Around the World in 80+ Books, Part 12

I don’t work as a bookkeeper. I admire accountants and other organized people. The only organization I have is Romance Writers of America, ha ha ha. Going down the list of countries I had visited in this trip, and the list of countries of the world, I noticed some huge discrepancies. Did I really miss Albania and Belgium? Sheesh. Well, I am going on with the list of some others at the end of the lists, and then will double and triple check where I still need to go. Let’s get agoing!

221. Montserrat. A romantic island with an actual volcano, and an actual ruined city. Called the Emerald Isle of the Caribbean due to the resemblance to the Irish coast, and the number of Irish inhabitants that settled there, it’s certainly a beautiful and diverse community. So let’s take a walk on the wild side, and read a bi-racial m/m romance that gets hotter than lava. Hot Summer Nights: Montserrat by Remmy Duchene had no reviews as yet, but some of his other titles received 4 plus stars reviews.

222. Nicaragua. Jumping around will continue, but this isn’t too far to go. You will recognize the author, most likely. Salman Rushdie traveled through this country and wrote a look at the culture and society he found there from the lower layers, looking up. A glimpse of the Sandinista years, one reviewer docked a star since the book is no longer relevant to the modern country. I hope that rule isn’t applied to very many novels, it’s a little wacky. The Jaguar Smile: A Nicaraguan Journey.

223. Palestinian Territories. Not to be too prejudiced or anything, but my Why Can’t We All Just Get Along philosophy stumbles a bit in the Middle East. Answering violence with violence is bad. And there’s no right answer. Here’s a look at the Palestinian point of view when the state of Israel popped into existence and some non-Jews had to leave. Wouldn’t you think after centuries of being treated that way, the Chosen People would have taken a higher road? Well, I wasn’t there and I didn’t experience the hatred, so let’s just leave that alone. Mornings in Jenin by Susan Abulhawa tells the story of a family forced to leave the land they loved and cherished, and the events that befell them in a refugee camp. Originally published with the title Scar of David, this powerful novel will not leave you unchanged.

224. Pitcairn. Here we have our pick of scandal from the past, or more recent. In the past, a mutinous crew of oBritish sailors fled to this island with a few native women and men, and settled into the carefree life of staying alive on a tropical island. In recent times, a culture of incest, sex slaves, and lack of status for women blew up and attracted unwanted attention for the islanders. But what about the decedents of Christian Fletcher? There should be hoards of Mel Gibson at his best, look-a-likes running around half naked. And there should be British culture and afternoon teas and so on. Think about what it takes to mutiny against the way of life you freely chose to follow, to possibly doom someone to death through starvation and dehydration in a dinghy, and to then hide from possible repercussions on another island. Serpent in Paradise is a good look at life on Pitcairn from the prospective of an outsider, Dea Birkett. One wonders how much of the way of life she observed that was later revealed in the sexual abuse and rape trials, and why she chose to stay quiet on the facts. But it could be for reasons we’ll never know.

225. Saint Barthelemy. This island was briefly under Swedish rule, and is the only Caribbean island with such a history. Electricity came to the island in the 1960s, and now St. Barts is know for its exclusivity and posh tourism. They have come a long way from slavery. A series of mystery novels centered around Charles Trenet of the Gendarmerie Nationale starts with Murder at St. Barts, by J. R. Ripley. One reviewer says it is more of a parody than a mystery, and the murderer was obvious way too soon. But, hey, it’s St. Barts!

226. St. Helena. Yes, THAT St. Helena. Regency readers and writers immediately know who went there and who died there, and that controversy will always follow infamous figures. There have been back and forth arguments between learned men for a few decades about whether Napoleon Bonapart was poisoned or died of natural causes. Consider that in a time of uncertain medical care and rampant diseases, at the age of 51, without a history of any illnesses or injuries, the deposed emperor surrendered his life over a short time to an ulcer. Possibly he did have stomach cancer, which killed his father, but read for yourself the evidence presented by Ben Wieder in Assassination at St. Helena Revisited.

