Friday, December 30, 2022

Orbit

a photo of clouds and a poem called Orbit by Ingrid A. Lobo

Saturday, December 17, 2022

Hello Gardenia

Gardenia


Hello Gardenia,

It’s been a while, I know.
Did you miss me?
I missed you.

Have you been staying hydrated?
Eating well?
I know you got some sun.
You can’t even try to avoid it here.

You don’t look quite the same
As the last time we talked.
I’m sorry to say,
We both look a little worse
For the wear.

I’ve been away too long.
It’s been a hard time,
Maybe more for some
than for others.

Some of your friends disappeared.
Did they outgrow you and leave you behind?
Have you been lonely?

You only have one main branch left.
And you keep growing in that one direction.
I know what that’s like.

I’m going to prune you back.
I hope it won’t be too painful.
You need to try to grow
In some new directions.
I’ll help you.

We’ve been friends a long time.
Since I was a teenager.
I drew a picture of you
While I was gone.
Because I missed you.

I know it’s been a while
But I’m here now
To tend to you.

Don’t tell the others,
But you’re my favorite.

Monday, December 12, 2022

The Scarlet Imperial by Dorothy B. Hughes

The Scarlet Imperial by Dorothy B. Hughes

The Scarlet Imperial (1946) is an engrossing, fast-paced crime novel written by Dorothy B. Hughes. Born in 1904, Hughes was a journalist, author, poet, historian, and literary critic. She wrote many detective, mystery, thriller, and crime novels in the noir style. Hughes also penned a biography of Erle Stanley Gardner, who wrote the Perry Mason stories. Previously this year, I read her novel In a Lonely Place, which was a fascinating book.

During her career, Hughes received four Edgar Allan Poe awards from Mystery Writers of America. In 1951, she was given an Edgar Award for Outstanding Mystery Criticism. In 1964, she received an Edgar Award for Best Novel for The Expendable Man. In 1978, she received The Grand Master award from the organization. Lastly, in 1979, she received the award for Best Critical/Biographical Work for Erle Stanley Gardner: The Case of the Real Perry Mason.

The Scarlet Imperial (also published as Kiss for a Killer) is the story of Eliza Williams. We meet Eliza on a grey and rainy spring day that feels like autumn. Eliza is posing as a perfect secretary in Manhattan under a false name. She’s an agent, working for a man named Towner Clay, and she’s awaiting word on how to proceed with her unknown assignment.

Eliza is a mystery at first, but eventually, we learn her story. She has struggled through life, and she doesn’t even know her real name. Eliza believes she was born in Manchukuo and that her family were Americans. As a six-year-old girl, she witnessed the brutal murders of her parents and brother because they were white foreigners. Eliza pretended she was dead to survive. Then she wandered with other refugees, passing as Chinese with her dark hair and eyes. Eliza made her way as a roadside beggar until she eventually reached Shanghai at age twelve. There, Eliza began working as a kitchen maid, and later, she got jobs in cafes and in the best hotels.

In Shanghai, Eliza fell in love with an American flyer named Thaddeus Skowa of The Flying Tigers. The pair planned to marry, but he never returned from the war. Thad died in prison, after being accused of stealing the Scarlet Imperial, a magnificent, jeweled egg that was given as a gift by Peter the Great to the Persian Shah.

When Eliza learned that Thad was dead, she tried to kill herself in her grief. She credits a man named Towner Clay with saving her. Towner, who had been in the diplomatic service, took care of Eliza for months when she was sick and brought her out of the East. After she recovered, she began to help him in return. Towner sought artifacts and treasures stolen by thieves and looters during the war and returned them to their owners. After working for him, Eliza shared the story of the Scarlet Imperial with Towner, and he promised to help her find it and return it to the Iranians. Eliza believes that in doing so, she will bring the true thief to justice and clear her beloved Thad’s name.

In the opening chapter, Eliza is handed a mysterious package. She takes possession of it, and learns the box contains the Scarlet Imperial. Can Eliza keep the Imp safe long enough to carry out her plan?

The story has many complex characters who double cross one another. There’s a handsome, sapphire-eyed, Irish man named Gavin Keane who hands Eliza the Scarlet Imperial and makes her promise to return it only to him. Gavin is shot in Eliza’s building, and she nurses and cares for him. Eliza and Gavin are attracted to each other, but neither fully trusts the other. Eliza’s boss is an attractive importer and exporter of rare objects named Bryan Brewer. Is Bry being above board in his quest to obtain the Imperial for a client, and what does he know about the history of the precious object? A glamorous woman named Feather Prentiss flits in and out of the story. Feather has the attention of all the men, much to Eliza’s jealously and dismay. There’s also an FBI agent Jones who interviews Eliza repeatedly after murders occur at her building. Finally, there’s the Iranian envoy Feroun Dekertian.

If Eliza can get the Scarlet Imperial into Dekertian’s hands safely, then will he really clear her dead fiancĂ©’s name? The reader is left guessing about who is deceiving who and what motivates each character. The Scarlet Imperial a suspenseful and engaging story, and I think it would be fun to see it adapted as a film.

