Sunday Post #45 – 9/5/2021

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I wrote 5 posts this past week, but no review. As I managed to finish reading two books since last Sunday, I’ll use the Sunday Post opportunity to talk to you briefly about them.

The Satanic VersesI would like also to remind you that this coming November, I will be cohosting a read-along/buddy-read with Marianne (at Let’s Read) on The Satanic Verses, by Salman Rushdie (published in 1988 – magical realism).
Click on the title or book cover to know more, and tell us if you would like to participate, by adding your own comments to our upcoming posts or by co-hosting some on your blog as well.


  The Village of Eight Graves   The Madness of Crowds  

📚 The Village of Eight Graves, by Seishi Yokomizo
Expected publication: December 2nd 2021, by Pushkin Vertigo
I actually read it in the French translation (by René de Ceccatty and Ryôji Nakamura) published in 1999! Whay is the English translation so late in the game??

The original in Japanese was published in 1949.
Read it for the Classics Club and the Books in Translation Reading Challenge

I recently reviewed The Inugami Curse in the same series, and decided to read this one with one of my French students.
This is part of a long series (77 books!), by one of the most famous Japanese author of thrillers.

“Nestled deep in the mist-shrouded mountains, The Village of Eight Graves takes its name from a bloody legend: in the 16th century eight samurais, who had taken refuge there along with a secret treasure, were murdered by the inhabitants, bringing a terrible curse down upon their village.
Centuries later a mysterious young man named Tatsuya arrives in town, bringing a spate of deadly poisonings in his wake.”

My student ended up loving it more than I did.
What I liked most was the gothic ambiance of so many scenes, for instance very narrow passages in caves with stalactites, dark underground ponds. Japanese gothic can really be creepy! There’s a constant effect of doom, all along the book.
There are also so many red-herrings and possible killers. So many characters who could be victims of killers.

Why I actually only gave it 3 stars is that there are really too many characters, and a lot of deaths. The list of characters at the beginning of the book helps a bit, but still.
This time, I found the story too complex.
I was intrigued that Detective Kosuke Kindaichi (the series is based on him) does not appear much in this book, only at a few key moments. He certainly appears more in The Inugami Curse.
My students tells me The Honjin Murders (first book in the series) is less complicated, so I’m planning to read it.
Have you read this series?

📚 The Madness of Crowds, (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache #17), by Louise Penny
Published on 8/24/21 by Minotaur Books

I thought I was going to have to wait for this one, but then one neighbor got it from the library and devoured it in two days, so she lent it to me!
End of August brings its yearly treat with a new book with Inspector Armand Gamache.
This time, everyone is back from Paris to the Quebec village of Three Pines, and the story is set after Covid. But with themes closely connected with it.
This is another fabulous book by Louise Penny, in which she tackles extremely important themes for our time, with lucidity and kindness.
Some of these themes (I prefer to leave you the surprise on which themes) are intricately connected with the characters, and the author shows that sometimes, things are not clearly black or white.
Ultimately love and goodness will win, but the fight can be rough.


Termination Shock   Rue des boutiques obscures 

  The New Testament  Rider on the Rain

Les deux châteaux  

📚 Termination Shock, by Neal Stephenson
Expected publication: November 16th 2021 by William Morrow
Received for review through Netgalley

I had been meaning to read so many books by Stephenson, and  never dared so far. But when I saw it on Netgalley, I couldn’t resist. A technothriller about climate change, totally my thing!
This is a long book (896 pages).
I have already read 25% of it, and so far, I really have no idea where things are going, and how the different scenes and characters of the book are connected.
But the writing flows very easily, and I’m learning about all kinds oft things, from martial arts to Sikh culture, to Dutch history. I have read somewhere that things pick up at about 50%!!

