I know I usually do two reviews at a time, rather than three, but I’m feeling like I will never get all these books reviewed on here if I don’t do some combining. So here we have three books read solely on holiday in Iceland. Three quite different books, which were chosen for their Englishness or their Icelandic nature, and in two cases, their portability. So, here we go with all of the rest of the holiday reading actually done on the holiday (one flight-home book to come!)
Bill Bryson – “At Home”
(Acquired via BookCrossing 23 November 2013, at a meetup)
A somewhat hefty tome, which I thought would be entertaining on the journey (it was, but too big for the in-cabin baggage) and finished by the time I met the Icelandic BookCrossers (it wasn’t, sorry). This is an exhaustive tour of, well, basically, stuff, told through the conceit of a journey around Bryson’s house in Norfolk. This works better in some rooms than others (OK, the attic one was a bit of a mish-mash, but it didn’t have anything about storage, etc.) but generally gave a potted history of the type of room, and type of activity that went on in the room, with side excursions into all sorts of things.
it’s haphazard but entertaining, full of little details which will stick with you, half-remembered. It debunks myths and confirms or denies generally accepted beliefs, and does tend towards the icky tale of disease and pests, leading to some sections that I did skim over, I have to admit. But it was generally well done and amusing, but not silly (he can get a bit silly, I find). A good travelling read if you can fit it in your baggage.
Jon Arnason, May and Hallberg Hallmundsson – “Icelandic Folk and Fairy Tales”
(21 Jan 2014, from Sian, registered on BookCrossing)
While I do like to collect books on Iceland, and this looked enticing from the day I received it on my birthday, it was found in a local charity shop and registered on BookCrossing, so it had to keep on travelling! I also knew by then that I would be going to Iceland some time this year, so I had it saved up (ha – saved up, who am I kidding? I’m on last summer’s acquisitions still!) to read and then release in Iceland. I ended up leaving it in our guesthouse, which was a good place for it, as the owners are Icelandic, but people come through from all sorts of different places.
This has a variety of tales, short, long, scary, funny, myths, tales from the saga-times, humans, elves, trolls and ghosts. They’re collected into a loose order, some involving a particular person, others types of tales, with a good introduction explaining the background and the choices that the editors made. There are also atmospheric pictures scattered through the text. A good read in the fragments of time you often have on a trip, where a few paragraphs or a page works well slotted in amongst the day’s activities, and it was super to read it actually in Iceland!
Veronica Stallwood – “Oxford Exit”
(25 December 2013 – LibraryThing Virago Group Not so Secret Santa gift from Verity)
I took this away with me because it was short and about England and libraries – I had already checked with Verity that she didn’t mind me registering it on BookCrossing and giving it away when I’d finished it. I’m not normally a big mystery fan – which means that I NEVER guess whodunit – but I do like an interesting and different read, and the fact that this one centres around a writer and is set in the libraries of Oxford University meant that it was right up my street.
Novelist Kate Ivory is approached to investigate the theft of books from various Oxford libraries, and she starts to delve into the mysteries of cataloguing and downloading records (oh so familiar from my library days). But it quickly becomes apparent that book theft is the least of her concerns, when people start telling her about a young library assistant who was murdered recently.
Taking in multiple locations in Oxford and America, our heroine is an interesting woman who goes running and has a fairly independent (or solitary) life, although she comes into contact with her comedy neighbours and a hunky policeman in the course of her investigation. There’s also some convincing detail about why she doesn’t want to get involved in more action and has lost her head for heights which obviously refers back to a previous book, but this does happily stand alone in its series.
Further interest is added in the form of creative writing assignments created by someone who is obviously linked to the case in some way, and may be unhinged or just a fantasist. There’s a convincing air of menace and worry that builds as the book goes on, and it’s a good read with a broad range of characters and a good dose of humour. I would definitely consider reading others in this series.
Coming up next – what I read on the plane home and my first read back home, and we keep chipping away at the TBR!