TBR Thursday 259… and Quarterly Round-Up

TBR Quarterly Report

(Yes, I know it’s not Thursday, but I forgot to do my quarterly post yesterday, so I’m fitting it in today instead.) 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. Although I’m not slumping as badly as I was earlier in the year, I’m still not reading at anything like my usual rate, so there’s zero chance of me meeting targets this year. (What’s new??) But I’ve decided not to beat myself up over it, and I’m still slowly chipping away at my various challenges.

Here goes, then – the third check-in of the year…

Well, it’s actually slightly better than I was expecting! Most of the challenges are still badly behind, but I think I’ve actually caught up a little since I last reported. The Classics Club is the real problem, since I’m supposed to finish my list by next summer. Does anyone know what the punishment is for failure? It better not be chocolate-denial…

The TBR had dipped a bit at the end of September, although honesty compels me to admit October has been a bit of a spree so far. My recent disappointing experiences with some of the older books on the TBR has given me just the excuse I needed to add new ones. Plus my favourite publishers have come out of lockdown and a few parcels have been arriving – yay! However, I continue to cull the wishlist monthly, so the combined figure is still on target – amazingly…

 

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The Classics Club

I’ve read a respectable six from my Classics Club list. I had two left unreviewed from the previous quarter, and now have three unreviewed at the end of September. My reviewing slump has actually been worse than the reading slump. Still, that means I’ve reviewed five this quarter…

64. Flemington by Violet Jacob – Set during the Jacobite Rebellions, this is the story of two men on opposite sides in the conflict. Well told, some great characterisation and a good deal of moral ambiguity, with Jacob showing that both sides believed in the honour of their cause. I enjoyed it very much. 4½ stars.

65. The African Queen by CS Forester – The book on which the classic Hepburn/Bogart film is based, this is the story of a spinster lady and a Cockney steamboat pilot coming together to destroy a German gunboat. The main strength of the book is in the descriptions of the African riverscape. It’s an old-fashioned adventure story, enjoyable but let down a little by the ending, which was changed in the film to make it more exciting. 3½ stars.

66. The White Bird Passes by Jessie Kesson – Set in Elgin in the 1920s, this autobiographical novel tells of a little girl growing up among the women of Lady’s Lane. Her mother is a prostitute and little Janie is seen as neglected, though she doesn’t feel that way herself. But when the Cruelty Man comes calling, Janie’s life will change. It’s a hard story, told with warmth and empathy and humour, and no bitterly pointed finger of blame from the adult Kesson. A beautiful book. 5 stars.

67. The Bull Calves by Naomi Mitchison – Another Scottish classic, this time set in Gleneagles just after the Jacobite Rebellion. It’s based on the history of Mitchison’s own family, and while it is clearly brilliantly researched and gives a real flavour of the lives of the minor aristocracy of the time, sadly it’s let down by a weak and rather dull plot. I abandoned it halfway through. Just 2 stars.

68. The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler – this classic noir simply didn’t work for me, but I take the blame since noir rarely does. The detective, Marlowe, is convinced that his friend didn’t murder his wife, even though he confessed and committed suicide. The book is way too long, with more emphasis on Chandler’s musings on life than on the plot. Again, just 2 stars.

A very mixed bunch this quarter, but with a couple of goodies in the mix. If I never read about another Jacobite though, I’ll die happy…

68 down, 22 to go!

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Murder Mystery Mayhem

I’ve read and reviewed three for this challenge this quarter. I’m going through a bad phase with these, often unable to see why Martin Edwards would have included them in his list. However, I’ll keep going for a while longer since, despite this quarter’s dismal experience, overall I’ve enjoyed most of the one I’ve read. To see the full challenge, click here.

38.  The Case of the Late Pig by Margery Allingham – A murder mystery with a twist – the dead man appears to have died twice! This is an unusual Campion mystery in that it’s told in the first person rather than the usual third. I enjoyed getting inside his head – it made him seem a little less of the silly ass that he sometimes appears. One of the more enjoyable Campion books for me. 4 stars.

39. The Killer and the Slain by Hugh Walpole – the story of a man driven to murder and the effect it has on him. This is a rip-off of Jekyll and Hyde, and not nearly as well done, dull and over-padded. I can’t imagine why it’s on the list. Abandoned halfway through, and a generous 1 star.

40. Six Problems for Don Isidro Parodi by Jorge Luis Borges – dear me! I only got halfway again in this one! It’s a spoof of The Old Man in the Corner stories and filled with “humour”, but I found it overly wordy, condescendingly knowing and gratingly arch, with every client (of the three I read, at least) having exactly the same characterisation. 1 star, though I may have to introduce a zero stars rating soon.

40 down, 62 to go!

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Reading the Spanish Civil War Challenge

I’ve actually read two history books for this so far, but have only reviewed one (in October, but I’m counting it anyway). I haven’t managed to fit in any more of the fiction books yet, and I think this challenge is really only going to take off properly next year. My enthusiasm is still high, though – it’s just a matter of scheduling!

