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Title: Diget (The Dike)
Author: Teddy Vork
Genre: Horror, childrens
Rating: 2.5/5
# pages: 190
Date read: August, 2010

Every seventh year, according to an old tradition, a young boy had to be sacrificed to the dike by the Western coast of Denmark.

Trapped in the darkness of the dike, Knud has to fight against hunger, thirst, cold and fear - because he quickly discovers that he's not alone. Something is waiting for him in the darkness.

I'll admit it. I only read "Diget" ("The Dike") because I had to. It's not the type of book I'll usually pick up, but my publisher sent it to me for review, so pick it up I did. That said, it actually wasn't half bad. "Diget" was a mixture of Knud's experiences inside the dike, old legends and his experiences with the people of his village which worked surprisingly well. Until now I've only known Teddy Vork to write short stories, and "Diget" also mostly read like a collection of short stories, tied together by the red thread of Knud's imprisonment and attempts to get out. Generally it worked well, but there was a time or two where the connection was a bit too forced.

The end was very different from what I had expected, but actually worked a lot better than the ending I had envisioned.

Still, I think Teddy Vork is a better short story author than a novel author, and while good, "Diget" didn't quite live up to the expectations his short stories had caused me to have.
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Title: Good Book
Author: David Plotz
Genre: Non-fiction
Rating: 4/5
# pages: 320
Date read: August, 2010

At a time when wars are fought over scriptural interpretation, when the influence of religion on American politics has never been greater, when many Americans still believe in the Bible's literal truth, it has never been more important to get to know the Bible. Good Book is what happens when a regular guy - an average Job - actually reads the book on which his religion, his culture, and his world are based. Along the way, he grapples with the most profound theological questions: How many commandments do we actually need? Does God prefer obedience or good deeds? And the most unexpected ones: Why are so many women in the Bible prostitutes? Why does God love bald men so much? Is Samson really that stupid?

Very interesting book, especially when read (like I did) on the heels of The Year of Living Biblically by A.J. Jacobs. I'm not sure what I would have thought of it if I hadn't been as familiar with the Old Testament though - I have a feeling it could get a bit difficult to follow otherwise, but I do think it would be a great (although occasionally irreverent) commentary to a read-through of the OT. I didn't always agree with David Plotz on his conclusions, but at the same time, he did occasionally manage to point things out to me that I'd never noticed before (e.g. that there are two sets of 10 Commandments found in Exodus - one in chapter 20 and one in chapter 34).

Good book for anybody interested in the Old Testament - no matter whether they'd consider themselves religious or not.

After finishing the book, I discovered that David Plotz is also the author of one of my favourite blogs, Blogging the Bible, which I should really have guessed, but I just never added 2 and 2 to get 4.
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Title: Born at Midnight
Author: C.C. Hunter
Genre: Paranormal
Rating: 5/5
# pages: 343
Date read: August, 2010

Kylie Galen has had a lot of crap tossed in her lap. Her parents are getting a divorce. Her boyfriend broke up with her because she wouldn't put out. Her grandmother died and now Kylie's acquired a stalker. Unfortunately, she's the only one who seems to be able to see the stalker. And that gets her sent to a psychologist's sofa.

The kooky psychologist gets Kylie sent to Shadow Falls Camp. Kylie and her parents think it's a camp for troubled teens.

They thought wrong.

It's a camp of supernaturals: vampires, werewolves, fairies, witches and shape shifters. And if she believes the camp leader, Kylie is one of them, too.

Just because she's seeing ghosts, just because she was born at midnight, does that really mean she's not human? And if so, what is she? Not even the other supernaturals can tell her.

Lately paranormal novels have come in fast and furious on the heels of the Twilight success. Are there really room for more? Well, I do think the market is getting a bit saturated, but when I come across a book as well written and captivating as Born at Midnight, I'd still have to say yes. It's set apart from most other paranormal novels by NOT being a Twilight-clone (other than the incessant love-triangle. Please, authors, it's getting old! It's not as bad in this one as in many others though, so I can mostly ignore it), but carving out a spot for itself.

I especially love the idea of a supernatural camp, and found it fascinating to see how the different 'species' (for want of better word) interact.

Really great book that I HOPE is the first in a series, because I'd love to read more about Kylie and her quest to figure out who and what she is.
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Title: Mockingjay
Author: Suzanne Collins
Genre: Dystopian
Rating: 4/5
# pages: 353
Date read: August, 2010

Katniss Everdeen, girl on fire, has survived, even though her home has been destroyed. Gale has escaped. Katniss's family is safe. Peeta has been captured by the Capitol. District 13 really does exist. There are rebels. There are new leaders. A revolution is unfolding.

