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Talking Behind Our Backs

Private Eye Cats: Book One: The Case of the Neighborhood Burglers
by S. N. Bronstein. Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

517t6UgzCvL.jpgCatwoman has nothing on these cats. They may seem like your everyday, ordinary felines, but there is something quite different about sisters Nugget and Scooter in Private Eye Cats: The Case of The Neighborhood Burglers. They aren’t superheroes, but it becomes apparent that they speak English (when humans aren’t around). Turns out cats all over the world speak their native language, and they’ve kept is secret, until now. That’s the author’s premise, and for all I know, S. N. Bronstein may have the real skinny.

This story reminds me a little of the film The Secret Life of Pets. In addition to the cats conversing when their people (Tony and Misty) are gone, as the animals do in the movie, it also has sharp dialogue and humor. Nugget shares some of their secrets. “We play the games that most humans fall for such as waking them up on weekends at 6:00 in the morning by knocking something over, or crying over nothing so they come running to see if we are hurt or in some kind of trouble.

While figuring out a way to catch some local burglars in their neighborhood, Nugget and Scooter accidentally let slip a few words out loud to a local English teacher (Tyronne Williams). After recovering from shock, Mr. Williams says, “And if I did write this all down and turned it into a book, who would believe it? Would they say it was a funny story but none of it could ever really happen?” Read Mr. Bronstein’s Private Eye Cats and decide for yourself. Are your cats talking behind your back, or just meowing around?

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You Can See Her Again

The Heather in May – A Tale of First Love, Second Chances and Time Travel. Written by Phillip D. Curwood. Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

516fmQeEgPLThe plot, circumstances, and descriptions of alternating between the present (in 2017) and the past (in 1973) in The Heather in May is very well written. A man named Trevalyn Scurr takes Tony (age 63) back in time to possibly save the love of his life (Katie) from dying in a fire at The Rivvis hotel. The story is told in the third person. It is well paced, and presented, by author Phillip Curwood. Some aspects of this tale remind me of the American TV show Forever. The are also  strong parallels to The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy.

As a succor for metaphors and visual interpretations of experience, the following excerpt was especially delightful. “As the spring sunshine began to fade, setting the clouds ablaze with colours of red and amber, the evening crept in, sending a whispering breeze through the yellow gorse, brown bracken, and heather. Tony took his hands from his pockets and pulled the collar ends of his faded blue denim jacket tight around his thin neck, to gain comfort and warmth in such a cold lonely place.“.

Here’s another beautiful passage, “The orange glow from the streetlights shown down on the rain-covered pavement, by the entrance to the hotel. Stepping outside, Katie and Tony bathed in the lambency, and stayed sheltered under the arch, watching the fine watery mist create pillars of light in the air.”

The author is also adept at creating a specific time and place, with music, cars, buildings, current fads, and people’s behavior and attitudes, in 1973 England. The physical characteristics of the characters is also spot on. Tony, Katie, Greg (villain), and Tony and Katie’s parents, are well defined and molded. The ending of this time travel suspense mystery comes full circle, and surprises readers’ with a brilliant setup (or new beginning), as a result of earlier circumstances, twists and turns. Mr. Curwood’s The Heather in May is a good read in May, or any other month of the year.

An Exquisite Essence

51YvQiYIkfLProspect Hill: A Romantic Short Story by Bibiana Krall. Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

I could write a short story about this exquisite short story, but for brevity, simply say that Prospect Hill is one of the best stories I’ve read in a long time. I’m not sure if there are enough accolades for this occasion, but here are a few. The prose is not only fitting, and well-crafted, but also languid and lyrical, with a sense of poetry in motion. Though its intention is not erotic, it feels very sensual. The words drift through space and hit the heart like a lonely spirit.

Merely is a bodiless spirit, who is imprisoned in a cask by a witch, and falls in love with a human named Nino, when she is released. Her original name was Ayanna Dovet Blackwell, who was buried alive. Here is a glimpse of Ms. Krall’s writing. I hovered like a dragonfly next to my Nino, wishing to offer comfort. Then from the shifting melancholy of my imprisonment, I was called to sing once more. Murmurs of life and light, golden moments that remain hidden away from a place like this.”

The tale moves between the seen and unseen world with ease. Everything is real, and can be sensed, or felt, by the disembodied and the bodied. Their mutual awareness makes Nino feel uneasy and scared, and Nino’s presence creates long forgotten memories, and sensations in Merely. This interaction, and of others that enter and leave, are all told brilliantly from Merely’s perspective and experience. Though she cannot be seen by those living, she herself feels liberated and renewed.

