Man Alive, number 5…

…or The Reading Bingo Challenge!

Another year draws to a close, so it must be time for… The Bingo Reading Challenge! I don’t deliberately look for books to read to meet this challenge, but at the end of the year it’s always fun to see how many boxes I can fill. Some of the categories are easy-peasy… others not so much. For some reason I didn’t do it last year, but I’d achieved a full house in each of the four years before that, so the pressure is on…

More than 500 pages

Barnaby Rudge by Charles Dickens. This one is always an easy starter for me because of my habit of reading a Dickens novel over Christmas and the New Year. Barnaby Rudge is the story of a group of people caught up in the Gordon Riots of the 1780s. Not a favourite but still very good.

A forgotten classic

Something to Answer For by PH Newby. Is it a classic? Well, it’s over 50 years old – just – and still in print, so it qualifies by my broad definition. Its main claim to fame is as the winner of the first ever Booker Prize. The story is set at the time of the Suez Crisis of 1956, and I think it’s trying to say something satirical about the effect on the British psyche of the loss of the Empire. I think. Sadly it’s kinda incomprehensible and not very good…

The second book in a series

Castle Skull by John Dickson Carr. The second Bencolin and Marle book, and like the first, a great mix of mystery and horror. Rich financier Jérôme D’Aunay begs Inspector Henri Bencolin to investigate the death of his friend, Myron Alison. Alison died in Castle Skull, last seen running ablaze about the battlements. As the name suggests, the castle is the ultimate in Gothic, and so is much of the story.

With a number in the title

The Man with Six Senses by Muriel Jaeger. Michael Bristowe is a young man with a strange talent – he can sense physical objects even when they are out of sight. But is it a gift or a curse? In this vintage SF novel from 1920, Jaeger seems to be questioning if humanity can continue to evolve at all in a world where difference is shunned.

A book that became a movie

For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway. As a small band of guerrillas await the order to blow up a bridge, an American volunteer falls in love with a Spanish girl. A brilliant start to my sadly neglected Spanish Civil War challenge.

Published this year

The Year Without Summer by Guinevere Glasfurd. Six intertwined stories show the effects around the world of the eruption of Mount Tambora in 1815. Some of the stories are fully fictional, while others are based on real people, such as Mary Shelley’s fateful trip when she would be inspired to write her masterpiece, Frankenstein.

Written by someone under 30

Braised Pork by An Yu. Following the death of her husband, as Jia Jia follows the steps of his final journey to Tibet, she finds herself drifting into a place where the lines between reality and dreams become blurred. An Yu was just 26 when this beautifully written book came out – makes you sick, doesn’t it? 😉

A mystery

Checkmate to Murder by ECR Lorac. Spoiled for choice in this category, so I’m going with a five-star book from one of my new favourite authors.  A foggy night in wartime London is the setting for this murder mystery which has aspects of an “impossible” crime.

A book with non-human characters

Dracula by Bram Stoker. Not only is Dracula the vampire himself non-human, but frankly the heroine, Mina, is so sickeningly perfect I began to wonder if she were an alien! I listened to the audiobook narrated by Greg Wise and Saskia Reeves, and their excellent performance carried me effortlessly through the boring bits slower sections.

A science fiction or fantasy book

The Last Day by Andrew Hunter Murray. When a rogue white dwarf star passes through the solar system, its gravitational pull affects the Earth’s rotation on its axis. Gradually over a period of years it slows, with days and nights lengthening; and then it stops completely, leaving half the earth’s surface in endless burning day and the other half in endless frozen night. Overlong, but well written and with excellent characterisation – a strong début.

A one-word title

Dissolution by CJ Sansom. One of Cromwell’s commissioners has been murdered at a monastery on the Sussex coast, and Cromwell dispatches lawyer Matthew Shardlake to investigate. The first book in this excellent series set in Tudor England, and a very enjoyable re-read.

Free square

The Mystery of Cloomber by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Since Dickens and Christie are getting mentions, I couldn’t leave out Conan Doyle – he’d have been so hurt! A mystery with a generous dollop of horror, a touch of Empire and some suitably inscrutable, scarily mystical Orientals – what more could you ask?

A funny book

Joy in the Morning by PG Wodehouse. Jeeves and Bertie, Florence Craye and Stilton Cheesewright, Nobby Hopwood and Boko Fittleworth, Uncle Percy and pestilential young Edwin, all gathered together at Aunt Agatha’s home in Steeple Bumpleigh. Need I say more?

My fave Jeeves and Wooster

A book of short stories

A Registry of My Passage Upon the Earth by Daniel Mason. I loved this collection of short stories linked by subject matter and style rather than through the characters, creating a wonderful homage to the science fiction of the late 19th/early 20th century. That’s not to say the stories feel old-fashioned or dated, though. Mason looks at the subjects he chooses with a modern eye, thus ensuring they also resonate with a modern reader.

