Christmas Quiz

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There’s four generations of us when we get together at Christmas and for years I was in charge of organising the games. So I devised a multi-question quiz so that everyone could pair up and join in. Because there are a LOT of clever-clogs in our family, the questions are a bit quirky and difficult, so  said clever-clogs didn’t always win – and the answers used to provide some hilarity… Have a go. Or if you are also wondering what to do with the family during the festive season, then you’re very welcome to download it and use it.

1. If you suffer from cynanthropy, what do you think you are?
a) a dog b) a swan c) a plant d) a superhero

2. What is a group of foxes called?
a) a pack b) a skulk c) a rabble d) a sneak

3. What was the name of William Tell’s son, who stood with an apple on
his head?
a) Jean b) Walter c) Hubert d) Frederick

4. For what did the Russians use the bones of the 40,000 killed at Sebastopol?
a) Making cement b) The footings of a war memorial
c) Fertilizer d) The foundations of St Peter’s Hill

5. From which country does lettuce originate?
a) Iraq b) Tunisia c) Egypt d) Iran

6. On which Christian feast day is the Earth nearest the Sun?
a) Christmas b) Ascension Day c) Epiphany d) All Hallow’s Eve

7. Which colour tranquillizer pills have the best effect?
a) Green/blue b) Blue c) Yellow d) White

8. What is the birth stone for March?
a) greenstone b) aquamarine c) agate d) topaz

9. Which place name gives the word ‘port’ its name?
a) Portugal b) Portsmouth c) Oporto d) Portobello

10 According to the Bible, what “quencheth the thirst of the jackasses”?
a) seawater b) vinegar c) water d) strong wine

11 Approximately how many inches of snow are equal to 1 inch of rain?
a) 6 inches b) 8 inches c) 10 inches d) 12 inches

12 Who was the oldest Beatle?
a) Paul McCartney b) Ringo Starr
c) George Harrison d) John Lennon

13 What is the nickname that Anne Frank gave her diary?
a) Kitty b) Dulcie c) Paige d) Carrie

14 What part of the human body contains the most gold?
a) hair b) kidneys c) liver d) toenails

15 What is a Suffolk punch?
a) Very strong cider b) A farm implement
c) A breed of horse d) A knockout blow in boxing

16 How did Alfred Hitchcock appear in his film Rope?
a) In an oil painting b) In outline, on a neon sign
c) On an advertising billboard d) Staring out of a passing taxi

17 In 1631 Robert Barker’s Holy Bible was destroyed and the printer fined £300. Why?
a) Because the 7th Commandment read: Thou shalt commit adultery
b) Because he mistranslated Moses as having horns
c) Because he misspelled the word ‘Blessed’ as Blissed’ in the Beatitudes
d) Because he omitted the last chapter, Revelations.

18 What was John Logie Baird’s first successful invention?
a) the earliest television b) socks to prevent sweaty feet
c) sweatproof underclothing d) infra-red images

19 What does an oometer measure?
a) audience reaction b) birds’ eggs
c) water purity d) calorific values in food

20 Whose hair caught fire while making a Pepsi-Cola advert?
a) Madonna b) George Michael
c) Michael Jackson d) Tina Turner

Answers

1. If you suffer from cynanthropy, what do you think you are?
a) a dog b) a swan c) a plant d) a superhero

2. What is a group of foxes called?
a) a pack b) a skulk c) a rabble d) a sneak

3. What was the name of William Tell’s son, who stood with an apple on
his head?
a) Jean b) Walter c) Hubert d) Frederick

4. For what did the Russians use the bones of the 40,000 killed at Sebastopol?
a) Making cement b) The footings of a war memorial
c) Fertilizer d) The foundations of St Peter’s Hill

5. From which country does lettuce originate?
a) Iraq b) Tunisia c) Egypt d) Iran

6. On which Christian feast day is the Earth nearest the Sun?
a) Christmas b) Ascension Day c) Epiphany d) All Hallow’s Eve

