TBR Thursday 241…

Episode 241

Hallo, people! How have you been? Do you still remember me?? My little break seems to be turning into a lengthy sabbatical, so I thought I’d just pop in and say hi. Back soon – I hope you see that as a promise and not a threat! 😉 

Meantime, there’s been a HUMONGOUS drop in the TBR – down NINE to 208! Admittedly, I’ve abandoned seven in the last three weeks, so that may be something to do with it, but there have been a few excellent reads in there too. I’ll tell you all about them just as soon as I remember how to write reviews. 

Here are a few more I got from the prison library while I wait for my reprieve…

Spanish Civil War

The Spanish Labyrinth by Gerald Brenan

When I first posted about my Reading the Spanish Civil War challenge, I mentioned that I wanted to know more about the causes of the war, and was finding it hard to find anything written in English which tries to be objective, since there’s such a strong bias in most British writing towards the Republican side. Spanish buddy José Ignacio of A Crime is Afoot recommended this one, and from the blurb it sounds exactly what I’m looking for…

The Blurb says: Isolated from the rest of Europe politically as well as geographically, Spain is a difficult country for foreigners to understand. Yet when in 1936 the land was divided by the most disastrous civil war of this century, individuals and governments of many nations became involved. This book is an account of how and why things turned out as they did. The answers lie in the labyrinth of Spanish history between 1874 and 1936. Mr Brenan charts this labyrinth, disentangling and identifying the separate forces for disunity; he explains the part played by the Church, the army, and the various political parties – Anarchists, Anarcho-Syndicalists, Carlists and Socialists; and he shows how industrial unrest, unequal privileges, agrarian discontent, and provincial loyalties each had a share in producing a war in which ‘the vanquished were beaten and the victors defeated’.

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Short Stories

A Registry of My Passage Upon the Earth by Daniel Mason

Courtesy of Pan Macmillan via NetGalley. I don’t read many non-genre short stories and I don’t know this author at all. I just liked the sound of the blurb… 

The Blurb says: From the bestselling, award-winning author of The Winter Soldier and The Piano Tuner comes a collection of interlacing tales of men and women as they face the mysteries and magic of the world.

On a fated flight, a balloonist makes a discovery that changes her life forever. A telegraph operator finds an unexpected companion in the middle of the Amazon. A doctor is beset by seizures, in which he is possessed by a second, perhaps better, version of himself. And in Regency London, a bare-knuckle fighter prepares to face his most fearsome opponent, while a young mother seeks a miraculous cure for her ailing son.

At times funny and irreverent, always moving, these stories cap a fifteen-year project that has won both a National Magazine Award and Pushcart Prize. From the Nile’s depths to the highest reaches of the atmosphere, from volcano-wracked islands to an asylum on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro, these are lives of ecstasy and epiphany.

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American Classic

All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren

One from my Classics Club list. This massive Pulitzer Prize-winning novel is probably the one on the American section of my list that appeals most to me, although reading the blurb again now is giving me a mild resurgence of Post-Steinbeck Stress Disorder. I can but hope! I’m also told the film of the book is a noir classic in its own right (the 1949 version), so if I enjoy the book I shall seek out the movie…

The Blurb says: More than just a classic political novel, Warren’s tale of power and corruption in the Depression-era South is a sustained meditation on the unforeseen consequences of every human act, the vexing connectedness of all people and the possibility—it’s not much of one—of goodness in a sinful world. Willie Stark, Warren’s lightly disguised version of Huey Long, the one time Louisiana strongman/governor, begins as a genuine tribune of the people and ends as a murderous populist demagogue. Jack Burden is his press agent, who carries out the boss’s orders, first without objection, then in the face of his own increasingly troubled conscience. And the politics? For Warren, that’s simply the arena most likely to prove that man is a fallen creature. Which it does.

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Thriller

Cold Kill by Rennie Airth

Courtesy of Severn House via NetGalley. Decades before he started writing his slow and thoughtful historical crime series, Rennie Airth wrote a one-off manic standalone comedy thriller called Snatch, which I loved. It was so different from his later work that I several times wondered if perhaps there were two authors with the same name. Now he’s back with another standalone thriller – not sure it’s a comedy though – and I’m wondering if he can recapture the fast-paced magic after all these years. Must be honest, early reviews are mixed…

The Blurb says: An American actress arrives in London to find herself the target of a ruthless assassin in this compelling standalone thriller.

Actress Adelaide Banks is swapping her native New York for London to spend Christmas with her widowed Aunt Rose. Rose wrote in her note that she was off to Paris for a few days and would be back in time for Addy’s arrival. But when Addy reaches Rose’s Knightsbridge address, no one’s home, and she has two unexpected callers . . .

