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SheriC

Portable Magic

Reading, for me, is entertainment and an escape from the real world. But it can also inform and stretch the boundaries of the life I live.

Currently reading

The Light in the Ruins
Chris Bohjalian
Flowers for Algernon
Daniel Keyes
Progress: 289/311 pages

16 Festive Tasks: PM's Tracking Post #5

 

Marker Key:

 

Total Points: 19

 

Square 1: November 1st:

 

All Saints Day / Día de los Muertos

 

Calan Gaeaf

 

Square 2: November 5th:

 

Guy Fawkes Night (Bonfire Night/Fireworks Night)

 

Bon Om Touk (Cambodian Water Festival)

 

Square 3: November 11th:

 

St. Martin’s Day (11th)

 

Veterans’ Day / Armistice Day (11th)

 

Square 4: November 22nd and 23rd:

 

Penance Day (22nd)

 

Thanksgiving (23rd) 

  • In Progress: Light Joker Book: A Light in the Ruins by Chris Bojalian (audio)

 

Square 5: December 3rd and following 3 Sundays:

 

Advent

 

Square 6: December 5th-6th and 8th:

 

Sinterklaas / Krampusnacht (5th) / St. Nicholas Day (6th) 

 

Bodhi Day (8th)

 

Square 7: December 10th & 13th:

 

International Human Rights Day (10th)

 

St. Lucia’s Day (13th) 

 

Square 8: December 12th - 24th:

 

Hanukkah (begins 12th, ends 20th)

 

Las Posadas (begins 16th, ends 24th) 

 

Square 9: December 21st:

 

Winter Solstice / Yaldā Night

 

Mōdraniht

 

Yuletide

 

Square 10: December 21st:

 

World Peace Day

 

Pancha Ganapati begins (ends 25th)

 

Square 11: December 21st-22nd:

 

Soyal (21st)

 

Dōngzhì Festival (22nd) (China)

 

Square 12: December 23rd

 

Festivus

  • In Progress: Holiday Book Joker: Festivus: The Holiday for the Rest of Us by Allen Sarkin (ebook)

Saturnalia ends (begins 17th)

 

Square 13: December 25th

 

Christmas

 

Hogswatch

 

Square 14: December 25th

 

Dies Natalis Solis Invicti

 

Quaid-e-Azam’s Day

  • In Progress: Book: The Watcher: Jane Goodall’s Life with the Chimps by Jeanette Winter (ebook)

 

Square 15: December 25th-26th:

 

Newtonmas (25th)

 

St. Stephen's Day/Boxing Day (26th)

 

Square 16: December 26th-31st:

 

Kwanzaa (begins 26th, ends 31st)

 

New Year’s Eve / Hogmanay / St. Sylvester’s Day / Watch Night

 

Foxglove Summer ★★★★☆

Foxglove Summer: PC Peter Grant, Book 5 - Ben Aaronovitch, Kobna Holdbrook-Smith

More fun with my favorite apprentice wizard cop, this time out in Herefordshire on the border of Wales instead of in London, investigating the disappearance of two preteen girls. We get to meet a retired wizard cop and his weirdo granddaughter, and we have more – much, much more! – of Beverly, and we even get a teeny satisfying peek at what’s going on with Lesley. I can’t say I came away really understanding all the logic of what happened, but that’s probably because I was listening to the audio while distracted, and one of these days I’ll get around to re-reading these books and will take a more critical look at such things. For now, I’ll just say it was enormously entertaining.

 

Audiobook, via Audible, with another masterful performance by Kobna Holdbrook-Smith. I read this for The 16 Tasks of the Festive Season, square 14: Book themes for Dies Natalis Solis Invicti: Celebrate the sun and read a book that has a beach or seaside setting.  –OR– a book set during summertime. –OR– set in the Southern Hemisphere. This story is set in high summer, as we are constantly reminded of the oppressive heat (Are the West Midlands that much hotter than London?), and seasonal flora that are relevant to solving the mystery.

Ordinary People ★★★★★

Ordinary People - Judith Guest

I wish I had the skill to truly analyze what makes the difference between a book where the author tries to manipulate the reader’s emotions and only gets an “hmm how sad” from me, or worse, eyerolls, and a book that has me glued to the pages and leaking tears. All I know is that this is one of the latter.

 

In spite of a story that is almost all character, with almost all events taking place within those characters’ thoughts and emotions and in their interactions with one another, and in spite of a present-tense, stream of consciousness writing style that might have annoyed me in another author’s hands, this story of a family fragmenting and reforming in the aftermath of tragedy absorbed me completely and wrung my emotions inside out. It’s been a while since I had a good cry over a book, and it was deeply satisfying.

