Friday, October 23, 2020

FFB: THE END OF EVERYTHING, Megan Abbott

THE END OF EVERYTHING, Megan Abbott


Thirteen-year old Lizzie Hood and her next door neighbor, Evie Verver, are inseparable. They're best friends who swap bathing suits and field-hockey sticks, and share everything that's happened to them. Together they live in the shadow of Evie's glamorous older sister, Dusty, who provides a window on the exotic, intoxicating possibilities of their own teenage horizons. To Lizzie, the Verver household, presided over by Evie's big-hearted father, is the world's most perfect place.

And then, one afternoon, Evie disappears. The only clue: a maroon sedan Lizzie spotted driving past the two girls earlier in the day. As a rabid, giddy panic spreads through the Midwestern suburban community, everyone looks to Lizzie for answers. Was Evie unhappy, troubled, upset? Had she mentioned being followed? Would she have gotten into the car of a stranger?

Lizzie takes up her own furtive pursuit of the truth, prowling nights through backyards, peering through windows, pushing herself to the dark center of Evie's world. Haunted by dreams of her lost friend and titillated by her own new power at the center of the disappearance, Lizzie uncovers secrets and lies that make her wonder if she knew her best friend at all. 

*I am not sure I wrote this back in 2010. It may have been Megan or perhaps someone from Little Brown. But here it is, one of my very favorite of Megan's books. 

 

Mr. Verver is one of my favorite characters from Megan's books. 

 

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Short Story Wednesday, Doctor Jack O' Lantern, from Eleven Kinds of Loneliness by Richard Yates


https://www.pifmagazine.com/2000/10/doctor-jack-o-lantern/ 

 "Doctor Jack O'Lantern" is the first story in Richard Yates' ELEVEN KINDS OF LONELINESS, which is one of my favorite story collections by one of my favorite authors. Yates also wrote REVOLUTIONARY ROAD and EASTER PARADE. All three are excellent.

This is a poignant story about a young teacher trying very hard to be a good one and a student who fails both to please her and to fit into his new school. Vinny has come from the City and Yates captures Vinny's part of the city so well by describing how it is the part of NYC that you whizz by on your way to Grand Central and the real New York. 

Vinny is a foster child and his new town is not a good fit for him. The teacher has her students tell about their weekend activities and his account is cobbled from the other children's stories. (Actually he shows more talent as a writer than the rest of them). Scorned by his classmates and sad to have disappointed his teacher, he scribbles four-letter words on a wall. There is a point in this story when he almost bridges the gap between the other boys and himself, but his well-meaning teacher derails that moment and his rage will be his downfall. 

For those who don't get a chance to read it, Doctor Jack O'Lantern is his misunderstanding of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. 

Todd Mason

Richard Robinson

 Jerry House

TracyK 

Cullen Gallagher 

James Reasoner 

George Kelley

 

Monday, October 19, 2020

Still Here

 Not since second grade have I heard a voice calling out "Patricia, please be still." But that is what I heard when I attempted to do an MRI this week. I got through that one but bailed on the additional two. I have to find an wide open MRI before I can do it. Too claustrophobic for me and it seems like you are gliding into a crematorium. And having to wear a mask makes it that much worse. All of this because my brain is wired a bit differently and they are not sure if this is a problem or not. Enough about that.

Enjoying hearing REBECCA read on audio. Also reading LEAVE THE WORLD BEHIND, a very good book but the title is too hard to remember. It could be MAKE THE WORLD GO AWAY, WHEN THE WORLD GOES AWAY, a million other choices. Book titles are hard. I think the best ones are very short. It is one very scary book.

Still enjoying BORGEN, CRIMINAL-GERMANY,  not a lot else though. The BLY MANOR show is too dense in characters and too short on scares. I think the offerings are beginning to be lesser works although I am looking forward to QUEEN'S GAMBIT beginning Friday.

Signed up for ONE- DAY UNIVERSITY. You get a lecture on a different topic every day for $7.95 a month. Looking forward to learning something that is not political.

So what's up with you.


Sunday, October 18, 2020

On what would have been Phil's 76th...




