Reviews

Here, There, and Everywhere

This is a tough list for me. I LOVE to travel, and I’m happy to visit most places. So when I sat down to make an actual list, my mind drew a blank.

Bodleian Library (and Oxford) in A Discovery of Witches // Deborah Harkness. As I librarian, I’d love to visit this library. Serious bonus points if there’s a handsome altruistic vampire lurking in the stacks.

The Epic Road Trip in American Gods // Neil Gaiman. Sure it didn’t pan out in all locations, but you have to admit it would be an experience.

Pacific Crest Trail in Wild // Cheryl Strayed. I’m a serious planner, so I suspect my hike wouldn’t be as dramatic or emotional, but it sure would be beautiful.

The Maine wilderness in The River at Night // Erica Ferencik. Sure their trip was plagued my murder and mayhem, but Maine is so beautiful. I can’t help but pine for a peaceful rafting trip down the river.

Alaska in Alaska Wild // K. A. Turner. Alaska has always been high on my list, but this just solidified it. The landscape sounds amazing.

Scotland in Outlander // Diana Gabaldon. I’m *real* original with this one, I know.

Prince Edward Island in Anne of Green Gables // L. M. Montgomery.

Big Sur in Big Sur // Jack Kerouac. I actually made this one happen in the summer of 2016. It was stunning.

I’m sure I’ll think of a million more options as soon as I post this. For more places to visit inspired by books, go here.

Image found here.





Lists

I Wear My Heart on My (Book Jacket) Sleeve

This post is embarrassingly late. My family and I were sidelined by a long, drawn out case of the flu. But we made it, and who wants to read about hearts on Valentine’s Day anyway! The following five books are ones that I would heartily recommend if you have not had the pleasure of reading them yet.

The Heart’s Invisible Furies // John Boyne. “If there is one thing I’ve learned in more than seven decades of life, it’s that the world is a completely fucked-up place. You never know what’s around the corner and it’s often something unpleasant.”

Heartbreaker // Claudia Dey. “The women sat on the padded leatherette chairs in our kitchen. The chairs were beige and brown with a rose patter sewn onto the backs. We had bought them together at Furniture City. I tried to direct you toward more sophisticated options, but you wanted to fit in, go unnoticed. You knew you were being talked about, and you hated being talked about. You knew that it took 170 milliseconds to identify whether another person was in their group. You knew that when ants gathered, they did two things: first, they formed a colony, and then they formed a graveyard.”

The Lonely Hearts Hotel // Heather O’Neill. “Being a woman was a trap. Something would bring you down before you turned twenty-three. The only time the world shows you any favor, or cuts you any slack, is during that very brief period of courtship where the world is trying to fuck you for the first time.”

Barbed Wire Heart // Tess Sharpe. “There’s nothing stronger than a woman who’s risen from the ashes of some fire a man set.”

The Hearts of Men // Nickolas Butler. “I’ve known cowards and I’ve known heroes,” he says. “The heroes were always ruled by their hearts; the cowards by their brains. Don’t forget that. Heroes don’t calculate or calibrate. They do what is right.”

Clearly, just because a book has “heart” in the title doesn’t mean it’s a love story (the Heartbreaker quote is my favorite, for what it’s worth). A late, but sincere Happy Valentine’s to you.

Reviews

Honor Roll // Vol. 2

I’m certainly not one to declare the book review dead, but I do think it’s the type of post that’s less engaging, less likely to be clicked on, less likely to be read… You get the idea. And, dear readers, I’m secure enough in my insecurity to admit I do want people to read what I write, if only to continue to share my love of whatever wonderful/quirky/clever/delightful/daunting/terrible book I just read. These are a few that made my honor roll, and here are the ones I don’t think you should miss**.

Sleeping Giants // Sylvain Neuvel. I love, love, LOVE this sci-fi novel. I am hit or miss with science fiction, but the interesting premise and the intriguing characters pulled me right in. When a little girl finds a giant hand near Deadwood, South Dakota, it changes the course of her life.

Waking Gods // Sylvain Neuvel. This action packed follow-up to Sleeping Giants keeps up the relentless pace. It’s a worthy sequel to Sleeping Giants begins ten years later and introduces new characters and old. The interview and journal entries continue to tell the story and serve as an excellent way to slowly reveal new developments. And that ending!

Hanna Who Fell From the Sky* // Christopher Meades. Do you ever read a book just based on the blurb? I do, and this one by Laline Paull is an excellent one: “A strange and beautiful fable with shades of Deliverance, Room, and Winter’s Bone.” Perhaps I went in expecting too much with hype like that? I’ll never know, but what I do know if I have a thing for books about cults, and this is one I enjoyed, but didn’t quite love. Hanna is about to be married off to a significantly older man who already has multiple wives. She lives in an isolated community, where her friends and family blindly follow Brother Paul, but as she learns more about herself, and more about the outside world, Hanna begins to want more for herself. It’s an interesting coming of age tale, recommended for other readers who enjoy fiction about polygamous cults with a tiny dash of magical realism.

Goodnight, Beautiful Women // Anna Noyes*. I love a good book set in Maine, and this interconnected set of short stories is a solid edition to that category.  This is a dark, uncomfortable set of stories that examines the choices women have made, and their consequences.

The Haunting of Hill House // Shirley Jackson. “Hill House, not sane, stood by itself against its hills, holding darkness within; it had stood so for eighty years and might stand for eighty more. Within, walls continued upright, bricks met neatly, floors were firm, and doors were sensibly shut; silence lay steadily against the wood and stone of Hill House, and whatever walked there, walked alone.”

Fire Season // Philip Connors. A beautifully written testament to solitude and wilderness. A must read for those who dream of escaping it all.

*I received review copies of these books in exchange for my honest opinion.
**Although it’s quite possible I am the only one who missed them in the first place, as I wouldn’t exactly label these as under the radar.

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.

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