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

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Read The World - Mexico - Like Water For Chocolate

Book: Like Water For Chocolate
Author: Laura Esquivel
Pages: 256
The book takes place in the country: YES
The author is from the country: YES
I have visited: YES

This was my 18th read for the year.  I finished is on 2/6/2019

I have actually been to Mexico a few times.  In the early 2000s, my husband and I lived in San Diego, California.  We would cross the border into Mexico into Tijuana a few times a year.  We loved going down there.  We could actually drive to the border, and take a bus for a small amount of money to cross over into Mexico.  The food was fantastic, and we loved to go shopping there - collecting small items for insanely low prices.  

That was back when things were simpler, of course.  IT was after 9/11, true, but we could still cross into Mexico with just our driver's license because we were living in California.  We would go back and forth so easily.  The hustle and bustle and loud music across the border was something I looked forward to doing all the time, and I am glad we got to experience it.

This story takes place on the De la Garza ranch.  Mama Elena gives birth to a little girl named Tita - right in the kitchen where Mama Elena was working.  Tita knows this is what lead to her love for cooking and creating delicious dishes. 

Tita grows up as the youngest daughter of Mama Elena, and the tradition in her family is that the youngest daughter never marries and always takes care of her mother.  But Tita is in love with a boy named Pedro.  And Pedro loves Tita.  Mama Elena refuses to let them be together, so Pedro marries Tita's eldest sister so that he can always be near her.

Over the course of their whole lives, Ttia and Pedro love each other.  Pedro stays married to Tita's oldest sister, has children with her, and even moves away for a time.  Tita falls for another man named John, but never comes to love him like she loved Pedro.

They spend their whole lives circling each other.  Through a tale of magical realism, and a tale that is chalked full of metaphors and figurative speech, Tita finally learns about love and passion.  Food is the central theme of this book and it helps express Tita's feelings and understanding of what is happening around her.

This was a very interesting book.  I really liked it, but it took me awhile to get into a rhythm with the style of writing.  It reminded me a bit of the writing in 100 Years of Solitude.  It took some concentration to find the deeper meaning in what Tita was trying to express.  Many of the characters die during the book unpredictably and in very bizarre ways.  Above all, this book will make you hungry - the meals she describes and cooks are mouth watering.  They all sound delicious.

If you are into magical realism type stories, and are okay with a bizaare tale, then this book is for you.  

Stars: 4

Monday, February 11, 2019

Read The World - Malawi - The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind

Book: The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind
Author: William Kamkwamba
Pages: 320
Book takes place in the country: YES
Author is from the country: YES
I have visited: NO

This is my 17th read for this year.  I finished it on 2/5/2019

There are so many countries in Africa, and there are many I have no heard of, or know where exactly they are located.  I am learning a lot about the world and the location of many countries just by doing this challenge.  That has been rewarding in itself.

This book was recommended to me a few times, AND there is a netflix movie coming out in March about this true story, so I am anxious to see it.

This is a true story about the author's life growing up in Malawi.  William faced many hardships growing up in a small, poor village in East Africa.  The biggest source of income in the area was farming maize.  Due to dry weather, and long droughts, there were many instances of hunger in the village.  One year it got so bad, and the government ignored the plight, that many people starved to death.  William and his family barely survived by eating one small meal a day.  There was no money and no food and very little hope.

During this time, William had started attending a poor secondary school.  He loved school, but it wasn't free.  His father could not afford to send him during the drought because all their money had to go to food.  So William sought the comfort of the local library and its small amount of science books.  There he discovered the power of windmills, and saw he could make a difference in his families fate by using the wind to generate power.

He built a small windmill at first and then a larger one to actually generate some electricity for his families small hut.  He was also able to use it to get running water - another thing that was sorely lacking.  As the crops started to grow, and the drought ended, things turned around for William's family and also for his village.

The town was told of his windmill, and soon word spread.  At first the towns people saw it as magic and witchcraft and were fearful.  But as the outside world started to arrive, they saw that it was a miracle and that science was going to change the lives of the people in the village.

Thus began a wirlwind life for William - traveling all over the world talking about what he had done and about life in his village.  He was able to improve the lives of everyone around him and overcame crippling poverty and adversity.

This was a really great book.  It is well told and well written.  He does go off on a little bit of a tangent about the making of his windmills, but otherwise, the story of his life is fascinating.  And it didn't take place a long time ago - William was born in 1987, and discovered around 2007.  He went on to finish high school and was even accepted and graduated from Dartmouth College.  He continues to tour today speaking of what he was able to do and encouraging others in small, poor areas of the world to do the same.

