Six degrees of separation: from a place to a killer

#6Degrees

Six degrees of separation:
from a place to a killer

Time for another quirky variation on this meme:

Using my own rules for this fun meme hosted by Kate at Booksaremyfavouriteandbest (see there the origin of the meme and how it works – posted the first Saturday of every month).

Here are my own quirky rules:

1. Use your list of books on Goodreads
2. Take the first word of the title (or in the subtitle) offered and find another title with that word in it – see the titles below the images to fully understand, as often the word could be in the second part of the title
3. Then use the first word of THAT title to find your text title
4. Or the second if the title starts with the same word, or you are stuck

Second Place Second Sister

  Hikikomori The Rose Rent  

  Lady Agnes Mystery 1 The Lady Killer

Click on the covers 
links will send you to my review or to the relevant Goodreads page

1.  Second Place, by Rachel Cusk

I have not read this book, should I?
“A woman invites a famed artist to visit the remote coastal region where she lives, in the belief that his vision will penetrate the mystery of her life and landscape. His provocative presence provides the frame for a study of female fate and male privilege, of the geometries of human relationships, and of the struggle to live morally in the intersecting spaces of our internal and external worlds.
With its examination of the possibility that art can both save and destroy us, Rachel Cusk’s Second Place is deeply affirming of the human soul, while grappling with its darkest demons.”

2. Second Sister, by Chan Ho-Kei

VERDICT from my review:
If you are looking for something different, geeky, suspenseful, and smart, don’t wait, read Second Sister now.

3. Hikikomori and the Rental Sister, by Jeff Backhaus

From my review:
“It’s a very deep book I think, that will stay with me. The ending was very satisfying.”

4. The Rose Rent, by Ellis Peters

OK, I could not find another title in my list with the adjective ‘rental’, so I went with ‘rent’, though it doesn’t mean at all what it meant in the previous title. I warned you about the quirkiness, didn’t I?

I have devoured this whole Cadfael series by Ellis Peters, alas no review here, as it was mainly before I started blogging. Highly recommended! The movies as well.
“A late spring in 1142 brings dismay to the Abbey of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, for there may be no roses by June 22nd. On that day the young widow Perle must receive one white rose as rent for the house she has given to benefit the abbey or the contract is void. When nature finally complies, a pious monk is sent to pay the rent – and is found murdered beside the hacked rose-bush.
The abbey’s wise herbalist, Brother Cadfael, follows the trail of bloodied petals. He knows the lovely widow’s dowry is far greater with her house included, and she will likely wed again. But before Cadfael can ponder if a greedy suitor has done this dreadful deed, another crime is committed. Now the good monk must thread his way through a tangle more tortuous than the widow’s thorny bushes — or there will be more tears…”

5. The Lady Agnès Mystery vol 1: Book 1. The Season of the Beast Book 2. The Breath of the Rose, by Andrea Japp

VERDICT from my review:
Suspenseful saga set in France in the 14th century, at the time of the dreadful Inquisition. Rich in historical details and ripe with secrets powerful enough to kill or to die for.

6. The Lady Killer, by Masako Togawa

VERDICT from my review:
Great suspenseful Japanese thriller with very smart plot.

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Six degrees of separation: from Glasgow to fire

#6Degrees

Six degrees of separation:
from Glasgow to fire

Sometimes, the book we have to use to start the chain is challenging for my own rules. So to start this one, I decided to go with another author whose first name is Douglas.
So I started in Glasgow, and ended up with  a French philosopher!

Using my own rules for this fun meme hosted by Kate at Booksaremyfavouriteandbest (see there the origin of the meme and how it works – posted the first Saturday of every month).

Here are my own quirky rules:

1. Use your list of books on Goodreads
2. Take the first word of the title (or in the subtitle) offered and find another title with that word in it
3. Then use the first word of THAT title to find your text title
4. Or the second if the title starts with the same word, or you are stuck

Shuggie Bain  Shadows Walking

  The Black Lizard  Lady Agnes Mystery 1  

  fire season The Psychoanalysis of Fire  

Links will send you to my review or to the relevant Goodreads page

1.  Shuggie Bain, by Douglas Stuart

So this is the book we have to start with. I haven’t read it, and am not planning to, this is not a theme I’m interested in.

