Legs eleven…

…or The Reading Bingo Challenge!




I managed a Full House last year in The Reading Bingo Challenge, but will I be able to do it again? Whether or not, it’s a fun 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

Martin Chuzzlewit by Charles Dickens. First review of the year following my usual pattern of reading Dickens over Christmas. And a fine one to start with – Dickens tackling the subjects of selfishness and greed, both in Britain and America. Hmm… almost counts as contemporary fiction…

The inaptly named Eden, young Martin's American home. By Phiz.
The inaptly named Eden, young Martin’s American home. By Phiz.

A forgotten classic

Sergeant Cluff Stands Firm by Gil North. One of the British Library re-issues, this is set somewhat later than many of them, in the Yorkshire of the early 1960s. I loved the grim Northern setting and grew to appreciate North’s distinctive style of short, sharp sentences. Plus reviewing it led to one of my favourite posts of the year – a guest post from Martin Edwards introducing us to his Ten Top Golden Age Detectives

A book that became a movie

Black Narcissus by Rumer Godden. I’ve reviewed several “Films of the Books” this year so I’m spoiled for choice. This one is wonderfully melodramatic and a pretty faithful adaptation. The book itself tells the story of a small group of nuns who are sent to open a convent in school in the remoteness of the Himalayas. For each, the experience will change her forever in ways she never imagined…

black narcissus bell

Published this year

I Am No One by Patrick Flanery. Again spoiled for choice in this category. Flanery’s latest book is a study of paranoia in our new world of constant surveillance. Flanery raises the question of how far we are willing to compromise our privacy in the name of security, and suggests that we should be wary of giving up our hard-won freedoms too easily.

With a number in the title

2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C Clarke. I seem to be mentioning this book a lot in these end of year posts and that’s because of the impact it had on me. I followed the author’s suggestion to ‘read the book, then see the film’ and wow! Together they blew me away! The story of man’s ascent from primitive ape-like creatures to space travellers and beyond is surely what the word ‘pychedelic’ was coined for. Far out, man!

2001 poster

Written by someone under 30

The Girls by Emma Cline. I could only find one for this, but fortunately it’s a great one. Based on the story of the Manson murders, this is about the psychology of cults, about how vulnerable people can find themselves being led to behave in ways that seem incomprehensible to onlookers, giving them an aura of almost demonic evil. A young author who is one to watch, for sure!

A book with non-human characters

The High Mountains of Portugal by Yann Martel. Another book I find myself mentioning and thinking about often, this is a book about grief, religion, and the old evolution v faith debate – beautifully and movingly told, with more than an edge of surrealism in parts. It’s also about chimpanzees…


A funny book

Travels with My Aunt by Graham Greene. I struggled with this category. Although I enjoy some humour in books, I rarely read one that could be described as ‘funny’. This is a gentle little comedy without any of the profundity of Greene’s major works but still with a certain amount of charm.

A book by a female author

Daisy in Chains by Sharon Bolton. (This always strikes me as such an odd category – as if female authors are somehow unusual. Anyway…) This is Sharon Bolton at her twisty, twisted best, and her best is pretty brilliant! Maggie Rose is a defence barrister and author of several books regarding possible miscarriages of justice. But convicted killer Hamish Wolfe is a handsome charmer, and it soon seems that Maggie may be falling under his spell…

A mystery

4:50 from Paddington by Agatha Christie. A classic re-read for this category, since no-one does mystery better than Agatha Christie! When Elspeth McGillicuddy glances out of the window of her train carriage, she is horrified to see a woman being strangled by a tall, dark man in another train. But fortunately Mrs McGillicuddy is on her way to visit an old friend, Miss Marple…

Margaret Rutherford as Miss Marple in Murder, She Said
Margaret Rutherford as Miss Marple in Murder, She Said which is based (roughly) on the book.

A one-word title

Exposure by Helen Dunsmore. This is a spy story with a difference – it’s seen mainly from the point of view of the family of a man accused of treason. It’s also an intelligent take on the story of The Railway Children, but seen from the adult perspective.

Free square

Open Wounds by Douglas Skelton. Davie McCall is a gangster with a moral code. Now he wants out of this life, but first he has to do one last job for his boss. I loved this look at Glasgow gangster culture – so much more authentic than most of what’s classed as ‘Tartan Noir’. However this is the fourth book in a quartet, so I should really have begun with Blood City.

A book of short stories

Dubliners by James Joyce. Joyce’s collection of 15 stories takes the reader through the various strata of Dublin society of the early years of the twentieth century. Some of the stories are outstanding and, as a collection, I thoroughly enjoyed the whole thing, the weaker parts being more than compensated for by the stronger.

James Joyce
James Joyce

Set on a different continent

A Rising Man by Abir Mukherjee. It’s 1919 – the corpse of a white man is discovered in an alleyway in an unsavoury part of Calcutta, and Inspector Sam Wyndham is assigned to investigate. This debut novel is the start of a series of historical crime fiction set in India under the dying days of the Raj. Great stuff, with a real authenticity about the setting – looking forward to more from this author.


