The TBR Pile Challenge 2014 …..

I’m signing up for the 2014 TBR Pile Challenge at Roof Beam Reader, because I need something to remind me how many good books I have waiting for me on my own shelves.

2014tbrbuttonIt works something like this:

Pick a dozen books that you have owned for more than a year and not read. Pick two alternates, just in case one or two of that dozen, doesn’t work out. Read them in 2014.

I’m only picking books I really want to read, because life is too short and there are too many great books to do anything else, but I did set myself some other criteria.

I’ve picked my books from different shelves around the house so that I look at all of the other books that aren’t on the list along the way.

Every book I picked has acome from a different place – not for any particular reason, just because I wanted to see if I could work things that way.

And none of these books are on my Classics Club list or anything to do with any other projects, because I want to read a wider range of books next year.

So here are the twelve:

Stratton’s War by Laura Wilson

This one came my way courtesy of ReadItSwapIt a couple of years ago. I really do want to read it, because I like the look of one or two of the books later in the series.

Devotion by Nell Leyshon

I picked this up from a book stall because I recognised the author’s name. I loved The Colour of Milk and I have high hopes for this rather different, contemporary story.

The Phoenix’ Nest by Elizabeth Jenkins

I spotted this one in a local bookshop, sadly now closed, not knowing at the time that it was rare. Searches have revealed noting, it doesn’t get a mention in the author’s biography, but the opening suggests that it is set in an Elizabethan theatre …

The First Last Kiss by Ali Harris

I bought this second novel when it was brand new in local bookshop, because I loved Ali Harris’s first book.

The Mesmerist by Barbara Ewing

This one was sitting on a charity shop shelf, and I had to bring it home.

A Secret Alchemy by Emma Darwin

I spotted this one at a fundraising sale for our local museum.

Eden’s Garden by Juliet Greenwood

This one was ordered from the publisher after reading Claire’s review.

You by Joanna Briscoe

This one dropped through by letterbox, unsolicited, a few years ago, and I like the look of it but I’ve never quite got around to picking it up.

Darkness Falls All Over Again by Nigel Balchin

I bought this one when I was living in London. I remember listening to the radio, hearing somebody pick this as their favourite book set in London. and saying that it was like ‘The End of the Affair’ – but better.

The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley

This was a gift from a very generous Virago Secret Santa a couple of years ago,

Two-Thirds of a Ghost by Helen McCloy

This is a green numbered Penguin that I picked up in a very good second-hand bookshop in Falmouth.

A Wreath for the Enemy by Pamela Frankau

I can remember my fiancé – a trained spotter of Virago Modern Classics – coming home with this one.

And here are my two possible substitutes:

The Children’s Book by A S Byatt

I pounced on this brand new hardback copy when it was being sold very cheaply at a library sale.

The Heart of London by Monica Dickens

This one came from a bookshop in Redruth, on a day when I had to be very picky because there were so many books I would have liked. It made the cut because I love Monica Dickens, and it is such a lovely editions.

Wish me luck!

Clearing The Decks: Introducing Ten More Books

I am creating a home library of the books that I think I can let go after reading, or maybe let go without reading at all for my Clearing the Decks Project

The project began last year with one hundred books. By the end of the year forty books had left the premises last year, and so I’m adding forty more for 2012.

I’m introducing the books ten at a time, and so here are ten more.

Do let me know if I have a book that you’ve loved and I’ll try to make it a priority. Or a book that you’ve hated and I should think twice about.

Funeral Music by Morag Joss

International cellist Sara Selkirk is apprehensive about the charity concert in Bath’s famous Pump Room. It’s the first time she will have performed in public since the death of her lover the previous year. But, in the event, Sara’s performance is overshadowed by the death of the concert’s organiser, Matthew Sawyer. In the ensuing police investigation, many secrets are uncovered including a stolen needlework collection, an immigration racket, a headmaster’s adulterous affair with his secretary. What, if anything, do any of them have to do with Sawyer’s death?

