I'm excessively fond of languages, in particular East and South Slavic ones. I try to read as much as possible in them, and when I don't, I read MM Romance books.
Albert J. Sterne: Future Bright, Past Imperfect - Julie Bozza This book gives some insights into the past of Sterne, Ash and Garreth (I still love that Garreth is treated like an actual character!), which is all interesting. Those scenes that were left out in "The Definitive..." and you wondered why why why? Some of them are here! Unfortunately, one star is subtracted because of the story I had actually been waiting for, i.e. the 1985 just-after-the-case time period. After all the flashbacks I was thrilled to get some Albert & Ash time, but... it was too much. Too much talking of feelings and being open-minded and all that. Ash says so many times that he is not close with his family, yet the stuff he tells them? Doesn't add up for me.
The Definitive Albert J. Sterne - Julie Bozza Crime stories are not for me, yet this is so perfect that it doesn't matter that it's a crime story, it still gets 5 stars. EVERYTHING about this book is perfect, and reading it made me really, really happy. Now let's see how many times I can use the word "perfect" in the review.

The thing about murders and all that is that it may be OK as a movie or a tv-series or something, 1-2 hours of grim entertainment. But spending days reading about it? I just don't find the idea very appealing; I'd rather read about actual murders in that case. With Bozza, however, the crime story in itself doesn't matter. There's nothing spectacular about it, classic serial killer theme. It's the characters and how they relate to the story that is interesting. No, not interesting; fascinating.

NOTHING about the entire story rubbed me the wrong way. No detail anywhere had me sighing in exasperation, wishing the author just hadn't gone there, and I'm the kind of reader I would hate to bits if I were an author myself. Following the murderer, seeing his perspective? Brilliantly done. I enjoyed reading about him, he's actually credible and not just a one dimensional monster. The change of perspective between Sterne, Ash and Garreth? Perfect. I could identify with all three of them. The amount of grisly details? Perfect. You understand the terror, anxiety and pleasure on behalf of victim/murderer respectively, you get to experience Ash's reluctance with understanding, and Sterne's utter indifference. Some poorly executed books go too far, like Cut & Run, with childish killers that are supposed to shock with their oh-so-clever modus operandi. Some well written books can go too far and beyond and it works, like Waiting in the throes, where you need all the horror to understand the complete and utter breaking of a person. Here? You don't need that much, and that's the point - it's perfectly portioned out. It's just right. Lagom.

I thought I would love Sterne about this book, and that would be that. Obviously, he's my dream come true (I've got the exact same awesome skills as he when it comes to comforting people in distress), but having finished the book, I realize that I love everything about it just as much as I love Sterne. This isn't a cute and sweet MM romance. There isn't even a lot of sex, lots of it is fade to black and what scenes there are aren't that explicit, yet it's perfect. No melodrama, because Albert efficiently nips that crap in the bud every single time. I want him in all books to just shut whiney characters up before they ruin book after book after book!

I'm utterly impressed by Bozza. I previously read her The Apothecary's Garden, and that one just got 3 stars from me. But this? I can't even tell it's written by the same author, and now I'm thrilled about seeing what else she has produced.

I could go on, but at the same time I'm at a loss for words and I can't really explain how awesome this book is. I'm sad it's over. So, time for some funny quotes (I'm not sure they count as spoiler:ish, but still). Because yeah, the book is funny as hell as well.

The shrubs Albert had planted around the three boundaries and the decades-old trees provided some privacy and a far more attractive appearance than the alternative of ugly, minimally-attired humanity.

"Don't give me dialogue from your soft porn romance novels."

"For lovers, we sure as hell bicker a lot. But I can live with it."
"What a pity," Albert commented.

Being undressed by Albert was more like having a personal valet.

"I know I shouldn't be emotional. But at least I try to keep such ridiculous reactions between you and me."
"I'm glad," Albert said very flatly.
A Short Grammar of Contemporary Bulgarian - Kjetil Rå Hauge For a grammar book, this is pretty much perfection. It has everything you need, it's thorough (you may want to skip certain things as a newbie Bulgarian learner), it actually deals with syntax and it's written in such a way that both linguists and ordinary folks can use it. Lots of examples, lots of comments on the colloquial language, etc. The layout is boring as hell though.
Lettres à un jeune poète - Rainer Maria Rilke Nice. Rilke seems like a really decent guy.
Den döda älskarinnan - Théophile Gautier Meh. This was not very good. Perhaps it's better in French, but I doubt it, and I would have read it in French if I hadn't found the Swedish edition for next to nothing at the yearly book sale. Certain annoying expressions in the translation seem to be expressions of the type that can only be translated in one way, like how the skin of a woman is compared to that of a snake in its coldness - twice. Another such very striking comparison was also repeated, and that just felt lazy. Not on behalf of the translator, but of the author.

