Here, There and Everywhere

A Long Time To Die

Dying Takes It Out of You – Book One of the Madonna Diaries
by S.S. Bazinet. Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

513xwn-wYJLMental gymnastics, emotional turmoil, and brotherly love, all add weight to this dystopian thriller. Dying Takes It Out of You is set in the near future, when a virus has been deployed by terrorists, and the entire world is threatened. Dory is one of those infected, who believes he’d rather die than live in this shit hole that has become his life. His brother Milton, a scientist and doctor, has other ideas for Dory, and tries to save him by finding a cure at all costs. It may cost them everything.

Ms. Bazinet has taken a terrifying world in the near future, and turned it into a philosophical and ideological tale about understanding, family, and what is worth living for, without giving up an iota of fear or suspense. The beginning is intentionally misleading, making readers believe that the pursuer is evil, and the narrator (Dory) is running for his life. The sudden switch in who is in danger, and the shift from which person is good, and who is bad, is well executed.

In the process of Milton’s heroics to save his brother, who craves blood, is afraid he’ll go crazy, and will most likely die a horrible death within weeks, Dory describes his experience. “Sometimes a person doesn’t know how strong they are until they keep dying and coming back. A few days in, Milton said that I was having a convulsion and then clunk, I was dead again. The old vessel in my chest decided it had had enough and just stopped working in mid fit. Even Milton was surprised. Most people take longer to kill.”

This fantasy, by S. S. Bazinet, explores the depths a loved one (in this case his twin brother) will take to keep them alive. The world she creates is not that distant, or foreign, and has a strong connection with its surroundings. Memories that Dory has of an abusive father, and kind mother, are also interspersed with lucid dreams and conversations with Thomas, an individual known as one of the Watchers. These dialogues provide Dory with insight and hope, and make Dying Takes It Out of You all the better.

I Couldn’t Breathe

Anxiety Girl by Lacy London.
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

Some people’s reality as fiction, and fictional fears may become reality. Anxiety Girl is told by Sadie Valentine, as her world feels like it is falling apart. She describes her symptoms to the pharmacist. “My chest became really tight like someone was squeezing me from the inside. My head started to pound and I couldn’t breathe. I just couldn’t catch my breath, it was like I was drowning. I really thought I was going to die.” Ms. London’s imaginary character is a reflection of what many experience.

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The author states in the prologue that she wanted to write a fictional story that dealt with a real-life situation, one that she has experienced herself. She does so with insight, interest, and flare. Sadie is lucky to have a close friend, Aldo, who is also her roommate. He sticks by her through thick and thin, as she begins to feel as if her world is turning upside down and she’s going to fall off. She thinks everything is fine, and that it is the breakup with her boyfriend that triggers her intense fear and helplessness. It’s not.

Characters in the story seem like people you might know if you live in Chelsea (London), and have the luxury of time on your hands to be creative, hang out with friends, and go out dancing and drinking every night. That is what Sadie attempts to do after the breakup, with one man after another, and one drink following the last one. No matter what she does to avoid, or numb, her feelings, takes a toll, and it doesn’t work. After a scene in a restaurant, she begins to spiral downwards, and doesn’t know what to do.

Degrees of anxiety and depression are experienced by countless individuals throughout the world. It is nothing to be ashamed of, yet too often we are. Ironically, we have no problem telling someone, or seeking help for, a broken arm or flu, but when it is our mind and emotions that are effected, it becomes hush hush. Mental health is just one aspect of our overall health. With Anxiety Girl, Ms. London gives us a story that can help us know what anxiety feels like, that we aren’t alone, and that help is available.

RESOURCES:
Anxiety Anonymous
Work of Jodi Aman
Book by Constans

Wash, Rinse and Repeat

51azfjj8D1LDeath by Corporate America: Climbing the Corporate Ladder One Murder at a Time by Lex Ramsay. Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

A great murder-mystery where the murderess is known from the start. Death by Corporate America turns this genre around by showing clearly who the perpetrator is of a series of murders at the fictional San Francisco conglomerate Mondrian Corporation (Mondo). There is no doubt that Adrian Banner, a 44-year-old African-American business geek, who is temporarily made an Executive Secretary on the companies board when one of their members dies in a balloon accident, is the culprit.

Adrian has had her fill of sexism, racism, and invisibility, by the board members of this company and decides to make the initial death just the beginning. “Commute, meetings, con calls, emails, IMs, PowerPoints and a hurried lunch eaten at her desk… wash, rinse and repeat. This was death by Corporate America, and she was one of the walking dead.” Ms. Ramsay has created a character that you root for, and hope she succeeds. The question isn’t did she do it, but how is she going to do it, and will she get away with it?

