The Inky Whisk

a blog about books and more

Review: The Natural Way of Things by Charlotte Wood

Book cover with rusty chainsIt has been a while since I read a book as visceral and harrowing as this one. Relatively short at just over 200 pages, “Natural Way” is a powerful feminist allegory that gets up to speed quickly and does not relent.

Yolanda wakes up in a strange place, feeling drugged, and wearing odd rough clothing – the homespun cloth of a homesteader. Soon she notices a second girl in the room with her, in the same strange costume and looking as bewildered and frightened as Yolanda feels. Her name is Verla. When a man comes in with no information and leads Yolanda off for “admissions” she is thrown into a yard of even more confused young women. They are on an abandoned sheep farm in the dusty remote outback of Australia. They are about to be punished.

Sunday Post Feb. 19

vintage letters
This week involved a lot of catch-up on reviews for books that came out in January – and were read many months before. I really do need to make an effort to write the review when I finish the book, instead of waiting until the pub date is right on top of me (or receding in the rearview mirror!)

Last week’s reviews

A Really Good Day by Ayelet Waldman
The Sleepwalker by Chris Bohjalian
Packed: Lunchtime Hacks to Squeeze More Nutrients Into Your Day by Becky Alexander and Michelle Lake
Rather Be The Devil by Ian Rankin

Next Week’s Reviews (fingers crossed!)

The Natural Way of Things by Charlotte Wood (My most recent book club read, chosen by me, in fact.)
Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman
How to Murder Your Life by Cat Marnell

Plus a new feature highlighting vintage cookbooks and other cooking ephemera in my collection.

Currently Keeping Me Up Too Late

Celine by Peter Heller (galley)
South and West by Joan Didion (galley)
Borne by Jeff VanderMeer (galley)

This is linked to:
the Sunday Post, a weekly meme hosted by Kimba at Caffeinated Book Reviewer and
It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? a weekly meme hosted by Kathryn at Book Date

Review: Rather Be The Devil by Ian Rankin

Rather Be The Devil by Ian Rankin book cover

The latest mystery featuring former Edinburgh Detective John Rebus finds him at loose ends. Retired for the last few installments he somehow manages to keep solving crimes, rather than spending his golden years relaxing, or traveling. Fine by me. Ian Rankin’s long-running series has yet to disappoint.

While dining at the elegant Caledonian Hotel Rebus is reminded of a notorious murder that took place there – a cold case he has never let go.

In 1978 the beautiful Maria Turquand, wife of a rising banker, was found murdered in the room where she regularly entertained lovers. Also in residence on the night of the murder was musician Bruce Collier, his band, his entourage, fans, and other hangers-on.

Review: Packed by Becky Alexander & Michelle Lake

Packed book cover

At least five days a week I eat lunch outside my home, and most of the time it is a lunch I have brought from home. I’m spoiled – our break room has a microwave, a toaster oven, and a full-size fridge. I don’t need anything elaborate but I can’t just throw a sandwich and chips into a bag and call it lunch.

Not many cookbooks are dedicated to the adult lunch. “Packed: Lunch Hacks to Squeeze More Nutrients in Your Day” by British food writer Becky Alexander and nutritionist Michelle Lake, fills that niche with ideas for meals and snacks that will travel well and will fortify you for the second half of your workday.

Review: The Sleepwalker by Chris Bohjalian

Bohjalian’s latest novel is less about the sleepwalker of the title, Annalee Ahlberg, than the bereft family she leaves behind. She disappears in the middle of the night — possibly drowning in a nearby river, maybe falling — leaving two daughters and a husband to find their way forward in her absence.

Taking place over a year in early 2000, the focus is primarily on eldest daughter Lianna who puts off a return to college indefinitely during the search for her mother. All signs point to sleepwalking, but if she was sleepwalking when she disappeared, why is there no body? When the investigation stalls, so does the Ahlberg family. Lianna brushes off questions about when she will go back to school and throws herself into running the household, helping with 12-year-old sister

Review: A Really Good Day by Ayelet Waldman

A Really Good Day by Ayelet WaldmanAyelet Waldman has spent many years and dollars in search of a good day. She is smart, successful – a bestselling author and a former federal public defender — and suffers from a mood disorder. She is not depressed to incapacitation, or in need of hospitalization, but she is far from happy. She is easily irritated, prone to dark moods or anxiety, and productive in bursts. And after years of therapy, supplements, medication, and meditation, she stumbled upon a controversial approach to managing her moods – microdosing LSD.

In “A Really Good Day,” Waldman walks the reader through her month-long experiment with LSD. She takes a microdose –  1/10th of a dose a person hoping for hallucinations would take. One day on, two days off, and she faithfully records her condition each day: mood, any conflict, sleep, pain, work etc.

Review: Universal Harvester by John Darnielle

Universal Harvester by John Darnielle

I know this shouldn’t matter, but – this novel really has a beautiful cover. In fact, you should feel free to judge this book by its cover. Like the cover, the unsettling, slightly distorted novel inside draws you in for a closer look.

Jeremy’s life is stalled in late 1990’s Nevada (Ne-vay-duh), Iowa. He works at the local Video Hut lending, shelving, and rewinding VHS tapes. He knows he should be looking for something closer to a career, but Video Hut suits him for now. He brings movies home to watch over simple dinners with his widower father, the mother’s death in a car accident several years before a shared sadness they endure together quietly.

When a customer reports a video contains scenes from a different movie, Jeremy thinks little of it, setting he damaged movie aside for return. When a second customer reports a similar problem with a different

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