The Trespasser - Tana frenchMaybe it’s something about being smack dab in December, with some of the most depressing and shortest days of the year, but I find myself often thinking back to summer holidays.

As I already wrote in a  post, sometimes my reading experience conflates the books I read on holidays. Even when those novels aren’t that memorable, I tend to remember them longer simply because of my favorable memories about the holidays during which I read them and the spectacular settings in which I cracked open the page.

This was the case again this summer, where I read a lot of books, but only a few worth remembering as well as I do. But on cold days in December, can you really blame me for looking back fondly on that lovely August sun and lazy days in southern France?

Up above you can see the Bidart beach in France’s Pays Basque region where I read Irish author Tana French’s latest, The Trespasser between dips in the (frigid) water – I’m way to used to the gentle Mediterranean. I’m a big Tana French fan, and you can see my earlier reviews for her novels Broken Harbour , The Likeness and Faithful Place. This was definitely the best novel I read during the holiday break, the story solving the murder of a young woman killed in Dublin as she waits for her date to come to her home for a romantic dinner. But despite the author’s ability to transport me to Dublin and into the minds of her characters, this didn’t draw me in the same way that most of French’s novels do.

The Oce PrincessI made the mistake of picking up this novel, The Ice Princess by Camilla Lackberg, part of  Swedish series. I certainly did something right by reading it in the right atmosphere.

In the photo it’s a cold, wet early morning as one of my sons is taking surf lessons and I’m fighting the wind to read this novel. It definitely was not worth the effort. Paper thin characters, a dull writing style, a romance thread that had me more bored than interested. I understand these novels have  a big following, but they’re certainly not my cup of tea. This was a novel worth forgetting, but I can still picture passages and scenes because they are wrapped up in my holiday memories.

Le Moulin des SourcesWhen in France, do as the French do. I decided to pick up some French novels to work on the language. The beauty of this trick is that, even if the novels are ho-hum at best, I’m still picking up new vocabulary and grammar points and I feel proud of myself for having read them.

The novel shown in the photo to the right is Francoise Bourdon’s Le moulin des Sources. I had it in my backpack and dipped into it as we took seacoast hikes, as I’m doing her as my kids are off exploring this rocky beach on our hike down to Spain. This sweeping novel set in Provence tried to cover too much – too many generations, too many characters, many of whom were barely developed. But still, it was set in a region we were headed after our stay in Pays Basque, and I still picked up new vocabulary and grammar – so still enjoyable despite the ho-hum plot and structure.

Estocade sanglanteSince I read a book about Provence in the Pays basque, it was only fitting that I read a book about the Pays basque in Provence. And what a mess of a book it was!

Estogade sanglante by Jacques Garay was a paint-by-the-numbers-book written to a marketing plan: “Write a book for tourists travelling to the Pays basque region. Plot and characters aren’t important at all, so waste as little time as possible developing either. Just drop in lots of Basque words and have your character consume lots of Basque food and drinks while dropping names of various local clubs and restaurants. Oh, and be sure to throw in lots of bullfighting to make it exotic. That should keep them happy.” Even reading in French couldn’t make this train wreck of a novel worth it. But I’ll still remember it far longer than I should, because I read it during the holidays.

Happy holiday reading!