2020: December wrap-up

December 2020 WRAP-UP

I have read tons this month (the highest month, as for number of books), so for once, I’m posting before the end of the month.
Of course I will be reading some more today, but not enough to finish a book. And I’ll be spending most of my reading time actually working on my 2020 stats!

📚 So here is what I read in December.
Note, 7 different genres!

17 books:
11 in print 
with 2,396 pages, a daily average of 77 pages/day
6 in audio
= 44H29
, a daily average of 1H26!

5 in literary fiction:

  1. La grande escapade, by Jean-Philippe Bondel – ebook for review
  2. A Very Russian Christmas – collection of classics Christmas tales, for The Classics Club
  3. The Letter Killers Club, by Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky – ebook for The Classics Club spin
  4. La Femme au carnet rouge, by Antoine Laurain – ebook with the French Books online book club
  5. A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens – audio, for The Classics Club

4 in science-fiction:

  1. Flood, by Stephen Baxter
  2. Ready Player Two, by Ernest Cline – audio
  3. Binti, by Nnedi Okorafor
  4. Binti: Home, by Nnedi Okorafor

2 in children/YA:

  1. Silver Spoon #2, by Hiromu Arakawa – manga
  2. A Child’s Christmas in Wales, by Dylan Thomas – audio, for The Classics Club

2 in mystery:

  1. Atomka, by Franck Thilliez – French audiobook
  2. Three Act Tragedy, (Hercule Poirot) #11 by Agatha Christie – audio, for The Classics Club

2 in nonfiction:

  1. Upstream, by Mary Oliver – a collection of essays
  2. 1st and 2nd Books of the Maccabees – audio, for The Classics Club

1 in historical fiction:

  1. The Vexations, by Caitlin Horrocks

1 in poetry:

  1. A Thousand Mornings, by Mary Oliver


  Flood   Ready Player Two


Classics Club: 7/137 (from November 2020-until November 2025)
Japanese Literature Challenge: 9 books read during the challenge + 7 since.

Total of books read in 2020 = 123/110 (that’s 112%)
Number of books added to my TBR this past month = 23


None, though I have 3 in preparation


The open giveaways are on my homepage

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


How To Talk About Places You've Never Been

click on the cover to access my review


Sunday Post #32


Caffeinated Reviewer
please go visit, there are a lot of good things there!


Judy at Keep the Wisdom
Deb at Readerbuzz
Iza at Books & Livres

please go and visit them,
they have great book blogs


2,260 posts
over 5,390 followers
over 210,600 hits


Come back on Monday
to see the books I plan to read in January

Eiffel Tower OrangeEiffel Tower OrangeEiffel Tower Orange

How was YOUR month of December?


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


Sunday Post #33 – 12/13/2020

Sunday Post

The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by
Kimba @ Caffeinated Book Reviewer.
It’s a chance to share news.
A post to recap the past week on your blog,
showcase books and things we have received.
Share news about what is coming up
on your blog
for the week ahead.
See rules here: Sunday Post Meme


This post also counts for

Sunday Salon    Stacking the Shelves  Mailbox Monday2

 It's Monday! What Are You Reading2  IMWAYR  WWW Wednesdays 2

#SundayPost #SundaySalon
#StackingTheShelves #MailboxMonday
#itsmonday #IMWAYR
#WWWWednesday #WWWWednesdays

Click on the logos to join the memes,
and on the book covers to access synopsis or review

The weather has been crazy here in Chicagoland so far this season, with most days in the 40s, warmer than formal. I even had lunch outside one day, when the real feel was 63. And now, twenty for hours of rain. Though I’ll take it, instead of snow. I’ll be talking more about the weather here below.


