CMBohn in Europe
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Austria: fiction - A Death in Vienna, 2013, 4 stars
Denmark: fiction - Winter's Tales, 2009 **
England: fiction - Persuasion, 2009 ****, The Eustace Diamonds ****
non-fiction - 1066: The Year of the Conquest ****
France: fiction - Cyrano de Bergerac, 2009 ****, The Sleeping Car Murders 2010 ****, All Quiet on the Western Front 2010 *****, A Very Long Engagement, 2010, **
non-fiction - The Lost King of France, 2009 ***, Seven Ages of Paris, 2010 ***
Germany: fiction - The Book Thief, 2009 ****,
non-fiction - Yearning for the Living God, 2010 4.5 stars, The Boy Who Dared, 2010 3.5 stars
non-fiction - Persian Fire 4 stars, 2013
Iceland: fiction - My Soul to Take - Yrsa ****
Ireland: fiction - Laced - Clark ***, In the Woods - Tana French 2.5 stars
Italy: Death at La Fenice, 3 stars, 2010
Malta: The Information Officer, 3 stars, 2012
Montenegro: fiction - The Black Mountain, 2010 *****
The Netherlands: non-fiction - The diary of a Young Girl, 2009 ***
Northern Ireland: fiction - An Irish Country Doctor, 2012, 4 stars
Norway: fiction - A Doll's House - Ibsen, 2009 *****
non-fiction - We Die Alone TBR
Poland: fiction - Briar Rose, 2010 ****
non-fiction - Copernicus' Secret - 4 stars
Romania: fiction - Dracula, 2010 5 stars
Russia: fiction - The Winter Queen, 2010 **, non-fiction - Russia and the Restored Gospel, 3 stars
Scotland: non-fiction - The Sea for Breakfast, 2009 ****
Spain: fiction - Don Quixote, 2009 **
Sweden: fiction - The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, 2009 ****
Turkey: fiction - The Ascent of D-13 ***
Wales - Quite Early One Morning TBR,
Akrotiri and Dhekelia
Guernsey: fiction - The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, 2009 *****
Isle of Man
Marian French needs some money, so she takes a job as a sort of companion to a young woman planning a trip to Greece. They just barely start the tour when a woman is killed in an accident. But the accidents start piling up, Marian's new friend Stella is obviously terrified of something, and Marian has a close scrape herself. What's really going on here? Meanwhile, they travel all over Greece, right after the revolution, and the stories of the modern politics are a lot more disturbing that the ancient ones.
I got this one on audiobook and it was a fun story, but a bit predictable in parts and rather unbelievable. Still, it was a fun story and I wouldn't mind reading another by this author. It did make me curious about modern Greek government and tourism.
I broke my own rule and jumped into the middle of series with this one. I will definitely go back and start at the beginning. I think this is the only mystery set in Iceland that I've ever read, and I really enjoyed it. Thora was a little annoying as a main character, as she was always doing things she would never get away with in real life. It's more like a cozy than the darker Scandinavian tone I was expecting, but I did enjoy it.
Thora's biggest client, New Ager Jonas, calls her to report a problem with his new hotel. The vibes are all wrong. And he wants the sellers of the property to compensate him. By the time she arrives, the bad vibes have given way to a murder.
The Ascent of D-13 by Andrew Garve
This book starts with a hijacking. A carefully chosen UN plane is traveling across Europe to test a new top secret spy camera when one of the crew pulls a gun and announces that they are going to Russia. The copilot gets a chance to get the gun away from him just before they are ready to land and the plane turns around. Right at the Turkish border the Russians shoot down the plane. It crashes on a remote mountain.
Entirely by chance an internationally renowned mountain climber happens to be in Turkey at that very moment! (all right, the book has to start somewhere) The English diplomat asks him would he please climb up there and return that camera?
Some major mountain climbing drama ensues. I am not a climber; in fact, I'm not so crazy about hanging off a cliff tied to a rope. No fun for me. But I still enjoyed this book. Maybe it helps that I have some mountains right outside my window, but I found it pretty easy to get into the story.
