Reviews

The Ghost Notebooks // Ben Dolnick

The Ghost Notebooks by Ben Dolnick is an eerie, compelling novel about newly engaged couple Hannah and Nick. When Hannah loses her job at the New York Historical Society, she starts looking for work outside New York City. She finds The Wright House, and small museum with a big history (one that is not shared with her before hire), and becomes caretaker. The move to Hibernia, NY is good for the couple. Initially.

“The line between romantic getaway and lonely creepy farmhouse is, it turns out, fairly thin.”

Dolnick has crafted a chilly, atmospheric novel laced with humor. It highlights the delicate balance between what a person shares about an experience and what an experience actually entails. How well do we really know those who are closest to us? I suspect it’s almost never as well as we think.

This is a story about what haunts us. What we think about when we can’t sleep at night. What we can live with, and what we can live without. Despite these big themes, it’s a slim novel and an easy read – one I’d recommend to those who love a ghost story that does not veer towards horror.

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

Reviews

The Sea Beast Takes a Lover // Michael Andreasen

Sea BeastI can’t say enough about this weird little gem of a book. An amorous sea beast, a cannibalistic captain, and alien abductees are just a few of the oddities that fill this collection. There are 11 stories  and all are vivid, humorous, and paradoxical. Andreasen has written a noteworthy debut, one absolutely worth your consideration. The title story in the collection is my favorite, but I am likely to swoon over an unexpected John Irving reference (there’s also a bear in another story), especially when said reference is The World According to Garp being read by a doomed sailor on a ship being wooed to death by a lovesick kraken.

On the fence? You can get a good feel for the author’s style and sense of humor in story The King’s Teacup at Rest, which appeared in the New Yorker. I particularly love this exchange from within the story:

The hot-dog stand. A few bloated green wieners still floating in a steel pond of brine. Fungal buns spill out of the trolley’s lower compartment. Pigeons have been at them. A few are still lying in dizzy, half-dead piles nearby. The smell of the cart has made the bear* morose.

“Forgive me, sire,” the steward says, “but these look unfit for Your Majesty’s consumption.”

“We will eat them,” the king declares. “Relish?”

“Also unwise,” the steward says.

“Just a dab, then.”

“Please, sire,” the steward entreats, “recall the fish tacos at the Morristown County Fair.” He looks to the scout for help. The boy says nothing, pretending instead to read a smear of pigeon droppings on the cotton-candy machine.

“Serve and obey,” the king says.

The steward bows. With a handkerchief over his nose, he constructs something that, in a world without proper standards, could be considered a hot dog. He serves it to the king on a small silver platter drawn from his attaché case. The king stuffs the mass into his face, rancid mustard peeling down his chin and onto the mange of his ermine.

“Passable,” the king declares. “Now take us to the rides.”

If you like your fiction strange and your stories short, pick up The Sea Beast Takes a Lover by Michael Andreasen forthwith.

I first reviewed this book on instagram? Anyone I’m not following in the Instagram/Bookstagram community? Let me know and I’ll find you!

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

Reviews

Euphoria // Lily King

Euphoria CoverOnce upon a time, long, long ago, I was a young anthropology major fascinated by the field work of formative anthropologists (even though they didn’t always employ the best methods). I read Coming of Age in Samoa, among many other texts, and thought (briefly) I had found my calling. Ultimately archaeology lured me away, but it made an impression that has lasted a lifetime.

So far, at any rate.

Despite this, and despite rave reviews from so many trusted bookish friends, I had no yet read Euphoria by Lily King. I finally did and it was so very, very good. Brilliant storytelling, beautiful writing, and compelling main characters brought the story to life. Nell Stone, loosely based on Margaret Mead, is a newly famous anthropologist. She is married to Schuyler Fenwick, who is deeply jealous of her success. While traveling to Australia, the meet old acquaintance Andrew Bankson and opt to stay on in New Guinea. This choice, among others that follow, changes the course of all of their lives.

