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review 2018-06-07 04:33
The Fever by Megan Abbott - Mass Hysteria is a real problem in the internet age
The Fever: A Novel - Megan Abbott

At one point I considered throwing this a la Dorothy Parker. It seemed like it was heading to be way more misogynistic than it eventually turned out to be. It also turned out to be less of a thriller than it first seemed. I suppose if I'm forced to choose, I'd rather a modern woman write an unimpressive book than a misogynistic one, so OK. Onward --

 

 

I wanted to read something by Megan Abbott, and this was on Kindle sale. Turns out to be a bad way to pick an author's book. I'll give her another try with a more highly praised book. I didn't look at reviews beyond goodreads until after I was halfway through. The NYTimes really beat her up on this one, and I think they were unfair. They seem to think she just wants to tell a morality tale about staying away from sex IF you're a girl. Here's a quote or two:

 

this book’s punitive view of female sexuality is worth noting for its kinship with nonfiction writers like Caitlin Flanagan, Wendy Shalit and Laura Sessions Stepp, who argue that young women should protect themselves from the complications of sex by treating their sexuality as merely a minor component of monogamy. 

 

perhaps the difficulty many young women have in navigating their sexual choices stems in part from the ­pervasive depiction of lustful girls as hysterical and self-destructive, and ­lustful boys as simply normal; the assumption that sexual responsibility is solely up to women; and the confusing portrayals of vulnerability in girls as both dangerous (“a havoc upon his sweet daughter’s small, graceful little body”) and sexy (“She kept laughing and covering her face,” a boy recalls of the beautiful Lise. “She was so . . . young”), while vulnerability in boys is rarely acknowledged at all.

 

The problem with the Times' take is that this story REALLY happened. Not once, but many times and as the internet has grown in influence and availability, we're seeing more and more of these "outbreaks" of what can only be called female hysteria (technically MPI or Mass Psychogenic Illness.) It doesn't seem to affect boys and men nearly as much as it does adolescent girls. There are some important reasons (all are society-based and stem from gender expectations and conformity. MPI is "caused" by stress, and they aren't faking - these are real symptoms and it's scary. It "spreads" by one person seeing another getting sick, then they "get sick" too and on it goes. As the internet offers teens a ton of ways to communicate and share without anyone knowing, this is becoming more - not less - prevalent.)

 

So, I'd already read this story -- in the form of the multitude of breathless news reports from the 2012 NY events on which this book is based, followed and augmented by medical assessments and papers on that and similar 2002, 2001, 1998, 1992... events (and countless other similar events dating back to the Salem Witch Trials -- mass hysteria ain't nuttin new. BTW, those outbreaks are just the ones I remember.)

 

So, now onto the book and it's very connected. It is the same story with a crime tossed in for good measure.

"Eli couldn't figure out what it all meant, but he knew it meant something."

Dumb character alert! Eli may be the sharpest knife in this drawer, and that's his level of insight and observation.

 

With the addition of one little crime (OK, a bad crime, but it got only a couple paragraphs) that went entirely unexplained or examined, this was another female writer who wrote flat female characters with pale beautiful inner thighs and fragile bodies, but their brains can't hold more than one idea at a time. THANK GOD for the strong silent brother and the father full of vindictive divorce angst who can hold it in while playing father of the year and worrying about his fragile and small girl while seemingly having nothing at all to do with his son except when his daughter demands they take a ride. Oh, and there's a "slutty" mother who I'm pretty sure only exists to scream one of the silliest lines ever about "men and your sperm" through a phone. The whole book was Troy NY played out again in novel form. Instead of writing an ending, we got a page of "news report" that didn't explain anything beyond "a crime took place" - oh, and everyone is now fine.

 

Megan Abbott wrote a very good general interest piece for the Huffington Post on the Troy MPI outbreak, so I'm absolutely sure I'd have preferred to read a nonfiction account that didn't involve stick figure characters and tricks that even *I* know not to use in a thriller: 

It's all a case of mistaken identity that causes a jealous teenaged girl to poison another teenaged girl, then they all start dropping

(spoiler show)

 - that's it, but we get it only from a pagelong "news report." There is nothing much that follows that. Apparently they all just go back to the way things were previously (the book ends, so I don't know.) It would have been nice to read about how on earth this town of panicked kids with insanely panicked parents ended up this way or got back to normal, but much like the mass media - once the crazy stops, nobody waits around to see about the aftermath.

 

I was very disappointed for more than one reason, but I am actively looking for suggestions about Megan Abbott's books that aren't this one.

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review 2018-05-01 21:04
Give Me Your Hand by Megan Abbott
Give Me Your Hand - Megan Abbott

A special thank you to NetGalley and Little, Brown and Company for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

 

Kit Owens and Diane Fleming have a complicated past. Before Diane transferred into her high school chemistry class, Kit was just a regular student. Diane's brilliance pushed Kit, and the two became friends—that is until Diane confessed a chilling secret to Kit that changed everything between them and almost derailed Kit's life.

