Darth Pedant

The Pedant formerly known as Pony.

24 Festive Tasks, Door 3 - Task 1: Pick Your Ponies Results


Thanks to all who participated in Task 1: Pick Your Ponies. The race is over, results are in, and points have been won! Please be sure to record your task participation and any bonus points in the Task Reporting Form which can be found on any official Holiday post, such as the main Door 3 post which you can find here.


Now, on to the results!


"Aaaaaaand they're off!"


After a tense photo finish, a protest filed by the race Stewards (not the jockeys), and a dramatic shuffle on the podium (assuming horse racing does podiums, IDK), the standings are as follows:


1st: Vow And Declare
2nd: Prince of Arran
3rd: Il Paradiso


Last: Rostropovich


The following BookLikers have scored a point for picking a winner:


Mrs. Claus' Tea House: Vow And Declare

Portable Magic: Prince of Arran

Moonlight Murder: Prince of Arran

Nighttime Reading Center: Il Paradiso





Record of a Spaceborn Few (Wayfarers #3)

Record of a Spaceborn Few - Becky Chambers

If you’re looking for info on this book’s plot, I’m afraid you’re in the wrong place, as it’s unlikely I’ll be able to do much more than gush and sqee incoherently. You see, in my bookish universe, Becky Chambers is the Empress of Warm Fuzzy Blanket Sci-Fi. I love her writing so much that I have trouble articulating my feelings for her books. Even though she’s writing about spaceships, aliens, sentient AIs, and spacefaring people, the sci-fi elements never distract me from the story. It’s the personal journeys of the characters that take center stage, and I’m never ready for the books to end. They really are warm fuzzy sci-fi blankets straight from the dryer. Who doesn’t want to wrap themselves in that?


Maybe Chambers’ version of humanity’s future is too idealized (which feels funny to say considering in the Wayfarers universe humanity had to flee Earth after thoroughly trashing the planet and beg handouts from more technologically advanced species to survive), but in the flaming dumpster fire that is present-day Earth, I really appreciate some idealistic optimism. I appreciate it a lot.



CORRECTION: Cup Day is Door 3 this year, please pardon the goof and my further breaking of MbD's spiffy formatting.



Please excuse the caps. It's my first Festive Tasks guest post. I'm a tad excited. Ahem! This is a partial opening of Door 3, Melbourne Cup Day, because there's no challenge in picking your ponies after the race is over!



Task 1:  Pick your ponies!  MbD Darth Pedant will post the horses scheduled to race; everyone picks the three they think will finish (in any order). 


Darth Pedant here. By dint of being a former pony (and possibly living in the correct country and time zone for the task), I've been asked to step in for MbD to announce the field for the Melbourne Cup, the Race that Stops a Nation. (That's no joke. Australia literally declares State and National holidays for sporting events.)


The rules for the task are the same as last year:


Anyone playing the 24 Tasks of the Festive Season who wishes to participate in this task, pick your three favourites to place 1st, 2nd and 3rd and tell us in the comments below.  It's not necessary to name them in order; as long as any of the three horses you chose finish in the top 3, you win!  Each person will receive one point for each horse they chose that finished in the top 3. A point will also be awarded to the person whose chosen horse came in last.


If anyone chooses a horse that's been scratched before race time (rare), they may choose a replacement horse up until the deadline - please EDIT your original comment to choose a new horse; a new comment may, if there are a lot of participants, get lost in the shuffle.   Alternatively, you may name your three horses and a replacement choice right from the start - just make sure to specify in your comment which of your picks is the alternate.


 The race that stops a nation begins at 3:00pm, November 5th Australian EDT.  This equates to:

USA EST:  11:00pm November 4th  (deadline: 10:30pm)

USA PST:  8:00pm November 4th  (deadline: 7:30pm)

EU CET: 5:00am November 5th  (deadline: 4:30am)

UK GMT: 4:00am November 5th  (deadline: 3:30am)


The deadline to submit your guesses will be 2:30pm AEDT on the day of the race (the 5th).


The winners will be announced as soon as results are in, and in the event that someone here guesses all three correct horses (their 3 come in 1st, 2nd and 3rd), that person will receive 1 free book - print or digital - of their choice, valued at up to $25USD.


Below are the horses in this year's race, in no particular order (because the order kept changing when I refreshed the page, argh, why are sports?). It's not as pretty as when MbD does it, but I did my clueless best with the fancy html template she gave me. (My best not to break it, that is. I partially succeeded. Yay.) Comments are not mine; I found them here along with the jockey silks and much more detailed horse bios. Or if you, like me, are utterly clueless about the world of horse racing, here's a helpful guide written just for us, courtesy of MbD's impressive Google Fu. (And by helpful I mean "helpful".)


