Down the TBR Hole #28

BookPileThis meme was originally 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.

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 until the entire list has been filtered

It’s time for me to attempt a bit more pruning of my To-Read shelf on Goodreads which now contains 485 books, down three from last time partly courtesy of the #NetGalleyNovember reading challenge. But let’s see if I can reduce it still further. Come on books, you need to fight to retain my interest!

The German MessengerThe German Messenger by David Malcolm (added 21st November 2017)

British secret agent and cosmopolitan man of violence Harry Draffen journeys from the slums of East London to an Oxford college, from the trenches on the Western Front to an isolated house on the Scottish coast, on to a bloody showdown in the North of England, to chase a phantom and elusive German messenger. 

Verdict: Keep – The plot and the fact it’s set in WW1 has echoes of John Buchan – his novel Mr Standfast springs to mind. Regular followers of this blog will know I’m a Buchan fan so I’m still attracted to this one… and it’s relatively short.

Dead Men Do Come BackDead Men Do Come Back by Steven C. Levi (added 21st November 2017)

Why would someone kill a miner, freeze his body solid on a glacier and then drop it alongside the Juneau wharf, the one place where United States Marshal Gordon Whitford would be sure to find it?

Does it have anything to do with the 250 pounds of gold that have just been extracted from the Alaska Gastineau Mine? And how were both the frozen body and the gold able to disappear off a steamship that made no stops between Juneau and Seattle?

Now there is another shipment of 250 pounds of gold bound for Seattle – along with the miner’s frozen body that has been recovered – again – floating just south of Juneau. Will Marshal Whitford be able to solve the murder and the robbery before the next shipment of gold vanishes into thin air?

Verdict: Dump – The Alaska setting is quite interesting but not enough for me to want to keep it in my TBR pile. 

A Madras MiasmaA Madras Miasma by Brian Stoddart (added 21st November 2017)

Madras in the 1920s. The British are slowly losing the grip on the subcontinent. The end of the colonial enterprise is in sight and the city on India’s east coast is teeming with intrigue. A grisly murder takes place against the backdrop of political tension and Superintendent Le Fanu, a man of impeccable investigative methods, is called in to find out who killed a respectable young British girl and dumped her in a canal, her veins clogged with morphine.

As Le Fanu, a man forced to keep his own personal relationship a secret for fear of scandal in the face British moral standards, begins to investigate, he quickly slips into a quagmire of Raj politics, rebellion and nefarious criminal activities that threaten not just to bury his case but the fearless detective himself.

Verdict: Keep – The location and the period it’s set in are persuading me to let this one keep its place. It’s reminding me a bit of Vaseem Khan’s Malabar House mystery series although those are set a bit later and in Bombay rather than Madras (now known as Chennai). 

Santa_TinmanTin Man by Sarah Winman (added 21st November 2017)

It begins with a painting won in a raffle: fifteen sunflowers, hung on the wall by a woman who believes that men and boys are capable of beautiful things.

And then there are two boys, Ellis and Michael,
who are inseparable.
And the boys become men,
and then Annie walks into their lives,
and it changes nothing and everything.

Verdict: Keep – I have a confession to make… I have a signed edition of the author’s much-acclaimed novel Still Life still on my bookshelf unread. This earlier novel has great reviews and – a thing I always love – it’s relatively short. I always admire an author who can squeeze a lot of story into a small number of pages. 

Tuscan RootsTuscan Roots by Angela Petch (added 25th November 2017)

In 1943, in occupied, war-torn Italy, Ines Santini’s sheltered existence is turned upside down when she meets Norman, an escaped British POW.

In 1999, Anna Swilland, their daughter, starts to unravel Italian war stories from diaries left to her after her mother’s death. She travels to the breathtakingly beautiful Tuscan Apennines, where the family saga and romance unfolds. In researching her parents’ past, she will discover secrets about the war, her parents’ hardship and herself, which will change her life forever…

Verdict: Dump – I’ve said it before in previous iterations of this exercise that I find dual-time novels a bit hit or miss. They work for me if both timelines are equally compelling.  Reading some of the reviews of this book, I’m pretty sure I’ll find the present day story gets in the way of the more interesting wartime one even if the Tuscany setting does sound appealing when it’s cold and overcast here in the UK.  (The novel was reissued in 2019 under the title Tuscan Secrets.)  

The Encircling SeaThe Encircling Sea by Adrian Goldsworthy (added 13th December 2017) 

AD 100: Flavius Ferox, Briton and Roman centurion, is finding it hard to keep the peace. Based at Vindolanda – an army fort on the northern frontier of Britannia and the entire Roman world – he feels the eyes of his enemies on him at all hours.

