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Title: World Without End
Author: Ken Follett
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
# pages: 1237
Date read: September, 2010

World Without End takes place in the same town of Kingsbridge, two centuries after the townspeople finished building the exquisite Gothic cathedral that was at the heart of The Pillars of the Earth. The cathedral and the priory are again at the center of a web of love and hate, greed and pride, ambition and revenge, but this sequel stands on its own. This time the men and women of an extraordinary cast of characters find themselves at a crossroad of new ideas - about medicine, commerce, architecture, and justice. In a world where proponents of the old ways fiercely battle those with progressive minds, the intrigue and tension quickly reach a boiling point against the devastating backdrop of the greatest natural disaster ever to strike the human race - the Black Death.

Pillars of the Earth was great, but a difficult read, so though I've had this for almost a year, I've been reluctant to pick it up.

With good reason, it turned out. Though just as excellent a book as PotE, World Without End was almost as unpleasant a read. I was fascinated by Ken Follett's descriptions of the time and environment, but became more and more uncomfortable by the obvious unfairness and biasedness (yes, it's a word ;) ) that existed at the time. I don't doubt that it's historically accurate, but that doesn't make it any more pleasant to read about, and it did become a tad annoying to see the main characters meet one draw-back after the other. Thankfully their lives did slowly improve over the duration of the book, so it wasn't completely horrible to read about, but it did occasionally make me put down the book and reach for some lighter reading.

That said, putting down the book didn't happen too often though, because it was definitely a page-turner, and I stayed up far too late on more than one occasion to read just a few more chapters. I also appreciated that there weren't as many completely hideous characters with NO redeeming qualities whatsoever in this one as in PotE. It made certain scenes slightly easier to stomach.

Definitely a worthy follow up to an epic novel (in every sense of the word), and I think I might even like this one a tiny bit better, though it in NO way is an easy read.
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Title: Hearts of Fire: Eight Women in the Underground Church and Their Stories of Costley Faith
Author: Compiled by The Voice of the Martyrs
Genre: Non-fiction, Christian, memoir
Rating: 5/5
# pages: 333
Date read: September, 2010

Eight women from eight very different backgrounds. Yet the struggles they each faced rang with eerie similarity. These courageous women from across the globe-Pakistan, India, Romania, Former Soviet Union, China, Vietnam, Nepal, Indonesia-shared similar experiences of hardship, subjugation, and persecution, all because of their faith in Christ. Yet all of these women have emerged from adversity as leaders and heroines.

A difficult book to review, because how on earth do I put into words the feelings this book woke in me? From Russia in 1945 to Indonesia in 2000 Christians have been persecuted for their faith, imprisoned, fired, tortured, abused, even martyred. I read about these people and marvel at their strength and dedication... and then I look at myself, and almost feel embarrassed for being so comfortable and safe in little old Denmark.

I'll try to make this a review rather than a testimony though, even though it's turning out to be more difficult than I thought. I've never felt called to be a missionary, but I've always been fascinated by their works, and by the fates of Christians in other countries.

These 8 accounts were especially incredible in their intensity and I very much appreciated the afterword following each chapter, as it brought us up to present day, and explained what had happened to the main character since the events of the chapter, and where she was now.
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Title: For foden af trappen (At the Bottom of the Stairs)
Author: Pernille Eybye
Genre: YA, suspense
Rating: 4.5/5
# pages: 284
Date read: September, 2010

15-year-old Ella lives a perfect life... right up until she is murdered. But she hasn't left the house she was killed in, and when Samson and his family moves in, she takes the chance and asks Samson for help. Ella is certain that one of her best friends killed her...

This is the third book I've read by Pernille Eybye, and she slowly but surely improves her style for every book. The first I read was superficial, immature and boring, and I only finished it out of a sense of obligation. The second had improved by leaps and bounds, so when I got my hands on this third one, I knew it could go both ways, but was willing to give it a shot. Thankfully Pernille has continued to improve and managed to write a proper page-turner, that I had difficulties putting down, and which stayed with me for quite awhile after I finished reading it.

Seems to me that Pernille Eyebye should leave YA romance well alone, and stick to YA suspense - she does that SO much better.
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Title: Cold Fire
Author: Tamora Pierce
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: 3.5/5
# pages: Audiobook ~10hrs
Date read: September, 2010

Daja and her teacher, Frostpine, settle into the northern Namorn city of Kugisko for a restful winter break. Not surprisingly, their illusions are promptly shattered, as Daja discovers that the twin daughters of her host have "ambient magic." As the discovering-mage, Daja is obliged to teach the fidgety girls the rudiments of magic. Meanwhile, Kugisko seems to have fallen into the hands of a ruthless arsonist, and Daja is determined to help her new firefighting friend, Bennat Ladradun, get to the bottom of the mystery.

