Weekly geeks 2009-11: Historical fiction

This weeks weekly geek:
Is there a particular era that you love reading about? Tell us about it–give us a book list, if you’d like. Include pictures or some fun facts from that time period, maybe link to a website that focuses on that time. Educate us.
Do you have a favorite book that really pulled you back in time, or perhaps gave you a special interest in that period? Include a link to a review of it on another book blog if you can find one (doesn’t have to be a Weekly Geek participant).
A member of your book group, Ashley, mentions that she almost never reads Historical Fiction because it can be so boring. It’s your turn to pick the book for next month and you feel it’s your duty to prove her wrong. What book do you pick?
If you’re in agreement with Ashley on this one (or even if you’re not): Your challenge, should you choose to accept it, is to browse through this week’s WG posts, and by the end of the week, pick a book from one of the posts to read. Report on which book you picked, linking to the Weekly Geeks post where you found it.

Cicero attacking Catilina

Great topic. When I read historical fiction and/or historical detective novels it is mostly set in ancient Rome. I absolutely love reading about this time. I don’t want to say that my love of Ancient Rome started with Asterix, but it was my first contact with the Romans. I think that the books that really started me to get into all things Roman were "I, Claudius" and "Claudius, the God" by Robert Graves. I read them when I was still young and absolutely loved them. I remember that we used to watch the TV series with Derek Jacobi as Claudius and the excellent John Hurt as Caligula. All the actors were brilliant, and I don’t give a toss about the fact that the show doesn’t meet nowadays’ standards of filmmaking. I still love to watch it. But back to books (not all of them are fiction).

So, "I Claudius" started it all, but there are a lot of other great books out there. Just to name a few:

Imperium by Robert Harris, a fictional biography of Cicero

Rubicon by Tom Holland, the last years of the Roman Republic

Cicero by Anthony Everett

Augustus by Anthony Everett

Another book I highly recommend is Caligula by Aloys Winterling. Is is not published yet in English, but it will be out in May according to amazon. It is a biography that shows Caligula from a different perspective and claims that his reputation as a dangerous nutcase tyrant might not be justified after all.

For a nice bit of gossip you could turn to Suetonius "The twelve Caesars". The private secretary of Hadrian, he got all his material from the imperial archives and eye witnesses (and probably hearsay).

If you are into historical detective novels, there are a few series out there that are wonderful reads. People always criticize that the heroes are way too modern and can’t possibly be children of their time, but if you don’t mind this, you’re in for entertaining hours. The ones I’m mentioning below usually take a historical incident and put a spin on it. So they might not be realistic, but they usually encourage me to find out more about that time period and that is a good thing.

The SPQR series by John Maddox Roberts is delightful, however not much as far as the detecting is concerned. Set in the time between end of the republic and during Caesar’s reign.

The Marcus Corvinus Mysteries series by David Wishart. Set during the reign of Tiberius. One of my favourite detectives. He wisecracks his way through his adventures, it’s not funny anymore (well, it is). And he loves his wine.

I can’t resist to add another film recommendation. Rome is purely fictional again, but of course with lots of historical figures thrown in. A wonderful entertaining show that I can watch again and again. And just a little side note: David Bamber, who played the deliciously slimy Mr. Collins in the BBC mini series Pride and Prejudice, plays here the somewhat opportunistic Cicero in an equally captivating fashion. Absolutely loved him.



History locations: Nazi party rally grounds

colosseum 2We went to the playground today and close by is the area where the Nazi party held their rallies, called Reichsparteitage, from 1933 to 1938. There are lots of old photos and information available to learn a lot about that time and place. Wikipedia offers a few good articles about the Nazi party rally grounds and the rallies.

Nowadays the grounds are part of a large recreation area with several lakes, some of them poisonous (yeah, we Germans know how to party and have fun). You can see lots of inline skaters there and in summer people go there for barbecues, sit in cafés by the lake and have a good time. It is also a tourist magnet with a large (and fairly new) exhibition about National Socialism and the Third Reich. The exhibition has its home in a part of the Congress Hall, which is otherwise used for rehearsals of the Nuremberg Philharmonic Orchestra, for small pop concerts in a courtyard and for storage for various companies.

Click on the photograph to see a few more pictures.



Intimate Beings by Jessica Inclán

Synopsis: Lately, Claire Edwards feels like she is floundering. A ho-hum teaching job, a string of terrible dates, nights spent only with Netflix and bizarre dreams of spaceships for company…life isn’t working out the way she hoped. But Claire has an extraordinary secret ability – she can go anywhere at all, just by wishing it. And if the intensely attractive man who suddenly materialises in her car one day is any indication, Claire’s not the only one…Ever since Darl James learned of his true origins, he has been searching for his partner and life mate, the one whose gift will complement and complete his own. Now that he’s found Claire, he vows to never lose her again, or their soul-searching, sensual connection. But keeping her safe won’t be easy when they’ve been marked for destruction by an evil, power-hungry race. A fierce battle is brewing, one that will test Claire and Darl’s new bond to the limit, and decide the future of all their kind…

Review: Darl found Claire very early on in the book and there was no discussion about them belonging together. Also they were separated a good deal of the book, so I suppose to call this book a romance would not be accurate. Actually, most of the book was about the goings on on Upsilia, all the Cygirians to get together and the struggle of Darl and Claire to find each other again as well. They had only a few scenes together and I found this a bit disappointing, as far as the romance factor was concerned.

My favourite couple Stephanie and Porter were there again for quite a large part of the book, and they bickered to a lesser degree this time. I think that slowly they are coming to terms with each other. How ironic that the only couple that might enjoy a break from each other (well, they wouldn’t, but Porter certainly gets on Stephanie’s nerves sometimes) never seems to get separated.

