Book Review: Quantum by Patricia Cornwell

Book Review: Quantum by Patricia Cornwell (2019) 2 Stars  **

Patricia, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it! You screwed up. No nice way to say this. Maybe you got tired of your hugely popular character, Dr. Kay Scarpetta? Did you think your readers had enough of her and didn’t want to read about her investigative crime solving role as a medical examiner? No, no, and no! Send this new character, Capt. Calli Chase, back to cardboard land—send all her associates with her—and forget about any sequels, prequels, or whatever. Get back to what you do best. Yes, I know Dr. Kay was surrounded by haters, liars, saboteurs, competitors, frustrations, and disappointments. It pained me that every person in her life—beloved husband and niece included—lied to her, kept important things from her, manipulated and used her. But, hey, Patricia, you created these relationships! Then you transferred the same horrendous personal relationships to Captain Calli Chase! Your mistrust of people, women in particular, is apparent.

Back to Quantum and Capt. Calli Chase. NASA pilot, quantum physicist, cyberscience investigator, potential astronaut candidate starts off investigating the possible security breach involving a rocketship soon headed to outerspace from Langley Mission Control, Virginia. Calli and her supervisor/good friend, Fran, go to  investigate the beeping alarm, but no evidence of the problem can be found by Calli. We have two miltary, gun-toting women, but Fran is afraid of dark tunnels where the alarm is beeping, has anxiety attacks, and refuses to enter the place of the possible breach, yada, yada, yada. Can you believe this? Calli is an even more superior woman because her boss is a total waste. PUHLEEZE! By the way, the reader never finds out the cause of the breach. Lots of internal musings, but no answer. It appears the author intends to answer this and other pertinent questions in her next novel. ( I won’t be reading it.)

Calli and her identical twin sister, Carme (pronunced Karma) are the only offspring of two genius career military types. ALL of them are secretive, noncommunicative, aloof, and often MIA without explanation. As children and teenagers, Calli and Carme would exchange identities for fun without being caught. Calli believes Carme may have breached the dark tunnel without leaving any trace. But, maybe not. Dick, the head honcho and Calli’s dear long-time friend, suspects Calli might really be Carme, so doesn’t trust her with any information. Since Carme is MIA and no one seems to know where she is or if she’s in danger, Calli is worried, but maybe not, since they are competitors for the one astronaut opening, and Carme has undermined and tricked Calli repeatedly in the past. Maybe Dick knows, but he’s not talking. Maybe Calli’s mom or dad know, but they’re not talking. Fran says she doesn’t know, but maybe she’s not being truthful.

In the end, the rocket is launched successfully with a glitch in the system which is corrected in the nick of time by an unseen, unknown person. Carme? Maybe, maybe not.

Instead of developing the main character, the author spent two years studying every technical piece of information about rocket launching and put everythig in the first one hundred pages of the book! An experienced author such as this should know better than to do this. Callie is not relatable or a sympathetic character. The book reads more like a text book than a novel. There is no conclusion other than the rocket launched. By the way, I was 75% through the book before I realized that the possible rocket launching sabotage was THE problem in the book. So many loose ends and so many extraneous, beside the point space fillers!

I found myself skipping paragraphs to move myself along. The book is written in the first person, so Calli’s musings made her appear neurotic—almost an incomprehensible stream of consciousness at times—back and forth between her thoughts and the almost non-existent action around her. The story takes place mostly inside Calli’s head—not a desirable place to be.

The author does not do well with laborious research resulting in a truckload of facts. She becomes bogged down by them and loses her creativity. She did the same thing with her book about Jack the Ripper. So much disturbing research, by the author’s admission, depressed her and was transferred to the tone and content of that book, as well as into her personal life. It would seem the weight of the facts overwhelmed Patricia Cornwell in this book also.

 

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

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 2019

Book Review: The First Rule of Punk by Celia C. Perez (MG)

Book Review: The First Rule of Punk (2017) by Celia C. Perez (Middle Grade) 4 Stars ****

The first rule of punk? Always remember to be yourself. Seventh-grader Malu (Maria Luisa O’Neill-Morales) is suddenly moving from Gainesville, Florida to Chicago, Illinois. Her mom has snagged a two year position as a professor of English at an Illinois university. Leaving her much beloved cool dad, friends, and old room, Malu begrudgingly shows up at her new school and meets the requisite mean girl, Selena Ramirez, who belittles Malu’s lack of fluent Spanish, labels her a coconut (brown on the outside, white on the inside), and pokes fun at her punk rock attire. Malu has little use for her Mexican heritage as promoted by her highly educated, cultured Mexican mother, but strongly identifies with her American record store owner father as a punk rocker with a contrary attitude to the status quo.

