TBR Thursday 214… 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. It’s usually by this stage of the year that it becomes blindingly obvious that, unless cloning technology is invented tomorrow, I stand zero chance of meeting any of my targets, and I have a sinking feeling this year will be no different!

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

Oh, dear! It’s not looking hopeful! The MMM challenge is done and dusted for this year, and I’m doing fine at keeping the new releases under control, but that was supposed to give me time to keep up with all the rest! I’ve picked up a tiny bit on the other challenges, but not nearly enough. I don’t understand it – I feel as if I’ve read nothing but challenge books for months… well, apart from vintage crime, vintage horror and vintage sci-fi. Hmm! I think I’m beginning to see the problem… oh well, three months to go and miracles do happen. Don’t they?

The TBR is going better. Although I’m unlikely to meet the target on books I own, especially the older ones, the overall combined TBR/wishlist figure is still on track. That calls for a celebration!

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The Around the World in 80 Books Challenge

Last check-in was in June, and this quarter I’ve visited four continents (maybe five – my geography is terrible) and sailed through every ocean!

On the Main Journey (made by the characters in Around the World in 80 Days) my exciting round the world voyage in Jules Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas took me through the Mediterranean, while my visit to fictional Mayapore in North Central India in Paul Scott’s wonderful The Jewel in the Crown will tick the box for the equally fictional Kholby in Uttar Pradesh. Confused? Me too!

I had several detours this quarter, some good, some not so much. I went to Papua New Guinea in Lloyd Jones’ Mister Pip, only to find myself in the midst of a bloody civil war, which I could have coped with if only the book hadn’t been quite so bad. I slipped back in time to Zululand in H. Rider Haggard’s wonderful Nada the Lily, for a stirring adventure based on African history and folklore. Then I was taken behind the Berlin Wall to East Germany, in John le Carré’s excellent and influential The Spy Who Came In from the Cold. My final trip was with John Steinbeck in The Pearl – a tragic (and profoundly depressing) story of the pointlessness of life (though I think it’s supposed to be about the evils of capitalism), set in Mexico.

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

69 down, 11 to go!

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The Classics Club

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

45. Middlemarch by George Eliot – Set just before the Reform Act of 1832, Eliot uses the better off residents of the provincial town of Middlemarch to muse on the state of society at a point of change. A book that engaged my intellect more than my emotions and, in the end, failed to make me care about the outcomes for the people with whom I’d spent so much time. 3½ stars.

46. In the Heat of the Night by John Ball – Fundamentally a crime novel with a very good plot and some excellent detection elements, but it’s far more than that – it paints an entirely believable picture of being a black man in a town that’s run by the whites for the whites at a time when segregation and racism were still entirely acceptable. 5 stars.

47. Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas by Jules Verne – Scientist Aronnax and his companions find themselves unwilling guests aboard the submarine Nautilus as Captain Nemo takes them on a fabulous journey beneath the seas and oceans of the world. The descriptions of the wonders of the deeps, the glimpses of other civilisations, the mystery surrounding Captain Nemo and the thrilling adventure aspects all more than made up for the excessive fish-detail. 5 stars

48. Nada the Lily by H. Rider Haggard – This is the tale of Umslopogaas, unacknowledged son of Chaka, a great Zulu king, and the beautiful Nada the Lily whom he loves. Excellently written in the voice of Umslopogaas’ adoptive father Mopo, Haggard has managed to create an entirely believable picture without projecting white people or their attitudes or values onto a story about Africa. 5 stars.

49. The Spy Who Came In from the Cold by John le Carré – British spymaster Alec Leamas is asked to stay “out in the cold” for one last operation – to take part in an elaborate sting to infiltrate the East German set-up and bring down his opposite number. Thought-provoking, intelligent, engrossing and hugely influential on the genre. 4½ stars.

50. On the Beach by Nevil Shute – A devastating nuclear war has been fought across the world, wiping out almost all life. We follow a group of characters in the city and suburbs of Melbourne as they figure out how to spend their last few months of life. Well written and with excellent characterisation and as relevant today as it was when written. 5 stars.

51. Last Exit to Brooklyn by Hubert Selby, Jr. – A bunch of sad losers hang around getting drunk, drugged and beating each other up, with added sexual depravity. Ugh! The style is as vile as the content, making this the best argument for book-banning I’ve read. 1 star.

How is it that I’m still behind with this challenge?? Oh well, I have several more lined up over the next couple of months…

51 down, 39 to go!

