Premise: It’s been 278 days since Rain’s brother Guthrie died, and Rain and her parents are moving 288 miles to have a fresh start (even if her mom is the only one who wants one). What happened that night is a big who knows to everyone except for Rain, but that secret means Guthrie’s death is her fault. With her secret and very few other items packed, Rain moves to NYC to process through the loss of her brother and the degradation of her parents’ marriage while she tries to fit into a new environment where she’s off on the wrong foot. (Check out the motifs section, there’s a ton of issues brought up by this book — and all well done.)
Rating: 4/5 Target: 4-8
Title: The title’s meaning remains open to numerous interpretations — so it’s a great discussion point post-read. I’ll wait for you to tell me your interpretation before I divulge mine.
Great for…* (readers): who have friends experiencing grief. As a mother of kids with nuclear family member loss, I want to give this book to all their friends so that they get an inside perspective of what it’s like. Also good for kids who feel alone, different, isolated, or are experiencing change.
Great for…* (teachers): This book is rife with figurative language and symbolism. It even weaves poetry in (as a school assignment), so it’s kind of asking for work on that front. Many allusions to The One and Only Ivan make for a great pairing if Ivan comes first.
Parental Warning(s): For children who have experienced death of a nuclear family member, this book could stir up difficult emotions.
Interact: Rain runs to wipe her thoughts away and empty her brain. What works for you?
I am not a foodie. I recall the expression “Eat to live don’t live to eat” being used in our house from time to time. So, if I don’t do the food elements justice in The Marriage Code by Brooke Burroughs, I both ask your forgiveness and plead ignorance.
Burroughs’s realistic fiction, multicultural romance (tending toward romantic comedy) centers on two characters: Emma and Rishi. Their meet-cute is not so cute. They strongly dislike each other — dare I say distaste for each other? — and there may or may not be (there is) some theft of office treats between the two of them. Their work brings them together in Seattle then sends them off to Bangalore for a year to work on an app. Both seek the same team lead position and when only one gets the job, the other is bitter.
At least for a time.
Like a film (which this could be), it’s clear from the onset that the two will end up together despite the external conflicts of work and culture. Through the third person limited narration, each character shows himself/herself struggling with feelings and thoughts for the other. Sometimes that struggle requires no interpretation as it’s stated outright. Other times, well, let’s just say the word choice is…..suggestive.
Actually, let’s say more. There were several points early on in the book where I began to get nervous. I wondered if the book was on a trajectory into eroticism. The diction seemed to suggest it was imminent. Thankfully, it did not. Oh, there is sex. But, given the word choice in the build-up, there was shockingly little sex shown. (Yes, I just said “shockingly little sex shown”. Cherish it. The language is more about the tease and the build-up than the act itself.)
However, Burroughs does not hold back on food scenes. Rishi comes to call Emma “Indian food’s number one fan” as they journey through different restaurants where they eat a variety of Indian foods that often evoke moans of appreciation from Emma. (I warned you.) Whether it’s pineapple, lentil-and-rice popadam, prathas, sambar, green beans poriyal. I could go on and on because, well, Burroughs does. To write so much about Indian food, she must be an Indian foodie herself and I cannot do it justice.
The food supplies the scrumptious transition for Emma and Rishi to talk about culture, and that leads to marriage talk. Rishi’s parents have an arranged marriage, but his brother has a love match that causes a divide in his family. Emma, on the other hand, lost her parents at the age of eight and has no family to speak of, but she left Seattle after rejecting a proposal from her long-time boyfriend.
If you want to read a book about Indian culture, universal family problems, with a lot of food and plenty of sexual referencing, this is a great book for you. I appreciate it, but, like I said, not a foodie so not a big star rating from me.
Premise: Carmen Aguilar must complete a summer project if she wants to graduate high school this year. She’s ruined one project, but her best friend helps her land a new internship with a party princess company. Carmen plays the role of Belle and is mortified when her ex shows up as the Beast. Now she has to learn to deal with him and with her wicked stepsister of a cousin who’s just hired the company to perform at her quince.
Rating: 4/5 Target: 8th grade and up, Latinx especially
Title: The motif of dreams and muddled realities, Disney princesses and villainy run rampant through this novel. I don’t love the title, but it makes sense.
Motifs (not exhaustive): coming of age, Latinx culture, Cuban-American culture, OWN voices, princesses, Disney, beauty & the beast, family relationships, mending broken relationships, growth, multiple cultures, extended family
Great for…* (readers): from a Latinx culture, interested in Latinx culture, or needing exposure to Latinx culture — some Spanish (occasionally, though not always translated to English)
Great for…* (teachers): character arc/growth, motif/theme, culture exposure
Parental Warnings: clear sexual references and scenes, intermittent cursing
When last we saw K and Z in episode m, part 2, they wereconsidering all the wonderful national forests they could visit after a successful escape via their grocery delivery steal away scheme.
“But you get the idea. We will visit a myriad of national forests and document our excursions via photography.”
K pulled her phone from her back pocket.
A flash went off in Z’s eyes.
“What was that for?” Z asked through spotted vision.
“To document the beginning of the excuses for photography.”
