Bank Holiday in England and Wales (Scotland’s is at the start of August). Sales, cars stuck in traffic up and down the country, ‘back to school’ being thrust upon us all.

I am not going back to school.  Again.  On Bank Holiday Monday I traditionally (for the last twenty years or so) do my tax return or other jobs I haven’t got around to.

I have started editing Corsair.  As in, I opened my editor’s notes and read them.  Closed them. Went into a dark corner and howled for a bit.  Considered throwing the whole thing away, closing the blog, and just forgetting the whole thing.  After a good night’s sleep I thought of a way of revamping the start.  It’s the same story as with the Perihelix really although not quite so drawn out.  I must draw my reader straight into the action, not gently give them the situation and the people and introduce the reasons for action slowly….

And instead of getting on with it I went shopping.

I got something to wear at one of the many formal(ish) events at the golf club in September that I required to go to. Then I let myself go into Waterstones, since it is the route to the bus stop (and it serves good coffee and cake).  I managed to restrict myself to three books, two of which were on my TBR and the other was by one of the same authors.  But there were also four MG books, and three scifi/fantasy that I wanted, too. I must remember to add those to my TBR.

Down the TBR Hole this bank holiday

The other thing I wanted to do this weekend is to clean up my TBR. I started last August with 536 books on my TBR list on Goodreads. I took my Goodreads ‘To Read’ list, ordered it my date of putting them on the list (starting in 2012), and proceeded to check them out, ten or twenty at a time, to see whether I still wanted to read them.

Most times I took around 40% of the books off my list – looking at ten at a time, that only meant four books.  I did one mammoth trawl in May, when I removed ten books, not stopping until I’d tallied the ten.  That took me back to 575 books.

I had a quick thought the other day, when my list of ‘Reads’ passed the 700 mark, that as long as I kept my TBR list below the number of Reads, I could forgive myself. But is that good enough?  Before I started the latest purge, the list was at 595… and I’m reading five books a month, on average.

Refocusing my review lists

One thing that came out of the recent discussion on author blog names was my new strapline. It’s currently (at the top of the page) ‘Writing and reviews with an environmental, science fiction, and fantasy touch’.

Well, yes, as far as the writing goes, that pretty much describes what I do. I’m still working on combining the environmental aspect so I could really write cli fi (climate science fiction). I blog about environment, science and writing, though, although not in any radical way. I’m still primarily an author site, and I used to be an MG author, too.

But my reviews? It seems mainly mystery, crime and suspense at present. I like to read them.

My reading challenges help me to focus on what to read from my TBR. Maybe I’m off-focus at present. I need to refocus my challenges to help me do more reading that should appear on my blog. I can also refocus my TBR. There are other things I should read on my TBR, not just environmental science fiction and fantasy. All work and no play makes Jemima a dull girl. But I suspect I have very little on the list that really brings people to my site who would enjoy what I write, rather than what I review.

In keeping with my new strapline, I need to read and review more of the things in my own line of writing, without picking up too many ideas from other people. That is what I’ve always worried about.

Cleaning up my TBR

Maybe instead of simply worrying about the number of books on my TBR, I should look at the categories they are in. I can still go down the TBR Hole from time to time, but it would make life easier for me if I categorised my priority reads for the blog.  I might not end up reviewing books each week that hit the strapline spot, but I should at least get one relevant book a month – shouldn’t I?

So what I’ve done this bank holiday is to make a new shelf titled ‘Priority’, which includes any books related to environment, science fiction and fantasy (or in any combination).

And then I’ve gone through my entire TBR to add suitable books to the Priority shelf (and taking some off when I decided I didn’t want them any more).  After that I did a normal TBR Hole sift starting from where I last left off.

Once more TBR Hole

First off, I rejected the Billi Tiner Bounter Hunter series book I’d kept towards the end of the last cull.  I’m just not going to read westerns, unless they are already on my Kindle.  Sorry, Billi.

