The rules are simple:
- Go to your Goodreads To-Read shelf.
- Order on ascending date added.
- Take the first 5 (or 10 if you’re feeling adventurous) books
- Read the synopses of the books
- Decide: keep it or should it go?
- Repeat every week until the entire list has been filtered (hmm, quite a few weeks then!)
Here are ten more books on my To-Read shelf who need to justify their continued presence.
The Liberation by Kate Furnivall (added 7th March 2017)
The Liberation is set in Italy in 1945 as British and American troops attempt to bring order to the devastated country and Italy’s population fights to survive.
Caterina Lombardi is desperate – her father is dead, her mother has disappeared and her brother is being drawn towards danger. One morning, among the ruins of the bombed Naples streets, Caterina is forced to go to extreme lengths to protect her own life and in doing so forges a future in which she must clear her father’s name.
An Allied Army officer accuses him of treason and Caterina discovers a plot against her family. Who can she trust and who is the real enemy now? And will the secrets of the past be her downfall?
Verdict: Dump – Usually this would be the sort of book I’d go for but it sounds too similar to other books I’ve read since plus it’s 560 pages long.
Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue (added 7th March 2017)
Jende Jonga, a Cameroonian immigrant living in Harlem, has come to the United States to provide a better life for himself, his wife, Neni, and their six-year-old son. In the fall of 2007, Jende can hardly believe his luck when he lands a job as a chauffeur for Clark Edwards, a senior executive at Lehman Brothers. Clark demands punctuality, discretion, and loyalty – and Jende is eager to please. Clark’s wife, Cindy, even offers Neni temporary work at the Edwardses’ summer home in the Hamptons. With these opportunities, Jende and Neni can at last gain a foothold in America and imagine a brighter future.
However, the world of great power and privilege conceals troubling secrets, and soon Jende and Neni notice cracks in their employers’ façades. When the financial world is rocked by the collapse of Lehman Brothers, the Jongas are desperate to keep Jende’s job – even as their marriage threatens to fall apart. As all four lives are dramatically upended, Jende and Neni are forced to make an impossible choice.
Verdict: Keep – I’m still intrigued by the premise of this one and I love the cover so it stays.
The King’s Jew by Darius Stransky (added 8th March 2017)
Midnight, Westminster Abbey, Friday, October 27, 1307. Lord Cristian Gilleson keeps a lonely vigil at the tomb of King Edward the First. Death stalks the Abbey as King Edward II, Piers Gaveston and their supporters seek to destroy Cristian before the funeral rites begin. A long night of danger awaits and many will not live to see the dawn.
Plot and counterplot in the dark streets of medieval London as Gilleson (known to his enemies as “The King’s Jew”) reflects on a turbulent life with his king. His enemies are many and supporters few yet he will keep his promise to the greatest of England’s monarchs or die in the attempt. Death holds no fears for a man who has walked in the company of kings.
Verdict: Dump – I read the second book in the series and the author kindly sent me a copy of the first one but I really can’t see myself going back to read it after all this time.
The Fourteenth Letter by Claire Evans (added 8th March 2017)
Phoebe Stanbury was killed in the summer of secrets…
One balmy June evening in 1881, Phoebe Stanbury stands before the guests at her engagement party: this is her moment, when she will join the renowned Raycraft family and ascend to polite society. As she takes her fiancé’s hand, a stranger holding a knife steps forward and ends the poor girl’s life. Amid the chaos, he turns to her aristocratic groom and mouths: ‘I promised I would save you.’
The following morning, just a few miles away, timid young legal clerk William Lamb meets a reclusive client. He finds the old man terrified and in desperate need of aid: William must keep safe a small casket of yellowing papers, and deliver an enigmatic message: The Finder knows.
Verdict: Keep – This is just the sort of historical mystery I’m drawn to and it has some great reviews.
A Candle in the Sun by Marguerite Steen (added 8th March 2017)
In Granada with its sultry, sensuous atmosphere scandalous affairs are blossoming in the heat. The wealthy Don Joaquin is conducting an affair with a married woman in an upper chamber of an inn owned by the colourful Florio, a man who has secrets of his own.
Flavia, aged fifteen, finds herself caught in a whirlpool of conflicting adult relationships: the love of her novelist father, George Ginever, for his American mistress; and her mother’s own infidelity, an off-beat love affair of a kind more difficult to understand. The problem is for her parents – both devoted to Flavia – to find some solution to the warring emotions dominating their lives.
Further tension is created by the driving ambition of Flavia’s mother on behalf of George Ginever’s literary career – while George only desires to escape from the rat-race into his own private creative world. Flavia’s problems run parallel to those of her parents: her attempts to find happiness in the circle of her friends and her own first love affair, touchingly reflect the bewilderment of her situation.
Flavia is an intelligent modern young girl striving to achieve mental and moral balance in an unsteady world; a world littered with retired bull fighters, itinerant actors and revolutionaries.
Verdict: Dump – You know when you first start your book blog you’re excited to be contacted by publishers offering you review copies and end up accepting everything? I think this is a case in point but the book just isn’t sending me ‘read me’ vibes now.
The Women of the Castle by Jessica Shattuck (added 8th March 2017)
The Third Reich has crumbled. The Russians are coming…
Marianne von Lingenfels – widow of a resister murdered by the Nazi regime – finds refuge in the crumbling Bavarian castle where she once played host to German high society. There she fulfils her promise to find and protect the wives and children of her husband’s brave conspirators, rescuing her dearest friend’s widow, Benita, from sexual slavery to the Russian army, and Ania from a work camp for political prisoners. As Marianne assembles this makeshift family she is certain their shared pain will bind them together.
