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Reading progress update: I've read 340 out of 928 pages.

Merlin Trilogy - Mary Stewart The Crystal Cave - Mary Stewart The Hollow Hills - Mary Stewart

 

(Page numbers are for the omnibus edition.)

 

Well, I finished The Crystal Cave (a while ago in fact) and have now moved on to The Hollow Hills, which picks up right where the first book of the trilogy ends.  Merlin is still rather unlike the wise old wizard as whom I'd so far seen him and is becoming ever closer to what I'd so far imagined young Arthur to have been ... but I'm still enjoying the read as such.

 

For those who care, I thought I'd share a couple of photos from the location of the final chapters of The Crystal Cave and the first chapters of The Hollow Hills, Tintagel, where legend has it that King Arthur was conceived ... or, well, photos of what's left of the Tintagel castle ruins (which incidentally date from the 12th, not from the 6th century), as well as the paths that Merlin and Uther would have had to climb, first down to the beach and then back up along the face of the cliff, to get to the castle high up on the promontory:

 




The Twelve Tasks of the Festive Season -- Task the Tenth: The Holiday Down Under

Miss Phryne Fisher Investigates - Kerry Greenwood

- Read a book set in Australia or by an Australian author,  or read a book you would consider a "beach read".

 

Well, I can see how a screen version of this might work rather nicely, but alas, as written, it wasn't really for me.  I liked Bert and Cec, and Dr. MacMillan, and Dot (once transformed, though her transformation was perhaps a bit of a rapid one) ... but I couldn't much bring myself to care for either Phryne herself, or the narrative voice, or the story as such.  And I'm afraid the author already lost me right at the beginning, where there is an IMHO not-very-successfully-executed attempt at an Agatha Christie / Arthur Conan Doyle supersleuth-style "instant solution" of a crime committed in Phryne's presence (which then, even more implausibly, serves as instant motivation for one of those present at the scene, who doesn't until then have seemed to know much about Phryne, to entrust her with the both expensive and rather delicate task of travelling all the way to Australia to look after his daughter's wellbeing).  Moreover, both the author and Phryne seemed to share a sneering tone, talking down to the reader and half the other characters alike, which I found rather grating, particularly in a book billed as a "cozy" mystery.  Fundamentally, though, what I found fairly preposterous was the notion that a young woman, who hasn't been to Australia since her childhood days (when she moved in quite different circles from those in which she is moving upon her return, and who therefore can't possibly know or anticipate all the pitfalls of her commission), only needs to show up in Melbourne and, in the space of a mere couple of days, manages to solve not one but several crimes that have had the Melbourne police all up in arms for months ... and all this by pushing buttons that, in the case of both of the chief criminals, should have stared any halfway competent policeman and / or the criminals' own associates in the face within about the same amount of time it ended up taking Phryne to discover them.  (But then, Phryne has virtually no faults at all to begin with -- she is Superwoman incarnate, which is one of my major pet peeves anyway.)  Add to all that the super-clumsy drop of a clue as to the final reveal fairly early on in the story -- the sort of clue that, if used by Christie or Conan Doyle at all, is bound to be a means of the most skillful misdirection, not the sort of dead giveaway it is here -- and I was seriously underwhelmend all the way through.

 

Still, as I said, there were characters I enjoyed, and the writing, narrative voice and major plot implausibilities aside, flowed nicely -- and judging by the popularity of  both the book and the TV series, I decidedly seem to be in the minority here as far as my overall opinion is concerned ...

 

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The Twelve Tasks of the Festive Season -- Task the Eleventh: The Polar Express

Murder on the Orient Express: Complete & Unabridged (Audiocd) - Agatha Christie

 

- Read a book that involves train travel (such as Murder on the Orient Express).

 

Well, as it happened I did pick Murder on the Orient Express for this square.  Not that I'm not intimately familiar with the story as such already -- it was actually one of the first books by Agatha Christie that I ever read, not to mention watching (and owning) the screen adaptation starring Albert Finney and half of classic Hollywood's A list.  But I'd never listened to the audio version read by David Suchet, and I am very glad to finally have remedied that now.  Not only is Suchet the obvious choice to read any of Christie's Poirot novels because his name has practically become synonymous with that of the little Belgian himself -- great character actor that he is, he was obviously also having the time of his life with all of the story's other roles, including those of the women; and particularly so, Mrs. Hubbard, whose interpretation by Suchet also gives the listener more than a minor glance at the fun that recent London audiences must have been having watching him appear as Lady Bracknell in Oscar Wilde's Importance of Being Earnest (drag and all). 