Shuggie Bain is the unforgettable story of young Hugh “Shuggie” Bain, a sweet and lonely boy who spends his 1980s childhood in run-down public housing in Glasgow, Scotland. Thatcher’s policies have put husbands and sons out of work, and the city’s notorious drugs epidemic is waiting in the wings. Shuggie’s mother Agnes walks a wayward path: she is Shuggie’s guiding light but a burden for him and his siblings. She dreams of a house with its own front door while she flicks through the pages of the Freemans catalogue, ordering a little happiness on credit, anything to brighten up her grey life. Married to a philandering taxi-driver husband, Agnes keeps her pride by looking good–her beehive, make-up, and pearly-white false teeth offer a glamourous image of a Glaswegian Elizabeth Taylor. But under the surface, Agnes finds increasing solace in drink, and she drains away the lion’s share of each week’s benefits–all the family has to live on–on cans of extra-strong lager hidden in handbags and poured into tea mugs. Agnes’s older children find their own ways to get a safe distance from their mother, abandoning Shuggie to care for her as she swings between alcoholic binges and sobriety. Shuggie is meanwhile struggling to somehow become the normal boy he desperately longs to be, but everyone has realized that he is “no right,” a boy with a secret that all but him can see. Agnes is supportive of her son, but her addiction has the power to eclipse everyone close to her–even her beloved Shuggie.
A heartbreaking story of addiction, sexuality, and love, Shuggie Bain is an epic portrayal of a working-class family that is rarely seen in fiction. Recalling the work of Edouard Louis, Alan Hollinghurst, Frank McCourt, and Hanya Yanagihara, it is a blistering debut by a brilliant novelist who has a powerful and important story to tell.
 ”

2.  Shadows Walking, by Douglas R. Skopp

So as explained above, I went with another Douglas.

Here are excepts from my review:
Let me tell you right away that if you are interested in German history, in the Nazi era, and in what happened then, you need absolutely to read this novel. Fruit of 20 years of study and work, it is extremely rich and multi-layered.
Skopp translates extremely well how the characters evolved and let themselves slowly but surely get trapped in foolish and evil ideas, ideas that appeared good at first. The whole Nazi system is presented in its scary logical cold reasoning, leaving no room for empathy or humanistic thoughts.
It is unfortunately not too difficult to do some transposition, and think about the consequences some political logical decisions could have…
The whole theme of dreams, delusions, and fantasy is omnipresent. There’s also a lot on the themes of religion and violence.
The ending is very clever, like a sword of Damocles you may have expected for a while…

3. The Black Lizard / Beast in the Shadows

I just read this book last week, but unfortunately, haven’t reviewed it yet. These were my first two stories by Edogawa Rampo, a brilliant Japanese author of classic mysteries. So so clever!!

“Two Golden Age classics from Japan’s grand master of mystery. Edogawa Rampo (pseudonym of Hirai Taro, 1894-1965) is the acknowledged grand master of Japan’s golden age of crime and mystery fiction. In the early part of his career, he created the Japanese gothic mystery, developing the work of Edgar Allan Poe and related nineteenth century writers in a distinctly Japanese form. This part of his career coincided with a great flowering in Japanese literature and culture, a relatively free and uninhibited popular press being a defining feature of the times. In this context, Rampo’s dark vision and extravagant grotesquery found an avid readership, and had a profound influence on other writers.
The Black Lizard, a master criminal as deadly as she is beautiful, wagers all in an epic battle with a master detective.
A mystery writer vows to protect the woman he secretly loves from the Beast in the Shadows, but disaster strikes when he turns detective himself.”