Where is Rose, and what has she got herself entangled in? Dragged into a deadly game of cat-and-mouse on the snowy streets of London, Addy finds herself navigating a dark underworld of ruthless assassins, rogue agents and international crime. Can she survive long enough to uncover the truth?

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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?

74 thoughts on “TBR Thursday 241…

    • I feel as if I’ve been neglecting my duty – which makes me certain I must need a break! 😉 But I’m nearly caught up with the review backlog, so maybe next week… or the week after… 😀

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  1. Good to hear from you, FF! I’m glad the reading is going well. A Registry looks interesting reading for me, and I’ll watch for your thoughts on All the King’s Men to help judge whether I’d want to make that reading commitment. I hope your lockdown is not too isolating, at least you are heading in the right direction for some uplifting sunny days I hope.

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    • It’s odd – I’m usually a stay-at-home type by inclination, but somehow feeling I MUST stay at home is messing with my head! So jealous of New Zealand – glad you at least have a government that acted in time. I’m looking forward to All the King’s Men – it’s time I got stuck into a lengthy book again, I think! Stay safe!

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      • We are so fortunate with our leadership and government (and our small integrated island nation also helped a lot). I understand what you say about restriction. It makes a lot of difference to know we have the freedom (and security) to leave our homes, even if we choose not to. Wishing you and Scotland good health (and soon!).

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        • Things are pretty OK now in the community (which makes me even more annoyed that the govt seems determined to keep us locked up forever!) but the devastation in our care homes has been dreadful. It makes me both angry and ashamed. It should never have been allowed to happen. Our govt has failed us so badly. If there is a second peak in autumn as the scientists seem to expect, I can only hope we do better.

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          • So pleased you are coming into warmer weather which will hopefully help, and fingers crossed for our winter months 🤞 It is so much harder to feel a sense of community and being in some together when governments don’t elicit our trust.

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            • The weather has turned unexpectedly lovely this past week or so, so hopefully that will indeed help. And the cats are having a great time with no traffic or people around. I’m pretty sure they think lockdown is a great idea! 😀

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  2. Down nine! This is a disgrace FF, you must use your sabbatical for more book-buying, I insist! I’ve read some good reviews in the blogosphere about A Registry of My Passage Upon the Earth so I hope you enjoy it too. Enjoy your break 🙂

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    • Haha! It’s made me realise how many books I usually get sent by publishers – currently I’m getting none at all! I promise I’m still buying at my usual rate though… 😉 I’ve only seen one review of A Registry so far, and although the reviewer wasn’t super-keen what she said about it made me think it sounds like my kind of thing – fingers crossed!

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  3. How nice to hear from you again! I’ve read the Mason and enjoyed most of the stories but I think that’s probably enough for me. I’m very tempted by the Warren but not its size. I posted a Blast From the Past on Dos Passos’ massive U.S.A which I’ve been toying with rereading ever since I read it decades ago but now you’ve distracted me with All the King’s Men. Looking forward to your review.

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    • I feel I’ve been AWOL for ages! Hmm, I’ve only seen one other review of the Mason, and though she quite liked it she wasn’t over-enthusiastic either – we shall see! I’ve never read the Dos Passos and it sounds like an absolute must as part of my attempt to get to know American greats better. I suspect it will be on my next Classics Club list. All the King’s Men does look good…

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      • Thanks, Naomi, yes – still staying well! Hope you and yours are staying safe too. I don’t often read short stories but I occasionally take a notion for them and these sound good – fingers crossed! 🙂

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    • Hahaha, I’ve discovered the secret – abandon them after 10%! At this rate I could be down to single figures by next week… 😉 I’m no longer allowed to enjoy sunny days – my government has decided to leave me in solitary confinement for eternity. But the cats are enjoying the nicer weather! And I’m sure Vitamin D pills are just as good… 😪😉

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      • I don’t think I’d finish many if I made the decision at 10 percent either.
        I’m sorry to hear you can’t go outside, but glad that Tommy and Tuppence can! Hope you’ve got a sunny window and a comfy chair instead and that your Postie is bringing you more books to make up for the abandoned ones.

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        • I usually struggle on longer but I’m too easily put off at the moment, so if they don’t grab me quickly they’ve got to go!

          Yay! They’ve announced we can now go to the park! Not that I ever go to the park, you understand, but somehow it feels like freedom… 😉

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          • It’s a mental thing, isn’t it? Victoria has had some restrictions lifted but is still in lockdown until at least the end of this month, so my working from home continues. I’m glad our Premier is taking a cautious approach. The thought of going on a train again fills me with anxiety, not so much for me, but the thought of me catching and passing COVID-19 on to anyone else fills me with horror.

