Folks, I’m (what feels like) finally heading off for a little bit of a summer holiday. I’ll be heading to Barcelona, somewhere I’ve somehow never visited before now despite holidaying in Spain with my family since I was 18 months old (!), and I cannot wait, it’s going to be so much fun! We don’t have too much planned – the only thing we’ve booked in advance is the tickets for La Sagrada Familia so we’re mainly planning to take it easy and wander about, soaking up (hopefully) some sun and all Barcelona has to offer. As I type this, I am deep in the midst of packing, but I’ve taken time away from my suitcase to address something very important in the packing process for a bookworm: deciding which books to take with me.
I don’t know how much reading time I’m going to get, but I do know I am holidaying with people who understand wanting to read, regardless of where you happen to be in the world. So, I need to pick out my holiday TBR. As we only have hand luggage, I’m trying to limit my book selection, and rationalise the fact that we’re only away for 5 days so I don’t actually need to take more than 2 books. I saw Ashleigh from A Frolic Through Fiction do a “try a chapter” challenge in order to pick her holiday TBR, and I thought it was a brilliant idea to pick out what books you’re actually in the mood for, rather than the ones you just think you’re in the mood for. So, with that in mind, here are the contenders that I’m going to try out…
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
First Impressions: I have such high hopes for this book because everything leads me to believe I’m going to enjoy it. There’s one little thing holding me back – I’m not the biggest dystopian fan so the fact that this has that angle makes me the tiniest bit wary. however, it opens with the lead actor in a production of King Lear collapsing mid-performance and an audience member, once photographer now trainee paramedic, leaping up to try to save him – to no avail. We then close out the chapter following this character on his way home to what sounds like a pretty loveless relationship. To be honest, the opening chapter was… fine, but it didn’t exactly immediately draw me in.
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
First Impressions: I kind of cheated with this one – I read its first chapter on Amazon after people kept mentioning it in the online book community, and then I promptly ordered it (thank you Amazon Prime). The book opens with a journalist being assigned an interview with a famous, reclusive Old Hollywood actress, with a promise of learning about her life and the seven husbands along the way, but oddly enough the journalist was specifically requested by the famed Evelyn herself. This one is definitely making its way into my suitcase and I’m excited to find out what so many people love about it.
All These Beautiful Strangers by Elizabeth Klehfoth
First Impressions: The prologue was suitably easy to fall into and read and teased the idea of the rich family who’s mother disappears. I suspect it’s going to be a bit ‘rich people problems’, given the way the lazy, hazy summers at the house are described in this opening section but there’s definitely more behind that seemingly perfect veneer and I am a bit of a sucker for the whole ‘rich people problems’ vibe. Suitably thrilling, I’m sure, and I hear this one is certainly a page-turning, quick read, but I haven’t heard amazing things about this one, so I think I’ll save it for when I’m at home and I can put it down in favour of another book and pick it up more easily.
Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi
First Impressions: It’s hard to have escaped this one over the last few months and it seems to have hit the mainstream. Considering I love fantasy, I want to make sure I take something with a fantasy element to it, so this one may fit the bill. The first chapter introduces the character of Zelie, whose mother I believe was dragged away and hanged because she was a witch (?), and then we see her in some kind of “school” situation with an elder teaching a group of girls how to fight with staffs. It’s disturbed by soldiers checking up on them, at which point all evidence of what they’re doing is hidden behind the pretence of needlework, so colour me intrigued. I found the opening nowhere near as complicated to understand as some people have led me to believe… though I have only read one chapter so we’ll see…
Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
First Impressions: I read up to the first section break, since the first chapter was reasonably long considering the short length of the book. This book opens with the lines ‘Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet.’ as her family expects her at breakfast table one morning, only for Lydia to never show up, and it slowly dawning on her mum that something is wrong when she calls the school and finds out Lydia didn’t show up for her first class. This all certainly seems intriguing, but, if I’m honest, a little too intense for me to want to take on a relaxing holiday, unfortunately. Even so, I’m intrigued, so I know I’ll come back to this at some point soon.
If We Were Villains by M.L. Rio
First Impressions: I’m nervous about this one, I have such high expectations for this book as it was billed to me as The Secret History but with Shakespeare. If there are two things I love it’s that aforementioned Donna Tartt book and a bit of Shakespeare. The prologue opens with a character called Oliver who has been in jail for the past ten years cuffed to a table whilst a detective comes in, as he does every fortnight, and tries to persuade him to tell him the truth behind the murder because he simply needs to know – he’s retiring so anything Oliver tells him will be, he claims, off the record. This is so very The Secret History because it’s all “whydunit” instead of “whodunit” and I’m suitably intrigued.
So there we have it, folks, the winners are: If We Were Villains, Children of Blood and Bone, and The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo. For all I know, I’ll come back from this holiday with precisely none of these read – still, it’s better to be over-prepared than find myself with nothing to read whilst lounging in the sunshine! I’m sure I’ll report back once we’ve returned from Barcelona but, until then, see you on the other side…