January 10: Book bingo

I’ve had a bingo card hanging around for a while. Time to go through last year’s books and see how I did…

Colour in title

99 Red Balloons by Elisabeth Carpenter. This was a rather confusing crime/psychothriller novel with several characters narrating several different timelines, and a twist ending that I ought to have seen coming. The song in the title is only mentioned very briefly, which is odd, and the characters are not people I would like.

Family relationship in title

Baba Yaga Laid an Egg by Dubravka Ugrešić. Okay, this is a bit of a stretch, but Baba is translated as “grandmother” in most Slavic Languages. This is a book with several threads that seem disconnected, but turn out not to be. It’s a kind of “road” story, and the female characters are very interesting. Hard to describe, and really needs to be read.

First in a series

Never Mind by Edward St Aubyn. I hated this. It was a dreadful story of child abuse, and the rest of the series was no better. It is being made into a TV programme, starting Benedict Cumberbatch. It will be interesting to see how that turns out.

Red cover

Yellow Blue Tibia by Adam Roberts. I really liked this. It is weird, like other books I have read by this author. It is set in Russia, which I like. It is SF and spies and possibly aliens, but they are ambiguous enough not to upset me too much. I love the fact that the title is a clever play on words and has nothing to do with the story. Yes, I liked this a lot.

Play or adaptation of play

All Our Children by Stephen Unwin

A very disturbing play, where the ethics of eugenics take centre stage. Needs to be seen as a performance, which I was lucky enough to do.

Non-fiction

CCCP Cook Book: True Stories of Soviet Cuisine by Olga Syutkin. This showed a bleak picture of just how awful the food was in the Soviet Union, and how hard it was to get. An interesting insight into an aspect of modern history.

Award winner

The Power by Naomi Alderman. This won the Bailey’s Women’s Prize for Fiction In 2017. The story is about women gaining the ability to give electric shocks by touching, thus placing them in a position of power over men. An interesting format, the story is told as a future-history, post-post-apocalypse.

Food in title

Hard Cheese by Ulf Durling. This was a locked room mystery, and was very enjoyable. And there was actually cheese in the story.

Animal on cover

The Blue Fox by Sjón. This was very short, and quite lovely. It could have sat in several categories here- it is a prize winner, a historical novel, a literary novel… read it and enjoy

Dystopia

Archangel by William Gibson. A graphic novel by one of my favourite authors. This has a terrifying resonance, particularly in the final frames. The story is set in an alternate universe, but the resolution to the tale sets us up for something worse.

Historical setting

King Dido by Alexander Baron. This is set in 1911, so I am counting it as historical. It tells the sad story of a man hounded into crime by the underserved suspicion and hatred of a powerful police officer. Dido is not a nice person, but he doesn’t deserve to end up the way he does. This made me think hard about prejudice and power.

A book with music in it somewhere

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro. This could fit into a number of categories, but the song which gives this book its title is quite central to the main character, and so it fits here nicely. This is a dystopia. It is science fiction, it is literature. It is very depressing, and vaguely unsatisfying.

Science Fiction

Acadie by Dave Hutchinson. This is a nice little hard SF tale with a massively twisted ending. Lovely.

Literary fiction

Orlando by Virginia Woolf. I admit to being disappointed in this. Orlando is a man who has some adventures. One day Orlando wakes up as a woman and has some more adventures. There is no explanation for this transformation, or if there is, I missed it. It has not inspired me to read more Woolf.

Translated work

The Tin Drum by Günter Grass. This was a dark, strange and nasty story, set in Nazi Germany, and following the life of the central character, Oskar, from pre-birth to adulthood. (Yes, pre-birth). I didn’t warm to any of the characters, but the book itself was very interesting.

A “banned” book

Nothing for this category, surprisingly. The previous year there were three (Dostoyevsky, Joyce, Melville) and I have a couple on my “to -read” pile for the coming year, but an empty square for this one.

LGBT character

The Janissary Tree by Jason Goodwin. Set in Istanbul in 1836, this is a detective story with a difference. Yashim the detective is a eunuch who likes to cook, and his sidekick Preen is a trans woman dancer. I have the rest of the series on my list to read.

Non-human character

Grandeville by Bryan Talbot. The protagonist is a police detective, who just happens to be a badger. His sergeant is s rat. The Grandeville books are graphic novels, and really excellent, if gory. Not for children, but I loved this.

One-word title

Bluets by Maggie Nelson. This was an odd little book. Literary, definitely. Memoir, possibly. Poetry, hmm. All about Blue. And I was surprisingly disappointed to find that bluets are cornflowers.

Number in title

Six Four by Hideo Yokoyama. A police procedural, giving a particular insight into how matters of “face” affect the investigation of crime in Japan. I liked this a lot.

Published 2017

The Seagull by Ann Cleeves. The central character in this book is one of my favourite TV detectives, Vera Stanhope. This is the newest book in the series, and the first I have read, so I was surprised to see that the TV series has moved forward far more quickly than the books seem to have done. The book Vera is a little rougher around the edges than the TV one, and sadly, she drinks more ( I don’t like this trope). The book was still enjoyable though, and I am going to go back to the start of the series.

Water on cover

Earthly Remains by Donna Leon. This is the 26th book about Commissario Guido Brunetti, and I swear I will never get tired of him. He is older, which I like. The stories are more focused on politics and environmental issues, which I also like. The portrayal of Venice from a Venetian eye rings true.

BME character

The Furthest Station by Ben Aaronovitch. This is the latest in the Rivers of London series, starring Peter Grant. I love these stories , crime and magic combined with the most diverse set of main characters you could ever imagine.

A book with a cat in it somewhere

Why Did You Lie? By Yrsa Sigurdadóttir. The cat isn’t a main character, but it is a plot point, and sadly, it comes to an unhappy end. The story leaves a lot of open ends, which I expect will lead on to other books. I didn’t like the characters enough to want to buy more though, sadly.

A “classic”

Bleak House by Charles Dickens. Famous for the Jarndyce and Jarndyce legal case. As always, some of the characters got seriously on my nerves, especially Mr Skimpole. The story was clever, but I find Dickens’ attention to detail tedious. I don’t need five pages describing what someone has on their desk.

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Week 21

This week started badly, with the horror of the Manchester bombing. I had tickets for a big gig just a few days later, and it was with not a little trepidation that I took a deep breath, donned my biker jacket and headed out…

Gigs

O2 Arena: Iron Maiden (Book of Souls Tour)

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When rock legends are playing in your home town, you just have to go. These guys really are legends, and the show was terrific. A mix of old and new songs, a fantastic stage set, pyrotechnics that nearly took my eyebrows off. They finished with the now-obligatory selfie of themselves and the audience. If you look closely, you might be able to see me – I’m the one waving…

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Security was of course very tight; my first encounter with armed police was more than a little unnerving, and the ticketless entry system led to long queues in addition to the already long queues for the electronic-arch-and-patdown security stations. Once inside, we headed for the food and drink franchises (shocking prices), and my companions found a small merchandise stall, where they were able to bypass the enormous crowd of people trying to buy t-shirts at the main merch stand outside the arena proper. All in all, it was a great night. The joy of screaming the lyrics of an old favourite song, along with thousands of other people of all ages, nationalities, genders, colours was a much-needed catharsis at the end of a tense week.

 

Books

I didn’t manage to finish anything this week, so I spent a little time putting together a “bingo grid” for my reading challenge.  Last year’s was pinched from the internet, and worked okay. I’ll stash it here and come back to it at the end of the year. Please feel free to use it if you want.

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