Saturday, December 29, 2012

Best! Worst! The Reds Review 2012

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING:  Just a two more days to go until we can see 2012 out the door with a sigh of relief. Hurricanes, droughts, horrific murders and the longest presidential campaign in human history made this one for the record books - and not a minute too soon.

Still all of us here at Jungle Reds had our high and low points. For me, a big best-of moment was earlier this month, when my son Spencer received a congressional nomination to the service academies. We're still waiting to see if he gets an appointment, but it was a great way to cap off the year-long application process. A worst moment? Its a toss-up between blowing through yet another book deadline and my colonoscopy.

Best book? CLAWBACK by Mike Cooper, which took two subjects that usually make my eyes cross with incomprehension - high-end financial instruments cutting-edge computer manipulation - and turned them into a page-turning, deeply enjoyable mystery. Worst book? Any thriller that treats women like plot points with breasts. Guys, watch Bridesmaids a couple times, then go back for a second draft.
ROSEMARY HARRIS: Colonoscopy...was that one of the high points? Oh..just reread. ;-)

This may sound obnoxious but my regular life is so good that just sitting by the fire reading is a high point. We're still here. Nothing hurts. The house
didn't blow away in the storm. my husband survived a terrifying fall off a balcony. It's all good!
If pressed...finishing my first non-mystery. Obama getting re-elected.They were high points. Favorite book, hard to say and I'm sure I'm forgetting something from early in the year, but I really liked The Informationist. Least favorite - 50 SHADES. Give me a break. I had better sex than that when I was sixteen.

JULIA: I'm laughing out loud right now, Ro. 

HALLIE EPHRON: This year our daughter announced she was pregnant - it doesn't GET better than that. We also had an absolutely fabulous trip to Trinidad. We stayed in at the Asa Wright nature center and within the first twenty minutes, standing on their beautiful veranda overlooking the valley, identified 40 birds, species we'd never seen before (they have counted 460 species of bird). Took a hike into the wood and heard what sounded like an hammer hitting an anvil --  we knew it was the elusive bell bird, and that it was high in the canopy ahead of us. We stalked it, got it in our spotting scope, and just stood there marveling at one of the weirdest looking birds ever making its decidedly un-birdlike sounds.
Best book, hands down, EDGE OF DARK WATER by Joe R. Lansdale. Best movie? An oldie that somehow I'd missed: DEVIL IN A BLUE DRESS.

On my worst list was dealing with a chimney that needed to be rebuilt. They had to break through the wall in the basement. What a mess. Soot coating everything... still.

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Oh, good stuff...lots of it. Book things mostly, which you know about.  Still constantly in delight about this mid-life career addition of being able to make things up.  I still look at Jonathan sometimes and forget that his heart is fixed--and I am so happy when I remember he's fine! The dot they took off my face was nothing. And I agree, a lot of little stuff. We inherited part of my mother and step-father's wine collection, so we are having fun with that!  And I saw geese flying in a V the other day and burst into applause.
Best book, ah, Trust Your Eyes, by Linwood Barclay. Terrific. And a new one by Becky Masterman called Rage Against the Dying.  Best movie? Besides Love, Actually? (which I watched AGAIN)--maybe ARGO, which was absolutely riveting.

My worst list? Interestingly, when a bad thing happens, I say to myself: someday I will forget this, so I'm going to start forgetting it now. The guest bedroom ceiling fell in last week because of a water leak-AT MIDNIGHT--but no one was hurt. And I'm forgetting about that now.

JAN BROGAN - On the best list was my daughter getting into UPENN Medical School and the lovely white coat ceremony in Philly. On the worst list is the investment banking firm my husband worked for in New York; the founding partners will someday find themselves in one of my mysteries as either the villains or the corpse.   Favorite book?  Either The Steve Jobs biography, Rules of Civility or Major Pettigrew's Last Stand (recommended to my by Debs).  Worst book:  It's hard to get any worse than Fifty Shades of Grey, which I'm convinced actually subtracts knowledge from you. Best movie: Argo.  Guilty Pleasure: the movie TED. Worst movie? I've forgotten it already. How about worst entertainment?  The Red Sox's last season.  I am still in mourning.
HANK: Jan, I am howling with laughter. It SUBTRACTS knowledge. Like celery and calories. Perfect. 

LUCY BURDETTE: Worst thing--so busy can't remember sh*t. Best thing--so busy can't remember sh*t:). Good news--two book out in 2012 and first-ever Publisher's Weekly review! Not good--lost my dad in January. He struggled at the end, but still he was my dad and I miss him dearly.

Read lots of good books this year, including Barbara O'Neal's THE 
GARDEN OF HAPPY ENDINGS and Vanessa Diffenbaugh's THE LANGUAGE OF FLOWERS. More good stuff: Lots of great friends and loving and lovable family and wonderful food and endlessly entertaining pets. And bad stuff--what is wrong with people in our world with all this shooting and fighting and negative energy? Let's hope and pray for better in 2013!

