2021: January wrap-up

January 2021 WRAP-UP

I can’t believe it’s already time for the first wrap up of the year!
End of January and beginning of February usually mean more snow in Chicagoland, and this is definitely happening, with 8 inches in 24 hours at my place.
So let’s go back under the covers and read!
I have been starting slow as for number of pages, but I am happy with these stats, and also with the fact that I have almost reviewed all the titles I meant to review. Doing short reviews for the Sunday Post has been helping a lot.

📚 So here is what I read in January:

13 books:
8 in print 
with 1,728 pages, a daily average of 55 pages/day
5 in audio
= 26H22
, a daily average of 51 minutes

4 in literary fiction:

  1. Les grands cerfs, by Claudie Hunzinger – French ebook for review
  2. The Sound of Waves, by Yukio Mishima – for The Classics Club,  the Japanese Reading Challenge 14, and the Books in Translation Challenge
  3. Some Prefer Nettles, by Junichiro Tanizaki – for The Classics Club,  the Japanese Reading Challenge 14, and the Books in Translation Challenge
  4. NP, by Banana Yoshimoto – for the Japanese Reading Challenge 14, and the Books in Translation Challenge

4 in mystery:

  1. Death in the Clouds (Hercule Poirot #12), by Agatha Christie – audiobook, for The Classics Club
  2. The ABC Murders (Hercule Poirot #13), by Agatha Christie – audiobook, for The Classics Club
  3. C’est arrivé la nuit, by Marc Levy – French audiobook
  4. Stone Killer, by Dennis M. Day

3 in nonfiction:

  1. The Book of Psalms – audiobook, for The Classics Club
  2. The Book of Job – audiobook, for The Classics Club
  3. The Romanov Sisters, by Helen Rappaport

1 in science-fiction:

  1. The Night Masquerade, by Nnedi Okorafor

1 in historical fiction:

  1. Gaspard, by Dennis M. Day – short story project by a friend

MY FAVORITE BOOKS THIS PAST MONTH

  The sound of waves Stone Killer

READING CHALLENGES & RECAP

Classics Club: 13/137 (from November 2020-until November 2025)
Japanese Literature Challenge: 3 books 

Total of books read in 2021 = 12/120
Number of books added to my TBR this past month = 17

OTHER BOOKS I REVIEWED THIS PAST MONTH

My First Animal Activity Book  All About Weather Vocabulary Workbook for 6th Grade

GIVEAWAYS

The open giveaways are on my homepage

Books available for swapping

REVIEW COPIES AVAILABLE

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And monthly raffle with a Newsletter
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MOST POPULAR BOOK REVIEW THIS PAST MONTH

Arsene Lupin

click on the cover to access my review

MOST POPULAR POST THIS PAST MONTH
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Six Degrees of Separation

BOOK BLOG THAT BROUGHT ME MOST TRAFFIC THIS PAST MONTH

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TOP COMMENTERS 

Judy at Keep the Wisdom
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please go and visit them,
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Come back on Wednesday
to see the books I plan to read in February

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How was YOUR month of January?

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

Sunday Post #35 – 1/24/2021

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    Stacking the Shelves  Mailbox Monday2

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

#SundayPost #SundaySalon
#StackingTheShelves #MailboxMonday
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#WWWWednesday #WWWWednesdays

Click on the logos to join the memes,
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Reading plans still going strong, and also using this chance of Sunday Post to do short reviews.

JUST READ

The sound of waves  Some Prefer Nettles

📚The Sound of Waves (1954), by Yukio Mishima
Published in 1954
Reading for Japanese Reading Challenge 14, for Books in Translation Challenge, and for The Classics Club
Purchased at a library book sale

This was my first book by Mishima, and I definitely plan to read more. It’s about the love story between Shinji, a young fisherman and Hatsue. They are both innocent in their own way, an innocence that other kids and some people have a hard time imagining. But the two of them stay strong through the gossip and unjustified slander.
This was a very refreshing story, a glimpse of hope on human nature.
There are also beautiful descriptions of nature, often in parallel with the life of their hearts. Hence you can interpret the title at different levels. The expression is found a few times throughout the book. I like the passage where you read it for the first time:

