Lady Audley’s Secret

As we get started with the RIP season, I thought I’d share a review of Lady Audley’s Secret by Mary Elizabeth Braddon, a strangely swirling tale that certainly meets the eery qualities required. In the novel, Lucy, a governess, marries Sir Michael Audley, a much wealthier man. It is their story. Simultaneously, Robert Audley reunites with an old friend, George, recently returned from Australia and looking for a happy homecoming with his wife. It is their story. And it is the marriage of these two stories that really sets off the mystery.

This is one of those books that is difficult to talk about for fear of revealing anything that will be more exciting if revealed by the text. Of course, the mystery itself is actually not much of a mystery in my opinion. I – and I think most readers – knew very early on what Lady Audley’s secret is. Sort of like Victoria’s secret, Lady Audley’s is not exactly well hidden.

What is so intriguing about this tale is not the mystery, it’s watching Robert decide if he wants to actually solve it and it’s contemplating Lady Audley’s actual culpability and motivation. Despite the relative obviousness of the text’s twists, the novel remains suspenseful throughout, and I was flipping the pages as fast as I could without losing the intricacies of the plot.

The novel brings up very powerful points regarding womanhood in the Victorian Age and specifically the role of a wife and mother – the two roles a woman was encouraged (required?) to strive for and succeed at according to a strict set of guidelines and traditions. Still, this is a sensational novel, not a realist one, and any social commentary is secondary to the spectacle which is the focus. A thinking reader can see the difficulty of Lucy’s position and pontificate on what Victorians called “The Woman Question“. The problem of direct social commentary on the role of women is complicated by Braddon’s – and many other author’s – contrary desires: to say something important and to have a bestseller, an issue I may actually tackle in a future post.

Of course any discussion of the novel would be remiss without pointing out the amazingly obvious, in my opinion, homosexual undertones in the relationship between Robert and George. An even more controversial issue than The Woman Question, homosexuality, or at least homosocial desire, abounded in Victorian literature, and yet it was a subtle inclusion, a suggestion, a coded language even. Perhaps a Victorian can read the novel and see a simple friendship, but many a modern reader sees much, much more in the relationship between Robert and George.

Ultimately, this is a riveting tale that is both a landmark novel in Victorian and sensationalist literature and also simply good read, so I recommend giving it a go if you haven’t already.

If you are looking for an RIP book, I highly recommend this one.

Readers Imbibing Peril Challenge

ripheader

R.I.P is a reading event right up my alley. The purpose of the R.I.P. Challenge is to enjoy books that could be classified as:

Mystery.
Suspense.
Thriller.
Dark Fantasy.
Gothic.
Horror.
Supernatural.
Back when I blogged much more regularly (before children) I participated yearly. Finally, I am able to join in the macabre fun once again.

Putting together my list of possible reads for R.I.P is actually almost as fun as actually doing to reading. Expect this list to change as I go!

  1. Annihilation by Jeff Vandermeer
  2. A Gathering of Shadows and A Conjuring of Light by V.E. Schwab
  3. The Alienist by Caleb Carr
  4. Sympathy for the Devil by Tim Pratt
  5. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern (reread)
  6. A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness
  7. The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton
  8. A Study in Scarlet Women Tby Sherry Thomas
  9. A Conspiracy in Belgravia by Sherry Thomas
  10. The Hollow of Fear by Sherry Thomas

There are a few levels of participation to choose from and there are also a few side challenges to participate in. I plan on participating in Peril the First which requires you to read four books and Peril on the Screen which involves watching a film or tv series meeting the mysterious criteria. My current possibilities are:

  1. Last Year at Marienbad
  2. Pan’s Labyrinth
  3. Twin Peaks

I’m really looking forward to immersing myself in the eery.

Sunday Post: The Long Month Recap

The Sunday Post hosted by the Caffeinated Reader is an opportunity to share with the blogging community what bookish things are happening in our world. So what have I been doing?

Doing | I’ve been on a month-long hiatus from blogging due to my two-week family reunion and then the start of the school year. In other words, I’ve been busy with a lot of this….

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Reading | I read a bit while on my fun-filled hiatus. I finally finished Susan Cain’s Quiet and loved it. The hilarious Abridged Classics: Brief Summaries of Books You Were Supposed to Read But Probably Didn’t was consumed in about 20 minutes. I finished V.E. Schwab’s A Darker Shade of Magic and then immediately began reading the second in the series. I’m working on that one now, and I have to say that I think this may be one of the best series I’ve read in years.

