[Top Ten Tuesday] – #117 – Books Set Outside of the USA

Top Ten Tuesday is an original weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish.


This Week’s Theme:
Books Set Outside of the USA

Initial Thoughts:

My repertoire of non-USA (sans Fantasy) settings is quite limited so it is most certainly a repeat of an earlier list probably.

When You Were Here – Daisy Whitney (US/Japan)

daisywhitney_whenyouwerehereHave you heard of “Hello, I Love You” by Katie Stout? The story everyone was pissed about re Korean boy band romance and shit like that? I haven’t read it but I would imagine When You Were Here to be the Japanese version of it. Sort of. Kid’s mom passes away and he goes to Japan because mom has property there, meets manic pixie dream girl owner’s daughter. Now mash in every single stereotype you can think of Japan. There. That is it.

Verdict: hard pass.

The Merit Birds – Kelley Powell (Canada/Laos)

The Merit Birds - Kelley Powell - Book CoverOn the trek to discover Canadian Literature, this book came up on request from NetGalley. The best thing being the culture never dumbing itself down for the protagonist. It does well to incorporate a vibrant landscape of familial traditions with the gritty underbelly of the economy and night life.

Verdict: passable.

Backward Glass – David Lomax (Canada)

david lomax - backward glass (cover)Science-fiction time travel where kids step into mirrors and can go forward/backward in time. Takes place in-and-around the Greater Toronto Area but it’s not too apparent in the setting (such that you could really imagine it as any other city). This was one of my favourite books in 2013 (?).

Verdict: highly recommended.

Shooter – Caroline Pignat (Canada)

Much like Backward Glass, this book does take place in Canada and has mentions of various Canadian institutions and landmarks. It’s a multi-POV school shooting fic with a Breakfast Club comparable; however, you do not get a shooter POV. This was much better than This Is Where It Ends so if you liked that or were disappointed by it (like I was), this story is an alternative.

Verdict: decent, but trigger warning of a school shooting.

The Blackthorn Key – Kevin Sands (London)

blackthorn key - kevin sands - book coverHistorical fiction with apothecaries, explosions, pigeons, and hidden [and interactive] codes that can actually be solved prior to moving forward and having the protagonist solve it for it. It can be read standalone but the sequel is coming out in September. It’s fun, basically, and is arguably my favourite book of 2015.

Verdict: highly recommended.

Barracuda – Christos Tsiolkas (Australia)

christos tsiolkas - barracuda (cover)Read this book during the pre Olympic hype (though it was for Winter Olympics). This book just reiterates my thought that Aussies train their swimmers by throwing them into the critter infested ocean. But anyways, this is a long and arduous book that I don’t recommend unless you’re interested in Aussie culture blended with LGBT themes.

Verdict: only if you’re looking for something Aussie.

In Real Life – Lawrence Tabak (South Korea)

lawrence tabak - in real life (cover)The focus of this story is about the e-Sport / pro-gaming community revolving around a carbon copy of Starcraft/Warcraft. But to me it gets the community aspect (re: toxicity) mostly wrong. Only 1/4 of the book takes place in South Korea and the MC doesn’t really actively try to assimilate himself into the culture and basically bitches about everything (granted it’s a new environment) and romance seems to hijack this story too.

Verdict: hard pass.

Ru – Kim Thuy (Vietnam/Canada)

ru - kim thuy coverAll I will say is that this book won Canada Reads 2015. (Actually, that doesn’t really tell you much if you’re not from Canada.)

It’s a really short and quiet story — you can probably finish it in an hour — about the hardships and small triumphs of the refugee/migrant experience.

Verdict: recommended. It’s told in vignettes re: refugee life.

All The Light We Cannot See – Anthony Doerr (France)

anthony doerr - all the light we cannot seeI feel like I would get destroyed by certain bloggers if I didn’t include this book on my list and/or on my radar to be read because reasons. You know who you are.

Verdict: still have not read but hype.

Station Eleven – Emily St. John Mandel (Canada)

I have no words for why I haven’t read this.


Now if we open this prompt to the fantastical…I can surely make a list of all Fantasies with Russian-inspired settings.


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8 thoughts on “[Top Ten Tuesday] – #117 – Books Set Outside of the USA”

  1. I will get to All the Light we Cannot See eventually. I’ve been reading a lot more historical fiction so this book should be a hit for me. I also love the sound of Backward Glass and I don’t think I’ve read a book based in Toronto so that’s a bonus in itself. 😀


  2. Ru sounds SO interesting. I think given the recent… world events, I’ve been more and more curious about the refugee/migrant experience and the myriad of ways these stories are told. It’s good to hear that it’s short and quiet – there’s something peaceful about reading books like that, I think.

    RE: All The Light We Cannot See – I also haven’t read it. The hype is intimidating. 😛


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