A – Z of TBRs: P, Q and R

I’m now up to P, Q and R in my A – Z of TBRs, a series of posts in which I take a fresh look at some of my TBRs to inspire me to read more of them, or maybe to decide not to bother reading them after all. This time I’ve included one e-book.

– is for The Power House by John Buchana book I’ve had since 2014. I bought this book because I’d read and enjoyed John Buchan’s The Thirty-Nine Steps.

The Power House

It’s a short book of just 108 pages and my copy has an introduction by Stella Rimington. She writes:

The Power House is one of the least known of Buchan’s mature works, a tale without a plot, and so full of holes that it calls to mind Samuel Johnson’s definition of a ‘network’ – ‘anything reticulated and desuccated at equal distances, with interstices between the intersections’. It is pure essence of Buchan – a demonstration of his magical power to weave a tale out of no materials but the threads and colours of his imagination.

When his friend Charles Pitt-Heron vanishes mysteriously, Sir Edward Leithen, MP, is at first only mildly concerned. But a series of strange events that follow Pitt-Heron’s disappearance convinces Leithen that he is dealing with a sinister secret society. Their code name is ‘The Power-House’.

I cast my mind back to gather recollections of Pitt-Heron, but all I could find was an impression of a brilliant, uncomfortable being, who had been too fond of the byways of life for my sober tastes. There was nothing crooked in him in the wrong sense, but there might be a good deal that was perverse. I remember consoling myself with the thought that, though he might shatter his wife’s nerves by his vagaries, he would scarcely break her heart.

To be watchful, I decided, was my business. And I could not get rid of the feeling that I might soon have cause for my vigilance. (page 9)

Q – is for The Queen’s Man by Sharon Penman (on my Kindle for two years). I bought this after reading her Sunne in Splendour, which I absolutely loved.

The Queen's Man

It’s set in AD 1183, when Richard the Lionheart is missing, thought to be dead and his brother Prince John is scheming to take the Crown. Justin de Quincy has just discovered his father is the Bishop of Chester. A dying man, a goldsmith, gives him a letter to deliver to Queen Eleanor, (Richard’s and John’s mother) which brings him into great danger as it reveals whether Richard is alive or dead.

Captured by Henry’s soldiers, she [Eleanor] was held prisoner for sixteen years, freed only by Henry’s death. Such a lengthy confinement would have broken most people. It had not broken Eleanor. The passionate young queen and the embittered, betrayed wife were ghosts long since laid to rest. Now in her seventy-first year, she was acclaimed and admired for her sagacity and shrewd counsel, reigning over England in her son’s absence, fiercely protective of his interests, proud matriarch of a great dynasty. A living legend. And this was the woman expecting a letter from a murdered goldsmith? Justin thought it highly unlikely. (location 323)

R– is for Resistance by Owen Sheers a book I’ve had for nearly ten years. One of the reasons I haven’t read this before now is that I couldn’t find it for a while until I discovered it out of order behind other books that I’d double-shelved. I can’t remember now what had prompted me to buy this book. Owen Sheers is an author, poet and playwright.

Resistance

Resistance gives an alternative outcome to World War Two, one in which the D-Day landings had failed in 1944 and the Nazis had invaded the UK. Sarah Lewis wakes to discover her husband and all the men in the Welsh border valley of Olchon have gone. It’s the story of a community under siege.

The meeting with Atkins had happened too quickly for George to think on the consequences yet. His head was light, open, and he swung his scythe with a renewed energy. He felt exposed, as if a layer of skin had been shaved from him, bringing him into closer contact with the world. The blade’s edge against the young stalks of bracken, the calligraphy of the swallows above him. Everything seemed clearer, brought into sharper focus. Just an hour ago the war was a different country, the contours of which he’d traced through the newspapers, in radio reports. But now he was involved, connected. He had the strange sensation of his life simultaneously diminishing and expanding under the impression of Atkins’s words and for the second time that week he felt older than his seventeen years. (page 25)

What do you think? Do you fancy any of them? Would you ditch any of them?

