Favorite Quotes on Books and Reading

"A book is a gift you can open again and again." Garrison Keillor

Literature is a textually transmitted disease, normally contracted in childhood.” Jane Yolen

"It is what you read when you don't have to that determines what you will be when you can't help it." Oscar Wilde

"Books have furnished, burnished, and enabled my life." Julia Keller

Monday, May 27, 2013

Book 117: COMPOSING MYSELF Review

Composing Myself by Elena Aitken
ISBN:  9780991709335 (paperback)
ISBN:  9780991709342 (ebook)
ASIN:  B00CJ1IEAQ (Kindle edition)
Publication date: May 1, 2013
Publisher: Ink Blot Communications


Whitney Monroe's not ashamed of the way her mother can work a brass pole, not really. It's just that some things are better left unsaid; especially when your mother's a stripper and you're trying to get a job at a prestigious private school that definitely won't appreciate her talents.
Raised by her grandma, Whitney's always managed to keep her two worlds separate, even if it meant lying to everyone. And when Reid Phillips—a charming, sexy songwriter—becomes her not-entirely-welcome roommate, Whitney has no intention of telling him the truth either. But she wasn't excepting Reid to see right through her and challenge her compartmentalized life. With Grams seriously ill, her mother's life in turmoil and her dream job on the line, it's more important than ever for Whitney to keep everything together. But that will mean being honest with everyone, starting with herself.

There are three women in the Monroe family. The youngest is Whitney, a recent college graduate and working teacher; her mother, Patti, is a hard-working professional exotic dancer or stripper; and, the oldest is Patti's mother, Hazel. Hazel, or Grams, raised Whitney in a loving environment. Patti struggled to be a good mother, but was forced to give up her daughter. Whitney struggles to be the person she thinks others expect her to be. In addition, she struggles to have a real relationship with her mom without being judgmental about her job. The Monroe women love one another but can they learn to accept one another with judgment and scorn before it's too late.

Composing Myself begins with Whitney's grandmother, Grams, moving into a retirement community. At the time, she's working as a substitute teacher at a very prestigious local private school and wants more than anything to be offered a full-time permanent job at this institution. She's in a tepid-relationship with a fellow teacher, William. She only sees her mother once every few weeks. She's a closeted poet. And to add insult to injury, she's just been told that her Grams has end-stage cancer and Grams refuses any terminal care to prolong the inevitable. The only bright light in her world is actually from her new roommate, Reid Phillips, an aspiring songwriter, a sometime jingle-writer, and an excellent cook. Needless to say, Whitney and Reid wind up in a push-pull relationship that adds to the overall drama and angst.

This was actually the first book I've ever read by Ms. Aitken and I was a little surprised by how much the story pulled me in. My initial reaction after reading a few chapters, was "oh no, not another romantic coming-of-age story." And yes, Composing Myself can be classified as a romantic coming-of-age story, but it is much more. It is a family drama, it is about self-discovery, it is about self-acceptance, and on one small level, it is about preconceived expectations and prejudice. I found Composing Myself to start off a little slow, but my reading pace picked up after only a few chapters and I kept reading simply because I wanted to know how it all ends. There are a few surprises as Whitney and Patti's stories are revealed, but the inclusion of such flawed characters made the story much more realistic and believable. I've got to add that I needed a few tissues toward the end (be prepared -- no, I'm not going to reveal what happens; read it for yourself!). Composing Myself spotlights the notion that we all need to be true to ourselves and be willing to accept others as they are without expecting any conformity, a great message and a wonderful read. I can't wait to read more from this new-to-me author.

Disclaimer: I received a digital copy of this book free for review purposes from the author. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."


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