A visionary technothriller about climate change.
Neal Stephenson’s sweeping, prescient new novel transports readers to a near-future world where the greenhouse effect has inexorably resulted in a whirling-dervish troposphere of superstorms, rising sea levels, global flooding, merciless heat waves, and virulent, deadly pandemics.
One man has a Big Idea for reversing global warming, a master plan perhaps best described as “elemental.” But will it work? And just as important, what are the consequences for the planet and all of humanity should it be applied?
Ranging from the Texas heartland to the Dutch royal palace in the Hague, from the snow-capped peaks of the Himalayas to the sunbaked Chihuahuan Desert, Termination Shock brings together a disparate group of characters from different cultures and continents who grapple with the real-life repercussions of global warming. Ultimately, it asks the question: Might the cure be worse than the disease?”

📚 Rue des boutiques obscures, by Patrick Modiano
Published in 1978.
And translated as Missing Person in 2004!

This is the book that made me discover and enjoy Patrick Modiano (he won the Nobel Prize in literature in 2014), when I was a teen.
One of my French students decided to read it, so I’m rereading it with him. Which makes me realize even more that most of Modiano’s subsequent books are almost a variation of this one! – for instance Encre sympathique, published in 2019.

“In this strange, elegant novel, winner of France’s premier literary prize, Patrick Modiano portrays a man in pursuit of the identity he lost in the murky days of the Paris Occupation, the black hole of French memory.
For ten years Guy Roland has lived without a past. His current life and name were given to him by his recently retired boss, Hutte, who welcomed him, a onetime client, into his detective agency. Guy makes full use of Hutte’s files – directories, yearbooks, and papers of all kinds going back half a century – but his leads are few. Could he really be the person in that photograph, a young man remembered by some as a South American attaché? Or was he someone else, perhaps the disappeared scion of a prominent local family? He interviews strangers and is tantalized by half-clues until, at last, he grasps a thread that leads him through the maze of his own repressed experience.
On one level Missing Person is a detective thriller, a 1950s film noir mix of smoky cafés, illegal passports, and insubstantial figures crossing bridges in the fog. On another level, it is also a haunting meditation on the nature of the self. Modiano’s sparce, hypnotic prose, superbly translated by Daniel Weissbort, draws his readers into the intoxication of a rare literary experience.”

📚 The New Testament: A Translation, by David Bentley Hart
Published in 2017

David Bentley Hart’s translation is a good way for me to reread the whole New Testament.
His introduction and postscript where he explains his choices in his translation are absolutely fabulous.
If you are curious to read an English translation as close as possible to the original text, this is the way to go. And you will get more out of the book if you read the translator’s explanation first.

“From one of our most celebrated writers on religion comes this fresh, bold, and unsettling new translation of the New Testament.
David Bentley Hart undertook this new translation of the New Testament in the spirit of “etsi doctrina non daretur,” “as if doctrine is not given.” Reproducing the texts’ often fragmentary formulations without augmentation or correction, he has produced a pitilessly literal translation, one that captures the texts’ impenetrability and unfinished quality while awakening readers to an uncanniness that often lies hidden beneath doctrinal layers.
The early Christians’ sometimes raw, astonished, and halting prose challenges the idea that the New Testament affirms the kind of people we are. Hart reminds us that they were a company of extremists, radical in their rejection of the values and priorities of society not only at its most degenerate, but often at its most reasonable and decent. “To live as the New Testament language requires,” he writes, “Christians would have to become strangers and sojourners on the earth, to have here no enduring city, to belong to a Kingdom truly not of this world. And we surely cannot do that, can we?”

📚 Rider on the Rain, by Sébastien Japrisot
Published in 1969 – am reading for The Classics Club and the Books in Translation Challenge. Getting republished by Gallic Books on October 5, 2021

I really enjoy a lot the beginning! Also neat the find early on the reason for the title.

“The bus never stops in Le Cap-des-Pins. Not in autumn, when the small Riviera resort is deserted. Except today, when a man with a red bag and a disconcerting stare steps out into the rain. His arrival will throw the life of young housewife Mellie Mau into disarray. After surviving a horrific attack, she has a dark secret to hide. But a stranger at a wedding, the enigmatic American Harry Dobbs, is determined to get the truth out of her, leading her into a game of cat and mouse with dangerous consequences …A cool, stylish and twisty thriller from cult French noir writer Sébastien Japrisot.”