The Sound of Waves p35

📚Some Prefer Nettles(1928), by Jun’ichirō Tanizaki,
For The Japanese Reading Challenge, for the Books in Translation Challenge, and for The Classics Club
Received as gift from Lucy at The Fictional 100

Now this one is a very different type of Japanese novel.
At the first level, it’s about the married life of Kaname and Misako. They no longer feel any physical attraction to each other, so even if they have a peaceful relationship, they plan on divorcing (besides, Misako often sees another man, with Kaname’s agreement). The problem is, they have a real hard time taking the final step to actually divorce, partly because of their young son, but mostly because of their inner inertia, a word repeated several times throughout the book, for both characters (on page 181 for Misako).
Kaname experiences inertia in other areas of his life, like for instance about deciding to visit Europe or not (page 170).
So if you want action and movement, this book is not for you. Most of the book is about debating with each other or in each’s heart if and when they are going to divorce.

But the book is actually more complex than that, and it’s just as much a cultural portrait of the Japan of the time, with the conflict between ancient and modern, young and old; between cities open or not to Western influence; between the subtlety of Tokyo society and the more direct and simple behavior of inhabitants of Osaka (I wonder if there’s still such a difference – if you know, please tell me in a comment).
This is all very well explained in the introduction by the translator Edward G. Seidensticker  (Vintage International edition).
It’s also apparently heavily autobiographical.

I also learnt a lot about Bunraku puppet theatre, There are many long scenes when the characters go to watch shows. I had to read more about it and watch a few videos to understand more about these very tall and expressive puppets – nothing to do with Western puppets.

According to wikipedia, “The Japanese title of the novel is literally water pepper-eating bugs, and is the first half of the Japanese saying tade kuu mushi mo sukizuki (蓼食う虫も好き好き), or “Water pepper-eating bugs eat it willingly”, equivalent to the English “Each to his own.”
The translation as Some Prefer Nettles was chosen by Edward Seidensticker. Cf. “Every worm to his taste; some prefer to eat nettles.”

CURRENTLY READING

NP  L'Anomalie

📚 NP, by Banana Yoshimoto
Published in 1990
Reading for Japanese Reading Challenge 14 and for Books in Translation Challenge,
Purchased at a library book sale

I can’t believe I have only read one book by Yoshimoto, The Lake, and that was 10 years ago!
I’m too early in the book to compare with that one, which ambiance has actually stayed with me.

“Bananamania” has returned in an enchanting new novel of uncanny subtlety, style, magic and mystery that Frank Ramirez of the South Bend Tribune declares is “every bit as good as Yoshimoto’s first book … perhaps better.” A celebrated Japanese writer has committed suicide, leaving behind a collection of stories written in English, N.P. But the book may never be published in his native Japan: each translator who takes up the ninety-eighth story chooses death too — including Kazami Kano’s boyfriend, Shoji. Haunted by Shoji’s death, Kazami is inexorably drawn to three young people whose lives are intimately bound to the late writer and his work. Over the course of an astonishing summer, she will discover the truth behind the ninety-eighth story — and she will come to believe that “everything that had happened was shockingly beautiful enough to make you crazy.”

📚 L’Anomalie, by Hervé Le Tellier
Published in 2020, winner of the prestigious Prix Goncourt
Ebook

I love the diversity in the writing, but not seeing yet where this is going.

BOOK UP NEXT

Stone Killer

📚Stone Killer (2017), by Dennis M. Day
Published by a friend! Purchased.

I’m all set for what I had planed to read this month for challenges, so I’m glad to do a free pick on my shelf, and I’m really eager to see what my friend did with this.

“It’s 1931 and Mike Peeters, a hitman for the mob, has a contract to murder Al Capone’s traitorous accountant and a talkative stoolie. When a young couple witness the crime, Mike coerces them into becoming his protégés. As Mike prepares for his next contract—the murder of Al Capone—he introduces Gus and Hannah to the seamy underworld of the mob. But someone is on to his plans. As Mike eludes attempts on his own life, Gus and Hannah are drawn deeper and deeper into a dangerous world of snitches, dirty cops, labor rackets, and vicious warfare between mobster gangs. Just below the surface is the taut attraction between Mike and the woman he has taken under his wing. As he races to identify the snitch who hounds his every step, Mike hopes it’s not Hannah he’ll have to murder in the end.”

