TBR Thursday 204… and Quarterly Round-Up

TBR Quarterly Report

At the New Year, as I do every year, I set myself some targets for my various reading challenges and for the reduction of my ever-expanding TBR. I was doing pretty well at the first check-in at the end of March, but I always start off full of enthusiasm. It’s the summer months that do for me – I read less, and lots of new shiny books have appeared so that my commitment to my challenges goes a bit wobbly.

So here we are – the second check-in of the year…

Uh-oh! It’s all beginning to go horribly wrong again! The MMM challenge is going fine, and I’m just about keeping the new releases under control. But the other challenges are sooooooo behind! Partly this is because I haven’t read much for the last few weeks, and also the classics I’ve read this year have been some of the chunkier ones. But even so. Some swift remedial work will be required. Look out for lots of classics and stuff over the next three months…

The TBR hasn’t dropped much, but thanks to yet another bout of rigorous (and emotionally devastating) culling, the more important combined TBR/wishlist reduction is well on track! I might be a loser, but I’m also a winner!

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The Around the World in 80 Books Challenge

Last check-in was in March, and this quarter I’ve visited a couple of places and been on a trek across Europe!

On the Main Journey (made by the characters in Around the World in 80 Days) I helped investigate a murder with Inspector Chen of the Shanghai police in Qiu Xiaolong’s excellent Death of a Red Heroine. Then I travelled from Portugal through Spain, over the sea to Italy and finally to Austria in José Saramago’s whimsical The Elephant’s Journey, ticking off the tricky elephant travel box as I went.

I had only one detour this quarter, but it’s one of the best trips I’ve taken, and I’d probably never have gone had it not been for this challenge – which is why I love it! Leila and her friends took me on a life-affirming tour of the underbelly of Istanbul in Elif Shafak’s wonderful 10 Minutes and 38 Seconds in this Strange World.

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

63 down, 17 to go!

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The Classics Club

I’ve reviewed just three books from my Classics Club list this quarter and have one other pending…

42. The Fair Maid of Perth by Sir Walter Scott – 5 bright and twinkling stars for this excellent Scottish classic – a historical novel that tells the story of Catherine Glover, the Fair Maid, who is beloved by the town’s famed armourer, Henry Smith of the Wynd. But she has also caught the eye of the pleasure loving and dissolute Earl of Rothsay, eldest son and heir to King Robert III. Great story, great writing, great book!

43. Bath Tangle by Georgette Heyer – Heyer’s Regency romances are the ultimate in comfort reading. This one wasn’t my favourite because I wasn’t so keen on the rather bullying hero and heroine, but there are some great secondary characters and it’s always fun to visit Bath. 4 stars.

44. The Expedition of Humphry Clinker by Tobias Smollett – 5 stars again for another Scottish classic (am I biased? I think I might be…). Matthew Bramble, hypochondriac and charitable Welsh gentleman with a choleric temper and a humorously jaundiced view of life, takes his family on a journey round Britain seeking benefit to his health. As each member of the party writes letters to their friends we see the country and its regional customs through their eyes, meeting with some interesting and often eccentric characters, and being witness to some hilarious (and some not so hilarious) episodes along the way.

I should be at about the three-fifths mark now, so I’m a good bit behind. I’ll need to do some intensive Classics reading over the next few months!

44 down, 46 to go!

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Murder Mystery Mayhem

I’ve done a bit of catching up on this over the last three months, having reviewed five and with another one pending. Another challenge I’m thoroughly enjoying, being constantly surprised by the variety of styles and the wide range in tone, all the way from humour to near noir. To see the full challenge, click here.

24.  Smallbone Deceased by Michael Gilbert –  When a rather decaying corpse turns up in a deed box in a lawyer’s office, Inspector Hazlerigg enlists the help of one of the new lawyers to investigate. Loved this one – 5 stars.

25.  Clouds of Witness by Dorothy L Sayers – oh dear! I really can’t stand Sayers’ snobbery and it’s out in full force here. Plus the plotting is fundamentally silly and the solution is a major cop-out. Just 2 stars.

