Tackling the TBR #23

Hello again, Reader! If historical fiction is your thing, there are several books in today’s post which might be to your liking. I’m going over another 10 titles from my TBR list today to see if I still want to read them or if I should take them off of my list to make room for others.

It has become apparent that my TBR (to be read) list has gotten nearly out of hand. Therefore, I have decided to do a post featuring ten books from it approximately every other week. As I go through the list, I will evaluate each book and decide whether or not it still belongs. Who knows, perhaps as my list (hopefully) shrinks, you will find a few books to add to your own!

The last time I did this type of post was May 24. At the end of that post, my TBR list contained 844 books. Today it has 845. I have gone through 250 books.

A Sparkle of Silver (Georgia Coast Romance #1)#251.  A Sparkle of Silver (Georgia Coast Romance #1) by Liz Johnson

Synopsis: Ninety years ago, Millie Sullivan’s great-grandmother was a guest at oil tycoon Howard Dawkins’ palatial estate on the shore of St. Simons Island, Georgia. Now, Millie plays a 1920s-era guest during tours of the same manor. But when her grandmother suggests that there is a lost diary containing the location of a hidden treasure on the estate, along with the true identity of Millie’s great-grandfather, Millie sets out to find the truth of her heritage–and the fortune that might be hers. When security guard Ben Thornton discovers her snooping in the estate’s private library, he threatens to have her fired. But her story seems almost too ludicrous to be fiction, and her offer to split the treasure is too tempting to pass up . . .

Comments: I’m pretty sure I put this book on my list while under the impression that the author was someone else, but this mystery sounds so fun! It’s definitely sticking around.

Decision: Keep

The Tuscan Child#252.  The Tuscan Child by Rhys Bowen

Synopsis: In 1944, British bomber pilot Hugo Langley parachuted from his stricken plane into the verdant fields of German-occupied Tuscany. Badly wounded, he found refuge in a ruined monastery and in the arms of Sofia Bartoli. But the love that kindled between them was shaken by an irreversible betrayal.

Nearly thirty years later, Hugo’s estranged daughter, Joanna, has returned home to the English countryside to arrange her father’s funeral. Among his personal effects is an unopened letter addressed to Sofia. In it is a startling revelation.

Still dealing with the emotional wounds of her own personal trauma, Joanna embarks on a healing journey to Tuscany to understand her father’s history—and maybe come to understand herself as well. Joanna soon discovers that some would prefer the past be left undisturbed, but she has come too far to let go of her father’s secrets now…

Comments: Nope, not the emotions I want to explore through reading.

Decision: Remove

The Tattooist of Auschwitz (The Tattooist of Auschwitz, #1)#253. The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris

Synopsis: In April 1942, Lale Sokolov, a Slovakian Jew, is forcibly transported to the concentration camps at Auschwitz-Birkenau. When his captors discover that he speaks several languages, he is put to work as a Tätowierer (the German word for tattooist), tasked with permanently marking his fellow prisoners. Imprisoned for over two and a half years, Lale witnesses horrific atrocities and barbarism—but also incredible acts of bravery and compassion. Risking his own life, he uses his privileged position to exchange jewels and money from murdered Jews for food to keep his fellow prisoners alive. One day in July 1942, Lale, prisoner 32407, comforts a trembling young woman waiting in line to have the number 34902 tattooed onto her arm. Her name is Gita, and in that first encounter, Lale vows to somehow survive the camp and marry her.

Comments: Why did I ever add this book to my to-read list?

Decision: Remove

The Map of Salt and Stars#254.  The Map of Salt and Stars by Zeyn Joukhadar

Synopsis: It is the summer of 2011, and Nour has just lost her father to cancer. Her mother, a cartographer who creates unusual, hand-painted maps, decides to move Nour and her sisters from New York City back to Syria to be closer to their family. But the country Nour’s mother once knew is changing, and it isn’t long before protests and shelling threaten their quiet Homs neighborhood. When a shell destroys Nour’s house and almost takes her life, she and her family are forced to choose: stay and risk more violence or flee as refugees across seven countries of the Middle East and North Africa in search of safety. As their journey becomes more and more challenging, Nour’s idea of home becomes a dream she struggles to remember and a hope she cannot live without.

