16 tasks, challenges

16 Tasks: Newtonmas & Saint Lucia

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Newtonmas: Take a moment to appreciate gravity and the laws of motion. If there’s snow outside, have a snowball fight with a friend or a member of your family. –OR– Take some time out to enjoy the alchemical goodness of a hot toddy or chocolate or any drink that relies on basic chemistry/alchemy (coffee with cream or sugar/tea with milk or sugar or lemon, etc.). Post a picture of your libations and the recipe if it’s unique and you’re ok with sharing it.

Saint Lucia’s Day: Get your Hygge on — light a few candles if you’ve got them, pour yourself a glass of wine or hot chocolate/toddy, roast a marshmallow or toast a crumpet, and take a picture of your cosiest reading place.

Well, these two tasks do go quite well together, don’t they?

First for Newtonmas. I can’t really call it a recipe because it really is just hot chocolate and flavoured syrup but that won’t stop me from posting pictures.

One thing I always stuff my suitcase with when I’m on holidays in the UK or Ireland is peppermint chocolate. Germany is severely lacking in that aspect. Yes, there’s After Eight and Ritter Sport but that’s not that much choice. And I’ve never seen peppermint hot chocolate anywhere in Germany…and since it’s been a while since my last trip to the UK and I’ve already used up all the chocolate I bought there I have to improvise with peppermint syrup and cocoa powder. Dark chocolate because that is clearly the superior one 😛 .


(Moose optional. His name is Flen, by the way.)


The milk does actually turn slightly green when you add the syrup but it doesn’t really show in the picture…


Try to keep away from creatures that might also enjoy peppermint hot chocolate so you can have all for yourself.



Take to your cosiest reading spot with your handmade t-shirt quilt made from all your band-, festival- and other commemorative t-shirts. Try not to sit on moose. Curse because you could have taken the water bottle out of the picture. Enjoy hot chocolate.

Part of the 16 Tasks of the Festive Season

16 tasks, challenges

16 Tasks of the festive season: Kwanzaa


Tasks for Kwanzaa: Create a stack of books in the Kwanzaa color scheme using red, black and green and post your creation and post a photo (or post a photo of a shelfie where black, red and green predominate).


Did you know that German publishers seem to like a red-blue-green colour scheme fo YA-trilogies? I didn’t. But the Tintentod, Mara und das Todesmal and Saphierblau all have blue covers. (The third Temeraire book is black so I guess I could have put that on the picture as well, but I noticed it too late because it’s still on my tbr-pile).

Part of 16 Tasks of the Festive Season

16 tasks, challenges

16 Tasks of the Festive Season (Square 6: Sinterklaas / St. Martin’s Day / Krampusnacht)


Book themes for Sinterklaas / St. Martin’s Day / Krampusnacht: A Story involving children or a young adult book.

For this task I listened to Tommy Krappweis’ Ghostsitter audio play:


14-year-old Tom has inherited a haunted ride. A real one. There’s a zombie (who loves his plush rabbit), a werewolf (who’s grumpy but never bites anyone), a mummy (who is very polite), a ghost (who loves computer games but can only watch the let’s play videos because…well she’s a ghost) and a vampire (who occasionally laments that it’s not the 19th century anymore but is otherwise also really nice).

Together they fight crime…well or the supernatural that is less benevolent than the creatures of the haunted ride and it’s hilarious. The phrase ‘a story that children and adults can enjoy’ gets thrown around a lot but here I genuinely didn’t care that I’m over 20 years older than the target audience.

Part of the 16 Tasks of the Festive Season

16 tasks, 4 stars, romance

Hamilton’s Battalion: A Trio of Romances

36242916 Title: Hamilton’s Battalion: A Trio of Romances
Authors: Rose Lerner, Courtney Milan, Alyssa Cole

Love in the time of Hamilton…

On October 14, 1781, Alexander Hamilton led a daring assault on Yorktown’s defenses and won a decisive victory in America’s fight for independence. Decades later, when Eliza Hamilton collected his soldiers’ stories, she discovered that while the war was won at Yorktown, the battle for love took place on many fronts…

Let me begin with a confession: I have in total listened to perhaps 2 Minutes of the Hamilton Musical. When all my friends on Tumblr started gushing about it I looked it up, started listening to the first song, went ‘OK that is hip-hop, I’ll skip that song and listen to the second…which is also hip-hop…so that is a hip-hop musical? Thanks but no thanks.’ Because that is not my genre at all. And then I just tried to ignore it. Only that was impossible because it was suddenly everywhere. On every social media site, I frequented people kept yelling Hamilton lyrics, made fanart, combined the lyrics with other fandoms. Even blacklisting and muting did only so much. I just could not escape.

