Tag Archives: Global reading challenge

Global Reading Challenge ~ Country # 131) Norway

A couple weeks ago I was in Sainsbury’s picking up a few DVD’s for work & saw a couple books that really caught my attention. The Leopard was one of them. After buying it I discovered that it is part of a series, but I didn’t want to wait to read it, so thought I’d throw caution to the wind & read it anyway. I am so glad that I did!!

In the depths of winter, two young women are found dead, both drowned in their own blood. Inspector Harry Hole, deeply traumatised by an investigation that threatened the lives of those he holds most dear, initially wants nothing to do with the case but his instincts take over when a prominent MP is found brutally murdered. The victims appear completely unconnected to one another, but it’s not long before Harry makes a discovery: the women all spent the night in the same isolated mountain hostel. And someone is picking off the guests, one by one…

The Leopard is the 8th book in a series about Norwegian detective Harry Hole & the first Jo Nesbo book I have read. Admittedly it probably would have been best to have started with Nesbo’s first book, but when I see a new book I like the look of – I buy it. At the time I didn’t know it was part of a series & when I do discover this, often I would rather read what I’ve bought than go out & track down the beginning of the series & wait to read the book I just bought. ‘Cause the thing is, I bought the book in the first place because I needed something to read, not because I wanted to stockpile a bunch of books that are “waiting” to be read.

Luckily for me, The Leopard is one of the rare books in a series that while yes, you probably should read them in order, it isn’t the end of the world if you don’t. Nesbo does mention things that happened in The Snowman (in fact, the character The Snowman is also in this book), but Nesbo writes The Leopard in such a way that reading it before reading The Snowman, doesn’t ruin The Snowman by telling you the critical parts of the story in flashbacks.

The story begins in Hong Kong, where Harry has disappeared to after closing the case on The Snowman. He’s now an unbelievably broken man, intent on killing himself through abuse of alcohol & drugs. Kaja Solness travels to Hong Kong to bring Harry back to Norway to help solve 2 grisly murders – and unfortunately that is all that I can say about the book without giving anything away. Believe me, this book is far too good to have me ruin it for you by talking about what happens in the story. Nesbo’s writing style is gritty & at times gruesome – you’re either going to love it, or hate it. Personally, I loved it & now I need to go buy the rest of the series……..


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Global Reading Challenge ~ Country # 47) Denmark

For some unexplained reason I had a really bad case of apathy toward reading this book. For about a week I shuttled it back & forth with me to work & barely got past the first chapter. Unfortunately, that apathy lead to me missing a really important part of this book & I ended up pretty confused once I got into it, until I figured out where I had gone wrong. I think that while Mercy does begin slowly, it has to, to give you some pretty vital information about the characters, to enable the story to move faster the further you get into it.

Once I got through the beginning (& it was by no means a badly written beginning, I think I was just in the wrong frame of mind to be reading it) this book flew & I absolutely loved it!

Mercy is set in Copenhagen & introduces us to Carl Morck, a badly damaged police officer. Morck, while damaged, isn’t a caricature of a “Typical damaged police officer”, he’s a very well written, intelligent, broken man who happens to be a brilliant police officer. Morck has been hand picked by his bosses to run the newly formed Department Q – the Danish Cold Case Squad. He’s given about a dozen hand-picked cases, a questionable assistant & let go to run the department. He knows that this is just politics & his boss’s way of getting Morck out of his hair.

The case Morck picks to investigate first is that of Merette Lynggaard, who vanished 5 years earlier & is presumed dead. Morck halfheartedly begins searching for clues to Merette’s disappearance, while wondering whether he should be bothering.

Mercy is a scary story, I have to say, and an excellent who-done-it! I did figure out the plot very very early on, but I think that only made it better. I think in my case it also made the story all the more intense. I knew who did it (without having to read the back of the book) & spent the rest of the story enjoying Adler-Olsen’s fantastic writing & trying to figure out what the next twist in the story would be, anticipating how he would get me to the point where the perpetrator would be revealed.

