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Thomas McNamee, Bob Reed
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The Inner Life of Cats: The Science and Secrets of Our Mysterious Feline Companions
Thomas McNamee
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Arthur Conan Doyle, Stephen Fry
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Wilkie Collins
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Mary Stewart
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Arthur Conan Doyle

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Reading progress update: I've read 100% -- of yet another overhyped book.

The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs: A New History of a Lost World - Stephen Brusatte, Patrick Lawlor The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs: A New History of a Lost World - Stephen Brusatte

He redeemed himself a bit with the nonfiction part of the T-Rex chapter, but man, that narrative tone and his "I'm the greatest thing since sliced bread and I'm best buddies with all the cool kids in paleontology (even the long-dead ones)" attitude seriously grated pretty much from page 1 to literally the last words of the book.


Also, pro writing tip, Mr., um, Dr. Brusatte: If you seriously think it's a good idea to begin a chapter with a dramatic, pseudo-fictionalized scene involving T-Rex and a bunch of other dinosaurs, and you're telling it from the POV of one of those other dinosaurs, you'll want to avoid describing T-Rex as "a monster bigger than a city bus".  Because I'm pretty sure a dinosaur would have had no idea what a city bus was going to be looking like some 66+ million earth years after the extinction of its own species.  It's all about narrative perspective, you see ...


Oh, well.  Next!


Read for the Flat Book Society and the New Year's Eve square of the 24 Tasks of the Festive Season.



24 Festive Tasks: Door 2 - Guy Fawkes Night, Task 2 (Book-Related Crimes)


24 Festive Tasks: Door 3 - Melbourne Cup Day, Task 2 (Hats)

As a general rule, I don't do hats ... or caps, or any other kind of headgear.  The sole (occasional) exception being this cap, which I still own and occasionally wear -- the photo is 15+ years old, though.


And purely in an incidental capacity I offer you these, seen in an Edinburgh shop window a few years ago:



24 Festive Tasks: Door 3 - Melbourne Cup Day, Task 4 (Riding Tournament)

The very first equestrian tournament I ever went to as a kid was the Hamburg Derby (see 2019 trailer here), which because of its unusual course and individual elements is considered the world's most difficult jumping competition -- it's really almost a blend of a cross country and a "standard" show jumping course.  My maternal uncle and his family were living in Hamburg at the time, and as his kids and I were all avid riders, they offered us this as a treat once when we were visiting.  My mom let me roam all over the competition grounds -- ah, these were the days when such a thing was still possible ... -- as a result of which I not only had an absolute blast watching and exploring every little nook, cranny and detail (not to mention sneaking in for a close-up seat right above the edge of the course in the main competition) but also came back with my program signed by every guy (and lady) in riding attire that I'd come across, regardless whether I recognized their faces or I didn't ... and only later, when I returned home, realized that I'd collected the signatures of a sizeable contingent of the famous riders of the era.  That program went on to be one of my greatest childhood treasures, and I'm pretty sure it still exists today, in one of the boxes containing my things in my mom's basement.  I don't have any photos from back then, but the memories are indelibly burned into my brain.


Over the years I've visited other tournaments and I also lived down the road from Berlin's trotting race course for a while -- unfortunately, almost all of the photos I took there are lost.  I now live only about an hour's drive from Germany's other major international show jumping, dressage and cross country tournament, however, the CHIO Aachen, and I can at least offer a few photos I took there a few years ago:



Winners' Parade (dressage and jumping):

... and ...

War Horse -- the original model.

24 Festive Tasks: Door 2 - Guy Fawkes Night, Task 4 (non-explosive "Gunpowder" Book Titles)

Gunpowder Green - Laura Childs Gunpowder Tea - Margaret Brownley The Gunpowder Gardens - Jason Goodwin Gunpowder: Explosive flavours from modern India - Devina Seth, Harneet Baweja, Nirmal Save Gunpowder Valentine: New and Selected Poems - Paul Perry, Siobhan Campbell Gunpowder Summers - Richard Nester

* Gunpowder Green is part of Laura Childs's Tea Shop Mystery series, in which each installment is named for a particular kind of tea.

* Gunpowder Tea by Margaret Brownley is a historical / Western romance-plus-mystery.

* The Gunpowder Gardens by Jason Goodwin is part travelogue, part tea history.

* Gunpowder by Devina Seth, Harneet Baweja and Nirmal Save is an Indian cookbook.

* Gunpowder Valentine by Paul Perry and Gunpowder Summers by Richard Nester are collections of poetry.


