Uncategorized

Gothic & Victorian Classics TBR

goth

When I was younger, I really hated classics and had resolved never to read them, so convinced was I of my dislike for them. Now, after having read several classics, I can’t say that I’m head over heels in love with of any of them, but I do appreciate their literary merit, so I’ve been doing my best to expand my repertoire of classic novels (I owe it all to Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812, which prompted my read of War and Peace). In the past two years, besides War and Peace, I’ve read Wuthering Heights, Northanger Abbey, Jane Eyre, and Rebecca (the only one I genuinely enjoyed, with no reservations).

Over this past year, as I’ve been writing my Fulbright application, I’ve rediscovered my teenage love for all things Gothic. I was a very emo teen, obsessed with horror and the macabre. I’m very intrigued by the Gothic literary aesthetic and all the anxieties it conveys about gender, class, race, imperialism, and much more (plus there’s so much draaaamaaaaaa). To that end, I’ve resolved to read several of the more well-known Gothic novels that have contributed to the construction of the genre. I have also rediscovered my love of the Victorian era, so I’ll also be looking to read classic books set during that time period, even if they may not be Gothic per se.

Another reason I really want to read these books is that there are a ton of modern-day novels that are based on these classics. I know that I don’t have to read the original books to enjoy the modern stories, but I would like to have that background. In another post, probably in mid-September, I’ll talk about my autumn TBR, which will consist of more modern Gothic stories!

Anyway, of course I want to share all these books with y’all, but I also want to have a super organized reference list of what I want to read; sometimes Goodreads just doesn’t cut it!


The Short & Pressing Reads

Frankenstein (1818) by Mary Shelley: Reading this right now! Often touted as the first sci-fi novel, it is also heavily associated with Gothic lit.

The Island of Doctor Moreau (1896) by H.G. Wells: This is the only book on this list that’s a bit of an outlier. It’s not really Gothic fiction, rather more sci-fi and horror, but it was written in the late Victorian era, plus there’s two (!) books I want to read soon based on it, and it’s super short. Will probably read this next!

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1886) by Robert Louis Stevenson: This is one of the most well-known works of literature in the Western world, considering how often it’s referenced! I’ve known about it since I was a child. It is supposed to encompass the urban Gothic feel of Victorian London pretty well! Will probably read this soon!

The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890) by Oscar Wilde: A book I want to read soon is based on this! But also, this seems to be a truly beloved classic and is hailed as one of the better, more readable Gothic novels. I really want to read this before October!

The Vampires

Carmilla (1872) by J. Sheridan LeFanu: Funny story. I was supposed to read this in a college class but I…didn’t. I need to remedy that. It’s a precursor to Dracula with lesbian undertones. Yes please!!!

Dracula by Bram Stoker (1897): Do I even need to explain? This is like…a must for anyone who wants to know anything about Gothic lit. I’ve avoided it because I’m not a huge fan of epistolary novels (a running theme in Gothic lit, joy), but it’s high-time I read it!

The Vampyre (1819) by John Polidori: Remember the ghost story competition that prompted Mary Shelley to write Frankenstein? This was one of the other short stories that competition produced. This came before pretty much any famous vampire lit in England.

The Blood of the Vampire (1897) by Florence Marryat: This novel is less well-known than its counterparts; perhaps it was overshadowed by the publication of Dracula in the very same year. It tells the tale of Harriet, daughter of a voodoo priestess and a mad scientist, who seems to sicken everyone she comes into contact with. Could she have the blood of the vampire running through her veins?

The Major Leagues

The Castle of Otranto (1764) by Horace Walpole: Often thought of as the very first Gothic novel, it tells the tale of Manfred, who sets out to marry his dead son’s virginal bride to be. It’s supposed to be super weird and super creepy and it’s the novel equivalent of the FIRST!!1! comment.

The Mysteries of Udolpho (1794) by Ann Radcliffe: Otranto and Udolpho go hand in hand; if Walpole “invented” the Gothic, Radcliffe both perfected it and popularized it. This gigantic book tells the tale of young orphan Emily, who is trapped in a strange castle with an unwanted suitor and various other terrors.

Melmoth the Wanderer (1820) by Charles Maturin: Another massive book, it tells the tale of Melmoth, who has sold his soul to the devil in exchange for added life. Now he wanders the earth, desperate to find someone who will take over the covenant he made. Written by an Irish clergyman, Melmoth the Wanderer is a series of stories within stories that gradually reveal Melmoth’s life that supposedly ups the macabre and horror in the Gothic genre.

The Monk (1796) by Matthew Lewis: This trails Otranto and Udolpho as one of the major classics of Gothic lit. It’s filled with macabre and disturbing things like murder and incest, all about a monk who succumbs to temptation.

Foreign Lands

 The Italian (1797) by Ann Radcliffe: The mother of a young Italian nobleman is dead-set against the woman he wants to marry, and so she enlists a demonic, scheming monk to put a stop to the engagement, and he is willing to resort to all manner of horrific deeds to accomplish the task. Sounds sensational! Takes place in Italy.

