The Final Countdown 2017 plus Quarterly Challenges Report…

TBR Year-End Report

Last New Year I added up the full extent of the horror of the TBR, including the bits I usually hide. So, time for 2017’s final count to see how I did over the year…

Well, although the total has obviously gone up over the year, it’s not quite as bad as it looks. In August I started my new Murder, Mystery, Mayhem Challenge to read all 102 books listed in Martin Edwards’ The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books – or at least as many of them as I can acquire. There are currently 76 of these in the overall total, and I’m proposing to take around four years to complete this challenge. The same applies to the Classics Club which has another four years to run and accounts for roughly another 70 books. So the underlying TBR problem is actually a mere 279, which I think shows my book habit is not spiralling out of control…

* * * * * * *

The Around the World in 80 Books Challenge

Last check-in was in September, and I’ve only been on a couple of trips since then…


I sailed with Long John Silver and the crew to Treasure Island, crossing the Atlantic which is one of the locations on the Main Journey (the places Phineas Fogg visited or travelled through in the original book, Around the World in 80 Days). And then I took a detour across the Arctic with Frankenstein in pursuit of his monster.

Since it’s the end of the year, here’s how the Main Journey is going so far…

The Main Journey

  1. London  – Martin Chuzzlewit
  2. Orient Express – Travels with My Aunt
  3. France – The Sisters of Versailles
  4. Alps
  5. Venice – Titian’s Boatman
  6. Brindisi
  7. Mediterranean Sea
  8. Suez
  9. Egypt
  10. Red Sea/Arabian Sea
  11. Bombay – Selection Day
  12. Calcutta – A Rising Man
  13. Kholby
  14. Elephant Travel
  15. Allahabad
  16. Indian Ocean/ South China Sea – A Dangerous Crossing
  17. Hong Kong
  18. Shanghai
  19. Yokohama
  20. Pacific – Moby-Dick: Or, The White Whale
  21. San Francisco
  22. Sioux lands – Days Without End
  23. Omaha
  24. New York – Three-Martini Lunch
  25. Atlantic Ocean – Treasure Island
  26. Queenstown (Cobh) Ireland – Dead Wake
  27. London – The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde

To see the full challenge including all the detours, click here.

39 down, 41 to go!

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The Classics Club

classics club logo 2

So far, I’ve read nineteen from my Classics Club list – a little behind schedule, but not worryingly so. In this last quarter, I’ve read five…

  1. The Master of Ballantrae by Robert Louis Stevenson – 5 stars for this Scottish classic – an exciting adventure but also a great exercise in characterisation.
  2. Foundation by Isaac Asimov – hugely influential on the sci-fi genre but unfortunately showing its age a little – just 3 stars.
  3. Frankenstein: or, The Modern Prometheus by Mary Shelley – 5 stars for this masterpiece of “mad science”.
  4. We by Yevgeny Zamyatin – 4 stars for one of the earliest dystopian novels that inspired many later classics like Brave New World and 1984.
  5. The Catcher in the Rye – review will appear next week, so I’ll keep you in suspense till then…

19 down, 71 to go!

* * * * * * *

Reading the Russian Revolution

The original plan was to finish this challenge by the end of the year, but I still have a few books that I haven’t managed to read yet, so it will continue until spring. I’ve reviewed three this quarter, none of which were on the original list. I’ve also read a biography of Rasputin which I’ll be reviewing soon. To see the full challenge, click here.

10. The Unwomanly Face of War by Svetlana Alexievich – this is a collection of oral histories from some of the women who served on the Soviet front line during WW2. While I do think this is a valuable contribution to the historical record, I had some reservations about the author’s bias affecting her methodology. 3 stars.

11. The Golden Sabre by Jon Cleary – I loved this wild ride in a stolen Rolls Royce across post-revolutionary Russia. It’s a rip-roaring adventure story first and foremost, but Cleary has clearly done his research about Russia at this moment in time, and there’s a lot of insight into the maelstrom and confusion that followed the Revolution. 5 stars.

12. We by Yevgeny Zamyatin – this dystopian novel looks at the destruction of the individual in increasingly regimented totalitarian societies. Written in 1920, it seems remarkably prescient and was the first novel to be banned by Soviet censors, remaining unpublished in Zamyatin’s native country until 1988, during the period of glasnost. 4 stars.

* * * * * * *

Murder Mystery Mayhem

This quarter I’ve read and reviewed four books for my newest challenge. To see the full challenge, click here.

7.  Portrait of a Murderer by Anne Meredith – This is an “inverted mystery” where the bulk of the story rests on whether and how the murderer will be caught. It’s also a psychological study of the murderer and of all the other people in the house. 5 stars.

8.  Death at the President’s Lodging by Michael Innes – this is a variation on the country house mystery, this time in the enclosed environment of a University college. Unfortunately, the perpetual intellectual snobbery and failure to move the plot along meant that I abandoned it at the 40% mark on the “life’s too short” principle. 1 star.

9.  Pietr the Latvian by Georges Simenon – the famous Maigret’s very first outing. While not as strong as some of the later novels in the series, I found it interesting from the point of view of being able to compare this first glimpse of Maigret to the more rounded character he would later become. 3 stars.

10. The Eye of Osiris by R Austin Freeman – this features Freeman’s regular “scientific” detective, Dr Thorndyke, but the main character in this one is the first person narrator, Dr Berkeley. It’s laid out as a traditional mystery and is very well written, full of wit, and with a charming romance for young Dr Berkeley to give it warmth. I loved it. 5 stars.

