Down the TBR Hole #3

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…

The rules are simple:

  1. Go to your Goodreads To-Read shelf.
  2. Order on ascending date added.
  3. Take the first 5 (or 10 if you’re feeling adventurous) books
  4. Read the synopses of the books
  5. Decide: keep it or should it go?
  6. Repeat every week until the entire list has been filtered (hmm, quite a few weeks then!)

This week’s ten potential sacrificial victims:

InvitationtotheWaltzInvitation to the Waltz by Rosamond Lehmann (added 28th Feb 2013)

On her seventeenth birthday, Olivia Curtis receives: a diary for her innermost thoughts, a china ornament, a ten-shilling note and a roll of flame-coloured silk for her first ball dress. She anticipates the dance, the greatest and most terrifying event of her life so far, with uncertainty and excitement. For her pretty sister Kate, it is sure to be a triumph, but what will it be for shy, awkward Olivia?

Verdict: Keep – This is on my Classics Club Challenge list so it has to stay and seeing it will hopefully prompt me to make a bit more progress on the list. I freely admit the progress has been woeful lately.

TheScentofDeathThe Scent of Death by Andrew Taylor (added 24th Mar 2013)

Manhattan, 1778. A city of secrets, profiteers, loyalists and double agents. As the last part of America under British rule, New York is home to a swelling tide of refugees seeking justice from the British crown. Edward Savill is sent from London to investigate the claims of dispossessed loyalists. No sooner does he land than he becomes embroiled in the case of a gentleman murdered in the city’s notorious Canvas Town. An escaped slave hangs for the crime, but Savill is convinced they have executed the wrong man. Lodging with the respected Wintour family, Savill senses the mystery deepening. Judge Wintour’s beautiful daughter-in-law, Arabella, hides a tragedy in her past, while his son plans a dangerous mission into enemy territory. And what of Mr Noak, the enigmatic clerk seemingly bent on a dubious course of his own? One thing is clear – the killing in Canvas Town was just the start of a trail of murder, and it’s leading directly to Savill…

Verdict: Go – I read The American Boy by Andrew Taylor although I can’t remember much about it other than I gave it a rather unenthusiastic 3* on Goodreads. It also sounds rather similar to Golden Hill by Francis Spufford that I read recently.

TheRavensSealThe Raven’s Seal by Andrei Baltakmens (added 1st Apr 2013)

When the body of Thaddeus Grainger’s rival turns up stabbed to death in an alley just hours after their inconclusive duel, only one suspect comes to mind. Charged with murder, Grainger’s fate is sealed before his trial even begins. A young gentleman of means but of meaningless pursuits, Grainger is cast into the notorious Bellstrom Gaol, where he must quickly learn to survive in the filthy, ramshackle prison. The “Bells” – where debtors, gaolers, whores, thieves, and murderers all mix freely and where every privilege comes at a price – will be the young man’s home for the rest of his life unless he can prove his innocence. Despite his downfall, his friends, the journalist William Quillby and Cassie Redruth, the poor young girl who owes Grainger a debt of gratitude, refuse to abandon him. But before they can win his freedom, they must contend with forces both inside and outside the prison determined to keep Grainger behind bars and, at the same time, decode the meaning behind the crude wax seal that inspires terror in those who know its portent.

Verdict: Go – Look at the date added. Perhaps this was my own private joke. Anyway, I have no recollection of what particularly appealed to me about this one.

GuernicaGuernica by Dave Boling (added 3rd Apr 2013)

In 1935, Miguel Navarro finds himself in conflict with the Spanish Civil Guard, and flees the Basque fishing village of Lekeitio to make a new start in Guernica, the center of Basque culture and tradition. In the midst of this isolated bastion of democratic values, Miguel finds more than a new life— he finds someone to live for. Miren Ansotegui is a charismatic and graceful dancer who has her pick of the bachelors in Guernica, but focuses only on the charming and mysterious Miguel. The two discover a love that war and tragedy cannot destroy.

Verdict: Go – Comparisons to other more famous novels can be misleading – this is compared to Captain Corelli’s Mandolin and The English Patient. It’s got quite a lot of 4* and 5* reviews but I’m not in the mood for a gamble.

JulianJulian by Gore Vidal (added 3rd April 2013)

Julian the Apostate, nephew of Constantine the Great, was one of the brightest yet briefest lights in the history of the Roman Empire. A military genius on the level of Julius Caesar and Alexander the Great, a graceful and persuasive essayist, and a philosopher devoted to worshiping the gods of Hellenism, he became embroiled in a fierce intellectual war with Christianity that provoked his murder at the age of thirty-two, only four years into his brilliantly humane and compassionate reign. A marvelously imaginative and insightful novel of classical antiquity, Julian captures the religious and political ferment of a desperate age and restores with blazing wit and vigor the legacy of an impassioned ruler.

