Breathe To Read

Breathe To Read

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Read The World - North Korea - The Girl With Seven Names

Book: The Girl With Seven Names:
Author: Hyeonseo Lee
Pages: 320
Book Takes Place in the Country: YES
Auhtor is from the country: YES
I have visited: no

I read this book near the end of last year.  It was recommended to me by several people in the reading groups I follow.  And then when this year's list came up - it was recommended as the book I put in my North Korea spot.  After I read it, I whole heartedly agreed.

This is the true story of the author's life in North Korea and how she defected from a country that is trapped with a brutal communist leader.  She lives near the border of China and dreams of crossing to a better life.

One night, when things have gotten so bad for her family, she makes the escape to China.  The family has friends right across the border (smuggling trade was big where she lived in North Korea) and they agree to help her make safe passage.  She has relatives in China, and she convinces her friends across the border to take her to them.  The relatives had no idea she was coming, but welcomed the 17 year old and agree to hide her.  She spends her days, weeks, months with her relatives learning Mandarin and hiding the fact that she escaped from North Korea.

Before she knows it, 2 years have passed and she feels that she has overstayed her welcome.  She makes plans to get a job, and get her own place in China and leaves her relatives safety.  She spends a decade in China hiding in plain site.

Homesickness, and worry about her mother and her younger brother make her realize that somehow she must return home.  She meets a man that is from South Korea and he agrees to help her get her family to safety.  With skill and perserverance she makes her way and starts the plan to move her mother and brother to the south.  It takes many months to get her mother and brother to safety after convincing her mother she had to leave.

This was a great book.  It gives you a good insight to what it is like for those living in North Korea.  This book covers the 1990's and early 2000's - not that far in the past to imagine that this is going on now in this country.  The citizens are trapped in a dictatorship and fear for their lives on a daily basis.  One mis step could mean execution without a trial.

What she went through to escape, and then try and get her family to do the same is harrowing.  She is imprisoned and interrogated and her family goes through the same just to leave North Korea for a better, freer life.  They had been brainwashed their whole lives about what the world around them was like, and were shocked to find what it really was.  I commend her for leaving, especially at a young age with no money and hardly any contacts to save herself and those she loves.

I recommend you reading this book.  I think it gives us an eye opening experience of what it is like for the the citizens of North Korea.

Stars: 4 1/2

Monday, January 14, 2019

Read The World - Italy - Beneath A Scarlet Sky

Book: Beneath A Scarlet Sky
Author: Mark Sullivan
Pages: 460
Book Takes Place In Country: YES
Author is from country: NO
I have visited: yes

I read this book in 2017, and somehow missed reviewing it for the blog.  No idea how I did that, and I keep searching for it because I feel like it can't be true.  This book was fantastic and hard to forget.  It has to be here somewhere.  A True Story (which is one of my favorite types of books) based on a hero of WWII - it is not to be missed.

Regardless, I will review this book today.  I visited Italy for two weeks with my family in 2017.  My grandparents' families are from Italy (Calabria and Bresha) and it has been on my list to visit for a long time.  We toured Florence and Pisa.  Bresha and Venic.  Assisi and Pompeii.  Naples and Rome.  It was a trip of the lifetime and I hope to return and get to Calabria in the near future.  The country is beautiful, the food to die for, and the people warm and welcoming.  Since I have moved to Switzerland, one of my closest friends is an Italian woman from Milan.  She has widened my list of "want to see" for her beautiful country.  If you have a chance to see Italy - go.

As for the book, this is the story of a teenage boy named Pino.  He lives in Milan with his family.  His life changes when his family's home in Milan is destroyed during the war with the Nazis.  Devestated, Pino decides to join a group that helps get Jews across the Alps and into Switzerland.  It is dangerous work, especially for a teenage boy.  

He tells no one of his journeys.  His parents force him to join the German army, insisting this is the only way to protect him.  He is injured in the war, and assigned to drive Hilter's man - Hans Leyers.  He is one of the most powerful commanders in the army, and Pino turns spy - gathering as much information as he can while he drives Hans Leyers.  Pino becomes a translator and even is privy to mettings with Mussolini and Hans Leyers.  

His missions are dangerous as he tries to sneak information from Leyers and also get the Jews to safety.  The travel across the Alps in nothing but harrowing.  And during all of this, he falls for a girl named Anna, that he hopes he can be with once the war has ended.

This book will leave you speechless.  Truly.  Knowing the story is true, what young Pino does for the war effort is amazing.  The secrets he must keep to help the Jews plus the daily danger he puts himself in to steal intel from Hans Leyers is unbelievable.  He never falters.  He never quits.  

I promise you won't be able to put it down.  This was the first book I read about World War II that took place in Italy.  It did not disappoint on any level.

