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Around the World in 12 Books Challenge - February Round-up

around the world 2014

Month the 2nd of 2014’s Around the World reading challenge has been an awesome one for this challenge! I’m so impressed – puts me to shame, as I failed to read any books for any challenges in February!

Participants covered all continents, yet again – including Antarctica! – and reviewed 4 books from Asia, 2 from South America, 10 from the UK and Europe, 3 from North America, 4 from Africa, 1 from the Middle East, and 5 from Australia-Antarctic and the Pacific. That’s an impressive 29 books reviewed for the challenge in February!! There was a real mix of genres, including older titles, historical novels, romance, mystery, folktales and non-fiction.

Below you’ll find the challenge round-up for last month – and don’t worry if you missed linking your review, I’ll just include it in March’s round-up!

Note: Reviewer links go to the reviewer’s blog page; title links will take you to the book’s Goodreads page.

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ASIA

SOUTH KOREA

koreawToomas Nipernaadi from Estonia who blogs at Non-native Reader (I love the fact that participants of this challenge come from all over, it’s awesome!!), takes us to Korea: A Walk Through the Land of Miracles with this travel book by Simon Winchester from 1988 (and reminds me I need to read The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary which I have sitting around somewhere). Toomas makes the point that choosing to read this book because of the author (and previous enjoyment of the author’s writing style) and not because of the subject (Republic of Korea) made this book enjoyable.

However, Toomas does concede that others’ complaints about the book have some merit, especially as Winchester, over the course of his Korean travels, did not seem to even like the country or the people. She ends her review with a timely insight: “of course, as nearly 30 years have gone by from that walk thorough Korea, it is more of an history book than a travel book by now.”



INDIA

staying-onAlso from Toomas at Non-native Reader is a review of Paul Scott’s novel, Staying On. First published in 1977, it won the Booker Prize back before it was the Man Booker Prize, and is about a retired British army colonel and his wife who, when the British depart India, decide to stay on. They live in a small hill town called Pangkot, full of “eccentric inhabitants and archaic rituals left over from the days of the Empire.”

Toomas says, “I loved this book and found it both moving and thought provoking on more than one topic. It touched themes of long marriage partners, of colonialism, of class issues. […] And, as a non-native English speaker myself, I absolutely loved to read about Ibrahim getting to know English language better.”


JAPAN

sound of the mountainBrona (Brona’s Books) reviewed Yasunari Kawabata’s classic 1949 novel, The Sound of the Mountain. Kawabata won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1968 (he died four years later), and this book has been described as the novel “that demystifies Japanese culture the most”. It is about a dysfunctional family, led by patriarch Ogata Shingo whose memory is failing. He has a disappointing wife, a philandering son, and a daughter-in-law who he’s sexually attracted to while also pitying her. Sadly, Brona could not rave about this novel.

“Maybe I wasn’t in the mood for a slow, gentle story about aging and family tensions? I normally like a good introspective book. And I love reading about dysfunctional families! I also believe I’m intelligent enough to appreciate and enjoy subtle & culturally sensitive, nuanced writing. In fact, it was the cultural references and descriptions of nature that I found the most touching and interesting.” Ultimately, though, she was underwhelmed and couldn’t come to care for Shingo.



MALAYSIA

heart radicalThe Heart Radical is a new book by Boyd Anderson that Shelleyrae reviewed at Book’d Out. It is set in the late 1940s; after resisting Japan during the war, the people of Malaysia object to how Britain is administering the country’s assets and resources, with Britain desperately needs for its own rebuilding efforts. Resistance leads to rebellion and the execution-style murder of three white plantation owners; an emergency was declared and the Malayan National Liberation Army went underground.

Shelleyrae does an admirable job of explaining the story and structure of this 400+ page novel. There is “Su-Lin Tan, and her reading of Dr Anna Thumboo’s journal.” A child at the time of the Emergency, her father was a lawyer who defended one of the MNLA leaders. Dr Anna Thumboo was a young widow “who provided medical aid to the Malayan People’s Anti-Japanese Army (MPAJA) later known as the MNLA”. Her journal is a letter to her son, Paris. There’s more to it but I couldn’t possibly summarise it any briefer than that without simply repeating everything Shelleyrae said; instead, visit her review to learn more.

