Book club February 2022 and Friday Finds

Bookshelf4
Picture from my bookshelves
edited with Pixlr
#Fridayfinds

I’m presenting here the books we shared
at our last block Book Club meeting
– it’s a potluck book club,
meaning each member shares about his/her latest good read.
Awesome for diversity in books, lively conversations,
and your TBR getting suddenly taller!
(synopsis taken from Goodreads.com)

So here are the 8 books we talked about for our January 2022 meeting.

The Brothers Karamazov is a murder mystery, a courtroom drama, and an exploration of erotic rivalry in a series of triangular love affairs involving the “wicked and sentimental” Fyodor Pavlovich Karamazov and his three sons―the impulsive and sensual Dmitri; the coldly rational Ivan; and the healthy, red-cheeked young novice Alyosha. Through the gripping events of their story, Dostoevsky portrays the whole of Russian life, is social and spiritual striving, in what was both the golden age and a tragic turning point in Russian culture.

 

 

Rebecca

From my review:
My post has also an awesome list of Q&A on the book.
I dived into it without reading any presentation, and had no idea what kind of water to expect. Wow, what a swim it was! I actually wanted to read over and over again the first chapter, hauntingly beautiful. I even wanted to paint it – it may actually happen one day!
I loved the descriptions of the landscapes, of the house, the sea, the people and their characters, the ambiance, definitely gothic! I felt magnetized by the book and the depth of its characters.At the beginning, the heroin seems rather shallow, too immature and almost two dimensional, but little by little, her character grows and makes for a loving and courageous person.
And the plot was not what I expected. When I finished the book, I re-read right away the first chapters, looking for the clues I had missed. It was an interesting experience.
If you have not read yet this classic, you have to give it a try.

    

With her disarming, intimate, completely accessible voice, and dry sense of humor, Nora Ephron shares with us her ups and downs in I Feel Bad About My Neck, a candid, hilarious look at women who are getting older and dealing with the tribulations of maintenance, menopause, empty nests, and life itself.

Nora Ephron returns with her first book since the astounding success of I Feel Bad About My Neck, taking a cool, hard, hilarious look at the past, the present, and the future, bemoaning the vicissitudes of modern life, and recalling with her signature clarity and wisdom everything she hasn’t (yet) forgotten.

1756615

 

The noted singer and actress Kitty Carlisle Hart recounts her eventful life from her childhood in Europe, through Hollywood in the 1930s and 1940s, to her life today, offering revealing insights into the many celebrities she has known

 

 

 

58935131 In this searing memoir, Congressman Jamie Raskin tells the story of the forty-five days at the start of 2021 that permanently changed his life–and his family’s–as he confronted the painful loss of his son to suicide, lived through the violent insurrection in our nation’s Capitol, and led the impeachment effort to hold President Trump accountable for inciting the political violence.

 

 

 

23692271. sy475 100,000 years ago, at least six human species inhabited the earth. Today there is just one. Us. Homo sapiens.
How did our species succeed in the battle for dominance? Why did our foraging ancestors come together to create cities and kingdoms? How did we come to believe in gods, nations and human rights; to trust money, books and laws; and to be enslaved by bureaucracy, timetables and consumerism? And what will our world be like in the millennia to come?
In Sapiens, Dr Yuval Noah Harari spans the whole of human history, from the very first humans to walk the earth to the radical – and sometimes devastating – breakthroughs of the Cognitive, Agricultural and Scientific Revolutions. Drawing on insights from biology, anthropology, paleontology and economics, he explores how the currents of history have shaped our human societies, the animals and plants around us, and even our personalities. Have we become happier as history has unfolded? Can we ever free our behaviour from the heritage of our ancestors? And what, if anything, can we do to influence the course of the centuries to come?
Bold, wide-ranging and provocative, Sapiens challenges everything we thought we knew about being human: our thoughts, our actions, our power… and our future.

