Welcome new Packabookers!

There’s been quite a flurry of activity at Packabook lately with a number of new signups to our emails and blogposts, so I thought I would take a moment to welcome you all to the Packabook community.

Our aim is to bring together people who really enjoy the sense of place that novels can provide, whether it is to learn more about the history of a place or just to feel like they have been transported to somewhere exotic. Here’s a bit of a rundown of some of the things we have going on:

One Country One Book

From the moment you sign up to Packabook’s free newsletters, you begin a journey around the world in which we visit one country for a month and read one book that is set there. Each week (more or less!) you receive an email in which we take a closer look at the book and the place in which it is set, exploring some of the facts behind the novel and the things you could do if you visited that location. It’s our own special kind of book club and is exclusive to those who sign up by email.

World Party Reading Challenge

This is a challenge running on the blog in which we focus on one country a month and encourage you to read anything that is set there – novels, memoirs, plays, travelogues – anything that takes your fancy. If you have your own blog, you can then write a review and provide us with a link so we can all be inspired by what you have read. This month we are in Iran, and in February we are off to England. Take a look at all the World Party Reading Challenge posts and see what we have been reading so far.

Facebook and Twitter

If you haven’t already done so, then we’d love you to follow Packabook on twitter and like us on Facebook. This is where we link to some excellent travel articles, let you know when we come across a great price on a favorite novel at Amazon, and find inspiring (and amusing!) stories in the world of books. Want to know how to turn your favorite book into a handbag? That’s the kind of thing you just might find on our facebook page! Most of this never makes it to the blog, so you will need to get yourself over to facebook or twitter if you’d like to join in….

Finally I’d like to thank you for your support. Packabook is a fairly new venture with an ambitious plan to see people all around the world learning more about the countries of this amazing planet through reading great novels. We have had great feedback from those who have already come on board, and we wish you the most excellent adventures ahead.

And don’t forget – we always welcome suggestions for books with a great sense of place that we should be adding to Packabook. Just drop us an email or send us a tweet.

Thanks again and happy reading,

Suzi

What? You are not whether you should sign up for our emails? Read some more about why you should give it a go

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Disclosure Policy If you click on the links in the posts to buy books, then I will receive a tiny commission for referring you. This does not affect the price you pay for the books, and I am grateful for your support. Every little bit helps! Thank you. (Packabook is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com)


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January World Party Reading Challenge – Books Set in Iran

And so we move headlong into January and some books set in Iran for our World Party Reading Challenge this month.  I have been particularly looking forward to this challenge for a number of reasons.
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  • I am not sure I have ever read a book set in Iran.
  • There is a lot of history which is still very relevant considering current events
  • Women are well-represented as writers and subjects of Iranian fiction
  • The covers on many Iranian novels are sensational and pretty much irresistible

Not knowing quite where to start, I have put in an Amazon order for two of the novels from the fantastic selection available. The cover of The Septembers of Shiraz by Dalia
The Septembers of Shiraz by Dalia Sofer - Books set in Iran Sofer immediately called out to me and on reading the synopsis I decided it would be an excellent introduction to one of the country’s most significant events – the Islamic Revolution. The novel begins a couple of years after the overthrow of the shah in 1979 and looks at the impact it had on one Iranian family. Personalizing the story like this is always a winner for me.

The revolution is a defining point in Iran’s history, and is constantly referred to in any analysis of present day Iranian society and politics. And as it also helps our reading of the novels if we have an understanding of the history behind them, here’s a quick breakdown of events.

The Iranian Revolution – At a Glance

  • In the 1970’s Iran was led by a pro-Western shah – Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlav
  • He faced opposition from the left and right – those who thought he wasn’t reforming fast enough as well as those who believed westernisation was wrong for Iran. There was also general criticism of his autocratic style, and corruption in his government
  • Dissatisfaction in his rule grew during the 1970’s
  • At the same time support grew for the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, a Shi’ite religious leader living in exile in Paris
  • In 1978, thousands of young people took to the streets both from the secular left and the religious right. Many people were killed by government forces. There were more protests….and an ongoing cycle of violence.
  • There was growing religious fervor and in the evenings people in Tehran called out the revolutionary rallying cry Allāhu akbar (“God is great”) from their rooftops.
  • On January 16, 1979, the shah left the country, with Khomeini taking over
  • On April 1, Khomeini declared Iran an Islamic republic. He had the overwhelming support of the public. Islamic codes of dress were enforced and the informal religious militia, the Revolutionary Guard, worked with clerics to suppress political opposition and Western  cultural influence.
  • Many of the Western-educated elite fled the country.

Have a look at this History Channel clip with some great footage from the time.

Iranian Revolution video

The Saffron Kitchen by Yasmin Crowther

The Saffron Kitchen by Yasmin Crowther - Books set in Iran My second choice of novel (you never know, I might not like the first one and I like to have my bases covered!) is The Saffron Kitchen by Yasmin Crowther, and is set many years later. It is the story of Maryam who left Iran after the revolution, settling in England. Many years later, after a severe falling out with her adult daughter which had tragic consequences, she returns to her childhood Iranian village to try and make sense of the past.

