Here, There and Everywhere

Samurai’s and Dildos

Hot Love Inferno – Prophecy Allocation Series Book Two by Nicky Blue.
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

41qmTGabhiL._SY346_Once again, Mr. Blue provides a wonderfully creative, bizarre, and entertaining tale, that has the awkward hero and gardener, Barry, using his debatable ninja skills to fin an attempt to rescue his girlfriend Flo from the Pleasure Factory, where she has been taken by three seven feet high, helmeted samurai warriors from a different dimension and time. Luckily, Barry is not alone in his quest, as he is assisted by a dog named Keith, Dr. Harper, and an ancient Goddess called Mrs. Jittery Twitch.

Hot Love Inferno is a cosmic compilation of every genre imaginable – sci-fi, fantasy, horror, humor, family saga, romance, satire, and other indescribable categories. The narrator in the book says it is “savory sci-fi”.  If you took Mr. BeanBruce Lee, Mr. Ed the Talking Horse, and Maude (from Harold and Maude), and threw them all into a Monty Python movie, you’d have an inkling of this series. An added kick are the footnotes at the end of each chapter. These aren’t ordinary footnotes, but humorous explanations and thoughts about British people, food, and slang. The notes are as funny as the main course.

Here is an excerpt from chapter ten (Be Careful What You Wish For).

Barry flapped open his kimono to reveal his portable cassette player, took a deep breath, and hit play. ‘I’m Too Sexy’ by Right Said Fred came blaring out of the speakers, and Barry launched into some furious body-popping. A bit rusty at first, he soon began to find his mojo. His routine started with the classic two-step, progressing into the robot. As his confidence grew, he went down for a bit of floor work. An awesome back-spin took him into a position known as the freeze which set him up for a moonwalk to the bottom of the staircase. The routine may not have won Barry first place at a New York dance-off, but it served it purpose. Above him, the samurais looked confused as hell.”

Nicky Blue’s ability to write characters that are believable, different, and set in situations that are far from the ordinary, is remarkable. The predicaments, reactions, and combinations of science, fiction, fantasy and various cultural euphemisms, is fantastical, yet somehow grounded. It all makes sense, even though it is bizarre, weird, shocking, and out of this world. Only in Hot Love Inferno (and the Allocation Series) will you find an elder mother who loves death metal; an adult boy/man who still lives at home, is a terrible gardener and sees himself as a skilled ninja; a dog from another dimension; and Mrs. Garrett getting half of her body stuck in one world, and the other half in another.

Staring at the Door

Yasodhara: A Novel About the Buddha’s Wife by Vanessa R. Sasson.
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

51I1VkEDTUL._SY346_The name “Yasodhara” means. “She who is full of splendor.” This novel, about the woman who became known as Buddha’s wife, is as splendid as the person on whom it is based. The story is told in the first person, with Yasodhara telling her own tale. She describes her birth, early childhood, friendship with her cousin (Siddhattha) and other members of the royal family, as her father’s brother is the king (Suddhodana). It takes place in what is now known as Nepal, or northern India.

Ms. Sasson doesn’t pretend that everything in the book is factual and does a wonderful job in the afterward informing readers’ about what is her imagination, and what is based on historical records, or writings, in each chapter. There is actually very little known about Yasodhara, other than some fables, and stories, which were written down in Sanskrit and Pali at least 500 years after she lived. It is believed that she and Siddhattha were born on the same day, married at age sixteen, and were together twelve years before having a son (Rahula). It was the day following their son’s birth, that Siddhartha left Yasodhara, and everything with palace life, to search for the meaning to life.

Here is a touching excerpt from that time in the story.

“I always prided myself on being strong. I might have had a temper, but I managed despite it. I could make my way across any hurdle like a well-trained athlete. I never knew myself in any other way. Until, that is, I found myself alone in my room, nursing a newborn while I stared at the door.

Sidhattha and I had been together for such a long time. Our togetherness had always seemed timeless to me, as though it had been threaded from past lives into this one. We were not just husband and wife. We were everything to each other.

Or at least he was everything to me.

I could not understand why he walked away, so I stared at the door, day after days, wondering if it would ever open again. I lay on my bed, my baby beside me, utterly oblivious to his little cries.”

Yasodhara is an excellent contribution to literature about those that surrounded the man known as Gotama, The Buddha. In recent years, there has been increasing interest in, and historical nonfiction works about, Yasodhara, as well as several fictional accounts. Ms. Sasson has studied and taught Buddhism for a number of years, as well as now written this fictional version, which is well told. The characters come to life and after a short time begin to feel like family.

If you enjoy Yasodhara, you may also be interested in another work of fiction about her life, which is called Buddha’s Wife. Ms. Sasson’s story focuses on the childhood and married life of Yasodhara, whereas, Buddha’s Wife, concerns itself with her life as a nun and the memories she has of her husband (now The Buddha), as well as what she has learned about intimacy, family, and community. It also mixes fact and fiction.

