Recently, I wrote a guest post on Kayla King’s website, Kayla King’s Books, about reading for fun rather than reading for writing. As I was looking the post over a few days ago, I realized something: this was the first month that I read multiple books, for fun or otherwise, in a long time. I think it should be celebrated, when we read, especially when we finish a full-length work. Given our busy lives and writing schedules (that, if I’m not alone, we consistently neglect in favor of Netflix and napping), reading through 200+ pages of a novel, memoir, or such is extraordinary.
This February, I read three books: The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher, Two Girls Down by Louisa Luna, and Finding Molly: An Adventure in Catsitting by Justine Prado and Jenn St-Onge. Here is my take on them:
The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher
Carrie Fisher’s last memoir was a birthday gift from my boyfriend, Zach, who both understands and shares my affinity for all thing Star Wars, and subsequently my obsession with all things Carrie Fisher (may she rest in peace). I had been meaning to pick up the book since its release over a year ago, but as I tend to do I kept putting it off.
Big mistake. I flew through the pages of this story from the moment I began reading. The actual “diary” portion is sandwiched between (spoilers!) the chapters detailing Fisher’s affair with Harrison Ford, and the aftermath of that affair. Knowing about the affair beforehand, I dove into those chapters expecting the same sassy, jaunty tone of the princess we all know and love, giving the juicy deets in a tabloidesque fashion.
What I did not expect was so much heartbreak, so much insecurity, and so much hurt bleeding from the words penned by a 19-year-old girl, and recalled by a 60-year-old woman. Foolishness, on my part. Nineteen is a very young age, in most cases too young to know what love is, but still old enough to feel its effects. And who wouldn’t love, and wish for love from, Harrison Ford? Fisher’s narrative tells us what went down and how, through the snippets from her journal and her own recollections and, when we are just starting to hate Ford for letting her fall so hard for him, she tells us what a good man he really is, and we have to assume she means it.
Reading through those chapters, my heart broke for her, myself, and every girl who has ever loved someone so completely with no return, but, like Fisher, we all tried to stitch ourselves back together in the end. I found it a little difficult to get through the last section of the book, which discussed Fisher’s aversion to the “celebrity lap dance” (signing autographs for money). It seemed a little out of place with the rest of the story, which focused on Fisher’s time on the set of Star Wars: A New Hope, and it felt a little rushed. I wonder if, given more time, Fisher would have written another book that dove more into the seediness of fame, and her experience with it. I also wonder if she already has written a book about that, but since I haven’t read anything else by her I can’t be sure.
Two Girls Down by Louisa Luna
This book was a pleasant return to my favorite genre: crime mystery. Though I have recently devoted my time to writing in this genre, I had not read or watched many thrillers since my early years of college (when I stopped reading Harlan Coben books and watching NCIS — the first was my own fault, the second theirs). I’m a member of the Book of the Month Club and Two Girls Down was on the list for January selections, so, deciding to brush up my detective skills, I decided to order it.
The novel’s mystery centers around two girls who are snatched from a shopping mall parking lot, and their distraught family calls famed private investigator Alice Vega to track down the kidnappers. Along the course of the story, Vega picks up a partner, ex-cop Max Caplan, and the two work together to solve the mystery while battling an unhelpful and low-staffed police department.
I won’t give much away, but I will say that I loved this book; the characters are so interesting and fleshed out. Vega is both tough and vulnerable, more inclined to use her fists than her words, but she isn’t the stereotypical “strong female lead” (we all know that one). I didn’t cheer for everything she did in the book, but everything she did was in character and fitting for the story. I also love how the storylines of each character who had a driving force in the plot were wrapped up by the end; I did not feel as if anyone was neglected or forgotten by the final page.
However, I will say that there is a “showdown” about two-thirds of the way into the novel that was way more action packed than the actual finale, and as a result I felt a bit “eh” at the climax. The last bit after that first showdown also seemed rushed, introducing a new plotline that I didn’t think was built up enough in the scenes before. There are also a few pages towards the end that in my opinion don’t fit the rest of the narrative, as they shift to a style of writing that is new to the novel and a bit jarring (you’ll know it when you see it).
All in all, though, I really enjoyed this book. The twist was excellent, something I did not see coming, and the writing effectively made my heart race. I would definitely recommend this one, and this author, to all crime fiction fans.
Finding Molly: An Adventure in Catsitting by Justine Prado and Jenn St-Onge
This one is somewhere between a stand-alone comic and a graphic novel, and I picked it up at Oxford Comics in Atlanta last weekend. I was drawn to it, not because of the cats, or the fact that the protagonist’s name rhymes with Holley, but because of the notebook she seems to be scribbling in on the cover, which immediately set off an alarm in my head, screaming, “Writer! A story about writing!”
Turns out, Molly is actually an aspiring painter, but, hey, a struggling artist is a struggling artist. Fresh out of art school, Molly is stuck. She’s living with her parents, working for free at a local bookstore, and drawing countless pictures of her cat. When one of those pictures catches the eye of a wealthy Los Angeles resident, though, Molly is launched into the glamorous world of cat portaiting and catsitting. The story follows her adventures in that arena, but also her creative struggle, the shy love she has for a former classmate, and the transition from student artist to actual, working artist. Sound familiar?
It should be no surprise that I’d be taken by a story about a young woman who is trying to make it big in a creative field. Molly and I share some experiences, like posting to a blog, trying to find artistically fulfilling work, and explaining our desires to confused people who nonetheless support our endeavors. We’re also both tired of living at home and ready for change, but when change comes we balk and don’t know how to handle ourselves (the introvert curse).
However, when Molly finally gets her feet under her, she begins to flourish, and I can only hope for the same. I could go on and on about this book, but I will just leave it now with one of the best quotes: “It’s hard out there. Sometimes you need to ask for help. Sometimes you get to help someone else. What matters is that you stay true to yourself and your voice.” Amen, sister.
So that’s what I read this month. In March, I hope to read not three but four books, including two Book of the Month selections (which I need to catch up on) and the novelization of Star Wars: The Last Jedi (remember when I said I love all things Star Wars?). I’m also going to read another graphic novel, Sally Heathcote: Suffragette, a book that follows the feminist militancy of the early 20th century in Britain. I’ll write my review on those at the end of next month.
What did you all read this month?