The Wicked Boy by Kate Summerscale. This is a chilling but fascinating true crime story from the end of the Victorian era. Robert Coombes was thirteen when he murdered his mother. Summerscale looks at his possible motivation, the justice system of the time, and Robert’s future life, asking the question if redemption is ever possible after such a horrific crime.

First book by a favourite author

The Other Typist by Suzanne Rindell. It’s Prohibition Era and Rose, the narrator, is a little jealous of the new typist Odalie, hired to work alongside her in the police department; but when Odalie decides to befriend her, Rose quickly falls under her spell. I loved this and Rindell’s next book, Three-Martini Lunch – she creates such authentic settings and unique voices for her characters. A new favourite author, and one I’m keen to watch develop.

Keira Knightley has bought the films rights to The Other Typist apparently - I think she'd make a great Odalie...or maybe Rose!
Keira Knightley has bought the films rights to The Other Typist apparently – I think she’d make a great Odalie…or maybe Rose!

Heard about online

In the Woods by Tana French. This category could apply to just about every book I read, but I’ve gone for this one since Tana French has been recommended by so many fellow bloggers in glowing terms. While I wasn’t completely blown away by this, her first novel, I’m still looking forward to reading more of her books.

A best-selling book

Conclave by Robert Harris. This is an absolutely fascinating and absorbing look at the process of how a new Pope is chosen. Of course, being a novel, Harris makes sure there are plenty of scandals and secrets to come out, each one subtly changing the balance of power amongst the cardinals. Amazon has it marked as a “Bestseller”, so that’s good enough for me.

From the bottom of the TBR pile

Green for Danger by Christianna Brand. A classic murder mystery set in a WW2 military hospital. When a patient at the hospital dies unexpectedly on the operating table, it’s up to Inspector Cockrill to find the murderer. But first he has to work out how it was done. This spent more than three years on the TBR before it reached the top of the heap…

Alastair Sim as Inspector Cockrill in the film version of Green for Danger
Alastair Sim as Inspector Cockrill in the film version of Green for Danger

Based on a true story

Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut. Written during the height of the Vietnam War, Vonnegut uses his own experiences of the bombing of Dresden in WW2 to produce a powerful protest novel, disguised as science fiction – a book that concentrates on the effects of war at the human, individual level.

A book a friend loves

Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann. This book tells the story of a group of people whose lives were all touched in some way by the incredible high-wire walk of Philippe Petit between the Twin Towers one August morning in 1974. It was highly recommended to me by fellow blogger DesertDweller, so I was delighted to be able to declare it A Great American Novel.

Philippe Petit - this picture gives me vertigo...
Philippe Petit – this picture gives me vertigo…

A book that scared me

Thin Air by Michelle Paver. A group of mountaineers have to contend with scarier things than extreme weather and dangerous conditions on their expedition in the Himalayas. Paver is excellent at building tension and creating a subtle atmosphere of horror.

A book that is more than 10 years old

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Thurston. Another book I read as part of the Great American Novel Quest, this tells the story of Janie, a black woman on a journey of self-discovery. Although I wasn’t uncritical of it, I loved it for the language and the compelling story-telling, and for making me think.

Zora Neale Hurston
Zora Neale Hurston

The second book in a series

An Advancement of Learning by Reginald Hill. I’m gradually re-reading my favourite detective series of all time, Reginald Hill’s Dalziel and Pascoe series. These early ones are good in their own right, but are also intriguing for seeing the characters before they’re fully formed and for watching Hill’s style and technique develop.

A book with a blue cover

Zero K by Don DeLillo. This is a strange and unsettling book that takes the science fiction cliché of cryogenics and turns it into a thought-provoking reflection on death and identity. From a shaky beginning, I grew to love it, for the writing, the imagery and the sheer intelligence of it.

zero k

* * * * * * *

Bingo! Full House!


53 thoughts on “Legs eleven…

  1. Great, great selection of books on your bingo, congratulations!
    There are many books listed here I have never heard of or seen on other blogs.
    Time to mark down a few to read in 2107!


  2. You’ve whetted my appetite for Martin Chuzzlewit – I think I was too young when I read it, so a lot of the corporate greed stuff went right over my head. But it might depress me too much… I hadn’t heard of Let the Great World Spin, but must check it out now. If I find myself buying any more books before the New Year because of you, you are in SERIOUS trouble!


    • I loved the stuff about America in Martin Chuzzlewit, even though it didn’t quite seem to fit in with the rest of the book really. But it’s fun to see that business practices haven’t changed as much as we might have hoped! Haha! It’s not my fault! But I’m finding all these year end lists fatal too… my world famous willpower appears to be crumbling! I suspect you will like Let the Great World Spin though… 😉


  3. Well done, FictionFan! You did a brilliant job here, and with so many different sorts of books, too. I really like your choices very much, too. And you’ve reminded me that I must read Open Wounds. Shame on me for not getting to that one yet!


