Sunday Post #40 – 2/28/2021

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And yes, I can finally change refrain!
We still have lots of snow (in Chicagoland) on the ground, but yesterday afternoon we had a heat wave in the mid 50s. I walked an hour and a half on our sunny close-by university campus, marveling at tree buds, then soaked in the sun sitting in our yard. It was so warm, yet we were inches away from still a lot of snow pilled up. I even opened our windows for a few hours. I feel like reviving. And even some birds are getting into their spring songs.


  Gone by Midnight Jourde & Naulleau  

La Vallée

📚 Gone by Midnight, by Candice Fox
Published on March 10, 2020 (US publication)

I finished two thrillers this past week, and they actually had common elements. They both involved children, suffering because of crazy adults.

This is book 3 in this series, after Crimson Lake and Redemption Point.
A few couples were staying at a hotel. While the parents were downstairs drinking ad having a nice time together, their kids stayed together playing in their room. When Sara goes up to check on them, her own son is gone.
She decides to ask Ted’s help because of his life experience: in the previous books, policeman Ted was accused of kidnapping a girl.
No denying this is great writing, and I really enjoyed most of it. The author is fabulous at creating creepy ambiance (related to people, to settings, and even landscape, here involving muggy Australian areas infested with crocodiles) and suspense. But then when the reality of what happened surfaced, it got too much for me.
I know this is life, and alas, lots of kids go through hell here on earth because of some insane adults, and I really mean pathologically insane people.
Thankfully, the book also features some adults trying to build a positive future for next generations.
Still, these days, I no longer feel like reading about these heavy themes, so I’m going to try to stay away from that type of thrillers for a while.

🎧 La Vallée, by Bernard Minier
Published on April 2, 2020
Not yet available in English

My decision to stay away from these types of books got confirmed by the French thriller I just finished listening to.
A woman disappeared. Then eight years later, police inspector Martin Servaz receives a phone call from her, asking for his help, in a remote valley.
Again, I do believe the author is masterful in the areas highlighted above, although this time we are in France. He also had powerful red herrings.
But again, the ambiance and the topic got worse and worse, with more pathologically insane adults, here using kids to put their evil plans to work. Here too, alas I know the scenario could be totally plausible, as I know probably about less than 1% of what’s really happening through the dark net. But I really don’t need to know more, I know enough of human condition to take it all in my prayer.
Besides the main plot is a subplot about the growing difficulty for the police to do their daily job. All very true and disturbing as well.
You could say one of the main reasons I read novels is for escapism, I agree. I counterbalance this with reading nonfiction to get informed and spiritual books to nourish my prayer and inner life.
Even though there were here also a few adults really trying to help younger generations to have the tools to grow and be happy, some passages seemed to be steeped in a very negative view on humanity. Even though we are surrounded by a lot of evil, I still think there’s an underlying goodness at the bottom of each heart, and that no, humans are not born evil. I’m a Christian Orthodox, and our view of human nature is very far from Saint Augustine’s.

📚 Le Jourde & Naulleau, by Perre Jourde and Éric Naulleau
Published in 2008

In a totally different genre, I finished this hilarious pastiche on a famous collection of French literature textbooks. I loved it, and had great laughs at all the smart references, though I’m sure I missed a lot more.
Seventeen authors are presented, with excerpts of their books. The excerpts are real, though sometimes the style and content is so bad indeed that I had to check if Jourde & Naulleau had made them up. They had not! And some of these authors did receive some literary awards…
The fun comes with the notes and comments added to these excerpts by Jourde & Naulleau. It is really typical French humor, sometimes acerbic to the max! So actually 280 pages was a good length, I don’t think I could have gone on much more with it.


 Dictionnaire amoureux du polar      FutureofBuildingsBookCover

📚 Dictionnaire amoureux du polar, by Pierre Lemaitre
Published on October 22, 2020

Lemaitre, a very renowned author of thrillers (see for instance Three Days and a Life – highly recommended) himself, shares his love of the genre by presenting other authors, books, and themes related to it.
His comments are not too academic, I like the style, and I am starting listing all kinds of books I want to try!

