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review 2017-01-10 12:59
The Twelve Tasks of the Festive Season -- Bonus Entry
Der Weltensammler - Ilija Trojanow
Collector of Worlds, the - Ilija Trojanow

I blacked out my card on Dec. 19 using the "activity" entry for the Kwanzaa square, but since thereafter I did read a book set (partially) in Africa, too, here's my "bonus entry" post ... sorry for reporting in belatedly; blame it on BookLikes posting issues and a surfeit of things going on all at the same time in my life at present. :(


Not that it still seems to matter greatly to begin with, alas ... (sigh).


Der Weltensammler (The Collector of Worlds) is a novelized biography of 19th century polymath and explorer Sir Richard Francis Burton, who traveled widely in India, the Middle East and Africa, visiting Mecca (disguised as an Arab) and seeking -- partially successfully, though he didn't know it -- the source of the Nile (he did make it to Lake Victoria, but failed to confirm that the Nile actually does originate from there).  He is best remembered today for his translation of The 1001 Nights.


Interesting, though quite obviously largely fictitious insights into a fascinating life, and a voyage back through time to the Orient, Africa, and British Empire of the 19th century.


Snow Globes: Reads
Bells: Activities


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text 2017-01-02 03:36
Twelve Tasks of the Holiday Season Wrap-up



Over the last two months, I have completed 6 and 4 halves from the Twelve Tasks of the Holiday Season


Task the First: The Winter Wonderland (1/2)

 - Read a book that is set in a snowy place.


My current audiobook is Beggars in Spain.  While it wasn’t picked because it is set in a snowy place and even though the weather doesn’t feature much in the first 2/3 of the book, I’m going to count it towards the first task because one of the main characters lives in Chicago and others live in the Adirondack region of NY.


Task the Second: The Silent Nights (1/2)

- Get your hygge on! Hygge is a Danish concept that relates to being content and cozy. Put on your fuzziest socks, light a candle, and spend some time (reading) in front of the fireplace or your coziest nook. Post a picture if you want!


Plenty of time this vacation reading on the couch in sweats and slippers.  Counting as half completed because I didn’t take the time away from reading to post a picture.


Task the Third: The Holiday Party (Complete)

- Make something that is considered party food where you are from, and post a picture of it on booklikes.


I made pie as part of The Bitten Word’s final cook-along



Task the Fourth: The Gift Card (1/2)

- Read a book that you either received as a gift or have given as a gift.


I have read large parts of Come Late to the Love of Birds by Sandra Kasturi, which I received from Grimlock ♥ Vision.  I’m counting the task as half complete because I have neither finished the book nor posted my reactions to it.


Task the Fifth: The Kwanzaa (Complete)

- Make a small donation to a charitable organization that operates in Africa.


Details in the post linked below



Task the Sixth: The Hanukkah (Complete)

 - Let the dreidel choose a book for you: create a list of four books, and assign a dreidel symbol to each one (Nun = miracle; Gimel = great; He = happened; Shin = there, i.e. Israel). Google "spin the dreidel," and a dreidel comes up for you to spin. Give it a spin and read the book that the dreidel chooses!

- Make a traditional Hanukkah food like doughnuts or potato latkes. Post a picture, or tell us how they turned out!



The dreidel selected a non-fiction book The Right Kind of Crazy by Adam Steltzner.  I’m about halfway through, but just haven’t been in the mood for non-fiction since the election.


We also made Latkes on the third night of Hanukkah, but my family didn’t want me to let them get cold while I took a picture.  They come out better each year (my secret is to grate the potatoes and onions in the food-processor and then to roughly chop about 1/3 of the mixture with the main blade before squeezing to remove excess moisture).


Task the Seventh: The Christmas (Not Started)

 - Read a book set during the Christmas holiday season.

- Grab your camera (or your phone) and set up a Christmas bookstagram-style scene with favorite holiday reads, objects or decorations. Possibly also a cat. Post it for everyone to enjoy!


Task Eighth: The Movie Ticket (Complete)

- Go see a new theater release this holiday season (during November/December. This does not have to be a holiday movie, so yes, Fantastic Beasts will qualify).


My husband and I went to see Rogue One on the day Carrie Fisher died



Task the Ninth: The Happy New Year (Complete)

 - Every year you get a little bit older! Read a coming of age novel or any old favorite comfort read to start the new year right.


I started the audiobook of Wild Magic by Tamora Pierce on a long car ride with my son last Thursday.  This is a comfort re-read of a classic coming of age story. 


Several of the other books that I read during November and December, including The Thing About JellyFish, Flying Without a Net, and Sworn to Raise, could also be considered coming of age novels. (Not surprising that I completed this task, I think at least 1/3 of what I read could be shelved under coming of age stories).


Task the Tenth: The Holiday Down Under (1/2)

 - read a book you would consider a "beach read".


I’m going to retroactively consider the bit of mind-candy titled Sworn to Raise to be a beach read.



Task the Eleventh: The Polar Express (Not Started)

 - Read a book that involves train travel (such as Murder on the Orient Express).

