Down the TBR Hole #11

Happy Friday, all! What a good day to clean up your TBR. I managed to remove 6 out of 10 books during my last TBR cleanup, which was a feat and a half. This week, I am feeling slightly less ambitious.

A while 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 project has been incredibly helpful to organize my thoughts, since a lot of the books I am slogging through on my TBR were added almost a decade ago. I don’t know about you guys, but my 20-year-old self was a bit of a twit. I have averaged at 2.5/5 book removal (50%) rate, which I think is healthy but not insane.

My Goodreads: Sam Sigelakis-Minski
Current TBR: 1,337 (Yay I managed to keep it lower than last week!)

1. Jackie Temple and the Emperor’s Seal, by Suzanne Litrel

  • Date added: February 24, 2012
  • Synopsis: A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” With these words, the Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu might as well have been thinking on the adventures Jackie Tempo, who is on an unusual quest to find her parents. Jackie Tempo is a lonely teen who lives in a remote New England town. She mourns her parents who died in a car crash when she was young. In the mansion she shares with her eccentric Aunt Isobel, Jackie discovers a mysterious text, which transports her back in time to Ming China. Jackie is stunned to find herself on a Portuguese caravel – and the ship’s doctor is her father, David! The year is 1521. Thus begins Jackie’s journey through time and space, at turns an exciting and harrowing adventure. Along the way, Jackie encounters a Buddhist monk, a strong-willed concubine, and a runaway girl who has been falsely accused of stealing the Emperor’s seal. Together, she and Jackie forge a bond in their unusual quest to find their way home. However, they quickly discover that a darker force is at work here. It is up to Jackie and her allies to prevent a serious disruption in the time-space continuum.
  • Real Talk: Mrs. Litrel was my teacher for AP World History, Mandarin I, and Economics. She was perhaps one of the most brilliant high school teachers I had and by far the one with the most interesting life. And then she goes and writes an awesome book series about a girl who travels back in time? Hell yes.
  • Verdict: I need to go buy this book now.

2. Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey: The Lost Legacy of Highclere Castle, by Fiona Carnarvon

  • Date added: March 1, 2012
  • Synopsis: Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey tells the story behind Highclere Castle, the real-life inspiration and setting for Julian Fellowes’s Emmy Award-winning PBS show Downton Abbey, and the life of one of its most famous inhabitants, Lady Almina, the 5th Countess of Carnarvon. Drawing on a rich store of materials from the archives of Highclere Castle, including diaries, letters, and photographs, the current Lady Carnarvon has written a transporting story of this fabled home on the brink of war. Much like her Masterpiece Classic counterpart, Lady Cora Crawley, Lady Almina was the daughter of a wealthy industrialist, Alfred de Rothschild, who married his daughter off at a young age, her dowry serving as the crucial link in the effort to preserve the Earl of Carnarvon’s ancestral home.  Throwing open the doors of Highclere Castle to tend to the wounded of World War I, Lady Almina distinguished herself as a brave and remarkable woman. This rich tale contrasts the splendor of Edwardian life in a great house against the backdrop of the First World War and offers an inspiring and revealing picture of the woman at the center of the history of Highclere Castle
  • Real Talk: I love Downton Abbey, and I love regency history. Some of the reviews talk about how this book is too whitewashed and doesn’t get really into the nitty gritty, which is unsurprising since the author is the descendant countess from her subject matter. However no matter how hard I looked, I couldn’t find another biography, and it does appear that the Countess was a fascinating woman.
  • Verdict: I am keeping this tentatively, but if I find a better rated biography of the Lady Almina, I will read it instead.

3. The Last Unicorn, by Peter S. Beagle

  • Date added: March 1, 202
  • Synopsis: The unicorn had lived since before memory in a forest where death could touch nothing. Maidens who caught a glimpse of her glory were blessed by enchantment they would never forget. But outside her wondrous realm, dark whispers and rumours carried a message she could not ignore: “Unicorns are gone from the world.” Aided by a bumbling magician and an indomitable spinster, she set out to learn the truth. but she feared even her immortal wisdom meant nothing in a world where a mad king’s curse and terror incarnate lived only to stalk the last unicorn to her doom… 
  • Real Talk: Can’t beat Peter Beagle for good relaxing fantasy. I actually have no idea how I haven’t read this yet.
  • Verdict: Keep, not even a question.

4. The Trouble With Poetry – And Other Poems, by Billy Collins

  • Date added: March 1, 2012
  • Synopsis: Like the present book’s title, Collins’s poems are filled with mischief, humor, and irony, “Poetry speaks to all people, it is said, but here I would like to address / only those in my own time zone”-but also with quiet observation, intense wonder, and a reverence for the everyday: “The birds are in their trees, / the toast is in the toaster, / and the poets are at their windows. / They are at their windows in every section of the tangerine of earth-the Chinese poets looking up at the moon, / the American poets gazing out / at the pink and blue ribbons of sunrise. Through simple language, Collins shows that good poetry doesn’t have to be obscure or incomprehensible, qualities that are perhaps the real trouble with most “serious” poetry: “By now, it should go without saying / that what the oven is to the baker / and the berry-stained blouse to the drycleaner / so the window is to the poet.”
  • Real Talk: I love Billy Collins. He writes for common man; in the US, he is literally known as the “People’s Poet.” This is one of his more recent collections, but I have no doubt it is still amazing.
  • Verdict: Keep. I don’t like many poets, but Billy will always be on my list.

5. Student, by Nell Kalter

  • Date added: February 24, 2012
  • Synopsis: It’s the second semester of her senior year in college, and before she is thrown into the uncertain abyss of the real world, Jaye is desperately trying to cram in every delirious moment of university life. Her days are spent forging closer bonds with friends, watching grisly horror movies in her Film Theory class, applying to graduate school, and considering calling off the safe and secure long-distance romance she has been a part of for perhaps far too long. Her nights are spent forming attractions to fraternity boys and guitarists in local bar bands. She is questioning what she wants her looming future to hold. But as her time as a student frenetically comes to an end, the only thing Jaye knows for sure is that she has a lot more growing up to do. Beginning on the blizzard-ridden and alcohol-fueled night of her twenty-first birthday and continuing through the memorable last months of college, her summer spent in New York City, and the following aimless autumn, STUDENT explores one young woman’s quest to find herself. Brutally honest and deeply introspective, Jaye is bold but inhibited, reckless but resilient, sexy but self-conscious, and surrounded by friends while often feeling alone. What she will experience in nine pivotal months will change her forever.
  • Real Talk: Similar to Mrs. Litrel, Ms. Kalter was my high school film studies teacher and a force of nature. She is still at my alma mater tearing it up, and if her book has as much life as she does, I knot it will be a bombshell.
  • Verdict: Always support the people that made you who you are. Keep.


I screwed up, guys. I didn’t get rid of any. To be fair, two out of five are from women I admire greatly, so the odds were against me. However, I did get rid of a lot of sequels last week (as a rule I remove those on my own time), so my overall total is still down. I am okay with this.


2 thoughts on “Down the TBR Hole #11

  1. My wife read the Lady Almina a few years back (between seasons 1 & 2, iirc) and kept reading me bits, talking about other parts and whatnot. Still refers to it. Which isn’t necessarily to say it’s a great read, but some of it sticks pretty well.

    Liked by 1 person

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