I spotted this one in the library back when I lived in Harrow, but I didn’t get around to borrowing it before I moved. My new library didn’t have a copy,  but a little later it turned up on ReadItSwapIt …

Of Bees and Mist by Erick Satiawan

Up in the house that sits on the hill, a strange spell is brewing… To Meridia, growing up with her father Gabriel, who vanishes daily in clouds of mist, and her bewitching mother Ravenna, the outside world is a refuge. So when as a young woman her true love Daniel offers her marriage, it seems an escape to a more straightforward existence. Yet behind the welcoming façade of her new home lies a life of drudgery and a story even stranger than that she left behind. Aged retainers lurk in the background; swarms of bees appear at will, and of course, there’s her indomitable mother-in-law, Eva, hiding secrets that it will take Meridia years to unravel. Surrounded by seemingly unfathomable mysteries, can Meridia unlock the intrigues of the past, and thus protect her own family’s future?

I’m not sure, but I think I picked this up in a Waterstone’s 3 for 2 on a daytrip to Truro. I liked the look of it at the time, but I didn’t pick it up to read straight away, and when I did I was less sure.

Blood Harvest by S J Bolton

NOW YOU SEE HER… Gillian is haunted by the disappearance of her little girl two years ago. A devastating fire burned down their home, but she remains convinced her daughter survived.
NOW YOU DON’T… Ten-year-old Tom lives by the town’s neglected churchyard. Is he the only one who sees the strange, solitary child playing there? And what is she trying to tell him?
NOW YOU RUN… There’s a new vicar in town – Harry – and he’s meeting the locals. But menacing events suggest he isn’t welcome. What terrible secret is this town hiding?

Another ReadItSwapIt book

The Catch: Prize-Winning Stories by Women

In 1996, the Asham Literary Trust organized a competition of short stories by women in honour of Asham House, the house in Sussex where Virginia and Leonard Woolf lived. The competiton attracted over six hundred entries of which the judges selected thirteen which are published here together with commissioned stories by Kate Atkinson, Rachel Cusk, Louise Doughty, Candia McWilliam and Deborah Moggach. The result is a varied and sensuous collection of stories that successfully blends the work of established writers with new authors.

This one came from Any Amount of Books in Charing Cross Road years ago  – some interesting authors and a wonderful award.

The Dream Life of Sukhanov by Olga Grushkin

Stepping out into the dusk of a warm Moscow evening, esteemed art critic Anatoly Sukhanov feels on top of the world: his career is glittering, his wife is beautiful and his children are clever. But the year is 1985 and the air is heavy with change. Sukhanov’s future will be haunted by doubt. Beset by heartbreaking visions of a past he gave up, he questions his choices: in swapping a precarious life as a brilliant underground artist for comfort and security did he betray his dreams? And if his dreams are lost, what does he have left?

I spotted this one in a charity shop; the title and the author’s name rang a bell, but I couldn’t think why. When I picked the book up I found that it had been longlisted for The Orange Prize, and that seemed to be a good reason to bring it home.

School’s Out by Christophe Dufosse

When a teacher is found dead, having apparently committed suicide, his friend Pierre Hoffman takes over class 4F and finds himself responsible for a group of strangely subdued, well-behaved and yet menacing pupils. Assuming their behaviour to be a response to the trauma of their teacher’s death, Pierre Hoffman at first takes it easy with the precocious class, refusing to embrace the hostility felt by other staff members towards the children. Over the weeks that follow, however, he receives a series of signals and warnings that cause him to question the motivations of his pupils and the circumstances of his colleague’s suicide. Refusing to believe that the situation can be any more sinister than his suspicious imagination, Hoffman applauds and supports class 4F’s decision to organise a school trip to the Normandy coast. Only once the trip has begun, however, does Hoffman begin to understand the extent of their bizarre solidarity and their ultimate goal…

I picked this one up in the Oxfam Bookshop in Falmouth. The synopsis was intriguing, there was a comparison to The Secret History, and so I decided to bring the book home.

