TBR Thursday 226…

Episode 226

No! No, no, no!!! What’s happening to me??? After last week’s ginormous jump, I was so sure the TBR would drop this week, but… it’s up another FOUR to 216! Partly this is because I’m currently reading three longish books so haven’t finished one for days, and partly it’s because I’ve had a couple of unsolicited ones sent by publishers (which is always fun and gets me to read things I wouldn’t necessarily otherwise pick). Then there have been a couple of unmissable Kindle deals. So you see, it’s really not my fault! 

Here are a few I should get to soon…

Fiction

Palace Walk by Naguib Mahfouz

Mahfouz is a Nobel Prize winner, which ought to be a recommendation but, given my experiences with fellow winners in the past, I view more as a warning. However, it does sound excellent. I’m only planning to read the first in the trilogy, Palace Walk, as a way to visit Egypt for my Around the World challenge. Hopefully I’ll love it enough to want to read the other two later… 

The Blurb says: The Nobel Prize—winning writer’s masterwork is the engrossing story of a Muslim family in Cairo during Britain’s occupation of Egypt in the early decades of the twentieth century.

The novels of The Cairo Trilogy trace three generations of the family of tyrannical patriarch Al-Sayyid Ahmad Abd al-Jawad, who rules his household with a strict hand while living a secret life of self-indulgence. Palace Walk introduces us to his gentle, oppressed wife, Amina, his cloistered daughters, Aisha and Khadija, and his three sons–the tragic and idealistic Fahmy, the dissolute hedonist Yasin, and the soul-searching intellectual Kamal. Al-Sayyid Ahmad’s rebellious children struggle to move beyond his domination in Palace of Desire, as the world around them opens to the currents of modernity and political and domestic turmoil brought by the 1920s. Sugar Street brings Mahfouz’s vivid tapestry of an evolving Egypt to a dramatic climax as the aging patriarch sees one grandson become a Communist, one a Muslim fundamentalist, and one the lover of a powerful politician.

Throughout the trilogy, the family’s trials mirror those of their turbulent country during the years spanning the two World Wars, as change comes to a society that has resisted it for centuries. Filled with compelling drama, earthy humour, and remarkable insight, The Cairo Trilogy is the achievement of a master storyteller.

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Classic English Fiction

Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

I read this a year or so ago and tragically kept putting off writing a review until it got to the point I no longer felt it was fresh enough in my mind to do so. Fortunately it’s short and I loved it, so it’s no hardship to read it again. This time I’ll take notes! One for the Classics Club. 

The Blurb says: Conrad’s narrator Marlow, a seaman and wanderer, recounts his physical and psychological journey in search of the infamous ivory trader Kurtz: dying, insane, and guilty of unspeakable atrocities. Travelling upriver to the heart of the African continent, he gradually becomes obsessed by this enigmatic, wraith-like figure. Marlow’s discovery of how Kurtz has gained his position of power over the local people involves him in a radical questioning, not only of his own nature and values, but also those of western civilisation. The inspiration for Francis Ford Coppola’s Oscar-winning film Apocalypse Now, Heart of Darkness is a quintessentially modernist work exploring the limits of human experience and the nightmarish realities of imperialism.

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Thriller

Westwind by Ian Rankin

Courtesy of Orion via NetGalley. There appears to be a new trend of publishers digging out the early, out of print works of famous authors and re-publishing them, and this is one of those. Sometimes this turns up a hidden gem, other times one feels it would have been kinder to leave them buried in the past. We’ll see which category this one falls into…

The Blurb says: It always starts with a small lie. That’s how you stop noticing the bigger ones.

After his friend suspects something strange going on at the launch facility where they both work – and then goes missing – Martin Hepton doesn’t believe the official line of “long-term sick leave”…

Refusing to stop asking questions, he leaves his old life behind, aware that someone is shadowing his every move. The only hope he has is his ex-girlfriend Jill Watson – the only journalist who will believe his story.

But neither of them can believe the puzzle they’re piecing together – or just how shocking the secret is that everybody wants to stay hidden…

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Vintage Crime

Castle Skull by John Dickson Carr

Courtesy of the British Library. I absolutely loved It Walks by Night – the first Bencolin and Marle book – so am thrilled that the BL has now followed up with the second. The very title send shivers of pleasurable anticipation down my spine…

The Blurb says: That is the case. Alison has been murdered. His blazing body was seen running about the battlements of Castle Skull.

