TBR Thursday 55…

Episode 55


Well, I did brilliantly during my little break and got the TBR down to a magnificent 129! So I moved up a few from my supplemenatry TBR – i.e., the books that are on my Kindle that have never been read – and now it’s back up to 139. But I feel good, ‘cos List 2 is therefore down by ten. Now if only I can stop myself from adding any to List 2 from List 3… the wishlist! (Am I good at fooling myself or what, eh? I’m thinking I might cut the TBR dramatically in half by creating a List 4…)

Never mind! Here are some that will be moving to the Have Been Read List very soon…



Khlevniuk jkt ks.inddCourtesy of NetGalley and Yale University Press, who are producing some fabulous biographies at present. If this is as good as the John Knox one (also from Yale) that I’m currently reading, I’ll be well pleased…

The Blurb says Josef Stalin exercised supreme power in the Soviet Union from 1929 until his death in 1953. During that quarter-century, by Oleg Khlevniuk’s estimate, he caused the imprisonment and execution of no fewer than a million Soviet citizens per year. Millions more were victims of famine directly resulting from Stalin’s policies. What drove him toward such ruthlessness? This essential biography, by the author most deeply familiar with the vast archives of the Soviet era, offers an unprecedented, fine-grained portrait of Stalin the man and dictator. Without mythologizing Stalin as either benevolent or an evil genius, Khlevniuk resolves numerous controversies about specific events in the dictator’s life while assembling many hundreds of previously unknown letters, memos, reports, and diaries into a comprehensive, compelling narrative of a life that altered the course of world history.

 * * * * *



Should I ever finish The Grapes of Wrath (16 days and still over a third to go – even chocolate isn’t cheering me up any more) then I shall reward myself with a re-read of Jane Austen’s Persuasion. This is the Austen I have read least often – perhaps only twice – but I have walked down those famous steps in Lyme Regis…


The Blurb says Twenty-seven-year old Anne Elliot is Austen’s most adult heroine. Eight years before the story proper begins, she is happily betrothed to a naval officer, Frederick Wentworth, but she precipitously breaks off the engagement when persuaded by her friend Lady Russell that such a match is unworthy. The breakup produces in Anne a deep and long-lasting regret. When later Wentworth returns from sea a rich and successful captain, he finds Anne’s family on the brink of financial ruin and his own sister a tenant in Kellynch Hall, the Elliot estate. All the tension of the novel revolves around one question: Will Anne and Wentworth be reunited in their love?(Shall we all guess the answer?)

* * * * *


death and mr pickwickCourtesy of the publisher, Jonathan Cape. I’ve been doing weight-training in preparation for tackling this 800-page monster…

The Blurb says Death and Mr. Pickwick is a vast, richly imagined, Dickensian work about the rough-and-tumble world that produced an author who defined an age. Like Charles Dickens did in his immortal novels, Stephen Jarvis has spun a tale full of preposterous characters, shaggy-dog stories, improbable reversals, skulduggery, betrayal, and valor – all true, and all brilliantly brought to life in his unputdownable book.

The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club, featuring the fat and lovable Mr. Pickwick and his Cockney manservant, Sam Weller, began as a series of whimsical sketches, the brainchild of the brilliant, erratic, misanthropic illustrator named Robert Seymour, a denizen of the back alleys and grimy courtyards where early nineteenth-century London’s printers and booksellers plied their cutthroat trade. When Seymour’s publishers, after trying to match his magical etchings with a number of writers, settled on a young storyteller using the pen name Boz, The Pickwick Papers went on to become a worldwide phenomenon, outselling every other book besides the Bible and Shakespeare’s plays. And Boz, as the young Charles Dickens signed his work, became, in the eyes of many, the most important writer of his time. The fate of Robert Seymour, Mr. Pickwick’s creator, is a very different story – one untold before now.

