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


It's absolutely horrible outside: it's cold, stormy, rainy, and it's been really dark all day. And I mean REALLY dark. This is the time of year that I really look forward to the solstice because the darkness alone is enough to make me want to stay inside and curl up with something good. I really need that date on the calendar that signifies that the days are getting longer again, even if it won't be noticeable immediately. Knowing that the shortest day is about to happen (on 21st Dec.) is enough. 


But add rain, high winds, and low temperatures to the darkness and all I'm saying is that, since I don't have to go anywhere else today, I won't.


24 Festive Tasks: Door 14 - Hanukkah - Tasks

Task 1:  Have you had any miracles in your life?  (Kids are a given.)  Just enough change for tolls?  Just enough gas to get you to the station?  Been tragically late for a flight only to find the flight was even more tragically delayed?  Nothing is too small - share your miracles with us!


 Maybe later...



Task 2: Light 9 candles each representing something you’re thankful for (share a picture with us; sharing anything else is optional).




Task 3: Have a donut – and let us share it via a photo. Homemade donuts and shared recipes encouraged … but any donut will do just fine.



I brought in donuts for a staff meeting at work the other day and ended up with a whole lot of icing sugar all over myself and my desk...I did, however, manage to take a picture before that. :D




Task 4: A miracle crucial to Hanukkah is the Miracle of the cruse of oil, which concerns a jug of oil that (ostensibly) only contained enough oil for a single day, but miraculously turned out to last all of eight days. – Miracles aside, tell us: Have you ever experienced that something you had bought or you owned lasted a lot longer than anticipated … or where you expected a shortage which then fortuitously didn’t occur after all?


A couple of times come to mind for this, but this fits kinda nicely with the seasonal theme: last Christmas I spent the holidays with friends in the country who were running low on fuel (for the heating) a few days before the holidays. A few delivery was scheduled but didn't actually arrive (the company cancelled) and couldn't be re-scheduled until after the holidays. So, we looked at other options for the holidays, including changing venues, but ended up with the original plan and instructions to me and another friend to bring extra layers ... just in case.

To everyone's astonishment, the fuel didn't run out. I'm not saying it was a miracle, tho, because we tried to not use the heating system at all, and used it as the perfect excuse to fire up a wood-burning stove and cozy up with a lot of mulled wine. 


Book: Read a book about light, miracles, characters who are Jewish or books set in Israel.  OR: Hanukkah commemorates the re-dedication of the second temple in the second century; read the second book in a series or a book with the word “second” or “two” in the title.


 I have a book! I will read Earth and High Heaven, which also happens to be one of the remaining books on the 2018 Mt. TBR.


24 Festive Tasks: Door 17, St. Lucia's Day - Tasks

Task 1: In honor of the Icelandic Jólabókaflóðið / Yule Book Flood tradition, create a (virtual or physical) “book flood” and post a picture of it.


(wip) - I already have an idea for this...


Task 2: Bake a Swedish lussebulle (saffron bun – instructions and recipe: or prepare some other dish containing saffron.




Task 3: Create a “crown of light” from book covers prominently featuring a lighted candle.




Task 4: Guess (scout’s honor, NO GOOGLING!): Did the Gävle Goat survive this year? For background: The Gävle Goat is a straw effigy erected in Gävle, Sweden, every year at the beginning of Advent. It is infamous for being burned down ahead of time, which as of Advent 2017 has happened in 37 of the 51 years of the tradition’s existence. – The Yule goat lore in turn goes back all the way to the Norse myths, where the god Thor rode a chariot drawn by two goats, and to ancient Indo-European and proto-Slavic beliefs according to which the harvest god appeared in the shape of a goat. Possibly, it is also linked with Santa Claus and his reindeer-driven sled.


Alright, I'm going to say that the goat has (to) / will burn!


I've been following the goats well-being/murder history for a few years and I  freely admit that I love some of the ingenious methods that people have come up with over the years to take the goat down. 




Book: Set in Scandinavia / Northern Europe, or by a Northern European / Nordic author, or a book newly released in November or December of this year.