It doesn't get much easier but I am grateful Phil wasn't sick during this period. So there is that. To the man who never gave me a bad moment much less a bad day. Love, Patti



Friday, October 16, 2020




THE EXPENDABLE MAN, Dorothy B. Hughes

A resident at UCLA hospital reluctantly gives a teenager a ride on a deserted road near Phoenix. Right from the beginning, he seems guilty, worried, and we wonder if he perhaps is an unreliable narrator. His actions seems blameless so why the fretting. The girl comes to his hotel room later that night, demanding an abortion, which he refuses to do.

But after 50 or so pages of his fretting and pacing, we find out why he is overly concerned and it changes everything we have thought about him until that point. Irritatingly, many reviews will give this away so if you plan on reading the novel, stay away from other reviews. I think this moment in the novel is far too important to be divulged. Written in 1963, THE EXPENDABLE MAN was one of Hughes' last works and it reflects much of what is coming in the later sixties. Although she didn't die for another thirty years, her only other writing seems to be a biography of Erle Stanley Gardner.

I found this to be a moderately exciting read although I must confess that Hughes' progressive thinking in some areas is undercut by her judgmental attitude in others. Perhaps this reflects the time, but she comes down very hard on doctors who provide abortions and girls who need them. It is well-written and the characters are deftly drawn. We get a good sense of Phoenix at the time. All in all, a good if not perfect read.


 


Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Short Story Wednesday" Lauren Groff "The Midnight Zone" from FLORIDA




You can hear the Lauren Grof read "The Midnight Zone" here. https://www.wnyc.org/story/lauren-groff-reads-midnight-zone/ although I read it in her collection of stories called FLORIDA. It is also available to read in a May 2016 issue of the New Yorker.

 One of Groff's greatest strengths (for me) is her ability to make a landscape come alive. And in this story, it's a woodsy, primitive area of Florida filled with sink holes, wild animals, dangerous men, snakes, etc.

A panther has been spotted just before the father of a young family is called away. Immediately, we are on the edge of our seats as readers. He will be gone two days, leaving his wife with two small boys, no Internet, and even getting the cell phone to work is iffy. The mother has already admitted to not being the most engaged mother in the world. And it seems like she may now be ill with an unnamed malady.

Very quickly things spin out of control, and in trying to change the sole light bulb, with her son holding the stool, she falls and suffers a nasty head injury. She wakes to find her two boys looking down at her and they try as best they can to care for their injured mother. She comes in and out of consciousness and fantasizes roaming the woods around them, seeing the dangers awaiting them. The boys tend her and when their father returns, she can see from his face just how dire her situation was. 

I very much admired that Groff never allows the reader to be off the hook in terms of awaiting a panther's arrival or some similar dire fate. She creates a threatening environment although the boys seem unaffected by it. It is the mother who is terrorized. A great story for me. 


Jeff Meyerson

Edward D. Hoch, Challenge the Impossible: The Final Problems of Dr. Sam Hawthorne (Crippen & Landru 2018).

When I thought of which book to choose for the first of these short story collections to review, the choice was fairly easy.  Why not go with possibly the most prolific short story writer ever, a man who published over 950 stories, including one or more in every issue of Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine for 35 years?  Ed Hoch created a dozen or more series characters of varying types, but my favorite remains the impossible crime specialist, small town Connecticut doctor Sam Hawthorne, who had some 72 recorded cases, published between 1974 and 2008, of a remarkably high quality.  Hoch did something interesting here, besides the ingenuity of the stories themselves, by setting them in a specific time and place, a smallish town in Connecticut between the doctor's arrival in 1922 and his final story, in 1944.  You always get a feel for what was going on in the world then, from the Depression to the Second World War.  Crippen & Landru has done fans a favor by publishing all 72 stories in five volumes (of which this is, clearly, the last), all with "Impossible" in the title.  From the first story, "The Problem of the Covered Bridge," in which a man drives into a covered bridge and seems to vanish off the face of the Earth, Hoch was a master at coming up with truly impossible-seeming crimes and then providing mostly brilliant solutions.  I'd recommend starting at the beginning and reading all five volumes, but you can't go wrong with any of them.
 