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Murder Mystery Mayhem

I’ve read five of these this quarter but have only posted reviews for two so far – the rest will be coming soon. I also abandoned one at too early a stage to make a review worthwhile. To see the full challenge, click here.

29.  The Middle Temple Murder by JS Fletcher – When young newspaper editor Frank Spargo happens upon a murder scene late one night, his journalistic instincts lead him to follow the story. It’s dated in style but well written, cleverly plotted and entertaining – I enjoyed it a lot. 4½ stars.

30.  The Case of Miss Elliot by Baroness Orczy – An old man sits in the corner of a teahouse, endlessly twisting pieces of string into elaborate knots and mulling over the great unsolved mysteries of the day, in this collection of twelve short stories. Reasonably enjoyable but not wholly satisfying. 3½ stars.

31.  Case for Three Detectives by Leo Bruce – This is a parody spoofing three detectives, Wimsey, Poirot and Father Brown. I found it so dire as to be unreadable. Sometimes things are just old, not vintage. Can’t understand why Martin Edwards included this one, to be honest. Abandoned too early to review, so zero stars.

31 down, 71 to go!

* * * * * * *

5 x 5 Challenge

Three reviewed for this challenge this quarter! Still a long way to go though…

5.  A Mercy by Toni Morrison. As Rebekka Vaark lies sick, possibly dying, of smallpox, we learn of the people who make up the household – how they came to be there, how they live, the relationships between them. And we get a picture of the birth of America, built with the blood and toil of those who came voluntarily and those who were brought against their will. Beautiful writing, excellent characterisation. 5 stars.

6.  The Pearl by John Steinbeck. One day, poor pearl fisherman Kino finds a huge and lustrous pearl, so valuable that it will change his life for ever. But when word spreads of his find, human greed will work its evil, dragging Kino into a nightmare. Beautiful prose, but really, Steinbeck’s view of the world is utterly joyless. He really should have eaten more chocolate. 3½ stars.

7. Walking Wounded by William McIlvanney. McIlvanney takes to the short story form to create a collection of character studies of the inhabitants of his recurring setting of fictional Graithnock. Another excellent book from the modern Scottish bard – wonderfully written and insightful about the culture in which it’s set. 5 stars.

7 down, 18 to go!

* * * * * * *

Another great quarter’s reading, even if I’m still behind! Thank you for joining me on my reading adventures and…

Here’s to more great reading next quarter! 😀

30 thoughts on “TBR Thursday 214… and Quarterly Round-Up

  1. I don’t know how you can do this to yourself: set up such precise targets and measurements! I’d start hyperventilating as soon as I started falling back in the first week or so…

    • Haha – the perpetual failure used to bother me, but now I look on it as badge of honour! 😉 But I do find setting targets stops me existing on a diet of the same types of books by the same authors all the time, which I have a tendency to do if I don’t force myself out of my comfort zone occasionally…

  2. I’m on track with my GR challenge, it’s the only one I do…can’t take the stress 😉 as for my TBR, I think another bookcase is in order 😂 I’ve added 12 physical books in the last two weeks (not counting review requests) I just let it go its own way…

    • Ha – I’m behind on my GR challenge too, but only by one book so I haven’t given up hope. A few novellas at the end of the year should sort that one out! I’m not too bad at keeping up with physical books – they sit there staring at me accusingly and I feel obliged to read them so their feelings don’t get hurt. It’s all the hidden ones on my Kindle that are the real problem, but at least they don’t take up space… 😀

  3. You’ve certainly got a lot of challenges. I think I would become quite stressed out with so many, and I would beat myself up a bit if I wasn’t able to meet certain targets, which is more than likely. Having said that, I am considering joining the Classics Club, and I’ll see where that leads me.

    • I used to get stressed out by challenges but now I usually create my own, so I can be totally flexible about the rules. They encourage me not to get stuck in a rut of reading constant crime which I have a tendency to do if I don’t have targets of some kind. Oh good! I’m glad you’re thinking about joining the Classics Club – do! Are you planning to start a blog? Or have you already got one somewhere that I don’t know about?? I love the Classics Club, though I kinda regret going for ninety books instead of fifty… haha, it keeps me on my toes though…

      • One of my plans for the turn of the year is to set up my own blog, so that I don’t continue to bore my family and non-bookish or theatre friends rigid with my experiences and views on literature. I’m a bit technophobic, but I like a challenge.

