Breathe To Read

Breathe To Read

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Read The World - The Bahamas - An Evening in Guanima

Book: An Evening in Guanima - A Treasury of Folktales from the Bahamas
Author: Patricia Glinton-Meicholas
Pages: 108
Book Takes Place in the Country: YES
Author is from the country: YES
I have visited: YES

This is my 7th book for 2019.  Finished on 1/14/2019.  Some of the countries are harder than others to find literature for my challenge.  This was one of them.  Sure, there are sometimes romance novels, or books that are parts of series that might take place in a country, but it wasn't what I was looking for.  I am building a bookshelf with this challenge, so I was looking for books that I would want to sit on that shelf.

I have been to the Bahamas a few times.  I was a kid when I went - it was part of a cruise my family was on.  It is a very beautiful island and full of wonderful people, and I hope to take my kids there sometime.  I can feel the sun and see the beautiful water in my mind's eye and they would feel so good right now in the middle of this bleak winter we are having in Switzerland.

This book is a collection of Folk Tales from the Bahamas islands.  The stories vary, but many are about morality, and honesty.  Some are dark, some are whimsical, but all give a peek into the island's culture.

The book is short and the stories only a page or two, but all were worth a read.  Folk tales do give a good glimpse into a culture and its people, and I chose this book based on this.  The author is from Cat Island in the Bahamas.  She starts the book with an explanation about folk tales and the traditions and themes of the stories from her Islands.  She helps put the stories into context and even after each story she breaks down some parts of the tale that might be confusing to readers.

This will be a lovely addition to my self.  You can borrow this book easily from a library, so I encourage you to give it a try.  I read it in the course of an evening today, so it doesn't take up much of your time.  But it will give you a nice look into folklore from the Bahamas Islands.

Stars: 4

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Read The World - Japan - Memoirs Of A Geisha

Book: Memoirs of a Geisha
Author: Arthur Golden
Pages: 448
Book takes place in the country: YES
Author is from the country: NO
I have visited: NO (but my husband has)

This is the 6th  book that I have read this year.  Finished reading it 1/14/2019.   It was actually on my list to read last year during my "Books Recommended by others" challenge, but once I decided to read the world, I put it off.

My husband was in Japan last year for business.  We were all jealous that he had a chance to spend a week there enjoying the delicious food and culture (in between a massive amount of meetings).  My youngest daughter has visiting Japan on her short list, so we hope to make it happen while we live here in Switzerland.  Because even though it is still a long flight from here, it is much closer than flying for the east coast of the United States where we lived before.

This is the story of a Geisha named Nitta Sayuri who was taken from her family when she was just a young girl.  Her mother was dying and her father elderly.  An member of the town takes Sayuri and her sister and turns them over to the world of Geisha in Gion, which is part of Kyoto Japan.  She grows up being schooled in dance, tea houses, and wearing kimono all under the hated eye of the geisha in her houshold - Hatsumono.  Thankfully another head Geisha came into Sayuri's life - Memeha - and she trains Sayuri to become one of the most beloved Geisha in the area.

We follow Sayuri's story from ages 9 to after the age of 30 - watch her grow up in the world of Geisha, entertain, and receive lavish gifts from the men who seek her company.  The Geisha are viewed more as a "trophy wife" or mistress more than a prostitute, as it seems to be older men who want their affections.

The book ends when Sayuri is an old woman, living in New York.  She looks back on her life as a Geisha and revels in all that has come to pass.

This was a pretty good book.  I have never read much about the Geisha before, and I have not seen the movie based on this book as of yet.  So I wasn't very familiar going into the story of what a Geisha was.  I am in agreement that they are definitely more a mistress than a prostitute, at least the way this story has spun them, because if they are successful - they latch on to one or two men in their who Geisha career.  These men lavish them with money, gifts, places to live and they go through a ceremony that links them together for life.  Most of these men - if not all - have wives.

The kimono, the make up, the parites, the ceremoneis - it was more than I have ever realized.  This story takes place in the 1930s-1950s for the most part, when Geisha in Gion numbered over 600.  That is incredible.  It is a life style that I could never even fathom.