Oooh, I have a book for this!! Now, I just need to read it.




BrokenTune's 24 Tasks of the Festive Season - Update Post


Tasks completed will be marked with a Jingle Sheep, additional tasks will be festive baubles. I'll re-post this post whenever there is an update, will list the tasks/books completed below, and will link to the relevant task/book post.


Also, I needed to make a change to how I track things here. It's getting too hard for me to see which task haven't been completed, yet, so....bring on the spreadsheet linking to the Tasks posts.



  Total Points: 52        
    12 10 11 11 8
Door Task Book Task # 1 Task # 2 Task # 3 Task # 4
1 Dia de Los Muertos 1 1 1 1  
2 Guy Fawkes 1 1 1   1
3 Melbourne Cup   1 1 1 1
4 Diwali   1     1
5 Armistice Day 1 1 1 1  
6 International Day for Tolerance 1 1 1 1 1
7 Mawlid 1 1 1 1 1
8 Penance Day 1 1 1 1 1
9 Thanksgiving   1 1 1  
10 Bon Om Touk     1 1 1
11 Russian Mother's Day   1 1 1  
12 Saint Andrews Day     1 1 1
13 Advent          
14 Hanukkah          
15 Sinterklaas / St. Nicholas          
16 Human Rights Day        1  
18 Winter Solstice / Yuletide          
19 Festivus 1        
20 Christmas 1        
21 Kwanzaa 1        
22 New Year's Eve 1        
23 Hogswatch 1        
24 Epiphany 1        


These haven't got a post yet, but have books read for them:

Door 19 - Festivus (December 23): 

Book: Read any comedy, parody, or satire. (Book read: The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe by Jane Wagner)

Door 20 - Christmas (December 25): 

Book: Read any Christmas book. (Book read: Portrait of a Murderer by Anne Meredith)

Door 21 - Kwanzaa (December 26 - January 1): 

Book: Read a book set in Africa or the Caribbean OR by an African, Caribbean, or African-American author OR a book with a green, red, or black cover.

Door 22 - New Year's Eve (December 31): 

Book: Read a book about endings, new starts, or books where things go BOOM!

Door 23 - Hogswatch (December 32)*: 

Book: Read anything by Terry Pratchett. - I read Hogfather.

Door 24 - Epiphany (January 6): 

Book: Read a book with three main characters OR a book about traveling on a journey to a faraway place OR a book that’s part of a trilogy OR with a star on the cover OR with the word “twelve” or “night” in the title OR or concerning kings or spices.


Reading progress update: I've read 85%.

Have His Carcase - Dorothy L. Sayers

Cue the eye-roll. 


Oh well, at least the background to the victim's interest in Russia is entertaining.


As for Peter and Harriet, I gasped, seriously gasped at the following:

He went out. Harriet sat looking at the closed door. ‘Well,’ she said, ‘thank goodness he’s given up asking me to marry him. It’s much better he should put it out of his mind.’ She must have felt strongly about it, for she repeated the remark several times.

Noooooooooooo...!!! :(


Even tho I know how this will end, Sayers is seriously messing about with my poor nerves here.

24 Festive Tasks: Door 16 - Human Rights Day - Tasks

Task 1:  Book hunt for human rights:  Search your shelves for books with titles containing human rights words such as (but not limited to): hope, friendship, equality, justice, love, liberty, etc.  Put them in a stack and take a picture for posting.  (5 book minimum).


Wip - this may not work with the physical books I have.


Task 2: Create a charter of reader’s rights, or post one of the charters floating around on the web (e.g., Daniel Pennac’s “Reader’s Bill of Rights”, or Steve Leveen’s “Top Ten Permissions of a Well-Read Life”).




Task 3: The symbol of Human Rights Day is the dove, which in its incarnation as a homing pigeon is also renowned for its navigational skills. – Tell us: Did you ever get so thoroughly lost (either in the days before GPS or because GPS, for whatever reason, was of no use to you) that you wished you had a homing pigeon to guide you?


Yes, I have. Frequently.  I usually enjoy getting lost when out and about, at least when out and about exploring on my own. It's a different matter if I actually have to be somewhere at an agreed time.