Set on a different continent

Nostromo by Joseph Conrad. In the harbour town of Sulaco, on the coast of the South American country of Costaguana, the silver mine of San Tomé becomes a bone of contention when yet another political coup is on the cards. Costaguana is fictional, but geographically it is based on Colombia. A wonderful book that looks at the destructive and insidious economic colonisation by capitalist countries of those nations whose resources they exploit and whose cultures they destroy.

Heard about online

A Month in the Country by JL Carr. I had never come across this novella in pre-blogging days, but over the last few years several blog buddies have reviewed it, usually in glowing terms. A young man spends a summer restoring a wall painting in an old church. Badly damaged by his wartime experiences, not physically but mentally, he will find a kind of healing as the long summer passes.


The Brothers York by Thomas Penn. A very readable history of the three sons of Richard, Duke of York, two of whom became Kings of England – Edward IV and Richard III – during the period known as the Wars of the Roses. Plenty of treachery, betrayal and general skulduggery from these monarchs and their supporters – in fact, not unlike the vastly superior “democratic” leaders we have today…

A best-selling book

The Guest List by Lucy Foley. Published just six months ago, nominated for the CWA Gold Dagger and winner of the Goodreads Choice Award for Mystery and Thriller, and with 171,660 ratings so far on Goodreads, I think it’s safe to call this book a best-seller! Set on a rugged island off the coast of Ireland during a flashy celebrity wedding, sadly I wasn’t as enthralled by it as many others have been – when will the trend for these formulaic “that day” novels end? Not while they sell in the hundreds of thousands, I suppose…

Based on a true story

The White Bird Passes by Jessie Kesson. Largely autobiographical and set in Scotland in the 1920s, this tells the story of Janie, a little girl growing up among the women of the Lane, a place where the poor struggle to eke out an existence. Janie doesn’t feel neglected by her prostitute mother, but the Cruelty Man disagrees. A beautiful book, full of empathy for those on the margins, that challenges the reader to be slow to judge.

From the bottom of the TBR pile

The Stranger’s Child by Alan Hollingsworth. This had been lingering on my TBR since July 2012, and was the inaugural winner of the People’s Choice Poll, where I reveal some of the lingerers and you pick which one I should read. But it really wasn’t your fault that I abandoned it for being disjointed, unrealistic and frankly boring. I’m sure you’ll get better at this with practice… 😉

First book by a favourite author

The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie. A long overdue re-read of Christie’s first book, and the first appearance of Poirot and the lovely Hastings. A poisoning, a country house, a selection of suspects and a dramatic dénouement – the intricacies of the plotting show the promise of her later skill and the book has the touches of humour that always make her such a pleasure to read.

A book a friend loves

The Go-Between by LP Hartley. This is a bit of a cheat because I didn’t read it because a friend loved it – instead, some friends read it with me, and happily  we all loved it! Leo Colston, as a middle-aged man, looks back to the year of 1900 when he was a child on the edge of puberty, spending a long golden summer with the family of a school-friend. A wonderful book, which I’m glad to say affected me just as much on this re-reading as when I first read it decades ago.

A book that scared me

The Weird Tales of William Hope Hodsgon. I don’t scare easily with books, but a couple of the stories in this collection had the porpy and me quivering, especially The Derelict, which tells of three idiots sailors who come across a derelict ship in the middle of the ocean and decide to board her… DON’T DO IT!!!

A book that is more than 10 years old

Lady Susan by Jane Austen. Again spoiled for choice but although not published till 1871 this was probably written around 1794, which makes it the oldest book I read this year. Lady Susan is a deliciously wicked creation who plots and schemes, and manipulates all the men around her who can’t resist her feminine wiles. Lots of humour in this comedy of manners, full of Austen’s trademark observational wit. A joy!

A book with a blue cover

The Prisoner of Zenda by Anthony Hope. There don’t seem to be as many blue covers around this year, but I like this one. A classic swashbuckling adventure that introduced the world to the fictional country of Ruritania, this spawned so many imitations they became a sub-genre all on their own, of “Ruritarian romances”. Great fun!

* * * * * * *

Bingo! Full House!
What do I win??

