TBR Thursday 194… and Quarterly Round-Up

TBR Quarterly Report

At the New Year, I set myself some targets for my various reading challenges and for the reduction of my ever-expanding TBR. I do this each year because secretly I’m a masochist who thrives on feelings of personal failure it’s always good to have something to aim for. Things usually start well at the beginning of the year when my enthusiasm is high and then it all begins to go horribly wrong… round about April… and descends past laughable in the summer, to embarrassing by autumn, ending up in full-scale hair-raising horror by the depths of winter. It’s such fun!

So here we are – the first check-in of the year, and probably the best…

Impressive, huh? It would have been even better if I hadn’t abandoned Cannery Row for not having a plot (and to be fair, I was in the middle of a major reading slump and not enjoying much at that point. I may try it again later.) It should have been the third book for my 5 x 5 Challenge and the fifth on my Classics Club list. The sixth on the CC list is The Fair Maid of Perth which I’m currently reading but didn’t manage to finish in time to include it at the quarter’s end. So overall pretty successful on the challenges!

The TBR is up but, thanks to another bout of rigorous (and heart-rending) culling, the combined TBR/wishlist reduction is on track! Yeah, I’m as surprised at that as you are…

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The Around the World in 80 Books Challenge

Last check-in was in December, and I’ve been piling up the frequent flyer miles since then! I’ve read six, though I’ve only reviewed five of them so far, plus I had one left over from 2018 that I reviewed in January.

On the Main Journey (of the places mentioned in Around the World in 80 Days) there are a couple of places that Jules Verne invented, which makes finding books for them particularly difficult! One such place is Kholby, a fictional town or village in Uttar Pradesh in northern India. So I got as close as I could by visiting Agra, also in Uttar Pradesh, with the wonderful tour-guide Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in The Sign of the Four. Then I had a frankly disappointing short break in Hong Kong with Rea Tarvydas in How to Pick Up a Maid in Statue Square. If I get time, I’ll revisit Hong Kong before the challenge ends.

My first detour of the quarter was to Norway, where I got the chance to watch the police solve a cold case in Jørn Lier Horst’s The Katharina Code. Then off to South Korea with Un-Su Kim in The Plotters, a strange but compelling story of feuding assassins. Tim Flannery took me on an amazing journey all over Europe geographically and through time, showing me the flora and fauna through the ages and telling me tales of the ascent of man. Then Yangsze Choo whisked me off to colonial Malay in The Night Tiger, a wonderful tale steeped in the folklore of the Chinese Malaysians. Loving this challenge!

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

60 down, 20 to go!

* * * * * * *

The Classics Club

I’ve read four books from my Classics Club list this quarter but have only reviewed three of them so far. However I’ve also reviewed a couple that were hanging over from last year…

37. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote – 4 stars for this “non-fiction novel” in which Capote examines the minds and crimes of two real-life murderers. The writing is superb, but I wasn’t keen on the blurring of the lines between fact and fiction which left me resorting to Google to find out the truth of what happened.

38. Childhood’s End by Arthur C Clarke – a disappointed 3 stars for this sci-fi classic which didn’t wow me as much as I’d hoped. I’m still glad to have read it though, since it’s the book that inspired Stanley Kubrick’s collaboration with Clarke on the amazing film, 2001: A Space Odyssey.

39. Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs – the full 5 stars for this romping adventure story. Lots of stuff about evolution as it was viewed back then, with racism and sexism of its time, but it’s so full of thrills, excitement, high love and general drama that it swept me along on a tsunami-sized wave of fun.

40. The Riddle of the Sands by Erskine Childers – 4½ stars for this espionage adventure about two young Englishmen who set out to foil German invasion plans back in 1903. The second half gets slowed down by Childers’ desire to give a warning about the growing threat from German naval power, but an excellent read overall.

41. Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens – the iniquity of debtors’ prisons, nepotism within the ruling classes, and the dangers of speculation on the stock market. Along the way, Dickens produces his usual dazzling array of characterisation and mix of drama, humour and occasional horror. The full 5 stars!

Still running behind, but not hopelessly. I’m making three changes to my list:

  • To replace the abandoned Cannery Row, I’ve added East of Eden. Glutton for punishment, me!
  • I’ve been given a copy of Oxford World’s Classics new edition of Middlemarch for review, so am adding it and removing The Heart of the Matter to make room.
  • I’ve also got the OWC’s new translation of Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Seas (yeah, the title has changed too!), so am removing Something Wicked This Way Comes to make space. (Hmm… three short books out, three stonkers in – not sure I’m doing this right…)

41 down, 49 to go!