26.  Death of an Airman by Christopher St. John Sprigg – when an experienced flying instructor crashes everyone is ready to write it off as a tragic accident. Everyone except for the Bishop of Cootamundra, that is, a pupil at the flying school. The plotting is messy and crosses the credibility line by miles, but the characterisation and gentle humour make up for it. 4 stars.

27.  The Blotting Book by EF Benson – well-meaning but greedy trustee Edward Taynton has been gambling with his client’s inheritance. When it looks as if this might be revealed before he can fix it, things begin to go very wrong. A thoroughly enjoyable, if not very mystifying, novella-length mystery – 5 stars.

28.  The Red Redmaynes by Eden Phillpotts – When Inspector Mark Brendon is investigating a murder, he is hampered by the fact that he has fallen head over heels in love with the victim’s lovely young widow. Great settings – Dartmoor and Italy – and a surprisingly modern-feeling motivation for the crime make up for the rather messy structure and some implausibility. 4 stars.

28 down, 74 to go!

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5 x 5 Challenge

Finally! I managed to actually review a couple for this challenge this quarter! Still going very slowly with it, though…

3.  Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison. Sadly, this one failed to meet my perhaps over-high expectations. The story of an African-American man learning about his history and thus finding his own identity is filled with symbolism that didn’t seem to symbolise much, to me at least, and it’s filled with repeated scenes of ugliness and brutality. The excellent prose didn’t quite cover its weaknesses. 3 stars.

4.  The Kiln by William McIlvanney. As Tam Docherty is on his way home to the Ayrshire town where he was born and bred, he is visited by memories of his childhood and adolescence, his later life and marriage, but mostly of the summer of 1955 when, between leaving school and going to University, he worked in the local brickworks for a few months, and learned a little about life, girls and himself. Loved this sequel to the wonderful Docherty – together the two books tell the story of the working classes in Scotland through the twentieth century. 5 stars.

4 down, 21 to go!

* * * * * * *

I may not have met my targets this quarter, but I’ve still read some jolly fine books!
I’m taking a Wimbledon break now, so I’ll see you in a week or so.

Meantime, thank you for joining me on my reading adventures and…

Here’s to more great reading next quarter! 😀

34 thoughts on “TBR Thursday 204… and Quarterly Round-Up

  1. Hm. I don’t know about being a winner, but you’re definitely a cheater. Culling just to keep on track. Tsk tsk. I’m sure there’s something in the rules about that. 🤔

  2. I never got round to reviewing it, but I read Smallbone Deceased after your review and I absolutely loved it. I actually find that I read much more in the summer – I think that’s partly because it’s a less busy time in the academic year than the winter, but I am also always inside hiding from the sunshine, so I’m sure that contributes.

    • Oh, I’m so glad to hear you loved it! I’ve read another couple of his since then, and thought Death in Captivity was great too, though very different. The third one, Death Has Deep Roots, was fine but didn’t work quite as well for me. Ha! I’m a sunshine hider too! My paler than pale skin goes scarlet at the merest glimpse of the sun and heat lethargy slows me to a crawl. But I spend too much time in summer watching tennis on TV, so books always take a back seat for a few weeks.

    • I usually save Georgette Heyer for when I have a fit of the dismals, as her heroines might say! Nothing better for fighting off an attack of the blues… 😀 Thank you! Vamos, Rafa! 🎾

  3. I’m impressed with your record-keeping, FictionFan. Perhaps you’re not, shall we say, quite keeping up with one or another challenge… But you’ve got everything so neatly laid out here, which is more than I can say for myself. And I’m pleased to see that you’ve enjoyed most of your reads. Not a lot of big disappointments, and that’s great!

    • Haha – thank you! I sometimes wonder how many extra books I could fit in if I spent less time on spreadsheets… 😉 But I am enjoying these challenges – they stop me from getting into a rut. I’m sure one day I’ll get to the end of at least one of them… 😉

  4. I’m amazed that you keep up with as many challenges as you do! Though I don’t think I’ll suggest a Dorothy Sayers challenge to you anytime soon. 😉 Got any Ngaio Marsh on your list?

