2023: January wrap-up


I can’t believe January is already over. It’s been full to the brim. BUT one of my major projects was repainting the outdoor sign of our church, so that gave me an insane amount of audio time. With a daily average of over 2 hours!
I actually usually listen with 1.25 speed.

January gave me some terrific books (all written by male authors, lol, and all reviewed) in a variety of genres, even though I didn’t have time to read much for the Japanese Literature Challenge (but it goes on in February), and I haven’t yet started a book in Italian this year – focusing instead a lot on books read with my French students.

At the beginning of January, I published my usual three posts of stats and the like, on my 2022 reads.
I also highlighted ten authors I discovered in 2022.

📚 Here is what I read in January:

12 books 
7 in print 
with 1,790 pages, a daily average of 57 pages/day.
5 in audio
= 65H48
, a daily average of 2H07/day!

4 in mysteries:

  1. The Red Thumb Mark (Dr. Thorndyke Mysteries #1), by R. Austin Freeman
  2. L’Os de Lebowski, by Vincent Maillard – with French student S.
  3. Les Nouvelles enquêtes de Maigret, by Georges Simenon
    with French student E.
  4. Death of a Red Heroine (Inspector Chen Cao #1), by Qiu Xiaolong
    – public library winter challenge

3 in children/YA:

  1. L’Empire de la mort (N.E.O. #3), by Michel Bussi – French audio
  2. Shuna’s Journey, by Hayao Miyazaki
  3. What do you do with a chance?, by Kobi Yamada

2 in science-fiction:

  1. Le Jour des fourmis (La Saga des fourmis #2), by Bernard Werber – French audio
  2. La Révolution des fourmis (La Saga des fourmis #3), by Bernard Werber – French audio

1 in literary fiction

  1. Hell Screen, by Ryūnosuke Akutagawa

1 in historical fiction:

  1. Week-end à Zuydcoote, by Robert Merle – read with French student F.

1 in nonfiction:

  1. Éloge de l’énergie vagabonde, by Sylvain Tesson – French audio


Death of a Red Heroine Éloge de l'énergie vagabonde


Classics Club: 34/150 (from September 2022-until September 2027)
Japanese Literature Challenge: 2/7 books
Total of books read in 2022 = 12/120 (10%, 2 books ahead)
Number of books added to my TBR this past month = 29




Before the Coffee Gets Cold

click on the cover to access my review


The Top 9 books to read in January 2023


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


Karen at Booker Talk
Marianne at Let’s Read

Deb at Readerbuzz
please go and visit them,
they have great blogs


2,645 posts
over 5,120 followers
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📚 📚 📚

Come back tomorrow to see the titles I’ll be reading in February!
How was YOUR month of January?


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

Sunday Post #74 – 01/15/2023


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      Mailbox Monday2

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

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

Click on the logos to join the memes

Another crazy busy week with more big church events. I am also currently repainting our church outdoor sign, so that keeps me busy, in between of course my teaching hours.
BUT I did manage to finish AND review two books this week.

Sadly, I have been very slow at reading and replying to all your recent comments. Thanks for your visits, and many comments, they will soon be visible, do not despair!

Posted this week:

Here are the book I finished this past week:


Hell Screen


📚Hell Screen,
by Ryūnosuke Akutagawa
First published in 1918
This edition:
Translation by Jay Rubin
58 pages
2/1/2011 by Penguin Group
It counts for The Classics Club
and for The Japanese Literature Challenge 16

It was interesting to discover a very different style in Akutagawa’s short stories.
Please click on the book cover to read my full review.

Week-end à Zuydcoote


📚 Week-end à Zuydcoote,
by Robert Merle
Historical fiction / WWII
Published in 1949
244 pages
It counts for The Classics Club
Read with a French student

This is a rather different type of WWII historical novel. As the title says, the book focuses on a week-end at Zuycoote, close to Dunkirk, right after the Allies defeat.
And we follow four French soldiers who became friends.
Each of the four is well described and you can really know their distinct personalities.

“Ils étaient heureux d’être ensemble, tous les quatre, sous le soleil.”

