As usual, my 2017 summer holiday was an opportunity to indulge in plenty of books. Here’s a quick run down of what I read in Portugal!
When I updated my 2017 Reading List Challenge at the end of August, I only covered the books I read before I left for my summer holiday. That update took me up to 40 books for the year, within 5 of my annual target. So I was pretty sure that I would hit that goal during my time in Portugal, and I wasn’t wrong!
While I was enjoying the sun, sea and too much good food, I also read a total of nine books. That list included a few rom-coms, a book on minimalism and a couple of dystopias. Here are my thoughts:
Lyrebird by Cecelia Ahern
Lyrebird is the nickname given to Laura, a young woman who has the amazing ability to replicate any sound she hears. She is taken from a life of seclusion on a mountain in South-West Ireland, and put under a media spotlight. The TV production company want to show her off to the world, but they can’t control what happens to Laura next. Nor can they control the effect she has on their relationship.
Through Laura, we’re able to take a fresh look at the impact that media and TV talent shows have on people. I felt incredibly sorry for Laura as her life is turned upside down by the ambition of those around her. Once I was able to put aside the unbelievable nature of Laura’s talent, I really enjoyed this book.
The A-Z of Everything by Debbie Johnson
The A-Z of Everything is the latest book by Debbie Johnson, who writes the Comfort Food Cafe novels. I love those books, so I thought that I’d probably enjoy this as well. It’s the story of two sisters, Poppy and Rose, who haven’t spoken for over a decade. They both receive a call saying that their mother has died, and then discover that Andrea has left them a challenge to complete. Together, they have to work through an A-Z of letters, videos and tasks. Their mother hopes that this trip down memory lane will help bring them together, but can they really forgive?
I really enjoyed this novel, the characters are both believable and great fun, and I loved the idea of Andrea’s challenge. The book is also set in a Shropshire village, so it reminded me a little of my own childhood in places. Debbie Johnson has a new novel out next month, Coming Home to the Comfort Food Cafe – I’ve already pre-ordered it!
The Power by Naomi Alderman
Women across the world have discovered that they have a new power. The ability to inflict terrible pain and even death, through a simple flick of the fingers. Suddenly the men are no longer in control, and the impact across the globe is massive.
I had been looking forward to reading this book for months, and really expected to enjoy it. It sounds like exactly my kind of book, and was being promoted as a book for fans of ‘The Handmaid’s Tale‘. Well, I have to admit that I was a little disappointed. It wasn’t a terrible book, but it wasn’t as good as I expected. It’s very violent in several places, and none of the characters were particularly appealing. If you don’t actually care about the characters, then a dystopian novel can be a very bleak read. It’s a book that had huge potential but for me, it didn’t live up to the hype.
The Queen of Wishful Thinking by Milly Johnson
This was actually the first book that I read during my summer holiday. I love Milly Johnson’s books, and it’s become a tradition that I save them as a treat for when I’m travelling. The Queen of Wishful Thinking is another fab read, from a really good rom-com author.
Lewis has a health scare in his early forties, and takes it as a sign to quit the rat race and open the antique shop of his dreams. Meanwhile, Bonnie Brookland has lived and breathed the antiques trade all of her life, but needs a new job. It’s a match made in heaven. Except Bonnie is trapped in a marriage with an emotionally abusive husband, and Lewis has his own marital problems as well. Plus there are secrets from the past that are bound to come out into the open.
This is a real cracker of a novel that got my holiday off to a fantastic start. I can’t wait to read Milly’s next book, but it looks like I’ll have to be patient until February 2018.
The House of New Beginnings by Lucy Diamond
Lucy Diamond is another author whose books I save for my holidays! I really enjoy her books, and this was another good one. It’s set in a small apartment building in Brighton, and follows three women who all have their own problems to deal with. But the house brings them together, and friendship blossoms.
I really enjoyed The House of New Beginnings. It’s an entertaining read and the main characters were all very appealing. I loved Margot, the glamorous older woman on the top floor, who helps to bring the women together.
This is quite emotional at times and the ending did bring a tear to my eye. But it’s definitely another fab read from Lucy Diamond!
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
A deadly flu virus reaches North America, and a famous actor dies on stage in the middle of a performance. The world is changed for ever. 20 years later, Kirsten is performing Shakespeare to audiences in the settlements that have sprung up after the global collapse. But her new world comes under threat – how far would you go to protect it?
This is another dystopian novel that was recommended to me as a fan of The Handmaid’s Tale. It’s quite a believable novel, in terms of the dystopian scenario that is set up, and the characters are very engaging. The novel switches between ‘present day’ (i.e. 20 years after the collapse) and scenes from when the flu virus first starts to decimate the planet. It’s a gripping nove, which I enjoyed more than The Power. But I still wouldn’t say that it is one of my favourite dystopian novels.
The Girl Next Door by Elizabeth Noble
Whenever I rent a villa or apartment for a holiday, I always like to have a nose through the bookshelf there. This time, I didn’t find too much that was to my taste, but I did pick up this book towards the end of my summer break.
Eve and her husband have relocated to New York after he has been promoted at work. Home is a long way away, and Eve is finding it hard to adjust to life in NYC. The apartment building that they live in is full of larger than life characters, but it’s the friendship of 80-something Violet that makes Eve feel more at home. But then married life doesn’t seem to be running smoothly for anyone, and the singletons in the building have their own problems to deal with.
I enjoyed this novel, although it’s quite emotional at times and has a very bittersweet ending. I’m glad that I discovered it, and I will definitely be looking out for more of Elizabeth Noble’s books.
Goodbye Things: On Minimalist Living by Fumio Sasaki
This was a book that Mark bought before the holiday and took along to read while we were in Portugal. I’m not generally a minimalist – I try not to have too much clutter, but I do like my things around me. So I read this to see whether it might spark a change in attitude.
Well, I can definitely report that it didn’t change my attitude! There were some small points that I agreed with, but generally I found the author very annoying. He finds it easy to be a minimalist because he has no wife, no children and very few friends – and he’s very smug about it. He doesn’t need to buy things because the shops are like a warehouse holding everything that he might need. And he doesn’t bother to host friends at his apartment because they can go out for dinner instead. It doesn’t feel like minimalism for people who live in the real world, and seeing his bedroom with a simple fold out bed and pillow makes me glad that I’m not a minimalist.
For me, the defining moment came when he admitted that the possession that he found hardest to get rid of, was his stash of adult films!
An interesting read, but not one that I’ll be returning to.
Doesn’t Everyone Have a Secret? by Sue Shepherd
When I picked this book out, I didn’t realise that when the blurb mentioned ‘guardian angels’, it literally meant the type with wings. That’s not generally my cup of tea, but Sue Shepherd is an engaging author, and so I still enjoyed this book.
I didn’t get around to reading Caraval and The Plot Against America during my holiday. I’ll save them for another time.
So that makes a total of nine books read during my summer holiday, which takes my total for the year so far up to 49. That’s over my annual target for 2017, and I’m really looking forward to seeing what my final tally is.
Check back at the end of the month to find out my 2017 Reading List total for September!