4.  The Lady Agnès Mystery vol 1: Book 1. The Season of the Beast

VERDICT: Suspenseful saga set in France in the 14th century, at the time of the dreadful Inquisition. Rich in historical details and ripe with secrets powerful enough to kill or to die for.
5. Fire Season: Field Notes from a Wilderness Lookout

Excerpts from my review:
I read this book because of my love for nature and hiking, and also solitary life. I found all this in the book, but much more! I learned a lot about fire management.
I enjoyed the author’s beautiful prose as he contemplates and scrutinizes the horizon at the top of his tower, for several months every year, in New Mexico.

This book was a big revelation for me, I loved it to pieces. I was 17 at the time (so that’s a long time ago!!). Indeed, during the last year of high school. all French students had to study philosophy.

“[Bachelard] is neither a self-confessed and tortured atheist like Sartre, nor, like Chardin, a heretic combining a belief in God with a proficiency in modern science. But, within the French context, he is almost as important as they are because he has a pseudo-religious force, without taking a stand on religion. To define him as briefly as possible – he is a philosopher, with a professional training in the sciences, who devoted most of the second phase of his career to promoting that aspect of human nature which often seems most inimical to science: the poetic imagination …” – J.G. Weightman, The New York Times Review of Books”
– that’s the synopsis featured on Goodreads.

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Top Ten Underrated Books

Top Ten  Books I LOVED
with Fewer than 2,000 Ratings on Goodreads

TTT for February 19, 2019
#TopTenTuesday

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For this edition of #TopTenTuesday, I have to specify that I have read and LOVED a lot of Medieval spirituality books. It’s a special niche, so much so, that for many of them, these books have only 1 rating, mine!
I have also read and LOVED lots of books written in French, and as French readers tend to prefer to use Babelio (Goodreads French equivalent), I’m the only reader who rated these books as well. I’m not even talking about Medieval spirituality books, written in French!

But as the two above categories would probably not be of interest for most of you, I decided to skip them. This was actually a good exercise: I actually was not aware I had read so many awesome spiritual books that apparently no one else here has read!

Click on the covers to know more about these books

Gallic Noir 1So I’ll stick here to less obscure books.
So my first fiction title that I liked a lot (4 stars) and that has only 4 ratings is Gallic Noir Volume 1
I’m totally shocked!
Pascal Garnier is an awesome French author of noir literature. I have reviewed many of his other books as well. His English translators are fantastic.
Most would call his books novellas, and this one is actually a collection of them.
If you are like noir, you HAVE to try Pascal Garnier!
Here was my verdict for this book:
French noir at its best!
Garnier’s writing is excellent and he has this unique gift at twisting things quickly around. I like his strong and bleak images, and will definitely be most happy to keep discovering his work (he wrote over 60 books) with the upcoming Gallic volumes.

A Parisienne in Chicago

 

Let’s stay with the French, shall we, and accompany Marie Grandin to Chicago in 1893 in A Parisienne in Chicago: Impressions of the World’s Columbian Exposition.
I rated it 5 stars, and it has only 12 ratings.

This book was most fascinating.
Marie came to spend 10 months in Chicago, as her husband was working on a big fountain for the Exposition.
She goes everywhere, looks at everything, and has funny and to the point comments comparing between American and French life style, and on people of the time.

Everyone Has Their Reasons

 

Well, looks like the French are persistent here.
Everyone Has Their Reasons has only 14 ratings, and I gave it 5 stars.

VERDICT: Powerful and unique rendition on life in Europe in the years 1935-1945 through vivid letters from Herschel Grynszpan to his lawyer, as he awaits his trial for killing a Nazi diplomat in Paris.

A long book (528 pages) that will reward readers interested in this page of European history as well as inventive writing.

The Fictional 100

And here is another shock: how come only 16 people have rated The Fictional 100: Ranking the Most Influential Characters in World Literature and Legend.
Well worth my 5 stars, believe me!

VERDICT: Smart presentation and ranking of literary characters, across countries and times. If you believe in diversity in literature and consider yourself a lover of books, you absolutely need to have this reference volume on your shelf.

