Book Review: The Exiles: A Novel by Christina Baker Kline

Engaging, heartbreaking tale of the lives of three hapless females whose lives and stories converge in Australia. Beginning in London in 1840 and ending in London in 1868, we are reminded once again how prevalent mistreatment and severe punishment of the lower classes were in the Great Britain of the 19th century. Convicts were sent to Australia, which served as a penal colony, on slave ships to pay off their debts to society—some for serious crimes, others for minor infractions. Men and women received the same punishment and children often accompanied their mothers throughout this degrading ordeal.

Living in sub-human conditions in British prisons, then slave transport ships for the three months long journey from Britain to Australia, convicts fought to stay alive in overcrowded confinement—filthy, shackled, at starvation, surrounded by rodents, denied medical treatment, victims of rape by sexually aggressive sailors. Some lived out their sentences in prisons, while others were utilized as forced labor for the ruling classes.

The lives of three hapless females intersect and overlap beginning in 1840 Australia and in the years that follow. Each one is a recipient of kindness which is paid back in unforeseen ways.

Eight-year-old Mathinna, an orphaned Australian Aboriginal girl is temporarily adopted by a wealthy family as an experiment to see if she can be educated in the civilized ways of the wealthy.

Twenty-one-year-old Evangeline, is a London governess and daughter of a church Vicar, used, impregnated, and discarded by an upper crust member of London society.

Sixteen-year-old Hazel, healer and mid-wife, is eventually able to escape her miserable life.

Not everyone is so lucky. Much depends on the backgrounds and skills they bring with them, as well as a helping hand from the kind and fair-minded people around them.

Lower class women were worth nothing, as were their children. Only ladies were protected but their rights were derived from their fathers, then their husbands.

Well-researched book. Well-written. It presents a moment-in-time history of Great Britain that should make any member of the ruling class weep in shame. It’s hard to imagine what warped justification drove these God-fearing people.

There are some weak points in the story. Mathinna virtually disappears, and we don’t find out her fate for many years. Evangeline’s thoughts lead us to hope for a different ending from what occurs. Helen’s miraculous reinvention is not described but only alluded to at the end of the book. Another important character suddenly appears grown up, independent, and feisty. I would have liked to accompany her on her journey to adulthood.

How James Patterson’s Recipe For Success Propelled Chris Tebbetts Into a Popular Middle School Series Author

Ever wonder why someone else accomplishes great things while the rest of us are struggling just to keep up? I decided to run this post again since I believe it contains valuable guidance for aspiring writers. Since I’m a firm believer in analyzing what makes a book excellent and/or popular, I chose to take a second look at the Middle School series by James Patterson & Chris Tebbetts illustrated by Laura Park. I will concentrate on the first of the series, “Middle School-the Worst Years of My Life”  where the story of sixth grader Rafael  (Rafe) Khatchadorian begins.

A successful series is dependent on a strong lead-off  book—in this case, “Middle School—The Worst Years of My Life.” Next in the series is “Middle School—Get Me Out of  Here”  which tells about Rafe’s experiences in a new school. The third book “How I Survived Bullies, Broccoli and Snake Hill” tells about summer camp followed by the “Save Rafe.” The overall themes deal with bullying and struggles to fit in. The mood is light and funny with a conversational style. Rafe is presented as a sympathetic character replete with charming personality flaws.

Let’s take a look at the recipe:

Collaborate: Combine two successful authors with complimentary skills.
Organize: Have James Patterson write a specific chapter outline so Chris Tebbetts can write the story. Slowly add Patterson’s ideas and revisions.
Point of View: First person; poke fun at teachers, administrators and school rules
Characters With Catchy Names:  English teacher/ Detention Monitor – Ruthless Donatello;   Vice-principal- Ida Stricker;   Bully- Miller the Killer;   Alter Ego/Imaginary Friend/ Brother-Leonardo the Silent  (notice shades of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles)
Chapter Length: 2-4 pages
Main character’s Motto: “Rules Are Made For Breaking”

