TBR Thursday 175… and Quarterly Round-Up

TBR Quarterly Report

At the New Year I added up the full extent of the horror of the TBR, including the bits I usually hide. So time for another count to see how I’m doing…

Impressively the overall figure has fallen again! It would have been even better if I hadn’t had a major splurge on review copies, but sometimes a splurge is irresistible. I’m still being rigid about adding sparingly to the wishlist and culling it ruthlessly at the end of every month. A book has to persuade me it’s essential to my happiness and wellbeing to win a coveted spot! I still have a long way to go to achieve my New Year’s Resolution – to reduce the overall total to 360. I shall sharpen my culling shears…

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The Around the World in 80 Books Challenge

Last check-in was in June, and I’ve only made a couple of trips since then…

I actually read The Dain Curse back in June but forgot to include it in this challenge last quarter – this rather silly, almost entirely incomprehensible, but surprisingly entertaining book took me to San Francisco, one of the stops on the Main List. I visited Uruguay and several other countries in South America in the company of political exiles and their families, in Mario Benedetti’s wonderful Springtime in a Broken Mirror. And master storyteller Robert Harris took me back in time to Ancient Rome in Imperium for some political shenanigans in the company of Cicero and his pals. (I also discovered I’d been to Canada twice, so have dropped one of them off the list.)

Must do better! And must get to Africa!!

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

54 down, 26 to go!

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The Classics Club

I’ve reviewed six from my Classics Club list this quarter, which means I’ve caught up a little more. I’ll be slowing down for a bit though as I really must tackle some of the longer ones on my list rather than leaving them all to the end…

29. The Thirty-Nine Steps by John Buchan – 4 stars for this “shocker”, an action thriller set amidst the murky world of wartime foreign agents, and involving much running around the moors of south-west Scotland.

30. The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham – 5 stars for this, one of the finest examples of the science fiction books that grew out of Cold War paranoia – a suddenly dystopian society where the science horrors are balanced by an exceptionally strong human story and one of the best female characters in the genre.

31. Mildred Pierce by James M Cain – poor writing style, psychologically unconvincing and terminally dull. I feel I was generous in giving this tale of a troubled mother/daughter relationship in Depression-era America 2 stars.

32. The Postman Always Rings Twice by James M Cain again. 4 reluctant stars for this noir so black there’s no gleam of light, hope or beauty. Superbly done, but to what end? Left me feeling I needed to scrub my mind clean.

33. Marriage by Susan Ferrier – 3½ stars for this 1818 tale of two sisters, one good and tediously pious, the other mercenary but underdeveloped. Hyped by the publisher as the Scottish Jane Austen, I fear that the comparison doesn’t work to this one’s advantage.

34. Imagined Corners by Willa Muir – a modernist look at Scottish society through the prism of the small town of Calderwick and the families who live there. Feminism, repression and religion – the book takes on a lot and partially delivers. 4 stars.

I’ve also made a couple more changes to my list. I abandoned Miss Lonelyhearts after about 10 pages of abortion, suicide, marital rape and religious mania. That made me look again at my American list, which has been hugely disappointing so far, pulling the whole challenge down. I’m toying with swapping the rest out for something else – maybe Irish, maybe translated fiction. But perhaps I’ve just had some unlucky choices so far, so I’ll have one last rejig before I do:

  • I’ve replaced Miss Lonelyhearts with In the Heat of the Night by John Ball – at least it will be a good excuse to re-watch the excellent film.
  • And I’ve removed The Jungle – another one that sounds deliberately designed to show the miserable pointlessness of existence – and replaced it with One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey.

34 down, 56 to go!

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Murder Mystery Mayhem

This quarter I’ve read just three books for this one, but they were all excellent so I don’t mind. To see the full challenge, click here.

18.  The Secret of High Eldersham by Miles Burton – mysterious goings-on and nefarious crimes in an English village. More of a thriller than a mystery, and quite dark – enjoyed this a lot! 5 stars.

19.  The Division Bell Mystery by Ellen Wilkinson – a locked room mystery set in the Houses of Parliament, written by one of early women MPs. A good mystery and a fun look at all the quirky traditions of Parliament. 4½ stars.

20.  The Murder at the Vicarage by Agatha Christie – Miss Marple’s first outing as she uses all her knowledge of human nature and evil to discover who shot Colonel Protheroe in the vicar’s study. One of the best! 5 stars.

20 down, 82 to go!

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5 x 5 Challenge

Still struggling to fit this challenge in, but I have a couple scheduled over the next few weeks. Just one again this quarter though…

2. Imperium by Robert Harris – the first book in the Cicero trilogy, this tells of his early struggles to get ahead in law and politics. Excellently written, but not a period that ever really grabs me, so it’s not my favourite Harris. However, I’m still looking forward to reading the rest of the trilogy. 4 stars.

2 down, 23 to go!

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

Here’s to more great reading next quarter! 😀

 

33 thoughts on “TBR Thursday 175… and Quarterly Round-Up

  1. I really admire your taking on and staying with those challenges, FictionFan. Even if you don’t meet all of them, I think it’s an effective way to focus yourself and your reading. Oh, and on a related note, quite honestly, I’d not want to read Miss Lonelyhearts, either. I’ll be really interested in what you think of the Kesey when you get to it. It’s a very different sort of book.

    • I must say keeping up with all these challenges is harder than having a proper job! 😉 I do find it makes me think more about what I’m reading, though, and gets me out of the habit of only reading new releases which I’d fallen into for a while. Yes, Miss Lonelyhearts was a big mistake! I did read the Kesey decades ago when the film came out, but I loved the film so much I don’t think I gave the book a fair go – from memory they’re very different. But it’s years since I last watched the film, so hopefully the book won’t have to fight it this time…

  2. The mind boggles at this, FF. How do you even remember which book is which? You must have notes to rival an epic novel of Russian proportions! How disappointing that the American novels are not up to scratch. When I’m over there in a couple weeks I’ll give them a bit of kick up the bum, get them to up their game a bit. I can’t have my friend bored to death by their literature! And, you know, I like kicking people up the bum… 🙂

    • Hahaha – my main spreadsheet now has sixteen tabs, and then there’s the supplementary spreadsheets. In fact, I’m thinking I may have to hire a Deputy Head Blogger to assist with keeping it all up to date! Yes, do have a word with the Americans. Tell them that it’s OK to have the occasional cheery bit in a book…

    • Haha – I know – I’m exhausted now! Yeah, I think the problem probably is that I don’t know enough about American literature so I’m kinda picking randomly, whereas with British fiction I mostly have a good idea of what authors will work for me. Either that or the American style of literature just doesn’t suit my taste… 😦 Hopefully I’ll find some goodies soon, though!

  3. FF, I’m curtsying in admiration over your accomplishments! At first, I wondered how you’ve managed to keep them all straight, but now I see ’tis probably the beautiful Excel spreadsheet you use to track your progress. Perhaps I should follow your example!

    • Haha – it looks good when it’s all summarised, doesn’t it? But noooo, don’t do the spreadsheet! Mine’s grown to gigantic proportions now and I’m sure it’s developed its own intelligence… I fear it has a plot to take over the world!!

    • It’s so much harder to fit the chunky ones in, but I’ve started reading them alongside my other reads a few pages at a time, and actually so far that’s working well – I think I take them in more than when I find myself rushing through them to get to the next six review books!

    • Haha – the secret is a quarterly round-up! I’m always amazed and a bit cheered to discover I have actually read a few challenge books amid all the new releases and BLCC books!

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