I’ve played the Reading Bingo Card since 2015, with the exception of last year. I like it because during the year I don’t look for books to fill in the card – I just read what I want to read and then see whether the books I’ve read will match the squares. I also like it because it is an excellent way of looking back at the books I’ve read and reminding me of how much I enjoyed them.
Here is my card for 2020:
A Book With More Than 500 pages. – Moonflower Murders – 608 pages, this may be long but Anthony Horowitz’s style of writing suits me – so easy to read, I whizzed through it. This is a follow up novel to Magpie Murders. But it is a most complicated murder mystery, combining elements of vintage-style golden age crime novels with word-play, cryptic clues and anagrams. I thoroughly enjoyed trying to work it all out.
A Forgotten Classic – Somebody at the Door by Raymond Postgate.
The British Library series of crime classics presents long forgotten classics many of which had been out of print. Somebody at the Door was first published in 1943 and it’s set in 1942 giving a vivid picture of what life was like in wartime England. It’s a murder mystery as Henry Grayling after travelling home on the 6.12 train from Euston, never reached his home. There are plenty of suspects for Inspector Holly to investigate.
A Book That Became a Movie – The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler. It’s fast-paced, violent, and complicated, with damsels in distress, gangsters, corrupt officials, and plenty of dark, violent and bloody situations as well as murders.The Big Sleep has been adapted for film twice, in 1946 with Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, John Ridgely, Martha Vickers, and again in 1978, with Robert Mitchum, Sarah Miles, Richard Boone, Candy Clark.
A Book Published This Year – Fresh Water for Flowers by Valérie Perrin, published in July. This is a story of love and loss – and hope. Violette, the caretaker at a cemetery in a small town in Bourgogne, is a character I really warmed to; she is optimistic, brave, creative and caring. It’s a story full of warmth and happiness and life in the cemetery is full of surprises and joy. It was not what I expected to be and I am so pleased I’ve read it.
A Book with a Number in the Title – A Thousand Moons by Sebastian Barry. It continues the story of Thomas McNulty and John Cole, and Winona, the young Indian girl they had adopted, told in Days Without End. It’s historical fiction set in Tennessee in the 1870s in the aftermath of the Civil War. I just love everything about this book, so beautifully written, rendering the way the characters speak so that I could hear them, and describing the landscape so poetically and lyrically that the scenes unfolded before my eyes.
A Book Written by Someone Under Thirty – The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton, the winner of the 2013 Booker Prize. It’s historical fiction set in New Zealand in the 1860s, during its gold rush and it has everything – gold fever, murder, mystery and a ghost story too. Eleanor Catton was 25 when she began writing The Luminaries and 28 when she won the Booker Prize. I loved the pictures it builds up of the setting in New Zealand, the frontier town and its residents from the prospectors to the prostitutes, and the obsessive nature of gold mining.
A Book With Non-Human Characters – The Guest Cat by Takashi Hiraide. The main character in this book is a stray cat, Chibi, who made herself at home with a couple in their thirties who lived in a small rented house in a quiet part of Tokyo. At first the cat was cautious and just peeked inside their little house but eventually Chibi spent a lot of time with the couple coming and going as she pleased.
A Funny Book – the only story I read in 2020 that came anywhere near to being funny was a short story – Jeeves and the Yule-tide Spirit by P G Wodehouse. Actually I didn’t find this very funny at all, even though I’ve read other Jeeves and Wooster stories that are funny. There is no yule-tide spirit in this story!
A Book By A Female Author – The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson. This is a horror story, but it’s not gore. Instead it is macabre and has a chilling atmosphere. It’s more of a psychological study than a horror story. The best parts are, I think, the descriptions of Hill House – the dark horror at the centre of the story. Four people are staying at Hill House to investigate if it is really haunted.
A Book With A Mystery – Remain Silent by Susie Steiner. I could have chosen any one of the many crime fiction novels I’ve read this year, but I’ve picked Remain Silent, the third Manon Bradshaw book about the death of a young migrant. It is not just a gripping mystery, it is a tragedy, a scathing look at modern life, centred on the exploitation of immigrant labour, racism and abuse that some of the foreign workers have to endure.
A Book With A One Word Title – Sword by Bogdan Teodorescu. This is crime fiction in which a serial killer is on the loose, but with a difference – it’s a complex novel, a political thriller focusing on the political and social dimensions of the racial conflict between the Romanians and the Roma or ‘gypsies’. The killer is hunting down his victims from the minority Roma community. As the racial conflict continues the ethnic tension rises highlighting the corruption and manipulation by the politicians and by the mass media in particular.
A Book of Short Stories – Measure of Malice: Scientific Stories edited by Martin Edwards. I’m cheating a bit here as by the end of the year I had only read four of the fourteen short stories in this collection. I like to take my time reading short stories and unfortunately I took too long and I only finished it a few days ago. I enjoyed the stories, as always some are better than others.