Cross Counter (GB)


W: 57.5KG

TAB Odds: $13


Why he can win: Proven world-class stayer who won the 2018 Melbourne Cup.


Why he can't win: A likely 6-6.5 kilogram weight increase and history suggests it is extremely difficult to win the Melbourne Cup twice.


Mer De Glace (JPN)


W: 56KG (1KG penalty)

TAB Odds: $8


Why he can win: Damian Lane was so confident in his staying power and speed, he convinced the owners to have a crack at the Melbourne SC.


Why he can't win: Will carry more weight than all but one of the past 12 Cup winners and has never been tried at 3200m.


Mirage Dancer (GB)


W: 55.5KG

TAB Odds: $26


Why he can win: Sir Michael Stoute has a very high opinion of him and he has some good form around some absolute stars..


Why he can't win: Has a tendency to be placed in Stakes races, rather than winning.


Southern France (IRE)


W: 55.5KG

TAB Odds: $26


Why he can win: Has some form around gun European stayers Stradivarius and Kew Gardens.

Why he can't win: The Melbourne Cup will be his first start in Australia.

Master Of Reality Silks

Master of Reality (IRE)


W: 55.5KG

TAB Odds: $17


Why he can win: Has elite staying form and with great stable.

Why he can't win: Difficult to win the Melbourne Cup if the horse is first up in Australia.


Latrobe (IRE)

W: 55KG

TAB Odds: $17


Why he can win: Owner Lloyd Williams has won the Cup six times before, once in conjunction with trainer Joseph O'Brien when they triumphed with Rekindling in 2017.

Why he can't win: His form this season has been patchy.


Mustajeer (GB)


W: 55KG

TAB Odds: $17


Why he can win: He was dominant in the Ebor and is racing in peak form as a 7YO.

Why he can't win: The Ebor hasn't supplied many Cup winners and he's yet to be tried over 3200m.


Hunting Horn (IRE)


W: 55KG

TAB Odds: $26


Why he can win: He has form around the best horses around the world and will make his own luck

Why he can't: He doesn't win very often


Rostropovich (IRE)


W: 55KG

TAB Odds: $51


Why he can win: At his best, he is a top class performer, and he was only beaten five lengths in last year's race

Why he can't: He just doesn't seem to be in the same form as he was 12 months ago


Twilight Payment (IRE)


W: 55KG

TAB Odds: $34


Why he can win: Has the right trainer/owner combination for Cup success.

Why he can't win: Seven year-olds have won the Cup just 11 times in the race's history.


Prince of Arran (GB)


W: 53KG

TAB Odds: $17


Why he can win: Horse thrives in Australia and ran a great 3rd in last year’s race.

Why he can't win: Hard to imagine it can make up 3-4 lengths on the likes of Cross Counter as a seven-year-old.


Finche (GB)


W: 54KG

TAB Odds: $10


Why he can win: Horse with clear upside and is proven at the 3200m distance.

Why he can't win: Query about an injury that ruled him out of the Autumn and has to make up 3-4 lengths on the likes of Cross Counter and Marmelo.


Raymond Tusk (IRE)


W: 54KG

TAB Odds: $17


Why he can win: Has produced a commendable effort behind another serious challenger in Mustajeer at York.

Why he can't win: Will be his first start in Australia.


Downdraft (IRE)


W: 53.5KG

TAB Odds: $17


Why he can win: He's progressive and has already shown some decent form in Australia

Why he can’t win: He has failed to show up at top-level in Europe and there is a query over that Moonee Valley Gold Cup form


Surprise Baby (NZ)


W: 53.5KG (1KG penalty)

TAB Odds: $13


Why he can win: He's an in-form stayer and one of the top fancies for the Cup.

Why he can't win: A local hope, he has a lot of competition from serious internationals.


Magic Wand (IRE)


W: 53.5KG

TAB Odds: $17


Why she can win: She's has top class form in Ireland and the USA

Why she can’t win: The 3200m is a big query


Neufbosc (FR)


W: 53.5KG

TAB Odds: $201


Why he can win: Hard to make a case but that second to Kew Gardens is good European form

Why he can’t win: Has showed nothing this campaign to indicate he is going well enough to consider


Sound (GER)


W: 53.5KG

TAB Odds: $201


Why he can win: Does boast a 3200m win in Germany

Why he can't win: He hasn't shown enough in Australia to think he can be competitive in a Group 1 handicap


Steel Prince (IRE)


W: 52.5KG

TAB Odds: $34


Why he can win: Tough, consistent galloper who is proven at the track and over long distances. .

