Breathe To Read

Breathe To Read

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Read The World - Norway - Out Stealing Horses

Book: Out Stealing Horses
Author: Per Petterson
Pages: 274
The book takes place in the country: YES
The author is from the country:NO
I have been: NO

This is my 24th book for the year.  I finished it today!

I have Norway on my short list.  Just like just about every other country.  Norway is easily accessed to us here in Switzerland, so I am hoping we get to at least Oslo before we move back to the states.

This is the story of a man named Trond Sanders.  It is the year 1999 and he is 67 years old and has bought a cabin in Norway that he is going to fix up and spend the rest of his life in.  He has moved in late in the season, and is worried about getting the cabin ready before Norway winter really sets in.  As he gets things ready, he runs into a man that was part of his distance past, and it brings up a lot of memories of the last time he was at this lake.

The book travels back and forth between 1999 and 1948 when Trond was 15 years old and at this very lake for the summer.  It is just he and his dad.  His dad was there thinking he could make some money doing logging.  Trond meets a young boy his age named Jon who talks Trond into "Stealing" horses from neighboring farms.  The boys don't actually steal them, just ride them and return them, but the idea is thrilling to the young boys.  

A tragedy during that summer leaves two families torn apart, for very different reasons.  Trond learns things about his father he wished he never knew.  Jon has to live with what he has done.  

The book delves into relationships of fathers and son, best friends of youth, and how things can come full circle. There are some things from your past you cannot escape no matter how hard you try. 

The last line in the book was the best of all: "We decide for ourselves when it will hurt".  

It was an excellent novel.  It is beautifully written and I could picture the harsh Norway countryside as I read.  The story takes so many twists and turns, all revolving around the pain we feel for things that happen in our past and how we chose to deal with them and face them in the future.  I encourage you to read this short novel for yourself.  You will not be disappointed.

Stars: 4 1/2

Monday, February 18, 2019

Sidetrack Post - The Graveyard Book

Book: The Graveyard Book:
Author: Neil Gaiman
Pages: 368

While I am busy reading a book from Norway, I am going to blog about a book I just finished reading with my children.  I have two, 12 year olds - a boy and a girl - who still let me read to them each evening.  It is a sweet little tradition that I know I won't be able to hold onto for much longer, so while it last, I let them pick books that we can share together.

We sometimes read two at a time because they have varying tastes.  But this book held both of their interest, and I love Neil Gaiman, so it worked out beautifully.

This would be my 23nd book for the year 2019.  I am counting it because I read it too.

This is the story of Nobody (Bod) Owens.  When he was a baby, his whole family was killed.  Bod narrowly escaped and ended up toddling into a graveyard near by.   Now he is being raised by ghost and his guardian - Silas - is the only one besides Bod that can travel between the living and the dead.  So he is in charge of keeping Bod fed and clothes and protecting him from the killer that still seeks him out.

As Bod grows, even though he is human, he is able to do a few things like the dead.  He can make himself fade from view from the living.  He can see well in the dark.  He can slink between walls.  All powers he has only because of the protections of the graveyard.

As Bod gets older, he wants more and more to leave the graveyard.  He wants to go to school, to make friends, to have a life among the living.  But Silas warns how dangerous this could be.  The killer - Jack - is still out there looking for Bod.  In the end, Silas gives in, and lets Bod attend school.  But it quickly becomes a grave error when Bod refuses to lay down to a bully and he draws attention to himself.  He soons realizes that he cannot be among the living until Jack is caught.

Enter Scarlett.  When Bod was a little boy, Scarlett had visited the graveyard with her parents, but then moved away.  Now, at age 14, she is back, and Bod and she become friends.  Scarlett comes to the graveyard to visit, and meets a Mr. Frost who befriends her and her mother.  One thing leads to another, and Scarlett and Bod end up visiting Mr. Frost at his house and discover that this is the Jack that has been after Bod for so many years.

Will Bod and Scarlett escape?  Will Silas return in time to help save them?  You will have to read the book to find out!