Agatha Christie's Poirot

After listening to all of Hercule Poirot short stories and novels, I decided to conclude my experience with Agatha Christie Poirot:
The Greatest Detective in the World.
It’s a very interesting volume.
The writing is sometimes a bit dry (hence 4 and not 5 Eiffel towers), but the content is fascinating.
The author recaps all about Hercule Poirot, in each decade.
VERDICT: An essential book for Agatha Christie’s fans.
Click on the cover to read my full review

 

  Eiffel Tower OrangeEiffel Tower OrangeEiffel Tower Orange 

 HAVE YOU READ ANY OF THOSE?
WHICH ONE IS YOUR FAVORITE?

Book club January 2022 and Friday Finds

Bookshelf4
Picture from my bookshelves
edited with Pixlr
#Fridayfinds

I’m presenting here the books we shared
at our last block Book Club meeting
– it’s a potluck book club,
meaning each member shares about his/her latest good read.
Awesome for diversity in books, lively conversations,
and your TBR getting suddenly taller!
(synopsis taken from Goodreads.com)

Not sure why, but I stopped sharing about these three years ago.
This past week, our book club celebrated its 10th anniversary, and it suddenly gave me the idea to share again about the titles we talked about.
So here are the 9 books we talked about for our January 2022 meeting.

Les FourmisHere is the stunning international bestseller in the tradition of Watership Down but with a dark, original twist. Unique, daring, and unforgettable, it tells the story of an ordinary family who accidentally threaten the security of a hidden civilization as intelligent as our own–a colony of ants determined to survive at any cost….
Jonathan Wells and his young family have come to the Paris flat at 3, rue des Sybarites through the bequest of his eccentric late uncle Edmond. Inheriting the dusty apartment, the Wells family are left with only one warning: Never go down into the cellar.
But when the family dog disappears down the basement steps, Jonathan follows–and soon his wife, his son, and various would-be rescuers vanish into its mysterious depths.
Meanwhile, in a pine stump in a nearby park, a vast civilization is in turmoil…
Empire of the Ants is a brilliant evocation of a hidden civilization as complex as our own and far more ancient. It is a fascinating realm where boats are built of leaves and greenflies are domesticated and milked like cows, where citizens lock antennae in “absolute communication” and fight wars with precisely coordinated armies using sprays of glue and acids that can dissolve a snail. Not since Watership Down has a novel so vividly captured the lives and struggles of a fellow species and the valuable lessons they have to teach us.
My own review is here

The Shadow of the WindBarcelona, 1945: A city slowly heals from its war wounds, and Daniel, an antiquarian book dealer’s son who mourns the loss of his mother, finds solace in a mysterious book entitled The Shadow of the Wind, by one Julian Carax. But when he sets out to find the author’s other works, he makes a shocking discovery: someone has been systematically destroying every copy of every book Carax has written. In fact, Daniel may have the last of Carax’s books in existence. Soon Daniel’s seemingly innocent quest opens a door into one of Barcelona’s darkest secrets–an epic story of murder, madness, and doomed love.

 

a-gentleman-in-moscowOn 21 June 1922, Count Alexander Rostov – recipient of the Order of Saint Andrew, member of the Jockey Club, Master of the Hunt – is escorted out of the Kremlin, across Red Square and through the elegant revolving doors of the Hotel Metropol.
Deemed an unrepentant aristocrat by a Bolshevik tribunal, the Count has been sentenced to house arrest indefinitely. But instead of his usual suite, he must now live in an attic room while Russia undergoes decades of tumultuous upheaval.
Can a life without luxury be the richest of all?

 

 

36295979The year is 1930. In a small Tartar village, a woman named Zuleikha watches as her husband is murdered by communists. Zuleikha herself is sent into exile, enduring a horrendous train journey to a remote spot on the Angara River in Siberia. Conditions in the camp are tough, and many of her group do not survive the first difficult winter.
As she gradually settles into a routine, Zuleikha starts to get to know her companions. The eclectic group includes a rather dotty doctor, an artist who paints on the sly, and Ignatov, Zuleikha’s husband’s killer. Together, the group starts to build a new life, one that is far removed from those they left behind.
Guzel Yakhina’s smooth prose describes Zuleikha’s adjustment to a new reality and her discovery of a new form of happiness, and covers a range of cultural, ethnic, religious and socio-political issues. This outstanding debut novel from an exciting new talent has been showered with prizes and is capturing the hearts of readers all over the world.