There’s a lot of humor, especially at the beginning, which made me fear for the worst: indeed, my experience is that an author tends to insert a lot of humor in a really tough book, to make it a bit more bearable.
The dialogues sound very true, the type of conversation and vocabulary that soldiers would use.

The main themes are the importance of friendship and the stupidity and absurdity of war.

” Pour moi, la guerre est absurde. Et pas telle ou telle guerre. Toutes les guerres. Dans l’absolu. Sans exception. Sans régime de faveur. Autrement dit, il n’y a pas de guerre juste, ou de guerre sacrée, ou de guerre pour la bonne cause. Une guerre, par définition, c’est absurde.”

The author did a remarkable job at highlighting it that in a rather short novel (244 pages).
And there are great passages on fear and heroism.

A movie (Dunkirk) was made on this book, with the famous Jean-Paul Belmondo, but knowing the end of the book, I’m definitely staying away.
As you already know, this is not a spoiler to say that all does not end well.


Death of a Red Heroine

📚 Death of a Red Heroine
(Inspector Chen Cao #1), 

by Qiu Xialong
Chinese Mystery
First published in 2000 (in English)
482 pages

Still working on this one for my local public library Winter Reading Challenge.

I really like more and more the descriptions of Shanghai and all the political and social background. In Asia, but so different from my usual Japanese novels!

“A young “national model worker,” renowned for her adherence to the principles of the Communist Party, turns up dead in a Shanghai canal. As Inspector Chen Cao of the Shanghai Special Cases Bureau struggles to trace the hidden threads of her past, he finds himself challenging the very political forces that have guided his life since birth. Chen must tiptoe around his superiors if he wants to get to the bottom of this crime, and risk his career—perhaps even his life—to see justice done.”

L'Os de Lebowski📚  L’Os de Lebowski,
by Vincent Maillard
French mystery
Published in 2021
202 pages
Reading with French student S.

S. wanted to read a contemporary French mystery, and in my list, she chose this one.
This is my first book by Maillard. I like the humoristic style, and I’m at the point where the plot starts getting intriguing!

The book hasn’t been translated into English.
It’s narrated in the first person by Jim Carlos, a gardener working at Prés Poleux, owned by a rich family.
Jim has a very lazy dog (Lebowski), who spends its time sleeping, but one day it manages to dig, and finds a human bone (hence the title: Lebowski’s bone).
So, whose bone is it? What happened to that person?
Why is the bone on this property?
And then, Jim disappears…!

L'empire de la mort

🎧 L’Empire de la mort (N.E.O. #3), by Michel Bussi
French YA fantasy
Published on June 16, 2022
640 pages

With all the painting I had to do, I listened to a huge part of it and I (with the protagonists) now know what N. E. O. stands for!

It is set in post-apocalytic time in and around Paris and Versailles, with different groups of young people who survived a weird cloud that may have killed all adults.
The book reminds me of Supernova Era, with teens having to reinvent a new world, and in both books, the new society is struggling to stay away from the nastiness of the old one!


Master of the Uncanny📚 Okamoto Kidō: Master of the Uncanny,
by Okamoto Kidō
Japanese short stories
Published between 1897-1931
Translated by Nancy H. Ross
Published in 2020
168 pages
It counts for the Japanese Literature Challenge
and The Classics Club

“Born just after Japan transitioned from the Shogunate to Meiji, Kidō grew up in a samurai-oriented world being transformed by the West in many ways. As a reporter he covered domestic development and overseas wars, while also marrying a traditional geisha, eventually becoming a playwright and author. In addition to a number of well-received plays, he also penned more than fifty horror stories over a roughly ten-year period starting in the mid-1920s. Just prior to this period, the Great Kantō Earthquake of 1923 destroyed almost everything in Tokyo that remained from the Edo era, and Japanese horror itself was transitioning from the traditional uncanny stories to more modern horror structures.
While many of Kidō’s stories are retellings of tales from China and other nations, he also drew on a diverse range of traditions, including the heritage of Edo-era storytellers such as Ueda Akinari and Asai Ryōi, to produce a dazzling array of work covering the entire spectrum from time-honored ghost tropes to modern horror. The majority of his stories were collected in four volumes: Seiadō kidan (1926), Kindai iyō hen (1926), Iyō hen (1933), and Kaijū (1936).
Kidō remains popular for his elegant, low-key style, subtly introducing the “other” into the background, and raising the specter of the uncanny indirectly and often indistinctly. His fiction spans an enormous range of material, much of it dealing with the uncanny, and as a pioneer in the field his work formed the foundation for the new generation of Japanese authors emerging in post-Restoration literature.
This selection presents a dozen of his best stories: pieces which remain in print almost a century later, and continue to enchant readers—and writers—today. Finally, English-reading audiences can enjoy his strange visions as well.”


