Six degrees of separation: from New England to Paris

#6Degrees

Six degrees of separation:
from New England to Paris

Time for another quirky variation on this meme. I started in New England and ended up in Paris!
I was shocked to realize that usually when doing 6 degrees of separation, you end up with 7 books, not 6. I guess I learned something new today!! How come no one ever asked me why I only played with 6 books!

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 Goodreads page

Ethan Frome

This is the book we are supposed to start from.
I haven’t read it and probably will not.

“The classic novel of despair, forbidden emotions, and sexual undercurrents set against the austere New England countryside.
Ethan Frome works his unproductive farm and struggles to maintain a bearable existence with his difficult, suspicious and hypochondriac wife, Zeena. But when Zeena’s vivacious cousin enters their household as a hired girl, Ethan finds himself obsessed with her and with the possibilities for happiness she comes to represent.
In one of American fiction’s finest and most intense narratives, Edith Wharton moves this ill-starred trio toward their tragic destinies. Different in both tone and theme from Wharton’s other works, Ethan Frome has become perhaps her most enduring and most widely read book.”

the touchstone  The Moonstone

  Moon in a Dead Eye  Living With a Dead Language

  pancakes-in-paris Three Hours in Paris

1.  The Touchstone, by Edith Wharton

I did read this novella by Wharton, and so decided to go with this easy link.
Click on the cover to read my review and synopsis.

2. The Moonstone, by Wilkie Collins

I liked it, though I thought The Woman in White was much better.

“The Moonstone is a page-turner”, writes Carolyn Heilbrun. “It catches one up and unfolds its amazing story through the recountings of its several narrators, all of them enticing and singular.” Wilkie Collins’s spellbinding tale of romance, theft, and murder inspired a hugely popular genre–the detective mystery. Hinging on the theft of an enormous diamond originally stolen from an Indian shrine, this riveting novel features the innovative Sergeant Cuff, the hilarious house steward Gabriel Betteridge, a lovesick housemaid, and a mysterious band of Indian jugglers.”

3. Moon in a Dead Eye, by Pascal Garnier

VERDICTIf you enjoy noir literature, why not expand your horizon and try this short mystery, with a tight plot and great writing.

4. Living With a Dead Language: My Romance with Latin, by Ann Patty

A fabulous memoir!

“An entertaining exploration of the richness and relevance of the Latin language and literature, and an inspiring account of finding renewed purpose through learning something new and challenging.
After thirty-five years of living in New York City, Ann Patty stopped working and moved to the country upstate. She was soon bored, aimless, and lost in the woods. Hoping to challenge her restless, word-loving brain, and to find a new engagement with life, she began a serious study of Latin as an auditor at local colleges.
In Living with a Dead Language, Patty weaves elements of her personal life into the confounding grammar and syntax of Latin as she chronicles not only the daily slog but also the deep pleasures of trying to master an inflected language. Courses in Roman history and epigraphy give her new insight into her tragic, long-deceased mother; Horace into the loss of a brilliant friend;, Lucretius into her tenacious drivenness and attraction to Buddhism. Catullus calls up her early days in 1970s New York while Ovid adds a delightful dimension to the flora and fauna that surround her. Finally, Virgil reconciles her to her new life—no longer an urban exile but a scholar, writer, and teacher. Along the way, she meets an intriguing, impassioned cast of characters: professors, students, and classicists outside of academia who become her new colleagues and who keep Latin very much alive.
Written with humor, candor, and an infectious enthusiasm for words and grammar, Patty’s book is a celebration of how learning and literature can transform the past and lead to a new, unexpected future.”

5. Pancakes in Paris: Living the American Dream in France, by Craig Carlson

VERDICT: Eye-opening memoir of an American living his dream to open a restaurant in Paris. Meet the real France.

6. Three Hours in Paris, by Cara Black

VERDICT: Multi-layered fascinating historical spy thriller, enriched by Cara Black’s intimate knowledge of Paris!

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Six degrees of separation: from a postcard to a riddle

#6Degrees

Six degrees of separation:
from a postcard to a riddle

I was going to enjoy the nice weather and read outside, and then neighbors started mowing their lawn, and I just can’t stand that noise. So then, I’m back on the computer and posting for 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
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

  Postcards from the Edge Too Close to the Edge  

  close-to-destiny-cover-3D Physics of the Future  

  The Code Breaker The Riddle of the labyrinth  

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

1.  Postcards from the Edge, by Carrie Fisher

I have not read this book, and seeing the synopsis, I’m not planning to:
“Carrie Fisher’s first novel is set within the world she knows better than anyone else: Hollywood, the all-too-real fantasyland of drug users and deal makers. This stunning literary debut chronicles Suzanne Vale’s vivid, excruciatingly funny experiences—from the rehab clinic to life in the outside world. Sparked by Suzanne’s—and Carrie’s—deliciously wry sense of the absurd, Postcards from the Edge is a revealing look at the dangers and delights of all our addictions, from success and money to sex and insecurity.”