The Vexations  La grande escapade

Silver Spoon 2

📚 The Vexations, by Caitlin Horrocks
Published in 2019
Lent by a friend

I was disappointed by this historical novel, which actually focuses more on Erik Satie‘s sister than on himself.
Besides, I had problems with the structure of the book. Each chapter is written from of the main character’s perspective, but with no apparent logic structure. For instance, you can have one chapter about Erik, and then about Louise decades later in Brazil or earlier. There’s no regular back and forth between Satie’s time and his sister’s latest years.
I don’t mind a collection of vignettes, but they seemed randomly distributed.
Also, the author focuses on Satie’s poverty and hard time at having his music recognized, and then suddenly he is selling his works, with no clear sign of an evolution, how that happened.
Bu there ARE some neat passages on Satie’s music and the ambiance of the time, like in these 3 examples:

The Vexations p22

Page 22

The Vexations p74

Page 74

The Vexations p150

Page 150

The book also made me rediscover Debussy’s orchestrations of the Gymnopédies. I had totally forgotten them, and was recently just listening to the work for piano solo. The orchestration is so ample, like you are viewing a vast horizon. Beautiful. For instance here.

📚 La grande escapade, by Jean-Philippe Blondel
Published in 2019, book received through Netgalley.fr

I have very much enjoyed other books by this author, especially The 6:41 to Paris, but alas I was also disappointed by this one.
I have to admit it is a good portrait of France in the 1970s, especially in a rather small place, and there are some really hilarious passages. But the context of teachers, students and parents in grade school didn’t really interest me that much.

📚 Silver Spoon #2, by Hiromu Arakawa
Published in 2018

I love manga, but I am very picky. I really enjoy this one, quite original in his content:
“A young boy named Yugo Hachiken aspires to live apart from his family. He enrolls in an agriculture school, one which requires its students to live in dormitories. He thinks that with his talent for studying, no problems will arise no matter what kind of school he goes to. But he is soon forced to discover the inconvenient truth about agricultural life. Enjoy the story of Hachiken as he tries to keep up with his friends, farmers’ heirs who are already accustomed to a hardworking farm life.”
In this 2nd volume, the students have discovered a very old pizza oven. They work together to fix it, and Yugo Hachiken organizes a team to prepare and sell pizzas. He is getting more realistic and self-confident. Then he decides to work as a farm hand during his vacation.
I enjoy how his inner growth is portrayed.


 The Letter Killers Club

Flood red notebook

📚The Letter Killers Club (1926), by Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky
Published in 1926
This is the book I got for Classics Spin #25.
I presented it in my December titles post.

I haven’t read too much of it yet, besides the excellent introduction in this edition.
This author sounds to have written in a post-modernist style way ahead of his time. No wonder he had a hard time making a living.
Sounds like a collection of really weird stories. The first story focuses on an author who gets rids of his books to be able to write better.

📚 Flood, by Stephen Baxter
Published in 2008

One of my French students loves science fiction and sent me this book by his favorite author in the genre. Waters are rising, flooding London, Sydney, and many more places. What’s really going on? It seems it’s much worse than “just” global warming. I’m curious to discover what’s coming! Have you read it?

📚 The Red Notebook, by Antoine Laurain
Published in 2014
Reading in French with my French Book Club on Discord

I really enjoy this author, and highly recommend his latest book The Readers’ Room, but I had actually never read this one. Very enjoyable so far.

“Heroic bookseller Laurent Letellier comes across an abandoned handbag on a Parisian street. There’s nothing in the bag to indicate who it belongs to, although there’s all sorts of other things in it. Laurent feels a strong impulse to find the owner and tries to puzzle together who she might be from the contents of the bag. Especially a red notebook with her jottings, which really makes him want to meet her. Without even a name to go on, and only a few of her possessions to help him, how is he to find one woman in a city of millions?”


A Very Russian Christmas

📚 A Very Russian Christmas: The Greatest Russian Holiday Stories of All Time
Published in 2016 by New Vessel Press

‘Tis the season!
New Vessel Press, which exclusively publishes great books in translation, has published already five books in this series. I have read and really enjoyed the one on French Christmas stories, so I decided to read the Russian one this year.


Project Hail Mary Penguin Book of Christmas Stories

📚 Hail Mary, by Andy Weir
Expected publication: May 4th 2021 by Ballantine Books

I gave 5 stars to The Martian, so I’m ready for this one!
“Ryland Grace is the sole survivor on a desperate, last-chance mission–and if he fails, humanity and the earth itself will perish.
Except that right now, he doesn’t know that. He can’t even remember his own name, let alone the nature of his assignment or how to complete it.
All he knows is that he’s been asleep for a very, very long time. And he’s just been awakened to find himself millions of miles from home, with nothing but two corpses for company.”

