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

Reading progress update: I've read 70 out of 414 pages.

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

I'm lagging behind everyone else in this BR, but I am looking forward to the next part.


I thought the galactic expansion / contraction stuff was interesting for about a minute, then it bored me for about 20 pages.


And I am not sure the book properly explains how matter is created in a vacuum - overall, I seem to spend an awful lot of time on the internet reading articles on physics.

So, what I am saying is: While I am the first one to hold up my hand and say that my understanding of physics is "basic", I am not sure the book is all that great at explaining things.

So far, the Wizard parts win over the science parts.

Reading progress update: I've read 29 out of 414 pages.

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

I'm late. I'm late. I'm late ... but I finally managed to read more than 2 pages this morning.


I tried making a dent in this on the train home yesterday, but not really having slept the night before caught up with me and I pretty much slept all the way back home, then went straight to bed...


Anyway, I was a bit puzzled by the chapter set in Discworld as it wasn't clear, yet, where the science part was. That was my only concern, tho. Other than that, I loved the wizards and the squash court setting, and the way that Pratchett translated real concerns into bitingly satirical comedy.


The science that I was missing followed in the subsequent chapter. And lots of it. Much went over my head, but I appreciated that the authors deliberately left our formulae and tried to describe the concepts in "real words". I mean, even with that I was lost at Planck's constant, but I'm sure I'll google it later. 


That and a bit more flesh on how Einstein's theory describes the mechanics of fission.


So, there. Lots of science. This book was definitely not written by Roach. 



2018 - Womens Suffrage Reading Project

The Suffragettes – Complete History Of the Movement (6 Volumes in One Edition): The Battle for the Equal Rights: 1848-1922 (Including Letters, Newspaper ... Speeches, Court Transcripts & Decisions) - Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, Matilda Gage, Harriot Stanton Blatch, Ida H. Harper Women's Suffrage: A Short History of a Great Movement - Millicent Garrett Fawcett Louise Otto: Frauenbewegung in Deutschland: Die Führerinnen der Frauenbewegung in Deutschland + Die erste deutsche Frauen-Conferenz in Leipzig: Erinnerungen ... auf Gegenwart und Zukunft (German Edition) - Louise Otto The Scottish Suffragettes and the Press (Palgrave Studies in the History of the Media) - Sarah Pedersen

2018 will mark the centenary of women gaining the right to vote in Germany and Britain. I have long been fascinated by the history of women's suffrage and thought it would be a great way to celebrate the anniversary by looking at the lead up, the campaigns, the people involved in the movement.


Of course, this is a topic that could easily consume a whole year of reading by itself - and quite rightly so - but chances are that I will want to read other books, too. So, I will try and direct my reading towards 4 main texts - each profiling the struggle for women's right to vote in Germany, Britain, the US, and one specifically on Scotland - because the movement here (Scotland) actually differed slightly to the more famous one in England (and because it was written by my old university prof.)


As one book always (always!!) leads to another, I expect that there will be a few other books (that I already own, thus chipping away at Mt. TBR) and links that will make an appearance during this reading project (which I will list below as I go along).




Mystery in White

Mystery in White - J. Jefferson Farjeon

THE first thing David did on emerging from the front door was to pitch head first into a mound of snow. For a moment or two he nearly suffocated, while countless soft, icy pellets invaded his back as though he were being bombarded by silent salvos from heaven. Then he scrambled out, and strained ears choked with snow for a repetition of the shout. Already he had lost his sense of direction, for all he could see was a bewildering succession of snowflake close-ups, almost blinding vision. During the forty-five minutes he had been in the house the weather had travelled from bad to worse. Snow rushed at him unbelievably from nowhere caking him with white. He would have retreated promptly saving for the knowledge that somewhere in this whirling maelstrom was a man in a worse plight; but how to find the man, if his despairing cry was not repeated, seemed a stark impossibility.

Alright, this was a fun book. Despite the excellent, yet misleading, cover, this story does not take place on a train but is essentially a country house mystery. 


Our protagonists are a group of strangers who share a compartment on a train and get stuck in a snowstorm just days before Christmas. As they all dislike being stranded, they set out to try and walk to the next station - which may or may not have a connections that are still running. 

But... they never get there. The weather conditions worsen and they need to turn in to a nearby house for shelter. They enter looking for its occupants, but no one is there even though the fires are laid on, the tea set is laid out, and the kettle is boiling. 


What a great start to a Christmas mystery! 


The characters were really cute, too. We have a couple of young women, one of the women's brother, a young clerk suffering from some sort of anxiety disorder, a guy who is a known psychic, and an older chap who is described as "the old bore". We also get to meet a man suffering from shell shock.


