Breathe To Read

Breathe To Read

Friday, May 24, 2019

Read The World - Nigeria - Half of a Yellow Sun

Book: Half of a Yellow Sun
Author: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Pages: 543
Book takes place in the country: YES
Author is from the country: YES
I have visited: NO

This is my 67th book for the year

I did listen to this book.  Passed the time on the tram and while I did my groceries, and while I worked in the yard......  It is nice to get in another book off my very extensive list when otherwise I wouldn't be able to read.

This book takes place in southern Nigeria in the 1960s.  There are 5 main characters: Ugwu - a house boy who works for Odenigbo (a professor).  His life changes when Olana,  Odenigbo's mistress, moves in.  Ugwu is very loyal to his employers.  Olanna has a twin sister, Kainene who runs their father's company.  She falls in love with Richard, who is an Englishman that came to Nigeria to explore Igbo-Ukwu Art.

4 years pass, and trouble starts between the Hausa and Igbo people and hundreds of people die, including Ilanna and Kainene's aunt and uncle.  A new republic, called Biafra, is created by the Igbo.  Olanna, Odenigbo and their infant daughter (whom they only ever call "baby") are forced to flee and end up in a refugee town called Umuahia where they suffer from lack of food, and air raids.  Baby's hair starts to fall out and she develops the tale tell signs of starvation.  

In a flash back we find out that the baby was not Olanna's daughter, but the daughter of Odenigbo's mistress.  Odenigbo slept with a village girl named Alana and she got pregnant.  Olanna is furious, but in the end, forgives Odenigbo.  Alana doesn't want to keep the baby, so Olanna agrees to take her in.

As the war goes on, Olanna, Odenigbo, the baby, an Ugwu end up living with Richard and Kainene (who are running the refugee camp).  The situation becomes dire and Kainene decides to cross enemy lines to trade, but she doesn't return.  The book ends with us not knowif if Kainene is alive or dea.

This was a good book.  I liked all of the characters and I thought that their enterwining flowed really well.  You learn a lot about the history of the area and what it was like during the war.  It covers a wide variety of subjects: genocide, war, relationships, infidelity, identity, loyalty, struggle between classes, etc.  

Check this book out.  You won't be disappointed.  And there is a movie as well!

Stars: 4 1/2

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Read The World - Angola - The Book of Chameleons

Book: The Book of Chemeleons
Author: Jose Eduardo Agualusa
Pages: 180
Book takes place in the country: YES
Author is from the country: YES
I have visited: NO

This is my 66th book of the year

This short little novella is told from varying view points, and one of them a lizard who, in another life, was a human.  It is a murder mystery involving the chameleon, an albino, a woman, and a mysterious foreigner.  Interwoven in the story is memories, fantasies, and realities.  The chameleon is central to the story and witnesses all the characters and their interactions with each other.

This is a cute little book.  It was a quick read - and like most novellas, it isn't long enough for me to get invested in the characters.  But it is well written and easy to follow and I enjoyed it.

Stars: 4

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Today's Read The World - Iran - Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood

Book: Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood
Author: Marjane Satrapi
Pages: 160
Book takes place in the country: YES
Author is from the country: YES
I have visited: NO

This is my 65th read for the year.

Leaving the hospital with my daughter today, so we are very glad!  It has been a long 5 days, but I did get a lot of reading done.

In this graphic novel, the author tells the story of her life in Tehran from ages 6-14 where she saw the overthrow of the Shah's regime.  She lived through the Iran war.  The whole story is her view as a child of what happened in Iran.  She learns a lot about the revolution and how her own family was involved.  Through stories and first hand accounts, she walks us through the human cost of war.

This was pretty good.  It was very short, and because it is a graphic novel, I read it within about 2 hours.  It is the author's own take on her own struggles and what she learned from her own family.  It is thought provoking and head shaking, and unbelievable that this happens to people in some of these countries under dictator regime.

I suggest to give it a read.  It is a two part story (there is a second book) and I think I will read it as well.  This book is showing up on summer reading list all over the US, and I think that is a great idea.

Stars: 4

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Read The World - Trinidad and Tobago - A House for Mr. Biswas

Book: A House for Mr. Biswas
Author: V.S. Naipaul
Pages: 576
Book takes place in the country: YES
Author is from the country: YES
I have visited: NO

This is my 64th read of the year

My eldest daughter has been in the hospital for the last 4 days due to a dog bite that got severly infected, so I have had a lot of time to read.  What I DIDN'T have until today was my computer.  So now it is time to catch up on the books I have been reading.