I don’t often like stories that are told from multiple points of view, but Mercy was & it couldn’t have been done better! Adler-Olsen managed to make Merette’s chapters both heart-wrenching & riveting, making you wish you weren’t about to leave her when you got to the end of her chapters & Morck’s are filled with angst, laced with humour & a very peculiar Syrian assistant named Assad. I also loved the way that Adler-Olsen wove the two stories together – Merette’s beginning in the past, slowing working its way to the present where it collides with Morck & Assad.

Mercy is apparently Adler-Olsen’s first foray into mystery novels & all I can say is “Wow! What a debut!”


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Global Reading Challenge ~ Country # 80) Iran

Synopsis from the back of the book:

“Aged 16, Marina Nemat was arrested for reasons she didn‘t understand and taken to Evin, Tehran’s notorious prison. Her world was about to change forever.

Marina was interrogated, tortured and finally sentenced to death. At the last moment, her prison guard snatched her from the firing-squad bullets but demanded a shocking price in return: marriage to him and conversion to Islam. She spent her time in jail as his secret bride, always hoping she would be able to go home and be free of her horrific memories of Evin.”

Prisoner of Tehran was suggested to me as my read for Iran by a fellow Canadian expat & I am so glad that I took her advice and read this book. Prisoner of Tehran is the story of Marina Nemat (nee Moradi-Bakht), a Christian Iranian who was arrested for daring to stand up to the barbaric rule of Ayatollah Khomeini.

Nemat says at the beginning of the book that “although this is a work of non-fiction, I have changed names to protect the identities of my cellmates, and I have added the details of other prisoners’ stories to theirs, merging lives and reshaping them. This has enabled me to safely tell of life and death behind the walls of Evin and remain true to what we went through, without putting anyone in danger or invading anyone’s privacy…”  And what a story it is!

I found Prisoner of Tehran to be a very easy, but very engaging read (if one could call reading such terrible things easy, that is). Being a pampered, free westerner, I can hardly fully understand what Nemat was put through – if I don’t like my government (which I don’t at the moment), then I know that I have the right to speak out about them & know that no one will come to my home, arrest me, torture me, then put me in front of a firing squad. For this, I am glad that I am a pampered westerner! I cannot imagine having to live with someone knowing that they saved your life & now consider you their property, that you are there to satisfy their needs. I think what would be worse would be feeling like you had sold out by giving up on what you in your heart believe in (your faith) & knowing that the man who “saved” you really believes that because you spoke out, you deserved to die.

I understand that Nemat has received a fair amount of criticism, with other Evin prisoners saying the book is a lie, but lie or not (& I choose to believe that it is what Nemat say it is), I think it is a book that all pampered westerners should read. I think a lot more of us would appreciate our freedom much more than we already do!


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Global Reading Challenge ~ Country # 9) Australia

The Rabbit Proof Fence was recommended to me as my choice for Australia, by an Australian. Based on my limited knowledge of the subject, I eagerly accepted the recommendation & ordered the book from Amazon.co.uk. A couple of days later the book arrived & I have to say, I was shocked at how thin the book was. This is such an emotive subject & I didn’t really understand how such a short book could do the subject any justice.

The Rabbit Proof Fence (or Follow the Rabbit Proof Fence as it was called before Hollywood decided to make a movie about it & the title got changed to match the movie – I hate when they do that!) is the story of 3 children, ranging in age from 8 to 15, who escaped from the Moore River Native Settlement and spend almost 9 weeks trekking through Western Australia, along the rabbit proof fence, in an attempt to return to their families in Jigalong.

The white Australian government, in acts of parliament, created a policy whereby “Half-caste” (Aboriginal children with white fathers) children were ripped from their families, often at a very young age, and were taken to live in settlements under the auspice that it was for their good, as being the offspring of white men they were considered smarter than full blood Aboriginal children & therefore should be given a proper education & set on the path of becoming domestic servants to white station managers/families.