Ambitious leaders sense a chance to carve out empires of their own. While men nearer at hand speak in whispers of war and the destruction of Rome.

And out at sea, ships of pirates and deserters restlessly wait for the time to launch their attack on the empire’s land.

Verdict: Keep – This is the second in the author’s Vindolanda series, the follow-up to Vindolanda which I really enjoyed. There are also a further four books featuring Flavius Ferox, including The Fort which I read in 2021. 

Before We Were YoursBefore We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate (added 13th December 2017)

Memphis, Tennessee, 1939. Twelve-year-old Rill Foss and her four younger siblings live a magical life aboard their family’s Mississippi River shantyboat. But when their father must rush their mother to the hospital one stormy night, Rill is left in charge, until strangers arrive in force. Wrenched from all that is familiar and thrown into a Tennessee Children’s Home Society orphanage, the Foss children are assured that they will soon be returned to their parents. But they quickly realize the dark truth…

Aiken, South Carolina, present day. Born into wealth and privilege, Avery Stafford seems to have it all: a successful career, a handsome fiancé, and a lavish wedding on the horizon. But when Avery returns home to help her father weather a health crisis, a chance encounter leaves her with uncomfortable questions and compels her to take a journey through her family’s long-hidden history, on a path that will ultimately lead either to devastation or to redemption.

Verdict: Keep – Okay, I know you’re going to remind me about my previous comment regarding dual-time novels but in this case both timelines seem equally interesting. The novel is based on a notorious real-life adoption scandal. 

Hattie's HomeHattie’s Home by Mary Gibson (added 22nd December 2017)

January 1947. The war is over. But London is still a wasteland.

After eight years in the ATS, Hattie Wright returns to a Bermondsey she doesn’t recognise. With so few jobs, she reluctantly takes work at the Alaska fur factory – a place rife with petty rivalries that she vowed never to set foot in again. But while she was a rising star in the ATS, Hattie’s work mates are unforgiving in her attempts to promote herself up from the factory floor.

After journeying across the world to Australia to marry her beloved, Clara is betrayed and returns penniless, homeless and trying to raise a child in the face of prejudice. While war widow, Lou, has lost more than most in the war. Her daughter and parents were killed in an air raid bomb blast and her surviving son, Ronnie, is fending for himself and getting into all kinds of trouble.

The lifelong friendship these women forge while working in the fur factory will help them overcome crippling grief and prejudice in post-war Britain and to find hope in tomorrow.

Verdict: Keep – Based on the cover I was thinking this might be a light read but perusing some of the reviews has convinced me there are elements that are a bit more hard-hitting.  The post-war setting also interests me. 

transcriptionTranscription by Kate Atkinson (added 4th January 2018)

In 1940, eighteen-year old Juliet Armstrong is reluctantly recruited into the world of espionage. Sent to an obscure department of MI5 tasked with monitoring the comings and goings of British Fascist sympathisers, she discovers the work to be by turns both tedious and terrifying. But after the war has ended, she presumes the events of those years have been relegated to the past for ever.

Ten years later, now a producer at the BBC, Juliet is unexpectedly confronted by figures from her past. A different war is being fought now, on a different battleground, but Juliet finds herself once more under threat. A bill of reckoning is due, and she finally begins to realize that there is no action without consequence.

Verdict: Keep – Firstly, I have a hardback copy of this and I always find it more difficult to get rid of hardbacks; much easier if you’re just deleting something from your Kindle. Secondly, I loved Life After Life and, thirdly, I have a copy of her latest book, Shrines of Gaiety in my TBR pile. 

The Secrets Between UsThe Secrets Between Us by Laura Madeleine (added 8th January 2018)

High in the mountains in the South of France, eighteen-year-old Ceci Corvin is trying hard to carry on as normal. But in 1943, there is no such thing as normal; especially not for a young woman in love with the wrong person. Scandal, it would seem, can be more dangerous than war.

Fifty years later, Annie is looking for her long-lost grandmother. Armed with nothing more than a sheaf of papers, she travels from England to Paris in pursuit of the truth. But as she traces her grandmother’s story, Annie uncovers something she wasn’t expecting, something that changes everything she knew about her family – and everything she thought she knew about herself…

Verdict: Dump – So we’re back to dual-time novels… I’ve feel as if I’ve read a number of books like this in recent years albeit set in different locations but all involving the events of WW2. 

The Result – 7 kept, 3 dumped. Would you have made different choices? 


4 thoughts on “Down the TBR Hole #28

  1. Yes, well… dual timelines really are a hit and a miss for me as well. My sister recommended one to me recently but… really… how much can you take of having one historical fiction story and then 40 years later, someone finds something that compels them to find out their grandparents’ secrets? Can’t you just tell me the grandparents’ story and have done with it?


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s