My Roll Call of Great and Terrible Books in South America

Deserts, jungles, glaciers … and books, lots of books

Hours of bus journeys and perfect moments of freedom translate into

hours and hours of blissful reading.

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With a massive thanks to lovely TradEn, here is what I managed to dive into in South America:

(In reverse order)

Ecuador – December 2013

The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon My rating: 5/5. I loved this! It was absolutely the perfect book to read in the Amazon!

Editor’s Blurb: A grand mystery reaching back centuries. A sensational disappearance that made headlines around the world. A quest for truth that leads to death, madness or disappearance for those who seek to solve it. The Lost City of Z is a blockbuster adventure narrative about what lies beneath the impenetrable jungle canopy of the Amazon.

After stumbling upon a hidden trove of diaries, New Yorker writer David Grann set out to solve “the greatest exploration mystery of the 20th century”: What happened to the British explorer Percy Fawcett & his quest for the Lost City of Z?

In 1925 Fawcett ventured into the Amazon to find an ancient civilization, hoping to make one of the most important discoveries in history. For centuries Europeans believed the world’s largest jungle concealed the glittering kingdom of El Dorado. Thousands had died looking for it, leaving many scientists convinced that the Amazon was truly inimical to humans. But Fawcett, whose daring expeditions inspired Conan Doyle’sThe Lost World, had spent years building his scientific case. Captivating the imagination of millions round the globe, Fawcett embarked with his 21-year-old son, determined to prove that this ancient civilisation–which he dubbed Z–existed. Then his expedition vanished. Fawcett’s fate, & the tantalizing clues he left behind about Z, became an obsession for hundreds who followed him into the uncharted wilderness. For decades scientists & adventurers have searched for evidence of Fawcett’s party & the lost City of Z. Countless have perished, been captured by tribes or gone mad. As Grann delved ever deeper into the mystery surrounding Fawcett’s quest, & the greater mystery of what lies within the Amazon, he found himself, like the generations who preceded him, being irresistibly drawn into the jungle’s green hell. His quest for the truth & discoveries about Fawcett’s fate & Z form the heart of this complexly enthralling narrative.

Published February 24th 2009 by Doubleday/Random House (NY)

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Peru – November 2013

The Uncoupling My rating: 1/5. Awful!

Editor’s Blurb: When the elliptical new drama teacher at Stellar Plains High School chooses for the school play Lysistrata-the comedy by Aristophanes in which women stop having sex with men in order to end a war-a strange spell seems to be cast over the school. Or, at least, over the women. One by one throughout the high school community, perfectly healthy, normal women and teenage girls turn away from their husbands and boyfriends in the bedroom, for reasons they don’t really understand. As the women worry over their loss of passion, and the men become by turns unhappy, offended, and above all, confused, both sides are forced to look at their shared history, and at their sexual selves in a new light.

As she did to such acclaim with the New York Times bestseller The Ten-Year Nap, Wolitzer tackles an issue that has deep ramifications for women’s lives, in a way that makes it funny, riveting, and totally fresh-allowing us to see our own lives through her insightful lens.

Published April 5th 2011 by Riverhead Hardcove

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The Kept Man My rating: 4/5.

Editor’s Blurb: A riveting debut novel from a rising literary star about a young woman whose husband has fallen into a coma, and her discovery of evidence that casts doubt on their marriage.

Six years ago, Jarvis Miller’s husband, an artist whose career was just starting to gain momentum, fell into a coma. And ever since, Jarvis has been waiting. At first, she was waiting for him to wake up so that their happy marriage could be continued. But she’s spent too many years of dwindling hope, living as a half-widow, and selling off more and more pieces of his artwork to power the machines that keep him alive. Now, Jarvis has come to admit that she’s waiting for her husband to die.

One spring day at the local laundromat, Jarvis meets the members of the Kept Man Club: three handsome, interesting men, all married to breadwinner wives, who gather once a week on laundry day. Their companionship opens her eyes to the possibilities of family and friendship she’s been missing for so many years. At the same time, her husband’s best friend and his art dealer pressure Jarvis to collect the remainder of his work for a retrospective-a proposition that engenders mixed feelings, since it’s usually an honor reserved for the already dead. Sorting through a hidden box of photographs, she uncovers evidence of a shocking betrayal that calls into question her idealized vision of the past.

