TBR Thursday 40…

Episode 40


I’m thrilled to say the TBR has dropped to an almost bearable 106 – due in part to some brutal weeding out of books that have been languishing there for so long I can no longer remember why I wanted to read them in the first place. So with a song in my heart and a merry tra-la, here’s a bumper bunch of some of the upcoming delights…



the seventh linkCourtesy of NetGalley, a nice little cosy to start the ball rolling…

The Blurb saysThe village of Frog End may be peaceful, but that doesn’t mean that the Colonel’s life there is quiet – not with his friendly but nosy neighbour Naomi, desperate to know what he’s keeping in his new shed; the curious Miss Butler, who tracks his every move with her German U-boat captain’s binoculars; and the attentions of the local vicar, who’s keen to involve him in church affairs. That’s not forgetting the demands of the aloof, imperious cat Thursday, who seems to have adopted the Colonel.”

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lamentationComing out on 23rd October, at last, at last! The new Shardlake!

The Blurb saysAutumn, 1546. King Henry VIII is slowly, painfully dying. His Protestant and Catholic councillors prepare for a final and decisive power struggle; whoever wins will control the government. The Catholics decide to focus their attack on Henry’s sixth wife, the Protestant Queen Catherine Parr. As Catherine begins to lose the King’s favor, she turns to the shrewd, hunchbacked lawyer, Matthew Shardlake, to contain a potentially fatal secret. The Queen has written a confessional book, Lamentation of a Sinner, a memoir so radical that if it came to the King’s attention, it could bring her and her courtly sympathizers to ruination. The London printer into whose hands she entrusted the manuscript has been murdered, the book nowhere to be found.

Shardlake’s investigations take him down a trail that begins among printshops in the filthy backstreets of London, but leads him once more to the labyrinthine world of court politics, where Protestant friends can be as dangerous as Catholic enemies, and those who will support either side to further their ambition are the most dangerous of all.

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napoleonNetGalley, what would I do without you? Napoleon was one of my early heroes based, I think, on a Ladybird book when I was about 8. Time to discover if he was worthy of my worship…

The Blurb saysAndrew Roberts’s Napoleon is the first one-volume biography to take advantage of the recent publication of Napoleon’s thirty-three thousand letters, which radically transform our understanding of his character and motivation. At last we see him as he was: protean multitasker, decisive, surprisingly willing to forgive his enemies and his errant wife Josephine. Like Churchill, he understood the strategic importance of telling his own story, and his memoirs, dictated from exile on St. Helena, became the single bestselling book of the nineteenth century.

An award-winning historian, Roberts traveled to fifty-three of Napoleon’s sixty battle sites, discovered crucial new documents in archives, and even made the long trip by boat to St. Helena. He is as acute in his understanding of politics as he is of military history. Here at last is a biography worthy of its subject: magisterial, insightful, beautifully written, by one of our foremost historians.”

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the new worldHave I mentioned that I love NetGalley? Andrew Motion’s second follow-up to Treasure Island – despite some reservations over the first, his writing impressed me so much this is a must-read…and isn’t the cover the most gorgeoous thing you’ve seen in years? 

The Blurb saysJim and Natty are shipwrecked on the coast of Texas, blown off course on their way home from Treasure Island. But they have stolen something they should have left well alone, something that will haunt them until what was taken has been returned…

On their journey they encounter Native American tribes, a wandering group of European Circus performers, deracinated warriors, eccentric pioneers, some landscapes of great serenity and others of terrible savagery, until, at last, they reach the mighty Mississippi.

The New World is an adventure story, a race across America, a Western, a travelogue, a love story and a lament for an indigenous culture in the years before its destruction. Andrew Motion has achieved that singular thing – a story that is both very moving and very exciting, and always written with a remarkable clear beauty.”

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emma austenProbably my least favourite of Austen’s books, though I know it has its own legion of ardent admirers. I admire rather than love it. But time for a preparatory re-read…

The Blurb saysBeautiful, clever, rich – and single – Emma Woodhouse is perfectly content with her life and sees no need for either love or marriage. Nothing, however, delights her more than interfering in the romantic lives of others. But when she ignores the warnings of her good friend Mr Knightley and attempts to arrange a suitable match for her protegee Harriet Smith, her carefully laid plans soon unravel and have consequences that she never expected. With its imperfect but charming heroine and its witty and subtle exploration of relationships, Emma is often seen as Jane Austen’s most flawless work.

