GingerbreadMan keeps pondering on past failings, part 2
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I've been longing for bigger categories, and want to add at least a few books compared to my 2013 Challenge. I'll do 8 categories (2x1x4 - skipping the zero), aiming for 9 books per category, for a total of 72 books. ETA: In a desperate ploy to manage my 2013 Challenge, I've decided to make a swap with this year's. Thus category 5 now includes 10 books, but category 6 only eight
More editing: I've realised I don't have anyplace to put my beloved GN:s. And starting a bonus category mid-january I've tried before, with bemusing resluts. What I'll do this year is include an open end GN category. Every book in this category will count as a challenge read, but the number in this category won't be specified. As usual, GN:s are not included in my page count.
And no matter how you giggle, I will once again set the goal to reduce my TBR, this time by 25 books. This is mainly to fool myself all unred books in this house will get read before I die:
Books read from the TBR:48
New additions in 2014: 37
Total TBR dent/bump this year:-11
Really, this is a consequence of all the other factors. I haven't got the time or energy to read like I used to, but I just can't get that into my thick head. I happily bring four fat novels along for a week's vacation, join all sorts of LT challenges and am still under the misconception that I read about two books on a normal week. This category will be dedicated to making some headway on my Europe Endless Challenge, already on it's fourth year.
1. Blattejävlar by Goran Vojnovic (Slovenia), finished january 26th, ***, #94
2. Fixaren (The fixer) by Joe Sacco (Bosnia), finished february 4th, ****, #110
3. Wunderkind by Nikolai Grozni (Bulgaria), finished april 6th, *****, #184
4. Tigern i Galina by Téa Obreht (Serbia), finished july 9th, ***½, #2:26
5. Tjugo år och en dag by Jorge Semprún (Spain), finished august 5th, ***, #2:55
6. Ost by Willem Elsschot (Belgium), finished october 31st, ****, #2:127
7. Spegelriket by Aka Morchiladze (Georgia), finished december 16th, ***½, #2:166
Gentlemen of the road by Michael Chabon (Azerbajdjan)
Tennets skrik by Gundega Repse (Latvia)
I Babylon by Marcel Möring (Holland)
I love my kids to death and love spending time with them. But they are both causing havoc in different ways (one loudly, one quietly), they require eons time and attention, and let's face it, the years go by so darn quickly. In short, they are bad for those afternoon reading sessions in the comfy chair. This category is all about Books for young people, both books read aloud to the big boy, and YA books I read myself.
1. The graveyard book by Neil Gaiman, finished january 30th, **½, #98
2. Min morbror trollkarlen (The magician's nephew) by C.S Lewis, **½, finished february 10th, #124
3. Om det var krig i Norden by Janne Teller, finished march 20th, ****, #166
4. Pojkarna by Jessica Schiefauer, finished march 24th, ****½, #172
5. Heja Pelle Svanslös by Gösta Knutsson, finished april 27th, ****, #207
6. Pelle Svanslös i Amerika (reread) by Gösta Knutsson, finished may 29th, **½, #221
7. Fallet med de stulna smyckena by Susanne MacFie, finished june 2nd, **, #226
8. Saffransmysteriet (reread) by Martin Widmark and Helena Willis, finished june 24th, ***, #279
9. Kärleksmysteriet by Martin Widmark and Helena Willis, finished july 4th, **½, #2:11
10. Cafémysteriet by Martin Widmark and Helena Willis, finished july 14th, ***, #2:39
11. Schlagersabotören by Martin Widmark and Helena Willis, finished july 14th, ***, #2:39
The hunger games by Suzanne Collins
Catching fire by Suzanne Collins
Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
Put me on my back and I'm out in five minutes. Not much evening reading happening. This category will be books possible to read in small bits, Poetry and short stories.
1. In the night garden by Catherynne Valente, finished january 13th, ****½, #60
2. In the cities of coin and spice by Catherynne Valente, finished january 21st, ****½, #72
3. Suddenly, a knock on the door by Etgar Keret, finished april 14th, *****, #198
4. Vampires in the Lemon Grove by Karen Russell, finished june 6th, *****, #229
5. Landskap by Per Thörn, finished august 15th, ***, #2:76
6. En film om Firman och Hannas vad by Anna-Maria Ytterbom, finished september 27th, ***½, #2:111
Wayward girls and wicked women edited by Angela Carter
Dikter 1945-2002 by Wislawa Szymborska
Mannen som kunde gå genom väggar by Marcel Ayme
Myror by Leif Holmstrand
To read 70+ books a year, it helps if they aren't all more than five hundred pages long. If they are so big they are impractical to bring anywhere, that's even worse. This category will be the dear old Whatever's on the TBR category, old musty tomes, as well as magpie shinies.
1. The maintenance of headway by Magnus Mills, finished february 3rd, ***½, #107
2. Och himlarna ska fall himlarna ska falla himlarna ska falla när du rör vid mig by Emma Karinsdotter, finished april 16th, ****, #201
3. Det förlovade landet (Land of Decoration) by Grace McCleen, finished april 21st, ****, #202
4. Främlingsleguanen by Martina Montelius, finished may 2nd, ****, #207
5. En dag (One day) by David Nicholls, finished may 10th, ****, #209
6. Kast med liten kniv by Sara Kadefors, finished june 30th, ***½, #285
7. Höstens skuggor by Agnes von Krusenstjerna, finished july 12th, ***, #2:28
8. Glupahungern by Amanda Lundgren, finished august 27th, **, #2:98
9. Du vet väl om att du är värdefull by Stefan Lindberg, finished november 10th, *****, #2:147
Porten vid Johannes by Agnes von Krusenstjerna
The crow road by Iain Banks
Det röda fältet (Red sorghum) by Mo Yan
Det kalla landet by Inger Frimansson
Bring up the bodies by Hilary Mantel
A fatal grace by Louise Penny
Staden och lågorna by Jerker Virdborg
No matter how good the Pearl Rule sounds to me, I'm still a duty reader at heart. I will likely finish, no matter what. Of course, if the book isn't any good, it takes a tad longer. This is my beloved Blindfold Category, where I never know what to expect!
1. Bära mistel by Sara Lidman (Picked for my 2013 Challenge by psutto), finished february 16th, ****½, #124
2. Min skugga by Christine Falkenland (Picked by DeltaQueen50), finished may 27th, ***½, #216
3. Zazie by Raymond Qeuneau (Reread. Picked by laura_88), finished may 30th, ****, #221
4. Albions Skogar (The forest house) by Marion Zimmer Bradley (Picked by RigdewayGirl), finished june 17th, **, #237
5. Nåd och onåd (Restoration) by Rose Tremain (Picked by SouthernKiwi), finished august 12th, ****, #2:60
6. Men, women and chainsaws by Carol J. Clover (Picked by psutto), finished august 23rd, ***½, #2:89
7. Mörker och blåbärsris by Kerstin Ekman (Picked by christina_reads), finished october 29th, ****, #2:127
8. Dirk Gently's holistic detective agency by Douglas Adams (Reread. Picked by dudes22 ), finished november 16th, ****, #2:151
9. Pride and prejudice and zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith (Picked by lkernagh), finished december 1st, ***, #2:152
Vävarnas barn by Per Anders Fogelström (Picked by paruline)
I love my job, but my work eats my time and energy a lot of the time, and sometimes my evenings too. This category is all sorts of Work reading, plays, theory, inspiration and research.
1. Svenska ödehus by Sven Olol Karlsson and Philip Pereira dos Reis, finished march 6th, ****, #141
2. Namnbrunnen by Inger Edelfeldt, finished march 20th, ***, #166
3. Introvert: den tysta revolutionen by Linus Jonkman, finished may 7th, ***, #207
4. Nordiska väsen by Johan Egerkrans, finished july 9th, ****, #2:26
5. Älvor, vättar och andra väsen by Ebbe Schön, finished august 6th, ****, #2:56
6. Svenska sägner by Ebbe Schön, finished august 13th, ****, #2:68
7. Gul utanpå by Patrik Lundberg, finished september 24th, ***½, #2:111
Man ska ju vara två by Lissa Nordin
På jakt efter den dialogiska estetiken by Joakim Stenshäll
Lysande eländen by Staffan Göthe
This includes all of you, dear friends. But also Instagram and perhaps above all Facebook, where I show all the restraint of a heroin addict. This category is dedicated to Sci-Fi, Fantasy and horror by female writers.
1. Udda verklighet by Nene Ormes, finished march 4th, ***½, #137
2. Parable of the sower by Octavia Butler, finished may 24th, ****½, #211
3. Parable of the talents by Octavia Butler, finished june 25th, ****½, #279
4. The left hand of darkness by Ursula K. LeGuin, finished july 5th, ****, #2:12
5. Among others by Jo Walton, finished august 1st, ****, #2:42
6. Hungerspelen (The hunger games) by Suzanne Collins, finished october 13th, ***½, #2:121
7. Fatta eld (Catching fire) by Suzanne Collins, finished october 19th, ****, #2:127
8. Revolt (Mockingjay) by Suzanne Collins, finished november 5th, ****, #2:144
The Shining girls by Lauren Beukes
The brides of Rollrock Island by Margo Lanagan
Living next door to the god of love by Justina Robson
Geek love by Katherine Dunne
Mechanique by Genevieve Valentine
Den enda by Anna Starobinets
I boldy refrain from playing sandbox games on the Xbox most of the time. Instead I find myself playing Tower defense games on addictinggames. A dubious victory. This category will be Sci-Fi, fantasy and horror by male writers.
