First Chapters – Deciding My Holiday TBR

Book spines - The Magicians by Lev Grossman, The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry, The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende, American Gods by Neil Gaiman, A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray, A Sky Painted Gold by Laura Wood, Days of Blood and Starlight by Laini Taylor, The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen, And I Darken by Kiersten White and I Am the Messenger by Markus Zusak

Way back in January, I was shocked to find myself part of a family-holiday-booking process, something I’ve never done before. And as of right now – the very day this blog post goes up, in fact – I will be on my first holiday abroad. Who’d have thought?

So of course my biggest dilemma for the past couple of months has been trying to decide which books to take with me.** I very rarely read the “typical” holiday reads – contemporaries, romances, crime novels etc – and so there wasn’t a particular mood to go for when plucking books off my shelves. So I decided to follow Hannah’s idea (A Cup of Wonderland), and decided my reads based on the first chapters. I vastly underestimated how long it would take me to read the first chapters of 10 books and started cheating a little by not reading the entire first chapter of some (I mean, some book chapters can be a solid 50 pages long! No thanks), but either way I eventually whittled it down to 6 books, which is hugely ambitious considering I’m a slow reader and will only be there 10 days. But better to be prepared, right?

** In case you were wondering, I can’t read very well on ereaders (even the paperwhite types) and have plenty of space in my suitcase, that’s why I’m taking physical books!

A Sky Painted Gold by Laura Wood and And I Darken by Kiersten White

• A Sky Painted Gold •

by Laura Wood

So this book was sent to me by the publisher not too long ago, and all I needed to know for me to be drawn to it is that it has the glamorous Gatsby-esque atmosphere. It’s one I hope to get to soon either way, so I figured I’d give it a shot. From the first chapter, I can tell it’s setting up a mysterious side to the story. You’re introduced to what I presume will be the centerpiece of the book, a huge house that starts out seemingly empty – though very finely furnished – and it’s safe to say I’m intrigued. In terms of prologues it felt quite eventful, and I’d be interested if it sets the same pace for the book throughout. But was I intrigued enough to take it on holiday with me? Eh…not quite. I do want to read it soon, but I reckon it can wait ’til August.

Verdict: Leave

• And I Darken •

by Kiersten White

Every so often, a weird phase comes about in which everyone insists I must read this book immediately. And I never listen because I’m a rebel like that (otherwise see: an annoying blogger pal). But this has been on my shelves for probably well over a year now, considering I got it soon after release and now the final book in the trilogy exists. Oops. SO. THOUGHTS? Well, being a genderbent Vlad the Impaler retelling/inspired story, it’s fair to say it’s pretty brutal from the get-go. Which is actually pretty perfect to me, as I’ve not read anything with an anti-hero for a long time and I imagine will suit the original inspiration perfectly. Granted, I definitely need to do a lil research in Vlad the Impaler because I literally know nothing about him besides his cruel reputation, but I reckon you don’t *need* to know that before reading this book anyway. I loved how the book starts with the main character at a young age. I feel like that doesn’t happen all too often in books, and I can’t wait to see the character development works when years are documented in a matter of pages.

Verdict: Take

I Am The Messenger by Markus Zusak and The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry

• I Am The Messenger •

by Markus Zusak

Ok, well, this one I bought specifically to take on holiday with me so there’s not much decision making based on this first chapter. The Book Thief is one of my all-time favourite books, and for that very reason I’ve been meaning to read this one for years. So now’s the time. I’ve heard everyone say this one is very different to The Book Thief, and yet everyone still seems to love it just as much, if not more, than it. From the first chapter, I’m starting to see what they mean. You’re thrown right into the action – the book following a guy who accidentally stops a bank robbery, and then starts to receive mysterious messages (I presume, not actually sure yet). The writing style is pretty simple and I can imagine myself flying through it, especially if each chapter ends with a bit of suspense like the first. I can’t say there was anything particularly noteworthy about the first chapter, but is there usually? Not for me, at least. And nevertheless, I want to read it at last.

