I've just finished up another month of the Around the World in 80 Books challenge. The idea is to read books set in 80 different countries, effectively exploring the world from the comfort of your armchair. Since my last update, I've read books from five different countries - Australia, Haiti, India, Mali and United States. That makes a total of 20 books since I started the challenge. 60 more to go!
You can read more about the challenge here, as well as check out Update #1, Update #2 and Update #3.
THE LIGHT BETWEEN OCEANS by ML Stedman | Australia
One of my dock neighbors at Indiantown Marina loaned me this book and said that I would love it. She said everyone who has read it loved it and she was sure I would too. She was right - I loved it! The story was compelling. I just had to know what happened next after the lighthouse keeper and his wife found a baby washed up on shore of the remote island off the western coast of Australia where they lived. But what was even more fascinating was trying to imagine what I would have done at each critical decision point that they faced. I sobbed at the end. I find that's often a sign of a good story.
Australia is a great country - down to earth people, wonderful scenery, a mix of big cities and small towns and an incredible diversity of flora and fauna. Only one problem, a lot of the critters in Australia can kill you. Like creepy-crawly scorpions.
"As she sits there, drawing patterns in the sandy soil with a twig, she notices a strange creature, longer than her finger, approach from under the log. It's like nothing she's ever seen before: a long body, and legs like an insect or spider, but two fat arms like one of the crabs Dadda catches sometimes on Janus. Fascinated, she touches it with a twig and its tail rapidly curls up in a beautiful arch, pointing to its head. In that moment, a second creature appears, a few inches away."You can find out more about The Light between Oceans on Goodreads.
HAITI NOIR by Edwidge Danticot, Ed. | Haiti
Haiti Noir is a collection of short stories set in Haiti. It sounded promising. I've always been intrigued by Haiti, I like short stories and I like noir detective novels. I sat down with a glass of red wine and my Kindle and was prepared to love it. I didn't. I didn't even like it. In fact, I didn't even like it so much that I only got halfway through it. And when you're talking about short stories, where you get a chance to start fresh every few pages, that's saying a lot. Yes, I broke one of my cardinal rules for the challenge, which was to finish every book I started.
I'm sure the authors have written some fine stories, but I'm guessing that this genre isn't really for me. I like hardboiled noir detective novels by folks like Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett, but these noir stories were just too creepy and disturbing for me. I have plenty of nightmares imagining that alligators have chewed holes into the side of my sailboat and that it's sinking while I'm asleep. I don't really want to be reading stories where people die gruesome deaths without the mystery of their death being neatly tied up at the end.
I decided not to include a quote from the anthology as (a) I'd have to reread one of the stories and (b) it might give you nightmares.
You can find out more about Haiti Noir on Goodreads. Who knows, you might like it. Everybody has different tastes.
THE SEDUCTION OF SILENCE by Bem Le Hunte | India
I picked this novel up at the book exchange at our marina. I love book exchanges - a no-risk way to try out new authors and genres. It costs you nothing and if you don't like the book, you can put it back and take another one. I chose The Seduction of Silence because of its cover art. I often don't actually remember the titles of books I've read, but I'll remember the cover art. This one depicted an Indian couple embracing - I'm not sure who was seducing who.
The Seduction of Silence follows five generations of an Indian family on their quest for enlightenment from a rural village in India to England and ending in Australia. I loved seeing how the different characters' stories intertwined across time and space.
Be warned, if you're off to search for enlightenment in India, keep a sharp eye out for snakes.
"He sat down, irresolute, defeated. Slipping his legs out in front of him, he felt something pierce his foot, cutting through his skin, his last defense. He yelled as he heard the weighty slither of a snake sliding away along the forest floor, satisfied and poison-free. The noises in the forest were not trapped in Bahadur's head. The crickets screeched inside his ears as he felt the rush of poison numbing each toe in turn and pushing waves of dead pain up his leg."You can find out more about The Seduction of Silence on Goodreads.
THE BOOK OF NEGROES by Lawrence Hill | Mali
Another book I loved. I loved it so much that I stayed up late reading it at night. Always a sign of a good book. And when I finished, rather than put it back in the book exchange at the marina, I passed it on to a friend and told her she had to read it too.
The Book of Negroes (you find out why it is named that partway through the book) describes the life of Aminata Diallo who was abducted in West Africa by slave traders, enslaved in South Carolina, eventually gains her freedom, makes her way to Nova Scotia, returns to Sierra Leone in Africa with British abolitionists and finally ends up in London. It's one of those sweeping historical novels that you can't put down.
Although the story takes place in Africa, North America and London, I chose to use it to tick present day Mali off my list as the story starts off there and Aminata's roots in this corner of West Africa and her Bamanan and Fulani heritage infuses the novel.
If you're going to go to South Carolina, you should watch out for the snakes there too.
"With the next line about to come from Georgia, I readied my foot to dig. She began to sing and I put my foot down on a snake. It slithered and hissed and coiled, tongue flickering. I screamed. Fomba flew to my side, sliced down with his hoe and severed the snake's head. Before I could say a word of things, he picked up the head with one hand and the quivering body with the other and tossed them away."You can find out more about The Book of Negroes on Goodreads.
THE MAN TO SEND RAIN CLOUDS by Kenneth Rosen, Ed. | United States
Kenneth Rosen noted a lack of contemporary short stories published by Native American authors in the late 1960s, so he decided to track down writers and collect their stories, the result of which was this collection published in 1974. The authors come from a number of tribes including the Choctaw, Navajo, Pawnee, Otoe-Missouria, Mescalero Apache and various Pueblo peoples.
Probably my favorite story from the collection is Yellow Woman by Leslie Silko, which tells of a young woman who meets a cattle thief, ends up sleeping with him and wonders if he is a ka'tsina spirit from her tribe's legends and history. But, in keeping with my theme of creepy-crawly wee beasties, here's a quote from Opal Lee Popkes' Zuma Chowt's Cave instead.
Would you follow rats in search of water? Did you ever read George Orwell's 1984? If so, you might share my aversion to them, especially in small, confined spaces.
"The rats angled up a burned slope. Chowt followed. They ignored him. He was too far away to be attacked, but close enough to see the hundreds of gray bits of coarse fur, slipping in and out among the rocks, clinging with long tails and claw feet, always upward on the smooth slope, bypassing the boulders, going around the steep upward crags, speckling the side of the hill. They angled back and forth, but their general direction was to the north, from where even Chowt could smell the water."
You can find out more about The Man to Send Rain Clouds on Goodreads.
If you're participating in the challenge too, I'd love to hear what you've been reading. Even if you're not doing the challenge, let us know what books you've been enjoying lately.
COUNTRIES READ TO DATE: Australia, Azerbaijan, the Bahamas, Canada, China, Cuba, England, Ghana, Haiti, Iceland, India, Kenya, Mali, Mexico, North Korea, Norway, Scotland, United States, Vietnam and Zimbabwe.
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