2021: April wrap-up

April 2021 WRAP-UP

Phew, this was a busy month, ending with a liturgical marathon, as we finally had our Great Week (Orthodox services are so deep and powerful, and also quite long, especially during this very special week) and Pascha (aka Easter), almost a month after everyone else.

I have been also reading a lot, as much needed time off at the end of the day, but as I’m in the middle of so many books, my stats are actually not very impressive.
The big news was my first participation ever in the Club organized by Simon at Stuck in a Book. This time, in was the #1936Club.

Two other big highlights were
my buddy read of Before the Coffee Gets Cold,
and the beginning of another buddy read: The Archipelago of Another Life

đź“š Here is what I read in April:

18 books:
6 in print 
=  with 1,377 pages, a daily average of 45 pages/day
12 in audio
= 24H39
, a daily average of 49 minutes

9 in nonfiction:

  1. The Book of Micah
  2. The Book of Joel
  3. The Book of Obadiah
  4. The Book of Jonah
  5. The Book of Nahum
  6. The Book of Habakkuk
  7. The Book of Zephaniah
  8. The Book of Haggai – these first 8 books were as audiobooks, for The Classics Club and the Books in Translation Challenge
  9. A Swim in a Pond in the Rain: In Which Four Russians Give a Master Class on Writing, Reading, and Life, by George Saunders

5 in mystery:

  1. Murder in the Mews (Hercule Poirot #18), by Agatha Christie
  2. Appointment With Death (Hercule Poirot #19), by Agatha Christie
  3. Hercule Poirot’s Christmas (Hercule Poirot #20), by Agatha Christie – these first three were as audiobooks, for The Classics Club
  4. Double Indemnity, by James M. Cain – ebook for the #1936Club and The Classics Club
  5. Piège pour Cendrillon, by SĂ©bastien Japrisot – French ebook for the The Classics Club

2 in literary fiction:

  1. The Old Capital, by Yasunari Kawabata –  ebook for  The Classics Club
  2. First Person Singular, by Haruki Murakami

1 in historical fiction:

  1. The Swedish Cavalier, by Leo Perutz – ebook for the #1936Club and The Classics Club

1 in science-fiction:

  1. How to Mars, by David Ebenbach – ebook received for review

MY FAVORITE BOOKS THIS PAST MONTH

A Swim in the Pond in the Rain    The Swedish Cavalier

READING CHALLENGES & RECAP

Classics Club: 47/137 (from November 2020-until November 2025)
Japanese Literature Challenge: 12 books 

Total of books read in 2021 = 60/120 (yes, already at 50%!)
Number of books added to my TBR this past month = 11

OTHER BOOK  REVIEWED THIS PAST MONTH

The Black Lizard

GIVEAWAYS

The open giveaways are on my homepage

Books available for swapping

REVIEW COPIES AVAILABLE

Posted on my homepage

And we offer a Book Box!
And monthly raffle with a Newsletter
(see sample with link to sign up)

MOST POPULAR BOOK REVIEW THIS PAST MONTH

Arsene Lupin

click on the cover to access my review

MOST POPULAR POST THIS PAST MONTH
– NON BOOK REVIEW –

My top 10 books for the 1936 Club

BOOK BLOG THAT BROUGHT ME MOST TRAFFIC THIS PAST MONTH

Stuck in a Book
please go visit, there are a lot of good things there!

TOP COMMENTERS 

Marianne at Let’s Read
Iza at Books & Livres
Judy at Keep the Wisdom
please go and visit them,
they have great book blogs

BLOG MILESTONES 

2,326 posts
over 5,470 followers
over 219,700 hits

đź“š

Come back tomorrow
to see the books I plan to read in May

đź“š đź“š đź“š

How was YOUR month of April?

Nicole at Feed Your Fiction Addiction
has created a Month In Review meme
where you can link your monthly recap posts
Thanks Nicole!

 

Book review: The Black Lizard / Beast in the Shadows

The Black Lizard

The Black Lizard / Beast in the Shadows
by Edogawa Rampo
translated from the Japanese
by Ian Hughes
January 2006
280 pages
The stories were first published 
respectively in 1934 and 1928
Mystery/Japanese literature
Goodreads

Read for The Classics Club

I recently discovered the Japanese Mystery Book Club on Discord (check here). We were supposed to read The Black Lizard and Beast in the Shadows a few weeks ago, and share on Instagram Stories.
That was a total debacle for me, I still don’t understand how you can share things on Stories (instead of in the Feed), as I can’t seem to be able to do a search with hashtags in Stories). So I have no idea what the others thought about the book.
Anyway, it doesn’t matter, I’m glad it gave me the opportunity to discover a classic Japanese author I didn’t know yet. And a really great one!

Click to continue reading

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?