2019: December wrap-up


đź“š After a meh reading month, I managed to get an amazing month with 14 books read, like in October.

đź“š SO, I have surpassed my yearly goal of 100 books by 18 titles.

đź“š Of course, I’m way behind as far as reviews go, BUT I have a plan to change the situation in 2020! I’m planning on doing a weekly recap, where I’ll do a short review of books finished during my week – keeping my longer review format only for books received for review.
I have started doing a bit of this when I do WWW Wednesdays, and I realize this is the only way to go to catch up.

So here are the titles I read in December:

14 books:
9 in print 
=  with 2,350 pages, an average of 75 pages/day
5 in audio
= 30H37
, an average of 59 minutes

4 in historical novels:

  1. Olga’s Egg, by Sophie Law – received for review
  2. Treachery, by S. J. Parris – ebook, received for review
  3. Lady Clementine, by Marie Benedict – ebook, received for review
  4. Dreamland, by Nancy Bilyeau – ebook, received for review

3 in mystery:

  1. Le Horla, by Guy de Maupassant – audio, for The Classics Club
  2. The Lodger, by Marie Belloc Lowndes – audio, for The Classics Club
  3. Le cri, by Nicolas Beuglet – French audio

3 in nonfiction:

  1. Sur les chemins noirs, by Sylvain Tesson – French audio
  2. Elder Anthony of Optina, by Fr. Clement Sederholm
  3. Indication of the Way into the Kingdom of Heaven, by Saint Innocent of Moscow

3 in children’s books:

  1. The One and Only Ivan, by Katherine Applegate
  2. Roscoe Riley Rules #1, by Katherine Applegate
  3. Roscoe Riley Rules #2, by Katherine Applegate

1 in fiction:

  1. Parnassus on Wheels, by Christopher Morley – audio, for The Classics Club


 Olgas Egg The Lodger Le cri The One And Only Ivan

Sorry, I couldn’t pick up less than 4 this month!!
And to apply what I mentioned above, here are a few words on books not received for review.

Le Horla, by Guy de Maupassant [The Horla, in English]
I read and studied this story in France 7th grade I believe, so that’s a few decades ago. As one of my French students wanted to read something short (she has just finished reading Les MisĂ©rables in French – unabridged of course!), we talked about short stories and I mentioned that in my days, we all had to read this one.
So to accompany my student, I decided to revisit it, and to listen to it this time, also for The Classics Club.
I found an awesome recording on Youtube. The narrator is great, plus if you want to refresh your French, you can read the text at the same time! And remember you can slow down youtube videos.
I was amazed at Maupassant’s style. I had totally forgotten how he wrote. His writing is so modern, you would never think he wrote this book in 1887! There are both beautiful descriptions and successions of shorter, very lively sentences, describing the inner evolution of a sick man. It’s basically its short journal documenting his slow descent into madness, as he feels there’s some type of supernatural, invisible, and ominous being around him. It’s actually considered as a horror story. Brilliant!

The LodgerThe Lodger, by Marie Belloc Lowndes
Another great classic that I listened to for The Classics Club.
It was written in 1913 and is based on Jack the Ripper murders.
It’s the story of Mr and Mrs Buntings. They haven’t had lodgers for a long time, and they are basically starving for lack of money. Then one day, one guy arrives, asks for rooms, and pays them very generously.
But Mrs Bunting heard about a serial killer in town, and she starts wondering…
There were not too many surprises in the book, but the author did a great job on the psychological (apparently, the author is known for that) tension in the mind of the landlady. And the ending was a smart solution!
Plus the narrator is excellent at doing various English accents.
I didn’t know at all this author. Her mother was English, but her father was French. She actually has a famous brother, Hillaire Belloc, who wrote books on Roman Catholicism, very well known in France. I knew him, abut had no idea he had a prolific sister writing mysteries. Unfortunately, her other books don’t seem to be available as audiobooks.
Definitely an author I recommend.

Le criLe cri, by Nicolas Beuglet
Wow, I just finished listening to this French book, my first one by this author.
Brilliant. Alas not yet available in English.
Gaustad Psychiatric Hospital, Oslo. At the dawn of a freezing night, the body of a patient was found strangled in his cell, his mouth open in a silent scream.  Inspector Sarah Geringën immediately felt this case was very special.
And it got more and more puzzling: why does the victim have a scar with the number 488 on the forehead? What do these indecipherable drawings on the wall of his cell mean? Why do hospital staff seem so uncomfortable about his identity?
I won’t tell much more, but this story totally grabbed me. So smartly done, it’s about psychology and a special project during the Cold War – I won’t reveal you which project here. At one point in the book, I did some research, thinking the author had all made it up, but I realized this did partly happen!! I actually learned a lot, and the suspense was unreal. I’m trying to get the sequel as an audio as well.
The narrator was great, except at one point he pronounced the word Christ as to make it rhyme with mist!

The One And Only IvanThe One and Only Ivan, by Katherine Applegate
I explained here how I got this book and why I wanted to read it, with the synopsis.
Well, I did also manage to cry on this one. Applegate has a knack for writing deep stories full of wisdom, in a very accessible style for middle graders. This one is about the strength of friendship, art, freedom, and hope, and is based on true facts. Very refreshing! Recommended to all children AND adults!

So then I decided I need to read more books by Katherine Applegate. I went to the library and checked out 4.
Roscoe Riley Rules #1 and #2 are short funny stories about a young boy getting constantly into trouble, although he means well and has always great reasons. This 7 book series is not as deep as the two novels I have read by her. However, they are funny and do have nice life lessons. Set in the context of trouble in class, they remind me a lot of the French classics Le Petit Nicolas, by René Goscinny, though they are shorter and for younger kids.

Parnassus on Wheels, by Christopher Morley
This is a charming and beautiful story as a homage to books and adventure! That’s all I will say, you have to experience it. I liked the old style, and the narrator’s voice and tone fit perfectly with the character of Helen. If you are looking for a short and nice classic, this one is for you!
Now I want to read the sequel, The Haunted Bookshop.


Classics Club: 8/50 (until September 2024)
2019 Calendar of Crime Challenge:
I read 32 mysteries, and most of them are crime fiction, but I’m not going to waste my time trying to fit the titles with the chart for this challenge. It contains categories like the author’s birth month. I have no idea, and for me, it’s totally irrelevant. I should have paid more attention before launching into this challenge.
Where Are You Reading?: 21/50 – to be finished in ??
Total of books read in 2019 = 118/100 – FINISHED
Number of books added to my TBR this past month= 25


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Olgas Egg

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Top Ten Books on my 2019 Winter TBR


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Come back tomorrow
to see the books I plan to read in January

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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!


Book review: Olga’s Egg

Olgas Egg

Olga’s Egg,
by Sophie Law
Clink Street
Historical Novel
314 pages


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Last year in November, I read a stunning historical mystery on the world of Derby blue porcelain in England. It’s interesting that this year, I stumbled on another excellent historical mystery also in the world of art, this time in Russian on the Fabergé eggs and the Romanovs. Olga’s Egg was an amazing discovery, I’m so glad Clink Street approached me for their 12 days of Clink Street – though for some reason, I’m not listed on their event banner.

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