“Excursions,” corrected Z.
“Exactly,” said K.
“Oh, forget about it,” said Z, extremely exasperated with K and her lacking exactitude yet again.
“Can we play a game now, Z?” asked K.
“What game?” asked Z.
“Simon Says,” said K.
“Sure, K,” said Z, too annoyed to bother redirecting K.
“I do love Simon Says,” said K.
“So you say,” said Z.
“Not me, Z. Simon. Simon Says,” said K.
“As you wish,” said Z.
“As you wish for what?” asked K.
“Must we do this again?” asked Z, recalling a similar conversation from yesterday’s attempted escape from the enclosure of these four walls.
“What again?” asked K.
“The same thing as yesterday,” said Z.
“I thought we did the same thing every day,” said K.
“We do,” said Z. “But not that.”
“I don’t understand,” said K.
“I know,” said Z.
“But you know what I do understand, Z?” asked K.
“You’ve already said,” said Z.
“Yes, The chemical potential is just the Gibbs free energy normalized to the amount of substance. But also,” said K, “what you said reminds me of a game I like. It’s called Simon Says.”
“Perhaps we should play it then,” said Z.
“Oh can we?” asked K, clapping her hands together. “I’ll be Simon.”
K put her hands on her hips.
So K and Z played Simon Says while they waited for the groceries to be delivered. But they did not play very long. Afterall, Z hated Simon Says. She was not all that interested in Simon or his commands. He was an altogether bossy figure.
“You’re losing, Z,” K said. “You have to do what Simon Says.”
“I think Z says it’s time to position ourselves by the front door.”
K, forgetting they were playing Simon Says rather than the normal Z Says, grabbed the vanity mirror and rushed toward the front door.
“See if you can open it, K,” said Z.
K struggled with the door. She grabbed the knob with both hands. She turned. She twisted. Then she turned and twisted her wrists so that the doorknob turned and twisted too.
“Ouch,” said K.
“What?” said Z.
“It seems I have a bruised wrist,” said K. “I wonder how that happened.”
“Oh my,” said Z.
“Yes. Oh, my wrist,” said K.
“Okay. Just open the door with your other hand only,” said Z.
K turned the knob with her left hand. She pulled. The door didn’t move.
“It won’t move, Z.”
“I can see that, K. Did you unlock it?” asked Z.
K flushed. She giggled at herself. “Oopsies,” she said.
K unlocked the door. She turned the knob with her left hand. She pulled. The door swung inward.
“Oh, look!” delighted K. “A box for us! It’s a present!”
Is it a present? And if so, what’s inside? Who’s it from? Or is K just confused again? Find out in the final installment of episode m tomorrow in The Days of Our Pandemic.
When last we saw K and Z in episode m, they were preparing to detail the plan to escape the confines of these four walls…
“I will tell you the plan for today,” said Z.
K looked eagerly to Z.
“We will use the flag system to our advantage.”
“How will we do that, Z?”
“You know the milky white flag right, K?” Z asked with condescension.
“The one that alerts the authorities we’re out of milk and other food supplies?” asked K.
“The only white flag we have is that one,” Z said pondering the figurative use of white flags and added, “unfortunately.”
“Yes, I know that one, Z,” K said far too enthusiastically for she believed that the whole plan was knowing about the milky white flag. It was not.
“There’s more, you fool!” Z said.
“Yes, Z. More milk. At the stores. That’s why we can raise the milky white flag to alert the authorities to get us more of the more milk from the stores.”
Z talked herself down from the ledge inside her brain. She exhaled heavily.
“We will raise the milky white flag so that the authorities believe we are out of supplies, but when their automated vehicles arrive, we will be ready, waiting, and steal away in the car before it drives off past the forest and into the hills.”
“We’re going to steal the milk?” K asked Z in confusion.
“Well, no. Well, yes. But no. Before we consume any food or beverage, we must hide ourselves away in the car that moves away from this house and these four walls!”
“Oh, I don’t know, Z,” K said. “I used to like hideaways. We had a hideout when I was a kid with no boys allowed. And a hideout in the closet. And a hideout in the playhouse in the backyard. But that was all before King Covid. Don’t we always hide away now? I thought that our plan was to not hide away. Z,” K wondered, “why would we hide away to not hide away? I don’t understand.”
“Of course you don’t understand, K,” Z said. “Is there anything you do understand?!”
K thought about that.
She opened her mouth to voice an idea.
She closed her mouth because she forgot her idea.
She opened her mouth again. “I understand that you understand, Z. And that means I don’t have to understand.”
“That’s the first wise thing I think I’ve ever heard you say, K.”
“Thank you, Z.” K grinned. “And I understand that the chemical potential is just the Gibbs free energy normalized to the amount of substance.”
Z stared through the glass. She blinked. She wiped the inside of the mirror with her sweater sleeve. Then changed her sweater rather than don a possibly-smudged thread or two.
“Right. Well,” said Z searching for her immense vocabulary. “Uhhh, the simplicity of the plan will be to our ad-, ad-” The word escaped her.
“It will help us?” asked K.
“Yes, K. It will help us. We will escape the confines of these four walls today.”