Mysterious Character: Leonardo (Leo) – hints that he’s real, then an alter ego, then imaginary, then real but deceased
Secret Ingredient: Don’t hint that Leo is imaginary until chapter 25 but state  in chapter 75 he’s in fact, Rafe’s deceased brother,  whose memory Rafe’s keeping alive
Hook: Rafe is the author of this story while Leo is the illustrator; Leo sometimes controls the events according to what he decides to draw
Fantasize: Share wild daydreams and fantasies ex. Rafe imagines he’s in prison while in the principal’s office  and uses prison jargon and analogies                                                                                                                     Add Visual Interest: Lots and lots and lots of hilarious illustrations with speech blurbs and sound effects
Sprinkle Colorful Fanciful Language: “The Dragon Lady’s eyes ( Ms. Donatello) turn yellow. A long stream of fire comes shooting out her nose. I dive over a burning desk, roll. and jump back onto my feet.”

Add: A mother Rafe can love and trust ;  his mother’s live-in boyfriend who Rafe can hate                                                       
Add to Taste:
name calling, shouting, conflict
Mix It Up: Use a variety of fonts, letter sizes, bold, italics, all caps, sound effects

Test: Add a pretend quiz to see if the reader is paying attention

Happy Ending: Rafe is expelled from school but is sent to Art school ( at the suggestion of the Dragon Lady, Ms. Donatello) where his talents can be developed  (hence, the second book in the series)                               Run a Contest: The winning  paragraph will appear at the beginning of the next book
Advertise: Tell about other available and upcoming books and include sample chapters

It all seems so simple, doesn’t it? So, how come we didn’t think of doing it?  It only goes to show that it’s as clear as the nose on your face, but everyone, obviously,  doesn’t see that nose in the same way. That’s where the genius comes in.

To experience life through Rafe’s eyes, watch this video.


Please let me know your thoughts. I’d love to hear from you. You can email me at

I wish you all a life inspired by the wonder of the world around us. May you find and live your truth, in harmony with people, nature and the environment. May you be a force for good and a source of love and comfort. May the world be a better place for you having lived and loved here.


© 2014, 2021 All rights reserved. No part of this content may be  reprinted or used in any form without express permission from Elaine Donadio Writes.


Just Received My Author Copy! Feeding the Flock— Red Penguin Books

I’m so excited! I just received my Author Copy of Feeding the Flock: Recipes From The Red Penguin Family, ed. by JK Larkin (2021). You can find my memory and recipe  “Mussels Marinara in Oyster Bay” on p. 63. Be sure to check out Stephanie Larkin’s memory and recipe “Paella, With Love” on p.1 and Josephine Terracina Amodeo’s memory and recipe “Zucchini Noodles with Homemade Basil Pesto” on p. 81. Delicious! Ingredients and directions included. So easy to follow, even novice cooks can can plan a dinner party. Enjoy!

Book Review: Troubled Blood by Robert Galbraith (aka J.K. Rowling)

Book Review: Troubled Blood by Robert Galbraith (aka J.K. Rowling) (2020) (Mystery) 4 Stars ****

N.B. Let me start off by saying I had no idea of the controversy surrounding this book. This book and its author have been chastised and ostracized for what is deemed by a segment of society to be transphobic bias because the serial killer sometimes dresses in women’s clothing in order to make his approach to young women less intimidating. He sometimes masturbates into their underwear and sometimes wears their underwear, and saves their jewelry as keepsakes as he violently tortures, rapes, and kills them. Anyone who is familiar with the behavior of sexual predators knows this is common behavior and is in no way indicative of a bias against transgender people. That bring said, the character is never mentioned as trans, and only uses women’s clothing as a disguise to gain trust—just as actual kidnappers/rapists/killers have dressed as women, pizza and UPS delivery, gas and electric company service, police, clergy, and false emissaries from relatives or people supposedly in need of help. Sexuality, one way or the other, is not judged.

This being said, let’s get on with the plot …

Set in England in 2013-2014, private detectives Cormoran Strike and Robin Ellacott are hired to solve the 40 year old cold case disappearance of Dr. Margot Bamborough in 1974. While the now imprisoned serial killer/rapist/torturer Dennis Creed has never admitted to her abduction and murder, many believe that she was one of his victims, even though no body was ever found. The sexual tension between the two detectives runs rampant throughout the chapters. These two barely move an inch closer to each other in this book with over 900 pages. The list of co-workers, characters, suspects, red herrings, locations , etc. is longer than a monthly grocery list. There are close to 100 characters mentioned in the book with varying degrees of importance.