There is subtle beauty and grace in the language, thoughts and feelings that overtake Merely, and they are described with great eloquence. If you have not yet absorbed, or understood, my adulation for Ms. Krall’s Prospect Hill, the following lines will surely take you over the edge. “Essence of night Jasmine, tea rose and salt escaped from my brilliant spiral. With one last desire my hands reached across time. Caressing Nino’s cheek lovingly from the other side, my fingertips dissolved into raindrops and fell away.”

 

Is She Real?

51AgjWHToWLTreasure Fairy by Judy & Keith.
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

Though Treasure Fairy takes place in a park in Southern California, with grandparents (Nana and Granddad) who are from England, it could have been in a myriad of locations in Ireland. Having recently returned to southern Ireland myself, it didn’t take much magic to go behind some trees with William and discover the Treasure Fairy with a bag of quarters. If there is any doubt that fairies (and other beings) are real, read this story. Or better yet, read it to your child, or grandchild.

William is transported to the fairies castle, discovers that there are surprises behind every door, and he and the Treasure Fairy, sadly unearth the fact that someone has stolen all of the fairie’s treasure. Who, you may ask, would have the nerve to do such a thing? None other than a thieving leprechaun, of course. The rest of the tale has William and the fairy tracking down the leprechaun and finding a way to retrieve the treasure. It takes some ingenuity and teamwork to accomplish their goal and return the treasure to the kingdom. Judy and Keith (grandparents themselves) have done a fine job giving the Treasure Fairy wings.

P.S. The covers of all there books are first rate.

Whatever It Takes

Love Feld by Virginia Alanís.
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

61eBvpsjijLA high school sweetheart, who becomes as possessive as hell, a patriarchal Mexican father, and a prejudiced school counselor, can’t stop Laura Cano from following her dream to be a lawyer and gain independence. She also learns when, and how, to connect with family, and to appreciate all those who help her along the way. Love Field, by Virginia Alanís, gives readers’ insight into growing up in a Mexican-American family in Texas, and if it isn’t told from her personal experience, reads like it is. Her parents, sisters, and grandmother, all sound familiar, comforting, and often controlling.

At age 17, Laura is looking forward to graduating from high school, and applying to college. Since she was young, she thought about being a lawyer to help others. Especially after she witnessed a tragic event from a next door neighbor’s abusive husband when she was a child. Lucky to get a job at a law office, with Vanessa Hamilton, and support from her Godmother, Toni, the narrator of this tale fights to find her way in spite of a father that believes women are only meant to be wives, and her newly married husband, Edward, who does not trust her and threatens to ruin everything.

If you (or someone you know) has ever been in a possessive, and/or abusive, relationship, what transpires between this young couple (Laura and Edward), may feel uncomfortably familiar. What first appears to be support, love, and care, slowly gets twisted and subverted, until Laura must make a choice and risk leaving the young man she once loved, without being harmed (or killed) in the process. She does everything she can legally, and gets help from her retired English teacher, Elisabeth, her mentor at work, Vanessa, and Godmother Toni.

This story encompasses a number of themes. What is family? How much does one owe family, and what parts do you leave behind? Are there any signs that someone will turn out to be abusive when you first meet, and if so, what are they? How does one safely escape from a violent, or threatening situation, without jeopardizing themselves or others? Is family history something that should be respected at all costs, or left behind when it becomes overbearing? If you like the recent memoir of Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomeyer (My Beloved World), you’ll enjoy Love Field by Virginia Alanís.

A Midwife’s Joys & Sorrows

Born for Life: A Midwife’s Story by Julie Watson.
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

41H1LHEanXL._SY346_Being that Call the Midwife, based on the memoirs of Jennifer Worth, is my favorite series on television, I was excited to discover this autobiography by New Zealand nurse-midwife Julie Watson. Born for Life is an intimate and honest portrait of the life Ms. Watson has led (so far), and her interest in nursing, which was inflamed when she first read about Florence Nightengale as a schoolgirl. The effects of birth, and having children, have an overwhelming impact on the author, in her own family, as well as her chosen profession.