Of the novel, she says: “I found I was sometimes unsure about the timeline, which is complicated by memories within memories, but the perspectives of Su-Lin and Anna were compelling enough to dismiss any brief periods of disorientation. In contrast, I found the scenes in the present day intrusive, Paris Thumboo’s character seemed irrelevant and I think a direct link between Su-Lin and the manuscript could have easily been established without him. Similarly the contemporary love story that develops between the two characters is a distraction that I wasn’t interested in.”


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SOUTH AMERICA

BRAZIL

elusive hopeAt Faith, Hope and Cherrytea, Sharon reviewed MaryLu Tyndall’s romance novel, Elusive Hope, the second book in the Escape to Paradise series. A Christian historical fiction novel set after the American Civil War, it follows Hayden Gale’s search for his “scoundrel” of a father, which leads him to Brazil. It’s also about Magnolia Scott, who came to the jungles of Brazil with her father and will do anything to return to her familiar life of luxury in the American South – including teaming up with Hayden.

Sharon says that in this second book, the Americans’ disillusionment at not finding the anticipated Utopia in Brazil is apparent. “Tyndall paints a clear picture of life in the exotic jungles of Brazil, creating their dreamed of utopian home, New Hope, in the midst of oppressive forces within and without the camp. Encompassing relational struggles for love and greed – surprise appearances of human and otherworld apparitions – there was a lot of action and intrigue, keeping my attention to the end.”

The story alternates between Hayden and Magnolia and progresses alongside their romance, but it is the setting and “the spiritual undercurrent of advancing evil” that really seemed to have really caught Sharon’s attention.


ARGENTINA

dead mans taleEkatarina journeyed to Argentina with Dead Man’s Tale by Joanna Chmielewska over at In My Book. First published in 1972, it doesn’t look like this book has been translated into English yet, so I’ll hand you over to Ekatarina to describe it:

The novel is an “ironical detective” bordering with chick-lit. My mom recommended me the book, otherwise there’s no way I would have picked it. My mom also doesn’t often read this kind of literature, but she swore it was really funny. Well, it did turn out to be funny, but only after I had got used to the overly simplistic and over-the-top writing style. Who would have thought that I’ll need time to get used to pulp?

The novel tells about a middle-aged woman who happens to hear the last words of a dying gang member and is left the only bearer of the secret where the gang’s vast funds are hidden. The gang smuggle her to Argentina and try to make her speak, but she is not an easy person to scare into doing something, so she rather prefers to escape. What follows is a mad around-the-world chase, in which female ‘logic’ always triumphs.

In short, she says, it was a “nice and funny relaxing read”.


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EUROPE & UK

FRANCE

paris architectTJ of My Book Strings visited Paris with Charles Belfoure’s historical fiction novel from last year, The Paris Architect. TJ was drawn in not only by the beautiful cover, but by the premise and other recommendations that it was similar to Sarah’s Key. Set in Nazi-occupied France during WWII, it tells the story of architect Lucien Bernard, a gentile who has little sympathy for the Jews. He’s asked to design secret hiding places for Jews in exchange for a lot of money, and faces a crisis: to risk his own life for something he doesn’t really believe in. But the challenge appeals to him, so he takes on the task.

Of the novel, TJ says: “I was ready to be swept off my feet, but unfortunately wasn’t. The descriptions of Paris were well written, and the author’s knowledge and love of architecture certainly shone through and gave this book an interesting angle. But the characters did not come to life for me. Emotionally, I didn’t feel vested in them.”



POLAND

zarembaMichelle Granas’ romantic 2013 novel, Zaremba: or, Love and the Rule of Law, was reviewed by Kama at For Culture’s Sake. The story centres around “a shy and high-minded polio victim”, Cordelia, and a wealthy businessman, Zaremba, who is about to be arrested on trumped-up charges. Only Cordelia can save him. It’s a love story dominated by politics, but as a romance it was very good, Kama says.

“When it comes to romance, I liked the “first marriage then love” tho they had the feelings for each other, just unsaid. But it was a contract marriage, having a purpose. And that there (luckily) wasn’t “and they lived happily ever after” because it was just a half of the book and bigger problems to arise yet.”


