The top 7 books to read in December 2021

Here are
The top 7 books
I plan to read in December 2021

Click on the covers to know more

This month, I think I’m going to slowly venture towards what could be my 2022 reading journey: mostly focusing on my various TBRs.

📚 CURRENTLY READING 📚

  Katherine's Wish    Ficciones

📚 Katherine’s Wish, by Linda Lappin
Re-released in 2021. Review copy received through France Book Tours.
Click here to get your own copy (you can review it in your own time).

“In this dramatic, fictional retelling of New Zealand writer Katherine Mansfield‘s final years, and of the events which led up to her meeting with P.D. Ouspensky and G. I Gurdjieff, novelist Linda Lappin transports the reader like a time traveler into Mansfield’s intimate world.
Scrupulously researched and richly evocative, the novel has been praised by Mansfield scholars as “creative scholarship.”
With vivid detail and beautiful language and style, Lappin has built on journals, letters, and diaries to fashion a true-to-life mosaic, using themes, motifs, and methods of Mansfield’s own writing.
Katherine’s Wish celebrates Mansfield’s deep love of life and its final message is a life-affirming one of joy and of wholeness achieved.”

📚  Ficciones, by Jorge Luis Borges
Published in 1944
Started reading with The World’s Literature Goodreads Club, it was their October selection.
I will keep reading. It counts for The Classics Club and the Books in Translation Challenge.

“The seventeen pieces in Ficciones demonstrate the whirlwind of Borges’s genius and mirror the precision and potency of his intellect and inventiveness, his piercing irony, his skepticism, and his obsession with fantasy. Borges sends us on a journey into a compelling, bizarre, and profoundly resonant realm; we enter the fearful sphere of Pascal’s abyss, the surreal and literal labyrinth of books, and the iconography of eternal return. To enter the worlds in Ficciones is to enter the mind of Jorge Luis Borges, wherein lies Heaven, Hell, and everything else in between.”

📚 READING NEXT 📚

  L'ombre chinoise   Dictionnaire amoureux du polar

The Blackhouse

📚 L’ombre chinoise (Inspector Maigret #13), by Georges Simenon 
Published in 1932. Translated as The Shadow Puppet
Will be reading in French with one of my French students, and for The Classics Club

“Gripping domestic tragedy, set in Simenon’s very own neighborhood.
One by one the lighted windows went dark. The silhouette of the dead man could still be seen through the frosted glass like a Chinese shadow puppet. A taxi pulled up. It wasn’t the public prosecutor yet. A young woman crossed the courtyard with hurried steps, leaving a whiff of perfume in her wake. Summoned to the dimly-lit Place des Vosges one night, where he sees shadowy figures at apartment windows, Maigret uncovers a tragic story of desperate lives, unhappy families, addiction and a terrible, fatal greed.
 ”

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

I can’t believe I started reading this book last February. I loved it, but then other more urgent things came up. Time to finish it!
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 listing all kinds of books I want to try!

📚 The Black House (Lewis Trilogy #1), by Peter May
Published on 2/1/2011

This is one of the 3 books I planned to read last summer and never did. Really looking forward to it, as I enjoyed a lot Coffin Road.

“A brutal killing takes place on the Isle of Lewis, Scotland: a land of harsh beauty and inhabitants of deep-rooted faith.
A MURDER
Detective Inspector Fin Macleod is sent from Edinburgh to investigate. For Lewis-born Macleod, the case represents a journey both home and into his past.
A SECRET
Something lurks within the close-knit island community. Something sinister.
A TRAP
As Fin investigates, old skeletons begin to surface, and soon he, the hunter, becomes the hunted.”

🎧 CURRENT AND NEXT AUDIOBOOKS 🎧

Noor  Les Mystères de Paris 2

🎧 Noor, by Nnedi Okorafor
Published on 11/9/2021 – Audiobook received through Libro.fm

I really enjoyed a lot the Binti trilogy by this author. This is also African futurism – a mix of science-fiction and African culture. Quite unique and fascinating!

