Friday, December 28, 2007

Oh. My. Goodness.

New Year's resolution must be to blog about something every day, regardless. I am so embarrassed.

Baby is whining again though, so not now. Taraa.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Google whack

Jag sitter här och jobbar på boköversättandet (som jag inte vill blogga om egentligen, men det här är för monumentalt att avstå), och letar efter en rolig översättning på begreppet halverektion. Nej, det är inte en sån bok - jag sa rolig översättning, inte schekshig. Haver jag inte hört uttrycket "stoffe" funderar jag, men google ger mig i första hand bara tusen människor som kallar sig så. Men finns stoffe borde även halvstoffe finnas och vara lättare att hitta, resonerar jag, och googlar. NADA.

Alltså, det här inlägget blir en grym google whack. Är inte det vad varje bloggare drömmer om?

Sunday, November 11, 2007

2 x Irish fantasy

My sister and her family came over from Ireland for my father's interment, and being a nice and generous person she came bearing gifts. I got agar-agar flakes and ground almonds among other things, and my kids got books. Now, I won't be writing about That's Not My Dinosaur, except to say that it is a riveting read indeed and the recipient of this tome loves it dearly, but about Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer and The Alchemyst by Michael Scott. These are both Irish writers, but we must feel kinder towards mr Colfer because apparently he used to be a teacher at my niece's and nephew's school. Please take a look at his web site there and note the expression " In 2001 the first Artemis Fowl book was published and he was able to resign from teaching"... do I detect a note of triumphant joy? Those darn kids.

Anyway, I'd been wanting (albeit in a passive way, which means I went to no great efforts to get the book myself, more let the thought of it idly pass my mind now and then) to read Artemis Fowl for aaaaages because I knew the writer was Irish, and this kindled my Erin-go-bragh (sic! har har) spirit. So I was very pleased to get this at least, the intended recipient hasn't got into the spirit of things at all yet what with being all caught up in Ellis Peters and what-have-you. So I read it. And I think my daughter will enjoy this, because it's clearly aimed at her age group. There's action, and dwarf farts, and a heroine (YAY to that actually!). But a literary masterpiece it certainly is not. It reads a bit as though Colfer really wanted it to be a film script. I don't dispute that it might make a fine film, but novels should be more than strings of dialogue peppered with one-liners. Nonetheless, I'll look for and read the sequels to see if the storytelling improves (after all, there is a huge difference between Harry Potter 1 and 7 for example - not that HP is to be seen as the ultimate good model or anything). And after all, I'm not the target audience, so so what, eh? I do appreciate Colfer's imagination though. To have the Faeries as a technologically advanced underground species is definitely new, and I did love that the police squad is LEPrecon.

Oh, the story is, for those not in the know, that Artemis Fowl is a twelve-year-old criminal genius hell-bent on restoring the family fortune, and he means to do this by kidnapping a fairy and asking a huge ransom.

The Alchemyst now. Again, my daughter will enjoy this, since she is to young for bookish sophistication. For an adult it's quite a dreary read, re-using mythological characters and stapling events. For someone who watches too much Stargate the approach is less than fresh, unfortunately. The first page or so is great though.... oh God, now the baby is being much too difficult for coherent thought. Idea is, in brief, that the alchemist Nicholas Flamel is still alive with his wife, guarding the Book of Abraham, a powerful spell book. Twins Josh and Sophie are unwittingly drawn into affairs when Flamel's enemy dr John Dee steals the book and kidnaps Perenelle Flamel. Turns out the twins may be the ones referred to in an ancient prophecy, so now they are hunted too by the ancient beings that want to rid the world of humans. And this is my biggest gripe - the prophecy says something about "the two that are one" and twins of different sexes surely have never been one. This also reads like a wanna-be film script, or rather the script to one of those never-ending Aussie youth TV-series.

Oh it's taken me an age to write even this disjointed post (thanks a lot Minimus). Depressing is what it is.

The Missing by Sarah Langan

This is a horror novel. I've had my obligatory horror phase of course, the Stephen King and Dean R Koontz stage of literary growth one often goes through in one's youth. Now I'm too old. I didn't finish this one, because I could see where it was going, and it wasn't to a good place. I'm just too old and too much of a mother, things like this give me angst. But on the other hand that is endorsement and a good review, because that is the whole point, surely.

So the story is that something infects people in a small town in Maine, turning them into some sort of beast-like, carnivorous, cannibalistic creatures. Nasty. Langan is good at introducing us to the main characters and making them believable. I recommend this if you're into this sort of thing, but beware of major carnage, dudes. I flipped to the last few pages so I know. Not at all pretty.

Anyway, if you read this and you want it, it's up for grabs. If I ever get my Bookcrossing arse in gear that's where this'll end up...

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Flippancy recanted

My husband's books are not all meaningless crap.

Jonathan Franzen: The Corrections

Oh Lord, it took me forever to finish this. This has got to be the thickest book I've read since the final Harry Potter - of course, they couldn't be more different. Like, LOLZ. The Corrections has substance, character depth and emotion to a much greater degree than Harry Potter can ever really display. My husband got me this for my birthday (11/10, so you can imagine... I finished it about ten days ago maybe. This is slooooow reading for me. Then again I am no longer permitted to read while nursing, so there is less time.)

Jonathan Franzen apparently (I'd never heard of him before to be honest, woe is the uncultural bog in which I dwell) writes for The New Yorker, and it shows. I once stumbled upon a copy of The New Yorker at a time when I was clearly much too young to appreciate it, but I retain a memory of an awfully wordy magazine that I wished I was clever enough to understand. Then there was a phase when I still didn't read it, and disguised my lack of intellectualism by thinking "oh it's probably just pretentious tripe anyway". Now I'm at a phase where I'd definitely give it a shot if I saw it lying around, but I'm not going to look for it. But anyway, my point is that it's rather wordy, which isn't necessarily a bad thing at all, but I suspect I might be a "less is more" type of person. Not least because I'm too quick and sloppy a reader - if there's an awful lot of description my eyes tend to wander and I miss things. Anyway, so this shows in Franzen's writing - it's wordy. But it's very good, and if you go to that website I've linked to there and read his biography you'll see that he's all kinds of smart, therefore: good wordiness.

Unfortunately the back blurb of The Corrections led me to picture a slightly different novel. According to the blurb, it's mostly about - hang on, let me nick this bit from that website up there:
After almost fifty years as a wife and mother, Enid Lambert is ready to have some fun. Unfortunately, her husband, Alfred, is losing his sanity to Parkinson's disease, and their children have long since flown the family nest to the catastrophes of their own lives. The oldest, Gary, a once-stable portfolio manager and family man, is trying to convince his wife and himself, despite clear signs to the contrary, that he is not clinically depressed. The middle child, Chip, has lost his seemingly secure academic job and is failing spectacularly at his new line of work. And Denise, the youngest, has escaped a disastrous marriage only to pour her youth and beauty down the drain of an affair with a married man -- or so her mother fears. Desperate for some pleasure to look forward to, Enid has set her heart on an elusive goal: bringing her family together for one last Christmas at home.

I think it's a bit simple, which on the other hand does testify to the complexity and richness of the book. I got the impression of the story leading up to that Christmas, with everybody despite all odds gathering at casa Lambert at Yule. But it's not really like that, Christmas isn't really the climax at all. It ends up being sort of an anti-climax in the place of a climax, and then winds down gently to a surprisingly happy end, albeit with a slightly bitter flavour since we're privy to Alfred's dementia-induced fears, rages and confused thoughts. Everybody else may be all right, but Alfred is in hell. Incidentally, that's one of the things I like best, Franzen's description of Alfred, a man who has failed at showing his children that he loves them, who is unable to show love, and who is now descending into bewilderment.

Highly readable, at times very funny. Recommended.

Jesper Juul: Ditt kompetenta barn

Ja, det är helt klart en läsvärd bok. Och det finns så mycket skrivet om den på nätet så jag tänker inte (läs: orkar inte) lägga ett utförligt strå till stacken. Usch vad lat jag är. Istället skriver jag att jag hoppas att den nya pocketutgåvan som kom för något år sedan blev ordentligt korrekturläst, för den här första upplagan var rätt slarvigt översatt från danskan och layouten var inte heller någon höjdare alla gånger.

Men oaktat detta tycker jag att det vore utmärkt om fler nyblivna föräldrar läste hans böcker för att få perspektiv på hur vi tanklöst behandlar barn, och även oss själva.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Nära föräldrar - om anknytning, samsovning och konsten att bära barn av Jorun Modén

Det var ett bra tag sedan jag läste den här. Jag lånade den på impuls på biblioteket.

Modén säger att hon velat skriva den bok hon själv saknade när hon väntade barn, en bok som handlar om hur man knyter an till sitt barn och lyssnar till dess behov, istället för att fixera på hur barnet ska sova och äta och få rutiner. Detta kan jag sympatisera med helt och fullt. Många böcker om föräldraskapet, för att inte tala om alla de broschyrer man får på BVC, sätter tonen genom att tala om barnens sömn t.ex. som "problem" som ska lösas. "Misslyckas" man, underförstått, är man för slapp. Även om det inte skrivs så uttryckligen kan förhållandet mellan förälder och barn utmålas som en maktkamp med vinnare och förlorare. Modén har inspirerats av makarna Sears tankar och böcker om attachment parenting, men velat skriva en bok för svenska förhållanden (som t.ex. kunde handla mer om faderns roll, i jämställdhetens namn). Hon står också bakom en hemsida, med blogg och forum, för likasinnade.