Told in a spare and utterly compelling narrative voice, The Kept Man is a compulsively readable novel about love and loss, one that is sure to establish Jami Attenberg as one of our most dynamic new storytellers.

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Death in the Andes My rating: 3/5. Initally, I gave this book two stars but somehow the story has stayed with me so I think it deserves three.

Published 1996 by Faber and Faber

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The Last Days of the Incas My rating: 1/5. Wow, this was painful! I found myself wishing bad things on the Incas just so the book would end!

Editor’s Blurb: Kim MacQuarrie lived in Peru for five years and became fascinated by the Incas and the history of the Spanish conquest. Drawing on both native and Spanish chronicles, he vividly describes the dramatic story of the conquest, with all its savagery and suspense. This authoritative, exciting history is among the most powerful and important accounts of the culture of the South American Indians and the Spanish Conquest.

Published May 29th 2007 by Simon & Schuster

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Bolivia – October/November 2013

The Motorcycle Diaries by Che Guevara

The Motorcycle Diaries: Notes on a Latin American Journey My rating: 3/5.  Maybe controversial but I really disliked the arrogance of young Che Guevara – beautiful writing though.

Editor’s Blurb: The young Che Guevara’s lively and highly entertaining travel diary.

Published August 1st 2003 by Ocean Press

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Mad about the Boy by Helen Fielding; Audiobook narrated by Samantha Bond

Mad About the Boy (Bridget Jones, #3)My rating: 5/5.  This book kept me laughing all the way through altitude sickness and Bolivian tummy. Samantha Bond is the perfect narrator for Bridget Jones!

Editor’s Blurb: Great comic writers are as rare as hen’s teeth. And Helen is one of a very select band who have created a character of whom the very thought makes you smile. Bridget Jones’ Diary, charting the life of a 30-something singleton in London in the 1990s was a huge international bestseller, published in 40 countries and selling over 15 million copies worldwide. Its sequel, Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, published soon after was also a major international bestseller. Both were made into films starring Renée Zellweger, Hugh Grant and Colin Firth.

Set in the present, the new novel will explore a different phase in Bridget’s life with an entirely new scenario. As Helen Fielding has said: “If people laugh as much reading it as I am while writing it then we’ll all be very happy.

Published October 15th 2013 by Knopf Canada

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Marching Powder: A True Story of Friendship, Cocaine, and South America’s Strangest Jail by Thomas McFadden

Marching Powder: A True Story of Friendship, Cocaine, and South America's Strangest Jail My rating: 4/5. Really interesting! Thanks for the recommendation, Aoife!

Editor’s Blurb: Rusty Young was backpacking in South America when he heard about Thomas McFadden, a convicted English drug trafficker who ran tours inside Bolivia’s notorious San Pedro prison. Intrigued, the young Australian journalisted went to La Paz and joined one of Thomas’s illegal tours. They formed an instant friendship and then became partners in an attempt to record Thomas’s experiences in the jail. Rusty bribed the guards to allow him to stay and for the next three months he lived inside the prison, sharing a cell with Thomas and recording one of the strangest and most compelling prison stories of all time. The result is Marching Powder.

This book establishes that San Pedro is not your average prison. Inmates are expected to buy their cells from real estate agents. Others run shops and restaurants. Women and children live with imprisoned family members. It is a place where corrupt politicians and drug lords live in luxury apartments, while the poorest prisoners are subjected to squalor and deprivation. Violence is a constant threat, and sections of San Pedro that echo with the sound of children by day house some of Bolivia’s busiest cocaine laboratories by night. In San Pedro, cocaine–”Bolivian marching powder”–makes life bearable. Even the prison cat is addicted.

Yet Marching Powder is also the tale of friendship, a place where horror is countered by humor and cruelty and compassion can inhabit the same cell. This is cutting-edge travel-writing and a fascinating account of infiltration into the South American drug culture.

