Hanneri's Europe Endless Challenge

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Hanneri's Europe Endless Challenge

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Editado: Jul 2, 2017, 10:25 pm

Here I go! I am really looking forward to my meander through Europe from Africa!

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or check out our Barcelona travel guide

Editado: Jul 2, 2017, 10:14 pm

Albania: Chronicle in Stone by Ismail Kadare (October 2014)
Austria: Who is Martha by Marjana Gaponenko (January 217)
Azerbaijan: The Colonel's Mistake by Dan Mayland (September 2014)

Belgium: Resistance by Anita Shreve (November 2014)
Bosnia Herzegovina
Bulgaria: Night Soldiers by Alan Furst (March 2015)

Cyprus: Agatha Raisin and the Terrible Tourist by M C Beaton (October 2014)
Czech Republic: Prague Pictures: A Portrait of a City by John Banville (April 2013)

Denmark: Mercy by Jussi Adler-Olsen (January 2013)


Finland: Snow Angels by James Thompson (May 2013)
France: City of Light by Kim Wright (February 2013)
The Sweet Life in Paris: Delicious Adventures in the World's Most Glorious - and Perplexing - City by David Lebovitz (May 2013)

Georgia: Red Station by Adrian Magson (September 2014)
Germany: The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak (January 2013)
Greece: Murder in Mykonos by Jeffrey Siger (February 2013)

Hungary: The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer (May 2013)

Iceland: Arctic Chill by Arnaldur Indriðason (March 2013)
Ireland: Faithful Place by Tana French (March 2013)
Italy: The Monster of Florence by Douglas Preston (February 2013)


Latvia: The Dogs of Riga by Henning Mankell (April 2013)
Lithuania: Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys (January 2014)
Luxembourg: The Expats by Chris Pavone (July 2014)

Malta: Walking into the Ocean by David Whellams (September 2014)

Netherlands: The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank (April 2013)
Norway: Fear Not by Anne Holt (March 2013)

Poland: The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne (March 2013)
Portugal: A Small Death in Lisbon by Robert Wilson (March 2013)

Russia: The Madonnas of Leningrad by Debra Dean (March 2013)

San Marino
Serbia and Montenegro
Spain: Driving Over Lemons: An Optimist in Spain by Chris Stewart (March 2013)
Sweden: Death Angels by Ake Edwardson (May 2013)


UK Channel Islands: The Guernsey Literary and Potatoe Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer (July 2015)
UK England: Amsterdam by Ian McEwan (April 2013)
UK Northern Ireland
UK Scotland: The Unbearable Lightness of Scones by Alexander McCall Smith (May 2013)
UK Shetland Islands
UK Wales: The Earth Hums in B Flat by Mari Strachan (July 2017)
Ukraine: Wolves Eat Dogs by Martin Cruz Smith (April 2015)

Vatican City: The Last Pope by Luis Miguel Rocha (April 2013)

Jan 21, 2013, 9:23 am

Good luck with your challenge. It's a great fun :-)

Jan 21, 2013, 2:01 pm

Welcome to Endless Europe! It's a wonderful way to travel.

Jan 21, 2013, 2:23 pm

Welcome! Have fun :)

Jan 21, 2013, 3:15 pm


Jan 22, 2013, 4:38 am

Thanks everyone! My journey will start shortly!

Jan 24, 2013, 12:59 pm

Welcome! Have fun!

Editado: Jan 25, 2013, 1:25 am

I have travelled to my first country, and I really enjoyed it!

Denmark: Mercy by Jussi Adler-Olsen

This novel took me a little while to get into, and at first I was a little worried about where this novel would go. However, this novel is proof that first impressions can be deceptive as this novel grows and grows into an absolute dazzler.

Alder-Olsen has created a fabulous first novel in Mercy. The characters of Carl and Assad are beautifully created so that they grow and grow throughout the novel, but there is still plenty of growing to be done and questions to be answered - what is Assad's story? Where has he come from? Will Carl ever really face his past?

I also think the subject matter is very interesting. Alder-Olsen has obviously really done his research to look at the effects of pressure on the body, the effects of solitary confinement on the mind, and the effect of grief and its various manifestations. All of this researh comes together to give a gripping tale with twists and turns throughout. Timeshift in novels often doesn't work, but Alder-Olsen uses this technique brilliantly, and it is this which allows the story to come together and produce an excellent ending.

Overall this is an excellent crime novel!

Jan 25, 2013, 1:52 am

Great choice. This was my Denmark book too and I thought it was excellent - five stars! For a moment I thought Jussi Adler-Olsen had published a book I didn't know about, but I know it by the title Keeper of Lost Causes.

Jan 25, 2013, 3:42 am

I really enjoyed the book. The different titles had me fooled as well!

Jan 28, 2013, 3:40 am

My second country and an amazing novel!

Germany: The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak

Bravo Zusak! A standing ovation, a mighty opus. You stood Death on her head, removing her dark cloak and scythe, clothing her with feeling and letting us see she has eyes to see and a heart to feel, and the intellect to narrate a compelling story. I was so glad to find out she has a womb. Out of Death comes Life. She has greater aplomb than Nick in telling about Gatsby.

The Book Thief captures and again reminds me of these viabilities as they play out near Dachau in the heart of World War II’s Nazi Germany in the lives of Liesel and her contemporaries, alive and dead. Death tells Liesel’s tragic yet wonderful, story in order to keep memory alive. In the words of Elie Wiesel, “Because if we forget, we are guilty, we are accomplices.” And surely this is Liesel’s story, not Death’s just as Gatsby's isn’t Nick’s. To remind us to stand up wherever tyranny and power put people down.

