Here, There and Everywhere

Posts tagged ‘England’

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.

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.

No Other Choice

Secrets: In the shadows lurks the truth by Judith Barrow.
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

51GqVk8eBwLEach of the eight short stories in Secrets are very well written, and involve characters from Ms. Barrow’s novels. They include Nelly’s attempt to escape a convent with her baby, before it is given away; a nurse (Hilda) who has cared for her cantankerous mother for many years; Edith, who has been abused by her husband one to many times; Gwyneth, whose previous husband shows up unwanted, and unexpectedly at her new home; the fate of Alun Thomas, and his brother, who are conscientious objects during the first world war; Hannah and her son, reacting to the death of Hannah’s father; a fourteen-year-old and his friend joining the army during “the war to end all wars”; and Doreen, who has a baby during an air raid.

Most of these tales show the lives of women who have few options, or choices in their lives, and the extreme measures they take to be set free, and/or have some freedom (no matter how momentary it may be). Though the characters are taken from the author’s novels, each short story stands on its own, and could be a book entirely unto itself. The description of each individual, and their situations, are done with precision and care. By the end of the first paragraph readers have a good sense of who is who, what is going on, and the dilemma that is presented. This is no small feat. To weave together such a tight narrative is not an easy task for most writers. Ms. Barrow seems to do it with ease, and presents the primary protagonist with honesty, and empathy.

Having sympathy, and understanding, for the main character of a novel usually takes some time. To create an instant connection between the reader and the woman, or man, in a short story is even more difficult to do. I felt such a connection, regardless of the acts, or actions, they took, with every person in this collection. Doreen, Stan, Hannah, Alun, Gwyneth, Edith, Hilda, and Nelly, each had me rooting for them to triumph, get away from, or take whatever action was needed, to survive, or make sense of the world within which they lived. There are also a number of surprise endings.  Secrets is a book I recommend, without hesitation. Without a doubt, Ms. Barrow’s novels are just as well written, and well worth your time and attention.

For All To See

Eating From The Cherry Tree: A Memoir of Sexual Epiphany by Vivien Ella Walden. Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

513GeUVKRDLVivien Walden has been inundated with sex throughout her life – both for business and pleasure. It is her curiosity, experience, understanding and insight of such, that make this memoir come to life. Eating From The Cherry Tree delves deeply into sexuality, and looks closely at Ms. Walden’s family history, childhood, the times she has lived in (late fifties through the present), and the legal, cultural and environmental circles within which she has moved and been influenced by.

Yes, there are many descriptions of all kinds of sex imaginable (or not) within these pages, and… it is accompanied by astute psychological, and emotional awareness. There is a big difference between labeling someone by their profession, and getting to know them as a human being.

“Being a stripper, call girl, hooker, or madam, you have to know how to dance to the music, be a good actress, stand up to the toughest deal with the law, and paint your own picture for all to see.” Thus, a young Jewish girl from Salford, England learns from mentors, friends, and colleagues, how to get what she desires, make a living doing so, and travels far and wide to both entertain and find self-fulfillment. Though I’ve never experienced most of what the author speaks of, her descriptions are presented so realistically, that readers’ may feel as if they are in the room (or wherever the event is occurring), taking notes or personally involved. It can be quite visceral.

What surprised me most about this well-written memoir is the depth of emotion, caring, and connection that the author has, not only for friends, partners, and colleagues, but also for her clients. She has worked as an actress, stripper, hostess, call girl, and madam. In all her endeavors, she strives to do her best to provide release and comfort for those she serves, and support those that work with her. In the process, she also attained a sense of control and security. “I always regarded myself as more of a burlesque dancer than a stripper, although the element of ‘tease’ is key. It is the act of combining direct eye contact and body language to convey sexiness to the audience. In any event, taking my clothes off didn’t give me a feeling of power, charming the audience did.”

Eating From The Cherry Tree explores our needs, fantasies, and desires. What Ms. Walden has come to understand, and conveys so beautifully, is that most everyone wishes to be loved, touched, wanted, and affirmed for who they are. This is most evident in her personal relationships (with husband Billy, and other boyfriends, girlfriends, and co-workers), and when she experiences a life-threatening medical emergency and a car accident. There are times when she describes sex as purely a physical transaction; other times that are for her own pleasure, and many occasions when the two have coincided. Thus, this book (and the author) not only have an abundance of sex, but also an abundance of heart. Her profession is undoubtably one of entertainment and acting, but there is also a big dose of kindness and insight for good measure.

 

A Story to Savor

5168cuV1J3LMy White Dahlia (A Lesbian Romance) by C. M. Blackwood. Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

I’m bowing down with gratitude to the literary goddesses that brought this book to my attention. C. M. Blackwood is a damn good writer, and My White Dahlia is a hell of a good book. Weave together some of the best suspense and mystery novels with a first-rate romance, and you’ll end up with this gem, which takes place in 1949 England, in the town of Kingston. It doesn’t take long before you will understand and love these characters. It is with that knowledge, and the author’s ability to reveal their history and past experiences, that your own emotions will become entangled with theirs.