I enjoyed the book.  It gave a nice insight into the world of Japan's Geisha.  What I found disturbing was the main character - Sayuri's - constant chase for one man.  How she loved him from the minute she met him.  It disturbs me that the Geisha chase married men.  But then I think - this is all Sayuri knows.  She was sold into this life and was given no way out.  So I am not sure the chase is entirely her fault.

I would encourage you to read it.  I think there is a lot to be learned about customs from countries all around the world.

Stars: 4

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Read The World - Botswana - The No.1 Ladies Detective Agency

Book: The No.1 Ladies Detective Agency
Author: Alexander McCall Smith
Pages: 235
Book takes place in the country: YES
Author is from the country: YES
I have visited: NO

5th book for the year 2019.  Finished on 1/11/2019.  When I was asking for recommendations for books from people for this country, this one came up again and again.  I wasn't sure if I would like it, but when there aren't many books coming out of a country - you take your chances.  

I have not been to Africa yet.  It is on the short list (like everything else, honestly).  Living here in Switzerland, the top of Africa is within our easy reach, so I am sure we will touch down on the continent soon.

This is the story of Precious Ramotswe who opens up the first ladies detective agency in the country.  Precious was drawn to helping people, and when her father dies, and leaves her with enough money to start a business, this is just what she does.  She gets work almost immediately - tracking down a missing husband, a con man, and even someone's daughter.  But her most serious case - one she never actually takes money for, but wants to complete - is a missing 11 year old boy.  

Throughout the cases, we learn about Precious' life growing up - the loss of her mother and father, a failed marriage, and the loss of her own child.  All interwoven into the story of her ability to find people and discover the truth.

I have to admit, the first 50 pages into this book, I wasn't sure I was going to keep going.  I found it light and fun from the beginning, but I wasn't sure it was supposed to be.  The story is very disjointed in the beginning - jumps from her opening this detective agency back into the past of her father without giving you much warning.  But I was encouraged by the people who loved this book to keep going, so I did.

And I wasn't disappointed.  In the end, I loved it.  It is a very short book, so a very quick read, and if I wasn't in the middle of a challenge, I would pick up the other books in the series immediately.  Precious is a wonderful character that you fall in love with.  She is kind, and smart, and well liked in the community.  There is even an edge of humor to the book which will make you smile.  And the ending is just lovely.

If you are like me, and wonder "what is happening" when you start this book - don't put it down.  Keep going.  I promise you will be rewarded.

Stars: 4

Monday, January 28, 2019

Read The World - Vatican City - The Fifth Gospel

Book: The Fifth Gospel
Author: Ian Caldwell
Pages: 448
Book Takes Place in the Country: YES
Author is from the country: NO
I have visited: YES

My fourth book for the year 2019.  Finished reading 1/8/2019.  I have visited Vatican City.  I was there in 2017 as part of our 2 week trip to Italy.  It is a beautiful place next to Rome, and I was fascinated that it is its own country.  While we were in Vatican City, it was over the Easter Holiday, and we had a chance to visit the Sistine Chapel (stunning) and see the Pope in Person at his Wednesday Mass on the square (he rode very close to us - it was humbling).  It is a beautiful place, and worth a visit if you are in Rome.

This book takes place in 2004.  Pope John Paul is in his late years as Pope.  An exhibit is about to go on display in the Vatican museum.  Brothers Simon and Alex have been helping the artist - Ugo - get the exhibit ready for the world.  

A week before the opening, Ugo is murdered and Simon is blamed.  Locked away and refusing to talk, Alex tries to put together the pieces of the true story of Ugo's death.  Alex is 100% certain his brother did not do this, and would not do this, but the evidence is either stacked against Simon, or missing.  

As the pressure to free Simon mounts, Alex discovers things about the highest holy men in Vatican City.  He struggles for the truth at every turn.  And when the truth is finally brought to light, the men of the church struggle for reason.

This was a great book on a lot of levels.  For one - I grew up Catholic, so I found the stories of the high holy men in the story enlightening.  For another - the authro delves deep into the 4 gospels of the Bible comparing them to each other, which I really have never done.  (it has been awhile since I have been in CCD).  The Fifth Gospel is the Diatessaron (real thing) It is where the 4 gospels are fused together.   And the center piece of all of it - is the Shroud that supposedly covered Jesus when he was taken down from the cross (also something that exists, but has been proven to be a fake)

My favorite parts of this book were where the gospels were compared and information about the stories of the Bible were brought to light.  It gave me a lot to think about.  The mystery and murder were, for me, secondary in my enjoyement of this book.  I could see where the story was leading, even though the author keeps trying to lead the reader down different paths.  

