MissBrangwen travels on the pages

TalkThe Global Challenge

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MissBrangwen travels on the pages

Edited: Apr 18, 5:07 am

I have been fascinated by the global readings going on around LT for a long time, but I cannot deal with the commitment of more monthly challenges, so I was thrilled when I found this one. It is perfect for me - a long list and the ability to fill it at leisure, over time.

Because I couldn't decide which list or which countries to use, I ultimately decided to use the UN+ list provided by Nomad Mania (which in many ways is a very questionable website but I like some of the lists).

Update April 2024: I found the methods of my thread a bit too complicated in the long run, so I decided to simplify a lot of things.

Edited: Apr 18, 12:26 pm

My simplified rules are as follows:

In order to complete a country...

- The best is to read books (fiction, non-fiction or poetry) set or at least firmly rooted in the country and by an author from that country (by birth, nationality or family). The ultimate goal is to read five of these books by five different authors for a country.
- Other kinds of books (other books by same author, history books/travel books by authors not from the country, novels set in the country written by authors not from the country but evoking a sense of place or providing useful information) are counted but starred to indicate that they are not ideal and will be replaced when I read anything else that fits better.

This is the first time I am doing a challenge where books are counted that I have already read, so I decided to start from November 2006 - this was the most significant month in my life until I met my husband: I traveled to Australia for the very first time, and it was also my first trip on my own and my first ever trip on a plane. It changed my life!
When I came back in 2007, I became seriously interested in other countries for the first time and the same year I started uni and began to read literature apart from genre fiction. So I think using November 2006 as a starting point really fits.

Edited: Apr 21, 3:01 pm

Countries completed:


United States

(Countries in bold means that I have read fitting books by five different authors from the country and no books are left starred.)

Edited: Apr 18, 5:52 am



Aland Islands



American Samoa




Antarctica International
1. * Der Kampf um den Südpol by Stefan Zweig (publ. 1927, read 2011)
2. * The Dark by Emma Houghton (publ. 2021, read 2022)

Antigua and Barbuda





Australia - visited - completed
1. My Place by Sally Morgan (publ. 1987, read 2008)
2. Rabbit-proof Fence by Doris Pilkington Garimara (publ. 1996, read 2007)
3. Aboriginal Australians by Richard Broome - (publ. 2010, read 2010)
4. A Little History of Australia by Mark Peel - (publ. 1997, read 2006)
5. Cattle Camp by Herb Wharton - (publ. 1994, read 2015)

Austria - visited - completed
1. Der arme Spielmann by Franz Grillparzer (publ. 1847, read 2017)
2. Schachnovelle by Stefan Zweig (publ. 1942, read 2015)
3. Lieutnant Gustl by Arthur Schnitzler (publ. 1900, read 2010)
4. Der Schwierige by Hugo von Hofmannsthal (publ. 1921, read 2010)
5. Das Heidedorf by Adalbert Stifter (publ. 1840, read 2010)


Edited: Apr 18, 5:18 am






Belgium - visited
1. * Belgien für Deutsche by Marion Schmitz-Reiners (publ. 2007, read 2013)
2. * Gebrauchsanweisung für Brüssel und Flandern by Siggi Weidemann (publ. 2007, read 2015)







Bosnia Srpska

Bosnia and Herzegovina



British Virgin Islands


Bulgaria - visited
1. Nachtgras by Fedia Filkova (publ. in German in 2013, read 2019)
2. * Lesereise Bulgarien by Thomas Magosch (publ. 2011, read 2018)

Burkina Faso


Edited: Apr 18, 5:19 am

Cabo Verde

Cambodia - visited
1. * Geschichte Kambodschas by Bernd Stöver (publ. 2015, read 2017)
2. * Der Preis der Leichtigkeit by Andreas Altmann (publ. 2007, read 2020)


Canada - completed
1. Medicine River by Thomas King (publ. 1990, read 2009)
2. Barometer Rising by Hugh McLennan (publ. 1941, read 2010)
3. A Discovery of Strangers by Rudy Wiebe (publ. 1995, read 2011)
4. What We All Long For by Dionne Brand (publ. 2008, read 2017)
5. No Fixed Address by Aritha van Herk (publ. 1986, read 2010)

Cayman Islands

Central African Republic


Chechen Republic


1. * Abenteuer Seidenstraße by Bruno Baumann (publ. 1998, read 2021)

Christmas Island

Cocos (Keeling) Islands



Congo, Republic of

Cook Islands

Costa Rica

Cote D'Ivoire






Czech Republic
1. Das Geheimnis der Weihnacht by Tomáš Halík (publ. 2023, read 2024)

Edited: Apr 18, 5:20 am

Dagestan Republic

Democratic Republic of Congo

Denmark - visited
1. Krokodilwächter by Katrine Engberg (publ. 2019, read 2023)
2. * Dänische Geschichte by Robert Bohn (publ. 2009, read 2015)
3. * Oh, dieses Dänisch! by Reinhart Behr (publ. 2007, read 2015)


1. Till September Petronella by Jean Rhys (publ. 1960, read 2018)

Dominican Republic

Edited: Apr 18, 5:20 am



El Salvador

England - visited - completed
1. This Sceptred Isle by Christopher Lee (publ. 1997, read 2011)
2. David Copperfield by Charles Dickens (publ. 1849, read 2017)
3. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (publ. 1813, read 2011 and 2022)
4. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë (publ. 1847, read 2009)
5. The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot (publ. 1860, read 2009)

Equatorial Guinea





Edited: Apr 18, 5:21 am


Faroe Islands

1. * Auf der Datumsgrenze durch die Südsee by Klaus Scherer (publ. 2005, read 2022)


France - visited
1. Lullaby by Leïla Slimani (publ. 2016, read 2018)
2. * Lesereise Côte d'Azur by Helge Sobik (publ. 2014, read 2014)
3. * Gebrauchsanweisung für Nizza und die Côte d'Azur by Jens Rosteck (publ. 2007, read 2014)
4. * Maigret im Haus der Unruhe by Georges Simenon (publ. 1930, read 2021)

French Guinea

French Polynesia
1. * Blauwasserleben by Heike Dorsch (publ. 2012, read 2015)

Edited: Apr 18, 5:49 am




Germany - home country - completed
1. Die Leiden des jungen Werthers by Johann Wolfgang Goethe (publ. 1774, read many times)
2. Der Vorleser by Bernhard Schlink (publ. 1995, read 2010 and 2017)
3. Deutschland. Ein Wintermärchen by Heinrich Heine (publ. 1844, read 2010 and 2021)
4. Der Schimmelreiter by Theodor Storm (publ. 1888, read many times)
5. Das verborgene Wort by Ulla Hahn (publ. 2001, read 2018)

1. * This Side Jordan by Margaret Laurence (publ. 1960, read 2010)


Greece - visited

1. * Fräulein Smillas Gespür für Schnee by Peter Høeg (publ. 1992, read 2021)
2. * Die eisblaue Spur by Yrsa Sigurðardóttir (publ. 2008, read 2022





1. * A Line To Kill by Anthony Horowitz (publ. 2021, read 2022)




Edited: Apr 18, 5:22 am



Hong Kong - visited

Hungary - visited
1. Ungarn in der Nussschale by György Dalos (publ. 2004, read 2015)
2. * Lesereise Budapest by Cornelius Hell (publ. 2012, read 2015)
3. * Lesereise Ungarn by Cornelius Hell (publ. 2013, read 2015)

Edited: Apr 18, 12:25 pm

1. Das gefrorene Licht by Yrsa Sigurðardóttir (publ. 2006, read 2022)
2. * Das glühende Grab by Yrsa Sigurðardóttir (publ. 2007, read 2022)
3. Dunkel by Ragnar Jónasson (publ. 2015, read 2023)

1. Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur (publ. 2014, read 2019)
2. * A Passage To India by E.M. Forster (publ. 1924, read 2009)



1. Nachts ist es leise in Teheran by Shida Bazyar (publ. 2016, read 2023)


Iraqi Kurdistan

Ireland - visited - completed
1. The Storm Keeper's Island by Catherine Doyle (publ. 2018, read 2018)
2. Echoes by Maeve Binchy (publ. 1985, read 2017)
3. Normal People by Sally Rooney (publ. 2018, read 2019)
4. The Ruin by Dervla McKiernan (publ. 2018, read 2022)
5. A Star Called Henry by Roddy Doyle (publ. 1999, read 2022)

Isle of Man
1. * Aunt Bessie Assumes by Diana Xarissa (publ. 2014, read 2021)


Italy - visited - completed
1. The Last Legion by Valerio Massimo Manfredi (publ. 2002, read 2021)
2. * Where Angels Fear To Tread by E.M. Forster (publ. 1905, read 2020)
3. * Geschichte Italiens by Volker Reinhardt (publ. 2011, read 2013)
4. * Sea and Sardinia by D.H. Lawrence (publ. 1921, read 2019)
5. * Gebrauchsanweisung für Italien by Henning Klüver (publ. 2002, read 2012)

