Down the TBR Hole #10

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!)

The ten who need to demonstrate their worth this time are:

TBR10 Bellman & BlackBellman & Black by Diane Setterfield (added 31st August 2013)

Bellman & Black is a heart-thumpingly perfect ghost story, beautifully and irresistibly written, its ratcheting tension exquisitely calibrated line by line. Its hero is William Bellman, who, as a boy of 10, killed a shiny black rook with a catapult, and who grew up to be someone, his neighbours think, who “could go to the good or the bad.” And indeed, although William Bellman’s life at first seems blessed—he has a happy marriage to a beautiful woman, becomes father to a brood of bright, strong children, and thrives in business—one by one, people around him die. And at each funeral, he is startled to see a strange man in black, smiling at him. At first, the dead are distant relatives, but eventually his own children die, and then his wife, leaving behind only one child, his favourite, Dora. Unhinged by grief, William gets drunk and stumbles to his wife’s fresh grave—and who should be there waiting, but the smiling stranger in black. The stranger has a proposition for William—a mysterious business called “Bellman & Black” . . . (less)

Verdict: Remove – I already have The Thirteenth Tale by the same author on my To Read shelf and this one has less positive reviews.  

TBR10 AugustusAugustus: Son of Rome (Augustus #1) by Richard Foreman (added 31st August 2013)

Augustus: Son of Rome tells the story of the assassination of Julius Caesar and the rise of his heir, Gaius Octavius, as he journeys to Rome from Apollonia. We see a boy grow into a man as Octavius develops the moral courage, intelligence and ruthlessness that will finally see him become Augustus, Emperor of Rome.

The pen and sword will be employed to defeat his enemies and Octavius will earn the name of “Caesar”. Yet Rome will exact its price – and triumph will be accompanied by tragedy. Julius Caesar, Cicero, Cleopatra, Mark Antony, Brutus and Marcus Agrippa all feature in this epic adventure, which will appeal to fans of Shakespeare, Plutarch and Conn Iggulden alike.

Verdict: Remove I already have another book about Augustus on my To Read shelf and I don’t think I need another, particularly one with an average rating of only 3.5.

TBR10 King HereafterKing Hereafter by Dorothy Dunnett (added 2nd September 2013)

In King Hereafter, Dorothy Dunnett’s stage is the wild, half-pagan country of eleventh-century Scotland. Her hero is an ungainly young earl with a lowering brow and a taste for intrigue. He calls himself Thorfinn but his Christian name is Macbeth.  Dunnett depicts Macbeth’s transformation from an angry boy who refuses to accept his meager share of the Orkney Islands to a suavely accomplished warrior who seizes an empire with the help of a wife as shrewd and valiant as himself.

Verdict: Remove – I’m drawn to this because of the subject matter and I’m aware of the reputation of the author.  However it is over 700 pages long and I can’t see myself investing the time to read it any time soon.

TBR10 The Slaves of SolitudeThe Slaves of Solitude by Patrick Hamilton (added 6th September 2013)

England in the middle of World War II, a war that seems fated to go on forever, a war that has become a way of life. Heroic resistance is old hat. Everything is in short supply, and tempers are even shorter.

Overwhelmed by the terrors and rigors of the Blitz, middle-aged Miss Roach has retreated to the relative safety and stupefying boredom of the suburban town of Thames Lockdon, where she rents a room in a boarding house run by Mrs. Payne. There the savvy, sensible, decent, but all-too-meek Miss Roach endures the dinner-table interrogations of Mr. Thwaites and seeks to relieve her solitude by going out drinking and necking with a wayward American lieutenant. Life is almost bearable until Vicki Kugelmann, a seeming friend, moves into the adjacent room. That’s when Miss Roach’s troubles really begin.

Verdict: Keep – I’m intrigued by the description of this one and the wartime setting appeals so I’m going to give it a chance.

TBR10 The LuminariesThe Luminaries by Eleanor Catton (added 7th September 2013)

It is 1866, and young Walter Moody has come to make his fortune upon the New Zealand goldfields. On the stormy night of his arrival, he stumbles across a tense gathering of twelve local men who have met in secret to discuss a series of unexplained events: A wealthy man has vanished, a prostitute has tried to end her life, and an enormous fortune has been discovered in the home of a luckless drunk. Moody is soon drawn into the mystery: a network of fates and fortunes that is as complex and exquisitely ornate as the night sky. Richly evoking a mid-nineteenth-century world of shipping, banking, and gold rush boom and bust, The Luminaries is a brilliantly constructed, fiendishly clever ghost story and a gripping page-turner.

Verdict: Remove – This was garlanded with prizes and prize nominations but it’s over 800 pages long and has an average rating of only 3.7.  In addition, some reviews describe it as ‘slow’ or ‘dense’.  I think I can only retain books that really grab me and this one doesn’t.

