Down the TBR Hole #6

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:

MaddAddam (MaddAddam #3) by Margaret Atwood (added 13th June 2013)

A man-made plague has swept the earth, but a small group survives, along with the green-eyed Crakers – a gentle species bio-engineered to replace humans. Toby, onetime member of the Gods Gardeners and expert in mushrooms and bees, is still in love with street-smart Zeb, who has an interesting past. The Crakers’ reluctant prophet, Snowman-the-Jimmy, is hallucinating; Amanda is in shock from a Painballer attack; and Ivory Bill yearns for the provocative Swift Fox, who is flirting with Zeb. Meanwhile, giant Pigoons and malevolent Painballers threaten to attack.

Verdict: Keep – Easy decision. Atwood is one of my literary heroines and I decided to keep The Year of the Flood (MaddAddam #2) last week.

The Summer Queen (Eleanor of Aquitaine #1) by Elizabeth Chadwick (added 13th June 2013)

Eleanor of Aquitaine is a 12th century icon who has fascinated readers for 800 years. But the real Eleanor remains elusive. This stunning novel introduces an Eleanor that all other writers have missed. Based on the most up-to-date research, it is the first novel to show Eleanor beginning her married life at 13. Overflowing with scandal, passion, triumph and tragedy, Eleanor’s legendary story begins when her beloved father dies in the summer of 1137, and she is made to marry the young prince Louis of France. A week after the marriage she becomes a queen and her life will change beyond recognition . . .

Verdict: Keep – As the blurb says, Eleanor of Aquitaine is one of the great female characters from history and I have enjoyed previous books by Elizabeth Chadwick.

The Birth of Venus by Sarah Dunant (added 13th June 2013)

Alessandra Cecchi is not quite fifteen when her father, a prosperous cloth merchant, brings a young painter back from northern Europe to decorate the chapel walls in the family’s Florentine palazzo. A child of the Renaissance, with a precocious mind and a talent for drawing, Alessandra is intoxicated by the painter’s abilities. But their burgeoning relationship is interrupted when Alessandra’s parents arrange her marriage to a wealthy, much older man. Meanwhile, Florence is changing, increasingly subject to the growing suppression imposed by the fundamentalist monk Savonarola, who is seizing religious and political control. Alessandra and her native city are caught between the Medici state, with its love of luxury, learning, and dazzling art, and the hellfire preaching and increasing violence of Savonarola’s reactionary followers. Played out against this turbulent backdrop, Alessandra’s married life is a misery, except for the surprising freedom it allows her to pursue her powerful attraction to the young painter and his art.

Verdict: Keep – I’ve enjoyed every previous book I’ve read by Sarah Dunant and the combination of history and art is something I’m drawn to.

Blood and Beauty: The Borgias by Sarah Dunant (added 13th June 2013)

Is there a family in history more dazzling, dangerous and notorious than the Borgias? A powerhouse of the Italian Renaissance, their very name epitomizes the ruthless politics and sexual corruption of the Papacy. The father, Pope Alexander VI, a consummate politician and a man with a voracious appetite both as Cardinal and Pope. The younger Juan, womanizer and thug, and their lovely sister, Lucretia, whose very name has become a byword for poison, incest and intrigue. But how much of the history about this remarkable family is actually true, and how much distorted, filtered through the age old mechanisms of political spin, propaganda and gossip? What if the truth, the real history, is even more challenging?

Verdict: Keep – It’s about the Borgias and it’s by Sarah Dunant (whose In the Name of the Family, also about the Borgias, I enjoyed). It’s got to be a keeper.

What Angels Fear (Sebastian St Cyr #1) by C S Harris (added 15th June 2013)

It’s 1811, and the threat of revolution haunts the upper classes of King George III’s England. Then a beautiful young woman is found raped and savagely murdered on the altar steps of an ancient church near Westminster Abbey. A dueling pistol discovered at the scene and the damning testimony of a witness both point to one man, Sebastian St. Cyr, Viscount Devlin, a brilliant young nobleman shattered by his experience in the Napoleonic Wars. Now a fugitive running for his life, Sebastian calls upon his skill as an agent during the war to catch the killer and prove his own innocence. In the process, he accumulates a band of unlikely allies, including the enigmatic beauty Kat Boleyn, who broke Sebastian’s heart years ago. In Sebastian’s world of intrigue and espionage, nothing is as it seems, yet the truth may hold the key to the future of the British monarchy, as well as to Sebastian’s own salvation….

Verdict: Go – I actually like the sound of this but this exercise is supposed to be about getting rid of books from your list not keeping everything! And I can’t commit to starting any more historical mystery series that I might get hooked on just now.