SCOTLAND

Death Of Charming Man audiobk coverI’m a big fan of the TV show, Hamish Mcbeth, starring Robert Carlyle, so I was stoked to see one of the original books reviewed for the challenge. Sharon (Faith, Hope and Cherrytea) reviewed MC Beaton’s mystery novel Death of a Charming Man – in fact, she reviewed the audiobook, first time we’ve had an audiobook in this challenge!

This is the 10th book in the series, and starts with the arrival of a rich bachelor who sets the town of Lochdubh’s women in a tizzy of competition and jealousy. Or as Sharon tells it (much better too!): “The opening scene has Hamish escaping his own home via the bedroom window, whilst Priscilla, his intended, and a hoard of village women overrun his kitchen to have a new electric cooker installed. Had anyone asked Hamish if he wanted one? Not a word. Its arrival sets Hamish on a course of disillusion and doom regarding his future. His territory has been invaded and the sense of loss starts his thoughts on a downward spiral.”

As I read more of Sharon’s review, I realise I should really be reading Beaton’s series, too – I’m so attached to the TV show that I’ve been afraid the books would suffer by comparison. But Sharon may well have convinced me that the books more than stand on their own. She lauds Beaton’s wit and Shaun Grindell’s exemplary Scottish narration in this unabridged audiobook. There’s also social commentary, especially as regards the Highland’s negative attitude to newcomers, the Highlands versus the Lowlands and men versus women. Not to mention, Hamish’s relationship with Priscilla that has been gaining momentum through the books.



IRELAND

what happens in irelandWhat Happens in Ireland by Whitney KE was reviewed by Jess (The Never Ending Bookshelf). It’s a romance about Kate, an Australian woman who moves to Ireland for a new job at a thoroughbred stud, and Jack, the handsome Irishman she first meets in a Dublin bar and who later turns up at the stud as her co-manager. Jack is drawn to Kate, and to the challenge, because Kate isn’t interested.

The first book in a new series, Jess says it “is a fun,witty and flirty read that just oozes sexual tension.” In fact, it sounds like it really won her over: “With vibrant backdrops and gorgeous descriptions about meadows and rolling green fields, I cant think of more perfect and exotic location to set a rural romance story. And what a story it is. Not as fast paced as many other romance novels I’ve read lately, What Happens In Ireland, lets you fall in love with the characters and their surroundings as the characters themselves fall in love. It’s perfectly paced with a slow decent into a mind blowing romance, but with just enough – and by just enough, I mean excessively oozing in the right way – chemistry and sexual tension.”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAClare O’Beara’s novel, Murder at Irish Mensa, was reviewed by Marj (Marj’s Mysteries). This is the first book in the Mensa series, which, as you might have guessed, is about the Mensa organisation. I’ll let Marj explain:

“Mensa is an international organization, the membership consisting of people with a very high IQ. They have local meetings, and also regional and national conventions.”

The story takes place at just such a convention, organised by Cara Cassidy, a tree surgeon. When one of the hotel guests is killed, and a valuable necklace goes missing, Cara feels obligated to help solve the mystery. Marj concludes, “I found the descriptions of the convention, the other members, and the setting to be well-written. There is a nice mystery to solve, and a little romance.”



ENGLAND

green for dangerMarj of Marj’s Mysteries reviewed Green for Danger by Christianna Brand, the 2nd book in the Inspector Cockrill series. First published in 1944, it’s set in a military hospital during the German Blitzkrieg in England during WWII.

I’ll let Marj describes it: “The story takes place in a British hospital in the countryside. One of the nurses is murdered after announcing that the death of a patient undergoing surgery was not an accident as everyone had believed, but deliberate, and that she had proof of it. I found the story to be riveting, and enjoyed not only the mystery, but the way it drew me into the era when it took place.”

elegy for eddieElegy for Eddie, the 9th book in Jacqueline Winspear’s Maisie Dobbs series, takes us back to England in the 1920s. Brona of Brona’s Books is, she confesses in her review, a “little in love with the amazing Maisie Dobbs.” Maisie is a private investigator who, in this volume, is investigating the suspicious death of a childhood friend. Her own traumatic past, having been a nurse during WWI, has had “a huge impact on her. Her psychological training not only coming in handy to solve the crime, but to give her insight into her own actions and behaviours.”