The Last Timekeepers and the Arch of Atlantis

Last timekeepersby Sharon Ledwith

When Amanda Sault and her four classmates are caught in a major food fight at school, they are given the choice of suspension or yard duty. It was a no-brainer. A two-week crash course in landscaping leads the kids to discover a weathered stone arch buried in an overgrown backyard. Instead of a forgotten lawn ornament, it turns out to be an ancient time portal from the lost continent of Atlantis. Chosen by an Atlantean Magus to be Timekeepers—legendary time travelers sworn to keep history safe from an evil force—the five children, along with two offbeat adults, are sent on the adventure of their lives to save the Earth from an uncertain future. The Timekeepers’ first mission lands them in England in 1214, where they must find an adolescent Robin Hood and his band of merry teens before history is turned upside-down.

Always a favourite theme for my reading – time travel.  I’ve been meaning to read Sharon Ledwith for a long time.(Probably since 2013, when I put it on the list)

Verdict: Keep (and added to my new priority list)

Helga: Out of the Headlands

by Rick Johnson

Twelve-year-old Helga has more danger in her life than most beasts her age. Wrackshee slavers after her, a vicious attack by bandits that nearly kills her, a race against dragons pursuing her, and leading a daring rebellion to save her life, and rescue friends and family, from the insidious WooZan. And that is just the beginning. But what do you expect when you are a young beast who just can’t see the stupid rules of the world making any sense? Helga can’t accept things as they are and ends up taking on not just one, but two all-powerful, supreme tyrants in two different realms.
Helga never intended to lead a revolution. It just sort of happened because she wouldn’t go along with the “rules of normal” that keep tyrants in power and entire societies enslaved. Beginning on a dangerous quest to solve some mysteries in her own past, Helga leads her quirky comrades on a journey that will not only forever change them, but upset ancient civilizations.

Despite the overlong blurb (there’s plenty more), this looks good.  Besides, it’s on my kindle already.

Verdict: Keep

Evertaster

by Adam Glendon Sidwell

When eleven year-old Guster Johnsonville rejects his mother’s casserole for the umpteenth time, she takes him into the city of New Orleans to find him something to eat. There, in a dark, abandoned corner of the city, they meet a dying pastry maker who tells them of a legendary recipe called the Gastronomy of Peace — a recipe created hundreds of years ago, sought after by connoisseurs everywhere, and rumored to be so delicious that whoever tastes it will never want to eat anything else again. Guster thinks this might be just what he needs — until the ruthless Gastronimatii, a cult of armed and sinister chefs — attack the Johnsonvilles. Guster, his sister Mariah, his mother Mabel, and his two brothers are forced to flee for their lives and set out across the world in search of the One Recipe’s ingredients. On an adventure that will take them to ancient ruins, magical beasts, faraway jungles, and forgotten caves, the Johnsonvilles must unravel the mystery behind the One Recipe.

I prevaricated over this one.  Lots of good reviews, surprising many people who couldn’t put it down, slated by others who hated the poor writing… And in the end… I really can do without reading about food at the moment.

Verdict: Reject

The Testing

by Joelle Charbonneau

Keep your friends close and your enemies closer. Isn’t that what they say? But how close is too close when they may be one and the same?
The Seven Stages War left much of the planet a charred wasteland. The future belongs to the next generation’s chosen few who must rebuild it. But to enter this elite group, candidates must first pass The Testing—their one chance at a college education and a rewarding career. (more…)

Lots of praise and awards for this one, but ‘another YA dystopian’ which is not my favourite genre.  And I’ve discovered today I have Divergent on my kindle, which is more important.

Verdict: Reject.

Magic Marks the Spot

magic marks the spotby Caroline Carlson

Hilary Westfield has always dreamed of being a pirate. She can tread water for thirty-seven minutes; tie a knot faster than a fleet of sailors; particularly enjoys defying authority, and she already owns a rather pointy sword. There’s only one problem: The Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates refuses to let any girl join their ranks of scourges and scallywags.
Girls belong at Miss Pimm’s Finishing School for Delicate Ladies, learning to waltz, faint, and curtsy. But Hilary and her dearest friend, the gargoyle, have no use for such frivolous lessons—they are pirates! (Or very nearly.)

The Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates… I cannot resist this.