Getting Care As You Age

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How to Get the Care You Need in Old Age.
Very useful guest post by Harry Cline.

Most Americans over the age of 65 will need long-term care at some point as they age. That could mean residing at a nursing home or seeking home care, both of which are among the wide variety of solutions available to meet the needs of the elderly. The problem is the costs, which can be frightening.

A private room in that aforementioned nursing home? That runs an average of over $8,000 a month, while a home health aide would set you back over $4,000. In some extreme cases, the total price of such support and services grows into the millions. Wow.

So, what’s a financially-responsible person to do in the face of such financial challenges? Plan. Here’s a breakdown on how to assess your basic needs and pay for care.

Do Your Research

The first step is learning what services are available. The most basic level is visits from friends and family or custodial care at home. There’s also adult day care, assisted living facilities and nursing homes. What you need depends on your level of health along with whether you suffer from a chronic condition and its severity.

Assess Your Health Risks

It’s tantamount to looking into the future. However, the likelihood of certain diseases can be gauged based on your lifestyle, current overall health and family history. If you have a parent, brother or sister with Alzheimer’s, for example, you are more likely to develop this form of dementia, and the same goes for some cardiovascular conditions.

Make Lifestyle Changes

The risk of falling ill can be reduced through exercise and a better diet. There’s no simple recommendation as far as what to eat, though Elders’ Helpers recommends nutrient-rich foods such as fruits, vegetables, legumes, beans and whole grains. As far as getting your body in motion, choose something you enjoy, whether it’s swimming, cycling or long walks on the beach.

Modify Your Home

This not only prevents injury, but allows you to stay there for longer and save money on costly assisted living and nursing homes. Some adjustments include installing railings on both sides of the stairs as well as automatic lighting to avoid nasty falls when you wake up in the middle of the night. You should also remove loose rugs and carpeting to enhance mobility and safety.

Now, we’ll move on to how to pay for all that. Bear in mind that the earlier you start, the better, and some options aren’t even available after retirement or a diagnosis with a severe medical condition.

Get the Right Insurance

Specifically, long-term care insurance. As implied by the name, it covers the cost of home care, assisted living and nursing homes, though the premiums can be high, averaging $2,700 a year, according to information cited by the AARP. That could be a worthwhile investment, though, if there’s a history of serious health conditions in your family.

Use Your Living Benefit

That means the living benefit rider in your life insurance, if you have one. If not, your insurer may be able to add one to your policy, in which case you would be able to draw from your death benefit to pay for medical expenses. Again, this could be a great option to have if you’re at high risk of chronic illness.

Put Money In Savings

Take this step before retirement with a health savings account. Both you and your employer make contributions, but the money stays with you when you’ve finished working. It’s tax-free when used for medical expenses, making it an attractive option along with high-deductible health plans.

Tap Into Your Property

You can do that via a home equity line of credit. This financial instrument allows you to withdraw money with your property serving as collateral, and offers a simpler alternative to a reverse mortgage, with lower associated costs. Both are common means of securing cash for long-term care, and which one’s right for you depends on your circumstances.

Planning for your care is not always easy, but you’ll breathe a sigh of relief when you’re done knowing that your future medical care is assured. Get started as soon as possible.

Image via Pixabay.

Make No Apologies

Bonds That Bind: A Short Story Collection by Austin L. Wiggins.
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

41khyPzdn8LMost of these stories are about people who are alone and isolated, and/or lonely. The writing is flawless, and you can feel the pain, sadness, despair, and hopelessness, seeping from each character. With Bonds That Bind, Mr. Wiggins has compiled an array of men and women who bleed metaphorically and literally. Each story in the collection takes us inside the head and heart of someone who has nothing left to lose. They live within their self-imposed box of how they see the world and themselves.

Here is an excerpt from The Outsider, where a marginalized tuba player expresses his dissent the only way he knows how. “It took him until mid-afternoon to regain composure. With cloudy eyes, Derek glared at the tuba and scolded it for mocking him, but the cumbersome heap of brass pipe would make no apologies. Like his playing ability, the tuba had gathered a thin, palpable layer of dust that had been piling up since Christmas. ‘It’s been two months,’ he said. ‘I’ve got to start practicing again.’ By this small, noncommittal decision, the mere spark in Derek’s chest became a storm. The first notes blared like a horn of war, and they didn’t stop. He channeled the fury in his tempest heart, and it was only then that Derek knew he was angry.”

This collection includes a foreboding tale about a young man who joins his brother Dave in a failed quest for a fast buck (The Bird That Flew Overhead); an insurance agent who helps his brother, which results in his becoming a life-long target (One Man’s Sin); a meticulous office worker, George, who is oblivious about his home life until it’s too late (Radiance); a shunned tuba player (The Outsider); a lonely teacher with a bad addiction (Of Flowers); and a counselor who takes matters into his own hands (What Ails Us).