Strike and Robin are beset by personal problems and baggage from their pasts. Loners, trying to keep it together, it’s one thing after another. Strike ponders, … “Then he closed his eyes, and like millions of his fellow humans, wondered why troubles could never come singly, but in avalanches, so that you became increasingly destabilized with every blow that hit you.”

Our wise author tells us, “We aren’t our mistakes. It’s what we do about the mistake that shows who we are.”

Each setback only temporarily slows them down … unless it’s their attraction for each other, of course.

With determination and an uncanny attention to detail, the pair shovel through copious, confusing notes left by investigating police detectives from the past (one detective put heavy emphasis on astrological signs and attributes), interview witnesses, compare testimony, check alibis, and discuss likelihood and probability in order to solve the case. They encounter roadblocks: deceased witnesses, untruthful or mistaken testimony, conflicting information and so many leads that take them further away from the case, rather than closer.

Somehow, after a year’s time, Robin recognizes a pattern and an incongruity—and voilà!—the culprit is discovered! Believe me, it’s no one you would suspect! This is certainly a surprise ending with focus on the untimely demise of numerous characters. A twist of an ending after so many red herrings.

So, what didn’t I like? The book is way too long. The author’s style has always been to use a thousand words where a hundred could make the point. Exhausting! Too many details and descriptions that are not essential to the plot. So many characters make it hard to keep track. Was the astrology that occupied hours and hours of analysis and verification even necessary to the plot? The truth is: This author, whether writing as Robert Galbraith or J.K. Rowling, loves to turn a phrase into a tome. Case in point—this book as well as the Harry Potter series.

I also find the characterization of Italians as crime families offensive and prejudicial stereotyping. While society defends gender and criminal rights, as well as political correctness for racial stereotyping of black and brown people, why is there never an outcry against the negative portrayal of Italians as gangsters? Why do so many authors get away with mentioning the Italian background of a character, and leaving it like that, as if assumptions can be made and no qualifying statements are necessary? This is never allowed against other groups. Other people can be addicts, alcoholics, rapists, abusers, murderers, thieves, etc, without their national backgrounds mentioned. Why not the same respect for Italians and Italian-Americans? If anyone out there reading this is a member of the ACLU or a defender against bias, how about adding this underserved and over-exploited group to your list of causes?


Please let me know your thoughts. I’d love to hear from you. You can email me at

I wish you all a life inspired by the wonder of the world around us. May you find and live your truth, in harmony with people, nature and the environment. May you be a force for good and a source of love and comfort. May the world be a better place for you having lived and loved here.

All rights reserved 2021

Book Review: The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah

Book Review: The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah (2021) (Historical Fiction) 3 Stars ***

With a heart-wrenching depiction of the Depression Era Dust Bowl in the American Plains in the 1930’s, we first meet hapless twenty-five-year-old virginal Elsa Wolcott in 1921 Texas—gangly and deemed embarrassingly unattractive and therefore, unloved and ostracized from family activities by her parents and beautiful sisters—who has accepted her fate as an old maid, destined to suffer alone for being plain and sickly from exaggerated concern for a long-ago childhood illness … until one fateful day when Elsa dresses herself up, takes herself out, and changes the course of her life.

Elsa hooks up with charming Rafe Martinelli, a sweet but immature Sicilian dreamer, seven years her junior. Elsa’s  wealthy family, disgraced by her pregnancy, disown her and demand that Rafe marry their daughter. Rafe’s parents are in agreement, so Rafe reluctantly agrees.

Rafe’s parents accept her into their lives and, for the first time, Elsa feels loved and protected as part of a family. Elsa learns to love the land. Her mother-in-law teaches her to cook. Elsa is a wonderful, caring mother to her two children, but Rafe continues to dream. His musings lead him astray, so Elsa and her in-laws are left holding the bag as drought and dust storms rage around them, killing people, animals, and crops. Starvation, dehydration, malnutrition, death and disease surrround them. The people of the Plains are devastated but the federal government is slow to respond with help. It is years into this well-documented environmental catastrophe until the federal government sends aid and advice on how to counteract the problem of the barren land.

