Monday, December 31, 2018

Things That Are Making Me Happy

1. My Brilliant Friend on HBO. So faithful to the book (Elena Ferrante) and so wonderful to look at. Just two episodes in but I am amazed at how beautifully the book is captured and even enriched by the visuals.The story takes reading and learning so seriously.

2. If Beale Street Could Talk-wow, another gorgeous rendering of a book. The music is a knockout. Each character is given a scene that brings them to life. I think Baldwin would love it.

3. Phil is doing better. He has gotten out a few times this week. Lucky for any break in the storm we get.

4. Reading the Rock Hudson bio and also THE DARKNESS. Enjoying both.

What about you?

Saturday, December 29, 2018

SKIN AND BONES, edited by Dana Kabel

I meant to talk about this a few weeks ago, but...anyway here is a fun anthology published by Down and Out Books, which seems to publish the majority of such books lately. It has been in the works for about three years. All the stories have a cannibal theme of sorts. Writers include Stuart Neville, Charles Ardai, Patricia Abbott, Dave Zeltserman, Lawrence Block, Jason Starr, Bill Crider and a bunch more of notable short story writers. .If your appetite and your holiday money holds up, you might give it a look. In pb and ebook.

Friday, December 28, 2018

Friday's Forgotten Books, December 28, 2018

(From the archives) Patti Abbott

Not exactly a forgotten book since C.J. Box's BLUE HEAVEN won the Edgar in 2009, but I have been meaning to read it and since I did, here is my review. This is a masterful book that manages to tell a fairly complex story in a completely lucid way. There is no fat in the story. It takes place over 48 hours and you can feel those hours ticking by at breakneck speed.
Two kids in northern Idaho watch the murder of a man, see that they've been spotted and are immediately on the run. They are lucky enough to find themselves in the barn of Jess Rawlins, a rancher who is one of the few good men left in his neck of the woods. He is also a hardluck guy who has lost almost everything. But Jess must hide the kids, figure out if their story is true, and determine just who the murderers are and why. Can he trust that what they think they saw really happened. And is it fair to keep the kids away from their worrying mother.
Blue Heaven is a term for the part of northern Idaho that is now a haven for ex-policeman. And some of those ex-policemen have taken over Jess's town for their own purposes. The is an exciting read and a nice introduction to this part of the country. Not a false step in the story and Box creates great villains and great heroes. Not an easy thing to do.

Les Blatt, DEATH OF AN OLD GIRL, Elizabeth Lemarchand
Richard Horton, STORIES OF THE THREE BURGLARS, Frank Stockton
Jerry House, THE YELLOW CLAW, Sax Rohmer
Margot Kinberg, IN COLD BLOOD, Truman Capote
Rob Kitchin, THE DEATH SEASON, Kate Ellis
B.V. Lawson, THE DANCING MAN, P.M. Hubbard
AEvan Lewis, FLYING SAUCERS, Wally Wood
Steve Lewis, POLO SOLO,  Jerry Kennealy
Todd Mason, THE YEAR'S BEST HORROR STORIES annual, edited by Richard Davis, Gerald W. Page and Karl Edward Wagner,  1971-1994
Only Detect, TOWARDS ZERO, Agatha Christie
Matthew Paust, GREENMANTLE, John Buchan
James Reasoner,  Blood Priestess of Vig N'Ga - John Peter Drummond
Gerard Saylor, "Saints of the Shadow Bible" Ian Rankin
Kerrie Smith, THE SHADOW SISTER, Lucinda Riley
Kevin Tipple/Barry Ergang, FEAR AND TREMBLING, Robert Bloch
TomCat,  The Kindaichi Case Files: The Antlion Trench Murder Case
TracyK, SALAMANDER, J. Robert Janes

Friday, December 21, 2018

Friday 's Forgotten Books, December 21, 2018

 From the archives

Andi Shechter has been a publicist, chat host, interviewer, convention-planner, essayist and reviewer.

NO HUMAN INVOLVED, Barbara Seranella

The other day, in a fit of rereading (I get this way after trying two or three new books and finding them wanting) I picked up DEADMAN'S SWITCH by Barbara Seranella. This is a book I've read at least three times and will, undoubtedly read again. It was the last book Barbara wrote and I got annoyed thinking about that. It was the first book in a new series that featured a fascinating and terrific new protagonist, a woman with an interesting job in crisis management and an interesting life. Charlotte Lyon has obsessive compulsive disorder , an at times seriously disabling condition and Seranella it brilliantly – she was the "un-Monk" to me. (I know people with OCD and cannot watch the overbearing neurotic "Monk" who simply refuses to deal with his illness but instead expects the world to deal around him. Rrrrr.)

Sorry, off track. But see, the thing is that Barbara Seranella died in January of 2007 and that really frosts me. I'm still mad. I wasn't ready to lose a friend and to lose the person who created Munch Mancini, one of mystery's best protagonists. Her first book was NO HUMAN INVOLVED and it featured a character few of us had ever met. Munch was a junkie, an addict and was in trouble. In this first book, it's Munch's last day as an addict. She's going to get clean and sober. Throughout the history of the series, we watch her learn about all the life she missed while she was on drugs, all the hell she left behind and watch her try to get beyond it – something that's hard to do. She has debts she'll never pay, but she is learning to join society , as she puts it. Munch takes on responsibilities, sobers up without being preachy, faces the world pretty squarely and is just great to spend time with.