 

Vintage paperback, picked up from my public library’s gimme shelves, where they make unusable donated books and culled books available to the public in return for a suggested monetary donation.

 

I read this for The 16 Tasks of the Festive Season, square 4: Book themes for Penance Day: Read a book that has a monk, nun, pastor / preacher or priest as a protagonist, or where someone is struggling with feelings of guilt or with their conscience (regardless over what). In this book, members of a family are struggling with their sense of guilt or failed responsibility in the aftermath of tragedy

(Con over surviving when his stronger brother drowned and Cal over somehow failing his son when he attempted suicide).

(show spoiler)

 

The 13th Gift ★☆☆☆☆

The 13th Gift: A True Story About a Christmas Miracle - Joanne Smith

 

Ugh. Within about 5 minutes of listening to this audio, I could only wail Nooooooooooooooooooooo. I didn’t expect much from this one, so the bar was set pretty low. I expected a bit of light Christmas glurge, a memoir about a family dealing with the loss of a loved one, who found their Christmas spirit when their friends/neighbors/whatever got together to leave anonymous gifts to remind them of The Meaning of Christmas. Sounds like the perfect story to get you into the season, if you go into it without a cynical heart. I was even willing to overlook the amateur quality of the audio narration, because it’s a memoir read by the author. But I simply could not overlook its pushing my biggest button with respect to writing style, the dreaded First-Person-Present-Tense, further committing the egregious sin of mixing past tense inner monologue directly in with the present tense narration of story events. No. Nope. No way.

 

DNF at 5%. Ordinarily I wouldn’t rate a book after less than 20 minutes of audio time, but FPPT always gets a 1 star from me unless the writing and story are so fantastic that I don’t even notice it enough to be annoyed by it.  

 

Audiobook, borrowed from my public library, read by the author.

 

I was attempting to read this for The 16 Tasks of The Festive Season, square 4: Book themes for     Thanksgiving Day:  Books with a theme of coming together to help a community or family in need.  –OR– Books with a turkey or pumpkin on the cover. I don’t have any other books lined up for this task, so I might have to use my other Light Joker for it.

I Am Malala ★★★★★

I Am Malala - Malala Yousafzai

I was fascinated, horrified, and inspired by this story of Malala Yousafzai, the girl who was shot in the face by the Taliban for daring to insist upon the rights of girls to an education and to criticize the Taliban for their interpretation of Islamic law with respect to women and violence. It is also the story of her much-loved father, who instilled in her the love of learning, set an example of having the courage to stand up for his principles in the face of ignorance and violence, and supported her whole-heartedly in everything she did. And it is also the story of the rise of militant Islamic fundamentalism and the Taliban in Pakistan and her beloved Swat valley, who used the tactics of would-be dictators and religious fanatics everywhere, some of which were all too familiar here in the US.

 

This is the hardcover version, which I’ve had on my bookshelf for a couple of years, waiting on my TBR. I read it for The 16 Tasks of the Festive Season, square 10: Book themes for World Peace Day: Read a book by or about a Nobel Peace Prize winner, or about a protagonist (fictional or nonfictional) who has a reputation as a peacemaker. Malala Yousafzai is the youngest Nobel Prize laureate (in 2014 at age 17) for “her struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education”.

 

Previous Updates:

11/14/17 0/327 pg

I'm getting started with I Am Malala: The Story of the Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban, which can fit both Square 10: World Peace Day (Malala Yousafzai was a co-recipient for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014) and Square 14 Quaid-e-Azam (she is Pakistani and much of the book is about and takes place in Pakistan) for The 16 Tasks of the Festive Season. I haven't decided yet which square I'll use it for, since I don't have any alternatives for either yet. I don't have any books about any other Nobel Peace Prize winners, and my library has some unappealing options, mostly children's books. 

 

11/14/17 5/327 pg

We went to school six mornings a week, and as I was a fifteen-year-old in Year 9, my classes were spent chanting chemical equations or studying Urdu grammar, writing stories in English with morals like "haste makes waste" or drawing diagrams of blood circulation - most of my classmates wanted to be doctors. It's hard to imagine that anyone would see that as a threat.

 

11/17/17 125/327 pg

The description of how the Taliban took over the region, taking advantage of the people's anger and frustration with the legitimate government and winning their hearts through a combination of setting themselves up as the only source of truth, appealing to prejudices, and providing entertainment and charity - it's a little terrifying.