61 thoughts on “Man Alive, number 5…

  1. Congratulations! Wonderful picks–some many I love are on your list–Joy in the Morning (wasn’t the latest Spinoza in that one?), Styles, Prisoner of Zenda, Dissolution–also enjoyed Barnaby Rudge (more than people said I would), Lady Susan and Dracula!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh no, oh no, you tempt me to take part in this, and it will take up SO much time, and be SO pleasurable! But yes, I hear you about the formulaic crime novels… it puzzles me why there are so many of them, but I guess they must be doing well, otherwise they wouldn’t get published. In such quantities.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Haha, it is such a fun way to waste time, though – go on, you know you want to… 😈 I don’t understand how readers can read so many of them without getting fed up with them all being so much the same, but they do seem to still be hugely popular.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I am very much impressed, FictionFan! You really did get all the categories, which is more than I can say for myself. Your Feline Authority Department has cleared you to get some cake for that. And a wee drap, too. Well done!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’ve never come across this challenge before, I might take a look for next year in order to try and put some structure back into my reading, as it has been all over the place. Glad to see two of our reviewalong books on your list, the Go Between in particular is such a brilliant book. Maybe we can all do another one sometime next year?

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve spent the last few days planning next year’s reading and what books I need for my various challenges, etc – it’s great fun, even if I know in advance I’ll fail in whatever targets I set! This one is always fun because a lot of the categories are easy to fill, but then there are one or two that are fiendishly difficult, like the author under 30! Some years I’ve nearly had to resort to tweeting authors and demanding to know their dates of birth… 😉 Yes, the reviewalongs were a highlight of last year for me – we must do another one! Any suggestions for a book? I’ll have a trawl through the TBR and see if there are any that jump out as one we might all enjoy reading – hmm…


  5. Very impressive! I am sure, I wouldn’t be able to fill half of the categories. By the way, I never told you, but I picked up my first Jeeves and Wooster (Carry on, Jeeves) on your recommendation and had a good chuckle. But it is true what you told me, all the stories follow the same formula, so I found reading it little by little worked best for me.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Lots of the categories are easy to fill, but there are a few that are fiendishly difficult! But that’s what makes it fun to do! 😀 Oh, good, I am glad you enjoyed Wodehouse! Yes, the stories are secondary to the language and general silliness of the books, so they’re easy to pick up and put down or just read a chapter or two when the need for amusement strikes!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Well done! I like this ‘challenge’, as I don’t look at it until December and so there’s no pressure to find books to fit the squares – not sure I’ll be able to fill the whole card this year though. But I may surprise myself.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s how I do this one too – I never read books specially to fit, so it’s just luck at the end of the year if I can fill all the boxes. Some of them are fiendishly tricky! Looking forward to seeing how you do. 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Bingo!! I think there are only two spaces I cannot cover… the author under 30 (I don’t always know their ages) and a first book by a favorite author (by the time they become favorites, I’m usually long past the first book). The forgotten classic is questionable, since we don’t all have the same definition of forgotten (or classc, for that matter), but I think I have that one covered.

    Guess I can quality for a runner-up prize. Hopefully we win something fun. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • Haha, the author under 30 is fiendishly hard to fill – some years I’ve been tempted to tweet authors and demand their dates of birth! 😉 The first book of a favourite author and the second book in a series are the two other categories I always find hardest – it’s just luck if I’ve read anything that works for them. Are you going to post your list? I love seeing what books other people choose… 😀

      Liked by 1 person

      • Sorry, no list at my blog. I’m going to hibernate a bit after my December book post. My second in a series was actually just a sequel since I don’t think she wrote any others. But still… it was the second! I had many that would fit more than one category.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Yes, I quote often find it’s a matter of juggling the books around till all the spaces are filled – a bit like a jigsaw, in fact!

          Don’t mention hibernation or the porpy will get jealous! But I hope you enjoy your break – I’ll miss you, though!

          Liked by 1 person

    • I love wasting a few hours filling these boxes! Yes, I’ve had a look at some of the specific genre bingo cards too, but they look too hard – I’d spend all my time looking for books where people had been murdered by drowning or something… 😉 This one is nicely general, so much easier, I think.


  8. Well done, FF, you’ve won a box of chocolates!
    Some of your answers made me snicker (The Weird Tales of WHH, Dracula and The Stranger’s Child) and others reminded me of books I’ve added to my list on your recommendation. The Go-Between made me smile, too 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Haha, glad you enjoyed my sarcastic comments! The Go-Between is such a great book and the reviewalong was a lot of fun. Alyson’s suggesting doing another soon, if we can think of a book we’d all like to read… hmm… I’ll need to trawl the TBR and see what might be lurking there. Any suggestions? 😀

      Liked by 1 person

      • Your sarcastic comments are always enjoyable 🙂 A one-star review is always a special treat.
        I’d love to do another read/reviewalong. I don’t have a particular book/author in mind. My first preference is a classic but perhaps we could choose a book set in a place we’d all like to visit (I’m trying hard to think of a theme that relates to 2021 and failing).

        Liked by 1 person

        • Haha, I do enjoy taking vengeance on bad books! 😉 Hmm, I had a trawl through my TBR and wondered about The Painted Veil by W Somerset Maugham? I haven’t read anything by him but I enjoyed the film of the book, and it gets high ratings on GR. Or I’m tempted to suggest a Scottish classic – The Silver Darlings by Neil M Gunn. But I haven’t read it either – it might be terrible! It’s also got good ratings on GR, though…

          Haha, the only way to escape my choices is to suggest a different one… 😉 I’ll maybe do a wee selection on a TBR post in the new year so we can pick one.