 

A superb reading of one of Agatha Christie's very best mysteries and one of my all-time favorite books.  Bravo, Mr. Suchet!

 

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The Twelve Tasks of the Festive Season -- Task the Second: The Silent Nights; and Task the Third: The Holiday Party


 

Task the Second: The Silent Nights:

- Get your hygge on! Put on your fuzziest socks, light a candle, and spend some time (reading) in front of the fireplace or your coziest nook. Post a picture if you want!

 

And:

 

Task the Third: The Holiday Party:

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

 

Sofa, pillows, favorite blanket, favorite black velvet slippers, favorite childhood dinner and a mug of spicy chocolate tea, volume 3 of the audio collection of Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey / Maturin cycle on my living room speakers, with Rex Stout's And Four to Go (4 short stories, 3 of these involving holiday celebrations) to be finished later ... I'd say that should count as two birds (tasks) with one, err, shot, shouldn't it?

 

 

Images Speak Louder Than Words

... they do, they really do.  This one just feels so perfect -- to me, right now, anyway, and not only in light of yesterday's election results, either.

 

nature-31

 

And no, it's not my photo -- though I dearly wish it were.  It's a pro's, and visitors of their blog are not only encouraged to share their favorite among a group of photos; they may even end up owning a canvas print version thereof.

 

I'm not just posting the image here to fulfill the conditions of the photographer's Christmas Giveaway, however.  To me, it comes as the perfect visual response to Grim's "Ray of Light" post -- the blazing light of the sun breaking through a mass of dark, sharp-edged blades (never mind that those are actually leaves and it's only the photographer's art that makes them look this way in the first place).  A symbol of hope, as only bright light can be, almost archetypal in its language.  And lest I go on waxing poetically, I'll shut up now ... Anyway, I really, really wanted to share this image, and I'm very glad I'm officially allowed to do so.

Light for our darkest hour...

 

I'm too numb to really comment on the election results right now. 

 

We'll move forward as individuals and as a country, because there's nothing else we can do.   My personal faith and spirituality believes in calling out what's wrong when I see it, and acting when I can.  I did.  I voted.   I encouraged others to vote. 

 

I'll continue to call out Trump when he's a racist, sexist asshole.   With small hands.   Tiny hands.  (I'm curious to see what the tipping point is; when do I get the pictures with the hands circled going 'SEE, NOT SO SMALL!!!!1!!!')

 

I didn't think we'd survive Bush Jr and we did.   I didn't think I'd survive a lot of things, and I did.   

 

We'll take one step at a time, when we're ready.   I'm trying to see a bright side, but it's dismally dark right now.   I keep chanting that there'll be peace at the end, which isn't a comment about the end of Trump's reign.   In the end, at my end, I've finally come to believe that there'll be peace, which may sound morbid, but as a mantra has helped me keep calm.  

 

Even as the numbness wears off, even as depression leads to my faith in humanity being slowly peeled away, I'm starting to settle into a deep, dark resignation: I will deal with this because I have to. 

 

But just to let so much of America know, I'm disappointed.   You've allowed racism and sexism and misogyny to win.   You've done so because you believe the swagger of a narcissistic man, and you've done so because you believe he cares about you at all.  I believe that man is incapable about caring about anyone but himself: iI believe if he cares at all for his children, it's because he sees them as extensions of himself. I believe if he cares for his wife, it's because she's a trophy.   

 

But Trump is only the tip of the iceberg.   Even if he were to go underground, never to be seen from again, his supporters believe in his brand of racism and sexism.   That scares me more than anything else.  What a long road humanity has ahead of it, I can see that more clearly than ever now. 

 

I hope that those who believe in dignity and kindness share that belief, because all we can do is use our own inner light to help spark that light in others.   I was afraid last night that this news would come to pass and it would snuff out my inner light: my hope, my belief in others, my love and my happiness.   But it shines brighter now, because it has to shine on.  It has to be able to make a difference.   