Elsa leaves with her children for a better life in California, leaving her in-laws behind by their own choice. Many others also travel to California, some alone, some with entire families—walking, jumping on trains, begging for rides. Instead of paradise, they encounter deplorable conditions in work camps where they are exploited and victimized. Californians are strongly prejudiced against these dirty, desperate people whom they view as lazy and looking for a handout. They refuse them medical care, medicine, and basic human respect.

So, is there a happy ending? Conditions in the Plains improve over time when the climate conditions change. Elsa is a hard-working woman who serves as a role model and comfort for others.

What didn’t I like about the book? It lacks the emotional connection to the characters I’ve come to expect from this author. Way too much narration detracts from the high emotional content of this very disturbing story. Few deep, insightful dialogue exchanges. It reads more like a newspaper account than a family saga. Maybe it should have been written as a diary or epistolary format to help the author capture feelings?

Also, I hated that Elsa’s experiences are brought about by her relationships with the men she chooses to keep in her life. These liasions only bring her to tragedy. She is a strong woman in her own right, but only moves ahead to help the men in her life achieve their ends. Bad karma. So used to her childhood coping mechanism of keeping her mouth shut so as to not give people reasons not to like her, Elsa does not grow as an authentic self-actualized person. Always giving in, staying quiet, removing herself from the fray does not improve her plight. A constant victim of unkind people, random negative conditions, exploitative men, and her own lack of self-worth, does not make an admirable character. She worked so hard, as a horse would, obeying commands given by others, but never having a plan of her own. Yes, she went to California but the idea was originally Rafe’s. Elsa never really reacts to the handwriting on the wall. Appeasement is the name of her game.


Please let me know your thoughts. I’d love to hear from you. You can email me at

I wish you all a life inspired by the wonder of the world around us. May you find and live your truth, in harmony with people, nature and the environment. May you be a force for good and a source of love and comfort. May the world be a better place for you having lived and loved here.

All rights reserved 2021

Yay! Received a Certificate of Publication from Red Penguin Books!

I am thrilled and honored to have received this wonderful Certificate of Publication for my short story “Girls Want to Have Fun” published by Red Penguin Books in The Roaring 20’s anthology edited by JK Larkin (2021). Thank you! Congratulations to the other contributors, especially Debbie De Louise.

Book Review: Dark Tides by Philippa Gregory

Book Review: Dark Tides by Philppa Gregory (2020) (Historical Fiction) 2 Stars **

Such a disappointment! Not only has Philippa Gregory not lived up to her standard of excellence as an author, but she ruined this Fairmile series by writing this unworthy mess of a story as a sequel to the excellent Tidelands. One-dimensional characters. Historically savvy characters fooled by obvious manipulation. By the way, if your sister-in-law crawled into bed with you, buck naked, rubbed herself against you and caressed you, while fitting her body parts into your body parts, would it ring some alarms? Not for this moron! Wait until you see!  Absurd, contrived situations. Hard-to-believe coincidences. A rambling parallel story about Alinor’s son Ned set in New England in the United States while the main action takes place in England that has absolutely nothing to do with the plot, but serves as a politically correct platform decrying the new world colonial settlers’ mistreatment of the Native Americans. Yada. Yada. Yada.

Let’s get to the plot. Set mostly in England, but also New England, and Venice from 1670-1671, beginning on propitious Midsummer’s Eve, the family of the once self-possessed, but now seriously ill without semblance of the powerful personality that drove her to succeed,  Alinor Reekie lives with her daughter Alys and two adult grandchildren Johnnie and Sarah in a ramshackle warehouse/ home along the river. On Midsummer’s Eve, two surprise visitors appear, changing the family’s fate. James, an insipid, self-serving, legend-in-his-own-mind scoundrel from twenty-one years ago, newly rich, courtesy of the restored King Charles II, comes to claim what he believes is his entitlement. Livia Reekie, da Ricci, Peachey (yes, all that!) beautiful, cunning, Italian con artist shows up with an infant son, announcing herself as the widow of Rob, Alinor’s son, who has drowned in the dark tides of Venice, Italy. Alinor has the sight and will not accept that Rob is dead. Both Johnnie and Sarah have finished their apprenticeships and are ready to move up in the world. Easy-going Johnnie sticks close to home while go-getter Sarah is sent on a mission.

