Down the TBR Hole #29

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 491 books, unfortunately up six from last time…. Let’s see if I can reduce that. Come on books, you need to fight to retain my interest!

Pleasing Mr PepysPleasing Mr Pepys (Women of Pepys’s Diary #1) by Deborah Swift (added 9th January 2018)

Deb Willet is desperate to escape her domineering aunt and takes a position as companion to Elisabeth Pepys, Samuel’s wife. Deb believes it will give her the respectability and freedom she craves – but it proves far more complicated than she could ever have imagined.

London is still in ruins from the Great Fire. Although Charles II has been restored to the throne, there is the prospect of war with the Dutch – the world’s great sea power of the era. In the midst of this tumult strides Samuel Pepys, diarist and man of note.

Pepys’ influence in Restoration London means that the Dutch are keen to get their hands on his secrets – even if that means murder, espionage and blackmail to get them. Deb is soon caught up in a web of deception and double-dealing. And with Mr Pepys’ attentions turned towards her, there’s a lot more than treason at stake…

Selling other people’s secrets is a dangerous game

Verdict: Keep – I love books set in this period and I like the idea of the emphasis being on women associated with Pepys rather than Pepys himself who was rather a grumpy old sod. I think I also have a copy of the next book in the series.

Birthright HingleyBirthright (Mercia Blakewood #1) by David Hingley (added 23rd January 2018)

Four years after Charles II is restored to the throne, Mercia Blakewood stands to lose everything: her father to the executioner’s axe, her freedom to her treacherous uncle, her son to his resentful grandparents. But when her father leaves her a cryptic message in his last speech, she seizes her chance to fight back.

With would-be lover Nathan Keyte and unlikely new friend Nicholas Wildmoor, Mercia must unravel her father’s mystery to find a great prize long thought lost, striving to recover the King’s stolen birthright in the hope of reclaiming her own.

From London’s bulging metropolis to the forests of Manhattan she will contend with murder, intrigue and lust, fighting for her future and her life as the town of New York is born.

Verdict: Dump – I added this – and the next book, Puritan – after reading the third book in the series, Traitor, which I really enjoyed. However, I think I’m unlikely to go back and read this especially since there appear to have been no further books in the series.

Mrs Saint and the DefectivesMrs. Saint and the Defectives by Julie Lawson Timmer (added 3rd February 2018)

Markie, a fortysomething divorcée who has suffered a humiliating and very public fall from marital, financial, and professional grace, moves, along with her teenage son, Jesse, to a new town, hoping to lick her wounds in private. But Markie and Jesse are unable to escape the attention of their new neighbor Mrs. Saint, an irascible, elderly New European woman who takes it upon herself, along with her ragtag group of “defectives,” to identify and fix the flaws in those around her, whether they want her to or not.

What Markie doesn’t realize is that Mrs. Saint has big plans for the divorcée’s broken spirit. Soon, the quirky yet endearing woman recruits Markie to join her eccentric community, a world where both hidden truths and hope unite them. But when Mrs. Saint’s own secrets threaten to unravel their fragile web of healing, it’s up to Markie to mend these wounds and usher in a new era for the “defectives” – one full of second chances and happiness.

Verdict: Dump – OK, so this has ‘feel good’ written all over it and I love the cover but I’m not gagging to read it so probably never will. 

Force of NatureForce of Nature by Jane Harper  (added 11th February 2018)

Five women reluctantly pick up their backpacks and start walking along the muddy track. Only four come out the other side.

The hike through the rugged Giralang Ranges is meant to take the office colleagues out of their air-conditioned comfort zone and teach resilience and team building. At least that is what the corporate retreat website advertises.

Federal Police Agent Aaron Falk has a particularly keen interest in the whereabouts of the missing bushwalker. Alice Russell is the whistleblower in his latest case – in just a matter of days she was to provide the documents that will bring down the company she works for.

Falk discovers that far from the hike encouraging teamwork, the women tell a tale of suspicion, violence and disintegrating trust. But does it include murder?

Verdict: Keep – Based on the fact I own a hardback copy of this (I think won it in a giveaway) and that I always find it more difficult to get rid of physical books even if I haven’t read them yet, this one stays.

The King's ExileThe King’s Exile (Thomas Hill #2) by Andrew Swanston (added 15th February 2018)

Thomas Hill is arrested on charges invented by his old enemy Tobias Rush, whom he thought had been executed for treason. He is deported to Barbados where he is indentured to Rush’s business partners.

When news of the King’s execution arrives, political stability on the island is threatened. Also in danger is Thomas’s sister and nieces back in England, and he knows he must return home to them. However when a fleet commanded by Admiral Sir George Ayscue arrives to take control of the island for Cromwell, his departure is blocked.

A coded message from Ayscue to a sympathiser on the island is intercepted, and Thomas is asked to decipher it. A potentially disastrous battle seems inevitable, and Thomas volunteers for the dangerous role of envoy to Ayscue. But with his sworn enemy hot on his heels, will Thomas ever find safety and make it home to his family alive?