1. Redshirts by John Scalzi, finished march 1st, ***½, #136
2. Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer, finished march 13th, ****, #149
3. Kall hud by Albert Sanchez Piñol, finished march 28th, ****, #175
4. Sea of ghosts by Alan Campbell, finished july 22nd, ***½, #2:40
5. Stallo by Stefan Spjut, finished july 26th, ****½, #2:41
6. Escapement by Jay Lake, finished october 11th, **, #2:120
7.Himmelstrand by John Ajvide Lindqvist, finished december 7th ****, #2:166
Ready player one by Ernest Cline
The islanders by Christopher Priest
Osama by Lavie Tidhar
Light by M. John Harrison
Use of weapons by Iain M. Banks
Thunderer by Felix Gilman
My days of being ashamed for being an adult reading comics in public are thankfully over. But my reading of Graphic Novels remains something I often tend to think about in terms of something of a side dish. For instance, I never make enough room for them in my challenges, leading me to create silly bonus categories. This will be my open end Graphic Novel category.
1. Locke and key 3: Crown of Shadows by Joe Hill and Gabriel rodrigues, finished march 7th, ****, #149
2. Unwritten 5 by Mike Carey and Peter Gross (re-read), finished august 19th, ****, #2:86
3. Unwritten 6 by Mike Carey and Peter Gross, finished august 20th, ****, #2:86
4. Sweet tooth vol.1 by Jeff Lemire, finished august 28th, ***, #2:100
36. Kärleksmysteriet by Martin Widmark and Helena Willis
Category 2, 93 pages. Category completed!
There’s a red herring. There’s a culprit posing as a victim. There’s a dance impro. There is an engagement. It is what it is. 2 ½ stars.
This concludes my Having children category. But as I'm sure there will be more books in this category, I'm going to make this category open end too, like my GN category. That is, I'll keep adding books in this category to my overall 72 book goal, rather than messing with bonus reads before the challenge is done.
37. The left hand of darkness by Ursula LeGuin
Category 7, 248 pages.
I’m sadly ill read when it comes to Ursula LeGuin. I read the first Earthsea book as a pre-teen, possible something else in my teens and now this. I need to rectify this. For The left hand of darkness is a lovely book, wholly worthy of it’s genre classic status.
First things first. As a sucker for good world building, the planet Winter is a wonder, beautifully captured in under 250 pages. Both with it’s extreme weather conditions – having four seasons of winter, basically – and the main difference between it’s people and us – there is just one sex. Especially this last thing is handled with an amazing touch, where LeGuin, without overstressing, manages both to convey how this affects the whole culture and way of thinking, and to throw a few sly feminist winks the reader’s way.
The plot revolves around Genry Ai, an envoy from a huge coalition of humanoid worlds, and his attempts at making the powers in two neighboring states commit to contact. And, more importantly, his uneasy, careful friendship with the brilliant politician Estraven. Most of all, this is a book of building trust and bridging differences. It’s not necessarily a thrilling ride, but constantly interesting, even if the long trek over the glacier makes it just a tad bit back heavy for me. 4 stars!
But, confession, still haven't read Left Hand of Darkness! And I think it's because I know it will have a long trek over the glacier. I need to get over that and read it! Otherwise the Fannish Inquisition will get me some day. (Sorry - obscure inside geek joke)
Fantastic review! I loved Left Hand of Darkness. The politics and worldbuilding was so facinating. The version I read had an into by Le Guin about how she wishes she pushed the envelop with the one gender in terms of the pronouns she used in the book. I don't remember everything she said about her pronouns choice, but she wishf she had used something other than "he" as te generic. The solution she thinks she probably would have used if she could go back was to use "she" for the people of Winter while still using masculine titles, such as "King". It fascinates me how that would subtly shift the tone of the book, if she had gone that way.
>15 andreablythe: I reacted to the use of "he" as well, and kind of wish she'd gone in the direction you describe. On the other hand, the use of "he" made the rudementary attraction between the main characters a little more edgy, I guess. Linguistic trivia: in Swedish, a gender neutral pronoun is slowly beginning to gain ground. "Hen" (as opposed to "han" or "hon" - he or she resepctively) is a fairly new invention, but it actually seems to stick. The biggest newspapers are all using it, and I've seen it in contracts. Language and gender conservatives are in uproar of course, and for some "hen" symbolizes everything that's wrong and horrible about feminism. But the people advocating a total swap to gender neutral pronouns are actually few. I fid hen a very useful word myself, in the areas where it's most commonly applied: either as a pronoun used in a situation where the sex of a person is unknown (where you would normally have to resort to the rather clumsy "he or she"). Or as a pronoum to use for a person who, by choice, doesn't want to identify with the gender binary - trans people or queers.
That's fascinating about the use of "hen" as a pronoun. That mainstream media is using it is a good sign that it will stick around. Based on your description, "hen" seems to fit in fairly naturally.
We have a few non-gendered pronouns used in the U.S. (ze, xe, yo, ey, and others), but not of them fit naturally into the language, so none of them have stuck and they are likely to remain fairly marginalized unless mainstream media starts using one.
I've heard of other writers that have written short stories with non-gendered characters, some of whom have avoided the pronoun problem by writing in the first person. I'm going to have to track down the Delaney story. I don't suppose you know the title?
1st person seems like the only real answer, but it also seems like a cheat. Speaking of the Tiptrees, Matt Ruff's Set This House In Order does a real interesting job with gender.
Also used in England for "hen parties" - a woman about to get married
Not sure it'd catch on as gender neutral here then!
>22 cammykitty: I've yet to read Matt Ruff, but I think claire was gushing over him a few years ago, so he's on my radar at least.
>23 RidgewayGirl: In English text written by trans people or people with a queer gender identity, that seems to be their choice too.
>24 psutto: The fact that "hen" is English for a fowl is actually occasionally used as an argument against it's use as a pronoun. The counter argument is usually that the Swedish word for "child" is "barn".
Category 1, 356 pages.
Ever since they used to go to see the tigers at the Belgrad zoo together, Natalia shares a special bond with her grandfather. He is a brilliant doctor, an unassuming man deeply affected by the two strange encounters in his life – the runaway tiger that stalked his childhood village and the deaf girl who befriended it; and his chance meetings with the strange deathless man, claiming to be Death’s nephew, and rocking his scientific world wiew.
In the years after the civil war, Natalia is working as a doctor herself, in the strange new landscape that is former Yugoslavia, where borders and attitudes, hate and suspicion is creating new obstacles. She is doing voluntary work, giving out immunization shots to children when she gets word her grandfather has died, in a remote village where he had no business. Natalia is the only one who knew he had terminal cancer, and is convinced he’s travelled to that place to try and track down the deathless man. Following in his footsteps, she encounters his past.
This is a book of tall tales and magical realism. It’s engaging and full of atmosphere, and it, generally, knows when to stop, letting a sense of mystery shimmer. But there’s also something just a little formulaic over it, and it never completely engrosses me. My favorite part is probably the chapters that deal with life as a teen during the war in a Belgrad that is never in the middle of battle – a strange fatalistic defiance. Especially the part about people dressing up like animals to protect the zoo from bombing, flaunting signs for the newscast drones and bomb planes, was fascinating. I will be curious to see where Obreht goes next. This book will be my Serbian entry for the Europe Endless. 3 ½ stars.
39. Nordiska väsen by Johan Egerkrans
Category 6, 127 pages.
This is a slim encyclopedia over creatures from Norse folklore. It gives a good overview of a large number of beings. The descriptions are rather brief, trying to find common ground rather than being anecdotal. I can’t help but feel it loses something because of it. Rather than “it’s described as this or this or this, some say it’s big, some say it’s small”, I would have preferred examples. The occasional snippets of story are constantly interesting.
I guess the Swedish relationship to nature is keeping many of these creatures alive in our minds. Most of the entries here are, I think, well known to many Swedes – troll, älvor, skogsrån, tomtar, lyktgubbar, gastar, lindormar, Näcken and so on. But here are also regional varieties. I was happy to learn more about vittror, the variety of the fair folk from the very north of Sweden. And some creatures, like Askefroa, an evil tree spirit from the southern provinces, or the giant hen skåkhöna, were completely new to me.
The main thing here though, and probably the reason this book came to be, is surely the gorgeous illustrations. Egerkrans’ rendition of all these beasts and creatures is nothing short of stunning. A few examples can be found on his webpage: http://www.egerkrans.com/egerkrans.com/Vaesen.html 4 stars!
40. Höstens skuggor by Agnes von Krusenstjerna
Category 4, 185 pages.
