the Little Red Reviewer

Posts Tagged ‘travel

stranger in olondriaA Stranger in Olondria, by Sofia Samatar

published in 2013

Where I got it: purchased new

Sofia Samatar is nominated for the Campbell Award in this year’s Hugo Awards.

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So I’ve got good news and bad news about A Stranger In Olondria. The good news is that this is some of the most beautifully poetic writing I’ve ever come across. Open the book to any random page, choose any random paragraph, and you’ll be floored by the writing.  The bad news is that the story had absolutely zero hook for me. It took far too long for me to feel pulled into to what was happening.  It was a strange combination of dazzling poetry skillfully disguised as paragraphs, and a muddled plot where the scenes sluggishly melted into each other.  I imagine if Guy Gavriel Kay and Catherynne Valente teamed up to rewrite one year of The Adventures of Ibn Battuta, it might read something like A Stranger in Olondria.

 

Jevick’s family is from the southern island of Tinimavet. His father wants him to grow up to be a merchant of a new generation, so ensures the boy has an Olondrian tutor, someone to teach him the language and customs of that massive country to the north. Lunre teaches Jevick more than just writing and reading, he shares his immense collection of books, and is suspiciously silent about his past.  Tinimavet does not have a written language, which makes the learning of a different one even more magical for Jevick. Before taking ship to Olondria, he has already experienced the fountains in the squares, the bustling ports, the languorous rivers, the women who pull in admirers with a flick of the scarf on their wrists.  Jevick knows all of this through the books of prose and poetry that Lunre reads to him.

 

When the time comes for Jevick to go to Olondria, Lunre refuses to go with him. What broke that man’s heart so completely? His love for his homeland the people who reside there is obvious, why does he refuse to return?  On the ship, Jevick meets a sickly girl, Jissavet, who is from a neighboring island. They share a common language and religion. Her family has spent everything they have in hopes that healers in Olondria can cure her disease.

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I’ve already tortured you with my #idiottourist photos of the beach and of (zomg!) Borderlands books. We wandered around the Mission district of San Fransisco and then went to JapanTown where we went to what might be the coolest Sushi restaurant in the country.  TwoDudes, I’m counting on you to give us more info on JapanTown!

Arrrr, this creative sign down the street from Borderlands cracked me up. Sorry to hear about the store tho.

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I’m not sure if this was graffiti that had guerrilla artwork over it, or what, but it made me smile. Yes, this is a super crappy attempt at a panorama.

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And then we went to JapanTown! This is an indoor shopping mall/mecca of all things Japanese. There was plenty of kawaii, j-pop, Ghibli, kite-painters, Japanese bookstores, Japanese food, drink, and clothing, and all sorts of amazing things (including some kitch).

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A quick break in Hugo nom’d reviews for this short commercial break. Warning: this post includes way too many pictures. it might take a while to load, but there’s good stuff at the bottom for you.

Not sure if I mentioned it, but I’m in California for work for most of July.  For those of you keeping score, I’m an hour south of Sacramento. low humidity? it never rains? This mid-west girl is in heaven!  We’re setting up new locations and training new associates, and i have never worked so hard in my entire life.

What did I do my first free weekend? Go to San Francisco, of course! A very good friend from high school lives here now, so he gave me the tour.  First stop, lunch at a Ramen shop in San Mateo, where residential rents are easily more than I make in a month. I am obsessed with Ramen, and this was the most amazing bowl of Ramen I’ve ever had in my entire life.

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Can’t you just smell that divine porky broth? Miso Ramen is heaven in a bowl.

Next stop, THE BEACH!  I’d never been in the Pacific Ocean before. . .

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About 10 minutes after this photo was taken, fog began rolling in. . . .

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For those of you who guessed Luray Caverns, congrats! You figured out where I was! if you have no idea what I’m talking about, go check out my photos from last week.

Hubby is a History Guy, so our next stops included Winchester VA, Harper’s Ferry, and Antietam.  We drove up and down lots of mountains.  Even you’re not into history, if you live anywhere near Shenandoah Valley, you should visit. It really is the most beautiful place on Earth.

Why don’t you enjoy these photos while I go finish piles and piles of laundry?