Zusak took the time and effort to invest the narrative with near perfect words, and wonderful sentences, and great paragraphs, and superb chapters. It would have been too cruel and ironic if the “book thief” had found herself betrayed by the words, sentences, and paragraphs of her story’s teller. Flesh fully clothes each character; conflict, action, and suspense oblige the attention of each reader; and the themes are true consistent throughout, start to finish, and the setting is hauntingly perfect. I hope because of this book I am closer to bending over and picking up some bread to give to a cipher, even if it puts us both at Death’s door.

It is a mighty work.

Jan 28, 2013, 9:17 am

I've got The Book Thief set out to read in February! I don't think I've seen a bad review of that book yet!

Jan 29, 2013, 3:01 am

I've had the book for ages, but never got round to reading it. Very glad I made the effort - it was worth every minute. I am sure you will enjoy it!

Fev 4, 2013, 1:39 am

Greece: Murder in Mykonos by Jeffrey Siger

This is an above average police procedural set in Mykonos, Greece. There's a serial killer on the loose, seeking out young female foreign tourists as his victims. The new police chief, who is a former homicide detective from Athens, has the task of finding the killer, with the help of a local homicide detective. There's several suspects and an exciting chase at the end of the book. It's a good read, fairly well-paced and interesting characters.

Fev 18, 2013, 4:14 am

Italy: The Monster of Florence by Douglas Preston

I found this book good at the start, but slightly dry and disappointing. The story is compelling enough be then it meanders off into nowhere, really, and ends with the investigation stalling. So, basically they went through all of that for nothing. Sometimes, real life is stranger than fiction - but in this case, it's probably more boring than fiction would be. At the end of a fictional novel, the killer would have been unmasked and good will have triumphed over evil. In this version, the evil was split between some weird Florentine families and a lazy police deparment...all in their quest for notoriety and power.

Egotistically speaking, they ended up making this story more about themselves than the killer - it's no wonder no one turned up any new evidence.

Mar 3, 2013, 4:45 am

France: City of Light by Kim Wright

The title City of Light is a reference to Paris, France, which is the primary setting for the novel. Paris has a magical quality, but also a mysterious quality. Of course, I've never been but this is the rumor confirmed by the many novels I've read set in ol' Parie...

Once again we are plunged into the lives of criminal experts Trevor Welles and Rayley Abrams. With the Jack the Ripper all sewn up case (do you see what I did there? :-), or gone cold for the cynics, Rayley has been invited to Paris to learn more about the art of forensics. Staying behind awaiting good word is Trevor Welles - the head of the first Forensic Division of Scotland Yard appointed by Queen Victoria herself, Tom Bainbridge - a medical student, Davy Mabrey - a "bobby" with a keen eye and good sense, and off the record, Emma Kelly, the sister of the last victim of the Ripper. Their team is set to work on a case involving an underage male brothel. But, it seems brothels for the English and business deals for the Parisians are better acquainted than one might assume. Centered around the reveal of one of the Seven Wonder of the World, the Eiffel Tower, Welles and his team discover themselves in the the thick of cross-ocean crimes with one of their own fighting for life. Will the team connect all the clues in time?

Wright has a wonderful dynamic between her characters. I love that Emma Kelly is often one of the most intriguing and ingenious members of the team, even if she's not allowed to be on the official payroll. Wright makes a statement by having Emma be such an integral part of the criminal investigations. As one would assume, women could not be a part of such an organization during this time period.

And Emma Kelly is not the only daring female in the tale. I think Wright makes a solid point about being a woman when she writes, "Beautiful and smart. A woman should be one or the other, not both, or she is in an impossible situation - attractive enough to draw men, be shrewd enough to see through them."

Keeping with wonderful British charm, "And here's another one for you to stir into your tea..." and true to the personas created in book one, City of Darkness, City of Light continues to embed the reader in the lives of each personality. From beginning to end one roots for Trevor and his team to flesh out the bad guy and always, always get their man

Mar 6, 2013, 7:18 am

Portugal: A Small Death in Lisbon by Robert Wilson

The story begins in the 1990's in Portugal when the body of a teenaged girl is found on a beach brutally murdered. Inspector Ze Coelho and his colleague are first on the scene and begin the investigation by tracking the final days of Catalina's life where they discover her innocence was destroyed by sex, drugs and emotional abuse.

The story then backtracks to 1941 when Klaus Felsen is forced out of his Berlin factory and into the ranks of the SS. He is sent to Lisbon where his mandate is to procure at any cost wolfram an essential metal needed by the 3rd Reich. Lisbon is a hotbed of activity and the base of operation where he meets a man who plunges him into a nightmarish world of brutality...

By masterfully moving back and forth from one era to another, connections and secrets are slowly unravelled to the present day Portugal. In doing so, Coelho skilfully links the past to the murder of Caterina...

This is a remarkable and powerful fiction novel based on historical facts, beautifully structured with inspiring characters and a gripping tale full of machination. The complicated murder plot involves the life of many suspects converging on the victim. The Felsen story takes all kinds of twists and turns giving us an insight into how the Nazi paid using "Nazi Gold" and the Salazar controlled central bank.

Both Catalina and Klaus stories are interesting on their own leading readers to wonder how they tie in. Wilson drops clues along the way revealing an incredibly complex ending that is as clever as it is intricate. This novel has a lot of descriptive sex and violence which may not appeal to all readers. In whole this book was fascinating and one of the best I have read in a long time, I will definitely be checking other novels written by this author.

Mar 6, 2013, 12:48 pm

Glad you liked A Small Death in Lisbon. I too intended to read it for Portugal but chose something else instead. However, I still have it waiting to be read. Good review.

