The Daylight Gate by Jeanette Winterson

The Daylight Gate

The Daylight Gate by Jeanette Winterson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The north of England is untamed. It can be subdued but it cannot be tamed. Lancashire is the wild part of the untamed.

In this novella, published on the 400th anniversary of the 1612 trial of the Pendle Witches, Winterson draws on those events in crafting a work of historical fantasy, a tale of horrifying events, beautifully told.

The historical facts are these: in 1612, a group including Alice Nutter, Elizabeth Device, James Device, Alizon Device, Katherine Hewitt (“Mould-Heeles”), Elizabeth Southerns, and others were arrested under charges of witchcraft. A key witness was Elizabeth Device’s nine-year-old daughter, Jennet.

Winterson takes these facts and creates a new dark and magical story around them. She draws in other historical figures, including local magistrate Roger Nowell, William Shakespeare, John Dee, and court clerk Thomas Potts, whose account of The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches in the Countie of Lancaster was published in 1613. The 1605 Gunpowder Plot and the fate of the convicted conspirators is also woven in; there is little difference, in some minds, between Witches and Catholics. “Popery witchery, witchery popery,” Thomas Potts says more than once.

The writing is lovely, spare but rich in imagery. It is an atmospheric book, focused on people and emotions, how human beings can love and betray each other. There are truly horrific scenes, especially toward the end, that pass by in such a small section of narrative that it sometimes took my brain a few pages to realize what I had just read and be struck not only by the terrible violence, but by the casual way torture is inflicted on one person by another. It feels so very wrong, but true.

Trigger warnings for rape, torture, and child abuse.

Source: I’ve had this book on my shelf for a while. I think I picked it up at my local used bookshop, where I regularly check to see if they have anything new (to me) by Winterson and a couple of other authors.

Challenges: Counts for the 2018 Mount TBR Challenge, the Official 2018 TBR Pile Challenge, and R.I.P. XIII (Readers Imbibing Peril)

 

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A Study in Lavender by Joseph R. G, DeMarco (ed.)

A Study In Lavender: Queering Sherlock Holmes
A Study In Lavender: Queering Sherlock Holmes
edited by Joseph R.G. DeMarco
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Is Sherlock Holmes homosexual? Is Watson? Should we even be asking these questions?

DeMarco opens the Introduction to this collection of short stories with these questions. The following stories look at many facets of queer life in Victorian London as they touch on the lives of Holmes, Watson, Lestrade, and various original characters. In most of the stories, the (identified) queer characters are people other than Holmes and Watson themselves. Indeed, Holmes and Watson are all but entirely absent in at least two stories.

As with any anthology, the style varies between contributors. Most of the tales are written in traditional pastiche style, modeled on the Canon stories and narrated by Watson. One story is in third-person, one story is narrated by Holmes himself, and one story is a first-person narration by an original character.

I enjoyed the stories overall. There were a few that I just didn’t connect with, and the very first one surprised me with (content warning and spoiler alert!) references to incest. That topic is a Hard Pass for some readers, and I personally find it problematic in context. But that’s my personal engagement with the book, and yours is bound to be different.

If you are looking for Holmes/Watson romance, this is (mostly) not your book. If, however, you are looking for thoughtful, well-written explorations of the challenges faced by queer people in Victorian London, with a little Sherlockian flair, then this is the book for you.

Source: Purchased new

Reading Challenges: Counts for the Official TBR Pile Challenge and Mount TBR.

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2018 Reading Challenge Check-In #3

The first quarter of 2018 has been and gone, so how are those Reading Challenges going?

 

Mount TBR (hosted at My Reader’s Block for 2018)
Goal: 24 books
End of March Progress: 16(ish)% (target pace: 25%)

I did finish A Study in Lavender, but I haven’t yet reviewed it, so it doesn’t count toward the TBR Pile challenge yet, and so I’m not counting it here yet.

February:
None. Whoops.
January:

 


The Official 2018 TBR Pile Challenge at Roof Beam Reader
Goal: 12 books
End of March Progress: 8(ish)% (target pace: 25%)

What I wrote up there under the last challenge? That.

February:
None.
January:

 


Newbery Reading Challenge at Smiling Shelves
Goal: Konigsburg (75+ points)
End of March Progress: 21% (target pace: 25%)

Falling a bit behind again.