227.St. Christopher and Nevis. In Romance writer circles, lately, there’s been some conversations about Nora Roberts. There’s no denying the lady has done marvelous things for the genre, and for women in particular. Some of us want to be Nora when we grow up. So I thought it would be cool to showcase her book, The Reef, which takes place on the island of St. Kitts. (When you get to know the islands really well, you can call them by their nicknames) Reviews span all numbers of stars, most interesting are the ones from daughters who remember their moms reading these books. The legacy continues.

228.St. Pierre and Miquelon. It’s pretty obvious that the smaller islands travel in pairs. These two are northwestern Atlantic Ocean islands, not so very tropical or sunny. I could not find one book about the islands, but stumbled on a movie based on a true history of the island. The Widow of St. Pierre is a French film, and tells a story that while wonderful and engaging, has a not so happy ending. And because it’s true, it can’t be rewritten for a few more centuries. Still, the movie looks good and won a few awards, and it’s all French. Just like the islands.

229. St. Vincent and Grenadines. Back in the warm part of the globe, I thought I had made up my mind, but then revisited the choices. Sometimes on Goodreads, a book will be listed, but when you click to read more about it, you get a message that the book could not be found. I could not let go of one title, A Tiny Slice of Caribbean Life: Portrait of a Vincy Woman by I. Rhonda King. A small book with a touch of the old vanity press feel to it, the golden moments between the covers are presented as dialogue between two rural women on the island. You can’t find a better way to get the feel of the place than that.

230. The Most Serene Republic of San Marino. The smallest country, population wise, in the Council of Europe, the longest existing constitution, founded as a monastery, and one of the richest countries, there are no books which take place here! Not. One. No books and the wildlife, no travelogues, not one. Why is that? Is it the lack of an ocean? The low crime rate? The fact most people never heard of it? Well, it’s going on my list of places where I will set a story someday, and in the meantime, read the official web page.

231. Slovenia. Lots of books here, as long as you read Slovenian. Luckily, a nice person (Mae Gerhard) drew pretty pictures so we can at least get an idea. And the book title is in English, so that’s a good sign, right? No reviews to go on, but The Golden Bird by Vladimir Kavčič is a collection of Folktales from Slovenia. I love this stuff, and who knows, it might be a source of inspiration for the next great Romance novel.

232. South Georgia and Sandwich Islands. Beautiful islands are in high demand by governments of near-by countries. Robert K. Headland worked as an officer in the British Antarctic Survey, when somehow he managed to be stationed on South Georgia. Not exactly a tropical island, as it’s very close to the Antarctic. Used for whaling ships once upon a time, someone noted that “A rotting whale could fill with gas to bursting, ejecting a fetus the size of a motor vehicle with sufficient force to kill a man.” But it’s not all fun and games on South Georgia. And Robert K. Headland shows us that in his beautifully illustrated book, The Island of South Georgia. No word if dead pregnant whales are being considered for use as weapons.

233. Svalbard and Jan Mayen Islands. Once called Spittsbergen for the volcano, an early explorer believed he had found the entrance to Hell. Sadly, the islands are much more mundane than that, but still remote and harsh. This was a whaling port in the Arctic, but whales were never left to rot, apparently. NASA has a base there. The capital city is Longyearbyen. Tourists come for the glaciers and the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. Goodreads had nothing to offer, so I went to the Wiki entry and looked for ISBNs. That brought up Spittsbergen Svalbard: A Complete Guide Around the Arctic Archipelago by Rolf Stange. Mostly photographs, still everything you need to know about the islands.

234. Tokelau. The island name means North Wind in the islanders language. If I hadn’t made that notation on my notes, I would think I finally went around the final bend. I know I read something about the book Where on Earth is Tokelau by Maxwell H. Heller when researching from my place of employment on a break. I know there was information on how and why Mr. Heller went there and what happened. Can I find it from home? Not on Wiki, not on Goodreads, not anywhere. Then I remembered, I was going to the Wiki pages on the country itself, not looking up the book. Whew! There are lots of articles written about the islands, because it’s a shark sanctuary, they adjusted their time zone recently, and they are a sunny, untouched Pacific paradise. That last is up to debate. But yes, the book is listed there with the subtitle, A Doctor’s Experiences in the South Seas. All’s well.