Why he can't win: Yet to be tested against elite company.


Constantinople (IRE)


W: 52.5KG

TAB Odds: $7


Why he can win: Clearly has abundant talent and profiles very similar to last year’s winner. 

Why he can't win: Genuine query at the 3200m distance .


Il Paradiso (USA)


W: 52.5KG

TAB Odds: $11


Why he can win: Has form around gun European stayer Stradivarius, who was only beaten for the first time in almost two years on October 19 2019.

Why he can't win: Has not win at Stakes level.


Vow And Declare (AUS)


W: 52KG

TAB Odds: $10


Why he can win: Consistent stayer who enjoys further distances as shown by his fighting second in the Caulfield Cup.

Why he can't win: He still has to make the final field for the Melbourne Cup.


Youngstar (IRE)


W: 52KG

TAB Odds: $51


Why she can win: Her best form is right up to this and she has been to the 3200m before

Why she can’t win: She was beaten last year and is not in the same form this time around


The Chosen One (NZ)


W: 52KG (0.5KG penalty)

TAB Odds: $67


Why he can win: He is still a horse on the way up and he gets in with an excellent weight

Why he can't win: The 3200m at top level is a query based on both his pedigree and the way he finished off the Caulfield Cup.



Who did you choose and how/why?  Tell us in the comments below.

24 Festive Tasks Door 1: Dia de los Muertos Task 3


Task 3: Write an epitaph for the book you most disliked this year.


Halloween Bingo: Update the Eighth - Bingo the Sixth (and last)!


I did it! I slipped in one more sneaky bingo before the end!




Ghost Stories

Truly Terrifying

Free Space

Cozy Mystery

International Woman of Mystery


It's the evening of the 31st here, so I'm calling it. I didn't do quite as well as last year, but I did a lot better than I thought I would considering my workload in September and early October. I'm pretty darn pleased with the results, and I'm ready to stop neglecting my other hobbies now. I miss them a little bit.


Thanks as always to Moonlight Reader and Obsidian Blue for hosting Halloween Bingo. You're both the best!


Princess Porg is here to help me sign out and wish you all a Happy Halloween!


The Dark Heart: A True Story of Greed, Murder, and an Unlikely Investigator

The Dark Heart: A True Story of Greed, Murder, and an Unlikely Investigator - Joakim Palmkvist, Agnes Broomé

This is an okay true crime book that was probably better in the author’s native language, but a less-than-perfect translation can’t be blamed for some of the problems I had with it.


The beginning is a disorganized mess. It ping-pongs from subject to subject, covering everything from how the victim’s grandfather made the family fortune to the life story of the volunteer who helped crack the case, and a lot of the details the reader is bombarded with don’t feel even a little bit relevant. When the city of Zurich is mentioned, the author even pauses to note the year it was founded. And ye gods, the repetition! This book did not need to be over 300 pages long.


Speaking of the author, his intrusions in the beginning are frequent and sometimes condescending (unless he was trying for humor, maybe?). A man is missing. His daughter Sara doesn’t report it for several days. Those she discussed the matter with told her to wait and see if he showed up. She’s behaving oddly, not like a missing person’s relative usually behaves, like she doesn’t think her father’s coming back. The missing man didn’t get along with the daughter’s boyfriend, Martin, and they’d recently had a fight over money and property. A month later, the missing man’s other daughter call the police because she thinks something’s fishy and the police aren’t doing enough. The author lays all this out (in bullet points), and then says:

In a crime novel, this would have been enough to secure the convictions of both Martin Törnblad and Sara Lundblad.

No. No it wouldn’t. What terrible crime novels are you reading? That’s barely enough to pique an amateur sleuth’s interest in the laziest of cozies. A little later on, the author says:

Anyone who thinks the police can throw together an investigation team comprising interviewers, technicians, detectives, and administrators in an afternoon and launch a murder investigation based on a missing-person report, just to be on the safe side, has spent too much time watching TV.

Again, what terrible crime dramas are you watching?


The organization gets better (and the author intrusions decrease) toward the middle of the book, but it could have been half the length if it had refrained from detouring and covering the same ground multiple times.


(Read for Halloween Bingo Truly Terrifying Square)


Halloween Bingo: Update the Seventh - Bingo the Fourth! And Fifth!


In an uncharacteristically strategic move, I decided to read The ABC Murders for the Serial/Spree Killer square instead of 13, handily netting me two more bingos in the fifth column and corresponding diagonal. They'll probably be my last, unless I can slip in one more sneaky bingo before the end.


