Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday for July 19!!

A weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish!
Besides the distraction of work this week, 
I carved out some time to spend with my very best friend who is abandoning me!
Yes, you read that right! She. Is. Abandoning. ME!!
But, I'm doing my deep breathing and reminding myself that 
although she will now be living almost 700 miles away, I can do this..
Breathe in. Breathe out. There is email and texting, 
and other social media which she uses very little, 
but we WILL stay in touch...often! Yes! We will!
And when we do see each other face-to-face it will inevitably 
be even more intense and enjoyable! Whooooooo...okay.
I just realized it is Wednesday and I have yet to complete and post this week's 
Top Ten Tuesday meme although I started it about 3 weeks ago! 
For that, you can blame "the BadLynn," as my BFF is known to me! 
Yes, we are both named Lynn. However, for each of us it is our middle name 
but we have used it our whole life as our first/preferred name! 
And...we were born just a bit more than three months apart!
And...the first time we met we talked for hours and hours, nonstop. 
Yep! We have A LOT in common!

So, although it is now Wednesday, I am determined to complete and post this TTT!
This week's meme is the 
Top Ten Eleven Books I Have Read Set Outside the U.S.

Honestly, I am blaming the fact that I am now 60 years old for my inability to count!
Seriously, I thought I had only 10 books listed for this posting, 
and not until I completed it and started counting again, 
did I determine I had included 11 titles! EGAD!!
I particularly enjoy reading books set in other countries than the one in which 
I have lived my whole life. Since I'm unable to travel much, 
this is one way in which I educate myself as much as possible 
about those other cultures and landscapes, etc.

One of the first books I read set in the "Middle East" as many of us in the U.S. mistakenly term it, was Born Under a Million Shadows by Andrea Busfield. I read this years ago while working at Borders and it was one of the first books we read and reviewed for the Book Club I founded there. It was selected as a "Fiction Expert" read by Borders and I am so grateful it was! I have communicated with Andrea through the years sporadically. She is so open and accepting to readers! One thing about this book that most impressed me and made me connect even moreso with it, was the multiculturalism represented among the characters. I felt this demonstrated the thought processes and reactions that I might have if in the same situation. Actually, I really want to reread this one so I can review it thoroughly on this blog. This would be perfect as a re-read to schedule for Bex's Re-Readathon #4, August 10-21! Yay! 'Cause I was wondering what I might read for this event! Problem solved! :) And I'm hopeful Andrea will be willing to complete an author interview for me to post along with my review! YAY!! 

A book I recently read that proved to be truly inspirational and instilled within me hope for ourselves (the human race), was The Hemingway Book Club of Kosovo by Paula Huntley. this is an autobiographical debut and I found it well-written and easily read, though very informative in so many ways. Huntley managed to include much historical information as well as detailing her experience while stationed in Kosovo with her husband. I was reminded of Kabul Beauty School: An American Woman Goes Behind the Veil by Deborah Rodriguez, in that both of these women simply put their skills to use while in another country/culture, and succeeded in improving others' lives. Isn't that truly the point of our existence in this world? To help others to the best of our ability? Realistically, most of us are only capable of directly impacting our immediate environment, but still...whatever positive contribution(s) we can make, we should do exactly that. I particularly loved the way Huntley used literature to relate to others and help them relate to their world, each other, and to ponder humanity overall.

The Disobedient Wife by Annika Milisic-Stanley was the 21st book to be reviewed by the Literary Wives Online Book Discussion Group, and it was an excellent read! Very informative on so many levels. It is set in post-SovietTajikistan and was both poignant and philosophical in easily accessible language and organization. All the Literary Wives co-hosting bloggers appreciated it in many ways. This was a close-up view of life in a country with virtually no infrastructure or services and a rigid Islamic belief system. There was evidence of outside agencies helping females escape life-threatening marriages and situations, through no fault of their own, simply because they were female in an extremely patriarchal society/culture. However, it also demonstrated just how unhappy and displaced a female can be made to feel in an unsatisfying marriage relationship that is not based upon any religious foundation, too! There was some balance! 

A Monstrous Regiment of Women by Laurie R. King is the second installment in her Russell and Holmes series and is rather intense. Set in the aftermath of World War I in the U.K., it focuses on the social impact of so many males being eliminated from the population and what changes can occur to the females as a result. Of course, I would LOVE this series, since it combines two of my favorite genres, historical fiction and mystery! Must complete a blog post soon! The library book is due back! :)

The Borders Book Club just finished reading and discussing Susanna Kearsley's most recent release, A Desperate Fortune--three of us loved it and one thought it was "okay," with a shrug! :) This was set in France and dealt with a myriad of issues: the Jacobites, the displaced King James, code-breaking, spying, thieving, intrigue, some romance...and autism! This may appear to be a very odd combination, but trust me, it made for a compelling read in so many ways! I loved her novel, The Firebird, which I learned is the second in her Slains series. I really want to read the rest of that series. Time. I just need more reading time! 

