Sunday Post #33 – 12/13/2020

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The weather has been crazy here in Chicagoland so far this season, with most days in the 40s, warmer than formal. I even had lunch outside one day, when the real feel was 63. And now, twenty for hours of rain. Though I’ll take it, instead of snow. I’ll be talking more about the weather here below.


The Vexations  La grande escapade

Silver Spoon 2

📚 The Vexations, by Caitlin Horrocks
Published in 2019
Lent by a friend

I was disappointed by this historical novel, which actually focuses more on Erik Satie‘s sister than on himself.
Besides, I had problems with the structure of the book. Each chapter is written from of the main character’s perspective, but with no apparent logic structure. For instance, you can have one chapter about Erik, and then about Louise decades later in Brazil or earlier. There’s no regular back and forth between Satie’s time and his sister’s latest years.
I don’t mind a collection of vignettes, but they seemed randomly distributed.
Also, the author focuses on Satie’s poverty and hard time at having his music recognized, and then suddenly he is selling his works, with no clear sign of an evolution, how that happened.
Bu there ARE some neat passages on Satie’s music and the ambiance of the time, like in these 3 examples:

The Vexations p22

Page 22

The Vexations p74

Page 74

The Vexations p150

Page 150

The book also made me rediscover Debussy’s orchestrations of the Gymnopédies. I had totally forgotten them, and was recently just listening to the work for piano solo. The orchestration is so ample, like you are viewing a vast horizon. Beautiful. For instance here.

📚 La grande escapade, by Jean-Philippe Blondel
Published in 2019, book received through

I have very much enjoyed other books by this author, especially The 6:41 to Paris, but alas I was also disappointed by this one.
I have to admit it is a good portrait of France in the 1970s, especially in a rather small place, and there are some really hilarious passages. But the context of teachers, students and parents in grade school didn’t really interest me that much.

📚 Silver Spoon #2, by Hiromu Arakawa
Published in 2018

I love manga, but I am very picky. I really enjoy this one, quite original in his content:
“A young boy named Yugo Hachiken aspires to live apart from his family. He enrolls in an agriculture school, one which requires its students to live in dormitories. He thinks that with his talent for studying, no problems will arise no matter what kind of school he goes to. But he is soon forced to discover the inconvenient truth about agricultural life. Enjoy the story of Hachiken as he tries to keep up with his friends, farmers’ heirs who are already accustomed to a hardworking farm life.”
In this 2nd volume, the students have discovered a very old pizza oven. They work together to fix it, and Yugo Hachiken organizes a team to prepare and sell pizzas. He is getting more realistic and self-confident. Then he decides to work as a farm hand during his vacation.
I enjoy how his inner growth is portrayed.


 The Letter Killers Club

Flood red notebook

📚The Letter Killers Club (1926), by Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky
Published in 1926
This is the book I got for Classics Spin #25.
I presented it in my December titles post.

I haven’t read too much of it yet, besides the excellent introduction in this edition.
This author sounds to have written in a post-modernist style way ahead of his time. No wonder he had a hard time making a living.
Sounds like a collection of really weird stories. The first story focuses on an author who gets rids of his books to be able to write better.

📚 Flood, by Stephen Baxter
Published in 2008

One of my French students loves science fiction and sent me this book by his favorite author in the genre. Waters are rising, flooding London, Sydney, and many more places. What’s really going on? It seems it’s much worse than “just” global warming. I’m curious to discover what’s coming! Have you read it?

📚 The Red Notebook, by Antoine Laurain
Published in 2014
Reading in French with my French Book Club on Discord

I really enjoy this author, and highly recommend his latest book The Readers’ Room, but I had actually never read this one. Very enjoyable so far.

“Heroic bookseller Laurent Letellier comes across an abandoned handbag on a Parisian street. There’s nothing in the bag to indicate who it belongs to, although there’s all sorts of other things in it. Laurent feels a strong impulse to find the owner and tries to puzzle together who she might be from the contents of the bag. Especially a red notebook with her jottings, which really makes him want to meet her. Without even a name to go on, and only a few of her possessions to help him, how is he to find one woman in a city of millions?”


A Very Russian Christmas

📚 A Very Russian Christmas: The Greatest Russian Holiday Stories of All Time
Published in 2016 by New Vessel Press

‘Tis the season!
New Vessel Press, which exclusively publishes great books in translation, has published already five books in this series. I have read and really enjoyed the one on French Christmas stories, so I decided to read the Russian one this year.


Project Hail Mary Penguin Book of Christmas Stories

📚 Hail Mary, by Andy Weir
Expected publication: May 4th 2021 by Ballantine Books

I gave 5 stars to The Martian, so I’m ready for this one!
“Ryland Grace is the sole survivor on a desperate, last-chance mission–and if he fails, humanity and the earth itself will perish.
Except that right now, he doesn’t know that. He can’t even remember his own name, let alone the nature of his assignment or how to complete it.
All he knows is that he’s been asleep for a very, very long time. And he’s just been awakened to find himself millions of miles from home, with nothing but two corpses for company.”

