Friday, July 1, 2016

Creepy,...but Fun?

I decided to give this subject its own blog entry. It doesn't belong with "Enchanted and Unexpected." I'm not even sure where to start (or where it belongs), so...bear with me.

Creepy and spooky isn't really my thing (I've mentioned this before). Well, not when it comes to books, anyway. I've always loved to watch a good horror film, late at night, with my daughters. It's something we all enjoy when we're in the mood for it. I've never really been into creepy books, though,...until now. What's changed? Well, let's see if I can figure it out. (After all, I write to know what I'm thinking.)

I'm not quite sure how it happened. It started with The Butterfly Garden by Dot Hutchinson. I was a bit unsure of that one. But there was something about it I liked. I also enjoyed the short novel The Grown-Up by Gillian Flynn (both were mentioned in my June 5th post). I decided to test out a few more "creepy" ones to see if I actually liked the genre, or if I was just fascinated with something new. 

I just finished Don't Breathe a Word by Jennifer McMahon, and I can definitely say I'm now hooked on weird, creepy novels where I'm never quite sure where they're going to end up. Don't Breathe a Word definitely fits that bill! The funny thing is, I actually became interested in this particular book because of the vast differences in reviews I read on Goodreads when I was trying to scope out some creepy books for my "testing" process.

One review gave McMahon's novel one star, and the reviewer ranted and raved about how stupid the whole premise of the novel was. She ranted so much, I had to stop reading the review because I was afraid she'd spoil it for me. I also read a couple of reviews where people just loved it. I was...perplexed. I decided to read it for myself and see which side I was on. You know, just for fun. :)

I can definitely say I'm in the category of people who loved it! (Maybe that one-star-reviewer is a Twilight fan?) It's even hard for me to use the word "love" when talking about a creepy book, but I DID love it - creepiness and all. I think the real fun for me is how busy it keeps my brain, as it tries to figure out how the tale will turn next, what is real and what isn't, and trying to decide if it trusts the narrator. 

Don't Breathe a Word is about a woman, Phoebe, who finds herself in the middle of a family mystery. Her boyfriend's sister disappeared fifteen years ago, and the mystery has come back to haunt them. It's difficult for Phoebe to know what is real and what isn't. She's haunted by her own demons, while she tries to help him figure out his and what happened to his sister. The novel goes back and forth between present day and fifteen years earlier. It is dark, it is twisted,...aaaaaand it is plays on that little girl "niggle" in the back of my brain that remembers (quite clearly) when I used to jump as far out from my bed as possible for fear of something grabbing my feet. 

The story really pulled me in, and I finished it much faster than I wanted (3 days),...but I couldn't help it. It is a definite page-turner! I am happy to say that McMahon has other novels along this same line, and I have just started the next one, The One I Left Behind, and I am thrilled!

I'm still wondering, though, why I'm suddenly interested in this genre of books. Hmmm...

I am aware I read books for a variety of reasons. Most of the time, it's to understand more about myself and the people around me. It's to find connection, comfort, insights, adventure, and laughter. When I think about the books I usually read, I know all the things I love about them. 

So, why the attraction to the weird, the morbid, the demented, and the creepy? 

I like that it's a puzzle I'm trying to solve, that's certainly part of it, but there's more to it than that. I think it's because...there's no love. (Wait, I'm checking my brain.) Yes,...yes, I do believe that is part of the appeal. I've never really read "romance" novels but, as my youngest daughter pointed out to me not too long ago, almost every story has some kind of love story in it. And she's right. In fact, I just remembered the reason I found The Butterfly Garden. My daughter told me she'd read more novels if I'd find books that didn't have a love story in them. THAT is how I got started down this warped (but enjoyable) path! And, I admit it, I'm enjoying the books being about the mystery, the weirdness, the oddities, the crime, and NOT being about who ends up with who in the end. 

Well, I'm glad we figured that out. ;) 

Enchanted and Unexpected


The last time I blogged about books (before my Oregon trip), I had just started The Enchanted April by Elizabeth Von Arnim. I took my time reading this one, and read a few in between, for a variety of reasons. Some books I really enjoy in small doses, when the storyline isn't hard to hold on to and characters are so strong they stay with you. This is one of those books. 

The Enchanted April was first published in 1922, and it's as interesting to read about the author, and how the novel was received back then, as it is to enjoy the actual book. I won't hesitate to tell you that it is written more formally than contemporary prose, naturally. In fact, there were times I chuckled to myself about how much her detailed writing reminds me of Henry James (I chuckled because someone I know hates Henry James for that very reason. I happen to love him.). The women in the novel are SO Victorian...and, yet, so remarkably like women today. The language may be more formal, but the emotions are the same.

The novel revolves around four women who decide to put their money together and take a holiday together in Italy. They are tired of their dreary lives in London and take a month long vacation together as equal partners in renting a castle by the sea. The women don't know each other prior to this adventure. All they know about each other is they all have the desire to escape the city of London for a holiday to restore themselves.

It is a charming story, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I found myself quite enchanted by the lot of them. I found out there's a movie, made some time ago, but I watched the trailer and was disappointed in what I saw. I don't think I'll be watching it. Some characters are just meant to stay in books, and live in the mind, where they are the most colorful.


Now, I promise I'm not calling this part of the blog "Unexpected" because the title of the next book I'd like to talk about is The Unexpected Waltz by Kim Wright. I'm calling it that because I didn't expect to like this novel. I was attracted to it when I previewed it because I liked the cover, and the blurb on the back of the book sounded like my kind of thing. However, a couple of chapters in, I thought, 'I'm not going to like this one. I will not be able to relate to the main character and, at this point, I don't even like her.' I almost abandoned it. I told myself I'd read a little more before I gave up on it. 

I also admit the reason I didn't give up on it quickly was because the setting of the book is my hometown. I've never read a novel set in my own hometown, and I was interested to see it through the eyes of the author, who now lives there. While that was part of what propelled me forward, it wasn't what hooked me and made me enjoy the rest of the ride. And, yes, ladies and gentlemen, I enjoyed it.

The Unexpected Waltz is a life lesson for,...well,...let's just say it. It's a life lesson for people my age. By "my age," I mean anyone 40 and over. And, if you're an old soul (as I have always been), I'll say 30 and over. The lesson is about what you do when you find you're not at the place you thought you should be, and you may not even be the person you had always hoped you would be. What do you do? It is interesting and charming to find out what the main character does, how she deals with her life, and what she learns. She begins by trying to learn how to ballroom dance. What she ends up understanding is so much more.

And what did I learn? I can tell you a couple of things I learned without giving anything away...

1) Always make a large entrance (don't be timid)
2) Step strong (even if you're unsure it's the right step)

They're not just good dance tips, my friends. They're good life lessons. :)