Bonds That Bind is not a feel-good, romantic, or inspiring set of tales. If it tried to be, it would have failed. The author doesn’t shy away from emotions or situations that are uncomfortable – all signs of a writer who knows what they are doing and isn’t afraid to reveal what we often sweep under the rug. The icing on the cake is that in spite of their flaws, thoughts, and deeds, Mr. Wiggins has captured traits and feelings with which readers’ can identify. Though we usually don’t go to the extremes of his characters, we care about what happens to each one.

Gods Travel to Mangina

41OEBYgH4XLTritonium: Greek Gods In Space by Yelle Hughes.
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

The entire premise of Tritonium is so outlandish, that it caught my attention as soon as I saw the title. Greek Gods In Space… that’s original. Who thought of that? Well, it turns out that Yelle Hughes wrote this creation. She is an author that is deep into Greek mythology, and this book is an introduction to some of the gods and goddesses, and of her other titles. This story was short, funny, and entertaining.

Here’s a brief excerpt from the beginning, where Poseidon enlists the help of his son to go retrieve Namakai’s (sea goddess) twins. “In the warm, aqua water of the Aegean, bubbles drifted around two figures in an undersea palace. “My Lord, help me understand correctly. You wish for me to board a spacecraft, travel to the planet, Man-Mangina? And, I’m to retrieve Zeus twins?” Triton freely floated in front of the god, Poseidon.”

Each of the immortal’s that go on this journey takes a nickname, such as “Erok” for Eros, and “Zeke” for Zephyrus. They banter and joke around like the crew from Guardian’s of the Galaxy, and learn how to fly the ship with the help of C.H.A.N.E.L., which stands for Computerized Heuristic Avatar and Navigational Embodied Loudmouth. Tritonium: Greek Gods In Space takes readers’ where no man, woman, or immortal being has been, which is easy to do because it takes place in the future and humans are not aware of its existence, let alone that the Greek gods exist.

Visions & Visitations

51bI14kqjwLThe Wall People by AnneMarie Dapp.
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

Moving away from San Francisco to a small cabin in the Napa hills was the perfect choice for Katie. She meets wonderful neighbors Camellia Sanchez, her husband Steven, and their three children, and gets to know people in town. Then, strange images, visions, and visitations to and from the past in Kinvara, Ireland began to invade her newfound serenity. The Wall People brings Katie’s Irish ancestors to life and places her in the middle of a fight between good and bad, abusers, and saviors.

Ms. Dapp writes in great detail about the daily life of Katie after she has moved to Napa, and describes the landscape, environment, people, and seemingly mundane events, with beautiful clarity and precision. Here is a wonderful example of her prose. “The sharp aroma of the grand oak trees filled her senses. The mid-morning sun gently caressed the moist, forested canopy. Steam rose from the rain-soaked flora. The natural beauty of the forest would have normally filled her heart and mind with happiness and peace, and yet on this sad morning she observed the miraculous scenery with a numb indifference.”

I really enjoyed the way the author introduces each of the characters in The Wall People and how they care for one another. Her neighbors, the Sanchez family, are especially well fleshed out and could be seen and heard through the pages. The primary protagonist, Katie, also comes alive with understanding and empathy. Both Camellia and Katie’s past experiences of abuse are also sadly relevant. Readers’ don’t need to believe in the supernatural to appreciate the conflict, people and settings within this story.

Rites of Passage

41uBGeLbd8L._SY346_Midnight and Holding by Joyce DeBacco.
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

Midnight and Holding is a lovely collection of stories that include a woman daydreaming about the past, which helps her see the present clearly (Rubies and Other Gems); a shed which brings together a husband and wife (The Shed); a carefree youth who awakens dreams and desires of an older woman (Rainbow Years); a humorous account of a wife’s suggestion being taken to extremes (Mad Dogs and Fisherman); a parent’s rite of passage (Midnight and Holding); and a woman who buys her husband a new suit for his last big occasion (Harvey’s New Suit).

Ms. DeBacco has a wonderful sense of home, place, family, marriage, and a life of raising children. Themes of loss, living for others, and losing one’s self, run throughout these tales. In Midnight and Holding a mother speaks about waking up in the middle of the night to a quiet house, once the children are gone away to college. “It’s the middle of the night and, unable to sleep, I wander through the quiet house. Unshackled from the invisible chains tethering me between laundry room and kitchen, I now seek to busy myself with something, anything to keep my mind from dwelling on their absence. Reluctantly, I strip the beds on which they’d slept, my fingers pausing over the deep indentations in the pillows. The neatness of their naked dressers and floors assaults my eyes.”

It is a rare writer that can take the ordinary, and everyday family life, and stretch it just enough to be familiar, yet daring and different from our daily routines and expectations. The author of Midnight and Holding has this ability – the ability to nurture reality, blur the lines and witness characters gaining insight and/or having a transformative experience in the process. At first glance, this collection of stories is about the mundane, but upon reading it becomes clear that each one is a unique creation. They feel authentic and take one to the core of time passing, and the impact those in our lives have upon us.

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