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

Archive: B


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.


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.


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).


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.)


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.


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.


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
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.


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.


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.


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).


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.


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!


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
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.


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
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.


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


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).


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?


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.


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…)


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.


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.


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
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.


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
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.


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!


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.