    • Hahaha! No, I don’t think I’ll be joining the Dorothy L Sayers Fan Club any time soon! There is a Ngaio Marsh – The Nursing Home Murder. It’s years and years since I last read her, but I enjoyed her books a lot back in the day…

    • Hahaha – mine too! Every time I organise my spreadsheet I feel as if I’ve achieved something, even though logic tells me I haven’t… 😉 The map is from Wikipedia – I keep forgetting to credit it – and it’s of the original journey in Around the World in Eighty Days.

  5. “ticking off the tricky elephant travel box as I went” — WHAT????? My ears perked up at elephant. I love elephants. What is the “tricky elephant travel box” please???????? I have that Elephant’s Journey book you mentioned on my TBR thanks to your review.

    • Hahahaha!! Great example of typing something up and assuming readers will psychically know what I’m talking about – sorry! 😂 I decided when I started the challenge I’d try to vaguely follow the journey in the original book, Around the World in 80 Days, and at one point they travel on elephants across part of India. Well, I couldn’t find a book about that, so my elephant travel was across Europe instead – but hey! I did my best! 😉 I do hope you enjoy it – the writing is excellent, and it’s a warm-hearted book.

      Thanks for popping in and commenting. 😀

  6. Don’t beat yourself up, FF — I think you’re doing a smashing good job! I think it’s admirable that you set up all these challenges and that you’re doing so well at record-keeping. Now, go enjoy some much-needed tennis!!

    • Thanks, Debbie! 😀 I do like these challenges – they stop me from my natural tendency of falling into a reading rut. The tennis has been strange so far – some great games, but all my potential new heroes were out by Day 2! Back to the drawing board… 🎾

  7. You’re mile ahead of me on AW80Books! And I decided to follow your example and spreadsheet my TBR, with a reduction target. I am resolutely failing 😀 But at least now I know just how badly I’m failing!

    • Hahaha! Yes, my monthly check on how I’m doing is a sobering reminder of the problems of addiction… but so far I’m still an addict! However when my spreadsheet is all neat and tidy I can fool myself into believing I’ve achieved something… have fun! 😂 I love the AW80 – my reading life will be a wasteland when it finishes. I might just have to do it all again… 😀 (New spreadsheet!) 😀

  8. Goodness me, your spreadsheet looks like a business strategy 😯!! Quarterly budget, strategy how to reach it, split on business areas and the occasional trimming of unrealistic targets…

    Anyway, I think you are doing well. The AW80 challenge sounds like fun. Oh, and I love the Lord Peter Whimsey books (at least I did when I read some of them as a teenager, but I might of course have a different opinion today). Enjoy your break 🙂

    • Hahahaha! Yes indeed! Clearly I was brainwashed by my job and have accidentally replicated my work spreadsheets without realising… 😉

      The AW80 challenge has been great fun – I’ve loved looking for books based in all sorts of places and have read and enjoyed lots of books I probably wouldn’t have picked up normally. Ha! My reaction to Dorothy L Sayers is purely allergic, I fear – I’m Wimsey intolerant! Thank you – Vamos, Rafa! 🎾

  9. You’re so organised and methodical….. Your world journey is going tremendously well. Mine stalled for a while but once the 15booksofsummer is over, I shall turn my attention back to that.

    • Haha – well, my spreadsheet is, but the piles of books tottering haphazardly on every surface aren’t quite so neat… 😉 I love the AW80 challenge – it reminds me to read things from different cultures rather than sticking to my UK crime rut! I might just have to do it all again when this one finishes…

  10. You continue to amaze me with your stats and challenges! I loved reading through. I am sorry for your culling. I could feel your pain as I continue to fill up more bags for the donation. Enjoy your Wimbledon break! 🎾

    • Haha – thank you! Sometimes I amaze myself too, but not always in a good way… 😉 The culling is getting harder – all the easy ones are long gone. Now each book breaks a little piece off my heart… 😪😂📚 Vamos, Rafa!

  11. That’s so cool that you are “visiting” places around the world through books! For some reason I always pick books set in the UK or US but would love to branch out a bit more. Hope the challenges go well and that you enjoy your next few books!

    • Thank you! I’ve loved this challenge – it’s really made me pick up books I’d never have normally gone for, and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed most of them. Now I’m hooked on virtual travelling through books! I don’t know what I’ll do when the challenge finishes… I might just have to do it all again! 😉

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