I am very late (a full month), but decided this is exactly the kind of exercise that I need to get over my “reader’s block.” I have been in a slump with wedding planning (yay!), working from home, and *finally* getting to see my mom and stepdad for the first time since February. Now, it has been hard to get back into reading. However, seeing what is out there and what I was once excited to read should be a great help. So without further ado…
A couple of weeks ago, I discovered this meme, Down the TBR hole, from Confessions of a YA Reader, which is created by Lost in a Story (now Sunflowers and Wonder). Down the TBR Hole revolves around cleansing your TBR of all those books you’re never going to read and sort through it all to know what’s actually on there.
Most of you probably know this feeling, your Goodreads TBR pile keeps growing and growing and it seems like there is no light at the end of the tunnel. You keep adding, but you add more than you actually read. And then when you’re scrolling through your list, you realize that you have no idea what half the books are about and why you added them. Well that’s going to change!
It works like this:
- Go to your Goodreads to-read shelf.
- Order on ascending date added.
- Take the first 5 (or 10 (or even more!) if you’re feeling adventurous) books. Of course, if you do this weekly, you start where you left off the last time.
- Read the synopses of the books
- Decide: keep it or should it go.
This is week five for me, and I am as excited as ever. This has been incredibly helpful to organize my thoughts. I have averaged at 2/5 book removal (40%) rate, which I think is healthy but not insane.
- My Goodreads: Sam Sigelakis-Minski
- Current TBR: 1,499 (this is more than last week because I have no self control and probably added more).
1. Poems of the Sea, by various (edited by J.D. McClatchy)
- Date added: October 14, 2011
- Synopsis: Throughout history, poets have felt the ancient pull of the sea, exploring the full range of mankind’s nautical fears, dreams, and longings. The colorful legends of the sea–pirates and mermaids, phantom ships and the sunken city of Atlantis–have inspired as many imaginations as have the realities of lighthouses and shipwrecks, of icebergs and frothing foam and seaweed.
This marvelous collection includes classics old and new, from Homer and Milton to Plath and Merwin. Here are Tennyson’s seductive sea-fairies next to Poe’s beloved Annabel Lee. Here is Coleridge’s darkly brooding “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” alongside the grandeur of Shakespeare’s “Full Fathom Five.” And here is Masefield’s “I must go down to the seas again” alongside Cavafy’s “Ithaka” and Stevens’s “The Idea of Order at Key West.” In the wide variety of lyrics collected here–sonnets and sea chanteys, ballads and hymns and prayers–we feel the encompassing power of our planet’s restless waters as metaphor, mystery, and muse.
- Real Talk: This is an easy sell for me. It combines everything I love: classical and contemporary poetry and the sea (I write a blog about reading books on the beach so…) I actually own a handful of editions from the Everyman’s Library (undergrad poetry classes love assigning these), and would love to have this one on my shelf also.
- Verdict: A resounding keep.
2. The Witches of Eileanan, by Kate Forsyth
- Date added: October 14, 2011
- Synopsis: In the Celtic land of Eileanan, witches and magic have been outlawed, and those caught for practicing witchcraft are put to death! It is a land ruled by an evil Queen, where sea-dwelling Fairgean stir, and children vanish in the night. But in a valley deep in the mountains, young Isabeau grows to womanhood under the guidance of an elderly witch, and must set out on a quest, carrying the last hopes of the persecuted witches.
- Real Talk: This is a tough one. Witches of Eileanan has literally everything I love about high fantasy: a mystical celtic land, witches, dragons, strong female protagonist. However, it is the first of six books in the series, it was written in the 90s so I am a little skeptical about the feminism, and apparently the written Scottish accent is a b**** to read.
- Verdict: We are going to keep this for now, because hopefully someday I will be up for a new rollicking, full length high fantasy series, even if that day isn’t today.
3. Kushiel’s Dart, by Jacqueline Carey
- Date added: October 14, 2011
- Synopsis: The land of Terre d’Ange is a place of unsurpassing beauty and grace. It is said that angels found the land and saw it was good… and the ensuing race that rose from the seed of angels and men live by one simple rule: Love as thou wilt.
Phèdre nó Delaunay is a young woman who was born with a scarlet mote in her left eye. Sold into indentured servitude as a child, her bond is purchased by Anafiel Delaunay, a nobleman with very a special mission… and the first one to recognize who and what she is: one pricked by Kushiel’s Dart, chosen to forever experience pain and pleasure as one.
