Sunday, August 31, 2014

Murder on the Orient-Express - S. Lumet 1974

The murder case is baffling, the setting and costumes are timeless - they have hardly aged at all! - and the actors top-notch!

The only setback is Albert Finney's Poirot, whose acting and make-up bring to mind a rather uncanny ghost, rather than the quirky foreigner Christie makes him up to be.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Blue Jasmine - W. Allen, 2013

Contrary to most directors, Allen quietly averages a film per year, most of which are neither masterpieces nor rubbish, but rather like 'Blue Jasmine'; talky, clever, skillfully made films with top-notch actors. 
I. e. very OK films, if that is what you go for. Which I mostly do. (Especially when they don't feature a 60 year old man dating a woman half his age!)

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Time Riders - Alex Scarrow

If you have never read Mary Pope Osbourne's excellent and educational 'the Magic Tree House' series about time-travelling children OR if you now miss a version for teenagers, then the 'Time Riders' will be right up your alley.

In any other case, you might want to find something slightly more original, slightly more inspired / inspiring than this, whose only boldness, as far as I could tell, was to break the basic tenet of the Holy Trinity Principle (i. e. in this group of three, the two girls outnumber the boy).

Wednesday, August 27, 2014


This medieval village in south-west France remains a hot spot for pilgrims. 
Even the less pious of us, however, will delight in visiting the site, amble down (or up!) tiny streets, peek into the many chapels and marvel at the view over the Dordogne river.

At walking distance we also attended a medieval horse show, telling the tale of Roland's sword Durendal, and were awestruck by the birds of prey displayed at the Rocher des Aigles. 
There are also monkeys, bees and grottoes to visit, but we were anxious to get back to Paris..!

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Bioparc, Fuengirola

Sadly, I must confess I have had a lot of preconceived ideas about zoos in the southern hemisphere - empirical ideas, I hasten to add! - but after this visit to Spain I might have to make amends.

For in Fuengirola we found yet another well-kept zoo, with fairly spacious, pretty and true-to-life pens containing what mostly looked like serene animals. (Always a bit hard to tell, isn't it?)

Also, we have now finally gotten the hang of Spanish visiting hours; you either go during the day, in the heat, surrounded by Frenchmen and Brits, OR you arrive after 6 pm, along with the Spanish tourists (who, I must say, are a lot louder than us foreigners!...).

Friday, August 22, 2014

Men From the Boys - Tony Parsons

A rare treat for you - The plot description from the back cover :

"When Harry's fourteen-year-old son Pat moves out, Harry's perfect life seems to be falling apart. Into the chaos of his life stroll two old soldiers who fought alongside Harry's late father in the Battle of Monte Cassino in the spring of 1944.

Will these two gallant old men help Harry to reclaim his son, his family, his wife and his life?
 And can they show Harry Silver what it really means to be a man?"
Bets are open! Will they and can they? Unbearable suspense!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Museo Lara, Ronda

Ronda is a quaint tourist attraction of a village, boasting an impressive number of museums. None of those, however, tempted me in particular so I uncharacteristically handed the choice over to my husband. When asked about the type of museum he'd chosen, he could come up with nothing more informative than a terse and frustrating "old stuff".

In hindsight, though, I can't think of any better definition myself. "Old stuff" is what the museum is brimming with, and though its proportions are lesser than the Louvre's, Señor Lara still managed to hoard tons of old cameras, fans, watches, weapons, photos, instruments of torture, china, uniforms, an exhibit of the Spanish inquisition and more. 
A treat!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

A Traitor To Memory - Elizabeth George

Neat and effortless writing à la Hemingway is very much not George's style. 
Indeed, at times I was under the impression she had gone over her whole novel, all 800 pages, sentence by sentence, to replace all the simple, everyday vocabulary with Latinist polysyllables.
Add to that her obsession with exhaustive background details for every single character, however minor, and the text you end up with is rather cumbersome and stiff.

Fortunately, she is also a master of convoluted plots, which generally makes for an absorbing read (although this one was a deception as to plot; I had half of it figured out after a modest 200 pages).

Still, everything I recently wrote about 'Payment In Blood' of course remains valid.


Monday, August 18, 2014

Cueva del Tesoro, Màlaga

Grottoes are often fascinating, even rather modest ones such as these. 
Hollowed by the sea thousands of years back, they contain paleolithic paintings as well as stalactites, stalagmites and rocks in curious shapes. Probably also a lot more, but as Spanish is not my forte and the guide sadly spoke nothing but, I may have missed out on some of it.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Silverpojken - Kristina Ohlsson

Thrillers and detective stories for children are a booming genre in Sweden, and since the same goes for adults (goes on and on and on, apparently...) I don't see why kids should be excluded from the party.

This one was OK, as far as they go, I guess. A plus for the social ambition that has Ohlsson insert a boat of Syrian refugees into the plot.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

The Hunting Party - Linkin Park

Linkin Park somehow feels like an epitome of American culture : High speed, approachable, low-brow though only slightly debilitating... 
Quite OK running music but not really my cup of tea. 
Then I guess I am perhaps not their target audience, either.

I hope I finally managed to say this without offending any American readers?
American culture does go further than Linkin Park and its likes. Shakespeare may be English, but you do have Faulkner! And Adam Lambert. It's precisely in that combo that the beauty of it lies!

Friday, August 15, 2014

Selwo Marina Delfinarium, Benalmadena

 It may not be very politically correct of me, but when the animals and their dwellings look well-kept and tended to, then I enjoy zoos immensely.