  • Grand Canyon by Jason Chin: 1 point (Caldecott Honor, 2018)
  • Ella Sarah Gets Dressed by Margaret Chodos-Irvine: 1 point (Caldecott Honor, 2004)
  • Big Cat, Little Cat by Elisha Cooper: 1 point (Caldecott Honor, 2018)
  • Wolf in the Snow by Matthew Cordell: 1 point (Caldecott winner, 2018)
  • A Different Pond by Bao Phi: 1 point (Caldecott Honor, 2018)

February:

  • The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats: 1 point (Caldecott winner, 1963)
  • Piecing Me Together by Renée Watson: 2 points (Newbery Honor, 2018)
  • Hello, Universe by Erin Entrada Kelly: 3 points (Newbery Winner, 2018)
  • Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds: 2 points (Newbery Honor, 2018)

January:

  • Sounder by William Armstrong: 3 points (Newbery winner, 1970)

Old School Kidlit Reading Challenge 2018 at Read-at-Home Mom
Goal: 12 books
End of March Progress: 17% (target pace: 25%)

This one sort of sneaked in.

  • Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz by L. Frank Baum

February:
None.
January:

  • Sounder by William Armstrong, published in 1969

 


Book Riot Read Harder 2018
End of March Progress: 21% (target pace: 17%)

By the way, my hold on Mother of Black Hollywood finally came in.

  • A comic written or drawn by a person of color: Black Panther: A Nation Under Our Feet (Book One), written by Ta-Nehisi Coates and illustrated by Brian Stelfreeze

February:

  • A mystery by a person of color or LGBTQ+ author: Murder in G Major by Alexia Gordon
  • A romance novel by or about a person of color: An Extraordinary Union by Alyssa Cole

January:

  • A children’s classic published before 1980: Sounder by William Armstrong, published in 1969
  • A one-sitting book: The Grownup by Gillian Flynn
  • The first book in a new-to-you YA or middle grade series: Chasing Vermeer by Blue Balliett

 


2018 Book Blog Discussion Challenge
Goal: Creative Conversationalist (11-20 posts – aiming for 12)
End of March Progress: 8% (target pace: 25%)

Okay, this month, the blog’s been pretty much TBR stuff, one way or another.

February:
None.
January:

 


2018 Share-a-Tea Reading Challenge at Becky’s Book Reviews

I have still not posted anything about tea this year. I’ve been drinking quite a lot of tea, though.

So, how’s your 2018 reading going?

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2018 Reading Challenge Check-In #2

We’re two months into 2018, so how are those Reading Challenges going?

February flew by. I know it’s a short month, but it felt particularly short this year.

On to the Challenges!

Mount TBR (hosted at My Reader’s Block for 2018)
Goal: 24 books
End of February Progress: 16% (target pace: 17%)

I read a lot of library books in February, but I didn’t finish any books from my own shelves! Whoops.

January:

 


The Official 2018 TBR Pile Challenge at Roof Beam Reader
Goal: 12 books
End of February Progress: 8% (target pace: 17%)

No progress on Mt TBR means there was definitely no progress on this one. I started reading both Listening for Madeleine and A Study in Lavender, so I’m hoping to catch up by the end of this month.

January:

 


Newbery Reading Challenge at Smiling Shelves
Goal: Konigsburg (75+ points)
End of February Progress: 15% (target pace: 17%)

As predicted, my point total jumped after the YMA announcements on the 19th. And I haven’t even started this year’s Caldecotts.

  • The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats: 1 point (Caldecott winner, 1963)
  • Piecing Me Together by Renée Watson: 2 points (Newbery Honor, 2018)
  • Hello, Universe by Erin Entrada Kelly: 3 points (Newbery Winner, 2018)
  • Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds: 2 points (Newbery Honor, 2018)

January:

  • Sounder by William Armstrong: 3 points (Newbery winner, 1970)

 

Old School Kidlit Reading Challenge 2018 at Read-at-Home Mom
Goal: 12 books
End of February Progress: 8% (target pace: 17%)

Another neglected challenge! A Wrinkle in Time is due for a re-read before the movie, so that will probably be next.

January:

  • Sounder by William Armstrong, published in 1969

 


Book Riot Read Harder 2018
End of February Progress: 21% (target pace: 17%)

I thought that “Celebrity Memoir” would be my next category, but my hold on Mother of Black Hollywood has not yet come in. Instead, I curled up with some cozy mysteries for one task and a fantastic historical romance for another. I recently picked up a copy of the first volume (four issues) of the Black Panther comics written by Ta-Nehisi Coates; the “comic written or illustrated by a person of color” task is likely to be next.