Broken Homes ★★★★☆

Broken Homes: A Rivers of London Novel - Ben Aaronovitch, Kobna Holdbrook-Smith

This installment in the Peter Grant series was so much fun and the plot twist at the end was so unexpected and exciting that I rushed right into the next book in the series, which wasn’t at all on my planned TBR list. And in my excitement, I originally put a 5 star rating on the book, but after further reflection am bringing it down to 4 stars, because there were a few problems with the story. It was a little discombobulated at first, with episodes so seemingly unconnected that I did have some trouble tying them all together at the end. I’m also, on reflection, a little unsure about The Faceless Man’s objective with the Skygarden Tower and its relation to the 

magic battery function

(show spoiler)

 that Peter has discovered. To be fair, it’s entirely possible that I missed some of this, because I was glued to the audio while also trying to run errands and finish shopping in anticipation of the Thanksgiving holiday demands this week – not the optimal kind of multitasking that lends itself well to catching clues and parsing complicated plot points. I suspect that, once I get caught up on the series on audio – because I have every intention of continuing to experience them through Kobna Holdbrook-Smith’s fabulous narration – I’ll probably pick up the text version and re-read them, to better immerse in the world-building and location details that can be missed on audio and a first read.

 

But I loved this book for all the same reasons that I’ve loved the others in the series – the interesting cast of characters, including some strong women of both good, evil, and in-between varieties, the strong sense of location, the fun magical world, and the humorous observations of both society and policing.

 

Audio, via Audible. As noted, Kobna Holdbrook-Smith’s performance is masterful.

 

I read this for The 16 Tasks of the Festive Season, Square 5: Book themes for Advent: Read a book with a wreath or with pines or fir trees on the cover –OR– Read the 4th book from a favorite series, or a book featuring 4 siblings. Broken Homes is the 4th book in the Peter Grant series. 

 

 

Previous Updates:

11/17/17 26%

The powers that be made a concerted effort to rid London of its working class. The city was rapidly losing its industry, and the large numbers of servants who were needed for the Edwardian households were being superseded by the technological wonders of the Age of White Goods. London just didn't need that many poor people anymore.

 

11/18/17 100%

On the audio side, I had to DNF My Brilliant Friend on Thursday because it was booooorrrrrinnnngggg and then I decided on Broken Homes for the Advent square and OH MY GOD that plot twist at the end made me spend another Audible credit so I could jump right into Foxglove Summer.

My Brilliant Friend ★★☆☆☆

My Brilliant Friend - Elena Ferrante, Ann Goldstein

I really wanted to like this, and stuck with it much longer than I ordinarily would have, hoping that at some point I would just fall into the story. It wasn't terrible, and it had moments of description or character that I enjoyed. But the story simply wasn't going anywhere, and the characters were not interesting enough to carry it along while waiting for some kind of plot to happen. DNF at 32%

 

Audiobook, borrowed from my public library. I don't know if it was the narrator's reading or the source material, but the audio performance contributed to my abandoning the book unfinished. Her voice just kept droning on and on, until I'd realize that my attention had wandered and I had to rewind. After almost 6 hours of listening, I just couldn't face another 12 of the same.

 

I was reading this for The 16 Festive Tasks square 7: International Human Rights Day: Read a book originally written in another language. I don't have another book lined up for this one. I might find a "Light Joker" to use instead.

 

Since I couldn't use this one for any of the squares, I decided to make my own square:

The Nine Lives of Christmas ★★☆☆☆

The Nine Lives of Christmas - Sheila Roberts

The premise for this story sounded adorable, and this really could have been a fun, light read. I can absolutely see this being made as a Hallmark movie. As both a Romance and as a Christmas story, it failed for me, though, and I don’t see any other reason for reading this book. As a Romance, it was full of those tired old tropes that are the worst representation of the genre, and the internal logic just didn’t hold up. Shy, sweet heroine who thinks she’s plain, even though she only needs new clothes and makeup to become a total hottie? Check! Handsome, hypermasculine hero who has been so hurt by women in the past that he’s a commitment-phobe who only dates unmarriageable women, but is secretly a sweet teddy-bear who only needs the Right Girl to teach him the value of True Love? Check! Slutty mean beautiful rich girlfriend to serve as the villainess to keep our lovebirds apart? Check!

 

I just couldn’t like either of our protagonists. The heroine is far too passive and so lacking in common sense logic that I just can’t buy that she’s smart enough to have been admitted to vet school. The hero literally only thinks of adult women as either “good-timing bimbos” or “nice girls you take to the altar”. Throughout the entire book, he only thinks of them with regards to what they can do for him, either sexually or as support systems.

