Saturday, April 29, 2006

Elbereth Gilthoniel

My husband and sister are watching The Fellowship of the Ring (extended) on dvd at the moment. Reminds me of how disappointed I was with these films. First one - alright, tough book to film, not a bad effort on the whole. But second one was worse and third one pretty dismal.

The LOTR trilogy are some of my favourite books of all time. They are a huge part of my life, and I cannot understand how they could cut out good bits and leave the goddamned AWFUL computer game "congratulations, you've reached the next level" scenes in. What were they thinking? Sad sad sad.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006


One fundamental problem, of course, is that I'm not interested in men going off to sail the high seas and find themselves through gruelling labour and incredible danger. I'm told that this is not what the book is all about, but it feels like it. It's going very badly at the moment. I just want him to stop yapping so fecking much, find Ahab's ship, get on and start harpooning or whatever. For Christ's sake. You rambling selfish prat.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Made my own link list now

And I'm very smug about it. Ha. I'll be working on making a better one sometime. More organized, like.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Sarah Dunant: Under My Skin

Lord, I forgot to write about this one. I actually read it before Moby Dick was started upon (and Lord, it's proving slow work. Work of genius and all, I can see that, but I'm just so grateful that I don't have to spend any time with a drunk Ishmael. The man doesn't know how to shut up, does he? Makes you see where Hemingway was coming from.).

So, this was a delightful detective story, with a snappy, witty heroine - Hanna Wolfe. Never read any of Dunant's before, but must read more. Funny and cool! Dunant respects her readers' intelligence, and doesn't repeat background story ad nauseam. Instead Wolfe mentions what has obviously happened in previous books more in passing, which is more natural.

A health spa is suffering from somebody sabotaging treatments and equipment. Luckily no-one has been hurt badly. Hannah poses as a patient to find the culprit, but even after she has there is more to the story. The book wants us to think about how we view our and other peoples' bodies, to think about cosmetic surgery and the shallow, visual way our society has turned out. Can be a bit preachy, but not much. It's offset by Hannah's wise-cracking sarcasm.

I like.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Long between updates

I started reading Moby Dick. So I may be gone a while... Unless I pop in to write about all the Other Things I Read, like cookery books ("jellied consommé is a traditional summer delight") and newspapers.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Staying off the Internet for Good Friday, therefore in an Update Panic, and how long can the title be? Pretty long, it seems.

That's the plan. So then of course I get really antsy and feel that OMG, I need to blog now, don't I? But I feel so restless and can't focus on giving my books and posts the TLC they deserve. Although, some books don't deserve TLC. I have recently started on two books that I just abandoned due to crapness. This is a skill (?) I have picked up in my old age. In my, like, youth I could not not finish a book, but hitting 30 and starting to sport a fetching moustache has made me realise that life is, indeed, much to short. So the books I ditched are The Cat Who Ate Danish Modern by Lilian Jackson Brown, and The Poisoned Chalice by Paul Doherty. The first one just didn't grip me, but I'll keep it around, just in case war breaks out and I become really desperate for something to read. The second is, according to the cover, the "best of its kind since the death of Ellis Peters". My arse it is. God, I was bored stiff with the narrator cum hero ten pages in. Argh. Could not cope. If you think frolic is a good word to use in a sexual context you might like this.

But this leads me on to Ellis Peters, whom I have read. Again. Yay! An Excellent Mystery is the latest find. I may have read all her Cadfael novels now, but I'm not completely sure. I am especially not sure if I view this as a good thing (job well done, closure) or with a sense of loss... Her other books are much harder to get a hold of, and they are a little less captivating. Her style works so brilliantly in a mediaeval (ha! spelt right on first attempt!) context.

In AEM the abbey recieves two brothers who are refugees from the war. Their home abbey has been burned to the ground and their brethren scattered. One is a former Crusade hero, the other his devoted mute helper. One day a soldier who used to serve under Crusade Hero's command turns up, to ask his blessing as he goes to court the hero's former betrothed. However, it turns out that the woman, who was supposed to have become a nun, has disappeared. And the hunt is on for clues, and meanwhile things are tense in Shrewsbury Abbey...

This book has a "gay" theme, much more explicitly than I expected. One of the brothers of the abbey is tormented by memories of the woman who scorned him and drove him to take vows. He is now tempted by two of the younger and better-looking brothers, and tries to find ways to get physical with them. Since this is Ellis Peters it doesn't get ugly, of course. No rape on her watch. But it's interesting that she isn't afraid to breach the issue. Well, and Brother Sex-Mad isn't gay even, he's just desperate. Which is also nice, that he isn't gay and therefore crazy. He's straight and crazy. Or temporarily so. In general there is theme of scandal in this book - brothers who can't stay away from tempations of the flesh, women in the monastery... I recommend it. It might not be a novel to bring to the Pride Parade... but it's enjoyable and thought-provoking.

