Monday, 28 March 2016

Holiday reading

Spring Break!

Mr Norfolkbookworm and I are just back from a week away in the sun. We both needed a break and the intention was to sit around doing very little whilst soaking up some vitamin D. I was doubly able to relax as the first draft of my dissertation was completed just before we went and so I could indulge in reading for pleasure guilt free!

I certainly made the most of the huge balcony and comfy sunbeds as I read 13 books in the week we were away! All that was distracting me was this view from my lounger:

The books I read (in no particular order)

Persuasion - Jane Austen.  I'm not sure why I've not read this before but my friend the Upstart Wren challenged me to read this on our break.  I wasn't sure at first but pretty soon found myself sucked in and I loved this by the end.
Down and Out in Paris and London - George Orwell.  This book came up as a suggestion on Goodreads and while I am pleased that I read it, I can't say that I enjoyed it. Orwell himself made me cross, especially once he got back to England but his insights into the underclass were interesting.
A Country Road, A Tree - Jo Baker.  I loved Longbourn by this author a couple of years ago and was excited to see this title on Netgalley.  I think my mistake with this one was leaping on the author and not reading more about the book as I found it stilted and the characters unlikable however once I got to the end and read the afterword it all made more sense and in retrospect I like it more. A warning to myself with this one! 
The Summer Before the War - Helen Simonson.  This was a pure delight to read, set in the summer of 1913.  War looms, and comes to pass, as the book unfolds but the book is not about the trenches - it is about how the war affected everyone.  This book isn't literary but is a delight and I was transported to the era perfectly.  This is a book I am going to champion for a long time. 
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society - Mary Ann Schaffer.  After The Summer Before the War this book was the only thing I wanted to re-read as I wanted another book which balanced serious issues and whimsy. GLPPS is one of my 'desert island books' and I loved meeting my book friends again. 
Eighty Days: Nellie Bly and Elizabther Bisland's History-Making Race Around the World - Matthew Goodson. I love the original novel by Verne (and the cartoon from my childhood) so I was intrigued by this book.  Bly was an investagative (and undercover) journalist in 1899 who decided that it would be possible to go around the world faster than Verne's Fogg.  She sets out eastwards... Bisland was also a journalist and when her editor heard of Bly's journey sent Bisland off in the opposite direction to both beat Fogg and her rival.  The book is part travelogue, part history and part biography and was all compelling! 
The Trouble with Goats and Sheep - Joanna Canon. This is a much talked about novel set in the long hot summer of 1979, all the action takes place in just one street as two girls investigate a mysterious disappearance.  I'm not certain that I loved this as much as others but it was a good holiday read. 
Consumed - Abbie Rushton.  Abbie is a friend and I've been looking forward to reading her second novel since it was announced.  I really enjoyed this, it had a Norfolk setting and covered 'issues' in an interesting and new way.  It was a little more predictable than Unspeakable and possibly the issues were overcome a little too simply but this is a book for young adults and hopeful endings are always good. 
The Infinite Air - Fiona Kidman.  The early pioneers of flight lived in exciting times and I've long been fascinated with the female pilots such as Amy Johnson and Amelia Earhart.  This follows the story of New Zealand's pioneering aviator - Jean Batten.  I'd not heard of her but found this fictionalised biography utterly compelling and a brilliant read. 
Eliza Rose - Lucy Worsley.  This is a young adult read set in Tudor times and Worsley creates a fictional foil to the ill-fated Katherine Howard. This book annoyed me intensely, it was simultaneously too adult and too childish and at no point did I warm to the Eliza or feel that the Tudor court was real. 
German Rocketeers in the Heart of Dixie - Monique Laney.  After WW2 many German scientist and rocket engineers were brought to the US.  With the start of the space race many of these scientists were relocated to Huntsville in Alabama right in the heart of the segregated Deep South.  This book is comprised of oral histories from all of the Huntsville community and attempts to be rounded but personally I'd have liked more of the histories and less focus on the Rudolph case.  More probing of the idea of possible Nazis (or Nazi sympathisers) being relocated to a deeply racist area would have been nice too as ultimately I am left with more questions at the end than I had at the start! 
Somewhere Inside of Happy - Anna McPartlin.  This was another book I requested through Netgalley because I'd loved the author's previous book.  At first I thought I was going to be disappointed, it seemed like a typical Irish-set, chick-lit read but the twist towards the end blew me away and while not quite such a tear-jerker as The Last Days of Rabbit Hayes this was still brilliant. 
Freya - Anthony Quinn.  A bit of a cheat here as I didn't quite finish this one on the plane home, but I was more than half way through before we landed.  Another real surprise of a book which follows one woman, her friends and family from VE Day through to the mid-sixties. It is full of unappealing characters but their voices and the plot is so good that I found it hard to put the book down, and I didn't want it to end - always a good sign.
Phew - what a lot of books in a short time!  Now it is back to the grindstone as I have to finish and submit my dissertation in the next three weeks, I bet I wish I was back here very quickly

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