Down the TBR Hole #4

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 who need to demonstrate their worth are:

ThisThingofDarknessThis Thing of Darkness by Harry Thompson (added 18th Apr 2013)

In 1831 Charles Darwin set off in HMS Beagle under the command of Captain Robert Fitzroy on a voyage that would change the world. Tory aristocrat Fitzroy was a staunch Christian who believed in the sanctity of the individual in a world created by God. Darwin, the liberal natural historian destined for the church, went on to develop a theory of evolution that would cast doubt on the truth of the Bible and the descent of man. The staunch friendship forged during their epic expeditions on land and sea turned into bitter enmity as Darwin’s theories threatened to destroy everything Fitzroy stood for . . .

Verdict: Keep – OK, so this is nearly 800 pages and would normally be a no-brainer for the discard pile as I’ve already confessed my aversion to long books. However…I read a sample of this on my Kindle way back and I recall it was good so it’s staying – for now.

TheForbiddenQueenThe Forbidden Queen by Anne O’Brien (added 21st Apr 2013)

An innocent pawn. A kingdom without a king. A new dynasty will reign… 1415. The jewel in the French crown, Katherine de Valois, is waiting under lock and key for King Henry V. While he’s been slaughtering her kinsmen in Agincourt, Katherine has been praying for marriage to save her from her misery. But the brutal king wants her crown, not her innocent love. For Katherine, England is a lion’s den of greed, avarice and mistrust. And when she is widowed at twenty-one, she becomes a prize ripe for the taking—her young son the future monarch, her hand in marriage worth a kingdom. This is a deadly political game, one the dowager queen must learn fast. The players—the Duke of Gloucester, Edmund Beaufort and Owen Tudor—are circling. Who will have her? Who will ruin her? This is the story of Katherine de Valois

Verdict: Keep – I often see this author’s name in historical fiction circles and I’m drawn to stories of the women in the shadows of history.

MasterGeorgieMaster Georgie by Beryl Bainbridge (added 28th Apr 2013)

When Master Georgie – George Hardy, surgeon and photographer – sets off from the cold squalor of Victorian Liverpool for the heat and glitter of the Bosphorus to offer his services in the Crimea, there straggles behind him a small caravan of devoted followers; Myrtle, his adoring adoptive sister; lapsed geologist Dr Potter; and photographer’s assistant and sometime fire-eater Pompey Jones, all of them driven onwards through a rising tide of death and disease by a shared and mysterious guilt.

Verdict: Go – This should have been an easy ‘Keep’ decision given the author’s reputation, it’s a short book and I’ve enjoyed previous titles by Bainbridge. But I’m put off by the lukewarm reviews, including from reviewers whose opinions I trust.

TheEighthDayThe Eighth Day by Thornton Wilder (added 28th April 2013)

In 1962 and 1963, Thornton Wilder spent twenty months in hibernation, away from family and friends, in the Rio Grande border town of Douglas, Arizona. While there, he launched The Eighth Day, a tale set in a mining town in southern Illinois about two families blasted apart by the apparent murder of one father by the other. The miraculous escape of the accused killer, John Ashley, on the eve of his execution and his flight to freedom triggers a powerful story tracing the fate of his and the victim’s wife and children. At once a murder mystery and a philosophical story, The Eighth Day is a “suspenseful and deeply moving” (“New York Times”) work of classic stature that has been hailed as a great American epic.

Verdict: Keep – I enjoyed The Ides of March and I really like the sound of this one.

MarkingTimeMarking Time (Cazalet Chronicles #2) by Elizabeth Jane Howard (added 28th Apr 2013)

The wonderful sequel to The Light Years returns readers to Britain in September, 1939, as war breaks out. Sheltered Louise, now 16, goes from cooking school to London parties. For 14-year-old Polly, the terrors of war cannot forestall the pangs of adolescence. And though Clary’s father has been reported missing since Dunkirk, she holds to the belief that he’s alive.

Verdict: Go – This demonstrates the value of this whole exercise because I’ve already read this! In fact I’ve read all the books in the Cazalet Chronicles series.