A couple years after I read NO HUMAN INVOLVED, I was hosting a discussion about hard-boiled mystery at a convention on a Sunday morning, It was a casual thing, a bunch of us sitting around in a circle and chatting. One of the participants in the conversation was so interesting, had so much to say and yeah, that was Barbara Seranella. I valued her friendship and the chance to catch up with her when she came to town on a book tour, and I miss her still. She had talent and used it. Her books are well crafted, and her protagonists unforgettable. This week, I'm reading my way through the Mancini series and being impressed all over again. I don't want her to be gone.

Frank Babics,SENTENCED TO PRISM, Alan Dean Foster
Les Blatt, MORE MURDER IN A NUNNERY, Eric Shepherd
Brian Busby, BEST BOOKS read in 2018
Crossexaminingcrime. MYSTERY IN WHITE. J. Jefferson Farjeon
Martin Edwards, FIVE ROUNDABOUTS TO HEAVEN, Francis Iles
Richard Horton, THE CONFIDENCE MAN, HIS MASQUERADE, Herman Melville
Jerry House, The Caligari Complex by Basil Copper (1980)
The Secret of Shark Reef  by "William Arden" [Dennis Lynds] (1979)
George Kelley, TIED UP IN TINSEL, Ngaio Marsh
Margot Kinberg, ALL SHE WAS WORTH, Miyuke Miyabi
Rob Kitchin, COP HATER, Ed McBain; SLAUGHTERHOUSE FIVE, Kurt Vonnegut
B.V. Lawson, DANGLE, Meg Elizabeth Atkins
Evan Lewis, THE KING'S COAT, Dewey Lambdin
Todd Mason,   "The Faithless", a novella by John D. MacDonald, plus stories by James McKimmey, Jr. et al.: REDBOOK, May 1958, 
Matt Paust, THE DEATH OF MR. LOMAS, Francis Vivian
Rick Robinson, A  HOLIDAY FOR MURDER, Agatha Christie
Gerard Saylor, THE TOMB, F. Paul Wilson
Kevin Tipple, FLASHBACK, Ted Wood
TomCat, TIME WANTS A SKELETON, Ross Rocklynne
TracyK, THE SHORTEST DAY, Jane Langton 

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Why Roma Was My Favorite Movie of the Year.

Although the needs and the folly of the upper class dominates ROMA, at heart it is a story about the people who serve them. Or in this case, one woman. The complexity of that relationship is one of the film's greatest insights. Yes, perhaps Cleo is too saint-like to be totally believable, I think the youngest boy sees her exactly like that though, and it is likely that he is a stand in for Cuaron.
Cleo is someone who can stand on one foot, blindfolded. Someone who gives totally to the family she serves and yet has a rich inner life of her own.
There are many small moments in ROMA and the big ones serve as background: earthquakes, fires, revolution, the fury of the ocean, death, divorce, desertion. A shopping trip becomes the backdrop to the Corpus Christi massacre.
Set in 1970-71, the world is both small and large. The first scene, a long, languid one of a patio being washed, sets the tone perfectly. Cleo spends her day attending to the very needy family she works for--too many children, but oh, how they love her. And that love binds her to them. Every scene contributes to a time and place.The actress that plays Cleo, an amateur, is a revelation and Alfonso CuarĂ³n's ROMA is a masterpiece to me. There was not a boring or extraneous scene in the film for me.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

My Favorite Televisions Shows of 2018

In no particular order


The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

The Good Place

The Deuce


The Americans




Better Call Saul

America to Me

I could probably come up with another dozen if I really tried. And there are some that seem to be sort of between years.What are yours?

Monday, December 17, 2018

Things That Are Making Me Happy

Phil is out of the hospital after three weeks plus. Regaining his strength is going to be hard work for both of us but it is good to have him home. I owe so much thanks to the people who helped me, sent flowers, cards, phoned, offered me rides, took me shopping, picked up things for me, drove me to the hospital, took me out to the movies, for coffee, a drink, dinner. Too many people to name but thanks a million times over. Thanks to Todd for doing FFB again and again and again.

THE AMAZING MRS, MAISEL is making me happy. It is like seeing a mini Broadway play each time. Chuck (from the TV SHOW CHUCK) grew up to be a real hunk btw. Yes, I know she is a very privileged person and a poor mother, but boy it is pretty, and so entertaining. You only need one Mary Richards in life.

We are pretty much housebound for a while so good TV makes a difference. Also thought HOMECOMING was pretty good.

So grateful for UBER. I used them about a dozen times and every driver was as nice as could be.

Also grateful for the prepared nutritious meals I can get at my local grocery store. Who has the energy to cook after a day at the hospital. They are close to restaurant quality but less $$$

What about you guys?

Friday, December 14, 2018

Friday's Forgotten Books, December 14, 2018

Will be hosted by Todd Mason this week. Thanks, Todd.
Hoping I return next week.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

First Wednesday Book Club: NEWS OF THE WORLD, Paulette JIles

A retired military man makes his living by riding through Texas and reading the news in small towns after the Civil War. The news he reads tends to lean toward the more entertaining and foreign, something not found in the local gazette. While traveling through one area, he is asked to return a ten-year old girl, taken by the Kiowa Indians, to her family near San Antonio. She has been a captive for five years and has bonded with her Indian family. The novel details their road trip, their adventures, their bonding, and the eventual arrival in San Antonio. My book group really admired the language, the story, the characters, and the sentiments of this fine book. A little like THE SEARCHERS, LONESOME DOVE and other similar stories. A real gem. Especially relevant in light of current immigrant issues.

More reviews at Barrie Summy's place. 

Friday, December 07, 2018

Friday Forgotten Books, December 7, 2018

Friday, December 7, 2018

Will be hosted by Todd Mason this week.
Hoping I return soon.