10 down, 92 to go!

* * * * * * *

A good quarter’s reading! Thank you for joining me on my reading adventures, and…

Here’s to another great year of reading in 2018! 😀

42 thoughts on “The Final Countdown 2017 plus Quarterly Challenges Report…

  1. All those big numbers… so many books… thank goodness for the spreadsheet! Well, it has been another epic year of reading and reviewing for you FF and I am so chuffed to have been along for the ride. You know I love your mystery and crime reviews but I have been mightily impressed with the Russian Revolution series also and surprised about how much I learned just from your reviews alone. It has been an utter pleasure to join you in your epic quest to vanquish the every-growing TBR! You have earned yourself an awful lot of wine and chocolate!
    I will be noticeably absent from the blogosphere after today (eating! drinking! whatnot!) but please do tweet me links to any posts of yours you think I might like, I would hate to miss out 🙂


    • Aw, thank you, Lucy! And thanks for all the chit-chat and jokes over the year – it wouldn’t be the same without you! Ha – I’m also glad you’ve enjoyed the Russian stuff – my blog buddies have all been very patient! I’ll need to have a think about what to replace it with – I’m frightened I’ll run out of books if I go down to just three huge challenges… 😉

      Enjoy the eating and drinking, and especially the whatnot! There’s nothing like a bit of whatnot to help work off those turkey sandwiches! Merry Christmas, dear Lucy! 🎅😁

      Liked by 1 person

      • It has been an absolute pleasure, FF, I assure you. And thank you for being so supportive of my books and helping get the word out, it’s really appreciated. If you hate the next one, don’t worry, we can still be friends – just make sure you give it one of your famous one star reviews!
        Haha – whatnot at the ready! have a super, super time. I will keep an eye out for you on the beast that is social media so banter may continue. Merry Christmas, my friend!!


  2. I’m amazed at the way you put everything together here, FictionFan! Most impressive. And it is interesting, isn’t it, how one innocent book (like The Story of Classic Crime… can completely alter the TBR. But, it’s worth it. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Haha – think how much more reading I could get done if I stopped messing about with spreadsheets and lists, though… 😉 The worrying thing is I have acquired Martin Edwards’ other book on the Golden Age – I’m dreading reading it… I wonder if there’s a size limit on spreadsheets…

      Liked by 1 person

  3. FF, I need a cup of hot tea and a long nap after reading all your accomplishments — well done, my friend! My own TBR is growing faster than I need, but hey, it’s good to have goals, right? Thank you for spending some time reading and reviewing my own debut novel, for pointing me in the direction of authors and works I haven’t sampled yet, and most of all, for being YOU!! Hope your holidays are just wonderful — give Tommy and Tuppence our best!


    • Haha – now you know why I need regular chocolate to keep my strength up! 😉 It was my pleasure, Debbie, and I hope to read book 2 some time next year maybe? Aw, thank you! *blushes* And thanks for all the chit-chat and stuff – it wouldn’t be the same without you! Merry Christmas to you, and T&T send seasonal greetings to Dallas! 🎅

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Wow…a lot of reading done and a lot to be done. Happy Reading and here’s to that ever increasing TBR 2018 list.
    Have a wonderful Festive Season (Merry Christmas if I may). And a super start to 2018.
    Hopefully I’ll be less scarce next year…just been absolutely hectic.


  5. Wow! Just wow! If I had known the monster I was creating by encouraging you to read, I’d have taught you to knit instead! 🙂


  6. I’m so impressed by your reading, your progress with challenges, and your organisational skills. But mostly I’m impressed at how you manage to number crunch so that while the numbers are rising, in fact your TBR is, er, going down…. I’m still not sure how you manage it but I’m in awe nonetheless 😀


  7. I’m impressed by your ambition n tackling so many meaty projects simultaneously. You must be me super organised reader. By the way how did you produce that clever looking map?


    • Hahaha – I feel spreadsheets are wonderful for giving the illusion of organisation – a trick that stood me in good stead over many decades in the working world… 😉 I wish I could take credit, but it’s actually from Wikipedia on the Around the World in 80 Days page. I did credit it way back at the beginning of the challenge, but I’ve got lax – must remember to credit them on future posts. 🎅


  8. First, thanks for the good laugh (she says as she is simultaneously requesting 4 books). Second, I heard on the news today that someone has invented a pill that will increase longevity, so that immortality thing might yet happen. Finally, I received a boatload of chocolate in Christmas boxes today, if you get here fast I might share!
    Have a Merry Christmas!


    • I’m certain my TBR is at a turning point – it’ll start dropping dramatically soon! Ooh, really? And they’ve announced that sprouts prevent dementia – things are looking up! Haha – I’m on my way! Eat slowly till I get there… 😀

      Merry Christmas to you too – have a good one! 🎅

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Congratulations on keeping that TBR under control 😂😂😂
    It’s been brilliant to follow you on your challenges over the year although my willpower has been sorely tested along the way.
    Thank you too for having a spreadsheet that rivals my own which makes me feel far less nerdy.


    • It’s impressive, isn’t it? I feel sure 2018 will be the year it starts to drop dramatically… 😱

      Thank you – glad you’ve enjoyed it, and thanks for all the chit-chat and laughs along the way. If only you would stop tempting me, though… 😀 Haha, who could possibly think either of us were nerds? 🤓

      Liked by 1 person

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