Category Archives: Around the World in 80 Books

Review – The Meeting Point – Lucy Caldwell

the meeting pointThe Meeting Point
Author: Lucy Caldwell
Challenge: ATW80 – Bahrain

When Euan and Ruth set off with their young daughter to live in Bahrain, it is meant to be an experience and adventure they will cherish. But on the night they arrive, Ruth discovers the truth behind the missionary work Euan has planned and feels her world start to crumble. Far from home, and with events spiralling towards war in nearby Iraq, she starts to question her faith – in Euan, in their marriage and in all she has held dear.

With Euan so often away, she is confined to their guarded compound with her neighbours and, in particular, Noor, a troubled teenager recently returned to Bahrain to live with her father. Confronted by temptations and doubt, each must make choices that could change all of their lives for ever. Compelling, passionate and deeply resonant, The Meeting Point is a novel about idealism and innocence, about the unexpected turns life can take and the dangers and chances that await us.

I have to admit that I was looking forward to reading this book when I picked it for my Around the World in 80 books challenge. Over the last 8 years in the military, I have had the opportunity to visit Bahrain several times (and loved every visit), so I was really looking forward to reading a book set there and seeing how much I recognized of the country. Unfortunately, I was disappointed with the result. The vast majority of the book (probably about 75%) was set in the compound where Ruth and Euan were staying while in Bahrain. Now I know that recently Bahrain hasn’t been the safest place in the world to be, but prior to the “Arab Spring” as it is called, it was a great place to visit. There was so much to do and see. so the fact that there was really only one place highlighted that was visited during the book (the Tree of Life), it was like, oh well, she can google – that’s awesome…maybe I am being too harsh, but it always sucks when you are looking forward to reading something and it is disappointing. Ruth, as a character just pissed me off (sorry for the expletive), she was like a doormat to Euan – I guess she was supposed to be the submissive wife – but she wasn’t even that…she just drove me nuts.

The aspect of the religion in the book didn’t bother me that much, because I was able to see where it was heading. But it is still fustrating to see that in the 21st century, people still believe in trying to convert others to their beliefs – yes, I know – I shouldn’t be surprised, but it is still fustrating. Especially in middle eastern countries like Bahrain and Saudi Arabia (where some of the characters actions took place without every actually being there). The mystery as to what was going on with the Bahraini girl (Noor), seemed under developed and just thrown in for some conflict and to add another character for interaction purposes.

I would have a hard time recommending this book to anyone and I know that I won’t be looking at any of her stuff in the future. I am actually considering possibly looking into another book on Bahrain to replace this one because I was so disappointed.

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Posted by on December 19, 2012 in Around the World in 80 Books, Book Review


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Review – Weeding the Flowerbeds – Sarah Mkhonza

Weeding the Flowerbeds
Author: Sarah Mkhonza

Book Description:
Weeding the Flowerbeds is a memoir of boarding school at Manzini Nazarene High School in Swaziland, a country in Southern Africa. In this book Sarah explores life in the boarding school at Manzini Nazarene High School, a school that produced many graduates. She explores life in an educational institution where growing up is takes place under strict hostel rules in the seventies. As young Swazi girls Bulelo, Sisile and Makhosi grow up learning about life and Christianity. They learn to love school and also to appreciate writing and literature. All the time they feel as if they are being pushed in a certain direction and it is one of the teachers Mr. Fields and others who come to the school and make them understand the importance of choosing to be free in ones spirit. With all that education they leave the school and go and live their lives

As I continue my around the world in reading travels, I’ve found it harder and harder to find books for some of the more random countries. Swaziland is one of those countries – no, not Switzerland (I swear, I can spell), but Swaziland, a small country in southern Africa. But when I was browsing other blogs, I found someone else doing an around the world challenge and she also read this book as part of her challenge. It wasn’t an easy book to find (I eventually had to cave and buy it from Amazon), but it was an interesting read.