Published May 1st 2004 by St. Martin’s Griffin

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Little Hands Clapping by Dan Rhodes. Audiobook narrated by Kris Dyer 

Little Hands Clapping My rating: 3/5. Very dark tale but has definitely stayed in my head.

Editor’s blurb: In a room above a bizarre German museum, and far from the prying eyes of strangers, lives the Old Man. Caretaker of the museum by day, by night he enjoys the sound of silence, broken by the occasional crunch of a spider between his blackened teeth. Little Hands Clapping brings together the Old Man with the respectable Doctor Ernst Frohlicher, his greedy dog Hans and a cast of grotesque and hilarious townsfolk, all of whose lives are thrown together as the town uncovers a crime so outrageous that it will shock the world. From its sinister opening to its explosive denouement, Little Hands Clapping blends lavishly entertaining storytelling with Rhodes’s macabre imagination, entrancing originality and magical touch.

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MaddAddam by Margaret Atwood

MaddAddam (MaddAddam Trilogy #3) My rating: 2/5. I had been so excited when MaddAddam was finally published and completely let down on reading it. Disaster of an anti-climax!

Editor’s Blurb: A man-made plague has swept the earth, but a small group survives, along with the green-eyed Crakers – a gentle species bio-engineered to replace humans. Toby, onetime member of the Gods Gardeners and expert in mushrooms and bees, is still in love with street-smart Zeb, who has an interesting past. The Crakers’ reluctant prophet, Snowman-the-Jimmy, is hallucinating; Amanda is in shock from a Painballer attack; and Ivory Bill yearns for the provocative Swift Fox, who is flirting with Zeb. Meanwhile, giant Pigoons and malevolent Painballers threaten to attack.

Told with wit, dizzying imagination, and dark humour, Booker Prize-winning Margaret Atwood’s unpredictable, chilling and hilarious MaddAddam takes us further into a challenging dystopian world and holds up a skewed mirror to our own possible future.

Published September 3rd 2013 by Nan A. Talese

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Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood

Oryx and Crake (MaddAddam Trilogy, #1) My rating: 4/5 – a re-read

Editor’s Blurb: Oryx and Crake is at once an unforgettable love story and a compelling vision of the future. Snowman, known as Jimmy before mankind was overwhelmed by a plague, is struggling to survive in a world where he may be the last human, and mourning the loss of his best friend, Crake, and the beautiful and elusive Oryx whom they both loved. In search of answers, Snowman embarks on a journey–with the help of the green-eyed Children of Crake–through the lush wilderness that was so recently a great city, until powerful corporations took mankind on an uncontrolled genetic engineering ride. Margaret Atwood projects us into a near future that is both all too familiar and beyond our imagining.

Published March 30th 2004 by Ancho

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The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood

The Year of the Flood (MaddAddam Trilogy, #2) My rating: 4/5 (– a re-read with much hymn skimming!)

Editor’s Blurb: The times and species have been changing at a rapid rate, and the social compact is wearing as thin as environmental stability. Adam One, the kindly leader of the God’s Gardeners—a religion devoted to the melding of science and religion, as well as the preservation of all plant and animal life—has long predicted a natural disaster that will alter Earth as we know it. Now it has occurred, obliterating most human life. Two women have survived: Ren, a young trapeze dancer locked inside the high-end sex club Scales and Tails, and Toby, a God’s Gardener barricaded inside a luxurious spa where many of the treatments are edible.

Have others survived? Ren’s bioartist friend Amanda? Zeb, her eco-fighter stepfather? Her onetime lover, Jimmy? Or the murderous Painballers, survivors of the mutual-elimination Painball prison? Not to mention the shadowy, corrupt policing force of the ruling powers . . .

Meanwhile, gene-spliced life forms are proliferating: the lion/lamb blends, the Mo’hair sheep with human hair, the pigs with human brain tissue. As Adam One and his intrepid hemp-clad band make their way through this strange new world, Ren and Toby will have to decide on their next move. They can’t stay locked away . . .

Published September 22nd 2009 by Nan A. Talese

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The Ten-Year Nap by Meg Wolitzer

The Ten-Year Nap My rating: 5/5 – This book petrified me!