24 Festive Tasks: Door 2 - Guy Fawkes Night, Task 3 (Favorite "Food Flambé" Recipe)

(Photo source)


My favorite dessert at a restaurant my mom and I used to like to go to when I was in high school -- they would prepare this at the table, individually for each person, so the recipe as we wrote it down one day is for one serving:


Vanilla Ice Cream with Flambé Cherries

Fry up (ideally in a copper pan if you have one) almond flakes (ca. 1 tablespoon) with enough sugar to lightly caramelize.  Add 1 teaspoon of butter, 1 cup of orange juice and the juice of 1/2 lemon.  Mix and briefly let sizzle.  Add 1 cup of cherries (preserved, but without their juice), mix again and let simmer (5 minutes max).  Douse with Grand Marnier or rum and set aflame; when the flames have burned off, add a dash of maraschino or amaretto.  Pour over vanilla ice cream and enjoy!


24 Festive Tasks: Door 1 - Día de los Muertos, Book

Miss Marple: The Complete Short Stories - Agatha Christie, Joan Hickson, Isla Blair, Anna Massey Miss Marple: The Complete Short Stories - Agatha Christie

Audio revisit courtesy of Joan Hickson (who reads almost all of the stories), as well as Isla Blair and Anna Massey (who read one story each). Original review of the print edition HERE


The audio is excellent and contains an extra (and somewhat sinister) "non-Miss-Marple" story, The Dressmaker's Doll -- the story narrated by Anna Massey -- which was first published in book form in Double Sin and Other Stories (U.S., 1961) and in Miss Marple's Final Cases (UK, 1979); the story of a doll that mysteriously appears one day in a dressmaker's shop and slowly seems to want to take it over.


24 Festive Tasks: Door 1 - Día de los Muertos, Task 3 (Book Altar)


Not exactly a tribute to my photography skills, but, geez, I finally need to make a start with the tasks for this game!  So, I hereby give you London's only consulting detective ... resting on the achievements of those who came before him (under the T-shirt altar cloth) and with a bunch of pastiche(-writer)s worshipping at his feet.

Reading progress update: I've read 25%.

Miss Marple: The Complete Short Stories - Agatha Christie, Joan Hickson, Isla Blair, Anna Massey Miss Marple: The Complete Short Stories - Agatha Christie

Revisiting, this time courtesy of the audio version narrated in turns by Joan Hickson, Isla Blair and Anna Massey, as my 24 Festsive Tasks / Día de los Muertos book.


Reading progress update: I've read 54%.

The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs: A New History of a Lost World - Stephen Brusatte, Patrick Lawlor The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs: A New History of a Lost World - Stephen Brusatte

Hmmm.  The science content is paleontology 101 (though the explanation of the factors that impacted the changes from one earth age to the next is quite accessible).  Only wiith regard to a few major species and subspecies do we get some sort of discussion of their basic attributes, strengths and weaknesses, however -- other creatures falling into the same bracket are basically name-dropped in as a lengthy list, without any discussion whatsoever.  Perhaps most importantly, though, this is another huge case of titular mislabelling -- this is about the author's own career, field trips, cooperation with other scientists, and about his personal heroes as well as the notable scientists of yesteryear, at least as much as it is about the dinosaurs themselves.  I'll finish it, but it's not anywhere near a five-star book.


Reading progress update: I've read 8%.

The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs: A New History of a Lost World - Stephen Brusatte, Patrick Lawlor The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs: A New History of a Lost World - Stephen Brusatte

Flat Book Society November read, and also my read for the New Year's Eve square in the 24 Festive Tasks game.


So far, it's sounding good -- at least you can tell the author is a scientist writing about the subject matter he's studied.  This makes me hopeful.


24 Festive Tasks: Door 1 - Día de los Muertos, Task 2 (Favorite Epitaph)

Task 2:  Share your favorite gravestone epitaph (you know you have one).


To a Shakespeare fan, there can be only one ...



Good friend for Jesus' sake forbeare,
To dig the dust enclosed here.
Blessed be the man that spares these stones,
And cursed be he that moves my bones.


(Photos mine.)


And yes, he wrote that one himself. Apparently he had a premonition just what might happen after his death ...


PSA: Upcoming Group Reads in November and December

The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs: A New History of a Lost World - Stephen Brusatte Hogfather (Discworld, #20) - Terry Pratchett The Light Fantastic - Terry Pratchett

Beginning November 1 (today):


Steve Brusatte, The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs -- Flat Book Society November group read.


This one also covers the "book" task requirements of the New Year's Eve square in the 24 Festive Tasks game (beginning and ending of a species, and if the comet gets any page space, also something that went "BOOM!").


It just might also cover the "book" task for another 24 Festive Tasks square -- more about this once that particular door is opened.



Beginning November 15:


Group read for the 24 Festive Tasks game.


We know a number of people are already planning to (re)read Terry Pratchett's Hogfather, which will of course cover the "book" task of the Hogswatch square.


We'd like to keep things open at this point, though, so if you have a different suggestion for the group read, please post it in the corresponding thread in the Bingo group: http://booklikes.com/thread/4499/24-tasks-of-the-festive-season-group-read


The group read book will be announced on Nov. 8 at the latest.




