Moonlight Snow

Moonlight Snow

Halloween bingo 2018 was a rousing success - now join the party for the 24 Tasks of the Festive Season: A Bookish Advent!

Door 9: Thanksgiving

Task 1: List the 3 books you’ve read this year you’re most “thankful” for (your favs) or the one book you’ve ever read that changed your life for the better.


There are a few books that I've read that changed my life for the better. Three of those books are:


Pilgrim at Tinker Creek - Annie Dillard  The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe - C.S. Lewis Devil in Winter - Lisa Kleypas 


There are many more than just three, but I'm picking these for the following reasons:


Pilgrim at Tinker Creek was a book I read during law school, at a time when I was very much grappling with those deep things with which one mostly grapples when young. I fell in love with Annie Dillard's words, and her seeking. I've reread it many times over the years, and I always come away with something new.


The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe was the first fantasy book that I can remember reading, and it spawned in me a love of books, and specifically of fantasy, that has stood me in good stead throughout my entire life.


Devil in Winter is a bit of an odd choice, I know. But it cured me of a pretty bad case of book snobbery a few years back, and was just a really fun introduction back into the joys of the romance genre, especially historical romance.


Task 3: Name a book you’ve read this year that you thought was full of “stuffing”.

Pirate King - Laurie R. King 


I finally managed to finish The Pirate King, which is the weakest entry in Laurie King's Mary Russell series by far. It was definitely full of stuffing, as the series can easily be enjoyed even with just skipping this one, which I do recommend.

Door 8: Day of Penance

Task 1: “Confess” your book habits. Dog-earring? Laying books face down? Bending back the spines? Skimming? OR: Confess your guilty reading pleasure, or comfort reads.


I have a number of terrible book habits to confess! I was a serial page dog-earrer, although I've tried to reform and use bookmarks. I do have a tendency to lay books face down if I can't put my hands on my bookmarks and I'm not going to be gone for very long. The one thing that I do not do is I don't break my spines. I'm very careful about this, because in my younger, careless days, I destroyed my books this way!

Task 2: It’s “Pennants” day according to MbD’s husband: post a picture of your favorite team’s logo / mascot and the last time they’ve won a championship (or not).


I really don't care about sports. However, my husband and daughter both graduated from U of O, and they are both huge fans. Therefore, the Ducks have become my favorite team by default because my husband loses his mind when they lose and makes everyone in my house MIS-ER-AB-LE. He is so ridiculous that he scares the dog.


Task 3: In centuries gone by, penance would often end up in what might be described as a very extended bad hair day (complete with sackcloth and ashes). Tell us: What’s a bad hair day to you – and what (if anything) do you do about it?

I have very thick hair. A bad hair day to me occurs when I've gone waaaayyy to long without a haircut (which is most of the time, TBH). My hair doesn't just get longer, it gets bigger. This persists until I throw in the towel and get a haircut.


Task 4: Early Christian spiritualists would sometimes do penance by spending time in the desert. If you’ve ever visited a desert region (or even live there), post a picture and tell us about it. Alternatively, post a picture of sand dunes (NOT with water in the background!).


My parents live in the Phoenix area, and a few years ago I flew down on my own for a short visit. We drove over to Tombstone, which was touristy, but fun, and then stopped at the Mission San Xavier Del Back on our way home. It is a beautiful old mission, and the story behind the Mission (wikipedia article here) reminded me of Willa Cather's Death Comes for the Archbishop, although the historical figure upon which Archbishop is based is not Eusebio Francisco Kino, who established the mission in 1692.





Book: Read any book concerning a man / woman of the cloth, a book about a character hiding a guilty secret or searching for absolution.


I'm not sure if I will read for this task, but I do highly recommend Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather, which is a fictional treatment of Jean Baptiste Lamy, an early French missionary to the area which would become New Mexico.

3.5 Stars
Murder in the Rue de Paradis by Cara Black
Murder in the Rue de Paradis - Cara Black

The used bookstore I frequent (at which I have almost $200 in credit) is a treasure trove of books. It's also a muddle - I realized the last time I was there that the shelves are actually 2 deep in books, and there really isn't any way to know what's behind the first line of books without digging. Therefore, it is like a treasure hunt every time I am there.


