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text 2020-01-14 15:47
Twenty Four Festive Tasks: Door 24, The Last



Yes, I know that 24 Tasks ended two weeks ago but I have a story share, something that has occurred since the end of the game.


One of the on-going themes of the season is "miracles" and while I think they are mostly about chance, I most recently experienced a 'miracle' and want to share the story.


On January 7, the day after Epiphany, we were in the city of Santiago de Compostela, the supposed burial place of St. James and a huge pilgrimage destination for Christians, who have walk the "Camino de Santiago" a well-trodden path from the French Pyrennes to the Cathedral of St. James (Santiago) in the northwest of Spain for many centuries. We had come by cruise ship and a shore excursion offered by the ship and even though we had a very short time in the city, I have always wanted to visit this city. We had a lovely tour.


We were within a half hour of heading back to the buses when I realized, that I didn't know where my hearing aid was, that I had lost track of it and had not been as careful with it when I removed it to put in the earphone to listen to the guide as I should have been. It was not in my jacket pocket and I could not locate it in my bag. It was going to be an expensive bit of carelessness to set to rights.


At this point, tea and cakes were being served before we got back on the buses. I was obviously very upset and ranting in two languages. I sent DH to get us cups of tea while I proceeded to empty everything from my bag, looking for the damned thing, talking with DH in English and the guides in Spanish (mostly in coherent mutterings and cursing myself for my stupidity).  My hearing aid was GONE and the damned little thing was expensive. Rosana, our wonderful guide, and the rest of the guides knew what was going but there was really little anyone could do about it. We had covered a lot of territory and the device itself was the same color as the paving stones we were walking on. I looked for it the entire walk back to the bus. At this point, I was pretty sure where I had lost it--when I had gone into my bag to get my gloves, which I did while we were walking along.


I walked the entire way back to the ship looking for it, hoping I might see it on the ground waiting for me and thinking about the paperwork that I would need to fill out if I were going to file a claim against the travel insurance to maybe, possibly recover some of the replacement cost of the damned gadget.


We are almost back to the parking lot, when Rosana approached me waving my hearing aid in her hand. A gentleman saw it on the ground, recognized what it was and gave it to the guide for his bus, who in turn gave it to Rosana. I gave her a huge hug but I never did learn who it was exactly I have to thank for its return. Yes, even I will say that it was miracle that it was found.









At last, I have come to the last door, my final post. Between the game and all of the other not quite as festive tasks of the season, the last two months of 2019 have flown by. It has been a good year. 
Many, many, many thanks to the Magistri Ludi, The Masters of the Games-- Moonlight Reader, MurderByDeath, Themis-AthenaTea-Stitch-Read (aka Mrs. Claus' Tea House) and this year's Racing Steward Darth Pedant -- who have out done themselves. Looking forward to more fun and games in 2020. 
Task 1: Prepare your favorite spicy dish or drink; share a picture and enjoy. (Sharing the recipe is optional.)
Meh. I am done cooking for the year!
 Task 2: Have you ever had an “epiphany” of your own, in the sense of a sudden revelation or insight? If so, share that “ah-HAH” moment with us.
Not really. I'm as thick as a two planks and slow on the uptake to boot.
 Task 3:  George and Martha Washington were married on Twelfth Night in 1759. She wore purple silk slippers (https://www.mountvernon.org/george-washington/martha-washington/george-marthas-courtship/ ). In honor of the first FLOTUS, wear purple socks or slippers and share a picture of them with us.
I have a couple of purple shirts but no socks or slippers that fit the bill. :-(
Task 4:  In Ireland, Epiphany is also sometimes called “Nollaig na mBean” or Women's Christmas. Traditionally the women get the day off and men do the housework and cooking! It is becoming more popular and many Irish women now get together on the Sunday nearest Epiphany and have tea and cakes. (https://www.whychristmas.com/customs/epiphany.shtml ) Take a picture of your book for this square (Epiphany) or of the book you are currently reading with a mug of tea and snack or enjoy a cream tea.
Book: Read a book featuring three main characters, about traveling on a journey to a faraway place, a book that’s part of a trilogy, with a star on the cover, with the word “twelve” or “night” in the title, or concerning kings or spices.
Twelve Angry Men by Reginald Rose
Twelve Angry Men audiobook cover art
Tally: 0+Book= 1 
(Final total: 81)


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text 2020-01-04 19:06
24 Festive Tasks: Final Results -- and Thanks to All Participants!