On the first day of school, Malu unknowingly breaks the school’s dress code with her punk style of dress and is sent to the auditorium for a list of school rules, which she still manages to break in the next few weeks. Malu now has a group of friends, the requisite outcasts, who decide to form a band for the school talent show at the Fall Fiesta. When the school principal deems their punk rock too loud and inappropriate for a cultured school performance, Malu and the Co-Co’s organize an Alterna-Fiesta show outside on the school grounds where they, and other talent show rejects, will perform. Before long, the inside show is disrupted, and the crowd moves to the outside to see what the ruckus is all about. With her hair cut short, shaved on the sides and bangs dyed green, Malu is the new rebel leader.

The author includes many Mexican phrases and customs in the story. She utilizes graphic art with cartoon characters and different fonts to enhance the action and to deepen communication of Malu’s feelings and concerns. Both techniques add a lot to the book.

Malu’s mother accepts her as more punk rock and less senorita. Malu’s father surprises everyone by showing up without warning at Malu’s performance. Needless to say, he applauds her contrariness and is proud of how she is stepping into her true identity. The principal realizes the error of her ways. The students and their parents all agree with Malu’s stand. This unrealistic portrayal  of adult attitude change diminishes the reality of negative reactions from adults and classmates that any noncomformist is likely to encounter. This is not a responsible message to young readers.

I’m not sure about this ending with the happily ever after message. Should children be encouraged to break rules, not accept limits, create their own worlds with their own realities and rules? I’m not comfortable with this message that if you don’t like it, disregard it and interfere with and disrupt the main event. This message might be appropriate for older teenagers and adults, but I don’t like this message for children.

Malu gradually comes to respect and value the Mexican culture and no longer believes she must choose between the two sides of her heritage. This is a good thing because we know that people have more in common than their obvious differences would suggest.

 

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

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 2019

Book Review: Fish In A Tree (MG) by Lynda Mullaly Hunt

Book Review: Fish In A Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt  (2015) (MG) 3.5 Stars ***1/2

“Everybody is smart in different ways. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its life believing it is stupid.” This is the message of the book. Sixth-grader Ally Nickerson is dyslexic which means she has difficulty in learning to read which carries over to difficulty in writing words. Words may be seen as backwards or moving on the page. This book purports that Ally’s teachers, parents, and friends are not aware of her limitations. According to the story, Ally acts out or charms her way out of assignments to cover up her problem. Really? She made it to sixth grade and everyone in her life is none the wiser? At the end of the book, we discover that Ally’s seventeen year old hard-working, focused, responsible brother Travis suffers from the same problem and has hidden it also. It’s this unrealistic portrayal combined with other unrealistic events that warrants fewer stars for an otherwise charming story.

Ally receives a lot of snide remarks from the class mean girls. Characters are stereotypical. Rich bitches, weak geeks, poor paragons. Ally is sent to the principal’s office for sending a sympathy card to her teacher who is going on maternity leave. Ally sees the pretty yellow flowers on the card and believes it to be a happy card. Supposedly, she cannot read the words that express sympathy and is unaware that the card is inappropriate. Again, very unrealistic that a non-reader such as this can hide her problems, and who would be sent to the principal for sending the wrong kind of card?

Ally’s father is deployed in the army as a tank commander. As an army brat, Ally has been in seven schools in seven years. It is my understanding that families of service people generally congregate in the same areas near army bases, so this depiction of Ally being the only one in school in this situation may not be accurate. While this bit of back story  might serve to explain how Ally has not been diagnosed, it doesn’t explain how Ally’s mother misses the mark on her daughter’s and her son’s situations.

The new teacher, Mr. Daniels, suspects Ally’s problems with reading and writing and gently allows her to complete her assignments in different modalities which allow her to use her other itelligences. In time, he tutors her in reading and raises her self-esteem. This changes her behavior and Ally is voted class president. Ally makes two new friends, Keisha and Albert, who encourage and support her.

Ally now deduces that Travis shares her reading and writing problems and engages Mr. Daniels to tutor her brother.

A happy ending for all.