Time is running out, or so they feel, the people around Eka estate. Petra falls in love again, almost by choice, to Tord, a married man. And Tord’s wife, deliciously nasty Adéle – the definitive wild card of this series – snares a poor preacher in parasitic love. And world-weary Hans, always full of longing for something more, gets word he is in fact dying of cancer, and makes the shaky decision not to tell his family.
This is a weaker book than the previous parts, perhaps because hasty passion as a theme isn’t necessarily my favorite one. But the boldness with which Krusenstjerna, in the 1930ies, tackles some rather sordid subject matter slices right through time, and her way with characters is sensitive and raw. I’ll absolutely go on reading this classic Swedish series. 3 stars.
(a) There's mobile internet available
(b) Flea feels like lending me her phone
coincide. Which won't be too often, I don't think.
I'll be bringing along the follwing books:
Sea of ghosts, which I've just started, and which feels very promising so far. Very cool world building.
Stallo (I don't think I'll be reading this troll horror in the cabin in Ydre though...)
The Crow road
and hope to have read the majority of them when I come home. Hope summer is treating all of you gently - have a few lovely weeks!
Awe, come on. Think about the added atmospheric build that would add to the story. ;-)
Have a wonderful time!
And now I'm intrigued by the phrase "troll horror".
Swedish summer 2014 is turning out to be pretty epic. The weather is constantly warm to hot (at the moment on the hot side - we are in for temperatures between 28 and 33 degrees celsius this week, with tropical nights) and we have spent three lovely weeks of vacation: warm little forest lakes, blueberries, library sale (bye bye TBR dent) and flea markets in Ydre, Liseberg theme park, a lovely wedding, and salty swims in the ocean, ripe blackberries and rocky shores at Bjäre in Skåne. Quite possibly my best summer vacation in a decade - I wish it could go on for five more weeks.
Coming home is nice too, though, and thoughtful neighbors have saved our garden from toasting to death in the sun.
I owe you guys some reviews, I think. Here you go!
41. Cafémysteriet by Martin Widmark and Helena Willis
Category 2, 80 pages.
Being a parent means not getting to choose what’s played in the car on long trips. My six year old is calling the shots, and he wants his Lasse Maja mysteries. You all know I’m not entirely smitten, but this – one of the early ones – is actually somewhat elegant, with pastries in a shop window acting as code for a robber, so he knows when to hit. Bonus points, again, for having gay characters without it being a big deal. 3 stars.
42. Schlagersabotören by Martin Widmark and Helena Willis
Category 2, 46 pages.
Song contest in Valleby, which means loads of characters in use, and actually quite a bit of fun. Someone is sabotaging the contest, and the red herrings and clues are numerous. It isn’t Lasse and Majas’ most exciting case perhaps, but it’s rather intricate. And on top of it all some catchy tunes in the audio version, sung by some rather well known Swedish artists. I don’t know if these are really getting better, or if I’m just getting worn down, but I enjoyed this. 3 stars.
43. Sea of ghosts by Alan Campbell
Category 8, 431 pages.
When the human race rebelled against their Unmer masters, the Unmer, in a final act of defiance, decided to destroy the world. They dropped millions of sea-bottles into the oceans, magic little vials spewing out poisonous water forever and ever. Now the remaining Unmer are kept in ghettos, guarded by the powerful psychics of the Haurstaf order, and their secrets are all but lost. And the world is sinking, slowly getting swallowed by poisonous Brine, while humankind is playing wargames and empires. Treasure hunters comb the bottom for lost Unmer artefacts. Humans can use the eerie Unmer technology, always at the risk of health or sanity, but *how* it works remains a mystery.
Thomas Granger is the leader of the last unit of the Gravediggers, the Emperor’s elite force. When they are suddenly outlawed, he runs and hides in the prison city Ethugra, working as a jailor. Until he one day receives two new prisoners and realizes his past is back to haunt him. For the young girl Ianthe is a psychic of a kind the world has never seen. He realizes both the emperor, the Haurstaf and forces even more dangerous would want their hands on her.
For any lover of New Weird, this is a gem of world building. Distinctively dirty and grey (an early scene is set in a cannery for dragon meat, just to set the tone) Granger’s world is also original and full of detail. It’s even completely relevant as a metaphore, with it’s imminent environmental threat. All the strange Unmer devices, operating outside the regular laws of physics, are vividly described. And the plot, while perhaps a little crammed for my taste, is full of twists and action.
What stops this from being really good is that Campbell is less apt when it comes to characters. Quite a few of the cast here seem to be straight out of the “Gears of War” video game, broadnecked, simple teethgritters with motivations so simple it just makes no sense. The amount of grunting going on in this book is fairly ridiculous.
The good still outweighs the bad, and I absolutely need to know where this is going. But the Swedish saying “synd på så rara ärtor” (“a shame about such pretty peas”) springs to my mind. Unfulfilled potential is so frustrating. 3 ½ stars.
Category 8, 592 pages.
Tolkien has been crap for trolls. Ever since Lord of the Rings, the prevailing image of trolls in fantastic literature are of club wielding, barely sentient hulks, the brutest force of any orcish horde. Preferably on a leash.
But in Nordic folklore, trolls are more like a cruder, ruder, occasionally uglier and definetely less etherical relative of the fair folk. Forest dwellers, glaring at the lonely human cottages from among the dark trees, makers of hard, sometimes rigged, bargains, gold hoarders, child swappers, masters of disguise, possible to get along with but always unpredictable and dangerous. I’ve always felt they’ve deserved a place of their own, dreaming of a really well crafted contemporary horror story using the potential in them. Now I’ve read it.
The variety in focus here though are the title’s Stallo, which are the sami folklore version of trolls. Bigger, lumbering, slow witted, with motives incomprehensible, with a taste for human flesh, and an eerie fascination with human children. Indeed, the atmospheric and creepy beginning deals with the abduction of a child from a summer cabin. It has a pitch perfect description of the sinister side of the deep Swedish forest, and leaves me literally breathless. Right from the start, Stallo is totally impossible to put down.
The main story line takes place twenty five years later, when Susso, a firm believer in trolls since her grandfather the famous photographer caught something unexplainable on a flight photo, follows up on an eyewitness account. The old lady’s story about a silent, grinning little man seems somewhat believable, at least enough for Susso to rig the automatic camera. Perhaps this is the time she’ll finally catch something substantial? Just a few days later the lady calls her back. Her grandson is missing.
What follows is a wobbly quest full of enigmas, which even turns out to involve some rather prominent people from Sweden’s past. The writing is dirty, smelly and real, and the whole concept of trolls hiding in remote houses with terrified people trying to deal with them, comes across as believable.
In the end, a lot is left hanging. Few things are fully answered. The motives of the stallo and their wardens, the skrymt and knytt and shape-shifters, remain mysterious. Which I kind of like. But one or two of the big storylines seem more sloppily dropped than carefully left dangling. It’s a bit of a shame, especially in a book so thick and detailed. Could be a sequel is coming, even though I haven’t seen any indication yet. With that said, it’s been a long time since I turned pages so hungrily, and many images here will stay with me for a long long time. Translation on it’s way, I think. 4 ½ stars!
I did read this in the cottage in the deep Ydre forest - a part of Sweden virtually oozing folklore. It wasn't too scary though. I think the fact that this book is set in the winter and much further north helped.
Category 7, 408 pages.
The thing is, Mori’s mum is a witch and Mori and her twin sister, with some help from the fairies, stopped her evil scheme for taking over the world, at the cost of her sister’s life. So now staying at mum’s is not really a good idea anymore. It’s goodbye to the Welsh mountains, industrial ruins and magic. Instead she is shipped off to a boarding school, paid for by her dad who she hasn’t seen since she was a baby.
The boarding school is a posh hellhole of course, and now Mori has to try and deal with both social stigma, befriending new strange fairies, snobby aunts, puberty, finidng enough books to read and her mum’s attempts on her life in the dark hours. This book is Mori’s diary.
This is a charming read indeed, full of discussions about science fiction (yep, Mori is more than a little geeky), teenage angst and descriptions of magic so incomprehensible and subtle it can always be denied (you throw a comb into a bog and three months later find out that the change you wished for was already ten years in the making). As so often when magic is mixed with teenage life, I find myself more drawn to the mundane side of things, and Mori is very interesting to follow. I can’t quite shake the feeling this book isn’t all it could be, but it’s been quite a while since I read a more charming novel. 4 stars.
Stallo I will have to read. I love different spins or more traditional spins on such characters.
And I'm so glad you enjoyed Among Others! I loved that book and how it handled magic. It was a wonderful read. :)
Count me as another one who hopes Staalo is translated to English soon.
(I wish I could say the same. I have bought more books this year than I have moved from Mount TBR)
>51 Henrik_Madsen: I was actually making a bit of a dent in Mt TBR - until I went to that linbrary sale...
As for the fire, it seems to be halting a little now, but it's still huge. Thanks for the concerns, but the town where I live is in no danger. For starters, Sweden's third biggest lake is between us and the fire!
>53 psutto: I do have a weak spot for coming of age stories. I would probably have liked Among others without the fairies too :)
Category 1, 250 pages.