Incantation by Alice Hoffman

This is a chilling story of friendship, first love and family secrets. Estrella lives in Spain, next door to her best friend Catalina. They used to be inseparable, but then Andres, Catalina’s cousin and the boy she’s planning to marry, starts to gaze at Estrella instead. And Catalina starts to plot…Estrella’s family have always done things slightly differently. Lighting candles on a Friday, for example. But these tiny things that Estrella has done all her life suddenly add up to something huge. She discovers that she and her family are Marranos – Spanish Jews living double lives as Catholics. And soon the outside world starts to intrude on her life – the world of the Spanish Inquisition, of neighbours accusing each other, of looting and riots. It is a world where new love burns and where friendship ends in flame and ash.

I’ve been reading Alice Hoffman’s books for years, but I’d never tried any of her YA titles. This one was on offer in exchange for a book that had been on my swap list for ages, so I thought I’d give it a try.

My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece by Annabel Pitcher

Ten-year-old Jamie Matthews has just moved to the Lake District with his Dad and his teenage sister, Jasmine for a ‘Fresh New Start’. Five years ago his sister’s twin, Rose, was blown up by a terrorist bomb. His parents are wrecked by their grief, Jasmine turns to piercing, pink hair and stops eating. The family falls apart. But Jamie hasn’t cried in all that time. To him Rose is just a distant memory. Jamie is far more interested in his cat, Roger, his birthday Spiderman T-shirt, and in keeping his new friend Sunya a secret from his dad. And in his deep longing and unshakeable belief that his Mum will come back to the family she walked out on months ago. When he sees a TV advert for a talent show, he feels certain that this will change everything and bring them all back together once and for all.

A freebie with NewBooks magazine

The Lie by Petra Hammesfahr

Nadia and Susanne have just met. They look uncannily alike, but one is filthy rich and has both a husband and a lover while the other is dirt poor and single. So, when Nadia asks Susanne to spend a weekend with her husband, how can she refuse the outrageous fee on offer? So Susanne changes her hairstyle and clothes and, one Friday afternoon, drives Nadia’s wine-red Alfa to her beautiful suburban villa. However, what appears at first to be a harmless game quickly turns into a deadly web of lies.

I read The Sinner by Petra Hammesfahr a while ago, and it was a brilliant piece of dark crime fiction. And so I checked the library copy for this one, but there wasn’t a copy to be had in the country. I forgot about it until I spotted a familiar name in a charity shop …

Stratton’s War by Laura Wilson

London, June 1940. When the body of silent screen star Mabel Morgan is found impaled on railings in Fitzrovia, the coroner rules her death as suicide, but DI Ted Stratton of the CID is not convinced. Despite opposition from his superiors, he starts asking questions, and it becomes clear that Morgan’s fatal fall from a high window may have been the work of one of Soho’s most notorious gangsters. MI5 agent Diana Calthrop, working with senior official Sir Neville Apse, is leading a covert operation when she discovers that her boss is involved in espionage. She must tread carefully – Apse is a powerful man, and she can’t risk threatening the reputation of the Secret Service. Only when Stratton’s path crosses Diana’s do they start to uncover the truth. But as they discover Morgan’s connection with Apse and their mutual links to a criminal network and a secretive pro-fascist organisation, they begin to realise that the intrigues of the Secret Service are alarmingly similar to the machinations of war-torn London’s underworld.

I’ve been meaning to read this book for ages. I’ve liked Laura Wilson’s books in the past and this one in library stock. But it only ever seemed to be available when I lacked space on my ticket, reading time, or the inclination to read this sort of book. never when I looked for it. So I nabbed a copy on ReadItSwapIt.

******

And that’s it for this batch. Any thoughts?

Library Loot

It’s a very long time since my last confession Library Loot p0st.

No particular reason, I just slipped out of the habit.

But this week’s books want to have their moment of glory.

And I want to say, look at these lovely books! Do you know them? Have you read them? Are you curious about them?