 

Author’s Note: Dyslexia has nothing to do with intelligence. This reading/writing disability is a visual perception problem.  Dyslexic students may spell the same word different ways on the same page, reverse letters in writing words, and be sensitive to the contrast between a white page and dark print. Headaches are common because of eye strain in forcing the eyes to focus. Special help is generally recommended. It’s also a good idea to use an index card under each line of print to reduce the number of words seen at one time and to help keep a straight line of vision.

 

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

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 2019

Book Review: Merci Suarez Changes Gears by Meg Medina (Middle Grade)

Book Review: Merci Suarez Changes Gears (2019) by Meg Medina (Middle Grade)
3 Stars ***

So, here we have a 2019 Newberry Medal winner that is, at best, a mediocre story with mediocre plot advancement, little character development, poor transitions, choppy writing, lack of focus, too many characters and situations with way too much telling and not enough showing, and too many details in all the wrong places. I found myself reading and re-reading paragraphs many times. What was the author talking about? I didn’t figure out the point of the story until I was 3/4 through when she finally wrote a few sentences in a row that followed a thread that continued until the ending. Finally! This book did not win the medal for its literary excellence. This book came at the right time in history, when what you’re writing about, rather than how you write it, wins awards.

Lots of Spanish words and phrases make this book particularly relatable and more easily comprehended by English language learners.

We start out with our main character, Mercedes Suarez (Merci), a sixth-grader at the elite Florida Seaward Pines Academy located in what the author hints to be Palm Beach County. Merci’s family is working class Cuban American. Her family is tightly knit and always in each other’s business, while offering unwavering support and help without hesitation. This multi-generational family live on the same block in three casitas, one after the other. Marci lives with her hardworking, responsible parents and seventeen year old brother, Roli. Loving grandparents Abuela and Lolo are next, with the third house occupied by bakery owner, overworked Tia Ines and her twin five year old out-of-control sons. Merci and her brother are required to help with responsibilities in all three households—babysitting the twin terrors, accompanying Abuela and Lolo when they leave the house, working in Tia Ines’ bakery on weekends, and various other obligations.

Merci is in her second year of Seaward Pines Academy, an elite school frequented by wealthy, serious, well-behaved students. Merci ‘s family cannot pay tuition, so she must perform community service for the privilege. Merci’s father tells her, “Do a good job, so they know we’re serious people.” Sixth-graders are required to mentor new students by showing them the ropes. Merci is assigned as a Sunshine Buddy to the very white, very nice, very handsome, very popular Michael. Yuck He’s a boy! Not everyone shares these feelings. This pairing causes passive-aggressive revenge tactics from wealthy, assertive, in-your-face Edna, who torments everyone but now leaves extra room to undermine Merci every chance she gets.

Don’t get the idea that Merci is a victim or a shrinking violet. Not true. In all fairness, Merci’s quick temper and lack of critical thinking skills are the culprits that land her in the principal’s office. For example, Merci accidentally hits a fast ball into Michael’s mouth, sending him to the hospital. Then, oblivious to the consequences, Merci cuts Edna out of the plastered mummy costume which encases Edna’s head, not realizing she cut off Edna’s eyebrows in the process. Not intentionally, of course, but she’s generally unmindful of consequences.

Merci has a special bond with her grandparents. When Lolo shows signs of Alzheimer’s Disease, Merci is furious with her family for not telling her about her grandfather’s condition. This is where the story was headed! In this coming of age story, the title takes on a special significance as Merci is given a beautiful, grown-up bike while gaining perception and appreciation of her family, their flaws, strengths, and natural life cycles. Merci demonstrates this by making a family photo album for her grandfather, capturing family members in every day activities, hair uncombed, crumbs on their chins, in the middle of doing chores and caring for their family. Until now, not thought of as special, but Merci now understands the gift of love they all share.

Merci realizes, “But there are other things I wished for even harder than this bike, and I know I won’t get them, no matter what. Important things, like wishing that Lolo wasn’t sick and that everything could stay the same.

“Then again, staying the same means that Tia Ines might not have the chance to love Simon. It means Roli wouldn’t go to college and get even smarter. It means that I wouldn’t grow up at all. Staying the same could be just as sad as Lolo changing.

“I don’t know what is going to happen next year, no one does. But that’s OK.

“I can handle it, I decide. It’s just a harder gear, and I am ready. All I have to do is take a deep breath and ride.”

