Breathe To Read

Breathe To Read

Friday, January 17, 2020

Read The World - Central African Republic - Making Sense of the Central African Republic

Book: Making Sense of the Central African Republic
Author: Tatiana Carayannis
Pages: 343
Book takes place in the country: YES
Author is from the country: NO
I have visited: NO

This is my 6th read for the year

This book is a collection of many people bringing together the nations history of rebellion and instability.  The author's collected information from just about everyone who has written about this country in the last 20 years and told the story of the country's successes and failures.

This book was dry.  It read like a manual, and I really had a hard time wanting to pick it up and keep going.  There is not much out there from this country, so I did read the entire thing.  And it was very factual and I learned quite a bit.  The way it is written though just didn't draw you in to wanting to keep learning more.  It is definitely a broad introduction to the Central African Republic.  I just wish it held my interest a little more.

Stars: 3

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Extra Book: Then She Was Gone

Book: Then She Was Gone
Author: Lisa Jewell
Pages: 384

This is my 5th book for the year

I listened to this one and I highly recommend that for this book.  Great audiobook

This is a story of a mother named Laura.  Laura's 15 year old daughter died mysteriously 10 years ago, and in the past decade, Laura has tried to rebuild her life without her child.  Divorced with two other children she is basically estranged from, Laura knows she needs to put her life back together.  A man has come into Laura's life and he changes everything.  He and his little girl - Poppy - are just what Laura thinks she was missing in her life.  Seeing Poppy, who reminds her so much of her deceased daughter, Ellie, it opens things up again for Laura to try and figure out what happened to Ellie.  Did she really run away?  Or did something terrible happen to her?  As Laura starts to dig for answers, the mystery of Ellie's death come to light.  Laura feels that soon she will receive the closure her family desparately needs.

This was a great book.  I liked it so much more than I thought I would.  It is well written and the story flowed well.    I found myself searching for time to listen to it so I could see how it would end.  It is a disturbing book and the details about Ellie's disappearance and death are hard to read/listen to.  Just as a warning.  You will probably figure out how it is going to end by about 3/4 of the way into this book, but that didn't bother me.  Sometimes it does, but it truly didn't take away from me wanting to see how the story was going to wrap up.  There was good character development and I liked almost all of the characters in this book.  It is a good psychological thriller that makes me want to read other books by this author.  She is a gifted writer.  Highly recommend.

Stars: 4 1/2

Monday, January 13, 2020

Read The World - Gatecrashing Paradise - Misadventures in the Real Maldives

Book: Gatecrashing Paradise- Misadventures in the Real Maldives
Author: Tom Chesshyre
Book takes place in the country: YES
Author is from the country: NO
I have visited: NO

This is my 4th book of the year.

Visiting the Maldives is on my short list.  I have friends who have been there recently and it sounds like heaven - to a visitor.

This is the story of the author's time traveling around the Maldives many islands.  He is a travel writer, so he wanted to get an inside look of life in the Maldives beyond the beautiful oceans and resorts that tourist see.  He sailed around almost 600 miles of islands on his trip to the Maldives discussing jobs, cuisine, politics, religion, and general life with the locals.  

I really liked this book.  There aren't a lot of books about the Maldives that aren't travel books for tourist, so I was happy to find this one.   Over the last year I have read quite a few books like this where journalist talk to locals and get a different perspective on a country.  It is quickly becoming a favorite way for me to learn about a country.  Chesshyre spent a long time with the locals around many of the islands that make up the Maldives.  I learned a lot about the history and culture of this country thanks to his book.  I am glad I found it.

Stars: 4

Thursday, January 9, 2020

Off Challenge - The Women At Hitler's Table

Book: The Women At Hitler's Table
Author: Rosella Postorino
Pages: 352

This is my 3rd book of the year

I know - I am off my challenge already!  So early in the year.  But this book had popped up on Instagram and I was drawn to the title and the beautiful cover, so I had to read it as soon as it arrived.

This is a historical fiction novel based on the real life of Margo Wolk who was a food taster for Hitler during the war.  The book tells the story of 10 women in East Prussia who were pulled from their homes during World War II and forced to taste Hitler's food before it was served to him.  For more than a year, three meals a day, the women sat under armed guard in a room and were forced to eat food they didn't know was poisoned or not.  The main chracter - Rosa - has lost her parents, and her husband is presumed dead on the front.  She lives with her in-laws whose lives would also be in danger if Rosa refused to be a food taster.

During Rosa's time as a taster, she befriends the other women.  All have their own terrible stories and fears which brings them closer together.  None of them know how or when this will end and their only instinct is to survive and return to their families.

This was a good book.  I stayed up late into the night reading chapter after chapter, wanting to see how it would end.  I did enjoy the book overall and it was beautifully written.   The ending was a little unraveled, as most endings are, but not bad.  I am glad I found this one, and I recommend giving it a read.

