Two little ducks, 22…

…or The Reading Bingo Challenge!




The Reading Bingo Challenge has been doing the rounds as a great way to look back over the year’s reading, so I thought I’d see how many categories I could complete… and it’s also a great opportunity to bring back some of my favourite pics from the year.

More than 500 pages

The Way Things Were by Aatish Taseer. Long but worth it, since this novel about India’s struggle to move on from the aftermath of Empire won my Literary Fiction Book of the Year Award.

A forgotten classic

Vertigo by Boileau-Narcejac. The book that inspired the Hitchcock film, but in this case I feel the book wins. There’s less of an emphasis on the effects of vertigo, and more of a study of a weak mind struggling against a growing obsession. Very dark.

A book that became a movie

Psycho by Robert Bloch. Another one that got the Hitchcock treatment, and in this case I’d say the book and film are equally good, though for different reasons. It was intriguing to see that even knowing the huge plot twist didn’t stop the book from building a great atmosphere of tension.

psycho 1

Published this year

The Invisible Man from Salem by Christoffer Carlsson. Spoiled for choice in this category, and this one only sneaks in as published in translation this year – the original won the Swedish Crime Association’s award for Best Crime Novel of 2013. I particularly enjoyed the ‘past’ element in this crime thriller, concerning a group of teenagers in a run-down estate in ’80s Sweden.

With a number in the title

Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights by Salman Rushdie. Finally, a Rushdie book I actually finished! And what’s more, thoroughly enjoyed! A brilliantly written and very funny satire on philosophy, politics, love, religion – well, on life, really – disguised as a fairy tale about the jinn. I may even be willing to try another Rushdie now.

Djinn by jwilsonillustration via
Djinn by jwilsonillustration via

Written by someone under 30

A Study in Scarlet by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. This was Conan Doyle’s first Holmes story – a quite remarkable début for someone aged only 26 at time of writing. All Conan Doyle’s usual skills of great descriptive writing and characterisation are here, along with an intriguing story that takes us to Utah with the first Mormons.

A book with non-human characters

The Warlord of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs. This is a shameless excuse to show a picture of my favourite non-Earth animal, the lovely ten-limbed Woola. What a smile, eh?

Woola...four legs missing, but still smiling...
Woola…four legs missing, but still smiling…

A funny book

The Lunatics Have Taken Over the Asylum. Haven’t read much humour this year, but this collection of readers’ letters to The Telegraph is very funny – if you happen to be a UK political geek, that is…

A book by a female author

The Shut Eye by Belinda Bauer. Again loads of choice, but Bauer manages to keep her standards high with every book she produces. This one is about missing children, is quite harrowing at times, and has a supernatural element. And yet I still loved it… proving what a truly talented writer she is.

A mystery

The Miser’s Dream by John Gaspard. I’m loving this series about stage magician Eli Marks and his friends. A little too strong to be ‘cosy’, these have almost a Golden Age feel, with proper mysteries complete with clues, red herrings, suspects etc. And loads of humour…

A one-word title

William McIlvanney William McIlvanney 1936-2015 Photo: Chris Watt for The Telegraph
William McIlvanney 1936-2015
Photo: Chris Watt for The Telegraph

Docherty by William McIlvanney. The story of an Ayrshire miner and his family in the first couple of decades of the twentieth century. McIlvanney writes beautifully, often poetically, in both English and Scottish dialect, and this book works as both an intimate family saga and as a fairly political look at the lot of those at the bottom of the ladder at a time when the world was undergoing huge change.

Free square

The Shapeshifters by Stefan Spjut. A weird but wonderful mix of crime novel and fairy tale, set in modern-day Sweden where the beasts from folk tales still exist. It works because of the quality of the writing and the matter-of-fact way Spjut introduces the trolls. Hard to categorise so the Free Square seems ideal…

Scandinavian Fairy Tale illustration by Theodore Kittlesen 1857-1914
Scandinavian Fairy Tale illustration by Theodore Kittlesen 1857-1914

A book of short stories

Coup de Foudre by Ken Kalfus. A new collection from one of my favourite authors. As always with Kalfus, there’s a blend of the personal and the political, darkness and humour, and there’s some great imagination on display here too. A good place to start with Kalfus…

Set on a different continent

Settling Earth by Rebecca Burns. This is a set of linked stories about the experiences of early women settlers in New Zealand. While life is shown as harsh and often brutal, it feels as though these women are on the cusp of change, that a new generation, native to this land as their mothers weren’t, may play a different role.


