This meme was created by Lia at Lost in a Story as a way to tackle the gargantuan To-Read shelves a lot of us have on Goodreads. Like other people, I’ve long ago forgotten what prompted me to add some of the books I have shelved. This meme is the perfect excuse to start taking back control, to coin a phrase…
The rules are simple:
- Go to your Goodreads To-Read shelf.
- Order on ascending date added.
- Take the first 5 (or 10 if you’re feeling adventurous) books
- Read the synopses of the books
- Decide: keep it or should it go?
- Repeat every week until the entire list has been filtered (hmm, quite a few weeks then!)
First of all a postscript from last week – I’ve been prevailed upon by the lovely Beth at Bibliobeth to reconsider my decision to dump The Time Traveller’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. Far be it from anyone to accuse What Cathy Read Next of not being responsive to its readers! To maintain the same number of disposals (six from ten) I’ve decided instead to relegate A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth to the great book dustbin in the sky. It’s 1,474 pages long, right? I mean that’s about four “normal” size books!
So, on to this week’s ten potential sacrificial victims:
The Angel’s Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafon (added 1st Nov 2012)
In this powerful, labyrinthian thriller, David Martín is a pulp fiction writer struggling to stay afloat. Holed up in a haunting abandoned mansion in the heart of Barcelona, he furiously taps out story after story, becoming increasingly desperate and frustrated; thus, when he is approached by a mysterious publisher offering a book deal that seems almost too good to be real, David leaps at the chance. But as he begins the work, and after a visit to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, he realizes there is a connection between his book and the shadows that surround his dilapidated home and that the publisher may be hiding a few troubling secrets of his own. Once again, Ruiz Zafón ventures into a dark, gothic Barcelona and creates a breathtaking tale of intrigue, romance, and tragedy.
Verdict: Keep – I loved The Shadow of the Wind and I know a lot of reviewers weren’t as crazy about this but it’s about books so it’s staying.
The Baker’s Daughter by Sarah McCoy (added 1st Nov 2012)
In 1945, Elsie Schmidt is a naive teenager, as eager for her first sip of champagne as she is for her first kiss. She and her family have been protected from the worst of the terror and desperation overtaking her country by a high-ranking Nazi who wishes to marry her. So when an escaped Jewish boy arrives on Elsie’s doorstep in the dead of night on Christmas Eve, Elsie understands that opening the door would put all she loves in danger. Sixty years later, in El Paso, Texas, Reba Adams is trying to file a feel-good Christmas piece for the local magazine. Reba’s latest assignment has brought her to the shop of an elderly baker across town. The interview should take a few hours at most, but the owner of Elsie’s German Bakery is no easy subject. Reba finds herself returning to the bakery again and again, anxious to find the heart of the story. For Elsie, Reba’s questions are a stinging reminder of darker times: her life in Germany during that last bleak year of WWII.
Verdict: Go – I’m drawn to stories set in WW2 and if it stayed in the past I’d probably keep it but I invariably find the present day story less engaging.
The Lost Wife by Alyson Richman (added 1st Nov 2012)
In pre-war Prague, the dreams of two young lovers are shattered when they are separated by the Nazi invasion. Then, decades later, thousands of miles away in New York, there’s an inescapable glance of recognition between two strangers… Providence is giving Lenka and Josef one more chance. From the glamorous ease of life in Prague before the Occupation, to the horrors of Nazi Europe, The Lost Wife explores the power of first love, the resilience of the human spirit- and the strength of memory.
Verdict: Keep – Having said I usually find the present day element of dual time narratives disappointing, I think I’ll take a chance on this one – plus it’s had great reviews.
Veil of Lies by Jeri Westerson (added 8th Dec 2012)
Crispin Guest is a disgraced knight, stripped of his rank and his honor – but left with his life – for plotting against Richard II. Having lost his bethrothed, his friends, his patrons and his position in society, with no trade to support him and no family willing to acknowledge him, Crispin has turned to the one thing he still has – his wits – to scrape a living together on the mean streets of London. In 1383, Guest is called to the compound of a merchant – a reclusive mercer who suspects that his wife is being unfaithful and wants Guest to look into the matter. Not wishing to sully himself in such disgraceful, dishonorable business but in dire need of money, Guest agrees and discovers that the wife is indeed up to something, presumably nothing good. But when he comes to inform his client, he is found dead – murdered in a sealed room, locked from the inside. Now Guest has come to the unwanted attention of the Lord Sheriff of London and most recent client was murdered while he was working for him. And everything seems to turn on a religious relic – a veil reported to have wiped the brow of Christ – that is now missing.