Mar 7, 2013, 2:04 am

I was not too keen on the book before I started, but it was great in the end. It was interesting to see how the two seperate storylines got together in the end.

Mar 10, 2013, 8:44 am

Iceland: Arctic Chill by Arnaldur Indriðason

This is the first book by this famous Icelander than I read and as the title indicates the action takes place in the Arctic Chill.

It all begins when a young boy, a ten year old elementary school student, discovers the corpse of a boy at the entrance of a building at his neighborhood in Reykjavik. The victim, Elias, is a kid of mixed descent; his mother is Thai and his father an Icelander. Usually, in cases like this, the first thing that springs to mind is that it has to be a hate crime, and the detectives who arrive at the scene can think of no other reason for something so cruel to happen to one so young. Living at times like these, when the issues of immigration and the integration of the foreigners in the local culture and way of life are as hot as ever, a case of this sort is bound to upset the public. So, as expected, everyone is pushed to work hard and in a hurry to solve the crime, especially since the pressure from the press keeps mounting; but that’s not likely to happen any time soon because there’s absolutely no evidence about who the killer might be, and no matter what everyone thinks there’s no clear motive either.

The three detectives that are investigating the case, Erlendur, Elinborg and Oli, seem to reach a dead end pretty soon, but they are not willing to give up, and thus sooner rather than later, a piece of information finds its way to them, which could signal a breakthrough; Niran, the dead boy’s brother is missing. So they start searching for him, they seek him everywhere they and his family can think of, because it is very likely that he knows something about the murder. At the same time they keep questioning the neighbors, the kids’ father who’s divorced their mother and no longer lives with them, as well as a man who’s been convicted in the past for pederasty.

Niran will not prove that hard to find, but soon enough he will disappear again, this time with the help of his mother, and things as time goes by will start getting more and more complicated since each and every lead the detectives follow always bring them to a dead end.

While all that is happening the author allows the reader to take a good look into the personal lives of his heroes; especially Erlendur’s and Sunee’s, the kids’ mother. The former is a very capable detective, but also a man with way too many obsessions, while some facts from his past seem to haunt his everyday life, just as much as the recent disappearance of a woman -a different case- does. As for his relations with his children they seem to be tense at times, but mostly kind of indifferent. The only person he can really turn to when the going gets tough is his girlfriend Valgerdur, who’s doing the best she can to be the rock he needs to lean on. As for Sunee, she’s a very strong woman, with an iron will, but nevertheless hopelessly unlucky, as she followed without second thoughts a man to his frozen country and became his wife, only to find out that he was unfaithful to her; as he was to every other woman in his life when it came to that. She was hit, but she had not fallen. Instead she did what she knew best; she started working harder and harder in order to gain enough money to give her children a better life than the one she had, a brighter future. And even now that one of her boys is dead and the other hunted, she doesn't bow her head, she doesn't lose her courage. So everyone who knows her, and everyone who just starts to know her, has no choice but to admire her stance and learn some valuable life lessons from her.

This a great novel that though its plot embarks on a journey around the various circles of society, which is not so much preoccupied with crime but more with the people, that talks about all those little or bigger moments that mark their lives and set their course; towards happiness or into the abyss.

It can easily be read by anyone, whether he likes crime fiction or not, and it sure has a lot to say.

Mar 17, 2013, 11:29 am

Ireland: Faithful Place by Tana French

Tana French truly has a gift for writing. She's the kind of author who makes me so ecstatic that I can read. Her descriptions leap off the page. One that particularly stuck with me was about a back garden at night: “The dim orange glow coming from nowhere in particular gave the garden a spiky Tim Burton look." I can SEE that garden. French is smart with her many references, and she allows that the reader is smart too. Fantastic.

I thought Faithful Place started off much better than her first two books. The prologue recounts what happened to Frank 22 years ago directly, rather than giving vague and emphatically over-poetic internal monologues. So that was an excellent change.

The characters were definitely written better than those in The Likeness, and as good as, if not better than, those in In the Woods as well. The case was good too - a cold case plus a new case, and who the murderer is doesn't really matter to the action (though it does matter to the conclusion); it's more about how the characters cope with the murders and each other. (Although I have to say I got a bad feeling from the murderer the first time that character was introduced, so I was not as surprised as I would have liked to be when the guilt was revealed.)

What REALLY stands out in this novel, however, was the dialogue. I felt like I had stepped right into The Liberties in Dublin. I keep wanting to say "Jaysus" and "bajanxed;" I need a reality check after stepping out of the Dublin in French's powerful pages. Amazing

Mar 21, 2013, 6:10 am

Spain: Driving Over Lemons: An Optimist in Spain by Chris Stewart

I was very happy to come across this delightful little book by Chris Stewart who threw it all in to become a sheep-shearer and, eventually, the owner of a remote farm in the Alpujarras region of Andalucia. While this technically belongs in the same genre as similar works by Peter Mayle, Frances Mayes and Tony Cohan, it strikes a very different pitch as it is remarkably humble, grounded and measured in its perception of local life in the Alpujarrai; it avoids the patronizing pastiche that often relegates locals to overblown stereotypes in similar biographical travelogues. Stewart's style is whimsical, with distant echoes of Bill Bryson, and the narrative that he weaves is more about interactions with intriguing local characters than about deep musings on Spanish life. Reading "Driving Over Lemons" tempts me to explore his later two books on his life in Andalucia --- definite future additions to the pile of books on the night-stand.

Mar 21, 2013, 12:17 pm

This sounds excellent. I came across this book at one point and for some reason passed it over. I'll keep an eye out for it.