    • It’s the question about an author under 30 that I always find tricky – I always have this vision of me frantically tweeting authors and demanding to know their date of birth! Open Wounds is definitely worth reading – I absolutely must read more of his stuff this year… *sighs*

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Gosh – we did THREE in the same slots – Flanery, Harris and Paver (a good name for a legal firm, I think. Well done for your full house as well. Not to mention lovely pics. I’m particularly enamoured of the young chimp. I have just, sternly, reminded myself that a chimp is not only for Christmas, and so abandoned my plan for a spot of chimp thievery action on London Zoo. Not to mention the fact that chimp-in-the-house would seriously ruffle the cats’ feathers. To mangle a metaphor or twelve.

    Goes away and thinks hard about feathered cats, and what they might be like…….


    • Yes, the little subset of authors we both like may be small, but it’s quality! I love that chimp! Now that I have to stop going on about The High Mountains of Portugal, I shall have to seek out another chimp-related book so I can keep using that gif…


      • Well there is one, but I can’t name it, because that would then be a spoiler. It’s one I haven’t read, because unfortunately I came across a spoiler review and I can’t reveal why that meant I couldn’t read it, because that too would be a spoiler. I shall just say, keep on reading, and, who knows, you might at some point read a book which makes you realise chimp gif is ready to be recycled


          • I’m still hopping mad at the crass Amazon reviewer – clearly no respecter of readers – who did the spoiler, a spectacularly damaging one. It would be akin to someone starting a crime fic review which successfully hid the perp till the final page , by saying ‘of course the killer is so and so and the reader spends the novel thinking they are the hero, so they are in for a big surprise. ‘ And the review reader, unfortunately, can’t forget that. I think the review got driven out of sight by scores down voting it, but not before several unsuspecting review readers, including me, had read the review.


            • It’s so annoying. I wish Amazon would have some kind of policy on spoilers – a special ‘spoiler’ button like the ‘Report Abuse’ one… not that they ever pay any attention to that! Fortunately my memory’s rubbish, so usually if I leave it for a couple of months I’ll have forgotten, but sometimes the spoiler is so shocking it lingers. What always annoys me even more is that even when people (like me) leave polite comments requesting them to put a spoiler alert at the top, generally they ignore it…


            • That WAS the case with that one. It was one of those ‘seared into the memory forever’ spoilers (for reasons which i can’t explain, except that it was a spoiler to end all spoilers)

              It makes me, grimly, laugh a bit though, because I try so hard to avoid anything remotely spoilerish that often, when I’m being super coy, I read back old reviews of mine and haven’t a clue what the book might have been about. A half way house would be good.


            • That’s why I nearly always start with a mini-blurb – my memory’s so shocking that if I don’t say something to remind me of what the book was about, it’ll disappear completely. But a short reminder usually brings it all back. I’ve often thought of using the Goodreads facility that allows you to record private comments as well as the public review… but I’m too lazy!


  5. Congratulations for a second year in a row! Some great books and I have now finally ordered a copy of The Other Typist which I have wanted to read since it came out. So that’s two books you’ve added to the TBR in a week and I strongly suspect I will want a copy of Three-Martini Lunch


    • Thank you! Do you think maybe we read too much? Nah!

      Haha! Hurrah! You’ll love The Other Typist, I promise! If you don’t I’ll eat The Girl on the Train (the book, that is, not the actual girl…) And then you’ll definitely want Three-Martini Lunch… 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Congratulations! Yesterday I found Sergeant Cluff Stands Firm in a charity shop and safe to say that will be the fastest I’ll move all Christmas 😉 Remembering your glowing review I couldn’t get it in my sweaty paws fast enough!


      • Oh my! That might actually finish me off! My local friendly James Joyce society is doing a production of Exiles in June which I am involved in – that should be more than enough of a challenge, thank you very much. But if anything else either ridiculously highbrow or nonsensical pops up, I will certainly consider it 🙂


          • I am open to suggestions of literary challenges! The good thing about the Joyce people is that they make me look really normal. It always pays to have friends odder than oneself, I find 😉


            • It might be fun to do a ‘street’ version of Chaucer – although my ‘street’ talk is stuck in the 90s, unfortunately. 90s Street Chaucer, anyone?
              Ah… yes… but you are one of the non-odd ones, obviously. Because you like wine and chocolate. Anyone who likes wine and chocolate can’t be too odd…


  7. So…is a full house score like the best? Can’t say I’ve ever played Bingo. It always seems confusing, and since I’m never confused, I can’t play it. It’s like a paradox, see, or something like that.

    Oooo….the woman on the cliff…I remember that one.

    Keira! Is that really her? Doesn’t look like her.


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