 

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

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 2019

Book Review: Raymie Nightingale by Kate DiCamillo

Book Review: Raymie Nightingale by Kate DiCamillo (2016)  (MG) 4 Stars ****( Middle Grade Book)

We meet our main character, ten year-old Raymie Clark, on June 5, 1975, as she attempts to take baton twirling lessons from eccentric Ms. Ida Nee. Louisiana and Beverly, also in Raymie’s group, meet each other for the first time as they all decide to make baton twirling their talent so each one can enter and win the Little Miss Central Florida Tire contest. Events conspire to prevent any actual baton twirling from taking place. Unforgiving Ms. Nee looks at any delay as an excuse to refuse to teach the girls. No one learns baton twirling, but the trio establish a much-needed supportive friendship which quite literally saves lives.

Initial impressions are dispelled as the girls slowly reveal the truth about their situations. Sunny Raymie, living with her kind, responsible mother, is heartbroken since her insurance agency owner father ran away on June 3 with the town dental hygienist without saying good-bye. Fragile Louisiana, prone to fainting spells, is being raised by her eccentric grandmother since the supposed death of her flying trapeze act parents in a drowning accident. Feisty Beverly lives with an alcoholic, physically abusive mother since her father left Florida to become a cop in New York City. The girls are desperate for loving attention, answers, and support. They give it to each other as they also receive it from responsive adults in the community.

At first, competitors for the crown, the girls judge Louisiana to be the most needy and deserving of the $1,975 prize money and encourage her to use her beautiful singing voice as her talent. The Three Rancheros, as Louisiana names the group, support Raymie through the death of a beloved neighbor, save a pitiful howling dog from the dog shelter, and help Raymie retrieve her book about Florence Nightingale from the senior nursing home. Beverly, always the independent, unconventional voice of reason, picks locks to illegally enter premises to achieve what they set out to do.

In the end, Raymie literally saves Louisiana from certain death by drowning and is eternally grateful to her swimming instructor who taught her how to save Louisiana before he went away, and also remembered to say good-bye before he left. Raymie is now known as Raymie Nightingale. “It was the easiest thing in the world to save somebody. For the first time, she understood Florence Nightingale and her lantern and the bright and shining path. She understood why Edward Option, the librarian, had given her the book. For just a minute, she understood everything in the whole world … She was Ramie Nightingale, coming to the rescue.”

This is a simple, charming book, low key but increasingly powerful near the end. To be honest, I found it boring and uneventful in the beginning and almost stopped reading. The pace picked up and the events and characters became more complex. Reading this book is like spending a lazy day where nothing seems to happen but suddenly it does. I’m happy I continued with this sweet, emotionally satisfying story.

 

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

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 2019

Book Review: Is There Still Sex in the City? by Candace Bushnell

Book Review: Is There Still Sex in the City? by Candace Bushnell (2019) 5 Stars *****

In case the name Candace Bushnell sounds familiar, Candace is the originator of the Sex in the City series starring Sarah Jessica Parker who played Carrie Bradshaw— sweet, lovable, conscientious, reasonable, head on straight kind of young woman who sometimes is confused what the right thing is, but acts anyway and accepts the consequences. Always analyzing, studying, wondering, Candace and Carrie Bradshaw both share these qualities. In Candace’s newest book, the dating situation of today’s middle-aged New York City/Hamptons woman is explored and explained. Not a pretty sight. Society and life have changed since the 1980s when the sexes were not at war, men dominated situations, and most women still needed men for financial security, impregnation, and social acceptance.

Voila! Times have sure changed! I laughed out loud quite a few times as this book analyzes and presents today’s dating situation in a very true light. No lofty philosophies going on here. Often ridiculous and shallow, modern dating in our society has gone down the tubes. Dependent on social media for interaction, women and men are swiping left, right, and any which way to hook a date for Saturday night.

Today’s middle-aged woman often finds herself with an ace up her sleeve. Educated and financially solvent, she can improve the appearance of lines and wrinkles, get that tummy tucked, and all body fat sucked out while having her female parts lifted, made bigger, and rejuvenated. The Mona Lisa Technique makes the vag supple and slippery, like in the old days! Three treatments for $3,000 in the doctor’s office. This technique does for women what viagara does for men. A lot more costly, but it works!

