Sunday, 16 June 2013

Holiday Reads 2013: The Verdicts

Well, I'm back from my 'olidays, and as you've probably noticed, I've brought some rain with me... Sorry about that. In my last review, I had a shot at reviewing my intended holiday reads before reading them. Well, it seems I overestimated my ability to read that quickly, because out of the fourteen I had downloaded specifically for the occasion, I only managed seven. But come on, I still think that's a fair number - one a day isn't too shabby, right?! It's probably for the best anyway; I'm not sure even I could hack reviewing fourteen books in one go, and I'm willing to bet you'd get bored of reading them all, right? So I suppose it all works out for the best in the end!

The Boy Who Sneaks In My Bedroom Window by Kirsty Moseley
What I said: This isn't my usual type of book, seeming a bit too angsty and weepy for me, but the low price and the plot (a girl's brother's best friend secretly protects her every night from the monster that comes into her room) was enough to pull me in.
Predicted score: 4/10

The Verdict: It was rubbish. Just... rubbish. I went against my instincts on this one, and don't I know it. I won't even go further into the plot because it was just terrible (despite being a promising idea). The characters were unbelievable, there was awful dialogue and the writing - my God, the writing! I lost track of the amount of times characters ranted and chirped. Seriously, what's wrong with someone just saying something? And also, quick question - is it possible for some one to 'grin happily and smile excitedly' at the same time? Because that happened in this book several times. One of the worst books I think I've ever read - avoid at all costs!
Actual score: 0/10.

Honeymoon for One by Beth Orsoff
What I said: This is my guilty-pleasure read; it's not big, or clever, it's just an easy-to-read, easy-to-put-down romantic comedy - simple holiday tosh.
Predicted score: 6/10
The Verdict: Well, it was the aforementioned easy-to-read romantic comedy, but was actually quite hard to put down. This turned out to be a chick-lit with a twist; a woman who is jilted the day before her wedding decides to go on her expensive honeymoon alone, despite dreading being in a couples-only resort alone for 2 weeks. Faced with that humiliation, she misguidedly agrees to pretend she is married to a stranger she meets in the airport. However, when the agreement turns sour, she and her fake husband agree to go their separate ways - and the next day, he turns up dead on the beach, and she's the number one suspect in his murder. It's still got the same old lurve story in the bones of it, but the murder-mystery twist and the exotic location of Belizeadds a bit more meat to it, making it that bit more interesting.
Actual score: 7/10

Inferno by Dan Brown
What I said: Dan Brown is the king of crap holiday literature, plus I'm hoping this will finally inspire me to actually finish Dante's Divine Comedy, the poem around which Dan Brown's - sorry, Robert Langdon's - latest escapade is centred.
Predicted score: 5/10
The Verdict: Brown's crown is still firmly atop his disillusioned head - good literature this ain't, but it made for comfortably numbing reading in the sun. It's the same old formula; Langdon finds himself in another European city, being assisted by another young, attractive and intelligent woman, as they simultaneously try to solve a mystery and avoid some forces pursuing them. Brown's go-to cash cow is starting to get very tedious, but as this one was set in Florence and Venice, there were enough descriptions of architecture and art to keep me vaguely interested. It wasn't awful, but it certainly wasn't good - I'd only recommend if you really like Brown's unique brand of bland, or if you're sat on a beach and are happy to be completely distracted from reading by the view from time to time (as I was).
Actual score: 3/10

Last Chance by Sarah Dessen
What I said: I actually got this as a free book with a magazine on another holiday years ago, and although I've lost the hard copy, I loved the story so much as a teenager that, for pure nostalgia, I downloaded it.
Predicted score: 8/10
The Verdict: Every bit as enjoyable as I remembered it to be, though a lot shorter than I thought. The story of a social outcast finding unexpected friendship as a waitress in a cafe one summer is maybe not the most original story, but Dessen's writing makes it feel like more. There's some poetical descriptions, likable characters and a strong theme of finding confidence and self-esteem. I read it as a teenager, and it's still obviously for that market, but definitely one of the better novels I read as an awkward teenager, and years later, it did not disappoint.
Actual score: 8/10

Midnight in Austenland by Shannon Hale
What I said: It's a murder-mystery set in a Pride and Prejudice theme park, essentially; what's not to love?!

