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Welcome to readtheworld, a book challenge which aims to read books from as many countries as possible in one year.

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Feel free to introduce yourself. If you have any questions, don't hesitate to ask!

And most importantly, happy reading! The 23rd April, the journey starts!

The Pledge by Friedrich Dürrenmatt

The PledgeBook #12:  Friedrich Dürrenmatt, The Pledge (trans. Joel Agee)
Country: Switzerland

This book, originally subtitled “Requiem for the Detective Novel,” is narrated by a former chief of police who is telling a mystery writer about a real-life crime he was once involved with. About ten years ago, a young girl was brutally murdered in the woods near a small Swiss village. The police chief’s best detective, Inspector Matthäi, was assigned to the case. At first, the outcome seemed simple: a peddler named von Gunten was seen in the area, and he had razor blades in his possession which could have been used to murder the girl. However, Matthäi eventually came to believe that von Gunten was innocent, and he had solemnly promised the dead girl’s mother that he would find the true killer. The rest of the police chief’s story tells of Matthäi’s attempts to catch the murderer and the ultimate outcome of his investigation.

This is another book I had to read for class, and once again it was an unusual take on the detective genre. Rather than focusing on the externals of the “whodunit,” it spends most of its time on the internal psychology of Matthäi. I like the fact that the story is told in multiple layers of narrative; it adds some interesting ambiguities to the ending of the novel. Although a solution to the crime is offered, the book leaves a little bit of a question in the reader’s mind. This would drive me crazy in an ordinary mystery novel, but in this case I think it makes the story even more compelling. The novel also raises some very interesting questions about the role of law in society, and also about the importance of storytelling to humanity. The overall tone of the book is bleak, but I still found it fascinating, and it definitely made me think.
Borges and the Eternal OrangutansBook #11: Luis Fernando Verissimo, Borges and the Eternal Orangutans (trans. Margaret Jull Costa)
Country: Argentina

In this unusual spin on the detective story, the narrator Vogelstein is on his way to a literary conference in Buenos Aires. The conference, sponsored by the mysterious Israfel Society, is dedicated to the works of Edgar Allan Poe, and Vogelstein is delighted to have the chance to attend – especially when he learns that his idol, Jorge Luis Borges, will be there. However, the conference never actually takes place; one of the speakers, an intelligent but widely disliked professor, is found murdered in his hotel room on the first day of the conference. There are several strange aspects to the death, such as the unusual position of the victim’s body and an assortment of playing cards on the table. The murder provides Vogelstein and Borges with a unique opportunity to exercise their deductive skills, while also discussing literature, geography, ancient religions, and the occult.

This is a book I was required to read for class, and without that motivation I probably would never have picked it up. I’m so glad I did, though, because it was a very interesting and unique reading experience! I’ve only read one or two Poe stories and have barely come into contact with Borges, so I’m sure I missed a lot of great allusions and clues. Nevertheless, I was able to follow the thread of the story very well – and I even guessed the murderer quite early on, although the “how” and “why” mystified me until the end. The conversations between Vogelstein and Borges are amazingly intriguing, and the ivory-tower intellectualism contrasts nicely with the underlying mundane investigation of a crime. I would definitely recommend this book to people who like their mysteries complex and intellectually demanding. If you love Poe and/or Borges, I’m sure you’ll find even more to enjoy!

Another very, very late entry!

Hi! I'm Ellie =) I'm an English Literature student on a very UK-centric course, so I'm hoping that doing this challenge will make me read some literature from other countries, which I haven't done for far too long...
My favourite book at the moment is Annie Proulx' The Shipping News, which I re-read for the first time in ages last week. Still as beautiful as ever...

So, yes! Looking forward to this! =) I'm starting with an easy one, the USA, since I've already read a couple of chapters of Audrey Niffenegger's The Time-Traveler's Wife. Hopefully I'll get a bit more adventurous, though...

A REALLY late entry!!!!!