The last time I was there, I found a little section of Soho Crime, which had several of the Aimee LeDuc mysteries. I've read the first two of the series, but they are fairly expensive on kindle, so I'm reluctant to buy them. I could probably check them out of the library. Anyway, I figured out which of the available books was earliest in the series and bought it. This still meant that I would be skipping 5 books, since Rue Paradis is #8 in the series. I figured what the heck, and bought it anyway. When I saw that one of the qualifying book elements for International Day of Tolerance was to read a book set in Paris, I immediately thought of Aimee.


The action for this book is set in 1995, which is in the near past. I was not at all current on Aimee's private life, so her reporter boyfriend, Yves, was new to me. I have no idea how much of a role he plays in the earlier books before becoming the murder victim in this one. The murder itself was interesting, and I definitely didn't figure it out.


I really love the use of Paris in these books, though. It is such a vibrant, diverse, real city as portrayed by Cara Black. She definitely shows the duality of Paris - the romantic, glittery aspects, but also the dirty, urban elements as well. I doubt that they will ever make it into my first tier of mysteries, but I've enjoyed every one that I've read.

Diwali Task 1: Share a Picture of a Favorite Light Display

I know that I've mentioned that I live in the Pacific Northwest, but I'm not sure that I've ever mentioned that I went to the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, Utah, for my undergraduate degree. As most of you are probably aware, SLC is the center of the LDS church, or "The Church" as the Mormons call it, and there is a beautiful, wedding cake style Mormon Temple there, made of white marble.


The Christmas light display is like nothing else I've ever seen. I first visited it when I was 18, and haven't been back for more than 2 decades, but it still glows in my mind with thousands of fairy lights. The bare branches of the trees are festooned with hundreds of lights. It is incredible - even for a godless heathen like myself.






Penny Dreadful + Golden Age Mystery
Gallows Court - Martin Edwards

I don't think I can rate this book.


Many of you here are familiar with Martin Edwards from his Detection Club/The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books fame, given that his work inspired our Detection Club bingo game. In addition to his depth and breadth of knowledge regarding golden age mystery fiction, he is a crime writer himself. I've not read any of his other books, although several of them, particularly his series set in the Lake District, appeal to me.


This is his most recent work, though, released back in late September. I also have a Kindle Unlimited membership, paid for by my mother, so when I noticed that Gallows Court was available through that program, I thought "why not."


And why not, indeed? 


Anyway, as I said at the beginning of this review, I don't know what to make of this book. It is set in 1940's London, but in many ways it reads like a Victorian penny-dreadful. There are strong horror overtones, here, and lots of melodrama. The main character, Jacob Flint, is a likeable young reporter for The Clarion. The primary crime reporter for the newspaper has been hospitalized after a suspicious accident, and Jacob sees this an opportunity for advancement and a chance to figure out what is up with Rachel Savernake, the daughter of a famous "hanging judge" who left her an heiress and who seems to have an inexplicable aptitude for crime solving.


This isn't a standard mystery, although I figured out the twist pretty early in the book. There was a secondary twist that did give me a pretty good shock. There are several extremely gruesome murders, and very dark themes. It's not really my sort of mystery, although it is gripping and I devoured it in a matter of hours.


I hope that someone else reads this - I want to know what everyone else thinks!



Mawlid - Characters as Messengers


In my view, at least, Samwise Gamgee is the ultimate book character messenger. He is among the most quotable characters (of a lot of quotable characters) in the Lord of the Rings.


"It's like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were. And sometimes you didn't want to know the end… because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing… this shadow. Even darkness must pass.” 


He was endlessly loyal, a characteristic that is not sufficiently prized in this time of selfishness as virtue. 


“His love for Frodo rose above all other thoughts, and forgetting his peril he cried aloud: 'I'm coming Mr. Frodo!” 