One of the joys of reading Elegy for Eddie was, for Brona, the setting: “This book is full of visits to Covent Garden in all its working class grittiness. Tea shops, costermongers, stables, factories, fog and the River Thames all feature regularly. Having visited Covent Garden in more modern times it’s hard to imagine the smells, the noise & the potential dangers that inhabited this area in times gone by. Winspear helps to bring it to life though thanks to the memories and stories told to her by her father.”


I spy?Kate Johnson’s mystery novel, I, Spy? was the second book Marj (Marj’s Mysteries) read for England. The first in the Sophie Green series, it introduces readers to Sophie, a young, single Brit working at a local airport who is asked to join a secret government agency. Marj was expecting a cozy, perhaps humorous mystery, and so was surprised by the graphic content. “There is a little too much swearing, a little too much sex, and a little more gore than you would expect to see in a cozy mystery.” (I noticed that this is published by Samhain; they publish a lot of erotic novels so be warned!)

But there is a mystery, and it is filled with humor, from the situations Sophie gets herself into, to her remarks, to the whole concept of Sophie being a secret agent. I started the book, thinking I’d read for 15 or 20 minutes before going to bed. Several hours later I finished the book, and went to bed much later than I had intended.

Her one regret? That she hadn’t read it back when she first got the book in 2011. A great recommendation!


martyrs fireThere was a lot of time travelling to England in February! Sharon of Faith, Hope & Cherrytea went all the way back to medieval England with Canadian author Sigmund Brouwer’s Merlin Immortals series. Martyr’s Fire is the third book, set in 1313, and follows Thomas on a long journey to the Holy Land after escaping Castle Magnus when fifteen men calling themselves Priests of the Holy Grail arrive to take control of it and its inhabitants. There are two Immortals, Katherine and Hawkwood, watching over him and his friend, Gervaise, and “Thomas is tested in his beliefs and comes face to face with the ancient power that the Merlins and Druids have long been searching for.”

Of this 3rd book, Sharon says,

Having not read the preceding two books of the series I was at a disadvantage in not knowing main players in the drama, but was quick to catch up with the author’s inclusion of references and descriptions of events. Action was constant, keeping me involved rather than frustrated. Deception and intrigue weave a dark pattern enhancing colourful characters and action. Brouwer paints a bustling medieval York that included me midst each scene – having walked through those very gates, the cobbled alleys, the broad stone walls. High sea adventures as Thomas continues his flight from the evil intentioned druids. Battles and skirmishes play out for better and for worse… Who does he trust?

I love the story. I love the characters. I want to know how it ends.

Luckily, she gets her wish – hear about the fourth book under “Israel”, below.



Dancing MasterMore at Faith, Hope & Cherrytea! Sharon continued her reading spree with The Dancing Master by Julie Klassen, an historical romance novel with a touch of mystery. Alec Valcourt is a dancing master who moves his mother and sister to Devonshire to start over. He’s surprised to find that the town matriarch has banned all forms of dancing, though. He finds an unlikely ally in her daughter, Julia, but just as there are secrets in her mother’s past that explain the dancing ban, so Julia thinks there must be something fishy in Mr Valcourt’s move from London.

So nice to hear about a Regency Romance that isn’t about an aristocrat! In her review, Sharon says she found the dance master to be an imaginatively created character. “I cheered him on as he struggled with each unexpected loss, determined to find and take new directions. Definitely a hero, Ms Klassen has drawn him flawed, fallible and a favourite for this reader.”

Unfortunately, she had trouble with the female characters, Julia and her mother: “Both Midwinter women so conflicted, I found them less than likeable, yet, I’m sure intentionally so in order to make room for the character development intended. And there were plenty of episodes to provide opportunity for those improvements! Our author knew what she was about with plot twists, devious schemers, and intrigue, from past to present.”

Finally, she found the setting itself to be “well researched and authentically evoked. The rural settings of Devonshire in this novel are tangible. As are the interior sketches. Familial relationships are authentic and I appreciated the descriptives of homelife and daily activities.”



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NORTH AMERICA

MEXICO

prayers for the stolenShelleyrae of Book’d Out reviewed Jennifer Clement’s new release, Prayers for the Stolen. It’s the story of Ladydi Garcia Martinez, who lives with her alcoholic mother in an impoverished village. Girls are disguised as boys until puberty, and afterwards are made ugly by their mothers in an attempt to hide them from the Narcos, who steal girls. And then one of her friends returns. Paula, a girl who was “stolen” (kidnapped) by Narcos, returns a year later, irrevocably changed.