 

 As a Christmas story, I suppose the message is about family togetherness? Because he’s forced by circumstances and basic common decency 

to take in his mother and stepsisters, so he has to finally listen when she talks to him, and forgives her?

(show spoiler)

Really, this is just set at Christmas time, so has the trappings of the season.

 

Audiobook, borrowed from my public library, with a very good performance by Kathleen McInerney. I read this for The 16 Tasks of the Festive Season square 2: Guy Fawkes Night: Any book about the English monarchy (any genre), political treason, political thrillers, or where fire is a major theme, or fire is on the cover. There is a fire in the fireplace on the cover art.

Howdy!

I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban - Christina Lamb,Malala Yousafzai  My Brilliant Friend - Elena Ferrante,Ann Goldstein  Broken Homes - Ben Aaronovitch  Foxglove Summer: A Rivers of London Novel - Ben Aaronovitch  

It looks like BL is back up and fully functional again, since I was able to post a comment on someone else's BL post. I'll try to catch up tomorrow, with my posts and with everyone else.

 

Right now I'm going to park in my reading chair with dogs in my lap and a nice glass of wine and a cheerful fire in the fireplace and try to finish I am Malala for the Quaid-e-Azam square (or the World Peace Day square, I haven't decided yet). On the audio side, I had to DNF My Brilliant Friend on Thursday because it was booooorrrrrinnnngggg and then I decided on Broken Homes for the Advent square and OH MY GOD that plot twist at the end made me spend another Audible credit so I could jump right into Foxglove Summer. Which I hadn't planned on but maybe I can use it for the Dies Natalis Solis Invicti reading task?

 

Quick Links: My 4-5 star read suggestions for The 16 Tasks of the Festive Season

In case anyone wants quick links to my suggestion posts for The 16 Tasks of the Festive Season squares:

Square 1

Square 2

Square 3

Square 4

Square 5 – Had no suggestions

Square 6

Square 7 & 8

Square 9

Square 10 & 11

Square 12, 13, & 14

Square 15

Square 16

Square 16 Suggestions for the 16 Festive Tasks

 

Last one! Here are my 4-5 star reads that fit Square 16 December 26th-31st:

 

Kwanzaa: Read a book written by an author of African descent or a book set in Africa

  • Maya Angelou Poetry Collection by Maya Angelou (audiobook, ISBN 0375420177, read by the author, gorgeous!)
  • The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey by Walter Mosley
  • The Good House by Tananarive Due
  • Letter to my Daughter by Maya Angelou
  • The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

 

Hogmanay / New year’s eve / Watch night / St. Sylvester’s Day: a book about starting over, rebuilding, new beginnings, etc.

  • The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty
  • The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
  • The Shining by Stephen King
  • North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell
  • Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

 

–OR– Read anything set in medieval times. –OR–  A book about the papacy –OR– where miracles of any sort are performed (the unexplainable - but good - kind).

  • The Talisman by Stephen King
  • A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens (audio by Jim Dale is the best!)
  • The Once and Future King by TH White

Square 15 Suggestions for the 16 Festive Tasks

 

Here are my 4-5 star reads that fit Square 15 December 25th-26th:

 

Newtonmas:  Any science book.  Any book about alchemy.  Any book where science, astronomy, or chemistry play a significant part in the plot.

  • The Alchemist and the Executioness by Paolo Bacigalupi, Tobias S. Buckell
  • Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital by Sheri Fink (the practice of medicine and considerations of pathophysiology in medical ethics play a significant role)
  • The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley (or any of the Flavia de Luce series - the audio with Jayne Entwistle is terrific)

 

Boxing Day/St. Stephen’s Day: Read anything where the main character has servants (paid servants count, NOT unpaid) or is working as a servant him-/ herself

  • The House at Riverton by Kate Morton
  • The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
  • A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett
  • The Shuttle by Frances Hodgson Burnett
  • The Fellowship of the Ring by JRR Tolkien (it’s never explicitly stated that Sam is paid, but I assume he didn’t “do for Mr Frodo” for free)
  • Books by Jane Austen: Pride and Prejudice; Emma; Sense and Sensibility
  • Books by Kate Morton: The House at Riverton, The Distant Hours, The Lake House
  • The Eyes of the Dragon by Stephen King
  • The Once and Future King by TH White
  • The Help by Kathryn Stockett
  • Cold-Hearted Rake by Lisa Kleypas

Squares 12, 13, & 14 Suggestions for the 16 Festive Tasks

  

 

Here are my 4-5 star reads that fit Square 12 December 23rd, Square 13 December 25th, and Square 14 December 25th:

 

Festivus: Read anything comedic; a parody, satire, etc

  • Any Discworld book by Terry Pratchett
  • Good Omens by Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman
  • Something Under the Bed is Drooling: A Calvin and Hobbes Collection by Bill Watterson
  • Weirdos from Another Planet!: A Calvin and Hobbes Collection by Bill Watterson
  • Fortunately, the Milk by Neil Gaiman

 

Saturnalia:  read any work of science fiction that takes place in space.