7. Which colour tranquillizer pills have the best effect?
a) Green/blue b) Blue c) Yellow d) White

8. What is the birth stone for March?
a) greenstone b) aquamarine c) agate d) topaz

9. Which place name gives the word ‘port’ its name?
a) Portugal b) Portsmouth c) Oporto d) Portobello

10. According to the Bible, what “quencheth the thirst of the jackasses”?
a) seawater b) vinegar c) water d) strong wine

11. Approximately how many inches of snow are equal to 1 inch of rain?
a) 6 inches b) 8 inches c) 10 inches d) 12 inches

12. Who was the oldest Beatle?
a) Paul McCartney b) Ringo Starr
c) George Harrison d) John Lennon

13. What is the nickname that Anne Frank gave her diary?
a) Kitty b) Dulcie c) Paige d) Carrie

14. What part of the human body contains the most gold?
a) hair b) kidneys c) liver d) toenails

15. What is a Suffolk punch?
a) Very strong cider b) A farm implement
c) A breed of horse d) A knockout blow in boxing

16. How did Alfred Hitchcock appear in his film Rope?
a) In an oil painting b) In outline, on a neon sign
c) On an advertising billboard d) Staring out of a passing taxi

17. In 1631 Robert Barker’s Holy Bible was destroyed and the printer fined £300. Why?
a) Because the 7th Commandment read: Thou shalt commit adultery
b) Because he mistranslated Moses as having horns
c) Because he misspelled the word ‘Blessed’ as Blissed’ in the Beatitudes
d) Because he omitted the last chapter, Revelations.

18. What was John Logie Baird’s first successful invention?
a) the earliest television b) socks to prevent sweaty feet
c) sweatproof underclothing d) infra-red images

19. What does an oometer measure?
a) audience reaction b) birds’ eggs
c) water purity d) calorific values in food

20. Whose hair caught fire while making a Pepsi-Cola advert?
a) Madonna b) George Michael
c) Michael Jackson d) Tina Turner

Review of Foxglove Summer – Book 5 of the Peter Grant series by Ben Aaronovitch

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I’ve enjoyed this series – see my review of Rivers of London here – so was looking forward to this next slice of Peter Grant goodness – particularly as the twist at the end of Broken Homes had my jaw dropping and Mhairi Simpson sending me sweary text messages… Would this next instalment sustain the quality?

foxglovesummerWhen two young girls go missing in rural Herefordshire PC Peter Grant is sent out of London to check that nothing supernatural is involved. It’s purely routine. Nightingale thinks he’ll be done in less than a day. But Peter’s never been one to walk away from someone in trouble, so when nothing covertly magical turns up he volunteers his services to the local police who need all the help they can get.

But because the universe likes a joke as much as the next sadistic megalomaniac, Peter soon comes to realise that dark secrets lurk under the picturesque fields and villages of the countryside and there might just be work for Britain’s most junior wizard after all.

Well this is fun! Grant is taken right away from his natural stamping ground and deposited in amongst strangers who are battling to find two girls who have disappeared. After the high drama at the end of the last book, I’d feared this book might feel a tad flat – but the scene change and innate tension caused by the nature of the case meant Foxglove Summer hits the ground running and just goes on gathering momentum.

It’s always something of a balance when an author chooses to make his backdrop another character – if he’s not careful, said character starts to invade the action with description that silts up the pace. And urban fantasy always needs plenty of pace. There have been times in this series where Aaronovitch has struggled to keep this balance – but in this book he’s cracked it. The setting is depicted through Grant’s sharp, city-bred eyes with plenty of verve, making it bounce off the page and as the supernatural element becomes more apparent, there is an increasingly sinister twist to what we feel at first is perfectly ordinary. The heatwave provides yet more tension as the countryside swelters in heat that British bodies and buildings aren’t designed to deal with – let’s face it we’re only set up to cope with drizzle in this country.