Verdict: Keep

Charis: Journey to Pandora’s Jar

by Nicole Y Walters

Thirteen-year-old Charis Parks has five days to save mankind. What she thought was mere mythology has become her reality … she alone must reverse the curse of Pandora’s Jar. If Charis is to fulfill her destiny, she has to face her fears against the darker forces of Hades and the blood-thirsty Erinyes Sisters who help him. Together with the gods and her best friend Gabe, Charis takes a fantastic journey to Pandora’s Jar, where she must release the only spirit that remains trapped inside – the spirit of Hope. Or else …

Hmm.  I think I’m getting old.  Maybe there are too many books out there with this theme.  Even if Mother Daughter Book Reviews did recommend it.

Verdict: Reject.

Arrow of the Mist

by Christina Mercer

Award-Winning Middle Grade Fantasy; YA Fantasy
Terror strikes the Celtic inspired kingdom of Nemetona when barbed roots breach the veil of a forbidden land and poison woodsmen, including 15-year-old Lia’s beloved father. Lia and three others embark on a quest to the forbidden land of Brume to gather ingredients for the cure. But after her elder kinsman is attacked and poisoned, she and her cousin, Wynn, are forced to finish the quest on their own.
Lia relies on her powerful herbal wisdom and the memorized pages of her late grandmother’s Grimoire for guidance through a land of soul-hungry shades, trickster creatures, and uncovered truths about the origin of Brume and her family’s unexpected ties to it. The deeper they trek into the land, the stronger Lia’s untapped gift as a tree mage unfolds. When she discovers the enchanted root’s maker, it forces her to question everything about who she is and what is her destiny. Ultimately she must make a terrible choice: keep fighting to save her father and the people of the lands or join with the power behind the deadly roots to help nature start anew.

I wonder how many times I’ve read ‘ultimately (s)he must make a terrible choice…’ today?  I am tempted to drop it. But the reviews emphasise the tree mage and woodland lore in them.

Verdict: Keep – for now, at any rate.

Dogs Aren’t Men

by Billi Tiner

Rebecca Miller is a gifted veterinarian with an extraordinary understanding of animal behavior. She is leading a fulfilling life as the owner and operator of the Animal Friends Veterinary Clinic. Ever since her 30th birthday, her mother has made it her mission to help Rebecca find a man, get married, and give her grandchildren. But Rebecca doesn’t see the need for a man in her life. She has her dog, Captain, and that’s all the companionship she needs. However, her world changes the day she literally runs into Derrick Peterson, a gorgeously handsome ER doctor…

This is romance. Much as I want to read Billi Tiner’s work, I don’t see myself reading this, either.

Verdict: Reject

The Vesuvius Isotope

by Kristen Elise

When her Nobel laureate husband is murdered, biologist Katrina Stone can no longer ignore the secrecy that increasingly pervaded his behavior in recent weeks. Her search for answers leads to a two-thousand-year-old medical mystery and the esoteric life of one of history’s most enigmatic women. Following the trail forged by her late husband, Katrina must separate truth from legend as she chases medicine from ancient Italy and Egypt to a clandestine modern-day war. Her quest will reveal a legacy of greed and murder and resurrect an ancient plague, introducing it into the twenty-first century.

This looks very promising.  It may not be in my priority list, but I like the potential for history of medicine in there.

Verdict: Keep

The Darwin Elevator

darwin elevatorby Jason M Hough

In the mid-23rd century, Darwin, Australia, stands as the last human city on Earth. The world has succumbed to an alien plague, with most of the population transformed into mindless, savage creatures. The planet’s refugees flock to Darwin, where a space elevator—created by the architects of this apocalypse, the Builders—emits a plague-suppressing aura….

This created a storm when it first came out, although later reviews are more subdued.  I still want to read it, though.

Verdict: Keep

Conclusions

Four rejected out of ten, again.  I seem to be very consistent.  Time to carry on.

I went through checking the list against my Kindle and to put them on my Priority shelf. And… I ended up with…. 554!!  That’s 40 off the list, but still eighteen more than I started with this time last year! And only 144 are on my priority shelf (and 109 to-reads on my Kindle already).

It’s not bad for a bank holiday weekend’s work, but I reckon I’m done with the TBR hole.  I just need to read faster. And stop adding interesting-looking books, favourite authors’ sequels and new series, and BOTMs and bookclub books….

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Bank Holiday Blues: of books, editing, and TBR
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