ISBN: 1-85605-791-7

First line: The criminal has been an unwelcome element of society since time immemorial, and the attempt to penetrate his or her mind, to discover whether he or she differs significantly from the person who is considered an honest citizen – and if so, to what degree – has preoccupied people for centuries.

Back cover blurb:
Profile of a Criminal Mind is a comprehensive exploration of criminal profiling. Beginning with the early suppositions of 19th century physicians Cesare Lombrosco and Albert Bertillon, the author examines the work of criminologists such as Robert Ressler at the FBI’s Behavioral Science Unit and David Canter and Paul Britton in Britain, before coming right up to date with recent developments in handwriting analysis and the ‘criminal geographic targeting’ (CGT) computer system.

This fascinating and authoritative study examines some of the major cases of the 20th century, including Ted Bundy, Andrei Chikatilo (the ‘Rostov Ripper’), Jeffrey Dahmer, Albert DeSalvo, Peter Sutcliffe (the ‘Yorkshire Ripper’), Ted Kaczynski (the ‘Unabomber’), Edmund Kemper and George Metetsky.

Thoughts: This book has been in my shelf, unread, since I got it in the annual book sale 2006. I decided to read it now because I thought I’d put it on my list for the TBR-challenge, but when I’d finished it, I discovered that I was mistaken in that. Oh well, no harm done. I got to strike one more book off my TBR-list, official or unofficial, and that’s always something.

More importantly was the fact that it was a good book. I am extremely fascinated by true crime and like to read about it, but sometimes the books are a little too sensationalist for my tastes, or I end up reading one that just restates the facts of half a dozen others I’ve read on the same topic. Not so this one. It brings a new perspective, and while it does touch on some common cases, it doesn’t feel like repetitiveness at any point. In fact, a lot of the times the author assumes that one is already familiar with the cases. There are some cases he mentions in passing more than once, but never elaborates on. It’s a little frustrating at times, because I don’t actually remember much about those cases at present, but in the end I quite like that approach. I have a bunch of other books I could look them up in, if I really feel the need to refresh my memory.

I also really like the layout. It’s divided into clear-cut chapters that deal with one subject or another, and along with the main text, there are bunches of photos and illustrations, as well as “fact boxes”, which I thought were a nice touch.

It’s always difficult, I find, to rate a non-fictional work and I rarely give out higher grades to them, but this time I’m going to have to go with a B. One of the more interesting and well-executed books I have read on this topic in quite some time. Bravo, Mr. Innes!


20th February, 2008
Duty and Desire; Pamela Aidan
— Love @ 14:34 Comments (5)
Filed under: A-Z Reading Challenge, C, English, Historical, Romance

Duty and Desire; Pamela Aidan Duty and Desire
by Pamela Aidan
American

For the A-Z reading challenge.

English
304 pages
Touchstone
ISBN: 978-0-7432-9136-1

First line: Darcy recited the collect for the first Sunday in Advent, his prayer book closed upon his thumb as he stood alone in his family’s pew at St. ——‘s.

Back cover blurb:
Jane Austen’s classic novel Pride and Prejudice is beloved by millions, but little is revealed in the book about the mysterious and handsome hero, Mr. Darcy. And so the question has long remained: Who is Fitzwilliam Darcy?
Pamela Aidan’s trilogy finally answers that long-standing question, creating a rich parallel story that follows Darcy as he meets and falls in love with Elizabeth Bennet. Duty and Desire, the second book in the trilogy, covers the “silent time” of Austen’s novel, revealing Darcy’s private struggle to overcome his attraction to Elizabeth while fulfilling his roles as landlord, master, brother, and friend.
When Darcy pays an old visit to an old classmate in Oxford in an attempt to shake Elizabeth from his mind, he is set upon by husband-hunting society ladies and ne’er-do-well friends from his university days, all with designs on him—some for good and some for ill. He and his sartorial genius of a valet, Fletcher, must match wits with them all, but especially with the curious Lady Sylvanie.

Thoughts: If you remember, I quite liked the first book in this series, which I read back in January. This continuation, however, I was not quite as fond of. Aidan’s Darcy, when completely away from Lizzy, is not as captivating as her version of Darcy when he has to struggle to keep his thoughts in check in her presence.

Fletcher, his valet, I do still quite like. He takes a few liberties and makes enough hints that I am pretty sure he knows where things are heading, even when Darcy does not. I even have a few suspicions as to the identity of his future wife’s current employer.

Even though I did not much like this book, I still intend to read the third, and final, installment of the trilogy. Lizzy is coming back for that, after all, and I am quite looking forward to how Aidan writes the disastrous first proposal and Darcy’s reactions to Lizzy in Derbyshire.

The first installment received a B grade and this one receives a C. I hope the next one manages at least a B, because I would be sad if it didn’t, when the first was so promising.


17th February, 2008
By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept; Elizabeth Smart
— Love @ 14:03 Comments (1)
Filed under: D, Decades '08, English, Fiction, Poetry

By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept; Elizabeth Smart By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept
by Elizabeth Smart
Canadian

For the Decades ’08 reading challenge (first published 1945).

English
112 pages
Flamingo
ISBN: 0-586-09039-8

First line: I am standing on a corner in Monterey, waiting for the bus to come in, and all of the muscles of my will are holding my terror to face the moment I most desire.

Back cover blurb:
By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept, Elizabeth Smart’s passionate fictional account of her intense love-affair with the poet George Barker, is widely recognised to be a classic.

Thoughts: You might not know, if you are a new acquaintance, but I am absolutely crazy about Morrissey. This is one of his favourite books, and it’s inspired a number of his songs, so I have long been meaning to read it. This weekend, I was visiting a dear friend for the first time and she had it in her bookshelf, so I finally got a chance to read it myself (she even graciously offered to let me borrow it if I didn’t manage to finish it before I had to leave, which I didn’t).

I can see where Morrissey got his inspiration — there are certain lines that echo lines found in his songs — but that’s about it. I don’t think poetic prose is really my cup of tea, and I had a lot of trouble actually understanding what was going on in the story. I get that it’s the fictional account of the author’s love-affair with a poet (one who is married, I might add), and at one point they are arrested by the police, but that’s about as far as my understanding goes. It’s just plain weird.

No, like I said, the style of writing exhibited in this story is definitely not my thing and I will leave other works in the genre be (though apparently not all of them, as supposedly Jean Genet is a prime example of a prose poetry writer and I intend to read his The Thief’s Journal at some point this year. We’ll see how that goes).

By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept (I do like the ridiculously long title) receives a D rating.


15th February, 2008
Murder Must Advertise; Dorothy L Sayers
— Love @ 13:26 Comments (5)
Filed under: A, Decades '08, English, Historical, Mystery

Murder Must Advertise; Dorothy L Sayers Murder Must Advertise
by Dorothy L Sayers
British

For the Decades ’08 reading challenge (first published 1933).

English
356 pages
Harper Mystery
ISBN: 978-0-06-104355-0

First line: “And by the way,” said Mr. Hankin, arresting Miss Rossiter as she rose to go, “there is a new copy-writer coming in today.”

Back cover blurb:
When ad man Victor Dean falls down the stairs in the offices of Pym’s Publicity, a respectable London advertising agency, it looks like an accident. Then Lord Peter Wimsey is called in, and he soon discovers there’s more to copywriting than meets the eye. A bit of cocaine, a hint of blackmail, and some wanton women can be read between the lines. And then there is the brutal succession of murders—five of them—each one a fixed fee for advertising a deadly secret.

Thoughts: I think I might have mentioned it before, but just in case I haven’t, I feel I should state, for the record, that Murder Must Advertise is my favourite Wimsey book. It is also the first Wimsey book I ever read and the one I’ve read the most times. This was the first opportunity I had to read it in English, though, so it was a little bit like coming to it for the first time.

Wimsey is, as always, simply marvellous, and Parker still deserves his spot as my second favourite. Bunter, due to the nature of the story, does not make many appearances (if any at all. I’m afraid my memory’s a bit like a sieve), which is a bit of a pity, as I like him quite a bit as well and his and Wimsey’s working relationship is always a pleasure to read about.

Add to that the insight you get into the world of advertising (I believe Sayers herself worked in advertising at one point). It’s true that it’s the world of advertising in the 1930s, and if anything, things are probably even crazier these days, but there are a few passages in the book where Wimsey ponders the effects of advertising on people, and I think the questions he poses are still well worth asking.

Where, Bredon asked himself, did the money come from that was to be spent so variously and so lavishly? If this hell’s-dance of spending and saving were to stop for a moment, what would happen? If all the advertising in the world were to shut down tomorrow, would people still go on buying more soap, eating more apples, giving their children more vitamins, roughage, milk, olive oil, scooters and laxatives, learning more languages by gramophone, hearing more virtuosos by radio, re-decorating their houses, refreshing themselves with more non-alcoholic thirst-quenchers, cooking more new, appetizing dishes, affording themselves that little extra touch which means so much? Or would the whole desperate whirligig slow down, and the exhausted public relapse upon plain grub and elbow-grease?

I especially love the last two paragraphs of the book. They don’t at all deal with the story, so I could technically quote them here without terribly spoiling anyone, but I’m not going to. You will have to read the book yourselves (or at least look at the last page), to understand what I’m talking about. Perhaps you won’t even like them, but I do. A lot.

Instead, I shall proceed to quote a few other passages of the book. There is one in particular that I wish I could quote, because I laughed out loud at it, but unfortunately it isn’t funny unless you’ve read certain other bits of the story, so I won’t bother about it after all.

“And if I were you,” continued Garrett, “I wouldn’t mention Dean to Willis at all. There’s some kind of feeling—I don’t know quite what. Anyway, just thought I’d warn you.”
Bredon thanked him with an almost passionate gratitude.
“It’s so easy to put your foot in it in a new place, isn’t it? I’m really most frightfully obliged to you.”
Clearly Mr. Bredon was a man of no sensibility, for half an hour later he was in Willis’s room, and had introduced the subject of the late Victor Dean.

“You look as though you’d been shining up a pipe.”
“Well, I did shin down a pipe. Only one pipe—rather a nice pipe. It took my fancy.”

“Your narrative style,” said Parker, “though racy, is a little elliptical. Could you not begin at the beginning and go until you come to the end, and then, if you are able to, stop?”

To end this so-called review, I had better give the novel its rating. If you were expecting anything other than an A, I am afraid you are much mistaken, as an A it is. And if I know you well and you have not yet read this book, then you can rest assured that I will attempt to make you read it, if it’s the last thing I do. So there.


11th February, 2008
The Gum Thief; Douglas Coupland
— Love @ 18:45 Comments (0)
Filed under: A-Z Reading Challenge, B, English, Fiction

The Gum Thief; Douglas Coupland The Gum Thief
by Douglas Coupland
Canadian

For the A-Z reading challenge.

English
277 pages
Bloomsbury
ISBN: 978-0-7475-9188-7

First line: A few years ago it dawned on me that everybody past a certain age—regardless of how they look on the outside—pretty much constantly dreams of being able to escape from their lives.

Back cover blurb:
Meet Roger, a divorced, middle-aged ‘aisles associate’ at a Staples outlet, condemned to restocking reams of paper for the rest of his life, and his co-worker Bethany, who’s at the end of her Goth phase and realising she’s facing fifty more years of shelving Post-it notes and replenishing the Crayola boutique in Aisle Six.

One day, Bethany discovers Roger’s notebook in the staffroom. When she opens it up, she discovers that this old guy who she’s never considered to be quite human is writing mock diary entries pretending to be her — and weirdly, he’s getting it right. She learns he has a tragedy in his past, and suddenly he no longer seems like a paper-stocking robot in a red shirt and name tag.