My biggest problem with the book would be two things.  1) everything seemed to be grave peril.  Everyone had an agenda, and there was danger at every turn.  It was fine for awhile, but after awhile, I felt the author should have backed off a bit.  2) keeping the audience in the suspense for suspsense sake.  

Overall - this book was wonderful and I would highly recommend it.  The story is captivating and I encourage you to read it for what how it was intended.  A great history lesson.

Stars: 4 

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Read The World - Cambodia - The Rent Collector

Book:  The Rent Collector
Author: Camron Wright
Pages: 288
Book takes places in the country: YES
Author is from the country: NO
I have visited: NO

My third book finished for the year 2019.  Finished on 1/5/2019.  Only a few days until the kids go back to school and schedules resume, so I think my reading pace will slow.  But we shall see.  The weather is bad in Basel, during the month of January, so I don't get out much.

This is the story of Sang Ly who lives in the garbage dump in Stung Meanchey, Cambodia.  They make their living by looking for recyclable material and selling it.  They barely make enough money to stay alive.  What makes matters worse is that they have a chronically ill child.  It is hard to pay for a doctor, but even when they do take him, after a few days of medicine, his symptoms return.  

Who Sang Ly and her husband fear the most is the rent collector.  She is bad tempered and doesn't have time for excuses of people who cannot pay rent.  Sang Ly knows they will be short of money because her husband was recently robbed, however, when the rent collector shows up at their house and sees a child's book that Sang Ly has found in the dump, she forgives their rent in return of getting to keep the book.

Soon - the story of Sang Ly - and her desire to learn to read - and the rent collector start to unfold.  The rent collector agrees to teach Sang Ly to read and as they begin to spend time together, they learn about each other's past.  What Sang Ly discovered about the rent collector, whom she comes to love and trust, teachers her about love, trust, and truth.  And that everyone deserves a second chance.

This was a really great book.  It isn't a long tale, so I was able to read it quickly.  The book flows nicely and the writing is beautiful.  The story of the hardship of living in the dump in Cambodia is hard to imagine.  Learning to read opens up a whole world for Sang Ly, and in turn, will open a whole world for her son.  She is hopeful that one day education and literature will help her son escape the hardship of the life in the dump.  

The truth about the rent collector's past, and her story, is a heartbreaking one.  And not one I will spoil in a review.  You should not miss a chance to read this book.

Stars:  4 1/2 

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Read The World - Andorra - 32 Yolks - From My Mother's Table to Working The Line

Book: 32 Yolks: From My Mother's Table to Working The Line
Author: Eric Ripert
Pages: 256
Book Takes Place In The Country: YES (some)
Author is from the country: YES (partly)
I have visited: NO

32 Yolks is my second book in 2019.  I finished reading it on Janaury 3rd. Another short, easy read to start my year off at a good pace.  I always get a lot of reading done the first week in January while the kids are on holiday from school and we have long, leisurely days.  

This is another non-fiction book.  The author tells the story of him growing up in France and eventually Andorra.  Early in life, Eric developed a passion for good food and fine restaurants.  An only child of wealthy parents, he was often treated to fine dining either at home or in public.  His parents would often seek out Michelin star restaurants to try, and Eric knew that one day, he wanted to be a chef.

Eric's parents divorced when he was 6, and his mother married an often cruel man who had little patience for him.  At 11, Eric's biological father died of a heart attack.  At 16, Eric enrolled in culinary school to further his passion for cooking and also to escape his step-father.  From then on, his life seemed to move at a fast pace toward an inevitable end.  He worked hard, and soon found a job at a Michelin star restaurant in Paris.  The head chefs were cruel and unforgiving, but Eric states that this made him nothing but better.  He put up with the abuse knowing that what he was learning was bigger than the cruelty he endured.

When Eric was in his 20's he was given an opportunity to move to America.  Today, he owns his own 3 star Michelin restaurant in New York City. ( Le Bernardin) He never returned to Androrra or to France to work, making America his home.