In 1936, inspired by the sparking revolution, the farmworkers storm a mansion in Toledo, executing the youngest son of the owners. After the victory of Franco’s fascist, the family creates a ritual, forcing the local farmers to reenact the murder on its’ anniversary every year – thus reminding them of their guilt and their defeat.
This novel is set on the twentieth anniversary of the murder, which is decided to be the last time the ritual is performed. Besides the family and the reluctant farmworkers, guests arrive to witness – an American writer who heard of this bizarre tradition from Hemingway, the children of the family, too young to remember the deed itself, and an officer of the security police, there both because he admires this method of putting the reds in their place, and because he suspects young Lorenzo, son of the executed, of communist activities. Constantly moving back and forth through the same day, with both memories from further back and glimpses of the future, this book is about secrets, sexual tension, the role of memory in our lives, and the kind of wobbly peace without real forgiveness that follows a civil war.
The small library in rural Ydre, where we spend some time every summer, has a wonderful summer sale. Besides old stuff, they also tend to sell a lot of new books that just haven’t worked out for them – usually books bought for all libraries in Sweden by the government, as a form of support system for small publishers. Most of these have never even been opened, and they sell for one krona each. Really, it’s the most wonderful place to pick up books from unusual countries, and titles you never heard of. This book was one of this year’s haul – the blurb sounded so interesting.
I find myself leaning this way, then that way with this book. At first, it’s literary style, it’s constant namedropping and eagerness to show off annoyed me. It felt old-fashioned in all the wrong ways. Then the storyline about the adamant fascist police Sabuesa, especially, gripped me. In the end, I’m left with the feeling that I read a book often focusing on the wrong things, which would have benefitted from a less literary style. Bonus points for introducing me to the powerful and fascinating renaissance art of Artemisia Gentileschi! 3 stars.
Category 6, 183 pages.
Ebbe Schön is the nestor of Swedish folklore. I think most swedes know his bearded, wrinkly face as he sits in some TV sofa explaining the background to our Christmas or midsummer traditions. He’s also written numerous books on tales and oral tradition, and the creatures of folklore especially. This is the first I read by him, and I liked it. He has a nice way of weaving things together, giving lots of examples and anecdotes, and also mixing in memories from his own childhood. This is another overview type book, and as a pendant to “Nordiska väsen” which I read earlier this year, it works really well. While that one had lavish illustrations, this book, while broad, has a much meatier presentation of the various critters and spooks. I’m eager to read more about the beliefs of my ancestors, and while these sample menu type books are great, I feel my next reads will have to be more in-depth, focusing on fewer aspects. 4 stars.
I saw the pictures from the fire - looks like California in fire-season, which is not something Sweden should ever look like!
I don't usually gravitate towards historical fiction, and it has stood on our shelves forever - Flea owned it before we moved in together. So I probably never would have picked up Restoration on my own. But I'm really enjoying this rude, rowdy and funny book. This is exactly what blindfold category is supposed to be about!
Category 5, 399 pages.
Merivel happens to cure the king’s sick dog by accident, and as a result is elevated to be part of the court. Officially as doctor for the dogs, but in reality more as a kind of jester – an outlandishly dressed, constantly sloshed, farting and joking clown. Until he is given a more serious task. The king’s favorite mistress needs to get married for the sake of respectability, and Merivel is the king’s choice. Convinced this loud womenizing lout is unable of deeper feelings, the king makes him baron, gives him an estate in the country, and the occasional task of looking after lady Celia. Merivel can’t believe his luck, and lives a more than happy life at his Norfolk manor. Until the unthinkable happens. He falls in love with his own wife.
From there on this rude romp takes a much more serious turn – or two - of which little can be said without spoilers. But Merivel’s story is a classical Bildungsroman, and his journey is both gripping and sad as well as funny. Sure, one or two characters are a bit larger than life, but that just adds to the flavor. It’s also refreshing, for once, to find royalty portrayed as actually worthy of the awe and respect they get. Here, king Charles is really both wise and elevated, almost sage-like.
Without stressing it, this is also a well researched book. I especially liked the glimpses into where the medical science stood in the 17th century, and the vivid descriptions of fire in London.
Historical fiction is not my thing, and this is not likely a read I’d picked for myself. Now I’m just happy to see we have another Tremain on our shelves. 4 stars!
It goes on the list!
>64 mstrust: I can imagine! Must have been lots of fun to create Merivel's outlandish outfits.
>66 andreablythe: I saw that too! Tremain is totally news to me, but I'm sure I'll check that out sooner or later. With some reluctance perhaps, for the ending of Restoration is very good indeed. Thanks for the thumb!
49. Svenska sägner by Ebbe Schön
Category 6, 184 pages.
Another really good collection of folk tales, by the nestor of Swedish folklore. Here, besides tons of examples and stories, he also puts focus on the mechanics of the tale, how motives wander and morph, and the role of folklore in everyday life. A rich part is also devoted to stories that don’t deal with supernatural beings – stories about heroes, mythical kings and queens, wars and actual historical figures. This was a new field for me, and was particularly interesting.
I was also pleased to see that Dalsland, the region where I grew up, is richly represented, often with unique tales and a few beings that aren’t found anywhere else.
For me, the coolest thing of all in here however, deals with my own childhood. My paternal grandfather was from Västergötland. He had scraps of old beliefs left in him from when he grew up. He used to tell stories about seeing the resident ghost in the mansion where he was born, and also had memories of trying to find Glosons (a giant demon pig) treasure at full moon. When we went to visit my grandparents in the fall, we always went walking in the forest to pick mushrooms. During these expeditions, it was inevitable that people got spread out. From early age, we got taught that if our name was called in the forest, we were to respond not with “Yes!” but with “Hoj!”. In fact, usually “Hoj!” was all that was shouted, back and forth. I vividly recall the safety I felt, when finding myself alone among the trees and calling out, getting “Hoj!” responses from all directions. We still practice this in my own family, when we take the kids into the forest. I always assumed “Hoj!” was chosen sort of randomly, a nonsense word that carried well over distance, even in a child’s voice.
But yesterday I read that, according to old beliefs in Västergötland, calling your name in the forest was one of the tricks trolls used to take you under the mountain. Therefore, if you heard someone call your name among the trees you should never ever respond with a “yes”. Guess which word was recommended instead? 4 stars.
No shouting yes in the forest for me - not if we go to Sweden at least!
>70 DeltaQueen50: I know. Now I'm just curious if grandpa knew about the significance of "Hoj" himself, or if he, like I have, just passed on something he'd learned as he was a child himself.
>71 lkernagh: Me too!
>72 mathgirl40: Oh I used to love an animated series about the monkey king which was on TV when I was a kid. I've held the books in my hand too, but have never gotten around to reading them.
>73 Henrik_Madsen: It was unexpected and very cool to suddenly get an explanation to something I hadn't even thought about as needing one!
That "hoj" thing is funny! I've never heard about it, but it sounds like something we'd come up with. :)
Category 3, 74 pages.
This is a list, a long string of words stating particulars of a post-apocalyptic landscape. The sense you get is of a sort of eye flying over the wasteland, registering what it sees and senses:
Packet of cigarettes.
Gradually, more abstract words are interwoven, descriptions of emotion and, perhaps, moral. The faintest trace of sorrow and wariness in the registering eye perhaps. You can also occasionally get a sense of specific events on the ground – the site of a big explosion, some sort of camp, what once perhaps was a mall, a plundered village.
This is, in it’s own right, an effective text, especially when read aloud. But it’s also, you know, just a list. 3 stars.
But now however, I find myself longing to find some room for chainmail and axes in the next year's challenge. I'm talking big arcs, lots of characters and maps at the start of thick books. I know many of you are much more read in this genre than I am, and ask for some tips. Here are some criteria to help narrow things down:
1. I like scales of grey more than black and white - that is, rather a living person as the villain than a floating eye set to destroy the world.
2. I don't tend to like elves, of the Tolkien variety.
3. Magic is fine, but rather sparsely used than fire bolts tossed on every other page.
4. In accordance to what I said about greyness rather than black and white, I don't usually like "Chosen one on a quest" type of plots.
5. Books without interesting female characters usually bore me.
I have a few unread Key books on the TBR, which are likely candidates. And thanks to DQ, I have Abercrombie on my radar. But I'll gladly accept many more suggestions!
Only if they're the snarky kind that shows up in Dresden-like books. :)
>81 DeltaQueen50: I've read and very much enjoyed the first two books in that series, and plan on a re-read of them before tackling Republic of thieves which is already balancing on Mt. TBR. So that's very much the kind of stuff I like.
A couple of other authors that you might want to look into would be Joe Abercrombie, Patrick Rothfuss, Brandon Sanderson and Richard Morgan. The latter of which is probably more recognised for his science fiction books but has an ongoing fantasy series with the 3rd book due later this year.
As for the Locke Lamora books, I've read and enjoyed the first two. They haven't struck me as too blokey at all. I'm aiming for a reread before diving into Republic of thieves. Those remarks to readers criticizing Lynch of being "too politically correct" cracked me up! The nerve of ranting that a black pirate mother is "unrealistic"!!!
