Africa, Destinations, Reviews, Travel Tips

A Book with a View: What I read in South Africa

Last summer I was fortunate enough to spend some time in South Africa on a horseback safari in the KwaZulu-Natal province. I stayed at the luxury Pakamisa Lodge and had an absolutely extraordinary time there. I thoroughly recommend Pakamisa; Isabella, the owner, is one of the most hospitable people I have ever met and Sarah, the guide, was brilliant and genuinely lovely.

You may have guessed from the title of this post, though, that I am not going to be regaling you with tales of my safari. The reason for that is because I went with the sole purpose of learning more about horse riding. This means that my days began at 6am with grooming, a riding lesson, then a ride out in the bush. At 10:30am I would eat my breakfast at the lodge and then nap until lunch. This was followed by an afternoon ride, brush down and stable the horses, followed by dinner and an early night in bed. It was an incredible experience and I learned a lot, however, it’s quite boring to write a blog post about.

What I did get a lot of time to do in Africa, though, was read, so I thought I would write a post about the books I read whilst I was there (as that is one of my major passions in life and I haven’t had a chance to do it yet). Flying to Johannesburg from Birmingham Airport took me roughly 18 hours so I had quite a lot of time to read on the plane, and at the lodge, most of my mid-morning and evenings were free too. So here are the books I read:

*Disclosure* The Travel Fairies are participants in the Amazon Associates program. As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases but all opinions are our own.

The Power of Six by Pittacus Lore:

This is the second book in the Lorien Legacies series which starts with I Am Number Four. I had finished reading I Am Number Four about a week before my trip, and a lot of people will be familiar with the 2011 film starring Alex Pettyfer. I enjoyed the first book so continued with the second which sees the assembly of the numbered protagonists against their enemies. It’s a fairly typical YA action/adventure book with some clever conspiracy theories and some well-developed relationships – that aren’t all teenage-angsty romantic relationships which seem all too common in the genre. I started reading this in my hotel at Birmingham Airport and finished it somewhere over Austria. 3 out of 5 stars.

The Rise of Nine by Pittacus Lore:

As all good action series do, The Power of Six ends with a cliffhanger so I immediately started reading the third instalment of the Lorien Legacies. Having set up most of the main characters throughout the first two books, The Rise of Nine developed on the relationships and the overarching plot with a lot more fluidity than the previous two and as such, I enjoyed it the most out of the series. It also had a lot of plot twists which I did not see coming and I flew through this book – I read it from Austria to Turkey. 4 out of 5 stars.IMG-0811

The Fall of Five by Pittacus Lore:

I’m now about 6 hours into my flight so I’ve still got a long way to go and I’m starting to get bored. It’s not often I read series of books all in one go, and for precisely this point, they all start to get a bit samey and boring. Partly this is expected; you’re using the same characters and it’s a good thing you can create a character that remains consistent throughout four books, however, when you’ve read them back to back in such a short space of time, it can be a bit unexciting. I trudged through this one and finished it in Dubai airport during my layover. I had packed the remaining books from this series but didn’t attempt to carry on (still haven’t managed to finish it!). 2 out of 5 stars.

The Kill Order by James Dashner:

The Kill Order is the little-known prequel to The Maze Runner trilogy which has recently been completed in films and subsequently has had a resurgence of popularity and book sales. To some extent, The Kill Order explains the reasoning behind everything that happens in The Maze Runner Trilogy however actually doesn’t explain anything. It makes very little sense and has no real point as a “prequel”. Luckily it was only short, so I managed to finish it within a few hours. After that, I watched Deadpool and slept. 1 out of 5 stars.

The Archived by V. E. Schwab:

Arriving at Pakamisa around 2pm, I ate the best lasagne I have ever had (before or since) and then went to sort out my luggage ready for a sunset ride in the bush with Isabella and Sarah. I packed around 15 books to take with me, not really knowing what I’d feel like reading or how much spare time I would have, and when I arrived I didn’t really know what to read next. I went out and stood on my balcony and looked over the bushland, thinking about what I should do next.