Winchester, VA.  Geographically important during the Civil War, the town changed hands more than 70 times.  The Courthouse served as a hospital and prison during the Civil War, and much of the graffiti has been preserved. It’s now a very small museum. Winchester has got to be the nicest town in America. Every time we pulled out our tourist map, some local walked up to us and asked if we needed directions anywhere, if we needed help with anything. Everyone was so friendly and polite!

It was used as a Courthouse and Hospital during the Civil War. The front area was gated in and was used as a prison. It's a museum now, and you can ring the bell!

It was used as a Courthouse and Hospital during the Civil War. The front area was gated in and was used as a prison. It’s a museum now, and you can ring the bell!

Masonic Temple in Winchester. What an amazing facade!

Masonic Temple in Winchester. What an amazing facade!

This is the public library. the PUBLIC LIBRARY of Winchester!!!!

This is the public library. the PUBLIC LIBRARY of Winchester!!!!

Next stop was Harper’s Ferry. It’s built into a mountain side, and the entire village is hills, hills, and more hills. I suggest leaving your car at the Visitor Center and taking the shuttle in, as there is very little parking in the town itself. We spent so much time at the Armory Historical area, that by the time we decided to shop a bit, most of the stores were closing. We also went during the week, which meant half the shops weren’t open.  There are staircases and steep alleyways everywhere. I can’t imagine trying to get up those uneven steps in bad weather.  Another very friendly town, someplace I’d love to spend more time in.

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I haven’t posted in a while, because guess!  Guess where I got to go today!!!  These photos look like they were taken in a mermaid castle from a Tolkien book. Wait, what? Tolkien didn’t write about mermaids? bah!

One of my favorite scenes from the whole place!

One of my favorite scenes from the whole place!

Looks like a mermaid castle, right? a bit hard to tell which way is up.

Looks like a mermaid castle, right? a bit hard to tell which way is up.

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 Getting Stoned with Savages: A trip Through the Islands of Fiji and Vanuatu, by J. Maarten Troost

Published in 2006

Where I got it: borrowed from a friend

Why I read it:  I really enjoy travelogues.

50 pages or so into this book, I was ready to trade my winter boots for flip flops and hop the next flight to Fiji. Great weather, volcanoes, no traffic jams (no traffic lights), chilled out culture, sign me up! Then I got to the chapters (plural) about cannibals. I was still ready to go. Then I got to the chapters (still plural) about the giant poisonous centipedes. You know what? I think I’ll stay here in the American mid-west, thank you very much, where snow comes and kills the insects every year. 

Marten seems to spend most of his days in Vanuatu jokingly thinking to himself how can he make his and his wife’s stay more interesting. Perhaps by nearly losing their house due to a mudslide. Perhaps by visiting with the descendants of cannibals, to see what that’s all about. Perhaps they should start a family. Perhaps he should let a poisonous centipede bite him on the food. Yes, Yes, yes, and why not? And while they’re at it, they should visit an active volcano as well. Maarten Troost doesn’t do anything halfway, and along the way he takes what could be a few years on the islands of Vanuatu and turns it into compelling reading. 

I always enjoy the occasional travelogue, and even more so when they are written in Troost’s amusing style that combines self deprecation, dry humor, anecdotes regarding expats getting lost in translation, and an unending love for the local intoxicants. Honestly, it was a little like reading an Anthony Bourdain book or watching one of his shows, only more locals, less fixers, more intoxicants and less obligatory-seeming feel good bits. 

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Hippolyte’s Island by Barbara Hodgson is not a normal book.

So this is not going to be a normal review. But I’ll do the best I can.

Hippolyte Webb loves to travel. He makes his living selling travel articles to magazines, and spends every sent of his savings to travel even more. From his home in the pacific northwest, he decides his next adventure will be South. Very south. He spends months researching, planning, taking a boating course, and on ancient maps he finds the Aurora Islands (these is/are real Islands! they used to be on maps up till about the early 1900’s, but these days they don’t show up). Out past the Falklands, past the edge of the world, the Aurora Islands began disappearing from maps, and Hippolyte has decided he is going to find them again. Single minded to the point of suspected mental illness, he ignores almost everything around him – friends, neighbors, cleaning his apartment, everything but his goal to find and document the Auroras.
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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.
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