What made the book a little odd to read is that so much has happened since the book was written. Satellites make much of the story out of date, although a major blizzard will still obscure things. GPS devices mean that pinpointing an exact location is entirely possible. But the real drama - will they make it off the mountain - that hasn't changed. When it comes to the roughest peaks on earth, it's still man vs. element, and the element still wins most of the time.
Not perfect, but I liked it well enough that I'm going to look for another by this author.
1066: The Year of the Conquest
I am an English major, and part of my course work including English history and linguistics. So I had a basic understanding of how the Normans had influenced England. But until I read this book, I never had a clear idea of what England was like BEFORE the Normans showed up. As I listened to this one, I have to admit that my sympathies (and clearly those of the author) were firmly with the English. Harold was a good king and would have served the English well. William's arrival was nothing short of a disaster for most of the English. The Normans took over the estates, built castles that doubled as prisons, ransacked the countryside and the churches, and completely changed the structure of society.
It was interesting to learn about the Battle of Hastings too. I would have expected that the Norman knights would have had a clear advantage over the English infantry, but they really didn't. It sounded like what had made the big difference was the kind of leadership available during the battle.
I really enjoyed this book. It did a great job of making the personalities behind the names come to life. Now my next job is to find a copy of 'A Needle in the Hand of God' about the Bayeux tapestry. It was mentioned so often throughout this book, and I really have no idea what it looks like. Great for history buffs.
The Eustace Diamonds
Lizzie Eustace had to marry. So she went to work, captivated a wealthy man, and became Lady Eustace. Lord Eustace died, leaving Lizzie a house tenancy for life and everything to his son. He also left a diamond necklace. Was it left to Lizzie specifically, or was it left to his son, to give his bride one day? Lizzie is sure it was left to her, and she refuses to give it back.
That is the central plot of this Victorian novel by Anthony Trollope. It's the third in the Palliser series, but it is not necessary to read them in order to enjoy this one. Despite its age, I had no trouble reading and enjoying this book. Yes, Trollope does moralize a bit in places and some of the paragraphs are dauntingly large and wordy. But the characters are still fresh and very entertaining. I was only a few pages into the book when I thought, "Oh, this is going to be fun!" A beautiful, selfish, spoiled heroine and a meaty plot - what more could I want? I stayed up until 1:30 in the morning to finish last night, but had to go to bed and read the last few pages this morning. Definitely it did take longer than my usual read, since it took me about 3 days to read it. But it was worth it. The setting was well done and very interesting.
As always, if you want to read it and be surprised, DO NOT read the preface first. Just read the back of the book and jump in.
Yearning for the Living God
This quiet little book has some amazing depth to it. Busche is a man of deep faith and humility. He shares some of his amazing experiences that led to his conversion to the LDS church and his subsequent service in the church. Any Latter-day Saint would find this a compelling read.
It is his early life, however, that makes this a book I would recommend to just about anyone. The first two chapters are a sort of stand-alone that tell of his boyhood in Hitler Germany. Busche was born just 3 years before Hitler came to power. He describes just what it was like growing up at such a time. He remembers being enrolled for Hitler Youth when he was very young, and the excitement he felt at his tenth birthday when he finally got to wear the uniform and go to meetings.
At age 14, he and some other neighborhood boys were rounded up, issued guns and uniforms, and sent off to the Front. By the time they had arrived where they thought they should be, the Front had dissolved and the American tanks were rolling in. He soon became a prisoner of war. As I read this, I looked over at my 12 year old son. It was almost impossible to imagine, but frightening all the same.
If you have any interest in reading more about World War II, I really recommend looking for a copy of this book. It might be hard to find outside of Utah, but I can't recommend it enough. I especially wanted to include it here because while there are several stories throughout about World War II, there is also a lot about post-war Germany. Most of my other books seem to be about nothing but war, so this was nice to add a little balance.
This book couldn't be a great contrast to Laced by Carol Higgins Clark. Clark's version of a mystery is the cozy with a dash of humor, romance, and very light on the actual mystery. In the Woods is not even a little cozy. It is quite dark and sinister.
Adam Ryan and his two best friends head to the woods near their house to play one summer day. Only Adam returns, with blood in his shoes and no idea of what happened. The other two children are hunted for a time, but eventually they are presumed dead.