So, many of these women, after being dumped by their back-stabbing husbands for a younger, money-loving replacement, now have the means to attract their very own boy toy. This physical perfection combined with a beautiful home in a tony neighborhood, especially a Hamptons house with a pool, a fancy car or driver, open-minded family and friends, an upwardly mobile string of invitations, enough spending money to flash around, now allows this once defunct woman to play very nicely with friends. So the boy toys are not permanent? Who cares? There are more where that one came from. A lonely life? Not as lonely as the one before!

Now, there is a whole new set of things to consider. Beware of the hot man who needs a temporary place to live. You might have to forcibly kick him out. Beware of the Tinder online dating hookup. Men openly expect to have one way sex, whereby a woman’s lipstick would get very smeared. (I’m trying to be delicate here.) Beware of the guys who look young and innocent. They could be underage jailbait looking for a blackmail opportunity. Check out those drivers’ licenses! Beware of the rich much, much older man who sees his face and body from forty years ago when he looks in the mirror. Eyesight problems? No, perception problems. Arrogance such as this never goes away.

Funny and sad at the same time.

Despite all the rejects, bad experiences, users and losers, there are nice men out there—not enough to go around, but if you’re lucky and allow the quiet, open, honest, hard-working, thoughtful men into your life, who knows?

I had the pleasure of meeting the author, Candace Bushnell, at the East Hampton Library’s Authors Night in August of this year. Friendly. So pretty. Sweet. Kind. Gentle. And with the new man in her life right next to her, his handsome face proudly beaming whenever he looked at Candace! Congratulations to Candace for finding happiness with someone deserving of her love.

 

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

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 2019

Book Review: The Farm by Joanne Ramos

Book Review: The Farm by Joanne Ramos  (2019) 3 Stars  ***

If you look closely at the cover photo, this seemingly abstract design will morph into three pregnant women’s bodies. This is the kind of farm where surrogate mothers grow babies inside their bodies for wealthy clients who either cannot conceive or maintain a pregnancy or who prefer not to go through the physical, time consuming inconvenience. It is a work of fiction based on true stories from the author’s experience with Filipina and other Asian, South American, and Caribbean women who have worked as nannies, baby nurses, housekeepers, and cleaning ladies.

A take-off of The Handmaid’s Tale?

The story is set in New York’s Queens and Westchester Counties. “Golden Oaks hired women to be surrogates. If you were chosen to be a Host you lived in a luxury house in the middle of the countryside where your only job was to rest and keep the baby inside you healthy. According to Mrs. Rubio, Golden Oaks’ clients were the richest, most important people from all over the world, and for carrying their babies Hosts were paid a great deal of money.” The Hosts are taught that their work is sacred since, “These are the types of people you will be helping at Golden Oaks. People who are changing the world.”

The problem in this Utopian farm is that the Hosts are treated like chattel, losing their independence, privacy, and personal contact with family and friends. The clients who pay for their services have the power to dictate how much personal freedom is to be allowed. The Hosts are constantly monitored for stress levels, too much weight gain, consuming junk foods, negative thoughts and attitudes, and the power to incite rebellious or questioning behaviors.

After her marriage falls apart, Jane, the predominantly main character, leaves her baby daughter in the care of her trusted cousin so that she might accumulate great sums of money to help herself, her baby and her cousin. Timid, quiet, innocent Jane soon learns who she can and cannot trust as the manipulations of the staff at Golden Oaks, her family and friends all conspire to keep her from fully understanding the plight of her child and the family and friends she has come to mistrust.

In the abrupt, unsatisfying ending, it all works out for Jane but the the fate of the other characters with their tangled webs is ignored. This book plods along with weighty extraneous details and musings. The pace quickens about three quarters through when an apparent injection of caffeine moves the action.

Sorry, but this book is an example of it’s who you know with its numerous positive reviews on the back cover. “Firecracker of a novel, relevant, timely, page turner, chilling, highly original.” Really? Ho-hum as far as I’m concerned.

Joanne Ramos, born in the Philippines and raised in Wisconsin, is a Princeton University graduate who apparently suffers from priviledge guilt. The author hired a Filipina nanny for her kids. Was this an exploitation? Why in her Author’s Note is every immigrant a victim if they have to work hard in menial jobs to get started in a new country? All of our immigrant relatives—parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins— did the same. And yes, they also sent money home to help struggling relatives. The difference is previous generations were thankful for the opportunities. They viewed themselves as empowered whereas today’s immigrants are portrayed as victims by Ms. Ramos. Yes, it’s tough starting life over in a new country but please, let’s not magnify the economic disparity. Everyone has to start somewhere. Most immigrants improve their standard of living after a few years so let’s praise them instead of pitying them. Looking down on their situations judge them as inferior. Allow them to rise in their own time, in their own way. 