Watching | While I still throw on Shameless from time to time, I’ve been binge-watching Stargate SG-1…for like the third time in my life. I know, I know. Geek.

Listening |Revisionist History by Malcolm Gladwell and Lore by Aaron Mahnke are still my top two podcasts, but I have been listening to Aaron Mahnke’s Cabinet of Curiosities as well. While the first two are longer podcasts, approximately 30-60 minutes depending on the episode, the Cabinet tells two strange stories in about ten minutes. Great for when you just want a quick fix…like waiting in line, or on a day when the dreadmill just seems stupid…

Blogging |Since my last Sunday Post, reviews have gone up on the blog for Leigh Bardugo’s Grisha series, Kassy Taylor’s Ashes trilogy, the first part of The Wicked + The Divine graphic series, and Richelle Mead’s The Glittering Court. As I’ve been absent, I haven’t gotten to read any comments on these posts, but I promise I’m getting back in action now.

Anticipating | In the next month, the family heads to Iowa for my cousin’s wedding which I am really looking forward to.

Working | We are now two weeks into the semester, and I’m teaching three sections of Composition 2, Introduction to Literature, and Introduction to Film Study. So far my students seem awesome (to me, this means engaged and talking).

Loving | School has begun. Madison is in first grade and Carter started three-year-old preschool. *sniffsniff  It just seems like my babies are growing up so fast. Carter’s having a rough time in the morning drop off, crying because he wants me. But his teacher assures me that it lasts about two minutes and then he’s good to go. Luckily, the school is really good about sending parents pictures of what their kids are up to, so I get to see Carter having fun after I leave….and not crying in a corner, desolate and alone, feeling abandoned by everyone and suffering as I originally pictured through the tears in my eyes as I bawled in the parking lot after leaving him the first day.2018-08-17 07.27.38.jpg

So what have all of you been up to? I can’t wait to read the serious long backlog of blog posts I have saved in Feedly!!

 

 

 

Leigh Bardugo’s Grisha Series

grishaseries

I read Shadow and Bone way back in 2012, but as the next book wasn’t out yet, I sort of forgot about it as my reading time was overwhelmed by my kids. Then, at a used book store, I saw Siege and Storm and Ruin and Rising on the shelves, and got all, re-excited. I re-read Shadow and Bone and then read the other two installments within five days of each other. Total. World. Immersion.

Yay!

The Grisha series is set in Ravka, a country divided by a huge expanse of darkness wherein lie carnivorous beasts of terrible origin. The Fold, as it is called, is the result of a magical ‘accident’ perpetuated long-ago by a Grisha. Our protagonist in this world is Alina Starkov, an orphan of limited appeal or abilities who primarily follows around and half-moons after best friend Mal who is a skilled tracker and quite popular with, like, everyone. Everything changes when Alina displays extraordinary power, shedding light on the Fold, powers unlocked in an effort to save Mal and other members of her Army regiment. Her ability to summon light, to summon the sun, may be the key to destroying the Fold and bringing peace to Ravka.

The series revolves around Alina’s progression from a shy, unknown cartographer to one of the most powerful people in Ravka, worshipped as a Saint by some. Along her journey, she engages in numerous, interesting interpersonal relationships, and readers are privy to some of the most fascinating characters, both minor and major, of any series I’ve read. The story is fast-paced without losing world-building or character development, and I will, honestly, miss this world.

And it is written well. Bardugo has a way with language, her writing the perfect combination of clean and rich, and she maintains it throughout all three installments. I’ve read a few series lately where the writing fell off a bit in exchange, I’m guessing, for speed and excitement.

Of course, this genre is not complete without a love triangle, (I hate superficial love triangles if you don’t know that yet), but damn did I like this one. The Darkling-Alina-Mal struggle is nothing like the majority of triangles out there. And of course, the series then throws in a third possibility, Nikolai, who complicates things not because Alina loves him too but because he may just be the right choice for, you know, the world.

All in all, very well done.

Ashes Trilogy

I began this series by reading the first book, Ashes of Twilight, last summer. I enjoyed it and even ordered the next two books….but then they languished on the shelves for a year. Since it’s been so long, I don’t have any remarkably insightful comments on the first book, just a few vague remembrances.

The story revolves around Wren, a teen working the coal mines of a glass dome constructed 200 years earlier to protect English royalty as a comet plummeted to Earth. The dome functions, unsurprisingly, on a caste system which horribly subjugates the many for the betterment of the few. The dome itself is opaque so the majority of the inhabitants have no clue what’s happening outside, simply taking their leader’s word that the world outside is on fire, uninhabitable. Then, dumdumdum, Wren, and others, start a revolution to escape the dome.