  • A mystery by a person of color or LGBTQ+ author: Murder in G Major by Alexia Gordon
  • A romance novel by or about a person of color: An Extraordinary Union by Alyssa Cole

January:

  • A children’s classic published before 1980: Sounder by William Armstrong, published in 1969
  • A one-sitting book: The Grownup by Gillian Flynn
  • The first book in a new-to-you YA or middle grade series: Chasing Vermeer by Blue Balliett

 


2018 Book Blog Discussion Challenge
Goal: Creative Conversationalist (11-20 posts – aiming for 12)
End of February Progress: 8% (target pace: 17%)

Um, oops?

January:

 


2018 Share-a-Tea Reading Challenge at Becky’s Book Reviews

I have still not posted anything about tea this year.

 

So, how’s your 2018 reading going? I’ve got some room for improvement this month!

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2018 Reading Challenge Check-In #1

We’re one month into 2018, so how are those Reading Challenges going?

I’ve fallen a bit behind, though not as much as I thought before I went and put together this post! I went to New York in early January, then came home and promptly got a massive cold. Which I attempted to ignore while catching up at work.

The cold would not be ignored. So, that went well.

On to the Challenges!

Mount TBR (hosted at My Reader’s Block for 2018)

Goal: 24 books
End of January Progress: 16% (target pace: 8%)

Ahead of schedule, and I even posted reviews of three out of the four. Of course, the one I liked the most, The Dollhouse, is the one that I didn’t get around to actually reviewing.

 


The Official 2018 TBR Pile Challenge at Roof Beam Reader

Goal: 12 books
End of January Progress: 8% (target pace: 8%)

This is the only Challenge that required a list at the beginning of the year. I’m right on target pace-wise, but I’ve discovered that I might have actually gotten rid of one of the books on my list! Oops.

 


Newbery Reading Challenge at Smiling Shelves

Goal: Konigsburg (75+ points)
End of January Progress: 4% (target pace: 8%)

  • Sounder by William Armstrong: 3 points (Newbery winner, 1970)

A bit behind on this one, but no reason to think I won’t catch up soon – probably later this month, once the 2018 YMAs are announced.

 

Old School Kidlit Reading Challenge 2018 at Read-at-Home Mom

Goal: 12 books
End of January Progress: 8% (target pace: 8%)

  • Sounder by William Armstrong, published in 1969

Right on target with this one. I’m also planning to re-read A Wrinkle in Time, which wasn’t on my original list, but qualifies, since it was published in 1962.


Book Riot Read Harder 2018

End of January Progress: 12.5% (target pace: 8%)

  • A children’s classic published before 1980: Sounder by William Armstrong, published in 1969
  • A one-sitting book: The Grownup by Gillian Flynn
  • The first book in a new-to-you YA or middle grade series: Chasing Vermeer by Blue Balliett

My next challenge will probably be the celebrity memoir one, just as soon as my library hold on Jenifer Lewis’s The Mother of Black Hollywood comes through.


2018 Book Blog Discussion Challenge

Goal: Creative Conversationalist (11-20 posts – aiming for 12)
End of January Progress: 8% (target pace: 8%)


2018 Share-a-Tea Reading Challenge at Becky’s Book Reviews

I’ve fallen down on this one and not posted about any teas in January. I’ll have to get to work on that!

So, how’s your 2018 reading going?

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The Grownup by Gillian Flynn

The Grownup

The Grownup by Gillian Flynn

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I didn’t stop giving hand jobs because I wasn’t good at it. I stopped giving hand jobs because I was the best at it.

That’s our introduction to our unnamed narrator, who has recently started posing as a fortune-teller who reads auras (in the front room of the same establishment where she has been providing orgasms to lonely men in the back room). She’s a clever young woman who grew up a grifter and relies on her keen observation skills to provide just the right story to the right person to part them from their money. But her skills at reading people might not be quite enough in this creepy, twisty tale.

This is a skinny little book at just 62 pages, a hardback the size of a thin paperback. It was originally published as a short story in George R. R. Martin’s Rogues anthology under the title “What Do You Do?” (Which is a really excellent title for this story, actually.) It won the 2015 Best Short Story Edgar.

The narrator (I really wish she had a name) is a compelling character. She’s so sure of herself – a confidence woman in multiple senses. I was reminded a bit of Selina Dawes in Sarah Waters’ Affinity, brought up into the 21st century. She’s flawed in ways she recognizes and in ways she doesn’t. She should be one of those “unlikeable” characters, but you want to like her.

I haven’t read Gone Girl, even though it seems like everyone else has. I really enjoyed this little taste of her writing, so I can see why everyone’s been buzzing about her novels.

Source: Book of the Month club

Reading Challenges: Counts for Read Harder (Task 15: A one-sitting book), Mount TBR

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Moriarty by Anthony Horowitz

Moriarty (Sherlock Holmes, #2)Moriarty by Anthony Horowitz
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Does anyone really believe what happened at the Reichenbach Falls? A great many accounts have been written but it seems to me that all of them have left something to be desired — which is to say, the truth.