Julie meets her future husband, Barry, at a young age (in 1968) and is married at 17. Four years later she has her first child (Kelvin). During the pregnancy she develops preeclampsia and must be on bedrest. “Preeclampsia is a condition that occur during pregnancy when a woman’s blood pressure rises sharply.” She first comes across the condition at work when it has devastating effects on a patient. “All these thoughts were going on in my mind. I never thought something like this could happen when having a baby. It never occurred to me that sometimes things can go wrong. Little did I know that preeclampsia was going to have a devastating effect on my own life that would impact me for years.” The impact she is referring to is the death of her second child, Shelley Anne Watson, who lived only a short time after her birth.

After having more children, and going back to school to become a licensed nurse, Ms. Watson had several other children (Angela Mary) and much later, another daughter (Elizabeth Jane). Not only does she have to deal with preeclampsia and bedrest once again, for both these pregnancies, but she also discovers that both her daughter’s have Albinism, which is a congenital disorder that results in the partial or complete absence of pigment in the skin, hair and eyes. It can also effect sight, which it does with her children.

The author speaks candidly about her periods of “depression, loneliness, and self-doubt”, which she struggled with after the death of Shelley Ann, and at other periods in her life. She describes the wonderful support she had (and has) from her spouse, family, and friends, and how they all came through to help, especially when she has a stroke in mid-life (from which she recovers). She also talks about starting to attend church, and the comfort prayer, and belief begins to give her. It is this faith that sustains her.

Though this review may sound as if this memoir is just about struggles, and sadness, Born for Life is anything but. Along with the writer’s personal ups and downs, she provides an abundance of details and tales, about different mothers, families, and situations in which she played a vital role in assisting in joyful and healthy deliveries. By far, the majority of this autobiography tells the stories of brave women giving birth, who are surrounded with caring and knowledgable midwives, such as Ms. Watson. It was an honor to read.

When You’ve Had Enough

When You’ve Had Enough: How to Leave a Violent Home Behind
Excellent and vital guest post by Nora Hood.

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One in four women and one in seven men will be a victim of domestic violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime, according to HuffPost. Many others will be sexually or physically abused by a family member, such as a parent, sibling, or aunt or uncle. Regardless of the abuser, everyone has the right to leave and go somewhere they feel safe. However, fear and the very real possibility of being “punished” by the abuser for trying to escape leaves far too many people in dangerous situations. If you or someone you love is ready to break the cycle of abuse, keep reading for tips on how to do so safely.

Acknowledge That the Abuse Exists

It’s not uncommon for abuse victims to downplay the situation. Psych Central explains that there are many forms of abuse, including emotional and psychological. Just because you haven’t landed in the hospital doesn’t mean you aren’t being abused.

Ask for Help

As the victim of domestic violence, physical abuse, or sexual assault, you have rights, and even if you’ve been forced to ostracize your friends and family, there is a network of people who are willing, ready, and able to help you make your exit. Pewitt Law, a Washington-based legal firm that specializes in domestic violence, notes that most law enforcement agencies provide civil standby. This is a process by which one or more officers arrive to deter violence and keep the peace. These officers can be there to protect you as you leave the home.

Other forms of assistance include crime victim compensation. Some states provide financial advisory services as well as benefits to help pay for medical expenses, food and shelter, and counseling for domestic abuse survivors.

Don’t Instigate

While you are not to blame for your situation, there are certain actions you should avoid when you’re planning to leave, as they could trigger a violent reaction from your abuser. Try to act as normal as possible while you make your exit strategy. Do not tell your abuser that you plan to leave. When researching your assistance options, such as the National Domestic Violence Hotline, take steps to ensure your internet history remains private. You can do this by opening up an “incognito” or “private” tab through your browser. Popular Science cautions, however, that even in private browsing mode, you may leave digital clues behind, which a tech-savvy (and paranoid) abuser may be able to trace. A better option is to use a prepaid smart device, paid with cash, which can be turned off and hidden. These “burner phones” can be picked up anywhere, from Walmart to your local gas station.

Safety at Your New Home

When you finally have plans and make preparations to leave, keep yourself safe by maintaining a comfortable distance from your abuser. You should be able to utilize a civil standby when you collect your personal belongings. Other ways to keep yourself safe during and after your relocation include:

  • Hire a moving company to enter and exit your abuser’s home with you; request a rental truck, if possible, and that your movers do not wear clothing that would identify the service you are using.
  • Do not list your new address or telephone number on social media.
  • Outfit your new home with an alarm system, deadbolts on the front and back doors, and peepholes where you can see who is knocking before you unlock the door (HomeAdvisor offers more home security tips).
  • Change your work hours.

Don’t leave your safety to chance. Get help, get out, and get your life back on track. You are better than your abuse and don’t deserve to suffer.

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