Chronicle of a Death Foretold


📚 Chronicle of a Death Foretold,
by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Magical Realism
120 pages

“A man returns to the town where a baffling murder took place twenty-seven years earlier, determined to get to the bottom of the story. Just hours after marrying the beautiful Angela Vicario, everyone agrees, Bayardo San Roman returned his bride in disgrace to her parents. Her distraught family forced her to name her first lover; and her twin brothers announced their intention to murder Santiago Nasar for dishonoring their sister.
Yet if everyone knew the murder was going to happen, why did no one intervene to try and stop it? The more that is learned, the less is understood, and as the story races to its inexplicable conclusion, an entire society–not just a pair of murderers—is put on trial.”


Please share what books you just received at Mailbox Monday



Japanese Literature Challenge 16


Japanase Literature Challenge 16

#JapaneseLitChallenge16   #JapaneseLiterature

Thanks to DolceBelleza (@bellezzamjs) who has been organizing this challenge for many years! This is my 8th participation.
Click on the BEAUTIFUL logo to read more about it, to join us, and to read reviews as they will be posted.

The Challenge runs January-February 2023.
I was planning to read 6 books, but January is starting crazy busy this year, so not sure how well I’ll do with this. But anyway, as usual, I’m planning on reading more Japanese lit all year around.

📚 📚 📚

Here is my TBR (in chronological order) for this event – my recap, with links to my reviews when they become live.

This year, I have MOSTLY chosen classics, so they also count for my Classics Club’s 4th list.

  1. Shuna’s Journey (1983), by Hayao Miyazaki
  2. I am a Cat (1905), by Natsume Soseki
  3. Hell Screen (1918), by Ryūnosuke Akutagawa review here below
  4. Okamoto Kidō: Master of the Uncanny (1939), by Okamoto Kidō – currently reading
  5. The Honjin Murders (1946), by Seishi Yokomizo
  6. The Hunting Gun (1949), by Yasushi Inoue
  7. The Sound of the Mountain (1953), by Yasunari Kawabata

I just read Hell Screen, so I’m actually posting my review here:

Hell ScreenHell Screen, by Ryūnosuke Akutagawa
First published in 1918
This edition:
Translation by Jay Rubin
58 pages
2/1/2011 by Penguin Group

I had already read In a Grove and Rashoumon by Akutagawa, but the two stories presented here are very different in style.
I think it was a great editor choice to actually put together in the same book these two short stories: Hell Screen and The Spider’s Thread.
They both deal with terrifying characters and hell, within the genre of old tales, legends, fantasy, and horror.

In Hell Screen, among stories related to the great Lord Horikawa, the author focuses on one in which we meet the very gifted artist Yoshihide. The problem is, to paint truthfully he needs live models, so for instance he doesn’t hesitate torturing servants to be able to paint people in pain. Then one day, Horikawa commissions him to paint a folding screen portraying scenes from the eight Buddhist hells. And the painter asks for a live scene of hell to be able to finish his painting in truth…

This was a rather terrifying story, with an expected outcome – it was easy to guess who was going to be burning in a carriage falling from the sky.
I actually didn’t know about the eight Buddhist hells. Some descriptions of sinners pertaining to all stations of life sounded very close to The Divine Comedy, or to paintings by Bosch!

In The Spider’s Thread, we start in Paradise, but from there we see a robber in hell: Kandata. He doesn’t seem to have Yoshihide’s repulsive characteristics, but we discover Kandata’s true nature when he’s given a chance to get out of hell.

It was interesting to discover a very different style in Akutagawa’s short stories.