We really liked the book.  Neil Gaiman is such a talendted writer and there are laugh out loud moments throughout.  I encourage you to read this middle grade novel either for yourself or with your children.

Stars: 4 1/2

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Read The World - Ecuador - Galapagos

Book: Galapagos
Author: Kurt Vonnegut
Pages: 336
The book takes place in the country: YES
The author is from the country: YES
I have visited: NO

This is my 22nd read of the year.  I finished it on 2/16/2019.

And now I think I am finally caught up.  Now there will be space between my Read The World post.  Aren't you glad?  Don't worry - I will find other things to blog about while I am in the middle of reading my country books.

I have actually read only one other Kurt Vonnegut book - "Slaughterhouse Five" and I really liked it.  So, when one of his books appeared for Equador, I decided to give it a try.

The story opens with a narrator from a million years in the future.  He brings us back in time to the 1980s when a group of people are about the take a cruise.  What the passengers don't know is that it is about the be the apocolypse and they will be the last survivors of the human race and whom all future humans stem from.

The narrator had died tragically young actually building the boat for the cruise of the last of the human race.  When he meets the "tunnel of the afterlife", where his family coaxes him to join them, he is distracted by the people on the cruise.  He is warned that if he doesn't join the afterlife at that moment, he would be stuck to wander the earth for one million years before the tunnel will be open to him again.  He decides not to go into the light and thus is now one million years into the future waiting for the afterlife tunnel to open again.

While he waits, he tells the stories of the passengers of the fateful cruise, who are sailing from main land Ecuador to the Galapagos islands, that are the last surviving humans.  

These folks are a random selection of passengers that are marooned on an island called Santa Rosalia.  The rest of the world becomes infertile and eventually humanity dies out.  Only the people on the island are able to reproduce and continue the human race.  Over the next million years humans evolve into furry spieces that look like sea lions - who have flippers instead of hands, and can swim more than they can walk.

The book goes back and forth between the narrator talking about the future and him recounting the lives of the people on the ship and how they all came to be together.  It is a pretty good book.  Quirky and disorienting and confusing, and great all wrapped into one.  I liked it a lot more than I thought I would.

I encourage you to try the book.  Especially if you have read Vonnegut in the past.

Stars: 4

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Read The World - Malaysia - The Gift Of Rain

Book: The Gift of Rain
Author: Tan Twan Eng
Pages: 450
Book takes place in the country: YES
Author is from the country: YES
I have visited: NO

Okay - confession time.  I started to read this book yesterday, got 20 pages in and it started to sound very familiar.  I read a few more pages, and then became convinced.  I did a back search on my blog and yes, I had read it before.  I don't know how I missed it when I was doing a search for countries.  

I read this book in 2016.  So I am going to post my review from then.

This is the story of 16 year old Phillip Hutton.  He is half Chinese, half English and from a prominent family in Penang.  While his siblings and father are away on vacation, he chooses to stay home alone.  He gets to know Hayato Endo who is a Japanese diplomat.  Philip spends time showing Endo around and in return Endo teaches him Japanese and aikido.  When the Japanese invade Malaya, Phillip learns that Endo is a Japanese spy.  It is clear that Endo has taught Philip aikido to help save his life and possibly the life of his family.

This is a pretty good book.  I have to admit I had a hard time getting into it.  I don't think it was the book's fault, though.  I think it was when I was trying to read it, so I don't want to judge it too harshly.  I did like the characters.  Endo-san and Phillip develop almost a father/son relationship.  Since Phillip's mother had died when he was a baby, and she was his Chinese ancestor, he never felt as close to his father and half siblings.  This book does a good job mixing the three cultures together - Western, Chinese, and Japanese.

I have read a lot of WWII books/pre-WWII books, but this is the first one from Southeast Asia.  I recommend trying it out.