Whereas the Circle of Magic quartet was mostly written for a younger audience, the same definitely cannot be said about the Circle Opens quartet. Here Tamora Pierce dives into the darker aspects of life and humanity.

Daja has always been my favourite of the four, but she does seem an awful lot older than 14. I guess some of that could be contributed to her past, but still. Nia and Jory were much more believable 10-year-olds than Daja ever was. Although I have to say they drove me crazy with their obstinancy to learning meditation. I would not have been able to be as patient with them as Daja was, and think their disobedience was passed by much too easily. That bugged me.

I was fascinated by the insights into the arsonists mind - especially his absolute bafflement, that Daja could ever suspect him of being cruel or a monster - he obviously thought his actions perfectly reasonable and a natural consequence of how he was treated... probably not too far off from how real psychopaths think
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Title: Flodhesten i hverdagsrummet (The Hippopotamus in the Living Room)
Author: Tommy Hellsten
Genre: Non-fiction
Rating: 3/5
# pages: 155
Date read: September, 2010

It is said that a family who lives with an alcoholic lives with a hippopotamus in the living room. Everybody notices the hippopotamus, that forces the members of the family to adapt to certain circumstances, but everybody tries to deny its existence through silence.

This book addresses what happens to children who grow up in the shadow of alcoholism, work addiction, extreme religiosity, incest or violence. The family members of someone suffering from one of these end up becoming co-dependent; each family member suffer through co-dependency of the abuse, and pass on this handicap to the next generation.

What do you do with these experiences, that nobody wants to talk about? And how do you become a functioning adult, if you as a child had to conform to the hippopotamus?


I feel odd rating this book, because I don't think it's possible to get the full effect of it, if it's not personally relevant, and therefore it doesn't feel fair to rate it down, just because I couldn't relate. Therefore this semi-average rating.

I had it recommended to me because I have a couple of very close friends who grew up suffering from some sort of co-dependency, and I could definitely recognize them in the personality traits Tommy describes a co-dependent person as having. However, no matter how much I'd like to, I can't force them to relive their lost childhood, until and unless they feel ready to do so themselves.
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Title: How to Respond When You Feel Mistreated
Author: John Bevere
Genre: Christian non-fiction
Rating: 3/5
# pages: 76
Date read: September 2010

"Repay no one evil for evil" (Romans 12:17 NKJV). Easier said than done, right? But that's exactly what John Bevere recommends. We are all subject to some authority, and those in leadership often misuse their power and hurt others. But we as Christians are called to honor and submit to authority, even if it means accepting unfair treatment.

"'Vengeance is mine, I will repay,' says the Lord" (Romans 12:19 NKJV). God's justice often takes longer than we want to wait, but it does come. And our obedience in accepting suffering increases His work in the lives of others. Ultimately, our model for responding to unfair treatment is Jesus. And by enduring suffering as He did, we are made more like Him.

MUCH easier said than done, and I also felt the book lacked some concrete examples. When are we taking vengeance out of God's hands and when are we just refusing to be door-mats? Where does the line go? In some cases it's obvious, but in others not so much.

A thought-provoking book, but though short, it still didn't escape from being rather repetative at times. The first two chapters were definitely the best, and more or less everything in the rest of the book were expansions and elaborations of the topics raised there. I did appricate his chapter on authority though - even when we sorely dislike, or even disapprove of our head of state, God is still in charge. Who are we to say He didn't put that person in that position for a reason? He also made an excellent argument for why a wife submitting to her husband doesn't necessarily mean that she has to obey him, but merely that she has to respect him. Interesting thoughts.
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Title: The Witches
Author: Roald Dahl
Genre: Childrens
Rating: 4/5
# pages: 200
Date read: September 2010

When the narrator's parents die in a car crash on page two, he is taken in by his cigar-smoking Norwegian grandmother, who has learned a storyteller's respect for witches and is wise to their ways.

The bond between the boy and his grandmother becomes the centerpiece of the tale--a partnership of love and understanding that survives even the boy's unfortunate transformation into a mouse. And once the two have teamed up to outwitch the witches, the boy's declaration that he's glad he's a mouse because he will now live only as long as his grandmother is far more poignant than eerie.