Mar 22, 2013, 4:35 am

Poland: The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne

Holocaust dramas are always gut-wrenchingly sad and John Boyne's The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas is no exception, but what makes the sadness of this novel sting long after the final page is turned is the fact that, while it still displays some of the darkest days in human history, it is shown through the wide, blue eyes of an innocent eight-year-old German boy, named Bruno.

The novel follows Bruno and his family as they move from a secure and wealthy life in Berlin to the forlorn and desolate Polish countryside where his SS Officer father has been promoted to commandant of Auschwitz concentration camp. Bruno, who wants to be an explorer, is immediately curious when he sees a 'farm' out of his bedroom window. However, he is forbidden from investigating further by his mother, who is well aware of who the 'strange' children are that Bruno wishes to play with.

Of course, being a precocious eight-year-old, Bruno ignores her and ventures through the woods where he comes across Schmuel, an eight-year-old Jewish boy, with whom he forms an intense friendship that is not hindered by racial prejudices and hatred, despite many attempts by Bruno's anti-Semitic tutor to convince him otherwise. The dramatic climax to this heart wrenching tale is nothing short of amazing and will leave audiences both astounded and devastated.

Bruno, being eight, has a very innocent and naive perception of the world; however, throughout the novel after many short, but poignant exchanges with Schmuel and Paval, Bruno begins to understand more about the world around him and his innocent view begins to change. Bruno is lied to by many people in his life and in a way Schmuel is one of them. He has already faced some of life's harshest realities, and in some ways protects Bruno from having to confront these issues. Although, there are still many occasions where Bruno portrays his innocence and does not seem to comprehend the severity of Schmuel’s situation.

As the novel is centred around Bruno’s subjective view of the world there are many events which take place that he may not observe or comprehend. In some cases this limits what can be said and what must be implied to the audience. Sometimes Bruno’s information can be wrong; it is up to the audience to work this out. This invites the audience to feel sympathy for Bruno, Schmuel, Paval and Bruno’s mother who are all, along with millions of others, victims of one of the darkest and most brutal times in human history.

Bruno’s world is filled with secrets and lies; he is lied to by his parents who are lying to each other and, most of all, to themselves. Bruno’s father is forced to keep secret the real purpose of the camp and Bruno’s mother seems to be unaware, or unwilling to admit to herself, what is actually happening at the camp.

The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas is a masterpiece; it is gripping, heartbreaking and teaches audiences that sometimes the things that divide us can also unite us. Do yourself a favour once you finish reading this: eat some chocolate, grab some tissues and watch the movie. It is one of the best movie adaptations I have seen in a long time with a cast that brings this marvellous, haunting novel to life.

Mar 23, 2013, 11:49 am

Russia: The Madonnas of Leningrad by Debra Dean

The paintings in the Hermitage were evacuated shortly before the Siege of Leningrad. Marina commits them to memory (her “Memory Palace”) to sustain her spirit over that three year period. This is how Dean brings these paintings to life for the reader. You will not want to read this book without summoning the actual paintings on your computer screen. They are really the whole point of the book.

One might even say that the advertising term, Borrowed Interest, applies to Madonnas of Leningrad, so central are the paintings to the emotional appeal of the story. Through Marina's eyes, we see an introspective Madonna by Simone Martini, the almost adolescent wonderment of da Vinci's Benois Madonna, and the ripe forms and rippling surfaces of a Madonna by Crannach the Elder. Marina's memories form a sensual tour of the Hermitage's paintings. My advice – make a list of all the paintings in Marina's “Memory Palace.” Then go back and look up the actual paintings. It is in these moments that Marina will seem most real.

The story drifts between World War II and the present-day, suggesting the mental drift Marina suffers due to progressing Alzheimer's Disease. It also points out the rich and private lives we live apart from our families – spouses, siblings, and even children. The parts of the book that soar are the dream-like memories. By night the blimps in the sky “swim like enormous white whales through a dark sea. She is swimming with the whales.” This lyricism contrasts with the horror and deprivation endured by the starving inhabitants of besieged Leningrad. Unfortunately, the present-day segments of the story, while poignant, feel flat compared to the richness of the “Memory Palace.” Read this book if you love art history.

Mar 25, 2013, 9:19 am

You are making progress on you European challenge.

Mar 31, 2013, 11:17 am

Norway: Fear Not by Anne Holt

The fourth, and most successful, of the Vik/Stubo novels opens as a young girl wanders around Oslo city at night, drifting onto the tram tracks while lost in her imaginary world. As the trolley bears down on her, a man sweeps her up, saving her life. At the same time, the distraught mother comes rushing out of a nearby hotel, grabs her daughter and slaps the rescuer's face.

The woman is Johanne Vik, who has been attending her sister's wedding. Her daughter tells her that "the lady" is dead. Johanne thinks Kristina is confused and means the babysitter she employed to watch the girl during the late wedding party, but of course, the child is not that misguided, as later becomes apparent.

The story shifts to the tales of various characters - a woman priest is shockingly murdered, stabbed while out on a walk one night. Adam Stubo of the national crime investigation squad and Johanne's partner, is bought in to help the investigation, gently probing the priest's catatonic husband and grown-up son to find an explanation for this apparently deranged and illogical crime. The decomposed body of a young man or boy is found in the river, which forms a separate plot thread. In this mix is a self-made industrialist, whose story we slowly learn and who we gradually realise is intimately involved in these and other apparently unrelated crimes that are leaving the police confused.

It is Johanne, still officially on maternity leave, who instinctively begins to connect the dots. In the middle of the book, in a somewhat artificial but fascinating side-section, she meets with an old American friend from her days with the FBI. Together the two women talk about hate crime, and Johanne (who is writing a thesis on the topic) begins to piece together the motivation for the current crime wave and the threat she perceives to her daughter.

