TBR Thursday 77… and the #AW80Books Challenge…

Episode 77…


Oh dear! The TBR is still going up – by 1 to 165! Part of the problem is that I seem to be reading lots of ridiculously long books at the moment. Question – does any crime novel really need to be over 600 pages?

So only a couple are likely to escape from the log-jam any time soon…



gandhi and churchillHaving enjoyed two of Herman’s other books, The Cave and the Light and The Scottish Enlightenment, I have high hopes for this one, which was kindly provided by Santa.

The Blurb says: In this fascinating and meticulously researched book, bestselling historian Arthur Herman sheds new light on two of the most universally recognizable icons of the twentieth century, and reveals how their forty-year rivalry sealed the fate of India and the British Empire. They were born worlds apart: Winston Churchill to Britain’s most glamorous aristocratic family, Mohandas Gandhi to a pious middle-class household in a provincial town in India. Yet Arthur Herman reveals how their lives and careers became intertwined as the twentieth century unfolded. Both men would go on to lead their nations through harrowing trials and two world wars–and become locked in a fierce contest of wills that would decide the fate of countries, continents, and ultimately an empire.

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avenue of mysteriesCourtesy of NetGalley. Hmm… I can’t say the early reviews on this are terribly promising, but we’ll see…

The Blurb says: As we grow older – most of all, in what we remember and what we dream – we live in the past. Sometimes, we live more vividly in the past than in the present. As an older man, Juan Diego will take a trip to the Philippines, but his dreams and memories will travel with him; he is most alive in his childhood and early adolescence in Mexico. ‘An aura of fate had marked him,’ John Irving writes. ‘The chain of events, the links in our lives – what leads us where we’re going, the courses we follow to our ends, what we don’t see coming, and what we do – all this can be mysterious, or simply unseen, or even obvious.’

Avenue of Mysteries is the story of what happens to Juan Diego in the Philippines, where what happened to him in the past – in Mexico – collides with his future.

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NB All blurbs taken from Goodreads.

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


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The Around the World in 80 Books Challenge – #AW80Books


For someone who says I don’t do challenges, I somehow seem to keep being tempted by them! This is another of the kind I like, relaxed, no strict rules, and most of all a completely open timescale.

Hosted by Sarah and Lucy at the wonderful Hard Book Habit, here’s what they say…

Here’s the deal.  You’ll need to read 80 books set or connected with the random destinations of your choice, then you blog about each book that you read en route. You can choose any books you like – this challenge is not limited to fiction – and the only catch is that you must read at least one book connected to each continent, one sea-based book, and a book that involves travel – think the Orient Express, flight, hot-air balloons, train journeys, car trips, etc… the rest is up to you.

Since I already tend to range fairly widely around the world of fiction (I think), I reckon this should be a challenge that I can mostly meet from my normal reading. So I thought it might be fun to go back to the original book that inspired the challenge and see if I can find books for each stage of Phineas Fogg’s original journey. Wikipedia not only tells me where Fogg and his faithful servant Passepartout stopped, but they provide a map!


Personally I think their route looks fairly dull, so I hope to do plenty of detours along the way. Since the challenge started at the beginning of the year, I’m backdating, so I’ve marked off any places I’ve already been, and I’ll only be including books I recommend (unless I get stuck). Here’s the plan…

The Main Journey

  1. London  – Martin Chuzzlewit
  2. Orient Express
  3. FranceThe Sisters of Versailles
  4. Alps
  5. Venice
  6. Brindisi
  7. Mediterranean Sea
  8. Suez
  9. Egypt
  10. Red Sea/Arabian Sea
  11. Bombay
  12. Calcutta
  13. Kholby
  14. Elephant Travel
  15. Allahabad
  16. Indian Ocean/ South China Sea
  17. Hong Kong
  18. Shanghai
  19. Yokohama
  20. Pacific
  21. San Francisco
  22. Sioux lands
  23. Omaha
  24. New York – I Am No One
  25. Atlantic Ocean
  26. Queenstown (Cobh) Ireland
  27. London – The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde


Some of these will be harder than others so a bit of creativity might be required. Suggestions very welcome, especially for the places I’ve highlighted in purple, so please get your thinking caps on! Any genre…

The Detours


That leaves 53 spots for me to randomly tour the world, so here’s where I’ve been in the last couple of months.