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            • Yes, it’s definitely all mental with me, since in fact my lifestyle has hardly changed at all. But it’s also because we’ve made such a mess of it over here, especially in Scotland, so I’m in a perpetual state of rage at our government. I envy Australia and New Zealand – wishing I’d emigrated! It is a frightening thought to be carrying the disease unknown to people around you – I hope they find a vaccine soon.

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            • The whole world has made a mess of this, really. We were lucky in Australia because our state premiers forced the federal government to lockdown early, had it not been for their strength we would have been too late.
              Jacinda Ardern in NZ is amazing, her leadership style is ideal for these times. She’s certainly had troubled times to be PM too, from the terrorist attack to the White Island volcanic eruption and now this. Plus she has a newish baby.
              Don’t get me started on rage, I’m so angry with various world leaders that I only hear their names and my blood pressure rises.
              I saw on today’s news that Scotland are resisting early release from lockdown that is happening in other parts of the UK. My family in the UK are extraordinarily angry with the government.
              My life has changed enormously but it could be far worse. I’m grateful to be employed and able to work from home. I love not commuting to the city and spending more time with family at home but I miss being able to visit my mother.
              Apologies, think that turned into a vent.

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            • Vent away! I think we’ve all done the stiff upper lip thing for long enough and need to get some of our frustration out for our own mental health.
              The UK has done very badly but I’m ashamed and angry to say Scotland has done even worse. The devastation in our care homes has been horrific, and mostly because the Scottish govt didn’t give them enough support in the early days, trying to wash their hands of their responsibility for them – a responsibility which is theirs by law. And then they tried to blame it all on the UK govt which, without boring you with the details of our devolved system, is just a complete lie. But unfortunately the pro-independence govt always blame the UK for all their failures, and their followers slavishly accept their lies. So I’m annoyed at the UK govt but furious at the Scottish govt who are using it to sow yet more division in Scotland and between the nations. Independence? They couldn’t run a hotdog stand! Grrrr! There! I feel better now… 😉

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            • The UK/Scotland system of government does sound complicated, I’m going to have to read up. Despite not knowing how it works, I don’t know why governments (and people) can’t just take the responsibility when they make an error and then work on the problem. There still have to be investigations and learnings but a genuine apology and acknowledgement of an error goes a long way. Can’t trust anyone who won’t do this.
              Hope your vent helped, too 😉

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            • I totally agree. Since I was never perfect myself I don’t expect politicians never to make mistakes but when they do all I want them to do is try their best to put things right. The UK/Scotland divide would be fine if our politicians were adults, but they just use it to blame each other, and sadly most Scots don’t bother to get to know who’s responsible for what.

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  4. Glad to see you back 🙂
    Daniel Mason’s The Winter Soldier is one of the library books I borrowed just before the lockdown library closures. Consequently it’s still on my bookshelf & has just been automatically renewed by the library system for August, so sadly I’m not expecting libraries to be able open just yet. However, I enjoyed the book & would gladly read something else by this thoughtful author.

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    • Thank you! 😀

      I’ve never read anything by him so I’m glad to hear you enjoyed The Winter Soldier – the short story collection does sound interesting. Yes, I haven’t heard our government even mention libraries yet – mind you, they seem to have decided just to keep us in lockdown forever, so I’m not holding my breath. Thank goodness for online shopping!

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    • Oh dear, that’s not a good sign! Mind you, I forgot at least half of the books I read almost instantly, which always makes a reviewing backlog a bit problematic… 😉

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  5. Nice to see you back with us, Ff, that must be the biggest drop in your TBR for years. You’re safe from me this week, as none of these are particularly jumping out at me, but I hope you enjoy them.

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    • Thank you! Haha, yes, an unexpected effect of lockdown is that I’m so grumpy books are getting abandoned left, right and centre! It’s not my fault, though – blame the government… 😉 Plus no publishers seem to be sending books out. Another few months of this and I’ll be down to single figures…

      Hope you’re well and staying safe! 😀

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  6. Very glad you said, ‘Hello,’ FictionFan! We’ve all been missing you. I like the books you have on your list. I think I’d vote for the Rennie Airth. I does sound different to his series, but I really respect it when an author tries something new. I’m curious what the book will be like, and I hope I’d like it, as I like his work in general. The others look interesting, too!

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    • Thanks, Margot! Thought I better let the world know I’m still alive – grumpy and fed up, but alive! 😉 I hope the Rennie Airth is good – I have very fond memories of his brief earlier foray into thriller writing, although it was probably actually more of a caper than a thriller, when I think about it. Fingers crossed for this one, anyway! 😀

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  7. I’ve missed you, FF — glad you’re here for at least a bit! The short stories seem to capture my interest from this grouping (probably because short is all I can keep focused on at this time!) And that Spanish one sounds like you ordered it up just for you!