          • Both sound good. I read some short stories by W Somerset Maugham many years ago and went through a phase of reading everything I could by him, but can’t remember reading The Painted Veil.
            I’ve never heard of The Silver Darlings but looked it up and am interested – I saw a review by the author’s great-nephew on Amazon! My local book shop will order a copy but will need some time to get it.
            My list this year includes A Summer Place by Sloan Wilson, just because I love the theme music from the film, Vanity Fair and if I can find the concentration, something by Henry James. Happy to go with either of your choices though, or Alyson’s, if she has any suggestions. Sandra might have a readalong idea, too.

            Liked by 1 person

            • Vanity Fair is a great book, and I have an audiobook version of it I was hoping to listen to some time soon, so I’d be up for that! I’d also be happy to do a Henry James, but maybe later – I feel it’s too soon after reading The American, I don’t know A Summer Place at all, but shall look it up! Haven’t had suggestions from Alyson or Christine yet, and I haven’t heard from Sandra in ages. I know she was going through a rough time, and hope all’s well with her. Maybe a review-along will tempt her back… 😀

              I think I’ll maybe do a post, and see if we can all come to an agreement, maybe in a couple of weeks. I was thinking mid-end March for the actual reviews, so that should give us all plenty of time to acquire books, read and review…

              Liked by 1 person

            • I expect that your post will create interest from a few would-be review-along-ers 🙂
              It probably is far too soon for you and Henry James to try again. I started The Age of Innocence about a month ago and after three attempts couldn’t get past the first chapter, so the book went back into the tottering pile.
              You might know the music from A Summer Place rather than the film or book. I only know it because my mother used to play a record with the music on it many, many years ago.

              Liked by 1 person

            • Oh, yes, I recognised as soon as I played it! I think it must have been released as a single at some point, or maybe my dad had it on a record – it’s the kind of thing he’d have listened to. Christine showed interest in The Silver Darlings and Vanity Fair, so I’m thinking maybe we should do both of them – months apart, of course! I’ll put it out on my TBR post this week or next, and see if Alyson’s in. I’m not sure Sandra will be up for it – she did pop in to say happy new year, but I don’t think she’s ready to come back to blogging yet. But maybe we’ll be able to tempt her…

              Liked by 1 person

            • Well, it’s a funny thing, but I noticed the music playing on a McDonald’s ad on tv the other night! Now I know why Mum wanted an ice cream sundae last time I saw her.
              I’ll slip down to my local bookshop and place an order (any excuse to buy more books!)

              Liked by 1 person

            • Haha, I’ve given up trying to keep track of the rules – they change nearly every day! So the cats and I have gone into hibernation for the duration… 😉 Yes, at least we seem to be doing quite a good job of getting the vaccines out even if we’ve failed at every other aspect of controlling the thing.

              Liked by 1 person

            • Woohoo! I’m thinking maybe mid-March for the reviews to give us all plenty of time (though no doubt I’ll end up writing my review at 2 a.m. the night before, as usual 😉 ). I didn’t get around to adding it to this post but will include it in next Thursday’s. I hope we all love it! 😀

              Liked by 1 person

  9. And here I thought that you just needed to fill out a single row! But you’ve gone and filled out the entire card! While some of these would be easy for me (books with nonhuman characters, LOL, the most difficult for me to fulfill would be the series, as I tend not to read books that lend themselves to series formats. I’d say you’ve done well for the year! Congrats! Happy reading in 2021!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Haha, one row would be too easy… 😉 I find the series tricky too since I’m not reading many these days but the one that’s usually hardest is the author under 30. I don’t think tweeting authors to demand to know their dates of birth would go down well! And it’s a hard one to cheat on…

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Well done on another full house, FF and you win… our undying respect?? 😏 I am so pleased to see Lady Susan and The Mysterious Affair at Styles mentioned (as well as a picture of the best Hastings and Poirot EVER). You’ve also reminded me I really need to read Dissolution and The Mystery of Cloomber sounds great, too! 😁

    Liked by 1 person

    • Haha, I’ll settle for undying respect! 😉 They are the best Poirot and Hastings, aren’t they? They’re who I visualise now when I read the books! I think you’ll love the Sansom books, and I’m hoping to read more of ACD’s less well-known stuff this year. 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  11. So I just recalled that Laila hated The Guest List by Lucy Foley too, so I’m not surprised you didn’t like it either. Because you read so many mysteries (like me, sort of) I think we have higher standards when it comes to plotting, and so many of these recent releases just don’t hit the mark…

    Liked by 1 person

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