Miscellanea

The Slap // Six Degrees of Separation

The SlapWe are now 21 days into the month of May. Chris Cornell has died. Trump is still in office. It snowed, a lot. I wish I could say I have something to offer to cheer you (meaning me) up, but blogging seems a bit like talking into a vast void – and it’s practically my only adult conversation as of late. Because, trust me, talking to library patrons, despite their right to vote and serve in the military, is not the same thing*. Often good, but not the same. So, in lieu of a witty, scintillating post – which I’m honestly not sure I have in me – I offer you a chain of books. Kevin Bacon style. Stephen King makes an appearance, as does Jane Eyre (in passing), I even mention W. Somerset Maugham. What more could you want?!

(Could you possibly want Anne of Green Gables set to Soundgarden and Audioslave? Because I totally did that.)

The month begins with The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas. I have not read it, but I do enjoy the simplicity of the title. The “noun”. When trying to think of a comparably abrupt title, Brian Doyle’s The Plover came to mind.

The Plover chronicles Declan O’Donnell’s voyage across the Pacific, and while I didn’t love it, it was beautifully written. A novel I did enjoy that also chronicles a man named Declan is Karina Halle’s The Darkhouse, but instead of an ocean voyage, Halle’s Declan chases ghosts.

If we’re discussing novels that attempt to frighten you, it’s not a stretch to jump from The Darkhouse to The Dark Half. The latter is by Stephen King, and one of his more enjoyable works. It’s about a writer – who else? – who cannot escape the darker side of himself, despite his best efforts.

Jane, in Lyndsay Faye’s Jane Steele suffers from much the same issue. No matter how far she runs, or how good she tries to be, she just can’t manage not to murder those who cross her. Murders aside, Jane Steele is a wonderful retelling of Jane Eyre. It’s fun, fresh, with the right amount of levity.

Jennifer McVeigh’s The Fever Tree was not a retelling, but it reminded me – in the best way – of The Painted Veil by W. Somerset Maugham. I enjoyed McVeigh’s writing and have yet to read her new release The Leopard at the Door, but I hope to get to it soon.

Care to join in?

*A patron accidentally cut off limbs to their conifer tree. They wanted advice on how to reattach them.

Mixtapes

Literary Mixtape | Anne of Green Gables

Mixtape Anne of Green Gables

The world calls them its singers and poets and artists and storytellers; but they are just people who have never forgotten the way to fairyland.

Chris Cornell provided much of the soundtrack to my teenage years, and my adult years too, quite honestly. Soundgarden, Audioslave, solo, original or cover, I enjoyed it all. This morning, after I heard the news, I started thinking of all of the songs I particularly loved, and as it happens, I am currently reading Anne of Green Gables (in honor of Anne with an E). Somehow they just wove themselves together. It’s not a perfect fit, but it’s better than I expected.

01. Doesn’t Remind Me // Audioslave. “Anne finished up with another sigh, of relief this time. Evidently she did not like talking about her experiences in a world that had not wanted her.”

02. Be Yourself // Audioslave. “There’s such a lot of different Annes in me. I sometimes think that is why I’m such a troublesome person. If I was just the one Anne it would be ever so much more comfortable, but then it wouldn’t be half so interesting.”

03. Can’t Change Me // Chris Cornell. “I’m not a bit changed–not really. I’m only just pruned down and branched out. The real ME–back here–is just the same.”

04. Black Hole Sun // Soundgarden. “Anne always remembered the silvery, peaceful beauty and fragrant calm of that night. It was the last night before sorrow touched her life; and no life is ever quite the same again when once that cold, sanctifying touch has been laid upon it.”

05. Fell on Black Days // Soundgarden. “It’s all very well to read about sorrows and imagine yourself living through them heroically, but it’s not so nice when you really come to have them, is it?”

06. Nearly Forgot My Broken Heart // Chris Cornell. “My life is a perfect graveyard of buried hopes.”

07. Like a Stone // Audioslave. “It was November – the month of crimson sunsets, parting birds, deep, sad hymns of the sea, passionate wind-songs in the pines. Anne roamed through the pineland alleys in the park and, as she said, let that great sweeping wind blow the fogs out of her soul.”

08. Heavy is the Head // Zac Brown Band feat. Chris Cornell. “We pay a price for everything we get or take in this world; and although ambitions are well worth having, they are not to be cheaply won, but exact their dues of work and self denial, anxiety and discouragement.”

09. Nothing Compares 2 U (cover) // Chris Cornell. “It has always seemed to me, ever since early childhood, amid all the commonplaces of life, i was very near to a kingdom of ideal beauty. Between it and me hung only a thin veil. I could never draw it quite aside, but sometimes a wind fluttered it and I caught a glimpse of the enchanting realms beyond – only a glimpse-but those glimpses have always made life worthwhile.”

10. I am the Highway // Audioslave. “When I left Queen’s my future seemed to stretch out before me like a straight road. I thought I could see along it for many a milestone. Now there is a bend in it. I don’t know what lies around the bend…”

Is this combination just completely inappropriate? Or weirdly suited?