- Read a classic holiday book from your childhood (to a child if you have one handy) or tell us a story about a childhood Christmas you'd like to share.


I had intended to find the board book of Dreydl, Dreydl that I read with my children many times when they were toddlers, but it didn't happen.


Task the Twelfth: The Wassail Bowl (Complete)

- Read a book set in the UK, preferably during the medieval or Victorian periods (for those of us doing the Merlin read-along, the Crystal Cave works for this task).


Participated in the Crystal Cave Buddy Read.  Final thoughts here: http://jlsbibliomania.booklikes.com/post/1508061/the-crystal-cave-section-the-last


Thanks again to Obsidian & Moonlight for planning and hosting the Twelve Tasks of the Holiday Season.  I had fun.  I don’t know if I will join another bingo, but will definitely be looking for more opportunities in 2017 to read a book at the same time as others and to discuss what we are reading.  

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review 2016-12-31 19:03
Death in the Tunnel
Death in the Tunnel - Miles Burton

From the book description on Goodreads:


On a dark November evening, Sir Wilfred Saxonby is travelling alone in the 5 o clock train from Cannon Street, in a locked compartment. The train slows and stops inside a tunnel; and by the time it emerges again minutes later, Sir Wilfred has been shot dead, his heart pierced by a single bullet. Suicide seems to be the answer, even though no reason can be found.


Originally published in 1936, Death in the Tunnel is one of the mystery novels that was re-issued as part of the British Library Crime Classics series. I was really looking forward to this, not just because it satisfied a task in this year's holiday scavenger hunt, but also because I was hoping to discover more great writers from the golden age of mystery writing.


Sadly, for me Death in the Tunnel fell short of that mark. The story started out great with a mysterious death on a train that seemed to occur just as the train passed through a tunnel, yet there were no witnesses, no motives, no suspects, and according to the chief investigator it looked like suicide. (Tho, why there would be such an elaborate investigation if this was a suicide is a question that is not really answered...)


Anyway, the leading detective starts to interview people close to the dead man and at some point draws another investigator into the case. Without spoiling too much of the plot, I'll come straight to the problem I had with the story - the two investigators are utterly useless idiots, who come up with one random theory after another and seem to be stumbling along in the proverbial dark until the very, very end of the book.



Seriously, I had to roll my eyes a lot at their assumptions so many times because they just were the least logical conclusions ever - and yet, we were supposed to believe that this was great detecting when it seemed they created most of the red herrings themselves instead of actually sifting through the relevant information.


Death in the Tunnel is one of those books that would make for a pleasant beach read or something to pass the time while waiting at the dentist's, but I found it really tiresome as an antidote to a craving for a delicious mystery.

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text 2016-12-28 21:04
12 Tasks of the Festive Season: Almost there....



Just a quick update on the Twelve Tasks of the Festive Period.....I have one more square to fill, which I am working on with Death in the Tunnel.


The latest two completed squares are:


Task the Fifth: The Kwanzaa:

– Read a book written by an African-American author or set in an African country.


I read Under the Udala Trees in completion of this task.




Task the Seventh: The Christmas:

– Read a book set during the Christmas holiday season.


See here for my  review of The Santa Klaus Murder, which is set during Christmas.

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review 2016-12-28 17:17
The Santa Klaus Murder
The Santa Klaus Murder: A British Library Crime Classic (British Library Crime Classics) - Mavis Doriel Hay

“Well, I’m jiggered!” said Constable Mere. “We looked in that pile! I’d’ve said there couldn’t be a dead rat left in it, let alone Father Christmas’ Sunday suit!”

I was inspired by Moonlight Reader to pick this up. The Santa Klaus Murder is another installment of the British Library Crime Classics series that focuses on works by authors of the Golden Age of Mystery, who have been largely neglected in favour of such giants of the genre as Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers, Gladys Mitchell, et. al.


The Santa Klaus Murder is set in a typical mystery setting: a country house, a family gathering for the holidays, a murder that was impossible to take place, and a lot of red herrings.

The story had all the markings of a perfectly cozy read, except....there were some darker themes that meandered through the book that gave this mystery an air of interest beyond the pure fun of solving the puzzle.

For example, one of the characters is suffering from PTSD, or shell-shock, and one of the interesting aspects of the novel was how his family cope with his altered self.

However, the topic was not given as much depth as for example Sayer's allocated to it in the Lord Peter Wimsey novels. Altogether, The Santa Klaus Murder remained a diversion, a light read.  


As for the mystery, ... it dragged a bit and thanks to the incompetence of the investigators, some of the conclusions seemed a bit far-fetched. I would rather have all the facts and try and piece them together than be presented with new evidence just as the case is wrapped up. It always seems to be too convenient to the author (rather than the characters) when a conclusion is rushed. 


One other note, tho, I loved the language that is used in this book. I could not decide whether it was just quaint or actually funny. The passing of time since its original publication in 1936 may have a lot to do with it, but some of the expressions that were used really made me smile. 

Once Jenny reached the door she was so quick that I couldn’t help see her rush at him and throw herself incontinently into his arms.

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