235. Trinidad and Tobago. The true Caribbean, says one tourist web site. Well, yes, there was slavery, and Tobago means tobacco, and the islands are beautiful. Chris Columbus showed up and bam! The natives no longer owned the land. Hostile Takeover engaged. The Book of Trinidad by Gerard Besson (and possibly Bridget Brereton) is a unique record, following the dictate that “We must remember, and we must remember everything.” You’ll find recipes, travelogues, newspaper articles, official records and some historians’ papers. You will know Trinidad and Tobago when you close the book.

236. Turks and Caicos. Paul G. Boultbee has penned a number of books about the beautiful islands of the Caribbean. I have very little to go on, regarding his book, Turks and Caicos Island. It’s a sunny and relatively dry set of islands, popular with pirates and salt collectors. There has been scandal in the government, just like a big country, and an annual concert with big celebrities. They have no post office, and nobody seems to mind. There is a particular breed of dog in the islands, not so much a breed, really, and a mix called the potcake dogs. Wouldn’t it be cool if each celebrity and millionaire tourist who visited the island contributed to the care and health of these special dogs? Oh, the book. Yes. Here’s the link.

236. Vanuatu, Republic of. Formerly called New Hebrides, someone decided they weren’t done with the old Hebrides yet, and changed it to Vanuatu. That means Home Stand in the native language. Survivor was filmed there, both US and Australian. No one wrote a story about that, and I think that’s a shame. The original European government was a combined English-French Condominium. I can’t see these two folks living happily together in one building, let alone an island. And the natives were banned from getting citizenship in either ruling country, which sucked. And is a greater shame than the missing Survivor books. So I’m going with The Birds of Vanuatu by Heinrich L. Bregulla, since he isn’t political.

237. Wallis and Futuna Islands. French ruled islands near New Zealand, Three Kingdoms, and nary a book on any of it. Why not write your own? The Travel Journal of Wallis and Futuna contains information on the islands and lots of blank pages so you can record your thoughts, feelings, and how much you spent.

238. Albania. The Ottoman Empire wants this country. The country doesn’t agree. The Siege by Ismail Kadare records the facts and the fiction of the event. A stunning novel by a powerful, award-winning writer.

239. Belgium. I’m cheating a bit here, as the book takes place in France and Belgium, but the subject is one of extreme interest to me. The Lady and the Unicorn by Tracey Chevalier (wonder if we’re related?) follows the escapades of a deliciously appealing scoundrel, a painter who designs the famous tapestries that now hang in the Cluny Museum in Paris.

240. Cyprus. Could go with Othello, but I think not. Better a tale where going to Cyprus tears your life apart. Sigh. No, maybe a book about finding your past and putting it all together on Cyprus. Okay, I need to wrap this up. So you’re getting both. The People In-between: A Cyprus Odyssey by Gregory S. Lamb and Small Wars by Sadie Jones. Enjoy!

And I’ll see you on Wednesday. Maybe next week we can wrap up the whole world.

Around the World in 80+ Books, Part 11

Next week will be the final installment of this page-and-globe-trotting trip. I can’t wait to get home, unpack all the books I marked to read, and get to work. Plus I have a blog hop on Wednesday! Lots of good questions coming up, but let’s be off.

201. Antigua and Barbuda. Lovely island settings for books are very appealing, but so many come with histories of slavery, colonization, and suffering. There’s little to document why the native population on the island died off with the coming of Europeans, it could have been from diseases they brought to the island, or the lack of nutrition provided to slaves, There’s an accepted theory that just the psychological effect of slavery caused the high death rate of the natives. What a great setting for a paranormal story of old sorrows and painful disillusionment. Antiguan Redemption by Patricia Harrington hasn’t been reviewed yet, and the story description is exactly the same as above, but that’s enough for me.

202. Armenia. Yes, we’re jumping around the globe but in alphabetical order. Sometimes, you just have to take your chances and go with what seems the best choice. Ervand Kadavakiac by Hayk Khachatryan is a fictional account of a 6th century king, about whom I could find very little information. That alone makes this book a great read.