Stars: 4

Friday, February 15, 2019

Read The World - Czech Republic - The Unbearable Lightness Of Being

Book: The Unbearable Lightness of Being
Author: Milan Kundera
Pages: 320
Book takes place in the country: YES
Author is from the country: YES
I have visited: NO

This is my 21st read of this year.  I finished this book on February 14, 2019.

This is my first audiobook of the year.  I don't listen to too many audiobooks because I tend to get distracted while listening and start thinking of other things.  Then I continually feel like I need to rewind and it takes me a long time to finish it.

But this time, I had a paint by number that I had picked up.  They have always looked fun to me, so I got one of those and while I painted, I listened.  And then while I grocery shopped, I listened.  And while I packed lunches, I listened.  I think if I do it more often, I will get better at listening and not "wandering".

This is the story of Thomas and Tereza, Sabina and Franz during the Russion Invasion of the Czech Republic in the 1960s.  Tereza is in love with Thomas who is a incorrigible womanizer.  His mistress is Sabina, but Thomas is not her only lover.  Franz is also in love with Sabina, but married to someone else.

The main characters are Thomas and Tereza, and their lives together.  Even thought Tereza is midly aware of his womanizing, she stays with him until the end of their lives.  Thomas knows he doesn't deserve her, but he cannot help who he is.

The author describes the thoughts and feelings of all the characters, and works at getting to the core of understanding who they are.  All of thier misgivings, all of their fears and doubts, are brought to light in this novel.  The book delves into the difficulty that is life and the struggles that many people have on a daily basis when in relationships with others.

The author's one line says it all: "Being - of the human life - is unbearably light because it is lived in a straight line - there is no true interpretation, nothing to grab onto, as our lives are driven forward by chance and fortuity."

I don't know how I felt about this book.  Again - I think listening to it didn't do me any favors.  But again - my prudishness came into play here as well because there is a lot of infidelity in this book, a lot of talk about sex, and a lot of talk about the human body.  This is just a warning in case you feel that this is a book you might be interested in.  I know there was deeper meaning around these parts of the book, but just so you are aware.

Will this stay as my Czech book?   Maybe.  I need to think about it some more.

Stars: 3

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Read The World - Great Britian - Dracula

Book: Dracula
Author: Bram Stoker
Pages: 400
Book takes place in the country: YES
Author is from the country: NO (but he did live there for awhile)
I have visited: YES (twice)

This is my 20th read for 2019.  I finished it on 2/13/2019

I know not a soul pays attention to what I have reviewed and what I haven't, but I will say - this is my second review for Great Britian this year.  If you do remember, my first was Harry Potter.  That will remain my favorite series from Great Britian, HOWEVER - I didn't really want a series book for my shelf.  So I added another in its place.

ALSO - this was not my original 2nd choice for Great Britian.  I actually had Dracula on my list for Romania.  Because....Transylvania.  But then I started to read it and actually only about 50 pages of this book take place in Transylvania, and the rest take place in Great Britian.  So.....Great Britian it is!  

We actually got to see where Bram Stoker used to work in Dublin, Ireland this past fall when we visited.  (Dublin Castle) We got to look at the window he peered from when he first started to develop the novel as he worked as a clerk.  We also visited Trinity College where he went to school.

The story opens with Count Dracula in Transylvania.  Young Jonathan is visiting him there because the Count would like to buy a house in England.  While Jonathan is visiting, he witnesses strange behavior by the Count that he cannot explain.  And he realizes he is Dracula's prisoner because he cannot leave the castle.  He wonders the castle which seems largely empty, and he meets 3 women vampires called "the sisters" whom he realizes are vampires.  He starts to put together that Dracula is too.  He barely escapes with his life.

Dracula, meanwhile, is on a ship heading for England.  He has boxes full of soil that he must have in order to survive.  He wants to go to England to make more vampires.

While Jonathan is gone, his wife, Mina, is staying with a friend named Lucy.  Lucy falls ill, and Mina notices she has two small pin prick marks on her neck.  Concerned, Mina sends for Lucy's betrothed (Arthur) plus two other men who care deeply for Lucy named Dr. Seward and Quincey Morris to try and figure out what is wrong with her.  Lucy continues to grow weaker and weaker, and it becomes apparent to the reader the Dracula is somehow involved.