It is by design that Katniss was rescued from the arena in the cruel and haunting Quarter Quell, and it is by design that she has long been part of the revolution without knowing it. District 13 has come out of the shadows and is plotting to overthrow the Capitol. Everyone, it seems, has had a hand in the carefully laid plans -- except Katniss.

The success of the rebellion hinges on Katniss's willingness to be a pawn, to accept responsibility for countless lives, and to change the course of the future of Panem. To do this, she must put aside her feelings of anger and distrust. She must become the rebels' Mockingjay -- no matter what the personal cost.

As eager as I was to read this book, I have to admit it was a bit of a disappointment. I still liked it, and still had difficulties putting it down, but the series definitely decreases in quality as it goes along.

Mockingjay was less repetitive than Catching Fire, which was nice, but even without the hunger games, it was a lot darker than the two other books. Suzanne Collins still doesn't pull any punches, but here, for the first time, I felt that some of the punches were unnecessary and even pointless.

And once again an epilogue that sounded like it was solely tacked on to please the fans. I wasn't as invested in this series or the 'ships' though, so unlike "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows", I didn't mind it - even if I did see it for the cheap trick is was ;)
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Title: Man jager et bæst og fanger et menneske (You Hunt a Beast and Catch a Human)
Author: Bent Isager-Nielsen
Genre: Memoir, non-fiction
Rating: 5/5
# pages: 267
Date read: August, 2010

"A murder investigation consists of thousands of tiny pieces that are brought to light by many dedicated policemen through detailed work. Only in TV a police officer solves the crime singlehandedly. Reality is different, but no less interesting. As head of the investigation in a number of spectacular murders and other criminal cases, I've been the one who put the puzzle together. Working closely together with the best specialists in Denmark, I've "read" scenes of crime, made profiles of killers and found their signature. I've travelled all over the country and followed all leads, Interrogated hundreds of suspects. And solved the worst of all crimes - murder."

A good friend of mine has worked together with Bent Isager-Nielsen for several years, so when she recommended this memoir of his, I was very keen on reading it. It's a fascinating account of how the police actually works in order to solve a serious crime, and a reminder that usually the killer is not that different from me or you - he's just less well equipped to handle setbacks.

Bent Isager-Nielsen makes a strong case for gun control as well as a national resident registry. He credits these two things for the fact that Denmark has a resolution percentage of more than 95% for murder cases (in 2007 39 out of 40 murders were solved) and no known serial killers.

"You Hunt a Beast..." is almost impossible to put down, and I was intrigued by this look behind the scenes and insight in the techniques and technologies involved in police work. Definitely a book well worth reading!
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Title: Return to Gone-Away
Author: Elizabeth Enright
Genre: Childrens
Rating: 4.5/5
# pages: 145
Date read: August, 2010

Julian finds one of the abandoned houses that was set away from the old lake and shut up tightly - the Villa Caprice. Portia and Julian, her cousin, show it to their parents. The adults decide to buy the old house from the governmnent and rebuild it over the summer.

Not quite as good as the first book in the series, but then it is hard to improve on perfection ;) And it's still really excellent, and a wonderful comfort read, even if the plot isn't as interesting and a tad more repetative.
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Title: The Way We Fall
Author: Megan Crewe
Genre: Dystopian
Rating: 3.5/5
# pages: 100
Date read: August, 2010

It starts with an itch you just can't shake.  Then comes the flush of a fever and a tickle in your throat.  In four to five days, you'll be blabbing your secrets and chatting with strangers like old friends. Three more, and the paranoid hallucinations kick in.  

And then you're dead.

Sixteen-year-old Kaelyn knows it's time to start facing her fears and tackling her insecurities when she lets the boy who was once her best friend leave for school abroad without even saying good-bye.  But as an unfamiliar virus sweeps through their small island community, suddenly she's got a lot of good reasons to be scared.  The doctors have no effective treatment, and patients are starting to die.  

Then the government quarantines the island in an attempt to contain the epidemic, and Kaelyn and her family are trapped.  With the fatalities rising and contact with the mainland failing, the islanders have no one to depend on but themselves--and not everyone has the same interests at heart. As she fights to keep her loved ones safe and her community from falling apart, Kaelyn finds herself challenging not just her fears, but her ideas of whether any person's life is more valuable than another's, and what makes that life worth living.

