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Posts tagged ‘love’

Rites of Passage

41uBGeLbd8L._SY346_Midnight and Holding by Joyce DeBacco.
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

Midnight and Holding is a lovely collection of stories that include a woman daydreaming about the past, which helps her see the present clearly (Rubies and Other Gems); a shed which brings together a husband and wife (The Shed); a carefree youth who awakens dreams and desires of an older woman (Rainbow Years); a humorous account of a wife’s suggestion being taken to extremes (Mad Dogs and Fisherman); a parent’s rite of passage (Midnight and Holding); and a woman who buys her husband a new suit for his last big occasion (Harvey’s New Suit).

Ms. DeBacco has a wonderful sense of home, place, family, marriage, and a life of raising children. Themes of loss, living for others, and losing one’s self, run throughout these tales. In Midnight and Holding a mother speaks about waking up in the middle of the night to a quiet house, once the children are gone away to college. “It’s the middle of the night and, unable to sleep, I wander through the quiet house. Unshackled from the invisible chains tethering me between laundry room and kitchen, I now seek to busy myself with something, anything to keep my mind from dwelling on their absence. Reluctantly, I strip the beds on which they’d slept, my fingers pausing over the deep indentations in the pillows. The neatness of their naked dressers and floors assaults my eyes.”

It is a rare writer that can take the ordinary, and everyday family life, and stretch it just enough to be familiar, yet daring and different from our daily routines and expectations. The author of Midnight and Holding has this ability – the ability to nurture reality, blur the lines and witness characters gaining insight and/or having a transformative experience in the process. At first glance, this collection of stories is about the mundane, but upon reading it becomes clear that each one is a unique creation. They feel authentic and take one to the core of time passing, and the impact those in our lives have upon us.

Extreme Confrontations

City Lights & Side Streets by Patrick Brown.
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

51guT-D0OYLPatrick Brown has put together an interesting collection of short stories (and one novelette) that focus on family, friends, and lovers, and pushes ordinary life events to extreme confrontations with self or others. City Lights & Side Streets has a story about teens in the eighties, who take an unstable young man to a niece’s birthday party; a busy family of four who hire a scheduler; a young woman coming to terms with the loss of her father; a group of marginalized individuals and their misfortunes; and an extension of a previous series about a private investigator named Salem Reid.

Here’s a slice from The Scheduler, when Leo, the person Lesley convinced her husband to hire (and move in with them), to help make sure everything got done on time, is speaking to ten-year-old Jenny. “Your science project is due Friday. Spend an hour on it tonight, so you are not rushing on Thursday to get it all done. If there are any other supplies you need, tonight is the night to inform your parents, as I have allowed for thirty minutes of variable time. The weather looks clear for Thursday so your dad will be doing yard work and your mom has a tennis match at 6:30. Asking for supplies tomorrow will throw them off schedule! We don’t want that, do we? Jenny stared at our guest like he was from outer space, but Leo remained unfazed by the reaction our daughter had given him.”

All of the tales in this collection has some unexpected, or surprise, turn of events, which will catch you off guard… in a good way. Mr. Brown is very skilled at capturing moments, events, and describing people and places. All of his characters are well rounded and believable. The novelette (Lab Rat: A Salem Reid Novella) could be taken straight out of a detective film from the forties and fifties. Hard-boiled, but loyal, clever, and honest detective, has a private love interest and works with colleagues and friends to solve the crime. Some of the dialogue sounds like it could come straight out of Humphrey Bogart’s mouth in The Big Sleep or The Maltese Falcon. When all is said and done, City Lights & Side Streets is well worth the ride.

Marked by The Goddess

Intrigue In The Summer Court by Mistral Dawn.
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

51YeDoxp13LI never thought I’d find myself intrigued by an erotic fantasy that takes place in a land called Fairie ( which is populated by fairies, fae, humans, brownies, goblins, magic, spells, etc.), and whose royal couples (Princess Roni and Prince Uaine, The Huntsman and Cassie) enjoy intense, graphic BDSM lovemaking that will make your nerve-ends tingle (along with other parts of your body). Neither fantasy or BDSM is high on my “to read” list, but somehow Intrigue In The Summer Court pulled me in and kept me bound throughout.

There is a plethora of characters, and terminology, in the tale that took me a while to figure out and keep straight. Little did I know, until the final page, that there is a literal Who’s Who at the end of the book, with character descriptions, and a section on terminology, flora, and fauna in the land of Fairie. Nice to know it was there, but not knowing everything at the beginning didn’t take anything away from the story. Most of the actresses, actors, and nongendered beings are introduced in the first chapter.

Here is a sample. A Fae named Angelica is trying to convince Jillian (who serves Queen Briallen) that there is a plot to kill Roni and Uaine on their honeymoon (who have been ordained by The Goddess to rule the land). “The small Fae sat on the tabletop and crossed her legs over each other. Taking a deep breath, she said, ‘I’m old enough to remember Fairie before the Courts were formed. While I haven’t been happy with the way things have been in The Summer Kingdom for quite some time, ‘ she threw a less than friendly look at Briallen, ‘I’m not willing to allow things to go back to the way they were.’ She gestured at Roni’s left wrist where the goddess had marked her. ‘Besides, you seem to have the goddess’s approval, which she doesn’t bestow lightly. If something were to happen to you, there’s no guarantee that another as qualified would be found to fill your position.'”