These two retail workers then strike up an unlikely yet touching secret correspondence. As their lives unfold, so too do the characters of Roger’s work-in-progress, the oddly titled Glove Pond, a Cheever-era novella gone horribly, horribly wrong.

Thoughts: A friend lent me this book a couple of weeks back, and since I’m likely meeting her again this weekend and she’ll be wanting her book back then, I decided to make this my next read. A choice I can’t say I regret.

Mind you, it’s not my favourite Coupland by far, but it’s still good. Good enough to earn itself a pretty little B rating. It’s one of his more tragicomic works and, like the rest of his books, full of truly bizarre characters.

Speaking of Coupland, has anyone watched jPod, the TV show based on the book with the same name? I only heard about it the other day and I’m curious as to what it’s like, but don’t feel that I have enough time to spare at present to check it out myself.


10th February, 2008
A Countess Below Stairs; Eva Ibbotson
— Love @ 18:23 Comments (5)
Filed under: A, A-Z Reading Challenge, Back to History, English, Historical, Romance

A Countess Below Stairs; Eva Ibbotson A Countess Below Stairs
by Eva Ibbotson
British

For the Back to History and A-Z reading challenges.

English
383 pages
Speak
ISBN: 978-0-14-240865-0

First line: In the fabled, glittering world that was St. Petersburg before the First World War there lived, in an ice-blue palace overlooking the river Neva, a family on whom the gods seemed to have lavished their gifts with an almost comical abundance.

Back cover blurb:
After the Russian Revolution turns her world topsy-turvy, Anna, a young Russian countess, has no choice but to flee to England. Penniless, Anna hides her aristocratic background and takes a job as a servant in the household of the esteemed Westerholme family, armed only with an outdated housekeeping manual and sheer determination.
Desperate to keep her past a secret, Anna is nearly over-whelmed by her new duties—not to mention her instant attraction to Rupert, the handsome Earl of Westerholme. To make matters worse, Rupert appears to be falling for her as well. As their attraction grows stronger, Anna finds it more and more difficult to keep her most dearly held secrets from unraveling. And then there’s the small matter of Rupert’s beautiful and nasty fiancée…

Thoughts: This is, without a doubt, one of my favourite books. I think it might even trump Pride and Prejudice as the one. I first read it in ninth grade when I found it, quite by accident, in the library at school. I was familiar with Ibbotson’s other body of work, those fantastical books of hers aimed at children, but I didn’t know she also wrote for another audience. At first, I admit I was a little doubtful—it was a romance, after all, and the translation was rather sloppily done (the original title was written as “A Countness Below Stairs”, that’s how sloppy it was), and the cover didn’t look like much. But oh god, I was blown away! I overlooked the typos and the printing errors, and just devoured the book. When I put it down, my eyes were wet from tears (I can be an übersap, sometimes) and it was late at night. The next day, when I came home from school, I picked it back up and read it all over again.

Since then, I’ve read it over and over again, always still in the same sloppy translation, but now I’ve finally found it in the original and thus it was almost like discovering it all over again. I can now tell that while the publishing work of the translation left quite a bit to be desired, the actual translation wasn’t half-bad. I know it so well now that reading the original, I was a little astounded that the errors I had grown so used to weren’t there. But oh, how I still love it! And still, this the sixth (or seventh? I’ve lost count) time I read it, I was still moved to tears in the exact same places, even though I know how it all ends.

As you know, I don’t usually post quotes, but sometimes I simply have to make an exception. Lord Peter Wimsey books often produce such exceptions, and so does A Countess Below Stairs.

“Rupert, none of your servants are socialists, I hope?”
“Good heavens no, I shouldn’t think so. I mean, I haven’t asked. Surely you don’t have to be a socialist to want to have a bath?”
“It often goes together,” said Muriel sagely.

And so they played some of the world’s loveliest piano music—the exiled homesick girl, the humiliated, tired old man. Not properly. Better than that.

Torn between despair and embarrassment, between loneliness and shame, the earl’s dog stood before them, his great head raking the room. He had done it, the unspeakable thing. The degradation, the horror of it, was behind him—and now where was she? Had it all been in vain; the debasement, the agony, the choice?
But no, it was all right. He’d seen her. She was there. She would make whole what was broken, console him for his master’s absence, would understand his imperative need to be scratched now, this minute, and for a long time in that special place behind his ear.

It’s seems a bit like stating the too obvious at this point, but the rating I’m giving this book is a solid A. There’s no other alternative — trust me on this. What’s a bit funny, though, is that I’m not head over heels for any of the characters, nor really the writing either, which is usually the case for me. I just completely and utterly love the whole book.

To end this post, I’m going to post the link to a music video on YouTube. The song is I Saved the World Today by The Eurythmics and no, there’s no apparent connection. But when I first read A Countess Below Stairs, the single had just been released and was being played on the radio as I read the book, and so the two will always, for me, be interconnected.


10th February, 2008
Clouds of Witness; Dorothy L Sayers
— Love @ 11:54 Comments (2)
Filed under: A-Z Reading Challenge, B, English, Historical, Mystery

Clouds of Witness; Dorothy L Sayers Clouds of Witness
by Dorothy L Sayers
British

For the A-Z reading challenge.

English
279 pages
Harper Mystery
ISBN: 978-0-06-104353-6

First line: Lord Peter Wimsey stretched himself luxuriously between the sheets provided by the Hôtel Meurice.

Back cover blurb:
Rustic old Riddlesdale Lodge was a Wimsey family retreat filled with country pleasures and the thrill of the hunt—until the game turned up human and quite dead. He lay among the chrysanthemums, wore slippers and a dinner jacket, and was Lord Peter’s brother-in-law-to-be. His accused murderer was Wimsey’s own brother, and if murder set all in the family wasn’t enough to boggle the unflappable Lord Wimsey, perhaps a few twists of fate would be—a mysterious vanishing midnight letter from Egypt… a grieving fiancée with suitcase in hand… and a bullet destined for one very special Wimsey.

Thoughts: There’s nothing quite like a Lord Peter Wimsey mystery to remove the bad taste of an exceedingly poor read such as Elyot’s By a Lady. If you then discover that the Wimsey novel you thought you’d read before was not, in fact, a re-read at all, you are quite happily surprised.

In other words, I thought I’d read this book before, but I hadn’t, which pleased me exceedingly, as it meant that I had undiscovered Lord Peter ahead of me!

I’m still utterly in love with the man, of course. Clouds of Witness isn’t exactly my favourite Wimsey novel, but it’s by no means bad at all and, as usual, provided me with quite an abundance of nice quotes. I shall only post the one, however.

“[…] I’ve lost him altogether.”
“It’s all right—I’ve got him. He’s tripped over a root.”
“Serve him glad,” said Lord Peter viciously, straightening his back. “I say, I don’t think the human frame is very thoughtfully constructed for this sleuth-hound business. If one could go on all-fours, or had eyes in one’s knees, it would be a lot more practical.”
“There are many difficulties inherent in a teleological view of creation,” said Parker placidly.

As for the rating, I think a B is in order. It’s a good read, great even, but like I said, not an absolute favourite.


7th February, 2008
By a Lady; Amanda Elyot
— Love @ 23:40 Comments (1)
Filed under: Chick lit, English, F, Historical, Romance

By a Lady; Amanda Elyot By a Lady
by Amanda Elyot
American

English
372 pages
Three Rivers Press
ISBN: 1-4000-9799-1

First line: “It’s beautiful,” C.J. murmured, examining the curiously pockmarked amber cross.

Back cover blurb:
New York actress C.J. Welles, a die-hard Jane Austen fan, is on the verge of landing her dream role: portraying her idol in a Broadway play. But during her final audition, she is mysteriously transported back to Bath, England, in the year 1801. And Georgian England, with its rigid and unforgiving social structure and limited hygiene facilities, is not quite the picturesque costume drama C.J. had always imagined.
Just as she wishes she could click her heels together and return to Manhattan, C.J. meets the delightfully eccentric Lady Dalrymple, a widowed countess who takes C.J. into her home, introducing her as a poor relation to Georgian society—including the dashing Earl of Darlington and his cousin, Jane Austen!
When a crisis develops, C.J.—in a race against time—becomes torn between two centuries. An attempt to return to her own era might mean forfeiting her blossoming romance with the irresistible Darlington and her growing friendship with Jane Austen, but it’s a risk she must take. And in the midst of this remarkable series of events, C.J. discovers something even more startling—a secret from her own past that may explain how she wound up in Bath in the first place.

Thoughts: I read about this book on a blog a while back (I forget which one, I’m sorry to say) and since I’ve been on a bit of an Austen kick lately, I thought it sounded interesting and figured I would give it a shot. The review I read warned that there was hot, steamy sex to be found in the novel, and while that’s not normally my cup of tea (especially in a Regency era novel), I figured I would be okay with it since I had advance warning. Yeah, not so much.

I absolutely and utterly hated this book. I think it might actually be the worst book I’ve ever read. Usually when I find fault with a book, there’s something else about it that makes it not quite so horrid. Say, if the language is bad, the characters have redeeming qualities, and so forth. But this sorry excuse for a novel was quite honestly bad in every imaginable way.

The main character, C.J., is such a Mary Sue it’s not even funny. She’s an American actress who is absolutely obsessed with Jane Austen and is about to get her big break landing a role as Jane Austen in a two-character Broadway play. Guess who the author is? An American actress who is seriously into Jane Austen and played that very person in a two-character play (if it was on Broadway I don’t particularly know, but it doesn’t seem too unlikely). And of course, C.J. is perfect in every single way. Ergo1, Mary Sue.

The story is nearly always told from C.J.’s point-of-view, except occasionally when it suddenly changes to be the point-of-view of whatever other person happens to be nearby. These changes feel very crudely done and seemed to serve no real purpose, except to confuse and annoy.

As if that wasn’t enough, the language is absolutely horrible. The author seems bent on sticking as many big and fancy words in there as she possibly can, with no regard to if they fit the feel of the rest of it, or not. And don’t get me started on the sex scenes! My god, they made my eyes bleed. Let’s just say there was a little too much ear-licking for my tastes, and just in general terribly unappealing. Nothing even remotely sexy about the writing there. I think she was going for romantic/hot and steamy, but completely and utterly failed.

Another bone of contention I have with this book is how the women of 1801 are portrayed as compared to C.J., who is the representative of the 21st century woman. The former, with a few exceptions, are made out to be exceedingly unintelligent, whilst C.J. is so clever and so well-read, which we are made to understand is how all 21st century women are. I think there might be something in that, don’t get me wrong (we do have access to a lot more information, these days), but I don’t exactly think C.J. is the average modern day woman either. She is well-acquainted with early 19th century law, knows more about heart conditions than the Georgian physician (true that medicine has made advances since 1801, but would a layperson really know more than a doctor, even if he was a backwards one? I’m not so sure), and uses Latin phrases in everyday conversation2 quite a lot. I just don’t buy that this is the average woman of our time. But then, as mentioned previously, C.J. is a Mary Sue and thus cannot be held to the same standards as the rest of us.

One last thing I have a problem with is the character Lady Dalrymple. She’s eccentric, but a nice person and rather well-liked, even, as far as I can tell, by Jane Austen. Now, if you are familiar with your Austen novels, you will know that in Persuasion, there is a character with that very same name. This person, however, is a rather proud and disagreeable lady. One would assume that Elyot’s chosen the names for her characters to make it out that Jane Austen took the names of her characters from people she knew (there are other examples of this as well). If that is indeed the case, I feel sorry for Lady Dalrymple to be thus abused by someone who apparently quite liked her.

The rating, if anyone’s having any sort of doubt at this point, is an F. I would go lower if I could, but I can’t, and so an F it is. The only reason I read ’til the end (I’ll have to admit to skipping some passages that were too much to bear), was because I’d spent money on the book and didn’t want that to have been a complete waste.