 

Fast forward more than a decade and Kit is a scientist working in a lab. Her past collides with her work when she learns that Diane Fleming is her competition for a highly coveted opportunity to work on a groundbreaking new study led by their idol, Dr. Severin. The two former friends find themselves once again vying to get noticed, only this time, they share a secret that could derail everything that they have worked so hard for.

 

Abbott is a master with imagery. The theme of blood is prevalent, both in the colour red and subject matter. I enjoyed reading about the PMDD study and the hysteria that ensues as a result. This makes for interesting subject matter as well as an interesting premise.

 

The girls have such an complicated dynamic that blurs between friendship and rivalry—an interesting relationship to explore in today's climate where successful women are often pitted against one another. Abbot further examines this by illustrating how difficult it is for a woman to succeed in a male-dominated field like the sciences. Her character study is amazing. Diane is a complete sociopath that oddly captivates everyone she comes in contact with, including the reader.

 

It was dark and twisty with just enough suspense that is built by consequence. Abbot does not reveal her hand, she plays her cards one at a time, her pace is spot-on! The writing is tight, she leaves nothing to the imagination which is refreshing.

 

This was a thrilling page-turner and I could totally see this being adapted into a movie. Congratulations, Megan, on another master of a thriller. Well done!

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text 2017-12-14 12:45
Char's Horror Corner: Top Ten Audiobooks of 2017!
Blackwater: The Complete Saga - Michael McDowell,Matt Godfrey
The Lesser Dead - Christopher Buehlman
Born to Run - Bruce Springsteen
Between Two Fires - Christopher Buehlman
The Memory of Running - Recorded Books LLC,Ron McLarty,Ron McLarty
Nightmares and Geezenstacks - Matt Godfrey,Valancourt Books,Fredric Brown
You Will Know Me: A Novel - Megan Abbott,Lauren Fortgang
Behind Her Eyes: A Novel - Sarah Pinborough
The Silver Linings Playbook: A Novel - Matthew Quick,Inc. Blackstone Audio, Inc.,Darwin Porter
Empire Falls - Richard Russo

 

This has been the year of the audiobook for me. I believe I've listened to more of them this year than ever before. And boy, this year brought two of my favorite authors to life through the power of voice. Let's get on with it, shall we? (Oh, and click the cover to see my original review!)

 

 Blackwater by Michael McDowell, narrated by Matt Godfrey

1. My number one audio of the year, (and indeed, of ALL time) is Blackwater. Written by the fabulous Michael McDowell and performed by Matt Godfrey, this epic tale spans generations of the Caskey family and their matriarch, who may or may not be altogether human. The star of this show is McDowell's writing-he brings his sharp wit and his knowledge of family dynamics to the table and then Matt Godfrey brings it all home. Blackwater clocks out at just over 30 hours of listening, and I was never, ever bored. 

 

Blackwater: The Complete Saga - Michael McDowell,Matt Godfrey 

 

 The Lesser Dead written and performed by Christopher Buehlman

2. Christopher Buehlman was unknown to me at the beginning of 2017. Now, in December, I count him among my favorite authors. I've read or listened to ALL of his novels since April, starting with Those Across the River and ending with The Lesser Dead. Mr. Buehlman narrates The Lesser Dead himself and in most cases, I don't think that's wise. In this case, he knocked it out of the park. I later learned that he performs at Renaissance Fairs, sometimes as a storyteller and sometimes as a professional insultor. Perhaps his experiences with performing has honed his voicing skills because this book was KILLER. After I finished listening, I "rewound" it, so to speak, and listened to the last chapter again. Oh my goodness, oh so killer!

 

The Lesser Dead - Christopher Buehlman 

 

Born to Run written and narrated by The Boss

3. I'm not a big fan of Bruce Springsteen, but I'm a bigger fan since I listened to his memoir. I have always been a fan of his songwriting abilities and it seems that that skill transferred well to writing this book. I'm sure a true Springsteen fan would get even more out of this book than I did, but I sure did love listening to that husky voice relate how he got started, learned to dance, (to pick up women), and how he struggled to get and keep a band, not to mention a marriage, together.

 

Born to Run - Bruce Springsteen 

 

Between Two Fires by Christopher Buehlman, narrated by Steve West

4. Between Two Fires by Christopher Buehlman, narrated by Steve West was totally and completely INSANE! Some truly scary scenes were depicted in this story and thanks to the vivid writing and expressive voicing, I can still picture them clearly in my head. 

 

Between Two Fires - Christopher Buehlman

 

 The Memory of Running, written and performed by Ron McClarty

5. The Memory of Running, written and narrated by Ron McClarty. I got turned on to Ron McClarty because he narrated Empire Falls by Richard Russo. Then, when I looked for additional performances by him I discovered The Memory of Running. From what I gather, it was originally available only as an audio book which Stephen King highly recommended. Eventually it became available in paper form as well. Anyway, Mr. McClarty used to play a recurring judge on Law & Order, but writing and narrating is most definitely his forte. I loved this weird tale of memories, acceptance and bicycling across the United States.