This is an excellent book - in a couple of the previous novels in this series, the author has left things hanging in the air a bit at the end. This is not the case here. FEAR NOT is a fully rounded novel that addresses the terrorist and fanatical elements that plague our contemporary society, but elects to do so in an intelligent and engaging manner rather than by indulging in melodramatics. Having said this, the book is certainly not a dull lecture; to the contrary it provides plenty of conundrums that do eventually turn out to have plausible solutions. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel, not least for its contemporary relevance in terms of its treatment of hate-inspired crimes, and very much look forward to the author's next.

Abr 1, 2013, 11:46 am

Czech Republic: Prague Pictures: A Portrait of a City by John Banville

Prague is the magic capital of Europe. Since the days of Emperor Rudolf II, 'devotee of the stars and cultivator of the spagyric art', who in the late 1500s summoned alchemists and magicians from all over the world to his castle on Hradcany hill, it has been a place of mystery and intrigue. Wars, revolutions, floods, the imposition of Soviet communism, or even the depredations of the tourist boom after the 'Velvet Revolution' of 1989, could not destroy the unique atmosphere of this beautiful, proud and melancholy city on the Vltava. John Banville traces Prague's often tragic history and portrays the people who made it, the emperors and princes, geniuses and charlatans, heroes and scoundrels, and paints a portrait of the Prague of today, revelling in its newfound freedoms, eager to join the European Community and at the same time suspicious of what many Praguers see as yet another totalitarian takeover. He writes of his first visit to the city, in the depths of the Cold War, when he engaged in a spot of art smuggling, and of subsequent trips there, of the people he met, the friends he made, the places he came to know.

Abr 6, 2013, 1:54 pm

United Kingdom: Amsterdam by Ian McEwan

This book was very odd. The story begins with the death of Molly. Molly who was the friend of several men, and the lover of several others even though she was married. Two of her previous lovers, Clive and Vernon, attend the funeral and pay their respects. Then they go off and continue to live their lives, but they have both been changed as a result of the loss of their mutual friend. I am still trying to figure out what the plot was. Is jealousy the main theme or friendship gone array? Is it the continuation of life after the death of someone very close? Life that follows a depressing path. I don’t have the answer to these questions. I found the writing to be a bit too wordy. I also found the ideas to be choppy and scattered. This is the first McEwan book I have read and I have to say, I am not impressed.

Editado: Abr 10, 2013, 3:02 am

Netherlands: The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank

I confess to feeling slightly voyeuristic while reading this. It was constantly in the back of my mind that this was no ordinary novel, or even a true-to-life account. This was someone’s diary. Every page written in confidence, each word revealing the thoughts closest to the heart of this young girl. While reading Anne Frank – The Diary of a Young Girl I do not get the sense that there is any such ‘filtering’ going on. From the ages of 12-15 Anne lived an extraordinary life, and quickly grew far beyond her years in her understanding and handling of a horrendous situation.

There are surprises in this book. No matter how broad or limited your understanding of the world events that threw Anne and her family into a life in hiding, I had – before reading this – held the general assumption that, “Well, it was wartime. They were in hiding for their lives. They must have been miserable all the time. Who could possibly find anything good or redeeming in the confines of such a life?” In hindsight, of course, I have had to reconsider. I found bits of beauty, kindness, and even humour popping up in the most unexpected places. And why shouldn’t I? Aren’t our lives much the same? Oh – we’re not dodging bombs and trying to sleep to the sound of gunfire. But we, each of us, are often faced with some sort of tragedy or travesty. Sometimes we may have an entire ‘bad year’, or longer. And yet, doesn’t the buoyancy of the human spirit always shine through? It is really tough work to be miserable 24 hours a day. No matter how difficult or challenged our day-to-day life, we all have those little pockets of joy that arise, and sometimes it is those tiny occurrences that make the rest of it bearable.

I would recommend Anne Frank – The Diary of a Young Girl to absolutely everyone, for I believe that it holds some truth or enlightenment for everyone.

Abr 9, 2013, 10:36 am

#31 Great review Hanneri. I've given it a thumb.

Abr 12, 2013, 8:37 pm

31 > Great review indeed. But do keep in mind that The Diary of a Young Girl was edited to be published - most notably by Anne Frank's surviving family member - and that (if I remember correctly from my lessons) Anne Frank herself wrote it with the desire/dream to publish. Both of these things mean that while the diary is true, a lot of things were redacted, both by Anne herself and later by the editor.

Abr 18, 2013, 4:14 am

Latvia: The Dogs of Riga by Henning Mankell

Many of the themes of The Dogs of Riga are applicable to most countries going through social transition; there are dogs in every instance. Dogs as recurrent symbols in the book are emblematic of the collective, blind forces of those in power who sick their shadowy minions on every freedom leaning individual in society.

In Dogs of Riga this metaphor would apply to the corrupt state police as well as the transglobal drug lords who are in cahoots with them. There are two sets of dogs but a third is possibly alluded to as well; the population has itself taken on a instinctual response due to its hunger and abuse.

Kurt Wallander becomes embroiled in international politics after an apparent accidental discovery of a life raft with two dead men, lying curled and frozen dressed post-mortumly in suits. Uncovering the likely source of the raft the Baltic state of Latvia (Capitial: Riga) brings about Wallander's collaboration with the Riga police Inspector Liepa. Liepa's style of investigation while vastly different from that of Western forces nevertheless has integrity, even an unexpected spiritual depth.

