Thursday, January 31, 2008

I have conquered!

It's official: I FINISHED The Mysteries of Udolpho. Yay yay yay yay yay. I am so very happy!

Here's the plot summary from Wikipedia: The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe follows the fortunes of Emily St. Aubert who suffers, among other misadventures, the death of her father, supernatural terrors in a gloomy castle, and the machinations of an Italian brigand. It is often cited as the archetypal Gothic novel.

Here's the main things that happen:
-People die
-Emily cries
-Emily looks at the scenery
-Emily almost faints
-Emily cries some more
-Emily writes poetry
-Emily gets scared

Okay, so I'm making fun of this book, but it really wasn't that bad, once I got beyond the first 200 pages (the book had 632 pages in teeny tiny print). It was dramatic and I may have muttered "you have GOT to be kidding me" and "oh my word" and "pirates? oh yes, of course, pirates" a few times to myself.

I felt as if I had to finish it because This Rough Magic mentioned it, the fun "Northanger Abbey" Masterpiece Theater made fun of it, and two other random books that I picked up and skimmed a few pages all happened to mention this book. I felt as if it was DESTINY for me to finish it.

I was only confused about one thing: I had heard before I read the book that Count Ugo was such a bad guy, etc., etc. But he was barely in the book. I didn't understand it all, but oh well, her step-uncle makes up for it!

Anyway, earlier I declared it to be the most dramatic book ever, and just as proof, here's a few of the key plot elements that happened in the last 200 pages or so:
-Girl is FINALLY reunited with her lover, but oh wait, he's now a depraved rake with a gambling problem and a mistress
-Oh wait, he's not---now they can get married!

The book is a 18th century soap opera and the main character cries/faints waaaaaay too much but I'm glad I forced myself to read it.

Rating: 6/10 want to read it, too? Download it for free here--but you're crazy if you want to read this entire book on the computer.

Monday, January 28, 2008


So I'm still working away at The Mysteries of Udolpho. Yay for me.

This book easily wins "The Most DRAMATIC Book EVER" award. Wow. Just wait until I tell you about it (if I ever do....).

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Still slogging

I'm about halfway through The Mysteries of Udolpho. I just wish it was exciting as this cover makes you think it is:

Yeah, it's not. It should be called Emily Weeps: A Story of Emily's Fainting Fits and Melancholy Spells. The heroine, Emily, has literally cried/wept/had a tear fall from her cheek/faint 200 times. Wow. And I'm still not sure why it's a gothic masterpiece yet. Here's hoping I figure that out soon!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Gothic fun

I really enjoyed Northanger Abbey, which PBS aired on Sunday. It was cute, campy and fun. And I really liked the actor playing Henry....sigh.

PBS will be showing a Jane Austen masterpiece every Sunday through April. Check it out!

Not so rough

I've been slugging through The Mysteries of Udolpho, which is taking me a long time. It's just slow going at first. Things are looking up, though. The main character, Emily, is finally an orphan! That means gothic suspense, creepy castles and lusty men ahoy (at least I hope; it's more likely that I'll be forced to skim through more of her poetry about Nature).

But in the meantime I wanted something light and wonderful. I turned to Mary Stewart's This Rough Magic, which fit the bill perfectly.

What a fun cover! Mine was the paperback version from HarperCollins, which I'm a bit disgusted with, because it's already falling apart. I'm not that rough of a reader, either.

Anyway, there's a great connection to Shakespeare's The Tempest. I love the romance between Lucy and Max, too! Stewart always blends great heroines, mystery, romance and just great writing and description. I discovered her last year and went through most of her books in a few months. Now I'm on to re-reading them!

Rating: 9.5/10

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Mmmm, gothic!

The weather here in northern Ohio is freezing, even in the single digits, so on nights like these, all I want to do is curl up under my down comforter and read a nice gothic tale. I found the perfect fit in The Mistress of Mellyn by Victoria Holt.

I love this cover! It's actually from Amazon's UK site, which is a shame, because I'd proudly parade out with this cover.

Amazon's editorial review sums this book up perfectly: Originally published nearly 40 years ago, this gothic classic has been frightening, romancing, and winning fans ever since. Part Jane Eyre, part Rebecca and all good, clean, campy fun, Mistress of Mellyn will keep you tearing through the pages, and looking for copies to lend out to friends.

Martha Leigh is an impoverished gentry lady, who must take up work. She takes a post as a governess at Mellyn, caring for widowed Connan TreMellyn's little girl, Alvean. What I love about this book is the plot: it's not soley focused on the mystery of what happened to Connan's wife, Alice; it's also focused on Martha's daily life and her interactions with various secondary characters.

The Mistress of Mellyn even reminded me a little of Mary Stewart, which is a high compliment! But the highest compliment I could pay is the fact that I woke up this morning thinking, "ooh, time to finish Victoria Holt's book." And then I was sad when I realized I had finished it last night.

Rating: 8.5/10

Saturday, January 19, 2008

I'm really not that picky...

So, I generally like most books I read, or at least I like them enough to finish them. Alas, I finished The Girl of the Limberlost, but I hated every minute of it.