This books seems a good follow-up to Septembers of Shiraz, giving us the later perspective. But I will let you know what I think once I have read them both.

Come join us…

Will you be joining us on the Iranian World Party Reading Challenge? There are so many promising looking books set in Iran to choose from, I’m sure we could tempt you to give it a go……

Let us know in the comments below what you are planning to read, and that is also a mighty fine place to leave a link to your review once you have finished….

I can’t wait to see what else you all discover.

Suzi

UPDATE: You can now read the reviews of The Saffron Kitchen and Septembers of Shiraz here.

Enjoyed this post? Have a look at our other World Party Reading Challenge selections.

Afghanistan
Turkey
Greece
England
Ireland
Jamaica
Pakistan
Russia
Spain
Thailand

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Disclosure Policy If you click on the links in the posts to buy books, then I will receive a tiny commission for referring you. This does not affect the price you pay for the books, and I am grateful for your support. Every little bit helps! Thank you. (Packabook is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com)


New Year Literary Challenges for books set in Italy and Russia

The literary blogging world is awash with challenges as we embark on the New Year, and I am afraid I have succumbed and decided to join a couple myself. These are not to be confused with Packabook’s own World Party Reading Challenge which I would of course encourage everyone to check out – but rather, these are hosted on other people’s blogs. Given that they fit in so well with what we do here at Packabook, I figured I would give it a go.

The first is the Italy in Books Challenge over at the Book After Book blog. The idea here is to read 12 books that are set in Italy throughout 2011, which shouldn’t be too difficult given the selection of books set in Italy we have here at Packabook for inspiration. I will give you some short reviews as I go along just in case you fancy a little Mediterranean meandering yourself.

Books set in Italy

And the second challenge is the War and Peace readalong over at A Room of One’s Own. Set in Russia, I figure War and Peace is pretty much mandatory reading for Packabookers at some stage of their reading career – and I have been putting it off for too long. Conveniently, the Tolstoy classic has 365 chapters, which makes it ideal for a year-long challenge – one chapter a day. If you are starting now you will have to double up the chapters for the first few days, but they are really not that long and you should have no trouble. I have decided that War and Peace is an ideal selection to read on my ipad. First of all, you can get it free from ibooks, secondly, given the size of this novel, it is not something I want to be carrying around in my bag all year!Books set in Russia - War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy

If you are aware of any other challenges focusing on specific locations that might inspire your fellow Packabookers, then let us know in the comments. Or if you decide to join in on either of the two above then I’d love to hear about it …there’s safety in numbers!

Suzi

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Disclosure Policy If you click on the links in the posts to buy books, then I will receive a tiny commission for referring you. This does not affect the price you pay for the books, and I am grateful for your support. Every little bit helps! Thank you. (Packabook is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com)


World Party Reading Challenge – Books set in Greece

Books set in Greece - photo by chris1961Well, the holiday season has definitely got the better of me, and I am extremely late bringing you this introduction to our “Greece World Party Challenge” in which we plan to explore books set in Greece.
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Given that this winter is proving to be a pretty tough one in many parts of the Northern Hemisphere, you would think I’d be jumping on any opportunity to read books that conjure up images of sandy white beaches and glasses of retsina in the sunshine. But actually, when I look at the books I’m considering for this challenge, I notice there’s not a lot of lazing about in the sand going on. In fact, as is common with so many of the books I seem to attract – there is a fair bit of war and misery. I am trying not to spend too much time thinking about what that says about me!
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I have read several novels over the years that are set in Greece, and I thought I might re-read one of them for this challenge, given that I seem to have a complete ability to forget the content of books about a year after I’ve read them, no matter how enjoyable they are.
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But which one should I choose?
.Books set in Greece - Corelli's Mandolin
There is Captain Corelli’s Mandolin by Louis de Bernières, which I remember loving when it first came out many moons ago, but I wonder whether a more grown up me will still enjoy it. The book is set on the island of Cephallonia during the Italian occupation of World War Two and the ensuing Civil War. While the circumstances were fairly dire, I remember there being a great deal of humor, and a fair bit of romance in the novel, so there is some laughter amongst the pain.
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Looking at the reviews De Bernières is sometimes criticized for using words with too many syllables just for the sake of it, for making factual errors, and for writing what some believe is a clichéd romance. But the majority of readers seem to fall in love with his characters, finding the novel both funny and charming. It might indeed be worth a second look.
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I didn’t mind Victoria Hislop’s The Island which, while not a taxing read, didBooks set in Greece - The Island by Victoria Hislop open my eyes to an historical circumstance I wasn’t aware of – the use of the island of Spinalonga (off Crete) as a leper colony in the first half of the 20th century.
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If you are looking for an easy read and some fascinating history, then this might be for you – just don’t expect a literary masterpiece.
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And while I could branch out into something I have never read, like The Magus by John Fowles or the works of Irini Spanidou – there’s a book I read 20 years ago that I have always wanted to re-visit, and this seems the ideal opportunity.
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Novels set in Greece - Eleni by Nicholas GageEleni is a terrifying story of Greece’s civil war and one woman’s attempt to keep her family safe.
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The fact I remember it after all this time shows what a profound impact it had on me, and I long to see if it is as good as I remember. And it has the added interest of being written by Eleni’s son – a work of “faction” by a character in the book, something which intrigues me.
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Yep – I think this might be the one.
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But as I take it down off the shelf I realize it is quite a lengthy book – and with us already in mid-December it is obvious I must now abandon all attempts at Christmas shopping and preparations. Instead it is time to light the fire and settle down to the task at hand. What a chore!
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What will you share with us in December? Leave us a note in the comments. We’d love some other ideas of books set in Greece to get our teeth into! And if you are looking for some more suggestions from me try these Greece-inspired novels.
τα λέμε αργότερα
Suzi.
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PS. Couldn’t resist sharing this review of Eleni from Amazon below:
“It was no Con Air” , July 31, 2008
By Andrew Carr
This review is from: Eleni (Paperback)
I’m generally not into reading, but I decided that I would give this one a shot, expecting it to be as good as Face/Off. Boy was I mistaken. Cage should stick to acting. Do you remember in Snake Eyes when he punched that guy in the face? Do you remember in Boy in Blue when he punched that guy in the face? I enjoyed those moments more than I enjoyed reading Cage’s book, or reading anything for that matter.
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Enjoyed this post? Have a look at our other World Party Reading Challenge selections.
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Disclosure Policy If you click on the links in the posts to buy books, then I will receive a tiny commission for referring you. This does not affect the price you pay for the books, and I am grateful for your support. Every little bit helps! Thank you. (Packabook is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com)


