Read the World: Australia

This Oceanian monster of a country is the sixth largest country in the world. It was inhabited for at least 40,000 years by indigenous tribes, and then Britain happened, and Australia changed forever. It’s a really interesting history, and I love reading books set in this intriguing country. Here are seven books I’ve enjoyed that are set in Australia!

The Rosie Project and the Rosie Effect – Graeme Simsion

The Rosie ProjectThe Rosie effect

This contemporary romance duology is really quirky and funny – it’s the story of Don Tillman (who I believe has Asperger’s?) and his quest to find the perfect romantic partner. I think it’s really refreshing to read a book like this that’s a) not about perfect protagonists, and b) not set in America.

I Am the Messenger – Markus Zusak

I Am the Messenger

This one’s also a contemporary, and it follows the story of an underage taxi driver who is forced to learn the value of selflessness in a creative way…it sounds so lame when I try and explain it! Here’s a post I wrote about it when it was a bit fresher in my memory. This is one of my favourite books though!

Snakehead – Anthony Horowitz

Snakehead

I used to be a huge fan of the Alex Rider series! It’s a ‘middle-grade’ spy series, and I thought it was pretty great. It’s at about this point in the series that things get a little bit maturer. I included it on this list because how many chances do you get to read about the Australian Secret Service? It’s cool!

Wildfire – Chris Ryan

Wildfire

This is a young adult contemporary action novel, and it’s the second book in the ‘Code Red’ series. Again, I was obsessed with these books! In this book, our protagonist is holidaying in Australia when…well, I think it’s self explanatory. It’s such an exciting story, and what I love about this series is that you believe every word (at least, I did.)

Red Centre – Chris Ryan

Red Centre

Why, yes, I did include two Chris Ryan books. I really like his young adult stuff! This book is from another series. called Alpha Force. The series is about a team of five youths who tour the world, fighting injustice. It sounds a little out-there, but you need to give it a chance! This one’s about terrorism in Australia, and I think it also involves fire.

Alone on a Wide, Wide Sea – Michael Morpurgo

Alone on a Wide Wide Sea

This is the only book I’ve read that even touches on Australia’s history. The protagonist is a little English boy who’s shipped off to Australia after World War Two. It tells about his new life in Australia, and how he rises above the situation. This isn’t my favourite Morpurgo book, but it is pretty good!

And that’s all the books I’ve read set in Australia. Have you read any of them? Can you recommend me some more?

Thanks for reading, and have a lovely day!

~Dani

My Favourite Libraries

Libraries are such special places for bookish people, and there are some absolute beauties out there. I’ve decided to throw together a little list of some of my favourites – enjoy!

Public Library – Ruscoe, South Dakota, USA

Ruscoe, SD library

Photo Credit: Huffington Post

How cute is this little thing? Apparently, it was built in the 1930’s by a group of eight women called the Priscilla Embroidery Club. They worked with their husbands to build the library, and then took turns to work as the librarian. Sadly, it closed in 2002, but for a while it was the smallest known library in the States.

Strahov Monastry Library – Prague, Czech Republic

Photo Credit: All That Is Interesting

Photo Credit: All That Is Interesting

How utterly stunning is this? Featuring a section on theology and one on philosophy, this library is rich in not only books, but preserved manuscripts and one fancy gift shop.

Trinity College Library – Ireland

trinity-college-ireland

Photo Credit: Irish Welcome Tours

Not only is this library flipping beautiful, LOOK AT ALL THE BOOKS.This is Ireland’s biggest library, and it’s home to a really famous 800 year old manuscript called ‘Book of Kells’ – written by Celtic monks. I think that’s so cool!

Jay Walker’s Private Library – USA

JW Private Library

Photo Credit: Aaron Tang

Wired called this “the most amazing library in the world”, and I can kind of understand why! It’s absolutely crammed full of not only a tonne of books, but an array of rarities – including a Sputnik, a list of plague mortalities from the 1600’s, and books bound in rubies.

