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Like Night and Day

41sUKwJHjgLA Secret Love by Brigitta Moon.
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

A Secret Love is told from Christina’s and Derek’s perspectives about their marriage, and events before Christmas, with one another and their family. They have two children, and Derek is a successful stockbroker. Christina’s feelings and behavior towards Derek change dramatically, without any rhyme or reason (to Derek). There’s also another persons perspective, which is shared much later in the story.

Ms. Moon has written a clever tale that doesn’t make much sense, until it does. It’s a hard act to bring off, and she does so with depth and precision. Reviewers often say that there are “a lot of twists and turns” in this or that book. This tale goes beyond twists and turns to inside out and upside down. Nothing is as obvious as it seems. Secret, threatening calls to Christina, and Derek’s jealous secretary (Frannie) add to the mix.

When everything comes out in the wash, it is quite a load to try to separate, fold, and put back together. A Secret Love is not quite like anything I’ve read, or thought of before, and that’s good. If you’re ready for something completely different, and unexpected, this is a book for you. Just when you think you know who your partner really is, you discover they aren’t quite the same person you married.

 

 

Redesigned by Death

41d4DKAXPfLI Avatar by Heather Harrison.
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

I’ve said before that I don’t read much sci-fi, but every once in awhile something catches my eye, or yells in my ear. I Avatar is one of those yellers. The story, written by Heather Harrison, describes a time in the 20th century, and a character named Panama, who is suddenly reactivated in the year 2082. At first she’s not sure what has happened, but soon discovers that her handler is called Gina, and her name is now Sila.

“During my first few weeks as an avatar, there was a lot of whining and crying involved. I can’t say I’m proud of how I handled it, but hell, give me a break. Finding out you died and were stuck spending the rest of eternity as someone’s video game piece sucked ass. On the positive side, at least I was able to think. Avatars are supposed to be dead, as in not retaining any emotions, feelings, or thoughts. I on the other hand, retained all three.”

It turns out that young gamers in the future (Gina) have the same kind of love interests as those nowadays, and Sila (Panama) is with Gina all the way (literally). There are some wonderful twists and turns in this story. The process by which one becomes an avatar is bizarre, yet believable. If you take an episode of Black Mirror and Westworld, and throw them in bed together, you might wake up with something similar to I Avatar.

Midwife Murder Mystery

Death Of A Sad Face  (A Serafina Florio Short Mystery)
by Susan Russo Anderson. Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

51oL7gL-3fLShe’s gotta knack. A real knack for wonderful writing. In Death Of A Sad Face, Ms. Russo Anderson takes readers’ to the end of the eighteenth century, to a small town called Oltramari (on the coast of Sicily), where we meet midwife, and sleuth, Serafina Florio. Serafina is a mother of six children, and an orphaned 10-year-old child (Teo). Teo’s sudden disappearance the previous night, may have some connection to the murder of Cecco, the butler for Barron Ignazio Lanza, and his very pregnant wife Lucia.

While investigating who killed Cecco, and Teo’s whereabouts, Serafina comforts Mrs. Lanza, gets gossip from her lifelong friend (Rosa), and questions how much she really understands her own family. “Of all her children, Maria was the most puzzling, not at all like her siblings. She had adult responses to most situations and was concerned only with her piano. Seemingly unaware of her talent, she was kind, humble, gracious – or was Serafina blind? As her daughter stood before her, Serafina realized that she could cajole or insist, but in the end if Maria didn’t want to do what her mother suggested, Serafina had little recourse. She could solve most murders and already knew who had killed Cecco and why and where to find him. But her children? They were difficult. She felt helpless.”

One of the highlights of this story, is how intricately the characters interact, and know one another. A small town has its advantages, and disadvantages, as does a large family. Serafina doesn’t just go off by herself to track down Cecco’s killer, but gets information from various village members, the head of the local orphanage, and enlists her own family in catching the culprit. Even though she is a midwife, and amateur detective, Ms. Florio doesn’t see herself as special, just good at what she does. The author (Susan Russo Anderson) of Death Of A Sad Face is similar to Serafina – she’s good at what she does.  

Guinevere Comes To Life

51ul4tzb4DLGuardian of A Princess & Other Stories by Cheryl Carpinello. Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

This collection includes Guardian of A Princess, Dunham’s Story, Meet The Young Knights, The King’s Ransom: Young Knights of the Round Table, Arthur’s Story: From Guinevere – On the Eve of Legend, and Guinevere: On the Eve of Legend – The Hunt. Though each of these stories are excerpts from longer books by Ms. Carpinello, each one stands on its own and provides entertaining, robust characters.

Guardian of A Princess & Other Stories includes fables and fantasy about well known heroines and heroes, from old England, such as Guinevere, Cedwyn, Arthur, and Merlin. There are knights, princesses, magicians, castles, horses, archery, armor, and one kingdom trying to take over another, as well as King Leodegrance attempting to unite the northern and southern tribes into one country.