Stars: 4

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Read The World - Indonesia - The Earth Of Mankind

Book: The Earth of Mankind
Author: Pramoedya Ananta Toer
Pages: 368
Book takes place in the country: YES
Author is from the country: YES
I have visited: NO

This is my 2nd book of the year

This is the story of Minke.  He is a young, Native Javanese student living in 19th century Indonesia.  While studying at a European school in Indonesia, he meets and falls in love with a girl named Annalise.  We follow Minke who comes from a ancient Javanese aristocracy family.  His parents decided to send him to be educated at the European school, but all it does is alienate him from his family.  

This book got a lot of 5 star ratings on Amazon, but I cannot quite figure that out.  I did not love it.  I found it a challenging read.  It could be a translation problem that I need to overlook.  I found it confusing and the writing not a style I can appreciate.  There are not a lot of books about Indonesia in English, so this will stay my choice for this country for now.  But I may search for something else in the future.

Maybe I didn't give it enough credit.  It is a very involved book and requires a lot of attention, so maybe I need to sit with it again in the future and see how I feel then.

Stars: 3

Monday, January 6, 2020

Read The World - Guatemala - The Guatemala Reader

Book: The Guatemala Reader
Author: Greg Grandon
Pages: 688
Book takes place in the country: YES
Author is from the country: NO
I have visited: NO

This is my first book for 2020!

I decided to start with a monster size book since when I started it, we were still on vacation.  I started this one at the end of December, but it took quite awhile to finish it.

This book gives a broad review of Guatemala as a country.  Politics, culture, history, livelihood - it is all in this book.  It gives a wide perpsective on the country's long history of violence.  It includes short stories, historical facts, poems, letters, pictures, artwork....the list is long.  

This book was good.  It was better than I expected.  When it arrived I looked at the size of it, and thought it would read more like an encelopedia, but it did not.  The is really well written and full of great information.  You get a complete picture of Guatemala from so many different aspects of this country.  With so many sources contributing to this book, you get a wide variety of chapters that will keep you wanting to learn more.  Glad I found this one.

Stars: 4

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

My Personal Top Books of 2019

Happy New Year everyone!  2020 - hard to believe.  Looking forward to another great year full of laughter, fun, travel, family time and - of course - reading!

As you saw in my last post, I had a great reading year.  Biggest one to date.  So I have decided because my list was so big - and I enjoyed so many of those books I read - that I would do my top books of 2019 instead of just top 10.  Too many I wanted to include on this list to make it so small.

You will find that there are not a lot of popular reads on this list.  For one - I am doing a Read The World Challenge, so many of my books might be unknown.  Second - I did read quite a few popular books this year, and while I liked many of them, they didn't make the top of my list.  A lot of 4 star reads, though.  You can check out my list to the right to see what popular books I read this year and how I felt about them.

To Start - Here were all the books I read this year that I gave 5 stars.  (in no particular order) It takes a special read for me to feel that strongly about a book.  I am pleased to have so many excellent reads from this year.  If you click on the title, it will take you to my review of the book.

1) Dracula


I liked this book so much more than I thought I would.  I have been putting off reading it for years figuring it wouldn't be for me.  But then we visited where Bram Stoker actually lived and worked, and I decided to give it a go.  I am so glad I did.  It was one of the best books I have ever read - not just this year.  

2) Mornings In Jenin

This was a recent read for me- I just finished it up a few weeks ago.  I had been looking for a book for Palestine and the Read The World Instagram pages I follow came through for me.  This book is beautifully written and an incredible historical fiction story that you must add to your read list.

3) Daring To Drive

I have read quite a few non-fiction books this year, and Daring To Drive was one of those that made my 5 Star list.  The author tells her own story of what it was like as a woman in Saudi Arabia in the not so distance past. It is an eye opening read, espeically for us women who never had to deal with restrictions like Manal had to, just because she was female.

4) What Is The What

Another excellent non-fiction novel.  I listened to this book and it was a great audio book - the man who narrated it was perfect.  The story will draw you in as the main character tells the story between being an adult in the United States and a little boy (one of the Lost Boys) in Sudan.  It is a captivating, heart breaking, incredible story that I am so glad I read.

5) The Astonishing Color Of After

This is a beautifully written, incredible story that I found by accident while researching books to read for Taiwan.  Someone in Instagram posted it as a book they loved, and I decided to give it a try.  I listened to it, and I could not get enough.  I found myself drawn to the characters in this book, even though it is not my favorite type of writting (magical realism).  Amazing read.

6) Fire And Blood

Anyone who knows me knows that a Game of Thrones book would top my list for the year.  Unless George R. R. Martin all of the sudden lost his mind, I don't think I could not love his books.  One of the most talented writers that I have ever read, I am always looking to read his work.  When this one came out, I had to have it.  It is the pre-quel to the Game of Thrones books (and TV series) and it was incredible.  Filled in so many gaps for me.  And the artwork in this book - astounding.

7) The Only Plane In The Sky

When this book came out, I dropped everything else to read it. As all things I see or read about the 9/11 tragedy, I was tense the entire time I read this book.  But I was also intrigued.  We get to read first hand accounts of so many people that the author interviewed in the days, weeks, months after 9/11, and this is not something that has been done before.  It is well done and respectful.  You need to put this one high on your list.