With the help of this book, I've realized something very important: I don't like books written between 1900-1920. I hate the slang, the style of writing and yeah, I've hated every book that I've read from that time period. P.G. Wodehouse, I'm sorry, the one book of yours that I tried to read (written in the '20s, I believe) was even more annoying than this one.

Take a look at that cover. Would you like to meet this girl? I wouldn't---she seems annoying, all about Nature (that's nature with a capital N) and moths. Yes, moths fill this girl's every thought. Good thing Elnora (that's her annoying name) meets a guy who feels the same way! Oh, no, wait, he's engaged. Oh whew, he breaks it off because Elnora is PERFECT and wouldn't break off their engagement at a dance like that other tramp did.

Yeah, this book was all about moths and how perfect the main character, Elnora, is. Her hardship is that her mom doesn't love her and that they're poor, yadda, yadda, yadda, oh wait, her mom actually does love her, they're not poor (which the mom never realized BECAUSE SHE NEVER ASKED FOR HER BANK BALANCE---omg), and if Elnora catches butterflies, caterpillars and freaking MOTHS, she can buy nice clothes and the friendship of her peers. Oh, and yes, everyone loves Elnora because she's PERFECT. I can't stand perfect heroines. And I'm just not into nature. Some of L.M. Montgomery's books even go a little over the top on nature descriptions, but I can handle those because she's such a beautiful writer.

Suffice it to say that the only reason I finished this book is to see what the plot was, because I had no idea where the book was going. Her "hardship" (being poor) was solved in the first few chapters. I should've quit there. Take my advice and don't start this book (unless you're into moths and all that crap).

Rating: 4/10

Thursday, January 17, 2008


I've heard fabulous things about Book of a Thousand Days. It's a modern retelling of a fairy tale, it's lyrical, it's totally unique, etc. A gentry "lady" (really a girl) and her maid are locked into a tower; they escape; they become kitchen maids; one finds true love and the other finds herself. Happy ending, nice details, loved the Mongolia/Asia setting, etc. So can I confess I didn't really like it?

It's a different style than I normally read, that's true, but I just couldn't get into the story. And I'm not really sure why. The characters were all distinct and realistic. The plot was interesting and the diary form wasn't distracting in the least. I like YA, so that wasn't an issue.

So I've been thinking and have come to a decision: there are some books that I would read and some that I wouldn't re-read. This is one that I wouldn't re-read. I think I may start labeling books as a "re-read" (as in I'd re-read it) and "possibly re-read." If I don't put "re-read" on it, I won't re-read it. I'm going to go label my other posts now, too, if I like them enough.

Let's be clear here; I like to re-read books. The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery? I've read it seven or eight times. Pride and Prejudice, The Cheney Duvall series, Dani Ross mysteries, Georgette Heyer's books and literally, hundreds more. So when I give a book a "re-read status," that means I enjoyed it and that it's enjoyable enough to savor more than once.

Anyway, Shannon Hale's book was fine, but just wasn't for me.

Rating: 7/10 (because really it was a good book, even if I didn't like it)

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Stumped me!

Fact: all mysteries stump me....unless it's an awful mystery and then I figure it out and don't like the book. My latest read is Why Didn't They Ask Evans? by Agatha Christie. The story features Bobby Jones and Lady Frances "Frankie" Derwitt, old friends who stumble into a mystery (as so many of us do, right? Right).

Yup, Christie got me. I thought it was a well written and put together mystery---she throws in quite a few twists. Add in a bit of romance and wit and it's a classic! The plot is semi-complicated, probably more so because I just want to go to bed, so let's just leave it as a nice stand-alone mystery.

Rating: 8/10

Monday, January 14, 2008

Such a pretty cover!

Well, I finally finished The Wonder Worker. Don't you love this cover? I love the juxatoposition between the cross and his face....a very fitting symbol for the whole book.

The book follows Nicholas Darrow, who is Jonathan Darrow's son (see Howatch's Starbridge series). Like Jonathan, Nicholas is blessed with what Howatch calls "psychic" powers, which are basically the more charismatic gifts of the Spirit. Anyway, the book has five main sections, all from a different character's point of view, but it begins and ends with the same character. Nicholas is basically on a downward spiral, moving from a God-centered spiritual healer to a "wonder worker," which is a selfish abuser of the gift God's given him. Yet, will he be rescued?

I really like Howatch, but I had several theological issues with the book, which prevented me from enjoying it more. She tends to ascribe too much to psychological issues and brushes off true demonic and spiritual activity.

Also, the ending tied up way too nicely for two certain characters. Don't get me wrong; it's the ending I wanted, but seemed a bit premature.

On a positive note, one of the saddest parts of Scandalous Risks was the utter lack of hope for Venetia Flaxton....but this book brings her back---and her ending sounds happy! I really appreciated that Howatch did that. Even one of her own characters in Absolute Truths lamented Venetia's fate and I felt exactly the same way. So, basically, read the Starbridge series first.