 

It has to be able to spark in someone else, too.   So to everyone who sees how ugly this is, I ask that you take time today to tend to yourselves.   Preserve that light, that goodness, that happiness and love.   Find someone who you believe in and cling to them.   Find something you believe in and focus on that.  Tend to yourselves, make your light shine brighter, and try to spark happiness and peace within others.   We all need that comfort right now, and others will need our light soon enough.   Tend to it, spark it, make it grow brighter, make it fierce, make it blinding.  Do it because no one else can, not without your effort and consent. 

 

Love one each other.  Love the world.  Love when it's the hardest, because it's not the hate outside that defines you.  It's everything inside, and so love because there's so much hate out there already. 

 

Don't do it for me.   Do it for yourself.  Just love.   Just shine. 

 

And I'm sorry: I'm getting preachy and weepy, and kinda all woo.  But I need this to hold onto for myself right now and it feels better putting it down in words.  I hope it helps anyone else who needs this. 

 

If you need to talk, I'll be working this morning, but you can reach me here, PM me or e-mail me.   I'll get back to you as soon as I can.

 

I love you all.   I'll be reading comics today to tend to myself.  After work and maybe cleaning up some leaves in the backyard.   Because life still goes on and love still goes on and I still go on, and I need this right now.

 

Reblogged from Grimlock ♥ Vision

Reading progress update: I've read 249 out of 928 pages.

Merlin Trilogy - Mary Stewart The Crystal Cave - Mary Stewart

 

(Note: the page number is for the trilogy's omnibus edition, which is the book I'm actually reading.)

 

"Thanks" to having contracted some sort of cold or flu bug and having been out of commission for pretty much all other purposes over the weekend, I've progressed fairly well with this book -- well there has to be at least one upside to fever, perpetually running nose and clinging headache, I suppose.

 

Anyway, I'm enjoying this enormously, and I'm so glad I joined this buddy read, so a big thank you to Moonlight Reader for setting this up!

 

I confess I'm not, or perhaps just "not yet" reading Merlin as the same person as the old wizard known from most other incarnations of the Arthurian saga, though.  It actually struck me, especially in Part 1, how similar this trilogy's young Merlin is to the young Arthur of some of the other narratives -- a misfit and a loner, the kid that nobody really knows where and how to place him, entirely too bright for his own good, and intensely interested in books and learning (even though that doesn't mean he wants to be shut up behind the walls of a monastery),

 

And in Parts 3 and 4 we're now getting the one thing that I sorely miss in accounts like T.H. White's Once and Future King, great series though that is in all other respects ... a glimpse of our hero's coming of age and (with apologies to James Joyce) a Portrait Our Hero as a Young Man.  So, yey for that, too!  The magic stuff starts when he's still a boy, but he's learning more about his own magical powers as we go along now, too, as well as how to deal with other people's expectations of him (well, that's bound to happen, I suppose, especially looking at Stewart's source material and the story -- or throw-away line -- that she herself says inspired the whole trilogy).

 

A great read so far, in any event; here's hoping it's going to continue this way!

 

I'm reading this book both for the Merlin Trilogy Buddy Read and for The Twelf Tasks of the Festive Season (Task the Twelfth: The Wassail Bowl).

 

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SPOILER ALERT!

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 (The Heirloom Collection) - Bill & Martin Greenberg (eds.),  Ian Fleming,  Leslie Charteris,  John D. MacDonald,  W. Somerset Maugham,  Peter O'Donnell,  Sir Arthur Conan Doyle,  Erle Stanley Gardner,  John Jakes,  Edward D. Hoch,  Cornell Woolrich,  William E. Barrett,  Bruce Cassiday,  Mic
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.

(show spoiler)

 

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.

 

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 (The Heirloom Collection) - Bill & Martin Greenberg (eds.),  Ian Fleming,  Leslie Charteris,  John D. MacDonald,  W. Somerset Maugham,  Peter O'Donnell,  Sir Arthur Conan Doyle,  Erle Stanley Gardner,  John Jakes,  Edward D. Hoch,  Cornell Woolrich,  William E. Barrett,  Bruce Cassiday,  Mic 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!

 

Holly Has Found Herself a New Bed ...

 

 

... and thus it was that a movers' box, the most temporary of items, has now become a fixture in my living room.  Well, at least as long as it's in use as a kitty bed.

