pbadeer's European Book Tour

ForumThe Europe Endless Challenge

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pbadeer's European Book Tour

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1pbadeer
Bearbeitet: Sept. 2, 2012, 1:53pm

I've been debating on what my "start date" will be for this. I seriously started using LibraryThing this year, so I will use 2009 as my start date - but for books that I read going forward, I will "add" them in cases where I have more than one book per country. This may take me a while, so I'll feel better if I see more entries:)

Thank you to the members who came up with the great geographical grouping of the countries. I made some changes to reflect my own definitions.



create your personalized map of europe

2pbadeer
Bearbeitet: Sept. 2, 2012, 12:05pm

The Western Isles

England

Observatory Mansions by Edward Carey
The Clothes on Their Backs by Linda Grant
Me, the Missing and the Dead by Jenny Valentine
The Clothes They Stood Up In by Alan Bennett
Snobbery with Violence by Marion Chesney
Number Ten by Sue Townsend
Theodosia and the Serpents of Chaos by R.L. LaFevers
Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome
The Queen and I by Sue Townsend
Shakespeare: World as Stage by Bill Bryson
A Spy in the House by Y.S. Lee
To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis
Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier
School for Scumbags by Danny King
Cater Street Hangman by Anne Perry

Iceland
>Frost on My Moustache by Tim Moore

Ireland, Republic of
Music Lesson by Katharine Weber
Airman by Eoin Colfer
A Star Called Henry by Roddy Doyle
Stray Sod Country by Patrick McCabe

Isle of Man

Northern Ireland

Scotland

A Wish in Time by Laurel A. Bradley

Wales
Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones

3pbadeer
Bearbeitet: Sept. 2, 2012, 11:59am

Western Europe

Andorra
Belgium

>The Heretic's Wife by Brenda Rickman Vantrease
>Villette by Charlotte Bronte
France
>The Mercury Visions of Louis Daguerre by Dominic Smith
>Ninth Life of Louis Drax by Liz Jensen
>Nine Coaches Waiting by Mary Stewart
>The Journal of Helene Berr by Helene Berr
>A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway
>Time Was Soft There: A Paris Sojourn at Shakespeare & Co. by Jeremy Mercer
>Masquerade by Walter Satterthwait
Luxembourg
The Netherlands

>The Upstairs Room by Johanna Reiss
Portugal

4pbadeer
Bearbeitet: Jul. 31, 2011, 9:51pm

the Baltics

Denmark

>>To Siberia by Per Pettersen
Estonia
Finland
Latvia
Lithuania
Norway

>>Out Stealing Horses by Per Pettersen
Sweden

5pbadeer
Bearbeitet: Sept. 2, 2012, 1:58pm

Central Europe

Austria

>>An Equal Music by Vikram Seth
>>Dawdling by the Danube by Edward Enfield
>>Secrets of the Chess Machine by Robert Lohr
Germany
>>Book Thief by Markus Zusak
>>Hitler's Niece: A Novel by Ron Hansen
Liechtenstein
Poland

>>The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne
Switzerland
>>Hotel du Lac by Anita Brookner

6pbadeer
Bearbeitet: Sept. 2, 2012, 1:59pm

Eastern Europe

Albania
Belarus
Bosnia and Herzegovina

>>Day of the Assassins by Johnny O'Brien
Bulgaria
Czech Republic

>>The Glass Room by Simon Mawer
Hungary
>>Valeria's Last Stand by Marc Fitten
Macedonia
Moldova
Montenegro
Poland
Romania
Russia

>>Maps and Shadows by Krysia Jopek
>>City of Thieves by David Benioff
Serbia
Slovakia
Slovenia
Ukraine

>>Hiding in the Spotlight by Greg Dawson
>>Death and the Penguin by Andrey Kurkov

7pbadeer
Bearbeitet: Dez. 4, 2011, 12:49am

THE MEDITERRANEAN COUNTRIES

Croatia
Cyprus
Greece

>>Three Ways to Capsize a Boat by Chris Stewart
Italy
>>Forgery of Venus by Michael Gruber
>>Perfect House by Witold Rybczynski
>>A Bell for Adano by John Hersey
Malta
Monaco
Spain

>>The Creation of Eve by Lynn Cullen
Turkey
>>Mistress of the Elgin Marbles by Susan Nagel
Vatican City

8GingerbreadMan
Sept. 3, 2009, 6:04am

Welcome! I think the position of "this will take me a while" is one shared with most members of this group. We might as well make ourselves comfortable.

Oh, and you seem to have Czech republic listed twice there.