1. Oh, I’ll be made to eat that ergo before the end of this review, you mark my word.
2. This is when I eat my ergo.


5th February, 2008
Dream Boy; Jim Grimsley
— Love @ 20:39 Comments (1)
Filed under: A-Z Reading Challenge, B, English, Fiction, GLBT interest

Dream Boy; Jim Grimsley Dream Boy
by Jim Grimsley
American

For the A-Z reading challenge.

English
195 pages
Simon & Schuster
ISBN: 0-684-82992-4

First line: On Sunday in the new church, Preacher John Roberts tells about the disciple Jesus loved whose name was also John, how at the Last Supper John lay his head tenderly on Jesus’s breast.

Back cover blurb: n/a

Thoughts: I really hate when there’s no back cover blurb on a book, because that means I have to try to sum it up in my own words and I cannot tell you enough how much I really suck at that. But here goes:

Dream Boy is the story of Nathan, a teen who’s just moved with his parents to a new town in rural USA (where is not exactly clear. Or it might be, but I am too ignorant of small town American geography to get it. ETA: North Carolina, apparently). Nathan and his parents live in a farm house on a farm owned by another family. Tony, who is the farmer’s son, really appeals to Nathan and apparently Nathan really appeals to Tony as well, as they strike up a sort of relationship, which is very, very much “don’t show, don’t tell” and Tony especially feels guilty about some of the things they do, and will avoid Nathan for periods of time when it gets too much for him. In the background of the story is Nathan’s struggle to keep certain memories under lock and key, because they are too painful to dwell on. As the story progresses, he finds these memories harder to keep from coming to the surface, as his dad is starting to pay more attention to him again.

See? I’m absolutely crap at it!

Either way, this book was absolutely terrible. Not that it wasn’t good, because it was, but in that I haven’t felt so physically ill from a book in a loooong time. The ending is very, very ambiguous and left me wondering if Nathan was or wasn’t (what, I won’t say, as that would be too much of a spoiler). I’m guessing he probably was, but I couldn’t tell for sure.

My copy of this book is a used one and on the front cover is written “This book belongs to is Aleeia Summers age 10”, but were it up to me, I would not in a million years have let this ten-year-old read this book. I’m not usually very restrictive like that, but this book has themes of sexual molestation and there is a very brutal and fairly graphic rape at one point in the story, and I just don’t think that’s for a ten-year-old to read! It made me utterly, utterly uncomfortable and sickened, and the thought of someone so young reading that… ::shudders::

On to the rating, then! It was a good book, fairly easy and quick to read, even though certain themes made me absolutely sick to my stomach. There were lighter bits in it as well, but the overall feel of the book was a rather depressing one. Possibly it was a happy ending, but it was quite confusing, so it might not have been. I’m giving the book a B, because I think it really deserves it. I know at least one person I will more or less force to read this (if he hasn’t already, that is), because I want someone else’s take on it as well.


3rd February, 2008
Mamma sa att jag var sjuk; Julie Gregory
— Love @ 21:13 Comments (1)
Filed under: A-Z Reading Challenge, Biographies, D, Diseases and disorders, Swedish

Mamma sa att jag var sjuk; Julie Gregory Mamma sa att jag var sjuk
by Julie Gregory
Original title: Sickened
American

For the A-Z reading challenge.

Swedish
259 pages
Bra Böcker
ISBN: 978-91-7002-361-6

First line: Det värsta var att bli rakad.

Back cover blurb:
An unusual memoir describes growing up as the victim of Munchausen by proxy, a dangerous form of child abuse in which her mother invented or caused a series of illnesses and ailments, and her struggle to escape her mother’s serious psychological problems to rebuild her life as a healthy, compassionate young woman.
(This text refers to an edition other than the one I read.)

Thoughts: This book paints a truly horrific picture of Gregory’s childhood and adolescence, but while it was moving at times, I just couldn’t like it. I always feel bad when I don’t like a book by someone who’s gone through terrible things, but there are writing styles I just can’t stand, and Gregory’s is one of them. Perhaps I’d have got more out of the book, had I read it in the original English, but I didn’t and I don’t plan on it either, so I guess I’ll never know now.

I’m giving the book a D rating, because as a book it just wasn’t very good at all. It makes my stomach churn that anyone has had to go through what Gregory has, though. It’s absolutely terrible and chilling that someone would treat their child that way.


3rd February, 2008
Eclipse; Stephenie Meyer
— Love @ 13:11 Comments (6)
Filed under: A-Z Reading Challenge, B, English, Fantasy, Romance, Young Adult

Eclipse; Stephenie Meyer Eclipse
by Stephenie Meyer
American

For the A-Z reading challenge.

English
628 pages
Atom Books
ISBN: 978-1-904233-90-9

First line: All our attempts at subterfuge had been in vain.

Back cover blurb:
As Seattle is ravaged by a string of mysterious killings and a malicious vampire continues her quest for revenge, Bella once again finds herself surrounded by danger. In the midst of it all, she is forced to choose between her love for Edward and her friendship with Jacob — knowing that her decision has the potential to ignite the ageless struggle between vampire and werewolf. With her graduation approaching, Bella has one more decision to make: life or death. But which is which?

Thoughts: It turns out that I’d somehow misunderstood that spoiler I read, because what I feared would happen, didn’t. At least not the way I thought it would, nor was it as bad as I thought it would be. In other words, I still like Jacob Black. Like him a lot, in fact. Even if I got really quite angry with him at one point, because dude! he needs to learn to listen to what people say!

I still don’t care much about either Bella or Edward. Bella, I’ve realised, reminds me a little of someone I used to know very well, with the exception that she (Bella, that is) can make decisions and stick with them, even if it’s hard.

I think this is my favourite of the series so far, even if some things made me exclaim “Ew! Ew! Ew!” whilst reading, and the divide between girlish and boyish interests/talents/&c still bothers me a lot.

A B rating is in order and I have to say I’m looking forward to the next book in this series, which is published sometime this summer, unless I am much mistaken.


31st January, 2008
New Moon; Stephenie Meyer
— Love @ 20:03 Comments (6)
Filed under: A-Z Reading Challenge, B, English, Fantasy, Romance, Young Adult

New Moon; Stephenie Meyer New Moon
by Stephenie Meyer
American

For the A-Z reading challenge.

English
595 pages
Atom Books
ISBN: 978-1-904233-88-6

First line: I felt like I was trapped in one of those terrifying nightmares, the one where you have to run, run till your lungs burst, but you can’t make your body move fast enough.

Back cover blurb:
For Bella Swan, there is one thing more important than life itself: Edward Cullen. But being in love with a vampire is even more dangerous than Bella could ever have imagined. Edward has already rescued Bella from the clutches of one evil vampire, but now, as their daring relationship threatens all that is near and dear to them, they realize their troubles may be just beginning…

Thoughts: I quite like Jacob Black. I know it’s not quite the done thing, especially if you ask the Edward Cullen camp, but I can’t help it! I did accidentally read a spoiler at some point, so I’m not sure that I will keep liking Jacob, but I kind of hope I do, because as of yet, he’s the only character I’m not unmoved by. (Actually, that’s not entirely true. I’m moved by Bella, in that she annoys me greatly from time to time.)

Still not crazy about Edward. I don’t dislike him either, though. I guess I just don’t see the massive appeal.

On the whole, I’m still kind of hooked on these books, and that’s despite not being crazy about characters, plot or, technically, the writing. It’s a bit like it is with the Tony Hill books by Val McDermid (except I am excessively fond of Tony). I don’t think they’re very well-written, but they are always full of excitement and I keep reading, because you get hooked so quickly and there’s no way I could put one down unfinished. (That only applies to her Tony books, though. I’ve read a couple of others of hers, and without the appeal of Tony, there’s no appeal at all.) Anyway, what I was trying to say, before I got side-tracked, is that Meyer’s writing makes me want to know what happens next, and so I’ve already started on Eclipse.

New Moon gets a B rating. It was going to get a C, but then I remembered that Twilight got a B, and I don’t like this book less than the first in the series, so a B it has to be.


30th January, 2008
The Amazing Adventures of Dietgirl; Shauna Reid
— Love @ 19:38 Comments (1)
Filed under: A-Z Reading Challenge, B, Biographies, English

The Amazing Adventures of Dietgirl; Shauna Reid The Amazing Adventures of Dietgirl
by Shauna Reid
Australian

For the A-Z reading challenge.

English
408 pages
Corgi Books
ISBN: 978-0-552-15578-6

First line: I’ve got the biggest knickers in Australia.

Back cover blurb:
In January 2001 Shauna Reid was twenty-three years old and twenty-five stone. Determined to turn her life around, she created the hugely successful weblog The Amazing Adventures of Dietgirl and, hiding behind her Lycra-clad roly-poly alter ego, her transformation from couch potato to svelte goddess began. Today, 8,000 miles, seven years and twelve and a half stone later, the gloriously gorgeous Shauna is literally half the woman she used to be.

Thoughts: I saw this book mentioned in one of the many book blogs I read (I forget the exact one. Sorry!) and added it to my wishlist after reading a little about it and snippets of the blog it’s the book version of. When I next made a book order, I added it to my shopping cart “just because.”

Can’t say I regret it one bit! The book was funny and interesting and I was instantly hooked. Finished it in one sitting, in fact.

It gets a well-deserved B rating, and a shorter “review” (these random and rather incoherent thoughts don’t exactly count as the proper thing) than it really deserves, because I am too tired to think straight.


30th January, 2008
Messenger; Lois Lowry
— Love @ 19:28 Comments (3)
Filed under: A-Z Reading Challenge, D, English, Fantasy, YA Challenge 2008, Young Adult

Messenger; Lois Lowry Messenger
by Lois Lowry
American

For the Young Adult and A-Z reading challenges.

English
186 pages
Delacorte Press
ISBN: 0-385-73253-8

First line: Matty was impatient to have the supper preparations over and done with.

Back cover blurb:
For the past six years, Matty has lived in Village and flourished under the guidance of Seer, a blind man known for his special sight. Once, Village was a place that welcomed newcomers and offered hope and homes to people fleeing poverty and cruelty. But something sinister has seeped into Village, and the people have voted to close it to outsiders. All along, Matty has been invaluable as a messenger between Village and other communities. He hopes someday to earn the name of Messenger. Now he must make one last journey through the increasingly treacherous forest to spread the message of Village’s closing and convince Kira, Seer’s daughter, to return with him. Matty’s only weapon against his dangerous surroundings is a secret power he unexpectedly discovers within himself. He wants to heal the people who have nourished his body and spirit and is willing to offer the greatest gift and pay the ultimate price.

Thoughts: As expected, this book tied together the characters of both The Giver and Gathering Blue. However, it didn’t really resolve the issue I had with one particular event in Gathering Blue, nor did it really appeal to me as much as the previous two books in the series did.

It also confused me a great deal. Apparently, the events of both previous books take place at much the same point in time, yet in one there is advanced technology, and in the other everything is exceedingly basic and primitive. These places don’t seem to be all that distant from each other, geographically, so I must admit I don’t quite see how the difference could be so marked, especially since the high tech one has the means to travel far and wide in not much time at all.

No, in the end I didn’t like the end to the series at all. I’m giving it a D rating, and that’s mostly just because I’m feeling generous today. I think I’ll try to pretend that there was nothing after Gathering Blue and that even if there was, I certainly didn’t read it.


29th January, 2008
Gathering Blue; Lois Lowry
— Love @ 23:56 Comments (2)
Filed under: A-Z Reading Challenge, B, English, Fiction, YA Challenge 2008, Young Adult

No cover image Gathering Blue
by Lois Lowry
American

For the Young Adult and A-Z reading challenges.