Jeff Meyerson
 
Other reviews of stories can be found here. 
 
 

Monday, October 12, 2020

Still Here

 Don't forget Wednesday is short story day if you can participate. Send your story to me at aa2579@wayne.edu if you don't blog.




Still watching BORGEN, but also CRIMINAL UK, which is quite good and THE HAUNTING OF BLY MANOR, which is scary but not too. Reading the books mentioned above, which are also good reads. 

Had a lot of porch visits this week, which will soon wind down I fear. Had an emergency visit to the dentist-my history with teeth is a sad one. Went to Josh's for dinner and a bonfire in their yard. Don't know when this bonfire thing started, but it is nice on a slightly cool night. 

The Michigan Terrorists are very frightening. Don't call them a militia because that implies they are around to aid good causes and they are not. 

Kevin goes back to in-class school tomorrow. Very worried about that. It is going to be hard indeed to avoid Covid over the next six months.

How about you?

Friday, October 09, 2020

FFB QUEEN'S GAMBIT, Walter Tevis

QUEEN'S GAMBIT by Walter Tevis

I am not sure what drew me to this book. I know nothing about chess and the book was chock full of chess matches. I was unable to follow the moves and,
in fact, had never heard of terms like the "middle game" before. 


 

Beth, an orphan, is taught chess by the janitor at the school/orphanage where she lives. She begs him to learn and at once excels. Once adopted, her adopted mother uses (in a benign way) her ability to support them. Both of them are in flight from any real world. 
We follow Beth from match to match across the years. She picks up some bad habits in terms of substance abuse along the way. An interesting book about a child prodigy and how she makes the jump to an adult champion. Highly recommended especially for those who play the game.
Tevis also wrote THE HUSTLER and THE MAN WHO FELL TO EARTH. 


And look, here's the trailer for the Netflix series. https://youtu.be/CDrieqwSdgI

Wednesday, October 07, 2020

First Wednesday Book Review, MEET ME AT THE MUSEUM, Anne Youngson

Anne Youngson has written her first novel at age 70. And it is a fine one, too. It is an epistolary novel, but since I listened to it rather than read it, it didn't bother me as much as it usually does. In fact, it was enjoyable with the two readers, one with a Danish accent, one British. 

The British woman and the Danish professor are brought together over their shared interest in the Tollund Man, a anthropological find that resides in a Denmark museum. Both have had disappointments in their life and their attempts to overcome them brings them closer together. The "niceness" of these people might have been too sacharine in other times, but right now it was a tonic.

Youngson does a very good job of slowly opening each of them up, not rushing things but also not belaboring them. You can probably guess the ending but would the reader want it any other way. 

You can find more reviews on Barrie Summy's blog.



 

 

Tuesday, October 06, 2020

Short Story Wednesdays?


We seem to be facing another long winter and I couldn't help but notice how many of you were reading short stories and I thought why not share them. Just a very short review or anything you want to say about the collection, the author, your history with it. Maybe we'll do it every Wednesday. No one should feel obliged to do one each week, but if we alternate we'll always have to figure out if this is the week. 

Anyone that doesn't have a blog (Jeff, Steve, Gerard, etc) can send me their review and I will post it. Also if you know of anyone else that doesn't frequent this blog, please invite them. I will look for your links and post them. What do you think? If it's good, let's start next week, October 14th.

Monday, October 05, 2020

Still Here

The HBO series WE ARE WHO WE ARE is not for everyone. If you are put off by kids seeming pretentious or out of control, it is not for you. But on the whole, I find it interesting, different, original. Everyone is entitled to being obnoxious at 15 when they are trying to figure out who they are.


I hadn't seen CLOSE ENCOUNTERS in many years. I was in my late twenties when it came out.  I had two school-age kids so I felt older than my years, but looking back I am amazed at how it blew me away. And, guess what, it still does, even on a TV and even at my advanced age. I love how Spielberg managed to combine (for the first half at least) a family story with science fiction. And do it so naturally. He really has a talent for working with kids. I think he doesn't get enough credit for how diverse his output is.

