Top Ten Tuesday: Books Read on Holiday

"Tope Ten Tuesday" in a white font mimicking handwriting on navy starry skies

Top Ten Tuesday is a fun weekly meme, hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. Everyone is welcome to join in the fun.

This was surprisingly difficult, mostly because I’ve not really been on holiday much since 2018 – and also every family holiday to a friend’s place has coincided with a reading slump… Thank goodness for Goodread’s ability to filter books by date read as that’s what I relied on heavily for this.


1. THE OLEANDER SWORD, by Tasha Suri

Book cover for THE OLEANDER SWORD: title in blue on green drawing of a woman in a sari with a sword pushing through curtains

THE OLEANDER SWORD, sequel to THE JASMINE THRONE, is actually the only book I managed to read on holiday this year. Reading just felt like pulling teeth, which was a pity as the second instalment in The Burning Kingdoms trilogy was brilliant, but I just felt like I was fighting myself so much to enjoy it.

This series is brutal, pulling no punches about the choices its characters have to make to survive in a world that (in some ways literally) wants to consume them, make them into something else. It is a book about the costs of war and you lose in order to do that.

2. ANGLO-SAXON ENGLAND, by Frank Stenton

Book cover for ANGLO-SAXON ENGLAND: title in white on green square in upper right corner on image of an elaborately knot-work filled letter from a manuscript

ANGLO-SAXON ENGLAND is an academic book from the 1930s that took me absolutely ages to actually finish. I read part of it on a beach (usually the best time for me to get through books as there are no distractions) but I think I barely made it 100 pages in 3 days? And then the rest of the 600 page book took me a year to finish.

It’s just dry and so boring, taking a fascinating period and wringing all the interest from it. Plus it thematically jumps about a lot, from religion to battles, making it hard to follow because there is no obvious through line.

3. WITH THE FIRE ON HIGH, by Elizabeth Acevedo

Book cover for WITH THE FIRE ON HIGH; girl stares out of the purple cover surrounded by fruit

According to my instagram, I read WITH THE FIRE ON HIGH on a beach at the very end of July 2020. Unfortunately, this period is a bit blurry so I don’t really remember the book that much and my instagram is less than forthcoming (honestly, past Sifa, writing a few lines is useless.)

The sum of that post is that it is “very delicious” and “very summery.” It certainly looks very foodie and summery, and I love the cover. I think it was about a teen mum trying to juggle a baby and her dreams to cook?

4. WE LIE WITH DEATH, by Devin Madson

Book cover for WE LIE WITH DEATH: title in white on orange clouds above a pencil-drawn army

In the summer of 2021, I read my way through the first three instalments of Devin Madson’s Empire Reborn series. WE RIDE THE STORM, the first book, was a re-read, but WE LIE WITH DEATH and WE CRY FOR BLOOD were new to me (I’d saved up book two until the release of the third in order to binge!)

Thick fantasy like this are good ones to sink my teeth into over holidays. It’s a chance to just binge a lot of words in one go, sink into a story, particularly if I’m on the fence about a series as I find immersion really helps me enjoy books.

5. THE FIFTH SEASON, by N. K. Jemison

Book cover for THE FIFTH SEASON: title in white on stone grey

Unlike the other books on this list, THE FIFTH SEASON is a book I categorically did not enjoy. So much so that I repeatedly fell asleep to it while trying to listen to an audiobook in the car. And I honestly don’t think I’d have enjoyed it any more even if I didn’t miss huge chunks (I was not bothered to go back, or put much effort into working out what I missed.)

It’s a book that, simply, is not for me stylistically. It felt too scattered and second person always puts me off, so I didn’t really engage with enough of the storylines to want to find out how it linked.

6. A NATURAL HISTORY OF DRAGONS, by Marie Brenan

Book cover for A NATURAL HISTORY OF DRAGONS: title in black above a drawing of an anatomical dragon

I read A NATURAL HISTORY OF DRAGONS on holiday with a friend as a buddy read. Over the next ten days (or so) we devoured the entire five book main series and the companion/sequel/spin off. It’s just such an addictively good series.

This series is deeply nerdy about natural history and anthropology, following a woman who makes her way in the world (and a reputation as a scholar and a scandal) studying dragons over about three decades, which is a very impressive timeline! it also has a lot of mystery in it about the actual dragons themselves…

7. THE RECKLESS AFTERLIFE OF HARRIET STOKER, by Lauren James

Book cover for THE RECKLESS AFTERLIFE OF HARRIET STOKER: title in white below a green house with blazing windows

I have a very vivid memory (a rarity of that time) of sitting in a family friend’s garden on a deckchair in the sun reading an eARC of THE REKLESS AFTERLIFE OF HARRIET STOKER on my kindle in late July/early August 2020.

As is pretty much parr for the course for that time, I don’t remember much about that book, except that I felt like my location and general warmth/comfort was very much inappropriate for said book! It’s a paranormal about a girl who becomes a ghost and I’m pretty sure she is not a particularly nice person (self centred maybe?) and the book is about the chaos she creates.

8. CERTAIN DARK THINGS, by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Book cover for CERTAIN DARK THINGS: title in white below a woman and a jackal head on neon patterns

According to my records, CERTAIN DARK THINGS was read about the same time as the entry above. It is a reprint of an older release by Silvia Moreno-Garcia (she had a lot of her old books republished that year, I think, after the success of MEXICAN GOTHIC.)

It’s basically vampires in a neon-but-also-kinda-grungy Mexico (pretty sure it was also a historical setting? Or that might be the consequence of reading the re-release!), very much not your typical vampire novel and just a ball of fun. Also pretty short and easy to gulp down.

9. LOVE FROM A TO Z, by S. K. Ali

Book cover for LOVE FROM A TO Z: block drawn title on blue with images of main characters leaning on letters

Another rare memory from summer 2020 (honestly, how did I read this many books that summer?! I was at the start of a very rapid health decline!!) is absolutely bawling my eyes out over LOVE FROM A TO Z.

I was not crying because this book is sad (it is a romance not a tragedy), but because it was the first time I’d seen faith in a relationship (and the personal boundaries this might lead to) portrayed in such a positive way in a novel. I absolutely loved it for that.

10. THIS IS HOW YOU LOSE THE TIME WAR, by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone

Book cover for THIS IS HOW YOU LOSE THE TIME WAR; title in black on pale blue with a red and blue bird standing with feet touching

YET ANOTHER book from Summer 2020, and (unfortunately) we end this list on a book that I did not get on with. I listened to THIS IS HOW YOU LOSE THE TIME WAR in the car, and also fell asleep to it a lot.

It was the prose that irritated me, it was so overly purple that I could not work out what it was actually trying to say. The entire book just came across to me as unbearably smug, so impressed with its own cleverness. This combined to leave me with an absolute inability to follow what was happening.


What books have you read on holiday?

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2 thoughts on “Top Ten Tuesday: Books Read on Holiday

    1. I really enjoyed it! I read that one as it’s not in verse (and I don’t get on well with books in verse) so if you’re wondering where to start with her books and aren’t keen on verse, I’d definitely start there!

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