20 January 2018

Saturday Spotlight | Around The World In 80 Books, Update #14

In addition to the usual blog posts every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday about our eccentric travel adventures and day-to-day life living aboard a sailboat, I also occasionally post on Saturdays, focusing on things related to writing such as cover reveals, book launches, reviews, interviews with authors etc. So if you're a bit of a book nerd like I am, check in on Saturdays - you never know what might pop up.


Remember when I started that "Around the World in 80 Books" challenge? The one I was so gung-ho about, but then never finished. Yeah, I had completely forgotten about it too until my mother gave me a reminder. So, while we're land-locked and working on boat projects, I thought this would be a good time to start ticking more countries off of the list.

The idea of the challenge 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 set in five more countries – Cyprus, Mongolia, New Zealand, Spain, and Wales.

That makes a total of 70 books since I started the challenge - only 10 more to go!

You can read more about the challenge here, as well as check out Update #1, Update #2, Update #3, Update #4, Update #5, Update #6, Update #7, Update #8, Update #9, Update #10, Update #11, Update #12, and Update #13.


I always enjoy reading Agatha Raisin cozy mysteries, which are set in Britain. Agatha is one of those main characters who isn't always so likable - she can actually be quite annoying at times - but yet, I'm always curious to see what she gets up to next. In this installment, Agatha is trying to track down her ex-fiance in Cyprus, where they were supposed to be honeymooning. Of course, a fellow tourist ends up getting murdered (it is a cozy mystery, after all) and Agatha is drawn into the investigation while at the same time trying to win back her ex-fiance.

When we lived in Scotland, Scott and I scored one of those last-minute, cheap holiday deals to Cyprus and stayed in a hotel with lots of British tourists, some of whom might qualify as "terrible tourists." There are plenty of terrible tourists in this book too, including Agatha who wonders why everyone can't speak English and thinks the standards aren't quite up to par:
"Soon they were driving off into the ferocious heat along to Lapta and so to the Celebrity Hotel. The hotel is rated four-star, but as Agatha walked into the reception and her jaundiced eye took in the amount of plush and gilt furniture, the chandeliers and the hot noisy carpets, she decided it was Middle Eastern four-star. No one at the reception desk had much English and so it took them some time to discover that Trevor and Angus had just checked out. 'Why can't they get someone who speaks bloody English?' raged Agatha. 'They don't care about tourism in this country.'"
You can find out more about Agatha Raisin and the Terrible Tourist on Goodreads and get your own copy on Amazon.

MORON TO MORON by Tom Doig | Mongolia

I assumed from the title that this wouldn't be a dry, boring travel memoir and I wasn't disappointed. Moron to Moron had me in stitches. Two guys from New Zealand decide to go to Mongolia and bike 920 miles (1,487 kms) from one town called Moron to another town called Moron. Seriously, they're really named Moron. Sounds like a slightly moronic thing to do, doesn't it? Actually, it sounds insane. I think the only way you could do something like this is if you had a great sense of humor, which these two guys do. 

Not only did I enjoy reading about Mongolia through the author's rather irreverent and off-beat point of view, but, after having lived in New Zealand for five years, it was also fun to read a book chock-full of Kiwi-isms and cultural references.

It's also full of helpful pointers, should we ever travel to Mongolia, like buying mystery meat in a can at your own risk, considering the distinct lack of cats to be seen. Correlation or not?
"The whole conversation was a distraction from the matter at hand: what were we going to eat for lunch? We were low on everything. There was a quarter-loaf of two-day-old Tarialan bread, no butter, and we were down to our last can of Russian fish. I don't know who suggested it - I'm going to say Tama - but someone said we should crack out the tin of emergency meat I'd been carrying around since Tsagaan-Uur."
{Word of warning: There's a fair bit of "naughty" language and things get downright raunchy at times. For some folks, that might be a selling point, for others, you may want to steer clear.}

You can find out more about Moron to Moron on Goodreads and get your own copy on Amazon.

IN TOO DEEP (STEWART ISLAND BOOK 1) by Tracey Alvarez | New Zealand

In Too Deep is the first in the Stewart Island romance series. I always wanted to go to Stewart Island when we lived in New Zealand and somehow it never happened. So what better way to "visit" Stewart Island remotely than through a romance novel.

The main character of the book, Piper, returns to Stewart Island to help out with some family issues. While there, she runs into her old boyfriend, West, who she parted with on not-so-good terms. They're still madly attracted to each other, but trying to deny their feelings. While their romantic feeling are sizzling away, Piper tries to help her brother save his dive charter business, which is right up her alley as she's diver with the police on the mainland. She's one tough cookie.
"I'm sick of pulling dead idiots from the water. Guys who think they're so invincible they don't need a lifejacket in an ill-equipped boat - the worst are those who bring innocent kiddies on board and don't bother fitting them with lifejackets either. Or fishermen who are so gun-ho trying to catch the big one they forget how unforgiving the ocean is."

{Word of warning: This isn't a "clean" romance, which doesn't bother me, but might not be your cup of tea.}

You can find out more about In Too Deep on Goodreads and get your own copy on Amazon.

THE SANDS OF TIME by Sidney Sheldon | Spain

I can't remember the last time I read a Sidney Sheldon novel, but it was probably a long time ago. When I saw he had written a novel set in Spain, I went for it because I was feeling in the mood for a bit of retro "beach" read (it was originally published in 1988).  