The Four Seasons: A Novel of Vivaldi’s Venice by Laurel Corona (added 18th June 2013)

In glittering 18th-century Venice, music and love are prized above all else—and for two sisters coming of age, the city’s passions blend in intoxicating ways. Chiaretta and Maddalena are as different as night and day. The two sisters were abandoned as babies on the steps of the Ospedale della Pietà, Venice’s world-famous foundling hospital and musical academy. High-spirited and rebellious, Chiaretta marries into a great aristocratic Venetian family and eventually becomes one of the most powerful women in Venice. Maddalena becomes a violin virtuoso and Antonio Vivaldi’s muse. The Four Seasons is a rich, literary imagination of the world of 18th-century Venice and the lives and loves of two extraordinary women.

Verdict: Go – I’m always tempted by books set in Venice and the idea of a story set around Vivaldi sounds intriguing. However, some of the reviews mention that in fact Vivaldi is only a minor character in the story so that’s put me off.

The Cleaner of Chartres by Salley Vickers (added 18th June 2013)

There is something special about the ancient cathedral of Chartres, with its mismatched spires, astonishing stained glass and strange labyrinth. And there is something special too about Agnès Morel, the mysterious woman who is to be found cleaning it each morning. No one quite knows where she came from – not the diffident Abbé Paul, who discovered her one morning twenty years ago, sleeping in the north porch; nor lonely Professor Jones, whose chaotic existence she helps to organise; nor Philippe Nevers, whose neurotic sister and newborn child she cares for; nor even the irreverent young restorer, Alain Fleury, who works alongside her each day and whose attention she catches with her tawny eyes, her colourful clothes and elusive manner. And yet everyone she encounters would surely agree that she is subtly transforming their lives, even if they couldn’t quite say how. But with a chance meeting in the cathedral one day, the spectre of Agnès’ past returns, provoking malicious rumours from the prejudiced Madame Beck and her gossipy companion Madame Picot. As the hearsay grows uglier, Agnès is forced to confront her history, and the mystery of her origins finally unfolds.

Verdict: Keep – I loved Miss Garnet’s Angel and Mr Golightly’s Holiday and I actually have this book on my shelf as I won it in a Goodreads giveaway. So, despite some less than positive reviews, I’m going to take a chance.

Perfect by Rachel Joyce (added 21st June 2013)

In 1972, two seconds were added to time. It was in order to balance clock time with the movement of the earth. Byron Hemming knew this because James Lowe had told him and James was the cleverest boy at school. But how could time change? The steady movement of hands around a clock was as certain as their golden futures. Then Byron’s mother, late for the school run, makes a devastating mistake. Byron’s perfect world is shattered. Were those two extra seconds to blame? Can what follows ever be set right?

Verdict: Go – Like many people, I loved The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry and the author’s new book, The Music Shop, is getting rave reviews. I also know I have The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessey on my To-Read shelf somewhere. This has had less enthusiastic reviews so it’s going.

The Street Philosopher by Matthew Pamplin (added 21st June 2013)

Ambitious young journalist Thomas Kitson arrives at the battlefields of the Crimea as the London Courier’s man on the ground. It is a dangerous place, full of the worst horrors of war but Kitson is determined to make his mark. Under the tutelage of his hard-bitten Irish boss Cracknell, and assisted by artist Robert Styles, he sets about exposing the incompetence of the army generals. Two years later, as Sebastopol burns, Thomas returns to England under mysterious circumstance. Desperate for forget the atrocities of the Crimea, he takes a job as a ‘street philosopher’, a society writer reporting on the gossip of the day. But on the eve of the great Art Treasures Exhibition, as Manchester prepares to welcome Queen Victoria, Thomas’s past returns to haunt him in the most horrifying way…

Verdict: Go – This looks mildly interesting and if I didn’t have another 750 or so books on my To Read shelf it might get to stay. But since I do, it goes.

The Hanover Square Affair (Captain Lacey Regency Mysteries #1) by Ashley Gardner (added 21st June 2013)

London, 1816. Cavalry captain Gabriel Lacey returns to Regency London from the Napoleonic wars, burned out, fighting melancholia, his career ended. His interest is perked when he learns of a missing girl, possibly kidnapped by a prominent Member of Parliament. Lacey’s search for the girl leads to the discovery of murder, corruption, and dealings with a leader of the underworld. He faces his own disorientation transitioning from a soldier’s life to the civilian world at the same time, redefining his role with his former commanding officer and making new friends–from the top of society to the street girls of Covent Garden.

Verdict: Go – I’m put off by one reviewer who sounds like they know their historical mystery series and who reckons this is not as good as the Sebastian St Cyr series that I already dumped.

The Result: 5 kept, 5 dumped – better than last week. Even so I can’t believe I’m still only considering books that I added in June 2013, a whole four years ago! This could turn out to be a lifetime’s work. I admire those brave souls who have the courage to simply delete their whole To Read shelf. I’m afraid the thought of doing anything as bold as that brings me out in a cold sweat.

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

4 thoughts on “Down the TBR Hole #6

  1. I love Rachel Joyce, especially Harold Fry. I haven’t read Perfect yet so can’t really comment but have heard similar things to you which is why I’ve hesitated picking it up! 😕

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