Admitting Defeat

I’ve done it.  I’ve called time. I have given up. Titus Groan has gone to the Shelf of Shame.  Eight months after I started reading it, I’ve decided it’s not for me, that I have other things that I would rather read and that there is no point in carrying on with something I’m not enjoying just for the sake of saying I’ve finished it.

What prompted my decision?  Well it was reading another book that I wasn’t enjoying and deciding to give up on that after 75 pages and only two weeks of trying.  The other book was one by an author that I’ve read before but not particularly enjoyed.  I was trying this author out again because I’ve seen really enthusiastic reviews and lots of books by this author in the bookshops and wondered whether I’d made a mistake.

When I read this author before, I was living in France and had a very limited supply of English books.  There was a foreign language bookshop in town, but the prices were high and the selection limited. I discovered some gems there (my first Isabel Wolff came from there) but some didn’t thrill me the same way.  And when you’ve paid £10 for a paperback you know would have cost you £6 tops in the UK, you feel dissatisfied if it’s not Amazing-with-a-capital-A.  And I wondered if that was what was behind my previous issues – after all I’d bought TWO of this authors books while I was in France (I mentioned that there wasn’t a large selection didn’t I) so there must have been something there that I liked – even if I had given them away rather than bring them home!

But about a quarter of the way in to the book I still wasn’t grabbed and I was finding excuses to read other things instead, so I decided to give it up.  And I thought “How is this different to Titus?” which I’ve been reading it for months, have got about a quarter of the way through and am constantly finding excuses to not read.  I was also paying far too much attention to how many pages I’d read – when I’m enjoying something I don’t notice how many pages until I put it down.

So I decided that this was A Sign – and admitted defeat.  These two books join my (small) shelf on Goodreads called The Shelf of Shame – The Ones I Gave Up.  It’s not a very long list – other books on it include Dan Brown’s third Robert Langdon novel and a Dawn French novel – overall I’ve given up on less than 1 percent of the 1100+ books I’ve got marked as read on Goodreads.  I would leave them off my account all together (they don’t count towards my total of books read in a year because I don’t add a date) but this way it reminds me of what I really didn’t like and stops me from making the same mistake again.

I hate giving up on books – particularly if they’ve been sitting on the shelf for a while waiting to be read – but I’ve decided, there are so many good books out there, why waste time on the ones I don’t like.  Titus Groan has joined the pile going to the charity shop – after all, he might be someone else’s new favourite book.

books, The pile

Three Month Progress review

Well.  Three months ago I posted a picture of the to-read pile as part of my efforts to get myself to shrink my stockpile of books waiting to be read.  Here’s how it looked:

The to-read pile back in May
The to-read pile back in May

So here we are, in August and I thought it was time to report back on my progress in my quest to reduce the backlog.  Brace yourself:

The current state of the to-read pile

So I think it looks a little better.  Of course this is partly because I’ve had a rationalisation of the library book stock pile and taken a lot back.  But even taking that into account I don’t think that the pile has got any bigger – and if you compare the photos you’ll see that although some of the same books are still there there’s also a fair few that have changed.  So I’m not too discouraged – but there is still a lot of work to do.

stats, The pile, week in books

The Week In Books: July 28 – August 3

A much more productive week than I was expecting – and some really good books in there – check out the reviews of American Blonde and The Storms of War.  It’s also been a very early Twentieth Century week – Flambards in the pre-Great War period, The Storms of War covering 1914-18, Laura Lamont starting in the 1920s and going through to the 1970s and American Blonde set in the 1940s! And that’s before you get to the fact that I’ve started Flappers  I also really enjoyed the Donna Andrews, the Meg Langslow series continues to provide me with a lot of laughs and it was great to fill in a gap in my Christina Jones back catalogue with Tickled Pink.


American Blonde by Jennifer Niven

Tickled Pink by Christina Jones

The Penguin Who Knew Too Much by Donna Andrews

Laura Lamont’s Life in Pictures by Emma Straub

The Storms of War by Kate Williams

Flambards by K M Peyton


Deception by M C Beaton

Flappers by Judith Mackrell

A Surfeit of Lampreys by Ngaio Marsh

Still reading:

The Beach Hut Next Door by Veronica Henry

Titus Groan by Mervyn Peake

No books bought this week – so that’s progress of a sort.  Still, not all of last week’s splurge have arrived yet…

historical, reviews

Review: The Storms of War

Finishing off a busy week over here on the blog with a review of Kate Williams’ The Storms of War – which I started during #Sunathon and has taken me longer to read than you’d expect considering how much I enjoyed it – because of the fact that it’s a hardback and I can’t lug it around with me on the train.