* * * * * * *

Murder Mystery Mayhem

I’m still going really slowly on this challenge, because of all the other vintage crime I’ve been lucky enough to receive for review. I’ve read three this quarter, but have only reviewed one so far. To see the full challenge, click here.

23.  Malice Aforethought by Francis Iles –  a doctor plans to murder his inconvenient wife in this ironical crime novel. Irony is never my favourite thing, so this didn’t work as well for me as I’d hoped. Just 3 stars.

23 down, 79 to go!

* * * * * * *

5 x 5 Challenge

Oh, dear! This challenge is turning out to be a real albatross and I’m thinking of abandoning it, but I’ll stick it out a bit longer. This quarter I abandoned one and read two, neither of which I’ve yet reviewed, so nothing to report.

2 down, 23 to go!

* * * * * * *

An unexpectedly good quarter’s reading, considering what a pig life has been! Thank goodness for books!
Thank you for joining me on my reading adventures and…

Here’s to more great reading next quarter! 😀

 

40 thoughts on “TBR Thursday 194… and Quarterly Round-Up

  1. I am much impressed with all of this record-keeping, FictionFan! You’re really doing well with your challenges, too, which is even more impressive. Chocolate for you! I think you’ve chosen some interesting classics for your focus, and I especially wonder what you’ll think of Middlemarch. I give you a lot of credit for moving forward with your challenges, whether or not you actually get there.

    • Haha – I’m sure I could read an extra couple of books a month in the time I spend on my ridiculous spreadsheet! At the moment mostly what I’m thinking about Middlemarch is that it’s over 700 pages!! 😉 But I’m looking forward to it – it’s one of the ones that I feel I may have read at school but am not sure – it might all come flooding back when I start reading. I’m enjoying the challenges – they make sure I’m reading a nice variety of stuff… 😀

  2. Well done. My TBRs are rising not falling! Years ago I read and loved Middlemarch, but it took me ages to read, still worth it, I thought. I enjoyed Cannery Row, so I would say do have another go – it may just have been the wrong book at the wrong time for you. East of Eden is good as well.

    Your record keeping is amazing!

    • My TBR is still going up but I’ve worked hard to bring my wishlist down so I’m less tempted to buy random books – it sorta works, sometimes. 😉 I have a suspicion I may have read Middlemarch at school, but I don’t remember much about it if I did. It’s huge! But I’m enjoying these older classics at the moment, so I’m looking forward to it. Yes, Cannery Row was just the wrong book at the wrong time – I was abandoning quite a lot of books for a few weeks then, and enjoying others less than I expected to. So I’ll leave it for a year or so and come back with fresh eyes, and I suspect I’ll find I enjoy it considerably more then. Haha – I reckon I could read an extra book or two a month if I spent less time on my spreadsheets… 😀

  3. Woo Hoo, you’ve certainly impressed me! First with that snazzy spreadsheet, then with all the progress you’ve made toward your reading goals. I saw the movie version of Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea and found myself suffering through all that water, and I remember reading East of Eden back in the day. Probably good for you to endure them as well!

    • I do love my spreadsheet! 😀 I don’t know how I’ve managed to miss either reading or seeing Twenty Thousand Leagues all these years, but I really don’t even know much about the story, so I’m hoping it’ll live up to its reputation! Hahaha – I have a horrible feeling “endure” might be the perfect word for East of Eden… 😉

  4. Wow…look at all the stats and recording keeping! I think you might be as (if not more) OCD than I am! 😉 (and I don’t think of that as a bad thing at all)

    I had Middlemarch on my shelf for decades and finally read it a few years ago. I’m glad I did! 🙂

    • Hahaha! I’m definitely OCD when it comes to my TBR spreadsheet – I swear I enjoy playing with it as much as I enjoy reading the books! 😀

      Oh that’s good to hear about Middlemarch! I have a feeling I may have read it at school, but I might be confusing it with another book – it does seem a bit massive to have been a set text, unless our teachers were very cruel! But I’m looking forward to it. 😀

  5. I love your stats and wondered if you are a statistician or a mathematician? So fun! I don’t know what to think of these numbers, though?! You are amazing at culling and READING the books you own. You know I have more than 88 books on my stairs, right?! 😉 ♥️

    • Ha – no, but I worked in finance for years, so am a big fan of spreadsheets and stats! I always do well at the beginning of the year with meeting my targets but I fear it goes downhill as all the shiny new 2019 books get added – I’ve nearly filled all my available slots to the end of the year already!! And as for my wishlist – it’s a constant battle… Fun, isn’t it? 😉

  6. Ok I’m sure you’ve mentioned this in your posts before but I’ve never really noticed it until now-you will DNF a book, then return to it later and try again? That’s crazy!!!! Once I make the decision to DNF (which admittedly, rarely happens) I will never go back to it, I feel like I’ve made my decision and refuse to change my mind.