A big Thank You to everybody who joined the game and participated so actively: Collectively, we achieved the very respectable total score of




Go us -- well done everybody!  Thank you so much from this year's hosts: Murder by Death, Moonlight Snow (Reader), TeaStitchRead (Mrs. Claus' Tea House), and me.  Once again, it's been great fun watching the truly amazing things that everybody came up with to complete to the various tasks and the creativity that went into everybody's posts.


And a special shout-out to Darth Pedant for stepping in and doing such an absolutely smashing job substituting for MbD as a host of the Melbourne Cup Day "pick your ponies" task!


Before moving on the stats of this year's game, I wanted to share, at least once, the gorgeous 2019 festive calendar image "as such" -- without being half hidden below all the calendar doors, open or closed.



Thank you once more to MbD for finding it -- as MbD told us, it's an illustration for Charles Dickens's Christmas Carol.


Thank you all, also, for playing along and reporting your completed tasks using the form that MbD created -- even though RL interference didn't let me get around to posting stats as frequently in 2019 as during the 2018 game, the form (and the Excel sheet it yielded) made tracking points just so much easier!



The Figures:

Number of active participants: 18
("Active" = completed at least one book or other task for the game)
Average number of points collected: 28.06
Number of card blackouts: 4
("Blackout" = completed at least one book or other task per square)



Results by Squares / Holidays:


With almost 28%, overall the book tasks were the most popular tasks of the game, followed by Task 1, with Tasks 2 and 3 almost on equal footing and Task 4 bringing in the rear (though not by a terribly wide margin).  (Well, this is a book site ... :) )


Almost 60% of all tasks completed were the second or further task completed for the square in question.

On a total of 8 squares, one or more participants completed all five tasks (book and other tasks):

* Día de los Muertos

* Japanese Culture Day

* Melbourne Cup Day

* International Day for Tolerance

* International Children's Day

* World Philosophy Day

* St. Nicholas' Day

* St. Lucia's Day

Biggest individual point-earning square: Día de los Muertos -- 46 points total
Runner-up: Melbourne Cup Day -- 42 points total
Third Place: Japanese Culture Day -- 40 points total


Seeing one of our newly-introduced holidays (Japanese Culture Day) scoring so well makes me very happy -- and hattip to our new co-host TeaStitchRead / Mrs. Claus' Tea House, who whipped out all four tasks for this square in absolutely zero time as one of her first hosting contributions.

Least point-earning square: Festivus -- 9 points total


Average points per square (including bonus points): 21.04

Average points per square (excluding bonus points): 20.88



Breakdown of Books and Tasks per Square



The Books

Squares for which the highest number of participants read a book: Día de los Muertos and Japanese Culture Day -- 10 participants

Runner-up: Guy Fawkes Night - 9 participants

Shared Third Place: Winter Solstice, Hanukkah, and Christmas -- 8 participants each

Fewest books read for: World Philosophy Day and St. Andrew's Day -- 2 participants each

Average number of book points accrued per square: 5.67


 The Tasks


Square with the overall highest number of points collected for all non-book tasks: Melbourne Cup Day -- 37 points (including 2 bonus points)

Runner-up: Día de los Muertos -- 36 points

Third place: Japanese Culture Day -- 30 points


Excluding bonus points, Día de los Muertos and Melbourne Cup Day switch places; Japanese Culture Day remains third.


Least number of non-book points: International Human Rights Day -- 4 points

Most popular individual task: Día de los Muertos, Task 3 (epitaph for the year's most disliked book) --  14 points

Runner-up, by points: Melbourne Cup Day, Task 1 ("Pick your ponies") -- 12 points (including 2 bonus points)

Runner-ups, by participants (= excluding bonus points): Japanese Culture Day, Task 4 (Japanese food), and Melbourne Cup Day, Tasks 1 and 3 ("Pick your ponies" and picture of favorite cup / mug)   -- 10 points each

Third place: Melbourne Cup Day, Task 2 (“Roses are Red, Violets are Blue” poem) -- 9 points

Least popular: Thanksgiving, Task 4 (postcard to a friend), International Human Rights Day, Task 4 (reconstitute a body of the UN), Hanukkah, Task 4 (food donation), Festivus, Tasks 3 and 4 (going "pole'mic on a book character, and "Festivus miracle" dialogue), Kwanzaa, Task 3 (corn dish), New Year's Eve, Task 4 (holiday dinner with famous person as guest), and Epiphany, Task 2 (personal "epihany" experience) -- all 0 points (sniff).  With one exception, these are all in the final weeks of the game ... seems most of us just ran out of steam towards the end!


Average number of points accrued for non-book tasks per square, including bonus points: 15.3

Average number of points accrued for non-book tasks per square, excluding bonus points: 15.1


Average number of points accrued for individual non-book tasks, including bonus points: 3.9

Average number of points accrued for individual non-book tasks, excluding bonus points: 3.67



Congratulations, everybody, and thank you all so much again for making this such a fun and successful game!