Jag har som sagt all sympati för idén, och håller helt med om att det behövs en motvikt mot allt i mitt tycke närmast reaktionärt tjat om 5-minutersmetoden för sömn (barnmisshandel när den utövas i sin mest renodlade form), smakisar och va-ammar-du-fortfarande? Tyvärr är Modéns bok helt enkelt inte tillräckligt bra. Hon blandar ihop begrepp (t.ex. anger hon som fördel med bärsjal att det är bra med kroppskontakt, men utan att klargöra att kroppskontakt i sig är bra och faktiskt kan uppnås utan just bärsjal) och hon har dålig källunderbyggnad (det känns inte seriöst att hänvisa till Dr Sears bok och internetsidor enbart). Boken känns tunn och substansfattig. Modén skriver att hon ville ha en bok som tog upp som självklarheter det som annars anses alternativt och konstigt, men resultatet blir tyvärr att boken inte frälser andra än de redan frälsta. En skeptiker blir inte övertygad utan mer vetenskap bakom åsikterna. Och vetenskapen FINNS ju där, varför finns den inte i källorna?

Jag väntar på en svensk bok om föräldraskap som på ett oromatiserat sätt beskriver hur barnets sömn fungerar utan att betrakta den som problematisk, som inte är negativt inställd till nattamning, som varken påstår att föräldraskap är bara vackert och underbart eller apjobbigt och utslitande, som inte felaktigt påstår att amning orsakar karies, som vet vad tygblöjor är, som inte påstår att man måste ge barnet vattniga portioner puré på sex- (eller fyra-!...) månadersdagen för att det alls ska äta, som inte talar om att byta ut "amningsmål" när den tidigare påstod att den var för fri amning, som inte föreslår att man ska pressa smakportioner kött genom en jävla vitlökspress (hejdå vitlökspressen)... Antar jag får vänta lite till.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

2 x Peter Robinson

One of these I read in Swedish, En märklig affär/Strange Affair. My sister gave it to me as she was moving, and she in turn had been given it by a classmate. There was a limit to the amount of books she could bring to Ireland, so this one stayed with me. The other I borrowed from the library recently, The Hanging Valley. The latter is one of his first ones, the former one of his later. Our hero in the series in a policeman named Alan Banks, and if I hadn't known that the two books had the same author I'd have thought it was a coincidence, so greatly is Banks transformed. In The Hanging Valley he is very... almost serene, happily married and very much a good, stable character. In Strange Affair he's divorced since any number of years, depressed after losing his home in a fire, and not afraid of operating slightly outside the rule book. Funny that, it almost tempts me to read the whole series to see the transformation (which also means an improvement in Robinson's writing, since the characters do seem to get more complex as he goes along), but I really didn't find Banks compelling enough, nor Robinson's stories gripping enough, to do so. I think. Plus it really means that Robinson submitted to cliché and created another middleaged alcoholic detective, doesn't it, like he couldn't pull off a happy one - too bland and difficult.

First book has Banks relatively new to Yorkshire, investigating a murder near a village where another dead body was found five years ago. There's a wife beater, a beautiful woman broken by religion, twisted lord and gentry, decent farmers - the lot. But a few surprising raw moments. Second one has a jaded and bitter Banks suddenly investigating the disappearance of his brother (who turns up dead. I'm not spoiling anything for you, honestly.).

Good travel reads, but nothing collectable.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

2 x Jesper Juul

Egentligen ville jag låna Ditt kompetenta barn på bibblan, men den är typ alltid utlånad för det vill alla andra 30+föräldrar också göra (vilket man kanske ska vara glad för). Alltså tog jag istället Här är jag? Vem är du? och Livet i familjen.

Juul är den kanske främste relationsauktoriteten i Skandinavien just nu. Framför allt har hans åsikter om barn"uppfostran" fått stort genomslag. I korthet går det ut på att man ska vara autentisk, dvs. känna efter vad man själv VILL istället för att spela en roll (föräldraroll, hustruroll eller vad det nu är), samt sträva efter likvärdighet i relationerna, dvs. att alla ska respekteras även om det är de vuxna som måste bestämma över barnen i slutändan t.ex.

Nu vaknar barnet, så jag fattar mig kortare: i stort tycker jag att Juul har många sunda tankar, och jag vill fortsätta att fundera och införliva en hel del i mitt föräldraskap. Så.

Lägger till en artikellänk: http://www.svd.se/nyheter/idagsidan/artikel_119964.svd

Monday, October 15, 2007

Påven Johanna av Donna Woolfolk Cross

Denna fick jag via ett bokbyte via ett forum. Såna är roliga, man vet aldrig vad man får! Jag hade nog svårast med det jag skulle skicka, hon ville inte ha deckare eller feelgood - och feelgood har jag ju inte mycket, men deckare var ju precis vad jag tänkt avbörda mig... Lyckades hitta en roman av Maeve Binchy istället. Tror jag det var. Hoppas hon blev nöjd till slut!

Påven Johanna är en sådan bok som jag gärna läst på högstadiet kanske och slukat varje ord av. Och trott på - för inte vill väl en författare ljuga SÅ mycket? Även nu tänkte jag att det ju kunde vara en intressant historia att läsa, även om det inte är Stor Litteratur. Lite spännande sådär. Tyvärr blev jag rätt besviken. Möjligen ligger en del av problemet i översättningen, men boken är tråkigt skriven, karaktärerna är platta och ensidiga, handlingen alldeles för oproblematiserad.

För den som inte vet det är romanen baserad på den seglivade myten om den kvinnliga påven Johanna, som lär ha levt på 800-talet och dött när hon mitt i Rom födde ett dödfött barn. Hon finns visserligen inte i några officiella påvelängder, men kyrkan lär ha rensat bort henne. Woolfolk Cross utgår från dessa knapphändiga omdiskuterade fakta och bygger en historia om en mycket intelligent flicka som låtsas vara man för att få studera i fred, och utan att vara karriärlysten hamnar på kristenhetens tron. Det hade kunnat bli en spännande berättelse om en spännande epok i historien, just efter romarrikets fall när laglöshet och osäkerhet rådde, men tyvärr klarar inte Woolfolk Cross detta. Hon vill så gärna skapa en hjälte av Johanna, och det gör henne ointressant. Hon är för perfekt. Hon är intelligent, fördomsfri, snabbtänkt, godhjärtad, helt utan laster. Blä. Och den man Johanna blir kär i är likadan. Va? Därmed gör hon också misstaget att göra alla onda kristna, utan att riktigt få med att de goda är kristna också - de är i första hand goda, och deras religion är helt apropå, medan de onda är onda just på grund av sin religion. Visst är det så ibland, men inte med alla. Hade hon förmått att göra karaktärerna mer mångbottnade hade boken kunnat blir mycket roligare. T.o.m. Jean M Auels rätt platta stenåldersmänniskor (som trots allt alltid har en speciell plats i mitt hjärta, och inte på grund av sexscenerna) har mer djp.

Kort sagt ingen höjdare, men visst går den att läsa. Skumläsa, i mitt fall.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Pablo Coelho: Elva minuter

Hade helt glömt bort (förträngt?) att jag läst denna. Gjorde det i somras när vi var i Båstad (minsann), eftersom det var en av de mycket mycket få skönlitterära böcker mina kompisar hunnit bestycka sitt hus med. Jag kom ihåg detta först förra veckan när SvD hade en specialartikel om fenomenet Coelho.

I ärlighetens namn skummade jag väl mest boken, så mina åsikter ska nog tas med en nypa salt. Skummandet berodde på dels tidsbrist, dels att boken var lite trist. För att verkligen bilda mig en Coelho-uppfattning borde jag väl ta och läsa Alkemisten som alla snackar om. "Alla". Ni förstår.

Elva minuter handlar om en vacker o så vacker brasilianska som åker till Schweiz för att bli modell. Naturligtvis går det illa, och hon blir istället prostituerad för att försörja sig. För att det hela inte ska bli deppigt blir hon närmast en "lycklig hora", och arbetar från en bar som drivs av en rätt så rättskaffens jugoslav. I alla fall, under hela boken grubblar hon över att det genomsnittliga samlaget bara tar elva minuter, och varför jakten på dessa elva minuter upptar så mycket av människans tid och energi. Just ja, och så har hon någon befriande s/m-session med en klient också.

Minns inte så noga, men det var riktigt riktigt trist. Tur att den var kort.

Monday, October 01, 2007

It has been pinched.

The Sedaris novel. But it was sanctioned pinching, he said OK. He also said his colleague had tattled on me after reading my blog. Must find sneakier way of planning my crimes.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Dilemma

A few years ago I bought mr Bani the novel Me Talk Pretty Some Day by David Sedaris. I'd like to say I was in early on the hype, but sadly 'tis not so - it was an impulse buy from the top ten shelf at LundeQ for his birthday. He's a damn hard man to shop for, and this book looked like it might be fun.

He never read it. No disrespect intended (I'm sure), he just didn't feel like it at the time, and then when he did feel like it he couldn't find it. So he's looked for it for a good while, and a few weeks ago he saw an interview with Sedaris on the telly and got really antsy to read it, so he caved and bought himself a new copy. Which is now beside his bed with the other 12 books he's parallell-reading. So the dilemma is - should I pinch it and read it first? I always do this to him, read books first. I think he hates it. But I'm sorely tempted. I'm definitely in the mood for a book like that now. It's that or Wizard of the Crow by Ngugi wa'Thiong'o, which doesn't look bad but is, I fear, possibly about sad things and I don't know if I can handle sadness at this moment in time as Americans say on TV...

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Intervju med Åsa Waldau i nyheterna

Apropå att hon är aktuell med sin version av Knutbyhändelserna i bokform (ser ni, inte helt OT):

"Det är alltid lättare att bedöma människor om man möter dem öga för öga"

Freudiansk felsägning?

A guest appearance from my eldest daughter...

... who missed home language again, and as punishment was ordered to write half a page in English about the last book she read, which was St Peter's Fair by Ellis Peters. (Yes, she's her mother's daughter alright. I lured her in knowing her weakness for exciting and illicit crime television.) So, without further ado, the uncorrected version:

Saint Peters Fair
The book was kind off boring in the beginning but became better in the middle of the book. I didn't like how it started so casually, about the herb garden, how it was on the fair but it was relly exiting when the murder started, and I loved when there were lots of murders. I think it was three murders all in all. And Cadfael is a good detectiv and I like his way of solving the murder, becase they didn't have computers or that kind of stuff. My favorite part was when the manor started burning and the part before that. All in all the book was great! **** four stars out of five!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Magnus Uggla på SVT Godmorgon

"När man bloggar måste man ju skriva en sex-sju inlägg dagligen"

What? I must have missed the memo.

