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Gay Lit (24) New!
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Classics 
Behn, Aphra - Oroonoko: or, the Royal Slave
Brontė, Charlotte - Jane Eyre 
Forster, E.M. - Maurice 
Hammett, Dashiell - The Maltese Falcon
Hawthorne, Nathaniel - The House of the Seven Gables
Hellman, Lillian - The Children's Hour
Kopit, Arthur - Oh dad, poor dad, mamma's hung you in the closet and i'm feelin' so sad 
Lawrence, D.H. - Lady Chatterley's Lover 
Shaw, G.B. - Pygmalion 
Stevenson, Robert Louis - The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde 
Stoker, Bram - Dracula 
Vidal, Gore - The City and the Pillar
Wilde, Oscar - Lady Windermere's Fan 
Wilde, Oscar - The Picture of Dorian Gray 

Gay Lit 
Beaven, Derek - Newton's Niece New!
Forster, E.M. - Maurice
Hansen, Joseph - Fadeout (1st Brandstetter) 
Hansen, Joseph - Death Claims (2nd Brandstetter) 
Hansen, Joseph - Troublemaker (3rd Brandstetter) 
Hansen, Joseph - The Man Everyone Was Afraid of (4th Brandstetter)
Hansen, Joseph - Skinflick (5th Brandstetter)
Hansen, Joseph - Gravedigger (6th Brandstetter) 
Hansen, Joseph - Nightwork (7th Brandstetter) 
Hansen, Joseph - The Little Dog Laughed (8th Brandstetter)  
Hansen, Joseph - Early Graves (9th Brandstetter) New!
Hansen, Joseph - Obedience (10th Brandstetter) New!
Hellman, Lillian - The Children's Hour
Isherwood, Christopher - A Single Man 
Leavitt, David - While England Sleeps 
Kluger, Steve - Almost Like Being in Love 
Kushner, Ellen - Swordspoint 
Maupin, Armistead - Tales of the City 
McCauley, Stephen - The Object of My Affection 
Renault, Mary - Fire from Heaven 
Sanchez, Alex - Rainbow Boys 
Sutcliffe, William - New Boy 
Vidal, Gore - The City and the Pillar 
Wilde, Oscar - The Picture of Dorian Gray

Detective Stories
Auster, Paul - The New York Trilogy 
Butcher, Jim - Storm Front (1st Dresden)
Butcher, Jim - Fool Moon (2nd Dresden)
Butcher, Jim - Grave Peril (3rd Dresden) 
Butcher, Jim - Summer Knight (4th Dresden)
Butcher, Jim - Death Masks & Blood Rites (5th & 6th Dresden) 
Cornwell, Patricia - Post-Mortem 
Hammett, Dashiell - The Maltese Falcon 
Hansen, Joseph - Fadeout (1st Brandstetter)
Hansen, Joseph - Death Claims (2nd Brandstetter)
Hansen, Joseph - Troublemaker (3rd Brandstetter)
Hansen, Joseph - The Man Everyone Was Afraid of (4th Brandstetter) 
Hansen, Joseph - Skinflick (5th Brandstetter)
Hansen, Joseph - Gravedigger (6th Brandstetter)
Hansen, Joseph - Nightwork (7th Brandstetter)
Hansen, Joseph - The Little Dog Laughed (8th Brandstetter)
Hansen, Jospeh - Early Graves New!
Hansen, Joseph - Obedience New!
Highsmith, Patricia - The Talented Mr Ripley
Leonard, Raymond - Legacy of the Shroud

Fantasy
Butcher, Jim - Storm Front (1st Dresden)
Butcher, Jim - Fool Moon (2nd Dresden)
Butcher, Jim - Grave Peril (3rd Dresden)
Butcher, Jim - Summer Knight (4th Dresden)
Butcher, Jim - Death Masks & Blood Rites (5th & 6th Dresden)
Kushner, Ellen - Swordspoint 
Pullman, Philip - The Golden Compass
Pullman, Philip - The Subtle Knife New!
Pullman, Philip - The Amber Spyglass New!
Stroud, Jonathan - The Amulet of Samarkand (The Bartimaeus Trilogy 1) 

Other
Bryson, Bill - A Short History of Nearly Everything
Herman, Didi - Rights of Passage: Struggles for Lesbian and Gay Legal Equality - Non-Fiction 

Paul Auster - The New York Trilogy
I needed to read this for one of my classes, otherwise I probably wouldn't have read it. As the title suggests, it contains three stories, playing in New York and always connected to detective work.

The first, City of Glass, left me feeling extremely desolate and melancholic. And I don't like books like that. I need a happy or at least hopeful ending and here neither of that happens. Doesn't help either that the protagonist is a very passive character, who a lot of stuff just happens to without him deciding anything. I really don't like characters like him.

Then there is the fact that the whole story seems totally senseless, or rather the case the protagonist is working on seems senseless. I can't really explain without giving too much away, but the ending of the story left me decidedly unsatisfied.

Of course, the book also has its good points. The character interaction, especially between the detective and the person he is following is brilliant and the whole case itself is very interesting and raises some very arguable questions.

It's basically about a quest of the guy who is being followed to find the true language of god. He tried this before by totally isolating his son from when he was a small kid, causing him to not be able to speak or think or function properly, even 13 years after he has been freed.

The detective has the job of following the father around after he is released from prison and becomes totally obsessed with the case. The description of what the son went through was extremely chilling, especially as the author brings other examples of things like that actually happening.

Then there is the second story, Ghosts, and I can't make head or tails of it. It's about a detective who takes on a case of watching a man from across the street. The man does nothing but write and occasionally go out for shopping etc. At the same time the man he is supposed to be watching also watches him and sees the same: a man writing reports and occasionally going out.

The whole story seems like one big loop with everything having already happened, happening at the moment and being written about. Extremely confusing and that is all I can say about it at the moment.

The third one, The Locked Room, threw me totally for the loop. In it it becomes obvious that the three stories are connected and showing "the same story, only with a different awareness". Almost teared my hair out, trying to decipher that one.

In terms of interest, however, I found that last one the most interesting. And it has at least a hopeful ending. It's about the narrator finding out that an old school-friend of his disappeared and left behind his wife and baby. He is then supposed to help the wife sort through heaps of manuscripts and help her publish them. It covers the whole history of their friendship and has really very interesting characterisations. If it just wouldn't confuse me so much!
 
Derek Beaven - Newton's Niece New!
This book has a very similar premise to Virgina Woolf's Orlando, but elaboartes more exactly on the topics that are missing there. It's about Isaac Newton's niece Kit, who used to be a boy but then was turned into a girl when she 14 due to an experiment of her uncle's. The book explains her life story until the present and the problems facing her when she becomes aware of the fact that she cannot accept intimacies from a man, but rather always looks for these in a woman. Difficult to do in the late 17th/ early 18th century.

It's simply a perfect development of character, from a confused, relatively innocent young girl to a decisive, though reclusive woman. At the beginning she puts down questions to herself and revisits them close to the end of the book and it just shows her development of her character and of her awareness perfeclty.

The beginning is a bit confusing and difficult to understand, but that quickly changes when we get to Kit's backstory instead of her present life.

One thing I wasn't so happy about was the indecisiveness concerning her feelings for females: does it exist because she used to be a boy? or is she a "true" lesbian? On one hand, the confusion was clearly Kit's and due to her strange situation as well as a product of the time she lived in, but I would have wished for a bit mor clarification, perhaps at the end where the times have changed. All in all, I would actually have liked to see more about the way Kit had to adopt to the changed times. By the times she writes this down, all the events are at least 10 years in the past, and I really think there is a bit of a missing link betweent the person who writes the events down and the person who lived the events.

What was done incredibly well, however, is the display of the struggle against the unconscious cruelty of men from a unique perspective. The common way in way rape was treated, just something that men were entitled to and women had damn well to enjoy or at least tolerate, without a word lost about it afterwards and behaviour as if it hadn't happened or as if it wasn't important. The acceptance of things being the way they are because they are and no concept of the possibility that things even *could* be different made me clench my teeth - I know why I can't read too many books like this in a row, I'd have a heart attack by the time I'm 30.

