Novel Review: The Story of Beautiful Girl by Rachel Simon

Lately, I’ve been trying open myself to non-paranormal romances (PR). If you’ve ever read my post on why I choose to write in the paranormal romance genre (see here), you probably figured out I have no loyalty to genres. After several years of reading PR almost exclusively, I’m wanting something more. When I happened upon The Story of Beautiful Girl by Rachel Simon, I couldn’t help but request it from NetGalley and was approved for a review copy. Before we go into the review, the blurb from Ms. Simon’s website.

It is 1968. Lynnie, a young white woman with a developmental disability, and Homan, an African American deaf man, are locked away in an institution, the School for the Incurable and Feebleminded, and have been left to languish, forgotten. Deeply in love, they escape, and find refuge in the farmhouse of Martha, a retired schoolteacher and widow. But the couple is not alone-Lynnie has just given birth to a baby girl. When the authorities catch up to them that same night, Homan escapes into the darkness, and Lynnie is caught. But before she is forced back into the institution, she whispers two words to Martha: “Hide her.” And so begins the 40-year epic journey of Lynnie, Homan, Martha, and baby Julia-lives divided by seemingly insurmountable obstacles, yet drawn together by a secret pact and extraordinary love.

This work started out well–abandoned baby to an older woman, missing man, and a woman taken against her will. Definitely an intriguing set up. Once the stakes were set, I had a difficult time staying involved. Starting with Martha, the elderly lady: she tended to ramble and jump back and forth between the past and present in ways which were jarring. Her general purpose seemed to be to show the baby’s location. Though Martha encountered quite a few people, I cared very little for the side characters in her story as the mentions were brief and typically mundane.

Of all the characters, I enjoyed Lynnie the most. Though she had mental deficiencies, she seemed strong in social skills and managed to communicate in unconventional ways. I loved her strength and the compassion she showed to others… even those whom deserved little.

Homan, I thought, had the most interesting story. His theme was out of the frying pan, into the fire. However, I had a difficult time connecting with him. He had  humongous gaps in his education, which seemed preventable considering the connections he had prior to going on the run. I guess it was just hard for me to understand how someone with family and friends who loved him would not know simple things, like how to spend money. Thankfully for him, he had quite a few lucky breaks. Add that to his resourcefulness, and he managed to stay afloat well enough.

In some ways, the story had a spiritual undertone in which the characters believed in the big picture (someone in the sky watching over them or having a greater plan), but the book never really made the actual connection. It was almost as if the author wanted to plant a seed in the readers’ mind but failed to go all the way. It would have been nice for the author to make a commitment in this area–either present a spiritual message or not, rather than a lukewarm message with no spiritual resolution.

Really, this work had a lot of potential. In many ways, it reminded me of the literature I read when I was younger: I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Of Mice and Men, Flowers for Algenon. Not that the writing style was similar, but more on the lines of realism… where suffering happens because that’s just the way life is. Unfortunately, the presentation was lacking.

You can find The Story of Beautiful Girl by Rachel Simon at:

The Book Depository

Barnes & Nobles

Sunday Showcase #5

Okay… this week I got a little greedy at the NetGalley. I’m going to make good on them though. They’re all at the top of my reading list. I’m starting to get the hang of this NetGalley thing. I’ve learned not all copies are available for the Kindle, so I’ve been declining those that would require me to sit in front of the computer to read. Before my Kindle I would have read a galley copy with little complaint. With so many books available to read on my Kindle, constraining myself to a computer screen seems a bit pointless. Enough blab about convenience… on to my weekly grabs.

Life hasn’t been easy on sixteen-year-old Emma Conner, so a new start in New York may be just the change she needs. But the posh Upper East Side prep school she has to attend? Not so much. Friendly faces are few and far between, except for one that she’s irresistibly drawn to—Brendan Salinger, the guy with the rock-star good looks and the richest kid in school, who might just be her very own white knight.

But even when Brendan inexplicably turns cold, Emma can’t stop staring. Ever since she laid eyes on him, strange things have been happening. Streetlamps go out wherever she walks, and Emma’s been having the oddest dreams: visions of herself in past lives—visions that warn her to stay away from Brendan. Or else.

Why I picked it up: The cover caught my attention because I think I might have seen this posted on someone’s blog. I read the blurb and thought… maybe. I figured I’d give it a try. This one I received from the NetGalley.

Available at: The Book Depository, Barnes & Nobles

In Beatrice Prior’s dystopian Chicago, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue—Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is—she can’t have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.

During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles to determine who her friends really are—and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes infuriating boy fits into the life she’s chosen. But Tris also has a secret, one she’s kept hidden from everyone because she’s been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers a growing conflict that threatens to unravel her seemingly perfect society, she also learns that her secret might help her save those she loves . . . or it might destroy her.

Debut author Veronica Roth bursts onto the literary scene with the first book in the Divergent series—dystopian thrillers filled with electrifying decisions, heartbreaking betrayals, stunning consequences, and unexpected romance.