8) Bad Blood

This book was recommended to me by a family friend.  He was blown away by the true story of Elizabeth Holmes and how she fooled so many people.  The way he talked about it, I knew I had to read it.  And I concur with his thoughts - it is incredible that this happened.  The book is well written and takes us through the entire story.  You have to read it to believe it.  I understand it is also being made into a movie.

9) When Life Gives You Pears

Jim Gaffigan is by far my favorite comedian.  I have watched all of his specials, and when I learned that his wife wrote a book after her brain tumor, I knew I would like to read it.  And I am so glad I did.  It is very well written with dry humor, but also fear that we would all have if we found that we had a pear size tumor in our head.  

10) Mindhunter

A friend of mine recommended this TV show.  I found out there was a book, so I wanted to read it first.  A non-fiction story that I cannot believe I liked as much as I would.  The stories are horrific - detailed murders of people during the authors time as an FBI profiler.  Even though the stories are hard to read, the book is very well written.  I listened to this and I highly recommend it as an audiobook.  

I have recently watched both seasons of the TV show, and didn't like it nearly as much as I liked the book.  It was fine, but so many side story lines that I didn't think were necessary.

These next books are the ones I gave a 4 1/2 star rating. (in no particular order)  Just as excellent and worthy of metioning as incredible reads for this year.  If you click on the title, it will take you to my review of that book.

1) The Rent Collector

This was one of the first books I read this year.  It is a beautifully written tale about living in the dumps in Cambodia.  Something I couldn't even begin to imagine.  It is heartbreaking and inspiring and should not be missed.

2) Lost On Planet China

The books by this author are hilarious, and I ended up reading three of his books this year.  All for my Read The World challenge, which was an added bonus.  He is an incredible writer, and his books highly entertaining.  I am so glad I found them.

3) Mythos

When searching for a book for Cyprus, I asked a friend of mine who lives there for a suggestion.  Greek mythology was her top recommendation, so I went for one I have not read before.  This was a great book - entertaining and enlightening all at once.

4) Sex Lives Of Cannibals

This was my first Troost read, and while you may wonder what the title is leading too - I promise you it is worth a read.  (and the Cannibals they are talking about are dogs).  This book sent me down the path of author Troost, and I knew I had to read more of his books.  They are hilarious.

5) The Hidden Light of Objects

This is a collection of short stories that you should add to your TBR list.  Normally I don't like books with short stories because they don't leave enough room for character development that I crave.  Not true with this book.  They are expertly and beautifully written.

6) The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind

This well told, well written book quickly went to the top of my list this year.  It is a true story that is utterly fascinating.  The boy is brilliant and actually ends up at Dartmouth College in America.  It was turned into a Netflix movie which I also highly recommend watching.

7) Swiss Watching

What a fun book this was about the country of my current residence.  I have read quite a few books on Switzerland since we moved here, but this was by far my favorite.  It is written by an expat as he travels all over the country, and I found myself laughing out loud and also nodding along at the things he wrote about.  All very familiar!  It was a great read.

8) The Village Of Waiting

Another non-fiction that made the top of my 2019 list.  This one was about a teacher who worked in Togo as an English teacher.  It is real, and eye opening as George expresses his frustration about the time he lived there and you learn about Togo and its people.  Good read.

9) A Carpet Ride To Khiva

This was an incredible book.  Another non-fiction masterpiece that I highly recommend.  The author's stories and experiences will draw you in and you will not want to put this book down.  I learned an incredible amount about Uzbekistan in this highly enjoyable book.

10) Getting Stones By Savages

Yep - all three Troost books I read this year made my 2019 top reads list.  He truly is a gifted author, and I do love a good humor book.  I am anxious to read his 4th book in 2020.

11) Beyond Sky And Earth

So many of the books I read for my Read The World challenge were non-fiction.  Many times I chose that because it gave me good insight into the country itself.  Who knew so many of them would be excellent?  This is another well written and intriguing read about a teacher who moved to Bhutan to teach English.  Being an expat myself, I am always interested to read how other people view a country that isn't their own and compare that to my own experience.  This author did a great job mixing her experiences with the history of Bhutan and made this a great find.

12) This Voice In My Heart

This is the author's own story after he survives an attack as a student.  He is the only surviving member of his entire school, and the book delves into his life before and after the attack.  It is well written, and I could not put it down.  It will pull at your heart strings for sure.

13) Empty Mansions

This book was recommended to me by a family friend, and it was excellent.  It actually starts in my hometown of Connellsville, Pennsylvania - a quiet out of the way place which use to have the most millionaires in the country (once upon a time).  This is the story of one of them and how he made his fortune and the story continues and ends with his recluse daughter.  It is an incredible non-fiction you must read to believe.

14) Call The Midwife

Another amazing non-fiction book I read this year.  I love this TV show - I have watched all the seasons.  Based on the author's time as a midwife in the rough East End in London - her tales are astonishing.  The book pulled the TV show together for me, and I am so glad I discovered there was a book series.  It is a pack of 4, and I plan on reading them all.

What a year!!!  How was yours?