2. The Spanish Civil War by Stanley G Payne – this was an excellent introduction to the subject, concise but packed full of information, clearly presented. Payne has been a historian of Spain and European fascism throughout his career, and this book feels like the sum of all that immense study, distilled down to its pure essence. 5 stars.

2 down, indefinite number to go!

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So  a more productive quarter in terms of quantity, with enough great books to make it all worthwhile. Thanks as always for sharing my reading experiences!

Here’s to more great reading next quarter! 😀

42 thoughts on “TBR Thursday 259… and Quarterly Round-Up

  1. I give you credit for keeping such good track of this, FictionFan! It’s good to see you’re making some progress with your challenges, even with a reading slump. It’s been a strange year, and I’m quite sure it’s impacted how much we read and enjoy what we read. Here’s hoping the last quarter is good to you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Margot! Yes, this year has certainly impacted my reading – I’ve abandoned more books this year than I usually would in about five years, and my ratings have been consistently lower than usual too. Ah well, it will soon be over, I hope, and we can all throw off our masks and smile at each other again!

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  2. Yes, I think everyone’s reading patterns will have changed quite a bit this year. I’m reading again, but am definitely processing information differently now, and am strugggling to remember much about books when I have finished, which has never happened before. You still seem to be making good progress with your challenges despite slumps and constant depressing news coverage, so I wouldn’t worry too much about targets, anything is a bonus.

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    • I’m coming and going – some weeks I’m reading up a storm and enjoying it, and other weeks I’m struggling to read more than a few pages. Funnily enough, audiobooks have become my saviour, though in normal circumstances I find them harder to concentrate on. But there’s something oddly comforting to me at the moment about being read to – maybe it’s a subconscious throwback to being told bedtime stories as a child…

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    • Haha, well, you’ll be glad to hear the TBR seems to be creeping back up at the moment! 😀 Classics are saving the day for me – retreating back to a time before the world went quite as mad…

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  3. Well done for enjoying lots of good reading and bumping some of the others off your list. Have you considered doing a revised goals list “due to unforeseen circumstances” as I gather some companies do to keep in the black? 😉 All good fun! (I too like messing about with my books’ spreadsheets 📚)

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    • Hahaha, creative accounting? Now there’s an idea! 😉 Ooh, I’m glad you’re a spreadsheet person – I honestly get nearly as much fun out of my lists as I do from the books themselves. There’s something so satisfying seeing them all neatly sorted – almost as if I’d actually achieved something… 😂

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      • Yes, it’s a very calming activity I find, and the outcome is very satisfying. Such a pleasure for book titles to be occupying the worksheets and not figures and tasks as in the old work days – real privilege 🙂

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  4. Numbers look great given the general situation! I started off having a terrible reading slump during the first month or two of the pandemic because all my very limited concentration was going on work, but now I am running through books faster than I have since maybe I was about thirteen. I think they are just serving as a distraction from the news.

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    • I wish I could get distracted by books like that – I always expected I would in a crisis, but it’s worked the opposite way for me. I find it really hard to concentrate on new contemporary books in particular, so am reading loads of classics and vintage books, retreating entirely from the modern world. And re-reads for comfort…

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  5. I think you’re doing incredibly well. I’m worrying about my classics list as well although I’ve got a bit longer to go then you, the punishment (for me) is that if I don’t finish I can’t get on with the new list I keep dreaming of!

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    • Haha, yes, despite my imminent failure I’m working on my next list too, and am actually more enthusiastic about it now than about the remaining books on this list! I’ll get there some time… 😉

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  6. I was doing ok with my TBR reduction too, until publishers started ramping up again…. At this rate I’ll be lucky to finish the year down by 5 instead of the 50 I was hoping for…..

    As for classics club, rest assured there is no chocolate famine punishment meted out to offenders. I went over the deadline by about three years I think….

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    • Haha, I complain when book parcels don’t arrive, and then I complain when they do – no pleasing some people… 😉 But happily the ones that have arrived recently have all been lighter reads, mostly vintage stuff, so I find I get through them quite quickly.

      Three years is impressive! I still feel I could do it by my original deadline, but it’s going to take concentration – a thing I sadly seem to lack at the moment. But next year will be better… won’t it??

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  7. I love following your challenges b/c they tend to teach me something specific, which I am in desperate need of. Personally though, I could never do these challenges myself as my reading is dictated by my reading commitments for work stuff. So I guess I live vicariously through you and your virtual bookshelves…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Haha, thank you, though I fear you’ll be learning far more than anyone needs to know about vintage crime, which seems to be mostly what I’m reading at the moment despite my lofty challenges! 😉 Yes, I guess it’s a double-edged sword having to read for work – on the one hand you get access to all the new releases, but on the other hand it can’t leave you much time for other stuff.

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