>84 andreablythe: It's worth bumping!
51. The Unwritten 5: On to Genesis by Mike Carey and Peter Gross
Category 9, 144 pages.
I really enjoy this series, but I seem to have a hard time remembering much of it. Granted, it's complex, but it's somewhat interesting to do a brush-up reread of a GN I read a year ago and feel almost like I'm reading it for the first time. I was happy to see I still agree with the review I wrote! The rating also stands: 4 stars!
52. The Unwritten 6: Tommy Taylor and the war of words by Mike Carey and Peter Gross,
Category 9, 240 pages.
For any multi-layered, intertextual, millennia-scoping, allusion-soaked fantasy series, this is the tricky volume. For Tom and his gang have come to the point when it’s time to stop tossing new threads and ideas around, adding mystery and flavor, and instead to start making some sense of it all. Done wrong, the whole delicious, tickling weave just unravels like a deflated balloon. On the other hand, mystery remaining too mysterious eventually becomes abstract and makes the reader lose interest.
Here, with Tom taking on the mysterious Cabal head on, and Pullman staging his own palace coup, it’s time for answers. Without spoiling anything, I think it comes as a surprise to no one that more than a pinch of myth is thrown in. It’s all very well thought out and makes sense in it’s own way. But it’s also just a little formulaic. A little Sandman-esque in the way it mixes Gilgamesh, Gutenberg and early political cartoon. Satisfying, but a blend that feels just a tad too familiar.
The Unwritten series instead keeps scoring it’s highest points in the episodes taking place slightly beside the main story arc. It lends itself unusually well to the detour. Here, it’s the neat little everyman story of one of the lowly readers plugged into the Grid, and the chilling account of Frau Rausch’s childhood that really stand out. 4 stars!
I read the first two last year and I seriously need to reread them before I go on - they are complex indeed!
>88 -Eva-: Exactly. I think the fact that they are really quick reads (not too much dialogue, and very clean art) plays into it too. I have a feeling I always read them too fast.
53. Men, women and chain saws by Caryl J. Clover. (blind pick by psutto)
Category 5, 260 pages.
Why does the infamous slasher film genre get rid of the male hero in the mid-seventies, instead introducing the concept of Final Girl – the victim who fights back and wins? Why is it okay for a man to cry by the bed of a possessed woman without losing masculinity? Why are the rapists of the rape-revenge genre almost always rednecks with bad teeth?
Clover’s investigation of the golden age of “lowest” forms of horror and how they represent gender is a fascinating read. Methodically and accessibly, she’s pointing out how some of the most snarled at, seemingly misogynistic films really stage fluidity and shifts in gender that mainstream films didn’t come even close to until decades later. This is a book sure to benefit from a bigger experience with the films discussed – making you feel illiterate because you haven’t seen “The hills have eyes” or “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre” – but even without that detailed knowledge, there’s a whole lot to soak up here. Granted though, at least the most basic understanding of feminist theory might be required.
The first three chapters, on slasher film, possession film, and rape-revenge film are all constantly interesting, if chewy. The last chapter though, dealing with the role of the eye and/or gaze in horror, and sadistic and masochistic positions in watching something, including much wrestling with Freud, is more difficult. I find myself losing the thread of thought, glazing over and duty reading a little bit. The afterword is interesting though, looking at how some of the themes were, at the time, finding it’s way into mainstream film, often in watered down form.
Written twenty years ago, I would be most interested in seeing what Clover would have (or has?) written about what has happened to “low” horror since. I would love to read her thoughts on things like the meta levels in the Scream series, the dual victimization of films like Saw, and the influences from Japanese horror. 3 ½ stars.
That said, sounds like a fascinating critical look, which I may have to grab sometime when I have head space for something chewy.
And, like you, it would be interesting to see modern films come into play. I think I would also like to see some discuss the many handheld movies (like Blaire Witch Project and Paranormal Activity), which are not slasher, per se, but could represent an interesting discussion on shifting "gaze" in horror.
I would say that Clover's definite standpoint is that the films she discusses are as a rule much more interesting and/or deliberate than they are generally given credit for. And when she does comparisons with what might constitute "high horror" (a label she never uses, but she does talk a fair bit about "mainstream"), those comparisons almost always show mainstream films to be both safer and more misogynistic.
Ah, I see. Thank you for explaining that. Now I'm even more eager to read her book. :)
It's sitting on my Netflix-list, so very happy to hear it's a good one!
Noting the love of Restoration the movie! Will have to look that up - even if I find myself watching less and less film these days. It seems TV series have filled that spot completely, for me. As for the cinema, it must have been two or three years since i last went!
Next up, a disappointing read:
54. Glupahungern by Amanda Lundgren
Category 4, 238 pages.
Glupahungern translates as ”the big hunger”, but it’s not a word you’d normally use. Glupahungern has a distinct folkloristic flavor to it, it tastes of huge sprouses and dark fairytales. It’s the kind of hunger you might find in a big animal - or a monster. Along with the first line of the book, brilliant it’s simplicity, it sets an ambience: There was something in the forest. And then there’s the first episode, where Erik puts his skies on to make sure the village drunk Sup-Linus gets home to his small cottage by the lake all right, but loses his way there, even though he’s walked it a thousand times. And when he finally finds the little cabin, something is in there – but it’s not Sup-Linus.
Unfortunately, it’s all downhill from there. I can forgive the wobbly style, flitting from first person to third, shifting points of view in mid-sentence, going from concentrated moments to sudden, sketchy uninterested skimmings over years. But it’s like Lundgren constantly chooses to focus on the wrong things. It seems this book is never where I want it to be. She tries really hard for a sort of dense silence, but instead the words just come off flat, making the whole thing feel like disjointed episodes with an annoying lack of resonance.
There are a few more chilling moments right at the end of the book, when a circle inevitable closes. But it’s too little too late, i’m afraid, especially when so much on the way there just felt random.2 stars.
That title and the premise made me interested for a bit, but then I read a few reviews (and now yours) and I'll be skipping that one. Thanks for taking one off my potentials-list. :)
Lori put up a great review for Jeff Lemire's Essex county books, great, dark, realistic little stories from rural Ontario. I read the first two of those a few years back and like them. Reading Lori's review reminded me I hade Lemire's Sweet tooth voulme one on my TBR, and prompted me to pick it up. Sadly, I wasn't totally convinced:
55. Sweet tooth vol 1: Out of the woods by Jeff Lemire
Category 9, 126 pages.
Gus has antlers. He lives in the woods with his pa. He can’t remember meeting anyone else. A disease is killing all the people. It took his mother many years ago. It will take everyone eventually. When pa also dies Gus is all alone. Until the bad men come – and then mister Jeppers, doing bad things to the bad men, and saving Gus. Which makes mister Jeppers a bad man of sorts, but not entirely. Mister Jeppers tells Gus that for some reasons, hybrid children like himself are safe from the Affliction. He knows of a preserve, a place where the animal children can be safe. He promises to take Gus there. For the first time ever, Gus leaves the woods.
This is a well-told post-apocalpyse. But not a very original one. Gus and Jeppers encounter more or less what you think they’d encounter. And bond in the way you would expect a hardened wasteland bad-ass and a boy with antlers would bond. It’s solid, it’s emotional, but it never quite finds it’s own voice.
Also, Lemire’s favorite thing seems to be showing Gus’ anxious, open face with huge eyes staring right at us. It’s an emotional image, absolutely, but so over used it borders on annoying. The layout of the start of the book is a joke: The cover shows Gus (with antlers) staring at us with huge, anxious eyes. First page is Gus’ head (with antlers) mounted on a plate, wearing the exact same expression. Second and third page is a spread, showing Jeppers lifting Gus by the antlers. Gus is wearing the exact same expression. Page four is another picture of Gus (with antlers), this time standing in the woods, staring right at us, wearing the exact same expression. Page five is the cover picture once again.
Then the actual story starts. The first three pages carefully hide the fact that Gus has antlers. However, three panels are close ups of his anxious, staring eyes. The fourth page shows us that – surprise! – Gus has antlers. He is standing in the snow, staring right at us. He is looking very anxious.
A blurb on the cover describes the book as “Mad Max with antlers”. Oh, really? 3 stars.
Yikes! :( Thanks for taking the hit on that one - I'll be sticking to the BB I got from Lori on Essex County.
>77 GingerbreadMan: I tend to agree with much of your criteria. I avoided reading high fantasy for a long period of time but have been getting back to it lately. I've only just started The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson, so I'm not sure if it will satisfy all the requirements, but it's very promising so far, and I hear that it's part of a planned 10-book series. I also like Guy Gavriel Kay a lot, and his books fit a good number of the criteria but there's not too much "chainmail and axes" in the ones I've read.
I'm currently reading The moon king and enjoying it a lot - although it's a bit of a slow burner - if he doesn't throw it away in the last 50 pages I'd highly recommend it for the fantasy category
I went off fantasy of the swords & sorcery variety quite some time ago so will watch with interest what people recommend ...
Soooo, I declare september 2014 the reading slump of my life. OF MAH LIFE I TELL YAH!