Edited: Apr 18, 5:25 am


1. A Monk's Guide To A Clean House And Mind by Shoukei Matsumoto (publ. 2018, read 2019)



Edited: Apr 18, 5:25 am


1. * Nirgendwo in Afrika by Stefanie Zweig (publ. 1995, read 2020)


Korea, North

Korea, South
1. Die Vegetarierin by Han Kang (publ. 2007, read 2019)




Edited: Apr 18, 5:26 am

Laos - visited






Liechtenstein - visited

Lithuania - visited - completed
1. In The Shadow Of Wolves by Alvydas Šlepikas (publ. 2011, read 2023)
2. Tofylis, or The Marriage of Zosė by Žemaitė (publ. 1897, read 2023)
3. Die Straßen von Wilna by Czesław Miłosz (publ. 1997, read 2023)
4. Between Shades Of Gray by Ruta Sepetys (publ. 2011, read 2023)
5. * Der eiserne Wolf im barocken Labyrinth - Erwachendes Vilnius by Cornelius Hell (publ. 2009, read 2023)

Luxemburg - visited
1. * Geschichte Luxemburgs by Michael Pauly (publ. 2014, read 2014)

Edited: Apr 18, 5:26 am




Malaysia - visited
1. * Malaysia - The Essential Guide to Customs & Culture by Victor King (publ. 2021, read 2022)




Marshall Islands








Monaco - visited







Edited: Apr 18, 5:27 am

Nagorno Karabakh




Netherlands - visited - completed
1. Versteckt wie Anne Frank by Marcel Prins and Peter Henk Steenhuis (publ. 2013, read 2018)
2. Birnbäume blühen weiß by Gerbrand Bakker (publ. 1999, read 2021)
3. Wir alle für immer zusammen by Guus Kuijer (publ. 1999, read 2015)
4. Amsterdam by Geert Mak (publ. 1997, read 2014)
5. * Geschichte der Niederlande by Michael North (publ. 2013, read 2014)

New Caledonia

New Zealand
1. The Garden Party and Other Stories by Katherine Mansfield (publ. 1922, read 2022)



1. Dear Ijeawele by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (publ. 2017, read 2018)


Norfolk Island

North Macedonia

Northern Cyprus

Northern Ireland - visited
1. * Der Nordirlandkonflikt by Frank Otto (publ. 2005, read 2013)

Northern Mariana Islands


Edited: Jan 6, 2022, 2:53 pm


Edited: Apr 18, 5:28 am

1. Exit West by Mohsin Hamid (publ. 2017, read 2021)




Papua New Guinea



1. Noli Me Tangere by José Rizal (publ. 1887, read 2016)


1. Jakob der Lügner by Jurek Becker (publ. 1969, read 2017)
2. Der letzte Wunsch by Andrzej Sapkowski (publ. 1993, read 2023)


Puerto Rico


Edited: Jan 6, 2022, 2:55 pm


Edited: Apr 18, 5:28 am



1. The Queen of Spades by Alexander Pushkin (publ. 1834, read 2018)


Edited: Apr 18, 12:30 pm


Saint Helena

Saint Kitts and Nevis

Saint Lucia

Saint Martin

Saint Pierre and Miquelon

Saint Vincent and The Grenadines



San Marino

Sao Tome and Principe

Saudi Arabia

Scotland - visited - completed
1. The Blackhouse by Peter May (publ. 2011, read 2021)
2. Knots and Crosses by Ian Rankin (publ. 1987, read 2016)
3. Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson (publ. 1886, read 2021)
4. Andrina and Other Stories by George Mackay Brown (publ. 1983, read 2017)
5. A History of Scotland by Neil Oliver (publ. 2009, read 2011)


1. Tauben fliegen auf by Melinda Nadj Abonji (publ. 2010, read 2022)


Sierra Leone


Saint Eustatius

Sint Maarten

Slovakia - visited


Salomon Islands



South Africa
1. David's Story by Zoë Wicomb (publ. 2000, read 2008)

South Ossetia

South Sudan

Spain - visited
1. * Lesereise Mallorca - Miró und der Mann mit der Mandarinenkiste by Helge Sobik (publ. 2012, read 2017)
2. * Ich bin dann mal weg by Hape Kerkeling (publ. 2009, read 2018)
3. * Lesereise Mallorca - Fiesta im Schnee der Mandelblüten by Brunhild Seeler-Herzog (publ. 2003, read 2017)
4. * Lesereise Kanarische Inseln - Archipel der Glückseligkeiten by Claudia Diemar (publ. 2001, read 2022)

1. * Die Schrecken des Eises und der Finsternis by Christoph Ransmayr (publ. 2003, read 2011)

Sri Lanka



Sweden - visited - completed
1. Mörder ohne Gesicht by Henning Mankell (publ. 1991, read 2020)
2. Verblendung by Stieg Larsson (publ. 2005, read 2017)
3. Tanz mit dem Engel by Åke Edwardson (publ. 1997, read 2022)
4. * Forsberg und das verschwundene Mädchen by Ben Tomasson (publ. 2021, read 2021)
5. * Die Schattenfrau by Åke Edwardson (publ. 1998, read 2023)

Switzerland - visited - completed
1. Biedermann und die Brandstifter by Max Frisch (publ. 1958, read 2015)
2. Der Besuch der alten Dame by Friedrich Dürrenmatt (publ. 1956, read 2015)
3. Kleider machen Leute by Gottfried Keller (publ. 1874, read 2013)
4. Romeo und Julia auf dem Dorfe by Gottfried Keller (publ. 1856, read 2016)
5. * Das Amulett by Conrad Ferdinand Meyer (publ. 1873, read 2008)

1. The Crossing by Samar Yazbek (publ. 2015, read 2015)
2. The Raqqa Diaries by Samer (publ. 2017, read 2018)

Edited: Apr 21, 3:01 pm




Thailand - visited - completed
1. The Blind Earthworm in the Labyrinth by Veeraporn Nitiprapha (publ. 2019, read 2024)
2. Thailand fürs Handgepäck ed. by Kirsten Ritscher (compilation from 2006, read 2016)
3. * Kleine Geschichte Thailands by Volker Grabowsky (publ. 2010, read 2016)
4. * Gebrauchsanweisung für Thailand by Martin Schacht (publ. 2011, read 2016)
5. * Lesereise Thailand by Georges Hausemer (publ. 2013, read 2016)

1. Die Essenz der Lehre Buddhas by Dalai Lama (publ. 2011, read 2016)

Timor Leste




Trans Dniestr

Trinidad and Tobago

Tristan de Cunha




Turks and Caicos

Tuva Republic


Edited: Apr 18, 5:33 am



United Arab Emirates

United States - completed
1. The Truths We Hold by Kamala Harris (publ. 2020, read 2021)
2. An American Marriage by Tayari Jones (publ. 2018, read 2020)
3. The Bostonians by Henry James (publ. 1886, read 2009)
4. Love Medicine by Louise Erdrich (publ. 1984, read 2008)
5. The Constitution of the United States (Little Black Classics) (publ. this edition 2017, read 2021)

United States Virgin Islands



Edited: Apr 18, 5:33 am


1. * Leben des Galilei by Bertolt Brecht (publ. 1942, read many times)


Vietnam - visited

Edited: Apr 18, 5:34 am

Wales - visited - completed
1. A Writer's House in Wales by Jan Morris (publ. 2002, read 2011)
2. Under Milk Wood by Dylan Thomas (publ. 1954, read 2021)
3. Wales - A History by Wynford Vaughan-Thomas (publ. 1985, read 2011)
4. History of Wales by J. Graham Jones (publ. 2005, read 2011)
5. The Welsh National Anthem - Its Story, Its Meaning by Siôn T. Jobbins (publ. 2013, read 2022)

Wallis and Futuna

Western Sahara

Edited: Jan 6, 2022, 3:06 pm


Edited: Jan 6, 2022, 3:06 pm



Edited: Apr 18, 12:31 pm

I want to add that AnnieMod's thread was a great inspiration for what I did in my own thread, both the original organisation and the update - thank you, Annie!

Edited: Apr 18, 5:36 am

Extra (in case I wish to add anything else at a later point)

Jan 6, 2022, 3:07 pm


Edited: Jan 6, 2022, 3:07 pm


Jan 7, 2022, 6:35 pm

Welcome, Miss Brangwen! Looks like you're off to a good start and I'm looking forward to practising my German a little bit with your books!

Edited: Jan 8, 2022, 8:55 am

>29 MissBrangwen: The set-up really does take a while, doesn't it?