 

 The Memory of Running - Recorded Books LLC,Ron McLarty,Ron McLarty

 

 Nightmares and Geezenstacks by Fredric Brown, narrated by Matt Godfrey

6. A thoroughly entertaining collection of short stories, some of them super short, but all of them a lot of fun. For the most part, I prefer reading short stories rather than listening to them, but Matt Godfrey's talent made me change my mind about that. 

 

Nightmares and Geezenstacks - Matt Godfrey,Valancourt Books,Fredric Brown

 

 

You Will Know Me by Megan Abbott, narrated by Lauren Fortgang

7. Competitive teenage girls are just about the scariest monsters out there, and I know scary!

 

You Will Know Me: A Novel - Megan Abbott,Lauren Fortgang

 

 

Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough, narrated by cast

8. The book everyone was talking about at the beginning of the year! Usually, I avoid those like the plague. However, the audio was available at the library, so I decided to give it a go. I vividly remember listening to this while I was cleaning and then, for the last half hour or so, I just sat on the sofa, stunned. 

 

Behind Her Eyes: A Novel - Sarah Pinborough

 

 

The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick, narrated by Ray Porter

9. Audible was giving this one away for free, so what did I have to lose? I loved the movie, but as usual, the book was a little different. That said, I loved the book too! 

 

The Silver Linings Playbook: A Novel - Matthew Quick,Inc. Blackstone Audio, Inc.,Darwin Porter

 

 

Empire Falls by Richard Russo, performed by Ron McClarty

10. This book came to me highly recommended by a fellow reader. Even though a book about small town life with no evil children or haunted houses is really not my thing, Empire Falls MADE IT my thing. I've since listened to two more audiobooks of Richard Russo's work, (Everybody's Fool and Nobody's Fool), and I tracked down McClarty's Memory of Running, (see above.) Now, I just need to track down the HBO series of this FANTASTIC novel. 

 

Empire Falls - Richard Russo 

 

This year I've learned the following:

 

Ron McClarty and Matt Godfrey can both narrate the hell out of any story, and I will happily listen to them perform their grocery lists.

Authors sometimes CAN perform their own stories and do it better than anyone else.

 

I've finally accepted that audiobooks are an acceptable form of reading and I look forward to finding new narrators and discovering new worlds to listen to in 2018.

 

Thanks for reading if you've stayed this far! I hope you'll join me in enjoying audiobooks in 2018! 

 

 

 

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review 2017-11-30 16:49
Dare Me - Megan Abbott

I was drawn into this story very quickly and strongly because of its dark and raw portrayal of adolescent passion. The dangerous habits the girls form in trying to be exceptional cheerleaders and in their individual clingy friendships, as well as their bizarre obsession with their coach kept me reading all the way to the end. And then I suddenly realised the book was over and I hadn't gained much from the story. I don't want to give away anything but I'm struggling to understand what was the point of all that angst and drama? Also I'm not usually one to care too much if characters are unlikable but these girls were all so selfish and mean that I genuinely didn't warm to any of them. Good read for the most of it but seriously, what did I miss?

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text 2017-10-20 19:35
My Halloween 2017 Bingo Card
It - Stephen King
The Bird Eater - Ania Ahlborn
The Halloween Children - Brian James Freeman,Norman Prentiss
Gwendy's Button Box - Stephen King,Richard Chizmar
Prawn of the Dead (Lemon Layne Mystery) - Dakota Cassidy,Hollie Jackson
You Will Know Me: A Novel - Megan Abbott,Lauren Fortgang

UPDATE: I don't think I'm going to get a Bingo. I've been in a bit of a slump the last two weeks and haven't felt much like reading. Next year I'll focus on reading books based on the bingo calls. I've been reading all over the place and have a few waiting in the wings for a call. 

 

I'm only posting a marker for books that I've finished that have been called because it is clear I will never be organized enough to follow a game correctly. 

 

I will update and bump this post if I ever get a Bingo!

 

 

 

Called & Read

 

Terror In A Small Town:  IT by Stephen King

Ghost: The Bird Eater by Ania Ahlborn

Chilling Children:  The Halloween Children by Norman Prentiss 

Magical Realism:  Gwendy's Button Box by Stephen King & Richard Chizmar

Murder Most Foul: You Will Know Me by Megan Abbott

Amateur Sleuth: Prawn of the Dead by Dakota Cassidy 

Vampires The Lesser Dead by Christopher Buehlman

 

Read, Not Called

 
Classic Horror: The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson 

Raven ?? Fidget Spinners Destroyed My Life by George Billions

American Horror Story Blanky by Keanan Patrick Burke

 

 

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