He didn't shrink from doing hard things, and he didn't do them for the adulation at the end (although he wasn't entirely averse to being known as "Samwise the Brave"). He is the ultimate expression of perseverance.


“I don't know how to say it, but after last night I feel different. I seem to see ahead, in a kind of way. I know we are going to take a very long road, into darkness; but I know I can't turn back. It isn't right to see Elves now, nor dragons, nor mountains, that I want - I don't rightly know what I want: but I have something to do before the end, and it lies ahead, not in the Shire. I must see it through, sir, if you understand me.” 


He also loved little things - growing plants, children, and all of the best things about The Shire. He had integrity. He was a hero in the smallest of ways, which makes him the greatest of hobbits.


“But Sam turned to Bywater, and so came back up the Hill, as day was ending once more. And he went on, and there was yellow light, and fire within; and the evening meal was ready, and he was expected. And Rose drew him in, and set him in his chair, and put little Elanor upon his lap.
He drew a deep breath. ‘Well, I’m back,’ he said” 

24 Festive Tasks: Door 7 - Mawlid

Guy Fawks Night

veteran's and armistace day


dio de los meurtos
International Day of Tolerance

Melbourne Cup Day



Mawlid or Mawlid al-Nabi al-Sharif is the observance of the birthday of Islamic prophet Muhammad, commemorated in Rabi' al-awwal, the third month in the Islamic calendar. The 12th or 17th day of Rabi' al-awwal is the accepted date among most of the Sunni scholars, while Shi'a scholars regard the 17th day of Rabi' al-awwal as the accepted date. In 2018, these dates correspond with November 20 and 25 of the Gregorian Calendar.


The history of this celebration goes back to the early days of Islam, when some of the Tabi‘un (second generation of Muhammad's followers) began to hold sessions in which poetry and songs composed to honour Muhammad were recited and sung to the crowds. The Ottomans declared it an official holiday in 1588, known as Mevlid Kandil. The term Mawlid is also used in some parts of the world, such as Egypt, as a generic term for the birthday celebrations of other historical religious figures such as Sufi saints. Today, most denominations of Islam approve of the commemoration of Muhammad's birthday; some however, including Wahhabism / Salafism and Deobandism disapprove its commemoration, considering it an unnecessary religious innovation. The Mawlid observance is generally approved of across the four Sunni schools of law and by mainstream Islamic scholarship, and Mawlid is recognized as a national holiday in most of the Muslim-majority countries of the world (except Saudi Arabia and Qatar, which are officially Wahhabi / Salafi). Often organized by the Sufi orders, Mawlid is celebrated in a carnival manner, with large street processions and homes or mosques being decorated. Charity and food are distributed, and stories about the life of Muhammad are narrated, while children recite poetry. Scholars and poets celebrate by reciting Qaṣīda al-Burda Sharif, a famous ode of praise for Muhammad composed by the eminent 13th-century Egyptian Sufi mystic Imam al-Busiri. Sometimes considered an expression of the Sufi concept of the pre-existence of Muhammad, the main significance of these festivities is the expression of love for Muhammad.


Tasks and Book


Task 1:  Make two “prophesies” you think will come to fruition in 2019 in your personal or reading life.


Task 2: The Five Pillars of Islam include almsgiving and the pilgrimage to Mekka. Tell us: Have you ever donated books or rescued them from (horror of horrors) being trashed? Alternatively: Is there a book-related place that is a place of pilgrimage to you?


Task 3: Prophets are messengers. Tell us: Which book characters are your favorite messengers (no matter whether humans, angels, (demi)gods, etc.)?


Task 4: Muhammad was a merchant before becoming a religious leader. List 5 books on your shelves in which a key character makes / undergoes a radical career change.


Book:  If you can find a copy, read Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet.  Or read any book about a leader of a movement, nation, religion or large group, OR read a book with a green cover OR with a half moon on the cover.



(Click "Read More" for the previous days' tasks and books.)