I missed Edan throughout the book. He only arrived at the end of the book and met Claire for the first time. I wonder what it is about him that has everybody in awe. We get hints of what he can do and how extraordinary he is, but so far – due to his lack of presence – we haven’t seen much of his abilities. I certainly hope that Jessica has something in store for us here. Also the search for his twin has me puzzled. EVERYBODY seems to have heard of him, and knows what he can do or at least knows of his power that could be reversed by his twin. So, why on earth doesn’t that girl show up and say, "Hey, here I am, I can make myself younger, I’m the yin to your yang." Where is she, for Christ’s sake?

Apart from all the personal circumstances, which also play a big part in the overall plot, the story developed further, which was good to see. More and more people found their way to their fellow Cygirians and finally an ally was found to help them fight the Neballats (even though that ally might not even be needed, the future will show). So, now, we’ll have to wait until later on in the year to finally get the conclusion of the story. It’s going to be a long wait.

My Review of the first book in this trilogy, "Being with him"

[rating: 4]



Bad case of loving you by Laney Cairo

Blurb: Matthew is a medical student, trying to ignore his various roommates’ wild parties and get through his classes. Andrew is his instructor, a doctor at a prestigious British hospital. They’re not supposed to be attracted to each other, but they can’t deny their undeniable chemistry.
They come together with a heat that surprises them both, and through doctor’s strikes, dealing with Andrew’s teenaged son, and hospital red tape, Andrew and Matthew learn to live, and love together. Is their relationship just what the doctor ordered?

Review: I read a lot good reviews about this book and I was not disappointed. Andrew and Matthew were two great characters who were just right for each other. I loved the way they got together and how their relationship developed into something serious without much drama or angst. The fact that they were teacher and student, even though it was clear such a relationship was officially forbidden, didn’t bother anybody who knew about it. That might not be realistic, but I liked it anyway.

The story is told in first person, with the POV alternating in each chapter. It was never difficult to understand whose turn it was at the moment and it was nice to read what both characters were thinking.

It seemed to me that the everyday life in a hospital run by red tape and the problems of the British NHS were pictured very well. Thank God I don’t know the NHS from own experience, but I have heard some horrid stories that make even this one sound almost favourable. At times I thought all the medical terms were too much and the overuse of medical gloves (except where recommended) made the love scenes sometimes a bit sterile. I would think that if both partners were tested, as medical staff should be, unprotected sex shouldn’t be such an issue.

The relationship between Andrew and Matthew was balanced wonderfully. Andrew was the teacher, and thus automatically in a position of power. That was totally reversed in the bedroom where Matthew was the Dominant. This Dom/sub relationship was the first one I read about that was understandable to me. I never could relate to master/servant talk and have no much interest in BDSM. The power exchange here seemed natural and right.

The love scenes (quite a lot) were emotional and steamy – very enjoyable. They never felt out of place but slotted in just right. Matthew’s piercing sounded intriguing, so I had to look it up on the net. Apadravya has a long tradition as an aphrodisiac and was found with men of Borneo tribes as well as in the Kamasutra. It certainly looks interesting. Can’t say I didn’t learn anything new from this book.

The supporting characters were extremely likeable as well. I especially enjoyed F, Andrew’s friend and colleague and Henry, Andrew’s precocious son. He wasn’t nearly as much a pain in the arse as I thought he’d be. In fact, I found his statement “I live to aggravate. It’s a lifestyle choice.” very endearing.

For people who don’t like artificial drama and angst, but a solid story, loveable characters and a loving relationship, this story is perfect.

Available at Torquere Press

[rating: 5]



Thursday 13: Oscar Wilde

Today’s Thursday 13 is all about Oscar Wilde.

Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde (16 October 1854 – 30 November 1900) was an Irish playwright, poet and author of numerous short stories and one novel. Known for his biting wit, he became one of the most successful playwrights of the late Victorian era in London. (source Wikipedia)

  1. Oscar Wilde was married to Constance Lloyd and had two sons, Cyril and Vyvyan
  2. In 1878 he went on a lecture tour throughout the United States, London and Canada to teach aesthetic values.
  3. Wilde is often associated with the aesthetic movement called "Art for Art’s Sake", which says that art is self-sufficient and does not need to have a moral, social, or political purpose.
  4. Along with his sparkling prose, Wilde is also known for his flamboyant fashion sense. He often, for example, wore green carnations in his jacket lapel.
  5. He was one of the early "celebrities". In some respects he was famous for being famous. His dress was a target for satire in the cartoons, but Wilde didn’t seem to mind. In fact he learnt the art of self-publicity and seemed to revel in it.
  6. Teleny or The Reverse of the Medal, a gay pornographic novel, has been attributed to Wilde, but was more likely a combined effort by a several of Wilde’s friends, which he may have edited.
  7. The last of Wilde’s plays, ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’, is considered by many to be the finest modern farce in the English language.
  8. He only wrote one novel, "The picture of Dorian Gray"
  9. In 1895, Oscar Wilde was convicted of ‘gross indecency’ (i.e., homosexual acts) and sentenced to two years’ imprisonment with hard labour. He was sent first to Pentonville and Wandsworth prisons in London, and then to another at Reading, in Berkshire. While there, he wrote his long poem The Ballad of Reading Gaol.
  10. After being released from jail in 1897 he adopted the name Sebastian Melmoth, went to Paris, penniless, and is said to have reunited with his friend and lover of many years, Canadian journalist Robert Baldwin "Robbie" Ross.
  11. Oscar Wilde died shortly before two o’clock in the afternoon at the Hotel d’Alsace, 13 Rue des Beaux-Arts, Paris, on November 30, 1900. The funeral took place at 9 o’clock on Monday, December 2, at St Germain des Pres and afterwards at the cemetery at Bagneux. Later he was moved to Pere Lachaise Cemetery in Paris. His tomb in Pere Lachaise was designed by sculptor Sir Jacob Epstein, at the request of Robert Ross, who also asked for a small compartment to be made for his own ashes. Ross’s ashes were transferred to the tomb in 1950.
  12. On 20th August 1962 a voice manifested in the seance-room of British medium Leslie Flint which claimed to be that of the late Oscar Wilde.
  13. Merlin Holland, Oscar Wilde’s only grandchild is keeping the legacy alive today by studying his grandfather’s life and by publishing books about various aspects of Oscar Wilde. His only great-grand-child, Lucian Holland was born in 1979. 


