Down the TBR Hole #24

BookPileThis 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.

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

The ground is too hard for gardening so instead I’ll do some more weeding of my To-Read shelf on Goodreads which now contains a “mere” 496 books.

ViennaSpiesVienna Spies by Alex Gerlis (added 4th June 2017)

“One other thing, Edgar: you mentioned about our network in Vienna. I didn’t realise we still have one there?”

“That’s the thing Fowler: we don’t. Not yet, at any rate.”

With the end of the Second World War in sight, the Allies begin to divide up the spoils and it proves to be a dangerous game. The British have become aware that, contrary to what’s been agreed, the Soviet Union is intent on controlling Austria once the war ends. And Major Edgar is given the job of establishing an espionage unit in Vienna. He sends in a married Swiss couple – Rolf Eder and Katharina Hoch – who, in fact, have only met each other a week before their journey. Their job is to track down Austria’s most respected politician – in hiding from the Nazis – and bring him over to the British cause. But the feared Soviet spy Viktor Krasotkin is already in the wartorn city, embarking on exactly the same mission.

Verdict: Keep – This sounds similar to a book I read recently – Katastrophe by Graham Hurley – which I very much enjoyed. I’ve also read a previous book in this series, The Swiss Spy.  

TheHouseofBirdsThe House of Birds by Morgan McCarthy (added 13th June 2017)

Oliver has spent years trying to convince himself that he’s suited to a life of money making in the city, and that he doesn’t miss a childhood spent in pursuit of mystery, when he cycled around the cobbled lanes of Oxford, exploring its most intriguing corners.

When his girlfriend Kate inherits a derelict house – and a fierce family feud – she’s determined to strip it, sell it and move on. For Oliver though, the house has an allure, and amongst the shelves of discarded, leather bound and gilded volumes, he discovers one that conceals a hidden diary from the 1920s.

So begins a quest: to discover the identity of the author, Sophia Louis. It is a portrait of war and marriage, isolation and longing and a story that will shape the future of the abandoned house – and of Oliver – forever.

Verdict: Keep – I still like the sound of this plus it’s one of the books on my list for the 20 Books of Summer 2022 reading challenge. 

The DaemoniacThe Daemoniac (Gaslamp Gothic #1) by Kat Ross (added 15th June 2017)

It’s August of 1888, just three weeks before Jack the Ripper will begin his grisly spree in the London slum of Whitechapel, and another serial murderer is stalking the gas-lit streets of New York. With taunting messages in backwards Latin left at the crime scenes and even more inexplicable clues like the fingerprints that appear to have been burned into one victim’s throat, his handiwork bears all the hallmarks of a demonic possession.

But consulting detective Harrison Fearing Pell is convinced her quarry is a man of flesh and blood. Encouraged by her uncle, Arthur Conan Doyle, Harry hopes to make her reputation by solving the bizarre case before the man the press has dubbed Mr. Hyde strikes again.

From the squalor of the Five Points to the high-class gambling dens of the Tenderloin and the glittering mansions of Fifth Avenue, Harry and her best friend, John Weston, follow the trail of a remorseless killer, uncovering a few embarrassing secrets of New York’s richest High Society families along the way. Are the murders a case of black magic – or simple blackmail? And will the trail lead them closer to home than they ever imagined?

Verdict: Dump – I read the second in this series, The Thirteenth Gate, back in 2017 as part of a blog tour and, although I’m a sucker for a historical mystery, I can’t really see me going back to the beginning after all this time. 

TheSecretWoundThe Secret Wound by Deirdre Quiery (added 15th June 2017)

The Secret Wound draws the reader into a complex web of relationships within the ex-pat community in Mallorca, discovering their dangerous secrets…and a potential murderer in their midst. One of their number carries a dark and deadly secret from their past, and has murderous plans for a fellow ex-pat. Can any of the close- knit community discover the brutal plans before they are all put in mortal danger?

Verdict: Dump – This has rather mixed reviews and to be honest I can’t think why it ended up on my To-Read shelf to begin with. 