English
218 pages
Bloomsbury
ISBN: 0-7474-5592-3

First line: “Mother?”

Back cover blurb:
In the tough, unforgiving society that Kira lives in, she is forced daily to prove her value in the village. Up until now she has had her mother to protect her. With her mother gone, Kira will need to use every ounce of cunning, wit and bravery to ensure her continued acceptance — and even survival.

So when Kira is summoned to judgment by the Council of the Guardians to resolve a village conflict, Kira knows she is fighting for her life. Perhaps only her special, almost magical talent will save her now…

Thoughts: I had expected Gathering Blue to continue where The Giver left off, as it’s being touted as part two of a trilogy, but that turned out to be quite wrong. It’s more of a companion book, I s’pose, in that it is a different take at what the future might be like. In The Giver, everything is made out to be perfect and the people have the help of pretty advanced technology, from what it seems. In Gathering Blue, nearly everything seems savage and brutal. It’s far into the future, though it’s not a high-tech future at all, but rather what might happen if disaster upon disaster strikes and all technology is lost. Still, despite the glaring differences, in certain things the two societies are very, very much alike.

I was a little apprehensive starting on the book, because I’d had it in the bookshelf for so long, waiting for The Giver so I could read that first, and now that I finally had, there was some sort of mental block hindering my progress. Only for a little bit, though, it has to be admitted. I sat down with the book, turned the first page, started reading and was hooked. In short: I loved it!

One of the main events of the year for the people in the book is the Gathering, during which the Singer sings the history of the world, all the way from the beginning of time, until the present day. We don’t hear many of the words to the song, but one little segment we are told. It consists of nonsense words that make little sense, but I had a feeling there would be a hidden meaning, so I unscrambled the words and there it was!

I’m rating this a B book. For a bit I considered a C, but the more I thought about it, the more I felt it deserves the B. Any book that leaves me with the sort of uncomfortable feeling in the stomach that I’m experiencing right now, is a book that’s moved me in no little way. While the way it’s moved me might be good or bad, I feel that in this case it is a good way.

Now, Lowry says in an author’s note that she feels the ending is a happy and optimistic one. And while I agree to a certain extent that it is, I can’t agree wholeheartedly. There was a particular revelation towards the end, that I personally feel is responsible for the tummy upset, and that was left unresolved. I’m guessing (hoping, at least!) that that will be worked out in Messenger, though.

I really, really don’t like it when I can’t find a cover image that corresponds to the one on my copy of a book. I usually google the ISBN and sometimes I don’t get any hits at all, which is sad. Sometimes I do get hits, but all the cover images I find look different from the one of my copy. That is even sadder. Saddest of all is, of course, that I care as much as I do!


29th January, 2008
The Giver; Lois Lowry
— Love @ 19:58 Comments (3)
Filed under: A-Z Reading Challenge, B, Decades '08, English, Fiction, First in a Series, Young Adult

The Giver; Lois Lowry The Giver
by Lois Lowry
American

For the First in a Series, Decades ’08 (first published in 1993) and A-Z reading challenges.

English
179 pages
Dell Laurel-Leaf
ISBN: 0-440-23768-8

First line: It was almost December, and Jonas was beginning to be frightened.

Back cover blurb:
Jonas’s world is perfect. Everything is under control. There is no war or fear or pain. There are no choices. Every person is assigned a role in the Community.
When Jonas turns twelve, he is singled out to receive special training from The Giver. The Giver alone holds the memories of the true pain and pleasure of life. Now it’s time for Jonas to receive the truth. There is no turning back.

Thoughts: I’ve read this before, of course, but this is the first time I’ve read it in the original English. It’s one of my favourite YA reads, and from what I can remember of the translation compared to the original, the translator did a good job (though that’s neither here nor there, as it isn’t the translation I’m writing these thoughts on).

What I like about it best is, I think, how everything sort of sneaks up on you. You start out thinking this world is pretty much like ours, except a lot more perfect, but little by little you realise that there are actually huge differences, and some pretty scary ones at that.

Whenever I’ve read this before, I’ve always interpreted the ending as a happy one, but this time around I was a bit more inclined to go for the slightly less optimistic interpretation. True, I think Jonas is probably better off there, than back in the community (I always expected the community to be spelt with a capital C. It just seems like the sort of place that would be, but apparently it isn’t), but it’s still not complete and utter bliss, and I’ll admit I shed a couple of tears. I do like the ending, though, especially how open-ended it is. It’s not Lowry’s fault that I’ve become a complete pessimist of late.

The rating ends up a B, because tempted as I am to dole out an A, I don’t quite think the book reaches those heights.

A couple of side notes:

1. I also read Cliffs Notes on Lowry’s The Giver, because I accidentally ordered that instead of the proper book. I searched the online book store for Lois Lowry and when I got the search results, I added the cheapest copy of The Giver to my shopping cart. Since I knew the book already, I didn’t bother reading the summary, but in retrospect, I find that I should have. Still, one would think they’d specify the title of the Cliffs Notes a little more than to say The Giver, with the author name Lois Lowry. Either way, I kept it, as returning it would probably have been more of a hassle than just keeping it, and it’s not like it cost a fortune.

2. There was a second side note, but I’m demmeda if I can remember it at present! How very annoying, I hate it when that happens.

a. I watched the 1934 version of The Scarlet Pimpernel the other evening. Can you tell? ;D


29th January, 2008
The Smiths: The Early Years; Paul Slattery
— Love @ 15:32 Comments (0)
Filed under: English, Music, n/a, Photography

The Smiths: The Early Years; Paul Slattery The Smiths: The Early Years
by Paul Slattery
British

English
159 pages
Omnibus Press
ISBN: 978-1-84609-858-1

First line: Taking photographs of bands for a living, I have seen an awful lot of them, good and bad, but I was smacked round the face with the sound and performance that The Smiths gave that night at ULU in May 1983.

Back cover blurb:
For many The Smiths were the definitive rock band of the 80s. A bracing antidote to Thatcher’s Britain for the youth of the day, Manchester-based Morrissey, Marr & Co. even approached something like mainstream success towards the end.

But at the start they were scruffy, uncompromising rebels. This was the period in which Paul Slattery took a series of band photos of great intimacy and power.

Slattery was particularly close to The Smiths in those early days, and his images — many of them seen for the first time here — were an insider’s work: informal, brash, exciting and revealing. Seen together these photos form an exciting visual narrative on the work of an influential band that, for a few turbulent years, cornered the market in lyrical gloom laced with mordant wit.

Thoughts: I love The Smiths, but I wasn’t a fan back when they were still together (would have been really hard to have been considering that I was either a) not even thought of, or b) not really that aware of my surroundings, for the duration of their career). Mind you, I’ve more than made up for it since!

This book was lovely. Full of photographs of the band, some of which I’d seen before, but the majority of which were completely new to me, and little comments from Slattery on most of them. However, as much as I loved it, I won’t officially rate it, because I feel there wasn’t enough text to do that.


27th January, 2008
Det fattas en tärning; Johanna Thydell
— Love @ 17:59 Comments (3)
Filed under: A-Z Reading Challenge, B, Fiction, Swedish, YA Challenge 2008, Young Adult

Det fattas en tärning; Johanna Thydell Det fattas en tärning
by Johanna Thydell
Swedish

For the Young Adult and A-Z reading challenges.

Swedish
211 pages
Månpocket
ISBN: 978-91-7001-571-7

First line: Svarta naglar på tangenterna, skärmen vit och tom.

Back cover blurb:
“Om ni hör någon ropa så är det jag. Jag är Puck. Jag är sexton år. Och jag är livrädd.”

Det här är boken om Puck, en ung tjej som gör allt för att inte förlora kontrollen, inte låta någon komma för nära, inte visa vem hon egentligen är. Men det är också historien om en pappa som försvann och en mamma som stannade kvar. Om hur det är att vara rädd — rädd för arga röster, rädd för att folk ska försvinna.

Thoughts: The language in this book was pretty simple, but not at all in a bad way, which made it easy to read and thus I finished it in about an hour and a half.

I like the main character, Puck (real name Petra, but nicknamed Puck by her father). She’s insecure and scared, and she messes up from time to time, but she’s not weak. There’s a guy she likes, but he’s a bit of an asshole and doesn’t exactly treat her well, and instead of sitting quietly by, letting him, she calls him on it and tells him to get lost. This I loved!

I’m giving Det fattas en tärning a B rating. All the characters were likable (yes, even the asshole, actually) and the language, while simple, was lovely (some authors know how to use simple language remarkably well. Per Nilsson springs immediately to mind as another example).


27th January, 2008
Som jag vill vara; Katarina von Bredow
— Love @ 15:17 Comments (0)
Filed under: A-Z Reading Challenge, C, Fiction, Swedish, YA Challenge 2008, Young Adult

Som jag vill vara; Katarina von Bredow Som jag vill vara
by Katarina von Bredow
Swedish

For the Young Adult and A-Z reading challenges.

Swedish
282 pages
Rabén & Sjögren
ISBN: 978-91-29-66699-1

First line:
Det blev inte precis som hon tänkt sig.

Back cover blurb:
Arvid kommer till festen för hennes skull. Det påstår i alla fall Jessicas bästis Louise, och hon brukar veta. Med fjärilar i magen och dunkande hjärta beger sig Jessica dit, och visst, han är där! De dansar och pratar och det ena leder till det andra. Efteråt är Jessica rädd att han bara var ute efter att få henne i säng, men så är det inte. Arvid är verkligen den hon hoppats, och allt är så bra det bara kan vara. Ända tills mensen inte kommer som den ska…

Thoughts: I’ve read all of Katarina von Bredow’s previous books (well, except the two written for kids, rather than teens) and one of them is a favourite that I re-read whenever I need a good comfort book. Her later books have not been at all as good, but I still make sure to get my hands on anything new she’s had published. Som jag vill vara is her latest.

It tells the tale of Jessica, a girl of fifteen, who goes to a party where another guest is the guy she’s had a crush on for months. As it turns out, he quite likes her too, and one thing leads to another and they end up in bed together. She worries for a while that that’s going to be it for them, that he doesn’t want anything more. He does, of course, and everything is fine and dandy until her period is late. Everyone tries to get her to have an abortion, but she’s at first reluctant, later determined not to have one, and that’s what the rest of the book is about.

Everything is either black or white for the characters involved, it seems, and a lot of them come across as being rather preachy, which put me off the book a little. Jessica, the main character, feels very strongly about her point of view, but does bring up a good point at one time, which is something none of the other characters really do.

The ending is a pretty happy one, and maybe I am a cynic (actually, I am!), but I don’t feel that the happy ending is going to last. A year or two down the road, and everything is likely to be in shambles. I’m not hoping that it’s going to be like that, but it seems likelier than the other possibility.

Not one of von Bredow’s better books, then, which shows in the C rating. That it even ended up with a rating that high is because it was a quick read and I did get pulled into the story, even if I wanted to strangle most of the characters most of the time.


26th January, 2008
Whose Body?; Dorothy L Sayers
— Love @ 23:08 Comments (5)
Filed under: A, A-Z Reading Challenge, Decades '08, English, First in a Series, Historical, Mystery

Whose Body?; Dorothy L Sayers Whose Body?
by Dorothy L Sayers
British

For the Decades ’08 (first published 1923), First in a Series and A-Z reading challenges.

English
212 pages
Harper Mystery
ISBN: 978-0-06-104357-4

First line: “Oh damn!” said Lord Peter Wimsey at Piccadilly Circus.