It is 1891, and Sherlock Holmes and Professor Moriarty have just had their confrontation at the side of the Reichenbach Falls. The novel opens with a brief account of a murder in London before joining our narrator, who identifies himself as Pinkerton agent Frederick Chase, at the Meiringen police station. He tells us that he is on the trail of an American crime boss named Clarence Devereux. It seems that Devereux was planning to join forces with Moriarty. Chase was trying to prevent such a merger, and now he wants to take the opportunity to put a stop to Devereux’s activities in London for good. He teams up with Scotland Yard detective Athelney Jones – a name recognizable to readers of The Sign of Four. Jones and Chase go back to London, where they follow a grisly trail to unmask Devereaux. Jones attempts to fill the gap left by the loss of Sherlock Holmes, with Chase as his Watson. But Chase has his own agenda, and things are much more complicated than they appear.

This is another book that I’ve had on my shelves for a long, long time. It was a selection from the Mysterious Bookshop’s Historical & Traditional Crime Club. I think it was the first book I received, actually. At the time, I hadn’t yet read House of Silk, so I put this book on the shelf. I eventually that one from the library, but found it rather darker than I was expecting, and I wasn’t in a hurry to drop back into that particular vision of Victorian London.

As it happens, the subject matter in this book was easier for me to handle, but there’s a twist in the book that I found more irritating than thrilling. Plus, queer coding a villain (along with our narrator letting us know that he “had seen his type many times before and felt revolted”) feels like a cheap shot.

Source: Purchased from the Mysterious Bookshop (New York, NY)
View all my reviews

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Geek Girls Unite by Leslie Simon

Geek Girls Unite: How Fangirls, Bookworms, Indie Chicks, and Other Misfits Are Taking Over the WorldGeek Girls Unite: How Fangirls, Bookworms, Indie Chicks, and Other Misfits Are Taking Over the World by Leslie Simon
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Once upon a time, to be labeled a “geek” was a fate worse than death. It meant you were an outcast. A loser. Destined for a solitary existence where a twelve-sided die would provide you with the only action you’d ever know. However, over the past decade or so, four-eyed social pariahs have been waging a quiet — yet powerful — revolt.

Over the course of this relatively-slim volume, Simon describes the “Fangirl Geek”, “Literary Geek”, “Film Geek”, “Music Geek”, “Funny-Girl Geek”, “Domestic Goddess Geek”, and a handful of others lumped into “Miscellaneous Geek”. For each type that gets a whole chapter, there is a quiz for the reader to test her own category knowledge, a “character sketch” of personality traits, a “Geek Mythology” section recounting relevant historical events and people, a “Geek Goddesses” section of short biographies of celebrities who fit the particular type, a list of “Frenemies” to beware of, and a “Geek Love” section describing the type of guy who would be a perfect match for the girl who identifies herself as a Fangirl/Literary/Film/etc Geek.

It’s a fun idea, and the Mythology and Goddesses portions are the best part of the book. Unfortunately, they’re weighed down by the snarky jabs in both the “Frenemies” lists and the quiz sections, and occasionally in the opening “character sketch”. But it was the “Geek Love” bit in each chapter that really left me mystified. It just seemed completely unnecessary. If the overarching theme of the book is “Hey, Geeky Girl, find yourself in this book and take pride in your quirks!”, then what is the relevance of several pages on What Kind of Guy You Should be Looking For? The idea that the reader might not be looking for a guy at all is never even suggested. Apparently, all girl geeks are heterosexual.

I had such high hopes for this book, which just makes it doubly disappointing. I made it my first read of the new year, thinking that it would help set a tone of empowerment and pride. I finished it mostly because I didn’t want to DNF the very first book I was reading for the TBR Pile Challenge.

Source: This book has been sitting on my shelves for years. I’m honestly not sure if I bought it, was given it as a gift, or picked it up at a conference as a freebie.

View all my reviews

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Mount TBR Reading Challenge 2018

How many books do I have on my shelves that I’ve not got ’round to reading just yet?

Um… well… a few. Some. More than I would like. Enter the Mount TBR Reading Challenge!

Like the Official 2018 TBR Pile Challenge, this is all about reading those books that have been lying around waiting to be read. Those books that were enticing enough to buy, or perhaps were gifts, or (and this covers quite a few of mine) were part of a book-of-the-month type club many months ago.