All characters interact and intersect. Everyone is manipulated and handled. Most refuse to believe what is laid out before them as truth. I have mixed feelings about the ending. One character gets just desserts (yay!), one makes a questionable decision (uh-oh!) while the others are left speechless (Your head will spin!). Family ties remain strong as Alinor’s brood stands as role models of love, stability and compassion despite their disappointments.

It sounds good, doesn’t it? Sorry, but it is only that—good. Not at all the outstanding book we have come to expect from this author.


Please let me know your thoughts. I’d love to hear from you. You can email me at

I wish you all a life inspired by the wonder of the world around us. May you find and live your truth, in harmony with people, nature and the environment. May you be a force for good and a source of love and comfort. May the world be a better place for you having lived and loved here.

All rights reserved 2021

Nestor Named a Bronx Zoo Roach After Little Hector!

Nestor and I are so excited! He named a cockroach at the Bronx Zoo after Hector, his beloved pet and science project, for a special Valentine’s Day ceremony. Hector is now famous. Yay! If you visit the Bronx Zoo, be sure to say hello. You’ll recognize Hector right away—he’s the most handsome and the smartest! Of course!

“Girls Want to Have Fun”-Included The Roaring ’20s Anthology-Red Penguin Press!

I’m so happy to share the great news. My short story “Girls Want to Have Fun” will be included in The Roaring Twenties—A Decade of Stories (Anthology) Red Penguin Books (2021) edited by JK Larkin.

Book Review: All the Devils Are Here by Louise Penny

Book Review: All the Devils Are Here by Louise Penny (2020) (Crime Fiction) 3 Stars ***

Armand Ganache, a noted police investigator at the Sûreté du Québec, is visiting Paris with his beloved wife Reine-Marie to await the birth of their newest grandchild. They meet up with their children and elderly Stephen, a complex, mysterious man, god-father to Armand, at an elegant dinner party. Upon leaving this trés luxe venue, Stephen is the victim of a hit-and-run which appears to be deliberate. Armand and his former policeman/investigator son-in-law Beauvoir begin an investigation. One of the things they discover is that Stephen had two outrageously expensive places to live—one a pricey apartment and the other a suite in an opulent hotel—but, in the apartment, they find the body of an unknown man, shot once in the back and once in the head. Who could be responsible for all of this? A family member? The police? A corporate head? A politician? Hmmm.

This proves to be only the tip of the iceberg. The duo uncover layers of corporate and political corruption. Is Stephen what he portrays himself to be? Or a poseur hiding behind the truth to gain access to even more wealth and power?

I know Louise Penny is a very popular author with a huge fan base, but I am not one of them. This is my first book by this author and it does not make me want to read any others. The book is repetitious beyond belief. The family drama, which should remain as a backstory, is brought to the forefront of every discussion. How much tea and pastry can these characters consume? So many scenes begin this way—eating themselves into serious discussions. Stereotypical father-kid relationships: adoring daughter and resentful son who misunderstands a childhood memory and hates his father without just cause.

Significance of title? Taken from William Shakespeare’s The Tempest, “Hell is empty and all the devils are here.” We can wonder here here or not in hell here? Guess how many times this quotation was stated and explained. More than ten, for sure. Does the author think her readers can’t get it the first time? Her writing often is obscure in this book, choppy and confusing, so maybe it’s to cover the less than spectacular writing style?


Please let me know your thoughts. I’d love to hear from you. You can email me at

I wish you all a life inspired by the wonder of the world around us. May you find and live your truth, in harmony with people, nature and the environment. May you be a force for good and a source of love and comfort. May the world be a better place for you having lived and loved here.

All rights reserved 2021

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Saturday, March 14, 2020- Barnes & Noble, Massapequa, NY 12:00-4:00pm

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