As I write this we’ve had eight Halloween Bingo squares called and four of them are on my card. This is unusual. Often, at this stage in the game, I haven’t had any squares called. Now, I have more called squares than I have time to read. So, I’m bowing to the gods of chance and chaos, giving up planning things I can’t control and reading the squares as they’re called.
That means that the best word to describe this week’s reading is eclectic. I have one humorous trope-twisting story with Red Riding Hood as an assassin trying to kill Sleeping Beauty; a Halloween story for children written by a master storyteller and a book from a series about the people who try to police time travel.
They’re all by authors I know and like but, apart from that, they seem to have nothing in common.
‘Red Hood’s Revenge’ by Jim C. Hines (2010)
Any fairy tale or retelling of fairy tales, folklore, legends, etc.
The Stepsister Scheme was my first Jim Hines book. I’d never read anything like it and I stayed up all night to finish it. I told the tale of three Princesses who set out to rescue a handsome Prince. These are not Disney Princesses with phenomenal hair, over-large eyes and chart-topping singing voices. These are Princesses who have survived the appalling abuse handed out to them in the original Grimm fairy tales and have gone on to become resourceful, talented, dangerous women who won’t necessarily get to live happily ever after.
After that, I read ‘The Mermaid’s Madness’, a darker tale which imagines the world of The Little Mermaid if you drop the soft focus and treat the mermaid at the centre of the story as a real person. The Princesses have to find out why the Undine/merfolk have broken a long-standing truce and attacked the kingdom the Princesses protect.
So now, looking for a perfect fit for the A Grim Tale square and going back to the three Princesses, not sure what to expect except the unexpected, which starts with Little Red Riding Hood, who is now an assassin known as The Red Hood, trying to kill one of the Princesses.
‘The Halloween Tree’ by Ray Bradbury (1972)
Any book set on Halloween or has Halloween in the title or that has a pumpkin on the cover, or in the title, etc.. will work for this square. This square is also being amended to add the “fancy dress” or costuming element that was previously part of trick-or-treat.
It’s been a long long time since I read anything by Ray Bradbury. When I was a teenager, in the 1970s, I read anything of his that I could lay my hands on, provided it had a Science Fiction flavour to it. The one that stuck with me the most was ‘The Illustrated Man’ a short story collection filled with vivid dark stories. Two of them, ‘The Veld‘ and ‘Zero Hour’ feature children as instruments of chaos. The felt deliciously, dangerously truthful to my teenage self.
‘The Halloween Tree’, by contrast, is not a dark tale but a hopeful one. Written for children (I don’t think the term Young Adult had been invented when he wrote this) it shows children not as agents of darkness but as friends on a rescue mission.
I’m hoping to fall in love with Bradbury’s prose again and maybe be prompted to do some re-reading.
‘Saving Time‘ by Jodi Taylor (2021)
A second new fantasy square, which includes portal fantasies; this can also include time travel such as Outlander, where the time travel is activated by passing through a door or portal of some sort, including a door into a time travel device.
I’ve been an avid reader of Jodi Taylor’s ‘Chronicles Of St Mary’s’ time travelling historians series since I read ‘Just One Damned Thing After Another’ back in 2014. I was entranced by the rambunctious spirit of her group of eccentric British chaps (the term is gender neutral) winning the day by muddling through while trying to do the right thing. Some of the books are much weaker than others but, at their best, they get you vividly engaged in big historical moments and emotionally committed to the survival of the St. Mary’s team.
The Time Police novels are a spin-off from the St. Mary’s series in which Jodi Taylor has set herself the challenge of turning one of the bogeymen of the St. Mary’s series into the good guys.
I’ve read and enjoyed the first two books ‘Doing Time’ and ‘Hard Time’ in which our heroes were Time Police trainees and I’m curious to see where the series will go now that they’re full-fledged Time Police officers.
Bingo Card Status
So, I’ve finished four books and had four squares called. Unfortunately, none of the read books and the called squares match.
I’m a little behind because I was travelling last week but I’m hoping to catch up this week by finishing the two books I’ve already started and reading three more. Well, I can dream.