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Title: Mrs. Darcy's Dilemma
Author: Diana Birchall
Genre: Historical fiction
Rating: 7/10
# pages: 212
Date read: March, 2008


Review: In this sequel to "Pride and Prejudice" we are introduced to Mr. and Mrs. Darcy 25 years later. They now have three children of their own: the youngest, Jane, takes after her namesake and aunt, Henry is the image of his father, but unfortunately Fitzwilliam, the elder son and Darcy's heir, is a bit too much like his aunt Lydia for his parents' liking. This becomes all too apparent when Mrs. Darcy invites Lydia's daughters to come for a visit, and Fitzwilliam looses his heart to the elder, thus embarking on a scandal that will upset the entire family.

While amusing, the plot unfortunately offers little new to the reader, who'll be able to guess the ending at a very early stage. Instead the strength of the novel lies in Diana Birchall's writing style. She has studied Jane Austen's writing closely, and her fidelity to this style - in both words and plot - enables her to cross the line between "fanfiction", and a novel worthy of being a sequel to one of the great classics. The characters are exactly as I remember them - which is almost a shame in the case of Lydia, as she is precisely as intolerable as always, making me occasionally want to put away the book in disgust over her behaviour. Elizabeth is as kind as ever, and while ardent admirers of Mr. Darcy will regret that he makes such a small appearance, when he does show up on the pages, he is exactly the loving husband loyal readers expect him to be.

I seldom read sequels written by a different author, as I fear nobody will be able to do the original author justice. This is especially the case with my favourite authors, and I was therefore somewhat reluctant to start this book, but had not turned many pages before I saw that Diana Birchall had managed to do what I deem most important in any sequel - she had managed to capture the spirit of Jane Austen. For that alone I could easily forgive her the predictability of the novel, and enjoy it for what it was - a loving homage to one of England's greatest writers.

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Title: Luftkastellet der blev sprængt (The Pipe Dream that got Blown Up)
Author: Stieg Larsson
Genre: Suspense
Rating: 5/5
# pages: 671
Date read: March 2008, Feb 2011


Two heavily wounded people are brought to Sahlgrenska Hospital in Göteborg. One is Lisbeth Salander, who is wanted for murder. She has a life-threatening bullet in her brain and must undergo surgery immediately. The other is her father, Alexander Zalachenko, a former Soviet spy, whom Lisbeth has struck in the head with an ax.

The bullet stuck in her brain is the least of Lisbeth Salander's problems. Powerful forces are out to silence her once and for all. But while she's in isolation at the hospital, Mikael Blomkvist digs through her past, and slowly sorts out truth from fiction. He embarks on a revealing coverage, that will clear Lisbeth and shake the foundations of the Government, the secret police and the entire country. Finally Lisbeth Salander will get a chance to break free from her past.

Reading 671 pages in two days is a lot, even for me, but the last book in Stieg Larsson's excellent trilogy is every bit as good as the two preceding novels. Picking up right where "The Girl Who Played With Fire" left off, this final volume picks up all the loose threads and ties them nicely together. It's my reoccurring problem with suspense novels that they typically end 50 pages too soon, so things aren't properly wrapped up. Fortunately Stieg Larsson does not fall into this trap, and gives his readers a very satisfying conclusion to the trilogy.

My only complaint is that the writing could at times have been a bit tighter, as there was a LOT of background history to be covered, but that's not even worth losing half a point over. These three books are the best I've read all year, and I highly recommend them.

Reread in 2011 Upon rereading, I think this may actually be my favourite of the three - although it's hard to say, as it's so closely connected to #2, that it's occasionally difficult to remember what happens in which book.
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Title: Pigen der legede med ilden (The Girl Who Played with Fire)
Author: Stieg Larsson
Genre: Suspense
Rating: 5/5
# pages: 639
Date read: March 2008, Jan 2011


Michael Blomkvist from Millennium has gotten hold of a hot scoop. The Journalist Dag Svensson and his girlfriend, researcher Mia Bergman, have found revealing information about an elaborate sex-trade between East Europe and Sweden.

Lisbeth Salander's dark past rears its ugly head once again, and she determines once and for all to punish those who deserve it. Michael Blomkvist and Lisbeth Salander cross paths once more.

I haven't read a book this quickly since "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows".

The sequel to "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" and just as good as the first one. Well written, well researched and impossible to put down. The only thing I missed was a bit of a conclusion at the end, but rumour has it that will come in the last book in the trilogy, which makes sense as this one tied up some lose threads from the first book as well. I can't wait to get my hands on the last one.