LAST 2 BOOKS ADDED TO MY GOODREADS TBR

The Bear A Swim in the Pond in the Rain

📚 The Bear, by Andrew Krivak
Published February 11th 2020 by Bellevue Literary Press

“From National Book Award in Fiction finalist Andrew Krivak comes a gorgeous fable of Earth’s last two human inhabitants and a girl’s journey home.
In an Eden-like future, a girl and her father live close to the land in the shadow of a lone mountain. They own a few remnants of civilization: some books, a pane of glass, a set of flint and steel, a comb. The father teaches his daughter how to fish and hunt and the secrets of the seasons and the stars. He is preparing her for an adulthood in harmony with nature, for they are the last of humankind. But when the girl finds herself alone in an unknown landscape, it is a bear that will lead her back home through a vast wilderness that offers the greatest lessons of all, if she can learn to listen. A cautionary tale of human fragility, of love and loss, The Bear is a stunning tribute to the beauty of nature’s dominion.”

📚 A Swim in the Pond n the Rain, by George Saunders
Published January 12th 2021 by Random House

I had no idea Saunders had been teaching Russian short-story.

“From the New York Times bestselling, Booker Prize–winning author of Lincoln in the Bardo and Tenth of December comes a literary master class on what makes great stories work and what they can tell us about ourselves—and our world today.
For the last twenty years, George Saunders has been teaching a class on the Russian short story to his MFA students at Syracuse University. In A Swim in a Pond in the Rain, he shares a version of that class with us, offering some of what he and his students have discovered together over the years. Paired with iconic short stories by Chekhov, Turgenev, Tolstoy, and Gogol, the seven essays in this book are intended for anyone interested in how fiction works and why it’s more relevant than ever in these turbulent times.
In his introduction, Saunders writes, “We’re going to enter seven fastidiously constructed scale models of the world, made for a specific purpose that our time maybe doesn’t fully endorse but that these writers accepted implicitly as the aim of art—namely, to ask the big questions, questions like, How are we supposed to be living down here? What were we put here to accomplish? What should we value? What is truth, anyway, and how might we recognize it?” He approaches the stories technically yet accessibly, and through them explains how narrative functions; why we stay immersed in a story and why we resist it; and the bedrock virtues a writer must foster. The process of writing, Saunders reminds us, is a technical craft, but also a way of training oneself to see the world with new openness and curiosity.
A Swim in a Pond in the Rain is a deep exploration not just of how great writing works but of how the mind itself works while reading, and of how the reading and writing of stories make genuine connection possible..”

BOOK RECEIVED THIS PAST WEEK

How to Mars

📚 How to Mars, by David Ebenbach
Expected publication: May 25, 2021 by Tachyon Publications
Received through Edelweiss Plus

“What happens when your dream mission to Mars is a reality television nightmare? This debut science-fiction romp with heart follows the tradition of Ray Bradbury’s Martian Chronicles, with a dash of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and a hint of The Real World.
For the six lucky scientists selected by the Destination Mars! corporation, a one-way ticket to Mars—in exchange for a lifetime of research—was an absolute no-brainer. The incredible opportunity was clearly worth even the most absurdly tedious screening process. Perhaps worth following the strange protocols in a nonsensical handbook written by an eccentric billionaire. Possibly even worth their constant surveillance, the video of which is carefully edited into a ratings-bonanza back on Earth.
But it turns out that after a while even scientists can get bored of science. Tempers begin to fray; unsanctioned affairs blossom. When perfectly good equipment begins to fail, the Marsonauts are faced with a possibility that their training just cannot explain.
Irreverent, poignant, and perfectly weird, David Ebenbach’s debut science-fiction outing, like a mission to Mars, is an incredible trip you will never forget.”