📚 The Penguin Book of Christmas Stories: From Hans Christian Andersen to Angela Carter
Published in 2019
I only found out about this one, so that will probably be for my 2021 Christmas!

“This is a collection of the most magical, moving, chilling and surprising Christmas stories from around the world, taking us from frozen Nordic woods to glittering Paris, a New York speakeasy to an English country house, bustling Lagos to midnight mass in Rio, and even outer space.
Here are classic tales from writers including Truman Capote, Shirley Jackson, Dylan Thomas, Saki and Chekhov, as well as little-known treasures such as Italo Calvino’s wry sideways look at Christmas consumerism, Wolfdietrich Schnurre’s story of festive ingenuity in Berlin, Selma Lagerlof’s enchanted forest in Sweden, and Irène Nemerovsky’s dark family portrait. Featuring santas, ghosts, trolls, unexpected guests, curmudgeons and miracles, here is Christmas as imagined by some of the greatest short story writers of all time.”


Ready Player Two

📚 Ready Player Two, by Eernest Cline
Audiobook narrated by Wil Wheaton

Published on November 24, 2020

Seven years after listening to Ready Player One, I can still say this is the best audiobook I have EVER listened to, thanks to the stunning performance of narrator Wil Wheaton.
I’m thrilled that there was just an Audible free trial!

“An unexpected quest. Two worlds at stake. Are you ready?
Days after Oasis founder James Halliday’s contest, Wade Watts makes a discovery that changes everything. Hidden within Halliday’s vault, waiting for his heir to find, lies a technological advancement that will once again change the world and make the Oasis a thousand times more wondrous, and addictive, than even Wade dreamed possible. With it comes a new riddle and a new quest. A last Easter egg from Halliday, hinting at a mysterious prize. And an unexpected, impossibly powerful, and dangerous new rival awaits, one who will kill millions to get what he wants. Wade’s life and the future of the Oasis are again at stake, but this time the fate of humanity also hangs in the balance.”


📚 12/6 Spiritual reading: Psalm 118: A Commentary by Saint Theophan the Recluse.
I read about verses 53-58
I finally finished The Vexations, by Caitlin Horrocks. Some nice passages on Satie’s music, but overall disappointing. See my review.
I almost finished La grande escapade, by Blondel. I didn’t remember so much humor in the previous books I read by him. It’s not my favorite element in novels, but I have to say, some passages made me laugh out loud, like the connection between the music group Bonney M, and Bonnet C, which in French is a bra cup measurement!!

sorry for not writing more here


  • New book tour available: historical novel set in Paris, on Modigliani!
  • 2021 Book Fête: new feature offered on France Book Tours, to allow a more flexible offer of book reviews
  • And di you know Words And Peace and France Book Tours are now on Patreon? Hint hint, lol

📚 Book of the month giveaway


  • Late reviews?
  • More Orthodox book notes?
  • One new tour should be soon available



The top 8 books to read in December 2020

Here are

The top 8 books
I plan to read in December 2020

Click on the covers to know more


  The Vexations La grande escapade

📚 The Vexations, (2019) by Caitlin Horrocks
A historical novel on Erik Satie! Loving it so far

📚 La Grande escapade (2019), by Jean-Philippe Blondel
Received for review in 2019
By a French author I really like. Not too sure where this is going, and I’m a quarter done.



  The Letter Killers Club  Upstream

📚 The Red Notebook (2014), by Antoine Laurain
I have read several books by this author, and especially enjoyed his most recent one, but I have never read this famous one. This is the latest book my Online French Book Club has chosen, so actually I’ll be reading the original French text.
Let me know if you want to join us, on Discord.

“Heroic bookseller Laurent Letellier comes across an abandoned handbag on a Parisian street. There’s nothing in the bag to indicate who it belongs to, although there’s all sorts of other things in it. Laurent feels a strong impulse to find the owner and tries to puzzle together who she might be from the contents of the bag. Especially a red notebook with her jottings, which really makes him want to meet her. Without even a name to go on, and only a few of her possessions to help him, how is he to find one woman in a city of millions?”