🎧  Les deux châteaux (N.E.O. #2), by Michel Bussi 
Published on June 3, 2021

Michel Bussi usually writes thrillers, but has recently launched into YA fantasy.
I am enjoying volume 2 as much as volume 1.
After the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower, we are now moving to Versailles. The way the author approaches the theme of tyranny is quite interesting.

“Le clan du château et le clan du tipi sont réconciliés ! Grâce à l’alliance de tous, les frontières de la ville et de ses environs peuvent enfin être repoussées : le monde s’ouvre désormais à eux.
Mais au-delà des grandes découvertes, des amitiés et des amours naissants, et derrière une cohabitation en apparence sereine, Alixe, Zyzo et leurs amis devront percer de nouveaux mystères. Comment les enfants ont-ils pu survivre juste après le passage du nuage ? Quelles sont les origines des deux clans ? Qui était vraiment Marie-Lune ?
Mordélia, chassée de la ville, a conservé un objet secret qui contient peut-être des réponses à toutes ces questions. Or habitée par une féroce volonté de survivre, elle compte bien prendre sa revanche…”


The Islanders by Christopher Priest

📚  The Islanders, by Christopher Priest
Published in 2011

Christopher Priest is a big name in the word of scifi, but I have never read anything by him. This book intrigued me, so I chose it when I won a book of my choice a few years ago on a blog (sorry, can’t remember where).

“Reality is illusory and magical in the stunning new literary SF novel from the multiple award-winning author of The Prestige—for fans of Haruki Murakami and David Mitchell.

A tale of murder, artistic rivalry, and literary trickery; a Chinese puzzle of a novel where nothing is quite what it seems; a narrator whose agenda is artful and subtle; a narrative that pulls you in and plays an elegant game with you. The Dream Archipelago is a vast network of islands. The names of the islands are different depending on who you talk to, their very locations seem to twist and shift. Some islands have been sculpted into vast musical instruments, others are home to lethal creatures, others the playground for high society. Hot winds blow across the archipelago and a war fought between two distant continents is played out across its waters. The Islanders serves both as an untrustworthy but enticing guide to the islands; an intriguing, multi-layered tale of a murder; and the suspect legacy of its appealing but definitely untrustworthy narrator. It shows Christopher Priest at the height of his powers and illustrates his undiminished power to dazzle.”


State of Fear  A Medicine For Melancholy

📚  State of Fear, by Michael Crichton
Published in  2004

As mentioned above, I’m currently reading Termination Shock, a techno-thriller on climate change. One commenter mentioned this as pertaining to the cli-fi genre. This was a new genre name for me, so I read more about it, and found out this book was a good representative. As I thoroughly enjoyed The Andromeda Strain, I think this might be my next by him.
have you read it?

“In Paris, a physicist dies after performing a laboratory experiment for a beautiful visitor. In the jungles of Malaysia, a mysterious buyer purchases deadly cavitation technology, built to his specifications. In Vancouver, a small research submarine is leased for use in the waters off New Guinea. And in Tokyo, an intelligence agent tries to understand what it all means. Thus begins Michael Crichton’s exciting and provocative technothriller, State of Fear. Only Michael Crichton’s unique ability to blend science fact and pulse-pounding fiction could bring such disparate elements to a heart-stopping conclusion. This is Michael Crichton’s most wide-ranging thriller. State of Fear takes the reader from the glaciers of Iceland to the volcanoes of Antarctica, from the Arizona desert to the deadly jungles of the Solomon Islands, from the streets of Paris to the beaches of Los Angeles. The novel races forward, taking the reader on a rollercoaster thrill ride, all the while keeping the brain in high gear. Gripping and thought-provoking, State of Fear is Michael Crichton at his very best.”

📚  A Medicine for Melancholy and Other Stories, by Ray Bradbury
Published in 1959

I don’t often enjoy short-stories, but Ray Bradbury is definitely a good exception. Besides The Martian Chronicles, I so enjoyed the latest collection of his crime (yes!) short-stories (my review of Killer, Come Back to Me is in draft!).
I didn’t know about this older collection, but saw it on another blog.



your choice between 5 books!