Ashes of Twilight covers that revolution and an eventual escape, at least by a few of the lower caste. Shadows of Glass picks up exactly where Ashes left off and moves the story from initial revolution to a more organized revolutionary approach as those who escaped grapple with life outside the dome as well as what to do about those who are still trapped inside. While I appreciated Tayler’s ability to write a second installment that is at once an entirely new story with an entirely new world while maintaining consistency within the environment she created in book 1, I did get rather annoyed at the insistent and persistent focus on Wren’s emotional and psychological obsession with the lives lost in the revolution she believes she is responsible for. She definitely has reason to be upset, to feel guilt, but oh-my-god does the novel harp on and on about it. And on. And on.

Still, I enjoyed the story itself and appreciated the introduction of new characters and the fleshing out of the world outside the dome. Those characters and ideas are furthered in the final installment, Remnants of Tomorrow, which quite satisfactorily wraps up the series.

Now, there is obviously a love triangle…because is there ever not a love triangle. I found this one to relatively realistic and engaging. Wren meets Pace and works with him towards revolution in book one, falling in love quickly. Once outside, Wren’s guilt and fear….perhaps….drive her away from Pace and into the waiting arms of Levi, an American who never lived inside the dome. In this particular love story, I was quite taken with the appeal of the you-know-he’s-not-going-to-end-up-with-her boy. Usually, it’s so obvious and so obviously right who the girl should choose that it’s almost pitiful. In this case, not so much. Both of Wren’s love interests had their strengths and their faults.

Anyone else read this one?

 

50/50 Friday: Summertime

50/50 Friday is a weekly meme hosted by Carrie from The Butterfly Reader and Laura from Blue Eye Books.

Their Prompt: “Now what is 50/50 Friday?

Everyone has a favorite and then we also have something we dislike. Like a coin, there are two sides to every question. Example: best sequel you’ve read/worst sequel you’ve read. So that’s what 50/50 Friday is all about. We will have a new topic every Friday (something bookish of course!). If you have ideas for this meme don’t be scared to let us know!”
This Week’s Question: Favorite/Least Favorite Summery Book
My Answer: I don’t read many summery books if ‘summery’ is defined as light and airy and romancy. All of those books with white women in big hats lounging in the sand or in a pool or playing tennis or gardening…just not my cup of tea. So I thought of summery as quite simply being set in the summer.
The Favorite:
rebecca
Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
Monte Carlo holidays, roses and hydrangeas, boats, the ocean, definitely a summery read if a bit darker than the typical
The Least Favorite:
atonement
Atonement by Ian McEwan
oppressive heat, summer vacay from college, all goes to hell, another dark summer read but one that I did not even finish. I actually never got past the summer portion.

The Wicked + The Divine: The Faust Act

thefaustactThe first volume of the graphic series The Wicked + The Divine, The Faust Act feels very much like a book I would enjoy. And yet I just didn’t.

The premise of the series is that the gods (or at least 12 of them) are reincarnated every 90 years by taking over the bodies of everyday people. Currently they are manifesting themselves as pop stars, worshipped and despised by the masses as they sing their way through two years of stardom before death…for their host anyway; it’s just a break for them. Readers are led through an unfortunate public event in the pantheon’s lives by Laura, a mortal girl fascinated with the gods who finds herself embroiled in their politics as she tries to convince mortals and gods alike that Lucifer did not commit the crime she is accused of. She makes for a very ridiculous investigator to me as her obsessive fangirl self is a bit…silly to me.

While Laura is obviously readers’ in to the world of the gods, offering a character for everything to be explained to, I just felt not much was explained. While there is a plot, it isn’t remarkably deep or detailed, and at the end of the volume, I still wasn’t sure why I should care….about any of them. Everything felt underdeveloped…except the artwork which I absolutely loved:

Now most people seem to really love this one, so I am telling you to check it out for yourself instead of steering clear of it. Also, I have the next two volumes which I plan on reading to see if the story ups its game to match the brilliant artwork.

Maybe my problem is my absolute lack of caring about popstars….

The Glittering Court by Richelle Mead

glitteringcourtRichelle Mead’s The Glittering Court was…meh for me. I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I know. But I can’t help it. Let’s back up a bit…

The Glittering Court is a sort of Pygmalionish, Gold Digging slash mail-order-bride concept. The Court, run by the Thornes, takes attractive, poor girls and trains them up to mimic the behaviors of the aristocracy. Once the girls are re-acculturated, trussed up, and judged ready, they are shipped off to Adoria, a frontierland of a New World where faux aristocracy is better than no aristocracy.