TheSongofAchillesThe Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller (added 16th June 2017)

Patroclus, an awkward young prince, has been exiled to the kingdom of Phthia. Here he is nobody, just another unwanted boy living in the shadow of King Peleus and his golden son, Achilles.

Achilles, ‘best of all the Greeks’, is everything Patroclus is not — strong, beautiful, the child of a goddess — and by all rights their paths should never cross. Yet one day, Achilles takes the shamed prince under his wing and soon their tentative companionship gives way to a steadfast friendship. As they grow into young men skilled in the arts of war and medicine, their bond blossoms into something far deeper — despite the displeasure of Achilles’s mother Thetis, a cruel and deathly pale sea goddess with a hatred of mortals.

Fate is never far from the heels of Achilles. When word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped, the men of Greece are called upon to lay siege to Troy in her name. Seduced by the promise of a glorious destiny, Achilles joins their cause, Torn between love and fear for his friend, Patroclus follows Achilles into war, little knowing that the years that follow will test everything they have learned, everything they hold dear. And that, before he is ready, he will be forced to surrender his friend to the hands of Fate.

Verdict: Dump – I know this decision is going to amaze a lot of people, especially since this was a much talked about book when it was first published, but I feel I’ve read quite enough other retellings of Greek mythology lately.

ArminiusArminius: The Limits of Empire by Robert Fabbri (added 22nd June 2017) 

One man’s greatest victory. Rome’s greatest defeat.

AD 9: In the depths of the Teutoburg Wald, in a landscape riven by ravines, darkened by ancient oak and bisected by fast-flowing streams, Arminius of the Cherusci led a confederation of six Germanic tribes in the annihilation of three Roman legions. Deep in the forest almost twenty thousand men were massacred without mercy; fewer than two hundred of them ever made it back across the Rhine. To Rome’s shame, three sacred Eagles were lost that day.

But Arminius wasn’t brought up in Germania Magna – he had been raised as a Roman. This is the story of how Arminius came to turn his back on the people who raised him and went on to commit a betrayal so great and so deep, it echoed through the ages.

Verdict: Dump – Although this is the sort of book that would usually appeal to me, I have a feeling I’ve read something similar although for the life of me I can’t think of the title. 

TheSeaRoadWestThe Sea Road West by Sally Rena (added 27th June 2017)

The road from the Scottish mainland to Kintillo lies across a ridge of craggy and forbidding hills, a natural barrier isolating the peninsular from the rest of the world and making Kintillo a place of both refuge and solitude.

But trouble begins when Father Macabe dies, and Father James, a new, young man arrives. Handsome and full of ideals, Father James is totally unprepared for the spell-binding beauty of the lonely country, and for the irrelevance of his philanthropic fervour to the lives of its inhabitants. For company, there is only a retired doctor, a charming and alcoholic wreck, and the inhabitants of the Hall – the Laird and his two pretty daughters.

Meriel Finlay is one of these daughters – a captivating 19 year old yearning for love and adventure. As mutual desire slowly ripens, can Father James continue to keep focus on his profession when it denies him his basic instincts?

Passions hidden below the surface, maturing in loneliness, erupt in a violent upsurge of love, hatred and jealousy which sweep through Kintillo like a storm…

Verdict: Keep – There might be too much of a romance element to this but the setting sounds intriguing – and it’s a short book! 

The Mangle Street Murders (The Gower Street Detective #1) by M.R.C. Kasasian (added 28th June 2017)

Gower Street, London, 1882: Sidney Grice, London’s most famous personal detective, is expecting a visitor. He drains his fifth pot of morning tea, and glances outside, where a young, plain woman picks her way between the piles of horse-dung towards his front door.

March Middleton is Sidney Grice’s ward, and she is determined to help him on his next case. Her guardian thinks women are too feeble for detective work, but when a grisly murder in the slums proves too puzzling for even Sidney Grice’s encyclopaedic brain, March Middleton turns out to be rather useful after all…

The Curse of the House of Foskett (The Gower Street Detective #2) by M.R.C. Kasasian (added 28th June 2017)

Gower Street, London,1882: Sidney Grice once had a reputation as London’s most perspicacious personal detective. But since his last case led an innocent man to the gallows, business has been light. Listless and depressed, Grice has taken to lying in the bath for hours, emerging in the evenings for a little dry toast and a lot of tea. Usually a voracious reader, he will pick up neither book nor newspaper. He has not even gathered the strength to re-insert his glass eye.