Stars: 5

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Read The World - Ireland - The Misremembered Man

Book: The Misremembered Man
Author: Chistina McKenna
Pages: 325
The Book Takes Place In The Country: YES
The Author is from the country: YES
I have visited: yes (just this past year!)

I read this book, just last year.  It quickly jumped to the top of my favorites list.  It is a short, sweet story that you simply must have on your shelf to share with others.  It will give you all the feels.

As for Ireland - this is a really beautiful country.  We went in October, 2018 for a week and loved every minute.  We drove the country (driving on the left hand side of the road was a first for us) and traveled through Dublin all the way to the Cliffs of Moor and back.  We traveled one lane roads where we had to wait for the sheep to move.  We stood on vast cliffs that took our breath away.  We met a man who owned a castle and let us into his home to explore.  

This is the story of a man name Jamie who lives in Derry, Ireland.  The story takes place in the 1970s.  Jamie is a 40 year old, unmarried farmer.  He spends most of his time, alone on his farm, tending to his animals.  He has two good friends, his neighbors, that look after him and they encourage him to find a mate.  Jamie doesn't have a high opinion of himself, and doesn't feel that is an option for him.  After a very troubled childhood as an orphan who was beaten badly by the nuns who cared for him, his lack of trust is understandable.

He meets a woman, named Lydia who is around his same age.  She she a lonely school teacher who cares for her ailing mother.  Lydia's friends encourage her to find love so that she can get out from under her mother's thumb, so Lydia puts an add in the paper that Jamie answers.

What follows is unexpected and their relationship takes a turn that neither of them imagined.

This was a GREAT book.  It was sweet, and funny, and very well written.  Jamie is such a likable guy - you are rooting for him the entire story.  His childhood will make you cringe, and you just keep hoping that his luck turns.  There were even some funny parts to the story - especially the dialogue between Jamie and his neighbors as they try to get him a date.

There wasn't anything I didn't like about this book.  If you are looking for a heart warming story with an amazing - yet a bit surprising - ending, this book is for you.

Stars: 5

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Read The World - India - Life of Pi

Book: Life of Pi
Author: Yann Martel
Pages: 452
Book takes place in the country: YES
Author is from the country: no, but he has lived there
I have visited: no

I read this book in 2017.  Actually - I had read it before that as well - long before I started this blog, but this time I was reading it with my eldest daughter.  I enjoyed it even more the second time.  It is always fun to watch the reactions of others to a book as well - especially one that has a twist ending that a young girl never saw coming.

This is the story of a young boy from India who is moving with his family to Canada.  In Indai, his father owned a zoo, and they are transporting many of the animals that have been sold to Canada.  They are on a large ship sailing across the pacific when tragedy strikes and the ship sinks.  The lone survivor - Pi - is telling the story to an author who wants to write his story.  Pi tells the story of how he spent 277 days on the ocean with a 450 pound Bengal tiger before they hit land in Mexico and were saved.  He loses his whole family when that ship sinks, and now as an adult, he recollects his experience with a fantastic story of survival.

This is a great book.  I have seen the movie, but have never read it.  My eldest daughter - who is 14 - had to read this book for school, so we decided to do it together.  I enjoyed that as much as I did the book.

This book is well written.  It has funny parts, and the story is truly griping.  My daughter was sad when the story ended because it really is a fantastic tale.  A must read.

Stars: 5

Friday, January 11, 2019

Read The World - Iceland - Burial Rites

Book: Burial Rites
Author: Hannah Kent
Pages: 352
Book takes place in the country: YES
Author is from the country: NO
I have visited: yes, but just briefly to the point it probably doesn't count

I read this book in 2016.  I came across it for that year's challenge for a category: a book that took place over 100 years ago.  I loved it immediately.  

As for Iceland, it is on the bucket list.  Mostly to see the northern lights, although, I am not sure how cold I can stand in order to visit Iceland in February.  We were there this summer, but only briefly on a layover on our way to America.  As we flew over the country I was taken back by the beauty even from that distance.  I plan to go back.

This is a story of a woman who is sentenced to death in the early 1800s in Iceland.  She is accused of murder.  She is taken out of jail to live with a family in a remote part of the country until her execution date is set.  The family is not happy about having to house a murderess, and so they do their best to avoid Agnes when she first arrives.  She is assigned a priest, named Toti, that tries to visit her daily to bring her to God before she dies.  The longer Agnes is with this family, though, the more fond of her they become, and learn that there are two sides to every story.

I thought this was a very good book.  It is not a long book (around 300 pages), and it was easy to read.  The story flowed nicely, and you came to really love Agnes and hope that in the end, she does not have to be executed for the crime she has committed.  We hear stories of her life -which was hard.  (her mother left her with a foster family when she was 6, and after that she was moved around a lot to different farms in Iceland).  She falls for a man named Natan, and he becomes her master and she his housekeeper.  In the end, she finds that he never truly loved her, and never wanted to be with her, and this is where her story takes a turn.