I encourage you to read the story.  I even got a little teary at the end because of how things turned out for him and his family.  Great read - check it out.

Stars: 4 1/2

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Read The World - Kuwait - The Hidden Light Of Objects

Book: The Hidden Light of Objects
Author: Mai Al-Nakib
Pages: 256
Book takes place in country: YES
Author is from the country: YES
I have visited: NO

This was my 16th read of the year.  Finished on 2/4/2019.

I have only visited one place in the Middle East, and that is United Arab Emirates.  It has always been a place of wonder and fascination for me - especially after 9/11.  We are all left with the idea of what the Middle East represents.  And then you visit, and realize how wrong you were on so many levels.

This is a collection of short stories.  There are stories of war, love, loss.  But if you look deeper, you find that the stories are mostly about life in the Middle East.  Each story talks of small objects that the people treasured.  Memories that are encapsulated in the smallest things that hold deep meaning for the bearer.  There is the young girl named Amerika who loves her name until 9/11 happens.  There are the families torn apart by loss of a young child, or the wanderings of a father.  The stories hold a lot of sadness but also beauty.  And they are wonderfully told.

I liked this book a lot more than I thought I would.  I don't really love short storied books- most of the time I just don't get much out of them.  You don't develop love for the characters and sometimes you find there are truly only one or two that you enjoy.  It was not true for this book.  These stories are wonderfully, expertly written.  The language is beautiful (although something to get used to) and that made it hard for me to put it down.  The stories are all tragic.  In the short pages you do develop feelings for the characters because of how well the stories are written.  

While it just gives a small glimpse into life in Kuwait, I am glad I chose this one for this country.  I saw a different side, told by an author who actually lives there, and it made me feel differently.

Stars: 4 1/2

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Read The World- Cuba - Waiting For Snow In Havana

Book: Waiting For Snow In Havana
Author: Carlos Eire
Pages: 400
Book takes place in the country: YES
Author is from the country: YES
I have visited: NO

This was my 15th read for 2019, and my first one completed in the month of February.  I finished it on 2/2/2019

Cuba, even though it is so close to us in the United States, was closed off to us for most of my life.  So I have never been there, and have honestly never had the desire to visit.  I am sure it is a beautiful country in its own right, and maybe someday things will change.

This is the story of the author's childhood in Havana.  He lived there from 1950 when he was born until 1962 when he and 14,000 other children were taken out of the country and sent to the United States as refugees.  He left behind his family and everything he knew because Fidel Castro had made it too dangerous for him to stay.

Carlos speaks freely about his childhood in Havana - he had two parents who loved him, and were actually fairly well off.  (His father was a judge).  He grew up wanting for nothing.  He went to school, got into little boy trouble, and enjoyed his life.  Then, in 1959, Castro won the presidency and everything changed.  Gunfire became a regular thing, and people lived in fear for their lives.  There were daily mass shootings and no one was safe.

Schooling becomes difficult, and soon ends all together.  Carlos is no longer able to move freely in his country - attend movies he once enjoyed, find foods he grew to love.  It is finally decided by his mother that he and his brother must go to the United States for safety.  His mother had a more difficult time getting her paperwork, so she sent her boys ahead of her telling them she would quickly follow.

It ended up being 3 years before their mother was able to join them.  His father never joined them - he died in Cuba.  The book doesn't speak much about his time in the US - mainly recounting his time in Cuba (hence why I chose it), but he never went back.  He is still in the United States - even says his Spanish has faded from non-use over the years.  

I really liked this book.  I found it many things:  enlightening, funny, heartbreaking.  He only lived in Cuba for 12 years, but the stories he told filled 400 pages.  He had quite the childhood, and his recount of what he did as a child made me not want to put this book down.  He spoke of how quickly things changed once Castro took over the country, and how hard it was to leave the only country he knew, despite what was happening.  He remembers that time only as a child would, so to him - it meant leaving friends and family and his favorite personal things.  He didn't have a great grasp of what was happening because he was just a child.

I encourage you to read this book.  It doesn't just focus on the few years he dealt with Castro.  He talks about his growing up in Havana and what he experienced before the bad times.  And that made it worth the read.

Stars: 4

Friday, February 8, 2019

Read The World - Slovenia - Veronika Decides To Die

Book: Veronika Decides To Die
Author: Paulo Coelho
Pages: 240
Book takes place in the country: YES
Author is from the country: NO
I have visited: NO

This was my 14th read for 2019, and the last book I read in January.  I finished it on 1/30/2019

I have read the Alchemist by this author in the past and liked that book.  When I saw that he wrote this one, I added it to my list for Slovenia.  I have seen the movie several years ago, so I was curious about the book.  I don't remember a lot about it, but I am thinking it didn't take place in Slovenia.  I will have to re-watch it to find out.