After that I read an Agatha Christie I had nicked from Daddy's (who we helped move to a new flat last weekend - a great source of stress and anguish and another reason for not blogging). Murder on the Links, featuring Hercule Poirot. I'm not a mad Christie fan, and this isn't one of her strongest novels, IMO. I can't be arsed to go into detail, suffice it to say that the victim is found in a grave dug in a golf course. In France. It's set in France. However, it gets bonus points for Poirot being a little less of a caricature than usual. Well, not that I've read many Poirot mysteries or anything, but I remember him as a caricature, and I've never been that keen.

I also had borrowed a Margery Allingham novel, The Crime at Black Dudley, but I think I've read it. It starts with a dagger hunt in a dark house - pretty distinctive, and I know I've read that before... but for the life of me the rest is a blank. I can't have enjoyed it that much then, so I probably shouldn't bother re-reading, right?

Anyway, a Happy Easter to all of you who happen to read this! May you all find time for some påskekrim, regardless of where you are!

Monday, April 03, 2006

The Recipe, capital R, from The Best British Mysteries

Well, I haven't finished this short story collection (ed. Maxim Jakubowski, Allison & Busby 2004) yet, but I simply have to post this recipe already. It's from the very first story of the book (and I've been thinking about this tart while reading all the rest...), Martha Grace by Stella Duffy.

She will make him a deep tart of black berries and melted chunks of bitter chocolate, imported from France, ninety per cent cocoa solids. She starts early in the day. Purest white flour mixed in the air as she sifts it with organic cocoa so perfect that her pastry is almost black. Then the fruit - blackberries, boysenberries, loganberries, blackcurrants - just simmered with fruit sugar and pure water over the lowest of heat for almost two hours until they are thick syrup and pulp. She skims the scum from the surface [...]

And then she adds poison, obviously. This is crime fiction.

She leaves the thick fruit mix to cool. Melts the chocolate. Glistening rich black in the shallow pan. When it is viscous and runs slowly from the back of her walnut spoon, she drops in warmed essences almond, vanilla [...] She leaves the pan over hot water, bubbling softly in the cool of her morning kitchen. Lays the pastry out on the marble slab. Rolls it to paper fine. Folds it in on itself and starts again. Seven times more. Then she fits it to the baking dish, fluted edges, heavy base. She bakes the pastry blind and removes from her oven a crisp, dark shell. Pours in warm, thick, liquid chocolate, sprinkles over a handful of flaked and toasted almonds, watches them sink into the quicksand black. [...] When the chocolate is almost cool, she beats three egg yolks and more sugar into the fruit mixture, pours it slowly over the chocolate, lifts the tart dish and ever so gently places it in the heated oven. [...] She cries, one slow fat tear every fifteen seconds. When there are one hundred and sixty tears the tart is done.

My friends, how fabulous is this? Pretty much a lot! Had to look up what loganberries are to find out they are a cross between raspberry and blackberry. Souds damn delicious anyway, dahlinks.

On the whole this is an good collection of short stories. Some are meh, some are very enjoyable. Anne Perry goes on and on for pages, Val McDermid is snappy and to the point, Peter Lovesey also impresses. Simon Brett is amusing. Would be great to bring on a trip. And I'm going to read more Stella Duffy, if possible. And brush up on tart noir.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Dickson Carr and Simon Brett

So I felt I had to read John Dickson Carr's The Hollow Man, since it's such a classic, and since it was repeatedly referred to in Lovesey's novel Bloodhounds.

See how I've learnt to make links? Go me! Go my husband who explained the process. Of course, after he'd done that I managed to locate the Blogger help section. *eye-roll* Any day now, my five readers, I shall be editing my link list there on the right. Keep checking in to see the updates... :-P

But I digress. Anyway, amazingly enough one cannot find The Hollow Man in English at the library, but they did have it in Swedish. Den ihålige mannen it's called, aptly enough. So I borrowed it.

Book itself - not bad. Not bad. But I think I'll still have to find it in English some time. The translation was good, but distracting. I can't remember, from my last Gideon Fell mystery, vulgarities such as skitprat and håll käften (but in English). The tone doesn't feel right - but then I don't mix in upper-classy circles so what do I know. Maybe it is right.

The book itself is a locked room mystery, but I can't be arsed to summarize it at the moment. Bad me. I'm just going to write snow, three graves and Hungary, and that should be enough to trigger my memory if I ever forget the plotline.

After that I read a Simon Brett novel called The Witness at the Wedding. It's one in the Fethering series, of which I'm rather fond - not that it's Nobel Prize material or anything. Brett does quite a fine job of writing credibly about his middle-aged women, but he doesn't seem to quite trust that he does, but instead keeps over-explaining especially Carole's repressed motivations. Also, there is one major boo-boo. Carole's future daughter-in-law goes to see her neighbour Jude for some alternative physiotherapy, and tells Jude that she doesn't want Carole to know she's been there, because she'd worry. Later in the novel, Jude feels a little guilty about not telling Carole, but her promise to Gaby comes first. Then, suddenly, Carole knows. No relating of the telling. It's weird. And it's obviously the editor's fault, eh?

Right now I'm reading a collection of short stories, and the most exciting thing in it so far has been an amazing tart recipe. I mean, the stories are good and all, it's not that, but the tart sounds glorious. Wow. I'm going to have to post the whole recipe here tomorrow and make Frida look at it.