 

Cats and boxes.  I tell ya' ...!

The Twelve Tasks of the Festive Season -- TA's Reading List (& Matching Activities)

 

Thanks to Moonlight Reader and Obsidian Blue for hosting yet another great game ... this looks like so much fun (again)! -- I'm probably going to try pairing activities and reads whenever possible, so I'm going to include all the activities in my list below, too, in addition to my reading choices:

 

 

Task the First: The Winter Wonderland:

- Reading: 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.

 

Task the Second: The Silent Nights:

- Reading: A book set in one of the Nordic countries: Rose Tremain - Music and Silence, Kurt Aust - Das jüngste Gericht (The Last Judgment), or Åke Edwardson - Frozen Tracks

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

 

Task the Third: The Holiday Party:

- Reading: 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:

- Reading: A book that you either received as a gift or have given as a gift: Since my recent birthday presents were almost all books, something from my birthday haul -- most likely either Ilija Trojanow - Der Weltensammler (The Collector of Worlds), Edwidge Danticat - Claire of the Sea Light, Jim Butcher - The Aeronaut's Windlass, Val McDermid - Splinter the Silence, Michael Connelly - The Crossing or Ian Rankin - Even Dogs in the Wild ... all of these are books I'd been planning to read sometime soon anyway. I may also be using some of these for other tasks, though (see, e.g., "Kwanzaa" and "Hanukkah").

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

 

Task the Fifth: The Kwanzaa:

- Reading: A book written by an African-American author or set in an African country: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie - Half of a Yellow Sun, or possibly Ilija Trojanow - Der Weltensammler (The Collector of Worlds) (see also "gift card").

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

 

Task the Sixth: The Hanukkah:

- Reading: Let the dreidel choose a book for you (note: I'm going to spin the dreidel when I'm actually getting ready to do this task):

   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 (see also "gift card")

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

- Activity: Make a traditional Hanukkah food like doughnuts or potato latkes. Post a picture, or tell us how they turned out.

 

Task the Seventh: The Christmas:

- Reading: 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. Possibly also a cat.

 

Task the Eighth: The Movie Ticket:

- Reading: A book that has been adapted to a holiday movie: Frances Hodgson Burnett - Little Lord Fauntleroy (The screen adaptation starring Alec Guinness and Ricky Schroder is one of the Christmas staples on German TV.)

- 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:

- Reading: (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 Tenth: The Holiday Down Under:

- Reading: A book set in Australia or by an Australian author (or a book you would consider a "beach read"): Thomas Keneally - Office of Innocence, Kerry Greenwood - Miss Phryne Fisher Investigates, or Peter Temple - Bad Debts

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

 

Task the Eleventh: The Polar Express:

- Reading: A book that involves train travel: Martha Grimes - The Train Now Departing, or Agatha Christie - Murder on the Orient Express or The Mystery of the Blue Train

- Activity: Read a classic holiday book from your childhood, or tell a story about a childhood Christmas you'd like to share.

 

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.

 

 

 

 

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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Black Cat Productions Presents: Bingos No. 12 & 13 and BINGO BLACK OUT!

 

 

 

This has been enormously great fun; thanks to Moonlight Reader and Obsidian Blue for putting this together and hosting it!  I've loved following everybody's reads – still sorry RL duties made me bow out for 2+ weeks smack in the middle of it all.  Most of my selections turned out to be enjoyable, many even great reads, and as a bonus I've discovered two new favorite series (James D. Doss's Charlie Moon series and Peter May's Lewis crime novels) and a new favorite character in an already-loved series (Angua, in the Night Watch subseries of Terry Pratchett's Discworld).

 

 

The Books:

Read by Candlelight or Flashlight – E.T.A. Hoffmann: Das Fräulein von Scuderi (Mademoiselle de Scuderi
=>  Bingos No. 1, No. 5, No. 6 & No. 12

Magical Realism – Isabel Allende: La casa de los espíritus (The House of the Spirits
=>  Bingos No. 6 & No. 11

Witches – Terry Pratchett / Neil Gaiman: Good Omens 
=>  Bingos No. 3No. 6

Genre: Horror – Mary Shelley: Frankenstein 
=>  Bingos No. 6 & No. 8

Black Cat – Frances & Richard Lockridge: The Norths Meet Murder 
=>  Bingos No. 4, No. 5No. 6 & No. 9

