TBR Thursday 361…

Episode 361

I’m stuck in the middle of four chunky books this week, so no movement in the TBR – still on 162! I have a horrible feeling more books will be arriving soon though…

It’s getting close to Santa time, so I’m sorting out some festive reading this week…

Vintage Crime

The White Priory Murders by Carter Dickson

Courtesy of the British Library.  This sounds perfect for Yuletide reading! Carter Dickson is a pseudonym of John Dickson Carr, who’s become one of the authors I look forward to in the BL’s Crime Classics series. I haven’t read him in this incarnation though, so I’m intrigued to see if he uses a different style. 

The Blurb says: James Bennett has been invited to stay at White Priory for Christmas among the retinue of the glamorous Hollywood actress Marcia Tait. Her producer, her lover, the playwright for her next hit and her agent are all here, soon to become so many suspects when Tait is found murdered on a cold December morning in the lakeside pavilion. Only the footprints of her discoverer disturb the snow which fell overnight – and which stopped just shortly after Marcia was last seen alive. How did the murderer get in and out of the pavilion without leaving a trace?

When Bennett’s uncle, the cantankerous amateur sleuth Sir Henry Merrivale arrives from London to make sense of this impossible crime, the reader is treated to a feast of the author’s trademark twists, beguiling false answers and one of the most ingenious solutions in the history of the mystery genre.

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Short Stories

The End of the Tether and Other Stories by Joseph Conrad

Courtesy of Oxford World’s Classic. Not obviously festive, I admit, but I can’t imagine much better than curling up with hot chocolate, mince pies and a new collection of Conrad’s stories! The blurb suggests I might need the porpy’s support for these…

The Blurb says: ‘(Conrad) thought of civilised and morally tolerable human life as a dangerous walk on a thin crust of barely cooled lava which at any moment might break and let the unwary sink into fiery depths’
~ Bertrand Russell

This selection of four tales by Conrad is about radical insecurity: lone human beings involuntarily forced into confrontation with a terrifying universe in which they can never be wholly at home. It leads with ‘The End of the Tether’ and includes also ‘ The Duel’, ‘ The Return’, and ‘Amy Foster’ – Sailor, Soldier, Rich Man, Immigrant. These powerful shorter works remind readers that Conrad is not just the teller of sea stories and tales of imperialist action, and not only the author of the ubiquitous ‘Heart of Darkness’. This is the Conrad who is master of the terror element – global crisis, individual test, and personal trauma – in modern literature.

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Crime

The Craftsman by Sharon Bolton

I usually read Bolton’s new releases more or less as soon as they come out, but for some reason this one slipped past me and has been lingering on my TBR for so long that the sequel is now out! I can’t pretend this one is Christmassy, but I’m looking forward to it as much as to Christmas cake!

The Blurb says: Old enemies… New crimes

Thirty years ago, WPC Florence Lovelady’s career was made when she arrested coffin-maker Larry Glassbrook for three shocking murders.

Larry confessed; it was an open and shut case. But now he’s dead, and events from the past are repeating themselves.

The town Florence left behind still has many secrets. Will she finally uncover the truth? Or will time run out for her first?

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Hard Times by Charles Dickens

No Christmas would be complete without Dickens! This year’s re-read is one of his shorter books so I’ll have to read it slowly to savour it for longer. I chose it because I read Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South this year, and they share the “industrial” theme, so I thought it would be interesting to compare and contrast, as the old exam questions used to say. I’ve still to review North and South though. (Note to self: stop procrastinating!)  

The Blurb says: Thomas Gradgrind is the guiding luminary of the Coketown school, stern proponent of the Philosophy of Fact, whose ill-conceived idealism blinds him to the essential humanity of those around him, with calamitous results. His daughter Louisa becomes trapped in a loveless marriage and falls prey to an idle seducer, and her brother Tom is ruined thanks to their father’s pet theories. Meanwhile Sleary’s circus offers a vision of escape and entertainment, a joyful contrast to the dreariness of life in Coketown. The hardship of the workers and the victimization of Stephen Blackpool are set against the exuberance of the circus people in Dickens’s much-loved moral tale. Gradgrind is forced to reconsider his cherished system when he realizes that ‘Facts alone’ are not, after all, enough.

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Gothic Horror on Audio

The Jewel of Seven Stars by Bram Stoker read by Simon Vance 

How could I possibly celebrate Christmas without some spine-chilling Gothic horror? The porpy would never forgive me! Bram Stoker is sometimes too dark for me, often concentrating on real horrors like rats and humans, which I find far scarier than the supernatural! But this sounds delightfully creepy – who doesn’t love ancient Egyptian curses?

The Blurb says: “Hither the Gods come not at any summons. The Nameless One has insulted them and is forever alone. Go not nigh, lest their vengeance wither you away!”