This is the story of Mohun Biswas (for most of the time he is called Mr. Biswas) who spent all 46 years of his life feeling inadequate.  The story begins when he is a child and his father drowns.  Things just seem to go downhill from there.  He spends his whole life looking for a home where he can settle and stay.  He marries into the Tulsi family who treats him terribly for the rest of his life.  His life and his 4 children never really care for him.  He bounces around from house to house, never settling, never having enough money to break away from the Tulsi family, and in the end, his life is cut short.  He spent his whole life looking for autonomy and never finding it.

This book was.....strange.  It is supposed to be a dark comedy, and I guess it a point.  I did chuckle from time to time.  And don't get me wrong, the writing was good.  It was well written and the story was easy to follow.  But the story in general I just couldn't get in to.  I did not like any of the characters in the book.  They are all awful.  Even Mr. Biswas.  He was constantly an "Eeyore" in this whole book - woe is me at every turn.  This book never took an upswing, and that made it a big painful to tacklet.


Stars: 3

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Read The World - New Zealand - The Whale Rider

Book: The Whale Rider
Author: Witi Ihimaera
Pages: 160
Book takes place in the country: YES
Author is from the country: YES
I have visited: NO

This is my 63rd book of the year.

I am on FIRE!  Truth be told, I have read a few short ones in a row, and then finished up a book with my kids and a "off list" book I was reading, so it is really just timing.

This is a story about Kahu, a girl born into the Maori tribe.  She breaks the lineage of a first born boy, which upsets her great grandfather.  He now thinks that the tribe will die out unless he finds a male heir to take over when it is time.

The rejection does not bother Kahu, and she grows up a happy girl surrounded by a large family.  She is doted on especially by her great grandmother and her uncle Rawiri (who is the narrator of the story) who watch her grow into a strong, capable girl who proves her worth to her tribe.  She develops the ability to communicate with whales - and becomes like the ancient whale rider whom she was named after.

This is a mythical novella that finds a balance between tradition and the path forward, with strong female characters and a good message.  

I enjoyed this book.  I read it in the corse of one day and got swept up in the story about a little girl who just wanted the love of her great grandfather.  She pined after it, even when he wanted nothing to do with her because she was not a boy.  It is a well written little book with an engaging story about the Maori legend.  I have never actually seen the movie, but I think I will try it now.

Stars: 4

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Extra Book: The Last

Book: The Last
Author: Hanna Jameson
Pages: 352

This was my 62nd book of the year.

I have decided to read 25 pages of a book that is not on my Read The World challenge list every night before bed.  I read my challenge book during the day, but right before bed, I decided I wanted to read something on my extrensive TBR list.  In my eyes it is a win/win to work my way through this challenge, which I am really enjoying, but get to read books that seem to keep popping up that I also want to read.

There has been a nucelar attack.  John is at a conference in Switzerland when it happens.  He is stuck in a hotel in a small town in the middle of nowhere.  The internet and contact with the outside world quickly disappears, and people start to panic.  Soon, most of the people staying in the hotel leave - hoping to make it to the city and to airports.  But the news is that most of the major cities have been evaporated and there is nowhere to run to.

Jon and a handful of other people decide to stay behind at the hotel and wait it out.  They have food, and some power, but there has been no sun, no rain, and the people are getting worried.  One day, the water pressure disappears and Jon and some of the hotel personel go to see what is wrong with the water tanks and discover a body of a little girl.  Jon is sure this little girl didn't get into the tank on her own, and now there is new panic about a murderer being in the hotel.

Jon becomes obsessed with the murder and starts to search room by room for clues.  In the meantime, supplies are running low and teams are being sent out to try and find what they can.  After a few months isolated and no leads on the murder, the team decides it is time to go for help.  They won't survive the winter if they don't get more supplies.

Now it is time for a decision.  Do they just venture a small way away from the hotel and come back?  Do they all leave and head toward the city and not return?  No one knows what is out there, so is it a risk they are willing to take?

This was a pretty good book.  It is quite new - just came out in April.  It was on a list of dystopian novels to read this year, so I took a chance.  The ending wasn't great.  I know books are hard to end, and this one failed.  I kind of liked where it headed, but it left a lot of questions.  Things I don't want to mention here because it will give too much away.  But it was disjointed.  It is too bad because overall, the book held my attention and made me want to keep reading to see where it was going.