Free Square – for this square I’ve chosen The Shortest Book I read, which is The Shortest Day by Colm Tóibín, a novella of just 31 pages. It’s storytelling at its best – a tale of wonder and mystery, about a burial chamber, a prehistoric monument in County Meath in Ireland, that was built around 3200 BC – older than Stonehenge and the Egyptian pyramids. It’s ringed by a stone circle, stones brought from the Mournes and Wicklow Mountains.
A Book Set On A Different Continent – Thin Air by Michelle Paver, set in the Himalayas on Kangchenjunga. A group of five men set out to climb the mountain in 1935. Held to be a sacred mountain, Kangchenjunga is one of the most dangerous mountains in the world – believed to be the haunt of demons and evil spirits. Based on fact, this is a very atmospheric and chilling story.
A Book of Non Fiction – And Now For the Good News by Ruby Wax, a positive look at some recent developments in community, business, education, technology, and food that promise to make the world a better place. It’s easy reading, written clearly in a breezy conversational style, covering a large amount of information. She emphasises the importance of compassion and kindness, of community and on working for the good of all. Maybe, above all she focuses on the benefits of mindfulness and on positive experiences.
The First Book By a Favourite Author – The Dry by Jane Harper, the first Aaron Falk book, crime fiction set in a small country town in Australia, where the Hadler family were brutally murdered. I read and loved the second and third books, Force of Nature and The Lost Man, before I read The Dry. I was delighted to find it’s just as good as everyone said it is – it won many Literary Awards!
A Book You Heard About On Line – Many of the books I read these days are books I’ve heard about on line. I’ve chosen The Mist by Ragnar Jonasson, Nordic noir, the third novel in Ragnar Jonasson’s Hidden Iceland series. It’s 1987 when Hulda is worrying about her daughter, Dimma and her relationship with her husband, Jon. Alongside the story of what is happening in her personal life, she is also investigating the disappearance of a young woman and a suspected murder case, a particularly horrific one in an isolated farmhouse in the east.
A Best Selling Book – Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell. This book won the Women’s Prize for Fiction, was named one of the top 10 books of the year by the New York Times and the Washington Post, and is also the Waterstones book of the year. It is historical fiction inspired by Hamnet, Shakespeare’s son and is a story of the bond between him and his twin sister, Judith. (At the time the names Hamlet and Hamnet were considered virtually interchangeable.)
A Book Based On A True Story – The Guardians by John Grisham is a novel based on a real story and a real person, which gives it a really authentic feel. Guardian Ministries is based Centurion Ministries founded by James McCluskey, working to prove the innocence of convicted criminals, convinced of their innocence.
A Book At The Bottom of Your To Be Read Pile – Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens. This had been on my TBR list for many, many years, so I’m really pleased that at long last I have read the book.
A Book Your Friend Loves – The Mystery of Princess Louise: Queen Victoria’s Rebellious Daughter by Lucinda Hawksley was recommended to me by a friend, who thought it was very good. She was quite right and I loved this biography of Victoria’s sixth child – her fourth daughter, born on 18th March 1848. Louise She had a difficult childhood, disliked and bullied by her mother and she often rebelled against the restrictions of life as a princess. In her adult life she was a sculptor and painter, friend to the Pre-Raphaelites and a keen member of the Aesthetic movement. There were hints of love affairs dating as far back as her teenage years, and notable scandals and was the first member of the royal family to marry a commoner since the sixteenth century.
A Book that Scares You – There were parts of Looking Good Dead by Peter James. By the end of the book the tension rose and culminated in the most terrifying scenes by the end of the book. I raced through it, trying not to visualise the gruesome details and impatient whenever the action moved away from the murder mystery. It’s a thriller about Tom who puts himself and his family in great danger after he picked up a CD that another passenger had left on the train – it’s a snuff movie – enough said.
A Book That Is More Then Ten Years Old – A Killing Kindness by Reginald Hill the sixth Dalziel and Pascoe novel, first published in November 1980 and televised in 1997 with the actors Warren Clarke and Colin Buchanan in the lead roles. Three women have been found dead, strangled and a mysterious caller phones the local paper with a quotation from Hamlet. As more murders follow, the killer is soon known as the Choker and it seems as if his motive for the murders is compassion.
The Second Book In A Series – Stone Cold Heart by Caz Frear. I didn’t get on with it very well. However, I’m in the minority as there are lots of 4 and 5 star reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. It’s a police procedural written in the first person present tense narrated by DC Cat Kinsella who is part of the Murder Investigation Team 4, and her personal life is a major part of the book.
A Book With A Blue Cover – The Deep by Alma Katsu. This isa mix of fact and fiction. It moves between 1912 as the Titanic sets sail on its maiden voyage and 1916, as its sister ship the Britannic, converted to a hospital picks up soldiers injured in the battlefields to take them back to England. There is a large cast of characters, some are real people and others are fictional; the stories on the two ships are told from their different perspectives. It didn’t grip me as much as The Hunger, her earlier book, although it’s a very atmospheric novel.