This Week’s Theme:
Books That Take Place
In Another Country
So I wasn’t sure how to go about this prompt. At first, I thought the prompt wanted to consider books set outside of North America (or USA, specifically)–and that’s supposed to be…fun, I guess, to find books not set in the Americas. But then I was wondering if it was asking if the plot takes place in the past/future to where the narrator currently is?
But those two might be the same…? So I’m going to look at books that I have read that, for the majority, are set outside of North America without being too otherworldly (e.g. set in space).
Books Set In Other Countries I’ve Read
The Blackthorn Key (Kevin Sands)
Until he got that cryptic warning, Christopher Rowe was happy, learning how to solve complex codes and puzzles and creating powerful medicines, potions, and weapons as an apprentice to Master Benedict Blackthorn—with maybe an explosion or two along the way.
But when a mysterious cult begins to prey on London’s apothecaries, the trail of murders grows closer and closer to Blackthorn’s shop. With time running out, Christopher must use every skill he’s learned to discover the key to a terrible secret with the power to tear the world apart.
I haven’t featured this story in a while. This is a MG that reads like YA, with great puzzles, an indomitable friendship, and plenty of explosions to go around. Also a pet pigeon so…
The Children Of Men (P. D. James)
The human race has become infertile, and the last generation to be born is now adult. Civilization itself is crumbling as suicide and despair become commonplace. Oxford historian Theodore Faron, apathetic toward a future without a future, spends most of his time reminiscing. Then he is approached by Julian, a bright, attractive woman who wants him to help get her an audience with his cousin, the powerful Warden of England. She and her band of unlikely revolutionaries may just awaken his desire to live . . . and they may also hold the key to survival for the human race.
How dare I throw in an pretentious “academic” book? WELL I DID, SO.
Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue (Mackenzi Lee)
Henry “Monty” Montague was born and bred to be a gentleman, but he was never one to be tamed. The finest boarding schools in England and the constant disapproval of his father haven’t been able to curb any of his roguish passions—not for gambling halls, late nights spent with a bottle of spirits, or waking up in the arms of women or men.
But as Monty embarks on his Grand Tour of Europe, his quest for a life filled with pleasure and vice is in danger of coming to an end. Not only does his father expect him to take over the family’s estate upon his return, but Monty is also nursing an impossible crush on his best friend and traveling companion, Percy.
Look no further to wanderlust and shenanigans.
When You Were Here (Daisy Whitney)
Now Danny is left alone, with only his memories, his dog, and his heart-breaking ex-girlfriend for company. He doesn’t know how to figure out what to do with her estate, what to say for his Valedictorian speech, let alone how to live or be happy anymore.
When he gets a letter from his mom’s property manager in Tokyo, where she had been going for treatment, it shows a side of his mother he never knew. So, with no other sense of direction, Danny travels to Tokyo to connect with his mother’s memory and make sense of her final months, which seemed filled with more joy than Danny ever knew. There, among the cherry blossoms, temples, and crowds, and with the help of an almost-but-definitely-not Harajuku girl, he begins to see how it may not have been ancient magic or mystical treatment that kept his mother going. Perhaps, the secret of how to live lies in how she died.
While there are moments that gave me grief for its “let’s pick all the popular Japanese cultural trends and look at via Western gaze“, at least it tried…?
Shooter (Caroline Pignat)
A lockdown catches five grade 12 students by surprise and throws them together in the only unlocked room on that empty third floor wing: the boys’ washroom. They sit in silence, judging each other by what they see, by the stories they’ve heard over the years. Stuck here with them–could anything be worse?
I’m cheating a bit for this one because I thought this was a much better multi-POV school shooting book than This Is Where It Ends that takes place at a Canadian school.
The Merit Birds (Kelley Powell)
Eighteen-year-old Cam Scott is angry. He s angry about his absent dad, he s angry about being angry, and he s angry that he has had to give up his Ottawa basketball team to follow his mom to her new job in Vientiane, Laos. However, Cam s anger begins to melt under the Southeast Asian sun as he finds friendship with his neighbour, Somchai, and gradually falls in love with Nok, who teaches him about building merit, or karma, by doing good deeds, such as purchasing caged merit birds. Tragedy strikes and Cam finds himself falsely accused of a crime. His freedom depends on a person he s never met. A person who knows that the only way to restore his merit is to confess.
Ultimately, if I remember correctly, the culture in this book is really vibrantly written. It’s more than just being there with this book, it’s that you feel all the joyous familial gatherings and also the dank markets and awful employment situation for young females. This book doesn’t have the highest ratings, nor is it well read, but if you want to experience Laos, it’s not too shabby.
Books Set In Other Countries I’ve Not Read
Exit West (Mohsin Hamid)
In a country teetering on the brink of civil war, two young people meet—sensual, fiercely independent Nadia and gentle, restrained Saeed. They embark on a furtive love affair and are soon cloistered in a premature intimacy by the unrest roiling their city. When it explodes, turning familiar streets into a patchwork of checkpoints and bomb blasts, they begin to hear whispers about doors—doors that can whisk people far away, if perilously and for a price. As the violence escalates, Nadia and Saeed decide that they no longer have a choice. Leaving their homeland and their old lives behind, they find a door and step through.
I am drawn to this premise…I just don’t have a copy of this to start reading.
The Call (Peadar Ó Guilínong)
Imagine a world where you might disappear any minute, only to find yourself alone in a grey sickly land, with more horrors in it than you would ever wish to know about. And then you hear a horn and you know that whoever lives in this hell has got your scent and the hunt has already begun.
Could you survive the Call?
You can’t tell, but it’s future Ireland. It counts, I swear.
All The Light We Cannot See (Anthony Doerr)
Marie-Laure lives in Paris near the Museum of Natural History, where her father works. When she is twelve, the Nazis occupy Paris and father and daughter flee to the walled citadel of Saint-Malo, where Marie-Laure’s reclusive great uncle lives in a tall house by the sea. With them they carry what might be the museum’s most valuable and dangerous jewel.
In a mining town in Germany, Werner Pfennig, an orphan, grows up with his younger sister, enchanted by a crude radio they find that brings them news and stories from places they have never seen or imagined. Werner becomes an expert at building and fixing these crucial new instruments and is enlisted to use his talent to track down the resistance. Deftly interweaving the lives of Marie-Laure and Werner, Doerr illuminates the ways, against all odds, people try to be good to one another.
I’m going on year 4 soon of not having read this book. It is a true mood not reading this book because I have to be in the right mood for a war/hist-fic novel. And that’s relatively non-existent for me, but it’s gotten all the rave reviews from buds so…
A Taste for Monsters (Matthew J. Kirby)
It’s London 1888, and Jack the Ripper is terrorizing the people of the city. Evelyn, a young woman disfigured by her dangerous work in a matchstick factory, who has nowhere to go, does not know what to make of her new position as a maid to the Elephant Man in the London Hospital. Evelyn wants to be locked away from the world, like he is, shut in from the filth and dangers of the streets. But in Joseph Merrick, the Elephant Man, she finds a gentle kindred who does not recoil from her and who understands her pain.
When the murders begin, however, Joseph and Evelyn are haunted nightly by the ghosts of the Ripper’s dead, setting Evelyn on a path to facing her fears and uncovering humanity’s worst nightmares.
Added to remind myself I have to read this because I already have a copy I am the worst.
I found extreme difficulty trying to curate this list, which essentially means I need to be more well read than I curently am.