Breathe To Read

Breathe To Read

Monday, April 15, 2019

Read The World - Scotland - The Blackhouse

Book: The Blackhouse
Author: Peter May
Pages: 368
Book takes place in the country: YES
Author is from the country: YES
I have visited: YES (I am here right now!


This is my 50th read for the year - yay!!

I am in Scotland right now with my family.  This is our first visit here, and we are having a great time.  We are in Edinburgh right now and will be going to Glasgow next.  10 days in this beautiful country.

Sidebar:  I do know that Scotland is part of the UK.  BUT -I  felt that it deserved its own book.  


This is the story of Fin MacLeod.  A murder has happened on the Isle of Lewis.  Fin - a native of the Island, but a cop now living in Edinburgh, is called in to investigate the murder.  There was a similar murder in Edinburgh recently, and the people on the island wonder if it is a serial killer on the loose, or a copy cat murder.  

Fin has not been back to the Isle of Lewis for nearly 20 years.  Coming back has dredged up a lot of old feelings.  This is where his parents and aunt died.  This is where the love of his life was lost to him forever.  This is where his childhood friend, Artir, lost his father in a tragic accident in their childhood that Fin is certain he was blamed for.  It is almost all too much for him to bear.  But Fin has a job to do, and in finding the killer, he learns things about his past that change everything.

This was an okay book.  It was an easy read, and it has some redeeming qualities, but overall - I didn't like it as much as I was hoping I would.  I really don't like mystery books that keep the reader in the dark for the sake of extending the story.  This book was full of that.  In the beginning of the book, it seems like Fin has lost a child in some way.  But it took a very long time to get to HOW.  I was actually starting to think that I was reading the middle book of the trilogy instead of the first book because we were kept in the dark about so many things.  Unnecessarily so.  Just drives me crazy when authors do that.

Because of this fact, by the time we got to the end and the solving of the murder, I wasn't all that attached to the characters or the story.  It is a shame, really, because it could have been so much better.

The pluses about this book, for me, where some of the things that actually had nothing to do with the overall story.  One was the scenes about Scotland.  Being here now, I was excited to be reading about a book that takes place in Edinburgh and then in the Highlands (Where we will visit in a few days).  The other is the main character's name is Finlay.  That is my daughter's name.  (we spell it Finley).  

Anyway - I am not sure if I can recommend this book.  It was fluff - a good book for vacation that didn't take a lot of concentration.  But it was frustrating to be kept in the dark unnecessarily so about certain "secrets" just to lengthen the book.

Stars: 3




Thursday, April 11, 2019

Read The World - Dominica - Black and White Sands

Book: Black and White Sands
Author: Elma Napier
Pages: 280
Book takes place in the country: YES
Author is from the country: Not born there, but lived there most of her adult life
I have visited: NO


This is my 49th read for the year

So many little islands past Puerto Rico.  Reading this book makes me want to read them all


This is the author telling her own story about her time living in Dominica.  She moved there in 1932 after leaving London and the high society she was a part of.  She moved to a remote island in the Caribbean and she and her family set on finding land to build a house.  She wrote this memoir near the end of her life, looking back at her time on the island with her husband and children.  She lived there during the 2nd World War, and talks about how that even affected her island because at that time it was a British colony.  Her observations of the locals and expats and the island itself were quirky and fun to read.

I really enjoyed this book.  The style was a little different and hard to get into at first, but as I settled into the book, I started to enjoy it.  It is whimsical, and if you aren't reading carefully, you might miss the underlying humor she has throughout the book.  She seems like a neat person and someone I would have loved to know.  She moved to an island with no electricity and mud huts and swarms of mosquitos, and seemed to fit right in.  She even joined the local council and became the first women in legislation in the West Indies.  Bravo.

Check this one out.

Stars: 4





Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Read The World - Iraq - Life In The Imperial City: Inside Iraq's Green Zone

Book: Life In The Imperial City: Inside Iraqu's Green Zone
Author: Rajv Chandrasekaran
Pages: 336
Book takes place in the country: YES
Author is from the country: NO
I have visited: NO


This is my 48th read for the year.

I have slowed down a bit.  The nice weather and upcoming vacation readiness has made this last week not a good week for reading for me.  It needs to rain so I can read.