I finally decided to go with listing one book for every country I could and then I'll slowly backfill the rest. For example, in December read a book set in India, by an Indian author, but I knew I had already read many books for that country and instead filled in the category with the various read 1001-books.

Jan 8, 2022, 9:07 am

Welcome to the group! I like the low-pressure nature of this challenge too!

Jan 11, 2022, 2:50 pm

>33 Cecilturtle: Yes, there are a few German and Austrian publishers specializing in travel books, that is why there are so many German titles on this list! Generally I read more English than German books, but not when it comes to travel or history books.

>34 ELiz_M: That sounds like a good approach!

>35 Jackie_K: Oh yes, that is really nice, isn't it?

Jan 12, 2022, 11:34 am

>2 MissBrangwen: I love the story behind your start date

Edited: Jan 13, 2022, 10:52 am

>37 labfs39: Thank you! It is a period of time that is dear and special to me.

Edited: Apr 18, 5:37 am

I completed Wales today because I finished reading Der Ritter mit der Web-Adresse - Walisische Panoramen by Michael Bengel. This is a travel book written by a German. As I own a few more books by Welsh writers, I will probably replace this one when I get to one of those, but for now, Wales is completed with five books.

Wales - Book No 5

"Der Ritter mit der Web-Adresse - Walisische Panoramen" by Michael Bengel
Publisher Series: Lesereisen
This collection first published in 2006
Picus Verlag
Hardcover, 132pp.
Rating: 3 1/2 stars - ***°

This book is part of the publisher series Lesereisen ("reading journeys") by the Austrian publisher Picus Verlag. The series contains many, many books on different places in the world, all of them feasible travel destinations, and each book containing essays or short reports about the place written by one contemporary author. I like this series a lot and although it is not my aim to collect all of the books, I often buy books about places I have already traveled to or plan to visit in the near future.
This book is about Wales and while I liked it, it fell a bit behind others I have read before. There are thirteen essays/reports that all have previously been published in German newspapers and magazines.
The essays range from descriptions of activities and places to more historic overviews. Of course, my favourite ones were the one on Hay-on-Wye - the town of books! - and the one on Welsh writers, which was mostly about Dylan Thomas and Roald Dahl. I also liked the chapter on Bodnant Garden because I loved my visit there in 2016.
All in all, I enjoyed reading this, but I would have liked a bit more emotion and a bit more enthusiasm for Wales and the places featured in the book. The reason for this is probably that I enjoyed my two trips to Wales a lot and while the author seems to be fascinated with Welsh history and trivia, I think he should have included more about the sheer beauty of that country and the kindness of the Welsh people - at least that is what I experienced.

Edited: Apr 18, 5:37 am

This is a travelogue that features several countries in Oceania, but I decided to use it for Fiji because while each country is covered by one chapter throughout the journey, there are three chapters on Fiji (Denarau, Viti Levu and Taveuni). So if I use this book for any country it should be Fiji because at least it shows the reader three different islands.

Fiji - Book No 1

"Auf der Datumsgrenze durch die Südsee" by Klaus Scherer
First published in 2005
Malik/National Geographic
Paperback, 155pp.
Rating: 4 stars - ****

Klaus Scherer travelled along the date line as a reporter with his camera man and his sound man to produce a TV documentation about the islands located along the line. Afterwards, he published this book. It is written in diary format, with an entry for each of the 46 days of the trip. They start in New Zealand and travel by plane, stopping at the Cook Islands, American Samoa, Niue, Samoa, Tonga, Fiji, Wallis, Kiribati, the Marshall Islands and Hawaii.
What sounds like the boasting adventure of three white men who deem themselves "well traveled" is in fact a very thoughtful and reflective text that also provides a lot of information about the history of these islands. Scherer's style is effortless and very readable, and he comes across as someone caring about the people he meets and reflecting both on the places he visits as well as on his role as a traveler and the limits of it. The topics he covers are various: He describes beautiful places and wonderful adventures such as diving with whales, seeing marvelous coral reefs and visiting picture-perfect beaches. But he also does not shy away from the topic of colonization and the effects it still has, from aspects like climate change and pollution, and the consequences of the nuclear tests conducted at the Bikini Atoll. Scherer studied sociology, so the structures of society and family often play a role, too.
Scherer shows that while these islands are often portrayed as a kind of paradise, it may not always be so for the people living there, many of them leaving to Australia and other places to get jobs, and some of them torn between the possibilities, or the lack of precisely those.
The book was first published in 2005, so I was aware that things will have changed since then, especially when it comes to the pressure imposed by climate change, but probably other factors, too. It is also apparent in the choice of some colonial words that probably wouldn't be used today.
Altogether, this was a rewarding read that was much better than I expected and I will look out for more by this author.

Feb 11, 2022, 8:16 am

A note to myself about Fiji because I am using this book as my first book for it:
The chapter on Denarau explains about the divide of the people living there - original inhabitants and the Indian population, descendants of workers from India who were forced to work on the sugar plantations in Fiji during British colonial rule. There are also reflections on Bula.
On Viti Levu, the three men take part in an adventurous rafting trip, meeting local people along the way, and the author asks the guide about the monarchy.
The chapter on Taveuni is a mixed bag of different aspects such as memories of his first trip to the island to film the first sunset of the millennium, an interview with the Indian owner of a local shop, and problems they have with their next flight because of a strike.

Feb 11, 2022, 11:31 am

>41 MissBrangwen: Interesting, I know nothing about the history of Fiji.

Feb 19, 2022, 6:10 am

>42 labfs39: Yes, I was surprised by some of the facts, too! I knew that a lot of Indians live there because I read a travel blog about it some years ago. But I had no clue about the reasons or how they came to be there.

Edited: Apr 18, 5:37 am

I finished my first book for New Zealand! This is a category A read because Katherine Mansfield was born in Wellington and grew up there. Several of the stories collected in The Garden Party and Other Stories are clearly set in New Zealand, while a few take place in England and some do not seem to have a specific setting.

New Zealand - Book No 1

"The Garden Party and Other Stories" by Katherine Mansfield
First published in 1922
Penguin Modern Classics
Paperback, 255 pp.
Rating: 5 stars - *****

I am so happy that I discovered Katherine Mansfield as a writer because I adore the stories in this volume. They have so much real feeling, they are so true to life and character, and I was drawn into most of them with such force. The majority are somewhat sad and deal with insecurities, loss, hope and flawed dynamics between family members or couples - but always with such subtlety and from a cautious and nuanced point of view.
Another aspect I liked is that it is evident that Mansfield experimented with different structures and forms, so the writing is more varied. This is most striking in the last story in the collection, "The Lady's Maid", which is told from the point of view of a maid who talks to a visitor - it is a dialogue, but the questions and answers of the visitor are left blank, so that the text reads almost like an inner monologue.
Of course there are a few stories that I liked less than others, but most of them are short masterpieces, and I felt like discovering one gem after the other, admiring Mansfield's observation, her ability to characterize so unobtrusively, yet so on point.
The stories that are most remarkable to me are: "Marriage à la Mode", "The Voyage", "Her First Ball", "The Stranger" and "An Ideal Family".

Edited: Apr 18, 5:38 am

Today I finished my first book for Iceland! Das glühende Grab was written by Yrsa Sigurðardóttir, an Icelandic author, and takes place on the Westman Islands. The real events of the eruption of the Eldfell volcano play an important role in the story. The following evacuations as well as the impact these had on the local population are described, too. All this was new to me and led me to some further online research.

I bought the first three books of the series and intended to start with the first, but somehow I confused them and read this one, the third book. It did not matter, though, because the story did not lack any necessary info and it was possible to understand the plot easily without previous knowledge.

The English title of this book is Ashes to Dust and the main character is called Thóra, but it is Dóra in the German version, so I am sticking to that one because I don't want to confuse myself.

Iceland - Book No 1

"Das glühende Grab" by Yrsa Sigurðardóttir
Series: Thóra Guðmundsdóttir
Original Title: Aska
First published in 2007
S. Fischer Verlag
Hardcover, 365pp.
Rating: 3 1/2 stars - ***°

Strong trigger warning for eating disorder (not for this review, but for the book - a supporting character has an eating disorder and it is described in detail).

This is the first Icelandic novel that I have read, and I enjoyed many things about it. It mainly takes place on the island of Heimaey in the Westman Islands. Large areas of the island were buried by lava and ashes when a volcano erupted in 1973. Now some of the houses are excavated as part of an archaeological project. A local man tries to prevent the excavation of his old family home. Dóra, the main character of the series, is his lawyer. However, things do not look good at all when the house is excavated after all and three bodies are found there, plus another severed head in a box...
As you can see, the case is quite gory and I could have done with less details and less blood. However, the story was exciting and I enjoyed the twists and turns, and trying to solve the riddle with Dóra. She goes deep into the history of the island and its families, uncovering secrets and old stories, feuds and alliances. The historic events surrounding the eruption of the Eldfell are real and it seems to me that the research was well done. This gave the novel an authentic feeling and an interesting backdrop going further than just the crime story.
The reason that I cannot give it four stars is that some characters felt very flat and sometimes I was annoyed because the police, and Dóra, seemed a little blind to the obvious. There is also a lot of focus on appearances, especially women's bodies, and while the novel might simply show its age, it still felt unnecessary.
All in all, while it is not a masterpiece, it was a quick and easy read that kept me turning page after page, and I am looking forward to reading the first book of the series when I need a read like that again.