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text 2020-01-03 00:20
24 Festive Tasks: TA's Master Update Post -- Final Wrap


Books: Candles

Tasks: Stars




Book:  Ngaio Marsh: Death and the Dancing Footman (audio version, read by James Saxon)

Task 1: Miss Marple limerick.

Task 2: Chili con carne.

Task 3: Epitaph for The Disappearing Spoon.

Task 4: Gaby in Mexico (& Guatemala).


Points: 5





Book: Michael Innes: Death at the President's Lodging (audio version, read by Stephen Hogan)

Task 1: Beethoven Festival.

Task 2: KitKat flavors.

Task 3:

Task 4: Teriyaki Chicken.


Points: 4




Book: Ellis Peters: The Rose Rent (audio version, read by Nadia May)

Task 1: Pick your ponies.

Task 2: Ross are red, violets are blue: Shakespeare, Much Ado.

Task 3: Cheshire Cat mug.

Task 4: Holiday treats in a cup.


Points: 5




Book: Joy Ellis: The Stolen Boys (audio version, read by Richard Armitage)

Task 1:

Task 2: Book world revolution: thinking differently about books.

Task 3:

Task 4: Bookshelf ordering system.


Points: 3




Book: Agatha Christie: And Then There Were None (audio version, read by Dan Stevens)

Task 1: Favorite rainy day books.

Task 2:

Task 3: Dragons.

Task 4: Books on my shelf with antonym titles.


Points: 4




Book: E.C.R. Lorac: Murder by Matchlight (audio version, read by Mark Elstob)

Task 1: Sunrise photos.

Task 2: Authors who died this year I'll miss the most.

Task 3:

Task 4: Sunset walk in the woods.


Points: 4




Book: Chris Ewan: The Good Thief's Guide to Paris (audio version, read by Simon Vance)

Task 1: Redeeming feature of a DNF'd book (Renee Ahdieh, The Wrath and the Dawn).

Task 2: Baby diaries.

Task 3: Having to let go my library.

Task 4: My one UNESCO world heritage site to visit: Machu Picchú.


Points: 5




Book: Cyril Hare: An English Murder

Task 1: Favorite children's and middle grade books.

Task 2:

Task 3:

Task 4: Carnivals and amusement parks.


Points: 3




Book: Plato: Timaeus and Critias (audio version, read by David Rintoul, David Timson and Peter Kenny)

Task 1: Reading philosophy.

Task 2: Rating and reviewing policy.

Task 3: Creature comforts.

Task 4: Books read in school.


Points: 5




Book: Lesley Cookman: Murder in Steeple Martin (audio version, read by Patience Tomlinson)

Task 1:

Task 2: Fiction about royalty "moonlighting" as commoners.

Task 3:

Task 4: Nobel prize medal for Harriet Vane.


Points: 3




Book: Louisa May Alcott: The Christmas Stories (audio version, read by Susie Berneis)

Task 1: Toddler on the move alone in the city.

Task 2: The books I am most thankful to have found this year.

Task 3:

Task 4:


Points: 3



Book: Ann Cleeves: White Nights (audio version, read by Kenny Blyth)

Task 1: Favorite Scottish writers.

Task 2:

Task 3: 2019 Reading: greatest "catches" from my TBR.

Task 4: Black Watch tartan.


Points: 4




Book: Louise Penny: Still Life (audio version, read by Adam Sims)

Task 1: Advent calendar.

Task 2: Favorite holiday tradition / moment.

Task 3: Pineapple (wassail) bowl.

Task 4:


Points: 4




Book: Joy Ellis: Five Bloody Hearts (audio version, read by Matthew Lloyd Davies)

Task 1: Book wish list.

Task 2: Holiday treats.

Task 3: Same book -- different title.

Task 4: Audre Lorde: Coal.


Points: 5


Book: Nancy Mitford: Christmas Pudding (audio version, read by Kristin Atherton)

Task 1: Foreign cuisine: Chicken Tikka Masala.

Task 2:

Task 3: Literature Nobel Prize for Harriet Vane.

Task 4:


Points: 3




Book: Katrine Engberg: Krokodilwächter (audio version, read by Dietmar Bär)

Task 1: Harriet Vane and the St. Lucia maidens.

Task 2: Sleigh rides.

Task 3: Kokopelli and Dobby.

Task 4: Books from the farthest origins.


Points: 5




Book: Agatha Christie: Three Blind Mice and Other Stories (audio version, read by Simon Vance, Hugh Fraser, David Suchet, and Joan Hickson)

Task 1: Candles.