Ugglas blogg finns på hans hemsida.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

News

My father died the Friday before last. We weren't close for various reasons, so it's mixed emotions. I will however be busy for a while, so the lack of updates will be for a good reason. For a change. Directly after this I'll post an entry I'd saved to work on though, but after that things'll probably be a bit quiet...

Monday, August 20, 2007

3 for the read of 1

Another little trip to Hågaby a while ago (for a haircut) yielded some more second-hand loot. Although I don't think all of these three came to me then, some are older...

P.D. James: The Lighthouse

I'm fondest of the early P.D. James, with the retro feel and the angsty Adam Dalgliesh. In these later ones we spend a lot of time with his underlings, in particular Kate Miskin, and I'm not sure I like that. Not that Kate Miskin is bad or anything. I think the problem is that I think it's going to be a Dalgliesh novel, and it isn't really. At least not solely. I've read another one a good few years ago and I remember being very disappointed. It felt as though James was desperately trying to bring herself into the new century without really being connected anymore. That isn't a completely fair sentiment, but it's not without merit either.

This novel I rather enjoyed though. A famous author is found dead on an isolated Cornish island that for many years has been a hideout for VIPs who wish to have complete privacy and solitude. Dalgliesh is flown in in an attempt to solve the matter more discreetly and possibly save the island as a getaway. It's enjoyable on the whole, but our villain turns out to be a character who in all honesty doesn't fit into this day and age. James realises this herself though, and he is descriped as an anachronism.

Faye Kellerman: Milk and Honey

A Peter Decker and Rina Lazarus mystery, set in the time before the couple marry, while Decker is still adapting to Judaism and Rina is torn between loyalties to her dead husband's family and new love of Decker. I quite like these books, and am a bit surprised that they're not more known. They certainly give a lot of other stuff on the market a run for their paper-back money.

In this one Decker finds a toddler in the streets late at night, soaked with blood but unharmed. When they find the baby's family they discover a tragedy, but it takes some time to find the guilty party. IMO Kellerman succeeds quite well in portraying the baby's redneck Californian family in a believable way (not being Californian I'm not really qualified to comment of course). I also like that Decker and others are allowed to be complex characters and not merely stereotypes.

Michael Crichton: Timeline

One of the worst Crichtons I've read. The trouble with this is that it's obvious that Crichton's done some reading and found out that them there mediaeval peeps weren't all that backwards after all, and actually they could fight, did you know? and on this he bases the whole book (with some almost-all-there science of course). Being scientifically ignorant I can buy the science part just fine. He keeps it difficult enough to fool me. (Unlike Dan Brown.)

This group of archaeologists get to go back in time, because time is just an alternate universe, and then they it's all a computer game in which they run run run from death until they can go back. Not unlike Jurassic Park actually, but it really doesn't work when people are the villains. Even 13th century ones.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

I added a counter.

Inspired by HB. I suspect it will look very pathetic, but on the other hand this one is just on trial until end of August. One week of statistics is not enough to depress, surely? ;)

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows









So, we were on holiday, then we came back, and I haven't had a proper chance to sit down and gather my thoughts. But I'd better try to collect myself or I'll have such a HUGE backlog...

The last Harry Potter - the end of an era. I've read them all, but I was never a hardcore fan. I got into them quite late, mostly to see what the fuss was about - possibly to read the book before I saw the film (I'm that kind of nerd). I've often been obnoxiously aggressive in company and claimed that they are highly overrated, and I will maintain that they are seriously flawed in many ways until my dying day... but over the years I've mellowed and can appreciate the good bits - these being Rowling's at times quite witty imagination. The names of characters are a particular favourite of mine, especially the Herbology teacher (a stand-in) with the double-barrelled name and the "don't you know"-s. I'd check her name but Mugglenet is too slow.

I compare all fantasy to Tolkien, and not much can compare. LOTR is of course special as it was written as one book and therefore is much more cohesive. It's quite obvious to me that HP is made up as she goes along, and that makes the secondary universe much less believable.

However, I can tell that I will shortly be interrupted, so I'll start summing up. The final of the series delivers, but also disappoints. As adults we might have appreciated something a bit darker, but it is, essentially, a children's series so I suppose it's good that things weren't too dire for the wizards and witches we know and love. It was rather a trudging read, with some "deus ex machina" solutions that felt contrived. Yes, I cried. Once. I quite enjoyed it though, the mr was annoyed with it but I was mellow and accepting for once. Of course, it MUST be read.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

MIsslyckad promenad men ändå inte

I torsdags tog jag en spontan långpromenad med Minimus i bärsjalen. Vi knallade iväg till Tant Grön, som enligt hemsidan skulle ha öppet, men inte hade det. Så jag hittade lite böcker istället i Hågasalens second-handhyllor... En Michael Crichton, en Laurie King, en Fay Kellerman och en Woody Allen till maken (som har En Fas).

Så dessa ska jag läsa nu när vi reser bort (till Båstad en vecka). Har redan börjat läsa om Grave Talent. Är nöjd (men hade varit nöjdare om jag kunnat köpa mina Green & Black's chokladkakor). Desutom har maken tydligen förhandsbeställt Harry Potter. Inte illa. Man måste ju...

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Intervju med Stieg Larsson

Satt och läste på stieglarsson.se och ser i en intervju med honom själv att han gillar speciellt Sara Paretsky och Val McDermid (varpå mannen stiger i min aktning något otroligt) samt Elizabeth George och Minette Walters (och så sjönk vi igen). :P

Det är synd att han är död. :(

NU har jag läst Stieg Larssons två första

(Varning, länken går till otroligt jobbig Flash-sida. Människor som tror att Flash-intron är coola borde dömas till straffarbete i ett stenbrott.)

Jag kan inte skylla på makens långsamma läsning alls. Han läste ut dem och tjatade sedan på mig att jag skulle sätta igång, för han ville diskutera vissa grejer med mig. Men jag droooog på det - det är faktiskt svårt att läsa med ett spädbarn. Eller rättare sagt: jag blir så uppslukad av böcker att jag blir irriterad när den lille söte pojken som just fått en tand ligger och gnisslar mot mig och vill ha uppmärksamhet, och det är det inte värt. *skäms grundligt*

Löste det genom att läsa nattetid.

Män som hatar kvinnor
Mikael Blomkvist jobbar på, är delägare i och ansvarig utgivare för en uppkäftig tidsskrift som specialiserar sig på granskande journalistik. I sin iver att sätta dit en industrigangster har han åkt på en blåsning och nu blivit dömd för förtal. Eftersom han ändå behöver en time-out tar han ett uppdrag från en av Sveriges gammaldags industrimagnater, Henrik Vanger. Han ska skriva en bok om familjens historia, och samtidigt luska reda på vad som hände med Vangers brors sondotter, som spårlöst försvann på 60-talet. Under arbetet stöter Blomkvist på Lisbeth Salander, en 26-åring med ett våldsamt förflutet och en sociopatisk inställning till omvärlden, men med grymma hackerskillz, OMG. Tillsammans luskar de reda på sanningen, som är blodig och dyster, men har aspekter som kan hjälpa Blomkvist rädda sin tidning.

Bra saker med boken: helt okej deckare/thriller. Väl ihopsnickrad story, inga iögonenfallande lösa trådar eller deus ex machina-grepp (nåja, skulle väl vara hur de blir av med skurken då - och å andra sidan är jag rätt usel på att upptäcka sånt för jag läser för snabbt). Kort och gott - inte usel. Inte heller dålig. Skulle nog ge den en stark trea på en skala 1-5.

Mindre bra/dåligt: Larsson hade tydligen ingen tilltro till att man kan förstå relationer genom dialogen mellan parterna i den, utan förklarar allt för oss genom inre monologer. Vilket är trist, helt enkelt.

Han är för förtjust i de fria bisexuella no strings-förhållanden han fantiserat ihop. I don't care, Larsson. Du kan skriva att de har förhållandet, du måste inte gotta dig i det. Jag är inte så pryd - men du har precis bevisat att du egentligen är det. (OT: svårt att välja tempus när mannen är död. Som författare lever han ju, på sätt och vis. Hav överseende.)

Produkt-jävla-placering. På en erbarmlig nivå rent litterärt. T.ex.:
[..]de hade kommit överens om att ge dottern en iPod, en mp3-spelare inte nämnvärt större än en tändsticksask men som kunde rymma hela Pernillas skivsamling. Vilken var ganska omfattande.
Ursäkta? Vad sysslade redaktören med? - för detta är bara ett exempel av många. Jag och min man har skrattat gott åt det här. Riktigt uselt.

Vissa lite larviga faktafel, eller vad man ska kalla det. T.e.x refereras till flickans försvinnande som ett "låsta rummet-mysterium", varpå det kontras med "det är ingen roman av Dorothy Sayers". Nu är ju inte hon den som är mest känd för sådana mysterier, utan det är John Dickson Carr, och om man inte vet det så ligger det väl närmare till hands att dra till med Agatha Christie. Känns onaturligt och konstlat.

Och superirriterande när folk ska tituleras helt plötsligt, i 2000-talets Sverige. Som jag skrivit förr - en av mina favoritsaker med deckare är att de anses som litterära bagateller, men kan ge läsaren ögonblicksbilder av tiden då de skrevs. Läser folk den här om femtio år kan de förledas tro att det var normalt att kalla unga kvinnor fröken. *suck*

Kort sagt så stannar boken vid en deckare, men når aldrig den litterära kvalitet som gör en deckare klassisk.


