Here, There and Everywhere

Posts tagged ‘family’

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.

 

 

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.  

Voodoo, Sex & Murder

517ndEmmrJL._SY346_Inside Sam Lerner by Gwen Banta.
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

Gwen Banta has it nailed to the floor. Inside Sam Lerner is a delightful, and descriptive, murder-mystery that doesn’t pull any punches. Combine the best of Agatha Christie and Raymond Chandler, stir them up in some gumbo, and you’ve got a first-class tale that keeps you rooting for the ex LA cop (Sam), and his close friends in New Orleans. Before Sam knows whats hit him, he’s embroiled in looking for Madsen, who has gone missing.

The place, people, atmosphere, and actions, of all those involved in this story, jump off the pages and linger inside your head. Here’s a glimpse of the writer’s  style. “When he arrived at the corner of St. Claude and Ursulines, Sam parked on the street and stared at a stately guest house known as Maire’s Gentlemen’s Club. A soft pink glow backlit the windows, and the sound of Fats Waller clung to the thick air like the smell of sex.”

Sam’s old flame (Maire), who is the madam at Maire’s Gentlemen’s Club, has reignited the fire she and Sam had in their younger days, letting him momentarily forget the loss of his wife, who died in Los Angeles. There are a few people that Sam trusts without hesitation – his Mami (Jem), his best friend’s father (Antoine), and old buddy, a New Orleans cop (Leon Duval). There’s also the sadistic killer, who is known early on.

To find out who is who, and who comes through, get yourself a copy of Inside Sam Lerner, and treat yourself to a nail-biting finish. In the process, enjoy some fine dining on The Big Easy’s hot, wet environment, sexual appetites, and underlying beliefs in voodoo. Just when you think you know what’s what, and which way is up, you get taken for a ride. Trust me, and trust Ms. Banta, this story smolders.

 

Soft Spoiled Brats

The City Kittens by Mrs. D. Illustrated by Eladziem.
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

61-tNH71BrL._SX260_The City Kittens is a children’s story about city cats brought to a country cats home at Christmas time. The illustrations are beautiful, colorful, and almost 3D like. The font-type is also lovely to look at and read. This tale about Mrs. D’s older cat, Nyda, includes themes of home, family, acceptance, and not judging a book (in this case kittens) by there cover (or fur). Past history and experience isn’t always as it seems.

Nyda has the following thoughts when Mrs. D’s older daughter brings some kittens (Mickey and Jack) to visit for the first time. “Spoiled inside city house cats… soft little things,” she grumbled as she passed by, walking to the kitchen to spend time with Mrs. D and the girls. But the story the old cat heard that evening made her feel bad. The kittens were not soft or spoiled brats as she had thought.”

There are also times that Nyda remembers her older cat friend, Nicky, who has since passed away, and how she treated her when she first arrived at Mrs. Ds. There is also some hissing, acting out for food with Grandma, and entertainment (watching the adults interact) in The City Kittens. Each page is almost complete unto itself, and the story overall is a pleasure to read.

If She Only Knew

51O6HgRt5jL._SY346_The Truth Will Set You Free by Young.
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

This very short story takes place many years ago, when Young was a senior in high school, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. It is a personal, and intimate event that captures the cultural expectations, stereotypes, and Young’s ultimate kindness, in revealing who he is to the girl who wants him to be her boyfriend.

Young is gay, and his life adventures are revealed in his three part memoir (A Harem’s Boy Saga). In The Truth Will Set You Free he is invited to a party and without any provocation on his part, other than being considerate, one of a set of twins from the all girl’s school is smitten with him. Young tries to avoid her advances, but is cornered, and not sure how to let her down.

What happens at the end of this life memory is Young writing a letter to Dorothy (the twin who thought he was perfect mating material) explaining his predicament, and why he never reciprocated her advances. Though she never replies, Young feels that it was the right thing to do. It would also be quite a shock if she didn’t know, and later read one of his books.

Upsetting the Status Quo

51AAuLof0GLNot Just A Girl: A Lesbian Romance
by Judy Folger.
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

What happens in Royal’s life, in Not Just A Girl, has been experienced by many men and women. Living up to society’s expectations, not wanting to “overturn the cart”, let alone acknowledge there own feelings, they do what they’re “supposed to do”. In this case, it is Royal marrying a man not long after high school, while still being in love with her best friend, Mackenzie. Such circumstances were especially prevalent up to the beginning of this century, and still continues for some.

When Royal talks to her gay sister-in-law, Avery, she becomes acutely aware of herself, and how she’s been living to please others.

The words shot out of Royal’s mouth before she could stop them. ‘When a woman decides to make her own happiness, she upsets the status quo!’

‘Yes!’ Avery shot back, smiling, ‘Everyone else’s status quo…’

She reflected for a moment. ‘Oh. Oh, I see.'”

The youngest of four siblings, with three older brothers, Royal is told by them, and her parents, that she is “just a girl”. Which, in their eyes, means she should get married, have children, and take care of everyone else. Once her children are teenagers, and her husband (Jim) takes extended time away from the family, Royal begins to tentatively look at what she wants, and who she is. With the help of her friend at work (Claudia), a professor from her college days (Professor Belkin), and Avery, she slowly begins to acknowledge who she is and what she wants.

There are a number of family scenes with parents, and in-laws, which were all too familiar. For example, the Thanksgiving dinners found the men and women playing all the stereotyped roles of men watching football, and the women cooking and providing. It takes Royal half her life to start believing in herself, and break out of these roles. Ms. Folger has created an insightful, heart-felt story of one woman deciding to set herself free and find happiness. Not Just A Girl is not just a book, it’s an inner journey of discovery brought to the page for all to see.

I Used To Cry

Mulatto: Daughter of America by Florencia LaChance.
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

61I3yFhCTTLOur oldest daughter moved in to our foster home when she was fourteen, and like Florencia, became emancipated at sixteen. She survived a similar childhood as Ms. LaChance, with her biological family. Working through years of emotional, physical, and sexual abuse, is not easy for anyone, at anytime. In Mulatto: Daughter of Americathe author describes one terrible instant after another. With self-determination, and the help of others, she makes it to college, motherhood, and a successful career.

Florencia’s worst, ongoing perpetrator, was her step-father Jim. He beat her, sexually assaulted her, and demeaned her in every way possible. To top it off, she was growing up in Maine, where people of color are rare and far in-between. “So many kids against me. I used to cry. Run and cry. It was too much – the abuse at home and then coming to cruelty at school. I was always, in Maine, the ONLY black person in any school or town I ever went to. In the whole school!” Shame and not belonging became deeply ingrained in her psych.

Along her journey, Florencia gets support and care from her older brother, Joey, and from different friends and mentors, including: Aunt Beatrice and Uncle Royal, Danielle Hardigan, Melody, and the Goodmans. She becomes a ward of the state, and is cycled through various foster homes for two and a half years. When she finally gets to Boston College, against all odds, she is confronted with how to make a living, raise her son Joshua, and simultaneously go to school – exhausting in and of itself.

Mulatto: Daughter of America is sadly a story that still takes place throughout our country. Abuse (in all forms) is pervasive. Though we think we’ve come a long way, by talking about it and confronting it publicly, it continues to fester in homes everywhere. Like our daughter, who went to University of California, Berkeley, and now has two children, Florencia LaChance is an accomplished technical grant writer and project manager, with insight into her childhood, and the ability to write about it for others.

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