A very short part from "The Ballad of Reading Gaol":

Yet each man kills the thing he loves
By each let this be heard,
Some do it with a bitter look,
Some with a flattering word,
The coward does it with a kiss,
The brave man with a sword!


And 13 quotes:

  • There is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.
  • I don’t at all like knowing what people say of me behind my back. It makes one far too conceited.
  • It is perfectly monstrous the way people go about, nowadays, saying things against one behind one’s back that are absolutely and entirely true.
  • We are each our own devil, and we make this world our hell.
  • One should always be in love. That is the reason one should never marry.
  • Arguments are to be avoided; they are always vulgar and often convincing.
  • All bad poetry springs from genuine feeling.
  • True friends stab you in the front.
  • We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.
  • They spoil every romance by trying to make it last forever.
  • Everybody who is incapable of learning has taken to teaching.
  • Only the shallow know themselves.
  • Ridicule is the tribute paid to the genius by the mediocrities.

And another interesting link: Documentary about Oscar Wilde in seven parts on you tube



Winter love by Andrew Grey

Synopsis: Blayne is forced by his father to drive up to one of his properties and evict the tenant who has been living there for decades. His car getting stuck in a blizzard he arrives at the tenant’s hut in the forest to find a young man his age. Roeder, who turns out to be a satyr, and Blayne make an instant connection and spend a few days together until Blayne goes back to his father to sort out the issue and find a way around evicting his new lover.

Review: This novella was a short but lovely read. Blayne and Roeder are both good characters, that work well together. Blayne’s reaction to the revelation of his lover’s true nature is admirable. There was a short moment of confusion and uncertainty, but that was it. Very refreshing. His father turned out to be a right jerk who betrayed his whole family, but Blayne didn’t back down and sorted out everything in a speedy and efficient way. Not speedy enough for Roeder’s well-being, though. Good for both of them that there were some supporting characters, who were equally likeable, even though we only met them for a very short time.

If you like stories with uncomplicated characters, strong no-fuss feelings and a bit of a paranormal touch, this is a story for you. From what I read there is another longer book out, "Children of Bacchus", that sounds like a lot of fun as well. I’ll definitely check that one out soon.

Available at Dreamspinner Press

[rating: 4]



I stumbled upon… # 5

A few nice and interesting web sites I found on the net.

The top ten literary hoaxes
Find out more about some stories too good to be true.

A poem

The saddest bear of all
A short story with beautiful illustrations

Two sentences
Too bad they are only two sentences. I’d like to know more now.

A beautiful revolution
Doodles "buffeted by misery, dejection and angst, are tentative explorations of social and deep psychological disquiet." (The Big Issue, UK). Not to be missed!



One way street by Laney Cairo

Blurb: Aussie rules football star Shane is having a rough time of it. He split with his lover, Dale, because of the pressure from his coach and his sponsors, who don’t want a gay player on their hands. He’s also sick, desperately so, and he doesn’t know who to go to. Everyone in his life wants something from him, but no one wants to help.
When he can’t take anymore, Shane runs to the one place he knows he’s safe; the old love nest he shared with Dale. When Dale shows up to collect his stuff, he finds a very ill Shane, and the two of them remember why they were so attracted to each other. Things won’t be easy, between Shane’s commitments and Dale’s doubts. Can they find a way to find joy in life again?

Review: Despite the beginning which was extremely depressing and disturbing for me, this turned out to be such a positive and optimistic story. Dale had no qualms at all about getting together with Shane again, which was admirable. Shane is a total wreck and needs constant care for quite some time, but Dale backs him up no matter what. Slowly Shane gets his life together again and regains his health. Since the relationship between Dale and him was established pretty quickly again, the story was more about Shane’s process of fixing all things gone wrong and starting new all over again. This was done in such a great way that the (frequent) sex scenes sometimes even felt like an unwelcome interruption (and that doesn’t happen very often with me).

Dale and Shane did have a lot of sex, which was surprising enough given that Shane’s physical condition left a lot to be desired. He could barely walk, if at all, and was under the influence of countless drugs and counter drugs. Still, sex was always only a thought away. The kinky parts I didn’t care for too much. Just weren’t for me, but that is a matter of preference.

I especially liked the end which gave such a happy outlook. It became clear that Shane succeeded in getting his act together and that life was good again.

Available at Torquere Books

[rating: 4]



The One That Got Away by Rhianne Aile and Madeleine Urban

Synopsis: David is suffering from a migraine and Trace, his best friend, is coming over to help out. A broken shoulder comes into play and Trace decides to temporarily move in with David until he he’s recuperated. David is gay and slowly realizes he’s falling for the straight Trace. However, Trace, a known womanizer, starts to have feelings for David as well.

Review: How easy those two come together! Well, admittedly, it takes a while for the guys to own up to their feelings and act on them. David is resisting since he knows Trace is straight and Trace doesn’t know how to get a handle on things. Still, it seems to me that Trace – even if he’s confused in the beginning- accepts the fact that he’s falling in love with his older friend pretty much without batting an eyelid. No angsty deliberations and eternal shilly-shallying. Really refreshing. Considering that there is no plot worth mentioning apart from the interactions between the two men the story is quite long – I’d say it’s a short novel – and still doesn’t get boring. If you like uncomplicated stories with lovable characters, a growing relationship that doesn’t start with a sex scene on page five, go for it!

Bonus: There is an unusually long excerpt available for this story. What you read there is exactly what you are getting.