Why I picked it up: I’ve been seeing this cover for months and months now and love it. I’ve just got into the young adult genre last year and have developed a fondness for dystopia. It doesn’t hurt others have been raving about this one. Well, my copy finally came in this past week. It took me two days to read it. Let’s just say I enjoyed it. Though it’s early yet and the post won’t go live until June 6, 2011, here’s the review link for those who visit in the future.

Available at: The Book Depository, Barnes & Nobles

It is 1968. Lynnie, a young white woman with a developmental disability, and Homan, an African American deaf man, are locked away in an institution, the School for the Incurable and Feebleminded, and have been left to languish, forgotten. Deeply in love, they escape, and find refuge in the farmhouse of Martha, a retired schoolteacher and widow. But the couple is not alone-Lynnie has just given birth to a baby girl. When the authorities catch up to them that same night, Homan escapes into the darkness, and Lynnie is caught. But before she is forced back into the institution, she whispers two words to Martha: “Hide her.” And so begins the 40-year epic journey of Lynnie, Homan, Martha, and baby Julia-lives divided by seemingly insurmountable obstacles, yet drawn together by a secret pact and extraordinary love.

Why I picked it up: I saw this advertised on Goodreads and clicked on the link for  more information. I’m a little up in the air about this one. Though the story sounds intriguing, I’m a bit skeptical about a novel spanning 40 years. How does one squeeze so much in a tiny little work? 🙂 Still, I’m going to give it a try. In fact, I’m starting it tonight. Who knows? I might be pleasantly surprised. I found this offered on the NetGalley and was approved for it. Thanks again NetGalley.

Available at: The Book Depository, Barnes & Nobles

“Once upon a time there was a girl who was special. This is not her story. Unless you count the part where I killed her.”

Sixteen-year-old Alison wakes up in a mental institution. As she pieces her memory back together, she realizes she’s confessed to murdering Tori Beaugrand, the most perfect girl at school. But the case is a mystery. Tori’s body has not been found, and Alison can’t explain what happened. One minute she was fighting with Tori. The next moment Tori disintegrated—into nothing.

But that’s impossible. No one is capable of making someone vanish. Right? Alison must be losing her mind—like her mother always feared she would.

For years Alison has tried to keep her weird sensory abilities a secret. No one ever understood—until a mysterious visiting scientist takes an interest in Alison’s case. Suddenly, Alison discovers that the world is wrong about her—and that she’s capable of far more than anyone else would believe.

Why I picked it up: Okay, this is just weird. I really don’t know what to expect from this one. Curiosity about what’s going on with Alison and her abilities has me intrigued. I don’t think this is available yet, but you can preorder it. Another NetGalley copy.

Available at: The Book Depository, Barnes & Nobles

By all accounts, Jake Daniels should have died when his SUV collided head-on with a moving truck. Now the vision of the mysterious woman who saved his life is consuming his every thought. A formerly nonreligious person, Jake becomes obsessed with learning more about angels, near-death experiences and spirituality. He leaves his fiancée and art career on hold to travel the country searching for the mystery woman, who he believes is an angel. As he’s drawn into a series of earth-shattering angel and demon experiences, Jake discovers he’s being prepared for an imperative task-to step into world affairs to prevent the clash of civilizations and reverse the violence and hatred of the post-9/11 world. As his search for answers leads him around the world and across faith traditions, Jake questions: Why him? Why now? And is it too late?

A riveting novel about the urgent spiritual and political questions we face in the 21st century, Messengers will leave you reconsidering your outlook on life and death-and why we are here.

Why I picked it up: I don’t pick up too many spiritual books these days. I would like to get back into Christian reading again. I came across the Messengers and it looked intense. I’m so hoping it is. Anyway, another NetGalley copy. I told you I went overboard.

Available at: Barnes & Nobles and The Book Depository

A free woman of color in the 1830s, Margaret Morgan lived a life full of promise. One frigid night in Pennsylvania, that changed forever. They tore her family apart. They put her in chains. They never expected her to fight back. In 1837, Margaret Morgan was kidnapped from her home in Pennsylvania and sold into slavery. The state of Pennsylvania charged her kidnapper with the crime, but the conviction was later overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court. It was the first time a major branch of the federal government had made a pro-slavery stand, and the ruling in Prigg v. Pennsylvania sewed the bitter seeds of the states’ rights battle that eventually would lead to the Civil War. Yet, the heart of this story is not a historic Supreme Court ruling. It is the remarkable, unforgettable Margaret Morgan. Her life would never be the same. Her family had been torn apart. Uncaring forces abused her body and her heart. But she refused to give up, refused to stop fighting, refused to allow her soul to be enslaved.

Why I picked it up: I believe I also saw this advertised on Goodreads, and it appealed to me as a fictional history lesson. I only hope the writing isn’t as redundant as the blurb. 🙂 I also found this on NetGalley and was approved for a copy.

Available at: The Book Depository, Barnes & Nobles