📚 The Future of Buildings, Transportation, and Power, 
by Roger Duncan and Michael E. Webber
Published in July 2020

I featured this book a few weeks ago and won it at the giveaway.
It’s technical, but very accessible and fascinating, about current and future use of buildings, transportation and power, and the interaction between the three. I am learning all kinds of interesting facts about  current trends in these areas, and how they may impact our planet in the years to come.

📚 I am also reading three spiritual books:

  • a 19th century Orthodox commentary on Psalm 118
  • a book by a friend, in which she shares her experience as a former member of the Roman Catholic Church.
  • I am listening to the Book of Ecclesiastes (for my project to listen to the whole Bible)

And I am the first reader for a thriller wrote by a friend, the author of Stone Killer. He sends me a chapter at a time and I send him my remarks. I do hope it’s not going to turn too dark and sinister like the two above thrillers.


Before the Coffee Gets Cold

📚 Before the Coffee Gets Cold, by Toshikazu Kawaguchi
Published in 2015, translated by Geoffrey Trousselot in 2019

My next book is going to be Japanese, for the Japanese Literature Challenge.
It may be this one, that I would read along with another lover of Japanese lit. If he is not available now, I will read another of the Japanese books I listed here for March.

What would you change if you could go back in time?
In a small back alley in Tokyo, there is a café which has been serving carefully brewed coffee for more than one hundred years. But this coffee shop offers its customers a unique experience: the chance to travel back in time.
In Before the Coffee Gets Cold, we meet four visitors, each of whom is hoping to make use of the café’s time-travelling offer, in order to: confront the man who left them, receive a letter from their husband whose memory has been taken by early onset Alzheimer’s, to see their sister one last time, and to meet the daughter they never got the chance to know.
But the journey into the past does not come without risks: customers must sit in a particular seat, they cannot leave the café, and finally, they must return to the present before the coffee gets cold . . .
Toshikazu Kawaguchi’s beautiful, moving story explores the age-old question: what would you change if you could travel back in time? More importantly, who would you want to meet, maybe for one last time?”


    One of Us is Lying   Untraceable

I know I wrote above I was going to stay away from too dark and creepy thrillers. So is it wise considering reading these? Let me know.

📚 One of Us is Lying, by Karen M. McManus
Published in 2017

This is a YA thriller, a genre I rarely read, but the geeky social media aspect is intriguing.

The Breakfast Club meets Pretty Little LiarsOne of Us Is Lying is the story of what happens when five strangers walk into detention and only four walk out alive. Everyone is a suspect, and everyone has something to hide.
Pay close attention and you might solve this.
On Monday afternoon, five students at Bayview High walk into detention.
Bronwyn, the brain, is Yale-bound and never breaks a rule.
Addy, the beauty, is the picture-perfect homecoming princess.
Nate, the criminal, is already on probation for dealing.
Cooper, the athlete, is the all-star baseball pitcher.
And Simon, the outcast, is the creator of Bayview High’s notorious gossip app.
Only, Simon never makes it out of that classroom. Before the end of detention, Simon’s dead. And according to investigators, his death wasn’t an accident. On Monday, he died. But on Tuesday, he’d planned to post juicy reveals about all four of his high-profile classmates, which makes all four of them suspects in his murder. Or are they the perfect patsies for a killer who’s still on the loose?
Everyone has secrets, right? What really matters is how far you would go to protect them.

📚 Untraceable, by Sergei Lebedev
Published February 2, 2021 by New Vessel Press

I thoroughly enjoyed the first book I read by this contemporary Russian author, Oblivion. My experience with his next book was not as good. Still, I am very interested in the topic of this one, so I hope it will work for me.