Available at Dreamspinner Press

[rating: 4]



Weekly Geeks 2009-10: True Blood season 1 vs. Dead until dark

This week’s weekly geeks is about movie adaptations. "Worst movie adaptations: The recent release of Watchmen based on the graphic novel by Alan Moore got me thinking about what I thought were the worst movie adaptations of books. What book or books did a director or directors completely ruin in the adaptation(s) that you wish you could "unsee," and why in your opinion, what made it or them so bad in contrast to the book or books?"

Right, I usually don’t feel very strongly about movies made from books. If I don’t like them I don’t like them, but that’s it. I can’t remember one that I’d care to elaborate about. I did mention "Needful things" (after the book by Stephen King) the other day over on Book Blogs, but it’s years I’ve seen the film and even longer that I’ve read the book, so I couldn’t even say much about it, other than that the film could never capture the complex and detailed plot and ramifications of the book.

So I decided to go and talk about "True Blood" instead. It’s not exactly a movie adaptation, but rather a TV series they made from the first book of Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse series, "Dead until Dark", and I have plenty to complain about. If you have never read the books or watched the series, just ignore me. If you plan on watching it or reading the books, beware! Spoilers ahead.

The series does have a few good points that I want to get out of the way first.

  • Great title song by Jace Everett. Fits perfectly, conveys the right atmosphere.
  • Nice opening credits. Well, maybe not nice, but appropriate.
  • Stephen Moyer as Bill, Sookie’s vampire lover. I liked him a lot.
  • Nelson Ellis as Lafayette. OMG, he was wonderful

Now the not so good points.

  • Eric. WTF did they do to Eric? They picked a handsome Swede, Alexander Skarsgard, to play Eric, a highly attractive Norse vampire leader who can have any girl he wants, for authenticity, and then they take him and turn him into a greasy inconspicuous bloke who hides behind a curtain of even greasier hair. Not good. His character? Totally wrong. They completely failed to portray his relationship with Sookie in a correct way. The fact that they made Bill instead of Eric kill Longshadow (probably to make Bill shine, since he is a rather boring figure otherwise) makes me wonder how they will come round to set Sookie and Eric off eventually. Sookie and Eric have no kind of interaction in the show that is worth mentioning. Why Sookie would call Eric to accompany her to the orgy in the next book and how that no mark would ever turn up in a spandex suit (was it purple? I don’t remember) I can’t see. Book 4 which revolves around Sookie and Eric will never come to pass in that show.
  • Jason, the man slut. Jason is a slut, but never as explicitly as he was in the show. You will know if you read my reviews that I love erotica and never object to a love scene, but not here, please. The books are not explicit, and since they are written from Sookie’s POV we only hear from Jason’s seedy escapades through hearsay. What they are showing us with Jason is nothing but dirty, cheap and nasty.
  • Jason joining the Fellowship of the Sun? What for, for Pete’s sake. Oh, well, it might be all for the better, since that way he will be put out of his misery soon. Undoubtedly, once he turns into a were ("Dead as a doornail", book 5), he will be shot with a silver bullet by his overzealous fellow brethren.
  • Amy. What is this self-righteous, would-be spiritual bitch doing there? Never was in the book, didn’t have a place in the show either. She so got on my nerves that I actually rooted for the murderer when he finally came around to kill her. He deserved a pardon just for finishing her off alone.
  • Tara. She was never even mentioned in book 1, and didn’t play a bigger part until much later. They way she talked and her obnoxious attitude were so aggravating that she should have been next on Rene’s list.
  • The vampire court. Never happened in the book. Since Bill never killed Longshadow in the first place, there was no reason for it. And Eric never got prosecuted either for the killing. He paid a compensation and that was it. But, of course, without that ridiculous Magister Bill wouldn’t have had to turn that whining Jessica who then turned out to be some nutcase with newly found freedom. Maybe she will be the substitute object of desire for Eric, since the thing with Sookie won’t happen. But even that TV Eric can’t be that desperate. The girl is a pain in the ass.
  • Bill coming out of his grave during daylight to rescue Sookie, who doesn’t need rescuing by him, and getting burnt in the process. Please, can it get any more dramatic? Totally ridiculous and redundant.

MaryAnn or the exorcist woman cum saleslady in a drugstore and her vodoo trailer? I won’t even go into them…. I can see the problems with a series where all the input is provided by the POV of one person, but do they have to add such crap? If they couldn’t handle it properly they could have chosen from other series that are quite successful, too, and turn them into a series. The fans of the Black Dagger Brotherhood books would be certainly more than happy to see a TV series made from them. Those books would have provided enough plot and sub-plots and there would have been no need to invent idiotic stuff at will.



DRM. Sucks.

These days the Sony Reader has hit the shelves over here. Germany is like a third world country as far as technology for consumers is concerned, but we do get stuff eventually. Now it’s the Sony PRS-505. The price of a whopping 299€ doesn’t keep people from buying it, astonishing when you consider that the shop that sells it, Thalia, and Sony are telling people only half the story. If I only knew what they let on about it, I’d NEVER buy that thing.

They say:

  • you can buy an ever growing number of ebooks at Thalia
  • the standard format for ebooks is EPUB, which is equipped with DRM (which is a good thing, "because it makes sure the rights of authors and publishers are being observed")
  • You need Adobe Digital Editions to read your ebooks
  • You need the Sony reader software to read your ebooks
  • The only difference between a .pdf file and an EPUB file is the DRM that comes with the EPUB
  • ebooks from other sources might not work properly

They don’t say:

  • you can buy ebooks from loads of shops on the net (ok, maybe not in German, but English books are a big market over here as well)
  • the Sony reader reads various formats, including .pdf and the reader format .lrf. There are even shops who provide a .pdf file for Sony
  • there are shops that sell ebooks that are not afflicted with DRM
  • you do not need Adobe Digital Editions if you buy ebooks without DRM
  • you do not need the Sony software if you buy ebooks without DRM
  • a .pdf file enables you to read the ebook on any computer anytime you want without having to install software that you ONLY need because of the wretched DRM. EPUB with DRM forces you to install horrible software that you barely comprehend (I don’t even understand how Adobe Digital Editions works and can never find the right button) just because of DRM
  • that there is software out there that is easy to use, cheap ( source and free) and doesn’t suffocate you and your rights as a consumer, for example Calibre
  • DRM sucks. You have to install software that you otherwise wouldn’t need. You have to register with Adobe in order to get an Adobe ID. You can’t transfer your files to another computer. If your computer has to be re-installed you have to go through the rigmarole of re-authenticating everything and possible re-downloading your books – if you still can, that is.