The analysis of this horror is fairly straightforward. It all boils down to three reasons.
1. Jay Lake doesn't quite push my nabs. This is the third book of his I read, and while I enjoy the man's ideas, there's something about his style that to me is...well, whatever the antithesis of "engrossing". A month into Escapement I've onbly just hit the 200 page mark. A sane reader would have DNF-ed this bad boy three weeks ago. I AM however probably not really a sane reader (as recent year's battles with Hillary Mantel, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Hal Ducan and others have proved). There is a but of duty in there, aboslutely, but I'm not disliking the book at all. It's world actually interests me. It's jusy that, at any given moment, there are things I'd rather do than read it.
2. The Swedish election. First there was hoping and pepping. Then there was the worry that the extreme right racist Sweden Democrats were looking scarily good in the polls. Then there was all the discussion and thought racking about a possible tactic vote for the newly formed Feminist Initiative, to hopefully help them into parliament and secure a socialist-green victory. Then there was the political depression about the result (a weak centre-left coalition, leaving the real left out and a chilling 13% for the racists, making them tip of the scale in parliament). Then there was about a week of tear-fiulled debate in a thousand facebook threads over the best ways to interpret the result and to fight racism long and short term. I'm actually still extremely worried about where my country is heading.
3. Hearthstone. It's like heroin.
56. Gul utanpå by Patrik Lundberg
Category 6, 219 pages.
Partik Lundberg is one of my favorite columnists. He writes for one of the tabloids, presenting clever looks on socioeconomics and racism, often from a small town perspective. Adopted from Korea, he’s one of rather few voices in Sweden raising awareness of racism towards asians specifically, a variety of racism that is for some reason seen as ”milder” here, often slipping under the radar.
”Gul utanpå” (which translates as ”Yellow on the outside”, referring to how someone once compared his cultural identity to a banana) is Lundberg’s autobiography about going to Korea to find his own roots. Starting with his upbringing as one of very few ”different” kids in his hometown, small town blues quickly sketched but beautifully captured, the main focus here is on the year he spends in Seoul, to study but mainly to find his birth family.
Lundberg writes with a frank honesty about the experience of finding himself popular with girls for the first time in his life (and what that does to him), about the joy of meeting his family turning more and more complicated as he struggles with their expectations, about his drinking habits and about the shock in finding out his birth papers have been altered to make him ”easier to adopt”.
In short, there’s a lot in here which I haven’t read about before, and I feel wiser for having read this quick book. As a person sharing a lot of musical references with Lundberg, it’s also a joy to find the quotes from lots of great indie songs hidden in the text everywhere. However, the style, effective as it is, feels almost too straight at times. It’s so clear it’s a little bland. Even if it doesn’t say so anywhere, I’m left with a feeling this is a book geared towards a younger audience. As such, it’s probably even better. Me, I’m turning my eye towards Lundberg’s debut novel, just released last month. 3 ½ stars.
57. En film om Firman och Hannas vad by Anna-Maria Ytterbom
Category 3, 64 pages.
This is a pretty scary little book of poetry about losing your langauage to psychosis. Full of desperate attempts to explain thing in wording that tries to be exact,, but getting constantly lost in association and disruptive voices, it seems to deal with a sort of pricetag that comes with the very act of speaking. It seems fitting that the first four sections are all have the same title. There’s a sense of starting over here, but doing slightly worse each round.
Ytterbom is a pseudonym for my friend Leif Holmstrand, a well known poet under his own name. This book, released in 2006 is, I think, his first attempt at describing his own mental illness directly. It’s a difficult read, and hard to penetrate. I must admit to probably getting some necessary keys to this book from hearing a radio interview with Holmstrand describing what psychosis does to language. Not sure if I would have found my way into it otherwise. With these clues however, I’m left with a reading experience that feels both exact and vague at the same time. 3 ½ stars.
Chilling is right. YIKES!
I have moved on from the somewhat depression but otherwise rather interesting Scottish referendum results so I am glad you have been able to escape into a couple of books.
You always post about these awesome books of poetry that I can't read, cause they're in Swedish. lol. I keep telling myself to learn the language just for that reason alone.
I shall leave Jay Lake on the bookshop shelf for now then ;-)
I think you'd love the moon king - a slow start and some issues but overall a great read and very much in the weird fantasy mould
What all this does is strengthening my resolve to try and make a smaller challenge for myself next year. This is supposed to be the fun and relaxing part of my life, after all.
112: True that. i'm often very relieved not to live in America, looking at your politics. Then again, when it comes to issues like adressing racism - not least among us people on "the good side" - you're miles ahead. We're still getting away with blackface over here.
113: Yes it's scary. So far all other parties are holding the fort, but I predict we're not far off from a danish situation, where concerned politicians start talking about having to respect the will of the people, sliding down a very slippery slope indeed... We used to be a European exception. Sadly not the case anyomre.
114: Disturbing var ordet, sa Bull. Have you seen the pics of a smiling young Björn Söder shaking the hands of the Waffen-SS veteran, now nazi leader? The very same Söder is now andre vice talman. He's representing our nation.
115: A wobbly and weak red-green government is trying it's Bambi legs in Swedish parliament right now. Unfortunately nowhere near enough to set the country on a new ideological path again, but perhaps they manage some damage control at least. There is only one party left in Swedish politics even using the word socialism now. The social democrats haven't dared use iti in over 20 years, I think.
116: You're the reason I bother reviewing Swedish poetry, andrea!
117: Lundberg's book was definitely the right read at the right time. Just a week ago he did a brilliant news story about his home town and the rise of the Sweden Democrats there. It just happens to be the same place where their leader hails from!
118: Yeah, UKIP don't seem to be the greatest thing in the world either. They did let Sweden Democrats into their group in the EU parliament, by the way - after some issues where SD had to renounce their nazi roots (yes, this 13% in parliament party actually stem from the frigging armed white power movement!!!) Review on Jay Lake the time thief is found below :) The moon king is firmly written on my wishlist!
Before reviewning two books, I owe you guys a
Third quarter summary
I read a lot in july and august, and thought I was more or less home free with this challenge. And then came september's reading slump... I still think I'm on the track of wrapping this up though, especially if I use some of my loopholes like books for children and GN:s. But there will be many residue candidates to try and fit into 2015's challenge....
Books read this quarter: 22
Pages read this quarter: 4346
Average rating this quarter: 3,48
TBR dent/bump by the end of quarter: -8
Reading this quarter by category:
1. Overestimating my ability: 2/9 (5/9 total)
2. Having children: 7/9 (11/9 total - category completed)
3. Being constantly tired: 2/9 (6/9 total)
4. Choosing books that are too thick: 2/9 (8/9 total)
5. Duty reading: 2/10 (6/10 total)
6. Working too much: 4/8 (7/8 total)
7. Social media: 2/9 (5/9 total)
8. Computer gaming: 2/9 (5/9 total)
9. Comics are not literature: 3 (4 total)
Best reads of the year so far:
Vampires of the lemon grove - Karen Russell balances story and weirdness perfectly
Suddenly a knock on the door - a treasure chest of disturbing humor
Wunderkind - brilliant coming of age in a school for gifted children - in communist Bulgaria!
The orphan's tales - two fat books that were like swimming in dreams and mythology
Earthseed - gave me both a warning bell and some hope for humanity
Stallo - finally some really scary trolls!
Bära mistel - Best desription of the humiliation we are prepared for suffer for love I have ever read I think
Pojkarna - sharp, eerie, YA with a confidence in it's audience.
Worst reads of the year so far:
The graveyard book was Neil Gaiman being sloppy. Unexpected.
The magician's nephew - the book that killed Narnia.
The forest house - not a turn you didn't see coming from a mile off.
Fallet med de stulna smyckena - with some books it's evident why they are self published...
Glupahungern - could have been a very interesting book, but decided to talk about something completely else instead.
Category 8, 467 pages.
I’m on the verge of writing that "this really isn’t a bad book". But then I remember that I spent almost seven weeks reading it, and that picking it up didn’t come naturally a single time. Really, I can’t explain why. Lake’s version of steampunk, with a world that in itself is a giant clockwork machine, riding on tracks through the universe, is a really interesting concept. The world is divided into north and mysterious, almost mystical, south, with the giant Wall that connects the planet with it’s skytrack separating them. The wall itself is a strange, vertical world, full of eeire beasts and magic. With a world like this, there can of course not be any question that there has to be a God, a maker. Theological debate – and conflict – instead deals with the concept of mankind’s role in creation. Does God need our help in maintaining and winding the world, or doesn’t he? A secret war on ideas is raging the world, besides the obvious conflict between the two super powers: the English and the Chinese.
Paolina grows up in a village on the wall, ruled by cruel ignorant men. She is a genious with an instinctive knowledge of the machinet hat is the world. Without really understanding it herself, she creates a device that tunes into the very beat of the world. It’s destructive potential is beyond belief. Al-Wariz is a petty officer in Her Majesty’s airship navy. After some recent events, he is among the very few with any knowledge of the Wall and is selcted as security officer for a bold and dangerous venture – the attempt of drilling a tunnel thorugh it. And Childress is a librarian and a footsoldier in a secret society fighting for the heretic belief that God needs man, suddenly forced to play the role of a dead woman in a dangerous game with the Chinese. These three people’s fates are about to intertwine.