“In 2018, a former Russian secret agent and his daughter were poisoned with a lethal neurotoxin that left them slumped over on a British park bench in critical condition. The story of who did it, and how these horrendous contaminants were developed, captivates and terrifies in equal measure. It has inspired acclaimed author Sergei Lebedev’s latest page-turning novel. At its center is a scheming chemist named Professor Kalitin, obsessed with developing an absolutely deadly, undetectable and untraceable poison for which there is no antidote. He becomes consumed by guilt over the death of his wife, the first accidental victim of his Faustian pact to create the ultimate venom, and the deaths of hundreds of test subjects. After he defects from the Soviet Union to spend his “retirement” years in the West, two Russian secret agents are dispatched to assassinate him. In this fast-paced, genre-bending novel, Lebedev weaves tension-filled pages of stunningly beautiful prose exploring the historical trajectories of evil. From Nazi labs, Stalinist plots, the Chechen Wars, to present-day Russia, Lebedev probes the ethical responsibilities of scientists supplying modern tyrants and autocrats with ever newer instruments of retribution, destruction and control. Lebedev, one of Russia’s most important and exciting writers, has never been better.”


I recently won two books, and they both arrived the same day!

  Before the Coffee Gets Cold The Code Breaker

📚 Before the Coffee Gets Cold, by Toshikazu Kawaguchi
Published in 2015, translated by Geoffrey Trousselot in 2019

As you know, I have been participating in the Japanese Literature Challenge for several years, and this year, I won this book! Thanks Meredith! Plus, she joined a gorgeous picture of Japanese trees taken during one of her trips, and a cute Japanese bookmark!!
See description above.

📚 The Code Breaker: Jennifer Doudna, Gene Editing, and the Future of the Human Race, by Walter Isaacson
Expected publication: March 9, 2021 by Simon & Schuster

I have read two books by Isaacson: his biography of Benjamin Franklin, and more recently, I really enjoyed a lot The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution.
So when I saw there was a Goodreads giveaway for his upcoming book, I entered right away, and I won! I haven’t won a book on Goodreads for ages.
I have run into Jennifer Doudna recently, so to speak, because I was studying a bit the CRISPR with my French International Baccalaureate student (because in 2020, Doudna with French scientist Emmanuelle Charpentier won the Nobel Prize in chemistry for this technique).
This was one of the top nonfiction on my 2021 TBR, thanks Goodreads!


My inspiration to add this section comes from Book Jotter‘s posts called “Winding Up the Week”.

Cozy mysteries aren’t going anywhere. In fact, they’re as popular as ever.


📚 Book of the month giveaway – last day to enter !
Loving Modigliani
📚 Books available for free this month, to review at your own pace, last day available!
Alina_A Song For the Telling
The Last CollectionThe Beautiful American  
Review copies available for upcoming book tours:
Victorine  Madeleine Last French Casquette Bride in New Orleans

📚 Subscribe to my Newsletter, and win a book each month!
Here is a sample, with link for subscription at the bottom
📚 Books available for swapping


  • 3/1: February recap on this site
  • 3/1: Book of the month on France Book Tours
  • 3/2: March TBR
  • 3/4: Throwback Thursday
  • 3/5: Book review?
  • 3/6: Six Degrees of Separation



38 thoughts on “Sunday Post #40 – 2/28/2021

  1. Before the Coffee Gets Cold has been on my radar for a while. I hope you’ll enjoy it. Sunshine and slightly warmer temperatures really make a world of difference, I think (even if you still have snow lying around). Everything looks a bit brighter and we all have more energy. There is even hope, we’ll soon get out of lockdown here in the UK!


  2. So what is the 19th century Orthodox commentary on Psalm 118? I have a friend who is converting to your faith. He might be interested.

    I’m just curious, Emma. Where do you find the time to read all these books? But I’m guessing maybe with no TV too, that helps?