A – Z of TBRs: M, N and O

I’m now up to M, N, and O in my A – Z of TBRs, a series of posts in which I take a fresh look at some of my TBRs to inspire me to read more of them by the end of the year, or maybe to decide not to bother reading them after all. These TBRs are all physical books – I’ve not included e-books. Looking at my books like this is encouraging me to read more of my own books as I’ve read two of the books I’ve featured in the earlier posts.

I’m enjoying searching my shelves – finding books I’d forgotten were there (the disadvantage of shelving books behind others).

MNO bks P1020320

– is for Mercy by Jodie Picoulta book I’ve had since 2008. LibraryThing predicts that I probably won’t like this book. Two cousins are driven to extremes by the power of love, as one helps his terminally ill wife commit suicide and the other becomes involved in a passionate affair with his wife’s new assistant.

I bought this book because I’ve read and enjoyed three other books by Jodie Picoult.

According to the sworn voluntary statement of James MacDonald, his wife had been suffering from the advanced stages of cancer and had asked him to kill her. Which did not account for the raw scratches on his face, or the fact that he had traveled to a town he had never set foot in to commit the murder. Maggie had not videotaped her wishes, or even written them down and had them notarized to prove she was of sane mind – Jamie said that she hadn’t wanted it to be a production, but a simple gift.

What it boiled down to, really, was Jamie’s word. Cam’s only witness was dead. He was supposed to believe the confession of James MacDonald solely because he was a MacDonald, a member of his clan. (page 39)

N – is for Notes from an Exhibition by Patrick Gale (on my TBR shelves since 2011). LibraryThing predicts that I probably will like this book. When troubled artist Rachel Kelly dies painting obsessively in her attic studio in Penzance, her saintly husband and adult children have more than the usual mess to clear up. She leaves behind an extraordinary and acclaimed body of work – but she also leaves a legacy of secrets and emotional damage that will take months to unravel.

I haven’t read any of Patrick Gale’s books, but I was attracted to it by the blurb.

‘We are here to say goodbye to our dear Rachel, who was a regular attender since Anthony first brought her to Penzance a little over forty years ago. For those of you who have never been to a Friends’ Meeting before, this may not be the kind of funeral you’re used to. The proceedings take the form of a Quaker Meeting for Worship. This is based on silent contemplation. There are two aims in our worship: to give thanks for the life that has been lived and to help those who mourn to feel a deep and comforting sense of divine presence within us. The silence may be broken by anyone, Quaker or not, who feels moved to speak, to pray or offer up a memory of Rachel.’ (page 62)

O – is for An Officer and a Spy by Robert Harris a book I’ve only had for nearly two years. LibraryThing predicts that I probably will like this book. A recreation of a scandal that became the most famous miscarriage of justice in history, this is the story of the infamous Dreyfus affair told as a chillingly dark, hard-edged novel of conspiracy and espionage. Paris in 1895. Alfred Dreyfus, a young Jewish officer, has just been convicted of treason, sentenced to life imprisonment at Devil’s Island, and stripped of his rank in front of a baying crowd of twenty-thousand.

I bought this on the strength of the other books by Robert Harris that I’ve enjoyed. I’ve heard of the Dreyfus affair but know very little about it.

Beneath the letters is a thin manilla envelope containing a large photograph, twenty five centimetres by twenty. I recognise it immediately from Dreyfus’s court martial – a copy of the covering note, the famous bordereau, that accompanied the documents he passed to the Germans. It was the central evidence against him produced in court. Until this morning I had no idea how the Statistical Section had got its hands on it. And no wonder. I have to admire Lauth’s handiwork. Nobody looking at it could tell it had once been ripped into pieces: all the tear marks have been carefully touched out, so that it seems a whole document. (pages 40 -41)

What do you think? Do you fancy any of them? Would you ditch any of them?

The TBR Book Tag 2017

I saw this tag on FictionFan’s blog and thought I’d do it too. it’s time I got to grips with my ever-expanding piles of books to read, particularly as right now I’m not at all sure how many TBRs I have.

How do you keep track of your TBR pile?

In 2007 I  began using LibraryThing to catalogue my books – it’s still not complete and I don’t always remember to add new books to it. I don’t include e-books on LibraryThing.

When I first got a Kindle I began to sort my e-books into collections but that didn’t last very long and I soon had no idea what I’d downloaded – it was like sending the books into a black hole. So, because I decided to do this tag I decided it was time I was more organised and I’ve been busy sorting out an e-book TBR collection on my Kindle.