A fictionalized memoir of three girls in a church run boarding school, it details their adventures over several years, as they progress through the levels prior to graduation. I liked the idea of the book, however, to me the execution was lacking. There was quite a bit of redundancy in the writing (repeating the same information in multiple places in the same chapter) and some times where what is being said is contradicted in the next paragraph (for example, in one paragraph she is doing push-ups, then talking about how she did the best in that set of sit-ups and then back to talking about push-ups). I think this is something that a good editor could have fixed – but as the author is a professor herself, I don’t know how much it was edited prior to release. I do find it interesting that there are very few reviews for the book out there (zero on Amazon, 1 on goodreads – aside from mine).

I think this is a good read if someone is interested in learning about life in the smaller African countries and the role that the various religious organizations have played in the developing nations. however, because of issues that I had with it, I can’t give it more than 2 stars.

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Posted by on October 30, 2012 in Around the World in 80 Books, Book Review


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Reading Around the World

Sometime last year (but I can’t remember when), I posted an update about my goal to read around the world. It was a challenge for one of my goodreads groups and I have slowly been plugging away at it. Today I sat down to take a look at my tally. In the last 20 months, I have read books set in 113 countries around the world. Some of them have been relatively easy reads and others more in depth (I now have a new appreciation for the Russian authors after reading some of their stuff). My goal is to keep reading until I hit every single country.

The map of my travels looks something like this (the blue is the countries I have visited in my reading travels):

Reading Around the World
Make yours @

This goal has also made me think about places I would love to visit. Being in the Navy, I have had the opportunity to travel to many different places – from Jordan and Oman to Italy and Spain. I have even crossed the equator and become a Shellback – an age old tradition. But there are so many other places I would love to visit – mostly in the Asia/South America area, since I really haven’t been to many of those yet.

What about everyone out there? If you could visit any one place in the world what would it be? What is one place you wouldn’t want to visit?


Posted by on May 24, 2012 in Around the World in 80 Books



Review: Wave of Terror

Wave of Terror
Wave of Terror by Theodore Odrach

This was a hard book to rate because it was very well-written and about an interesting topic (the soviet invasion of Belarus in 1940-41). So to just say I liked it, it was very good etc, sounds wrong. In fact, I don’t think I am going to rate it for that very reason.

The book focuses on a headmaster of a school in Belarus which has recently become part of Russia and the politics involved in that – the fact that the kids at the school don’t speak Russian or Belorussian (they speak Ukranian), but teachers are not allowed to teach them in that language. The fear of the people of the NKVD coming to take them away in the Black Crow. What was interesting to me was the fact that this was set during the height of WW2 and yet there are no mention of it during the book, which to me goes to show that just because something is declared to be a world war, it isn’t necessarily.

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Posted by on March 3, 2012 in Around the World in 80 Books


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Review: The Ponds of Kalambayi

The Ponds of Kalambayi
The Ponds of Kalambayi by Mike Tidwell
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Around the World in 80 Books – Country #3 Democratic Republic of the Congo (then called Zaire)

With my goal this year of reading another 80 books set in 80 different countries (contining from last year) – I am at the stage where I am getting into the harder countries to find and read. So finding various peace corps memoirs set in these countries is an easy and interesting way to hit some of them. Tidwell’s Ponds of Kalambayi is no exception. Recalling his experinences as a peace corps volunteer in Zaire, he recounts his experiences establishing the fish farming program. It brings new meaning to the saying, give a man a fish, feed him for a day, teach a man to fish, feed him for a lifetime.

Through-out the book, I was struck by how lucky all of us who live in the US are – even those who are the poorest of the poor – because compared to the people of Kalambayi, they are still rich. These are the people who may only have 10 cents in their pocket at any given time; people who rinse their mouths with gasoline for a tooth ache because there is no established medical care and yet, the people who are willing to give about half of their fish harvest (20-30lbs) to their extended family and neighbours because that is what they do.

Overall an interesting read and I see that Tidwell has written some non-memoirs, so I might check those out in the future.