📚 Flood, (2008) by Stephen Baxter
This one was more recently offered to me by one of my French students. He loves this author, and knowing that I like scifi, he thought I should definitely read it!

It begins in 2016. Another wet summer, another year of storm surges and high tides. But this time the Thames Barrier is breached and central London is swamped. The waters recede, life goes on, the economy begins to recover, people watch the news reports of other floods around the world. And then the waters rise again. And again.
Lily, Helen, Gary and Piers, hostages released from five years captivity at the hands of Christian Extremists in Spain, return to England and the first rumours of a flood of positively Biblical proportions…
Sea levels have begun to rise, at catastrophic speed. Within two years London and New York will be under water. The Pope will give his last address from the Vatican before Rome is swallowed by the rising water. Mecca too will vanish beneath the waves.
The world is drowning. A desperate race to find out what is happening begins. The popular theory is that we are paying the price for our profligacy and that climate change is about to redress Gaia’s balance. But there are dissenting views. And all the time the waters continue to rise and mankind begins the great retreat to higher ground. Millions will die, billions will become migrants. Wars will be fought over mountains.”

📚 The Letter Killers Club (1926), by Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky
This is the book I got for Classics Spin #25.

“Original Writers are professional killers of conceptions. The logic of the Letter Killers Club, a secret society of “conceivers” who commit nothing to paper on principle, is strict and uncompromising. Every Saturday they meet in a fire-lit room hung with blank black bookshelves to present their “pure and unsubstantiated” conceptions: a rehearsal of Hamlet hijacked by an actor who vanishes with the role; the double life of a medieval merry cleric derailed by a costume change; a machine-run world that imprisons men’s minds while conscripting their bodies; a dead Roman scribe stranded this side of the River Acheron. The overarching scene of this short novel is set in Soviet Moscow, in the ominous 1920s. Known only by pseudonym, like Chesterton’s anarchists in fin-de-siècle London, the Letter Killers are as mistrustful of one another as they are mesmerized by their despotic president. Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky is at his philosophical and fantastical best in this extended meditation on madness.”

📚 Upstream: Selected Essays (2016), by Mary Oliver
I have been trying to drastically reduce my TBR, by stopping as much as possible requesting books through Netgalley and Edelweiss, but my public library started a special recommendation service, and I couldn’t resist. (And I’m going to get another book to read chosen by the staff, for the usual Winter Reading Challenge!)
Among the five titles they suggested, I chose this one.

“Comprising a selection of essays, Upstream finds beloved poet Mary Oliver reflecting on her astonishment and admiration for the natural world and the craft of writing.
As she contemplates the pleasure of artistic labor, finding solace and safety within the woods, and the joyful and rhythmic beating of wings, Oliver intimately shares with her readers her quiet discoveries, boundless curiosity, and exuberance for the grandeur of our world.
This radiant collection of her work, with some pieces published here for the first time, reaffirms Oliver as a passionate and prolific observer whose thoughtful meditations on spiders, writing a poem, blue fin tuna, and Ralph Waldo Emerson inspire us all to discover wonder and awe in life’s smallest corners.


  Atom[ka] Three Act Tragedy

📚 Atom[ka] (2012) by Franck Thilliez
Did I say I was going to stop reading this author?
Well, I couldn’t resist. His books often contain some horrific details, BUT they are always so smart as well. This time, looks like there are three threads together, one of them having to do with Chernobyl – incidentally, I just read a fabulous nonfiction graphic “novel” on Fukushima!

📚 Three Act Tragedy,  (Hercule Poirot #11, 1934) by Agatha Christie
Part of my project to listen to all of HP, for The Classics Club
I don’t think I have ever read this one.

“At an apparently respectable dinner party, a vicar is the first to die…Thirteen guests arrived at dinner at the actor’s house. It was to be a particularly unlucky evening for the mild-mannered Reverend Stephen Babbington, who choked on his cocktail, went into convulsions and died. But when his martini glass was sent for chemical analysis, there was no trace of poison — just as Poirot had predicted. Even more troubling for the great detective, there was absolutely no motive!”


Listed on the homepage 

List of books I can swap with yours


📚 Posting more reviews??

Eiffel Tower Orange