Raza Library – Rampur, India

Raza Library

Photo Credit: Mental Floss

This is some of the most beautiful architecture I’ve ever seen. This library was built just over a hundred years ago, and it used to be a part of a palace (does that surprise you, though?) It’s protected by the Indian government, and is home to a vast collection of manuscripts, hand-written palm leaves and miniature paintings.

So those were a couple of my favourites! Which libraries would you love to visit?

Thanks for reading, and have a lovely day.

~Dani

Places in the Pages: Opéra National de Paris

The Phantom of the Opera (Gaston Leroux) is one of the most famous Parisian stories ever; much of its fame due to the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical adaptation. It’s creepy and dramatic and romantic, and all the things you would want from a tale set in this beast of an opera house:

Paris Opera House front

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

To this day, it still runs a variety of shows, but you can also go for a guided tour. The auditorium is open to the public when it’s not in use, and guys – it’s absolutely stunning.

Paris Opera House Auditorium

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

There’s even a chandelier! Given the history of this place, I’m not sure whether to be happy or concerned.

This building has played more than an aesthetic role in inspiring ‘The Phantom of the Opera’; in the 1890s, the chandelier actually fell and killed a member of the audience. There’s also a legend that a ballerina’s skeleton was found in the building.

The building is open for touring on Wednesdays and weekends, so next time I find myself in Paris, I’m definitely going to pop in and have a snoop around! (More information here)

If you’ve been here, I’d love to hear about your experience!

Thanks for reading, and have a lovely day!

~Dani

Read the World: Eastern Europe

‘Eastern Europe’ is pretty hard to concretely define, but I did find a list of ten countries on Wikipedia, and I decided to roll with that. We’re talking about a culturally rich part of the world, that includes countries like Russia, Ukraine and Romania. Without further ado, let’s get into the books I’ve read that are set in Eastern Europe!

Once & Then

Once &Then by Morris Gleitzman Set in Poland during World War Two, this is a handy compilation of the first two books in the ‘Once’ series. The stories are told from the perspective of a young boy, and they are heartbreaking. While they can’t tell us much about modern-day Poland, they do deal with a really important part of the country’s history.

First Love

First Love by Ivan Turgenev This is a little novella set in Russia, first published in the 1800’s. I love being able to read about other countries through the words of native writers, and this book is fantastic! It’s quick and emotional, and it offers a little insight to the complex world of social propriety at the time.

Zoli

Zoli by Colum McCann Zoli is set in Slovakia, and follows the life of a female gypsy who turns her hand to poetry. It’s a really sad book, but definitely worth a read. Again, this one deals with some more modern history, and the way different people treated the Romany people. It’s a group of people that I don’t think are too well represented in literature, and it was great to learn more about that culture.

Everything is IlluminatedEverything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer This little book is probably the most obscure on the list, but it’s also the only one set in a modern time. This story follows a Jewish American’s journey through Ukraine, looking for his ancestors. The book skips between time periods and methods of story-telling, and it is a really touching and interesting novel. Watch the film too, though, because I like that better.

The only other novel I’ve read set in this area is Dracula (Romania), but it didn’t feel right putting that in! What books set in Eastern Europe can you recommend? Have you read any of the books I mentioned?

Thanks for reading, and have a lovely day!

~Dani

Read the World: South Asia

Today I wanted to talk about a region of the world called South Asia, which is – unsurprisingly – comprised of countries located in the south of Asia. The term usually refers to sub-Himalayan countries like Bangladesh and Nepal.

I’ve collected a list of the very few books I’ve read set in these countries, and thought I’d share them here!

The Kite Runner

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini Set in Afghanistan, this book is a bildungsroman that follows the life of an Afghan boy called Amir. The book works through contemporary issues of religion, totalitarianism and violence in the country, while weaving a movingly beautiful story. I first had to read this book as part of my English course at sixth form, and it’s a really rich and interesting book to get your teeth into. I gave it five stars!