THIS PAST WEEK ON
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and FRANCE BOOK TOURS

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Sunday Post #34 – 1/17/2021

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    Stacking the Shelves  Mailbox Monday2

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

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

Click on the logos to join the memes,
and on the book covers to access synopsis or review

You can read tons of information and reflections on world events on many other sites, so I’ll stick to what this blog is about: reading good books.
I have already finished 6 books, actually probably 7 when this post gets live on Sunday.

JUST READ

The Romanov Sisters Les grands cerfs

📚 The Romanov Sisters, by Helen Rappaport
Published in 2014
Public library book

Every winter, my public library proposes a winter reading challenge. You answer questions, and they try to have you read a book that’s outside your reading comfort zone. I guess they forgot I am very active in my Russian Orthodox Church, and had me read The Romanov Sisters! In case you don’t know, the Orthodox Church considers them martyrs for their faith, so they are saints for us, and we even have an icon of the whole family in our church.
Anyway, I had never read the book, so I’m glad the library picked it up for me.
Helen Rappaport is an author and historian specialized in that period both in England and Russia. She writes very well and you can see she put so much research into this book.
Even if you are not Orthodox, but are interested in world history, you absolutely need to read it. She has two more books on the Romanovs.
I so enjoyed getting to know better each sister, with her own strong personality. But it was emotionally really hard, for instance when they have crushes and talk about marriage plans, and when you know how it all ended.

The Romanov Sisters p132Another element of the sadness is that the tsar was never made to have that position (as this page 312 excerpt shows), and all he or his wife dreamed of was living peacefully in a secluded area with their children, their family life being their most precious treasure.
So it was ultimately a very sad read for me.

Added on 1/23/21: 
I forgot to add how struck I was by the maturity of the girls.
At the beginning, they were looked upon by some people as being very immature, due to their lack of connection with other girls and not knowing anything about the world. But the war came, and they were very involved at the hospitals, where they spent many hours every day treating very badly wounded soldiers. They grew up in a few weeks in very mature and dedicated girls, exposed everyday to soldiers dying under their watch. Very inspiring young ladies. Even though some people thought as royals, they should intermingle with common people and do that type of work. Which shows you can never please everyone.

If you are interested in Orthodoxy, there were two points I discovered:
– it’s actually thanks to the French crook doctor Nizier Anthelme Philippe that Saint Seraphim of Sarov was recognized by the whole Church and canonized. Indeed, before leaving the Russian court where he had been too influential, Philippe told the couple to pray St Seraphim of Sarov to have a son (see pages 69-70). At the time though, there was no such official saint in the Orthodox Church. So they went to Sarov and discovered a humble monk who had been locally revered and had died 70 years before. That was the beginning of the process, and he is now one of the most beloved modern Russian saints. So, even French crooks can help, lol!
– Also, I sometimes wondered why my Church has such a strong position on keeping the Julian calendar (which runs 13 days late compared to our Gregorian civil calendar). I had not realized that the Julian calendar had been used not only for Church life, but also in civil life in Russia until 1918. It’s actually the Bolsheviks who made the change and had Russia adopt the Gregorian calendar for civil life on February 4, 1918. Now it makes sense to refuse such a change. (information found on page 351)

📚 Les grands cerfs, by Claudie Hunzinger
Published in 2019, book received through Netgalley.fr

Nice discovery for me. A novel strongly based on the author’s own experience of living in a very remote area. It’s all about observing deer in all kinds of weather, to the point of recognizing each one, of naming them, of following their daily life. And it’s also about disastrous decisions taken by the French government about French rural areas. Also ultimately sad!!
The descriptions are fabulous and remind me of Sylvain Tesson‘s style and content.

CURRENTLY READING

The sound of waves  L'Anomalie

📚The Sound of Waves (1954), by Yukio Mishima
Published in 1954
Reading for Japanese Reading Challenge 14, for Books in Translation Challenge, and for The Classics Club
Purchased at a library book sale

I should actually have finished this book when you read this post. This is the first time I read Mishima, and I really enjoy his style, especially his description of the natural environment, and also of the two main characters, with their innocence that most of the world cannot even understand.