4975993Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh was one of the most respected churchmen, spiritual writers and broadcasters of the last few decades. His books have become classics, and as leader of the Russian Orthodox Church in Britain he was one of the most prominent Orthodox personalities on the world stage. But who was Metropolitan Anthony, the inner man behind the public preacher and pastor? How did his life story and personality mould his Christianity? How did his work – as monk, doctor, bishop and, almost to the end, parish priest and spiritual father – affect his ministry and other writings? In this, the first comprehensive examination of Metropolitan Anthony’s life and work, Gillian Crow presents a compelling portrait of a complex human being: both a charismatic, warm person, aglow with the joy of his faith, and also someone who fought hard with inner demons of shyness, insecurity and at times depression. This sympathetic yet honest portrayal will be essential reading for all those who have been touched by Metropolitan Anthony’s own writing and who wish to find out more about his

82535Picking up where his bestselling memoir Never Have Your Dog Stuffed left off–having been saved by emergency surgery after nearly dying on a mountaintop in Chile–beloved actor and acclaimed author Alan Alda offers an insightful and funny look at some impossible questions he’s asked himself over the years: What do I value? What, exactly, is the good life? (And what does that even mean?) Here, Alda listens in on things he’s heard himself saying at critical points in his life–from the turbulence of the sixties, to his first Broadway show, to the birth of his children, to the ache of September 11, and beyond. Reflecting on the transitions in his life and in all our lives, he notices that “doorways are where the truth is told,” and wonders if there’s one thing–art, activism, family, money, fame–that could lead to a “life of meaning.” In a book that is candid, wise, and as questioning as it is incisive, Alda amuses and moves us with his uniquely hilarious meditations on questions great and small.

6404803Now a major motion picture from Clint Eastwood, starring Tom Hanks—the inspirational autobiography by one of the most captivating American heroes of our time, Capt. ‘Sully’ Sullenberger—the pilot who miraculously landed a crippled US Airways Flight 1549 in New York’s Hudson River, saving the lives of all 155 passengers and crew.
On January 15, 2009, the world witnessed a remarkable emergency landing when Captain “Sully” Sullenberger skillfully glided US Airways Flight 1549 onto the Hudson River, saving the lives of all 155 passengers and crew. His cool actions not only averted tragedy but made him a hero and an inspiration worldwide. His story is now a major motion picture from director / producer Clint Eastwood and stars Tom Hanks, Laura Linney and Aaron Eckhart.
Sully’s story is one of dedication, hope, and preparedness, revealing the important lessons he learned through his life, in his military service, and in his work as an airline pilot. It reminds us all that, even in these days of conflict, tragedy and uncertainty, there are values still worth fighting for—that life’s challenges can be met if we’re ready for them.

52578297Between life and death there is a library, and within that library, the shelves go on forever. Every book provides a chance to try another life you could have lived. To see how things would be if you had made other choices . . . Would you have done anything different, if you had the chance to undo your regrets?
A dazzling novel about all the choices that go into a life well lived, from the internationally bestselling author of Reasons to Stay Alive and How To Stop Time.
Somewhere out beyond the edge of the universe there is a library that contains an infinite number of books, each one the story of another reality. One tells the story of your life as it is, along with another book for the other life you could have lived if you had made a different choice at any point in your life. While we all wonder how our lives might have been, what if you had the chance to go to the library and see for yourself? Would any of these other lives truly be better?
In The Midnight Library, Matt Haig’s enchanting new novel, Nora Seed finds herself faced with this decision. Faced with the possibility of changing her life for a new one, following a different career, undoing old breakups, realizing her dreams of becoming a glaciologist; she must search within herself as she travels through the Midnight Library to decide what is truly fulfilling in life, and what makes it worth living in the first place.

