Breathe To Read

Breathe To Read

Monday, March 25, 2019

Read The World - Azerbaijan - Ali and Nino - A Love Story

Book: Ali and Nino - A Love Story
Author: Kurban Said (real name - Lev Nussimbaum)
Pages: 240
Book takes place in the country: YES
Author is from, the country: YES
I have visited: NO


This is my 42nd read for the year.

After doing a little research, I found that the author's REAL name is Lev Nussimbaum - a Jew who escaped Azerbaijan during the Russian Revolution.  He was born in Baku (Where most of the story takes place) in 1905, and he died in 1942 in Positano, Italy.


This is the love story of childhood friends - Ali and Nino - in the early 20th century.  Ali - a Muslim and Nino - a Greek Orthodox Christian, come from two totally different worlds.  They grew up in Baku on the Caspian Sea.  Ali and Nino have very different views on how a woman should "behave", and during the entire book, they never really see eye to eye.  The Russian Revolution and WWI swirls around them as they try to figure out their lives together.

Eventually Ali does join the the defense of Azerbaijan and he wisks Nino and their child off to the safety of Paris during the war.  Not sure they will ever see each other again, Nino is reluctant to leave.  

I did not like this book as much as I was hoping I would.  The story was disjointed and I never really developed feelings for the characters.  Love/hate/love/hate.....it was all over the place.  I am disappointed, but I don't think there are many books from this particular country, so it stays on the list for now.  I mean, it was FINE.  It just wasn't great.  I am going to try and watch the movie to see if it brings the story together a little better for me.

Stars: 2 1/2




Friday, March 22, 2019

Read The World - Uruguay - The Invisible Mountain

Book: The Invisible Mountain
Author: Carolina De Robertis
Pages: 448
Book takes places in the country: YES
Author is from the country: NO (but her parents were from Uruguay)
I have visited: NO


This is my 41st book of the year.

I listened to this book, and it took a LONG time.  It was 17 hours of listening. Even listening to it while I shopped for groceries, riding the tram, and while I packed the kids lunches, it seemed to just be an endless book.

The story opens in 1900 in Uruguay.  A lost infant appears in a tree, and sets in motion 3 generations of strong women.  Pajarita (the lost infant) grows up and opens an herbal store that saves her family.  She gives birth to Eva.  Eva has to sacrafice her childhood to work in a shoe shop, because her family is so poor.  Unfortunately, while she is there, she is mistreated by the owner of the shop, and she needs to find another job.  She finds a waitressing job to help support her family, but her passion is poetry.  Eva finds a rich husband and gives birth to Solome who grows up under her mother's dream for her to go to University.  But Solome becomes a Tupamara during a time of Uruguay upheaval.  Solome is arrested and is put in jail and finds herself pregnant with.....a girl.  But she cannot keep her daughter (Victoria) so she is taken and raised away from the prison walls.

After 8 years in prison, Solome is released, but Victoria only knows her as an doding aunt.  The families are all re-united. Pajarita is now 90 years old, but she the powerful matriarch of the family.  These strong women have all had unplanned lives, but their strong personalities turned their fate.

This was a fair book.  I think it has more to offer than what I got out of listening to it.  As much as I want to get into audiobooks to help get through some of these novels, I don't think I am ablt to give them the attention they need.  I think there are certain books that audio works for, but this wasn't one of them.  I found myself having to rewind quite a few times.

The style of writing is also not one of my favorites.  It has some magical realism mixed in with historical facts, and at times I felt it confusing.  I did like all of the women protagnoist, though, so that saved the novel.

Hmmmmm.   To recommend or not recommend.  I don't think I personally can recommend it based on my take away.  I might hunt out another book about Uruguay to replace this one.  We shall see.

Stars: 3


Thursday, March 21, 2019

Around The World - Traveling and Reading combined


I staarted my Read The World challenge based on two facts (besides loving to read) 1) I love to travel and 2) I love history. I could live 1000 lifetimes and never travel everywhere I would like to go.

I don't have many travel books because I actually find the internet just as useful.  I like to talk to my friends who have been there, and also read blogs of regular travelers to find out what they did.  Off the beaten path, and gems that are hidden are my favorites.

I have traveled my whole life.  Growing up, we would take a few weeks each summer and make out way around the United States and Canada.  We went to Disney World and on Caribbean cruises. We would hit New York City a few times a year to see musicals.  When I got married, we continued to accumiulate states during our travels, and added Mexico.

It wasn't until 2014 that I made my first international trip and I was hooked. I had been a nervous flyer growing up and was never sure I wanted to fly that far, but I quickly put that fear aside once I saw what I had been missing. It took a trip to Paris and London to know I would get on a plane 100 times a year if I could travel further and faster.