Don’t get me wrong: I have absolutely no problem with people enjoying things I dislike, but if you get bombarded with something you absolutely don’t care about you can get…let’s say very annoyed. Eventually, the hype died down and I found other things to get annoyed at. I still had no intention of reading this book. Also because I assumed it would require historical knowledge about Hamilton beyond ‘He gets shot, doesn’t he?’

But then the gushing on social media started. Not quite as inescapable as for the musical but still very loud. And there was talk of a cross-dressing Jewish heroine and a mixed-race gay couple which both piqued my interest. So I asked one of the gushers if people who ran away screaming from the musical would still understand the stories (I did not phrase it quite like this) and was told that no deep historical knowledge was requred.

So here I am.

Bloody Hamilton.

Rose Lerner: Promised Land

Donning men’s clothing, Rachel left her life behind to fight the British as Corporal Ezra Jacobs–but life catches up with a vengeance when she arrests an old love as a Loyalist spy.

At first she thinks Nathan Mendelson hasn’t changed one bit: he’s annoying, he talks too much, he sticks his handsome nose where it doesn’t belong, and he’s self-righteously indignant just because Rachel might have faked her own death a little. She’ll be lucky if he doesn’t spill her secret to the entire Continental Army.

Then Nathan shares a secret of his own, one that changes everything…


Is there any way a story like this could not have been awesome? Jewish heroine dresses up as a man to fight in a war and stumbles over her husband whom she left years ago and now they get a second chance at romance. That is everything I never knew I wanted.

I think I might enjoy stories about couples who separated and find each other again even more than stories about couples falling in love for the first time. Especially if they are so well-written as this one. There is no idiotic misunderstanding that drove them apart the first time. It is clear that they did not fit together back then. There were genuine feelings but they also didn’t understand the other person well enough to really spend their whole life together. By the time they meet again they have grown out of this. They realize why things that weren’t a big deal for them were very important for the other one. And while I see Nathan as being the one who is more to blame for the relationship ending badly I wouldn’t describe him as a jerk who suddenly finds redemption. He was never deliberately hurtful, he only talked without thinking and never considered that others might feel differently than himself.

What did bother me was that there was no resolution for the storyline with Nathan’s mother. She was seriously sabotaging their relationship the first time around because she considered Rachel an unfitting match for her son and it is clear that she will have even more reasons to disapprove of her once they get back together. Yet, there is only a vague promise that they will deal with her and then no further mention. Considering how big a deal they made about her interference that is very unsatisfying.

Oh and yes. There was also a battle. I admit I was mostly confused because my knowledge of that period of history boils down to ‘the war of independence happened and then America was independent’ and I wager that the target demographic of that book, drawn in by the Hamilton in the title knows a bit more about that period than I do. It is not vital that you know every little detail about the battle of Yorktown but more than nothing is definitely helpful.

Courtney Milan: The Pursuit of…

What do a Black American soldier, invalided out at Yorktown, and a British officer who deserted his post have in common? Quite a bit, actually.

* They attempted to kill each other the first time they met.
* They’re liable to try again at some point in the five-hundred mile journey that they’re inexplicably sharing.
* They are not falling in love with each other.
* They are not falling in love with each other.
* They are…. Oh, no.


This story was simply lovely and laugh-out-loud hilarious and still, the serious parts did not feel out of place. While the main story is about two guys on a road trip from hell (walk from hell?) during which they try not to strangle each other. (Though I would say Henry was in bigger danger of being strangled) it is also a story about a privileged white guy and a black ex-slave. And while Henry did have his share of tragedy in his past, he never really considered the things John had to go through. And John tells him that without any sugarcoating.

Alyssa Cole: That Could Be Enough

Mercy Alston knows the best thing to do with pesky feelings like “love” and “hope”: avoid them at all cost. Serving as a maid to Eliza Hamilton, and an assistant in the woman’s stubborn desire to preserve her late husband’s legacy, has driven that point home for Mercy—as have her own previous heartbreaks.

When Andromeda Stiel shows up at Hamilton Grange for an interview in her grandfather’s stead, Mercy’s resolution to live a quiet, pain-free life is tested by the beautiful, flirtatious, and entirely overwhelming dressmaker.

Andromeda has staid Mercy reconsidering her worldview, but neither is prepared for love—or for what happens when it’s not enough.

Rating: 2star

The final novella was sadly disappointing. I already considered not finishing it because I hated pretty much everything about the beginning. First, there’s Mercy whose inner monologue is so world-weary and full of repeated ‘love is a scam’ assurances that I wanted to tell her that the gloomy noir fiction PIs are in a different aisle. Then Andromeda appears and her beauty gets described in three pages of purple prose. She then starts ‘flirting’ with Mercy and by that she means ignoring her boundaries, making her uncomfortable and finding it extremely amusing. Oh and she takes advantage of the fact that Mercy’s boss has ordered her to stay with Andromeda to drag her to places she doesn’t want to go. How charming.