This is the story about the US occupation of Iraq and life inside the Green Zone.  It was a walled off city in Baghdad where Americans lived, worked, and relaxed - completely cut off from Iraq.

The author - who was The Washington's Post bureau chief - goes into the zone and reports on what he finds there.  He does hundreds of interviews and scours countless documents to piece together a story about the occupation.  He focuses heavily on the viceroy, Paul Bremer and his ideas on how Iraq should be run.  Bremer ignores what Iraqis want persues what he thinks Iraq needs, and in the end angers the local people.

This was a good book.  I knew very little of the occupation, and what an insight I gained by this author's findings.  It made me shake my head at some of the things that happened during this time.  Intelligent people with seemingly good intentions who made a very big mess.  How so many people who were in jobs in the Green Zone didn't have the expertise they needed for the position they were assigned.  A lot of lessons that (hopefully) were learned.

Check it out.  It will be worth your time.

Stars: 4 1/2







Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Marvel Avengers Book Tag

Well, this week's Top Ten Tuesday was not something I could complete.  However, I saw a Marvel Avengers Book Tag on another blog, and thought that looked like fun.

First Game of Thrones - the final season - starts next week.  I can hardly stand the wait.  I have read the books, seen the show, and now I want to see how they plan on wrapping up the series.  And THEN I hope George R.R. Martin finishes the books.  Please George.



THEN,  at the end of the month, my entire family will be spending our life savings to go to the movies here in Switzerland (Americans would revolt if movies cost this much in the states) and see the Avengers End Game movie.  Again - Marvel is another series that is very high on my list, and I have been anticipating this movie.  I cannot wait.



Anyway.....

This blog post is to find books that resemble the heros in the Marvel Avengers universe, so here we go.

Iron Man - A Book That Made You Laugh Outloud

Stiff


I am very sure that Tony Stark would laugh out loud with this book, just like I did.  This is a book about the different routes that cadavers take (science, creamation, forensics, and crash test dummies just to name a few).  As a nurse, I was completely fascinated by this book.  The author had a light humor and snarky remarks mixed in with her research.  I mean - crash test dummy in the after life?  Huh.



Captain America - A Book That Sends A Positve Message

The Misremembered Man


This is one of my all time favorite books.  And I definitely think that Capt. would approve.  This is the bittersweet story of a man who, after a very hard childhood, at the age of 40 has decided it is time to live a little and find love.  With the help of his friends, and an ad placed in the paper, a sweet romance develops that just melts your heart.  

We all want to be remembered well.  And our main character, Jamie, has a twist of fate that changes his life and shows that there is always time to turn our lives around for the better.



Thor - A Book With a Character's Strength You Admire

Baby Catcher


This is not a widely known book, but I picked it because I am a little bias.  As a pediatric nurse for the last 22 years, I do believe that nurses have super powers.  And above that - midwives are amazing.  I have gone through labor myself, and while I would not have had a baby at home - after reading this book, I had more respect for women who do.  And for women who have natural births in general.  The stories that this midwife tells are nothing short of amazing, and I was fascinated by each one.



Black Widow - A Book With A Kick A$$ Female Potagonist

Wool/Dust/Shift Trilogy


I really liked this distopian future trilogy.  I read this last year when I was doing a "recommend me a book" challenge.  What a great find.  In this post apocolyptic future series people have been driven into silos which are mostly underground due to the earth's air becoming toxic.  The silos have 130 levesl and hold 1000s of people.  

Our hero - Juliette - is put into a job she didn't want.  She was a mechanic - and a really good one.  She is charged with a crime she didn't commit and is sent out to do a "cleaning".  No one ever returns from a cleaning because of the toxic air.  Juliette goes over the hillside and disappears.  This causes an uprising in the silo and starts people questioning who are in charge.

Without spoiling too much, just know that Juliette is in all three books and is the hero.  She is independent and fearless.  Just like Natalia.



Hulk - A Book That Made You Incredibly Angry

My Sister's Keeper


I am sure most people have read this book, or at least have seen the movie.  (although,if you saw the movie, but didn't read the book, just know they changed a lot).  This book made me angry on many levels.  It is a story of a family that has a daughter who has cancer.  The younger sister is brought into this world to save her sister.  Anna's whole life has been countless surgeries, transfusions, hospital stays, just to help her save Kate.  When Kate needs a bone marrow transplant and Anna is a match, Anna decides she has had enough.  She sues to emancipate from her family so she doesn't have to this any more.

