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

24 Festive Tasks: Door 20 - Christmas

Door 20:  Christmas


Task 1: Share a picture of your holiday decorations.




Task 2: Watch a favorite Christmas movie.




Task 3:  Did your Christmas celebrations include books? Share your book haul pictures with us!




Task 4: What was the best Christmas / holiday present you ever received – the one that meant the most to you or gave you the greatest joy? (This can be anything; objects / material gifts as well as something someone did for you, or anything else – whatever made that particular holiday especially memorable.)




Book: Read a Christmas book.


I read Hercule Poirot's Christmas for this. One of my favourite annual re-reads.

24 Festive Tasks: Master Post


I'm sticking with the Jingle Sheep and baubles as my markers again this year.


  Total Points: 54          
    13 9 12 10 9 1
Door Task Book Task # 1 Task # 2 Task # 3 Task # 4 Bonus
1 Dia de Los Muertos 1   1 1    
2 Japanese Culture Day   1 1 1 1 1
3 Melbourne Cup  1 1 1 1  
4 Guy Fawkes 1       1  
5 Bon Om Touk   1   1    
6 Armistice Day  1    1      
7 International Day for Tolerance    1  
8 International Children's Day    1      
9 World Philosophy Day    1  
10 Russian Mother's Day      1    
11 Thanksgiving      1      
12 St. Andrew's Day    1  
13 Advent        
14 St. Nicholas    1      
15 Human Rights Day  1          
16 St. Lucia Day      1      
17 Winter Solstice / Yuletide  1          
18 Hanukkah  1          
19 Festivus  1          
20 Christmas  1          
21 Kwanzaa 1          
22 New Year's Eve 1          
23 Hogswatch 1  1  1  
24 Epiphany 1          



Reading progress update: I've read 15%.

The Christmas Card Crime and Other Stories - Various Authors, Martin Edwards

I'm getting my Christmas mojo on. 


I'm sure I've tried reading this collection of short stories before but somehow couldn't get into it. 


Right, now this feels like a wonderful to listen to while pottering about doing other things...and defrosting the fridge.


The first story, The Christmas Tragedy by Baroness Orczy, seems quaint, but would have been thrilling at the time, and it fits in right with the likes of Sherlock Holmes. 


The rest of the stories in the collection are more appealing to me now too than last years as I have read some of the authors' other works this year, and it helps to gauge what kind of stories and styles to expect. For example, there are stories by Cyril Hare and Ronald Knox in this collection, which I now know had a completely different style from each other. 


So, while sometimes short story collections are a great way to explore new authors, it seems to work the opposite way for me with this one.


Also, I am looking forward to the Paul Temple story in this one. I'm sure I've read it before, but I love revisiting a Paul Temple story. And after all, is there anyone who can tell the Paul Temple stories apart? ;P



Guards! Guards!

Guards! Guards!  - Terry Pratchett

Perhaps the magic would last. Perhaps it wouldn’t. But then, what does?


Reading progress update: I've read 295 out of 344 pages.

Guards! Guards!  - Terry Pratchett

It wasn’t a rock, because Ankh-Morpork was on loam. It was just some huge remnant of mortared masonry, probably thousands of years old, from somewhere in the city foundations. Ankh-Morpork was so old now that what it was built on, by and large, was Ankh-Morpork.

It had been dragged into the centre of the plaza, and Lady Sybil Ramkin had been chained to it. She appeared to be wearing a nightie and huge rubber boots. By the look of her she had been in a fight, and Vimes felt a momentary pang of sympathy for whoever else had been involved. She gave him a look of pure fury.

Lady Ramkin is brilliant. 

Reading progress update: I've read 283 out of 344 pages.

Guards! Guards!  - Terry Pratchett

Nobby looked down at the pond again. After a moment’s hesitation Colon joined him. They had the speculative faces of men who had seen many things, and knew that while you could of course depend on heroes, and kings, and ultimately on gods, you could really depend on gravity and deep water.

Another Pratchett truth.

Reading progress update: I've read 247 out of 344 pages.

Guards! Guards!  - Terry Pratchett

‘You’re right,’ said Colon. ‘The thing about the captain, see, I read this book once . . . you know we’ve all got alcohol in our bodies . . . sort of natural alcohol? Even if you never touch a drop in your life, your body sort of makes it anyway . . . but Captain Vimes, see, he’s one of those people whose body doesn’t do it naturally. Like, he was born two drinks below normal.’

‘Gosh,’ said Carrot.

‘Yes . . . so, when he’s sober, he’s really sober. Knurd, they call it. You know how you feel when you wake up if you’ve been on the piss all night, Nobby? Well, he feels like that all the time.’