Verdict: Go – It’s billed as “Medieval Noir” (the reference to the ‘mean streets of London” should give it away) but I’m not convinced about Raymond Chandler transported to 14th century London (although I do like the cover).
A Conspiracy of Paper by David Liss (added 8th Dec 2012)
Benjamin Weaver, a Jew and an ex-boxer, is an outsider in eighteenth-century London, tracking down debtors and felons for aristocratic clients. The son of a wealthy stock trader, he lives estranged from his family—until he is asked to investigate his father’s sudden death. Thus Weaver descends into the deceptive world of the English stock jobbers, gliding between coffee houses and gaming houses, drawing rooms and bordellos. The more Weaver uncovers, the darker the truth becomes, until he realizes that he is following too closely in his father’s footsteps—and they just might lead him to his own grave.
Verdict: Go – I was obviously in historical mystery mode when I added a lot of these but I’m not convinced there’s anything that makes it stand out from the crowd.
The Expected One by Kathleen McGowan (added 8th Dec 2012)
When journalist Maureen Paschal begins the research for a new book, she has no idea that she is stepping into an ancient mystery so secret, so revolutionary, that thousands of people have killed and died for it. Two thousand years ago, Mary Magdalene hid a set of scrolls in the French Pyrenees: the Gospel of Mary Magdalene, her version of the life of Jesus and the events of the New Testament. Protected by supernatural forces, these sacred scrolls could be uncovered only by a special seeker, one who fulfills the ancient prophecy of L’Attendu – the Expected One.
Verdict: Go – Hmm, another dual time historical mystery this time with a religious conspiracy angle. This one no longer grabs me plus it’s the first in a trilogy so that would be three books I’d be committing to!
Blind Justice by Bruce Alexander (added 3rd Jan 2013)
Falsely charged of theft in 1768 London, thirteen-year-old orphaned printer’s apprentice Jeremy Proctor finds his only hope in the legendary Sir John Fielding. Fielding, founder of the Bow Street Runners police force, then recruits young Jeremy in his mission to fight London’s most wicked crimes.
Verdict: Go – I was on the verge of keeping this one but then I saw it’s part of an 11-volume (11!) series…no way!
Company of Liars by Karen Maitland (added 28 Feb 2013)
The year is 1348. The Black Plague grips the country. In a world ruled by faith and fear, nine desperate strangers, brought together by chance, attempt to outrun the certain death that is running inexorably toward them.
Each member of this motley company has a story to tell. From Camelot, the relic-seller who will become the group’s leader, to Cygnus, the one-armed storyteller . . . from the strange, silent child called Narigorm to a painter and his pregnant wife, each has a secret. None is what they seem. And one among them conceals the darkest secret of all–propelling these liars to a destiny they never saw coming.
Verdict: Keep – Now we’re talking! I love Karen Maitland’s books (I have her latest The Plague Charmer sitting on my TBR shelf) so this one is staying.
The Trial of Elizabeth Cree by Peter Ackroyd (added 28 Feb 2013)
The year is 1880, the setting London’s poor and dangerous Limehouse district, home to immigrants and criminals. A series of brutal murders has occurred, and, as Ackroyd leads us down London’s dark streets, the sense of time and place becomes overwhelmingly immediate and real. We experience the sights and sounds of the English music halls, smell the smells of London slums, hear the hooves of horses on the cobblestone streets, and attend the trial of Elizabeth Cree, a woman accused of poisoning her husband but who may be the one person who knows the truth.
Verdict: Keep – Ackroyd is a great writer about London and I love the sound of the period setting and the story. Also, it’s subtitled Dan Leno and the Limehouse Golem which alone makes me want to read it right this minute…
The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley (added 28th Feb 2013)
In the spring of 1708, an invading Jacobite fleet of French and Scottish soldiers nearly succeeded in landing the exiled James Stewart in Scotland to reclaim his crown. Now, Carrie McClelland hopes to turn that story into her next bestselling novel. Settling herself in the shadow of Slains Castle, she creates a heroine named for one of her own ancestors and starts to write. But when she discovers her novel is more fact than fiction, Carrie wonders if she might be dealing with ancestral memory, making her the only living person who knows the truth – the ultimate betrayal – that happened all those years ago. That knowledge comes very close to destroying her.…
Verdict: Keep – Dual time narrative alert! However I like the setting and if anyone can pull off a combined past and present story line it’s Kearsley.
The Result: Not quite as good as last week, but not bad – a 50/50 outcome. Do you agree with my choices? Have I dumped one of your all-time favourite books?