Summer Holiday reading

Last week I went on holiday! Five days in sunny (or at least warm) southern Spain. My last couple of holidays were either spent sightseeing, or with friends who had their child with them, which meant I didn’t get as much sitting around doing nothing done. But this year, other than one day to visit the Alhambra – which is beautiful and should be on anyone’s list if they ever go near Grenada – we had nothing to do by drink, sunbathe, and read in the sun.

I have to admit I was overconfident and packed far more books than I managed to actually read, and also had to follow tradition and pick something up at the airport, but these are what I got through.

“A God In Ruins”

I can’t remember who recommend Kate Atkinson to me. I know if was someone I met at the York Festival of Writing last year, but whoever it was I owe a dept. This is only the second of her books I’ve read, and she’s gone straight onto the list of authors who make me wonder why I bother trying to ape their talent. Her writing is so elegant and the story so intricately woven around itself. If I can ever write anything with such a perfect mastery of plot and time, I will die a happy man.

“Locke and Key”

I don’t why I had the urge to reread these, but the timing fitted perfectly for the trip. And I still love them. Joe Hill ready gets what ‘Lovecraftian’ is supposed to mean, and the art fits the setting perfectly. I’ve read more of Joe Hill’s work since I first discovered these, and can safely say his graphic novels are better than his novels. I think it’s because the medium of graphic novels prevents the bloated overwriting that Hill shares with his father.

“The Handmaid’s Tale”

I’ve not seen the TV series, but since it came out this has been a book I’ve had a lot of people recommend and so when the book I was looking for the in the airport wasn’t available, I decided I’d pick this one up instead. I’m so incredibly happy I did. I’m so far only a little over half way through, and the writing and structure is just exquisite. Margaret Atwood manages to perfectly tease out character, setting, and backstory in such a beautiful way. And I can see why it’s resonating with so many people at the moment. It’s scary how possible the bits I’ve read so far seem.

So, has everyone else got their holiday reading lists up and ready yet? What have you got lined up for the summer?

Change: as good as a rest

Well, Iceland is beautiful.The landscapes you find there just by driving down the main roads is amazing. It’s not even something you have to hunt for off the beaten track. I mean, look at it…

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We decided that this year we’d do something different for a holiday. Rather than find somewhere hot and read by a pool for a week, we would go for an adventure. Iceland is one of those places I’ve always wanted to visit. Partly for the scenery, and largely for the Northern Lights. Seeing the Northern Lights is one of my bucket list items. I can only imagine what it must be like to see them in person, dancing in the sky like ribbons of light. So flights and a hotel were booked, warm clothing was purchased, and off we went!

And did I see the lights?

Of course not.

Every single website and travel magazine on visiting Iceland repeatedly takes pains to point out there is no guarantee of seeing them when you visit. Unfortunately for us, we weren’t lucky this time. The weather wasn’t too bad, we had clear nights, it was just that the Lights didn’t show up for our week there.

Am I bummed? A little. How could I call the trip wasted when it consisted of views like this…img_0028

Or this…img_0070

Or this…img_8122
The entire country, at least the bits we saw, is breathtaking. We at least got snow, which covered the landscape in pure, white brilliance that didn’t melt for the entire week. It froze instead, which make walking an endurance test in most places, but that was a small prize to pay for the crystalline beauty that covered the world.

But my god, the wind! We were getting 46km/h gusts at points. We traveled down to Vik on the south coast on the Thursday and nearly lost one of the car doors to a gust. Literally. It almost came off the hinges and wouldn’t close. We had to call our emergency breakdown service and then drive to a garage whilst holding the door shut so they could fix it.

(Let this be a lesson in getting full insurance when renting a car, as doing so saved us over £1000 in repair fees for that one.)

But one thing this holiday lacked, in comparison to a beach holiday, was  reading/writing time. Normally I take a bag full of books with me, along with the Kindle App loaded onto my iPad. And I also fit in a large chunk of writing as well. This time the only reading I had time for was a little before bed. It felt odd. I don’t think I’ve ever had a holiday where I didn’t spend a large amount of my time reading. At least since I’ve been a teenager. One of the main points of a holiday has always been to relax and read.

The other thing way this differed from a traditional “summer” holiday is that by the end of it I was exhausted. By the time I got home I could literally barely think. I actually got quite worried that this trip wouldn’t have given me the rest I’d been needing, and would go back to the day job even more drained than I had been before, which in turn would lead to no energy for writing in my free time. Before I’d left I’d hit a wall with my new book and simply couldn’t see a way past, and was hoping the holiday would allow me to break through.

But it looks like I worried in vain. Yesterday lunchtime I sat down, and while I didn’t write any new words I was able to open up my notebook and start spilling out plot summaries and ideas, breaking down the first half of my new book in a way which seems to be allowing me to begin seeing past the block and into the second half!

So it looks like a change is as good as a rest. And even if you’re exhausted after your holiday, a week of sunrises like this really will refresh you mind.

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