Hmmmmmm - to recommend?  Maybe.  I mean - I could be alone with this line of thinking.  I just think it could have been better.

Stars: 3

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Top Ten Tuesday: Page To Screen Freebie

Top Ten Tuesday!  Brought to you by "The Artsy Reader".

This weeks is Page to Screen Freebie:  Books that became books/TV shows, movies that became books, great adaptations, bad ones, books you need to read before you see the movie/TV shows, movies you love based on books you hated or visa versa, books you want to read because you saw the movie or vica versa.

Wow.  This list could be much deeper than Ten, so I will narrow it down the best I can

Now I know you are ALL going to eye roll because this first book series makes my Top Ten List a lot.  But what can you do?  It fits a lot of categories.  So tough.

1) Game of Thrones
       So this is a book that became a TV show on HBO.  I will tell you that my husband is the one that got me hooked on this series, but it was through the TV show first - not the books.  When we first started watching it, I was immediately lost.  There are 1 zillion characters, a lot of killing and a lot of sex.  (you have been warned).  I actually got to the point where I stopped really watching it - doing other things while it was on.  Then I found out there were books.  I saw the first one and its near 1000 pages and.....decided I would try the show again first.

I started the show over.  Watched the first two seasons and then felt ready to tackle the first book.  And I was blown away.  The writing is superb.  The story flowed well for me BECAUSE I had watched the show.  I could picture a lot of what I was reading from what I saw.  However - the books far surpased the show, and they continued to do so.  And now.....George quit on me.  The show is wrapping up and it is flailing all over the place and as a big R.R. Martin fan, I am PISSED.  I want to know the REAL ending.  Hurry.up.George.

2) Harry Potter

        I know.  Girl - branch out.  But when something is true, its true.  With Harry Potter, I started the books first.  My husband and I decided to start the series by listening to the audiobooks on our cross country move from Baltimore, Maryland to San Diego, California.  A friend had recommended it to me as a good way to pass the time and she was right.  We loved listening to those books.  I THINK, if I remember correctly, there were only 3 books out at the time.  It was 2001. 

After that, my husband and I kept up the tradition of reading these books together.  I know - how cute are we.  Every time one would come out, we would take turns reading out loud to each other.  (are you throwing up yet?)  We did this for all seven books.

     Now, I know not everyone would agree with me, but I felt that the movies were about as good as the books.  Books are ALWAYS better, in my opinion, but this was a pretty close race.  I have now read the book series to all three of my children and seen the movies multiple times, and I never tire of either. 

    Personally, I would read the books first in this series and then watch the movies.

3) The Martian
       One of my favorite stand alone books of all time!  Andy Weir is a genius.  This book is smart, and funny, and clever, and I tell everyone I know they should read it.  Especially if you are a science fiction fan.  This one is amazing.  My husband is the one who got me to read this one.  I normally don't take a lot of his suggestions when it comes to books (not TV) because he reads some really weird, deep, science fiction stuff.  But this was a great one.

        And then the movie came out and I was thrilled.  The movie is amazing!!  Mat Damon is the perfect actor to play Mark Watney.  It is a great film, which I suggest seeing AFTER you read the book.  I have watched the movie many times.  Never gets old.

4) The Stand
           This is my favorite Stephen King novel.  I did see the TV show before I read the book because the movie and book came out so long ago.  I watched the show before I was a really big reader, and the size of this novel would have made me immediately put it back on the shelf at the time.  It is a mini series and I watched it on TV.  And then every once in awhile I would catch bits of it on TV during re runs and would watch it again.  And then I got it on DVD so I could watch it whenever I wanted.

        So - after watching the show many times, I decided to tackle the book.  And the book is fantastic.  The book filled in some of the gaps that the TV show could not possibly add, and that sealed it for me as my favorite.  I have read all of Stephen King's books, but I still come back to this one as my top recommendation every time.

5) The Kite Runner

         There is no doubt that the author of the Kite Runner is a genius.  His writing is superb, and his stories magnificent.  I have recently just picked up his latest short story picture book Hosseini wrote "The Sea Prayer".  I have read all of his books, but Kite Runner is my favorite. 