As a parent, I don't know what I would do if I had a terminally ill child and a child that could save him/her.  It is an impossible situation where you would be hard pressed to know where the draw the line.  But what made me angry about this book?  The ending.  Jodi - your endings are cringe worthy.  They are not BAD - they are just always a knife to the gut.



Hawkeye - A Underrated Book You Think More People Should Pay Attention To

The Bone Garden


This book has less than 500 reviews on Amazon, but it deserves to be noticed.  This is a story of a woman who is newly divorced.  She buys a fixer upper house in Massachusetts.  While digging in the garden, she finds a skull.  The authorities determine that it is from a body from the 1830s, and the hunt for the body begins.  The story flips back and forth between present day and the 1830s where a young woman has just lost her sister and is now tasked with raising her niece.  She meets a young medical studen that agrees to help her and the baby.  Around them, nurses and doctors are being murdered and the young woman is warned to keep the baby hidden.

I thought this was a GREAT mystery book.  It is a long, involved story and well written, but the mystery is held until the end.  The reader is not kept in the dark for the sake of lengthening the story.  We really had no idea how it was going to be solved until the end.  Brillant.



Loki - A Book With A Twist or Surprise That Tricked You

The Shadow Of The Wind


This is one of the best books I have ever wirtten, and the twist is not to be missed.  It takes place in Barcelona, 1945.  A young boy named Daniel visits a crypt of old and unusual books and finds one called "The Shadow Of The Wind".  He reads it and wants to find more books by this author.  He finds out that none exist.  Someone is systematically destroying all books by this author.  Daniel sets out on a quest to find out why.  Over the years he opens the door to some of Barcelona's darkest secrets.




Friday, April 5, 2019

Read The Word - Burkina Faso - Of Water and the Spirit

Book: Of Water and the Spirit
Author: Malidoma Patrice Some
Pages: 311
Book takes place in the country: YES
Author is from the country: YES
I have visited: NO


This is my 47th read of the year

So.many.African.countries.  The stories are all so extremely interesting.  I have really enjoyed reading about all the countries that take up this massive continent.


This is the author's own story about his childhood in Burkina Faso.  Early in his life, his grandfather died - one of his favorite people in the world - and he witnesses the ceremony where his village helps his grandfather pass from this world to the next.  

Shortly after his grandfather's death, Malidoma is kidnapped by a French Jesuit missonary to be trained as a priest.  He spends 15 years in captivity, and he loses his native language and his past.  After pushing a priest out of anger, he is sure he will receive the ultimate punishment, so at the age of 20 he escapes the missonary and finds his way back home.  His family welcomes him back, but Malidoma is lost.  He is angry - thinking his family never searched for him.  He doesn't know the language any more, and doesn't understand the culture.  

He decides he wants to reconnect with his native culture, so he undergoes a month long initiation into shamanism.  During his initiation, he says he went to the underworld, watches a tree transform, and was buried alive.  He comes back a new man, fully embracing his culture.

Today Malidoma has a doctorate degree in political science, and literature.  He travels the United States speaking about black magic and spirits.  He felt he needed to create a bridge between the Western culture and the indigenous culture.  And even though he now lives full time in the United States, he returns often to his village in Burkina Faso.

This was a great book.  His stories about his expereinces with the Jesuits are heart breaking.  His stories about his grandfather's death and his initiation back into his tribe, are amazing.  You have to open your mind and realize that this is not a science fiction story, but one where Malidoma feels he experienced what he saw and heard.  It is so important to be open to the beliefs and feelings of others so that we can understand them better.

Check this book out.  You won't be disappointed.

Stars: 4


Thursday, April 4, 2019

Read The World - Sudan - What is the What

Book: What is the What
Author: Dave Eggers
Pages: 538
Book Takes Place in the country: YES
Author is from the country: NO
I have visited: NO


This is my 46th read of this year.