Editor’s Blurb: From the bestselling author of The Wife and The Position, a feverishly smart novel about female ambition, money, class, motherhood, and marriage-and what happens in one community when a group of educated women chooses not to work.

For a group of four New York friends, the past decade has been largely defined by marriage and motherhood. Educated and reared to believe that they would conquer the world, they then left jobs as corporate lawyers, investment bankers, and film scouts to stay home with their babies. What was meant to be a temporary leave of absence has lasted a decade. Now, at age forty, with the halcyon days of young motherhood behind them and without professions to define them, Amy, Jill, Roberta, and Karen face a life that is not what they were brought up to expect but seems to be the one they have chosen.

But when Amy gets to know a charismatic and successful working mother of three who appears to have fulfilled the classic women’s dream of having it all-work, love, family-without having to give anything up, a lifetime’s worth of concerns, both practical and existential, opens up. As Amy’s obsession with this woman’s bustling life grows, it forces the four friends to confront the choices they’ve made in opting out of their careers-until a series of startling events shatters the peace and, for some of them, changes the landscape entirely.

Written in Meg Wolitzer’s inimitable, glittering style, The Ten-Year Napis wickedly observant, knowing, provocative, surprising, and always entertaining, as it explores the lives of these women with candor, wit, and generosity.

Published March 27th 2008 by Riverhead Hardcover

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Bolivia in Focus by Paul van Lindert

Bolivia in Focus: A Guide to the People, Politics and Culture My rating: 3/5

Editor’s Blurb:This new series of country guides is designed for travellers and students who want to understand the wider picture and build up an overall knowledge of a country. Each In Focus guide is a lively and thought-provoking introduction to the country’s people, politics and culture.The In Focus guides will brief you on:

The history: Conquest, life as a colony, quest for independence and the building of a modern nation. How history can help explain today’s society and politics.

The people: Who lives where, how they live. The different worlds of the poor and the rich; blacks, Indians and whites; Arabs and Jews; indigenous, disenfranchised and dispossessed peoples; human rights.

The culture: What to read, what to see, what to hear. Who’s who in literature, music, dance, theater and cinema. Roots and rites of different religions. Folk traditions and indigenous cultural celebrations.

The politics: Who runs the country, who wants to run the country. Power and conflict between political parties, the military, guerillas and grassroots organizations. Historical ties to the U.S….

Published March 23rd 2009 by Interlink Books

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Chile – September/October 2013

Animal Farm by George Orwell

Animal Farm My rating: 4/5

Editor’s Blurb: Tired of their servitude to man, a group of farm animals revolt and establish their own society, only to be betrayed into worse servitude by their leaders, the pigs, whose slogan becomes: “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.” This 1945 satire addresses the socialist/ communist philosophy of Stalin in Russia.

Published May 6th 2003 by Plume (first published 1945)

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Oh Dear Silvia by Dawn French; Audiobook narrated by Dawn French and Others

Oh Dear Silvia My rating: 4/5. An audiobook play with a great cast.

Editor’s Blurb: Who is in Coma Suite Number 5?

A matchless lover? A supreme egotist? A selfless martyr? A bad mother? A cherished sister? A selfish wife?

All of these. For this is Silvia Shute who has always done exactly what she wants. Until now, when her life suddenly, shockingly stops.

Her past holds a dark and terrible secret, and now that she is unconscious in a hospital bed, her constant stream of visitors are set to uncover the mystery of her broken life. And she must lie there, victim of the beloveds, the borings, the babblings and the plain bonkers.

Like it or not, the truth is about to pay Silvia a visit. Again, and again and again…

Published October 25th 2012 by Michael Joseph

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The Tawny Man Trilogy by Robin Hobb #1 Fool’s Errand