DEBORAH CROMBIE: Best things--NO MARK UPON HER making the New York Times Bestseller list. A life-long dream. And finishing the next book.

Worst things--finishing the next book. You'd think I'd know by now that writing is really, really hard work. But there's always the NEXT book, which I'm sure I'll get written in a timely and organized manner...
Losing our dear fourteen-year-old dog, Hallie. We still miss her terribly.

But, best thing again, a new puppy to brighten our days--and wear us out. Viva Dax!

Movies? I think I'll go with a Best TV series. I LOVED Call the Midwife on 
PBS. I'd read one of Jennifer Worth's books when I was researching a book set in the East End, and they did a fabulous job of bringing the stories to life. (Take note, producers of Jack Reacher, etc. Worst movie? It would probably be Twilight something but I spared myself.

Best Book? So many! But I'm going to make it books and go with a find
from Jungle Red; James R. Benn's Billy Boyle series. I still have two books to go to catch up, and am anticipating them. Worst book? Again, I spared myself from Fifty Shades:-)

And best of all, all my family is safe and well.

JULIA: Clearly, ladies, in 2013 we need to go ahead with the book we outlined (with the help of several bottles of wine) at Hank and Jonathan's house: FIFTY SHADES OF SILVER, an erotic novel for the over-fifty set. (Sequels will be FIFTY SHADES OF READING GLASSES and FIFTY SHADES AARP.)

How about you, dear readers? Let us in on your own highs and lows, best and worsts of 2012!

Hallie's Bell Bird - strange, indeed. Maybe we should make it the official mascot of the Reds in 2013?


  1. Julia, congratulations to Spencer . . . and to Jan’s daughter . . . and to Hallie’s daughter and family . . . huge accomplishments and wonderful things to look forward to in the coming year . . . .

    Sometimes, though, it’s all just a blur . . . in our little piece of the world, best includes a new Little One in the family . . . making it through the storms unscathed . . . being safe and healthy . . . doing the whole Land of Little mouse Ears thing with the Princess and her brother . . . . Best books must include Hank’s “The Other Woman” . . . best choice of a book NOT to read [that would be “Fifty Shades”] . . . .

    Worst is always relative . . . we have so much to be grateful for in this year of horrific storms and events, it really puts everything into perspective . . . . my current “worst” of the moment is being caught in the dilemma of having agreed to review a book for one of the book sites and now being stuck trying to find a nice way to say the book was really . . . well, sadly lacking.

  2. Oh, so sorry I missed the book outlining session (and several bottles of wine!) at Hank's! Fifty Shades of Silver! Fifty Shades of Reading Glasses! Fifty Shades of AARP!!! Snorting my granola...

    What a fun post. So many books to add to my list, and I obviously must see Argo. And so many things I'm glad I didn't read. Or watch.

  3. Oh Ladies! Thanks for all the great book suggestions; I concur with many of your favorites and un-fave's. Your own books made my top of the year list! Going to see Argo today. And yes, Devil in a Blue Dress -- how can you NOT adore Denzel Washington in that movie?!?!?!? Thanks for sharing Jungle Red, for so many reasons.

  4. Julia, good luck to your son. Our daughter was nominated to the Air Force Academy, eight years ago, and I remember that nail-biting time. She chose to go to a non-affiliated military school (the Citadel), and declined participating in the final process, allowing her spot to go to someone else.

    This has been such a year of best and worst, and personal issues are still not resolved. Hoping for better outcomes in 2013.

    Best book is impossible to choose, but thank you all for additions to my list of books to read. Best movie, though: Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, and for the same reason that Major Pettigrew's Last Stand was so wonderful: charming stories about grown-up love.

    Absolute best occurrence in 2012: The Mayans were wrong. Namaste.

  5. Ask not for whom the bell bird tolls...
    It really is kind of creepy looking. Like it's had a licorice wax mustache that melted down its front.

    I agree, Karen, on Exotic Marigold Hotel - I resisted seeing it and then it was so much fun. The one I want to see is Silver Linings Playbook. AND the 3-d version of Monsters Inc.

  6. Congratulations and/or strength to everyone for the highs and lows.

    For me the low this year was the miasma of incivility and divisiveness in the political process of the presidential election. Yuck. Glad to have that behind us.

    The best? My day job continuing to be OK and afford me the time to write and promote. Getting to meet and make great new friends at conventions. Discovering (finally!) Debs and Roberta's series and devouring them (already discovered the other Reds' work). Proving to myself I have more than one mystery novel in me (wasn't sure there for a while). Taking a real vacation, even if it was in the winter (to Munich and Geneva!). Knowing my family is basically healthy (knock wood).