-read more-
Reblogged from Themis-Athena's Garden of Books
3.5 Stars
Plum Pudding, with a side of murder
A Christmas Party - Georgette Heyer

I love Christmas mysteries, and I especially love the narrow sub-genre of the English country house murder mystery, which includes Hercule Poirot's Christmas and The Adventure of The Christmas Pudding by Agatha Christie, The Santa Klaus Murder by Mavis Doriel Hay, and Mystery in White by J. Jefferson Farjeon, as well as this one.


Originally titled Envious Casca, somewhere along the way the publisher realized that people really love mysteries set over the Christmas holidays, so the book was repackaged with a fantastic cover and republished for a new generation of readers. 


I've enjoyed this one more with subsequent readings, in spite of the fact that I know whodunnit. This is definitely a book to take to any holiday gathering that involves members of your family that are difficult to deal with - Heyer's acid pen and her descriptions of the brutal verbal sparring between the members of the Herriard family make dealings with passive-agressive mothers-in-law and #MAGA-inspired uncles seem like child's play by comparison.


And hey, if you manage to get yourself home without murdering, being murdered, or witnessing a murder, it's all good!

5 Stars
A Festive Re-read
Winter Solstice - Rosamunde Pilcher

I read this book nearly every year in the weeks leading up to Christmas. I have loved Rosamund Pilcher's sagas since I picked up The Shell Seekers at a Barnes and Noble somewhere around 20 years ago. I passed it onto my mother, who fell in love with her writing.


I don't know if Winter Solstice is my favorite Pilcher, but it is such a comfortable read for me that I can't give it less than 5 stars. I love all of the characters, and I love the theme of the book, which really acknowledges that sometimes your most important family is the family that you create. The relationship that grows between the lonely Lucy, whose self-centered parents are wrapped up too deeply into their own lives to give her the attention she deserves and Elfrida, her great-aunt, a former actress who never had children, but whose peripatetic life was endlessly fulfilling, is perfect. 


This is one of those books that I can't see clearly, because it has become a part of my bookish DNA. I've read it probably dozens of times, and each time I pick it up, it's like saying hello to a group of old friends that I've not seen for a while. The best kind of comfort read.

24 Tasks of the Festive Season

I have created a hopefully helpful thread (in the Booklikes Bookish Bingo group) of all the tasks that are opened so far, which I will update as new doors open. That way, all of the information will be collected and found in one long thread!


You can find it here.

4 Stars
Death Spiral
Lethal White - Robert Galbraith

This is a classic J.K. Rowling book - twisted plot and complicated characters with disastrous personal relationships.


Why does the English upper crust insist on nicknames that sound like anthropomorphic animals from a children's book? Pringle, Flopsy and Fizzy? Really?


Anyway, this book was both a haul and a sprint - it's really, really long - but is riveting, nonetheless, and has enough characters to fill Wembley Stadium. This is an apropos analogy, given that it was set during the London Olympics. Which begs another question, what compelled Rowling to set the Strike novels in the near past? Why 2012 and not 2018? 


I do have a couple of quibbles. First, while I hope that Robin is thoroughly shed of Matthew, since their relationship has been nothing short of a train wreck and he's an absolute jackass, I am absolutely NOT feeling the Strike/Robin pairing at all. Second, could we please have a book where Robin does not end up in mortal peril? 


Because Cormoran Strike is former military, I'm using this book for the Armistice Day task!!


Now I wait for book 5.

A Quick Update!

I've been on a bit of an online break - a palate cleanser, so to speak! I had a three day weekend for Veteran's Day (U.S.) and spent most of the weekend puttering about my house working on my huge decluttering project, which has become a markedly smaller decluttering project given how much success I've had! I've cleared out drawers and cleared off shelves galore, filled the trash bin for the weekly pick up, and dropped a load at the Goodwill trailer!


I also read a few books, which I will be trying to slot into my 24 Tasks post, once I have the time to sit down and take a long look at the tasks!


Sabriel by Garth Nix: a reread of an old favorite.

Envious Casca by Georgette Heyer: Christmas mystery, and was a reread.

Winter Solstice by Rosamund Pilcher: my favorite holiday novel, this is a comfort read for me, and I reread it almost every year. 

The Case Is Closed by Patricia Wentworth: second Miss Silver mystery.