* * * * *



jack of spadesCourtesy of NetGalley. I don’t think I’ve read any of Joyce Carol Oates’ books – a strange omission, soon to be rectified…

The Blurb saysAndrew J. Rush has achieved the kind of critical and commercial success most authors only dream about: his twenty-eight mystery novels have sold millions of copies in nearly thirty countries, and he has a top agent and publisher in New York. He also has a loving wife, three grown children, and is a well-regarded philanthropist in his small New Jersey town. But Rush is hiding a dark secret. Under the pseudonym “Jack of Spades,” he writes another string of novels—dark potboilers that are violent, lurid, even masochistic. These are novels that the refined, upstanding Andrew Rush wouldn’t be seen reading, let alone writing. Until one day, his daughter comes across a Jack of Spades novel that he has carelessly left out and begins to ask questions. Meanwhile, Rush receives a court summons in the mail explaining that a local woman has accused him of plagiarizing her own self-published fiction. Rush’s reputation, career, and family life all come under threat – and unbidden, in the back of his mind, the Jack of Spades starts thinking ever more evil thoughts.

* * * * *


NB All blurbs taken from NetGalley or Goodreads.

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

66 thoughts on “TBR Thursday 55…

  1. I give you credit, FictionFan, or taking on some ‘meaty’ books there! I would definitely say that an Austen re-read is in order *discreet cough*and pictures of Mr. Darcy*another discreet cough*. The Stalin biography does look interesting; I think too often, ‘game changers” biographies don’t give complete pictures of the person. And the Oates looks very enticing too. I’ll be keen to know what you think when you get there.

    • Yeah, my plan for TBR reduction is going to take a bit of a hit with all these massive books! Haha! Yes, I think it’s possible Mr Darcy may have to appear soon – it’s been too long! I’m hoping the Stalin bio will be interesting – the man certainly is, so it’ll depend on the writing. But as I’ve said before, there’s been a massive improvement over recent years in making history and biography books more accessible to non-acadmeic readers, so I’m hopeful.

  2. Well, curiously you got me on 3 out of 4! As I’ve never really got enamoured of Pickwick Papers (heresy, I know) I’ll give that one a miss, but the others sound clamorous for attention – particularly Stalin. But i might let you cut your teeth on that for me – it will come down to the quality of the writing. Is the author a dull as ditchwater with his prose, or is he a writer, not just a researcher/biographer/historian. I demand the circuses of wonderful writing, not just the factual sustenance bread of content.

    okay, must go, have to see if I can mangle a few more metaphors around the blogosphere!

    • I did check out reviews of his previous books and he gets high ratings, though the reviews do make them sound a bit more ‘academicy’ than I normally like – but we’ll see. It’s hefty, but not as bad as some bios and histories. But I might try to talk you into the Knox bio when I review it – I’m finding it fascinating. The Pickwick one is massive, so it better be good!! And I’m sure Jilanne recommended Joyce Carol Oates to me once, so looking forward to that…

  3. Not too fond of biographies (remind me of school and book reports, ha!), so the one on Stalin isn’t a temptation. Nor, I’m afraid, is that 800-page monster!! So I have nothing but admiration and respect for you, FF, for tackling these beasts. Best wishes for whittling down your TBR lists, too!

    • I’ve really got into history and biography books over the last few years – they’re usually so much better written now than they used to be. I guess they’ve realised if they want to sell beyond the academic market, they have to make them enjoyable for the casual reader. Haha! If I keep picking these huge books I don’t hold out much hope for the TBR really, though… 😉

    • What? Not even Stalin? And I hoped you might be hooked by the Joyce Carol Oates too. Oh well… I shall be trying to talk you into the John Knox book anyway when I review it.

      • I’ve read too many biographies of Stalin, and I shall look forward to the Knox – not the world’s most likeable character, but a significant one.

  4. Not really tempted but am interested to hear what you think of the Joyce Carol Oates one – a name I have seen but know nothing about…I have an assumption (based on what? I don’t know) of cozy crime? So keen to hear what you think of this one.

