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text 2017-11-21 21:40
16 Tasks of the Festive Season: Square 8 - Hanukkah - and Square 3 - St. Martin's Day
The Shaman Laughs - James D. Doss
The Devil's Acolyte - Michael Jecks
An Artist of the Floating World - Kazuo Ishiguro
A Darker Shade: 17 Swedish Stories of Murder, Mystery and Suspense Including a Short Story by Stieg Larsson - John-Henri Holmberg

Tasks for Hanukkah: Light nine candles around the room (SAFELY) and post a picture. –OR– Play the Dreidel game to pick the next book you read.

Assign a book from your TBR to each of the four sides of the dreidel:

נ (Nun)
ג (Gimel)
ה (He)
ש (Shin)


Spin a virtual dreidel: http://www.torahtots.com/holidays/chanuka/dreidel.htm
– then tell us which book the dreidel picked.

 

OK, here we go:


נ (Nun)     =  James D. Doss: The Shaman Laughs
ג
(Gimel)  =  Michael Jecks: The Devil's Acolyte
ה (He)
      =  Kazuo Ishiguro: An Artist of the Floating World
ש (Shin)
   =  John-Henri Holmberg (ed.): A Darker Shade

 

 

Alright -- Ishiguro it is.  And this will also give me my book themes for St. Martin’s Day (square 3): Read a book set on a vineyard, or in a rural setting, –OR– a story where the MC searches for/gets a new job. –OR– A book with a lantern on the cover, or books set before the age of electricity. –OR– A story dealing with an act of selfless generosity (like St. Martin sharing his cloak with a beggar).

 

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2016-11-07 22:15
The Twelve Tasks of the Festive Season -- Task the Sixth: The Hanukkah -- Arthur Conan Doyle: The Valley of Fear
The Valley of Fear - Arthur Conan Doyle
The Complete Sherlock Holmes - Simon Vance, Arthur Conan Doyle
Reading: Let the dreidel choose a book for you:

נ  Nun (miracle): Christopher Paolini - Eldest (audio version read by Kerry Shale)

ג Gimel (great): Arthur Conan Doyle - The Valley of Fear (audio version read by Simon Vance)

ה He (happened): Ian Rankin - Even Dogs in the Wild

ש Shin (there, i.e. Israel): J.R.R. Tolkien - Letters From Father Christmas

 

 

So, it was to be Arthur Conan Doyle's Valley of Fear.

 

The Valley of Fear is Arthur Conan Doyle's last novel-length Sherlock Holmes narrative. Like A Study in Scarlet, where Holmes makes his very first appearance, it is split into two parts: Holmes's actual investigation in Part 1; and the back story, i.e. the stuff that would either be told by Holmes himself or by the apprehended culprit in the shorter narratives (as well as in The Sign of Four) in the Big Reveal, appended as Part 2, with a very loose connection to Part 1 to the effect that Dr. Watson has been handed a written account of the back story during the reveal at the end of Part 1. (Part 2 is not in epistolary form, however.)

 

The first part of the book is a classic locked room mystery: A man is found shot in a historic manor house in the Weald south of London, not quite halfway on the way to the Channel coast. There is no indication that his killer is still in (or near) the building; nor could he however have escaped, as the building is surrounded by a(n albeit fairly shallow) moat and the drawbridge crossing that moat had been pulled up some time before the killing happened, and more importantly, since the weapon used is a particularly loud sawed-off shotgun, some of the building's other inhabitants had been drawn to the scene instantly, before the killer could possibly have gotten away. (There is also an inference that the water in the moat is muddied by clay and would thus not merely have wetted the killer's clothes by also left them with colored stains, but that didn't strike me as conclusive -- the killer might easily have hidden a spare set of clothes nearby and changed into those once the deed was done.) Holmes's investigation follows the familiar lines of logical inference, with the odd bit of cypher decoding thrown in for good measure and with Professor Moriarty making a (largely off-stage) appearance as well, and it concludes, like many a Sherlock Holmes locked room mystery, with a solution very much in the spirit of Holmes's old axiom "Eliminate the impossible and whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth" (though the closest we're getting to a verbalization of said axiom here is an exclamation of "impossible!" by one of the investigating police officers).

