Halloween Bingo 2020: TA’s Game Preparation Post

Note

When updating this post during the game, the books actually selected will be highlighted in bold print and with a check mark (√) next to them.

Updates

Spell invoked: Bingo Flip with Lora — STONE COLD HORROR replaced by READ BY FLASHLIGHT OR CANDLELIGHT

Also, as our game hosts have made it clear that (like in most previous years) the center square won’t be called (but rather, can be claimed as soon as we’ve read a book for it), I’ll be adding a fourth marker for that square (read = called), featuring Charlie’s brother Sunny!

 

The Card

My Markers


Read             Called                   Read & Called   Read = Called

 

The Spell Pack

Authors (and books) possibly to be used with Amplification Spell:
Preet Bharara: Doing Justice
Roseanne A. Brown: A Song of Wraiths and Ruin
Hannah Crafts: The Bondwoman’s Narrative
Edwidge Danticat: Krik? Krak!, Breath, Eyes, Memory
Emma Donoghue: The Sealed Letter, Kissing the Witch
Aminatta Forna: The Devil That Danced on the Water
Gabriel García Márquez: Cien años de soledad (One Hundred Years of Solitude), El coronel no tiene quien le escriba (No one Writes to the Colonel and Other Stories)
Nino Haratischwili: Die Katze und der General
Marie-Elena John: Unburnable
Orhan Pamuk: My Name Is Red
Various Authors: Trinidad Noir
Oksana Zabuzhko: The Museum of Abandoned Secrets

Wild Card Author:
Agatha Christie

Possible squares for Bingo Flip and / or Transfiguration Spell:

Bingo Flip:
  
Spell invoked: Bingo Flip with Lora –“Stone Cold Horror” replaced by “Read by Flashlight or Candlelight”.

 

The Squares

SLEEPY HOLLOW
Most likely:
Alice Hoffman: The River King

Alternatives:
Stephen King: Pet Semetary, Misery, Shawshank Redemption, Carrie, The Talisman
Robert B. Parker: The Godwulf Manuscript, School Days, Chance, Hush Money, Small Vices
Harriet Elizabeth Prescott Spofford: The Amber Gods and Other Stories
Ellery Queen: Calamity Town
Sofie Ryan: The Whole Cat and Caboodle
Donna Tartt: The Secret History
Joel Townsley Rogers: The Red Right Hand

 

FILM AT 11
Most likely:
Ellis Peters: The Devil’s Novice

or: Robert Louis Stevenson: Kidnapped

Alternatives:
Marie Belloc Lowndes: The Lodger
R.D. Blackmore: Lorna Doone
Emily Brontë: Wuthering Heights
Raymond Chandler: The Little Sister
Erskine Childers: The Riddle of the Sands
Agatha Christie: Endless Night, The Pale Horse, Curtain, Halloween Party
Ann Cleeves: The Crow Trap
Michael Crichton: The Great Train Robbery
Charles Dickens: Oliver Twist, Bleak House, David Copperfield
Alexandre Dumas: The Three Musketeers
T.S. Eliot: Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats
Michael Ende: Die unendliche Geschichte
Thomas Hardy: The Mayor of Casterbridge, Tess of the D’Urbervilles
Peter Høeg: Smilla’s Sense of Snow
Victor Hugo: The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Craig Johnson: The Cold Dish
Stephen King: Misery, Shawshank Redemption, Carrie, The Talisman
Harper Lee: To Kill a Mockingbird
Dennis Lehane: Shutter Island
Philip MacDonald: The List of Adrian Messenger
Mario Puzo: The Godfather
J.K. Rowling: Harry Potter series
William Shakespeare: Hamlet, Macbeth, The Merchant of Venice, King Lear, Richard III
Bram Stoker: Dracula
Joan D. Vinge: Ladyhawke
Oscar Wilde: The Picture of Dorian Gray
R.D. Wingfield: A Killing Frost

 

SOUTHERN GOTHIC
Most likely:
Sharyn McCrumb: The Ballad of Tom Dooley

Alternatives:
Hannah Crafts: The Bondwoman’s Narrative
Carolyn G. Hart: Death on Demand
Michael McDowell: Blackwater
Herman Melville: The Confidence-Man
Julie Smith: Louisiana Hotshot
Various Authors: New Orleans Noir

 

MURDER MOST FOUL
Most likely:
Michael Connelly: The Night Fire

or: Jason Goodwin: The Janissary Tree
or: Anna Katharine Green: The Leavenworth Case
Oo. Robert van Gulik: Celebrated Cases of Judge Dee
or: Margaret Millar: The Listening Walls

Alternatives:
Gary Corby: The Ionia Sanction
Deborah Crombie: Dreaming of the Bones
Martin Edwards (ed.), Various Authors: Setting Scores or The Measure of Malice (British Library Crime Classics anthologies)
Ian Fleming: Goldfinger or Moonraker
Graham Greene: The Confidential Agent
Ellen Kushner: Swordspoint
Donna Leon: The Jewels of Paradise, The Golden Egg, Friends in High Places, or Fatal Remedies
Mystery Writers of America Presents: Odd Partners
George Pelecanos: Hard Revolution
Otto Penzler (ed.), Various Authors: The Big Book of Female Detectives
Ian Rankin: Rebus Audio Box Set 1
Ruth Rendell: Some Lie and Some Die, A Demon in My View, Thirteen Steps Down, Harm Done, A Sight for Sore Eyes, End in Tears, Simisola, Road Rage, A Dark Blue Perfume and Other Stories, An Unkindness of Ravens, Shake Hands Forever, A Guilty Thing Surprised, or The Speaker of Mandarin
J.D. Robb: Naked in Death
Georges Simenon: Maigret: Die spannendsten Fälle
Various Authors: Classic Crime Short Stories (audio collection)
Various Authors: Classic Railway Murders (audio collection)

… or any of the murder mysteries listed as options for other squares on my card.

 

SPELLBOUND
Most likely:
Naomi Novik: Spinning Silver

Alternatives:
Hans Christian Andersen: Fairy Tales
J.M. Barrie: Peter Pan
Roseanne A. Brown: A Song of Wraiths and Ruin
Lois McMaster Bujold: The Curse of Chalion
Mikhail Bulgakov: The Master and Margarita
Emma Donoghue: Kissing the Witch
Michael Ende: Die unendliche Geschichte
Stephen Fry: Heroes
Neil Gaiman: Fragile Things
Tessa Gratton: The Queens of Innis Lear
Robert Jordan: The Eye of the World
Stephen King: Carrie, The Talisman
Katherine Kurtz: Deryni Rising
Ursula K. Le Guin: A Wizard of Earthsea
Anne McCaffrey: Dragonsong
Alexander McCall Smith (ed.): The Girl Who Married a Lion (African Folk Tales)
Vonda N. McIntyre: Dreamsnake
Christopher Paolini: Inheritance
Terry Pratchett: Jingo, Maskerade, Small Gods, BBC Dramatizatons (Mort, Wyrd Sisters, Guards! Guards!, Eric, Small Gods, Night Watch)
Philip Pullman: His Dark Materials
J.K. Rowling: Harry Potter books
William Shakespeare: Macbeth
Mary Stewart: The Last Enchantment
Michael J. Sullivan: Theft of Swords
Judith Tarr: Alamut, The Isle of Glass
J.R.R. Tolkien: The Children of Húrin, Tales from the Perilous Realm
Aimée & David Thurlo: Second Sunrise
Various Authors: Magicats
Joan D. Vinge: Ladyhawke
Oscar Wilde: The Picture of Dorian Gray
Janny Wurts: Stormwarden

 

INTERNATIONAL WOMAN OF MYSTERY
Most likely:
Marie-Elena John: Unburnable

Alternatives:
Margaret Atwood: Alias Grace, The Robber Bride
Roseanne A. Brown: A Song of Wraiths and Ruin
Hannah Crafts: The Bondwoman’s Narrative
Edwidge Danticat: Krik? Krak!, Breath, Eyes, Memory
Emma Donoghue: The Sealed Letter, Kissing the Witch
Sarah Dunant: Blood & Beauty
Tana French: Broken Harbour
Nino Haratischwili: Die Katze und der General
Hannah Kent: Burial Rites
Barbara Nadel: Land of the Blind
Edna O’Brien: House of Splendid Isolation, The Little Red Chairs
S.J. Rozan: China Trade
Julie Smith: Louisiana Hotshot
Oksana Zabuzhko: The Museum of Abandoned Secrets

 

TERROR IN A SMALL TOWN
Most likely:
Michael Jecks: The Malice of Unnatural Death

or: Ann Cleeves: Red Bones
or: Peter Grainger: Songbird or But for the Grace
or: Cyril Hare: Death Walks the Woods or Untimely Death
or: Michael Jecks: The Templar’s Penance, The Mad Monk of Gidleigh, The Chapel of Bones, or The Butcher of St. Peter’s

Alternatives:
Rennie Airth: River of Darkness
Margery Allingham: Blackkerchief Dick
Margaret Atwood: Alias Grace
Simon Beaufort: Deadly Inheritance
Francis Beeding: Death Walks in Eastrepps
E.C. Bentley: Trent’s Own Case
R.D. Blackmore: Lorna Doone
Emily Brontë: Wuthering Heights
Carol Carnac: Crossed Skies
John Dickson Carr: Castle Skull
Erskine Childers: The Riddle of the Sands
Agatha Christie: Endless Night, The Pale Horse, Curtain, Halloween Party
Ann Cleeves: The Crow Trap
Wilkie Collins: The Woman in White
Lesley Cookman: Murder in Midwinter
Matthew Costello, Neil Richards: Cherringham
Hannah Crafts: The Bondwoman’s Narrative
Edmund Crispin: The Case of the Gilded Fly
Brian Flynn: The Billiard-Room Mystery
Tana French: Broken Harbour
Elizabeth George: A Place of Hiding, Careless in Red, This Body of Death
Anthony Gilbert: Death in a Fancy Dress
Friedrich Glauser: Wachtmeister Studer
J.M. Gregson: Murder at the Nineteenth
Nino Haratischwili: Die Katze und der General
Thomas Hardy: Tess of the D’Urbervilles
Carolyn G. Hart: Death on Demand
Reginald Hill: A Clubbable Woman
Alice Hoffman: The River King
Marlon James: A Brief History of Seven Killings
P.D. James: Unnatural Causes, Devices and Desires
Ianthe Jerrold: Let Him Lie
Marie-Elena John: Unburnable
Craig Johnson: The Cold Dish
Mons Kallentoft: Midwinter Sacrifice
Mary Kelly: The Spoilt Kill
Hannah Kent: Burial Rites
Stephen King: Pet Semetary, Misery, Shawshank Redemption, Carrie
Elizabeth Kostova: The Historian
Stieg Larsson: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
John Le Carré: A Murder of Quality
Harper Lee: To Kill a Mockingbird
Dennis Lehane: Shutter Island
E.C.R. Lorac: Murder in the Mill-Race, Fire in the Thatch
Sharyn McCrumb: The Ballad of Tom Dooley
Michael McDowell: Blackwater
Michael McGarrity: Tularosa
Medieval Murderers: The Lost Prophecies
Patricia Moyes: The Sunken Sailor
Gil North: The Methods of Sergeant Cluff
Edna O’Brien: House of Splendid Isolation, The Little Red Chairs
Ellis Peters: The Devil’s Novice
Joyce Porter: Dover One
Amanda Quick: The Girl Who Knew too Much
Ellis Peters: The Devil’s Novice
Harriet Elizabeth Prescott Spofford: The Amber Gods and Other Stories
Ellery Queen: Calamity Town
Ruth Rendell: A New Lease of Death
Mary Roberts Rinehart: The Circular Staircase
Peter Robinson: Gallows View, Wednesday’s Child
Priscilla Royal: Tyrant of the Mind
James Runcie: Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death
Sofie Ryan: The Whole Cat and Caboodle
Diane Setterfield: Once Upon a River (?)
Mary Stewart: This Rough Magic
Bram Stoker: Dracula
Julian Symons: The Colour of Murder, The Players and the Game, The Plot Against Roger Rider
Donna Tartt: The Secret History
Aimée & David Thurlo: Second Sunrise
Joel Townsley Rogers: The Red Right Hand
Various Authors: Magicats
Various Authors: Feline Felonies
Various Authors: Trinidad Noir
Patricia Wentworth: Lonesome Road
T.H. White: Darkness at Pemberley
R.D. Wingfield: A Killing Frost

 

TRULY TERRIFYING
Most likely:
Kathryn Harkup: Death by Shakespeare

Alternatives:
Preet Bharara: Doing Justice
Humphrey Carpenter: The Inklings
John Curran: Agatha Christie’s Secret Notebooks, Agatha Christie: Murder in the Making
Judith Flanders: The Invention of Murder
Aminatta Forna: The Devil That Danced on the Water
Neil Gaiman: The View from the Cheap Seats
Christopher Hibbert: The Borgias and Their Enemies
Sebastian Junger: The Perfect Storm
Ulrich Lampen (ed.): Die NS-Führung im Verhör
Adrienne Mayor: The Poison King
W. Stanley Moss: Ill Met by Moonlight
Terry Pratchett: A Slip of the Keyboard
Friedrich Reck-Malleczwewen: Tagebuch eines Verzeifelten
Philippe Sands: East West Street
Julian Symons: The Tell-Tale Heart: The Life and Works of Edgar Allen Poe
Bob Woodward: The Last of the President’s Men, The Secret Man: The Story of Watergate’s Deep Throat