Diverse Authors Can Be Spooky Fun – Sherman Alexie: Reservation Blues 
=> Bingos No. 10 & No. 12

Ghost Stories and Haunted Houses – Henry James: The Turn of the Screw 
=> Bingos No. 1, No. 10 & No. 11

Young Adult Horror – Oscar Wilde: The Canterville Ghost 
=>  Bingos No. 3 & No. 10

Scary Women (Authors) – Daphne Du Maurier: Jamaica Inn 
=>  Bingos No. 4, No. 8 & No. 10

Reads with BookLikes Friends – Arthur Conan Doyle: The Hound of the Baskervilles 
=>  Bingos No. 9 & No. 10

Grave or Graveyard – Bram Stoker: Dracula & Edgar Allan Poe: The Cask of Amontillado 
=>  Final Bingo Square: Bingos No. 12 & No. 13

Genre: Mystery – Peter May: The Blackhouse 
=>  Bingos No. 11 & No. 13

Free Space – Dashiell Hammett: The Dain Curse 
=>  Bingos No. 1, No. 3, No. 4,  No. 5 & No. 13

Gothic – Horrace Walpole: The Castle of Otranto 
=>  Bingos No. 8 & No. 13

Creepy Crawlies – Arthur Conan Doyle: The Adventure of the Speckled Band 
=>  Bingos No. 9 & No. 13

"Fall" into a Good Book – Edgar Allan Poe: The Fall of the House of Usher 
=> Bingos No. 7 & No. 12

Locked Room Mystery – Gaston Leroux: Le mystère de la chambre jaune (The Mystery of the Yellow Room
=>  Bingos No. 4, No. 7 & No. 11

It Was a Dark and Stormy Night – Agatha Christie: And Then There Were None 
=>  Bingos No. 3 & No. 7

Set in New England – Shirley Jackson: The Lottery 
=>  Bingos No. 1, No. 7 & No. 8

Full Moon – James D. Doss: White Shell Woman 
=>  Bingos No. 7 & No. 9

Vampires vs. Werewolves – Terry Pratchett: Feet of Clay 
=>  Bingos No. 2, No. 4, No. 5 & No. 12

Supernatural – Arthur Conan Doyle: The Sussex Vampire 
=>  Bingos No. 2 & No. 11

Classic Horror – E.T.A. Hoffmann: Der Sandmann (The Sandman
=>  Bingos No. 2 & No. 3

Pumpkin – Washington Irving: The Legend of Sleepy Hollow 
=>  Bingos No. 2 & No. 8

Set on Halloween – Agatha Christie: Hallowe'en Party 
=>  Bingos No. 1, No. 2, No. 5 & No. 9

 

SPOILER ALERT!

Final Bingo Square: Grave or Graveyard

Dracula - Bram Stoker, David Suchet, Tom Hiddleston The Cask of Amontillado - Edgar Allan Poe

Changed my mind (yet again) and switched books for my final bingo square, as I'm not sure I'll be in much of a mind to finish my previous choice for "Grave or Graveyard," Umberto Eco's Cemetery of Prague.

 

So I switched to the 2016 BBC audio adaptation of Dracula, starring David Suchet in the title role and Tom Hiddleston as Jonathan Harker; combined for good measure with Edgar Allan Poe's Cask of Amontillado: Dracula for the crucial Whitby graveyard scenes (and the fact that Whitby Abbey actually inspired the whole novel, which has drawn the goth scene to the town, which in turn has given rise to plans for a mock Whitby graveyard so as to restore some respect to the real place); and The Cask of Amontillado for the fact that ... well, one ironically-named Fortunato does end up in a grave of a very particular sort at the end of the kind of story only Poe could have come up with.

 

The Dracula adaptation is an abridged one; David Suchet makes for a great Dracula, but not all of the book's profoundly somber atmosphere translates well here – I couldn't help being reminded of some of the camp movie additions of yesteryear.

 

Poe's Cask of Amontillado OTOH is one of my favorite short stories (by Poe, as well as overall); it's a concise, perfectly-executed piece of mounting tension and dread, laced with irony and merciless resolve.

 

Anyway, so that concludes my bingo reads – wrap-up post coming separately.  Thanks to Moonlight Murder and Obsidian Blue ... I've had a blast!