Obviously the ad campaign of Sony and Thalia over here sucks as well. How can they hope to sell the thing if they make people believe all that crap? Oh, well, not my problem! I’ve got one and love it. I never bothered installing the Sony software and never missed it.

The Smart Bitches have a post up about DRM and a list of shops that sell ebooks without DRM. They all sell romance or erotica (obviously the people writing and publishing for that genre are more customer friendly and more consumer oriented than others) and all shops I have bought from offer excellent service. Additionally also the following shops sell ebooks without DRM:

Ellora’s Cave

All Romance ebooks



Another 100 books

Lists of books are popular. This list of the nation’s (UK) best loved novels is slightly different from this one. I just wonder who those people are who "love those books best". According to the other list only 6 books of 100 have been read by the average citizen.

1. The Lord of the Rings, JRR Tolkien
2. Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen
3. His Dark Materials, Philip Pullman
4. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams
5. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, JK Rowling
6. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
7. Winnie the Pooh, AA Milne
8. Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell
9. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, CS Lewis
10. Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë
11. Catch-22, Joseph Heller
12. Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë
13. Birdsong, Sebastian Faulks
14. Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier
15. The Catcher in the Rye, JD Salinger
16. The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame
17. Great Expectations, Charles Dickens
18. Little Women, Louisa May Alcott
19. Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, Louis de Bernieres
20. War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy
21. Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell
22. Harry Potter And The Philosopher’s Stone, JK Rowling
23. Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets, JK Rowling
24. Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban, JK Rowling
25. The Hobbit, JRR Tolkien
26. Tess Of The D’Urbervilles, Thomas Hardy
27. Middlemarch, George Eliot
28. A Prayer For Owen Meany, John Irving
29. The Grapes Of Wrath, John Steinbeck
30. Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland, Lewis Carroll
31. The Story Of Tracy Beaker, Jacqueline Wilson
32. One Hundred Years Of Solitude, Gabriel García Márquez
33. The Pillars Of The Earth, Ken Follett
34. David Copperfield, Charles Dickens
35. Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, Roald Dahl
36. Treasure Island, Robert Louis Stevenson
37. A Town Like Alice, Nevil Shute
38. Persuasion, Jane Austen
39. Dune, Frank Herbert
40. Emma, Jane Austen
41. Anne Of Green Gables, LM Montgomery
42. Watership Down, Richard Adams
43. The Great Gatsby, F Scott Fitzgerald
44. The Count Of Monte Cristo, Alexandre Dumas
45. Brideshead Revisited, Evelyn Waugh
46. Animal Farm, George Orwell
47. A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens
48. Far From The Madding Crowd, Thomas Hardy
49. Goodnight Mister Tom, Michelle Magorian
50. The Shell Seekers, Rosamunde Pilcher
51. The Secret Garden, Frances Hodgson Burnett
52. Of Mice And Men, John Steinbeck
53. The Stand, Stephen King
54. Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy
55. A Suitable Boy, Vikram Seth
56. The BFG, Roald Dahl
57. Swallows And Amazons, Arthur Ransome
58. Black Beauty, Anna Sewell
59. Artemis Fowl, Eoin Colfer
60. Crime And Punishment, Fyodor Dostoyevsky
61. Noughts And Crosses, Malorie Blackman
62. Memoirs Of A Geisha, Arthur Golden
63. A Tale Of Two Cities, Charles Dickens
64. The Thorn Birds, Colleen McCollough
65. Mort, Terry Pratchett
66. The Magic Faraway Tree, Enid Blyton
67. The Magus, John Fowles
68. Good Omens, Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
69. Guards! Guards!, Terry Pratchett
70. Lord Of The Flies, William Golding
71. Perfume, Patrick Süskind
72. The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists, Robert Tressell
73. Night Watch, Terry Pratchett
74. Matilda, Roald Dahl
75. Bridget Jones’s Diary, Helen Fielding
76. The Secret History, Donna Tartt
77. The Woman In White, Wilkie Collins
78. Ulysses, James Joyce
79. Bleak House, Charles Dickens
80. Double Act, Jacqueline Wilson
81. The Twits, Roald Dahl
82. I Capture The Castle, Dodie Smith
83. Holes, Louis Sachar
84. Gormenghast, Mervyn Peake
85. The God Of Small Things, Arundhati Roy
86. Vicky Angel, Jacqueline Wilson
87. Brave New World, Aldous Huxley
88. Cold Comfort Farm, Stella Gibbons
89. Magician, Raymond E Feist
90. On The Road, Jack Kerouac
91. The Godfather, Mario Puzo
92. The Clan Of The Cave Bear, Jean M Auel
93. The Colour Of Magic, Terry Pratchett
94. The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho
95. Katherine, Anya Seton
96. Kane And Abel, Jeffrey Archer
97. Love In The Time Of Cholera, Gabriel García Márquez
98. Girls In Love, Jacqueline Wilson
99. The Princess Diaries, Meg Cabot
100. Midnight’s Children, Salman Rushdie

A lot of the books are on both lists, but one of my favourite ones appears on this one, No. 71. If you’ve never read "Perfume" I highly recommend it.  Patrick Süskind did a marvelous job describing the world of scents (and stenches). The film was ok, I suppose, considering the topic, but the book is a thousand times better.