    Cheers and happy new you to all!

  7. Very strange year. The high point was my reading and hearing from you all. Loving your books. Low points include health and family issues, but I have great hopes for the new Year. Maybe the horrors of this past year will spur some action. As always, hoping the year brings good things to all of you.

  8. We are honored to be part of your lives in 2012 and may we all carry on for a long time!

    I forgot to mention another high note--the book party that Hallie threw for the launch of DEATH IN FOUR COURSES and THE OTHER WOMAN. A grand gathering of writers and readers with amazing food:). thanks again for that night Hallie!

  9. I'll just ride this one through on Lil's coattails and add that I am grateful for Apple's latest speech-to-text technology that has allowed me to quadruple my daily word count. Still, I could not finish NaNoWriMo but made great progress. xoxo

  10. You're all such a treat to read--love hearing your varied and thoughtful opinions. Although we're ALL so NOT varied on that ghastly 50 Shades. I'm convinced the author has never had sex. Or maybe it's her readers who haven't indulged. My favorite movie (ok, memory might be an issue here; what else did I see this year?) is a film for adults: The Late Quartet. Run, do not walk, to see it. Or (soon?) Netflix it. Books? Too many good ones to name, and at the same time too many bad ones ditto. My best part of the year was and is my ongoing love affair with the New York Society Library and (surprise, Hallie!) my NYSL Fiction Workshop. And my ongoing delight in the 6 women to whom I teach writing every Wednesday. Worst part: parents declining, my novel making me cry so often, disappearance of my waistline. Not too bad a score. Thanks to all of YOU for the hard work you put into JRW!

  11. 2012 - the year I discovered Jungle Red! I honestly don't remember how I found you; maybe through Deb Crombie. She was the first JR author whose books I devoured. I am so thrilled that my favorite authors actually take time to share here. I love it.

    Best book I read? All of yours, of course, but I was introduced to Deb Harkness here and I read A DISCOVERY OF WITCHES and SHADOW OF NIGHT based on your recommendations. I have read those books, listened to the audiobooks, and read them again. Who would think a series about a witch and a vampire could be so enthralling! As I mentioned earlier this week they have lighted a spark of desire to further study Elizabethan English history and politics. I'd love to study at Oxford.

    Best movie - Les Mis!

    The highlight of my year and the largest honor was to be a Presidential Elector and take part in the Electoral College two weeks ago.

    I hope you all have a very successful 2013. And not just because I'm selfish and want to read more of your work. Here's to a (as we say in Maine) wicked awesome publishing year for my Jungle Red friends.

  12. Oh, yes, Lucy you are so right! FABULOUS.

    And Marianne, that is VERY cool.

    Such a treat to know you all... xoxo

  13. A high point for me is participating in this and similar blogs. I'll always regret not mailing the letter I wrote to my favorite childhood author. I do not want to make that mistake again! The JRW authors (and many of the guest bloggers) are among my favorites now, and I want to make sure all of you know how much I enjoy your books and appreciate how hard you work at your craft. Thank you all! I don't need to tell you what my favorite books were. I have not yet caught up with all of the books written by all of you, but I'm pretty close. None of you has disappointed me!

    I don't want to go into the low points of the past year. I do my best to try to find the humor in the more aggravating things that happen in my life, even if it's a stretch to try to find it. (I am blessed with relatives who have this same peculiar tendency to try to find humor in things that are not all that amusing to other people!)

  14. Hey Julie, thanks for the shout out - glad you liked the book! It was certainly my highlight this year ...

  15. Such a dynamic year for many of us. I'm grateful to say my year contained many more highlights than downers. Chief among the blessings this year was my annual checkup, where my doc told me that in the 20 years he's been treating me I've never been healthier. And indeed, I've truly enjoyed my improved health this year. My husband and I took our first cruise this summer and found that we quite liked it, so we're planning to take more.

    My amazing San Francisco Giants won their second World Series Championship in three years, and friends and I went to the parade and enjoyed the daylights out of ourselves. My 49ers are doing pretty well, too, and I'll be at the game Sunday to cheer them on.

    We just hosted our family (niece, nephew and their wonderful families) for Christmas, and it was marvelous. I have to say, it was also enjoyable due to the family members who weren't invited. I've reached a point in my life where I'm not willing to deal with unnecessary drama, and it was so pleasant not having it over the four day house party.

    I read a number of terrific books, some of them of course by Reds writers and guests, and have many more on my waiting list. January is a month to settle in front of the fire for lots of reading time.

    Sadly, after adopting darling 8 month old kittens Mick and Keith in February, we had to have Mick put down in August when he was diagnosed with infectious feline peritonitis. Keith is living up to his reputation, causing trouble and harassing his older sister and brother, Maren and Spenser.

    My wish for everyone here is that 2013 be a year of joy, health and love.