         I was excited to find out there was a movie about this book.  I did read the book first, and I will say the book is better.   However, the movie is worth seeing to kind of put pictures to the story.  I do read a lot of books that come out as shows and movies because it is nice to see a story come alive.  Or not.  You know.....if the movie is bad.

6) The Help

         I read the book first for the Help.  I was blown away about how good it was.  The story was fantastic, clever, and strong.  I actually read it twice.  And then gave it to my eldest daughter to read.  It is not one you should skip. 

         Imagine my excitement when they came out with the movie.  And it included some amazing actors.  I was thrilled.  And the movie was good.  REALLY good.  I would say I enjoyed the movie as much as I enjoyed the book.

7) A Man Called Ove

         I know there is two camps for this book.  Which, honestly, I find surprising, but everyone has their own taste.  Backman is an incredible writer.  I have read all of his books.  Has he had some misses?  Yes.  Beartown - eh.  But for the most part, I love his books.  A Man Called Ove remains my favorite, and it is one of my favorite books I have ever read.  I dream of having that kind of writing talent.

         As I was reading the book and devouring its amazingness, I looked to see if it was a movie and it was!!  Truth - it was in Swedish, but it has subtitles.  The gentleman they had play Ove - he was perfect.  Exactly how I pictured the character.

        The movie was excellent.  I really enjoyed it.  And from what I understand is that an updated version with Tom Hanks is possibly coming out?  That has been talk for about a year, and I am not sure it will amount to anything, but it would be great if it did!

8) The Green Mile

        Speaking of Tom Hanks in movies, The Green Mile was a favorite.  This is one where I watched the movie first.  I have watched it several times because it is an incredible film.  It is well told and thought provoking, and worth your time to watch it.

         So, a few years after I saw the movie I knew I needed to read the book.  I was getting more into reading and Stephen King novels were something I read every summer (I figure why not - long books, long summer?)  so one summer it was this one.  And the book was amazing.  I liked it about the same amount as I liked the movie.  It was definitely worth the read, so check it out.

9) Wayward Pines

       This is one where I watched the show first, but wished I would have started with the books.  There is a big twist near the start of the show that would have been amazing to find out about in a book!  I love twist.  Especially when I don't see them coming.   The book and the show pulled this twist off well.

       With this series, I did like the books better than I liked the show, but not by much.  I watched just the first season of the show before I read all the books, so I knew what was coming (sort of) with the show.

10) Schindler's List

        I read this book years ago.  It has always stuck with me.  I read the book first and then I saw the movie.  I found that movie just as moving as the book.  It really brought the story full circle for me.

        This story is incredible.  The book is incredible.  And sad.  And devestating.  And one that needs to be read by everyone.  And then watch the movie because it was also incredible.

That is the list!  I have read so.many.books that were made into movies.  I went through my good reads list and I could go on and on.  Hunger Games should have made the list because I do love those books and movies, but I feel like I needed to branch out a little further. 

So instead, below are more I could review and recommend to read and maybe then take in the movie and TV show. 

What would you put on the list?

Hunger Games
Big Fish
Big Little Lies
Into Thin Air
Life of Pie
The Leftovers
The Lion The Witch and the Wardrobe
The Lovely Bones
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
Marley and Me
Lemony Snicket
Me Before You
My Sister's Keeper
The Neverending Story
Orange is the New Black
Ready Player One
Sarah's Key
Me Before You
The Shining
Still Alice
Water for Elephants
Watership Down
If I Stay

Monday, May 13, 2019

Read The World - Togo - The Village of Waiting

Book: The Village of Waiting
Author: George Packer
Pages: 336
Book takes place in the country: YES
Author is from the country: NO (but he lived there for 18 months)
I have visited: NO

This is my 61st book of the year

I go back and forth with this challenge of wanting to read fiction or non fiction from these different countries.  I think for some countries fictional novels seem like a fine choice.  But for a lot of these small, poor, African countries, I really believe non-fiction is the right choice.  To really learn something about the country and the people.

This is the author's own story of the time he lived in Togo with the Peace Corps.  He was there for 18 months in the early 1980s.  He was stationed in a village called Lavie as an English Teacher.  What he finds is the desperately poor, who pin all of their hopes on the people who are sent to help them.  He gets to know a wide variety of people while he is there - the villagers, the chiefs, the children at his school, and tries to figure out how he fits into their world.  He comes to care for the people in the village and wants to help so badly.  But knows that he will never make enough difference.  That he will never be able to catch up with how much they all need.