I listened to this one as an audiobook.  I have listened to a few audiobooks this year, and this was one of those where I was completely captivated.  I say this because I am going to break a rule with this book and leave it as my Sudan book.  It only takes place in the Sudan for about 30% of the book, but I liked this book and the story of these Sudanese man, that it stays.  Plus - this was 20 hours of listening that I am not forfeiting.


This is the story of a real person named Valentino Achak Deng.  He was one of the Lost Boys of Sudan.  When Achak was a boy, the Civil War wipes out his Dinka village called Marial Bai.  The militia attacks his town and Achak flees with other boys and fears that he will never see his family again.  

The boys become "The Lost Boys" who walk from Sudan to Ethiopia to a refugee camp.  They experience danger and hardship along the way, and a lot of boys die.  They keep going on the promise that when they get to Ethiopia there will be houses and food and school.  But when they arrive the conditions of the camp are depolorable.  They are not there long before they are forced to move on when soldiers open fire on them.  They flee to another camp in Kenya where Achak spends many years.  He grows up in a camp called Khartoum.  There he actually gets reunited with some of his friends from Dinka.  He goes to school, makes friends, and hopes that someday he can return home and find his family that he hopes is still alive.

Little by little the Lost Boys and Girls are sent by UNICEF to the United States to start over.  After 13 years in the camp, Achak is picked to be sent to the United States to start a new life.  Before he goes, he has one request - say goodbye to his family in Dinka.

The book goes back and forth from when Valentino (Achak's name he takes when he moves to the United States) is in the United States and has just been a victim of a robbery, to his time in the Sudan and part of the Lost Boys.  He talks to people in his present about things they could never imagine about his past.  How far he has come and what he has survived is like nothing they have ever seen.

This book was fantastic.  The story telling was superb, the narrator (Dion Graham) did an excellent reading, and the story something you need to read.  What Valentino and the Lost Boys and Girls survived was a story everyone should know.

Valentino does the preface for this book and does state that he told his story to the author and then gave the author the go ahead to add to the story as he sees fit.  It is known right from the beginning that this book was full of facts about Valentino's life, but with added embellishments from the author.  

Also - Valentino set up a foundation which you can read about HERE

So good.  From start to finish this book was large, but amazing.  Add it to your list.

Stars: 5




Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Read The World - Kosovo - City of Thieves

Book: City of Thieves
Author: David Benioff
Pages: 258
Book takes place in the country: YES
Author is from the country: NO
I have visited: NO


This is my 45th read of the year.

I actually finished this book in March but didn't have time to blog about it.

This book is a fictional story about WWII.  It starts with a grandson, wanting to know what it was like for his grandfather in the war.  The grandfather decides it is time to tell his story about how he, a Jew, and a military deserter ended up on a mission for eggs for a colonel in the Russian army.

This is about a 17 year old boy named Lev.  The war has come to his town in Leningrad.  There is a curfew in place, but he and his friends are out exploring the city.  They are seen by German soldiers and chased.  Only Lev doesn't escape.  He is captured and thrown into a camp, where he meets Kolya - a miliatry deserter.  The two of them are brought to the colonel and asked to find a dozen eggs for his daughter's upcoming wedding.  This is an impossible task during the war, but the boys agree.  They are promised officer ration cards and freedom if they succeed.  They are given 4 days to find the eggs, so they set off armed with one knife and a letter so they can pass through the countryside without being arrested.

Along the way, Lev and Kolya run into various groups of people.  Soldiers, girls, people who are hiding and starving.  They follow lead after lead toward eggs that don't exist.  All along the way, Lev learns who he is, and where his loyalties lie.  Kolya is witty and charming and seems fearless.  Lev learns his true story and comes to like him as he gets to know him.

In the end, it takes a chess game to help them succeed.  All they have lost and gained in the four day journey sticks with Lev for the rest of his life.  When the war finally ends, love and loss are what shape him as a person.

I thought this book was great.  It was a book that actually was recommended to me by several people.  The writing was wonderful and all the characters were likable.  I was sucked in from page one - when the grandson wants to hear the story of his grandparents days in the war.  

The only thing I wish is that the book would have gone back to the present at the end.  I would have liked the conversation to pick back up between the grandson and his grandfather - to fill in a few more "after the war gaps".  

Check this book out.  You will not be disappointed.

Stars: 4 1/2