Book Review: My Holiday Reading

how-it-all-beganPrincess BrideAgent6

Where: I was lucky enough to go to Ecuador for two and a half weeks this May and cruise the Galapagos Islands and the Amazon Rainforest.

Check out my article about the Galapagos Islands Cruise courtesy of Veloso Tours

Check out my article about the Manatee Amazon Cruise courtesy of Veloso Tours

Eating & Drinking: Ecuador loves their pork and corn so a lot of meals centered around these two hearty ingredients, as well as empanadas and a rather addictive chili sauce.

It was also interesting to learn that Ecuadorians love their soups, they eat it every lunch time. One of the most traditional of these being the Locro Di Papa, Potato soup, which is served with cheese, avocado and corn in it to give variety of texture – delicious.

Wine is not in abundance, the one wine producer also owns the main supermarket chain so he has the monopoly on that market! Most wines are imported from Chile and it’s quite disconcerting to find a bottle of ‘Casiellero del Diablo’ being sold for $40USD. Instead it’s better to make the most of the local beers, Pilsner and Cerveza or a warm glass of Canelazo.

Highlights: Deep-water snorkeling every day around the Galapagos Islands. I swam with sea lions, sharks, penguins, giant turtles and a ridiculous amount of fish! Definitely need a waterproof camera next time.

Disappointments:  Apart from the early wake up calls some mornings. The only worry was Iberian Airlines. It might just be I am little spoilt from previous long haul flights with the likes of Air New Zealand or Etihad, but I didn’t think it was too much to ask for your own entertainment screen on a 11hour flight –  is it?

Books:

1. The Princess Bride (abridged) by William Goldman.

This is a fantasy romance novel based around the lives of the most beautiful woman in the world, Buttercup, and the love of her life, Westley. When Wesley leaves to go and make his fortune a fairytale like no other begins. From fencing, fighting, torture, poison,  revenge, giants, hunters, beasts, escapes, passion and miracles you’re unlikely to read anything like this again.

However, this is definitely a fairytale for grown ups. Prince Humperdinck is not a very nice man, he and his advisor both have a penchant for hunting and researching the limits of man’s pain threshold. To have a Zoo of Death as part of your castle goes some way to explaining the character, and their scheming and subterfuge are both as entertaining as they are shocking.

Although, I enjoyed the book I think I would have preferred it without the running commentary. I found myself enjoying some of the anecdotal passages, but at times they went on for too long (3-4 pages) and I ended up flipping past them. However, these passages weren’t to the detriment of the story as it always picked up where it left off.

 Rating: 7 out of 10 – reminded me of a dark version of the film Stardust, although a lot more disturbing.

2How it all began by Penelope Lively.

When Charlotte is mugged and breaks her hip it sets off a chain of life-altering events for acquaintances and strangers across London, beautifully illustrating the ability of one life to be changed by someone we will never meet.

This was my favourite holiday read, and one I exhanged in a book swap aboard the Manatee in the Amazon. The story is not action packed or overly dramatic, but it is extremely thoughtful and the lines between the characters are woven very intelligently.

My favourite character was the central protagonist, Charlotte and not just because ‘after a few pages of the Da Vinci Code, she knew she could go no further with this.’ She is quiet, reflective and fiercely independent all at the same time not to mention has a passion for reading herself. Another favourite is Jeremy’s hysterical wife Stella.

Rating: 9 out of 10 – the intricacies and level of detail are deliciously entertaining.

3. Agent 6 by Tom Rob Smith

The third installment of Smith’s Leo Demidov series is set in 1965. Demidov is now retired and married with two adopted girls, struggling to leave his secret agent life behind him he finds suspicion and intrigue at every corner. When the opportunity arises for his wife and daughters to go to America he is worried for their safety and quite rightly as a tragic murder soon destroys everything he holds dear. Demidov will stop at nothing to find the killer that has crushed his family.

As a lover of history I found the details of Soviet Russia and the intrigue surrounding the country’s society exceptionally well researched. Smith clearly has a keen interest in this period and  successfully manages to create a real intensity and fear within the pages of his novel.

However, I did find the story a bit long winded especially as the finale was a disappointment. As a reader we jump ahead seven years between chapters and we’re shunted to Afghanistan and America like a yo-yo and as a result the story seems to lose direction.

Rating: 6 out of 10 – would have preferred a more concise action-packed thriller.

Holiday: 10 out of 10!

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