Flickan som lekte med elden
Tidskriften Millennium har ett nytt scoop på gång, ett temanummer om trafficking. Många män med inflytande kommer att namnges och avslöjas som utnyttjare av flickor och kvinnor. Men paret som står bakom all research mördas, och på vapnet finns Lisbeth Salanders fingeravtryck. Blomkvist är en av de mycket få som inte tror att hon är skyldig, utan börjar misstänka att svaret finns i Lisbeths förflutna.

Bra saker: Mycket tajtare som roman betraktat. Riktigt spännande, och Larsson lyckas få till en trovärdig historia trots spionanknytning.

Dåliga saker: En hel del av problemen från ovan finns kvar. I mängd. Och PAOLO ROBERTO? Som gör korstecken framför sin Madonnabild? :S

Kan tillägga att min man störde sig på beskrivningen av hackers och vad de gör, men jag köpte det, eftersom jag är mer okunnig än han.

Jag kommer helt klart att läsa trean, Luftslottet som sprängdes, men jag kan inte sälla mig helt okritiskt till Larssons hyllningskör. Böckerna är helt klart mer samhällsdebatt och -kritik än minnesvärd litteratur.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Min man har handlat deckare

Han har köpt Stieg Larssons två första romaner, för "alla snackar om dem". Bra tycker jag, som har tänkt läsa dem länge men glömmer att titta efter dem på biblioteket, och när jag kommer ihåg så är de utlånade. Problemet är att han började läsa den första, och jag vill OCKSÅ läsa dem i rätt ordning, bara för att. Alltså får jag vänta - och till saken hör att jag konstant mobbar stackaren för att han tycker att så många böcker är så bra att han måste läsa allt samtidigt och därför aldrig avslutar något. Dock, fördelen med deckare är ju den linjära handlingen som gör att man dras med, vänder blad och sålunda blir klar. Jag hyser hopp. Tills vidare läser jag sömnadsbeskrivningar, för jag vill jättegärna sy en klänning jag kan amma i.

Igår hade SvD en stor artikel om just bokbloggar, vilket var lite kul. Kontentan var att de inte kan ersätta proffsiga recensenter - no shit Sherlock, min kan definitivt inte det. Jag är så professionell och klar i skallen innan jag sätter mig att skriva så det kan ingen tro, men när jag väl har fingrarna på tangenterna blir det inte mer än "Öööhhh, den var bra. Bra språk och spännande.". Om jag låtsas att jag är 12 kan jag kanske få skriva bokrecensionerna på KP.

Måste kolla upp några av de bloggar Svenskan skrev om i alla fall. Vem vet, man kanske hittar en favorit.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Mary Wortley Montagu: Life on the Golden Horn

Mr Bani picked this up in Pareeeee no less. Lucky fella. It's a slim little volume containing a selection of the letters she wrote to friends and family from Constantinople (also from the journey there and thence). Her husband had been stationed there as ambassador - a post that lasted only a year, but Lady Mary made full use of her time there. She learnt Turkish, often went about the town in Turkish dress (in other words a full veil, a very useful disguise), and seems to have taken pleasure in being able to refute the more fanciful ideas of the country that had been spread by more inventive travel writers.
Your whole letter is full of mistakes from one end to the other. I see you have taken your ideas of Turkey from that worthy author Dumont, who has writ with equal ignorance and confidence. 'Tis a particular pleasure to me here to read the voyages to the Levant [...] so full of absurdities I am very well diverted with them. They never fail to give you an account of the women, which 'tis certain they never saw, and talking very wisely of the genius of men, into whose company they are never admitted, and very often describe mosques which they dare not peep into.


I looked Lady Mary up on Wikipedia, and she seems to have been a very colourful personality. This certainly is apparent in her letters anyway. They are in turns descriptive, intelligent, scathing and pensive. She writes of fashion to her sister:
I saw the other day a gala for Count Althann, the Emperor's favourite, and never in my life saw so many fine clothes ill-fancied [...] provided they can make their clothes expensive enough that is all the taste they show in them.
and to Alexander Pope of the horrors of war.
[...]the field being strewed with the skulls and carcases of unburied men, horses and camels. I could not look without horror on such numbers of mangled human bodies, and reflect on the injustice of was that makes murder not only necessary but meritorious. Nothing seems to me a plainer proof of the irrationality of mankind, whatever fine claims we pretend to reason [...]

I'm really pleased to have read this little book. It was entertaining and informative - who can argue with that? While reading I mused upon the lost art of letter-writing - how I wish we could end our letters with stuff like
Upon this occasion admire the heroism in the heart of your friend etc.
instead of the dull "Your's truly".

The book is part of a Penguin series called Great Journeys, 20 books by different travel writers from Herodotos to Kapuściński. It would be great fun to read them all - to own them all! - but I shouldn't encourage my book-hoarding side.

In other news I've caught a nasty virus. My throat is sore as hell, and I am about to gargle with an infusion of sage, garlic and ginger. Let's hope I don't vomit. Again.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Sickness strikes.

Had a restless night, and finally got up at five to vomit. Vomiting is vile, I cannot understand how some people do it on purpose. Mr Bani on the other hand caught the rear end of the virus, so to speak, so we've been feeling very sorry for ourselves here today.

This has nothing to do with books, it's just a pity post.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Jaqueline Winspear: Messenger of Truth

This is the latest in the Maisie Dobbs series - I know I said I wasn't too keen on them, but sure what the hey, they're not terrible or anything.

In this one Maisie is hired by a young female journalist to find out if her artist twin brother's death was really accidental or if there's more to it. Winspear doesn't play too heavily on Maisie's almost supernatural abilities thankfully, and has the added courage of letting tragedy strike near Maisie, instead of having her save the day at the very last moment. So I liked that.

In other news, haven't had the chance to even look for Bookcrossing books. Dammit.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Marian Keyes: Further Under the Duvet

As is obvious from the title, this book is a follow-up to one called Under the Duvet, which I have not read. I picked this one up at random at the library (am I able for a Marian Keyes? Is it not too silly? Oh look, collection of journalism it says, now that's more interesting. Why not?).

I must say I love what she's written as a journalist. She's funny, witty (not necessarily the same thing!), personal without being de trop, and also writes with much feeling. The articles range from ones about visiting fashion shows (and getting goodie bags!) to visiting Ethiopia and Russia for charity. And an absolutely hilarious account of going to the Irish Embassy for an emergency passport many years ago ("Have you prayed to Saint Anthony?"). Also included are some early short stories, and exerpts from Mammy Walsh's advice column. A great travel book I should say, since you can read short bits at a time.

Nope, I'm not Bookcrossing Bani.

She seems rather fun though, and lives in NY. Maybe I'll e-mail her some day.

I just joined Bookcrossing...

...as Banivani (Bani was TAKEN! The shower of bastards! :O). Been meaning to for ages - come to think of it, maybe I did. Maybe I'm Bani. Must go check. Anyway, some lovely person has been releasing a lot of books downtown in honour of the Linnaeus tercentenary, which officially starts today. I was tipped off by a friend, and thus inspired to join. And remember that I have joined.

Now, off to see if I'm going senile or not.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

A few moments of peace...

Mr Bani has actually gone off to Paris with his work, so I'm on my lonesome with the kids. This means I get to use the laptop. Somehow it's easier to use the laptop - probably because it's soooo quiet. Lovely. Now, if only the FUCKER UPSTAIRS WOULD STOP RIVERDANCING aaaahhhh I think I heard a SHHHH from the parents - this place it sometimes ludicrously un-sound-proofed (English lacks a word there I feel).

The first book from Elaine Viets Mystery Shopper series is called Dying in Style. I liked it better than the second, but I don't like this series as much as the Dead-End Job one. The shopping tips at the end of the book are fun though, if somewhat US-specific ( but hey, I'm not dissing, that's where she lives). She is apparently recovering from her stroke - good for her!

Agatha Christie's A Murder is Announced was first published in 1950, and is full of references to war, rationing, black market and the like. I don't know what I'm trying to say by mentioning that, but somehow it makes for a better book, possibly because it feels very genuine and thus makes the whole book seem genuine. After all Dame Agatha, like all other Brits, must have experienced it all first-hand, whereas she probably never got too close to actual murder scenes.

This is a Miss Marple book. In a rural community a murder is announced in the local paper's personal ads. A group of people gather at the house in question, assuming a murder game is in the offering (murder games do turn up frequently in crime fic of this era I've noticed). However, a real murder takes place, and Miss Marple turns up to solve it. Definitely one of the better Christies I've read - not saying much.

Laurie R. King: The Art of Detection - aaahhhh I waited for this one. I loved it. While reading it I wanted to blab about lots of different things in it, but of course I took no notes (was in breast-feeding agony) so poo to me.

A Sherlock Holmes aficionado and collector is found murdered in an almost inaccessible spot. Turns out that the very same spot is where the corpse is found in a purported lost Holmes story he had unearthed, and was hoping to make a fortune from, not to mention create a stir with. Kate Martinelli is back on cop duty here. I was so pleased to see that herself and Lee are doing so well and have a lovely daughter. (I'm sad, i know. They're not real people *repeat to fade*)

The Holmes story is, to those of us familiar with the Russell series, obviously "true". However, to Kate, living in our reality, Sherlock Holmes was an entirely fictional figure. We the readers recognize the tone and style from the Russell books and "know" that this is not at all fiction, and here everything becomes charmingly meta-something and post-modern (possibly). I was smitten by it. It's like being in a special club. I wonder how much non-initiates could appreciate of the book though, since the cross-over bits are what made the novel great IMO.

Thank you Laurie!

Now, a bit of a find: Gladys Mitchell: Late, late in the evening (the link there is for a tribute page, nothing official). Apparently Gladys is a Big Deal. I'd never heard of her. The shame, the shame.In my defence the library seem to have only two of her novels. Two. She has written (I now know) 86 (unless I miscounted). And short stories. More to the point, she's good. Sure, the cover has the usual blurbs "as good as Dorothy Sayers" one says, but I can now say with certainty that it's true (well, perhaps not AS good as Sayers, not much is).