56922687“Any story that starts will also end.” As a writer, Ann Patchett knows what the outcome of her fiction will be. Life, however, often takes turns we do not see coming. Patchett ponders this truth in these wise essays that afford a fresh and intimate look into her mind and heart.
At the center of These Precious Days is the title essay, a suprising and moving meditation on an unexpected friendship that explores “what it means to be seen, to find someone with whom you can be your best and most complete self.” When Patchett chose an early galley of actor and producer Tom Hanks’ short story collection to read one night before bed, she had no idea that this single choice would be life changing. It would introduce her to a remarkable woman—Tom’s brilliant assistant Sooki—with whom she would form a profound bond that held monumental consequences for them both.
A literary alchemist, Patchett plumbs the depths of her experiences to create gold: engaging and moving pieces that are both self-portrait and landscape, each vibrant with emotion and rich in insight. Turning her writer’s eye on her own experiences, she transforms the private into the universal, providing us all a way to look at our own worlds anew, and reminds how fleeting and enigmatic life can be.
From the enchantments of Kate di Camilo’s children’s books to youthful memories of Paris; the cherished life gifts given by her three fathers to the unexpected influence of Charles Schultz’s Snoopy; the expansive vision of Eudora Welty to the importance of knitting, Patchett connects life and art as she illuminates what matters most. Infused with the author’s grace, wit, and warmth, the pieces in These Precious Days resonate deep in the soul, leaving an indelible mark—and demonstrate why Ann Patchett is one of the most celebrated writers of our time.

  Eiffel Tower OrangeEiffel Tower OrangeEiffel Tower Orange 

 HAVE YOU READ ANY OF THOSE?
WHICH ONE IS YOUR FAVORITE?

My top 10 books for the 1936 Club

the 1936-club

#1936Club

For several years, Simon at Stuck in a Book, has been organizing club years, in which he encourages everybody to read books published in the same year.

For this year, he chose 1936. As I had a few titles from that year on my Classics Club list, I thought that would be a great way to work on my list.

I think the main idea is to draw a literary portrait of that year.
If you are curious, you can check on this Goodreads list or on this one (less complete, but you can compare with the books you have read), or on this wikipedia page (more complete I think) titles of books published that year.

It seems I have personally read 10 books published that year.
NB: For books translated into English, I am considering the year they were first published in their original language, not the year they were published in English

  1. Gone with the Wind
  2. The Joy of Cooking
  3. The Diary of a Country Priest
  4. A City of Bells
  5. Double Indemnity
  6. The Swedish Cavalier
  7. The A.B.C. Murders, by Agatha Christie
  8. Murder in Mesopotamia, by Agatha Christie
  9. Cards on the Table, by Agatha Christie
  10. A Cat, a Man, and Two Women, by Jun’ichiro Tanizaki’

And I have 3 on my TBR list:

  1. Jamaica Inn
  2. War with the Newts
  3. Death at the President’s Lodging (Sir John Appleby, #1)

I have read and reviewed four since January 1st, 2021:

click on the covers to access my reviews

  The ABC Murders Murder in Mesopotamia

  Cards on the Table A cat a man and two women

So now, to follow the rules for #1936Club, here are 2 fresh reviews:

Double Indemnity

Double Indemnity,
by James M. Cain
Published in 1936
115 pages
Mystery/noir
Goodreads

I watched the movie years ago, but didn’t remember all of the story, and have completely forgotten the ending, which is a good thing, as I am told the ending of the book is different. They changed the ending in the movie, to go along with the movie codes of the time.

It’s basically the story of Walter Huff, a Californian insurance salesman always on the lookout for the ideal client for a perfect sale. He thinks Mr. Nirdlinger could be one. Until things don’t go exactly as planned.

What really struck me right away was the style. It’s a first person narrative that flows like daily conversation and inner monologue, with loose grammar. I think this raw style fits beautifully to tell that story, but it sounds quite modern for 1936.