Username: aussieangel_97
Location: USA at the moment but originally Australia
Favourite Books: Anything really, I love Matthew Reilly and James Patterson books
Favourite Genre: I will read anything but I don't particularly like sci-fi or overly sappy romance
How many books?: 18 (curious tourist)
Any particular countries/places you would like to read about?: Mainly Asia and the Middle East, because I haven't read a lot of literature from there.
Anything else?: I am joining so late so hopefully I will be able to achieve my book goal. I am starting with A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khalid Hosseini

Siren by Cheryl Sawyer

Siren (Signet Eclipse)Book #10: Cheryl Sawyer, Siren
Country: New Zealand (author's native country)

This historical romance tells the story of the notorious pirate Jean Laffite and the fiery Léonore Roncival, who also has pirate blood in her veins. When Jean and Léonore first meet, the strength of their attraction is undeniable; however, they also seem destined to be enemies, since Jean first sees her when he tries to invade her island home. For Léonore, the small and insignificant island of San Stefan is her most precious asset, and she is determined to keep it safe no matter what. Protecting San Stefan might turn out to be impossible, however, as the major world powers – France, Spain, England, and the United States – go to war over their territory in North America. As Jean and Léonore struggle to reconcile their divergent political views with their growing love, their separate paths finally converge at the Battle of New Orleans.

Since I loved Sawyer’s The Code of Love, I had high expectations for this novel; unfortunately, maybe they were a bit too high. The writing style is every bit as excellent, and I definitely bought into the passion between Jean and Léonore. However, the plot of this book is quite slow to unfold, and the pacing tends to drag. I think the plot is also very conventional within the romance genre: the hero and heroine have a series of Big Misunderstandings, all of which could have been avoided with a little honest communication. That got on my nerves quite a bit! I did really enjoy the historical detail, though; it was extremely interesting to read about the War of 1812 from a non-American perspective. I hadn’t realized how important the Caribbean islands were to the European powers in their quest for domination in the new world. I was also interested to discover that Jean Laffite and many of the other characters in this novel were real historical figures, and Sawyer appears to have been very faithful to the historical record. Overall, if you want to read a pirate romance novel, you could do a lot worse; I liked this book well enough, but it was disappointing compared to The Code of Love.

Hi! :)

Username/Name: amaranthine3/Iza
Location (country): Poland
Favourite books? I can never really choose my favourite books because my list is always changing. The newest one is for example The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley. But I do like such authors like J.K. Rowling, Alice Hoffman, Meg Cabot, Alice Sebold, Jodi Picoult, Dan Brown.
Favourite type of genre? I like almost all types of books but I think that my favourite would be fantasy, historical fiction, adventure and romance. I also read a lot of YA.
Any specific countries or books that you are very interested in? Maybe not specific but I realised that I mainly read books that take place in the UK, the USA or Europe so I'm just generally interested in reading any other ones.
How many countries are you aiming at? I joined just now so my aim would be The Curious Tourist - 18 books :).
Anything else? Nope! I hope I'll manage to finish the challenge and travel the whole world with you :D. For now I'm really excited and motivated to read more, even though my classes start soon so we'll see :).

Of all the books so far...?

Thought I could try to get in some discussion :D

So of all the books you have read so far for this challenge, which one do you recommend the most?

Winter Shadows by Margaret Buffie

Winter ShadowsBook #9: Margaret Buffie, Winter Shadows
Country: Canada

Canadian teen Cass hates her life: her mother died of cancer not long ago, and her dad has already remarried. Her stepmother Jean is an absolute nightmare – she appears determined to banish every reminder of Cass’s mom from the house, and she always seems to blame Cass for everything that goes wrong. In her angry and grieving state, Cass drifts through her life with few friends or interests to cheer her up. Then one day she finds an old brooch and a diary hidden in the walls of her house, and she begins to learn about her ancestor Beatrice. Meanwhile, in the year 1856, Beatrice struggles with her own family problems: she too has a wicked stepmother, and she must also deal with her mixed Scottish and Cree heritage, which sets her apart from the other young women in her community. As Cass and Beatrice lead seemingly parallel lives, they also begin to see each other and even influence each other’s lives. Will each girl find the strength to choose the right path in her life?