Jul 4, 2022, 2:54 pm

>45 MissBrangwen: Congrats on your first Icelandic book. I love the cover. I don't read a lot of crime novels, but I like the setting and idea of the archaeological dig.

Aug 3, 2022, 5:07 pm

I absolutely love Katherine Mansfield! I'm glad you discovered her!

Aug 17, 2022, 8:02 am

>46 labfs39: Thank you! Yes, the setting and the dig made this novel a bit more special than others!

>47 Cecilturtle: Thank you - I am so glad, too! It is always wonderful to discover a new favourite author, isn't it?

Edited: Apr 18, 5:38 am

I traveled to Malaysia for the first time this summer and I usually like to read some books about the country I am visiting before the trip. However, I wasn't able to find a readable history of Malaysia. Those I found were too academic and detailed, not fit for my purpose to get a comprehensive overview, written for someone who is rather new to the topic. But I stumbled upon Malaysia - The Essential Guide to Customs & Culture by Victor King. It is part of the Culture Smart! publisher series that I had never heard about before but from now on might seek out more often.

Malaysia - Book No 1

"Malaysia - The Essential Guide to Customs & Culture" by Victor King
Publisher Series: Culture Smart!
First published in 2021 (?)
Paperback, 200pp.
Rating: 3 1/2 stars - ***°

Victor King is a professor with a long professional history concerning South East-Asian Studies. His book about Malaysia covers a lot ob subjects, divided into nine chapters: Land and people - Values and attitudes - Religion and festivals - Meeting the Malaysians - The Malaysians at home - Time out - Travel, health and safety - Business briefing - Communicating. While most of the chapters were very interesting, there were some that were a little too detailed, which made it hard to grasp the essential aspects. It is also aimed a little more at expats and business travelers rather than tourists, which made some parts of the content not that interesting to me, but I skipped some of those (for example, how to behave at a business lunch).
All in all, though, the book was very interesting and made me understand some of things I experienced during the trip a little better: For example, seeing the foodcourts packed with people who gathered there with the whole family, everyone respectfully calling my husband "Sir" all the time, the stylish and chic clothing of most people in the cities. The chapter on Malay English was also very helpful - while most people spoke "normal" English to us, there were a few phrases I didn't know and because I had read this book I wasn't surprised and understood them at once.
Still, although this book is interesting and helpful, I cannot help but cringe a little because it was written by a British professor, explaining the culture of the Malaysian people to other (presumably) inhabitants of the global north. He comes across as a bit patronizing from time to time. And although I do read books like this I am wondering if it wouldn't be possible to find a Malaysian or someone of Malaysian heritage to write this, and to make these books "own voices books" in general.
The author also seems to be a bit absolute sometimes, making very clear statements that leave little doubt or room for questioning (all Malaysians are like this... if you do this, then that and that will happen...) - I am criticizing this style of writing because I think that culture is not that absolute, and it is a bit daring to write like that especially if you are not writing about your own culture. It would have been better to add an In my experience... from time to time.
To conclude, despite these flaws this book was helpful and I do not regret reading it.

Edited: Apr 18, 5:38 am

A Line To Kill is the third installment of the Hawthorne & Horowitz series by Anthony Horowitz. It takes place on the island of Alderney, a Channel Island that is part of the bailiwick of Guernsey. Because there are many descriptions of the island in the novel and its history plays an important part, too, I decided to use this novel as my first book for Guernsey.
Alderney was under German occupation in World War Two and there were two work camps and two concentration camps. In A Line To Kill, there are plans to build a new power line that will cut through a cemetery where victims of the occupation are buried. These plans divide the island's population and lead to a conflict about honoring the past vs. technical progress and financial gain. The murder that happens and is investigated by Hawthorne seems to be linked to this conflict.

Guernsey - Book No 1

"A Line To Kill" by Anthony Horowitz
Series: Hawthorne & Horowitz
First published in 2021
Penguin Books
Paperback, 375pp.
Rating: 4 stars - ****

"A Line To Kill" is my favourite installment of this series so far! This crime novel takes us to Alderney, a small Channel Island that is part of the bailiwick of Guernsey. The descriptions create a high sense of place and the history of the island is an important aspect in the plot, too.
Hawthorne and Horowitz travel there because they are guests of a local literary festival, but soon Horowitz suspects that Hawthorne may have his very own secret reasons for this journey. Then a murder happens, and nobody is allowed to leave the island...
The setting and plot feel very classic (of course it reminds the reader of Agatha Christie), and on the other hand, because of the characters and how they are portrayed, reading this felt like watching one of the earlier Midsomer Murders episodes (which is not a surprise considering Horowitz wrote many of those). Another aspect I liked was that this novel provides a lot of insight into the publishing world and the work of an author, into literary festivals and the process of getting a book out there. While it must of course be kept in mind that this is a novel and Horowitz writes about himself as a fictional character, it was nonetheless very interesting to me.
I enjoyed this novel very much and hope to read the fourth book of the series soon!

Aug 20, 2022, 2:59 am

>50 MissBrangwen: This isn't my sort of book at all, but that's such a good review I'm tempted!

I've not been to Alderney, but I have a friend from Guernsey so went there in 2010 (I think it was) for her wedding, it's a lovely and interesting place. The underground hospital from the German occupation was both creepy and fascinating.

Aug 21, 2022, 8:17 am

>51 Jackie_K: I hope you like it should you decide to pick it up! It is the third in the series, but that shouldn't matter, because previous events that are important for the plot are explained to the reader.

That sounds like a great trip! And the hospital sounds creepy indeed. I must admit that I shudder at the thought of such places.

Jan 7, 2023, 3:26 am

I haven't updated my thread in ages, somehow I just didn't manage it! But now that the new year has started, I am intend on adding the remaining reviews from the last year, so there are a few to come. Those who follow my threads in other groups might have already seen all of these.

Edited: Apr 18, 5:39 am

Tauben fliegen auf by Melinda Nadj Abonji (available in English as Fly Away, Pigeon) had been on my wish list for a long time. When I had to choose two books from a list of four for a new course I had to teach, and saw that this novel was on the list, I naturally chose it.

It is a bit hard to decide where to put this novel: The author was born in Vojvodina, then in Yugoslavia, now Serbia, and she belonged to the Hungarian minority. The family moved to Switzerland when she was five years old and she is a Swiss national now. I decided to count this novel for Serbia, though, because while the racism and discrimination occurring in Switzerland are a huge part of the novel, the events and descriptions of the Vojvodina are even more definitive.

Serbia - Book No 1

"Tauben fliegen auf" by Melinda Nadj Abonji
First published in 2010
Paperback, 315pp.
Rating: 5 stars - *****

Ildíko, the narrator of the novel, has a similar life story to the author - although it is not an autobiography, there are definitely some parallels. And the list of places - Vojvodina, Yugoslavia, Hungary, Serbia, Switzerland - might already show the reader that the question of belonging, of identity, is central to this novel and that it might not be easy to find an answer.

Ildíko tells her story in a stream of consciousness: Her old home in Vojvodina, and her wish that nothing will ever change there, and that her grandmother will always be there in her old house, a safe haven and anchor. There are those long-awaited visits home, full of bliss, but also of new disappointments when Ildíko and her sister learn that indeed they have changed, their perspective has changed, and they are seen in a different light now.
The parents' hopes when they come to Switzerland, disappointment and sorrow, feelings of guilt, fears because of the war. Above everything, there is the pressure to conform, to fit in, not to stand out - because it is the only way Ildíko's parents can see in order not to lose the only chance they have, the chance to build a life in this new country. But Ildíko and her sister slowly realize that it is not their way and that, like pigeons, they have to fly, to find their new identity in the in-between.

Chapter after chapter the reader gets more glimpses into Ildíko's everyday life, from one time of her life or the other: Parties and political discussions back in Vojvodina, the casual racism of the customers in the family's restaurant, conservations with her parents trying to make them understand her point of view, new freedoms, but also new conflicts. The stream of consciousness and many flash backs and time warps made it a bit hard to get into the narration at first, but after some time, I settled into it and appreciated the way the author tells this story: Directly, raw and emotional.

I feel like I cannot do this novel justice in my review, but I want to end with the statement that it will stay with me for a very long time.