The warning was inscribed on the entrance of the hidden tomb, forgotten for millennia in the sands of mystic Egypt. Then the archaeologists and grave robbers came in search of the fabled Jewel of Seven Stars, which they found clutched in the hand of the mummy. Few heeded the ancient warning, until all who came in contact with the Jewel began to die in a mysterious and violent way, with the marks of a strangler around their neck.

Now, in a bedroom filled with ancient relics, a distinguished Egyptologist lies senseless, stricken by a force that challenges human understanding. From beyond the grave Queen Tera is reaching out for the mysterious jewel that will bring her 5,000-year-old plan to fulfilment.

* * * * *

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

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So…what do you think? Are you tempted?
What’s on your Christmas TBR?

57 thoughts on “TBR Thursday 361…

  1. I loved The Craftsman, even though it’s written in the present tense, because as soon as I began reading I was immediately drawn into the story, forgot about the tense, and just had to read on. I read Hard Times when I was doing an Open University course and loved it, but haven’t read North and South (on my TBR, so maybe next year I will get to it). I’m tempted by The White Priory Murders – I haven’t read any of John Dickson Carr’s books written under the Carter Dickson pseudonym either. I haven’t got round to thinking about any Christmas TBRs yet – too many other things to get done before then! 🙂

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    • Bolton is one of the few authors who can reconcile me to the present tense. Good to hear it grabbed you – that’s what I’m hoping for! North and South is good but oh, it does go on a bit! If I’d been reading I’d have been tempted to skim, but it’s not so easy to do that with audiobooks. I’m just hoping I took good enough notes to still be able to write a review of it! I love picking out my Christmas TBR – I try to only include authors I already love, so I can be fairly sure I’ll enjoy them!

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  2. All of these books go so well with Christmas pudding, Quality Street chocolates and other Christmassy food 🙂
    I’m reading a nice Christmas murder story myself at the moment so am most tempted by The White Priory Murders.

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    • Mmm, Quality Street! I love Christmas! I had my first mince pies this week – I’ll be sick of them by Christmas Day! 😂
      I do like murder mysteries at Christmas – there’s something about family get-togethers that always puts me in the mood for murder…

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    • Haha, I’m just hoping I took extensive notes at the time to remind me what I thought of it! If not, I’ll have to re-read it!! Yes, I think Dickens wished she would get on with the story a bit quicker, and I must admit I sympathised with that opinion… 😉

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    • It looks like an interesting collection, and I’ve loved the few short stories and novellas of his that I’ve read before. And I always find an edition with notes is essential for Conrad! 😉

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  3. We’re spending Christmas in a hotel for the first time ever. Hoping to get some reading time between all the food they’ll be stuffing into us. Haven’t really thought yet what to take with me but The White Priory Murders sounds perfect given the hotel we’ll be in used to be a priory!

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    • Oh, I’ve often fancied going to a hotel for Christmas – let someone else do all the preparation and cleaning up! Hope you have a great time! I always think murder mysteries are perfect for Christmas – somehow family get-togethers always turn my mind to murder… 😉

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  4. You’ve got some good ones here, FictionFan! I’d like to read the Bolton, myself. and the Dickson/Carr sounds like an intriguing puzzle. Now, of course, you’ll have to put some sort of monitor up, so that if that onslaught of books comes, you’ll be able to trace the source and know whether there are feline shenanigans going on… 😉

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    • I have my fingers crossed that the postal workers go on strike over Christmas – everyone else has! Then I only have to worry about books coming in via the chimney… 🎅 Both the Bolton and the Dickson sound good, and it’ll be fun to read some dark contemporary and some lighter vintage crime – murders are so appropriate for the festive season, I think… 😉

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    • Oh, that looks interesting! I often have problems deciding what genre a book should go in – thriller or mystery? Contemporary or literary? The White Priory Murders does sound good. I like that the BL brings out a vintage Christmas book each year – some of them have been a lot of fun! And The Craftsman should be a good contrast, since I’m assuming it’ll be dark!

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  5. I loved The Craftsman and its sequel and will be interested to hear what you think! Hard Times is a Dickens novel I haven’t read yet – I will get to it eventually but Nicholas Nickleby is going to be the next one for me.

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    • I think it was you posting about the sequel that reminded me to dig The Craftsman out and schedule it! It’s years since I read Hard Times but I remember enjoying it. A bit different to his usual since it doesn’t have the London setting. But Nicholas Nickleby is right up there as one of my favourites so I really hope you enjoy it! 😀

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  6. Only Pratchett’s Hogfather is set for my Christmas period read, but I expect a few others will join it! I keep intending to read Dickens’s accounts of his Italian journeys but I think that’ll be for some time in the coming year…

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    • I’m afraid I’ve never got along with Pratchett, though I’ve tried! He was my sister’s great favourite and she was always trying to persuade me that I’d eventually like him if I just persevered… 😉 I’ve not read much of Dickens’ non-fiction at all – really ought to put that right some time!