It’s really a nice setup, an exciting world – and it sholud make for interesting reading. But there’s something about Lake’s style that never seems to grip me. It’s like his focusing on the wrong things all the time, speeding up, brushing over and slowing down in all the wrong places. I constantly find myself losing the sense of plot and urgency and am left with a sense of three people going back and forth across the globe more or less randomly. This is the third Lake I try, and even though I liked ”Mainspring” well enough, it had a bit of the same problem for me. YMMV, but I’ve decided me and Jay just aren’t matiching. I’m letting this author go. 2 stars
Category 7, 308 pages.
After a month long reading slump I needed something quick and engrossing, and decided that a zillion readers hopefully weren’t wrong. Having managed to avoid the film and most of the talk of this series, I was able to go into this more or less spoiler free.
I can totally see the appeal. There is something a little rudimentary about the post-apocalyptic dystopia Collins creates, but she is smart keeping the story at ground level. Katniss is a great heroine, tough, flawed and believable, and the dilemmas she face are acute and believable.
Most of this book reads like a thriller, with Katniss trying to survive the games. Collins does a great job of crating tension and ambience, where the whole thing could easily have been strained and over-inflated. This, and the effective (if perhaps not unexpected) twists make me more than willing to overlook logical gaps such a camera presence, pinpointed parachutes and a dozen other little things.
I’m eager to see where this is going, and have a hunch I’ll like the series even more post game. 3 ½ stars.
I can second that as a good idea. I didn't realize ow much I had missed being able to read whatever I wanted, with no pressure to finish, until this month.
Neil Gaiman being sloppy. Unexpected
What a great way to summarize The Graveyard Book!
I agree with you both on this and I'm even contemplating not having any categories at all next year. Life has been overwhelming enough without my adding additional challenges for myself.
I really love The Hunger Games, so I'm glad it worked as a relaxing read and something more fun for you. :)
I liked that one too. Except I read it before I knew it was the first in a series, so that was a bit aggravating. :)
Also had a real dip mood-wise this autumn, spiralled by the election. But I'm back on steady ground again - with a little bit of help. The sense of failure I get from resorting to meds again is countered by the support they actually give me. Hopefully this will give me a little more energy for everything, including LT-ing.
>122 lkernagh: I though I was the only one who didn't love The graveyard book! And yay for a smaller challenge next year, more time for chatting perhaps?
>123 andreablythe: Does this mean you'll drop out of the group too? I hope not!
>124 mstrust: Have you read Mockingjay now? I think it's my next read.
>125 -Eva-: Yeah. At least both the first two parts are really stopping in mid-sentence, so I can see how frustrating that'd be.
60. Fatta eld (Catching fire) by Suzanne Collins
Category 7, 312 pages.
The first book of this trilogy kept it close and dealt largely with repression. This second part widens the perspective, taking in more of the world, and looks at the mechanics of rebellion – what sparks it, what sustains it, and what symbols does it need? It’s almost all for the better. Katniss’ dilemmas become more complex and acute as the choices she made during the game get life-altering consequences, we get a stronger sense of the society, and the secondary characters deepen. There’s still a slightly hollow feel to the world building here, but as a framework for this plot, it works just fine.
It’s really only when Katniss returns to the arena the book loses a little momentum for me. The thriller-like tension of children hunting each other from the first book now feels a little bit like a re-hash, and Collins efforts of mixing it up with nasty traps and intricate design doesn’t quite make up for it. Still, the ending, abrupt as it is, leaves me wanting more, and I’ll soon sink my teeth into the concluding part. 4 stars!
61. Mörker och blåbärsris by Kerstin Ekman (blind pick by christina_reads)
Category 5, 203 pages.
I’ve always liked Kerstin Ekman, even if her brand of rural tale from the forests of the north have never quite matched the awesome Sara Lidman. This book, from the early seventies, hasn’t seen reprint in a long while and is probably considered a lesser work of Ekman’s. Still, I enjoyed this bleakly humorous tale of some flawed people fighting for scraps of work, money and dignity in a dying village. It’s a rather sharp reminder that while Sweden was having it’s “record years”, with one of the strongest economies in the world, there were still parts where there wasn’t even electric light. For the main characters of this slim, crooked smile of a book, making moonshine booze becomes a way of giving the government a tiny middle finger. But a limping love triangle complicates things, and in the wreckage of it all, there are scraps of both darkness and true mercy. A little treasure, this book. 4 stars!
62. Ost by Willem Elsschot
Category 1, 140 pages.
Laarmans, a rather unassuming office clerk in the harbor of Antwerpen, is via an influential friend suddenly getting the opportunity to become general agent for a dutch cheese manufacturer. Despite hating cheese, Laarmans is swept away by the prospect of becoming an entrepenuer – and not least what such a label does to his self-image – and faking an illness, takes a sick leave from his job to start this new, prosperous venture. The future is so bright it’s blinding, despite what nay-sayers like his wife and brother think of it. However, finding the right desk takes time, finding the right type-writer and letter paper does too, and before he is even set up there are twenty tons of edamer delivered to him. How does one even sell cheese?
This is a deceptively light-handed, slender book about being in love with who you think you should be, and the inability to say no. It’s a fine example of early modernist writing, a little bit like a gentler Kafka. But the style and the awkwardness of Laarmans also reminds me a little of Magnus Mills, which is high praise. I also have to admit to blushing at times – there’s definitely a little Laarmans in me. 4 stars!
Oh, no. I'll definitely stay in the group. It's just too much fun being able to interact with everyone and see what they're reading.
Now that I'm feeling less burnt out, I'm thinking I'll just go for a shorter challenge,
like a step challenge that comes to around 50 books total as opposed to my usual 100. Because I do like how the categories stretch my reading.
I also liked hearing your thoughts on the Hunger Game series and will be interested in seeing what you think of the final book.
I too will be considering reducing my challenge next year. Of course, I want to participate in this group as much as ever, but I will make my challenge less ambitious (probably by requiring fewer books in each of the 15 categories) so that I don't feel so much like I have to read according to a schedule.
>129 christina_reads: It was great! I like Kerstin Ekman, but this is probably not a book I'd had picked for myself this year. Glad you did it for me!
>130 mamzel:-132 Thanks, you guys!
>133 andreablythe: I have rather insticate plans for next year, but won't set up a thread just yet. But I think I might set my bar as low as 36 books for next year - with bonus possibilities of course. Glad you're sticking around!
>134 DeltaQueen50: I have become a bit spoiled over the years, with well over forty "children". But it's impossible to be blasé over opening night. It's always nervous and wonderful!
>135 mathgirl40: It's not surprising that many of us are finding new approaches to the challenges, as the numbers of the X in X are moving into the land of impossible for most of us. For me, it's mostly the prospect of more time to actually hang out here, and the incitament to reader thicker books that appeals. Review of final Hunger Games book below - twas my favorite!
>136 dudes22: Reviews have been good to really good! Not really a problem since the production is aimed at school audiences mostly, and therefor sold out already, but nice nonetheless :)
>137 -Eva-:+138 Thanks for your thoughts. No, I agree, I don't really find it too dramatic to have to go back on anti-dep. It's just it hasnt been more than about ten months since I stopped taking them last - so there's a little sense of permanence there that I don't like. But they do help. Both ears still in place too!
>139 psutto:+140 Many thanks!
>141 cammykitty:+142 I think it's well worth reading the whole series. I even - even if I seem to be in a minority here - think it gets better and better. But regardless of that, there's a definite arc to it, and an interesting shift in themes.
Category 7, 326 pages.
The uprising is turning into a war and Katniss is it’s involontary symbol. Despite reeling under her losses and trauma she is again put in front of cameras to push people in a direction – only this time by what is supposed to be the good guys. Gale in his new role as a tactician is growing more and more ruthless in his ideas on how to defeat the regime. Peeta is a trapped puppet for president Snow, and Katniss slips further and further into a thirst for blind revenge.
Even despite the first parts’ violence I was surprised by the brutality of this concluding part. It deals with propaganda and the de-humanisation of war, where ideals are whittled down and the difference between good and evil is becoming more and more hard to distinguish. Collins makes brave and uncompromising choices, and I’m impressed by her willingness to explore her themes to the end. There are no false happy chords here, the price paid for freedom is harsh and very real. And her description of media’s role in deciding what side of the story will be ”the truth” is well captured in it’s absurdity. The revolution WILL be televised – and the edit will make all the difference. As will make-up.
Many seem to think this book is the weakest of the three and I guess I can see why. It’s more broken and disjointed, the polt less tight. For me though, the way it carries themes further and broadens the perspective, and the way it often hits me in the guts, makes it my favorite part of a series which deserves it’s praise. 4 stars!
Great to hear - I'm sure Flea agrees. :)
>146 -Eva-: I haven't actually run it past her, but I think she does too :)
Look, a five star read!
64. Du vet väl om att du är värdefull by Stefan Lindberg
Category 4, 203 pages. CATEGORY COMPLETED!