I have yet to see the movie (I do intend to, even though I very often avoid movies that have been adapted from books), but I do hope that it is better than the book. I have spent quite a few hours reading reviews of the book (and movie) to see if anyone else feels/felt the way I do about the book. I am sure that this could have been an amazing story of resilience, perseverance & triumph – but I came away from this book with a distinct feeling of disappointment. The Rabbit Proof Fence barely scratches the surface of what these girls achieved & skims over just about everything that was of interest within the story. I don’t feel as though I learned anything by reading The Rabbit Proof Fence, other than the fact that 3 girls spent 2 days at the Moore River Native Settlement, escaped & walked for almost 9 weeks through the Australian bush, surviving on handouts from people they met along they way.

There, I’ve just saved you from needing to read The Rabbit Proof Fence………..


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Global Reading Challenge ~ Country # 38) Colombia

I only learned of Ingrid Betancourt a few years before she was rescued from captivity at the hands of the FARC & I am more than willing to admit that I wept for joy the day it was announced she had been liberated! When I learned that she had written an account of her time in the jungle with the FARC, I just knew that her book had to be my choice for Colombia, for my Global reading challenge.

It took me a while to read this (almost a month), which resulted in lots of questions from my OH about whether I was enjoying it or not, lol. I did enjoy it, if that is a sentiment that can be attached to a book like this? Even Silence Has an End tells of the 6+ years (and a bit before) that Ingrid was in the hands of the FARC. She faced brutality like most of us have never even imagined, forced to live like an animal, subject to the whims of her captors/tormentors & survived with her dignity & sanity intact (something I am not so sure I could manage).

Ingrid begins the story detailing one of her many escape attempts, where she and Clara Rojas escape from the cage they’ve been forced to live in, into the Colombian jungle during a storm. They escape for a few hours, only to be re-captured & subjected to what can only be called torture. Over her time in the hands of the FARC Ingrid escapes 5 times, each time only to be caught & returned, each time to be subjected to verbal, mental & often physical abuse. After her final attempt she & her fellow escapee are made to wear chains around their necks 24hrs a day & are chained to a tree at all times, unless they are marching.

Throughout this wonderful book Ingrid is very self critical, always saying that she could have handled situations better, that she let her pride get in the way, that she was stubborn, etc. I think it would have been so easy to have slipped into the “This is what I was put through & aren’t I great for having survived it?” mentality, but she didn’t. She readily admits that in the jungle the captives all let their greed get the best of them – greed for the best piece of meat, the biggest portion of rice, the least awful place to hang their hammock, and that she was not immune to this.

There are parts of this book where Ingrid almost seems as though she was happy, like when she was learing to weave, but that happiness was always bloodied by the knowledge that her children were growing up without their mother, her husband was with someone else,  her parents were getting older & the knowledge that she may not survive this hell she was caught up in. Betancourt tells her story using beautiful language to describe the jungle, and a candour about her ordeal that I fear has not won her many fans amongst her fellow captives.

She readily admits to the hostility that was present a lot of the time in the camps, and that she contributed to that tension, but I also believe that she was treated worse than some of the other captives (& was treated worse by some of the captives), because of who she was & the fact that the French Government was involved in the negotiations for her release. There have been at least 2 other books written by people who were captive at the same time (& often in the same camp) as Ingrid & I understand that some of them paint a not too flattering picture of Betancourt. To that end, I think that she has shown herself to be the better woman, as she refrains from slinging barbs about the people she was captive with.

Having read Even Silence Has an End, I do want to read the other accounts. I do know that no matter what is written in them, I will have much respect & admiration for Ingrid Betancourt – for what she went through & for the dignity she maintained both during captivity & since her release. If you read just one biography in your lifetime, please make it this one!


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