I’ve been back in England for a week, enjoying unseasonably warm weather! I had a wonderful time travelling round Europe with my husband, Paul. We went to:

  • Bucharest and Brasov, in Romania
  • Budapest in Hungary
  • Vienna in Austria
  • Venice and Rome in Italy

We saw lots of wonderful buildings, ate fantastic food, and got to know several different metro and train systems. It was a fantastic adventure (though by the end of our trip, we were kinda glad to be returning to the comforts of home…) I’ll be posting a few photos in due course. 🙂

Today, though, I’m going to tell you about what I read while I was on holiday. Thanks to my trusty Kindle, I was able to take lots of books with me – and I thoroughly enjoyed having more time than usual to dig in to some great fiction and non-fiction. I expect you’ll enjoy some of these too.

In the order that I read them, here’s my holiday reading list: 17 books! I’ve linked to the Kindle versions – if you don’t have a Kindle, you can get a free Kindle reading app for your computer from Amazon.

Note: The below ebooks will probably be slightly cheaper if you live in the US – I’m giving the Amazon.com prices that I see, but as I’m in the UK, I have to pay value added tax on ebooks.

Witness by Cath Staincliffe – Amazon.com: $3.16 / Amazon.co.uk: £2.00

I’d started this one, but the holiday was a good opportunity to finish it! I loved the structure of this – four very different characters with interweaving plot lines (they’re all witnesses to a murder). Great writing, with each character’s voice coming across distinctly.

Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch – Amazon.com: $7.86 / Amazon.co.uk: £4.99

I loved this – a gripping blend of fantasy and coppers. It works far better than you might imagine, and the characters were especially engaging. Not too taxing, but a great read.

Dracula by Bram Stoker – Amazon.com: free / Amazon.co.uk: free

I read Dracula a few years ago, but decided to re-read it while we were heading into Transylvania. If you’ve never read it, give it a try – it’s a genuinely creepy story, and rather more accessible than a lot of 19th century fiction.

How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe by Charles Yu – Amazon.com: $4.97 / Amazon.co.uk: £3.19

This one seemed promising, and I enjoyed the premise and voice to start with: it was reminiscent of Jasper Fforde (see my note for Jane Eyre, below). Sadly, I gradually lost interest and abandoned it half-way through – I just wasn’t engaged enough with the characters, and the timey-wimey trickery was getting irritating.

Greyhound by Steffan Piper – Amazon.com: $3.10 / Amazon.co.uk: £1.99

This was an engaging coming-of-age story set in the 1980s, with a likeable 12-year-old narrator travelling across the United States on Greyhound buses. I did find the narrative voice a bit unconvincing at times for a just-turned-12-year-old, but it was still a great read.

Drive by Daniel H. Pink (non-fiction) – Amazon.com: $7.75 / Amazon.co.uk: £4.97

Drive had been recommended to me by several friends. It’s an extremely well-written book about what really motivates us, and though some of the material wasn’t new to me, I found it thought-provoking. Especially worth reading if you’re responsible in any way for motivating other people.

A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin – Amazon.com: $6.22 / Amazon.co.uk: £3.99

I’m not normally an epic fantasy fan, but I was hooked by the Game of Thrones T.V. series. The book is great too; far better written than a lot of genre fantasy, and with a sweeping cast of characters. I suspect that if I hadn’t seen the series, though, I’d have struggled to remember who everyone was and to follow the plot.

The Personal MBA: A World-Class Business Education (non-fiction) by Josh Kaufman – Amazon.com: $15.98 (hardcover, no Kindle edition) / Amazon.co.uk: £7.99 (Kindle edition)

Although I’ve read a fair bit about online business, I wanted a broader perspective – and this book definitely delivered. I’d not come across Josh before (my loss!) – he runs the blog PersonalMBA.com. If you run your own business, or if you’re thinking about doing so, then I’d highly recommend this book for a clear introduction.

How to Do Everything and Be Happy (non-fiction) by Peter Jones – Amazon.com: $3.07 / Amazon.co.uk: £1.99

Okay, I’m a bit of a sucker for self-help guides … but I wanted to keep that holiday feeling going once I got home, and this one was cheap! It was a good ebook with some innovative advice that I’ve not seen elsewhere, and a conversational writing style.

Disturb by J.A. Konrath (aka Jack Kilborn) – Amazon.com: $2.66 / Amazon.co.uk: £1.71

Trapped by J.A. Konrath (aka Jack Kilborn) – Amazon.com:  $3.33 / Amazon.co.uk: £2.14

J.A. Konrath is one of indie-publishing’s biggest success stories, so I’ve picked up a few of his ebooks (it helps that they’re cheap)! His novels are consistently entertaining – fast-paced and plot-driven – though I’m always left a bit dissatisfied with the characterisation. Trapped includes a first draft version and the author’s notes about the changes: interesting reading for any writer.

Write Good or Die (non-fiction) by various authors – Amazon.com: $1.36 / Amazon.co.uk: £0.86

This was a great compendium of essays from some fantastic writers, with a ton of experience between them. They include traditionally-published folks and those who’ve used new media very successfully.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins – Amazon.com: $5.16 / Amazon.co.uk: £3.31

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins – Amazon.com: $6.09 / Amazon.co.uk: £3.91

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins – Amazon.com: $6.09 / Amazon.co.uk: £3.91

These three books form a young adult trilogy; it’s well worth reading even if you’re a bit older than that. 😉 The books are pacy reads, set in a dystopian future, and the narrator, Katniss, is brave, tough and likeable. I enjoyed the first book the most, and found the third a little disappointing.

The Penal Colony by Richard Herley – Amazon.com: currently free / Amazon.co.uk: currently free

Written in the 1980s, this book is set on an island off the north Cornish coast where British prisoners are being dumped and essentially left to their own devices. The strength of the central premise didn’t quite carry the book – too many characters and plot-threads were introduced too early. The writing, however, was extremely good, and carried me through to the end!

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte – Amazon.com: free / Amazon.co.uk: free

I was re-reading this one, for the first time in a few years. It’s another great 19th century read, with a spirited heroine who you can’t help but root for. (Bonus: read Jasper Fforde’s The Eyre Affair afterwards – a very fun sci-fi novel that’ll appeal to book geeks.)

(Note: the Amazon.co.uk links are affiliate ones, which means that Amazon pays me a few pence if you buy through the links.)

A Brief Note About Ebooks

You might well have seen the news that Amazon’s brought out a new, cheaper, Kindle (and, soon, there’ll be a Kindle Fire tablet computer too). It’s a great time for readers and for writers, with easy access to classic books for free, and lots of new books available at bargain prices.

But if you’re a bit suspicious about ebooks, I don’t blame you! I’ve loved reading all my life – and I had my doubts about whether words on a screen could ever compare to those on paper. I’m going to be writing about my experiences with the Kindle in my next post…

In the meantime, I’d love to hear what you’ve been reading recently – or how your reading has impacted you as a writer. The comments are open!

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