 

AMATEUR SLEUTH
Most likely:
Anthony Gilbert: Death in Fancy Dress

or: Philip Gooden: The Salisbury Manuscript
or: Mary Kelly: The Spoilt Kill
or: Priscilla Royal: Tyrant of the Mind

Alternatives:
Margery Allingham: More Work for the Undertaker, Coroner’s Pidgin
Simon Beaufort: Deadly Inheritance
Lauren Belfer: City of Light
E.C. Bentley: Trent’s Own Case
Nicholas Blake: Minute for Murder, The Beast Must Die
Jan Burke: Eighteen
Christopher Bush: The Perfect Murder Case
John Dickson Carr: It Walks by Night, Castle Skull
Arthur Conan Doyle: The Return of Sherlock Holmes, His Last Bow
Michael Connelly: Fair Warning
Lesley Cookman: Murder in Midwinter
Edmund Crispin: The Case of the Gilded Fly
Jeffery Deaver: The Bone Collector, The Cold Moon
Francis Durbridge: Paul Temple
Brian Flynn: The Billiard-Room Mystery
R. Austin Freeman: The Adventures of Dr. Thorndyke, The Cat’s Eye
Jacques Futrelle: The Thinking Machine at Work
Elizabeth Gaskell: Mary Barton
Elizabeth George: A Place of Hiding
Michael Gilbert: Death in Captivity
Robert Goddard: Sea Change
Sue Grafton: A Is for Alibi
Cyril Hare: Death Walks the Woods, Untimely Death
Carolyn G. Hart: Death on Demand
Peter Høeg: Smilla’s Sense of Snow
Anthony Horowitz: The Word is Murder, The House of Silk
Ianthe Jerrold: Let Him Lie
Stieg Larsson: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Laura Lippman: By a Spider’s Thread
Philip MacDonald: X v. Rex, The List of Adrian Messenger
Medieval Murderers: The Lost Prophecies
Orhan Pamuk: My Name Is Red
Robert B. Parker: The Godwulf Manuscript, School Days, Burt Reynods Reads: Chance / Hush Money / Small Vices
Ellis Peters: The Devil’s Novice
Ellery Queen: Calamity Town, The Chinese Orange Mystery
Amanda Quick: The Girl Who Knew too Much
Clayton Rawson: The Great Merlini
Candace Robb: The Riddle of St. Leonards’
Gillian Roberts: Caught Dead in Philadelphia
Mary Roberts Rinehart: The Circular Staircase
S.J. Rozan: China Trade
James Runcie: Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death
Sofie Ryan: The Whole Cat and Caboodle
Frank Schätzing: Tod und Teufel
Julie Smith: Louisiana Hotshot
Mary Stewart: This Rough Magic
Jay Stringer: Ways to Die in Glasgow
Barbara Vine: Asta’s Book
Edgar Wallace: The Four Just Men
Patricia Wentworth: Lonesome Road

 

RELICS AND CURIOSITIES
Most likely:
Medieval Murderers: The Lost Prophecies

Alternatives:
Hans Christian Andersen: Fairy Tales
J.M. Barrie: Peter Pan
Alexandre Dumas: The Three Musketeers
Sarah Dunant: Blood & Beauty (?)
Michael Ende: Die unendliche Geschichte
Neil Gaiman: Fragile Things
Philip Gooden: The Salisbury Manuscript
Peter Høeg: Smilla’s Sense of Snow
Stephen King: The Talisman
Stieg Larsson: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Anne McCaffrey: Dragonflight
Robin McKinley: The Hero and the Crown, The Blue Sword
Naomi Novik: Spinning Silver
Orhan Pamuk: My Name Is Red
Christopher Paolini: Inheritance
Robert B. Parker: The Godwulf Manuscript
Ellis Peters: The Devil’s Novice
Ian Rankin: Knots and Crosses
J.K. Rowling: Harry Potter books
S.J. Rozan: China Trade
William Shakespeare: The Merchant of Venice
Michael J. Sullivan: Theft of Swords
Oscar Wilde: The Picture of Dorian Gray

 

GENRE: HORROR
Most likely:
Wilkie Collins: The Woman in White

or: Edgar Allan Poe: The Raven & Annabelle Lee

Alternatives:
Marie Belloc Lowndes: The Lodger
R.D. Blackmore: Lorna Doone
Emily Brontë: Wuthering Heights
Agatha Christie: Endless Night
J.J. Connington: Nordenholt’s Million
Stephen King: Pet Semetary, Misery, Shawshank Redemption, Carrie, The Long Walk, The Talisman
Michael McDowell: Blackwater
Harriet Elizabeth Prescott Spofford: The Amber Gods and Other Stories
Ann Radcliffe: The Mysteries of Udolpho
Bram Stoker: Dracula
Oscar Wilde: The Picture of Dorian Gray

 

DYSTOPIAN HELLSCAPE
Most likely:
J.J. Connington: Nordenholt’s Million

Alternatives:
Ben Elton: Identity Crisis
Stephen King: The Long Walk, The Talisman
Medieval Murderers: The Lost Prophecies
Ian Rankin: Westwind
James Tiptree Jr.: Her Smoke Rose Up Forever

 

CENTER (RAVEN) SQUARE
Read: Agatha Christie: The Thirteen Problems

 

 

 

 

 

FULL MOON
Most likely:
W. Stanley Moss: Ill Met by Moonlight
or: Patricia Moyes: The Sunken Sailor

Alternatives:
Margery Allingham: Blackkerchief Dick (?)
Hans Christian Andersen: Fairy Tales (?)
Jeffery Deaver: The Cold Moon
Victor Hugo: The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Robert Jordan: The Eye of the World
J.K. Rowling: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Mary Stewart: The Last Enchantment
Bram Stoker: Dracula
Barbara Vine: The Blood Doctor
Joan D. Vinge: Ladyhawke

 

THIRTEEN
Most likely:
Margery Allingham: More Work for the Undertaker
or: Terry Pratchett: Small Gods

 

 

 

 

  

Spell invoked: Bingo Flip with Lora — STONE COLD HORROR replaced by READ BY FLASHLIGHT OR CANDLELIGHT

Read: Colin Dexter: The Dead of Jericho

Ugh. I’m going to have to give this one some further thought — currently it’s looking like a candidate for the application of one of my spell cards.

(This is going to be was a spur-of-the-moment selection … it’s not like my book pool (of everything BUT horror) is in danger of running low, after all!

 

PSYCH
Most likely:
Nicholas Blake: The Beast Must Die

or: Vera Caspary: Laura
or: C.S. Forester: Payment Deferred or Plain Murder
or: Tana French: Broken Harbour
or: Patricia Highsmith: Ripley Under Ground
or Michael Jecks: The Chapel of Bones or The Mad Monk of Gidleigh
or: Donna Tartt: The Secret History

Alternatives:
Charles Warren Adams: The Notting Hill Mystery
Rennie Airth: River of Darkness
Margaret Atwood: Alias Grace, The Robber Bride
Francis Beeding: Death Walks in Eastrepps
Marie Belloc Lowndes: The Lodger
Jay Bonansinga: The Sleep Police
Emily Brontë: Wuthering Heights
Mikhail Bulgakov: The Master and Margarita
Christopher Bush: The Perfect Murder Case
John Dickson Carr: It Walks by Night, Castle Skull
Jane Casey: The Burning
Agatha Christie: Endless Night
Wilkie Collins: The Woman in White
Michael Connelly: Fair Warning
J.J. Connington: Nordenholt’s Million
Lesley Cookman: Murder in Midwinter
Hannah Crafts: The Bondwoman’s Narrative
Jeffery Deaver: The Bone Collector, The Cold Moon
Emma Donoghue: The Sealed Letter
Sarah Dunant: Blood & Beauty
Joy Ellis: They Disappeared
Ben Elton: Identity Crisis, The First Casualty
Hugh Fraser: Harm
Neil Gaiman: Fragile Things
Elizabeth George: What Came Before He Shot her, This Body of Death, Believing the Lie
Nino Haratischwili: Die Katze und der General
Thomas Hardy: The Mayor of Casterbridge, Tess of the D’Urbervilles
Cyril Hare: Untimely Death
Peter Høeg: Smilla’s Sense of Snow
Alice Hoffman: The River King
Roy Horniman: Kind Hearts and Coronets (aka Israel Rank)
Anthony Horowitz: The Word is Murder, The House of Silk
Richard Hull: Excellent Intentions
P.D. James: Unnatural Causes, Devices and Desires, A Certain Justice
Ianthe Jerrold: Let Him Lie
Marie-Elena John: Unburnable
Hannah Kent: Burial Rites
Stephen King: Pet Semetary, Misery, Carrie, The Talisman
Stieg Larsson: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
John Le Carré: The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, The Tailor of Panama, Our Kind of Traitor
Dennis Lehane: Shutter Island
Philip MacDonald: X v. Rex, The List of Adrian Messenger
James MacManus: Black Venus
Val McDermid: Insidious Intent
Vonda N. McIntyre: Dreamsnake
Medieval Murderers: The Lost Prophecies
Herman Melville: The Confidence-Man
Margaret Millar: An Air That Kills, Beast in View
Jo Nesbø: Macbeth
Anne Perry: Seven Dials, Southampton Row
Ellis Peters: The Devil’s Novice
Harriet Elizabeth Prescott Spofford: The Amber Gods and Other Stories
Steven Price: By Gaslight
Amanda Quick: The Girl Who Knew too Much
Ann Radcliffe: The Mysteries of Udolpho
Ian Rankin: Knots and Crosses
Mary Roberts Rinehart: The Circular Staircase
Priscilla Royal: Tyrant of the Mind
Diane Setterfield: Once Upon a River
William Shakespeare: Hamlet, Macbeth, King Lear, Richard III
Julie Smith: Louisiana Hotshot
Bram Stoker: Dracula
Julian Symons: The Colour of Murder, The Players and the Game, The Plot Against Roger Rider
Aimée & David Thurlo: Second Sunrise
Joel Townsley Rogers: The Red Right Hand
C.J. Tudor: The Taking of Annie Thorne
Various Authors: Helsinki Noir
Various Authors: Los Angeles Noir
Various Authors: New Orleans Noir
Various Authors: Trinidad Noir
Barbara Vine: The Blood Doctor, Asta’s Book, A Dark-Adapted Eye
Minette Walters: Disordered Minds
Sarah Waters: The Paying Guests
Patricia Wentworth: Lonesome Road
Mary Westmacott: Giant’s Bread, The Burden
Oscar Wilde: The Picture of Dorian Gray
R.D. Wingfield: A Killing Frost
Oksana Zabuzhko: The Museum of Abandoned Secrets

 

DOOMSDAY
Most likely:
A.S. Byatt: Ragnarok

Alternatives:
J.J. Connington: Nordenholt’s Million
Robert Jordan: The Eye of the World
Stephen King: The Long Walk, The Talisman
Anne McCaffrey: Dragonflight
Medieval Murderers: The Lost Prophecies
Ian Rankin: Westwind
Candace Robb: The Riddle of St. Leonards’
James Tiptree Jr.: Her Smoke Rose Up Forever
Catherynne M. Valente: Space Opera
Janny Wurts: Stormwarden

 

BLACK CAT
Most likely:
T.S. Eliot: Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats

Alternatives:
Mikhail Bulgakov: The Master and Margarita
Nino Haratischwili: Die Katze und der General (?)
Stephen King: Pet Semetary
Sofie Ryan: The Whole Cat and Caboodle
Saki: Tobermory (?)
Various Authors: Magicats
Various Authors: Feline Felonies

 

DIVERSE VOICES
Most likely:
Marlon James: A Brief History of Seven Killings

Substitution:
Aimée & David Thurlo: Second Sunrise √

Alternatives:
Preet Bharara: Doing Justice
Roseanne A. Brown: A Song of Wraiths and Ruin
Mikhail Bulgakov: The Master and Margarita
Hannah Crafts: The Bondwoman’s Narrative
Edwidge Danticat: Krik? Krak!, Breath, Eyes, Memory
Aminatta Forna: The Devil That Danced on the Water
Gabriel Garcia Marquez: Cien años de soledad (One Hundred Years of Solitude), El coronel no tiene quien le escriba (No one Writes to the Colonel and Other Stories)
Nino Haratischwili: Die Katze und der General
Marie-Elena John: Unburnable
Orhan Pamuk: My Name Is Red
Oksana Zabuzhko: The Museum of Abandoned Secrets

 

IT WAS A DARK AND STORMY NIGHT
Most likely:
Christianna Brand: Fog of Doubt
Brian Flynn: The Billiard-Room Mystery
Dennis Lehane: Shutter Island
Harriet Elizabeth Prescott Spofford: The Amber Gods and Other Stories