9RidgewayGirl
Sept. 3, 2009, 8:57am

Well, it's a very important country, GingerbreadMan, with a rich literary tradition!

pbadeer, we're all here for the duration. I suspect that in a few years we'll be wearily hunting down books for Lichtenstein and Andorra.

10pbadeer
Bearbeitet: Sept. 13, 2009, 11:39pm

Had planned on using Mistress of the Elgin Marbles for Greece, but now that I've finished it, I realize it had very little in it about the Parthenon and Greece. The bulk of the book took place while her husband was ambassador to the Ottoman Empire in Constantinople, so it will cover Turkey instead.

11pbadeer
Sept. 19, 2009, 2:12pm

Just finished Hiding in the Spotlight - a fantastic memoir of a Ukranian Jew hiding under a new identity as a concert pianist in Nazi Germany. I did originally pick this up as a Ukraine entry, and I do list it there for this challenge, but in fairness, a good chunk of the book is on her time in Germany. Since I already have Germany covered, and I NEEDED to add something to this challenge list (it's sooooo long...), it will hold a spot under the Ukraine.

12pbadeer
Sept. 25, 2009, 6:59pm

I felt a little guilty about using Hiding in the Spotlight as my Ukraine entry since so much of it took place in Germany, so I tackled another TBR I had originally chosen for Ukraine - Death and the Penguin. I will simply saw it was odd but interesting. Maybe I didn't "get" all of the satire, so there were several plot points which seemed superfluous, but as other reviews have said, I fell in love with Misha the Penguin.

13pbadeer
Okt. 2, 2009, 11:59pm

I conquered Switzerland with Hotel du Lac. Admittedly, I picked it for this challenge, but the reason I picked this specific book was because it was a Booker Prize winner. I have no idea why it won this award. It was an elaborate character study of insignificant characters. It has received some good reviews on LT, but I must not be the target audience.

14sjmccreary
Okt. 3, 2009, 10:18am

#13 Sometimes just the fact that a book is an award winner is enough to turn me away - they should be the very best books, but it sure seems like they often aren't. The reviews look pretty good, and the description of the book looks kind of interesting, but I think I'm going with your comment and staying away from it. There are other Swiss books, I hope!

15pbadeer
Okt. 27, 2009, 8:24pm

Got side tracked with another England book, but at least I got to add something to my list (even if I didn't need it) - Snobbery with Violence

16GingerbreadMan
Okt. 28, 2009, 11:36am

15 With a title like that, how could you resist?

17thornton37814
Okt. 28, 2009, 2:22pm

>15 pbadeer: Enjoyed your review of Chesney's book.

18pbadeer
Dez. 4, 2009, 8:26pm

Finally made it back to Europe with An Equal Music by Vikram Seth. Admittedly, I picked this book specifically due to the description (and placement) of Vienna, but they spent relatively little time there (but they did talk about it a lot). So I'm including it for Austria anyway. If I didn't I don't know when I'd finish the challenge.

19RidgewayGirl
Dez. 6, 2009, 12:29pm

How did you like it? I am severely unmusical, but loved An Equal Music. I believe that I could happily read anything Vikram Seth chose to write. Have you read A Suitable Boy? It's set in India, and so not much help here, but a fantastic book nonetheless.

20pbadeer
Dez. 7, 2009, 9:59pm

yet another jaunt through the UK with Number Ten by Sue Townsend. Definitely not up to par with her Adrian Mole series - would recommend that series to this title if in need of a UK title.

21pbadeer
Dez. 10, 2009, 10:40pm

RidgewayGirl - An Equal Music got a little tiring by the end, but in general, I liked the book. I tried to figure out why I found myself begging for the book to get over, and I think I landed on it - and it may be a little sexist of me. Since you read it, you know it's written from a guy's perspective of handling a difficult relationship. I guess I had a problem with his complete lack of composure and thought he was a little TOO desperate. But I too have no musical ability, so maybe it's the whole "living vicariously" aspect of it, but I do enjoy reading "musical" books.

22pbadeer
Bearbeitet: Dez. 26, 2009, 11:39pm

I'm not sure how, but I ended up in England again with Theodosia and the Serpents of Chaos. I thought it was set in Egypt (so it still wouldn't have worked for this challenge) but turns out it's about Egyptian Artifacts at a London museum.

It also turned out to be a juvenile book - guess I need to do a little better research - but I read YA all the time...and it's nice to be able to plow through a book in a couple of hours.

It has become a definite recommendation for my daughter - it's nice to recommend books with a strong, smart, female protagonist who's not worried about boys.

23GingerbreadMan
Dez. 27, 2009, 6:08am

22 Those are indeed to be collected - for boys too! I'm making a note for my Elis (who's only two and a half, so it'll be a while...)

