I read some interesting and thought-provoking books in September. In today’s blog post, I’ll share my reactions to three of the novels I read. I hope you’ll be inspired to add one or more of them to your reading list.
Dragonfly Escaping, Noor’s Story: Book One, by Raya Khedker
I learned about this novel through the Jennifer Tar Heel Reader book blog. After reading Jennifer’s review of the book, I went on Twitter to find out a little more about the author.
On Twitter I found a discussion about the book’s cover. I chimed in that I liked the cover, and the author and I enjoyed several days of messaging to one another about the struggles of writing and publishing.
The story immediately grabbed my attention and I knew I was hooked and would have to keep reading to find out what happened to Noor Zulfiker. Noor is bound in an arranged marriage to Rajat, an older man who is a physician and her parents think will be quite a catch for their daughter. But Noor is in love with a young man named Chirag Jagdev. Chirag isn’t rich and his financial future isn’t potentially as bright as the doctor’s.
There is physical abuse, so very soon the reader really starts pulling for the teenage Noor and hoping Rajat gets his comeuppance.
This book shines a light on the emotional and physical abuse the women in India are subjected to by men. Noor is abused from all directions and desperately wants to leave India. It is raw and unrelenting in this first novel of a planned series about Noor.
If you like exotic locations, Dragonfly Escaping takes place in New Dehli and Lima over a span of 1979 to 1992, with connections and references to Spain and Canada thrown in for interest.
If you aren’t put off by reading about an abusive relationship, I recommend this novel by Raya Khedker. It’s her debut novel and it was released in January 2022. Lo and behold, Dragonfly Hunting: Noor’s Story: Book Two, was released last week – on September 27 – so I’m already playing catch-up!
I look forward to whatever Raya Khedker and Noor have in store for us in Book Two.
Raya Khedker was born in India and currently lives in the United States.
In an Instant, by Suzanne Redfearn
This novel is written through the eyes of Finn, a 16-year-old girl. Spoiler alert: She’s alive in the beginning of the book but is soon dead. Probably 95% of the book is told through Finn’s eyes and ears as she moves about at will and reports how everyone reacts to her death and the other related events. It is a clever format.
The story is compelling. It delves into each person’s reaction to the incident that takes Finn’s life. It’s about family dynamics, friendships, and how individuals react to a traumatic situation. Each of us knows how we think or hope we’d react in a given circumstance, but do we truly know how we’d react when push comes to shove?
On the negative side, I had to suspend disbelief throughout a sizeable segment of the book as, although all the characters were in a situation of total darkness, they were able to move about and see everything clearly.
Also, I think the author gave Fen a vocabulary and level of understanding that a typical 16-year-old doesn’t have. And, speaking of vocabulary, I find the overuse of expletives offensive and it cheapens the writing. This becomes especially noticeable when one is listening to a book. It was excessive and pulled me out of the story. John Grisham is a reasonably successful novelist even though it is his policy and practice to not use curse words or raunchy language in his books. If John Grisham can have a lucrative writing career without using foul language, perhaps others should follow his example.
I thought the Easter dinner scene was forced. Why would a family that showed absolutely no religious inclinations suddenly put a tremendous emphasis on a traditional Easter ham dinner?
All that said, I reiterate that In an Instant is a gripping story and the premise of a person’s spirit being able to continue to roam the earth and see and hear intimate conversations and activities of family and friends is a bit unsettling and gives much food for thought.
The Midnight Library, by Matt Haig
When Nora Seed “decides to die,” she finds herself in The Midnight Library. Her school librarian from long ago is there to explain to Nora that The Midnight Library isn’t exactly the afterlife. It’s an endless library of books – each one giving you the chance to undo your regrets and do something different. It’s between life and death. Disgusted at first to be there, Nora eventually appreciates the opportunities it provides.
The novel involves the theory or idea of parallel universes and allows Nora to move from one life to another and experience or re-experience an occupation or family situation.
The lesson this novel teaches is that every decision we make has an outcome. A different decision at any given time could have changed the course of our lives.
I didn’t know what to expect when I checked out the book on CD. I thoroughly enjoyed listening to it to see what Nora’s next experience would be and how it was all going to turn out for her.
The only irritation I felt in listening to the book was the fact that the British reader pronounced “library” the way the English do, turning this three-syllable word into a two-syllable word.” It’s like fingernails on a chalkboard to me. If you’re too young to understood the analogy, I’m afraid I can’t help you.
Since my last blog post
Here in the southern piedmont of North Carolina, it rained sideways all day on Friday and felt more like winter than autumn as what was left of Hurricane Ian passed through after making its third landfall near Georgetown, South Carolina. We came through it unscathed, though, and for that I’m relieved and thankful.
I’ve been working on my genealogy. I knew that three of my 16 g-g-g-grandmothers were Neelys. Last week I found their father’s will and discovered they were sisters. I guess that means I’m my own cousin. Small gene pool here in the 1700s!
Until my next blog post
My heart goes out to all the people severely affected by Hurricane Ian in Cuba, all over Florida, and the east coast of the US.
Today I’m excited to begin taking a three-day online workshop about writing a book series. It’s sure to help me as I continue to work on The Heirloom and its sequel, The Doubloon.
I hope you have a good book to read this week.
Don’t forget the brave people of Ukraine.