I encourage you to read it.  It is based on a true story.  Iceland is on our bucket list of places to visit someday, and it would be neat to see the places this story took place.

Stars: 4 1/2

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Read The World - Great Britian - Harry Potter

Book:  Harry Potter series (7 books total)
Author: J.K. Rowling
Pages: 1000s among all 7 books
Book takes place in country:  YES
Author is from the country: YES
I have visited: Yes (twice)

Okay - this is another one of those countries where I might change my mind in the end.  Harry Potter will always remain my favorite series.  I have read it several times over alone and with my children, and it never disappoints.  But it is a series - and not just a single book.  So I was struggling with this being "the one" that would be my Great Britain book.  Seems unfair to the other books on the permanent country bookshelf being a group of 7 and all.

I digress.

I have been to London twice and have loved it both times.  My husband has been many times since he has been working here in Switzerland, and last year my eldest daughter went to Yorkshire for a week with her school.  It is a beautiful country.  London is an alive and fascinating place with more to see than you could ever wrap your head around.  I would love to explore more of the English county side at some point.  My list of travel is longer than my life.

**Side bar - I know that Scotland is part of Great Britian - BUT - I wanted to read a book from Scotland, so it gets its own country page.  

As for our boy Harry - does this series really need a review?  Are there bookish people out there that have read these books or at least seen these movies?  I think not.  But if you do exist - it is a series about a young boy named Harry who finds out at the age of 11 that he is a wizard.  He has been raised by Muggles (non magic folk) and thought his parents were killed in a car crash.  He finds out that his parents were killed by a dark wizard named Voldemort, and the scar on Harry's forehead was left by him the night Voldemort tried to kill him.  

Over the series, Harry hones his magic, makes close friends, and eventually fights the returned Voldemort to end his reign of terror.  Each book is a year of Harry's life - takes you through his schooling during that year.  The book ends with an epic battle against good and evil.

Again -it really is a remarkable story.  If you know Rowling's own life story, it would make the books even more remarkable - at least in my opinion.  She was living in squalor when she wrote these books.  She had been an abused wife, and took her little child and ran.  Now she is one of the richest people in the world and the universe has expanded to unbelievable proportions.  It is incredible.

Stars:  5

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Read The World - Germany - The Book Thief

Book: The Book Thief
Author: Markus Zusak
Pages: 608
Book takes place in the country: YES
Author is from the country: NO
I have visited:  YES (weekly)

I read this book in 2017.  It was, again, a dauntingly large book that I was putting off.  Participating in different types of reading challenges, it never seemed to quite fit in.  It sat on the shelf for awhile and then I heard there was a movie.  I know, I know - that is a terrible reason to read a book.  But sometimes it takes a certain type of motivation to get things off the shelf and into my hands.  

Again - I had errored in putting this off for so long.  This is one of the best books I have EVER read.  Ever.  Have I said that before?  Of course I have.  But it is true here as well.  Just fantastic.  

As for Germany - it is another beautiful country that you must put on your list to visit.  Growing up and starting to think about travel, Germany was never on my list.  The language seemed unbearable, and the WWII history is hard to look past.  They eat a lot of meat.  A lot.  But when we moved to Basel, and were only 10 minutes from the border, I snuck in.  It is actually where I do my grocery shopping eahc week.  And we have visited many beautiful German cities since we moved here.  Frankfurt, Freiburg, Rotweil, Munich, Neuschwanstein, Lorrach....just to name a few.  The country is gorgeous.  The people, generous.  I am looking forward to exploring more of northern Germany while we live here.

Now this wonderful book:

This is the story of Liesel Meminger who is living in Munich Germany in 1939.  Her mother took she and her brother on a train to a foster family to keep them safe during the war.  Her brother got sick and died on the journey, so Liesel is all alone when she shows up.  Her foster father is kind and generous, and her foster mother is hard and stubborn.  Each night, Liesel wakes with nightmares and her dad comes in to comfort her.  Eventually she shows him a book that she stole when they buried her brother called "The Grave Diggers Handbook".  This starts Liesels love of books and her father starts to teach her to read.

Over the course of her years with her foster family she steals several more books, is invited to the Mayors house to read whenever she wants, watches bombs fall on her city, and helps her parents hide a Jew.  In a time when all books were being burned by Hitler and the Nazis, Leisel was trying her best to save them.

I loved this book.  LOVED it.  Probably one of the best reads I have read this year.  It was well written, and had a great message.  I have read a lot of WWII books, and this was among the best.

Don't miss it.

Stars: 5