This was a good book.  I thought it was very, very well written.  The story was engaging, and George tells a lot of stories about his time there and the people, and he expresses his frustrations well.  When you first start this book you will wonder to yourself "wow George - what were you even doing there?  You seem to just be focusing on the negative".  BUT - as the story goes along, it becomes more well rounded and you start to understand his frustration.  And you come to realize that we would probably all feel that way - especially growing up in middle class America.  You would feel helpless in what would look like a hopeless situation.

I encourage you to read this book.  It gave me a really good look into the village life in Togo.

Stars: 4 1/2

Friday, May 10, 2019

Extra Book: The Art of the Swap

Book: The Art of the Swap
Author: Kristine Asselin and Jen Malone
Pages: 352

This is my 60th read of the year.  I read this book with my two, 12 year olds, and we finished it up last night.

This is the story of Hannah Jordan and Maggie Dunlap.  Hannah lives in a mansion that was turned into a museum.  It is the Elms in Newport, Rhode Island.  Hannah's father is the caretaker of the museum, and Hannah has spent her time learning about the family that lived there.  She seems to know more than ever the guides who take visitors through the museum.

The biggest mystery of the Elms is an art heist that took place in 1905.  It involved the 12 year old niece of the homeowners - Maggie Dunlap - and a painting of her that her aunt had commissioned.  Hannah has always been fascinated by the story of the heist, and Maggie.  One day, she is cleaning a mirror and touches a spot on the mirror that sends her swirling into the past.  The next thing she knows - she is Maggie in 1905 and Maggie is her.

The girls have no idea why this happened, but they are determined to find out.  Hannah gets her wish to see what it was like to live at the Elms while it was a house and Maggie gets a chance to see what it is like in the future.  The girls think that the art heist is the heart of the reason they were switched, and now they must work together - and quickly - to set things right.

This was a great book.  I actually know the author, Kristine Asselin quite well.  She is an amazing person in real life, and her personality shines in this book.  There is a nice message woven within the pages of the mystery, and my daughter, especially, was tuned into that.  Plus, there are a lot of true to life elements in the book that I was drawn to.  (The Elms, The Berwinds, Maggie, etc - all real places and people). 

I am glad we had a chance to read it and I cannot wait to see what Kris writes in the future.  Bravo!

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Read The World - Finland - The Year Of The Hare

Book: The Year Of The Hare
Author: Arto Paasilinna
Pages: 182
Book takes place in the country: YES
Author is from the country: YES
I have visited: NO

This is my 59th read of the year.  I finished this one as an audiobook.

Finland is on our short list while we live in Europe.  My daugher, Finley, thinks she needs to visit because "Fin" is in her name.  Works for me.

This is a story about Vatanen, a Finnish journalist who one day hits a hare with his car on his way home from work. He goes after the hare and this leads to an adventure with him and the animal.  They travel all over Finland and Vatanen plays many different parts and meets a lot of people along the way.  The whole time, the Hare remains his constant companion.  Vatanen has left his wife, but he has discovered that he likes living on his own - likes living in the moment.  He is on a wild adventure that involves lots of snow (of course), reinder and even a bear.  Every person that Vatenen encounters says something about human nature - that living a simple life isn't so simple.

This was a pretty good book.  It was what I would consider quirky.  There were a few parts where I chuckled.  It is a little all over the place, but the hare did help keep the central focus of the story in line for me.  I could picture the scenery of Finland while I read, and could imagine the deep north and what it must have looked like.  

It is a short novel, that might be something you would try if you found it in the library.  I think for now I will keep this one as my Finland book.

Stars: 3 1/2

Read The World - China - China Dream

Book: China Dream
Author: Ma Jian
Pages: 208
Book takes place in the country: YES
Author is from the country: YES
I have visited: NO (but my husband has and my son was born there)

This is my 58th read of the year.

China is on my short list of places to visit.  My son was born there and we adopted him when he was 14 months old.  I didn't get to go on the trip to pick him up because I had a 1 and 4 year old at home at that time that needed looked after.  My husband went and got him and got a chance to explore and visit where our son was born (Hunan).  Someday, we will all go back as a family.  Right now, I will treasure my greatest gift from this country, my boy.

This is the story of Ma Daode.  He has been put in charge of a program called China Dream which will overwrite people's private dreams.  He is got a great job, a wife, and several mistresses and thinks he has it all.