Firstly, I love a good saga – I worked my way through Barbara Taylor Bradford’s Woman of Substance trilogy when I was 16 (back when it was still a trilogy!) and then moved on to Elizabeth Jane Howard’s Cazalet books, which I adored – so this looked just up my street, especially when you consider that I studied First World War Literature for my A-Level English Literature.

Storms of War
It’s a big hardback – but it’s got such a pretty cover

So, the plot:  The de Witts are an Anglo-German family, who, at the start of the Great War, are preparing for the marriage of their eldest daughter to a member of the English Nobility.  Rudolph, the father, is from Germany and has made his money through meat factories.  Verena, the mother, is the daughter of a lord and they have four children Michael, Emmeline, Celia and Arthur (who is away from home at the start of the war).  The book follows them through the war, as Rudolph suddenly becomes an outcast in the country he considers his home and the children face not only the consequences of that – but the effects of the war in general.

I really enjoyed this – as I’ve already said on Twitter – I would describe it as Cazalets do World War One, but with added tensions caused by the family’s German links.  The characters were interesting and engaging and having read a lot of books about World War One over the years, both novels and non-fiction, their experiences seemed realistic and rang true with what I have read – which to be honest is only what you’d expect as Kate Williams is a “proper” historian.  The fresh angle here is that Anglo-German twist that I’ve already mentioned – and I thought that was handled really well.  Book two is promised for next year – and I look forward to seeing how the family fares in the post-Great War world.  I foresee interesting possibilities – particularly as there are ends left untied here and a development at the very end of the book creates potential for fresh conflict within the family.

I’ve read some of Kate Williams’ historical biographies in the past – but it was a few years ago and I found the writing style a little harder to get on with than some others in that genre.  This, however is an absolute joy to read – and very difficult to put down (despite its size!) – and it has inspired me to bump one of her other books that’s still sitting on the to-read pile up to the top of the list.  The front cover has a quote from Alison Weir recommending it to fans of Downton Abbey and although I think that’s a bit of a simplistic view of the market for this book, I think that it is a great way of getting people to pick up what is a large and intimidating looking hardback.

There’s a wealth of books about World War One out there (and lots of new ones appearing at the moment because of the anniversary) so there are lots of other books to read if you like this – I’ve already mentioned the Cazalets which is a slightly later period, but is a similar sort of family saga – but there are also books like Pat Barker’s Regeneration and a wealth of accounts written by people who lived through the Great War – like Erich Maria Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front and Robert Graves’ Goodbye to All That.

Kate Williams’ The Storms of War should be in all good bookshops – as the phrase goes – and here are my traditional links to Foyles for the hardback and Amazon for the more portable Kindle edition. This is the sort of book I always want an actual copy of though – as I know I’ll want to lend it to my mum and sister if it’s any good.

books, stats

July Stats

On Good Reads to-reads shelf (I don’t have copies of all of these!): 441 (I’ve got to stop adding new books to the list and start reading them!)

New books* read in July: 18

Books from the Library Book pile: 0

Books from the to-read pile: 9

E-books: 6

Books read as soon as they arrived: 3

Most read author in July: Jasper Fforde

Books* read this year: 129

Books bought: 17 – 13 paperbacks (but they haven’t all arrived yet so the pile is smaller…) and 4 e books

Books acquired**: 9

Net progress: 8 books more on the pile…

Oh dear.  I was going really well until the last week of the month – when I bought 7 books second hand on recommendations and another couple of kindle daily deals.  But really the problem is the tempting Nature of Net Galley – and my ability to acquire books on there.  But as they are all on the Kindle, they kind of don’t count right?  I’ve decided that I need to weed the library pile – there are clearly books there I’m never going to read and I should take them back.  And will August be the month that I admit defeat on Titus Groan – or will I finally finish it?!


* Total includes some short stories (2 this month – Ivy Lane: Spring and A Place for Us Part 1)

**You’ll notice I’ve added a new category this month – books acquired – to cover the free books that I’m winning or being sent via NetGalley etc and free kindle books.