  3. After seeing recent photos from my son in Chicago that looked like they were taken in Antarctica, a “heatwave” in the 50s must feel fabulous. It’s wonderful to be able to get out and walk and open windows and hear spring birdsong. I imagine our goldfinches will be headed up north (do they come your way?) soon.

    It’s the spiritual books that sound the most interesting to me. Thrillers (and even most mysteries) are generally too scary for me.

    Congratulations on winning two books. It was strange but I got two copies of Before the Coffee Gets Cold for my birthday in November. It was a satisfying story, I thought. I’ll be interested in hearing what you think about Code Breaker.


    • Actually goldfinches stay here in winter, at least some. We saw some at our bird feeder before the snow. But hey don’t have their bright colors in winter. Funny, to receive 2 copies of the same book!! I’ll be reading it with a group


  4. I love the look of La Vallée- it does look dark, but intriguing. Your last couple sentences caught my eye too- I’ve often struggled with that. As I read more about the differences between denominations of Christianity I’m exploring all kinds of knotty issues!

    I’m also curious about someone’s experiences with the Catholic church.


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  6. So much variety. I tend to agree about the heavier thrillers. I read them sparingly but a good cozy mystery works.
    The Le Jourde & Naulleau sounds really interesting and I have been curious about Before the Coffee Gets Cold.
    I hope you are enjoying your spiritual reading.
    Have a good week and Happy Reading!


  7. Your description of your reading this past week just made me happy! We can try to stay away from thrillers but we just can’t. I want to know more about listening to the Bible. What is your resource. Happy imminent Spring!


    • Yes, this is hard. At least, reading classic mysteries is for the most part less risky.
      Here is my playlist:
      So for most books, I listen to Alexander Scourby’s narration – he was the first to narrate the whole Bible in the 1950s. For the Apocrypha, I like the narrator in Sons Of Jacob Ministries. I don’t know anything about them, just that it seems to be coming from Canada.
      Meteorological Spring was 3/1 (a concept I just discovered), and today, I heard a few flocks of sandhill cranes coming back – that’s normal, it’s usually the first week of March, according to my notebook. I document that every year. So there’s really hope!


  8. Before the coffee gets cold is really tempting me to break my book buying ban, but I’ll be wise for now. I can relate about dark books on children abuse, there have been a lot of these in the recent years and even if I know children are suffering for real as I’m typing this (my mother used to work for children care services), I don’t see how reading about it in novels can help. The subject depresses me and the pandemic doesn’t help… Code breaker looks good 🙂


    • Si tu lis des livres en format numérique, je peux te l’envoyer, soit en kindle soit en epub, dis-moi.
      Would you enjoy reading it together? I’ll start around March 15, we could do something on our blogs on that if you are interested. It’s short, 213 pages.
      Yes, The Code Breaker should be a great one


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  10. It’s good to hear you are having a little bit of warm spring weather. We are looking forward to the weather cooling here in Australia now that Autumn has arrived. Before the Coffee Gets Cold looks good. I hope you enjoy all your new books.


    • Do you also have nice tree colors in the Fall in Australia, as in Europe and North America? Would you be interested in reading Before the Coffee Gets Cold together? I could send you an ecopy. I’ll be starting around March 15


  11. Le Jourde & Naulleau sounds fun although I think I’d probably miss many of the references. I’ll be interested to hear what you think of Untraceable. That one seems extremely relevant to today’s reality. Where do you get your French audio books? On audible? Do you know of any free sources, connected to libraries perhaps?


    • Lebedev is a fascinating author for sure.
      French audiobooks, ah! Yes finally, my library has a new Hoopla default package, and there are now some French books/audiobooks there, but not many new titles. I actually buy a subscription, but i use, which is cheaper than audible, has all the new books I want, and has a great app. If you use the Detroit Library, looks like they do have hoopla – not much in French audiobook on Libby I’m afraid.
      Now, if you want to listen to French classics, a lot of recording are available, you can easily find through google. And even many are on youtube


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