Many years later another child disappears from the same neighborhood into the same woods. This time, Adam is the one investigating the case. Katy Devlin's body is found, but no one can tell if the two cases are related or not. Ryan, now known as Rob, is trying to keep his identity secret while he investigates possible pedophiles, family jealousies, and possible political corruption. In the meantime, his past keeps cropping up and Ryan is on a path toward self-destruction.
I wasn't crazy about this book, but I'm not sure why not. The book raises a lot of questions, but doesn't provide many answers. It certainly doesn't have a neat little happy ending. But all through the book, I just wasn't engaging with the characters and I found myself skipping pages here and there. I read the blurb about the book which praised the writing style and the psychological suspense, but the main suspense I felt was in wondering exactly how messed up Rob was and if he would overcome his own demons or fall apart.
The setting was important in this book, both from at the time of the original disappearance and the modern day setting. Jonathan Devlin, the dead girl's father, describes how the depressed economy was affecting everything in the 80s. The political situation with the corruption and the tension with developers versus the preservationists, all of it is very important to the story. I thought that this part was quite well done.
I didn't hate this book, but I don't think I'll read another one by the author.
This one is a struggle! I'm about 60 pages in and new characters appear on every single page. Not sure I'll finish this one.
Helmuth was a boy growing up in Hitler Germany who decided he just couldn't accept the Nazi philosophy. He and his friends start listening to the illegal broadcasts by the BBC. Soon they decide that listening is not enough - they want everyone else to know what is really going on. But then they are caught, and the penalty is death.
I enjoyed this story. I first heard of Helmuth Hubener because of a play performed about him at BYU. Hubener is a bit of a folk hero in Utah because he and his friends were LDS. I have read a biography written by one of his friends.
The reason for the relatively low rating is because that this was a book for teens. In fact, my daughter read it in 9th grade. Even for them, though, I think it skews a little young. My 12 year old could read this easily. I think the writer could have gone a little deeper. She talks about some of the torture that the Nazis used to break down Helmuth and his friends Brother Worbs, but doesn't give much detail about the emotional impact all this had. Maybe I'm a little harsh and on another day I would rate this higher. I think it would be a good book for a 12 or 13 year old to start learning about the World War II.
I picked this one up at the planetarium gift shop mostly because of the title, I think. I knew about Copernicus, and that he was the discoverer of the sun-centered solar system. But when I got into the book, I realized that there was so much I didn't know about him.
Copernicus was born in modern-day Poland. After his father's death, his uncle, a bishop, took care of him and his brother and paid for their university education. It was there that Copernicus began to study astronomy for the first time. But he never really did what you would expect. He got a degree in canonical law, not astronomy, and returned to Poland to become a canon. He almost completely gave up astronomy, except for his own private studies, which he didn't publish. And he became the town doctor. I also found that he became a military hero after he saved his town of Warmia from invasion and negotiated the peace.
It wasn't until the second half of the book that we get to understand how Copernicus and his discoveries became public knowledge, all because of his friendship with a young Lutheran mathematician and scientist.
I learned a lot about the history of Poland, and some of the turmoil there caused both by the Teutonic Knights, which I had never heard of, and the Protestant Reformation.
It could have been better, as a biography of Copernicus, but if you'd like a non-fiction book about Poland, one that has nothing at all to do with WWII, this is highly recommended for that aspect.
The tagline on the book cover reads: The Greatest War Novel of All Time. I think 'The Greatest Anti-war Novel of All Time' would be more accurate. After finishing this book, it's no wonder to me that the third Reich banned this book. War is not presented as something heroic or glorious or patriotic, but as something ugly, dehumanizing, and very, very bloody.
Paul Bäumer enlists with a group of classmates after hearing over and over again from his schoolmasters about how their duty is to fight in this glorious war for their country. But it doesn't take more than a day at the front for Paul and his friends to realize that glory is the last thing on their minds. All they think about is survival. And when they are deep in the trenches, it is kill or be killed, over and over and over again.
The violence is almost non-stop, and it is incredibly graphic. Nothing is tidied up. So the men who forget their gas masks on time, the horses who are shot and scream for hours before someone can get to them and kill them, the man suffering alone on the battlefield, gurgling and crying and moaning for days, the miserable death of a comrade after his leg is amputated and the efforts to secure his boots before someone else does - it is all here, and it gets hard to take.