24pbadeer
Jan. 1, 2010, 9:44pm

Another visit to France with Nine Coaches Waiting by Mary Stewart. I thought this was a great book. My first Stewart - and I actually chose it because I thought it would fit the "Romance" category of my "Read Around the Library" challenge set up by my home library. But it wasn't overly "romance"y, so nice suspense built into it - and I couldn't set it down.

25pbadeer
Jan. 8, 2010, 12:27am

Thanks to the bad weather and delays at the airport, I finished two of my challenge books (along with 2 magazines and a few dozen emails). Now I'm home, it's late, but I want to get these posted. Maybe I'll do more thorough reviews when I have more time.

NORWAY - Out Stealing Horses by Per Petterson - 3.5 stars

Sometimes the problem with "literary fiction" is that they don't really have a point. They are well written and lyrical with turns of phrase which make you think or just sound good. I like literary fiction, and Out Stealing Horses would definitely fall into the "literary fiction" genre...but it fits it so well, I don't know what to say about it. There's no mystery, no romance, no aliens or fairies, just an elderly gentleman looking back on the forming moments of his life while living out the rest of it in seclusion in northern Norway. Admittedly, this was an English translation from Norwegian, and I think the original probably would have read more "poetic", but still a good read.

IRELAND - The Music Lesson by Katharine Weber - 3 stars

A very quick read, less than 200 pages, this provides a convincing narrative of the theft of a Vemeer painting. Not fluff and not chick-lit (although I got kind of tired of her thinking about him all the time), it is simply a light read with good descriptions of Ireland - both the countryside and the inhabitants. My only complaint with the book, and the reason it didn't rate higher, is that the writing style was attempting to mimic a journal kept following the theft. Although fairly representational of journal writing - bits of thoughts, tangents, random progress - there is a reason most people don't just publish their diaries "as is" - they are hard to read that way. The circuitous route she uses to progress the story gets a bit tiring at times, but the story does always (eventually) move forward.

26pbadeer
Jan. 11, 2010, 12:16am

Just finished Scotland with *ducks head and mumbles into shoulder* a romance title - A Wish in Time by Laurel A. Bradley.

I needed a Romance title for my local library's winter reading program "Read Around the Library". As sexist as it sounds, as a guy, this is a genre I pretty much actively avoid. But the book wasn't bad - and really didn't even seem like a romance - and bonus of bonus - I picked it because I knew I needed a Scotland read for this challenge too!

See review here: http://www.librarything.com/work/3241039/reviews/54879413

27GingerbreadMan
Jan. 28, 2010, 4:58pm

Hahaha! Very fun post there, "mumbles into shoulder" cracked me up. Thanks!

28pbadeer
Feb. 1, 2010, 10:37pm

added another trip through Italy with The Perfect House, a biography of Andrea Palladio and some of his major buildings. Since my knowledge of the architect was limited to the term "Palladian Windows" I found the book fairly interesting, if somewhat repetitive. The overview of his work was neither done chronologically, nor comprehensively, so many discussions include descriptions and comparisons to works not elsewhere covered in the book or discussed later on.

But in the end, this title provided an interesting insight into Palladio's works and his influence on modern day architects.

29pbadeer
Apr. 2, 2010, 12:55am

I'm not sure how I got "stuck" in Italy, but I just finished another Italy title - this time it was the classic, A Bell for Adano by John Hersey. I enjoyed it immensely - and read it at the same time as Snow Falling on Cedars and enjoyed the counterpoint of how Americans are portrayed in their relationship with foreigners during and after WWII.

30pbadeer
Apr. 23, 2010, 11:36pm

I can't seem to get out of England. Two more titles for there - Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome and The Queen and I by Sue Townsend.

Three Men in a Boat
After some glowing reviews posted in this group, I decided I needed to add this classic to my reading list – and I’m glad I did. Initially hesitant, after a less than stellar experience with another European Classic (Candide), I absorbed this novel easily. Less satire and more Bill Bryson of the 19th century, I found I actually “got” the humor and the narrative was simply entertaining. The fact that they are three men on a boat becomes secondary to the author's descriptive power of British life in the late 1800’s with insights from both the upper and lower classes. To describe more of the “plot” would be missing the point – it’s an enjoyable and easy read and highly recommended.

The Queen and I
Although I enjoyed Townsend’s Adrian Mole series, and found Number Ten OK, I was disappointed with The Queen and I. The style of writing was similar to Number Ten - a pseudo-satire on the British governmental system. But unlike Ten, which focused its wit on a fictional Prime Minister, The Queen and I took shots at the current Royal Family – well, current as of 1992. While I found the book humorous, there were far too many occasions where I recoiled at the jabs aimed at the individuals on a personal level, from their physical appearances to their intellectual abilities. In addition, the direction the narrative took and the “life choices” each member decides to make were frequently off color, always disrespectful and too often in downright bad taste – particularly when viewed with the knowledge of 18 years of actual history and experiences (she could not have known how an innocent comment by Princess Diana about her Mercedes Benz would sound later).