 

Whitby Abbey and Graveyard (photos mine)

SPOILER ALERT!

Halloween Book Bingo 2016: Eleventh Update and BINGO No. 11

The Blackhouse - Peter  May The Prague Cemetery - Umberto Eco

 

Home stretch – 24 books down, 1 to go!

 

 

Bingo No. 11 – the Books:

Magical Realism – Isabel Allende: La casa de los espíritus (The House of the Spirits)

Isabel Allende's breakout success and still one of my favorite novels by her (surpassed only by Of Love and Shadows): A multigenerational allegory on the story of her native Chile – seen through the eyes of the novel's female protagonists, the women of the Trueba clan; particularly the paranormally gifted Clara, as well as the Patrón, Don Esteban Trueba (Clara's husband and the father and grandfather of their daughter Blanca and granddaughter Alba) – and at the same time, Allende's attempt to come to terms with her own family's involvement in Chile's history.  A gorgeously lyrical narrative, as expansive as the plains surrounding the Trueba estate of Tres Marías; at times harsh, at other times, delicate, and a paen to the will to survive and to live exhibited by the Trueba women in the face of all adversity.  Of all books labeled as exponents of magical realism, to me this one, alongside Gabriel García Márquez's Love in the Time of Cholera, is the quintessential magical realist novel.

 

 

Ghost Stories and Haunted Houses – Henry James: The Turn of the Screw  

A perfectly-timed, profoundly unnerving fireside tale of a young governess's experiences on her very first job, guarding two children – a boy of ten and a girl of eight – who appear charming and innocent initially, but are slowly and bit by bit revealed to be possessed by the evils spirits of their former governess and her paramour, the household's former manservant.  By Henry James's standards rather short and concise (even in its language), and all the more memorable for its blend of succinct language and masterfully crafted, eery atmosphere.

 

 

Genre: Mystery – Peter May: The Blackhouse

Book 1 of May's Lewis Trilogy; a darkly atmospheric tale of childhood ghosts rearing their ugly heads to bring down the lives of a group of former schoolmates some 30+ years later; set on the northern end of the largest and northernmost of Scotland's Outer Hebrides islands, the Isle of Lewis.  May does an excellent job of bringing to life both the starkness of the Lewis landscape and nature and its dramatic coastline, and the inner demons haunting his protagonist (DI Fin Macleod, on secondment from Edinburgh CID because a recent murder on Lewis bears hallmark similarities to a case he's working on in Edinburgh) and Fin's former schoolmates, one of whom – a much-feared bully – turns out to be the victim of this latest murder.

 

The story is told in the third person when moving in the present and in the first person when revisiting Fin's and his schoolmates' past; something I ordinarily don't much care for and which almost threw me at the beginning of the book.  But here I stopped minding less than halfway through the narrative, and I'll admit that it did provide for a clear line of distinction between past and present.

 

Warning: The story's central episode revolves around the annual trip that a group of Lewis men take to a rock/island some 40+ miles north of Lewis in the North Atlantic named Sula Sgeir (or An Sgeir, as it's referred to here) to hunt and kill a total of 2,000 gannet chicks (locally known as gugas).  The killing and curing of the gugas is described in unflinching detail, which animal lovers may find disturbing (I know I did): my feeling is that the author wants readers to experience revulsion for the hunt while also exploring the mindset of the hunters and the place which the hunt occupies in local society today ... in addition to which, as I said, the An Sgeir trip operates as the major catatlyst in the book's narrative arc.

 



 Northern Isle of Lewis (photos mine)

 

 

Isle of Lewis: The Standing Stones of Calanais (Callanish) (photos mine)

 


Sula Sgeir (images from Wikipedia)

 

File:Northern Gannet juvenile RWD.jpgFile:Northern Gannet juvenile RWD4.jpg
Young gannets (gugas) (images from Wikipedia)

 

 