I'm finding it really hard to figure out how to review The Way We Fall. Viewed from my current vantage point - having read what I have - I wasn't terribly impressed. The plot was fascinating, but the characters only 2-dimensional and the ending somewhat disappointing. However, thinking back, books like these (diary, slighly disturbing) were among my favourites back when I was 13-15, so had I read it at that age, I would probably have LOVED it and rated it 5/5.
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Title: Knit Two
Author: Kate Jacobs
Genre: Fiction
Rating: 4/5
# pages: 235
Date read: August, 2010

At the Manhattan knitting store founded by Georgia Walker, the members of the Friday Night Knitting Club - including Georgia's daughter Dakota, now a college freshman - continue to rely on each other for help, even as they struggle with new challenges: for Catherine, finding love after divorce; for Darwin, the hope for a family; for Lucie, being both a single mom and a caregiver for her elderly mother; and for seventy something Anita, a proposal of marriage from her sweetheart, Marty, that provokes the objections of her grown children. As the club's projects - an afghan, baby booties, a wedding coat - are pieced together, so is their understanding of the patterns underlying the stresses and joys of being a mother, wife, daughter, and friend. Because it isn't the difficulty of the garment that makes you a great knitter: it's the care and attention you bring to the craft - as well as how you adapt to surprises.

Not quite as good as "Friday Night Knitting Club", but then sequels seldom are. And it's still a very enjoyable and comforting read. As usual it made me want to knit, so I guess I'll have to go out and replenish my stash after all ;) But to me, its true merit is in the descriptions of the friendships between the women of the knitting club. From Saving Graces to The Sweetgum Knit Lit Society that aspect never ceases to appeal to me.
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Title: Garlic and Sapphires
Author: Ruth Reichl
Genre: Memoir
Rating: 5/5
# pages: 333
Date read: August, 2010

In Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise Reichl focuses on her life as a food critic, dishing up a feast of fabulous meals enjoyed during her tenure at The New York Times. As a critic, Reichl was determined to review the "true" nature of each restaurant she visited, so she often dined incognito--each chapter of her book highlights a new disguise, a different restaurant (including the original reviews from the Times), and a fresh culinary adventure.

One of the best foodie books I've read in a long time - even if I did get ridiculously hungry for good food while reading it. I do NOT recommend reading a couple of chapters and then going out to heat up left-overs :-/

The stories of a restaurant critic were fascinating to read, and the way she went about creating new characters as not to be recognized had me in stitches. I really enjoyed Ruth Reichl's writing style, and also liked the way she portrayed herself in this memoir - not arrogantly, but aware of her own mistakes and shortcomings.

Really brilliant book, even if it is perhaps a tad too old to be used as an accurate restaurant guide for NYC - more's the pity, as I'd have loved to try some of the restaurants she visited!
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Title: Gone-Away Lake
Author: Elizabeth Enright
Genre: Childrens
Rating: 5/5
# pages: 172
Date read: August, 2010

Portia and her cousin Julian discover a hidden abandoned village dating from the turn of the century--the 20th century! They are surprised to discover that two of the houses are still occupied by a brother and sister who were among the original occupants of Tarrigo. They make a clubhouse in another abandoned home, and soon other friends and relatives get in on the secret.

This was one of my favourite books as a child, and I'm happy to say that it completely passed the test of time. It's just as charming as I remembered it, and Elizabeth Enright really made me feel like I knew the characters and I got to care for them.

Usually I can take or leave illustrations in a book, but the illustrations in my copy of the book (or rather, my mother's copy) - done by Beth and Joe Krush - are gorgeous, and really add to the story.
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Title: Dewey: The Small-town Library-cat Who Touched the World
Author: Vicki Myron
Genre: non-fiction, memoir
Rating: 4/5
# pages: 304
Date read: August, 2010

Dewey's story starts in the worst possible way. Only a few weeks old, on the coldest night of the year, he was stuffed into the returned book slot at the Spencer Public Library. He was found the next morning by library director, Vicki Myron, a single mother who had survived the loss of her family farm, a breast cancer scare, and an alcoholic husband. Dewey won her heart, and the hearts of the staff, by pulling himself up and hobbling on frostbitten feet to nudge each of them in a gesture of thanks and love. For the next nineteen years, he never stopped charming the people of Spencer with his enthusiasm, warmth, humility, (for a cat) and, above all, his sixth sense about who needed him most.