This challenge is a little bit looser than the other TBR Challenge. Any book you own before 1/1/18 is fair game, and you can pick and choose throughout the year. There are several levels you can choose. I’m aiming for Mount Blanc: 24 books. Half of those will come from the other challenge, naturally. I may end up shooting for a higher goal by December. A girl can dream.

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Reading Challenges 2018

You know what I really don’t need to do right now? Sign up for more reading challenges. I do this to myself just about every December, and the challenges fall by the wayside with alarming speed.

But they always sound like so much fun! And there’s something about the new year that just makes me want to set ridiculous goals. The one that first dragged me down the rabbit hole for 2018 was this one:

The Grand World of Books Book Bingo 2018

The challenge: get a BINGO any way you choose. I tend to like to go for “black-out” or “cover-all” when it comes to things like this. I kind of assume I’m going to read at least 24 books over the course of the year anyway.

2018 is the second year of this challenge, but I didn’t hear about it last year, so I’m jumping in now!

One challenge that I did know about in 2017 was Book Riot’s Read Harder. I didn’t do terribly well at it, frankly, but it’s a new year and a new set of tasks. I’ve put all 24 of the tasks for Read Harder 2018 in BINGO card format, because… well, mostly just because I could.

Mount TBR (hosted at My Reader’s Block for 2018) is another challenge I’ve attempted and abandoned in the past. But I’m here again, aiming for the Mount Blanc level (24 books). We’re not going to discuss how very many books are actually in my personal Mount TBR, thanks.

(Much of my TBR on GoodReads consists of books I want to read but do not own, making them ineligible for TBR challenges. So, you know, the hundreds of books marked “to-read” over there don’t really count. Kind of like sock yarn purchases when one pledges to knit from stash. Right? Right.)

 

I figured that while I was at it, I might as well join in The Official 2018 TBR Pile Challenge at Roof Beam Reader. This is a 12-book challenge, with the requirement that the 12 books (plus two alternate selections, just in case) be specified by January 15th, 2018. I’m working on my list now.

Of course, it won’t be all TBR, all the time around here. I’m also joining in two challenges that speak to my professional as well as personal interests.

The Old School Kidlit Reading Challenge 2018 at Read-at-Home Mom is a very self-directed challenge. Qualifying books must have been “published in the decade of your birth or before.” There are no monthly themes, and you set your own goal. I’m going to aim for 12 books, because one per month seems like a good goal..

Some possible titles:

  • Sounder by William H. Armstrong
  • My Brother Sam is Dead by James Lincoln Collier & Christopher Collier
  • Ginger Pye by Eleanor Estes
  • The Slave Dancer by Paula Fox
  • My Father’s Dragon by Ruth S. Gannett
  • Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George
  • M. C. Higgins, the Great by Virginia Hamilton
  • To Be a Slave by Julius Lester
  • It’s Like This, Cat by Emily Neville
  • The Twenty-One Balloons by William Pène du Bois
  • Roller Skates by Ruth Sawyer
  • The Egypt Game by Zilpha Keatley Snyder

Yes, there is a certain Newbery winner/honor theme going on there. That’s because I’m doubling up with the Newbery Reading Challenge at Smiling Shelves

This is a fun, points-based challenge. You pick a level to aim for (15-75+ points over the year), and books are awarded 3 points (Newbery winner), 2 points (Newbery honor), or 1 point (Caldecott winner or honor).

I’m going to go ahead and aim for the Konigsburg level (75+ points). In addition to the books I’m lining up for Old School Kidlit challenge, I always go back and read the new Youth Media Award books that I didn’t get to before the announcements in January. Caldecott books tend to pop up throughout the year in my Storytime selections, too.

Two challenges that aren’t about quantity of books read also caught my eye.

 

The 2018 Share-a-Tea Reading Challenge at Becky’s Book Reviews seems like a perfect fit for me. There will be a monthly check-in post over at Becky’s site for it. Expect to finally here about some of the new-to-me teas I’ve been trying lately.

 

The 2018 Book Blog Discussion Challenge is a new challenge for me, and one I’m hoping will help me perk this place up a bit. It’s been quiet around here for quite some time. My goal is the “Creative Conversationalist” level (11-20, but my personal goal is 12). Who knows: maybe I’ll even pop a new podcast episode in here sometime in 2018!

There is an astounding array of reading challenges out there. I had two or three more I was considering, but I decided that really would be pushing it too far.

One thing I didn’t find: a Sherlock Holmes Challenge. I’d really like to read through the Canon over 2018. My Doubleday single-volume is 1122 pages, which divides into 21-22 pages – about two short stories or a couple of novel chapters – per week. Anybody want to join me on this one?

While you’re thinking about that, I’m going to go sip a cup of honeybush vanilla tea and read something.

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