But as Benita begins a clandestine relationship and Ania struggles to conceal her role in the Nazi regime, Marianne learns that her clear-cut, highly principled world view has no place in these new, frightening and emotionally-charged days.
All three women must grapple with the realities they now face, and the consequences of decisions each made in the darkest of times . . .Can Marianne von Lingenfels and the women in her care survive and build their ravaged world anew?
Verdict: Keep – I still like the sound of this one as I’m a sucker for anything WW2 related.
Out Damn Spot! by F J McQueen (added 9th March 2017)
A serial killer is leaving a rather horrible trail of messy murders across London and William Shakespeare, crime scene cleaner, is on his tail, armed with a mop, determination and an inquiring mind.
After cleaning the room in which his half-brother, Kit Marlow, had been knifed to death, Shakespeare starts up his own crime scene cleaning business, Incarnadine, picking up know-how from the net and on the job. Following a series of clues gleaned from other crime scenes, Shakespeare is soon piecing together suspect profiles and likely modus operandi.
Out Damned Spot! has our hero cleaning up after every crime committed in the Shakesperian tragedies, but given contemporary settings. The masterminds behind the actual crimes are based on the writers whose stories Shakespeare ‘stole’…… needless to say it’s a comedy crime thriller! This is William Shakespeare as you’ve never seen him before….
Verdict: Dump – Hmm, a comedy crime thriller featuring William Shakespeare as a cleaner? I can’t think what must have been going through my mind when I added this one.
Nelson: The Powder Keg by Jan Needle Grainger (added 9th March 2017)
It is 1782 and England’s Royal Navy rules the waves. But one impatient young captain is far from happy merely policing the maritime highways.
‘We need some action, Tim, some proper action with steel and smoke and powder. Blood and Glory, Hastie! That is what we need.’ These are the words and dreams of the young Horatio Nelson, whose lust for war and honour is so consuming he is even prepared to disobey the orders of his Admiralty and Government superiors.
Nelson: The Powder Keg is the third in a series by Jan Needle that looks at some of the lesser known and sometimes shocking exploits of the Norfolk clergyman’s son before he became one of the country’s most iconic heroes. Once again, the story is recounted by his friend Tim Hastie, who this time joins him on board the 28-gun former French frigate the Albemarle.
To his dismay Nelson – health ravaged by years in the disease-ridden tropics – is sent on escort duty in the icy Baltic, and from there to Canada with bullion to pay the British Army in Quebec, where his ship’s sails get frozen to the yards. With the American War of Independence over, it is all too tame for Horatio, who is desperate to seek glory on the Caribbean Station. When he finally gets there, and the French invade Turk’s Island, the intensely patriotic Nelson can’t believe his luck – until his own counter-invasion goes horribly wrong.
Returning to Britain, half in disgrace and with a wife most men think tragically unsuitable, he is on the verge of giving up the sea – or even, horror of horrors, joining the French Navy! The hated French, however, are his saviours. For it is now the 1790s, and the French Revolution has torn a gash in Europe. The growing chaos of their revolution reignites the war between the two countries, and Nelson, appointed to command the Agamemnon, finds himself in the Mediterranean, where his destiny takes some unexpected turns.
One of them is his meeting with a beautiful young woman. She is called Emma Hamilton.
Verdict: Dump – I’m beginning to think March 2017 must have been ‘Add Random Books To My To-Read Shelf’ month! This book has a blurb almost as long as the book (99 pages according to Amazon), it’s the third book in a series and it just isn’t calling to me.
The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel (added 9th March 2017)
Lane Roanoke is fifteen when she comes to live with her grandparents and fireball cousin at the Roanoke family’s rural estate following the suicide of her mother. Over one long, hot summer, Lane experiences the benefits of being one of the rich and beautiful Roanoke girls.
But what she doesn’t know is being a Roanoke girl carries a terrible legacy: either the girls run, or they die. For there is darkness at the heart of Roanoke, and when Lane discovers its insidious pull, she must make her choice…
Verdict: Keep – This sounds intriguing and has some really positive reviews although it may be a little darker than I’d usually read.
The Alice Network by Kate Quinn (added 11th March 2017)
1947. In the chaotic aftermath of World War II, American college girl Charlie St. Clair is pregnant, unmarried, and on the verge of being thrown out of her very proper family. She’s also nursing a desperate hope that her beloved cousin Rose, who disappeared in Nazi-occupied France during the war, might still be alive. So when Charlie’s parents banish her to Europe to have her “little problem” taken care of, Charlie breaks free and heads to London, determined to find out what happened to the cousin she loves like a sister.
1915. A year into the Great War, Eve Gardiner burns to join the fight against the Germans and unexpectedly gets her chance when she’s recruited to work as a spy. Sent into enemy-occupied France, she’s trained by the mesmerizing Lili, the “Queen of Spies”, who manages a vast network of secret agents right under the enemy’s nose.
Thirty years later, haunted by the betrayal that ultimately tore apart the Alice Network, Eve spends her days drunk and secluded in her crumbling London house. Until a young American barges in uttering a name Eve hasn’t heard in decades, and launches them both on a mission to find the truth…no matter where it leads.
Verdict: Keep – Look, it’s by Kate Quinn, it’s set in both WW1 and WW2 so don’t even think about trying to convince me it should go.
The Result – 5 kept, 5 dumped. I think I’m getting a little more ruthless. Would you have made different choices?