Reviews & Rants - Blogging about books, authors, and generally 

Reading progress update: I've read 295 out of 414 pages.

The Science of Discworld - Terry Pratchett, Jack Cohen, Ian Stewart

Who knew it was possible to make a chapter on dinosaurs boring?



Did they just include this chapter to geek out on how many different dinosaur names they know? Or was it to show off that they know Disney got it wrong?




Is it wrong to wish the book would end soon?


Reading progress update: I've read 326 out of 345 pages.

The Buried Giant - Kazuo Ishiguro

Gut-wrenching. Utterly gut-wrenching.





(show spoiler)


16 Tasks of the Festive Season - Square #3: St Martin's Day

The Buried Giant - Kazuo Ishiguro

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).


Many thanks to Jennifer's Books. if it had not been for her post, I would have missed that a book set before the age of electricity is on the list for this square.


I'll nominate The Buried Giant for this one. It's set in post-Roman Britain, just after King Arthur. 


There is no electricity. And no coconuts either...


Reading progress update: I've read 291 out of 345 pages.

The Buried Giant - Kazuo Ishiguro


Done it again. It's time to get some sleep but there are only about 50 pages left in the book and I want to know how this story ends!!!


Reading progress update: I've read 227 out of 345 pages.

The Buried Giant - Kazuo Ishiguro

There is no way that an eventual review can be written without gifs of the knightly kind.


Reading progress update: I've read 282 out of 414 pages.

The Science of Discworld - Terry Pratchett, Jack Cohen, Ian Stewart

The Discworld parts are still the best, especially the ones with the Librarian!


Like others, I am finding the book more interesting now that science parts relate to Earth rather than abstract ideas of space at large. 


However, now that we are focusing on the make-up of Earth and life on it, I can't help but think that this book really is a mixed bag. Some chapters are great, some are ... not.


There is no need for some of the attitude - if the authors insist on calling things "lies to children" then by the same logic some of the theories the authors push must be "lies to children" also. Indeed, they seem to acknowledge this for some parts ... but not others. 


For a book that is trying so hard to convince readers to look beyond the narrative and to question selective reporting, it still falls at the first hurdle ... even trying to sound objective.


Oh, and I skim-skipped through the parts about mathematical probability. In the words of (the best on-screen) Willoughby ... I will not torment myself!

Sunday Soup

It's been freezing all weekend. Not only did we have snow, which actually stayed for three days (and counting...) but for most of today we had temperatures of -5C (-9C! on the other side of town).


We don't get freezing temperatures that often this close to the sea.


It is of no surprise then that I have craved hot soup all day. :) The drawback was that I needed to use things I had in the kitchen as I had no intention of going to the shops. The pavements are all covered in ice...


Today's odds'n'ends soup turned out tasty enough, albeit I wouldn't say it's a new favourite. It also had some kick to it as I found a green chili pepper in the fridge. 



What else is in there:


- onion

- garlic

- courgette

- carrot

- peas

- sweetcorn

- small potato

- stock

- blob of cream cheese

- salt, pepper, paprika

- green chili pepper


some grated cheese on top.


Happy Soup Sunday!


16 Tasks of the Festive Season - Square #7: International Human Rights Day

We - Clarence Brown, Евгений Замятин, Yevgeny Zamyatin

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).


"We" was originally written in Russian, and it feels like this book is doubly fitting with the theme of this book square as it meets the criteria for both "written in another language" and "a story revolving around the rights of others either being defended or abused".


16 Tasks of the Festive Season - Books, Tasks, and Updates

Alright, time to get organised: I'll use this post to link to the various books, tasks, and related posts. I have no idea how many of these I will complete, but thanks to Murder by Death's and Themis Athena's stupendous efforts we have a multitude of options to have fun with this. 


Links to the original posts: 16 Tasks and Rules 

Link to the Tasks in calendar format: November and December


My updates:


Square 1: November 1st:

All Saints Day / Día de los Muertos / Calan Gaeaf


Tasks for Día de Muertos and All Saint’s Day

- Book for Día de Muertos and All Saint’s Day

- Task for Calan Gaeaf


Square 2: November 5th:

Guy Fawkes Night (Bonfire Night/Fireworks Night) / Bon Om Touk (Cambodian Water Festival)


- Task for Guy Fawkes Night

- Task for Bon Om Touk


Square 3: November 11th:

St. Martin’s Day (11th) / Veterans’ Day / Armistice Day (11th)


- Book for Armistice Day 

- Task for St. Martin's Day

- Task for Armistice Day

- Book for St. Martin's Day (The Buried Giant)


Square 4: November 22nd and 23rd:

Penance Day (22nd) / Thanksgiving (23rd) 


- Task for Thanksgiving Day 

- Book for Penance Day


Square 5: December 3rd and following 3 Sundays:



- Task for Advent 

- Book for Advent (Silent Nights)


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

Sinterklaas / Krampusnacht (5th) / St. Nicholas Day (6th) / Bodhi Day (8th)


- Book for Bodhi Day  


Square 7: December 10th & 13th:

International Human Rights Day (10th) / St. Lucia’s Day (13th) 