Related Reviews:
In a Lonely Place by Dorothy B. Hughes

Purchase and read books by Dorothy B. Hughes:

The Scarlet Imperial by Dorothy B. Hughes In a Lonely Place by Dorothy B. Hughes The Expendable Man by Dorothy B. Hughes

Monday, December 5, 2022

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is a novel published in 2012 by Jesse Andrews. The story is narrated by Greg S. Gaines, a senior at Benson High School in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Greg’s main goal in school is to get along with everyone while never being a part of any clique or group.

Greg’s best friend is Earl Jackson. Strangely, instead of calling Earl his best friend, Greg refers to him as his co-worker. The pair make films together, but refuse to share their work with others.

Greg’s plans to get through his senior year unnoticed soon fall apart. His mother tells him that his classmate Rachel Kushner was diagnosed with acute myelogenous leukemia and insists that he spend time with her. Greg begins calling and visiting Rachel who finds him amusing. Earl also befriends Rachel and shares his and Greg’s films with her because she enjoys them.

Rachel goes through chemotherapy, but eventually decides to end her treatment. After learning that Rachel likes Greg and Earl’s films, a fellow classmate named Madison suggests that they make a film for Rachel. The pair work hard on a film for Rachel, but they aren’t happy with the result. Despite their misgivings, Rachel encourages both Greg and Earl to apply to film school. Greg and Earl’s film for Rachel is presented to the entire high school without their permission. It’s a painful experience, and they independently destroy all their films.

Shortly after finishing the film, Rachel dies. Earl decides to give up on filmmaking. Greg has failed his classes and explains that he has written the book as an attempt to get back into the University of Pittsburgh.

The ending of the novel falls flat. Greg realizes that he barely knew Rachel, and that his film was more about him than her. In some ways, this is realistic. We sometimes appreciate people when it’s too late or fail to ask questions in a timely way. Still, I thought it was a shame that Greg showed so little growth throughout the story.

Purchase and read books by Jesse Andrews:

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews The Haters by Jesse Andrews

Friday, December 2, 2022

We'll Always Have Summer by Jenny Han

We'll Always Have Summer by Jenny Han

We’ll Always Have Summer (2011) by Jenny Han is the third novel in The Summer I Turned Pretty trilogy about Belly Conklin. Belly is now in college and has been dating Jeremiah Fisher for two years. Belly and Jeremiah get engaged, and their families are opposed to them marrying so young.

Jeremiah’s brother Conrad also has feeling for Belly, and he feels conflicted about supporting Belly and Jeremiah’s relationship. He wants to confess his true feelings for Belly.

It was hard to like Belly at times. She gets engaged to Jeremiah while she still has feelings for his brother. Meanwhile, Jeremiah and Conrad often seemed to be competing with one another for Belly, and I wasn't sure either one was truly in love with her. None of the characters are fully likable, but the series was still hard to put down.

Related Reviews:
The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han
It's Not Summer Without You by Jenny Han

Purchase and read books by Jenny Han:

The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han It's Not Summer Without You by Jenny Han We'll Always Have Summer by Jenny Han

It's Not Summer Without You by Jenny Han

It's Not Summer Without You by Jenny Han

It's Not Summer Without You (2010) by Jenny Han is the second novel in The Summer I Turned Pretty series about Belly Conklin. At the beginning of the novel, the reader learns that Conrad and Belly have broken up and that Conrad and Jeremiah’s mother Susannah has died of cancer. Both the Fisher and Conklin families are grieving. Belly must face her first summer at home instead of at Cousins Beach.

Throughout the novel, Belly flashes back to moments from her relationship with Conrad and to Susannah’s illness and funeral. These events occurred during the year after The Summer I Turned Pretty. Several chapters are written from Jeremiah’s point of view.

Jeremiah calls Belly for help after his brother Conrad disappears from school. The pair find him at the summer house on Cousins Beach, and they try to convince Conrad to return to school. When Jeremiah confesses his feelings for Belly, she’s caught in a triangle between the two Fisher brothers.

Related Reviews:
The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han
We'll Always Have Summer by Jenny Han

Purchase and read books by Jenny Han:

The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han It's Not Summer Without You by Jenny Han We'll Always Have Summer by Jenny Han

The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han

The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han

The Summer I Turned Pretty (2009) by Jenny Han is a coming-of-age story about Isabel “Belly” Conklin. Belly is 15 years old. Every summer, Belly, her brother Steven, and their mother Laurel go to Cousins Beach where they stay with Laurel’s best friend Susannah and her two sons, Conrad and Jeremiah.

Belly has had a crush on Conrad for years, but he treats her like his kid sister. The three boys often do things together, and over the years, they have left Belly out. This year, Belly has grown up, and she thinks things will be different.

It is a different summer for Belly. The boys look at her in a new way. And Belly begins dating her first boyfriend Cameron.

The book chapters flit back and forth in time as Belly remembers events from past summers. The back and forth can be a bit confusing to read at times, and it was a bit sloppy. I think the author may have been confused by the timeline too. For instance, in Chapter 34, Belly talks about getting her period at age 13 at Putt Putt, but on the next page she wants to reclaim Putt Putt for her “twelve-year-old self.”

Nitpicking aside, the story is a fun, breezy read about adolescence and young love.

Related Reviews:
It's Not Summer Without You by Jenny Han
We'll Always Have Summer by Jenny Han

Purchase and read books by Jenny Han:

The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han It's Not Summer Without You by Jenny Han We'll Always Have Summer by Jenny Han