For example, Kit tries to open an academy for young women, where they could learn without having to rely on male relatives teaching them is shot down quickly, while men can write papers on the most ridiculous ideas and still be taken for a genius.

Aphra Behn - Oroonoko: or, the Royal Prince
Very short book (only 80 pages), playing in the 17th century. Prince Oroonoko is established as a very noble man, but is tricked and sold as a slave. When he gets to Surinam, he finds out that his mistress (wife?) has been sold there as well even though he thought she was dead. Of course, the happiness of that doesn't last long in the face of the fact that he is bound to stay at the plantation even though his owner promised him he could get free once the governor arrived.

On one hand I found the book extremely interesting, for one in the desrciption, which Aphra Behn knew quite a bit about as she had been to Surinam herself, but also in the possibility to see the underlying assumptions and ideas about the order of the world from an insider, so to speak.

On the other hand, there were several times where the casual way of treating humans like animals and the portrait of Prince Oroonoko made me want to throw the book against a wall.

At first I was very surprised than an African in that time could be described as anything but a savage, but in the end I think the absolute way in which Oroonoko was integrated into the colonial society made it only worse. He didn't come across like an African, but like an English gentleman from whom you only had to strip the skin colour and you would have had your perfect human being.
He knew almost as much as if he had read much: He had heard of and admired the Romans: He had heard of the late Civil Wars in England, and the deplorable Death of our great Monarch; and would discourse of it with all the Sense and Abhorrence of the Injustice imaginable. He had an extreme good and graceful Mien, and all the Civility of a well-bred Great Man. He had nothing of Barbarity in his Nature, but in all Points address'd himself as if his Education had been in some European Court.
[...]
His Face was not of that brown rusty Black which most of that Nation are, but a perfect Ebony, or polished Jet. His Eyes were the most aweful that could be seen, and very piercing; the White of 'em being like Snow, as were his Teeth. His Nose was rising and Roman, instead of African and flat: His Mouth the finest shaped that could be seen; far from those great turn'd Lips, which are so natural to the rest of the Negroes. The whole Proportion and Air of his Face was so nobly and exactly form'd, that bating his Colour, there could be nothing in Nature more beautiful, agreeable and handsome.
[...]
his Discourse was admirable upon almost any Subject: and whoever had heard him speak, would have been convinced of their Errors, that all fine Wit is confined to the white Men, especially to those of Christendom; and would have confess'd that Oroonoko was as capable even of reigning well, and of governing as wisely, had as great a Soul, as politick Maxims, and was as sensible of Power, as any Prince civiliz'd in the most refined Schools of Humanity and Learning, or the most illustrious Courts.
[Behn: Oroonoko, or The Royal Slave, S. 13. Digitale Bibliothek Band 59: English and American Literature, S. 2763 (vgl. Behn-Works vol. 5, S. 135-6)]
Of course, considering the time, I think that was already pretty much, especially if you consider the way Oroonoko was treated by some of the white people around him. They think they treated him with the reverence he deserved, but I still had the feeling that they were always looking upon him like a cute pet or child. 'Oh, isn't it adorable how one of those wild little beasts can speak so civilly and actually act like he belongs! And he probably even thinks as a prince he is just as much worth as we are!'

What did surprise me very much where the criticisms Behn brought about the church. Not only does she mention that many native tribes might be much happier without introducing them to Christianity, but she also bases the whites' behaviour (which she doesn't approve as, as they deceit and lie to the prince) on them swearing in the name of god, whereas Oroonoko who 'only' has a very strict moral code, is much more truthful.
 
Charlotte Brontė - Jane Eyre 
God, I love this book.

Loved the characterisation of Jane, the plot and of course the happy ending.

I found it really refreshing to have such a headstrong, witty and at the same time sympathetic female character in a novel from that time. I really enjoyed that she didn't submit to every male's whims around her. Even when she is in love with Edward or under the influence of John, I still always had the feeling that her stubborn and outspoken nature would come out again.

Throughout, I really liked the plot except for one little bit towards the end which I found a bit... convenient. Who has read the book probably knows what I'm talking about, for the others I don't want to spoil the surprise.
 
Bill Bryson - A Short History of Nearly Everything
The book is simply brilliant. Funny, thoughtful, interesting, informative, easy to understand, chilling. A rough guide to science since the beginning of the universe, covering lots and lots of sciences: astronomy, geology, biology, chemistry and physics are only the most well-known ones.

I adore Bill Bryson, so it's no surprise that I found his style once more simply fabulous. He has a way of taking the most boring subject on earth and still pulls the most interesting things out of it. And even the things that are not as interesting are still pleasant to read. Now just imagine what he does with interesting subjects!

Especially well-done was, in my opinion, that he didn't just focus on what certain scientists did, but also on the life of those scientists (absolutely affirming my decision not to study anything in that area, because there is way too much backstabbing going on), on the strange little things that make even genii human.

I also now know more possibilities of the human race being obliterated any moment than I ever thought possible. No matter if it's the impact of a meteorite, the explosion of a super-volcano under Yellowstone National Park, the rising of sea-levels, the advance of a new ice age or the simple cycle of extinction and re-forming of new life, it could basically happen any moment and in many cases we wouldn't even notice until it was too late.

Bryson also has a particular gift for making the most unimaginable feats or numbers accessible to our imagination.
If you imagine the 4,500 million years of Earth's history compressed into a normal earthly day, then life begins very early, about 4 a.m., with the rise of the first simple single-cell organisms, but then advances no further for the next sixteen hours. Not until almost eight-thirty in the evening, with the day five-sixths over, has the Earth anything to show the universe but a restless skin of microbes. Then, finally, the first sea plants appear, followed twenty minutes later by the first jellyfish [...] Just before 10 p.m. plants begin to pop up on the land. So far, with less than two hours left in the day, the first land creatures follow. [...] Dinosaurs plod onto the scene just before 11 p.m. and hold sway for three-quarters of an hour. At twenty-one minutes to midnight they vanish and the age of mammals begins. Humans emerge one minute and seven-teen seconds before midnight. (p.408-9)
And now the other extreme:
To built the most basic yeast cell, for example, you would have to miniaturize about the same number of components as are found in a Boing 777 jetliner and fit them into a sphere just 5 microns across; then somehow you would have to persuade that sphere to reproduce. (p. 451)
For anybody interested in the basics of science, but unwilling to wade through dry descriptions and even drier theories this is the perfect book. Everything in it is annotated, so if you find something that particularly interests you, you can find further reading material, but at least already have some basic information. Not to mention all the small tidbits of interesting science you find. For example, did you know that when a man often thinks about sex, his beard grows faster? I didn't.
 
Jim Butcher - Storm Front
Harry Dresden, a wizard investigator is called to a case where Black Magic is obviously used to kill people brutally. Harry has to find out what happened, if not to help his friend Murphy from the police, than to prove to the White Council that it wasn't him who committed the crimes.

Absolutely brilliant thriller, with a nice mix of action, magic and catastrophes. It's only the first of six books, so I have a nice stack to fall back on and I definitely will fall back on them. Surprising twists and turns, exciting scenes, witty dialogue and *not* a black and white picture of magic and the wolrd around us. Couldn't put it down for the last few chapters and even though you know that Harry will come out all right, not one moment of boredom.

Despite that Harry is a wizard he is not all-powerful, but has his funny quirks and problems with modern life, like the fact that no electrical equipment works around him and the elevator and his car regularly die on him. Very entertaining, just like his dry sense of humour and strange past that is revealed slowly (and still isn't clear at the end of book one, obviously).

Jim Butcher - Fool Moon
God, I love these books.

Okay, this one is about werewolves that are loose in Chicago, wreaking havoc and murdering everything in sight. Very interesting take on the different kinds of werewolves: some that turn due to their own will, due to somebody else's will, due to an amulet they need and due to a curse.

I was once again hooked by the third chapter as the author really manages to heap one catastrophe after the other on the protagonist and those dear to him and there seems absolutely no way out.