  1. The Hebrides – Coffin Road
  2. Florida – Their Eyes Were Watching God
  3. Iceland – Snowblind
  4. Himalayas – Black Narcissus


8 down, 72 to go!


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76 thoughts on “TBR Thursday 77… and the #AW80Books Challenge…

  1. Oh, that challenge looks just great, FictionFan! I’m with you in not usually going for challenges. Still, this one does encourage all sorts of interesting reading. And I know exactly what you mean about getting through l-o-o-n-g books. I’m seeing so many of them these days, and it does slow down the process of getting through the TBR, doesn’t it? By the way, the Herman looks really interesting!


    • I like these open-ended challenges without time limits or loads of rules. It’s a fun way of sort of summing up your reading, if that makes sense. Oh, I’m so tired of books that are twice as long as they need to be! Happily I think I might be seeing a bit of a change in that trend too. It’s not the length I object to – it’s the padding! Herman is such a good writer and I feel I don’t really know enough about what led up to Indian independence, so I’m looking forward to it.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I LOVE the idea of following in Phineas Fogg’s footsteps (with the odd detour thrown in)! That’s ingenious! Some of those are pretty niche – I can’t wait to see what you choose for elephant travel! 🙂


    • The tragic thing is I have absolutely no geographical sense at all – I spent ages working out what seas they must have been crossing. And looking up Brindisi! But I think I may have solved the elephant travel issue… I’ll keep you in suspense. 😉


  3. Churchill and Ghandi… *gags and dies from boredom*

    Haha! I like that list there. Now, how did you find Florida? Wet, sticky, and muggy? Did you visit Disney World? These are the things that are important, see.


    • *laughs lots* Oh, dear! Now I’m feeling pressured – how to write a review of it that won’t kill you!

      It was muddy and there was a huge hurricane! It was odd that nobody went to Disney World – they must have had mousephobia, and who can blame them? Those ears must get very scary-looking in a hurricane…


      • No, no! I’m sure your review will be fascinating. Still, maybe it’s about how they would’ve fought or something like that. Which is kinda cool.

        *laughs* Yup. That sounds about right. Universal Studios would be cooler, I think. The Mummy ride would be worth it alone!


  4. I’m unofficially doing the #AW80Books challenge as well, but I haven’t gotten much past writing down books I’d like to read. I think Malaya is in the South China Sea, so my suggestion for that area is The Garden of Evening Mists by Twan Eng Tan. I haven’t read it, but I’ve seen good reviews. And like Sarah, I am curious what you come up with for “Elephant Travel”!


    • I decided not to make a list until I get towards the end and see what ones I haven’t ticked off. Though I think a few of them are going to need a bit of planning! Oh, that’s a great one – I’ve read The Garden of Evening Mists and do highly recommend it. See, my geographic sense is non-existent – I didn’t realise Malaya was there. Hopefully I should be able to track down another one about Malaya – and I think I’ve got one for the elephant travel, but I’m leaving you in suspense… 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Whew! I’ll give it some thought, and if I come up with anything, I’ll let you know. I intend to read the Ghandi when I feel strong enough.


    • The Ghandi should be good. Yes, I’m really stuck on Brindisi and Kholby – having no real idea of where either of them is doesn’t help! I see much map-reading in my future…


  6. I’m snickering evilly at your challenge (only because I keep being diverted from Reading the 20th by bloggers and NetGalley and Vine strewing my path with temptations. I keep saying I will be back to it next month, and i keep getting distracted by some wondrous reads and re-reads.

    Now don’t you dare be nasty about Tana and the 600 plus. She is someone whose doorsteps I relish.

    Have to get back to my re-read of a short Hesse for Kaggsy’s challenge before the end of the week…………..Problem is, it demands to be savoured………….


    • I know – that’s why I like this kind of thing which for the most part will just be ticked off as part of my normal reading. But there are definitely a few of them which will require research and TBR additions! Oh well, if it all gets too much I shall just jump on a passing elephant and flee…

      Hmm… too much relish can spoil the hotdog, though! You’ll be pleased to hear thought that, while my review won’t be an all-out rave it won’t be a savage rip either – somewhere in-between. And it won’t run to 600 pages!

