My TBR pile is calling

I woke up at five this morning, snuggled up to the ol' Gare Bear, and looked longingly at the stack of books on my night stand. Nothing would make me happier than to spend the day right here with a good man, a good read, perhaps a cup of my newly discovered favorite passion fruit herbal tea. But a May 1 deadline loomed in a dark corner of the room; I have three days to blaze out a detailed chapter outline, and I'm still hip-deep in research. (I won't be ready to outline until I'm neck-deep.) But that To Be Read pile is so tempting...

Top of the heap the second I get past this deadline is The Forgery of Venus by Michael Gruber. (I'm not sure who sent me this book, but I'm grateful, whoever you are, and would have sent a proper thank you if I knew who you were!)
The Buzz:
(From the starred review in Publishers Weekly) "Bestseller Gruber (The Book of Air and Shadows) probes the boundaries between sanity and madness in his outstanding sixth novel. Talented Chaz Wilmot, who makes a modest living as a commercial artist in New York City, can't say no when Mark Slade, his former Columbia roommate who now owns a downtown gallery, offers him $150,000 to fix a ruined Tiepolo ceiling in a Venetian palazzo... Once abroad, Wilmot gets sucked into an increasingly bizarre world where his own identity is confused and the art he produces may be a forgery but is genuinely magnificent. ...Gruber writes passionately and knowledgeably about art and its history—and he writes brilliantly about the shadowy lines that blur reality and unreality. Fans of intelligent, literate thrillers will be well rewarded."
Why I want to read it:
I have a tattoo of William Shakespeare on my back; no way was I going to miss The Book of Air and Shadows, and I ended up sending it to four of my favorite book nerds for Christmas last year. Plus I know Gruber's editor, and she's brilliant. I know I won't be disappointed.

Top of the heap now and happening soon for research purposes is Voltaire's Candide.

The Buzz:
(Voltaire needs no buzz, pardonnez moi, but here's the flap copy.) "One of the finest satires ever written, Voltaire’s Candide savagely skewers this very “optimistic” approach to life as a shamefully inadequate response to human suffering. The swift and lively tale follows the absurdly melodramatic adventures of the youthful Candide, who is forced into the army, flogged, shipwrecked, betrayed, robbed, separated from his beloved CunĂ©gonde, and tortured by the Inquisition. ...After many trials, travails, and incredible reversals of fortune, Candide and his friends finally retire together to a small farm, where they discover that the secret of happiness is simply “to cultivate one’s garden”...
Why I want to read it:
Research, like I said, but I probably could have fudged that, having read it about 800 times in my youth. I became an absolute nut for this wonderful work when I was in 9th grade, and my father gave me the Broadway cast album from the adaptation with music by Leonard Bernstein and libretto by Lillian Hellman. I lay on the music room floor listening to it with a scrabby paperback in hand. Now I've got a nice hardcover version I bought on the cheap from the Buy-2-Get-1-Free bin at B&N. Also at the top for research purposes is The Impostures Of Scapin by Jean-Baptiste Moliere. Gotta tell ya, I am loving the research on this book. No complaints here.

Eagerly anticipated but not happening soon is The Other Boleyn Girl by Phillipa Gregory.
The Buzz:
(From the Library Journal review) "Before Henry VIII ever considered making Anne Boleyn his wife, her older sister, Mary, was his mistress. Historical novelist Gregory (Virgin Earth) uses the perspective of this "other Boleyn girl" to reveal the rivalries and intrigues swirling through England. The sisters and their brother George were raised with one goal: to advance the Howard family's interests, especially against the Seymours. So when Mary catches the king's fancy, her family orders her to abandon the husband they had chosen. She bears Henry two children, including a son, but Anne's desire to be queen drives her with ruthless intensity, alienating family and foes. As Henry grows more desperate for a legitimate son and Anne strives to replace Catherine as queen, the social fabric weakens. ...Gregory captures not only the dalliances of court but the panorama of political and religious clashes throughout Europe. She controls a complicated narrative and dozens of characters without faltering..."
Why I want to read it:
Because Colleen, one of the smartest, most astute readers I've ever known, told me to. "I was like this with this book," she said, miming an action that reminded me of Henry VIII with a turkey leg. I have a feeling this is one of those books that will teach me something about storytelling. Love it when that happens.

Waving at me from a distance is Hallam's War by Elisabeth Payne Rosen.
The Buzz:
(From the publisher's press kit) "Hugh and Serena Hallam have made the decision to leave everything they knew in Charleston behind, hoping to create a stable, productive home for themselves and their three children in the near-wilderness of West Tennessee. Though now war may loom on the horizon, life at Palmyra is good, for both themselves and -they believe-their slaves. Hugh is convinced that reasonable men with a tolerant respect for their countrymen might yet prevail against the increasingly tense atmosphere that is dividing the two American cultures....HALLAM'S WAR is the saga of one man's struggle to defend his family, his neighbors and his honor, and of the moral compromise forced upon an otherwise good man caught in a maelstrom that leaves him no acceptable choices...."
Why I want to read it:This book strikes me as having a very Cold Mountain vibe. Plus I almost always love books from Unbridled Books, a slightly less pretentious FSG Mini Me, which introduced (and reintroduced) me to some of the best books I've read in the last few years, including The Singing and Dancing Daughters of God by Timothy Schaffert (an author who really should be rich and famous, damn it), Hunger by Elise Blackwell, Golem Song and Insect Dreams by Marc Estrin (an author who should have a roller coaster named after him at Six Flags), and Hick by Andrea Portes. (Had to show you Hick, one of my all-time favorite book covers.) Unbridled co-founder Greg Michaelson was once described to me as "a towering oak of an editor"; I've read many books bearing his handprint and loved all but one.

This is only the first layer of my "A Stack". So many books, so little time! Care to share what's on your night stand?


Oooh, the Michael Gruber book looks good. I really enjoyed The Book of Air and Shadows.
TJ Bennett said…
What? You mean, The Legacy isn't on your TBR list? Well, I'm not bringing you your copy when next I see you, then, you woman you.

LOL! Okay, I admit it. I come a very distant four-hundred to Phillipa Gregory. I agree with Colleen. Read hers first. I wanted to lick my literary plate clean after I was done noshing on that one. Meaty! Piquant! Filling! Yum.

Joni Rodgers said…
I'll get there, TJ, I promise. Meanwhile, I promptly ordered The Legacy on pub day. It arrived while I was in NY, and I'm expecting you to autograph it next time we meet.

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