        • That’s great! I must say I find WordPress makes it all reasonably easy. I tried a few platforms before settling on this one and I really found it miles better, both for me and for visitors to leave comments. My top tip is to set up a test blog and mark it private – then you can experiment on it till you’re happy, before setting up a real one for the world to see… and of course feel free to ask me any questions if you get stuck. 😀

  4. I really am in awe, FictionFan. Even if you don’t reach all your goals, I really admire the way you set them and really try to make a reading plan. And, hey, let’s not forget that your TBR is done; I say that calls for a piece of cake! If you don’t meet your end-of-the-year goals, it won’t be for want of trying.

    • I’m far, far better at setting goals than achieving them! In fact, I’d say I’m an expert at it… 😉 The challenges do stop me from getting stuck in a rut though, which I have a tendency to do if I don’t force myself to read a variety of genres, so they work for me even if I never meet my targets. Haha – the TBR is suddenly dropping like a stone, so I think I’d better buy lots of cake… 😀

    • Haha, thank you! I do seem to have read loads of challenge books this quarter – I’d be feeling quite smug if only I wasn’t failing on nearly every target… 😉

  5. Yup, I’m in awe too, of how you keep control of all these stats. And you’re chipping away at each of the challenges. The day will come when they are completed (by which time you will have set yourself several more 😳)

    • Haha, I’m currently working on a list for my next challenge, which is going to be HUGE! But fun! Can’t do it till I finish at least one of these though, so that’s an incentive to keep bashing on… 😀

  6. I think you’ve done outstanding work, FF, and you’re being much too hard on yourself. I set up a *small* target for the year on Goodreads, knowing full well it’s entirely reachable (in fact, I’ve already attained it for this year!). I probably should set higher reading goals, but I rather enjoy feeling like a victor, ha! Hang in there — with colder weather coming, you’ll probably be on target before you know it.

    • I have a Goodreads target too, of 125 books. I used to achieve it easily but it gets harder every year – I suspect because I spend so much time on my lists and spreadsheets when I could be reading! I kinda like failing at all my targets – it keeps me motivated. I’m sure I’ll succeed next year though… 😉

  7. As much as I loved doing challenges (mainly What’s In A Name and R.I.P., though I did do a few others over the years), I started getting through more books when I stopped… and when I quit writing full reviews on my blog. I think that’s because I just read for pleasure now rather than trying to meet goals. Inevitably I’d have to acquire some of the books for the challenge. Of course we don’t want you to go to that extreme since we love your reviews (and need them so we can add MORE to our TBR/wishlists!!)!

    • Haha – thank you! 😀 I must admit I much prefer challenges I create for myself rather than joining in with other people’s – that way I can be completely flexible about my rules and targets, and I don’t set myself real deadlines. I definitely read less since I started reviewing – it takes a long time to write reviews and draft them for posting, but I enjoy doing it most of the time. And then of course there’s the time spent visiting other blogs and commenting and so on – blogging is very time-consuming, but fun. Yes, part of the reason my TBR is so high is all the challenge books I’ve acquired that are waiting to be read, and every time I finish a challenge I start a new one… 😱

  8. I too, am horrible at geography-it is what it is! It does look like you’re making pretty good headway on your TBR, and if you don’t bother breaking it down into categories (much like myself) then you are doing amazingly well. The fact that you’re participating in so many challenges is downright impressive if you ask me…

    • Half the time I don’t know if a country is in Africa or South America – it’s shameful! 😂 I do like the challenges because they stop me getting into a rut of reading a constant diet of crime, which I have a tendency to do if I don’t set some targets. And although I joke about it, I don’t really care if I’m “failing” – it’s all fun so long as the books are good, and they mostly are… 😀

  9. I’m always in awe of how much you read and how many challenges you take on! I like taking on reading challenges because they force me to read some different things than I might otherwise but I also find them kind of stressful.

    • I used to find them stressful, especially joining in with other people’s challenges if they had a deadline or certain books or genres that were “required”. But since I started creating my own challenges instead, I find them a lot of fun and they do stop me from getting stuck in a constant diet of crime fiction, which I have a tendency to do if I don’t make some kind of reading plan…

  10. I love your quarterly reports, they are much more fun than the typical quarterly reports, I see. Like other commenters, I am in awe of all your challenges, but I can definitely see how varied in geography and genre your reading is and if that is to some extent attributed to the challenges, it all makes sense!

    • Haha – thank you! They seem to get longer every quarter! I do love the challenges for forcing me to read things I otherwise wouldn’t have. The Around the World challenge especially has inspired me to read loads of books I wouldn’t have considered my kind of thing, and I’ve mostly enjoyed them and have ended up with several new favourite authors as a result. I’ll be sorry when that one finishes… 😀

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