Jan 7, 2023, 10:37 am

>54 MissBrangwen: Somehow I missed this review earlier and am glad I saw it now, as it definitely going on my wishlist. Determining where to slot books is getting more and more difficult it seems, as authors (and people in general) are on the move.

Jan 8, 2023, 1:27 pm

>55 labfs39: I will be interested in your thoughts when you get around to it one day!

Edited: Apr 18, 5:39 am

In October I finished another installment of the Thóra Guðmundsdóttir series by Yrsa Sigurðardóttir, Das gefrorene Licht, and I decided to use it for my second Iceland read. I read another book of the series earlier but didn't think that it was fitting. However, this one includes parts of Icelandic mythology and generally evokes a strong sense of place.
This novel is available in English as "My Soul To Take".

Iceland - Book No 2

"Das gefrorene Licht" by Yrsa Sigurðardóttir
Series: Thóra Guðmundsdóttir (2)
Original Title: Sér grefur gröf
First published in 2006
e-book, 414pp.
Rating: 3 stars - ***

This crime novel sees Dóra, a divorced lawyer, traveling to the Icelandic coast where she stays in a hotel offering all kinds of esoteric services. The hotel's owner wants her to investigate a possible breach of contract concerning the sale of the land. He believes that the place is haunted. Dóra does not believe in ghosts, but she agrees to have a look at the problems because she could do with a little holiday... Her holiday turns out a bit more stressful than expected when the hotel's architect is found dead on the beach. Is the murder connected to a wartime story that Dóra finds some hints to? Is all this about land and money? Or is there really a ghost, returning from the dead each night?

It is hard for me to rate this novel because while I loved the setting and the case, Dóra got on my nerves in this one, as did her private life. In my view, her relationship to Matthias, a German banker whom she meets in book 1, is strange in this novel, and he adds nothing to the story. To my mind, Dóra acts weird about him, and the added plot line of her children just seems like a distraction and is over the top. This caused my enjoyment of the novel to dwindle, although I am not sure if some of it is down to the translation (the jokes, for example, might come across differently in Icelandic or English).
In contrast, I adored the bleak seaside setting, the rocky beach, the old farms with their desolate buildings and dark secrets. Although I am not an experienced reader of the genre, I believe that this setting is nordic noir at its best. The background stories of revenants and superstitions add to the eerie atmosphere.
The characters seemed very real to me and I enjoyed uncovering the secrets and different layers of this place's history with Dóra. However, I do think that the plot could have played out a little better and the investigation could have been more interesting. I was hoping for a little more excitement.

Edited: Apr 18, 5:39 am

I already have five books for Wales, but one of them is a travel book written by a German, so I will replace it with The Welsh National Anthem - Its Story, Its Meaning, which was written by Siôn T. Jobbins, a Welsh author.

On my first trip to Wales (in 2012) I spent St David's Day in Cardiff. I walked around the city enjoying the festive atmosphere, when I arrived on a square full of people who started to sing the Welsh anthem. I have never really been one for national anthems, and nationalism of any kind is not something that is close to me - but experiencing the singing of Hen Wlad fy Nhadau that day in Cardiff was one of my best travel moments. The memory still gives me goosebumps. It was simply beautiful. This anthem has been my favourite anthem ever since.
Four years later I traveled to Wales again and spotted this small book about the anthem in the souvenir shop of Pembroke Castle, and of course I had to buy it.

Wales - Book No 5 (replacement)

"The Welsh National Anthem - Its Story, Its Meaning" by Siôn T. Jobbins
First published in 2013
Y Lolfa
Paperback, 62pp.
Rating: 4 stars - ****

This is a very short book and a quick read, but it still manages to pack quite a lot of content. After a short introduction, the author starts by the creation of the original song, its development and how it gained the form it has today. He then traces its history through concerts, rugby and football matches and other events until it was established as the official national anthem of Wales. There is a short chapter on the composers, Evan and James James (yes, that is his name!), and another one on versions of this anthem in other countries and nations. The last chapter is a line by line explanation and interpretation of the anthem, followed by a sheet of music, the Welsh text, an English translation and a phonetic version.

I read this book with interest and while I have some basic knowledge of Welsh history, I learned some interesting facts that I did not know about and refreshed my memory of other aspects. The book is entertaining but not sloppy. The author is one of the co-founders of YesCymru, so of course he has a strong viewpoint of Welsh independence and especially the Welsh language. He does not hide that he is not an admirer of the British Royal Family. I found it interesting to learn about his points of view in the light of the discussions following Prince William becoming the new Prince of Wales.

Edited: Apr 18, 5:40 am

Ireland is complete with five books, but there I am replacing two that were not written by Irish authors.

On a trip to Ireland in October I wished to read a crime novel set there and found a blogpost listing several options. The Ruin by Dervla McTiernan appealed to me at once and it did not disappoint at all.

Ireland - Book No 4 (replacement)

"The Ruin" by Dervla McTiernan
Series: Cormac Reilly (1)
First published in 2018
ebook, 380pp.
Rating: 4 1/2 stars - ****°

Cormac Reilly has recently relocated to Galway from Dublin, where he was a member of a highly specialized unit. Now he has to get used to working in a rather usual station again and needs to adapt to a new team. So far, he has only been assigned cold cases, which is rather boring, until one pops up that was his own case many years ago... One chilly night, he was sent to a disrepaired house where the mother of two neglected children had died, apparently from a drug overdose. Reilly traveled to the hospital with the two pitiful children, only for one of them to disappear and never to be found again.

The other main character is Aisling Conroy, a young doctor hoping for a glittering career, when her boyfriend is found dead in the Corrib river. His death is quickly ruled a suicide. Aisling cannot really believe that, but does not see any other way. She throws herself into her work again and tries to come to terms with what happened, but then things take a turn...

This novel totally gripped me and the characters and events haunted me whenever I was not reading. I liked how the author combined two genres - it is one part police procedural and one part thriller, and the cold case part as well as the recent mystery are equally compelling. The only aspect that I found wanting was the ending because it felt a bit too rushed, as if the author suddenly had the need to finish. It could have been a bit longer and more detailed.

The Galway/Ireland setting is something out of the ordinary, at least for me. The author also succeeds in introducing social topics and aspects of Irish history into the novel without overdoing it or overshadowing the plot or the characters.

I am happy that I discovered this series and hope to read the second installment soon!

Edited: Apr 18, 5:40 am

I first read A Star Called Henry by Roddy Doyle when the German translation was published in 2000. I was fourteen or fifteen at the time and was a bit disappointed. My mom worked in a bookshop and had given it to me because I loved the Maeve Binchy novels and devoured all books set in Celtic places, but I must admit that A Star Called Henry went right over my head at the time, even though I had a basic knowledge of Irish history.
Looking for more novels set in Ireland but not wanting to read another crime novel, I came across this one and figured that it was time for the reread I had long envisioned, so I downloaded the original version to my kindle.

Ireland - Book No 5 (replacement)

"A Star Called Henry" by Roddy Doyle
Series: The Last Roundup (1)
First published in 1999
ebook, 341pp.
Rating: 4 stars - ****

"A Star Called Henry" starts brilliantly. In the first part Henry remembers his childhood as a poor boy living in the slums of Dublin in the early 1900s. He narrates it tongue in cheek, unreliable, not sparing any details, but still full of heart and funny. The text is the saddest I have read for some time, but still I laughed out loud quite often.
In the next part, Henry is older and is caught up in the Easter Rising, and the subsequent parts deal with how the Irish revolution plays out and Henry's role in it. I am not writing in more detail to avoid spoilers.
In these parts, Henry is still the cheeky, courageous and overly self-assured person he once was, but I became a bit tired of this after a while and would have liked to see more development. There are a lot of sex scenes and also a lot of violence, and while I understand that this is a part of the story and the characterization, it was a bit too much for me.
The historical details play a big role as well and help paint a vivid picture of the time, although sometimes I got tired of some of the military (or rather paramilitary) aspects.
Still, Henry is one of the most memorable characters I have read about so far. Doyle's usage of language is dazzling, and the dialogues are witty and poignant. I hope to read much more of this writer in the future and am glad that I decided to give him another chance after my teenage self could not appreciate his writing.

Edited: Apr 18, 5:41 am

On that same trip, I also read my first novel by Swedish writer Åke Edwardson.

The original title of this book is Dans med en ängel and the English version is Death Angels. The English version is probably cheaper because of the fixed book prices in Germany, but I prefer reading Nordic Noir in German.

Sweden - Book No 5

"Tanz mit dem Engel" by Åke Edwardson
Series: Erik Winter (1)
Original Title: Dans med en ängel
First published in 1997
List Verlag
ebook, 480pp.
Rating: 4 stars - ****

There were many excellent aspects in this novel, and others that were not so good, but altogether it was a fantastic reading experience.