I loved the characters. You'd think they were all straight out of the catalogue of British country house mysteries, but each one had a little bit more to them - I especially liked that the author included characters who were going through some mental distress. It is still not that often that I have come across depictions of characters suffering from shell shock in the original 1920s/30s mysteries. They are not really part of Christie's setup and it took me to discover Sayers and Tey to find a representation. 


The mystery itself is convoluted and the solution is contrived - the psychic gets involved a lot, and at one point I flashbacks to The Haunting of Hill House - but there is also something gripping about the part of the mystery, which really takes quite a gritty turn.


Almost as good as Death of an Airman, and the book made me laugh a lot.

But first things first. Is anybody getting hungry? Come along, staff. Step on it. We mustn’t keep the family waiting for dinner. I may not be honest and sober, but I am punctual!” Mr. Hopkins and Mr. Smith glanced at each other, then followed the girl obediently into the kitchen.

Reading progress update: I've read 80%.

Mystery in White - J. Jefferson Farjeon

Then everybody saving Mr. Maltby started. The same clock struck one. Mr. Maltby turned to the portrait over the fireplace.

“In another hour,” he mused, “it will be twenty years to the second since you closed your lips. Can we reopen them?”

To the second? Hahahahahahahahaaaa. This is so contrived, but I am enjoying the overall feel of this one. It certainly is not Poirot, tho.

16 Tasks of the Festive Season - Square #5: Advent

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


Oh, and while I am at it, I made my own Advent Calendar a couple of days ago. It was all a bit last minute, because it took me ages to decide what to have this year. 

By the time I got around to knowing what I was looking for, time had passed on and my favourite purveyor of fine coffees and teas -- MacBeans -- had run out of sample size ingredients and I hadn't the time to wait... Apparently, other people also wanted a tea advent calendar. How dare they! (*kidding*)


Anyway, Pukka Teas to the rescue... I found a selection of Tea bags that came in LOTS of different varieties:



There were more than 24 teas to choose from, so I put aside anything that said "Detox" or sounded in any way like they should belong in the flu / stomach upset section of my medicine cabinet. It's an advent calendar! It is meant to be filled with scents of intense, warm, spicy or fruity deliciousness, not ... nettle tea or something like it. (Blergh!)


As for the calendar itself, I was looking for a simple solution: I re-used my tea tin and put the tea bags into little festively decorated envelopes. 


And that's it!


16 Tasks of the Festive Season - Square #5: Advent

Silent Nights: Christmas Mysteries - Various Authors, Martin Edwards

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.


Many thanks to Themis-Athena for the reminder about the Advent books and task. I completely missed that one of my current reads - Silent Nights - qualifies for this square.



Reading progress update: I've read 51%.

Mystery in White - J. Jefferson Farjeon

MR. HOPKINS took his handkerchief from his pocket and mopped his brow. It was not the first time he had done so, but his brow had never needed the operation more acutely.

“W-what’s that mean?” he asked.

Well, that escalated quickly!



Reading progress update: I've read 18%.

Mystery in White - J. Jefferson Farjeon

“I see. Just wise precaution. Well, you’re right. I did find something while I was ferreting about upstairs.”


“A locked door. Of course, it mightn’t mean anything, only when I knocked I couldn’t get any reply.”

This story is off to a great start. A bunch of bright young things, a snowstorm, a psychic, a seemingly abandoned house in the middle of nowhere, that was left with tea set out, kettle boiling, and two fires laid on...and then we have a door that has been found locked from the inside. And then isn't.


If I didn't know it any better, I'd say we have the makings of a Murder by Death-style (the film!) comedy. 


16 Tasks of the Festive Season - Square #9: Yuletide

Mystery in White - J. Jefferson Farjeon

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


From the Introduction by Martin Edwards:

"Mystery in White is an entertaining story of crime at Christmas, written by an author who – although today little-known – was a major figure during the Golden Age of murder between the two world wars. No less an authority than Dorothy L. Sayers pronounced that ‘Jefferson Farjeon is quite unsurpassed for creepy skill in mysterious adventures’, and the storyline of Mystery in White allows him ample scope to demonstrate that skill. The set-up is enticing, if superficially familiar. A strange assortment of passengers travelling by train during a blizzard find themselves caught in an acute dilemma when the track becomes impassable. Yet despite some similarity in the initial set-up, Farjeon’s story, first published in 1937, really owes nothing in terms of structure or solution to Agatha Christie’s classic Murder on the Orient Express, which appeared three years earlier. This time, the locale is not a remote part of continental Europe, but the English countryside, and the train is not the legendary and luxurious trans-continental express, but a third-class compartment on the 11.37 from St Pancras (or should that be Euston? both those great stations are mentioned in the very first chapter.) Having created expectations in the reader of one kind of detective story, Farjeon promptly disrupts them by directing events down a very different track."


