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review 2018-12-23 22:01
24 Festive Tasks: My Final Books (Doors 16, 17 and 19 -- Human Rights Day, St. Lucia's Day, and Festivus)
A Christmas Guest - Anne Perry,Terrence Hardiman
Skandinavische Weihnachten: Die schönsten Geschichten von Sven Nordqvist, Hans Christian Andersen, Selma Lagerlöf u.a. - Hans Christian Andersen,Selma Lagerlöf,Various Authors,Sven Nordqvist,Josef Tratnik,Dirk Bach,Jens Wawrczeck
A Woman of No Importance - Full Cast,Oscar Wilde
Model Millionaire - David Timson,Oscar Wilde


Anne Perry: A Christmas Guest

The third book in Anne Perry's series of Christmas novellas, each one of which has as their protagonist one of the supporting characters from Perry's main series (William Monk, and Charlotte & Thomas Pitt).  This installment's starring role goes to Charlotte Pitt's vinegar-tongued grandmother, who -- like another remote relative, recently returned to England after having spent most of her adult life living in the Middle East -- finds herself shunted onto Charlotte and her husband Thomas at short notice, because the family with whom she had been planning to spend the holidays have made other plans.  While Grandma pretends to despise her widely-traveled fellow guest, secretly she develops a considerable amount of respect for her, so when the lady is unexpetedly found dead, grandma takes it upon herself to seek out the people who had unloaded her on the Pitt household; convinced that something untoward is afoot.

 

As Perry's Christmas novellas go, this is one of my favorite installments to date, and i loved seeing it told, for once, not from the point of view of an easily likeable character, but from that of Grandma, who is a major pain in the neck to others (even though you'd have to be blind not to recognize from the word "go" that her acerbic tongue and pretensions are merely part of her personal armour).  I also wondered whether the murder victim's character might have been inspired by pioneering women travelers like Gertrude Bell, even if the story is set a few decades earlier than Bell's actual life.  I had issues with a couple of minor aspects of the plot (and characters / behaviour), but they didn't intrude enough to seriously impinge on my enjoyment of the story.  And since Grandma, for all her overblown pretenses, is certainly a strong woman character -- which she shows, not least, by eventually admitting to her own fallibilities -- I am counting this book towards the Human Rights Day square of 24 Festive Tasks.

 

 

 
Various Authors: Skandinavische Weihnachten

A charming anthology of Christmas short stories and poems from Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Iceland, and Finland; chiefly geared towards children, but more than enjoyable by readers and listeners of all ages and generations.  I knew some of the entries (no Scandinavian Christmas anthology without Andersen's Little Match Girl, I suppose), but many of the stories were new to me, and they made for delightful listening on this 4th weekend of Advent. -- Set in Scandinavia, and thus I'm using it as my book for the St. Lucia's Day square.

 

 


Oscar Wilde: A Woman of No Importance

Wilde's second play; an acerbic take on the narrowness of fin de siècle English morality; or more particularly, supremely hypocritical perceptions of women's role in society.  Unlike in Wilde's later plays, the beginning comes across as a bit of an over-indulgence in the author's own clever wit, with a veritable fireworks of sparkling onelines and repartees following in quick succession without greatly advancing the plot (which is what earns the piece the subtractions in my star ratings -- it's the perfect example of too much of a good thing); but once the plot and the dialogue centers on the opposing protagonists, it quickly finds its feet. -- As Festivus books go, it's rather on the dark side, but it's a satire nevertheless, so I'm counting it for that square ... and though (unusually for Wilde) the last line is telegraphed a mile and a half in advance, I nevertheless enjoyed saying it along with the play's heroine from all my heart.

 

 


Oscar Wilde: Model Millionaire

My encore enjoyment to follow up A Woman of No Importance; a story that couldn't be any more different in tone and intent -- the tale of a gentleman who believes he has done a kindness to a raggedy beggar modelling for his artist friend ... only to find that he could not possibly have been any more mistaken, and that in fact it is he who is ultimately at the receiving end of an unexpected kindness.

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review 2018-12-23 21:46
Kingdom of the Blind-24 Tasks
Kingdom of the Blind - Louise Penny

Read this for St. Lucia, luckily this was released in November 2018.

 

 

Not much to say with this one. I think the earlier brilliance of this series is gone honestly. I just didn't feel engaged while reading this the past two days. I think the bigger issue is that Penny flips flops back and forth between the action at the Sûreté du Québec/with a cadet and the village. I was more invested in the village happenings and with Myrna. I also 100 percent cannot keep reading about Gamache and the opioid epidemic anymore. It feels disingenuous as hell and people caring about this (due to the high number of non people of color that are being affected) is something that I wish that Penny would address if she is going to keep banging on about it. I was interested more in the murder investigation, and I really wish that Penny had made that the main focus of this book. The only good thing that I really can say is that my least favorite character may be making an exit from this series. Thank goodness.