This was a pretty good book.  It was an easy read, and I found it well written.  (The author does admit to having quite a bit of help with the writing - his co-writer mostly listened to him tell stories while he worked at the Le Bernardin).  It covers his childhood and mostly his time as an apprentice chef in Paris.  I was disappointed that it didn't cover him getting where he is today in his restaurant.  The book drops off after he goes to America, and says nothing more about his rise to his own personal fame.  I found this a pity.

The other thing I am struggling with is that this book takes place than half the time in Andorra.  Granted - Andorra is a very small country of less than 50,000 people, so not a lot is being written about the area.  But I was hoping for more since Good Reads listed this as a book from there.  I am going to keep in on my list for now as the Andorra choice, BUT I may continue my search to see if I can find one that takes place more in the country itself.

As for the book - I say take a look.  It will make you hungry and want to seek out top notch restaurants to taste what he describes.

Stars: 4

Friday, January 25, 2019

Read The World - Argentina - Alive

Book: Alive - The Story of the Andes Survivors
Author: Piers Paul Read
Pages: 318
Book Takes Places in the country: YES
Author is from the country: NO
I have visited: NO

This is the first book I actually read in the cross of the new year.  I finished it quickly - by January 2nd.  I have seen bits and pieces of this movie in the past, and was curious to read about the story. 
Considering that I am going to try and borrow most of the books I read this year before I buy them (in case I don't like it and want to change my choice), I am reading in no particular country order.  I read when a book becomes available at the library, so the order will be all over the place.

This book tells the true story of a rugby team whose plane crashes in the Andes in 1972.  The crash is high in the snow covered mountains killing some of the 40 travelers immediately.  The remaining passengers (many who are between the ages of 19-21) need to figure out how to survive until rescue comes.  The pilots are dead, as is the radio, so there is no way to figure out where they are and how to call for help.  Many of the passengers are injured - some fatally so.  

For 72 days, the remaining members of the passengers are trapped on the mountain. They weren't traveling with many possessions, and the below freezing temperatures each night and a broken, open plane quickly became a death sentence for many.  Out of 40, only 16 survive, and in the end - rescue never came to them.  Brave members of the team had to escape the mountain to get help far below where they were staying.

While on the mountain, the passengers were forced to do unthinkable acts in order to stay alive.  They worked with what little resources they had to tend to injuries and keep from freezing to death.

This was a pretty good book.  The story is incredible - I cannot believe that these passengers were able to survive for as long as they did deep in the Andes mountains.  There had been no food on the flight, so they started with only a little food posessions that the passengers had brought themselves.  They didn't have a lot of heavy clothes and the tail of the plane had landed in a completely different place, so they didn't have a lot of the suitcases.  The plane was broken in pieces, so they had a hard time keeping out the cold and the wet.  They had a major avalanche that buried people and the plane.  They lived through impossible situation after impossible situation.  And even after the police gave up the search, their parents never gave up.  But it still took the passengers getting themselves off the mountain and noticed or they would have all perished because no plane could find them.  They were not able to be spotted from the air.

I recommend this read, and then watching the movie afterwards.  Their survival is a tale that should be known.

Stars: 4

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Read The World - United States of America - The Stand

Book: The Stand
Author: Stephen King
Pages: 1200
The book takes place in the country: YES
The author is from the country: YES
I have visited: Yes (born and raised American)

**This is my LAST- "previously read" book.  We made it.  After today, all Read the World book reviews will be of books I have read starting in 2019.  I have been reading each day while these post have been appearing, so I have quite a few books ready to go already.  But now it is time for some new material on the blog.**

Tis is a book from my 2016 challenge.  It is a beast of a book in size but remains my favorite Stephen King novel of all time.  I had read it once before my 2016 challenge, and have seen the movie several times, and my mind has never changed.  This is a terrific novel.  I chose it for my USA novel because it doesn't take place in one particular state.  I have a goal of doing a "read the states" challenge after this challenge ends, and I have plenty of books from various states for that.  So The Stand fit here.

I was born and raised in the United States, so obviously I have visited.  I have been to about 47 of the 50 states, so if you haven't explored my country - please put it on your list.  There is something for everyone across the wide country - from bustling cities to small quaint towns.  