 

2. Too Close to the Edge, by Pascal Garnier

Pascal Garnier is an impressive French author, who passed away too early, alas.

VERDICT from my review:
The great author of French noir bluntly looks at the seemingly quiet life of a senior. Opening your door may lead you to unexpected ominous horizons and possibly to revealing a new you dormant behind a façade all these years.

3. Close to Destiny, by Adria J. Cimino

I read this book six years ago and apparently enjoyed it a lot (4 stars), but alas, even after reading my review, I don’t remember a thing about it!! Sign of old age?

VERDICT from my review:
A hat may have more to it than it looks! Evolving in between the blurred lines of reality and past experiences, Cimino focuses on relationships between people. Rich literary fiction with a twist.

4. Physics of the Future: How Science Will Shape Human Destiny and Our Daily Lives by the Year 2100, by Michio Kaku

I haven’t read this one, but am planning to, definitely the type of topics I enjoy. Proof is I recently read and appreciated another book along the same lines, actually also with future in is title.
“Imagine, if you can, the world in the year 2100.
In Physics of the Future, Michio Kaku—the New York Times bestselling author of Physics of the Impossible—gives us a stunning, provocative, and exhilarating vision of the coming century based on interviews with over three hundred of the world’s top scientists who are already inventing the future in their labs. The result is the most authoritative and scientifically accurate description of the revolutionary developments taking place in medicine, computers, artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, energy production, and astronautics.
In all likelihood, by 2100 we will control computers via tiny brain sensors and, like magicians, move objects around with the power of our minds. Artificial intelligence will be dispersed throughout the environment, and Internet-enabled contact lenses will allow us to access the world’s information base or conjure up any image we desire in the blink of an eye.
Meanwhile, cars will drive themselves using GPS, and if room-temperature superconductors are discovered, vehicles will effortlessly fly on a cushion of air, coasting on powerful magnetic fields and ushering in the age of magnetism.
Using molecular medicine, scientists will be able to grow almost every organ of the body and cure genetic diseases. Millions of tiny DNA sensors and nanoparticles patrolling our blood cells will silently scan our bodies for the first sign of illness, while rapid advances in genetic research will enable us to slow down or maybe even reverse the aging process, allowing human life spans to increase dramatically.
In space, radically new ships—needle-sized vessels using laser propulsion—could replace the expensive chemical rockets of today and perhaps visit nearby stars. Advances in nanotechnology may lead to the fabled space elevator, which would propel humans hundreds of miles above the earth’s atmosphere at the push of a button.
But these astonishing revelations are only the tip of the iceberg. Kaku also discusses emotional robots, antimatter rockets, X-ray vision, and the ability to create new life-forms, and he considers the development of the world economy. He addresses the key questions: Who are the winner and losers of the future? Who will have jobs, and which nations will prosper?
All the while, Kaku illuminates the rigorous scientific principles, examining the rate at which certain technologies are likely to mature, how far they can advance, and what their ultimate limitations and hazards are. Synthesizing a vast amount of information to construct an exciting look at the years leading up to 2100, Physics of the Future is a thrilling, wondrous ride through the next 100 years of breathtaking scientific revolution.”

5. The Code Breaker: Jennifer Doudna, Gene Editing, and the Future of the Human Race, by Walter Isaacson

My favorite biography so far this year.
VERDICT from my review:
Essential, fascinating, and easily accessible presentation of Jennifer Doudna. A must if you want to stay up to date on CRISPR and its moral questions. 

6. The Riddle of the Labyrinth: The Quest to Crack an Ancient Code, by Margalit Fox

I was very impressed by Fox’s book on Sherlock Holmes, so I really want to read this one as well: 

“In the tradition of Simon Winchester and Dava Sobel, The Riddle of the Labyrinth: The Quest to Crack an Ancient Code tells one of the most intriguing stories in the history of language, masterfully blending history, linguistics, and cryptology with an elegantly wrought narrative.
When famed archaeologist Arthur Evans unearthed the ruins of a sophisticated Bronze Age civilization that flowered on Crete 1,000 years before Greece’s Classical Age, he discovered a cache of ancient tablets, Europe’s earliest written records. For half a century, the meaning of the inscriptions, and even the language in which they were written, would remain a mystery.
Award-winning New York Times journalist Margalit Fox’s riveting real-life intellectual detective story travels from the Bronze Age Aegean–the era of Odysseus, Agamemnon, and Helen–to the turn of the 20th century and the work of charismatic English archeologist Arthur Evans, to the colorful personal stories of the decipherers.
These include Michael Ventris, the brilliant amateur who deciphered the script but met with a sudden, mysterious death that may have been a direct consequence of the decipherment; and Alice Kober, the unsung heroine of the story whose painstaking work allowed Ventris to crack the code.

My post is done, and the neighbor is done with his mowing, so now to enjoying my current read in the sun!!

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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?