I remembered this book as being an amusing read, and was surprised to find that it's actually part horror! Well, horror for kids anyway, and phrased in such a way that it never struck me as particularly horrific as a child. The main character is turned into a mouse? Well, he doesn't mind, so why should I?

Roald Dahl definitely understands how to address children, and his books are probably the type that work best either when read as a kid or read to a kid.

I saw the movie version of this when it first came out, but remember absolutely nothing of it, so couldn't say how true to the book it is.
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Title: Shadow Souls
Author: L.J. Smith
Genre: Paranormal
Rating: 3/5
# pages: 480
Date read: September, 2010

Elena Gilbert is once again at the centre of magic and danger beyond her imagining. And once more, Stefan isn't there to help! Elena is forced to trust her life to Damon, the handsome but deadly vampire who wants Elena, body and soul. They must journey to the slums of the Dark Dimension, a world where vampires and demons roam free, but humans must live as slaves of their supernatural masters. Damon's brother, the brooding vampire Stefan whom Elena loves, is imprisoned here, and Elena can only free him by finding the two hidden halves of the key to his cell. Meanwhile, the tension between Elena and Damon mounts until Elena is faced with a terrible decision: which brother does she really want to be with?

I was gratified to see that most of my complaints about The Return, #1 didn't repeat themselves in this book. There was a lot more "meat" to the plot, and the characters slowly gained in complexity... actually, I think Matt got the shorter end of the stick here, since he was absent for so much of the book.

I rather liked the Dark Dimension, and seeing another part of Damon and Stephan's world. And I'm intrigued by the secrets everybody seems to be keeping.

It's become very obvious by now that these books are NOT meant to be read alone. There are strong links between the different books in the series, and while the cliff-hangers aren't quite as bad as in the original series (not this cliff-hanger anyway), they're still there, and there are a lot of issues still left open. I'm not curious enough that I'm rushing out to get hold of the next one, but I'd probably be happy enough to read it, should my publisher choose to send it my way.
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Title: Magic Steps
Author: Tamora Pierce
Genre: Fantasy, YA
Rating: 3.5/5
# pages: Audiobook ~6hrs
Date read: September, 2010

Lady Sandrilene fa Toren knows all about unusual magic - she herself spins and weaves it like thread. But when she witnessed a boy dancing a spell, even she is confounded. To her dismay, Sandry learns that as the mage who discovered the power of the young dancer, she must be his teacher.

Before lessons can begin, however, Sandry and her uncle, Duke Vedris, get news of a mysterious murderer stalking a clan of local merchants. The killer employs the strangest magic of all: the ability to reduce essence to nothingness. As the murders mount and the killer grows bolder, Sandry's teaching takes on a grave purpose. For it becomes clear to everyone that the killings can only be stopped by the combined workings of two people: the young teacher and her even younger student.

Tamora Pierce's Circle books definitely aren't as good as those set in Tortall, but she's still an amazing story-teller, so even her weaker books are still well worth reading. My main problem with the Circle Opens quartet, is that they all only focus on one of the four kids, and I inevitably miss the other three and especially the way they interact with each other.

With this half-fantasy, half-murder mystery (although not very mysterious, as the reader knows who the antagonist is from a very early stage), Tamora Pierce tries to take her series in a new direction, which mostly works although I do think there's a bit too much gore and violence for the target age.
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Title: Chart Throb
Author: Ben Elton
Genre: Fiction
Rating: 3.5/5
# pages: 464
Date read: September, 2010

Chart Throb - the ultimate pop quest. Ninety-five thousand hopefuls. Three judges. Just one winner. And that is Calvin Simms, the genius behind the show. Calvin always wins because Calvin writes the rules.

But this year, as he sits smugly in judgment upon the clingers and blingers whom he has preselected in his carefully scripted "search" for a star, he has no idea that the rules are changing. The "real" is about to be put back into "reality" television, and Calvin and his fellow judges (the nation's favorite mom and the other guy) are about to become "ex-factors" themselves. Ben Elton returns to blistering comic satire with a vengeance in this no-holds-barred competition. One winner. A whole bunch of losers. Crazed, no-talent, fame junkies . . . and those are just the judges.

Chart Throb is very much like Dead Famous (also by Ben Elton) in that it takes a reality TV phenomenon to its logical extreme. In Dead Famous "Big Brother" came under scrutiny - here it is "X-Factor" and that ilk. Just like while reading Dead Famous I was kept fascinated throughout the book, could hardly put it down (read it in less than 24 hours in fact), yet felt uncomfortably like a voyeur while reading it... which I suspect was the purpose.