      I’m afraid I never fit into these reading weeks. One, I’m rubbish at sticking to such a tight schedule and two, *whispers*, they’re never of authors that appeal to me at all! Have fun – I hesitate to point out it’s Thursday already…


  7. Love the idea of finding books for each stage of the Around the World in 80 Days journey (with detours). It’s certainly tempting!

    Does one need to have 80 different destinations, too…or just eighty books?

    Is there a time limit (With all the rabbit trail reading I do, it might take me years!). 🙂


    • Sounds like fun, doesn’t it? No, it’s very relaxed rule-wise. At least one book from each continent, one sea-based book, one other kind of travel and no time limit. I’m going to try not to duplicate small countries too much, but with huge places like America and Australia I’ll probably have a few each – different states, if I can. But everybody’s approaching it differently – some are rabbit-trailing as you do, so sticking in a place for a bit and then moving on. I’m not organised enough for that!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Another author I’ve never read! And I’m kinda regretting going for this one rather than one of his earlier books – the early reviews from fans have been very mixed. However, we’ll see… *scared face*


  8. Sounds like a most interesting challenge, FF — right up your alley, I’d say. I’ll follow along, but I don’t see me participating (my TBR is already growing exponentially, and I’ve yet to find a way to stretch a day into more than 24 hours!!)


    • Should be fun! My plan is not to add too much to the TBR, but just see what ones I can fill with the books I’d be reading anyway – but I suspect there will be a few that I’ll have to search for. My normla reading doesn’t normally include a lot of elephant travel… 😉

      Liked by 1 person

    • He does seem to spend an awful lot of time at sea – hope I don’t get sea-sick! Yes, I like this kind of challenge where it’s very relaxed and each person can fit it to her own taste. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  9. What?! No South America? Africa? Australia? And I’m sure Canada will feel slighted.

    The Churchill-Gandhi book sounds interesting, but I fear I will need to just read your review (in the way that I used to read reviews in the New York Review of Books and by the time I finished, no longer felt the need to read the book, itself). 😀


    • Ooh, I’m glad! And thanks for letting me know. 😀 The next in the trilogy is due out sometime in the summer – must try to get my grubby hands on a copy…


    • I keep saying no more challenges too, but they sneak up on me! This one should be fun, though. I hope I do – I seem to be getting nowhere at the moment – got to keep feeding the review monster!


  10. The challenge looks very interesting! Love what you’ve put together. I think I can make a recommendation for the Sioux lands. Louise Erdrich sets a lot of her novels in North Dakota on a fictional reservation and are mostly about Ojibwe characters. I enjoyed Love Medicine but Plague of Doves is also said to be quite good. I’m not 100% sure though if her books would fall within the Sioux lands so you might want to check first 😀


    • Ooh, that’s a brilliant recommendation, and looking at wikipedia, I reckon it would certainly count as Sioux lands! I’ve actually had one of her books on my wishlist for so long I’ve forgotten why it’s on there and what it’s about – time to push it up to the top! Thank you! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Oh my word, what an awesome challenge! Please let me know what stories you find that are set in Shanghai. I’ve been there, so I would love to know what stories you find.
    The Gandhi/Churchill book sounds fascinating to me! John Irving has been hit or miss for me.


    • Sounds fun, doesn’t it? I will indeed let you know – I’m expecting there’s probably lots of great stories set in Shanghai – it seems like that kind of place. Lucky you for having been there! Holiday? Or living there?

      Gandhi should be good – he’s one of these writers that makes the factual stuff enjoyable to read. But the Irving I’m not sure about – I think I’d probably have been better off with one of his earlier books, looking at the reviews… oh, well, we’ll see!


    • I’m really regretting that I grabbed this one from NetGalley rather than reading one of his earlier ones with high ratings. It does seem even fans are finding this one a bit disappointing. But hey – I always seem to disagree with everybody about books anyway, so that probably means I’ll love it… 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  12. On your around the world tour I think you should visit the Falkland Islands with “Little black lies” by Sharon Bolton. And also visit Nova Scotia, Canada and read “The birth house” by Ami McKay.


    • Ah, I already visited the Falklands with Sharon Bolton last year – she really brought the place to life didn’t she? But I don’t know The Birth House at all, and haven’t ‘been’ to Canada for a while – shall investigate! Thanks for the recommendations! 😀


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