  • Fuzzy Nation by John Scalzi

 

Book themes for Christmas:  Read a book whose protagonist is called Mary, Joseph (or Jesus, if that’s a commonly used name in your culture) or any variations of those names (e.g., Maria or Pepe).

  • The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

 

Hogswatch Night: Of course - read Hogfather!  Or any Discworld book (or anything by Terry Pratchett)

  • Don't think I've rated any Discworld books less than 4 stars yet

 

Book themes for Dies Natalis Solis Invicti: Celebrate the sun and read a book that has a beach or seaside setting.  –OR– a book set during summertime. –OR– set in the Southern Hemisphere.

  • The Dry by Jane Harper
  • Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter
  • Lost Girls by Robert Kolker
  • The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald
  • The Drawing of the Three by Stephen King
  • The Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy

 

Quaid-e-Azam:  Pakistan became an independent nation when the British Raj ended on August 14, 1947. Read a book set in Pakistan or in any other country that attained sovereign statehood between August 14, 1947 and today

  • The Road to Jonestown: Jim Jones and Peoples Temple by Jeff Guinn (set in Guyana)

 

 

 

Squares 10 & 11 Suggestions for the 16 Festive Tasks

 

Here are my suggestions for Square 10 December 21st and Square 11 December 21st-22nd:

 

Book themes for World Peace Day: Read a book by or about a Nobel Peace Prize winner, or about a protagonist (fictional or nonfictional) who has a reputation as a peacemaker.

  • Night by Elie Wiesel

 

Pancha Ganapati: Read anything involving a need for forgiveness in the story line; a story about redemption

  • The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult
  • Perfect by Rachel Joyce
  • The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce
  • A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens (audio by Jim Dale is the best!)
  • Carrie by Stephen King
  • The Eyes of the Dragon by Stephen King
  • The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty
  • Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

 

Book themes for Soyal: Read a book set in the American Southwest / the Four Corners States (Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah), –OR– a book that has a Native American protagonist.

  • Appaloosa by Robert B Parker
  • Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry

 

Dōngzhì Festival: Read a book set in China or written by a Chinese author / an author of Chinese origin;

  • Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford

 

Square 9 Suggestions for the 16 Festive Tasks

Here are some suggestions from my 4-5 star reads for Square 9 December 21st:

Book themes for Winter Solstice and Yaldā Night:

Read a book of poetry

  • Journey Through Heartsongs by Mattie JT Stepanek
  • Maya Angelou Poetry Collection by Maya Angelou (audiobook, ISBN 0375420177, read by the author, gorgeous!)

 

-OR- a book where the events all take place during the course of one night, or

 

-OR- where the cover is a night-time scene.

  • Dark Matter by Michelle Paver
  • The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
  • The Tommyknockers by Stephen King
  • Winter’s Bone by Daniel Woodrell
  • Storm Front by Jim Butcher
  • Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt
  • Tinsel by Hank Stuever
  • The Good Nurse: A True Story of Medicine, Madness, and Murder by Charles Graeber
  • The Talisman by Stephen King and Peter Straub
  • The Graveyard Shift by Neil Gaiman
  • American Gods by Neil Gaiman
  • Nightmares & Dreamscapes by Stephen King
  • The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving

 

Book themes for Mōdraniht: Read any book where the MC is actively raising young children or teens.

  • The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty
  • After I'm Gone by Laura Lippman
  • One Plus One by Jojo Moyes
  • Defending Jacob by William Landay

 

Book themes for Yuletide: Read a book set in the midst of a snowy or icy winter, –OR– set in the Arctic or Antartica.

  • The Shining by Stephen King
  • Dark Matter by Michelle Paver
  • The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman
  • Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris (audio is a must on this one)

My Brilliant Friend - 11%

My Brilliant Friend - Elena Ferrante, Ann Goldstein

Children don't know the meaning of yesterday, of the day before yesterday, or even of tomorrow. Everything is This. Now. The street is This, the doorway is This, the stairs are This. This is Momma. This is Poppa. This is the day. This is the night. I was small, and really, my doll knew more than I did.