Showing posts with label ireland. Show all posts
Showing posts with label ireland. Show all posts

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Where do your books take you?

Any parent will tell you that life pre-kids is very different than life post-kids.  "Different" doesn't mean better or worse--just different!  You have to give some parts of your carefree lifestyle up, but you get an awesome bundle of awesome in their place.  WIN.

One of the things that the husband and I gave up after Small Fry's arrival was our frequent travel.  We traveled a LOT in the 6 years of our relationship before the little dude was born.  We still travel now, but child-related travel (wholesome family fun in the Outer Banks) is way different than pre-child travel (let's go to Vegas and see how quickly I can double-fist margaritas).
Not really kidding about those margaritas.
Anyway, now that we travel less in person, I find myself wanting to travel more in the literary sense.  I love reading books that either take me back to the beautiful places we've been, or transport me to new destinations that I haven't yet had the chance to explore.  I guess that's part of why I'm so into Giraffe Day's Around The World in 12 Books challenge this year.

With that in mind, here are a few books that have helped me travel to both once-visited and new-to-me destinations:

Italy

The Borgia Bride and I, Mona Lisa by Jeanne Kalogridis
The Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons by Dan Brown
Juliet by Anne Fortier

Italian cities are some of my favorites to visit in novels.  I've been to Florence, Rome, and Naples, and these particular books cover those cities very well.  The authors get VERY detailed about places, people, and atmosphere, and it really transports you right along with the characters.  Plus, how fun to go to Italy and try to retrace Langdon's steps?

The Netherlands

A Heart of Stone by Renate Dorrestein

I already talked your ear off about Park's novel and how beautifully he portrays Amsterdam, but Dorrestein is a Dutch author who sets most of her books in that country as well.  A Heart of Stone is not a lighthearted read by any measure, but I enjoyed that it was set in the Netherlands and told from a native's perspective.

Coastal North Carolina

Basically all Nicholas Sparks books ever

I read a lot of Sparks novels before we visited the OBX last summer, and once we got there, I realized why he likes to use the beaches of North Carolina in his books.  They're beautiful, peaceful, and relaxed...very conducive to romance.  I am not the biggest Sparks fan in general, but I do love his settings.

Nantucket, Massachusetts

Basically all Elin Hilderbrand books ever

I've never been to Nantucket, but Hilderbrand's romances are usually set there, and they make me desperate for a beach vacation.

The UK/Ireland

Notes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson
Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger
The Lace Makers of Glenmara by Heather Barbieri
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

I have never been to the UK or Ireland, but I am DYING TO GO.  (I know I have some UK readers, who wants to put up this ginger for a week or two?)  There are so many good books that highlight the flavor of these countries--this list is but a few.  You can also read pretty much any Sophie Kinsella or Jane Green novel to get a London fix.

Hawaii

Moloka'i by Alan Brennert

This book highlights some of the more devastating parts of Hawaii's past, but the islands themselves are painted so gorgeously by Brennert.  I want to go to there.

Sweden

The Millennium trilogy by Stieg Larsson

Nothing could ever make me more interested in Stockholm as a vacation destination than The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo series.  I was researching flights by the end of the trilogy.  Larsson wins for making it sound awesome to eat open-faced sandwiches in the cold.

Africa

A Change in Altitude by Anita Shreve
The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

None of these books illustrate Africa in the most positive of lights, but as a lover of travel, they leave me feeling intrigued about what a trip to the continent might be like.

Mount Everest

Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer

Krakauer does not make climbing Everest sound fun.  At all.  (See: parts of book where 8 people die trying to climb it.)  But I'd be lying if I said it didn't make me wonder what it would be like to scale the darn thing.  Maybe just to base camp?

Russia

Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky (or any classic Russian lit, really)
Stalin's Children by Owen Matthews

I know this is a tad crazy, because neither of these books make Russia seem like the most inviting place in the world.  Plus, Russia is actually not a very safe place for American travel these days, but books set in that country make me insanely interested in checking it out.  Maybe one day.

Around the Globe!

13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson
A Cook's Tour by Anthony Bourdain
Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

Can't argue with a novel that basically takes you around the globe!  And two of these are nonfiction books, making the travel experiences even more vivid for the reader.  (Bonus: Bourdain's book will make you want to Eat All The Things.)

There are also a few favorite destinations that I haven't read books for yet.  Have you read any books set in these locations?  I'm dying to find some!:

Bermuda
Spain (specifically Barcelona)
Montreal
Turkey
Greece (either Athens or the islands, Mykonos and such)

Do you like to "travel" when you read?  What are some of your favorite literary settings?