I've also been dipping into my three Christmas mystery anthologies:


Crimson Snow: Winter Mysteries - Various Authors,Martin Edwards Silent Nights: Christmas Mysteries - Various Authors,Martin Edwards The Big Book of Christmas Mysteries - Otto Penzler 



And reading a lot of short stories as they take my fancy. No real rhyme or reason to how I am choosing the story of the evening.


I've just started Lethal White by Robert Galbraith, as my hold finally came up at the library. It is a bit of a door stopper of a book, and so far, I like Matthew less than ever.

Voting with my coffee


I'm in Oregon, vote by mail state, so I voted this morning over coffee. I'll drop the ballot at the ballot drop near my office. This was my son's first election since he turned 18, and he was so excited to vote - when his ballot came in the mail he danced with joy.

3 Stars
Somewhere between Baghdad and Frankfurt
Destination Unknown (Signature Editions) - Agatha Christie

I liked this one less than I liked They Came To Baghdad, but much more than I liked A Passenger to Frankfurt. It's still a late Agatha thriller, which means that it has problems, but it wasn't awful.


"Peters said gloomily: “I suppose it always comes to the same thing in the end. A madman who believes he’s God.”


There is something so naive about Christie's thrillers - I think that early in her career, her youth and charm insulated her from the ugliness of geopolitics, and late in her career, her wealth served in the same way. It's interesting to me that the body count is often lower in the thrillers than it is in the straight up murder mysteries. She doesn't seem to even remotely grasp the actuality of the violence of espionage and political intrigue.


Destination Unknown lacks the romping charm of the Bundle Brent thrillers, or The Secret Adversary, but still requires a suspension of disbelief upon which it fails, ultimately to deliver. The main character, Hilary Craven, is likable and brave. There are wheels turning within wheels turning within wheels, but at the end of the day, the entire machine sort of breaks down.


Anyway, this is a lower tier Christie, but didn't hit rock bottom.

Agatha Christie completion update

I'm catching up a few reading projects, so I thought I would go through and identify which of the very few full-length Christie mysteries I have left:


Why Didn't They Ask Evans

N or M

Death Comes As The End

Destination Unknown

The Pale Horse

By The Pricking of My Thumbs


Postern of Fate

Sleeping Murder


That's actually more than I thought, although I am aware that some of them are true clunkers - I've heard nothing good about Postern of Fate.


I also have several of the short story collections left, including Harley Quin & Parker Pyne.


I also haven't read the books she published under the Mary Westamacott name, which are a bit difficult to find, but are by no means unobtainable. 


Giant's Bread

Unfinished Portrait

Absent in Spring

The Rose and the Yew Tree

A Daughter's A Daughter

The Burden


And I definitely want to track down the three Detection Club stories:


The Floating Admiral

Ask a Policeman

Six Against the Yard



Reading progress update: I've read 58%.
Destination Unknown (Signature Editions) - Agatha Christie

This is an odd book. It does remind me a lot of Passenger to Frankfurt, but, at least so far, it isn't nearly as awful as that one. Although it was really the ending that blew up that book, so there is still time.


Christie had a really bizarre obsession with the "elites" basically starting their own society to take over the world. Her late thrillers - They Came To Baghdad, Passenger to Frankfurt, and now this one, remind me a bit of Rand's Atlas Shrugged, although Christie definitely frames hers as cautionary tales, while Rand basically glorifies the idea of (her formulation) "the makers" abandoning "the looters" to death and starvation. 


Destination Unknown doesn't have the charm of They Came to Baghdad, at least not so far. Hilary Craven (interesting name choice, there) lacks the manic pixie dream girl charm of Victoria Jones, being of a more serious, less effervescent, character.


At this point, though, Passenger to Frankfurt represents the execrable nadir of Christie novels for me, so anything that is, even slightly, less awful will be okay.

currently reading

Progress: 32%
The Raven in the Foregate - Ellis Peters
The Big Book of Christmas Mysteries - Otto Penzler
Mystery in White - J. Jefferson Farjeon