Ice Land by Betsy Tobin

Read: 26 December, 2011

It’s the end of the world. Christianity is growing in Iceland, threatening the power of the old gods, and the land itself seems to be in revolt. Meanwhile, two star-crossed lovers fight against the feud that divides their two families against a landscape that is both real and mythical.

There are two stories being told in Ice Land, that of Fulla and her growing love for Vili. Theirs is a Romeo and Juliet story, their families feuding, perpetually seeking revenge on each other in a never ending cycle. Meanwhile, we have Freya’s quest for a magical necklace that has the power to end the apocalypse, preventing the destruction of the world.

I enjoyed the story, or at least I feel like I should have. Despite a fairly standard outline, Tobin does manage to take her two stories in a fairly unique direction. In particular, I enjoyed the way that she tried to mingle the real world with the world of mythology, making the one seem plausible and the other magical.

But maybe I just read the book at the wrong time. I found that I simply couldn’t lose myself in the story and I rushed to finish towards the end. I do suspect that the problem was with me, though, since I can’t think of anything that could have turned me off.

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The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

Read: 19 September, 2010

I bought the book because I kept seeing it everywhere and I thought – why not? Then it sat on my shelf for a long time as I read other books on my reading list that were a higher priority.

When my dad came to visit, he was looking over my bookshelves and saw that I had The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. I admitted that I hadn’t read it yet, and he told me that I absolutely must. Well, with an endorsement like that, how could I refuse?

I say this because it tainted much of my experience of the book. When I got to the anal rape scene, for example, all I kept thinking about was my dad reading it… and liking it. Yes, I know, the book is excellent and I’m sure that my father’s endorsement was not predicated on a predilection for anal rape. Still, though, it made reading about anal rape even more uncomfortable that it is normally.

Not that I normally read about anal rape…

But apart from all that, this was an amazing book. It’s a mystery – a disgraced journalist is hired by a wealthy businessman to solve the 40-year-old murder of his niece. But it’s far more than that. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is a statement about misogyny and violence towards women. In one way or another, each of the book’s plots and subplots hinge on hatred towards women. Larsson strikes that very delicate balance between making his point without being it. Again and again, he shows us violence against women, but he never allows it to normalize. It’s as horrific the last time as it is the first.

And boy, is it ever horrific! The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo was an extremely uncomfortable book to read. Larsson takes society’s dirty little secrets and shoves them right in the reader’s face with unrelenting force. But the writing is so masterfully executed that I found myself unable to put the book down, even while my head and stomach both were reeling.

When my dad was making his pitch for the book, he said that it’s incredibly long, but that the style is so accessible that he was able to finish it in under a week. It took me only a couple of days. It takes a while to get into, introducing the vast network of characters slowly, and it might be easy to give up within the first couple dozen pages. But stick with it, the payoff is well worth the wait.

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Saga by Jeff Janoda

Read: 1 April, 2010

In Medieval Iceland, two farmers fight over a piece of land. When Ulfar turns to a local chieftain for help, he sets in motion a series of events, of schemes and counter-schemes, that will not be put to rest until much blood has been spilled and the political landscape of Swan’s Fjord has been changed forever.

Saga is a wonderful book based on the old Icelandic sagas. The story is fantastic and the storytelling does it justice. Janoda manages to build and maintain suspense. and the climax is masterfully pulled off. He also manages to capture the element of “cabin fever” in a landscape that forces families to be indoors for many months each year. This was one of those books that I felt sad to finish, wishing it could have kept going. Definitely a rare treasure of a book and highly recommended!

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The Blue Fox by Sjon

Read: 10 December, 2009

In 19th century Iceland, a priest hunts for a mythical blue fox and a girl with Down’s Syndrome is mourned by her admirer. These two seemingly unrelated stories interweave into a poetic whole.

It’s an enchanting tale, a modern myth, that might have worked nearly as well in verse. The story is short, easily read in an hour or two, and interesting lyrical look into Iceland’s recent past.

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