Not to mention that I like the protagonist, wizard private investigator Harry Dresden, more and more the more I get to know him. Very dry sense of humour, with a few weaknesses that make him likeable. And sometimes just make me want to club him over the head.
 
Jim Butcher - Grave Peril
Oh, oh. It's brilliant, but also darker.

Harry seems to have to fight every supernatural bad-ass in Chicago. At once. No matter if they're tortured ghosts, possessive daemons, his godmother or hungry vampires. Not enough that his friends (and the family of one of his friends) are targeted, he has to solve the case in a run against time, with some of his magic lost and I don't even know what else.

Extremely exciting and amazing how he gets out of seemingly deadly situations. Don't even remember how many times he almost dies in this one. Butcher is really brilliant at heaping more and more on his protagonist. Just when he pulls his head out of the snare, his feet or hands or neck get bound once more.

In this part of the series, it finally turns out that the two previous books weren't just unrelated incidents, but that somebody stood behind all this. And in the next books it just goes on. The first two books could have been unrelated cases, simply in the tradtion of detective novels, but with a wizard as detective. But in this one this changes. The case isn't solved with the end of the book. The detective isn't mostly unaffected by the case. The good guys don't always win. Very worried about what is going to happen in the next 3 books.

Jim Butcher - Summer Knight
With every book you think it can't get any worse. That is until you start the next in the Dresden series. In this one some of the story lines of the other three books get taken up again and, especially important, actually are resolved. Of course, new topics come up as well and will obviously be continued in the next books.

In the cover quotes this book is praised as the best in the series so far, but I don't really agree with that. I found the exposition sometimes a bit too much, especially the description of the faerie land. On the other hand, the characters are much more interesting, especially as we finally find out more about Harry's past. And we finally see more of the magical world and its structures and problems. Very interesting, just a bit lenghty at times. 

Jim Butcher - Death Masks & Blood Rites
Two in one this time. I really don't know what to say about the books anymore. They get more interesting with every book, we're getting to know more about Harry's past and the way the different groups in the magical world work. Not to mention Blood Rites has a puppy in it!

It's really interesting to see the concept of good and evil at work here. Harry himself is aware that there are many shades of grey, but he doesn't want to use the fact that he is one of the grey characters himself. He tries to mold himself to a white ideal, but it just doesn't work all the time. This theme is repeated quite nicely with Murphy, his Special Investigations friend, and Ebenezar, his mentor.

In Blood Rites it's really good to once more see Harry battling not with an apocalyptic problem, as he did in the three books before, but rather one that is much more dangerous to himself and those around him. Was quite relaxing compared to the more apocalyptic books.

Patricia Cornwell - Post-Mortem 
I have been reading this book for the last two weeks and the reason for that is not that it is extremely thick. Well, what to say... I found it interesting in the point that it explained the way police and medical examiners work - er perhaps a quick summary first: Kay Scarpetta works as a medical examiner on a case of single women being brutally raped and murdered and at the same time she comes under suspicion to leak information about the cases to the press. The cop she works with is misogynic and her niece is at her home, because her mother decided to get married.

So, it could have been absoultely fascinating, but unfortunately it only started to really become exciting after about 150-200 pages, which is a bit late in a book with less than 350 pages. Not to mention the fact that in my opinion the characters are simply too bland. Even the misogynic cop Kay works with has his moments (where I didn't want to bash his head in) and Kay herself, well, maybe it was meant to be, but I found her unprofessionalism very disconcerting. I can understand that it's hard for a medical examiner to stay objective during cases, especially cases that hit close to home, but going so far as to not wanting police officers and profilers to see the case files? Didn't sit well with me.

Otherwise, the ending was very intersting and you could even guess along with the characters what had actually happened. An okay book, but nothing to write home about, and certainly not comparable in tension with books by Joy Fielding etc.

E.M. Forster - Maurice 
This is a book I couldn't stop reading. Playing in 1912, it shows the changes in the protagonist (Maurice, of course) upon realising his feelings for a friend of his, starting a platonic relationship with him, that friend (Clive) breaking up with him when he realises he isn't homosexual after all, Maurice trying to cure himself of his feelings and finally falling in love with Alec.

The plot has certainly been done before, but I still found the book absolutely delicious. Especially considering it was written in 1914 (published in 1970 after the author's death), it of course offers a unique insight into the thinking of that period and on the thoughts on homosexuality (or being 'an unspeakable of the Oscar Wilde sort') that a novel written more recently and playing in that time probably couldn't give.

I especially enjoyed that contrary to (almost) every other literature from that time - and later - dealing with homosexuality, it ends happily and not with suicide. I can also recommend the movie.

Dashiell Hammett - The Maltese Falcon 
After reading The New York Trilogy for my class on detective novels, I was a bit wary about reading this one, but damn. This one was good. The language crisp, to the point. The characters interesting, the protagonist layered. And the plot intersting and keeping me glued to the pages.

After having only read mystery or detective novels with dotty old ladies, monsieurs with eccentric moustaches and witty Brits with a fable for opium, I was really surprised by how much I liked this. In contrast to the NYT, here the detective didn't get obsessed with the case; he didn't lose himself in the action and didn't suffer for life through this one case. It was really your typical 30s detective novel with lots of smoking, a seductive but unfaithful woman and men who don't show emotions and probably not even feel them.

The case itself is interesting for me as it's solution was based on historical circumstances (which I have no idea if they were true or not, but they sounded good) and I always love when something ties in with history.

Joseph Hansen - Fadeout 
A book that I have to read for class on detective novels, but certainly don't regret reading.

Back to the book: playing in the late 1960s, it follows the insurance detective Dave Brandstetter, trying to solve a case of a missing life insurance policy holder. Even after that part is cleared, Dave still stays on the case, trying to figure out everything that happened to the tragic ending of the life of Fox Olson.

I have to read this book to compare the, uncharacteristic of the genre, gay Dave Brandstetter with Hammett's, very straight, Sam Spade, so obviously my attention was focussed on how Dave's homosexuality influenced his detective work. Not much to say on that front, except that it's interesting that all the other gay characters that appear are so clearly stereotyped, and Dave isn't. He is just the nice guy from next door who only shows his harder qualities when he has to.

In comparision with Hammett's very macho character, Dave's emotions are much more a focal point of the novel, not only the detective work he does, which gives him a nice three-dimenionality that Spade certainly doesn't have. Because, let's be honest, Spade was the invention of the stereotyped chauvinist, cigarette smoking, women seducing, emotionally detached private investigator of the 30s and Dave reminds me much more of Columbo than a gun-owning PI. However, he certainly can hold his own in a fight and he isn't a little shining angel. Especially the last chapter makes that clear, which I still have to integrate into my theory about the characterisation of Spade and Brandstetter, but well...
  
Joseph Hansen - Death Claims
The second book in the Dave Brandstetter series.

And just as good as the first one. The mystery is once again nicely confusing, letting me think that I was on the same page as Dave during the first part of the investigations, until Dave's thought process runs off, never to be caught by me again. Although I did guess who the murderer was!

This story is about a mysterious death of a former well-off bookseller, who has had a bad accident and spends all his money (and that of his girlfriend) on hospital bills. Nobody is quite sure whether it was an accident, suicide or muder, but, of course, Dave finds out the truth. Usual confusing amount of suspects who all had reasons to do it, but in the end didn't do it. A few very nice twists in it as well.

And, of course, again an interesting perspective on Dave's life as a homosexual. He is not quite out of the closet (kind of difficult when sodomy is still outlawed, as the book plays in 1968), and currently working through problems with his partner of three months (whom he met in the last novel). Very interesting description of his emotional state, especially as all critics speak of these books as hard-boiled detective novels, but at the same time Dave is strangely emotional for that at some points, but at the same time typically clueless about his emotions and about the emotions of other people. I'm really looking forward to see how his character is developed in the next books.

Joseph Hansen - Troublemaker 
Third book in the Dave Brandstetter series, following Death Claims.

Dave investigates the murder of gay bar owner Rick and comes across plenty of suspects. Was it the guy who was found holding the gun that killed Rick or somebody else? His mother? His business partner? His father?