We took in Italy two years ago, and then made the big move to Switzerland. Now we have added Germany, France, Austria, Lichtenstein, Ireland, United Arab Emirates, Cyrpus all to our list. Scotland is next month. Then Netherlands. Then Spain and Japan. I just want to go and go and go. Easy Jet is my new best friend.

I don't have a favorite place so far because everywhere is so different. I am willing to try just about everything and anything to see different parts of the world. And the more World books I consume, the more I want to pack by bag and go.

We actually started a blog when we moved to Switzerland in 2017.  If you would like to check it out visit:  Swiss Family Pletcher.  It is a combo of our travels and life here as Expats.  

Do you have a favorite place you love to travel? If you could go one place in the world, where would it be?

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Read The World - Armenia - Like Water On Stone

Book: Lite Water On Stone
Author: Dana Walrath
Pages: 368
Book takes place in the country: YES
Author is from the country: NO (but her immediate family is)
I have visited: NO


My 40th read for the year!  I am going at a nice pace.

This was a quick read, even though it is over 300 pages, because it was written almost like a poem.  The pages flew by.  I knew very little about the genocide that took place in Armenia at the beginning of the 20th century, so this was a real eye opener.


This book takes place in 1914 when the Ottoman Empire is collapsing.  A family - a mom, dad, and several children are debating whether to flee to America with family or to stay.  The father wants to stay - he has Turkish and Kurd friends who he feels will protect his family.  

In the end, two of his children are arrested, and the father begins to realize they are too late with their decision to leave.  His twin children - a boy and a girl (Sosi and Shahen) and a younger daughter (Mariam) are given a few meager belongings and told to flee.  The mother and father distract the soldiers long enough for those three to get away before the parents are brutely murdered.

The attack comes from the Turkish government wanting to eliminate all Armenians.  And now, Sosi, Shahen, and Mariam are on their own.  They cross only by night through the mountains, trying to get to Aleppo, and then on to America.  Starving, and with so little posessions, things look dire for the young children.  They are in a race against time to stay away from the soldiers (Shahen, a boy, is dressed as a girl so he is not recruited into the army) and out of the line of fire.  They pass large amounts of dismembered bodies as they trek, hoping against everything that they make it out of the country.

This is a beautifully told story.  You are entertwined with the three main characters as they risk everything to escape.  It is told from the point of view of several of the characters in the book, so you get different takes on the terrible situation.  From the parents down to 5 year old Miriam, whose whole world was turned upside down by something she doesn't understand.  She isn't even told that her parents are dead until they are safe because the twins felt it would be too much for her as they were desparately running for their lives.


All told, there is an estimate between 600,000-1.5 million Armenians that lost their lives in the genocide.  I encourage you to read this book to get just a small look at what it was like for Armenians in the early 1900s.  And then go on to read more articles about the genocide HERE

"The voice of the people is louder thank the boom of a cannon"

Stars: 4 1/2




Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Top Ten Tuesday - Books on my Spring TBR List

Oh boy.  This Top Ten Tuesday list would be REALLY long if I was to be honest.  In a span of the three months of spring, I could probably clear about 30-40 books if I kept up my pace.  And since I am doing a book challenge that is very large, I would like to keep moving at a good clip if possible.

However, the weather is starting to turn.  Soon I will find myself outside more than in, working in the garden, walking, biking, vacationing.  So, we will see what happens.

My TBR for this challenge is 202 books.   It is a "Read The World" Challenge where I am reading a book from every country.  I have read books from 59 countries, and I have 143 countries to go.  Yikes.  If you want to see my entire list of reads (I have picked out almost all the books in this challenge already) please click HERE

So let's start with the books I have coming up that are on the shelf already, waiting for me to read them. 

1.) Ali and Nino - by Kurban Said
        - This book takes place in the country of Azerbaijan (which is by the country Armenia and below Russia).  It is a story of Ali who is a Muslim and Nino, a Christian Georgian girl.  Despite their differences, the two have loved each other since childhood and want to get married.  Their religions stand in the way, and as the first World War looms, they find themselves swept up in the first for independence.
        - a fictional book, which honestly - I don't have too many of those in this Read The World challenge.  I kept going back and forth on what I wanted to get out of the challenge itself.  Learning about a country means a lot of non-fiction, but those are my favorite books anyway.  However, having some fiction thrown into the mix, is a nice breather from heavy topics.
       - this book is also a movie, so I am anxious to see that when I am done reading


2) An Island Away  Author: Daniel Putkowski
          - This book takes place in the country of Aruba. From the back cover: "In Aruba, far from the sparkling beaches and glamorous hotels, lies a waning refinery boomtown of barroom brotherls, flexible morality, and one tourist trap known as Charlie's Bar.  Luz, a young Colombian mother works as a prostitue to pay off her family's debts.  She Encounters Sam, and American expat looking to perpetuate his flamboyant youth"
          - another fictional novel.  Go me.  From what I read on Amazon, this has some facts about the San Nicolaas part of Aruba mixed into this fictional tale.  The author sets out to reveal the underbelly of Aruba - far from what the tourist see.  I am anxious to read it.