Towards the middle, I got my hopes up a bit because Andromeda seemed to realize that Mercy needs some breathing space but instead of developing that point further we get some utterly ridiculous obstacles and in the end, Mercy has to learn that all was her fault and apologize. Because people who have been hurt badly totally still have to expect the best of everybody. Always.



This book also is part of my 16 Tasks of the Festive Season challenge:

International Human Rights Day: Read any story revolving around the rights of others either being defended or abused. 

In Promised Land Rachel joins the army because she hopes that having openly Jewish soldiers in the army will lead to Jewish people being treated better in the independent United States than they are in Britain (or any country at the time). A main point in In Pursuit Of… is that the nice words in the Declaration of Independence aren’t really about every man. And while it isn’t the main theme of This Could Be Enough Andromeda does get told that the owner of a property is reluctant to sell it to her because she is unmarried and black.

16 tasks, challenges

16 Tasks of the Festive Season: Square 1 (Día de Muertos/All Saint’s Day)

Tasks for Día de Muertos and All Saint’s Day: Create a short poem or an epitaph for your most hated book ever.


I have hated many books but if I have to pick one there’s really only one choice:



How can it be
That nobody in this book
Has any sense?
How can it happen
That they are all idiots?
How have they not died
From stupidity?






It really was that bad.

Obligatory pingback to my masterpost

16 tasks, challenges

16 Tasks of the Festive Season


I guess I will regret because I famously fail at book challenges (well apart from the yearly one on Goodreads) but this one just looks like so much fun. It’s hosted by Themis Athena and Murder by Death all the rules can be found on Athena’s blog.

Now on to some ramblings what books from my tbr pile could fit the bookish tasks:

Día de Muertos/All Saint’s Day: A book that has a primarily black and white cover, or one that has all the colours (ROYGBIV) together on the cover.

Carol Berg’s Revelation is quite high on my tbr-pile and has a (mostly) black and white cover. Yay!

Calan Gaeaf: Read any of your planned Halloween Bingo books that you didn’t end up reading after all, involving witches, hags, or various types of witchcraft –OR– read a book with ivy or roses on the cover, or a character’s name/title of book is/has Rose or Ivy in it.

I could always re-read one of Terry Pratchett’s witches books but that not exactly from my tbr-pile. I have some fantasy there but nothing focuses mainly on witches.

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.

Alas I already read Melanie Clegg’s Minette about the daughter of Charles I and the other unread books of her I own are about the French monarchy. And in general my royal interests lie with the Habsburgs and Wittelsbachs…But wait! I have When Christ and his Saints sleep but that’s quite a doorstopper and I’m not sure if I could finish that in time

Bon Om Touk: Read a book that takes place on the sea, near the sea, or on a lake or a river, or read a book that has water on the cover.

Does Scott Lynch’s Red Sea under Red Skies count? (Hey…it actually has sea AND fire on the cover…I guess I won’t get two points for one book :P)

St. Martin’s Day: Read a book set on a vineyard, or in a rural setting, –OR– a story where the MC searches for/gets a new job. –OR– A book with a lantern on the cover, or books set before the age of electricity. –OR– A story dealing with an act of selfless generosity (like St. Martin sharing his cloak with a beggar).

There’s nothing that immediately springs to mind but ‘set before the age of electricity’ shouldn’t be too hard to find (are we going with the invention of the lightbulb as beginning here?)

Veteran’s Day/Armistice Day: Read a book involving veterans of any war, books about WWI or WWII (fiction or non-fiction). –OR– Read a book with poppies on the cover.

Well this biography of Elisabeth of Habsburg/Windisch-Graetz/Petznek is about someone who lived through both world wars but I guess that’s stretching the topic a bit too far…

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).

I can always re-read one of my Cadfael books.

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’m absolutely lost with this one.

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.

I doubt I’ll manage to read the first three Bridge of D’Arnath books in time and Five Daughters of the moon is…well one sibling too much

Sinterklaas / St. Martin’s Day / Krampusnacht: A Story involving children or a young adult book, or a book with oranges on the cover, or whose cover is primarily orange (for the Dutch House of Orange) –OR– with tangerines, walnuts, chocolates, or cookies on the cover.

But then the Five Daughters of the moon are six, eleven, fifteen, sixteen and twenty-two so some of them are still children. Alternatively, Restauration has an orange cover.

Book themes for Bodhi Day: Read a book set in Nepal, India or Tibet, –OR– which involves animal rescue. (Buddhism calls for a vegetarian lifestyle.)

I definitely don’t have any books set in those places on my tbr pile and almost certainly none involving animal rescue.