KwaZulu-Natal has a lot of farmland and mountains and, as such, is a very peaceful place to be. I chose to bring The Archived out onto the balcony with me because the cover gave me that same peaceful sense. I am so glad that I did. Victoria Schwab is a genius. I don’t even know how to begin describing how clever this book is and so beautiful too. 4 out of 5 stars.IMG-0816.JPG

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler:

I finished The Archived on day 4 of my trip and started We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves on the recommendation of a YouTuber I follow, Lex Croucher. I didn’t really know what to expect and I certainly wasn’t expecting what reviewers call ‘One of the best twists in years’ however it was a rather slow read and quite boring in some places. Not quite sure why it was considered one of the best books of 2016. 2 out of 5 stars.

The Kindness of Strangers by Lonely Planet:

I figured whilst I was travelling I should read a travel book and this one by Lonely Planet seemed a good choice. I can’t say travel books are really my cup of tea; this was the second travel book I’ve ever read and I’ve only read one more since. Having said that, I really enjoyed The Kindness of Strangers. It’s a series of stories by different travellers who have at some point been helped by strangers in sometimes dire situations on their travels. It was hilarious and heart-warming, and honestly, I nearly cried at one point. It made me feel so much better about being alone in a place like South Africa. I finished this somewhere around Kenya on my flight home. 4 out of 5 stars.

Choose Your Own Autobiography by Neil Patrick Harris:

I love Neil Patrick Harris. He is one of my favourite celebrities and precisely because of the fact he is the kind of person who would turn his autobiography into a Choose Your Own Adventure book. I always loved these types of books as a kid (still do, to be honest) so learning all about someone as brilliant and funny and ingenious as Neil Patrick Harris in this manner is a real treat. I can’t say I’ve read it through to every individual outcome but I did a good job on the plane somewhere between Ethiopia and Syria. 4 out of 5 stars.

Heat Wave by Richard Castle:

If you are familiar with the ABC television show Castle then you will notice that, yes, this is a fictional book by a fictional author, however, you can buy a real copy of all of his works (including the Derek Storm graphic novel) online. Heat Wave is exactly what it is depicted to be in the show; it even includes the “racy” scene on page 105, exactly where it’s supposed to be. If Richard Castle were real I would expect better writing, however, for the writers of the show, it’s a pretty decent stab at a crime/romance novel. I started this on the plane but didn’t finish it until a couple days after I got home. 3 out of 5 stars.IMG-0822.JPG

Have you read any great books while traveling that you’d recommend? Or have you read any of the books on this list? Let us know in the comments!

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  1. I dream of reading vacations! Add in horses and I am in heaven!!! Seriously, there are a few tranquil guest houses I’ve visited and I just long for the day I can return with a stack of books…glad I’m not the only one!

    1. Jess says:

      You’re definitely not the only one!

  2. Oh my you read a lot of books! Kudos to you girl. And I can imagine how peaceful it is to emmerse in a good book while sitting somewhere in gorgeous South Africa. It’s my dream to go there!

  3. Mayuri says:

    Wow this is incredible. I need to get back to my reading more frequently

    This trip seems like a dream to me, enjoying nature, away from commotion and reading a book = bliss

  4. Great choices! I love reading travel book reviews and how they can affect experiences in a new place. I’ll have to pick some of these up!

  5. Kate - Travel for Difference says:

    There are so many incredible books on this list. I definitely need to get into the habit of reading more, so I think I’m going to put ‘the Kindness of Strangers’ on my list! Thank you XX

  6. I haven’t heard of most of these! I want to check out The Archived now!

    1. Jess says:

      Make sure you do! It’s incredible!

  7. Gah, I’m the worst! I really need to read more. I avoid it bc I don’t want to carry books or stare at a screen more than I do… What to do!? :-/ This was a great reminder I need to get on it though. Thanks for the inspo!

  8. whoa whoa. i love reading but can’t seem to that a lot when i’m travelling!

  9. Anna says:

    I can’t believe how many books you got through on your trip. Very impressive! I honestly didn’t know I Am Number Four was a series of books. I loved the films so I think I’ll read them now after your recommendation!

    1. Jess says:

      Definitely recommended but make sure you space them out a bit!

  10. Those all look like awesome suggestions! I love a great book!

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