16 tasks

16 Tasks of the Festive Season: Saturnalia

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Tasks for Saturnalia: If you could time-travel back to ancient Rome, where would you want to go and whom (both fictional and / or nonfictional persons) would you like to meet?

Now I was really into Ancient Romans when I was younger and had various ‘Ancient Rome for kids’ books but over time my history interest changed. I have now developed an obsession with Stephen and Matilda and am also interested in Russian History and the Habsburgs (or let’s be honest: certain Habsburgs). But one fascination connected to ancient Rome never quite left me: Pompeii. So I would love to meet Pliny the Younger and ask him all about the eruption of  Vesuvius. (But I guess if I could travel anywhere I could also see it myself? But I’m not sure if that wouldn’t be too scary).


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Questions

End of the Year Round-up

What’s the best book you read this year? The worst?
I already talked about my Top 5 of each here. I couldn’t pick out a single best book but I loved the Collegia Magica-trilogy. It’s both classic fantasy and does something unusual with the genre. The worst is definitely A Conspiracy in Belgravia.

Your favourite “classic” you read this year:
Confession time: The only classics I read this year were Persuasion and The Great Gatsby. And when reading I felt kind of meh about both. I didn’t hate them but I also didn’t love them. But then I happened to watched movie-adaptations of both (the 1995 Persuasion and Leonardo di Caprio’s Gatsby) my feelings about The Great Gatsby didn’t change but really loved Persuasion. Perhaps I just wasn’t in the right mood when I read it.

The book that disappointed you:
The Waining Moon Duology had a really promising premise but sadly failed to live up to it.

The hardest book you read this year (topic or writing style):
Trevor Noah’s Born a Crime dealt with heavy stuff.

The funniest book you read this year:
Durch Nacht und Wind: Die criminalistischen Werke des Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Aufgezeichnet von seinem Freunde Friedrich Schiller. Yes. RPF about Goethe and Schiller in which they solve crimes. It is very silly. And hillarious.

The saddest book you read this year (or a book that touched you):
Nothing I read was terribly sad but The Secret Diary of a Princess was a book about Marie Antoinette’s childhood that really made her come alive and well…

Were you part of a reading challenge? Did you meet it?
I set myself a goal of 52 books on GR and managed that (I had higher goals but the last two years were somewhat bad reading-wise so I aimed low). And I did take part in the 16 Tasks of the Festive Season which isn’t one you can win (unless you consider ‘winning’ as complete blackout, then I lost). But I did better than I had hoped which is nice.

Are you signed up for any in 2018?
As always the GR-one. I have not yet decided on how many.
I also don’t know yet, if I want to join others. In the past I tried a few, then suddenly felt like reading a book that didn’t fit any categories and felt bad about that. As a result I didn’t read anything for a while. But then I did quite well with the Festive Seasons one and even made some nice discoveries in my tbr-pile when I searched for books that fit a task.
I have now googled a bit but haven’t yet found any challenge that speaks to me. (By which I mean: which I can mostly solve with my tbr-pile…)

Which authors/series featured most prominently for you this year?
*Checks* Carol Berg. How surprising.
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The last book you finished this year:
I did finish Crocodile on the Sandbank. Currently I’m reading Restauration and (listening to) The Prisoner of Zenda and perhaps I will finish either of those. (For that I need to get away from my laptop…)

The first book you will finish in the new year:
Whatever I didn’t finish from the above mentioned.

The genre you read the most this year:
Fantasy. No counting required for once (usually it’s head-to-head with crime but this year I didn’t feel very murderous)

Which new releases are you most looking forward to reading next year?
The final book from The Gates of the World will come out and supposedly also the next Peter Grant-novel (though that might still change…not my looking forward to it, the release-dates of this series just jump around a lot).

Which book(s) from your tbr-pile are you planning to takle next year?
Red Seas under Red Skies by Scott Lynch and Stalking Darkness by Lynn Flewellyn. Both for the same reason: they are the 2nd book in series I read the 1st in 2017 and if I don’t read the next one soon I will have forgotten everything that happened.
Besides the Festive Seasons reminded me that I have Melanie Clegg’s entire backlist on my Kindle. I read two for the challenge and now I have two more left and want to read those, soon (a biography on Marie Antoinette and a novel about English aristocratic sisters caught up in the French revolution).
And I always want to read more classics…let’s see how that works this time.