Fool's Errand (Tawny Man, #1) My rating: 4/5

Editor’s Blurb: In Fool’s Errand, first of the “Tawny Man” trilogy, Robin Hobb brings back Fitz, hero of her emotionally powerful and intrigue-filled Assassin trilogy, from 15 years of self-imposed exile from his royal relations and from the world of power. Hobb is particularly good at the passage of time and the things it does not change; Fitz plausibly thinks of himself as older and more settled than he actually is. She is also good on the actual changes–Fitz’s mentor Chade is teetering on the brink of old age and his androgynous ally the Fool has returned to court as the fop Lord Golden; these are characters we cared about before and she makes it matter that they have aged or altered. Fitz is bonded by Wit to a wolf; the heir, Prince Dutiful, the son he never saw, is adrift with his own Wit in a world where people get lynched for it. Hobb’s leisurely story-telling never lacks urgency and menace; this is a humane book which includes nightmarish touches along the way. Her sense of the world of magic and the world of political power is acute–she makes us see more than her flawed hero, even though we share his eyes.–Roz Kaveney

Published 2002 by Voyager

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Golden Fool by Robin Hobb

Golden Fool (Tawny Man, #2) My rating: 4/5

Editor’s Blurb:The acclaimed Farseer and Liveship Traders trilogies established Robin Hobb as one of the most splendidly imaginative practitioners of world-class fantasy.

Now, in Book 2 of her most stunning trilogy yet, Hobb continues the soul-shattering tale of FitzChivalry Farseer. With rich characters, breathtaking magic, and sweeping action, Golden Fool brings the reluctant adventurer further into the fray in an epic of sacrifice, salvation, and untold treachery.

Published December 2003 by Spectra

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Fool’s Fate by Robin Hobb

Fool's Fate (Tawny Man, #3) My rating: 3/5

Editor’s Blurb: Assassin, spy, and Skillmaster, FitzChivalry Farseer, now known only as man-at-arms Tom Badgerlock, has become firmly ensconced in the queen’s court at Buckkeep. Only a few are aware of his fabled, tangled past—and the sacrifices he made to survive it. And fewer know of his possession of the Skill magic. With Prince
Dutiful, his assassin-mentor Chade, and the simpleminded yet strongly Skilled Thick, FitzChivalry strives to aid the prince on a quest that could ultimately secure peace between the Six Duchies and the Outislands—and win Dutiful the hand of the Narcheska Elliania.

For the Narcheska has set the prince on an unfathomable task: to behead a dragon trapped in ice—the legendary Icefyre, on the island of Aslevjal. Yet not all the clans of the Outislands support the prince’s effort to behead their
legendary defender. Are there darker forces at work behind the Narcheska’s imperious demand? As the prince and his coterie set sail, FitzChivalry works behind the scenes, playing nursemaid to the ailing Thick, while striving to strengthen their Skill—ultimately bringing his unacknowledged daughter into the web of the Skill magic, where the truth must finally unfold.

The quest emerges amid riddles that must be unraveled, a clash of cultures, and the ultimate betrayal. For knowing that the Fool has foretold he will die on the island of ice, FitzChivalry has plotted with Chade to leave his dearest friend behind. But fate cannot so easily be defied.

Published November 23rd 2004 by Spectra

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Maya’s Notebook by Isabel Allende

Maya's Notebook

My rating: 2/5

I found it interesting purely for the legends of Chiloé. The characters failed to convince me and the storyline was very weak. I expected better of Allende. Disappointing

Editor’s Blurb:Isabel Allende’s latest novel, set in the present day (a new departure for the author), tells the story of a 19-year-old American girl who finds refuge on a remote island off the coast of Chile after falling into a life of drugs, crime, and prostitution. There, in the company of a torture survivor, a lame dog, and other unforgettable characters, Maya Vidal writes her story, which includes pursuit by a gang of assassins, the police, the FBI, and Interpol. In the process, she unveils a terrible family secret, comes to understand the meaning of love and loyalty, and initiates the greatest adventure of her life: the journey into her own soul.

Published April 23rd 2013 by Harper

 

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The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer

The Interestings

My rating: 3/5. A well-written and quite cynical book. A little on the flat side.

Editor’s Blurb: From bestselling author Meg Wolitzer a dazzling, panoramic novel about what becomes of early talent, and the roles that art, money, and even envy can play in close friendships.

The summer that Nixon resigns, six teenagers at a summer camp for the arts become inseparable. Decades later the bond remains powerful, but so much else has changed. In The Interestings, Wolitzer follows these characters from the height of youth through middle age, as their talents, fortunes, and degrees of satisfaction diverge.