Personal

Lately

SequoiaMaking: Hopefully nothing! Maybe my husband will cook.
Drinking: Water. I’m fancy like that.
Reading: I just finished Sarah J. Maas’ A Court of Thorn and Roses trilogy and really enjoyed it, which surprised me.
Organizing: This year’s travel plans. Still. Though airfare has been purchased. I may have mentioned that I over plan when it comes to these things.
Coveting: Despite the baby being over five months old, I’m still not entirely back to where I’d like to be (from both a health and size standpoint). So I’m currently coveting a new wardrobe, but realistically I’d just like to fit into what I own.
Listening: The Dead South // I’ll Be in Good Company
Watching: The White Princess, though I’m worried it’s going to ruin the history for me.
Smelling: Books. I’m on a break at work. In my next working life, I’m choosing a job that requires few weekends.
Wishing: For my hair to grow! I got a really unfortunate haircut the other day, now to wait for it to regrow.
Loving: Starting and hopefully finishing productive projects, especially in the house and yard.
Adoring: Being a mother. I genuinely love it, even when they drive me crazy. I’m also forever thankful to have fellow night owl children who do not get up early.
Accomplishing: As we approach the end of another school year, I will enjoy the fact that my children have yet to be late. It’s the little things.
Needing: Home repair. A hail storm (with near baseball sized hail), went through my neighborhood and seriously damaged my house and car.
Feeling: Exhausted!
Wanting: These shoes. Please and thank you (maybe a tad out of my normal price range).
Wondering: How much longer Sean Spicer can last. I mean, honestly…
Thinking: How costly being a homeowner is. Still. This thought has been on repeat for the last several months.
Celebrating: Mother’s Day. Happy Mother’s Day to everyone who celebrates it, and a hug for everyone who struggles with this day.

Amazing image found here.

Reviews

The Roanoke Girl by Amy Engel

RoanokeUpon finishing this book, I took a long moment to wonder what the hell I’d just read. This book makes Flowers in the Attic look conventional.

The Roanoke Girls* tells the tale of then and now, with family history woven in. Cousins Lane and Allegra, through death and dysfunction, come to live with their grandparents on a sprawling estate in rural Kansas. The novel early chapters contain this brilliant gem.

“Roanoke girls never last long around here. In the end, we either run or we die”.

It’s so simple, yet it hints at the dark and twisted family saga to come. Lane, now an adult, receives a mysterious call from her grandfather, begging her to come home. Allegra has disappeared. Reluctantly, despite the fact she swore she never would, Lane returns home to a nearly unchanged town. After her abrupt departure ten years earlier, Lane finds that she falls right back into the same relationships that were always so toxic (and wonderful). As the days pass and there is still no sign of Allegra, Lane loses hope and begins retracing Allegra’s final days. What happened to her? And why?

The Roanoke Girls is, quite simply, a page turner. I flew through it in a day. It’s absorbing, disturbing, and filled with dread. I was trying to describe this novel to a friend, and I fell woefully short, but the plot truly does defy easy description. Or if you’re capable of describing it, people might wonder what there is to like. The secrets we keep are often what bind us together, and more often, tears us apart, especially within a family. Sordid family secrets and a twisted family tree keep Engel’s novel riveting, for better or worse.

For those of you who secretly enjoyed Flowers in the Attic, The Roanoke Girls is your modern update.

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

Reviews

The River at Night by Erica Ferencik

RiverWinifred Allen needs a vacation.

She, along with three of her friends, decide that vacation is going to be rafting down a virtually uncharted section of the Allagash River, led by an “experienced” 20 year old named Rory. What could possibly go wrong?

If your go-to answer isn’t “Everything!”, than this isn’t the book for you – because the answer, my dear readers, is always everything.

The River at Night begins innocently enough, despite Wini’s doubts about the trip. She’s a thirty something graphic designer; stifled by a job she’s not passionate about, still mourning the recent loss of her brother. Pia, the leader of the group, is the go, see, do type of vacationer, while the others want a warm beach and tequila. In the end, Pia wins, and they go rafting.

If the four inexperienced friends venturing out to an isolated part of a river to raft through the wilderness sounds familiar, that’s because it is. James Dickey’s ode to masculinity Deliverance* followed much the same premise, with the same disastrous results**. Despite the similarities, I appreciated The River at Night on its own adventurous merits. I’m in what I’ll refer to as a get back to nature phase; because I cannot get enough of novels that, well, get back to nature. And this book delivers just that. Heart pounding rapids, murderous hillbillies, and pervasive, wild isolation attack the women and their guide as the make their way down the river. Ferencik prose absolutely oozes dread, so there’s no surprise when things go wrong.

Down a short dirt drive, a log cabin butted up into a hillside, a satellite dish stuck to its flank like a wart. A wooden sign that read sundries/guns/tackle/bait hung askew over the door. A smaller sign underneath – an afterthought – read Carhartt Quality Boots. A yellow light burned behind glaucous windows. Heavy pine branches clawed at the car as Pia crawled along the shoulder. I was struck by the sameness of the view in all directions, the sheer density of growth, and how easy it would be to lose our way just steps from where we sat. I felt watched, though I couldn’t remember feeling farther from civilization.

It’s how, why, and what they do in response that keeps you reading. Survival against all odds will always be a fascinating story. Despite the premise, I still find myself want to raft through the Allagash wilderness, so I’ll call Ferencik’s debut a success.

Though it’s a shame there isn’t a banjo.

*Deliverance is one of my favorite novels.
**Incidentally, the book touches on Dickey, Maine, which is a real place. A rather charming coincidence.

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