Six degrees of separation: from sorrow to the Romanovs


Six degrees of separation:
from sorrow to the Romanovs

Time for another quirky variation on this meme.
The title doesn’t sound very cheerful, but my list contains some great books, and at least one is hilarious.

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

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

Sorrow and Bliss

This is the book we are supposed to start from.
I have not read it, and I am not planning to.

This novel is about a woman called Martha. She knows there is something wrong with her but she doesn’t know what it is. Her husband Patrick thinks she is fine. He says everyone has something, the thing is just to keep going.
Martha told Patrick before they got married that she didn’t want to have children. He said he didn’t mind either way because he has loved her since he was fourteen and making her happy is all that matters, although he does not seem able to do it.
By the time Martha finds out what is wrong, it doesn’t really matter anymore. It is too late to get the only thing she has ever wanted. Or maybe it will turn out that you can stop loving someone and start again from nothing – if you can find something else to want.

The Sorrows of Young Werther  Diary of a Young Naturalist

    The Diary of Adam and Eve    The Lament of Eve  

Isaiah Through the Ages  After the Romanovs

Click on the covers to read my review
or the relevant page

Sorrow and Bliss

1. The Sorrrows of Young Werther, by Goethe

I read this one a few decades ago (in French), and enjoyed it A LOT. It might be time to revisit.

This is Goethe’s first novel, published in 1774. Written in diary form, it tells the tale of an unhappy, passionate young man hopelessly in love with Charlotte, the wife of a friend – a man who he alternately admires and detests. ‘The Sorrows of Young Werther’ became an important part of the ‘Sturm und Drang movement, and greatly influenced later ‘Romanticism’. The work is semi-autobiographical – in 1772, two years before the novel was published, Goethe had passed through a similar tempestuous period, when he lost his heart to Charlotte Buff, who was at that time engaged to his friend Johann Christian Kestner.”

2. Diary of a Young Naturalist, by Dara McAnulty

I heard about this book a few weeks ago. The theme of environment is an important one for me, and I’m looking forward to reading it. It’s also listed in a Goodreads giveaway.

“Diary of a Young Naturalist chronicles the turning of 15-year-old Dara McAnulty’s world. From spring and through a year in his home patch in Northern Ireland, Dara spent the seasons writing. These vivid, evocative and moving diary entries about his connection to wildlife and the way he sees the world are raw in their telling. “I was diagnosed with Asperger’s/autism aged five … By age seven I knew I was very different, I had got used to the isolation, my inability to break through into the world of talking about football or Minecraft was not tolerated. Then came the bullying. Nature became so much more than an escape; it became a life-support system.” Diary of a Young Naturalist portrays Dara’s intense connection to the natural world, and his perspective as a teenager juggling exams and friendships alongside a life of campaigning. “In writing this book,” Dara explains, “I have experienced challenges but also felt incredible joy, wonder, curiosity and excitement. In sharing this journey my hope is that people of all generations will not only understand autism a little more but also appreciate a child’s eye view on our delicate and changing biosphere.””

3. The Diary of Adam and Eve, by Mark Twain

This book is totally hilarious. I don’t like the author’s personality, but some his books are so good, and this one so so funny. Maybe god for a fun summer day.

“”Good deal of fog this morning. I do not go out in the fog myself,” notes Adam in his diary, adding, “The new creature does. It goes out in all weathers. And talks. It used to be so pleasant and quiet here.”
Adam has a lot to learn about Eve, and even more from her, as she names the animals, discovers fire, and introduces all manner of innovations to their garden home. Mark Twain’s “translation” of the diaries of the first man and woman offers a humorous “he said/she said” narrative of biblical events. The great American storyteller found comfort and inspiration in the company of women, and his irreverent look at conventional religion is also a thoughtful — and humorous — argument for gender equality.”

4. The Lament of Eve, by Johanna Manley

We are going from hilarious to very serious, with this excellent patristic and Orthodox commentary of the first five chapters of Genesis. 
I have read three books by this author, she’s really good.

The Lament of Eve attempts an exegesis of sections of the first five chapters of Genesis based on commentary of the Fathers of the Church. Subjects covered include: the creation and dignity of men and women, theosis, stewardship of the earth, the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, the Fall, the sentence of mortality and God’s love, providence and primacy in our lives. Appropriate for both elementary and advanced Bible studies, it also makes thoughtful reading during Great Lent. Includes index and bibliography.

5. Isaiah Through the Ages, by Johanna Manley

Got stuck here, as I don’t have any other book on my shelves with either the word lament or Eve. And no other Johanna author, so I’m going with my favorite book by her. An excellent patristic compilation and Orthodox commentary on the book of Isaiah.

“A compilation of previously unavailable commentaries by the Church Fathers on the Book of Isaiah. Fourth and fifth century exegetes are prominently featured, but excerpts from others, such as Ss Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Anthanasius of Alexandria and Jerome, are also included. Modern commentary (from 1775 to the present) has been added to provide insight into the historical context, poetry and structure. A short Judaic section points to Messianic passages and assists with obscure metaphors and references. The Prologue is excerpted from the works of Georges Florovsky. Includes bibliography and index.”

6. After the Romanovs: Russian Exiles in Paris from the Belle Époque Through Revolution and War, by Helen Rappaport 

Hellen Rappaport is an expert on Russian history. I really enjoyed her book on The Romanov Sisters, and this one, her latest, published in March 2022. Alas, I haven’t posted my review yet!