Veronika has decided to commit suicide.  Her reasons aren't great - she has a good life, a good job, good family.  But she has had enough.  She has thought through her suicide - decided the best way to go is by taking a lot of sleeping pills.

It doesn't work, and she wakes up in a mental hospital - committed and ordered to get well.  Dr. Igor is treating her, and tells Veronika that she has survived her suicide attempt, but they have discovered she has a serious heart problem.  This heart problem will kill her in a matter of days.

It is now that Veronika starts to learn what it is to die.  And to live.  She meets a few people on the inside that she comes to admire, and even falls for a young man named Eduard.  She tries to fit in a lifetime of living in her final days on earth.

This is a pretty good book.  It is really, really short.  I read it in a day and a half.  I didn't think it was as good as the Alchemist.  It was a fine book, but I feel like it should have been a little longer in order to become more invested in the characters.  It was hard to develop feelings for any of them in such a short amount of pages.  Although -the book does really only cover a week in Veronika's life, so maybe this is all there is to say.

I would not count it out.  Because I saw the movie, I knew the ending of the book already, but if you don't know it - reading the book would be worth it for the ending alone.

Stars:  3

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Read The World - Dominican Republic - In The Time Of The Butterflies

Book: In The Time Of Butterflies
Author: Julia Alvarez
Pages: 344
Book takes place in the country: YES
Author is from the country: YES
I have visited: NO

This is my 13th read of 2019.  I finished it on Janaury 28th.

This book was recommended to me by several people when I was searching for something about the Dominican Republic.  While this is a fictional novel, the Mirabal sisters were real people, and for 3 of them, their lives did end tragically.  There is a day of rememberence for them in the Domican Republic.  You can read about their history HERE .  There is also a movie based on the book.

The story opens with Dede - the last surviving Mirabal sister.  It is 1994 and she is waiting for an interviewer who wants to speak to her about her past.  Everyone wants to know the history of the Mirabal sisters and their fight against a dictator.  The book goes back and forth between Dede telling the story, and her sisters' points of view starting in 1943.  Minerva, Patria and the youngest, Maria Theresa all died in 1960 under suspicious circumstances after the girls and their husbands fight against the reign of dictator Rafael Trujillo.

The three girls and their husbands had become committed to the overthrow of Trujillo.  Dede's husband did not want to get involved, so in extension, Dede's involvement is much less than her three sisters.  They started working for the underground and Trijillo quickly became aware of their involvement.  The three girls and their husbands were arrested.  The girls spent several months in horrid jail conditions - their husbands even longer.  Dede and her mother were left to care for all of the children as well as work to try and get them released.

In the end, the girls were released and placed under house arrest.  On the way home from visiting their husbands one evening, they are run off the road and killed.  The suspicion is that they were killed by Trujillo's men.

The girls are viewed as martyrs for the resistance and their memories live on in the Dominican Republic.  

This was a good book.  The story is completely fictionalized - the author says she was never really able to obtain enough information to do a historical recounting of the sisters  However - I think she does a great job on telling a story about the revolution during Rafael Trujillo's reign.  

It is a well told book, and the characters are easy to like.  It isn't an easy read because it jumps around a lot when the characters are telling their story from their point of view.   And the build up to the end, even though you know it is coming, it hard to read.  Especially knowing that these were real people.

Check it out.  I think it gives you a small glimpse into a piece of Dominican history, and then you can go on and learn more about the real Mirabal sisters.

Stars: 4

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Read The World - Bangladesh - A Golden Age

Book: A Golden Age
Author: A Golden Age
Pages: 276
Book takes place in the country: YES
Author is from the country: YES
I have visited: NO

This was my 12th read for 2019.  Finished on 1/26/2019.  

This was another little known book in a country where I struggled to find a book that took place at least 50% of the time in the country.  I actually started another book for this country, found it boring.  I was proud of myself for quitting.  Most times I just struggle on and hope for the best.  I reached out to a few of the facebook reading groups I belong to, and this book was introduced.

This story takes place in 1971 during Bangladesh's War of Independence.  Rehana Haque is a widow who is planning a party for her children to celebrate 10 years that they were returned to her.  After her husband died, she could not care for her children - she had no money and no support - so her husband's brother and wife took her to court to get custody of the children.

Rehana's only hope to get them back was to get enough money to bribe the judge.  She is encouraged to build a little bungalow on her property that she can rent out for money.  But in the end it isn't enough, and she now holds a secret of how she got the money she needed to bring her two children back to her.

