TBR@59 Robertgreaves's Challenge for 2016/2017 Part 1
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The story so far
Today is my birthday so a new phase of the struggle starts.
Number of books on the physical TBR shelves 48
Number of books on the virtual TBR shelves 67
The physical TBR books are down a little from last year, but there has been a massive increase in the virtual TBR.
All books purchased up to today count as ROOTS from now on.
Death's End by Liu Cixin
The Mammoth Book of Historical Whodunnits Volume 3 edited by Mike Ashley
Happy birthday and happy new thread! I see some chunksters on that shelf!
Thank you, Tess.
Starting my No. 1 for the new count, On the Spartacus Road by Peter Stothard. It's my fifty-second ROOT for 2016. I'm reading it now for my online bookclub.
My review of Death's End:
The last in the "The Three Body Problem" trilogy focuses on Cheng Xin and her travails as her compassionate decisions show humanity just how deadly the dark forest is.
This is a real rollercoaster ride raising questions of morality and a possible ultimate return to Eden in a universe which is a more bleak and threatening place than is quite comfortable to contemplate.
I did, thank you. The celebrations are still continuing, so you're not too late.
And a belated happy birthday from me, too. I love that your books fit on your bookcase. You are smart!
Retiring to my bed with a bad cold, a bar of chocolate and a book which I hope needs no effort whatsoever, Alan Lennox and the Temp Job of Doom. It's my No. 2 and counts as my fifty-third ROOT for 2016.
Get well soon, Robert, and much sympathy! I am on day 10 of a cold, and am really fed up with it now! Yesterday I thought I was starting to get better and didn't need to dose up so much, but today I am back to where I was before. Apparently there is a really nasty bug going round.
Chocolate and a book sounds like excellent therapy :)
Thanks, all. Still clogged up, but feeling a lot better. Hope you're feeling better as well, Jackie.
Starting my No. 3 Men are Pigs But We Love Bacon by Michael Alvear. This is my fifty-fourth ROOT for 2016. It's a collection of letters and replies from an American gay advice column written by the brother of an FB friend of mine. Hopefully doesn't need much in the way of brain power.
My review of Alan Lennox and the Temp Job of Doom:
Alan Lennox and his flatmates find that they are all somehow related to the big multinational company, Amalgamated Synergy. And then temp workers start being murdered by low-level permanent employees. Can Alan and his friends survive?
This fast-paced comedy thriller is a good fun piece of fluff.
Starting my No. 4 The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson. This is my fifty-fifth ROOT for 2016 and also fits this month's AlphaKIT.
My review of On the Spartacus Road:
The author retraces Spartacus's route round Italy as far as it is known, with musings about his brush with cancer and the people he meets on the way as well as the ancient authors who mention Spartacus, however glancingly.
This just didn't gel for me. If it hadn't been a bookclub choice I doubt if I'd finished it.
My review of Men are Pigs But We Love Bacon:
Collection of letters and responses from an American gay advice column.
Written in the early 2000s and firmly addressed to guys in their 20s and 30s on the club and party circuit, so I'm not really the target audience and never was. I found the author's persona as the agony uncle rather grating and couldn't really get that interested in the problems either.
>18 Robertgreaves: I really enjoyed The 100 Year Old Man - it is very silly, but made me laugh out loud a lot.
Starting my No. 5, Inspector Singh Investigates A Most Peculiar Malaysian Murder by Shamini Flint. I'm reading this for the AlphaKIT and GeoCAT. It brings the TBR pile down to 47 and is my fifty-sixth ROOT for 2016.
My review of The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared:
Chase caper meets Forrest Gump.
Mildly amusing in parts. There was nothing wrong with it, but nothing that really grabbed me either.
Starting my No. 6, the second Inspector Singh book, Inspector Singh Investigates A Bali Conspiracy Most Foul. This is a new ebook and so doesn't count as a ROOT.
My review of Inspector Singh Investigates A Most Peculiar Malaysian Murder:
Anxious to get rid of Inspector Singh and his unconventional methods, Singapore's police force send him to KL to protect the interests of a Singaporean former supermodel on trial for the murder of her abusive Malaysian husband. Inspector Singh is convinced she didn't do it and she is released when her brother-in-law confesses to the murder. But the Inspector is also convinced that he didn't do it either. So who did?
Some satisfactory twists and turns as a SE Asian Colombo goes about his work.