The most recent time I got thoroughly lost was when on holiday with my mum last year in Sicily. We went to spend a day in Palermo one day and got lost in the backstreets of Palermo on the way back to the train station. It was not pleasant: the sun was about to set and even tho neither of us easily scares we were both incredibly on edge. Of all the places to get lost when walking about, Palermo is not one I can recommend, or would care to experience again.


We did eventually find a shop where I could, in very broken Italian, ask for directions.


Task 4: Human Rights Day was declared by the U.N. General Assembly, whose seat is in New York City. Treat yourself to a Manhattan (classic recipe: ; virgin [non-alcoholic] recipes: , and ) or to a bagel or pastrami sandwich and share a photo with us.


Wip - I love a Manhattan. Therefore, this task will happen ... on Friday. ;)


Book: Read any book with strong female characters, or written by an author from any minority group; any story about a minority overcoming their oppressors either individually or as a group. OR: A book set in New York City.




Reading progress update: I've read 63%.

Have His Carcase - Dorothy L. Sayers

‘There you are,’ said Wimsey, ‘that’s the breed that made the Empire. When empire comes in at the door, logic goes out at the window.'

I may have a slight crush on Peter myself...

Reading progress update: I've read 47%.

Have His Carcase - Dorothy L. Sayers

Harriet was silent. She suddenly saw Wimsey in a new light. She knew him to be intelligent, clean, courteous, wealthy, well-read, amusing and enamoured, but he had not so far produced in her that crushing sense of utter inferiority which leads to prostration and hero-worship. But she now realised that there was, after all, something godlike about him. He could control a horse.




This is brilliant. I love how much fun Sayers was having with her characters.


Even if she might have been serious about Harriet's epiphany, the scene just before where Peter and Harriet are scouring the beach for clues was hilarious (and was obviously meant to be funny by Sayers).

Harriet: (after a long and unproductive pause, meeting Peter with a sodden Gold Flake packet in one hand and half a Bible in the other): Dr Livingstone, I presume. Do murderers read the Bible?

Peter: Any book had served as well, Any book had stopped the bullet – that may be; I cannot tell.

Harriet (reading): ‘Last of all the woman died also’ – probably from backache.

Peter: My back aches, and a drowsy numbness stills My brain, as though of hemlock –

Harriet (suddenly practical): Look at the cigarette-card.

Peter: It belongs to the new series.

Harriet: Then it may be quite recent.

Peter (wearily): All right; keep it; we’ll call it a clue. How about the Holy Writ?

Harriet (in a marked manner): You can keep that; it might be good for you.

Peter: Very well. (In a still more marked manner) Shall we begin with the Song of Songs.

Harriet: Get on with your job.

Peter: I am. How far have we come?

Harriet: How many leagues to Babylon?

Peter: We have walked a mile and a half, and we are still in full view of the Flat-Iron.

(They separate.)

Peter: Oy!

Harriet: Hullo!

Peter: I just wanted to ask whether you’d given any further thought to that suggestion about marrying me.

Harriet (sarcastically): I suppose you were thinking how delightful it would be to go through life like this together?

Peter: Well, not quite like this. Hand in hand was more my idea.

Harriet: What is that in your hand?

Peter: A dead starfish.

Harriet: Poor fish!

Peter: No ill-feeling, I trust.

Harriet: Oh, dear no.


Reading progress update: I've read 39%.

Have His Carcase - Dorothy L. Sayers

‘Ass! Oh, it’s not fair. You always make me laugh. I can’t fight – I’m so tired. You don’t seem to know what being tired is. Stop. Let go. I won’t be bullied. Thank God! there’s the telephone.’

‘Damn the telephone!’

‘It’s probably something very important.’

She got up and went to the instrument, leaving Wimsey on his knees, looking, and feeling, sufficiently absurd.

Damn. That was one tense romantic crisis. More please!


Oh, and it is entirely impossible to picture Wimsey and Harriet as anyone else but the characters portrayed by Edward Petherbridge and Harriet Walter.


Reading progress update: I've read 20%.