This is the story of good versus evil.  A patient escapes from a testing facility where everyone has died from whatever has been released into the air by accident.  He makes it half way across the country before he stops - too sick to continue.  Along the way he has infected anyone he has come in contact with.  They call it "the flu".  There are few people who are immune.  Everyone else dies of the flu within a week or so of becoming infected.

The people who remain form two groups.  One is lead by 108 year old Abigail Freeman who follows God's calling.  The others are lead by Randall Flagg who represents the devil.  These two groups people come to the remaining survivors through dreams - calling them to join them.  The people who are called by Abigail are told that there is an evil that is coming for all of them.  That they are going to have to work together to reform the country but first they must face Randall Flagg and his followers who have settled in Las Vegas (where else?)

In the end, there is a stand against evil to help restore humanity.  A main group of 4 representatives head to Las Vegas to seek Randall and his group.  They are imprisoned and sentenced to death for their stand against him.  The group calls to Abigial and to God to take them home and wipe the evil off the earth.

This is one of my favorite stories that Steven King wrote.  I try to read at least one of his big books each summer.  (this one was a whopping 1200 pages).  I have seen the TV miniseries and love it.  IT is a great story, and exactly how I imagine it would go if the population was invaded by a deadly disease and what was left were people who were good and people who weren't.

I definitely recommend this book.  Yes, it is a doozy to read, but you will not be sorry.

Stars:  5

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Read The World - Sweden - A Man Called Ove

Book: A Man Called Ove
Author: Fredrik Backman
Pages: 337
Book takes place in the country: YES
Author is from the country: YES
I have visited: no

I read this book at the beginning of 2017, and quickly fell in love with Fredrik Backman.  I have read everything he has written, and besdies "Us Against You" I have loved them all.  What a talented writer.  If you have not tried his books, you need to pick one of them up now.  This is my favorite of his, with "My Grandmother Said To Tell You I'm Sorry" running a very close second.

This is a story of a man named Ove.  He is a grumpy 59 year old man that has always thrived on order and rules.  He likes a quiet life and likes to be left alone.  His life was turned upside down 6 months ago when his wife died.  He has decided to end his own life, but things keep getting in the way.

Soon - new neighbors move next door - a young couple and their two young girls who immediately take a liking to Ove.  Ove doesn't know what to make of this attention from his neighbors, and before long, he finds himself intertwined in many of his neighbors lives and realizes that there is still much to live for.

This is a wonderful story.  It is funny and endearing and sweet all at once.  Ove is hilarious as a little old man who just wants everyone to do their job and follow the rules.  He is always on the lookout for thieves and people who insist on driving their car in his neighborhood that doesn't allow cars.  He can't get rid of a stray cat who he names "Cat Annoyance".

Ove helps people but grumps about it.  But the main theme is that he can't help himself being a good person because that is who his wife saw him as.  He honors her memory by being the man she always saw him to be and in the end, all of his neighbors become his friends.

GREAT story.  Check it out.

Stars:  5

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Read The World - Spain - The Shadow Of The Wind

Book: The Shadow Of The Wind
Author: Carlos Ruiz Zafon
Pages: 487
The book takes place in the country: YES
The author is from the country: YES
I have visited: YES (updated in Fall, 2019 - we finally visited Barcelona!  Amazing trip)

This was my 100th book last year, and what a book it was.  It was recommended to me by a couple of people through my reading groups, and I kept putting it off.  I was blown away by this book -it is one of the best books I have ever read.  Ever.  Just incredible from beginning to end.

I have Spain on my short list while we are living here in Switzerland.  Again - it gets pushed back in our travels, but I think this is the year I will go with the family.  My husband has been several times to Spain for work trips, and my daughter is getting a chance to spend a week there with her school trip this year.  It is so close for us that it is time to check it out.

**Updated - we traveled to Barcelona in Fall, 2019 and had an incredible time.  It is an amazing place.

Barcelona, 1945:  a young boy named Daniel visits a crypt that holds old and unusual books.  He picks up a book called "The Shadow of the Wind" by an author named Julian Carax.  He becomes infatuated with the book and wants to find other works by this author.  When he sets out to find them, he makes a shocking discovery - none exist.  Someone has been destroying them, and Daniel may have the last book in existence.  Daniel sets out on a quest to discover why, and over several years, it opens the door to Barcelona's darkest secrets.  Daniel soon discovers a past with Carax and the people around him that is full of murder and lost love.