Is your TBR mostly print or e-book?

It’s mostly print books, although my e-book collection is  growing rapidly thanks especially this year, to NetGalley. For a while I bought quite a lot of the 99p Kindle Daily Deals books and also added a number of free e-books including e-book versions of the classics.

How do you determine which book from your TBR to read next?

It’s a bit of a juggling game, trying to fit in reading books I’ve had for years, with review copies. Recently the old TBRs have been left in preference to reading new books. But often it’s down to whichever book appeals most – I like to read whatever I fancy when I fancy. I like to browse my bookshelves and sometimes just pick a book at random. And I have to fit in library books too!

A book that’s been on your TBR the longest?

It could be The Agony and the Ecstasy by Irving Stone, which I bought for 50p over 20 years (no idea exactly when or where I bought it). It’s falling to pieces now, the pages are brown and the font is so small. I did start reading it once – there’s a book mark between pages 43-43.

Agony & Ecstasy

A book you recently added to your TBR?

I recently added eight books – this is one of them, The Shadow Sister by Lucinda Riley, the third book in Lucinda Riley’s series, loosely based on the mythology of the Seven Sisters star cluster.

The Shadow Sister

Blurb:

Star D’Aplièse is at a crossroads in her life after the sudden death of her beloved father – the elusive billionaire, named Pa Salt by his six daughters, all adopted by him from the four corners of the world. He has left each of them a clue to their true heritage, but Star – the most enigmatic of the sisters – is hesitant to step out of the safety of the close relationship she shares with her sister CeCe. In desperation, she decides to follow the first clue she has been left, which leads her to an antiquarian bookshop in London, and the start of a whole new world . . .

A hundred years earlier, headstrong and independent Flora MacNichol vows she will never marry. She is happy and secure in her home in the Lake District, living close to her idol, Beatrix Potter, when machinations outside of her control lead her to London, and the home of one of Edwardian society’s most notorious players, Alice Keppel. Flora is pulled between passionate love and duty to her family, but finds herself a pawn in a game – the rules of which are only known to others, until a meeting with a mysterious gentleman unveils the answers that Flora has been searching for her whole life . . .

As Star learns more of Flora’s incredible journey, she too goes on a voyage of discovery, finally stepping out of the shadow of her sister and opening herself up to the possibility of love.

A book on your TBR strictly because of its beautiful cover?

I don’t think I’ve ever chosen a book based on its cover. Having said that I think this book cover of The Brontës by Juliet Barker is just lovely.

The Brontës

A book on your TBR that you never plan on reading?

No – but there have been books that when I’ve looked at them I’ve wondered why I wanted to read them in the first place – and I’ve decided not to read them. So, every now and then I go through the list and get rid of any that no longer appeal. Ulysses by James Joyce is on my list but I’m not sure I’ll ever get round to reading it. Ditto – Moby Dick!

As for e-books at the same time that I made a collection for my e-book TBRs I realised that I’d got into the bad habit of downloading samples and then forgetting all about them – so I’ve deleted all the samples and I’m also going through the rest of my e-books and deleting those that no longer appeal.

An unpublished book on your TBR that you’re excited for?

Ian Rankin has announced that there will be new novel featuring John Rebus in autumn 2018. The novel will be published by the Orion Publishing Group in hardback, e-book and audiobook, with a paperback to follow in 2019. There are no details yet about the book’s title or plot, but as I’ve read all his other Rebus books I’m eagerly looking forward to this next one.

A book on your TBR that everyone has read but you?

It’s probably Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist – I know the story – it’s one of the stories that everyone knows  – but I’ve not read it yet.

Image result for Oliver Twist

A book on your TBR that everyone recommends to you?

The Dry by Jane Harper – it’s had a lot of acclaim. When a book receives so much praise I’m sometimes sceptical and will avoid it for a while at least. But it sounds so good that I think I’ll read it sooner rather than later.

Blurb:

Amid the worst drought to ravage Australia in a century, it hasn’t rained in small country town Kiewarra for two years. Tensions in the community become unbearable when three members of the Hadler family are brutally murdered. Everyone thinks Luke Hadler, who committed suicide after slaughtering his wife and six-year-old son, is guilty.