TTBR10 The Killshe Kills by Richard House (added 7th September 2013)

This is The Kills: Sutler, The Massive, The Kill, The Hit. The Kills is an epic novel of crime and conspiracy told in four books. It begins with a man on the run and ends with a burned body. Moving across continents, characters and genres, there will be no more ambitious or exciting novel in 2013. In a ground-breaking collaboration between author and publisher, Richard House has also created multimedia content that takes you beyond the boundaries of the book and into the characters’ lives outside its pages.

Verdict: Remove – I was clearly in an adventurous frame of mind when I added this one but reading the description now it doesn’t appeal at all and once more its size – over 1,000 pages – puts me off.

TBR10 The MasterThe Master by Colm Toibin (added 7th September 2013)

Beautiful and profoundly moving, The Master tells the story of Henry James, a man born into one of America’s first intellectual families who leaves his country in the late nineteenth century to live in Paris, Rome, Venice, and London among privileged artists and writers.

Verdict: Keep – I’m always drawn to fiction based around the lives of writers or artists and I really like the sound of this one.


TBR10 City of WomenCity of Women by David R. Gillham (added 8th September 2013)

It is 1943 – the height of the Second World War – and Berlin has essentially become a city of women.  Sigrid Schröder is, for all intents and purposes, the model German soldier’s wife: She goes to work every day, does as much with her rations as she can, and dutifully cares for her meddling mother-in-law, all the while ignoring the horrific immoralities of the regime. But behind this façade is an entirely different Sigrid, a woman who dreams of her former lover, now lost in the chaos of the war. Her lover is a Jew.  But Sigrid is not the only one with secrets.

A high ranking SS officer and his family move down the hall and Sigrid finds herself pulled into their orbit. A young woman doing her duty-year is out of excuses before Sigrid can even ask her any questions. And then there’s the blind man selling pencils on the corner, whose eyes Sigrid can feel following her from behind the darkness of his goggles.   Soon Sigrid is embroiled in a world she knew nothing about, and as her eyes open to the reality around her, the carefully constructed fortress of solitude she has built over the years begins to collapse. She must choose to act on what is right and what is wrong, and what falls somewhere in the shadows between the two.

Verdict: Keep – Fiction based in World War II is another interest of mine and this sounds like an intriguing story.

TBR10 One Night in WinterOne Night in Winter by Simon Sebag Montefiore (added 9th September 2013)

If your children were forced to testify against you, what terrible secrets would they reveal?

Moscow 1945. As Stalin and his courtiers celebrate victory over Hitler, shots ring out. On a nearby bridge, a teenage boy and girl lie dead.  But this is no ordinary tragedy and these are no ordinary teenagers, but the children of Russia’s most important leaders who attend the most exclusive school in Moscow.  Is it murder? A suicide pact? Or a conspiracy against the state?  Directed by Stalin himself, an investigation begins as children are arrested and forced to testify against their friends – and their parents. This terrifying witch-hunt soon unveils illicit love affairs and family secrets in a hidden world where the smallest mistakes will be punished with death.

Verdict: Keep – Again, the period in which the book is set appeals and the story line sounds intriguing.

TBR10 SashenkaSashenka by Simon Sebag Montefiore (added 9th September 2013)

Winter, 1916. In St Petersburg, snow is falling in a country on the brink of revolution. Beautiful and headstrong, Sashenka Zeitlin is just sixteen. As her mother parties with Rasputin and her dissolute friends, Sashenka slips into the frozen night to play her role in a dangerous game of conspiracy and seduction.  Twenty years on, Sashenka has a powerful husband and two children. Around her people are disappearing but her own family is safe. But she’s about to embark on a forbidden love affair which will have devastating consequences. Sashenka’s story lies hidden for half a century, until a young historian goes deep into Stalin’s private archives and uncovers a heart-breaking story of passion and betrayal, savage cruelty and unexpected heroism – and one woman forced to make an unbearable choice…

Verdict: Remove – I was sorely tempted to keep this one but I think I’d like to experience the author’s writing (see above) before committing to another book by him.  However, I can see it getting added back to the shelf if I enjoy One Night in Winter.

The Result:  4 kept, 6 dumped.  Do you agree with my choices?  Have I dumped any books you would have kept or vice versa?

6 thoughts on “Down the TBR Hole #10

  1. Wow, you got rid of a lot of them! I like seeing your method — basing it on average rating, time commitment, or whether you have better books by the author on your to-read list. I’ve been putting this off since I don’t think I’d be able to remove very many, but if I use your method, I might be able to better convince myself they need to be removed.

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  2. I love Dorothy Dunnett but King Hereafter is a very long and challenging book so I can understand why you’re removing it. If you do want to try one of her books one day, I would highly recommend The Game of Kings, which is a bit shorter and probably a better place to start. I agree with your decision on Bellman & Black! I enjoyed The Thirteenth Tale much more than that one.

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