Lady Audley's Secret by Mary Elizabeth Braddon
This is a Victorian novel of a sensational nature. Well, that's the genre type, at least. Compared to today's literature it's pretty tame. I'm reading it for my Victorian Lit class, but I must say, I'm really liking it. It starts off a little slow as you get to know the characters, and then the mystery is introduced and it goes pretty steady from there. It was considered the "low-brow" literature of its time, which I rather like because it makes it a little bit easier to read (ie, the writing isn't quite as stuffy. It's pretty straightforward). About halfway through the book you think you have the mystery all solved (and I find myself fairly frustrated with the protagonist for taking so long to get there. I blame 21st century ADD) but then--twist! So that's where I'm at right now. There is still about 150 pages to go, and I'm excited to see what comes next. The author does a great job of giving you lots of information and then withholding just a tiny bit, or dropping a little phrase here and there, that makes you question what you know. It's about 400 pages, but an easier read than say Jane Austen-era books and other classics, but with that same English novel feel and characters of a decidedly shadier nature. Recommend!
What I've Read Before and Liked a Whole Lot(Specifically ones that aren't quite as main stream. We all know Pride and Prejudice is great. But these are some others that really get to me for one reason or another.)
The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
This is one of my all-time favorites about an American family in the 1950s who travel to the Congo to bring salvation the natives. Okay, the dad (who is a religious zealot/crazy person/intensely ignorant/psychologically unbalanced baptist preacher) moves the family there so that he can convert the natives. The story is told through the perspectives of his very-different-from-each-other four daughters with each section introduced by vague flashbacks by the mom. It basically tells how these white people try to enter a village in the Congo and make it conform to Western standards and it shows how they are engulfed by this society and culture that has existed far longer than their Western ideals and changes them all in very intense ways. It also opened my eyes to foreign involvement in Africa (I first read it as a junior in high school) and got me thinking about other cultures. Seriously, this book is genius and you get really invested in these people's lives, both American and African. Highly, highly recommend.
Mistborn Series by Brandon Sanderson
I've already geeked out about Brandon Sanderson before, but seriously guys, he is so good. His characters are awesome, very real. If you hate fantasy books with every fiber of your being, he might not be your cup of tea. But if you like them or don't have strong feelings either way, give it a shot! Because I find myself more caught up in the characters, the politics, and the story lines than in the fantastical setting.
Arcadia by Tom Stoppard
When I first finished reading this, I just sat there stunned. I don't know why this book (it's actually a play) hit me so hard, but it weighed on my mind for a while after I read it. It might be more meaningful if you have an English background/familiarity with literary theory, but it jumps back and forth between a group of people living on an estate (I think?) in Victorian England and then a group of people in present-day England who are lit theorists on-site at the estate researching the people from Victorian England (confused yet?) so it all takes place on the same set, but goes back and forth between different eras. The writing is pretty funny but also really clever the way it ties the two plots together. You watch the present day people make assumptions, but you know the truth because you see the past playing out in different scenes. And then, you find out through the modern day people what happens to the Victorian people and then you have to switch scenes and helplessly watch while the unsuspecting Victorian people do things that you know sometimes lead to tragedy. It's only about 60 pages long, but Stoppard manages to create really amusing and powerful and poignant situations that just got to me for some reason. If you have any interest in any of the above mentioned things, I would highly recommend it. Really, really good. One of my favorite readings from my Brit Lit class.
That's a good start for now. To be honest, I usually spend my time reading heavier academic stuff or guilty pleasure/clean-but-trashy books, so I don't have as many quality, contemporary lit recommendations as I would like. But I'll keep thinking, I'm sure there is more.
To be continued, where we delve into the worlds of:
Not My Favorites
Avoid At All Costs