Locked Room Mystery – Gaston Leroux: Le mystère de la chambre jaune (The Mystery of the Yellow Room)

https://themoviemayor.files.wordpress.com/2013/06/3-5-star-rating2.jpg

This book is billed as the first-ever locked room mystery, which isn't entirely correct, as by the time it was published (1907), there already were several very well-known mysteries relying on the same feature (Edgar Allan Poe's Murders in the Rue Morgue, as well as Arthur Conan Doyle's Sign of Four and The Speckled Band (see below)), even though their solutions are different than this book's.  The Murders in the Rue Morgue and The Speckled Band are, interestingly, expressly referenced here, and it is quite obvious that Leroux was a huge admirer of Sherlock Holmes and his creator, to the point that I couldn't make up my mind to the very end to what extent he was copycatting and to what extent he was paying hommage.  By and large it's an enjoyable read, though, and I can well believe that the book's contemporaneous readership considered it a novelty and was seriously wowed by its solution.  (Side note: Grammar nuts reading this in French will have the rare joy of finding the chief narrative tense to be the first person plural passé simple, which greatly added to my personal reading pleasure.)

 

 

Supernatural – Arthur Conan Doyle: The Sussex Vampire

 Sherlock Holmes receives an urgent request for help and advice from a former acquaintance of Dr. Watson's, who, having recently returned from an extended business-related stay in Peru (from where he has also imported his new wife) has been shocked into believing he has married a vampire, upon finding his wife sucking the neck of their newborn son – with a pinprick mark on the baby's neck and traces of fresh blood on his wife's lips providing seemingly undeniable evidence as to the lady's actions.  Sherlock Holmes, of course, derides the belief in vampires as "pure lunacy," insists that "[t]his agency stands flat-footed upon the ground, and there it must remain.  The world is big enough for us. No ghosts need apply" – and proceeds too demonstate, applying his trademark reasoning, that there is a perfectly logical (though rather tragic) explanation for the things that his client has witnessed.

 

 

 

 

 

 Currently Reading:

 The Prague Cemetery - Umberto Eco

 

 

Finished – Update 1:

 

Creepy Crawlies – Arthur Conan Doyle: The Adventure of the Speckled Band
Supernatural – Arthur Conan Doyle: The Sussex Vampire
Set in New England – Shirley Jackson: The Lottery

 

 

Finished – Update 2:

The Turn of the 

Screw - Henry James Das Fräulein von Scuderi: Erzählung 

aus dem Zeitalter Ludwig des Vierzehnten - E.T.A. Hoffmann

Ghost Stories and Haunted Houses – Henry James: The Turn of the Screw
Read by Candlelight or Flashlight – E.T.A. Hoffmann: Das Fräulein von Scuderi (Mademoiselle de Scuderi)
(read by flashlight, in bed)

 

 

Finished – Update 3:

The 

Canterville Ghost - Oscar Wilde, Inga Moore  The Legend of Sleepy Hollow - Washington Irving
 
Young Adult Horror –
Oscar Wilde: The Canterville Ghost
Pumpkin –
Washington Irving: The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

 

 

Finished – Update 4:

The Dain 

Curse - Dashiell Hammett Hallowe'en Party - Agatha Christie

Free Space – Dashiell Hammett: The Dain Curse
Set on Halloween – Agatha Christie: Hallowe'en Party (novel)

 

 

Finished – Update 5:

  Der Sandmann - Ernst 

Theodor Amadeus Hoffmann

Scary Women (Authors) – Daphne Du Maurier: Jamaica Inn
Classic Horror – E.T.A. Hoffmann: Der Sandmann (The Sandman)

 

 

Finished – Update 6:

Le 

mystère de la chambre jaune - Gaston Leroux
Locked Room Mystery – Gaston Leroux: Le mystère de la chambre jaune (The Mystery of the Yellow Room)

 

 

Finished Update 7:

Feet of 

Clay (Discworld, #19) - Terry Pratchett 
Vampires vs. Werewolves – Terry Pratchett: Feet of Clay (Night Watch novel)

 

 

Finished – Update 8:

Good Omens - 

Terry Pratchett, Neil GaimanGood Omens: The BBC Radio 4 dramatisation - Terry 

Pratchett, Neil GaimanAnd Then There Were None - Agatha ChristieThe Norths Meet 

Murder (The Mr. and Mrs. North Mysteries) - Frances Lockridge, Richard Lockridge

Witches – Terry Pratchett / Neil Gaiman: Good Omens
Black Cat – Frances & Richard Lockridge: The Norths Meet Murder
It Was a Dark and Stormy Night – Agatha Christie: And Then There Were None

 

 

Finished – Update 9:

