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review SPOILER ALERT! 2016-12-19 01:15
The Twelve Tasks of the Festive Season -- Grand Finale and BLACKOUT!
Little Lord Fauntleroy - Frances Hodgson Burnett
Babettes Fest: Erzählung - Tania Blixen
Even Dogs in the Wild - Ian Rankin
H is for Hawk - Helen Macdonald
Das inoffizielle Harry-Potter-Kochbuch - Dinah Bucholz

Snow Globes: Reads
Bells: Activities

 

I intend to also read a book for the Kwanzaa square and try to get as many of my as-yet missing activities done (Holiday Down Under, Movie Ticket, and Holiday Party), but since completing either activities or reads qualifies for completing a square, as far as the game itself is concerned here's hooray for blacking out my card!

 

Thanks to Moonlight Reader and Obsidian Blue for hosting yet another great game -- I had great fun with this one, never mind the hosting site's performance issues.  (I only wish those woes were over once and for all.)  As with the bingo, I enjoyed following everybody else' updates and comparing notes at least as much as completing my own card.

 

So, here's for the grand finale:

 

Task the Second: The Silent Nights:

 

- Read a book set in one of the Nordic countries (Sweden, Norway, Finland, Iceland and/or Denmark), where winter nights are long!

 

Inspired by Lillelara's advice to Olga Godim, I changed plans on this one and revisited Babette's Feast, Tania (Karen) Blixen's love letter to the culinary arts, set against the bleak background of (mostly) midwinter in a Pietist religious community in a remote Norwegian fjord.  It's an apt read not only for this square but also for the season, as the feast is Babette's selfless gift to the two women who, suspicion against "papists" notwithstanding, have taken her into their home after she had lost her own.  I'd read it for the first time after having seen the movie, with the sumptuous visuals of the feast (as contrasted by the dour setting of the protagonists' lives) still freshly in my mind, and I loved it even better then; but I'm still happy I decided to reread it ... and few can hold a candle to Blixen's gift of setting the atmosphere of a story.

 

 

Task the Fourth: The Gift Card:

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

 

This task truly came in handy, as my birthday fell smack into the Halloween Bingo and I therefore haven't made particularly great inroads with the many treasures I'd accumulated back in October.

 

So, always eager to find out what's going on in the life of one DI (has-been) John Rebus of Police Scotland, I picked Ian Rankin's Even Dogs in the Wild, which I absolutely loved ... until it dawned on me that

the back story of (and solution to) this entry in the series is VERY similar to that of Dead Souls, which happens to be one of my favorite Rebus books and which I therefore know inside and out.  (And Rankin has also used the method of disposing of a dead body referenced at the beginning of this book before ... not to mention bent cops, who more often than not seem to hail from Glasgow instead of Edinburgh.)

(spoiler show)

  Bit of a bummer, that, and it knocked the book straight down from a five- to a four star read.  Still, I loved the fact that part of the book was told from the perspective of "Big Ger" Cafferty, Rebus is as crotchety and unyielding a lonely wolf as ever, and I'm glad to see that Siobhan finally seems to be coming into her own well and truly, without finding it necessary to cling to anybody's coat tails (particularly not those of her boss, DCI James Page).  What with Darryll Christie resurfacing in a prominent role and the Glasgow underworld in play big time as well, I wonder if we're headed for another gangland showdown along the likes of The Hanging Garden in one of the next books ...?  Now wouldn't that be a treat.  Also, is Rankin unsure where next to take Malcolm Fox -- or why is Fox virtually surplus to requirements at the beginning of the book and wondering whether he should throw in his towel?

 

 

- Give a book to a friend and post a picture of the wrapped present.

 

My best friend's birthday is on December 16, as a result of which I only get to go gift shopping for her in a major way once every year, and I typically only decide later, when I'm back home, which items she's getting for Christmas and which ones for her birthday.  This year, I decided it would be the books and a few assorted other items for her birthday ... it'll be a bath tub caddy and a set of goodies from one of our favorite local food (or more specifically spice, condiments and sauces) stores for Christmas. -- The books are Helen Macdonald's H Is for Hawk and a cookbook based on the Harry Potter novels, which I hope she'll love (and doesn't own yet), being both an HP fan and a stellar and enthusiastic cook.

 

 

 

Task the Fifth: The Kwanzaa:

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

 

I made a donation to a charity that my mom and I have been supporting for a long time -- in fact, I remember my mom donating to them even when I was a small child: SOS Kinderdörfer (literally, "SOS Children's Villages"), an organization that  takes in and provides housing, schooling and, most importantly, a loving and supportive community, to orphans and children whose parents are too poor or otherwise unable to properly care for them, in different parts of the world.  If you make your donation online you can specify the project you want your money to go to, and I picked their project in South Sudan, which has been particularly beleagured of late: as a result of the war, they were forced to abandon their facilities, casting the future of the project, and the children and their carers themselves, into great peril.  They've only recently begun to slowly build towards a new home for their village and community.