203.Barbados. Back to the islands, and a story about a youth caught between the colonized world he lives in, and the fresh ideas coming from a teacher about independence and pride in yourself and your culture. We all need more of that. No Man in the House by Cecil Foster is about the Caribbean by a Caribbean writer.

204. Bhutan. Quick, go get your globe and point to Bhutan! Time’s up. Did you find it? The happiest kingdom on earth, the little corner of heaven tucked into a jungle and mountain? There it is, northeast of India, and no, it’s not where all the disposable lighters come from. You thought I was going for the easy humor, didn’t you? There’s not a book on the list of novels set in Bhutan that I don’t want to read. But the problem is, the place is so awesome that the books are mostly non-fiction. So as a lover of birds and plants and fine art, I picked A Painter’s Year in the Forests of Bhutan by A. K. Hellum. First off, the title is a lie, this person took two years and tries to act all cool about the title. If he or she just told the truth, there would be an increase in Gross National Happiness.

205.Bonaire, St, Eustatius, and Saba. These islands make up the colony of the Netherlands Antilles. The best things going there is the impressive sea life and diving tours. And it might all be gone by now if not for one man who saw what had to be done and did it. Captain Don Stewart hated seeing movies come out that created fear in tourists with regard to the sea. And so he wrote a book called Sea Trauma to talk about the real dangers underwater.

206. Bosnia and Herzegovina. Back in the war-torn lands of Eastern Europe. One book set here has a great title, When History is a Nightmare. The Turks are occupying the country in The Devil and the Dervish by Meša Selimović, in the 18th century. A Dervish monk is keeping a separate peace in his monastic life when the rest of the world intrudes through family ties. What would you do?

207. Botswana. The series of Ladies’ Detective Agency books tempted me, but the title of this true story captured my greater interest. Whatever You Do, Don’t Run: True Tales of a Botswana Safari Guide by Peter Allison introduces you to the concept that only food runs. Lots of 4 and 5 star reviews, and on my to-read list.

208. Brunei Darussalam. Oh dear, no novels or even true stories set in this country. But there is a text book called Language, Power, and Ideology in Brunei Darussalam by Geoffrey C. Gunn. Standing out in the region for having a high rate of literacy, still no authors have emerged yet. Perhaps the text book can tell us why.

209. Guernsey and Aldernay. Well, mostly Guernsey. A book with a great title and an awesome premise. A book happens to find the exact person who would most be interested in it, as well as able to connect with the writer of a letter tucked inside. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows has mixed reviews claiming that the book is too sweet. The heroine is just too perky through the whole story, and there’s not enough about the quirky inhabitants of the island. Well, read it and see for yourself.

210. Kiribati. Everyone always wants to go to the beautiful tropical islands, but the people stuck there complain that nothing ever happens. So a good choice for a book here is one where Something Happens. And maybe to a person not usually on the island. Food of Ghosts by Marianne Wheelaghan is this story, based on experiences of the author’s mother. The reviews are predominantly positive, including one stating the book is a thrilling, entertaining, and exotic whodunnit.

211. Liechtenstein. This unfortunate country has had a thrilling history as much as any European state. But beyond a very poorly received Danielle Steele book and a few ancient classics, there’s little to read that takes place there. We have a manga, a children’s story about a skinny cow, and a biography of a very expensive piece of furniture. And a trio of kids escaping the Nazis, a so-so Harlequin romance, and porn. So let’s just walk around the country for a while and see if anything inspires us to write. Harry’s Mountain Walks in Liechtenstein by Lloyd P. Clark gets us off to a good start.

212. Luxembourg. A good deal larger than Liechtenstein, this country has more books from which to choose. But the first one snagged me in with a great title, and the summary kept my interest. The reviews are pretty good as well. In The Elf of Luxembourg by Tom Weston, teenage sisters visiting Europe from America (California, as we learned in Alex and Jackie Adventures #1. This is #2) get involved in a prophecy and some odd characters, as well as some fabulous shopping. A young adult story that includes some history lessons and great black and while photos.

