Welcome to the October session of the Shaggy Dog View Club! We have a variety of experiences to recommend this month. I’ll start with what I’m watching, if only because it’s seasonally appropriate.
After watching and loving Midnight Mass on Netflix last year, I was on the lookout for any new project from director Mike Flanagan. His latest offering, The Midnight Club is available just in time for the spooky season. I went in expecting more horror and came out with a new perspective on the idea of living every day as if it were my last.
Briefly, it’s the story of eight teenagers with terminal illnesses living in a hospice. Every night, at midnight, they meet in the library to exchange ghost stories. But there seems to be a ghost or two in the house as well. Then there’s the house’s history. It was previously home to a cult. The true story here, though, is how these teenagers navigate the big questions: life and death. I giggled at some of the stories, I gasped at some of the scares, and I reached for the tissues many, many times.
The Midnight Club is definitely worth a watch!
I know, it’s October, but I don’t read spooky material—if one doesn’t count my monthly electric bill. However, this month I completed the trifecta of fun—Richard Osman’s book, The Bullet That Missed—the third installment from Mr. Osman’s forever enjoyable The Thursday Murder Club.
The Thursday Murder Club comprises a wonderfully entertaining cast of characters, made up of a group of sweet geriatric geniuses who all live in the same retirement village. They each, let’s say, have a culmination of ‘colorful, sometimes questionable’ backgrounds but their hearts are always in the right place. The core group consists of Elizabeth, Joyce, Ibrahim, and Ron. These retirees meet weekly over lunch to investigate old, unsolved murders—because why the hell not? Now, you would think that trouble would no longer follow these over eighty-year-olds, but not so. Trouble, it seems, not only follows this bunch but turns their just-for-fun cold cases steaming hot, thrusting the friends and those nearest and dearest to the brink of real danger.
As you can tell, I have thoroughly enjoyed reading about these quirky, unpredictably loveable characters. I like how Osman jampacks each of the stories with intricate murder plots variegated by sharp, witty dialogue, and the not-so-sublime undercurrent of desire and romance. I especially dig the perfectly timed, witty dialogue that never failed to hit that proverbial perfect pitch.
In summary, all three of these books tap into everything I desire in a fun murder mystery series—love, loyalty, laughs galore, while highlighting the kind of genuine, lasting, indestructible friendships we all desire—like potato chips. You stand in front of the pantry, hand inside the bag, eating away, deciding if you really want potato chips but you can’t stop chewing. Welcome to The Thursday Murder Club series. You won’t be able to stop at one!
Oh, one more teeny tiny point to make, if I may? Don’t judge me, but when I really, truly, no joke, love a book as much as I do these, I purchase the hardcovers and the audio versions (when available). Trust me; Richard Osman’s clever characters and compelling mysteries make both formats delicious and a great holiday gift for the eccentric, off-beat-loving murder mystery readers in your life.
For my birthday this year, I treated myself to a therapeutic massage at Massage Academy of the Poconos, where you can also get a facial, do yoga, weight training, etc. Check out their extensive menu online. Other venues in the area offer lockers, terry cloth robes, and cucumber water. At Massage Academy I put my clothes and belongings in a basket inside the massage room. I drank plain water from a paper cup, and I did not wait for my therapist in a robe, but rather underneath a warm blanket. But what the academy lacks in frills, it makes up for with the same professional and peaceful massage offered at expensive spas, but at a reasonable cost.
Getting a massage is one of those things I enjoy but keep putting off for various reasons, notwithstanding the cost. In today’s stressful world, a massage is a great way to indulge in something for your well-being. It not only decreases muscle stiffness, but it can lower blood pressure and improve circulation, and it feels wonderful as the therapist manipulates the soft tissue and muscles. I did find it difficult to unwind though, but as I breathed in the aromatic scents wafting around the room, and focused on the slow rhythmic music playing, I relaxed almost to the point of falling asleep. It takes practice to calm your mind and I’m not good at meditation. Oh, wait, a massage is a form of meditation so I guess I can calm my mind.
Massage therapy has been around to relieve pain since before modern medicine. I suffer from arthritis but after my session, I was pain-free. I knew it wouldn’t last but for that day, I was a happy woman.
Susan Moore Jordan
Of the books of Kelly Jensen’s I’ve enjoyed, my favorites were all three in her “This Time Forever” series, and I’d been eagerly looking forward to “Sundays with Oliver.”
Once again, Jensen presented a great story with an endearing cast of characters. When I start a Jensen novel, I know I won’t get much done other than read because her skillful writing draws me in and holds me there until I turn the final page.
Oliver and Nick are both people I’d like to know personally, men in mid-life with relatives just beginning their college years and leaving a hole in their lives. In Oliver’s case, his daughter, and in Nick’s, his niece, and the men meet because these young women are roommates. They learn they live fairly close to each other in northeastern Pennsylvania, a plus for me because that’s my part of the world and it’s always fun to know exactly what the author is describing because I’ve actually been there.
Both men are struggling not just with being empty-nesters. Oliver, after two broken marriages, has financial problems he has to deal with. Nick’s problems are much more deep-seated and begin with a condition he doesn’t like to even think about, but he acknowledges he’s “different from other people.”
Having known a young person with Nick’s condition, it was fascinating to see how Jensen developed and eventually revealed what Nick has had to live with. But along with the serious moments, there were also some “laugh-out-loud” sections that made not just the principal characters, but every person in the book, very real.
If any two characters ever deserved happiness, it’s these two guys. No more spoilers, but I’ll highly recommend this beautifully developed romance.
Belinda M Gordon
Anyone who knows me knows I love a good mystery—books, movies, tv series—it doesn’t matter which format. This month I have a combo for you, an excellent recommendation that my sister originally gave to me‑-The Vera Stanhope Mysteries, written by Ann Cleeves, or the British TV series based on the books Vera. Full disclosure-I’ve only watched the television production, but the series is so good I’m confident that the books are excellent as well.
Vera is an interesting character—a never married middle-aged woman, who is anything but warm and fuzzy—is the DCI investigating murders in the Northumberland countryside. Her strained relationship with some of her underlings is one thing that adds a wry humor to the stories. As does her awkwardness with children.
The stories are wonderfully complex and keep you guessing throughout. The endings are surprising and thoroughly satisfying.
If you decide to dig into the Vera Stanhope series, please let me know if you enjoy it as much as I do.
Writer of love stories. Bibliophile. Gamer. Hiker. Cat herder. Waiting for the aliens.