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Posted by on October 28, 2011 in Around the World in 80 Books, Book Review


Around the World in 80 Books – Part Deux

Last year I participated in a reading challenge on called Around the World in 80 books. It was an interesting experience in that I read many books, I normally would not have picked up and it really made me stretch my boundaries and comfort zone at times.

At the end of the 2011 challenge (September 30, 2011), I had read books set in the following countries (the titles are next to the country name):

Botswana – The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency
Cameroon – Mango Elephants in the Sun: How Life in an African Village Let Me Be in My Skin
Cote D’ivoire – Aya
Egypt – Death on Tour
Ghana – Wife of the Gods: A Novel
Kenya – Out of Africa
Libya – In the Country of Men
Mauritius – The Last Brother
Morocco – The Caliph’s House: A Year in Casablanca
Nigeria – Tiny Sunbirds, Far Away
Rwanda – Baking Cakes in Kigali
Sierra Leone – A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier
South Africa – Cape Greed
Uganda – Waiting: A Novel
Zambia – Mrs. Pollifax on Safari
Zimbabwe – Out of Shadows

China – Mao’s Last Dancer
India – The Case of the Missing Servant
Indonesia – The Persimmon Tree
Japan – The Housekeeper and the Professor
Kazakhstan – Woman in Exile: My Life in Kazakhstan
Korea – The Surrendered
Laos – The Coroner’s Lunch
Malaysia – A Most Peculiar Malaysian Murder
Mongolia – Warrior
Nepal – The Kid Who Climbed Everest: The Incredible Story of a 23-Year-Old’s Summit of Mt. Everest
Uzbekistan – Private Wars
Vietnam – Matterhorn: A Novel of the Vietnam War

Australia – The Story of Danny Dunn
Kiribati – The Sex Lives of Cannibals: Adrift in the Equatorial Pacific
New Zealand – Tommo and Hawk

Cuba – The Surrender Tree: Poems of Cuba’s Struggle for Freedom
Dominica – Wide Sargasso Sea
Puerto Rico – The Time It Snowed in Puerto Rico

Albania – Chronicle in Stone: A Novel
Austria – Portrait of Seduction
Belgium – 11 Days in December: Christmas at the Bulge, 1944
Bosnia-Herzogovenia – The Cellist of Sarajevo
Denmark – One, Two … He is coming for you
England – Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict
Finland – Snow Angels
France – Unmasqued: An Erotic Novel of The Phantom of The Opera
Germany – The Reader and The Vanishing of Katharina Linden: A Novel
Greece – Oh. My. Gods.
Greenland – Cold Earth
Hungary – The Darkest Whisper
Iceland – Frozen Assets
Ireland – Here Be Dragons
Italy – Nicholas
Latvia – The Dogs of Riga
Lithuania – Between Shades of Gray
Malta – The Information Officer
the Netherlands – The Hiding Place
Norway – Don’t Look Back
Poland – Yossel, April 19, 1943
Portugal – A Small Death in Lisbon
Russia – Eye of the Red Tsar: A Novel of Suspense
Scotland – Spell of the Highlander
Spain – Miracle in Seville
Sweden – The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Ukraine – The Rose of Sebastopol
Vatican City – The Secret Cardinal
Wales – Goddess of the Sea

Latin America/ South America
Argentina – Brava, Valentine
Belize – No Souvenirs
Brazil – Blood of the Wicked
Chile – The Killer’s Tears
Paraguay – The News from Paraguay
Peru – Bel Canto

Middle East:
Afghanistan – The Kite Runner
Iran – Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood
Israel – Drawing in the Dust
Jordan – Mrs. Pollifax, Innocent Tourist
Pakistan – An Act of Treason
Saudi Arabia – Finding Nouf: A Novel
Syria – Mrs. Pollifax Unveiled

North America:
Canada – Love Bites
Mexico – White Heat
United States – Speak

Antarctica – In Cold Pursuit: A Mystery From The Last Continent

So this year, I decided to continue my trip around the world. My official thread for tracking my trip can be found here. But i’ll also try to blog my trip as I go here.

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Posted by on October 5, 2011 in Around the World in 80 Books