Du vet väl om att du värdefull (”I hope you know that you are valuable”) is a Swedish hymn, with well-meaning but rather naive lyrics about how precious we all are. By now it’s been used ironically so frequently it’s quite impossible to relate to. And the title of Lindberg’s latest book is exactly that – a sad, vaguely hateful wink.
We follow our narrator – nameless until the very last page – through the summer she turns twenty-two. The setting is a small town in the west of Sweden, and a sense of ending is hanging over the lake and the high-rises. It’s like the chances of actually getting away from here are slipping fast – both her last friends are planning to leave town the coming autumn, one to study, one to work in London. And yet, she doesn’t seem to be able to muster the energy or self-esteem to follow. Instead she is summer temping at the local super market – constantly battling the propblem that someone is urinating in the apple juice - and starting an affair with her boss, more or less without knowing why, not believing for a second the pathetic promises he gives her. But, to her own horror, sort of settling in. Making do.
This is a chafing book of class and aimless longing and heritage, leaving me gasping for breath. Lindberg has a marvellous eye for detail, using imagery that is both absurd and utterly realistic at the same time. It’s funny. It’s smart, but never to smart. It’s vicious, but never heartless. I know this place, I know these people. This is like where I grew up myself. One of the best reads of the year for me. 5 stars!
>149 -Eva-: I think you'd like it. It's set in Alingsås!
65. Dirk Gently's holistic detective agency by Douglas Adams (blind pick by dudes22)
Category 5, 247 pages.
I stumbled over The hitch-hiker series in my late teens and it just blew me away. This was literature of a variety I couldn’t even imagine existed. I ended up reading all parts (except for the last one) at least four times, and have extremely fond memories of lying naked in my narrow dorm room bed with Flea when we were just starting out as a couple, reading aloud and giggling our asses off. I also read Dirk Gently back then, and remember liking it, but not falling quite as hard.
Revisiting this some twenty years later, I can see that it is quite different. Where the hitch-hiker books are mostly very thin story lines acting as coat hangers for episodes and wild ideas, Dirk Gently is actually a very (well, -ish) tightly woven plot. Admittedly, a rather silly one, including time travel, electric monks, cheap magic tricks, pizza, horses in bathrooms, cutting edge computer savvy a la late eighties and Coleridge the poet, but nevertheless a plotline from A to Z (well, -ish). It’s ever so close to derailing a lot of the time, but stays fun and somewhat engaging as plots go. But Adams real strength is in the gags. There’s loads of fun detail here, much of which is just hinted at in passing (such as the poor lady in Gently’s building, who is actually giving French lessons), and the parts triumph over the whole. Not quite as fun as hitch hiking across the galaxy, but still surely more fun than most other books out there. 4 stars.
Category 5, 319 pages.
I don’t know about this one, people. I think the basic idea is pretty grand actually, and in the beginning I think the mixing of blood-soaked zombie mayhem and match-making among English country gentry is working really well. The politeness and social code of Austens bits are seen as the façade it really is when contrasted with battle scenes – but there’s also the likeness of Lizzy’s strict warrior code and what’s proper for her as a young lady. However, soon Grahame-Smith sets out smudging other parts of Austen’s writing. We hear of girls carving their lover’s name into their belly, there’s lots of vomiting, soiling of pants and love affairs with polish blokes (?). Pretty quickly I get the feeling Grahame-Smith isn’t writing *with* Austen, but rather *against* her – “transforming a masterpiece of classical literature into something you’d actually want to read”, as the back blurb puts it. And then much of the fun goes away. The contrast between the worlds thins out. To me, this mash-up kind of reduces both parts into something less than they could have been on their own. 3 stars.
"I get the feeling Grahame-Smith isn’t writing *with* Austen, but rather *against* her"
Yeah, that's what I was afraid of and why I've been avoiding reading the book. I figure if you're going to rework a classic you should try to make it fit smoothly into that world.
I've heard that P.D. James' Death Comes to Pemberley — which is a sequel involving — manages to fit well within the existing world of Austin. It's one I've been meaning to try for a long time.
And yes, I think I will have to finish reading The Hunger Games series. I'm coaching Future Problem Solving and all the kids have read it. We're discussing propaganda right now, and The Hunger Games sounds like the perfect common ground to start on.
Autumn 2014 was a bit of a lost cause for me, I'm afraid. Too much crap going on both in life and work. I had to give up a few things, and LT:ing was one of them. Reading was another. It seems I never came caught up with things here after the summer holidays, and in the end it just stressed me out. So I let go, and decided to start over in 2015 witha smaller challenge, and fewer posts to catch up with. I'll make some small summary here before migrating over to the new group.
67. Himmelstrand by John Ajvide Lindqvist
Category 8, 411 pages.
Yesterday they feel asleep in their caravans on an ordinary Swedish campsite. Today they wake up somewhere completely different. Four caravans and four cars, ten people, two pets, tossed out on a seemingly endless field of impossible lush grass. Above them a clear blue sky, but there is no sun. The radio only plays golden oldies on all stations. According to the GPS they haven’t moved. Before long someone discovers the bloody X:s smeared on the back of their trailers, marking them. And the expeditions by car out into the green forever show no end to the giant lawn. But it shows something else. Walking in strangely straight lines out there are people they remember. An abusive father. A psychotic hallucination. An impossibly thin white figure, missing too many parts to be called human. Shapes from the past, reminding all of them of things they’d rather keep hidden. It isn’t long before the group starts getting on each other’s nerves. Very seriously so.
The basic setup, with people being shielded off from the world around, and realising they might not be grouped by coincidence, is an old one in horror. But Ajvide’s strange grass plains is still a memorable location, and his cast is interesting. Not really drawing inspiration from any sources I know here, the imagery is stark and surreal. A endless summer day has seldom felt so creepy. I few late additions – a bitter writer of evergreens and the gun that killed prime minister Palme in the 80ies – are more confusing than ambience creating. But despite being more enigmatic than usual here, Ajvide mostly pulls it off once again. Swedish fiction knows no other horror writer of the same high consistance of quality. 4 stars!
68. Spegelriket by Aka Morchiladze
Category 1, 203 pages.
Georgia in the early 19th century is squeezed between the Russian and the Ottoman empires. Pavnel, a young Georgian nobleman kills a russian officer in a market brawl. His influence, and the service he’s done for Russia, gets him off with being exiled from the capital, on promise that he will stay in his village. But coming home he gets word that his mentally ill brother has taken off in another futile attempt at finding their mother. Pavnel has no choice but to defy the Russian verdict, and soon he’s a fugitive in the Georgian forests, hunted hy an officer with personal agenda.
Skvami is an aged slaver, being asked for one final job – kidnapping the daughter of a prominent russian to present as a gift for the sultan in Konstaninopel. He refuses, being out of the game and kidnapping girls being a practically dead practice. And yet he finds himself scouting the house out, making the preparations almost without even willfully wanting to.
At first, this book looks episodic and meandering, hopping back and forth between several story lines. Morchiladze does a great job of describing Georgia of the early 1800eds with lots of flavor, a land of two halves divided by a mountain range, very different but mirroring each other. But the story seems almost random. Until the last thirty or so pages, when all of a sudden everything fits together in a very instircate plot. It’s very skillfully done, if perhaps just a little too late. I feel this could have been a better book, without having to lose that final gasp. But it’s a book I’m glad I read, and a worthy representative of it’s country in my challenge. 3 ½ stars.
2014 in summary, the statistics:
Books read: 68. Life, work (and, to be honest, a fair bit of Hearthstone) caused a very slow autumn especially.
Pages read: 15922 pages, amounting to only about 249 pages er book. The trend continues - I read less and less each year.
Male/female/both ratio: 35/28/5 (Not balanced, but alright. 49% of my reads this year had female writers involved. )
Author nationalities: 13. (Low. Only two reads from outside Europe and the US this year.)
TBR reduction: Goal: -25. Result: -11 (Oh well. I've done worse!)
Best reads of 2014:
Vampires in the lemon grove - Karen Russell takes the step from good to amazing.
Suddenly a knock on the door - a treasure chest of disturbing humor
Wunderkind - a well known tale, but in a brand new setting that makes it shine.
The orphan's tales - a rich rich meal of dream, image and mythology.
Earthseed - a sliver of hope I needed in 2014
Stallo - finally some really scary trolls!
Bära mistel - Best desription of the humiliation we are prepared for suffer for love I have ever read I think
Pojkarna - sharp, eerie, YA with a confidence in it's audience.
Du vet väl om att du är värdefull - small town blues and class hate have never felt truer.
Worst reads of 2014:
The graveyard book: Neil Gaiman being sloppy. Unexpected and forgettable.
The magician's nephew - the book that killed Narnia before it even started.
The forest house - not a turn you didn't see coming from a mile off.
Fallet med de stulna smyckena - with some books it's evident why they are self published...
Glupahungern - could have very interesting, but decided to talk about something completely else instead.
Escapement - bogged down my autumn and cost me the challenge. Thanks a yahoo, Jay.
See you all over at the 2015 group!