Fifth Column:


Serial/Spree Killer

Locked Room Mystery

Classic Noir

Genre: Mystery

International Woman of Mystery





Black Cat

Free Space

Darkest London

Serial/Spree Killer


Hercule Porgot sends his regards and would like to inquire the reason I've shoved a detestable bubble pipe in his mouth. (Because I could. Obviously.)


The ABC Murders (Hercule Poirot #13)

The ABC Murders - Agatha Christie

I thought I had read this book before, but either I was wrong or this is one of those books that feels like new every time you read it. I was on the edge of my seat, figuratively speaking, and stayed up past my bedtime to finish it, and other such murder mystery reading clichés. I knew how it ended, but that made no difference. I still physically tensed up as I read. THIS is why Christie endures as a master of mystery. It’s one hell of a ride, even when I know where she’s taking me.


(Read for Halloween Bingo Serial/Spree Killer Square)


The Secret Adversary (Tommy & Tuppence #1)

The Secret Adversary - Agatha Christie

So I take it this is Christie’s second novel and her first attempt at writing an espionage-based plot, and great googly moogly, am I ever so glad she stuck mainly with murder mysteries after this. Don’t get me wrong! I really enjoyed The Secret Adversary. Tommy and Tuppence are a hoot! I loved their constant back-and-forth banter. But Christie’s ability to craft intricate, meticulously detailed murder plots doesn’t translate at all to spy adventures. The book strongly reminded me of one of my favorite Bill Murray movies, The Man Who Knew Too Little, only Tommy and Tuppence know they aren’t LARPing. It’s basically Espionage for Dummies, and it’s hilarious.


(Read for Halloween Bingo International Woman of Mystery Square)



Who Dropped Peter Pan? (Jocelyn O'Roarke #6)

Who Dropped Peter Pan? - Jane Dentinger

Welp. That’s it for Jocelyn O’Roarke. I’m not hiding any spoilers, so proceed at your own risk.


The series ends with Josh’s New York theater career once again possibly ruined by her involvement in a murder case. Because even though Dentinger came up with some new ideas for the plot, I guess she couldn’t help repeating herself a little bit. Honestly, though, after that denouement I can’t help thinking Josh deserves to be permanently blackballed. It was so mind-numbingly stupid and unnecessary and downright cruel. If you’re as unconcerned for an epileptic’s well-being as Josh obviously is and you’re trying to prove that the murderer used a strobing music box to induce a seizure so the epileptic wouldn’t realize he’d left the room to do the deed, would you do the logical (but cruel and ruthless) thing and expose the epileptic to the strobing music box too see if it really has the desired effect, or would you hijack a curtain call in a full theater and con the director into using a mirror ball and flashing lights and bribe the conductor into changing the score to play the same song as the strobing music box and hope all this somehow induces not only a seizure, but a full confession? I can’t help thinking even Dentinger knew how stupid this was, as she pulled back to the POVs of the people in the lighting control booth so as to distance herself and us as much as possible from the depraved idiocy.


To add insult to injury, nothing was resolved in the will-they-won’t-they-who-will-she-choose annoying love triangle. I actually wish it was a REAL love triangle and that Jack and Phil decided to hook up and ditch Jocelyn and go solve crimes and raise horses together in California. You know what? I’m just going to tell myself that’s what happened after the last scene in the book. I’ll be happier that way.


(Read for Halloween Bingo Murder Most Foul Square)


Halloween Bingo: Update the Sixth - Bingo the Second! And Third!


It's raining bingos lately, so I ran out with my book bucket and caught a couple.


First Column:


Ghost Stories



Sleepy Hollow



Third Row:



Film At 11

Free Space

Amateur Sleuth

Classic Noir


Don't forget, my fellow bingo enthusiasts: You're a shining porg no matter who you are!



The Queen is Dead (Jocelyn O'Roarke Mysteries #5)

The Queen Is Dead (The Jocelyn O'Roarke Mysteries) - Jane Dentinger

Another okay entry in the Jocelyn O’Roarke Mysteries. At six books, this isn’t a long series as cozies go, but I feel like Dentinger was already out of ideas at this point. Several key plot points are super easy to spot early on, murderer and motive included, and the only plus is that Jack the Aggressively Heterosexual Hairdresser is absent. There are a lot of deliberate callbacks to book three as Josh and Phil try to confront the hows and whys of their relationship going pear-shaped, and that I can understand and accept. But there are also some unintentional parallels and re-used elements that I’m not impressed by. I guess there are only so many ways you can spin the whole murder-in-the-theater-community shtick, but this is the second time the MacGuffin has been in the deceased’s makeup case, and it's super obvious that’s where Dentinger's going as soon as the case shows up.