Shelleyrae says, “It is not always easy to read, for though rarely explicit, Clements portrays the society in which Ladydi lives, and her experiences, with searing honesty.

Clements writing is simple, even stark, yet it possess an unusual beauty that illustrates the harsh landscape and society in which the novel is set. The narrative is well paced, some may be irritated by the lack of speech marks – I barely noticed.

Prayers for the Stolen may be fiction but this way of life is reality for too many of the women and girls in Mexico. Thought provoking, moving and powerful this is a story of compelling character and courage.”



CANADA

road past altamontSharon, who blogs at Faith, Hope and Cherrytea but also reviews at Goodreads, travelled close to home in Gabrielle Roy’s 1966 novel, The Road Past Altamont. Translated into English from French, Sharon found the writing to be excellent, with an “ethereal quality” that really impressed her. The story is a coming-of-age novel about “sensitive” Christine, via four connected stories “[f]eaturing 3 segments of Christine’s life – an emotionally evocative childhood stay with her maternal grandmother; an affirming friendship with an elderly neighbour; reflective adulthood with her aging mother prior to leaving for Paris and the afterward.” Sharon was impressed by Roy’s classic and inspired to read more of her work.



USA

lady in the mistSharon posted her review of Laurie Alice Eakes’s Christian historical romance novel, Lady in the Mist, over at Goodreads. Set in Virginia, this is the first book in The Midwives series and introduces Tabitha Eckles. As a midwife, she knows a lot of secrets about things behind other people’s closed doors. Then she crosses paths with Dominick Cherrett, a British nobleman working as a bondsman for the mayor. What follows is “a twisted path through kidnappings, death threats, public disgrace, and . . . love?” Sounds exciting! Sharon says that she came to love and detest the characters so much she missed them after finishing the book, especially the swoon-worthy hero. More than that, though, the novel as a whole really impressed her:

“Virginia’s seaside setting plays a huge role with kidnappings, ships, and threats of war between American and British government factions. Laurie’s descriptive writing adds much to creating Tabitha’s world at that time in history. Dominick’s secretive past and British ancestry are cause for more concerns than only those on the romantic front… Such danger admidst such beauty adds to tensions.”



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AFRICA

ZIMBABWE & BOTSWANA

girl who married a lionSharon reviewed Alexander McCall Smith’s collection of folktales from Africa, The Girl Who Married A Lion. Originally published in 1989 as Children of Wax, this is a slightly different edition with six new stories but the omission of one from the original collection. Sharon “Liked the simplicity of writing style and wordsmithing which supported the oral tradition of the African folktales.”

Not all were positive stories – some having horrific outcomes when the story or ending was actually considered. Wide variety of topics covering hunting, gathering, family, marriage, relationships, death, life, weather, travel, animals vs people or animals in relationship with people. Definite insights into the African culture with settings and situations unusual to Western culture. An enjoyable read as each folktale is a brief 2-3 pages. Easy to pick up in spare moments, or for longer sessions when the impact of the African life is realized.



NIGERIA

I do not come to you by chanceAllison (File Under) reviewed I Do Not Come to You by Chance by Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani, from 2009. I hadn’t heard of this before but reading Allison’s review, I did of course think of Will Ferguson’s 2013 novel, 419, also about Nigeria’s email scams. Unlike Ferguson’s book, though, Allison says this “is a satirical work about the people at the other end of those emails: the Nigerian email scam artists. The main character, Kingsley, is a straight-A student whose unfortunate life circumstances force him to provide for his family by becoming one of these criminal email writers.”

Allison found that the first half of the novel was excellent, especially the writing and “the description of the family’s poverty and aspirations”, but the second half was disjointed and slow. “I have two main criticisms: first, Kingsley goes from a law-abiding, idealistic student to a materialistic, money-obsessed criminal without much personal reflection. Second, there does not seem to be a real plot to the second half: we see how he advances in his craft and has different anxieties, but there doesn’t seem to be any real development or changes as the story goes on. While I enjoyed the book, it fizzled out in the second half and did not regain its initial momentum.”



purple hibiscusChimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s first novel, Purple Hibiscus, was reviewed by Toomas at Non-native Reader. The world of fifteen-year-old Kambili is one of seclusion and religion, but when the country is shaken by a political coup and her father is somehow involved, he sends her to live with her aunt in a house filled with love and laughter. I haven’t read this novel yet (I did read Half of a Yellow Sun and didn’t love it as much as other people did), but Toomas’s descriptions of the themes makes me very curious:

…the book also brings up the favorite dilemma of young history students – how should one evaluate a person, who is doing much positive to society, but is a monster towards people in his/her immediate circle?