Although Margaret Mead, Reo Fortune, and Gregory Bateson served as the inspiration for the love triangle that develops, the outcome, and the story King tells, is very different from reality. The three anthropologists, both in history and in the novel, spend months working together on the Sepik River in what was then known as the Territory of New Guinea. Fen and Nell are working with the Tam, while Andrew works with the geographically close Kiona. The story propels them together, both due to Andrew’s loneliness and his attraction to Nell. It is an intimate novel, both tender and refreshing, and in the end just a little bit heartbreaking.

“Nell and Fen had chased away my thoughts of suicide. But what had they left me with? Fierce desires, a great tide of feeling of which I could make little sense, an ache that seemed to have no name but want. I want. Intransitive. No object. It was the opposite of want to die. But it was scarcely more bearable.”

I wish I hadn’t waited so long to read this novel, but I’m glad I finally did. It will undoubtedly stay with me for a long time to come – the story of Nell and Fen and Andrew is deep in my stomach.

Do you ever find a book that you wish you had found so much sooner?

Miscellanea, Personal

Lately

Making: Not beef stew. I hate it, yet keep thinking I’ll like it. It was the soup of the day while I was at work.
Drinking: I made one too many of these the other night (long live gin), I was just so excited to see plums back in the store.
ReadingThe Adulterants, though I think this one will be a miss for me.
Organizing: The weekly grocery list. Lately, I am absolutely fascinated by food budgets, especially after digging in to this series by The Kitchn (Budget Food Diaries).
Coveting: All the clogs. By the time I justify them to myself, their moment of popularity will have passed.
ListeningLola Black – Nothing’s Gonna Be Alright
Watching: Death Comes to Pemberley. I did not know it was a series! Though I remain one of the few people who wishes I was able to watch more television (I average maybe 30-45 minutes a week).
Smelling: Hearth & Home’s Cedar Magnolia Candle.
Wishing: To incorporate healthier recipes into our weekly rotation. Generally we do well, but I may have gotten the news that my cholesterol is a tad high, so less cheese is on the horizon. It’s still well under 200, but I’d rather be conscientious of it so it doesn’t get worse.
Loving: My new job that is only on weekdays. Goodbye weekend work.
Planning: A road trip! We’re doing loop through the southwest this spring (including Arches, ab0ve).
Anticipating: Seeing The Offspring in concert, with tacos.
Needing: To go car shopping. The prospect is horrifying.
Feeling: The urge to spring clean.
Hosting: Book club! We read Betting the Farm on a Drought by Seamus McGraw. There was a very good discussion about what we do individually to help reduce our carbon foot print. My most recent changes include (my family) eating meat free three times a week, stopping using my dryer, and walking to the grocery store during my lunch break (instead of driving to a store after work).
Wanting: To jump back into the community aspect of books. I’ve gotten a small handle on posting more frequently, and I joined a bookish Instagram challenge, but I still feel out of the loop so to speak (because I am…).
Wondering: If Mueller will hurry up.
Celebrating: My daughter started walking. For many reasons, including because it’s adorable, this was a big milestone for her.

Anyone have any amazing tips to food budgeting (or read that series)? We’re trying to offset the fact that my daughter’s daycare raised rates again and potentially replacing our old car.

Photo found here.

Miscellanea

The Beauty Myth // 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. March’s pick is The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf.

My first thought was something along the lines of “Isn’t that the writer who wrote Mrs. Hemingway?” The answer is a decisive no, but it’s close. Naomi Wood wrote Mrs. Hemingway, and I quite enjoyed it, much like A Hundred Summers by Beatrix Williams. They are very different books with similar covers.

A Hundred Summers is the second book I read by Williams, and this is only noteworthy because I didn’t enjoy the first novel of hers I read – Overseas. It’s time travel fiction, which can be tricky, and another one that didn’t entirely work for me (especially because it ended on a cliffhanger and the publisher then killed the series!) is The River of No Return by Bee Ridgway.

Speaking of rivers, Last Night in Twisted River is one of my favorite novels by John Irving. To (loosely) tie this place back to Hemingway, John Irving has mentioned that he was not a fan, not even a little. However, Ketchum is one of the characters in Last Night at Twisted River and Ketchum, Idaho is also Hemingway’s final resting place. I happen to like Hemingway’s Islands in the Stream, though my reading heart will always belong to Irving (if one must choose).

Thinking about joining in? You should!

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