And while it’s kind of heartening to know Dentinger was out there in the mid-90s writing a heroine who’d had an abortion, I can’t help feeling it was sloppily done in a very ham-fisted way. I can’t remember Josh’s pro-choice stance ever coming up before (doesn’t mean it didn’t come up, mind you, what with my memory being so closely related to Swiss cheese), so when she’s suddenly flying to Washington DC for the March for Women’s Lives, I knew it was time to kiss nuance goodbye.


There’s one book left in the series, which I’ll be reading just to see how things shake out between Josh and Phil. If this book is any indication, the mystery isn’t going to be particularly mystifying. I just hope there are fewer typos, because ye gods! If anyone needs some extra commas, this book has got them in the weirdest places.


(Read for Halloween Bingo Amateur Sleuth Square)


The Furthest Station (Peter Grant #5.5)

The Furthest Station - Ben Aaronovitch

This novella somehow managed to simultaneously deliver a full story with a satisfying conclusion and leave me feeling like it was way too short. It was good to see Nightingale out in the field again, however briefly, and Abigail is really growing on me. Beverly makes an appearance, and Peter remembers something she said that made me think either Aaronovitch himself is spookily prescient or the shallowness of Peter and Bev’s relationship is on purpose.

‘Like when you kiss me,’ she’d said. ‘Is it enjoyable because of the physical sensation or is it because you think it should be enjoyable?’

They weren’t actually talking about their relationship, just using the analogy to illustrate another point, but still. Considering what I said earlier today in my review of Foxglove Summer, I had to laugh.


Goodreads claims this is #5.5 in the series, so I haven’t read anything out of order where the timeline is concerned, but some references were dropped that made me feel like I’m missing something. It’s probably all in the graphic novels, which I haven’t got and have no plans to collect, so I’m scratching my head and moving on.


(Read for Halloween Bingo Ghost Stories Square)


Foxglove Summer (Peter Grant #5)

Foxglove Summer - Ben Aaronovitch

Happily, I’d say this fifth installment in the Peter Grant series is a step up from number four. For the first time since the first book in the series, the plot centers primarily on one case, and boy did that help it feel so much more focused! I’m disappointed that Nightingale’s involvement was minimal once again and quite literally phoned in, but I’m starting to accept the fact that my hopes for an odd couple buddy cop comedy were lies I told myself and not promises the first book made. At least I got a bit more info regarding Nightingale’s past and the oft-referenced debacle at Ettersberg, and now I have a decent guess as to what’s behind the mysterious black door at the Folly. I could be totally wrong, but a decent guess is more than I had before.


Lest we forget about Lesley and her sudden and clichéd betrayal, she gets a small subplot in which she occasionally reaches out to Peter for reasons unknown and highly suspect, and Peter does his best not to think about it lest he trigger that introspection allergy. Good thing the Peter and Beverly relationship subplot was there to distract him. Too bad it was disappointingly lackluster.


Mild spoilers to follow:


Peter and Beverly flirted in the first book, but Peter essentially classified her as off-limits for a whole host of reasons, many of them darn good ones. Then Beverly was mostly absent for two and a half books. Then she was back, Peter had a few perfunctory work-related conversations with her in which she chided him for not visiting, calling, or even texting, and then Lesley was suddenly deeply invested in whether Peter was banging Beverly yet. Then comes book five, in which they start banging after minimal flirtation and character development (and zero consideration of the scruples that kept Peter from making a play for Beverly in book one), and I just couldn’t care less. Well, I guess I care enough to write a whole paragraph about how I feel like I’m being told they have a relationship instead of getting to see one develop. So there you go. I lied. I could care less. But are these people having sex because they like each other or because other people expect it of them?


TL;DR: I enjoyed reading about Peter investigating the missing persons case at the heart of the plot, but the Lesley thing still sucks unoriginal balls and writing romantic relationships maybe isn’t Aaronovitch’s forte.


(Read for Halloween Bingo Cryptozoologist Square)


Halloween Bingo: Update the Fifth - Bingo the First

Bless my stars, I finally have a bingo!



Row 4:


Sleepy Hollow

Black Cat

Creepy Carnivals

Cozy Mystery

Genre: Mystery


I'm feeling quite fancy now. Time for a porg party!


Halloween Bingo: Update the Fourth


I apparently have at least four potential bingos on my board if I could manage to make my reading line up with the calls. But that would require paying attention and not being brain dead, both of which are beyond my capabilities after work uses up all my spoons. I'll get one. Eventually. Probably. XD


We are LoCuteness of Porg. You will be assimilated. Resistance is futile.


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Warrior of the Altaii by Robert Jordan