Many actions of the monster-father can be described as vain, as directed toward the positive public face (like the holiday feast to whole village or just letting the children to see their grandfather for 15 minutes annually), but we are informed that, as a member of society, Kambili’s father IS an upstanding and honest man who does a lot of good.

Overall, though, Toomas found it harder to read than Half of a Yellow Sun, and “even if it does have lot of descriptions of Nigerian customs and history, due to the emotionally hard story of the abuse inside one family, I found it harder to pay attention to the world outside of the abuse Kambili, Jaja and their mother were suffering from.”

KENYA

adeTJ (My Book Strings) read Rebecca Walker’s novella, Adé: A Love Story. I read this last year and really liked it, as did TJ. The story about a young, naive American woman who travels to Africa with her friend Miriam does a lot in such a short novel, especially once she meets Adé, who gives her the Muslim name, “Farida”. They make a home for themselves on a small island off the coast of Kenya and it’s there, as TJ says, that the story delves more into the culture and people of the place. But their young love is tested when they have to travel to the mainland to get Adé a passport, and face the inherent corruption, prejudice and violence there.

TJ ends her review by saying, “Once the narrator has to deal with the harsh reality of what life in Africa would mean for her, the book got more interesting, and I felt much closer to the story. Interestingly, it was the last paragraph that really hit home for me. Yes, the ending is abrupt, and I would have liked to get more details about what happened to Farida and Adé. But leaving the love story open-ended in a way made it more interesting.”



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THE MIDDLE EAST

ISRAEL

blades of valorSharon delved again into medieval historical adventure with Blades of Valor, the fourth book in Sigmund Brouwer’s Merlin’s Immortals series. It takes place in Jerusalem and Nazareth, with the main characters later journeying to England. Sharon, of Faith, Hope and Cherrytea, describes this conclusion to the series as emotionally and intellectually intense. The exotic locations and period descriptions were well-formed, she says, and she enjoyed the element of surprise in the book. She concludes by saying,

“Conclusion wrapped up the series with finesse and I was left with a sense of satisfaction in having discovered the mysteries as well as the outcome. Time well spent!”



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AUSTRALIA & THE PACIFIC

NEW ZEALAND

uncanny life of pollySharon reviewed The Uncanny Life of Polly over at Goodreads. This chick-lit novella by British author Karen Aminadra begins in New Zealand and then travels to Australia with its heroine, Polly. Polly is an author with a “sarcastic wit” and a strong will who goes from one “chaotic experience to another.”

Sharon goes on to say that she appreciates the author’s use of language and slang in recreating the locations and keep the story authentic. She’s previously enjoyed Amindra’s Pride and Prejudice retellings and does caution other fans that The Uncanny Life of Polly is more explicit.



AUSTRALIA

light between oceansML Stedman’s break-out novel, The Light Between Oceans was reviewed by Allison at File Under. This is one I’ve had on my TBR pile for a while.

Allison says she had originally avoided the book because the subject matter seemed too depressing, but on a whim she started reading it and was pulled in by “the excellent writing and sense of place evoked by the island.”

I think what I enjoyed most about this book is its portrayal of the couple’s decision the baby. Both options (report it or keep it as their own) come with their own benefits and disadvantages and the author deftly explores the mindset of the two main characters.

I would recommend this book to anyone interested in the following topics: the time period after WWI and its social ramifications, stories about couples and tales about small towns.



rosie projectAlso in Australia, Deb (The Book Stop) reviewed Graeme Simsion’s popular debut novel, The Rosie Project (a book I highly enjoyed last year). Like me, Deb round it to be a really fun read, bringing “together a lot of things I like – clever romantic comedy, Australia, and Asperger’s. If that sounds like a weird combination, it is, but that’s me.” While Deb loved the story and how Simsion handled the complexities of autism, she found that there wasn’t a strong sense of place – at least, not until the main characters travel to New York City and the differences become apparent:

“Oddly, it’s not until Don leaves the country and flies to New York that I really got a sense of the difference. He points out that New York is a much easier place to be if you have Asperger’s – it’s got more tolerance for weirdness. This made sense to me. When I was in Australia, the overwhelming difference I saw in the people there was their good humor, friendliness, and laid-back attitude. So I can imagine that having Asperger’s (finding it hard to talk to people, understand jokes, or waste time) would be infinitely more difficult there.”

