burning_nitrate (burning_nitrate) wrote in 50bookchallenge,

My New Reads of 2012

Just joined this community today after cheking it out.  Over most of the last year I've been doing most of my reading on Kindle, which I find to be a very useful tool for carrying around many books at once and getting some good bargains on literary collections and the like.  It's certainly encouraged me to read more as I can now do it while using my exercise bike as well as on journeys, in cafes or at night.

Just finished reading The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe a couple of days ago.  I'll talk a bit more about it behind a cut, but I won't give any big plot spoilers away.  It's typically categorised as a Gothic Horror or Mystery, but it also had elements of Romance and could be something of a Travelogue.  It concerns a young woman and her travels and ordeals, particularly famous for when she becomes a prisoner in the castle Udolpho and is terrorised by the husband of her legal guardian (although that's only a part of the book and locations and situations change a few times).  Not a terrible book and I certainly did not hate it, but let's say that I can see why it can get mocked (by the likes of Jane Austen in Northanger Abbey) sometimes.  It was very overwrought and repetitive at times.  The lead character of Emma really does spend a lot of time, if not actually fainting, then at least becoming faint and needed to be attended to so many times, that it really does become a cliche and something you want to give her a shake for.  The character of Valancourt isn't exactly much better in his angst, woe and fits of inaction.  A lot of loose ends and mysteries are cleared up by the end of the novel, but you often have quite a long wait for it all to come together and compared to it's reputation as such a landmark Gothic work, there's perhaps not quite as much mystery, horror or exciting events or relevations as you'd expect.  I had mixed feelings, but don't regret at least checking this famous book out at least once, but it could be a eyerolling chore at times.

I've gotten into the habit of reading a couple of books at a time, usually to give me a bit of variety between modern and older or between different genres/styles and that sort of thing.  For my first books of this new year, I've started reading:

Open Season (Joe Gunther Mysteries) by Archer Mayor
A crime thriller in which a small town cop investigates a series of crimes which have a common thread among the victims and their part in a murder trial from a few years ago.  I'm still less than halfway through it and wouldn't want to spoil it too much, but I have been enjoying this one so far.  This is a new writer for me, even though he's been going quite some time, so I decided to start with the first book in that particular series and I've been enjoying it almost as much as the first couple of small town homicide books I read by Karin Slaughter last year.  The first person narration gives it a nice noir and hardboiled feel for me.

Therese Raquin by Emile Zola
An 1867 novel in a naturalist style which is something of a study of a group of odd characters.  There's a young woman who is unhappy and pretty lifeless in a dull arranged marriage to her cousin.  They both live above a small shop with the husband's old mother.  And the young woman soon begins a relationship with an associate of her husband's.  It's very straight forward and matter of fact in it's style.  I'm very early on but I'm enjoying it well enough so far and the French literary style (I love Jean-Paul Sartre's novels) is a breath of fresh air after all the overly dramatic posturings of the characters in the last book I was reading.

I'll also continue to dip into the odd short story by the likes of Arthur Conan Doyle, M.R. James, Bram Stoker, H.P. Lovecraft and Edgar Allan Poe on my Kindle.  For what I'll be reading after these two books, I don't like to plan too far ahead, but I still have plenty of works on my Kindle already and never know what might catch my eye to add.

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