Policeman Aaron Falk returns to the town of his youth for the funeral of his childhood best friend, and is unwillingly drawn into the investigation. 

The Dry

A book on your TBR that you’re dying to read?

So many, but as I have to pick just one it’s Moriarty by Anthony Horowitz as I enjoyed his earlier Sherlock Holmes book, The House of Silk.

Blurb:

Days after Holmes and Moriarty disappear into the waterfall’s churning depths, Frederick Chase, a senior investigator at New York’s infamous Pinkerton Detective Agency, arrives in Switzerland. Chase brings with him a dire warning: Moriarty’s death has left a convenient vacancy in London’s criminal underworld. There is no shortage of candidates to take his place—including one particularly fiendish criminal mastermind.

Moriarty (Sherlock Holmes, #2)

How many books are on your Goodreads TBR shelf?

My Goodreads TBR shelf is just for books I’ve read or am currently reading. I use my LibraryThing catalogue to keep track of my physical TBRs. At the moment the number stands at 320 but as I said above that might not be completely accurate. And I’m still going through my e-book TBRs weeding out the ones I don’t want to read.

 

A – Z of TBRs: J, K and L

I’m now up to J, K, and L in my A – Z of TBRs, a series of posts in which I take a fresh look at some of my TBRs to inspire me to read more of them by the end of the year, or maybe to decide not to bother reading them after all. These TBRs are all physical books – I’ve not included e-books. Previously I’ve just chosen books for these posts by using the titles, but this time I’ve also chosen books by using the authors’ last names.

I’m enjoying searching my shelves – finding books I’d forgotten were there (the disadvantage of shelving books behind others).

TRBs jkl

– is for The Journeying Boy by Michael Innesa book I’ve had for three years. This is a green Vintage Penguin, first published in 1949, and in this edition in 1961. Humphrey Paxton, the son of one of Britain’s leading atomic boffins, has taken to carrying a shotgun to ‘shoot plotters and blackmailers and spies’. His new tutor, the plodding Mr Thewless, suggests that Humphrey might be overdoing it somewhat. But when a man is found shot dead at a cinema, Mr Thewless is plunged into a nightmare world of lies, kidnapping and murder – and grave matters of national security.

I’m not sure now that I do want to read this book. It looks quite daunting, with lots of description and  literary allusions as shown in this extract – the cinema goers had been watching a film, Plutonium Blonde:

Another squalid crime … Circumstances had made Inspector Cadover a philosopher, and because he was a philosopher he was now depressed. This was the celebrated atom film. This was the manner in which his species chose to take its new command of natural law. Fifty thousand people had died at Hiroshima , and at Bikini ironclads had been tossed in challenge to those other disintegrating nuclei of the sun. The blood-red tide was loosed. And here it was turned to hog wash at five shillings the trough, and entertainment tax five shillings extra. That some wretched Londoner had met a violent death while taking his fill seemed a very unimportant circumstance. To track down the murderer – if murderer there was – appeared a revoltingly useless task. Mere anarchy was loosed upon the world – so what the hell did it matter? (page 51)

K – is for Ghost Walk by Alanna Knight (on my TBR shelves for four years), the fourth in the Rose McQuinn series. This is historical crime fiction set in 1897 in Edinburgh three years after Rose McQuinn’s husband, Danny, disappeared in Arizona. Believing him to be dead, she returned to Scotland to start her life afresh. Now a ‘Lady Investigator, Discretion Guaranteed‘, she is about to marry her lover, Detective Inspector Jack Macmerry of the Edinburgh Police when a nun from the local convent claims to have received a letter from Danny, and after two suspicious deaths, it seems that a ghost is about to walk back into her life…

I’ve read and liked the first book in this series, The Inspector’s Daughter, and am hoping it won’t matter that I’ve not read the second and the third books.

I had no idea what were the views of Edinburgh City Police on the subject of female detectives or the milder term ‘lady investigators’, but I could guess that that they regarded criminal investigation as a ‘men only’ province.

