At the beginning of December I went on my first ever winter holiday abroad with the boyfriend to the island of Sal in Cape Verde for some winter sun. It was glorious and I got lots of reading done! Which is one of the main reasons why I love holidays, time to relax and devour some books away from the demands of everyday life. So here’s the lowdown on the books I read.
The Martian by Andy Weir
World-Building: 8/10 Plot: 9/10 Characters: 10/10
I watched the film in the cinema and loved it and two friends highly recommended the book, so when I spotted it in a charity shop I had to have it. Undoubtedly one of my top reads of 2016. Vaguely set in the future, NASA is now running missions to Mars to collect samples and gain better understandings of the planet. A month into the latest mission, their work is disrupted by a violent storm in which a member of the crew is hit. Assumed dead, the rest of the team leave him, aborting mission and heading home. However, resourceful botanist and engineer Mark Watney is alive and now finds himself with the challenge of surviving on Mars alone. It surprised me how easy to read and interesting all the science was even with so much of it in this book and the protagonist Mark Watney is such a loveable and entertaining character. Interesting, funny and full of page-turning suspense I highly recommend this book. As someone who isn’t that fascinated by space this definitely peaked my interest. Perfect book to read in Cape Verde where much of our surroundings matched the red desolate landscapes depicted in the book.
When We Are Vanished by Nimue Brown
World-Building: 10/10 Plot: 6/10 Characters: 5/10
Speculative fiction set in a post-apocalyptic world where the silicon computer system as we know it has been destroyed by hackers and with it most of the infrastructure of the modern world. The story begins several years after the catastrophe focusing on four women from the same family whose lives are closely linked with the new temperamental cellulose tech brought in to replace traditional silicon technology. And then people start mysteriously vanishing. Intense, surreal and eerie, I liked the thought-provoking concepts, world building and satire but I didn’t entirely get on with the main characters or dream-like and religious nature of the last third of the book. However, I did mostly enjoy it and is worth a read if you are interested in dystopia and our relationships with nature.
The Basilisk by N M Browne
World-Building: 8/10 Plot: 7/10 Characters: 4/10
Original fantasy YA about two teenagers who dream of dragons. From vastly different backgrounds, Rej a comber who has spent his whole life underground and Donna an Abover who devotes her life to serving the noble cause, they are thrown together on a quest to save both their worlds. I was intrigued by the world Browne had created and the politics and history behind current events it but I found the writing style awkward to read and the two main characters annoying. But worth reading for the interesting setting and the dragons!
Coastlines: The Story of our Shore by Patrick Barkham
I didn’t quite finish this on holiday and still haven’t as it’s a non-fiction I’m happy to dip in and out of it alongside whatever fiction I’m focused on reading. But I’m truly loving this book, as I adore the sea and coast, especially in Cornwall which obviously features. I’m really enjoying learning about much of the history of the British coast and reading in detail about some of its treasures. From smuggling to scenes from classic literature there are all kinds of fascinating gems to discover in this book. Barkham has a lovely writing style with stunning descriptions which really take you there to the cliff tops and crashing waves.
Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky
World-Building: 10/10 Plot: 8/10 Characters: 9/10
Ok technically cheating a little bit here I didn’t read this on holiday but I did read it over the Christmas holiday on the Kindle I received as a Christmas present. Basically, WOW. I don’t know if I’m more overwhelmed by this book because I don’t read much Sci-Fi but I was pretty blown away by this. I found it intense with a lot happening and a high turnover of characters (as you follow a whole evolutionary history of an alien spider species) but maybe that just adds to the originality and brilliance of this book. Even so I was addicted and it got me obssessively using my new Kindle (even though real books are so much nicer to read). So clever and meticulously thought out, I could have happily just read about the spiders and would have liked to hear a little more about the individual spider characters. However, the story of the last of humanity alongside this was emotional, thought-provoking and equally horrifying so definitely helped make the book the marvel it is. All the stories intertwined in this novel felt original, emotional and ultimately real. They all came together with a satisfying ending. Check out my friend’s review of this book, as she sells it much better than I, here.