TBR Thursday 30…

Episode 30


The relative quietness of the blogosphere in these sultry summer days means the TBR has fallen to a respectable 96 97, despite the best efforts of some of the regular villains to tempt me from the straight and narrow. So this week, no additions – just a few that are already on the list…

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the feverLoved Abbott’s previous two, The End of Everything and Dare Me, so I have very high hopes of this – courtesy of both Amazon Vine and NetGalley.

The Blurb saysThe Nash family is close-knit. Tom is a popular teacher, father of two teens: Eli, a hockey star and girl magnet, and his sister Deenie, a diligent student. Their seeming stability, however, is thrown into chaos when Deenie’s best friend is struck by a terrifying, unexplained seizure in class. Rumors of a hazardous outbreak spread through the family, school and community.

As hysteria and contagion swell, a series of tightly held secrets emerges, threatening to unravel friendships, families and the town’s fragile idea of security.

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the zhivago affairGetting great reviews in the US but not out here in the UK on Kindle till 3rd July. I’m really, really hoping this doesn’t inspire me to read Dr Zhivago

The Blurb saysIn May 1956, an Italian publishing scout took a train to the Russian countryside to visit the country’s most beloved poet, Boris Pasternak. He left concealing the original manuscript of Pasternak’s much anticipated first novel, entrusted to him with these words from the author: “This is Doctor Zhivago. May it make its way around the world.” Pasternak knew his novel would never be published in the Soviet Union, where the authorities regarded it as an assault on the 1917 Revolution, so he allowed it to be published in translation all over the world.  But in 1958, the CIA, which recognized that the Cold War was above all an ideological battle, published Doctor Zhivago in Russian and smuggled it into the Soviet Union where it was snapped up on the black market and passed surreptitiously from friend to friend. Pasternak, whose funeral in 1960 was attended by thousands of readers who stayed for hours in defiance of the watching KGB, launched the great Soviet tradition of the writer-dissident. With sole access to otherwise classified CIA files, the authors give us an irresistible portrait of the charming and passionate Pasternak and a twisty thriller that takes readers back to a fascinating period of the Cold War, to a time when literature had power to shape the world.

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birdsongI’ve never read any of Sebastian Faulks’ books except for his Wodehouse homage, Jeeves and the Wedding Bells, which I loved. So time to give this classic a go – courtesy of NetGalley, since it’s being reissued by Random House Vintage.

The Blurb saysPublished to international critical and popular acclaim, this intensely romantic yet stunningly realistic novel spans three generations and the unimaginable gulf between the First World War and the present. As the young Englishman Stephen Wraysford passes through a tempestuous love affair with Isabelle Azaire in France and enters the dark, surreal world beneath the trenches of No Man’s Land, Sebastian Faulks creates a world of fiction that is as tragic as A Farewell to Arms and as sensuous as The English Patient. Crafted from the ruins of war and the indestructibility of love, Birdsong is a novel that will be read and marveled at for years to come.

(Actually it sounds dire – what was I thinking? I suspect this may end up on the abandoned pile at some point – end of chapter 1 possibly – but we’ll see! Maybe it won’t be as nauseatingly sickly as the blurb makes it sound…)

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duneEver since I started my little sci-fi adventure, I’ve had a hankering to re-read Dune. When I first read it a million of your Earth years ago, I was a bit sniffy about it, ‘cos really it’s more fantasy than sci-fi. However, decades later, I still remember many of the images from the book and its follow-ups so they clearly made an impression.

The Blurb saysSet in the far future amidst a sprawling feudal interstellar empire where planetary dynasties are controlled by noble houses that owe an allegiance to the imperial House Corrino, Dune tells the story of young Paul Atreides (the heir apparent to Duke Leto Atreides and heir of House Atreides) as he and his family accept control of the desert planet Arrakis, the only source of the “spice” melange, the most important and valuable substance in the universe. The story explores the complex and multi-layered interactions of politics, religion, ecology, technology, and human emotion, as the forces of the empire confront each other for control of Arrakis and its “spice”. First published in 1965, It won the Hugo Award in 1966, and the inaugural Nebula Award for Best Novel. Dune is frequently cited as the world’s best-selling science fiction novel.