Rating: 7/10

Sunday, January 13, 2008

In one fell swoop

Ok, so I'm still reading The Wonder Worker, but last night I was just in the mood for a Victorian mystery/romance. Thankfully Silent in the Grave, which I had ordered from my public library, came in earlier that afternoon!

I finished it in one reading, which isn't all that common for me anymore. (I think the last one I read in one sitting was Twilight, which I did just read this fall....that book was definitely a 10!) Silent in the Grave opens with Lady Julia Grey watching her husband die. Over the next year and a half, her world is upset as she discovers the truth about his death and life, with the help of private investigator Nicholas Brisbane.

I really liked the biting interactions between Julia and Nicholas. One of my favorite scenes is when Nicholas has had a bit too much absinthe to drink...ah, good times. This is the first in a series, so the romance isn't over the top yet, but I'm eagerly looking forward to the second book, which, lucky for me, just came out this month.

And on a last note, this book was published under MIRA Books, which is a subset of Harlequin. I was surprised to read that, so I checked out MIRA's other publications and none even look remotely similiar to Raybourn's book. Seriously, does that cover even make you think the book has anything to do with Harlequin? Anyway, forget about who published it, and just enjoy!

Rating: 9/10

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Not exactly a book...

Because I'm currently reading The Wonder Worker and won't finish it today (maybe tomorrow), I thought I'd post about something else. It's technically about a book series: Gossip Girl.

I haven't read the books but I thought the TV show looked interesting/trashy. In the end, I decided not to watch the show but I can live vicariously through New York Magazine.'s detailed coverage of each Gossip Girl episode is hilarious. But I adore NY Mag's detailed coverage of it. The writing is funny--I actually laugh out loud--and I feel as if I'm watching the show, just via reading about it. I'm so sad that Gossip Girl is going off air until next year (booo, writer's strike!), but at least Psych began last night!

Rating: 10/10 (for both Gossip Girl and Psych!)

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Vamping it up

So I just finished Masquerade by Melissa De La Cruz (cool last name!). And can I just say that the cover freaked me out a bit? Take a close look: it's pretty, ornate, I love the idea of masked balls, etc.....

But then take a closer look....

How freaky are those eyes?!?!?! I didn't realize a real person's eyes were in the mask before I really took a close look at the cover. Then I was freaked out and couldn't handle looking at the cover.

Masquerade follows Blue Bloods, which I actually think I liked a bit better. The books are about a group of people known as the "Blue Bloods" aka vampires. I like De La Cruz's take on vampires and all that...I think the books will appeal to those who like Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series. However, the action was a bit slower in this book and there's quite a bit of mystery about who's a "Silver Blood" aka the bad vampires and who various characters are actually in love with and such. The beginning didn't really hook me, but by the end I was involved. So if you can handle creepy eyes, give it a try.

Rating: 7/10

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Mmm, kind of gothic

I've heard that Barbara Michaels is an enjoyable author (and seeing as she's actually Elizabeth Peters, who I've heard great things about), I decided to try one of her books. I picked Wings of the Falcon.

I enjoyed it. It features Francesca, an English maiden who goes to live with her Italian relatives after being orphaned. There a plot similarity to The Scarlet Pimpernel, which I adore, so I liked that part. More romance would've been nice, but the snappy dialogue was definitely enjoyable.

**Plot spoiler: It bothered me a bit that Francesca saw her as in love with the wrong cousin a vast majority of the book--up until the last few pages. Anyone else have that same issue?**

Still, I think I'm going to try more of her works. Hopefully more love will be in the air.

Rating: 7(.5)/10

Sunday, January 6, 2008


Today I finished re-reading Death in the Andamans by M.M. Kaye. I bought the book used and it had this lovely cover:

Mmmm, I can't resist a fun cover like this. Romance! A man in some sort of naval uniform! Mystery! Gold lamé!

The book is part of Kaye's six (or seven?) part series of "Death in..." books. They read quite similar to some of Mary Stewart's works, featuring a girl who must solve a mystery and finds love at the same time. Death in the Andamans had a very...creepy feel to it. Seriously, the atmosphere just seeps out of this book.

The plot is set right before WWII and a group of houseguests get stranded on a little island in the Andamans. A few murders, tropical storms and mysterious happenings later and you've got a good book. This story features Copper Randal (who I always want to call Cooper), who is visiting her friend Valerie.

Rating: 8/10

I personally like Death in Kashmir best, but all Kaye's books are great---they just have that certain 1950s flavor to them. All six (or seven? I really think it's just six, though) were recently republished. Check 'em out!

Saturday, January 5, 2008

What I read

I like to read. A lot. From history to mysteries to romance to classics, I like a wiiiiiiiiiiiide variety. So I'm compiling a list of books I like and want others to know about. In return, I want to hear your suggestions. First up is a book that one of my favorite authors, Lauren Willig, mentioned as a good read.

Cold Comfort Farm is a satiric poke at many typical novels of its era.

Recently orphaned Flora goes to live on Cold Comfort Farm and brilliantly manipulates everyone. I recently watched the movie version and it was hilarious, too---and starred Kate Beckingsdale and Rufus Sewell. He made a sweltering Seth.

Total Rating: 9/10