Substitution:
Patricia Moyes: The Sunken Sailor

Alternatives:
Margery Allingham: Blackkerchief Dick (?)
R.D. Blackmore: Lorna Doone
Emily Brontë: Wuthering Heights
A.S. Byatt: Ragnarok
John Dickson Carr: It Walks by Night, The Hollow Man
Vera Caspary: Laura
Erskine Childers: The Riddle of the Sands (?)
Agatha Christie: Endless Night, The Pale Horse
Ann Cleeves: Red Bones
Wilkie Collins: The Woman in White
Michael Connelly: The Night Fire (?)
Edwidge Danticat: Krik? Krak!
Jeffery Deaver: The Cold Moon
Charles Dickens: Bleak House
David Dodge: To Catch a Thief
Sarah Dunant: Blood & Beauty (?)
Francis Durbridge: Send for Paul Temple
Nino Haratischwili: Die Katze und der General
Thomas Hardy: The Mayor of Casterbridge, Tess of the D’Urbervilles
Peter Høeg: Smilla’s Sense of Snow
Victor Hugo: The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Michael Jecks: The Butcher of St. Peter’s, The Mad Monk of Gidleigh
Robert Jordan: The Eye of the World
Sebastian Junger: The Perfect Storm
Stephen King: Pet Semetary, Carrie
Stieg Larsson: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
John Le Carré: The Tailor of Panama
Val McDermid: Insidious Intent
Medieval Murderers: The Lost Prophecies
W. Stanley Moss: Ill Met by Moonlight
Jo Nesbo: Macbeth
Edgar Allan Poe: The Raven & Annabelle Lee
Terry Pratchett: Small Gods, BBC Dramatizatons (Mort, Wyrd Sisters, Guards! Guards!, Eric, Small Gods, Night Watch)
Steven Price: By Gaslight
Christopher Priest: The Prestige (?)
Ann Radcliffe: The Mysteries of Udolpho
Mary Roberts Rinehart: The Circular Staircase
Diane Setterfield: Once Upon a River (?)
William Shakespeare: Macbeth, King Lear
Robert Louis Stevenson: Kidnapped
Mary Stewart: The Last Enchantment
Bram Stoker: Dracula
Michael J. Sullivan: Theft of Swords
Aimée & David Thurlo: Second Sunrise
Joel Townsley Rogers: The Red Right Hand
Joan D. Vinge: Ladyhawke
Edgar Wallace: The Four Just Men, The Terror
Janny Wurts: Stormwarden

 

PAINT IT BLACK
Most likely:
James MacManus: Black Venus

Substitution:
Julie Smith (ed.) & Various Authors: New Orleans Noir

Alternatives:
Margery Allingham: More Work for the Undertaker, Coroner’s Pidgin, Blackkerchief Dick
Vera Caspary: Laura
Roseanne A. Brown: A Song of Wraiths and Ruin
Michael Connelly: The Black Echo
Hannah Crafts: The Bondwoman’s Narrative
Edwidge Danticat: Krik? Krak!, Breath, Eyes, Memory
Francis Durbridge: Send for Paul Temple
C.S. Forester: Payment Deferred
Aminatta Forna: The Devil That Danced on the Water
Jacques Futrelle: The Thinking Machine at Work
Gabriel Garcia Marquez: Cien años de soledad (One Hundred Years of Solitude), El coronel no tiene quien le escriba (No one Writes to the Colonel and Other Stories)
Kathryn Harkup: Death by Shakespeare
Taylor Jenkins Reid: Daisy Jones and the Six
Marie-Elena John: Unburnable
Elizabeth Kostova: The Historian
George R.R. Martin (ed.), Various Authors: Dangerous Women
Mario Puzo: The Godfather
Ann Radcliffe: The Mysteries of Udolpho
Ian Rankin: Knots and Crosses, Watchman
Michael J. Sullivan: Theft of Swords
Donna Tartt: The Secret History
Various Authors: Helsinki Noir
Various Authors: Los Angeles Noir
Various Authors: Trinidad Noir
T.H. White: Darkness at Pemberley

 

NEW RELEASE
Most likely:
Joy Ellis: They Disappeared

or: Roseanne A. Brown: A Song of Wraiths and Ruin
or: Michael Connelly: Fair Warning

Alternative:
Martin Edwards (ed.), Various Authors: Setting Scores

 

 

GENRE: SUSPENSE
Most likely:
Patricia Highsmith: Ripley Under Ground

or: Patricia Highsmith: Carol
or: John Lanchester: Fragrant Harbour
or: Derek B. Miller: Norwegian by Night

Alternatives:
Ken Follett: Eye of the Needle
Maurice LeBlanc: Arsène Lupin versus Herlock Sholmes
John Le Carré: A Perfect Spy, The Little Drummer Girl, The Russia House, The Honorable School Boy, Call for the Dead, The Secret Pilgrim, or Absolute Friends
Mary Westmacott: Unfinished Portrait or Absent in the Spring

… or virtually any and all of the mysteries, horror and fantasy books listed as options for the other squares on my card.

 

DARKEST LONDON
Most likely:
Christianna Brand: Fog of Doubt

or: Charles Warren Adams: The Notting Hill Mystery
or: Sarah Waters: The Paying Guests

Alternatives:
Marie Belloc Lowndes: The Lodger
Nicholas Blake: Minute for Murder
Anthony Boucher: The New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, Vol. 1
Christopher Bush: The Perfect Murder Case
John Dickson Carr: Death Watch
Jane Casey: The Burning
Agatha Christie: The Pale Horse
Rory Clements: Martyr
Arthur Conan Doyle: The Return of Sherlock Holmes, His Last Bow
Michael Crichton: The Great Train Robbery
Charles Dickens: Oliver Twist, Bleak House, David Copperfield
Emma Donoghue: The Sealed Letter
Francis Durbridge: Paul Temple — Complete Radio Collection, Volume 1
Ken Follett: A Dangerous Fortune
C.S. Forester: Plain Murder
Andrew Forrester: The Female Detective
R. Austin Freeman: The Adventures of Dr. Thorndyke, The Cat’s Eye
Robert Goddard: Sea Change
Anthony Horowitz: The Word is Murder, The House of Silk
P.D. James: A Certain Justice
Philip MacDonald: X v. Rex, The List of Adrian Messenger
Arthur Morrison: Martin Hewitt, Investigator; Detective Stories
John Mortimer: Rumpole and the Reign of Terror
Anne Perry: Seven Dials, Southampton Row, A Sudden Fearful Death
Steven Price: By Gaslight
Christopher Priest: The Prestige
Ruth Rendell: Portobello
John Rhode: The Paddington Mystery
Stella Rimington: Dead Line
Barbara Vine: The Blood Doctor, Asta’s Book
Edgar Wallace: The Four Just Men, The Terror
Oscar Wilde: Arthur Savile’s Crime and Other Stories, The Picture of Dorian Gray

 

2020 Mid-Year Reading Review and Statistics

What with the pandemic still very much ongoing, BL acting up again, MR’s and Char’s resulting posts re: BookLikes, the BL experience, and moving back to Goodreads, this feels like a somewhat odd moment to post my half-yearly reading stats.  I hope it won’t be the last time on this site, but I fear that the community to which I’ve belonged for almost a decade — longer than to any other online community — and which, most recently, has played a pivotal role in making the Corona pandemic more bearable to me, is on the point of breaking up.  And frankly, this is making me incredibly sad.

Book-wise, too, the pandemic has had a huge impact on my reading; for three out of the past six months, I pretty much exclusively withdrew into Golden Age mystery comfort reads, because I just didn’t have it in me to tackle anything else.  Though I suppose in comparison with others, who went into more or less full-fledged reading slumps, I can still color myself lucky.

That said, the past six months’ reading highlights definitely included all of the buddy reads, both for the shared reading experience and for the books themselves — as well as a number of books that I read either before the pandemic began or in the very recent couple of weeks … though I’m tempted to list every single favorite Golden Age mystery that I reread during the pandemic, too; in addition to a whole number of new discoveries.  So, without further ado (and roughly in reverse chronological order):

 

Highlights:

The Buddy Reads:

Jean-François Parot: L’énigme des blancs-manteaux (The Châtelet Apprentice)
The first of Parot’s Nicolas le Floch historical mysteries set in 18th century Paris.  Nicolas is a Breton by birth and, on the recommendation of his godfather, a Breton nobleman, joins the Paris police force under the command of its (real) Lieutenant General Antoine de Sartine, one of the late 18th century’s most influential statesmen and administrators. —  Parot was an expert on the period and a native Parisian, both of which elements clearly show in his writing, and I’m already looking forward to reading more books from the series.

French-language buddy read with Tannat and onnurtilraun — we’re now also looking into the possibly of “buddy-watching” the (French) TV adaptation starring Jérôme Robart.


The pandemic buddy reads; including and in particular:
Josephine Tey: A Daughter of Time (with BT’s and my individual add-on, Tey’s play Dickon, written under the name Gordon Daviot, which likewise aims at setting the record straight vis-à-vis Shakespeare’s Richard III) — A Daughter of Time was a reread; Dickon was new to me.
* Georgette Heyer: No Wind of Blame (the first of the Inspector Hemingway mysteries — also a reread);
* Agatha Christie: Towards Zero and Cat Among the Pigeons (both likewise rereads);
* Ngaio Marsh: Scales of Justice (also a reread; one of my favorite Inspector Alleyn mysteries);
* Cyril Hare: Tenant for Death (the first Inspector Mallett mystery — new to me);
* Patricia Wentworth: The Case Is Closed (Miss Sliver book #2 — also new to me; this isn’t a series I am reading in publication order).

Dorothy Dunnett: The Game of Kings (book 1 of the Lymond Chronicles)
16th century Scotland; the adventures of a main character somewhere between Rob Roy, Robin Hood and Scaramouche (mostly Scaramouche), but it also features a range of strong and altogether amazing female characters.  Another series I’m looking forward to continuing.

The first buddy read of the year, together with Moonlight Reader, BrokenTune, and Lillelara.

 

My Individual Highlights:

Bernardine Evaristo: Girl, Woman, Other
Heaven knows the Booker jury doesn’t always get it right IMHO, but wow, this time for once they absolutely did.  If you haven’t already read this, run, don’t walk to get it.  And though initially I was going to say “especially if you’re a woman (and from a minority)” — no, I’m actually going to make that, “especially if you’re a white man”.

Saša Stanišić: Herkunft (Origin) and Gaël Faye: Petit pays (Small Country)
Two autobiographical books dealing with the authors’ genocide experience, in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Burundi, respectively. Stanišić’s account — an odd mix of fact on fiction, which does lean pretty strongly towards the factual, however — asks, as the title indicates, how precisely our geographical, ethnic and cultural origin / sense of “belonging” defines our identity; and it focuses chiefly on the refugee experience and the experience of creating a new place for oneself in a new (and substantially different) country and culture.  Faye’s short novel (barely longer than a novella) packs an equal amount of punch, but approaches the topic from the other end — it’s a coming of age tale looking at the way our cultural identity is first drummed into us … and how ethnic stereotypes and hostilities, when fanned and exploited, will almost invariably lead to war and genocide.

 

Josephine Tey: The Inspector Grant series, Dickon, and Miss Pym Disposes
Having already read two books from Tey’s Alan Grant series (The Daughter of Time and The Franchise Affair) as well as her nonseries novel Brat Farrar in past years, and Miss Pym Disposes at the beginning of this year, I took the combined (re)read of The Daughter of Time and the play Dickon during the pandemic buddy reads (see above) as my cue to finally also read the rest of the Inspector Grant mysteries.  And I’m glad I finally did; Tey’s work as a whole is a paean to her much-beloved England — and though she was Scottish by birth, to a somewhat lesser degree also to Scotland –; a love that would eventually cause her to bequeath her entire estate to the National Trust. — Though the books are ostensibly mysteries, the actual “mystery” element almost takes a back seat to the land … and to its people, or rather to people like those who formed Tey’s personal circle of friends and acquaintances.  And it is in creating characters that her writing shines as much as in the description of England’s and Scotland’s natural beauty.

Pete Brown: Shakespeare’s Local
Another book that I owned way too long before I finally got around to reading it; the discursive — in the best sense –, rollicking tale of one London (or rather, Southwark) pub from its earliest days in the Middle Ages to the 21st century, telling the history of Southwark, London, public houses, and their patrons along the way.  The title is glorious conjecture and based on little more than the fact that the pub is near the location of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre (combined with the equally demonstrable fact that Shakespeare loved a good ale and what today we’d call a pub crawl) … so it’s highly likely that, like many another celebrity over the centuries, he’d have had the occasional pint at this particular inn, the George, as well.

Dorothy L. Sayers: Love All
A delightful drawing room comedy that was, owing to its completion during WWII, only performed twice during Sayers’s own lifetime and never again thereafter, which is utterly unfair to both the material and its author — topically, this is the firmly tongue in cheek stage companion to such works as Gaudy Night and the two speeches republished under the title Are Women Human?  (I’d call it feminist if Sayers hadn’t hated that term, but whatever label you want to stick on it, its message comes through loud and clear and with plenty of laughs.)

Christianna Brand: Green for Danger
One of the discoveries of my foray into the realm of Golden Age mysteries; an eerie, claustrophobic, psychological drama revolving around several suspicious deaths (and near-deaths) at a wartime hospital in Kent during WWII.  None of Brand’s other mysteries that I’ve read so far is quite up to this level, but she excelled in closed-circle settings featuring a small group of people who all genuinely like each other (and really are, for the most part, likeable from the reader’s — and the investigating policeman’s — perspective, too), and in this particular book, the backdrop of the added danger arising from the wartime setting adds even more to the tension.  It’s also fairly obvious that Brand was writing from personal experience, which greatly enhances every single aspect of the book, from the setting and the atmosphere to the individual characters.