3) Of Water And The Spirit   Author: Malidoma Patrice Some
             - this books takes place in the country of Burkina Faso.  I had to look up where this country was located, to be honest.  It is in west Africa - in the upper part of the continent, next to Niger.
            - Here is the synposis from the back of the book: "Among the people of Burkina Faso, there is no distinction between the natural and the supernatural: the living converse with ancestral spirits, and those with the proper knowledge routinely travel to other worlds.  This book is a remarkable sharing of living African traditions, offered in compassion for those struggling without our contemporary crisis of the spirit"
          - now this one is a non-fiction book.  There are 54 countries on the continent of Africa, and I have read quite a few so far. (very few have been fiction).  Each one is different from the last, BUT I do find that many of the African countries are steeped in long held traditions that they hold dear.


4) The Last Will and Testament of Senhor De Silva Araujo.  Author: Germano Almeida
            This book is from the country Cape Verde.  This is an island country right off the coast of West Africa.   This is the story of Senhor De Silva, a well loved business man in Cape Verde.  When he died, he left a 387 page will which surprised everyone once the contents are read aloud.   In the will, De Silva leaves a web of self deceptions (shady deals, and an illigitimate child just to name a few).
           - another fictional read!  I am glad I ordered a couple fictional books to read as we head into the warmer months.  I understand there is a movie that closely resembles this book as well called "Napomuceno's Will"


5) Shadows Of Your Black Memory.  Author: Donato Ndongo
               This book is from the country of Equador Guinea.  This is the story of a young African male who reflects on his childhood.  It takes place during the last years of Spanish rule in this country, and it reviews the cultural conflicts between Africa and Spain.  
                 - this is my season of fiction books apparently. And books taking place in Africa.  Although, when you have a continent that has 54 countries on it - it can't be helped.  I am surprised that I picked to do so many in a row.  I don't read or pick in any kind of order.  The books on my shelf unread right now are books I could not borrow from any library (ebook or otherwise).  It is out of character for me to buy before I read, so hopefully they will be good.



6) Black and White Sands.  Author: Elma Napier
            This is from the country of Dominica.  This is the story of the author's move from London to Dominica.  It is a memoir of her life there starting in 1932.  She was the only woman in the colonial parliment at the time, and the book is full of her stories about her life, the island, and the curiosities of other cultures and people.
             - a non-fiction!  I am very curious about this little gem.  I especially love stories where women are the first to conquer a specific role/office/feat.  Looking forward to being inspired.



7) The Voices In My Heart.  Author: Gilbert Tuhabonye
            This one is from the country of Burundi.  This is the story of the author.  Here is what Amazon says: " More than ten years ago the centuries-old battle between the Hutu and Tutsi tribes of Africa came to his school. Fueled by hatred, the Hutus forced more than a hundred Tutsi children and teachers into a small room and used machetes to slash most of them to death. The unfortunate ones who survived were doused with gasoline and set on fire. After hiding under a heap of his smoldering classmates for more than eight hours, Gilbert heard a voice saying, "You will be all right; you will survive." He knew it was God speaking to him. Gilbert was the lone survivor of the attack at his school, and thanks his enduring faith in God for his survival."
         - another non-fiction book to my ever growing pile.  This author now lives in the United States, so I am anxious to read about his time in Burundi. (which is a country in Africa, next to Tanzania)


8) Last Train To Istanbul.  Author: Ayse Kulin
           This is from the country of Turkey.  This one takes place during WWII when the Turkish diplomats hatch a plan to get the Jews out of France and back to Turkey.  I am not sure if this will be the right book for this country because I am uncertain at this point if it takes place ENOUGH in Turkey.  On of the rules of my challenge is the book has to be in country at least 50% of the time.  So we will see.
             This book has been recommended to me a few times.  And I actually got a free copy of it last year on my kindle when Amazon ran a promotion.


9) The Black House.  Author: Peter May
            This is from the country of Scotland.  I picked this one to read this spring for sure becuase we are going to Scotland on vacation in April.  This is about a fictional Edinburgh detective named Fin Macleod who is trying to solve a murder.  It is the first book in a trilogy (which might be trouble for me because I don't have room for the other two books this year) and takes place on the Isle of Lewis.  So we shall see!  If it is a bust, I can always come home with a stack of Scottish books to replace it. 