I think it's a bit of false advertising to say this is a book about Dewey, the library cat. It's more a book about Vicki Myron's life as it intersected with that of Dewey's. That didn't stop me from loving the book, and I laughed out loud several times, but the descriptions of Dewey's antics were definitely the best parts of the books, and I felt the rest was mostly filler stuff to make the book long enough.

It was very, very charming though, and the perfect read for a cozy afternoon. I think I would have adored Dewey if I'd ever had the chance to meet him.
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Title: Three Cups of Tea
Author: Greg Mortenson
Genre: Non-fiction, memoir
Rating: 4.5/5
# pages: 330
Date read: August 2010

Greg Mortenson, a homeless mountaineer who, following a 1993 climb of Pakistan's treacherous K2, was inspired by a chance encounter with impoverished mountain villagers and promised to build them a school. Over the next decade he built fifty-five schools--especially for girls--that offer a balanced education in one of the most isolated and dangerous regions on earth. As it chronicles Mortenson's quest, which has brought him into conflict with both enraged Islamists and uncomprehending Americans, Three Cups of Tea combines adventure with a celebration of the humanitarian spirit

I started this book with mixed expectations. One of my friends had LOVED it (all capital letters), another had thought it extremely overrated. As I usually trst recommendations from both people, I had no clue where on the scale I would end up. However, it kept popping up in discussions, reviews and on bookshelves, and the story fascinated me, so I decided I had to give it a chance.

It took me a bit to get into it - I've started to think that introductions should really be read last rather than first - but once I did, I was absolutely captivated. Greg Mortenson's story is extremely fascinating, and I'm deeply impressed by all that he does for the people of Pakistan. Also, it was really interesting to see the USA-Pakistan relationship from the Pakistani side of the fence.

I'm amazed by Tara's fortitude and bravery in letting Greg go off so often and for so long periods of time. I doubt I'd be able to do the same.

Three Cups... is in no way a literary masterpiece - it could definitely have profitted from a thorough editing - but it blew me away.
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Title: The Year of Living Biblically
Author: A.J. Jacobs
Genre: Non-fiction, memoir
Rating: 4/5
# pages: 332
Date read: August, 2010

Raised in a secular family but increasingly interested in the relevance of faith in our modern world, A.J. Jacobs decides to dive in headfirst and attempt to obey the Bible as literally as possible for one full year. He vows to follow the Ten Commandments. To be fruitful and multiply. To love his neighbor. But also to obey the hundreds of less publicized rules: to avoid wearing clothes made of mixed fibers; to play a ten-string harp; to stone adulterers.

The resulting spiritual journey is at once funny and profound, reverent and irreverent, personal and universal and will make you see history's most influential book with new eyes

As a Christian who believes in a mostly* literal interpretation of the Bible, I found this memoir absolutely fascinating! First of all, it was interesting to see the Bible through a non-religious Jew POV. And secondly it was fascinating to see anybody attempt to follow all the laws of both the Old and the New Testament.

I really enjoyed A.J. Jacobs' writing style, and was releaved to see how respectful his approach was. He actually ended up teaching me a thing or two about how to follow the Bible as well.

I've wanted to read this book for ages and was very gratified to see that it completely lived up to my expectations.


* There are some passages that are obviously meant to be taken figuratively - when Jesus calls the disciples "salt of the earth", He didn't actually mean they were made of NaCl ;)
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Title: Frankenstein
Author: Mary Shelley
Genre: Horror, Classic
Rating: 2.5/5
# pages: Audiobook ~12hrs
Date read: August, 2010

The epic battle between man and monster reaches its greatest pitch in the famous story of Frankenstein. In trying to create life, the young student Victor Frankenstein unleashes forces beyond his control, setting into motion a long and tragic chain of events that brings Victor himself to the very brink. How he tries to destroy his creation, as it destroys everything Victor loves, is a powerful story of love, friendship... and horror.

I knew almost nothing about this book when I started it, but it turned out to be very different from my expectations. I'd expected it to be somewhat similar to Dracula (although that one ended up being different from my expectations as well, but that was mostly because of the writing style), but the similarities were slim to none - which ended up being to the detriment of "Frankenstein". The writing wasn't as captivating, and the characters were either unlikable or just plain boring.