So... typically gothic, with all the by now highly cliché elements, only... without any creativity. The first short story was kind of OK, but the rest were pretty lame. I also got the impression the main character was the same guy in all the stories, they were so one-dimensional.
Svenska Kulter - Anders Fager I spent the weekend in Sweden, and luckily went back to my old habit of going through the "On Sale"-box at book stores. I don't do that in Norway, because all the books they put on sale are 1) crap and 2) still expensive. Thanks to this ingrained book searching instinct of mine I found this gem of a book in one of those boxes, and I am stunned. Normally, I am not a short story person. I often buy collections of short stories, but I never actually read them.

This book has a clever cover, a clever title, and is cleverly structured. After 2 pages of short story 1, I was both smiling ruefully, hoping no one could see the text as I was reading, and very, very intrigued. And it continues that way. Every short story is mysterious, and they are all equally good, which is quite unusual. There are devils, monsters, werewolves, saami magic, curses - but nothing is spoken out loud. You keep waiting for some revelation to come so that you truly understand wtf is going on. Partly, this makes the book a little bit hard to read. Information is *never* spelled out, you really have to catch the small print that's more or less an echo of something someone says. Speed-reading this? Not a good idea. Also, for non-natives, it could be frustrating. (As long as you know that there is a certain difficulty, I think you'll be fine. It's not you, it's the book.) Some of the stories are interconnected, making it even more interesting. And it's so obviously Sweden. This is no wannabe goth dark underworld whatever, it's ultraordinary, good old Sweden, with lots of dangerous and seriously creepy people that no one has a clue exist.

Furthermore, the writer has a particular style. Had I written that way in school, my text would have been marked for incorrect sentence structure, but when you're an author, other rules apply. The author uses a combination of ordinary, coordinated sentences, and short, abrupt incomplete phrases. He also consciously mixes tenses. The dialogue is actually dialogue, it's sloppy and full of semi-sentences, the way actual colloquial speak is. And the book is full of modern Scandinavian obscenities. Of course, all of this makes me very happy.

I'm actually sad this book is over.
Убийца внутри меня - Jim Thompson, Max Nemtsov This was not bad at all, but very kind of... simple (and the Russian translation is not brilliant). It took me quite some time to get interested in the book, but once I got past 50% or so, it was all easy reading. I prefer the part after things start going downhill, because that's when the main character's freaky personality really becomes obvious.

Two remarks though:
1) I don't get the point with the Greek kid. Is he added just to show that Lou has some sympathy in him? Why is there so much focus on him? His story line kind of made me feel like I was... watching a movie based on a much more extensive book. You know, where they have to cram stuff in and where interpersonal relationships don't have the time to acquire the depth they have in the book. Only this *is* the book.
2) Similar problem with the Joyce story line: it feels like it has been cut down from an entire novel to fit in a couple of pages. She was the interesting one in the book, so that for me, the main story line kind of hijacked another, much more interesting story.
El Presidio Rides North - Domashita Romero,  地下ロメロ,  neomeruru This was funny, cute and something new for me, since I've never read a MM zombie book before. I don't particularly like zombie movies (never really thought about reading zombie books), but I really see their appeal, and I'm not so sure why I previously didn't find the concept interesting. Perhaps because some movies focus too much on the actual zombies, which are boring as hell, and too little on the ramifications of WTF happens now.

Plus, Mercury is definitely a version of Emilio, and there can never be too many Emilios.
Conseil de discipline - Danny Tyran I'm having some trouble with this, so for now, this will have to wait. Unfortunately, I'm quite familiar with Russia and the Russian language, so I get caught up in details (mistranscription of names, the lack of patronymics, modes of conduct) etc., and that ruins the reading experience.
The Graveyard Book - Neil Gaiman Cute and nice story. I listened to this as an audio-book when walking to uni, and since I don't go there very often, I ended up spending like 2 months on the book. I may have liked it more if I had finished it quicker. As it is, it's a good idea, it's well executed, it's very well read by Gaiman himself, but that's it. It lacks the final touch to take it to 4 or 5 stars.
You Get Full Credit For Being Alive - Cari Z. Nice story, but the first half interested me much more than the second.
Winter's Night - Erin Zarro,  Siri Paulson,  K.D. Sarge,  Kit  Campbell This was somewhat disappointing. The first story had potential (the idea, that is, I didn't really like the style), but got too sappy and Christian-spirit-like to actually work. Paulson's story was not bad at all, but the rest was just... meh.
Call Me by Your Name - André Aciman 4.5 stars. Really, really well written, wonderful, beautiful story. I wanted to quote entire pages at times, and have probably never used the highlight on my Kindle as much as for this book. This is like the male version of Annie Ernaux, something I didn't think existed.