Task 2: Listening to Mary Kelly's The Christmas Egg long past my regular bedtime.

Task 3:

Task 4: Childhood good night stories.


Points: 4




Book: Nicholas Blake: Thou Shell of Death (audio version, read by Kris Dyer)

Task 1: Dreidel spin: first book of 2020.

Task 2: Water chestnut latkes.

Task 3: Reading Angela Thirkell's High Rising by flashlight.

Task 4:


Points: 4


Book: Donna Andrews: Owl Be Home for Christmas (audio version read by Bernadette Dunne)

Task 1: Airing of grievances: 5 most disliked books of 2019.

Task 2: Battle of the Books: Pippi Longstocking vs. Anna Karenina.

Task 3:

Task 4:


Points: 3




Book: Agatha Christie: Hercule Poirot's Christmas (audio version, read by Hugh Fraser)

Task 1:

Task 2: Christmas movies.

Task 3: Christmas book gifts.

Task 4: The gifts that meant the most to me.


Points: 4




Book: Agatha Christie: A Caribbean Mystery (audio version, read by Emilia Fox)

Task 1:

Task 2: Favorite books where music is an important feature.

Task 3:

Task 4: Coffee and pastries with a colleague.


Points: 3




Book: Candace Robb: A Gift of Sanctuary (audio version, read by Stephen Thorne)

Task 1: 2020 reading goals.

Task 2: 2019 reading stats.

Task 3: 2020 reading year bibliomancy.

Task 4:


Points: 4




Book: Terry Pratchett: Hogfather (audio version, read by Nigel Planer)

Task 1:

Task 2: Favorite Discworld characters.

Task 3: Discworld subseries world I'd like to visit: The Witches.

Task 4: Good Omens: Rooting for Crowley, Aziraphale, and Agnes.


Points: 4




Book: Agatha Christie: Star Over Bethlehem (audio version read by Simon Vance)

Task 1: Spicy red pesto pasta.

Task 2:

Task 3: Purple comfort socks (with pompoms!).

Task 4: Tea and book.


Points: 4






(Not used.)













      95 points





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text 2020-01-02 00:20
24 Festive Tasks: Door 22 - New Year’s Eve / St. Sylvester’s Day: Tasks 1-3 AND Door 18 - Hanukkah: Task 1

UPDATED: Added Star Rating Stats

I can't believe I posted this yesterday without them!



2020 Reading Goals

Pretty much the same as this year: Read more books by women writers than by male authors, diversify my reading, and keep on exploring the world of Golden Age mystery fiction.


The Around the World reading challenge -- which is also to be continued in 2020 -- this year has taken me to places of the world that aren't exactly part of my normal reading fare, and I think visits to 46 countries (8 in Africa, 10 in the Americas (11 if Puerto Rico were counted separately), 13 in Asia and the Middle East, 2 in Oceania, and 13 again in Europe) is a pretty decent tally for the first year. I hope things are going to continue in a similar vein next year.


My Golden Age mystery reading plans are probably going to cross the "diversifying" aims to a certain extent -- they already did this year -- for the simple reason that the vast majority of Golden Age mystery writers were Caucasian.  But that just can't be helped, I suppose.



The 2019 Stats

Books begun: 250

Books finished: 247

Average Rating: 3,8


 Genre Breakdown by Subgenres

Mystery: 124
   Golden Age: 89
   Silver Age: 3
   Tartan Noir: 3
   Classic Noir: 2
   Cozy Mystery: 2
   General: 22

Thriller: 8
   Espionage: 5
   Humor/Satire: 1
   General: 2


Historical Fiction: 31
   Mystery/Crime/Thriller: 23
   Mythology: 2
   Magical Realism: 1
   Humor/Satire: 1
   General: 3

Fantasy: 11
   Humor/Satire: 8
   YA: 2
   General: 1


Supernatural: 5
   Short Fiction: 2
   Historical Fiction: 2
   Humor/Satire: 1

SciFi: 2
    Steampunk: 1
    Humor/Satire: 1


Horror: 3
   Gothic: 1
   Short Fiction: 2


Classics: 15
   Short Fiction: 6
   Anthology: 1
   Espionage: 1
   General: 7


LitFic: 16
   Magical Realism: 1
   Mythology: 2
   Dystopia: 2
   Mystery/Crime/Thriller: 2
   ChickLit: 2
   General: 7

Nonfiction: 32
   Auto(Biography): 20
   History: 3
   Philosophy: 2
   Science: 3
   True Crime: 2
   Anthology: 1
   Cookbook: 1




























The key, obviously, is in the intersection of genres and ethnicity: 25 of the 27 books by non-Caucasian authors I read were something other than mysteries; or put differently, virtually all of the 124 mysteries were by Caucasian authors (including all of the 92 Golden and Silver Age mysteries, which in themselves account for 2/3 of all my mystery intake).  I'm not sure I'm going to be able to do much about those statistics -- nor do I very much want to, as long as I manage to make decent progress with my Around the World challenge and manage to get in a fair amount of non-Caucasian books in all the other genres.