More than eight hundred years earlier, Rawiya, sixteen and a widow’s daughter, knows she must do something to help her impoverished mother. Restless and longing to see the world, she leaves home to seek her fortune. Disguising herself as a boy named Rami, she becomes an apprentice to al-Idrisi, who has been commissioned by King Roger II of Sicily to create a map of the world. In his employ, Rawiya embarks on an epic journey across the Middle East and the north of Africa where she encounters ferocious mythical beasts, epic battles, and real historical figures.

Comments: The contemporary story would interest me, but not the historical one.

Decision: Remove

All the Light We Cannot See#255.  All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Synopsis: Marie-Laure lives in Paris near the Museum of Natural History, where her father works. When she is twelve, the Nazis occupy Paris and father and daughter flee to the walled citadel of Saint-Malo, where Marie-Laure’s reclusive great uncle lives in a tall house by the sea. With them they carry what might be the museum’s most valuable and dangerous jewel.

In a mining town in Germany, Werner Pfennig, an orphan, grows up with his younger sister, enchanted by a crude radio they find that brings them news and stories from places they have never seen or imagined. Werner becomes an expert at building and fixing these crucial new instruments and is enlisted to use his talent to track down the resistance. Deftly interweaving the lives of Marie-Laure and Werner, Doerr illuminates the ways, against all odds, people try to be good to one another.

Comments: It’s all of the positive reviews keeping this book on my list this time around. With just the synopsis, I’m torn, but after reading such glowing reviews as have found their way to the top of the book’s Goodreads page, I’m inclined to give it a shot.

Decision: Keep

Rocket Men: The Daring Odyssey of Apollo 8 and the Astronauts Who Made Man's First Journey to the Moon#256.  Rocket Men: The Daring Odyssey of Apollo 8 and the Astronauts who made Man’s First Journey to the Moon by Robert Kurson

Synopsis: In early 1968, the Apollo program was on shaky footing. President Kennedy’s end-of-decade deadline to put a man on the Moon was in jeopardy, and the Soviets were threatening to pull ahead in the space race. By August 1968, with its back against the wall, NASA decided to scrap its usual methodical approach and shoot for the heavens. With just four months to prepare–a fraction of the normal time–the agency would send the first men in history to the Moon. In a year of historic violence and discord–the Tet offensive, the assassinations of MLK and RFK, the Chicago DNC riots–the Apollo 8 mission was the boldest test of what America could do. With a focus on astronauts Frank Borman, Jim Lovell, and Bill Anders, and their wives and children, this is a vivid, gripping, you-are-there narrative that shows anew the epic danger involved, and the singular bravery it took, for man to leave Earth for the first time–and to arrive at a new world. 

Comments: I’m always intrigued by space race biographies, but I’ve yet to finish one. Maybe this will be the first?

Decision: Keep

My Life in Middlemarch#257.  My Life in Middlemarch by Rebecca Mead

Synopsis: Italicized. ebecca Mead was a young woman in an English coastal town when she first read George Eliot’s Middlemarch, regarded by many as the greatest English novel. After gaining admission to Oxford, and moving to the United States to become a journalist, through several love affairs, then marriage and family, Mead read and reread Middlemarch. The novel, which Virginia Woolf famously described as “one of the few English novels written for grown-up people,” offered Mead something that modern life and literature did not.

In this wise and revealing work of biography, reporting, and memoir, Rebecca Mead leads us into the life that the book made for her, as well as the many lives the novel has led since it was written. Employing a structure that deftly mirrors that of the novel, My Life in Middlemarch takes the themes of Eliot’s masterpiece–the complexity of love, the meaning of marriage, the foundations of morality, and the drama of aspiration and failure–and brings them into our world. Offering both a fascinating reading of Eliot’s biography and an exploration of the way aspects of Mead’s life uncannily echo that of Eliot herself.

