Breathe To Read

Breathe To Read

Thursday, December 31, 2020

Extra Book: The Guest List

 Book: The Guest List

Author: Lucy Foley

Pages: 320

This is my 112th read for the year

This is the story of several people who are part of a wedding on a remote island in Ireland.  - The bride, the groom, the plus one, the best man, the bridesmaid, the wedding planner.  When the bride and groom invite their friends and family to their exclusive wedding, the last thing they expected is that it would end in murder.  The story begins with the discovery of a body and then goes backward to bring about what caused the murder.  Jealousies, old loves, and secrets are all brought to light with the 6 narrators of the story.  In the end - someone loses their life and trying to figure out why.

This book was okay.  It has 20,000 reviews on Amazon and is a Reese Whiterspoon Book Club Pick (which is my guess on why so many reviews), but it wasn't a good book.  It is one of those books that keeps the reader in the dark for no reason what so ever.  I didn't really like any of the characters.  And once it was discovered who was murdered and why - I didn't even care.  I listened to this as an audiobook to pass some time while I did some painting in our house, and that would be the only reason to pick this one up - to pass time.  

Stars: 2 1/2

Monday, December 28, 2020

Read The World - Mauritania - Travels in Mauritania

 Book: Travels in Mauritania

Author: Peter Hudson

Pages: 250

Book takes places in the country: YES

Author is from the country: NO

I have visited: NO

This is my 111th read for the year

This is the story of the author's visit to Mauritania.  He starts off in the capital, but the travels widely across the country to meet people from all corners.  He doesn't rush from place to place - lesiurely taking in the daily life of the towns he visits.  Learning what he can about the people.  He is greeted with hospitality even among the poorest of the country.  

This was a fine book.  Not much happens, he mostly wanders around and just takes it in.  This doesn't make the book bad, but I did feel like I was slogging through it at times and had a hard time really getting interested in the book on a whole.  There were some great photos, some terrible drawings, and over all interesting facts about the country that made the read worth it.  The writing is decent, and I got a general idea of what life is like in Mauritania.

Stars: 3 1/2

Saturday, December 26, 2020

Read The World - Namibia - The Second Coming of Mavala Shikongo

 Book: The Second Coming of Mavala Shikongo

Author: Peter Orner

Pages: 336

Book takes place in the country: YES

Author is from the country: NO

I have visited: NO

This is my 110th read for the year

Here is what Amazon has to say about this book (hey - it is the end of the year - I needed a break from summarizing)
Though physically isolated in semi-desert beneath a relentless sun, the people of Goas create an alternate, more fertile universe through the stories they tell each other.  The book's central character is Mavala , a combat veteran who fought in Namibia's long war for independence against South Africa. 

She has recently returned to the school - with a child, but no husband.  Mavala is modern, restless, and driven, in sharp contrast to conservative Goas.  All the male teachers try not to fall in love with her.  Everyone fails - immediately and miserably.

The book is well written, but there wasn't much of a story.  Some of the chapters were only a few paragraphs.  It jumped a bit and then would come back to Mavala.  Then jump some more.  Choppy reads like this are hard to hold my attention.  I was engrossed in the longer chapters - trying to get deeper into the story.  But then a small, choppy chapter would follow and I would lose my flow.  It was a good one for this past week because we were so busy getting ready for the holiday, so it worked well enough.

Stars: 3

Friday, December 25, 2020

Extra Book: Verity

 Book: Verity

Author: Colleen Hoover

Pages: 331

This is my 109th read for the year

I am on an audiobook kick right now.  So much running around in the car.  And present wrapping.  And painting in the house.  I am tearing through audiobooks right now.

This is the story of Lowen Ashleigh.  She is an author of subpar thriller novels.  Out of money and not sure what her next move will be, she is approached by Jeremy Crawford - the wife of bestselling novelist Verity Crawford.  Verity has been injured in an accident and isn't able to finish her book series, so she needs a ghost writer to help.  Lowen needs the money, so agrees.  She moves into the Crawford's house to start to go through Verity's novels and any notes she may have that will help Lowen complete the series.  As Lowen gets to know Jeremy, and see what state Verity is in, the more she wants to stay with him.  She is beginning to fall in love with him.  As she looks through Verity's office, she comes across a disturbing manuscript that shows who Verity truly was and Lowen starts to fear for her life and the life of Jeremy and Jeremy and Verity's son, Crew.

