weekend reads: Shifting Through Neutral

Since becoming an author myself, and for some time before, I’ve been unsure whether it was “appropriate” for authors to review books. A lot of authors refuse to do it. Many authors do, but get themselves into trouble doing it. Is it a conflict of interests? Is it fair?

Ultimately, I’ve decided that I *like* talking about the books I’ve been reading. I was a reader before I was a writer. I was actually a reviewer (for a minute) before I was an author. And now that I am an author, I know how important those reviews are. I know the *madness* of sitting by idly just waiting for someone to say something about the work you’ve poured your heart into for a year or two or more. I know how important it in selling books – especially these days when there is so much to choose from – just to have another voice vouch for your work. And even more so for independent authors, or those published with small presses.

I do not accept review copies (anymore), and these are all books I read of my own accord, bought with my own money, and these are all my own opinions. As an author myself, I try to abide by the rule “if you don’t have anything nice to say, then don’t say anything at all.” Otherwise, I would have to feel it was a conflict of interests. So I will generally only post about books I enjoy, also for the simple fact that I do not usually make myself finish books I don’t enjoy, and thus don’t even rate them at all. I may, from time to time, want to talk about books I didn’t enjoy and form a discussion around them, but they will not be named specifically.

I’m sorry that I cannot accept review requests. Considering my writing and limited time, I can only post about books I’m already planning to read for my own pleasure, for study, or for novel research.

So for all these reasons, I’ve decided I’ll start a blogging series called “weekend reads”, posted Sunday nights or Monday mornings about what I’ve been reading, what I’m eager to read, or even something I read a while ago but never got to talk about. They will not always be full or proper reviews. Sometimes they will just be discussions, or random thoughts as I read. I cannot keep quiet about the books I’m reading. I tried for a while, but sorry, folks, I just can’t, lol! (As you’ll see in the link below, when I spilled my everloving guts all over Annie’s blog comments… oops!)

In actuality, this weekend I finished reading Fifty Shades of Grey (linking it hardly seems necessary, since I’m sure you ALL know which book I’m talking about!), which I found maddening and entertaining in equal measures. If you hop over to my friend Annie’s blog, you can read her thoughts, as well as mine in the comments.

But for this blog, I’d like to dig up a lovely gem of a book I reviewed years and years ago, long before Goodreads or Amazon review pages or Facebook. I reviewed this book on another website (and as a note of disclosure, back then, I did receive a review copy of this one in exchange for my honest review), back when I was twenty-two and just finishing college and wondering what to do with my English degree. Even after eight years, this one is still a book that vividly comes to mind every now and then.

Shifting Through Neutral by Bridgett M. Davis is the heartfelt story of a young girl’s troubled family. Rae Dobson is a child of the seventies in Detroit, growing up too fast among race riots, Motown music, and newly minted cars. I fell in love with her quickly, becoming involved in her beautifully told desires and pains. She is a troubled, but strong young woman, longing for the love of her self-involved, cold mother who is “weak for men”; she idolizes her trendy and fun big sister Kimmie; and she vows that the only man she’ll ever need is her Daddy. Each character is raw and damaged in their own way, so developed and real, as is Rae’s relationship with them. Ms. Davis is exceptionally skilled here. You wont find better characterization than this.

The language is poetic and very descriptive, bringing to life a very real world – I grew up in south-eastern Michigan myself (not in the 70’s, but later), and I relished in the familiar places and people I’ve known for most of my life, while also becoming absorbed by the history of a time I didn’t get to live.

The “driving as a metaphor for life” thing has been done before, but this is cute. Each section is labeled and begun with a quote from the Michigan Secretary of State’s What Every Driver Must Know manual. And all the more fitting because Detroit is the Motor City.

In all, this is a beautifully told coming-of-age story about wanting love, finding love, and losing love in so many ways. If you like heartfelt literary fiction about families so real you can feel them breathing, with a bonus touch of history, you’ll adore this little gem!