And no, the solution is neither a case of "when" the deed was done (as is so often the crucial issue in locked room mysteries) nor -- at least not exclusively -- how the killer could have escaped at all, either.

(spoiler show)

 

Well, so far, so enjoyable.

 

The story took a bit of a nose dive for me, however, when it got to Part 2 of the novel; and not merely because this book is structured essentially like A Study in Scarlet in the first place (nor, again like the very first Holmes novel, because it also uses an American setting for its second part; the eponymous "Valley of Fear"). However, and although certainly very atmospheric, it is -- albeit loosely -- based on actual historical facts that I was familiar with (only vaguely, but that vague knowledge was enough for me to place the story almost instantly), and which facts due to their then-recent notoriety Conan Doyle's original readers would very likely have been equally familiar with. Indeed, Conan Doyle telegraphs enough of the "final reveal" of Part 2 of the book early enough and obviously enough to allow even a reader unfamiliar with the actual historical basis of the book to clue in to the solution fairly early on.

 

So, decidedly not on a level with my favorite Holmes adventures (The Hound of the Baskervilles, A Scandal in Bohemia, The Red-Headed League, The Blue Carbuncle, The Speckled Band, Silver Blaze, The Naval Treaty, The Empty House, The Abbey Grange, The Second Stain, The Priory School, and The Bruce-Partington Plans, to name but a few), but still an entertaining, though in Part 2 rather somber read and a nice start into the Twelve Tasks of the Festive Season.

 

I listened to an audio version of this book, incidentally, read by Simon Vance as part of the Complete Sherlock Holmes set.  Vance's reading is enjoyable, though he doesn't necessarily distinguish a whole lot between Holmes's and Watson's voices: but his interpretation of the other characters, accents and vocal inflections and all, more than makes up for this, and there is just about enough briskness in his voice whenever Holmes is talking for the most important speaker to be recognizable nevertheless, too.

 

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text 2016-11-06 09:32
The Twelve Tasks of the Festive Season -- Task the Sixth: The Hanukkah
Eldest (Inheritance, #2) - Christopher Paolini
The Valley of Fear - Arthur Conan Doyle
The Complete Sherlock Holmes - Simon Vance, Arthur Conan Doyle
Even Dogs in the Wild - Ian Rankin
Letters from Father Christmas - J.R.R. Tolkien,Baillie Tolkien
Letters From Father Christmas - J.R.R. Tolkien
Reading: Let the dreidel choose a book for you:

נ  Nun (miracle): Christopher Paolini - Eldest (audio version read by Kerry Shale)

ג Gimel (great): Arthur Conan Doyle - The Valley of Fear (audio version read by Simon Vance)

ה He (happened): Ian Rankin - Even Dogs in the Wild

ש Shin (there, i.e. Israel): J.R.R. Tolkien - Letters From Father Christmas

 

 

So, it'll be Arthur Conan Doyle's Valley of Fear!

 

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review 2014-12-19 08:57
Beautiful Meaning of Hanukkah
The Dreidel that Wouldn't Spin: A Toyshop Tale of Hanukkah - Martha Seif Simpson,Durga Yael Bernhard
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review 2014-12-09 21:28
The Dreidel That Wouldn't Spin
The Dreidel that Wouldn't Spin: A Toyshop Tale of Hanukkah - Martha Seif Simpson,Durga Yael Bernhard

My sister always had a fascination with dreidels when we were younger. We are not Jewish and we never actually saw one played with, but one day, when she was 10 and I was 14, she came across some at a little kiosk at the mall. A few days later, we went to the library and she looked at several books, trying to find out all she could about them. She's even asked for them for Christmas. When I came upon this book on NetGalley, I had to pick it up, just to see - and now I plan on buying her a copy of her own. :)

 

This is a beautiful story - filled with beautiful artwork - that is a great read for every one, no matter how old they are, and not just those who celebrate Hanukkah. The end made me smile through the tears that fell on my cheeks. The author's note and appendix at the end give some extra information as well as teach you how to play the game.

 

Note: I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.

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