Purely by chance, the four books that I bought home cover two world wars and the years between them. So I’ll introduce them chronologically:

The Magnificent Spilsbury and the Case of the Brides in the Bath by Jane Robins

“Bessie Mundy, Alice Burnham and Margaret Lofty are three women with one thing in common. They are spinsters and are desperate to marry. Each woman meets a smooth-talking stranger who promises her a better life. She falls under his spell, and becomes his wife. But marriage soon turns into a terrifying experience. In the dark opening months of the First World War, Britain became engrossed by ‘The Brides in the Bath’ trial. The horror of the killing fields of the Western Front was the backdrop to a murder story whose elements were of a different sort. This was evil of an everyday, insidious kind, played out in lodging houses in seaside towns, in the confines of married life, and brought to a horrendous climax in that most intimate of settings — the bathroom. The nation turned to a young forensic pathologist, Bernard Spilsbury, to explain how it was that young women were suddenly expiring in their baths. This was the age of science. In fiction, Sherlock Holmes applied a scientific mind to solving crimes. In real-life, would Spilsbury be as infallible as the ‘great detective’?”

It did cross my mond that this could be a case of “Mr Whicher was successful, so let’s see if we can do the same thing again.” But even if it is, the case is one I’m curious about, the period fascinates me, and it does look like a very well put together book.

Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf

“‘Fear no more the heat of the sun.’ Mrs Dalloway, Virginia Woolf’s fourth novel, offers the reader an impression of a single June day in London in 1923. Clarissa Dalloway, the wife of a Conservative member of parliament, is preparing to give an evening party, while the shell-shocked Septimus Warren Smith hears the birds in Regent’s Park chattering in Greek. There seems to be nothing, except perhaps London, to link Clarissa and Septimus. She is middle-aged and prosperous, with a sheltered happy life behind her; Smith is young, poor, and driven to hatred of himself and the whole human race. Yet both share a terror of existence, and sense the pull of death.”

This is going to be my first book for Anbolyn’s Reading Between The Wars project. I have my own copy, but it’s old and tatty and the library had a lovely, new Oxford World’s Classics edition.

Everyman’s Rules for Scientific Living by Carrie Tiffany

“It is 1934, the Great War is long over and the next is yet to come. Amid billowing clouds of dust and information, the government ‘Better Farming Train’ slides through the wheat fields and small towns of Australia, bringing expert advice to those living on the land. The train is on a crusade to persuade the country that science is the key to successful farming, and that productivity is patriotic. In the swaying cars an unlikely love affair occurs between Robert Pettergree, a man with an unusual taste for soil, and Jean Finnegan, a talented young seamstress with a hunger for knowledge. In an atmosphere of heady scientific idealism, they marry and settle in the impoverished Mallee with the ambition of proving that a scientific approach to cultivation can transform the land. But after seasons of failing crops, and with a new World War looming, Robert and Jean are forced to confront each other, the community they have inadvertently destroyed, and the impact of their actions on an ancient and fragile landscape.”

I saw this on the returns trolley and I thought, “Laura!”  She read this book for Orange January and wrote about it a few days ago. I liked the look of it – tables and pictures in the text are always good in my book – and it was only a little book, so I decided that I would read it too.

Stratton’s War by Laura Wilson

“London, June 1940. When the body of silent screen star Mabel Morgan is found impaled on railings in Fitzrovia, the coroner rules her death as suicide, but DI Ted Stratton of the CID is not convinced. Despite opposition from his superiors, he starts asking questions, and it becomes clear that Morgan’s fatal fall from a high window may have been the work of one of Soho’s most notorious gangsters. MI5 agent Diana Calthrop, working with senior official Sir Neville Apse, is leading a covert operation when she discovers that her boss is involved in espionage. She must tread carefully – Apse is a powerful man, and she can’t risk threatening the reputation of the Secret Service. Only when Stratton’s path crosses Diana’s do they start to uncover the truth. But as they discover Morgan’s connection with Apse and their mutual links to a criminal network and a secretive pro-fascist organisation, they begin to realise that the intrigues of the Secret Service are alarmingly similar to the machinations of war-torn London’s underworld.”

I’ve liked Laura Wilson’s books in the past, and I’ve heard good things about this one, so I always intended to pick it up one day. A few weeks ago I read about the third book in this series and it looked wonderful, so I decided that it was time to make a start.

Have you read any of these? What did you think? Which book should I go for next? And which are you curious to know more about?

And what did you find in the library this week?

Do go and tell Claire!