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      • I wasn’t sure that I would, having been underwhelmed by a couple of previous forays into comic SFF (no names, as it might cause offence!). But I started, I think, with Mort rather than the inaugural Discworld novel The Colour of Magic (which I’d been warned off), and then latched on to the Tiffany Aching series which to me seem to be the heart and soul of Pratchett’s alternative universe. Try The Wee Free Men if you don’t mind the mock Glaswegian vibes coming from the Little Folk…

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    • Haha, I just make sure they’re all different – one heavyweight historical fiction, one modern thriller, one anthology of horror stories and one audiobook! It usually works… 😉

      I’ve only read a handful of Conrad’s shorter works but I’ve loved them all, so my anticipation for this collection is high! I’m sure the Bram Stoker would be available in print, but for some reason I acquired the audiobook ages ago and felt it would make a good festive listen!

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    • That sounds like a good plan! I’ll need to try to read more modern crime too – I feel as if I’m getting really out of touch. Maybe you can try some out and tell me which ones I should read… 😀

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  7. I’ve added Dickson’s book to my list, I like having some of those vintage titles that I know are available in audio format waiting for just when I need that kind of story. Despite liking much of Bolton’s work, I chose not to read The Craftsman some time back (because of its content and my preferences at the time, I think) so I’ll be interested to see if your response to it makes me review that decision. I’ll eventually find my way to reading Hard Times but not the Stoker. Other than waiting for Robert Harris’s The Second Sleep to become available at the library, I haven’t planned specific reading for Christmas, though another Dickens is definitely hovering as a soon-to-be-read. Little Dorrit may be my next Dickens.

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    • Hallo, Christine – great to hear from you! Hope all’s well with you and yours!
      I find vintage mysteries work really well as audiobooks too, though I haven’t been able to put my finger on why exactly. Modern crime doesn’t work for me much on audio at all. Maybe it’s that they all speak with posh accents in vintage crime? The Craftsman looks darker than I usually go for, but Bolton usually manages to take me with her – though not always! But the book has had rave reviews from some of my more reliable crime blog buddies, so fingers crossed! Not the Stoker? But it’s an Egyptian mummy’s curse! Irresistible, surely? 😉 Hard Times is good and well worth reading, while not being quite in the top tier of his novels. Mind you, it’s a long time since I read it, so maybe I’ll change my mind this time. Little Dorrit is excellent – not one of my very top favourites, but close! And I loved The Second Sleep too – it had more mixed reactions from what I remember, but I thought he created the setting brilliantly. Hope you enjoy it!

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      • New Year greetings and best wishes! Gosh it’s a month since I dipped back into blog reading briefly and then out again. It’s been a time of illness, family illness (nothing serious), family guests and seasonal events. Hopefully, I can regain a more steady approach now.
        I’ve become a wide listener of audiobooks of multiple genre and narrators. I do find the posh accents of vintage crime and classics narrators easy to listen too and somewhat soothing despite the content. No, not the Stoker, unless your review manages to entice me 😉 I did very much enjoy The Second Sleep, it was thought provoking on many levels. I’m reading and relishing Little Dorrit at the moment – it’s good to be caught in the story language of a master!

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        • Happy New Year, Christine! I’m sorry you’ve been going through a rough patch – hope you’re all well again or on the road to it. You’ve been missed! I still find I don’t do well with contemporary fiction on audio though I’m still working at it. But classics and vintage work really well in that format, I think. Ha, I enjoyed the Stoker, but not enough to be twisting your arm over it – review coming soon! I’m glad you enjoyed The Second Sleep – I have a new Harris on my reading list which I hope to get to soon. I feel short-changed on Dickens this year – Hard Times is under 300 pages and I’d finished it before Hogmanay. I’m having withdrawal symptoms…

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    • Happily they are, but I really need to take more care with scheduling! I seem to have been reading the same four books for what feels like months! I do like picking my festive reading and usually stick to it, but of course Santa’s arrival may put new temptations in my way…

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  8. Okay… I see now that I somehow missed this post. Hard Times. I’ve not read that Dickens.

    I’m currently reading a story set in the holidays, but I’ll just wait and let you see it in my wrap-up. The jury is still out on my thoughts of it.

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    • Hard Times is different because it’s set in the industrial north of England rather than London. It’s a good one, but not one of the best, I think – though maybe this re-read will change my mind!

      Hmm, I shall await the jury’s verdict then! I like reading Christmas stories at Christmas even if they’re not the greatest stories in the world!

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  9. I have a stuffed TBR shelf with Christmas AND birthday coming up, a bit of a worry! I have the British Library Women Writers Christmas short stories volume and The Christmas Castle in Scotland by Julie Caplin from NetGalley to read.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Haha, I’m hoping Santa restrains himself a little, and happily my birthday is in summer! Ooh, the British Library Women’s shorts sounds fun – I’ll look forward to your review of that! I always like a Christmas book or two on my list – gets the festive spirit going!

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