So far my favourite book in the series. Not only does it give an interesting insight into the LA gay scene in the late 1960s, but it also is more action filled than the two previous books.

And I like Dave much better in this one. He seems freer about his sexuality and doesn't just take slights against gays lying down. He calls suspects on their word choice of 'pervert' even when an unsympathetic police officer is in the room, his homosexuality becomes more interlinked with the job he does, but doesn't keep him from doing a good job.

It also becomes more obvious that there is homophobia in the world he lives in. In the first two books this was limited to a few slurs and a father kicking his son out for being gay, but now we get to know that Dave will probably lose his job when his father dies (his father is his boss) and that many men lost their jobs when they were caught as sex offenders (ie having sex with a man - sodomy laws in California weren't repealed until 1976).

On the other hands, it also finally shows the existence of a gay community/culture, not only individuals who happen to be gay.
 
Joseph Hansen - The Man Everyone Was Afraid of 
It once again follows the insurance investigator Dave Brandstetter when he tries to find out if the police chief who was killed in a smallish town in California was really killed by the gay activist that was arrested for it. Of course, over the course of the story it comes to light that the police chief didn't have quite as clean a record as his family wanted to believe.

And damn, but I think this one if my favourite books of the series so far. And it's not only the mystery which is engaging, but also the whole setting, characterisations and especially the continued insights you get into Dave's life and his relationships that make it a brilliant book to read.

IMO Hansen is simply a master of creating a setting that you can feel, hear and smell even without ever having been in California, all this with only a few words. I don't know how often I could imagine the scene Dave was looking at at the moment or smell the ocean as it was described. And this from a reader who usually pays little attention to the setting and only wants to get to the action already.

Then the characters. They all have their own motives without any of them just being there to have just one more suspect. They all have their role in the novel and even with the smallest roles there is still a feel to it as if Dave just stepped into their lives and as soon as he leaves it will go on as normal. They aren't just there waiting for their performance on stage only to disappear again, but even though they may never appear in the book again, they are still going on living somewhere in the background.

And it is simply so great to see that the detective has a life beyond his work. In this book he is constantly worried about his father who is in hospital and might not make it to the next day and at the same time he goes with his partner, Doug, to an old people's home to check Doug's mother in. Only small parts like this of his life that make it him so normal and that make it all the more interesting to read about him, because he doesn't just consist of his work.

I think I wrote in one my other reviews of the books that Dave somewhat reminded me of Columbo. And he does in his persistency, in his refusal to carry a gun, etc., but at the same time he is so much more, because we don't know shit about Columbo's life apart from the fact that he is married and has a dog. And it enriches the mystery novels so much to see the person behind the investigator.

And then of course Dave and his relationship with Doug. Already in the last novel it became obvious that not all was well for their relationship. Doug was totally focused on his senile mother, while Dave was off doing work, often not getting home at night etc. It was also implied that Doug was having an affair with a car mechanic and in this book, it finally came to light that the car mechanic wasn't the only one.

Of course, Dave isn't a total innocent either, but I think the only reason he is unfaithful is because he is simply sick of being tested by Doug on how far he can go. There are some other explanations for either of their actions as well, of course, but I'm not going to get into that now. Only so much: I said from the beginning when they met in book one that the relationship was doomed from the start and I'm actually amazed they stayed together so long.

Joseph Hansen - Skinflick 
I didn't enjoy this as much as the last one, but it was still really good. This time it's about a fanatic born again Christian being killed, apparently by the owner of a porn mag shop he has had problems with before before the guy thought it was okay to trash his shop etc. in his crusade against sin. You can imagine how much I enjoyed all the little things that even (and perhaps especially) born again Christians - at least the ones in the books, I try not to make generalisations; emphasis on try - do wrong.

Once more espcially enjoyed the way Dave's character was depicted. With every book there are new facets to his character the reader finds out about and while he certainly is not perfect, he is still a damn nice guy. And this was also one thing that was more prominent in this book. Usually Dave is one step ahead of his readers and seems to know more than he lets on, is seldom wrong in his accusatiosn etc. But this time he really was very wrong. At least for a long while. But as I said, I think that only makes him more interesting as a character.

Again, his relationships with the people around him - especially his father's latest widow - was very interesting and I was so happy to see a genuinely nice and likeable transvestite in this book. So far, I have only read about transvestites as charicatures or for comic relief, but this one felt right.

So, apart from the fact that Hansen totally messed up the timeline - the first three books take place in the late 60s and the last two in the late 70s with only 3 or 4 years having passed for the characters - a really good read.

Joseph Hansen - Gravedigger 
Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god. This one was by far the most exciting so far. And also the cutest.

It's about Dave trying to find out if a man who has money problems, is trying to screw the insurance company he works for. Of course, it's not quite as easy as that, as the man who filled the claim suddenly disappears and Dave also has some problems to solve in his personal life.

And all of it is just so brilliant in the book! First of all the case: It's exciting, it's gruesome (but not guresome enough to give me nightmares) and at the same time so simple and confusing. Simply brilliant. I was almost speed reading at the end and I usually am an extremely slow reader. I just wanted to scream right at the end, because the books just finishes when not everything is really solved. I mean, yeah, you can imagine that everything will turn out all right (and in fact I checked out the summary of the next book to see if the person survives), but at the moment the book stops, he is still lying there bleeding with an ambulance miles away. God.

And then the personal life of Dave takes a very nice turn. :D The guy he had a short affair with two books (or 1 1/2 years) ago turns up again and they actually start a relationship. Before that he wasn't allowed because he was under 21 and his big brother thought his gayness was just a phase. *rolles eyes* But they make such a cute couple! :D And then there is this other guy who tries to break them up, because he thinks he is god's gift to humankind and when Dave tells him to go fuck himself instead of him fucking Dave, he does something to get Dave's new partner into trouble and gah! It was just brilliant from page one to 172.
 
Joseph Hansen - Nightwork 
Seventh book of the Dave Brandstetter series, but the first one I read without having to be on the lookout for info for my term paper, so I was able to enjoy the whole book a bit differently.

I thought it was interesting to see a story that does not focus as much on problems in the gay 'community' as the prvious books did. Apart from Dave and Cecil there is barely a gay character in sight. And while I very much enjoyed the books focussing more on gays, I simply think it's good to also see Dave confronted with different characters and different probelms. Which is most noticably racism, unemplyoment and ecologically irresponsible people.

I still am ad odds with Hansen's time line, however. And I'm a stickler for time lines and maths, so this annoys me some extent. As far as I can see, the first books played in the late 60s. Rod had just died. A few months after that Dave got together with Doug and they stayed together for about three to four years. Then they broke up and Dave was alone for about one a half years. Then he got together with Cecil and has been with him for a few months in this book. Makes about six years, right?

Well, Dave says it's been 12 years and the references indicate that it's probably the late 70s/early 80s in the seventh book. I could just overlook that if Hansen didn't mention in every book how much time has passed since the last one. But well, I'll live with it.

Joseph Hansen - The Little Dog Laughed 
Again I was very surprised (pleasantly) at the more socially critical tone of the book. Hansen is not only focusing on the problems of gays, but also those of other minority groups and other political issues. Very interesting plot.

Especially the personla life of Dave and his relationship with Cecil was very present throughout the whole book. Actually his provate life has started to be more interesting for me than the mystery parts.

Two things I have to mention in that regard. For one, I find it incredibly sad that there are only four more books. In every book it becomes more clear that Dave is no longer the relatively young man of the first books, but I so do not want to see him die! Wah! I like Dave. I want him to live  happily forever  after together with Cecil in their strange house that actually consists of three and that sounds like I just want to move in. And the really bad thing is that Cecil is 25 or 30 years younger than Dave and so he'll be left alone when Dave dies and it's so sad and I do not want the series to end!

Apart from my separation anxieties, there also something happened that I really, really need to see how it works out in the next books. Because Cecil married a girl in this book. It's only to keep her out of the custody of her mother who wants her in her custody because of the money her father left her and she wants to spend it on booze and drugs, so it's not love or anything, but I still want to see how Dave and Cecil cope with that strain.
 