International Human Rights Day: Read a book originally written in another language (i.e., not in English and not in your mother tongue), –OR– a book written by anyone not Anglo-Saxon, –OR– any story revolving around the rights of others either being defended or abused. –OR– Read a book set in New York City, or The Netherlands (home of the UN and UN World Court respectively).

Well, I always have some Alexandre Dumas for non German/English. There’s also Tacheles about a Jewish Policeman in 1934 Vienna which would also fit.

Saint Lucia’s Day: Read a book set in Scandinavia (Denmark, Norway, Iceland, Sweden – and Finland for the purposes of this game) or a book where ice and snow are an important feature.

This will also be hard since I’ve given up on the ScandiNoir genre. The Walls of Dalgorod sounds a bit like it’s rather icy but I’m not completely sure.

Hanukkah: Any book whose main character is Jewish, any story about the Jewish people –OR– where the miracle of light plays a significant part in the stories plot.

Well…or I use Tacheles here. But the first story in Hamilton’s Batallion also features a Jewish hero and heroine.

Las Posadas: Read a book dealing with visits by family or friends, or set in Mexico, –OR– with a poinsettia on the cover. –OR– a story where the main character is stranded without a place to stay, or find themselves in a ‘no room at the Inn’ situation.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the protagonists are stranded at one point or other in Stalking Darkness because it’s the kind of series where stuff like that happens but I doubt it’ll be a major plot point.

Winter Solstice/Yaldā Night: Read a book of poetry, or a book where the events all take place during the course of one night, or where the cover is a night-time scene.

I’m not a poetry person and I’m fairly certain I have nothing that takes part in one night. I might have a night-time cover somewhere.

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

Again, I don’t think I have anything that fits.

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

Is Asgard snowy? Again, I think it’s a bit of a stretch.

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.

The MC of An Alchemy of Masques and Mirrors has a peacemaker-protagonist but I’ve already read it. This is just me mentioning and recommending this book at every possible opportunity because I enjoyed it a lot.

Pancha Ganapati: Read anything involving a need for forgiveness in the story line; a story about redemption –OR– Read a book whose cover has one of the 5 colors of the holiday: red, blue, green, orange, or yellow –OR– Read a book involving elephants.

Death Comes to Pemberley is very yellow.

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.

Now that is not actually on my tbr-pile but I had my eyes on The Way of Thorn and Thunder for a while.

Dōngzhì Festival: Read a book set in China or written by a Chinese author / an author of Chinese origin; or read a book that has a pink or white cover.

Black Powder War starts off in China but I think they leave it pretty quickly (the previous book in the series Throne of Jade is definitely China-centric. In case anybody wants to read it…ehem and has read the first Temeraire book already).

Festivus: Read anything comedic; a parody, satire, etc. Books with hilariously dysfunctional families (must be funny dysfunctional, not tragic dysfunctional). Anything that makes you laugh (or hope it does).

If a Terry Pratchett book doesn’t make me laugh I don’t know what will.

Saturnalia: The god Saturn has a planet named after him; read any work of science fiction that takes place in space. –OR– Read a book celebrating free speech. –OR– A book revolving around a very large party, or ball, or festival, –OR– a book with a mask or masks on the cover. –OR– a story where roles are reversed.

Now I’m sure I have something that matches this theme but right now I can’t name a single one.

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).

Coming back to Melanie Clegg: look! A book on Marie Antoinette!

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

I guess I could really re-read Hogfather. Even if that does nothing for my tbr-pile ^^

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.

Pffff. The sun is evil. (Let’s not go into the places and times of the year I have managed to get a sunburn…). And I really don’t have any sunny books as far as I know.

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 (regardless in what part of the world).

Going by this list both Poland and Hungray qualify since the (re)gained souvereign statehood in 1989. That means I could read A Country in the Moon or The Phoenix Land.

Newtonmas: Any science book. Any book about alchemy. Any book where science, astronomy, or chemistry play a significant part in the plot. (For members of the Flat Book Society: The “Forensics” November group read counts.)

Is this the place where I recommend An Alchemy of Masques and Mirrors again? Though tbh despite the title it’s more math and steampunk than alchemy. I also have lots of forensic science non-fiction but nothing I haven’t read, yet.

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.

There are servants in Jane Austen…otherwise: nothing springs to mind. I don’t think Winds of Winter will come out within the next month…

Kwanzaa: Read a book written by an author of African descent or a book set in Africa, or whose cover is primarily red, green or black.

If you haven’t read it: can I interest you in Born a Crime by Trevor Noah? I already have and unfortunately, I have nothing else Africa-related. My copy of -tada- The Red and the Black is mostly black but I doubt I’ll get through that in time.

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

I still have some Gil Cunningham mysteries which are set in medieval Glasgow.



So…if I just manage to read the books on my tbr-pile that definitely fit one of the squares I should manage a decent number of points. If…