Down the TBR Hole #9

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:

TBR#9The TownHouseThe Town House (House #1) by Norah Lofts (added 17th August 2013)

Martin Reed is the serf born in 1381 who starts Norah Lofts’ epic ‘House’ trilogy. He resents the feudal system that undermines him. When circumstances change, he begins a new life as a free man, builds the house and founds a family. From the perspectives of five characters who live in the house, Lofts evokes fourteenth- and fifteenth-century life with the storytelling ability that has made her so popular.

Verdict: Keep – This one is one my Classics Club list so it’s got to stay.

TBR#9CatalinasRiddleCatalina’s Riddle (Roma Sub Rosa #3) by Steven Saylor (added 31st August 2013)

With the consular election drawing near, Rome is fiercely divided between the conservative Cicero and the tempestuous Catilina, whose followers are rumored to be plotting a blood-thirsty siege for power if their leader fails to win office. Gordianus the Finder, retired to his Etruscan farm, is happy to be free of the intrigue and danger of the capital, but when his old friend Cicero enlists the Finder in an elaborate plot to control Catilina, Gordianus is drawn back into a familiar world. Now caught in a cloak-and-dagger political struggle for the fate of the Republic, Gordianus finds himself strangely drawn to the controversial candidate. Is Catilina really a subversive renegade, or are Cicero suspicions part of an even greater conspiracy? When a headless corpse ominously appears on his farm, Gordianus knows he must unlock the secret of Catilina’s Riddle before Rome tears herself apart.

Verdict: Keep – This is a good historical mystery series set in Ancient Rome that I’ve really enjoyed. I’ve read the first two and this is the third.

I’m going to take a shortcut and group the next seven together…

The Venus Throw (Roma Sub Rosa #4) by Steven Saylor (added 31st August 2013)

On a chill January evening in 56 B.C., two strange visitors to Rome—an Egyptian ambassador and a eunuch priest—seek out Gordianus the Finder whose specialty is solving murders, but the ambassador, a philosopher named Dio, has come to ask for something Gordianus cannot give—help in staying alive. Before the night is out, he will be murdered. Now Gordianus begins his most dangerous case. Hired to investigate Dio’s death by a beautiful woman with a scandalous reputation, he will follow a trail of political intrigue into the highest circles of power and the city’s most hidden arenas of debauchery. There Gordianus will learn nothing is as it seems—not the damning evidence he uncovers, not the suspect he sends to trial, not even the real truth behind Dio’s death which lies in secrets—not of state, but of the heart.

A Murder on the Appian Way (Roma Sub Rosa #5) by Steven Saylor (added 31st August 2013

This time the powerful politician Publius Clodius is murdered (53 BCE) on the Appian Way (a major road leading south from Rome), and as riots break out in Rome at the news of his death, the fate of the Republic is in doubt. All of the major political figures of the time are involved: Pompey (the great), Julius Caesar, Milo, and Cicero, plus any number of lesser figures. Surrounded by intrigue and beset with problems, Gordianus seeks out the unpalatable truth behind this death, and uncovers a complex and dangerous sequence of events.

Rubicon (Roma Sub Rosa #7) by Steven Saylor (added 31st August 2013)

As Caesar marches on Rome and panic erupts in the city, Gordianus the Finder discovers, in his own home, the body of Pompey’s favorite cousin. Before fleeing the city, Pompey exacts a terrible bargain from the finder of secrets-to unearth the killer, or sacrifice his own son-in-law to service in Pompey’s legions, and certain death. Amid the city’s sordid underbelly, Gordianus learns that the murdered man was a dangerous spy. Now, as he follows a trail of intrigue, betrayal, and ferocious battles on land and sea, the Finder is caught between the chaos of war and the terrible truth he must finally reveal.

Last Seen in Massilia (Roma Sub Rosa #8) by Steven Saylor (added 31st August 2013)

In this mystery set in Marseilles in 49 B.C., master detective Gordianus the Finder is on a personal quest to learn the truth about his missing son, Meto. Plunged into the midst of the bloody Roman civil war, the well-connected Gordianus and his son-in-law Davus survive adventure after adventure as they penetrate the Gaulic city Massilia, which is walled against Roman invasion.

A Mist of Prophecies (Roma Sub Rosa #9) by Steven Saylor (added 31st August 2013)

In the year 48 B.C., Rome is in the midst of civil war. As Pompey the Great and Julius Caesar fight for control of the Republic, Rome itself becomes a hotbed of intrigue, riven by espionage, greedy profiteering, and bitter betrayals…Against this background a beautiful young seeress staggers across the Roman marketplace and dies in the arms of Gordianus the Finder. Possibly mad and claiming no memory of her past, Cassandra—like her Trojan namesake—was reputed to possess the gift of prophecy. For such a gift there are many in Rome who would pay handsomely—or resort to murder.Obsessed with Cassandra and her mystery, Gordianus begins to investigate her murder. As he gradually peels away the veils of secrecy that surround Cassandra’s life and death, he discovers a web of conspiracy linking many of the city’s most ruthless and powerful women. Now Gordianus’s pursuit of the truth not only endangers his own life, but could change the future of Rome itself.

