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!)
I now have a “mere” 505 books on my To-Read shelf so let’s see if we can get it below 500 with the latest instalment of this exercise. And, yes, I know another way to achieve it would be to read some of them! By the way, I cannot be held responsible if you like the sound of some of these and add them to your own TBR piles or wishlists.
If We Were Villains by M. L. Rio (added 11th April 2017)
Oliver Marks has just served ten years for a murder he may or may not have committed. On the day of his release, he is greeted by the detective who put him in prison. Detective Colborne is retiring, and he wants to know what really happened a decade before.
As a young actor at an elite conservatory, Oliver noticed that his talented classmates seem to play the same characters onstage and off – villain, hero, temptress – though he was always a supporting role. But when the teachers change the casting, a good-natured rivalry turns ugly, and the plays spill dangerously over into real life.
When tragedy strikes, one of the seven friends is found dead. The rest face their greatest acting challenge yet: convincing the police, and themselves, that they are blameless…
Verdict: Keep – This is one of the books on my list for the 20 Books of Summer 2022 reading challenge and it’s on there because I’m trying to work through some of the paperback books I’ve accumulated, working from oldest first. Therefore it should get read in the next couple of months. I’m planning to be ruthless and stop reading any of the books on the list I’m not enjoying.
How To Be Brave by Louise Beech (added 12th April 2017)
All the stories died that morning … until we found the one we’d always known.
When nine-year-old Rose is diagnosed with a life-threatening illness, Natalie must use her imagination to keep her daughter alive. They begin dreaming about and seeing a man in a brown suit who feels hauntingly familiar, a man who has something for them. Through the magic of storytelling, Natalie and Rose are transported to the Atlantic Ocean in 1943, to a lifeboat, where an ancestor survived for fifty days before being rescued.
Verdict: Keep – I’ve read and enjoyed several books by Louise Beech and this is her much-praised debut.
The Beaufort Bride: The Life of Margaret Beaufort by Judith Arnopp (added 12th April 2017)
As King Henry VI slips into insanity and the realm of England teeters on the brink of civil war, a child is married to the mad king’s brother. Edmund Tudor, Earl of Richmond, takes his child bride into Wales where she discovers a land of strife and strangers.
At Caldicot Castle and Lamphey Palace Margaret must put aside childhood, acquire the dignity of a Countess and, despite her tender years, produce Richmond with a son and heir. While Edmund battles to restore the king’s peace, Margaret quietly supports his quest; but it is a quest fraught with danger. As the friction between York and Lancaster intensifies 14-year-old Margaret, now widowed, turns for protection to her brother-in-law, Jasper Tudor. At his stronghold in Pembroke, two months after her husband’s death, Margaret gives birth to a son whom she names Henry, after her cousin the king.
Margaret is small of stature but her tiny frame conceals a fierce and loyal heart and a determination that will not falter until her son’s destiny as the king of England is secured.
The Beaufort Bride traces Margaret’s early years from her nursery days at Bletsoe Castle to the birth of her only son in 1457 at Pembroke Castle. Her story continues in The Beaufort Woman.
Verdict: Dump – This covers much of the same ground as Philippa Gregory’s The Red Queen which I’ve already read.
Island of Secrets by Patricia Wilson (added 18th April 2017)
‘The story started at dawn on the fourteenth of September, 1943 . . .’
All her life, London-born Angelika has been intrigued by her mother’s secret past. Now planning her wedding, she feels she must visit the remote Crete village her mother grew up in. Angie’s estranged elderly grandmother, Maria, is dying. She welcomes Angie with open arms – it’s time to unburden herself, and tell the story she’ll otherwise take to her grave.
It’s the story of the Nazi occupation of Crete during the Second World War, of horror, of courage and of the lengths to which a mother will go to protect her children. And it’s the story of bitter secrets that broke a family apart, and of three enchanting women who come together to heal wounds that have damaged two generations.
Verdict: Keep – This is another book on my 20 Books of Summer 2022 list. It’s also (whisper) a review copy.
A Talent for Murder by Andrew Wilson (added 19th April 2017)
‘I wouldn’t scream if I were you. Unless you want the whole world to learn about your husband and his mistress.’
Agatha Christie, in London to visit her literary agent, boards a train, preoccupied and flustered in the knowledge that her husband Archie is having an affair. She feels a light touch on her back, causing her to lose her balance, then a sense of someone pulling her to safety from the rush of the incoming train. So begins a terrifying sequence of events.
Her rescuer is no guardian angel; rather, he is a blackmailer of the most insidious, manipulative kind. Agatha must use every ounce of her cleverness and resourcefulness to thwart an adversary determined to exploit her genius for murder to kill on his behalf
Verdict: Dump – The idea of Agatha Christie turning detective is appealing but I’m supposed to be adopting a ruthless approach and the book has mixed reviews.