Back cover blurb:
The stark naked body was lying in the tub. Not unusual for a proper bath, but highly irregular for murder — especially with a pair of gold pince-nez deliberately perched before the sightless eyes. What’s more, the face appeared to have been shaved after death. The police assumed that the victim was a prominent financier, but Lord Peter Wimsey, who dabbled in mystery detection as a hobby, knew better. In this, his first murder case, Lord Peter untangles the ghastly mystery of the corpse in the bath.

Thoughts: It would appear that I have gone and done it again. Read a book I was certain was a re-read, only to find that it wasn’t, I mean. I was utterly convinced that Whose Body? was a re-read, and thus felt a little bit of a cheat for including it in so many challenges, but I couldn’t in fact remember a thing from it. Now, I know that if I did read it before, it was upwards of seven or eight years ago, but I still refuse to believe I would have no recollection of it at all. After all, Lord Peter Wimsey is not the sort of man you forget just like that.

If it sounds as though I’m complaining, rest assured that nothing could be further from the truth! I am utterly, utterly pleased to find that there was more Lord Peter for me to discover. It is not exactly a treat you are given every day.

My copy of the book (a handy paperback that’s been lugged around everywhere with me this week, as I have had very little time to actually sit down and read, but have been determined to sit down and read all the same, wherever and whenever that might have been) is full of little blue post-it notes sticking out where there are passages I liked especially much (mostly funny and/or snarky ones). I don’t usually quote the actual books in my reviews (apart from the first line, obviously), but I figured I would make an exception for Lord Peter and post a few things I adored (I will attempt to make all of them non-spoilery, so not all my favourites are included. In fact, most aren’t).

“[…] if I sacked you on top of drinking the kind of coffee you make, I’d deserve everything you could say of me. You’re a demon for coffee, Bunter — I don’t want to know how you do it, because I believe it to be witchcraft, and I don’t want to burn eternally.”

“[…] That’s all,” said Parker abruptly, with a wave of the hand.
“It isn’t all, it isn’t all. Daddy, go on, that’s not half a story,” pleaded Lord Peter.

“Never mind,” said Parker, soothingly, “he’s always like that. It’s premature senile decay, often observed in the families of hereditary legislators. Go away, Wimsey, and play us the ‘Beggar’s Opera’, or something.”

Quite obviously, my favourite character is Lord Peter Wimsey himself, mostly because he is magnificently snarky and simply wonderful, but there are other marvellous characters in these books as well. Parker, who is a police detective and a friend of Wimsey’s, and the Dowager Duchess of Denver, who is Wimsey’s mother and quite funny (though usually not intentionally so), are just two of them. I also have to mention Bunter, Wimsey’s man, because what sort of person would I be if I didn’t? The Wimsey books would be nothing without him, as he is Wimsey’s assistant in pretty much everything that he does.

But I ramble, and it’s getting late, so I’ll end this review (if it can even be called that. I’m not entirely sure anything I write in this blog properly could be) with an A rating. It was an exceedingly nice surprise to find that I hadn’t read the book before, the mystery I thought was a good one (though I hardly dwelt on that in the review) and the characters even better.


22nd January, 2008
Duktig pojke; Inger Edelfeldt
— Love @ 15:20 Comments (1)
Filed under: A, A-Z Reading Challenge, Decades '08, GLBT interest, Swedish, Young Adult

Duktig pojke; Inger Edelfeldt Duktig pojke
by Inger Edelfeldt
Swedish

For the Decades ’08 (first published 1977) and A-Z reading challenges.

Swedish
208 pages
Rabén & Sjögren
ISBN: 91-29-64869-6

First line:
Han var ett väldigt snällt barn, annars var det väl ingenting som skilde honom från andra barn; jag menar, ingenting som märktes.

Back cover blurb:
“Är det här nåt slags modenyck, Jim?” grälade min far. “Nåt sånt här Davy Boogie-trams? Det trodde jag verkligen du var för intelligent för att gå på!”
Ja, sådär har det alltid varit. Jag hade alltid varit en “duktig pojke”. Alla utom jag själv visste precis vem jag var och hur jag borde utforma mitt liv. Min framtid skulle bli en tvångströja av krav och normer, som jag inte vågade frigöra mig ifrån. Min mörka hemlighet — min kärlek — skulle alltid förbli just en mörk hemlighet.
Det trodde jag, tills jag mötte Mats…

Thoughts: I’ll start off this review with the rating, for a change, since I’m giving the book an A and there’s no doubt in my mind that it deserves it. I mean, it’s my sixth re-read of it — obviously I like it a lot!

I really wish I could share it with all of you, but as far as I’m aware it’s only been translated into German (maybe Spanish), and that was a while ago, so I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s out of print now.

Basically, it’s a coming-of-age story about Jim, who grows up feeling different from the people around him. To cover up his isolation and make it bearable, he throws himself into his schoolwork and excels at it — he’s en duktig pojke (a good boy). Then, the summer he turns fifteen, he figures out the secret he’s kept locked away inside — he’s gay. From then on, he throws himself into his schoolwork even more, desperate to not let the secret out. And then, in the last week of high school, he meets Mats and things start to change.

Mats is… well, Mats! But that means all sorts of wonderful things and I am seriously in love with this character. I’d managed to forget this time exactly how much, so when he appeared on the page again I was just as swept away as the first time around. He’s snarky, and sweet, and he hand paints the frames of his spectacles — what’s not to like? ;)

Another important character is Jim’s mother. Each chapter in the book starts with a paragraph or two written from her point of view and previously they have always made me feel sorry for her. I’m not sure exactly what’s changed, but this time around her self-pity just made me want to strangle her.

In the end, though, it’s still a great book and I still have to finish it in one sitting. There’s just no way that I can sit down, read a couple of chapters, then put the book down and go on my merry business doing something else. If I start it, I have to finish it then and there, with the consequence that I only got about five and a half hours of sleep last night. It was so worth it, though.


20th January, 2008
A Tale of a Tub; Jonathan Swift
— Love @ 18:45 Comments (3)
Filed under: A-Z Reading Challenge, C, Classics, Decades '08, English

A Tale of a Tub; Jonathan Swift A Tale of a Tub
by Jonathan Swift
Irish

For the Decades ’08 (first published 1704) and A-Z reading challenges.

English
132 pages
a Project Gutenberg e-book

First line: My LORD, Though the author has written a large Dedication, yet that being addressed to a Prince whom I am never likely to have the honour of being known to; a person, besides, as far as I can observe, not at all regarded or thought on by any of our present writers; and I being wholly free from that slavery which booksellers usually lie under to the caprices of authors, I think it a wise piece of presumption to inscribe these papers to your Lordship, and to implore your Lordship’s protection of them.

Back cover blurb: n/a

Thoughts: I really quite enjoyed this book, though I am well aware that I am missing out on a lot of references and things that would have made it even more enjoyable, had I lived in the day and age that it was published (that is to say, just over three hundred years ago). It’s amazing, though, how some things work even centuries after their first conception.

A C rating this time, because it was in parts a little hard to get through (I have to admit to skipping a paragraph or two of the digressions).

This is the second book I’ve read for the Decades challenge, and since the first was published in 1980, I now have quite some work to do to tie the two up (that is to say, I need to read one book from each decade between the two) . I’m quite looking forward to that, though!


16th January, 2008
Twilight; Stephenie Meyer
— Love @ 16:14 Comments (28)
Filed under: A-Z Reading Challenge, B, English, Fantasy, First in a Series, Romance, YA Challenge 2008, Young Adult

Twilight; Stephenie Meyer Twilight
by Stephenie Meyer
American

For the Young Adult, First in a Series and A-Z reading challenges.

English
434 pages
Atom Books
ISBN: 978-1-904233-65-7

First line: I’d never given much thought to how I would die—though I’d had reason enough in the last few months—but even if I had, I would not have imagined it like this.

Back cover blurb:
When Isabella Swan moves to the gloomy town of Forks and meets the mysterious, alluring Edward Cullen, her life takes a thrilling and terrifying turn. With his porcelain skin, golden eyes, mesmerizing voice, and supernatural gifts, Edward is both irresistible and impenetrable. Up until now, he has managed to keep his true identity hidden, but Bella is determined to uncover his dark secret.

What Bella does not realize is that the closer she gets to him, the more she is putting herself and those she around her at risk. And it might be too late to turn back…

Thoughts: I heard such different accounts of this book as puzzled me exceedingly*. Before I ordered it, I found only positive views in different book blogs. Of course, the second I pressed the confirm button on the book order, the more negative reviews started popping up.

After reading the book myself, I find myself in the camp in the middle. I wasn’t as completely blown away by Edward as others have been, but neither was I completely and utterly annoyed with Bella. Edward is okay, but he’s not one of those fictional characters I see myself falling in love with. As for Bella, I was a little peeved at her over a couple of things (mostly how she treats her father, because I refuse to believe he is as useless at cooking as she makes him out to be. He has, as he himself says, survived on his own for seventeen years, after all).

On the whole, I thought the book was good enough and I definitely want to read the sequels (already ordered them, in fact), but I find myself a bit of a sceptic when it comes to the great Bella/Edward romance. It’s a little too intense for my liking, to be honest. Either way, I do look forward to see where the story is going and this, the first installment, receives a well-deserved B grade.

*See what I did there?


15th January, 2008
Boy Meets Boy; David Levithan
— Love @ 21:00 Comments (3)
Filed under: A-Z Reading Challenge, C, English, GLBT interest, Humour, Romance, YA Challenge 2008, Young Adult

Boy Meets Boy Boy Meets Boy
by David Levithan
American

For the Young Adult and A-Z reading challenges.

English
185 pages
Random House
ISBN: 0-375-83299-8

First line: 9 P.M. on a November Saturday.

Back cover blurb:
Love is never easy. Especially if you’re Paul. He’s a sophomore at a high school like no other—and these are his friends:
Infinite Darlene, the homecoming queen and star quarterback
Joni, Paul’s best friend who may not be his best friend anymore
Tony, his other best friend, who can’t leave the house unless his parents think he’s going on a date… with a girl
Kyle, the ex-boyfriend who won’t go away
Rip, the school bookie, who sets the odds…
And Noah, The Boy. The one who changes everything.

Thoughts: I don’t quite know what to say about this book. I liked it well enough—it was short, sweet and quite funny—but I feel a complaint coming on, and one that’s going to make you roll your eyes at me. Remember how I often gripe about the bleak and depressing nature of a lot of gay-related stories? Well, I’m just about to take issue with one being too upbeat and positive. There seems to be no way to win!

The thing is, though, that while the town that Paul lives in is quite fun to read about and rather cute, it’s too perfect. It would be great if there were a town like his, but I think we’re a long way from that, still. Sadly enough.

Let’s face it, though: we don’t always ask for complete realism from short YA novels. In other words, I’m giving it a C rating, because it’s what I think it deserves. A little more realism (with the same basic plot/romance) and it’d have been a B or a C, depending on the language and characters. No one really clicked with me, like other literary characters have in the past, but if I had to pick one that moved me more than the others, I would pick Tony. He seemed the most realistic to me.


13th January, 2008
The Princess Diaries V: Give Me Five; Meg Cabot
— Love @ 12:28 Comments (3)
Filed under: A-Z Reading Challenge, Chick lit, English, F, YA Challenge 2008, Young Adult

The Princess Diaries: Give Me Five; Meg Cabot The Princess Diaries V: Give Me Five
by Meg Cabot
American

For the Young Adult and A-Z reading challenges.

English
166 pages
e-book

First line: The week of May 5-10 is Senior Week.