In short, a Republican Government has been voted into Parliament, and the Monarchy has been abolished. Although the Royal Family retains all of its items of wealth, due to revisions in the laws, they are not allowed to sell or profit from any of them and instead are moved to a council estate where the Queen, her husband and her mother become Old Age Pensioners waiting for their government checks. Diana discovers the joys of home improvement, Charles gets a taste of public protests (doing the protesting), Anne begins dating a carpet layer named Spiggy, William and Harry begin speaking the “local language” and the queens corgi (she’s only allowed one) takes up with a group of disreputable strays. The bulk of the book is about how the family adjusts to an “ordinary” life, but there are snippets of how the new government makes the changes they felt were necessary to British Life. Through this combination, Townsend is able to attack the system from both sides.

Although a somewhat enjoyable book, in my opinion, the author took too many liberties – even for a satire – resulting in an off-color farce not worthy of her talents.

31cbl_tn
Apr. 24, 2010, 8:21am

I spend a lot of time "stuck" in England, too. It's nice to have company! Three Men in a Boat is one of my favorite books. I've read it several times, and I have a couple of audio versions I've listened to in the car. The first time I read it, I was struck by the author's foresight about Willow Ware -- how it was so common then that people took it for granted, but it would probably be prized by collectors in 100 years. There I was, 100 years later, reading the book in my home decorated with the Willow Ware my grandmother had given to me!

32pbadeer
Mai 6, 2010, 9:15pm

I'm almost embarrased that I'm still hovering in England. I thought my reading habits were more diverse. A few more of these, and I'll have to hunt down that map someone else on this challenge has done and start assigning books to the English Counties, just so I can still continue it a challenge.

Regardless, Shakespeare: World as Stage by Bill Bryson was an excellent read. Don't expect a "typical" Bryson - he's not in it, so it's hard to incorporate his personal observations - but you'll get the Bryson flavor as some of his witticisms bubble through

33cushlareads
Mai 20, 2010, 5:04am

pbadeer, it's Murphy's Law of Book Challenges. It's happened to me twice on here - first with the Canadian one, when I stopped reading Canadian books as soon as I'd done the thread, and now with my European one - I am suddenly spending lots of time in the Middle East!

34AHS-Wolfy
Mai 20, 2010, 6:27am

@32, That's the exact reason I've added the Counties map on my European & World threads. I knew I'd spend a lot of time in my homeland so thought it might prove worthwhile. Marnanel used to host one you could update online but no longer seems to anymore so just keep mine updated on photo-bucket.

35GingerbreadMan
Mai 22, 2010, 8:59am

33 And I seem to spend most of my time in non-descript parts of America (not distinct enough to count for my 50 states challenge) or in imaginary worlds. Then again, Europe isn't going anywhere, is it. Ticking off two countries a quarter is steady progress at least :)

36pbadeer
Jun. 21, 2010, 11:50pm

Finally got a new country covered - The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne. For Poland. A very good read - also very short. It's difficult to write a review of it without giving too much away. The first edition of the book actually didn't include a write-up on the cover, only a statement saying why they DID NOT write something up. By now I think it's impossible to read this book without finding out at least the basics of what it is about - and even the publishers abandoned the anonymous approach with later editions showing different graphics. It's still a good book if you "know" something about it, but I couldn't help wondering what it would have been like had I read it without that knowledge. I realize that doesn't make much sense in a review, but if you read it, you'll know what I mean. Definitely recommended.

37pbadeer
Jun. 30, 2010, 10:05pm

IRELAND

A Star Called Henry by Roddy Doyle - 4 stars (out of 5)

I didn't need another Ireland, but this book came recommended - and had been my original choice for an Irish read, it just took me a while to get it done.

Although a work of fiction, A Star Called Henry provided virtually my only insight into the Easter Rebellion for Irish Independence. The novelty of this history as well as a distinctive writing style made this an entertaining read full of just about anything you can think of - murder, sex, man-hunts, politics, brothels, gangs, and a character who gives information in exchange for books she's never read (gee, wonder why she sticks out in my mind...)

This was my first Roddy Doyle book, and I've seen a lot of posts referring to him as a good example of Irish Literature. While I don't doubt that for a second, I also will likely take a break from him for a bit. He has such a gift for establishing a sense of "place", I think I need something non-Irish to break things up for a while.