In the Sands of Time tells the story of four nuns caught up in the tensions between the outlawed Basque separatists and the Spanish army. I enjoyed learning a bit about this period in Spain's history (especially given the current tensions around the issue of Catalonia independence) mixed in with a heaping dose of melodrama and engrossing story-telling. Sheldon hooked me in from the start with this description of the running of the bulls in Pamplona in 1976:
"What followed was an unforgettable spectacle. First came the sound. It started as a faint, distant ripple on the wind, almost imperceptible, and then it grew louder and louder until it became an explosion of pounding hooves, and suddenly bursting into view appeared six oxen and six enormous bulls. Each weighing fifteen hundred pounds, they charged down the Calle Santo Domingo like deadly express trains. Inside the wooden barricades that had been placed at each intersecting street corners were hundreds of eager, nervous young men who intended to prove their bravery by facing the maddened animals."
You can find out more about The Sands of Time on Goodreads and get your own copy on Amazon.
TORCHWOOD: INTO THE SILENCE by Sarah Pinborough | Wales

One of the things I've been trying to do as part of this challenge is read books I normally wouldn't think of picking up. Into the Silence is a great example of this. It's a tie-in to the television series, Torchwood. Never heard of Torchwood? Have you heard of Dr. Who? Of course you have because you don't live in a cave. Torchwood is a spin-off of Dr. Who and is set in Wales. I'm a fan of both shows, so thought I would give Into the Silence a try.

It was an enjoyable, and at times a little scary, story about a series of killings of singers who are participating in the Wales Amateur Operatic Contest in Cardiff. Of course, given this is Torchwood we're talking about, this isn't just any old killer the team needs to track down, but something rather alien in nature. I enjoyed the Welsh setting, mixed in with alien killers, and the ending had a nice twist. It was also fun to read about the Welsh national pride in their singing:
"Barry hummed through his octaves, up and down, over and over. Even just doing something as simple as those exercises, anyone could hear that he had a beautiful voice. It was a true Welshman's voice, full of the natural power of the solid land and valleys that had bred it, hundreds of years of history and courage carried in every tune. There was nothing namby-pamby about the way Barry Llewelyn sang, not like those pancaked West End performers from London."

You can find out more about Torchwood: Into the Silence on Goodreads and get your own copy on Amazon

If you're participating in the challenge too (or any other reading challenge), 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: Afghanistan, Algeria, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, the Bahamas, Bolivia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Botswana, Brazil, Cambodia, Canada, China, Cuba, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Djibouti, England, Estonia, Ethiopia, Egypt, Finland, France, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Grenada, Haiti, Hungary, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Iran, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Kenya, Liberia, Mali, Mexico, Mongolia, New Zealand, Nigeria, North Korea, Norway, Pakistan, Paraguay, Portugal, Republic of Kiribati, Romania, Russia, Samoa, Saudi Arabia,  Scotland, Slovenia, Spain, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Thailand, Turkey, United States, Vanuatu, Vietnam, Wales, and Zimbabwe.

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  1. I'd like to do this challenge one day. It looks like fun. That said, I don't know if I have the time, given my slow rate of reading this year. :-/

    1. You have so much going on that I can't imagine you have any time to read, Misha.

  2. I've read so many books that I've lost count. I'd have to go into my Literary Guild account to see what I've ordered. A lot of really good books.

    Have a fabulous day. ♥

    1. I'm doing the Goodreads challenge this year and tracking everything I read. It's been really interesting to have a record of how much I read and what genres I read.

  3. Ooh, these sound like good reads. I'm thinking "Moron to Moron" might have to be next on my list. I wonder if there is a copy at the library. I've been spending too much on books lately. I cannot imagine living anywhere but my boring, if safe and polite, suburb. At least we have several good ethnic restaurants. Wish we could dine together. Be well!

    1. Moron to Moron is hysterical! I hope you can find it at your library.

      I wish we could dine together too over Indian food. I bet we'd have a blast :-)

  4. My first comment disappeared, which also happens on the Denali Rose blog. Are you two in cahoots against me? I had such a clever comment about Agatha Raisin being like a grown up version of Nancy Drew, except that Nancy is frequently more 'grown up' than Agatha. But then it disappeared and I can't be that witty twice in a row.

    1. Darn! You've figured out our plot to make you frustrated trying to comment on blogs. :-)

      I have that problem all the time, especially when I've taken the time to write out a particularly well thought through comment. Grrr.

      For what it's worth, Nancy is so much more likable than Agatha.

  5. You go, girl! I've never taken a challenge to see how many books I read in a year, but if accepting a challenge resulted in reading more books than I already read, I'd have to give up some unessential activities... like sleeping and eating. :)

  6. This sounds like a fun challenge. I enjoyed this episode of your trip (reading) around the world. Moron to Moron sounds hilarious and I do enjoy a good mystery. Thanks!

    1. It's a fun and interesting challenge. I'm reading so many books that I normally wouldn't have.

  7. I really enjoyed the Sarah Pinbourough novel I read. I need to get around to reading more of her stuff.

    1. Sometimes, if I've read a book I really loved, I torn between wanting to read everything else that author has written vs. finding new writers to adore. So little time, so many books.


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