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Title: The Surrendered Wife
Author: Laura Doyle
Genre: Non-fiction
Rating: 8/10
# pages: 257
Date read: March, 2008


Summary: According to Doyle, the wife who chooses to surrender must learn to take care of herself first, overcome the desire to have more power, and abandon the myth of equality. Delving into the personal tales and sisterly advice shared within each chapter's pages, surrendering wives will further note the need to master unsavory phrases like "I can't," and "Whatever you think"--tough to swallow for a generation of women who value their own opinions. While she fully acknowledges that a few bills will go unpaid and a few deadlines or freeway exits will occasionally be missed, she also insists that surrendered wives will encounter less worry and fear, more money, and better sex. Hey, "Whatever you think...."

Review: Like Laura Schlessinger's "The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands" (don't read it - it's not worth your time or money), this is a book of how to stop trying to control your husband and act like you were his mother, and how to start treating him with the respect and love that he deserves. However, unlike that book, Laura Doyle actually cares for her sex, and the book describes how to get an intimate marriage, without loosing yourself in the process. While there naturally were areas where I disagreed with Laura Doyle, I generally thought her advice very sound, and will do my best to put some of her theories into practise.

A comment on the translation: I read the book in Danish, and unfortunately it was the worst translation I've yet to see. Bad (stiltet) language, spelling mistakes and grammar mistakes all over the place, as well as misplaced spaces, line breaks and missing words. Obviously that's not Laura Doyle's fault, but I was amazed at how a book could be published with that many mistakes.

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Title: Matilda
Author: Roald Dahl
Genre: Childrens
Rating: 9/10
# pages: 230
Date read: March, 2008


Summary: Matilda is a little girl who is far too good to be true. At age five-and-a-half she's knocking off double-digit multiplication problems and blitz-reading Dickens. Even more remarkably, her classmates love her even though she's a super-nerd and the teacher's pet. But everything is not perfect in Matilda's world. For starters she has two of the most idiotic, self-centered parents who ever lived. Then there's the large, busty nightmare of a school principal, Mrs. ("The") Trunchbull, a former hammer-throwing champion who flings children at will and is approximately as sympathetic as a bulldozer. Fortunately for Matilda, she has the inner resources to deal with such annoyances: astonishing intelligence, saintly patience, and an innate predilection for revenge.

Review: I was first properly introduced to Roald Dahl when I lived in New Zealand in 1990. My teacher read his books aloud in class, and they were the perfect difficulty for somebody like me, whose English vocabulary wasn't too big, and as they are also wonderfully crazy I loved them from the start. I've read them frequently over the years, and fortunately they are books that age well. Matilda is one of my favourite, probably because it's so easy to relate to her. Besides, magic always appeals :-)

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Title: The Red Tent
Author: Anita Diamant
Genre: Historical fiction
Rating: 7/10
# pages: 384
Date read: March, 2008


Summary: The red tent is the place where women gathered during their cycles of birthing, menses, and even illness. Like the conversations and mysteries held within this feminine tent, this sweeping piece of fiction offers an insider's look at the daily life of a biblical sorority of mothers and wives and their one and only daughter, Dinah. Told in the voice of Jacob's daughter Dinah (who only received a glimpse of recognition in the Book of Genesis), we are privy to the fascinating feminine characters who bled within the red tent. In a confiding and poetic voice, Dinah whispers stories of her four mothers, Rachel, Leah, Zilpah, and Bilhah--all wives to Jacob, and each one embodying unique feminine traits. As she reveals these sensual and emotionally charged stories we learn of birthing miracles, slaves, artisans, household gods, and sisterhood secrets. Eventually Dinah delves into her own saga of betrayals, grief, and a call to midwifery.

Review: Unfortunately not as good as I had expected. While it claims to be a retelling of the story of Dinah (Genesis 34), more artistic license has been taken than what I felt comfortable with. Some of the changes I had no problems with, as they added to the story, but others were completely unnecessary and lessened the story of Jacob, Leah, Rachel, Joseph and his brothers as I know it from the Bible.

Before reading it, I'd only heard good about the book, and it was well written, but probably best described as AU fanfiction to the Bible's canon. I'd probably have enjoyed it more, if the author hasn't tried to pass it off as "a Biblical story never told."

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Title: Kalle Blomkvist lever farligt (Kalle Blomkvist Lives Dangerously)
Author: Astrid Lindgren
Genre: Childrens
Rating: 8/10
# pages: 195
Date read: March, 2008


Summary: The Red Rose (Sixten, Benka and Jonte) and the White Rose (Anders, Eva-Lotte and Kalle) have once again declared war. However, this time the friendly war leads them directly on the path of a muderer. Once again, the Master Detective Blomkvist has to spring to action.