Verdict: Go – I’m tempted by this because of the author’s reputation and my interest in Roman history. However, it’s over 500 pages (I’m really a 350 pages kind of girl) and it’s not currently available in ebook format on Amazon, so it goes.

AugustusAugustus by John Williams (added 3rd Apr 2013)

After the brutal murder of his great-uncle, Julius Caesar, Octavian, a shy and scholarly youth of nineteen, suddenly finds himself heir to the vast power of Rome. He is destined, despite vicious power struggles, bloody wars and family strife, to transform his realm and become the greatest ruler the western world had ever seen: Augustus Caesar, the first Roman Emperor.

Verdict: Keep – I’m sure I added this after finishing Stoner, a book I absolutely loved. If this is even half as good as that it will be a winner. And it’s a sort of quid pro quo for dumping the Gore Vidal above.

HeatandDustHeat and Dust by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala (added 7th Apr 2013)

Set in colonial India during the 1920s, Heat and Dust tells the story of Olivia, a beautiful woman suffocated by the propriety and social constraints of her position as the wife of an important English civil servant. Longing for passion and independence, Olivia is drawn into the spell of the Nawab, a minor Indian prince deeply involved in gang raids and criminal plots. She is intrigued by the Nawab’s charm and aggressive courtship, and soon begins to spend most of her days in his company. But then she becomes pregnant, and unsure of the child’s paternity, she is faced with a wrenching dilemma. Her reaction to the crisis humiliates her husband and outrages the British community, breeding a scandal that lives in collective memory long after her death.

Verdict: Keep – Another one from my Classics Club Challenge list plus it won The Booker Prize and it sounds brilliant.

BlackLambandGreyFalconBlack Lamb and Grey Falcon by Rebecca West (added 7th Apr 2013)

Written on the brink of World War II, Rebecca West’s classic examination of the history, people, and politics of Yugoslavia illuminates a region that is still a focus of international concern.  A magnificent blend of travel journal, cultural commentary, and historical insight, Black Lamb and Grey Falcon probes the troubled history of the Balkans and the uneasy relationships among its ethnic groups. The landscape and the people of Yugoslavia are brilliantly observed as West untangles the tensions that rule the country’s history as well as its daily life.

Verdict: Keep – I read West’s The Return of the Soldier recently as part of my Classics Club Challenge and was rather disappointed. However, this one sounds interesting and I did enjoy one of her other works of non-fiction, The Meaning of Treason, so I think it stays for now.  Plus I don’t read enough non-fiction.

PlagueChildPlague Child by Peter Ransley (added 8th Apr 2013)

September 1625. Plague cart driver, Matthew Kneave, is sent to pick up the corpse of a baby. Yet, on the way to the plague pit, he hears a cry – the baby is alive. A plague child himself, and now immune from the disease, Matthew decides to raise it as his own. Fifteen years on, Matthew’s son Tom is apprenticed to a printer in the City. Somebody is interested in him and is keen to turn him into a gentleman. He is even given an education. But Tom is unaware that he has a benefactor and soon he discovers that someone else is determined to kill him. The civil war divides families, yet Tom is divided in himself. Devil or saint? Royalist or radicalist? He is at the bottom of the social ladder, yet soon finds himself within reach of a great estate – one which he must give up to be with the girl he loves.

Verdict: Go – It sounds kind of interesting (and I do like the cover) but it doesn’t have great reviews and I’ve probably got more promising books of its type elsewhere on my list.

TheMidwife'sTaleThe Midwife’s Tale by Sam Thomas (added 8th Apr 2013)

It is 1644, and Parliament’s armies have risen against the King and laid siege to the city of York. Even as the city suffers at the rebels’ hands, midwife Bridget Hodgson becomes embroiled in a different sort of rebellion. One of Bridget’s friends, Esther Cooper, has been convicted of murdering her husband and sentenced to be burnt alive. Convinced that her friend is innocent, Bridget sets out to find the real killer with the help of Martha Hawkins, a servant who’s far more skilled with a knife than any respectable woman ought to be…

Verdict: Go – I read a lot of historical mysteries so they have to work hard to stand out from the crowd and, although I like the idea of two female protagonists, I don’t think this one does.

The Result: 4 kept, 6 dumped. Better than last week but at this rate, I’ll still have over 300 books on my wishlist at the end of the process. Hmm…

Anyway, do you agree with my choices? Have I dumped any books you would have kept or vice versa?

2 thoughts on “Down the TBR Hole #3

    1. Thank you. Invitation to the Waltz has been languishing on my wish list for too long….I really want to get around to reading it. I didn’t know there was a sequel. Are you trying to undo all my good work today lol?


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