This is one of the best books I have ever read.  I don't want to say too much about it, because I feel that this is a book you need to experience for yourself.  The writing is superb from the beginning.  The story is compelling with several twists and turns and also there is a back story of almost all of the characters.  You are easily sucked in to their lives - waiting to learn more.

This book is amazing.  I don't give a lot of books a 5 rating, but this one deserves it.  You must read this book - don't miss it.

Stars: 5

Monday, January 21, 2019

Read The World - South Africa - The Elephant Whisperer

Book: The Elephant Whisperer
Author: Lawrence Anthony
Pages: 384
Book takes place in the country: YES
Author is from the country: YES
I have visited: no

I read this book the first time in 2016.  It had won an Audible award, but I decided to read the book instead of listening to it.  Wow.  What a story.  I have it on my bucket list to visit Mr. Anthony's animal santuary and stay on his property.  I can imagine that the experience would be amazing.  I read this book to my eldest daughter a year later because she was interested in becoming a vet (still is).  It was just a great the second time around.

This is a story told by Lawerence Anthony - a man who has devoted his life to animal conservation in Africa.  It is a true story - his own and how he came to be the owner of 9 elephants on his Thula Thula conservation land in Zululand, South Africa.  They were a herd of rogue elephants who continually escaped their former home, watched their matriarch be shot due to her antics, and then had to be moved 600 miles away to a new land unfamiliar to him.  Anthony's ability to settle these large beast and have them thrive was nothing short of amazing.

I loved this book.  I have always had a love for Africa and for Elephants.  These are my daughter, Finley's, favorite animals, and she and I have on our bucket list to visit Africa in the new future (and I think Thula Thula will definitely be a stop).  The story is well written and well told.  He is very honest about how dangerous his work is, and that these are not pets, but wild animals.  He is a man that saves even a deadly mamba snake - his heart is only in the preservation of these animals in their natural habitat.  With Man continually closing in, more and more animals are becoming extinct and ending up in zoos, and people like Anthony are trying to stop that from happening.

I encourage you to read this book. IT was wonderful.

Stars:  5

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Read The World - Russian Federation - The Master And Margarita

Book: The Master And Margarita
Author: Mikhail Bulgakov
Pages: 448
Book takes place in the country: YES
Author is from the country: YES
I have visited: no

I read this book in 2015 - the first year I decided to do a reading challenge.  Side note - I started doing reading challenges because of my mother.  I was obviously stuck in a reading genre rut because she begged me to stop recommending Dystopian future books to her.  I wasn't sure how to hunt for things outside of my comfort zone, so a friend told me about reading challenges.  The categories helped me search for books and I have found the love for so many different types of things.  So....I have my mom to thank.  She helped me become a better reader.

This book was originally written in Russian and then translated.  It is Daniel Radcliffe's favorite book, and actually how I found it (he mentions it in several interviews that he gives as being his favorite book).  I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I read this.  But it has certainly made the permanent shelf.  I would like to read it again someday because I feel like it deserves a second round of attention.

This was by far the most challenging book I have ever read.  Ever.  It was recommended to me by a friend and it is on the list of "100 books you should read before you die".

This book as a cult following - a serious one.  Bulgakov was a famous Russian writer but he died before his book ever got published.  He lived in the early 1900's and died in 1940, but with Russia at war  - and what he printed would have put him in jail for sure - it never saw the light of day until the 1960s.

I have never read a Russian novel before and this one was hard.  VERY hard.  Thank goodness it had a commentary section in the back of the book that broke out some of meanings of the Russian words.  That helps a great deal.  But it still took me over 2 weeks to read its 335 pages because I could only do one or two chapters a night before I needed to take a break.

If you are looking to challenge yourself this year - I suggest reading The Master and Margarita.  The premise of the book is.......all over the place.  Really - it is the story of how Satan visits Moscow and how he wreaks havoc on a group of writers who were atheist.  They don't believe in God or Satan, and this doesn't make Satan very happy.