Back cover blurb:
Mia is about to turn fifteen and can’t wait to dance the night away with Michael at the biggest, most romantic event of her life so far: the senior prom! But nothing’s going according to plan. Not only does Mia face a snoozefest summer of sceptre-wielding in Genovia. Even worse is the fact that Michael hasn’t even invited Mia to the prom at all. Hello, what is going on here? Just as Mia comes up with a perfect plan to change her man’s mind, disaster strikes. A disaster that only a genius like Grandmere can overcome…

Thoughts: I hated this book. The first book of the series was quite good, so I read the second one, which was quite nice as well, so I read the third, which was not quite as good, but still okay, so I read the fourth and about there I think I should have stopped, because the fifth in the series did nothing but annoy me and make me grit my teeth. Thankfully it’s such a short book that the agony of reading it was over quite quickly (as much as I wanted to give up and put it down, I couldn’t, because it was one of my set choices for the YA challenge).

There are at least four more books to the series, but trust me when I say that I will not be reading those.

As you might have guessed, the rating I’m giving this book is an F.


7th January, 2008
Some Danger Involved; Will Thomas
— Love @ 19:56 Comments (1)
Filed under: A-Z Reading Challenge, B, Back to History, English, Historical, Mystery

Some Danger Involved; Will Thomas Some Danger Involved
by Will Thomas
American

For the Back to History and A-Z reading challenges.

English
302 pages
Touchstone
ISBN: 978-0-7432-5619-3

First line: If someone had told me, those many years ago, that I would spend the bulk of my life as assistant and eventual partner to one of the most eminent detectives in London, I would have thought him a raving lunatic.

Back cover blurb:
An atmospheric debut novel set on the gritty streets of Victorian London, Some Danger Involved introduces detective Cyrus Barker and his assistant, Thomas Llewelyn, as they work to solve the gruesome murder of a young scholar in London’s Jewish ghetto. When the eccentric and enigmatic Barker takes the case, he must hire an assistant, and out of all who answer an ad for a position with “some danger involved,” he chooses downtrodden Llewelyn, a gutsy young man with a murky past.
As they inch ever closer to the shocking truth behind the murder, Llewelyn is drawn deeper and deeper into Barker’s peculiar world of vigilante detective work, as well as the heart of London’s teeming underworld.

Thoughts: Sometimes, when you read the first line of a book, you just know that you’re going to end up loving the whole book. This one had one of those and I was not disappointed in the least. It reads very much like a classic Holmes-type detective story, but is in fact written just a few years ago.

And oh, Victorian London! It’s one of my favourite settings for books, I have to admit. All that grime and slum and, well, everything about it — I adore it. As for the story line itself, it was pretty good. It wasn’t obvious whodunnit, but there were a couple of clues that you could’ve picked up on (unless you’re as dense as me, of course), which is nice. I don’t like mysteries where the solution is too obvious, but neither do I like when it’s so surprising you still can’t see the clues even when you know the answer.

This was the first in a series and although I like it, I’m not sure I’ll read the following books. At least I’m not absolutely dying to.

For the moment, rest assured that the B grade I’m giving it is very well-deserved.


5th January, 2008
An Assembly Such as This; Pamela Aidan
— Love @ 22:49 Comments (5)
Filed under: A-Z Reading Challenge, B, Back to History, English, First in a Series, Historical, Romance

An Assembly Such as This; Pamela Aidan An Assembly Such as This
by Pamela Aidan
American

For the First in a Series, Back to History and A-Z reading challenges.

English
256 pages
Touchstone
ISBN: 978-0-7432-9134-7

First line: Fitzwilliam George Alexander Darcy rose from his seat in the Bingley carriage and reluctantly descended to earth before the assembly hall above the only inn to which the small market town of Meryton could lay claim.

Back cover blurb:
“She is tolerable; but not handsome enough to tempt me.”

So begins the timeless romance of Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen’s classic novel which is beloved by millions, but little is revealed in the book about the mysterious and handsome hero, Mr. Darcy. And so the question has long remained: Who is Fitzwilliam Darcy?
In An Assembly Such as This, Pamela Aidan finally answers that long-standing question. In this first book of her Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman trilogy, she reintroduces us to Darcy during his visit to Hertfordshire with his friend Charles Bingley and reveals Darcy’s hidden perspective on the events of Pride and Prejudice. As Darcy spends more time at Netherfield supervising Bingley and fending off Miss Bingley’s persistent advances, his unwilling attraction to Elizabeth grows—as does his concern about her relationship with his nemesis, George Wickham.

Thoughts: Unlike Darcy’s Story, which I read in December, this book really captured me from the first chapter. Here is Mr. Darcy as I have always pictured him. The other characters, some of which are original characters, are well-written as well and especially Fletcher, Darcy’s valet, won my heartfelt approval.

On the whole, it felt as though it was written very much in the spirit of Austen herself, and there was much giggling and squeeing from me as I read it.

The only negative thing about it is that it’s the first in a series and I hadn’t realised that the whole series would make up the events in Pride and Prejudice. In fact, I thought the following two books would relate the events after Darcy’s and Lizzy’s wedding. As I found it was not the case, I shall simply have to hunt down the following two volumes at my earliest convenience, as I will not rest until I know what happens next (shut up! Yes, I know I know what happens next, but I don’t have Aidan’s Darcy’s take on it, so there!).

For now, it’s a B grade. If the rest of the series proves to be as good as this, I might bump it up to an A in the end.


5th January, 2008
Flambards Divided; KM Peyton
— Love @ 15:34 Comments (2)
Filed under: D, Decades '08, English, Historical, YA Challenge 2008, Young Adult

Flambards Divided; KM Peyton Flambards Divided
by KM Peyton
British

For the Young Adult and Decades ’08 (first published 1981) reading challenges.

English
283 pages
Oxford University Press
ISBN: 978-0-19-257055-6

First line: Christina had dreamed of Will again.

Back cover blurb:
When Christina marries Dick, she hopes that life at Flambards will settle down at last. But the village gossips find it scandalous that she, a rich landowner, should marry a peasant, and show their disapproval in no uncertain terms.

Even more unsettling is Mark’s return from the war in France. Badly injured and resentful of Dick, Mark is still the imposing character of old who stirs up confusing feelings in Christina. Just as before, Christina finds her loyalties divided between two very different men, and knows she has a terrible decision ahead of her…

Thoughts: This is by far my least favourite book in the series. It is the last one and the most grown-up, so you’d think I’d like it better, being older now than the first time I read it. But no. In fact I feel as though Peyton quite ruins my favourite character (even if his reactions are understandable, I still don’t want him to have them quite so violently. Things could have worked out, I am quite certain of it).

Another thing is that all the other books are seen completely from Christina’s perspective, but here we suddenly get passages written from someone else’s point of view. Normally I wouldn’t have minded that, but with three books behind you, it’s a little late to start changing things around without it seeming a little strange.

In the end, whilst the rest of the Flambards-books have received Cs, this one gets a D, for the reasons outlined above.


4th January, 2008
Flambards in Summer; KM Peyton
— Love @ 15:11 Comments (2)
Filed under: A-Z Reading Challenge, C, English, Historical, Young Adult

Flambards in Summer; KM Peyton Flambards in Summer
by KM Peyton
British

For the A-Z Reading Challenge.

English
188 pages
Oxford University Press
ISBN: 978-0-19-275054-9

First line: The RFC ditty with the sad tune, which Christina had sung several times with Will and his friends when he had been home on leave, would not leave her head.

Back cover blurb:
Widowed at twenty-one, Christina has returned to Flambards to find much has changed. The First World War is well underway, with Uncle Russell and her beloved Will both dead, while Mark is missing, presumed killed. Flambards itself is run-down, neglected and completely overgrown.

Christina vows to return the manor house to its former glory, and works hard to transform the home of her childhood. It is only when a familiar face appears at her door one day that she realizes that Flambards may even bring her love again…

Thoughts: This is the third of four books about Flambards and I finished it in one sitting. Like the previous books in the series, it’s a nice enough read and, while still considered YA, decidedly more adult than the other two.

While I don’t like it quite as much as Flambards (which I think is my favourite of the four), I still give it a C rating.


3rd January, 2008
The Edge of the Cloud; KM Peyton
— Love @ 23:43 Comments (0)
Filed under: A-Z Reading Challenge, C, English, Historical, Young Adult

The Edge of the Cloud; KM Peyton The Edge of the Cloud
by KM Peyton
British

For the A-Z Reading Challenge.

English
181 pages
Oxford University Press
ISBN: 978-0-19-275023-5

First line: ‘We’ve eloped,’ Christina said to Aunt Grace.

Back cover blurb:
Christina and Will have escaped Flambards for London with their heads full of dreams, only to find a whole new set of problems. Not only the basic ones of work and a place to live, but Will’s single-minded ambition to design and pilot flying machines, which terrify Christina every time he leaves the ground. Will is certain he can become a success, but what price is he willing to pay for the glory?

Thoughts: This is the sequel to Flambards and has less horses (and a lot more air-borne machinery). It reads as a logical continuation of Christina’s and Will’s story and earns itself another of those C ratings I seem so fond of dealing out of late.


3rd January, 2008
Flambards; KM Peyton
— Love @ 19:52 Comments (0)
Filed under: A-Z Reading Challenge, C, English, First in a Series, Historical, YA Challenge 2008, Young Adult

Flambards; KM Peyton Flambards
by KM Peyton
British

For the First in a Series, Young Adult and A-Z reading challenges.

English
220 pages
Oxford University Press
ISBN: 978-0-19-271955-3

First line: The fox was running easily.

Back cover blurb:
Christina is sent to live with her uncle and his two sons in their country house, Flambards.

She finds her uncle fierce and domineering and her cousin Mark arrogant and selfish. But Flambards isn’t all bad, for Christina soon discovers a passion for horse-riding and forms a binding friendship with her cousin Will.

As time goes by Christina comes to realize the important part she has to play in this emotionally-charged and strange household.

Thoughts: Oh, it’s been absolute ages since I’ve read any horse-y books! I used to be quite crazy about them when I was younger, just as I was crazy about everything else related to horses.

It is a nice book, though. I quite like it still, even if perhaps not quite so much as previously. A C is in order—I spent a couple of hours curled up with it, time which I don’t begrudge it, and I have no objection to (re-)reading the rest of the series, but it’s not absolutely fantastic.


3rd January, 2008
His Majesty’s Dragon; Naomi Novik
— Love @ 15:30 Comments (7)
Filed under: A-Z Reading Challenge, B, English, Fantasy, First in a Series, Here Be Dragons, Historical, Seafaring Challenge

His Majesty's Dragon; Naomi Novik His Majesty’s Dragon
by Naomi Novik
American

For the Here Be Dragons, First in a Series, Seafaring and A-Z reading challenges.

English
356 pages
Del Rey
ISBN: 978-0-345-48128-3

First line: The deck of the French ship was slippery with blood, heaving in the choppy sea; a stroke might as easily bring down the man making it as the intended target.

Back cover blurb:
Aerial combat brings a thrilling new dimension to the Napoleonic Wars as valiant warriors rise to Britain’s defense by taking to the skies… not aboard aircraft but atop the mighty backs of fighting dragons.
When HMS Reliant captures a French frigate and seizes its precious cargo, an unhatched dragon egg, fate sweeps Capt. Will Laurence from his seafaring life into the uncertain future—and an unexpected kinship with a most extraordinary creature. Thrust into the rarefied world of the Aerial Corps as master of the dragon Temeraire, he will face a crash course in the daring tactics of airborne battle. For as France’s own dragon-borne forces rally to breach British soil in Bonaparte’s boldest gambit, Laurence and Temeraire must soar into their own baptism of fire.

Thoughts: I really, really liked this book. I’d suspected I might, and thankfully I was not disappointed, as has sometimes been the case (The Eyre Affair springs readily to mind as an example of this). Naomi Novik’s take on the Napoleonic Wars is quite exciting to read and her characters are ones you quickly become exceedingly fond of. The only beef I have with the story is that it’s sometimes a little too fantastic, perhaps. That, and the reactions of the main character to certain things (though, granted, they are perfectly understandable reactions for him to have, as a product of the Regency era. Still, they grated on me a little).