Now her children are grown, university students that are very well of the political charge around them.  Her daughter, Maya has sided with the Communist, while her son - Sohail  - remains undecided.  Soon they will all be thrown into the war when the Pakistani soldiers attack Dhaka a few days later.  The soldiers destroy the university and Hindu neighborhoods.  Rehana's tenants in her bungalow are Hindi and they make a run for it.

Rehana wants nothing to do with this war, but her children are so involved, she cannot turn a blind eye.  Once the bungalow is empty, her son asks her mom for its use to set up headquarters for the rebels and to hide supplies and weapons.  She reluctantly agrees.  When one of her son's group is seriously injured in an explosion, her son asks Rehana to keep him hidden and nurse him back to health.

In the mean time, Maya's best friend is captured and killed, and Maya uses this as the fuel she needs to get more involved in the war.  She heads out to Calcutta - against her mom's begging her to stay - to help the war effort.  Rehana's children are putting them in harms way, so she does what she can as well.  She nurses the fallen rebel (known as the Major) and falls in love with him.  She sews blankets for the refugees with her neighbors.  And when her neighbor comes to her for help because her own daughter's husband has been captured and jailed, Rehana uses her connections to get him out of jail.

Soon even Rehana is forced to flee Dhaka and ends up with her daughter Maya in Calcutta.  Maya is working as an aide at a refugee camp.  Rehana helps out in the hospital and there her old tenant from her Bungalow comes in.  She is in terrible shape - she doesn't know where her husband and son are, and she refuses to speak.  It is hard to say what happened to her while her family was on the run.  

In the end, Rehana and her children are able to return to Dhaka and the war ends.  Rehana is a different person than she was before the war started, and sees herself as a strong, independent woman who made a difference.  

This was a pretty good book.  It is not something I would have picked for myself if I wasn't doing this challenge, so I am glad it came my way.  I liked the characters and the development of the story, although at times, it probably moved a little too quickly.  It jumped quite a bit and sometimes I found myself going back a few pages to make sure I didn't miss something.  But over all - it was a solid story about something I knew very little about (since it was before I was born).

If you want to learn a bit about the War of Independence in Bangladesh, then this book will give you a small insight into that time period.  

Stars: 4

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Read The World - Cote d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast) - Whiteman

Book: Whiteman
Author: Tony D'Souza
Pages: 294
The book takes place in the country: YES
The author is from the country: NO
I have visited: NO

This is the 11th read for 2019.  Finished 1/22/2019.  

This is another one of those countries where there isn't much written.  It was hard to chose among the few books I found - none being something I would chose on a regular reading year.  However - that is part of the point, is it not?  Find things I wouldn't normally find? 

This fictional story (though told as if it was non-fiction) is about a man named Jack who is on a mission trip to bring water to the Ivory Coast area of Africa.  This is at a time where Christians and Muslims are at war, and the area is very dangerous.  Jack - a white man from America - sticks out like a sore thumb right from the beginning, but he quickly becomes loved by the people in his village.  He works hard to learn the language and gain the respect of his community.  

During his years in the village Jack learns to live on his meager earnings, hunt, and survive the jungle.  He lives among those who believe in witchcraft and the power of telling stories.  He falls in love with African girls over and over.  And in the end, when it is time for him to head home, he is afraid to leave.

This story is my first read of this year that I am just not sure should have a spot on my shelf.  It is a fine story - entertaining for the most part, and I loved some of the stories that were told.  I also enjoyed the types of witchcraft that were described, and what a lot of the people in the village believed about white men.  It is a little vulgar in areas (quite a bit of sex) but I am a bit of a prude when it comes to that in a book, so it might not bother you.  I felt it a little careless on the part of our main character whom I felt should know better.  But...who am I to judge.

If you are looking for a Ivory Coast novel in a Read The World challenge (or just for the heck of it), you might want to try this one.  I was able to borrow it from my local library's ebook catalog, so no harm done.

Stars: 3

Monday, February 4, 2019

Read The World - Congo (Democratic) - Tomorrow I'll Be Twenty

Book: Tomorrow I'll Be Twenty
Author: Alain Mabanckou
Pages: 300
Book takes place in the country: YES
Author is from the country: YES
I have visited: NO

This is my 10th read for 2019.  Finished on 1/21/2019

Yes, the Congo is split into two different countries, so it got two different books.  The city of Brazzaville came up a lot in this book, and I actually read a book called Brazzaville Beach a few years ago that was very good.  I could have used it for my book for this country, but I am glad I read something new.