 

16 tasks

16 Tasks of the Festive Season: International Human Rights Day

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Tasks for International Human Rights Day: Post a picture of yourself next to a war memorial or other memorial to an event pertaining to Human Rights. (Pictures of just the memorial are ok too.)

Last year I visited the Cyril and Methodius Cathedral in Prague. It’s an Orthodox church in which Jozef Gabčík, Jan Kubiš, and their co-conspirators hid after they assassinated Richard Heydrich, the SS Obergruppenführer and Police Chief of Czechoslovakia during the German occupation.

While that was the only successful assassination of a high-ranking Nazi the retribution was brutal. Two villages that were accused of helping the men during their escape were completely eradicated and the Nazis tortured and intimidated until someone gave up the hiding spot.

Then the SS laid siege to the church but could not capture them alive. Those who did not die in the battle committed suicide.

The front of the church has a memorial-plaque for Gabčík and the others as well as a pillar with the names of those the Nazis killed in retribution for the assassination:

 

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The crypt below is also a memorial to the Czech Resistance and the event:

Věrni zůstali means Faithful we stayed and is a reference to the Czech resistance group Petiční výbor Věrni zůstaneme (Petition Committee We Stay Faithful) and the phrase can be found on several memorials for resistance-fighters (like this one with In life and death we stayed faithful) even though it seems not all of them were actual members of this group. (I admit I don’t remember everything from my visit there and online most information is available only in Czech).

 

16 tasks

16 Tasks of the festive Season: Guy Fawkes Night/Bon Om Touk

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Tasks for Guy Fawkes Night: Which kind of tea is your favourite? Tell us why.

My favourite tea is obviously royal-tea:

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Sorry. I just could not resist. (I’d also like to add that while the Vienna Tea is only one of a number of Empress Elisabeth-themed souvenirs I own, I got the Will & Kate one on a trip to London a year after the wedding when it was reduced. Does that make it better?) I wonder if Marie Antoinette or Catherine the Great tea-boxes exist.

Now I don’t have one favourite tea (I will drink pretty much anything that isn’t Green, Rooibos or contains peppermint) but I have a special fondness for Chai. The spices, combined with milk give a glorious taste-experience.


Tasks for Bon Om Touk: Post a picture from your most recent or favorite vacation on the sea (or a lake, river, or any other body of water larger than a puddle), or if you’re living on the sea or on a lake or a river, post a picture of your favorite spot on the shore / banks / beach / at the nearest harbour.

I live near the Main. Admittedly this spot (Seligenstadt) isn’t the closest to me but it’s very pretty:


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crime & mystery, historical, 2 stars

Elizabeth Peters: Crocodile on the Sandbank

41t1ENkbSLL._SL300_Title: Crocodile on the Sandbank
Author: Elizabeth Peters
Series: Amelia Peabody #1

Amelia Peabody, that indomitable product of the Victorian age, embarks on her first Egyptian adventure armed with unshakable self-confidence, a journal to record her thoughts, and, of course, a sturdy umbrella.
On her way, Amelia rescues young Evelyn Barton-Forbes, who has been “ruined” and abandoned on the streets of Rome by her rascally lover. With a typical disregard for convention, Amelia promptly hires her fellow countrywoman as a companion and takes her to Cairo.

Eluding Alberto, Evelyn’s former lover, who wants her back, and Evelyn’s cousin, Lord Ellesmere, who wishes to marry her, the two women sail up the Nile. They disembark at an archaeological site run by the Emerson brothers – the irascible, but dashing, Radcliffe, and the amiable Walter. Soon their little party is increased by one – one mummy, that is, and a singularly lively example of the species. Strange visitations, suspicious accidents, and a botched kidnapping convince Amelia that there is a plot afoot to harm Evelyn.

Rating2star

Lucas, for pity’s sake, seize it! Don’t stand there deriding its linguistic inadequacies!

Do you care for a mystery where the heroine explains at every step that men suck and are useless (in the appropriate Victorian terminology) but nevertheless the men in the story do most of the mystery-solving? And who then ends up married and pregnant at the end?

I’m being a bit unfair here but not too much. Amelia isn’t that type of heroine who constantly talks about how strong she is but still faints at every occasion. She has a strong will but often it feels she is only right because the author says so. She wants to travel along the Nile but insists on the ship traveling the way she wants it. Objections by the captain that a different route would be better due to the wind get ignored. She is right because she is a woman and the captain just a stupid man! OK, they end up hitting a sandbank twice but Amelia isn’t bothered by that. She got her own way and that is important! She never stops to consider that under certain circumstances she should trust the experienced people. Like a captain where sea-travel is concerned.