The Little Coffee Shop of Kabul

The Little Coffee Shop of Kabul – Deborah Rodriguez Also set in Afghanistan, this book follows a mixture of Western and Afghan characters in their various walks of life. It does explore the conflict and corruption of the country, but there is also an emphasis on the beauty and adventure that thrives in that part of the world. The book focuses especially on the place of women in the Islamic society, and I found it really interesting to see it through the changing narratives. Another five star novel!

Blood Money (CR)

Blood Money – Chris Ryan This is the seventh in the ‘Alpha Force’ series, which I loved between the ages of 11 and 14.The premise is that a group of teenagers find themselves in various situations across the globe and have to fight for justice/safety/The Right Thing – for example in this book, the team are confronted with the illegal trade of human body parts in India. It’s an exciting read that gives a basic insight into a many-layered country. I gave it four stars.

Breakfast with the Nikolides

Breakfast with the Nikolides – Rumer Godden While this book didn’t completely float my boat, I did really enjoy the insight that discovering a country through a Westerner’s eyes divulges. The story revolves around a family who have had to move to India from France, and it’s interesting to see how the different family members cope with the change in climate, culture and company. I gave it three stars.

Life of Pi

Life of Pi – Yann Martel This is probably the best-known book in the list! The sole human survivor of a tragic shipwreck, our Indian protagonist – Pi – finds himself drifting on a life-boat in the middle of the ocean. With a tiger. While it’s not really set in India for the most part, it does offer some insights into the religious and societal diversity present. Also it’s just quite a nice story. I gave it four stars.

Battleground (CR)

Battleground – Chris Ryan Next up is another Chris Ryan book: this one is part of the ‘Code Red’ series, in which British protagonist Ben gets thrown into a multitude of crazy adventures abroad. This book is set during his school exchange trip to Pakistan, where the poor lad manages to get himself tangled in a Taliban plot to kill hundreds of people. Obviously the story is heavily centred around the violence and conflict in the country, but I felt like it made the effort to portray a fairer view of the country. I gave this one four stars.

That’s all for my books set in South Asia – have you read any of these? Are there any books set in this region that you’ve enjoyed?

Thanks for reading, and have a lovely day!

~Dani

 

Italy

Travelling is really expensive, so at the moment the only realistic way for me to learn about other cultures and the world at large is through novels and other forms of media. That’s why I like this feature so much: I get to put books and stories into clear categories that build up the way I – and we – see our planet.

On that note, today I want to talk about books I’ve read that are set in Italy!

The Mozart Question – Michael Morpurgo This is a gorgeous short story about a mysterious violinist. It’s set in the streets of Venice and, despite its brevity, paints a magical picture of the setting. I loved this story.

Romeo and Juliet – William Shakespeare This is kind of a cheat because Shakespeare almost certainly knew very little about the place he was writing about, and the story – being a play – doesn’t do much for us in the way of setting. That said, I left it in my list partly because it’s beautiful and I love it, and partly because of the lasting effect it’s had on Verona. Just look at all the letters that get left at ‘Juliet’s House’!

Casa di Guilietta

 

A Room With A View – EM Forster I’ve already written a post talking about the gorgeous locations featured in this lovely romance novel. The book highlights the more tourist-y side of Florence, which I think is a really interesting – and probably important! – angle.

Scorpia – Anthony Horowitz The fifth in Horowitz’s young adult ‘Alex Rider’ series, the plot follows teen-aged spy on a school trip in Venice. Here we get an insight into (fictional) criminal organisations and a few more tourist-friendly sites. It’s a fun book, but not necessarily a go-to for Italian culture.

The Thief Lord – Cornelia Funke I love this book! A magic-realism-filled children’s novel about two boys who run away to Venice. They make friends with street children and learn about a whole different side of the city.

Trafficked: The Terrifying True Story of a British Girl Forced into the Sex Trade – Sophie Hayes On a more sombre note, this is the autobiography of a British girl who was tricked into moving to Italy with a man she thought loved her, only to find herself forced into prostitution. This is an insight into the dark side that every country has, and while tragic I don’t think it’s something we can ignore.