Joseph Hansen - Early Graves New!
I haven't read any of the series in a while, so I had almost forgotten how good they are.

Good god. This time it's about Dave investigating a serial killer who stabs young AIDS victims. The last of the victims was found in front of his house, so obviously Dave is too curious to keep his nose out of it. :)

And he and Cecil are on the outs. *wails* They make such an almost perfect couple and Cecil has to go any marry a girl to save her from her money hungry moher. And doesn't tell her it's only to protect her, but that he is in fact with Dave. No, he lets her believe he isn't hurting anybody with his behaviour. *grumble*

The case is once more brilliant and exciting and I really liked the atmosphere. Well, perhaps not liked. It sent shivers down my back. But it was brilliantly done.

Also really enjoyed that characters from some of the earliest books are coming back. I love to see what has happened to them, so that was good. Contrary to many other detective novels where the characters just live in a vacuum, or only meeting cardbord characters so they have some kind of interaction.

However, what I really don't like is how Dave is getting old. He is in his mid-sixties now and I know that there are only three more books left and then I'm through! Wah. Not good. This is one of those series where I just wish it would go on and on and on. *sigh* Well, nothing to be done about it. After all I can take comfort in rereading them once I'm done.
 
 
Joseph Hansen - Obedience New!
Third to last book of the series and an interesting one. Dave investigates in the murder of a Vietnamese importeur and things get quite hot when he tries to find out what the family is hiding and why some 'colleagues' of the murdered would like to see him dead as well. Even though I'm usually not a fan of detective stories dealing with smuggle, this one was good in that respect as it didn't only focus only on that, but also on the culture clash resulting family problems.

Actually, at the beginning of the book Dave was sure that he would never take on a case again, until his life-long lawyer asks for a favour from him. Cecil is, of course, not happy about this. In fact, I'd have liked to see more about the problems this caused between Dave and Cecil, but those scenes where usually cut short, with Dave falling asleep because he had been out the whole day chasing the bad guys.

I'm really interested to see how the two cope with that in the next two cases.
 
Nathaniel Hawthorne - The House of the Seven Gables 
I really like reading Hawthorne. At first the narration seems to be too focused on description (lots of it), so I got abit antsy as I didn't have that much time, but after a while I couldn't put it down. It is about the house and the family connected with it. Before the house was built, the land it stood on belonged to an alleged wizard and in order to get the ground, the patriarch of the family stole it from the wizard. Since then the family has been cursed with unhappiness and early death.

Some very interesting characters, a fascinating New England setting and I'm happy. 

Lillian Hellman - The Children's Hour 
Damn, this one made me angry. Perfectly shows how one vindictive, spiteful, petty, spoilt child can destroy the lives of four people. Actually that child, Mary, very much eminded my Dudley.

For some reason she hates the two teachers (Karen and Martha) of her boarding school and when she overhears Martha and her aunt arguing and Martha's aunt accusing Martha of having 'improper' feelings for Karen, she blows it totally out of proportion and runs to her grandma to get them into trouble. She makes up a story about seeing the two fo them kissing - this plays in 1934, mind you - and the grandma makes sure that all the other girls are taken out of the boarding school and the two teachers are ruined.

And even though I knew what was happening from the beginning on because we had talked about this play in class, I couldn't put it down. The problem with this play is that for Martha the accusations are actually true. And on another hand if the two teachers actually had been behaving indecently in front of the girls (I'm not talking about in their own rooms, but where they could be seen), then I suppose it was right to make sure that everybody knew about it. But IMO the same would be true for a heterosexual couple if they were leading a school.

Am very confused about my emotional response to this and before I finally understand all the little bits and pieces that combine my opinion about this play, I'll probably have to read it a few more time. 

Didi Herman - Rights of Passage: Struggles for Lesbian and Gay Legal Equality
  1. Introduction
  2. Lesbian/Gay/Citizen
  3. The Politics of Liberal Equality
  4. Beyond the Rights Debate
  5. "Normalcy on the Defensive": New Christian Right Sexual Politics
  6. The Saints Go Litigaiting
  7. Judges and Experts
  8. Afterword: Mossop and Beyond
Very political look at the struggle for gay rights in Canada. Mainly focuses on achieving equal protection under amendements including sexual orientation in Human Rights Acts. Specifially focuses on Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Intresting general introduction, but focuses very much on one specific case, Bill 7 in Ontario. Quite radical point of view.

Patricia Highsmith - The Talented Mr Ripley
Another one of the books I have to read for my class on detective novels.

And at first I thought this one was the most boring of all of them. Fortunately the plot finally picked up around page 90 and from then on I couldn't put it down. It's interesting to see the contrast between this and the other two books which are written from the perspective of the detective and not the murderer.

I found the whole hide and seek game interesting and especially the philosophy Tom has about life. It doesn't matter so much what your face and body look like, but much more the way you move, talk, dress etc. that bring out a different person and attitude in you.

Christopher Isherwood - A Single Man 
Very short book, describing one day in the life of George, a just past middle-age college professor in the 1960s, who just lost his partner of two decades, Jim.

Very quirky and ironic, but also sad and honest.

The style is very different from what I have read before and if people finally want to read about a character that actually uses the toilet, this is the perfect book for you. It goes into great detail of the character's emotions and thoughts, even if they are unrelated, but that makes it feel incredibly real.

The book is brutally honest in it's assessment of the lives of homosexuals pre-Stonewall, the alienation of a homosexual man in the 60s, living in a straight society, assimilating into a straight society and hiding in a straight society. George's sexuality isn't even mentioned that often as one of the factors of his alienation, but it still permeates everything.

What has it to do with that big arrogant animal of a girl? With that body which sprawled stark naked, gaping wide in the shameless demand, underneath Jim's naked body? Gross insucking vulva, sly ruthless greedy flesh, in all the bloom and gloss and arrogant resilience of youth, demanding that George shall step aside, bow down and yield to the female prerogative, hide his unnatural head in shame. I am Doris. I am Woman. I am Bitch-Mother Nature. The Church and the Law and the State exist to support me. I claim my biological rights. I demand Jim.

George about an affair Jim had while they were together, with Doris who is now vegetating in a hospital and George visits her regularly.

It was new to me to see the seemingly uncensored thoughts of a character shown in a story. He isn't ashamed of admitting that watching two young guys gets him hot or that he sometimes isn't comfortable around his best friend, only small things that normally are glossed over, even in our own thoughts, but that are still there and that we usually are ashamed of, because we aren't supposed to feel that way, but we still do.

David Leavitt - While England Sleeps 
I enjoyed it, although it didn't fascinate me absolutely. The time distance (it plays in the late 1930s) and the first person narrator making foreshadowings etc. always pulled me out. The narrative was at times way too informative, but the dialogue more than made up for that!

It's basically a story about an aspiring writer (and why do writers in novels always have to be poor, live in bad conditions and be dependent upon their eccentric relatives?) who falls in love with another man, but has problems admitting to himself that it is only a phase for him. This plays on the background of Hitler's rise to power, the war in Spain and the Communist movement.

I really enjoyed the historicity of the book. I hadn't read many from/about that time, so it was interesting from that point of view. The love story between the two is almost classically tragic and while I'm a sucker for happy endings, this one certainly made me think about the kind of influence your behaviour has on other people. And how something that is well-justified in your own mind can seem totally different to somebody else. And how life doesn't give you happily ever after, even if you deserve it.

Steve Kluger - Almost Like Being in Love 
AKA The Most Enjoyable Book I Have Read in Years. It's a romantic comedy and when I say romantic, I mean romantic, and when I say comedy, I mean comedy. There is not one page of this book that I didn't enjoy and it really says something when I wanted to put the book onto my shelf last night at 10.45, decided to take a quick peek at the first chapter and looked up 80 pages later for the first time (12.30). And only just dressed (2 pm), because I had to finish it today.