Pachinko by Min-Jin Lee (added 22nd April 2017)
Pachinko follows one Korean family through the generations, beginning in early 1900s Korea with Sunja, the prized daughter of a poor yet proud family, whose unplanned pregnancy threatens to shame them. Betrayed by her wealthy lover, Sunja finds unexpected salvation when a young tubercular minister offers to marry her and bring her to Japan to start a new life.
So begins a sweeping saga of exceptional people in exile from a homeland they never knew and caught in the indifferent arc of history. In Japan, Sunja’s family members endure harsh discrimination, catastrophes, and poverty, yet they also encounter great joy as they pursue their passions and rise to meet the challenges this new home presents. Through desperate struggles and hard-won triumphs, they are bound together by deep roots as their family faces enduring questions of faith, family, and identity.
Verdict: Keep – This has had hundreds of thousands of positive reviews although it does sound a little like Peach Blossom Spring by Melissa Fu which I read recently.
Desperation Road by Michael Farris Smith (added 22nd April 2017)
For eleven years the clock has been ticking for Russell Gaines as he sat in Parchman penitentiary in the Mississippi Delta. His time now up, and believing his debt paid, he returns home only to discover that revenge lives and breathes all around.
On the day of his release, a woman named Maben and her young daughter trudge along the side of the interstate under the punishing summer sun. Desperate and exhausted, the pair spend their last dollar on a motel room for the night, a night that ends with Maben running through the darkness holding a pistol, and a dead deputy sprawled across the road in the glow of his own headlights.
With dawn, destinies collide, and Russell is forced to decide whose life he will save – his own or that of the woman and child?
Verdict: Keep – I enjoyed the author’s novel Nick and this one does sound good. And if Robert Olen Butler, whose Late City I absolutely loved, describes a book as ‘brilliantly compelling’ you have to take notice.
Deposed (Nero #1) by David Barbaree (added 24th April 2017)
In a darkened cell, a brutally deposed dictator lies crippled – deprived of his power, his freedom – and his eyes. On the edge of utter despair, his only companion is the young boy who brings him his meagre rations, a mere child who fears his own shadow. But to one who has held and lost the highest power, one thing alone is crystal clear: even emperors were mere children once.
Ten years later, the new ruler’s son watches uneasily over his father’s empire. Wherever he looks rebellion is festering, and those closest to him have turned traitor once before. To this city in crisis comes a hugely wealthy senator from the very edge of the empire, a young and angry ward at his heels. He is witty but inscrutable, generous with his time and money to a leader in desperate need of a friend – and he wears a bandage over his blinded eyes.
The fallen emperor’s name is Nero. But this isn’t his story.
Verdict: Keep – To me this is a great example of a good blurb. Although the book has mixed reviews, I have a hardback copy and I always find it difficult to get rid of those.
Jack Dawkins by Charlton Daines (added 30th April 2017)
Jack Dawkins, once known as the Artful Dodger in the streets of London, was sent to Australia on a prison ship when he was little more than a boy. Now he has returned to find that London has changed while the boy has turned into a man.
With few prospects provided by his criminal past and having developed mannerisms that allow him to move amongst a higher strata of society, Jack turns his back on the streets that would have primed him as a successor to the murderer, Bill Sikes, and quickly remodels himself as a gentleman thief.
New acquaintances and a series of chance encounters, including one with his old friend Oliver, create complications as remnants of his past come back to plague him. Jack is forced to struggle for a balance between his new life and memories that haunt him with visions of the derelict tavern where Nancy used to sing.
Verdict: Dump – I’m quite tempted by a story based on a character from Dickens’s Oliver Twist but not enough to keep it.
Plague Land (Somershill Manor Mystery #1) by S. D. Sykes (added 2nd May 2017)
Oswald de Lacy was never meant to be the Lord of Somerhill Manor. Despatched to a monastery at the age of seven, sent back at seventeen when his father and two older brothers are killed by the Plague, Oswald has no experience of running an estate. He finds the years of pestilence and neglect have changed the old place dramatically, not to mention the attitude of the surviving peasants.
Yet some things never change. Oswald’s mother remains the powerful matriarch of the family, and his sister Clemence simmers in the background, dangerous and unmarried.
Before he can do anything, Oswald is confronted by the shocking death of a young woman, Alison Starvecrow. The ambitious village priest claims that Alison was killed by a band of demonic dog-headed men. Oswald is certain this is nonsense, but proving it by finding the real murderer is quite a different matter. Every step he takes seems to lead Oswald deeper into a dark maze of political intrigue, family secrets and violent strife.
And then the body of another girl is found.
Verdict: Dump – I read the third book in the series, City of Masks, and particularly enjoyed the Venice setting. I think I’m more likely to read the subsequent books in the series than I am to go back to the beginning. For this reason, I’ve dumped the second book in the series, The Butcher Bird, which was also on my To-Read shelf.
The Result – 6 kept, 4 dumped (but 5 if you count the extra one, which I do).