Starting my No. 7, Inspector Singh Investigates The Singapore School of Villainy the next in the series by Shamini Flint
My review of Inspector Singh Investigates A Bali Conspiracy Most Foul:
Still trying to get rid of him, Inspector Singh's superiors send him to Bali as a show of solidarity after the 2002 Bali bombing even though he has no terrorism experience. But then a victim's skull is found with a bullet hole -- obviously the man had been murdered before the bomb went off. Inspector Singh can investigate murder with the not always welcome help of an Australian colleague.
I enjoyed the relationship between Singh and Bronwyn, the Australian policewoman. It's a pity we won't be seeing more of her. Some nicely unpleasant suspects even if the ending was mostly rather predictable.
Next in the series is my No. 8, Inspector Singh Investigates A Deadly Cambodian Crime Spree.
My review of Inspector Singh Investigates The Singapore School of Villainy:
A senior partner in the Singapore branch of an international law firm is found in his office one evening bludgeoned to death with a paperweight. Only the partners have passkeys to get in the offices at that hour. All of them have secrets, but lawyers have to be good at keeping secrets.
Interesting to see Inspector Singh on his home turf professionally and domestically.
On to the next in the series, my No. 9, Inspector Singh Investigates A Curious Indian Cadaver. As this series progresses the books seem to be getting shorter and shorter. This one is only about 1/3 of the original length.
My review of Inspector Singh Investigates A Deadly Cambodian Crime Spree:
Still anxious to get rid of him, Inspector Singh's superiors send him as an observer to the trial of a former member of the Khmer Rouge in the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia. When a witness is murdered he is appointed as an outside co-head of the investigation.
Difficult reading in places. So many of the characters are psychologically walking wounded - how could they not be against a background of genocide?
My no. 10 is the next in the series, Inspector Singh Investigates A Calamitous Chinese Killing.
My review of Inspector Singh Investigates A Curious Indian Cadaver:
At his wife's insistence, Inspector Singh accompanies her to a family wedding in Mumbai, only to find when they arrive that the bride-to-be has disappeared. When her brother identifies a burnt corpse as the missing woman, her grandfather asks Inspector Singh to investigate since the local police seem determined to write it off as suicide.
A more sympathetic portrayal of Mrs. Singh than we usually get, even if it is still through Inspector Singh's eyes. Hopefully his new appreciation for his wife's character and problems will last.
Starting my No. 11 is the last (so far) in the series, Inspector Singh Investigates a Frightfully English Execution.
My review of Inspector Singh Investigates A Calamitous Chinese Killing:
The First Secretary at the Singaporean embassy to the People's Republic of China asks for Inspector Singh to look into the murder of her son, which the Chinese authorities seem too ready to write off as a mugging gone wrong.
As usual, despite the semi-comic figure of Inspector Singh, the author does not flinch from looking at political and social issues which some might say are nastier than individual crimes.
Starting my No. 12, From London Far by Michael Innes. This brings the TBR pile down to 46 and is my fifty-seventh ROOT for 2016.
My review of Inspector Singh Investigates A Frightfully English Execution:
Sent to London to attend a Commonwealth Policing Conference, Inspector Singh is asked to take part in a review of a cold case from five years before where the victim, a young estate agent, was killed at an empty house she was intending to show a buyer, after which her hands were cut off. The case heats up when another victim whose hands have been cut off is found. A serial killer? A copycat? Terrorism?
After a somewhat shaky start, this turned out to be the best of the series. My heart sank a little at the thought of revisiting Islamic terrorism, bu this story was funnier than the others in the series and also full of suspense with a terrific ending.
Starting my No. 13, What Happened At Hazelwood by Michael Innes. This is a new ebook, and so is not a ROOT.
My review of From London far:
When his absentminded murmur in a tobacconists is misheard as a password, Richard Meredith, editor of Martial and Juvenal, finds himself plunged into a struggle against an international gang of art thieves who have been taking advantage of the chaotic conditions during and after WWII. He finds an ally in a former student who was kidnapped by the gang when she got too curious about an explosion on an archaeological dig.
This is one of Innes's standalone adventures inspired by John Buchan but this being Innes with plenty of whimsical not to say outright lunatic touches. The Misses Macleod are wonderfully memorable and so is Neff in his own horrible way.
My No. 14 is another Michael Innes, A Night of Errors. It's another new ebook, and so not a ROOT.
My review of What Happened At Hazelwood:
When the arrival of Australian relations produces even more turbulence amongst the Simney family than they manage by themselves, the result is murder.
I don't think I've ever read this Innes before, and it really isn't one of his better ones. When Nicolette resumes the narrative after the part narrated by Harold, Inspector Cadover's sidekick, I was momentarily confused in several places as I thought Harold was still the narrator. And even amongst the weird and wonderful solutions Michael Innes and Edmund Crispin indulge in, this solution stands out as pretty unbelievable.