From Africanfuturist luminary Okorafor comes a new science fiction novel of intense action and thoughtful rumination on biotechnology, destiny, and humanity in a near-future Nigeria.
Anwuli Okwudili prefers to be called AO. To her, these initials have always stood for Artificial Organism. AO has never really felt…natural, and that’s putting it lightly. Her parents spent most of the days before she was born praying for her peaceful passing because even in-utero she was wrong. But she lived. Then came the car accident years later that disabled her even further. Yet instead of viewing her strange body the way the world views it, as freakish, unnatural, even the work of the devil, AO embraces all that she is: A woman with a ton of major and necessary body augmentations. And then one day she goes to her local market and everything goes wrong.
Once on the run, she meets a Fulani herdsman named DNA and the race against time across the deserts of Northern Nigeria begins. In a world where all things are streamed, everyone is watching the reckoning of the murderess and the terrorist and the saga of the wicked woman and mad man unfold. This fast-paced, relentless journey of tribe, destiny, body, and the wonderland of technology revels in the fact that the future sometimes isn’t so predictable. Expect the unaccepted.
 ”

🎧  Les Mystères de Paris, volume 2, by Eugène Sue
Translated as: The Mysteries of Paris

Published in 1843 – French audiobook, for The Classics Club. 

I listened to book 1 in September and really loved it. It’s fun to see what Victor Hugo took from it and how he transformed it.

“The brilliant epic novel that inspired Les Misérables.
From July 1842 through October 1843, Parisians rushed to the newspaper each week for the latest instalment of Eugene Sue’s The Mysteries of Paris, one of France’s first serial novels. The suspenseful story of Rodolphe, a magnetic hero of noble heart and shadowy origins, played out over ninety issues, garnering wild popularity and leading many to call it the most widely read novel of the 19th century. Sue’s novel created the city mystery genre and inspired a raft of successors, including Les Miserables and The Count of Monte Cristo.
Sensational, steamy, tightly-plotted, pulpy, proto-socialist, heartbreaking, and riveting, The Mysteries of Paris is doubtless one of the most entertaining and influential works to emerge from the 19th century.”

GIVEAWAYS – until 12/31, your choice between these 3

  Alina_A Song For the Telling Seven Houses in France The Queen's Lover  

BOOK AVAILABLE TO REVIEW
Get it now, review in your own time!

UNTIL 12/31
Memoir

The Vanished Collection

PLANS FOR DECEMBER

  • Write some short reviews?? Sounds like a joke…

Eiffel Tower Orange

HAVE YOU READ
OR ARE YOU PLANNING TO READ
ANY OF THESE?
WHAT ARE YOUR READING PLANS FOR DECEMBER?

2021: November wrap-up

NOVEMBER 2021 WRAP-UP

Phew, November was a busy month for book bloggers, with #Nonficnov and #NovellasinNovember (and many more events I didn’t participate in), plus the readalong I co-hosted on The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie.
After 19 months, I also managed to finish my personal project of listening to all of Hercule Poirot novels and short stories collections – I will talk to you more about this another day.
I also got back into the groove of posting Orthodox notes at least every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

📚 Here is what I read in November:

12 books:
7 in print 
with 1,701 pages, a daily average of 56 pages/day
5 in audio
= 31H42
, a daily average of 1H03

7 in mystery:

  1. Third Girl (Hercule Poirot #40), by Agatha Christie
  2. The Hallowe’en Party (Hercule Poirot #41), by Agatha Christie
  3. Elephants Can Remember(Hercule Poirot #42), by Agatha Christie
  4. Curtain (Hercule Poirot #44), by Agatha Christie
  5. The Harlequin Tea Set (Hercule Poirot #46), by Agatha Christie – these first 5 were as audiobooks, for The Classics Club
  6. Le Port  des brumes (Inspecteur Maigret #12), by Georges Simenon – read with a French student. Counts for The Classics Club
  7. A Man Lay Dead, by Ngaio Marsh – Classics spin for The Classics Club

3 in literary fiction:

  1. Le Créa, by Jean-Marc Soyez – a reread in French
  2. The Invention of Morel, by Adolfo Bioy Casares – a novella, read for #NovellasinNovember
  3. The Satanic Verses, by Salman Rushdie – for the readalong I cohosted

2 in nonfiction:

  1. Murakami T: The T-Shirts I Love, by Haruki Murakami
  2. The Kingdom of God, by Archbishop Dmitri Royster

MY FAVORITE BOOKS THIS PAST MONTH

  The Invention of Morel Le Créa

READING CHALLENGES & RECAP

Classics Club: 94/137 (from November 2020-until November 2025)
Japanese Literature Challenge: 12 books
#20BooksofSummer21: 37/20 books
Total of books read in 2021 = 150/120 (125%)

Number of books added to my TBR this past month = 34 (17 of which are nonfiction added thanks to #nonficnov! A dangerous event for our TBRs, as you can see)

OTHER BOOKS  REVIEWED THIS PAST MONTH

Double Identity new cover  The Sleeping Car Murders

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!
PERFECT gift – original and affordable
2 books per month for a low price!!