- Task for St. Lucia's Day  


Square 8: December 12th - 24th:

Hanukkah (begins 12th, ends 20th) Las Posadas (begins 16th, ends 24th)  


- Book for Las Posadas 


Square 9: December 21st:

Winter Solstice / Mōdraniht / Yuletide / Yaldā Night  


- Book for Yuletide (Mystery in White)

- Book for Winter Solstice and Yalda Night (Late in the Day)


Square 10: December 21st:

World Peace Day / Pancha Ganapati begins (ends 25th)


- Task for Pancha Ganapati


Square 11: December 21st-22nd:

Soyal (21st) / Dōngzhì Festival (22nd) (China)


- Task for Dongzhi Festival 


Square 12: December 23rd

Festivus / Saturnalia ends (begins 17th)


- Book for Saturnalia


Square 13: December 25th

Christmas / Hogswatch


- Book for Hogswatch  


Square 14: December 25th

Dies Natalis Solis Invicti / Quaid-e-Azam’s Day


- Book for Quaid-e-Azam’s Day


Square 15: December 25th-26th:

Newtonmas (25th) / St. Stephen's Day/Boxing Day (26th)


Book: Forensics by Val McDermid 

- Book for Boxing Day/St. Stephen's Day  


Square 16: December 26th-31st:

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


- Task for Kwanzaa



Bonus Points:

1 x for guessing the "wrong holiday" - Special Joker # 2

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


Total Points: 28





Reading progress update: I've read 15%.

We - Clarence Brown, Евгений Замятин, Yevgeny Zamyatin

Night. Green, orange, blue. The red royal instrument. The yellow dress. Then a brass Buddha. Suddenly it lifted the brass eyelids and sap began to flow from it, from Buddha. Sap also from the yellow dress. Even in the mirror, drops of sap, and from the large bed and from the children’s bed and soon from myself.… It is horror, mortally sweet horror! …


I woke up. Soft blue light, the glass of the walls, of the chairs, of the table was glimmering. This calmed me. My heart stopped palpitating. Sap! Buddha! How absurd! I am sick, it is clear; I never saw dreams before. They say that to see dreams was a common normal thing with the ancients. Yes, after all, their life was a whirling carousel: green, orange, Buddha, sap. But we, people of today, we know all too well that dreaming is a serious mental disease.


Interesting. So far, I am enjoying this much more than 1984, tho not as much as Metropolis.

Silent Nights: Christmas Mysteries

Silent Nights: Christmas Mysteries - Various Authors, Martin Edwards

Like any collection of short stories, this one is a mixed bag. Martin Edwards is, of course, an expert in the stories and authors selected here, but as with his other selections, and indeed any other selection, his tastes and favourites are somewhat different to mine.


And, let's not forget that some authors are better at writing short stories than others. The authors selected for this collection seem to represent some of the big names of mystery writing, but not necessarily the ones who were good at shorts.



The Blue Carbuncle (Arthur Conan Doyle) - 5*

One of my all-time favourites.


Parlour Tricks (Ralph Plummer) - 3*

Quick and fun but not difficult to solve.


A Happy Solution (Raymond Allen) - 2.5*



The Flying Stars (G.K. Chesterton) - 3.5*

Ah, Father Brown, you observer of human frailty. Far superior to old biddy Marple but quite quaint ... unless you happen to catch the BBC tv series or the 1960s German adaptation.


Stuffing (Edgar Wallace) - 4*

Typical Wallace humour, I'd say.


The Unknown Murderer (H.C. Bailey) - 3.5*

Dark and unsettlingly evil.


The Absconding Treasurer (J. Jefferson Farjeon) - 2*

This one just felt like a rushed listing of plot points and character names. 


The Necklace of Pearls (Dorothy L. Sayers) - 4*

A fun Christmas country house jewel theft story.


The Case if Altered (Margery Allingham) - 3.5*

A fun Christmas country house espionage story.


Waxworks (Ethel Lina White) - 4.5*

Waxworks turned out to be brilliant, tho probably better at home in a horror collection.


Cambric Tea (Marjorie Bowen) - 2.5*

Meh. Great concept but too drawn out. I guess, the length meant to give time for the suspicions to develop and linger, but it didn't quite work for me. Also, I had predicted the ending rather early on.


The Chinese Apple (Joseph Shearing) - 2*

This one just did not grab me at all. In fact, I had to read several paragraphs two or three times, and still managed to fall asleep.


A Problem in White (Nicholas Blake) - 2.5*

I should have enjoyed this one more than I did - we had a number of clues to solve the puzzle and I loved the setting: starting on a train and with a background story of a great train robbery. (And I actually had to imagine P.D. with the voice of Sean Connery - until he said he was "English on the outside, Scotch on the inside"...).

However, this one struck me as one where the author wanted to let us know how incredibly clever he is, and that dampened my enjoyment.  


The Name on the Window (Edmund Crispin) - 3*

This was an interesting one, but then I do love a locked room mystery.


Beef for Christmas (Leo Bruce) - 3*

Much like The Name on the Window, this one was fun, even tho it bears a remarkable resemblance to a certain story featuring a certain Belgian gent.  