I've read the first couple of chapters of A Night of Errors and have already spotted quite a few references to The Comedy of Errors so I'm going to re-read that first before I continue. I already have an edition of the play, so it counts as my fifty-eighth ROOT. It also fits with the DeweyCAT. Then I will watch the play online.
My No. 16 is Michael Innes, The Journeying Boy. Another new ebook, and so not a ROOT.
My review of A Night of Errors:
A baronet killed in his study at midnight by a blow to the back of the head. What could be more commonplace in detective fiction? And yet it tests Appleby's problem-solving abilities to the limit.
A very enjoyable yarn, with lots of sly references to the Comedy of Errors and other stories so that you don't even blink at a farmer's wife called Mrs. Marple whose poultry has been pilfered.
Reading Classical Literary Criticism as my No. 17. I've had the ebook for quite some time so it counts as my fifty-ninth ROOT. I'm reading it for the DeweyCAT.
My review of The Journeying Boy:
Richard Thewless travels to Ireland with Humphrey Paxton, son of Sir Bernard Paxton, Britain's leading nuclear physicist. He was second choice as the tutor for the boy, the first choice having been shot in a cinema. Can Inspector Cadover identify the corpse before Humphrey is kidnapped?
Lots of twists and turns in this combination of thriller and detective fiction.
Starting my No. 19, Caesar Dies by Talbot Munday. This ebook counts as my sixty-first ROOT.
My review of The Day of the Triffids:
Bill Masen wakes up finding most of the world has gone blind and the human population is now helpless against triffids, a recently bred mobile plant with a lethal sting.
I first read this as a teenager. 45 years later it is still a very frightening apocalyptic vision.
>1 Robertgreaves: happy very belated birthday!
Congrats on decreasing your physical TBR list... & I wouldn't worry about the virtual TBR.. it's virtual! ;)
& congrats on all your reading... you're a reading machine!
I really want to read Day of the Triffids... one of these days... sooner, rather than later, hopefully!
Thanks for dropping by, Athelia.
Starting my No. 20, Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie. This is an ebook which also counts as my sixty-second ROOT. I'm reading it now for the RandomCAT.
My review of Caesar Dies:
When Sextus's father Maximus is proscribed by Commodus and Sextus is forced to flee from Antioch, a plot to assassinate the Emperor is launched by his friends, who include Pertinax and Galen.
I found this novel rather clumsy, with a lot of background information not well integrated. Many of the characters seemed rather anachronistic, pining for the Republic and hoping it would be restored after the death of Commodus -- evidently "Gladiator" wasn't the first to come up with that idea.
>39 Robertgreaves: ooh Ancillary Justice is on my short list... looking forward to your thoughts!
Starting my No. 21, the next in the series, Ancillary Sword. This is a new ebook and so not a ROOT.
My review of Ancillary Justice:
Breq, an ancillary of the AI ship Justice of Toren, is near the end of her quest. Alternate chapters show us the final stages of her quest and what led her to undertake the quest in the first place.
I found this book very confusing at first, trying to get to grips with the two timelines and the multiple viewpoints of a single entity. The much discussed use of 'she' as the default pronoun used by the narrator whose language does not have gender pronouns was much less of a problem. However, once I'd got my bearings with all these differences, the story was compelling enough for me to start the next volume in the trilogy.
Now reading the final volume in the trilogy, Ancillary Mercy. This is my No. 22 but as a new ebook, not a ROOT.
My review of Ancillary Sword:
Breq is now formally Breq Mianaai, allegedly a cousin of the Lord of the Radch. On the way to the Athoek System as Fleet Captain aboard the Mercy of Kalr she finds the Lord of the Radch is not letting her get away so easily. Can Breq keep the Athoek System safe against other parts of the Lord of the Radch and internal dissent?
Now that I have a better idea of what's going on, I found this part much more enjoyable and intriguing than the first.
Starting my No. 23, Time for the Stars by Robert A. Heinlein. I've only just bought it and am reading it quickly before passing it on to my nephew.
My review of Ancillary Mercy:
How will the inhabitants of Athoek station react to the knowledge that Breq used to be an ancillary of Justice of Thoren?
A wonderful finale to the trilogy. I especially enjoyed Translator Zeiat from the Presger and wish the Presger had played a much greater role in the series.
Starting my No. 24, Daughter of the Gods by Stephanie Thornton. This is an ebook which I've had long enough to count as my sixty-third ROOT. I'm reading it now for the GeoCAT and DeweyCAT.