MOST POPULAR BOOK REVIEW THIS PAST MONTH

Double Identity new cover
click on the cover to access my review

MOST POPULAR POST THIS PAST MONTH
– NON BOOK REVIEW –

Nonfiction November: My year 2021 in Nonfiction

BOOK BLOG THAT BROUGHT ME MOST TRAFFIC THIS PAST MONTH

Let’s Read
please go visit, there are a lot of good things there!

TOP COMMENTERS 

Marianne at Let’s Read
Deb at Readerbuzz
Karen at Booker Talk
please go and visit them,
they have great book blogs

BLOG MILESTONES 

2,415 posts
over 5,540 followers
over 231,660 hits

📚

Come back tomorrow
to see the books I plan to read in December!

📚 📚 📚

How was YOUR month of November?

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

The Satanic Verses: questions on Parts 6-9 and final recap

The Satanic Verses

The Satanic Verses,
by Salman Rushdie,
1988
Literary fiction/Magical realism
576 pages
Goodreads
Buy the book on my Bookshop

In cased you missed our previous posts:
Pre-read discussion
Discussion on Parts 1 and 2
On Parts 3-4
On Part 5

  📚 📚 📚  

And now here are our questions and answers on Parts 6 to 9, and a final recap:

1. There is definitely more criticism against the Qur’an in these parts, especially regarding women. Though most of these are presented as Gibreel’s dreams. What do you think about this literary tool, inserting all these as dreams?

Marianne:
I have seen this with other authors, especially talking about Islam. They let animals speak. Or inanimate objects. I think it’s a good way to distance the author from the subject and give the reader the opportunity to get closer to the thoughts. The tool makes it possible to differentiate from your own thoughts and those of others, from something you might just think yourself or the general opinion. It is definitely a narrative style that brings me closer to magic realism.

Emma:
I took it as a way for the author to distance himself from his content. I assume he could measure that some passages of the book might not be too well received. But he could at least say, it’s not even anything my characters said or thought, but just dreamed.

2. What do you think about the way the author describes London’s hospitality? Do you think the author would still write these words today?

Marianne:
I think the world has become more hostile and more xenophobic, more racist in the last couple of years, especially with more refugees coming to our countries. (Mind you, the people who are most against those refugees are often in those areas that have the least.) So, if he would describe life in a large city with many immigrants today, he might describe an even worse life for them.

Emma:
For those who have not read the book, here is the passage I had in mind when I wrote the question:

London, its conglomerate nature mirroring his own, its reticence also his; its gargoyles, the ghostly footfalls in its streets of Roman feet, the honks of its departing migrant geese. Its hospitality — yes! — in spite of immigration laws, and his own recent experience, he still insisted on the truth of that: an imperfect welcome, true, one capable of bigotry, but a real thing, nonetheless, as was attested by the existence in a South London borough of a pub in which no language but Ukrainian could be heard.

I wrote some questions with an answer in mind, but for others like this one, I truly didn’t  know.
I assume there are still today in London (possibly even more?) areas where only one foreign language is spoken, but can it be considered today as a sign of hospitality? Maybe not. Marianne, I agree with your analysis of the situation.
Actually, why didn’t Rushdie stay in England? Did he have an issue with the way they reacted to foreigners at the time?
Well, I was curious and went fishing of Rushdie shared his opinion on London and I found this in am article from The Guardian (9/17/2000):

Salman Rushdie has revealed that he left London, his home since childhood, because he thought it was bitchy and uninspiring…
In an interview in today’s New York Times, Rushdie, who faced an Islamic death threat over his book The Satanic Verses, talks with relish of his new life in Manhattan. He moved to New York earlier this year and has been given celebrity status.
He said that London’s literary circles were ‘backbiting and incestuous’.
He said : ‘I think it speaks for itself that, for somebody who lived in England for as long as I did, relatively little of my work has dealt with it.’

So apparently, his reason for leaving has really nothing to do with immigration.

3. As Salahuddin returns to Bombay, Zeeny gives him the following advice: “You should really try and make an adult acquaintance with this place, this time. Try and embrace this city, as it is, not some childhood memory that makes you both nostalgic and sick. Draw it close. The actually existing place. Make its faults your own. Become its creature; belong.”
Why these advice now, not about London, but about the character’s city of origin?

Marianne:
Wherever you go, you always have an image in your mind. When you go to some place you haven’t seen before, you might be inclined to have an open mind and not expect everything the way you have seen it in books or on tv. When you return to a place you have been to, you often don’t bear that in mind. I returned to my home area after having been away for 40 years. Am I disappointed that things have changed? No, on the contrary. I would have been if it were still the same. But I didn’t return because I loved it so much as a child, after all, there was a reason I left, but because my family is here. And that makes all the difference.