Her heroine is Miss Bradley, who later on becomes Dame. Being lazy today, allow me to link you to synopsis (-es?) of the book here and here. I was very taken by this too. I loved the way we got the story from different points of view - we start off with the children telling it, but as adults, so we are hearing about something that happened in Miss Bradley's past, but one can assume that the devoted reader has lots of background info about what happens to Margaret and Kenneth and Miss Bradley later, and this is charming in itself. Then Miss Bradley sometimes takes over the narrative - but in letters to a friend. And other letter-writers pitch in too. It could be just confusing, as though the author hadn't made up her mind, but it works. Oh, and Miss Bradley is a psychologist - which is pretty awesome for a character created in 1929 or whatever.

My only mark-down might be for a slightly undramatic ending, but it does fit with the narrative style, and also possibly that the children's dialogue is slightly precocious.

Now, how am I going to get hold of more of her novels?

Friday, May 04, 2007

Elaine Viets is not well.

Says Laurie R King. That's a shame - I know I'm after dissing her books a tad, but I think Elaine herself seems like a really fun person to know. Let's hope she recovers quickly and fully!

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Asså, kul att ha baby MEN...

... man kan inte blogga. För det är jobbigt att skriva med en hand.

Och när man väl får tid att sätta sig så glömmer man vad man ville säga... jo, jag tänkte beklaga mig över att jag inte var smart nog att skapa en alltmöjligt-blogg istället för en specifik bokblogg. För det är lättare att jamsa och tramsa än vara strukturerad när man har en Minimus som pockar på uppmärksamhet. Och så kan man delge en otroligt intresserad Blogg-omvärld sin sons utveckling och så. Eller tala om att man lagat gnocchi efter en recept från Aglio e olio, en blogg man hittat via Fridas - sånt är ju kul. Fast gnocchin blev sådär, borde kokat längre tror jag, alternativt varit mindre.

Min älskade make köpte Laurie King's The Art of Detection till mig som BB-present, för han kom ihåg att jag pratat om den och suktat. Så den vill jag skriva om, fast ordentligt. Kanske imorgon. Sen har jag läst klart den andra Viets-boken, och en Agatha Christie... imorgon kanske. Fast Laurie förtjänar ett helt eget inlägg.

Just idag fyller Minimus 4 veckor. Heh. Det blir inte mycket läst ska jag säga. Men en och annan sudoku, och tv...

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Oh yeah, remember the chick lit?

The ones I was going to read in the hospital?

Well, I did start one while there, and finished it after coming home. I've previously read two books from Elaine Viets's Dead-End Job series, and I thought they were cute. Not very well written at all, but with some funny points. These two new ones I found at church are from her Mystery Shopper series, featuring Josie Marcus - a single mother who works as a mystery shopper because the flexible hours allow her more time with her daughter. And OMG, I hope there wasn't as much sex in the one I let my daughter read. She's not reading this one, which is about Josie busting shoe fetischists. Anyway, this series is far less cute and funny IMO. It was just that much duller to read.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Dags att komma ikapp?

Okej, till att börja med läste jag för ett bra tag sedan (dvs pre-Minimus) Tarzans tårar av Katarina Mazetti. Min syster lånade mig den för länge sedan, och nu höll jag på att ge tillbaka den oläst för jag tyckte den verkade lite meh, men syrran sa att jag borde läsa den för den var lite lagom feel-good sådär. Så då läste jag den, och det var den. Jag kan inte påstå att jag helt och fullt förstår alla karaktärernas motiv och personligheter, men svagheterna på den punkten uppvägs till viss del av charm och ett rätt bra sidoporträtt av den schizofrene barnafadern.

I've also read a lovely Peter Dickinson, The Yellow Room Conspiracy. This is Dickinson showing some of his best sides, a complex tale which is sometimes almost epic in character, yet really quite limited in time and space. The story is told in 1992 by two people, the lovers Paul Ackerley and Lucy Seddon, née Vereker. In 1956 a man died in the Vereker family home, and the whole place was destroyed in a fire. All these years Paul and Lucy have suspected each other of murdering him. His death was also the start of the revelation of a huge political scandal involving Lucy's then husband Lord Seddon.

So the question of the death makes the story a whodunnit, but it is, as always with Dickinson, more a story of Britain during the war years and just after, how people worked, thought, acted. There are class and race issues, and the beginnings of sexual freedom. I liked it a lot, but found the ending perhaps a little rushed. On the other hand, I kind of skimmed the last few pages in the maternity ward.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Here's the baby!


Meet Minimus, our latest family member. Here he is, chilling on his eldest sister's lap, 3 days old.
If I ever say anything like "well, giving birth isn't that hard really", which I was wont to do after last time (ten years ago), feel free to kick me hard. I was in SUCH pain people, because things moved too swiftly for pain relief to be much good at all. Also, Minimus decided that 4,5 kg was a good birth weight - I beg to differ, young man. My vagina doesn't appreciate being stretched beyond the 4 kg mark. Your sisters were much kinder to me.
Although I suppose I should be grateful that the process took about 3 hours in total. Never again, I say.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Raus! Bitte.

Still no baby. I am as of today a week overdue. *zzzzz* My father is annoying the hell out of me by ringing every other day to see if anything is happening. No, we did say we would ring when there is news. Ergo, e contrario.... I've taken to checking who's calling.

Well, last week I stopped by our local library branch and browsed. Picked up a few detective stories I thought I hadn't read, but discovered I had. Well, I'd read 2 out of 5. No matter, I didn't remember much of them.


Lawrence Block: The Burglar Who Painted Like Mondrian

I've read one Block before, and although I found it rather fun, that was all. I never blogged properly about it. In any case, this one was much better. Characters felt both more real and more detailed. It was cheekier and funnier, and had a less silly storyline. The end was so confusing with a myriad of Mondrian paintings real and false that I'm not sure it all fit together, but let's assume it did. Block's books are not easy to stumble across here in Sweden, but I'm going to keep an eye open for them. Apparently (I now learnt from the inside of the cover) he is astoundingly productive and just churns 'em out. Who knew?


John Dickson Carr

I got three books, and I'd read two of them before. All three are from the late 1940s (well, the youngest was published 1950), so the setting is an England during food and fuel shortages, with plenty of references to the war. The oldest was Till Death Do Us Part from -44. In the small village of Six Ashes the writer Dick Markham is told that his fiancée, of whom he knows virtually nothing, is a dangerous woman who has killed two husbands and a lover with poison. The police could never prove anything, since the deaths appeared to be suicides inside locked rooms (Dickson Carr's favourite theme). The next day the man who tells him this is found dead by the same means, and Gideon Fell makes an appearance on the scene. It's not a bad example of its type, but not brilliant. Then comes He Who Whispers from -46. Miles Hammond, who recently has inherited a library, a house and a lot of money, is invited by Gideon Fell to a meeting of the Murder Club. The subject of the evening will be a murder of an Englishman that took place in France just before the war. However, once there there are no members at the dinner, only the speaker and another female guest, so the story is told to Hammond and the woman alone. The next day Hammond discovers that he has just hired the prime suspect of the murder to work for him, cataloguing his library. Etc. Again, sort of interesting, not brilliant. Over-dramatic, with lots of hints of dark sexuality and so on. Below Suspicion is the youngest, and a most farfetched tale including Satanists and underground nightclubs filled with vicious Cockneys. Our main character here is an extremely self-assured Irish-born lawyer, who successfully defends a young woman accused of murdering her employer, even though he believes her guilty. I almost laughed out loud at the Satanist bits. Hum hum.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Unable to concentrate

I borrowed Michel Faber's The Crimson Petal and the White, a brick of a book of 800 pages or so. I figured I'd have something to read at leasure during my maternity leave, while waiting for babba to arrive.

But I CANNOT concentrate enough to get into a Victorian novel about prostitutes and sex and whatnot. And babies being fed booze to shut them up? - not the best thing for me right now. So I'll be taking this back. I need something more light-hearted. Those chic lit detective stories I bought are being saved, and anyway my eldest daughter took them to read. I'm trying not to think about how age-inappropriate they probably are... this is how desperate I am for her to read something, anything!

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Ooops, forgot one

Jack Faust by Michael Swanwick: A novel we've had lying around for aaages. The undertitle (ehrm, or whatever it's called...) always put me off: "The devil has all the best tricks..." I mean, really. But when desperate... it seems much better than the title when you read the cover blurb after all.

Faust lives in Nuremberg at the turn of the 15th century or thereabouts. He is disillusioned with the so-called science of the time, because he has come to the conclusion that it is all based on lies. While burning his books in anger he opens his mind and begs for any higher power to help him find the truth, and he is contacted by Mephistopheles. This is an artificial creature from an alien world, a different dimension maybe?, whose creators hate humans because their life span is longer then theirs (or something to this effect). Anyway, Mephistopheles will give Faust all the knowledge he desires if he will promise to always listen to him, because he knows that this will end with the destruction of mankind. He shows Faust this, but Faust chooses to enter into agreement with him nonetheless. Now Faust is given knowledge galore, and the world rapidly makes jumps into the 20th century and is industrialized, while keeping mediaeval laws.

Sounds pretty good, right? Sci-fi-promising? Well, it wasn't really. It's not badly written, I just couldn't give much of a toss about any of the characters, and it was too much about (base) sex, all cocks and cunts and blah blah blah. I totally skimmed the last bits. I think it kind of ends with Faust becoming a sort of Hitler with nuclear weapons (implied), and thus mankind will be ruined. Hm.

Aaaahhhhhh maternity leave...

No baby yet, but I'm off work now. Excellent. Let's just hope my baby turns out as cute as Frida's, eh? I've had naps. I've cleaned the microwave, and sliced up my finger on the sharp edge underneath it - be warned! Then I didn't clean anymore. At church today I found two chic lit crime novels by Elaine Viets in the second-hand book box, so I got them to read at the hospital. Let's keep it simple, that's my motto!