My review of Time for the Stars:
Telepathic twins are the answer to the problem of communicating with near light speed ships exploring the galaxy. This is the story of one of those twins, Tom Bartlett.
I have very fond memories of this YA book. The adventure story is still great but it must be admitted the social assumptions (especially regarding linguistic change and the relations between the sexes) are not.
Starting my No. 25, The Taexali Game by Nancy Jardine. This is an ebook which counts as my sixty-fourth ROOT. I'm reading it now for the AlphaKIT, SFFKIT, and DeweyCAT.
My review of Daughter of the Gods:
A novel telling the story of Hatshepsut, Egypt's most effective female Pharaoh.
Although there were a few things in the early part of the book that felt a bit anachronistic to me, I enjoyed the story, and learned a few things I hadn't known before about Hatshepsut from the author's note at the end.
Starting the next in the series, Nerds Who Kill, as my No. 26. This is a new ebook and so not a ROOT.
My review of Dead Egotistical Morons:
Roger Stendar, singer with the most popular boyband ever, Boys4U, is found dead in the showers after a concert in Chicago. Paul Turner and Buck Fenwick investigate.
The best in this series so far. Well-paced procedural even if a slightly disappointing ending left the murderer's motivation unclear.
Currently reading my No. 29, Pawn of Satan by Mark Richard Zubro. This is an ebook but not a ROOT.
On the way back from my annual trip home (early this year because of my Mum's 80th birthday) I also finished off Nerds Who Kill, and read Hook, Line & Homicide and Black and Blue and Pretty Dead Too by the same author.
As part of my trip home I went on my customary book buying spree, which means my physical TBR shelves now have 58 books.
Nerds Who Kill:
At a major science fiction and fantasy convention in Chicago, a major elderly author is found dead in her bedroom dressed as Xena. The murder weapon was a broadsword which detective Paul Turner's elder son was wearing as part of his costume.
Entertaining procedural, although slightly confusing in that Paul's sons seem to be a year younger than in the previous book.
Hook, Line & Homicide
While Paul Turner and Buck Fenwick are on a fishing vacation with their families, Paul's younger son finds the body of a local troublemaker in the lake.
This one left rather a bad taste in my mouth. Egalitarian, liberal Americans show racist, homophobic, misogynistic Canadians the error of their ways. If I hadn't already bought the other books in the series to read on the flight home I probably wouldn't have continued.
Black and Blue and Pretty Dead Too
A whistleblower cop is found dead at a gay BDSM event. Paul Turner and Buck Fenwick are assigned to the case and have to cope with hostility from some of their colleagues who think the whistleblower got what he deserved.
Another well paced procedural.
It was a win-win! You got to see your mom and bought some new books!
>50 tess_schoolmarm: that's what I was thinking ;)
I love going on book-buying sprees :D
Hope your mum had a great birthday! Glad that you were able to be home for the milestone celebration :) Also great that you got to buy books at the same time!
That sounds like a great trip - party, and books!
Physical TBR of 58 sounds pretty impressive to me too!
Thanks for dropping by, all. The party was great and who doesn't enjoy bookshopping?
Starting my No. 30, I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai. This is my sixty-sixth ROOT for 2016, which is my target. I am reading it for my real life book club, and it also fits the AlphaKIT, the RandomCAT, and the DeweyCAT.
My review of Pawn of Satan:
The body of a Roman Catholic bishop who had been kneecapped and whose skull had been bashed in is found on a piece of wasteland. Paul Turner and Buck Fenwick are assigned to the case.
The author's very jaundiced view of the Catholic church rather overwhelmed what could have been a good police procedural story.
Starting my No. 31, Time Tunnel to Londinium by Olli Tooley (no touchstone). This ebook is my sixty-seventh ROOT for 2016. I'm reading it now for the SFFKIT.
My review of I Am Malala:
Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani Pashto schoolgirl from the Swat Valley shot by a Taliban member, tells the story of her life so far.
A quick read which brought me near to tears on occasion. I must admit I hadn't realised she was quite an activist for girls' education even before she was shot rather than a random schoolgirl.
Starting my No. 32 The Towers of Trebizond by Rose Macaulay. This brings the TBR pile down to 57 books and is my sixty-eighth ROOT for 2016.
My review of Time Tunnel to Londinium:
Novella for children about a boy who goes back in time to Antonine Londinium.
Just a germ of an idea which really could do with being expanded. Boy goes back in time, meets another boy, explores the city and has dinner with him, and then comes back to the present. And that's it.