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    • Thanks, Debbie – I’ve been missing you too, but just don’t seem to have been able to get back into the blogging groove yet! Soon! I’ve been reading a lot of short stuff too, but am going to try to get my reading patterns back to normal. The Spanish history sounds great – just starting it today. 😀

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  8. I look forward to your take on The Spanish Labyrinth, because I’ve never felt I understand the genesis of that conflict; even with a real favorite like For Whom The Bell Tolls set in that terrain, a good non-fiction treatment would indeed be a welcome and worthy read.

    And Daniel Mason’s shorts might prove of interest. The Piano Tuner was one I didn’t finish though I recall enjoying the prose.

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    • I’ve only just started The Spanish Labyrinth so haven’t got far enough yet to decide what I think. But I just finished a great history which I though was a perfect “starter” book – concise and clear but not at all simplified, It’s The Spanish Civil War by an American historian, Stanley G Payne, published by Cambridge. I feel much clearer about the whole thing now and already want to re-read For Whom.

      Hmm, most people who’ve read any Mason seem to have rather mixed feelings about him – I’ll adjust my expectations going in…

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    • Ha! I seem to be spending my retirement reading all the books Americans read in High School! I wonder if that means I’ll be allowed to go to the Prom… 😉 I’m often surprised when I re-read a book to discover that my opinions now are very like my opinions back when I was young – maybe we don’t change as much over time as we think we do.

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    • I like the idea of it being written by someone who was there at the time, so long as he does manage to take a reasonably unbiased approach. The Spanish Civil War is so complicated! Just trying to remember what all the acronyms stand for is a mammoth undertaking… 😉

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    • Ha! An unanticipated effect of the lockdown blues is that I’m even grumpier with books than usual! I blame the government… 😉 Thank you – fingers crossed! 😀

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  9. Well, hello there! I’ve been missing you! Sounds like you did a good job with that TBR during your absence.

    The short story collection does sound enticing, but I have several others in my pile that I need to get through before adding more. All The King’s Men. I’ve never read it, but always been tempted. After all, anything about Huey P. Long has to be entertaining! (okay, so it’s just vaguely based on him, but still…)

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    • Aw, thank you – I’ve been missing you too but just can’t seem to get my blogging mojo back in full working order. Soon! Haha, definitely abandoning a million books helps, as does the fact that publishers don’t seem to be sending out many review copies. If the plague lasts much longer, I’ll be down to single figures… 😉

      I don’t know Huey P Long at all, and am determined not to look him up in advance so I can read the novel without any preconceptions. It sounds a bit like Citizen Kane, I think – same kind of style, maybe. Hoping it’s good – I could do with getting stuck into a long book… 😀

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    • Gosh, it can’t possibly be worse than the world is now! Haha, I’m feeling even more bitter and cynical than usual, so this is probably the perfect time to read it – it might even seem a bit overly optimistic to me… 😉 The short stories do sound good, though most of the people who’ve read anything by him seem to have a fairly muted enthusiasm at best… we’ll see!

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  10. Good to see you back, even if only for a brief visit! I hope you enjoy your blogging break. I think it has been trying to be in lock-down, but there has also been many positive things about it. Seeing that I might have to go back to the office soon (and probably on the tube as well) these advantages suddenly appear more clear to me 🙂

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    • I know I’m one of the lucky ones who doesn’t have to go back out to work, but anti-social though I normally am, somehow being forced to stay at home is really getting to me. Stay safe when you do go back – I hope you have a nice selection of fashionable masks! 😉

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  11. Good to see you back, albeit briefly, interesting books – I agree the Daniel Mason looks good but then … crime, Christmas and snow ❄️ ⛄️ ❄️ that’s irresistible! I hope you enjoy the Rennie Airth and look forward to reading what you think of it.
    Janet

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      • Yes the weather has been so good! I was going to say a snowy read might just be good for a feeling of freshness in the heat when we now have some rather wet and chilly weather with us! 😅 Luckily it’s supposed to return to warmer days soon. Keep safe and well, enjoy your reading and look after yourself. Janet x

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    • Hahaha! One day I’ll add all my unlistened-to audiobooks to the list just to make you explode with glee! 😂

      Aw, thank you – I do find not reading is a bit of a hindrance to running a book-blog… 😉

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  12. Umm, this post just made me realize that All the King’s Men and All the President’s Men are NOT the same! I was confused as to how a book written in the 40s could be about Nixon.

    I’ll be curious to hear your thoughts on the Daniel Mason short stories. It’s an unusual collection.

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