Zofloya or the Moor (1806) by Charlotte Dacre: A tale of the downfall of a woman whose vices apparently exceed that of The Monk! One of those vices is her attraction to her Moorish servant. Lust! Revenge! Murder! Racism! Adultery! Satan! Rage! All the classic hallmarks of the Gothic tale. Takes place in Venice.

The Castle of Wolfenbach (1793) by Eliza Parsons: So this actually predates both Udolpho and The Monk, but is not nearly as well-known as either of them. It’s about a young girl trapped in her menacing uncle’s castle, which hides a terrible secret about his wife. Takes place in Germany.

Vathek (1786) by William Beckford: Probably chock-full of Orientalist nonsense, this book is about a Caliph who makes a terrible deal to sacrifice everything for power, culminating in a nasty fate. It’s weird, it’s obscure, it’s grotesque, it inspired Byron and Lovecraft. Takes place in…the Middle East?? Somewhere?

Frightening & Frightened Women 

Lady Audley’s Secret (1862) by Mary Elizabeth Braddon: Possibly more Victorian than Gothic, this highly sensational novel features an alluring female villain who has a secret that threatens the very fabric of Victorian society!!! Melodramatic and probably underwhelming to modern readers? Most likely. Do I still want to read it? Definitely.

The Turn of the Screw (1898) by Henry James: A very famous story about a governess who is haunted by some phantom specter who seems determined to steal the children, who don’t seem to be frightened of whatever it is. Very classic! I know literally nothing else about this book.

Uncle Silas (1864) by J. Sheridan Le Fanu: Part Gothic tale, part psychological thriller, this book is about young orphaned Maud, whose devious uncle plots to kill her and steal her fortune. Supposedly very disturbing and atmospheric and well-known in Gothic circles.

The Woman in White (1869) by Wilkie Collins: Another well-known classic, one I always confuse with Turn of the Screw for some reason! I have literally no clue what this book is about except it involves a ghost woman dressed in white. Also it’s long, but I will persevere.


This post took SO LONG to construct, omg. Do come talk to me about these books! What are your favorite Gothic tales? Which Gothic books do you most want to read? Are there any modern adaptations of these classics that you love and adore? Isn’t the 19th century fun??

Uncategorized

Top 5 Wednesday: Books I’ve Removed from my TBR

top 5 wednesday

Top Five Wednesday was created by Lainey from gingerreadslainey and is currently hosted by Sam from Thoughts on Tomes. Check out the goodreads group to learn more.

July 18th: Books I’ve Removed From My TBR
Discuss the books that you wanted to read at one point, but don’t anymore

This is kind of fortuitous, as yesterday, out of nowhere, I sat down and decided to clear my TBR just a bit. Not extensively, mind you, I don’t have the energy for that just yet, but I thought I would just give it a quick skim and see which books I am definitely no longer interested in reading.

As it turned out, it was quite a lot of YA fantasy.

I don’t know why I’m having this weird about-face with YA fantasy recently. I don’t know if I’ve grown bored of the genre, or if I’m frustrated with the insistence on tepid romances, or if I’m just becoming really, really picky about the YA fantasies I read. Perhaps all three. All I know is, as I was going through the summaries for some of these books, they all sounded exactly the same, and I had no interest in reading any of them. So I got rid of them.

This list isn’t going to be solely YA, however; I’ve tried to bring in a little variety of genres! (Also, you get six books, because I can’t decide.)


rivers of londonRivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch

Funny story: I always thought this was a podcast. I don’t know why I thought that. I see this title thrown around Tumblr a lot and for some reason my brain made the assumption that it was a podcast, not a book. Iwas pleased when  I discovered it’s actually a book. But then I watched Jean @ Bookishthoughts talk about how badly the female characters in this book are represented. I think she literally says that the women in this book seem like nothing more than a pair of boobs and that the male narrator can’t stop objectifying them. Yeah, no thanks.

 


a discovery of witchesA Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

I was initially so drawn to this book, because it’s about a scholar and librarian studying at Oxford. She’s also a witch, and there’s vampires and demons and it sounded like it would be super cool. I actually picked it up last month. I read like three pages of it before putting it down. Something about the writing didn’t sync with me, so I thought I’d give it another go sometime later. But then I read some detailed reviews, quotes included, and was disappointed to discover that this book is basically the adult Twilight. Chock full of nonsensical romance and bizarre plot points and a whole heap of toxic masculinity.

Oh, but apparently there’s an upcoming TV adaptation of this with Matthew Goode? You can be sure I’m checking that out.


timekeeperTimekeeper by Tara Sim

I think at one point this was one of the more popular YA books? I was drawn to it because of the Victorian steampunk aesthetic, but the more I learned about it the less interested I was. I think it’s about semi-sentient clocks? Or something? And there’s a romance with a…clock?? That premise seems terrible enough already, but then I read reviews saying it was boring and not at all atmospheric, and that there aren’t many female characters, and that sealed the deal.