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NB All blurbs taken from Goodreads.

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So…what do you think? Do any of these tempt you?


74 thoughts on “TBR Thursday 30…

  1. Yes! #1, 2, and 4. 3 might be gag worthy, I fear. (Throw it from the dadblame TBR!) But if I had to pick one, it would be number 4–no 1! Yes, number 1, I think.

    I’ve been meaning to tell you I love “Quote of the Week”.

  2. FictionFan – Mr. Confessions of a Mystery Novelist… is an avid fan of the Dune series. He would tell you to start it immediately. As for me, I want to read the Abbott right away. So there you have two votes. 😉

    • Even though I was a bit sniffy about Dune, I still went on to read all the other books so I definitely felt the addiction. And I’ve been looking forward to the new Abbott for ages… 😀

    • Not even by the Megan Abbott? Oh, I’ll need to see if my review can change your mind about her – assuming this one is as good as the last couple, that is…

      • No I just want tempted – lets see what I think after you have read it. I havent read very much these past two weeks- too busy but some relaxing times are ahead 🙂 I do have a few books on my list…and I see there is a flurry of books published in August to tempt me…and plenty of variety. You must add What Came Before -Anna George when it is published in the UK.

        • I’m in a really non-reading mood at the moment – seem to be taking ages to get through anything. But there’s a few coming up soon that I’m looking forward to so hopefully that’ll get me going again I’ll look out for your review of Anna George. 🙂

  3. Birdsong is a beautiful novel. But I couldn’t personally go past a new Megan Abbott novel. I loved the movie of Doctor Zhivago – maybe you could watch it as a precursor to the non-fiction work on Pasternak, rather than reading the book (or is that sacrilege?).

    As for Dune, I know it only as a bad film with Sting in micro shorts. You have been warned, FF…

    • That’s good to hear re Birdsong. I was looking forward to it till I read that blurb, so hopefully I’ll enjoy it. Yep, Abbott has become a must-read-on-publication-day-if-not-before author for me after her last couple. Haha! I did think of cheating by watching the film – no-one would ever need to know… 😉

      😆 Yes, I remember the film of Dune too – though I was trying to block those painful memories of Sting…

  4. I started to read Birdsong a couple of years ago after wanting to read it for sometime, but unfortunately I didn’t get past the first few chapters…I was thinking of trying to read it again, but I always seem to find other books to read! Hopefully you’ll enjoy it more than I did if you get a chance to read it 🙂 The Abbott novel sounds really interesting!

  5. The only one I’ve read is Dune but that was many years ago and I wasn’t much of a fan. I’ve never read Dr. Zhivago but The Zhivago Affair does sound interesting. And I kind of want to read Birdsong now because I love the two novels it’s compared to in that blurb! (But I’m kind of a sucker for those poetic tragedy types.)

    • I’ll be interested to see what I think of Dune this time round – I know some parts of it really irritated me when I first read it, but other parts have stayed quite clear in my mind. I try to avoid reading the Russians if I can, but the Zhivago Affair looks great – and I’m hoping it will be perfectly enjoyable without having read Dr Zhivago.

      You should quickly read Birdsong then and tell me whether it’s good! 😉

    • Ooh, based on the stuff we’ve both enjoyed in the past, I really think you’ll love her books, Rebecca! I’ll look forward to hearing what you think if you get the time to read one… 🙂

  6. I’m planning to reread Dune too at some point, as it’s been so long since I read it I can barely remember what it’s about. Except that it blew my little teenager mind (and I wasn’t much of a sci fi fan).

    • Yes it must be (whispers) thirty years since I read it – but though I don’t really remember the story I remember some of the images – like riding the worms! I think it was unusual in the genre back then for having strong women in it, from what little I recall…

  7. I loved ‘Birdsong’ the first time I read it but was less enthusiastic when I had to go back to it for some reason. I’ll be interested to see what you think. I have wondered since if it just caught the moment when it was first published.