Short & shy by Rhianne Aile

Synopsis: Scott discovers a personal ad by a certain "Short and Shy" guy who is more concerned about the environment than his own looks. He engages in an email correspondence and feels attracted to the man whose name or face he doesn’t know. After weeks of online conversations he eventually asks to meet "Short and Shy". Shy would rather keep up the online friendship that has developed between Scott and himself. His looks have kept him from having serious relationships and he’d rather not endanger what he’s got. But Scott insists and they agree to meet in a bar the same evening.

Review: What a charming short story this was! I absolutely loved Scott’s determination to meet "Shy" and that he didn’t shy away  from him once he met him and found out who he was. "Shy’s" problem to find an appropriate partner and a serious relationship might sound pretty ridiculous at first, but when you come to think of it, it isn’t so absurd at all. His approach (just the opposite of Ethan’s in "VGL male seeks the same") makes total sense to me.
Too bad the story was such a short treat, I would have liked to read on for longer.

Available at Dreamspinner Press

[rating: 4]



Weekly geeks 2009-09 (F. Scott Fitzgerald 7 – last day)

The last passage for this series of weekly geeks is from "The bridal party". Michael is dancing with Caroline with whom he is still in love. Caroline has recently announced her wedding with Hamilton and this is one of the last occasions Michael can try to change her mind.

"Michael, it’s so nice to be dancing with you again."

He smiled grimly.

"I’m so happy you came," she continued. "I was afraid maybe you’d be silly and stay away. Now we can be just good friends and natural together. Michael, I want you and Hamilton to like each other."

The engagement was making her stupid; he had never heard her make such a series of obvious remarks before.

"I could kill him without a qualm," he said pleasantly, "but he looks like a good man. He’s fine. What I want to know is, what happens to people like me who aren’t able to forget?"

From "The bridal party" by F. Scott Fitzgerald



Thursday 13: Favourite children’s books

kids_shelf My list today is about my favourite children’s books. Not that I read them for myself, even though some of them are wonderful and entertaining, no, I read them constantly to our kids.  Thank God they are big book lovers, both of them. To illustrate this, here is a picture of the book shelf in their room. I think for two boys, age 3 and 5, this is pretty good going.

So, here in random order, my 13 favourites (not necessarily theirs, I might add).

1. Where the wild things are by Maurice Sendak
My top favourite book. Best book ever to read aloud. Only in English though, the German translation isn’t great at all.

2. Tyrannosaurus Drip by Julia Donaldson
Absolutely wonderful. We love everything by her, but a few are on this list. We met her once at a reading (or rather playing) in a local bookstore. She was there with Axel Scheffler, who illustrates a lot of her books, and her husband. It was fabulous. I was very impressed with her German, too.

3. The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson
What can I say? A total hit!

4. The Gruffalo’s child by Julia Donaldson
The wonderful sequel about the big bad mouse.

5. The fox in socks by Dr. Seuss
Our favourite part is "Gooey goo for chewy chewing! That’s what that Goo-Goose is doing." We love Dr. Seuss, but who doesn’t?

6. Green eggs and ham by Dr. Seuss
I read that often in order to get our older son to try food before rejecting it. Doesn’t work.

7. Tiger by Nick Butterworth
Great for smaller kids.

8. Nigel by Carina Axelsson
The illustrations are beautiful, I could look at them forever. And a wonderful story about dragons.

9. A squash and a squeeze by Julia Donaldson
You didn’t think I was finished with her yet, did you?

10. Night Monkey – Day Monkey by Julia Donaldson
I just love those little monkeys and the recurring lines.

11. Milo and the Magical Stones by Marcus Pfister
The same author also did the Rainbow Fish books. In this book, the kid can choose whether he/she would like to hear the good or the bad ending. After the middle of the book, the pages are divided horizontally and you can continue either way.

12. The wizard, the ugly and the book of shame by Pablo Bernasconi
Great story, like a mixture of the sorcerer’s apprentice and Riquet a la houppe. The illustrations, done by the author himself, are different, but awesome. Very stylish and not childlike at all. An additional bonus: A quote by Oscar Wilde at the beginning, not the usual choice for a kids’ book.

13. Rudolph, the red-nosed reindeer by Robert L. May
I’ve got an edition that is a reprint of the original one from 1939 with the illustrations by Denver Gillen. It must have been some anniversary of Montgomery Ward in the 1990s when I bought it, I think. It is absolutely lovely, not like those flashy editions you see pop up everywhere. And the kids don’t miss that tacky, colourful style at all, don’t know why publishers nowadays think they have to do everything in wild colours and fancy fonts.



Weekly geeks 2009-09 (F. Scott Fitzgerald 6)

Today’s quote is from one of the most popular stories called "The Diamond as Big as the Ritz". It’s the morning after John’s arrival at the château that belongs to Percy’s family.

"Good morning, sir. Are you ready for your bath, sir? Oh, don’t get up – I’ll put you in, if you’ll just unbutton your pajamas – there. Thank you, sir."

John lay quietly  as his pajamas were removed – he was amused and delighted; he expected to be lifted like a child  by this black Gargantua who was tending him, but nothing of the sort happened; instead he felt the bed tilt up slowly on its side – he began to roll, startled at first, in the direction of the wall, but when he reached the wall its drapery gave way, and sliding two yards farther down a fleecy incline he plumped gently into water the same temperature as his body.

