3 Books for Vacation Reading

Having a school age kid has meant that my vacations generally rotate around school breaks. As a result, last week saw my family in warmer climes, disconnecting from our reality and connecting with the reality of Spring Break. Who knew that all college age kids on the entire planet would decide to do the same exact thing we decided to do with our own Spring Breaker? I mean…

One thing I learned on my accidental Spring Break vacation was that kids still read! And they read everything from fantasy to romance to literature.

Knowing I would be forced to DO NOTHING AT ALL for several days, I brought enough books to get me through a book a day if I needed to. That’s between hardcovers and kindle books, and I need to add that JUST IN CASE, I also had the entire collection of Jack London, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and Neil Gaiman loaded to my kindle. Because you never know… Desert islands and all… Pirates… One has to be ready for all eventualities.

But with all the adventuring, eating, sunning, and never ending trivia games, I only got through three. And I loved them!

The Hunter by Tana French

Although set in Ireland, where you might expect the usual green/rain/cool weather, the entire novel takes place during a blazing dry heat wave. If you haven’t read Tana French, well what the heck are you waiting for? She’s as good as it gets. Her prose is muscular, poetic, and so deeply observed that I couldn’t help but want to scream at the characters, or shake them, or just push ’em off a cliff.

Speaking of cliffs, if you ever wanted to know what’s meant by making the setting a character, read this book. The mountains, hills, gorse, cottages, trees, and stone walls in this novel vibrate with meaning and sentience. They are no more simple setting than an ermine-trimmed velvet coronation robe is a shrug.

Caveat: this is a sequel to The Searcher, which I also highly recommend.

All the Broken Places by John Boyne

This is a sort of a sequel to The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, a book I didn’t read and quite possibly will never read*. Unlike that book, this one is for adults, with adult themes. Told from multiple timelines, this book imagines what it may have been like to be the daughter of the commandant of Auschwitz. I chose it because I absolutely adore John Boyne, and have read many of his other novels and loved them. But in the wake of the success of Zone of Interest (the movie), I was intrigued by this concept as well.

Boyne’s fiction is ridiculously readable, with vivid, realistic characters. I inhaled this in one day. He has frequently tackled the theme of culpability in his novels, to great effect. He is not so much interested in writing about monsters, but rather about the people attached to the monsters–their children, their friends or colleagues–who recognize the monstrosity of their actions, but fail to act. I loved this book.

The Wife Upstairs by Rachel Hawkins

This one is pure escapism. If you like Jane Eyre AND Rebecca and enjoy sharp-witted appraisals of upper middle-class culture, then this is for you. Rachel Hawkins’s prose is fun, her characters are layered and flawed, and she knows how to ratchet tension.

* I won’t read it because it’s a children’s book set in Auschwitz and multiple historians, museums, and the Auschwitz center itself had said this book is so historically inaccurate as to do harm. Although I have read plenty of historically inaccurate books, and have enjoyed them anyway, I am not a fan of reading books for children (with a few notable exceptions). The combination of target audience and inaccuracy would be hard for me to overcome. However, I must reiterate how much I love John Boyne’s novels for adults. I would recommend him to anyone.

Emilya Naymark

Emilya Naymark is the author of the novels Hide in Place and Behind the Lie.
Her short stories appear in the Bouchercon 2023 Anthology, A Stranger Comes to Town: edited by Michael Koryta, Secrets in the Water, After Midnight: Tales from the Graveyard Shift, River River Journal, Snowbound: Best New England Crime Stories 2017, and 1+30: THE BEST OF MYSTORY.

When not writing, Emilya works as a visual artist and reads massive quantities of psychological thrillers, suspense, and crime fiction. She lives in the Hudson Valley with her family.


  1. I just got my copy of The Hunter, which was supposed to be autographed, but was not! Even so, I know I will love it.

    1. It’s very good! But I have thoughts about books that glorify teenage girls… in my personal experience, teenage girls are just like grown women, but with no sense in their heads and a lot less experience :-).

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