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The House of Shudders 2   in another life

Historical novel – WWII
Historical Fiction/Contemporary Women’s Fiction/




2021: May wrap-up

May 2021 WRAP-UP

Another busy month, that didn’t leave me much time for blogging.
Besides books waiting for reviews, I miss not having time to do Sunday Posts and/or Top Ten Tuesday posts.
Hopefully, life will quiet down a bit.
Weeks go by so quickly. It feels like we had snow yesterday, yet we are already eating produce from our garden (lettuce, spinach, and kale and rhubarb that grow back every year).

In May, I took part in #BoutofBooks and did two buddy-reads, on The Andromeda Strain and on The Archipelago of Another Life (our last English-French Q&A will be posted on June 4). Lots of fun!

I was also super busy with an international webinar I organized for France Book Tours“French artists in fiction: four lives, four authors”. About 70 people signed up, from 7 countries. If you missed it, you can watch the video I made from it, with excerpts read by the authors added. It was fascinating, but a lot of work before and after.

In June-July-August, I will be working on my #20BooksofSummer21.

I am also in the process of streamlining all my Categories and Tags.
And of transitioning France Book Tours to another theme, and other forms of marketing!

As  I said above, not much happening on the blog this past month, but I did read a good deal.

📚 Here is what I read in May:

13 books:
6 in print 
with 1,685 pages, a daily average of 54 pages/day
7 in audio
= 24H17
, a daily average of 47 minutes

4 in nonfiction:

  1. The Book of Zechariah
  2. The Book of Malachi
  3. The Book of Isaiah
  4. The Book of Jeremiah – these 4 books were as audiobooks, for The Classics Club and the Books in Translation Challenge

4 in mystery:

  1. The Regatta Mystery and Other Stories (Hercule Poirot #21), by Agatha Christie
  2. Sad Cypress (Hercule Poirot #22), by Agatha Christie
  3. One, Two, Buckle my Shoe (Hercule Poirot #23), by Agatha Christie – these first 3 were as audiobooks, for The Classics Club
  4. People Like Them, by Samira Sedira – received for review for Criminal Element

3 in historical fiction:

  1. Monet & Oscar, by Joe Byrd – received for review for France Book Tours
  2. The Archipelago of Another Life / L’Archipel d’une autre vie, by Andreï Makine
  3. Flight of the Raven, by Jean-Pierre Gibrat – graphic novel

2 in science-fiction:

  1. The Andromeda Strain, by Michael Crichton – for The Classics Club
  2. Project Hail Mary, by Andy Weir – received for review through Netgalley


    The Archipelago of Another Life   The Andromeda Strain


Classics Club: 55/137 (from November 2020-until November 2025)
Japanese Literature Challenge: 12 books 

Total of books read in 2021 = 73/120 (60%)
Number of books added to my TBR this past month = 22



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Arsene Lupin

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Come back tomorrow
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How was YOUR month of May?

Nicole at Feed Your Fiction Addiction
has created a Month In Review meme
where you can link your monthly recap posts
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The Andromeda Strain: read-along, last discussion, on Day 4 and Day 5

The Andromeda Strain

The Andromeda Strain,
by Michael Crichton,
Science Fiction/Thriller

Today is the last post of my buddy read with Julie Anna.
In case you missed our previous posts, you can find them by clicking on these links:

Pre-read discussion
Day 1 and Day 2
Day 3

And today, here are our answers to my questions on Day 4 and Day 5:

1. What did you think about how the suspense is handled by the author, especially in Day 4 and 5?

Julie Anna
Days 4 and 5 actually didn’t go how I expected them to! I made the assumption that the strain would spread outside the town and be deadly and contagious, so after seeing what actually happened with the strain it wasn’t as suspenseful as I expected it to be? That’s all on me because of my expectations, but at the same time, I feel like the emphasis was so much so on the process of figuring things out that it wasn’t as suspenseful. The only exception I would say was at the countdown part – that was the most suspenseful part for me! But then with the ending you do feel that kind of relief when you do find out what happens to the strain as it spreads. Overall, I found that the book leaned more towards science than suspense towards the end, but I don’t mind that much at all.