The story is nothing breathtakingly new - Craig and Travis are about as different as could be. Both in the same boarding school in the late 70s. Travis starts to help Craig so he doesn't flunk his English class. They fall in love, but end up going to colleges on opposites sides of the country. 20 years later, Travis is trying to find a boyfriend that fits at least *some* points of his checklist, but is having little luck, and Craig is trying to iron out the problems with his boyfriend of the last 12 years, Clayton. Finally Travis decides he has had enough and starts the trip cross-country to find the love of his life again. - in fact it has been done so many times, it would normally bore me to tears.

Things the kept me awake were numerous, though. From the style the book is written in (diary entries, notes, e-mails, memos, check-lists, letters etc.) - which I adore and what was also one of the points that fascinated me so much with Dracula - and which make this overdone theme something absolutely different. I haven't read many books written like that and it must be hard to do well, because the author basically works without exposition or real narrative.

The viewpoint switches between Craig and Travis, but also includes other adorable characters. There is Craig's best friend of 20 years, with whom he leads a law firm, specialized on civil rights and children's rights. Or Noah, a 11-year old and one of their clients with whom Craig and Clayton have an almost familial relationship. Or Travis' best friend Gordo, who writes screen plays that he tries to sell to his father, and finally decides to make one out of Travis' attempt to find Craig.

The characters are elaborately drawn and it is too amusing for words to see the switch from one narrator to the other and not even having to read who is saying what, because it's so clear.

And of course, I can't forget the best part and that was that the book had me in stitches most of the time. Let me give you an example:

Travis in a memo to one of the university researchers he works with (and even tried to date for a while):
I've got to get into the Harvard alumini database. This is urgent. Do we have any computer hackers on staff? I'll indemnify the university in case any federal subpoenas start showing up.
And the answer:
I'm on it. Odds are that their backdoor password is 'FUCK-YALE.' (We do the same here with UCLA. Nothing like airtight security.)
And I could quote dozens of passages like that which are funnier when not taken out of context and if oyu are familiar with the characters. Just let me say: I haven't laughed this hard in ages. And that includes the fact that a lot of it is baseball-related and I don't have a clue about baseball. It still is funny as hell.

Arthur Kopit - Oh dad, poor dad, mamma's hung you in the closet and i'm feelin' so sad 
Very strange play. Learned about it today in Modern American Drama and I don't quite know what to make of it.

It's about Jonathan and his mother who wants to absolutely dominate over him and keep him from all the 'dirt' in the world. Doesn't let him out of the room, doesn't let him do what he wants. She has her dead husband in her closet and orders a babysitter who has been seducing the boys she has been watching to watch Jonathan and she tries to seduce him as well. At first he withstands, but then he hears his mother talking about how she wanted to dominate his father and now him ('mine') and talks to the babysitter again. She tries to seduce him, but he still withstands and in the end kills her.

From the interpretations I read all seem to assume that Jonathan is the direct opposite of his mother, but there are so manyparallels between them it's scary. Okay, his mother makes those parallels herself as she doesn't let him out of the room, lets him watch the babysitter at night, lets him stay pure and innocent. The basic difference is that Jonathan tries to rebel against it and she just sees nothing wrong with it.

She just sees something wrong with anything dirty, anything under her. Jonathan has a stamp and coin and book collection, everything that is pure, but at the same time such an euphemism for sex. She wants to control his life, control everything about it, control that he stays pure.

Last words: What is the meaning of this? Really, what is it?

Mother stands for parents in general? For the government that tries to tell the public how to live agood puritan life? What about Jonathan? Those who follow, those who can't bring themselves to disobey? Babysitter? Exploitation of the young? Why did she die? Not that the 'revolution' will succeed?

Jonathon maybe the middle ground. Some puritan attitudes stay, but on the whole freer. Is he really freer at the end or will his mother take him under her wing again and not let him out?

Ellen Kushner - Swordspoint
A fantasy book that plays in an unnamed town where it is normal for the nobles to hire swodsman to do their dirty work for each other and those swordsman risking their lives in fulfiling the jobs.

This book follows the best swordsman in town, Richard St Vier, and his lover Alec, who is noticed mainly because of his acerbic wit and mysterious past. St Vier becomes entangled in one of the plots to take over the Council and his moral code makes him a relatively easy vicitm to the unscrupulous behaviour of the nobles.

Very fascinating look into this world. I especially liked that St Vier isn't in it for the money, but rather only does the work, he feels like doing and where the noble he works for still pays him a bit of respect. Other swordsman perform at weddings etc., but St Vier doesn't do that. He also doesn't work for somebody simply because that person tells him to and offers the right amount of money.

That is one big topic in the book anyway: the disparity between the upper class and the lower class, and how the nobles see the lower class as crude humans who earn no respect and aren't much more than animals anyway, therefore not requiring respect and not having any honour.

Only thing I didn't like was the inclusion of three short stories at the end of the book. The main story is fabulously written, with good dialogue, interesting characters and a very dramatic setting, but the sequel and prequels simply don't live up to that. The dialogue is clumsy and so obviously arranged that it hurts to read. I simply stopped, because I didn't want to ruin the positive impression I had from the main story. However, that one is well worth the read, even if you skip the 40 or so pages coming after it.
  
D.H. Lawrence - Lady Chatterley's Lover 
I don't really know what to say about this book, except that I enjoyed it immensely. The characters were real, three-dimensional - though sometimes a bit too undecided for my tastes - and the plot was interesting.

I'm still not sure where the unity of mind and bod talked about in the foreword comes into play in the relationship between Constance and Oliver, though the marriage between Constance and Clifford is clearly dominated by the mind as they don't even touch each other, and the one between Oliver and Betty by the body as it doesn't look as if Betty is much good in intelligent conversation.

But then the affair between Constance and Oliver is dominated by the body as well. At first they don't talk, but only fuck. Later on the reader (and Constance) get to know that Oliver is also educated enough to engage the mind as well.

I suppose a lot of the statement of the book is simply lost by the fact that most readers aren't shocked by it anymore. Or at least I wasn't. The atmosphere of the time described actually left me hanging there somewhere with the absoluteness of dreariness of it. Reminded me very much of The Great Gatsby.

Raymond Leonard - Legacy of the Shroud 
Not one of the books I had on my reading list, but after watching a documentary about the Turin Shroud months ago I couldn't resist a book containing the words Russia, genetic engineering, coelacanth and Turin Shroud. :) And after getting over the first somewhat clumsily written pages, it really was a good read. Even the Christian indoctrination wasn't as bad as I would have expected. :D But then after reading parts of the Left Behind Series (solely for the action factor, I might add), this was really light cost in that area.

And it was a good read, nothing too deep (despite the topic) and after I got over some of the weirdness of reading a book written in 1988 and therefore containing some technological things that were supposedly impossible and being transferred into a world where the Cold War still played a role, it really made a good afternoon read.

Armistead Maupin - Tales of the City 
A young secretary forsakes Cleveland for San Francisco, tumbling headlong into a brave new world of laundromat Lotharios, cut throat debutantes, and Jockey Shorts dance contests. The saga that ensues is manic, romantic, and outrageous.

Hmm, very divided about the book. One the one side there are interesting snippets of life, good dialogues and funny situations. On the other side there are unlikeable characters and unrealistic happenings.

Let's start with the not so good first. For me a book is mainly pushed by its characters. I know there are people who can simply enjoy brilliant settings or plot or whatever, but what drives a story for me is its characters. (One reason I got bored with reading LotR after 150 pages.) So it's quite difficult for me to like a book in which several of the main characters are unlikeable to me or at least have very unlikeable moments.

Perhaps this is also a problems with this book as it switches in viewpoint every two or three pages and so focuses much more on the action than on the characters, at the same time only giving the characters limited time to explore their feelings and problems.

Take the secretary, Mary Ann, for example. She may want to be a sophisticated city girl, but she *isn't*. (And believe me coming from a rural area, I can sympathise with that.) But she often seems too focused on her own emotions and on what people will think when she behaves in a certain way, no matter what might be better for the person at the moment. She simply isn't somebody I'd want to have as a friend, because I could never be sure if she was telling me her opinion or only what she thought I wanted to hear.