The Master (whose real name we never learn) is a writer.  He doesn't actually enter the novel himself until about 1/3 of the way through the book.  Bulgakov died before the book went to print, and people speculate that he might have called it something else had he lived to see it printed.  The Master is writing a story about Pontius Pilate and his crucifixion of Yeshua - who the reader believes is Jesus.  But this is never told.  This manuscript of the Master is intertwined between the "present" story of these writers in Moscow and what happens to them if they cross Woland (who is Satan - but again, not really said).  Margarita is The Master's love of his life.  She is a beautiful woman who leaves her husband to be with the Master and encourage him to write his story of Pontius Pilate.

Is your head spinning yet?

The writer lived in a very tumultuous Russia.  The 1930s in the Soviet Union were very unsafe - especially when it came to writing.  There is a line in the back of the book that says "All of Bulgakov's literary energy and creative will were concentrated on proving something that his enviornment contradicted:  that manuscripts don't burn, that art outlasts the tyrants, that entropy doesn't triumph over the creative spirit."

I can't give you much more because this book goes is so many directions that it would be impossible to really give you a feel for it.  I do suggest you reading it.  I would give it 4 stars, and hope that someday to read it again to see what I missed and to better understand it.

Stars: 5

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Read The World - Pakistan - Three Cups Of Tea

Book: Three Cups of Tea
Author: Greg Mortenson
Pages: 349
Book takes place in the country: YES
Author is from the country: NO
I have visited: no

I read this book in 2017 as part of my reading challenge.  It was under a category "A Book In A Country I Know Little About".  I have not read a lot about Pakistan, so when my mom recommended this book, I wanted to try it.  I fell in love with this true story immediately.  However, it has gotten some negative press lately (there are rumors that some of it isn't true).  And when I brought it up to the reading groups that this was my Pakistan group, they agreed I should continue to hunt for something else to read for this country.  But for now, because I did love the story, I am keeping it.

This is the story of Greg Mortenson who has built over 100 schools in Pakistan.  He was a climber who was climbing K2 and failed.  He became very ill, and ended up in the village of Korphe where they cared for him until he was well.  While he was there, he got to know the people and their need for a school.  Inspired and outraged, he went home to figure out how he could raise the $12,000 needed to build a school.  As a single, registered nurse, he didn't have any money to do this himself.  He wrote over 500 letters, but finally one person offered to fund the school in its entirety.  He returned and built the school.  When his generous giver died, he left Greg 1 million dollars to start a foundation to build more schools and help the people of Pakistan.  The need for good schools - especially for girls - was large.  So were bridges and running water.  Great set out to do all of those things and succeeded.  Girls are not going to school and going on to college because of what he did.  He set out to prove that knowledge is power and it can change a society.

This was a great book.  I was fascinated by the Pakistan culture and also by the kindness the people showed a white man from America.  I learned more about the true meaning of what it means to be a Muslim (kindness and giving and brotherhood) and the different between those who are truly religious and those who are not.  It was interesting to see how what we would consider cheaply built schools could change the lives of 1000s and 1000s of children and change their futures.

Great book.  I encourage you to read it.

Stars: 5

Friday, January 18, 2019

Read The World - Netherlands - The Diary Of A Young Girl

Book:  The Diary Of A Young Girl
Author: Anne Frank
Pages: 283
Book take place in the country: YES
Author is from the country:  Yes (but not born there)
I have visited: YES (updated 5/30/2019) - we finally went to see Amsterdam and the Anne Frank House!

I read this book several times over my life - starting with required reading when I was in junior high school.  I read it to all three of my children and they in turn have recently had it as part of their school reading.  Here in Switzerland, on the border of Germany, World War II is a big part of the curriculum.  My German teacher told me that part of her schooling growing up was also visiting the concentration camps and grave sites of the people who died under Nazi rule.  She told us that the war and German's mistakes were drilled into them so that it never happens again.

While Anne Frank lived only shortly in the Netherlands and most of it in hiding, I have chosen it (for now) as my Netherlands book.  It is a book that is already on my shelf, and it sits as a reminder of how one person can truly destroy a race of people.  Before we leave Switzerland, we plan to visit the Anne Frank house with our kids to fully witness what it was like for her and her family.