This book wasn't my cup of tea.  I heard quite a bit about it through my BOTM club, and I do love a good thriller.  But this book was trashy.  I didn't read 50 Shades of Grey for a reason.  It is so vulgar that I found myself thinking I should just put it aside.  But I kept listening hoping it was going to be this fantastic thrilled novel that would keep me up at night and that would redeem it.  But it was not.  I was disappointed that I wasted a credit from Audible on this one.  This is mostly sex and very little thriller, so if that isn't for you - pass this one up.  Despite the 12,000 reviews it got.

Stars: 2

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Read The World - Poland - Flights

 Book: Flights

Author: Tokarczuk

Pages: 416

Book takes place in the country: YES

Author is from the country: YES

I have visited: NO

This is my 108th read for the year

This is a collection of short "stories" - or maybe just essays - of things all over the board.  Travel, human body, history, psychology, life, death, and just some stories.  The author wants you think:  Where are you from?  Where are you coming in from?  Where are you going?

This was a weird book.  Very weird.  I had a hard time getting into it because it is really all over the place.  It wasn't that it was bad - it was just......different.  Not my cup of tea.  I didn't understand what was happening at first.  Once I realized what it was, I just went with it.  Interesting book for the shelf.  

Stars: 3

Monday, December 21, 2020

Extra Book - A Promised Land

 Book: A Promised Land

Author: Barack Obama

Pages: 768

This is my 107th read for the year

This is Obama's first half of his autobiography.  It covers the time before he was in office, but mostly covers his first 4 years as president- leading up to when Osama Bin Laden was killed.  Deeply covering the ins and outs of the presidency, the people he met, the challenges he faced, he shares what it was like to be the first African America President of the United States.

I loved this book.  I did listen to it as an audiobook, and 21 hours of listening filled my hours of driving kids around, driving back and forth to work, and painting our house.  He gets into the nitty gritty of the presidency, so some parts were a little dry.  For the most part, I found it extremely interesting.  He talks about the relationship with his mother and grandmother, his wife and his daughters.  He talks about what it is like to be Black in America.  But above all, he covers the challenges that a world leader faces when he is put in charge.  He is candid about mistakes he made and things he wished he could change.  But above all, you can tell he was proud of his presidency and the job.

I encourage you to check out this book.  If you are interested in the audio version, it is President Obama who reads it, and I cannot tell you how nice it was to hear his voice again.  How we have missed his leadership these last 4 years.

Stars: 4 1/2

Friday, December 18, 2020

Read The World - Papua New Guinea - Four Corners

 Book: Four Corners

Author: Kira Salak

Pages: 401

Book takes place from the country: YES

Author is from the country: NO

I have visited: NO

This is my 106th read for the year

This is the story of the author's journey to Papua New Guinea.  A woman who has spent her whole life running away - hoping to find where she belongs, she has chosen many dangerous countries to lose herself in.  After working all summer long in a factory to save for this trip, she hops a plane and lands herself in the middle of a jungle.  She travels the country - hoping from village to village meeting dangerous men, kind women, and strangers who were also traveling the country.  She picks up illnesses, and countless bug bites.  She takes chances on a boat in a dangerous part of the country with complete strangers.  And as she searches for herself, she tries to remember why she came on the trip in the first part.

This book was fine.  It is pretty well written - Salak is a pretty good writer.  But I didn't really like the author personaly.  Again - like other books I have read where people travel to the countries and then write about them - she wasn't there to do good.  Yet she put herself in precarious situations, and could have been killed.  And for what?  I didn't find her particularly wise and I didn't find her journey heroic.  I found it stupid.  The redeeming qualities were only that I did learn a fair amount about Papua New Guinea and its people.  But as for her own personal journey - it made no sense at all.

Stars: 3

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Read The World - Lesotho - Basali

 Book: Basali

Author: K. Limakatso Kendall

Pages: 136

Book takes place in the country: YES

Author is from the country: NO

I have visited: NO

This is my 105th read for the year

This novella is a book of short stories about the women of Lesotho.  Told in their own words - and then translated into English by family and friends - it gives insight into the lives of women living in this small Country in South Africa.

