M. K. Theodoratus, Fantasy Writer, blogs about the books she reads--mostly fantasy and mystery authors whose books catch her eye and keep her interest. Nothing so formal as a book review, just chats about what she liked. Theodoratus also mutters about her own writing progress or ... lack of it.

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Monday, October 27, 2014

Does Our Society Change Over Time? What's Your Guess?

Orphan TrainBought Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline somewhere, sometime. Picked it off a stale to-read pile ... and the book kept my interest. The book is a delightful read about the growing friendship of two women -- a 91-year-old survivor of the Orphan Trains, a social experiment to find homes in the midwest for New York City's indigent children between the 1850s to 1929, and a modern goth teen close to "aging out" of the foster care system.

On the surface, the Orphan Trains provided a much needed social service. Some children did find good homes. Others became free servants. Others were downright abused. In fact, they shared similarities with today's social services, only the Orphan Trains were privately funded. Guess they were better than the kids starving on the streets of New York City

Whenever I think about Orphan Trains, I remember the one survivor I once talked to in a Nebraska county museum exhibit. He keep saying he was grateful for the chance; the family that chose him was strict, but he ate well and got to go to school. Still, he kept rubbing on one shoulder or another as he talked, making me wonder if there was more to the story.

Kline took this basic historical information and created a book greater than the two plots would've been alone. Molly, a modern goth with strong convictions, goes into the "system" when her Indian father dies and her mother becomes a druggie. Niamh-Dorothy-Vivian [Her name changed as she was placed in different homes.] went into an orphanage after her Irish immigrant family was killed in a tenement fire, and was taken to the Midwest on one of the last Orphan Trains. Their stories join when Molly is assigned 50 hours of community service for trying to steal a copy of Jane Eyre from the library. A journey of discovery launches for both women.

Even with the twining tales told from alternating viewpoints, the plot lines are fairly simplistic. I found the twists and turns quite predictable, even the growing friendship of the old lady with the high school senior. Found the characterization rather thin too. While each character was distinctive, none of them were three-dimensional. Not even the protagonists. The characters came on stage, did their part, and left. Even the descriptions were labels, eg. the house was a three-story Victorian mansion.

Think this was a well-researched novel, engaging without much depth. I give it 4****.

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The paper edits of The Ghostcrow continue. Soon, I'll be going back and inserting a couple scenes to flesh out my character development of secondary characters. The short story has grown into a novelette again. It seems to be my preferred length.

Do have a short story, short read if you never stray from the Amazon corral, that I'm preparing to publish as a free story, Hear that Damn Owl. Can't see charging 99c for a 15 minute or even 30 minute read. The pic is a cover reveal. Whoo-ho! Not. But I really like the cover... though I think the cover artist is sick of all the modifications I ask for.

Owl was once a flash fiction piece from when I tried to write really short. Results? Think it gave me some training in using one word rather than a phrase. Actually, my free short reads have served another purpose. It gives people a chance to sample my writing without cost...unless the down loader is a freebie hound.

Need to get some beta-reads on this. With luck it'll release during the Christmas rush.


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