Predicted score: 8/10
The Verdict: This is actually a sequel, to a novel called Austenland, which involves a single woman with a slightly unhealthy love of Mr Darcy from Pride and Prejudice jetting off to merry old England for a 2-week holiday in Austenland - a Regency mansion in which everyone dresses and behaves as if they were in an Austen novel. The holiday package is aimed at a female audience, so there are male actors on hand to 'woo' the ladies as their own personal Darcys, Bingleys and Ferrars. Midnight in Austenland is essentially the same story, with different principle characters and a murder-mystery thrown in for extra edge. It wasn't exactly gripping - Hale couldn't seem to decide whether this was meant to be mystery-focused or romance-focused, and the result was a clunky mess of the two, resulting in the romance feeling contrived and the mystery tacked on. It was still enjoyable, but I found myself getting a bit bored from time to time, and it certainly wasn't as good as the first.
Actual score: 6/10

Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch
What I said: It was recommended to me as a bit of a crime-thriller meets Harry Potter type book, and seeing as I'm enjoying my crime thrillers, and I'm a massive Harry Potter fan, sounds right up my street.

Predicted score: 8/10
The Verdict: This tale of a young copper, Peter, who finds himself enlisted in a tiny branch of the Met Police dedicated to investigating supernatural causes was actually a pretty good yarn. It wasn't as funny as I was anticipating - maybe it needs a second read for that - but the actual plot was refreshingly original. A seemingly random yet brutal attack is carried out by one stranger on another, who then also dies after they've dispatched their victim - but not before their face caves in. It soon turns out that this isn't the only such attack, but the only apparent link between them all is the whole face-caving-in thing. Enter Peter and his enigmatic boss, who have to try to work out the pattern behind the murders before more people die. It's extremely well written, very witty and the supernatural aspects are surprisingly believable - I really, really enjoyed this and will definitely be reading the next one, Moon Over Soho.
Actual score: 9/10

The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes
What I said: Everyone on the Twittersphere seems to be talking about this time-travelling murder thriller, and I've heard it's a bit like Gone Girl which... I really enjoyed.

Predicted score: 9/10
The Verdict: This was one of those stories which you finish, and can't decide if you enjoyed or not. It certainly had me gripped from page one - the story follows a man who finds a house that allows him to travel through time, and uses it to hunt down his 'Shining Girls' - girls that he believes the house has picked out for him to kill, which he does, with gruesome aplomb. His murders are made even more sinister by his time-travel visits to each of the girls, years before he actually murders them, just to add to their fear when he reappears, years later, to kill them. One of the girls survives his hideous attack, and tries to find out who did this to her - but how do you find a killer who can live out of time? It's a tense, unhappy book, with a tough, jaded heroine and a despicable, sick villain - I'm even considering re-writing my entry on hateful literary characters to accomodate him - but you will find yourself unable to put this book down, even if you find yourself questioning if you enjoyed it at the end, like I did. I will, however, definitely be reading it again.
Actual score: 8/10.

There you have it - the ones I managed to read. I can't say, looking back over them, that maybe it was the greatest selection, but at the time, I was hoping for easy reads, and for the most part, they were. If I had my chance again though (including the holiday, which was GREAT), I'd probably perform a few swaps - namely, The Boy Who Sneaks In My Bedroom Window for Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman (because WHY did I choose that rubbish over an apocalypse novel?!), and I'd also swap Last Chance for Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn, because in hindsight, I wasted a good opportunity to get fully immersed in a new book.


  1. I read last chance as a teenager, and also loved it! Something in the same vein, but grittier, is Ethan Hawke`s debut Ash Wednesday, which I would heartily recommend. If you enjoy thrillers, I would also recommend Ian McEwan`s Saturday, which was so compelling that I cannot remember what else was going on at the time I first read it. Love the blog Jaz! X

  2. I think I read Last Chance as a teenager as well, does a boy paint a picture of her wearing some sunglasses or something? I remember enjoying it!

    I think my hubby has become a bit addicted with your blog now too!

    Nicki x