Miscellanea

Fight Club // Six Degrees of Separation

The idea behind this exercise is to connect books in any way that’s meaningful to you, from the profound to the inane. Although Kevin Bacon is typically behind the six degrees game, books are just a bit more fun. February’s pick is Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk.

It has been a long time since I read Fight Club, but I do remember thinking the best part of that book, although I enjoyed it, was the movie that was made after. It introduced me to Edward Norton, which is a win.

Edward Norton also stars in The Painted Veil, adapted from my favorite W. Somerset Maugham novel. If you haven’t read that book or seen the movie, I highly recommend both. A recent novel that has a similar feel to The Painted Veil is The Fever Tree by Jennifer McVeigh.

Drawing on the tree connection, People in the Trees by Hanya Yanagihara tells the loosely fictionalized account of Daniel Carleton Gajdusek, a formerly revered anthropologist who ended up in prison.

Euphoria, also a fictionalized account of a famous anthropologist, recreates the tangled love life of Margaret Mead. It ends quite differently than Mead’s life ended, and I truly loved the book. It was published in early 2014 and although I saw quite a bit of praise, I didn’t read it for years.

Published at almost the same time, Anthony Marra’s A Constellation of Vital Phenomena is another one I saw everywhere (what was I so busy with?), but picked up years later and loved (along with Marra’s The Tsar of Love and Techno). It’s a story set in a small village in Chechnya, and very much worth a read.

Playing off that title, constellations play a significant role in All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood. Wavy Quinn is obsessed with the stars, finding what little peace she can come by in the night sky behind her house. Bryn Greenwood’s novel is not for everyone, but I found it excellent.

From Fight Club to All the Ugly and Wonderful Things in six easy steps. Care to join in? It’s quite a bit of fun, although I’ll admit to being absolutely stumped as to where I wanted to go from Euphoria.


Miscellanea

Lately

Making: This vegetable sauce in the slow cooker. It’s new, so the success of the recipe remains to be seen.
Drinking: Hmmm…. I certainly need one.
Reading: Ghost Wall by Sarah Moss
Listening: West by Carys Davies.
Organizing: Everything!
Coveting: How cute is this little office organizer? I don’t need it, but I need it…
Watching: I’ve been catching up on The Americans.
Wishing: The government would reopen. I’ve mentioned I’m a science librarian, but the library I work at is part of the Department of the Interior. So I’ve been out of the office (and a paycheck) since December 21. I’ve been back at work for three days and it feels really, really weird.
Loving: This should be trying to love: my time at home. I’ve been going through the house organizing and cleaning like crazy.
Adoring: Planning fictional vacations that I probably won’t take. It helps me get through winter.
Accomplishing: Instagram! If I manage to keep up in Instagram, the website falls behind. I’ll find a happy medium. Maybe.
Needing: Someone to paint my house for free. Any takers?
Feeling: Disappointed with the idea that Bernie Sanders may run again in 2020. Possibly an unpopular opinion, I know…
Wanting: This banana cake.
Wondering: Speaking of said produce… This is absolutely bananas. I’ve read one of Sherrilyn Kenyon’s scifi books and I can’t imagine what she’s going through.
Thinking: About our next trip. We are looking at Calgary, the Azores, and Boston (again). See “adoring” above.
Lamenting: I used to have more hobbies pre-children. I still have some, but I just simply have less time than I used to. One of the things I miss the most is refinishing furniture. I have what I’ll call a “card catalog of shame” in my house right now. It needs to be refinished. But when? I have more excuses than you would believe possible.
Celebrating: My middle child is turning 8!

Image found via Pinterest.

Lists

Best Backlist Fiction (I Read in) 2018

2018 was a good reading year for me. I started listening to audiobooks, and it was a great surprise to me how much I loved them (good ones, that is,  I often struggled when I didn’t enjoy the narrator). It also allows me to read while I work, which is nice. Except that time I sobbed while listening to The Rules of Magic at work… Explaining to all my non-reading coworkers that I was, in fact, perfectly fine was an interesting experience.

So, in no particular order, these were my favorite books of 2018 (published prior to 2018):

10. American Elsewhere // Robert Jackson Bennett
09. Everybody’s Fool // Richard Russo
08. Christine // Stephen King
07. The Library at Mount Char // Scott Hawkins
06. Lovecraft Country // Matt Ruff
05. Euphoria // Lily King
04. Sleeping Giants/Waking Gods // Sylvain Neuvel
03. The Heart’s Invisible Furies // John Boyne
02. The Dry // Jane Harper
01. The Rules of Magic // Alice Hoffman

Did you discover any great backlist titles you had missed?

Lists

Favorite Books of 2018

This post is late. That’s not surprising, necessarily, but I definitely wanted to post it around the start of the New Year. What I find odd about it is that I’m a very punctual and organized person in my day to day life. It just doesn’t translate to the blog. Here are a few of my favorite books – in no particular order –  that I read this last year (published this last year). Better late than never*.

10. Spinning Silver // Naomi Novik
09. The Great Alone // Kristin Hannah
08. The Golden State // Lydia Kiesling
07. Foundryside // Robert Jackson Bennett
06. The Mars Room // Rachel Kushner
05. Florida // Lauren Groff
04. Foe // Iain Reid
03. The Lost Queen // Signe Pike
02. Where the Crawdads Sing // Delia Owens
01. The Line That Held Us // David Joy

One notable thing, at least to me, is that my list features more female writers than male writers. There’s also more genre diversity – short stories, science fiction, fantasy, literary fiction, and historical fiction. Those are both firsts for me, and it makes me happy. What was your favorite novel of 2018?

*The funny-not-funny thing is that I have nothing but time right now.

Reviews

Heartbreaker // Claudia Dey

“Aerial view: two thousand square miles of forest. Population: 391. We started as a single busload searching for the end of the world.”

I won’t lie to you, this is a weird book. Not quirky-cute-hipster weird, just….weird. I wasn’t going to post about it, but here I am, three months later and I’m still thinking about it. To me, that’s often indicative of a good book. This is a rare case where I’m not actually sure, but I’d like to think so.

Perhaps it’s the constant stream of ’80s rock, perhaps it’s my fascination with cults, perhaps it is simply my love of the bizarre, but Heartbreaker has stuck with me. 

Pony Darlene Fontaine. The Heavy. Supernatural. Billie Jean. Gena Rowlands. Those are the stars of this novel. They live in the year 1985, in perpetuity. Pony is 15 when her mother gets up to go to the store and doesn’t return. The novel is spent figuring the how and why of the Territory in which she lives, the how and why of being a teenager, and the mystery of Billie Jean herself.

As odd as Heartbreaker is, it’s undeniably imaginative and a fresh take on cult fiction. I haven’t read anything quite like it, and Pony’s voice is particularly compelling (as is Gena Rowlands’). While the Twin Peaks comparisons are apt, the Stranger Things comparisons are misleading. It can be hard to follow at times, but Heartbreaker is a journey worth taking. 

*I received a review copy of this novel in exchange for my honest opinion.

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