White Teeth by Zadie Smith: Well, since I've read the others I might as well read the début I thought, so I lugged this brick of a book around a few days in my bag. It's a trifle more epic in character than her later work, i.e. it spans a greater amount of time, but essentially the style is the same, and the underlying themes also. I did like it, but I haven't found it as memorable as I thought. I haven't really carried any of the characters with me after reading it. It's a great début though, I can see why it was a hit. She does command her language.

Fingersmith by Sarah Waters: I was recommended Sarah Waters, and have waited a while for it to be available at the library. The book is set in the late 19th century, and tells of two girls, one wealthy and living with an excentric and unpleasant uncle, and the other an orphan who grows up with fingersmiths, i.e. petty thieves. "Their fates are entwined", as the cover puts it. They are tricked into attempting to trick each other, despite the attraction they feel for each other. The story has a good few twists and turns, and I was surprised by it. However, essentially I found it quite dull, to be honest. I found myself skimming the last few chapters towards the end, I didn't really care. Tremendously disappointing, I had such high hopes! I might try another one, otherwise Waters is just not for me I'm afraid. :(

Friday, March 09, 2007

Ellis Peters: The Heretics Apprentice

I hadn't read this one, so nice surprise to find it! A classic Cadfael story. The "twist" this time is that we have a small inquisition to deal with, and thus get some theological arguments - nothing I'd call particularly deep though.

A Shrewsbury native, who years ago went on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, returns in a coffin with his faithful servant who has travelled with him the entire time. There is some hesitation as to whether he should be allowed burial in the abbey, as was his wish, since he might have held heretical views, but this is soon resolved. However, the servant appears to hold similar opinions, and must stand to answer for them. He also brought a dowry for the dead man's adopted daughter, which makes members of the household see their and her future in a new light...

Pretty story, and I liked the angle.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Zadie Smith: The Autograph Man

In the ardour of my new-found love of Zadie Smith I read The Autograph Man, a story about four Jewish men who have been friends since boyhood and have different views on their religion and life. The main character is Alex-Li, a half-Chinese Jew who makes his living selling autographs and other memorabilia. The book starts out from the perspective of his father, Li-Jin, who takes his son and two friends to a wrestling match (where they meet the fourth member of the group of friends) on the day when he dies (from a brain tumour he's kept secret from everyone. Then it moves on to Alex-Li, twenty-something years later. Alex is obsessed with the actress Kitty Alexander, who is a recluse and hasn't signed an autograph for, like, ever. After an acid trip in an attempt to reach Kabbalistic understanding he has an autograph, and while his friends (Adam the black Jew, his sister Esther (also Alex' girlfriend), Rubinfine the rabbi and Joseph the insurance salesman) all think he forged it while tripping, Alex thinks it's real. And then he gets another one in the post, thus proving him right. So on a business trip to NY he looks Kitty up, to thank her.

The book is at times hilariously funny, and also very moving. The bit where Li-Jin, wearing nothing but a t-shirt, breaks down in tears at his own mortality in front of the BBC test screen, using a turkey sandwich as a hanky, is both ridiculous and so tragic it tore my heart out. In my opinion it petered out a bit towards the end, since it felt almost too slapstick in mood - there's only so much of Alex-Li getting drunk that can be funny after all. I'd still recommend it as a good read though. Smith has a lovely turn with metaphore, I like that.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Kinsey v. Maisie

First I read S is for Silence by Sue Grafton. I've been reading a few Graftons lately, but the early ones, since the library are stocking up on their collection, so this became an opportunity to see the difference between the early books and the later ones. S is for Silence is not written exclusively from Kinsey's perspective, instead Grafton switches between Kinsey-chapters (in the present, i.e. 1987) and historical chapters (set in 1953 when the crime takes place), written from the perspective of alternating lead suspects/other characters. It works well, and gives her scope to develop more fully even side characters.

The story is simple enough - in 1953 Daisie's mother Violet disappeared, and now she feels she needs closure. Kinsey reluctantly takes on the very cold case, since Daisie is a friend of a friend. Naturally her prodding gets her results, and the book ends with a spectacular bulldozer chase (please, never film this), which somehow works in the Kinsey genre but is really very OTT. An easy read, and Kinsey seems less boxy and set in her ways than I remember from P and R.

Pardonable Lies by Jacqueline Winspear once again features Maisie Dobbs, who here turns out to be almost a bit clairvoyant. Or "sensitive". Or something - I really can't take to this blend of suffragism (is that a word?), Eastern guruism (that definitely isn't) and Afterlife. Anyway, Maisie takes on some cases that take her back to France and all the bad memories that come with that. I do enjoy a WW1 theme, but Maisie Dobbs is too OTT a heroine for me to truly enjoy myself. If this were filmed it would end up some preposterous mix of Lara Croft and Florence Nightingale. With less action, and more long gazes.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Crime from the Mind of a Woman

The time before last at the library I noticed this collection of short stories, edited by Elizabeth George. It's nice and thick, and looked like it would last me a long time, especially if mixed with sudokus, which I'm sadly becoming addicted too. (If they're simple. Otherwise I throw my toys all out of the pram, thankyouverymuch. And they'll never be as much fun as a good crossword.)

It's a rather impressive collection. I have to admit I was a bit surprised, since I personally don't think that highly of Elizabeth George's own books. She writes well enough, I suppose, but her characters are a little trop for my taste. They've never grabbed me, in short. However, if she'd had a hand in choosing the stories for this collection she shows good taste and quite a bit of intelligence. The book contains 26 stories from different authors, and each story and author is introduced with a short text by someone called Jon L. Breen, who seems to know his stuff. I googled him, and he appears to be a writer himself, of pastiches among other things, but also a literary critic. I suspect he's had a large hand in choosing in other words, but Elizabeth George gets author credit, so she must've been involved. I sincerely hope so, anyway!

The collection limits itself to women crime writers of the 20th century. "Crime writer" is apparently a loose term, to be applied to someone who writes of crime. I quite like that, as it's sort of my idea of the genre too. The appealing thing about the frame of "crime fiction" is that it provides you with a linear movement ahead in time, to the solution of the mystery, but it's no good at all unless it's also literature, right? So, we find Nadime Gordimer's short story of the affair between the white land-owner's son and the black girl from the farm here (Country Lovers, a classic), aswell as more classic detective stories. Several authors were completely new to me, and now I'd love to find more of their work. It'll probably be hard though... Some were old favourites, like Marcia Muller, Ngaio Marsh, Dorothy L. Sayers, Christianna Brand, Sara Paretsky (I'd read the story though). I was interested to see a story by Antonia Fraser - the name rang a bell, and the story note said she was married to the writer Harold Pinter; aaahhhh, of course, the (now) Nobel Prize winner! This tickled me. I was even more tickled when I didn't like the story much... I'm wicked.

Now, here I'm just going to list all the new (to me) authors and stories I found particularly interesting. So I can check for future reference. It doesn't get cleverer than that, I'm afraid.

Susan Glaspell: A Jury of her Peers - nice feminist story from 1917. A woman appears to have murdered her husband, but the sheriff can't see a motive. However, the neighbouring ladies think they can, but they are being ignored.

Shirley Jackson: The Summer People - a thriller-esque piece with an open ending; we don't know if anything will happen to the couple, or if their imagination is running away with them. From 1950.

Charlotte Armstrong: S:t Patrick's Day in the Morning - interesting, maybe not great. From 1959. Armstrong wrote several stories that were later filmed, I'd like to check out more of her stuff. The twists in the plot reminded me of Hitchcock.

Dorothy Salisbury Davis: The Purple is Everything - cozy, about a woman who accidentally steals a Monet. 1963.

Nedra Tyre: A Nice Place to Stay - very good. Tyre was, among other things, a social worker. This story is about how poverty can drive a person to crime. Must find more of Tyre's work. 1970.

Joyce Harrington: Sweet Baby Jenny - another American writer writing about what poverty can do to a person. Sweet Baby Jenny is much smarter than people give her credit for though, and she'll take revenge in her own sweet time. 1981.

Kristine Kathryn Rusch: The Young Shall See Visions, and the Old Dream Dreams - wins prize for longest title... Rusch writes science-fiction too, so I'd like to find more of her work, it appears to be sort of cross-over. Nice story in which an old woman remembers her past.

Carolyn Wheat: Ghost Station - woman alcoholic police officer. Need I say more? Original enough just there. Not bad, and Wheat seems to know her background. Wouldn't mind reading more.

Wendy Hornsby: New Moon and Rattlesnakes - a sort of noir tale of a woman running from her oppressive (abusive?) marriage, and taking revenge. Nice. Me like.

Gillian Linscott: A Scandal In Winter - a rather clever Sherlock Holmes story. Linscott is smart enough not to fall into the trap of trying to emulate Conan Doyle, but rather writes her own story using the well-known characters. Not bad.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

A Shanghai Baby and Fahrenheit Twins

Shanghai Baby by Wei Hui is a book I'd heard of, as an example of "new Chinese literature". I accidentally spotted it in the library and borrowed it on a whim. It's semi-autobiographical, according to the author. The main character and narrator, Nikki/Coco, is a young woman who has published a collection of short stories that has been both acclaimed and denounced as decadent. She meets a young man, Tian Tian, who wants her to write the great novel he is convinced she is destined to write, a novel for their generation. Nikki and Tian Tian live in a spacious flat, absorbed in their love for one another. However, Tian Tian is impotent and Nikki starts an affair with a married German named Mark, for the sex - though she later starts feeling emotionally involved too. Tian Tian becomes more introvert and starts doing drugs more seriously, as Nikki tries to finish her novel.

I'm not sorry I read this book, but I'm not quite sure I like it that much. Possibly something gets lost in the translation, so I don't feel like I really understand the motivation behind people's actions. The cover says that this is a story of "self-discovery", and Nikki talks about how she is discovering herself, but I don't really see it, to be honest. The setting and mood is interesting though, a sort of fin de siècle feeling, but with a bit more hope all in all.