These were interesting stories.  They are a little rough - as stories are when told second hand and then translated.  But I do love first hand accounts, especially from women, in any of these countries, so this book is a treasure.

Stars: 4

Sunday, December 13, 2020

Book: Match Making For Beginners

 Book: Match Making for Beginners

Author: Maddie Dawson

Pages: 379

This is my 104th read for the year.

We are working so much at moving and painting in our house that I am drilling through these audio books to pass my time!

This is the story about Marnie.  She thinks she has found the man she wants to spend the rest of her life with.  At a party to meet his wealthy parents for the first time, she is humiliated.  An older aunt named Blix, pulls Marnie to her and they quickly become allies.

When Marnie's marriage falls apart, she moves home to her parents to try and figure out what she wants to do with her life.  As she starts a relationship with an old boyfriend, she receives a letter from Blix's lawyers that she has left her New York house to Marnie in her will.  Bewildered on why a woman she met twice would do this, Marnie travels to New York to try to figure out Blix's reasoning and to figure out what she wants to do with her life.  There she meets the renters in Blix's building and starts to realize where she wants to belong.

This book isn't literature.  Not even by a long shot. It is as cheesy as a Hallmark Christmas movie.  It isn't deep and Marnie is just an okay character.  The things she does in this story aren't great.  Some of the lines that are written in this book are so bad, you can't help but shake your head.  However - it kept me painting and kept me entertained while we were remodeling, so I will give it that.

However - if you are looking for a story about love and life changing decisions - skip this one.

Stars:  2 1/2

Saturday, December 12, 2020

Read The World - Moldova - Playing The Moldovans At Tennis

 Book: Playing The Moldovans At Tennis

Author: Tony Hawks

Pages: 256

Book takes place in the country: YES - around 75%

Author is from the country: NO

I have visited: NO

This is my 103rd read for the year

This is the author's own story on a bet he made with a friend.  He bet this friend he could beat the 11 football (soccer for Americans) players from Moldova.  His friend - feeling that even footballers from Moldova would been atheltic enough to beat a 38 year old comedian at any sport - took the bet.  So Tony set of on a 18 month journey to find and convince all 11 Moldova footballers to play him in tennis.  He didn't even know where to start.

Tony takes us on a journey to a little known country - weaving bits of Moldovian history in with his odd quest.  And in the end either Tony - or his friend - would lose this bet and have to dance naked in London when the loser is confirmed.

I really, really, really wanted to like this book more than I did.  I am usually drawn to these silly stories.  I love stories of people who pick up and move or pick up and travel with little clothes and money and make it work on the kindness of strangers.  Where they don't let language barriers or fear of the unknown stop them from going.  And I thought - even with something as silly as this bet - it would be an entertaining, silly, charming story from a guy who is a stand up comedian.

Alas - it wasn't meant to be.  Tony was not a likeable person in this book.  He complains about everything and everyone (except the sweet 11 year old girl in the book).  Everyone.  He traveled gloomily and with a sour attitude even though he wasn't trying to cure cancer, or teach education to a third world company.  He was on a quest for a stupid bet.  And yet he was still miserable.  

So disappointing.  It wasn't awful - I did learn a lot about Moldova, and the Epilogue redeemed the book some in the end.  And I have learned that he did give a large part of his profits from the book to charity in Moldova. But not enough for me to give it more than 3 stars.  

Stars: 3

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Read The World - Malta - The Great Siege Malta 1565

 Book: The Great Siege Malta - 1565

Author: Ernie Bradford

Pages: 260

Book takes place in the country: YES

Author is from the country: NO

I have visited:NO

This is my 102nd book of the year

I hav slowed down so much since we started to work on our house.  I really wanted to finish this read the world challenge before the end of this year, but I don't think I am going to get that wish

Here is what Amazon had to say about this book:

In the first half of the sixteenth century, the Ottoman Empire was throught to be invincible.  Suleiman the Magnificent, the Ottoman sultan, had expanded his empire from western Asia to southeastern Europe and North Africa.  To secure control of the Mediterranean between these territories and launch an offensive into western Europe, Suleiman needed the small but strategically crucial island of Malta.  But Suleiman's attempt to take the island from the Holy Roman Empire's Knights of St. John would emerge as one of the most famous and brutal military defeats in history.