So, I totally understand the advice given to Saladin because I would have said the same. It’s always best if you make a place your own, sometimes that’s not possible but when you are from the area, it’s easier to be accepted.

Emma:
When reading previous parts of the book, I thought migration was THE main theme. Now, I think migration is a sub-theme of the major one: identity and transformation. Indeed, the main characters go back to India, not necessarily because their migration experience failed.
I see this passage as an invitation to a more mature view on the place where one lives. And maybe the fact of having lived as a foreigner in another country can make this easier to do.
Though personally, if I had to go back to my country of origin, I don’t think I would be able to go beyond my memories of the “golden age” of the past (i.e., as the country was when I was younger) and accept how it has changed since. From what I hear from relatives still living there, I would definitely not like it.

4. Gibreel is originally portrayed as the successful immigrant, with the divine and angelic images, but he is sick in his mind and ends up committing suicide. Chamcha, who has suffered most in his immigration experience, and was associated with devilish imagery, seems now the more normal and balanced of the two. How do you explain this reversal?

Marianne:
People are never what they seem. You meet someone, they seem nice but turn out to be just friendly to your face. Someone else seems a bit odd and in the end you notice they are just shy but the friendliest people you can imagine. I think we can also go back to the fall, it represents a great change for the people, well, most of them die, these two survive but their characters change forever. The whole portrayal of the two men is ambiguous.

Emma:
I see it as a statement on the fact that migration is a complex adventure. It’s not all black or all white, all bad or all evil.
And to go back to the theme of identity, I think Rushdie wants also to highlight the fact that human nature is also complex, and that we all have a part of good and evil.
Marianne, I like how you focus on the appearance. Indeed, especially when we meet people form another culture, we may interpret what we see with our own cultural standards, and end up misunderstanding and misjudging them.

5. Why do you think Rushdie has chosen to tell the story of Saladin’s father’s death in this final chapter? How does it relate to the rest of the novel? What functions does it serve at the end of the book?

Marianne:
Closure? I don’t know whether it is important to the whole story, it gives an insight into the future (Saladin’s). Also, the reconciliation between father and son leads us to the assumption that there is something good even in the evil, the idea that Saladin might become a “good” human being again.

Emma:
In the last parts, there is often mention of love vs. hatred, and the theme of forgiveness. The encounter between Saladin and his dying father is an important example of forgiveness. And I think it’s connected with what we talked above, how we grow, are transformed, and are able to come back to a country (or to a relation) with a new look on life and people.
It seems that Saladin has grown and profited a lot from his experience of migration.

6. There’s a powerful passage on love vs. hate:
“He [Saladin] congratulated himself on being the sort of person who had found hatred impossible to sustain for long. Maybe, after all, love was more durable than hate; even if love changed, some shadow of it, some lasting shape, persisted…
Hatred was perhaps like a finger-print upon the smooth glass of the sensitive soul; a mere grease-mark, which disappeared if left alone. Gibreel? Pooh! He was forgotten; he no longer existed. There; to surrender animosity was to become free.”
Any reflection on this?

Marianne:
Well, hopefully love does last longer than hate though I would doubt that. A strong feeling is a strong feeling and many people cannot forgive. And even more are not willing to forgive or see the other side. Look at the situation we are all in right now.

Emma:
I like a lot this passage, it illustrates my answer to question 5 actually.
I like the idea that love can be more permanent, and hate as a passing feeling. But again, I think this implies growth and transformation.
It’s powerful that Saladin even forgives Gibreel and all he represented.
Saladin’s father is a good example of inner transformation:

But it [cancer] had also stripped him of his faults, of all that had been domineering, tyrannical and cruel in him, so that the mischievous, loving and brilliant man beneath lay exposed, once again, for all to see.

7. What do you think about the structure of the book? Was it satisfying for you? What is its purpose?

Marianne:
The narrative structure is quite complex, it had to be with a book like this. The alternation between dreams and “truth” was very instructive. It made it easier to understand.

Emma:
The back and forth between the present and the past was a bit confusing here for me (though I do like it in many other books). And I’m not sure about its purpose here.
As for the dreams, I was trying to remember as I read, ok now this is part of the a dream, but it was interrupting the flow, and ultimately I thought maybe it was not that important.

8. Did you find the ending satisfactory?

Marianne:
I wasn’t unhappy about it. I would have expected something a little more confusing given the whole book seemed to get more and more incoherent.