Then I read Michel Faber's collection of short stories, The Fahrenheit Twins. Now again, I can't say I didn't like it... but he does have a tendency to an open-ended finish that gets a trifle annoying. In the manner of "She gazed out the window of the train as it moved across the country. She didn't know where she was headed." That sort of thing (that wasn't a quote by the way, merely an example). It bugs me a bit. Some of the stories are excellent though, and I remain very impressed by how well he can write from a woman's point of view. One of my favourites is the one about the former heroin addict who is now reaccquainting herself with her young son under the supervision of a social worker. Several of the stories remind me of Ray Bradbury, in the slightly fantastic settings and moods he evokes. Strange things happen, but we're not on Mars, we're still on Earth. I also thought of Michael Ende - I have one of his collections of short stories.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Not Babes in Beijing.

Shanghai Baby. Good lord, memory like a sieve. But I suppose it's understandable considering the similarity...

Friday, February 16, 2007

Sue Grafton and Michel Faber

D is for Deadbeat (by Sue Grafton) has Kinsey accepting a job as messenger - a man asks her to find a teenage boy named Tony and deliver a check for 25 thousand dollars to him. Kinsey accepts, but when the client's retainer check bounces she goes to find him instead. He turns out to be bad news, an alcoholic just out of prison. He also turns up dead, and now his daughter hires Kinsey to find out if and by whom he was killed. Middling, I'd say - one of those where I'm not 100 % in on what makes Kinsey tick. But the end is quite good, when she tries to talk someone suicidal off a roof.

Faber is a new one for me. I was recommended him on a forum I hang out on. The library had The Courage Consort and The Hundred and Ninety-Nine Steps, so I borrowed them. They have one fault - being too short for a full day at work. Quick reads, but good ones.

TCC was my favourite. The Courage Consort is the name of an a cappella group dedicated to modern composers. Courage is also the name of the group's leader, Roger, and thus of his wife, the wilting, severely depressed Kate. She lives her life in the shadow of the dominant man who has shaped her, contemplating suicide daily. Faber's description of how Kate's depression controls her is excellent - in no space at all he sketches a portrait of someone in thrall to despair. Now the group is headed for two-week rehearsal in a chateau in the Netherlands (I didn't know they had chateaus in the Netherlands!), forcing them into closer contact than they have ever been before. The quiet atmosphere, exposure to the other members and the strange cries she hears in the night start to draw Kate out of her shell. I really liked this. It was moving, funny, succinct and realistic.

T199S was not bad, but I just didn't like it as much as TCC. Again we have a female main character, Siân, who is trying to overcome depression - in this case perhaps not as severe. The book is set in Whitby, where Siân is working an archaeological dig, plagued by nightmares in which she is murdered. She meets an attractive man with an even more attractive dog, who shows her an old letter he inherited from his father (the man did, not the dog. Obviously.). Carefully Siân opens the damaged scroll to read the confession of a man who did something terrible more than 200 years ago. My only gripe with this book really was that it felt a bit short and unexplained somehow, like the ending came too soon and suddenly. It's an absolutely beautiful little book though, with gorgeous photographs of Whitby throughout. I'd love to go there - mr Bani has been and really liked it.

I've borrowed The Fahrenheit Twins now, a collection of his short stories. Looking forward to it. I imght read Babes in Beijing first though (palate-cleansing, as it where).

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Food inspiration from books

Am reading D is for Deadbeat (I know, like a fecking dog with a bone I am). Kinsey visits a soup kitchen where they are serving apple sauce sprinkled with cinnamon for afters.

So guess what I had for afters. With cream.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Andrew Taylor: The Sleeping Policeman

Another one featuring William Dougal, the publishor/editor cum private investigator. He is hired by the youngish GP Hanslope to find out who is blackmailing him. Hanslope has a fiancée, a mistress (his fiancées stepmother) and a girlfriend, and does not want to turn to the police. There's a lot going on in the little community where they live - burglaries, two teenage girls who are perhaps too close to each other, a neighbourhood snoop, Hanslope's sexual escapades... Things start to escalate, and there is murder done. It's quite a well-crafted little story, all the loose ends are tied up at the end. The first chapter ends with the readers being told that the whole affair will end with a tragedy at a London tube station, and it does. Very abruptly, and then there is no more. It's quite typical of Taylor's style. I like it - it's not fantastic literature, but it's clever detective fiction, with a good, varied array of characters and a likeable and not-too-perfect hero. Sadly, they don't seem to have more at the library than the two I've read now, perhaps one or so.

I'm going to have to branch out. I was recommended Michael Faber, so he's next, and also Sarah Waters, who was not available. Fingers crossed.

Oh, and a sleeping policeman is apparently what you call a speed bump on the road. Who knew? I certainly didn't. Took me two pages to cop on, I thought there WAS a sleeping policeman somewhere.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Sue Grafton: C is for Corpse

Kinsey is recovering from the injuries she sustained in B is for Burglary (I presume), which I've read but can't recall precisely at the moment. I think there was a shoot-out in an office. Anyway, so she's working out at the gym when she befriends a young man also in recovery. Nine months ago is was in a bad car accident, which killed his friend and left him badly hurt and with memory losses. Only money and effort has gotten him out of the hospital bed. He confides in Kinsey, saying that he can't remember precisely why, but he is sure that his accident was a deliberate murder attempt, to keep him from revealing something he knew. He hires Kinsey to investigate. Four days later he is dead, in another car crash. Etc, Kinsey investigates, etc she finds the villain. And also saves Henry the landlord from a golddigger.

The ending is a bit lame-ish tbh, but there are several good Kinsey moments in the book. Not a favourite, however. Though I was thinking while reading it that this earlier Kinsey is more mellow and human than later on. Possibly some time when I'm on maternity leave I'll re-read one of the later books to see what I'm after. After all, I haven't read S, and then I must expect T-Z before Grafton is done....

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Just added labels!

This new Blogger thing is a right lark for a computer ignoramus like myself! However, if I'd been smart I'd've done them surname first. *doh* I only thought of that half-way through (had to add them all manually), and then I couldn't be arsed. No no no. Nevertheless, I quite like this list.

I've got a problem though - since converting it seems like the quotes I write (have written?) turn up in white writing. That's not good. They're not secret. I'm not sure why this happened, or how to fix it. Hm. *baits possible smart readers*

I shall now label this post as miscellaneous. *smirk*

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Jess Walter: Land of the Blind

I don't know if it's actually considered a genre, but in my mind there seems to be a particular kind of American novel dealing with growing up in the 60s/70s. Something about the way the author is both nostalgic for that time of comparative innocence, yet often writes very bluntly about childhood cruelties and emerging sexuality.

The frame for the novel is once again the Spokane police department, and once again Caroline Mabry (as in Over Tumbled Graves). It isn't a part of a series though, I like that, it stands alone ad does it well. A man is taken in to the police station saying that he wants to confess, and, at a loss, Mabry gives him pen and paper and lets him start to write. He writes and writes, and tells the tale of growing up poor in Spokane, of the most-bullied kid in school who eventually becomes his friend, of loyalties and sex, of wanting to be rich and looked-up to. Mabry begins to suspect that possibly he really has killed someone, and starts looking for this someone while he is still writing.

I think Walter really managed the balance between novel and crime fic frame well here. Towards the end there is a heightening of pace, as we begin to anticipate a violent act, and instead of feeling disappointed when it fizzes out I felt like it was appropriate. It wasn't a thriller. In the end it's just Mabry and the confessor, Clark Mason, waiting for sunrise. I liked it.

I was going to write some quotes, but I'm a little too tired. I recommend it anyway.

In other news, today I tried to buy books for friends and failed. I find it soooo hard to buy books for others, I don't know why. I kind of know what I'd like to get them, but what if they don't like it? Indecision, indecision....

Thursday, February 08, 2007

I'm the worst eejit.

Remember this post? Yet, only two posts ago I had forgotten I'd read Andrew Taylor. God help me anyway.

The doctor prescribed me a very mild sedative to help me sleep. I think I need it.

Peter Lovesey: Bertie and the Tinman

I've written favourably about Lovesey before. This novel is set in the Victorian era, just like Wobble to Death, a book I very much enjoyed. The twist here is that it is Queen Victoria's son Albert - Bertie to his intimates and His Highness to the rest of us - who is the detective. His favourite jockey, the "Tinman", commits suicide, and Bertie isn't happy with the notion that this was done in a fit of madness brought on by typhoid fever. Bertie himself has suffered from typhoid, and one is madder than the Tinman then he thinks. So he starts investigating.

I think it's quite cute, but not much more. I found it a bit predictable in style - the bumbling over-sexed Royal attempting to bluster information out of people. The historical references are fun though on the whole. I wouldn't not recommend it, but I didn't think it was Lovesey's best, not by a long shot.

Let's see now if I can sort out my blog. Gulp.

Found the books.

They were lying in my dresser. *blushes*

Also, as you can see perhaps I switched to this new Blogger thing with Google, and I lost some of the stuff I'd made to the blog, so I'll have to re-insert that ASAP.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Still missing my books.

What. The. Hell?

Unable to find the books I'd already borrowed (One Jess Walter, one Andrew Taylor (whom I've never read)) I had to dash to the library and find something else. Had to. Or work is UNBEARABLE. So luckily there was another Jess Walter, since I had my heart set on him. Citizen Vince (ha ha, just automatically typed Kane and had to change it...) is a novel just waiting to be filmed, in which case it'll be just another gangster film, a genre that bores me. I was even casting it in my mind, with actors from the Sopranos. Bo-o-oo-ring. Thank God I read it anyway.

It's 1980. Vince Camden lives in Spokane. We quickly understand that he isn't originally from there - Vince is in the Witness Protection Programme and has left his old N.Y. small-time gangster life behind him. Except he hasn't: he does work as a baker, but runs a credit card scam and sells marijuana on the side. One day he gets his voter registration card in the post. Then it suddenly hits him that he really was given a new life when he joined the WPP. Since he turned to crime as a child he's never been eligible to vote, but in this new life he can. It's Reagan's first presidential election, with President Carter trying to manage the US hostage situation in Iran. Vince becomes a little obsessed with this - he follows the debates, tries to talk politics with his gambling friends. Out of the blue, someone from the old life appears to show up in Spokane to get rid of Vince. And in the end Vince has to choose between being the new guy, on the voter registration card, or stay the same small-time gangster.