Forty-two years earlier, Suleiman had been victorious against the Knights of St. John when he drove them out of their island fortress at Rhodes.  Believing he would repeat this victory, the sultan sent an armada to MAlta.  When they captured Fort St. Elmo, the Ottoman foces ruthlessly took no prisoners.  The Roman grand master La Vallette responded by having his Ottoman captives beheaded.  Then the battle for Malta began in earnest:  no quarted asked.  None given.

I love these types of books.  This is well written, well told, and well researched.  I was worried that it might be dry and slow, but it was neither of those things.  I knew nothing about Malta before reading this book, and this was a great intoduction to the country for me.  It is a complex story, but the author does a great job making it easy to read.

Stars: 4

Saturday, December 5, 2020

Extra Book - Sold On A Monday

 Book: Sold On A Monday

Author: Kristina McMorris

Pages: 352

This is my 101st read for the year.

I| listened to this as an audio book.

Struggling reporter Ellis Reed needs a break.  While out one day, he sees two boys sitting with a sign that said "Children for Sale".  He snaps a picture of them never imagining it would take him anywhere.  When the picture is discovered it leads to his big break, and devestating consequences that take him somewhere he never thought he would be.

This was an okay book.  With 9000+ reviews on Amazon, I expected it to be spectacular.  The first part of the book is slow and disjointed from the picture and story of children who were sold in the early part of this century.  It spent a lot of time with the story of Ellis Reed, which would be fine, but that isn't what I thought the book was going to be about.  I thought it would be more of a historical reflection of children who were sold because families were too poor to care for them.

The second half of the book did pick up, but it still was a bit frustrating.  I didn't love any of the characters.  Some of the interactions seemed over the top and disjointed.  The story choppy.  This could have been so much better, in my opinion.

I would say skip it and maybe find a non fiction or a more focused historical fiction on children who were sold.

Stars: 3

Thursday, December 3, 2020

Read The World - Latvia - Among The Living And The Dead

 Book: Among The Living And The Dead

Author: Inara Verzemnieks

Pages: 288

Book takes place in the country: YES

Author is from the country: No - but her whole family is

I have visited: NO

This is my 100th read for the year

I made it!

This is the story of the author's family.  Inara was raised by her grandparents in America.  But her grandparents, and her dad, fled Latvia when her dad was very small.  Inara wants to discover her family's roots and learn more about the struggles that went on with the Latvians in the early part of the century.  After her grandmother passes away, she locates her distance family members in Latvia and speaks to them about the past.  What she learns is a story of heartbreak and strong will to survive the most dire situation.  

This was a really good book.  I love reading personal stories about families who survived what we would consider an almost impossible situation.  Inara does a great job piecing together her family's history and rebuilding relationships with her family in Latvia that she will treasure for the rest of her life.  

The only negative for me - and it is a small one - is that the language was a bit over decorated.  I have never been drawn to that type of writing and this book is full of it.  However - the story is worth weaving through that.

Stars: 4

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Extra Book - The Book Charmer

 Book: The Book Charmer

Author: Karen Hawkins

Pages: 368

This is my 99th read for the year

This is the story of Sarah Dove and her family.  Sarah always had a way with books.  When she was young, she visited the library and a book spoke to her.  Actually spoke.  She grows up to be the town librarian, handing out books based on who needs to read them.  The books tell her that they are to help a certain person, and Sarah lends them the book.  The towns people come to rely on Sarah and her way of knowing exactly what they need and never turn down a book they get from her.

One day Grace and her small family show up in Sarah's town.  Grace is in charge of her young niece and her mother who has fast progressing dementia.  She is looking for a calmer job and life so that she will have the time she needs to look after her family.  Sarah quickly latches onto Grace and feels that Grace was sent to the town for a reason.  Grace isn't so sure and doesn't plan to stay in town long.  Sarah and her group of friends will do everything in their power to change that.

This is a sweet story.  I have been working for hours on end at our house and so this was a great audio book to pass the time.  It is a sweet story and the characters are all very likable.  I was drawn into the story of Grace and her past and Sarah and her small town.  It is a story of friendship, love, and trials in a well written book.  I didn't love the ending only because it wrapped up so quickly!  I wish they would have taken the story just a little further.

Stars: 4 1/2