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emma mccall smith…because, on 6th November, the Austen Project rolls back into town with Alexander McCall Smith’s version! Will it be a another Trollope-esque turkey? Or will it match McDermid for amazeballsness…?

The Blurb (which makes me shudder a bit) saysFresh from university, Emma Woodhouse arrives home in Norfolk ready to embark on adult life with a splash. Not only has her sister, Isabella, been whisked away on a motorbike to London, but her astute governess, Miss Taylor is at a loose end watching as Mr. Woodhouse worries about his girls. Someone is needed to rule the roost and young Emma is more than happy to oblige.

At the helm of her own dinner parties, and often found either rearranging the furniture at the family home of Hartfield, or instructing her new protégée, Harriet Smith, Emma is in charge. You don’t have to be in London to go to parties, find amusement or make trouble. Not if you’re Emma, the very big fish in the rather small pond.

But for someone who knows everything, Emma doesn’t know her own heart. And there is only one person who can play with Emma’s indestructible confidence, her friend and inscrutable neighbour George Knightly – this time has Emma finally met her match?

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NB All blurbs taken from NetGalley or Goodreads.

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


49 thoughts on “TBR Thursday 40…

  1. Oh, my, you are brave to take on Alexander McCall Smith’s Emma – then again, if the original Emma is not your favourite, then perhaps it will be an improvement…
    I like the sound of the Andrew Motion book – he’s a poet, I loved Treasure Island as a child, it’s about discovering a new(ish) world, so it has an anthropological element… a great combination, as far as I’m concerned.

    • Haha! I just can’t resist these books – it’s an addiction. I know it’s bad for me but I still need my fix…

      His descriptive writing in Silver was wonderful, especially when he was writing about nature. But the story of that one was too close to Treasure Island, and the tone didn’t quite work for me. This one, although it’s still got the same two lead characters, sounds as if he’s heading away from RLS, so I reckon it could be great…

    • The Mayhew’s had a few good reviews already, so I’m looking forward to it. Ooh, I wish I had your self-control – I can’t resist these new Austens, even though I think it’s a terrible idea…

  2. I quite like the look of ‘Lamentation’, I must say. And the Napoleon one, it’s a historical period I find very interesting.

    As for the other matter… I see what you meant when you said in your review about Poirot (and other characters, it seems) gaining psychic powers. If you hadn’t mentioned that, I would have honestly gone back a re-read a huge chunk of the book as I couldn’t for the life of me see how he came to the conclusions he did. I am not quite finished yet but sense that I will be quite irritated before then…

    • I love the Shardlake novels – even though they tend to be big and fairly slow-moving bricks. But his Tudor world seems totally convincing. And the Napoleon is getting great reviews…

      It’s weird, isn’t it? I was the same – I kept wondering if he’d explained things and I’d missed it. But he just knows… 😉 I wish I could tell you it gets better towards the end. Maybe we should set up a Survivors Support Group…

      • I think we should! I have just read the bit where Jennie ‘explains’ the motives behind the murders/suicide whatever – there is no way that can be the real explanation, it’s ridiculous. So I am hoping something a little more reasonable materialises. Is that too much to hope for? Do you know, I am past the point of caring why or how they died. I just wish they’d died a lot sooner!

        • HahaHA! I got so fed up at the end that I’m pretty sure I started skimming – I really can’t even remember what it was all supposed to be about! And it just goes on and on…and on… and then gets a bit worse… I don’t want to mention the bit that I thought was most ridiculous in case you haven’t got to it yet, so I’ll wait till you’re finished…

          Poor you! But at least you know now that my 1-star review had some justification! *chuckles smugly*

          • Your review was completely justified, believe me. Honestly, if it gets any more ridiculous I am just going to laugh openly in the face of the book. The only way this can end well is if Hastings turns up and shoots absolutely every character, ending with a signed confirmation from the author that she will never again attempt to breath life into one of the greatest literary creations of all time. Then a cut-out-and-keep free token for cake on the very last page. Pah.