10) If You Leave Us Here, We Will Die.  Author: Geoffrey Robinson
           This is from the country East Timor. (which is by Indonesia).  It is the terrible story of genocide in that country after Indonesia invaded in 1975.
            This looks like a heavy non-fiction, and I might have to save it for a rainy day.  These books about genocide are never easy to read, and it looks like it happened twice in East Timor (1975 and then again in 1999).


Monday, March 18, 2019

Read The World - United Arab Emirates - City of Gold

Book: City of Gold
Author: Jim Krane
Pages: 384
Book takes place in the country: YES
Author is from the country: NO (but he lived there for awhile)
I have visited: YES


This is my 39th read for 2019

I visited the UAE in the spring of 2018 with my family.  My husband and I were looking for a warm get away during the end of March last year, and discovered Dubai.  I had talked to several friends who had been there, and heard how safe and beautiful it was, and so we took the leap.   It was our first visit to the Middle East and the continent of Asia.  We loved every minute.  It was clean, and beautiful.  The people were lovely.  We sat on the beach, we went to the top of the Burj Kalifa, we visited the Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi, and went on a desert safari.  It was fabulous and I definitely want to return one day.  (if you click on the underlined words, you can see our take on both of those places)


This book is about the city of Dubai - one of 7 cities in the UAE.  A city that is not even 60 years old and has transformed from a dusbowl to one of the richest cities on the planet.  It is one of the fastest growing cities.  Even though it is surrounded by some of the most dangerous places in the world, it remains one of the safest.

The author uses this book to report about the people of Dubai.  He delves into the government (the crown prince and royal family that makes all the decisions), the migrant workers, the citizens, the expats....he talks to all groups.  It is a roller coaster ride of a book where you see all the amazing things about Dubai (how its citizens are actually given free health care, a monetary stipend, free schooling, etc) and the hardships that lie outside the peripheral vision of the tourist (the small villages that are over run with immigrant workers living in terrible conditions).  Like every country there are pros and cons, delights and evils, and this book touches on them all.

What The Crowned Prince built is amazing.  The billions that were spent over such a small amount of time and what Dubai is just 60 years after it became a city would blown any visitor away.  You have to see it belive it.

The book was written in 2008 and updated in 2010, and at that point, UAE did have high debts from its real estate growth.  I was trying to search the internet to see where it stands now, because when we were there in 2018- it was still growing and still building.  We were told by our driver that they have more money than they know what to do with.  Searching the internet, though, and you will get conflicting reports.  I would love to read an updated book on this city to see how things are going for them.

I encourage you to read this book to learn about the 3rd richest country in the world.  And then I encourage you to visit.  You will not be disappointed.  It was truly magical.

Stars: 4





Friday, March 15, 2019

Read The World - Antigua - A Small Place

Book: A Small Place
Author: Jamaica Kincaid
Pages: 81
Book takes place in the country: YES
Author is from the country: YES
I have visited: NO


This is my 38th read for the year.

This was such a short little book, that I finished it in about 1 1/2 hours.  I like squeezing in a really short one among the big ones that I have yet to come.  Ticking another book off the very long list.

One of my favorite parts of this challenge is doing a search for the country's flag and map.  It is interesting to see all the different flags (I might have to do a post in the end of just the flags).  Some are really cool.  I also like seeing exactly where some of the countries are located.  I usually have a GENERAL idea, but pinpointing it exactly is half the fun.


This is the history of Antigua told from the author's point of view.  She begins the book by talking about what a tourist will see when they come to Antigua, and the reality of the island itself.  An island that is only 12 miles long and 9 miles wide, it is among the smallest in the Caribbean.

Hidden on this island (From the tourist unknowing eye) is a world of corruption and racism.  She speaks of the history of the island (which belonged to England for a long time. Shocker) Slavery and Colonialism oppressed the citizen of Antigua and the negative effects of these are still visible today.  While Antigua has its own government, the author states that political affiliations (for example - the exclusive use of expensive Japanese cars on the island) leads to continued abuse and suffering of the native people.

This book was very short but packed with a high level of how the author feels about the state of her country.  She condemns the forces that shaped her homeland, and doesn't hold back.  She blatenly lets the reader know how white colonization has essentially destroyed everything that was true and good about the island.

This is an interested read, and I cannot fault her point of view.  I could never understand a person who is a native in a country because I would only have the opinion of an outsider.  She did leave me feeling pretty guilty about what happened to the people of Antigua.  It is one long attack on the past wrongs, and it became hard to not get muddled down by it all.  HOWEVER - I will give her credit where credit is due for nicely wrapping it up in the end with the following last sentence:

"Of course, the whole thing is, once you cease to be a master, once you throw off your master's yoke, you are no longer human rubbish, you are just a human being, and all the things that adds up to. So, too, with the slaves. Once they are no longer slaves, once they are free, they are no longer noble and exalted; they are just human beings."*

Stars: 3 1/2