That’s all for books I’ve read about Italy! Have you read any of these, and are there any you can recommend?

Thanks for reading, and have a lovely day!

~Dani

Invictus

For those of you who don’t know, I spent the last two weeks in South Africa! It was an amazing experience, and a big part of this was learning about some of the history of the country. We visited the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg, and one thing that really stood out to me was a quote from the William Ernest Henley poem that Nelson Mandela read during his jail time.

It’s a testament to the power of language; words strengthen the spirit. Here’s an excerpt of the famous poem:

In the fell clutch of circumstance

I have not winced nor cried aloud.

Under the bludgeonings of chance

My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Places in the Pages: A Room With a View

A Room With a View (E.M. Forster) is such a beautiful book, and is set both in Florence and England during Edwardian times. This post is going to describe the locations in Florence, Italy.

First up is ‘Pensione Bertolini’, which has since been closed and re-opened as Hotel degli Orafi. It’s a beautiful 4-star hotel in a Florentine building that dates back to the thirteenth century!

Hotel degli Orafi

If you’re familiar with the novel, you’ll recall the importance of some very famous attractions, like the statue of the Grand Duke of Ferdinand.

Grand Duke Ferdinand Statue

There’s also the Santa Croce Church; whose building dates to the thirteenth century, although the facade was built far more recently. It looks gorgeous!

Santa Croce

I’m desperate to go to Florence! If you’ve been, I’d love to hear about how you found it. What’s on your bookish travel list?

Thanks for reading, and have a lovely day!

~Dani

Places in the Pages: Pride and Prejudice

In this new series of posts, I’ll be detailing what is basically my travel hit-list. I’ve collected a lot of locations that either appear in books, or have been a part of a movie adaptation.

Today’s post is about Joe Wright’s film adaptation of Pride and Prejudice (2005)There are some stunning locations that I’m just itching to visit in person!

  • Pictured is Chatsworth House (AKA, the Darcy residence). This stately home really is situated in Derbyshire, and offers a variety of activities and services (including weddings!). You can stay in one of their holiday cottages, or in one of the hotels on the estate. It blows my mind that people actually live there!

Chatsworth House

  • If it’s the ‘Bennett residence’ you fancy, try Groombridge Place. Again, these guys put on lots of events, and they have some award-winning gardens for you to stroll through. It looks absolutely stunning.

Groomsbridge House

  • And finally, sometimes you just want to stand on a dramatic rock formation and squint wistfully into the wind. You can stand where Lizzie stood! Just pop over to Stanage Edge. This is a breath-takingly beautiful bit of English countryside, not limited to handy cliff-tops for perusing.

Stanage Edge

Those are my Pride and Prejudice Locations! (Hint: click on the photos to see the sources!) I think they’re gorgeous – if you’ve already been, let me know what you thought!

Do you have a book-related travel wish-list?

Thanks for reading, and have a lovely day!

~Dani

World Cup Inspired: Brazil

I wasn’t planning on featuring Brazil here as I’ve actually only read two relevant books, both of which are written by the same author, but in the light of that devastating defeat last night…

Brazil! The fifth largest country in the world, home to one of the seven wonders and 25% of the world’s rain-forests, Brazil sounds like the sort of place you’d want to base your novel in.

The books I’m going to mention are:

A Company of Swans – Eva Ibbotson Set in the early twentieth century, this YA novel follows Harriet Morton, who sneaks away from home against her father’s wishes in order to join the ballet in the Amazon. It’s gripping and romantic and beautifully written – one of the easiest five stars I’ve ever given.

Journey to River Sea – Eva Ibbotson Another easy five stars; written for a slightly younger audience, this one follows English orphan Maia who is sent to live with her family in the Amazon. This fairy-tale-esque story is magical and beautiful and a really quick read.

If you’ve read either of these books – or anything by Eva Ibbotson – I’d love to hear your thoughts!

What other books set in Brazil can you recommend to me?

Thanks for reading, and have a lovely day!

~Dani