All in all, though, I can say with certainty that I will try to get my paws on the next three books in the series as soon as possible, and that I will also wait with bated breath for June to come around and with it the publishing of the fifth book.

A B rating is nothing if not extremely well-deserved in this case.


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
British

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

English
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
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
American

For the End of Year Mini Challenge.

English
317 pages
Century
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
Irish

For the End of Year Mini Challenge.

English
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
British

For the End of Year Mini Challenge.

English
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.


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
British

English
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
American

English
197 pages
Bloomsbury
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
Swedish

Swedish
257 pages
Månpocket
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
Swedish

Swedish
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 sångaren i kultpunkbandet KSMB samt Stockholms negrer, sin egen historia. Det är berättelsen om hur han lever med en kvinna som utåt sätt är kärleksfull och god, men som inom hemmets väggar snart visar sig vara en djävul — en kvinna som slår och misshandlar sin man. När hon senare väntar parets barn bestämmer hon sig dessutom för att hon inte vill ha Michael som far, varpå 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
French

French
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
American

Swedish
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
American

English
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
British

English
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)
British

English
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.)
Swedish

Swedish
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 underhållande om nio av historiens största mordgåtor, 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
— Love @ 18:25 Comments (0)
Filed under: C, English, GLBT interest, Historical

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

English
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
— Love @ 23:34 Comments (0)
Filed under: Adventure, B, English, Fantasy

Stardust; Neil Gaiman Stardust
by Neil Gaiman
British

English
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.


30th November, 2007
Movie Icons: Cary Grant; FX Feeney & Paul Duncan (ed.)
— Love @ 20:27 Comments (0)
Filed under: Biographies, English, Film, n/a

Movie Icons: Cary Grant; FX Feeney & Paul Duncan (ed.) Movie Icons: Cary Grant
by FX Feeney and Paul Duncan (ed.)
American

English
192 pages
Taschen
ISBN: 978-3-8228-2212-8

First line: He is the most self-invented man in movies, this side of Charlie Chaplin.

Thoughts: Much like the book on James Dean, this book on Cary Grant was chock-full of photos, but not so much actual text (a fair few quotes, by and about him, though). Following his film career through the pictures was nice, however, and one photo in particular, of him in dreadful drag, had me giggling for minutes.

Just as with the Dean book, I won’t be rating this.


30th November, 2007
Movie Icons: James Dean; FX Feeney & Paul Duncan (ed.)
— Love @ 20:02 Comments (0)
Filed under: Biographies, English, Film, n/a

Movie Icons: James Dean; FX Feeney & Paul Duncan (ed.) Movie Icons: James Dean
by FX Feeney and Paul Duncan (ed.)
American

English
192 pages
Taschen
ISBN: 978-3-8228-2220-3

First line: He died at age 24 in a car crash, testing a new, lightweight, ultra-swift Porsche Spyder en route to a weekend race in Northern California.

Thoughts: Full of photos, but not so full of actual text (though there are quotes and a short biography), I quite enjoyed this. James Dean is a bit of a favourite of mine, so it was nice to see photos I’d not seen before. However, because of the nature of the book, I will not grade it.


30th November, 2007
The World of Normal Boys; KM Soehnlein
— Love @ 13:06 Comments (0)
Filed under: B, English, Fiction, GLBT interest

The World of Normal Boys; KM Soehnlein The World of Normal Boys
by KM Soehnlein
American

English
282 pages
Kensington Books
ISBN: 0-965-14638-3

First line: Maybe this is the moment when his teenage years begin.

Back cover blurb:
The time is the late 1970s – an age of gas shortages, head shops, and Saturday Night Fever. The place, suburban New Jersey. At a time when the teenagers around him are coming of age, Robin MacKenzie is coming undone. While “normal boys” are into cars, sports, and bullying their classmates, Robin enjoys day trips to New York City with his elegant mother, spinning fantastic tales for her amusement in an intimate ritual he has come to love. He dutifully plays the role of the good son for his meat-and-potatoes father, even as his own mind is a jumble of sexual confusion and painful self-doubt. But everything changes in one, horrifying instant when a tragic accident wakes his family from their middle-American dream and plunges them into a spiral of slow destruction.

Thoughts: The language in this book was beautiful, but bleak and depressing, and there was a constant feeling of impending doom. I found it hard, sometimes, to keep reading, because I was sure that disaster was waiting just around the corner. Keep reading I did, though, because putting the book down was even harder than not going on.

The World of Normal Boys receives a well-deserved B.


21st November, 2007
Mitt brinnande hjärta; Tasso Stafilidis
— Love @ 15:16 Comments (0)
Filed under: Biographies, C, GLBT interest, Swedish

Mitt brinnande hjärta; Tasso Stafilidis Mitt brinnande hjärta
by Tasso Stafilidis
Swedish

Swedish
234 pages
Normal förlag
ISBN: 91-855505-13-7

First line: Det är tidig höst på Fredriksdalsskolan i Helsingborg.

Back cover blurb:
Mitt brinnande hjärta är Tasso Stafilidis personliga resa genom politiken och teatern. Det är en självutlämnande bok om rättsröta och rättspatos, men också om svikna ideal och slitig vardaglig kamp för förändring. Tasso Stafilidis berättar om hatbrev och mordhot, priset han fått betala för att vara öppet homosexuell och riksdagsledamot.

Mitt brinnande hjärta ger också en unik inblick bakom kulisserna i vänsterpartiet och striden om det kommunistiska arvet. En strid som innebar att Tasso, som tagit avstånd från kommunismen redan som 15-åring, förlorade sin riksdagsplats och till slut lämnade partiet helt och hållet efter 22 år.

I boken får vi också läsa om den rapport som Tasso Stafilidis skrev om homosexuellas situation i Iran, med uppgifter om den svenska ambassaden i Teheran som tidigare inte framkommit.

Thoughts: I have to admit I am a little disappointed in this book. It’s going to sound weird, especially since the biggest reason I wanted to read it in the first place was that it was written by the first openly gay member of the Swedish parliament, but it focused almost exclusively on gay issues. Normally, this wouldn’t be a problem, but Stafilidis complains time and time again that people always zeroed in on the LGBT-issues that he worked with, as if they were the only things he was involved in, when in fact he did so many other things as well. My question, then, is why he doesn’t spend more time telling us about these other things. He mentions them, yes, but not nearly as much as his GLBT-work.

Still, the book is interesting, and I would’ve been willing to overlook the above-mentioned issue and give it a higher grade, had the language been better. As it was, it just didn’t engage me very much, and so it’s a C.


16th November, 2007
So Hard to Say; Alex Sanchez
— Love @ 23:35 Comments (1)
Filed under: C, English, Fiction, GLBT interest, Young Adult

So Hard to Say; Alex Sanchez So Hard to Say
by Alex Sanchez
MexicanAmerican

English
232 pages
Simon Pulse
ISBN: 1-4169-1189-8

First line: My name is (drum roll, please) María Xiomara Iris Juárez Hidalgo, but nobody calls me María.

Back cover blurb:
When Frederick shows up at school, Xio is thrilled. The new boy is shy, cute and definitely good boyfriend material. Before long, she pulls him into her lively circle of friends.

Frederick knows he should be flattered by Xio’s attention. After all, she’s popular, pretty, and a lot of fun. So why can’t he stop thinking about Victor, the captain of the soccer team, instead?

Thoughts: When I got this book, I thought the main characters were older than they ended up being. Xio and Frederick are both thirteen, which is a little younger than I normally like reading about. Because the story is aimed at a little bit younger audience than the books I usually go for, it was a quick read and I finished it in one sitting, even though I hadn’t intended to. Not because it was fantastic, but because there didn’t really seem to be a point to put it down and go to sleep, since there was so little left of it. Kind of regretted it the next morning, though, since I was quite tired after too little sleep. Alas, such is the life of a book lover…

This book gets a C rating. My younger self would probably have wanted to give it a higher grade, but younger self is no longer around, so doesn’t actually have a say in things at the moment.


14th November, 2007
Rainbow Boys; Alex Sanchez
— Love @ 19:45 Comments (0)
Filed under: C, English, Fiction, GLBT interest, Young Adult

Rainbow Boys; Alex Sanchez Rainbow Boys
by Alex Sanchez
MexicanAmerican

English
262 pages
Simon Pulse
ISBN: 0-689-85770-5

First line: Jason Carrillo walked around the block a third time, working up his courage to go into the brownstone.

Back cover blurb:
High school’s hard enough as it is without falling in love with your best friend–who’s crushing on the most popular guy in school. Or feeling like your parents would throw you out if they knew you were gay. Or being afraid of who you are…

Thoughts: I’ve been meaning to get my hands on this book for quite some time, especially after two of my friends read and enjoyed it at around the same time last summer. Personally, I liked it well enough. It’s your typical high school novel with a coming out theme, basically. No harm in that, of course, but it’s been done a lot of times before and for me to fall head over heels in love with it, the language would have had to be better. It’s not terrible, I just don’t think it’s earned more than a C rating from me, so that’s what it’s going to get.


14th November, 2007
Phonephucker; Tanja Suhinina
— Love @ 14:34 Comments (0)
Filed under: B, Sex, sexuality & gender, Swedish

Phonephucker; Tanja Suhinina Phonephucker
by Tanja Suhinina
Swedish

Swedish
203 pages
Hydra förlag
ISBN: 978-91-976885-0-5

First line: Fan i helvetes jävelkuken!

Back cover blurb:
Tanja Suhinina tar dig in i den svettiga världen av telefonsex. Långt in. Som smart, ung, blivande psykolog filéar Tanja telefontorskarna på löpande band. I sin självupplevda debutroman skildrar hon hur kampen för det nattliga brödet kan ta sig många, vitt skilda, och humoristiska uttryck, men att det trots allt ändå är en människa i den andra luren.

Elin Jonssons fuktiga tuschpenna bidrar med illustrationer som suggestivt skildrar både det dråpliga och det chockerande, det burläska och det mondäna.

Thoughts: I liked this book. I really did. When I started reading it, I was just planning on reading one chapter before switching over to another book (and to continue reading this one at a later time). By the time I finally managed to put it down, I was a little more than half-way in. Clearly, Suhinina’s writing style is one that grabs me and amuses me. Another B rating, then, and well-deserved it is.


13th November, 2007
Paper Moon; Marion Husband
— Love @ 21:43 Comments (0)
Filed under: B, English, GLBT interest, Historical

Paper Moon; Marion Husband Paper Moon
by Marion Husband
British

English
332 pages
Accent Press
ISBN: 1-905170-14-9

First line: The robe the man had given her to change into was dark blue silk, printed with storks and Japanese gardens and tiny bridges on which pigtailed men crossed shimmering streams.

Back cover blurb:
The passionate love affair between Spitfire pilot Bobby Harris and photographer’s model Nina Tate lasts through the turmoil of World War II, but is tested when his plain is shot down. Disfigured and wanting to hide from the world, Bobby retreats from Bohemian Soho to the empty house his grandfather has left him, a house haunted by the secrets of his childhood. Here the mysteries of his past are gradually unravelled.

Thoughts: This is the sequel to The Boy I Love and you can forget the issues I had with that book ending on a too depressing note. Turns out that, even though they are not the main characters this time around, my favourite people from that book still had story left for them and by the time I’d turned the last page, things were settled more to my liking.

It’s another B rating. It was easy enough to lose myself in (I couldn’t wait to get home from work so I could continue reading) and I’ll probably end up re-reading it at some point.


