muccamukk: Woman sleeping in bed, surrounded by books. (Books: Ballycumbers)
[personal profile] muccamukk
What I Just Finished Reading
From when I was doing [ profile] hlh_shortcuts:
Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen, narrated by Juliet Stevenson
Highly enjoyable and incredibly funny. I think Catherine is one of Austen's most relatable heroines, and enjoyed Henry very much. It is perhaps somewhat depressing how little things have changed since 1803, given that the Thropes felt entirely contemporary, especially John Thorpe's treatment of women.

The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe, narrated by Karen Cass
Whew, so that was a bit of a long haul, even on audiobook. I didn't mind the endless descriptions of scenery and feelings, but could have lived without the poetry. (We finally switched to Blanche's PoV, and I was like, Huzzah! Emily's gone! No more poetry! but of course Blanche also writes poetry, gdi.) The scenery was at least mostly descriptions of areas I've been to, and was pleasantly nostalgic. The funniest part was what an 18th-century writer thought 16th-century French culture was like.

That aside, I unironically enjoyed most of this story. It was a melodramatic soap opera, but the story certainly kept me interested, and I liked Emily trying to find fortitude in the face of all the awful things that kept happening to her. I know a lot of people feel like Emily spent too much time fainting and crying, but she really was a shy young woman who'd been orphaned and then terrorised for months. Poor pet.

It was a bit disappointing that only a third of the book took place at the title castle, and didn't even get there for ten hours of audiobook, but it was fittingly creepy, and they had more creepy buildings later.

I was interested in the general commentary about what to do if the object of your affection has rejected you, which solution seemed to be to shut up about it and leave the poor woman alone. Other behaviours were explored and condemned. Murdering the existing spouse is right out! But so is hanging around being a creep. I could, on the other hand, used far less "City people, especially women, bad; country people especially peasants, good."

Apparently someone abridged it to take out all the scenery and poetry, and it was less than half the length.

The Castle of Otranto: A Gothic Story by Horace Walpole
Struggling with what to rate this. It wasn't what you would call good, and it certainly wasn't scary, but it was unintentionally (and sometimes intentionally) hilarious.

Basically the author is a bored rich dude who wrote this for lolz, and it kind of shows, because it's everything and the kitchen sink, usually all at once; there's whole chapters of people just chasing each other around the countryside; everyone turns out to have a secret relative, be a secret relative, or both, and it ends with both a wedding AND a funeral. Nothing is foreshadowed.

Taken in the spirit meant, it's pretty entertaining.

The Old English Baron: a Gothic Story by Clara Reeve
This is supposedly a rewrite of Castle of Otranto, aimed at making it more plausible, but it doesn't really work as a rewrite, and on its own, it's a little dull.

Basically, Reeve looked at the chaotic lunacy that is Otranto, and said, "you know what bothers me, the peasant boy turning out to be of noble birth. I'm going to write a whole book about how that would work." Possibly unfair, as other elements are mixed in, including the unexplained magic armour, and various family dynamics, but the remix lost the fun of the original, and most of the women too.

And since last time I posted this (I wrote 20k of fic, and read few books):
The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells, narrated by Simon Vance
It's always so interesting to actually read something you've only run into via osmosis. The science of the aliens part was absolutely fascinating, and it holds up as solid SF now, even if we know rather more about Mars. The plot not so much, and I could have lived without the racism.

Gifts (Annals of the Western Shore #1) by Ursula K. Le Guin
The language was beautiful of course, and I liked that setting felt somewhere real, not sort of vague Ye Olde Scotlande, but an actual farming community in the hill country.

I didn't really have a lot to hold onto in terms of plot or character. The plot is basically a series of terrible things happening because the farming community is terrible, and the main character trying to work out an ethical way through until he eventually stumbles on an out. I guess it's more than happened in The Telling, but none of it really grabbed me.

I gather each of the books in this series has a different but connected setting and character, so I may try the next, but I'm not rushing out.

The Saga of the Mary Celeste by Stanley T. Spicer
Informative but extremely short. I would have liked to know a lot more details.

I started and abandoned both Dust Tracks on the Road by Zora Neale Hurston and The Heart is a Muscle the Size of Your Fist by Sunil Yapa, the former for not grabbing me, and the latter for being unbearably pretentious.

What I'm Reading Now
Listening to A Man on the Moon by Andrew Chaikin, which has too many astronauts, and not enough mission control. Reading, in fits and starts, Rising Sun, Tumbling Bear about the Russo-Japanese war, interesting, but a lot of troop movements and not enough cultural background or bios of people involved.

What I'm Reading Next
Probably Apollo: Race to the Moon, which I've been promised has more ground people. Might go back to the Tesla bio on audiobook. Library books.
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