📚 The Penguin Book of Christmas Stories: From Hans Christian Andersen to Angela Carter
Published in 2019
I only found out about this one, so that will probably be for my 2021 Christmas!

“This is a collection of the most magical, moving, chilling and surprising Christmas stories from around the world, taking us from frozen Nordic woods to glittering Paris, a New York speakeasy to an English country house, bustling Lagos to midnight mass in Rio, and even outer space.
Here are classic tales from writers including Truman Capote, Shirley Jackson, Dylan Thomas, Saki and Chekhov, as well as little-known treasures such as Italo Calvino’s wry sideways look at Christmas consumerism, Wolfdietrich Schnurre’s story of festive ingenuity in Berlin, Selma Lagerlof’s enchanted forest in Sweden, and Irène Nemerovsky’s dark family portrait. Featuring santas, ghosts, trolls, unexpected guests, curmudgeons and miracles, here is Christmas as imagined by some of the greatest short story writers of all time.”


Ready Player Two

📚 Ready Player Two, by Eernest Cline
Audiobook narrated by Wil Wheaton

Published on November 24, 2020

Seven years after listening to Ready Player One, I can still say this is the best audiobook I have EVER listened to, thanks to the stunning performance of narrator Wil Wheaton.
I’m thrilled that there was just an Audible free trial!

“An unexpected quest. Two worlds at stake. Are you ready?
Days after Oasis founder James Halliday’s contest, Wade Watts makes a discovery that changes everything. Hidden within Halliday’s vault, waiting for his heir to find, lies a technological advancement that will once again change the world and make the Oasis a thousand times more wondrous, and addictive, than even Wade dreamed possible. With it comes a new riddle and a new quest. A last Easter egg from Halliday, hinting at a mysterious prize. And an unexpected, impossibly powerful, and dangerous new rival awaits, one who will kill millions to get what he wants. Wade’s life and the future of the Oasis are again at stake, but this time the fate of humanity also hangs in the balance.”


📚 12/6 Spiritual reading: Psalm 118: A Commentary by Saint Theophan the Recluse.
I read about verses 53-58
I finally finished The Vexations, by Caitlin Horrocks. Some nice passages on Satie’s music, but overall disappointing. See my review.
I almost finished La grande escapade, by Blondel. I didn’t remember so much humor in the previous books I read by him. It’s not my favorite element in novels, but I have to say, some passages made me laugh out loud, like the connection between the music group Bonney M, and Bonnet C, which in French is a bra cup measurement!!

sorry for not writing more here


  • New book tour available: historical novel set in Paris, on Modigliani!
  • 2021 Book Fête: new feature offered on France Book Tours, to allow a more flexible offer of book reviews
  • And di you know Words And Peace and France Book Tours are now on Patreon? Hint hint, lol

📚 Book of the month giveaway


  • Late reviews?
  • More Orthodox book notes?
  • One new tour should be soon available




24 thoughts on “Sunday Post #33 – 12/13/2020

  1. This is quite a diverse selection of books you have here! Love that you try so many different genres and are keen on reading recommendations.

    Hope you will have a good week ahead.

    Elza Reads


  2. My son and daughter-in-law who live in Chicago are happy about the warm weather you have all been experiencing. They moved out of downtown this summer and now live in a house. My son has never done any of those snow things, so he’s been a little worried about doing that for the first time.

    I liked The Red Notebook a lot. It’s an ideal read for this crazy time, I think.

    I like the look of the Penguin Book of Christmas Stories.

    Thanks for the recommendation for the audio of Ready Player One. I will get that one for our next road trip. Hope you enjoy Player Two just as much.


    • I forgot you had family in Chicago. Actually most of our snow usually comes in January-February. Looks like we’ll have some mid January, but wont be as crazy as previous years, so that will be nice for your son.
      So far, Ready Player Two is so so good, with the awesome Wil Wheaton as narrator. But you definitely need to read Ready Player One first


    • Yes, I think you would very much enjoy Antoine Laurain.
      Au fait, on n’est pas loin dans le livre, dis moi si tu aimerais te joindre à notre club de livres en français sur Discord – je t’enverrai une copie du livre


  3. I enjoyed hearing your thoughts on these books! It’s a shame that The Vexations is so vexing (ha!). Silver Spoons sounds neat—I’ve enjoyed the small sample of manga that I’ve read (a few books of Nichijou and all of the issues of Fruits Basket), so I’ll have to look at that one! Thanks for the great post!


  4. So many books; and good variety. I really like the looks of Silver Spoon 2. The Red Notebook is one I have eyed and I will be picking up Ready Player Two soon.
    Have a good week and Happy Reading!


  5. I added the manga to my TBR, thanks 🙂 I also loved The Martian very much so I’d love to see what you think of that one. I had never thought about Boney M and bonnet C (slightly different pronunciation) but I laughed out loud when I read that !!


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