 

(I've included links to their website, which however doesn't seem to have an English version, unfortunately, so if you want to learn more you'll have to copy and paste the contents into Google translator, I'm afraid.)

 

 

 

Task the Eighth: The Movie Ticket

 

- Read a book that has been adapted to a holiday movie.

 

It took me about three seconds to make up my mind about this one, and I never stopped to think twice -- this just had to be one of my all-time favorite stories, which also happens to have been adapted into one of my all-time favorite holiday movies, never mind that the final scene actually isn't even set at Christmas in the book: Frances Hodgson Burnett's Little Lord Fauntleroy, whose screen adaptation starring Ricky Schroder and Alec Guinness has been an annual Christmas ritual on German TV for over 35 years now.  So call me a sop -- and I admit I've never actually tried revisiting this story at length outside the Christmas season (I might well find it a bit too tug-at-your-heartstrings-sentimental then -- but as a feel good story about love, redemption, and the meaning (and effect) of unselfish generosity, this one is hard to beat ... golden-haired cherub, saintly mother and friends to steal horses with all included.

 

 

And here's my tally of completed reads and activities:

 

 

Task the First: The Winter Wonderland:

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

=> Dylan Thomas - A Child's Christmas in Wales (audio version, read by the author himself)

- Activity: Take a walk outside and post a picture of something pretty you encountered on your way.

=> A Visit to Cologne Cathedral Christmas Market

 

Task the Second: The Silent Nights:

- Read: A book set in one of the Nordic countries.

=> Tania (Karen) Blixen: Babette's Feast (see above)

- Activity: Hygge: Put on your fuzziest socks, light a candle, and spend some time (reading) in front of the fireplace or your coziest nook.

=> Hygge!

 

Task the Third: The Holiday Party:

- Read: A book where a celebration is a big part of the action.

=> Rex Stout: And Four to Go

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

 

Task the Fourth: The Gift Card:

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

=> Ian Rankin: Even Dogs in the Wild (see above).

- Activity: Give a book to a friend and post a picture of the wrapped present.

=> Book gift, see above.

 

Task the Fifth: The Kwanzaa:

- Read: A book written by an African-American author or set in an African country.

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

=> SOS Kinderdörfer, South Sudan project (see above).

 

Task the Sixth: The Hanukkah:

- Read: Let the dreidel choose a book for you

=> Arthur Conan Doyle: The Valley of Fear (audio version read by Simon Vance)

- Activity: Make a traditional Hanukkah food like doughnuts or potato latkes.

=> Latkes (Kartoffelpuffer / Reibekuchen), courtesy of Cologne Cathedral Christmas Market

 

Task the Seventh: The Christmas:

- Read: A book set during the Christmas holiday season.

=> Donna Andrews: The Nightingale Before Christmas

- Activity: Set up a

=> Christmas bookstagram-style scene with favorite holiday reads, objects or decorations.

 

Task the Eighth: The Movie Ticket:

- Reading: A book that has been adapted to a holiday movie:

=> Frances Hodgson Burnett - Little Lord Fauntleroy (see above)

- Activity: Go see a new theater release this holiday season (this does not have to be a holiday movie).

 

Task the Ninth: The Happy New Year:

- Read: (A coming of age novel or) any old favorite comfort read:

=> Charles Dickens: A Christmas Carol (audio version performed by Patrick Stewart)

- Activity: Post a holiday picture of yourself from your childhood or youth.
=> Task the Ninth, Part 2

 

Task the Tenth: The Holiday Down Under:

- Read: A book set in Australia or by an Australian author.

=> Kerry Greenwood: Miss Phryne Fisher Investigates

- Activity: Buy some Christmas crackers (or make your own) to add to your festivities and share some pictures.

 

Task the Eleventh: The Polar Express:

- Read: A book that involves train travel.
=> Agatha Christie: Murder on the Orient Express

- Activity: Read a classic holiday book from your childhood, or tell a story about a childhood Christmas you'd like to share.
=> Hans Christian Andersen: The Snow Queen

 

Task the Twelfth: The Wassail Bowl:

- Reading: A book set in the UK, preferably during the medieval or Victorian periods.

=> Mary Stewart: The Crystal Cave

- Activity: Drink a festive, holiday beverage; take a picture of your drink, and post it to share - make it as festive as possible.
=> Mulled wine (Glühwein), courtesy of Cologne Cathedral Christmas Market

 

 

 

 

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url 2016-12-15 13:47
BookRiot: Cracking the Names Behind A Christmas Carol
A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens

Most of us have grown up with Scrooge’s Christmas Eve escapades. We know the plot, the catch phrases, the every “bah, humbugs!” like the back of our hands. The names Ebenezer, Jacob Marley and Bob Cratchit are now as deeply familiar to us as Santa, Rudolph, and Frosty. We know it all. Or do we? What is it about those Victorian names that haunt our yuletide imagination? What are they hiding about the characters we re-invite into our homes every year? And what, moreover, do they say about Dickens’ supposedly simple tale that may not be so simple after all?