And so a dark shadow looms over the Rhineland where Inspector Henri Bencolin and his accomplice Jeff Marle have arrived from Paris. Entreated by the Belgian financier D’Aunay to investigate the gruesome and grimly theatrical death of actor Myron Alison, the pair find themselves at the imposing hilltop fortress Schloss Schädel, in which a small group of suspects are still assembled.

As thunder rolls in the distance, Bencolin and Marle enter a world steeped in macabre legends of murder and magic to catch the killer still walking the maze-like passages and towers of the keep.

This new edition of John Dickson Carrs spirited and deeply atmospheric early novel also features the rare Inspector Bencolin short story ‘The Fourth Suspect’.

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NB All blurbs and covers taken from Goodreads or Amazon UK.

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So…what do you think? Are you tempted?

55 thoughts on “TBR Thursday 226…

    • I’ve only read one John Dickson Carr and very little Conrad, too, but I’ve been a long-time fan of Ian Rankin so I think I’ve read most of his stuff. There are just too many books in the world! 😉

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    • It sounds different to his usual – it’ll be interesting to see how he started out! If Castle Skull is as deliciously creepy as the earlier book, I’ll have to hide behind the settee while I read it! 😀

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  1. Palace Walk sounds intriguing …

    Did you see (probably not, I only said about it today) I’ve got my own TBR challenge going now – by the end of the year, get the 81 books read that I acquired up to just before Christmas this year (actually I think there might be 85, let’s ignore the number). So then I’m only a year behind again. Which is still not great, but better than the 18 months I’m on at the moment. It’s OK for me to acquire new books (I have a charity shop trawl Christmas present to cash in and have a nice big book token haul to do in the summer), but I will try to be reading more than comes in so it all fits on the shelf again or better. Think I can do it? (I mean, this doesn’t include Paul Magrs challenge books or ebooks or ones I get in for review that I will be reading during this time …) Nor me!

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    • I’m trying to read more of the books I already own too but it’s an uphill struggle. I did well last year, but this year has been a disaster so far – and it’s not even February! However, I’m completely confident we can both do it… completely! 😂

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      • I’m doing really well with it this year; I’m actually quite excited that my pic of my TBR tomorrow will look quite different, as will the one of the oldest books on it! I might carry on with the oldest books until there’s a space to reach the newer ones so I can stop hauling them all out all the time to get at the back shelf … We can do it!!!

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  2. I read 1-2 books by Naguib Mahfouz and have been very impressed. They were fun, not just worthy, which is what so many Nobel Prize winners seem to be.
    I know Heart of Darkness has had a bit of a bad reputation lately (racism etc.) but for his time Conrad was terribly progressive and it is certainly an anti-colonialism book. I do like it a lot and, having recently rewatched Apocalypse Now with my son, I am hoping to tempt him to read it too.

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    • Oh, that’s good to hear about Mahfouz – as soon as I see Nobel Prize winner on an author’s CV my heart tends to sink a little, but I must say this one does sound good…

      Yes, I approached Conrad with great caution because of his reputation but I haven’t really found him to be racist in the real sense of the word. It seems to me the other races have just been backdrops to his examination of colonialism and the effect it has on the colonisers rather than on the colonised. But I still haven’t read much of him, so maybe my opinion will change…

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  3. I don’t see how this could possibly be your fault, FictionFan! It’s not as though you asked for those special Kindle deals. Or those unsolicited books. Or… You are in no way to blame. In fact, you should be given credit for tackling those long books!
    As for the new additions to your list, I’m actually interested in the Rankin. I’ve not read his early stuff, and it’d be interesting to see what it’s like. I have noticed publishers doing that with other authors, too, actually – digging through their back(back back)list to look for those early gems. I hope you’ll enjoy this one.

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  4. Tempted by Castle Skull and Westwind!
    Up by ten? Ha! That’s nothing! My TBR list probably has 350 books to be read. So you deserve chocolate for going up by such a slim margin.

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    • Two excellent choices – I’m looking forward to both of them too! 😀
      Hahaha – I really think we need to set up a bookaholic support group – we’re all addicts! 😉

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  5. The last two do seem interesting. You know my weakness for mysteries, thrillers, and vintage crime! Drat, I don’t need to add any more books to my TBR, at least not until I’ve had a chance to cross some “oldies but goodies” off the list. Hmm, oh well, we can never have enough books, right?!!