La casa de los espíritus - Isabel AllendeFrankenstein - Mary ShelleyThe Hound of the Baskervilles - Arthur Conan Doyle, Anne Perry

Magical Realism – Isabel Allende: La casa de los espíritus (The House of the Spirits)
Genre: Horror – Mary Shelley: Frankenstein
Reads with BookLikes Friends – Arthur Conan Doyle: The Hound of the Baskervilles

The Castle of Otranto - Michael Gamer, Horace WalpoleThe Fall of the House of Usher - Edgar Allan PoeWhite 

Shell Woman: A Charlie Moon Mystery (Charlie Moon Mysteries) - James D. Doss


Gothic – Horrace Walpole: The Castle of Otranto 
"Fall" into a Good Book – Edgar Allan Poe: The Fall of the House of Usher

Full Moon – James D. Doss: White Shell Woman

 

 

Finished – Update 10:

Reservation Blues - Sherman Alexie
Diverse Authors Can Be Spooky Fun – Sherman Alexie: Reservation Blues

 

 

Finished – Update 11:

 The Blackhouse - Peter May
Genre: Mystery – Peter May: The Blackhouse

 

 

TA's Reading List:

Read by Candlelight or Flashlight – E.T.A. Hoffmann: Das Fräulein von Scuderi (Mademoiselle de Scuderi) (novella)

Magical Realism – Isabel Allende: La casa de los espíritus (The House of the Spirits) (novel)

Witches – Terry Pratchett: Wyrd Sisters (or possibly Terry Pratchett / Neil Gaiman: Good Omens (novel)

Genre: Horror – Edgar Allan Poe: The System of Dr. Tarr and Professor Fether (short story); alternately E.A. Poe: The Tell-Tale Heart or The Masque of the Red Death (also short stories). Change of plan: Mary Shelley: Frankenstein.

Black CatNgaio Marsh: Black as He's Painted (novel) (black cat central to the story and therefore also black cat on the cover of the stand-alone paperback edition) change of plan: Frances & Richard Lockridge: The Norths Meet Murder (novel)

Diverse Authors Can Be Spooky Fun – Possibly Edwidge Danticat (ed.): Haiti Noir (short story anthology); otherwise TBD Settled on: Sherman Alexie: Reservation Blues.

Ghost Stories and Haunted Houses – Henry James: The Turn of the Screw (novella)

Young adult horror – Oscar Wilde: The Canterville Ghost (novella)

Scary Women (Authors) – Daphne Du Maurier: Jamaica Inn (novel)

Reads with BookLikes Friends – Arthur Conan Doyle: The Hound of the Baskervilles (novel)

Grave or Graveyard – Edgar Allan Poe: The Cask of Amontillado (short story); alternately Ngaio Marsh: Grave Mistake (novel) or Umberto Eco: The Prague Cemetery

Genre: Mystery – Peter May: The Blackhouse (novel)

Free Space – Dashiell Hammett: The Dain Curse

Gothic – Horrace Walpole: The Castle of Otranto (novel)

Creepy Crawlies – Arthur Conan Doyle: The Adventure of the Speckled Band (short story)

"Fall" into a Good Book – Edgar Allan Poe: The Fall of the House of Usher (short story)

Locked Room Mystery – Gaston Leroux: Le mystère de la chambre jaune (The Mystery of the Yellow Room) (novel)

It Was a Dark and Stormy Night – Agatha Christie: And Then There Were None (novel)

Set in New England – Shirley Jackson: The Lottery (short story)

Full Moon – James D. Doss: White Shell Woman (novel) (full moon on the cover, and the protagonist / investigator is called Charlie Moon); alternately Dennis Lehane: Moonlight Mile

Vampires vs. Werewolves – Terry Pratchett: Feet of Clay (Night Watch novel)

Supernatural – Arthur Conan Doyle: The Sussex Vampire (short story)

Classic Horror – E.T.A. Hoffmann: Der Sandmann (The Sandman) (short story)

Pumpkin – Washington Irving: The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (short story)

Set on Halloween – Agatha Christie: Hallowe'en Party (novel)

Starting November 1, 2016

Don't forget that we are beginning the Mary Stewart Merlin readalong on

November 1st!

 

Start acquiring your books now so you are ready to read!

 

Reblogged from Moonlight Reader