I had actually problems with the way suspense was handled throughout the book. Earlier on, with a few hints here and there, you know most survived. It is to be expected if it’s science-fiction and not horror, but still, I prefer when I don’t know for sure until the end.
You are right that the countdown part was super suspenseful. But I remember reflecting when I got there, wow, finally some serious suspense, but we are already at 96% of the book! It was so suspenseful that for a few minutes, I did forget that the outcome was going to be ok.

2. How did you like the scientific explanations in this last part?

Julie Anna
I liked the emphasis on using simulations in this part to determine explanations and next steps! Where I went to school the surrounding area’s employers were in aerospace defense and so simulations like these were a big part of my curriculum. And while I didn’t go in that industry itself, the exposure we got to that in these parts (and throughout the book) were really cool for me to revisit. Computing is my most familiar topic when it comes to what’s discussed in this book, so I can’t help but be a bit excited when I get to see the applications, especially to see how they were used several decades ago when we had so little bandwidth to work with!

Beside the mutation part, I did enjoy these as well. It is also part of the author’s style to really focus on serious science, to make it sound as close as possible to reality.

3. What was your reaction to the nature of the strain and how it worked?

Julie Anna
It definitely wasn’t how I expected it to work! I really wasn’t sure how the survivors, well, survived, but we got to see a lot of figuring this out in Day 4 which I really enjoyed. And while I couldn’t quite guess this one and wanted to, I let that aspect go and enjoyed the journey. I particularly enjoyed the problem solving process and how they figured this one out, especially with the tools they used to get there.

Yes, that was a pretty cool explanation. And it totally makes sense when you remember that Crichton studied medicine.
I was struck at one point that one of the possible explanations they were considering was that “the organism acted by causing damage to blood vessels… if our organism attacks vessel walls”, which is basically what Covid19 does, attacking their lining. Spooky!

4. Do you agree with Churchill’s definition of genius?

Julie Anna
This was an interesting quote for sure! It reminds me of the comparison between book-smart and street-smart when people compare intelligence. I think that genius can be defined in so many ways and as a range of skills, if that’s the word? And I think that the ability to handle information in such a manner that Churchill states is a part of that equation. It might not be the complete definition in my mind, but I do think it’s a big part of it.

For those who forgot that part, “true genius resides in the capacity for evaluation of uncertain, hazardous, and conflicting information”. Who knows actually if Churchill really said that? Anyway, I also think that a genius would definitely have that trait, plus others.

5. How did you like the ending of the book?

Julie Anna
Again, it wasn’t quite what I was expected! I suppose I thought we were in for a really dark ending. I was hoping for a bit more exploration of topics we didn’t get to see as much, but at the same time, I like how the book pretty much stuck to the internal processes of figuring out the contagion all the way to the end. The ending also made me wonder how many potential dangers are out there that government agencies handle without the average citizen’s knowledge.

I found the ending rather anticlimactic (that’s another problem of the suspense handling): no one needs to do anything, just a mutation, and the problem is over.
The very last chapter indeed highlights how little we really know about big stuff happening. And maybe it’s better we don’t know. I wonder sometimes how heads of states can even sleep!

6. What are your final thoughts on how Crichton handled the topic of an epidemic?

Julie Anna
I feel like I was expecting more from the side of what the average person dealt with in an epidemic (since I expected this to spread really badly), so it was cool to see it from the perspective of working to stop it. Even though this book is older, it felt like such a timely read and gave us an idea of what the process looks like to understand new strains of contagious diseases and how scientists identify them and develop solutions. I thought it was interesting to have our current experiences with a pandemic combined with a profession neither of us are in, and relating that back to what we know!

Yes, focusing on the scientific side was really neat. I enjoyed that, even if it means the book is poorer as for character development.
But like you, I was expecting more about the spread, epidemic, and possibly a pandemic situation, though I am sure I would not have had that expectation before Covid-19!!

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

Julie Anna
Although I said I liked the perspectives we had, I do wish we got to see things more from the side of an average citizen. However, this is also because I expected the strain to become deadly past Piedmont. I know I keep on going back and forth on this as well, because it would have been really interesting, however, tapping into the emotional side could have made it way too much subject matter for one book.

