Sastun (Belize)

The full title of this little book is Sastun One Woman’s Apprenticeship with a Maya Healer and Their Efforts to Save the Vani by Rosita Arvigo.  A big title for a little book, but an accurate one.

I know that many people in the western world think that herbs, plants and hands on healing are not safe, but I have always disagreed with this. Originally most of our medicine that is in pill form came from plants. Now, it is all manufactured chemicals that copy what the plants do, but with more side effects. OK, off the soap box.

In this book the more that Rosita learns the more she comes to realize that conservation of the forest is what is going to save the planet. This book is not written in a preachy way, it is very much about going and seeing Don Elijio, and the things that he teaches her. It is about the people of the village, and their life in Belize.

There is talk of the Maya Gods in here but it is limited. There is talk of prayers, and there is one ritual an induction ceremony that is mentioned but it is not gone into detal of the steps taken.

I enjoyed this book. It made me want to go out there and see what plants need saving, and what knowledge that we in our “on demand” society are missing.


‘”The human spirit can be plagued by as many troubles and the body,” he said.’


The Zanzibar Chest (Africa)

When I was looking at books to read for countries, I came across The Zanzibar Chest by Aiden Hartly and found that it was mostly associated with the country of Burundi. That turned out to be a lie. There are only five pages of this book that specifically talk about Burundi, and that in passing.

This book was about war in Africa, in fact the title of this post should be The Zanzibar Chest (War). I just wanted to let people out there know I am still reading, but it was not what I thought it was going to be. Now I have to find a new book for Burundi.

I did get some good quotes out of this book so I will share those.


“I felt hunted by time.”

“I saw ti as a rite of passage on the road to some kind of truth.”

“I tried to ignore the anonymous masses for so long, but in the end they all have come back to haunt me: the refuges, the injured, the starving, and the dead. And each and everyone has a name.”

Cellist of Sarajevo (Bosnia-Herzegovina)

I know that for Bosnia-Herzegovina that Steven Galloway the author of Cellist of Sarajevo is not from there, but that did not make the book have any less of an impact. It was not until I read the back of the book that I found out this was based on an actual event.

Oh, I knew about the siege of Sarajevo it was in the news such that it was here in the states. I did not know that there was a gentlemen who for twenty-tw0 days played the cello while the city was under attack.

While the cellist was a central part to the book the story revolved around other characters. A man seeking water for his family, a sniper looking for a way out, and an older gentleman witnessing death on every corner while looking for a meal. While in the background sometimes the cello could be heard.

In the book the song that was played was Albinoni’s Adagio. I had to look that up as I was not familiar with that piece. It is haunting, and sad, and full of hope.


“He can perhaps learn to bear the destruction of buildings, but the destruction of the living is too much for him.”

“Do you face the terror that must come with knowing you’re about to die for the sake of one last glimpse of life?”

“At this moment fear does not exist. There’s no such thing as bravery. There are no heroes, no villains, no cowards. There’s what he can do, and what he can’t. There’s right and wrong and nothing else. The world is binary. Shading will come later.”

Broken April (Albania)

I admit when I started reading Broken April by Ismail Kadare I pictured men dressed as Cossack’s. It was quite a charming picture so I googled what is the traditional costume of Albania, I was close but not quite there.

I know that this book is to take place between the two world wars and it was hard to keep that in mind when reading this book. It had more of a medieval   feel to it. Like most of the characters belonged to another world.

Trying to get the words to describe this book it tough. It is all about The Code or as it is called in Albania the Kanun. It rules every part of the mountaineers life. From planting, to weddings, to training animals, to death, and to blood feuds. That is what this book it all about a blood feud. One that Gjorg does not want to participate in but the Code demands it, and what the Code wants it gets.

It is also about a modern couple on their honeymoon. Diana is struck by something about Gjorg, and for the rest of the honeymoon becomes more withdrawn when she does not see him again.

This book is what is called a “dark” book, it is not scary, but it is not a happy book. It was beautifully written and one that is going to stay with me for a long time. I did in my notes as a question and that is, “I wonder if the Kanun is still being used today?”


“But there was not penalty for death.”

“It is at once terrible, absurd, and fatal, like all the really important things.”

In The Darkness (Norway)

For Norway I picked up a mystery called In the Darkness by Karin Fossum. I am not sure what to say about it other than I really am starting to enjoy the Scandinavian mystery writers.

This one was not as dark as some of the others that I read, but I did have to wonder if the Detective would have solved the crime without a confession. It was interesting the way that  a what I thought of as a secondary character became one out in the for front. As this is a mystery I cannot tell much about the book as I do not want to give anything away.

One of my favorite things about this book was the place names. I just loved that. It was not even the names of the towns and cities. It was the names of the neighborhoods, what  in America would be the subdivision. Instead of having Pine Vale or Timberland, there was Oscarsborg, and Trollguten. Those are awesome names. Oscar was my grandfathers name and well, the troll thing is just cool.


“‘No,’ Eva giggled, ‘but somebody’s got to take the trouble to emphasize the depths of existence. So that the rest of you have a surface to skate over.'”

Setting Free the Bears (Austria)

For Austria the book I found was Setting Free the Bears by John Irving. This is the first John Irving book that I have read, I know that a lot of people love his work, and I can see why. This is his first book, and while he is not a native of Austria he did live there for some time.

The book is divided up into three section. While I found the first section a bit boring it was needed to set up the story. Siggy and Graff meet, and go on a motorcycle adventure in the country side. While both of then are what I would not call stable Graff at this point  in the book seems to have a bit more sense then Siggy. The one thing that Siggy does that I did find enduring in an odd way was his proclivity to steal salt shakers. Just salt shakers. Near the end of this section they meet the third character. A girl named Gallen.

The second part of the book is my favorite and I think because I am a history buff and this part deals with WWII and the Soviet occupation of Vienia. It also tells of Siggy’s stake out of the zoo. His ultimate goal is setting free the animals. Apparently this is based on something that actually happened with the man who set the animals free getting eaten.

In the third part Graff and Gallen go to Vienna to set the animals free. Well, that is Graff’s plan, Gallen thinks that they are  moving to the city. The results are disastrous to say the least.

While I may have not learned a lot about current Austria, I did learn about the war and the occupation. I did not know that the Soviets occupied Vienna,



“After all, it wasn’t the animals war.”

“He declarer that they all must have read to much before they were interested in anything, which prevented them, later from becoming interested in anything they read.”

“Most decisions are anticlimactic.”