The Judgment of Caesar (Roma Sub Rosa #10) by Steven Saylor (added 31st August 2013)

In 48 B.C. the Roman generals Caesar and Pompey are engaged in a battle to rule the world. Now, as Pompey plots a reckless stand on the banks of the Nile, Gordianus the Finder—who has brought his dying wife Bethesda to the Nile seeking a cure from its sacred waters—finds himself suddenly at the heart of a series of treacherous and history-altering events. While Caesar and Cleopatra embark on a legendary romance, Egypt remains ravaged by the brutal contest between the Queen and her brother King Ptolemy. Worst of all for Gordianus, Meto, his once disowned son and Caesar’s right-hand man, stands falsely accused of murder. Caesar’s judgment will decide his son’s fate, and it is up to Gordianus to somehow overcome malevolent forces to reveal the carefully obscured truth in order to save his son’s life.

The Triumph of Caesar (Roma Sub Rosa #12) by Steven Saylor (added 31st August 2013)

Gordianus, recently returned from Egypt with his wife Bethesda, is essentially retired from his previous profession of ‘Finder’, but even he cannot refuse the call of Calpurnia, Caesar’s wife. Troubled by dreams foretelling disaster and fearing a conspiracy against the life of Caesar, she had hired someone to investigate the rumors. but that person, a close friend of Gordianus, has just turned up dead—murdered on her doorstep. With four successive Triumphs for Caesar’s military victories scheduled for the coming days, and Caesar more exposed to danger than ever before, Calpurnia wants Gordianus to uncover the truth behind the rumored conspiracies—to protect Caesar’s life, before it is too late. No fan of Caesar, Gordianus agrees to help, but only to find the murderer of his friend. Yet, once an investigation is begun, there’s no controlling what it will turn up, who it will put in danger, and where it will end

Verdict: Go x 7 – Although some of these sound like they have great plots, I’m applying my rule not to keep subsequent books in a series if I’ve not yet read the first or next book. So that’s seven books removed in one fell swoop!

TBR#9TheThirteenthTaleThe Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield (added 31st August 2013)

All children mythologize their birth…So begins the prologue of reclusive author Vida Winter’s collection of stories, which are as famous for the mystery of the missing thirteenth tale as they are for the delight and enchantment of the twelve that do exist.

The enigmatic Winter has spent six decades creating various outlandish life histories for herself – all of them inventions that have brought her fame and fortune but have kept her violent and tragic past a secret. Now old and ailing, she at last wants to tell the truth about her extraordinary life. She summons biographer Margaret Lea, a young woman for whom the secret of her own birth, hidden by those who loved her most, remains an ever-present pain. Struck by a curious parallel between Miss Winter’s story and her own, Margaret takes on the commission.

As Vida disinters the life she meant to bury for good, Margaret is mesmerized. It is a tale of gothic strangeness featuring the Angelfield family, including the beautiful and willful Isabelle, the feral twins Adeline and Emmeline, a ghost, a governess, a topiary garden and a devastating fire. Margaret succumbs to the power of Vida’s storytelling but remains suspicious of the author’s sincerity. She demands the truth from Vida, and together they confront the ghosts that have haunted them while becoming, finally, transformed by the truth themselves.

The Thirteenth Tale is a love letter to reading, a book for the feral reader in all of us, a return to that rich vein of storytelling that our parents loved and that we loved as children. Diane Setterfield will keep you guessing, make you wonder, move you to tears and laughter and, in the end, deposit you breathless yet satisfied back upon the shore of your everyday life.

Verdict: Keep – A book described as ‘a love letter to reading’ – how can I not keep that? It seems to be a book where opinion is divided but I think I’ll give it a chance.


The Result: 3 kept, 7 dumped. Of course, it did help that I was able to get rid of most of the books I added on what must henceforth be known as “Steven Saylor Day”. Do you agree with my choices? Have I dumped any books you would have kept or vice versa?

13 thoughts on “Down the TBR Hole #9

    1. Thanks! Adding a whole series to my list in the first place was such a bad idea! In fact, I’d missed off a couple of books in the series so it could have been even more. I love Steven Saylor’s books but I don’t have the time to commit to a series like that these days. Still not sure what I’m dumping is outstripping what I’m adding…

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