Beginning December 1:


Terry Pratchett, The Light Fantastic -- second Discworld group read.


This, too, will obviously cover the "book" task for the Hogswatch square in the 24 Festive Tasks game -- as well as for (at least) one other, yet to be revealed square.

24 Festive Tasks: Door 1 - Día de los Muertos (November 1)

And here is our calendar's very first opened door: Día de los Muertos!


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Día de los Muertos
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To learn more about this holiday, see our post from last year: http://jenn.booklikes.com/post/1613175/the-first-square-all-saints-day-dia-de-muertos-and-calan-gaeaf


Tasks and Book

Task 1:  Write a silly poem or limerick poking fun at the fiction character of your choice.

Task 2:  Share your favorite gravestone epitaph (you know you have one).

Task 3:  Create an altar (either digital or physical) for your favorite book, series, or book character, and post a picture of it.  Inclusion of book cover encouraged.

Task 4: If you like Mexican food, treat yourself to your favorite dish and share a photo of it.

Book:  Re-read an old favorite from a now-deceased author, a book from a finished (dead) series, or a book set in Mexico.


Remember, it only takes one of these to complete the square.  Completing additional tasks will, however, earn you extra points.

24 Festive Tasks: The Seven Final Holidays


As explained in this year's Rules / Mode of Play post, we're going to reveal the seven final holidays included in the card and the respective book tasks early on, so as to allow enough time to complete these books. 


The final holidays and book tasks are:


Winter Solstice / Yuletide (December 21): Read any book that takes place in December OR with ice or snow on the cover OR that revolves around the (summer or winter) equinox OR a collection of poetry by Hafez.


Festivus (December 23): Read any comedy, parody, or satire.


Christmas (December 25): Read any Christmas book.


Kwanzaa (December 26 - January 1): Read a book set in Africa or the Caribbean OR by an African, Caribbean, or African-American author OR a book with a green, red, or black cover.


New Year's Eve (December 31): Read a book about endings, new starts, or books where things go BOOM!


Hogswatch (December 32)*: Read anything by Terry Pratchett.


Epiphany (January 6): Read a book with three main characters OR a book about traveling on a journey to a faraway place OR a book that’s part of a trilogy OR with a star on the cover OR with the word “twelve” or “night” in the title OR or concerning kings or spices.


The non-book tasks for these seven holidays will be revealed on December 16, which is when we'll also be opening the corresponding doors on the calendar.  (Hey, we want to keep some element of suspense at least for these ...)


* Discworld calendar.

24 Festive Tasks: The Card and the Rules / Mode of Play

The King is dead -- long live the King!  Halloween Bingo may be over, but the fun and games on BookLikes sure aren't.


Eh voilà ... here's your playing card for this year's festive tasks game:



As in previous years, the game lasts from November 1 through December 31.


Like an Advent calendar, our festive calendar this year has 24 ”doors“, behind each of which hides the square for one particular holiday falling (with one exception) into the game period.  Some of these holidays you’ll recognize from last year’s game, some are new.


With each of the 24 holidays included in the festive calendar, one book reading task (typically, coming with several alternative choices) and four non-book tasks are associated: As in previous years, completing either the book task (in any of its alternative incarnations) or any of the non-book tasks suffices to complete that particular square / door.


Like in last year’s game, however, completing more than one task per square / holiday will earn you a corresponding number of extra points.  You can earn up to five points per holiday / square (1 for the book-related task and 4 for the non-book-related tasks).


As a general rule, we will be “opening” the festive calendar’s doors on the dates on which the respective holidays occur.  “Opening” a door will reveal the holiday hiding behind that door and the associated book and non-book tasks.  An exception will be made for the seven holidays at the end of the calendar period (after December 16), which we will be naming – and for which we will be revealing the associated book tasks – right at the beginning, so as to allow for sufficient time to complete those books.  The non-book tasks for the holidays occurring after December 16 will be revealed on December 16.


You have the option to replace up to two holiday-related tasks (for different holidays), either books or non-book tasks, by using the book joker card.  To use the book joker, read a book for any of the holidays on the card that are already unveiled at that time.


Finally, like last year, we will be using the number of total points accumulated by all participants as a basis for the amount we’ll ultimately donate, on behalf of the BookLikes community, to one or several book-related charities.


We'll be reposting the rules in the Bingo group and open a "Questions" thread -- if you do have questions, please post them there.  Thanks in advance!

(ETA: See thread here:



Let the games begin!!




P.S. -- IMPORTANT NOTE: If you intend to use an image of the playing card in your own posts, you're going to have to copy and save the image at the top of this post here


The "door opening" technique involves some fancy coding (all courtesy of MbD), which basically means that what is going to appear as one seamless card in our posts from now on is actually going to be a bunch of individual images all sitting snug right next to (and above and below) each other, so wherever you right-click on "copy", you're only going to be copying that particular fractional image.