‘Poor bugger,’ said Nobby. ‘I never realized. No wonder he’s always so gloomy.’


Reading progress update: I've read 171 out of 344 pages.

Guards! Guards!  - Terry Pratchett

He hadn’t even seen the lad close to. He looked personable enough, not exactly a great thinker, but definitely the kind of profile you wouldn’t mind seeing on your small change.
Mind you, after killing the dragon he could have been a cross-eyed goblin for all that it mattered. The mob had borne him in triumph to the Patrician’s palace.
Lord Vetinari had been locked up in his own dungeons. He hadn’t put up much fight, apparently. Just smiled at everyone and went quietly.
What a happy coincidence for the city that, just when it needed a champion to kill the dragon, a king came forth.
Vimes turned this thought over for a while. Then he turned it back to front. He picked up the quill and wrote:
Itym: What a happy chance it be, for a lad that would be Kinge, that there be a Draggon to slae to prove beyond doubt his boney fiddes.

One would think this could have come straight from a book on The Rise of Totalitarianism...


Scary stuff.


And I feel sorry for the poor instrumentalised dragons.

Reading progress update: I've read 106 out of 344 pages.

Guards! Guards!  - Terry Pratchett

Carrot looked around him. Shelves stretched away in every direction. On those shelves, books. He made a calculated guess.

‘This is the Library, isn’t it?’ he said.

The Librarian maintained his gentle but firm grip on the boy’s hand and led him along the maze of aisles.

‘Is there a body?’ said Carrot. There’d have to be. Worse than murder! A body in a library. It could lead to anything.

The ape eventually padded to a halt in front of a shelf no different than, it seemed, a hundred others. Some of the books were chained up. There was a gap. The Librarian pointed to it.


‘Well, what about it? A hole where a book should be.’


‘A book has been taken. A book has been taken? You summoned the Watch,’ Carrot drew himself up proudly, ‘because someone’s taken a book? You think that’s worse than murder?’

The Librarian gave him the kind of look other people would reserve for people who said things like ‘What’s so bad about genocide?’

I love the Librarian. :D

So many questions...

How does one get from Guards! Guards! to a Mary Westmacott novel (Christie's alias for romance stories)?

Seriously, how?


Reading progress update: I've read 53 out of 344 pages.

Guards! Guards!  - Terry Pratchett

His age was indeterminate. But in cynicism and general world weariness, which is a sort of carbon dating of the personality, he was about seven thousand years old.

I relate to this. Not sure why.

24 Festive Tasks: Door 23 - Hogswatch

Door 23:  Hogswatch


Task 1: Glingleglingleglingle – if you could wish any kind of god(dess) or fairy into existence, what would they be in charge of?


LoL. I think we had this question last year, too, and I'm still looking for the ironing fairy. I hate ironing.


Task 2: Who is your favorite Discworld character and why?


Granny, closely followed by the Librarian. Both are excellent in that they are wise in their own way, stubborn in their own way, and neither suffers fools gladly. Also, both of them kick ass. 


Task 3:  If you could spend time in the world of one of the Discworld sub-series (or one of the standalone Discworld novels), which one would you pick – and why?


Tough choice - my first choice would be the Witches sub-series because Granny is the most awesome character in Discworld, but ... I also would love to see the Librarian in action...


Task 4:  In Terry Pratchett’s and Neil Gaiman’s Good Omens, who do you root more for: Aziraphale or Crowley? Or another character? (And in each case: why?)


Aziraphale!!! He's a part-time bookseller!


Book: Any- and everything Terry Pratchett.


Bring on Guards! Guards!

24 Festive Tasks: Door 16 - St. Lucia's Day

Door 16:  St. Lucia’s Day


Task 1: Famous first words: Tradition has it that the winners of the Nobel Peace Prize are woken up by the St. Lucia maidens, as St. Lucia’s Day (Dec. 13) is just three days after the Nobel Peace Prize awards ceremony and many laureates stay long enough to be able to take in the St. Lucia festivities. Imagine one of your favorite (fictional) characters had won that prize: How would you think (s)he would greet the maidens? (If you’ve used the Nobel Peace Prize for Door 15, Task 3, this can be the same character, of course … or a different one, just as you wish.)




Task 2: Compile a list of five or more carols, poems, short stories, novels or other pieces of writing that feature sleigh rides.


1. Hogfather - DEATH and Albert sleighing it.

2. Sleigh Ride - the Ella Fitzgerald version

3. Das Buschgespenst - Yes, I had to check my copy, but Arndt gets a lift on a arranged by his brother-in-law.


And on the darker side:


4. The Snow Queen - by Hans Christian Andersen, featuring the scariest of all sleigh rides ever...even my nomination for # 5 can't beat that one, even if it may have been inspired by it:

5. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe ... which also features a witch and her sleigh up to no good and taking a young boy for a ride.