Ms. Banner is one smart woman. She learns about everyone’s vulnerabilities, what methods will work and how, and the means to have them go undetected. She is a mastermind in business. Everyone diminishes and dismisses her, assuming she is not the culprit and not able to have carried out such murders. The people she kills are assholes, and deserve to die (especially in her mind). There is also a homeless man, Jerome, who gives her ideas (unknowingly) about how to vanquish her business foes.

Death by Corporate America is rich in possibility for a good screenwriter and producer to bring the story to the screen. It is suspenseful, well-plotted, and never stops. Lex Ramsay has made revenge seem possible and satisfying, while also creating a character that you want to succeed, even though she is a cold-blooded killer. That is a hard feat to carry off, but she does it with class. This is not the kind of story I usually read, or enjoy, but there are exceptions, and this is one of them.

Stop Running

41ShJnUqNdLSilence Speaks by Paul Goldman, MS.
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

This is an intimate, internal observation of life from the inside out. Silence Speaks is airy, open, liberating, freeing, and relatable. Want to look at the world (inner and outer) with different eyes, and breathe in the moment fully? If so, I’d invite you to read this collection of poems by Paul Goldman. There were times that his words reminded me of prose by Hugh Prather, Rumi, and Thoreau. Here’s an excerpt.

EYES WIDE OPEN

Seeing all before me
with eyes wide open now.
I see the depth of indescribable
beauty revealed.

How I simply ‘got by’ before
I do not know.
For in seeing the sheer power
of what is existant right here,
this moment, I am startled
alive anew.

Nothing will stand
in the way of this forever grace,
though in forgetting I maybe
momentarily blinded to bliss.

Only to find an immeasurable
substance again revealed
in each single breath
and the next.

The titles for each poem are as revealing as the poetry itself. Headings include, “Flip Your Mind”, “Run No More”, “Surrender”, “Atoms Tremble”, “Behind the Bars of Illusion”, “Our Moment”, and “Change the Music”. Silence Speaks is not silent, nor loud. It is more like a whisper, reminding us to wake up NOW; to not wait until tomorrow; to see what is before us. The words are meant to remind us to stop trying to “become”, and simply “be”.

 

The Glass Mask: Monsters Lurk Beneath by E. L. DuBois.
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

516I5azkDzLThe Glass Mask is a painful book to read. It is an important book to read. It is a well written story about partner abuse, and the intimate torture that often takes place in abusive relationships. If you’ve experienced anything remotely similar in your own life, you will identify with the protagonist, called “Beauty”. If you’ve been fortunate to not have gone through any such trauma, you will be rooting for her survival, and insight into how to escape “The Beast” that threatens to destroy everything she loves, and life itself.

Ms. DuBois notes in the beginning that, “It was Hell. Let me reiterate… a living Hell. Nothing was sure then, except fear. Life was uncertain, death always loomed, and instability was the norm.” She is not exaggerating. It is apparent that the author has lived through many of the scenes described herein, and they are conveyed with honesty, agonizing detail, and perspective. All the mental and emotional things victims believe, and tell themselves (which are reinforced by the abuser), make sense and come to light.

The chapter headings also match well with the contents of that section. For example, “I knew who I was this morning… But I have changed a few times since then.” Happiness is displaced by despair and fear. Loving acts hide brutal retaliation and control at all costs. Someone believing they “own” you, and can do whatever they want with you, are not a fantasy, but too often a reality. Beauty’s boyfriend is aptly named The Beast, and his sister (The Drama Queen). Beauty’s daughter is appropriately known as The Princess.

Anything awful you can think of happening to another human being, is inflicted on Beauty. When you think that there is no way she can keep going, she meets a man (Mr. Knight). Thus, some light returns. Or does it? Not everyone is able to escape, let alone meet a supportive, loving person to help. It is possible, but rare. Many people are killed, or reduced to ruble before they are set free. Others take solace in drugs, or other numbing acts. You’ll have to read The Glass Mask to find out what happens to Beauty.

P.S. A similar book you may find of interest is Kellsey, by Stacy Kells. The primary difference is that Stacy’s is nonfiction, and The Glass Mask is fiction. At times, it is difficult to tell them apart. Read my review of Kellsey. It’s called A Gradual Awakening.