To begin with, I really like the investigator in this novel. Erik Winter is in his late thirties, he has affairs with several women, and his parents are so wealthy that he does not have to work for a living, but only does so because he likes it. His lifestyle is very luxurious. All of this would usually make me loath the character, but somehow it is not so with Winter - because he has a lot of empathy, I like his work ethics, and he treats his fellow policemen rather well.

The story takes place in Göteborg where a young man from London is murdered in a hotel room. Shortly after, it is discovered that the same also happened reversed - a Swedish young man was killed in a hotel room in London. The murders are very gruesome and the police are at a loss.

Well, the plot is interesting, but what is even more striking is the language. In the beginning the author includes many metaphors and similes, the language is sometimes almost lyrical. It seems a bit too forced, though, and hems the reading flow. After a few chapters, this is toned down, and from then on I loved the language and the atmosphere it creates, creating pictures in my mind and slowing down the reading to make room for emotions like fear and uncertainty.
I became totally engrossed in this story and did not want to put it down. The language remains a bit uneven from time to time, but I am quite sure that it is due to the translation. Other reviewers have commented on that as well and I am happy to see that the translator (Wolfdietrich Müller) changes after the second book.

The only thing that could be improved is the ending because there are several investigation lines left hanging:
Why did the murderer wear a wig?
Why did he dance, or what else did the footprints signify?
What about the aspect of homosexuality? Was it a coincidence or does the murderer hate gay men?
What happened to the burglar who found the clothes?
Why did the murderer choose to kill in two cities, and why London and Göteborg? Was it just to confuse Winter? I thought there might be a deeper meaning.

I also think that the motive is too weak and could have been made stronger by giving more of a background story, by explaining more about the childhood/teenage stories of Winter and Bolger.

I have not read as much Nordic Noir as many others, but I do think that this is very good novel apart from the few points I mentioned above. I am looking forward to continuing with this series very much.

Jan 16, 2023, 2:33 pm

>59 MissBrangwen: Although I don't usually read police procedurals, your review has piqued my interest in this one.

Jan 16, 2023, 4:17 pm

>62 labfs39: I certainly enjoyed this one because of the Irish background and the atmosphere.

Edited: Apr 18, 5:41 am

I read Nachts ist es leise in Teheran by Shida Bazyar and am using it as my first book for Iran. The author is German, but was born to Iranian parents. About 50% of the book take place in Iran, and the other chapters also heavily deal with it, although the family's experiences in Germany play a role, too.
As far as I can see, there are Dutch and French translations, but no English one so far. The meaning of the title is At night it is quiet in Teheran. The author, whose family has a similar background, was only 28 years old when the novel was published.

Iran - Book No 1

"Nachts ist es leise in Teheran" by Shida Bazyar
First published in 2016
Kiepenheuer & Witsch
Paperback, 275pp.
Rating: 4 stars - ****

This novel consists of four parts, each concentrating on a different member of one family, and each ten years apart. The story starts with Behsad, who is a communist revolutionist in 1979 Teheran, but whose hopes and ambitions are shattered. In the next part, told from his wife Nahid's perspective in 1989, the reader learns that the couple had to leave Iran and start a new life in Western Germany, struggling to come to terms with the cold language, the strange neighbors, the memories that hurt so much. Fast forward to 1999, there are reforms and new hopes in Iran, and through Laleh's (the daughter's) eyes the reader experience's her first visit back to Iran after she had to flee when she was just four years old. There is a wild mix of emotions, of feeling both like belonging while still being an outsider. Clashing expectations make this visit difficult, as well as questions about her own identity. And in 2009, there is Laleh's brother Mo who has only ever known Germany while still being read as non-German by most of the people he meets. He does not feel a connection to Iran until he is suddenly glued to his screen, watching YouTube streams and Facebook posts of the Green Revolution. When he sees his fellow students in Germany protesting against tuition fees and feeling smug about it, he cannot help but feel estranged from them, knowing that his relatives in Iran risk all they have for their protests, as did his parents in the 1970s.

The author includes a lot of aspects in this novel, she touches upon many subjects. The structure of four decades and four characters enables this, but it is also restricting because it means that some points of view are excluded. I would have liked to know more about how Behsad and Nahid felt in the end of the story, but this does not play a big role anymore in the end. While all characters are strong, Nahid was my favourite and I would have liked to learn more about her. I feel like I am craving more of a conclusion, but maybe that is not the point of the novel.

In the end, there is another short chapter, told from the youngest sister, Tara, who was born in Germany. There is no given year, but it is simply called an epilogue. Tara and her niece - the third generation of the family - return from holiday and learn that there has been a new revolution that has finally succeeded, and the novel ends in euphoria. Thinking about the current situation in Iran, this scene hit deep. It is a utopia, as this chapter must take place around 2030. I have no words except that I hope that it will become true, as soon as possible.

Edited: Apr 18, 5:42 am

Dunkel by Ragnar Jónasson was published as The Darkness in English, the original, Icelandic title is Dimma. The German version was translated from the English text, not the original one.
Another Nordic Noir from Iceland - this one has a lot of description of the Icelandic mountains and lava landscapes, as well as the weather and the changing of the seasons.

Iceland - Book No 3

"Dunkel" by Ragnar Jónasson
Series: Hulda / Hidden Iceland
Original Title: Dimma
First published in 2015
Paperback, 367pp.
Rating: 3 stars - ***

I am only lukewarm about this novel and will not continue with this series. There were some aspects that I enjoyed, most of all the wonderful descriptions of the landscapes of Iceland, which made we want to jump on a plane and travel there instantly. The main character, Hulda, a police officer who is just about to retire and is offered to look into one last cold case, is unusual and interesting. She chooses the death of a young asylum seeker which was quickly written off as a suicide. The book is a page turner. I read it very fast because I wanted to know what happened. The case itself was not the most gripping, but not boring either.
However, there were also a few aspects that were off-putting to me. Hulda is a difficult character and it was often hard to sympathize with her and to understand her actions. I also think that her character was not round and there are some contradictions which made the novel less credible. The most off-potting point, though, was the ending. Apparently Hulda dies in the end, the investigation comes to nothing, her body is not found. It is so frustrating! As far as I can see the trilogy moves backwards and the next book takes place fifteen years before, and the third one even further in the past. Why would I like to read more about a character who I know will meet a terrible end, and whose life held almost no joys? I learned online that there is a new series about her successor and that readers hope that there will be a book where he will find out what happened to her - maybe even find her alive somewhere - but as of now there is no real hint to that. I can see myself googling these spoilers in the future, or looking for them on LT, but I do not think that I will read more of this series, if anything by this author, although I have heard that the "Dark Iceland" series is supposed to be better.
I see that many readers love this book, but because of what I mentioned above, it is just not my cup of tea.

Edited: Apr 18, 5:42 am

We have booked a trip to Lithuania for April, so I have been looking for books about this country and came across Between Shades Of Gray by Ruta Sepetys. She was born and has always lived in the US, but her parents are from Lithuania.

Lithuania - Book No 1

"Between Shades Of Gray" by Ruta Sepetys
First published in 2011
Penguin Books
Paperback, 344pp.
Rating: 4 1/2 stars - ****°

"Between Shades Of Gray" is classified as Young Adult, which is apparent in the language and the perspective of the main character, Lina, but this did not diminish the reading experience. In contrast, I felt that the character's voice was stronger and more authentic because of this because it was in line with her age.

Lina, her younger brother and her mother are deported from Kaunas in Lithuania to a work camp in Siberia. The novel relates the long journey in a cattle train to the camp, the events in the camp and more - I am not describing the further plot to avoid spoilers.
This book will stick with me for a very long time because of its characters, but also because I learned so much about the events under Stalin at the time. Of course I learned about it at school, but that was almost two decades ago, and the focus was not on the Baltic countries.

I read this almost in one sitting, within one day, because I just couldn't stop! The reason that it is not quite a five star read is because the ending felt a bit abrupt and I would have liked to meet Lina for real once more, and not only through the capsule that is found in the 1990s, although the afterword explains this choice. I also felt that sometimes Lina was a little bit too brave and adventurous to make it credible, and these were instance where it did indeed feel strongly like YA, but it is only a minor point of criticism in an otherwise excellent novel.

Feb 7, 2023, 6:28 pm

>59 MissBrangwen: That sounds interesting and also that it might work well as an audiobook.

>60 MissBrangwen: I read that years ago, but have held onto my copy in the hopes of someday reading the trilogy in one go.

Feb 8, 2023, 3:45 am

>67 RidgewayGirl: I think so, too - its two short prequels were published as audiobooks only.

Edited: Apr 18, 5:42 am

Another book I read for the upcoming trip to Lithuania: Der eiserne Wolf im barocken Labyrinth - Erwachendes Vilnius by Cornelius Hell. It is part of a publisher series that I like and I have read two other books by this author that I enjoyed very much, so I was looking forward to this one.
Unfortunately the titles of the series are all quite awkward, this one translates as The iron wolf in the baroque labyrinth - Vilnius awakening.