His ward, March Middleton, has been left to dine alone. Then an eccentric member of a Final Death Society has the temerity to die on his study floor. Finally Sidney and March have an investigation to mount – an investigation that will draw them to an eerie house in Kew, and the mysterious Baroness Foskett…

Death Descends on Saturn Villa (The Gower Street Detective #3) by M.R.C. Kasasian (added 28th June 2017)

Gower Street, London: 1883: March Middleton is the niece of London’s greatest (and most curmudgeonly) private detective, Sidney Grice. March has just discovered a wealthy long-lost relative she never knew she had. When this newest family member meets with a horrible death, March is in the frame for murder—and only Sidney Grice can prove her innocence.

Grice agrees to investigate (for his usual fee) but warns that he is not entirely convinced of her innocence. If he were in her position, he might have been tempted. But the more he uncovers, the more all the clues point to Grice himself . . .

The Secrets of Gaslight Lane (The Gower Street Detective #4) by M.R.C. Kasasian (added 28th June 2017)

London, 1883: All is quiet at 125 Gower Street. Sidney Grice is swotting up on the anatomical structure of human hair whilst his ward, March Middleton, sneaks upstairs for her eighth secret cigarette of the day. The household is, perhaps, too quiet.

So, when a beautiful young woman turns up at the door, imploring London’s foremost personal detective to solve the mystery of her father’s murder, Grice can barely disguise his glee.

Mr Nathan Garstang was found slaughtered in his bed, but there is no trace of a weapon or intruder. A classic locked-room case. But what piques Grice’s interest is the crime’s link to one of London’s most notorious unsolved murders. Ten years ago, Nathan’s uncle aunt and servants were murdered in their sleep in the very same house.

Now, it seems, the Garstang murderer is back…

Verdict: Keep x 4 – I read the fifth book in this series, Dark Dawn Over Steep House back in 2017 as part of the blog tour and enjoyed its combination of historical mystery and wit so much I promptly added the four previous books to my TBR pile. So all four stay. And, yes, I know that means I’ve included eleven books in the exercise this time. 

The Result – 7 kept, 4 dumped. Would you have made different choices? 

Down the TBR Hole #23

BookPileThis 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.

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

I now have a “mere” 503 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 for you adding some of these books to your own TBR piles or wishlists should you like the sound of them.

TheAngolanClanThe Angolan Clan (African Diamonds Trilogy #1) by Christopher Lowery (added 3rd May 2017)

1974/5: After the Revolution of the Carnations, Portugal is transformed into a communist state. Capitalists are ruthlessly persecuted and the liberated Portuguese colony of Angola is thrust into one of the bloodiest civil wars in history. The fabled Angolan diamond mines are closed down, but not before a group of refugees escape with a hoard of the precious gems. Their lives promise wealth and success, but a legacy of revenge and greed will eventually find them all, with fatal consequences.

2008: A millionaire businessman drowns in the swimming pool of his mansion in Marbella; a wealthy Frenchman is killed while skiing in the Swiss Alps; and a Portuguese playboy and a prostitute are found murdered together in a seedy New York apartment. The series of seemingly unconnected deaths sets two women Jenny Bishop, a young English widow, and Angolan born Leticia da Costa on a terrifying journey into the past to revisit the Portuguese revolution and the Angolan civil war. Together they begin to unlock a 30 year old mystery that promises to change their lives forever if they survive to reveal the truth.

Verdict: Dump – The setting of Angola is intriguing as it’s a country whose history I don’t know a lot about. However, it’s over 600 pages long and this would have to be one helluva thriller to keep my interest for that long. 

TheOtherMrsWalkerThe Other Mrs Walker by Mary Paulson-Ellis (added 6th May 2017)

Somehow she’d always known that she would end like this. In a small square room, in a small square flat. In a small square box, perhaps. Cardboard, with a sticker on the outside. And a name . . .