Monday, November 19, 2012

Audiobook Review: Landing by Emma Donoghue

Title: Landing
Author: Emma Donoghue
Publisher: BBC Audiobooks America
Publication Date: May 1, 2007
Source: borrowed from the good ol' public library

Plot Summary from Goodreads:

A delightful, old-fashioned love story with a uniquely twenty-first-century twist, Landing is a romantic comedy that explores the pleasures and sorrows of long-distance relationships--the kind millions of us now maintain mostly by plane, phone, and Internet.

Síle is a stylish citizen of the new Dublin, a veteran flight attendant who's traveled the world. Jude is a twenty-five-year-old archivist, stubbornly attached to the tiny town of Ireland, Ontario, in which she was born and raised. On her first plane trip, Jude's and Síle's worlds touch and snag at Heathrow Airport. In the course of the next year, their lives, and those of their friends and families, will be drawn into a new, shaky orbit.

This sparkling, lively story explores age-old questions: Does where you live matter more than who you live with? What would you give up for love, and would you be a fool to do so?


My Review:

I read Room by Emma Donoghue a few years ago, and was completely captivated by it.  So when I saw this audiobook sitting on my library's shelf, I had to go for it, in the interest of exploring Donoghue's other work.  This, however, is an entirely different novel, and if her name was taken off the cover, I probably would never have guessed that she penned it.  I'm not saying that as a bad thing--if anything, it shows the range of her abilities as a writer.

The beginning of the novel intrigued me.  Jude, flying home to Canada after visiting her mother in the UK, realizes mid-flight that the man sitting next to her on the plane has died.  Sile (pronounced Sheila) is the flight attendant that she flags down, and Sile takes charge of the situation as Jude quietly panics.  The two of them end up sharing a cup of coffee after the incident is over, and a relationship is born.

I'd have to say this is probably the most unique romance novel I've read in a long time.  And not because it's a lesbian romance (though I admittedly don't have a lot of that in my reading past).  Sile and Jude's relationship is distinctive for so many other reasons; this is a May-September romance on crack.  The 14-year age gap is one thing, but is actually a relative non-issue compared to other differences.  Primarily, this includes their far-flung locations and their diverse personalities.  The novel's description doesn't do those dichotomies justice.  Jude is a staunch homebody, and an "old soul"...set in her ways, living in the same house she grew up in, no cell phone, and has never had an email account before meeting Sile.  Sile, on the other hand, is carefree, a jet-setter, attached to her smartphone, thrives among crowds of friends in big city settings.

Honestly, despite the proclaimed chemistry between the two throughout the novel, I had a hard time truly seeing them together for most of it.  They were just SO polar-opposite in many ways, that it was often difficult for me to believe that either of them would ever be willing to make the changes necessary to be with the other.  I tried to suspend my disbelief as much as possible, and towards the end I started to soften towards them a bit, but that was probably my main dislike about the book.  I understand the idea of "opposites attract", but I think I could have done with just a few more similarities in this case.

My favorite relationships in the novel were actually between Jude and Sile and their respective friends.  Jude and Rizla (her best friend and ex-husband...kind of) have a great back-and-forth, and their history lends a lot to their interactions.  Sile's friend Jael is raunchy, crude, and downright hilarious, and her friend Marcus is witty and eminently likeable.  These side characters were a big part of what kept me interested in the plot.

Even though I had some trouble with the chemistry between Sile and Jude, I thought Donoghue did a good job with the progression of their relationship and the novel's ending.  I mean, the whole point here is that they are both exploring their personal identities, and trying to determine what is worth changing for their partner--so despite the whole thing about them being opposites, Donoghue does delve into their inner struggles very thoroughly.  Plus, I was completely unable to predict how the book would wrap up, and it was crafted it nicely--not cliched, not perfectly tied up, leaves you with a few questions unanswered.  It's about as vague of an ending as a romance novel can have, without being unsatisfactory.

Overall, I'd say if you are looking for a one-of-a-kind romance, Landing is a good bet.  Donoghue builds very distinctive characters (both primary and supporting), which lends a fun atmosphere to the entire novel.  You may just need to be more of a believer in extreme "opposites attract" than I am!  And don't expect this to be similar to Donoghue's Room--this novel is a complete gear-switch in comparison.

Other reviews of Landing:
Bonjour, Cass!
Secluded Charm
Casey The Canadian Lesbrarian
 
Imagination Designs