Sonia Sotomayor: My Beloved World
Sotomayor’s memoirs up to her first appointment to the Federal Bench.  What a courageous woman!  A trailblazer in every sense of the word — a passionate advocate for women, Latinos/-as (not just Puerto Ricans), those hindered in their career path by a pre-existing medical condition (in her case: diabetes), and more generally, everybody up against unequal odds.  Fiercely intelligent and never satisfied with second best (for herself and others alike), she nevertheless comes across as eminently likeable and open-minded — on the list of people I’d like to meet one day (however unlikely), she shot right up to a top spot after I’d read this book; in close vicinity with Michelle Obama.

John Bercow: Unspeakable
Bercow’s time as Speaker of the House of Commons was doubtlessly among the more remarkable periods in the history of the British Parliament, both on account of his personality and of the momentous decisions taken during those years; and his unmistakeable style jumps out from every page of his memoir — as well as every minute of the audio edition, which he narrates himself.  The last chapter (his attempt at outlining the odds for Britain post-Brexit) was already obsolete before the Corona pandemic hit; this is even more true now.  However, the vast majority of the book makes for a fascinating read, not least of course because of his insight into the politics — and politicians — of his time (he is neither sparing with the carrot nor with the stick, and some of his reflections, e.g., on the qualities of a “good” politician / member of parliament, would constitute ample food for thought for politicians anywhere).

 

Statistics:

As I said above, the one thing that definitely had the biggest impact on my reading in the first six months of 2020 was my three-month long “comfort reading” retreat into the world of Golden Age mysteries.  So guess what:

Of the 129 books I read in the first six months of 2020, a whopping 63% were Golden Age and contemporary mysteries — add in the 10 historical mysteries that also form the single biggest chunk of my historical fiction reading, you even get to 91 books or 70.5%.

I am rather pleased, though, that — comfort and escape reading aside and largely thanks to a number of truly interesting memoirs and biographies — the number of nonfiction books is roughly equivalent to the sum of “high brow” fiction (classics and litfic).

Another thing that makes me happy is that my extended foray into Golden Age mysteries was not overwhelmingly limited to rereads; these accounted for only 28% of all books read (36 in absolute figures), a percentage which is not substantially higher than my average in the last two years.  At the same time, as a comparatively large number of Golden Age mysteries are not (yet?) available as audiobooks — not even all of those that have been republished in print in recent years –, and as I have spent considerably less time driving to and from meetings and conferences than in the past two years, the share of print books consumed is higher than it was in 2018 and 2019.

 

Given the high percentage of comfort reading, it’s no surprise that my star ratings are on the high side for the first half of 2020 — the vast majority of the books were decent, if not good or even great reads.

Overall average: 3.7 stars 

However, my Golden Age mystery binge also had a noticeable effect on the two statistics I’m tracking particularly: gender and ethnicity.

As far as gender is concerned things still look very good if you just focus on the authors: 88 books by women (plus 5 mixed anthologies / author teams) vs. 36 books by male authors; hooray!  However, inspired by onnurtilraun, I decided to add another layer this time and also track protagonists … and of course, if there is one genre where women authors have created a plethora of iconic male protagonists, it is Golden Age mystery fiction; and all the Miss Marples, Miss Silvers, Mrs. Bradleys and other female sleuths out there can’t totally wipe out the number of books starring the likes of Hercule Poirot, Lord Peter Wimsey, Roderick Alleyn, and other male detectives of note.  Then again, the Golden Age mystery novelists actually were ahead of their time in not only creating women sleuths acting independently but also in endowing their male detectives with equally strong female partners and friends, so the likes of Ariadne Oliver, Agatha “Troy” Alleyn, and of course the inimitable Harriet Vane, also make for a significantly higher number of books with both male and female protagonists.  Still, the gender shift is impossible to miss.

 

(For those wondering about the “N / A” protagonist, that’s Martha Wells’s Murderbot, who of course is an AI and deliberately created as gender-neutral.)

And of course, since there isn’t a non-white author to be found among the Golden Age mystery writers (or at least, none that I’m aware of and whose books figured as part of my reading during the past couple of months), the ethnicity chart goes completely out of the window.  Again, as long as you just look at the number of countries visited as part of my Around the World reading challenge (and if you ignore the number of books written by authors from / set in the UK and the U.S.), the figures actually still look pretty good — and yes, the relatively high number of European countries is deliberate; I mostly focused on authors from / settings in the Southern Hemisphere last year, so I figured since tracking ethnicity was substantially impacted by the mystery binge this year anyway, I might as well make a bit of headway with the European countries, too.

Yet, there is one interesting wrinkle even in the comparison of author vs. protagonist ethnicity; namely, where it comes to the non-Caucasian part of the table: It turns out that the number of non-white protagonists is slightly higher than that of non-white authors, because I managed to pick a few books at least which, though written by white authors, did feature non-white protagonists.  Make of that one what you will …

   

Nevertheless, for the rest of the year, the aim is clear … catch up on my Around the World reading challenge and build in as many books by non-Caucasian authors as possible!

Addendum
In a discussion on the BookLikes version of this post, the question came up whether the author’s gender and ethnicity matters at all, or whether the only thing that really matters is the quality of the writing to begin with.  Here’s what I wrote there:

I used to think it [= gender and ethnicity] didn’t / shouldn’t matter, too. Since I started to put greater weight on women’s writing and books by non-white authors, I’ve come to change my mind.

1) It’s not about “chromosomes”, but about life experience. Women, even in today’s society, experience life differently from men. That is true even for women who (like me) were raised — not necessarily deliberately, but as it were “by default” — in such a way as to embrace roles traditionally reserved for men from early childhood on (which incidentally frequently put me at odds with the boys in the playground), and who work in an industry that, even when I was in university, was still substantially dominated by (white) men, and to a certain extent still is even today (not in terms of access to the profession as such, but in terms of what is achievable and who calls the shots). And similarly, it is obvious that blacks, Latinos/-as, Asians, and members of other ethnicities experience society differently from whites — it didn’t take George Floyd’s death and the Black Lives Matter movement to convince me of that.

So it is only natural that women — and non-white authors — also tell stories differently from men, and from white people, respectively. Not necessarily, perhaps not even overwhelmingly, the way that Bernadine Evaristo does — a book like “Girl, Women, Other” could of course never have been written by a man or by a white person to begin with. (And that’s precisely the reason why I said these are the people who most need to read this book — because it reflects a perspective that they / we will only ever be able to understand, if at all, intellectually; never instinctively and from personal experience.) Nor do I necessarily mean that male writing is more “testosterone-soaked” than women’s writing (though bad male writing almost invariably is), or that “men can’t write women characters” (and vice versa). — In most cases, the differences between men’s and women’s writing are so subtle that, as long as you don’t pay any attention, you don’t notice them at all. But if you come from reading a lot of books written by men (as I had, when I set out on this course a few years ago) and then you switch to reading books written mostly by women, you start noticing them after a while — in details of writerly focus, in little things like a detail of an individual characters’ response to a particular situation (or to somebody else’s comment), in the way dialogue is framed, in what matters to a character in a given situation, etc. Again, none of this rises to the level of “good / bad” “realistic / unrealistic” writing, or to “men writing women as men with XX.chromosomes” (or women writing men as women with XY-chromosomes, or whites writing other ethniticities as black-faced whites, etc.), but it’s there; and interestingly, it’s there as much in, say, Golden Age mystery fiction and other 19th and early 20th century classics as it is in contemporary writing.

2) It’s about industry access and noticeability. The publishing industry is, for all I can see, still way too much dominated by “pale stale males”. Like in my own industry (the law), it’s not so much a matter of a lack of women (or non-white) writers (and columnists, critics, journalists, etc.) But in the corporate structures, the old hierarchies die hard — not only at the top (= the tip of the iceberg) — and though I don’t know a lot of writers personally, I know enough to realize how much harder it is for women — and for writers of color — to obtain the same amount of exposure that a white male author would be able to obtain in their situation. (Again, this isn’t as simple as “good / bad writing” or a matter of talent — it’s about what it takes *in addition* to talent and good writing.) So if I can do my tiny little bit to help by actually buying and reading their books — and by occasionally even talking about those books, whenever I feel motivated enough to write a review, or by deliberately tracking my reading and talking about that, I’m more than happy to do that.

// TA steps off soap box.

 

Original post:
ThemisAthena.booklikes.com/post/2804666/2020-mid-year-reading-statistics

February and Mid-March 2020 Reading Update

I never got around to doing this at the end of February, so what the heck … I might as well include the first two weeks of March, since that month is half over at this point already, too.  But then, February was such a universal suck-fest in RL that I didn’t even make it here for the better part of the month to begin with.  (Don’t even ask.)  So much for my hope back in January that things might be looking up …

So, lots and lots of comfort reading in the past 1 1/2 months; Golden and Silver Age mysteries aplenty, both new and from the reread department — but I also managed to honor Black History Month and advance my Around the World, Women Writers, and 221B Baker Street and Beyond reading projects.  In perhaps the weirdest turnout of the past couple of weeks, I even managed to include two “almost buddy reads” (reading books that others had recently finished or were reading concurrently — Patricia Moyes’s Dead Men Don’t Ski and Freeman Will Crofts’s The Cask) and, before vanishing into my February RL black hole, a real buddy read with BT of John Bercow’s excellent (though somewhat unfortunately-titled) memoir, Unspeakable.

 

Number of books read since February 1: 27
Of these:

 

Black History Month
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: We Should All Be Feminists
Yaa Gyasi: Homegoing
Gaël Faye: Petit pays (Small Country)

 

Around the World
— counting only books by non-Caucasian authors and / or set neither in Europe nor in the mainland U.S.:
* The three above-mentioned books, plus
* Sonia Sotomayor: My Beloved World
* Mia Alvar: In the Country
* Matthew Pritchard (ed.), Agatha Christie: The Grand Tour: Letters and Photographs from the British Empire Expedition 1922

 

221B Baker Street and Beyond
Terry Manners: The Man Who Became Sherlock Holmes
Keith Frankel: Granada’s Greatest Detective

 

Golden Age Mysteries
4 by Ngaio Marsh (all rereads): Overture to Death, Light Thickens, Dead Water, Death at the Bar
4 by Margery Allingham (2 rereads, 2 new): The Beckoning Lady, Death of a Ghost, Mystery Mile, Black Plumes
1 by Patricia Wentworth (new): The Case of William Smith
2 by J. Jefferson Farjeon (both new): Seven Dead and Thirteen Guests
1 by Raymond Postgate (new): Somebody at the Door
1 by Freeman Wills Crofts (new): The Cask

 

Silver Age and Other Mysteries
Patricia Moyes: Dead Men Don’t Ski (new)
Colin Dexter: Last Bus to Woodstock (reread)
Ellis Peters: The Sanctuary Sparrow (reread)
P.D. James / BBC Radio: 7 dramatizations (Cover Her Face, Devices and Desires, A Certain Justice, A Taste for Death, The Private Patient, The Skull Beneath the Skin, and An Unsuitable Job for a Woman) — all revisits as far as the actual books were concerned, as was the dramatization of The Skull Beneath the Skin; the rest of the audios were new to me)

 

Other Books
John Bercow: Unspeakable (memoir)
Tony Riches: Henry (historical fiction)

 

Of all of these, the standout entries were:

Gaël Faye: Petit pays (Small Country)
A short but impactful novel tracing the coming-of-age of the son of a French father and a Burundian Tutsi mother, which coming-of-age is rudely interrupted when the genocide in neighboring Rwanda spills over into Burundi.  What starts out as an endearing but somewhat unremarkable read becomes a tale of unspeakable heartbreak in the final part, in which it only took very few pages for the book to completely skewer me.

Sonia Sotomayor: My Beloved World
Justice Sotomayor’s memoirs of her upbringing in the New York Puerto Rican community, and her unlikely, but doggedly pursued path to Princeton, Yale Law School, and ultimately, the Federal Bench — fullfilling a dream that had, oddly, started by watching Perry Mason on TV as a child.  I wish Sotomayor hadn’t finisihed her book with her appointment as a judge, though I respect the reasons why she decided to do so; and even so, hers is a truly impressive, inspiring story of overcoming a multitude of crippling conditions (type-1 diabetes, poverty, racism, and teachers discouraging rather than inspiring her, to name but a few) to chart out a path in life that even most of those who didin’t have to overcome any of these odds would not dare to aspire to.  Throughout the narrative, Sotomayor’s genuine empathy with and care for her fellow human beings shines through on many an occasion; not only for her family and friends, and for those disadvantaged by society, but for everybody she encounters — until and unless they rub her the wrong way, in whch case they will find themselves at the receiving end of a tongue lashing or two.  What particularly impressed me was that Sotomayor, though a staunch defender of Affirmative Action, repeatedly chose not to seek positions as a minority candidate but on a more neutral ticket, fearing she might unduly be buttonholed otherwise.  That sort of thing takes great strength and belief in the universality of her message.

Agatha Christie / Matthew Pritchard (ed.): The Grand Tour: Letters and Photographs from the British Empire Expedition 1922
Agatha Christie’s letters, photos and postcards from the expedition to South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Hawaii, and Canada in which her first husband, Archibald, and she were invited to participate out of the blue shortly after the birth of their daughter Rosamund.  Lovingly edited by her grandson Matthew Pritchard, and amplified by the corresponding excerpts from her autobiography, the letters in particular shed an interesting sidelight onto the thinking and life experience of the then-budding future Queen of Crime (her second novel was published while the tour was under way), and to fans, the book is worth the purchase for her photos alone (she had rather a good eye for visual composition, too) … and for her surfing adventures, reproduced here in their full glory, and in both words and images.