From "The diamond as big as the Ritz" by F. Scott Fitzgerald



The authentic Shakespeare

A portrait of Shakespeare has been unveiled in London a couple of days ago. It is the only portrait painted while Shakespeare was still alive. It dates from 1610 when Shakespeare was 46. The painting has been in possession of the Cobbe family, who is related to the great granddaughter of Shakespeare patron, Henry Wriothesley, Earl of Southampton, for centuries. Only in 2006 a member of the family made a connection between their portrait and Shakespeare when he saw the Folger painting of Shakespeare at a travelling exhibition in London. Until then the family thought it was a portrait of Sir Walter Raleigh.

From 23rd of April (Shakespeare’s birthday) the portrait will be displayed at an exhibition in Stratford-upon-Avon.

See the picture here or here



Weekly geeks 2009-09 (F. Scott Fitzgerald 5)

Today I chose two passages that talk about couples where the end came sooner than expected…

His engagement to Irene Rikker was the most unsatisfactory thing in his life; they were tired of each other  but unwilling to put an end to it. Just as, so often, the two richest young people in a town are drawn together by the fact, so Bill McChesney and Irene Rikker, borne side by side on waves of triumph, could not spare each other’s nice appreciation of what was due such success. Nevertheless, they indulged in fiercer and more frequent quarrels, and the end was approaching.

From "Two Wrongs" by F. Scott Fitzgerald


And again from Bernice bobs her hair…

There, for example, were Jim Strain and Ethel Demorest, who had been privately engaged for three years. Every one knew that as soon as Jim managed to hold a job for more than two months she would marry him. Yet how bored they both looked, and how wearily Ethel regarded Jim sometimes, as if she wondered why she had trained the vines of her affection on such a wind-shaken poplar.

From "Bernice bobs her hair" by F. Scott Fitzgerald



VGL male seeks same by Rick R. Reed

Synopsis: Ethan has given up hope to find a partner by going out and looking around in real life, so he decides to give it a go in the cyberworld. Not a bad idea, however, with his user picture, nobody seems to have interest in him. He finds a quick remedy for this by just uploading an attractive man’s image up as his own – and oh wonder – responses to his post start flooding in. One of them is from Brian, who seems to be the perfect partner for him, age, interests, it all fits. However, Ethan sooner or later will have to own up to his little subterfuge.

Review: So far I have never read any erotic story that was paired with lots of humour. So I was very surprised to find myself laughing so hard the tears were streaming down my face. All the little scenes when Ethan was thinking about how to get out of the mess he created, his thoughts about the receptionist in his company, his feelings about Brian’s mail that sounded "stalkeresque" (I have no idea whether this is a word or not, but it sure looks extremely elegant, especially for such an unpleasant action), I just kept laughing.

The way Ethan was hoping for answers, waiting or when the next reply from Brian would arrive, the agonizing over why no reply came in only minutes after sending a mail to him and whether he had said something to put Brian off, it all was very realistic. Everybody who has ever tried to start (or keep up) an online friendship can relate to that.

This was a delightful novella. If you want to take up online dating, read this first!

Available at Amber Allure

[rating: 4]



Weekly geeks 2009-09 (F. Scott Fitzgerald 4)

The following passages are from the short story "Bernice bobs her hair".

"She’s sensitive enough to know she’s not getting away with much, but I’ll bet she consoles herself by thinking she’s very virtuous and that I’m too gay and fickle and will come to a bad end. All unpopular girls think that way. Sour grapes!"

"Oh, my Lord!" cried Marjorie in desperation. "You little nut! Girls like you are responsible for all the tiresome colorless marriages; all those ghastly inefficiencies that pass as feminine qualities. What a blow it must be when a man with imagination marries the beautiful bundle of clothes that he’s been building ideals round, and finds that she’s just a weak, whining, cowardly mass of affectations!"

"First, you have no ease of manner. Why? Because you’re never sure about your personal appearance. When a girl feels that she’s perfectly groomed and dressed she can forget about that part of her.  That’s charm. The more parts of yourself you can afford to forget the more charm you have."

"Young boys too shy to talk are the very best conversational practice. Clumsy boys are the best dancing practice. If you can follow them and yet look graceful you can follow a baby tank across a barb-wire sky-scraper."

From "Bernice bobs her hair" by F. Scott Fitzgerald



Weekly geeks 2009-09 (F. Scott Fitzgerald 3)

Today’s passage is not from a short story, but from "Tender is the night". Dick is telling Nicole about his plans for an oncoming party.

"Nicole," he shouted, "I forgot to tell you that as a final apostolic gesture I invited Mrs. Abrams, the woman with the white hair."

"I suspected it. It’s an outrage."

The ease in which her reply reached him seemed to belittle his megaphone, so she raised her voice and called, "Can you hear me?"

"Yes." He lowered the megaphone and then raised it stubbornly. "I’m going to invite some more people too. I’m going to invite the two young men."

"All right," she agreed placidly.

"I want to give a really bad party. I mean it. I want to give a party where there’s a brawl and seductions and people going home with their feelings hurt and women passed out in the cabinet de toilette. You wait and see."

From: "Tender is the Night" by F. Scott Fitzgerald



What books are you lying about today?

Obviously lots of people lie about the books they have read. According to a recent survey people lie to impress others, even though it is highly unlikely that those others have read the books in question. The two top books people claim to have read when they haven’t are "1984" and "War and Peace".

Other books people have lied about were for example:

  • The Bible
  • books by Jane Austen
  • books by the Bronte sisters
  • books by Charles Dickens

Most astonishing of all is the fact that people claim they have read Barack Obama’s memoirs. Why on earth would you think you can impress someone by reading Obama’s memoirs? Are they already a classic and a must read? Not to my knowledge.

More info on this can be found on the BBC site and The Guardian site.



Weekly geeks 2009-09 (F. Scott Fitzgerald 2)

Today’s passage is from a short story called "The sensible thing". George is visiting his fiancée (and had to quit his job in order to be able to), who had written him a somewhat disturbing letter.

"So glad you’re here," she sighed. "Wish you never were going away again, darling."

"Do you miss me?"

"Oh, so much, so much."

