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Posts tagged ‘review’

It Only Gets Better

51M50efHnMLCrowded by Eleanor Green
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans

Bree is a sex addict. Jane is a killer. Anna is a hard-working florist. Each is distinct and completely different from one another. Bree has no problem meeting, and using men. Jane hates men and protects other women from them. Anna loves the man she meets, Pratt, and is always questioning herself. We follow each woman, and their experiences in New York, with alternating chapters focusing on one or the other.

Ms. Green has written believable and contrasting characters, who appear to have little in common. The characteristics of each person are so well defined, that even without chapter headings it would be easy to know who is speaking, what they are thinking, and what is taking place. As Bree continues trying to avoid love, and Anna searches for it, Jane is destroying possibilities of love, and those who abuse others.

As the story continues, and more details are conveyed, readers’ may be able to ascertain a few overlapping connections, but each could be a book unto itself. Bree would be about a woman living in the moment, and not wanting attachment, similar to Diane Keaton in Finding Mr. Goodbar. Jane would be a serial killer murder mystery. And Anna, would be a contemporary romance.

Crowded gets better with each page, as we come to understand how Bree, Jane, and Anna, see themselves, those they are in relationship with, and the world around them. The past has a powerful impact on the present, and the present is a different experience for each character. Am very pleased to have been encouraged to read this book.

 

He Is Closer Than You Think

OutOfSyncOut of Sync by Chynna T. Laird
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans

Out of Sync impregnates the reader with love, loss, fear, suspense, murder, and for good measure, a little laughter along the way. Ms. Laird has given forensic psychologist, Cheyenne McCarthy, and those within her world, a sense of intimacy, complexity, and above all, an evolving understanding of family.

The cold-blooded murderer, Marcus Harper, turns out to be closer to Cheyenne than she ever imagined, and as revealed by elder Chief Longfellow, a human being to understand and value, in spite of his violence, terror and the revenge he enacts upon Cheyenne and her friends. The supporting characters in the story all have there moments of tenderness and humor, including Officer Perry Fulton, Katherine Fulton, bodyguard Henderson Meyer, and nurse Marilyn.

Loss, and hate, can at times go hand in hand. Most of us don’t take out our pain on others, or become mass murderers, but the seed of grief is the same. Cheyenne must fight for her life, and her baby, and with the help of Chief Longfellow, she not only survives, but discovers compassion, and the importance of native traditions in recognizing our common humanity. Out of Sync takes us through one extended families circle, with mystery, suspense, and care.

Nothing But the Best

SecondBestSecond Best by Charmaine Pauls
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans

The story is a beautiful work of art that alternates between the first person account of Molly von Aswegen as a teen, and her later life in Johannesburg, South Africa, as told in the third person. The tale takes place between 1981 and 1984 with 17-year-old Molly fighting for her life in an industrial school (similar to reform school), and the foster homes, jobs, and people she encounters once she gets out. The pacing, and timing, between her past, and present, are done seamlessly and to great effect.

Having most every horrible thing possible happen to her before she turns twenty-one, it is not surprising that Molly has little trust in others, and no self regard for herself. There are only two people that stay with her, and whom she trusts. Malcolm (Mal) meets her at school just before he goes off into the army and to fight in Angola. Neill Mckenzie, who owns the Opera Bakery, is the second person who sees something more in Molly than her life circumstances and reputation. Neill sees potential and a passion for baking. The story is reminiscent of the 2015 film Dough (without the comedic elements), which has an old Jewish baker struggling to keep his business alive in London, and the teenage Muslim boy he hires, who is “nothing but trouble”.

All of the character’s in Second Best are played well. Molly and Neill’s families are from different sides of town, and each member comes to life. Molly’s friend and foes at school, Berta, Mr. de Jonge, and Jessica, are like people you may know, or have known. The Opera Bakery’s obnoxious and self-centered patron, Judge William Brooks, who has power, prestige, and a sense of entitlement, can also be found in cities across the world. Realism, with dialogue, character, and action, run rampant throughout the story.

Second Best is a well crafted, insightful, and entertaining story, that takes you into the heart and soul of a young woman finding her way through a hellish childhood, and discovering if anything reminiscent of self-love, respect, and love, is remotely possible.

Review of Tell Me a Secret

TEll-Me-a-Secret-by-Ann-Everett>Review of Tell Me a Secret by Ann Everett. Narrated by Sarah Pavelec.

He spun the chair around and straddled it like he was doing it a favor.”

That is the effect Jace Sloan has on women at college, and is one of the many wonderful metaphors used throughout this love story. His charm works on everyone accept Maggie, who is in graduate school and works as a nurse and tutor. Jace and Maggie’s personalities are like oil and water, but they must find a way to work together when she is assigned by her professor to be his tutor for anatomy.