Here is Merlin telling Guinevere how the unicorns helped the red deer. “When the forest was young, unicorns roamed over the entire island that is Britain. One day in a terrible storm, a red deer lost its way and was carried across the water to these shores. Not knowing the land, the deer became lost and unable to find fresh water. When the unicorns found it, the deer was dying of thirst. They nudged and pushed the deer to fresh water and later led it to the best grazing grounds and the safest places to bed down.”

These adventures are like a tame (G rated) version of Game of ThronesThe author knows how to take readers into the landscape of medieval England, with a special emphasis on the young, and fierce, Guinevere. Every one of the tales in this collection do justice to the time, place, and the best that fantasy has to offer. Guardian of A Princess & Other Stories provides a good taste of Ms. Carpinello’s longer works of fiction.

 

Sink Your Teeth Into This

51KySxGKVOLLiving in The Moment by Bea Cannon.
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

Did you know that there’s a little town near Charlotte North Carolina called Matthews, whose inhabitants include werewolves, vampires, ghouls, and witches? Well, now you know. Not everybody does. Cadence (Cady) and her husband (Sam) have never told his parents that they are werewolves, and there daughter (Annamae) knows to keep their secret quiet, as do most of their neighbors.

Living in The Moment gives Cady a chance to practice her southern hospitality with Sam’s stuck up parents, brother, and sister-in-law, when they unexpectedly show up for a visit one night. It’s been ten years since they spoke to them. When you read this succulent story, by Ms. Cannon, you’ll find out why they’ve been estranged for so long. Here’s an excerpt of what Cady was thinking when Sam’s parents suddenly arrived.

“Oooo… you’re in his domain, now Mr. Papa-man. Wit’ yo suitcases on his porch and nowheres else to go. Whatcha gonna do? Still dis his wife and kid? Hugh? I know I shouldn’t feel like this… so sue me. That’s the cleanest thing I could think at the moment. You don’t wanna hear what else I was thinking. I kind of figured though, that they’d whip out their cells, get that taxi to come back, and quit darkening our door.”

This story is a five star howl. The dialogue is first class, and the author almost makes one believe that there is such a town, and beings, living next to humans without our knowledge. It includes a crisis with ghouls and some bad vampires (there are good ones too). There’s also a sort of “coming out” party for some unexpected guests. Living in The Moment, by Bea Cannon, is a story you can really sink your teeth into.

Whatever Your Taste

51-SfLy8Z8LThe Blue Serpent & other tales by Claire Buss.
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

This imaginative, diverse collection of short stories is an excellent example of how to write shorts. Every story in The Blue Serpent & other tales has a beginning, middle, and end. Each tale stands on its own, and provides distinct perspectives and voices. Ms. Buss uses themes about data, technology, and society, to not only wake readers’ up, but to entertain.

One of my favorite selections is The River Flows In You. Here is an excerpt (about loss and grief). “It helps to push my hands into the earth, feel it crumble beneath my fingertips as I try to find meaning in my devastation. I stand still in a swirling, whirling vortex of people rushing, rushing, rushing, trying to run away from their hurt and their pain.

I have a feeling that Ms. Buss has scribed many of her writings while enjoying a drink at her favorite coffee shop, as there are three stories in the compilation that take place in such an environment. Other tales include nationally required brain scans for one and all, a pretend circus, and a man who is Ava’s fairy godmother (The Party’s Over).

No matter what your taste, you’ll find something in The Blue Serpent & other tales that will wet your whistle, tickle your fancy, or provide other pleasurable metaphors and cliches. One word of warning. The next time you go to a coffee shop to write, or just have a sip, make sure to heed any messages telling you to move (The Wrong Note).

 

Twins Break Stereotypes

41+p5TChekL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_The Love Club by Donna Faulkner Schulte.
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

Whether The Love Club is based on real incidents, or completely fictional, becomes irrelevant as one reads the pages. It is rare to have teens portrayed as being good, feeling good, and doing good. This story, by Ms. Faulkner Schulte, is one of those rarities. It is a refreshing twist on what high school students can do, and how they treat one another, and help others.

Identical twins (Mariah and Miranda) return home from there first day of high school. They look upset. There mother (Sandy) asks them about it. “Ok. What happened that took those pretty smiles off your faces? Was someone mean to you? Were the older kids bullying you?”

No mom, everything went fine at school. It was what happened on the way to school that bummed us out.” Miranda said. “We just saw a man sitting in the woods licking a cracker wrapper and you could tell he was so hungry, but we didn’t know if we should offer him half our lunch or would he be insulted?”

It isn’t long until Mariah and Miranda enlist the help of their friend Ebony at school, and get the ball rolling on how to start a club that will provide the most benefit to help people that are homeless. The story also involves the girls first dates, and prom night, and how they develop healthy friendships with there peers.

The Love Club includes a number of references to church, God, and the Bible, but does so as part of the characters beliefs, and not in a way that is asking anyone else to convert, or believe likewise. Ms. Faulkner Schulte’s story is inspiring, and provides practical things people, and communities, can do to assist those living without a home. Just one day can change everything. None of us are immune to being in the same situation.

 

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