I felt so impatient with authority. Would a day ever dawn when women ceased to be regarded as playthings or breeding machines, when they would be given equal rights with men. My hackles rose in anger at the suffragettes’ gallant struggles as portrayed in a recent pamphlet which I had been at pains to keep concealed from Jack.  (page 34)

L – is for The Other Side of the Bridge by Mary Lawson, a book I’ve had for 10 years! I was so keen to read it when I first bought it after loving her first novel, Crow Lake. It’s about two brothers, Arthur and Jake.  Arthur is older, shy, dutiful, and set to inherit his father’s farm. Jake is younger and reckless, a dangerous man to know. When Laura arrives in their 1930s rural community, an already uneasy relationship is driven to breaking point…

Arthur’s earliest memory was of standing in the doorway of his parents’ room, looking at his mother as she lay in bed. It was the middle of the day but nonetheless she was in bed, and Arthur didn’t know what to make of it. The bed was very large and high and Arthur could only just see her. She had her face turned towards the window. Then Arthur’s father called from the bottom of the stairs that the doctor was coming, and she turned her head, and Arthur saw that she was crying. (page 25)

What do you think? Do you fancy any of them? Would you ditch any of them?

A – Z of TBRs: G, H and I

I have been neglecting my TBRs this year and have been reading mainly new books and library books.So here is the third instalment of my A – Z of TBRs, a series of posts in which I take a fresh look at some of my TBRs to inspire me to read more of them by the end of the year. These TBRs are all physical books – I’ve not included e-books.

I’m enjoying searching my shelves – finding books I’d forgotten were there (the disadvantage of shelving books behind others).

a-z tbrs ghi P1020304

 

G is for The Girl Next Door by Ruth Rendella book I’ve had for just over a year. When a new house is being built a long buried secret is uncovered – a tin box is found in an earthen tunnel. It contained two skeletal hands, one male and one female.

Their garden was not beautiful. It had no flowering trees, no roses, no perfumed herbs. Tunnels, they called it at first. The word ‘qanat’, an impossible word, was found by Daphne Jones and adopted by the rest of them. It meant, apparently, a subterranean passage for carrying water in some oriental language. They liked it because it started with a q without a u. Their scholteachers had taught them that no word could ever start with a q unless it was followed by u, so Daphne’s idea appealed to them and the tunnels became qanats. In time to come the qanats became their secret garden. (pages 14 -15)

HHamlet, Revenge! by Michael Innes (on my TBR shelves since May 2015). This is a green Vintage Penguin, first published in 1937, and in this edition in 1961, about a murder planned to take place in the middle of a private performance of Hamlet.

It had begun as a family frolic. And now, although it would not be publicly reported, the dramatic critics were coming down as if to an important festival. Professors were coming to shake learned respectable bald heads over a fellow-scholar’s conception of an Elizabethan stage. Aged royalty  was coming to be politely bewildered. Most alarming of all, ‘everybody’ was coming – for the purpose no doubt, of being where ‘everybody’ was. And even if it was a select and serious everybody – a known set before whom a Lord Chancellor might mime without misgiving – it was still a crowd, and its actions were unpredictable. (page 28)

IThe Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai, a book I’ve had for just over 10 years! It won the Man Booker Prize in 2006. This is set in India, in a dilapidated mansion high in the Himalayas, the home of three people each dreaming of another time – a retired judge, Sai, his granddaughter and a cook.

In Kalimpong, high in the northeastern Himalayas where they lived – the retired judge and his cook, Sai and Mutt – there was a report of new dissatisfaction in the hills, gathering insurgency, men and guns. It was the Indian Nepalese this time, fed up with being treated like the minority in a place where they were the majority. They wanted their own country, or at least their own state, in which to manage their own affairs. Here, where India blurred into Bhutan and Sikkim, and the army did pull-ups and push-ups, maintaining the tanks with khaki paint in case the Chinese grew hungry for more territory than Tibet, it had always been a messy map. The papers sounded resigned. A great amount of warring, betraying, bartering had occurred; between Nepal, England, Tibet, India, Sikkim, Bhutan; Darjeeling stolen from here, Kalimpong plucked from there – despite, ah, despite the mist charging down like a dragon, dissolving, undoing, making ridiculous the drawing of border. (page 9)

What do you think? Do you fancy any of them? 

