On the first full day (May 20) of our vacation in Townsend, TN, Greg and I drove through Cades Cove in the wee hours of the morning (okay, like 8am) so that we could get an early start on a popular hiking trail. The Abram’s Fall trail can be located just off of the Cades Cove loop soon before you get to the half-way point. You take a right turn onto a gravel road which will take you to the trail head. The trail itself follows Abram’s Creek for 2.5 miles (making it a 5 mile round trip) and terminates at the falls themselves. It’s a moderately difficult hike with the trail going up and down several hills, but there’s nothing too steep. We’ve done this trail once before several years ago, and it seemed a lot tougher back then than it did this time (now we’ve conquered a lot more strenuous trails, making this one pale in comparison). Overall, it was a gorgeous hike and an absolutely wonderful day.
Amsterdam is an earlier work from Atonement author, Ian McEwan. It is stuck somewhere between long novella and short novel length, but it’s not a quick read. When you pick up a McEwan work, you’re in for an investment, no matter how short the work.
Amsterdam is the story of two middle-aged men who are friends with each other. They don’t have much in common–Clive Linley is a world-renowned composer and Vernon Halliday is the editor of a popular broadsheet. The one thing they do have in common is that both are former lovers of the now deceased Molly Lane. This novel follows their stories in the days that follow her funeral. In it we see their coming to terms with the death of their lover and their ensuing struggles both internal and external.
When I started reading Amsterdam, I could help but roll my eyes at the sheer pretentiousness of the story and the characters. I wanted to smack the two main characters upside the head with a humbler book–something like War and Peace. They way they tittered about, talking about Molly and how none of her other lovers, or even her husband were good enough for her was infuriating. Clive and Vernon spoke a lot, but they never really listened to each other–it was all just pseudo-philosophical noise. They are completely self absorbed through the entire novel.
However, I soldiered on, and I am glad I did. Sometimes there are characters who I loath that just float through their stories without ever growing or getting their comeuppance. I won’t spoil the story, but I ended this book with a short chuckle and smile. It is a story of selfishness, snobbishness, willful blindness, euthanasia, and a subtle bit of revenge.
McEwan brilliant toys with his readers’ emotions. He wants you to hate these characters. He wants you to be delighted by the twist. You as the reader, however, must suffer through the annoying pomposity first, and not everyone will be willing to put forth that investment.
So when Greg and I went on our writing/hiking vacation, we brought our furry children along. Waffles, Twinkie, and Scotch had just as much fun as we did. There was lot of ball played and ropes tugged.
Smitten was one of Janet Evanovich’s early forays into romance writing. With any Evanovich novel, you expect a certain level of cheesy goofiness and outrageousness, but poor pacing and lack of story really hinder this particular book. Even though it contains a few chuckles, Smitten is just a cheesy romance that is easily forgotten.
But it does get a couple of extra points for obliterating single-mother stereotypes. Lizabeth Kane, a recent divorcee, hasn’t worked a day of construction in her life, but that doesn’t stop her from snagging a carpentry job that just so happens to be in her neighborhood. There she meets Matt Hallahan–the construction foreman. And here’s where the book loses major feminist points. Hallahan hires Lizabeth because he has the hots for her. There’s sexual tension from the get go, and by the second day, they’re ready to jump each other’s bones. The whirlwindedness of their relationship is unbelievable even by fairytale “love-at-first-sight” standards.
There’s a couple of other added elements. Basically a prototype for Grandma Mazur in the Stephanie Plum novels, Aunt Elsie plays the comic relief along with a big dumb dog that is quintessential in all Evanovich books. There’s also a subplot about a streaker that gets resolved in the most unnecessarily convoluted way–which makes the whole storyline seem completely ridiculous (because a friendly neighborhood streaker isn’t ridiculous enough).
I read this story in a single day. It’s quick, easy, and silly. The chuckles will keep you reading, though your eyes may be rolling at the same time.
Vacation finally came. Greg and I have been planning our writing retreat in the woods for some time now. We had decided early on that we would spend the mornings doing something outdoorsy, the afternoons writing, and the evenings were just to be enjoyed. We stayed in a small cabin in Townsend, TN. There was no Wifi, meaning there were few distractions when writing. We managed to get about a chapter and a half hashed out. There’s still a bit of editing do to, but I believe we made a good impact. We did two area hikes–Abram’s Creek Falls (Tuesday) and Look Rock Tower (Thursday). On Wednesday morning, we rented a couple of bikes and road the eleven-mile Cades Cove loop. All-in-all, it was a fun, relaxing, and productive vacation.
I will be posted several sets of pictures of this vacation’s activities over the next couple of weeks. Up first are just some general pictures of the cabin and of Greg and me.
Review originally posted June 15, 2013
Hammered is the third volume in the Iron Druid Chronicles by Kevin Hearne. It stars Atticus O’Sullivan, a 2000+-year-old druid. Along with Leif Helgarson (a Viking vampire), Gunnar Magnusson (A werewolf lawyer), and several other mythological beings, Atticus sets off to Asgard in order to slay Thor (who is apparently an epic douche-waffle).
The third book is the weakest out of the first three. Hearne relies too heavily on nerdy references and allusions and plays up LOLcat speak WAY too much. More than once is too much, but almost every time there’s a cat involved in the story, it’s referred to as a “Kitteh”—and it gets a bit annoying. We get it, this 2000 year-old druid is all hip to the youngins’ jive language. This particular annoyance may have been exaggerated because I listened to the audiobook version, where if I were just reading it, I could easily just skim over the offending words and ignore them.
There’s also too little Oberon. I know that it would have been difficult getting the wolfhound to Asgard, so the reasoning behind his not being in the story much is understandable, but he was missed.
Overall, Hammered is still a good, fun story. The annoyances are just that—minor annoyances. The book itself fills in a lot of background story for some of the peripheral characters and explains how Thor got his reputation for being such an asshat.
So onward to the next book!
Reviewer’s Note: Last year, when I originally reviewed this book, I tried to post it on Amazon, like I do with many of my reviews. This one was rejected to do foul language. I wonder if it was “Douche-waffle” or “asshat” that was the offending word?
Have you read any of Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid books? What did you think of them? Hit the comments!
I will be gone on a hiking/writing retreat this week, with limited internet access. Greg and I will be staying in a cabin in the small town of Townsend, Tennessee. Townsend borders the Great Smoky Mountain National Park and it like a second home to me–it is where my paternal grandmother is buried. It is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been, and I go there quite often.
Much writing, reading, hiking, and relaxing shall be had.
We’ll be returning Friday evening. I’m not sure I’ll have any posts between now and then. It depends on if I was able to crank any reviews out Sunday and schedule them to be posted (even this one is being scheduled. Hello from the past!).
Our cabin will be just a hop, skip, and a jump away from Cades Cove–an eleven-mile scenic loop in the park filled with local wildlife. Below is a youtube video filled with gorgeous photography (better than my amateur endeavors) that only touches on the majesty of this place.