And similar things can be found in almost any character of the book. Now, I know how we always moan about Mary Sues who are perfect in everything and never make a mistake, are good listeners, loyal friends and also manage to look perfect while doing this. But there can be nice characters without them turning into Mary Sues. They make stupid mistakes, but they see that they're mistakes and they don't keep on hurting people.

Or perhaps I'm just totally missing the point of the book: That there are no emotional attachments in today's world (or rather that of the 70s) and everybody only fights for him/herself, not caring who they hurt in the process.

Not to mention the chances of some of the things happening. In a city of millions like San Francisco I simply can't imagine all the same people accidentally stumbling over each other again and again. That doesn't even happen in small cities and villages. Believe me, I know.

Of course, there are also great plus points for this book or I wouldn't have finished it within a few days.

One are the very interesting snippets of life shown in the book, the disillusion of the hippie generation of the 60s, the looking for love in the places least likely to be successful, the similarities between hetero- and homosexual life, yearning for love, relationships etc. Perhaps best explained with a little quote: (Michael, gay neighbour of Mary Ann's and her talking)

'Do you believe in marriage Mary Ann?'
She nodded. 'Most of the time.'
'Me too. I think about it every time I see a new face. I got married four times on the 41 Union bus.'
There was embarrassment in Mary Ann's laugh.
'I know,' said Michael unaccusingly. 'A bunch of fairies in caftans, tripping through Golden Gate Park with drag bridesmaids and quotations from "Song of the Loon"... That's not what I mean.'
(p. 172)

Just about broke my heart and made me want to smash Mary Ann's face in. Because she reacts to the mention of gays marrying just as embarrassed as she does to the mention of sex, as if it's something filthy, not to be discussed in front of a lady. And I know that I'm unreasonable, because we are talking about 30 years ago, but it makes me so mad and sad that the idea of two men marrying doesn't even enter their mind. The conversation goes on along the lines of marrying a friend, but nothing is ever said of marrying a person you love.

Then I also enjoyed lots and lots of the dialogues in the book. It's very dialogue-driven which is a plus in my opinion, doesn't waste unnecassary space on descriptions I skip half of the time anyway. And in some parts it is laugh out loud funny with the situations the characters get into.

But even after typing this up, I'm still not sure if I actually enjoyed the book or only the insights it could give me. Which is two sides of the same coin I suppose.

Stephen McCauley - The Object of My Affection 
The book is about George, a gay guy frum suburbia in New York, who lives together with his roommate Nina. When it turns out that Nina is pregnant by her annoying lover, she asks if George would play substitute daddy.

Alone from the description it's pretty obvious that you can't expect any high brow literature here, but as I was only in it for the entertainment, it worked just fine. George is a somewhat melancholic charcters, who I just wanted to take by the shoulders and shake from time to time, but otherwise very likeable.

It's weird that I actually enjoyed a book were for along time the characters are only drifting along. I usually hate that. However, it worked very well here and there was always a sense of knowing that at one point George and Nina would wake up and take their lives into their own hands or at least try to start caring about them.

It's funny in a lot of places, but the biggest sense I still get from it is that of loneliness in a world (or city) full of people; so in that respect it's a typical New York novel. Don't think I'll watch the movie, but this book was good to have something to do on a rainy afternoon.

Philip Pullman - The Golden Compass
For months I had struggled against reading this book and at the same time wanted to read it desperately. I have heard of the comparison between this series and JKR and HP and somehow I just didn't *want* to find something that is maybe better. I like being in HP fandom and I simply don't want to find out that I'm not interested anymore.

Well, what I found was something not better, but totally different. For me, the authors choose a totally different way of telling a fantasy story of a child with destiny on its shoulders.

Where JKR introduces us slowly into the fantasy world through Harry, PP plunges us right into the action by introducing a protagonist that has lived in that world all her life.

Where JKR leaves out many of the more horrid details of war (at least so far), PP has no qualms to name them and where JKR gives us several pillars to lean on for the thruth, PP leaves everything much less clear and sure.

I think TGC is more deeply layered then HP, simply because of its subject matter. HP deals with a war against evil, whereas TGC deals with what evil is. But on the other hand, I find HP much more stimulating for the imagination of the reader, because despite everything that has happened so far, it seems less threatening. Not to mention that JKR makes me personally care more about her characters, than PP pulls that off in his book.
 
Philip Pullman - The Subtle Knife New!
I'm simply stunned after reading this book. The intricate plotlines, fascinating characters of whose motivations you often aren't sure, brilliant action and exciting ideas about the world all mixed into one spiral of tension. And above all it's not dumbed down for kids: it's cruel, real, intelligent and not afraid of using language, concepts and situations that might not be considered appropiate for children's books.

Will's story has just tugged at my heart strings, no matter how much like a cliché that may sound. And I still don't know who to trust!

On one hand everything that we have heard about Lord Azrial suggests that Lyra and Will have to help him, but on the other hand the last part of Mrs. Coulter also made sense.

Not that I could make much sense of what exactly has to be done one way or another. The differences between the world and how all of them relate to each other have managed to confuse me quite thoroughly.

One thing is for certain, however: I desperately need to know how the series ends.
 
Philip Pullman - The Amber Spyglass New!
Simply splendid. No other words for it. Well, maybe a few.

It simply was one fascinating read from beginning to end. And even now I wish I knew what is going to happen afterwards.

I love the new species introduced, especially the mulefas. Especially considering I just recently read Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything  I find the idea of parallel universes out there exhilarating.

But I don't only adore what happens, but also the characters Pullman created. The characters are complex, have their own reasons for doing things and don't always behave as you would like them to, even the good guys. The characters, even the more minor ones are layered and cannot always be trusted because their own agenda is lurking just under the surface of their thoughts. Brilliant.

I also liked how the reader was just as confused as Will and Lyra about what to do. I usually get so excited that it's almost painful when I know the character has to do something, but she or he hasn't realised yet what. Here it was one surprise and plot twist after another. And then in the end it still all fits together and everything relates to other things, and it just feels so good to see everything fall into place. :)

And I am sorry to say, it made me see the deficiencies in JKR's writing all the more. Here I can see the logic behind the worlds, behind the actions and I can believe that speculating about the rules of those worlds actually makes sense. Not that I don't like to speculate about HP, but I still always get the feeling that we might just get hung up on a minor detai that JKR either has forgotten about or that's not significant at all. And it makes me sad to see brilliant possibilities go down the drain just because the writer introduced them, but never followed up on them. Or perhaps I'm just pessimistic and she will in the next two books.

Of course, I also enjoyed the anti-established church morale of the books, instead focusing on the ethics of the individual people. ;) And at the same time the parallels with Christian mythology and god as an upstart angel! :D Couldn't make me happier. Especially liked that they didn't have to fight god, but only Metatron and gah... everything about these books is simply brilliant!

Even the sweetness between Lyra and Will at the end didn't put me off, as it had been foreshadowed throughout the whole book and wasn't just there to get a bit of romance into the book as it is with most action or adventure books and films, but it gave it such a bittersweet ending that I couldn't help but wonder what is going to happen later in their lives. Basically the biggest praise I can give: that the author made me care so much about his characters that even after the exciting part og the ook ends I still wan to know how they go on with their less exciting, but not less interesting everyday lives.
 
Mary Renault - Fire from Heaven 
I think I'm just about the last person to read this. So, I really don't have anything to add to the reviews I have seen floating around the 'net. Brilliant book and I have to see about getting the other two as soon as I'm back in Trier.

I love historical books, especially books that play further in the past than Victorian age (I usually can't read any books from that area without feeling like I'm about to explode from anger), so this was just perfect for me.

Alex Sanchez - Rainbow Boys 
Three gay high school seniors, Jason, Kyle, and Nelson, deal with the difficulties of coming out and with all of the other problems that plague and perplex homosexual teens. First-novelist Sanchez writes with passion and understanding as well as some welcome humor, but it's issues, not characters that drive this novel. Homophobia, body image, gay stereotyping, AIDS, support groups, gay/straight alliances--all are shoehorned into an overcrowded plot that sometimes comes dangerously close to the didactic. What saves the story from problem-novel limbo are its realistic, right-on dialogue; its sympathetic characters who rise above the stereotypical; and--most important--its focus on love as the heart of homosexuality. Ultimately, the author demonstrates, coming out is really coming in--entering a circle of support and self-acceptance that may lead to a more universal community of acceptance and tolerance.
Michael Cart
Copyright © American Library Association.