38pamelad
Jun. 30, 2010, 11:00pm

A Star Called Henry sounds good; I've just requested a copy from bookmooch.

Did you like Snow Falling on Cedars?

39Trifolia
Jul. 1, 2010, 1:05am

Hi Patrick, I think I understand. Roddy Doyle overpowered me too, but I don't think I'll read a lot more of him very soon. I guess his books are to be tasted in little sips.

40pbadeer
Jul. 1, 2010, 1:06am

Snow Falling on Cedars was very well written, but it had that uncomfortable undertone you feel when you read something that you know is true but don't like to admit it. The narrative covered the period following WWII and addressed the relationship between "traditional" American citizens and Japanese-Americans residing here in the states. Since that was several decades before my time, and clearly it was not a proud moment in our history, I knew very little about that era. Even though it was fiction, I found myself thinking about how anyone could act/think the way some of them did. And equally scary to think that we haven't necessarily come all that far from that in some areas.

41pbadeer
Jul. 12, 2010, 10:44pm

yet another UK read - Victorian London this time.

Technically a YA read, A Spy in the House by Y.S. Lee is the first book in the Mary Quinn Mystery/The Agency Trilogy - the story of a Victorian private investigation group using women to collect information. There is a lot of social implication underlying the narrative, effectively about the expectations and limitations set upon women of that time. It's highly unlikely any of these characters would have been able to exist in Victorian London (without being locked away in an asylum), but the writing is strong enough that you forgive the modern sentiments creeping into the historic narrative and enjoy it simply as a good read.

42pbadeer
Jul. 12, 2010, 10:53pm

woohoo! The book I am listening to, The Heretic's Wife by Brenda Rickman Vantrease, just entered Belgium. I don't have a Belgium read yet. If the characters stick around there long enough to justify it (they've been there a few chapters already), I may be able to salvage this from being yet another UK read and post it as a Belgium read.

43Trifolia
Jul. 13, 2010, 12:25am

#That sounds interesting.
BTW, Belgium was founded in 1830, but Antwerp is situated in what is called Belgium now, so technically you could add it as a Belgian read.

44pbadeer
Jul. 25, 2010, 2:07am

Belgium

Although only about a third of the book was set in Antwerp - and even then it kept bouncing back to England for a parallel story line - I'm counting this for Belgium simply because I haven't found a book for there yet (and I really liked Brussels)

The Heretic's Wife by Brenda Rickman Vantrease

As the book begins, Kate is working with her brother John, attempting to smuggle English translations of the Bible into Tudor England. (Did you know it was illegal to sell or own an English translation of the bible IN England?!?! Prior to Henry VIII’s rejection of the Catholic Church (a struggle which, along with Anne Boleyn, Katherine of Aragon, Sir Thomas More, Martin Luther and others, appears in the narrative of this book) only scholars and the clergy were considered worthy to read the bible in Latin because an uneducated person could misunderstand what the text said thereby resulting in independent thought! Forsooth! The novel almost immediately lays out the persecutions begun by More and others, and John is one of their targets. It is to flee these persecutions that Kate and "her heretic" end up in Antwerp.

See the full review here

45RidgewayGirl
Jul. 25, 2010, 7:21am

I've read another book by Vantrease and liked that she made her characters actually think and behave not like modern people playing dress-up, but as medieval characters. It did make the main character much less sympathetic since we have different prejudices and social roles now, but I appreciated the effort.

46pbadeer
Aug. 2, 2010, 12:43am

FRANCE

The Journal of Helene Berr by Helene Berr – 2.5 stars

I really wanted to like this book more, but I just couldn’t embrace it. The book is the actual transcript – unedited – of Helene Berr’s diary from 1942 to 1944. Berr was a Jew living in German Occupied France and served daily witness to the humiliations and eventual deportations of the French Jewish population.

Because this was not written (or edited) for a popular audience, the first part of the journal - which is simply a collection of diary entries - is relatively uninspired and tends to drag. A lot of entries about lunches, sitting for exams and boys named Jean. However, these entries occurred during some serious moments of German aggression toward the Jews, including the initial declaration requiring the wearing of the yellow star. As the diary progresses, Berr recognizes what is going on, and is forced to face it head on when her father is “arrested.” About half way through the diary, she changes her writing style, in effect knowing that she too will eventually be deported, and likely killed, and what she is writing will become her legacy. She knows it will be up to her to document some of the injustices so they are not forgotten once she is gone. The depth of her analysis of the Germans in this later part of the diary is profound, and as the “future reader” of the diary, knowing what we now know, the writing is disturbing in its honesty and perspective. Unfortunately, the more powerful writing toward the end was (understandably) a little frenetic and the overall message was diminished.