Emma:
I was actually surprised that the main characters went back to their country, I was not expecting that. But I like the fact that Saladin is given another chance, and has grown a lot throughout the book.

9. What do you think is the author’s ultimate message?

Marianne:
That’s hard to say. Somewhere, I read this was not about islam but about immigrants. I thought only I had seen it that way, having been a foreigner most of my life. One always tends to see what we have experienced ourselves. I would think he wants to present both topics. And probably a bit more.

Emma:
Human nature is complex, and it’s important not to judge too quickly. Life experience is complex but can be enriching if we accept to follow the flow. Then we can grow and experience a satisfying transformation.
This is the message I got personally, but Rushdie’s intent was different I a sure. I actually thought this was not about Islam, and realize it’s actually more than I thought.

Anyway, Rushdie is very critical of any religion. Yesterday, while reading another book that has nothing to do with this one, I read that the root of the word hypocrite means actor. There are a lot of actors in this book. And I actually wonder if Rushdie thought about the etymological connection between these words when he decided to include so many actors (beside the fact that he would have liked to have a career as an actor). People who are critical of religion often talk about hypocrisy, that’s my point here, sorry for my convoluted reflection!

10. Did the book fulfill your expectations of it? Did you like it, why or why not?

Marianne:
After having read “Midnight’s Children“, I was expecting a tough read. And a lot of food for thought. And a lot of stimulation, discussion topics. I did get that. I would have liked some more comments but I hope they will still come in the future.

Emma:
I am glad I finally read one of his major novels and I enjoyed it. I found it extremely rich (in cultural references for instance for the ones I could catch!!)
But at the same time, I feel I barely scratched the surface of its content, even though we did a very close reading, thanks to our questions, and even though I read several essays and analysis! This is the type of book (Umberto Eco’s are other good examples of that) for which I would benefit having a semester of classes!
I was a bit apprehensive as for the religious aspects, but it really didn’t bother me (even the scene of the partying of the sea is more based on a real event than on the Biblical event).

11. Would you consider The Satanic Verses as a good example of the magical realism genre?

Marianne:
Yes and no. At some points, the dreams are far too “fantastic”, at other places, it interweaves too much with reality. We swap from strange to ordinary, we are given a mirror of our lives.

Emma:
I’m not sure either. I have read several books described as pertaining to the magical realism genre, but I don’t only see what they really have in common. For me, Murakami is a better representative.

12. Was there anything you wish was explored that wasn’t?

Marianne:
I doubt it. Towards the end, there was so much to deal with already, I wouldn’t have wished more topics on top of those already presented.

Emma:
It would have been interesting to deal with Islamic elements more in the scenes related to the present than those in the past (or outside of dreams), but I understand that would have been too tricky to do!

13. Are you planning on reading more books by Rushdie?

Marianne:
The narrative structure is quite complex, it had to be with a book like this. The alternation between dreams and “truth” was very instructive. It made it easier to understand.

Emma:
I definitely want to explore more of his older novels. Or I may actually read soon his memoir, Joseph Anton.

14. What did you think about our buddy-read experience? Is it something you would like to do again?

Marianne:
I definitely would love to do it again. Maybe November wasn’t a good month to choose such a heavy book, so we didn’t have many comments. But just exchanging our thoughts, Emma’s and mine, added a lot to the experience of the book. That was great!

Emma:
Marianne, I’m very grateful you accepted to do this with me on this challenging book. Even though I enjoyed the book, if we had not planned to do that I might have dragged my feet and who knows, maybe even DNF the book, because of its complexity and the time I needed to invest to try to get a better reading of it.
Thanks for your questions that challenged me to go deeper, and for your answers that often invited me to look at things differently.
Yes, my mistake in suggesting November!
Let me know if you want to do this again next year on another book, during an easier month!

📚 📚 📚

Here is our full schedule:

  1. November 1st: introductory post at Words And Peace
  2. Between November 8-12: questions + answers on the first 23% of the book (up to end of PART II. Stop before “Ellowen Deeowen”) at Let’s Read
  3. Between Nov 15-19:  questions + answers on the second quarter of the book (stop before V. A City Visible but Unseen), at Words And Peace
  4. Between Nov 22-26:  questions + answers on the third quarter of the book (stop before VI. Return to Jahilia) at  Let’s Read
  5. Between Nov 29-December 3: last quarter of the book and conclusion questions at Words And Peace

HAVE YOU READ THIS BOOK?
LET US KNOW WHAT YOU THINK
FEEL FREE TO ADD YOUR COMMENTS ANY TIME