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text 2016-11-28 11:05
The Twelve Tasks of the Festive Season -- Task the Ninth: The Happy New Year
A Christmas Carol (Audiocd) - Patrick Stewart,Charles Dickens

- 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.

- If you're feeling brave, post a holiday picture of yourself from your childhood or misspent youth.

 

For Part 1 of this task I listened to the audio version one of my annual holiday reads, Charles Dickens's Christmas Carol, performed by Patrick Stewart.  I already reviewed it, and the TV adaptation starring Mr. Stewart as Scrooge, last year -- but it really can't be said often enough what a phantastic reading this is.  Nothing like RSC training, coupled with enormous acting sensibility and empathy for all the story's characters, for bringing this classic to life!  No doubt I'll be revisiting Messrs. Scrooge and Stewart again for Christmas ... and for many years to come.

 

As for Part 2 of this task, eh voilà!

 

Age 4:

 

Christmas 1968:With my mom and my grandpa (and a new favorite doll)

Christmas 1968:With my grandma (and the selfsame doll)

Christmas 1968:
With my then-best friend: I actually had piano lessons at the time, but unlike the adults in attendance we thought it much greater fun to just hammer away at those keys wildly, at random, and as loud as we possibly could!

 

Age 6:

 

Christmas 1970:What a difference two years make ... and oh, how I hated those glasses.

 

Age 8:

 

Christmas 1972:Glasses gone again.  For the time being ... alas, they'd come back with a vengeance in my adult years, and there's unfortunately no way I'm getting rid of them again now.

 

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text 2016-10-30 23:46
Halloween: Incidental Opera
The Bride of Lammermoor - Walter Scott,J.H. Alexander,Kathryn Sutherland

... well, sort of.  I'm not sure whether Bonn Opera actually had Halloween in mind when they scheduled the opening night of their production of Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor (based on Walter Scott's Bride of Lammermoor) -- it's not overly likely, though I wouldn't put it past them -- but it of course fits the topic admirably, and thus made for a very nice post-blackout final accord to the bingo for me ...

 

... even more so as starring in the title role was Julia Novikova, who debuted in Bonn a few years ago and has since enjoyed a rather impressively successful career, which at a very young age has already taken her, inter alia, to Vienna and Salzburg -- and who, of course, gave a phantastic performance as Lucia.

 

(Ms. Novikova in the "mad scene")

No video of her as Lucia yet, but here she is with the "Moon Song" from one of my all-time favorite operas, Dvorak's Rusalka

 

 

... and for the German speakers, here's a brief portrait from her debut season at Bonn Opera.

 

 

And this, finally, is the famous "mad scene" from Lucia di Lammermoor with Natalie Dessay starring as Lucia (I much preferred Ms. Novikova's version, though):

 

 

(If the videos don't show in dashboard view, btw, follow the links to watch them on Youtube -- or open the post in blog view; they should show alright there.)

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review 2015-12-27 22:25
A "Christmas Carol" for the 21st Century
A Christmas Carol (Audiocd) - Patrick Stewart,Charles Dickens

Part of my annual Christmas ritual -- and since this year I indulged by way of Patrick Stewart's splendid audio version and the TV adaptation it inspired, here's my review of the latter ... with the added note that my comments on Stewart's performance in the movie also apply to his reading, where he also does a splendid job getting under the skin (or whatever it is that ghosts have) of all the story's other characters.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

A Christmas Carol

 

Given the enormous potential for failure, it takes either a lot of guts or a big ego to remake a classic and step into a pair of shoes worn so well by the likes of George C. Scott and Alastair Sim -- you don't have to have grown up in an English speaking country to take those two names and their portrayal of Dickens's miserly anti-hero for granted as part of your Christmas experience. And I suspect a good part of both guts and ego was at play in this production; but let's face it: after years of bringing Scrooge to the stage in a much-acclaimed one man show and after also having recorded the audio book version of "A Christmas Carol," a movie adaptation starring Patrick Stewart was probably due to come out sooner or later. Yet, while it does sometimes have the feel of another huge star vehicle for Stewart (even without the self-congratulatory trailer and brief "behind the scenes" features included on the DVD), his experience and insight into the character of Scrooge allow him to pull off a remarkable performance, and to make the role his own without letting us forget who originally wrote the tale. From a "humbug" growled out from the very depth of his disdain and his audible desire to boil "every idiot who goes about with 'Merry Christmas' on his lips" with his own pudding and bury them with a stake of holly through their heart, to the "splendid" and "most illustrious ... father of a long, long line of brilliant laughs," coughed up and spit out after years of having been out of practice, this is the Scrooge that Dickens described; and Stewart obviously has the time of his life playing him.

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Source: www.themisathena.info/movies/christmascarol1.html#ChristmasCarol-Stewart
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