Verdict: Take

• The Essex Serpent •

by Sarah Perry

Again, this is one I’ve been meaning to get to for ages (take a shot every time I say that)((Actually, don’t, you’ll probably end up in hospital)). I’m not sure what to expect because the hype is a little outrageous and it’s been on literally everyone’s favourites-of-the-year-so-far lists, so the expectations are up there. But I’ve not read a historical fiction in so long, and this one sounds like it has a little fantasy in it too with the Essex Serpent folklore driving it. So reading the first chapter, I picked up on the atmosphere immediately, the lowkey danger of the surroundings heightening when mystery is thrown in, but not too dangerous not to be curious. But that wasn’t what won me over. It was the writing. Instead of me botching up an awful explanation, here’s HALf a sentence – not even a full one, half – that stood out to me…

“…the brave tomfoolery of a midnight dip as the old year dies in the new year’s arms.”

Yeah. Exactly. Imagine the rest.

Verdict: Take

The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende and A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray

• The House of the Spirits •

by Isabel Allende

This book I picked up a little while ago on a whim. Not knowing much about it, it sounds mysterious and unique, but reading the first chapter has made me slightly hesitant. The writing seems a bit denser than I’m used to and will make for a much slower read, especially depending on the topic. At first there was a lot relating to religion, which I don’t find particularly riveting at the best of times so it threw me off to say the least. But it did pull away from the religious side of things and start focusing more on the characters, which gained my interest at last. Though not pages were read, it’s really made me sceptical about this one and I’m not really sure what to think. But the only way to figure that out is to read it, and with me having a lot more time on holiday to sit around and read, I figured now could be a good time to try it.

Verdict: Take

• A Great and Terrible Beauty •

by Libba Bray

Poor old Libba Bray, will I ever give you a chance? All her books sound so interesting to me and I just know I’ll enjoy them, but does that mean I’ve picked one up yet? Nope. Is now the time? Also nope. This one follows a girl who is sent to boarding school in England after wanting to leave India, and once getting there begins to see visions of the future. I can’t say I was immediately gripped after the first chapter – which again, is fair enough – but when I have so many other reads that are higher priority, this one is sitting on the back burner for a bit. I’m also really crap at continuing series and need to make an effort to finish the ones I’ve started, so maybe starting another series wouldn’t be the best idea. Still, it does seem like quite a quick and entertaining read, so I look forward to it someday.

Verdict: Leave

The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen and Days of Blood and Starlight by Laini Taylor

• The Queen of the Tearling •

by Erika Johansen

This book will actually be a reread when I eventually get round to it. I’ve been wanting to continue the trilogy for years (of course I have), and by now I’ve completely forgotten what happened in this first one besides it being a lowkey fantasy with politics involved, with an 18 year old girl reclaiming her throne. I know I loved it the first time round, I just need a kick in the backside to reread it and actually finish a series for once. But…I don’t think the time is now. Though I was happy to get that classics fantasy feel when rereading the first chapter or so. Despite the first chapter reminding me just how much I’ve forgotten and once again peaking my interest, I just don’t think the time is right. I’m hoping to continue the series in a timely manner instead of taking months out between them, but I just know I won’t read the second and third books in August if I reread this one on holiday. So what to do? I wait some more.

Verdict: Leave

• Days of Blood and Starlight •

by Laini Taylor

Now, I did have full intentions on finishing this series, I promise. But sometime midway through last year, my reading tastes changed dramatically. And this series might have fallen out of that. Day of Blood and Starlight is the second book in the Daughter of Smoke and Bone series, and while I enjoyed the first book, I think I left it too long. Still, I was hopeful and kept the books just in case. So reading the first chapter, I was hoping for a lil kick that would trigger my interest again. It didn’t happen. I’m sure the book is fab, but it’s just not my thing anymore. I doubt I’ll be continuing this series anytime soon.