The heroine’s name is Adette Salazar. This tale is told from her point of view. While listening to her friend, Henry, drone on about what he knows about the famous novelist who just hired Adette to be her personal assistant, she realizes, “At the ring of that final word, I finally began to be curious. It was the first moment I market it. It was the moment I remembered as the starting point, through all those long months that followed.” As Adette becomes more familiar with her new surroundings, memories from the past threaten to diss-rail her and ruin all she has come to adore.

Flashes of Adette’s childhood in Georgia (USA), before she is taken to the UK to live with her Uncle Henry after her mother has died, arise at crucial moments within her caring for her now invalid uncle, her new job, and ever changing relationship with Dahlia Frobisher (her boss). Dhalia’s housekeeper, Edwina, and Dahlia’s literary agent, Archie Willoughby, are first-rate characters and supporting players in the drama, as are Susan Heyward and Jane Albright. Though the focus is on Adette and Dhalia, everyone makes a difference, and has an impact upon readers.

One of the reasons that Agatha Christie is the best-selling author of all time, is because she had a knack for understanding human emotion and motives, and was able to describe place, time, characteristics, thoughts, and actions, with such clarity and insight. Everything and everyone, seemed somewhat familiar, yet one never knew for sure who did what and why until the end. Ms. Blackwood is cut from the same cloth of storytellers. My White Dahlia should definitely be made into a film. When you read the story the reasons will become self evident.

 

32 Recipes for Joy

51jMFwLXU2LFinding Joy Around the World by Kari Joys MS.
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

Join the author, and people from around the world, as they describe what joy means to them, and how they came to find it. Kari Joys, “While happiness is often defined as the experience of well-being, satisfaction or pleasure in your life, joy includes those characteristics, but it also brings with it the qualities of spirituality, higher consciousness and true delight.”

Most all of those in Finding Joy Around the World have dealt with some kind of loss, trauma, or difficult situation in their lives (death, poverty, abuse, loss, etc.), and all of them share their story. Whatever they have lived through, or had happen, did not prevent them from still finding joy in their lives. In fact, many felt that their hardships are what helped them search for joy, and try to find some kind of meaning in life. Here is what some of the thirty-two people interviewed had to say:

Santosh Sagara (Nepal) – “Joy means mindfulness and peace within.”
Gede Prama (Indonesia) – Read and meditated to find joy.
Deb Scott (USA) – Experiences joy through prayer and volunteering.
Barasa Mayari (Kenya) – “Trust in God has been the anchor.”
Sylvester Anderson (USA) – “Never give up on yourself.”
Jayne Spenceley (England) – “Feeling expansive from the inside out.”
Hanneke van den Berg (Netherlands) – “Connections with myself and others.”
Sakatar Singh (India) – “Read good books and make friends.”
Ashleigh Burnet (Canada) – Believes meditation is instrumental.
Gimba A. (Nigeria) – Gets joy when he can “care for my children.”
Eugenie Areve (France) – “Love ourselves unconditionally.”
Bill Zhang (China) – “A state of feeling ‘good enough'”.
Marcia Conduru (Brazil) – “We are more than our ego.”

Ms. Joys noticed some common threads which ran through the responses from all those she contacted (or who contacted her). They are provided in a list of ten traits at the end. Some of the conclusions are that joy is experienced in the present moment; gratitude is a big component; it grows out of compassion for others; when noticing beauty of nature; and there is often a connection to the “divine”, or something greater than ourselves.

Many of the responses in this work remind me of my book Don’t Just Sit There, Do Something! Grief’s Wake Up Call, which is a compilation of interviews I did with fifteen people who had someone die, and then decided to help others in some way as a result. Some are well known, and others not so. This was written before the internet, so I did all the interviews in person across the USA and Israel.

Finding Joy Around the World is an inspiring mix of tales and observations, from a variety of people around the globe. Ms. Joys asks all the right questions, and lets the kind people who responded answer in their own words. Each person’s story begins with a quote from a famous writer, or person, which corresponds perfectly. Thus, Joseph Campbell is quoted before one of the participants shares their understanding and experience of joy. “Find a place inside where there’s joy and the joy will burn out the pain.”

A Bear Adrift

41CFkTe7CPL.jpgSnugs the Snow Bear by Suzy Davies
Illustrated by Peter Hall
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans

A sweet children’s book (for ages 4 and up), with a lot of animal characters, nice people, and of course the star of the show, Snugs, the snow bear. Snugs is not necessarily a polar bear, though he is off-white and lives in Greenland.

Snugs is set adrift when the ice he is on has melted, and goes towards Iceland. On the way he is discovered by a boat (ship Prince Eleanore) and the crew and passengers help him out. It is here that he meets Carla and James, and their grandmother (Mrs. Merryweather) who live in the Isle of Wight (England).

Snugs the Snow Bear combines some beautiful events (the Northern Lights, and visiting sites in Iceland) with the realities of global warming and its effect upon humans, animals, climate and the earth in general.

At first, I was taken slightly aback by the animals (some magical moose, etc.) and people (including Captain LightOwler and Rosanne) being able to talk to one another, and understand each other, but after awhile that concern faded into the background and fit with them all having to live on the same planet.

Tag Cloud