 

"Kingdom of the Blind" takes place several months (I think almost a year) after the events in "Glass Houses." We have Gamache suspended from the Suerte, but yet still uncertain about his future. There is an investigation into how opioids managed to get through the net that Gamache had laid out to capture the criminal syndicate. It appears, per usual, Gamache is in someone's cross-hairs to take the blame for things. While that is going on, Gamache appears to meet a notary at an old abandoned farmhouse. To his surprise, Myrna and a young man that they don't know also shows up too. They find out that they were named as executors in a will to a woman that known of them knew. Gamache puzzles out who this woman was and why she would do such a thing. This eventually leads to a dead body and Gamache and Jean Guy trying to figure out if there are any links between these things or not. 

 

As I said above, the book veers back and forth between Three Pines (my favorite parts of the book) and Gamache and Jean Guy dealing with the fall out from their actions at the Sûreté du Québec. Three Pines is dealing with a blizzard that knocks out power, but causes he village to pull together. I found myself snuggling under the covers and only venturing out of bed to find hot chocolate while reading these sections. At this point, if you are a long-time reader you know everyone and their backstories. It's just nice to see Ruth, Myrna, Clara, Olivier, and others in this one. 

 

The Surete sections are the weakest because per usual we have Jean Guy doing his doubting Thomas routine with Gamache. I am glad Isabelle gave him a verbal slap about it. This character has shown zero growth in the last 5 books and he's getting old. I also don't see him as being a worthy successor of Gamache since he doesn't listen and likes to just treat everyone like a liar and suspect.  I was hoping that eventually this book would spin off to follow Isabelle and her family. I loved her scenes with Gamache, and was happy to see that Gamache still includes her in his thoughts, and she was active with helping with the murder investigation that took place too. 

 

The writing in sections was quite good, and in others felt hampered. I felt as if Penny was trying to work out in a realistic way what she threw down in the last book, it just didn't work. The flow was up and down since there are two different plots going on in this one. Only plot one (will and murder investigation) actually worked well and was firing on all cylinders. 


The setting of Three Pines in this one was appealing. 

 

The ending left things on a different note that I wonder about. I don't know if this is the end of the series or not. Things are left up in the air, and it does seem some characters are taking their final bow. 

 

St. Lucia's Day

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text 2018-12-18 18:18
24 Festive Tasks: Door 17 - St. Lucia's Day, Task 1 (Book Flood)

A book flood of the print and audio CD part of this year's Christmas reads (both completed and yet to finish):

(The background is supposed to be dark blue, but oh well ... :D)

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text 2018-12-18 15:48
St. Lucia's Day-24 Tasks

St. Lucia's Day

 

Task 1: In honor of the Icelandic Jólabókaflóðið / Yule Book Flood tradition, create a (virtual or physical) “book flood” and post a picture of it.

 

 

Hmm well I tried to draw in waves, but they won't show up :-( I also thought about dumping books on the floor in a cascade effect, but my friends would murder me if I tried to bend down and pick anything up right now. 

 

Task 2: Bake a Swedish lussebulle (saffron bun – instructions and recipe: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nWSs-vQX0AI) or prepare some other dish containing saffron.

 

Going to have to pass. 

 

Task 3: Create a “crown of light” from book covers prominently featuring a lighted candle.

 

 

Task 4: Guess (scout’s honor, NO GOOGLING!): Did the Gävle Goat survive this year? This works like the Melbourne Cup Pick Your Ponies task:  You get one point for guessing, and an extra point if you've guessed correctly -- which we'll reveal after Christmas (as this is how long the goat is *supposed* to survive).

 

For background: The Gävle Goat is a straw effigy erected in Gävle, Sweden, every year at the beginning of Advent. It is infamous for being burned down ahead of time, which as of Advent 2017 has happened in 37 of the 51 years of the tradition’s existence. – The Yule goat lore in turn goes back all the way to the Norse myths, where the god Thor rode a chariot drawn by two goats, and to ancient Indo-European and proto-Slavic beliefs according to which the harvest god appeared in the shape of a goat. Possibly, it is also linked with Santa Claus and his reindeer-driven sled.

 

I am going to guess no due to prior odds. Did not Google. 

 

Book: Set in Scandinavia / Northern Europe, or by a Northern European / Nordic author, or a book newly released in November or December of this year.

 

Oh good. I have an idea for this one too. 

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text 2018-12-13 18:39
24 Festive Tasks: Door 17 - St. Lucia's Day, Task 4 (Gävle Goat)


The 2009 edition of the Gävle goat
(images collected when compiling the St. Lucia's Day tasks)

 

Ever the optimist, I'm guessing the Goat has survived / will survive this year.  IIRC, it did last year as well -- hopefully that means they've finally learned how to keep the vandals in check!

 

 

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