This is the story of a 10 year old boy named Michel who lives in Pointe Noir, Congo.   The book takes place in the 1970s.  His mother sells peanuts in the market and his dad works at a hotel at the reservations desk.  His dad is not his biological father, but what he calls a "foster father".  Michel's foster father also has another wife and seven other children (which apparently is not uncommon there).  Everyone gets along well.  Michel's mom would like to have more children.  She had two baby girls that both died at birth before Michel came along.  She and Michel's foster dad visit "witch doctors" who tell his mom that it is Michel's fault she cannot have children - that he needs to find a key to unlock her belly so she can have more.

When Michel is not seaching for the key, he spends time with a little girl named Caroline that he is completely in love with and says he will marry some day.  His best friend is Caroline's brother and they spend hours watching planes fly over their city and guessing where they go.  Michel is a fine student - middle of the road - and wishes he could get better so he could go on to a fancier school when he gets older.

It is a day in the life tale of a little boy - spending time with his friends and family in the heart of the Democratic Congo and him learning about the immediate world around him as well as the outside world (his father loves to listen to American radio which reports on the politics of the world).  He keeps looking forward to being twenty years old - feeling THAT is when he will be old enough to do whatever he wants.  Hence....the name of the book.

This was a pretty good read.  Knowing from the beginning it would be basically a "stream of consciousness" of a 10 year old boy, you knew it wouldn't contain a lot of depth.  It is fun to see his understand of the world from his point of view.  He and Caroline (also his age) get married and divorced (in little kid imaginary play) and he is devestated when she leaves him for another boy.  He is doded on by his brothers and sisters from his foster father's other wife, and worries about his mother's need to have another child.  He understands very little and even his parents  - whom are not well educated - believe in the working of the spirit world and witch doctors when it comes to many things.  It made the story interesting.

I encourage you to try this book.  It is not well known, but the book that came up over and over when I searched for "books from the Congo".  So give it a try.  I borrowed it easily from our ebook library.

Stars: 4

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Read The World - Chile - Maya's Notebook

Book: Maya's Notebook
Author: Isabel Allende
Pages: 416
Book Takes Place in the country: YES
Author is from the country: YES
I have visited: NO

This is my 9th read for 2019 - finished 1/18/2019.  I got a lot of reading in during January. It has been cold and rainy here in Switzerland, so we are indoors a good bit.  Even though I am glad to be getting a lot of reading time, I am looking forward to seeing the sun again.

This is the story of a young girl named Maya.  She has been hidden on an island off the coast of Chilie - called Chiloe - because there are several people after her.  She had made some bad choices, fell in with the wrong crowd, and now she is on the run for her life.

Maya lived a very stable, spoiled life with two dotting grandparents who gave her everything she wanted.  She was well loved, especially by her grandfather (whom she calls Popo).  Her father, a pilot, and her mother - whom left when Maya was very young - didn't give her much of their time, so her care fell to her grandparents.  

When Maya's Popo died, Maya became depressed and started to abuse drugs and alcohol.  She fell into a bad crowd at her high school in Berkeley, California and started to cut school.  She reached a low, and her father and grandmother intervened and got her into a a program.  But before the program finished, Maya ran away and thus began 6 months of bad decisions.

She ended up in Las Vegas basically homeless and running drugs for a local drug lord.  When the drug lord is murdered, Maya is sure she is next, so she disappeared.  Returned to her grandparents by some good samaritans that found her at her lowest, Maya is put through a detoxification program and then sent to her grandmother's home country of Chile to hide.

Maya's grandmother called on some favors of old friends, and Maya finds herself trapped on a small island with no communication with the outside world.  No one besides Manuel - the man who is hiding her - knows why she is on the island.  As the months go by, Maya begins to heal both physcially and emotionally.  She finds herself, and finds peace all thanks to the Chilean people who took her in.

The story goes back and forth between Maya living on the island and how she ended up there in the first place.  In the end, Maya learns the truth about her family and is able to face her demons.

This was a pretty good book.  The book does run without many chapters with the only breaks coming when a new season is starting. (Spring, Summer, etc) The book flows pretty well between past and present, but it could have been better.  Sometimes she mentioned something, but wouldn't explain it for a few pages, and you felt like you missed the set up.  But that didn't happen often enough for me to find it troubling.

I think the book held strong up until the ending which was a bit rushed.  Again - nothing overly troubling, but the author wrapped up a large part of the story in the last 10 pages that I felt could have been drawn out a little better.

All in all, a good book.  I would encourage you to try it.  Above all - I learned a lot about the country of Chile and could easily picture the beautiful island of Chiloe from the author's descriptions.

Stars: 4