47pbadeer
Aug. 3, 2010, 11:28pm

ENGLAND

Yet another UK read, but this one was a little different. To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis is a SciFi/Time Travel book which nicely outlines multiple eras of life in England including 1888, 1940 and 2057. It was recommended to me as an extension of Jerome K. Jerome's Three Men in a Boat - the three men actually have a cameo in this book. SciFi has never been a popular genre for me, but I did enjoy this book.

See the full review here

48pbadeer
Aug. 8, 2010, 11:45pm

Although I could count this book for a number of different countries, I'm going to just list it as a miscellaneous read.

Join Us at the Embassy by Summer Whitford

The book covered 10 countries, but only 7 of them are in Europe. Austria, Finland, France, Greece, Hungary, Italy and Portugal. It serves as kind of a catch-all providing history of the country, culture, holidays and cuisine for each country, tying them all together under the premise of how their Ambassadors handle entertaining at the embassies in Washington, DC.

Great concept, but it fell a little short.

See the full review here

49pbadeer
Aug. 24, 2010, 11:45pm

GREECE

Three Ways to Capsize a Boat by Chris Stewart - 4 stars


Although the narrative of this memoir drifts through multiple locations, the first half of the book takes place in Greece, and this section provides the bulk of the descriptions of the culture and people (most of the rest of the book he moves between locations so much - or is in the open sea - that less time is spent describing locales/residents). So I feel confident counting this toward Greece.

See the full review here

50pbadeer
Bearbeitet: Sept. 6, 2010, 2:00am

HUNGARY

Valeria's Last Stand by Marc Fitten – 4 stars

This proved a great addition to this challenge for Hungary, as it very specifically addresses how a small community within Hungary handles changes brought about by the end of communism. But unlike a dry political analysis (as some of the tags and descriptions would seem to indicate), this book introduces a number of enjoyable plot lines which serve to illustrate broader definitions of change. Recommended

See the full review here

51pbadeer
Nov. 6, 2010, 3:44pm

It's been a while since I added to this post, but this one is well worth the wait.

The Clumsiest People in Europe, or: Mrs. Mortimer's Bad-Tempered Guide to the Victorian World by Todd Pruzan, ed.

First to know about this book - it was written in the mid 19th century by a woman who never left the UK. She was a someone famous children's author, and everyone assumed that these travel diaries were authentic, until her niece exposed her after her death.

Knowing that she made all of this up is the only thing that keeps this book even remotely worth printing today because it is so far past politically incorrect, it sits firmly in the xenophobic/racist/anti-semitic realm. But because it's fake, hopefully you can look past it and read the humor.

Virtually every country is described in a negative light, calling citizens, lazy, dirty, ugly, murderous, wicked, drunks, etc. Her favorite criticism is waging against non-christians not keeping the sabbath holy.

Unfortunately, the novelty runs far too long, so it became a little repetitive at the end. Too bad, since she saves the United States for the end where New Orleans is described as a dangerous place to live for both the body and the soul.

The redeeming values come into play simply as a snapshot of history - real or imagined - as she describes countries which no longer exist and cultural events and mores which seem very current. Her comments on slavery seem very modern at the time (from a US view), but considering slavery was abolished in the UK prior to her writings, those views seem very relevant.

So not a wholehearted recommendation, but definitely worth a skim if you come across a copy.

52pbadeer
Bearbeitet: Nov. 9, 2010, 9:16am

FRANCE

A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway

Although it's a perfect addition for this challenge, I can't say I particularly enjoyed this book. Less a memoir of Hemingway and more a doctrine on life in Paris in the 20's. Some of the authors/artists he knew at that time make appearances which adds some interest to the narrative, but overall, I found the writing flat. I guess it's expected, but Hemingway didn't portray himself particularly well in this (things he says/does), and since I know nothing and have read little of Hemingway, using this effectively as my introductory work (for some reason, I don't think I've ever read anything by him) I was left unimpressed.

53RidgewayGirl
Nov. 9, 2010, 9:07am

A Moveable Feast is actually my favorite book. Of all time. It's a gorgeous snapshot of a very specific time and place and it's an inspirational book about learning to write.

You may wish to note here that there are many more detractors than fans of this book.

If you haven't read any other Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms is the place to begin.

54pbadeer
Nov. 9, 2010, 9:18am

I should have commented that I "read" this on audio, and the narrator wasn't very good. There was very little differentiation between characters, and when two men or two women were talking, the differentation was virtually non-existant. So that did not help my experience. Since RidgewayGirl correctly points out that it is a strong story on "writing", reading this in the written form may be more appropriate.