The storyline gripped me from the first and didn’t let up. As ever, Aaronovitch reveals the faultlines in modern British society – the growing social divide and racism within the village is clearly shown as Grant and the rest of the police toil to find the missing girls. There is a cast of interesting characters who are also caught up in this adventure – unlike many supernaturally gifted protagonists, Grant doesn’t set out to annoy his superiors. While he is all too aware of some of the systemic failures of the organisation, he spends time and effort conforming to the guidelines and strictures while working within the police. I enjoy his constant referral to these guidelines, which give a far more realistic edge to the police procedural aspect of the book than other contenders.

And, of course, those of us still reeling after the denouement in Broken Homes are also watching a wounded Peter Grant. Nightingale’s suggestion that he pop down to Herefordshire in the first place is prompted by a concern for Grant – and a sense that he could do with getting away, even if it is only for a day… The situation continues to unfold throughout the book and this is again, a storyline that I love – and applaud Aaronovitch for continuing to show how one dramatic and horrifying occurrence in the first book goes on reverberating for those around them. All too often in urban fantasy, terrible events occur to get us plenty of drama – and within the space of a book the whole situation somehow rights itself and everyone carries on. Not so this series…

In short, for my money, this is the best book of the lot. And that’s saying something, because Aaronovitch is a fine writer whose success with this best-selling series is rightly deserved. And if your taste runs to well-written urban fantasy – or you started this series, but felt some of the subsequent books slightly lost their way, then get hold of Foxglove Summer. It’s one of the best books I’ve read this year.
10/10

Review: Shifting Dreams by Elizabeth Hunter

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sjhigbee:

This snappy, coherent book review introduced me to a writer I haven’t yet read and a series that sounds really intriguing, so I thought I’d share with you…

Originally posted on So, I Read This Book Today :

Shifting Dreams | [Elizabeth Hunter]This was my first introduction to Elizabeth Hunter, and I am so happy that I found her through a book blogging friend of mine. I listened to the Audible edition, narrated by Liisa Ivary, and this is just another example of how a good narrator can take a good book and make it even better. Her smooth delivery led me through the book, introducing me to the characters and the world in a smooth and well-modulated way.

The story itself introduces us to Cambio Springs, a shifter town – a dying town since the military base closed down. Without something good happening, the town will disappear, and the safety of its inhabitants as well. A bar, a small school, and a tiny café are about it. Seven extended families started the town when one of their number had a vision of a crow flying over hot springs. And one…

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Review of The Emperor’s Blades – Book 1 of the Chronicles of the Unhewn Throne by Brian Staveley

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This was an offering scooped up by Himself, who has a particular fondness for grim-looking book covers featuring sharp, pointy weapons. So I didn’t pay it all that much attention, until he plonked on top of the swaying pile by my bedside. “Have a go at this,” he said. “It’s really good.”

He reads a lot. Easily three or four times the number of books I manage – so I listen when he recommends a book. Particularly when it is in a sub-genre with all those long complicated names and sprawling plots featuring a cast of thousands. Yeah – I generally avoid epic Fantasy these days, unless it has something different to offer.

emperor'sbladesThe Emperor’s three children are in training. His daughter, Adare, is studying how to look after the financial side of running an empire, his eldest son Kaden is right on the edge of the empire at a monastery, studying how to master the art of becoming empty. While his younger brother, Valyn, has elected to become a cadet for an elite fighting force, where the training is merciless. These are the Emperor’s young blades – and each one has to surmount major obstacles, before facing trouble on a wholly different scale…

I’ve seriously mangled the spoiler-littered blurb on the grounds that if you read it, you’ll be robbed of several major surprises that kept me turning the pages waaay after I should have gone to sleep. Staveley has provided a gripping coming-of-age novel, keeping to the three main characters who I really, really cared about. The narrative flipped between each of them smoothly and because of the clear, unfussy style and sensible names, I knew exactly who was whom. While the book is about the three youngsters, it is not YA in tone or feel – the themes, action and progression were dialled to adult tastes. I liked the fact that magic is regarded with hatred and suspicion by the main characters – along with the majority of the population and while there are a couple of magic users in the story and they are important to the outcome of one of the main narrative arcs, is it from the viewpoint of someone on the outside of that world who has to grapple with what they can do. A refreshing change as a starting point in any Fantasy story.