Task 3:  Trolls, gnomes, dwarves and similar beings (some evil, some less so, almost all of them mischievous) are a staple of Scandinavian mythology and folklore, as well as other folklores and mythologies around the world and, of course, fantasy and speculative fiction. Who is your favorite such creature and why? (No matter whether mythological, fictional or from whatever other source.)




Task 4: The historic (3d century AD) St. Lucia was Italian; yet, like those of many other saints (including, e.g., St. Andrew and St. Nicholas), the most important celebrations of her holiday don’t occur in her place of origin but somewhere else in the world.




Book:  Read a book set in Scandinavia / Northern Europe, by a Northern European / Nordic author, with a predominantly white cover (or white with red lettering), newly released in November or December of this year, or set in the candle-lit world (i.e., before the discovery of electricity – roughly, that is, before the late 19th century).


Oooh, the Stanley Wells book I am currently reading qualifies for this!!!

24 Festive Tasks: Door 15 - International Human Rights Day

Door 15:  International Human Rights Day


Task 1: Cook a dish from a culture other than your own or something involving apples (NYC = Big Apple) or oranges (for the Netherlands, seat of the International Court of Justice & International Criminal Court).




Task 2: Create a stack of books or a list with books by some of your favorite female and / or minority authors (minimum: five) and tell us what you like about their writing.




Task 3:  Nominate a (fictional) character from one of the books you read this year for a Nobel Prize – regardless which one – or for a similarly important prize (e.g., the Fields Medal for mathematics) and write a brief laudation explaining your nomination.




Task 4: Reconstitute one of the bodies or institutions of the United Nations (Plenary Assembly, Security Council, Secretariat, International Court of Justice / Criminal Court, World Bank, etc.) with some of your favorite characters (minimum: five) and explain why you chose them and what you’d expect them to achieve.




Book: Read a book featuring a strong female character (or characters), by an author from any minority group, a story about a minority overcoming their oppressors, or revolving around the rights of others either being defended or abused, a book set in New York City, or a book originally written in a language other than English and / or your mother tongue or by anyone not Anglo-Saxon.


Change of plans - I'm going to use my read of Not So Quiet... as my book for this task. The main character and her fellow ambulance drivers were all strong female characters. 

24 Festive Tasks: Door 18 - Hanukkah

Door 18:  Hanukkah


Task 1: Spin the dreidel to determine which book is going to be the first one you’ll be reading in the new year. Find a virtual dreidel here:




Task 2: Latkes or donuts are fried in oil to remind Jews of the oil that lasted for eight days: Fry yourself up some latkes or donuts. Share your recipe with us if they came out tasty.




Task 3:  Read a book by candle light (or flashlight).




Task 4: The 6th night of Hanukkah is dubbed "Candle of Righteousness"; at this time believers are expected to make a charitable donation. Make a blessing bag or food donation to a local food bank (or another charitable donation if there is no food bank anywhere near you).




Book: Read a book about light, miracles, featuring Jewish characters, set in Israel, that is the second book in a series, with the word “two” in the title, or with a light on the cover.


Having finsished and immensely disliked Howard Jacobson's Shylock is My Name (the book features Jewish characters and, incidentally, is also # 2 in the Hogarth Shakespeare re-tellings) I am at least getting something out of the book by claiming the point for this task. 

Of course, I could also have used The Merchant of Venice for this....which was an infinitely better read. 

Reading progress update: I've read 203 out of 280 pages.

Shylock Is My Name (Hogarth Shakespeare) - Howard Jacobson

I'm not sure how, but this has actually gotten worse. If I were to compare the reading experience to anything, I'd say Ian McEwan's books come to my mind: overblown writing, can't write women, implausible, and obsessed with aspects of morality and sex that are just ... not interesting to me.


The only reason I will finish this is Michael Kitchen's narration. 


Has anyone read anything else by Jacobson? Are his other books similar to this one?

...Not that I am looking to pick up anything else by him, I'm just curious.

Currently reading

The Christmas Card Crime and Other Stories by Various Authors, Martin Edwards
Progress: 64%
Shakespeare And Co.: Christopher Marlowe, Thomas Dekker, Ben Johnson, Thomas Middleton, John Fletcher And The Other Players In His Story by Stanley Wells
Progress: 28/285pages
Perseus in the Wind by Freya Stark
Progress: 36/172pages
The Complete Works (Oxford Shakespeare) by William Shakespeare, John Jowett, Gary Taylor
Progress: 481/1344pages
The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir, H.M. Parshley, Deirdre Bair
Progress: 30/741pages