I Almost Fell Over

513qrbXXhOLWhere We Belong by Fox Brison.
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

Hope you don’t think I’m an eejit, as a bi-sexual wanna-be lesbian Yankee (22% Irish I recently discovered with DNA), when I say how much I fawned over Where We Belong by Ms. Brison. What is their not to like about this story? It takes place in one of my favorite parts of the world (near Westport, Ireland), is about family, helping kids, and has two beautiful narrators who fall deeply in love. There are so many twists and turns, I almost fell over (and I was sitting in a chair while reading). Oh yeah, the love scenes and romance are also very hot, and intricately interspersed throughout.

Bri (who thinks she’s straight), finds out she’s adopted, and takes a construction job in Ireland to get away from her ex-boyfriend and look for her birth mother’s family. Upon arrival, she meets the administrator of the new home being built for dis-advantaged children, Elisha. Elisha falls for Bri (short for Brianna) upon first sight, but doesn’t want to cross the line of hitting on a straight woman. In the meantime, Bri’s feelings for Elisha are running rampant, but she doesn’t know what to do with her knew found urges, and attraction, or how to tell Elisha.

Without giving anything away, here are some lines from the beginning of this book, when Bri finds a letter in her parent’s attic. “Intuitively I knew that this simple piece of stationary was about to take the very fabric of my being and tear it asunder, thread by thread, still I slipped a finger under the seal anyway.” Not only does the letter change her entire life, it prompts her to move to Ireland and throw everything she knew about herself out the window. The people she meets in Ireland, Elisha (and her sister and father) and her neighbors (Patrick and Bridget “Biddy”), become like family, and that’s just the start of it.

This book includes all the aspects that draw me into a story. It is written well, has believable and likable characters, lots of romance, a wonderful description, and sense, of time and place, and makes the reader feel like you know these people inside out. If I met the author (Fox Brison) in person, I’d give her a big hug and thank her for writing such an entertaining and heartfelt tale. There is a lot of lesfic fiction these days (at least a lot more than their ever was in the past), and like other genres, some of it is good, some bad, and some so so. Where We Belong is very good.

Keeping Your Nose Clean

The Golden Fleece: The Diary of a Scientology Warrior by Michael Priv. Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

FINAL_THEGOLDENFLEECE_6x9_front_for_web_JPGDon’t runaway from this book because of the word “Scientology” in the title. It is not only the best personal, and in depth, view inside the world of Dianetics, as developed by L. Ron Hubbard, but also an exciting and insightful fast-paced memoir that reads like fiction. Though The Golden Fleece is written, as lived, by Mr. Priv, it feels as if one is reading a religious, self-help, political thriller. The author is a skilled storyteller and writer. He writes how people think, and talk, and is good at pacing.

Whether events happened exactly as portrayed, or not, becomes secondary to being caught up in the story. After escaping from being essentially imprisoned by Scientologists, upon his return from Russia, Michael calls his parents. His mother says, “Never mind that, you scoundrel! Are you in any danger? Are those Scientology bastards chasing after you?” Michael replies, “Bastards? Mom, listen, there is Scientology, which is good, and there is a Church of Scientology, which is… Never mind. I’m all right, I’m at a liquor store in LA. They won’t find me here.”

Michael Priv describes himself honestly in the beginning of the book. In short, he was a real asshole. As he gets taken into Scientology, and finds that it actually works for both himself, and others, some of the edge to his style gets rubbed off. Their remains an active, can-do, individual throughout, who at times reminds me of the lead character in The Bourne Identity films (minus killing people). This is especially true during his time in Russia, and his interactions with the KGB, Russian mafia, Scientology organization, and Russian government crap.

After explaining the benefits, and the downfall of Scientology, the author explains why he stayed in the elite part of the organization for 18 years, and why living an ethical, clear, honest life makes all the difference. “So, is it at all important to keep your nose clean, even if nobody is watching? You bet your sweet bahookie. But only if you want to soar among the stars and be happy. Otherwise, you can always find an excuse for any transgression you can ever imagine. We are smart. We can explain away anything we want and then some. After all, this is the alley-cat world and we are only human, right?”

The Golden Fleece: The Diary of a Scientology Warrior goes far beyond what one might think it is. In fact, the title acutely portrays a good portion of what Mr. Priv lived through for 18 years of his life, as a “Scientologist Warrior”. There are excellent explanations of the terminology used in Scientology, and the organizational structure which it deploys around the world. It isn’t all good, or all bad. Their “Components of Understanding” are relevant, and similar to some other belief systems, with Affinity, Reality (agreement) and Communication (ARC), being the key. This is a good book, written by an insightful and very smart writer, who is in a continual process of being a good man.

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