In an unanticipated turn of events Wallander finds himself involved in an ever expansive investigation that threatens his own self-understanding and his very life. He takes on the pseudo role of a unwitting, "not up to speed" revolutionary – a seeker after truth and transparency in a clandestine environment.

The book was an inspiring read, full of humaneness with enough complexity to keep the pages turning fast and furious. It forces the reader to consider the lot of those less free than themselves and reveals the true complexity of our "world of fear and widows", as Wallander describes it.

Editado: Abr 24, 2013, 4:16 am

Vatican City: The Last Pope by Luis Miguel Rocha

The book is interesting enough to finish, and contains some good ideas, making one wonder where it all went wrong. Giving the author some credit, one has to wonder if the translation is the culprit. In the original language in which it was written it is perhaps a real page turner, and a great book. In this particular English translation, it falls short. The book makes contradictory statements, and the writing is too simplistic, explaining to us for example that a remark mentioned was sarcastic instead of trusting the reader to figure this out for him/herself. The style is so atrocious that it makes you cringe when you read. There is no lack of a plot but it's execution is abysmal. This could have been an exciting book, making the reader wonder what happens next?, but instead it is just an average book although, highly readable making the reader wonder what happened and why were we led on this goose chase?

Maio 5, 2013, 11:31 am

Hungary: The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer

This book really grew on me. The Invisible Bridge is a big old fashioned novel which follows three young Hungarian Jewish brothers through the years leading up to World War II and the war years themselves. The leading character is the middle brother Andras who wins a scholarship to study architecture in Paris, where he meets and falls in love with a beautiful expatriate ballet teacher. Sounds corny, eh ? It isn't.
This story is about the Holocaust, but it lacks enormous amounts of melodrama . The devil is in the details, and the author piles up the everyday setbacks and mounting frustrations, rules, and deficits until one can see why & how the Holocaust snuck up on so many millions of people. I half-joked to my husband when I started reading The Invisible Bridge that any book which starts in Europe in 1936 begs you to scream a warning to all the characters : Get out !!! But after reading the novel, I can understand why so many waited too long to even attempt to get out and why so many simply couldn't escape. I am no closer to understanding the mentality or the rationale behind the killings, but I do think I understand the victims better.
I did want to ask Ms Orringer if the book is biographical - is she the teenage girl at the end of the novel who is going to ask her grandfather to explain what really happened ?
This is definitely a big fat book and the initial pace is ponderous, but the tempo speeds up as the war grinds the characters into smaller and smaller pieces. It is worth sticking with.

Maio 6, 2013, 8:01 pm

I enjoyed The Invisible Bridge when I read it.

Maio 7, 2013, 6:12 am

It was a difficult read at some times, but worth every minute!

Maio 19, 2013, 5:47 am

Sweden: Death Angels by Ake Edwardson

In this novel, Erik Winter teams up with Scotland Yard to solve a mysterious case that has the same M.O. as other cases in which British and Swedish young men have been found murdered in extremely violent ways. The discovery of filming equipment suggests the killer maybe recording his deeds to gain notoriety in the snuff film world. While Winter works the UK side of the case his colleague in Sweden questions a stripper named Angel, who he believes knows more than she is telling, her beauty and her expertise in handling people prove to be daunting challenge. However the key to solving the case may lay with the thief who found a sack full of bloody clothes.

I found the story to have a sluggish start. It is intensive in police procedural and takes a while before the action kicks in however just when you think it has peaked you are thrown a few more curves to keep you guessing. The effects a homicide has on the officers working the case and on the victims’ families is quite emotional and well done. I was quite fascinated by the in depth psychological characterisation of the Chief Inspector and his British associate. There are many sub-characters and keeping up with their Swedish names and their parts can be challenging at times. I have the feeling I was on the wrong track at times and missed out on some of the important nuances between players.

Maio 19, 2013, 7:02 am

I've wondered how that book is. I'm not sure if it is still at the library or not, but I may have to check into reading it if it is still around.

Editado: Maio 22, 2013, 11:59 am

Finland: Snow Angels by James Thompson

Psychological thriller by an American author who has lived in Finland for several years, about the sheriff of a small town in rural Finland who must solve a murder during the sunless winter season. The victim is a glamorous black actress, and the murder is an obvious hate crime - the victim, Sufia, has been mutilated, sexually assaulted, and the murderer cut a racial slur into her stomach with a knife.

The local sheriff, Kari, is worried about the publicity that will surround the grisly murder of a celebrity. He insists on investigating the case himself, although the Chief of Police in Helsinki offers to ship out a contingent of big city cops - but Kari begins to regret his decision when the #1 suspect turns out to be his ex-wife's new man, Seppo. Kari knows he's moved on, that his new wife Kate is the best thing that's ever happened to him, but the media spin Kari as a bad cop out for revenge when he arrests Seppo.

As he continues his investigation, the details get more lurid but also more personal. Sufia had been sleeping around and taking money for sex - while her parents, devout Muslims, fly into town and insist she was a virgin. The other main suspect is a wealthy playboy with a taste for underage girls. Their best witness is mentally handicapped, and could never testify. One of the other cops on the force is hiding something, and eventually Kari begins to suspect his ex-wife.

Thompson's writing is vigorous and spare, and he does an excellent job bringing the beauty and the terrible harshness of the Finnish winter to life. The main characters, their problems and relationships, are compelling. Minor, secondary characters feel real and complex no matter how brief their appearance. The story is peppered with all kinds of interesting factoids - about the Swedish minority in Finland, or the war in Somalia - that give the novel added breadth without sacrificing dramatic tension. I found SNOW ANGELS hard to put down - I read it straight through in one sitting, cover to cover, with relish.