WhenChristandhisSaintsSleptWhen Christ and His Saints Slept by Sharon Kay Penman (added 4th May 2013)

A.D. 1135. As church bells tolled for the death of England’s King Henry I, his barons faced the unwelcome prospect of being ruled by a woman: Henry’s beautiful daughter Maude, Countess of Anjou. But before Maude could claim her throne, her cousin Stephen seized it. In their long and bitter struggle, all of England bled and burned.

Verdict: Keep – I read and enjoyed The Sunne in Splendour and despite the length of this book and the fact it’s part of a series I’m inclined to keep it. But the best reason to keep it is it’s already on my Kindle waiting to be read!

EnglishPassengersEnglish Passengers by Matthew Kneale (added 4th May 2013)

In 1857 when Captain Illiam Quillian Kewley and his band of rum smugglers from the Isle of Man have most of their contraband confiscated by British Customs, they are forced to put their ship up for charter. The only takers are two eccentric Englishmen who want to embark for the other side of the globe. The Reverend Geoffrey Wilson believes the Garden of Eden was on the island of Tasmania. His traveling partner, Dr. Thomas Potter, unbeknownst to Wilson, is developing a sinister thesis about the races of men. Meanwhile, an aboriginal in Tasmania named Peevay recounts his people’s struggles against the invading British, a story that begins in 1824, moves into the present with approach of the English passengers in 1857, and extends into the future in 1870. These characters and many others come together in a storm of voices that vividly bring a past age to life.

Verdict: Keep – This sounds quirky and interesting not to mention being shortlisted for the booker Prize (not that that is any guarantee of literary enjoyment…)

TheLeopardThe Leopard by Guiseppe Tamasi di Lampedusa (added 4th May 2013)

Set in the 1860s, The Leopard tells the spellbinding story of a decadent, dying Sicilian aristocracy threatened by the approaching forces of democracy and revolution. The dramatic sweep and richness of observation, the seamless intertwining of public and private worlds, and the grasp of human frailty imbue The Leopard with its particular melancholy beauty and power, and place it among the greatest historical novels of our time.

Verdict: Keep – This is a modern classic that I think I simply should read.

QQ by Luther Blissett (added 6th May 2013)

In 1517, Martin Luther nails his ninety-five theses demanding reform of the Catholic Church to the door of Wittenburg Cathedral, setting off a period of upheaval, war, civil war and violence we now know as the Reformation. In this age devastated by wars of religion, a young theology student adopts the cause of the heretics and the disinherited. Across the chessboard of Europe, from the German plains to the flourishing Dutch cities and down to Venice, the gateway to the East, our hero, a ‘Survivor’, a radical Protestant Anabaptist who goes under many names, and his enemy, a loyal papal spy and heretic hunter known mysteriously as “Q” play a game in which no moves are forbidden and the true size of the stakes remain hidden until the end. What begins as a personal struggle to reveal each other’s identity becomes a mission that can only end in death.

Verdict: Go – Not only does the plot sound intriguing but the author is a collective pen-name for four writers. However, it’s over 750 pages and I’ve already confessed to being a 350-page girl. Realistically, it ain’t ever going to happen that I read this.

MurderasaFineArtMurder as a Fine Art by David Morrell (added 8th May 2013)

Thomas De Quincey, infamous for his memoir ‘Confessions of an English Opium-Eater’, is the major suspect in a series of ferocious mass murders identical to ones that terrorized London forty-three years earlier. The blueprint for the killings seems to be De Quincey’s essay “On Murder Considered as One of the Fine Arts.” Desperate to clear his name but crippled by opium addiction, De Quincey is aided by his devoted daughter Emily and a pair of determined Scotland Yard detectives.

Verdict: Go – The premise sounds interesting but the use of a real-life literary figure as detective has been done so many times now.


The Result: 6 kept, 4 dumped – not as good as last week. It shouldn’t be this hard to let books go given they’re only on a wishlist, should it…?

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

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