Lithuania - Book No 2

"Der eiserne Wolf im barocken Labyrinth - Erwachendes Vilnius" by Cornelius Hell
Publisher Series: Lesereisen
First published in 2009
Picus Verlag
Hardcover, 132pp.
Rating: 4 1/2 stars - ****°

This book is part of the publisher series Lesereisen ("reading journeys") by the Austrian publisher Picus Verlag. The series contains many, many books on different places in the world, all of them feasible travel destinations, and each book containing essays or short reports about the place written by one contemporary author. I like this series a lot and although it is not my aim to collect all of the books, I often buy books about places I have already traveled to or plan to visit in the near future.
This one was even better than most others because the author, who is from Salzburg, has strong ties to Vilnius as opposed to only having traveled there a few times. He moved there in the 1980s to teach German at the university, learned Lithuanian, and has since then worked as a translator, traveling there at least once a year. His love for Vilnius and Lithuania shines through every page, although he also talks about negative aspects and is not shy to criticize when that is due. Weaving his personal experience over the years into the history of the city, telling stories about close friends while describing buildings, streets and other points of interest, he creates a vivid impression of the city. It was wonderful to read this book and learn about Lithuanian history as well as the Lithuanian language, the architecture of Vilnius and its culture. Sometimes the namedropping of the author became a bit much and I would have liked to learn a little more about the city in general than about his life, but that is just a minor point. I am glad that I read this and am now looking forward to the trip even more!

Edited: Apr 18, 5:42 am

On my search for Lithuanian books, another one that frequently came up was In The Shadow Of Wolves by Alvydas Šlepikas. It was translated from Lithuanian to English by Romas Kinka.

Lithuania - Book No 3

"In The Shadow Of Wolves" by Alvydas Šlepikas
Original Title: Mano vardas - Marytė
First published in 2011
ebook, 146pp.
Rating: 4 stars - ****

This novel deals with the wolf children - Wolfskinder, German children who lived in Eastern Prussia shortly after World War Two and crossed into Lithuania to find food to survive, or even to bring back to their families. The story starts with one such family, a mother and her five children, who try to survive the first winter after the end of the war. They are under constant thread of starving or freezing to death, of being raped or killed. While at first the reader gets to know the situation mostly from the mother's point of view, the story then follows some of the children who go to Lithuania, crossing the wilderness and meeting locals to find food and shelter. Some are welcoming, others are not. While at first Lithuania seems like some kind of paradise, it soon becomes clear that the locals have their own problems, too.
Chapter after chapter loosely follow each other, and there is no considerable structure, which mirrors the existence of the characters who live from day to day because they cannot look further. The writing is beautiful in parts, reminiscent of a fairytale, but it is sparse and harsh in others. The author first intended this to become a documentary, and it still shows - I could imagine the scenes as a film, it is cinematographic in its descriptions, evoking haunting images in the reader's mind. The ending comes very sudden, which left me wanting more. Likewise, some characters just disappear from the story and the reader does not learn anymore about them. While this is unsatisfying, I think that again, it mirrors the experience of the characters, who lost family members or friends, sometimes by sheer accident, without any chance to learn about their fate.

Mar 14, 2023, 7:44 am

>70 MissBrangwen: it is cinematographic in its descriptions

That's how I felt too. It's a book that has stayed with me, despite some construction flaws.

Mar 15, 2023, 11:18 am

>71 labfs39: I agree. It definitely isn't perfect, but it makes a lasting impression.

Edited: Apr 18, 5:43 am

I bought Tofylis, or The Marriage of Zosė by Žemaitė a couple of weeks ago in Vilnius because it caught my eye and looked like something I would like. I read it in one sitting this morning.
Žemaitė was the pen name of Julija Beniuševičiūtė-Žymantienė, a Lithuanian writer born in 1845. This story was first published in 1897, and not in Lithuania, but in the US. Lithuanian books had to be smuggled into Lithuania because it was a part of the Tsar's empire at the time and works written in Lithuanian were forbidden.
This edition was published by Paper and Ink, the text was translated by Violeta Kelertas.

Lithuania - Book No 4

"Tofylis, or The Marriage of Zosė" by Žemaitė
Original Title: Topylis
First published in 1897
Paper and Ink
Paperback, 76pp.
Rating: 4 stars - ****

I cannot really say that I enjoyed this story, the reason being that it is very gloomy and depressing. Nevertheless, it is interesting and worth reading. It is a short tale about a young peasant woman called Zosė, who works as a maid on an estate. She is caught up in a web of miseries. At first she is deeply in love with Tofylis, the dazzling huntsman, but when he finally marries her, the marriage is a deeply unhappy one. In addition, Zosė is pursued by her employer and her mother blames her instead of supporting her.
The story is mainly told in inner monologues and dialogues, which makes it a bit constructed at times and hems the reading flow a bit. On the other hand, like this Zosė's pain and loss of hope is presented in a direct, unembellished style. She is caught within the constraints of her class and her gender, and the author makes this clear in an unmediated way.

Apr 16, 2023, 8:51 am

>73 MissBrangwen: Ooh, this sounds like one I should read. Your description reminds me of a Slovenian novella called Self-Sown, although Self-Sown was written much later (1940).

Apr 16, 2023, 2:32 pm

>74 labfs39: It is definitely worth reading, although it is short. I just read your review of Self-Sown, it sounds similar, especially in its message. It looks like Tofylis spans a much shorter time, though.

Apr 17, 2023, 11:48 am

>75 MissBrangwen: I added it to my wishlist

Edited: Apr 18, 5:43 am

My husband has loved the Witcher series, written by Andrzej Sapkowski, for a long time and in 2020, during the first lockdown, we watched the first season of the Netflix series together. I had wished to read the books since then and now I finally started, reading the first one, Der letzte Wunsch (The Last Wish).
The series was originally published in Polish and I read the German edition (translated by Erik Simon) owned by my husband. Although it is a fantasy book, I am counting this for Poland. Not only was it written by a Polish author in the Polish language, it was also heavily inspired by Slavic mythology.

Poland - Book No 2

"Der letzte Wunsch" by Andrzej Sapkowski
Series: The Witcher (1)
Original Title: Ostatnie życzenie
First published in 1993
Paperback, 380pp.
Rating: 4 1/2 stars - ****°

It took me some time to get used to Sapkowski's style, but when I finally did, I did not want to put this book down. This is not a first book in the traditional sense (as in most other fantasy series), but it introduces the reader to its world through a series of stories. These stories are connected through a continuing frame story: Geralt of Rivia, a Witcher, stays in a temple to rest and reflect on his life. His memories and flashbacks make up the short stories. In this world, Witchers are mutants who are paid to fight monsters, but it becomes clear that sometimes the horrid creatures are not the only monsters.
Sapkowski draws heavily from Slavic mythology, but also from Grimm's fairytales and other stories. He creates a fascinating and turbulent world that is as funny as it is dark, as sexy as it is dangerous. But still, there is an underlying sentiment that goes deeper. Geralt knows that he will always be different and more often than not, those who seek his help fear and hate him at the same time.
I did not want this to end and now I cannot wait to read the next book!

Edited: Apr 18, 5:44 am

A couple of weeks ago I finished another book for Lithuania. When I was looking for books about Vilnius before our trip in April, I came across this beautiful one published by Hanser Verlag: Die Straßen von Wilna by Czesław Miłosz. The curious thing is that I wasn't able to find any other information about the book and its contents. It is not included in the bibliographies of Czesław Miłosz that I found, and I don't know if it is a work standing on its own (it looks like it from the publishing information included in the book) or a collection composed by Hanser (which somehow seems more likely to me). Moreover, there is an English version shown on LT (Beginning with my streets), but upon a closer look, this is an entirely different book containing different texts, at least in part.
Well, I read this one and I liked it very much.

Czesław Miłosz is considered a Polish writer, but I am still counting this for Lithuania since he was born and spent parts of his early life in today's Lithuania.

This means that now I have read five books for Lithuania!