An old lady dies alone and unheeded in a cold Edinburgh flat on a snowy Christmas night. A faded emerald dress hangs in her wardrobe; a spilt glass of whisky pools on the floor.

A few days later a middle-aged woman arrives back in the city she thought she’d left behind, her future uncertain, her past in tatters.

She soon finds herself a job at the Office for Lost People, tracking down the families of those who have died neglected and alone.

But what Margaret Penny cannot yet know, is just how entangled her own life will become in the death of one lonely stranger . . .

Verdict: Keep – This has had some great reviews from bloggers whose opinion I rate and I still think it’s a book I might enjoy. 

TheIllegalGardenerThe Illegal Gardener by Sara Alexi (added 8th May 2017)

Driven by a need for some control in her life, Juliet sells up on impulse and buys a run down farmhouse in a tiny Greek village, leaving her English life behind. Her boys have grown and she has finally divorced her bullying husband. This is her time now.

Whilst making her new home habitable, Juliet discovers she needs a sturdy helping hand with the unruly and neglected garden. Unwilling to share her newfound independence with anyone, but unable to do all the work by herself, she reluctantly enlists casual labour.

Aaman has travelled to Greece from Pakistan illegally. Desperate to find a way out of poverty, his challenge is to find work and raise money for the harvester his village urgently need to survive.

What he imagined would be a heroic journey in reality is fraught with danger and corruption. Aaman finds himself in Greece, and with each passing day loses a little more of himself as he survives his new life as an immigrant worker; illegal, displaced, unwanted and with no value. Hungry and stranded, how will he ever make it back home to Pakistan?

In what begins as an uncomfortable exchange, Juliet hires Aaman to be her gardener, but resents the intrusion even though she needs the help. Aaman needs the work and money but resents the humiliation.

In spite of themselves, as the summer progresses, they get to know one another and discover they have something in common. Pieces of their lives they have kept hidden even from themselves are exposed, with each helping the other to face their painful past.

Will Juliet and Amaan finally let each other in? And what will be the outcome of this improbable conjoining of two lost souls?

Verdict: Dump – I can see what attracted me to this book: the Greek setting and the idea of the restoration of a neglected garden.  However, some reviewers have found it slow and I think it may have too much of a romance element for me.

WeWereTheMulvaneysWe Were The Mulvaneys by Joyce Carol Oates (added 9th May 2017)

The Mulvaneys are seemingly blessed by everything that makes life sweet. They live together in the picture-perfect High Point Farm, just outside the community of Mt Ephraim, New York, where they are respected and liked by everybody.

Yet something happens on Valentine’s Day 1976. An incident involving Marianne Mulvaney, the pretty sixteen-year-old daughter, is hushed up in the town and never discussed within the family. The impact of this event reverberates throughout the lives of the characters.

As told by Judd, years later, in an attempt to make sense of his own past reveals the unspoken truths of that night that rends the fabric of the family life with tragic consequences.

Verdict: Keep – I’ve never read anything by Joyce Carol Oates but she’s one of those authors you kind of think you should have. So I might as well give this one a go. 

ThePlagueCharmerThe Plague Charmer by Karen Maitland (added 13th May 2017)

1361. An unlucky thirteen years after the Black Death, plague returns to England. When the sickness spreads from city to village, who stands to lose the most? And who will seize this moment for their own dark ends?

The dwarf who talks in riddles?
The mother who fears for her children?
The wild woman from the sea?
Or two lost boys, far away from home?

Pestilence is in the air. But something much darker lurks in the depths.

Verdict: Keep – I’ve read quite a few of the author’s books and enjoyed them all. Plus this one is on my list for the 20 Books of Summer 2022 reading challenge. 

PerfectRemainsPerfect Remains (DI Callanach #1) by Helen Fields (added 13th May 2017) 

On a remote Highland mountain, the body of Elaine Buxton is burning. All that will be left to identify the respected lawyer are her teeth and a fragment of clothing. In the concealed back room of a house in Edinburgh, the real Elaine Buxton screams into the darkness…

Detective Inspector Luc Callanach has barely set foot in his new office when Elaine’s missing persons case is escalated to a murder investigation. Having left behind a promising career at Interpol, he’s eager to prove himself to his new team. But Edinburgh, he discovers, is a long way from Lyon, and Elaine’s killer has covered his tracks with meticulous care.

