#BiteSizeSaturday: around the world with Amber Books #bookreview #Norway #Japan #HiddenPlaces #NetGalley

Hi and welcome to #BiteSizeSaturday! Today, I’d love to take you around the world in three mini reviews highlighting three fantastic coffee table books that are out now from Amber Books.

Of course I knew Norway to be a land of fjords and northern lights but Norway: Land of Fjords and the Northern Lights by Claudia Martin taught me so much more about this beautiful and versatile country. Did you know that Oslo is nicknamed Tigerstaden and there’s a tiger statue at the Central Station? Or that the world’s most northerly town is Norwegian and it’s a mining town that will deport you if you don’t have a job or other means to support yourself? From its magnificent fauna (the arctic fox only considers it to be cold when the temperatures drop below -70°C!) and its many national parks, to its tiny towns and vibrant cities, from the Global Seed Vault in Spitsbergen (providing back-up storage for seeds held in 1700 gene banks all over the world!) to the Heddal Stave Church in Telemark (looking like something out of a fairy tale), from its mountains, waterfalls and lakes to its fountains, statues, urban art scene and a monolith consisting of writhing bodies, Norway is without a doubt a fascinating country that I’m even more desperate to visit now, and Norway is the perfect book to transport you there in spirit. With its gorgeous photos and lots of interesting facts, this is the perfect book for any Nordic lover and/or (armchair) traveller.

Japan: Land of the Rising Sun by Melanie Clegg confirms my initial idea about a country I didn’t know all that much about: Japan is a country of contrasts and extremes. From its bustling, often somewhat futuristic cities to its ancient Buddhist heritage, from its samurai culture to its cherry blossoms, from Mount Fuji to geisha, and everything in between, Japan captures it all in a myriad of stunning photos. What possibly surprised me most is the Noboribetsu Date Historic Village, a replica village (including clothing, food and activities) where visitors can take a trip back to the 17th-century Edo period, and all the A-line buildings  making up Aomori’s skyline, referring to their city’s first letter in their architecture. But really, I could wax on about this book for ages, I have too many favourite photos to even begin to sum them up and I would highly recommend picking up Japan, regardless of whether you’re familiar with the country or a complete newbie like me.

Hidden Places: From Secret Shores to Sacred Shrines by Claudia Martin takes us to remarkable natural or man-made places off the beaten track in the Americas, Europe, Africa and the Middle East, and Asia and the Pacific. As a fan of Kelley Armstrong’s Rockton series, I loved seeing photos of Yukon, Canada and its second largest town Dawson City. I had no idea that there is a US national park protecting sand dunes up to 230m high in Colorado, nor that a few of the islands off Wisconsin get so cold in winter, their waves and waterfalls freeze, truly spectacular photos. I learnt a whole lot about Europe as well (did you know there’s a village in Italy you can only reach by means of a footbridge from the neighbouring town or that there’s a forest of crooked trees in Poland?) and Hidden Places made me put two countries I’d never even considered visiting on my travel bucket list: Slovenia and Romania. I also bumped Ireland up the list, I’ve always wanted to visit but now I’ve added Killarney National Park and its Torc Waterfall to my to-visit list, it’s one of my favourite photos in this book and I love the legend behind the name. Hidden Places is filled to the brim with stunning photos but two other favourites of mine are the Hitachi Seaside park in Japan, with its fields of baby blue-eyes flowers as far as the eye can reach, and the Rakotzbrücke in Germany, which is the only place I’d heard of before picking up this book. Hidden Places is guaranteed to fuel your wanderlust and is a perfect book to gift yourself or any (armchair) traveller you might want to surprise this Christmas.

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