Archive for October, 2011


The Castles of Athlin and Dunbayne

October 29, 2011

So there’s this thing, the Classics Circuit. They organize blog tours. You pick a book in keeping with the theme of the tour, read it, and post a review on an assigned date. I thought it would be easy. I was wrong.

It’s my own fault, mostly. I started by choosing Jane Talbot, by Charles Brockden Brown, from the list of Gothic novels provided by the Classics Circuit. I ended up reading a little over half of it before realizing that nothing you’d expect to find in a Gothic novel had shown up yet, and, with less than half the book left, nothing was likely to. So I did a bit of googling and found that, while Brown did write four Gothic novels, Jane Talbot has never been considered one of them.

I’ll be coming back to Jane Talbot at some point, because it’s a really interesting book, but it didn’t seem appropriate to read something that clearly wasn’t a Gothic novel for the Gothic Lit Tour. So I decided to read The Recess, by Sophia Lee. It’s one of the early proto-Gothic novels, and it’s about two daughters of Mary, Queen of Scots, being raised in an underground apartment and eventually (I’m guessing) finding their way to the surface, falling in love with inappropriate people, and having lots of terrible things happen to them. But, as you can see, The Recess is not the book listed at the top of this post. I’d still kind of like to read it, despite the fact that the beginning creeped me out a little, but only if I find a hard copy or it shows up as a proper etext somewhere. The only place I could find it was Google Books (in three separate volumes, no less) and I just didn’t have the patience.

At that point I figured I might as well just give up on finding something new and go read some Ann Radcliffe. I know I’m capable of dealing with Radcliffe. I mean, I like The Mysteries of Udolpho enough to have read it multiple times (and by multiple I mean two and a half). The Castles of Athlin and Dunbayne was Radcliffe’s first novel, and the only one of her books that fit in a single volume, both of which seemed like positive things at the time.

I was wrong about that, too. Read the rest of this entry ?


Sylvia contest ending soon

October 28, 2011

Just a reminder that November first is the deadline for submitting an entry to the Sylvia contest. I’ve you haven’t entered, please do! It ought not to take more than, say, five minutes, and I would really appreciate it.

Thanks to those of you who have sent in entries already. If you sent in an entry and didn’t hear from me…hmmm. If you are Skye, Lauren S. or Lauren D., you have not heard from me because I’m being flaky. If you’re not and you haven’t received a reply to your entry, it’s because I didn’t get it.


The Kingdom Round the Corner

October 20, 2011

I kind of knew from the first few paragraphs of The Kingdom Round the Corner (by Coningsby Dawson) that it was going to push a significant portion of my buttons, possibly in a slightly embarrassing way. And it does, for about the first hundred and fifty pages.

Lord Taborley leaves the army in 1919 and goes straight to London, where Terry Beddow meets him at the train station in accordance with a promise she made when he left in 1914. The promise also stipulated that they were going to go off and get married immediately, but once he’s seen her and talked to her, he knows he can’t take that bit for granted anymore. And before the afternoon is over he discovers the reason: General Braithwaite, formerly Tabs’ valet — something Braithwaite is concealing. And Braithwaite clearly earned his promotions, and is a reasonably good guy — even though Terry’s infatuated with him, Tabs would probably be okay with him if Braithwaite hadn’t left Ann, the parlormaid to whom he was practically engaged, to think he was dead. Read the rest of this entry ?


i am terrible at this updating-on-a-schedule thing: 10/17/11

October 17, 2011

Sunday evenings I never seem to want to do much, but it’s not like it would have taken me more than five minutes to update last night. This past week I:

a) realized that, while Jane Talbot may share a few themes with the Gothic, it is by no means a Gothic novel,

b) decided to read Sophia Lee’s The Recess instead, only to find that I couldn’t get a text of it onto my kindle, and

c) switched to The Castles of Athlin and Dunbayne, because I know I’m capable of getting through something by Ann Radcliffe in pretty good time.

Oh, and I read some more of The Contested Castle.