Review: Yet another book that I loved as a child, but this one fully stood the test of time. Astrid Lindgren knows how to write books that are fascinating to children and charming to adults. I also have this book to thank for teaching me a secret language! (sort of like Pig Latin, but slightly more complicated to understand).

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Title: Drengen med guldbukserne (The Boy With the Golden Trousers)
Author: Max Lundgren
Genre: Childrens
Rating: 5/10
# pages: 116
Date read: March, 2008


Summary: The Boy with the Golden Pans is Mats from Malmö, Sweden. To his great surprise he one day discovers that he can keep pulling out 10-kroner (~$2) bills out of his pocket. This ends up being a lot of money, and in great secrecy Mats and his father starts to send million-dollar donations to charities...

Review: It is always dangerous to reread books you loved as a child. Will they stand the test of time, or won't they? I loved this book while in primary school, so when I recently found it at the library, I thought I'd reread it. I only remembered the basic premise of it (boy discovers he can pull 10-kroner bills out of the pocket of his pants) and nothing else, and was somewhat disturbed by the ending. Had I remembered that, I probably wouldn't have bothered with the reread.

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Title: Robin Hood
Author: Unknown
Genre: Classics
Rating: 4/10
# pages: 201
Date read: March


Summary: Deep in Sherwood Forest, the legendary Robin Hood-the brave, good-humored outlaw- proves himself the best in England with his bow. Here are all the exciting tales of how Little John, Will Scarlet, Alan a Dale, and Friar Tuck joined his merry band of men...Robin Hood's breathtaking escapes from his arch enemy, the Sheriff of Nottingham...and one hilarious escapade after another, filled with quick action, scheming villains, and great surprises. Days of old bursting with pageantry, knights, and beautiful maidens return in a superb classic story

Review: To my great disappointment I have to say I finished this out of stubbornness and nothing else. It was badly written, boring and repetitative. A huge disappointment to somebody like me who grew up on the Disney and 1939-movies, had my first crush as a 3-year-old on their version of Robin Hood and was looking forward to reading the book behind the movie. A waste of time. I may read Howard Pyle's version at some point, but right now I'm not rushing to do so.

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Title: f2f
Author: Phillip Finch
Genre: Suspense
Rating: 7/10
# pages: 246
Date read: March, 2008


Summary: Your life is in jeopardy. As you read this, you are within reach of a murderer.

So begins a macabre message posted on Verba -- an electronic bulletin board, a virtual meeting place where anyone with a computer and a modem can exchange views, flirt, or argue with complete anonymity. But an ingenious serial killer under the innocent-sounding name of Snowflake is using the vast potential of the Net to choose victims for a deadly f2f -- a face-to-face meeting.

Filmmaker Kate Lavin is one of the Verba subscribers who have attracted Snowflake's attention. But her concerns are pushed aside by work and her worries about her ex-husband, computer genius Ellis Holle. Then the first body appears, with a cryptic message to taunt investigators. Shortly after, another Verba subscriber dies.

The police have no clues -- and don't even yet know what connects the victims. It will take a mind as brilliant as the killer's, with as bold a disregard for convention and the law, to crack the warped code of a murderer's logic...before the rest of the names on the list -- including Kate's -- become names on homicide case files.

Review: I've read this several times when I was younger, and honestly remembered it as being better than it was. Whether that's because I'm misremembering, or because my standards were lower back then, I don't know, but it was interesting to see.

It's obvious that it's very dated though. All the explanations of computers, internet and online forums are almost naive, and I'd think just about everybody would know enough not to run an exe-file received from somebody they don't know. That's just asking to get infected!

Other than that, it's still a fascinating book and a sobering thought that we're not nearly as anonymous online as we'd like to think.

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Title: Mænd der hader kvinder (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo)
Author: Stieg Larsson
Genre: Suspense
Rating: 10/10
# pages: 556
Date read: March 2008


The retired director for the Vanger concern, Henrik Vanger, hires Mikael Blomkvist, journalist at the periodical Millennium, to write his biography. Blomkvist reluctantly accepts the job and as an assistant he hires Lisbeth Salander, a tattoed, pierced young lady who's been declared incapable of managing her own affairs, and who just happens to be a fantastic researcher and the best hacker in Sweden. Together they dig deep into the Vanger family's past and there meet a darker story than any of them had ever expected.