55pbadeer
Nov. 30, 2010, 2:37pm

RUSSIA

Maps and Shadows by Krysia Jopek - 3.5 stars

Read as an Early Reviewer, I felt the book could not decide whether it was a work of poetry, a work of fiction or a memoir. It is technically billed as a novel, and in its purest sense, that's exactly what it was. But since the story is real (when Russia attacked Poland at the start of WWII (under the terms of a secret agreement with Germany to allow Russia to recapture land they lost after WWI) they deported over a million Polish cititzens to Siberia), and the author's family was impacted by this in real life, there is a lot of historic fact packed into it - and far more than what you would normally expect. References to what happened after the war and inclusion of facts of WWII really help bring the novel into clear relief.

As a work of historical fiction, it performs well, but there are a few writing techniques which caused me some distress. Each chapter is broken into the voice of a different family member as they experience their deportation. The result is that some of it is repetitive - as we get the same experience from different points of view - and the characters within the chapters aren't as well defined as they should be so I often became confused on who was speaking. Also, since the author is a poet, she introduced poems in between chapters and each chapter itself was introduced by a sort of poetic text. I did not appreciate these and I felt they did not help tie the narrative together.

Although about Polish citizens, little of it takes place in Poland. Since a good chunk of the tale was of their time in Siberia and travel both to and from it, it seemed to make sense to post this as a "Russia" entry.

56pbadeer
Dez. 18, 2010, 11:50pm

IRELAND

Completed Book #114 - Stray Sod Country by Patrick McCabe – 2 stars

It has been over a week since I finished this book, and I still don’t know what to say about it. I know that a quick summary would be:

If this book hadn’t been given to me as an Advance Review copy, I would never have finished.

Guilt and obligation are not strong reasons to read a book. Admittedly, sometimes after forcing myself to struggle through a book, the ending is sufficient to redeem it. This was not one of them.

Taking place primarily in the late 50’s, the novel follows the lives of the residents of Cullymore, Ireland. Including snippets on religion, alcoholism, infidelity, class relations and the IRA, the story is “told” by an omniscient narrator who occasionally involves himself in the action. But who is the narrator? He stands in a corner, but cannot be seen. He knows the inner thoughts of the characters, but they do not know him. Satan is the most obvious answer, but if that’s the case, he’s not too bright – or very successful. Sure, he wreaks some havoc, causes some people to go crazy, and gets some people killed, but some of the more obvious targets of his wrath seem to turn out OK.

Conceptually, this book should have worked – it’s the reason I requested it (quirky demon trouble makers are right up my alley) – but it didn’t...

See the rest of the review Here

57GingerbreadMan
Dez. 19, 2010, 10:19am

I read a book by McCabe for this challenge also. I had read and been very taken by Butcher Boy a few years back, and had high hopes for Breakfast on Pluto. But like you, I was disappointed. The first book is a scary and powerful glimpse into child psychosis though, if you decide to give McCabe another shot.

58pbadeer
Apr. 24, 2011, 8:27pm

Bosnia and Herzegovina

Day of the Assassins by Johnny O'Brien - 4 stars

This was a fun time-travel book geared for a teen/tween audience. Jack Christie becomes involved in two conflicting time traveling elements and must decide if interfering with historic events is not only possible but wise. The history included in this - particularly considering it was written for kids - was well researched and provided a good overview of the events leading up to the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and the resulting WWI.

59pbadeer
Jul. 31, 2011, 9:35pm

I thought I would have a new country (finally) to add to this challenge...and then realized I've already read something for Belgium.

Regardless, Villette by Charlotte Bronte was another classic marked off my bucket list (although, until I got it, I would have to admit I had never heard of it). Far better than Jane Eyre in my opinion.

60cbl_tn
Jul. 31, 2011, 10:28pm

I agree with you that Villette is better than Jane Eyre. I thought the same thing when I read it last year.

61pbadeer
Aug. 4, 2011, 12:03am

Although I already had a book posted for Russia, I felt I needed to add this to my listings here simply because it was so good.

City of Thieves by David Benioff - 4.5 stars

City of Thieves was, in a word, exceptional. On its surface, City of Thieves is a coming of age story with a little adventure thrown in, but its power is in the detailed backstories of the characters - parsed out in little pieces - and the raw and overpowering atmosphere Benioff crafted describing Leningrad during its 900 day siege of WWII.

While I have always enjoyed Russian literature, I knew little about the siege. This was a very readable account of the seige, albeit fictional, which served to outline the action of the story. Lev, living alone and starving in Leningrad, is arrested and fears execution. Instead, he and an accused Red Army deserter (Kolya) are presented an ultimatum. Find a dozen eggs for use in a wedding cake for a powerful colonel's daughter, or die. Since eggs had not been seen in Leningrad for over four months, and Lev and Kolya have only five days until the wedding, the search begins - first through the seedy black market district of the city then behind enemy lines. What could have been a mundane narrative about a search for food, Benioff instead introduces characters, events and emotions which keep the pages turning. I found myself emotionally vested into the lives of Lev and Kolya, one of the best indications (for me) of a powerfully written book. Highly Recommended!