John Bercow: Unspeakable 
An impromptu boddy read with BrokenTune; delivered in Bercow’s trademark style and doubtlessly offering as much fodder to those determined to hate him as to those who regret his stepping down as Speaker.  I commented on the bits up to the Brexit chapter in a status update at the 70% point; the final part of the book contains much that Bercow had already said repeatedly while still in office, be it in interviews or from the Speaker’s chair; yet, while he doesn’t hold back with criticism of those whose stance he considers irresponsible, he is also scrupulously fair to all those who, he genuinely believes, are working hard to realize the political aims they consider in the best interests of theiri constituents.  In fact, the chapter about what, in Bercow’s opinion, makes a “good” politician, was possibly the most surprising inclusion in the book (and the book worth a read for that chapter alone), heaping praise (and in some instances, scorn) on a wide array of politicians of all parties, regardless whether Bercow shares their views or not. —  Even if no longer from inside the Houses of Parliament, I hope and trust Bercow’s voice will remain relevant and weighty in the months and years to come.

Patricia Moyes: Dead Men Don’t Ski
A huge shout-out to Moonlight Reader for favorably reviewing this book earlier this year and thus bringing it to my attention.  Henry Tibbett and his wife Emmy are a joy to be with, and like MR and Tigus (who has also read the book in the interim), I’ll definitely be spending more time in their company in the future.  What I particularly appreciated in addition to the delightful characters created by Ms. Moyes (and the rather cleverly-constructed locked-room mystery at the heart of this book) was the understanding she brought to the book’s setting in the German-speaking part of the Italian Alps, which is not only one of the most naturally stunning parts of the entire Alps but also a region fraught with a complicated history, which might have caused a lesser writer to glide off into easy cliché, but which Moyes uses rather skillfully in crafting her story’s background.

 Ngaio Marsh: Light Thickens
The final book of the Roderick Alleyn series and perhaps not everybody’s cup of tea, set, as it is, in Marsh’s “main” professional domain — the world of the theatre — and featuring a plot in which the murder only occurs at the halfway point, almost as an afterthought: and yet, upon revisiting the book, I instantly realized all over again why this (the first mystery by Marsh I’d ever read) was the one book that irresistibly drew me into the series and made me an instant fan.  This isn’t so much a mystery as a Shakespearean stage director’s love letter to the Bard, and to his “Scottish play” in all of its permutations; as well as to the Shakespearean theatre, and more generally, the world of the stage as such.  Roderick Alleyn (rather far advanced in his career and definitely not having aged in real time) eventually shows up to solve the inevitable murder, faithful sidekick Inspector (“Br’er”) Fox in tow and quoting Shakespeare with the best of them, but the stars of the show remain the actors themselves, the play’s director (whom those who read the series in order will, at this point, already have encountered in a prior installment), and ultimately, Shakespeare himself.  This may not be everybody’s cup of tea in a mystery … to me, it proved irresistible, the first time around as much as upon revisiting the book now.

Margery Allingham: Death of a Ghost
Unlike my reading experience with Allingham’s fellow Golden Age Queens of Crime Dorothy L. Sayers, Agatha Christie and Ngaio Marsh, that with Margery Allingham’s Albert Campion series is a rather checkered one, where instances of true mystery reader’s delight repeatedly follow hot on the heels of groan-inducing forays into clichéd, implausible plots populated by cardboard characters, and vice versa.  That said, even upon my first read I considered Death of a Ghost one of the series’s absolutely standout entries, and that impression has only been confirmed and reinforced by revisiting the book.  Set in the art world and populated by a cast of fully drawn, quirky characters (some likeable, some decidedly less so), the book lives off Allingham’s acerbic wit, which is brought out to great advantage here; and although Campion tumbles to the probable identity of the murderer when we’re barely halfway into the book, Allingham easily maintains the reader’s interest by keeping the “how” a puzzle, and by tying in a further puzzle whose solution will eventually provide the motive for the murder.  If there is any letdown in the book at all, it’s in the murderer’s ultimate fate, but by and large, this is a superlative effort.

As a side note, I’ve also concluded that the audio versions of Allingham’s novels work decidedly better for me if read by Francis Matthews rather than David Thorpe.  I have no problem with Thorpe as a narrator of other books, but he takes a rather literal approach to Allingham’s description of Campion’s voice, making it come across almost as a falsetto, which in combination with his overly expressive narration as a whole tends to drive me clean up the wall.  Matthews’s delivery, by contrast, while hinting at Campion’s vocal patterns, is a bit more matter of fact overall (even though it still leaves plenty of room for characterization, both of people and of plot elements) — an impression that was swiftly confirmed when a search for further Allingham titles recorded by Matthews threw up a non-Campion mystery of hers, Black Plumes, which in turn also confirmed my impression that some of Allingham’s best writing is contained in books other than her Campion mysteries.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Overall, the past six (or so) weeks contained a lot of great books, regardless whether rereads or new to me.  The two most-hyped entries in the selection — Yaa Gyasi’s Homegoing and Mia Alvar’s In the Country — proved, almost predictably (for me, anyway), those that I was least impressed with: they were both still solid 4-star reads, but both episodic in nature, with only some of those episodes engaging me as fully (and consequently, blowing me away as much) as, if I’d have believed the hype, I’d have expected the entire books to do.  (I know, I know.  4 stars is still a very respectable showing, and I wouldn’t give either book less than that … and considering that I’ve been known to one-star overly hyped books when called for, 4 stars is even more pretty darned decent.  Still … they both, but particularly so Homegoing, would have had so much more potential if they’d been allowed to spread their wings to the full.) — Of the Golden Age mysteries new to me, the standout was J. Jefferson Farjeon’s Thirteen Guests. Tony Riches’s Henry provides a well-executed conclusion to his series about the three first significant Tudors (Owen, Jasper, and Henry VII) — neatly complementing Samantha Wilcoxson’s novel about Henry VII’s wife Elizabeth of York, Plantagenet Princess, Tudor Queen — and the two books focusing on Jeremy Brett and the Granada TV Sherlock Holmes series starring him as Holmes have given me the idea for a Holmes-related special project, which I will, however, probably only get around to later this year (if I get around to it at all, my RL outlook being what it is at the moment).

 

Original post:
ThemisAthena.booklikes.com/post/2083073/february-and-mid-march-2020-reading-update

January 2020 Reading

January turned out a bit of a roller coaster in RL, continuing the course things had already taken in December: not quite whiplash-inducing, but with several sickness-prone twists and turns (for however much I’d expected them to materialize) surrounding one major glorious event (which was, however, truly glorious; even if this, too, was something I’d had every reason to expect).

So my January books mostly were comfort reading in one form or another.  Other than the three Golden Age mysteries (or in one case, a mystery radio play collection) that I (re)visited — Agatha Christie’s 12 Radio Mysteries, Ngaio Marsh’s Scales of Justice, and my carryover from 2019, Gladys Mitchell’s Death Comes at Christmas — and two contemporary mystery short story collections I read / listened to, I burned through all four volumes of Tamora Pierce’s Song of the Lioness Quartet in the space of a week (well, they are fairly short books), read four books of historical fiction (two of which also qualify as historical mysteries), and more books falling into the sci-fi / fantasy / speculative fiction subset, with classics and nonfiction bringing up the rear, with one book each.

For all that, 14 of those 18 books were by women (and one an anthology, Mystery Writers of America Presents: Vengeance, featuring both male and female authors), and I’ve added two new countries to my “Around the World” challenge — Antigua and Iceland –; even if, with two of my first three books of February (Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s We Should All Be Feminists and Mia Alvar’s short story collection In the Country), I’m already doing more for the Caucasian / non-Caucasian balance in my reading than in all of January.

 


Looking at my January books individually, clearly last month’s reading highlight was the buddy read with Moonlight Reader, BrokenTune and Lillelara of the first volume of Dorothy Dunnett’s Lymond Chronicles, The Game of Kings; a tour de force piece of historical fiction set in the mid-16th century, during the reign of England’s boy king Edward VI (the son of Henry VIII) — or rather, his guardian Edward Seymour, the Duke of Somerset, who goverend England in his stead — and Marie de Guise, the widow of Scottish king James V, who ruled Scotland in lieu of her infant daughter Mary (Stuart).

Francis Crawford of Lymond, ostensibly the book’s (and the series’s) central character, is essentially Rob Roy and Robin Hood rolled into one, with a bit of Edmond Dantes thrown in for good measure, as well as just about every other hero of historical fiction seeking to recapture the position and estate taken from him by the connivance of his enemies. For the longest time, he wasn’t even my favorite character in the book — those honors clearly went to virtually every major female character, all of whom are fully rounded, three-dimensional and very much their own women; strong, intelligent, and more than capable of holding their own in a society dominated by men.  Yet, I have to say that Lymond considerably grew on me in the final episode of the novel.

In terms of pacing, although the book took its sweet time establishing the characters and their place in the era and events of the history of Scotland during which it is set (while assuming its readers to either be familiar with that period in history or treating them as adult enough to read up on it themselves, without having to be taught by the author in setting up the novel), once it took off … it really took off, and I whizzed through the last big chunk in almost a single sitting (pausing once more only before the final episode), all of which literally left me breathless by the time I was done.  I can absolutely see myself continuing the series, though as a first read, these aren’t the kinds of books I can seamlessly tie together one right after the other; so it may be a while before I’ll start the next book.

 

Among the month’s other highlights was the second book of Tony Riches’s Tudor Trilogy, Jasper — the volume I’d been looking forward to the least, as it essentially covers the War of the Roses from the Lancastrian POV, which is a tale of many woes and few moments of glory, even if it culminates in Henry of Richmond’s (Henry VII-to-be) victory at Bosworth. But I still enjoyed the narrative voice, empathy for all the characters, and the obviously painstaking historical research going into the writing.

 

After the disappointment that virtually every bit of YA fantasy I read last year had turned out to be, a somewhat unexpected third highlight was Tamora Pierce’s Song of the Lioness Quartet.  But I was won over by Alanna (the main character)’s personality and by the fact that Pierce’s approach to creating a fantasy world where it is possible for a woman to beat the odds and assert herself without actually glorying in violence (looking at you, Jennifer Estep); in fact, Alanna learns to use her magical powers as a healer more than as a fighter, and to employ them in order to offset some of the damage and pain she causes as a knight.

Obviously, the idea of a girl masquerading as a boy in order to be trained as a knight, and surviving years of training without ever being discovered by the vast majority of the people at court (except for a select few trusted friends), takes a bit of suspension of disbelief; particularly in the second book, where Alanna and her friends are in puberty and, if nothing else, her voice should be breaking if she were a boy (so the lack of change there, if nothing else, should unmask her — bound chest or not).  This, and the equally unlikely notion of a pseudo-Arab tribe of desert nomads firmly rooted in pseudo-Muslim principles of society being swiftly brought around to accepting women as self-determined agents of their own fate solely by their encounter with Alanna in book 3 of the series, were a bit much to take without reducing my rating somewhat.

But overall I still enjoyed the series quite a bit more than I had expected.  (Indeed, I hadn’t even really expected to progress beyond book 1 to begin with.)  I also truly enjoyed Pierce’s no-nonsense approach to not in out-Tolkien-ing Tolkien — proper names are almost without exception from our world (John, Gary, Alan(na), Tom, etc.), and there are no attempts at giving dodgy half-baked names to animals and inanimate things, either, which is something that hugely annoys me in many a fantasy series I’ve come across lately (particularly, again, YA).

 

Radio Girls, the book I began this year with (as picked by the bibliomancy dreidel in 24 Festive Tasks) started out strong, and I truly enjoyed the author’s exploration of the early days of the BBC.  Unfortunately, she couldn’t resist the temptation of bringing in the (real life) spy background of one of the book’s characters (Hilda Matheson, director of BBC Talks), as a result of which it felt like the book couldn’t really make up its mind whether it wanted to be about the BBC, about pre-WWII Nazi activities in Britain, or about women’s rights (especially general suffrage and women’s (in)equality in the workplace).  Less would definitely have been more here.  Still, overall the book was enjoyable enough.

 

Another pleasant surprise, in terms of the book itself at least, was Yrsa Sigurðardóttir’s The Legacy, the first book of a series of mysteries / crime novels focusing on the so-called “Children’s House”, the (real) institution that processes children involved in Icelandic court cases (murder trials, custody suits, prosecutions for child abuse, etc.).  I liked Sigurðardóttir’s assured writing and well-informed approach to child (and child witness) psychology, and — mostly — also the characters she created.  After having finished the book, however, I listened to the interview she gave in the Audible Sessions series, where (somewhat to my surprise) she comes across as a bit condescending, which in turn rather dampened my enthusiasm for quickly  following up with another book by her.  But I do think I’ll give her books another try eventually.

 

Most of the remainder of my reading this past month was an exercise in Mt. TBR reduction:

By far the best (audio)book of this bunch was the first installment of the BBC’s McLevy series, which is based on the real life diaries of Victorian Edinburgh police inspector named, you guessed it, James McLevy.  It features a great cast (with Brian Cox starring in the title role), great atmosphere, and several intelligently-plotted episode-length cases, and I can already see myself coming back for more again and again.