213. Malawi. As one reviewer pointed out, so many books that take place in African Nations are sad and depressing, with everyone surrendering to the belief in hopelessness. So while a true story, The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba is unique for telling the tale of a person who never gave up hope, and always kept his dream in view. Malawi has wind to spare, and in spite of being called crazy for wanting to use that wind to improve the lives of everyone, William stayed focus and positive.

214. Martinique. This Caribbean island is known for being the birthplace of Josephine, Napoleon’s Empress, and for the eruption of Mt. Pelee in 1902. The land should also be known for author Patrick Chamoiseau, who writes stories from his own life, from the history of the island, and from his charming imagination. In Chronicles of The Seven Sorrows, he creates a marketplace cast and a story which brings folktale characters to life. No reviews yet, but worth a read.

215. Isle of Man. Sometimes it’s hard to track down a book set in a remote location. If GoodReads can’t find it, I look for other sources, but eventually come back to GoodReads for the reviews and book information. Safe House by Chris Ewan is set in the Isle of Man, written there, and had a premier party when it was released. The “hero” is an every-man type, plumber and repair man. A woman disappears, he knows he is being lied to, and a detective comes in from London. One review suggested this story had a “Who Really Cares” feel to it, but as long as it doesn’t go all Wicker Man on us, I would side with the others who enjoyed the suspense and the read. And it’s got a bit with a dog.

216. Macedonia. Thanks to Mary Renault, I went through a stage where I had a serious crush on Alexander the Great. Fire from Heaven is an awesome read, but too easy to suggest here. And so many of the books are about Alexander, like Annabel Lyon’s The Golden Mean. The time of Alexander created lasting animosity between various peoples of the area. In 1966, Tasko Georgievski published the award winning Black Seed, about the civil war making ethnic Macedonians criminals for their heritage. This is the first translation into English.

217. Maldives. Thor Heyerdahl believed the islands had been inhabited a thousand years earlier than most historians believed. There are several books Goodreads lists, then claims it can’t find. And one that has no clue to what it’s about. A couple of books I have put on my read later list, but the first one doesn’t really take place on Maldives. The second is suggested because people who read the first one liked books about younger men and older women. But no Maldivian books. So let’s look at legends, shall we? Mysticism in the Maldives: Eyewitness Accounts of Supernatural Encounters by Ali Hussain. That ought to make you lose a little sleep.

218. Moldova. Not a very stellar recognition to be the poorest country in Europe. Most of the books are about children becoming sex slaves and dying of AIDS unless rescued by a mission or such. So I picked two books here. The ones more about the people. The Good Life Elsewhere by Vladimir Lorchenkov has top reviews from people who enjoy dark humor. A talented author who can be very funny and very sad at the same time will weave a special story. Come on, an Orthodox priest’s wife leaves him to elope with an atheist art dealer. What’s not to love? The second book is Bessarbian Nights by Stela Brinzeanu, also a well-reviewed story, that follows a close trio of sisters who live with traditions and superstitions while longing for the modern world. As one of them stumbles into a horrific situation, the other two unite to save her.

219. Monaco. Grace Kelly will never die. A dozen books on her life, her marriage, her children, and the lifestyle in Monaco keep her alive. There is also a helping of porn written about Monte Carlo. While Ian Fleming Casino Royale would be good, it’s a bit dated. I like the sound of an end-of-career football hero reunited with his first crush, and the secret she has kept from him. Which is really easy to figure out if you read these kind of Romances. Manacled in Monaco is a catchy name, and the first of Jianne Carlo’s Mediterranean Mambo series.

220. Montenegro. The name says it all. The Land of the Black Mountain. Lots of histories of the country, and lots of picture books of the rarely seen Montenegro. If I spoke Montenegrin, I would recommend the poetry book by native Petar II Petrović Njegoš . Instead, there’s this tramp across the beautiful land guide called Montenegro or Bust by Paul Richard Scott. He obviously loved the experience, and shares it vividly.

When we wrap up next week, I’d love to hear your favorite books from the list. And I’ll see you on Wednesday for something really fun.