Enter Professor Abraham Van Helsing who is a good friend of Dr. Seward.  He immediately figures out what is wrong with Lucy, but by that time, it is too late.  Lucy dies and is buried by her distraught betrothed, Arthur. 

Once Lucy is buried, young children start to disappear from the area.  Van Helsing figures out it is Lucy who is luring the children to the graveyard so she can feed on them.  Van Helsing convinces Arthur that they will have to cut off Lucy's head and stab a wooden stake through her heart so that she is no longer a vampire and can truly rest.

Jonathan, Mina, Dr. Seward, Arthur, Quincey Morris, and Van Helsing all join forces to drive Dracula out of England and also to eventually kill him.  They research his powers and his weaknesses and develop a plan.  Dracula gets wind of that plan and soon bites Mina 3 times so that he can control her.  It changes her, but she never completely becomes a vampire.  Instead of her giving herself over completely to Dracula, she uses the connection to help the team find him and kill him.

This is a GREAT book.  I won't give away the ending, but I am sure most people know.  The writing was superb, and easy to follow, even though it was written over 120 years ago.  Just excellent.  I don't know how I have never read this classic novel, but I am so glad that I did.  I really did enjoy every word.  I definitely want to add other books by Stoker to my TBR list once this challenge is over.  

Stars: 5

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Read The World - Austria - Marrying Mozart

Book: Marrying Mozart
Author: Stephanie Cowell
Pages: 368
Book takes place in the country: YES
The author is from the country: NO
I have visited: YES

This was my 19th read of the year.  I finished it on 2/10/2019

I have visited Austria, but only a very small blip of it.  Living here in Switzerland, it is easy to cross into the country on the way to others.  Last summer we went to visit the Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany and as part of the tour we took, we went into Austria and drove along the beautiful country side.  Visiting Salzburg and Vienna are on my short list to hit while we live over here.  My parents visited there last year, and - being two music teachers - loved it so much.  I would love to see where Mozart was born and raised.  I played the piano starting at the age of 4 and the French Horn starting at the age of 8, so I am very familiar with him and his works.  Paying homage to this great man's life is something I intend to do.

This is the story of the 4 Weber sisters who live in Mannaheim.  They are a musical family performing in small venues when Wolfgang Mozart enters their lives.  He falls for the second eldest daughter, Aloysia.  She is very beautiful and a talented singer and Mozart plans to marry her.  Unfortunately, his parents have other plans for him.  Mozart's talents have already begun to show themselves, and his parents want him to focus on becoming successful and put of marriage until he is 30 years old.

He continues to put off Aloysia as he returns to Austria to continue to write operas and music.  Aloysia then gets a job to sing in Vienna, and the whole family moves with her.  Aloysia gets tired of waiting for Mozart, though, and falls in love with another man.  Mozart is heartbroken, and delves into his work.   

Meanwhile the other sisters are left with their mother.  Their father has died and they are trying to care for a retched woman who never says a nice word to the girls.  Josepha finally runs away, Sophia joins a convent, and that leaves Constanze at home with her mother.  Mozart becomes a boarder at the girl's mother's house and soon finds himself falling for Constanze.

In the end, Constanze and Mozart wed.  We know that their married life is short because Mozart dies at the age of 35.  

The story does go back and forth between the girl's young lives, and Sophia as an elderly woman telling the story for an interview.   I really liked this book.  It was well written, and a light read, and I know that it has truth undertones.  The author is clear that is basically historical fiction.  Mozart was married to Constanze.  He was from Austria.  He did write fantastic music and operas.  This book touches very lightly on his life and focuses mostly on the lives of the four girls.  

I enjoyed it.  I encourage you to read it.  I find it amazing that Mozart - the brilliant musician - struggled so much to just survive almost his whole life.  It is truly amazing.

Stars: 4 1/2