Chart Throb had very few likeable characters, and I was occasionally annoyed to be more or less manipulated into feeling sorry for the most unsympathetic characters... yet I could actually easily believe that such characters exist. I got a good laugh out of reading about HRH, The Prince of Wales though, and although I greatly had to suspend my disbelief for it to work, I thought it was a nice touch.

The main problem with reading Chart Throb and Blind Faith back to back was that I noticed a lot of phrases and ideas being reused. While "Love you big time" and "I'll big you up" sounds completely plausible in a future society, here it just sounded fake. (And what is up with this fascination with Wuthering Heights? From Babysitter's Club to Twilight, it's held in great esteem by everybody, and I feel tricked, because personally I think it's one of the worst books I've ever read!)
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Title: Esio Trot
Author: Roald Dahl
Genre: Childrens
Rating: 3/5
# pages: 62
Date read: September 2010, September 2011

A tender story of authentic love between two elderly people, Mr. Silver and Mr. Hoppy, and nothing less than 140 turtles.

Another childhood discovery. Not too bad, but not amazing either. I can definitely see what attracted me to it when I first read it at age 10, but unlike many of Roald Dahl's other books, it really doesn't offer much to the adult reader. I AM glad he thought to tell us what happened to Alfie though, as that was one thing I was actually wondering about.
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Title: Blind Faith
Author: Ben Elton
Genre: Dystopian
Rating: 3/5
# pages: 367
Date read: September, 2010

Imagine a world where everyone knows everything about everybody. Where what a person "feels" and "truly believes" is protected under the law, while what is rational, even provable is condemned as heresy. A world where to question ignorance and intolerance is to commit a Crime against Faith, and where a desire for privacy is an admission of guilt.

A modernized version of 1984, although not quite up to the same literary standards. However, being the plebeian that I am ( ;-) ) I may just prefer this novel.

The society described was absolutely ludicrous, although at the same time scarily plausible with the fast growth of blogging sites, twitter, facebook etc. That said, the universe-building was absolutely the strength of this book. The plot was rather thin, and mostly there to support the universe rather than the other way around. I would often gasp incredulously at the oddities described, but figure that the plot itself will quickly be forgotten. Ben Elton does know how to write fascinating books though, so I consider myself well entertained by it.
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Title: Nightfall
Author: L.J. Smith
Genre: Paranormal
Rating: 2.5
# pages: 512
Date read: September, 2010

Elena Gilbert is alive - again. When Elena sacrificed herself to save the two vampire brothers who love her she was consigned to a fate beyond death. Until a powerful supernatural force pulled her back. Now Elena is not just human. She has powers. What's more, her blood pulses with a unique force that makes her irresistible to any vampire. Both brothers still want Elena to be theirs, but something bigger and more powerful than all of them may want her more.

I'm not sure what it says about a book when my first thought was, "Well, it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be", but The Struggle is still definitely the worst book in this series/spin-off series.

I actually rather liked the concept of a possessed vampire, and thought Damon was exceptionally intriguing. Elena still annoys me though. She is so two-dimensional. Bonnie and Meredith are both much more interesting characters who get far too little page-time. And Mrs. Flowers! I knew there was more to her than met the eye! Now I need to read the next book - if for no other reason, then to see what happens to her!
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Title: The Saturdays (Melendy Family #1)
Author: Elizabeth Enright
Genre: Childrens
Rating: 3/5
# pages: 158
Date read: September, 2010

Meet the Melendys! Mona, the eldest, is thirteen. She has decided to become an actress and can recite poetry at the drop of a hat. Rush is twelve and a bit mischievous. Miranda is ten and a half. She loves dancing and painting pictures. Oliver is the youngest. At six, he is a calm and thoughtful person. They all live with their father, who is a writer, and Cuffy, their beloved housekeeper. This first story of the Melendy's takes place in New York City and tells how the children join together to make Saturday afternoons a time to have fun.

I had this recommended to me because I loved the Gone-Away Lake books so much. I'm glad, because The Saturdays is an adorable tale, that I'd be glad to read to my kids some day. I didn't find it quite as charming as Gone Away Lake, as I felt it lacked some of the magic of that series, although I wouldn't doubt that nostalgia has something to do with it as well.

The book is somewhat aged, which especially is apparent in the childrens' outings. I'm not sure I'd let a 10-year-old walk through NYC by herself (I didn't get how far it was, but more than just around the block, which would be different), and the reaction to a 13-year-old coming home with a manicure and red fingernails would have been very over the top today.