As the program comes together, Ma suddenly finds himself plagued with flashbacks of his past.  He flashes to his time in the Cultural Revolution, his parent's suicide, and the downfall of his family.  He seeks out a legendary recipe for an amnesia potion to erase these thoughts, thinking that this will help him refocus on his current work.

This book was very very confusing.  I really can't write more about it because it didn't go anywhere.  It was all over the place.  I understand that it is a bit of a dystopian novel, but also a colleciton of how the author (who has been banned from China for his writings) feels about his country.  The ending was terrible.  It got more and more twisted as the story went along, and then.....nothing.

Disappointing, really.  I had high hopes for it when I read the synopsis, but there weren't any reviews for it yet on Amazon.  I should have been wary.

I will be looking for another book about China in the future.  Attually, we have a couple on our shelves back in Massachusetts - I might grab one of those before I search out something new.

Stars: 2

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Read The World - Bahrain - Round The Bend

Book: Round The Bend
Author: Nevil Shute
Pages: 341 pages
Book takes place in the country: YES
Author is from the country: NO
I have visited: NO

This is my 57th read of the year.

This is an old book.  I actually bought a hard cover, used, first edition and it has been well loved.  This book, I would say, is JUST on the verge of 50% in the country (Bahrain) in order for it to count for me.  

This is the story of Tom Cutter, a British man who loves to fly planes.  He was working as a mechanic when a circus comes to town.  He spends time with their planes and when they pack up to leave, he asks to go with them.  They turn him down, but he follows them anyway, and helps out with odd jobs.  There he meets a man named Connie who becomes his life long friend.

Tom serves in the war, and when he returns home he gets married to the love of his life.  He decides what he really wants to do is fly airplanes, so he buys an old one, and moves to Bahrain to fly charter flights in the Middle East.  Before he knows it, his business is booming and he finds he needs to higher a small staff and buy another plane.

He returns home to find out that his wife has committed suicide after she has an affair with another man.  Tom decides that he will then stay in Bahrain since nothing is to keep him to return to England permanently.  Tom sets up in Bahrain and hires all native workers who are content with low salaries.  This allows Tom to stay competative and before knows it, he needs a 3rd plane and more staff.

On one of his flights, he meets back up with Connie and they rekindle their friendship.  He talks Connie into coming to work with him.  Connie is a hard worker and a great engineer.  Soon he is attracting people from all over because of his approach to religion.  Connie's motto is - if the men do their job well, they are praying.  In a country full of Muslims who pray several times a day, this is attractive.  Connie's teachings spread but the religious heads start to get nervous, and ask to have Connie moved to Bali.  Tom agrees but only if Connie can continue to help him run his business from that area of the world.

Tom finds that all religions respond to Connie from all over Asia.  The story is an interesting take on how religion and doing a job well can go hand in hand.  Tom finds that he can run a very successful business in the Middle East because of what Connie has taught his men.

This was a great book.  I didn't think I was going to like it at first - that it was going to be too technical about airplanes and mechanical jargon.  But it was not.  It is very well written, easy to understand, and has a solid message.  When I looked at this book on Amazon, this author has quite a following with his other books, so I might have to check out some others in the future.  I am glad I found this one.

PS - the name of this book comes from the fact that Tom states that people who know him thought he had gone "Round The Bend" when he decided to set up shop in tiny Bahrain.

Stars: 4 1/2

Monday, May 6, 2019

Read The World - Taiwan - The Astonishing Color of After

Book: The Astonishing Color of After
Author: Emily XR Pan
Pages: 480
Book takes place in the country: YES
Author is from the country: NO (but her parents were)
I have visited: NO

This is my 56th book for the year

I listened to this book as an audiobook.  I think that was the perfect way for this particular book - it really brought the story alive.

This is the story of Leigh Sanders.  Her mother has died from suicide and now Leigh is lost.  One day, she sees a bird, and she is sure it is her mother.  Her father, unsure what to do now that his wife is gone and his daughter seems lost, takes Leigh to Taiwan to meet her grandparents for the first time.  Leigh feels this will give her a chance to find her mother and speak to her grandmother.  She discovers that her grandparents speak very little English, and that the relationship between her parents and them is strained.

Her dad finds he cannot stay in Taiwan, but feels Leigh should stay.  Leigh is determined to find her mother and chases after her memories in all corners of Tiawan.  She meets a young girl, Phong, who helps her translate with her grandparents and also find what Leigh is looking for - closure.  