62pbadeer
Dez. 4, 2011, 12:45am

finally, a new country...

SPAIN

The Creation of Eve by Lynn Cullen - 4.5 stars

An excellent read which surprisingly was based on significant historical research. Cullen's author note at the back of the book very nicely summarizes how much of the novel was based on historical fact and where she filled in the blanks - and given it was about the 16th century court of King Phillipe of Spain, there were a lot of blanks.

Sophinisba Anguissila (sorry, I listened to the book, so I don't know how to spell her name) was the real court painter to the queen, and this book follows her through her time in Italy with Michaelangelo (with historical facts dropped in) through her time with the court. A lot of generic history is liberally distributed throughout (i.e., as an official lady in waiting, Sophie, even though she was a court painter, was not allowed to sign any of her works (it was considered inappropriate for a Queen's Lady to highlight anything other than her femininity), so it is difficult today to properly attribute her work.)

Very well written, very easy to follow, and enjoyable. highly recommended

63pbadeer
Dez. 24, 2011, 12:16am

CZECH REPUBLIC

The Glass Room by Simon Mawer - 5 stars

Very excited to add a new country for this thread, and to add one I liked so much.

The Glass Room is actually written by a Candian author, but takes place in the newly formed Czechoslovakia (and from what I can tell by references, I think it would be in the Czech Republic as opposed to Slovakia today) prior to Hitler's rise to power. Viktor, a jew, builds one of the most important residential architectural examples for his family, and this new home with "the glass room" anchors and influences all aspects of the book - even those which don't take place in the residence.

There is enough of the politics of the time to give the book its edge, but the book is not about the war or the treatment of Jews (at least not directly). The characters are complex and there are plenty of subtle plot points to keep the book moving.

It's a book I've thought a lot about since I finished it, and I can easily see this being a book I will want to read again.

64clfisha
Dez. 27, 2011, 6:36am

Hi, just joined and starting to slowly go through threads, City of Thieves particularly caught my eye. I do keep picking up Death and the Penguin in the bookshop, maybe I will wait till I feel like a challenge.

65pbadeer
Sept. 2, 2012, 12:01pm

The Netherlands

The Upstairs Room by Johanna Reiss - 4 stars


Another book targeted for the youth audience, I listened to this book in audio form with my 12 year old daughter. It is a Newbery Honor book and tells a fictionalized version of the story of the author's Jewish youth, hiding in the upstairs room of a Dutch farmhouse in the later years of WWII.

The author's note shares details of how much was real versus created, but the basic premise is the truth. She was the youngest daughter of a Jewish family living in Holland during Hitler's rise to power, and her family was split apart with her and one of her sisters going into the countryside. It's a difficult story to relate, and Reiss made an exceptionally good decision to fictionalize it for the youth market. At no point did I feel it pandered to the audience, nor did I feel she was too "soft" - it's hard to hear about this aspect of history, and this book did a very good job covering the important parts without getting into the confusing and conflicting details of Hitler, his party or the larger aspects of the Holocaust. A recommended read for all ages.

66pbadeer
Sept. 2, 2012, 12:06pm

ICELAND

Frost on my Moustache: The Arctic Exploits of a Lord and a Loafer by Tim Moore - 2 stars


Every once in a while I get a reminder why spur of the moment purchases are not a good idea. Even at a used bookstore price, this book was a waste of money.

All signs indicated this would be great - a British author discovers an old memoir by a 19th century Lord who sailed the arctic, including a notable excursion to Iceland. Said author decides to re-create this voyage to this still relatively unknown land.

The initial chapters were living up the hype. I was laughing outloud, devouring every word, completely drawn in by the wit and observations Moore was capable of. Unfortunately, he's a one hit wonder, and that same wit becomes very tiring - how many times can you force a smile when reading descriptions of seasickness (Moore gives you double digit opportunity to make your own count - I didn't make it to the teens...). When you add on top of this the first part of the "journey" is the visit to Iceland - one of the main reasons I was attracted to the book - and that the author's wife is actually FROM Iceland, his mother-in-law ran for the Presidency of Iceland, and that the author has actually BEEN TO Iceland before, the novelty kind of wore off. By the time he's making his way to the more remote regions of the original Lord's voyage, I simply didn't care. But if you enjoy repeated references to nausea, drunkenness and scandinavian cuisine, maybe you'll enjoy it more than I did