    • Interesting! Yes, sometimes a book just hits the moment, doesn’t it? I guess that’s what they’re trying to do again by reissuing it while all the WW1 anniversaries are going on. Well, I’ll give it a try anyway – maybe I’ll love it!

  8. They was something I read awhile ago (maybe in the NYTimes) about “mass hysteria,” especially in the young female teen population, where some sort of unexplained contagion travels through cliques at schools. I don’t think the article came to any particular conclusion.

    So the first one snagged my interest. The third one might be OK, despite that Hollywood blockbuster romantic war drama, etc….blurb.

    • She seems to be specialising in teenage girls over the last few books, and for me they always feel totally real. You will not be surprised to learn however that LF hates them! I’ll be reading it very soon – this weekend maybe with luck.

      Birdsong ought to be good – it’s got a great reputation and zillions of 5-star reviews on Amazon. Hopefully it’s just the blurb that makes it sound so bleaaaahhhh… (LF really like Faulks though… 😉 )

  9. I’ve been a bit scarce on the blogs due to an ailing kitty and Florida summer weather with some serious thunder storms most days but never predictable. But, the first one doesn’t interest me at all. I’ll just hum Lara’s Theme and call it a day. I read the Dune trilogy around 30 years ago (would you believe I was in Kindergarten?) , and have no desire to read it again. Birdsong sounds interesting.

  10. Hmm.. More difficult this week. I tried Birdsong years ago and didn’t finish it but it’s one of those books I feel I should enjoy. Loved Dr Zhvigo so I think I’ll go factual out of this selection .

    • Now that does surpise me, because I felt Birdsong would be right up your street! It’s certainly dividing the commenters here – I’m more intrigued to try it now. I suspect the Zhivago book will be a really good read from the reviews on Az US, but I’m getting increasingly worried that Dr Zhivago is going to sneak onto my TBR…

  11. I knew the Zhivago stuff, but this book sounds interesting. I can’t believe you haven’t read Zhivago – it’s a much better book than it was a film (too much slush, not enough politics).
    I read Dune and its sequels when they came out ,but haven’t reread them – not much urge to either.
    I haven’t read Birdsong, but Mum did, and loved it (on MiddleSister’s recommendation, so she must have enjoyed it too).
    I think I have an earlier Abbott on my TBR – so many books, so little time!

    • It also sounds as if it’s been really well written from the reviews of it. I steer clear of the Russians as much as I can – I rarely really enjoy them…in fact, I tend to abandon them at about the 100-page mark. I’m interested to see if my view of Dune changes now that I’m…ahem… a little older!

      Yes, I remember that both Mum and MiddleSister loved Faulks – hmm! MS and I didn’t share literary tastes too often. However, we shall see…

      And I’m still not at all convinced that Abbott will be your cuppa – but definitely worth trying…

  12. Hard choice! I have read Birdsong and quiet liked patches of it, so could be worthwhile. I am also told Dune is one of the best sfi-fi novels around. Hmmm. I think…number 1!

    • Some weeks they all look good – and this is one of those weeks. Except Birdsong – but the reactions to it have been so mixed I’m really intrigued to read it now. Dune definitely is one of the most ambitious sci-fi books I’ve read and has lots of memorable stuff in it. And it’s never really dropped far down the best-seller charts in 40 or more years. But I still think it’s more fantasy than sci-fi really (but I’m picky). The Abbott will be great if it lives up to the standard of her previous books, so good choice! 🙂

  13. My husband has only read one fiction book from cover to cover and that is Dune. I’ve never read and have been very tempted to see what captured such an ant-reader.

    • It’s ages since I read it, but it was very imaginative and the world(s) it created were extremely immersive and well thought out. Also, though I hate to be sexist about reading, although there were from memory some strong female characters, there was definitely lots of kind of adventure and action stuff that I’m sure would appeal to men. I feel I was less keen on the quality of the writing though…but I was much more of a book snob back then, so we’ll see…

  14. Hah Hah – well of course you absolutely KNOW that Abbott is, IMO crass, derivative, schlocky and more. She was one of our early reading ‘what is she thinking of?’ fallouts, where each of us excitedly recommended something to the other that made the other go (**** and *** ***!) (deleted by my offensive language censor) AND (because of your strong recc I did give her ONE MORE CHANCE and read something else by her but found her still as lacking in finesse. I returned, far more happily, to re-reading Muriel Sparks Prime of Miss Jean Brodie as an example of how to do the genre.