Favorite books of 2019: HERE

Least favorite books of 2019: HERE




 My question: Is 2020 going to be a good reading year for me?


Miss Austen's Collected Novels are one of the larger volumes on my shelves, so I decided to seek my answer there.


The answer: "[impor]tance in assisting the improvement of her mind, and extending its pleasures."


That sounds rather promising, doesn't it?

(And I'm taking it as an additional good sign that the answer is from Mansfield Park, wich was the first novel by Austen that I read -- and the book that made me fall in love with her writing in the first place ...)




Dreidel Spin for First Book of the Year

This is a pick from some of the books that my BFF, Gaby, gave me for Christmas and my birthday this year:


נ (Nun) - Craig Adams: The Six Secrets of Intelligence

ג (Gimel) - Isabel Colegate: The Shooting Party

ה (Hei) - Preet Bharara: Doing Justice

ש (Shin) - Sarah-Jane Stratford: Radio Girls



... and the dreidel picked:


 So, Sarah-Jane Stratford's Radio Girls it is!

Radio Girls - Sarah-Jane Stratford




Door 22

Task 1: Tell us: What are your reading goals for the coming year?

Task 2: The reading year in review: How did you fare – what was good, what wasn’t?

Task 3: Bibliomancy: Ask a question related to your reading plans or experience in the coming year, open one of your weightiest tomes on page 485, and find the answer to your question in line 7.


Door 18, 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:





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text 2019-12-31 23:23
24 Festive Tasks: Door 4 - Guy Fawkes Night: Task 2

The one "revolution" I would like to see happening in the book world is that we all reconsider how we are thinking about books, and how we are treating them as a result. 


In recent years, they seem to have become chiefly "products" -- maybe not quite like clothing, electronics, or other forms of moveable goods, but not so todally different from them, either.  And of course, that is not entirely wrong -- authors and publishers make money selling books; reviewers and purchasers are protected by consumer product standards ... that is all as it's supposed to be. 


But books are so much MORE than just products:  They are, as Stephen King rightlly put it, a uniquely portable magic; a device that is able to transport us, with the flipping of a single page, to a foreign land, a sci-fi or fantasy world, or back into the past, and into the lives of characters we may never meet in person (though as a kid, I'll own that in my mind I did), but who will nevertheless quite likely become dearer to us than many a real life acquaintance.  And, as XOX's recent posts have reminded us, books are also catalysts of independent thought (and thus, the most potent weapen -- at least long term -- in combatting oppression and dictatorship). 



Yet, large parts of the publishing and book mass merchandizing industry (chiefly, but not limited to Amazon) seem to be treating book mainly in terms of what they can or cannot contribute to the bottom line, and that, I feel not only does the books themselves an injustice, but it also misses out on opportunities which to miss might ultimately be more than merely a pity -- it might be dangerous: most importantly, the opportunity to win over new readers, not by compelling them to read what somebody (advertising, teachers, literary gurus, whoever) has declared a "must read", but by making them actually curious about books and reading, and by letting them explore the wonderful world hidden between the pages of a book all on their own.


Something that ties into this idea is the importance of libraries -- because libraries, more than any other institution, are the catalysts of precisely this notion, of reading for the sake of the joy of literary exploration, rather than selling and owning books as a piece of merchandise or a possession used in order to show off (to demonstrate one's own erudition, as a piece of interiror decoration, or for whatever other purpose).  It is no accident, in my view, that libraries are struggling for survival in so many places -- and that publishers, sellers and distribution services are actively restricting the options made available to library users.  In my view, this is a classic case of shooting oneself in the foot -- they're depriving themselves of their own future customer base -- but I do find it worrying that this is happening at all; in an industry, moreover, that really should make it its business not only to be concerned with the product they're selling but also with the wider significance of that product.  (Of course self-publishing, the technical revolution and other factors have all got a role to play in this, but still -- the fact remains that books aren't just any old product, and we'd all do well to stop, take a deep breath, and refocus.)


(Task: Start a revolution: What one thing would you change about the book reading world? (Be it publishing, distribution, editing, cover art, bookstores – anything having to do with books.)


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