Verdict: Leave

American Gods by Neil Gaiman and The Magicians by Lev Grossman

• American Gods •

by Neil Gaiman

Neil Gaiman is a ridiculously popular author, but I’ve yet to try him out. I got this one sometime last year because I’d been trying to decide which of his books to read first, and this one just happened to be really cheap and newly hyped thanks to the TV show release. I honestly have no clue what it’s about, besides it starting in prison and being “a bit of a weird one”, to quote my Dad’s opinion of the TV show. But it only took me 8 pages to decide I wanted to know more, and entire book’s worth of more. I can’t even explain why either, so yay to me for being really helpful like that. There was just something about his writing that hooked me, and I don’t think 8 pages was enough to pin that down enough to explain yet. So looks like I’ve got to read the other few hundred pages to investigate, right?

Verdict: Take

• The Magicians •

by Lev Grossman

Again, this one had pretty much been decided for me before I even read the first chapter. Matthew over at MCS-Books recommended this book to me a few months ago, and I went and bought it immediately. Only I’ve not read it yet. And he’s the kind of person who remembers I bought it and will fully be waiting for my opinion. Sooooo maybe it’s time I got round to it? I was planning to in August as I’ll be finishing my summer internship and will have all the free time I’m longing for, but maybe the first chapter will nudge me to pick it up a little earlier. Following a guy who goes to an interview at Princeton – only to find his interviewer dead and a mysterious manuscript of sorts addressed to him – all I know is that this one is a cult classic fantasy that’s been likened to Harry Potter (isn’t every fantasy?) but darker. Reading the first chapter, I feel like I’ll get along with this one purely for the amount of snarky comments in the writing. Gotta love a bit of sass. So that, combined with my reluctance to test Matthew’s never ending patience, is making this a priority.

Verdict: Take

green watercolour line

And so, even though I only intended to take five books, I’ve ended up with six. But I repeat – better to be prepared, right? I’m really really hoping I get to the majority of these books because I’m long overdue a good reading binge having not had time for anything lately. And with my current reading count for August being at two books, I could do with a boost. Being a huge family holiday solely dedicated to lounging around and relaxing, I can see plenty of time on my hands already so hopefully it’ll work out!

Have you read any of these books? I’d love to know your thoughts one them! If you’d like to see me chat about my final choices a little more, I also uploaded my Holiday TBR today:

There will be a delay in my replies to comments, but I’d LOVE to come back and have a good long chat about books, so be sure to leave your comments below!

Until next time,

sign off handle saying "Ashleigh" for A Frolic Through Fiction blog


19 thoughts on “First Chapters – Deciding My Holiday TBR

  1. I hope you have/are having/had a lovely holiday, Ashleigh!

    The Essex Serpent really is so wonderful and atmospheric and the writing is to die for so I really hope you continue to enjoy it as much as you did in the first chapter. Meanwhile American Gods is… an experience. I adore Neil Gaiman’s work so I was glad when I finally got around to reading it. Even though I spent most of the book thinking ‘wtf am I reading? what’s even happening?!’ I couldn’t rightfully rate it anything less than 5-stars because it felt astounding in scope. I hope you enjoy its weird and wonderfulness too!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hope that you have a lovely holiday Ashleigh and thank you for mentioning my own post! I haven’t actually read any of these myself but looks like you have some gems to take with you while your away!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. A Great and Terrible Beauty has also been on my shelves for YEARS… but every time I’ve cleared out my bookshelf I’ve kept it. Perhaps I’ll read it soon

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Oh man! Deciding which books to take on vacation is the WORST! Depending on how long the vacation is (typically a week) I’ll take 3 physical books and my eReader as a backup.

    I’ve really enjoyed the And I Darken series! I reading the 3rd book next actually. I hope you enjoy!

    I’m very interested in hearing your thoughts on The Essex Serpent. I’ve been contemplating giving it a go via audiobook, but I keep putting it off.

    Liked by 1 person

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