Have His Carcase - Dorothy L. Sayers

I meant to write an update last night but was way too tired to type.


This Wimsey/Vane story is delightful so far, especially after the let-down that was The Five Red Herrings.


It funny and charming, and still involves a potential murder. 


Harriet and Peter crack me up, not only because Peter seems to throw in proposals of marriage in almost every interaction they have. This might be creepy if it wasn't Peter, but luckily this is Peter:

In spite of the horrors she had witnessed, which ought to have driven all sleep away from the eyelids of any self-respecting female, Harriet slept profoundly in her first-floor bedroom (with bathroom, balcony and view over Esplanade) and came down to breakfast with a hearty appetite.  

She secured a copy of the Morning Star, and was deep in the perusal of her own interview (with photograph) on the front page, when a familiar voice addressed her:

‘Good morning, Sherlock. Where is the dressing-gown? How many pipes of shag have you consumed? The hypodermic is on the dressing-room table.’  

‘How in the world,’ demanded Harriet, ‘did you get here?’

‘Car,’ said Lord Peter, briefly. ‘Have they produced the body?’

‘Who told you about the body?’

‘I nosed it from afar. Where the carcase is, there shall be eagles gathered together. May I join you over the bacon-and-eggs?’

‘By all means,’ said Harriet. ‘Where did you come from?’

‘From London – like a bird that hears the call of its mate.’

‘I didn’t—’ began Harriet.

‘I didn’t mean you. I meant the corpse. But still, talking of mates, will you marry me?’ ‘

Certainly not.’

‘I thought not, but I felt I might as well ask the question. Did you say they had found the body?’ 


Telegram from Lord Peter Wimsey to Miss Harriet Vane: following razor clue to stamford refuse resemble thriller hero who hangs round heroine to neglect of duty but will you marry me – peter.

Telegram from Miss Harriet Vane to Lord Peter Wimsey: good hunting certainly not some developments here – vane.


Reading progress update: I've read 357 out of 357 pages.

Hogfather: (Discworld Novel 20) - Terry Pratchett

Once again the Auditor managed to retain a shape for a few seconds, and managed to say: you cannot do this, there are rules!




The scythe blade was a thin blue outline in the grey light. Death raised a thin finger to where his lips might have been, and suddenly looked thoughtful.


AND NOW THERE REMAINS ONLY ONE FINAL QUESTION, he said. He raised his hands, and seemed to grow. Light flared in his eye sockets. When he spoke next, avalanches fell in the mountains.






Yup, this is still one of my favourite books, and definitely a must-(re-)read for end of the year.

Reading progress update: I've read 324 out of 357 pages.

Hogfather: (Discworld Novel 20) - Terry Pratchett

Ridcully pulled him away.

‘What’s all this, Mr Stibbons?’

‘I really should talk to him, sir. He’s had a near-death experience!’

‘We all have. It’s called “living”,’ said the Archchancellor shortly.



Reading progress update: I've read 156 out of 357 pages.

Hogfather: (Discworld Novel 20) - Terry Pratchett

It was a big drink. A very big and a very long drink. It was one of those special cocktails where each very sticky, very strong ingredient is poured in very slowly, so that they layer on top of one another. Drinks like this tend to get called Traffic Lights or Rainbow’s Revenge or, in places where truth is more highly valued, Hello and Goodbye, Mr Brain Cell. In addition, this drink had some lettuce floating in it. And a slice of lemon and a piece of pineapple hooked coquettishly on the side of the glass, which had sugar frosted round the rim. There were two paper umbrellas, one pink and one blue, and they each had a cherry on the end. And someone had taken the trouble to freeze ice cubes in the shape of little elephants.

After that, there’s no hope. You might as well be drinking in a place called the Cococobana.

The God of Wine picked it up lovingly. It was his kind of drink.



Reading progress update: I've read 20 out of 357 pages.

Hogfather: (Discworld Novel 20) - Terry Pratchett

‘You mean you have actually devoted time to considering how to inhume the Hogfather?’ he said weakly. ‘You’ve actually sat down and thought out how to do it? You’ve actually devoted your spare time to the problem?’