Comments: I own this book, so I had better read it eventually!

Decision: Keep

The Help#258.  The Help by Kathryn Stockett

Synopsis: Aibileen is a black maid in 1962 Jackson, Mississippi, who’s always taken orders quietly, but lately she’s unable to hold her bitterness back. Her friend Minny has never held her tongue but now must somehow keep secrets about her employer that leave her speechless. White socialite Skeeter just graduated college. She’s full of ambition, but without a husband, she’s considered a failure.

Together, these seemingly different women join together to write a tell-all book about work as a black maid in the South, that could forever alter their destinies and the life of a small town…

Comments: Honestly, the story doesn’t sound all that compelling, but this book has won so many awards that I expect it is worth reading. Someday, perhaps.

Decision: Keep

I Was Anastasia#259.  I Was Anastasia by Ariel Lawhon

Synopsis: Russia, July 17, 1918: Under direct orders from Vladimir Lenin, Bolshevik secret police force Anastasia Romanov, along with the entire imperial family, into a damp basement in Siberia, where they face a merciless firing squad. None survive. At least that is what the executioners have always claimed.

Germany, February 17, 1920: A young woman bearing an uncanny resemblance to Anastasia Romanov is pulled shivering and senseless from a canal. Refusing to explain her presence in the freezing water or even acknowledge her rescuers, she is taken to the hospital where an examination reveals that her body is riddled with countless horrific scars. When she finally does speak, this frightened, mysterious young woman claims to be the Russian grand duchess.

As rumors begin to circulate through European society that the youngest Romanov daughter has survived the massacre at Ekaterinburg, old enemies and new threats are awakened. The question of who Anna Anderson is and what actually happened to Anastasia Romanov spans fifty years and touches three continents. This thrilling saga is every bit as moving and momentous as it is harrowing and twisted.

Comments: Stories about Anastasia nearly always end up sad and violent, even the ones exploring the supposed possibility of her survival. And yet, somehow I’m drawn to them.

Decision: Keep

Return of the Song (The Rockwater Suite #1)#260.  Return of the Song (Rockwater Suite #1) by Phyllis Clark Nichols

Synopsis: Caroline Carlyle’s hopes and dreams were crushed when her fiancé died six weeks before their wedding. For years, she wrestled with aching loss and shattered faith, struggling to find the inspiration that once came so easily. Abandoning her half-finished piano compositions, Caroline traded her old ambitions for the comfort and familiarity of life as the town’s piano teacher.

But Caroline’s life turns upside-down when a mysterious stranger enters her life, bringing courage and fresh purpose. Inspired by her new acquaintance, Caroline embarks on a quest to track down the beloved rare piano she played as a child. Her search leads her to Rockwater, the Kentucky estate of a wealthy gentleman, where Caroline finds her heart may be composing a surprising new song. 

Comments: This sounds fun! I like the idea of the musical motifs.

Decision: Keep

Ending number of books on my TBR list: 842

What do you think of these titles, Reader? Are there any that you have read or want to read?

This week starts week 3 of my summer classes, so everything is in full swing there! One group project, lots of reading assignments, and weekly quizzes are taking up most of my time outside of work. But with only two classes this term I am still managing to find some time to read, and I think I will finish Meg & Jo at least by the end of the month in honor of the Louisa May Alcott Reading Challenge. I’m starting to look ahead to July, and it promises to be just as busy (if not moreso) as June. I may have to cut back to one or two posts per week again in July, but we’ll see how things go then when we get there. If things go as planned, I’ll keep up with three posts per week for June, then re-evaluate over the Fourth of July weekend and determine what I expect to work for that month.

Until the next chapter,

Jana

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