 

Scott Lynch’s The Lies of Locke Lamora presents an interesting approach to speculative fiction, somewhere on the borderline between fantasy and steampunk, with an exciting plot and well-rounded characters: enough to make me at least contemplate also reading the next books of the Gentleman Bastard series.  However, this seems to be another series featuring excessive amounts of violence (at least judging by book 1), and its installments aren’t exactly short, either — at the end of this book, I felt similarly drained as after Dunnett’s Game of Kings — so this probably won’t be a high and early priority.  Still, I’m not unhappy that I’ve finally read it.

 

Martha Wells’s All Systems Red is intelligently conceived and redolent with edgy humor, satire, and questions about the nature of consciousness, individuality and, ultimately, the thing that we call a soul: if science fiction is your thing (and if you’ve been living under a rock or for any other reason haven’t read it long before I did), it’s definitely a book — and a series — that I’d recommend.  Personally, though I enjoyed Wells’s exploration of the inner life of a semi-humanoid AI security unit (aka “murderbot”) that has hacked and disabled its own main governor module, and would much rather watch soap operas than look after inept human research teams on alien planets, I won’t be continuing the series.  For one thing, if it comes to tropes, I just prefer those of the mystery genre to those of science fiction (and it seemed like every single sci-fi trope is present here); and then, I also think the pricing of the books in this series is a huge money grab on the part of the publisher (and Audible / Amazon) that I am simply not willing to support; beyond satisfying my curiosity about book 1, that is.

 

E.M. Delafield’s Diary of a Provincial Lady was to the 1930s what Bridget Jones’s Diary is to us: Roll up Angela Thirkell’s High Rising, Winifred Holtby’s South Riding, and Helen Fielding’s Bridget Jones’s Diary into one, shake thoroughly, season with a pinch or three of Emma Thompson’s character (the Duchess d’Antan) from the movie Impromptu, and with the perpetual financial woes of the landed gentry, and this (albeit largely autobiographical) book is pretty much what you should get as a result.

Delafield, one of those prolific early 20th century writers who thoroughly dropped off the radar after WWII, went on to write several more installments of the Diary: I got curious about her because of Martin Edwards’s speculation, in The Golden Age of Murder, about a possible relationship between her and Anthony Berkeley, but having read this book by her and several books by him, I can’t see more than the friendship between them that is known to actually have existed.  Quite frankly (and quite apart from the fact that they were both married to other people to begin with), judging by her writing, she strikes me as way too shrewdly intelligent to ever have been interested in him as anything other than a friend.

 

Jamaica Kincaid’s A Small Place, finally, is a short, brutal, angry dismanteling of any naive and romantic perceptions that white North American and European conceivably might be holding about her island home of Antigua.  Frankly, since I never held any such perceptions, she was pretty much barking up the wrong tree with me, and though I can empathize with her anger, I wonder whether, skilled writer that she is, she wouldn’t have served her purpose better by exchanging the verbal claymore that she insists on wielding for a foil (or at most an epée) — i.e., keep the razor sharp verbal blade, but allow for a less heavy-handed approach.  Though I’ll readily concede that probably this is a facile position to take for someone who hasn’t had to do battle with the “Caribbean island paradise” cliché all her life to begin with.

 

To round things off, my mystery comfort reading consisted of:

* Agatha Christie: 12 Radio Mysteries (BBC adaptations of 12 of Christie’s short stories, which I loved and which incidentally proved that Christie’s writing has not only stood the test of time but is also easily amenable to being transferred to a modern setting without losing any of its punch);

* Ngaio Marsh: Scales of Justice (one of my all-time favorite entries in the Roderick Alleyn series and, it occurred to me while listening to the new unabridged audio recording published a few years ago, also a good book to start the series with for anyone curious about it — PS: it even features a cat in a pivotal role);

* Gladys Mitchell’s Death Comes at Christmas (aka Dead Men’s Morris) (decidedly not a favorite installment in the Mrs. Bradley series);

* Elizabeth George’s I, Richard (another reread, which I liked a whole lot better than when I had first read it; not only for the final / titular story, which has a contemporary setting but a historic background, namely Richard III’s final hours before the Battle at Bosworth — the true standout here is the story immediately preceding it, Remember I’ll Always Love You, where a young widow confronts the aftermath of her husband’s spontaneous suicide); and finally:

* Mystery Writers of America Presents: Vengeance (the mixed bag that such anthologies usually are, with overall better writing than I had expected, though, some of the best pieces of which were from the pens of the lesser-known contributors rather than the big-name authors).

 

 

Original post:
ThemisAthena.booklikes.com/post/2048220/january-2020-reading

My KYD Reads … or: Harry Potter, and What Else I read in March 2018

A big thank you to Moonlight Reader for yet another fun, inventive BookLikes game!  I had a wonderful time, while also advancing — though with decidedly fewer new reads than I’d origianlly been planning — my two main reading goals for this year (classic crime fiction and books written by women).

 

Harry Potter – The Complete Series

This was a long-overdue revisit and obviously, there isn’t anything I could possibly say about the books that hasn’t been said a million times before by others.  But I’ve gladly let the magic of Hogwarts and Harry’s world capture me all over again … to the point of giving in to book fandom far enough to treat myself to the gorgeous hardcover book set released in 2014 and, in addition, the even more gorgeous Gryffindor and Ravenclaw anniversary editions of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.


That said, particular kudos must also go to Stephen Fry for his magnificent audio narration of the books, which played a huge role in pulling me right back into to books, to the point that I’d carry my phone wherever I went while I was listening to them.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone - J.K. Rowling, Stephen Fry Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets - J.K. Rowling, Stephen Fry Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban - J.K. Rowling, Stephen Fry Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire - J.K. Rowling, Stephen Fry Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix - J.K. Rowling, Stephen Fry Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince - J.K. Rowling, Stephen Fry Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - J.K. Rowling, Stephen Fry

As for the rest of my KYD books … roughly in the order in which I read them:

Ngaio Marsh: Death at the Dolphin
(aka Killer Dolphin)

Killer Dolphin - Ngaio Marsh Death at the Dolphin - Ngaio Marsh

Also a revisit: One of my favorite installments in Marsh’s Roderick Alleyn series, not only because it is set in the world of the theatre — always one of Marsh’s particular fortes, as she herself was a veteran Shakespearean director and considered that her primary occupation, while writing mysteries to her was merely a sideline — but because this one, in fact, does deal with a(n alleged) Shakespearean relic and a play based on Shakespeare’s life, inspired by that relic.

The Hog's Back Mystery - Freeman Wills Crofts, Gordon GriffinFreeman Wills Crofts:
The Hog’s Back Mystery

Part of Crofts’s Inspector French series and my first book by Crofts, who was known for his painstaking attempts to “play fair” with the reader; which here, I’m afraid, hampered the development of the story a bit, in producing a fair bit of dialogue at the beginning that might have been better summed up from the third person narrator’s point of view in the interest of easing along the flow of the story, and in holding French back even at points where a reasonably alert reader would have developed suspicions calling for a particular turn of the investigation.  But I like French as a character, and as for all I’m hearing this is very likely not the series’s strongest installment, I’ll happily give another book a try later.

Unnatural Death: A Lord Peter Wimsey Mystery - Dorothy L. Sayers, Ian CarmichaelDorothy L. Sayers:
Unnatural Death

Not my favorite Lord Peter Wimsey book by Sayers, but virtually the only one I haven’t revisited on audio recently — and as always, I greatly enjoyed the narration by Ian Carmichael.  That said, here again Sayers proves herself head and shoulders above her contemporaries, in devising a particularly fiendish, virtually untraceable method of murder (well, untraceable by the medical state of the art of her day at least), and perhaps even more so by hinting fairly obviously at two women’s living together in what would seem to be a lesbian relationship.

The Red Queen - Margaret DrabbleMargaret Drabble:
The Red Queen

Ummm … decidedly NOT my favorite read of the month.  ‘Nuff said: next!

 

 

A Red Death: An Easy Rawlins Mystery - Walter Mosley, Michael BoatmanWalter Mosley: A Red Death

I’d long been wanting to return to the world of Easy Rawlins’ mid-20th century Los Angeles, so what with Mosley’s fiction making for various entries in the KYD cards, including at least one book by him in my reading plans for the game seemed only fitting (… even if I ended up using this one for a “Dr. Watson” victim guess!). — This, the second installment of the series, deals with the political hysteria brought about by the McCarthy probes and also makes a number of pertinent points on racial discrimination and xenophobia, which make it decidedly uncomfortable reading in today’s political climate.

One, Two, Buckle My Shoe - Hugh Fraser, Agatha ChristieAgatha Christie:
One, Two, Buckle My Shoe

Another revisit, and in no small part courtesy of Hugh Fraser’s narration, I liked the book a good deal better than I had done originally.  This is one of several entries in the Poirot canon where we learn about Poirot’s phobia of dentist’s visits, which obviously makes for the high point of the book’s humour … and of course it doesn’t exactly help that it’s Poirot’s dentist, of all people, who turns out the murder victim. — The plot features several clever slights of hand, and you have to play a really long shot to get the solution right in its entirety (even if strictly speaking Christie does play fair).  Well, that’s what we have Monsieur Poirot’s little grey cells for, I suppose!

Imperium - Robert HarrisRobert Harris: Imperium

The first part of Harris’s Cicero trilogy, and both a truly fast-paced and a well-researched piece of historical writing; covering Cicero’s ascent from young Senator to Praetorian and, eventually (and against all the odds), Consul.

The first part of the book deals at length with one of Cicero’s most famous legal cases, the prosecution of the corrupt Sicilian governor Verres, and Harris shows how Cicero employed that case in order to advance his own political career.  Notably, Cicero quite ingeniously also ignored established Roman trial practice in favor of what would very much resemble modern common law practice, by making a (by the standards of the day) comparatively short opening statement — albeit a supremely argumentative one — and immediately thereafter examining his witnesses, instead of, as procedural custom would have dictated, engaging in a lengthy battle of speeches with defending counsel first.  As a result of this manoeuver, Verres was as good as convicted and fled from Rome in the space of the 9 days allotted to Cicero as prosecuting counsel to make his case.

The second part of the book examines Cicero’s unlikely but eventually victorious campaign for consulship, and his exposure of a conspiracy involving Catiline, generally believed to be the most likely victor of that year’s consular elections, who later came to be involved of conspiracies on an even greater scale, and whose condemnation in Cicero’s most famous speeches — collectively known as In Catilinam (On, or Against Catiline) — would go a great way towards securing both Cicero’s political success in his own lifetime and his lasting fame as a skilled orator.

Murder is Easy - Agatha ChristieAgatha Christie: Murder Is Easy

Another Christie revisit, and I regret to say for the most part I’m down to my less favorite books now.  This isn’t a bad book, and the ending in particular is quite dark … but the middle part, much as I’m sorry to have to say this, simply drags.

The Distant Echo - Val McDermid, Tom CotcherVal McDermid: The Distant Echo

Holy moly, how did I ever miss this book until now?!  Even more so since the Karen Pirie series is actually my favorite series by Val McDermid … OK, Pirie herself has little more than a walk-on role here; we’re talking absolute beginning of her career, and the focus is decidedly not on her but on her boss and  on a quartet of suspects involved in a 25-year-old murder case — in fact, the whole first half of the book is set 25 years in the past, too, describing the immediate aftermath of the murder and its consequences for the four main suspects, chiefly from their perspective.  But still!  Well, I sure am glad I finally caught up with it at last … definitely one of the best things McDermid ever wrote.

Unterleuten: Roman - Juli ZehJuli Zeh: Unterleuten

A scathing satire on village life, on post-Berlin Wall German society, on greed, on the commercialization of ideals … and most of all, on people’s inability to communicate: Everyone in this book essentially lives inside their own head, and in a world created only from the bits they themselves want to see — with predictably disastrous consequences.  The whole thing is brilliantly observed and deftly written; yet, the lack of characters that I found I could like or empathize with began to grate after a while … in a shorter book I might not have minded quite so much, but in a 600+ page brick I’d have needed a few more characters who actually spoke to me to get all the way through and still be raving with enthusiasm.  If you don’t mind watching a bunch of thoroughly dislikeable people self-destruct in slow motion, though, you’re bound to have a lot of fun with this book.

Von Köln zum Meer: Schifffahrt auf dem Niederrhein - Werner BöckingWerner Böcking: Von Köln zum Meer

Local history, a read inspired by conversations with a visiting friend on the history of shipping and travel by boat on the Rhine. — A richly illustrated book focusing chiefly on the 19th and 20th centuries, and the mid-19th-centuriy changes brought about by diesel engines and the resulting disappearance of sailing vessels (which, before the advent of engines, were pulled by horses when going up the river, against the current): undoubtedly the biggest change not only in land but also in river travel and transportation, with a profound effect on large sectors of the economy of the adjoining regions and communities.

And last but not least …

"A Brief Discourse of Rebellion and Rebels" by George North: A Newly Uncovered Manuscript Source for Shakespeare's Plays - Dennis McCarthy, June SchlueterDennis McCarthy & June Schlueter: “A Brief Discourse of Rebellion and Rebels” by George North — A Newly Uncovered Manuscript Source for Shakespeare’s Plays

The lastest in Shakespearean research, also a read inspired by conversations with the above-mentioned visiting friend, and a February 7, 2018 New York Times article on a possible new source text for passages contained in no less than 11 of Shakespeare’s plays.  The story of the discovery itself is fascinating; the research methods applied are in synch with modern Shakesperean scholarship … and yet, for all the astonishing textual concordance, unless and until someone proves that Shakespeare not only had the opportunity to see this document but actually did (at least: overwhelmingly likely) see it, I’m not going to cry “hooray” just yet.  According to the authors’ own timeline, Shakespeare would have been about 11 years old when this text was written, it was kept in a private collection even then, and there is no record that the Bard ever visited the manor housing that very collection — which collection in turn, if the authors are to be believed, the text very likely at least did not ever leave during Shakespeare’s lifetime (though it was undoubtedly moved at a later point in time).  And Shakespearean research, as we all know, has been prone to a boatload of dead-end streets and conspiracy theories pretty much ever since its inception …

 

Original post:
ThemisAthena.booklikes.com/post/1654647/my-kyd-reads-or-harry-potter-and-what-else-i-read-in-march-2018

Introducing the 16 Tasks of the Festive Season!