Which makes it somewhat ironic that when it comes to the mystery-solving she’s just there to fill in the blanks at the end after a man has already done most of the work. And yes, if she’d had all the information she would have figured it out earlier. And the reason for her not having all the information even makes sense. It still is somewhat unfortunate if your feminist heroine’s first case is one where she doesn’t solve much on her own.

And then there was the romance. And yes, it is a cozy-mystery. And the heroes and heroines of those usually end up with someone sooner or later. And I don’t object to a strong and independent female character ending up with a man. But for most of the book, Amelia doesn’t just say that a woman of her age is unlikely to find a husband and that she isn’t too desperate about that. She goes on and on about absolutely not needing one because men are inferior creatures and so on. Which is again unfortunate. Especially because I didn’t feel much chemistry between the two. There were some sparks but I couldn’t buy it going that fast. The romance would have really profited if it had been stretched out over a few books.

Now for the last unfortunate thing: this is a book about white people in Egypt at a time where most of them were very racist. It’s also about archeologists at a time where a lot of people saw archeology as ‘digging stuff up, put the pretty things on my shelf and throw the rest away’. And Amelia does start off with some not very complimentary attitudes towards the Egyptians. She also doesn’t say a word when a museum-director gifts her a necklace he dug up. Then Emmerson turns up and yells that racism is bad and that not cataloging artifacts is also bad and that’s the topic done with. Amelia more or less shrugs and goes ‘yeah, guess you have a point’ and then it’s never brought up again.

Of course, I’m not expecting a cozy to devote several chapters on the chapters discussing the evils of colonialism but I couldn’t help thinking of Think of England. Another book that was more on the fluffy and humorous side with a main character who held some racists views. These views get challenged over the course of the book and then he actually admits that he was wrong before. Meanwhile, Amelia is never wrong. Ever. And that is very tiring.

 


This is also part of the 16 Tasks of the Festive Season

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Book themes for 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.

16 tasks

16 Tasks of the Festive Season: Winter Solstice

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Tasks for Winter Solstice and Yaldā Night: Grab one of your thickest books off the shelf. Ask a question and then turn to page 40 and read the 9th line of text on that page. Post your results.

A quick leaf through my bookshelves brought up these monsters:

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That would be The Collected Works of Oscar Wilde, A Dance with Dragons, The Collected Work of Shakespeare, Die Geschichte der Russischen Literatur (A History of Russian Literature), War and PeaceHarry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, and The Collected Sherlock Holmes Stories. (As well as my faithful helper Flen the moose. He is not a monster but very cuddly). And no I haven’t read all of those from cover to cover (yet).

A glance at the page-counts, however, tells me that the Harry Potter is only 760 pages which makes it basically a novella compared to the rest, which are all over 1000 pages. (Though A Dance with Dragons and A History of Russian Literature both have massive appendixes so strictly speaking both are a bit under 1000 pages). The absolute winner is the collected Sherlock Holmes with about 1400 pages compared to about 1250 for Shakespeare (though that is printed with two columns per page which safes some space).

Now the important question for this oracle is of course: do collected works even count? Doesn’t that confuse the oracle-spirits when I’m actually on page 12 of that story in the collection or something? To be on the save side I shall consult one collected works and one single book. If one is gibberish the oracle has made their intentions clear 😉

And I will ask Sherlock Holmes (because he always knows all the answers) and A Dance With Dragons (because…well because it’s in English and saves me from awkwardly translating the German in War and Peace or the book on Russian literature).

Now, well, for the question. I’ll go for something simple:

Will I have nice holidays in 2018?

(And if the oracle gives me some inspiration on where to go, I won’t complain either ;))

So what does Holmes say?

As he spoke there was a sharp ring at the bell.

Hm. Will I go somewhere that has a famous bell-tower? Or will I stay somewhere where I can’t sleep for all the bell-ringing? This is a somewhat unhelpful answer so I’ll turn towards A Dance With Dragons (though I just realized that I’m hoping for a line in a George Martin novel that doesn’t talk about death and misery which is probably foolish but too late…)

Six now. I will not have the fighting pits reopened.

Well. I guess it’s a good sign that the pits won’t be reopened? So wherever I go I won’t be thrown into them? Which means nice holidays? Possibly?

Well, wherever I go I’ll take some earplugs with me. Just to be safe. And check the guide-book for the fighting pits so I can stay far away. I think that is a good plan.

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