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Search tags: 24-tasks-door-4-book
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review 2018-12-12 15:05
24 Festive Tasks: Door 9 - Thanksgiving, Book
Six Geese A-Slaying (Meg Langslow, #10) - Donna Andrews
Six Geese A-Slaying - Donna Andrews,Bernadette Dunne

I decided to backtrack a bit to the series's first (I think) Christmas entry, which is set right after Meg and Michael's marriage and in which Meg is in charge of organizing Caerphilly's annual holiday parade -- emphatically not a "Christmas" parade, since it includes a nod to Diwali (complete with elephants), as well as a Kwanzaa float, which obviously makes this book a fun match with "24 Festive Tasks".

 

Andrews had definitely found her Meg Langslow legs by the time of this book, and the writing and plotting is great fun ... of course a holiday parade themed on The Twelve Days of Christmas offers countless opportunities for things to go hilariously haywire, but you still have to be able to hit just the right balance of humor and storytelling instead of simply stringing together a series of (wannabe) quirky incidents and characters, which not every writer is able to pull off convincingly.  Perhaps the one tiny letdown was that the murderer (and their motive) was fairly obvious well before the conclusion of the book, but still, I very much enjoyed my annual return to Caerphilly for Christmas the holidays.

 

And since a whole rafter of turkeys show up in various parts of the book -- they march in the holiday parade, they're being offered as charity gifts to the local poor, they're roasted at one of the local church community's food stand, and a turkey also features in the Christmas dinner "in the off" at the end of the story, to be prepared by Meg's mother -- I feel justified in using this as my Thanksgiving square read in "24 Festive Tasks" ... even if the turkeys are not accorded quite as prominent a role as the titular six geese (or actually, 37 geese ... or make that 38, counting one deceased of natural causes).

 

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review 2018-12-12 14:15
24 Festive Tasks: Door 6 - International Day for Tolerance, Book
A Very French Christmas: The Greatest French Holiday Stories of All Time - Jean-Philippe Blondel,Dominique Fabre,Alphonse Daudet,Irène Némirovsky,Guy de Maupassant,Jean Brassard

 

An anthology of French Christmas short stories, from 19th century classics to contemporary, up to and including stories published in 2017.  "Nobody does Christmas like the French" is, of course, monumental sales hyperbole (and that's not even taking into account the ubiquitous non-French usual suspects like Dickens's Christmas Carol and E.T.A. Hoffmann's Nutcracker), but the stories included are enjoyable enough, even if (on balance) a bit on the preachy side.

 

Since several of these stories are set in Paris, I'm using this as my book for the 24 Festive Tasks - International Day for Tolerance square.  Since one of the anthologized stories is by Irène Némirovsky, I'm also using it for the "N" square of the Women Writers Bingo.

 

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review 2018-12-10 00:16
24 Festive Tasks: Door 7 - Mawlid, Book
Candy Cane Murder - Leslie Meier,Laura Levine,Joanne Fluke,Suzanne Toren

Well, let's just say that none of these three ladies is anywhere near Donna Andrews's league when it comes to cozy mysteries, plotting, character creation, dialogue, and a writer's craft in general.  And if I thought Joanna Fluke's entry was disappointing (mediocre plotting and dialogue, character responses that felt forced / didn't make sense, and one of my no-go TSTL behavior tropes as the "big reveal" cue (though I have to hand it to Fluke, the setting and overall scene of the final confrontation with the murderer was inspired)), I'm sorry to have to say that Leslie Meier's contribution did even less for me -- you could scratch off the Hallmark sugar coating with a shovel, virtually NONE of the characters' actions and responses bore even the slightest semblance of realism,  and she managed to make 1980s rural Maine come across as more backward than it probably was even in the 1940s and 1950s (while also looking more dripping-with-saccharine-style-homely than any Norman Rockwell picture -- and for the record, I like Norman Rockwell.  Or at least I like his Christmas pictures.)

 

Laura Levine's entry fared a bit better (I'd call it the book's highlight if such a term were appropriate for a muted glow in the midst of two seriously dulled lights); at least she took me right back to L.A. inside my head and the plotting was halfway decent.  But her story seriously suffered from an overabundance of quirky characters, not-very-subtle hints at the MC's padded waistline and her resolutions to do something about it (in which she predictably fails on every single occasion -- and yes, I know this actually is an L.A. thing; been there and would have bought the T-shirt, too, if I'd found it funny then, but the last thing I want is to have this sort of fad jammed up my nose with a sledgehammer in a book) -- and an equal overabundance of wannabe hipster slang and coloquialisms ... everything from repeated exclamations like "ugh!", "oh golly!" and "drat!" to "bet my bottom cupcake" (and yes, even there she goes again with the calorie stuff).  Oh, and the MC's conversations with her cat and said cat's female-Garfield act got old pretty soon as well.

 

Oh well.  If nothing else, this has made me appreciate the consistently high quality of Donna Andrews's writing even more -- I'll happily be returning to her for my cozy contemporary Christmas mysteries (I just hope she'll reliably continue to produce them for the foreseeable future).

 

I may try some of the recipes included in this book eventually, though.

 

Since the audiobook I listened to has a green cover, I'll be using this as my book for the Mawlid square.

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review 2018-12-05 15:00
24 Festive Tasks: Door 4 - Diwali, Book -- as well as Discworld December Group Read
The Light Fantastic - Terry Pratchett
The Light Fantastic - Terry Pratchett

The book where we learn how the Librarian of the Unseen University ended up as an orang-utan.  (This happens on the very first pages and anyone who's read at least one Discworld book knows this anyway, so I'm officially not considering it a spoiler.)  Other than that, more fun with Rincewind, Twoflower and the luggage, and more send-ups of  the1980s' life and times on our round blue planet, complete with Conan Cohen the Barbarian and a doomsday cult.  The picture box makes a reappearance, too, and we learn what Death is like when he's at home

and hanging out with the other three horsemen of the apocalypse -- and with his daughter.

(spoiler show)

  Also, there are dine chewers (say that one aloud).  And trolls with a Scottish accent in the audio version.  And there's this, on the usefulness of books:

"Cohen was shocked.

'Bonfires of books?'

'Yes.  Horrible, isn't it?'

'Right,' said Cohen.  He thought it was appalling.  Someone who spent his life living rough under the sky knew the value of a good thick book, which ought to outlast at least a season of cooking fires if you were careful how you tore the pages out.  Many a life had been saved on a snowy night by a handful of sodden kindling and a really dry book.  If you felt like a smoke and couldn't find a pipe, a book was your man every time.

Cohen realized people wrote things in books.  It had always seemed to him to be a frivolous waste of paper."

To put this one to optimum use, since it's got the word "light" in the title I'll use it as my book for the Diwali square of 24 Festive Tasks.  In addition to which, of course, it is the Discworld group read book for December 2018.

 

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review 2018-12-04 21:50
24 Festive Tasks: Door 20 - Christmas, Book
The Christmas Card Crime and Other Stories - Martin Edwards,Various Authors
The Christmas Card Crime and Other Stories - Gordon Griffin,Anne Dover,Martin Edwards,Various Authors

The third annual edition of the British Library's anthologies of unjustifiedly-buried Golden Age Christmas mystery short stories, again edited by Martin Edwards.  Great fun and a great way to segue into the holiday season, one story at a time.

 

I'm using it as my book for, guess what, the Christmas square of 24 Festive Tasks.

 

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