I do plan on going back to Jane Talbot soon, because it’s both enjoyable and fascinating.


The Eyes of the World

October 11, 2011

So, The Eyes of the World is pretty bad. There are some mildly entertaining bits, and a lot of really average bits, but mostly there are really terrible bits.

The relationship between the hero, Aaron King, and his mentor Conrad Lagrange was one of the things I sort of liked. Aaron is pretty much a nonentity, but Lagrange is interesting. He’s a famous novelist who hates his work and the people who read it. He hates himself, too. I don’t know why he persists in writing what he believes to be trash when he refuses to be friends with anyone who’s willing to read it–the fortune and fame rationale he puts forward doesn’t really cut it. He’s already famous and wealthy. Why is he continuing to write books he believes to be actively harmful? Anyway, he spends the entire book being bitterly self-deprecating and alternating between deriding Aaron’s attempts to be better and encouraging him to hold on to his ideals. Also, he’s got a cute dog. Read the rest of this entry ?


(belated again) week in books: 10/9/11

October 10, 2011

I feel like my reading has been kind of scattered and unfocused lately. So, this week I finished the Georgette Heyer book I started last weekend. Then I read half of Charles Brockden Brown’s Jane Talbot, which I’m reviewing for the Classics Circuit’s Gothic Lit tour later this month. Then I read a chunk of one of Carolyn Wells’ lesser children’s books, The Story of Betty, which I ready in bite-sized chunks because it’s falling apart and I can’t take it anywhere. Then I reread the first couple of chapters of The Contested Castle, which is a really enjoyable analysis of Gothic literature in relation to the ideal of the home. It’s already been helpful in relation to Jane Talbot — I wasn’t really seeing how it was Gothic, but now I’m having an easier time picking out the relevant themes.

ETA: I’m not sure what it says that I read Harold Bell Wright’s The Eyes of the World yesterday and completely forgot about it.


week in books: 10/2/11

October 2, 2011

One nice thing about doing these weekly posts is that it helps me actually keep track of what I’m reading. But then there are weeks like this, where all I have to offer is the fact that I reread half of Georgette Heyer’s The Convenient Marriage this morning, and it’s just kind of embarassing. What can I say? There have been numerous distractions this week.

But here, have some dark and blurry photographs of things I bought at a library book sale yesterday:

I don’t spend all my time at book sales, I promise. It’s just that one of the libraries in my area has been running a ook sale out of a side room on alternate weekends or something, while another had a big booksale fundraiser thing this weekend.

The pictures are terrible, but yes, that is a stack of twelve Georgette Heyer paperbacks on the left. I’ve read all of them, I think, but I didn’t own any of them. And I left at least as many behind.

On the other side we have…hmmm. There’s a book by Katherine Cecil Thurston, an early 20th century bestseller whose books I’ve never read. There’s a copy of Rupert of Hentzau, because I didn’t have a nice one. There’s one of the Lillian Elizabeth Roy Polly and Eleanor books, which are pretty great and which I should write about at some point. That skinny white thing is by Annie Hamilton Donnell, and the second thing from the top is something randomly entertaining-looking by Mabel Dana Lyon (anyone familiar with her?). And the last one is someting by Grace Livingston Hill, who should have appeared on this blog before but hasn’t.




The Unspeakable Perk

October 1, 2011

I was totally fine with The Island Mystery until I read The Unspeakable Perk. Now I wish George A. Birmingham and Samuel Hopkins Adams had traded books. That way The Island Mystery would have been charming as it needed to be and The Unspeakable Perk would have been as cynical as it ought to have been. For the record, I am only comparing the two because they’re novels about American millionaires’ daughters on fictional islands. If you add in Romance Island, this starts looking dangerously like a trope.

That said, I like The Unspeakable Perk a lot better than The Island Mystery. If there is one thing Samuel Hopkins Adams is super consistent about, it’s his charm, and that’s one of the few things that will win me over to an otherwise unsatisfying book. Read the rest of this entry ?