Phèdre is trained equally in the courtly arts and the talents of the bedchamber, but, above all, the ability to observe, remember, and analyze. Almost as talented a spy as she is courtesan, Phèdre stumbles upon a plot that threatens the very foundations of her homeland. Treachery sets her on her path; love and honor goad her further. And in the doing, it will take her to the edge of despair… and beyond. Hateful friend, loving enemy, beloved assassin; they can all wear the same glittering mask in this world, and Phèdre will get but one chance to save all that she holds dear.
Set in a world of cunning poets, deadly courtiers, heroic traitors, and a truly Machiavellian villainess, this is a novel of grandeur, luxuriance, sacrifice, betrayal, and deeply laid conspiracies. Not since Dune has there been an epic on the scale of Kushiel’s Dart-a massive tale about the violent death of an old age, and the birth of a new.
- Real Talk: I don’t actually understand why this is still on my TBR, since I have picked it up and put it down at least three times. Not much about Kushiel’s Dart appeals to me. BDSM is not my jam, teenagers being trained as escorts is not my jam, and books that are 1,000 plus pages long and in a series especially don’t appeal to me (I am the only asshole I know who stopped reading Game of Thrones at book 3).
- Verdict: So long, farewell, auf Wiedersehen (but not really).
4. Song in the Silence, by Elizabeth Kerner
- Date added: October 14, 2011
- Synopsis: Lanen Kaelar has spent her life being told just how wrongheaded and foolish she is by her entire family. When Lanen’s father dies, she chooses to leave her abusive relatives and search out the great dragons she has always dreamed of, though she knows what she seeks may not be real.
But those who hold true power know that prophecies have been told of Lanen Kaelar since before her birth. They fear the destiny she may fulfill, the mysteries she may unravel–and the strange and terrifying love she may find on the legendary Dragon Isle.
- Real Talk: On the fence on this one. I must have been on a SFF kick when adding this slew of books (these were all added on the same day), and now I am trying to be more choosy in which SFF high fantasy series to pursue, especially given the sheer amount of them that came out of the 80s and 90s awakening. This book is only in a trilogy, however, many reviewers likened it to “Twilight with a dragon.” I was intrigued by this, read further, and realized her soulmate is… you guessed it… a dragon. This doesn’t sound like the female-led empowering quest that is shown in the synopsis.
- Verdict: Kicking it off the TBR. I am open to more SFF recommendations particularly with badass female protagonists, but not when they immediately get sucked into a romance plot, and not when I can’t conceptualize the sex (because, ew).
5. Dreams Underfoot, by Charles de Lint
- Date added: October 15, 2011
- Synopsis: Welcome to Newford… Welcome to the music clubs, the waterfront, the alleyways where ancient myths and magic spill into the modern world. Come meet Jilly, painting wonders in the rough city streets; and Geordie, playing fiddle while he dreams of a ghost; and the Angel of Grasso Street gathering the fey and the wild and the poor and the lost. Gemmins live in abandoned cars and skells traverse the tunnels below, while mermaids swim in the grey harbor waters and fill the cold night with their song.
- Real Talk: The synopsis, and the internet, don’t really help with discovering what this book is about. However, the Newford series sounds very intriguing and in a similar vein to Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere or Charlaine Harris’s Midnight, Texas series. I am a big fan of urban fantasy, especially when it gets dark. Even though this is a book of short stories, it feels right and a good way to break into de Lint’s Newford world.
- Verdict: Keep, and we will see.
This was as helpful as I had hoped, and I missed doing my TBR challenge. 2.5 (right on par for me), and full disclosure, I removed 2-3 sequels to books I never read but the sequels somehow managed to find their way onto my TBR (whoops!).
I am also cognizant of the fact that both books I removed from my TBR are written by women, while 2/3 I kept are either written by a man, or predominantly by men. I would like to address this, because I do generally have a goal of reading more books written by women. Despite these removals, I am still committed to this goal, and will strive to *add* new books from other female authors that I find are more to my current tastes. Also, I am happy to note that the virtually every book I have reviewed from April to July have been written by women. This wasn’t on purpose, but it makes me happy to see so much female talent on my “Read” shelf, and I am excited to see this trend.
Let me know if you loved any of the books I removed or have any other thoughts, and let’s chat!