“Reading gives us someplace to go when we have to stay where we are.” – Mason Cooley
Especially true in April 2020! – “Stay home, stay healthy, and read.” — B. Lynn Goodwin
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- DARLING ROSE GOLD
- Written by Stephanie Wrobel and Reviewed by B. Lynn Goodwin
- ISBN-13: 978-0593100066
- Berkley (March 17, 2020)
Manipulation and Munchausen
And then there’s the truth…
How twisted can a mother-daughter relationship get? You just might find a new answer to this question in Stephanie Wrobel’s debut thriller Darling Rose Gold. Dysfunctional barely scratches the surface.
Patty Watts serves a five-year term in prison for subjecting her daughter, Rose Gold, to Munchausen syndrome by proxy. Rose Gold is in a wheel chair and has permanently damaged teeth when she testifies against her mother in court. Five years later, when the mother is out of jail and has nowhere to go, Rose Gold reconciles with her and invites her into her home with her new son Adam temporarily. When Rose Gold drives her mother, Patty, home from jail, Patty discovers she’s purchased the house where Patty grew up. Though she hates the place where she destroyed her daughter, Patty cannot see an alternative. Naturally, Rose Gold is guarded about letting her mother care for her son, but in time she becomes more trusting.
After all, she’s a competent woman whose health has been restored. Or is she? As you read this book, told in alternating mother and daughter voices, you will love and hate both of these damaged women. Mothers never forget. Daughters never forgive. Relationships are complex and there are so many reasons to love and hate both of these women.
Who is telling the truth in this complex exploration of loss, betrayal, forgiveness, and total sham? Wrobel has skillfully crafted a novel that exposes this relationship fully. She’s a rising talent with unique stories to tell.
- THE SUNDOWN MOTEL
- Written by Simone St. James and Reviewed by B. Lynn Goodwin
- ISBN # 978-0440000174
- Berkeley Books / Penguin Random House
- (February 18, 2020)
Both Disturbing and Intriguing
Trust your instincts. If you feel something’s wrong, it probably is. If you suspect that a serial killer is lurking, you could be right, regardless of what the authorities around you keep saying.
Something is wrong in fictitious Fell, NY. Women keep disappearing, including Carly’s Aunt Vivian. Her mother won’t speak about it, but after Mom dies, Carley drops out of college to play amateur detective and figure out what really happened to her missing aunt.
Taking the same job Aunt Viv had, night clerk at The Sun Down Motel, which is stuck in a time warp, she soon feels, sees, and hears that something odd or paranormal is going on. Curious, she asks a lot of questions about doors that open themselves, prank calls to the front desk, and the mysterious smell of cigarette smoke in 2017. What does it mean, how did it start, and why is it continuing after all these years?
The events are both disturbing and intriguing. The story alternates between 1982 when Vivian Delaney died and 2017 when Carly Kirk comes to town. Both women have roommates. Both live in the same apartment. Both are curious about the sounds and smells haunting the hotel as well as the few visitors who frequent the run-down establishment.
Ghosts and suspense combine in author Simone St. James’s capable hands. They’re thwarted by a couple of tough older women, still living in the area and keeping their mouths shut. Readers will love the atmosphere as the two stories compete and blend to make this an unforgettable story.
- THE DRAW: A MEMOIR
- Written by Lee Siegel and Reviewed by Fran Mason
- Farrar, Straus and Giroux (April 4, 2017). 250 pages.
- ASIN: B01M0Q0P9B
A Family’s Debts
This tightly written coming-of-age memoir made me sit up and pay attention right away, with an “incandescent coin” and a head-spinning two-sided view of Siegel’s grandfather as Siegel heads to college. By the end, we’ve seen what male immaturity and desperation look like from the inside, and what children many of us still are when we start making important decisions.
Siegel’s father was ruined by debt; Siegel is forced to borrow money for college.
For me, this was not his most interesting problem. Seeing him learn to assert his feelings and needs, after growing up isolated inside a creepy family dynamic and a world of scarcity, is the facet of this book that shines the brightest for me.
