Reading Challenge: Death and Mayhem

August is already slipping away.

I feel like I should explain the featured image in contrast to this entry’s title.  Tomatoes say August to me.  Death and mayhem…not necessarily.  But maybe Death and Mayhem will pull in some people, and then maybe others will be like “oh that’s a seasonally relevant picture, what’s all this about death and mayhem?  Wow!  I just can’t stop reading this blog about books that lured me in with pictures of almost ripe tomatoes!”

Summer has always been a good time for me to make real progress with my reading for the year because I have two hour car rides to spend the weekend with my parents.  A portable DVD player and a nap-timed drive have helped to make these possible.

In both of my list dingers this week people die!  The weather is intense and people go to extremes.  Setting plays an active role and the stakes are high.

Popsugar wanted a book that takes place during the summer. It seems that the summer stories that I was combing were coming of age.  I was not in the mood of coming of age stories.  I chose a “summer that changed everything” story but not as in a child sliding into maturity. I have eyed this book for awhile and then I was thrilled to find I had an excuse to read it this year.  And it was on sale for awhile:

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Frog Music, Emma Donoghue

I did not know this book was a reconstruction of true historical events until I got to the notes at the end.  (I knew that right at the get go with Burial Rites by Hannah Kent). Through the book I loved the characters, especially the murder victim Jenny Bonnet, and how she went through the world and then her slowly evolving backstory.  I loved how the main character Blanche changes as a result of her relationship with Jenny.  Blanche is already powerful in her way when the story starts and then finds a new kind of power through her first real friendship with Jenny. I did not know these had been real people with real misfortunes, the history that makes Jenny who she is actually was a real person’s history.  Everyone is living on the edge of starvation and disaster, and then there is Jenny, who meets disaster early on.

Donoghue masters setting and context to make this historical reconstruction really something special.  It is a hot summer in the middle of a smallpox outbreak in an 1800s melting pot San Francisco with different ethnicities than New York boasted:  Chinese and Mexicans rather than Italians and Jews and the Irish wrestling one another for a decent footing in the world.  I love stories in early New York City, that fight to survive in this wholly new and dirty city.

And one more bit for this gripping story: Donoghue did her research about the effects of early neglect on a baby. I have worked with children with this early burden of damage and she knew how to write a child raised in absolute neglect and how the child can make a turn around with the appropriate human contact.  I was just as gripped with how the baby would grow as I was about the changes in Blanche, or the story behind Jenny, or the relationship between her lover Arthur and his companion Ernest.  This book was intense, absorbing, and surprising.  I loved it as a reconstructed historical mystery.

Not sure I am going to read Room, her more famous work.  That seems in no way relaxing. Frog Music was not exactly relaxing but I like a story to engage me on a stage that I can’t quite as closely relate to.  I can understand the intensity of living on the brink of destruction in a hot and ill city full of minorities intellectually and it piques my intellectual curiosity.  A child escaping a room that is all he knows…I don’t know.  My smarts can’t necessarily spirit me through the parts that may be too difficult for my heart on that one.

BookRiot wanted a horror book.  It was actually the first thing that they wanted!

I like Ania Ahlborn, a self pub horror artist who makes my breath catch in my throat, but I had this one on audio and that seems to make anything win lately.  I have not read Within These Walls of hers yet. For my horror pick:

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The Shining, Stephen King

This is my third King novel.  It reminded me a lot of It, which is not a bad thing. It was more interesting to me than scary, however, I am not sure I am going to watch the movie.  Mayhaps I am being too bold here.

King is adept at spinning out the vulnerabilities of his characters to make them susceptible to the events of his horror plots.  A man struggling with a recovery from a disastrous addiction (although what addiction isn’t really disastrous?), a precocious child with a gift that neither he nor his parents understand and that also fuels the supernatural fires, a wife that wants to make things work for her family.  An isolation that was originally intended to be healing after the family’s rending recent history in a place with a checkered history.  Of course those are a lot of brinks to teeter on.  It is not just about the events of the horror, it is how it acts upon who these characters are.  I was interested in the psychology of the father and son more than I was about trying to figure out why the hotel seemed to want them and how it was going to get them.

I think about King writing in his tub and tapping his cigarette ashes in the toilet as he barfed out his prolifically creative guts as I read the people and the scenarios he paints. I am thinking about reading something of his that could feel different from It and The Shining and Carrie.  Maybe The Stand, or The Green Mile.   I am open to suggestions from anyone who knows a bulk of his work.  Also, interested to know how Doctor Sleep might serve as a sequel to The Shining.

So everyone is dying to be in my reading challenge this time.  And I got a great shot of tomatoes that grew unintended from my throwing rotted vegetables outside rather than in the trash.

Recommendations for another King (I have Misery, too, come to think of it).

Comments/questions/likes/shares are always welcome!!!

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