It’s not long before another successful woman is abducted from her doorstep, and Callanach finds himself in a race against the clock. Or so he believes … The real fate of the women will prove more twisted than he could have ever imagined.

Verdict: Dump – This has lots of positive reviews but some of those describe it as ‘gritty’, ‘chilling’ and even ‘brutal’.  That sounds a bit too dark for me.

ASeaofStrawA Sea of Straw by Julia Sutton (added 21st May 2017)

Will a man walk two thousand kilometres for a woman? In 1967, Zé will. Salazar’s Portugal has become a prison for him.

1966: When Jody, young mother and designer from the north of England, arrives on the Lisbon coast, she brings the lure of ‘Swinging London’ to Portuguese painter Zé’s existing dreams of freedom. A nascent love is interrupted when, back in England, husband Michael forces her to choose between their 2-year-old daughter Anna and Zé. And Zé, at home in Lisbon and grounded by the state’s secret police, can only wait.

For both Jody and Zé, love is revolution. And personal and political threads weave their story, a period piece set amid the then socially conservative North of England, the light and rugged landscapes of modern Portugal, and the darkness of the dying years of Europe’s longest-running dictatorship.

Verdict: Keep – If it hadn’t been for all the glowing reviews I think I might have been tempted to discard this one but it’s a relatively short novel and the setting and time period are interesting. 

Block46Block 46 by Johana Gustawsson  (added 21st May 2017)

In Falkenberg, Sweden, the mutilated body of talented young jewelry designer Linnea Blix is found in a snow-swept marina. In Hampstead Heath, London, the body of a young boy is discovered with similar wounds to Linnea’s. Buchenwald Concentration Camp, 1944. In the midst of the hell of the Holocaust, Erich Hebner will do anything to see himself as a human again.

Are the two murders the work of a serial killer, and how are they connected to shocking events at Buchenwald?

Emily Roy, a profiler on loan to Scotland Yard from the Canadian Royal Mounted Police, joins up with Linnea’s friend, French true-crime writer Alexis Castells, to investigate the puzzling case. They travel between Sweden and London, and then deep into the past, as a startling and terrifying connection comes to light.

Verdict: Dump – I’ve read a few novels that involve descriptions of what went on in Nazi concentration camps and I’m not sure I want to read another one just now however well-crafted a crime novel it is.

At First LightAt First Light by Vanessa Lafaye (added 30th May 2017)

1993, Key West, Florida. When a Ku Klux Klan official is shot in broad daylight, all eyes turn to the person holding the gun: a 96-year-old Cuban woman who will say nothing except to admit her guilt.

1919. Mixed-race Alicia Cortez arrives in Key West exiled in disgrace from her family in Havana. At the same time, damaged war hero John Morales returns home on the last US troop ship from Europe. As love draws them closer in this time of racial segregation, people are watching, including Dwayne Campbell, poised on the brink of manhood and struggling to do what’s right. And then the Ku Klux Klan comes to town…

Verdict: Keep – I enjoyed the author’s novel, Miss Marley, which was published posthumously and completed by fellow author, Rebecca Mascull. This is clearly quite different but I’m swayed by the host of positive reviews.  

LibertyBoyLiberty Boy by David M. Gaughran (added 31st May 2017)

Dublin has been on a knife-edge since the failed rebellion in July, and Jimmy O’Flaherty suspects a newcomer to The Liberties – Kitty Doyle – is mixed up in it. She accuses him of spying for the English, and he thinks she’s a reckless troublemaker.

All Jimmy wants is to earn enough coin to buy passage to America. But when the English turn his trading patch into a gallows, Jimmy finds himself drawn into the very conflict he’s spent his whole life avoiding.

Verdict: Dump – The reviews for this one are mixed, some readers feeling that for a historical fiction novel there was a bit too much history and insufficient attention to the fictional storyline. It’s not calling to me.  

The Result – 5 kept, 5 dumped. Would you have made different choices? If so, convince me to change my mind.