  5. I like your comment about The Grapes of Wrath. I don’t know what it would take to cheer a person up while reading that book. I’m not sure there is anything in existence which would work.

  6. I don’t know Jack of Spades, but if it’s like any of the other Joyce Carol Oates books that I’ve read, then there’s going to be some weird stuff in it. Enjoy! I’ll keep my eyes open for a possible Stalin review.

    • The blurb does make it sound both dark and weird, I must admit. But hopefully fun too! I suspect the Stalin will take me ages to read so the review will probably not happen till towards the end of May… or maybe even June.

  7. Persuasion is my favourite Jane Austen novel – I used to reread it every year, but it’s been a good few years now since I last read it.
    And I too have never read Joyce Carol Oates and want to remedy that – I’ve heard she is not at all what you might expect and Lonesome Reader adores her, so she must be good.

    • I don’t know why I haven’t read it so often, because I liked it very much too. But I always seem to turn to either P&P or S&S for comfort re-reads. Yes, I’m hearing all kinds of things about Joyce Carol Oates that lead me to think it might be a rather strange experience – but hopefully in a good way!

  8. You have picked some massive books to plough through. I have read some Joyce Carol Oates, many I have loved but the last couple I chose, I hated – strong words from me, so I’m interested to see what you think of Jack of Spades as I need a reader to stop me from any further disappointment.

    • Oh, now that’s interesting! What made you hate them? I’m so intrigued by the various comments about that one that I might need to make it the one I read next…

  9. You are a brave soul, FF! Grapes of Wrath is a doozy. You might need to upgrade to double chocolate fudge, if we are to ever hear from you again. 🙂 I look forward to your thoughts on it!

  10. I’ve only read one JCO. She won the National Book Award for “Them” sometime in the 60s, I think. I thought it was well-written, and I still recall a few scenes, so it made an impression. I haven’t read any of her more lurid explorations of the human psyche. I do have one of her books, or maybe it’s a short story that begins: “I was a child murderer.” I love that line because we don’t immediately know how to interpret it. Either option is horrible.

    Happily, none of these tempt me. I refuse to take on any more bricks until I am too old and weak to lift them, and by then I won’t care. I do have a kid’s book called “Breaking Stalin’s Nose.” And Ahkmatova’s poetry chronicling the Stalin years. But that’s as close as I’ll come to reading about him. Kind of the way I feel about reading anything about Hitler.

    • Lifting the bricks is my main source of exercise – I’m aiming to have biceps like Rafa! But reading both Stalin and Pickwick at the same time should slow down my production of reviews to a slow crawl for a few weeks – especially after tackling John Knox and the Grapes of Wrath at the same time first! Oh well, it’s a tough job, but someone has to do it.

      I have no desire to read about Hitler either, having been bombarded with constant documentaries, films, books etc about WW2 for my entire life. But I know far less about Russia, so the Stalin one might fill in some of the gaps… and if not it’ll make a good doorstop.

        • I don’t really count it in pounds, but roughly four blockbusters, one cat and a generous slice of chocolate cake. I’m hoping to add a fruitbowl soon…

          What?!? Traitor!!! *rushes off to read some Jilanne-type books urgently*

    • Persuasion seems to have nearly as many fans as Pride and Prejudice. I’m looking forward to revisiting it – don’t know why it’s been so long since I last read it to be honest. I found myself giggling over the latest horrible death in Grapes of Wrath last night – not the intended reaction I’m sure! Oh dear – I’ll be glad when it’s finished! 😉

  11. Persuasion is my favorite of Jane’s books, because I was in Anne’s shoes at one point relationship wise. So it hits me emotionally every time.
    I enjoyed The Pickwick Papers, so I would be curious about what Jonathan Cape does with Dickens’s world in Death and Mr. Pickwick.

