I’ve been a bit quiet over the last week or so because I’ve been on holiday. A week of lazing around in the sun (or shade, in my case), eating, drinking and reading. And boy did I do a lot of those last three!
In choosing books to take on holiday, what do you go for? The main factor for me is variety. When I’m doing a lot of reading in a short space of time, I don’t want to feel like I’m reading the same book over and over. For a similar reason, length also becomes more relevant than usual, as I don’t want to have to read a 1,000+ page epic in two sittings. I want different voices, characters and settings.
Beyond that, anything goes!
Here are the books I read on my holiday.
Disclaimer by Renee Knight
Catherine finds a novel in her house and begins to read it. As she does, she realises that it she is the main character, and that the book intends to uncover her darkest secret – something that she has shared with no one, and that she thought was buried in the past.
This is a psychological thriller, and the plot twists and turns throughout, playing with your sympathies. It’s an easy read, and while it didn’t quite live up to the hype surrounding it, it was perfect holiday reading material.
The Versions of Us by Laura Barnett
Eva and Jim are students at Cambridge when the book opens. Eva is cycling, and swerves to avoid a dog. Jim, who is walking along the path at the time, will either help her, or not. And from this seemingly innocuous opening, we see three different versions of their lives that stem from the choices they make.
This is an impressive debut novel, and I enjoyed it more than I thought I would. It’s well structured, and jumps between the different versions of their lives, all of which have highs and lows. And I think that’s what I like most about it – there is no fairy tale ending. The choices we make all have ramifications, and what seems ideal may turn sour, or vice versa.
The Dead Lands by Benjamin Percy
This is set some 150 years after a virus has wiped out most of the human population. In what we know as St Louis, survivors have built a walled city called Sanctuary. There is nothing around Sanctuary, other than ruins and wasteland. Life is not perfect, and the people make the best of the situation. One day a stranger arrives, and tells of land to the west which is fertile, and of a potential new life without walls. But can she be trusted?
This isn’t what many people consider to be a holiday read, but I enjoyed it. This is a little bit different to much of the post-apocalyptic fiction out there, and has some unexpected little twists. A great story with plenty of action.
The Well by Catherine Chanter
Ruth Ardingly and her family leave London to buy a farm and start a new life. But whilst their fields are verdant and flourishing, their neighbours’ crops wither and die and the rest of Britain experiences a prolonged drought, with the only rain falling on the Ardingly’s newly acquired land. Ruth and her family become increasingly isolated as the locals turn against them, and the government and reporters move in, and the paradise becoming a prison.
This was a wonderfully strange little novel that doesn’t quite fit into any genre – it’s a little bit dystopian (although the wider society isn’t focussed on), and a little bit ‘whodunnit’. I personally thought that the eventual outcome was a little obvious, but I still enjoyed the journey.
A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab
Kell is one of the few travellers who is able to travel between parallel Londons. There is Grey London, which is our own; dirty and dark with very little magic. There is Red London, where magic is revered and the people live in relative harmony. White London, which is ruled by whoever is the most ruthless, and has little magic of it’s own. And once there was a Black London, which no one speaks of now. On his journeys between the different worlds, Kell is officially a messenger for the Red throne. But, he likes to do a little bit of smuggling on the side – trading pieces of other Londons to those who can’t travel there. This seems like a harmless hobby, until he finds himself in the middle of a treacherous plot…
On the surface of it, this seems like a typical fantasy novel – magic, kings and queens and plots for the throne etc. and yet I found this to be a truly original novel. The characters are wonderful, and the plot, which was a little slow to start, builds to a dramatic and satisfying conclusion. I believe that there may be future novels in this series, but I felt that everything was tied up satisfactorily in this novel, giving the option for standalone novels in the same world, perhaps.
So, they were my holiday reads – some fairly standard, others less so. Now to plan my next holiday!