Another Pause

Sorry to stall our trip around the world by books again. But I need time to scope out the remaining countries and find the best stories set there. To fill this spot, let’s see if there are fun things to learn and look at involving vacations.

Books! Maybe your first thought isn’t pleasure that you can read on your vacation, but I could not go anywhere without a book. And if I were going to be gone more that two days, I would need a couple of books. And a word search book. So there are lists of books to read on vacation. Because doesn’t everyone take two weeks in Hawaii or the Bahamas? Sorry, going to the Hawaiian BBQ or the Caribbean booth at the street fair does not count.

Fodor is a name associated with travel books and such. But here’s a great list they put together on 10 Books to Read on Summer Vacation: I want to read them all, but numbers 5 and 7 top the list for me.

The New York Post is selling you the 29 Best Books of the Summer: I do like their definition of R&R.

I notice a little over-lapping of titles, which is good. This list is mostly unique from the other two:

Of course, there are some pretty awesome movies about vacations. My favorite is Weekend at Bernie’s. And I’m glad to see it at the top of the list, even though I disagree with a few of Complex’s other choices.

Rotten Tomatoes has a similar list: and just in case you aren’t a single young adult or a teenager, here is a list of vacation movies for the whole family: (nice to see some foreign language films in there)

There are other things to take care of when planning a vacation trip. Especially if you have pets. And if you want to take your pets on vacation, you can always claim the animal is a service animal. Bring Fido can give you some ideas of places that welcome a dog without subterfuge.

If you’re visiting the western states, Sunset Magazine has a list of the top 22 places to bring your dog. and Pets Welcome has information about traveling with cats for the masochists in the audience.

What about the house while you are away? Or what if you can’t afford a fancy hotel or time share? You are in luck. There are a number of services that will match you as a home owner or a sitter, like House Carers. And then there’s Home Sitters America.

Let’s say you only want to watch really nice, over the top estates and such. Look at Luxury House Sitting for a job just about anywhere, from Honolulu to Normandie, France to – La Mesa? Wait, I was born in La Mesa. That can’t be a luxury house area, can it?

Check and see if you have the luggage you need. These days, it’s pretty hard to get everything you will need packed and checked onto a plane, even if you are only sleeping over at a friend’s house. Fodor (remember Fodor?) has a list of luggage they reviewed with an eye to checking it on the plane.

And here’s a similar list from Smarter Travel for carry-on bags:

Of course, when you get back, you’ll have stories like these to tell:

Possibly these, if you are flying.

I am assuming you already have a camera to take on vacation, and not leave somewhere. So you can look at photos like this to remind you forever of the trip.

I’ll see you on Wednesday to announce the look of my heroin. So far, there have been no votes for any of the choices. That means I can pick my favorite. Have a good week.

Around the World in 80+ Books Part 8

So have we gotten out of the time warp yet? Seems like more than a week has gone by with us exploring Tasmania. The devil, you say? Get on the plane.

141. Australia. Sometimes I can recommend a book because I have read it. Other times I have seen the movie. This is a movie recommendation. The Rabbit Proof Fence by Doris Pilkington is based on a true story. I like to believe the government program had the best of intentions with removing children from their families, but you know what happens to good intentions. They end up resurfacing a hot roadway.

142. Papua New Guinea. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens does not take place in this country. However, Mr. Pip by Lloyd Jones uses the fascination with that story to pull a community together following a devastating war. Not a coming of age story or a novel of how bad it is to be a woman, instead it’s the story of how every individual is important for surviving tragedy.

143. Indonesia. I found this book and stopped looking for others. I just listened to the author’s book, Wild Fire, and if you read my Wednesday post, you’ll understand some of what pulled me into and out of that story. But I came away with a desire to know all about the other characters on the team, and I expect we will have that opportunity. Wild Rain by Christine Feehan is the second in the series Leopard People. At least Indonesia is a more likely setting for leopards than Central America.

144. Singapore. Say what you will about Barbara Cartland, some of her stories were fun and taught readers some things about the world around them. Magnificent Marriage by La Cartland has a heroine that proves to be smart, a little older than Cartland’s usual virgins, and more important to the story than the alpha hero. One reviewer praised the fact that she learned some of the history of Singapore, Malaysia, and Sarawak. A close second is The Elephant and The Tree by Jin Pyn Lee.