Just when you think this story is following the usual boy meets girl, girl losses boy, and then they get together again, plot line, there is a twist. Actually, there are a number of twists that will keep reader’s wondering about the character’s futures. The dialogue shifts from chapter to chapter, between Maggie’s perspective and Jace’s, providing an intimate microscope into their internal thoughts, emotions and perceptions. Author Ann Everett did a good job keeping the dialogue and situations real, as well as the couple’s reactions.

As an avid reader, and past reviewer for The New York Journal of Books, I must confess that this is the first audio book I’ve listened to and reviewed. Though it was quite long, the narrator’s voice, Sarah Pavelec, was pleasant and engaging. Her tone for both the male and female characters was spot on, as well as the intonations for specific dialogue and action.

Tell Me a Secret is a good book to take on a long trip, or listen to for a period of time each day. It is a sweet romance that shows opposites can not only be attracted to one another when the pheromones are intense, but may also stay together through misunderstandings, tragedy and jealousy.

“Must Read” Indeed!

amazon-cover-with-mca-gold-seal-rsElizabeth’s Landing
By Katy Pye
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans

Let’s get straight to the point. This is one hell of a good story for adults of all ages (young and old). It deserves all the awards it has received and then some. Superior to many traditionally published works, Elizabeth’s Landing combines complex characters, believable families and community and global environmental issues, with a seamless and engaging flare.

Uprooted mid-school year to the Texas coast town of Port Winston, Elizabeth escapes from her cantankerous grandfather, missing her absent reporter mother, and her seemingly submissive father, to explore the county’s last wild haven, called Wayward Landing Beach. It is there that she discovers nesting sea turtles and is faced with some local teens bent on harming her and the turtles. While trying to save the turtles, she meets Maria and Tom from the Science Center and is drawn to their work and mission.

It is obvious from the get go that Ms. Pye has extensively researched her subjects: turtles, shrimping, habitat, The Gulf Coast, The Horizon Oil Spill, and local politics; and integrated them into the story without any trace of regurgitating news or sounding like a lecturer at a science museum. Elizabeth, her family, friends, and those she meets at the Marine Science Center, are imbued with realistic doses of sadness, anger, frustration, determination, secrets, fear and hope.

What’s not to like about Elizabeth? She’s shy, concerned about how she is perceived by others, lonely, and out of step with other kids at school. She doesn’t think her father understands her or stands up to her grandfather, who is always putting them down. She’d rather die, than tell anyone how she feels and when she does, she’s afraid she’s revealed too much. If she doesn’t sound like other people her age, or yourself when you were a teen, then you must be perfect. Reader’s will identify with and root for, Elizabeth, as if she is your friend, daughter or sister.

If it’s not been stated clearly or often enough, Elizabeth’s Landing is a fantastic novel. “Must Read” is often used to advertise stories and get people’s attention, but in this case Ms. Pye has written a story that is truly a must read.

Gabriel Constans is a reviewer for The New York Journal of Books, a novelist, screenwriter, journalist and non-fiction writer. His latest work of fiction is The Last Conception.

Peace Through Pleasure

The Bonobo Way: The Evolution of Peace Through Pleasure
An Alternative Great Ape Paradigm for Human Sexuality

By Susan M. Block, Ph.D.
Gardner & Daugthers, Publishers, 2014
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans

TheBonoboWay3If pleasure is heaven then The Bonobo Way is heaven sent. The experience and insight of Dr. Susan Block and her understanding of human sexuality and the pleasure seeking and sharing Bonobo apes (who live south of the Congo River in East Africa and have 99% of the same DNA as humans), may surprise you and turn any preconceived expectations and judgments about bonobo’s and human’s upside down and inside out.

Ms. Block begins by telling the tale of her first encounter with the Bonobo at a zoo, its effects on her marriage and the rest of her life. She discovered what she calls The Bonobo Sutra, and says, “The list of bonobo sex activities is more impressive than the original Kama Sutra.” She also learned about the revolutionary way Bonobos use sex for conflict resolution and that there are no known instances of them ever murdering, raping or attacking fellow Bonobos or other species. This may be true, in large part, because of the matriarchal structure of Bonobo communities and families. “I call them the most feminist apes on Earth,” says Dr. Block.

Sex and food are shared by all, but it is the female Bonobo who decides when, how and if she chooses to indulge in either. Food and sex also seem to go “hand in hand”. Opposite from most ape cultures, Bonobo boys stay with their mothers until late in life and it is the girls who migrate to another group at childbearing age. New females are accepted into their new group and clan, with food, sex and emotional bonding. The author says, “If you’re a bonobo female, your gal pals have your back.”