12th November, 2007
Faghag; Linda Leopold
— Love @ 21:15 Comments (0)
Filed under: F, GLBT interest, Sex, sexuality & gender, Swedish

Faghag; Linda Leopold Faghag
by Linda Leopold
Swedish

Swedish
263 pages
Atlas
ISBN: 978-91-7389-318-3

First line: Året är 1985.

Back cover blurb:
“Man lär känna en och sen lär man känna en till. Sen upptäcker man att den tredje också är supertrevlig. Och sen börjar man liksom samla på dem.”

Faghag är en reportagebok om det speciella förhållandet mellan heterosexuella kvinnor och homosexuella män. Den utspelar sig i Berlin, New York, Göteborg, San Fransisco, Stockholm, Paris och Falun, på allt från sexklubbar till ålderdomshem, bland kvinnor som förenas i kärleken till bögar.
En del faghags föredrar att shoppa och dricka cocktails med sina gaybästisar, andra kämpar politiskt för dem. Några nöjer sig med att beundra bögarna på avstånd, likt de unga tjejerna i Faghagklubben som sitter hemma och skriver homoerotiska noveller.
Faghag handlar om symbiotisk vänskap, politisk kamp och en gemensam dröm om en värld bortom regnbågen.

Thoughts: I really did not like this book. It’s interesting, to be sure, and before I read it, I thought I’d like it a lot. But I don’t. I don’t know if it’s the language, or the author’s attitude, but we just didn’t click, this book and I. Well… except one part of one chapter, but that wasn’t enough to make me want to give it a better rating than an F.


12th November, 2007
The Boy I Love; Marion Husband
— Love @ 14:03 Comments (0)
Filed under: B, English, GLBT interest, Historical

The Boy I Love; Marion Husband The Boy I Love
by Marion Husband
British

English
276 pages
Accent Press
ISBN: 1-905170-00-9

First line: Hiding in Adam’s pantry, Paul remembered how he was once forced to eat marmalade at school, a whole pot of marmalade, Jenkins twisting his arms up his back as Nichols held his nose and clattered the spoon past his teeth.

Back cover blurb:
A tangled web of love and betrayal develops when war hero Paul returns from the trenches. He finds himself torn between desire and duty, his lover Adam awaits but so too does Margot, the pregnant fiancée of his dead brother. Set in a time when homosexuality was still illegal, Paul has to decide where his loyalty and his heart lie.

Thoughts: At first I found the story a little confusing, as there are frequent, though very short, flashbacks. You get used to them after a while though, and they are interesting in the way that they don’t give everything away at once.

Don’t read this if you want a happy ending, because you won’t get it here. I’m a little tired now, of books with a homosexual theme that end on a depressing note. I’ve read too many of them lately — I want a happy ending for a gay character, damn it! But I guess there’s no change in sight any time soon, since EM Forster lamented the lack of happy endings as early as at the beginning of the 20th century. But I digress.

Despite the somewhat mopey feeling I was left with, I quite liked it. A B is in order, I think.


11th November, 2007
Kydd; Julian Stockwin
— Love @ 18:23 Comments (2)
Filed under: Adventure, C, English, Historical, Seafaring Challenge

Kydd; Julian Stockwin Kydd
by Julian Stockwin
British

For the Seafaring Challenge.

English
440 pages
Coronet Books
ISBN: 0-340-79474-7

First line: ‘The Honourable Member for Molton.’

Back cover blurb:
Guns. Guts. Courage. Discipline. Death.

The year is 1793. Europe is ablaze with war and men are urgently needed to man the ships. Press-ganged off the streets of Guildford, young wig-maker Thomas Paine Kydd must learn the harsh realities of shipboard life very quickly. It’s that or die.

In all the danger of tempest and battle, Kydd eventually learns to admire the skills and courage of his shipmates. He comes to relish the challenge of the 98-gun line-of-battle ship HMS Duke William, and the camaraderie of its battle-hardened crew. Kydd is loyal, brave and passionate. But will that be enough to turn the raw youth into a true sailor?

Thoughts: All other novels I’ve read on this theme have, more or less, featured officers as the main characters. This one doesn’t, which in a sense made it more interesting. However, I’ve discovered that I rather do prefer to read about officers rather than able (or ordinary, as the case may be) seamen.

This is just the first in a series of books, and while it was certainly okay (once I got in to it properly, which took a while, because of the tedium of everyday life aboard a blockade-cruising ship) , I have no urge to read the following books. If it had given me taste for more, my rating would have been higher, but as things are, I give it a C.


10th November, 2007
Bush-Whacked; Leland Gregory
— Love @ 17:50 Comments (0)
Filed under: English, F, Humour

Bush-Whacked; Leland Gregory Bush-Whacked
by Leland Gregory
American

English
248 pages
Andrews McMeel Publishing
ISBN: 0-7407-5471-8

Back cover blurb:
From the best-selling author of America’s Dumbest Criminals, What’s the Number for 911? and Hey, Idiot! comes a hysterical collection of perplexing quotes and wacky anecdotes devoted to the governmental goofs of the Bush administration.

With his expert nose for nuttiness, Leland Gregory has captured the Bush administration at its funniest, not its finest.

Thoughts: I was expecting to be very amused by this book, but that just didn’t happen. It’s true that it contains a few gems that made me giggle, but the author (or editor, if you will, since it’s a collection of quotes, basically) included a bunch of budget decisions that I couldn’t personally see anything wrong with. Since they were included, I assume they were meant to be funny, but I just didn’t see it. Maybe it’s because I’m not an American and I have another view, perhaps, on how tax money is meant to be spent.

Either way, in the end, I didn’t much care for this book and it gets an F, the first I’ve given out since this blog started.


10th November, 2007
Geography Club; Brent Hartinger
— Love @ 02:58 Comments (0)
Filed under: B, English, Fiction, GLBT interest, Young Adult

Geography Club; Brent Hartinger Geography Club
by Brent Hartinger
American

English
226 pages
Harper Tempest
ISBN: 0-06-001223-4

First line: I was deep behind enemy lines, in the very heart of the opposing camp.

Back cover blurb:
I knew that any wrong action, however slight, could reveal my true identity…

Russel is still going on dates with girls. Kevin would do anything to prevent his teammates on the baseball team from finding out. Min and Terese tell everyone they’re just really good friends. But after a while, the truth’s too hard to hide — at least from each other — so they form the “Geography Club.” Nobody else will come. Why would they want to? Their secret should be safe.

Thoughts: A short and sweet, though occasionally also depressing, tale of high school and how hard it can be if you are not perceived as ‘normal’, or you have to fake it to fit in. I liked it well enough, though the language sometimes felt a little too simple to me (not to mention the net speak that plagued the first chapter or two), so it receives a B.


9th November, 2007
Lord John and the Brotherhood of the Blade; Diana Gabaldon
— Love @ 23:21 Comments (0)
Filed under: Adventure, B, English, GLBT interest, Historical, Mystery

Lord John and the Brotherhood of the Blade; Diana Gabaldon Lord John and the Brotherhood of the Blade
by Diana Gabaldon
American

English
504 pages
Century
ISBN: 978-1-844-13201-0

First line: To the best of Lord John Grey’s knowledge, stepmothers as depicted in fiction tended to be venal, evil, cunning, homicidal, and occasionally cannibalistic.

Back cover blurb:
It’s 1758 and Europe is in turmoil — the Seven Years War is taking hold and London is ripe with deceit. The enigmatic Lord John Grey, a nobleman and high-ranking officer in His Majesty’s Army, pursues a clandestine love affair and a deadly family secret.

Grey’s father, the Duke of Pardloe, shot himself just days before he was to be accused of being a Jacobite traitor. Now, seventeen years on, the family name has been redeemed; but an impending marriage revives the scandal. Lord John knows that as Whitehall whispers, rumours all too often lead their victims to the wails of Newgate prison — and to the gallows.

From barracks and parade grounds to the bloody battlefields of Prussia, Grey faces danger and forbidden passions in his search for the truth. But it is in the stony fells of the Lake District that he finds the man who may hold the key to his quest: the enigmatic Jacobite prisoner Jamie Fraser.

Eighteenth-century Europe is brought startlingly to life in this compelling adventure mystery.

Thoughts: I’m not sure if I actually like Diana Gabaldon’s writing or not. I like some of her characters exceedingly well, but the writing itself? It’s so hard to decide, and so hard, sometimes, to separate the two. Either way, Lord John is one of my all-time favourite fictional characters and I was very pleased to have him back.

Poor man, though; Gabaldon treats him abominably ill throughout the course of the book. He does get a few happy moments in the middle somewhere, but there aren’t many of them. I know I can be an angst whore, but sometimes enough is just enough. And I wish the sex scenes were more appealingly written.

All in all, this gets a B. I’ll most likely go back for a re-read later on. It is Lord John we’re talking about here, after all!


6th November, 2007
Brothers; Ted van Lieshout
— Love @ 11:34 Comments (0)
Filed under: C, English, Fiction, GLBT interest, Young Adult

Brothers; Ted van Lieshout Brothers
by Ted van Lieshout
Original title: Gebr
Dutch

English
155 pages
Collins Flamingo
ISBN: 0-00-711231-9

First line: This isn’t the beginning.

Back cover blurb:
Can you still be a brother when your brother is dead? Luke often wonders. His brother Marius has died, leaving Luke alone with their parents. When their mother decides to burn Marius’s belongings in a ceremonial bonfire, Luke saves his brother’s diary and makes it his own by writing in it. And so begins a dialogue between the brothers, the dead and the living, from which truths emerge, truths of life and death and love.

Thoughts: The language in this book isn’t spectacular, but I don’t know how much of that is from the translation, and how much is from the original. Despite this, I found myself captured for the moment and I have to admit I shed more than a few tears. Then again, I always have been a total sap when it comes to certain things.

I’m going to have to go with a C here. It’s a decent book and I don’t begrudge it the hour or two I spent reading it, but it’s far from being a favourite and the story and characters didn’t really stay with me long after I finished it.


4th November, 2007
Northanger Abbey; Jane Austen
— Love @ 18:15 Comments (2)
Filed under: B, Classics, English, Historical, Romance

Northanger Abbey; Jane Austen Northanger Abbey
by Jane Austen
British

English
236 pages
Penguin Popular Classics
ISBN: 0-14-062075-3

First line: No one who had ever seen Catherine Morland in her infancy would have supposed her born to be an heroine.

Back cover blurb:
Northanger Abbey is Jane Austen’s amusing and bitingly satirical pastiche of the ‘Gothic’ romances popular in her day.

Catherine Morland, an unremarkable tomboy as a child, is thrown amongst all the ‘difficulties and dangers’ of Bath at the ripe age of seventeen. Armed with an unworldly charm and a vivid imagination, she must overcome the caprices of elegant society, encountering along the way such characters as the vacuous Mrs Allen, coquettish Isabella and the brash bully John Thorpe. Catherine’s invitation to Northanger Abbey, in her eyes a haven of coffins, skeletons and other Gothic devices, does lead to an adventure, though one she didn’t expect, and her misjudgement of the ambitious, somewhat villainous General Tilney is not wholly unjustified. However, with the ‘unromantic’ hero Henry Tilney, Catherine gradually progresses towards maturity and self-knowledge.

Thoughts: I first read this almost ten years ago and I must say I had a whole new appreciation for it this time around. I don’t remember liking it exceptionally well before, but now I was quite enamoured — especially with Henry Tilney, who I believe I thought quite a bore previously. I still haven’t read any of the Gothic novels that Austen refers to on a number of occasions, but I do plan on getting some of them read within the next year. Perhaps I should have left my re-read of this until after, to appreciate it even more, but I don’t think it was absolutely necessary. And, after all, I could always read this again, should the fancy strike.

I give this book a B. It’s not the best book I ever read, but it was enjoyable.