Reblogged from: Murder by Death

 

Themis-Athena’s Garden of Books and I have put together a little something to celebrate the festive season we hope you’ll like.  Our goal was to represent as many of the festive holidays and traditions that happen at this time of year around the world as we reasonably could, and boy have we packed it in!  But don’t worry, we’ve also tried our hardest to make this as easy, or as challenging, as each player wishes it to be.

So enough introduction… here’s the card:

(full rules to follow in a seperate post) – we’ve created book themes and holiday tasks for each holiday – but you can do as few or as many as you want, so don’t stress if this seems like a lot.  In the spirit of the “Silly Season” we’ve tried to spoil you for choice!

 

Brief Card Key:

Square 1: November 1st:
All Saints Day / Día de los Muertos / Calan Gaeaf

Square 2: November 5th:
Guy Fawkes Night (Bonfire Night/Fireworks Night) / Bon Om Touk (Cambodian Water Festival)

Square 3: November 5th & 11th:
St. Martin’s Day (5th) / Veterans’ Day / Armistice Day (11th)

Square 4: November 22nd and 23rd:
Penance Day (22nd) / Thanksgiving (23rd)

Square 5: December 3rd and following 3 Sundays:
Advent

Square 6: December 5th-6th and 8th:
Sinterklaas / Krampusnacht (5th) / St. Nicholas Day (6th) / Bodhi Day (8th)

Square 7: December 10th & 13th:
International Human Rights Day (10th) / St. Lucia’s Day (13th)

Square 8: December 12th – 24th:
Hanukkah (begins 12th, ends 20th) Las Posadas (begins 16th, ends 24th)

Square 9: December 21st:
Winter Solstice / Mōdraniht / Yuletide / Yaldā Night

Square 10: December 21st:
World Peace Day / Pancha Ganapati begins (ends 25th)

Square 11: December 21st-22nd:
Soyal (21st) / Dōngzhì Festival (22nd) (China)

Square 12: December 23rd
Festivus / Saturnalia ends (begins 17th)

Square 13: December 25th
Christmas / Hogswatch

Square 14: December 25th
Dies Natalis Solis Invicti / Quaid-e-Azam’s Day

Square 15: December 25th-26th:
Newtonmas (25th) / St. Stephen’s Day/Boxing Day (26th)

Square 16: December 26th-31st:
Kwanzaa (begins 26th, ends 31st) / New Year’s Eve / Hogmanay / St. Sylvester’s Day / Watch Night

 

Holiday book themes and tasks

Square 1: November 1st:

All Saints Day is a Christian festival celebrated in honour of all the saints, known and unknown. Día de Muertos focuses on gatherings of family and friends to pray for and remember friends and family members who have died, and help support their spiritual journey, while Calan Gaeaf is the name of the first day of winter in Wales.

Book themes for Día de Muertos and All Saint’s Day:  A book that has a primarily black and white cover, or one that has all the colours (ROYGBIV) together on the cover.

Book themes for Calan Gaeaf: 

Read any of your planned Halloween Bingo books that you didn’t end up reading after all,

involving witches, hags, or various types of witchcraft –OR– read a book with ivy or roses on the cover, or a character’s name/title of book is/has Rose or Ivy in it.

Tasks for Día de Muertos and All Saint’s Day: create a short poem, or an epitaph for your most hated book ever.

Tasks for Calan Gaeaf: If you’re superstition-proof, inscribe your name on a rock, toss it in a fire and take a picture to post –OR– Make a cozy wintertime dish involving leeks (the national plant of Wales) and post the recipe and pictures with your thoughts about how it turned out.

 

Square 2: November 5th:

Guy Fawkes Night (also known as Bonfire Night or Fireworks Night) is an annual holiday, primarily in Great Britain, commemorating the events of November 5th, 1605, when Guy Fawkes, a member of the Gunpowder Plot, was arrested while guarding explosives the plotters had placed beneath the House of Lords. Bon Om Touk (the Cambodian Water Festival), marks a reversal of the flow of the Tonle Sap River.

Book themes for Guy Fawkes Night: Any book about the English monarchy (any genre), political treason, political thrillers, or where fire is a major theme, or fire is on the cover.

Book themes for Bon Om Touk:  Read a book that takes place on the sea, near the sea, or on a lake or a river, or read a book that has water on the cover.

Tasks for Guy Fawkes Night: Post pictures of past or present bonfires, fireworks (IF THEY’RE LEGAL) or sparklers.  Or: Host a traditional English tea party, or make yourself a nice cup of tea and settle down with a good book to read.  Which kind of tea is your favorite? Tell us why.

Tasks for Bon Om Touk:  Post a picture from your most recent or favorite vacation on the sea (or a lake, river, or any other body of water larger than a puddle), or if you’re living on the sea or on a lake or a river, post a picture of your favorite spot on the shore / banks / beach / at the nearest harbour.

 

Square 3: November 5th & 11th:

St. Martin’s Day (November 5th), also known as the Feast of Saint Martin, Martinstag or Martinmas, as well as Old Halloween and Old Hallowmas Eve, is the feast day of Saint Martin of Tours (Martin le Miséricordieux).  Veterans’ Day, or Armistice Day (November 11th), marks the armistice signed between the Allies of World War I and Germany at Compiègne, France, for the cessation of hostilities on the Western Front of World War I, which took effect at eleven o’clock in the morning—the “eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month” of 1918.  In the United States, Veteran’s Day is expanded to include all military veterans from any military action.

Book themes for St. Martin’s Day: Read a book set on a vineyard, or in a rural setting, –OR– a story where the MC searches for/gets a new job.  –OR– A book with a lantern on the cover, or books set before the age of electricity. –OR– A story dealing with an act of selfless generosity (like St. Martin sharing his cloak with a beggar).

Book themes for Veteran’s Day/Armistice Day: Read a book involving veterans of any war, books about WWI or WWII (fiction or non-fiction).  –OR– Read a book with poppies on the cover.

Tasks for St. Martin’s Day: Write a Mother Goose-style rhyme or a limerick; the funnier the better.  –OR– Take a picture of the book you’re currently reading, next to a glass of wine, or the drink of your choice, with or without a fire in the background.  –OR– Bake Weckmann; if you’re not a dab hand with yeast baking, make a batch of gingerbread men, or something else that’s typical of this time of the year where you live.  Post pics of the results and the recipe if you’d like to share it.

Tasks for Verteran’s Day/Armistice Day: Make, or draw a red poppy and show us a pic of your red poppy or other symbol of remembrance –OR– post a quote or a piece of poetry about the ravages of war.

 

Square 4: November 22nd and 23rd:

Penance Day, or Buß- und Bettag (November 22nd), is a Protestant holiday and a public holiday in the state of Saxony and is an occasion for Protestant Christians to pray or reflect on quiet thoughts, and while Thanksgiving (November 23rd) started out as a purely US holiday (and Canadian! on October 9th), it’s now well-known around the world for its feasts, family togetherness, and a holiday that strikes fear in the hearts of turkeys everywhere.

Book themes for Penance Day: Read a book that has a monk, nun, pastor / preacher or priest as a protagonist, or where someone is struggling with feelings of guilt or with their conscience (regardless over what).

Book themes for Thanksgiving Day: Books with a theme of coming together to help a community or family in need.  –OR– Books with a turkey or pumpkin on the cover.

Tasks for Penance Day: Tell us – what has recently made you stop in your tracks and think?  –OR– What was a big turning point in your life?  –OR–  Penance Day is a holiday of the Protestant church, which dates its origins, in large parts, to Martin Luther, who published his “95 Theses” exactly 500 years ago this year.  Compile a catalogue of theses (it needn’t be 95) about book blogging!  What suggestions or ideas would you propose to improve the experience of book blogging?

Tasks for Thanksgiving Day: List of 5 things you’re grateful for –OR– a picture of your thanksgiving feast; post your favourite turkey-day recipe.  –OR– Be thankful for yourself and treat yourself to a new book – post a picture of it.

Bonus task:  share your most hilarious turkey-day memory.

 

Square 5: December 3rd and following 3 Sundays:

Advent is a season observed in many Christian churches as a time of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of the Nativity of Jesus at Christmas.

Book themes for Advent: Read a book with a wreath or with pines or fir trees on the cover –OR– Read the 4th book from a favorite series, or a book featuring 4 siblings.

Tasks for Advent: Post a pic of your advent calendar. (Festive cat, dog, hamster or other suitable pet background expressly encouraged.) –OR– “Advent” means “he is coming.”  Tell us: What in the immediate or near future are you most looking forward to?  (This can be a book release, or a tech gadget, or an event … whatever you next expect to make you really happy.)

Bonus task:  make your own advent calendar and post it.

 

Square 6: December 5th-6th and 8th:

Sinterklaas, also known as St. Nicholas Day, celebrates the name day of Saint Nicholas on 6th of December. The feast is celebrated annually with the giving of gifts on St. Nicholas’ Eve (5th of December) or on the morning of 6th of December, Saint Nicholas Day.  Krampusnacht (December 5th) is the day when Krampus, a companion of St. Nicholas, arrives to punish the children who have been naughty during the year, and in Asia, the 8th of December is Bodhi Day, the Buddhist holiday that commemorates the day that the historical Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama (Shakyamuni), experienced enlightenment.

Book themes for Sinterklaas / St. Martin’s Day / Krampusnacht: A Story involving children or a young adult book, or a book with oranges on the cover, or whose cover is primarily orange (for the Dutch House of Orange) –OR– with tangerines, walnuts, chocolates, or cookies on the cover.

Book themes for Bodhi Day:  Read a book set in Nepal, India or Tibet, –OR– which involves animal rescue.  (Buddhism calls for a vegetarian lifestyle.)

Tasks for Sinterklaas / St. Martin’s Day / Krampusnacht: Write a witty or humorous poem to St. Nicholas –OR– If you have kids, leave coins or treats, like tangerines, walnuts, chocolate(s) and cookies [more common in Germany] in their shoes to find the next morning and then post about their reactions/bewilderment.  😉  If you don’t have kids, do the same for another family member / loved one or a friend.

Tasks for Bodhi Day:  Perform a random act of kindness.  Feed the birds, adopt a pet, hold the door open for someone with a smile, or stop to pet a dog (that you know to be friendly); cull your books and donate them to a charity, etc. (And, in a complete break with the Buddha’s teachings, tell us about it.)  –OR– Post a picture of your pet, your garden, or your favourite, most peaceful place in the world.

 

Square 7: December 10th & 13th:

International Human Rights Day (December 10th) commemorates the day in 1948 the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  St. Lucia’s Day (December 13th) is celebrated most commonly in Scandinavia, with their long dark winters, where it is a major feast day, and in Italy, with each emphasising a different aspect of Saint Lucia’s story.

Book themes for International Human Rights Day: Read a book originally written in another language (i.e., not in English and not in your mother tongue), –OR– a book written by anyone not anglo-saxon, –OR– any story revolving around the rights of others either being defended or abused.

–OR– Read a book set in New York City, or The Netherlands (home of the UN and UN World Court respectively).

Book themes for Saint Lucia’s Day: Read a book set in Scandinavia (Denmark, Norway, Iceland, Sweden – and Finland for the purposes of this game) or a book where ice and snow are an important feature.

Tasks for International Human Rights Day: Post a picture of yourself next to a war memorial or other memorial to an event pertaining to Human Rights.  (Pictures of just the memorial are ok too.) –OR– Cook a dish from a foreign culture or something involving apples (NYC = Big Apple) or oranges (The Netherlands); post recipe and pics.

Tasks for Saint Lucia’s Day: Get your Hygge on -light a few candles if you’ve got them, pour yourself a glass of wine or hot chocolate/toddy, roast a marshmallow or toast a crumpet, and take a picture of your cosiest reading place.

Bonus task:  Make the Danish paper hearts: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jur29ViLEhk

 

Square 8: December 12th – 24th:

Hanukkah (begins 12th, ends 20th) is the Jewish Festival of Lights.  It commemorates the rededication of the Holy temple in Jerusalem and the miracle that a one-day supply of oil lasted for eight days. Las Posadas (begins 16th, ends 24th) is a novenario (nine days of religious observance) celebrated chiefly in Mexico and by Mexican-Americans in the United States. The novena represents the nine-month pregnancy of Mary, the mother of Jesus celebrated by Christian traditions.

Book themes for Hanukkah: Any book whose main character is Jewish, any story about the Jewish people –OR– where the miracle of light plays a significant part in the stories plot.

Book themes for Las Posadas:  Read a book dealing with visits by family or friends, or set in Mexico, –OR– with a poinsettia on the cover. –OR– a story where the main character is stranded without a place to stay, or find themselves in a ‘no room at the Inn’ situation.