 

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

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 2019

Book Review: Tidelands by Philippa Gregory

Book Review: Tidelands by Philippa Gregory (2019) 5 Stars*****

True to her history of writing about strong, independent, and therefore powerful women, the author does not disappoint with her portrayal of Alinor. The story begins in the churchyard in the tidelands on Sealsea Island, England in 1648 on Midsummer Eve with Alinor hoping to encounter the ghost of her abusive husband to  determine if his abandonment of her and their two children led to his death or if he just left them high and dry by choice.

Instead, she encounters a handsome, charming, elegant man who admits he is a Catholic priest posing as an Anglican minister so he may act as a spy and assist in returning the imprisoned King Charles to the throne of England, endangering his life and the lives of all those involved in aiding and abetting this papist a royalist. The magnetic attraction between Alinor and Mr. James Summer is unmistakeable. “I didn’t know there could be a woman like you, in a place like this.” A strong bond forms with Alinor becoming a confidante, privy to his plans, protecting him in every possible way, despite the fact that she is not sympathetic to James’ political affiliations. This blind loyalty brings dire consequences.

Alinor’s family benefits from this association by being paid outright and by the hiring of her son as a companion to the son of a wealthy man, also sympathetic to the king’s cause. Alinor strives to improve the plight of her family. She acts as a licensed midwife/herbalist, catches fish to salt and sell, traps lobsters, dries herbs and produces healing oils, works at the mill, helps transport passengers on her brother’s ferry, and nurses the sick. Although excluded from power, wealth and education, Alinor is ambitious for herself and her children and encourages excellence through the rewards of hard work. Failure is not an option.

Rob, the handsome, brilliant, responsible son, is a model of obedience and cooperation. Alys, the cunningly beautiful, fiery, bender of rules, lives by the code of her own morality, never anticipating the consequences of her actions. Many people mistakenly believe Alinor, with her ethereal beauty, accomplishments, high-achieving children and knowledge of herbs, to be a faerie temptress, a charmer or even a witch. Despite her great kindnesses and generous spirit, Alinor  becomes the target of malicious gossip and violence.

Mr. James Summer? It’s hard not to spoil the story by my assessment of this immature, self-serving, fickle, poor example of a man. Dedicated to ideals rather than people, this slinking-in-dark-hiding-places character reveals his soul to be as dark as the places in which he hides. Ugh!

The title of this book, I believe, is symbolic. Just as the tide ebbs and flows, covering up truths with high tide, trapping travelers in muck and mire in low tide, so go the lives and actions of the residents of this strung tighter than a violin, fearful island.

With a stunning surprise ending, Alys devises an extraordinary plan to quickly bring the story to resolution. I assume the author will write a sequel to this saga, so the readers might rest easy, knowing their beloved Alinor is safe and happy at last. I can only hope.

 

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

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 2019

Book Review: Heels of Steel by Barbara Kavovit

Book Review: Heels Of Steel by Barbara Kavovit (2019) 3 Stars ***                              

How much is Barbara Kavovit’s life and how much belongs to the fictional character Bridget Steele? Growing up in the borough of the Bronx in New York City, our main character Bridget’s father teaches her about the construction business and how to pack a solid punch into the noses of any punks or overly aggressive business contacts she might come across. And yes, she does use this super power!

Our author, Barbara Kavovit, is currently appearing on Bravo’s The Real Housewives of New York. The back cover of this book reminds us, “Barbara is a construction trailblazer and woman’s tool creator who founded one of the first general contracting and construction management firms in New York, becoming one of Crain’s 100 Most Influential women in Business by the time she was thirty.” Very impressive.

This brings me to the book character Bridget Steele. I hope this book is not biographical because this supposedly tough, smart, ambitious business woman in a man’s world, teetering on stiletto heels and wanting to be taken seriously, makes ridiculous decisions whenever she’s in the presence of a great set of pecs and abs, endangering and losing business. As much as Bridget vows not to let it happen, she again does the same stupid things.