The story goes back and forth between Leigh in Taiwan, and the recent past of her time in the United States.  Leigh is an artist.  She has submitted a portfolio to a special program for talented high school students, but her father was not pleased.  He wants Leigh to concentrate on something "real"  That art is just a past time.  But for Leigh it is everthing.  

She has a best friend, Axel, who she is secretly in love with.  Axel is whom she leaned on when her mother died, but an awkward situation before she left for Taiwan is making it difficult for her to reach out to him while she is gone.  

With the flash back parts of this book, we discover more about Leigh's family and her relationship with her mom and her grandparents and what lead to her eventual suicide.

In the end, Leigh finds what she is looking for, but not in the way she imagined.  She is now able to leave Taiwan and move forward.  Through a tale of magical realism, Leigh and her family are brought to life.  

This book was excellent.  It is going to the top of my list for this year.  Just incredible.  The story was well told, and the writing was beautiful.  I was drawn to the characters and even though magical realism is usually not my favorite but this book blew me away.  The author did a good job of mixing in Leigh's past and present and mixing in the magic elements with true to life problems that many people face when a loved one dies.  

There is a lesson in this story, of course.  She talks a lot about depression, especially in the end, about how important it is to listen to the people in our lives and to pay attention to signs when we think someone might be in trouble.  

You need to read this one.  Or listen to it.  I did find that this book was well told with a voice attached to the characters.  

"The purpose of memory is to remind us how to live"

Stars: 5

Friday, May 3, 2019

Read The World - Swaziland - The Kingdom of Roses and Thorns

Book: The Kingdom of Roses and Thorns
Author: Debra Liebenow Daly
Pages: 276
Book takes place in the country: YES
Author is from the country: No, but she lived there for 2 years
I have visited: NO

This is my 55th read of the year

This is a book of 5 short stories about 5 Swazi women - Anna, Sarie, Elizabeth, Busisiwe, and Thembekile.  They all have faced different obstacles in their lives.  It is set in a beautiful country that under the surface reveals a terrible HIV/AIDS epidemic, poverty, and lack or rights for women.  These women try to overcome their circumstances to give themselves and their children better lives.  The stories cross each woman's life from childhood into adulthood and beyond as they struggle to better themselves.

And that is all I am going to say about this book.  I had looked at several books about Swaziland, and this one got the best reviews, so I stuck with that.  But the writing is not good at all.  It is written almost child like with very little depth or character development.  It would have been better if the author would have picked one character and slowed down the proces and wrote more in depth about their life story.  You don't get the ability with this book to care about the characters at all.  And with the poor writing, it just makes you want to roll your eyes with these stories.

I did finish it, and unfortunately, it may have to stay as my Swaziland book if the other books out there are truly worse.  If any of my blog readers have a book they read about this country that they liked, please share.  I would be happy to replace this one.

Stars: 2

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Read The World - Equatorial Guinea - Shadows of Your Black Memory

Book: Shadows of Your Black Memory
Author: Donato Ndongo
Pages: 180
Book takes place in the country: YES
Author is from the country: YES
I have visited: NO

This is my 54th read of the year.  I actually finished it in April, but didn't have a chance to blog about it.

Another African country ticked off the list.  I need to look back and see how many I have read about so far. 

This book takes place during the last years of the Spanish Rule in the country.  It is a fictional story of a man who retells the story of his childhood.  The author shows us the cultural differences between Africa and Spain through religion and spiritualism.  

The boy's father wants him to become a priest.  The boy spends his childhood afraid to sin - ties himself up in knots over the smallest misdeed because he is afraid to go to Hell.  The boy's uncle tries to keep the boy tied to his tribe's rituals and beliefs and how the tribes don't interfere with each other to keep the peace.  In the end, the boy does announce that he is going to be a priest, and his parents rejoice - telling everyone they know about their son's decision.

All the while, the country is going through independence from Spain.  It is a coming of age story and a story about the effects of European colonization on a little known country all tied up in one small book.

I thought this book was pretty good.  It is very short and it is not separated into chapters.  There isn't much plot and it tends to be a bit confusing at times.  But I don't think it was bad writing.  I think it was the style that the author was going for.  

There isn't much about this country out there, so I think I will keep this as my book.  I don't think I learned that much about the country itself, but for now, it will stay.

Stars: 3