    • I think I probably underestimated Persuasion by comparing it to my beloved P&P when I was young. But I enjoyed it and think I might enjoy it even more this time round. The Pickwick one looks good – it better be at 800 pages! Think what damage it could do if I end up throwing it across the room…

  12. You must needs let me know when (or if) you finish Grapes of Wrath. I’m interested to see what you think of the end.

    One has to wonder about those steps. I mean, is it really possible to walk them without falling or tripping?

    • I should finish it tonight (if I don’t die first). I reckon it’s going to end with them all joining a cult and committing mass suicide. Or maybe they’ll come across a hidden stash of chocolate, throw a party and have a happy ending! If Rosasharn dies in childbirth, I shall… I shall… well, I don’t know what I’ll do but it won’t be pretty!

      I must say it was a scary experience walking down them but maybe they were less worn in Austen’s day (don’t you dare suggest I was around then!!!)

      • Haha. I won’t tell! But bet you’ll hate it. Steinbeck is such a happy beast. He must’ve drank a lot of bad milk when he was a baby.

        *laughs* I didn’t, you did! But I won’t think on it. I’d like to walk up them. Is it high up? I mean, what’s on the other side of the wall?

        • *shocked face* I’m absolutely gobsmacked! I can’t decide whether it was the most beautiful or the most horrible thing ever – both perhaps! No… definitely horrible! But then again… Ooh, I’m going to have to go and hit a politician with a placard! I’m soooo angry!!!!! Up the revolution!! Oooh, I loved it – hated it – loved it – hated it… Grrrr!!!!! *starts sobbing again*

          Pre-emptive strike! Nah, they’re not that high but they’re just so worn. It’s a thingy – a… er… I don’t really know what it is – one of those wall thingies that they build out into the seas in harbours. So the other side of the wall is the sea. Does that help? *laughs* But you can walk along the top of the wall – if you’re very brave and very foolish.

          • *laughing and tries not to* Oh dear. Well, it can’t be both, can it? You’ll just have to make a decision here about it. Can’t wait to read your review, of course! It’s definitely a cheery tale.

            Cool! I might try to walk on the wall, and fire a few arrows. How far is the drop?

            • I’ll stuggle to write a review of it – still haven’t quite decided what I thought of it. But at least I’ve stopped sobbing now…

              When I walked on it for a little way, my mother, from whom I inherited the worry gene, ran along the ground beside the wall shrieking “Ooh, do be careful! You’ll fall! You’ll break your neck!” and other such cheery encouragement. Had my dad been there, he’d have encouraged me to do cartwheels along it. It’s hardly surprising I’ve turned out so befuddled really. (Makes me sound as if I was about six at the time – I was an adult and had been twenty-one for many years at the time!) It’s not really very high – but windy and wet so it can get slippy.

            • Aww! Well, I’m glad you’re not sobbing anymore. Just make sure to rip it a little. Every book needs a little ripio.

              *laughing lots and lots* That’s just like mothers, though! But look how brave you were! Of course, cartwheels should probably not be done. Unless you’re really good at it. I’m glad, too, that you didn’t break your neck. Now, the question is, if you went back…would you walk on the wall again?

            • *nods in agreement* Except P&P…

              Really so not good at cartwheels! I don’t actually believe they’re possible for humans, except maybe John Carter. Hmm… I probably would if the weather was nice. And if the Professor was there to grab me if it all went horribly wrong…

  13. Looking forward to hearing what you think of Joyce Carol Oates. I’ve only read her short stories; some impressed me greatly and others left me wondering what all the fuss was about. I’m still not quite sure what I think of her and may need to just take her on a case-by-case basis.

    Also, a glimpse at the title made me think you’d gotten your TBR down to 55! Can you imagine?!

    • Ha! I wish I had – it’s never been as low as that since I started blogging!

      I don’t know what to think about the Joyce Carol Oates – so many people have expressed mixed feelings about her. Makes me all the keener to give her a try – this week hopefully…

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