"Do you – do other men come to see you often? Like those two kids?"

The question surprised her. The dark velvet eyes stared at him.

"Why, of course they do. All the time. Why – I’ve told you in letters that they did, dearest."

This was true – when he had first come to the city there had been already a dozen boys around her, responding to her picturesque fragility with adolescent worship, and a few of them perceiving that her beautiful eyes were also sane and kind.

"Do you expect me never to go anywhere" – Jonquil demanded, leaning back against the sofa-pillows until she seemed to look at him from many miles away – "and just fold my hands and sit still – forever?"

From "The sensible thing" by F. Scott Fitzgerald



Surrender love by Kayelle Allen

Synopsis: Luc is sad, depressed and lonely after his lover Wulf left him. When he meets Izzorah, the drummer of a rock band Luc’s company is contracting, he’s smitten – and vice versa. However, Luc and Izzorah both are harbouring some secrets they don’t want to reveal. 

Review: I read this book because the plot sounded interesting and I had read a fantastic review of the book somewhere. Well, I liked some of it, but disliked other parts. It is the first part of a trilogy with Surrender Trust and Surrender Will to follow.

What’s the good stuff?

  • Luc and Izzorah are good characters. I liked them immediately. I understood the reasons they didn’t want to reveal some of their secrets to each other at first.
  • The world Allen built is extremely fleshed out.
  • Good side characters. The band members, Izzorah’s relatives and Luc’s friends and servants. I especially liked the android butler (I usually hate machines acting like people), Nanchonta (I’d like to know more about him) and even Pietas (what a name for such a character!)
  • Good romance with no idiotic misunderstandings. Good communication between Luc and Izzorah.

What didn’t I like that much?

  • World too fleshed out for me. Mind you, I’m totally ok if the world is as complex as anything, but I do not want to have to read a prologue that covers thousands of years of history in order to understand what is going on in a novel. Neither do I want to have to consult the writer’s website to get background info. I understand that Luc appeared in at least one previous book, so there might be more information to be gathered in those other books, but this is the first book of three, so I would expect it to be a good place to start.
    The setting is futuristic, not on Earth, with lots of other species or humans from God knows what planets bouncing all over the place. Just too complicated for me, after all I’m not watching the 75th episode of Star Trek and I know who’s who and who’s from where.
  • The names of people and places were exotic to the extreme. I hardly could remember who is who, just because of the names themselves. Besides, I prefer it to recognize from the name whether a person is a man or woman. Maybe I’m just too narrow minded, though.
  • What is that game Peril about? I didn’t get that at all. What is it good for? Why do they play it? Is it only to pass the time, since the Sempervians have so much at hand? A mystery.
  • I hate love scenes that happen when people are dreaming. Not scenes in which lovers can only come together in a dream, but the ones in which people dream about it, but in the end they find themselves alone. I especially don’t want to read remembered love scenes with an ex.
  • The sexual tension was dragged on forever. Luc and Izzorah couldn’t get together for various reasons, which is fine, but then the release of the tension was sort of an anti-climax (no pun intended). The scenes were cut off so quickly and suddenly the reader found Luc and Izzorah having breakfast hours later. Huh, we’re talking erotica here, I found that strange.
  • Now, Wulf, the whiner. I can’t believe that Luc would be so blind and stupid not to notice that Wulf didn’t like what Luc asked of him (commanded him to do, forced him to do, whatever). Luc didn’t strike me as a man who just pursued his own pleasure without any consideration for his partner. Why Wulf would accept all that crap without enjoying it and never say a word "because of his love" for Luc is beyond me. Was he afraid Luc would leave him? Can’t be, since he left Luc after all.
    Edit: I just realized there is another book out, obviously a prequel, "Wulf". It’s about how Wulf and Luc came together in the first place. It is "a romance that lives forever". NOT! At least in that respect one can’t blame Allen for being unrealistic. The everlasting romance lasted a whopping 5 years.

Don’t know whether I’d read the next book or not. Possibly if the next book is a sequel to Luc and Izzorah I might, just to find out what’s going on. After all, this first book has an open ending (HEA, but with lots of open questions). Also, I’m hoping to find out more about Nanchonta. So, "Surrender love" is a draw for me.

Available at Loose ID

[rating: 3]



Weekly geeks 2009-09 (F. Scott Fitzgerald 1)

This weekly geeks’ theme is quotes. "One of my favorite Weekly Geeks last year was: A Quote a Day. This will have you pulling books off your shelves and Googling for your favorites. It also means a post a day for the next week – or as many as you can do."

I thought about a theme for the whole week. Claire was talking about F. Scott Fitzgerald this week and I in return mentioned his short stories. I haven’t read them for a long time, but maybe now is the time to get re-acquainted with them.

So, my first quote, or rather passage, for this week is from one of my favourite short stories by Fitzgerald, called "Outside the cabinet-maker’s". A man and his daughter are waiting in the car outside a cabinet-maker’s for the return of the mother who went into the shop.

"Listen," the man continued. "Do you see that house over the way?"

The little girl looked. It was a flat in back of a shop. Curtains masked most of its interior, but there was a faint stir behind them. On one window a loose shutter banged  from back to forth every few minutes. Neither the man nor the little girl had ever seen the place before.

"There’s a Fairy Princess behind those curtains," said the man. "You can’t see her but she’s there, kept concealed by an Ogre. Do you know what an Ogre is?"


"Well, this Princess is very beautiful with long golden hair."

They both regarded the house. Part of a yellow dress appeared momentarily in the window.

"That’s her," the man said. "The people who live there are guarding her for the Ogre. He’s keeping the King and Queen prisoner ten thousand miles below the earth. She can’t get out until the Prince finds the three -" He hesitated.

"And what, Daddy? The three what?"

"The three – Look! There she is again."

"The three what?"

From: "Outside the cabinet-maker’s" by F. Scott Fitzgerald