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    • Hahaha! When I look at the piles of books I can’t fit on the shelves I do begin to wonder if there isn’t a limit… 😉 I don’t know what the early Rankin will be like, but I have high hopes for Castle Skull! And at least the vintage crime ones are usually quite short…

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  6. I wouldn’t worry about the ever expanding TBR, as buying books is every bit as addictive as reading them. The Ian Rankin looks good. I always quite liked Rebus, so it would be interesting to see if this would measure up to the series.

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    • I just wish I could read them as fast as I can buy them! I always have so many books I really want to get to and yet they never escape from the pile… 😉 I’m intrigued by the Rankin – I’m a Rebus fan too. These revived early books from much-loved authors can go either way though – I’ve read a couple of gems, and quietly abandoned a couple of others… hopefully this one will be a gem!

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  7. The cover and title alone make Castle Skull irresistible!

    Heart of Darkness is another I have vague memories of reading in school, but can’t remember what I though of it. I guess the fact it doesn’t conjure up bad memories (like Spenser’s Faerie Queene) is a good sign.

    And I’m like you…. I don’t always trust those “award winners”!

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    • I know!! And the earlier one, It Walks By Night, was deliciously creepy – nearly as much horror as crime. 😀

      I did love Heart of Darkness but a re-read won’t go amiss since I’m not sure I really understood it first time around! Ha – happily Spenser has passed me by so far… I’ll let him keep passing… 😉 Award winners in general are risky, but the few Nobel Prize winners I’ve read have been dismal! Though I might have read some without knowing they won it, of course, and maybe I loved them… 😂

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  8. Love that cat!

    The Ian Rankin appeals, because I’m reading the Rebus books and loving them.

    My TBR list actually went *down* this week but only because I went through it and asked myself, “Does this title spark joy?” (Thank you, Marie Kondo.) I was able to lose about 15 books or so. It’s still over 350, ha ha!

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    • Haha – me too! I’ve watched it way too often… 😀

      Yes, I’m intrigued by the Rankin. These early books can be hidden gems… or not!

      I haven’t culled my wishlist for a while but I really must. I did so well last year but somehow January has been awful! I’ve filled up nearly all my free slots for the year already… 😂

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  9. I’ve had a really good reading January but like you have added yet more books to the piles. I definitely fancy Castle Skull, I’m sure I’ll get around to it sometime.

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    • Part of the problem is that I seem to have read an awful lot of long books this month so although I’ve been enjoying most of them, I haven’t got through nearly as many as usual. Must read lots of short books next month… 😉 Castle Skull sounds great! Can’t wait to get to it… 😀

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  10. Looking forrward to seeing your review of Heart of Darkness! I haven’t personally noticed the trend of re-releasing authors older works, but it doesn’t surprise me in the slightest. Sort of like the increase in ‘sequels’ and new adaptations in the movie world-it’s all a money-maker 😉

    Love that cat gif too

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    • Ha – I hope I actually get around to writing it this time! It seems to be mainly British crime writers it’s happening with – I think as they get older and refuse to go on producing new ones at the rate of one a year. I’ve had a mixed reaction – some have been good, some should have been left buried… 😉 Haha – the cat is adorably guilty looking! 😀

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  11. I look forward to your review of Heart of Darkness because when I read it for the first time a few years ago I hated it so much and figured I must be missing something. The Mahfouz also sounds very interesting.

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    • The first time I tried Heart of Darkness years ago, I didn’t get on with it at all. But when I read it last year I loved it, I think because I’ve been reading so much colonial-era fiction recently, so maybe got more out of it this time. Haha – it would be awful if I re-read it and discover I hate it after all! 😉 The Mahfouz does sound good and seems to have been reviewed very positively, so fingers crossed!

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    • Grrr – you’re all so mean to me and my poor willpower! 😡 😂

      Yes, I was surprised when Marina Sofia said it was fun – I wasn’t expecting that! But also delighted… I seem to have been reading an awful lot of weighty tomes recently and fun sounds refreshing… 😀

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  12. I’m impressed with your re-reading Heart of Darkness, but I remember that you loved another Conrad. I’ll look forward to your review and then maybe I’ll be persuaded to give him another go!

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  13. I’ve read Heart of Darkness (I seem to have all of Conrad’s but have only read the one), and I have Palace Walk somewhere on my shelves but haven’t read it. Where does all of my time go? How can one not be intrigued by a book titled “Castle Skull”?

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    • That’s why I get irritated by my TBR – there are so many books on there that I’ve wanted to read for years but keep putting aside for books I’m only half tempted by. I’ve only read a couple of Conrads but really want to read more. But first I must read Castle Skull because it’s calling my name loudly… 😀

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