    • Almost never, but I knew the problem with this book was as much that I wasn’t in the right mood – I was finding nearly every book tedious at that point. So I’ll give it another go sometime and decide whether it really was the book that was the problem, or me. But usually I’m the same as you – if it’s gone, it’s gone!

  7. Have you read The Heart of the Matter before? I feel like the answer is yes but I want to make sure because it’s so good! I continue to be impressed with how much you read and how organized your goals are! I’m so haphazard in what I decide to read.

    • I have indeed – several times, but not for a good twenty years, I think. I used to declare it to be my favourite book along with Bleak House, in fact. But last year I read The End of the Affair and thought it was pretty bad really, so now I’m kinda frightened to re-read The Heart of the Matter in case I don’t love it as much as I did. I think I’ll re-read The Power and the Glory first – another one I loved – and see if the old magic is still there…

      Ha! Never be fooled by my spreadsheet! It’s like government statistics – it can be made to say whatever I want it to say… 😉

  8. You are doing great! I say give yourself permission to abandon any challenge that seems like a chore! You’ll need the time to delve into Middlemarch!

    • Middlemarch is humungous! I really must start checking the page count before requesting books! 😉 Yeah, that challenge seemed like a good idea at the time, but I’m not loving it – I’ll give it another month or two, and then wave goodbye if it doesn’t pick up…

  9. Cannery Row got the elbow? I’m very disappointed. I loved this and added it to my CC list (which is practically unrecognisable from its original state). Not reviewed it though… story of my life. Maybe I could tempt you to put it back if I ever get myself together and produce a review! 😀 And you’ve bumped out Something Wicked This Way Comes? 😨 Also an addition for me though I had to abandon it partway through because of well – life, dammit! I have it planned to start again around Hallowe’en this year. 🎃 (That’s a pumpkin emoji apparently)

    Anyway, excellent stats, FF. I’ll raise an easter egg to the next quarter’s figures being equally as impressive! 🐣

    • To be honest, I was trying to read Cannery Row just after my sister died and I’m pretty sure the problem was my state of mind rather than the book, so I will go back to it in a year or two and try again. Something Wicked I kinda went off – I tried to read another of his similar style books and really didn’t enjoy it much, so when I got the offer of Twenty Thousand Leagues it seemed like a good excuse to shuffle Something Wicked off the list.

      Haha – the second quarter is never as good as the first, but always better than the third… 😉

  10. Am I reading this right – you plan to reduce your TBR by 185 books this year??? Wow. I’m lucky if mine goes down by about 5 a year (mainly it just goes up)

    • Goodness, no! I plan to reduce by 40, but that’s on a combination of the TBR and the wishlist. I am planning to read more of the books I already own this year though… but they are already being replaced by shiny new ones… 😉

  11. your stats are all amazing! I didn’t realise Malice Aforethought was a book, I remember a really good t.v. series in the ’80’s

    • Haha – don’t be too impressed! I’m like the government – I can make my stats say anything I like… 😉 I think I saw that one too, and enjoyed it more than the book on the whole. I’m keeping an eye out in case it turns up on a cable channel sometime…

  12. Terrific work, FF. I’m thrilled you added Middlemarch – I loved it, both times I’ve read it! And I really enjoyed East of Eden too, although I was 24 or 25 when I read it and tastes change. Anyway, you definitely deserve some nice chocolate for doing so well with your reading goals!

    • Oh, that’s good to hear! I have a feeling I may have read Middlemarch back when I was at school, but I might be confusing it with another book. So it might all come back to me when I start reading, or it might not! And I think East of Eden will probably work better for me than Cannery Row did, because I believe it has a plot! Always a bonus in a novel, I feel… 😉

  13. No, no, no Fiction Fan! This is far too good an achievement. How am I supposed to feel smug and self-satisfied about my spiralling TBR if you’re doing so well? I’m very disappointed… 😀

    • Hahaha – don’t be fooled! Every time I do one of these round-ups, my mind takes it as an excuse to go on a spree since it’s three months till I have to admit the total again! This week has been…. 😱

  14. FF, I am a little sad to see Something Wicked This Way Comes has come off your Classics Club list, but as I have Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea on my list too, I can see why you would want to add it.

    • I tried one of Bradbury’s similar novels a few months ago and really wasn’t taken with it, sadly, so when I got the offer of Twenty Thousand Leagues it seemed like a good opportunity to shuffle Something Wicked off. Maybe I’ll read it one day, though!

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