 
KIM'S is the sort of light-hearted show about nice people I like to watch before going to bed. (Netflix) Very diverse cast which makes it nice. And Toronto seems so civilized compared to here.

Still enjoying MORSE. (Britbox) I see now more acutely that a major element was a character study of a sad, lonely man. Perhaps the Colin Dexter -written ones emphasize that less or more than the episodes written by other writers.  In the episode I watched last night, Lewis sees what really happened in a murder case, but can't bring himself to tell Morse the truth because Morse is so besotted with the female protagonist. Very sad. John Thaw plays it so beautifully.

THE SCARRED WOMAN is perhaps the fourth Adler-Olsen book I've read and the one least concerned with Department Q so far. If you haven't read them, Dept Q is a police department for dead case files. An unusual plot here but good. 


 

LAB GIRL Hope Jahrens,
skillfully combines the "making of a female scientist" with the science she studies. Dirt seems her major interest, but leaves and trees come after. I chose this book for my book group because we had never really read science before but not sure it was a good choice. 

Anyway, what is new with you?





 

Sunday, October 04, 2020

Friday, October 02, 2020

FFB, Dead Anyway, Chris Knopf



 
 
Chris Knopf, Dead Anyway (2012), reviewed by Jeff Meyerson (from the archives)

People always ask (I know, I ask too) how you decide what to read next. Might as well ask, how do you decide what to read, period? I have a list of favorite authors whose books I read when they come out but for newer writers or ones I don't know I tend to lean on recommendations from friends, reviews here or on other blogs, plus newspaper and magazine reviews. If they sound interesting to me, I'll check them out.
 
Chris Knopf had two earlier series set in the Hamptons, but this is the first in a new series.
Apparently Bill Crider reviewed it when it came out last year but somehow his review did not make enough of an impression on my brain until I read his review of the sequel a few weeks ago, linking back to his Dead Anyway review. Then I thought, this sounds good. And it is.
How's this for starting with a bang?  Arthur Cathcart, an overweight 40ish guy working at home doing market research and other high end computer research, married to a gorgeous woman who owns a real estate firm near their home in Connecticut, comes home from a walk to find his wife sitting on the couch and a man holding a gun on her. The man insists she answers five questions written on a paper, and to emphasize his seriousness, he shoots her husband in the thigh. She answers the questions only to have the man, clearly a hired killer, shoot her in the head and kill her. Then he shoots Cathcart, who somehow doesn't die.
Now you may be able to resist seeing what happens next, but I sure couldn't.  Cathcart is gravely injured and decides (with the help of his physician sister) to stay dead and use his computer skills to discover who killed his wife and why, not easy in the post-9/11 world.  But first he has to recover enough physically and mentally to be able to act.  Along the way he gets some help from a woman named Natsumi Fitzgerald, who throws her lot in with his.
I really enjoyed this one and will be reading the sequel as soon as it comes in to the library. Definitely recommend

Thursday, October 01, 2020

September 2020 Reads

Sept

The Memory Police, Yoko Ogawa-*

The Teagirl of Hummingbird Lane, Lisa See

The Oral History of the Office, Andrew Greene

The Redhead by the Side of the Road, Anne Tyler

Seinfeldia,  Jennifer Armstrong

The Housekeeper and the Professor, Yoko Ogawa

This is the Story of a Happy Marriage, Ann Patchett

Meet Me at the Museum, Ann Youngson

This is the longest list of books I have read in a while. No crime books unless you count THE MEMORY POLICE. More than half of these were audiobooks, which I borrowed from the library.  Walking, cooking and cleaning allows me to get through them quickly. A certain kind of book works best on audio for me-one with a very clear plot and not too many characters. If the writing is very descriptive, it's not a good fit for me because I will miss too much. Two of these books, I read while eating--you do that when you are alone. (the office book and the Seinfeld book). I probably wouldn't have finished TEAGIRL but it was for my book group. My favorite was Ann Patchett's essays although I liked most of them quite a bit. 

How was your September reading?