There are a few brief respites. Paul often stops, at least when he can, to ask himself what will happen to them all when the war is over.
Albert expresses it: "The war has ruined us for everything."
He is right. We are not youth any longer. We don't want to take the world by storm. We are fleeing. We fly from ourselves. From our life. We were eighteen and had begun to love life and the world; and we had to shoot it to pieces. The first bomb, the first explosion, burst in our hearts. We are cut off from activity, from striving, from progress. We believe in such things no longer, we believe in the war."
I had seen the movie, so I knew how the book ended, but the movie had to leave out much of the horror of the war. It captured very well the sense of isolation, the comradeship. But it's hard to make a war movie unless you make it violent.
I chose this book for book club, and I'm sure that some of the women will have found it too much to take. It is brutal. But there are exquisite parts in there, even some humor, and while I had to occasionally put the book down so I could breathe, it was a great book. So I recommend it, but with the caution that it is very strong stuff. And yet it is poetic at the same time. 5 stars
This was a disappointing and rather tedious book. Mathilde is searching for the truth about what happened to her fiancee during World War I. She is told he died at the front, but then she discovers that he was convicted of cowardice because he shot himself in the hand, then led over to enemy lines and left to die. For some reason (I never really understood why), Mathilde couldn't accept this story, so she starts a very long quest to find out the truth.
I enjoyed the parts about the war, if enjoy is the right world. Coming after All Quiet on the Western Front, those parts fit nicely with the German account of the war. But the parts about Mathilde were not very interesting. I didn't much like her character and I didn't understand her motivation at all. I skipped ahead to the end, but it wasn't worth it. 2 stars
Themes: civilization, war, government, religion, politics, city development, art, architecture, royalty
Setting: Paris, France from before 1000 AD to 1968
The author starts by saying that every city is like a person, and Paris is definitely a woman. Like any fascinating woman, she is changeable and captivating. I'm not entirely sure this conceit works, but it's not a bad way to start off the book.
Here's what works: I could certainly feel the amount of research that must have gone into this book. I'm sure it was staggering, and it shows. The author is obviously really familiar with all the key people, places, and ideas. And I liked being able to link things together. For the first time, I really got a sense of how all those Louis's fit together and exactly who Cardinal Richelieu was.
What didn't work: Really, it was too much. I was overwhelmed. Some of that may have been my fault, for trying to read the book straight through, without putting it down for very long, but I was afraid I would lose my place, so to speak, if I set it down. So I pushed through and it got to be confusing.
Personal feelings: I was actually glad to see that the writer sort of skimmed through the French Revolution. It became just one of a series of revolts occuring in the capital, and rather than go into all the disgusting violence in a lot of detail, he just hit on a few things, especially how it affected the look of the city itself and the economy. I read The Lost King of France last year and that one had gory detail piled upon detail of dismemberment, torture, and so on, until I couldn't wait to put it down. This book spared me all that, and I was glad. But if you are interested in the history of France primarily during the French Revolution, this is probably not a great book for you.
My other observation is probably not the author's fault, but the publishers. This is the kind of book (or I am the kind of reader, I don't know which) where you need some more maps and illustrations and so on to figure out what's going on. Instead of having them throughout the text, there are a few pages of color pictures and a few pages of black and white pictures, and that's it. I would have liked at least a black and white picture of all the major monarchs and landmarks. He assumes that you know what Paris looks like, but I only know what I've seen in books and movies. But like I say, that may be the publisher. They seem to be very picky about how many pictures they will include.
Overall: I enjoyed this book, somewhat, but I came away with the strong impression that I am EXTREMELY glad that I do not live in Paris, especially in Paris before 1900. It sounds like a horrible place to live for most people. Yes, there were great artists, musicians, scientists, and politicians who lived there and left their marks on the city. But most of the time, it was a miserable place to be, with plagues, fires, open sewage, constant violence, and little or no civil liberties. Various groups would be rounded up for whatever reason - heresy, political unrest - and summarily executed or tortured. I know this went on in most of the world, but wow, I got really tired of reading about it page after page. I debated between 2.5 stars and 3, but I decided to round up, because I think the author did a pretty good job. It's just that I found the subject rather grimmer than I expected.