This is the story of a Jewish girl who hid in an Annex in Amsterdam during WWII.  She and her family went into hiding.  She was 13 at the time she started the diary and went into hiding.  For two years, her family and several others, kid in a small Annex until they were betrayed.  The diary is almost a daily account of Anne's life in the Annex and her feelings about all the people that are there with her.

This, of course, is a classic.  I haven't read it since I was in the 8th grade.  I still find it amazing that it is required reading among middle schools in the US, and - of course - here with us here in Switzerland.  The kids have been really into the story, and asking a lot of questions.  And our plan will be to take them to Amsterdam in the spring to see the Anne Frank house.  It is great that we can take a story from a book and show them in real life.

If for some reason, you have never read this book - or it has been a long time since you have - pick it up.  I think it is good to be reminded - especially in today's climate - what can happen when power falls into the wrong hands.

Stars: 5

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Read The World - Nepal - Into Thin Air

Book: Into Thin Air
Author: Jon Krakauer
Pages: 332
Book takes place in the country: YES
Author if from the country: NO
I have visited: no

I read this book during my 2016 challenge.  It was a book that came out the year I was born, and I didn't realize at the time that this story was that old.  I loved the book - it is griping, and terrifying.  And there is a movie, so that was a plus.

I am keeping this as my Nepal book for now, but things may change in the future.  While this takes place in Nepal, it is truly the story of Mount Everest and the people who lost their lives.  I may search for a book more about the country of Nepal itself.  We shall see.

This is a true story written by one of the climbers that was on this trip in 1996.  He is a reporter, but also an avid climber, and had always wanted to climb Everest.  He got the people at his magazine that he wrote for to fund his trip (did you know the trips cost $65,000?  And that was in 1996) and so he went.  The book tells of his trip, and what happened to cause the death of 5 people on that trip.

I liked this book.  If nothing else it taught me that people who want to climb Everest are borderline crazy.  If not completely insane.  The account from the author makes it sound terrible - every single second.  From getting altitude sickness to major frostbite to cerebral edema to death.  He talks about being so deprived of oxygen that he couldn't think straight when it was most critical.  And how he lost so much weight for having to work so hard that he almost froze to death.

And the Sherpas.  The people who live at the base of Everest who are hired to go on these climbs and set the ropes and carry the loads and care for the people who paid for these trips.  There are no words for how awful their jobs are but how they don't see it that way.  These mountain climbs are things of honor for them, but I felt nothing but terrible for them.

Many of the people on these trips have families that they leave behind to climb a mountain.  And die trying.  They are not fighting in a war for their country.  They are not putting themselves in harms way to save the life of another.  They have paid an exorbitant amount of money to have a team help them climb a snowy mountain.  It seems beyond silly.

But I am getting off track.  The book was well written and definitely worth the read.  He tells the good with the bad (mostly bad if you ask me) in taking on a climb to 29,000 feet.

So check it out.

Stars: 4 1/2

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Read The World - Myanmar/Burma - The Art Of Hearing Heartbeats

Book: The Art Of Hearing Heartbeats
Author: Jan-Phillip Sendker
Pages: 352
Book Takes Place in the country: YES
Author is from the country: NO
I have visited: no

I read this book back in 2016.  It was under a reading challenge category of "A Book My Mother Recommends".  I mom really loved this book, so she bought me a copy.  And it was a wonderful book that had to make the permanent shelf.  When I asked for suggestions for a Myanmar/Burma book - this one came up again and again.

This is the story of Julia who goes to Burma in search of the father that abandoned her and her mother.  She has never forgiven him but wanted to know why.  She has found a love letter among her father's things, to a woman she has never known.  Julia need to know the answer to her father's disappearance from her life, so she heads to the village where the woman supposedly lives.

She meets a man who promises to tell her the story of her father and who knows of the woman, so she agrees to listen if it means she gets her answers.  In listening to the story, she uncovers her father's past and a love that spanned a lifetime.

I thought this book was wonderful.  I had a hard time putting it down, because I was enjoying listening to the story of Julia's father's childhood and how he met the love of his life.  Julia's father was blind as a child for many, many years, and since my own daughter is legally blind, this hit a cord.   I enjoyed reading his resilience to his sudden blindness and how he still found friendship, and love.  And in the end, we learn who the man is and how he knows the story of Julia's father which ended the book perfectly.

I encourage you to pick up this book and read it.

Stars: 5

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