Emptied of expectation. Relax. (tinyjo) wrote,
Emptied of expectation. Relax.
tinyjo

On my holidays

So, the biannual (or is that twice yearly?) holiday is complete and I should write a trip report. Photos of gorgeous scenery and butterflies fighting will be posted, but in the mean time the holiday was as follows:

First up there was 2 days of driving from the tunnel down to the village, which was right down near the Mediteranean. I was on navigating duty but apart from getting us horrendously lost in Montargis (I think I know what I did wrong...) it all went well. We got there, got the keys and found a nice local pizzeria for dinner in the village. The other eatery in the village was the Hotel d'Alibert which we tried next and went back to several times because it was gorgeous. I had the most lovely guinea-fowl. The owner was a real character - he had perfect English and liked singing Beatles songs to himself while tidying tables, riffing on Monty Python and generally having a bit of fun with his English guests.

For outings, we spent a day going to the Chateaux des Lastours (ruined Cathar chateaux) and les Grottes des Limousis both of which were pretty spectacular, one day driving into the Pyrenees (mostly in search of various eagles and other birds) and one heading out to the Mediterranean (more birds). There was also a bit of wine-tasting, although Dad did more than me. The rest of the time was spent mostly reading.

The books

This is nearly in order but I can't quite remember.

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini. I enjoyed this. As with many books which focus very strongly on conveying another culture I felt slightly distant from the narrative but it was still gripping for all that. I found some of the themes, particularly the idea of the one who does stand aside very interesting.

Coalescent by Stephen Baxter. Not bad. Very interesting ideas but not very exciting writing, which I understand is fairly typical of Baxter. One or two niggles made more impression on me than was really reasonable and overall, a pleasant read.

Noughts And Crosses by Malorie Blackman. Interesting but simplistically written.

Thread Of Grace by Mary Doria Russell. Very good. I enjoyed this very much and I found it interesting to see which themes had carried over from her genre work into this, which is very firmly in another genre. She's definitely someone I'm going to be following for a while though.

The Etched City by K.J. Bishop. Not bad. Very lyrical but I would have enjoyed it more if I'd realised how much of the dreams and visions style stuff was purely decorative.

Time Travellers Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. Utterly fantastic. Don't listen to Niall, this is a fantastic book. It made me cry and not many books to that. I can't remember the last one, in fact.

The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor. Starts well, and good idea but not really followed through - once she gets back into Wonderland everything just happens for her because she's the Princess.

The Red Queen by Margaret Drabble. Very disappointing. I picked it up because the synopsis looked interesting (about a Korean princess in the 18th century and an academic who discovers her story). The Korean princess bit was unfortunately written from the perspective of the ghost of the princess who has in the meantime been spending lots of time reading psychology books though so that she can theorise about what was wrong with her husband (who was mad) and quibble at bits of translation which really really didn't work as far as I was concerned. As for the rest, it was just very clunky. Not what I expected given Drabble's reputation.

Oryx And Crake by Margaret Atwood. A very good novel using a plot that's been done before. It's a shame that she isn't read in the genre or she might have produced something really amazingly special. This is still a very good book indeed though.

True Names by Vernor Vinge (essays by miscellaneous). The story, I enjoyed. The essays are written by people who believe in computers very much. Definitely an interesting read.

Perfect Circle by Sean Stewart. Pretty good. Nice writing, very lyrical. I was left feeling that the story hadn't really explained much though. It's a style of course. I guess also, there's not much intention in the book - very rarely does the main character take actual actions rather than having things happen to him. Although I suppose he does precipitate the climactic bit. I don't know. What is it that makes me read and re-read early MMS but not be able to admire this in much more than the intellectual/aesthetic sense?

Case Histories by Kate Atkinson. Perfectly competent crime novel. Little opportunity for the reader to solve the crimes themselves but interesting set-up/takedown and reasonable writing carry this OK.

Stamping Butterflies by Jon Courtenay Grimwood. Enjoyed the writing very much but for a lot of the book I was trying to work out what the point was supposed to be and when it was explained (or not explained) I found myself thinking "but that doesn't really make sense!"

Wolf Brother by Michelle Paver. Another teenage fiction book. Pretty engaging, fairly simple prehistoric fantasy fare.

The Ragwitch by Garth Nix. An early book by Nix, republished after the success of the Abhorsen trilogy. Fairly enjoyable telling of a story I have a vague feeling I've heard somewhere before.
Tags: holiday, reviews
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