While I did find the story interesting enough to finish it, I have to admit, I didn't care for it much, and it puzzles me how it managed to obtain the rating of 'a classic'.
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Title: The Professor and the Madman
Author: Simon Winchester
Genre: Non-fiction
Rating: 3/5
# pages: 230
Date read: August, 2010

"The Professor and the Madman" is an extraordinary tale of madness, genius, and the incredible obsessions of two remarkable men that led to the making of the Oxford English Dictionary -- and literary history. The compilation of the OED began in 1857, it was one of the most ambitious projects ever undertaken. As definitions were collected, the overseeing committee, led by Professor James Murray, discovered that one man, Dr. W. C. Minor, had submitted more than ten thousand. When the committee insisted on honoring him, a shocking truth came to light: Dr. Minor, an American Civil War veteran, was also an inmate at an asylum for the criminally insane.

This is one of those weird books where the subject matter is extremely interesting, but the writing only so-so. I'm glad I stuck it out though, because the descriptions of what it takes to complete a reference book as complicated as th Oxford English Dictionary was absolutely fascinating! It must have been an insanely daunting task, and I'm impressed that they didn't give up from shear overwhelmedness (yes, that's a word ;) ).

The story of the madman himself actually didn't interest me all that much, although it did make me wonder how much of a difference there is between the treatment of the criminally insane now and back then.
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Title: Billy and the Bubble Ship
Author: Elwy Yost
Genre: Childrens, fantasy
Rating: 3/5
# pages: 141
Date read: August, 2010

Billy has made a giant bubble from the liquid of a meteor. He crawls inside it and suddenly looses control over the bubble. Billy is on his way into outer space.

This was a childhood favourite, so I figured it was time to reread it. It's still enjoyable, but I must admit it couldn't quite live up to my expectations. Interestingly enough in part because it was too short! There were so many possibilities for expanding the plot and adding details, but since it's a childrens book, most of these were left out.

I liked Billy and the Princess and would have liked to read more about them.
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Title: Wicked Lovely
Author: Melissa Marr
Genre: Paranormal
Rating: 3.5/5
# pages: Audiobook ~10hrs
Date read: August, 2010

Aislinn has always seen faeries. Powerful and dangerous, they walk hidden in the mortal world. Aislinn fears their cruelty-especially if they learn of her Sight-and wishes she were as blind to their presence as other teens.

Keenan is the Summer King, who has sought his queen for nine centuries. Without her, summer itself will perish. His is determined that Aislinn will become the Summer Queen at any cost-regardless of her plans or desires.

Suddenly none of the rules that have kept Aislinn safe are working anymore, and everything is on the line: her freedom; her best friend, Seth; everything.

Another book in the long list of paranormal fantasy that has sprung up during the last years. I had no expectations at all about this one, but decided to give it a shot as I'd seen it around in book stores and then found it as an audiobook.

Actually, it's not half bad. I quite enjoyed it and was very gratified to see that the by now apparently compulsory love triangle didn't turn out Twilight'esque, but actually had a very agreeable resolution for once. It was a fun read, and I liked all the details about faeries.
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Title: Crystal Singer Omnibus
Author: Anne McCaffrey
Genre: Sci-fi
Rating: 4.5/5
# pages: 1069
Date read: December 2006, August 2010

Her name was Killashandra Ree. And after ten grueling years of musical training, she was still without prospects. Until she heard of the mysterious Heptite Guild who could provide careers, security, and wealth beyond imagining. The problem was, few people who landed on Ballybran ever left. But to Killashandra the risks were acceptable...

This omnibus has the entire Crystal Singer trilogy ("The Crystal Singer", "Killashandra" and "The Crystal Line") in one book.

Over all, a 4.5-star trilogy, even though the first book is definitely the best. I guess I'd rate them 5, 4.5 and 4 respectively. I loved reading about how Killashandra learned how to cut crystal in the first one, and her relationship with Lars in the second.

I had this book recommended to me because I mentioned liking McCaffrey's Harper's Hall trilogy, so I assumed Crystal Singer would be similar to this trilogy in its atmosphere and descriptions of music. Not so at all! It took me awhile to shake my pre-conceived notions of the book. Not that I was disappointed, it was just disconcerting to expect to read about dragons and thread fall and instead read about spaceships and crystal cutters.

That said, I loved the book, as the rating indicates, and would recommend it to anybody who enjoys a good fantasy/sci-fi novel. Crystal singers have a long life-span but cutting also results in severe memory loss, which makes for some very interesting situations. It also made me think - if I knew I was likely to forget everything about my past and everybody I knew... how much effort would I go to to make recordings of my life? What would I willingly forget, and what would I want to remember?

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