Maio 26, 2013, 10:12 am

Scotland: The Unbearable Lightness of Scones by Alexander McCall Smith

I am never sure what to think of McCall Smith's work. It's not what I typically read. I liked the characters. It's a mellow read and I like that as well. Nothing challenging and doesn't push to far. But mellow and a fairly easy read. It is interesting to read as a bit of a social commentary on a community that I know from afar but that I have never been immersed in. I really enjoy reading anything that can keep my attention and this book certainly did that once I got to it, but didn't necessarily have me excited to get back into the story.

Jun 10, 2013, 5:00 am

Back to France with The Sweet Life in Paris: Delicious Adventures in the World's Most Glorious - and Perplexing - City by David Lebovitz

The Sweet Life in Paris is the moving-and-starting-over story of Lebovitz’s venture into Parisian life. It’s a story we have heard many times before, of the trials of dealing with French bureaucracy, of figuring out how to get service in French stores, and of trying to fit into a world that secretly scorns everything that is not French. Yes, we have heard this story many times before, but it is a story we will never tire of, a story we want to read again and again, until maybe, one day, we tell the story of our own move to this magical place.

I loved how Lebovitz tells how he realized he was finally un vrai parisien. It was not a big day, but a simple day, the day he dressed up to take out his garbage. How we all want to live in a world where everyone dresses up to take out the garbage!

The best part, of course, is David’s take on Paris treats. David is, of course, an expert on pastries, so who better to take us around Paris and share pastry gossip?

An absolutely delicious book, filled with stories about those amazing sweets of Paris. With recipes.

Jan 28, 2014, 2:35 am

Lithuania: Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

This is a beautiful, but heartbreaking story of a teenage girl who is dragged from her home in the middle of the night and deported to Siberia.

I read this in one afternoon. It was so well written and compelling that I needed to know what happened. I needed to know whether Lina and her brother and her mother made it through.

I could really identify with the characters in this story. They were all incredibly real and honest, and even when I disliked them, I felt that they could have easily stepped off the page and started walking around. I loved Lina's mother, Elena, most of all. I loved how she refused to give up hope, how she refused to let the situation change her or make her bitter or cruel. She was able to see the humanity in people who treated her as if she was less than garbage, and I admired her for that.

I would have really liked to find out more about what happened at the end, in the epilogue, since the ending was rather abrupt. But even for that, this story is amazing. I would definitely recommend it. And be forewarned, the writing is beautiful, but the things that are shown are not. Just like in real life.

Jul 31, 2014, 6:38 am

Luxembourg: The Expats by Chris Pavone

Kate Moore is a working mother who is trying to put on an impression that she loves her life. Raising kids is a burden and a blessing to her, they mean the world to her but she still questions if she is really living the life she dreamed of living. Married to a workaholic has not made matters any easier, especially when she is in dark on what he really does for a career. Although she has an idea on how her husband makes her income, she is still unsure that he is being completely honest with her. When she relocates to Luxembourg, she must learn the master the language, household duties and doing the necessities of a mother. Kate suspicion gets the best of her and starts to find clues that will confirm her constant worry that her husband is not the man she married.

I enjoyed the first half of the book. It was suspenseful in some parts but it was not something that grabbed me from the first page. As I kept reading, it interested me to find out about the secrets that was revealed. However, there were a lot of loopholes and some questions were left unanswered. I felt that the author wrote a decent debut novel but with minor inconsistencies.

Set 3, 2014, 2:21 am

Malta: Walking into the Ocean by David Whellams

There was something compelling about the protagonist, Peter Cammon. Cammon is a retired chief inspector from New Scotland Yard, but he is often called in as a consultant on difficult cases.

A husband is accused of throwing his wife over a cliff, and then disappearing. Is he dead or has he just arranged a successful disappearance? At the same time a series of murders has occurred along the Dorset coast and Cammon is persuaded that that both cases are linked. Cammon is well-known for his independent work ethic, although there are a few fellow officers he trusts implicitly. He's also well-educated having read English literature at Oxford. He is drawn to word games and word puzzles. I had a hard time getting to know Cammon and getting into the book, but as mentioned before there was something compelling about the novel. The writer's style is more inferential than direct, which may be part of the difficulty; the reader can't relax. I also think that some of the time spent on deciphering the Biblical references and word puzzles was distracting. I also did not care for the unrealistic dreams and meanings attached to them. I did like the relationship between Cammon and his wife, although I'm not sure the way he involved in his investigation was realistic. This was a debut novel, so I hope that some of the "kinks" will be worked out for future novels.

Set 5, 2014, 7:59 am

Azerbaijan: The Colonel's Mistake by Dan Mayland

This was an enjoyable thriller set primarily in Azerbaijan but with diversions to Iran, Iraq, France and America as the plot progressed. Basically the plot is based around US fears of Iran. The lead character Mark Sava - an ex CIA head of station in Baku - displayed a marked weariness with US meddling in the region. That however is an aside. Primarily this is an easy read that propels itself along at a rapid rate, through a suitably intricate plot that had me wondering throughout as to how it would end. This is the first in a proposed series based around Mark Sava.

Set 25, 2014, 3:26 am

Georgia: Red Station by Adrian Magson

An interesting plot. There is a place, called Red Station, where British intelligence sends agents whom they want to disappear. Harry Tate doesn't disappear so easily. While he is there, he is in the midst of an uprising between Russia and Georgia. The characters don't really do anything surprising, the one downfall of the story.