(I'll add some quotes later.)
Analyzing Grammar: An Introduction (Cambridge Textbooks in Linguistics) - Paul R. Kroeger This is a very good introduction to linguistics. It deals with all major categories and provides you with the relevant terminology. For me, it was perhaps a little basic, but I really needed something to make sure I had the foundations firmly in place since I have never studied any formal linguistics and just had to try to make sense of concepts as they came along. All in all, it was an easy and pleasant read! The downside is perhaps that after reading a nice -pedagogical- book like this, a specialized linguistics article may scare the shit out of you.

The one thing that bugged me a little bit was the language choice for examples. Why so few Slavic languages? :( (And one weird Russian example! But I guess I must be the one who's mistaken, because it's from Comrie, and Comrie can't be wrong, can he?) Well, there were generally few languages where I could understand much anyway. I do get that linguists love to poke around in obscure African and Southern American languages (for example) because they have some pretty wild stuff in them (or just funny, like Tagalog reduplication), but at the same time... when you want to illustrate something pretty simple, that can be found pretty much everywhere, why not just choose a language which has a much wider "audience"? I would get any examples from any Slavic, Romance or Germanic languages, and not just struggle through the morphological annotation to make sense of them. After 100 examples of Malayalam & friends I found myself just reading the English translations...

Extra points for making an effort with the English examples though, there are many brilliant ones there alongside the traditional "Mary gave Thomas a book"! And I really liked the "promiscuous clitics".
Записки Кирпатого Мефістофеля - Володимир Винниченко This took me horrifyingly long to read, but it was very good. To my defense, it is rather long, containing the following works:

Записки Кирпатого Мефістофеля (novel)
Момент (short story)
Федько-халамидник (short story)
На той бік (novella)
Чорна Пантера і Білий Медвідь (play)

I liked all the stories in this volume, even the play - and I'm not a big fan of plays - because they are all somehow "unpleasant" and/or macabre, something I really, really like in literature. These aren't really typical classical pieces as I think most people view them, i.e. slow and somewhat boring with people behaving impeccably; rather they made me think of Zola (of whom I am a fan), in that they illustrate the less than flattering nature of human beings, in all sorts of people, under all sorts of circumstances. People all go to the extreme in his stories: either it is from love and the desperate need to be free, to not be tied down by past mistakes (Записки Кирпатого Мефістофеля, with a higly interesting protagonist), or from righteousness and prejudice (Федько-халамидник), pure despair and recklessness in the face of death (Момент, На той бік) or from selfish need and a feeling of entitlement (Чорна Пантера і Білий Медвідь). There are no heroes. The one true hero dies due to his heroism, whereas the one praised as one is only accidentally a hero, because his attempt at treachery failed. And that's just brilliant.

I don't understand why Dostojevsky is all the rage when no one ever mentions Vinnichenko.
Short Grammar of Bulgarian for English Speaking Learners - Evgenia Antova This is a rather good introduction to Bulgarian grammar, but - I think it's best suited for those who already know another Slavic language. A very large part of the book is made up of examples, and if you don't know basic Slavic vocabulary, I guess this could get tiresome (i.e. if the only word in the example you understand is the word being demonstrated). I found all the examples helpful, even if they did slow me down, since I tried to make sense of them without looking at the translations.

The only complaint I have is that the part on verbs could have been better. For someone who is unfamiliar with the Bulgarian verbal system, a lot of it looks pretty much the same. The author could have dedicated more time and space to demonstrating differences between very similar forms, and to pointing out that "this form is identical to that form but the difference in use is that...", etc. I especially found some of the past participles (which to me, with a base in Eastern Slavic languages, look like ordinary past tenses) and the re-narrative mode confusing. I hope things will sort themselves out as I move on to the next grammar book I plan on reading (Kjetil Rå Hauge's).

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