This is another book whose premise I liked but whose execution I was less than impressed with. I liked the idea of two young women leading parallel lives in different time periods, so I felt like the story had a lot of potential. Unfortunately, this is one of those books that really suffer for being geared toward a young audience. The chapters generally alternate between Cass and Beatrice, but each chapter is so short that it’s difficult to become absorbed in either girl’s voice or plot. The frequent transitions are jarring, and the plot episodes are generally very choppy. I also thought the “young” focus really harmed the character development. Clearly the reader is supposed to sympathize with the two heroines, but I found Cass completely insufferable. She’s a whiny, bratty teenager who spends all her time selfishly wallowing in grief. Not that the rest of her family is much better, and I certainly didn’t sympathize with the stepmom either, but Cass really rubbed me the wrong way. I feel bad focusing on the negative aspects of the book, and I do think that younger readers might enjoy it. I did like the descriptions of the setting, too – I really got the feeling of an ice-cold Canadian winter. Overall, though, I have to say I was underwhelmed by this book.
The Gods Will Have Blood (Penguin Twentieth Century Classics)Book #8: Anatole France, The Gods Will Have Blood (trans. Frederick Davies)
Country: France

This short novel tells the story of Évariste Gamelin, a young idealist who wholeheartedly believes in the tenets of the French Revolution. He admires its heroes such as Marat and Robespierre with an intensity bordering on worship, and he wants nothing more than to serve the glorious Republic. As the Reign of Terror spreads, even some of Gamelin’s own family and friends are threatened, but he remains faithful to the cause. Eventually, however, Gamelin must confront the logical consequences of his fanaticism as Paris turns against the very people who were its supposed liberators.

I thought this was a very interesting portrayal of the Reign of Terror and how it impacted the lives of ordinary Parisians. The different characters’ reactions to the political situation ring very true: there are the passionate Republicans, the defiant Royalists who fled France, the malcontents who complain in secret but who are afraid to denounce the new regime publicly, and the cynics who find the whole situation absurd. I found Gamelin extremely unsympathetic, but I really liked Brotteaux and Father Longuemare. Overall I liked this book and would recommend it to people who are interested in the French Revolution.

The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara

The Killer AngelsBook #7: Michael Shaara, The Killer Angels
Country: United States

This novel is a fictionalized account of the Battle of Gettysburg, which many scholars believe was the pivotal battle of the Civil War. Using primary sources and sticking as closely to the historical facts as possible, Shaara reconstructs the events before and during the battle through the eyes of its most important participants, including Generals Lee and Longstreet. He describes the armies’ relative positions, their various problems and internal conflicts, and their movements in battle; but he also manages to show the hearts and minds of the fighting men. The soldiers ask themselves how to maintain their honor in battle, why they are willing to fight, and what the war is really about.

When I realized that this entire book was about one battle, I thought it was going to be dry and boring. As it turned out, I was wrong: this novel is a moving and fascinating read. Even the discussion of tactics and positions is much more interesting than I expected. I was grateful for the maps interspersed throughout the text, which showed the positions and movements of the various troops. One of my favorite things about this book is that Shaara doesn’t really choose sides: he simply describes the facts. The resulting picture is one of some heroism and glory, but also of cowardice, stupidity, and senseless loss. The commanders on both sides are portrayed sympathetically, but I definitely respected Longstreet (Confederacy) and Buford (Union) the most.

This novel made me realize that the outcome of Gettysburg could so easily have been different; if Lee had followed Longstreet’s tactical advice, the South could conceivably have won. I also learned some interesting historical facts, such as that Pickett’s Charge lost a greater percentage of men than the Charge of the Light Brigade. I’m glad that I finally read this book, and I would recommend it to anyone, even people (like me) who have no particular interest in the Civil War. It is definitely not to be missed.