“Set in a remote fishing village in Japan, The Sound of Waves is a timeless story of first love. It tells of Shinji, a young fisherman and Hatsue, the beautiful daughter of the wealthiest man in the village. Shinji is entranced at the sight of Hatsue in the twilight on the beach and they fall in love. When the villagers’ gossip threatens to divide them, Shinji must risk his life to prove his worth”

📚 L’Anomalie, by Hervé Le Tellier
Published in 2020, winner of the prestigious Prix Goncourt
Ebook

I’m often weary of literary awards, but when I realized this author is part of the Oulipo (a bunch of authors trying something very different in their art of writing), I knew I had to try it. I have heard that the originality is that he mixes many different literary genres in the same book. I have just started it, and so far, sounds good indeed.

BOOK UP NEXT

 

Some Prefer Nettles

📚 Some Prefer Nettles (1928), by Jun’ichirō Tanizaki,
For The Japanese Reading Challenge, for the Books in Translation Challenge, and for The Classics Club

The marriage of Kaname and Misako is disintegrating: whilst seeking passion and fulfilment in the arms of others, they contemplate the humiliation of divorce. Misako’s father believes their relationship has been damaged by the influence of a new and alien culture, and so attempts to heal the breach by educating his son-in-law in the time-honoured Japanese traditions of aesthetic and sensual pleasure. The result is an absorbing, chilling conflict between ancient and modern, young and old.”

LAST 2 BOOKS ADDED TO MY GOODREADS TBR

  Permafrost How to Mars

📚 Permafrost, by Alastair Reynolds
Published in 2019

If I consider the recent additions to my Goodreads TBR, looks like I’m shifting more towards science-fiction. And the last two added are in that genre.

“Fix the past. Save the present. Stop the future. Alastair Reynolds unfolds a time-traveling climate fiction adventure in Permafrost.
2080: at a remote site on the edge of the Arctic Circle, a group of scientists, engineers and physicians gather to gamble humanity’s future on one last-ditch experiment. Their goal: to make a tiny alteration to the past, averting a global catastrophe while at the same time leaving recorded history intact. To make the experiment work, they just need one last recruit: an ageing schoolteacher whose late mother was the foremost expert on the mathematics of paradox.
2028: a young woman goes into surgery for routine brain surgery. In the days following her operation, she begins to hear another voice in her head… an unwanted presence which seems to have a will, and a purpose, all of its own – one that will disrupt her life entirely. The only choice left to her is a simple one.
Does she resist… or become a collaborator?”

📚 How to Mars, by David Ebenbach
Expected publication: May 25, 2021 by Tachyon Publications

“What happens when your dream mission to Mars is a reality television nightmare? This debut science-fiction romp with heart follows the tradition of Ray Bradbury’s Martian Chronicles, with a dash of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and a hint of The Real World.
For the six lucky scientists selected by the Destination Mars! corporation, a one-way ticket to Mars—in exchange for a lifetime of research—was an absolute no-brainer. The incredible opportunity was clearly worth even the most absurdly tedious screening process. Perhaps worth following the strange protocols in a nonsensical handbook written by an eccentric billionaire. Possibly even worth their constant surveillance, the video of which is carefully edited into a ratings-bonanza back on Earth.
But it turns out that after a while even scientists can get bored of science. Tempers begin to fray; unsanctioned affairs blossom. When perfectly good equipment begins to fail, the Marsonauts are faced with a possibility that their training just cannot explain.
Irreverent, poignant, and perfectly weird, David Ebenbach’s debut science-fiction outing, like a mission to Mars, is an incredible trip you will never forget.”

NO BOOK RECEIVED THIS PAST WEEK

 

THIS PAST WEEK ON
WORDS AND PEACE
MYRTLE SKETE
and FRANCE BOOK TOURS

📚 Book of the month giveaway
📚 Book available for free this month
📚 Subscribe to my Newsletter, and win a book each month!
Here is a sample, with link for subscription at the bottom

COMING UP ON
WORDS AND PEACE
MYRTLE SKETE
FRANCE BOOK TOURS

  • Late reviews?
  • More Orthodox book notes?
  • Another tour live: L’Origine

HOW WAS YOUR WEEK?