Tasks for Hanukkah: Light nine candles around the room (SAFELY) and post a picture. –OR– Play the Dreidel game to pick the next book you read.

Assign a book from your TBR to each of the four sides of the dreidel:

  • נ (Nun)
  • ג (Gimel)
  • ה (He)
  • ש (Shin)

Spin a virtual dreidel: http://www.torahtots.com/holidays/chanuka/dreidel.htm

– then tell us which book the dreidel picked.

–OR–

Make your own dreidel: https://www.activityvillage.co.uk/make-a-dreidel, –OR–

Play the game at home, or play online: http://www.jewfaq.org/dreidel/play.htm and tell us about the experience.–OR– Give some Gelt: Continue a Hanukkah tradition and purchase some chocolate coins, or gelt. Post a picture of your chocolate coins, and then pass them out amongst friends and family!

Tasks for Las Posadas: Which was your favorite / worst / most memorable hotel / inn / vacation home stay ever?  Tell us all about it! –OR– If you went caroling as a kid: Which are your best / worst / most unfortettable caroling memories?

Bonus task: Make a piñata (https://www.wikihow.com/Make-a-Pi%C3%B1ata), hang it from a tree, post, basketball hoop, clothesline or similarly suitable holder and let your neighborhood kids have a go at breaking it.

 

Square 9: December 21st:

Winter Solstice is the longest night of the year in the northern hemisphere, also known as Yaldā Night in Iran. The same day is the summer solstice in the southern hemisphere, giving them the longest day of the year. / Mōdraniht is “Night of the Mothers” or “Mothers’ Night” in old English and was an event held at what is now Christmas Eve by the Anglo-Saxon Pagans.  Yuletide is a festival observed by the historical Germanic peoples. Scholars have connected the celebration to the Wild Hunt, the god Odin, and the pagan Anglo-Saxon Mōdraniht.

Book themes for Winter Solstice and Yaldā Night: Read a book of poetry, or a book where the events all take place during the course of one night, or where the cover is a night-time scene.

Book themes for Mōdraniht: Read any book where the MC is actively raising young children or teens.

Book themes for Yuletide: Read a book set in the midst of a snowy or icy winter, –OR– set in the Arctic or Antartica.

Tasks for Winter Solstice and Yaldā Night: Read a book in one night – in the S. Hemisphere, read a book in a day. –OR– Grab one of your thickest books off the shelf.  Ask a question and then turn to page 40 and read the 9th line of text on that page.  Post your results.  –OR– Eat a watermelon or pomegranate for good luck and health in the coming year, but post a pic first!.

Bonus task:  Read a book in one night.

Tasks for Mōdraniht: Tell us your favourite memory about your mom, grandma, or the woman who had the greatest impact on your childhood.  –OR– Post a picture of you and your mom, or if comfortable, you and your kids.

Bonus task:  Post 3 things you love about your mother-in-law (if you have one), otherwise your grandma.

Tasks for Yuletide: Make a Yule log cake – post a pic and the recipe for us to drool over.

 

Square 10: December 21st:

World Peace Day is the day the United Nations General Assembly has declared as a day devoted to strengthening the ideals of peace, both within and among all nations and peoples. Pancha Ganapati, is a modern five-day Hindu festival in honor of Ganesha that comes to an end on the 25th. The festival was created in 1985 as a Hindu alternative to December holidays like Christmas by Sivaya Subramuniyaswami (born Robert Hansen), a Westerner who embraced Hinduism.

Book themes for World Peace Day: Read a book by or about a Nobel Peace Prize winner, or about a protagonist (fictional or nonfictional) who has a reputation as a peacemaker.

Book themes for Pancha Ganapati: Read anything involving a need for forgiveness in the story line; a story about redemption –OR– Read a book whose cover has one of the 5 colors of the holiday: red, blue, green, orange, or yellow –OR– Read a book involving elephants.

Tasks for World Peace Day: Cook something involving olives or olive oil. Share the results and/or recipe with us. –OR– Tell us: If you had wings (like a dove), where would you want to fly?

Tasks for Pancha Ganapati: Post about your 5 favourite books this year and why you appreciated them so much. –OR– Take a shelfie / stack picture of the above-mentioned 5 favorite books.  (Feel free to combine these tasks into 1!

 

Square 11: December 21st-22nd:

Soyal (December 21st) is the winter solstice ceremony of the Zuni and the Hopi (Hopitu Shinumu), The Peaceful Ones, also known as the Hopi Indians. It is held on the shortest day of the year to ceremonially bring the sun back from its long winter slumber. The Dōngzhì Festival (December 22nd) also celebrates the winter solstice and is one of the most important festivals celebrated by the Chinese and other East Asians.

Book themes for Soyal: Read a book set in the American Southwest / the Four Corners States (Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah), –OR– a book that has a Native American protagonist.

Book themes for Dōngzhì Festival: Read a book set in China or written by a Chinese author / an author of Chinese origin; or read a book that has a pink or white cover.

Tasks for Soyal:  Like many Native American festivities, Soyal involves rituals such as dances.  What local / religious / folk traditions or customs exist where you live? Tell us about one of them. (If you can, post pictures for illustration.) –OR– Share a picture you’ve taken of a harvest setting or autumnal leaf color.

Tasks for Dōngzhì Festival: If you like Chinese food, tell us your favorite dish – otherwise, tell us your favorite desert. (Recipes, as always, welcome.)

 

Square 12: December 23rd

Festivus is “The Festivus for the rest of us!”; originally a family tradition of scriptwriter Dan O’Keefe, who worked on the US sitcom Seinfeld, Festivus entered popular culture after it was made the theme of a Seinfeld episode. Saturnalia, the ancient Roman festival in honour of the god Saturn, comes to an end.

Book themes for Festivus: Read anything comedic; a parody, satire, etc.  Books with hilariously dysfunctional families (must be funny dysfunctional, not tragic dysfunctional).  Anything that makes you laugh (or hope it does).

Book themes for Saturnalia:  The god Saturn has a planet named after him; read any work of science fiction that takes place in space.  –OR– Read a book celebrating free speech. –OR–  A book revolving around a very large party, or ball, or festival, –OR– a book with a mask or masks on the cover.  –OR– a story where roles are reversed.

Tasks for Festivus: Post your personal list of 3 Festivus Miracles –OR– post a picture of your Festivus pole (NOTHING pornographic, please!), –OR– Perform the Airing of Grievances:  name 5 books you’ve read this year that have disappointed you – tell us in tongue-lashing detail why and how they failed to live up to expectations.

Tasks for Saturnalia: Wear a mask, take a picture and post it.  Leave a small gift for someone you know anonymously – a small bit of chocolate or apple, a funny poem or joke.  Tell us about it in a post.  –OR– Tell us: If you could time-travel back to ancient Rome, where would you want to go and whom (both fictional and / or nonfictional persons) would you like to meet?

 

Square 13: December 25th

Christmas – I don’t think anyone needs an explanation of this one, but Hogswatch Night is the festival celebrating the winter solstice and the New Year across much of the Main continent and some other areas of Discworld. It falls on the 36th of December, the new year beginning on the 1st of Ick.  If this all sounds like nonsense, you’re not yet read Terry Pratchett.  What better time to give his books a try?

Book themes for Christmas:  Read a book whose protagonist is called Mary, Joseph (or Jesus, if that’s a commonly used name in your culture) or any variations of those names (e.g., Maria or Pepe).

Book themes for Hogswatch Night: Of course – read Hogfather!  Or any Discworld book (or anything by Terry Pratchett)

Tasks for Christmas:  So. many. options.  Post a picture of your stockings hung from the chimney with care, –OR– a picture of Santa’s ‘treat’ waiting for him.  –OR–  Share with us your family Christmas traditions involving gift-giving, or Santa’s visit. Did you write letters to Santa as a kid (and if so, did he write back, as J.R.R. Tolkien did “as Santa Claus” to his kids)?  If so, what did you wish for?  A teddy bear or a doll? Other toys – or practical things? And did Santa always bring what you asked for?

Tasks for Hogswatch Night:  Make your favourite sausage dish (if you’re vegan or vegetarian, use your favorite sausage or meat substitute), post and share recipe.

 

Square 14: December 25th

Dies Natalis Solis Invicti  (‘birthday of the unconquered sun’) – Sol Invictus was the official sun god of the later Roman Empire and a patron of soldiers.   Quaid-e-Azam (‘Great Leader’) Day is the Pakistan holiday celebrating their founder’s -Muhammad Ali Jinnah – birthday.

Book themes for Dies Natalis Solis Invicti: Celebrate the sun and read a book that has a beach or seaside setting.  –OR– a book set during summertime. –OR– set in the Southern Hemisphere.

Book themes for Quaid-e-Azam:  Pakistan became an independent nation when the British Raj ended on August 14, 1947. Read a book set in Pakistan or in any other country that attained sovereign statehood between August 14, 1947 and today (regardless in what part of the world).

Tasks for Dies Natalis Solis Invicti: Find the sunniest spot in your home, that’s warm and comfy and read your book. –OR– Take a picture of your garden, or a local garden/green space in the sun (even if the ground is under snow).  If you’re in the Southern Hemisphere, take a picture of your local scenic spot, park, or beach, on a sunny day.  –OR–  The Romans believed that the sun god rode across the sky in a chariot drawn by fiery steeds.  Have you ever been horseback riding, or did you otherwise have significant encounters with horses?  As a child, which were your favorite books involving horses?

Tasks for Quaid-e-Azam: Pakistan’s first leader – Muhammad Ali Jinnah – was a man, but both Pakistan and neighboring India were governed by women (Benazir Bhutto and Indira Gandhi respectively) before many of the major Western countries.  Tell us: Who are the present-day or historic women that you most respect, and why?  (These can be any women of great achievement, not just political leaders.)

 

Square 15: December 25th-26th:

Newtonmas, on the 25th of December is the celebration of Sir Isaac Newton’s birthday. St. Stephen’s Day, or the Feast of Saint Stephen, is a Christian saint’s day commemorating Saint Stephen, the first Christian martyr.  Anyone who reads any British historical fiction will be familiar with Boxing Day, but there are competing theories for the origins of the term, none definitive.  When in doubt, I say fall back on the OED, which defines it as “[…] a holiday on which post-men, errand-boys, and servants of various kinds expect to receive a Christmas-box”.

Book themes for Newtonmas:  Any science book.  Any book about alchemy.  Any book where science, astronomy, or chemistry play a significant part in the plot. (For members of the Flat Book Society: The “Forensics” November group read counts.)

Book themes for Boxing Day/St. Stephen’s Day: Read anything where the main character has servants (paid servants count, NOT unpaid) or is working as a servant him-/ herself.

Tasks for Newtonmas: Take a moment to appreciate gravity and the laws of motion. If there’s snow outside, have a snowball fight with a friend or a member of your family.  –OR– Take some time out to enjoy the alchemical goodness of a hot toddy or chocolate or any drink that relies on basic chemistry/alchemy (coffee with cream or sugar / tea with milk or sugar or lemon, etc.).  Post a picture of your libations and the recipe if it’s unique and you’re ok with sharing it.

Tasks for St. Stephen’s Day/Boxing Day: Show us your boxes of books!  –OR–  If you have a cat, post a picture of your cat in a box.  (your dog in a box works too, if your dog likes boxes – I’m looking at you WhiskeyintheJar) – or any pet good-natured enough to pose in a box long enough for you to snap a picture.

BONUS task:  box up all the Christmas detritus, decorations, or box up that stuff you’ve been meaning to get rid of, or donate, etc. and take a picture and post it. 

 

Square 16: December 26th-31st:

Kwanzaa honors African heritage in African-American culture, and is observed from December 26 to January 1.  Is there any place in the world that doesn’t celebrate New Year’s Eve?  But Hogmanay is the unique Scottish take on New Years Eve and Day and might be new to many of us, as might be St. Sylvester’s Day, the feast day of Pope Sylvester I, and Watchnight, a late-night Christian church service that starts late on New Year’s Eve, and ends after midnight.

Book themes for Kwanzaa: Read a book written by an author of African descent or a book set in Africa, or whose cover is primarily red, green or black.

Book themes for Hogmanay / New year’s eve / Watch night / St. Sylvester’s Day: a book about starting over, rebuilding, new beginnings, etc. –OR– Read anything set in medieval times. –OR–  A book about the papacy –OR– where miracles of any sort are performed (the unexplainable – but good – kind).

Tasks for Kwanzaa: Create a stack of books in the Kwanzaa color scheme using red, black and green and post your creation and post a photo (or post a photo of a shelfie where black, red and green predominate).

BONUS task: Create something with your stack of books:  a christmas tree or other easily identifiable object.

Tasks for Hogmanay / New year’s eve / Watch night / St. Sylvester’s Day:  Make a batch of shortbread for yourself, family or friends.  Post pics and recipe. –OR– Light some sparklers (if legal) and take a picture – or have a friend take a picture of your “writing” in the sky with the sparkler. –OR– Get yourself a steak pie (any veggie/vegan substitutions are fine) and read yourself a story – but take a pic of both before you start, and post it.

MASSIVE HUGE BONUS POINTS if you post a picture of yourself walking a pig on a leash.  (Done to ensure good fortune of the coming year.)

We will be setting up threads in the Bingo group later today with the tasks, card and rules, as well as a thread to report your points.  Links to those will be announced in a seperate post.

 

Original post:
ThemisAthena.booklikes.com/post/1613180/introducing-the-16-tasks-of-the-festive-season