One of the delights is the very different backdrops. Staveley manages to keep a constant sense of claustrophobia with his canny choice of setting. The island where Valyn is training is isolated and while he has a few friends he trusts, most of the cadets are too busy trying to survive to expend much energy in bonding with each other. And he certainly has his share of enemies. While the ancient monastery perched in a mountain range is as cold and comfortless as The Blank God the monks worship and the young heir is set a series of humiliating and pointless tasks by his overbearing new mentor, Tan. And Adare is right in the middle of the social shark tank that is the imperial court – trying to ensure that she is able to fulfil her responsibilities.

There are plenty of twists and turns in this gripping account and despite the fact that paperback version is over 550 pages long, I powered through it in no time flat in my quest to find out what would happen next. If you are an epic Fantasy fan who hasn’t encountered this gem, then go for it – and if you’re not, still go for it. This is a really enjoyable, action-packed ride – what epic Fantasy really should be and so often isn’t… We have the second book The Providence of Fire on order and I can’t wait to get hold of it.
10/10

Books for Christmas

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sjhigbee:

And if you are still struggling to track down a fabulous book for that favourite someone in your life – check out these talented authors…

Originally posted on The Nerdy Paige:

T-minus sixteen days until the big ‘C’! Christmas that is. We’re quickly approaching full-on-panic mode time, but don’t despair I have some Christmas ideas for you. Books! Yes, books, for less than the price of a double venti vanilla soy hot mocha with a shot of raspberry and spritz of whip cream you can be hurled away into far away lands with dragons, be thrust in the middle of a tangled murder mystery, or ride the high seas with pirates and pterodactyls. That sounds like a pretty awesome gift if you ask me. I have a few suggestion of Indie Books, you know, some great authors who aren’t signed to major labels, but are still pretty stinkin’ talented. My goal is to give a little air time to authors who you may’ve never heard of. I’m going to try my best to categorize these books into themes you might be…

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Sandra Benedetto: Hallmark Christmas Movie Adaptations

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Sandra Benedetto: Hallmark Christmas Movie Adaptations

sjhigbee:

It’s the season of Goodwill and in this reblogged article, Sandra imagines what would happen if said goodwill seeped into some rather grim literary classics…

Originally posted on Drinkers with Writing Problems:

1. Emma’s Redemption (adapted from Madame Bovary): After being rejected by her former lovers, Emma sells all of the luxury items that she bought on credit so that she can make a simple but lovingly prepared Christmas Eve dinner for Charles in a gesture of reconciliation. Stars Rebecca Gayheart and Tim Daly.

2. Coming Home for Christmas (adapted from The Mosquito Coast): After going off the grid with his family and becoming a paranoid tyrant, Allie has an epiphany — he knows that he can only make his wife and children happy by returning home in time to embrace a true capitalistic American Christmas. Stars Robert Carradine and Lori Loughlin.

3. Wedding Bells Jingle on the Moors (adapted from Wuthering Heights): Heathcliff, a melancholy and aging recluse, lives just long enough to walk his daughter Catherine down the aisle to marry the son that he’d always wanted…

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Review of A Madness of Angels – Book 1 of the Matthew Swift series by Kate Griffin

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This is another of the reviews I wrote and posted back in the days when my blog was a pool of silence amidst the humming crowd of online activity… So I thought I’d repost it now that the Matthew Swift series has – rightly – become a classic.

amadnessAs I am a solid fan of Kate Griffin’s writing, you can also find a review of the third book in the series, The Neon Court here and the first book in her Magicals Anonymous series, Stray Souls, here, as well as her intriguing offering The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August under the name Claire North, here.