I think I'll want to read the rest eventually, but I'm in no rush to get them out of the library right away.
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Title: Michael Laudrups tænder (Michael Laudrup's Teeth)
Author: Majse Njor & Camilla Stockmann
Genre: Non-fiction
Rating: 4/5
# pages: 256
Date read: September, 2010

Can you get to know a stranger without ever meeting her?

The answers are in Camilla Stockmann and Majse Njor's e-mail correspondance, which took place during the year Majse was on maternity leave and Camilla worked late.

There's absolutely no plot here. It's simply the e-mail correspondance of two women during one year of their lives. They start out as strangers, but slowly open up to each other, and start sharing funny, embarrassing and poignant stories about their lives.

I had the book recommended by a friend, and it really struck a chord with me, as over the years I've made a LOT of friends whom I only know through their words and have never met - yet I'd consider them among my closest friends. It's a very 'authentic' book, and I really enjoyed getting to know Camilla and Majse through their emails. It's a different sort of feel-good book, and I greatly enjoyed it.
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Title: The Twits
Author: Roald Dahl
Genre: Childrens
Rating: 2.5/5
# pages: 96
Date read: September, 2010

Mr. and Mrs. Twit hate everything, including their trained monkeys, the Muggle-Wumps, who now want revenge.

I vaguely recall rather enjoying this book as a child, but have to admit that it does not pass the test of time. Or rather, I still see what appealled to me as a kid, but it's actually the exact same things that I no longer like about it. It's really gross and full of 'come-uppance', which was totally deserved, but got a bit old to read about.
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Title: Briar's Book (The Healing in the Vines)
Author: Tamora Pierce
Genre: YA, fantasy
Rating: 7/10
# pages: 221
Date read: April 2008, September 2010


Summary: The stunning conclusion to the Circle of Magic quartet finds the young mages Sandry, Daja, Tris, and Briar facing their greatest challenge yet... a devastating plague that is sweeping Emelan.

Review: Tamora Pierce has learned her lesson and stopped trying to write from too many points of view at the same time, which is definitely a good thing. Otherwise I'm not too impressed by this one as the plot is more or less non-existant... or perhaps it's just the one I remembered the best.

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Title: Daja's Book (The Fire in the Forging)
Author: Tamora Pierce
Genre: Fantasy, YA
Rating: 9/10
# pages: 194
Date read: April 2008, September 2010


Summary: When Daja was cast out of the Trader community, she made her own family with her fellow mages-in-training. But when danger faces the Traders, it is up to Daja to save the people who turned her away.

Review: From the worst in the series, to the best in the series, this one is definitely my favourite. I think this is better written than the others, probably because Tamora Pierce doesn't try to do as much and keep tract of as many different plot lines in this one. I enjoy reading about Daja's interaction with the traders and her work with metals and fire fascinates me.

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Title: Tris's Book (The Power in the Storm)
Author: Tamora Pierce
Genre: Fantasy, YA
Rating: 7/10
# pages: 208
Date read: April 2008, September 2010


Summary: Four elements of power. Four children to control them. Alliances are tested, friendships forged and betrayed, and pirate queens fought in this second installment of the Circle of Magic quartet.

Review: I think this is my least favourite in the Circle of Magic series. Not that it's not still good, but Tris has always been the one of the four I was the least interested in. The book also seemed rather rushed, but I think that may be a general thing for the entire series, and not just this book in particular.

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Title: Sandry's Book (The Magic in the Weaving)
Author: Tamora Pierce
Genre: Fantasy, YA
Rating: 8/10
# pages: 223
Date read: April 2008, September 2010


Summary: Here begins the tale of Daja, Briar, Tris, and Sandry, four children brought to Winding Circle Temple for training in crafts and magic. They are outcasts in their homeland. But in this magical place, they are valued and respected for their special powers.

Review: The Circle books are obviously aimed at a younger audience than most of Tamora Pierce's other books. Nothing wrong with that, it's just a good thing to be aware of before reading the series.

I did enjoy the book though, even though it was pretty much an introduction to the universe more than actual plot. I wonder why Tamora Pierce managed to do that so well in Alanna but not so much here? Probably because she tried to tell the story from too many viewpoints at once, instead of just sticking to one of them as she does in the later books.

But despite any misgivings, Tamora Pierce's writing is still magical enough that she draws me in completely. There are few books by her that I can comfortably put down before having finished.

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