Paris has always been a city of cultural excellence, fine wine and food, and the latest fashions. But it has also been a place of refuge for those fleeing persecution, never more so than before and after the Russian Revolution and the fall of the Romanov dynasty. For years, Russian aristocrats had enjoyed all that Belle Époque Paris had to offer, spending lavishly when they visited. It was a place of artistic experimentation, such as Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes. But the brutality of the Bolshevik takeover forced Russians of all types to flee their homeland, sometimes leaving with only the clothes on their backs.
Arriving in Paris, former princes could be seen driving taxicabs, while their wives who could sew worked for the fashion houses, their unique Russian style serving as inspiration for designers like Coco Chanel. Talented intellectuals, artists, poets, philosophers, and writers struggled in exile, eking out a living at menial jobs. Some, like Bunin, Chagall and Stravinsky, encountered great success in the same Paris that welcomed Americans like Fitzgerald and Hemingway. Political activists sought to overthrow the Bolshevik regime from afar, while double agents from both sides plotted espionage and assassination. Others became trapped in a cycle of poverty and their all-consuming homesickness for Russia, the homeland they had been forced to abandon.
This is their story.


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Top 3 qualities that make a great author

Top 3 qualities
that make a great author

author 1

There have been many great authors throughout history. While the stories they have written are completely different, these authors have many of the same qualities. It is these qualities that have allowed their words to strike a chord with millions of people around the world. Many people have wondered what is the difference between a successful and an unsuccessful author. While it often comes down to a major difference in writing talent, sometimes the answer is not that simple. There are other traits that people are born with and can’t be taught that often play a key role in an author’s success. What traits do all great authors have? Here are some of the most important qualities that Daniel Handler and other authors like him possess.


The great authors stand out from the crowd. When Sir Arthur Conan Doyle created the legendary Sherlock Holmes, the literary world had never seen a detective the likes of him before. Therefore, the Sherlock Holmes novels instantly made a major impact on the general public. This allowed them to gain a massive following around the world. Similar to this were the novels of Mark Twain, which painted a very interesting portrait of life in the southern United States in the late 19th century. Twain’s books are now standard reading material in schools around the United States. Obviously, you can’t teach originality and imagination. A person either has these things, or they don’t. An author can have a very impressive vocabulary and command of the English language. However, if he or she can’t come up with compelling and original ideas to write about, they will never succeed as an author.


Becoming a successful author is rarely easy. The vast majority of authors must deal with a large amount of rejection in the early stages of their careers. While some lesser authors decide to choose another profession after receiving too much rejection, great authors only grow stronger from this. Being repeatedly rejected only makes the great authors more determined to succeed.

Ability to listen to criticism

An author must understand that there are some people who know better than they do. When an author is still developing his or her writing talents, it is important for them to listen to criticism. Instead of being insulted when somebody tells them their work is bad and needs improvement, the great authors will take this as a challenge.



#86 review: The Innocents Abroad

The Innocents Abroad;

or, The New Pilgrim’s Progress;

Being Some Account of the Steamship Quaker City’s

Pleasure Excursion

to Europe and the Holy land



560 pages

Published in 1869

This book counts for

My Dewey Decimal Challenge

and for

The 2011 Non-Fiction Challenge


I keep saying I have a love/hate relationship with Mark Twain, but this time I swear this is it, done with Mark Twain!  I actually didn’t find this book funny, apart from very few passages, for instance describing Italy, where I did recognize some aspects I encountered myself there.

But apart from that, the satire in this book was really way too much and far too negative. The only things Twain manages to describe positively in this is landscapes. But as far as people, it’s quite bad, both on his own fellow tourists and on all the people they meet. Or maybe that’s the point that I missed: that it is so bad that it is funny! Well, thanks, I have enough of that. I read it also on my ipod as an ebook, and that was a few thousands screens, not sure how I manage to have the patience to read it all, I guess I was always hoping it would get better. “The most prominent and influential travel books ever written about Europe and the Holy Land”? Really? Are you kidding? There HAS to be something better on the subject.


The Innocents Abroad is one of the most prominent and influential travel books ever written about Europe and the Holy Land. In it, the collision of the American “New Barbarians” and the European “Old World” provides much comic fodder for Mark Twain—and a remarkably perceptive lens on the human condition. Gleefully skewering the ethos of American tourism in Europe, Twain’s lively satire ultimately reveals just what it is that defines cultural identity. As Twain himself points out, “Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.” And Jane Jacobs observes in her Introduction, “If the reader is American, he may also find himself on a tour of his own psyche.” [Goodreads]


Samuel Langhorne Clemens (November 30, 1835 – April 21, 1910), better known by his pen name Mark Twain, was an American author and humorist. He is noted for his novels Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885), called “the Great American Novel”, and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876).
Twain grew up in Hannibal, Missouri, which would later provide the setting for Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer. He apprenticed with a printer. He also worked as a typesetter and contributed articles to his older brother Orion’s newspaper. After toiling as a printer in various cities, he became a master riverboat pilot on the Mississippi River, before heading west to join Orion. He was a failure at gold mining, so he next turned to journalism. While a reporter, he wrote a humorous story, The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County, which proved to be very popular and brought him nationwide attention. His travelogues were also well-received. Twain had found his calling.
He achieved great success as a writer and public speaker. His wit and satire earned praise from critics and peers, and he was a friend to presidents, artists, industrialists, and European royalty.
However, he lacked financial acumen. Though he made a great deal of money from his writings and lectures, he squandered it on various ventures, in particular the Paige Compositor, and was forced to declare bankruptcy. With the help of Henry Huttleston Rogers, however, he eventually overcame his financial troubles. Twain worked hard to ensure that all of his creditors were paid in full, even though his bankruptcy had relieved him of the legal responsibility.
Born during a visit by Halley’s Comet, he died on its return. He was lauded as the “greatest American humorist of his age”, and William Faulkner called Twain “the father of American literature”. [Goodreads]