The book is repetitious to a fault. How many times do men have to point out how gorgeous and sexy her body is, how pretty her face is, how good she smells, how smart she is? It seems like it was every page and even for a woman who possesses all these assets, it’s too much. The same goes for the descriptions of the men in her life. Some have more smarts and integrity than others, but for a supposedly tough woman, she’s putty in their hands every time she checks out their muscles. Dialogue gives the impression of instant replay, over and over and over and over. You get the picture.

Bridget Steele shows us how corrupt the construction industry is in New York. She learns the game in order to prosper. “Bridget liked to play dirty. It got shit done.” No business rival is safe as she pilfers business proposals and steals talented employees from her competitors. In all fairness, these guys do the same kinds of things, so she’s not usually preying on the innocent except for one time when she betrayed a good guy who later aggravated her, in a sense getting her revenge ahead of time.

Schmoozing is a full time job in this industry. Dinners, drinks, kick backs, bribes, threats, tickets, parties, attractive and  willing women, favors, sabotage, revenge—the merry-go-round of big business. So happy I don’t work there!

Here’s an example of how Bridget deals with stress. After she tosses a drink in the face of a powerful Manhattan male industry leader, who has betrayed her in business and has just made a pass at her, Bridget socks this guy in the nose. Big time! She reminds him, “Yeah, “she spat at him as he stayed bent over, his back heaving, dark red blood oozing between his fingers, “you’re right, Mark. I’m not from around here.” He looked up at her, and she saw fear in his eyes. “And I advise that you never forget that.”

Why did this happen? No muscles! That’s my guess.

I had the pleasure of meeting the author at a book signing. She’s a sweet, warm, friendly person, much prettier and more petite than she appears on TV. By the way, I didn’t see any of her Housewife of New York friends there. Maybe she was better off not having to share the spotlight with random hysterics.

This is her first novel. Maybe next time around, she’ll take time to learn the craft. Writing appears easy. It’s not.

 

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

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 2019

Book Review: Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

Book Review: Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens (2019) 5 Stars *****

Delia Owens, a wildlife scientist in Africa, has astounded the world with her first novel Where the Crawdads Sing. Set in the Outer Banks marshes of North Carolina in the 1950s and 1960s, we meet six year old Kya, who has been abandoned one by one as her mother and siblings escape a drunken, abusive, irresponsible, neglectful father and literally leave her to fend for herself, each deciding to heal their emotional turmoil and physical pain in some other place, leaving the baby of the family as someone else’s responsibility.

By the time she is ten years old, Kya’s father also just walks away without explanation, leaving Kya without money, resources or hope. An outcast living in isolation and shame, Kya draws on her inner strength to find ways to generate income so she can eat and buy gasoline for her little boat that is her lifeline to the rest of the world. The Marsh Girl, as she is derisively called, grows up to be a beautiful, self-educated woman, loved and abandoned by two very different men, leaving emotional scars never to be healed, and embroiling her in scandal that haunts her for a lifetime. The ending of this book might surprise you, but then again, maybe not. Any reader understanding Kya’s innate intelligence and inner turmoil would never expect anything different from her.

Being an industrious, resourceful child, Kya generates income by selling mussels and smoked fish which enables her to subsist mostly on grits and whatever root vegetables she can grow in her marshy garden. Tate, a kind neighbor boy, teaches Kya to read, brings her books, and quietly looks after her from afar as they grow into adulthood. Kya is also befriended by Jumpin’ and his wife Mabel, an African-American couple in the rural south, who unobtrusively help and protect the proud and independent Kya. Kya’s accomplishments surpass all expectations. Living in the modern world is not an option. Kya’s beloved marsh offers a place of comfort and safety and a pathway to critical acclaim.

This book is filled with beautiful sensory images, metaphors, and similes.
Some examples:
*A floating mat of duckweed colored the water as green as the leafy ceiling, creating an emerald tunnel.
*Suddenly the ocean’s face—gray, stern, pulsing—frowned at her.
*Egrets took flight, a line of white flags against the mounting gray clouds.
*…Kya eased alone through the sea toward the village, the sky in a frumpy sweater of gray clouds.
*As evening fell, she took her blanket and slept in the marsh, close to a gully full of moon and mussels, and had two tow bags filled by dawn. Gas money.

Where do the crawdads sing? “Just means far in the bush where critters are wild, still behaving like critters.” The author emphasizes the differences between marsh and swamp. Its symbolism extends to Kia’s life journey. Keep this in mind while you enjoy the book.

 

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

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 2019

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

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