Reading progress update: I've read 136 out of 414 pages.

The Science of Discworld - Terry Pratchett, Jack Cohen, Ian Stewart

Ok, more astronomy...but at least we got:


- a better explanation of Einstein's theories vaguely referred to in the first part of the book

- an overview of how different theories played off or refuted each other

- stories about cats

- elemental observations

- and an offer of a variety of theories on offer rather than, as the tone of the first chapters suggested, a linear narrative of why something is not right.


What I am still missing is a link between the science presented in the current and following chapters and the random discussion of quantum physics at the start of the book.


I'm going to stop here for today, as I need something lighter or just something with a bit more narrativium


Reading progress update: I've read 84 out of 414 pages.

The Science of Discworld - Terry Pratchett, Jack Cohen, Ian Stewart

Alright, the chapter on Stardust may have helped to inject a bit more life into the book, or at least into the science parts (the Wizard parts are what kept me reading so far!).


While the chapter did discuss things about chemistry and elements on a basic level, at least it was possible to read it without rolling my eyes or having to use Google - and it wasn't about astrophysics, which helped immensely.


Onwards, Sombrero-Agrippa!



16 Tasks of the Festive Season - Square #9: Winter Solstice and Yalda Night

Late in the Day: Poems 2010–2014 - Ursula K. Le Guin

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.


Despite the snow, my postie managed to make his rounds yesterday. Two Le Guins, one of which will qualify for a book square because it is a book of poetry.


Sherlock Holmes: The Adventure of the Engineer's Thumb

Sherlock Holmes: The Definitive Collection -  Arthur Conan Doyle, Stephen Fry

It was in the summer of ’89, not long after my marriage, that the events occurred which I am now about to summarise. I had returned to civil practice and had finally abandoned Holmes in his Baker Street rooms, although I continually visited him and occasionally even persuaded him to forgo his Bohemian habits so far as to come and visit us.

The Adventure of the Engineer's Thumb is a story that I tend to neglect. This is probably for no other reason than that Watson has moved out so visibly. I mean he's moved out for most of the other stories, too, but in this one, he actually says it.  For some reason, I prefer the idea of Holmes and Watson sharing digs at 221B.  


However, there is something remarkable about this story, too: There is a very dark undertone to this story.

For one, we have Watson involved, no fault of his (but he's not stopping it either), with a rather dodgy, erm, ... "agent", who brings him new patients. 

One morning, at a little before seven o’clock, I was awakened by the maid tapping at the door to announce that two men had come from Paddington and were waiting in the consulting-room. I dressed hurriedly, for I knew by experience that railway cases were seldom trivial, and hastened downstairs. As I descended, my old ally, the guard, came out of the room and closed the door tightly behind him.

“I’ve got him here,” he whispered, jerking his thumb over his shoulder; “he’s all right.” “What is it, then?” I asked, for his manner suggested that it was some strange creature which he had caged up in my room.

“It’s a new patient,” he whispered. “I thought I’d bring him round myself; then he couldn’t slip away. There he is, all safe and sound. I must go now, Doctor; I have my dooties, just the same as you.”

And off he went, this trusty tout, without even giving me time to thank him.


I was seriously wondering if ACD was pulling our leg with this one, because, to me, there was a distinct hint of Burke & Hare in this, except that Watson's patients were ... alive.

Was this common practice in ACD's day? Like a warped early version of ambulance chasing?


For another, we have the main story, which is probably more akin to a Gothic horror classic, than your typical Sherlock Holmes mystery:


A man has his thump chopped off with a meat cleaver while escaping certain death from a ceiling that has been engineered to lower and squash everything beneath it.

(show spoiler)



I had to read this twice, because I thought my mind was playing tricks on me and I had for some reason ended up with a story by Edgar Allan Poe. 

I threw myself, screaming, against the door, and dragged with my nails at the lock. I implored the colonel to let me out, but the remorseless clanking of the levers drowned my cries.

And if that was not unsettling enough, the ending leaves even more room for nightmares. 


Overall, this was a thrill of a story, even if I had to roll my eyes at some of the nationalist sentiments in this story, which is not something that often comes up in the Holmes canon. At least, not until the later which they are somewhat justified. Somewhat, but not altogether. 



(I was glad I had a reading blanket at hand, much like Holmes above. This was an unsettling read. Did you really think I'd write this without adding a picture of JB?)

This morning...

I woke up to this on my day off. It's still snowing.



So, you can all imagine what my plans are for today. :D


Happy Friday!

Currently reading

Cabin Pressure by John David Finnemore, Stephanie Cole, Roger Allam, Benedict Cumberbatch
Late in the Day: Poems 2010–2014 by Ursula K. Le Guin
We by Clarence Brown, Евгений Замятин, Yevgeny Zamyatin
Progress: 27%
The Big Book of Christmas Mysteries by Otto Penzler
Progress: 20%
Sherlock Holmes: The Definitive Collection by Arthur Conan Doyle, Stephen Fry
Progress: 24%
Das Wunder des Baums by Annemarie Schwarzenbach
Progress: 21/295pages