I think I would have enjoyed it more if the solution had been brought by something the scientists had to do. The experiments and research explained what it was and how it worked, but they didn’t need to do anything special for the problem to go away.
Though of course in real life, I wish that would be the case with Covid-19!

8. Are you going to watch the movie now?

Julie Anna
I feel like I always intend to watch film adaptations but never do (I’m a bit fidgety when it comes to TV and movies!). But I am really curious to see how they adapted this, especially considering how detail-heavy this book is. If I had to guess, I’m assuming the adaptation has some big differences compared to the book!

OMG, you have to watch it, I did yesterday night! I highly recommend also you watch it on DVD, I’m sure you can find it at your library or through inter-library loan, should be free through your library, because it has awesome interviews, including one by Crichton himself.
I was struck at how close they are to the book, including most of the dialogs. The only difference is the very end: looks like they didn’t like the simple solution more than I did, because in the movie, the solution does come from something the scientists do.
The countdown is also crazy suspenseful.
All the scientific part is awesome! And remember they did all this before what we can do with computers now! Nicely explained in the interviews.

9. Daniel H. Wilson wrote a sequel. Do you feel like reading it?

Julie Anna
I feel a similar way to this that I do to the sequel for Before the Coffee Gets Cold. I am satisfied with what I’ve read, but I’m also curious with what the direction the sequel will take. I’m also curious about Wilson’s writing style and how it will compare to Crichton’s. It’s definitely something I’m thinking about!

Rereading the end, it does make sense to have a sequel.
When I wrote the question, I was not really thinking reading it, because the name Daniel H. Wilson was not ringing a bell. Then I realized he is the author of Robopocalypse, which was very popular a few years ago – what, already ten years ago?! ( I haven’t read it yet!)
So now, I may give it a shot.

10. Are you planning on reading more books by Crichton?

Julie Anna
Definitely! I have my copy of Jurassic Park / The Lost World that will be next for me, and after that I’d love to see what else he’s written. I’m also curious to see how the level of detail in this book compares to his other writing, or if he’s experimented quite a bit with his writing over the course of his career.

Yes, I want to try some of his other books. In the interview after the movie, I discovered that he also wrote a lot under other pen names (because as a student  in medicine, he was afraid his teachers would take him less seriously if they discovered he was writing novels!!) They are more thrillers, and they do sound good. It would definitely be interesting to see how he handles other genres.

11. What will be your next science-fiction read?

Julie Anna
One of my Instagram friends kindly gave me their copy of War Girls by Tochi Onyebuchi, so that will likely be my very next sci-fi read. I also have a lot of unread sci-fi classics on my shelf by Asimov, Wells, and Bradbury that I’d love to read next. And in terms of what I don’t own, I’d love to check out the books by Okorafor and Liu you mentioned earlier!

Liu Cixin, yes! Amazing author. I have still to read his The Three-Body Problem, so I may read this one soon.
I actually just finished today reading Project Hail Mary, by Andy Weir, that I started reading while reading The Andromeda Strain. I know, not my smartest move to read two scifi at the same time, though it was fun sometimes to make comparisons. Now, if you like a LOT of technical details, go for it! There are even more than in The Martian, if I recall correctly.  BUT the plot, twists, and character development are fabulous. I can’t wait to see that one made into a movie, it begs for it.

As for Asimov, I loved a lot I, Robot (ignore the awful movie), but was so so disappointed by Foundation.
Bradbury has some awesome ones, including The Martian Chronicles. I recently read Killer, Come Back to Me: The Crime Stories of Ray Bradbury (published August 18, 2020 by HarperCollins Publishers). Yes, he originally was a mystery writer! Near the end of the collection, you see how he slowly switched to scifi, and some stories in there were really fabulous.
Ad I also need to try Wells!!

12. Oops, I wanted to revisit the question, and I forgot to ask you, Julie Anna: would you consider this book a classic? Why, or why not?

Thanks so much Julie Anna for this buddy read experience. Definitely very enriching, and I have the feeling it will not be the last 😉