The kind of creativity that is rewarded at age fifteen is not always enough to propel someone through life at age thirty; not everyone can sustain, in adulthood, what seemed so special in adolescence. Jules Jacobson, an aspiring comic actress, eventually resigns herself to a more practical occupation and lifestyle. Her friend Jonah, a gifted musician, stops playing the guitar and becomes an engineer. But Ethan and Ash, Jules’s now-married best friends, become shockingly successful—true to their initial artistic dreams, with the wealth and access that allow those dreams to keep expanding. The friendships endure and even prosper, but also underscore the differences in their fates, in what their talents have become and the shapes their lives have taken.

Wide in scope, ambitious, and populated by complex characters who come together and apart in a changing New York City, The Interestingsexplores the meaning of talent; the nature of envy; the roles of class, art, money, and power; and how all of it can shift and tilt precipitously over the course of a friendship and a life.

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Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer 

Into the Wild

My rating: 4/5. Despite an almost visceral reaction to the pain McCandless put his family through, I found his story compelling and the recounting of it by Jon Krakauer masterfully done.

Editor’s Blurb: In April 1992 a young man from a well-to-do family hitchhiked to Alaska and walked alone into the wilderness north of Mt. McKinley. His name was Christopher Johnson McCandless. He had given $25,000 in savings to charity, abandoned his car and most of his possessions, burned all the cash in his wallet, and invented a new life for himself. Four months later, his decomposed body was found by a party of moose hunters. How McCandless came to die is the unforgettable story of Into the Wild.

Immediately after graduating from college in 1991, McCandless had roamed through the West and Southwest on a vision quest like those made by his heroes Jack London and John Muir. In the Mojave Desert he abandoned his car, stripped it of its license plates, and burned all of his cash. He would give himself a new name, Alexander Supertramp, and , unencumbered by money and belongings, he would be free to wallow in the raw, unfiltered experiences that nature presented. Craving a blank spot on the map, McCandless simply threw the maps away. Leaving behind his desperate parents and sister, he vanished into the wild.

Published January 20th 1997 by Anchor (first published January 13th 1996)

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The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith (pseudonym: J.K. Rowling)

The Cuckoo's Calling (Cormoran Strike, #1) My rating: 2/5

Editor’s Blurb: A brilliant debut mystery in a classic vein: Detective Cormoran Strike investigates a supermodel’s suicide.

After losing his leg to a land mine in Afghanistan, Cormoran Strike is barely scraping by as a private investigator. Strike is down to one client, and creditors are calling. He has also just broken up with his longtime girlfriend and is living in his office.

Then John Bristow walks through his door with an amazing story: His sister, thelegendary supermodel Lula Landry, known to her friends as the Cuckoo, famously fell to her death a few months earlier. The police ruled it a suicide, but John refuses to believe that. The case plunges Strike into the world of multimillionaire beauties, rock-star boyfriends, and desperate designers, and it introduces him to every variety of pleasure, enticement, seduction, and delusion known to man.

You may think you know detectives, but you’ve never met one quite like Strike. You may think you know about the wealthy and famous, but you’ve never seen them under an investigation like this.

Published April 30th 2013 by Mulholland Books

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Argentina – September 2013

The Ministry of Special Cases by Nathan Englander

The Ministry of Special Cases My rating: 4/5. Well written, historically very interesting, a gripping, though deeply sad, novel

Editor’s Blurb: The long-awaited novel from Nathan Englander, author of For the Relief of Unbearable Urges. Englander’s wondrous and much-heralded collection of stories won the 2000 Pen/Malamud Award and was translated into more than a dozen languages.

From its unforgettable opening scene in the darkness of a forgotten cemetery in Buenos Aires, The Ministry of Special Cases casts a powerful spell. In the heart of Argentina’s Dirty War, Kaddish Poznan struggles with a son who won’t accept him; strives for a wife who forever saves him; and spends his nights protecting the good name of a community that denies his existence–and denies a checkered history that only Kaddish holds dear. When the nightmare of the disappeared children brings the Poznan family to its knees, they are thrust into the unyielding corridors of the Ministry of Special Cases, the refuge of last resort.