‘Oh, yes, sir. And the Soul Cake Duck. And the Sandman. And Death.’

Downey blinked again.

‘You’ve actually sat down and considered how to—’

‘Yes, sir. I’ve amassed quite an interesting file. In my own time, of course.’

‘I want to be quite certain about this, Mister Teatime. You . . . have . . . applied . . . yourself to a study of ways of killing Death?’

‘Only as a hobby, sir.’

Still one of the best conversations on a Pratchett novel. :)


And I apologise in advance: I love quoting from this book and there are just so many quotable paragraphs.

Reading progress update: I've read 1 out of 357 pages.

Hogfather: (Discworld Novel 20) - Terry Pratchett

Here we go...

"EVERYTHING STARTS SOMEWHERE, although many physicists disagree. But people have always been dimly aware of the problem with the start of things. They wonder aloud how the snowplough driver gets to work, or how the makers of dictionaries look up the spelling of the words. Yet there is the constant desire to find some point in the twisting, knotting, ravelling nets of space-time on which a metaphorical finger can be put to indicate that here, here, is the point where it all began . . ."

This is a re-read for me, and it's not the first re-read. This is one of the books that I love reading around this time of the year. It's perfect - when the saccharine mush of festive cheer gets going, I like to be reminded of the darker side of festive legends. 

No, not the auditors.

I do mean the verruca gnomes! 




To anyone else reading The Hogfather this month, 

Have fun All! 

24 Festive Tasks: Door 11 - Russian Mother's Day - Tasks

Task 1:  Tell us: What is the mother of all writerly sins in your book (tropes, grammar mistakes, telling instead of showing, etc.)?


There have been a lot of great posts about this task already and a lot of the "sins" that have been mentioned are ones that would put me off a book, too, such as the book being boring. 

The mother of all writerly sins for me, however, is when an author comes across as arrogant, patronising, biased, stupid, or revelling in his/her own greatness.

That for me is the worst. 


And for clarity, I understand when a character is written to come across as any of these things. That is different. I get the point of why an author may create a character like that. No, what I am talking about is when the author him/herself shines through the writing. 


Task 2: Do you have a favorite Mothers’ Day memory that you are happy to share? Photos welcome but optional.


I don't have a favourite Mother's Day memory because, for some reason or none, Mother's Day was not something we did in my family. I have no idea why or why not, it's just that we didn't...


Task 3: Perhaps the best-known scene in the James Bond novel and film From Russia With Love is 007 being poisoned by Russian agent Rosa Klebb with a venom-laced blade hidden in her shoe. Tell us: Have you ever owned any particular / outrageous / funny / best-beloved or otherwise special pair of shoes? Post a photo if you should still own them.


Yes! No picture as I don't have the shoes anymore, and there was nothing all that special about the shoes, but I once owned  pair of Vans that I bought in Liverpool during Beatleweek (a time when comfy footwear is essential) and that I loved so much that I wore them to the point that they literally fell apart.  


Task 4: Make a traditional Russian dish like borscht, blintzes, pirogi or solyanka soup, and share a picture with us. Find recipe suggestions here:




Book: Read a book set in Russia, or involving a story within a story / play within a play (like the Russian matryoshka dolls stuck inside each other), or where a key character (not necessarily the protagonist) is a mother.




Currently reading

By Farley Mowat Snow Walker (The Farley Mowat Series) (Revised) by Farley Mowat
Earth and High Heaven by Gwethalyn Graham
Flucht in den Norden : Roman by Klaus Mann
A Christmas Party by Georgette Heyer
Teller Of Tales: The Life Of Arthur Conan Doyle by Daniel Stashower
Progress: 9/472pages
The Gene: An Intimate History by Siddhartha Mukherjee
Sherlock Holmes: The Definitive Collection by Arthur Conan Doyle, Stephen Fry
Progress: 99%
Sky Burial: An Epic Love Story of Tibet by Xinran, Julia Lovell, Esther Tyldesley
Fabian. Die Geschichte eines Moralisten by Erich Kästner