Resurrection Science by M.R. O’Connor. Without doubt, the most thought-provoking book I’ve read on the subject of conservation. O’Connor uses examples of projects happening now to examine and debate the ethics surrounding conservation, including the question of whether we should try to resurrect species already extinct.

Kihansi spray toad and baby at Bronx Zoo, one of only two remaining colonies, both in US zoos.
Kihansi spray toad and baby at Bronx Zoo, one of only two remaining colonies, both in US zoos.

First book by a favourite author

Secret Diary of PorterGirl by Lucy Brazier. I got to know Lucy and her work via blogging, and this first book is full of humour. Set in the not-entirely-fictional world of Old College, PorterGirl and her quirky colleagues are caught up in murder and mayhem of Dan Brown-esque proportions…

Heard about online

The Defence by Steve Cavanagh. So many choices for this category, but this book stood out as one everyone seemed to be talking about, and it lived up to the hype. A fast-paced thriller, perhaps a bit over the credibility line, but well-written, twisty and fun.

A best-selling book

Lamentation by CJ Sansom. A great book in a great series and my Book of the Year 2015, this book has over 2,000 reviews on Amazon UK, most of them 5 stars. Shardlake must discover who has stolen a potentially heretical manuscript written by Henry VIII’s last Queen…

Catherine Parr's book - Lamentations of a Sinner
Catherine Parr’s book – Lamentations of a Sinner

Based on a true story

Runaway by Peter May. A story of teenage boys in the ’60s, heading to London in search of fame and fortune, this is based on May’s own experiences, though hopefully he didn’t get involved in a murder…

From the bottom of the TBR pile

Waverley by Sir Walter Scott. Billed as the first historical novel in the English language, this is a tale of the Jacobite rebellion of 1745. Given that this is one of the most important books ever written by a Scot, I’ve been meaning to read it for most of my life. Unfortunately, it wasn’t quite as enjoyable as I’d hoped, but at least it’s now crossed off the list!

A book a friend loves

Dark Matter by Michelle Paver. Recommended by my earliest blog buddy, Lady Fancifull, this book, about an expedition to the Arctic that goes wrong, proved to be just as well written and frankly terrifying as she claimed. Psychological terror, though – look elsewhere if you require chainsaws and gore.

arctic night

A book that scared me

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson. A group of people get together to spend the summer in a haunted house. But are the ghosts real or all in the head of Eleanor, the increasingly unreliable central character? Some parts of this had the porpentine fretting like billy-oh…

A book that is more than 10 years old

Sunset Song by Lewis Grassic Gibbon. This first volume of Lewis Grassic Gibbon’s trilogy, A Scots Quair, focuses on the life of Chris Guthrie, daughter of a tenant farmer in the fictional estate of Kinraddie in the north-east of Scotland, before and during the First World War. A wonderful book that deserves it’s status as a great classic – and a new film adaptation has just been released…

Agyness Deyn as Chris in the new movie adaptation of Sunset Song
Agyness Deyn as Chris in the new movie adaptation of Sunset Song

The second book in a series

Smoke and Mirrors by Elly Griffiths. Historical crime set in Brighton just after WW2, this is part of Griffiths’ new Stephens and Mephisto series. She brings the setting and period to life, and stage magician, Max Mephisto, is a great partner for policeman Edgar Stephens, allowing the stories to be set around the world of theatre.

A book with a blue cover

The Blue Guitar by John Banville. Loved this introduction (for me) to Banville’s brilliant writing. The story of narcissist Olly Orme may not be saying anything terribly profound, but the prose is sparkling and witty. I came away from it feeling dazzled and entertained – what more can you ask from a book?

* * * * * * *

Couldn't find an excuse for this one. But then I thought... who needs an excuse?
Couldn’t find an excuse for this one. But then I thought… who needs an excuse?