Verdict: Dump – I’ve read a couple of books by Andrew Swanston so my first instinct was to keep this but it’s the second book in a series and I haven’t read the first. 

The Cursed WifeThe Cursed Wife by Pamela Hartshorne (added 28th February 2018) 

Curses cannot be silenced

Mary lives a contented life as wife to a wealthy merchant in Elizabethan London. But there’s a part of her past she can’t forget . . . As a small girl she was cursed for causing the death of a vagrant child, a curse that predicts that she will hang.

Sometimes the happiest households are not what they seem, and Mary’s carefully curated world begins to falter. Mary’s whole life is based on a lie. Is she the woman her husband believes her to be?

One rainy day she ventures to London’s Cheapside, where her past catches up with her . . . Suddenly the lies and deception she has so fought to hide begin to claw to the surface.

Verdict: Dump – This is billed as a ‘page-turning psychological thriller’ but I wouldn’t have recognised it as that based on the blurb and the reviews are not brilliant. 

WaltScott_ManhattanBeachManhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan  (added 1st March 2018)

Anna Kerrigan, nearly twelve years old, accompanies her father to visit Dexter Styles, a man who, she gleans, is crucial to the survival of her father and her family. She is mesmerized by the sea beyond the house and by some charged mystery between the two men.

Years later, her father has disappeared and the country is at war. Anna works at the Brooklyn Naval Yard, where women are allowed to hold jobs that once belonged to men, now soldiers abroad. She becomes the first female diver, the most dangerous and exclusive of occupations, repairing the ships that will help America win the war. One evening at a nightclub, she meets Dexter Styles again, and begins to understand the complexity of her father’s life, the reasons he might have vanished.

With the atmosphere of a noir thriller, Egan’s first historical novel follows Anna and Styles into a world populated by gangsters, sailors, divers, bankers, and union men. Manhattan Beach is a deft, dazzling, propulsive exploration of a transformative moment in the lives and identities of women and men, of America and the world.

Verdict: Dump – This was nominated for a number of literary prizes, including the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction which would usually mean it’s a no-brainer for me to read but I’m put off by the less than enthusiastic reviews from readers whose opinion I trust.  

WaltScott_The DraughtsmanThe Draughtsman by Robert Lautner (added 1st March 2018)

1944, Germany. Ernst Beck’s new job marks an end to months of unemployment. Working for Erfurt’s most prestigious engineering firm, Topf Sons, means he can finally make a contribution to the war effort, provide for his beautiful wife, Etta, and make his parents proud. But there is a price.

Ernst is assigned to the firm’s smallest team – the Special Ovens Department. Reporting directly to Berlin his role is to annotate plans for new crematoria that are deliberately designed to burn day and night. Their destination: the concentration camps. Topf’s new client: the SS.

As the true nature of his work dawns on him, Ernst has a terrible choice to make: turning a blind eye will keep him and Etta safe, but that’s little comfort if staying silent amounts to collusion in the death of thousands.

Verdict: Keep – Another book that was nominated for the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction and made the longlist. It was also on my list for the 20 Books of Summer 2022 reading challenge, a list I’m still working my way through.  The setting and the story, although likely to be harrowing in parts, intrigues me.

WaltScott_The Bedlam StacksThe Bedlam Stacks by Natasha Pulley (added 1st March 2018)

In uncharted Peru, the holy town of Bedlam stands at the edge of a mysterious forest. Deep within are cinchona trees, whose bark yields the only known treatment for malaria.

In 1859, across the Pacific, India is ravaged by the disease. In desperation, the India Office dispatches the injured expeditionary Merrick Tremayne to Bedlam, under orders to return with cinchona cuttings. But there he meets Raphael, an enigmatic priest who is the key to a secret which will prove more valuable than they could ever have imagined.

Verdict: Dump – There’s a pattern emerging here because this was also longlisted for the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction in 2018. However, I’m worried by the description of this as a mixture of historical fiction and fantasy (the latter being a genre I rarely read) and that Goodreads is showing it as book #1.5 in a series. With so many other books competing for my attention, I’ll let this one go.  

We Were the Lucky OnesWe Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter (added 1st March 2018)

It is the spring of 1939 and three generations of the Kurc family are doing their best to live normal lives, even as the shadow of war grows closer. The talk around the family Seder table is of new babies and budding romance, not of the increasing hardships threatening Jews in their hometown of Radom, Poland. But soon the horrors overtaking Europe will become inescapable and the Kurcs will be flung to the far corners of the world, each desperately trying to navigate his or her own path to safety.

As one sibling is forced into exile, another attempts to flee the continent, while others struggle to escape certain death, either by working gruelling hours on empty stomachs in the factories of the ghetto or by hiding as gentiles in plain sight. Driven by an unwavering will to survive and by the fear that they may never see one another again, the Kurcs must rely on hope, ingenuity, and inner strength to persevere.

Verdict: Dump – Hmm, I like the sound of this one which is based on a true story but it does seem similar to other books I’ve read set in Poland during WW2, for example The Good Doctor of Warsaw. This could be one where I allow myself to be persuaded to keep it by readers of this post.

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


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