Brilliant book! The characters he paints are believeable and the situations something that concern everybody, even if you're not gay. I absolutely enjoyed the description from the different PoVs of the three protagonists. Each of them is very clearly different and has to fight with his own demons, giving the narrators the possibility to touch upon many different themes.

The dialogue is funny and believable and during no moment of the book did I think that this could not actually be happening in the real world.

G.B. Shaw - Pygmalion 
Really enjoyed this play. Higgins' character had me laughing throughout the play and as I love themes like changing of social classes, I absolutely adored the plot. The philosophical interludes in it were very interesting as well and as I am always in awe of any new ideas I come across that somehow never occured to me, but still make a startling amount of sense.

Robert Louis Stevenson - The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde 
 I found the book... interesting. Not terribly exciting or horror-inducing or anything (I suppose mainly due to the fact that the story of Jekyll and Hyde is so legendary that there is no surprise and therefore little horror left in it for modern readers), but I definitely liked the questions it brought up.

I'm not going to get into deep philosophical ruminations here (couldn't do that anyway), but let me say that I find the concept of two souls living inside of every one of us very fascinating. Because if that really is true (and I can believe that it is in some form, where our rational is fighting against our instincts) that would basically mean that we could never be content. There is always some side of us waiting to break out, being reigned in by our rational part. Very frightening thought that.
 
Jonathan Stroud - The Amulet of Samarkand (The Bartiameus Trilogy 1)
It's strange that even though I don't like the protagonist, I very much enjoyed this book. It's fantasy for teens/young adults, but to me has  a much more real feel than Harry Potter. It plays in present day London with a few changes. For one, all the Members of Parliament are magicians and disdainfully look down at the commoners they govern. For another, it doesn't seem to be much about magical ability, but more about the power to control imps, djinnis etc. Very interesting take that magicians can't just do whatever they want with an innate ability, but always need the help of inherently unhelpful beings.

Now, the protagonist, Nathaniel, is the apprentice of one of those magicians and the master is terribly unsuited for him (very mediocre with delusions of grandeur), while Nathaniel is very good at summoning demons and other magical things, and the master constantly keeps Nathaniel down, belittlling his work and not keeping him save from other magicians. This keeping save needs to be done, because Nathaniel (and every other magician) is basically swinning in a pool of sharks. Where they see the opportunity for more power, they take it and even if it's not there, they create that opportunity.

So, at the beginning of the story Nathaniel has summoned a djinn in order to get revenge on one magician, because he ridiculed him. And then things start to go pear-shaped. :)

I thought the constant social criticism that wasn't shoved in the reader's face, but rather shown through the opposite opinion of the other magicians and also Nathaniel, make it all the more apparent. Even though the setting is in modern times, the circumstances remind me very much of stories about 19th century London, with a few people having all the power, thinking they are predestined to have that power due to their nature and everybody else is a half-wit and barely human, certainly not worth their notice.

I hope over the next 2 books Nathaniel will get into his head that this isn't so. At the moment, he still very much believes everything his master's told him about the superiority of magicians,  believes in the efficientness of the government and is an absolute little shit when he doesn't get what he wants. Of course, there are certain factors, like a Resistance that's starting to build against the magicians and that they absolutley underestimate that will hopefully help with that.

Bram Stoker - Dracula 
 Damn, what a fascinating book! I couldn't put it down, especially after a few chapters. I found the still it is written in (diary entries, letters etc.) very well done and I loved the plot even though I'm usually not all that fond of horror stories.

Of course, I needed my mum to accompany me to the toilet through the dark camp ground afterwards, but then I'm also the person who couldn't sleep for a week after watching The Exorcist.

I read to the ending first to make sure that the protagonists at least survived the book and so I could really settle down and enjoy it. And snigger like my fourteen-year-old self when I read that Count Dracula had hairy palms...
 
William Sutcliffe - New Boy 
 The New Boy of William Sutcliffe's hilariously touching debut novel causes a bit of a stir when he arrives at Mark's posh private school. For a start, Barry is devastatingly handsome and causes girls and boys to buckle at the knees. Mark is more than a little jealous, considering himself to be much less attractive. But he spots an ally in Barry and the two quickly become friends though Mark's feelings for Barry are often confused. For a start, he finds himself lusting after the boy in the showers but refuses to think it's because he is gay. Meanwhile, Barry is getting busy with most of the female population within a 50-mile radius, including an affair with one of his own teachers. Mark quickly realises that if he is ever going to be a hit with the opposite sex, he needs Barry's help. But he learns that Barry is hiding a few secrets of his own.

Okay, I really enjoyed his very fresh and funny style at the beginning, but after a while I found it getting quite tiresome. You can never be sure if the narrator is telling the truth with a story or only exaggerating and while the frank style and little emotional involvement is entertaining and maybe even verisimilar, it still leaves something to be desired concerning the identification and emotional involvement with the character.

On the other hand, I have seldom laughed so hard in my life.
 
Gore Vidal - The City and the Pillar
Of course, I couldn't resist a book that is proclaimed as "the first serious American homosexual novel". Written in 1948 (and published in an altered version), I read the original version that was published in 1965, I think.

And I have to say I wasn't disappointed. Showing the first years out of high school for the protagonist, Jim, and his love for his best friend, Bob. Unfortunately Bob is a year older than him and left as a sailor before Jim even finished high school. Jim tries to find him after he leaves home as well; at first aboard ships, and finally gives that up, landing in Hollywood, with the army, and eventually in New York, all the time sure in the knowledge that he and Bob will meet again and continue in the 'affair' they started before Bob left.

I'm not going to give away the ending, so I'll stop here.

The book left me feeling quite ambigious, however. I enjoyed it immensely, even though I don't particularly like the protagonist. It gives a fascinating insight into the life of homosexuals in the late 30s/ early 40s, making me want to read more about that era. On the other hand, it also makes me question many things that I have taken relatively for granted until now (not that that is a bad thing). I'm not going to go more in depth here, as it would spoil the plot, but I can only recommend this book to anyone.
 
Oscar Wilde - Lady Windermere's Fan 
 The plot is explained very quickly. Lady Windermere is hosting a party for her birthday, but before that party hears that her husband has been seen in the company of a not at all respectable woman. Nevertheless the husband invites this woman to his wife's party, trying to have her enter Society. Obviously, there is a bit more story behind that move and even though I guessed at it within the first few pages, I won't spoil it now. Naturally Lady Windermere isn't happy about that, giving her presumed nemesis a hand-up in Society. That changes quite a bit when this woman gets her out of a precarious situation at the cost of her own newly achieved respectablitly.

It's a satire through and through. I loved how sure of her morality Lady Windermere was only to realise that you can get into those problems that 'could never happen to her' faster than you think. Also way too amusing to see her taking that in a stride and behaving as if she'd had the same opinion forever. I also liked that not everything was cleared up at the end. It made the play much more ironic, IMO.

Oscar Wilde - The Picture of Dorian Gray 
Finished The Picture of Dorian Gray. Don't really know what to say, except that I found it fascinating and most of the time wanted to get my highlighter and mark the most interesting statements.

Found some of the passages (especially about Dorian's interests) incredibly long-winded and descriptive. I also thought it was somewhat disturbing that there wasn't even one character to like. Obviously Dorian didn't fall into that category, even though I felt pity, or rather sympathy for him. One mistake in the youth and it pretty much destroyed his life.

I'd really like to know how much the painting influenced Dorian's behaviour, how much of it was his own character and how much was Harry's influence.

And then Harry, of course, was another one of those ambivalent characters. I absolutely detest people who play like that with other people's lives, but at the same time he is strangely fascinating in his opinions and behaviour. Just the same with all of the characters in the book. They have a slightly melodramatic air to them in their speech, but their emotions and thoughts are extremely detached, making them seem callous.

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