Made it! Full House! (Do I win a prize?)


50 thoughts on “Two little ducks, 22…

  1. I am duly impressed, FictionFan! What I like about your choices is their variety. You’ve got crime fiction, thriller, sci-fi, history, and lots more. That’s an achievement. I’m deliberately leaving my credit card in another room, though… 😉 – Oh, and I don’t think you need an excuse, either…


  2. Well done! I think this is the best reading challenge, doing it retrospectively worked well for me, no pressure! I was only one square missing – ‘author under 30’ for my card. Now if I known in advance I could have wasted a lot of time looking for one! 🙂


    • Yes, I like the retrospective thing! I was lucky with Arthur Conan Doyle – that ‘author under 30’ one is the hardest, since I rarely know an author’s age. And I don’t feel I can really tweet them asking ‘How old are you, by the way?’ 😉


  3. Well done- I do find this kind of retrospective Bingo works much better (for me at least) than a pre-determined challenge. I too had no idea that Arthur Conan Doyle was that young at the time of writing A Study in Scarlet – so double kudos to you. My prize is for you is: lots more wonderful reads for next year!


    • Yes, I definitely prefer the retrospective thing – this was the year I discovered I really don’t want to do challenges! Except maybe ones I set myself and leave open-ended. I thought I was going to have to miss the ‘author under 30 till I remembered A Study in Scarlet was ACD’s first – phew! Thank you! Santa has already started the year off well… 🙂


  4. Some interesting books on there! I didn’t realise Runaway was based on a true story either. It’s sitting on my bookcase waiting to be read. It’s a book I shall be reading in 2016. Great list!


  5. OK–thanks to you I’ve squandered some mighty minutes to this lovely project!
    Am missing 4 categories: non-human characters; based on true story; book that
    scares you; book that scares you. Love the game. I think it might be interesting
    to add in a poetry and a drama choice, too . . . back to the real world.


  6. Exactly! Who needs an excuse for Mr Darcy? 🙂

    I like the sound of Settling Earth, and the film adaptation of Sunset Song sounds like my type of movie. I wonder why I haven’t heard of it – I tend to keep up to date with the latest releases. Maybe it doesn’t have a very wide release.


    • I should have included in my New Year’s resolution – more Darcy!! 😉

      Settling Earth was a very good read – I’ll definitely be looking out for more of Rebecca Burns’ books in future. Yes, I have a feeling Sunset Song is getting a limited release mainly in ‘art house’ cinemas. Apparently it’s not one of the big studios’ productions, but a project by the director that’s taken years and years to realise. It’s been getting some great reviews though, and the clips I’ve seen look wonderful. I’m hoping to see it in the cinema, but if not will definitely be getting the DVD when it comes out…


  7. Well done, FF!! Love your succinct descriptions (and marvel at them, too — I mean, how many of us writers have LOADS of trouble summarizing books we’ve written?!?) I’m adding The Miser’s Dream to my TBR right now!


    • Oh, good – The Miser’s Dream is great! Though it’s the third in a series – the first one is called ‘ The Ambitious Card’. Haha! Thank you – it takes me ages to get a book down to a line or two! Usually I can’t do it in under a thousand words… 😉


  8. Not a surprise that you made it all! So, I’m not even sure how Bingo works, can you believe. Anyways, doesn’t that woman in Psycho have a big mouth? I bet that scream was awfully piercing.

    And I’ve just realized that…Darby has fake sideburns too!


    • I struggled a bit with the ‘author under 30’ – but as usual ACD saved the day! What a man! Haha! Bingo is awful – and awfully British, I think. You should remain in ignorance of it as long as you can…

      She does! But then if someone attacked me in the shower, I’d hope I could scream pretty loudly too!

      It’s so lovely that your still so jealous of my Darcy – his sideburns are perfect, and such a wonderful match for his sweet little kisscurl…


    • I’ve always had a few authors on my ‘must buy on publication day’ list, but it’s got out of hand with all the review copies the last couple of years. Now I find I really have to work to fit in anything that isn’t a new release! But it will all change next year… 😉


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