When Matthew Swift finds that he has returned to life after a two-year absence, he quickly needs to acclimatise himself to the London landscape where the source of his power resides – urban magic. A new power that ebbs and flows with the rhythms of the city, makes runes from the alignments of ancient streets and hums with the rattle of trains and buses; it waxes and wanes with the patterns of the business day.

Enter a London where magicians ride the Last Train, implore favours of the Beggar King and interpret the insane wisdom of the Bag Lady. Enter a London where beings of power soar with the pigeons, scrabble with the rats and seek insight in the half-whispered madness of the blue electric angels…

Griffin grabs you from the first page and doesn’t let go until the last with her taut, poetic prose and action-packed story. Matthew Swift’s thirst for revenge against the terrible being preying on urban sorcerers leads him into dark places – and we are yanked along with him. There are one or two really bloody moments. Not to mention some scenes that score high on the ‘yuck’ factor – an attack by a litter monster being one of them. However, this book is so much more than a guts’n gore fest. Griffin’s ability to weave her action amongst the densely depicted London scenes that she clearly knows extremely well, gives the story an almost literary feel. And Swift is an amazing creation. Only half human, his instability while teetering on the edge of something terrible creates plenty of narrative tension as he tries to pick up the pieces of his old life. And – yes – Griffin manages to conclude the story with a satisfactorily climatic ending, leaving enough interest dangling for another adventure.

If I have a quibble – and it is a minor one – I did find myself skimming some of the descriptions of the London landscape to find out what happened next. But it was only an occasional flip of the page – mostly the scene setting held and enthralled me.

What this outstanding series has done, is set the bar for London-based urban fantasy very high – and now the likes of Ben Aaronovitch, Paul Cornell and Benedict Jacka have also stepped up to the plate, making this sub-genre one of the best written and interesting within speculative fiction.
9/10

What Kind of Reader Are You?

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sjhigbee:

I loved reading this on Sara Letourneau’s blog, so thought I would ask this of my own followers…

Originally posted on Sara Letourneau's Official Website & Blog:

BookLikes recently asked readers via social media, “What kind of reader are you?” They did more than pose the question, though. Using a diagram, BookLikes broke down different reading habits and idiosyncracies so users could think about – and be amused by – how they read books. I thought the image was so funny yet true that I had to share it here!

What Kind of Reader Are You

So, what kind of reader am I? Well, I am a…

  • Monogamist: I prefer to give whatever story I’m reading my full and undivided attention, so I rarely read more than one book at a time.
  • Altruist: Looking for book recommendations? I’m always happy to offer some! I also like to give books as gifts to friends and family.
  • Introvert: Plot, dialogue, character development, writing style, small details – I notice and applaud (or scrutinize) everything. I also feel more connected to a story if I can relate to or empathize with the main character(s).
  • Extrovert: Huh?…

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Review of Reality 36 – a Richards and Klein Investigation by Guy Haley

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This is Guy Haley’s debut novel, though not the first one I’ve encountered – see my review of Crash here. Somehow, this offering slipped through the net…

Richards – a Level 5 AI with a PI fetish – and his partner, Otto Klein, a decommissioned German military cyborg, are on the trail of a murderer, but the killer has hidden inside a fragmenting artificial reality. Richards and Klein must stop him before he becomes a god – of the sake of all realities.

reality36So, we have a whodunit set in the near future where technology has leap-frogged forward due to the artificial intelligences now proliferating. With Stephen Hawking’s recent warning ringing in our ears, I was particularly fascinated to see to the extent that Haley agrees… I really enjoyed the Timeline at the back of the book – it meant that swathes of exposition could be cut from this densely written book, which needed to move forward at a fair lick, given it’s a whodunit.