It's quite a good book this. Walter has a definite flair. I love how Detective Alan Dupree, whom we met in Over Tumbled Graves as an older, disillusioned mentor cop, here is a young rookie. I even put up with the gangster angle - much easier in literature than in films! Having the story set to the background of the election is a great idea, especially how being allowed to vote really affects Vince. I suppose it's a bit moral, but in a good way.

There's also a really interesting middle bit, where part of the story is about what Carter and Reagan are thinking and going through just a few days before the Big Day. I'm still pondering to myself why he put that in. Cool.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Where's my book?

I borrowed a Jess Walter novel, where is it? Bloody household this. Somebody moved it, and I'm very upset.

69,7 square metres of living space - you'd think I'd be able to find stuff.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Two new authors, one re-read

I always find myself hovering over Liza Cody's books in the library, thinking "have I read them all? Surely this one is new? No... Yes... No...." and last week I borrowed Dupe, in one such fit of insecurity. A chapter in or so I was sure I had read it, but I obviously didn't recall enough of the story to be bothered by this, so kept going. I like Cody, and her heroine Anna Lee. Independent, believable, competent on the whole, but not perfect. Cody's best heroine in a way has to be Eva Wylie though, of the books Bucket Nut and Monkey Wrench, of which I've only read the latter. Eva is a big, ugly female wrestler who takes no shit, and it a little thick in some ways but very street-wise in others. I liked her.

Anna Lee is good too though. She is introduced to us in Dupe, a private detective working for a company led by the obnoxious Brierly. She is condescended to since she is a young woman, but useful to him in some cases. Like those involving runaway minors. Now however she takes on an investigation into the apparently normal traffic accident death of a young woman, since the parents are convinced something is not right. It's a good book on the whole. The cover says it was televised, but I haven't seen it. I strongly suspect it was less good on telly though. Telly tends to take out those little quirks that make a novel in a cliché-ridden genre like crime fic stand out.

On impulse I also borrowed an unknown, Blood Relation by Andrew Taylor. And I got this mostly because the praising blurbs on the cover are from Punch, The Times, Guardian... The snob within. It got me hoping for something like Peter Dickinson. And it sort of is. Taylor's hero is William Dougal, a charming man of slightly flexible morals. This has cost him a relationship, and also his daughter. Since this isn't the first book I can see that there is a lot of history in their relationship and Dougal's past that I don't know yet, so I'm hoping to find some more books.

The best thing is that Dougal is an academic, who worked and works in publishing, but has joined the security/PI business later. Speak of the devil, namely a little discussion I had with HB. Am very pleased.

Here Dougal investigates a disappearance which becomes a murder, which becomes someone elses murder. I liked it. Clever enough, no jarring plot holes, good writing!

However, my real find was Over Tumbled Graves by Jess Walter. I had never heard of him, but I was quite impressed. It appears to be a routine serial killer novel, but it's quickly clear that Walter is more interested in the abberations within us all and our society. It's quite feminist, with for example a lot of thinking about whether all men are predators - sparked by a prostitute saying that all the clients give her the creeps, even the ones that are "normal". The FBI profiler questions if our heroine, police woman Caroline Mabry is fit to investigate these serial killings, because as a woman she can never understand the mechanisms of male fantasy. His suspicion is that
Maybe every man who looked at a Penthouse was essentially embarking on the same path that ended with some guy beating a woman to death and violating her with a lug wrench. [...] If she coldn't imagine the violent fantasy, what could she imagine? The victim. The fear. And what good were those?


It's always really nice to read a male writer who can write so believably about a woman. I was honestly not sure whether Walter was male or female until I googled - being openminded and all his introductory acknowledgment of his wife and kids didn't prejudice me. I'm that cool.

I borrowed the other one of his novels the library had, and I'm looking forward to it. It's a good description of police work, it's think-ey, it contains the first example I've ever see of someone writing about New Orleans and not going all gooey-eyed over the place in manner of Anne Rice. Plus I learnt how to pronounce Spokane.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Sue Grafton x 3.. no, 4 really

The library have had a little drive and bought a lot of English paperbacks, so they've stocked up on crime fic too, it seems. After all, those are the books you don't want in hardback. You want easy to carry, stick in your bag, fits in your pocket, read on the bus paperback for crime fic, right? Anyway, for some reason they only had the later parts of Grafton's alphabet series. I asked once, and the librarian thought it was superodd, but no, no branch had the earliest ones. She was a little surprised herself. However, now they're filling in the gaps - lucky me! I am very fond of Kinsey Millhone, and I do think that the very earliest books show Kinsey from her best side. As with all series the charm and inventiveness wears thinner towards the end. It's very sad.

I found E is for Evidence, H is for Homicide (well, duh) and J is for Judgment. And today I found A is for Alibi, so I was very pleased! I noticed a fun little detail in A - at one point Kinsey talks about how disconcerting the climate of Southern California is, with the constant sunshine and so on: you don't get a good grip on what season it is. That's hardly the talk of someone born and bred in a place is it? That's Ms Grafton from Kentucky talking - I'm only saying. Roots will out, won't they?

A is the one about the woman who just got out of jail, where she served eight years for the murder of her husband. She claims innocence, and wants Kinsey to clear her name now that she isn't locked up any more. I haven't finished it yet, but am more than half-way through and can note that she has so far only mentioned her lovely landlord Henry, but we haven't actually met him. Also, I'd like to say that this book must've been a breath of fresh air when it first came out! It really is a nice spin on the PI genre.

E is about Kinsey getting framed. She is investigating a warehouse fire, when evidence is found that she's on the take and California Fidelity doesn't want her working for them any more. She also gets blown up (and later her apartment gets blown up too). The description of the explosion is nicely done.

In H she gets inadvertently sucked into the LA gang scene. On behalf of California Fidelity she's investigating a woman who seems to be trying to commit insurance fraud. Turns out the woman has a gang history, even though she now is seeing a former school pal and cop colleague of Kinsey's. Kinsey agrees to do some undercover work to help out the police, and finds herself trapped with LA gang psychos. Not bad, and I like how Grafton shows compassion even for our villain.

Finally J. After/during H Kinsey's association with CF is over, but they pull her in again to investigate claims that a suicide who may have come back to life in Mexico. This one felt a little more skittish, and there is a twist at the end which I feel might have been made more prominent throughout the book, to keep us the readers guessing a little more.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Two that got away. Or rather, I let them escape. Good riddance.

I didn't have time to go to the library, so I was stuck with all the books here that I haven't read. In all fairness, there's a good few of them, and my reasons for not reading them are often not that good... So first I tried Flann O'Brien, to be more precise I tried reading The Third Policeman.

See, I have this (Irish) cousin whom I used to be great friends with, but we haven't really seen each other for years (I think we could probably easily pick up the relationship though if we got together), and she used to get me books with a capital L for "Literature one should read". For example, she gave me Doris Lessing I think, and Solzhenitsyn, and one of the Irish writers she could me for my education was Flann O'Brien. This was back in our teens. And I did try to read it then, but I didn't get it and put it away. Now, at the age of 31, surely I'm more mature and can appreciate more things? Surely now I can read Flann O'Brien and enjoy, or at least appreciate the humour?

No. Because it's shite. Jesus, I cannot stand this type of writing. James fecking Joyce has a lot to answer for, in my opinion. This is a typical quote:

"That is the real point" said MacCruiskeen, "but it is so thin that it could go into your hand out in the other extremity externally and you would not feel a bit of it and you would see nothing and hear nothing. It is so thin that maybe it does not exist at all and you could spend half an hour trying to think about it and you could put no thought around it in the end. The beginning part of the inch is thicker than the last part and is nearly there for a fact but I don't think it is if it is my private opinion that you are anxious to enlist."

Actually, that's one of the more sensible bits. Not the best example. I gave up. It started out pretty good though, so I had some hopes. But when he starts yapping to these three policemen at the station (apparently he's dead and in limbo or something, which explains the oddness, but I still can't take it) it gets to be too much. No no no.

Then, I tried reading The Last of the Mohicans (by James Fennimore Cooper). Just for fun. Millions of young lads have plowed through this at a far tenderer age than I, so surely it must be readable?

No. This is another one to scream SHUT UP at. I had imagined that I should feel some liking for the white scout Hawk-Eye (played by Daniel Day-Lewis in the film...), but he is a petulant, wordy, self-important twit. It would send you to sleep so it would. I only got as far as I did because I was at work and had NOTHING else to do. Definitely a case of the film being better than the book, and after all the film isn't that strong either.

Interesting introduction though.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Isabel Dalhousie x 2 by Alexander McCall Smith

Mr Bani bought me Friends, Lovers, Chocolate as an impromptu gift, and also borrowed the sequel, The Right Attitude to Rain for me from his colleague. In the former our philosopher Isabel discovers that she is not only fond of but actually romantically interested in her niece Cat's former boyfriend Jamie, and in the latter the two of them do really hit it off.

While reading these I was also thinking about how come I prefer the Mma Ramotswe series, when really the tone set in the two series is not that dissimilar. Is it just exotism on my part? I don't think so... I think that the Botswana books will always work better for the simple reason that a detective agency is a good frame for the problem-solving, whereas with Isabel Dalhousie one only has her nosiness as an excuse and that sometimes doesn't seem sufficient. I mean, the author has to chuck in a few too many coincidences to make it fly, I think. Also, for some reason Isabel seems a little more remote as a character. I'm not sure why. Perhaps the fact that Precious Ramotswe has experienced such pain in her life (the loss of her child for example) makes her more believable as a character... no, now I sound a little unfair, since Isabel too has experienced loss... Maybe it's that Precious's flaws are more explicit, thus making her more human, whereas Isabel's flaws aren't portrayed as clearly?

But it's quite sweet all the same.