 


BLOOD ROSE REBELLION R3 V11.inddBlood Rose Rebellion by Rosalyn Eves

I added this to my TBR because it’s an alternate Victorian-era Hungary. But it seems like it’s one of many forgettable, carbon-copy YA plots. The protagonist is the equivalent of a squib in her world. Then there’s some kind of rebellion. There’s a love triangle with two tepid romances. Lather, rinse, repeat. The reviews I’ve read pull out some choice quotes about the love interests that had me rolling my eyes. This is the exact kind of YA fantasy I want to stay away from so I don’t start hating the genre.

 


the hundredth queenThe Hundredth Queen by Emily R. King

So first, this is an Indian-inspired fantasy written by a white woman, which already has me side-eyeing. But I added it because I thought the concept of a sickly young woman forced out of the comfort of her monastery and forced to fight for the position of wife sounded super cool. But apparently, this book devolves into – surprise, surprise – a tepid romance. Apparently there’s also a lot of girl-hate, which is ridiculous because the concept of this book is practically begging for two girls to team up and blow the whole thing up from the inside out.


everlessEverless by Sara Holland

I was iffy about this book’s concept to begin with.  I mean, it sounded interesting, I guess – time is currency, the rich tax the poor to extend their lives. I mean, it’s fine, just not something that particularly interests me. I don’t even remember why I added this to my TBR. I think that was my “add any and all YA fantasy releases” phase. Anyway, the heroine seeks revenge on one of these wealthy families and also wants to buy her dad more time, buuuuuut…what do you know, all that is forgotten in favor of – you guessed it- a tepid romance!


Mainly this list seems to be showcasing a rabid hatred for romance, which couldn’t be further from the truth! I’m a shipper at heart; I adore romance. I just loathe awkward, forced, tepid romances that are so clearly shoehorned and instalovey and just…cringey. I also hate when romance overshadows plot, which seems to happen in most of YA fantasy these days.

Anyway. Have y’all read any of these books? Am I mistaken for removing them from my TBR? Let me know!

end of year: accomplishments and resolutions

Top 5 Wednesday: 2018 Reading Resolutions

top5wedfloral

Top Five Wednesday was created by Lainey from gingerreadslainey and is currently hosted by Sam from Thoughts on Tomes. Check out the goodreads group to learn more.

January 3rd: 2018 Reading Resolutions: Self explanatory. Let us know 5 of your reading goals for the year.

1. Read at least 70 books. This year I read 75, which is more than I’ve ever read in my adult life (in a single year, obviously). I know perfectly well I can achieve this if I devote enough time to it. I already read on my long commute but I also want to dedicate extra time at home to read, like on the weekends, which I normally spend lounging around doing absolutely nothing.

2. Read more outside my preferred genre. I started doing this a bit this year, but the majority of my reads still fall within YA fantasy. It’s my comfort genre and of course there’s nothing wrong with it, but I think I really need to expand my tastes a bit.  Of course I want to branch out more into literary fiction and classics, but I also want to read more adult fantasy, women’s fiction, historical fiction, and mystery.

3. Read more non-fiction! I used to read non-fiction all the time  but for some reason halfway through this year I kind of just…stopped? I have a bunch of non-fiction books on my shelves and on my Kindle that I’ve been meaning to read , so I definitely want to incorporate a few of those into my reading schedule.  I still want to prioritize fiction because of course fiction is what I write, but I also like to learn!

4. Read one book in Arabic. I say one, because I know even reading just one will be a slog. I have a bunch of Arabic books, including one of short stories, and Prisoner of Azkaban. I’m technically bilingual and I can read Arabic but it takes a loooooot of concentration and asking my mom what various words mean, so it’s less of a “curl up under the covers with a book” situation and more like a “sit at a desk with a pen and notebook” situation. Still, I really want to keep my language skills strong.

5. Don’t be afraid to re-read! This year I kind of implicitly forbade myself from re-reading because I wanted to spend my time learning a new writing style, a new kind of worldbuilding, etc. I guess I thought of re-reading as a waste of time? But I also don’t want to forget the absolute joy of reading something I’m in love with. I haven’t re-read Harry Potter or Sweep in years, so this just might be the year I do that, especially since Goodreads has that fancy new re-read feature now.

Uncategorized

Top 5 Wednesday: 2018 Wishlist

top5wedfloral

Top Five Wednesday was created by Lainey from gingerreadslainey and is currently hosted by Sam from Thoughts on Tomes. Check out the goodreads group to learn more.

December 27th: 2018 Wishlist
–Looking forward into the new year, this is a list of the types of books you’d like to see more of in 2018! Try to avoid actual titles, and discuss themes, genres, or tropes you’d like to see more of in the new year!

Yes, it’s Thursday, but let’s just…pretend it’s still Wednesday. Yesterday I went to bed at 9pm instead of writing this post, and then I woke up at 12:30pm the next day. Yes, that’s about fifteen hours of sleep. The worst part? This isn’t out of the ordinary for me.

Anyway! There are plenty of things I’m dying to see in the books I read, especially YA fantasy, so it was difficult narrowing down to just five!

Continue reading “Top 5 Wednesday: 2018 Wishlist”