Lithuania - Book No 5

"Die Straßen von Wilna" by Czesław Miłosz
Original Title: Miasto młodości / Vilnius - Wilno - Vilnia / Dykcyonarz wilénskich ulic / Platońskie dialogi / Dialog o Wilnie
First published in 1997 (this edition/German translation at least)
Hardcover, 175pp.
Rating: 4 1/2 stars - ****°

This book consists of three parts that are interspersed by a couple of poems. In the first part, the author gives an overview of the history of the city, and like that, of Lithuanian history. This might sound a bit dry, but it is not, because Miłosz is a masterful storyteller and thus, this slice of history is immensely readable and highly fascinating. To be honest, I think most historical facts that I remembered during our trip came from this chapter and not from the travel guide we also had with us.
The second part is a description of some of the streets of Vilnius. Miłosz, who spent parts of his childhood and later also studied there, connects the streets with his personal memories, and thus, he paints a somewhat nostalgic picture of Vilnius before World War Two. He writes about the activities he took part in as a child, the people he met, the buildings and atmosphere of the streets.
The third part includes a letter Miłosz wrote to the writer Tomas Venclova, and Venclova's reply. Venclova is an ethnic Lithuanian, unlike Miłosz, who was of Polish descent and wrote in Polish (and is considered a Polish author). These two letters cover a lot of ground and deal with Lithuanian history, with many other writers the two have known, and especially with the ciity's position between Polish and Lithuanian culture, its unique status of being a provincial town, but also a capital, its changing hands for so many times. There are many interesting - and still relevant! - thoughts in these letters, especially when the writers reflected on possibilities of the future. The letters were written in the late 1970s, and they hoped for a democratic Lithuania with Vilnius as its capital, but also feared that nationalism would remain a danger to Europe. It was almost eerie to read their predictions now, 45 years later.

Edited: Apr 18, 5:44 am

We spent a long weekend in Denmark over the Whitsunday weekend and there I read Krokodilwächter by Danish author Katrine Engberg (Danish original: Krokodillevogteren, English edition: The Tenant). There was a lot of publicity for it when it was first published in Germany, and I rather tend to first avoid hyped up books, but I am happy that I finally got to it because I liked it very much.
It is set in Copenhagen.

Denmark - Book No 3

"Krokodilwächter" by Katrine Engberg
Series: Kørner & Werner (1)
Original Title: Krokodillevogteren
First published in 2019
ebook, 506pp.
Rating: 4 1/2 stars - ****°

This novel is set in Copenhagen and starts with a brutal murder: A young student is killed in the flat she shared with another girl. The murder seems to be connected to the elderly woman who owns the house and lives upstairs, or rather to something she wrote. Jeppe Kørner and Anette Werner, two very different characters, are assigned to the case, but there is no trace of the killer and they are at a loss.
Although the murder is a bit too brutal for my reading tastes, I loved everything else about this novel: The characters, the style, the composition. I could not stop reading and it simply never got boring, but not in a cheap, page-turner type of excitement. I really cared about the story. The only thing I criticize is that in the end, things became a bit too far-fetched in my opinion, and I would have wished for a simpler solution.
The Copenhagen setting is well done, too, I loved the descriptions of the city and the mentioning of streets and places, but it did not overshadow the plot or feel artificial.
I highly recommend this novel and will definitely continue with this series.

Jun 2, 2023, 11:26 am

You are doing a great job focusing on specific countries! Wish I had that willpower!

Jun 3, 2023, 3:37 am

>80 Tess_W: I am motivated to read a lot about certain countries because of my travels, but I am spectacularly failing to read about all the other countries... But hopefully one day I'll get to those, too!

Jun 3, 2023, 10:01 pm

>78 MissBrangwen: Have you read anything else by Milosz? I loved The Issa Valley and some of his poetry. I've also read his History of Polish Literature. I'm about halfway through A Captive Mind and stuck.

Jun 4, 2023, 4:31 am

>82 labfs39: I haven't so far, but I have The Issa Valley on my shelf!

Jun 8, 2023, 7:29 am

>83 MissBrangwen: The Issa Valley is lyrical and paints a lovely picture of the Lithuanian countryside at the time Miłosz was a child. I highly recommend it and hope you like it when you get to it.

Jan 5, 3:03 pm

Yay, I finally have something to post again! I did not forget this challenge, I just did not read anything global apart from a few nordic noir novels in series that I have already included here. While I don't rule out counting more than one novel by one author or from one series, I would only do so if the additional book added more value or a new insight, and I didn't see that in the books I read.
However, while the majority of my reads will probably be German and British, I still do hope to share some more international books here this year!

Edited: Apr 18, 5:45 am

I bought Das Geheimnis der Weihnacht by Tomáš Halík last autumn when I saw it in a catalogue I receive. The topic spoke to me and I also wished to do some intentional advent reading for the first time and thought that it would be perfect for that.

Czech Republic - Book No 1

"Das Geheimnis der Weihnacht" by Tomáš Halík
Original Title: Procitají andělé
First published in 2023
Hardcover, 123pp.
Rating: 4 1/2 stars - ****°

Tomáš Halík, who was born in 1948, is a Catholic priest as well as a philosopher and a professor of sociology at the Charles University in Prague. He served secretly as a priest during the communist regime and has rather progressive views when it comes to topics such as LGBT+ and women's rights.
This book is a collection of twelve sermons held in 2022 between the First Sunday of Advent and the Sunday after Epiphany, but while I read each sermon on the designated day, I read the last two sermons today to finish the book.
While, as always with collections, some of the sermons spoke more to me than others, all of them were interesting to me. Halík touches a lot of topics and moves easily from the personal to the theological to the political and the social, without ever being confusing. It is evident that he is a great thinker and I found every text to hold meaning, some thoughts almost seem prophetic when we look upon how 2023 developed.
While I do not agree with him in all aspects (yes, I would even like him to be more progressive), I think that this is a very interesting and worthwhile book and will certainly read more of his work.

Regarding this challenge, it was fascinating to learn a bit about the time of the communist regime when Halík worked a usual day job while also being an undercover priest. These memories only appeared in a few paragraphs from time to time, but I read them with interest.

Jan 5, 4:18 pm

I like the idea of an undercover priest.

Jan 5, 5:15 pm

>87 labfs39: Definitely, yes!

Apr 18, 6:13 am

I am currently reading The Blind Earthworm in the Labyrinth by Veeraporn Nitiprapha, which made me have a thorough look at my thread again. I updated and reworked it to reflect my current reading goals and tastes, which means that I simplified it a lot. I also deleted a few titles and added a few others that I had overlooked when initially I created the thread.

While I still enjoy reading nonfiction/history books, I realized that I have lost almost all interest in travel books, so I assume that I will read less of those in the future and rather concentrate on literary fiction and other novels.

Apr 18, 11:45 am

I like your "visited" tag - I'll adopt :)

Apr 18, 7:39 pm

It's nice to get an update, Mirjam. I like how you've refreshed your self-challenge. Your thread is so tidy compared to mine. I too like the "visited" tag.

Apr 21, 4:42 am

>90 Cecilturtle: I thought it was a good way to see how the countries visited on travels and in books correspond and match!

>91 labfs39: Thank you, Lisa! I think my thread doesn't look really tidy because my list of countries is endlessly long, but I don't know where to stop!

Apr 21, 2:59 pm

The Blind Earthworm in the Labyrinth by Veeraporn Nitiprapha was mentioned on LT somewhere some time ago (I can't remember where) and I took note of it, so when I was looking for Thai novels it was the first one that came to mind and I decided to read it.

This is my fifth book for Thailand, but I am going to replace most of those that I have read so far, and plan to read more Thai novels in May and June.

Thailand - Book No 5

"The Blind Earthworm in the Labyrinth" by Veeraporn Nitiprapha
Original Title: ไส้เดือนตาบอดในเขาวงกต (Saiduean Ta Bod Nai Khaowongkot)
First published in 2019
River Books
ebook, 207pp.
Rating: 4 stars - ****

This novel is unlike anything I have read before, but I did not worry about that - I just went along for the ride. The protagonists are Chareeya and Chalika, two young sisters who grow up with their emotionally unavailable parents, and Pran, a boy who does not have a real home and spends his time at their house. The novel follows these three for many years, but not in strictly chronologically form. The reader receives snippets from their lives, chapter after chapter, but has to piece together much of it. The things that happen are often heartbreaking: Loves are lost, feelings betrayed, someone dies, children are left to themselves, emotions are hidden. All of this is infused with metaphors and images, more often than not botanical, as well as described through music (there is even a playlist in the end). Many aspects are exaggerated and even appear magical - influenced by Thai classical theatre and popular Thai soap operas - and after reading the last pages, I feel like waking up myself in the humid air of Thailand, amongst a tangle of colorful flowers and listening to tropical birds.

The novel was translated into English by Kong Rithdee, who also added a very interesting introduction about the pitfalls and difficulties of translating from Thai to English.

Apr 22, 7:25 am

>93 MissBrangwen: That sounds like an interesting, if unusual, novel. I'm tempted by the introduction alone.

Apr 23, 11:43 am

>94 labfs39: So am I!

Apr 24, 2:45 pm

>94 labfs39: You have read so much more world lit than I have, so it might be not as unusual to you! But yes, the introduction is very interesting! >95 Dilara86:

Apr 25, 3:40 pm

>96 MissBrangwen: Not at all! I have not yet read a single book from Thailand, so I am woefully ignorant.