Exploring books set in Turkey – World Party Reading Challenge

A quick post today to get us started on our Turkey challenge for the month of November….

For many people, the most obvious writer to spring to mind would be Nobel Prize winner Orhan Pamuk, the creator of novels such as My Name is Red, Snow and The Museum of Innocence.

I am actually most of the way through Museum of Innocence, and while I am enjoying aspects of it, it is kind of a tough read. It might be because I am reading it in fits and bursts, but the novel is a 560-page story of one man’s obsessive love for his cousin, and at times it is truly agonizing. Unfortunately I cannot give you a proper review of this book, as I am now traveling for the rest of November and I am afraid Pamuk is just too big to carry with me, so Museum of Innocence remains unfinished this month.

Instead my novel of choice for this challenge is Gardens of Water by Alan Drew.
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On August 17, 1999, northwestern Turkey was hit by a powerful earthquake which killed around 17,000 people and left about half a million without homes. (More info on the earthquake from the BBC)
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The novel is the story of an Istanbul family and the impact this event had on them, both in the immediate aftermath and many months into the future.
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Shopkeeper Sinan is a Kurdish refugee who desperately tries to keep a hold on his family, religion and values after the earthquake throws everything intochaos. His teenage daughter Irem has fallen in love with an American boy, his home is destroyed, and cultural and religious clashes abound as the city is filled with well-meaning foreigners who have arrived to ‘save’ both the bodies and souls of the victims.
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For those of us with liberal Western upbringings, Sinan’s stubbornness, pride, inability to let go of grudges and patriarchal values will be a challenge, but this is one of the many aspects of the novel I enjoyed. I am forced into Sinan’s shoes. I wouldn’t want him to be my father, but I find myself on his side on many occasions, and willing him to accept that he must adapt to the inevitable changes surrounding him.
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As always I am fascinated by novels based on historical events. I may not have paid a great deal of attention to the 1999 earthquake at the time, but ever since reading this novel, it is etched in my ‘memory’ forever. I had actually read the book several months before the January 2010 earthquake in Haiti, and I am sure that my understanding of that disaster was enhanced by reading Gardens of Water. Even now, almost a year later, I know characters similar to Sinan and Irem are continuing to try and rebuild their lives in devastated Haiti, long after the world’s attention has passed.
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I also enjoyed the books’s exploration of the relationship between Turks and Kurds, an ongoing discord which I knew very little about. While the novel does not go into the issue in any great depth, it is always helpful to have characters like Sinan in mind when trying to make sense of historical conflicts such as this.
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So that’s me for Turkey….what are you reading? Are you attempting Pamuk? Or do you have some other wonderful reads you can share with us? For inspiration, have a look at Packabook’s books set in Turkey shopfront, and make your choice.
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Let us know in the comments below what you plan to read and then leave us a link to any reviews of Turkish-linked books on your own blog…
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Suzi

Enjoyed this post? Have a look at our other World Party Reading Challenge selections.

Afghanistan
Greece
Iran
England
Ireland
Jamaica
Pakistan
Russia
Spain
Thailand

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Disclosure Policy If you click on the links in the posts to buy books, then I will receive a tiny commission for referring you. This does not affect the price you pay for the books, and I am grateful for your support. Every little bit helps! Thank you. (Packabook is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com)


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Please note - if you read our reviews and click on our links to buy books, we will receive a tiny commission for referring you. This does not affect the price you pay for the books, and we thank you for your support! Packabook is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com