After Dr. Block has explained some of the research and her experiences, with the Bonobo, she then shows how their way of life and behavior has, is and could be, incorporated into human well-being and sexual relations. She says, “In essence, The Bonobo Way offers an alternative great ape paradigm for human behavior, especially (but not exclusively) sexual behavior.” And, “Our emotional wiring is closer to the peaceful, sexual bonobo than to the brutal, militaristic chimpanzee.” The basic Bonobo steps for human’s to incorporate into our lives are that 1) Pleasure heals pain. 2) Doing good feels good. 3) You can’t fight a war very well if you’re having an orgasm.

As a sex therapist and facilitator of Bonoboville (a speakeasy, pleasure den for invited consenting adults, which is on the radio and sometimes filmed), Dr. Block has developed a 12-Step Program, which she encourages humans to follow. Some of the steps include – Go Bonobos in Bed, Outercourse Is In, Mix Food and Sex, Create Your Own Bonoboville, and Swing Through Life.

The Bonobo Way takes care to develop this way of life ethically and looks closely at the questions it raises, and says it is not a one size fits all program. Dr. Block doesn’t minimize others concerns or questions about living The Bonobo Way, but deftly addresses them with research, examples, and most importantly, her history with her marriage, studies, counseling practice and Bonoboville. One may deny or differ with her ideas, concepts or philosophy, but not with her personal perception and story, as it is her experience alone (or in this case with many others), which is being shared.

If you get a copy of The Bonobo Way, there is a strong possibility that you will find yourself drawn too and/or resonating with living a Bonobo way of life, as well as wanting to help protect them from extinction. The last step of the The Bonobo 12-Step Program is, “Save the Bonobos, Save the World”.

Unschakles the Mind

Review: The Last Conception by Gabriel Constans
Reviewed by Monica Arora. 23 September 2014
KITAAB (“Book” in Hindi) Singapore

LastConception-CoverThe oft-debated dichotomy between modern scientific research and wisdom of traditional values, religious beliefs and spiritual propensities have formed the basis of several discussions, debates, deliberations and continues to dog the human sensibility, constantly torn between the two. This conflict between science and spiritualism forms the basis of the engaging novel by Gabriel Constans, entitled ‘The Last Conception’.

The plot revolves around the young female protagonist Savarna Sikand, who is an embryologist engaged in working with fertility treatments in a high-tech laboratory in San Francisco, US. Meanwhile, her parents, hailing from the south-eastern part of India, but settled in the United States, and deeply rooted in some ancient religious cult, express their desire for their daughter to conceive and thereby continue their rare lineage. What follows is a gripping saga of the dilemma faced by the young scientist Savarna who fights very hard to tread the fine line between her parents’ spiritual beliefs and her own scientific wisdom.

Gabriel has come up with a taut narrative that is extremely simple and yet keeps the reader engaged with its fast pace and myriad topics conjuring doubts, dogmas and apprehensions in minds of young people all over the globe. Right from exploring alternate sexuality and its ramifications on the immediate family to the delicate issue of childlessness, all are dwelt upon with much thought and deliberation and ‘The Last Conception’ offers a rare insight into lives of seemingly ordinary men and women dealing with such quandaries on a day-to-day basis.

Moreover, there is this keen sense of urgency and uncertainty running throughout the narrative pertaining to Savarna’s attempts at conception and the traumas, both mental and physical, which have to be endured for accomplishing the same. The high point of the novel comes in the form of adoption of an Indian-origin baby by Savarna’s sister Chitra owing to her infertility and the feelings of joy, pleasure and pride experienced by the entire family thereafter. Such sensitive subjects are dealt with much bravado and wisdom by the author and offer a lot of information to readers regarding these subjects, thereby clearing several dogmas and misconceptions plaguing childless couples and misled elders, who succumb to mindless religious dictates and notions without studying their cause and effect in detail.

What really touched me was how the parents of the two girls, Mira and Mr Sikand, handle their daughters’ dilemmas as well as their old mother’s beliefs continuing from unwavering faith in a dwindling sect of ancient India. The maturity of their feelings and their ability to keep their family together under all circumstances stands as a pinnacle of hope in contemporary times mired under the garb of modern values or lack of them and hence, offering no emotional solace to lonely, weary souls in a confused society.

‘The Last Conception’ is indeed a very noble attempt by the author to choose such unusual and uncommon themes and write a piece of prose that unshackles the mind and offers rare insight into the much spoken and widely discussed matter of science vs spirituality. With immense care and caution, Gabriel has gently treaded around prickly territory and offered a well-researched and well-structured story which deserves to be read and preserved not just as a treasure-trove of information but also juxtaposing human emotions.

Read entire review and more at KITAAB.

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