One reason I haven’t read these books yet is that they’re all in such a small font!

A – Z of TBRs: D, E and F

I have been neglecting my TBRs this year and have been reading mainly new books and library books.So here is the second instalment of my A – Z of TBRs, a series of posts in which I take a fresh look at some of my TBRs to inspire me to read more of them by the end of the year.

D, E and F.

D is for David Copperfield by Charles Dickens, a book I’ve had since I don’t know when! I watched a TV adaptation many years ago but I’ve never read the book. This is the novel that Dickens described as his ‘favourite child’.

I was born at Blunderstone, in Suffolk, or “thereby”, as they say in Scotland. I was a posthumous child. My father’s eyes had closed upon the light of this world six months, when mine opened on it. There is something strange to me, even now, in the reflection that he never saw me; and something stranger yet in the shadowy remembrance that I have of my first childish associations with his white gravestone in the churchyard, and of the indefinable compassion I used to feel for it lying out alone there in the dark night, when our little parlour was warm and bright with fire and candle, and the doors of our house were – almost cruelly, it seemed to me sometimes – bolted and locked against it. (page 14)

EExtraordinary People by Peter May, the first in his Enzo Files series (on my TBR shelves since July 2016). This is set in France where Enzo MacLeod, a forensic expert takes a wager to solve seven French murders using modern technology. I bought this because I loved Peter May’s Lewis trilogy.

I was trained as a forensic biologist, Monsieur Raffin. Seven years with Strathclyde police in Glasgow, the last two as head of biology, covering everything from blood pattern  interpretation at major crime scenes, to analysis of hairs and fibres. I was involved in early DNA databasing, interpretation of damage to clothing, as well as detailed examination of murder scenes. Oh, and did I mention? I am one of only four people in the UK to have trained as a Byford scientist – which also makes me an expert on serious crime analysis. (page 14)

FThe Floating Admiral by Members of the Detection Club (on my TBR shelves since May 2014). This is a collaboration by twelve writers from the Detection Club, including Agatha Christie and Dorothy L Sayers.

As it [a small rowing-boat] came nearer Wade laid down his rod. He could see now that there was someone in the boat – not seated, but, apparently, lying in the bottom of her, astern.

… A man of about sixty, with iron grey hair, moustache and close-cropped, pointed beard, dark eyes open with fixed stare. He was clad in evening dress clothes and a brown overcoat, the latter open at the front and exposing a white shirt-front stained with blood. (pages 14-15)

What do you think? Which one would you read first? Are there any you would discard?

A-Z of TBRs: A, B and C

I thought a fresh look at some of my TBRs might inspire me to read more of them by the end of the year. So here is the first instalment of my A – Z of TBRs (I’m thinking of making this a regular post).

TBRs abc_edited

A is for The Appeal by John Grisham: a story of political and legal intrigue.  (On my TBR shelves since February 2008.)

People were hurrying from the courthouse from all directions when the Paytons parked on the street behind it. They stayed in the car for a moment, still holding hands For four months they had tried not to touch each other  anywhere near the courthouse. Someone was always watching. Maybe juror or reporter. It  was important to be as professional as possible. The novelty of a married legal team surprised people, and the Paytons tried to treat each other as attorneys and not as spouses.

B is for The Blood Doctor by Barbara Vine: a chilling tale of ambition, obsession and bad blood. (On my TBR shelves since July 2015.)

The Queen appointed him Physician Extraordinary in 1879. Most of her other doctors were in permanent residence but Henry, though sometimes staying a few days at Windsor, retained his professorship and his London home. Though he began on the lowest rung of the royal medical ladder, he enjoyed a special position. He was the Queen’s consultant on haemophilia.

C is for The Children’s Book by A S Byatt:  a saga about the years between the closing of the Victorian age and the dawn of the Edwardian, when a generation grew up unaware of the darkness ahead. (On my TBR shelves since August 2009.)

Everyone old and young, now gathered for a kind of sumptuous picnic. As happens in such gatherings, where those whose lives are shaped fortunately or unfortunately, are surrounded by those whose lives are almost entirely to come, the elders began asking the young what they meant to do with their lives, and to project futures for them.

If you’ve read any of these please let me know what you think?