Though more than 500 pages I read it in less than 24 hours. I simply couldn't put it down. I read until far too late last night, and got up early this morning for the sole purpose of reading a bit more before having to leave for church. The plot is fascinating, uncompromising and horrifying, but the masterpiece is Stieg Larsson's way of expressing this plot, and the characters that he brings forth. It is not easy reading, and many of the details are just disgusting, but once you pick up the book, it's impossible to leave it until the last page is read.

Reread in 2010. I still think it's an amazing book, but this time I was really surprised to see how slow it actually is. I didn't remember that at all from my first read, but the first 8 chapters are pretty much just background. The story quickly picks up after that, but I understand how some people might give up before they got to that point.

But still a terrific book!
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Title: Looking Forward
Author: Marcia Willett
Genre: Fiction
Rating: 8/10
# pages: 312
Date read: March 2008


Summary: Kenya 1957, Felicia, Sam and Susanna's parents and older brother are killed and the three kids are sent to their grandmother Frederica "Freddy" Chadwick in Devon.

Freddy has experienced a lot of sadness and pain in her life, and she would be helpless without her two devoted friends, Ellen and Fox, who also help and support her in this difficult time. Freddy's brother-in-law, Theo, is also ready to help, while her three grandchildren try to find a way out of the grief and forward in life.

"Looking Forward" is the first book in the saga of the unforgettable Chadwick-family.

Review: Marcia Willett has been compared to Rosamunde Pilcher, and with good reason. This first book in the Chadwick saga reads a lot like what I've come to expect from RP's books. And that's a good thing :) It was rather slow-moving, but not in a way that made it boring, but just to emphasise the atmosphere of the book as being relaxed and unpretentious. It's the first in a trilogy (I think) and I'm looking forward to reading the other two, as you really get to love the family.

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Title: Diary of a Young Girl
Author: Anne Frank
Genre: biography, ww2
Rating: 8/10
# pages: 237
Date read: March, 2008


Summary: This vivid, insightful journal is a fitting memorial to the gifted Jewish teenager who died at Bergen-Belsen, Germany, in 1945. Born in 1929, Anne Frank received a blank diary on her 13th birthday, just weeks before she and her family went into hiding in Nazi-occupied Amsterdam. Her marvelously detailed, engagingly personal entries chronicle 25 trying months of claustrophobic, quarrelsome intimacy with her parents, sister, a second family, and a middle-aged dentist who has little tolerance for Anne's vivacity. The diary's universal appeal stems from its riveting blend of the grubby particulars of life during wartime (scant, bad food; shabby, outgrown clothes that can't be replaced; constant fear of discovery) and candid discussion of emotions familiar to every adolescent (everyone criticizes me, no one sees my real nature, when will I be loved?). Yet Frank was no ordinary teen: the later entries reveal a sense of compassion and a spiritual depth remarkable in a girl barely 15. Her death epitomizes the madness of the Holocaust, but for the millions who meet Anne through her diary, it is also a very individual loss.

Review: Again an important book about World War 2. Very well written - I kept forgetting it was a real diary and not a fictionalized account of their lives. However, this time around I also found it a very depressing read, because from the very begining you know (well, I did anyway) that Anne doesn't survive the war. I would have been interested in hearing more about what happened after the end of the diary, but I guess there's not much documentation on that.

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Title: The Hiding Place
Author: Corrie ten Boom
Genre: Christian non-fiction, ww2
Rating: 9/10
# pages: 214
Date read: March, 2008


Summary: In World War II, Corrie ten Boom and her family risked their lives to help Jews escape the Nazis, and their reward was a trip to Hitler's concentration camps. But she survived and was released--as a result of a clerical error--and now shares the story of how faith triumphs over evil. The Hiding Place tells the riveting story of how a middle-aged Dutch watchmaker became a heroine of the Resistance, a survivor of Hitler's death camps, and one of the most remarkable evangelists of the twentieth century.

Review: A difficult, but important book to read. I pray that I may never have to go through the hardships Corrie experienced, but that if I do, God will grant me the strength to show the same grace as she and Betsie did. We tend to forget that God didn't stop practising miracles after the time the Bible was written.

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Title: Evacuation Plan: A novel from the hospice
Author: Joe M. O'Connell
Genre: Fiction
Rating: 6/10
# pages: 182
Date read: March, 2008


Review: Aspiring script writer Matt visits a hospice in order to gather inspiration for his great play. Spending the days getting to know the people staying there, Matt realized the hospice is full of stories, for anybody who cares enough to sit down and listen. From the lady whose sister ran off with a circus artist (or wanted to, anyway) to the old man who was just hoping to be reconciled with his children before he left this earth, Matt talks to them all, asking them what was their best experience in life, and hearing the stories they just have to get off their chest, before it's too late.

