Review: In This Ground by Beth Castrodale

About the book, In This Ground In-This-Ground

  • Paperback: 160 Pages
  • Publisher: Garland Press (September 18, 2018)

Just as his indie-rock band was poised to make it big, Ben Dirjery traded it all in for fatherhood and the stability of a job at Bolster Hill Cemetery. Now closing in on fifty, the former guitarist finds himself divorced and at loose ends, and still haunted by the tragic death of his former band’s lead singer, who is buried, literally, under Ben’s feet. Then Ben’s daughter begins questioning a past he has tried to bury. If he can face her questions, he might finally put to rest his guilt over his bandmate’s death, and bring music back into his life.

Praise for In This Ground:

“Startlingly incongruous parts–graveyards, guitars, and mushrooms–come together in satisfying and unexpected ways. Sharp writing and an unconventional plot make for a darkly enjoyable read.”–Kirkus Reviews

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon | Books-A-Million | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, Beth Castrodale Beth-Castrodale

Beth Castrodale has worked as a newspaper reporter and editor. Her novels include Marion Hatley, a finalist for a Nilsen Prize for a First Novel from Southeast Missouri State University Press (published by Garland Press in 2017), and In This Ground (Garland Press, 2018). Beth’s stories have appeared in such journals as Printer’s Devil Review, The Writing Disorder, and the Mulberry Fork Review. Get a free copy of her novel Gold River when you sign up for her e-newsletter, at http://www.bethcastrodale.com/gold-river/.

Connect with Beth:

Website | Facebook | Twitter


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

Quirky characters, music, knitting bombs, mushrooms, and green funerals all combine in this gripping novel from Beth Castrodale, In This Ground. It’s part mystery part character study, with multiple intertwining threads and overlapping stories, not to mention that it’s set in a cemetery.

At the center of it all, of course, is Ben, divorced, lonely, with his ambitions of being in a successful rock band long gone to seed, he is the POV character we first meet, and while the story pays more attention to his (dead and buried) former bandmate Nick Graves, and the Unknown Vagrant, whose very existence is a point of contention in the community, it is Ben’s arc that I found most compelling and most poignant.

In truth, though, every plot thread is equally fascinating, and every character is dimensional and interesting, and author Castrodale has woven (or knitted) it all together into a story that begs you to read it, and leaves you hoping for a sequel.

Goes well with: mushroom and olive pizza and a cold beer.


Beth Castrodale’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS:TLC Book Tours

Monday, January 7th: Seaside Book Nook

Wednesday, January 9th: Bibliotica

Thursday, January 10th: Books and Bindings

Monday, January 14th: Patricia’s Wisdom

Tuesday, January 15th: The Book Diva’s Reads – author guest post

Wednesday, January 16th: Booklover Book Reviews

Thursday, January 17th: @crystals_library

Monday, January 21st: Eliot’s Eats

Tuesday, January 22nd: Really Into This and @mountain_reader_

Wednesday, January 23rd: Lit and Life

Thursday, January 24th: Thoughts on This ‘n That

Monday, January 28th: Book By Book

Tuesday, January 29th: Erica Robyn Reads

Review: The Hollow Middle by John Popielaski

The-Hollow-Middle-coverAbout the book, The Hollow Middle

  • Paperback: 380 pages
  • Publisher: Unsolicited Press (December 4, 2018)

The Hollow Middle follows Albert Lesiak, an aging English teacher in Connecticut, who receives a windfall in delayed acknowledgment of the government’s complicity in his father’s cancer death and decides that it is time to live a different life on land he owns in Maine.

When his wife Mary suggests that they could foster or adopt autistic twin boys she fell in love with on a website and could use the stipend money in furtherance of Albert’s vision, Albert gradually perceives himself as possibly adapting to the role of patriarch.

A meditation on the curiosity of making sense and the dilemma of becoming true, The Hollow Middle ambles, mostly, and goes still for periods of various duration, acting like it’s not beholden after all to the rhetorical.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Unsolicited Press | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


JohnPopielaski-Bio-PictureAbout the author, John Popielaski

John Popielaski is the author of several poetry collections, including, most recently, Isn’t It Romantic? which won the Robert Phillips Chapbook Award from Texas Review Press. The Hollow Middle is his first novel.

Connect with John:

Find out more about John on his website, and follow him on Facebook.


My Thoughts

Melissa A. BartellThe Hollow Middle is not a fast read. In fact, it’s mindfully, even meditatively slow. It’s the kind of novel you read a few chapters of over a mug – or several – of tea, take time to digest them, and then go back for more. This is not a bad thing. In fact, the stillness of this book is an asset, because it means you really get to know the protagonist, Albert Lesiak.

In the initial chapters, Albert comes off as both prickly and kind of pompous. He’s detached from the world, an observer, rather than a real participant. You get the sense that things like sticky fingers would offend his sensibilities.

Despite this, he’s not a shallow character. He’s clearly leading an examined life and made decisions based on his perceived results.

And then everything changes.

But within that change, Albert remains surprisingly constant. His wife, Mary, serves as both chorus and director at different times, suggesting changes (adopting two boys being the biggest one) and then sitting back while Albert plays with all the angles and finds his own peace in the decision.

As I said, it’s a slow novel, almost more of a character study than anything else, and yet, it’s also compelling.

Author John Popielaski uses language with a combination of eloquence and economy of phrase that is refreshing to read. I found myself repeating sentences out loud because I was drawn to their rhythm. The characters feel like real – if slightly eccentric – people, and the situation is an interesting consideration of how we do or don’t change when we suddenly have the money to do whatever we want.

Goes well with: hot tea and shortbread cookies.


Tour Stops TLC BOOK TOURS

Wednesday, January 2nd: Bibliotica

Thursday, January 3rd: Life By Kristen

Friday, January 4th: she treads softly

Monday, January 7th: A Bookish Affair

Tuesday, January 8th: Lit and Life

Wednesday, January 9th: Iwriteinbooks’s blog

Thursday, January 10th: Instagram: @bookwormmommyof3

Tuesday, January 15th: Literary Quicksand

Wednesday, January 16th: Jathan & Heather

Thursday, January 17th: Patricia’s Wisdom

Thursday, January 17th: Broken Teepee

Monday, January 21st: Jessicamap Reviews

Wednesday, January 23rd: Girl Who Reads