Tackling the TBR 1: THE PICKS

Winter is made for big reading goals – at least that’s how it seems to be for me. Last December I did a two-part post about series I wanted to read (part one was all about Adult novels, jumping from Agatha Christie to Stephen King to Tana French and more while the second part focused on YA reads, highlighting authors like Susan Cooper, Patrick Ness, and Brandon Sanderson). There’s just something about the cold, snowy weather that screams for curling up for one long binge read.

As I type this, I have a whopping 1122 books shelves on my To Read list on goodreads (though in my defense, the last 150 or so are all upcoming 2018 releases that look interesting) – and that’s not even counting the books I have gathering dust on my bookcases! Back in 2014 I made a book jar that I used to do my very first Tackling the TBR alll the way back in 2015!

Unfortunately I don’t have a big enough jar to hold over 1000 origami stars. Instead, I opted for a random number generator: whatever number was chosen, I’d find it on my goodreads list and that was the book I’d read. Easy peasy, no? I selected these picks just before Thanksgiving and already 6 of them are waiting for me at my library!

I will say that I would have liked to have had more picks come from my own shelves, rather than checking out Pittsburgh’s entire library system, but I’m excited for these! Out of the 10 selected, only 2 are novels I already own.


We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson
Merricat Blackwood lives on the family estate with her sister Constance and her Uncle Julian. Not long ago there were seven Blackwoods—until a fatal dose of arsenic found its way into the sugar bowl one terrible night. Acquitted of the murders, Constance has returned home, where Merricat protects her from the curiosity and hostility of the villagers. Their days pass in happy isolation until cousin Charles appears. Only Merricat can see the danger, and she must act swiftly to keep Constance from his grasp.

One of the quintessential horror novels! I hadn’t realized how short this book was (just under 150 pages??) so I’m expecting to zip right through it, though I wonder if I’m a month too late to really sink in to the creepy, gothic-ness.

The Sherwood Ring by Elizabeth Marie Pope
Newly orphaned Peggy Grahame is caught off-guard when she first arrives at her family’s ancestral estate. Her eccentric uncle Enos drives away her only new acquaintance, Pat, a handsome British scholar, then leaves Peggy to fend for herself. But she is not alone. The house is full of mysteries and ghosts. Soon Peggy becomes involved with the spirits of her own Colonial ancestors and witnesses the unfolding of a centuries-old romance against a backdrop of spies and intrigue and of battles plotted and foiled.

Back in 2012 I fell head over heels for The Perilous Gard and immediately went and bought The Sherwood Ring, Pope’s only other novel. Since then it’s been sitting on a shelf and I’m thrilled to finally read it!

Wolf Winter by Cecilia Ekbäck
Swedish Lapland, 1717. Maija, her husband Paavo and her daughters Frederika and Dorotea arrive from their native Finland, hoping to forget the traumas of their past and put down new roots in this harsh but beautiful land. Above them looms Blackåsen, a mountain whose foreboding presence looms over the valley and whose dark history seems to haunt the lives of those who live in its shadow.

While herding the family’s goats on the mountain, Frederika happens upon the mutilated body of one of their neighbors, Eriksson. The death is dismissed as a wolf attack, but Maija feels certain that the wounds could only have been inflicted by another man. Compelled to investigate despite her neighbors’ strange disinterest in the death and the fate of Eriksson’s widow, Maija is drawn into the dark history of tragedies and betrayals that have taken place on Blackåsen. Young Frederika finds herself pulled towards the mountain as well, feeling something none of the adults around her seem to notice.

Sweden, the 1700s, murder. Yes, please.

Alanna: The First Adventure by Tamora Pierce
Though a girl, Alanna has always craved the adventure and daring allowed only for boys; her twin brother, Thom, yearns to learn the art of magic. So one day they decide to switch places: Thom heads for the convent to learn magic; Alanna, pretending to be a boy, is on her way to the castle of King Roald to begin her training as a page.

But the road to knighthood is not an easy one. As Alanna masters the skills necessary for battle, she must also learn to control her heart and to discern her enemies from her allies.

SO many friends and bloggers absolutely adore Pierce and her novels, especially Alanna. I feel like I would have devoured them as a child, but somehow they never crossed my path. Adventure! Magic! Girls who want to become knights! I can’t wait to (finally!) discover this series.

A Dark-Adapted Eye by Ruth Rendell writing as Barbara Vine
When Faith Severn’s aunt was hanged for murder, the reason behind her dark deed died with her. For 30 years, the family hid the truth–until a journalist prompts Faith to peer back to the day when her aunt took knife in hand and entered a child’s nursery.

