Saturday, September 03, 2011

R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril Challenge VI

This blog seems to be dead, I post so rarely on it these days, so why not bring it back from the dead with this very appropriate challenge? I've been reading about Carl's R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril Challenge every year since I started this blog (2006. God. Can you believe it? No wonder it's dead. How old is too old for a blog?), but I've never bothered to join it. I didn't feel I needed to, because every October and November, I fill my reading time with tales of mystery, suspense, and the supernatural, and the R.I.P. challenge runs from September 1 through Halloween. September, when we've still got bright sunshiny days with highs in the 80s has always seemed a little too soon for me to focus my reading on the weird and spooky. This year, however, I've changed my mind for three reasons:

1. I joined Carl's Once Upon a Time Challenge for the first time this past spring and enjoyed it immensely. Even more impressive, it's a challenge I started and actually managed to finish.

2. Although I used to save all my supernatural reading for October and November, recently I've begun reading throughout the year, which has made me enjoy it more, somehow. Thus, reading ghost stories when it's 84 degrees and sunny outside doesn't seem as odd as it used to. Besides, this time of year, we still get thunderstorms, and everyone knows ghosts and demons abound when the skies are streaked with lightning and the house shakes with thunderous reverberations.

3. Last weekend, we had a hurricane here on the east coast of the U.S. It knocked out our power for 48 hours. You don't realize how very, very dark it is at night until all the power in your neighborhood is gone, you have to take the dog out before going to bed, and there's a cemetery behind your house. It made me realize why Victorians wrote such good ghost stories. When you have very little light, all kinds of sights (and sounds) could easily be mistaken for ghosts. All these thoughts, of course, made me want to pull out some ghost stories and read them.

Carl always kindly provides us with varying levels for his challenges, and I'm going to take on Peril the First, reading these four books (plus one to grow on, because I couldn't resist):

Dark Fantasy: Murder of Angels by Caitlin R. Kiernan. This is one that's been sitting on my shelves forever, bought on a trip to the Delaware shore the first summer we lived in Pennsylvania. It's actually the second in the Silk series, and I haven't read the first (Silk), but I'm hoping that won't matter, because I'm trying to read from my own shelves rather than buying anything new for this challenge. Thanks to Ms. Musings, I discovered Kiernan's Threshold about four years ago, I think, and I've been meaning to read something else by her ever since.

Gothic: The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole. I've read it, but it was so many, many years ago that I don't remember a thing about it, and I've been meaning to reread it, oh, for about five years now. If I'm going to read something Gothic for the challenge, why not read "the earliest and most influential of the Gothic novels." At least, that's what the back cover copy says. I have an old, old copy of this somewhere, but a few years ago, a friend of mine gave me a nice, shiny, new version published by O.U.P., so I'm going to read it.

Mystery: The Expendable Man by Dorothy B. Hughes, because not all horror has to be supernatural, and this one promises to be full of human horror. It's a Persephone book that's remained on my shelves unread for ages (Persephone books are so expensive for Americans that when one buys them, she has to save them for special occasions). It's another one that came highly recommended to me by Ms. Musings, so here it is.

Supernatural: The Penguin Book of Ghost Stories: From Elizabeth Gaskell to Ambrose Pierce edited by Michael Newton. My brother-in-law kindly picked this one up for me at Book Expo America back in 2010. I meant to read it last fall but never got around to it.

(One to Grow On) A Little Bit of Everything: A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness. I've been listening to the audiobook version of this one. It's a very, very long audiobook (3 parts at, and I've been listening to it for over a month now, because I basically only listen when I'm walking or doing house work, neither of which I've done in abundance since I started it. I'm dying for an excuse to write my thoughts on it, but I didn't want to give up reading other titles for the R.I.P. challenge, and, well, you know, I never get around to writing about the books I read unless I have a reason like the mystery book club or a challenge, so I just decided to tack it onto this challenge. I've got something like five more hours of listening, which means I'll probably be done with it this week.

I will also be joining Carl's group read of Neil Gaiman's Fragile Things, because I've been meaning to read Fragile Things practically since it was published. I don't own it but can easily get it from the library, so I won't have to buy it.

And I'll probably spend a good deal of November reading other spooky fare. It's a month that tends to have superb weather for such reading, and nothing much else to recommend it except my brother's birthday and my second favorite holiday (Halloween, of course, being my favorite) Thanksgiving. I've got tons and tons more on my shelves that I can read. That reminds me that Susan, over at You Can Never Have Too Many Books, recently asked some really interesting questions regarding reading for terror. Since this blog has only just come back to life, I need to keep feeding it, so I plan to address those in my next blog post. Until then, it looks like I've got some reading to do.


Kailana said...

Glad to see you are joining in for the Fragile Things read-along. Enjoy your books!

Susan said...

Yaaay you're back! lol though I'm a fine one to talk, if your blog is just back from the dead, mine is a mummy with holes in it, I've posted so seldom this year. Appropriate image for this challenge, too! lol I'm so delighted you've joined in, Emily. I want to hear what you think about A Discovery of Witches. I read the Castle of Otranto I think - I did a gothic literature course in university, though it was over 20 years ago and all a foggy memory now. I just remember the histrionics in the books and being in my 20's then, thinking it was all a bit dramatic and over the top - especially the heroes always fighting over slights, and the heroines getting in danger, dear things, and never thinking to get themselves out! I just read The Red Tree by Kiernan and it scared me in quite a few places, so I'm very curious to see if Murder of Angels is along those lines of scariness too.

And *blush* at mentioning me! thanks! I'm really anxious to read your post, since you write ghost stories like I do, I'm very curious what your thoughts are as to why we read them.

Carl V. Anderson said...

Great to have you joining in this year. I completely understand why you didn't in the past. When I started this I couldn't decide when it should start and for some reason I generally feel like once Halloween is over I tend to move on to other kinds of reading so I moved it to September. And part of it is that, no matter the temps, I am so desperate for autumn temperatures come September 1st that I use the challenge to put myself in the mood regardless of the circumstances.

Great books on your list. Thanks for deciding to come along this time.

Emily Barton said...

Kailana, thanks! I've already begun to enjoy them.

Susan, glad to hear you're excited to hear what I think of the books I've chosen. I've answered your questions now, too, in my most recent post.

Carl, I don't blame you at all for being desperate for autumn temperatures. This past weekend here in PA was so like July I could've cried. But now, it's a little cooler (and rainy). Perfect weather for ghosts. Thanks again for hosting the challenge. I look forward to having lots of fun with it.

Carl V. Anderson said...

The weather here turned dramatically on Saturday night. Temps dropped almost 30 degrees for highs and overnight lows for the week are in the 50's. It has been wonderful. It was perfect weather for reading something mysterious, and for watching Midsomer Murders, which we did.

Next week it looks to be creeping back up into the 80's and although that is not bad I'm already annoyed that it might do so. Now that I've got a taste of this cooler weather I want it to stay around.

Carrie#K said...

I have Murder of Angels too, or did. It might have been too scary for me to read. Hate scary books.

Stefanie said...

You've never participated in RIP? I would have sworn that you have. Well, welcome to the fun! I look forward to hearing all about your reading. You have an interesting list.

Emily Barton said...

Carl, yes, cool weather, please stay around.

Carrie, I'll let you know if it turns out to be scary or not. It doesn't seem like it's going to be, but I've been wrong about that in the past.

Stef, I know, hard to believe, huh? I'm sure it won't be the last time I participate. I'm already having great fun.