Have to say, it did take some time to get going. There were several early scenes that I felt could have been omitted without compromising the narrative arc – and given that this is the first slice in Richards and Kleins’ adventures, some of the information we were given then could easily have been interleaved within subsequent books. But it wasn’t a deal-breaker because I did keep reading, mostly because the world is detailed and intriguing. One of the reasons I could have struggled at the start, was that I didn’t fully bond with Richards until a very long way along the story. This is always something of a problem with posthuman protagonists – by definition, Richards is smarter than humankind and knows it, so frequently comes across as annoyingly smug. But I did like the fact that Haley recognises this is an issue, and instead of trying to humanise his protagonist, he provides a coterie of other Fives who are even more obnoxious… However, there are other characters who do give us the human touch – Veronique and Chloe, and the wonderful partnership between Sir Jagadith and Tarquinius also ticked all my boxes. I loved their eccentricity and the sheer fantastic extravagance of what this closed-off corner of a former gaming reality managed to produce.

Much science fiction tips into science fantasy, but Haley’s world seems all too plausible to me, and once the story really got going, the pace picked up and it barrelled ahead. Until the ending – which is a cliff-hanger… Given that the sequel wasn’t out when Reality 36 was first published, this was something of a risk. How many readers would be truly irked at having got to the final page – to discover they still didn’t have a conclusive ending? If I’d been one of the early readers, I probably would have had a bit of a tantrum – however these days it isn’t a problem. As Omega Point is available, all I have to do is track down a copy – which I fully intend to do…
8/10

Review of Touch the Dark – Book 1 of the Cassandra Palmer series by Karen Chance

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I’ve read a slew of above average urban fantasy novels recently, and this is yet another to add to the list.

touchthedarkCassandra Palmer can see the future and communicate with spirits – talents that make her attractive to the dead and the undead. The ghosts of the dead aren’t usually dangerous, they just like to talk… a lot. The undead are another matter. Like any sensible girl, Cassie tries to avoid vampires. But when the bloodsucking Mafioso she escaped three years ago finds Cassie again with vengeance on his mind, she’s forced to turn to the vampire Senate for protection. The undead senators won’t help her for nothing, and Cassie finds herself working with one of their most powerful members, a dangerously seductive master vampire – and the price he demands may be more than Cassie is willing to pay…

Yes, I know this all sounds very familiar – and I’m not going to claim that Chance is breaking the mould, but she has nevertheless provided a streetwise heroine whose wary, smart attitude chimes realistically with an orphan regularly besieged by horrifying images and ghosts. In such circumstances, surely you’d either become a gibbering wreck, or start adopting a cool sceptical stance to the world around you. And it is a fairly grim world, belied by Cassie’s laconic first person narrative.

Urban fantasy is usually often interspersed with violence and some sex, but if you do have precocious pre/early teens interested in your reading tastes in the household, do be aware that both the violence and sexual content of this book are dialled to adult tastes. Though I would also add that doesn’t mean the writing is in any way crude and while Chance describes some fairly hardcore scenes, she doesn’t go out of her way to shock.

There is also a cast of interesting characters. I like the fact that while the vampires are all dangerous, some are a lot more dangerous than others. The supernatural world has a set of rules that make sense and Chance allows us to discover them without holding up the narrative. The flashbacks Cassie experiences are well handled and never cause any confusion regarding the timeline, which is a far harder trick to pull off than Chances makes it look. It didn’t take me long to realise that I was in the hands of an experienced, skilful author, so I relaxed and allowed the story to roll forward. The climax and ending nicely tied up the narrative, while leaving Cassie in a sufficiently interesting place that I wanted to know how she’ll cope with her new situation.

All in all, this is a thoroughly entertaining read – and certainly a great deal more fun than some of the clunkers I’ve recently been hurling across the room.
8/10