There’s a version of this book with a delightfully disturbing cover: a knife plunging through a doll’s head. I’ve heard SO MUCH about Ruth’s novels but have yet to read one. Winter is my favorite time to read mysteries and this one sounds GOOD.

Mort by Terry Pratchett
Death comes to Mort with an offer he can’t refuse — especially since being, well, dead isn’t compulsory. As Death’s apprentice, he’ll have free board and lodging, use of the company horse, and he won’t need time off for family funerals. The position is everything Mort thought he’d ever wanted, until he discovers that this perfect job can be a killer on his love life.

Sir Terry! Discworld is one intimidating series, mostly because there are an absurd number of series within the series. Mort, for example, is the 4th Discworld novel, but the 1st in the Death series. I love the idea of Death seeking an apprentice and can’t get enough of novels that feature a character actually taking on the role (Christopher Moore’s A Dirty Job remains one of my favorites). I’m expecting to have a VERY good time with Mort, it’s Terry Pratchett after all!

The Dark Deeps by Arthur Slade
Transforming his appearance and stealing secret documents from the French is all in a day’s work for fourteen-year-old Modo, a British secret agent. But his latest mission—to uncover the underwater mystery of something called the Ictíneo—seems impossible. There are rumors of a sea monster and a fish as big as a ship. French spies are after it, and Mr. Socrates, Modo’s master, wants to find it first. Modo and his fellow secret agent, Octavia, begin their mission in New York City, then take a steamship across the North Atlantic. During the voyage, Modo uncovers an astounding secret.

Eek, SIX YEARS AGO (!!) I read the first book, The Hunchback Assignments, and have been eager for a dip into the second novel ever since. Think a Steampunk YA version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame here. There are secret agents, robotic machines, shape-shifting, and one VERY snarky 14-year-old boy.

Never Caught: The Washingtons’ Relentless Pursuit of Their Runaway Slave, Ona Judge by Erica Armstrong Dunbar
A startling and eye-opening look into America’s First Family, Never Caught is the powerful narrative of Ona Judge, George and Martha Washington’s runaway slave who risked it all to escape the nation’s capital and reach freedom.

I first mentioned this one back in January when I highlighted the nonfiction novels of 2017 I needed to get my hands on. Sadly, Never Caught is only one of two nonfiction books for this round of Tackling the TBR (I’m a HUGE nonfic nerd!) but I’m looking forward to reading this one and I think it’ll be a nice segue into a themed reading challenge I’m planning on starting in 2018!

The Promise of Breeze Hill by Pam Hillman
Anxious for his brothers to join him on the rugged frontier along the Mississippi River, Connor O’Shea has no choice but to indenture himself as a carpenter in exchange for their passage from Ireland. But when he’s sold to Isabella Bartholomew of Breeze Hill Plantation, Connor fears he’ll repeat past mistakes and vows not to be tempted by the lovely lady.

The responsibilities of running Breeze Hill have fallen on Isabella’s shoulders after her brother was found dead in the swamps along the Natchez Trace and a suspicious fire devastated their crops, almost destroyed their home, and left her father seriously injured. Even with Connor’s help, Isabella fears she’ll lose her family’s plantation. Despite her growing feelings for the handsome Irish carpenter, she seriously considers accepting her wealthy and influential neighbor’s proposal of marriage. Soon, though, Connor realizes someone is out to eliminate the Bartholomew family. Can he set aside his own feelings to keep Isabella safe?

The second of the two novels I already own, this one being an ARC. I’ve had VERY good luck with Tyndale releases this year and you really can’t go wrong with historical fiction! 1700s, a suspicious fire, revenge that blossoms into romance. Yep, I am definitely looking forward to spending a weekend curled up with this one.

Lady Killers: Deadly Women Throughout History by Tori Telfer
When you think of serial killers throughout history, the names that come to mind are ones like Jack the Ripper, John Wayne Gacy, and Ted Bundy. But what about Tillie Klimek, Moulay Hassan, Kate Bender? The narrative we’re comfortable with is the one where women are the victims of violent crime, not the perpetrators. In fact, serial killers are thought to be so universally, overwhelmingly male that in 1998, FBI profiler Roy Hazelwood infamously declared in a homicide conference, “There are no female serial killers.”

Lady Killers, based on the popular online series that appeared on Jezebel and The Hairpin, disputes that claim and offers fourteen gruesome examples as evidence. Though largely forgotten by history, female serial killers such as Erzsébet Báthory, Nannie Doss, Mary Ann Cotton, and Darya Nikolayevna Saltykova rival their male counterparts in cunning, cruelty, and appetite for destruction.

I mean, do I really need to explain myself here???


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