So, this sounds like it will do two things: 1) Provide a fitting (hopefully) "warm up" to my annual re-read of Murder on the Orient Express, and 2) satisfy the Yuletide task that asks for a book in a wintry setting. 


Also, I believe this is the last square to be filled on my card. :D



Hogfather: (Discworld Novel 20) - Terry Pratchett


When it comes to favourite Christmas reads, Terry Pratchett's Hogfather is as perfect as they come for me. It certainly beats Charles Dickens when comes to spreading seasonal cheer and tell an uplifting tale of what makes humans ... human. 


Hogfather has got all the classical elements of stories of woe and hardship appealing to our collective social conscience, it has charming wintry scenes, it has a fat man climbing down chimneys to deliver presents. But it is also a lot of fun. And it has auditors, assassins, DEATH, and a passive-aggressive raven. 


And, yet, all the wizards, fairies, gnomes, bogeymen, and ant-driven computing machines cannot take away any of the depths that line the story of how DEATH's love of humans saves the world from eternal meaninglessness.

The sun rose. The light streamed over Susan like a silent gale. It was dazzling. She crouched back, raising her forearm to cover her eyes. The great red ball turned frost to fire along the winter branches. Gold light slammed into the mountain peaks, making every one a blinding, silent volcano. It rolled onward, gushing into the valleys and thundering up the slopes, unstoppable . . .



Reading progress update: I've read 251 out of 432 pages.

Hogfather: (Discworld Novel 20) - Terry Pratchett



‘That’s life, master.’




Hm. So much Pratchett wisdom in 3 short lines.

Reading progress update: I've read 121 out of 432 pages.

Hogfather: (Discworld Novel 20) - Terry Pratchett

Has DEATH ever been more adorable?

‘Are you weal?’ said the bobble hat.




The bobble hat sniggered. ‘I saw your piggie do a wee!’ it said, and implicit in the tone was the suggestion that this was unlikely to be dethroned as the most enthralling thing the bobble hat had ever seen.


OH. ER . . . GOOD.


‘It had a gwate big—’


WHAT DO YOU WANT FOR HOGSWATCH? said the Hogfather hurriedly.


Mother took her economic cue again, and said briskly: ‘She wants a—’


The Hogfather snapped his fingers impatiently. The mother’s mouth slammed shut. The child seemed to sense that here was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and spoke quickly.


‘I wanta narmy. Anna big castle wif pointy bits,’ said the child. ‘Anna swored.’


WHAT DO YOU SAY? prompted the Hogfather.


‘A big swored?’ said the child, after a pause for deep cogitation.





Good morning...

...or noon. Whatever. It's a Saturday.

I am typing this whilst sipping my first coffee of the day, so it is morning to me. 


Anyway, I just wanted to take a few minutes to say thank you to everyone here on BL that makes this community of of book lovers such an awesome place. It's not something I take for granted. 

While we may have differences in opinion and tastes - some prefer dogs over cats etc. ;) - we tend to have a community that appreciates different point of view and that is genuinely interested in what others have to say or where they are coming from when posting something. I truly appreciate the exchange of views and ideas here in the BL forum, and equally so, that we can have discussions, jokes, rants without causing or taking much offence. 


Yeah, as I am typing this, I am half thinking up a response to a new comment on "the other book site"... 


Anyway, thank you all.


Now back to my coffee and Hogfather.


Reading progress update: I've read 101 out of 432 pages.

Hogfather: (Discworld Novel 20) - Terry Pratchett

Susan pushed open the door into the kitchen.

Cats of every size and colour covered every surface. Hundreds of eyes swivelled to watch her.

It was Mrs Gammage all over again, she thought. The old woman was a regular in Biers for the company and was quite gaga, and one of the symptoms of those going completely yoyo was that they broke out in chronic cats. Usually cats who’d mastered every detail of feline existence except the whereabouts of the dirt box.

Reading progress update: I've read 56 out of 432 pages.

Hogfather: (Discworld Novel 20) - Terry Pratchett

It was the night before Hogswatch.

All through the house . . . . . .

one creature stirred. It was a mouse.

And someone, in the face of all appropriateness, had baited a trap. Although, because it was the festive season, they’d used a piece of pork crackling. The smell of it had been driving the mouse mad all day but now, with no one about, it was prepared to risk it.




The mouse looked around at what was now lying under the big spring, and thought,

‘Oops . . .’

Then its gaze went up to the black-clad figure that had faded into view by the wainscoting. ‘Squeak?’ it asked.

SQUEAK, said the Death of Rats.

And that was it, more or less.




The Death of Rats nibbled a bit of the pork pie because when you are the personification of the death of small rodents you have to behave in certain ways. He also piddled on one of the turnips for the same reason, although only metaphorically, because when you are a small skeleton in a black robe there are also some things you technically cannot do.


Hahahaha. I totally forgot about the Grim Squeaker.

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