While on the road, there are advantages and disadvantages to being able to read.
At the end of the day, I can snuggle in with my audible books and really enjoy the silence of nature as I drift off. It’s not always that easy though. When you’re travelling the quarters are close and apparently there are rules where you’re not supposed to read all the time because you’re supposed to talk. lol.
Well, through the weeks on the road, I’ve managed to keep a pretty good balance and get some great books read this month. Here’s my list. I’d really like to know what you’re reading.
Gutter Child a novel by Jael Richardson
Published by Harper Avenue 2021; Dystopian, Coming of Age
This is a story of inequality, prejudice, friendship, loyalty, self-discovery, and betrayal.
We meet Elimina, a young girl who was one of a hundred chosen as an infant to be plucked from the gutter (aka: the defined ghetto for those who were not white), to be raised by white families on Mainland–the area of privilege.
Elimina, alone with her adoptive mother, is openly shunned in the affluent society when all she wants is to fit in and find acceptance. She knows nothing different.
Even with the fierce and protective love of her adoptive mother, she is hated because of the color of her skin. Elimina struggles with being different and “ugly”… she’s never had her hair combed properly, doesn’t know where she comes from, and longs to be a part of something she doesn’t even know exists.
As a “project child”, Elimina is scarred and marked as a reminder of her origins. When her adoptive mother dies, she is thrust into a world of unknowns. Sent to an Academy, she learns she’s now encumbered by debt and must earn her freedom.
This book is timely and will definitely spark conversation. The idea of slavery, differentness, and privilege is paramount and timely on all points.
This is a story worth telling and reading.
Things that struck me were her name: Elimina… only two letters away from Eliminate–was that intentional? Idk. Another thing that bounced around in my head was the privileged white person adopting a child of color… This reminded me of the saviour type of behaviour of white people (celebrities) and though not specified, this book made me think of that.
While the story is good and solid, the author missed many opportunities to enrich the reader experience by offering more development of the characters and settings.
While I really felt heart-broken for Elimina and all that unfolded for her, the author left her weak and dependant. I wanted to cheer for her. I so desperately wanted her to fight harder against the imposed impoverishment and racism.
For example: at one point the author indicates how dangerous it is to go down to collect checks as Elimina becomes a runner. But not once did I feel danger or tension. I kept waiting for something to happen. Nothing did.
Too many issues were brushed over too quickly–like the other 99 children who were also taken or the “project/experiment” all together. I would have liked to have actually experienced that along with Elimina as opposed to being told what happened.
It was the same with the setting. Again an opportunity missed. To me, the Academy felt rich and safe. The kids snuck out and did what they wanted and even had a hair dresser available to them. This didn’t ring true to me.
As I said, the book is worth reading, but could have been a lot of stronger.
The Maid. A Novel. by Nita Prose
Published by Ballantine Books 2022; Cozy Mystery/Psychological Fiction
Molly is a maid at a New York City hotel.
She fits somewhere on the autism spectrum, as a high functioning bright young woman, who struggles with social situations and understanding the intricacies of human actions, inactions, and tendencies toward mean-spiritedness.
The story is told through Molly Gray, the maid and she has a very wonderful and unique voice.
Raised by her grandmother, she is prone to old adages, doing puzzles, and watching Columbo.
Everything is tickety-boo until her grandmother dies, money and paying bills, becomes a huge issue, and others take advantage of her trusting nature. All is about to change for her as she finds a guest dead in his bed.
Murder, the police say.
Molly finds herself sucked into the whirlwind of a police investigation that could see her go to prison for the murder of Mr. Black.
The story is well told and I love Molly! She’s a lovely character who’s well developed and believable. The story tied up very neatly and in my opinion, unrealistically. It all seemed a bit too easy for me.
While I’d recommend the book, I’d do so more for the characterization of Molly, than the story itself. Still a fun read. The story was good but Molly was the star for sure.
Mother Knows Best by Kira Peikoff
Published by Crooked Lane Books 2019; Medical Thriller/Domestic Thriller.
I love thrillers. The chase and the tension that builds over pages to then blow you away with the author’s cleverness–can’t beat it.
In Mother Knows Best, there is a lot of science references due to the fact that it is central to the story. It wasn’t overwhelming, so don’t worry.
What is raised is the ethical debate of scientific/medical intervention on gene modifications to avoid passing inherited diseases from mother to child.
This was dealt with in a really great way as the author was able to to weave it into the conversations and actions of the characters. Never did I feel like I was reading a medical journal or that I needed to go back to review several times to understand.
The story, characters, and setting were solid. I enjoyed this book.
I must say that I had figured out the twist early in the novel but that didn’t matter. Loved the psycho Jillian and her head games.
I feel never felt anxious or feared anyone was in grave danger.
The end was unrealistic and predictable–dare I say, over the top?– but it didn’t matter because it was the story that counted here.
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid.
Published by Washington Square Press 2018; Holiday Romance, LGBTQ Romance, Family Life Fiction.
I haven’t read glitz and glam in forever. I’m glad I read this one. I really enjoyed it.
I used to read the bodice rippers, princess wannabes, and romantic comedies, but then moved around into other genres like mystery and thriller.
Reading this book, took me back to those long nights of reading well past my bed-time (so to speak… lol), and getting so immersed within the whole mess that was Evelyn’s life.
This book is full of Old Hollywood–the casting couch, the locked closet door for anyone in the LGTBQ community, and of course the massive staged events and fake romances.
The book doesn’t shy away from those, but instead embraces the reality of the time to illustrate the flaws, realities, and desires of the characters. It’s really well done.
The story itself is told from Evelyn’s perspective as she shares her life story with Monique, a junior/unknown reporter. The question is why… Why did Evelyn choose Monique? Is this significant?
As her life unfolds through the stories she shares with the young reporter, I’m reminded of Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson, and other glamorous stars of the era.
Who is Evelyn? Is she based on anyone? I don’t know. I think that’s part of the allure… the mystery of the movies and those who make them. We never know, do we. They’re meant to be elusive and mysterious.
This is a huge, long book. I’d still recommend it.
It woke something in me as far as character staging. It was a breath of fresh air and nice to read something other than killing and mayhem. Enjoy.
SAVE THE CAT! WRITES A NOVEL: The Last Book on Novel Writing You’ll Ever Need by Jessica Brody.
Published by Ten Speed Press 2018; Fiction Writing Reference, Book Publishing Reference, Study and Teaching Reference.
I’m a writer. I’ve written a few novels and am improving every day. This book was recommended to me by a writer friend and I love it.
As writers, we can never allow ourselves to think we know it all.
There’s always something to learn.
Chapters one and two are my fave. Their titles are:
1. WHY DO WE CARE? Creating the Story-Worthy Hero and…
2. THE SAVE THE CAT! BEAT SHEET aka The End of All Your Plotting Problems (a discussion of the 15 beats–aka plot points–that compromise a great story–from the very start to the end).
I found these two particular chapter really resonated with me. They compromise methods of moving forward and assisting the writer before they get all bogged down in gunky manuscript tangles.
The other chapters are just as interesting and helpful in that they touch on genre, pitches, and so much more.
If you’re a writer, or you’re trying to be, I’d recommend this book. Great read. Great info!
Well, those were my big reads through March. I’m always reading short stories, articles, blogs, etc. It all counts as it keeps the mind hungry for more. By reading, writers can recognize how things fit together, or perhaps what doesn’t work. We can remind ourselves of the simplicity and the complex. Never forget that reading and writing go hand in hand.
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