The Rosie Project has gone onto Deb’s list of top books for 2014, and she recommends it to everyone (as do I!).


cocaine bluesFinally, our well-read mystery/crime/thriller contributor, Marj of Marj’s Mysteries, read the very first of Kerry Greenwood’s Phryne Fisher mysteries, Cocaine Blues. I haven’t read a Phryne Fisher book since high school (though I do enjoy the TV series!), but they provide an enjoyable visit back to 1920s Australia. As the first book in the series, Cocaine Blues introduces readers to the Honourable Phryne Fisher, an independent, intelligent, wealthy woman who enjoys her sexual freedom and being her own woman. Marj says the story is about Phryne checking into a possible domestic poisoning case: the woman becomes ill whenever her husband is around. She also helps out a poor woman (Dotty) by employing her, and befriends two taxi men who become indispensable in helping with her cases. Marj concludes,

“I enjoyed this story, except there was just a little too much information on the sexual activities for me. The descriptions of the different people she meets, from all walks of life was well done. She brings the time and the place to life. The book is well-written, with enough humor to keep you engaged, and an interesting mystery to solve. I’ll be reading additional books in this series!”



ANTARCTICA

at the mountains of madnessHere’s a first for the challenge! Ekatarina (In My Book) journeyed to the less-visited continent of Antarctica (which I’m including under Australia and Oceania for convenience) with HP Lovecraft’s 1936 novel, At the Mountains of Madness.

This story about an old and mysterious civilisation discovered deep in Antarctic ice struck her, initially, as a great plot. However, Ekatarina was sadly disappointed with the execution of the novel to the point where she was about to throw the book out the window. She found it slow, frustrating and uneventful.

“And, of course, the writing. It’s so descriptive that it just makes me sleepy. For more than 50 pages they explore the old city, looking at the reliefs and having some horrible premonitions. No less than 5 times the narrator compares the scenery with that on Roerich’s pictures. OK, OK, Lovecraft, calm down! I got it from the first mention already! It’s no necessary to emphasize how in awe of Roerich you are…”


See January’s round-up post here.

5 comments to Around the World in 12 Books Challenge – February Round-up

  • Nice summary and interesting books (and ideas). 🙂 You write you didn’t read books for any challenges. I didn’t read all books for my own challenges, and some of those I read, I didn’t review yet. 😀 I’m starting to think that reading too many books and participating in too many challenges is bad for health 😉
    Kama recently posted..A to Z 2014 March challengeMy Profile

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    Shannon Reply:

    @Kama, It’s hard to keep up, isn’t it? I used to sign up for so many reading challenges because there are so many interesting ones out there, but it just swamps you. Now I restrict myself to three, and I allow myself to skip a month here and there! It’s gotta be realistic, right? or like you say, it just stresses you out and that strikes me as counter-productive!

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    Kama Reply:

    @Shannon, Yes, it’s hard. 😀 I joined 10 challenges but I thought it’ll be easy to get one book for several challenges at once. It isn’t. 😀 I read 4/12 books for your challenge, reviewed only 2 so far. In February I haven’t finished even one book by a Polish author (I read 6) and I’m still at 1/16 books about my country (the one I read was Zaremba… ;)). Now I kinda feel bad I read just foreign books. 🙁 Luckily 1 more book and I’ll finish another challenge. 😀
    Kama recently posted..Heartland’s fightsMy Profile

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  • Hi Shannon, thanks for putting this roundup together! it’s wonderful. i missed sending a link for february, but will join in March again, and i plan to feature your roundup in the blueprint book blog to spread the word, will send mail when it is up. cheers, Dorothee from Germany

    [Reply]

  • Thanks for including my post! I’ve got a few more for the next round-up. This year’s challenge has been so much easier because we can read on our own schedule. It’s great to read about where everyone else has “been”.
    curlygeek04 recently posted..Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew QuickMy Profile

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