Adelaide, our protagonist, is a pampered Osfridian countess determined to thwart her arranged marriage. When the opportunity arises, she pretends to be her servant and joins the Glittering Court – where she will be submitted to a freaking arranged marriage. A wealth of oohs and awwws over dresses, money, men, and fancitudes ensues.

I am, quite clearly, not the audience for this book. I am a mid-30s, not-at-all girly, academic who didn’t even care about dresses when she was in high school. The book reads like a very young girl’s fantasy, lacking the flaws one acquainted with love understands and the badassery a strong woman expects.

I will not be reading the rest of the series.

Sunday Post: One Day Left

The Sunday Post hosted by the Caffeinated Reader is an opportunity to share with the blogging community what bookish things are happening in our world. So what have I been doing?

darkershadeofmagic.jpgReading | I am so amazingly in love with A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab. Despite my promise to myself that I would dedicate all my downtime to preparing for the new semester, I have been, instead, devouring this wonderful novel. And as it’s the first in a series, I see myself spending a great deal of the next month or so in this world while mildly ignoring the real one.

I did find Quiet finally!!!! It was, oddly, under the couch. I’m blaming the kids. I promise to get back to it as soon as possible, and I really need to get started on White Fragility.

Blogging |Last week, I posted reviews of Curious, a book about the need to keep students engaged and the Shade Trilogy by Jeri Smith-Ready. I also participated in 50/50 Friday which in essence was like a wrap-up of July. This week I have reviews going up for The Glittering Court by Richelle Mead and The Wicked + The Divine: The Faust Act.

Thinking | The husband and I have decided to send Carter, our three-year-old, to preschool this year for three days a week, and I’m freaking out a bit even though it was my idea. He’s my baby. Will he be sad? Will he cry? Is he going to absolutely and completely hate it and feel like he’s been abandoned by everyone who loves him? He’s never attended daycare. Hell, he’s never been babysat by anyone not a grandma, so the idea of leaving him with people he doesn’t know is heart-wrenching. Still, I know he’ll benefit from meeting and playing with other kids his age, and he’s certainly intellectually ready for school. I had kids approximately a decade after the typical small town girl, so while mine are still tiny little kiddos, most of my contemporaries are sending their kids off to freaking college now.

2018-07-30 18.04.54Doing |Shopping for school supplies. Holy heck. Now that I have two going, the pain is even worse. They really do look cute though with all those crayons and markers and folders and on and on….

Anticipating |Tomorrow begins my 15 day family vacation, and I am very excited. And a small bit terrified as I face down 15 days with absolutely no alone time. None.

Loving | Carter has finally learned how to ride a bike. Seriously, peddling was a problem for the boy. I still haven’t figured out if his legs weren’t strong enough, his coordination wasn’t good enough, or if he was just being lazy and preferred I push him. But now….look out world.

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Working | Work begins August 15 – in-service – and then classes start August 20. I am still not prepared people. Ah, well, procrastination is an old friend.

Loving | Round 2 of loving is this picture of my girl:

2018-07-29 10.34.33I wish I could get my hair to look like that. 🙂

 

50/50 Friday: What Happened in July

50/50 Friday is a weekly meme hosted by Carrie from The Butterfly Reader and Laura from Blue Eye Books.

Their Prompt: “Now what is 50/50 Friday?

Everyone has a favorite and then we also have something we dislike. Like a coin, there are two sides to every question. Example: best sequel you’ve read/worst sequel you’ve read. So that’s what 50/50 Friday is all about. We will have a new topic every Friday (something bookish of course!). If you have ideas for this meme don’t be scared to let us know!”
This Week’s Question: Favorite/Least Favorite Read in July
My Answer: I finished 8 books in July-
  1. Shadows of Glass by Kassy Tayler
  2. Remnants of Tomorrow by Kassy Tayler
  3. Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
  4. Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo
  5. Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo
  6. Seraphina by Rachel Hartman
  7. Shadow Scale by Rachel Hartman
  8. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon

Clearly it was the month of series as I only read one standalone book this month. I’ve never been great at picking best reads, but this month, I have to go with:

curiousincident

The story is told from such a unique perspective and is just such a different read. For my least favorite read of the month:

shadowsofglassIt’s not that I hated it, but the main character spends an inordinate and annoying amount of time harping over her guilt – and practically using the same words to do so chapter after chapter.

So how about you guys? What were your favorite and leas favorite reads from July?