We see again and again how forebears’ unfortunate ways of coping with their damaged lives infect each generation. Siegel doesn’t hesitate to read minds, describing with confidence the emotions and needs that drive other people. His own challenges emerge so inevitably from the fraught interactions he describes that I tend to trust his assertions.
Siegel does not spare his young self an unflattering portrayal. He flatly reports actions of his own that must have been hard to share. His blindly jealous treatment of his girlfriend and his reaction to a rebuke by an employer are two of many examples that I found painful to read. He’s a sympathetic character — barely — and I admired his honesty as a writer.
Dialogue is often so boiling with repressed emotion that even “he said” would interrupt the momentum. On those occasions dialogue comes in the style of a play, and characters are hurled into problems of their own making, which are seamlessly shown to have roots in the past. Siegel concludes episodes with artfully presented insights that draw satisfying larger truths from his tales of struggle.
Fran Mason has been keeping a journal since age ten and is writing a memoir of loss in childhood. She has worked as a trade-magazine editor, a technical writer, and a project manager. In 2008 she left office life to build a career as a strength coach. These days she can be found powerlifting in her garage in Seattle. She has a B.A. in Fiction Writing from Columbia College Chicago and has pursued continuing education in nonfiction writing at the University of Washington.
- MONEY MATTERS
- Written by Brian Finney and Reviewed by B. Lynn Goodwin
- ISBN: 978-0999800317
- KDP (August 23, 2019)
Gutsy Woman Fights Back
What does money have to do with integrity? Clearly money cannot buy either honesty or integrity but it’s used to highlight the underside of politics in Brian Finney’s novel Money Matters, a novel of “illegal” immigrants being deported without due process, and the politicians who put them in that place for personal profit.
So how does a naïve protagonist, still finding her way in the world, become the heroine of such a story? Her two jobs, the disappearance of a generous woman, and her friendship with the maid of a man whose plants she tends all play a role. While resolving the mystery of Susan, who disappeared, she encounters corrupt politicians and a Baja drug cartel. She also finds both her spine and her voice.
Set during the election of 2010 in Southern California, this is a story about right and wrong, about money and corruption, about rights, gutsiness, and the cleverness of a woman without much to lose—except her love. A touch of romance and a bit of sibling rivalry round out the story, which goes beyond either mystery or thriller to encompass political issues that have only gotten more fierce and frightening since the 2010 election. This is a timely tale as well as an entertaining one.
Author Brian Finney has written eight non-fiction books. Born in England, he taught at the University of London as well as four universities in Southern California.
Labeled YA but suitable for all ages:
- A LIFE, REDEFINED (Rowan Slone)
- Written by Tracy Hewitt Meyer and Reviewed by B. Lynn Goodwin
- BHC Press
- Release Date: 3/12/2020
Emotional Honesty Reigns
How can anyone redefine who she or he is? As adults we know we can change ourselves but we can’t change anyone else. For teens the boundaries are not so clear. In Tracy Hewitt Meyer’s dramatic YA, A Life, Redefined, Rowan Sloan is a teenager is trapped. Everyone holds her responsible for the death of her baby brother. Although she was only ten, she was the oldest and took care of her baby brother when her mother couldn’t. After she fed and rocked him and put him to bed, she covered the lower part of his body with a blanket. In the morning he was dead. Her whole family turned on her.
Seven years later, after fighting the guilt imposed by her loveless sister, her obese, depressed mother, and her often-violent father, she wants to free herself. College would be the way out. With encouragement from a boy she’s had a crush on and a secret her Grandmother finally spills, she finds the power to redefine herself. Rowan is reborn. In Meyer’s skilled hands A Life Redefined helps teens look at their lives, surroundings, and choices, and either appreciate their lives or find ways to overcome what is beyond their control.
I love the emotional honesty of YA stories. In A Life, Redefined it’s all about the heroine overcoming obstacles that look insurmountable. Though some moments might be improbably, I read right through them to learn how things turned out. By the end of the story, Rowan finds strategies to make her life work, learning from mistakes, making wise choices, and finding the love that her family could never give her. The teen world is complex and filled with highs and lows. Meyers digs into them fearlessly, creating imagery and a story for teens and adults alike. Read it for yourself and see how much you root for Rowan.