Editado: Out 12, 2014, 9:19 am

Albania: Chronicle in Stone by Ismail Kadare

Stunning, both poetic and blatantly raw vision of Albania in the 20th century. Torn between Turks, Austrians, Italians, Greeks, Chinese and eventually Germans a boy speaks about his childhood in a city made of stones. A series of striking characters are seen through his eyes and his innocence. Wonderful writing, amazing composition. A real trip into Karare's mind and his view of a country as it was during tormented times.

Out 14, 2014, 4:39 am

Cyprus: Agatha Raisin and the Terrible Tourist

Agatha Raisin isn't a particularly nice person. Given the time period when this was written, I think the author was experimenting with a number of stereotypes by turning them backward. For example, Agatha loves James, but she spends loads of time with (& not surprisingly ends up sleeping with) Charles. If a male detective character did this in a novel in the late 80's to early 90's, it would be fairly normal, if he was the protagonist. If he was a love interest acting this way, then the reader would expect the (female) detective / protagonist to punish and/or drop him immediately. Neither happens to Agatha, although she is emotionally tangled up a lot.

The mysteries around this dynamic are pretty incidental. They are something for Agatha to run around finding out about so we can watch her be nosy & clever & not clever & embarrass herself & pretty much be Agatha Raisin, whom I can't seem to help liking in spite of her double standards & tendency to isolate herself with murder suspects & other silly behaviors. The murderer is usually just insane, which means the clues don't give us a logical puzzle to solve anyway.

Nov 8, 2014, 7:01 am

Belgium: Resistance by Anita Shreve

A somewhat sad story, but engrossing nonetheless. For the most part, I liked Shreve's writing style. It started out a bit slow, but I did eventually start to care about the characters and how everything played out. I thought she created some diverse characters, though I did find the American pilot, Ted, to be a bit flat. Occasionally, I also didn't like how she wrote out dialogue scenes involving more than two people. It was just words without quotation marks and it wasn't always clear who was saying what. That being said, I also noticed that overall she writes fairly tersely; the narration and various characters don't waste words getting points across. The language isn't frilly or frivolous, but is effective in setting tone and stirring emotions in the reader.

Mar 3, 2015, 1:14 am

Bulgaria: Night Soldiers by Alan Furst

Brilliant WWII era spy novel. Furst's characters are full and realistic, his dialog is crisp and believable, the plotting intricate and logical. This book was a great, sprawling, epic story of a Bulgarian, Khristo Stoianev, recruited by the NKVD (Soviet secret police and forerunner of the KGB) in the lead up to the second world war. Stoianev falls victim to one of Stalin's irrational purges during Stoianev's operations in the Spanish Civil War. He escapes to France, closely pursued by his former NKVD colleagues, and hilarity ensues.

I recommend this book to anyone even remotely interested in spy fiction, WWII or the inner workings of Soviet espionage organizations.

Mar 8, 2015, 10:22 pm

#52> I have never read Furst but I am looking forward to reading some of his work soon.

Abr 23, 2015, 3:34 am

Ukraine: Wolves Eat Dogs by Martin Cruz Smith

Cynical, melancholy Moscow special investigator Arkardy Renko has a serious problem. One of Moscow's newly minted billionaires has taken a fatal plunge off of a twenty-story condominium - suicide or murder? As Renko dryly observes "We prefer suicides. Suicides don't demand work, or drive up the crime rate."

In his fifth book featuring his laconic, down-trodden detective, Martin Cruz Smith is at the top of his game. Wolves Eat Dogs takes Renko, filling his role as Moscow's most dogged and quixotic gumshoe, from the heady environs of the new Russian elite down a twisted, wayward path into a deadly quietly radioactive heart of darkness, the 30-mile Exclusion Zone surrounding Chernobyl in the Ukraine.

Tautly written, intriguing and quite frankly offering a more humane glimpse of the Russian pysche then western fiction typically offers, Wolves Eat Dogs is a terrific and unique mystery, with Renko, as ever, leading the reader deeper and deeper into uncharted territory - in this case, the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, with its eerie abandoned towns, burgeoning wildlife, icon-thieves, corrupt car parts dealers and obsessive scientests. Smith weaves an involving and immersive mystery with first-rate characters and plotting, in a very unique setting.

Editado: Jul 14, 2015, 3:42 am

Guernsey: The Guernsey Literary and Potatoe Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer (UK Channel Islands)

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society tells of Nazi occupation of this Channel Island during WW II. The story is told via a series of letters exchanged between residents of the island and a writer attempting to learn about their experiences. We are offered a wide range of characters, some warm and charming, some extremist buffoons, some heroic, some not so heroic. The core of the story is Elizabeth, a particularly brave and wonderful individual. She is the emotional heart of the tale, as the many characters all have some experience that relates to her. Another important aspect is how all the characters relate around literature.

Shaffer offers us a charming and wide-ranging palette of humanity trying their best to cope under very trying circumstances. Sit back and enjoy. This is a delightful, informative, and satisfying read that celebrates the impact of reading on people’s lives.

Fev 8, 2017, 7:45 pm

Austria: Who is Martha by Marjana Gaponenko

I really have no clue what to say about this novel. It just seemed a bunch of words put together. I really wanted to enjoy this, but in the end it was just a long slog that just did not want to end. Dying Ukrainian ornithologist goes to Vienna and stays in a fancy hotel. Some really gorgeous and inventive descriptions of bird calls and music. Luka himself seems by turns daft and petulant. I just did not enjoy this.

Jul 2, 2017, 10:13 pm

Wales: The Earth Hums in B Flat

This book was a lovely light read, yet dealt sensitively with the serious issues undercutting the stability of the protagonist's family life. As Strachan describes the crumbling of a community, she intersperses her writing with soft touches, such as the description of Gwenni's 'flying' and the 'Earth's hum'. A lovely book set in a Welsh village.