145. East Timor. Sometimes the best way to get to know a country is through fiction, and sometimes it’s through memoirs. The Crossing: A Story of East Timor by Luis Cardoso tells his story and that of his homeland during the important struggle for independence. One reviewer complained that it was too intense, with so much packed into a small book. Well, try to describe any such struggle in 20,000 words or less.

146. Madagascar. Did you ever wonder exactly what happened in detail between Tarzan and Jane, all those years in the forest? Well, apparently so did Collete Gale. Entwined is the first book in her series, The Erotic Adventures of Jane in the Jungle. I so want this book, and I so wish I had written it.

147. Mauritius. You are a young boy on an island that is largely in ignorance of World War II. Your father works as a guard at a prison there, and through various events, you meet a Jewish boy your own age. Jews were refused admittance to Palestine, and ended up wherever they could find some acceptance. One reviewer says this is a sweet story with a hard pit. Coming of age with a purpose that would not have occurred had there been more love in the world. The Last Brother by Nathacha Appanan.

148. Reunion Island. I picked a graphic novel because, one, I love and grew up reading comic books, and two, they are a great way to help kids and adults read more. The story of a young assistant to an ornithology professor looking for the nearly extinct dodo bird being swept away by the lifestyle of the island’s inhabitants got my attention. Bourbon Island 1730 by Lewis Trondheim looks delightful in both story concept and the art work.

149. Seychelles. Keith and Sally Pomeroy start their delightful Mathew Butler Adventures series with Butler Did It with a scuba diving photographer, a murder attempt, and lots of fun. Even the reviewers giving it a low star rating agreed that it’s a fun read. Those who liked it added exciting, but don’t expect a classic. And my favorite, it would make a better movie than a book.

150. Comoros. What do you know about the coelacanth? Here’s a cheat sheet: Now you are ready to read A Fish Caught in Time: The Search for the Coelacanth by Samantha Weinberg. Long thought to be extinct, this possible link between the sea and the land is merely elusive, living in a very inhospitable ocean depth for humans. Can you feel the excitement of seeing a picture of one just caught, when the scientific world felt sure they no longer existed?

151. Mozambique. Why does it seem that as soon as a person vows never to get involved with the opposite sex or the same sex in a romantic way if that’s their inclination, the perfect match for them walks into their life? Mozambique Mysteries by Lisa St. Aubin de Terán may not answer that, but you will read a personal story involving the remote coastal country and the various cultures that settled there.

152. Zimbabwe. Now we turn to a story of coming of age in a country where it’s tough to be female, and cultures clash without thought. Two people find themselves and each other while a country grows in spite of national upheaval, and a mystery might tear their world apart. An intelligent read in the land of growing tension, as well as growing tension between the main characters’ falling in love. The Boy Next Door by Irene Sabatini.

153. Swaziland. Presented as a fantasy adventure, The Bird of Heaven by Peter Dunseith reveals the world and lives of Swazi tribes through their spiritual beliefs and customs. There’s a character who is a leopard in a man’s body, so maybe wereleopards aren’t that original. We receive the gifts of our ancestors for self-empowerment, and face the transcendent victory of a noble spirit. All in one book.

154. Lesotho. I have struggled to find books about the countries written by natives, or at least citizens, of that country. Here I have a fictionalized account of the life of a great Zulu warrior. Chaka by Thomas Mofolo is compared by one reader to a Hindu myth. Written in the early 1900s, this book has taken a long time to come to any attention in the West, and for that I give it my complete attention.

155. Zambia. Another good way to get to know a country is through the accounts written by those totally unprepared for what they encounter. Peeing in the Bush by Adeline Loh is one such story. I came back to it several times just based on the title. All she knew about the jungle she learned on Animal Planet. I can’t wait to get to know her paranoid vegetarian companion. A wacky retelling of an attempt to leave the comforts of civilization behind, it’s dubbed a wack-o adventure by one of the reviewers. I’m thinking Lucy and Ethel go to Africa. Sold!

