Around the World in 80+ Books Part Three

We’re heading to Greece first thing, and will end up in Syria, so check your bags and let’s go. Wait, did anyone you don’t know put something in your bags when you weren’t looking? No? Fine.

41. Sophocles is tempting, but I have read all those works and I hope most of you have, as well. I’ve wandered a little closer to modern times with Captain Corelli’s Mandolin by Louis de Bernières. This author is most known for his magical realism novels, and I have GOT to put them on my reading list. But this is a more normal romance set on a Greek island early in World War II. Don’t you love it when several of your favorite genres come together?

42. East of the West by Miroslav Penkov is very tempting, especially the story of a kid trying to buy the corpse of Lenin for his communist grandfather, but this is a collection of short stories, not a single novel. But now I’m in the mood for WWII love stories. A King’s Ransom by Jan Beazely and Thom Lemmons fits that category, along with a nice helping of feel-good, help the oppressed in dangerous times story.

43. So many tough choices today! I read The Tiger’s Wife by Téa Obreht and could not get enough of it. WWII bombs free animals from a zoo, so you know I’m engaged. But it mostly takes place in the Balkans, which is not a close enough pin point for Serbia. So I am going with Miss Tamara the Reader by Zoran Zivkovic. A story about the joys of reading! A little magic, a little romance, and sold!

44. Oh my goodness! Romania encompasses the Transylvanian Alps. The birthplace of all vampire stories. The real man behind the stories, Vlad the Impaler, is rarely represented as a hunk, but this cover certainly caught my eye. Once Burned by Jeaniene Frost is a tantalizing premise and looks like an amazing vampire romance. Number One in a series called Night Prince.

45. Moldova earned its independence after being a satellite of the Soviet Union for many decades. So there is some fiction, but not all that much. I chose No Going Back to Moldova by Anna Robertson because it’s a memoir of sorts from someone who lived through those changes, and actually can write about the history with a sense of humor.

46. I’m going to take a little side trip here, and see where the locals hang out. The Ukraine is filled with wonderful, amazing stories, most of them heart-breaking. I offer instead a children’s book, The Mitten by Jan Brett. Faithfully told from an ancient tale, rendered in a traditional yet warm and delightful style, this should be as poular a book as Good Night, Moon.

47. The forest of Belarus stands as the last and surely the largest swath of primeval forest in Europe, so selecting a novel that takes place there seems natural. Kind of a mixed bag story, with a cliff-hanger ending, Pack of Wolves by Vasil Bykov is not about wolves at all. Translated by Lynn Solotaroff.

48. On this day in history (May 17th as I write), 1940, the Germans began the invasion of France. Perhaps that is influencing my choices without my knowledge. But the story behind The Zookeeper’s Wife by Diane Ackerman tickles my fancy. I love animals, I have been a student of WWII history, and I am a fan of helping those who need us, no matter the differences between them and me. The story also shines as a We have nothing to fear but fear itself lesson.

49. We are back in vampire country in the Czech Republic, and howe could I resist A Girl’s Guide to Vampires by Katie MacAlister? Too many vampire romance novels? Not yet!

50. Next stop has to be Slovakia. One of the troubles with books by authors who don’t speak English is ensuring the translation is done well, and with the heart of the writer’s words in mind. Not only does Rivers of Babylon by Peter Pišťanek come highly recommended as a complex but fun read, a satirical revelation of the modern country, it’s also translated by Peter Petro in close collaboration with the author. Oh, and it’s book one of a trilogy.

51. Ready for a great dish of goulash? Another vampire romance, again where the female involved has some powers of her own, and add to it she’s supposed to redeem the soul of her toothy boy toy. Got Fangs? By Katie Maxwell promises to deliver a laugh and peek at the Hungary few of us will get to see.

52. Austria opens to us with so much history and amazing novels that picking any one would be a joke. However, I set myself this task, and I am doing it. Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld looks to be a steam-punky WWI tale with Charles Darwin and lots more science stuff, A Young Adult novel but may appeal to a bunch of my steam punk friends.

53. Good old Croatia, land of a unitary democratic parliamentary republic (Study this one, there will be a test at the end) survived communism with its national identity intact. April Fool’s Day by Josip Novakovich is a tale of biting sarcasm and dark humor, but with a deep tenderness, follows a boy born on April 1st through all the puzzling turns of his life. I can’t make it sound as interesting as it appears if you follow the link, so go.

54. The first “novel” to come up on Goodreads for Italy is Romeo and Juliet by that Bill Shakespeare guy. I bet there are some good vampire romances set here as well. But I would rather explore the History of the place through the eyes of one who has actually been there. The Birth of Venus by Sarah Dunant explores the Renaissance through the life and times of a young girl, a talented artist in her own right, but a pawn in her family’s games. Women had one redeeming value, to be married off in exchange for money and/or power. Love held little sway in these dealings.

55. Why am I including Sicily as a separate country? Because I can. And because there is a really neat book called The Leopard by Giuseppe Tomasi, 11th Prince di Lampedusa. Wow, there’s math, and decadence and aristocracy. And the author did not live to see his book published. I hate when that happens.

56. We jump the Mediterranean Sea to land in Libya, North Africa’s most pristine shores. Also some of the most tragic and bloody politics. Not only have the people lived in jeopardy, the ecological system is on the brink collapse from over-hunting. The Bleeding of the Stone by Ibrahim al-Koni looks at this problem through the eyes of a vegetarian Bedouin goatherd who loves the creatures of his country.

57. Egypt lies to the east of Libya and draws many tourists. And archeologist. And religious pilgrims. There are so many books. And Ann Rice set some parts of her vampire sagas here. Cleopatra has long been a character of interest to me, so when I saw Book 1 in the series Cleopatra’s Daughter, hooked was I. Lily of the Nile by Stephanie Dray looks to be a powerful story of a new Caesar looking for his own Queen of Egypt, a queen who has her own desires.

58. My sense of humor gets in the way now and again, but I will refrain from picking Christopher Moore’s Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff. (If you haven’t read it, andy have no clue why Chinese restaurants are open on Christmas Day, you should read it.) A friend of mine on Scribophile wrote a flash fiction piece about King David that I love! So Queenmaker: A Novel of King David’s Queen by India Edgehill sounds just the thing to further explore that magnificent glimpse.

59. World War II is just the beginning of this story, set in Lebanon against a world that can’t make up its mind about who is a hero. The love between two people of very different cultures might not stand up to every test. Ports of Call by Amin Maalouf has no objection in close study of racism and bias, and what would happen if we all rejected hatred.

60. Last stop, Syria! Another country with headlines of so much horror and strife. But think of Damascus, think of the Fertile Crescent, think of the French Mandate. Sabriya: Damascus Bitter Sweet by Ulfat Idilbi is set in the 1920s during the League of Nations’ gifting of Syria to French control, and tells the tale of a young woman who wants to help her country gain independence, but is held back simply by being a woman.

Settle in while we take a break on Wednesday, then back on the road next week.


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