There’s many a man walking around today that’s worth more to his loved ones dead than alive, only he don’t know it yet.
Chapter 1

The richness of the book is in the astute psychological study of the characters.
As an Orthodox Christian steeped in Patristics, I have to say this was also a perfect illustration of the functioning of what we call temptations and the passions. You just touch something lightly with your little finger (at that point, you still have the freedom to get away afterwards), but you linger on the feeling, and then before you know it, you are stuck in up to your elbow, and then with your whole body and soul (and it’s basically too late to unglue yourself from the situation).
For instance, when Huff meets Mrs. Phyllis Nirdlinger for the first time, he sees all the red flags and his intuition tells him to get out of there presto, and yet he sits down and starts talking.
All along, Huff almost seems to be dragged along by inner forces stronger than his conscious will. 

I knew where I was at, of course.  I was standing right on the deep end, looking over the edge, and I kept telling myself to get out of there, and get quick, and never come back. But that was what I kept telling myself.  What I was doing was peeping over that edge, and all the time I was trying to pull away from it, there was something in me that kept edging a little closer, trying to get a better look.

But that thing was in me, pushing me still closer to the edge.
Chapter 2

And at the same time, he is actively getting more and more willingly and creatively involved. But is he even smart enough to do that?

Of course, the suspense is extremely well done. The story could go into so many directions, as little by little, more characters get involved.
The ending the author chose seems consistent to me with the inner mechanism I have described above.

It’s ultimately a great study of double manipulation. 

The Swedish CavalierThe Swedish Cavalier,
by Leo Perutz
(Austrian novelist and mathematician)
Translated from the German by John Brownjohn
Published in 1936
192 pages
Historical fiction
Goodreads

This was a major surprise, and I am shocked indeed to see that none of my fellow readers at the Classics Club seems to have reviewed it. I don’t remember seeing this title on any book blog I follow. The reason why it was on my TBR is that I heard about it in 2016 in a French TV literary program. It was recommended by contemporary author Emmanuel Carrère.

The foreword wants to present the story within a firm historical background, telling the reader this is based on the unknown memoirs published by Maria Christine von Blohme, whose father she only called “the Swedish cavalier”. His story, or the story of two men, then follows.

The first part opens in the cold winter of 1701, along the war-torn Polish-Russian border. By chance, a thief fleeing the gallows meets Christian von Tornefeld, a Swedish aristocrat and deserter (because he no longer wants to fight for foreign powers), now on his way to fight for his Swedish king Charles XII. But neither will reach his destination, and their fate is going to get inter connected in many ways, to the extreme that I will not specify here to avoid spoilers.

If Cain chose a rather modern style, Perutz did just the opposite, with a curious mix of genres (and it works superbly!): older style historical fiction, crime novel, and fairy tale (for instance with the secret powers of an arcanum, the character of the old miller, and the visits to the young girl at the end). It totally felt I was meeting with Don Quixote again. It has some of its humoristic passages (for instance with the thief giving his particular interpretation to what he sees in the fields, and then following that as reality), yet also dramatic scenes not unlike Dante’s Inferno (the bishop’s stamp-mill is even called the inferno; and there are a few final judgement scenes), and outcome that have made some critics compare it to Kafkaesque literature.
I often also felt I was inside a Bruegel painting!

The Swedish Cavalier has themes not uncommon to Double Indemnity, such as manipulation, deceit, and betrayal, but with a more metaphysical outlook, with moral values like courage and loyalty, an active conscience leading to thoughts of repentance, as well as aspects of redemption, totally absent in Cain’s novel.

This is a fascinating story in its form and content, and I highly recommend it.

My year 1936 recap over three continents:

A major American classic (and I am sorry, but if you plan on cancelling it, you have no idea what REAL culture and history are, and you might want to look into ways to get educated in the first place); a major French classic; a cookbook that is still used in many households; a charming and romantic British classic (at least that’s the memory I have of this book by Elizabeth Goudge I read in my late teens); three books by the queen of crime; a whimsy Japanese classic; and the two unique works (including one from Austria) reviewed here: all these attest to a rich and diverse year 1936, at least from I have read.

HAVE YOU READ ANY OF THESE?
CLICK ON THE 1936 CLUB LOGO TO DISCOVER MANY MORE REVIEWS
WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE BOOK PUBLISHED IN 1936?