Nathan Englander’s first novel is a timeless story of fathers and sons. In a world turned upside down, where the past and the future, the nature of truth itself, all take shape according to a corrupt government’s whims, one man–one spectacularly hopeless man–fights to overcome his history and his name, and, if for only once in his life, to put things right. Here again are all the marvelous qualities for which Englander’s first book was immediately beloved: his exuberant wit and invention, his cosmic sense of the absurd, his genius for balancing joyfulness and despair. Through the devastation of a single family, Englander captures, indelibly, the grief of a nation. The Ministry of Special Cases, like Englander’s stories before it, is a celebration of our humanity, in all its weakness, and–despite that–hope.

Published April 24th 2007 by Knopf (first published November 17th 2005)

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In Pategonia by Bruce Chatwin

In Patagonia My rating: 4/5. A really enjoyable, slow read

Editor’s blurb: An exhilarating look at a place that still retains the exotic mystery of a far-off, unseen land, Bruce Chatwin’s exquisite account of his journey through Patagonia teems with evocative descriptions, remarkable bits of history, and unforgettable anecdotes. Fueled by an unmistakable lust for life and adventure and a singular gift for storytelling, Chatwin treks through “the uttermost part of the earth”— that stretch of land at the southern tip of South America, where bandits were once made welcome—in search of almost forgotten legends, the descendants of Welsh immigrants, and the log cabin built by Butch Cassidy. An instant classic upon publication in 1977, In Patagonia is a masterpiece that has cast a long shadow upon the literary world.

Published March 25th 2003 by Penguin Classics (first published 1977)

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The Great Railway Bazaar by Paul Theroux

The Great Railway Bazaar My rating: 3/5. Somehow, despite the odious and decidedly misanthropic nature of the author, I found this to be an interesting read.

Editor’s blurb: First published more than thirty years ago, Paul Theroux’s strange, unique, and hugely entertaining railway odyssey has become a modern classic of travel literature. Here Theroux recounts his early adventures on an unusual grand continental tour. Asia’s fabled trains — the Orient Express, the Khyber Pass Local, the Frontier Mail, the Golden Arrow to Kuala Lumpur, the Mandalay Express, the Trans-Siberian Express — are the stars of a journey that takes him on a loop eastbound from London’s Victoria Station to Tokyo Central, then back from Japan on the Trans-Siberian. Brimming with Theroux’s signature humor and wry observations, this engrossing chronicle is essential reading for both the ardent adventurer and the armchair traveler.

Published June 1st 2006 by Mariner Books (first published 1975)

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Brazil – August 2013

City of God by Paulo Lins

City of God

My rating: 2/5. Extremely violent and rather twisted in places. Over-hyped

Editor’s Blurb: The searing novel on which the internationally acclaimed hit film was based, City of God is a gritty, gorgeous tour de force from the Brazilian street. Cicade de Deus, the City of God, is one of Rio’s most notorious slums. Yet it is also a place where samba rocks till dawn, where the women are the most beautiful on earth, and where one young man wants to escape his background and become a photographer. City of God is a sprawling, magnificently told epic about gang life in Rio’s favelas, based on years of research and Pualo Lins’s firsthand experience growing up in Cicade de Deus. A book that gives voice to the dispossessed of multiethnic Brazil, City of God will earn Paulo Lins more well-deserved international acclaim.

Published September 14th 2006 by Grove Press, Black Cat (first published 1997)

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How to be a Carioca by Priscilla Ann Goslin

How To Be A Carioca My rating: 0/5. Harsh but this book was awful! Baffling how anyone could have published this!

Editor’s blurb: An international bestseller since 1992, this is a humorous look at what makes up one of the world’s most colorful characters: the Carioca–those charming inhabitants of Rio de Janeiro, written by a U.S. native who has made Rio her home for more than thirty-eight years. If you dream of blending in with the locals while visiting Rio, help is at hand. Natives of Rio have a unique way of maintaining an up-beat samba-like swing while dealing with the woes of the day-to-day in paradise. How to Be a Carioca will help any traveler understand the endearing Carioca attitude about life and gives an insider’s view into the unique daily rituals of the charming natives who populate this marvelous city.

 

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