            • HahaHA! I wish it had ended like that! it would have made more sense. But Poirot would have psychically known Hastings was on the way, and poor Catchpool would have fainted at the first shot…

            • Haha! Very true. I have finished it now… so disappointed, really. Having been initially furious with the book, I took some time to think about it and thought that, on the whole, it was beautifully written in places and there were some lovely turns of phrase. Taking on something as iconic as Christie is a huge thing and fair play to her for having a crack at it, especially as she knew should could never have matched up to the original. A braver girl than I, certainly. She tried too hard to replicate the intricate and brilliant mysteries at which Christie was so adept and ignored the fact that almost all of her characters were hateful and unengaging. I could have forgiven the psychic powers of deduction and silly motives if I had fallen in love with the characters, because at least then I would have enjoyed it. I hope to never, ever hear the name Catchpool again as long as I live!

            • Yes, I think getting the characters right in these books is more important than plotting, because the readers are all going to feel affectionate about them, and upset if they’re wrong. That was why I dislike Joanna Trollope’s Sense & Sensibility too – all the characters were horrible and I felt very defensive about the originals. Whereas Val McDermid got that right in Northanger Abbey – hence, it was easy to make allowances for any silliness in the plot.

              If it hadn’t have been a Poirot book, it’d probably still only have got about three stars from me – that ridiculous denouement that went on forever would still have grated. But then if it hadn’t been a Poirot, she probably wouldn’t have done that anyway…

              Oh well, I hope you enjoy your next read more…though sometimes a bad book is as much fun as a good one!

            • Oh, I love a bad book as much as I do a good book – they can be such fun, you’re right!

              The denouement took about about the last third of the book – ridiculous! But then, when a plot os that convoluted, I suppose she had no choice. Oh well, onto the next…

  3. Only a re-read of the divine Emma (original) for a sure-fire pleasurable experience. Though the cover of the Motion is certainly extremely lush and stroke-worthy.

    I might at some point surrender to your currently reading Toibin but I think the most pressing lure will be the Booker prizewinner, having heard him on ‘Today’ the morning after. Sounds like my kind of book!

    • Now I reckon you might love the Motion, just for the glorious writing. But I won’t get either of our expectations up too much before I read it – tempting fate!

      Hmm…I’m enjoying the Toibin a lot but it’s very much more in the Brooklyn style than the Mary style, so I’m not sure whether that would recommend it to you. Review next week sometime, when it’s had a few days to simmer…

      I’ve got the Booker winner from NG from a while ago and should be reading it soon. But I suspect it’s not my kind of thing at all and may be too grim – if I abandon it too early for those reasons I won’t be reviewing it. I heard him interviewed too on BBC News and suspect the book will be truly heart-rending…

  4. I have reserved the new Sansom from the library but I’m not holding my breath. I thought both of the last two were far too long and complex for their own good and if I come away from this one thinking that it is a series that has outlived its sell by date I shan’t be surprised. As for ‘Emma’ what can I say other than that it was one of my A level texts and took me almost a whole year to read. It’s my least favourite Austen, too.

    • I know what you mean about the Sansoms but I always find myself immersed in them despite their flaws. I think it’s because I love the Tudor world of his creation, so don’t mind if the plot goes a bit astray. But we shall see what this one is like… I’m glad to hear I’m not alone with Emma – my real problem with it is that I really don’t much like anyone in it, not even Emma and Mr Knightley. But it’s a good few years since I last read it – maybe I’ll get more out of it this time…maybe.

  5. I can’t believe you’ve weeded out enough books to add all of those to the TBR! I do like your selection although having told you I didn’t take to Treasure Island I’ll give the Andrew Motion a miss… but as always I can’t wait for your review of Emma by Alexander McCall Smith to see what your verdict is!

    • I’ve got a feeling from the blurb that the Motion won’t have too much connection to the original this time, but we’ll see. Haha! I don’t know whether I’m hoping I’ll love or hate Emma! 😉

  6. I think I’ll go with Napoleon – none of the rest appeals to me, not even (tell it not in Gath, whisper it not in Askalon) the original” Emma”, let alone a retelling.

  7. Woo hoo, down to 106. I would faint at that number, but the weeding to get there sounded like a good thing.

    Yes, the Alexander McCall Smith book tempts me. I’ve read about half of his books in the No. 1 Ladie’s Detective Agency series, and enjoy his story-telling and writing so much. Not so sure about Emma, but it does sound interesting.

    • I’m determined to be back under 100 by Christmas…

      Yes, I like his writing too, though I’ve fallen behind on the Ladies Detective Agency series. It’ll be interesting to see what he does with Emma – a rave or a rip? Either way it should be fun…

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