Speaking of romance and relationships, Paula McLain's Circling the Sun dealt with so many relationships that were definitely not of the "traditional" variety. But then Africa is basically 'wild,' especially in the early 20th Century! I cannot recall one couple that stood out to me as a 'traditional' couple since so very many of them loved (and even lived with!) someone other than their spouse. These were the most 'faithful' couples of all! Beryl was in love with someone who was the definition of totally independent in his personal life; unmarried and unfettered by any social mores or traditions. Perhaps one thing I came away from this reading experience with was the fact that the largely unsettled landscape seemed to leech into the people living there and create more freedom to be whomever or whatever they wanted to be with few to no boundaries. She was quite a remarkable woman and I am thrilled to have read this book! I do love McLain's writing, having also read and loved The Paris Wife. (Yes, that was my first ever blog posting and oh, boy, you can definitely tell! :) As you know, I love historical fiction, and this was amazing for taking me there! 

Speaking of wild and largely unsettled territory, Enchanted Islands by Allison Amend, was set in the Galapagos Islands located just off the coast of Ecuador, during World War II. This work is historical fiction, based upon Francis Conway's memoirs. I guess you could say that Francis' marriage to Ainslie was one of 'convenience,' though I am stretching the definition of that word in several ways. Suffice it to say that she is an untrained spy except for the few weeks of training she completes just prior to traveling to the Island to LIVE, where there are few people and no shelter, etc. Francis was one of the bravest people I've ever known of in history, in so very many ways, especially settling in a basically uninhabited/uninhabitable environment with a stranger to whom she is now legally married. Let the 'fun' begin! Because she has so very many new discoveries and knowledge to gain! I found this one to be poignant and yet inspiring.

Now that we're among islands and South America, we can move on to The Penguin Lessons by Tom Michell, which is also set along the shores of South America. I found this to be a totally delightful read, especially since I love animals and human-animal relationships! The Borders Book Club read and discussed it and we all agreed it was wonderfully uplifting, though there was some sadness. Though not totally unexpected, it was nonetheless, sad. This is all about Tom's relationship with Juan Salvador...but Juan is not human. :) Ah, did you already guess Juan's identity? (You are good! No one's gonna fool you, huh? Ha! Ha!) This one is adorable!

More islands, but this time, in the Caribbean. The Cay by Theodore Taylor is set during World War II. Add one torpedoed vessel, then one boy, one older man, one missing-presumed-dead mother, and one cat on a never-before-seen-by-you raft, and what do you get? An amazing story of survival and love, that's what! Did I mention Phillip is white and Timothy is black? Yep! It is quite an adjustment for them both. I so admire the skills they develop to survive, much as I did Francis' same determination in Enchanted Islands. And the big question? Do they? Survive... I am anxious to read Timothy of the Cay which is a prequel. Time. Just need more time... :)
Still more water settings, and another vessel also torpedoed by the Germans during World War II. But, this disaster is presented through the eyes of various passengers and we learn much about these seemingly very different people, who really all yearn for the same thing in the end, safe passage to another land and a new life. 
Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys is technically classified as a YA book, though I take these classifications with a grain of salt. If I enjoy reading a book, I don't care about the supposed 'reading level' as determined by someone else. Hence I read and review children's literature, even picture books on occasion! I love them all! I do not necessarily state that a book is identified as 'YA' vs. 'adult.' I am thrilled because I just purchased a copy of her book, Out of the Easy, at Indy Reads Books which is a non-profit totally staffed by volunteers to support the Indy Reads adult literacy program in Indianapolis, Indiana. And...bonus! While there, I was able to donate the bag and box of books that have been riding in my back seat for months! Yay! :)

Last, but by no means least, we will travel back to Africa (after Circling the Sun listed above) and this time explore Apartheid in South Africa. My Son's Story by Nadine Gordimer was a revealing exposé about the damage that can result when a parent devotes their life to a social cause. Sonny is always 'pushing the limits' during this time. As a black man, he moves his family into a restricted white neighborhood. He also forms an intense romantic relationship with a white woman, also against the law at the time. However, he appears very self-centered and unable to devote the time, love, or energy to his family that he should. He would rather be gone, campaigning/fighting 'for the cause' against Apartheid. That is all well and good, but who truly suffers by his absence? His family, of course, those about whom he should care the most... Doesn't this seem to be the way of it? A social 'crusader' so many times cannot develop and maintain strong monogamous relationships. It is a conundrum... I initially felt I didn't resonate well with Gordimer's writing, though in the aftermath, I believe it might just have been the rather 'depressing' subject matter of this novel that made me feel that way. I intend to read The Conservationist to further explore her writing on a different subject matter. I rarely make a determination about an author based upon only one of their published works. I like to read at least two if the first one doesn't seem super-appealing to me. I like to be as certain as I can be about whether an author's writing style truly resonates for me or not. Though, to be sure, there are those (John Green, Laurie R. King, Erica Bauermeister, Garth Stein, etc., etc., etc.) whom I fell in love with immediately!

Can you recommend yet another title of a book 
you really enjoyed that is set outside the U.S.?

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