This one was modestly sized, counting a limited range of animals, yet a pleasure to visit!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

One Day - David Nicholls

A trifle, but a cute and smart one.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Hungry; A Young Model's Story of Appetite, Ambition and the Ultimate Embrace of Curves - C. Renn & M. Ingall

The title being fairly self-evident, I will refrain from presenting this book, and just give you my views on it : I found it insightful (especially the parts on the pecking-order in American High Schools were perceptive), analytical (because of its distanced introspection), personal (it is after all Renn's own story) and well-researched (she has obviously studied the subject of eating disorders, and peppers her narrative with statistics and data). 

In short, a lot better than I expected it to be.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Aqualand, Torremolinos

 Well, what can I say? Disney Waterparks it certainly is not!

Stay away if you have any say at all in the matter. 
If you don't, at least have the sense to show up early and bring your own picnic (unless you feel like single-handedly boosting the Spanish state economy).

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Museo Picasso, Malagà

The renovated 16th century mansion housing the museo is truly spectacular, all in harmonious shapes and open space.
The audioguides are easily accessible, and provide extensive comments in a wide range of languages.

The weak spot - there always is one - is the permanent collection, fairly modest in size and comprehending none of the major works even though it does mirror the diversity that was Picasso's very greatest asset. 
Nearby is also Picasso's childhood home open for visitors, but somehow we wound up in the cathedral instead.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

The Once and Future King - T.M White

Four books in one volume makes for bulky reading, yet thanks to White's playful prose this remains an impeccable holiday read. 

The story closely follows Thomas Mallory's 15th century epic 'Le Morte d'Arthur' to which White explicitly refers at regular intervals. Thus, this was also instructive for I needed to be reminded of the Shakespearean drama and the twisted relations between the characters (Arthur, Merlin, Lancelot and Guenevere - fine; but then come Mordred, Galahad, all the Elaines, Morgause, Gawaine, Nimue and the lot...).

The Disney-film (The Sword in the Stone) is based rather faithfully on the first book  which should give you an inkling of how entertaining this was!

Friday, August 8, 2014

Bäst of Sune (audiobook) - Jacobsson & Olsson

I remained a fervent reader of youth literature well into my twenties, so according to my - admittedly very personal - estimate, I reckon I have read more teen books than most people. Take my word for it, therefore, that there are great books galore out there, waiting to be read! Better now, I really do believe, than 30 years ago.

Despite its massive success in Sweden, the 'Sune' series is regrettably not one of the above. Why so many have enjoyed reading this is beyond me. 

Hear me, Swedes; try something better!! 
Allow me to make a few suggestions :
The 'His Dark Materials'-trilogy by Philip Pullman
'Sorgfjäril' by Ingelin Angeborn
'A Little Princess' by Frances Hodgson Burnett
'Le Livre des Etoiles' by Erik L'Homme
'Cathy's Book' by Stewart, Weisman and Brigg
The 'Uglies'-series by Scott Westerfeld
'The Perks of Being a Wallflower' by Stephen Chbosky
just about everything by Gunnel Linde,
and of course the inevitable Potters!

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Museo de la Reina Sofia, Madrid

Time unfortunately did not allow for even a cursory visit of this probably impressive museum. I had, however, managed to persuade my fellow-travellers that leaving Madrid without having seen 'Guernica' IRL was inconceivable.

Hence, we galloped in, rushed through corridors up a massive staircase, took our time admiring the chef d'oeuvre and then dashed out again. 
Pleased with my day, albeit slightly frustrated!
  'Guernica', Pablo Picasso, 1937

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Payment In Blood - Elizabeth George

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, my discovery of Elizabeth George's novels sparked a decade of intense detective-story reading. Most of these stories were streamlined page-turners and I did, indeed, grow weary of them eventually.

Picking this one up again, I can still easily see the attraction. Winning characters with colourful private lives + an eventful plot = A forgettable, yet virtually unputdownable book.
This time around I also unfortunately noticed the highly melodramatic language, the construed dialogue and the artifice of the plot.

This is one of the first novels in the Lynley-series, so it is passably short (400 p).
Very soon, Californian George's need to flaunt her skills in British civilisation had her novels swell up to more than the double, which is way too much of a good thing.

This was a pleasant vacation-read. I might chew down another one before summer is over.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Coriolanus - R. Fiennes 2011

Fiennes both directs and stars as the banished war hero in this adaptation set in some present-day, post-war Rome.

The historical plays are my least favourite Shakespeares, and this one is no exception to the rule.
Globally OK - A positive point is that the scriptwriter has not given in to the temptation of squeezing in as many iambic pentameters as possible, but has made extensive cuts (most Shakespeare-plays are 2,5 - 3 hours long) to allow for extended silences and images to prevail.

Moreover, it is good to be reminded every now and then that these texts - for all the pleasure I do take in reading them - are meant to be acted out and watched.
Somehow, they take on their full meaning on stage.

Friday, August 1, 2014

The ABC Murders - Agatha Christie

 A publishing date of 1936 makes for vintage Christie whatever the content, although this one is slightly atypical. Indeed, Poirot catches a serial killer of sorts. (Funny how those seem to have grown a lot more common since the 1980s?)

I personally prefer Christie to deal with murders in St Mary Mead (home of miss Marple) or any isolated manor in the English countryside, but apart from the setting this was as charming as you could possibly wish for.

Horrible cover, though!