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text 2019-01-01 04:42
24 Festive Tasks: Advent - Task #1

Task 1: Post a picture of your advent calendar - store bought or homemade.


My family didn't follow this tradition when I was growing up, and I didn't consider doing an advent calendar until recently. I found this inexpensive Victorian style one on Amazon and got it for this holiday season. The doors have tiny little Christmas pictures behind them that are reminiscent of Victorian times. If I get really ambitious next year, I might try making a Victorian themed one myself.





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review 2019-01-01 01:51
A Rare Benedictine: The Advent of Brother Cadfael (Brother Cadfael 0.5)
A Rare Benedictine: The Advent of Brother Cadfael - Ellis Peters

My mother gave me this book when I was last home (I come by my tendency to buy duplicate books honestly), and it wasn't until I was shuffling through my TBR a few days ago that I actually stopped and looked at this one.  I wanted to know which books I needed to find to complete my collection of Brother Cadfaels.  Flipping through this one, I discovered it's a compilation of three prequel stories that Ellis Peters wrote over the years.  Bonus: one of them took place over Christmas.


I love this book!  It's illustrated with beautiful color reproductions of medieval (or medieval-style) prints, and there's an introduction by Ellis Peters, explaining a few basic details behind the Cadfael series, like how it got started, how he got his name, and why she'd never written any stories about his crusading days.  She's also very clear, in a manner that feels purposeful, that Cadfael never converted; his entrance to the abby was just the next step in his life; a life that was always one of faith and belief.  It was a wonderful introduction, and I got a very real sense that Peters knew her character to his bones, understood him, and wanted to make sure his readers did too.


As for the stories themselves, the first one, A Light on the Road To Woodstock, does indeed take place before Cadfael's entrance into the abbey.  In takes place as he returns to England for the first time after the wars, facing imminent unemployment, and looking to move on to a new phase in his life, though he doesn't know yet what it might be.  His last assignment for the lord who employs him takes him to Richmond during a court dispute with the Shrewsbury Monastery.  Here he meets the Prior of the Abbey and is confronted with a mystery concerning the Prior's disappearance.  


This is not a fair play story; the mystery is solved by Cadfael's observance of the people he knows and the human nature he's familiar with, but he does not share those observances with the reader.  Still, it's a lovely introduction to the man, and the story is a good one.


The second, my favorite of the three, is The Price of Light, the Christmas story.  Here Cadfael has been a monk for 15 years. A man of means, whose life has been a waste, is beset by ill health and realises he must do something to 'earn' his redemption (read: buy it, as cheaply as possible).  He gifts Shrewsbury Abbey with the rent from one of his holdings, and a pair of beautiful silver candlesticks, both for the betterment and maintenance of their Lady Chapel.  The gifts are made on Christmas Eve, but on Christmas Day, the candlesticks have been stolen. 


What follows is far more of a fair play mystery, with Cadfael poking about, observing, finding clues and sharing most of it with the reader.  The plot is pretty good for a short form mystery, and the story itself is just really lovely.  Ellis Peters understood the true grace that lies behind Christianity and faith, and she writes it beautifully - never, ever preaches it - but Cadfael and most of his brothers are written in a way that is consistent to both true Christianity and humanity, and the struggle between the two is a never-ceasing one.


The last story, Eye Witness, is a much more bog-standard short story mystery.  It falls back on a few of the standard tropes.  Man goes out to collect the rents, is bashed on the head and robbed, thrown into the river to drown, rescued, and cannot shed any light on who tried to kill him.  His son is a suspect, of course, and Cadfael gleans the truth not only through observation, but by the time-worn tradition (in mysteries) of laying a trap!  


The most pedestrian of the three, it's still a good story, and adds to the fuller picture of life at Shrewsbury.


My edition was done by Mysterious Press, and if you're a Cadfael fan who does not yet own this, I recommend it highly, both for the stories and the charm of the edition itself.

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text 2018-12-28 16:39
24 Festive Tasks: Door 13 - Advent, Task 2 (Holiday Traditions)

I don't actually have one single favorite holiday tradition -- to me the holidays are pretty much a multi-faceted package, and each one of the components is equally important; everything from Christmas decorations (even if I haven't put up any this year -- but at least my mom did), candles, and Christmas cookies to the way we traditionally spend Christmas Eve (church, gift giving, sausages and potato salad for dinner, and nonstop favorite holiday movies after that) and taking time to relax and unwind on Christmas Day and Boxing Day.  I've come to realize over the years that being at home for Christmas really matters to me as well -- I've had some nice Christmases elsewhere, too, but none has even come close to the extra element of comfort and relaxation that doing "all the old familiar things" at home seems to provide.


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review 2018-12-26 17:00
Lucas Davenport Still Sucks in the Fourth Prey Book
Silent Prey - John Sandford

A friend promised me that the Prey series gets better after the fourth book. Moonlight and I read the first three books two years ago and threw in the towel since Davenport sucked beyond the telling in our reviews. I hate to admit this though, my friend is right. The series gets better after the fourth book. It's like Sandford realized he was writing Davenport like a psychopath and people were not rooting for him. The female characters also are better developed thank goodness. So I just sped through a ton of the books in this series (thanks to the library) and finally at 1 am last night finally went to sleep after a lackluster book #11 that just brought back old Davenport (who I hated).


"Silent Prey" takes Lucas out of Minnesota to New York to help catch a serial killer (Michael Bekker) he captured in the previous books. He goes to New York to help out former lover Lily Rothenburg with not only capturing Bekker but also with helping her out with capturing what appears to be a vigilante that killed a friend of hers.


Lucas still sucks in this one. He has left the police force, and though he mentions his daughter, he is pretty much solo and wishing for a woman. Because without sex, who would Lucas be? Sorry for the sarcasm, but honestly I wanted to brain Lucas in this one. And Lily. She had an affair with Lucas and even though she's seeing someone still feels a magnetic pull to Lucas. It got old as hell. And Lucas having pangs made me roll my eyes too. There is mention of Lucas's money and his gaming company which still makes me laugh. 


There is not much there there in this book. The two plots don't work very well and we go from Lucas hunting Bekker and investigating a possible cop who is behind the vigilante killings to Bekker's third person point of view. I just found myself bored throughout this book and was so happy when it was over. 


The setting moves from Minnesota to New York, but you don't get any sense of New York besides people talking about how hot it is. 

The ending was a joke and a half. I just read it and shook my head. 


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text 2018-12-22 17:35
Christmas mystery
Crime at Christmas - C.H.B. Kitchin

One of the blogs I follow on my Wordpress reader reviewed this Golden Age Christmas mystery. We have very quiet Christmases around my house - by preference. One of my son's most hilarious quotes occurred when he was around 10, and he said 


"Once you have to put your pants on, Christmas is over."


We typically sit around in our new Christmas pajamas all day, playing games, watching movies and reading our new Christmas books. This looked like a good choice for a Christmas day read, so I bought the kindle version and I'm ready to go!

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