Starting my No. 33, Pompeii: A Tale of Murder in Ancient Rome by Robert Colton, which I am re-reading as an online bookclub choice. It is my sixty-ninth ROOT for 2016. It also fits in with the time period for the DeweyCAT.
My review of The Towers of Trebizond:
In the early 1950s, Laurie accompanies her Aunt Dot and a clergyman, Father Hugh Chantrey-Pigg, together with Aunt Dot's camel, to Turkey to assess whether a mission to convert Turkish women to High Church Anglicanism is likely to be successful.
In places quite as humourously batty as the premise sounds but as time goes by a more serious reflection on inter- and intra-religious clashes, religious yearnings, and finally religious despair emerges. The travel writing and descriptions of Turkey and the Holy Land are also well worth reading.
Starting my No. 33, the same author's short stories, Rome to Alexandria. This is my seventieth ROOT for 2016.
Starting the next in the series, Pompeii: A Conspiracy Among Friends. This is my No.34 and counts as my seventy-first ROOT for 2016. It also counts for GeoCAT.
Starting the next in the series, Pompeii: Hazard At Bay. This is my No. 35 and counts as my seventy-second ROOT for 2016.
I think I might have to up my target next year. I keep saying I mustn't increase it because of the chunksters, but the chunksters stay on the shelf.
Starting my No. 36, I, Claudia by Marilyn Todd. I'm reading this for my online book club. It's my seventy-third ROOT for 2016 and also fits the GeoCAT and AlphaKIT for this month.
>64 Robertgreaves: I deliberately kept my goal low this year (12!!) in case I got a succession of chunksters, and then pretty much got a succession of really short books, so I was able to exceed my target really early on in the year. I'm going to be doing two of the CATs in the Category Challenge next year, and the titles I've picked out for those mean that if I read them all it will be over 30 books just for them. So I'm fairly confident that upping my goal won't be disastrous :)
Starting my No. 37, the next in the series, Virgin Territory. This is my seventy-fourth ROOT for 2016 and fits the GeoCAT and AlphaKIT (as will all of the books in this series).
Starting my No. 38, Man Eater, the next in the series. This is my seventy-fifth ROOT for 2016 and still fits GeoCAT and AlphaKIT.
Starting my No. 39, Wolf Whistle, the next in the Claudia Seferius series. It is my seventy-sixth ROOT for 2016.
Starting my No. 40, the next in the series, Jail Bait. This is my seventy-seventh ROOT for 2016. I haven't read this one before.
>64 Robertgreaves: I know that feeling! I tried to focus on chunksters this year... it worked a little bit but not nearly as well as I'd hoped!
Starting my No. 41, the sixth Claudia Seferius adventure, Black Salamander. This is my seventy-eighth ROOT for 2016.
My review of Jail Bait:
Having been seen "borrowing" some money from a banker's vault, Claudia Seferius decides an absence from Rome in a flourishing new health resort and spa called Atlantis, ostensibly at the invitation of a friend of her late husband's, might be advisable. But it seems an awful lot of people are finding Atlantis and the town of Spesium very bad for their health.
Despite some flashes of humour as Claudia and Orbilio trade quips in their usual fashion, this is quite a dark one. I also felt the high politics wasn't well integrated into the plot.
Starting my No. 42, Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin. This brings the TBR pile down to 56 and is my seventy-ninth ROOT for 2016. It fits the AlphaKIT and the SFKIT.
My review of Black Salamander:
Claudia Sefirius is offered a large sum to take part in a trade delegation travelling to Vesantion in Gaul to mark the 50th anniversary of the cooperation between the Sequani and Rome provided she delivers a certain package when she gets there. And then the delegation gets cut off from its escort and the bodies start mounting up.
Lots of twists and turns but not as funny as some of the earlier ones in the series.
>76 Robertgreaves: wow, another beast of a novel! I'm sure you'll finish it in no time.... :)
It's a great read, though. It will move swiftly -- especially for you since you read so quickly.
>82 Robertgreaves: Thanks, Robert, and to you and yours as well! :D
Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and Happy New Year, Robert! Wishing you all the best throughout 2017!
Starting my No. 43, The Grass Crown by Colleen McCullough. I am re-reading this for my online bookclub. It counts as my eightieth ROOT for 2016.
My review of Game of Thrones:
Stark (York) v Lannister (Lancaster) in a world where zombies and dragons exist and seasons last for years. And winter is coming.
I loved the complex world Martin has built but found I could only read the book in short bursts. The call of the internet was just too strong.
My online bookclub has started re-reading the series, having one volume as the January choice each year.
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