Perceptions of good, bad, right, wrong, justice, intuition, and forgiveness are observed throughout, as well as truth-telling, protection, pain, and revenge. There is a sense of freedom, and fluidity with the love scenes, and an honoring of differences and similarities between sexual desire and expectations. Sex is presented as a mutually satisfying activity, with partners honoring, and respecting one another’s wishes. Oh yeah, there is also a pixie (Ciane), who has love and lust magic, which can cause intense uncontrollable orgasms with her touch. You’d think that would be wonderful, but she uses it to control and enslave others against their will.

Intrigue In The Summer Court has many familiar beings of historical magical kingdoms, but they do not always act as they do in those well-known tales from the past, yet they feel just as authentic, perhaps more so. Ms. Dawn has established herself as a talented writer who I see has a number of other adult stories (which come before and after this one), which include further flights of fancy, domination, love, and spells. If erotic fantasy isn’t your usual cup of tea, I’d invite you to take a sip. You might be tantalizingly surprised, and find yourself submitting to its magic.

Anchor Unchained

My Inner Child – A Collection of Poetry by Regina Puckett.
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

Here are fifty insightful, introspective poems that explore feelings, thoughts, compassion, understanding, love, choices we make, and the reactions we take. With rhyming prose and poetic awareness, Ms. Puckett reveals the time we waste in self-judgment and of judging others. My Inner Child displays the preciousness of the present, and how fleeting this moment can be, with awareness and lyrical style.

51IQyu-XCyLThat Moment

“What exactly are you running to
Always looking for something new
You throw away without looking back
You run here and there, leaving the track
Everything is disposable and tedious
You mislay the best in your greediness
Slow down and smell the morning air
Stop and let it run its fingers in your hair
When you want to taste something unique
Let that moment be the moment you seek”

In some respects, My Inner Child is not only a collection of poems but also a journal, and self-revealing observation of working on oneself. Regardless of how many people we are with, know, or call family, life is essentially traveled alone. We can look within and witness the lives of others, or go around in habitual conditioned circles. Is there someone to ground us, to connect with; someone who understands?

My Rock

“Are you witnessing?
Are you listening?
Why do I feel like I’m alone
Tossed wherever I’m blown
My anchor unchained
My heart bloodstained
If you happen by,
will you feel my sigh?
Will you take my hand?
Be my rock in this sand?”

Odds Not In Her Favor

512tC1jRudLTo The One I Never Forgot by Christi Williams.
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

This is a sweet tale about second chances and beating the odds. Gianna and Zack were high school sweethearts, but haven’t seen heads or tails of one another for six years. They each believe the other chose not to reach out after Zack joined the service and went to the middle east. Gianna takes a chance and writes a letter on a site called To The One I Never ForgotThe odds are not in her favor, but she’s not going to give up.

As Gianna decides what to do next, she pauses. “She wanted to write more, but she made herself stop. She told herself she only wanted an explanation and then she would be content. She would see if Zack answered again. Before she said too much, before she tried to explain too much, too soon. If Zack had wanted to contact her, he could have done so at any time over the years. But he hadn’t.

For those who are familiar with the book (and movie) called The Notebook, you will find familiar territory reading To The One I Never Forgot. Ms. Williams tells the story from both Gianna and Zack’s perspective. In the process, the trauma’s and life changes they both experienced are revealed. There is also a surprise at the ending which caught me off guard but added a nice twist, and additional resonance, to the tale.

Emily Meets Emma

51TBGBOEH2LThe Gift by Casi McLean. Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

Savannah (Savy) and Ryan are very much in love, and planning on taking the next step, when Savy panics and takes off in her car during a snowstorm near Atlanta on Christmas Eve. When her car gets stuck in a ditch, she makes her way to a cabin off the road and meets an older woman (Emma) who lets her stay the night.

The Gift, by Ms. McLean, is a novelette that takes a sweet romance, with expected outcomes, to a different realm, and makes readers’ think twice about the choices we make. What would happen if we chose differently, or took a right turn, instead of going left? If our life is a matter of many moments, and decisions, how do we decide?

The author writes, “Collapsing on her bed, she stared at the ceiling. Had her entire Christmas Eve been a dream or some psychotic hallucination? Maybe the exhaust fumes had seeped to her brain. Oddly though, whatever happened to Savy in the last twelve hours had changed her perspective. Flashing on Emma, Savannah bolted up with a jolt.”

Casi McLean has written a contained, and thought-provoking, long short story that makes one ponder. The Gift reflects on relationships, family, career, living alone, and discovering what one believes are the most important things in life. There are no set answers, but every choice has consequences. Choose wisely.

Ira Smiled

41OhZONgcvLIt Started With a Cup of Coffee by Sudesna Ghosh.
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

Ira is a writer. She writes in a cafe in Kolkata. If you are a writer (or reader) you’ll relate to her and It Started With a Cup of Coffee. What starts out as work, becomes personal. What becomes personal, becomes fodder for fiction. Here’s a brief excerpt from this intimate short story.

“One bite into the cherry red cream cupcake got her started. ‘God, this tastes like heaven,’ Ira smiled. Ira rarely smiled unless she felt obligated to. Or if she met a dog or a cat. The cupcake was special. What she didn’t notice was that she was smiling at the person sitting across from her – the gentleman with nice eyes and lashes. Uh oh.”

Though Ira is writing a romance in her favorite coffee shop, which is due to her editor (Lisa) within a month’s time, she’s not feeling very romantic. Trying to listen in on couple’s conversations at other tables helps a little, but isn’t always possible. Perhaps the main character in Ira’s story is herself.

Ms. Ghosh’s It Started With a Cup of Coffee is a relatable tale, especially if you see yourself as a scribe, and well worth a few rounds of caffeinated inspiration.

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