156. Angola. Truth or Fiction? Yes. Set in Diary form, Nzingha: Warrior Queen of Matamba, Angola, Africa, 1595 by Patricia C. McKissack is one of a series of books (The Royal Diaries) for young readers detailing the lives of girls from around the world and throughout history. Most of the reviewer readers are young, but not all. And in case it matters, Ms. McKissack is of the same blood as the heroine in her story. A strong main character and a fascinating story.

157. The Democratic Republic of the Congo. There’s so much about the country that is fascinating to me. My mother had a friend who had lived there, when it was called the Belgian Congo. I loved her stories of the jungle and the changing world. I could have gone easy on myself with Congo by Michael Crichton, where I first learned that gorillas are afraid to cross running water or to be wet. But I hoped for something deeper. When you go to Goodreads and read the synopsis, you should know immediately why I picked this one. The Madman and the Medusa by Tchicaya U Tam’si.

158. Rwanda. I’ll give you a few minutes to get over any uncontrollable urges to giggle at the names Hutu and Tutsis. Because the horrid slaughter of families for no other reason than the circumstances of their birth and heritage is nothing to laugh at. Finding hope and love in the heart of slaughter and chaos would be worthy of praise, and so it is in Baking Cakes in Kigali by Gaile Parkin. The reviews are the usual mix of loved it/hated it/ it’s not so bad, but I found it disturbing that one opined that the book would be popular in America because the main character was a strong black woman. I think it more likely that the gift of hope in despair by a person of any gender or race is the key to popular fiction.

159. Burundi. I feel like I have discovered something really special here. There are no reviews so far on Goodreads. But having grown up with Tarzan in all the various forms, and Jungle Book, and loved the idea that a human child could survive when raised by animals, I am all agog to read The Wild Boy of Burundi by Harlan Lane and Richard Pillard. A true case study of a child found living with primates in 1974. How did he get there? What happened to his parents? Is he any relation to someone named Greystoke? Well, I will have to read the book to find out.

160. Tanzania. We’ll end this week with a trip in the Way Back machine, visiting prehistoric Tanzania, and the tribes that live in the shadows of Kilimanjaro. Great Sky Woman by Steve Barnes is a combination of anthropology, cultural history, and fiction. A great read and the first book in a series that I expect will become addictive.

Enjoy the past, the huge herds of beasts that are no longer there, the people who changed to survive, and the foreshadow of a world to come. See you on Wednesday for a fun break, then on to some islands next Sunday.

Dream Real Estate

My close, personal 585 friends on Facebook know that every weekday, I post some photos of owls, some photos of parrots, some jokes, and cute photos of each, Valais blacknose sheep, Highland cattle, and pygmy goats. Don’t ask why, it’s very silly.

While searching for the Highland “coo” I often find such tempting photos of beautiful cottages and serene landscapes. Only the knowledge of what the winters are like there keeps me from packing up and moving. JF Sargent has a yummy accent and a great sense of satire. This fun list of homes showcases people who have more money they they know what to do with, and not one of them makes my top ten list of where I’d like to live.

Fallingwater, on the other hand, is very near the top. As long as I don’t have to clean the windows. OR the stream.

Beauty certainly is in the eye of the beholder, the houses on this list do very little for me. I wouldn’t mind too much to have a castle, but I want it in a Forrest. Is that too much to ask?

Maybe somewhere more isolated would spark my interest. Oh, the Hall in Wales! Did I mention I don’t like to clean windows? So that’s perfect, it has none.

Five country homes in Scotland:

Five Lake resorts to visit in Europe:

Now it I could just make up my mind between the former rectory in Devon and the cottage in Cornwall where Noel Coward stayed:

Hope that inspired some story ideas for you! See you on Sunday.

Rainy Day

Southern California is getting some much needed rain, which makes me want to stay home all day and write. However, that’s not in the plans today. So here are some videos of rain! In peace. In a city. In the eyes of a child. In a car. In Ireland. Rain for 15 minutes. And for an hour.

Enjoy your day!