The idea behind Evacuation Plan is brilliant. Joe O'Connell works from the theory that "everybody has a story to tell", and the reader is left with the knowledge that this is without a doubt true. The book changes focus constantly with the chapters being told alternatingly from Matt's point of view, and from the view of one of the people at the hospice.

The main thread running through all the stories is death and how to cope with it, but this is not a strong enough connection to get the stories linked together properly, and Evacuation Plan ends up feeling more like a book of short stories with a common theme, than like a full novel. This doesn't make the book any less worth reading, but it is always an advantage for the reader to know what to expect, in order not to be disappointed by the number of lose threads left hanging.

Though dealing with a sober subject, Joe O'Connell manages to be neither to somber nor engage in too much gallows humour. Death is faced unapologetically and straight forwardly which is a very refreshing change from books that tend to either shy away from the subject, or wallow in it.

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Title: Helvedet - og en kærlig Gud (Hell and a Loving God)
Author: Claus Tøndering
Genre: Christian non-fiction
Rating: 10/10
# pages: 122
Date read: October 2005, March 2008, July 2010

Is it possible to see damnation and Hell as a side of God's love for us?

If we trust in Jesus' words there's no escaping the fact that Hell is real. But most of us hide this thought far away in a small corner of our conscience and are very reluctant to bring it forward. Many of us find it difficult to match our belief in God's love with the undeniable words of Hell found in the Bible. How do we unite the belief of God's unlimited love with the fact that Jesus often talks of damnation and Hell as a reality?

This book is an attempt to address this problem. The author manages to do this without coming with easily bought explanations and with the goal to help us to retain our belief in God's love - also when confronted with the reality of Hell.

I have reread this book several times since I first got my hands on it, because it offers a good take on an interesting subject. The problem of how to understand hell is one that most Christians face sooner or later, and it's important to realize that God doesn't send some people to hell because He doesn't love them, but rather because He loves them too much not to let them make their own decisions.

I won't claim to understand everything about hell - far from it - and there are still things that make no sense at all to me, but this book has given me a greater understanding for how the idea of a loving God can be combined with the horrors of Hell.

Translated into English as "Hell and a Loving God".

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Title: The Princess and the Goblin
Author: George MacDonald
Genre: Classics
Rating: 7/10
# pages: 167
Date read: March, 2008


Summary: The Princess and the Goblin is the story of the young Princess Irene, her good friend Curdie--a minor's son--and Irene's mysterious and beautiful great great grandmother, who lives in a secret room at the top of the castle stairs. Filled with images of dungeons and goblins, mysterious fires, burning roses, and a thread so fine as to be invisible and yet--like prayer--strong enough to lead the Princess back home to her grandmother's arms, this is a story of Curdie's slow realization that sometimes, as the princess tells him, "you must believe without seeing."

Review: As a sweet fairytale it's a book I'd have loved to have read aloud as a child, so I'm going to try to remember that for when I have kids of my own. While there were also aspects for an adult to enjoy, I think the book still needs the nostalgic charm of childhood to fully bloom. The sequel seems to be more of the same, so while I'll probably read it eventually, I'm in no great hurry to do so right now.

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Title: Specials
Author: Scott Westerfeld
Genre: YA, Dystopian
Rating: 8/10
# pages: 372
Date read: March, 2008


Summary: The Specials used to be a sinister rumour - frightening beautiful, dangerously strong, breathtakingly fast.

Now tally's become one of them: a sumeramped fighting machine, engineered to keep Uglies down and Pretties stupid. The strength, the speed and the clarity of her new powers feel amazing... most of the time. One tiny corner of Tally's heart still remembers something different.

When she's offered the chance to stamp out the rebels of the New Smoke, she is forced to make one last choice: carry out the mission, or listen to that faint yet persistent heartbeat telling her that something's wrong...

Review: While the first was definitely the best book in the trilogy, I thought this was a very fitting ending to it (I know there's also Extras, but as far as I know that's not a part of the series as such, but more a different series in the same universe).

However, the two last books were a bit of a let-down after the roller-coaster ride of the first one. Don't get me wrong, I loved the books and read them in no time flat, but it seemed a bit like Scott had a great idea but then didn't quite know what to do with it. All books followed more or less the same pattern, making the previous book seem, for want of better word, pointless.

That doesn't mean I didn't enjoy them though, and I'll definitely be getting Extras out of the library as soon as they get it.

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