“I’d like that,” said K.
“Go,” said Z. “Grab the milky white flag and raise it up.”
K pulled the flag from the bin of flags the state required that she purchase and that every online store sold their own variant of. Hers were from Amazon Basics. Just like her socks. She stepped into the flag room that used to just be the laundry room and hoisted the milky white flag up onto its place on the pole.
K returned to Z to report her success.
“The flag is up, Z.”
“Good,” said Z. “Now it will just be a matter of time before we escape the enclosure of these four walls!”
“What shall we do while we wait, Z?”
“Get the camera ready, K.”
“Why do we need a camera ready, Z?”
“We will need a camera, K, to record our adventure in the automated vehicle. We will go to the forest but not just any forest, K. We will go to White Mountain National Forest. And Pigsah National Forest. And Superior National Forest.”
a pinkyandthebrainhomage by KZ Rochelle (of course)
When last we saw K and Z, stuck in the lavender home with blue violet trim on Wonky Way Lane, they were set to begin construction on their plan to escape their four walls through the Transportationonmeteration Machine and head to Tampa Bay.
“Now! My Internet Transportationonometeration Machine! Here are the directions, K. Let’s get to work.” Z held the scroll so that K could see its contents.
K read the directions, her finger smudging lines onto the mirror’s glass.
“1 large cardboard box. I’ll grab that.” K ran out of the bathroom and returned with a large box in hand.
“Three inkless pens. Yes, yes.” K pulled two from her back pocket and one from her hair.
“You’ll need the beach-scented candle. It’s very important if we want to get to Tampa Bay,” said Z.
“On the bedside table,” said K.
“Good, good. It’s coming together.” Z tapped her fingers together like the evil genius she was. Even if she wasn’t so evil. Or much of a genius.
They worked together. K gathered supplies, nailing and gluing the bits together. Z directed K. Until they were on the last steps of the process.
“My Internet Transportationonometeration Machine is almost done. Then we will be out of these four walls! Free to go about in the world as we will.”
“As we will what, Z?”
“As we will, K.”
K looked at Z waiting for elaboration.
Z continued. “As we desire. However we like. As we want, K.”
“As we want what, Z? Do we want a teddy bear? Or a blankie? Oh! No! How about some chocolates? I love chocolates. I would want chocolates. Or ice cream! Ice cream from an ice cream shop, Z. Can you imagine? That’s what I will!”
“Very well, K.”
Z calmed K down before noting the last remaining steps.
“All we need now, K, are four silver paper clips.”
“Four silver paper clips,” repeated K.
“Yes, four silver paper clips.”
K looked at Z. Z looked at K.
“Four silver paper clips?”
“Yes! Four silver paper clips! That’s what I said, K! Four silver paper clips!”
“Are you joking, Z?”
“Do I look like I’m joking, K?” Z’s face set in. Her eyes narrowed. Her brows furrowed.
“Don’t know,” said K. “What’s joking look like? I only know what it sounds like.”
“Good grief,” said Z, turning her face away in disgust.
“Z, this is what a joke sounds like. What kinds of dogs love car racing?” K paused.
Z did not respond. She did not even look K’s way.
“How about this one? How about this one? What streets do ghosts haunt?”
Still, K did not respond.
“Dead ends!” K guffawed again, pounding down on her knee.
Z looked at K. She waited.
“Are you quite done now?”
“Almost, Z. Because that’s what a joke sounds like.” K checked her knee for bruises. “I’m set now.”
“The four silver paper clips then,” Z said.
“Ain’t no such thing,” K said.
“Of course there’s such a thing,” said Z.
“Naw, ain’t no such thing,” said K.
“They’re those little curled up metal wires that hold your papers together, K!”
“I know what they is, Z. No one’s got them anymore. On account of no one uses paper. Everyone is virtual. Virtual working. Virtual learning. Virtual dancing. Virtual cooking. Virtual passing over and virtual Christmas with virtual presents. No one’s got paper clips.”
“Are you saying that no one includes us? As in we don’t have them, K?”
K emphasized we just as Z did. “We don’t have them, Z.”
“Then we can’t finish the Internet Transportationonometeration Machine. And if we can’t finish the Internet Transportationonometer Machine, we can’t get on the other side of the screen. And if we can’t get on the other side of the screen, we cannot escape the confounding confines of these four walls.”
K watched Z pace through the mirror.
“Is that a bad thing, K?” Z asked.
“It means we’ve failed, K!”
“Failed at what, Z?”
“Escaping these four walls, K.”
“But we got to hear Rochelle. And gather these goodies like a scavenger hunt. And make this Transmutation Machine. And tell good jokes. And…”
K went on and on. But Z was not listening. She’d begun pondering the activities for tomorrow.
“…and we still have a Zoom!” said K.
“Not me, K.”
“I still have a Zoom!” said K.
K ran to the nearest tablet, logged on, and proceeded to make silly faces at her nephew for the next hour.
While K was thus employed, Z stayed inside the looking glass in the bathroom in the lavender house with blue violet trim on Wonky Way Lane.
She muttered to herself, thinking through details for tomorrow’s plans, when they would try to escape the confines of these four walls.