I really like how the author (fellow author and book blogger) details the origin of a character and his/her variations throughout literature history and other arts, and across the continents – what she writes for Cinderella is a perfect example.

The Song Peddler

I’m sure you were missing Paris, right? so the next one is The Song Peddler of the Pont Neuf, an excellent historical mystery set in Paris on the eve of the French Revolution.
4 stars, 19 ratings

VERDICT: Excellent integration of serious historical research into a clever and suspenseful plot.
I have been thoroughly enjoying Laura Lebow’s historical mysteries around the world of operas, see for instance Sent to the Devil. Then she got the great idea to start a new series set in France!
Definitely a novel to recommend to anyone wanting to study the conditions and situations leading to the French Revolution, with serious historical research, details, plus the fun of a suspenseful plot. I’m looking forward to more adventures with Paul.

Taking Root in Provence

Now you may wonder how I’m choosing again a book about France. The truth is, I just clicked on the arrow near the Ratings on the Goodreads shelf of books I have read, and am skipping all spiritual books. And see what’s left, a lot of France related books!
Taking Root in Provence has only 20 ratings, and I gave it 5 stars.

After a busy life in Washington, Anne-Marie and Oscar decided to retire and settle in Provence. This book is a treasure trove, full of their daily impressions of Aix-en-Provence and of the many surrounding quaint little cities and villages.
What I liked is how she integrated very good historical and cultural information in an attractive narrative, never boring.

Lady Agnes Mystery 1

 

Surprise surprise: The Lady Agnes Mystery WAS written by a French author. Even though her name may confuse you, Andrea Japp is French. I thoroughly enjoyed the 4 books of this series (published in 2 volumes in the US).
4 stars for the first one (47 ratings) and 5 stars for the second (21 ratings).

VERDICT: Suspenseful saga set in France in the 14th century, at the time of the dreadful Inquisition. Rich in historical details and ripe with secrets powerful enough to kill or to die for, it focuses on a quest and a unique woman.

death-at-the-paris-exposition

 

We followed Marie from France to the Chicago Columbian Exposition above, so now let’s go with Emily from Chicago to Paris, to another Exposition: Death at the Paris Exposition.
5 stars, 28 ratings.
This is a historical mystery.

VERDICT: Perfect example of how to integrate smartly the fruit of your research into a historical novel.
Luscious descriptions and suspenseful mystery. Very enjoyable.

Syncopation

Syncopation: A Memoir of Adele Hugo, has only 36 ratings, I gave it 5 stars.
Victor Hugo was very much shocked by the loss of his daughter Léopoldine, who died by drowning shortly after her wedding. This book is from her sister Adèle’s point of view.

In this semi memoir semi historical novel, Adèle writes her own journal. At the end of many chapters, she communicates in imagination with Léopoldine, who reacts to her sister’s writing. In reality, Adèle did keep a diary for several years. Here we see her rewriting her life and events as she wishes to present them, not necessarily as they really happened.
I found the style of the book very charming and innovative, in the way it mixes history and fiction, sanity and madness, friendship and passion, and in the way Adèle’s voice was presented.
I enjoyed very much the depth and simplicity of the writing, where each word seems to have been very carefully selected.

The Kabbalist

I’m glad I had to do this exercise, as I had completely forgotten about The Kabbalist. I gave it 5 stars, it has only 43 ratings.
Ignore the awful cover, it’s very sad, it gives a very wrong impression of the book and its content.
This historical novel is about the Templars and the Kabbalah.
And oh, it HAS a connection to France, of course!

In 2014, I wrote:
The Kabbalist is one of the best historical mysteries I have ever read. It is fabulously built and organized. I really enjoyed being led in the company of each rich character from “false truths” to “real truths”. Looking forward to similar stories by the author.

The prompt was fewer than 2,000 ratings? I have tons of really well loved books with less than 50 ratings.
This sample gives a good idea of my usual books: related to France, mysteries, historical novels, nonfiction.

Have you read any of these? Which one is your favorite?
What are your favorite underrated books?