    And of course we always founder on the journey to Moscow, don’t we. So no surprises, big thumbs up by me for Zhivago. The word ‘Russia’ has me swooning and salivating in Slavic melancholy and mysticism and booking a one-way ticket to the steppes.

    And, yes Birdsong, which as you know I love

    As for Dune…..I haven’t ever read it but it HAS been on the one to be read back burner – that’s the haven’t bought it yet, but its on the ‘before I shuffle off this mortal coil’ type of thing to be done

    So…two re-reads, one ‘maybe its time to add to the TBR’ and one……possibly not even making the cat litter tray!

    I note though, I do note, that you haven’t offered this as a ‘reader’s vote for what I should read type of thing’

    I guess you know I’d open multiple accounts and condemn you to the middle two, add in the last as a little sweetener, and consign the Abbott to the smallest room ‘OMG I have run out of toilet paper’ fate

    But I have no doubt that such a violent anti reaction will send readers to her in droves, as any extreme polarisation is always more interesting and luring (well it is to me) than a damned with faint praise type reaction.

    PS I’m absolutely positive that my recc later to day won’t be your cuppa at all. Dark whimsy is writ all over it – 800 pages of it!

    • Haha! At least I can always be sure that anyone who reads my reviews will always have the benefit of an alternative view in the comments! I think we should just take it as read that any book we agree on is an aberration and that in general we just don’t share tastes. However I don’t think I’ve ever suggested one of your choices should be used as toilet paper! And this from the woman who objects to books going into the recycling bin! I can see why you didn’t enjoy the earlier ones if you thought they were trying to fall into the same genre as Miss Jean Brodie though. Apart from the fact that they both have girls in them and one of the Abbotts has a teacher, I see absolutely no link. Abbott writes crime, Brodie is lit-fic. Abbott is about the girls, Brodie is about the adult. But I always think trying to make comparisons between books and authors can be invidious anyway – I’m always hoping an author can stand alone rather than only on the basis of how well they can copy/reference a great.

      And you’re right – I’ve seen lots of reviews of the Jonathan Strange and it’s not for me. There’s only so much whimsy I want in my life, and every second book thinks it’s ‘magical’ these days. I guess it’s easier to write a book if you don’t have to stick to any kind of reality or realism (or indeed, page count) – not even the laws of physics! 😉

      • Yes I know it was very very rude to suggest an alternative use for a book like that

        I can see it will be crossed authors ( or even cross authors at dawn) as we fling unloved tomes at each other. I’m just a little worried as yours will be rather hefty ones, Those Russians are page heavy, and if you have an aim straight and true I could be collecting a lot of bruises. The ones I fling at you at have fewer pages and my aim is rarely one that hits the target.

        Pub darts where the safest place to sit would be under the dartboard kind of thing

  15. I’ve been meaning to read Dune for years as a number of people have recommended it to me. As for Birdsong, your thoughts are utterly in keeping with my own. Great post. Looking forward to the reviews.

  16. Dune has been sitting on my shelf for years and I am sorry to say that I *still* have not read it! I’ve been on a bit of a reading binge lately, though, so perhaps I will get to it this summer. I’m glad to hear that it’s stuck with you for so long after reading; I love it when books do that. 🙂

    • It was a massive hit when I was young (a bit before me, really, but it was still going strong by the time I was old enough to read it) – a bit like Harry Potter or the Game of Thrones. Everyone read it, even if they weren’t really into sci-fi or fantasy. I think it was one of the first ones to build such an extensive universe and the idea of all these planets with their own cultures was pretty original at the time. I’ll be interested to see if it still holds up against all the modern competition…

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